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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Tuesday, February 12.
1) Syria, Hezbollah, Lebanon

The Washington Post reports Iran and Hezbollah build militia networks in Syria in event that Assad falls, officials say:

A Treasury statement noted that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard commander has said that Jaysh was “modeled after Iran’s own Basij,” which it described as “a paramilitary force subordinate to the IRGC that has been heavily involved in the violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses occurring in Iran since the June 2009 contested presidential election.”
In a divided Syria, Iran’s natural allies would include Shiites and Alawites concentrated in provinces near Syria’s border with Lebanon and in the key port city of Latakia. Under the most likely scenarios, analysts say, remnants of Assad’s government — with or without Assad — would seek to establish a coastal enclave closely tied to Tehran, dependent on the Iranians for survival while helping Iran to retain its link to Hezbollah and thereby its leverage against Israel.
Experts said that Iran is less interested in preserving Assad in power than in maintaining levers of power, including transport hubs inside Syria. As long as Tehran could maintain control of an airport or seaport, it could also maintain a Hezbollah-controlled supply route into Lebanon and continue to manipulate Lebanese politics.
But Hezbollah isn't just building its infrastructure in Syria, it's doing it Lebanon too. Ron Ben Yishai noted an interesting aspect of Hezbollah's tactics:
Hassan Nasrallah's organization has found that it is more difficult to deal with IDF soldiers and their superior firepower in open areas. Moreover, UN Resolution 1701 from 2006 forbids Hezbollah gunmen from carrying weapons in open areas. Therefore, Hezbollah has moved from bases in "nature preserves" to designated areas within the villages from which it can launch rocket or other attacks against Israel. The evacuated nature reserves no longer serve as permanent bases, and instead are meant to be used as bases for launching raids on Israeli communities in the Galilee.
At the same time, the Shiite terror group launched a major social/real-estate project that bolstered its political standing: It purchased lands on the outskirts of the villages, built homes on these lands and offered them to poor Shiite families at bargain prices (to rent or buy), one the condition that at least one rocket launcher would be placed in one of the house's rooms or in the basement, along with a number of rockets, which will be fired at predetermined targets in Israel when the order is given.
In addition, Hezbollah has set up camouflaged defense positions in villages which contain advanced Russian-made anti-tank missiles it had received from Syria. Hezbollah gunmen have planted large explosive devices along the access roads, and inside the villages structures that were purchased by the organization were converted into arms caches. The Hezbollah gunmen are focusing their efforts on finding ways to hide underground to protect themselves from IDF fire and to prevent Israeli intelligence from tracking them down so they will be able to continue fighting even when IDF forces are nearby.
Remember that there are those who defend Hezbollah claiming that it has social programs too. Not all social programs are meant to better peoples' lives.

The Washington Post asked retired Gen. Amos Yadlin what the triggers for future Israeli attacks on Hezbollah would be.
Israel, he said, has defined four types of weapons whose transfer to militant groups would not be tolerated: advanced air defense systems, ballistic missiles, sophisticated shore-to-sea missiles and chemical weapons.
In accordance with this policy, Yadlin said, “any time Israel will have reliable intelligence that this is going to be transferred from Syria to Lebanon, it will act,” although specific decisions to strike would be subject to assessments of the military value of the attack, the risk of escalation and the positions of foreign powers. “As the Syrian army becomes weaker and Hezbollah grows more isolated because of the loss of its Syrian patron, it makes sense that this will continue,” Yadlin said, adding that Israeli responses would be weighed each time and “not happen automatically.”
Adam Kredo reports in Israel on Alert:
The “world needs to be prepared for the next war with Lebanon,” a senior military adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said during a private meeting with representatives of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a D.C. think-tank.
“All of Lebanon is now South Lebanon,” the official reportedly said, referring to Israel’s ongoing attempts to prevent the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah from replenishing its weapons cache.

Jonathan Schanzer, FDD’s vice president of research, recalled being “struck by the blunt nature of this senior officials’ comments.”
It is possible that red lines are being crossed even now.

2) More Hagel

Yesterday I wrote about a report that claimed that Sen. Chuck Hagel had dealings with a group called "Friends of Hamas." It was pointed out that if this report were true, it would have garnered a lot more attention than it did.

Still there's plenty of damaging material on Sen. Hagel. Jennifer Rubin writes that Hagel's less than forthcoming approach to financial disclosures is problematic.
One of those senators displeased with the ongoing game of hide-the-ball is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). His communications director, Sean Rushton, e-mails me, “When Henry Kissinger was named by George W. Bush to the 9/11 Commission, Harry Reid demanded to know any and all foreign funds he might have received, asking ‘What are they trying to hide?’ Now, when the nominee is for Secretary of Defense — the civilian leader of our entire military, rather than just an advisory commission — Democrats are suddenly declaring it is irrelevant whether he has been paid substantial sums by foreign governments, lobbyists, corporations, or individuals?” He makes clear there is unanimity among the committee Republicans: “Twelve members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have asked for reasonable financial disclosures, namely what compensation Chuck Hagel has received in the last five years and what foreign funds have paid indirectly for the substantial fees that he has received in the financial sector. If Hagel refuses to disclose whether he has foreign financial conflicts of interest, he will make it impossible for the Committee or the full Senate to make a fair and informed decision about his nomination.”
The Democrats’ hypocrisy here is stunning. While Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger and were both required to fork over the full array of financial data, Hagel’s protectors seem to think he is above that sort of thing. In refusing to provide the requested information on foreign affiliations or financial data (he still won’t turn over a list of those who paid him for his speeches, for example), Hagel is daring the Senate to rebuff his nomination. At a time when another senator is tied up in knots over his ties to a shady donor, doesn’t it behoove the Senate to get to the bottom of Hagel’s finances?
This lack of cooperation repeats a pattern we saw in the Senate when he refused to comply with the Ethics Committee’s demands for information on the McCarthy Group Inc. In a report titled, “Hagel’s ethics filings pose disclosure issue,” The Hill reported, “Hagel had reported a financial stake worth $1 million to $5 million in the privately held firm. But he did not report the company’s underlying assets, choosing instead to cite his holdings as an ‘excepted investment fund,’ and therefore exempt from detailed disclosure rules. . . . [S]everal disclosure law experts said financial institutions set up in the same fashion as the McCarthy Group Inc. do not appear to meet the definition of an ‘excepted investment fund.’ ” In other words, Hagel has never disclosed some of this information to the Senate, either while in the Senate or while he is now seeking confirmation.
The Weekly Standard uncovered a 2008 speech given by Hagel regarding his fears of a nuclear Iran. After praising Aaron David Miller, in part, because "he's Jewish," Hagel expressed greater fear of Israel's nuclear arsenal than Iran's.
"Now that doesn’t apologize for or doesn’t close our eyes to what Iran has been doing, what Iran does do, but unless they are engaged in some way , then I don’t see this getting any better, and then where this could go, where this could eventually go. Someone was asking me the other day about a nuclear exchange in the world, where that would come from. I said well I’ll give you a scenario that’s very real. If Israel gets backed up enough into a corner and Israel uses a tactical theater nuclear weapon, you want to talk about seeing some things unravel in the world. The United States shouldn’t even be thinking about options of bombing Iran or anybody else. I mean we got our hands full right now. And we’re in such a hell of a mess."
Nonetheless, the New York Times who believes that President Obama should get everything he wants (except the unchecked power to order drone strikes) considers objections to Hagel to be "petty politics."
Mr. Inhofe told National Review on Monday that he would block Mr. Hagel’s nomination on the Senate floor for “a long, long time.” The reason? He thinks Mr. Hagel is “anti-Israel,” and he hopes the delay will pressure pro-Israel Democrats. Mr. Hagel, in fact, has 12 years’ worth of votes in support of Israel, and he amplified that backing in his confirmation hearing. But because he has also dared to express concern about the plight of Palestinians in their quest for a state, he has given Mr. Inhofe a platform to make extremist charges. Mr. Graham is being even more petulant. With his eye clearly on his Republican primary next year, he said on Sunday that he would block the nomination of Mr. Hagel (and of John Brennan to run the C.I.A.) until he finds out whether Mr. Obama called the Libyan government last September during the takeover of the American consulate in Benghazi. This is a continuation of his party’s fantasy of a direct connection between the president and the deaths of four Americans. Most Republicans gave up on this nonsense after Mr. Obama’s re-election, when it was no longer useful to them, but Mr. Graham is proving to be the ultimate dead-ender.
Incredibly, Sen. Hagel's disastrous performance in Senate hearings last week has done nothing to diminish the paper's enthusiasm for his nomination.

3) Mubarak's legacy

Fouad Ajami in The Pharoh fell but his poisonous legacy lingers:
Two years ago, on Feb. 11, 2011, the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak stepped aside, overwhelmed by 18 days of protests. Silent and remote, he had ruled for three decades. He had offered his countrymen—and powers beyond—the sole gift of stability. He was a gendarme on the banks of the Nile. Now his country was done with him, and the vaunted stability of his near 30-year reign was torn asunder. Yet it is only against the backdrop of the sordid political landscape of today's Egypt—the hooliganism of the young, the lawlessness, the fault line between a feeble secular camp and a cynical Muslim Brotherhood bent on monopolizing political power—that the true work of the Mubarak tyranny can be fully appreciated. The "deep state" he presided over—a Ministry of Interior with nearly two million functionaries, a police force that ran amok—is Mubarak's true legacy. The disorder today in Egypt's streets is taken by some as proof that the despot knew what he was doing, and that Egyptians are innately given to tyranny. But that view misses the damage that this man and his greedy family and retainers inflicted on a nation of more than 80 million people that once had nobler ideas of its place in the world.
According to two reports, Egypt's security forces are possibly getting help. Khaled Abu Toameh reports:
Did Hamas dispatch 7,000 militiamen from the Gaza Strip to Egypt to protect President Mohamed Morsi, who is currently facing a popular uprising?
Reports that appeared in a number of Egyptian opposition media outlets in the past few days claimed that the militiamen entered Egypt through the smuggling tunnels along the border with the Gaza Strip.

The reports quoted unidentified Egyptian security officials as saying that the Hamas militiamen had been spotted in the Egyptian border town of Rafah before they headed toward Cairo, to shore up the Muslim Brotherhood regime of Morsi, which Hamas may have feared was in danger of collapse.
According to the Jerusalem Post:
High-ranking Iranians visited Cairo, then ruled by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces; Iranian warships were allowed to transit through the Suez Canal on their way to a show of strength in the Mediterranean. Iran says over and over again that it wants better relations with Egypt and wishes to reestablish diplomatic ties. That was the message carried by the Iranian foreign minister who came to Cairo a few days ago.
According to the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas, there was another, secret visit some weeks ago. The head of al-Quds Force, the elite force of the revolutionary guards of Iran, had apparently been invited to demonstrate how to set up a special and elite unit – distinct from the army – faithful to President Mohamed Morsi’s regime. There have been reports in recent months to the effect that the Muslim Brotherhood was forming a special militia to protect the regime and tackle its opponents and that it was already operational.

Since the revolution there has been much talk about the need for Egypt to develop economic and commercial ties as well as tourism and air traffic with Iran. Both countries have much to gain from the move.
If these reports are true, it means that despite all the talk of the Muslim Brotherhood representing the will of the Egyptian people, the Brotherhood, instead, is turning to outside forces to enforce its will on the Egyptian people.

4) Credit

 A number of items here have come from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs' Daily Alert.

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