The Palestinian governments in Gaza and the West Bank demanded that the Arab League denounce the recent peace deal between the UAE and Israel. The Arab League refused. At the same time Palestinians admitted that most Arab states had stopped providing financial support for the them. Left unmentioned was the reason why the Palestinians have lost the political and financial support of the Arab nations. It’s the corruption, lack of unity, and refusing to accept any peace deal with Israel that did not include the destruction of the state of Israel. The Arabs are tired of this mess and need Israel as an ally to deal with the growing threat from Iran.
In Lebanon Iran-backed Hezbollah is under growing threat from the Lebanese people and security forces. After decades of Iran sponsored intimidation, Lebanese are talking back and telling Hezbollah and Iran that Israel is not the enemy, Iran and its Lebanese followers are. A lot of those pro-Iran Lebanese were in it for the money and in the last year Iran has cut its cash contributions by more than half. This is because of an economic crisis back in Iran. It was discouraging for Iran when they realized how many supporters Hezbollah lost because Iranian payments had ceased.
The catalyst for the current anti-Iran movement was the August 4th explosion that obliterated the port of Beirut. Buildings were obliterated or badly damaged and windows blown out more than five kilometers from the explosions, which was later calculated to be equivalent to a 1.2 kiloton nuclear bomb. There was also a mushroom cloud characteristic of all large explosions, nuclear or conventional. Over 200 died and at least 6,000 were wounded, mostly by the flying glass. Israel immediately denied any involvement, followed by Hezbollah, which has been accused of storing rockets and other Iranian munitions in the port area. The cause of the huge explosion, which created a mushroom cloud from water and dust, was apparently the large quantities of explosive materials stored in the port area. One warehouse exploded and that set off others nearby, triggering a “slow” explosion that could be felt 25 kilometers away in the countryside. The main culprit turned out to be 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate explosives used for mining operations and left in a warehouse for seven years. Hezbollah insisted the explosion was not their fault but few Lebanese believed that and now there is more popular enthusiasm for confronting and disarming Hezbollah than ever before. Lebanese don’t want another civil war like the 1975-90 one, but don’t want Hezbollah anymore either.
The war in Syria should be over by now but it isn’t because the foreign factions, especially the Iranians and the Turks have unresolved issues. Iran is obsessed with destroying Israel and is not having much success at all. Turkey wants to eliminate Kurdish separatists (both Turkish and Syrian) from Syria and that is proving very difficult. The Americans want to keep ISIL down and support their Kurdish allies while Russia wants to prop up the Assad government in order to keep the airbase and port facilities arrangements, they have obtained from the Assads.
Which is the most dangerous faction in Syria? Probably Iran, which is becoming increasingly aggressive and desperate. Iran needs a win against Israel and all it is getting in Syria is an endless string of defeats. Because of the “death to Israel” obsession Iran is destroying its alliance with Turkey and Russia. Yet Iran is not the only one with an Israel obsession.
There are other sources of disagreement. Turkey, Iran and Syria are angry at Russia over the poor performance of Russian air defense systems. The Syrians frequently claim to have intercepted Israeli air-launched, often from inside Lebanon or Israel, missiles but the reality is that few of the Israeli missiles fail to hit their targets. Commercial satellite photos are available to determine damage and there is always a lot of it. Iran and Syria complain that the formidable Russian air defense system in Syria is not used to stop the Israelis. The Russians don’t want a fight with the Israelis, if only because the Israelis might publicly demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Russian air defense systems. These systems are a major export item for Russia and the Israelis could reduce those export sales with demonstrations of how Israelis get past the Russian air defenses. Iran offered to provide Syria with Iranian made air defense systems. That was not appreciated because the Iranian systems are seen as old tech and more propaganda than performance.
September 5, 2020: Israel revealed that it had arrested an Israeli Bedouin and nine of his family and charged them all with spying for Hamas. Some of those arrested were also charged with planning a bombing within Israel. This began in 2019 when one of the Bedouins was recruited by Hamas to gather information on Israeli military activities in the south, mainly the Negev desert where the Bedouin family lived. Smuggling has long been a popular Bedouin profession, aided by the fact many Bedouin families have members on both sides of the Israel/Egypt border. One of the arrested Bedouin had entered Gaza several times and in one visit was given bomb building training.
September 4, 2020: An American brokered peace deal between Christian Serbia and Moslem Kosovo in the Balkans includes both nations agreeing to move their Israel embassies to Jerusalem. Kosovo is the first Moslem majority nation to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem.
September 3, 2020: In central Syria, Israeli airstrikes again hit the T4 airbase in Homs province, as well as air defense systems outside Damascus and Iranian bases in eastern Syria. At least sixteen Iranians or Iranian mercenaries were killed. Israeli warplanes launch air-ground missiles while still in Israel or just across the Syrian border in areas not covered by Syrian air defenses. Syrian usually claims to intercept all these missiles but commercial satellite photos reveal that the Israeli missiles usually get through and inflict significant damage. The T4 airbase, i n central Syria near Palmyra, was hit by Israeli airstrikes several times in 2019, at least twice in 2020 and many more times in earlier years. The T4 airbase is the largest in Syria and Iran is building new structures for storing weapons and housing personnel. This is where Iran moved its UAV operations in 2018 after its original UAV base in Syria was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike. Meanwhile Israel is gradually destroying most of Syria’s SAM (Surface To Air Missile) capability.
The Persian Gulf Arab nation of Bahrain announced it would allow Israeli commercial aircraft to fly across Bahrain. Saudi Arabia has apparently agreed to do this as well.
September 1, 2020: In the south (Gaza) Hamas agreed to another ceasefire following three weeks of renewed Hamas attacks on southern Israel using fire balloons and rockets launched from Gaza. This led to dozens of Israeli airstrikes against terrorist facilities in Gaza. This ceasefire, like so many others, will probably not last long. As soon as Hamas needs another political distraction in Gaza, where Hamas is increasingly disliked and attacked by the population in general as well as smaller rival Islamic terror groups. Hamas declared victory because the ceasefire included Israel allowing more goods to get into Gaza, including fuel for the power plant. Hamas ignored the fact that their three-week balloon campaign delayed the restoration of more commercial traffic into Gaza.
August 31, 2020: In southern Syria Israeli aircraft used missiles to attack several targets, killing eleven people. It was later revealed that one of the dead was a civilian who died when their house was hit by a defective Syrian anti-aircraft missile. This was only the second Israeli airstrike for August in Syria. Syrians and Arab journalists in Syria report that the Israeli air strikes are doing serious damage to the Iranian efforts to establish a formidable military force in Syria. Israel attacks nearly all Iranian arms shipments entering Syria as well as many of the Iranian mercenaries, along with the smaller number of Iranian personnel. Commercial satellite photos show that the Syrian airbases Iran uses to fly in personnel and equipment are out of action most of the time because of the Israeli airstrikes and tend to get bombed again shortly after they are repaired.
August 30, 2020: In Egypt (Sinai) a 39-day anti-terrorist campaign concluded. The operations included raids on 317 locations and many of them did contain armed Islamic terrorists. Those battles left 77 terrorists dead. Seven soldiers were killed. Many of the 317 locations were storage sites for equipment and weapons. These were sized or destroyed on the spot. Many motorcycles and vehicles were destroyed, including 19 four-wheel drive models. During this time an airstrike in western Egypt destroyed nine four-wheel drive vehicles trying to smuggle weapons and ammo from Libya via unpopulated (and roadless) portions of the border. Egyptian aerial surveillance has been able, for several years now, to detect these desert convoys and provide target information for airstrikes. Ground troops are sent in, sometimes via helicopter, to search the disabled vehicles for useful information and any survivors.
In southern Israel (Gaza) Israeli firefighters reported that they were called to deal with 21 small brush fires ignited by dozens of Hamas fire balloons that blew across the border earlier in the day. In three weeks Hamas has released over a thousand fire balloons, although some of them carried small explosive devices and many were single balloons carrying a burning string or a lit cigarette. Less than half the balloons start fires or put explosives on the ground. Three weeks of this effort caused no casualties on the Israeli side but did keep firefighters, troops and civilians busy putting out all the small fires. The fires caused no property damage, just a lot of burned grass, brush and a few trees. An unknown number of the fire balloons landed in Gaza when the wind shifted unexpectedly. The unguided balloons cannot be controlled once they leave the ground.
August 29, 2020: Israel and the UAE are apparently planning to establish a joint ELINT (Electronic intelligence) operation on one of the Yemeni Socotra Islands. The main island is in the Gulf of Aden, 380 kilometers south of Yemen and 240 kilometers from the northeast tip of Somalia. The population is 60,000 and the island (and a few much smaller ones) lies within busy shipping lanes from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea. In early 2019 the Yemeni government accused the UAE of supporting southern separatists and continuing to expand its military presence and influence in Socotra Island. Yemen accused the UAE of seeking to support Socotra separatists, which were then few in number, to demand more economic links with and investment from the UAE. In early 2018 the UAE withdrew its troops from Socotra after having been there for two weeks. This brief “occupation” angered many Yemenis who felt the UAE was trying to annex Socotra. Saudi Arabia stepped in and agreed to take over the economic development program for Socotra which the Yemeni government saw the UAE turning into an effort to make Socotra economically and politically dependent on the UAE. The UAE has always been more aggressive in this regard. The UAE subsequently used massive economic investments and well-placed bribes to gain control of the Socotra Islands government. The ELINT facility keeps track of Iranian and Yemeni Shia rebel activity around the islands. This involves Iran smuggling weapons and other military gear to the Yemeni rebels.
August 28, 2020: In Egypt (Cairo) Moslem Brotherhood supreme leader Mahmoud Ezzat was arrested. The 76-year-old Ezzat has been a Brotherhood member since the 1960s. Egypt fears this latest arrest may prompt the Brotherhood to move their senior leadership to Turkey or Qatar, two nations that support the Moslem Brotherhood, especially the Egyptian branch. The Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 as a political movement stressing clean government and the use of Islamic law. That has not worked out. In mid-2012 Egyptian election officials declared Islamic Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi the new president. A week earlier the military commission (temporarily running Egypt) took away many powers from the president and transferred them to the military. The Egyptian military did not want a true democracy. It appears that the military, which took over as a "caretaker government" after long time “president-for-life” Mubarak was tossed out in 2011, was trying to get Mubarak cronies back into power. The military has long been known as just another part of the corrupt dictatorship, and many generals feared prosecution for that if a true democracy was established. The major rebel and reform groups ha d not decided what to do about this counter-revolution before t he newly elected Moslem Brotherhood president solved the “Mubarak cronies” problem in an unexpected way. Before president Mursi could go after Mubarak allies the Moslem Brotherhood radicals got violent in their demands that Egypt be ruled with Sharia (Islamic) law. That was what Saudi Arabia has used for decades but Sharia was very unpopular with most Egyptian voters. By 2014 angry voters had forced Mursi out and new elections put a former general (Sisi) into power. The Moslem Brotherhood once more became the enemy, except in Turkey, where a Moslem Brotherhood-like government had ruled Turkey since 2000 and had not had any problems with radicals. But Turkish voters were getting tired of their increasingly corrupt and inept Islamic government that seems to have declared just about everyone an enemy of Turkey.
Every time a moderate Moslem Brotherhood government gains power it fails because the radicals (there is always a radical faction) demand that an Islamic religious dictatorship be installed and this always triggers popular resistance. Iran wants a more “Islamic” government in Syria, which has long been a secular dictatorship led by the Shia Assad clan. The Assads always hated Islamic movements, be they Moslem Brotherhood or anything else with “Islamic” attached to it. One of those Egyptian radical factions, which went rogue in 1987, had established itself in Gaza as Hamas. In 2005 Hamas took over Gaza and turned it into a sanctuary for all many of Islamic terror groups including, by 2014, ISIL.
The Moslem Brotherhood hurt its reputation in the early 1990s when radical factions, frustrated at their inability to achieve peaceful reforms, turned to terrorism and were defeated after a bloody terrorism campaign failed. Two decades later the Islamic terrorists are again attacking the Egyptian economy, especially tourism which accounts for 11 percent of the GDP and provides jobs (directly or indirectly) for 12 percent of the work force. This time there are still radical factions of the Moslem Brotherhood but most of the damage was done by ISIL which continues to function in Egypt (especially Sinai) largely because there are so many potential recruits in Gaza. Sisi is still popular because he has managed to revive the flow of foreign tourists to Egypt and obtain foreign aid from Arab oil states (especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE).
August 27, 2020: In northwest Yemen an Iranian naval mine was found offshore by the naval blockade force. The rebels are trying to disrupt Red Sea traffic, which is essential for Saudi Arabian imports and even more critical for Egypt. Nearly 20,000 ships a year pass through the Red sea headed for the Suez Canal, which earns Egypt nearly $6 billion a year in transit fees. Naval mines have been put into offshore waters by Shia rebels before but so far none have succeeded in disrupting shipping.
August 26, 2020: In central Israel a local rabbi was killed by a Palestinian armed with a knife. The killer was caught and admitted that the murder was a terrorist act against Israel and Jews.
August 25, 2020: In the north (Lebanese border) someone on the Lebanese side fired at an Israeli patrol. There were no casualties and the Israelis carried out airstrikes on Hezbollah targets in the area. Hezbollah controls most of the Lebanese border with Israel, along with most of southern Lebanon.
Turkey does not seem to fear an Egyptian military response to their invasion of western Libya even though Egyptian forces are gathering at the Libyan border. The official Turkish view is that Egypt is a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudis Arabia and the UAE who have been backing the anti-Islamic terrorist/Moslem Brotherhood LNA in Libya for years. The Turks may underestimate the Arab hostility towards their aggression in North Africa. Iranian involvement is more recent and after the religious dictatorship took power in the 1980s Kaddafi was one of the few Arab rulers the Iranians could do business with. Because of that, Iranian interference is not welcome either.
August 24, 2020: In the south (across the border in Gaza) four Islamic Jihad terrorists died when a bomb they were building went off. One of the dead was known as an experienced bomb and rocket builder.
August 23, 2020: There was a tentative peace deal in Libya. LNA (Libyan National Army) supporters Egypt and the UAE praised the new agreement, as did the UN, which also demanded that all foreign troops leave Libya. That demand was mainly about the Turks who have no intention in leaving.
August 21, 2020: In Libya Turkey is negotiating with the GNA to obtain a 99-year lease on part of the port of Misrara for a naval base. Turkey is also seeking control of the al Watiyah airbase, which its forces already control. Al Watiyah air base is 135 kilometers southeast of Tripoli and controlled by the LNA until Turkish forces captured in May. Egypt and other North African countries oppose any Turkish bases in Libya, as do Italy, France and Spain. Turkey is also offering to make major economic investments in Libya and wants assurances that these investments would be protected. A Turkish military base in Libya would help with those security needs and would be staffed with Turkish, not mercenary troops.
August 20, 2020: In the West Bank a Palestinian man, trying to use a bomb against Israeli police, was killed by police after the bombing effort failed.
August 19, 2020: Israel revealed that it was using a new laser weapon to shoot down dozens of Hamas fire balloons before they could start fires in Israel. The laser weapon is very quick and accurate, destroying 90 percent of fire balloons (actually clusters of balloons carrying an incendiary device) within range. The main shortcoming of the laser weapon is short range of about 2,000 meters.
August 18, 2020: Egypt is organizing a military training program for a tribal coalition in eastern Libya. Some of the tribesmen will receive military training in Egypt. The ten Libyan tribes involved have ancient links with Egypt and some of the tribes straddle the border. About 14 million Egyptians have family or ancestral ties in Libya. Before the civil war a million Egyptians worked in Libya, and accounted for over 80 percent of the foreign workforce. This large foreign workforce is typical of Arab oil states. Foreign workers handle skilled jobs that few locals are qualified for and many more jobs that Libyans disdain. Over 80 percent of the Egyptian workforce in Libya lost their jobs due to financial problems or anti-foreigner violence. Egypt wants peace and prosperity to return to Libya because that will also mean the return of Egyptian workers. Before the 2011 war began the 6.5 million Libyans had a per capita GDP of about $10,000 (50 percent more if adjusted for purchasing power parity). Many Libyans were content to get by on a low-stress government job and let foreign workers keep the economy going.
August 17, 2020: In the West Bank a Palestinian manned stabbed a policeman and was in turn shot dead.
In Germany six Israeli F-16Cs (and four support aircraft) arrived for two weeks of joint training with the German Air Force. This was the first time Israeli warplanes trained in Germany. The German air force will participate in the Israel-based Blue Flag exercises in 2021. This joint training takes place so the two air forces will know how each other operates. That means cooperation will be more effective if the two air forces are called on to operate together in some future conflict.
Blue Flag is based on the American Red Flag international training exercises that have been held since 1975. Since 2013 Israel held its Blue Flag every two years. The multinational Red Flag events were meant to improve coordination among allied air forces in combat. Because of that until the 1990s nearly all the foreign air forces were those closely allied with the United States and able to practice using classified equipment and techniques. Since the 1990s some of these international Red Flag have included frenemies and thus lacked the use of classified items. Often described as more diplomacy than training these unclassified exercises were nonetheless useful, at least to let these nations get a close look at each other’s aircraft and pilots.
Before Blue Flag the Israeli Air Force has, since 2011, hosted foreign fighter pilots for tactical training using locally developed Red Flag technology. Israeli fighter pilots are considered the best trained in the world and one reason for that is use of the best training methods available. As part of that Israel maintains a special training program, complete with pilots trained and equipped to operate as likely foes would, to train their own pilots. Initially the Israelis hosted fighters and pilots for training from Poland, Italy and Greece. This was a good source of income and also good diplomacy as these were countries that Israel was on good terms with.
Blue Flag are free for participants and by invitation. This became a good way to note which countries Israel could depend on militarily. Israel continues to attend the American Red Flag events and recently those have included Middle Eastern nations that Israel is technically at war with (over the Palestinian issue). But because Israel and these other Middle Eastern nations have some common enemies (Iran and Islamic terror groups) and Israel is the most powerful and technologically advanced military power in the region a growing number of Arab states are openly working with the Israelis.
August 15, 2020: In the eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) an airstrike, apparently by armed Israeli UAVs, attacked an Iranian base, killing 23 Afghan and Iraqi mercenaries and destroying large quantities of ammo and weapons. This could be seen by the number of secondary explosions (caused by the UAV missiles). These Afghans are Shia recruited from Afghan refugees in Iranian camps or Afghan Shia living in western and central Afghanistan.
August 13, 2020: Israel and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) agreed to establish diplomatic relations. They also agreed to call this new agreement a peace treaty, which will be signed in United States in September. Some economic agreements are being signed before that. Other Arabian states are expected to follow. Israel and the UAE have had covert relationships for over a decade but making it formal is all about Iran and Turkey. These two nations aspire to “lead” the Moslems in the region, at the expense of Arab Moslems. This new alliance is, in part, because of the realization that Israelis are also Semites while the Turks are Turks and the Iranians are Indo-European. Such differences matter, especially in the Middle East.
In Sudan the government and its National Security and Defense Council said that Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt must reach a comprehensive and binding agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia has begun filling the dam’s reservoir. All three nations agreed to begin negotiations to settle the dispute over how much water GERD would withhold from Egypt, the major downstream user.
August 12, 2020: Israel has reduced the number of airstrikes inside Syria because there are fewer targets. Meanwhile there is more activity on the Israeli border with Syria and Lebanon as well as in the south (Gaza) where Hamas and other Gaza-based Islamic terror groups have become more active. During the past three years Israeli forces, mainly the air force, have used over 5,000 missiles to hit about 950 Iranian targets in Syria. During this period Syria fired 844 SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles) at Israeli aircraft. Only one of these missiles damaged an Israeli F-16 and that was in 2018 because the pilot did not, as he was trained to do, carry out evasive maneuvers when his missile warning system alerted him to the threat. The pilot tried to complete his mission first and then evade. The F-16 was damaged and crashed in northern Israel. The pilot safely ejected. This incident demonstrated that the Syrian Air Defense systems could be dangerous if a pilot did not pay attention. As a result, more attacks (firing long range missiles) were carried out from Israel, Lebanon or Jordan, with missiles launched near the border. With new missiles Israeli aircraft were still able to hit anywhere in Syria. Israeli did attack Syrian air defense units that were particularly dangerous. These SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) missions are difficult and dangerous but Israel managed to destroy a third of Syrian air defense systems (launchers and radars) without losing any aircraft.
August 10, 2020: In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province) an airstrike, apparently Israeli, killed 14 Iranians and Iranian mercenaries, some of them from Iraq.
August 6, 2020: In northwest Yemen a Saudi jet fighter shot down a Shia rebel UAV, apparently carrying explosives and headed for Saudi Arabia. The Iranian UAV was apparently programmed to fly offshore in an effort to avoid Saudi air defenses. These defenses have been upgraded over the last few months to include radars and other sensors that can detect low and slow flying UAVs. The Saudis have not revealed where they got these new UAV detection systems but it is known that Israel, the world leader in developing such systems, offered to help out, openly or otherwise. Otherwise Yemen is still a stalemate.