Friday, August 25, 2017

Netanyahu Faces The Threats From The North - Clarifies Position To Putin

What Benjamin Netanyahu hoped to gain from meeting with Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin knows full well that Israel is adamantly opposed to any post-civil war arrangement in Syria that will leave Iranian military forces in place. He doesn’t need Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hop on a plane and disturb his summer holiday on the Black Sea beach resort of Sochi to tell him.

So why did Netanyahu go? Because the objective is less to try to convince Putin of Israel’s position, and more to look him in the eyes and tell him squarely what Israel will do if Iran begins to militarily entrench itself in Syria.

Israel’s message to Putin, which is the same message that was conveyed to the Americans last week via a blue-ribbon security delegation headed by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, is that Israel will act militarily.

Netanyahu wants this to be a factor in Putin’s decision-making process.

Because if Israel does act militarily in Syria, the question will be how does Russia respond.

Former US ambassador Dan Shapiro pointed out in a Twitter thread on Tuesday something that seems obvious, but is much overlooked.

Israel, he wrote, has acted on numerous occasions inside Syria, be it to prevent the transfer of game-changing weapons from Iran to Lebanon, be it in retaliation for rockets or mortar shells that fell either intentionally or inadvertently on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, or be it to keep Iran or Hezbollah away from the border. And while the Russians could have acted to prevent this, they did not.

Netanyahu went to Sochi to let Putin know what Israel plans to do in the event that Iran tries to build air bases, a naval port, or permanent army bases inside Syria.

It would take action. It would take as precise military action as possible, so as not to endanger any Russian forces in the country, but it will not allow Iran to turn Syria into a base of operation against Israel.

Cohen joined Netanyahu in Moscow, but it is unlikely that he presented Putin with any new intelligence information that knocked the Russian leader off his chair.

The Russians have pretty good intelligence of their own. But there is nothing like a personal meeting to impress upon one’s interlocutor the gravity of the situation.

And, from Israel’s perspective, the situation if Iran fills the vacuum left by retreating Islamic State fighters would be grave.

Netanyahu spoke after the meeting to reporters about Iran’s intention of doing to Syria what it did to Lebanon, which is essentially take control of the country through the use of proxies. In Lebanon the proxies are Hezbollah’s, and in Syria it is tens of thousands of Shia militiamen from Iraq, and Pakistan and even Afghanistan, augmented by Iranian soldiers, already on the ground.

Israel, Netanyahu is telling Putin and a world preoccupied with other crises, from North Korea to Barcelona, won’t tolerate another Lebanon to its northeast.

Netanyahu hopes that knowledge of what Israel will do will impact Russia’s decisions regarding post-war arrangements in Syria.

Russia has spent billions of dollars, expended an enormous amount of political capital and even lost a few dozen men trying to keep President Bashar Assad in power.

If Israel is drawn into a war in Syria, it would greatly jeopardize the Assad regime.

Netanyahu, who has a good, strong working relationship with Putin, wants the Russian leader to ask himself one question as a result of this visit: Is it worth the risk to his massive investment? And the answer to the question will be largely dependent on how credible Putin views Israel’s threat, and whether he believes that Netanyahu would take action against the Iranians in Syria. Netanyahu made the trip to Sochi hoping to impress upon Putin that the threat is very real indeed.

 Embattled White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has been given a larger partnership role in efforts being overseen by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to secure an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, according to a report in Politico.

The media outlet reported that McMaster brokered a new arrangement giving the National Security Council (NSC) more input over policy matters pertaining to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. According to Politico, Victoria Coates, an NSC official, will work full-time under Jason Greenblatt, who has been helping Kushner lead Israel-Palestinian peace efforts as the Trump administration’s envoy for international negotiations.
McMaster has faced controversy over his views on Israel, Iran and radical Islamic terrorism and for his ties to think tanks and financing that raise questions about his national security policies.

Regarding the new arrangement of Kushner’s Middle East efforts, Politico reported:
By bringing on Coates, Greenblatt would get a senior point of contact on the NSC who would be fully devoted to his project. McMaster, too, was pleased with the arrangement: it helped integrate what Greenblatt and Kushner had been doing with his NSC desk. The group saw it as a win-win-win, and the move was quickly finalized.
The move, White House officials and outside advisers said, underscored the administration’s commitment to brokering a Middle East peace deal, even amid recent setbacks in the region. And it showed the unorthodox administration giving a bigger partnership role in the region to the NSC — the traditional forum where foreign policy decisions are brokered.
McMaster’s role in securing a larger role for himself and the NSC on the Israeli-Palestinian file is fraught with risk given the PA’s history of turning down successive Israeli offers of Palestinian statehood. These offers were made at Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001, the Annapolis Conference in 2007 and more offers were made in 2008 and 2014. In each of these cases, the PA refused generous Israeli offers of statehood and bolted negotiations without counteroffers.
McMaster, meanwhile, has been accused of harboring controversial views on Israel and the war on terrorism.

McMaster, who serves in a critical national security position, seems to be minimizing the central religious motivations of radical Islamic terrorist groups who are waging a religious war against Western civilization.

Besides his drive to define terrorist groups as “irreligious,” Breitbart News further unearthed a speech following Israel’s defensive 2014 war against the Hamas terrorist group in which McMaster sidestepped a question about whether the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted itself in an ethical manner, instead providing what McMaster admitted was a “non-answer.”

Hezbollah has captured much of an Islamic State pocket on Syria's side of the border with Lebanon in a joint offensive with the Syrian army, its leader said on Thursday.
In parallel with the fighting, talks on a truce have begun with Islamic State but a military victory is more likely, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

Syrian troops and Iran-backed Hezbollah have been fighting to oust Islamic State from Syria's western Qalamoun region.

The attack began last week, coinciding with a Lebanese army offensive against Islamic State on its side of the border in northeast Lebanon.
The zone straddling the border is the last part of the Lebanese-Syrian frontier under militant control.
Both offensives have advanced toward the border from opposite sides. The Lebanese army says it is not coordinating the assault with the Syrian army or Shi'ite Hezbollah, which Washington classifies as a terrorist group.
Any joint operation between the Lebanese army on one hand and Hezbollah with the Syrian army on the other would be politically sensitive in Lebanon and could jeopardize the sizeable U.S. military aid the country receives.
The frontier battle was nearing a "very big victory", Nasrallah said.

"So far, more than 270 square km have been fully captured on Syrian land" by Hezbollah and the Syrian army, he said. "Around 40 square km remain under Daesh control."
Islamic State is on the back foot in Iraq and Syria. It has lost ground in Syria to various separate enemies over the past year and the eastern Deir al-Zor province its last major foothold.
Hezbollah has played a major role in fighting Sunni militants along the border, and has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad's government against Syrian rebel groups.

Earlier this month, Nusra Front militants left Lebanon's border region under an evacuation deal after Hezbollah routed them in their last footholds there. Thousands of refugees also departed with them to rebel territory in Syria.

No comments: