Micah on the Middle East
Thursday June 27, 2013
Vedomosti is the Russian business daily. AFP (Agence France Presse) ran a piece citing Vedomosti that took me by surprise. In fact, I find it hard to imagine that the report is correct.
It said that Russia was packing up and leaving Syria. That they are only going to be leaving 3 to 5 war ships in Tartus, the Russian naval base in Syria.
The newspaper claims that there are no longer any Russian military personnel on the ground in Syria and that the Naval facility is operating on a skeleton crew.
The paper clarified that the number does not count the Russian technical advisers.
The reason it is so hard for me to believe this story is that Russia does not want that their $3 to 4 billion naval facility to fall into the hands of the rebels --- especially the al Qaeda rebels. They will do anything to make certain that does not happen.
That said, 5 warships can easily include the Russian aircraft carrier which is a mini air force and army all by itself. There is no doubt in my mind that Russia will not, at this stage, pack up and leave. There is too much at stake. If they were going to leave they would be doing so in order to throw a bone to the United States.
There is no way that Russia will leave Syria at this point. I need to find other substantial and reliable sources to confirm this story.
Wednesday June 26, 2013
The United States and Russia really want to have a conference to solve the crisis in Syria. But they cannot agree on so many items, that their 5 hour meeting about the meeting ended as a dismal failure.
The US and Russia could not even agree on the date and the timing of a meeting. And they could not agree on who should attend the meeting.
Who should attend is the biggest bone of contention.
Should Iran come? Russia says yes, the US says no. Russia is one of the most important players influencing what happens on the ground in Syria, but should their desire take precedence over the desire of the United States?
And they could not agree on who would represent the rebels.
This is a classic example of "hand tied diplomacy." The hands of both parties are tied, now they must return home to get a better understanding of the flexibility of their country regarding these critical issues. So they agreed to meet again in order to meet again.
In the end, the next meeting will probably not result in a conference. The tide has changed in Syria and by the time the US and Russia resolve their issues, Assad will be well on his way towards wiping out the rebels. In the end, a US/Russia conference on Syria will be a moot point.
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Tuesday June 25, 2013
The quiet lull that had settled in between Gaza and Israel has been broken.
A series of rockets has been launched from Gaza into Israel. Some of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile triangulation system. But others fell on Israel's border communities.
The Israeli air force struck back, hitting launch sites and weapon storage caches inside Gaza.
It is clear that the shooters were not Hamas - the relative quiet/lull was broken by the Islamic Jihad. But Hamas is in charge of Gaza. Islamic Jihad is the second largest group.
What was Islamic Jihad's motivation? They risk an internal conflict with Hamas.
It all has to do with Syria.
Hamas has called for and is supporting the rebels and Islamic Jihad is supporting the Assad regime. Iran has withdrawn its support for Hamas but it is definitely still supporting Islamic Jihad.
This internal tension is extremely important to understand. Islamic Jihad is preening for Iran. Islamic Jihad is clearly illustrating to Iran that Hamas is not - I repeat, is not - totally in charge in Gaza and that Iranian agenda can be put into play in Gaza for the right amount of money.
If Hamas wishes to survive this internal dispute they have one option: they must crush the Islamic Jihad.
If Islamic Jihad persists in their rocket attacks into Israel I expect Hamas to crack down very hard and eliminate the ability of their foe to challenge Hamas on the local and the regional scene.
If Israel ends up being the beneficiary of this in-fighting, so be it.