Monday, August 23, 2021

From Ian:

The Forever War Isn’t Over
Biden also said he's "adamant that we focus on the threats we face today in 2021—not yesterday's threats." And the "terrorist threat," he went on, "has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan." He didn't acknowledge that one of the reasons the threat spread out of Afghanistan was that for 20 years America denied it a base there. Now that the Taliban is in, and the Americans are out, the elements of al Qaeda and ISIS in Afghanistan today will be joined by more holy warriors.

Not to worry, though, said Biden. "We conduct effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don't have a permanent military presence." And we can do the same thing in Afghanistan, he continued, because "we've developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed."

Let's hope he's right. The problem with his argument is that America does have a "military presence" in north and east Africa, Syria, and Iraq, as well as in Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, and elsewhere. And America does have a naval presence in the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean. Our eyes are "firmly fixed" on bad spots in the Middle East and North Africa because we are nearby. The horizon over which our counterterrorism forces must travel is short. That won't be the case in Afghanistan.

Biden created a situation in which America has neither boots nor eyes on the ground in a landlocked, mountainous country thousands of miles from port and surrounded by unfriendly states. Unlike 20 years ago, China and Russia are strong and adversarial and looking for opportunities to embarrass the United States. Every threat or attack that emanates from Afghanistan will testify to U.S. stupidity and weakness. Furthermore, the Taliban, even as it is dogged by internal opposition, will command more territory and field stronger forces than any of the Salafist-jihadist outfits scraping by in the ungoverned and contested spaces of the Maghreb, the Sahel, the Levant, and the Arabian Peninsula. Our intelligence capabilities will be hobbled and our response time lengthened.

This dispiriting assessment doesn't include the propaganda boon to the Salafist-jihadist cause. Kabul will be transformed from an island of modernity to the global capital of anti-Western jihad. International terrorism flourished alongside the Islamic State. It manifested in spectacular, mass-casualty attacks in Paris, Marseilles, San Bernardino, Orlando, and Manchester. "For a long time now Islamist movements have defined the creation of an ‘Islamic state' as their goal and standard for achievement," writes former State Department official Charles H. Fairbanks. "A state provides a better terrorist sanctuary, and has far more versatile capabilities, than a movement." A state gives a movement safe harbor, institutional support, and physical inspiration for "lone wolves" in the West to murder unbelievers. Such a state is what the Taliban will build in America's place.

"I made a commitment to the American people when I ran for president that I would bring America's military involvement in Afghanistan to an end," Biden said. "And while it's been hard and messy—and yes, far from perfect—I've honored that commitment." Yes, he has. The Taliban's military involvement in Afghanistan, however, continues in our absence. And so the Afghan people are left to suffer, the world watches agog, and America is vulnerable to resurgent Islamic extremism. The Forever War isn't over—it's entered a new phase. Where the enemy has the upper hand.

Where did we go so wrong in Afghanistan? - opinion
The problem was not the need to withdraw, but the manner in which it was conducted. Why on earth did he begin to pull out troops without the proper preparation to ensure that US and other foreign diplomats and civilians, along with thousands of Afghan interpreters and other support staff and their families, departed orderly and safely?

To subsequently dispatch thousands of troops to secure the airport to ensure safe passage for those fleeing was certainly necessary. But this happened only following the chaos that swept Kabul and sent shivers down the spines of tens of thousands of Afghans and foreign diplomats and civilians. As I see it, this last sorry chapter is continuing a string of mistakes committed by Biden’s predecessors Bush, Obama, and Trump. They have learned nothing about the nature of Afghan society nor anything from the Soviet Union’s experience in the 1980s, when it departed Afghanistan after ten years of fighting with its tail between its legs.

Following the defeat of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in less than a year, former President Bush rushed to invade Iraq in 2003 through the concerted effort of his then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and then-Vice President Dick Cheney. He failed to make any arrangement over the prospect of continuing Taliban resistance with the transitional government at that time led by then-president Hamid Karzai. He lost focus on the unfinished Afghanistan campaign and subjected American troops to an uncertain future, as neither he nor his military brass had any plans as to how to conclude the campaign once the main objective of removing the Taliban from power was accomplished.

The decision to introduce democracy and engage in nation-building was doomed from the start. Yes, progress was made, a democratically-elected government was installed, and human rights and social reforms provided the hallmark of the American enterprise. But then the US ignored the fact that the imposition of a western-style democracy on a country that lived for millennia as a tribal society would be short-lived at best.

The US should not be in the business of spreading democracy by force. We seem to have learned nothing from Vietnam, let alone the US’ long history of instigating and interfering in regime changes. Instead of providing a model of a functioning democracy and human rights through the use of soft power to influence other countries, we come in charging with massive military to change the political landscape, only to end up retreating and delivering the country straight to insurgent forces.

Three successive presidents before Biden made their decision on the continuing efforts in Afghanistan based on the recommendations of military leaders who insisted that the war was winnable and wanted to secure a total victory. Troop surges have continuously been sent on the promise that victory over the Taliban was in sight, which obviously was proven to be completely misguided. In addition, the military strength of the Afghan National Army was grossly overstated; thousands deserted over the years and many sold their weapons to the Taliban. Over 2,300 American soldiers were killed and more than a trillion dollars were spent with little to show for it.
In ToI interviews, Jewish veterans of Afghanistan speak of relief…and betrayal
A week after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Captain Joshua Zager, a Marine Corps fighter pilot, stood in the historic Beth Israel synagogue in Beaufort, South Carolina, praying the Rosh Hashanah liturgy.

“Who shall live, and who shall die/who will die at his predestined time and who before his time/ who by water and who by fire, who by sword,” he said, chanting the U’Netaneh Tokef prayer along with the congregation.

Zager was especially focused on his prayers that year. The next day, he was scheduled to fly his F/A-18 Hornet onto the deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which had already begun sailing for the Middle East to start striking al-Qaeda and Afghanistan.

Zager, who would fly 42 missions over Afghanistan in the ensuing months, was one of many Jewish soldiers who would fight in the distant country over the next 20 years, including at least 23 who died fighting there.

As America’s longest war comes to its inglorious end, Jewish soldiers, in interviews with The Times of Israel, reflected on their service in Afghanistan, their experiences as Jews, and their feelings on seeing the scenes of panic and flight in Kabul and beyond as the Taliban retook control of the country after twenty years of sacrifice.

After the Fall
What now?

We have arrived at the second bookend: the Afghans falling from the sky.

Of course, it wasn’t really a bookend. “Bookend” implies symmetry. This wasn’t symmetrical. The first fall was horrifying, but it was the first. It signaled the start of something, and it signaled the hope that, soon, everything would be different.

Now we know that nothing will be different. That we have been returned to September 11, 2001, but that it is worse this time, because no one fears us and everyone knows we’re never going back. That nothing can be done. About Afghanistan and, really, America. There is a sense of inevitable decline.

In the cabin, at a little past one in the morning, I can hear our daughter mumbling in her sleep, I imagine our son splayed across a queen-size bed, and I feel what all fathers must feel when squeezed between the ugliness of the external world and the boundless love that binds them to their children. I think: There is nothing inevitable about any of this.

In my children, like children everywhere, there is the possibility of the new. But I wonder (how can any of us not wonder?) whether it is too late for poetry, whether the fall has already happened, and whether we — they — will be forced to soldier through the dark. Not in search of themselves, like the Israelites in the desert on the cusp of the Promised Land. But to escape from their history and from themselves.

In the night, it is easy to vacillate, to feel rudderless, to run toward hope and then sink into despair. To imagine that we are out of mornings and then, no, to know that there will be a new morning. In these moments, one tunnels through the gray, with all the ferocity one can muster, hoping that this will come to an end, that the fog is a precursor to something else, but not knowing, never knowing, knowing that everything is ambiguous, fluid, shifting. Waiting to be remade.
Night Falls on Afghanistan: Again
Will the Taliban succeed in building a state in Afghanistan or will Afghanistan become another ungoverned territory in West Asia's arch of instability? The Taliban did not win on any battlefield because, outside a few locations such as Kandahar and Lashkargah, Afghan security forces either surrendered or ran away. Like the last time when they emerged as top dog in Afghanistan, the Taliban used a mixture of bribes, promises of safety and appeals to Pushtun tribal affinities to persuade army and police chiefs to sheath their swords.

More importantly, most Afghans saw no reason to fight and possibly die for the U.S.-backed Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The regime's corruption, incompetence, tribalism and cowardice prevented the shaping of a will to resist.

Afghanistan has over 18,000 villages, where 76% of the population live, which have never really been governed by anyone. Among the urban population, numerous opinion polls over the past two decades show Taliban support hovering below 14%. This is why even in Pushtun-majority towns and cities, no one turned up to welcome the Taliban forces. Women dusted off their old burqas or stayed home while men started to grow longer beards. Yet in urban areas, millions of Afghans have had a taste of a different way of life and are unlikely to put the clock back 1,400 years as the Taliban demand.
The Dreadful Consequences of the Biden Disaster in Afghanistan
Most of the Afghan army, after they saw the American military pulling out of the Bagram air base, might understandably have decided not even to try to fight. The "trillion dollars spent training and equipping hundreds of thousands of Afghan National Security and Defense Forces" with "advanced weaponry" has led to that US-provided "advanced weaponry" falling into the hands of terrorists it was meant to fight -- a donation from US taxpayers to what is now the world's best-armed terrorist state.

[T]he US has had troops in Germany and South Korea for about 70 years – a relatively modest "insurance policy" that never seemed "forever." Ironically, by handing over Afghanistan to the same Taliban that hosted Al Qaeda, which murdered nearly 3,000 people on 9/11, the US is not only making a mockery of these victims; it will soon find itself having to fight at an even greater cost in life and treasure as countries trying to eliminate America can now do it without American troops nearby, and with America's military equipment.

The French, British, Germans, Australians and Czechs have been venturing behind enemy lines to rescue their stranded citizens hiding there; Americans have not. The Pentagon and the State Department have admitted that they do not even know how many Americans are in the country; how could they know where they are?

Trump reportedly expected to leave a residual troop force in place, and apparently had a plan for an orderly military withdrawal -- based strictly on conditions on the ground. These presumably included not departing in the middle of the Taliban's summer fighting season, but in winter, when they shelter in Pakistan; not neglecting to consult with America's European allies, and not surrendering the main US air base, Bagram, before evacuating Americans and their allies, whom they had promised to rescue should plans not work out.

Trump seems to have understood what the Biden administration ignores: that terrorists are probably not all that susceptible to diplomacy, but to strength -- as Osama bin Laden put it... to "the strong horse".

After days of silence, Biden read a 19-minute speech saying that he stood behind his decision to leave Afghanistan, and even accused he Afghan security forces, which had sacrificed an estimated 66,000 men. Biden left the press conference without answering questions and returned to Camp David where he resumed his vacation". Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi praised his "strong leadership".

Pakistan is more deeply linked to the Taliban's victory than the United States might care to admit.
China and the Middle East: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict on the Agenda
China thus identifies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as material for positive rhetoric for Arab and Muslim audiences. Through its recurrent reference to the dispute and “the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories,” the invitation to talks in Beijing, and meetings of “peacemakers,” China seeks to create for itself the image of a responsible power that stands beside an oppressed minority and offers to help achieve a solution for the benefit of both sides. Thus, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict joins the list of topics that China can use to taunt the United States, while also playing down criticism of its own treatment of its Uyghur minority. During Operation Guardian of the Walls, when the United States objected to the wording of the UN Security Council statement against Israel that was drafted by China and other Security Council members, Foreign Minister Wang commented that the United States stands “on the opposite side of international justice” (but did not mention Britain, which also objected).

Israel observed Wang’s visits to the Middle East with a certain lack of interest. Past experience shows that China is quick to declare support but is generally satisfied with symbolic actions only, and there is little likelihood of a rush of Chinese companies to rebuild the ruins of Syria, just as there is little expectation of imminent significant investment in the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, China’s growing assertiveness in international organizations is not expected to wane, and it will probably continue to support the Palestinians, necessarily at Israel’s expense.

So far, Israel and China have been fairly successful at maintaining a policy that separates economic relations and mutual benefits from political disagreements. Thus, China continues to support Iran and the Palestinians, with no significant harm to its economic relations with Israel, and at the same time continues its economic relations with Israel while being aware of Israel’s special relationship with the United States. But as the rivalry between China and the US grows, Beijing is expected to step up its efforts to cast Washington as a two-faced and irresponsible power while brushing away any criticisms relating to human rights. In this sense, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very useful, and China’s position has broad international support even among some US allies. China’s support for Iran, its increasing assertiveness in international organizations, and its use of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute to taunt the United States could create problems for relations between Jerusalem and Beijing, and even lead Israel to re-examine its relations with China.

US credibility with military allies at risk over Afghanistan pullout
The messy withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the subsequent scramble to protect civilians who aided the American war effort are triggering a ripple effect of concern among allies who rely on the United States for military protection.

The Pentagon has thousands of troops stationed in South Korea, Japan, Germany and elsewhere around the world. Asian allies in particular have indicated some concerns in recent days over whether the quick military exit from Afghanistan could one day happen in their countries.

Those concerns have been exacerbated in places such as Taiwan: Not only is there the looming threat of Chinese military action, but some now worry Beijing could be emboldened by the events in Afghanistan.

In a sign of how the anxiety has broken through, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan faced questions this past week about what the Afghanistan withdrawal means for Israel, South Korea and Taiwan. Reporters also questioned State Department officials about the potential fallout for U.S. allies and the possible decline in credibility.

President Biden and his top officials have been put on the defensive, emphasizing that the U.S. stands behind its commitments to allies while fielding questions from reporters about whether American national and political interests trump stability and security partnerships with foreign allies.

“I have seen no question of our credibility from our allies around the world,” Biden said during a Friday press conference.
Taliban Declares Aug. 31 a Red Line as Biden Is Pressured To Extend Deadline
With thousands of desperate Afghans and foreigners crowding into Kabul's airport in the hope of fleeing Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers, pressure grew on U.S. president Joe Biden on Monday to extend the deadline for the evacuation operation.

Biden on Sunday warned that the evacuation was going to be "hard and painful" and he said a lot could still go wrong. U.S. troops might stay beyond their Aug. 31 deadline to oversee the evacuation, he said.

That concern was underlined on Monday morning when a firefight erupted at the airport on Monday between Afghan guards and unidentified gunmen. German and U.S. forces were also involved, the German military said.

Britain and France were among those calling for the deadline to be eased. But a Taliban official said foreign forces had not sought an extension and it would not be granted if they had.

And a local Taliban militant, speaking to a large crowd in Kabul on Monday, urged Afghans to remain in the country.

"Where has our honor gone to? Where has our dignity gone to?" the unidentified militant said. "We will not let the Americans continue to be here. They will have to leave this place. Whether it is a gun or a pen, we will fight to our last breath."

The Taliban seized power just over a week ago as the United States and its allies were withdrawing troops after a 20-year war launched in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States by al Qaeda militants in 2001.

Panicked Afghans and foreigners have thronged the airport for days, clamoring to catch a flight out before the U.S.-led forces complete their pullout by the end of the month.
MEMRI: Egyptian Liberal: The Taliban Are 'Hostile To Life'; Whoever Celebrates Their Victory Needs His Head Examined
In an August 16, 2021 article in the Egyptian daily Al-Watan, liberal thinker Dr. Khaled Montaser, a physician and media figure, castigates those who rejoiced at the Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan and saw it as a victory for Islam and the Muslims. The Taliban, he says, is a fascist religious movement that seeks to kill joy and is hostile to life and humanity themselves, as evident from its ban on Covid and polio vaccines. This movement is incapable of establishing a modern state, he concludes.

The following are translated excerpts from his article:[1]
"I started expecting the Taliban to advance towards any part of Afghanistan the day they killed Afghan comedian Nazar Mohammad and mutilated his body to intimidate [others]. Horror indeed intensified, and the murderers won. Nazar, known as Khasha Zwan, was known to his friends as a lover of comedy who posted funny videos on Youtube. He lived in Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold. He was surprised [in his home], abducted, tied and [forced into] a vehicle. A video circulated later shows Taliban soldiers slapping him and laughing, and another video showed them mutilating his body!

"The killing of humor marks the beginning of the path of deterioration and destruction… The Taliban's first and most important decision was to remove pictures of women from billboards, smash store windows mannikins and of course mandate the wearing of the chador, the Afghan niqab. Religious fascism intensified, until they reached the point of killing joy and then proceeded to kill life itself by forbidding Afghans to get vaccinated for Covid-19.

"In March, [2021, Afghan] officials reported that Taliban gunmen had killed three women in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan who worked vaccinating [the populace] against polio… In June [2021], five members of the polio vaccination teams were killed and four were wounded in a series of coordinated attacks in three different places in eastern Afghanistan.
Another Arab spring on the way? Tunisia bears the brunt of the Brotherhood’s failure
The successive crises that Tunisia has experienced since the rise of the Ennahda party to the forefront of the political scene do not surprise observers and specialists.

The people choose who governs them in order to give them the means to live decently, and not to satisfy the interests and political and ideological ambitions of government and build a fantasy model that inhabits only their deranged imagination.

Although political analyses are overflowing with sometimes different and sometimes similar interpretations of what is happening in Tunisia right now, I believe that numbers and statistics have a more accurate explanation of what we are seeing. There is a disastrous handling of the Covid-19 crisis in recent weeks.

Tunisia’s economy is deteriorating rapidly. Many experts are saying that this is a crisis of bankruptcy that is putting the Tunisian state on a path that is very similar to what happened in Lebanon. The Tunisian people revolted against their regime in 2011 because of poor living and development conditions, lack of freedoms, among other things.

But a decade later, the situation has not changed. Some productive sectors have even deteriorated more than they were. Successive governments led by Ennahda have only succeeded in creating crises and discord in order to distract the Tunisian people from the government’s continued failure to manage the country’s affairs.

In this context, let us refer to the figures and statistics published in Western newspapers, including the disastrous impact of the Coronavirus epidemic on tourism, the country’s most important source of income. The economy deteriorated by about 9% last year and the official unemployment rate reached 18%, while the youth unemployment rate is expected to reach over 30%.

Biden to Reinvade Afghanistan After Taliban Pulls Out of Paris Climate Agreement (satire)
In a stunning turnaround, President Joe Biden is now ordering US forces to re-invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban after the terror group announced its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords.

Biden previously stood behind his decision to withdraw from the country even as chaos unfolding in Kabul led his approval ratings to nosedive. But on Monday, the Taliban announced that the Paris Climate Agreement does not comply with their definition of Shariah Law.

“Listen, if these Paris Accords said that we could cut a person’s hand off if they didn’t recycle, or take a man’s wife and daughters as sex slaves if he did not drive a hybrid, we might have been open to giving them a shot,” Taliban leader Abu Ghani Baradar told The Mideast Beast. “But it’s just a bunch of non-binding promises to reduce emissions. Frankly, I feel like Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, would have laughed at something like that.”

Upon hearing about the Taliban’s decision, Biden immediately issued orders to call up tens of thousands of reservists in preparation for a re-invasion.
Setting the Agenda for the Bennett-Biden Meeting
Ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's visit to the White House on Aug. 26, the U.S. "is going through an almost traumatic foreign policy setback in Afghanistan with implications for the entire Middle East," said former Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. "Now is not the time to experiment with new ideas in the peace process."

"The main effect of the Afghan withdrawal is not that it occurred, but rather how the U.S. handled it. Many American allies from the UK out to the Far East are raising serious questions about America's handling of foreign policy." Gold noted that "there is always a cottage industry of so-called experts who have proposals they want their bosses to advance when an Israeli prime minister comes to town." Many of these "so-called experts" have in the past demonstrated their obsession to create a Palestinian state at all costs, even if it would pose a danger to Israel.

Regarding the possibility of the U.S. reopening its consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gold questioned why the U.S. would establish a Palestinian consulate in a location which has been under Israeli sovereignty since 1949. "It has huge implications for the future and it is something Israel will have to resist with all its diplomatic strength....The unity of Jerusalem is such a fundamental principle. It's a consensus issue."
HonestReporting Investigation Prompts Dutch Lawmaker to Take Action in Parliament Over Palestinian Antisemitism
HonestReporting has written extensively about Palestinian riots in the Samaria region of the West Bank that have been ongoing for over 100 days (see here, here, and here). Last week, the perpetrators from the Palestinian village of Beita on two occasions set fire to a makeshift wooden swastika embedded within a Jewish Star of David.

Our research subsequently revealed that the Western-backed Palestinian Authority and its ruling Fatah faction are actively supporting these antisemitic extremists:
In another sign of high-level Fatah involvement, Mahmoud al-Aloul (‘Abu Jihad’), [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas’ deputy, on June 12 headed an official delegation to Beita. Two weeks later, the senior official even participated in the night confusion activities. Footage distributed by Fatah shows al-Aloul marching with a torch….

On June 24, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh visited the West Bank town. ‘Our presence here is not only symbolic, but practical,’ Shtayyeh said. Accordingly, on July 5, the PA cabinet allocated NIS 3,124,000 (approximately USD 950,000) ‘to support the steadfastness of the citizens.’

That same day, Mahmoud Abbas invited representatives from Beita — including the families of ‘martyrs’ — to his presidential headquarters in Ramallah. During the meeting, a video of which was posted to an official PA Facebook page, Abbas reportedly called Beita ‘the icon of popular resistance in Palestine.'”

Sadly, nations that support Ramallah financially and diplomatically have remained silent. As of August 23, no country had sent an official demarche to the PA, or issued a public statement slamming the riots.

This, even though 11 EU diplomats, as well as those from the United Kingdom and Norway, recently paid a “solidarity” visit to Beita to oppose purported Israeli “settler violence” and the “worrying establishment of an illegal settlement outpost” called Evyatar that had already been evacuated in accordance with a government-backed deal.
Hebron Holy Site: How Elevator for Disabled May Ignite Israeli-Palestinian Tensions
While Jerusalem is undoubtedly the most hotly-contested site in the Holy Land, with both Jewish and Muslim ties to the city being reflected in the modern claims of Israel and the Palestinians, events in another city, almost 20 miles away, have the potential to set the region alight.

And now a new development in Hebron is in the headlines: the construction of an elevator outside the Cave of the Patriarchs complex.

According to both Jewish and Islamic tradition, the cave and adjoining field were purchased by Abraham as a burial plot. A large rectangular building, dating to the era of King Herod, was built over the cave and served as a synagogue. During Byzantine rule of the region, the structure was converted into a basilica and functioned as a Christian holy place. Later, it was conquered by the Muslims and transformed into the Ibrahimi Mosque. Over the following centuries, the Crusaders retook and again lost control of the site to Muslims.

Fast forward to 1967 and Israel gained control of the shrine when it came into possession of the West Bank, which had been occupied for two decades by Jordan. Wishing to keep the peace, the Israeli government authorized an arrangement in which equal access to the site was granted to Muslims and Jews. The complex was divided into a synagogue and mosque, with Jewish worshippers given access to numerous small tombs, and the large, grand tomb of Isaac attended by Muslim pilgrims.

For ten days of special importance in the Islamic calendar, Muslims are given access to the entirety of the site. The same arrangement applies for ten dates on the Hebrew calendar, during which Jews are given exclusive access. Each day, a Muslim cleric guarded by Israeli armed forces goes through the Jewish side, and ascends the minaret to issue the call to prayer for Muslims. Everything is carefully arranged in order to ensure maximum freedom of religion for both Jews and Muslims.
Report: Iran Has Doubled Forces on Israeli Border since 2018
A new report from the Istanbul-based Jusoor research institute says the Iranian military presence in southern Syria has more than doubled since 2018 and is deployed in preparation for a future confrontation with Israel.

The number of military bases and outposts of pro-Iranian militias and Hizbullah in southern Syria has increased from 40 to 88.

Moreover, bases of the Syrian Army, particularly the 90th Brigade deployed from southern Syrian to Damascus, serve as logistics backing for pro-Iranian militias.

The fighters are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Lebanon, while the command echelon is mostly comprised of Iranian Revolutionary Guards disguised as militia members or Syrian army officers.
Gaza arson attacks spark 9 fires in Israel; terror groups plan border protests
Terrorists in the Gaza Strip sparked at least nine fires in southern Israel throughout Monday with balloon-borne incendiary devices flown over the border as tensions in the region heated up, Fire and Rescue Services investigators said.

Firefighters from Fire and Rescue Services, the Israel Defense Forces, the Jewish National Fund and local communities have been battling brushfires throughout the day in the Eshkol and Sdot Negev regions of southern Israel.

Fire and Rescue Services investigators said they determined that at least nine fires in Eshkol were sparked by these balloon-based attacks. Another fire in Sdot Negev was also likely the result of arson, but this was still being checked, the investigators said.

The attacks drew harsh criticism from local government officials, who called on the government to take action.

“The audacity of the terror groups to renew the terrorism of balloons and to burn our fields must be rooted out today. If it is not stopped today, we will find ourselves… [again] putting out fires and crying that our harvests have gone up in smoke,” the mayor of the Eshkol region, Gadi Yarkoni, said in a statement.

“I expect the government to act immediately to send a clear and unequivocal message to these terrorist organizations that they ought not continue with this despicable terrorism,” Yarkoni said.
The Israel Guys: I spotted a terrorist in disguise. . .
A Palestinian was caught walking down the road disguised as an Israeli soldier. What the police found in his duffle bag confirmed that a mass terrorist attack was likely averted by his capture.

The would-be terrorist in disguise is actually the son of someone who is supposed to be keeping the peace in the “West Bank”. You’ll be shocked at the details of today’s myth-busting video.

The even bigger question is “why didn’t you hear this story in the media?”

Israel Tightens Cooperation with Egypt
Egyptian intelligence director Maj.-Gen. Abbas Kamel, President Sisi's right-hand man, met with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem on Aug. 18-19. Contrary to previous visits, Kamel did not insist on secrecy. "On the contrary," a senior Israeli diplomatic source said, "they want their photos taken and they want to be seen with us, just like the Jordanians. Relations with Israel have become an asset rather than being a burden." It was reported that Sisi had invited Israeli Prime Minister Bennett to visit Egypt.

At the same time, a senior Israeli officer was visiting Cairo for talks on ongoing efforts to establish a long-term cease-fire with Hamas, which would include returning the bodies of two Israeli soldiers and releasing two civilians held in Gaza.

The last time a Democratic president held power in Washington, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down. To this day, the Egyptians claim Obama "threw Mubarak under the wheels of the bus." Sisi's human rights record is not much better than Mubarak's. The Egyptians are asking for Biden's understanding of the importance of a stable regime in Cairo and Israel is the main conduit of this argument. In return, Israel wants Egypt to redouble its efforts to block supplies to Hamas arsenals through the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Sinai.
Egypt closes Rafah border crossing to Gaza after Israel-Hamas escalation
Egypt closed the Rafah crossing on its border with the Gaza Strip until further notice on Monday, Egyptian security sources said. Hamas, the Palestinian faction that controls Gaza, said it had been informed by Egypt of the decision to shut the crossing in both directions, without giving details.

According to two Egyptian security sources, the closure was made for security reasons following an escalation on Saturday between Israel and Hamas, with Israeli aircraft striking sites in Gaza after gunfire from Gaza across the border with Israel earlier in the day. The latest escalation saw an Israeli Border policeman, 21-year-old St.-Sgt. Barel Shmueli, seriously wounded after being shot at the border. Shmueli was shot by a Palestinian who had been able to approach the perimeter fence and fire a handgun into Shmueli’s firing position.

The attack was seen in a video shared on social media where dozens of Palestinians gathered along the fence near Shmueli’s position. One was seen trying to snatch his weapon; although the Palestinian managed to grab the barrel, Shmueli managed to pull it back.

Watchdog urges UK to blacklist Hamas in full
The Campaign Against Antisemitism recently wrote to all members of the British Parliament, urging them to ask Home Secretary Priti Patel to ban the terrorist group Hamas in its entirety from the United Kingdom.

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, Canada, Japan, the European Union, and Egypt. Other countries recognize only its military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades as a terrorist group, allowing Hamas' political wing to operate on their soil. The UK subscribes to the latter.

CAA explained that until now, the UK has relied on the European Union's proscription of Hamas in its entirety as a "de facto ban." However, following the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union last year, it must now enforce into British law its own ban regarding Hamas, said CAA.

"Because of this loophole, Hamas flags can be flown, its ideology can be promoted, funds can be raised, material can be disseminated, and its representatives can operate in the UK," the organization stated.
AFP Implies Gaza Youth Injured By Israeli Missile, Even Though Seemingly Caused by Terrorist Rocket
“Eight-year-old Mohammed Shaban dreamed of returning to the classroom in Gaza for the start of the school year,” an article by Agence France-Presse (AFP) republished by numerous news outlets explains at its outset. “But after an exploded missile blinded him in May, he is staying home,” according to the piece.

Every life is precious. Every injury to a child is especially tragic. And every reader at this point is likely thinking that Shaban sustained his wounds because from May 10-21 “the Israeli army pummeled the Gaza Strip,” in the AFP’s approximation.

The article continues:
Mohammed said he was walking to a market to buy clothes during the conflict when a missile exploded. As a result of the blast, his father Hani said, “Mohammed was injured in the eyes, which led to the loss of his eyes, and Mohammed became completely blind.”

A truly terrible incident that deserves recounting. Perhaps more so, if the AFP had actually done a modicum of due diligence in order to provide conclusive facts about how the injury was sustained.

While the article notes that “the Shabans say Mohammed was injured by a missile fired by the Israelis,” immediately thereafter it contains the modifier, “although AFP could not independently verify it.”

Hamas announces financial rewards for those who receive jab
The Palestinian Authority decided on Monday to send its unvaccinated civil servants on unpaid leave, while Hamas offered a financial reward to those who get the jab.

The decisions came as Palestinian health officials expressed concern at the low number of Palestinians who are heeding calls to receive the vaccines against corona.

So far, 712,501 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip have received the vaccine, according to the PA Ministry of Health, but only 439,000 received two doses, the ministry said.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh again appealed to Palestinians to get vaccinated. In opening remarks at the weekly meeting of the PA cabinet in Ramallah, he announced the decision to give unpaid leave to civil servants who did not receive the vaccine “until the end of the epidemic.”

“Not receiving vaccinations is not personal freedom, as your freedom ends when you cause harm to the health of others, especially the most vulnerable groups such as the sick and the elderly who are more vulnerable to the virus,” Shtayyeh said.
Hackers release security camera footage from inside Iran's Evin Prison
Hackers from a group called "Adalat Ali" published security camera footage they claim shows the inside of Iran's Evin Prison, where Iran jails and brutally tortures its political prisoners, according to Radio Farda.

One of the clips released showed the name of the group broadcast in a cyberattack warning on the screens of the prison's control room. Other videos showed wardens abusing prisoners, dragging them along the floor.

"Evin Prison is a stain on the black turban and white beard of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, nationwide protests until the release of political prisoners," read a sentence broadcast on the screens in the control room, according to the report.

The Evin Prison was placed under US sanctions in 2018 for "ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, the commission of serious human rights abuses against persons in Iran or Iranian citizens or residents, or the family members of the foregoing."


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