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Obama speaks again


Yedioth Ahronoth leads its Tuesday edition with a double murder in Lod, where a man stabbed his ex-wife and her new partner to death. Israel Hayom leads with Israeli reactions to an interview that U.S. President Barack Obama has given to Channel 2, which will be aired in full this evening. A preview of the interview was released yesterday allowing all of the newspapers to report on it and many politicians to respond.

Speaking to journalist Ilana Dayan, Obama said that the forthcoming agreement between the world powers and Iran is the best way to ensure that Tehran does not obtain nuclear weapons. According to Obama, an American military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would not dismantle Tehran's nuclear program. The interview comes less than a month before the deadline for signing the agreement on Iran's nuclear program and was filmed on Friday at the White House.

'I can I think demonstrate, not based on any hope but on facts and evidence and analysis that the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is a verifiable tough agreement. A military solution will not fix it, even if the United States will participate, it would temporarily slow down an Iranian nuclear program, but it will not eliminate it,' said Obama.

In the interview, Obama touches on Israeli-American relations, the apparent tension between himself and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as many other subjects. Obama was asked if he is concerned that because of the deal, Israel might strike Iran's nuclear facilities without notifying the U.S. ahead of time. 'I won't speculate on that,' said Obama, adding, 'what I can say is to the Israeli people, I understand your concerns and I understand your fears.'

In response to Obama's comments, unnamed government officials told Israel Hayom that, 'the U.S. president is determined to reach a bad deal with Iran. It appears that the agreement with Iran will be signed, because the American president is interested in the agreement,' the sources said.

Elsewhere, Israeli officials – past and present – have been speaking about the situation on the northern border. Haaretz's lead headline quotes deputy IDF chief Yair Golan as saying that the defense establishment has started keeping an even closer eye on Syria’s civil war, because of growing assessments that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is having trouble repelling the rebel onslaught and is rapidly losing its grip on some of the areas still under its control. 'De facto, the Syrian army has ceased to exist,' Golan said Monday.

According to Golan, the Israeli defense establishment believes Hizbollah suffered at least 80 fatalities in the past month’s battles in the Qalamoun Mountains, on the Syria-Lebanon border. 'This isn’t a good moment – not for Hizbollah, not for Assad and not for Iran in Syria,' one defense official said on Monday. He added that the Assad camp faces a dilemma over whether to continue fighting with the same intensity in the Qalamoun region, or to focus on defending the Alawite enclave and its major cities, Latakia and Tartus.

He added that Israel is currently trying to verify assessments that Hizbollah has lost about 1,000 fighters in Syria since the civil war began four years ago – significantly more than the 700 fatalities that had been the prevailing assessment until recently. He added that Hizbollah is using a wide variety of weaponry in Syria, including rockets and explosive-laden drones.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Monday that the chemical threat from Syria has plunged over the past year, according to Defense News reports. Speaking on day two of a five-day nationwide drill, Ya'alon said the chemical threat had dropped significantly as a result of international pressure to demilitarize Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. As evidence of the dwindled threat, and the relative success of a September 2013 agreement that led to the removal and destruction of declared Syrian stockpiles, Ya'alon cited recent use of chlorine bombs by forces loyal to Assad. 'The Syrian regime today uses against its citizens substances that are not exactly chemical weapons…which points to the fact that he [Assad] lost his ability to wage chemical attacks in the manner that he had in the past,' he said. Ya'alon added that the IDF would continue to train in the event it needed to face chemical weapons on the battlefield.

On a similar theme, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said that the threat to Israel from Hizbollah should not be underestimated. Barak, who gave a speech at Tel Aviv University marking the 30th anniversary of the IDF deployment in southern Lebanon, said that Israel has 'never had to cope with 100,000 rockets and we have not even begun to deal with their accuracy.' Accurate rockets, he said, 'are not 'more of the same' – they are something completely different.'

Finally, on the Palestinian front, the United States has not yet made a decision on what actions it will take regarding a UN resolution being worked on by France that would set a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Monday. Harf was asked in her daily briefing about comments made by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in an interview with The Washington Post. In that interview, Hamdallah said the French resolution was drafted in coordination with the United States, hinting Washington would not veto such a resolution. 'We’ve made no decisions with respect to action at the UN, and certainly not on a hypothetical resolution,' she replied.


OBAMA'S COURT JEWS: Writing in Israel Hayom, Haim Shine says that the Israeli left, the Israeli media and U.S. President Barack Obama's Jewish advisers are continuing with their efforts to overthrow the elected prime minister of the State of Israel.

"Channel 2's interview with U.S. President Barack Obama – which was previewed on our television screens last night and which will be aired in full this evening – proves that the good people at Israel's leading commercial channel are still very much part of the campaign to topple our right-wing government. Judging by the behavior of the editors and journalists employed by Channel 2, it seems clear that they do not believe that the election is over and they are still fully committed to damaging the prime minister; they want to portray him as someone who is fighting against the American president at the expense of the security and future of the State of Israel. This is a baseless and unfounded accusation, which uses falsehoods and manipulation.

Israeli citizens understand full well that Obama – from the moment that he assumed office – preferred to extend the hand of friendship to the Muslim world at Israel's expense. As he enters the final stretch of his presidency, he is doing the same thing by spearheading a dangerous agreement with Iran – once again at the expense of Israel's survival. Obama is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel; his main problem is that his court Jews are telling him that the right-wing government in Israel is dangerous, since it cannot be bowed, and that it would be better if Israel had a leftist government which would follow the orders of Haim Saban and Shimon Peres.

Throughout the Jewish people's 2,000 years of exile, there have been some who have earned the title 'court Jews.' Kings, counts and tyrants recognized the talents of the Jews and recruited them to their service, to act as their advisers. These court Jews dealt with monetary matters for their masters and sometimes were even sent on sensitive diplomatic missions. They were loyal servants to their masters; they were professional sycophants. Because of the concern of dual loyalty – to their non-Jewish master on the one hand and their Jewish brethren on the other hand – the court Jews were forced to identify completely with the former. After all, they were doing his bidding.

The phrase 'court Jews' has been replaced in the modern era with the phrase 'close adviser.' Barack Obama has surrounded himself with countless Jewish advisers: in the White House, the State Department, the media, secretive NGOs and overseas diplomatic missions. What all of these Jewish advisers have in common is a liberal and left-wing worldview. Their fundamental loyalty is to the interests of the United States. They cannot be blamed for this. After all, their salaries, their status and their position all come from the American taxpayer.

In their stupidity, these advisers are convinced that the citizens of the State of Israel are a bunch of politically primitive ignoramuses whose judgment is flawed and who don't know what's best for them. Like many others in history, they think that they can save the Israeli people from themselves. What they are willfully ignoring, however, is the fact that the Israeli people, in their wisdom, got together and decided in a democratic election that they have no interest in the second-hand views that Obama's advisers and the Israeli left are trying to sell them. The Jews returned home from exile so that we would not have to live in a situation whereby a foreign ruler tells us what to do.

Obama's advisers' main concern is the legacy of their president. Toward the end of his presidency, Obama is proving to be one of the weakest presidents of modern times. Under his leadership, the United States has become more of a paper tiger than ever before. The most powerful nation in human history is helpless in the face of terrorists riding in pickup trucks and armed with nothing more than machine guns. The Middle East is in chaos, Europe is unable to halt the spread of radical Islam, Ukraine is in flames – and yet Obama and his advisers are preoccupied with the downtrodden Palestinians.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is preventing Obama and his advisers from shaping the president's legacy. He is David to their Goliath. He refuses to shut up about the danger posed by Iran – a terrorist state which could obtain nuclear capability at any moment. Anyone willing to listen can hear how the Iranians are refusing to allow international inspection of their nuclear facilities – yet Obama and his advisers are determined to carry out their second great folly of the 21st century. The first, of course, was the United States' support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Obama and his Jewish advisers have blocked their ears, because the noise of reality was disturbing them. Instead of dealing with the charges against them, these condescending advisers describe Israelis as irrational. Thanks to the kind of rationality that they are proposing, the Jewish people have paid a terrible price throughout history. Instead of policy, the United States has vengefulness; instead of showing independence of leadership, Obama is collaborating with Channel 2 to undermine the elected prime minister of the State of Israel. Only the Americans seem to think that they have the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another country.

The voice of the Israeli electorate was heard loud and clear on March 17. Threats do not work on the Jewish people. As it says in the Book of Exodus, the more the Children of Israel were oppressed, the more they multiplied and grew."



PLAYING DIRTY: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Yoaz Hendel says that the real goal of the BDS movement is not to protest Israel's policies, but to protest Israel's existence – and that, in this struggle, Israel's enemies have no moral compunction about inventing false accusations.

"In June 2, 1964, at one of the most beautiful spots in Jerusalem – the Seven Arches hotel on the Mount of Olives – the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded by Ahmad Shukeiri. This is a date that we should remember well when discussing the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS). Three years before the occupation of Judea and Samaria. Three years before Israel became – as some people claim it is – the root cause of all instability in the Middle East. Three years before the Palestinians, according to the anti-Israel narrative, became an oppressed people. The goal of the organization was to wage an armed struggle against the State of Israel. Not to establish an independent Palestinian state, but to annul the independent Jewish state that, against all the odds, survived its war of independence in 1948.

This story is the basis of the current struggle against the anti-Israel BDS movement. Anyone who thinks that the BDS movement was formed to protest Israeli policy is missing the point; the BDS movement is fighting against Israel's very right to exist.

The greatest problem with the BDS movement is that it is not waging an armed struggle against Israel; it is battling for hearts and minds. This is an asymmetrical war for public opinion, for legitimacy and for support. The weapon that the BDS movement uses is accusations of human rights abuses. Most of these allegations are groundless; some are simply imaginary. The frontline of this battle is in the West, in the family of liberal and democratic states to which Israel belongs.

The concept of an asymmetric war is used to describe a situation in which a large and powerful army is fighting against a guerilla army or terrorist groups. Israelis are all too aware that power has its limitations. We know that Hamas uses children and civilians as human shields. We know that the IDF will do everything in its power not to harm innocent bystanders. Terrorist organizations, in contrast, have no such rules and no moral limits. This is as true in warfare as it is for the BDS movement. It is a war in which there are no rules, in which morality plays no role and in which truth and falsehood are interchangeable.

Almost exactly 13 years ago, an Israeli drone spotted a staged funeral taking place in a refugee camp in Jenin. A perfectly healthy young Palestinian man, wrapped in a flag, was being 'laid to rest' while all around him people were wailing and mourning. The object was to create another indictment against Israel in the aftermath of Operation Defensive Shield. It was another ploy to try and convince the world that Israel committed a massacre. The façade was revealed when the 'mourners' dropped the 'dead man,' who quickly got to his feet and walked away. Dead man walking, indeed.

Following that incident, Mohammed Bakri released a wholly tendentious film called 'Jenin, Jenin,' in which he told the story of the alleged massacre. That movie was a hit among the BDS crowd. Similarly, in 2013, there were stories that Israel was committing genocide against the Bedouin in the Negev, whereas, in fact, the government merely passed a law which would have granted these communities official recognition by the state. In a similar vein, Yasser Arafat accused Israel of poisoning the Palestinian water supply and, after his death; his widow accused Israel of killing him. There are hundreds of other examples of lies that, for BDS supporters, have become the truth.

A democratic sovereign country cannot lie, cannot invent facts and cannot make assertions that it can't prove. Sometimes officials make mistakes and many times they don't tell us everything – but a country like Israel knows that there are limits and that, in the battle for public opinion, it cannot play dirty.

Paradoxically, the frontline of this war is manned by educated, liberal people who, in theory, have the capacity for self-criticism. Every year, on more than 160 university campuses across the world, students mark Israel Apartheid Week, where all the 'horrors' of Israel are put on display. Sometimes Israel is compared to Nazi Germany and sometimes it is merely accused of genocide.

The distance between invented accusation and taking action is a short one. In spring 2010, Berkeley became the first university where the student body tried to declare an official boycott of companies that trade with Israel. A year earlier, a Norwegian holding fund was the first to divest from an Israeli company. A pension fund followed suit and divested from Africa. Israel and a handful of performers who were afraid of Roger Waters' reaction cancelled their planned shows in Israel.

The success of the BDS movement is marginal in economic terms, but hugely significant in that it has created a virtual world in which good is evil and vice versa. Some of the people partnering these Palestinian organizations are Jews – Israelis even – who want to change Israel. They cannot see that the goal of the BDS movement is not to change Israel, but to destroy it. Israel isn't perfect. There are plenty of areas that need improvement. But the lies that are being told about Israel in order to delegitimize it are unacceptable. How can we counter these lies? First of all, by being aware of what is happening. And, just as importantly, by knowing our history."



UNWORTHY CITIZENS: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Ariela Ringel Hoffman arguers that Israelis who eschew the standard means of protesting government policy and instead advocate a boycott should have their citizenship revoked.

"I would support a proposal to revoke the citizenship of those Israelis who are spearheading the campaign to boycott the State of Israel. How can I justify this position? By using exactly the same argument that those who justify such activity employ. This justification can be summed up in one single sentence, which has become something of a cliché in Hebrew: If you can't get something done using force – use more force. Or, to put it another way: these boycotters, who live in glasshouses, have adopted stone-throwing as their principle strategy.

In democratic countries, there are many ways that citizens can promote their agenda. Politics is one of them – and it's one of the better ways, despite what we all think about the political process. But it's not the only way. There are other ways of influencing public opinion: mass protests, demonstrations, marches and rallies. Israel is no stranger to such public displays of dissent. Just a couple of years ago, a mass movement calling for social change came into existence and managed to change many things.

Boycotts are not part of the toolbox available to those who object to the policies and behavior of the government. Boycotts belong to a very different arsenal. They are not the product of criticism from someone who loves Israel and is trying to improve it through 'tough love.' Anyone who uses boycotts is not only guilty of changing the rules of the game, but of changing the whole game. He or she is removing himself from the democratic consensus of what constitutes a legitimate struggle.

It is true that revoking someone's citizenship is an extreme response by any state. And it is true that it is a measure that should be reserved for very rare cases and should be used with extreme caution. It is the kind of measure used when a state has no other way of expressing its disdain for a citizen who it wishes to expunge from its midst. But in the case of Israelis who advocate a boycott of their own country, the truth is that they have in any case switched sides. Anyone who is unwilling to take part in the genuine, long, exhausting struggle to change the character of their country by legitimate means is not worthy of holding the citizenship of that country."



STRANGLING GAZA: Writing in Calcalist, Danny Rubinstein says that unemployment – the result of blockades by Israel and Egypt – is intensifying the suffering of 1.8 million Gazans, who are still traumatized by last summer's war.

"According to a report published last week by the World Bank, which focused on the economy of the Gaza Strip since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, the unemployment rate there is among the highest in the world.

According to the report, unemployment reached a peak in the fourth quarter of last year, when 43 percent of Gazans were jobless. Another report, published by the London-based Portland Trust, says there was a slight dip in unemployment in the first quarter of this year, when the rate dropped to around 41.6 percent.

These reports paint a depressing picture of the standard of living in Gaza, where the population has risen by 230 percent since 1994, while per capita income has fallen by 31 percent. In addition, the manufacturing sector in Gaza has shrunk by 60 percent over the course of the past two decades, mainly due to a ban on exports.

According to the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in 2014, an average of just three trucks a week left the Gaza Strip carrying agricultural produce and locally manufactured goods. During the first half of 2007, an average of 240 trucks a week were allowed to leave Gaza. In the first few months of 2015, that figure rose to 18 trucks a week – half of them destined for the West Bank and the rest for overseas markets.

The World Bank points out that, while the number of Gazans employed in the manufacturing sector has plummeted, the number employed in the security forces has doubled. This statistic apparently includes the 20,000 Gazans who are employed by Hamas' security apparatus.

The only positive statistic in the World Bank report is related to progress in rebuilding homes. Some 80 percent of Gazans rely on humanitarian aid from various international organizations, primarily the United Nations. Much of their suffering is due to the poor public services provided by the Hamas government: electricity is only available for a few hours every day, the water supply is contaminated, the sewage system barely functions and there are not enough buildings for schools.

An acquaintance of mine – a Gaza-based lawyer – told me in a telephone conversation this week that, in the aftermath of last summer's war, almost all of Gaza's 1.8 million residents are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and do not believe that there is any hope for the future. Apart from exceptional humanitarian cases, the border crossings between Israel and Gaza are closed and relations between Hamas and Egypt are at a low ebb, following Cairo's decision to close the Rafah border crossing.

Both Israel and Egypt see Gaza as the epicenter of terrorist activity in the region and Hamas, which continues to rule there, as nothing more than a terrorist entity. There is a consensus among the international community, meanwhile, that unless the Gaza borders are reopened as part of some wider diplomatic agreement, the future holds nothing but more suffering for the civilian population there."



SHARED STRATEGY: Writing in Haaretz, Michèle Flournoy and Ilan Goldenberg say that the United States and Israel must renew engagement, and President Obama's speech at a Washington synagogue showed he's willing to reach out.

"U.S. President Barack Obama’s address last week to the Jewish community at a Washington synagogue is a signal that despite disagreements on Iran’s nuclear program, the president is reaching out to the Israeli government to find a way forward. With Israel’s election and government formation process complete, it is now time for a renewed engagement between the United States and Israel on a shared strategic agenda.

We do not believe it is possible to overcome all of the difficult policy and personal differences that exist between Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. But if the relationship remains as it is, it will hurt both Israel and the United States.

Both sides share common strategic interests in maintaining regional stability, countering terrorism and preventing proliferation. Both share a common history, based on 50 years of close collaboration, of being stronger and safer when they work together on issues of common concern, particularly in the defense and intelligence arenas. And perhaps most importantly, both states share common democratic values and cultures, which bind their people together.

To renew a shared strategic agenda, both leaders should privately pledge to each other to do no harm to the relationship. Netanyahu does not need to agree with Obama’s Iran policy. However, he should restrain himself in the American media and on Capitol Hill, particularly during the presidential campaign season. Politicizing the issue of support for Israel would undermine long-standing bipartisan support and would ultimately be disastrous for Israel.

For his part, Obama does not need to acquiesce to Netanyahu’s position on settlements or the two-state solution, but he should put an end to high-level leaks from the White House anonymously criticizing the Israeli prime minister.

The United States and Israel should reengage in a high-level, in-depth strategic dialogue on Iran. This discussion has never fully stopped, but it cannot be successful as long as the political relationship remains fraught.  Such an agenda should include developing a shared strategy and cooperative intelligence and defense activities to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, especially the threat posed by Hizbollah in southern Lebanon. It should also explore the details of how a nuclear deal with Iran would be implemented, how violations would be handled, and what could be done outside the framework to provide incentives for Iranian compliance.

During our time in government, we have both seen, in person, how helpful such a dialogue can be to Israeli and American officials. Israelis appreciate the greater clarity they gain about American plans and policies through this exchange, which helps them refine their own approach. Meanwhile, Israeli officials often play the valuable function of 'red-teaming' American policies and providing insights that improve American strategy.

The United States should also reengage Israel in deep consultations about future bilateral security cooperation and should offer a robust reassurance package to demonstrate its long-term commitment to Israel’s security. This commitment should include additional security assistance to turn the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system into a nationwide system that goes beyond addressing discrete threats. It should also include thickening Israel’s layered ballistic missile defenses in the face of increasingly sophisticated missile threats from Hizbollah.

The United States could also fast-track negotiations and an agreement on a new 10-year memorandum of understanding regarding American military aid to Israel. The agreement is due to be renewed in 2017, but bringing the date closer could send a clearer signal now.

The two states should also reengage in a deep consultative process on Israel’s qualitative military edge. This is particularly important in the wake of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit at Camp David, and the potential arms sales the United States may execute with its Gulf partners in the aftermath of the Iran nuclear agreement.

Finally, Obama and Netanyahu should each empower a senior official to lead efforts to strengthen U.S.-Israel channels and rebuild the relationship. These designated officials will have to be close to the leaders to bring credibility to the process, but both should be somewhat removed from the tensions that have plagued the relationship in recent months.

In the end, these steps will not fix all of the problems. Tensions will persist as long as Obama and Netanyahu continue to disagree on the right approach to Iran. And with a new right-wing coalition taking the reins of government in Israel, there is likely to be further tension between the United States and Israel when it comes to addressing the Palestinian issue.

But despite these challenges, both sides can, at a minimum, outline a common agenda that gets them working together again more closely on shared security challenges. Such an approach would be in the interests of both America and Israel."



HIZBOLLAH IN CONTROL: Writing on the website of the i24 television station, Yoav Stern asks whether the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will also be the death knell for Hizbollah.

"Hundreds of Hizbollah fighters have been killed in battles in Syria since the start of the civil war there in 2011. Thousands of the organization’s fighters, previously trained in guerrilla warfare against Israeli forces, are currently waging defensive battles to prevent wide swathes of Syria from falling into the hands of regime opponents, which are many and sundry.

Hizbollah fighters are deployed in Syria because the survival of Bashar al-Assad is good for the organization and constitutes a strategic asset for the Shiite axis of which it is a part. But contrary to last week’s declarations by Hizbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah does not really need Assad for its continued existence, and it is not under existential threat.

Hizbollah is not abandoning its front against Israel. One can learn a lot about Hizbollah’s state of readiness in southern Lebanon from the blitz of Arabic-language broadcasts on last week's 15th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal.

Since the round of direct fighting with Israel in 2006, Hizbollah has deployed forces in the villages of southern Lebanon, leading many Christians to abandon their homes. In other villages, the Shiite residents welcomed the organization. In yet other villages, the organization forced itself onto the local population.

The organization has built up an array of fortifications to enable it to surprise Israeli ground forces and attack them. According to some reports, the militants drilled a series of tunnels into the rock surface. The sounds of drilling were clearly heard above ground in Israel.

Hizbollah will take great pains to carry out the instructions of its leader, one of the greatest Arab orators around, that it conduct battles inside Israel's Galilee region. An Iranian and Syrian-supplied arsenal of some 100,000 rockets and missiles, with ranges covering Israel's entire territory, will be of great help in that regard.

The Shiite organization, with its headquarters in Beirut's southern neighborhoods, has turned the entire country into a broad base of operations. Over the past 20 years, with slow but determined steps, it has assumed control over all of the country's power centers. There was no one to stand in its way: not members of the other sects – the Christians who are divided among themselves, the Druze, the Sunni – and not other Shiite groups, either. None of these elements could stop Hizbollah from creating a state within a state, not even the allies of the other groups outside Lebanon.

The organization currently controls Lebanon's international airport in Beirut, as well as extensive areas that have de facto been expropriated from the state, which, in turn, has become a mere skeleton. Lebanon's army is nothing but a semblance of a regular military force, the security agencies have had their wings clipped, and state institutions are only providing limited services. The paralysis is so great, that Hizbollah and its allies have even been successfully torpedoing the appointment of the country's president, whose role is purely symbolic.

Hizbollah’s entrenchment is so deep that it can doubtless keep operating even without Syrian support. After all, what kind of support is Syria providing? This support consisted, first and foremost, of weapons transfers, but also financial aid, logistical and transportation support and help in internal Lebanese matters. Today, Syria is no longer able to help with most of these things, yet Hizbollah is thriving and its importance is growing. Even with Syria falling apart, Iran can still send weapons to Lebanon by air and sea without running into interference. Financially, there's of course no need for Syrian intermediaries to channel funds from Iran to Lebanon. True, Syria's arms industry was a considerable source of supply for Hizbollah, and much Syrian ammunition found its way to the mountains and hills of southern Lebanon, as well as to eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. But in any case, during direct clashes between Hizbollah and Israel, Syria conducted itself with great care.

So why does Hizbollah agree, nonetheless, to sacrifice its fighters on the Qalamoun range, in the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo and on the Syrian side of the Golan? That's because Hizbollah is the most significant strike force of the Shiite axis outside Iran. Assad's Syria provides a central link in this axis. Its fall into Sunni hands, whether those of the Islamic State or of various opposition forces (such as Jabhat al-Nusra, the Free Syrian Army and dozens of Sunni, Kurdish and Druze sects) would deal Iran and its allies a painful blow.

This does not mean that Hizbollah is not concerned. In addition to the deaths of its fighters in the Syrian arena, its militants are also deployed on the front lines of the fighting in Yemen, and in Iraq, where they are engaged in the eastern front battles against fighters of the Islamic State organization. Occasionally one hears, too, that another Hizbollah operative has been captured in some seemingly secondary arena in Asia, Europe and America, where the organization is trying to locate targets (mostly Jewish or Israelis).

This widespread deployment is straining the organization's capacity to its limits, but if it does not exhaust itself in Syria, the experience its soldiers are gaining there will only strengthen it."




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