Israel and Syria have been in an official state of war since 1948. Since that first Israel-Syria conflict, (and also the first official conflict in the larger Arab-Israeli wars), the two hostile neighbors have engaged in many wars, conflicts, and border clashes. As the Syrian Civil War (2011-Present), intensifies, Syria’s ally, the Shi’ite Lebanese militia army known as Hezbollah, has also entered the civil war against the rebels. As conditions inside Syria continue to decay, Israel increasingly is concerned about the transfer of advanced missiles or chemical, biological, or nuclear materials from Syrian control to Hezbollah. To that end, as of May 5, 2013, Israel has conducted three airstrikes against Syrian targets. Below is a listing of those airstrikes into Syria.
January 30, 2013–Israel launched air strikes into Syrian territory. Among the targets were a convoy believed to be transferring arms from Syria to Hezbollah, and Scientific Studies and Research Center in Jamarya northwest of Damascus, which was believed to be a biological weapons research center. The Israeli planes entered Syrian airspace near Mt. Hermon, flying in low at dawn to avoid radar detection. May 3, 2013–Israel launched air strike into Syria from Lebanese airspace, using the Israeli Air Force’s “stand off” bombs, capable of covering large distances, enabling Israel to take out a target inside Syira without actually entering Syrian territory. The target was believed to be a shipment of advanced missiles on its way into Lebanon for Hezbollah. The Lebanese Shi’ite militia is an active participant in the Syrian Civil War on the side of Assad regime.
Fateh-110 Conqueror Missile
May 5, 2013–Israel launched the second air strike in three days on the night of Sunday, May 5, 2013. The target was apparently a shipment of Fateh-110 missiles, which are Iranian-produced missiles with precise guidance systems and aiming ability superior to anything Hezbollah currently has its arsenal. The air strike occurred in Damascus, causing multiple explosions.
General David Petraeus, perhaps America’s best-known, and most respected military leader since Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, has resigned his post as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as the result of an extra-marital affair. Petraeus gained intense fame and respect for leading American forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, serving under both Presidents Bush and Obama.
The affair apparently with Paula Broadwell, the woman who wrote a glowing biography of the general, came to light during a background investigation by the FBI. While such a revelation is not always an automatic career-killer in civilian life, or even in politics, for both the military and the intelligence services, it is considered a serious security breach. News reports have General Petraeus tendering his resignation to President Obama on Thursday (two days after the presidential election), and Obama accepting the resignation on Friday, November 09, 2012.
In the post-9/11 wars, General David Petraeus’ career in a way served as a roadmap to those wars against Islamic Jihadists (i.e. the Taliban, al-Qaida, Somalia’s Shabab, among others), as well as the wars against Saddam, Gaddafi, and the proxy wars against Assad and Iran. He commanded the 101st Airborne Division in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. From 2007 to 2008, Petraeus commanded all U.S. forces in Iraq, and implemented the controversial, but ultimately successful “surge” of troops into insurgent-infested areas of Iraq, usually in urban areas. Following his Iraq command, Petraeus was promoted to command the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), headquartered in Tampa, Florida. In this position, Petraeus oversaw all American operations in the Middle East from Egypt to Pakistan.
General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell
In the summer of 2010, following the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal as commander of forces in Afghanistan, President Obama assigned Petraeus to take over the war in Afghanistan.
David Petraeus retired from the military on August 31, 2011, having reached the highest working rank in the U.S. Army, that of a four-star general. Following his retirement, the President appointed Petraeus as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He held this important position in the so-called War on Terror until he offered to resign due to an extra-marital affair. His resignation was accepted by President Obama on November 9, 2012.
As a result of his various commands and the influence he had on U.S. military and intelligence policy during these post-9/11 wars, General David Petraeus holds a unique place in recent American history. If he ever writes a book of his wartime work, it will likely be a very informative tome that could shed light on many aspects on the American way of war in the 21st Century.
The 57th American Presidential Election will take place on November 6, 2012. The two main party candidates this year, as everyone knows, are incumbent President Barack Obama, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Both men, as well as their two running mates, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, possess extensive political histories and experiences that they present to the American electorate as justification for winning votes.
To learn more about these four candidates, click on the links below to access their political biographies.
As American and other allied forces gather in the Persian Gulf region, and as Israel continues to prepare for a possible military strike on Iran over the nuclear issue, Historyguy.com has several resources related to the history Middle East wars, as well as to the histories of the various nations and potential combatants in this escalating issue.
The regime of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad is allied to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is engaged in a bloody civil war with anti-Assad rebels. Israel has stated that any potential use or transfer of Syria’s known chemical weapons inventory would be considered a reason for Israeli intervention. The U.S. and other allied nations have made similar statements. Here are some resources related to conflicts involving Israel and Syria:
If war breaks out between Israel and Iran, the other allies of Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza, may also become involved, which may also draw in Egypt. For a look at the past as well as the ongoing conflicts on Israel’s northern and southern fronts, go to:
The world is potentially on the brink of a new Middle East War, one that could draw in not only the usual belligerents (Israel, Lebanon, Syria, etc.) and Iran, but also other neighboring nations such as Turkey, Azerbaijan (Iran’s neighbor, but is friendly with Israel), but also global powers such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and other NATO nations. The History Guy Newsletter will continue to send more frequent updates on this situation.
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What on earth is the world coming to? We now live in a time of war, and rumors of war, and the rumors just keep coming! A recent article in the magazine Foreign Policy actually postulates what may occur if China and Japan were to fight a naval war over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Back when we lived through the Cold War, in a bipolar world, (that means that there were two main superpowers in the world), and most conflicts in the world revolved around the Soviet-American rivalry, the basic calculus was simple: The two superpowers would keep their allies and satellites in check, and, barring some extraordinarily crazy sparking event, the chances of an actual war between the superpowers would likely not happen due to the threat of mutually assured nuclear destruction. That also meant that if America’s ally Israel got the upper hand over Soviet-allied Egypt and Syria in the latest Middle Eastern War, the Americans would rein in the Israelis before they could march on Cairo or Damascus and trigger possible Soviet intervention. Similarly, it was fairly certain that the Soviets would convince Syria to not use its stockpile of chemical weapons on Israel for similar fear of an American intervention. In many ways, the Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union kept a lid on many possible conflicts that could have sparked a bigger war.
Well, the Soviet Union is gone now, and we are faced with a multi-polar world. Make no mistake, the U.S. is still the only legitimate superpower around. The U.S. can project power literally anywhere in the world with a high degree of certainty of tactical victory. For example, on a month’s notice in 2001, American and allied forces launched an invasion/liberation of Afghanistan (literally on the other side of the planet from the U.S.), following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But other, regional powers are flexing their muscles and making threatening noises, and this will continue to be a reality as those regional powers (such as China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, Japan, Russia, India, and others), come into conflict with their neighbors. Notice that several of the nations named above are neighbors with each other, or at least inhabit the same neighborhood.
In August of 2012, a look at the current wars, border conflicts, and potential international problems that are currently being discussed, and reported on in the news:
–Israel is openly debating whether or not to attack Iran. The Iranians, for their part, continue to develop their controversial nuclear program, while simultaneously we hear their leaders call for the destruction of Israel.
–The United States continues to place increased military forces in the regions surrounding Iran, just in case there is an Israeli-Iranian War. If such a war breaks out, the U.S. will almost certainly be drawn in.
–The ongoing Syrian Civil War is getting bloodier, and the Assad regime may be getting more desperate. Speculation has arisen over the possibility of Assad using his stockpile of chemical weapons on either the rebels or on the nations that support them, namely Turkey and Jordan. Of course, Assad could also just use them on Israel, hoping to gain traction with his own people or with other Arab nations. All of the above-named anti-Assad nations are friends of the U.S., which has made no bones about intervening if Assad were to use his weapons of mass destruction.
–Israel is openly preparing for a possible intervention of their own in Syria if they believe that Assad is going to transfer his chemical weapons to his Hezbollah allies in Lebanon.
–Egypt is engaged in a low-level but growing battle to re-assert authority in the Sinai, where Islamic militants are launching more frequent and more deadly attacks on Egyptian, Israeli, and American forces. (The Americans are in the Sinai as part of the Multinational Force & Observers, which has helped keep the peace between Egypt and Israel since the Camp David Accords).
-China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian nations are engaged in name-calling and posturing over the contested Spratly Islands. China has increasingly asserted authority on the islands, even to the point of setting up a small city on one of them. The military forces of several nations are in the area. The main reason for this conflict is the belief that the area is rich in oil and natural gas. The United States is a close ally of the Philippines, and is increasingly establishing strong military and diplomatic ties with Vietnam, and any military conflict over these islands would almost certainly the U.S. against the Chinese.
–Similarly, China and Japan are currently engaged in serious name-calling and worse over their contested islands, which the Chinese call the Diaoyu Islands, and the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands. Some respected publications like Foreign Policy are posting articles speculating on the outcome of a possible Sino-Japanese Naval war in 2012. Of course, the United States is a close ally of Japan, and any military conflict would almost certainly bring the U.S. on the Japanese side.
–American military forces are still heavily engaged against Taliban forces in Afghanistan, while other U.S. assets continue to deploy against al-Qaida and other Islamist forces throughout the world.
–In Yemen, American trainers continue to aid the Yemeni government while occasional U.S. drone attacks take out al-Qaida operatives. Several terrorist attacks against American targets have originated out of Yemen in recent years.
– U.S. drone attacks against al-Qaida and other Islamist targets in Pakistan continue unabated. One estimate places the number of dead from these attacks since 2004 at over 3,000.
–U.S.-funded allies, actively aided by American air and naval forces (and of course, more drone attacks), provide the military muscle in the Somali government’s war against the Islamist and al-Qaida allied Shabab rebels. These allies include Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, and Ethiopia.
–Following the successful campaign by NATO and other allied nations (Qatar among them), to aid rebels in overthrowing Muammar Gadhafi’s tyrannical regime, several thousand Taureg mercenaries previously employed by Gadhafi went home to northern Mali (with the nice weapons Gadhafi gave them), and commenced to defeat the Malian army and establish a de facto Taureg homeland in northern Mali. These Taureg (that is the name of their ethnic group) have been infiltrated by the North African branch of al-Qaida and other Islamist groups. Several other West African nations are contemplating sending a military force to Mali to defeat them. The United States and other Western nations would likely end up supporting such an intervention with funds, material, and possibly troops. Oh, and probably drones, as well.
There are a few more international issues that are on the back burner as well, but this list gives a pretty good idea of the precarious situation the world is in right now. And that is not even mentioning the perpetual worries over Korea! And, as the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States prepare for their presidential nominating conventions, not a single one of these issues is a major item of discussion for the two presidential candidates. In fact, a quick look at major news stories in America during the middle of August show a fascination with GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s fitness regimen and his six-pack abs. The major political story on August 20 involves a Republican Senate candidate’s idiotic remarks about rape and conception. Hardly any mention was made in the news about the recent coalition deaths in Afghanistan, and certainly no debate over the ongoing war there.
The world is a deadlier place in 2012 than it seemed in 1992, just after the end of the Cold War. We are on the brink of not just one possible regional war, but several, all with calamitous effects on the world economy, and on world security.
Paul Ryan, Congressman from Wisconsin, is the latest GOP running mate who is probably an unknown to the majority of the Amerian voting populace. To policy wonks, Tea Party faithful, and those who follow conservative economic politics, Ryan is well-known and, if you are an economic conservative, quite popular. However, to the majority of Americans, who right now are probably more attuned to the Olympics, summer camping, and the new NFL season, news of Paul Ryan’s pick is more likely akin to prior news of Sarah Palin or Dan Quayle as running mates. In other words, a big “Who is that?”
Paul Ryan and his Family (note the Green Bay Packers sweatshirt!)
So, who IS Paul Ryan? Paul Ryan is a young (born in 1970) handsome family man (one wife, three kids), who lives in a town where his parents and grandparents are all buried (Janesville, Wisconsin), and he is an avid Green Bay Packers fan. Paul Ryan is also Catholic, which may be a helpful aspect for the Morman Romney. In Paul Ryan’s Political Career, he has risen quickly through the ranks of the GOP through his work on the budget and his “Roadmap to Prosperity,” an economic blueprint that bears the intellectual handprint of the dean of Conservative economists, Milton Friedman.
In the days and weeks leading up to Mitt Romney’s VP announcement, speculation arose around such Republican luminaries as Condoleeza Rice and Marco Rubio, among others. Either of those two would have provided Romney with an instant inroad to traditionally Democratic constituencies (African-Americans and Hispanics), but instead he chose a white midwesterner with no foreign policy exprience. If the world experiences a major crisis in the weeks leading up to the American presidential election, the choice of a domestic economic expert rather than someone experienced in foreign policy, could come back to bite Romney. It is quite likely that the war in Syria could easily get worse and engulf the U.S. into some sort of military intervention, and/or, an Israeli attack on Iran (which this writer thinks is very likely to occur before the U.S. elections), could highlight the lack of foreign policy experience on the Romney-Paul ticket.
One thing is for certain: The U.S. Presidential election will be interesting.
North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju
Among modern tyrannical dictators, there is a strong tendency toward attempting to establish a “Game of Thrones” type of generational legitimacy. Anyone familiar with the popular fantasy books and HBO TV show knows that the Kings and other Lords in the fictional land of Westeros work and fight very hard to place their children on the thrones of their respective kingdoms and fiefdoms. Usually this involves much death, intrigue, war, and general misery for the common people, most of whom could care less about the “Game of Thrones” played by their rulers. In the real world of international politics, one needs only look a bit at history and current events to see interesting patterns developing in the attempts of dictators to pass on their rule to their progeny, especially in North Korea.
It was recently reported that Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s third leader of the Kim Dynasty, has taken a wife. This actually should be considered good news for those worried about renewed war on the Korean Peninsula. Kim Jong-Un’s new wife, named Ri Sol-Ju, is reported to be ‘pretty and charming’ by an insider with knowledge of the Kim family. Most likely, within the next year or two, word will come out of North Korea that Ri Sol-Ju is expecting a child with her husband, the Supreme Leader. Such a pregnancy and, presumably a live birth of a son, will continue the Kim Dynasty for another generation. Assuming North Korea as a nation survives. One thing about North Korea and the politics of the Stalinist hermit kingdom, is that no one on outside of North Korea really knows if there will be another Korean War. Every time a leadership change occurs in the North, or in the time leading up to such a change, tensions mount as the North makes militaristic and belligerent noises and actions. In 2010, as Kim Jong-Un’s father weakened, the North attacked a South Korean island. It is now known that Kim Jong-Un was on the island with his father just prior to that attack, and that this may have been a demonstration of his ability to command.
While few outside of North Korea would see the continuation of this dynasty of dictators as a positive, all would likely agree that a new Korean War would be in no one’s best interests. The marriage of Kim Jong-Un assures that he will attempt to pass on his power and rule to his future children. This means that he will (hopefully), not engage in any reckless actions that may spark a war that any reasonable person with knowledge of military affairs could surmise would end with North Korea’s end. Of course, no one outside of North Korea really knows if Kim Jong-Un himself is really aware that North Korea’s conventional military forces cannot truly compete with the South Korean and American military might that any North Korean attack would face. Any reasonable observer would have guessed that Saddam Hussein, who also groomed his sons to succeed him, would have avoided any reckless military adventures that could undo his family’s rule of Iraq. As we all know, Saddam and all of his sons are now dead, and his county is now ruled by people that Saddam would have loved to kill.
Other modern dictators attempted to pass on their rule to a second generation. Libya’s late and largely unlamented tyrant, Muammar Gaddafi, intended to pass on power to his sons. A bloody civil war later, and we see that they are all now dead or imprisoned. Egypt’s strongman Hosni Mubarak, while not as dictatorial as the Kims or Gadaffis, nonetheless intended to pass on power to his eldest son. The Egyptian Revolution changed that, and Egypt is now holding democratic elections. And in Syria, where the Assad Dynasty is currently in its second generation, a bloody civil war has Bashar Assad on the edge of following the footsteps of Saddam, Gaddafi, and Mubarak. No one expects North Korea’s people to suddenly rise up and kick out the Kims. The dynamic is much different and the grip the North Korean communists have on their rule is much too tight. But in this modern Game of Thrones, some kings live, and some kings die. But one thing remains steady: If there is a man on the figurative throne of a dictatorship, if that ruler can pass on his power to his sons, he will do so.
Prince Joffrey on his Throne in Game of Thrones: Would he fit in as a modern dictator?
Several Israeli tourists died in a terrorist attack on a tourist bus in Bulgaria that Israeli authorities say lead back to an Iranian plot to kill Israeli citizens. At least six Israeli tourists died in the explosion, at least 30 other civilians sustained wounds. The bus, which was leaving the airport at Burgas with 154 passengers, most of them Israelis, was headed for a resort popular with Israeli vacationers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu placed the blame for the attack squarely on Iran, citing other recent attempted terror attacks that he also blamed on Iran.
“In the past months we saw Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Kenya and Cyprus,” Netanyahu said, added, “This is an Iranian terror offensive that is spreading throughout the world.” Netanyahu also added that Israel would respond with force.
Recent tensions between Israel, Iran, and the United States, have caused much speculation as to whether an attack on Iran, which is developing a nuclear program, will occur soon. Iran has blamed Israel for assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and for cyber-attacks on nuclear facilities. Iran and Israel have a very harsh history of hostile relations, with Iran conducting terror attacks on Israelis in the past, arming Israeli enemies such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and for supporting the Assad regime in Syria. Israel claims that Iran’s nascent nuclear program’s end goal is to develop nuclear weapons that would be used on Israel.
Given all this recent tension, why would Iran strike at Israeli targets now? One theory is that a war with Israel would detract pro-democracy activists in Iran and strengthen the current regime. Another theory is that the United States and other Western allies would be able to convince Israel to not attack now. Or, this is a ploy by factions within Iran (i.e. the Revolutionary Guards) to discredit other factions of the regime.
Whatever the reasons for the Iranian attack, it is clear that if Israel truly wanted a Cassus Belli (a cause for war), they now have it.
President Barack Obama issued a proclamation on May 24, 2012 encouraging American citizens to remember the courage and sacrifice of U.S. service men and women who served in the Vietnam War. Obama declared May 28, 2012, through Nov. 11, 2025, a 13-year span, as the “Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.” Fifty years ago, in 1962, President Kennedy sent American forces into South Vietnam to aid the Saigon government against Communist insurgency supported and directed by the communist government of North Vietnam. Over the next several years, American forces would arrive in greater numbers, and the role of the U.S. forces would change from a support role to heavy combat against Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. The war ended 13 years later, when North Vietnamese forces took the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon in April of 1975. Over 50,000 American troops lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
Historians and citizens still debate when the Vietnam War for Americans truly began. While President Obama, (and hence, the U.S. Government), is claiming that the American portion of the war officially began May 30, 1962, which is when the first Vietnam Service Ribbon was issued (this date is questionable. Further research is needed). Other dates which could logically be considered for inclusion as “The Start of America’s Vietnam War”:
–February 12, 1955: The first U. S. advisors sent to train South Vietnamese troops arrived in country.
–June 8, 1956 : The first American military death in Vietnam occurred on June 8, 1956? (Air Force Tech Sgt. Richard B Fitzgibbon, Jr. was murdered in Vietnam by another American servicemember. Fitzgibbon is officially recognized by the Department of Defense as the first American to die in what would become known as the Vietnam War.)
–July 8, 1959: U.S. Army Master Sgt. Chester Ovnand and Major Dale Buis, members of the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group assisting the South Vietnamese 7th Infantry Division, died in an assault on the base at Bien Hoa, which is just north of Saigon. They died in an attack by Viet Cong guerrillas.
–August 2,1964: The Tonkin Gulf Incident in on August 2,1964, in which the USS Maddox engaged in combat with three North Vietnamese torpedo boats?
–March 8, 1965: The first “official” U.S. combat troops arrive at Da Nang, South Vietnam.
As with many aspects of the divisive Vietnam War, nothing is simple or clear; including the date in which the war (for Americans) actually began.
The bloody Crimean War (1853-1856) was one of the first modern wars in which railroads were used tactically, the telegraph connected political and military leades “back home” with battlefield commanders, nursing and medical practices on the battlefield were improved (due to pioneers like Florence Nightengale), and modern war reporting brought the day-to-day horrors of combat to the reading public back home. Read more about this important historical conflict at http://www.historyguy.com/crimean_war.htm
The Bloody Aftermath of the Charge of the Light Brigade