The Israeli military carried out a strike along the Syrian-Lebanese border targeting a weapons convoy headed for the Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah, according to a report. The Israeli Air Force also allegedly “struck a number of vital positions important” to Hezbollah. The terror group is engaged in an effort to build up its military infrastructure in southern Lebanon and, along with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is working to establish a stronghold on the Syrian Golan Heights. Both are efforts aimed at enhancing Hezbollah’s capacity to strike at Israel. In a New York Times article last May, Israeli military officials detailed how Hezbollah has “moved most of its military infrastructure” in and around Shiite villages, which “amounts to using the civilians as a human shield.” A senior military official stated that Lebanese civilians are “living in a military compound.” He told the Times: “We will hit Hezbollah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can…We do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.” Israeli officials have also warned that in a future conflict, there will most likely be high civilian casualties because of Hezbollah’s military integration inside civilian areas.
Israel’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Yair Golan, told reporters in April that the next war with Hezbollah will be a “full-scale” war that causes “devastating” damage to Lebanon. He explained that there was no other way to neutralize Hezbollah’s infrastructure and remove the threat. Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explained to Congress in March that in building its infrastructure in south Lebanon, “Hezbollah has essentially painted a big target on the back of all of Lebanon.” Badran continued that the placement of more missiles in southern Lebanon “as well as Hezbollah’s entrenchment in Syria and its expansion into the Golan along with the IRGC, creates a situation for Israel that will…accelerate an upcoming future conflict which…is going to be far bloodier than we’ve ever seen on both sides.” Times of Israel journalist Avi Issacharoff reported in November that Israeli officials believe Hezbollah has stockpiled around 150,000 rockets, “including a number of long range Iranian-made missiles capable of striking Israeli cities from north to south.”
The recent New York Times Magazine profile of Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama’s foreign policy messaging chief, provides proof that the Obama administration’s failure to protect Syrian civilians was because it was so intent on pursuing a nuclear agreement with Iran, Obama’s former top Syria adviser charged Monday in an withering essay for the Atlantic Council.
Frederic C. Hof, an Atlantic Council senior fellow who was formerly Obama’s special adviser for transition in Syria, focused on the argument Rhodes gave for not intervening in Syria. “I profoundly do not believe that the United States could make things better in Syria by being there,” Rhodes said. “And we have an evidentiary record of what happens when we’re there—nearly a decade in Iraq.”
Yet the official alibi lacks one critical ingredient: the truth. A “decade in Iraq” did not dissuade the Obama administration from protecting Syrian Kurds from a massacre by the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) in Kobani. Disaster in Iraq did not deter American military forces from protecting Yazidis in Iraq itself. The Iraqi fiasco has not stopped the Obama administration from establishing an anti-ISIS American military presence in both Iraq and Syria: yes, boots on the ground. No: the Rhodes-Obama fear and dismissal of making things better in Syria “by being there” applies only to those parts of Syria experiencing mass murder and massive displacement at the hands of [Syrian president] Bashar al-Assad. Why? Iran.
David Samuels, the writer of the profile, explained that “by eliminating the fuss about Iran’s nuclear program, the administration hoped to eliminate a source of structural tension between the two countries, which would create the space for America to disentangle itself from its established system of alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and Turkey. With one bold move, the administration would effectively begin the process of a large-scale disengagement from the Middle East.”
This confirmed Hof’s own conclusion about what stopped Obama from intervening to protect civilians from Assad: the “pursuit of a nuclear agreement with Assad’s premier long-term enabler and partner in mass murder: Iran.”
The Washington foreign policy establishment—dismissed by Rhodes as “the Blob”—loudly objected to the Obama administration’s inaction against Assad. But the revelation of Rhodes and Obama’s long-term goal in the Middle East explains why they went unheeded.
To complicate the ability of Iran’s man in Syria to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity would have placed at risk nuclear negotiations aimed ultimately at dissolving American relationships of trust and confidence with key regional powers. Yes, the Blob—the foreign policy establishment—would have had a problem with this. Hence an information operation headed by Rhodes aimed at avoiding head-on debates with the Blob or, for that matter, the representatives of the American people in Congress.
Hof credited Rhodes for spelling out Obama’s foreign policy framework so clearly, but suggested that the next administration turn to the “thoughtful (if fallible) and experienced (if imperfect) foreign policy practitioners—yes, the thoroughly disrespected ‘Blob’—to undo the damage they have done.”
Richard Cohen of The Washington Post made a similar critique in his column Tuesday:
Rhodes calls the foreign policy establishment “the Blob” and he, like the president, dismisses its fusty thinking and crows the cleverness of their own, especially — and amazingly — the success of their Syria policy. Their only standard is the number of Americans who have died there — very few. That is commendable, but it is false to assert by implication that an alternative policy would have done otherwise. The intervention in Libya cost zero American lives; so too the ones in Kosovo and Bosnia. The United States could have implemented a no-fly zone in Syrian skies. It could have grounded the Assad regime’s helicopters, which drop barrel bombs on civilians, eviscerating them with nails, pellets and scrap.
No one knows anymore how many have died in Syria’s civil war — maybe as many as 400,000. More than 4 million people have fled the country, swamping Europe and coming pretty close to destabilizing governments. The continent has turned sour, inhospitable to migrants yet hospitable to right-wing groups last seen in black-and-white newsreels. Russia now arguably has more influence in the Middle East than the United States does, and Iran and its proxies are everywhere. The United States hasn’t pivoted. It’s plotzed.
If this is success, what constitutes failure? (via TheTower.org)
The mosquito-borne Zika virus, according to new reports, is even more dangerous than first believed. While better information about prevention has helped slow the rate of infection in some areas, the health community is still urgently searching for a vaccine or drug treatment. The “green” Israeli company Biofeed, specializing in the development and production of environmentally friendly pesticide solutions since 2005, believes the focus should be on eliminating the primary factor: the mosquito. “Biofeed’s groundbreaking approach can control any mosquito-borne disease,” CEO Nimrod Israely tells ISRAEL21c. “Everybody is looking for a vaccination against Zika virus but we should keep in mind that the same mosquito that transmits Zika is also transmitting other viruses as well. What we’re aiming to do is to control a vector, the mosquito itself.” Biofeed’s Slow Fluid Release (SFR) technology employs a liquid mixture of lures and additives to manipulate insect behavior by attract-and-kill or attract-and-feed methods. “We have for many years recognized the great potential in harnessing the world of insect smells for the benefit of humans. Evolution has given insects an elaborate sense of smell, which they utilize to find mates, food, egg-laying sites and more,” explains Israely, a world-renowned fruit-fly ecologist with a PhD from the Hebrew University. “The company has developed a liquid formula that ‘knows’ how to tie different kinds of smells to other materials, as the need arises. The result is a special ‘decoy’ that draws the target insect through smell. The decoy is slow-released from a hanging device over the course of a year. The insect is drawn to the decoy, feeds off it and is eliminated.” (via Israel21c)