Big Media Confirms Foreign Jihadis Among Syrian Rebels

Israel and the Palestinians

White House press secretary Jay Carney refused to identify Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while sparring with reporters.

Michael Totten: Michael Totten responds from common sense:

I can understand why Carney sighed when he first heard the question and preferred not to answer. He doesn’t want Arab governments to have a conniption fit.

The problem, though, is that he is enabling delusional rejectionists. It’s always easier in the short run to let self-destructive beliefs and behavior go unchecked, but it always makes the problem worse in the long run.

And Elliott Abrams reacts from a more political angle:

I have always found it odd that administration after administration calls this a “final status issue.” At worst for Israel, a return to the 1949 armistice lines would leave Israel in full control of west Jerusalem, where its government institutions are located: the Knesset, courts, ministries, and prime minister’s office. Whatever the disposition or division of the Old City, the Palestinian claim does not involve west Jerusalem. It is therefore bizarre that we refuse to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, even if we feel obliged to say that the final borders of the city remain to be negotiated or that parts of the city are also claimed by Palestinians for the capital of an eventual Palestinian state.

The problem with AP reports like this is that they’re based on anonymous sources, and the Israeli government has no choice but to deny the allegations. In the interests of transparency, AP should at least shed light on why the CIA’s former Tel Aviv station chief is raising the issue now.

US Sees Israel, Tight Mideast Ally, As Spy Threat

Robert Fisk has some harsh words for Europe’s supporters of the Palestinians. Shout it from the rooftops:

Then, of course, there’s us, our dear liberal selves who are so quick to fill the streets of London in protest at the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians. Rightly so, of course. When our political leaders are happy to condemn Arabs for their savagery but too timid to utter a word of the mildest criticism when the Israeli army commits crimes against humanity – or watches its allies do it in Lebanon – ordinary people have to remind the world that they are not as timid as the politicians.

But when the scorecard of death in Syria reaches 15,000 or 19,000 – perhaps 14 times as many fatalities as in Israel’s savage 2008-2009 onslaught on Gaza – scarcely a single protester, save for Syrian expatriates abroad, walks the streets to condemn these crimes against humanity. Israel’s crimes have not been on this scale since 1948. Rightly or wrongly, the message that goes out is simple: we demand justice and the right to life for Arabs if they are butchered by the West and its Israeli allies; but not when they are being butchered by their fellow Arabs.

FYI, the PA’s Arafat inquiry bumbles on.

Iranian Atomic Urgency

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s in Israel discussing the Iranian threat with Jerusalem officials. Take your pick of NY Times or Washington Post coverage.

The Prime Minister’s office denied a Haaretz report (paywall) that US national security advisor Thomas Donilon presented Benjamin Netanyahu with contingency plans for an attack on Iran.

Columnist Ron Ben-Yishai (YNet) argues that the pace of Iran’s uranium enrichment will make it possible for the mullahs to have a nuclear bomb by the end of 2014.

Arab Spring Winter

Big media finally gets first-hand confirmation of foreign jihadis in Syria — by two Western journos who were held captive by them for a week. McClatchy News writes:

Jeroen Oerlemans, a Dutch freelance photographer, told the NRC Handelsblatt newspaper that he and British photographer John Cantlie were held for a week by the group, which they accidentally encountered after they’d crossed into Syria surreptitiously from Turkey.

Oerlemans said the group of about 20 included a Pakistani who spoke English and “a number of Africans” and “many Central Asians.” He described them as “foreign jihadists.” . . .

In the days they were held, Oerlemans said, they met other foreign combatants. “We met many combatants who spoke good English, some with Birmingham accents,” he said, referring to the British city that has a large immigrant population. “They see Syria as the last battlefield. But first Assad must be toppled. So they fight against the same opponent as the Free Syrian Army, only with a different purpose. As soon as Assad has fallen, these fighters want to introduce Islamic law, Sharia, in Syria.”

The CIA’s catch-up on who the Syrian rebels are is also turning up more info about Islamists among the rebels. Don’t expect a secular Sunni state to emerge the day after Bashar Assad is toppled, writes YNet columnist Alex Fishman:

One of the products of CIA collection efforts is a problematic opinion about the rebels. Firstly, says the spy agency, the number of rebels is smaller than what is perceived in the West. Secondly, the rebel leadership was massively infiltrated by radical Muslim Brotherhood elements. Some of the rebels have a radical agenda, both politically and religiously, which is incommensurate with what someone in the White House thinks . . .

And so, while the White House is trying to cultivate a group of states that would endorse the new Syria, CIA officials warn: Not only will there be no new, modern Syria, there is a chance it will be a very old Syria, similar to the current Egyptian model or to the Iraqi model, where nobody knows who controls what. The states who offer financial and military support to the rebels have no idea who they’re supporting.

Today’s NY Times made a similar discovery. It seems the CIA, NYT and the rest of the Big Media are figuring out what the Russians knew all along.

Documents obtained by the Washington Post show how Syria — with Iranian help — managed to expand its chemical weapons program.

As recently as 2010, documents show that the European Union provided $14.6 million in technical assistance and equipment, some intended for chemical plants, in a deal with the Syrian Ministry of Industry. Diplomats and arms experts have identified the ministry as a front for the country’s chemical weapons program.

Meanwhile, Syria’s foreign minister visits Iran for “consultations.” LA Times coverage.

Worth reading: Sharif Nashashibi (The Guardian) examines the dilemmas of the Palestinian position on Bashar Assad.

Sinai-based jihadis released a video of its June cross-border attack. Reuters/Haaretz has the video and backstory.

Rest O’ the Roundup

Tzipi Livni

Tzipi Livni makes the most articulate case I’ve seen for labeling Hezbollah as a terror organization. After the EU conferred legitimacy on Hezbollah because it is a political party, Livni writes in the Times of London (paywall):

Democracy is not merely a technical matter of elections; it is a set of values. Anyone who rejects these values cannot be allowed to exploit the democratic method for his own gain. The basic starting point of democracy is the rule of law — and the state retaining the exclusive monopoly on the legitimate use of weapons. Hezbollah is a militia armed by Iran and Syria. No democracy could reasonably define an armed militia as a political party.

Europe has learnt to protect itself by having in place constitutional rules that mean only groups that accept democratic values and reject violence can have a role in governing. This is true in Spain, which bans parties from standing in elections because of their support of violence. It is also true for Israel, which has disqualified a far Right racist party from fighting elections. Sinn Fein had to repudiate violence before it could enter power. The same should be demanded of everyone. What applies in Europe must also apply to the turbulent region in which Israelis live. Otherwise this violence will become, as we have witnessed before, the lot of the entire world.

The desire of terror groups to wield political influence can be channelled to moderate them. But moderation will come only if the international community forces them to choose between violence and legitimate power.

Hezbollah released a video of its 2006 kidnapping of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. But why now? The Independent sums up my thinking:

Analysts in Israel and Lebanon suggested the timing of the video release had less to do with heightened tensions between the Shia Muslim guerilla group and Israel, than with the overshadowing of Lebanese domestic politics by the Syrian civil war. Hezbollah has come under increasing pressure ahead of Lebanese elections scheduled for next summer from anti-Syria politicians denouncing the group’s broad support for – and partial dependence on – the Syrian regime during its violent suppression of the 16 month uprising.

  Judge for yourself: The Atlantic talked to State Dept. officials about Israel’s exclusion from U.S.-sponsored Global Counter-Terrorism Forum.

A staff-ed in The Economist weighs in on the haredi/army controvery. Without commenting on the ruckus myself, I have to say that only a British newspaper would support it for this reason:

Once the haredim have to shoulder their fair share of the burden of continued conflict, their enthusiasm for peace might grow: which would be a further benefit for their countrymen, and the region.

The news industry’s traditional financial model was for advertising to effectively subsidize news. But with advertising revenue down and new technology forcing Big Media to develop a new financial model, it was just a matter of time till we saw headlines like these (via Romenesko)

  1. The New York Times is Supported by Readers, Not Advertisers
  2. Financial Times digital subscriptions surpass print circulation globally

(Image of Livni via YouTube/worldjewishcongress)

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