Jerusalem and Amman worry Tehran aims to carve out a Shiite-controlled land corridor through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean
In this Friday, July 7, 2017, file photo, US President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit, in Hamburg. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is at left, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is at right. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — A separate truce for southern Syria, brokered by the US and Russia, is meant to help allay growing concerns by neighboring Israel and Jordan about Iranian military ambitions in the area, including fears that Tehran plans to set up a disruptive long-term presence there.
Such apprehensions were stoked by recent movements of Shiite Muslim militias — loyal to Iran and fighting alongside Syrian government forces — toward Jordan’s border with Syria, and to another strategic area in the southeast, close to where the two countries meet Iraq.
The advances are part of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s push to regain territory from rebel groups, some backed by the West, in the southern Daraa province, and from Islamic State extremists in the southeast, near the triangle with Iraq.
But Syria’s neighbors suspect that Iran is pursuing a broader agenda, including carving out a land route through Syria that would create a territorial continuum from Iran and Iraq to Lebanon.
Smoke rises from buildings following a reported air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa, on June 14, 2017. (AFP/Mohamad Abazeed)
The cease-fire for southern Syria, set to start at noon Sunday, is meant to keep all forces pinned to their current positions, said Jordan’s government which participated in the talks.
This would prevent further advances by forces under Iran’s command, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia.
The truce is to be monitored through satellite and drone images as well as observers on the ground, a senior Jordanian official said Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details with reporters. Syria ally Russia is to deploy military police in the area.
Information on truce compliance could be shared and discussed in different locations, including Jordan, the official said. Israel did not participate in the truce talks, but was presumably briefed by the US, the Jordanian official said.
Cease-fires have repeatedly collapsed in Syria’s six-year-old civil war, and it’s not clear if this one will last. The southern Syria truce is separate from so far unsuccessful efforts by Russia, Turkey and Iran to set up “de-escalation zones” in Syria, including in the south.
Israel is expected to watch for truce violations.
In this Saturday, May 9, 2015 file photo, a Hezbollah fighter stands on a hill next to the group’s yellow flag in the fields of the Syrian town of Assal al-Ward in the mountainous region of Qalamoun, Syria. (AP Photo/Bassem Mroue, File)
Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to set up a permanent presence in Syria. Israel has carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria against suspected shipments of “game-changing” weapons bound for Hezbollah.
“The question and concern is of course if it will be exploited by the Syrian regime, Hezbollah and Iran to create new facts on the ground,” said Chagai Tzuriel, the director general of Israel’s Intelligence Ministry.
Ahead of Friday’s truce announcement, Jordanian and Israeli officials expressed concerns about Iranian ambitions.
The Jordanian official said the international community, regional powers and Jordan would not tolerate the creation of a “land line all the way from Tehran to Beirut.”
Such a “Shiite crescent” would disrupt the regional balance and be considered a “super red line,” he said, referring to rival Sunni and Shiite Muslim political camps led by Saudi Arabia and Iran, respectively.
Conflicts between the camps have escalated in recent years, including in proxy wars in Syria and Yemen. Predominantly Sunni Jordan is a US ally and maintains discrete security ties with Israel.
Jordan previously raised concerns about Iran in talks with Russia, the official said. The Assad government surely received the message, he said, adding that it’s unclear how much influence the Syrian president has over his allies.
A successful truce could pave the way for talks about Syria retaking control of border crossings with Jordan that it lost to rebels during the war, the Jordanian official said.
Israel is also worried about the recent movements of Iranian-backed forces.
Israel controls the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau in southwestern Syria that it captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel has fought cross-border wars with Hezbollah from Lebanon.
In comments earlier this week, Tzuriel raised three points of concern, including the Hezbollah presence near the Golan and efforts by Iran in Lebanon to build what he said is an “indigenous missile production and upgrade capability.”
He also noted last month’s linkup of forces belonging to the Iranian axis, including Shiite militias, coming from both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, near Jordan. This raises concern that control of parts of the border will allow Tehran “to realize its strategic aim of completing an overland continuum from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon,” he said.
“These are threats which should concern all parties who are interested in stabilizing Syria and the region, including the United States and Russia,” he said.
The truce deal, the first such agreement between the Trump administration and Russia, could help the US retain more of a say over who fills the power vacuum left behind as Islamic State is routed from additional territory in Syria.
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit, Friday, July 7, 2017, in Hamburg. (AP/Evan Vucci)
Washington has been resistant to letting Iranian forces and their proxies gain strength in Syria’s south. In recent weeks, US forces have shot down a Syrian aircraft that got too close to American forces as well as Iranian-made drones.
The British ambassador to Jordan, Edward Oakden, said Russia has an important role to play.
“It’s obviously incumbent on the Russians to bring pressure to bear on both the (Syrian) regime and the Iranians, and on the regime’s Hezbollah allies, to respect the spirit and the letter of this cease-fire and to contribute actively to the establishment of a de-escalation zone, rather than, as it appears, seeking to undermine it,” he said in an interview Friday.
Analyst Ahmad Majidyar, who monitors news sites linked to Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said it seems Iran will only deepen its presence.
The Iranians and their proxies “have increased their activities in southern Syria,” said Majidyar, director of the Iran Observed Project at the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank.
Objectives include carving out the land corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean, challenging the military presence of the US and its allies and opening a new front against Israel once the fight against Islamic State is over, he said.
An antisemitic flyer found on the University of Houston campus on Tuesday. Photo: Michael Leone / Facebook
Dozens of flyers and stickers promoting neo-Nazi propaganda were found at the University of Houston (UH) this week, the latest incident associated with an increase in white supremacist activity on campuses nationwide.
The flyers, found on bulletin boards, walls, trash bins, and lamp posts at the university’s main campus on Tuesday, included phrases such as, “Beware the International Jew” and “Imagine a Muslim-Free America,” according to a statement shared online by UH’s chapter of the Young Communist League (YCL).
IDF soldiers make a blessing on the traditional Jewish custom of apple and honey to welcome Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. (ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) said they will provide $1.5 million in annual Rosh Hashanah “Fellowship Gift Cards” to 12,000 IDF soldiers marking the upcoming Jewish New Year.
The initiative, coordinated in collaboration with the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers and the LIBI Fund, will provide more than 10,000 lone soldiers and soldiers $140 gift cards. Another 2,200 soldiers will receive gift cards worth $100.
The cards “will allow the soldiers to celebrate the New Year without the burden of financial stress,” the organizations said in a statement Wednesday.
Gaza-based terror group says it will agree to Palestinian Authority conditions on forming joint government and holding elections
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, center, and spokesman Fawzi Barhoum attend a protest in Gaza City on July 22, 2017, against new Israeli security measures implemented at the holy site, which include metal detectors and cameras, following an attack that killed two Israeli policemen the previous week. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
For the past week or so, Iranian official media and social networks have been abuzz with anecdotes woven around a football match in Tehran between Iran and Syria and the light it might shed on a complicated relationship.
According to most accounts, a group of Syrians flown in by special charter to cheer their national squad in its bid for a place in the World Cup in Moscow staged an anti-Iran demonstration in the stadium. The Syrian contingent included young ladies who refused to wear the Iranian-style hijab.
Their presence in the stadium highlighted the fact that no Iranian woman is allowed to attend a football match after a fatwa by the “Supreme Guide” that women watching young men running around with bare legs might cause “undue excitement”
An Orthodox man passes a British guard in London, UK. (drserg / Shutterstock.com)
A new in-depth survey conducted by the U.K.-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) found that around 30 percent of the British public hold at least one anti-Semitic viewpoint.
The report noted, however, that most of the 30 percent polled also held some positive views about Jews.
Further, around 15 percent of the British public indicated they agreed with two or more anti-Semitic views presented to them, while two percent of British adults polled were found to be “hard-core” anti-Semites.
The survey was conducted by JPR senior research fellow Dr. Daniel Staetsky using face-to-face interviews and online polls.
That’s followed by the sounds of the terrorists assaulting a passenger.
“Please don’t hurt me,” he pleads. “Oh God.”
As the passengers rush the cabin, a Muslim terrorist proclaims, “In the name of Allah.”
As New York firefighters struggle up the South Tower with 100 pounds of equipment on their backs trying to save lives until the very last moment, the Flight 93 passengers push toward the cockpit. The Islamic hijackers call out, “Allahu Akbar.”.
The autumn of 2015 was unusual in almost every way on the north Aegean Greek island of Lesbos from which I am writing. There were tens of thousands of illegal migrants on the island, the native population of which was scarcely 100,000. New refugees arrived every day by the thousands.
One evening, the blue-gray sky grumbled shortly after sunset. The thick clouds blackened and rain poured down over the city with a roar. As I ran across the slippery pavement into a friend’s bar, I heard a group of five poor souls speaking Persian with a Turkic accent and running amok, seeking shelter under the eaves of a building.
Back in May, a New Orleans statue of Joan of Arc was tagged with “Tear it Down” graffiti.
Why Joan of Arc? Any famous historical figure is by definition controversial. Joan is a French national
symbol, but Shakespeare depicted her as a malicious witch. The French Quarter where the statue stands is a mostly white neighborhood. France was dealing with a controversial election.
This is what happens when you open a can of historical, religious and nationalistic worms.
Regarding the question that forms the title of this article, I truly believe that the answer is “yes.” It is my belief that Christian Zionism is as obvious a sign of the beginning of the redemption of Israel as are the ingathering of millions of Jews to the land of Israel and the existence of the State of Israel itself. But there are many people who don’t share this perspective.
In the Jewish community, there are still many who are wary of Christian friendship and support. Many Jews are suspicious of an ulterior motive to convert Jews to Christianity that they fear underlies this political partnership.
Last weekend, the world experienced a petrifying “wake up call” when Pyongyang test launched a hydrogen bomb. According to Yukiya Amano, director of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), Sunday’s test represents “a new dimension to the threat.” Added Amano, “I think the North Korean threat is a global one now.
In the past, people thought it was a regional one, but that is no longer the case.”
Since 1994, when North Korea decided to pull out of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), there has been a huge history of attempts to chain the North Korean nuclear beast, including efforts for military cooperation, sanctions and, of course, negotiations.