Israel has bombed Iranian-backed militias in Syria — Netanyahu

A man watches a presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the International Homeland security Forum in Jerusalem on June 14, 2018. (AFP / THOMAS COEX)
Updated 15 June 2018
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Israel has bombed Iranian-backed militias in Syria — Netanyahu

  • Netanyahu accused Iran, which has been helping Damascus beat back a seven-year-old rebellion, of bringing in 80,000 Shiite fighters from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to mount attacks against Israel and “convert” Syria’s Sunni majority.
  • About half Syria’s pre-war 22 million population has been displaced by the fighting, with hundreds of thousands of refugees making it to Europe.

JERUSALEM: Israel has attacked Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, casting such actions as potentially helping to stem a Syrian Sunni refugee exodus to Europe.
Israeli officials have previously disclosed scores of air strikes within Syria to prevent suspected arms transfers to Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah guerrillas or Iranian military deployments.
But they have rarely given detail on the operations, or described non-Lebanese militiamen as having been targeted.
Netanyahu accused Iran, which has been helping Damascus beat back a seven-year-old rebellion, of bringing in 80,000 Shiite fighters from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to mount attacks against Israel and “convert” Syria’s Sunni majority.
“That is a recipe for a re-inflammation of another civil war — I should say a theological war, a religious war — and the sparks of that could be millions more that go into Europe and so on ... And that would cause endless upheaval and terrorism in many, many countries,” Netanyahu told an international security forum.
“Obviously we are not going to let them do it. We’ll fight them. By preventing that — and we have bombed the bases of this, these Shiite militias — by preventing that, we are also offering, helping the security of your countries, the security of the world.”
Netanyahu did not elaborate. About half Syria’s pre-war 22 million population has been displaced by the fighting, with hundreds of thousands of refugees making it to Europe.
Syria’s population is mostly Sunni Muslim. President Bashar Assad is from the Alawite religious minority, often considered an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Under recent deals between Assad’s government and mainly Sunni rebels, insurgents have left long-besieged areas sometimes in exchange for Shiite residents moving from villages surrounded by insurgents.
The political opposition to Assad says the deals amount to forced demographic change and deliberate displacement of his enemies away from the main cities of western Syria. The Damascus government says the deals allow it to take back control and to restore services in the wrecked towns.


War on militants ‘won’t end unless West tackles root causes’

Daesh militants wave flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq. (AP)
Updated 15 December 2018
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War on militants ‘won’t end unless West tackles root causes’

  • Driven from lands it once held sway over in Syria and Iraq, Daesh has returned to its origins as an underground militant outfit
  • “Beyond the tactical victories on the ground, the current strategy is failing”

WASHINGTON: Western powers fighting militant groups around the globe are condemned to a never-ending battle if they only tackle the symptoms and not the underlying causes of militant insurgency, experts say.

“Beyond the tactical victories on the ground, the current strategy is failing,” said Katherine Zimmerman, who wrote a recent report for the American Enterprise Institute.

“Every soldier and intelligence analyst that has worked on this problem understands what is happening,” Zimmerman told AFP.

“They understand that what they are doing is a temporary solution. It’s ending the immediate threat but not stabilizing or moving us forward. The problem comes down to policy and politics,” she noted.

“It’s easy to say, ‘We’re going to kill the person responsible for making the bomb.’ It is much more difficult to say that our partner government has disenfranchised this group and it’s one of the reasons why this person joins the terrorist group. And now he is the bomb maker.”

Driven from lands it once held sway over in Syria and Iraq, Daesh has returned to its origins as an underground militant outfit because the conditions that spawned it — a deep discontent among most Iraqis and Syrians — have persisted, experts say.

“The West is on the road to winning all the battles and losing the war,” warned Zimmerman.

In a report last month on the resurgence of Daesh as a clandestine guerrilla group, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that while the US and allied governments have weakened some groups like Daesh, “many of the underlying causes have not been adequately addressed.”

Those root causes include a “fragile state with weak or ineffective governing institutions” in areas affected by militant activity, where the extremists can establish a sanctuary, the CSIS experts said.

They took maps showing areas where Al-Qaeda and Daesh were active and compared them to maps displaying “government effectiveness,” based on World Bank statistics.

The result was clear: Most of the countries where the insurgents are active — Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia — are also in the bottom 10 percent for government effectiveness.

At a conference this week in Washington, retired Marine Gen. John Allen — who once commanded US forces in Afghanistan and now heads the prestigious Brookings Institution — said the West had to get ahead of the issue and ask, “Where should we be looking for the next problems?”

“We should spend a great deal more time looking at those areas that are in fragile or failing states,” said Allen, who also served as presidential envoy to the international coalition battling Daesh.

“We have to recognize the hotspots where the human condition prompts the radicalization of large sectors of the population,” he added.

“Often we join the conversation when the process of radicalization has been in place for quite a long time.”

Allen noted that the problem is “a development issue, much more than a counter-terrorism issue.”