Following The West’s Attack On Syria, Sharp Dispute Breaks Out Between Egypt That Wants Assad To Remain, And Saudi Arabia That Now Wants Him Gone

On April 14, 2018, about a week after the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad carried out a chemical attack on the town of Douma near Damascus that killed dozens, the U.S., U.K. and France launched a joint military strike on regime bases and facilities associated with its chemical weapons capabilities. The attack threw into sharp focus the controversy between the two leaders of the Arab world, ?Egypt and Saudi Arabia – on the Syrian issue.[1] Even before the strike occurred, Saudi Arabia expressed firm support for military action against the Syrian regime, and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman expressed willingness to take part in such action, "should this become necessary."[2]

Shortly before the attack, a columnist in the Saudi government daily 'Okaz even called on the U.S. to target Assad's palace in Damascus in order to deter him from using chemical weapons again.[3] After the attack, the Saudi authorities welcomed it, while articles in the Saudi press criticized the U.S. and its allies for not launching a more substantial strike that could alter the power balance on the ground.

In contrast, Egypt criticized the Western countries for attacking Syria. Egypt's Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the "military escalation" in Syria that threatened the Syrian people, and implied that Egypt doubted the U.S. claims that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons in Douma, calling for "a transparent international investigation" of the events in the town.[4] The government and pro-government Egyptian press went further, expressing support for the Syrian regime and calling the Western attack an unjustified act of aggression. One article even claimed that the U.S. had supplied the rebel organizations with chemical weapons so they would carry out attacks on civilians that would then be blamed on the Syrian regime.

Other articles criticized Russia and Iran for not lifting a finger to repel the attack, although both have forces in Syria.

This report reviews the reactions in Saudi Arabia and Egypt to the U.S.-British-French military strike in Syria.

Egypt: The Attack Was A Mistaken And Unjustified Act That Will Only Complicate The Situation In Syria

As stated, Egypt criticized the attack, calling it an escalation of the hostilities that could sabotage the efforts, especially on the part of Russia, to establish ceasefires in Syria (ceasefires which, it should be noted, benefit the Syrian regime and its allies). Egypt even expressed doubt that the Syrian regime was responsible for the attack in Douma. A statement issued by the foreign ministry several hours after the Western attack said: "Egypt expresses its grave concern over the present military escalation in the Syrian arena, due to its implications for the security of our brothers, the Syrian people and since it threatens the understandings that have been reached regarding the de-escalation zones.[5] Egypt stresses its complete opposition to the use in Syria of any type of weapon that is prohibited by international [law], and demands to conduct a transparent international investigation into this matter, based on the international mechanisms and sources of authority. Egypt expresses its solidarity with the Syrian people as they strive to realize their aspirations to live in security and stability and maintain their national capabilities and the integrity and unity of their land through comprehensive understanding among all the political elements in Syria, far from the attempts to destroy their aspirations and hopes. Egypt calls upon the international community and the superpowers to carry out their responsibility of pushing for a peaceful solution to the Syria crisis…"[6]

Egyptian presidential spokesman Bassam Radi also expressed concern about the "latest escalation" and support for the Assad regime, saying that Egypt supports "legitimate governments and national armies."[7]?

Much fiercer opposition to the Western attack on Syria was voiced in the Egyptian press, which called it "aggression." Headlines in the Al-Masri Al-Yawm daily on the day following the attack read "Tripartite Aggression against Syria," "Syria in the Inferno of the Tripartite Military Aggression," and "The [act of] Aggression at Dawn Will Cause Volcanoes of Rage to Erupt and Let Loose The Winds of Partition."[8] An article in the same issue stressed that "despite the political disagreements and the discrepancy [in positions] between Cairo and Damascus, the relations between Egypt and Syria remain historic." It also likened the attack on Syria to the 1956 war? in which British, French and Israeli forces invaded Sinai after Egyptian president Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, saying that the two countries thus have both dreams and painful memories in common.[9]

Headline in Al-Masri Al-Yawm: "Syria in the Inferno of the Tripartite Military Aggression"

Other articles in the Egyptian government press claimed that the military strike violated international law and was also unjustified, because there was no proof that it was Assad who had used the chemical weapons. The articles claimed further that this attack was meant to save the "terrorists," i.e., the rebel organizations, after they had failed in their action against the Syrian regime, and that it would exacerbate the suffering of the Syrian people. Some of the articles even condemned the Syrian regime's allies, Iran and Russia, and accused them of betraying the regime by failing to repel the Western attack.

Al-Ahram Editorial: The Attack Is A Replay Of The U.S. Invasion Of Iraq In 2003

An editorial of the government daily Al-Ahram published one day before the attack warned about the implications of Western military action, adding that the accusations currently leveled at the Syrian regime were reminiscent of the accusations leveled at the Iraqi regime before America's 2003 invasion of Iraq, which turned out to be false. The editorial said: "The Syria crisis has become an arena of conflict between the large superpowers, [who wish] to display [their] weight in the unfair international [power-]balance that is never inclined towards law or justice... America's threat to target Syria is outrageous and unjustified, for destroying Syria's capabilities undermines the existing institutions that safeguard the country's sovereignty and territorial [integrity]. History seems to be repeating the scenario [of Iraq in 2003], in which U.S. president George [W.] Bush decided to attack Iraq on the pretext that it had biological weapons. After Iraq was destroyed, this proved to be a big lie and British prime minister Tony Blair confessed to this crime, but his admission changed nothing, and the whole world saw the destruction wreaked in Iraq...

"The stench of war thickens the air, and the look in the eyes of small children anticipating an unknown disaster reveals [their] terror and anxiety. [In this situation,] sane people must intervene in order to prevent the war and the attack on Syria and seek binding political solutions to end the prolonged tragedy that the Syrian people are suffering inside and outside their country...

"The world does not need intercontinental military strikes. It needs political solutions that safeguard people's lives and liberty, and cut off funding to the terror organizations that are destroying the world and are the enemy of all growth and progress. Arab Syria is in our hearts, and we beseech Allah to protect its soil and its people and expel all the forces that harm it, [so that it may] rejoin the Arab fold."[10]

Al-Ahram cartoon: The "new imperialism" attacks the "Arab homeland" (Al-Ahram, Egypt, April 16, 2018)

Saudi Arabia says open to sending troops to Syria under wider coalition

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia would be prepared to send troops into Syria as part of the U.S.-led coalition if a decision was taken to widen it, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday.

“We are in discussion with the U.S. and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis about sending forces into Syria,” Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

He said Riyadh had expressed its readiness while Barack Obama was U.S. President to send ground forces into Syria if the United States were to add an on-the-ground component to the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State insurgents.

Jubeir was responding to a question about a Wall Street Journal report that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking to assemble an Arab force to replace the U.S. military contingent in Syria.

“There are discussions regarding ... what kind of force needs to remain in eastern Syria and where that force would come from, and those discussions are ongoing,” Jubeir said....

A wakeup call on the bog that is Syria

There’s not much to say beyond what’s evidently clear at this point: It will be difficult to reverse course now.

In his initial reaction to the raid in which 100-plus Tomahawks missiles hit Syria on April 13, when Bashar Assad remarked that it signified the “failure of the West,” he fortuitously touched upon a sensitive point, upside down.

On the contrary, it’s a sudden reawakening: America, France and the United Kingdom—beacons of democracy throughout history and the champions of human rights, especially after the great world wars—collectively decided to prevent further atrocities against human beings and acted together on a joint mission of justice: to not only punish, but also to prohibit the use of chemical and biological weapons. The history of toxic weapons is engraved in the numerous images of soldiers in the trenches of Europe during World War I and World War II, in the gas chambers used by the Nazis, in the massacre of Iranians by the Iraqis during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, and in the Scud missiles that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s launched on the Jewish people in the first months of 1991 after the United States went into Kuwait to evict the Iraqi invaders (Israelis always have gas masks ready for use).

Today, we see newborn Syrian children who, and not for the first time, try to breathe while crying.

In 1925, the Geneva Protocol was signed by most of the world’s countries in order to ban the use of chemical weapons. In 1972, the protocol was later supplemented by the Biological Weapons Convention, in effect since 1975, and the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, which went into effect in 1997. Syria also signed this treaty. It prohibits the production, development, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons, and orders their destruction.

Now, the Tomahawks and other missiles have quite rightly, together with French and British weapons, taken out Syria’s chemical program—its storage and equipment facilities, as well as research centers located in the suburbs of Damascus (76 missiles) and Homs (29 missiles). It was a raid that was, as U.S. President Trump boasted, “justified, legitimate and proportionate,” and above all, “perfectly executed,” which indicates superb intelligence and outstanding military organization....

Veteran recounts bloody Battle of Ammunition Hill

After losing 36 of his comrades in a single battle, Yossi Sidkoni says he had difficulties revisiting the battleground for months; now, he accompanies his granddaughter in the trenches of Ammunition Hill, recounting the fight that almost cost him his life.

More than 50 years after the Six-Day War, Yossi Sidkoni arrived in Jerusalem earlier this week to recount to his granddaughter the Battle of Ammunition Hill—an assault on a fortified Jordanian military post in the then Jordanian-ruled east Jerusalem where 36 members of his company lost their lives.

"When you go to war, you become, to a certain extent, a robot," he said. "I knew that my friends were hurt, but I did not have the time to see who or how many were wounded."

Sidkoni, a paratrooper, was training just two weeks prior to parachute in El Arish in an effort to take Tel Aviv.

Yossi Sidkoni and his granddaughter on Ammunition Hill (Photo: Tal Shimoni)

"Suddenly they informed us that the mission had changed and we had to go up to Jerusalem," he recounted. "It was already dark, night. Command took out a map and told my company, 'You're going to conquer Ammunition Hill.'"

At 1:00 AM Sidkoni and his company went down to the police school area near Ammunition Hill and at approximately 2:00 AM the battle began. "Within seconds they began shooting at us. We entered an area that was later named the 'Triangle of Death,' in which the first three soldiers were killed in the battle."

Sidkoni (R) (Courtesy of Yossi Sidkoni)

During the battle, Sidkoni's commander was shot in the chest and he was forced to take his place.

"He was seriously injured. We dragged him back into a hiding spot ... and tried to help him, but as a department we were suddenly alone, as if our father had been killed, and was suddenly not there to command us.

"After a second we regained our composure and the sergeant asked me to take charge."...

Israel’s Youngest Terror Victims Leave Behind Huge Legacies

“Hashem is close to the brokenhearted; those crushed in spirit He delivers.” Psalms 34:19 (The Israel Bible™)

Three Israeli teens, (L-R) Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16 who were kidnapped and murdered in the summer of 2014.

One of Israel’s youngest terror victims was 5-month old Yehuda Shoham. Yehuda, a resident of Shiloh, was travelling by car with his parents near the Jewish community of Eli in the Biblical heartland when terrorists began pelting the vehicle with stones, crushing the baby’s skull.

Six days after the attack, Yehuda succumbed to his injuries and died in this hospital. ?He was buried in his hometown of Shiloh.

Benny Shoham, father of Yehuda Shoham, works as a building contractor in Samaria. Some years after Yehuda’s death, Benny was approached to head-up the development and building of a Yeshiva (a religious boys high school) in Shiloh. Until this point, the community of Shiloh had been lacking a proper educational institution for teenage boys.

“This project is very important to me because I lost my son and now I have the opportunity to build a high school for children here in Shiloh. This gives us a lot of comfort, for me and my family”, said Benny Shoham.

For millions, Yehuda represents the unbreakable connection between the Jewish People in the Land of Israel.

Wednesday, April 18, marks Israel’s Memorial Day for the country’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror.

In the last 70 years, countless individuals have given their lives to help fulfill the Jewish dream and Biblical prophecy of building a Jewish home in Eretz Yisrael. Hundreds of children have lost their lives almost before they began.

But this Yom HaZikaron, we look at how they may have lost their physical lives, but their memories and their impact on the Land and People of Israel continues.

UN official calls on Israel to halt plans to relocate Palestinian Bedouin communities in West Bank

A senior United Nations humanitarian official on Wednesday called on Israeli authorities to halt plans to demolish Palestinian-owned structures and cease plans for the relocation of Palestinian Bedouin communities in the West Bank.

Justice must be done for Syria crimes, says head of UN body building cases for prosecution

Those who committed the most serious crimes in Syria must be identified, and criminal case files must be built as the basis for prosecutions, the head of a United Nations body assisting these efforts said Wednesday.

Syria: Sustained fighting taking ‘enormous’ toll on civilians, UN aid chief tells Security Council

Despite the Security Council’s demand for cessation of hostilities in Syria, civilians in the war-torn country continue to bear the “enormous” cost of intense military activity by parties to the conflict, the top United Nations relief official said Tuesday.

As conditions worsen in Yemen, a new UN envoy hopes to rekindle peace talks

The new United Nations envoy for war-torn Yemen called Tuesday for all parties to the conflict to abandon preconditions and begin negotiations, and said he would offer a new framework for talks within the next two months.

UN and League of Arab States ink pact to partner on counter-terrorism

The United Nations and the League of Arab States on Tuesday signed an agreement on working together to tackle terrorism – previewing the type of partnerships the UN hopes to forge in June at a gathering of counter-terrorism chiefs in New York.