Israel and Russia have become more open about their cooperation in Syria. Russian and Israeli senior officials frequently meet in Russia or Israel to discuss details of this partnership and often release details of their Syrian arrangement and any new developments. Israel and Russia have been cooperating in Syria for decades but in 2015 that relationship had to be modified. For the first time Russia had substantial combat forces in Syria and at a time when Israel was carrying out airstrikes against Syrian and Iranian forces threatening Israel.
In Gaza the Iranian support for Hamas is cited by Egyptian negotiators as the main reason Hamas is not serious in renewed efforts to negotiate a ceasefire. At the same time Iran has transferred more personnel to assist Hamas preparations for new efforts to carry out terror attacks inside Israel as well as recruit more Palestinians in Gaza to carry out larger attacks on Israel with long range rockets. Iran no longer trusts Hezbollah with those tasks because Hezbollah is distracted by growing violence in Lebanon and economic collapse there that Hezbollah has contributed to. Most Lebanese accuse Iran and Hezbollah for contributing to the current problems in Lebanon, especially those related to Hezbollah becoming an extension of the Iranian al Quds force in the 1980s. Quds supports pro-Iran Islamic terrorists in foreign countries. Al Quds considers Hezbollah their greatest success but more and more Lebanese, Syrians and other Arabs in the region see Quds and Hezbollah as a deadly curse created by Iran. Over a hundred thousand Palestinians settled in Lebanon after the creation of Israel in 1948 and proved to be more of a problem than Israel ever was. Palestinian violence was one reason for the fifteen-year long 1975-90 Lebanese civil war and many of them were expelled from Lebanon by the end of the civil war.
Egypt has another problem with its southern neighbor Sudan. Two weeks ago there was another military coup in Sudan and reorganization of the temporary SNC (Sovereign National Council) with more technocrats and fewer feuding and sometimes corrupt civilian members. The leader of this coup is the same general who led the April 2019 coup in which the Sudan military overthrew the unpopular Islamic government in Sudan. A month later the leader of the coup, general Abdel Fattah al Burhan, head of Sudan's temporary TMC (Transitional Military Council), went to Egypt to meet with the Egyptian president (and former general) Sisi. This was Burhan’s first trip outside of Sudan since the TMC toppled Islamic president-for-life Bashir. The TMC was unpopular with many of the political and rebel groups also seeking to oust Bashir and wanted a joint civil-military transition council. By August the TMC members agreed and formed the new SNC that was to complete the original TMC goal of holding elections by November 2022.
Not all the decisions of the SNC were popular with everyone. For example, an Israeli government delegation visited Sudan on November 23, 2020, and met with Sudanese security officials and discussed defense-related issues. In late October Sudan and Israel agreed to open trade and economic ties. The Sudan and Israeli negotiators called for normalized relations, which some media reported as diplomatic recognition. Not quite. But trade and investment deals are in the offing. Until this announcement Sudan was officially at war with Israel. The negotiations and trade agreements indicate that a state of war no longer exists. Now Sudan is calling on Israel for help in defense matters. This is something many African states have done successfully. Sudan had already persuaded the U.S. to remove Sudan from its list of terrorist states and lifted sanctions. The SNC was also dealing with corruption within the SNC and increasingly ugly personal and political feuds.
Egypt was depending on the new Sudan government to bring peace and prosperity to Sudan, which has been a problem with the neighbors for decades. Egypt was actively negotiating with the SNC to settle the dispute with Ethiopia and its new dam on the Nile. That dam could mean problems for both Sudan and Egypt and this cooperation is at risk because of more instability. General Burhan says the original late 2022 elections pledge will be met.
November 8, 2021: In Syria two Israeli airstrikes were carried out against targets in central Syria (Homs province) and the other against targets outside the Syrian port of Tartus. This is where Russia has taken over a portion of the port and expanded it into a naval base that has a long-term lease. This base handles the needs of Russian warships operating off the coast and in the Mediterranean.
November 7, 2021: In Sudan there have been a growing number of public protests against the new (October 25) military government. Soldiers and police have been using teargas and non-lethal force to break up the demonstrations. So far hundreds of protestors have been arrested and at least a dozen killed with hundreds injured. The army is seeking out and arresting protest organizers. The military underestimated the local and international opposition to their coup and are willing to negotiate some sort of compromise that, so far, does not include restoring civilian component to the transitional government, The military are believed to have staged this coup because some of the officers responsible involved in the removal of the Bashir dictatorship could be prosecuted for participating or associated with the many war crimes committed by the Bashir government. The October coup made the situation for the military worse and there is no easy way out of the mess the military has created. Egypt has remained neutral, but understands the situation. Egypt wants to have good relations with whatever government emerges from all this.
November 5, 2021: Egypt is still having problems getting Hamas to agree to any sort of long-term ceasefire with Israel. Hamas insists the only long-term solution is the destruction of Israel. Hamas makes matters worse by sending delegations to Iran to improve the military relationship Hamas now has with Iran. Egypt and Iran have been enemies for a long time and Hamas is not helping clear up that mess. The best Egypt can get from Hamas is the possibility of a prisoner swap with Israel. Hamas will ask for more than Israeli can give, as in men imprisoned for murder and particularly infamous terror attacks. Hamas is more interested in doing what their new sponsor, Iran, wants. Egypt and Israel still disagree on many issues but are in agreement over the threat Hamas poses to them both and with Iran now involved, there is not much cause for optimism.
November 3, 2021: In southern Syria (between Damascus and the Golan Heights) Israeli missiles hit warehouses in Zakiyah that contained Iranian missiles and other military supplies stored there for use by Iran-backed militias operating along the Israeli b0rder. Near the destroyed warehouses is the headquarters of the Syrian Army 4th Division, which suffered no damage or casualties. .
October 31, 2021: In Egypt the primary opposition to the current government, the Moslem Brotherhood, is falling apart due to corruption and factional fighting. the Moslem Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 as a political movement stressing clean government and the use of Islamic law. That has not worked out. In mid-2012 Egyptian election officials declared Islamic Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi the new president. Before president Mursi could do much, the Moslem Brotherhood radicals got violent in their demands that Egypt be ruled with Sharia (Islamic) law. That was what Saudi Arabia has used for decades but Sharia was very unpopular with most Egyptian voters. By 2014 angry voters had forced Mursi out and new elections put a former general (Sisi) into power. The Moslem Brotherhood once more became the enemy, except in Turkey, where a Moslem Brotherhood-like government had ruled Turkey since 2000 and had not had any problems with radicals. But Turkish voters were getting tired of their increasingly corrupt and inept Islamic government that seems to have declared just about everyone an enemy of Turkey. Egypt and Turkey are seeking to repair their diplomatic and economic connections. Egypt is willing but wants Turkey to drop support for the Moslem Brotherhood and get its troops out of Libya. Turkey is considering this and agrees to continue negotiating with Egypt as long as it takes.
Every time a moderate Moslem Brotherhood government gains power it fails because the radicals, there is always a radical faction, demand that an Islamic religious dictatorship be installed and this always triggers popular resistance. Some of those Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood radicals went rogue in 1987 and eventually established themselves in Gaza as Hamas. In 2005 Hamas took over Gaza and turned it into a sanctuary for all many of Islamic terror groups including, by 2014, ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). That led to Egypt treating Hamas as an enemy, not oppressed Palestinian freedom fighters. The Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood hurt its reputation in the early 1990s when radical factions, frustrated at their inability to achieve peaceful reforms in Egypt, turned to terrorism and were defeated after a bloody terrorism campaign aimed at the economy and especially foreign tourists, failed. Tourism accounts for 11 percent of the GDP and provides jobs (directly or indirectly) for 12 percent of the Egyptian workforce. Turkey could use the need for better relations with Egypt as an excuse to declare the Moslem Brotherhood an enemy, on paper at least. Turkish and Egyptian diplomatic officials are trying to find mutually acceptable lies to make this work for everyone. The Egyptian economy is growing again, after the 2020 covid19 recession slowed things down. Since early 2021 GDP has been growing at a rate of over seven percent. Turkey has to keep this in mind.
October 30, 2021: In southern Syria, an Israeli outside Damascus destroyed an Iranian convoy transporting weapons and missiles. Hezbollah was operating the convoy and six of their men were killed and several wounded. At least two Syrian soldiers were also wounded.
October 29, 2021: Iran retaliated against the October 26th Israeli attack on their retail fuel distribution system by ordering Black Shadow, one the criminal hacking groups they provide sanctuary for, to attack an Israeli hosting service and disable several web sties that had not kept their security updated. Iran publicized the attack while Black Shadow sought to extort money from the web sites data was stolen from. The data was later sold on the Dark Web black market.
October 28, 2021: A German military photographer posted and then deleted two photos of Jordanian F-16s he had taken at the Blue Flag international air combat training being held in Israel. Photographers are allowed to cover the exercises if they agree to not take pictures of some aircraft from nations that do not admit they participate. This includes Jordan, which has participated for years but no photos of their warplanes in Israel were ever made public.
Blue Flag is based on the American Red Flag international training exercises that have been held since 1975. Since 2013 Israel has held its Blue Flag every two years. The multinational Red Flag events were meant to improve coordination among allied air forces in combat. Because of that until the 1990s nearly all the foreign air forces were those closely allied with the United States and able to practice using classified equipment and techniques. Since the 1990s some of these international Red Flag have included frenemies and thus lacked the use of classified items. Often described as more diplomacy than training, these unclassified exercises were nonetheless useful, at least to let these nations get a close look at each other’s aircraft and pilots.
Before Blue Flag the Israeli Air Force has, since 2011, hosted foreign fighter pilots for tactical training using locally developed Red Flag technology. Israeli fighter pilots are considered the best trained in the world and one reason for that is use of the best training methods available. As part of that Israel maintains a special training program, complete with pilots trained and equipped to operate as likely foes would, to train their own pilots. Initially the Israelis hosted fighters and pilots for training from Poland, Italy and Greece. This was a good source of income and also good diplomacy as these were countries that Israel was on good terms with.
Blue Flag are free for participants and by invitation. This became a good way to note which countries Israel could depend on militarily. Israel continues to attend the American Red Flag events and recently those have included Middle Eastern nations that Israel is technically at war with (over the Palestinian issue). But because Israel and these other Middle Eastern nations have some common enemies (Iran and Islamic terror groups) and Israel is the most powerful and technologically advanced military power in the region, a growing number of Arab states are openly working with the Israelis.
October 26, 2021: Israeli Information War specialists hacked the Iranian retail fuel distribution system, which took nearly a week for the Iranians to get working again.
October 25, 2021: In the north (Golan Heights), across the border in Syria (Quneitra province) an Israeli airstrike using missiles hit Syrian and Iranian targets outside the town of Baath. One of the targets was a SAM (surface to air missile) anti-aircraft battery recently moved to the area, which is too close to the Israeli border for such weapons.
the government (actually president Sisi) ended the nationwide “state of emergency” that has been around since 2017. It was renewed every three months by parliament. 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 any way 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. The martial law is generally unpopular and the government is under growing popular pressure to end it.
October 22, 2021: In Russia, the Israeli and Russian leaders met to discuss their cooperation in Syria and Russia details of their unofficial cooperation agreement. The details were not all disclosed but one became obvious over the next few weeks as Israel deliberately avoided defeating Russian air defense systems that are used by Syria to guard their capital Damascus. This involves firing some missiles at times when the Russian systems have the best chance of intercepting them. Another form of cooperation is Russian naval forces stationed in the Syrian port of Tartus to prevent Iran from smuggling in weapons or other items via ship. Iran is angry at this obvious cooperation against them, which Israel and Russia are openly protecting the Assads. In many parts of the country Assad and Russian forces still cooperate with Iranian forces and Iranians are forced to accept whatever they can get.
Russia has 2019 treaties with the Assads that allowed Russia to lease territory for a major airbase and a smaller port facility in western Syria. Israel had no formal objections, apparently because this arrangement was made after consultations with Israel. Russia agreed to these treaties to give the Assads an opportunity to move away from the long dependence on Iran. As far as the Assads were concerned the Iranians were trying to turn Assad-controlled Syria into something like Hezbollah, the Shia militia Iran helped create in the 1980s and has sustained ever since. That turned southern Lebanon into a region controlled by Hezbollah which, in turn, took orders from Iran. Israel had long sought to get Iran out of Lebanon and now most Lebanese agreed and were openly fighting with Hezbollah over the issue. The Assads agreed to informally make peace with Israel in an arrangement that would be monitored and enforced by Israel and Russia. Russia considers this a major achievement in Syria and most of the world will agree if the changes do not prompt Iran into starting a major war over it.
October 16, 2021: In the north (Golan Heights), across the border in Syria (Quneitra province) an Israeli
sniper killed Midhat as Saleh, a Syrian Druze politician who was working for Iran in southern Syria to establish an Iranian military presence on the Israeli border. Saleh was born in the Israeli Golan Heights and was jailed several times for anti-Israel activities. After getting out of jail he moved to the Syrian side of the border and went to work for the Assad government, a position he held until his death. Syrian and Israeli Druze have become more pro-Israel over the last decade and Saleh was one of pro-Assad Druze trying to change that by any means necessary.
October 15, 2021:
In central Syria (Homs province) Israeli airstrikes hit the T4 airbase
for the second time this week. The targets were the same’ Iranian training areas and weapons warehouses. One Syrian soldier was killed and five wounded. The attacks were launched from jets flying over the area where the borders of Iraq, Syria and Jordan meet. Air-to-surface missiles are used and some are intercepted by Syrian S-200 SAMs (Surface-to-Air missiles) that have less success against Israeli fighters that are equipped with countermeasures and pilots who know how to avoid the SAMs.
The T4 airbase, near the ancient ruins of
Palmyra, has been hit at least three times a year since 2018. T4 is the largest airbase in Syria and Iran has constantly built new structures for storing weapons and housing personnel, usually to replace buildings destroyed by the air strikes. T4 is where Iran moved its UAV operations in 2018 after its original UAV base in Syria was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike.