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President Assad Boasts of ‘Foiling’ Western Plots against Syria

August 20, 2017 Peace and Conflict

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is feeling good. Assad (right) shakes hands with former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left). Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is feeling confident these days—at least publicly—as he boasted on Sunday that his country “managed to foil the Western project” in that country’s civil war. Assad was further quoted by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) as claiming in a speech there was a West-driven “media and psychological war” against Syria that intended to affect their war with terrorism or “push us towards fear and hesitation.” He indicated that defining the conflict as a “civil war” is part of that Western plot.

The dictatorial Syrian regime has long claimed that their enemies in the civil war aren’t legitimate rebels seeking freedom for Syrians but terrorists. While some terror groups, such as ISIS, have eventually sought a foothold in Syria, reports have indicated that the Syrian regime has attacked their own civilians to put down the rebellion. Hundreds of thousands have died in the conflict, which originated with peaceful protests as part of the broader Arab Spring revolutions.

Despite his bravado, Assad said that the supposed battle with the West is not over. However, while Assad is claiming progress toward victory over the West, the United States is publicly saying they don’t want to rule Syria. … Continue Reading

Trump ‘Optimistic’ as Envoys Seeking Middle East Peace Return to Region

August 13, 2017 Peace and Conflict

Trump feeling good about Middle East peace prospects. U.S. President Donald Trump (left) meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right). Illustrative. Photo courtesy of Kobi Gideon (GPO)

The American envoys working to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are heading back to the region soon, and United States President Donald Trump is “optimistic.” That characterization of President Trump’s feelings on the situation came from the Twitter feed of one of the envoys, Jason Greenblatt, who said he would be joined by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell. “I look forward to returning to the Middle East soon with Jared Kushner & Dina Powell as we pursue peace,” tweeted Greenblatt last week.

Israel is looking ahead as well. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in comments to the Israeli cabinet released by his office, noted that the envoys are coming soon “in an effort to advance the peace process. Of course, we will welcome them as always.” The upcoming American visit follows the Temple Mount crisis in which Arab terrorists killed two Israeli policemen, and then Arabs protested the Israeli set up of metal detectors at the Temple Mount entrance to prevent future attacks. Israel eventually took down the metal detectors.

However, rather than shy away from talks now, Trump sees this as an “opportunity” according to The Times of Israel. … Continue Reading

US Calls for Tougher Enforcement against Hezbollah ahead of UN Mission Renewal

August 8, 2017 Peace and Conflict

UN headquarters. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

The United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon may be overseeing over a decade of general calm, but the United States isn’t content with the effort to truly keep the peace. In particular, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley highlighted Hezbollah’s arms buildup, which is in violation of the U.N. Resolution that ended the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war. She said she agreed with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres that they want the efforts of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to be enhanced to “prevent the spread of illegal arms in southern Lebanon.”

Said Ambassador Haley in comments released by her office, “These arms—which are almost entirely in the hands of Hezbollah terrorists—threaten the security and stability of the region. UNIFIL must increase its capacity and commitment to investigating and reporting these violations. The United States will continue to raise the threat posed by Hezbollah as we seek significant improvements to UNIFIL when the Security Council renews its mandate this month.” … Continue Reading

Israeli Police Meet with Arab Authorities to Discuss Cooperation Despite Low Turnout

August 7, 2017 Peace and Conflict

Israeli President Rivlin hosts meeting between Israeli Police and Arab leaders. Photo courtesy of Mark Neiman (GPO).

If Arabs and the Israeli Police don’t communicate effectively, it’s certainly not due to Israel not trying. Recently, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin hosted a meeting between Israeli Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh and Arab local leadership to discuss cooperation between the Police and Arabs and “to examine ways to advance the common issues and concerns,” according to a press release from Rivlin’s office.

However, the number of Arab leaders who attended fell short of Rivlin’s hopes. “I am very sorry that many of the council heads who wished to arrive did not come due to various pressures,” said Rivlin. “It is a shame, because we are destined to live together and we have to find a way to promote this understanding inside all of us.”

The meeting comes against the backdrop of tensions between Israel and the broader Arab community following a terror shooting committed by Arabs in the Temple Mount area that killed two Israeli policemen. In response, Israel set up metal detectors at the main entrance to the Temple Mount complex, but later removed them after outraged Arabs protested and the greater Arab world turned it into an international incident. And much as the recent police meeting was under-attended by Arab leaders, so too were condemnations of violence lacking from Arab leadership, lamented Rivlin. … Continue Reading

Top European Court Upholds Terrorist Designation for Hamas

July 30, 2017 Peace and Conflict

Hamas has fired thousands of rockets at Israel over the years, among other acts of terror. Illustrative photo of spent Rockets fired from Gaza. By Joshua Spurlock.

Europe’s most powerful court last week overturned a decision to annul the European Union’s designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization. The Independent reported that the European Court of Justice dismissed a decision from a lower court that argued the designation needed to be the result of an independent European investigation and had strictly been based on news reports and the internet.

The ECJ instead noted that simply an “ongoing risk” of terrorist activities was required to be on the terror list and that the EU did not need to do it’s own investigation. Not that that would have been too difficult. Hamas has launched thousands of rockets at Israel, claimed credit for suicide bombings and kidnappings in a period spanning multiple decades. The United States—which also designates Hamas as a terrorist organization—applauded the European court’s decision.

A statement from the U.S. State Department on the court action noted that Hamas “remains engaged in terrorist activity.” Despite a change in leadership at Hamas, the U.S. not only remains troubled by the organization, but the new leader only underscores those concerns given that he too has been designated as a terrorist by the U.S. The State Department statement said, “Hamas’s election of Yehya Sinwar as their political leader in Gaza earlier this year illustrates that the organization remains a terrorist threat. Sinwar is a hardline military commander.” … Continue Reading

United States Slams Hezbollah as Dangerous to Lebanon, Israel, Region

July 25, 2017 Peace and Conflict

U.S. Ambassador the U.N. Nikki Haley. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Mission to the UN

Hezbollah likes to present themselves as the defender of the Lebanese people, and the United States not only disagrees but sees them as a serious threat to their own people. U.S. President Donald Trump, in a press briefing on Tuesday with Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri, called Hezbollah a “menace to the Lebanese state, the Lebanese people, and the entire region.”

Trump, whose comments were posted to the White House website, went on to accuse Hezbollah of actions that threaten a new war with Israel and blamed them for enflaming the devastating Syrian civil war. And Hezbollah certainly isn’t doing it for Lebanon. “With the support of Iran, the organization is also fueling the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria,” said Trump of the terror organization whose militias are fighting for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. “Hezbollah likes to portray itself as a defender of Lebanese interests, but it’s very clear that its true interests are those of itself and its sponsor—Iran.”

Another American official also took time to warn the powerful U.N. Security Council of the dangers of Hezbollah and contrasted the United Nations’ relaxed approach to the terrorist organization with their obsession over Israel. … Continue Reading

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