World Watch Today

Throwing the towel in-America's smaller footprint in the Middle East

Steven LeBlanc

Al Qaeda’ s Resurgence in Iraq

01 14 2014

IRAQ..looks as if it is heading toward the abyss of civil war.

President Obama’s decision to pull all troops out of Iraq has created a power vacuum—into which has stepped Al-Qadea. Its operatives have taken much of Anbar province in Iraq. This is a significant win for the ‘black flag’ (Al Qaeda symbol) in its move to control and establish a piece of land that can achieve the goal of establishing a caliphate in the Middle east.

IRAN…The West is tired of Middle East wars and appears to be throwing in the towel. Capitulation to Iran at Geneva saw America, the UK and the European Union agree to allow Iran to continue to enrich uranium. US Secretary of State John Kerry made the strange suggestion that Iran might play a role in Syrian peace talks. Syria has been a proxy for Iran for years and has been used by Iran to kill many of its Sunni enemies. Such a suggestion by the Secretary of State is a show of naiveté that continues to thrive among western governments. Having Iran participate in any meetings regarding Syria would be like asking a thief to help with the local neighborhood watch.

SYRIA…The war in Syria, you have the radical Shiite bloc led by Iran, which overflies Iraq to supply Bashar al-Assad and sends (Lebanese) Hezbollah to fight for him in Syria. Russia, which has stationed ships offshore, support al-Assad with weaponry. Syria is a Russian protectorate.

The Sunni Gulf states are terrified of Iranian hegemony (territorial and soon nuclear); non-Arab Turkey is mostly Sunni and also fears Iran. Fragile Jordan is not in favor of an Iranian dominated Middle East.

President Obama backed off on his “red line” in Syria, sending a message to all that America wants a diminished role in the Middle East. America’s agreement with Iran sends a message of appeasement to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. They see American weakness and the impending power vacuum that is giving energy to insurgents like Al-Qaeda.

The United States has long been the world’s policeman. We are now seeing what happens when the policeman can’t be depended on, or when that policeman loses its nerve. Why are we a ‘sunset’ power? Because “righteousness exalts a nation. But sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Righteousness clearly involves keeping God’s commandments (Psalm 119:172); sin is the transgression of His law (1 John 3:4). We no longer honor God—He will give us over to poor decision making on international affairs. Our ability to maintain clear vision, sustained by strong action is clearly deteriorating.

Israel's Other Fear

Steven LeBlanc

From the Israeli point of view, there are two serious threats from Iran. One is the Iranian nuclear threat. The other fear is Iranian support for proxies such as Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza strip, and the Shiite government of Iraq led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. These are Iran’s good friends but are also enemies of Israel. The great concern is that since President Obama is now talking with the Iranians—the U.S. will soften its stance toward Iran’s use of these proxies to cause Israel trouble.

Israel is increasingly worried about the situation in Iraq. With the Syrian civil war escalating and talks with Iran making headline news, we must not forget the weight of Iraq. The importance of Iraq cannot be overstated, if anything, its role in the Middle East has grown. Iraq is a Shiite-majority Arab state and is viewed by the Obama administration as a counter to the rising jihadist threat in Syria. But this Shiite dominated nation is a potential threat to Israel—something that Washington seems to under-appreciate.

Keep in mind that a new Iraqi civil war is not out of the question. The country is divided by 3 groups all contesting for power. The majority (60%-65%) of Iraqi Muslims are members of the Shi’a sect, (32-37%) are Sunni, made up of both Arabs and Kurds. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslim but differ from their Arab neighbors in language and customs. Over ten years after the capture of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is at risk of being engulfed by civil war once again as al-Qaeda reclaims vast tracts of the country. The death toll (Sunni Shia conflict) for 2013 surpassed 7,000.

Lebanon’s Sunni Threat

Israel’s enemy Hezbollah is currently distracted by the Sunni threat in Lebanon. This threat also concerns Israel.

The January 2nd explosion in Beirut’s southern suburbs — the fifth attack targeting Hezbollah’s interests since July — reveals a growing jihadist surge and intent to push Hezbollah aside, Sunnis are anti-Hezbollah—Hezbollah is greatest military power in Lebanon today. As retaliatory sectarian attacks between Sunni jihadists and Shiite militants loyal to Hezbollah escalate over the next year, Israel will be watching closely to see if Sunni (Al-Qaeda sympathetic) backed rebels emerge as a true threat to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

For now, much of the fighting you see in the Middle East is Muslim against Muslim. But in time the whole Muslim world will seek to unify its efforts to destroy Israel.

In the future Lebanon will be involved with other Arab nations in a push to destroy Israel. Read Psalm 83: 4,6-8–The prophecy reads, in part, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more…The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites (Arabs; Saudi Arabia); Moab (Jordan) and the Hagrites; Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia (Gaza strip) with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also has joined with them; they have helped the children of Lot”.

Lebanon (Gebal) and Tyre play a prominent role in Psalm 83. Gebal was an important Phoenician port city “between Sidon and Arvad (see Josh. 13:5; 1 Kin. 5:18). It was called Byblos by the Greeks and Romans, and Gubla by the Assyrians and Babylonians.” The Phoenician city is today known as Jbail or Jubayl in Lebanon, 25 miles north of Beirut.

2014 promises to be a year of assassinations, war and blood feuds in the Middle East.

Israel behind another assassination?

Steven LeBlanc

Hezbollah leader Nasrallah: Israel will be ‘punished’ for al-Laqqis’ death.

Hassan al-Laqqis was “assassinated” at around midnight earlier this month in the southern Hadath district of the Lebanese capital. Gunmen fired shots as he was in his car in the parking lot of his residence. He died of his wounds soon after the attack.

Hezbollah said in a statement that Israel was responsible for the killing. “The killing of Hassan al-Laqqis is not a simple matter between us and the Israelis,” said Nasrallah.

“There are scores to settle between us and the Israelis; there are old accounts and new ones,” he said. “The murderers will be punished sooner or later,” Nasrallah promised, “His blood was not shed in vain. The punishment will take part when we decide. Those who killed will not be safe anywhere in the world. Vengeance is coming.” And, “If the Israelis think … that Hezbollah is busy and that Israel will not pay the price, I say to them today, ‘You are wrong’,” he said.

There has been speculation that a Sunni terrorist group killed al-Laqqis, but that is not what many observers of Lebanon and Hezbollah conclude.
Tony Badran, a columnist for the Beirut-based website NOW Lebanon and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, expressed to the Jerusalem Post “that while both Sunni groups and Israel would benefit from the assassination, the available evidence at this point leads him to point the finger more in Israel’s direction”.

Although it cannot be ultimately proven—Israel, it appears, has been behind recent assassinations including:

• Hezbollah’s Imad Mughniyeh who died in a car bomb explosion in Damascus in February 2008.
• Later in 2008, Syrian Army Gen. Mohamed Soleiman was killed by a sniper. Muhammad Suleiman was a high-ranking general in the Syrian Army, and from the mid-90s until his death was Bashar al-Assad’s key organizer for buying weapons and exporting arms to Hezbollah, to the development of what was the beginning of Syria’s nuclear facility.
• In January 2010 senior Hamas official Mahmoud Mabhouh was assassinated. Al-Mabhouh was drugged and suffocated in a luxury hotel room in Dubai, it became clear that several dozen Mossad agents had traveled to the United Arab Emirates using fake European passports, they entered the hotel then proceeded with the killing.
• In 2011 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam was killed in a mysterious blast at a military base outside Tehran. The commander, Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, was a crucial figure in Iran’s efforts to build long-range missiles.
• Ahmad Jabari was killed at the outset of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012. Jabari, officially the second in command of Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam Brigades was at the top of Israel’s most wanted list. It was Jabari who personally oversaw the kidnapping and captivity of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.

Israel will continue to fight Iran and its proxies through the sword of assassination—Assassination of its enemies has been one of Israel’s most effective tools going way back to ancient times:

Judges 3:16-21 Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man… Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly.

No doubt this pattern will continue in 2014.

Al-Qaeda Resurgent in Syria

Steven LeBlanc

Al Qaeda’s rise to power among Syrian rebels is a serious concern for both Israel and the United States.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal– a few months ago, the then second-in-command of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell) stated that the toppling of Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria is the largest threat to United States national security and may help al-Qaeda acquire chemical weapons. Morrell also said– “I don’t remember a time when there have been so many national security issues on the front burner as there are today,”

Jessica Lewis, research director at the Institute for the Study of War, says the Syrian civil war helped resuscitate al Qaeda. “I see that conditions in Syria are the primary driver that gave al Qaeda the opportunity to become strong again both in terms of having mutual support areas in military terms, but also in terms of resources, also in terms of human resources,”

The head of al-Qaeda in Syria, a man know only as Abu Mohammed al-Golani, said “victory will come soon”—that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria—an Iranian pawn will be overthrown by Sunni rebels.

Golani, who comes from Syrian Golan, which borders Israel, is the leader of the new group, Jabhat Al-Nusra. “The Nusra Front does not seek to rule society on its own when we reach the stage of the liberation of Sham (Syria),” Abu Golani told Al Jazeera (popular TV station that broadcasts to the world—out of Qatar) in the pre-recorded interview. The Nursa front declares allegiance to al-Qaeda and deployed its methods, including suicide bombing to gain territory in the Syrian civil war.
In the interview Golani boldly makes an open appeal for support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states (these are Sunni nations that fear Shia Iran).

He describes the group’s battles in the context of a Shia/Sunni religious war asserting that the war is against Shiite Iran and Iranian expansion – Saudi Arabia, fears Iranian influence over its own Shia minority, and is fervent to overthrow Iran’s ally President Bashar al-Assad. “If the Assad regime remained in power, which is in the interest of the superpowers and the Safavids, then the next target will be the Arabian Peninsula, now known as Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Jabhat Al-Nursa now controls one of Syria’s main oilfields—the al Omar oil field (Eastern Syria). Losing the al-Omar oil field would mean Assad’s forces would be almost completely reliant on imported oil, a great disadvantage in their fight against the rebels.

The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said “Now, nearly all of Syria’s usable oil reserves are in the hands of the Nusra Front and other Islamist units,” said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Observatory. “The regime’s neck is now in Nusra’s hands.”

American policy toward the Syrian rebellion has proceeded erratically. Lack of direction from America regarding the Middle East has only encouraged more chaos in the region. America, viewed as a crippled giant by the Saudis, Israel and the Emirates, seems overwhelmed. These nations are disgusted at what they consider the blatant show of weakness by the American leadership.

I have repeatedly quoted this passage on our radio program, but it bears repeating—as the Syrian civil war is waged by mostly the modern day descendants of Ishmael—a brother against brother—cousin against cousin Civil war that has tragically taken the lives of over 120,000 people:

The way of Islam is one of hostility, anger and war…the prophecy of Genesis 16 continues to play out: “You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your misery, He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers”—verses 11-12.

Netanyahu’s latest views (video below) and perspective on the Iranian nuclear crisis. Worth watching!

Steven LeBlanc

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