August 14, 2020

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10/08 Links Pt1: On Yom Kippur War anniversary Fatah implicitly calls on Arab states to wage war against Israel; UNRWA must evolve or dissolve, says senior official at end of UNGA

From Ian:

PMW: On Yom Kippur War anniversary Fatah implicitly calls on Arab states to wage war against Israel
Fatah on its Facebook page justifies Arabs launching war on Israel, stating that the same “Israeli danger that the Arabs fought …still exist”

– Israel “constitutes the central threat to the [Arab] nation, its interests, its future, and its holy sites”
– “The anniversary of [the Yom Kippur War] is a call to the Arab nation and its leaders to end this dark and bloody chapter that the nation is going through”

In 1973, Egypt and Syria simultaneously launched a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement and the holiest day in Judaism. Over the next three weeks, Israel succeeded pushing the Arab forces back but suffered heavy losses with 2,688 fallen soldiers and thousands of wounded.

Now, on the anniversary of the war, Fatah is telling Arab states that the same need to attack still exists:

Posted text: “The anniversary of the October War (i.e., the 1973 Yom Kippur War) is a call to the Arab nation and its leaders to end this dark and bloody chapter that the nation is going through; it is a call to remind [us] that the Israeli danger that the Arabs fought that war in order to confront still exists, and constitutes the central threat to the [Arab] nation, its interests, its future, and its holy sites.”
[Official Fatah Facebook page, Oct. 6, 2019]

This text was posted by Fatah on its official Facebook page and written by Secretary of Fatah’s Branch in Poland Khalil Nazzal.

UNRWA must evolve or dissolve, says senior agency official at end of General Assembly

“Direct pressure” by donors is the most likely way to induce the United Nations Relief and Works Agency to change, former UNRWA general counsel James Lindsay told JNS as the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly came to a close last week in New York.

Speaking from Geneva, Lindsay—the only former senior UNRWA official ever to have written a thorough critique of the agency, which is tasked with serving 5.6 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, eastern Jerusalem, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan—told JNS that while the renewal of the agency’s mandate in the coming months was “pretty much a foregone conclusion,” donor countries can still have a very significant impact. (The agency’s mandate must be renewed every three years.)

Donors countries should be encouraged to do “the right thing,” he said, by “pressure and embarrassment,” if necessary.

As Palestinian and Jordanian ministers met on the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting to try to ensure a renewal of the agency’s mandate, Lindsay exposed various structural problems with UNRWA that go beyond alleged abuses of authority by senior agency officials. (UNRWA is currently under investigation by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres following accusations of ethical misconduct and corruption.)

Speaking at a side event at the 42nd session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Sept. 23, Lindsay critiqued the notoriously anti-Israel agency, suggesting that it must evolve or dissolve. Lindsay detailed UNRWA’s undermining of its own mission as a “humanitarian and welfare organization focused on the immediate relief of people in distress.”

For example, he said, only 10 percent of the organization’s current budget goes to basic, immediate needs, while the rest goes to education and medical care, which he called “governmental responsibilities.”

“There is no reason why the United Nations should be providing that,” he said.

U.N. Pleads for Money as Finances Poised to Run Dry by Month’s End

The United Nations is running a deficit of $230 million, Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday, and may run out of money by the end of October unless world governments immediately meet their financial obligations.

U.S. taxpayers would most likely be hardest hit by any immediate cash injection into the global organization.

The United States is by far the U.N.’s biggest financial contributor, providing 22 percent of its operating budget and funding 28 percent of peacekeeping missions, which currently cost $8 billion annually.

The next two major contributors are Germany and the U.K.

In a letter intended for the 37,000 employees at the U.N. secretariat and obtained by AFP, Guterres said unspecified, “additional stop-gap measures” would have to be taken to ensure salaries and entitilements are met.

These might include holding less meetings and cutting back on travel and associated entitlements.

“Member States have paid only 70 per cent of the total amount needed for our regular budget operations in 2019. This translates into a cash shortage of $230 million at the end of September. We run the risk of depleting our backup liquidity reserves by the end of the month,” he wrote.

Donald Trump has long pushed for reform of the U.N. and just last week warned the “future does not belong to globalists” in a warning to the organization’s leaders:

In December 2017 Nikki Haley, the then United States Ambassador to the organization, announced the federal government had reduced its contribution to the U.N.’s annual budget by $285 million, as Breitbart News reported.

Israel and the politics of institutional insanity

Although later disputed by those with a vested interest in continuing the misbegotten peace process, it was on January 30, 1996 – over 2 years after signing the Oslo peace treaty with Israel – that Yasir Arafat addressed forty Arab diplomats at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, and delivered a speech that was quite transparently titled “The Impending Total Collapse of Israel.”

Consider carefully what the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate offered:

“We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem… We, of the PLO will now concentrate all our efforts on splitting Israel psychologically into two camps. Within five years we will have six to seven million Arabs living in the West Bank, and in Jerusalem… You understand that we plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian State… I have no use for Jews; they are, and remain, Jews.”

This perspicuous admission of intent should have exposed, and derailed, the peace process which had fallen victim to a misguided and unmistakably failed diplomatic solution that was in fact witness to a subsequent four-fold increase of Arab terrorism victimizing innocent Israeli citizens.

Instead, Arafat was invited on several occasions to visit as an honored guest of the White House, and in kind, the Israelis pretended that a viable peace option was still somehow extant.

It was the height of deception. Or insanity.

Honest Reporting: The Oslo Accords: Searching for Peace

According to the Accords, Israel which was wary about handing over full security control to an entity which was sworn to its destruction for decades, and with terrorist entities surrounding the Holy Land, maintained control of the borders, the airspace and waters. Oslo II, Article XII states:
Israel shall continue to carry the responsibility for defense against external threats, including the responsibility for protecting the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, and for defense against external threats from the sea and from the air, as well as the responsibility for overall security of Israelis and Settlements, for the purpose of safeguarding their internal security and public order, and will have all the powers to take the steps necessary to meet this responsibility.

The first proactive step according to the agreement was Israel partially withdrawing from Gaza and Jericho. They would then transfer some powers on civil issues to the interim Palestinian Authority. Israeli troops would then withdraw from other Palestinian areas and elections would be held for the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Oslo accords
Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat signing the Declaration of Principles on Sept. 13, 1993.

Israel withdrew from Jericho and from most of the Gaza Strip in 1994 and the first elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) took place on January 20, 1996. The governments elected by the PLC retained the name “Palestinian National Authority.”

But in May 1999, the five year interim period ended with the two sides not reaching a comprehensive peace agreement. Some elements of the Oslo Accords remained such as the division of the three areas. The interim Palestinian Authority became permanent, and a dominant component of the PLO. The 2000 Camp David Accords were an attempt to revive the negotiations and save the Oslo Accords. But when the Palestinians refused the Israeli offer, the Second Intifada was unleashed, using many of the weapons the Palestinians were given for their own security forces, bringing the process to an end. During the Second Intifada, IDF forces had to reoccupy many of the areas which it turned over to the Palestinians because they became platforms for terror attacks against Israel.

The Israeli public entered the 1990s with a feeling of hope that perhaps there could be a breakthrough and that peace could be achieved with the Palestinians. But the failure of the two sides to come to a final arrangement which provided Israel with its security needs – especially amidst continued terror attacks during the process – led to the stalemate between the two which exists until today.

Does Israel need pacts with Persian Gulf that Katz is trying to secure?

Dore Gold, former director-general of the Foreign Ministry who now heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and has in the past had some ties with Saudi academics, applauded Katz’s initiative.

“When you go and try to develop these non-belligerent agreements, it is not a full peace, but it moves you along the route that could eventually become that,” he said.

Asked if he could imagine a scenario where the Persian Gulf countries would sign such an agreement, Gold replied, “Yes, if they could explain to their intellectuals and the academics that this is not a full peace treaty.”

Gold cited an example from the Cold War – the Helsinki Final Act in 1975 – that could be used as a model for this type of accord. That pact committed the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries to give prior notification of military exercises.

“This was not the end of the Cold War, but it certainly created institutional frameworks that allowed these countries to meet on a regular basis,” Gold said. “So if Israel and the Arab states would adopt a similar framework, it would create a much better regional environment.”

Unlike Inbar, who did not see value in this type of accord, Gold said that “anything that moves us down the road toward a greater diplomatic context is positive.”

Regarding what the Arab states would get by signing such an accord, inasmuch as they are now enjoying the fruits of cooperation without making it public, Gold replied, “There is no free lunch. These countries apparently feel that if they upgrade their relations with Israel, there may be positive benefits for them, such as their relationship with the United States, which they are very worried about at the present.”

How the Syrian War Shifted Attitudes towards Arab-Israeli Rapprochement

The Syrian civil war has slowly shifted the dynamic of who is considered an “enemy” in the Arab world. The war has reinforced the conviction of a broad group of Arab governments and peoples that Iran and political Islam are real enemies that pose an existential threat.

Arab meetings and summits still continue to focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But the crimes committed against Arabs by the axis of resistance – Assad’s Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, Iran, and Islamic Jihad – have been far worse than the stereotypes depicted in “resistance” literature about Israel.

For example, more than half a million Syrians have been killed at the hands of Iranian agents and other local Syrian groups. In contrast, Israeli hospitals during this period provided displaced Syrians with health care away from Assad’s barrel bombs and Iranian militias.

At the grassroots level, open access to the Internet has also expanded young Arabs’ access to and understanding of Jews, Israelis, and Israel. Ironically, Ahed Tamimi’s experience in Israeli prisons as recorded online has become a major point of comparison between Israel and youth jailed in Arab countries.

Moreover, Arab youth can access positive as well as negative images of Israel for the first time through social media – including the Israeli government’s creative Arabic-language outreach.

There is an increasing recognition that “resistance” rhetoric has been a tool used to achieve political gains irrelevant to the Arab-Israeli conflict that serve instead the leaders of the resistance and their militias.

After Trump abandons Kurds, Israel knows it can’t rely on anyone

Don’t let the lack of any formal Israeli response to US President Donald Trump’s dramatic reversal of policy and decision to remove US troops from northern Syria fool you: Jerusalem is deeply, deeply concerned about this step.

Not because it will suddenly impact Israel’s ability to take action in Syria when it desires to halt Iranian attempts to entrench itself there – though it could make that marginally more difficult – but because it drives home the idea that Israel really can only rely on itself.

Trump’s decision – a reversal of last year’s reversal of an announcement to withdraw US troops from Syria – cannot be seen as an isolated decision. It must also be seen within the context of the Iranian-backed attacks last month on the Saudi oil facilities, and the deafening lack of an American response.

Both these incidents show that the present administration is little different from the previous Obama administration in its unwillingness to stand up and confront where necessary the negative forces in the Middle East – and this is something that has enormous significance for Israel.

What this is driving home to the country’s strategic planners is that while the US under a very friendly administration will support Israel at the United Nations; while it will offer assistance with aid for weapons; and while it will give it moral backing and defend it against international pressure – when it comes to the use of force, Israel must be willing and ready to defend itself, by itself.
Ironically, Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds comes just a month after he mentioned the possibility of signing some kind of a mutual defense pact with Israel.

While many of the country’s strategic thinkers did not take that too seriously, debating whether indeed such a pact would have merit, Trump’s actions – abandoning the Kurds to the “tender mercies” of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as former National Security Council head Eran Lerman put it – will be taken very seriously.

The security pact is words; the withdrawal of the US troops are actions. In this region, decisions are taken based on how various key players act, not what they say.

Melanie Phillips: A mirror image

Israel, of course, is now concerned that Iran, pumped up and elated by the spectacle of American weakness, will follow up its attack on Saudi Arabia with an attack on Israel. Once again, it seems, Israel is on its own.

Whoever thought that because Trump loves Israel he would act wisely on its behalf clearly wasn’t paying attention.

Yes, Trump is probably the only person who could have issued a corrective to the disastrous onslaught on American exceptionalism and western democratic values by the Obama administration. Yes, he’s still the only person to take the fight to the cultural totalitarians, antisemites and anti-white racists of the Democratic Party who would continue to destroy America. And yes, a man like Trump is necessary because the civilised world has spun so wildly off its axis of reason and decency over the past several decades that only someone who is totally outside all the normal rules of politics and social conformism could create at least a possibility of western cultural survival.

But as I have also said again and again, Trump thinks out of his gut rather than his brain. The fact that what his gut tells him is often far superior to what most leaders produce from their brain doesn’t solve the problem. Not thinking with your brain and having the attention span of a gnat on speed is more than a little problematic in the leader of the western world.

Oh – and did I mention again his psychological flaws?

Trump is also an isolationist. And so here’s the thing. Despite his emotional attachment to Israel, his isolationism means he often arrives in pretty much the same place as the left places itself. The left doesn’t want to get involved in wars against the enemies of the west because it takes the side of the enemies of the west. Unless there’s an immediate threat to America, Trump doesn’t want to get involved an any wars at all.

So maybe the only hope of getting him to reverse what he’s just set in train is to tell him that he now risks going down in history as the president who lost Iraq; that he risks becoming Obama mark two by disengaging America and thus empowering Iran; and that this risks causing another, even more terrible Middle East war — which will hit the world’s economy and thus his chances of re-election in 2020.

Maybe that might concentrate his mind.

But then, maybe by tomorrow, or even later today, he’ll have decided to change course again anyway…

Leaving Syria: A Blow to US Deterrence, a Boost to Middle East Islamists

From a wider regional perspective, the Iranian regime has assessed that isolationism and adversity to risk-taking is driving Trump’s agenda in the region, and it is this calculation that led the Iranians to dare strike Saudi Arabian oil facilities in September, using advanced cruise missiles and explosive drone swarms.

That attack, launched from Iranian territory according to US intelligence sources, forms the most significant strike on Middle Eastern oil sites since the 1991 Gulf War and shook up the global oil market.

As the Iranians predicted, no military response followed.

These developments have the potential to embolden Iran to hasten violations of what remains of the 2015 nuclear deal and restart its nuclear program.

In light of the above, Israel’s military independence and freedom of maneuver is essential. Israel must be prepared to engage an Iran that is growing in confidence, and that is increasingly willing to use its own military forces to attack Israel and Sunni Arab states.

Israel must work with pragmatic Sunni powers in the region to counter the Iranian threat, based on the assumption that Trump is interested in militarily disengaging from the Middle East.

The Israel Defense Forces is building itself up to be able to defeat any combination of enemies, with a combination of powerful offensive and defensive capabilities. Israel is continuing to develop its multi-layered air defense system, and building up its air, sea, and land forces. As Iran continues to try and surround Israel with missile bases, terrorist staging areas and a variety of terror armies, Israel’s ability to defend itself by itself may be put to the test in the not too distant future.

The lessons of betrayal in northern Syria

On the tactical level, if a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria is launched, this will have the likely effect of delivering a large part of northeast Syria into the hands of the Assad regime and its Iranian allies. This is because the Syrian Kurds, if faced with a choice between Assad or the Sunni jihadi forces currently fighting under the Turkish flag, will choose the former. Assad and the Iranians will suppress all independent Kurdish political and cultural activity. But they will almost certainly not carry out wholesale ethnic cleansing of Kurdish populations.

The Turks and their Sunni Islamist allies cleansed 200,000 Kurds from their homes in the Afrin Kurdish enclave, which Turkey destroyed in January 2018. The Kurds, with good reason, believe that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan plans a similar fate for the Kurds of the northeast. So they are likely to fight to hold the Turks back in the north for as long as possible while arranging a rapid surrender to Assad to enable the Syrian regime to take control of the areas further south. The result: Syria east of the Euphrates, currently an American protectorate and a barrier against Iran and ISIS, will be divided up between the Turks/Islamists in the north and Assad/the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the south. The southern part would then form part of the famous Iranian “land bridge” to the Mediterranean, Lebanon, and the Quneitra Crossing (Syria’s border with the Israeli Golan Heights).

On a strategic level, the American move confirms that the current US administration is not interested in heading an alliance of regional forces against Iranian expansionism or Sunni political Islam, as some had fondly believed. Rather, the administration, like its predecessor, is in the business of managing imperial decline (albeit with very different rhetoric from that of the Obama administration). This will be a lesson well learned by both allies and enemies of the US in the Middle East.

White House insists Trump didn’t give Turkey a “green light” in Syria

The White House is insisting that President Trump did not offer Turkey a “green light” to slaughter U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria last night and that the U.S. wouldn’t bear responsibility for any Islamic State resurgence in the area.

Why it matters: Confusion and concern followed the sudden announcement last night — after a call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — that the U.S. would withdraw from the “immediate area” into which Turkish troops are expected to advance.
– Turkey fiercely opposes the primarily Kurdish forces that hold the area and helped the U.S. retake swathes of Syria from ISIS, leading to bipartisan accusations that Trump is abandoning an ally.
– The backlash included Sens. Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
– There was an information vacuum for much of the day beyond the tweets in which Trump reiterated his desire to leave Syria, claimed the Kurds had been “paid massive amounts” to fight ISIS and warned he would “destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it did anything he found “off limits.”

The latest: A senior administration official told reporters on a call tonight that Trump was withdrawing 50–100 special forces troops currently operating near the Turkey-Syria border, but not pulling out of Syria entirely.
– The official said Trump had determined Erdoğan was “set on undertaking an operation in northern Syria” after months of threats and said Trump didn’t want U.S. troops in the path of a NATO ally.
– The official said repeatedly that Trump was not endorsing Erdoğan’s plan, but wouldn’t say whether he’d warned him not to move ahead.

Trump threatens Turkey with ‘extremely decimated economy’ over Syria

President Donald Trump on Monday launched a harsh attack on NATO ally Turkey, threatening to destroy its economy if Ankara takes a planned military strike in Syria too far, even though the U.S. leader himself has opened the door for a Turkish incursion.

Trump said he would “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it took action in Syria that he considered “off limits” following his decision on Sunday to pull 50 American special forces troops from northeastern Syria.

The U.S. withdrawal will leave Kurdish-led forces in Syria that have long allied with Washington vulnerable to a planned incursion by the Turkish military, which brands them terrorists.

Trump’s stern words seemed to be aimed at placating critics who accused him of abandoning the Syrian Kurds by pulling out U.S. forces. The decision drew criticism from Democrats and a rare rebuke from some of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)” Trump tweeted.

Turkey does not appear “as of now” to have begun its expected incursion into northern Syria, a senior Trump administration official said on Monday.

Turkey says won’t bow to Trump threat on Syria plan, army ready to assault Kurds

Turkey will not bow to threats over its Syria plans, the Turkish vice president said Tuesday in an apparent response to President Donald Trump’s warning to Ankara the previous day about the scope of its planned military incursion into northeastern Syria.

In Ankara, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said Turkey was intent on combating Syrian Kurdish fighters across its border in Syria and on creating a zone that would allow Turkey to resettle Syrian refugees there.

“Where Turkey’s security is concerned, we determine our own path but we set our own limits,” Oktay said.

Meanwhile Turkey’s defense ministry announced that preparations for the offensive have been “completed.”

Trump said earlier this week following a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the United States would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on Syrian Kurdish fighters, who have fought alongside Americans for years. But he then threatened to destroy the Turks’ economy if they went too far.

Top Israeli Politicians Lament Trump Decision to Pull US Forces From Northern Syria

Yair Lapid — co-chairman of Israel’s centrist Blue and White party — issued a rare, if indirect, criticism of the Trump administration on Monday, expressing support for two US senators opposed to the president’s just-announced plan to pull American troops out of northern Syria to clear the way for a Turkish invasion.

The critique of Trump’s move has centered on the likely consequences for the region’s Kurdish population, whose US-allied militias played a decisive role in the defeat of the Islamic State.

“I join my friends @LindseyGrahamSC and @ChrisVanHollen in their call to impose sanctions on Turkey and suspend it from NATO in response to any attack on the Kurds in northern Syria,” Lapid tweeted.

“I also welcome President Trump making the cost of any such attack absolutely clear to Erdogan,” he added.

Lapid’s tweet came in response to one by Senator Lindsey Graham, in which Graham announced a legislative initiative to head off a Turkish attack on Kurdish forces in the region.

“Just spoke to Sen @ChrisVanHollen about situation in Syria,” said Graham. “We will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the US in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.”

“Hope and expect sanctions against Turkey — if necessary — would be veto-proof,” Graham added.

Foolish beyond belief: In Syria, Trump just betrayed our allies and helped our enemies

President Trump claims he is putting America first, but by sacrificing our Kurdish allies at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s altar, he has dishonored America’s word and degraded American alliances.

The Kurds will bleed. And American allies, foes, and in-betweeners will take note that this president cannot be trusted.

Let’s not dance around the edges here. The facts are clear. The United States military presence in northern Syria, that which Trump is now ending, is not the war-fighting presence that Trump suggests. It is a peacekeeping presence designed to constrain the Islamic State’s rebirth, to deter Turkey’s slaughter of the Kurds, and to prevent Bashar Assad’s slaughter of the Sunni Arab tribes.

Trump says this withdrawal will allow the Kurds and Turkey to “figure the situation out.” What an idiotic comment. The only thing that will be figured out is Erdoğan’s sated bloodlust for Kurdish bodies.

I do not exaggerate here. The Turkish military and Erdoğan’s Islamic-nationalist base despise the Kurds. They will make few distinctions between the PKK terrorist group (an issue the Turks have a legitimate gripe about) and other sub-militias that have avoided terrorism against Turkey. They will make few distinctions between civilians and fighters. They will have fun. Erdoğan’s bloodlust will only be strengthened by his domestic interest in throwing literal bones to the Turkish far right.

This is a disgrace made worse by the fact that the U.S. clearly owes the Kurds our loyalty.

Iran could attack Israel, just as it did the Saudi oil fields: Galant

Iran could use a combination of cruise missiles and advanced drones to attack Israel, in a manner similar to the way it attacked the Saudi oil fields last month, Absorption Minister Yoav Galant told Army Radio.

A Major-General (Res.), Galant was one of a number of Israel’s security cabinet members who took to the airwaves this week to discuss the threat from Iran, in the aftermath of Sunday’s security cabinet meeting that dealt with upgrading Israel’s aerial defense system so that it could better combat such an attack.

Galant said he would not speculate on the likelihood of such an attack, but he noted that if Iran could “shoot in one direction [at Saudi Arabia] from hundreds of kilometers away” it could also “shoot in another direction [at Israel] from hundreds of kilometers away.

“We are looking at what is happening around us,” he continued.

Since May Iran has been increasing its hostile activity in the region, including an unprecedented attack on September 14 on the Saudi oil fields that involved the coordination of dozens of projectiles, missiles and drones, Galant explained.

“Iran is not a theoretical enemy,” Galant said, explaining that its regime has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel.

Iran has denied attacking Saudi Arabia. But Israel, the United States, Saudi Arabia, France and Germany hold that Iran was behind the attack. This past summer, Israel said it thwarted a potential Iranian drone attack against the Golan Heights.

Iranian threats against Israel should be taken very seriously, said Galant, who explained that the attack on Saudi Arabia relied on low flying projectiles that went undetected and represented a new phase of warfare in the region.

Kurdish Militia in Syria Likely to Join with Assad, Putin

Kurdish forces in Syria will likely seek an alliance with Moscow and Damascus after the United States announced a looming Turkish incursion into Syria, analysts have told The Media Line.

A statement from the White House after President Donald Trump spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday night revealed that Turkey “will soon be moving forward.”

Ankara sees the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria as connected to the PKK, a Turkey-based Kurdish militia it has declared a terrorist organization. Both Washington and the European Union have also classified the PKK as a terrorist group.

Turkey has long complained about Washington’s alliance with Kurdish forces in northern Syria who have been integral in fighting against Islamic State. The Turks view them as a security threat and want them removed from the area close to the frontier. The YPG, already weakened after the US got it to remove its defensive positions along the Syrian border, will be in search of an ally to replace the US in order to support its logistical needs. There are fears that with Kurdish forces now having to face an attack by Turkey without American help, ISIS could remerge.

Brett McGurk, the former US special envoy to the global coalition to defeat ISIS, tweeted after the US announcement that Turkey cannot and does not want to deal with tens of thousands of people detained in camps in Syria, where people are at risk of radicalization, something that would lead to a resurgent ISIS.

Turkey Says It’s Ready for Syria Push, Kurds Signal Damascus Talks

Turkey said on Tuesday it was all set to launch a military push into northeast Syria after the United States began pulling back troops, opening the way for a Turkish attack on Kurdish-led forces long allied to Washington.

But US President Donald Trump warned he would “obliterate” the NATO ally’s economy if it took action in Syria that he considered “off limits” following his decision on Sunday to pull 50 American special forces troops from the border region.

The US move will leave its Kurdish-led partner forces in Syria vulnerable to an incursion by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), which brands them terrorists because of their links to Kurdish militants who have waged a long insurgency in Turkey.

Signaling a further potential shift in the region’s power balance, the Kurdish-led forces said they might start talks with Damascus and Russia to fill a security vacuum in the event of a full US withdrawal from the Turkish border area.

“The TSK will never tolerate the establishment of a terror corridor on our borders. All preparations for the operation have been completed,” the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Twitter early on Tuesday.

“It is essential to establish a safe zone/peace corridor to contribute to our region’s peace and stability, and for Syrians to achieve a safe life.”

Syrian sources claim Turkey attacked in Iraq, not Syria

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights denied a report by Syrian state news agency SANA earlier on Monday evening claiming that Turkey had conducted airstrikes in Syria against the Syrian Democratic Forces. According to the SOHR, the airstrikes hit targets in Iraq.

A White House official stated later on Monday night that the US has not seen any signs of a Turkish operation in Syria yet, according to Steve Herman, a reporter from Voice of America news.

“It appears the Turks are intent on some sort of military operation, possibly combined with an effort to resettle refugees,” said the White House official.

There are only 50 to 100 “special operators” in the region who the US does not want endangered if the Turks come over the border to engage with the Kurds. “This does not constitute a withdrawal from Syria,” said the official to Herman, adding that the US does not endorse any Turkish operation in Syria.

After Outcry, UN Reschedules ‘Decolonization Committee’ Meeting That Fell on Yom Kippur

The UN Secretariat, one of the main organs of the United Nations, has rescheduled a meeting conflicting with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, on Oct. 9.

A meeting set by the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), one of six main committees of the UN General Assembly devoted to a diverse set of political issues including decolonization and the Middle East, was rescheduled as to not fall on what has become an official UN holiday as well.

According to Gregory Lafitte, director of UN affairs for Brussels-based NGO European Coalition for Israel, the Secretary General and Permanent Mission of Israel found out about the conflict and urged the Secretariat to reschedule the meeting for Oct. 8, ending at 6 pm, just before the holiday begins at sundown, and resuming again on Oct. 10 at 3 pm.

Lafitte noted that the Special Committee on Decolonization is notoriously anti-Israel, singling out the Jewish state by adopting various resolutions against Israel—and only against Israel.

Last year, the 193 member states voted in the UNGA to adopt nine resolutions against Israel, including the United Nations’ “special committee to investigate Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories,” a body that reports through the Fourth Committee to the General Assembly.

Charge against Palestinian stabber bumped up to attempted murder after petition

A military appeals court on Monday accepted a petition filed by the military prosecution to harshen the sentence of a Palestinian man who stabbed an Israeli woman in the West Bank in 2015.

Military Appeals Court President Judge Col. Netanel Benisho convicted Hamza Faiz of the attempted murder of Nirit Zamora, upping the aggravated assault sentence that had been handed down in April 2018.

At that time, the Judea Military Court had concluded that it was not possible to prove that Faiz intended to murder Zamora when he knifed her in the back at the Gush Etzion Junction on October 28, 2015.

Zamora survived the incident, after being rushed to the hospital with the knife still lodged in her back.

The mother of eight had been in the parking lot of the Rami Levy supermarket when the Palestinian resident of Hebron ran at her while shouting “Allahu Akbar.” He only managed to stab her once from behind because the handle of his knife broke.

Palestinians caught trying to smuggle rare, ancient coins out of Gaza

Israel confiscated dozens of rare coins dating back to the time of Alexander the Great from Palestinian smugglers at the Gaza border crossing last week.

Two merchants were arrested at the Kerem Shalom crossing when border officials discovered 69 coins concealed in their textile truck bound for the West Bank, Channel 12 news reported Tuesday.

The coins were confiscated by the Civil Administration, and both men were detained for questioning.

Israel has previously confiscated ancient artifacts from Gaza border crossings that were allegedly smuggled from Egypt into the Gaza Strip and were en route to Israel for sale.

It was not immediately clear what authorities intended to do with the confiscated coins.

The coins are believed to have been minted some 2,300 years ago during or just after the reign of Alexander the Great. Some of them are believed to be from the city of Amphipolis, an ancient Greek town that Alexander used as a base to launch his military campaigns into Asia.

Hamas said waging ‘secret war’ to purge jihadist groups from Gaza

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have been waging a “secret war” against followers of the Islamic State and other Salafist groups in the Strip, according to a recent report in the Lebanese daily Al Akhbar.

Officials told the pro-Hezbollah daily Thursday that Hamas in recent months has arrested four Salafist cells in Gaza that were planning to carry out attacks on the group’s security forces and top officials. Hamas forces also confiscated weapons, including long-range rockets capable of hitting major cities in Israel.

The effort was said to have been launched in August, after a suicide bomber allegedly linked to IS killed a Hamas guard in southern Gaza along the border with Egypt, in a rare attack against the ruling group.

The paper said the cells were looking for opportunities to carry out suicide attacks against the terror group that rules Gaza while simultaneously seeking to ramp up tensions with Israel. The Salafist cells were allegedly responsible for launching long-range rockets at Tel Aviv during fragile ceasefires between Hamas and Israel, and were receiving funding for their activities from unknown foreign sources.

Gaza officials said they believed the young fighters were radicalized online, and were trying to provoke Israel into launching a broad military offensive in the Strip that would cripple its Hamas rulers.

Iraq military admits ‘excessive force’ used in deadly protests

Iraq’s military admitted on Monday that “excessive force” was used in a district of the capital overnight where a mass protest led to clashes that medics and security forces said left 13 people dead.

“Excessive force outside the rules of engagement was used and we have begun to hold accountable those commanding officers who carried out these wrong acts,” the military said in a statement.

It was the first time since protests broke out on Tuesday that security forces acknowledged using disproportionate measures, while protesters had accused them of firing live rounds directly at them. This past week’s protests have left more than 100 dead and thousands wounded.

Hundreds had gathered overnight in Sadr City, a densely populated district in eastern Baghdad where state security forces are rarely seen.

On videos distributed on social media of the late-night rally, protesters ducked in streets littered with burning tires as heavy gunfire was heard.

Security sources and medics said the clashes left 13 people dead overnight.

Iran plans to start using more advanced centrifuges in coming weeks

Iran plans to start using a new array of advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium, the country’s nuclear chief said Monday according to state television, in a move likely to intensify pressure on Europe to save Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Ali Akbar Salehi told Iranian state TV that an array of 30 IR-6 centrifuges will be inaugurated in the coming weeks.

Under the terms of its 2015 deal — which the US unilaterally withdrew from over a year ago — Iran had committed to not using the array until late 2023.

Iran has steadily increased its breaches of the nuclear accord as it pushes its European partners to find a way around US sanctions that have kept it from selling oil abroad and crippled the Iranian economy.

Salehi also said Iran is now producing up to six kilograms of enriched uranium daily.

NBA Defends Assad After Syrian Leader Threatens to Cancel NBA League Pass (satire)

The NBA has demanded an apology from Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey after his tweet criticizing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad nearly caused the strongman to cancel his cable subscription.

The controversy arose after Morey tweeted, “Wishing for peace in Syria, and an end to the senseless killing.” Assad responded angrily, writing in a strongly worded letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver that he was “seriously considering cancelled my subscription to the NBA League Pass and leaving a negative review on Yelp if the situation is not immediately remedied.”

Silver quickly sprung into action, issuing a statement calling Morey’s post “extremely disappointing” and “not representative of the views of the National Basketball Association.”

“I understand that Mr. Morey’s comment offended many of our loyal fans and viewers, or at least one of them,” Silver stated. “We have great respect for Syrian culture and the Syrian people, and we make no judgement about those who gas them to death.”

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