Is Israel changing its strategy in Syria’s war?

An article in Haaretz this weekend laid out an analysis purporting to show that the Israeli government is changing its approach to the war in Syria.

Amos Harel, the liberal daily’s military correspondent, cited some of the reasons for Israel to want the conflict in Syria to continue. The war to date has worn the Syrian army down “to a shadow of its former capabilities,” Hizballah, “Israel’s main adversary in the north,” has had to divert a large proportion of its fighting manpower into shoring up its ally Assad, and has suffered significant casualties as a result.

He sums up that “the war in Syria has largely served Israel’s interests”. This again confirms what I have long argued, based on what Israeli officials have openly stated for years now. Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli diplomat, said in September 2013 they Israel wanted to let “both [sides] bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here.”

Read the rest over at MEMO.

Playing both sides in Syria

For several years now in this column I have argued that the strategic aim of both Israel and the US in the Syria conflict has been to to actively prolong the war. If you believe their rhetoric about wanting to encourage “stability” in the region, this would seem unlikely. But scratch beneath the talk about human rights and democracy and it’s not hard to see the reality of imperial self-interest lying beneath.

Over the course of 2015, I have also used this column to show how a most unlikely alliance has played out in the south-western reaches of Syria: one between Israel and al-Qaeda’s officially-recognised franchise there – Jabhat al-Nusra.

Israel has been providing logistical support to al-Qaeda in Syria by treating their wounded fighters in its hospitals and sending them back to fight against the Syrian regime. UN reports have suggested that it may also be arming them.

It is well known that the US has been training and arming rebel groups in Syria. Although the US media routinely claims these are “moderate” rebels (in contrast with the extremists of the so-called Islamic State) the reality is that the US and its allies in the Gulf dictatorships have been giving arms and training to rebels who either “defect” to al-Qaeda soon after being trained or, under the rubric of the “Free Syrian Army” openly fight in alliance with al-Qaeda.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

Israel wants the civil war in Syria to continue

From before Christmas:

This weekend Israeli occupation forces bombed out an entire apartment building in Syria, in order to target a leader of the Lebanese resistance forces: Samir Quntar, who died in the attack.

It showed once again Israel doing what it does best: killing Arab civilians. There is a long history of Israeli “assassinations” indiscriminately targeting whole civilian areas, ostensibly in order to kill a political, military or activist enemy. The other aim of such Israeli terror attacks is to send a direct message to Palestinian and other Arab civilians: give in, accept Israeli occupation and stop supporting resistance (in any form, whether armed or unarmed).

In 1972 Israeli agents used a car bomb to murder Ghassan Kanafani in Beirut. He was an important Palestinian writer and an activist with the Marxist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. At same car bomb killed his young niece Lamis during the attack.

When they can catch them, Israeli strikes against resistance leaders in Gaza systematically blow up the homes and cars of those leaders, targeting their families at the same time. During the last Israeli war against the civilian population of Gaza in 2014 (during which Israel murdered 551 Palestinian children), Israel was unable to get to Muhammad Deif, the military mastermind behind Hamas’ armed wing, so instead they blew up his home, murdering his family.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

Syria vote is Jeremy Corbyn’s first real test

So here we are again. David Cameron seems determined to plough Britain into another war in another Arab country. This time in Syria.

To be precise, Britain has been involved in the covert destabilisation of Syria for years. Western spy agencies (including the Israelis) have been involved in arming and supplying assorted extremist militias and gangs at war with the Assad regime in Syria – including those allied to al-Qaeda.

The overall aim of such meddling, as I have argued before, is not to defeat the Assad regime outright, or to defeat the “Islamic State” outright, but actually to keep feeding the civil war. The logic, in the words of one former Israeli diplomat, is to “let both [sides] bleed”. As long as Arabs are busy with internal wars, they will not be fighting Israeli occupation or the West, so the cynical logic goes.

But now, of course, Cameron wants to deepen British involvement in the country by bombing “Islamic State” positions. He’s chosen his moment for this cleverly, coming as it does soon after the Islamic State atrocity in Paris.

Read more over at MEMO.

Israel, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State bogey

The terrorist bogeyman de jour is nowadays of course the so-called “Islamic State”. Do you remember back in the decade or so following the 9/11 attacks on the US? Back then it was all al-Qaeda, all the time. We were all meant to fear and quake in our boots over them. Ironically, the group is probably more of a threat now than they were then, and the actions taken by western governments back then helped to birth the creation of something of the ven more horrific “Islamic State.”

Al-Qaeda were a conveniently ghoulish enemy which tabloid newspapers could use to whip up fear and loathing and which western governments used to build public support for ever-increasing powers for their various domestic spy agencies.

Even though the British media and government constantly obsessed about al-Qaeda and the threat it posed, it was greatly exaggerated. This was especially the case in the aftermath to 9/11 and the build-up to the invasion of Iraq. The so-called War on Terrorism was envisaged as a sort of endless war, in large part for the benefits of western capital, especially the arms firms, and for control of Middle Eastern oil.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

Rebel-linked Israeli businessman has Syrian Jews kidnapped

A bizarre and disturbing story earlier this month shed a tiny sliver of light on the under-reported and murky role of Israel in the increasingly complex Syrian civil war.

Agence France Presse reported the story of several Syrian Jews who were taken out of the country by rebel fighters hired by Israeli-American businessman (and former mercenary) Moti Kahana.

But a close reading of the text of the story quickly reveals that the headline about a “rescue” of Jews from Syria is highly misleading.

In fact, the report states, “the family did not want to leave” and Kahana even claimed that “it was ‘necessary’ to scare them into getting in a minibus,” according to AFP’s Joe Dyke. In the Jewish Chronicle piece (which apparently was first to break the story) Kahana noted that because the family did not want to leave, the only way he could compel them to do so was to “scare the shit out of them.”

That sounds far more like a kidnapping than a “rescue.” The family were, in the process of this forcible “rescue,” lied to and told they would be allowed to go to New York, but Kahana then ended up sending them to Israel.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

Western bombing is only helping ISIS

There’s been much talk by political and media elites in recent days about the supposed need to start a bombing campaign in Syria targeting Daesh, the so-called “Islamic State”. By now, this is a depressingly familiar drumbeat for war.

In 2013, the UK parliament surprised many by derailing the prospect of British bombing of Syria, explicitly targeted at the regime. For a time, it even seemed that this decision had even put the American war machine on the back foot.

But since September 2014, the US has, in fact, started bombing in Syria – but targeting Daesh. And, more recently, the details of what appears to be a covert British role in the bombing campaign, in defiance of Parliament, have slowly emerged.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

Syrians in occupied Golan furious about Israel’s alliance with al-Qaeda

On the Druze rebellion against Israel’s alliance with al-Qaida in Syria:

This week, the highest level confirmation to date of Israeli aid to al-Qaeda-allied rebels came from none other than Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon. “Israel conditions its assistance to the Syrian rebels on its border on their commitment not to hurt the Druze minority in Syria,” Israeli media source i24 reported Yaalon as stating.

Perhaps inadvertently confirming what many already know, Yaalon was under pressure from Israel’s own Druze minority who have been up in arms about both Nusra’s massacres of their co-religionists in Syria, and Israel’s aid to those very same violent fanatics.

Read the whole article over at MEMO.

Why is Israel aiding al-Qaida in Syria?


At the risk of becoming a broken record, here is another article I wrote on the Israeli-al-Qaeda alliance in Syria:

Why are they doing this? Has Israeli suddenly converted to Wahhabism? Have they suddenly developed an affinity for the theories of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri? Do they seriously consider credible the promises last week from Nusra Front leader Abu Muhammad al-Jolani not to use Syria as a base from which to attack the West?

Of course not. Indeed, it is precisely in Israel’s self-interest for civil war in Syria to continue for as long as possible.

Divide and rule is the classic imperial strategy, one that the British and French empires ruthlessly pursued in the region for decades, and America has continued as the current imperial hegemon (particularly during its direct occupation of Iraq). And despite occasional important differences with the United States, Israel is, in many respects, the spear tip of imperial interests in the region.

Read the rest over at Jacobin magazine.

I talk to Antiwar Radio about Israel’s alliance with al-Qaida

I talked to Scott Horton, the host of Antiwar Radio in the US. I can’t seem to embed the audio play, but you can just follow this link to stream or download the segment. The main article I wrote about the topic, which I refer to in the interview, is here.