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Israel is still doing America’s dirty work in Syria



Israel is still doing Americas dirty work in Syria

Revelations about strikes on Iranian targets show that Israel has continued to step into the breach left by America’s refusal to act against threats from Tehran.

 For some observers, this past weekend’s revelations about Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria was just politics as usual in the Jewish state. Some pundits treated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public acknowledgement that the Israel Defense Forces has struck specific Iranian military targets in Syria as an attempt to distract the voters from his personal legal woes in advance of the April elections.

Similarly, there might be those who consider outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Eizenkot’s exit interviews with the Israeli and international press in of the same ilk. He, too, spoke about the army’s ongoing duel with Iran’s Quds Force and its Hezbollah auxiliaries in recent years as evidence of his desire to puff up his image before eventually turning (like so many other top officers) to politics.

But taken together and coming after U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he will be withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, the unavoidable conclusion about these statements is that, while Israel’s operations there have been an open secret never before publicly acknowledged, the Jewish state is sending a clear message to Tehran. After years of pounding Iranian forces on the quiet, Israel’s security establishment feels the time is right to make it clear that it will continue to enforce certain red lines in Syria to ensure that the Islamist regime isn’t in position to launch a war on its northern front.

Notwithstanding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s vow last week that America’s goal was to “expel every last Iranian boot from Syria,” with the United States opting out of a direct role in the fight against ISIS there, it remains to be seen how it can accomplish that task or to deter Turkey from slaughtering America’s Kurdish allies with only tough talk.

The United States continues to waver between Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton’s efforts to maintain a strong U.S. policy against Iran and Trump’s neo-isolationist instincts. But Israel remains the one decisive factor that can deter Iranian ambitions.

Israel has been doing the West’s dirty work in Syria dating back to the George W. Bush administration. In 2007, though the Pentagon was aware of and worried about the threat of the Bashar Assad regime developing its own nuclear program, it was Israeli forces that struck and destroyed the Al Kibar reactor site in a raid that not only leveled the facility, but also reportedly killed 10 North Korean nuclear scientists that were working there.

Israel’s role grew even more important after President Barack Obama’s disgraceful backing away from his threat to enforce a “red line” against the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people. Obama allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to take charge in Syria—a decision that facilitated Iranian intervention alongside that of Russia to save Assad’s brutal government, leaving Israel potentially isolated. Even after the United States belatedly joined the war against ISIS, Israel found itself needing to actively hit the Iranian forces in order to prevent them from establishing permanent bases that could gravely threaten its security.

That’s why Israel has been waging a low key yet active war on the Iran’s Quds Force as well as Hezbollah, slamming their facilities with bombs and interdicting efforts to transfer more weapons to Lebanon.

How effective have those efforts been?

To listen to Eizenkot, the answer is that Israel has effectively routed the Iranians. In an interview with New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, the general said that following an Iranian escalation in 2016 (by that point, Iran and its allies had as many as 22,000 troops in Syria), the Israeli government authorized a change in the rules of engagement that led to almost daily attacks by the IDF with more than 2,000 bombs being dropped on 80 separate Iranian and Assad regime targets. Eizenkot seems to think that these attacks have rendered Iran’s Syrian bases a toothless threat, and he takes a similarly dismissive attitude about Hezbollah’s ability to hit the Jewish state from Lebanon.

There’s no doubt that the Iranians have been hit hard by the Israelis and haven’t been able to establish the kind of active military threat that they hoped would be their reward for saving Assad.

But for all of the IDF’s success, the fact remains that the Iranians are still in Syria and could pour far more resources, weapons and troops into the bases they still have there. The same goes for Hezbollah, which may regard the recently discovered terror tunnels they dug under the Israel-Lebanon border as merely a minor aspect of their plans for a new war on the Jewish state should their masters in Tehran choose to launch another round of fighting.

Equally as important, Syria remains a theater of war in which the West is likely to continue to rely on Israel to keep Iran from assuming the kind of military posture that will make good not only on its goal of regional hegemony, but threaten Sunni Arab governments like that of neighboring Jordan. Even if American troops were to stay in Syria, Washington was going to need Israel to keep fighting what Eizenkot has called a “campaign between the wars” in order to maintain a semblance of a balance of power in the region.

Both Netanyahu and Eizenkot may have their own motives for the current round of chest-pounding in the media, but the real story here isn’t the political future of either man. It’s the fact that without Israel acting to keep Iran in line, the situation in the region would be even more dangerous than it already has become.

So the next time you hear about the United States defending Israel, remember that on this strategic front, it has been Israel that is defending the West’s interest in preventing Iran from getting even stronger than Obama and Trump’s blunders have made it. 

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS — Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.



Foreign Affairs

Avigdor Lieberman will pull Israel’s government to the center one way or the other



Avigdor Lieberman will pull Israels government to the center one way or the other

As Israelis prepare to go to the polls next week, one man has emerged as the one who will reshape the government. It isn’t Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party. It isn’t Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party. It’s Avigdor Lieberman, the former Israeli Defense and Foreign Minister who leads the Yisrael Beitenu Party.

Despite his party being much smaller than the two giants (Likud and Blue and White tied with 35 Knesset seats in April’s election compared to Yisrael Beitenu’s 5), Lieberman holds all the cards. Neither large party is projected to have enough sears to form a coalition government without Yisrael Beitenu just as Netanyahu needed their five seats in April. This election, polls indicate Lieberman’s party could hold as many as 11 seats, making any government practically impossible without their support.

This puts both Gantz and Netanyahu in precarious positions. Lieberman’s main policy points against Likud is their appeasement of the ultra-orthodox population that currently gets special privileges such as not having to serve in the military like all other Jewish Israelis. Lieberman is pushing hard against Judaism playing such a prominent role in political decisions, preferring secular solutions to the nation’s problems.

Likud has maintained power by forming conservative coalition governments, but if they win again as they did in April, Lieberman will likely force them to abandon a coalition with the far-right and add his centrist nationalist party as well as center-left Blue and White to the mix. This would pull the government to the center even with Netanyahu as Prime Minister.

But this doesn’t make for good news for Blue and White, either, as even with Yisrael Beitenu’s support, they would likely be unable to form a coalition government without Likud. One way or the other, Yisrael Beitenu will force the conservative, religious parties to lose power outside of the Knesset.

The only way for this to not happen is if Israelis give Likud and their conservative allies enough seats to not need Lieberman’s support. This is very unlikely. If Likud pulls off another victory, they will likely find their conservative wing diminished from where it was in April. Assuming that’s the case, Netanyahu would have to make concessions to Lieberman, concessions that will prohibit the far-right parties from participating in the coalition.

In other words, Netanyahu may not change, but his ability to continue enacting conservative policies will be decimated. He’ll be forced to withdraw protections for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The most likely scenario has the two biggest parties working together to form a government with right-leaning parties and perhaps a couple of left-leaning small ones to fill out the 61 seats necessary to form a government.

The role of Prime Minister may be a battle between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, but the man who will determine the political fate of Israel is Avigdor Lieberman. Israel’s government hasn’t been in this much turmoil since their founding.

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Conspiracy Theory

9/11 families praise Attorney General’s transparency regarding Saudi Role in 9/11 attacks



911 families praise Attorney Generals transparency regarding Saudi Role in 911 attacks

“This is a good result,” said Terry Strada, National Chair of the 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism

Washington, D.C. – The 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, whose members are suing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its role in the September 11 Attacks, released the following statement after Attorney General Bill Barr refused to invoke “state secrets” to shield key evidence relating to the Saudi role. In particular, the Attorney General agreed to allow the court to see the name of the senior official who tasked two Saudi employees to give aid and support to the first-arriving hijackers.

“This is a good result,” said Terry Strada, National Chair of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism. “The families are dedicated to getting to the truth, and we shouldn’t have to beg for this sort of basic information, or be kept in the dark, about the Saudi role in the attacks.”

“The Saudis are running out of rope,” said Don Migliori and Sean Carter, attorneys for the plaintiffs in the 9/11 litigation. “It was always clear that this information was not a ‘state secret’ and we’re pleased that the Attorney General agreed. We look forward to more disclosures in the weeks and months ahead.”

Don Migliori is a partner at Motley Rice LLC, and Sean Carter is a partner with Cozen O’Connor. They are co-chairs of the Plaintiff’s Executive Committee in the multi-district litigation against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pending in federal district court in New York.


Since 2003, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has faced a civil lawsuit in the Southern District of New York (03 MDL 1570) alleging that the Kingdom aided and abetted and provided material support for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

After many years of legal wrangling regarding the scope of the law of sovereign immunity, Congress intervened decisively in September 2016 and passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). JASTA made clear that foreign sovereigns cannot evade accountability in U.S. courts when they aid and abet or provide material support to international terrorism on U.S. soil, such as the September 11 Attacks. JASTA’s passage was endorsed by then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign multiple times, with surrogates Reince Priebus and Rudy Giuliani, and Trump himself, favoring JASTA and the right of the 9/11 families to pursue their civil lawsuit against the Saudis.

In March of 2018, Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of New York rejected yet another attempt by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to dismiss the case. Judge Daniels then ordered discovery into the Saudi role in aiding and abetting the hijackers, including on matters relating to the activities of Saudi government officials Omar Ahmed al-Bayoumi and Fahad al-Thumairy. Attorneys for the 9/11 families and related parties have been collecting information from the Saudis, the U.S government, and other parties throughout the world. Much of that information remains under seal, but it is extensive and probative to the case.

One of the issues relating to Thumairy and Bayoumi was a heavily redacted 2012 FBI Summary Report, which indicated that the FBI was investigating both them and an unnamed third party who “tasked” them to help the hijackers upon arrival. The 9/11 plaintiffs have demanded that the name of that third individual be released, but it appears that some elements in the U.S. government though that the name should be shielded from the families as a “state secret.” The Attorney General had the personal obligation to determine whether the identity of the unnamed “tasking” official should be treated in that fashion.

The public policy of the United States favors full disclosure of all details relating to the Saudi support for al Qaeda and the 9/11 hijackers. Congress made this clear by passing JASTA has continued to emphasize the need for full disclosure.

For example, on September 26, 2018, the U.S. Senate once again spoke to the importance of full disclosure, unanimously passing S. Res. 610 calling on the Department of Justice to declassify necessary information because “the survivors, the families of the victims, and the people of the United States deserve answers about the events and circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks upon the United States.” That effort was led by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX).

Further, on March 8, 2019, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray to urge him to give the highest attention to the 9/11 families’ request for information, emphasizing, that “Congress has made clear its view that American interests would best be served by a full and fair inquiry into these matters.” (See March 8, 2019 letter from Senators John Cornyn, Charles Schumer, Chuck Grassley, Richard Blumenthal, and Kirsten Gillibrand to FBI Director Christopher Wray.) The Senators made clear that the “FBI should not withhold relevant information from the [9/11] victims or their families in these cases for any reason.”

The families will continue to press their case in order to uncover the truth regarding the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks. Today’s disclosure is helpful to that cause, but much more work must be done.

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Foreign Affairs

What if Iran, not Afghanistan or North Korea, was the reason John Bolton left the White House?



What if Iran not Afghanistan or North Korea was the reason John Bolton left the White House

Speculation over the divide that eventually turned into an irreparable chasm between President Trump and his former National Security Advisor John Bolton has been focused on two places: Afghanistan and North Korea. The former is conspicuous because of timing; the White House has been in negotiations with the Taliban and Afghani leaders and recently canceled a meeting at Camp David before declaring withdrawal negotiations “dead.” The latter was referenced today by the President, who noted that Bolton’s invocation of the “Libyan Model” was part of the reason talks broke down between the United States and North Korea.

But recent reports that the President is considering relieving sanctions, reengaging in the Iran Nuclear Deal, and offering Iran a $15 billion line of credit seems to be the most likely scenario behind Bolton’s unexpected departure.

Trump Flirts With $15 Billion Bailout for Iran, Sources Say

President Donald Trump has left the impression with foreign officials, members of his administration, and others involved in Iranian negotiations that he is actively considering a French plan to extend a $15 billion credit line to the Iranians if Tehran comes back into compliance with the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Trump has in recent weeks shown openness to entertaining President Emmanuel Macron’s plan, according to four sources with knowledge of Trump’s conversations with the French leader. Two of those sources said that State Department officials, including Secretary Mike Pompeo, are also open to weighing the French proposal, which would effectively ease the economic sanctions regime that the Trump administration has applied on Tehran for more than a year.

If this is the case and the President starts to bend on Iran in this manner, it’s a huge mistake and makes Bolton’s ouster much more understandable. Bolton, perhaps more than any other current or former White House official, is vehemently opposed to any relief for Iran. If anything, Bolton has likely been calling for strikes against Iran since joining the White House earlier this year. He’s a hawk – way too hawkish for me in most cases – but he also understands better than most that Iran represents a real threat to our interests and allies as well as the United States itself. Despite their economic hardships, they remain the world’s most prominent state sponsor of terrorism.

They want to destroy America, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. They aren’t shy about these desires.

Now is not the time to be backing down to Iran’s demands. This is still in rumor stage, but if the White House does anything to help the Iranian government get back on its feet, it would be a tremendous mistake.

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