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Syria strikes spotlight Israel’s nightmare: an entrenched Iran

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Although Israel rarely provides details or takes responsibility for such attacks, its military acknowledges that it has struck inside Syria more than 100 times since 2012. Most targets have been suspected weapons’ convoys destined for Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which has been engaged in battles alongside Syrian government forces.

Iran is a sponsor of Hezbollah and also backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a bloody 34-day war in 2006. More than 1,000 Lebanese — mostly civilians — were killed; 158 Israelis, 119 of them soldiers, also died. Many Israeli experts are convinced that the country’s next war will be against Hezbollah, which is part of Lebanon’s coalition government.

Assad is thought to be close to crushing the seven-year rebellion in his country thanks to Russia, as well as to Iran and Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump appears determined to get out of Syria, having argued with his military advisers only last week that he prefers to bring U.S. troops home in months, not years.

Yossi Mekelberg, head of international relations at London’s Regent’s University, says that the Israeli government fears “the Iranians are getting too close.”

Trump’s isolationist impulses also concern Israel profoundly.

“I think that the worry in Israel as in many other places … is Trump’s unpredictability,” Mekelberg said.

If the U.S. is not deeply involved in the Middle East, “Israel will find itself more and more feeling the need to act in Syria” to thwart the threat from Iran, according to Mekelberg. “Israel really does not want to act in Syria.”

Underscoring the threat from the north, a senior cleric in Iran last week claimed that Hezbollah has weapons that could destroy the Israeli cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv. Referring to the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said Friday that the Lebanese group’s rockets had turned both cities into “ghost towns.”

And now Hezbollah was much more powerful, Khatami said.

“If you want Haifa and Tel Aviv to be razed to the ground, you can try your chance once again,” the firebrand cleric warned Israel.

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Giora Eiland, the former head of the Israeli National Security Council, blamed decisions made during President Barack Obama’s time in the White House for the situation unfolding in Syria.

“The biggest American mistake was not made in the past year, but it was made in the beginning of the uprising in Syria back in 2011,” he said.

At that time there were only two parties in Syria, Eiland said: Assad’s beleaguered government and a pro-democracy movement.

“Assad was quite lonely” and Western intervention could have made a big difference to those trying to oust him, he added.

Any advantage Syria’s rebels might have had was lost after Russia’s September 2015 decision to support Assad militarily, Eiland said.

On Sunday, Trump condemned what he described as a “mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” laying the blame at the feet of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Assad and Iran.

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Boris Johnson improves ‘levelling up’ spending plans for UK with new task force

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BORIS JOHNSON’S Government is expected to make good on his promise to “level up” the UK with a new task force.

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Sturgeon ‘in no rush’ to hold independence referendum as polls suggest SNP will lose

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NICOLA STURGEON won’t hold an independence referendum “any time soon”, a political expert has said.

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More than 100 Republican former officials, others to seek reforms, threaten new party

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A group of more than 100 influential Republicans and others plans to release a call for reforms within the GOP and a threat to form a new party if change isn’t forthcoming, according to a person familiar with the effort.

The statement, set to be released Thursday, involves a “Call for American Renewal,” a credo that declares to “either reimagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the creation of such an alternative,” and a set of 13 yet-to-be-revealed principles that the signatories want to see the GOP embrace.

This is not the first group to form as the pro-Trump and traditional conservative factions of the Republican party remain at loggerheads. The new effort comes as a vote looms that is expected to oust Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., from the House Republican No. 3 leadership spot for her refusal to stay silent about former President Donald Trump’s repeated election lies and his role in the Jan. 6 riot.

The move was first reported by Reuters, which cites some of the people involved: Christine Todd Whitman, Tom Ridge, former Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and former GOP Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Reid Ribble of Wisconsin and Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma. Evan McMullin, a former CIA agent who ran as an independent during the 2016 presidential election, is also involved.

A push to try to channel anti-Trump sentiment with the “Never Trump” movement in the spring of 2016 was largely unsuccessful at the time, and none of the names backing this latest effort are currently serving as elected Republicans. However, it does come as Trump’s pull within his own party appears to have lessened. A recent NBC News poll found that 44 percent of Republicans said they support Trump more than the GOP, versus 50 percent who said they support the GOP more than the former president.

One of the organizers is Miles Taylor, a former Trump official who wrote the then-anonymous op-ed blasting the former Trump administration.

“We’re going give the GOP one last chance to get its act together and moderate, but we’re not going to hold our breath,” Taylor told NBC News. “We’re ready to get out there and fight against the radical elements in the party to try to excise those elements from within the GOP and our national politics, and to try to invest in the deeper pro-democracy bench.”

Taylor suggested this nascent movement will work to back candidates who support their principles, whether they be moderates or independents.

“Enough is enough, and the GOP has had enough time to decide whether it’s going to separate itself from a man who is a chronic loser,” he said, referring to Trump, predicting a “raging civil war” if the rest of the party doesn’t get on board.



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