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Belmont Club

Eyes Both Closed

August 8th, 2012 - 10:23 am

Although the New York Times has optimistically described the incident as an opportunity for both Israel and Egypt to make common cause against Islamic militants, the attack on an Egyptian army base on Israel’s border, like the escalating Syrian civil war, is not only a warning that the foreign policy storm is coming. It suggests that it is here.

Egyptian jihadis based in the Sinai launched an attack on an Egyptian military base, killing at least 16 Egyptian soldiers and kidnapping a number of others. “Egyptian military sources told the Palestinian Ma’an news agency that the terror attack was carried out against a central army position near the Kerem Hashalom crossing, which is known by the soldiers as ‘Tahrir Square.’”

If the Egyptians were taken by surprise, the Israelis were not. “One of the vehicles, likely boobytrapped, exploded as it rammed through the Kerem Shalom crossing, which is shared by Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip. A number of terrorists succeeded in exiting the second vehicle before it was destroyed by an air strike. They crossed into Israel and engaged in a firefight with IDF troops.”

IDF sources said the attackers were probably Beduin residents of Sinai who were part of a larger global jihad terror cell based in the peninsula. Six terrorists were killed in the gunfight. …

The IDF said the attack was not connected to an Israeli air strike earlier in the day against a global jihad terror cell that was in the final stages of planning an attack against Israel and along the Egyptian border. The air strike killed one terrorist and seriously wounded another.

The Los Angeles Times, which also characterizes the attack as the new Egyptian president’s wake-up call, nevertheless points out the obvious. The struggle for Egypt has begun. It is between the “good guys” — the Muslim Brotherhood types like Morsi —  and the bad guys, who are far, far worse.

“The extremists have increased since the revolution. They have blown up the gas pipeline to Israel. They have targeted checkpoints and fought with the Egyptian army,” said Sallam. “They seem to have political aims but no one knows what they are. We are worried they could get stronger.” The escalation by militants is complicating the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty, a centerpiece of Middle East security since it was signed in 1979. The U.S. and Israel, which has hinted it may act unilaterally in Sinai to protect its security, have urged Egypt’s military and its new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, to rout the extremists.”

Either way, it is not going to be happy times for Israel. Trouble is brewing to the north as well. Michael Totten notes that Hezbollah’s position is crumbling in Lebanon. “It’s already starting to happen even while Assad is still standing.” Assad has been on the receiving end of the best insurgency that money can support. Gunmen have kidnapped visiting Iranians in the Syrian capital. Syria’s first astronaut has defected to Turkey. Even Syria’s prime minister has defected to Jordan. He said:

“I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution,” Hijab said in a statement read in his name on Al Jazeera television.

To add insult to injury, the Syrian rebels have blown up the government TV station in downtown Damascus.  It’s all being orchestrated, according to the BBC, from that secret base inside Turkey described in earlier posts. “Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also reported to be providing assistance for what has been described as a secret nerve centre for military aid and communications for the Syrian rebels. This is reported to have been set up in Adana.”

And it’s not just Alawite vs. Sunni any longer. According to NBC News, Syria is now about “Londoner versus Londoner.” “A British photojournalist has described the terrifying week he was held captive by radical Islamist militants in Syria, where he and another photographer constantly feared for their lives at the hands of ‘disenchanted’ young Britons.” I think the word they are looking for in place of “disenchanted” is “Islamist.”

But as is usual in these cases, to every action there is an opposite reaction. Iran, according to the Daily Caller, “is preparing for a direct attack on Saudi Arabia should Syria’s Bashar Assad be in danger of falling to rebel forces that the Islamic regime believes are being supported by the Arab kingdom, according to a source within Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Iran also blames the Saudis for unrest in two of its provinces.”

“Dozens of Iranian ballistic missiles have been preprogrammed to hit Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia,” the source said. “Qatar will also be hit at the same time as it is directly involved with the events in Syria.”

And Syria is definitely feeling the crunch. The Washington Post reported that “Syria reached out to its powerful ally Russia on Friday, as senior officials pleaded with Moscow for financial loans and supplies of oil products — an indication that international sanctions are squeezing President Bashar Assad’s regime.” The most urgent need was for gasoline, according to Wired. “On Friday, Syria secured a crucial oil deal with Russia. Under the deal, Russia will ship refined gasoline to fuel-starved Syria. In exchange, the Syrian regime will ship unrefined crude oil to Russia.”

The reason for Syria’s economic troubles is Assad’s lack of extensive oil refineries. An oil pipeline to one refinery was blown up in January, and his regime has been choked by U.S./European Union sanctions. With as much as an estimated one-third of the regime’s budget coming from crude exports, Assad’s ability to pay his bills — and import refined gasoline to fuel his army — had been pauperized. Assad was forced to rely in part on the occasional Venezuelan tanker ship. “We need oil, oil products,” said Qadri Jamil, Syria’s deputy prime minister for economics. “Shortages of these materials are making the situation in the country difficult.”

The Libyan intervention, which was carried out in the name of the “responsibility to protect” civilians, has opened a Pandora’s box. A Harvard study claims that it has unleashed thousands of weapons upon the innocent. “Abandoned weapons that were once part of toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi’s arsenal pose an ongoing and serious threat to civilians in Libya, warned a report published by Harvard University on Thursday.”

“These weapons may have been abandoned, but their ability to harm civilians remains intact,” said Bonnie Docherty, leader of the research team sent to Libya by Harvard Law School and partner organisation CIVIC.

Weapons left behind after last year’s conflict range from bullets and mortars to torpedoes and surface-to-air missiles, creating an “explosive situation” in a country with a weak central government, the report said.

“The sheer scale of weapons here is shocking,” co-author Nicolette Boehland told AFP in Tripoli.

An administration which pursues gun control at home in the name of public safety has so far succeeded in unleashing thousands of weapons in Mexico, Libya, and now Syria — an irony only matched by Rudy Giuliani’s observation that the idea that Obama is a friend of the Jewish state is “the biggest joke” he’s ever heard.

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