Turkey is becoming more of a problem. The main force behind this Turkish hostility is the Turkish leader Recep Erdogan has been running things in Turkey since 2004, first as prime minister and then as president. In June he was elected to a second term as president, which keeps him in power until 2023. Erdogan is hostile to Israel but has not cut trade ties or made any actual military threats. Erdogan is all about the Israel-Palestinian conflict and he sides with the Palestinians. Yet Erdogan does not offer to replace the aid (over half a billion dollars a year) that the U.S. and Arab states have stopped providing because of continued Palestinian corruption, violence against Israel and refusal to make a peace deal. Erdogan’s support for the Palestinians is all theater and little in the way of substance. In that respect Erdogan is acting like many opportunistic Moslem politicians worldwide; blame all bad things on Israel while trading with Israel on the side because that is economically (or militarily) advantageous. Erdogan has also maintained Turkish NATO membership, which has value given the potential threat from Iran. Israel is making noise about how Turkish NATO membership is a threat to NATO as well as Israel.
A particularly alarming example of this is Turkey receiving F-35 stealth fighters. Turkey originally (in 2002) agreed to buy over a hundred F-35s with assembly taking place in Turkey. That deal came apart in 2012 because of rising costs and the American refusal to provide Turkey (or any other foreign buyer) with access to the source code for F-35 software. That software is one of the key elements why the F-35 is so effective. There was also a problem with Erdogan, who was becoming ever more hostile to the United States, Israel and the West in general. Technically because of the software issue, Turkey reduced its F-35 order to two aircraft, which was just enough for evaluation (and covertly sharing F-35 tech with Russia, China or whoever else could pay). That order was increased to six aircraft in 2015, which made some Americans wonder what was going on. Israel pointed out that if Turkey got an F-35 nothing good would be going on. The U.S. may well cancel the Turkish F-35 purchase but at the moment Turkey does still have some friends in the American government and the decision to deny Turkey the F-35 has not been made yet. Israel already has a squadron of F-35s in service, using a lot of custom Israeli software. Israel was the only foreign buyer that was allowed access to some of the source code in part because Israel was responsible for creating a lot of the tech in that source code and had long been supplying the United States with world-class military technology as well as providing American firms with advanced commercial tech.
Since 2015 Iranians got to know what Syria and other foreign operations were costing and it was obvious that the billions spent on government efforts to destroy Israel could be better spent on improving the lives of Iranians. The opinion polls, the massive nationwide protests and the police reports on Internet chatter all confirm that Iranians want a new government, preferably a non-religious and democratically selected one. After that Iranians want improved relations with the neighbors, particularly the Arabs and Israel (in other words, all the Semitic nations). All this is anathema to the Islamic clerics who have been running the country since the 1980s. Particularly disturbing has been demonstrators calling for an end of Islam in Iran and a return to older religions, like Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion that Islam replaced violently and somewhat incompletely in the 7th and 8th century. After decades of mandatory rallies where you had to shout “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” these same young Iranians were now shouting about who they believe is really the enemy rather than who they were ordered to pretend was the enemy all their lives. Meanwhile, the Iranian rulers had a lot more to worry about.
In May 2018 the United States announced it was exercising its option under the 2015 Sanctions treaty and reviving economic sanctions on Iran. The other nations that signed the treaty say, for now, they will continue to support the treaty. This is important for Iran because it means they might still be able to sell their oil and import some industrial and consumer goods. Longer term the situation is not so good. That is largely because of a recent Israeli espionage success.
The Americans and Israelis are on a roll and intent on exposing much more Iranian bad behavior. In some cases, Iranians will be a source, but in all cases, Iranians will be consumers of such news and that weakens the control the Iranian clerics have over the Iranian government. President Rouhani has offered to continue the 2015 treaty with the other participants if those countries, especially the European ones, can ensure that Iran does not suffer from the American withdrawal. This puts the Europeans on the spot because they have to consider this proposal at the same time more and more evidence of Iranian bad behavior surfaces. This is largely because Israel is allowing the European nations to send their own intel and nuclear weapons experts to examine the huge trove of Iranian documents Israel got out of Iran earlier in 2018. So far these documents have been toxic for Iran and any Iranian claims to never having had a nuclear weapons program.
Equally toxic has been the bad news more Iranians are receiving from foreign sources. The Iranian government sees the revived sanctions making it (in theory) easier to crack down on the growing use of foreign Farsi language news media (radio, TV and Internet) by Iranians. The return of sanctions will make economic problems worse and the government plans to put all the blame on the United States and Israel. But that is apparently no longer possible because so many Iranians (about 20 percent of the under 30 Iranians) have had access to the foreign media for years and spread the word to those who do not. A growing number of Iranians see the Americans and Israelis as friends. Actually, this has long been the case with the Americans but now Israel is being included. Israelis and Iranians have a lot in common. Both oppose getting involved in the Syrian civil war. The growing list of Israeli military and espionage victories against Iran encourages the young (and many older Iranians) to agitate for a change of government. Many older Iranians, who were young when the monarchy was overthrown in 1979 now admit that the religious dictatorship that replaced the Shah (emperor) was worse and may be even more difficult at costly (to Iranians) than overthrowing the imperial government.
Another example of how foreign media is shaking things up was the recent appearance of two-minute video by the Israeli leader in which he offered to share Israeli tech used to deal with water shortages (especially low use and recycling tech). This is a growing problem throughout Iran (and in neighbor countries like Iraq and Turkey) but Israel has been dealing with far worse situations for decades. Iranian leaders angrily refused the Israeli offer but the average Iranian, especially those personally suffering from the current water problems, is willing to take help from whoever offers it. While the Iranian government angrily dismissed the Israeli offer hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the Internet to back the offer. This has led to a new catchphrase in Iran; “We (Iranian government) offer them death, they (Israel) offer us life”. The Iranian government was further rattled by this response and insisted that Iran had all the technology it needed to deal with the growing water shortages. The average Iranian doesn’t see it that way.
Russia has made it clear that it sides with Israel when it comes to Syria and a long-term peace deal. Russia backed this up by openly accepting Israeli use of Jerusalem as their capital and moving functions normally held in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This angers many Moslems, and especially Iran. This support for Israel is one the few things the United States and Russia agree on these days. But the alliance with Russia is unwritten and has limits. Yet it is real as Israel has not attacked any Russian targets with its growing air offensive against Iranian forces. During May the Russian president met separately with the Israeli and Syrian leaders and apparently worked out terms of a peace deal that Israel and the Assads can live with. These terms were unacceptable to Iran.
Turkey is willing to follow as long as Turkish border security measures (a security zone on the Syrian side of the border patrolled by Turk supported Syrian militias) are left alone. In the northeast, the Syrian Kurds could have their autonomy as long as they kept the peace. Basically, the Russian proposal is that “all foreign troops” leave Syria. That will include the Americans but not those that now have treaty rights (Russia has an airbase and part of a port). The Americans have no interest in a permanent presence they just want to deal with some Islamic terrorists and then leave. The U.S. may stay to protect its Syrian Kurd allies.
Israel insists that Iran has no treaty rights and to get out completely, along with their local affiliate Hezbollah. Russia initially called on Iran get its foreign mercenaries (including Hezbollah) out of Daraa province, which borders Israel and Jordan. The Russians did this by referring to all “foreign forces” in Daraa and those are all Iranian. In June Russia changed its policy and has since provided hundreds of airstrikes for Syrian and Iranian forces in Daraa. Russia knows that Iran has already made a big deal about being near the border and attacking Israel. But so far attempts to attack have only resulted in heavier Iranian losses from Israeli air and missile attacks. Russia is now telling Israel and the United States that it is unrealistic to expect Iran to withdraw all its forces from Syria because it is now obvious that Iranian leaders are committed to doing some damage to Israel. This is essential to burnish the Iranian reputation as a formidable military power. In the last year, Iran has suffered a succession of humiliating defeats because of the Israelis and this is causing political problems back home where more and more angry Iranians are calling for a change of government and citing the failed efforts in Syria as a major reason.
Yet Iran has had and continues to have many successful operations in Syria. Since June 19th a major offensive by the Assads has meant Syrian troops advancing deep rebel areas along the Jordan border, assisted by Russian air strikes. The rebels have not been able to put up much resistance and over 300,000 civilians have fled their homes to avoid the combat. A few thousand have accepted Syrian offers of safe passage into Assad controlled Syria. Most of the civilians fear retribution by Syrian secret police if they stay in Syria and are trying to get into Jordan or Israel. Most of these refugees are on the Jordan border but Jordan is not letting any refugees in because they already have a million of them already and allowing anymore in is considered (by most Jordanians) a very bad move. There is a similar attitude in Israel, not because there are too many Arab refugees but because Israel has found that a percentage of any Arab refugees will eventually turn to Islamic terrorism and no one has found a way to avoid that except by keeping the refugees out. This is the same reason Arabian nations, most of them quite wealthy from oil and gas income, also refuse to take any of these refugees. Israel is allowing aid to reach the refugees via Israel and continues to provide medical and other aid for the Arab rebel civilians. The refugees who camp out along the Israeli border fence find Israeli soldiers coming at night to deliver tents, food and other aid. The refugees complain about the Assads and the Israeli soldiers listen. This is one way Israel monitors whether some of those soldiers wearing Syrian army uniforms are actually Iranian mercenaries. So far there are no indications that Iranians are with the Syrian troops. It is less clear if there are any Hezbollah gunmen wearing Syrian uniforms. The Arab refugees along the Israeli border are pleading for the Israelis to at least take control of a “security zone” along the Syrian side of the border. But that was tried along the Lebanese border and the security zone became a magnet for Islamic terror attacks and most of the victims were Lebanese civilians seeking safety. So the security zone idea is out as well. There is the 1974 treaty and its demilitarized zone 25 kilometers from both sides of the border. The UN peacekeepers have to return to their bases in this zone before the 1974 treaty can be restored. Meanwhile, there is the continuing problem of Iranian and Hezbollah forces disguising themselves as Syrian so they can carry out terror attacks on Israel from the Syrian side of the border. Israel said this will be considered an act of war and the first targets to be hit will be in Syria.
The Assads would like the Iranian forces (most of them Iranian paid and led mercenaries) to leave but the Iranians refuse. Israel has told the Assads that if they stick with Iran they will be destroyed. The Assads realize that the Iranians are fanatics about destroying Israel and that the Israelis have demonstrated their 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 and much else. Worse, no one has much sympathy for the Assads, who have very few good qualities. Despite this, the Assads apparently try to 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 and Israel do not.
One bit of good news is that so far this year about half the Hezbollah forced has returned to Lebanon and more are leaving. This is largely because sending Lebanese Shia to fight for Iran and the Assads in Syria was never popular with Lebanese Shia (who are over a third of the Lebanese population and provide the militiamen for the Hezbollah “army’). Hezbollah was created in the 1980s due to massive amounts of Iranian cash, weapons and training. Hezbollah has been sustained ever since by Iranian aid. Lebanese Shia are uneasy with being dependent on Iran but it does provide the Lebanese Shia with more political power than they have ever had in Lebanon so they have remained loyal. But over the last five years, just about every armed Hezbollah member has served in Syria, often multiple times. Over 12,000 Hezbollah have been killed or wounded in Syria and while Iran provided cash for death benefits and medical care the thousands of visibly crippled Hezbollah Syrian war veterans are a humiliating reminder that Hezbollah is a “servant” of Iran. Even the Iranian advisors with Hezbollah are aware of this attitude and that is why the size of the Hezbollah force in Syria has been reduced by about half so far in 2018. Iran hates giving up the Hezbollah fighters because they are the most effective Iranian mercenaries in Syria and the ones most suited to successfully using Syrian army uniforms and pass as Syrian troops so Iran can establish forces right on the Israel border. Most of the Iranian mercenaries are Afghans, who have a hard time passing for Syrians. There are still about 4,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria but many are assigned to Lebanese border areas where they help enhance the Hezbollah reputation back in Lebanon by visibly keeping Islamic terrorists and other bad people out of Lebanon.
Gaza Versus Sky Spotter
Along the Gaza, border firefighters are still being called out to contain brush and crop fires. These blazes began in early May as Hamas organized the mass use of incendiary kites and balloons that are launched against Israel from Gaza when the wind is right. These kites have caused property damage but, so far, few injuries. Hamas organized the construction and release of these kites and helium balloons (often inflated condoms) and over a hundred a week are being launched. So far the fires have caused several million dollars in damage to forests and crops near the Gaza border. By the end of June Israel has set up what appears to be an effective defense against the kites and balloons. This consists of the recently developed Sky Spotter system which uses powerful optical sensors than radar to spot small, slow-moving aerial objects. Sky Spotter, like the radar system developed for Iron Dome, displays objects and, based on their past and current movement, where they are likely to land. At this point the civilian Drone Force, if available, is called in. These are civilians who own commercial UAVs and volunteer to intercept kits and balloons and destroy the fragile kites and balloons and bring them down before they can do any damage. Even before Sky Spotter arrived at the border the Drone Force had been organized and deployed. But the drone operators had a hard time finding the targets, Sky Spotter solved that problem but only for those sections of the border the system covers. In many cases, drones cannot get to the kites and balloons soon enough and at that point, the local emergency forces (firefighters and military engineers to deal with explosives that did not go off) use the Sky Spotter information to reach the area where the kite/balloon is headed for and likely to land. This allows fires to be put out quickly before they can spread.
Israel is also carrying out air strikes against locations where fire kites and balloons are assembled (apparently under Hamas supervision and sometimes at Hamas bases) and at vehicles used to carry the firebombs and their launch personnel to the border. Hamas considers these air and artillery attacks unfair because the firebombs are less likely to kill Israelis. Because of this attitude Hamas is firing rockets and mortar shells into Israel in retaliation. Hamas continues to sponsor the mass demonstrations along the border fence that usually result in the mob surging towards the fence to provide human shields for armed Hamas men who will try to cut through the fence, plant bombs or thrown explosives at Israeli troops. Hamas offers large cash rewards to the families of civilians killed during these border attacks as well as assured medical care and cash payments for those injured. There is also free food, water and tents to take shelter in while these spontaneous demonstrations are being organized.
Hamas is obsessed with obtaining a “victory” over Israel and is ignoring peace proposals from Fatah (which is feuding with Hamas over who should be the sole leader of the Palestinians) and Egypt (which is trying to get a binding agreement on counter-terrorism so it can life the blockade on Gaza). The Americans and Europeans still want to discuss a peace deal with Israel but Hamas is not interested. Perhaps encouraged by its new patron Iran Hamas is now all about demonizing and eventually destroying Israel, not talking peace.
July 5, 2018: In the south, Israel has moved at least two additional Iron Dome batteries to the Gaza border. Iron Dome software was recently upgraded to enable it to detect and intercept most mortar shells.
July 3, 2018: In the north, Israel was believed responsible for airstrikes across the border in Daraa province. These hit military warehouses belonging to the Syrian Army and supply Assad forces and pro-Assad militias. The missiles that hit these warehouses detonated explosives and ammunition stored within and the noise could be heard (and the rising smoke could be seen) far away. Israel has moved more artillery, tank and infantry units to the Syria border.
In Egypt (north Sinai) Egyptian troops killed three Islamic terrorists near the Gaza border and also found and destroyed three smuggling tunnels near the Rafah crossing. This was part of the ongoing (since February) operation against Islamic terrorists in Sinai. So far this effort has left over 200 Islamic terrorists (and a few local tribesmen) dead as well as 35 soldiers. Civilian deaths often occur when the troops call in air strikes (F-16s and armed helicopters) or artillery fire.
July 2, 2018: In Egypt (north Sinai) two senior leaders of the local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) affiliate (the “Sinai Province”) surrendered after they were surrounded in the city of Rafah. The two ISIL leaders are Egyptians and not only surrendered but answered questions and called on other ISIL members in Sinai to do the same. This was not a surprise as ISIL in Sinai has been having a hard time since late 2017 when most of the cooperation they had received from several Bedouin tribes and clans disappeared. This was the result of an ISIL attack on a Sufi mosque in Sinai that left 311 local Moslems dead. Many tribes became actively anti-ISIL after that and many joined an anti-ISIL tribal militia to assist in tracking down and capturing or killing ISIL members in Sinai. The worst damage done to ISIL was that many Bedouin would call in (using cell phones many now had) reports of suspected ISIL activity. That made a big difference for the security forces, who could now go after specific ISIL targets and not round up a lot of innocent tribesmen during their search operations and raids. Suddenly the security forces were much less of a threat to the Bedouin tribes and ISIL lost a major source of local support.
July 1, 2018: Israel passed a law to deduct from the $130 million a month (it collects in taxes and fees for the Palestinians in the West Bank) the amount (over $20 million) Fatah (which runs the West Bank) pays out to Palestinian terrorists in prison or to their families for deceased terrorists. The U.S. has already enacted a similar law and is deducting a similar amount from the $300 million it currently gives to the Palestinians in the West Bank. Fatah complains that the U.S., and now Israel, are being unfair. Yet it is no secret that many Palestinians become terrorists because they are attracted to the financial rewards, which are considerable for many impoverished (by Fatah corruption) young residents of the West Bank. Palestinians who are jailed, injured or killed (martyred) while trying to hurt Israelis receive large payments from Fatah. For example families of dead terrorists get an immediate payment of $1,700 from Fatah plus monthly payments for the life to the immediate family. These monthly payments ($400 to over $1,000 depending on the number of wives and children) can make a family relatively affluent and open new opportunities, like enough cash to afford a people smuggler who can get one or more family members to the West. There is also a bonus ($86 a month) if you are a legal resident of Israel and a similar monthly bonus if you were a resident of Jerusalem. Fatah is currently paying about $200 million a year to the families of over 26,000 martyrs as well as smaller payments to 6,000 badly injured while trying to kill Israelis. Monthly payments to jailed Palestinians vary according to how long they have been in jail, how many dependents they have and if they are from Israel or Jerusalem. There are also bonuses for how many Israelis the prisoner killed or injured. Some of these convicts get over $50,000 a year. Fatah currently spends about $160 million a year to reward over 6,000 jailed terrorists. Fatah considers this payment program a success even though hundreds of Palestinians have died in the Fatah-promoted violence. These attacks also left a few Israelis dead and for Fatah that is political gold as far as Arab language media is concerned. With this approach, Fatah and Hamas together currently spend over $400 million a year to make murder economically attractive to many young Palestinians. Most of it comes from Fatah although Hamas is trying to make more payments to Palestinians in the West Bank who support Hamas and attack Israelis in the name of Hamas. The Arab language media throughout the Middle East take for granted that these payments are just and necessary for the war against Israel. In response to the recent American and Israeli efforts to penalize Fatah for what is spent to encourage terror attacks, Fatah made it clear it would not halt payments to families for dead or jailed terrorists.
In Iran, a senior Iranian general accused Israel of causing the drought currently causing much suffering for Iranians. The general insisted that he has scientific proof that Israel is stealing Iranian rainfall. Iranian weather experts openly disagree with the general. Such was not the case back in 2011 when the Iranian president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) accused the West in general and European nations in particular of possessing special secret technology that enabled them to do this. Such accusations are common in the Middle East where many believe that ISIL and al Qaeda are the invention of Israel and the Americans along with many other misfortunes found in the region. This means many Moslems believe that the 911 attacks were staged by the CIA and Mossad (Israeli CIA) to make the Arabs look bad. Many of these public pronouncements are for internal (inside Iran) audiences, not foreigners. That’s why Iranian technical experts will follow some of these delusional accusations with assurance that competent experts inside Iran do not believe that stuff.
June 30, 2018: In the south, there was an explosion in Gaza that killed two young Gazans and wounded five others. All the casualties were apparently pro-Fatah and were building bombs in an apartment in a pro-Fatah neighborhood.
June 29, 2018: In Gaza, only about 5,000 Gazans showed up to demonstrate at five separate portions of the border. Some tried to cut their way through the fence, or throw explosives and firebombs at Israeli troops. These were fired on and two died.
June 28, 2018: In Egypt (outside Cairo) police raided two hideouts of Islamic terror group Hasam and killed ten armed members of the group (six northwest of Cairo and four south of the city). In addition to weapons and documents police seized bomb-making equipment. Police had been searching for this group in connection with an attack (using explosives and gunfire) on a convoy in March that left seven dead. Hasam is a radical faction of the Moslem Brotherhood that has long sought to impose a religious dictatorship on Egypt and came close after the Mubarak dictatorship was overthrown during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Another military coup in 2013 led to another former general (Sisi, as opposed to Mubarak) who then won an election and went about creating a government similar to the one Mubarak and his predecessors ran since the 1950s. The voters believed that if there is peace the Egyptian economy can grow and bring a measure of prosperity to most Egyptians. This is the most important goal for most Egyptians and a major asset in the government counter-terrorism campaign. Tips from civilians play a major role in limiting the strength and attack capabilities of Islamic terror groups like Hasam and ISIL. But the Islamic radical minority of Egyptians have been a constant in Egyptian culture for over a thousand years and remain a threat to living standards of most Egyptians and the lives of the civilians who tend be most frequent victims of Islamic terrorist violence. Thus it is no surprise the Egyptian opinion polls show “stability” is the main concern for most Egyptians. So much so that they will tolerate a lot of corruption if it means more stability. Economists tell the government leaders that less corruption and less bureaucracy would lead to even more economic growth and prosperity. That is the lesson Israel demonstrates and it has become fashionable in most major Arab nations to openly admit that and to urge Arabs to try the Israeli approach (which is also the “Western” approach). This sort of thing runs into a lot of popular resistance because for many centuries Jews, and now (since 1948) Israel have been depicted as deadly enemies of Islam and Arabs and a foe that must be destroyed. Arabs and Moslems who have spent any time in the West (especially in Israel) have an easier time appreciating this new attitude, but most people have not experienced these seemingly magical solutions to their problems. This sort of change takes time and Islamic radicals take advantage of that as much as they can.
June 27, 2018: In the south, Israel carried out airstrikes against two Hamas facilities in retaliation for some rockets into Israel yesterday and gunfire aimed at Israeli observation towers along the Gaza border. Hamas said these attacks were in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike on the 26th against groups of people launching kites and balloons towards Israel to start fires there.
Off the Egyptian coast efforts to find more natural gas deposits could (but may not) pay off in a big way, with expectations that newly found deposits might be three times what has already been found and put into production. Those earlier discoveries have made it possible for Egypt to stop importing natural gas in 2019 and the addition of the new discoveries will make Egypt a major exporter of natural gas. This is bad news for Israel, which had recently agreed to supply Egypt with $15 billion worth of natural gas over the next decade. These imports will not be needed because of the new Egyptian discoveries. Long-term all this natural gas could solve many economic problems. Then again most of the profits could be stolen by corrupt officials. Meanwhile, a lot of expert opinions believes that any additional natural gas deposits will be smaller than what has already been found. Nevertheless, an Italian firm is spending over $100 million to find out one way or another. If the Italian firm does find large deposits it will make back its investment via contracts to build and operate offshore platforms needed to extract the natural gas. Either way, it is a gamble, although a highly technical and calculated one.
June 26, 2018: In Iran large demonstrations in the capital (Tehran) continued into their second day, triggered by a collapse in the value of the Iranian currency. People are also protesting the poor state of the economy and most Iranians. Israeli officials issued Farsi (Iranian) language messages on social media pointing out the Iranian government had agreed to spend at least $2.5 billion in 2018 supporting foreign terrorists like the Assads in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the Shia rebels in Yemen and Shiite militias in Iraq. This is in addition to over $14 billion Iran admits it has already spent on supporting the Assads in Syria since 2012. The Iranian protestors need little encouragements as they have been shouting “Down With The Palestinians” and criticism of the Syrian War as well.
June 25, 2018: In Turkey president, Recep Erdogan won the presidential and parliamentary elections yesterday with more than half the vote and the ability to add even more power to the presidential form of government he has introduced over the last decade. Because of the vote, Erdogan will now be president until 2023 and will have more political power to do whatever he wants. At the same time Erdogan cooperates with Iran in shutting down the PKK (Turkish Kurdish separatists) headquarters and other bases in northeastern Iraq. These PKK facilities are also close to the Iranian border, where less numerous Kurdish separatists often work with the PKK. The Kurdish minorities in Turkey and Iran have been kept down, often with force, for centuries. This is one of the few things Turkey and Iran agree on. Erdogan recently announced that Turkish air and ground operations against the PKK in northeastern Iraq had led to the deaths of dozens of PKK members, including several senior leaders.
June 24, 2018: In Egypt, parliament voted to extend the nationwide “state of emergency” another three months (until mid-October). The state of emergency is similar to martial law and unpopular for obvious reasons. The state of emergency gives the government nearly unlimited power to investigate anyone anyway they can, arrest and hold people without warrants or obligation to bring charges and basically run the country like a dictatorship. The three decades of Mubarak rule, which ended in 2011, was made possible by a permanent state of emergency and getting rid of that was one of the main demands of the 2011 rebels. The current state of emergency began in April 2017 because of increased Islamic terrorist activity, especially efforts to attack Israel from Egyptian territory. So far Egypt has continued to uncover and attack or arrest Islamic terrorists all over Sinai and to a lesser extent elsewhere in the country. There has been more Islamic terrorist activity coming out of Libya apparently because of recent defeats ISIL and other Islamic terror groups have suffered there. But the martial law is generally unpopular and the government is under growing popular pressure to end it.
June 22, 2018: Israel spotted pro-Assad militiamen occupying an abandoned UN observation post in the neutral zone established along the Golan Heights at the end of the 1973 war. The Israelis are threatening to remove the militiamen by force. The UN was also trying to get some construction work done at the compound containing the observation tower. The rebels were driven away from this border in 2016 by the Syrian Army, which had regained control of the entire 70 kilometer long border with Israel. Up until 2014 the UN had 1,223 peacekeepers monitoring the Syrian/Israeli border and wanted that force returned. The UN troops have been there since 1974 to monitor a ceasefire between Israel and Syria. Israel defeated Syria in 1967 and took the Golan Heights from Syria. In 1973 Israel defeated a strong effort by Syria to regain the Golan Heights. Since then the UN has watched over an uneasy peace. From 2014 to 2016 the peacekeepers were only able to operate on the Israeli side of the border.
June 21, 2018: In Egypt the military completed another multi-day sweep for Islamic terrorists and reported that 32 Islamic terrorists were killed, twelve arrested while at least 21 Islamic terrorist hiding places (for weapons and equipment) were found and destroyed. Troops also encountered and destroyed many roadside bombs and other explosive devices. In a separate operation on the Libyan border, two trucks loaded with weapons and ammo were intercepted and destroyed after the entered Egypt.
Israel declared the Hamed Exchange Company in Gaza a terrorist organization because this banking operation provides financial services for Hamas (long recognized as an international terrorist organization). Israel has found it useful to constantly investigate financial companies in Gaza because Hamas can operate more effectively if it has access to a legitimate banking operation. That sort of thing is illegal for Hamas and any banking operations. Once Israel, or any other nation, can provide proof of such a link the financial firm in question suffers severe sanctions and much less access to the international banking system. At times it gets so bad for Hamas that they have to smuggle cash into Gaza to deal with their expenses.
June 20, 2018: In the south, Israel launched 25 airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza. This was in retaliation for 45 rockets and mortar shells fired into Israel on the 18th and 19th. Iron Dome intercepted the seven projectiles headed for residential areas and another three fell short of the border. Hamas justified the rocket and mortar attack as retaliation for Israeli airstrikes against three sites used for launching kites and balloons towards Israel to start fires there.
June 18, 2018: In eastern Syria, an Israeli airstrike hit an Iraqi pro-Iran PMF unit assisting Hezbollah and other Iranian mercenaries fighting Syrian rebels. Over fifty Iraqis were killed in the air strike which Israel did not take credit for. Iraq had always maintained that it would not allow Iraqi forces to enter Syria but some pro-Iran PMF units have ignored that. The U.S. later denied any involvement in the air strike while Arab and Israeli media pointed out such an Israeli airstrike would have needed permission from the Russians and Americans. That permission would not have been difficult to obtain.
The emir (ruler) of Qatar and the Iranian president spoke by phone and Qatar reaffirmed its support for Hamas in Gaza. For a year now Qatar has been sanctioned by its Arab neighbors for its pro-Iran policies. Qatar is oil-rich and with the support of Iran and Turkey has survived the Arab sanctions. Most Iranian are not keen on supporting the Palestinians, especially those in Gaza because that place has become a sanctuary for Islamic terrorists who attack Egypt.
June 17, 2018: Down south Israeli UAVs used missiles to attack Islamic terrorist targets across the border in Egypt. These attacks have been carried out rarely but regularly in cooperation with the Egyptians. It is no secret that Israel and Egypt quietly cooperate in fighting ISIL and Hamas. But there is also other forms of cooperation. For most of February Egypt has been denying reports (first published in the United States) that Israel has been quietly providing Egypt with air support since ISIL shot down a Russian airliner over Sinai in 2015. Even before that it was no secret that Egypt and Israel shared intel on matters of mutual interest (usually Islamic terrorism) and Israel did not object as Egypt more soldiers into Sinai in violation of the peace treaty between the two nations. But Israeli troops do not enter Egypt (although Mossad teams have done so a few time). Most of the alleged air support was unmarked Israeli UAVs watching areas of mutual interest in northern Sinai. Israel has a lot more UAVs than Egypt and a lot more experience using them. But a hundred of these Israeli sorties are said to have involved firing missiles at ground targets. This could work because both Israel and Egypt buy guided missiles (like Hellfire) and smart bombs from the United States. Both nations use American aircraft (like the F-16 fighter and AH-64 helicopter gunships). Thus an Israeli F-16 or AH-64, operating at night with nationality symbols painted over, could slip across the border, hit a target and be back in Israeli airspace in 10-15 minutes or less. The Egyptian Air Force often carried out these night operations but the story is Israel had unofficial permission to hit targets near the border if the alternative were for the enemy to escape. Egypt denied the allegations but many Egyptians shrugged and agreed that as long as it was unofficial and helped Egypt, so what.
June 16, 2018: In Britain, the government has finally agreed to add the Hezbollah “political wing” to the 2008 ban on the Hezbollah “military wing.” This action had long been sought by Israel and a growing number of other Western countries because Hezbollah as a whole is dedicated to terrorism and it is a common fiction for many Islamic terror groups with many fans in the West to form political and militant subdivisions and declare that the political group has nothing to do with terrorism and should not be considered a criminal organization. In reality “political wing” scam makes it easier for the political wing to raise money and attract new recruits for the military wing now Britain joins the growing number of Western nations that refuse to go along with the scam.
June 13, 2018: Algeria and Turkey joined forces in the UN to propose that Israel be condemned for defending itself against Hamas attacks on the border. Hamas has been using large crowds of civilians to rush the border fence so that armed Hamas personnel could get into Israel to carry out terror and kidnapping missions. The United States used its veto to block this proposal and criticized Moslem nations for supporting these UN proposals that justify and excuse Islamic terrorism. Algeria has always used such proposals in the UN to demonstrate its moral superiority. Extremely corrupt nations often do this and there are a lot of those in the UN. Going after Israel for defending itself continues even as many Arab nations now regard Israel as a valued ally against growing Iranian aggression.
June 12, 2018: Syrian leader Bashar Assad was seen in a TV interview on an Iran-backed Arab language news channel. Assad confirmed that Russia was given basing rights because Russian air and technical support is crucial to his survival. He said he would consider an Iranian request for basing rights and that Saudi Arabia had offered to replace Iranian financial support of Assad would cut ties with Iran. Assad said he refused to abandon the decades-old relationship (begun by his father) with Iran. Assad admitted that Syria did not have the means to strike back at Israel in response to Israeli air strikes but was silent about Iranian plans to destroy Israel any way they could. Assad also admitted that Russia had a long-term relationship with Israel that Syria had to respect. In short, Assad was keeping his options open even though the Iranians have the most powerful ground forces in Syria.
Meanwhile, on Twitter, which is officially banned (but still used) in Iran, thousands of Iranians joined in Twitter-based Farsi language campaign to promote peace between Israel and Iran. The two were allies before the 1979 revolution and many Israelis are Iranian or trace their ancestry back to Iran. The growing anti-government protests in Iran have adopted “peace with Israel” as one of their demands because it is something that is becoming more popular in Iran.
June 11, 2018: In Egypt, another pro-government civilian in northern Sinai was killed near his home by gunmen. This is the second such killing in two days after several months free of such violence. The local ISIL group was apparently responsible for these two murders as well as several other real or imaginary terror attacks described postings to the Internet. The government thought it had crushed ISIL in north Sinai but apparently, the group was able to regenerate.
June 9, 2018: In southern Syria, Israel has discovered Iranian forces returning to the Israeli border wearing Syrian Army uniforms and pretending to be Syrian soldiers. Israel warned that it would attack any Iranian forces approaching their border and it doesn’t matter which uniforms the Iranian mercenaries are wearing. This is the Iranian response to the May 28 agreement between Russia and Israel in which Russia will keep Iranian forces away from the Israeli border and in return Israel will tolerate Syrian troops on that border. This puts Russian in an embarrassing situation as the Iranians are obviously willing to sabotage any deals the Russians and Israelis make about Syria, or anything else. The Russian response to this uniform subterfuge was to tell Iran to back away from this sort of thing. Since Russian troops man checkpoints on roads leading to the Israeli border, the Russian soldiers have been told to check IDs of suspicious Syrian soldiers and given a list of tips on how to spot a Hezbollah operative pretending to be a Syrian soldier by wearing a Syrian Army uniform. Russian military advisors have also been ordered to check Syrian bases they operate in to see if there is a sudden influx of Syrian soldiers who are not Syrian. Israel wants Russia to persuade Iran to get all its troops and mercenaries out of Syria but Russia does that see that as possible while it does believe Russia can help keep Iranian forces from the Israeli border.
June 5, 2018: Germany openly called for Iran to withdraw its forces from Syria. This rare criticism of Iran was caused by Israel pointing out that the presence of Iranian forces in Syria is a major cause of Syrians fleeing their country and heading for Germany where it is easy to get asylum. Until there is peace in Syria more Syrians will flee and those that can afford it will head for Germany, which is one of the few European nations accepting Syrian refugees.