HOW DOES ISRAEL’S MILITARY COMPARE TO IRAN?

(THIS ARTICLE SI COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

 

HOW DOES ISRAEL’S MILITARY COMPARE TO IRAN?

Relations between Israel and Iran are at breaking point. The multinational nuclear deal signed with Iran is on the verge of collapsing—partly thanks to Israeli lobbying against it. Iranian leaders have warned that if it fails, the country will resume its uranium enrichment program, a step Israel considers a threat to its very existence.

Meanwhile, multiple Israeli strikes have sought to dislodge Iranian forces from Syria, where Tehran enjoys increasing influence. Israeli leaders are fighting hard to stop Iranian soldiers deploying along its northern border.

Though it would appear that neither nation wants a full-scale war, the potential for miscalculation and escalation remains. Both nations have considerable military clout, and any prolonged confrontation between them would be bloody.

RTS1IFO9Israeli forces are seen near a border fence between the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights and Syria, on November 4, 2017. Israel is wary of Iran’s growing influence across its northern border.REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD

Iran is a much larger country with a far higher population than Israel, but numbers alone do not dictate military capability—combat technology and experience are vital factors too. Technological capability is even more important in an era where technology is changing the way war is waged, allowing nations to hit each other harder, from further away and with less human involvement.

A small nation with a population of just 8.5 million, Israel’s military punches significantly above its weight. Formed amid a war with seven Arab neighbors, the country’s short history is punctuated with conflicts fought for its survival. This tough history combines with a burgeoning technology sphere and close relations with powerful western nations to create one of the world’s most formidable fighting forces.

According to Global Firepower, Israel has approximately 170,000 active personnel with a further 445,000 in reserve. Conscription exists for all non-Arab citizens of Israel over the age of 18, giving the country a large and well-trained pool of fighters to call up in the event of war.

Though less sophisticated than Israel, the Iranian military is a force to be reckoned with. Its large population—around 82 million—enables Tehran to maintain a standing force of around 534,000 soldiers, with a further 400,000 in reserve, making it the largest force in the Middle East.

In a drawn-out engagement, national manpower becomes an important issue. Iranian available manpower is around 47 million compared with just 3 million for Israel. Of course, how important this is will depend on the nature of any war being fought.

RTXYQI5Members of Iranian armed forces march during the Army Day parade in Tehran on April 18, 2013.REUTERS/HAMID FOROOTAN/ISNA/HANDOUT

In 2017, Israel spent $16.5 billion on its armed forces, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Iran was not far behind on $14.5 billion. Though this does not seem like a big gap, the fact that Israel is spending billions more than Iran on a smaller military indicates the gulf in the quality of equipment used.

Israel fields more tanks than Iran—2,760 compared to 1,650. Israel wins this matchup on quality as well as quantity, the latest version of its Merkava tank being one of the best and most heavily defended in the world. Iran is mostly using second-rate tanks, though it has announced the development of the new Karrar platform, which it claims will be able to compete with top-class opponents.

The Israeli air force is one of the best in the world, equipped and trained to the highest level. Its pilots are experienced too, having regularly conducted missions against targets in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and even Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Its 250 or so fighters include a handful of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft, one of just four fifth-generation fighter planes in the world. Israel will eventually have 50 F-35s.

By contrast, Iran fields around 160 fighter jets, none of which are as advanced as the F-35. Furthermore, its pilots are less well-trained and experienced than their Israeli counterparts.

Neither nation is a significant maritime power. Iran has more than 30 submarines, five frigates, three corvettes and more than 200 patrol craft. Israel currently has five submarines, three corvettes, eight missile boats and 45 patrol boats. Considering the geography, the naval theater is unlikely to play any significant role in a potential conflict.

RTX2UPSIAn Israeli soldier sits inside a F-35 fighter jet after it landed at Nevatim air base in southern Israel on December 12, 2016.REUTERS/AMIR COHEN

In the event of an all-out war, Israel holds the nuclear trump card. Notoriously secretive about its nuclear arsenal, the country is believed to possess between 75 and 400 warheads. The weapons can be delivered using Israel’s Jericho ballistic missiles, submarine-launched cruise missiles or even fighter planes.

Iran has no nuclear capability. Even if talks break down, it will take many years before Tehran joins the nuclear club. Iran is working hard to improve its ballistic missile arsenal, already one of the most potent in the region and well-able to hit Israel.

But Iran has other tricks up its sleeves. Financial and military support for anti-Israeli militant groups across the Middle East give it an unconventional way to hit its rival in the event of conflict. The Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah group, especially, is a worry for Israeli leaders. Hezbollah has a well-trained and well-equipped military, far more powerful than the Lebanese army and able to operate freely.

Hezbollah’s experience fighting alongside regime forces in Syria has given it vital combat exposure. The group maintains a huge rocket arsenal, and its weapons can hit anywhere in Israel. Iran also provides support to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups in Gaza, which maintain smaller, but still significant, rocket capabilities.

You Are A King: But Only Of Rubble And Sand

You Are A King: But Only Of Rubble And Sand

 

What are wars actually fought for? Is it the land, is it for the minerals beneath the land? Are wars fought for so-called glory by the soldiers or maybe because of the ego’s of a country’s leaders? As I am writing this I am simply thinking aloud to you my readers, contemplating these words as I type them. Really, what do you think, what do you believe? To you, what is worth fighting for, worth killing for? I have killed before and I am sure that I would have no problem killing again if I felt that it was necessary even though I am very much in my own mind, a pacifist. There are few things that I would ever consider harming another person for as I deplore all violence yet every person has to decide what their personal ‘line in the sand’ is. I know that some folks will say that there is nothing that could get them to pull the trigger on another person, but are they being honest with themselves? If people broke into your home and they were going to butcher you and your family if you didn’t stop them and the only way to stop them was to kill them, whose lives are more important to you?

 

The first paragraph was put more as a personal decision but now I would like to discuss with you the concept of a war breaking out in your home country, in your state, your county, your town. If you are being attacked by a nations military, by their soldiers and weapons, what would you do? Would you try giving up and begging for mercy hoping that they won’t kill you and your family or that they won’t put you all in a labor camp as they burn down everything you ever worked for? Most all wars throughout history have been fought because of the leaders of nations who felt they had the right to invade another country, to try to kill their leaders and to take the treasures that country possessed. Treasures can be many things, it can be using the other country’s population for slave labor, it can be for gold, diamonds, or oil or even the other country’s abundance of timber. Yet there is the reality that all wars do not generate from outside a nations own borders, some wars are simply home-grown as in the case of most ‘Civil Wars’.

 

Here in the U.S. we had our own Civil War back in 1860-1865 that seemed to generate from the concept of slavery of Black folks. I know some Historians say that slavery had nothing to do with the starting of that war but via the different History classes I took in College I still believe that the slavery issue was the foundation of this conflict. As far as I have ever found out this war was all on us, the American White people of the day. What I mean by this is that I do not believe that another nation like England, Canada, Mexico or France were interfering inside our borders trying to cause a war. There is a good bit of evidence that the leaders of the Confederacy had thought that they could convince England to come to their aid with their Navy being that the South had no Navy but the Union did. The reason for this line of thought was that the Confederate States sold a lot of cotton to England but when the war started England simply turned to India to supply them with all the cotton they needed. Our Nations Civil War would have been to create two Nations instead of the one that existed then and now.

 

Not all Civil Wars are for the purpose of splitting one Nation in half. Some Civil Wars are an attempt to simply over through the existing government and to replace it with another form of governance like say from a Monarchy to a Democracy. Some Civil Wars are fought because of Religion as in a government that is run as a Catholic society when the majority of the people are Protestants who don’t want to be ruled by a Pope. In the Middle East there have been many Civil Wars during the past 1,400 years and basically all of them had to do with Islam. I know that there were the Crusades 8-900 years ago where the Pope ordered Catholic Armies to retake the ‘Holy Lands’ from the ‘Pagan’ Muslims just as the Muslim Armies had taken over the ‘Holy Lands’ and the whole Middle East from the Christians and the Jews back in the 6-700’s A.D.. Yet the reality is that during this past 1,400 years almost all of the Civil Wars and wars in general have been fought as a war between the majority Sunni Muslims against the minority Shiite Muslims. Their hatred in general, of each other is only surpassed by their hatred of Christians and Jews.

 

Now I would like to speak with you about what is going on in the Nation of Syria for a few moments. The Ruling family of Syria is the al-Assad’s. Hafez al-Assad took control of Syria in 1970 and he held power until his death in 2000. At this time the current ‘President’ his son Bashar al-Assad took power. So the al-Assad family has had control of Syria for the past 48 years now. Bashar did seem to try to portray himself as a ‘moderate’ to the western world up until many of his own people rose up in protest of his leadership in March of 2011. This Civil War though has had many players with much cause and effect. There are many people who believe that this war was pushed along by Hillary Clinton when she was the U.S. Secretary of State at that time. There has been a lot of outside influence showing its ugly face since the early days of this war. Among the ‘outside’ players has been Iran, Russia, Iraq, Turkey, Hezbollah, the U.S. and Israel as well as the Kurd’s. One of the other huge issues has been a group calling themselves the Islamic State, or ISIS who was trying to set up a Sunni Caliphate in eastern Syria and western Iraq. The al-Assad family belongs to a Shiite sect of Islam so the al-Assad government was able to pull in the big Shiite players of the Islamic world mainly Iran and their proxy Hezbollah out of Lebanon to help them fight and to destroy ISIS. Russia has had a Naval base in Syria for several decades and has been an ally of Syria for a long time so in 2014 President Putin of Russia started supplying Air Power to help out the Assad government.

 

My question for the everyday people of Syria who decided to try to over through President al-Assad back in 2011 is, do you believe that your efforts were worth it? Back before March of 2011, back before the shooting started weren’t you far better off that you are now? Wasn’t your Nation a better place to live then than it is now? By no means am I saying that President Assad is a good moral person but didn’t you have a better style of living then than you do today? Back before the war began the Syrian government allowed Christians, Shiites and Sunnis to all practice their faith without fear of being killed just because of your faith system. Didn’t you then have food in your markets, electricity in your homes and trash pickup on your streets? For me, looking in from the outside it looks like it was a terrible mistake going to war against the al-Assad government. Now this last part is pointed toward President al-Assad. Sir, you are still the Ruler of Syria and it is my belief that you will be for many more years, but, your Nation is in shambles, you are a President of Rubble and Sand and not much else. When this war is over as it almost is now, your Nation, your people have suffered greatly, you have no economy and it is going to take trillions of dollars and decades to rebuild back to the point you were at in March of 2011. Yes you are still the President of your Nation, but my question to you is like unto the one I asked your people earlier in this article, was it worth it?  My questions meaning is, if you could see the damage to your country as it sits today would you say that you staying in power was worth all of this death and destruction. If you could go back in time and simply have resigned as President in March of 2011 if that was what it would have taken to not have had this war, would you have stepped down?

West Bank Information Via The ‘CIA Fact Book’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

West Bank

Introduction The September 1993 Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements provided for a transitional period of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under a series of agreements signed between May 1994 and September 1999, Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza stalled following the outbreak of an intifada in September 2000, as Israeli forces reoccupied most Palestinian-controlled areas. In April 2003, the Quartet (US, EU, UN, and Russia) presented a roadmap to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005 based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. The proposed date for a permanent status agreement was postponed indefinitely due to violence and accusations that both sides had not followed through on their commitments. Following Palestinian leader Yasir ARAFAT’s death in late 2004, Mahmud ABBAS was elected PA president in January 2005. A month later, Israel and the PA agreed to the Sharm el-Sheikh Commitments in an effort to move the peace process forward. In September 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all its settlers and soldiers and dismantled its military facilities in the Gaza Strip and withdrew settlers and redeployed soldiers from four small northern West Bank settlements. Nonetheless, Israel controls maritime, airspace, and most access to the Gaza Strip. A November 2005 PA-Israeli agreement authorized the reopening of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt under joint PA and Egyptian control. In January 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS, won control of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The international community refused to accept the HAMAS-led government because it did not recognize Israel, would not renounce violence, and refused to honor previous peace agreements between Israel and the PA. HAMAS took control of the PA government in March 2006, but President ABBAS had little success negotiating with HAMAS to present a political platform acceptable to the international community so as to lift economic sanctions on Palestinians. The PLC was unable to convene throughout most of 2006 as a result of Israel’s detention of many HAMAS PLC members and Israeli-imposed travel restrictions on other PLC members. Violent clashes took place between Fatah and HAMAS supporters in the Gaza Strip in 2006 and early 2007, resulting in numerous Palestinian deaths and injuries. ABBAS and HAMAS Political Bureau Chief MISHAL in February 2007 signed the Mecca Agreement in Saudi Arabia that resulted in the formation of a Palestinian National Unity Government (NUG) headed by HAMAS member Ismail HANIYA. However, fighting continued in the Gaza Strip, and in June, HAMAS militants succeeded in a violent takeover of all military and governmental institutions in the Gaza Strip. ABBAS dismissed the NUG and through a series of presidential decrees formed a PA government in the West Bank led by independent Salam FAYYAD. HAMAS rejected the NUG’s dismissal and has called for resuming talks with Fatah, but ABBAS has ruled out negotiations until HAMAS agrees to a return of PA control over the Gaza Strip and recognizes the FAYYAD-led government. FAYYAD and his PA government initiated a series of security and economic reforms to improve conditions in the West Bank. ABBAS participated in talks with Israel’s Prime Minister OLMERT and secured the release of some Palestinian prisoners and previously withheld customs revenue. During a November 2007 international meeting in Annapolis Maryland, ABBAS and OLMERT agreed to resume peace negotiations with the goal of reaching a final peace settlement.
History The territory now known as the West Bank was a part of the British Mandate of Palestine entrusted to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations after World War I. The terms of the Mandate called for the creation in Palestine of a Jewish national home without prejudicing the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish population of Palestine.

The current border of the West Bank was not a dividing line of any sort during the Mandate period, but rather the armistice line between the forces of the neighboring kingdom of Jordan and those of Israel at the close of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. When the United Nations General Assembly voted in 1947 to partition Palestine into a Jewish State, an Arab State, and an internationally-administered enclave of Jerusalem, a more broad region of the modern-day West Bank was assigned to the Arab State. The West Bank was controlled by Iraqi and Jordanian forces at the end of the 1948 War and the area was annexed by Jordan in 1950 but this annexation was recognized only by the United Kingdom (Pakistan is often, but apparently falsely, assumed to have recognized it also). The idea of an independent Palestinian state was not on the table. King Abdullah of Jordan was crowned King of Jerusalem and granted Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and East Jerusalem Jordanian citizenship.

During the 1950s, there was a significant influx of Palestinian refugees and violence together with Israeli reprisal raids across the Green Line.

In May 1967 Egypt ordered out U.N. peacekeeping troops and re-militarized the Sinai peninsula, and blockaded the straits of Tiran. Fearing an Egyptian attack, the government of Levi Eshkol attempted to restrict any confrontation to Egypt alone. In particular it did whatever it could to avoid fighting Jordan. However, “carried along by a powerful current of Arab nationalism”, on May 30, 1967 King Hussein flew to Egypt and signed a mutual defense treaty in which the two countries agreed to consider “any armed attack on either state or its forces as an attack on both”. Fearing an imminent Egyptian attack, on June 5, the Israel Defense Forces launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt which began what came to be known as the Six Day War.

Jordan soon began shelling targets in west Jerusalem, Netanya, and the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Despite this, Israel sent a message promising not to initiate any action against Jordan if it stayed out of the war. Hussein replied that it was too late, “the die was cast”. On the evening of June 5 the Israeli cabinet convened to decide what to do; Yigal Allon and Menahem Begin argued that this was an opportunity to take the Old City of Jerusalem, but Eshkol decided to defer any decision until Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin could be consulted. Uzi Narkis made a number of proposals for military action, including the capture of Latrun, but the cabinet turned him down. The Israeli military only commenced action after Government House was captured, which was seen as a threat to the security of Jerusalem. On June 6 Dayan encircled the city, but, fearing damage to holy places and having to fight in built-up areas, he ordered his troops not to go in. However, upon hearing that the U.N. was about to declare a ceasefire, he changed his mind, and without cabinet clearance, decided to take the city. After fierce fighting with Jordanian troops in and around the Jerusalem area, Israel captured the Old City on 7 June.

No specific decision had been made to capture any other territories controlled by Jordan. After the Old City was captured, Dayan told his troops to dig in to hold it. When an armored brigade commander entered the West Bank on his own initiative, and stated that he could see Jericho, Dayan ordered him back. However, when intelligence reports indicated that Hussein had withdrawn his forces across the Jordan river, Dayan ordered his troops to capture the West Bank. Over the next two days, the IDF swiftly captured the rest of the West Bank and blew up the Abdullah and Hussein Bridges over the Jordan, thereby severing the West Bank from the East. According to Narkis:

First, the Israeli government had no intention of capturing the West Bank. On the contrary, it was opposed to it. Second, there was not any provocation on the part of the IDF. Third, the rein was only loosened when a real threat to Jerusalem’s security emerged. This is truly how things happened on June 5, although it is difficult to believe. The end result was something that no one had planned.

The Arab League’s Khartoum conference in September declared continuing belligerency, and stated the league’s principles of “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it”. In November 1967, UN Security Council Resolution 242 was unanimously adopted, calling for “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” to be achieved by “the application of both the following principles:” “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (see semantic dispute) and: “Termination of all claims or states of belligerency” and respect for the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries. Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon entered into consultations with the UN Special representative over the implementation of 242. The text did not refer to the PLO or to any Palestinian representative because none was recognized at that time.

In 1988, Jordan ceded its claims to the West Bank to the Palestine Liberation Organization, as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

Geography Location: Middle East, west of Jordan
Geographic coordinates: 32 00 N, 35 15 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 5,860 sq km
land: 5,640 sq km
water: 220 sq km
note: includes West Bank, Latrun Salient, and the northwest quarter of the Dead Sea, but excludes Mt. Scopus; East Jerusalem and Jerusalem No Man’s Land are also included only as a means of depicting the entire area occupied by Israel in 1967
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Delaware
Land boundaries: total: 404 km
border countries: Israel 307 km, Jordan 97 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: temperate; temperature and precipitation vary with altitude, warm to hot summers, cool to mild winters
Terrain: mostly rugged dissected upland, some vegetation in west, but barren in east
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Tall Asur 1,022 m
Natural resources: arable land
Land use: arable land: 16.9%
permanent crops: 18.97%
other: 64.13% (2001)
Irrigated land: 150 sq km; note – includes Gaza Strip (2003)
Natural hazards: droughts
Environment – current issues: adequacy of fresh water supply; sewage treatment
Geography – note: landlocked; highlands are main recharge area for Israel’s coastal aquifers; there are about 340 Israeli civilian sites–including 100 small outpost communities in the West Bank and 29 sites in East Jerusalem (July 2008 est.)
People Population: 2,461,267
note: in addition, there are about 187,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and fewer than 177,000 in East Jerusalem (July 2009 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 37.3% (male 470,735/female 446,878)
15-64 years: 59.1% (male 744,822/female 708,695)
65 years and over: 3.7% (male 37,471/female 52,666) (2009 est.)
Median age: total: 20.5 years
male: 20.4 years
female: 20.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.178% (2009 est.)
Birth rate: 25.95 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 3.7 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 15.96 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 17.87 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 13.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.54 years
male: 72.54 years
female: 76.65 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.22 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: NA
adjective: NA
Ethnic groups: Palestinian Arab and other 83%, Jewish 17%
Religions: Muslim 75% (predominantly Sunni), Jewish 17%, Christian and other 8%
Languages: Arabic, Hebrew (spoken by Israeli settlers and many Palestinians), English (widely understood)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 92.4%
male: 96.7%
female: 88% (2004 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 14 years
male: 13 years
female: 14 years (2006)
Education expenditures: NA
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: West Bank
Religion The Muslim community makes up 75 percent of the population, while 17 percent of the population practice Judaism and the other 8 percent of the population consider themselves Christian.
Economy Economy – overview: The West Bank – the larger of the two areas comprising the Palestinian Authority (PA) – has experienced a general decline in economic conditions since the second intifada began in September 2000. The downturn has been largely a result of Israeli closure policies – the imposition of closures and access restrictions in response to security concerns in Israel – which disrupted labor and trading relationships. In 2001, and even more severely in 2002, Israeli military measures in PA areas resulted in the destruction of capital, the disruption of administrative structures, and widespread business closures. International aid of at least $1.14 billion to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2004 prevented the complete collapse of the economy and allowed some reforms in the government’s financial operations. In 2005, high unemployment and limited trade opportunities – due to continued closures both within the West Bank and externally – stymied growth. Israel’s and the international community’s financial embargo of the PA when HAMAS ran the PA during March 2006 – June 2007 interrupted the provision of PA social services and the payment of PA salaries. Since then the FAYYAD government in the West Bank has restarted salary payments and the provision of services but would be unable to operate absent high levels of international assistance.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $11.95 billion (includes Gaza Strip) (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $6.641 billion (includes Gaza Strip) (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 0.8% (includes Gaza Strip) (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $2,900 (includes Gaza Strip) (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 8%
industry: 13%
services: 79% (includes Gaza Strip) (2007 est.)
Labor force: 605,000 (2006)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 17%
industry: 15%
services: 68% (June 2008)
Unemployment rate: 16.3% (June 2008)
Population below poverty line: 46% (2007 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budget: revenues: $1.149 billion
expenditures: $2.31 billion
note: includes Gaza Strip (2006)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 11.5% (includes Gaza Strip) (2008)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 7.73% (31 December 2006)
Stock of money: $1.574 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money: $3.048 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: $1.455 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $2.475 billion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture – products: olives, citrus, vegetables; beef, dairy products
Industries: cement, quarrying, textiles, soap, olive-wood carvings, and mother-of-pearl souvenirs; the Israelis have established some small-scale, modern industries in the settlements and industrial centers
Industrial production growth rate: 2.4% (includes Gaza Strip) (2005)
Electricity – production: NA kWh; note – most electricity imported from Israel; East Jerusalem Electric Company buys and distributes electricity to Palestinians in East Jerusalem and its concession in the West Bank; the Israel Electric Company directly supplies electricity to most Jewish residents and military facilities; some Palestinian municipalities, such as Nablus and Janin, generate their own electricity from small power plants
Electricity – consumption: NA kWh
Electricity – imports: NA kWh
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Exports: $339 million f.o.b.; (includes Gaza Strip) (2006)
Exports – commodities: olives, fruit, vegetables, limestone
Imports: $1.3 billion c.i.f.; (includes Gaza Strip) (2006)
Imports – commodities: food, consumer goods, construction materials
Economic aid – recipient: $1.4 billion; (includes Gaza Strip) (2006 est.)
Debt – external:
Currency (code): new Israeli shekel (ILS); Jordanian dinar (JOD)
Currency code: ILS; JOD
Exchange rates: new Israeli shekels (ILS) per US dollar – 3.56 (2008 est.), 4.14 (2007), 4.4565 (2006), 4.4877 (2005), 4.482 (2004)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 350,400 (includes Gaza Strip) (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 1.026 million (includes Gaza Strip) (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: NA
domestic: Israeli company BEZEK and the Palestinian company PALTEL are responsible for fixed line services; the Palestinian JAWAL company provides cellular services
international: country code – 970 (2004)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 0, FM 25, shortwave 0 (2008)
Radios: NA; note – most Palestinian households have radios (1999)
Television broadcast stations: 30 (2008)
Televisions: NA; note – many Palestinian households have televisions (1999)
Internet country code: .ps; note – same as Gaza Strip
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 8 (1999)
Internet users: 355,500 (includes Gaza Strip) (2007)
Transportation Airports: 3 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 5,147 km
paved: 5,147 km
note: includes Gaza Strip (2006)
Military Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 545,653
females age 16-49: 515,102 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 30,233
female: 28,745 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures: NA
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement – permanent status to be determined through further negotiation; Israel continues construction of a “seam line” separation barrier along parts of the Green Line and within the West Bank; Israel withdrew from four settlements in the northern West Bank in August 2005; since 1948, about 350 peacekeepers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), headquartered in Jerusalem, monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating, and assist other UN personnel in the region
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 722,000 (Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)) (2007)

Hezbollah set to tighten grip in Lebanon vote

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hezbollah set to tighten grip in Lebanon vote

Almost no mention is made in election campaign of the Shiite terror group’s ties to Iran, role in the Syrian war or tensions with Israel

In this Friday, April 13, 2018 file photo, supporters of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah hold a banner with his portrait and Arabic words that reads: 'All the loyalty to the man of nobility,' during an election campaign speech, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP/Hussein Malla)

In this Friday, April 13, 2018 file photo, supporters of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah hold a banner with his portrait and Arabic words that reads: ‘All the loyalty to the man of nobility,’ during an election campaign speech, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT  — Few countries are as vulnerable to the Middle East’s mayhem as Lebanon, which has taken in a million refugees from the catastrophic war in neighboring Syria, seen the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah terror group embroiled in that war and watched Saudi Arabia try to oust its prime minister.

Yet campaigning for Sunday’s parliamentary election, the first in nine years, has timidly sidestepped the big issues, leaving many Lebanese expecting more of the same. It’s especially galling for Lebanese concerned a still-dominant Hezbollah could drag the country into a looming Iran-Israel regional confrontation.

The vote is expected to be a test for the country’s Western-backed Sunni prime minister, Saad Hariri, and his Iran-backed Shiite opponent, Hezbollah, which is looking to tighten its grip and expand its presence in the 128-seat parliament — likely at Hariri’s expense.

Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnouk, a member of Hariri’s inner circle, said the election is not “a Sunni-Shiite conflict but rather a conflict between a group that believes in a state and a nation, and another that has regional and Iranian leanings.”

The sides, however, can hardly govern effectively without each other and are expected to recreate the unity government that currently exists, which incorporates members of the militant group.

In this picture taken on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri who is a candidate for the parliamentary elections which will be held on May 6, addresses a speech during an elections campaign, in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Most of the campaigning by more than 500 candidates has revolved around platforms of stability and economic growth, with many of Lebanon’s civil war-era political titans set to return, including Lebanon’s aging Shiite parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally who has held the post for more than 25 years and who is virtually uncontested. Some warlords are passing on their seats to their sons, including Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

“Divisive issues such as Hezbollah’s weapons and the controversy over its participation in regional conflicts are almost entirely absent from the electoral campaigns, indicating implicit acceptance of the party’s domestic hegemony,” wrote analyst Joseph Bahout in an article for the Carnegie Middle East Center.

A new election law agreed on last year has opened cracks through which rivals within the Shiite community could potentially challenge Hezbollah, and political newcomers and independents could try to break through the monopoly long enjoyed by the political dynasties.

It also promises to shake things up by reorganizing Lebanon’s electoral map, consolidating 23 districts into 15, and awarding seats by share of the vote received, rather than winner-takes-all. The law also allows Lebanese expatriates to vote abroad for the first time, adding a new level of unpredictability to the mix.

The last time elections were held in Lebanon was in 2009. Since then, members of parliament have extended their terms twice, citing security threats linked to the war in neighboring Syria.

In this Friday, April 13, 2018 file photo, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a broadcast speech through a giant screen during an election campaign in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Lebanon is technically a parliamentary democracy but is shackled by a decades-old sectarian-based power-sharing system, and its politics are dominated by former warlords that have long exploited the system to perpetuate corruption and nepotism. All senior government positions are allocated according to sect, including the head of state, who should be a Christian, the prime minister, a Sunni Muslim, and the parliament speaker, a Shiite. Parliament is divided equally between Christians and Muslims, with seats allotted according to religious sect.

The formula, based on outdated demographic data that does not account for nearly 200,000 Palestinians who are denied citizenship and a vote, allows people to vote according to their religious affiliations, not a political program.

A record number of first-time hopefuls are campaigning for change, urging voters to shun politicians who have drowned the country in corruption and debt. Many rose to prominence as organizers of protests over a 2015 trash collection crisis that left garbage in the streets for months and laid bare the extent of the public sector mismanagement plaguing Lebanon.

“It reflects a new mindset emerging among significant sectors of the Lebanese electorate, pointing in the direction of making a small dent in the religious sect-based political system,” said Randa Slim, an analyst with the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

In this Sunday, April 29, 2018 file photo, a luna park wheel decorated by posters that show portraits of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and his son the current Prime Minister Saad Hariri who is a candidate for the parliamentary elections which will be held on May 6, in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Still, the biggest winner appears to be Hezbollah and its allies, who look set to scoop up at least some of the seats lost by Hariri’s coalition, largely because of the expected fragmentation of the Sunni vote.

Hariri now has the largest block in parliament, but is likely to lose seats to rival politicians. Some of Hariri’s supporters shifted their allegiance after the billionaire businessman, who also holds Saudi citizenship, laid off scores of employees in his development company, Saudi Oger, as well as in Hariri-owned charities and media outlets in Lebanon, largely because of Saudi spending cuts.

That loss of support has been compounded by what some see as a weak stance vis-a-vis Hezbollah, accusing him of catering to and giving political cover to the militant group, which a U.N.-backed tribunal has accused in the 2015 assassination of his father, Rafik Hariri.

Hezbollah offered its support to Hariri after he was detained in Saudi Arabia late last year during a visit to Riyadh in which he announced his resignation as prime minister, citing Iran and Hezbollah’s meddling in the region. The move was widely seen as Saudi coercion, although Hariri denies stepping down against his will and has since reversed his resignation.

Hezbollah now seeks, along with its allies, to win at least 43 seats in the 128-member legislature, which would enable the militant group to veto any laws it opposes.

Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters to Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad, and has cleared the vast region along the countries’ shared border of Islamic militants, leaving hundreds of its fighters killed and wounded. It is now campaigning heavily on those achievements.

Its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, called for a heavy voter turnout, particularly in the Baalbek-Hermel region in eastern Lebanon, traditionally a Hezbollah stronghold which now faces a challenge from rivals.

“You should protect with your votes your victories and achievements, for which you’ve paid a very high price,” Nasrallah said in an appeal to supporters at an election rally in the area on Monday.

Despite limited pushback from the Shiite community, Hezbollah has largely delivered on its promises in Syria as far as the Shiite community is concerned and will now be expected to deliver on the economic front, Slim said.

She expects a governing coalition between Hariri and Hezbollah to re-emerge from Sunday’s vote and says if the elections produce a weaker Hariri, it will be all the more reason for Hezbollah to push for him to be the next prime minister.

“In light of the talk of a looming Iranian-Israeli confrontation in Syria, Hezbollah will be more incentivized in not rocking the boat in Lebanon,” she said.

READ MORE:

Algeria Court Sentences Israel-Linked Spy to Death  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Algeria Court Sentences Israel-Linked Spy to Death

Wednesday, 25 April, 2018 – 10:00
Algerian troops. (Reuters)
Algiers – Asharq Al-Awsat
A criminal court in Algeria sentenced a man of Lebanese origin to death over charges of collaborating with Israel in order to harm Algerian national interests.

An official statement posted on the Algeria Press Service on Tuesday identified the suspect as A.D.F., adding that he holds the Liberian nationality.

The criminal court of Ghardaia ordered that he be sentenced to death on charges of “espionage for the benefit of a foreign force [Israel] and for forming a criminal group … that aims to infringe on Algeria’s security and threaten it.”

In addition to A.D.F, six other suspects of various African nationalities were charged in relation to the case and were sentenced to 10 years in prison.

They were also ordered to pay a fine of $10,000.

Iran Is Going To Strike Israel The Only Question Is How And When

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

ORDER FROM CHAOS

Will Iran attack Israel over the Syrian conflict? It’s only a matter of time

Dror Michman and Yael Mizrahi-Arnaud

As the dust settles following last weekend’s U.S.-French-British attack on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, the countdown to the next round of military conflict between Israel and Iran has begun. Last week, Israel once again targeted the T-4 (Tiyas) base in Syria, which houses Iranian drone forces, killing 7 Iranians and apparently destroying a drone infrastructure project. This is the same base from which an Iranian drone was launched in February, which the Israeli air force intercepted. Israel then hit the T-4 base and an Israeli aircraft downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Authors

An Iranian retaliatory strike against Israel is likely in the works. Where and how Tehran chooses to carry out its attack is still unclear, but for reasons that we describe below, it is most likely to be a rocket or missile attack launched from Syria. The choice will define what to expect for the future of Iranian and Israeli confrontations.

THE “WHY” QUESTION

There are very clear signals that this time Iran would indeed retaliate. Iranian media gave extensive coverage to the Israeli attack on T-4 last week. Iranian leaders, most noticeably Ali Akbar Velayati, the top advisor to Iran’s supreme leader, issued direct threats of retaliation. Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, also warned Israel that this time there would be a steep price to pay; the highly publicized funerals of Quds forces personnel was the latest such indication. Iran is now both deeply and publicly committed to retaliate. The stage is set.

Iran is determined to cash in on its huge investment in Syria, by improving its military presence and the means with which to pressure Israel. Ultimately, its aim is to firmly establish itself as a regional power. Meanwhile, Israel is determined not to repeat the mistake it made in Lebanon—watching from the sidelines as the Iranian threat from Hezbollah intensified. Israel has made clear its intention to combat the threat from the start, while it remains manageable.

In Israel’s view, the time to act is ripe due to both geopolitical and strategic factors. First, Russia’s desire to keep the situation in Syria relatively stable puts Israel in the unique position of acting as a potential disrupter. Israel thus has leverage over the larger, and more powerful Russian state. Second, Israel’s freedom to operate in Syria’s skies may be limited in the future by improved Iranian or Syrian anti-aircraft capabilities, or by an international accord.

THE “HOW” QUESTION

While the intentions are clear, there remains considerable debate over what form the retaliation would take. In the Middle East, these nuances matter. There are several possibilities and each carries a different prospect for an Israeli counter-response.

A missile salvo appears to be the most appropriate Iranian response, both in terms of capabilities and risk calculation (and mirroring the Israeli missiles launched at T-4). However, the more crucial question is what target they will choose.

A military target appears to be the more appropriate response. A quid-pro-quo attack, aiming to deal a lethal blow to the Israel Defense Force’s reputation—or even better, the Israeli air force, since an F-16 fighter-jet (an emblem of Israel’s prowess), was downed in February. But a more effective deterrent may lie in targeting a big city—thereby eliciting a panic effect, even if it is intercepted by Israeli defense systems. The goal from the Iranian perspective may be to create public pressure that in turn would work to alter Israel’s risk calculation in Syria. On the down side, civilian centers are a less legitimate target, and might put Iran in an uncomfortable position internationally, when such a spotlight is the last thing Iran needs as worldwide concern over Iran’s intervention in the region crescendos.

The second dilemma facing the Iranians is from where to launch the missiles, the options being Iran, Syria, or Lebanon.

Launching from Iran will naturally send a strong message to Israel, both in terms of capabilities and determination. The clear disadvantage of this choice would be the legitimization of an Israeli counter-response in Iran, and yet another unnecessary escalation, for the time being, from the Iranian perspective.

Lebanon is well equipped with a variety of missiles, in both range and size, and therefore a convenient location for the Iranians. However, an escalation in Lebanon is far more damaging for all parties involved. It has the possibility to ignite a war between Israel and Hezbollah, and to harm crucial Hezbollah arsenals and infrastructure, serving neither Iranian nor Hezbollah’s interests.

Hezbollah is not interested in war at the moment, as its leaders are preoccupied with solidifying its image as the “protector” ahead of Lebanon’s parliamentary elections in May. The numerous casualties in Syria, and the fact the group still has close to 7,000 troops on the ground there, complicate this picture.

The most sensible option remains Syria, the arena with the least risk for the Iranians, and the relevant stage of the recent skirmishes. Yet, there are two main challenges that remain to be mitigated: the delicate relationship with the Russians and the risk of further damaging Iranians assets and capabilities in Syria, in case Israel will be forced to respond.

In order to avoid putting stress on the Russians, the Iranians would retaliate in a fashion the Russians would find tolerable and containable. Russia expressed its anger after the last Israeli attack, and therefore will most likely tolerate some sort of measured Iranian response. The question is: What does Russia consider measured? Possibly anything that doesn’t pose a substantial threat to stability in Syria and wouldn’t provoke an Israeli escalated response.

This appears to be an impossible equation to solve. Iran wants to buttress its deterrence capability after Israel proved willing to pay a steep price in order to prevent Iran from establishing another front in Syria (from where they could threaten Israeli security, as they have done in Lebanon with Hezbollah in the past).

After outlining the possible scenarios, an Iranian strike will most likely be a missile strike from Syria, aimed at a significant Israeli military target. In order to hit the target, it will have to be substantial in size. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which the target is hit and Israel’s response will be contained, unless the damage—both in lives and in capabilities—is negligible.

Israel understands that it can’t afford to blink.

Predicting the long-term prospects and evolution of this conflict is more difficult, since both parties are willing to pay a high price for their strategic interests.

An Israeli response to an Iranian retaliation depends on the extent of the damage; nonetheless, Israel understands that it can’t afford to blink. The determination and willingness to take risks has been clearly demonstrated—both by statements by senior officials and by attacks in recent months. For the time being, Israel will push back against Iran, at any cost, until either significant international pressure or diplomatic efforts work to inhibit Iranian strength in Syria. The Russians serve as a partial restrainer, but have limited motivation, and even more limited capabilities to actually enforce a solution on either party. Even if there were a simple solution, in light of Israeli and Iranian determination to inflict damage on each other, even at a high cost, Russian efforts would most likely prove unsuccessful.

Trump Finally Gets Something Right: Syria

Trump Finally Gets Something Right: Syria

 

The folks that read my articles know, I am not a fan of President Trump. Personally I believe that he is the biggest scumbag to set in Our Oval Office since Andrew Jackson, Our Nations 7th President back in the first half of the 1800’s. To me this is saying a lot since in my own lifetime we have had some very despicable men for Presidents, the likes of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and the two Bush’s. Yet this clueless ego maniac we have now is such an idiot and habitual liar that he is a total disgrace to Our Country. Yet, even the most ignorant person in the world can upon a rare occasion get something right and I believe that he is correct concerning the U.S. getting our military out of Syria.

 

By what all the Generals had been saying up until this past week, ISIS has been at least 90% destroyed in Syria and ISIS is supposed to be the only reason that we went into Syria in the first place. Technically when a Nation sends their military into another country without the permission of the government of that country you have committed an act of war against that country. Yet even though the government of Syria has not declared an act of war against the United States for our actions in their country they have told us very plainly that we are not welcome there and that they want us out. Syria is and has been quite the ‘dance floor’ ever since the U.S. sent in troops and started bombings there. Syria’s government with the help of their allies Russia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Hezbollah from Lebanon have won this Civil War there. Even though we may not like it President Assad is going to stay in power there and we have no right to be there. The only real allies that the United States has had there has been the Kurdish people whom we have used and betrayed over and over again. We have spent a lot of effort to not get into a direct fighting war with Syria or any of her allies and it is now past time to get our military out of Syria before we do get into a shooting war with Russia or Iran, or even with our supposed NATO ally Turkey. Honestly one has to wonder if a lot of the top military brass at the Pentagon as well as our Security Agencies like the CIA and the NSA are wanting a shooting war with these countries. Besides, you know that the Military Contractors that build the War Machines would love it, more billions of dollars for their bank accounts. Quite honestly, wars help a nation’s economy, it keeps people employed and off of the unemployment lines.

 

So, I believe that in this case President Trump is correct about getting our military out of Syria. We, our government, has committed an act of war against the nation of Syria simply by being there unasked and unwanted. We, the people of the United States are very fortunate that the government of Syria and all of her allies have not declared war on us yet. Though, if we continue to stay there this is going to happen, there is no way that it can be avoided. One of the issues that has irked me since George W was our President is the fact that Our Nations National Guard and even members of Our Coast Guard are off fighting in these foreign wars, this should never ever have happened. Right now on our southern border with the Nation of Mexico President Trump is talking about sending Our Military to the Border to ‘defend’ it from civilians crossing into Our Country. I have a couple of thoughts on this for you to consider. One, if the President is going to do this, it should be National Guard Units going there, not our regular military. Two, tell me, once we put thousands of Military Personnel on the Border, what are they going to do? Are they going to start shooting all of these unarmed men, women and children? I can’t tell you that I know the answer to every thing, I wish I could, but I can’t. This article is like most that I write, I am just trying to get you to think about the issue that I have brought up for your consideration. Thank you for your time folks, I appreciate you stopping in.

Islam And Dictators

Islam And Dictators

As most people know the world experienced an event called “The Arab Spring” just a few years ago. The event started when a man through exasperation of the inequalities that were laid upon his life decided to end his life by setting himself on fire. This tragic event started an uprising of the people who spread across North Africa and the Middle East. The people of these countries raised up together to challenge their countries leaders in unprecedented numbers. The results of these uprisings do vary but it would be lying to say that these countries and their people are now living in peace.

The United States government has been involved in this region of the world since before I was born (I am 61). Their adventures attributes or lack there of can easily be argued long and loud from the Arab people’s point of view, their governments point of view, and the American people’s points of view. Many Americans are sick and tired of our country being the “world’s policeman” but just as cops on the street can be good and/or evil our country has often lacked moral ethics in how they performed their activities. But just as different Arab countries leaders and their people like and dislike things our government has done that has touched their lives, I would just like to share with you that just as you and your countries government’s do not always see eye to eye with each other, that the American people do not always back what our government in doing in regards to events that affect you and your lives.

Most of the American people I believe before 1972-73 knew little about anything that was to do with your countries. I was a teenager during that time and I was in the American military (1977) before I ever heard of the Shah of Iran, I am not sure that I had ever heard of the country of Iran before the events of his departure from your country. The more that I paid attention to the events concerning the Shah and our countries involvement the more it sickened me about things our country had done to the people of Iran. As just about anyone and everyone should know by now the American government was playing a deadly game with Russia during those “cold war” years. Both countries governments used other countries like pawns in a chess game not caring about the collateral damage their actions were putting upon the people of these countries.

The American government installed and supported many evil people, even crazy people (Saddam), giving them many weapons which the tyrants used against their own people. I am going to step back to Iran in the 1978 era when the people of Iran was able to get rid of one Tyrant to unfortunately have an even more evil person step into the leadership of their country. I know that statement will get some people mad but to be honest about things, here in America we have had many evil people in all different levels and departments of our government including some very evil Presidents. The Shah was a very evil person but after his departure, you the people, got locked into a government that is one of the most evil the world has ever known.

Libya, as most everyone knows is one of the countries that had a horrible lunatic for a leader who you the people, with some outside help from Jihad organizations was able to overthrow. But you the people have now got a living situation that is very dangerous for all of it’s citizens with so many armed groups fighting for more control. I am glad that this was one leader that wasn’t one of the CIA puppets because he was a horrible non-humanitarian leader. Our government propped up dictators from the Philippines to Central America to Africa to the Middle East. It Saddens me as an American and as a loving heart Christian that our government did some of the things to you that they did but it is not like we the people of America condoned our governments actions.

Syria, their President is the only leader that it seems is going to remain in office but only because he was able to get foreign help from nations like Russia and Iran and terrorist groups like Hezbollah. The cost of this failed Civil War is hundreds of thousands of people are dead with probably that many and more wounded. There is also the factor of how to go forward as a nation. There is many trillions of dollars of damage to businesses and homes and the factor of the human cost of getting that country back to a functional condition is going to take several decades.

The United States as you know involved themselves militarily in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9-11-2001 attacks here in America. I believe that going into Afghanistan was a legitimate action. But when our government went into Iraq in March of 2003 to get Saddam this was an unconstitutional act, thus and illegal action by our President. I try to always be honest and fair in all that I do and say, but in doing this it seems like I get most everyone mad at me. Thus saying, I personally believe that our President at the time, George W Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are all three guilty of War Crimes and should all three be behind bars right now. Now, if you fast forward to today, look at all the sectarian violence in Iraq and in Afghanistan with the government trying to get the Taliban murderers to become part of that government. Besides cutting off the figurehead of Al-Qaeda on May 2nd of 2011 what did all the blood and all the billions of dollars accomplish for the lives of their average countryman?

Egypt is the last country that I am going to focus on tonight because I am not trying to create a manuscript out of this post. The people of Egypt throughout history for the most part are now and have always been a great people even though they have had many Rulers who used and abused them. Ever since your President Anwar Sadat was murdered by Islamist traders, you the people had been saddled with a Dictator/President who you finally overthrew about five years ago. When you, the people of Egypt were doing your rallies there in the Square in Cairo the Western media kept interviewing protesters from the square pointing out to us viewers how it was the educated class of people who were the protesters. They would often say how the side streets and alleys were jammed with people but these reporters did not go into those side streets and alleys because of security issues. I knew even then that the Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood were more than happy to let the School Teachers, Doctors, and Lawyer types be the one’s speaking to the foreign press while they waited in the back streets hoping that the President would be run out of office. When President Mubarak was removed by the Military and elections were set in place I had no doubt who would win and then the people of Egypt who voted in The Brotherhood would see first hand how they now had another tyrant leading their country. To the praise of the majority of the people the people realized how badly they had been lied to and how inept these Islamist leaders were and once again with the help of your Military you brought down yet another Dictator.

There is a common thread that runs throughout the Muslim part of the world and that of course is the Islamic faith. I know that it sounds horrible but the pattern of governments that have come and gone and come again to your countries has been where a Military backed Dictator has ruled your country or you had a Religious Leader rule your country. The debate for your people has been a case of which one is going to be the most cruel toward the population. It has seemed that your only alternatives where the lazy, uneducated, hate-filled Islamist fundamentalists who allow the population no basic human rights or freedom of expression, or when a Military backed Dictator has been your countries ruler who has no choice but to clamp down on the Islamist groups. These actions unfortunately cause the collateral damage of taking away many of the general populations basic rights also.

It is and has been my belief for a long time now that the only way that the people have freedom in their country is if they remove the tyrant themselves. How Egypt has gotten rid of their last two Presidents has worked but it always comes down to where the loyalty of the nation’s Military is. Muslim countries who prefer to have a so-called Religious Leader as their ruler it is up to you to see that He or She is acting toward the populous with caring and love for the people. Proof that these so-called “Clerics” like the real rulers of Iran, have enslaved the people by their hatred against everyone they themselves do not consider to be “holy” enough. This has been proven to the people of Islamic countries time and time again, it seems that either way the people have no freedom or freedom of speech under penalty of death. The people of your countries are to this day wrapped up in constant violence and almost all of this violence is directly to do with the Islamic Faith in how people choose to interpret your Holy Books words. Personally, I believe that God can choose to kill or let live whomever He chooses and that He does not need anyone’s help to kill or harm anyone. If God wants you or I dead, if He really is God, He can just speak it or wish it so and it will be so. Anyone who uses a Religion to kill or harm another person is themselves a Servant of Satan. If you really believe that the One you call God says for you to do these things, you very much need to examine who/what it is that you are worshiping because it sure isn’t a God. God is peace and love, not hate and killing. I from the depths of my heart wish for peace prosperity and love to each and every one of you. I do pray for you everyday because there is so much hate and violence that surrounds you and your families daily, shalom.

Syrian Aid: What The U.N. And the U.S. Should Have Been Doing All Along

Syrian Aid

(10-01-13)   (02-19-18)

What the U.N. And The U.S. Should Have Been Doing All Along

As most people in the world who have radio’s or television reception knows, there is a very bloody civil war going on in the country of Syria for about two and a half years now. The United Nations tells us that during this war about 100,000 civilians have been killed with at least one million people displaced. Displaced in this case means that these people have been not only uprooted from their homes, these are people who have left the borders of their country hoping for safety in one of their neighboring countries. Wars are never a pretty thing for a land of for the people of the land to have to endure, but, unfortunately sometimes people are forced to defend themselves. Picking up arms toward another person is always a personal demon that each person has to face within their own soul.

 

In Syria the city of Aleppo was the industrial hub of the country as well as the countries largest city. I have seen online many pictures of this city as it looks today. This city is one that has been one of the major battlegrounds of the fighting between the Presidents military forces and the people trying to defeat him. This city is now in horrible physical condition from large bombing campaigns just like many smaller cities and towns across their country. If you get a chance Google stories and pictures of what is happening in Syria. Like in most any military conflict the loss of physical and human destruction is heart wrenching. When you are looking at pictures of all of these bombed out businesses and homes I have a question for you that I want you to think about. I will use Aleppo as my example for my question. Looking at the destruction how is it possible for the people of the country to produce anything with so much danger constantly all around them?

 

Let each of us try to put ourselves into the story-line which is the Syria of today. When war is going on around you, even if you consider yourself and your family as non-combatant, what quality of life do you think you are capable of having? Do you think life as you have known it will not change just because you tell all warring sides that you are neutral? Even if you are lucky enough not to have had your place of employment bombed yet, nor had combatants come to your place of employment and kill everyone, do you think you are going to feel safe going into work each day? Do you think that your coworkers are going to take the chance of putting themselves into a crowded situation which makes them a bigger body count for the combatants? When almost all if not all commerce production is stopped because of a war, there is no GDP for the country which in this case is hurting the government side in this conflict. But, if the people have no jobs to go to, thus having no income, plus the fact that there aren’t any needed daily goods in which to buy, the populous itself is now drawn into the reality of this war even if they completely don’t want to be. I am not just speaking of items that are non essentials like wallpaper and couches. With the situation the Syrian people are in, they can’t even get enough food to keep from starving. No one in this war zone can possibly lay their head down for a nap without fear they may be attacked at any moment. That is if they are lucky enough to have a roof over their head in some place that has not been boomed out yet. Please also consider that the people of Syria are now facing their third winter in this civil war with all their basic needs absent.

 

What I have described above is background information for those who have paid no attention to the events unfolding in Syria and their region of the world. Once again an Islamic country in the Mediterranean region is in flux. The American government usually is put into a position where many expect us to be the world’s policeman. As most of you know the government of Syria is being backed by Russia who is their biggest most powerful ally and they have a major naval base in Syria. Russia has blocked most western attempts to help those fighting against the Syrian President Mr. Al-Assad. The second biggest Syrian ally is Iran who has been helping backup the Syrian military by sending thousands of trained fighters from the Islamic militant group Hezbollah which Iran protects and trains within their own borders and within the nation of Lebanon.

 

Syria’s president and his family are believers in a sect of Shia Islam  known as Alawites but the majority of the Syrian people are also faithful to the Shia sect of Islam. This is why Iran is helping president Al-Assad, you see, Iran is the largest Shia based country in the world and in Islam the Sunni-Shia differences are massive, violence between these two sects have been simmering, sometimes boiling over into violent conflicts for about 1,400 years now. This is why Iran is helping the government forces and this religious divide is why majority Sunni countries like Saudi-Arabia are helping out the rebel forces that are fighting president Al-Assad’s forces. Russia’s backing of the Syrian government has nothing to do with religion though, their reasons are simply economic and military alliances.

 

Here in America our politicians have been debating about whether or not to send military help to the Syrian rebels. Lately discussions have been about such things as bombing certain government locations and/or putting a no fly zone in parts of the country to help the rebel groups. Part of the problems with the rebel groups is that it is very fractious with several main bodies and no real central command. There are many confirmed reports that many of the people fighting against the government are from very dangerous Sunni Islamic groups like Al-Qaeda which are groups of the same philosophy  that attacked America on 9-11-2001. So the question comes to light, do we, meaning the U.S. and the west European countries give weapons and training to groups that once that war is over would then use those same weapons against us?

 

Now, I will express to you what I totally believe that the U.S. and the west European powers as well as the U.N. should have been doing since shortly after this civil war broke out. First, militarily we should be completely hands off. What we as a Christian nation and people, as well as the governing body of the U.N. should have been doing to help the innocent Syrian people who have been trying to flee their country via  going to their neighboring countries trying to stay alive, is that we should have been helping these people from the beginning of this human disaster.

 

Syria’s neighbors badly need help from the outside world in the facilitation of a million plus people into their countries. What we need to be doing and should have been doing is to send these desolate human beings, our brothers and sisters of humanity, the basic staples they need for survival. What aid we should be offering and delivering is things like food, tents, clothes, and blankets, not weapons. The only time we should use any military force in this civil war would be if the Syrian government force attack these refugee camps and then only if the presiding country whose borders were breached asks for us to help.

Israel-Iran Fight Steps Into The Open

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

No longer shrouded by ‘foreign reports,’ Israel-Iran fight steps into the open

Long-heard warnings of war between Jerusalem and Tehran are poised to become reality – unless someone can stop it

Judah Ari Gross

Israeli soldiers survey the border with Syria from a military post in the Golan Heights, following a series of aerial clashes with Syrian and Iranian forces in Syria, on February 10, 2018. (Flash90)

Israeli soldiers survey the border with Syria from a military post in the Golan Heights, following a series of aerial clashes with Syrian and Iranian forces in Syria, on February 10, 2018. (Flash90)

On Thursday, the International Crisis Group think tank and advocacy firm warned in a new comprehensive report that Israel and Iran (plus its proxies) were barreling toward open conflict in Syria.

Those prescient warnings came true — in part, at least — throughout Saturday morning, beginning shortly before 4:30 a.m., with the violation of Israeli airspace by a drone that the Israeli military says was piloted by an Iranian operator from an airfield that Tehran had taken control of months before, with Syrian permission.

Israeli jets conducted reprisal raids in Syria, during which one of the F-16 fighter planes was apparently hit by shrapnel from an exploding anti-aircraft missile and crashed in northern Israel, in what appears to be the first downing of an Israeli plane since 1982.

The aircraft’s pilots bailed out; one of them was seriously injured.

A picture taken in the northern Israeli Jezreel Valley on February 10, 2018, shows the remains of an Israel F-16 that crashed after coming under fire by Syrian air defenses during attacks against ‘Iranian targets’ in the war-torn country. (AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ)

Air force jets then completed a second set of retaliatory strikes. In the two rounds, the Israeli military said, its aircraft targeted several Syrian air defense systems as well as four Iranian positions in the country.

This was the first time Israel publicly acknowledged conducting airstrikes against Iranian-held locations in Syria, though not the first time it had done so, according to foreign reports.

In the aftermath of the Saturday morning clash, Israeli, Syrian and Iranian politicians released tough, threatening statements aimed at one another. The United States backed Israel’s right to self-defense. Russia called for calm on all sides, but singled out Israel for violating Syrian sovereignty with its strikes, while conspicuously ignoring the Iranian drone’s airspace violation.

The aerial exchange thrust what had previously been a long-simmering but largely quiet conflict into the international spotlight and raised concerns that this bout will be the first of many clashes — and, in the nightmare scenario, the start of a full-fledged war across Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel.

I don’t think it’s the last time we’ll see such an event, but for the time being both sides will restrain their responses

However, the prevailing belief among Israeli defense analysts is that Saturday’s events were not the prelude to open war, but the beginning of an extended period of increased tension, which is liable to see additional clashes.

“I don’t think it’s the last time we’ll see such an event, but for the time being both sides will restrain their responses,” Sima Shine, a career defense official and current senior researcher at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies think tank, told reporters on Sunday.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (L) attends a briefing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) in response to the escalation of tensions along the northern border on February 10, 2018. (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)

She added, during the phone briefing organized by the Media Central group, that escalation is in neither side’s best interest.

Amos Yadlin, a former fighter pilot and Military Intelligence chief, described Saturday as the “most significant day of fighting” in what Israel describes as its “campaign between wars,” often referred to in Hebrew by its acronym, Mabam.

“Despite the containment of the incident, the campaign is expected to continue,” Yadlin said.

In its report, released two days before Saturday’s flareup, the Crisis Group laid out how this campaign between Israel and the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis has developed and how it can be prevented from escalating further.

The organization tracks the current tensions to the Syrian regime’s battlefield victories over the past two and a half years, which it has achieved in large part due to support from the Russian military, which has provided significant air power since September 2015.

These have opened the Iran-led axis to shift toward preparing for a future conflict with Israel.

Only Moscow is in a position to mediate a bolstering of the deescalation agreement. Unless it does, the rules of the Syrian game are likely to be worked out through attack and response, with risk of escalation

According to the think tank, Russia is also the only entity able to prevent such a bloody war, having emerged from the Syrian civil war as the region’s sole remaining superpower after the United States dramatically scaled back its involvement in the conflict.

“Only Moscow is in a position to mediate a bolstering of the deescalation agreement. Unless it does, the rules of the Syrian game are likely to be worked out through attack and response, with risk of escalation,” according to the report.

In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, right, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

The group outlines three main issues that need to be addressed: the presence of Iranian and Shiite forces near the Israeli Golan Heights; the construction of Iranian military infrastructure in Syria; and ensuring any clashes that do take place remain confined to Syria.

The Crisis Group has also been working directly with Russia to try to persuade it to accept the role of mediator between Israel, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.

“And we are seeing some traction with Russian officials,” Ofer Zalzberg, a senior Jerusalem-based analyst for the group and one of the report’s authors, told The Times of Israel last Wednesday ahead of the document’s publication.

The recipe for disaster

As Syrian dictator Bashar Assad vanquishes the remaining pockets of resistance in the country, the Israeli concern is that his allies — Iran, Hezbollah and Iran-backed Shiite militias — will be freed to focus on establishing positions along the Israeli border from which to antagonize the Jewish state, as well as permanent naval and air bases to bring in more advanced weaponry and conduct attacks.

Israel has designated these issues to be “red lines,” which it will not allow to be violated, and has said it will take military action if they are.

In its report, the Crisis Group warned that if the Iranian axis presses on with these efforts and Israel retaliates in kind, there is significant potential for escalation or even a large-scale war that could destabilize the entire region.

Israeli security forces inspect damage to a house after a Katyusha rocket attack by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya, July 15, 2006. (Pierre Terdjman / Flash90)

The military assessments of what a war between Israel and Hezbollah would look like are chilling: Hezbollah launching over 1,000 rockets and missiles at Israeli cities and strategic sites each day, along with attempted infiltrations of Israeli communities along the Lebanese border. Israel conducting wave after wave of airstrikes against Hezbollah infrastructure, which the terrorist group has embedded deep inside civilian areas, ensuring significant noncombatant deaths, as well as large-scale IDF ground force maneuvers in southern Lebanon.

Zalzberg said a major part of the problem is that there are no established “rules of the game” between Israel and Iranian proxies in Syria, as there are in Lebanon, where Israel has been fighting Hezbollah off-and-on for decades.

That means the “rules” will be sorted out through back-and-forth, tit-for-tat clashes like Saturday’s. But this is a perilous path, fraught with opportunities for miscalculation and resulting in unintended casualties on both sides.

For instance, Israeli officials often refer to the “proverbial kindergarten” — the type of target that if hit, even accidentally, would prompt Israeli citizens to demand harsh and swift reprisals. As Iran and Hezbollah lack civilian targets in Syria, their equivalent might be a case of significant casualties from an Israeli airstrike, which would forced them to retaliate.

This is a current concern, following Saturday’s exchange, as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog group, reported that at least six pro-regime fighters — including both Syrians and foreign nationals — were killed in Israel’s strikes and that “the death toll is expected to rise because there are some people in critical situation.”

Zalzberg added the potential for escalation in Syria is driven higher by the fact that different sides do not have a clear grasp of one another’s goals and viewpoints, citing a year’s worth of interviews by the Crisis Group with officials in Jerusalem, Tehran, Beirut, Amman, Moscow and Washington.

The report and its authors argue that it is ultimately in Russia’s best interest to avoid an all-out war between Israel and the Lebanon-based, Iran-backed Hezbollah, which would have the potential to completely destabilize the region.

Unlike in the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah when the fighting was primarily limited to northern Israel and southern Lebanon, the view of both Israeli and Hezbollah officials is that the next conflict between the two groups would also include fighting in Syria.

Israeli artillery howitzers fire on Hezbollah targets at the Israeli-Lebanese border on July 18, 2006. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“A massive campaign by Israel will do enormous damage to [Damascus and its backers’] achievements, perhaps even destabilizing the regime itself,” the report noted.

According to Zalzberg, this is not a desirable situation for Russia, as Moscow would like to see Assad regain near-total control over Syria.

The analyst noted that this is at odds with Iran, which wants to see Assad in power, but does not necessarily want to see him becoming too powerful, preferring instead to have Syria controlled by a coalition, similar to Lebanon, so that its Shiite militias could play a more significant role in the country.

Russia and only Russia

Moscow’s active support for Assad and his other main supporters, Iran and Hezbollah, has left Israeli officials decidedly wary of their Russian counterparts.

The Crisis Group report quotes an unnamed Israeli Foreign Ministry official as saying of the Russians, “It’s hard to trust them. They tell us they are not selling weapons to Hezbollah, but we know for a fact that they do. Their policies are cynical. They are not an enticing mediator.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an event marking International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, January 29, 2018. (Vasily MAXIMOV/AFP)

Yet there is an understanding among some in Israel that, while not enticing, Russia is the only mediator that has significant leverage over Iran and Hezbollah.

Israel has already had to maintain a close, if uneasy, relationship with Moscow due to its involvement in the region.

After Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jets that had invaded its airspace, Moscow installed an S-400 missile defense system in Syria. With the system, one of the world’s most advanced anti-aircraft batteries, Russia can monitor the overwhelming majority of Israel’s active airspace, including Israeli military flights.

Or, as one Israeli official told the Crisis Group, “A fly can’t buzz above Syria without Russian consent nowadays.”

This came as a shocking blow to the Israeli Air Force, which had, until then, enjoyed aerial superiority in the region, and required Jerusalem and Moscow to set up a hotline to prevent any potential conflicts between the two militaries.

Israel has also worked diplomatically with Russia to secure a buffer zone around the southwestern Syrian border, in which Hezbollah and other Iran-backed Shiite militias would not be allowed to maintain a presence.

In this photo released on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government forces stand next to a bus which is waiting to evacuate Syrian rebels and their families from Beit Jinn village, in the southern province of Daraa, Syria. (SANA via AP)

The border area has naturally been of significant concern for Israel, which is loath to see Hezbollah set up military positions along the Golan Heights to join the significant infrastructure it has already put in place in southern Lebanon.

Last month, the Syrian military, with some assistance from Shiite militias, regained control over the area of Beit Jinn, or Beit Jann, which is located just 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Israel’s Mount Hermon ski resort.

Though it is currently focused on retaking the area of Idlib in northwestern Syria, this coalition is likely to soon focus its attention on the Quneitra and Daraa regions, near the Israeli border.

Though Israel secured its buffer zone for that area this summer, the Crisis Group report notes that it would be relatively easy for these groups to get around the restriction, “for instance by integrating the fighters into the Syrian army or simply having them don its uniforms.”

The advocacy group argues that before the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis moves toward the southwest, Russia should work to negotiate an agreement between it and Israel.

There is still time for Russia to try to broker a set of understandings to prevent a confrontation, protecting both its investment in the regime and Syrian, Israeli and Lebanese lives

The Crisis Group notes that Israel’s insistence that Iranian and Iran-backed troops stay out of southern Syria will be the most difficult to negotiate, as Hezbollah and the Shiite militias would not be inclined to accept it and could easily cheat by disguising themselves as Syrians.

However, the authors say this could be resolved by getting Russia to agree to prevent Iran from setting up the types of infrastructure most concerning to Israel, like a seaport through which the Islamic Republic could carry out attacks against Israeli natural gas fields, an airport to transport weapons to Hezbollah, or a factory for the production of precise missiles.

“There is still time for Russia to try to broker a set of understandings to prevent a confrontation, protecting both its investment in the regime and Syrian, Israeli and Lebanese lives,” the Crisis Group wrote.

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