The Syrian rebels arm up


Well, this is new. The above video is perhaps the first recorded example purporting to show a Syrian military helicopter downed by rebels using a surface-to-air missile. The insurgents, of course, have been desperate to acquire these weapons in order to counteract the regime's increasing reliance on air power. However, the opposition's international allies have been loathe to provide such missiles, out of fear they could fall into the wrong hands. 

The video claims to be filmed in the Aleppo countryside, near to the Sheikh Suleiman military base. A second video appears to show the helicopter crashing to the ground. Sheikh Suleiman has been besieged by the rebels for months, and a rebel commander told the AFP recently that it would fall in "a matter of days."

It's not only SAMs that rebels have gotten their hands on in recent days. Insurgents also overran a military base belonging to the 46th Regiment, near Aleppo, last week. The invaluable Brown Moses blog has a rundown of the equipment seized, which includes tanks, truck-mounted guns, rocket launchers, and long-range artillery. It's possible that the missiles that struck the helicopter at Sheikh Suleiman was also seized from the 46th Regiment's arsenal. 

Of course, as the rebels make gains across the country, radical groups are also getting their hands on military equipment. In this video, purportedly filmed in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, members of the jihadist organization Jabhat al-Nusra show off their spoils -- including a tank. While Bashar al-Assad still sits on the throne, these radical groups may be able to make common cause with the broader opposition -- who will control these weapons of war after the regime falls, however, remains an open question.


The old-school anti-Semitism of Hungary's far right

A senior member of Hungary's far right Jobbik country thinks it's about time the country started keeping better track of its Jews:

Gyongyosi, who leads Jobbik's foreign policy cabinet, told Parliament: "I know how many people with Hungarian ancestry live in Israel, and how many Israeli Jews live in Hungary," according to a video posted on Jobbik's website late on Monday.

"I think such a conflict makes it timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary."

Rhetoric like this in a country where more than half a million Jews were killed during the Holocaust are obviously disturbing. But what makes this more interesting than just another "European far-right politician says offensive thing" story, is that Jobbik's old-fashioned anti-Semitism puts it at odds with the direction other European far-right groups are heading. In much of Western Europe, at least, far-right leaders have been attempting to distance their parties from their past hostility to Jews -- and even praising Israel -- as they shift focus to fears of immigration and Islam. 

The Netherlands' Geert Wilders, a staunch supporter of Israel, which he sees as "fighting our war"  against Islam and "the only democracy in a dark and tyrannical region" was something of a trend-setter in this regard. France's Marine Le Pen has tried to make ammends for her father's hostility to Jews and Holocaust denial by purging outspoken anti-Semites from her party's ranks. (Israel's ambassador to the United Nations was criticized last year for appearing in a photo with Le Pen.) Even the infamous British National Party has attempted -- with minimal success -- to woo Jewish voters by playing up fears of Islamic immigration.

While these outreach efforts have met with little success -- it's probably going to take a lot more than a PR campaign to get European Jews on board with far-right parties -- renouncing anti-Semitism and praising Israel can be a way to deflect charges of bigotry while they keep up their attacks on Islam.

Jobbik --  not to mention Greece's Golden Dawn, whose spokesman reportedly read passages from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion during a parliament meeting -- evidently haven't gotten the memo.