As reader are undoubtedly aware, on Saturday, 105 missiles were fired by American, British and French military units at Syrian chemical weapons research and storage sites, in punishment for the latest Assad regime chemical weapons attack in Douma on April 7, which killed at least 75 people. This Update looks at the significance of that attack for the future situation in Syria.
This Update follows up on the previous one in analysing the ongoing violence along the borders of Gaza - orchestrated under the rubric of the so-called "Great March of Return" - which began on March 30, had a second major flare-up last Friday, and is expected to continue until mid-May.
THERE is a group that was described by a senior US security official 15 years ago as the "A-Team of terrorists" and has only gone from strength to strength in the years since then. This group perpetrates violent acts against civilians, calls for mass murder and, by its own admission, doesn't differentiate between its political and military arms.
Yet Australians are effectively free to fly this group's flag, fill its coffers and offer it material support, even as its operatives undertake terrorist activities in our region.
If I were compiling a foreign policy wish list for 2018, high on the list would be ending the fiction that Lebanon is an independent country rather than an Iranian satrapy governed by Iran's foreign legion, Hezbollah.
Teheran's costly policy of regional interference formed a focus for the protesters' rage. Slogans such as "Leave Syria, think about us!" and "Death to Hezbollah!" were heard. More general anti-regime slogans, including "We don't want an Islamic Republic" and "Death to the dictator" were also chanted by demonstrators.
On January 25, members of the UK Parliament supported a non-binding resolution in the House of Commons to proscribe all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation under UK terrorism legislation. Currently, in the UK only the military wing is defined as a terrorist organisation.
With Fatah-Hamas negotiations over a unity government and other arrangements for Gaza starting in Cairo today, this Update looks at the issues being discussed, the likelihood of success, and in particular, whether Hamas is seeking what has been described as a 'Hezbollah model". This would be a situation, like Hezbollah's in Lebanon, whereby the PA would run civilian services in Gaza, but Hamas would have all military power in the strip.
Hezbollah has a nasty collection of more than 130,000 rockets, missiles, and mortars aimed at Israel. This is a bigger arsenal than all NATO countries (except the United States) combined. Why, a reasonable person might wonder, does Hezbollah need an offensive arsenal bigger than that of all Western Europe?
Last week saw the death in an explosion of Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hezbollah's most senior military commander and terrorist organiser, in unclear circumstances, near Damascus. Badreddine was the successor to Imad Mughniyeh, killed near Damascus in 2008, and is believed to have orchestrated the murder of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri in 2005. This Update deals with the implications of Badreddine's death - but also includes a comment on the growing normalcy of the use of chemical weapons during Syria's civil war.
One is left with the impression, by the close of Levitt's book, that the counter-terrorism struggle against Hezbollah is being won. He writes, "All told, more than twenty terror attacks by Hezbollah or Qods Force operatives were thwarted over the fifteen month period between May 2011 and July 2012; by another count, nine plots were uncovered over the first nine months of 2012." But the evidence in the book should lead us to two conclusions: that it has taken a concerted, large-scale and largely undercover international effort to thwart all these attacks and that Hezbollah remains as committed as ever to its violent jihadist agenda.