Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The eye of the storm

An astute reader pointed out to me that Israel is not really experiencing "peace," only a temporary lull in the war against it by the surrounding Arab states. This is because they are all caught up in the "Arab storm" that is encircling Israel. In fact Israel is at the eye of the storm, the calm center of the raging events that are engulfing Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq.

Every day in the newspaper we read of another suicide bombing in Iraq, thirty killed here, twenty killed there, does anyone really pay much attention. But, in Iraq there is a low level civil war going on between the Shia majority, represented by the government of PM Maliki, and the Sunni minority in the western province of Anbar. Recently the Sunni extremists of al Qaeda affiliated groups such as the al Nusrah Front took over the city of Falluja and caused ca. 140,000 refugees to flee the fighting that is still continuing. Last Thursday a group of 6 suicide bombers captured a building of the Transportation Ministry in Baghdad and held it for several hours. Several of them detonated their explosive vests and altogether 9 security personnel were killed. These kind of attacks are typical of al Qaeda and are part of the Sunni campaign to undermine and replace the Shia-dominated Iraqi Government.

The civil war in Syria is now three years old and over 130,000 people have reportedly been killed, as well as an estimated 14,000 people held in the Assad regime's jails and millions of displaced persons within Syria and 5 million refugees in the surrounding countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. The Sunni extremists in the Assad opposition in Syria and the Maliki opposition in Iraq have joined forces with the intention of establishing a Sunni Islamist State in the heartland of the Arab world called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They may never achieve this goal, but they will cause enormous suffering and destruction in the process of tryigng to do so. If they do set up such an Islamic State this will mean serious problems for Israel down the road. But, for now we have to contend with the threat of Iran, our common Shia enemy.

Egypt is in the process of being returned to the status quo ante, a military regime with a strongman as President, al-Sisi in place of Mubarak. Even if al-Sisi is far from the democrat the Obama Administration would prefer, he is a convenient ally for Israel. He is not only decimating the Islamist Moslem Brotherhood, but he is also fighting the Islamists in Sinai and their Hamas supporters in Gaza. Today two missiles were fired at Eilat from Sinai. One fell harmlessly and the other was intercepted by the Iron Dome battery stationed near Eilat. Hopefully in time the Egyptian Army will bring this area under control and the terrorist threat to Israel will diminish.

We are left with Lebanon, that is being further and further dragged into the Syrian maelstrom and Jordan, that is inundated with Syrian refugees and has a restive Palestinian majority. Can either of these artificial states last much longer, probably not. Meanwhile Israel should take no chances and prepare for the denouement as the Arab world unravels.


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