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Review Category : Syria

The US Withdrawal from Syria, the Kurdish Perspective

American administrations are known to betray the Kurds, this is no secret. The Kurds are often viewed as secondary and sometimes third actors. The Americans have never had a sole policy aimed at moving the Kurds closer to their aspirations of statehood. Not surprising, the status quo lens in which Americans have viewed the Middle East has only brought anxiety to the Kurds. The US withdrawal in Syria is a continuation of the same policy. Despite this, the Kurds still look to the Americans for protection. The reality is, Kurds cannot rely on regional powers for protection, largely because it has been these same regional powers – Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria who have committed grave human rights violations against their existence. Therefore, America is the only solution.

The withdrawal of US troops from Syria was expected but not this soon. President Trump announced to withdraw early 2018, he later backed off. The tweet in December 2018 was a simple follow up, that time has run out. The problem was that no one was prepared on the ground in Syria, many were emboldened by the shifting US policy of “maximizing pressure” on Iran as repeatedly stated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor, John Bolton. Caught off guard, the Kurdish forces organized under the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) scrambled to find answers. Not even their American counterparts had answers, they were just as shocked at the president’s decision.

The situation in Syria is clear. The Islamic State is not defeated. The caliphate is no more, but there still remains 20-30 thousand fighters. Assad is the winner west of the Euphrates. Iran has penetrated itself in Syria for the long term with its own agenda. Russia aims to be the top decision maker as the US loses its appetite for any presence in the country. While Turkey’s ultimate goal is to prevent any self-autonomous Kurdish region in northeast Syria, at any cost. Russia, Iran, Turkey all have an agreement, with Assad as the Symbolic winner. The US is nowhere to be seen, and the Kurds left to fend for themselves.

The Kurdish demands in Syria as I wrote here prioritizes a no-fly zone, a prevention of Turkish invasion that includes a so-called “safe zone,” proposed by the Turks, the US endorsement of Kurdish-led administration and for the US to mediate between the Kurds and Turks to generate economic opportunities similar to that of the Iraqi Kurds and Turkey.

The Kurds to date have had open lines with all sides, perhaps this has been their advantage. This is largely due to the expected American vacuum that would be left long before the President’s announcement. Despite their military alliance with the Americans, Kurds have had negotiations with Russia and even Assad to guarantee them a degree of autonomy. All talks have failed. Assad aims to regain control east of the Euphrates without giving any concessions to Kurds largely because he believes he can as the Kurds slowly lose US support and face Turkish threats.

By not putting all their cards into one basket (the US), the Kurds are attempting to pave the way to try to prevent a Turkish invasion by positioning Assad’s forces on the Syrian-Turkish border with Russia’s blessing. However, this may mean Kurds lose the leverage they have in that part of the country.

It is up to the Kurds to calculate the risks, should they wait for the US to negotiate on their behalf with the Turks, with the chance of still keeping their territories? Or should they give up on the Americans and fully engage Damascus, undermining the US before it withdraws, to avoid a Turkish invasion and risk losing their territories? That is the harsh reality the Kurds face.

The gains made by the Syrian Democratic Forces have come at a huge cost, nearly 10,000 fighters lost. A pre-2011 Syria with Assad at the helm would be catastrophic to not only the Kurds but for other minorities and would signal to the region that you can kill over 600,000 civilians, target half your population and force them to be refugees and IDPs and still get away with it all. This is the message if the global coalition, led by the United States abandons the Kurds. For Kurds, anything less than autonomy in Syria is a loss.

Originally published at: https://www.turkeyinstitute.org.uk/commentary/the-us-withdrawal-from-syria-the-kurdish-perspective/

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Phone Seminar: “The Syrian Withdrawal and the Rapidly Shifting Sands in the Middle East”

January 23, 2019

On December 19, 2018, President Donald Trump announced by tweet that he was withdrawing most of the American troops currently in Syria. The President wrote, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” Trump also promised in a video message on Twitter that “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now. We won.”

There are about 2200 U.S. soldiers in Syria. 2000 of these troops are in the northeast, where they direct the air and land war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), in coordination with the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF). The remaining 200 are at al-Tanf, a crucial base at the Syrian-Iraqi border which blocks Iran from completing its land bridge to Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. In both areas, the U.S. troops have very rarely been exposed to combat situations. Four Americans were killed on Wednesday in an attack by ISIS in Syria, and six U.S. soldiers have died in combat since 2014.

Since his initial announcement, the President and his aides have somewhat walked back these tweets. Although some U.S. troops have begun to leave, it is unclear exactly how long it will take, and whether the 200 troops in al-Tanf are to be included.

What are the ramifications of a U.S. withdrawal from Syria? And what are the national security interests that favor the U.S. staying the course there? To explore these questions and more, EMET is honored to host Professor Efraim Inbar from Jerusalem for a phone seminar.

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Press Release: EMET Praises Israel for Deliberately and Aggressively Defending Itself Against an Iranian Attack

EMET Praises Israel for Deliberately and Aggressively Defending Itself Against an Iranian Attack
(Washington, DC, January 21, 2019) – Today, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), praised Israel for carrying out a series of airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria, and the deliberate and aggressive manner in which it responded to an Iranian attack targeting the Golan Heights yesterday.  On Sunday, Iran’s Al-Quds Force, an arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Forces (IRGC), launched a missile at northern Israel from Syria, in an area near Damascus, approximately 50 kilometers from the Golan.  This is the third time that Iran tried to attack Israel in the past year.  Israel’s Iron Dome intercepted the Iranian missile.On Monday, Israel responded to the attack by striking Iranian targets in Syria, including a military training camp, munition storage sites, and an intelligence site.  Following Israel’s strikes, Iran’s General Aziz Nassirzadeh said its Air Force’s “young generation are impatient and ready for a fight against the Zionist regime to wipe it off the Earth.”

“We have a defined policy: to harm Iranian entrenchment in Syria and to harm anyone who tries to harm us,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.  “We will not ignore such acts of aggression as Iran attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria and given explicit statements by Iran that it intends to destroy Israel,” the Israeli Prime Minister added on Monday.

Iranian forces are just north of the Golan Heights, and are as far south in Syria as Quinetra.  The Iranian backed proxy, Hezbollah, has 150,000 missiles staring down at Israel.  Iran is essentially working to create an uninterrupted land bridge from Tehran through Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut to the Mediterranean.

“EMET applauds Israel for responding openly, aggressively, and forcefully against the Iranian entrenchment in Syria near their northern border.  The aggressive actions against the people of Israel by Iranian forces in Syria once more proves that the United States needs to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.  This would show American strength in the region without committing even one boot on the ground, and it would prove to the world that the United States does not abandon its friends and allies to the Iranian menace and its proxies,” Sarah Stern, the founder and president of EMET said.

“When there is daylight between the United States and Israel, that is when the enemies of both countries attack. It is well past time that the United States recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights to protect the national security interests of the U.S., and our one Democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel,” Stern added.

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About the Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, EMET’s mission is to educate policymakers in Washington and the general public about the importance of Israel to the United States in their common struggle against radical Islam. For more information, please visit, http://www.emetonline.org. Follow EMET on Twitter and Facebook.

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US Should Keep Troops in Syria

Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

On December 19, 2018, President Donald Trump announced by tweet that he was withdrawing all the estimated 2,200 American troops currently in Syria.

The president wrote, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” Trump also promised in a video message on Twitter that, “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now. We won.”

About 2,000 of these troops direct the air and land war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in coordination with the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF). The remaining 200 are at al-Tanf, a crucial base at the Syrian-Iraqi border which blocks Iran from completing its land bridge to Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. In both areas, the U.S. troops have only very rarely been exposed to combat situations.

Since his initial announcement, the president and his aides have somewhat walked back these tweets.

For that, I am glad. I strongly believe the U.S. should keep its troops in Syria.

As I see it, there are at least three national interests that favor the U.S. staying the course there.

First, the U.S. clearly has a national interest in destroying ISIS. ISIS had conducted numerous attacks — both in the Middle East and outside of it — against Americans, killing and wounding many of them. It even executed some U.S. reporters. And unfortunately, ISIS is still a threat; the UN has reported that ISIS may have up to 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, plus there are ISIS sympathizers in the U.S.

Second, the U.S. has a national interest in keeping true to its alliance with the Kurds/SDF. It is important to remember that the Syrian Kurds originally only had an interest in pushing back ISIS from Kurdish majority areas. But at the behest of the U.S., the Kurds aligned with other moderate Syrian forces to create the SDF and act as the ground forces for the U.S.-led fight against ISIS in non-Kurdish areas as well. They went as far south as Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State, which is overwhelmingly Arabic in population. Thousands of Syrian Kurds/fighters from the SDF were killed or wounded in this fighting.

In return for the SDF efforts, the U.S. promised to supply the SDF with weapons and equipment and to provide the air power for strikes against ISIS. But the U.S. provided another service to the SDF as well. By stationing troops within SDF controlled territory, the U.S. was able to deter attacks from other bad actors, especially Turkey. This allowed the SDF to focus on destroying ISIS.

However, in SDF dominated areas that didn’t have U.S. troops, like in Afrin, Turkey was able to invade and crush the SDF. This invasion delayed the SDF’s campaign against ISIS. Therefore, if the U.S. removes the troops from the other areas controlled by the SDF, the Turks are likely to invade again, and the fight against ISIS would be further delayed.

Even worse, removing U.S. troops from Syria would disincentivize the SDF, and other observing groups/nations, from making any future deals with the unreliable U.S. This seems to violate the Trump doctrine. According to Sebastian Gorka (see 29:00), the Trump doctrine calls for the U.S. to help our friends fight their own wars for themselves. It is specifically meant to create trust between the U.S. and our allies. Removing the U.S. troops would do just the opposite with our SDF allies who are fighting their wars for themselves and for the U.S., but are also relying on the U.S. for support.

Third, the U.S. has a national interest in not allowing its enemies/rivals, such as Russia and Iran, to gain control or influence over more Syrian territory. Russia, of course, has long been a super power opponent of the U.S. Iran, meanwhile, is even more dangerous. The Iranian regime preaches “death to America” and has sponsored numerous acts of war against the U.S. If the U.S. troops leave Syria, the SDF will be forced to cooperate with those two nations and their puppet, the Assad regime. In fact, it is already happening. Removal of the U.S. troops will also allow Iran to solidify its ‘Shia crescent’ land bridge from Iran to Lebanon, on which it has transported soldiers, weapons, and missiles, and thus endanger the U.S., international shipping, as well as U.S. allies such as Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, among others.

An evaluation of the costs further demonstrates the wisdom of keeping U.S. troops in Syria.

Since 2014, the Defense Department has spent roughly $45 billion in Syria, or roughly $7 billion a year, out of a full annual defense budget of $600-700 billion. More importantly, there have been very few U.S. casualties in Syria. Only 6 American’s have been killed since 2014. (Another 4 U.S. soldiers have died while serving as volunteers with the SDF.)

I understand that many Americans are tired of the “endless” wars in the Middle East. And I get that they are greatly concerned with the high cost of these wars for American ‘blood’ and ‘treasure.’ But the U.S. troops in Syria are safeguarding important U.S. national interests, and they are doing so at virtually no cost to the U.S. We should not be removing them at this time.

Originally published at: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/syria-trump-troops-isis/2019/01/16/id/898488/ 

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Retreat from Syria Will Cause the Region to Combust

Photo: REUTERS / Rodi Said

Ever since World War II, the United States has had a foreign policy where it supports its democratic allies and friends, and opposes its enemies. Today, in a simplistic tweet, U.S. President Donald Trump has just reversed this sound, longstanding American policy.

The critically important tweet read: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, the evacuation orders have been given. As I write these words, some 2,200 U.S. service men and women are packing up their bags to leave Syria within the next 24 hours.

This is perhaps the most ruinous idea for the region since Obama’s 2015 Iranian nuclear deal. Both ideas have emboldened, enriched and empowered Iran—the greatest regional threat not just to Israel, but to the United States, which is patently apparent in their regime’s hostile rhetoric.

Both ideas, along with President Barack Obama’s unenforced “red line,” have created a power vacuum in Syria, where not only Iran but America’s other adversaries and potential enemies, such as Russia under Vladmir Putin, Syria under Bashar Assad and Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, immediately have swooped in to fill the void.

If America is not there on the ground, it will not have a seat at the table regarding the potential outcome of this Syrian war.

This precipitous exit can only come from someone who lacks even the most fundamental   understanding of the nature of the Middle East, as well as the psychology of some of the actors. ISIS might be nearly defeated in its present form. However, the struggle for the members of ISIS and other radical Islamic groups is a passionate, ideological one. They might suffer a temporary defeat in battle, but they are convinced that they will eventually win the war.

Much like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt that went underground under the years of Mubarak—only to re-emerge under Mohamed Morsi—ISIS is likely to re-incarnate itself and emerge in a stronger form, such as the Al-Nusra Front.

Beyond ISIS (in whatever future incarnation it might decide to take), there is an entire array of complex threats in the region that will emanate from Syrian borders, which include but are not limited to Iran, with its proxy organizations the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah. These nefarious forces are becoming more and more entrenched in southern Syria, and are as far south as Quinetra.

Bearing in mind that earlier this month, Iran fired a medium-range ballistic-missile test that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “is capable of carrying multiple warheads,” this leaves Israel totally exposed in its northern border.

I have often argued that there should be synergy between our foreign policy, and what is ethical and right. America has always been, hitherto now, a moral beacon, or as President Ronald Reagan had called it, “that shining city on the Hill.”

Moral beacons do not desert their friends.

What sort of message does this send to our friends in the region? We will be throwing the Kurds, our allies who have shed their blood together with us defeating ISIS, to the wolves? How does that make our other allies in other troubled regions of the world feel? What incentive would there be for other nations, such as Japan or South Korea, to trust us and want to ally themselves with us?

Throughout American history, there has been a familiar cycle of such isolationist tendencies. All of these have been like waving a rare, sizzling steak to the voracious, hungry dogs in the region.

One such example was the “America First Committee,” founded prior to World War II by Charles Lindbergh. In 1941, he said, “When history is written, the responsibility for the downfall of the democracies of Europe will rest squarely upon the shoulders of the interventionists who led their nations into war, uninformed and unprepared.”

As Franklin Roosevelt had said in response to this tendency: “Some indeed still hold to the now somewhat obvious delusion that we of the United States can safely permit the United States to become a lone island, a lone island in a world dominated by the philosophy of force. Such an island may be the dream of those who still talk and vote as isolationists. Such an island represents to me and to the overwhelming majority of Americans today a helpless nightmare, the helpless nightmare of a people without freedom; yes, the nightmare of a people lodged in prison, handcuffed, hungry, and fed through the bars from day to day by the contemptuous, unpitying masters of other continents.”

In the age of globalism and of medium- to long-range nuclear missiles, there simply are no safe islands we can retreat to. We should avoid the seductive impulse to flee from minor battles in the region. For by doing so, we will only pave the way for a much wider regional war.

Originally published at: https://www.jns.org/opinion/withdrawal-and-retreat-from-syria-will-cause-the-region-to-combust/

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Press Release: EMET Expresses its Strong Disappointment with the Decision to Remove U.S. Troops from Syria

EMET Expresses its Strong Disappointment with the Decision to Remove U.S. Troops from Syria

(Washington, DC, December 19, 2018) – Today, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) expressed its strong disappointment with the decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.  In a Wednesday, December 19th tweet, the President said, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”  The White House then confirmed in a statement that the administration has “started returning United States troops home.”  EMET strongly believes this surprising and precipitous withdrawal of all of our troops from Syria endangers U.S. national interests as it is not in line with the American foreign policy principle of standing by our friends, in this case the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), as well as the State of Israel, and only gives oxygen to our enemies — the Islamic State, the Iranian mullahs, the Assad regime in Syria, Putin’s Russia and Turkey under Erdogan.

There are currently an estimated 2200 U.S. troops in Syria.  These troops are located in northeastern Syria in an area controlled by U.S. allies, the SDF, and at the al-Tanf border crossing with Iraq in southeastern Syria. In both areas, the U.S. troops play only a training and support role and have only very rarely been exposed to combat. Their primary mission is to train, equip and advise our partners on the ground.

The SDF is a strong U.S. ally that controls about 30% of Syria.  It includes both Syrian Kurds and others who live in that region.  Unlike the rest of Syria, civilians in SDF controlled territory have civil, religious, and voting rights.  When the IS was ascendant in Syria and Iraq, the Syrian Kurds – who later became the SDF – were the lone moderate force who successfully opposed the IS. At the behest of the U.S., the Syrian Kurds/SDF fought the IS to liberate Syrian civilians in Raqqa and other areas, despite the fact that there were no Syrian Kurds living in the area.  Thousands of Syrian Kurds/fighters from the SDF were killed or wounded in this fighting.

By removing U.S. troops from these areas in Syria, the U.S. endangers moderate forces in the region and empowers many bad actors.  First, this will likely allow the Islamic State forces to rebound, in a manner similar to what occurred when the U.S. removed troops from Iraq in 2011.  Second, this will encourage Islamist Turkish dictator Erdogan to attack the SDF, as Erdogan has always hated and feared any Kurdish groups.  Third, this will encourage the Assad regime, backed by its allies the Iranians and Russians, to attack the SDF and the al-Tanf pocket.  Fourth, this removal will allow Iran to solidify its ‘Shia crescent’ land bridge from Iran to Lebanon, on which it has transported soldiers and weapons and missiles, and thus endanger U.S. allies such as Israel and Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  Fifth, by removing U.S. troops so suddenly, and without concern for the danger it causes to U.S. allies, the U.S. is likely to be seen as an “unreliable ally” by the rest of the world. And finally, this decision should be examined carefully in light of the fact that Iran, which has gotten progressively more and more entrenched in Syria, has just successfully conducted a medium range ballistic missile test, which, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said, “is capable of carrying multiple warheads.”

Sarah Stern, founder and President of EMET stated, “We at EMET have often argued that there should be synergy between good foreign policy, national interest, and what is moral and right. Here there is no synergy.  By removing U.S. troops from Syria so precipitously, we are weakening the fight against the Islamic State.  It is more than likely that ISIS will now emerge in another form, or some other re-incarnation.  We are throwing our SDF allies, and other moderate forces, who have shed their blood fighting the Islamic State, to the wolves of Turkey, the Assad regime in Syria, Iran, and Russia. We are encouraging the world to believe that the U.S. is a feckless and inconsistent ally.  This decision will only add to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. And we are allowing Iran to complete its land bridge, thereby endangering other U.S. allies, including our one democratic ally in the region, Israel. And we are leaving Israel, in particular, much more exposed and vulnerable to attack.”

“EMET strongly encourages the President to reconsider his decision soon, before the progress that has been made in the fight against ISIS is damaged, the stability the SDF has created in northeast Syria is destroyed, the enemies of the U.S. are empowered, and the U.S. looks weak abroad,” Stern concluded.

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About The Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, EMET’s mission is to educate policymakers in Washington and the general public about the importance of Israel to the United States in their common struggle against radical Islam. For more information, please visit, http://www.emetonline.org. Follow EMET on Twitter and Facebook.

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To US Lawmakers, Keep Troops in Syria

Photo: ABC News

With the Republicans losing control of the House in January, expect calls for an ‘exit strategy’ from the Syrian civil war. A rapid exit would be a mistake. An immature withdrawal from Syria would be a catastrophic miscalculation parallel to that of 2011 when troops pulled out of Iraq under the Obama administration. In 2011, as Iraq witnessed a degree of stability thanks to US troop presence, the Kurds in the north advised the Americans to stay. These warnings were ignored, the Islamic State (ISIS) emerged just years later.

Today in Syria the war is gradually on the decline with only pockets of tension. The Assad regime is the clear victor over territories west of the Euphrates river, thanks to the aid of Russia and Iran. In the northwest, rebels and al Qaeda affiliates have managed to carve up territories with orders coming from Ankara, aiming to fulfill Erdogan’s Ottoman ambitions. However, in Northeast Syria, there exists stability far greater than that of 2011 Iraq. Controlled by our coalition partners the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), East of the Euphrates holds 2,000 US troops, a small but potent presence. It is in the United States national security interests to keep a long-term presence in Syria for the reasons below:

Control Iran

Iran is the single biggest threat to US national security interests in the Middle East. If the US decides to pack up and leave it will hand over to Iran 30 percent of Syrian territory. Syrian land is not all created equal. The land the US is protecting includes an estimated 52 percent of natural resources — not only oil but also agricultural land, major dams, pipelines, highways and access to the Euphrates. Iran aims to institutionalize its presence in Syria. Iran’s model for Syria is Hezbollah in Lebanon, coupled with the sort of underhanded methods Iran has used to undermine Iraq. A US withdrawal would offer Iran access to substantial resources at a time when their economy is teetering.

A troop pullout would also embolden the Ba’athist regime in Syria to overtake territory in the northeast. Both to push back Assad’s ambitions of reconquering all of Syria, and to hinder Iran’s expansionist agenda, America must stay in Syria. The United States mustn’t indirectly give Iran the greenlight to permanently set up camp in another Arab state. The US has an opportunity to prevent Iran from further escalating tensions in an already-ravaged Middle East.

Befriend the Kurds

The United States most reliable and stable ally has been the Kurds. The US-Kurdish military partnership has drastically improved since 2011, and the fight against ISIS has only reinforced that they are a reliable and resilient minority. The Kurds in Syria have defended their historical territories east of the Euphrates while battling not only the Islamic State but other terror organizations, Iranian backed groups, and the Assad regime. Continuing to support the Kurds allows US soldiers to stick to their ‘train, advise and equip’ policy.

According to Wladimir van Wilgenburg, an on-the-ground based reporter and analyst, with extensive experience in northeast Syria states that “the SDF are a unified force, they provide the security for all ethnic and religious minorities, they allow journalists and NGOs to work freely in the areas they control, they have zero tolerance for corruption and looting, and have a great recruiting track record.” As the conflict winds down, the US can transform its military partnership with the SDF into a political relationship by supporting the governing system, the Syrian Democratic Council.

The alliance with the Kurds gives the US another advantage: it gives their presence legitimacy. As long as the SDC continues, US troops are in Syria with the permission of over 4 million local citizens. This is just. The Assad regime no longer has a legitimacy in the northeast. The SDC alliance shows that Assad’s argument that the US is in Syria without authorization is not valid. The US effort is legitimized by the very governing system that Assad would like to destroy.

Originally published: https://securitystudies.org/opinion-to-us-lawmakers-keep-troops-in-syria/

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Time for Some Reality Therapy on the Golan Heights

As I write these words, news just broke that ISIS launched its first major attack in Syria, targeting a town occupied by Druze, on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, killing 100 innocent civilians. Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet last week that entered Israeli airspace, and two mortar shells launched from the Syrian side of the Golan landed near the Sea of Galilee (miraculously resulting in no injuries).

And this is just within the past 24 hours.

After the seven-year civil war, Syria is failed state. It has been given oxygen to survive from Iran and Russia.

Its inherent instability provides fertile territory for an entire array of terrorist groups from Jabhat al Nussra and ISIS on the Sunni side, to Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the “Al Quds Force” on the Shi’ite side.

Syria depicts the Hobbesian state of war of man against man. The tragic events in Syria have led to at least a half-a-million casualties, approximately 6 million refugees and at least that many internally displaced people.

Iran, with its hegemonic aspirations, has taken advantage of the situation as a pretext for entrenching its military infrastructure into Syria. Syrian President Bashar Assad has enabled this by giving the Iranian terrorist proxies Syrian military uniforms.

It is determined to build a land bridge stretching from Tehran to Beirut to Damascus to the Mediterranean Coast.

Earlier this month, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei repeated his ominous exhortation that Israel is “a cancerous tumor that must be removed.”  And Hossein Salami, the deputy Commander of the IRGC in Syria, said he is “awaiting orders to eradicate the evil regime of Israel,” and that Israel has “no strategic depth”; therefore, “this can easily be achieved.”

Contrast this with the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, which provides an island of stability in a sea of chaos.

The Golan Heights—an area that Israel captured during its defensive 1967 Six-Day War and then retained from invading Syrian forces again in its defensive war of 1973—affords Israel a unique topographical and intelligence, affording it the eyes and ears to stare down into Syria and Lebanon.

All of this intelligence is shared readily with the United States.

There is a 1974 agreement mandating the separation of Syrian and Israel forces, which thins out the forces on both sides of the disengagement line.

In 1981, the Israeli government formally annexed the region. The annexation of the Golan Heights is a consensus issue that almost every Israeli, whether politically on the left, right or center agrees with.

As Major Gen. (ret.) Giroa Eiland of the Israel Defense Forces has recently written, “Israel does not possess a plausible solution to its security needs without the Golan Heights.”

The demarcation line of the Golan Heights represents the demarcation of freedom against tyranny—of a failed authoritarian regime against a vibrant, healthy state based on Western democratic values.

That is why tens of thousands of Syrians would love to flee into Israel, if given the opportunity.

That is why 422 Syrians who are part of the White Helmet Groups, a humanitarian volunteer organization, were rescued by the Israelis and given safe passage way into Jordan.

That is why the IDF was able to provide tons of truckloads of supplies to the Syrian refugees, including medicines, baby formula, food, feel and shoes.

And that is what enabled the IDF to clandestinely arrange for approximately 4,000 Syrians wounded in Syria’s protracted civil war to be treated in Israeli hospitals, without asking which side they were fighting for or why.  And then, the healed were clandestinely delivered back to the Syrian side of the border.

It is in America’s best national security interests to recognize the annexation of the Golan Heights as part of Israel’s sovereign territory. Israel provides an island of tranquility in the chaotic world of the Middle East, and the line between chaos and stability cuts right through the demarcation line.

After all, after Friday prayers throughout Tehran, the chant is not only “Death to Israel,” but “Death to America.”

By keeping the Golan Heights as part of the lexicon of “occupied territories,” the international community simply perpetuates the conflict and the Syrian-Iran-Russians axis the pernicious delusion that this area is still in play. It keeps Israel’s northern front as a possible area of conflict that can flare up at any point.

American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights will finally put an end to these dangerous delusions. In an age when Iran constitutes the greatest menace to the region and one of the greatest to the world, it would constitute an effective and potent form of “reality therapy.”

Originally posted at: https://www.jns.org/opinion/time-for-some-reality-therapy-on-the-golan-heights/

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Potential Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

Syria claimed to capture a key position overlooking the Golan Heights – an area in the northeastern part of Israel that was taken by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) during the 1967 Six-Day War. In May, Iranian forces fired rockets from Syria targeting the Golan Heights, and Iran and its proxy Shi’ite militia groups are expanding their presence in southwestern Syria, attempting to establish military bases on the border.

The Iranian expansion-backed by the Assad Regime- could be catastrophic; the Golan Heights provides Israel with a strategic advantage, and if Israel was attacked from Syria, the Golan Heights would give the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) the ability to withstand ground offensives.

Israel annexed the territory in 1981, and the US has previously assured Israel that it supports the annexation, but has not fully recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan. But members of Congress are now encouraging the Trump Administration to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, in order to counter the presence of terrorist groups in the region, and prevent Iran from taking over the territory.

What are the strategic interests of the U.S. in recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights? How would recognition of Israeli sovereignty potentially help stabilize the region? Our expert panel of Sarah Stern, Zvi Hauser, and Michael Doran explores these questions and more.

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“When Going to War with Syria, Are We also Going to War with Russia & Iran?”

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Dr. Mordechai Kedar discusses recent developments in the Middle East since the horrific use of chemical weapons by the brutal dictator, Bashar al Assad of Syria, which killed at least 48 innocent people and injured some 500 more. The United States responded with its allies the United Kingdom and France, with precision targets aimed at destroying the nuclear weapons facilities and research labs. Syria’s seven-year long civil war has diminished smaller non-state actors and has cleared the way for larger states and their proxies to grab a piece of the shattered state. Turkey with its FSA and Al Qaeda supporters attacked our allies the Kurds in Afrin Canton, and Iran and its Hezbollah proxies have set up bases across Syria and are well under way in completing a land bridge towards Israel’s northern border. Meanwhile, Russia has continued to undermine US strategy, protect Assad’s horrific crimes and is now intending on selling the dictator S-300 missiles which will ultimately threaten Israel’s sovereignty and security. Dr. Kedar analyzes and assesses the potential for a direct conflict between Russia and the United States in Syria.

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