Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer asks “Is southern Syria heading for ‘Lebanonization’? “.

“First of all, it is important to understand the nature and dimensions of the Iranian project in Syria.  Iran’s deep alliance with Assad’s Syria goes back to the first days of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to Hafez Assad’s support or Teheran in the Iran-Iraq War.  Over the last seven years of civil war, however, the nature of the relationship has changed.  Iranian provision of manpower and organization of paramilitary forces has been essential to the regime’s survival.  Teheran has invested upwards of $30 billion in Syria.  The IRGC has established bodies within the formal structures of the Syrian state (the National Defence Forces), recruited young Syrians into locally based IRGC-associated paramilitary groups, (Quwaat al-Ridha, 313 battalion), and of course brought its paramilitary proxies onto Syrian soil, along with IRGC personnel.

This is a major, far-reaching process, resembling in its key particulars parallel projects in Lebanon and Iraq.  The intention is to establish political-military structures which will serve to enable the projection of Iranian power over the long term.  The Iranian expertise in this area is without parallel in the region.  As a result of this approach, Teheran now dominates Lebanon and has the upper hand in Iraq.  Assad’s Syria, which has an openly dictatorial system, is a different political context to these, of course.  But the evidence suggests that the Iranians are digging in to stay.”

2) The ITIC reports on this year’s Hamas summer camps – a topic that has received less than one minute of BBC coverage throughout the past three and a half years.

“On July 14, 2018, the central committee of Hamas’ summer camps in the Gaza Strip held a press conference to announce the opening of its summer camps. The theme this year is “I am returning to my homeland,” inspired by the “return marches.” Aspects of the marches have been integrated into camp activities, including launching balloons, throwing stones, collecting tires and glorifying the shaheeds killed during the “marches.” In addition, as they do every year, campers undergo military training, in ITIC assessment with Hamas instructors (disassembling and reassembling weapons, simulating the abduction of Israelis, rifle practice, etc.) Pictures from the camps indicate that most of the military training is held in the classrooms and schoolyards of schools in the Gaza Strip.”

3) Writing at the Guardian, Dr Dave Rich discusses the UK Labour party’s ‘antisemitism code’.

“This week the Labour party achieved something remarkable, even unique, in the history of British anti-racism. They managed to get 68 rabbis from every religious stream in the country – Orthodox, Liberal, Reform and Masorti – to form a coalition to denounce antisemitism. These are religious leaders who normally agree on very little, some of whom would not even acknowledge each other as rabbis. But on this issue, they came together as one. The problem for Labour is that they did it to condemn the party’s handling of its own antisemitism problem under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”

4) For years the BBC has uncritically amplified Iranian messaging on the subject of that country’s nuclear programme. A report by David E. Sanger and Ronen Bergman at the New York Times discusses what the BBC described as “political theatre” back in May.

“Last week, at the invitation of the Israeli government, three reporters, including one from The New York Times, were shown key documents from the trove. Many confirmed what inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, in report after report, had suspected: Despite Iranian insistence that its program was for peaceful purposes, the country had worked in the past to systematically assemble everything it needed to produce atomic weapons.

“It’s quite good,” Robert Kelley, a nuclear engineer and former inspector for the agency, said in Vienna, after being shown some of the fruits of the document theft. “The papers show these guys were working on nuclear bombs.””

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