Israel: Turkey Comes To Stay

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June 16, 2020: Israel is beset, mostly by verbal threats, on all sides. Few shots are fired at Israel, using any sort of weapon. The primary threats to Israel are Iran (via Syria, Lebanon and Gaza) and Hamas (Gaza and West Bank). The Fatah government in the West Bank is also threatening violence if Israel does not back off on plans to annex Israeli populated parts of the West Bank. Fatah has nothing to threaten with. Several terror campaigns since 2000 have one thing in common; all failed. No just “fail fail” but often “embarrassing fail.”

Iran has pulled back on the aggressive moves against Israel and is apparently relying on the American presidential elections in November to bring to power a more pro-Iran and anti-Israel government. Syria would prefer to make a separate peace with the Americans and the rest of the Arab world. Iran will not allow that and as long as Iran has over 50,000 mercenaries in Syria, a separate peace with the U.S. and Arab League is not going to happen.

Syria is the costliest foreign adventure Iran has taken on, even with the much reduced budget for such foreign wars. The Iranian clerics are still obsessed with attacking and destroying Israel. Most Iranians agree with the Arab world that is not likely to happen. For over 70 years most of the Moslem world has sought to destroy Israel and has nothing but a long list of military defeats and other failures to show for it. In fact, the current Iranian effort to gain control of the Moslem Holy Places Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia has more and more Arab states openly allying themselves with Israel. Prominent Gulf Arabs are more frequently discussing this Israeli alliance openly. This is unusual because in the past such public statements would have triggered violence in the streets and Arab media. No more.

The Iranian clerics, or at least their IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) bodyguards are still undertaking expensive efforts to attack Israel. In Syria, that means about 50,000 Iranian mercenaries now wearing Syrian Army uniforms and moving into bases near the Israeli border. These “Syrian soldiers” are paid by Iran to take orders from Iran, despite the Syrian uniform. This is demoralizing for Syrian troops and the Syrian government. If these Iranian “Syrian soldiers” attack Israel the Israelis will attack Syria, including pro-Assad cities that have so far avoided major airstrikes. This is what happens in Lebanon when Iran-backed Hezbollah goes to war with Israel.

Then there is Turkey, which also avoids war with Israel yet portrays Israel as an “enemy of Islam.” Turkey would prefer that Iran do the same and go home. Many Iranians and Syrians openly agree with Russia and Turkey. The Iranian government responds with “Israeli airstrikes are killing people in Syria.” Syrians note that most of the dead are Iranians or mercenaries (Arabs or Afghans) on the Iranian payroll. The Iranian government deliberately keeps as few Iranians as possible in bases likely to be hit. Iranians getting killed in Syria, even if they are IRGC Iranians are very unpopular back in Iran. Syrians just don’t like all these Syrians who are working for Iran or Turkey as mercenaries and getting killed by whoever.

The Assads would like the Iranian forces, most of them mercenaries, to leave but the Iranians refuse. Israel tells the Assads that if they stick with Iran the Assads will be destroyed and Iran will suffer another defeat. The Assads realize that the Iranians are fanatics about destroying Israel and that the Israelis have demonstrated an ability to counter any move the Iranians make. Moreover, all the other Arab states consider the Assads traitors for aligning themselves with the Iranians, who are quite openly at war with Arab control of Arabia. Worse, no one has much sympathy for the Assads, who have very few good qualities. Despite this, the Assads apparently side with Russia and Israel rather than Iran. What this comes down to is the fact that Iran is a foreign (Indo-European, not Arab) power that wants to increase its direct control over Syria. Russia, Turkey, the U.S. and Israel do not.

Since 2012 Israel has carried out a growing number of air raids on Iranian targets in Syria. The targets are mostly Iranian weapons storage sites, bases and now missile assembly operations. Since 2012 there have been about 38 airstrikes a year but there have already at least that many so far in 2020. It’s not unusual for there to be four or more airstrikes a week. These air attacks use various types of smart bombs and guided missiles and rarely miss or are aborted.

The Syrians frequently claim to have intercepted Israeli air-launched (often from inside Lebanon or Israel) missiles but the reality is that few of the Israeli missiles fail to hit their targets. Commercial satellite photos are available to determine damage and there is always a lot of it. Iran and Syria complain that the formidable Russian air defense system in Syria is not used to stop the Israelis. The Russians don’t want a fight with the Israelis, if only because the Israelis might publicly demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Russian air defense systems. These systems are a major export item for Russia and the Israelis could reduce those export sales with demonstrations of how to get past the Russian air defenses.

June 15, 2020: Egypt is trying to revive its economy after the covid19 virus quarantines are lifted. At the same time, Egypt continues coping with new covid19 infections. So far the virus has infected 453 per million Egyptians and killed 16 per million. Most of the deaths occurred in the last month. Emphasis has been on reducing the virus presence in areas frequented by foreign tourists. The national health system in Egypt is largely non-existent and many cases of covid19 will go undetected as will deaths, which can be confused with any number of similar diseases.

In contrast, Israel has the best health care system in the region and more of its population is regularly exposed to foreign travelers who unknowingly spread such diseases all over the world. So far Israel has suffered 2,100 infected per million Israelis and 33 dead per million. Israelis travel to foreign destinations more (per million people) than any other nation in the region. That means Israel was infected about the same time the rest industrialized nations were. The virus and quarantine response measures hurt the economy but those quarantine restrictions are now being lifted because there have been far fewer virus infections in the last month. The unemployment rate is on the decline from a record-high 25 percent, the highest ever for Israel. With infections and deaths continuing to fall the economy will be operating at full capacity by late 2020 and economic growth will return.

In Gaza, Hamas resumed attacks on Israel with at least one rocket fired into Israel and several fire balloons launched into Israel over the weekend. None of the balloons caused any injuries or property damage. This increased violence is apparently related to Hamas demands that Israel allow Qatar to deliver $50 million in cash to Gaza to pay Hamas employees. Hamas and Israel have an unofficial understanding that if the cash gets through each month there will be no border violence (rockets, mortar shells, fire balloons and so on.) The recent Israeli parliamentary elections featured heavy criticism of allowing those cash transfers and calling them “blood money” paid to appease Hamas.

Hamas is growing more concerned about the economic damage it has inflicted on Gaza because of its constant attacks on Israel. Hamas is trying to negotiate some kind of ceasefire that would lift the embargo on Gaza. Years of these efforts have not succeeded and may never do so because there are too many Islamic terror factions in Gaza that constant war with Israel and don’t care about the Gaza economy.

June 14, 2020: In the south (Gaza) a rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel where it exploded in a field. The next day Israel bombed an underground Hamas facility and fired on Hamas structures near the border.

June 13, 2020: The UN declared Iran was definitely behind the September 2019 UAV attack on Saudi oil facilities and was smuggling weapons to Shia rebels in Yemen. Those weapons are used to attack Saudi Arabia and shipping in the Red Sea. All this was documented in the UN final investigation report, which also noted that Iran has set up similar UAV assembly operations in Iraq and Lebanon. Both of these countries have Iran-backed militias called Hezbollah.

In Gaza Hamas launched several rockets into the sea. This was apparently another test of locally made rockets. Israel opposes these tests as they are carried out without warning and endanger any ships that happen to be within range.

June 12, 2020: Israel is being asked to openly take sides in the Libyan civil war. An official of the Egypt-backed LNA (Libyan National Army) made the announcement. Since 2014 the LNA has been fighting Islamic terrorist groups and later the UN backed GNA (Government of National Accord) in Tripoli. There are two Libyan governments and the other one is the HoR (House of Representatives) government based in eastern Libya. The HoR has effective military capabilities in the LNA, which has been fighting since April 2019 to take the last GNA stronghold of Tripoli. This is the largest city in Libya and the traditional capital. Egypt has long backed the HoR because the LNA had taken control of the Egyptian border and helped keep Islamic terrorists out of Egypt. By 2018 Egypt was certain that the LNA had pacified eastern Libya up to and including the Egyptian border. That was always the main Egyptian concern. Egypt worked with the UAE to support the LNA and while Egypt is less active but the UAE and Saudi Arabia are still major supporters of the LNA as is Russia.

In late 2019 Turkey began supplying a lot more weapons to the GNA and during the first week of January 2020 began sending troops. This is all about keeping the GNA alive at first but after a few more months the Turks had brought in nearly 10,000 Arab mercenaries and dozens of armed UAVs and other equipment. By the end of May, the LNA had to call off its Tripoli offensive because the Turkish forces had become too powerful.

Turkey is technically an ally of the GNA, mainly because GNA officials signed an agreement with the Turks to claim offshore waters that actually belong to Greece. These water areas are believed to contain oil and natural gas deposits. The GNA is not a real Libyan national government and unable to establish treaties or territorial accords with any other nation. The Turks back the GNA because the GNA approves of the Moslem Brotherhood and many other Islamic radical groups that Turkey approves of. The UN is unwilling to block the Turkish intervention and European nations are divided. Several Arab nations are willing to back efforts to expel the Turks from Libya and that effort is escalating. The LNA has a major advantage because it controls most of Libya including most of the oil production and export facilities. The LNA has shut down oil exports to force the GNA to surrender. Now the GNA is using the Turkish mercenary forces to regain control of the Libyan oil.

June 11, 2020: In southwest Syria (Damascus) an Israeli airstrike destroyed an Iranian facility, killing four Iranians and three Syrians. Several warehouses and other buildings were destroyed.

June 10, 2020: In Gaza Hamas leaders were dismayed to discover that one of their senior officials had been recruited by Hezbollah to spy on the Hamas leadership for Iran. This included recording phone calls and reporting the movements of senior Hamas officials. Now Hamas fears there are more such Iranian agents and that Iran may be planning to overthrow Hamas and replace it with another Islamic terror group in Gaza that will be more cooperative with (take orders from) Iran.

June 8, 2020: In western Egypt, the government sent combat units, including several dozen M1 tanks and about ten AH-64 gunships, to the Libyan border. This is in response to the retreat of the LNA (Libyan National Army), an Egyptian ally, from western Libya. Egypt supported LNA efforts to gain control over western Libya which had nearly succeeded. Then Turkey intervened. After that Russia reduced support for the LNA and called for discussions with Turkey, if only because Turkey and Russia are sort-of allies in Syria just as they are now sort-of enemies in Libya. Egypt is not “sort-of” about wanting Turkey out of Libya. The Turks apparently don’t care what Russia, Egypt or anyone else wants. Turkey has come to stay in Libya and probably Syria as well.

June 7, 2020: In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) another Israeli airstrike damaged an Iran base and killed at least twelve Iranian mercenaries while also destroying a lot of explosive material (rockets and ammo). Iran has noted that nearly all Iran-controlled Iraqi militia reinforcements moved to Syria are hit by an Israeli airstrike within days of their arrival. That is one reason these gunmen are moved to one of the Iranian bases in Deir Ezzor province that have some protection. That means bunkers, underground barracks and other well-protected facilities. These new arrivals do suffer some casualties from the airstrikes, usually including a few dead as well as many more wounded. Iran is unsure how the Israelis are obtaining knowledge of these new arrivals, as well as when new shipments of rockets and other weapons from Iran arrive. These shipments are also hit, usually with spectacular results as the stuff explodes in the warehouse or bunker it was stored in.

June 6, 2020: In Egypt (Sinai) ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) murdered another elder of the Terabin tribe. During the last week, ISIL sought to kidnap men from another Bedouin Sinai tribe. Back in May ISIL beheaded three Terabin men and kidnapped another three. This was in addition to a large ISIL attack on the Bedouin village that left over a dozen Bedouin dead or wounded. There were several other ISIL attacks on Bedouin villages in May. All this ISIL violence is part of an effort to compel cooperation from the tribe. Such cooperation can range from simply not reporting ISIL movements to the security forces, up to actively supporting ISIL and allowing the Islamic terrorists to openly recruit from the tribe. These days ISIL rarely gets any degree of tribal cooperation. By 2018 Egypt had persuaded most of the Sinai tribes to work with the security forces to curb ISIL activity. As is usually the case ISIL arrogance and brutal tactics turned the Bedouin from neutrals (and s0metime allies) into implacable enemies. Over a hundred Bedouin were killed by ISIL between 2016 and 2018 and that has had an impact. This pro-government attitude has gone from Bedouin sharing information about ISIL activities to quietly accept weapons, vehicles and cash to assist in patrolling the Sinai. The Bedouin never pass up free weapons but working part-time for the security forces is OK as long as it increases security for their own tribe. For a long time the security forces were reluctant to supply the Bedouin with weapons, because of the risk they would eventually be turned against Egyptian forces. That is still a risk but right now ISIL is a much larger danger to everyone. ISIL persists in using violence against tribes it feels might succumb to such pressure.

June 4, 2020: In western Syria (Hama province) Israel launched another airstrike against a Syrian military base and destroyed several buildings, killing 18 people including nine Iranian mercenaries that were also operating from the base. Syria claimed the air defense systems at the base shot something down but there was no evidence of that. Earlier attacks at this base had killed Iranian and other “foreign technical experts” from North Koreans and Russia. The base currently contains a workshop for assembling long-range rockets and installing satellite guidance systems.

June 3, 2020: In the north, on the Lebanese border, Hezbollah continues to threaten attacks on Israel but so far there has been nothing but posturing by Hezbollah and posturing in return by the Israelis. Hezbollah cannot afford another war with Israel right now but does not want to show how weak it is. Media-friendly border incidents are staged regularly by both Hezbollah and Israel.

June 1, 2020: In Egypt, the government has declared Sinai and Red Sea resorts safe (from covid19 and Islamic terrorists) for foreign tourists.

May 31, 2020: In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) an airstrike, possibly Israeli, hit a convoy of armed men near the Al Bukamal crossing into Iraq. Three vehicles were damaged and five Iranian mercenaries were killed.

May 30, 2020: In Egypt (Sinai) counterterrorism operations during the last few days left 19 Islamic terrorists and five soldiers dead. That’s about half the total casualties for the entire month of May. Security forces concentrated on raiding known or suspected Islamic terrorist hideouts and bomb-building workshops. In many cases all of the Islamic terrorists have fled these locations before the troops arrive, leaving behind weapons, explosives and other gear.

May 27, 2020: Russian media reported that a Russian Peresvet mobile (truck-mounted) laser system had downed an Israeli UAV in southern Syria. Israel denied it and no one produced wreckage indicating otherwise.

May 23, 2020: In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) three Iranian IRGC men died when their vehicle exploded on a road. No one witnessed the explosion and an examination of the wreckage indicated that the vehicle was hit by a missile, not a roadside bomb. Israel is the likely attacker as the Israelis have been using UAVs over Syria more frequently.

May 20, 2020: Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia are demanding that Turkey get out of Libya. The Turks are not impressed and their presence in Libya reminds Arab nations why Turkey ruled most of the Middle East for centuries. These neighbors of Libya cannot ignore the Turkish invasion and the UAE, a Persian Gulf oil state that has long supported the LNA, is not backing down either.

 

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