Tag: Arab World

ISRAELI-SUNNI COOPERATION FUELED BY IRAN’S GROWING REGIONAL INFLUENCE

Israel’s Search for Peace May Pass Through the Gulf: Rick Ekstein, Globe and Mail, Apr. 17, 2018— Twenty-five years ago, when I started doing business in the Persian Gulf, no one could have reasonably imagined the warming of relations now unfolding between Israel and a number of key regional players.

The Secret to Successful Arab Modernization is to Stop Hating Israel: Lee Smith, Tablet, Apr. 4, 2018 — In the middle of Mohammed bin Salman’s two-week trip across America seeking investment and advice…

The Middle East’s Nuclear Technology Clock Is Ticking: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Mar. 20, 2018— Concerns about a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race are being fueled by uncertainty over the future of Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement…

The Dangers of Failing Middle East States: Kobi Michael and Yoel Guzansky, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2018 — In an address to a prominent British think tank, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently argued that before establishing a Palestinian state…

On Topic Links

Business Ties to Arab World Skyrocketing, Says Venture Capitalist Margalit: Max Schindler, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 22, 2018

The Future of Israel Looks Good: Efraim Inbar, JISS, Apr. 18, 2018

An Emerging Arab-Israeli Thaw: James S. Robbins, National Interest, Apr. 3, 2018

Russia’s Aim in Mid East: Bloody the Nose of Uncle Sam (Podcast): Elliot Friedland, Clarion Project, Apr. 11, 2018

 

ISRAEL’S SEARCH FOR PEACE MAY PASS THROUGH THE GULF

Rick Ekstein

Globe and Mail, Apr. 17, 2018

Twenty-five years ago, when I started doing business in the Persian Gulf, no one could have reasonably imagined the warming of relations now unfolding between Israel and a number of key regional players. The signs of progress may not make headlines, which are generally reserved for the worst news from the region, but they are important and clearly present, if you know where to look.

To cite just one example, analysts took notice of Air India’s historic announcement that it will operate a direct route between Tel Aviv and Delhi over Saudi airspace – an act that was previously denied by the Gulf state. Across the region, leaders once hostile to Israel are increasingly viewing Israelis as valuable trade, technology, and security partners.

It’s widely observed that these unlikely friendships are rooted in mutual concern toward Iran’s growing influence in the region, seen in the Shia theocracy’s massive expenditure of forces and funds in terror groups across the Middle East. Today, Iran’s aggressive agenda spans much of the map. The regime is bankrolling Hezbollah missiles in Lebanon and Hamas missiles in Gaza. It is arming a brutal insurgency in Yemen. It is building a permanent military presence in Syria, armed with advanced weaponry. This is to say nothing of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which generate as much – if not more – fear in Riyadh and the Gulf as it does in Tel Aviv.

While the context may be one of regional anxiety, the resulting Israeli-Sunni co-operation offers optimism for those who seek an accord between Israel and its neighbours. It may yet foreshadow a comprehensive peace that Israelis have always sought – with mixed success – for their children.

Polling data over the years consistently shows most Israelis support significant concessions for the sake of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Since the state’s establishment – 70 years ago this spring – Israeli leaders have been willing to share the land with their Arab neighbours in two states for two peoples, as envisioned by the UN’s 1947 partition plan.

Since the Oslo Accords, Israelis have offered multiple far-reaching peace proposals, made major concessions, relinquished extensive tracts of land and withdrawn forces in an effort to enable progress towards peace. Tragically, the Palestinian leadership is wracked with dysfunction. Palestinians are currently split between a Gaza-based “government” under Hamas that rejects Israel’s very right to exist and a West Bank Palestinian Authority that has lost the confidence of its people and has boycotted negotiations for years.

I use the term “mixed success” because the failure of Palestinian leaders has not prevented exceptional progress with neighbouring Sunni states. The peace treaties Israel signed with both Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) prove that peace and co-operation are possible. These agreements survived the devastating effects of the Arab Spring, which engulfed the Middle East in chaos. They have also enabled Israelis to share their tremendous knowledge, technology, and resources (now including natural gas) with their neighbours – especially Jordan.

Indeed, a region wracked by socioeconomic, environmental, and security challenges needs more co-operation with innovators in Israel, the so-called “startup nation.” This sentiment is reflected in my personal experience. Many of the friends I made across the Arab world have always held Israel in great esteem and had no problems working with me, a Jewish businessman from Toronto and a strong supporter of Israel.

The Gulf states seem to be quietly recognizing that those who refuse to let go of bitter historic grievances are, tragically, captive to the past. Many Sunni government and business leaders understand that those who fantasize that Israel will disappear – the likes of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas – are as self-deluded as they are self-defeating. To the contrary, Israelis recognize that their future is inseparable from the future of the region, which is one reason why Israel is committed to the security, prosperity and progress of its neighbours.

Nothing is a given in the Middle East. As Israeli leaders – including current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – have repeatedly shown, historic rivals can mend old wounds and build a better future for the next generation. In the face of shared threats, there is a historic opportunity for Sunni leaders to forge a new relationship with Israelis. To build upon current momentum, regional players should urge the Palestinian leadership to end its boycott of negotiations with Israelis and seek a peace accord based on two states for two peoples.

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THE SECRET TO SUCCESSFUL ARAB

MODERNIZATION IS TO STOP HATING ISRAEL

Lee Smith

Tablet, Apr. 4, 2018

In the middle of Mohammed bin Salman’s two-week trip across America seeking investment and advice, from tech innovators in Palo Alto to New York rabbis, for his blueprint for his country’s future, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia made news—maybe history. In an interview with the Atlantic Magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg published Monday, the man known as MBS said that he personally recognized the legitimacy of Zionism. “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation,” said the Saudi royal. “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”

In 1919, Emir Faisal, ruler of the Kingdom of Hejaz, signed a famous agreement with the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann recognizing a Jewish State in a future Arab sphere of influence that would be free of Ottoman and Western colonial rule. Yet ever since MBS’s grandfather Ibn Saud founded the modern Saudi kingdom in 1932, Riyadh has opposed a Jewish state in the Middle East. Some of MBS’s predecessors were more active than others in their opposition. In the early 2000s, for instance, Riyadh covered much of Hamas’ budget and supported other extremist groups committed to the destruction of Israel.

There have also been peace overtures, like the initiative that MBS’s uncle Abdullah, then Crown Prince himself and later King, made public in a February, 17, 2002 Thomas Friedman column. Abdullah’s proposal offered Israel “full normalization of relations” in exchange for withdrawal from “all the occupied lands.” But MBS’s statement leapfrogs Abdullah’s initiative. He has validated the central tenet of Zionism—the Jews have a right to their own land. In the Middle East.

Now when he gets back to Riyadh, the Crown Prince should move for open and normal relations—not because of Israel or the Palestinians or Muslims more generally, or for the sake of world peace, but for his own people. Perhaps it’s because the 32-year-old Arab leader has already broken so many taboos that reports of this history-making statement have been muted. It’s certainly gotten less attention than when MBS detained some 200 officials for several months starting in November. Among those held at the Ritz in a huge corruption purge were several princes, including Waleed bin Talal, one of the world’s wealthiest men. That is, MBS was calling his own family, the royal family, to account.

While many commentators argued the corruption purge was simply cover for a power grab, MBS is already the power behind the throne he is destined to inherit from his father, the 82-year-old King Salman bin Abdulaziz. The real point was that in jailing his own blood, MBS showed that no one is above the law. The royal family, the custodians of Islam’s two holy shrines in Mecca and Medina, is not itself sacred. Rather, it’s an imperfect institution that should be held accountable, like everyone else.

Thus MBS established the precedent by which he too will be judged by those he leads—men as well as women, whom he seeks to make a full part of this conservative country’s society and economy. According to sources in the region, MBS has further pushed against tradition, though much less publicly, in urging religious officials to reform certain Islamic texts that preach violence and hostility to non-Muslims. He told Thomas Friedman in November that the kingdom is not “reinterpreting” Islam but “restoring” it to its origins. On MBS’s reading, it all started to go wrong in 1979, when armed extremists took over the grand mosque in Mecca, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and the Islamic Revolution took root in Iran.

If Middle East and Islam experts tend to roll their eyes with talk of a pre-1979 Saudi Arabia that sounds a little like Sweden, the reality is that he’s written a new foundation story for the vast majority of a population born after 1979. Another thing Saudi youth don’t remember is the last full-on Arab Israeli war in 1973, or the economic embargo MBS’s uncles imposed on the US for supporting Israel. His grand reform project, known as Vision 2030, is a clear warning to his countrymen that Saudi Arabia can no longer exist on oil receipts alone. Nor, as his statement on Israel shows, can Riyadh allow its foreign policy to be held hostage by other regional actors

The Saudis have been embroiled in a regional squabble with their Gulf Cooperation Council neighbor Qatar for close to a year now. Riyadh has imposed an embargo on Doha until it stops promoting and funding extremists, interfering with Saudi’s internal politics, and flirting with Iran. The Saudi effort is ham-fisted, but MBS wants his neighbors in line to counter the Iranian threat. The Palestinians represent a more dangerous breach than Qatar.

The Hamas-fueled protests—attacks —on the Gaza border are partly intended to deflect attention as the Trump administration prepares for the possibility of withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in mid-May. Iran’s strategy is to sow divisions in the US alliance system by highlighting Saudi Arabia’s budding, albeit quiet, relationship with the Palestinians’ adversary, Israel. If in sending children to the border Hamas is trying to force the Saudis to choose between the Palestinians and Israel, MBS deflected the issue Monday, explaining that both have rights…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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   THE MIDDLE EAST’S NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY CLOCK IS TICKING     

Dr. James M. Dorsey

                BESA, Mar. 20, 2018

Concerns about a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race are being fueled by uncertainty over the future of Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement, a seeming US willingness to weaken its strict export safeguards in pursuit of economic advantage, and a willingness by suppliers such as Russia and China to ignore risks involved in weaker controls.

The Trump administration was mulling a loosening of controls to facilitate a possible deal with Saudi Arabia as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged President Trump, in a recent address to a powerful Israeli lobby group in Washington, to scrap the Iranian nuclear deal unless the Islamic Republic agrees to further military restrictions and makes additional political concessions. Israel has an undeclared nuclear arsenal of its own and fears that the technological clock is working against its long-standing military advantage.

The US has signaled that it may be willing to accede to Saudi demands in a bid to ensure that US companies, with Westinghouse in the lead, have a stake in the kingdom’s plan to build 16 reactors by 2032 that would have 17.6 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity. In putting forward demands for parity with Iran by getting the right to controlled enrichment of uranium and the reprocessing of spent fuel into plutonium, potential building blocks for nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia is backing away from a 2009 memorandum of understanding with the US in which it pledged to acquire nuclear fuel from international markets.

“The trouble with flexibility regarding these critical technologies is that it leaves the door open to production of nuclear explosives,” warned nuclear experts Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski in an article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. While Israeli opinion is divided on how the US should respond to Saudi demands, Trump’s and Netanyahu’s opposition to the Iranian nuclear accord has already produced results that would serve Saudi interests.

European signatories to the agreement are pressuring Iran to engage in negotiations to limit its ballistic missile program and drop its support for groups like Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels in Iran. Iran has rejected any renegotiation but has kept the door open to discussions about a supplementary agreement. Saudi Arabia has suggested it may accept tight US controls if Iran agrees to a toughening of its agreement with the international community.

The Trump administration recently allowed high-tech US exports to Iran that could boost international oversight of the nuclear deal. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan signed a waiver that allows a Maryland-based company to export broadband networks, satellite dishes, and wireless equipment to Iran for stations that monitor nuclear explosions in real time.

Iranian resistance to a renegotiation is enhanced by the fact that Europe and even the Trump administration admit that Hezbollah, despite having been designated a terrorist organization by the US, is an undeniable political force in Lebanon. “We…have to recognize the reality that (Hezbollah) are also part of the political process in Lebanon,” former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on the eve of a visit to Beirut. A US willingness to go easy on demands that Saudi Arabia adhere to tough safeguards enshrined in US export control laws, widely viewed as the gold standard, would open a Pandora’s Box.

The United Arab Emirates, the Arab nation closest to inaugurating its first nuclear reactor, has already said it would no longer be bound by the safeguards it agreed to a decade ago if others in the region are granted a more liberal regime. So would countries, like Egypt and Jordan, that are negotiating contracts with non-US companies for the construction of nuclear reactors. A US retreat from safeguards in the case of Saudi Arabia could add a nuclear dimension to the already full-fledged arms race in the Middle East.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) cautioned last year in a report that the Iranian nuclear agreement had “not eliminated the kingdom’s desire for nuclear weapons capabilities and even nuclear weapons… There is little reason to doubt that Saudi Arabia will more actively seek nuclear weapons capabilities, motivated by its concerns about the ending of the (Iranian agreement’s) major nuclear limitations starting after year 10 of the deal or sooner if the deal fails.”

Rather than embarking on a covert program, the report predicted that Saudi Arabia would, for now, focus on building up its civilian nuclear infrastructure as well as a robust nuclear engineering and scientific workforce. This would allow the kingdom to take command of all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle at some point in the future. Saudi Arabia has in recent years significantly expanded graduate programs at its five nuclear research centers…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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THE DANGERS OF FAILING MIDDLE EAST STATES

Kobi Michael and Yoel Guzansky

Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2018

In an address to a prominent British think tank, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently argued that before establishing a Palestinian state, it would be necessary to internalize what had happened in the broader Middle East during the past few years—a reference to the collapsing regional order and the attendant proliferation of failed states. “It’s time,” he said, “we reassessed whether the modern model we have of sovereignty, and unfettered sovereignty, is applicable everywhere in the world.”

Netanyahu expressed a wider and deepening concern over the long-term consequences of the on-going Arab upheavals, euphorically misdiagnosed at their onset as the “Arab Spring.” These upheavals have toppled a number of established regimes and destabilized several states at a horrific human and material cost. But they also have called into question the century-long Arab system based on territorial nation-states by accelerating processes and undercurrents that have long been in operation, turning many of these entities into failed states. By most accepted measures, the Palestinian Authority is also a failed entity. Would a Palestinian state fare any better?

According to the U.N.’s definition, “failed states” are political entities that demonstrate little or no ability to provide their citizens with basic security. Such states suffer from at least three key failings: a weak government that lacks legitimacy and does not enjoy a monopoly on the means of violence; extreme political and societal fragmentation; and severe economic weakness. To these can be added the lack of correlation between nation and state, especially when various national or ethnic groups aspire to independence or view themselves as belonging to a neighboring state. This phenomenon is particularly salient in the contemporary Middle East where the post-World War I agreements partitioned the defunct Ottoman Empire into artificial states that grouped together diverse ethnic groups, rival religions, and, in some cases, speakers of different languages.

American political scientist William Zartman argues that, in most cases, the process of state failure is gradual and prolonged, rather than sudden, as in a coup d’état or revolt. He notes that states that suffer from internal disintegration (primarily because of identity politics—religious, ethnic, etc.) and simultaneously are characterized by weak or non-functioning institutions are liable to become failed states. In such states, failure intensifies in a kind of vicious circle. The weakness of the state’s institutions reinforces the fragmentation, which in turn further weakens the institutions and their legitimacy.

The last two decades show that most of today’s active conflicts, including international terrorism, emanate from failed states, which either cannot control the spillover of domestic turmoil beyond their borders or deliberately seek to export it in an attempt to reduce the threat at home. In other words, crises that develop in failed states also harm their surroundings: They are the biggest generators of humanitarian crises, displaced people, and refugees; they endanger regime stability in neighboring states; they enable access to sophisticated weapons stolen from collapsing military facilities, and they constitute fertile soil for the advent of extremist and terror groups. In the context of the Middle East, they encourage subversive activities among Muslim com-munities in Western countries in a way that might destabilize those countries’ social order…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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On Topic Links

Business Ties to Arab World Skyrocketing, Says Venture Capitalist Margalit: Max Schindler, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 22, 2018—As Israel marked Independence Day, the country was benefiting from ever-growing business ties with the Arab world, according to one Israeli executive who has helped paved the way for the budding rapprochement.

The Future of Israel Looks Good: Efraim Inbar, JISS, Apr. 18, 2018—At 70, Israel stands strong, yet debates about its health persist. The radical Israeli Left seems most concerned about the country’s future, arguing that there is great urgency in solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; otherwise, Israel is doomed. The Left contends that Israel’s democratic character, its international legitimacy, and its ability to withstand protracted conflict all are threatened by the ongoing stalemate.

An Emerging Arab-Israeli Thaw: James S. Robbins, National Interest, Apr. 3, 2018—A tectonic shift is taking place in Middle East politics. We may be on the verge of seeing a historic normalization of relations between Israel and several major Arab states. And it is all thanks to Iran.

Russia’s Aim in Mid East: Bloody the Nose of Uncle Sam (Podcast): Elliot Friedland, Clarion Project, Apr. 11, 2018—To the detriment of the U.S., Russia seems to be dominating much of what is going on in the Middle East right now – especially on the Syrian front. Why? And how does it affect America? Listen to the following podcast in which Clarion Project’s Elliot Friedland presents four answers.

TURKEY ATTACKS U.S.-BACKED KURDS AMID ANKARA’S INCREASING ISOLATION & NEO-OTTOMAN EXPANSIONISM

Erdogan’s Fire and Fury: Robert Ellis, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 22, 2018— Under the bizarre name “Olive Branch,” Turkey has launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria.

Don’t Abandon the Kurds to the ‘Mercies’ of Turkey’s Tyrant: Ralph Peters, New York Post, Jan. 22, 2018— The United States has been the protector and ally of the Kurds for a quarter-century.

Turkey, the Arab World Is Just Not That into You: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 14, 2018— He runs around in a fake fire extinguisher's outfit, holding a silly hose in his hands and knocking on neighbors' doors to put out the fire in their homes.

Erdogan's Israel Obsession: Prof. Efraim Inbar, Israel Hayom, Dec. 24, 2017— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's hostility toward Israel can be puzzling at times.

 

On Topic Links

 

Trump Sharply Warns Turkey Against Military Strikes in Syria: Gardiner Harris, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2018

Watching Turkey's Descent into Islamist Dictatorship: Andrew Harrod, Algemeiner, Jan. 2, 2018

Turkey is Becoming New Hub for Salafist-Jihadi Exodus from Syria: Metin Gurcan, Al-Monitor, Jan. 8, 2018

Turkey’s Expansionist Military Policies in the Middle East: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, Jan. 24, 2018

 

 

 

ERDOGAN’S FIRE AND FURY

Robert Ellis

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 22, 2018

 

Under the bizarre name “Olive Branch,” Turkey has launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria. This operation had been expected for the past week and only needed Moscow’s blessing to begin.

 

US support for the struggle by Kurdish forces to drive Islamic State (ISIS) from northern Syria has long been a thorn in Turkey’s side, as has the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish region (Rojava). The backbone of the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is considered by Turkey to be part and parcel of Turkey’s separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

 

 

Matters came to a head on January 13, when the US-led Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) announced the formation of a 30,000-strong “Border Security Force,” half of which would consist of SDF veterans. The force would be deployed along the border with Turkey, the Iraqi border and along the Euphrates River Valley, an area which contains two of Rojava’s three regions. This was a red flag to Turkey’s already belligerent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who threatened to “strangle” this force “before it’s even born.” The Pentagon said this was “a mischaracterization of the training that we are providing to local security forces in Syria” and instead it was a “kind of security or stabilization force” or “some sort of hold force.” According to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “Some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all.”

 

Erdogan warned that Turkey would destroy all terrorist nests in Syria, starting from the Afrin and Manbij regions, and that it would do so in about a week. In August 2016, a month after the attempted coup in Turkey, the Turkish army crossed the Syrian border and in Operation Euphrates Shield occupied most of the area west of the Euphrates and east of the third Kurdish region, Afrin, effectively blocking any attempt to create a Kurdish corridor south of the Turkish border.

 

But Manbij, which lies west of the Euphrates, was captured by the SDF from ISIS in 2016 and is a thorn in Turkey’s eye. The Pentagon immediately distanced itself from Afrin and stated it did not support YPG elements in Afrin and did not consider them part of their fight against ISIS. “We are not involved with them at all,” the Pentagon’s spokesman added.

 

The Syrian government has warned Turkey that combat operations in the Afrin area would be considered an act of aggression which would be met by Syrian air defenses. However, as Syrian airspace is controlled by Russia, on Thursday Turkey’s Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar and head of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) Hakan Fidan were sent to Moscow to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov to pave the way for the operation. In August a Russian Center for Reconciliation was set up near the city of Afrin, but the personnel have now been withdrawn “to prevent potential provocation and exclude the threat to the life and well-being of Russian military [personnel].”

 

On Saturday the Turkish General Staff announced that it had launched “Operation Olive Branch” to establish security and stability on Turkey’s borders, to eliminate terrorists and to save “our friends and brothers” (a reference to opposition forces backed by Turkey) from oppression and cruelty. It also claimed the right to self-defense while being respectful of Syria’s territorial integrity. In turn, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern and called on the sides to exercise constraint.

 

However, the Russian Defense Ministry put the blame for Turkey’s “extremely negative reaction” fair and square on “the provocative US steps aimed at the separation of regions with a predominantly Kurdish population” and “the Pentagon’s uncontrolled deliveries of modern weapons to the pro-US forces in northern Syria.”

 

Nevertheless, Russia’s attempts to include Syria’s Kurdish minority in an overall settlement for Syria have suffered a major setback. A draft constitution for Syria put forward by Russia in Astana a year ago safeguarded the status of what it termed “Kurdish cultural autonomy.” With regard to the National Dialogue Congress which will take place in Sochi next week Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated, “The Kurds are definitely part of the Syrian nation and we need to take their interests into consideration.”

 

Furthermore, the opportunity for what Lavrov has called “a constructive dialogue” with the US has also been sacrificed on the altar of President Erdogan’s ambition. Former Turkish foreign minister Yasar Yakis believes an accommodation over the Kurdish question in Syria is a possible area of convergence between the US and Russia – if political and military developments do not get out of control. Which is what they at present show every sign of doing.               

 

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DON’T ABANDON THE KURDS TO THE ‘MERCIES’ OF TURKEY’S TYRANT

Ralph Peters

New York Post, Jan. 22, 2018

 

The United States has been the protector and ally of the Kurds for a quarter-century. And the Kurds have proven to be, man-for-man and woman-for-woman, the best fighters in the region. Without Kurdish boots on the ground, we would not have made the sweeping progress achieved against the Islamic State caliphate. Now, with ISIS crushed (but still wriggling and snapping), we’re turning our backs on our Kurdish allies in Syria as they’re attacked by a NATO ally gone rogue — Turkey, which is led by an Islamist strongman, the odious “President” Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

 

The Kurds are fighting for freedom and a state of their own. There are at least 30 million Kurds divided between Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, and possibly 10 million more — none of the states where they’re captive have allowed an honest census. Kurds have been butchered en masse, denied fundamental rights, imprisoned, tortured, raped, cheated and scapegoated. (All of which should sound unnervingly familiar to those who know Israel’s backstory.)

 

After letting the Kurds down at Versailles a century ago, when we acquiesced to denying them a state, we finally stepped up to do the right thing in the wake of Desert Storm — after Saddam Hussein had used poison gas on Iraq’s Kurdish population. In return, the Kurds have fought bravely beside us in a succession of conflicts. Outside of Israel, no one has done more to support our priorities — especially in combatting Islamist terrorists. Now we’re on the verge of permitting another slaughter of Kurds. To please Turkey. We should be on the side of the underdogs, not of the rabid dogs.

 

As Turkish tanks roll into Syria’s Afrin Province to kill Kurds, it’s time to recognize that Turkey’s no longer an ally and no longer belongs in NATO (Erdogan is even buying Russian air-defense systems). Turkey’s dictator-in-all-but-name has gutted democracy, imprisoned tens of thousands on false charges, suppressed the free media, rigged the courts, backed Islamist hardliners in Syria — and, for political advantage, reignited a conflict that had gone quiet with Turkey’s internal Kurdish population. Oh, and Erdogan’s a prime supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, in Turkey and abroad.

 

Why on earth are we permitting his attack on our Kurdish allies? It really comes down to two related issues. First, inertia. Turkey has been our ally (if a difficult one) since the early Cold War, so we blindly accept the notion that it must remain an ally forever — even as Erdogan works against our strategic interests. Second, restricted use of a single air base has paralyzed our Turkey policy. Unquestionably, Incirlik air base, in southeastern Turkey, has a prime strategic location. Our operations would be more challenging without it. And Turkey uses that as leverage. It’s time to call Erdogan’s bluff. We should not sacrifice the future of 30 million to 40 million pro-American Kurds for the sake of a couple of runways.

 

Erdogan’s excuse for sending his air force and army across the border into Syrian territory liberated by Kurds is his bogus claim that the Kurds we’ve backed — who fought ISIS house to house — are all terrorists. In the alphabet game of the Middle East, Erdogan insists that Syria’s Kurdish YPG forces — our allies — are indistinguishable from the PKK, a Turkish domestic resistance group that had abandoned terror to seek a political accommodation. While oppressed Kurds everywhere do feel a measure of solidarity with one another, claiming that the YPG is the same as the PKK is like blaming Rand Paul for Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks.

 

What should we do to stop Turkey from using US-supplied, US-made weapons to kill our only dependable regional allies outside of Israel? It’s time to embrace the future rather than clinging to the past. It’s time to imagine a strategy without Incirlik air base and with Turkey suspended from NATO until it returns to the rule of law and honest elections. It’s time to recognize that the Kurds deserve and have earned a state of their own. And, right now, it’s past time to draw a red line for Erdogan, who cannot be permitted to slaughter Kurds who have been fighting beside us and for us. The Kurds aren’t terrorists. The terrorist sits in his president’s chair in Ankara.               

 

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TURKEY, THE ARAB WORLD IS JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU

Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, Jan. 14, 2018

 

He runs around in a fake fire extinguisher's outfit, holding a silly hose in his hands and knocking on neighbors' doors to put out the fire in their homes. "Go away," his neighbors keep telling him. "There is no fire here!" I am the person to put out that fire, he insists, as doors keep shutting on his face. That was more or less how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's neo-Ottoman, pro-ummah (Islamic community), "Big Brother" game has looked in the Middle East.

 

After years of trial and failure Erdogan does not understand that his services are not wanted in the Muslim neighborhood: The Iranians are too Shiite to trust his Sunni Islamism; the (mostly Sunni) Kurds' decades-long dispute with the Turks is more ethnic than religious; and Sunni Arabs do not wish to revisit their Ottoman colonial past. Still, Erdogan insists.

 

Turkish textbooks have taught children how treacherous Arab tribes stabbed their Ottoman ancestors in the back during the First World War, and even how Arabs collaborated with non-Muslim Western powers against Muslim Ottoman Turks. A pro-Western, secular rule in the modern Turkish state in the 20th century coupled with various flavors of Islamism in the Arab world added to an already ingrained anti-Arabism in the Turkish psyche. Erdogan's indoctrination, on the other hand, had to break that anti-Arabism if he wanted to revive the Ottoman Turkish rule over a future united ummah. The Turks had to rediscover their "Arab brothers" if Erdogan's pan-Islamism had to advance into the former Ottoman realms in the Middle East.

 

It was not a coincidence that the number of imam [religious] school students, under Erdogan's rule, has risen sharply to 1.3 million from a mere 60,000 when he first came to power in 2002, an increase of more than twenty-fold. Erdogan is happy. "We are grateful to God for that," he said late in 2017. Meanwhile, the Turkish Education Ministry added Arabic courses to its curriculum and the state broadcaster, TRT, launched an Arabic television channel.

 

Not enough. In addition, Erdogan would pursue a systematic policy to bash Israel at every opportunity and play the champion Muslim leader of the "Palestinian cause." He has done that, too, and in an exaggerated way, by countless times declaring himself the champion of the Palestinian cause — and he still does it. Erdogan's Turkey championed an international campaign to recognize eastern Jerusalem as the capital city of the Palestinian state, with several Arab pats on the shoulder.

 

His spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, happily said that the dispute over Jerusalem after President Donald Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital "had in fact united the Muslim world." A united Muslim front around the "Palestinian capital Jerusalem" is a myth. Iran, for instance, renounced Turkey's Jerusalem efforts because, according to the regime, the entire city of Jerusalem, not just eastern Jerusalem, should have been recognized as the Palestinian capital. Before that, Turkey accused some Arab countries of showing a weak reaction to Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

 

The Turkish-Arab fraternity along Muslims lines is an even bigger myth. For instance, the Saudi-led Gulf blockade of Qatar imposed in June came as a complete shock. One of his Sunni brothers had taken out the sword against another?! Turkey's Sunni brothers had once been sympathetic to his ideas but no longer are. Only two years ago, Turkey and Saudi Arabia were mulling the idea of a joint military strike in Syria.

 

For the Sunni Saudis, the Turks were allies only if they could be of use in any fight against Shiite Iran or its proxies, such as the Baghdad government or the Syrian regime. For the Saudis, Turkey was only useful if it could serve a sectarian purpose. Meanwhile, as Turkey, together with Qatar, kept on championing Hamas, Saudi Arabia and Egypt distanced themselves from the Palestinian cause and consequently from Turkey. Both the Saudi kingdom and Egypt's al-Sisi regime have viewed Hamas, an Iranian satellite, with hostility, whereas Turkey gave it logistical and ideological support. Another reason for the change in Saudi Arabia's position toward Turkey — from "friendly" to "semi-medium-hostile" — is Saudi Arabia's newfound alliance with Egypt's President el-Sisi. El-Sisi replaced the Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, in Egypt, while Turkey and Qatar, have effectively been the embodiments of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region. Erdogan offered to build a Turkish military base in the Kingdom, for example, but in June, Saudi officials turned him down.

 

Erdogan might benefit by being reminded of a few facts and shaken out of his make-believe world. For instance, he might recall, that his worst regional nemesis is an Arab leader, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, not an "infidel king." He must realize that he is no longer the "rock star" he was in the streets of Amman or Beirut that he once was – when the only currency he could sell on the Arab Street was his anti-Semitic rants. Turkey does not even have full diplomatic relations with the most populous Sunni Arab nation, Egypt. More recently, a tiny sheikdom had to remind Erdogan that his expansionist, "ummah-ist" design for the Middle East was no more than a fairy tale he persistently wanted to believe. In December, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan shared a tweet that accused Turkish troops of looting the holy city of Medina a century ago. In response, Erdogan himself lashed out: “Some impertinent man sinks low and goes as far as accusing our ancestors of thievery … What spoiled this man? He was spoiled by oil, by the money he has.”

 

But that was not the end of what looks like a minor historical debate. The row symbolized the impossibility of what Erdogan has been trying to build: An eternal Arab-Turkish fraternity. Anwar Gargash, UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said there was a need for Arab countries to rally around the "Arab axis" of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Did Erdogan hear that? If not, he should have heard this one: Gargash also said that "the Arab world would not be led by Turkey." In what better plain diplomatic language could the idea have been expressed? Meanwhile Erdogan keeps living in his make-believe world. Last summer, as part of his futile "euphemizing Arab-Ottoman history" campaign, he claimed that "Arabs stabbed us in the back was a lie." Not even the Arabs claim they did not revolt against the Ottomans in alliance with Western powers.

 

If none of that is enough to convince Erdogan he should read some credible polling results. Taha Akyol, a prominent Turkish columnist, recently noted some research conducted by the pollster Zogby in 2016. The poll found that 67% of Egyptians, 65% of Saudis, 59% of UAE citizens, and 70% of Iraqis had an unfavorable opinion of Turkey. Do not tell Erdogan, but if "polling" had existed a century ago, the numbers might have been even worse.                                            

 

Contents

ERDOGAN'S ISRAEL OBSESSION

Prof. Efraim Inbar

Israel Hayom, Dec. 24, 2017

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's hostility toward Israel can be puzzling at times. When his Justice and Development (AKP) party rose to power through democratic elections in 2002, ties with Israel had been solid for a number of years. Erdogan visited Israel himself in 2005. His government purchased weapons from and held joint military maneuvers with Israel. Under Erdogan, Turkey attempted to serve as mediator between Israel and Syria and expressed interest in collaborating with Israel on projects to benefit Palestinians. Economic ties between the two countries continue to flourish, and Turkey's official airline operates around 10 flights per day between Tel Aviv and Istanbul. The reasons for the change can be found in Erdogan's personality and Turkey's strategic environment. Erdogan has acquired status and unprecedented political power, and he is fearlessly working to realize his personal preferences in both Turkey's domestic and foreign policies.

 

Erdogan's treatment of the Jewish state stems from his negative opinion of Jews in general. Erdogan had issues with anti-Semitic remarks in the past, which stem from his Islamist education and the anti-Jewish atmosphere in Islamist circles in Turkey. Many in those circles believe that the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was secretly a Jew. They see Jews as having been a central agent in Turkey's process of secularization under Ataturk, a process they consider destructive. Therefore, Jews are the bitter enemy sabotaging Turkey's Muslim identity. A shrewd politician, Erdogan is aware that his anti-Semitic positions earn him praise that translates to votes come election time. Opinion polls from the previous decade indicate that around half of all Turks do not want a Jewish neighbor and believe Jews are disloyal to the state. In Turkey, anti-Semitic sentiments are no longer politically incorrect.

 

Another important factor behind the poor relations between the two countries is Turkey's desire to wield influence in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world. Turkey's foreign policy has broken off from the Kemalist outlook that saw ties with Middle Eastern states as a cultural and political burden, and Turkey now draws more from its imperial Ottoman heritage. Under Erdogan, Muslim identity plays a large part in Turkey's foreign policy. The desire to become a regional and global leader demands that Turkey lower the profile of its relations with Israel.

 

At the same time, Turkey is distancing itself from the West, and the United States in particular. With the fall of the Soviet Union, there is less strategic need for NATO membership, especially given EU opposition to Turkey joining the organization. Alongside a weakened EU, America's diminished presence in the Middle East under former President Barack Obama and now under President Donald Trump has bolstered the Turkish trend of deviating from the West in its policy on Israel. And yet Turkey maintains diplomatic ties and excellent financial ties with Israel, which has a vested interest in ties with as important a Muslim state as Turkey. While Israel cannot let Erdogan's attacks slide, its response must differentiate between Turkish society and its popular but problematic leader.

 

The struggle for Turkey's identity is not over. Only half of all Turks voted for Erdogan in the last elections. In the Middle East, countries that can afford to oppose Erdogan are few and far between. Turkey and Iran are historic rivals, and tensions between them also stem from the Sunni-Shiite divide. Today, Turkey cooperates with Iran, largely out of both countries' concern over Kurdish nationalism and the Muslim character of their foreign policies. In the future, Turkey may decide to oppose Iran's expansion and as a result improve ties with Israel. The international reality is fluid, and Israel must keep all options open.

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Trump Sharply Warns Turkey Against Military Strikes in Syria: Gardiner Harris, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2018—Simmering tensions between Turkey and the United States spilled into the open on Wednesday as President Trump warned President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against the growing risk of conflict between the two nations. The Turkish president, for his part, demanded that the United States end its support for Kurdish militias.

Watching Turkey's Descent into Islamist Dictatorship: Andrew Harrod, Algemeiner, Jan. 2, 2018—"Deep trouble" in Turkey's relationships with Europe and the United States was a recurring theme in the December address of Michael Meier — representative to America and Canada for Germany's Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), or the Foundation for Social Democracy. His introduction to the Middle East Institute (MEI) and FES' eighth annual Turkey Conference, at Washington, DC's National Press Club was an appropriately gloomy preface to the discussion of Turkey's troubled past and present.

Turkey is Becoming New Hub for Salafist-Jihadi Exodus from Syria: Metin Gurcan, Al-Monitor, Jan. 8, 2018—As the Islamic State (IS) has lost territory in Syria and Iraq, and as efforts are being made to separate radical elements from moderate Sunni opposition groups in and around Idlib, the violent Salafist-jihadi networks are migrating to Turkey.

Turkey’s Expansionist Military Policies in the Middle East: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, Jan. 24, 2018—While Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East have been under the world’s magnifying glass, Turkey has been silently projecting its military presence in the area to such an extent it has become a source of worry to the “moderate” Arab states and specifically to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

                                                              

 

 

M.E. PLAGUED BY INSTABILITY, BUT ISRAEL REMAINS OUR MOST DEPENDABLE ALLY

A New Politics Emerges in Middle East. It Doesn't Involve Democracy: Robert Fulford, National Post, Nov. 10, 2017— On December 17, 2010, a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi was infuriated by bureaucrats who refused to give him a peddler’s permit.

Don’t Forget Middle East Madness: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Nov. 7, 2017 — There is currently a real Asian pivot as the president completes one of the longest presidential tours of Asia in memory.

As Saudi Arabia Reels, the Middle East Will Only Get Worse: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, November 10, 2017—As Saudi Arabia reels from Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s frontal assault on the kingdom’s elite, indications are that the Saudi-Iranian proxy war is heating up.

The U.S. Middle East Peace Plan?: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 13, 2017— Who said that Palestinians have no respect for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab countries? They do.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Real Arab Spring: Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary, Nov. 6, 2017

Trump Team Begins Drafting Middle East Peace Plan: Peter Baker, New York Times, Nov. 11, 2017

Why There Is No Peace in the Middle East: Philip Carl Salzman, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 14, 2017

The Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah Connection: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 8, 2017

                                                           

 

A NEW POLITICS EMERGES IN MIDDLE EAST.

IT DOESN'T INVOLVE DEMOCRACY                                                 

Robert Fulford

National Post, Nov. 10, 2017

 

On December 17, 2010, a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi was infuriated by bureaucrats who refused to give him a peddler’s permit. When he was slapped by a policewoman while registering his complaint, he was so humiliated that he set himself on fire. That act became a catalyst for the demonstrations known as the Arab Spring.

 

His self-immolation set off violent mobs across Tunisia so intense and so menacing that President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali stepped down after 23 years in power and left with his family for Saudi Arabia. Bouazizi spent 18 comatose days in the hospital and then died. About 5,000 people followed his funeral procession as news of his suicide swept quickly across the Arab world. He turned into an international hero. A Tunisian professor declared that Bouazizi “changed the course of Arab political history,” with a “breakthrough in the fight against autocracy.” Tunisia put his picture on a postage stamp. Two Tunisian directors promised to make a movie about him, one of them calling him “a symbol for eternity.” The London Times named him “person of the year.” Paris named a square after him.

 

Most of the mobs demanded democracy. In the West, they were cheered on by the media. It was still the era when President George W. Bush expressed the belief that everyone in the world wanted to live in a democracy. Many westerners (I was typical) accepted that, if the mobs demanded democracy, they probably wanted democracy. We talked about how it would be managed. In truth, the Arabs had little experience of democracy, no tradition of it and no way to bring it about. What they wanted, more likely, was freedom from oppression.

 

As a result, the Arab world today remains politically and intellectually constricted. Despots are still in charge. In Egypt especially, the goals of the Arab Spring now look pathetic. In April 2011, as Egypt prepared for an experiment with democracy, the Muslim Brotherhood launched a political party, Freedom and Justice, to contest the 2012 presidential election. Its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, became Egypt’s first democratically elected president, an apparent triumph for freedom. But a year later, when the Muslim Brotherhood grew spectacularly unpopular, the military under Abdel Fatah al-Sissi overturned it and installed a regime at least as repressive and violent as the pre-Arab Spring dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. The crowds shouting for democracy in Tahrir Square accomplished precisely the opposite of their demands. The Muslim Brotherhood has since been identified as a terrorist group by Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

 

Yemen and Libya turned into failed states; ISIL chose Libya as an attractive location for one of its wings. Morocco and Jordan managed to deflect the demands of the mobs. Tunisia, where it all began with Bouazizi, emerged as the one partial success of the Arab Spring. Tunisians uniquely knew enough to bargain their way to political compromise. They drafted a new constitution, determining how to rotate power. But their government faces fresh reversals through terrorism that cripples their economy.

 

This year, a new pattern is emerging in the Middle East. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (often referred to as MBS), the designated Saudi king-to-be, has begun a broad anti-corruption campaign. His officials have detained hundreds of leaders in government and big business, many of them the royal relatives of MBS. This campaign may be MBS’ way of consolidating and defining power, but it may also be a way of making progress by cutting down the endemic corruption of the oil kingdoms. It is said that MBS recently encouraged the King’s decision to break tradition by allowing women to drive cars. That change may be the first step in the liberation of women, or merely a fresh way of making Saudi Arabia seem relatively attractive to foreigners. Possibly it signals an attempt to turn a hidebound kingdom into a fledging modern state.

 

At the same time, the Saudis have taken an aggressive stand against Iran and its puppet Lebanon. For a long time, Iran has been free to establish itself through its terrorist connections as a leading power in the region. Hezbollah, the Iran-supported Shi’a Islamist terror faction, is so well situated in Lebanon that it has representatives in the national parliament and enough seats in the cabinet to veto any legislation. The Saudis have mainly ignored Iran’s progress, but now it seems that they have recognized this threat and decided to oppose it. MBS’ vision of reform doesn’t involve democracy. But it offers populism, nationalism and realism. As Sohrab Ahmari wrote this week in Commentary magazine, Arab society isn’t configured to democracy as the West understands it. The Arab Spring has yielded Islamism, failed states and civil war. Perhaps MBS is breaking free of past failures and charting a new route to reform and prosperity for the Saudis and their region.                                    

 

Contents

DON’T FORGET MIDDLE EAST MADNESS

Victor Davis Hanson

National Review, Nov. 7, 2017

 

There is currently a real Asian pivot as the president completes one of the longest presidential tours of Asia in memory. Three carrier battle groups are in the West Pacific…In contrast, Americans lately have gladly almost forgotten about the Middle East, except for occasional updates on the systematic destruction of the once “jayvee” ISIS. They are certainly relieved that Fallujah is no longer in the news much. It is a relief that no one catches any more Al Jazeera clips of ISIS cowards burning, drowning, decapitating, blowing up, and hanging women and children. More likely, ISIS jihadists are bedraggled, soiled, and drifting about asking for clemency from their betters…

 

There are no more U.S. troops in a supposedly “sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq” — and hardly an Iraq at all. So much for Vice President Joe Biden’s pre-pullout boast that a post-surge, consensual Iraqi government was likely to be the Obama administration’s “greatest achievement”. After Barack Obama was embarrassed by his faux-red-line in Syria, then–secretary of state John Kerry sought to address a loss of face by fobbing off the region to the Russians after their 40-year ostracism from the Middle East. The last few years, Vladimir Putin seems more the arbiter of peace and war than does an American president.

 

Few liberals now defend the Obama-Clinton-Rice-Power bombing of Libya and the mess that followed. After Benghazi and the failed-state terrorist sanctuaries, who could? As for Egypt, the Obama administration managed to be despised all at once by the old Mubarak kleptocracy, by the administration’s once-favored Muslim Brotherhood “one-election, one time” cabal led by USC grad Mohamed Morsi, and by the junta of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Who can keep track?

 

Until recently America apparently favored an ascendant Iran-Shiite-Hezbollah-Assad nexus over the ossified and estranged Sunni Gulf monarchies. The prior administration pushed through the Iran deal that sent billions of dollars into the Iranian terrorist pipeline and eventually will guarantee an Iranian bomb — on the promise that the bomb would come later rather than sooner. Who can count all the masked side deals, hidden cash supplements, and unspoken corollaries in the agreement? The U.S. is now exporting vast amounts of oil, coal, and natural gas, and is the world’s largest producer of fossil-fuel energy. It eventually will have little need for Middle East energy, although it is still worried that belligerents do. We rarely hear much anymore of the old petrodollar stories about revolving-door government officials and lobbyists selling out to Saudi interests.

 

Iran now has the cash to buy almost all the weapons it needs. With ISIS gone, the Kurds increasingly isolated, and the U.S. not likely to remain much longer in the region after the demise of ISIS, Iran will finish building its pathway to the Mediterranean. There will be lots of jihadists, terrorists, and insurgents out of work and eager to fight Israel, much as they did in 2006. Eleven years is a long time without a major Israeli–Islamic Arab war — and so plenty of time for a foolish new generation of Islamists to believe that they can destroy the IDF.

 

So this much-needed respite from the Middle East madness may be coming to a close. An empowered Iran is getting richer, and it is watching closely how nuclear North Korea fares in its threats to the U.S. and its allies. Hezbollah, the Assad government, and Iran are waging a veritable proxy war against Saudi Arabia. Lebanon may soon become the Lebanon battleground of the 1970s and 1980s again.

 

Which brings us to Israel, out late, great — but most dependable — ally. Over the last eight years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was demonized by the Obama administration to the point that Democratic operatives interfered in a foreign election in hopes of defeating Netanyahu at the polls. Israel’s strategic worries were often written off as neuroses by the U.S. security apparat. Yet Israel still quietly rises to growing existential threats as if they were the same old, same old “death to Israel” boilerplate. While we fight over the cost, efficacy, symbolism, and ethics of building a wall along our southern border, Israel long ago shrugged and simply built a 440-mile barrier to fence out terrorists. It worked quite well and stopped most suicide bombing. When the U.N., the EU, and the International Court of Justice condemned Israel for doing what now much of Eastern Europe and the Gulf monarchies routinely do to protect their borders, Israel just shrugged.

 

When North Korea, as is its weekly habit, threatens to blow up Seoul with “ten-thousands guns,” South Korea and the United States all but declare that they are strategically emasculated by the specter of 250 square miles of Seoul instantly vaporized — as if that were a given. Yet when Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas brag that they can collectively send more than 200,000 rockets and missiles of various calibers and payloads into Israel cities (Israel’s entire population is a third of Seoul’s), Israel shrugged. It apparently remembers that in 2006 its enemies launched more than 4,000 rockets into Israeli cities, killed about 50 people, and hardly prevented Israel from retaliating as it saw fit.

 

If facing Armageddon, Israel is apparently determined to take out quite a large portion of the radical Middle East with it. When North Korea promises that a nuclear-tipped missile will land on the West Coast, we rightly go into near panic. When Iran promises that very shortly it will have the ability to do the same and wipe out the “one-bomb-state” of Israel, Israel shrugs. If facing Armageddon, it is apparently determined to take out quite a large portion of the radical Middle East with it — if anyone would be so foolish as to test whether Israel, as reputed, really has an arsenal of 100 to 200 nukes.

 

In any future war, the Sunni “moderates” may be a bit more eager to press Israel to hit the Iranian Shiite forces harder. And they may be a bit more restrained in their loud but empty Pan-Islamic denunciations of “Zionist aggressions” against non-Sunni Muslims whom they despise and fear more than they do Israel. For all its bluster, Iran might be a bit more careful, given that no one quite knows what Donald Trump will do, though they can see he likes Israel a lot more than Barack Obama did — and radical Islamists a lot less. Russia is now right in the way of a new version of the 2006 battleground, but Putin’s method seems to back likely winners if it does not too ostentatiously erode Russian credibility…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

Contents

AS SAUDI ARABIA REELS, THE MIDDLE EAST WILL ONLY GET WORSE

Dr. James M. Dorsey

BESA, Nov. 10, 2017

 

As Saudi Arabia reels from Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s frontal assault on the kingdom’s elite, indications are that the Saudi-Iranian proxy war is heating up. The arrests occurred as Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in what many saw as a Saudi-engineered move aimed at stymying Lebanon’s powerful, pro-Iranian Hezbollah militias. Saudi defenses also intercepted a ballistic missile attack by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

 

A Saudi-backed military alliance that includes the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, and Sudan appeared to open the door for a more direct confrontation with Iran when it denounced the missile strike as “a blatant and direct military aggression by the Iranian regime, which may amount to an act of war against Saudi Arabia.” “Saudi Arabia also has a right to respond to Iran at the appropriate time and manner, supported by international law and in accordance with its inherent right to defend its territory, its people, and its interests protected by all international conventions,” the alliance said in a statement.

 

Aware that a military confrontation with Iran could prove disastrous, Saudi Arabia signaled that it is more likely to strike at Iranian proxies. In response to the missile attack, it imposed a temporary air, land, and sea embargo on Yemen, a country that is struggling with a humanitarian catastrophe as a result of the kingdom-led two-and-one-half-year military intervention. Some 10,000 people have been killed in the war, which, according to the UN, has left half a million Yemenis infected with cholera and some seven million on the brink of famine in the Arab world’s poorest nation.

 

Yemen is not, however, the only place that is likely to see escalation because of increasing Saudi-Iranian tensions. Lebanon, for example, is a collection of religious and ethnic minorities that has yet to cement an overriding national identity – but that has miraculously maintained stability despite the Syrian civil war on its doorstep and a massive influx of refugees. Following Hariri’s resignation, Lebanon is teetering. While there is only circumstantial evidence for Saudi Arabia’s role in persuading Hariri, who said he feared for his life amid rumors of a foiled assassination attempt, to resign, he was unequivocal in towing the Saudi line in his announcement.

 

Iran, Hariri said, “has a desire to destroy the Arab world and has boasted of its control of the decisions in all the Arab capitals. Hezbollah imposed a reality in Lebanon through force of arms, and their intervention causes us big problems with all our Arab allies.” The impression of Saudi influence was fueled by the fact that Hariri made his announcement not on his Future TV network but in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, on the kingdom’s Al Arabiya station. Ironically, the owner of Al Arabiya, Waleed bin Ibrahim al-Ibrahim, was among the businessmen detained on the instructions of Prince Muhammad. Beyond holding dual Lebanese-Saudi citizenship, Hariri long headed Saudi Oger, a conglomerate owned by his family. Saudi Oger went bankrupt earlier this year, becoming one of the first victims of the economic downturn in the kingdom as a result of decreased oil revenues.

 

While there is little doubt that Saudi Arabia is seeking to weaken Hezbollah’s strong position in Lebanon, it was not clear whether that was sole reason for Saudi enthusiasm about Hariri’s resignation. The former prime minister was widely seen as Lebanon’s most accommodating Sunni Muslim politician, willing to acknowledge that Hezbollah, believed by many to be responsible for the 2005 killing of his father, Rafik Hariri, was a part of the country’s political infrastructure. By throwing a monkey wrench into Lebanese politics, Hariri has opened the door to Saudi attempts to generate pressure on Hezbollah to choose between being a political party that is subject to government decisions, like not interfering in the Syrian war, or an Iranian proxy that engages in regional conflicts. The problem is that due to the weakness of the Lebanese state and military, past attempts to blunt Hezbollah’s fangs have failed…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                       

 

Contents

THE U.S. MIDDLE EAST PEACE PLAN?

Bassam Tawil

Gatestone Institute, Nov. 13, 2017

 

Who said that Palestinians have no respect for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab countries? They do. Palestinians have respect for the money of their Arab brethren. The respect they lack is for the heads of the Arab states, and the regimes and royal families there. It is important to take this into consideration in light of the growing talk about Saudi Arabia's effort to help the Trump Administration market a comprehensive peace plan for the Middle East, the details of which remain intriguingly mysterious.

 

Last week, the Saudis unexpectedly summoned Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh for talks on Trump's "ultimate solution" for the Israeli-Arab conflict, reportedly being promoted by Jared Kushner. According to unconfirmed reports, the Saudis pressured Abbas to endorse the Trump Administration's "peace plan." Abbas was reportedly told that he had no choice but to accept the plan or resign. At this stage, it remains unclear how Abbas responded to the Saudi "ultimatum." Last week, the Saudis unexpectedly summoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh for talks on Trump's "ultimate solution" for the Israeli-Arab conflict. Abbas was reportedly told that he had no choice but to accept the plan or resign.

 

If true, the Saudi "ultimatum" to Abbas is tantamount to asking him to sign his death warrant. Abbas cannot afford to be seen by his people as being in collusion with an American "peace plan" that does not comply completely with their demands. Abbas has repeatedly made it clear that he will not accept anything less than a sovereign Palestinian state on all the pre-1967 lands, including east Jerusalem. He has also emphasized that the Palestinians will never give up the "right of return" for millions of "refugees" to their former homes inside Israel. Moreover, Abbas has clarified that the Palestinians will not accept the presence of any Israeli in their future Palestinian state.

 

Abbas has done his dirty work well. He knows that he cannot come back to his people with anything less than what he promised them. He knows that his people have been radicalized to the point that they will not agree to any concessions or compromise with Israel. And who is responsible for this radicalization? Abbas and other Palestinian leaders, who continue unendingly to tell their people through the media, discourse and mosques that any concession to Israel constitutes treason, pure and simple. So it would be naïve to think that Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country would be able to strong-arm any Palestinian leader to accept a "peace plan" that requires the Palestinians to make concessions to Israel. Abbas may have much respect for the ambitious and savvy young crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. This respect, however, certainly stops at the border of the political suicide – and extreme personal risk — from Abbas's point of view.

 

Abbas is now caught between two choices, both disastrous: On the one hand, he needs the political backing of his Arab brothers. This is the most he can expect from the Arab countries, most of whom do not give the Palestinians a penny. It is worth noting that, by and large, the Arab countries discarded the Palestinians after the PLO and Yasser Arafat openly supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Kuwait was one of several Gulf countries that used to provide the Palestinians with billions of dollars a year. No more. Since then, the Palestinians have been almost entirely dependent on American and European financial aid. It is safe to assume, then, that the US and EU have more leverage with the Palestinians than most Arab countries.

 

Nevertheless, no American or European on the face of this Earth could force a Palestinian leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel that would be rejected by an overwhelming majority of his people. Trump's "ultimate solution" may result in some Arab countries signing peace treaties with Israel. These countries anyway have no real conflict with Israel. Why should there not be peace between Israel and Kuwait? Why should there not be peace between Israel and Oman? Do any of the Arab countries have a territorial dispute with Israel? The only "problem" the Arab countries have with Israel is the one concerning the Palestinians…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

The Real Arab Spring: Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary, Nov. 6, 2017—Around this time of the year in 2010, a Tunisian fruit vendor’s self-immolation triggered a tsunami of uprisings that soon engulfed much of the Middle East and North Africa. The results were catastrophic.

Trump Team Begins Drafting Middle East Peace Plan: Peter Baker, New York Times, Nov. 11, 2017—President Trump and his advisers have begun developing their own concrete blueprint to end the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a plan intended to go beyond previous frameworks offered by the American government in pursuit of what the president calls “the ultimate deal.”

Why There Is No Peace in the Middle East: Philip Carl Salzman, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 14, 2017—Living as an anthropologist in a herding camp of the Yarahmadzai tribe of nomadic pastoralists in the deserts of Iranian Baluchistan clarified some of the inhibitions to peace in the Middle East. What one sees is strong, kin-based, group loyalty defense and solidarity, and the political opposition of lineages, whether large or small. This raised the question how unity and peace could arrive in a system based on opposition.

The Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah Connection: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 8, 2017—The Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, has had enough. Last week, Iran finalized its takeover of Lebanon when Hariri resigned, and reportedly fled to Saudi Arabia. Hariri, denouncing Hezbollah and its Iranian backers, said he feared for his life. Hariri has good reason to be afraid of Hezbollah, the powerful Shia terror group and Iranian proxy that effectively controls Lebanon.

Turks, Arabs Welcomed the Balfour Declaration: Efraim Karsh, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2018—"100 years have passed since the notorious Balfour Declaration, by which Britain gave, without any right, authority or consent from anyone, the land of Palestine to another people. This paved the road for the Nakba of Palestinian people and their dispossession and displacement from their land."

 

 

WHILE PALESTINIANS PROMOTE ANTISEMITISM & TERRORISM, ISRAELIS SHOW HUMANITY & COMPASSION

 

The Palestinians Don’t Want a Mandela, They Want Another Arafat: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Apr. 25, 2017— Palestinian internal politics and liberal hostility to Israel came together at the New York Times this month.

Exploited by the Enemy: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Apr. 21, 2017— Two Gazan women were caught smuggling explosives into Israel for Hamas on Wednesday.

Rising Tensions in Gaza after PA Cuts Salaries: Pinhas Inbari, JCPA, Apr. 12, 2017 — The State Department published a travel warning on April 11 that called on all U.S. citizens to evacuate Gaza immediately, and to be careful in the West Bank and in Israel.

Palestinians' Real Enemies: Arabs: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Apr. 17, 2017— Palestinians living in refugee camps in the Arab world are facing ethnic cleansing, displacement, and death — but their leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are too busy tearing each other to pieces to notice or even, apparently, care much.

 

On Topic Links

 

Who is Marwan Barghouti?: Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, JCPA, Apr. 19, 2017

PA Tells Israel it Will No Longer Pay for Gaza’s Electricity: Dov Lieber, Times of Israel, Apr. 27, 2017

A Palestinian State or an Islamist Tyranny?: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Apr. 26, 2017

Gaza: Let Their People Go!: Dr. Martin Sherman, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 21, 2017

 

 

THE PALESTINIANS DON’T WANT A MANDELA,

THEY WANT ANOTHER ARAFAT                         

Jonathan S. Tobin                                    

                                                 JNS, Apr. 25, 2017

 

Palestinian internal politics and liberal hostility to Israel came together at the New York Times this month. The newspaper provoked a firestorm of criticism through its decision to publish an article on the eve of Passover authored by Marwan Barghouti, the imprisoned mastermind of a Second Intifada terror campaign, without mentioning that he is currently serving five life terms for the murder of civilians. But a more important discussion got lost amid the outrage about media bias. The question to be asked about this episode is not whether terrorism is significant enough to be worthy of mention, but why Barghouti is a likely candidate to succeed Mahmoud Abbas as head of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

 

Barghouti is currently leading a hunger strike by Palestinian security prisoners in Israel jails. But the real motive for this gesture is promoting Barghouti’s desire to replace the 81-year-old Abbas. Given that Israel has as little interest in releasing Barghouti as Abbas does in having a new election — the current PA leader is serving the 12th year of the four-year presidential term to which he was elected — it’s not clear how he’ll pull off that trick. But the real issue here is the reason for Barghouti’s popularity among supporters of the peace process is very different from the reason for his high standing among Palestinians.

 

The New York Times promoted Barghouti on its pages because editors of that newspaper have bought into the notion that he is the Palestinian Nelson Mandela. While a narrative that paints Israel as an “apartheid state” is a lie, the Mandela analogy is equally false. Mandela did support violence against the apartheid regime in South Africa, but only because all democratic and non-violent avenues to promote change were blocked. The same point applies to comparisons between Barghouti and others who were terrorists before leading countries to independence, such as Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta, and even Israel’s Menachem Begin, who commanded the pre-state Irgun Zvai Leumi underground forces before signing a peace treaty with Egypt. (The Irgun directed terror activities at the British and their facilities, not civilians as Barghouti did.)

 

By contrast, acting on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s orders, Barghouti undertook his terror rampage that contributed to a death toll of more than 1,000 Jews years after peace had supposedly been agreed upon in the Oslo Accords. It was also an answer to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer of an independent Palestinian state. Rather than an attempt to force negotiations, Barghouti’s terror was part of an effort to destroy hope for peace and coexistence.

 

Of course, it is possible — at least in theory — for Barghouti to become the man Jewish liberals would like him to be were he ever put in power. But the problem with that exercise in wishful thinking also collides with the reason why he is so popular among Palestinians. Part of his appeal lies in the fact that he’s been in prison for the last 15 years, while the rest of his Fatah party’s corrupt leadership has been running the West Bank like mafia chieftains. Even though there’s no reason to think a former Arafat aide like Barghouti will be different, like the equally corrupt and more fanatical Hamas rulers of Gaza, the current PA leadership is entirely discredited.

 

But Barghouti’s popularity rests on more than just the fact that he isn’t Abbas. Throughout the century-long Palestinian Arab war on Zionism, the political bona fides of that movement’s leaders have always rested on a resume including violence against Jews, not good government or a vision of independence and peace. Barghouti’s credentials rest solely on the fact that he is responsible for the deaths of Jewish men, women and children during the intifada. The political culture of the Palestinians — which is reinforced by a media and an education system promoting hatred of Jews and glorifying terrorism — is what makes Barghouti look good to the Arab street, not the hope he will rise above a record of wanton slaughter.

 

The reason why Abbas has been incapable of making peace, even if he really is a moderate, is that he understands Palestinians see any recognition of the legitimacy of a Jewish state — no matter where its borders are drawn — as a betrayal. The same factor argues that a man with Barghouti’s record will be expected to pursue more violence rather than become a Mandela. If the last quarter century has taught us anything, it is that the Palestinians don’t want a Mandela in the person of a transformed Barghouti. What they want is another Arafat.                              

 

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EXPLOITED BY THE ENEMY

David M. Weinberg                                                                

Israel Hayom, Apr. 21, 2017

 

Two Gazan women were caught smuggling explosives into Israel for Hamas on Wednesday. The sisters hid the material in medical supplies as they headed to Jerusalem for cancer treatment.  Last month, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan revealed that Hamas was using Gazan cancer patients to smuggle money and gold into Israel to finance terror operations.

Everyone remembers Wafa Samir Ibrahim al-Biss, the 21-year-old woman from Gaza who, in 2005, was caught with 10 kilograms of explosives in her underwear, en route to blow up Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, where she was being treated for burns. She admitted to being recruited by the Fatah military wing Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. She admitted that she had wanted to target as many Israeli children in the hospital as possible.

 

Despite the security risk, Israel allows tens of thousands of Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip every year for medical treatment in Israel (and in the West Bank and Jordan). I know this firsthand. For a decade, I served as a public affairs and development officer at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, the largest hospital in Israel. At any given time, a quarter of all patients in that institution's Edmond and Lily Safra Children's Hospital are Arabs from Gaza.

 

Treating these children from enemy Hamastan is a complex humanitarian commitment that stems from compassion ingrained in Jewish history and tradition. The doctors and administrators at Sheba (and other Israeli hospitals who offer similar care to Palestinians from the West Bank, to Syrian refugees, and, quietly, to Arabs from across the Middle East) are very proud of their efforts. But it hurts when wicked forces exploit this professionalism and good will for nefarious purposes and when they abuse our humanitarian generosity for terror.

 

I was an eyewitness to the following sordid tale: Several years ago, an 8-year-old Palestinian child was ill with a rare form of cancer and was clearly going to die without a bone marrow transplant. Sheba, where he was being treated, worked hard to obtain permission to enter Gaza and test the child's relatives. The doctors found an 18-year-old brother who was an almost perfect bone marrow match. The problem was that Israeli authorities didn't want to grant him entry into Israel for the operation, because he was a Hamas activist with ties to known terrorist operatives.

 

A number of doctors at the hospital successfully petitioned the Defense Ministry to grant special dispensation to allow him into Israel to save his little brother's life. The older brother arrived late one Friday afternoon. The doctors began the delicate procedure. They had a 24-hour window to suppress the child's immune system, harvest the bone marrow from the donor brother, and transplant. But at midnight on Friday, when it was time for the donor brother to do his part, he was nowhere to be found. Disappeared! The doctors were beside themselves. A nurse said she had seen two Shin Bet security agents come and take him away. This was a death sentence for the sick child.

 

What do you do in the middle of the night? The hospital director called the Prime Minister's Office (which oversees the security services), demanding to know where the donor was. Within two hours, a senior security official came on the line and admitted that the Shin Bet had taken him away. You see, the Shin Bet had taken precautions and eavesdropped on his cell phone conversations, and had heard this young Palestinian terrorist giving instructions to his Hamas handlers in Gaza on how to get past the security at Sheba Medical Center and blow the place up.

 

The end of the story is that, despite this outrage, the hospital director asked that the young terrorist be returned to the hospital for a few hours to save the child's life. The Shin Bet brought him back at 4 a.m. in leg irons, and the doctors indeed managed to save his young brother's life. The 18-year-old terrorist was then whisked away again.

 

Needless to say, this story makes the blood boil. It stings to be taken advantage of by radical Palestinians; to act with humanity and compassion, while our enemies act with inhumanity and cruelty. While we are isolated and demonized, the demons are actually those who would blow up an Israeli hospital that goes out of its way to treat Palestinians, and even Hamas family members. The story breeds Israeli indignation, rightfully and righteously so.

 

It also adds to our chagrin about being unappreciated by the world. Had I had told this story to a senior foreign journalist — something that wasn't possible at the time — like The New York Times' correspondent in Israel, do you think the paper would have run the story? Do you think the paper would have made such a story — sympathetic to Israel and severely unflattering to Palestinians — a front-page feature? Not likely. I can say from years of experience as a professional spokesman for Israeli medical, academic, defense and diplomatic institutions just how difficult it is to get a story into a newspaper that doesn't fit the conventional, politically correct line about Israel being the villain and the Palestinians the victim.

 

A direct line runs between this bias and the op-ed by Palestinian "leader and parliamentarian" Marwan Barghouti published in The New York Times this week. That paper never would have run an op-ed by a convicted Taliban or al-Qaida terrorist sitting in Guantanamo Bay, and certainly not without correctly labeling him as a convicted mass murderer. So why didn't The New York Times brand Barghouti in this way? Because doing so would be severely unflattering to the Palestinian national movement, and by inference too sympathetic to Israel.                         

 

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RISING TENSIONS IN GAZA AFTER PA CUTS SALARIES                                                                                

Pinhas Inbari                                                                                                                  

JCPA, Apr. 12, 2017

 

The State Department published a travel warning on April 11 that called on all U.S. citizens to evacuate Gaza immediately, and to be careful in the West Bank and in Israel. It put special emphasis on the volatile situation in Gaza. In Gaza, there are old tensions that are under control, especially between Hamas and ISIS. Hamas does not hesitate to employ force against ISIS, while at the same time maintaining a level of cooperation in Sinai.

 

New developments that may trigger deterioration and that may be the reason behind the travel warning involve the on-going protest demonstrations by PA employees whose salaries have been reduced by 30% after a decision by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s government in Ramallah. These are the employees that served the Palestinian Authority before Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, who were ordered to stay home by the PA in order not to recognize the Hamas regime as legal. So, they were getting salaries while staying home. The reason why Ramallah continued to pay them was to employ them in street demonstrations until Hamas falls. This did not happen because of Hamas’ notorious excess use of force to crush any demonstrations, as it proved recently in crushing the demonstrations protesting the lack of reliable electricity.

 

According to Fatah sources in Ramallah, when President Abbas decided to take this step, he had in mind to stir the emotions of Gazans against Hamas and in a way revive the recent electricity-shortage protests that were directed against Hamas. Senior Fatah officials in Ramallah who are of Gaza origin, such as Rawhi Fatuh, warned Abbas against taking this line of action, but were ignored. And indeed, when the PA employees in Gaza gathered for the angry protest, they did not direct their blame at Hamas but at Rami Hamdallah, the PA prime minister, whose government decreed the 1/3 salary reduction, calling for him to “go” in slogans copied from Egypt’s Tahrir Square demonstrations against Egyptian President Mubarak.

 

At this stage, they did not formally direct blame at Abbas because they did not want to risk the rest of their salaries, but already this demand began to appear as well. The Palestinian budget is indeed in chronic deficit, which during President Obama’s time was covered by emergency handouts including on Obama’s last day in office, but the Trump presidency has changed the U.S. attitude dramatically. The British Brexit and the PA’s quarrel with London about the Balfour Declaration caused a reduction in the transfer of British funds as well.

 

The British are major stakeholders in the training and support of the PA security forces and the decrease in British interest in Palestinian affairs caused Abbas to ask Pakistan to step in and perhaps replace the British in this realm. Secretary of State John Kerry, during his last visit to the Middle East, asked Saudi Arabia to fulfill its commitment to the PA budget, but Abbas’ visit to Beirut killed any possibility of Saudi Arabia considering the resumption of the steady payments of the past. So while no one can argue that austerity measures are needed, why only in Gaza? Why not also in the West Bank? The demonstrators and the PLO organizations in Gaza that sympathized with them slammed Ramallah for deepening the separation between Gaza and Ramallah. In the past when salaries were not paid on time in the West Bank, and the head of the government employees union, Bassam Zakarneh, demanded that Abbas balance PA expenditures by cutting his travel budget, he was immediately sent to jail for sabotaging the statehood project.

 

I visited Ramallah at that time and senior PA officials told me that Zakarneh represented the opposition to Ramallah’s rule in the city of Jenin. Jenin was and still is considered as closer to Mohamed Dahlan than Mahmoud Abbas. I saw Zakarneh in the office of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s office; Fayyad was another Dahlan ally who was deposed as prime minster by the pro-Abbas Fatah movement. The PA’s policy was to allow this kind of protest to be carried out far from Ramallah – like the teachers’ protests in Nablus. When the teachers tried to enter Ramallah, PA security forces blocked them on the roads. The reason is clear – to avoid creating the effect of Tahrir Square in Ramallah.

 

After a few days without any reaction from the West Bank, as an apparent sign that the West Bankers actually did not care about Gaza, NGOs in Ramallah planned to organize a large demonstration, but PA security forces intervened immediately and threatened the organizers, who agreed to conduct a limited demonstration in front of Hamdallah office. We can see the leader of the NGO community, Mustafa Barghouti, in the front line of this demonstration. The NGOs also understand the PA’s budgetary constraints, but they demanded not to cut the salaries and not to single out Gaza. They called to reduce security expenses and to abolish security coordination with the IDF.

 

There is a conspiracy theory circulating now in Ramallah among the NGO community that the singling out of Gaza employee was a result of the recent Arab League meeting in Jordan. According to this theory, the Arab states are pressuring Abbas to yield to Israeli demands to accept “provisional borders,” and the final separation from Gaza is only the first step. This theory corresponds with an earlier declaration by Hamas of establishing “a committee to manage Gaza affairs” which is, in practical terms, a government of Hamas, far from the “unity government” led by Hamdallah. The bottom line: both Ramallah and Gaza are practicing a policy of deepening the separation, with each side organizing its rule within its borders. Facing its budgetary problems, the PA is obliged to make cuts. They did it first in Gaza with the hope that the waves of anger would swallow Hamas, but their anger was directed toward Ramallah.         

 

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PALESTINIANS' REAL ENEMIES: ARABS                                                                             

Khaled Abu Toameh                                                                                           

Gatestone Institute, Apr. 17, 2017

 

Palestinians living in refugee camps in the Arab world are facing ethnic cleansing, displacement, and death — but their leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are too busy tearing each other to pieces to notice or even, apparently, care much. Between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, it looks as if they are competing for the worst leadership, not the best. Clearly, neither regime gives a damn about the plight of their people in the Arab world. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is scheduled to visit Washington in the coming weeks for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump, spends most of his time abroad. There is hardly a country in the world that he has not visited since he assumed office in January 2005.

 

Hamas, for its part, is too occupied with hunting down Palestinians suspected of "collaboration" with Israel, and arming its members as massively as possible for war with Israel, to spend much time on the well-being of the two million people living under its thumb in the Gaza Strip. Hamas does have resources: its money is otherwise designated, however, to digging attack tunnels into Israel and smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip.

 

The globetrotting Abbas, treated to red-carpet receptions wherever he shows up, has no time to attend to his miserable people in the Arab countries. Abbas devotes more than 90 percent of his speeches to denunciations of Israel, uttering barely a word about the atrocities committed against his people in Syria, Lebanon, Libya and Iraq. The 82-year-old PA president is, as always, fully preoccupied with political survival. Abbas's real enemies are his critics, such as estranged Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, and Hamas. Abbas is currently focused on undermining Dahlan and preventing Hamas from taking control of the West Bank. In the past few years, Abbas has also demonstrated an obsession with isolating and delegitimizing Israel in the international arena. For him, this mission is more sacred than saving the lives of Palestinians.

 

Notably, neither Abbas's Palestinian Authority nor Hamas dares to criticize Arab countries for their mistreatment of Palestinians. In this, they are nothing if not savvy: critics in Arab states pay an extremely nasty price for forthrightness. Consider for a moment the agenda of the recent Arab League summit in Jordan. This monumental meeting was conspicuously silent on the plight of Palestinians in Arab lands. The Arab heads of state and monarchs do not like to be reminded of how badly they treat Palestinians and subject them to discriminatory and apartheid laws. Beneath the public Arab support for the Palestinians rests a ruthless policy of oppression that is largely ignored by Palestinian leaders, the international community and mainstream Western media.

 

This apathy has turned Palestinians in the Arab countries into easy prey. The Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, which once housed nearly one million Palestinians, stands almost empty after six years of Syria's civil war. Most of the camp's houses have been damaged or destroyed in the fighting between the Syrian army, Palestinian factions, ISIS terrorists and Syrian opposition groups. More than 3,400 Palestinians have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the civil war. Thousands of Palestinians are believed to be held in various Syrian government prisons. Another 80,000 have fled Syria to neighboring countries.

 

In nearby Lebanon, the conditions of Palestinians are no better. Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, home to nearly half a million people, were long ago turned into ghettos surrounded by the Lebanese security forces. In recent years, the camps have become battlefields for rival Palestinian gangs and other terrorists, many of whom are affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS. About 10 years ago, the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon was shelled by the Lebanese army; most of its houses were destroyed. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee the camp; hundreds were killed and wounded after a Palestinian terror leader, Shaker al-Absi, and his men launched a series of deadly attacks on Lebanese targets, and the Lebanese army assaulted the camp. Before they were attacked by the Lebanese army, Al-Absi and his men had barricaded themselves inside the camp, using civilians as human shields…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Who is Marwan Barghouti?: Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, JCPA, Apr. 19, 2017—Marwan Barghouti is “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian,” said the New York Times at the end of Barghouti’s op-ed on April 17th. Following the uproar that this description caused, the NYT editor added a note: “This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.”

PA Tells Israel it Will No Longer Pay for Gaza’s Electricity: Dov Lieber, Times of Israel, Apr. 27, 2017—The Palestinian Authority on Thursday informed Israel it would no longer pay for electricity that the Jewish state supplies to the Gaza Strip, as a power crisis in the Hamas-run enclave deepened.

A Palestinian State or an Islamist Tyranny?: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Apr. 26, 2017 —From the United Nations to the European Union and the mainstream press, it seems that the Jews living in Judea and Samaria are the obstacle for the Middle East coexistence. But have these well-known "observers" really observed what is going on in the areas self-governed by the Palestinian Authority, and that two-thirds of the world's nations want to turn into another Arab-Islamic state?

Gaza: Let Their People Go!: Dr. Martin Sherman, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 21, 2017—“If the borders opened for one hour, 100,000 young people would leave Gaza”  –  Rashid al-Najja, vice dean, Gaza’s Al-Azhar University…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISLAMIST SAUDIS, NOMINATED FOR UN WOMEN’S RIGHTS COMMISSION, SEEK RAPPROCHEMENT WITH ISRAEL

 

 

Saudis and Women: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 24, 2017— Saudi Arabia is a fiercely, even violently, religious nation.

Hatred, Courage and the Israeli-Saudi Connection: Lela Gilbert, Algemeiner, Apr. 2, 2017 — During recent years, dramatic political changes have shaken the Middle East.

Sino-Saudi Alignment in Yemen and Escalating Conflict: Michael Tanchum, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 25, 2017— Like a weather vane, the recent visit to China by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman points to changing strategic directions in the Middle East-Asia security architecture.

With an Arab NATO and a Contained Iran, Trump is Changing the Middle East: Lawrence Solomon, National Post, Mar. 27, 2017 — Donald Trump’s Middle East policy is emerging.

 

On Topic Links

 

Jim Mattis, in Saudi Visit, Calls for Political Solution in Yemen: Helene Cooper, New York Times, Apr. 19, 2017

Yemeni Minister: Our Last Jews Are at Risk of Ethnic Cleansing by Iran-Backed Rebels: Tower, Apr. 17, 2017

Like Israel, Saudis Pinning Hopes on Trump: Ben Lynfield, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 16, 2017

Oman: The Middle East's Most Surprising Country: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, Mar. 15, 2017

 

SAUDIS AND WOMEN

                              Editorial                                 

                                                 Jerusalem Post, Apr. 24, 2017

 

Saudi Arabia is a fiercely, even violently, religious nation. Deera Square (also known as Chop Chop Square), where beheadings are carried out for offenses such as blasphemy or homosexuality, is a testament to the brutal seriousness with which Saudi Arabia guards its traditions at home. Of course, there is a Janus face to this fanaticism. It is an open secret that royals fly abroad to enjoy the pleasures of the West, while at home they give free rein to reactionary clerics to treat women like chattel and demonize Westerners.

 

Cleaving to a hardline and literal interpretation of Shari’a law and strongly influenced by pre-Islam Beduin customs, Saudis have never claimed to be anything but zealots and bigots who view the female sex as inherently subordinate and deserving of abusive treatment. Nearly every society must grapple with balancing ancient traditions with freedoms. For the Saudis it was always a no-brainer. And they are proud of it.

 

The world community has done little to champion human rights in Saudi Arabia. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom’s denunciation of Riyadh in 2015 for flogging Raif Badawi for purportedly criticizing Islam was a rarity. But neither has there been a campaign to tout the Saudis as champions of gender equality or religious diversity or to nominate them for distinction in the field of human rights. Yet, a UN body has done just that. Saudi Arabia was elected last week via secret ballot in the UN Economic and Social Council to the 45-member UN Commission on the Status of Women.

 

Saudi Arabia, a country that has in place a system of institutionalized male dominance, has now been tapped to monitor the status of women in the world. Vital decisions for Saudi women, such as availing oneself of medical care, enrolling in a university or traveling abroad, must receive the approval of a father, brother or other male relative. Every Saudi woman has a designated guardian that essentially runs her life. This guardian can be many years younger, less educated and less responsible. Often gender is his only perceivable advantage.

 

A litany of prohibitions regulates the lives of the Saudi woman. She is not permitted to drive, she cannot wear clothes or makeup that “show off beauty” but must wear an abaya (long cloak) and a head scarf. Government buildings, hotel lobbies, restaurants, public transportation, parks and other public places are strictly gender-segregated. Women face harsher punishment than men for unlawful mixing. Women are not allowed to try on clothes when shopping, as though the very thought of a partially dressed woman behind a dressing-room door is too suggestive.

 

Why would the UN appoint Saudi Arabia as a defender of women’s rights, a country where a woman cannot even open a bank account without her husband’s permission and received the right to vote and run for office in municipal elections just two years ago? It should not come as too much of a surprise. After all, this is the same UN whose Human Rights Council enforces Agenda Item 7, which dictates that Israel’s purported human rights violations must be raised and discussed every single time the UNHRC convenes. More UNHRC condemnations are made against Israel than against all other countries in the world combined.

 

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, has pledged to change what she calls the “culture” of the international body. She has already done much to combat the knee-jerk criticism directed against Israel that characterizes so much of UN discourse. Perhaps her next order of business will be to help ensure that countries like Saudi Arabia are singled out for their human rights violations. It would be fitting if Haley’s strong female leadership became the driving force for a campaign within the UN to condemn Saudi Arabia for the suppression of half of its population.

 

The UN once was and might again be a force for good in the world. The potential is boundless for an institution that brings together all the nations of the world. Wars can be prevented; blatant human rights abuses can be stopped; the damage resulting from famine and natural disaster can be ameliorated. All this and more can be achieved through dialogue and cooperation. However, before any of this can happen, the UN must have a minimum level of self-respect that prevents it from appointing Saudi Arabia to a council responsible for safeguarding the rights of women.

 

                                                                           

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HATRED, COURAGE AND THE ISRAELI-SAUDI CONNECTION

Lela Gilbert                                                                      

Algemeiner, Apr. 2, 2017

 

During recent years, dramatic political changes have shaken the Middle East. Some have described these events metaphorically as “shifting desert sands.” They have also been defined as dramatic realignments of political seismic plates. Some of the more terrifying changes have called to mind the proverbial “end of days.” Others look a little like minor miracles, so unlikely are the players and so unexpected their praiseworthy actions. Who could have predicted, for example, that a young Saudi intellectual would visit Jerusalem and then courageously write an open letter to his generation, expressing both hope and desire for political transformation? His dream? That Saudi Arabia’s vibrant young defense minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud will embrace a new vision for Saudi Arabia – including peace with Israel.

 

Consider the writer’s opening paragraph: “Having read the article in Foreign Affairs about Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and in the wake of publicity following his meeting with President Trump this week, I would like to offer a candid view that speaks for many Saudis of my generation. Like King Talut of the Holy Quran (corresponding to the biblical King Saul), whom the Quran credits with saving the Jewish people from an enemy bent on their destruction, the young prince bears a similar responsibility — addressing many challenges in order to achieve the goal of transforming his people to greater strength. Prince Mohammad bin Salman may well be God’s chosen to help lead Saudi Arabia through the political, economic, and social challenges it faces. This letter offers suggestions he may consider useful in dealing with them.”

 

Yes, it really happened. Abdul-Hameed Hakeem’s open letter was published by the Washington Institute on March 21. And here’s how it came to pass. One excellent writer about Middle East realities is Ambassador Dore Gold, who until recently served as director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is now president of the highly regarded Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Gold’s 2003 book, Hatred’s Kingdom, focused on Saudi Arabia and spelled out the precarious balancing act the oil-rich Arab country has been performing for decades – juggling two opposing forces: the secular Western world that buys massive amounts of its oil, and radical Islamism, embodied in Saudi’s Wahabi religious leadership.

 

In Hatred’s Kingdom, Gold summed up the danger personified by the Saudis: “President Bush asked, after the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon, whether nations are with the United States or with the terrorists. Despite Saudi Arabia’s insistence to the contrary, the record makes it frighteningly clear that the Saudi kingdom is, at this point, with the terrorists. Indeed, it is Saudi Arabia that has spawned the new global terrorists. Unless the Saudi regime feels pressure to change, the hatred that has motivated a horrifying series of worldwide terrorist attacks – including the attacks of September 11 – will only go on. And as long as the hatred continues, the terror will go on.”

 

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s leadership – its enormous royal family – has for decades relied on the West’s consumption of its petroleum resources to support the kingdom’s economy; Western oil purchases also finance the royals’ lavish and sometimes decadent lifestyle. But the royal family is, at the same time, obliged to enforce hardline religious laws established by the severe Wahabist religious system. Wahabism, a sect that came into being in the 18th century, seeks to return Sunni Islam to its earliest roots – the days of Mohammad and his first followers. It curses both Christians (Crusaders) and Jews (sons of pigs and dogs), as was explicitly declared in several of Osama bin Laden’s pontifications.

 

Much of the anti-Jewish animus in Saudi Arabia is focused on Israel and Zionism. Israeli passport-bearers are banned from entering the country; even travelers with Israeli visas stamped in their passports are turned away. Obvious Jewish religious attire and symbols, such as Star of David jewelry, and religious books are also forbidden. In December 2014, the Saudi government opened the door just a crack, declaring that Jews could work inside the kingdom. But they made it clear that their newfound openness to Jews did not include Israelis.

 

Gold’s book meticulously documents the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s dangerous ideology, which inspired Al-Qaeda and innumerable other Sunni jihadi groups. These days, however, bin Laden is history; no longer the incarnation of Wahabism. At the same time, several stunning and unforeseen political events have perhaps permanently shifted Middle East politics.

First came the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. Despite its custodianship of Mecca and Medina – sometimes described as “Islam’s Vatican” – Saudi Arabia’s kings and princes have long attracted the ire of Sunni and Shia radicals alike. The Arab Spring perilously increased the likelihood of fanatical revolutionaries spilling across Saudi Arabia’s borders. At the same time, it became uncomfortably clear that the Obama Administration was taking a hands-off approach to the Middle East turmoil, proving itself unwilling to stand behind its historic allies. This became alarmingly evident across the region after President Barack Obama’s “red line” regarding chemical weapons remained unenforced in the Syrian Civil War.

 

Then came unmitigated upheaval in Libya, Iraq and Egypt in which America seemed to side with her enemies and turn away from her allies. Would the kingdom’s betrayal come next? Meanwhile, the centuries-old Sunni-Shia conflict was edging toward center stage again. The gradual exposure of Obama’s initially secret negotiations with Iran – the avowed archenemy of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia – encouraged and emboldened the Ayatollahs. Would the alleged (and likely) Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapon ever actually be stopped? On the other hand, there was no denying an impressive array of Israeli achievements: ever-increasing high tech innovation and mastery, cyberwarfare capabilities, natural gas discoveries, a flourishing economy, and thriving international relations. The successful international diplomacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – sometimes at the expense of Obama’s agenda – was reflected in his effective outreach to friends and former foes alike…                                                                          

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                      

 

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SINO-SAUDI ALIGNMENT IN YEMEN AND ESCALATING CONFLICT                                                                   

Michael Tanchum                                                                                                                    

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 25, 2017

 

Like a weather vane, the recent visit to China by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman points to changing strategic directions in the Middle East-Asia security architecture. The significance of the Saudi monarch’s meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top officials goes well beyond the hefty $65 billion of economic and trade deals signed between Riyadh and Beijing. The visit confirmed the nascent strategic partnership developing between China and Saudi Arabia as Beijing seeks to promote stability along the trade routes of China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, now threatened by the escalating violence of Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.

 

Although the first day of the Saudi monarch’s visit, March 16, 2017, grabbed international headlines with the signing of a $65b. Sino-Saudi trade and investment package, the 20-plus agreements on oil investment and energy largely follow the traditional transactional pattern of Sino-Saudi cooperation. King Salman’s visit to Beijing was truly noteworthy for cementing and advancing the strategic partnership established between China and Saudi Arabia during Xi Jinping’s January 2016 visit to Riyadh. Three days prior to the Saudi monarch’s visit, China’s Foreign Ministry declared, “We stand ready to take King Salman’s visit as an opportunity to take [the] China-Saudi Arabia comprehensive strategic partnership to a higher level.” King Salman reciprocated with his declaration in Beijing that “Saudi Arabia is willing to work hard with China to promote global and regional peace, security, and prosperity.”

 

The source of China and Saudi Arabia’s increasing alignment of interests is China’s effort to create its self-declared 21st Century Maritime Silk Road – a China- to-Europe maritime commercial transportation corridor consisting of a series of Chinese-built port installations extending westward across the Indian Ocean and then via the Red Sea and Suez Canal to the now Chinese- owned Pireaus seaport, on Greece’s Mediterranean coast. Having heavily invested in Piraeus to transform it into one of the world’s state-of-the-art container ports, Beijing now owns and operates one of the European Union’s major seaports as the MSR’s main outlet point for Chinese goods to enter European markets.

 

The single greatest threat to China’s economic interests in creating and preserving the reliable and cost-efficient flow of commerce across the MSR is Iran. Overall, Beijing maintains a careful balance between its relations with Iran and its relations with Saudi Arabia. In January 2016, Xi Jinping visited both Riyadh and Tehran, where he and his Iranian counterpart agreed to a 10-year program to raise Chinese-Iranian bilateral trade to $600 billion. Nevertheless, Tehran’s effort to expand its sphere of influence to the Gulf of Aden-Red Sea corridor through its proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen and the Horn of Africa represents a disruption to the maritime security domain that China cannot tolerate. In January 2016, Beijing declared its support for Yemen’s efforts to defeat Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

 

Two weeks after Beijing’s declaration for Yemen’s government, Houthi rebels supplied with Iranian technology attacked a Saudi frigate with an improvised “drone” attack boat, a remote-controlled boat laden with explosives. Iran has continued to escalate its support to Houthi rebels with the provision of more sophisticated weapons technology including the transfer of Iranian aerial drones and quite likely anti-ship missiles. On March 10, a Yemeni coast-guard vessel was destroyed in the narrow Bab el-Mandeb strait between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. In response to the maritime threats, China is constructing of its first overseas base in Djibouti, which strategically straddles the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea on the shore opposite Yemen in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Just prior to Xi Jinping’s January 2016 visit to Saudi Arabia, Djibouti formally severed diplomatic relations with Tehran and then signed a security cooperation agreement with Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is currently finalizing arrangements with Djibouti for the establishment of a Saudi base in addition to the Chinese naval base that will have the capacity to house 10,000 personnel.

 

The Sino-Saudi agreement to collaborate on drone manufacturing signed during King Salman’s Beijing visit serves as another indication that the two countries may be looking to their strategic cooperation to contain Iranian activities in Gulf of Aden-Red Sea corridor. China’s acceptance of Saudi Arabia’s interventions in a vital sea lane of the MSR and Saudi Arabia’s embrace of China as potential security partner signals a consequential shift in the Middle East-Asia security architecture. Any further escalation of Iran’s proxy wars in the Gulf of Aden-Red Sea corridor is likely to drive Beijing and Riyadh close together as strategic partners for maritime security.                                     

 

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WITH AN ARAB NATO AND A CONTAINED IRAN,                                                     

TRUMP IS CHANGING THE MIDDLE EAST                                                                                   

Lawrence Solomon                                                                                             

National Post, Mar. 27, 2017

 

Donald Trump’s Middle East policy is emerging. Apart from supporting Israel, he wants to eradicate ISIL and other Islamic jihadists, he wants to deter Iran and its dream of hegemony over the entire Middle East, and he wants the Arab countries to bear the burden of their own defence. His answer: an Arab NATO, funded by its Arab members and aided by the military and intelligence assets of Israel and the United States.

 

The idea of a military alliance among the Arab nations first came from Egypt’s President Abdel al-Sisi two years ago in February, 2015, when he went on national television to warn about radical jihadis across the Middle East. The Arab League at its summit the following month endorsed the concept, and military heads from 11 Arab countries (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan, Libya and Jordan) then met to work out the details.

 

But al-Sisi’s plans soon went into a deep freeze, despite a push by Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who argued in June 2015 testimony to two Congressional subcommittees that the U.S. should “fully support, help organize, and assist those regional partners create an ‘Arab NATO-like’ structure and framework. Build an Arab Army that is able to secure their regional responsibilities.” Flynn was especially focused on deterring a Russia-backed Iran, which poses a nuclear threat to the United States as well as to the countries of the Middle East — not just Israel, about which Iran is most vocal, but also the Sunni Arab states and Sunni Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S.

 

Upon becoming president, Trump immediately revived the al-Sisi-Flynn plan. Rather than accepting America’s outsized military burden in the Middle East, he pressed the Arab NATO plan with Arab diplomats in Washington through Flynn, who had become his national security advisor, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Trump personally took the issue up with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was immediately receptive. “I believe that the great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach from involving our newfound Arab partners,” Netanyahu stated at a joint press conference with Trump when in Washington in February. Elaborated Trump: “It is something that is very different, hasn’t been discussed before. And it’s actually a much bigger deal — much more important deal in a sense. It would take in many, many countries and would cover a very large territory.”

 

The “much bigger deal” involves something for all the Sunni Arab states in the region. Saudi Arabia needs help fighting the Iranian-backed Houtis in Yemen, Egypt needs help countering threats from Libya, all are at risk from ISIL. As a down payment on the deal, the Trump administration launched a commando raid into Yemen. To seal the deal, Trump must overcome Arab fears of being accused of entering an alliance with Israel. Arab leaders have asked Trump to hold off moving his embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and to prevent Israel from building new settlements, requests with which Trump is complying. In short order, Trump has begun to realign the Arab armies, at the same time indicating he has their back against a nuclear-powered Iran bent on hegemony over the Middle East. Judging by the reaction of Iran, Trump’s approach is working.

 

After Iran’s long-range missile launch on Jan. 29, shortly after Trump’s inauguration, it was menacingly “put on notice” by the Trump administration, and to immediate effect. Iran soon cancelled a follow-up launch of a long-range missile that had been planned, and even cancelled a non-military launch of a satellite, for fear of rousing Trump’s ire. According to Iran’s Tasnin News Agency, a frustrated Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force, bitterly complained that Iran had been deterred “because of America’s angry tone … How much longer will we be blackmailed and forced to compromise? If we do not change our strategy, and continue to operate according to orders from officials who are stuck in the mud, our situation will deteriorate daily.”

 

The deterrence went further. Iran has stopped provoking U.S. navy vessels on the water, all but stopped its public threats to sink them, all but stopped burning the American flag, all but stopped its “Death to America” calls. Iran’s reticence to provoke the U.S. has continued despite criticism. As put in one Iranian article earlier this month, “when Trump was elected, (government officials) said that Trump was unpredictable and makes unconsidered decisions – and that is why it is better for us to refrain from saying anything to offend him…” Adding to Iran’s angst is a fear that Russia has abandoned it, after being wooed into an alliance with the U.S. that will see Iran squeezed out of Syria.

 

Iran is now on its back foot, concluded an analysis by the Middle East Media Research Institute, saying “These developments have given rise in Tehran to a sense that it is besieged and under an emerging existential threat, in light of the crystallization of a comprehensive U.S.-Russia-Arab (including Israel) front against the Iranian revolutionary regime.” Trump, in contrast, is leaning forward, his assertive Middle East diplomacy, two months into his presidency, showing astonishingly promising results.

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Jim Mattis, in Saudi Visit, Calls for Political Solution in Yemen: Helene Cooper, New York Times, Apr. 19, 2017— Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called on Wednesday for a political solution in Yemen between Sunni Arabs, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, and Iranian-backed Houthis, but he stopped short of publicly warning America’s Sunni allies against a planned bombing campaign targeting the port city of Al Hudaydah.

Yemeni Minister: Our Last Jews Are at Risk of Ethnic Cleansing by Iran-Backed Rebels: Tower, Apr. 17, 2017—There are an estimated 50 Jews remaining in Yemen—all at risk of an ethnic cleansing campaign spearheaded by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, Yemen’s information minister told Israel Radio on Sunday.

Like Israel, Saudis Pinning Hopes on Trump: Ben Lynfield, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 16, 2017—New winds are blowing from Washington, and the Saudis, like Israel, believe they are far more favorable than those that prevailed under the Obama administration. Saudi officials were so ebullient about a meeting at the White House between Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and Donald Trump Tuesday that they praised the US president as a “true friend of Muslims who will serve the Muslim world in an unimaginable manner.”

Oman: The Middle East's Most Surprising Country: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, Mar. 15, 2017—Oman, where I have spent the past week, is an Arab country unlike any other. Count the ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“PEACE PROCESS” IMPEDED BY PALESTINIAN DISUNITY, TERRORISM, & DENIAL OF ISRAEL’S RIGHTS

 

Obama’s Israel Surprise?: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 31, 2016 — The Middle East has few bright spots these days, but one is the budding rapprochement between Israel and its Sunni Arab neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, thanks to shared threats from Iran and Islamic State.

Obama and Palestinian Unity: Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, Oct. 31, 2016 — Last week there was some progress toward peace in the Middle East.

Oh Those Sands! Those Shifting Sands!: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 31, 2016 — A little over two years ago, in mid-August, I ended my weekly article with the following sentence…

The Funeral of the Oslo Accords: Guy Millière, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 25, 2016 — The death of former Israeli President Shimon Peres led to a wave of almost unanimous tributes.

 

On Topic Links

 

Congress Blasts Obama for Preparing Anti-Israel Offensive: Jenna Lifhits, Weekly Standard, Oct. 9, 2016

The Next President and the Middle East: Editorial, Washington Post, Oct. 29, 2016

Jordan’s Chilly Peace with Israel: Michael Freund, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 26, 2016

The Two Sides of Shimon Peres: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, Oct. 3, 2016

 

OBAMA’S ISRAEL SURPRISE?

Editorial

Wall Street Journal, Oct. 31, 2016

 

The Middle East has few bright spots these days, but one is the budding rapprochement between Israel and its Sunni Arab neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, thanks to shared threats from Iran and Islamic State. Now the Obama Administration may have plans to wreck even that.

 

Israeli diplomats gird for the possibility that President Obama may try to force a diplomatic resolution for Israel and the Palestinians at the United Nations. The White House has been unusually tight-lipped about what, if anything, it might have in mind. But our sources say the White House has asked the State Department to develop an options menu for the President’s final weeks.

 

One possibility would be to sponsor, or at least allow, a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, perhaps alongside new IRS regulations revoking the tax-exempt status of people or entities involved in settlement building. The Administration vetoed such a resolution in 2011 on grounds that it “risks hardening the position of both sides,” which remains true. But condemning the settlements has always been a popular way of scoring points against the Jewish state, not least at the State Department, and an antisettlement resolution might burnish Mr. Obama’s progressive brand for his postpresidency.

 

Mr. Obama may also seek formal recognition of a Palestinian state at the Security Council. This would run afoul of Congress’s longstanding view that “Palestine” does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood, including a defined territory and effective government, though Mr. Obama could overcome the objection through his usual expedient of an executive action, thereby daring the next President to reverse him.

 

Both actions would be a boon to the bullies in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, while also subjecting Israeli citizens and supporters abroad to new and more aggressive forms of legal harassment. It could even criminalize the Israeli army—and every reservist who serves in it—on the theory that it is illegally occupying a foreign state. Does Mr. Obama want to be remembered as the President who criminalized Israeli citizenship?

 

The worst option would be an effort to introduce a resolution at the U.N. Security Council setting “parameters” for a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. The French have been eager to do this for some time, and one option for the Administration would be to let the resolution pass simply by refusing to veto it. Or the U.S. could introduce the resolution itself, all the better to take credit for it.

 

As the old line has it, this would be worse than a crime—it would be a blunder. U.S. policy has long and wisely been that only Israelis and Palestinians can work out a peace agreement between themselves, and that efforts to impose one would be counterproductive. Whatever parameters the U.N. established would be unacceptable to any Israeli government, left or right, thereby destroying whatever is left of a peace camp in Israel.

 

The Palestinians would seize on those parameters as their birthright, making it impossible for any future Palestinian leader to bargain part of them away in a serious negotiation. Arab states would find their diplomatic hands tied, making it impossible to serve as useful intermediaries between Jerusalem and Ramallah. It could refreeze relations with Israel even as they finally seem to have thawed.

 

President Obama may be the last man on earth to get the memo, but after decades of fruitless efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it might be wiser for the U.S. to step back until the Palestinians recognize that peace cannot be imposed from the outside. If Mr. Obama is still seeking a Middle East legacy at this late stage in his presidency, his best move is do nothing to make it worse.

 

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OBAMA AND PALESTINIAN UNITY                                                                               

Jonathan S. Tobin                                                                                                          

Commentary, Oct. 31, 2016

 

Last week there was some progress toward peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately, that progress wasn’t made between Israel and Palestinians seeking to create a two-state solution that would end the century-long conflict between the two peoples. Instead, the leaders of Fatah and Hamas took the first steps toward a breakthrough. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who runs the West Bank and Hamas leaders Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh had what appears to have been a productive meeting in Qatar. But while the lack of Palestinian unity has long been decried as an obstacle to peace with Israel, the conclave is not good news for those who hope for progress. To the contrary, what this shows is not a desire for a Palestinian unity government that is strong enough to make peace but rather one that is brought together by a determination to avoid it.

 

The split between the two leading Palestinian groups is a detail that is usually ignored by peace process advocates. Those who hope to further empower Abbas by granting the Palestinians statehood tend to forget that Gaza is for an independent state in all but name run by Hamas. The nine years since Hamas toppled the Fatah administration of the Strip in a bloody coup have provided a sobering preview of what a two-state solution might actually mean. The Islamist group not only turned the strip into a theocracy but also into a heavily fortified terrorist base from which it launched thousands of rockets against Israel before the Jewish state’s 2014 counter-attack brought about an uneasy cease-fire.

 

The hope among peace process advocates has always been that Hamas would either collapse due to dissatisfaction with its despotic rule or eventually come to its senses and join with the supposed “moderates” of Fatah to end the conflict. But though Gazans are as sick of Hamas incompetence and dangerous belligerence as West Bank residents are of Fatah’s corruption, there is no sign of any weakening of its grasp on power. Nor has there been any shift in its ideology, which not only demands Israel’s elimination but also the slaughter of its Jewish population.

 

Far from acting as a moderating influence on Hamas, it ought to be clear that it is Abbas, the man that President Obama has claimed is a “champion of peace,” and his group that has begun sounding more like the Islamists. The so-called “stabbing intifada” of the last year was largely the product of a conscious decision by Abbas to ramp up religious hatred against Jews by promoting a canard that Israel planned to harm the Temple Mount mosques. The PA’s successful campaign to get UNESCO to designate both the Temple Mount and the Western Wall as exclusively Muslim holy sites is also significant. It is both a sign that Abbas believes the only to compete with Hamas for popularity in the Muslim street is by mimicking their hatred and an indication of its clear refusal to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn.

 

This is not the first such try at Palestinian unity. A Fatah-Hamas accord helped destroy Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to broker peace in 2014. But the seriousness of this latest attempt was demonstrated by the presence in Qatar of the heads of the two Hamas factions — Haniyeh, who runs Gaza and Meshal, who runs the political operation outside of the strip.

 

It’s likely that Abbas is hoping to rope them into some kind of agreement that will present a united front to the world in advance of the PA’s next attempt to gain statehood or a condemnation of Israel at the UN this fall. Seen in that context, the unity efforts are not just more pointless Palestinian posturing but a clear strategy aimed at providing a false veneer that President Obama can use to justify a betrayal of the Jewish state. If Obama uses the period after the presidential election to launch a parting shot at Israel before his term expires he needs to be able to pretend that the Palestinians are ready for peace. But this unity effort is the opposite of peace.

 

Though the administration’s illusions about Abbas remain, the United States government still rightly labels Hamas as a terrorist group. If Washington were serious about peace it would be demanding that Abbas renounce any effort at unity with Hamas unless it changed its character and embraced peace. The unity meeting ought to ensure that the U.S. continues to oppose any effort by the PA to avoid direct peace talks with Israel. The fact that it may instead be used to help the president undermine Israel’s diplomatic position and further isolating it in a way that the next administration may not be able to reverse further demonstrates the bankruptcy of Obama’s approach to the Middle East.                                        

 

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OH THOSE SANDS! THOSE SHIFTING SANDS!                                                                                          

Dr. Mordechai Kedar                                                                                                    

Arutz Sheva, Oct. 31, 2016

 

A little over two years ago, in mid-August, I ended my weekly article with the following sentence: “The Middle Eastern see-saw is leaning heavily towards the Saudi-Egyptian axis, but it is not at all clear whether that coalition will continue to direct the Middle East in another year or two. Israel must not be tempted to align its security and future with a temporary constellation, no matter how good it appears to be. Israel must always base its policy on long term planning that gives priority to Israel and its territorial possessions and not to agreements resting on the shifting sands of the Middle East.”

 

Unfortunately, for the last two years Israelis and many others have been talking about the importance of a treaty between Israel and the so-called “coalition of moderate Sunni nations” – to wit, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, The United Arab Emirates, and the Palestinian Authority – all of them united against the Iranian threat and ISIS which threaten the stability and welfare of their regimes. There are even those who accuse Israel’s government of not being wise enough to make use of the present situation in the Middle East to forge a peace agreement with the Arab and Islamic world on the basis of the Saudi Peace Plan adopted by the Arab League.

 

The foundation of the “moderate Sunni coalition” was the close cooperation between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, that began when King Abdullah, all heart and outspread hands, supported General Sisi, who in July 2013  ousted elected president Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, this in sharp contrast to the will of the US government and Europe. The Saudi billions saved Egypt from bankruptcy, and the cooperation between the two countries reached the point where Egyptian soldiers came to the aid of the Saudis in their struggle against the Iranian and Houthi forces in Yemen. Except that since then, the sand dunes on which the aforementioned “coalition” was built have shifted in the wake of the north winds coming from the battlegrounds of Syria, putting paid to the bets on what seemed like a winning hand just a short while ago. Today the relations between Egypt and the Saudis are a far cry from cooperation and Egypt is now in close cahoots with Saudi Arabia’s enemies, headed by Iran.

 

How did the turnabout happen? The answer is clearly to be found in the situation in Syria for the past two years, especially Russia’s involvement, the Aleppo campaign and the resolutions concerning Syria passed by the UN Security Council, of which Egypt is a member this year. The Assad issue polarizes all the countries involved in Syria: Russia, Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah support Assad actively, not only politically, and are taking part in the fighting. Assad would be long gone without this involvement. On the other side of the court, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and some of the Emirates are undermining Assad politically and financially, arming and training those rebelling against his regime.

 

The scales of war tipped towards Assad during the past year once Russian military involvement began to increase in strength. One can say with certainty that Russia has become the Syrian Army’s main source of power, mainly from the air, and that a good part of the Russian navy, armed with rockets and aircraft carriers, is concentrated opposite Syria’s shores. The air defense systems that Russia has spread along the Syrian coast threaten the activities of the US, Israeli and Turkish warplanes in the area. Russia acts without legal or moral constraints, and bombs civilian neighborhoods mercilessly, forcing their citizens to become human shields for the rebels – those that Saudi Arabia supports, mostly in the eastern quarters of Aleppo.

 

In the political arena, Russia managed to force Erdogan to stop helping the rebels and concentrate instead on preventing Syria’s Kurds from establishing an independent state that might threaten Turkish stability. Sisi has been faced with the dilemma of whom to support from the first day of his regime in July 2013 – wondering whether he should stand behind Assad or behind Assad’s Islamist enemies, the ideological brothers of Sisi’s own opponents in the Sinai and along the length of the Nile.

 

While Sisi was politically and financially dependent on the Saudis, he abstained from supporting Assad publicly, but the direct and massive Russian intervention in Syria made him rethink what policy it would be best to pursue. He realized that Assad might succeed in overcoming his opponents and that the Saudi regime might fail in its war against the Syrian dictator, so he decided to bet on the winning horse. He abandoned the Saudis, crossed the lines, and now feels that Assad can remain in power no matter what future agreement lies ahead. The US decision to stay out of the fray also helped convince Sisi that the power in the Middle East is in the hands of Russia and its Iranian allies, making it worth his while to join the winning team and abandon the losers.

 

The October 8th vote in the Security Council saw the Egyptian delegate take a stand supporting Russia’s suggested resolution and not that of the Saudis. In response, Saudi Arabia’s UN delegate said that Egypt’s support of Russia is a “sad thing” and the Saudis promptly stopped an oil shipment headed for Egypt and placed restrictions on Egypt Airlines flights to Saudi Arabia.

 

Egypt’s police removed the concrete barriers that protected the Saudi Embassy in Cairo, claiming that a traffic tunnel is being constructed exactly at that spot, and the Saudi ambassador got the hint, leaving Cairo and returning to his homeland. Sisi, at a military ceremony, announced that “Egypt bows only to Allah,” meaning to no man or other country, alluding to the Saudi regime. The media received reports that a former senior Egyptian officer sold patrol boats to the Houthis in Yemen, the tribes that Iran supports and Saudi Arabia is trying to destroy. And all this deterioration in the relations between the two countries occurred over 5 days, from the 8th to the13th of October…

 

The Palestinian Authority (PA) had also joined the list of the “moderate Sunni coalition” with which Israel was supposed to reach a peace agreement, according to the pundits. Except that it turns out that this very same PA rests on shaky legs at best. For the past decade, we have been accustomed to a political and territorial split in the Palestinian Arab sector, with Gaza a Hamas state and Judea and Samaria’s Arabs in love with the PLO. All that was until last month, when the PLO dream was shown to be totally divorced from reality, as the organization itself split between Abbas supporters and those who support Mohammed Dahlan, corresponding to a growing schism between urban Arabs and refugee camp dwellers.

 

Throughout the past year, and particularly last month, there were violent outbursts between civilians and PA security forces in which the Palestinian police behavior towards these civilians was on a level of cruelty and violence equal to that which was prevalent in the Arab world for many years until the “Arab Spring” broke down the cruelty barrier. The reason is obvious: The security organizations are filled with personnel brought from Tunisia, not native Palestinian Arabs, and are therefore not considered legitimate by local residents.

 

What is going on today in the PA can be considered preparation by public and political institutions for the day after Abbas: Hamas is getting stronger, accruing arms and planning a takeover of Judea and Samaria. The fear of Hamas on the part of PLO supporters is behind their search for a young, energetic and proven rival to Hamas. Mohammed Dahlan suits the bill almost perfectly, but is strongly opposed by Abbas and his cohorts. Is the PLO going to remain a united organization in the future? It is hard to predict, but Middle Eastern dynamics perpetuate controversies and deepen them, so it is quite possible that this internecine war will destroy the PLO just as its struggle with Hamas destroyed the dream of one Palestinian State even before its birth…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    

 

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                         THE FUNERAL OF THE OSLO ACCORDS                                                                      

                                                 Guy Millière                                                                  

 Gatestone Institute, Oct. 25, 2016

 

The death of former Israeli President Shimon Peres led to a wave of almost unanimous tributes. Representatives from 75 countries came to Jerusalem to attend the funeral. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas even left Ramallah for a few hours to show up. Such a consensus could seem to be a sign of support for Israel, but it was something else entirely. Those who honored the memory of Shimon Peres put aside the years he dedicated to creating Israel's defense industry and to negotiating key arms deals with France, Germany and the United States. Those who honored the memory of Peres spoke only of the man who signed the Oslo Accords and who embodied the "peace process." They then used the occasion to accuse Israel.

 

Barack Obama delivered a speech that could have resembled a mark of heartwarming friendship, until he evoked the "the unfinished business of peace talks." A harsh and negative sentence followed, saying that "the Jewish people weren't born to rule another people." The next sentence implied that Israel is behaving like a slave-owner: "From the very first day we are against slaves and masters;" but it is clear to anyone in Israel that there is no such relationship even resembling that. His conclusion followed: "The Zionist idea will be best protected when Palestinians will have a state of their own." British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President François Hollande issued press releases in the same direction.

 

Despite the unceasing waves of murdering innocent Israeli civilians, Western politicians speak as if Israel were not under attack. They are not interested in seeing the spilled blood, the threats, the hatred constantly spread by Palestinian newspapers, and the incessant and ugly consequences of that hatred. European and American politicians are not interested in hearing what Palestinian leaders say when they call for the ethnic cleansing of Jews. These leaders seem happy to forget the chaos in the Middle East, the ruthless global violence of Islamic extremists, and the outspoken, genocidal intentions of the rulers of Iran. Instead, they speak abstractly of "peace" as if it is something that can be dropped down from sky on people who every day are threatening to kill the Jews.

 

These politicians practice willful blindness and seem obsessed by a desire illegally to impose the creation of a Palestinian state — whatever the consequences for Israel. These Western leaders can well imagine what those consequences would be if the Arabs had their way: genocide. One can only assume they are pleased with that. Israelis, however — Muslims, Christians and Jews — cannot practice willful blindness. The spilled blood is not an abstract headline; it is their red blood. The threats, the hatred and the consequences of that hatred are real. Israelis hear clearly what the Palestinian leaders say. They cannot forget what is happening in the Middle East: Jerusalem is 150 miles from Damascus and 1000 miles from Tehran; Hezbollah has more 120,000 missiles aimed at Israel from Lebanon. Hamas, a designated terrorist group openly dedicated to destroying Israel, rules Gaza just a few miles away. Israelis note the genocidal threats from Iran: Iran can obtain nuclear weapons at any time, along with long-range missiles to deliver them.

 

Even though many Israeli citizens were proud to see that so many Western leaders came to honor Shimon Peres, they were not fooled. A recent survey showed that only 28% of the Israeli population believe that a peace agreement is even conceivable; 64% think no agreement will ever be signed. Another survey from July 2016 showed that a clear majority of Israelis are opposed to any withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and resolutely hostile to any foreign interference in Israeli affairs. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu politely received Western leaders when they came to Jerusalem. He paid tribute to Shimon Peres — without omitting the first decades of Peres' life. He also answered those who speak of "peace" as if no other factors mattered, and firmly stated his position: security comes first; there is no way that peace can exist without security…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents                       

           

On Topic Links

 

Congress Blasts Obama for Preparing Anti-Israel Offensive: Jenna Lifhits, Weekly Standard, Oct. 9, 2016—The Obama administration is manufacturing a crisis with Israel in anticipation of a post-election diplomatic push targeting the Jewish state, and this past week launched a series of broadsides criticizing the Israelis through the media and in press briefings, according to congressional sources and Jewish-American officials who spoke to the Weekly Standard.

The Next President and the Middle East: Editorial, Washington Post, Oct. 29, 2016— The self-defeating passivity of President Obama’s policies in the Middle East may have reached its apotheosis earlier this month at a National Security Council meeting that he chaired.

Jordan’s Chilly Peace with Israel: Michael Freund, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 26, 2016—Yesterday marked the 22nd anniversary of the signing of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, an event heralded at the time as a historic breakthrough, one that would bring about a warm and lasting reconciliation between the two countries for generations to come. So much for the desert-driven delusions of the past.

The Two Sides of Shimon Peres: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, Oct. 3, 2016— The world joined Israel to pay tribute to Shimon Peres in Jerusalem Friday, but it seemed as though the world and Israel were burying different men. This may simply reflect the fact that, after 70 years, the public life of the last of the founders of the modern state of Israel was simply too large to be fully addressed in one funeral.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARAB WORLD “CRUMBLES”, U.S. M.E. INFLUENCE WANES, BUT ISRAEL STRENGTHENS REGIONAL ALLIANCES

As the Arab World Crumbles, New Alliances Emerge: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 25, 2016— Several looming challenges pose a clear and present danger to the Arab world's ability to continue as a viable culture and functioning political system.

Bibi the Strategist: Lazar Berman, Jewish Press, Aug. 21, 2016— In June, the Israeli journalist Amir Tibon wrote an article for Politico detailing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s long-standing and bitter fights with Israel’s defense leaders.

A Covenant of Shadows: Yaakov Amidror, Israel Hayom, Aug. 5, 2016— Many of the world's nations are looking on in surprise and admiration at the ever-strengthening ties between Israel and the more important Sunni Arab countries in the region…

Jew-Hatred at the World Social Forum: Bradley Martin, American Spectator, Aug. 25, 2016— The 2016 annual meeting of the World Social Forum took place in Montreal this month to strategize and coordinate campaigns in support of anti-globalization, anti-capitalism, and now anti-Semitism.

 

On Topic Links

 

Can Israel and the Arab States Be Friends?: New York Times, Aug. 27, 2016

Why ‘Cash for Prisoners’ May End Up Being Least of U.S. Concerns Over Payment to Iran: Aaron David Miller, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 22, 2016

Israel's Strategic Imperative: Prof. Louis René Beres, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 7, 2016

Implications of US Disengagement from the Middle East: Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA, July 26, 2016

 

 

 

AS THE ARAB WORLD CRUMBLES, NEW ALLIANCES EMERGE

Dr. Mordechai Kedar

                                   Arutz Sheva, Aug. 25, 2016

 

Several looming challenges pose a clear and present danger to the Arab world's ability to continue as a viable culture and functioning political system. At the head of the list are Iran, Islamic State, and the deterioration of the status of the state itself in countries where terror, motivated mainly by Islam and its dictates, is on the rise.

 

The Iranian challenge received a boost last year from the signing of Iran's Nuclear Agreement with the West and the billions of dollars accompanying it, part of which will be invested in pouring more boiling jet fuel on the epicenters of Middle Eastern bloodshed and tension – Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – in a way that poses a direct threat to certain key countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The agreement will also make it easier for Iran to export the revolution to other parts of the world, starting with Europe and America.

 

The Islamic State challenge continues to threaten Syria and Iraq directly, but its influence is increasing in other focal points such as Libya and the Sinai Peninsula. Jordan, too, has been the scene of activities meant to prepare the population for the day after the monarchy, when an Islamic State-type regime can come to power. Although Islamic State lost territory in its battles with the Iraqi and Syrian armies, it is far from losing its ongoing ability to spread terror and propaganda and its defeat is not at all a sure thing.

 

The modern Arab state – as an ideology and political entity – is facing several difficult questions. Many of its citizens ask why they are forced to live in states created, designed and planned by the West to promote its own interests. Why, they ask, must they live under dictatorships where a ruling elite runs an economically and morally corrupt government?  Social media are the main platform for expressing these opinions and serve as the stage where large numbers of people take part in a public debate that puts their own countries in the dock.

 

There is a not insignificant number of people in the Arab world who have reached the conclusion that it is time to act against their own states by means of intimidation, threats, terrorist acts and murder. The main leader of this trend is the Muslim Brotherhood and the political Islamic organizations it spawned. These organizations make use of social media to organize, plan, get new volunteers, all the while sending their messages anonymously and without the constraints of government censorship.

 

A clear example of the deteriorating situation is the terror state that was established in Gaza nine years ago, in June 2007, when an Islamic terrorist organization – Hamas – took over an area that is home to over one million people and established an entity that is the political implementation of the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology. The Arab world is paralyzed and prevented from reacting because every word against Hamas is immediately interpreted as being pro-Israel and therefore totally unacceptable in Arab circles. The disastrous situation was actually strengthened when wealthy and important states such as Qatar and Turkey stood behind the Hamas state and aided it financially and politically, while Iran provided it with military support.

 

Meanwhile, the same phenomenon is developing in Lebanon, where the Hezbollah terrorist organization is taking over an entire country and turning it into a state run according to decisions made in Tehran. The most crucial decision that Iran made for Lebanon was throwing the country into the midst of the fierce civil war raging in Syria between Assad and his enemies. This challenging state of events has been ruling the Arab scene for years with no solution in sight.  Iran not only is not disappearing, its influence is getting stronger by the day. Islamic State is also not disappearing, despite the West's declaration of war against it. The modern Arab state is not seen as a legitimate answer, causing the internal terror fueled by Islam to get more and more powerful.

 

In the past, the United States was a stabilizing factor that preserved the political systems in the region, but it has decided to step back and leave the area ripe prey for Iran, Sunni Jihadists, Turks and lately the Russians who have arrived to secure their own interests. Sadly, those who suffer most from this maelstrom of problems are peaceful citizens who once suffered under dictatorships and now suffer under Jihadist swords. They are fleeing en masse to Europe.

 

Israel can be accepted more easily while the Arab world is in this miserable situation because it does not pose a threat to any nations except the two terrorist mini states that have arisen in the Middle East: the Gazan Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah. Islamic State will also be a potential target for Israel from the second that its territory reaches any Israeli border, so that Israel has been transformed from being a problem to being a solution to problems.

 

The first Arab country to realize the Israel solution was Egypt, which shares Israel's concern about terror and Islamic State, especially since IS has established a branch in the Sinai. Al Sisi's Egypt, since 2013, works stubbornly and steadily, with minimum sensitivity, against Hamas.  Egypt closed the Rafiah Pass almost hermetically, and has almost entirely eliminated the tunnel system into Egypt that the Gazans worked hard to dig. Those tunnels were not used only for weapons smuggling – an entire circus once arrived in Gaza that way! Rumors have it that Israel is helping Egypt in the shared struggle of both countries against Islamic State's "Sinai Province," an organization that was once called "Ansar Beit al Maqdis" and was affiliated with al Qaeda, and whose hands are smeared with the blood of hundreds of Egyptian civilians and soldiers.

 

It has reached the point where the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukri, refused to accuse Israel of engaging in terror when it battles Palestinian Arabs. In his opinion, "Israel's history forces it to grant an important place to security because Israeli society is faced with challenges that demand strict attention to security, control of the area and the sealing of any breaches in its protective shield." He might well say the exact same words regarding Egypt. Shoukri also noted that it is impossible to accuse Israel of terror since there is no accepted international definition for terror. This remark is actually a complaint aimed at all the Islamic countries which refuse to define terror in legal terms because doing so would by definition point to Islam as the factor motivating most terrorists today. The US government is not eager to identify the connection between Islam and terror either, so that his words seem to be pointed in that direction as well…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

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BIBI THE STRATEGIST

Lazar Berman

                                  Commentary, Aug. 21, 2016

 

In June, the Israeli journalist Amir Tibon wrote an article for Politico detailing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s long-standing and bitter fights with Israel’s defense leaders. Former IDF chiefs of staff and spymasters described Netanyahu as messianic, driven by personal calculations, and incapable of protecting Israel’s interests. His former defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, said the prime minister’s conduct had caused him to lose faith in Netanyahu, and ex- Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin said he “represents six years of constant failures.” Bibi-bashing of this sort is neither new nor limited to Israel. Diskin’s remarks echoed the charges of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who wrote in his 2014 memoir, Duty, that under Netanyahu “Israel’s strategic situation is worsening, its own actions contributing to its isolation.” Gates claimed that the Jewish state was acting “strategically stupid” as it pursued tactical gains. “Time,” he concluded, “is not on Israel’s side.”

 

Messianism and stupidity are as bad a combination as one could find in a nation’s leader. What, then, might Diskin and Gates have made of the accord Netanyahu reached with Turkey right around the time the Politico piece appeared? Six years after Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel and took to obsessively condemning the Jewish state, Netanyahu got Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to drop his key demands and agree to resume full diplomatic relations with Israel. That victory for Netanyahu’s statecraft is one example of many that highlight an enduring contradiction between his reputation for ineptitude and his record of achievement. And considering what Israel is up against, almost any foreign-policy success would be noteworthy.

 

Since Netanyahu regained the premiership in 2009, Israel has faced a multitude of challenges—from Turkey’s hostile turn, to Iran’s nuclear program, to Hamas’s cross-border tunnels, to rocket attacks on civilians, to a rash of terrorist knifings and automobile attacks. Any one of them would try the sharpest strategic thinkers. What’s more, Egypt and Syria both collapsed into turmoil during his time in office. The civil war in Syria turned Israel’s quietest border into an ungoverned zone filled by rival jihadist groups. The fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt meant that a Muslim Brotherhood government temporarily bordered the Gaza Strip and could give aid to its Palestinian faction, Hamas. And while Egypt’s current leader, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sissi has since fought Hamas aggressively, the Sinai Peninsula has become an ungoverned home to terrorists who pledge allegiance to ISIS.

 

Then there’s the United States. With the election of Barack Obama, America’s approach to the Middle East changed in drastic ways. Determined to build bridges to the Muslim world, Obama saw Israeli settlements as the central obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. Thus, he instituted a policy of maintaining “daylight” between Washington and Jerusalem in hopes of wearing down Israel’s supposed obstinacy on settlements. To make matters worse, Obama and his advisers evinced a strong animus against Netanyahu that only escalated as time progressed. Washington scaled back its influence at the same moment that Sunni–Shia, tribal, and ethnic battles began gutting Arab states. Iran capitalized on the resulting power vacuum to expand its reach in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and beyond. As for Iran’s nuclear program, Obama and the Islamic Republic entered into the P5+1 Joint Plan of Action. What’s become known simply as “the Iran deal” has both enriched and rehabilitated the regime while leaving its nuclear program largely intact and free from serious scrutiny.

 

How has Netanyahu handled this dizzying constellation of threats? Although far from perfect, he has shown himself to be a careful thinker, a leader whose reading of complex situations has allowed him to outmaneuver adversaries and protect Israel’s interests. The growing threat from Hamas and the dangers of a rising Iran have not abated. But in reviewing Netanyahu’s actions as prime minister, we emerge with a list of improbable foreign-policy accomplishments of which most world leaders would be proud…

 

Problems generated by the Syrian civil war have exploded outward in every direction. To name a few: Refugees have spilled over into Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Europe. Terrorist groups inside Syria, especially ISIS, pose a strategic threat to Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt. Additionally, ISIS continues to carry out major terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe. Yet Israel, on Syria’s western border, remains effectively out of the fray.

 

Although Syria was long an enemy of Israel, its collapse posed a major strategic challenge for Israeli leaders. Before Syria spiraled out of control, Israel had hoped for (and repeatedly tried to attain) a peace agreement with Damascus. With the Syrian state in chaos, this was no longer even a remote possibility. And with ISIS taking the lead in the fight against Assad, it was clear that Israel couldn’t support either side. In any event, Israel had to deal with more immediate threats emerging from the meltdown. Some of the terrorist groups fighting Assad—including the Al-Nusra Front and the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade—had gained a foothold along Israel’s Golan Heights border with Syria. There were (and are) still more complicating factors. Mortar fire from the conflict occasionally strays into Israel. Druze residents of the Israeli Golan Heights maintain close ties to family members and other co-religionists on the Syrian side and have vowed to take action if jihadist groups threaten Syrian Druze. And Hezbollah and Iran have tried to take advantage of the chaos to open a new front against Israel in the Golan.

 

Through it all, Israel has stayed safe. Netanyahu has been quietly shaping the situation to protect his country’s interests. Israel has reached a stable—and officially unconfirmed—understanding with rebel groups on its border. These groups, including some jihadist factions, know they don’t have to protect their western flank from Israel. In return, they refrain from attacking Israel and keep others from doing so as well. In coordination with IDF forces on the border, rebel groups hand over wounded fighters and civilians to be treated in Israeli hospitals. Israel has also transferred aid to these groups, but it is unclear if this goes beyond food and medicine. There is likely intelligence sharing as well…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]  

 

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A COVENANT OF SHADOWS

Yaakov Amidror

                                   Israel Hayom, Aug. 5, 2016

 

Many of the world's nations are looking on in surprise and admiration at the ever-strengthening ties between Israel and the more important Sunni Arab countries in the region — the open relationship with Egypt and Jordan, with which Israel maintains official diplomatic relations, but also the informal relationships with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.

 

This shift appears to be fueled by three main factors: First, these Sunni countries fear Iran's growing power over a Shiite bloc, which threatens the security as well as the unity of the Sunni states. There is an ancient religious conflict between the Sunni majority and the Shiite minority, but the minority enjoys the advantage of a singular leadership that is willing to do anything to change the status of the Shiites in the Middle East. This leadership, which sits in Tehran, is spearheading orchestrated and focused efforts to liberate the Shiites in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and defend the Shiites in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The objective is to create an uninterrupted distribution of Shiites from Tehran through Baghdad to Beirut.

 

Meanwhile, Iran is trying to undermine the Sunni dominance on the Arab side of the Gulf between the Saudi Peninsula and Iran: Saudi Arabia, with its Shiite minority, in the oil-rich region; Bahrain, which underwent a Shiite coup attempt; and Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is fighting with the Sunni majority against the Iranian-backed Houthi minority. The Sunni-Shiite conflict also has a nationalist aspect. It is impossible to ignore the fact that Iran is focusing its efforts exclusively on Arab countries. This nationalist struggle also manifests itself in inter-Shiite disputes, especially in Iraq, where the city of Najaf was once considered the most important Shiite city, but has since been replaced by the Iranian city of Qom…

 

The second factor fueling the Sunni countries' concerns is the threat of extreme Salafism led by the Islamic State group. The group's Arabic acronym, Daesh, stands for "the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria," but today, the organization is active in Sinai and in Libya as well, and it has active chapters in Africa and in Europe, as the recent wave of terrorist attacks may indicate. Therefore, the simple name "Islamic State" may be more apt.

 

The expansion of the group's activities poses a threat to the Sunni states, because they represent an enemy of the highest order. In Egypt, the threat is even more pronounced thanks to IS deployment in parts of Sinai and its collaboration with Hamas, the Palestinian chapter of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood — the mortal enemies of the current Egyptian leadership. In Jordan and in Saudi Arabia, Islamic State threatens the regime from within, because in both countries there is extensive sympathy for the group among various sectors in the population. Even if the coalition of nations currently working to combat IS manages to dramatically diminish the areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, the ideology propagated by the group will still pose a very palpable threat to the Sunni states. Moreover, the coalition is currently having trouble maintaining its momentum against IS, following a string of important victories.

 

The third factor stems from the general sense that the U.S. has abandoned its allies in their time of need, intending to scale back its involvement in the region. In Egypt, this feeling is founded on America's having abandoned deposed President Hosni Mubarak and having appeared to support the Muslim Brotherhood. In Saudi Arabia and in the Persian Gulf, the frustration stems from the fact that they view the landmark agreement between the West and Iran, spearheaded by the U.S., as an American capitulation. The countries in the region have been very disappointed with the U.S.'s conduct toward Mubarak on the one hand, and toward Syrian President Bashar Assad, who continues to massacre Sunnis uninhibited, on the other. They realize that not only is the U.S. no longer on their side in the fight against Iran, the U.S. expects them to make concessions to Iran. It is clear to the Sunni states, which once viewed the U.S. as a superpower whose mere existence was enough to stop any threat they faced, that things have profoundly changed. Even if the U.S. is still a superpower, it has lost the will to use its power in the Middle East. Furthermore, when it does exercise its power, like in leading the anti-IS coalition, action is taken sparingly and extremely cautiously. And now, the U.S. is compromising with its adversaries, as indicated by the weak American response to Russia's increasing involvement in Syria…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

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JEW-HATRED AT THE WORLD SOCIAL FORUM

Bradley Martin

American Spectator, Aug. 25, 2016

 

The 2016 annual meeting of the World Social Forum took place in Montreal this month to strategize and coordinate campaigns in support of anti-globalization, anti-capitalism, and now anti-Semitism. Viewed as a progressive alternative to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, it began with an anti-Semitic cartoon depicting a stereotypical hook-nosed Orthodox Jew controlling the United States government as well as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by proxy. The cartoon, part of a now-canceled talk by Seyed Ali Mousavi, titled “Terrorizm [sic], Wahhabism [sic], Zionism,” was criticized by two Canadian members of Parliament, leading to removal of the Canadian government logo from the forum’s list of partners.

 

Although Mousavi’s talk was canceled, the WSF website lists at least a dozen other events intended to promote the wholesale boycott of Israel. They include a workshop comparing the calling-out of anti-Semitism to McCarthyism, headlined by Diane Ralph, a notorious conspiracy theorist who has blamed Israel and the U.S. for staging the September 11 terrorist attacks. WSF attendees also heard from Sabine Friesinger, a former student union president involved in the violent riot preventing current-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking at Concordia University in 2002. Elderly Holocaust survivor Thomas Hecht was physically assaulted during that riot.

 

Another speaker at the conference was Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. In a 2014 speech at UCLA, Barghouti denied the existence of the Jewish people, claiming that Jews are not indigenous to Israel and have no right to self-determination or collective rights. Nonetheless, Barghouti rejected the notion that BDS is anti-Semitic. The anti-Jewish bigotry at the conference was not only shameless, but also deceitful. While Bargouti’s presentation promoted academic BDS against Israel, he himself is a student at Tel Aviv University, currently pursuing his Ph.D. after having completed his MA in philosophy at the Israeli institution. When asked about this blatant contradiction, Bargouti replied that his studies were a “personal matter.” Bargouti also claimed that BDS was opposed to violence, yet just a day earlier he spoke alongside Friesinger at a militant roundtable presented by the WSF that focused on international BDS coordination against Israel. Bargouti has previously voiced approval of Palestinian violence against Israel. Jamal Jomaa, of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, echoed Bargouti’s insistence that BDS is non-violent, and then went on to support the Palestinian right to commit violence against Israel…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Bradley Martin is a CIJR Student Intern

 

 

 

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On Topic Links

 

Can Israel and the Arab States Be Friends?: New York Times, Aug. 27, 2016—Israel and Saudi Arabia have no formal diplomatic relations. The Saudis do not even recognize Israel as a state. Still, there is evidence that ties between Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states and Israel are not only improving but, after developing in secret over many years, could evolve into a more explicit alliance as a result of their mutual distrust of Iran.

Why ‘Cash for Prisoners’ May End Up Being Least of U.S. Concerns Over Payment to Iran: Aaron David Miller, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 22, 2016—It’s not clear how much worse things will get for the Obama administration over its $400 million payment to Iran in January, but the cash-for-prisoners scandal may end up being the least of U.S. concerns in all this.

Israel's Strategic Imperative: Prof. Louis René Beres, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 7, 2016—In world politics, preserving equilibrium has a recognizably sacramental function. The reason is obvious. Without at least minimum public order, planetary relations would descend rapidly, and perhaps irremediably, into a profane disharmony. In any such global "state of nature," we may further extrapolate from Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, the life of individual nations could quickly become "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

Implications of US Disengagement from the Middle East: Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA, July 26, 2016—The United States is retreating from the Middle East. The adverse implications of this policy shift are manifold, including: the acceleration  of Tehran’s drive to regional hegemony, the palpable risk of regional nuclear proliferation following the JCPOA, the spread of jihadist Islam, and Russia’s growing penetration of the region. Manifest US weakness is also bound to have ripple effects far beyond the Middle East, as global players  question the value of partnership with an irresolute Washington.

LIBYA’S CHAOS, SPAWNED BY WESTERN INTERVENTION, SPREADS TO TUNISIA. HOW WILL THE WEST RESPOND?

Time to Get Serious About Libya: Max Boot, Commentary, Mar. 8, 2016— The consequences of allowing Islamic State to establish a new stronghold in the Libyan city of Sirte continue to grow worse.

Why Libya Must be the Next Front in the War Against ISIL: Matthew Fisher, National Post, Feb. 21, 2016— Canada’s larger training mission with the Peshmerga in northern Iraq will not get underway until the back half of May, but preliminary discussions are already underway about what must come next.

Tunisian Clash Spreads Fear That Libyan War Is Spilling Over: Farah Samti & Declan Walsh, New York Times, Mar. 7, 2016 — Fear engulfed Tunisia on Monday that Islamic State mayhem was spilling over from neighboring Libya, as dozens of militants stormed a Tunisian town near the border, assaulting police and military posts in what the president called an unprecedented attack.

How Tunisia Became a Top Source of ISIS Recruits: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 25, 2016— The cradle of the Arab Spring, Tunisia remains the freest Arab democracy.

 

On Topic Links

 

A Radical Idea to Rebuild a Shattered Libya: Restore the Monarchy: Declan Walsh, New Tork Times, Feb. 24, 2015

ISIS Leader Moves to Libya: Pete Hoekstra, IPT, Feb. 16, 2016

Africa’s Terror Crescent: Wall Street Journal, Feb. 16, 2016

Liberals’ Vision for Canadian Forces Unlikely to be Swayed by Public Consultations: John Ivison, National Post, Mar. 7, 2016

 

 

TIME TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT LIBYA

Max Boot

Commentary, Mar. 8, 2016

 

The consequences of allowing Islamic State to establish a new stronghold in the Libyan city of Sirte continue to grow worse. Not only is Islamic State now poised directly across the Mediterranean from Europe, and not only is it now in a position to threaten or even seize chunks of the Libyan oil production — Islamic State is also now in a position to threaten neighboring states.

 

On Monday, dozens of extremists attacked the Tunisian town of Ben Gardane located next to the Libyan border. Some 36 of the attackers were killed along with 18 Tunisians, security forces and civilians alike. President Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia blamed Libyan-based ISIS extremists. This is evidence that the chaos of Libya continues to spillover and threaten the nascent democracy in neighboring Tunisia, the only success story to emerge from the Arab Spring.

 

The U.S. indirectly bears some responsibility for this dangerous state of affairs, having helped to topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 without doing nearly enough to stabilize Libya afterward. President Obama is trying to ameliorate the consequences of this dereliction of duty by staging air strikes against ISIS targets. Last month, U.S. aircraft bombed the Libyan town of Sabratha, killing a reported 43 people, including an ISIS leader. The U.S. also has reportedly deployed Special Operations Forces to Libya and has gotten permission from Italy to fly armed drones to defend them should they come under attack.

 

These are positive steps, but it is crucial that the American response not be limited to killing terrorists, who can always be replaced. There is a desperate need to establish a functioning state in Libya that can police its own territory, and that will not happen without active U.S. leadership along with that of our allies.

 

The United Nations has recognized a new Unity Government in Libya but turning it into a reality will require pressure from the U.S. and other states, using a combination of sanctions and suasion (in the form of weapons and aid deliveries), to force the various Libyan factions to come together. If and when the state comes together, it would make sense to dispatch an international peacekeeping force to help it establish its authority. Italy has been rumored to have offered 5,000 troops for such a force; other nations would need to ante up as well.

 

For too long, the U.S. and the rest of the West have turned a blind eye to the growing disorder in Libya, repeating the same mistake that they have made in Syria and Yemen. No one wants to intervene in yet another Arab civil war. Unless the U.S. leads an international coalition, however, the situation will only get worse, ISIS will only get stronger, and the threat to nearby states — including European states — will only grow.

 

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WHY LIBYA MUST BE THE NEXT FRONT IN THE WAR AGAINST ISIL

Matthew Fisher            

National Post, Feb. 21, 2016

                       

Canada’s larger training mission with the Peshmerga in northern Iraq will not get underway until the back half of May, but preliminary discussions are already underway about what must come next. And what must come next is Libya. Turning the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant back in Mesopotamia is the first part of a larger battle to rein in this gang of murderous religious zealots whose ambitions are much greater than simply dominating a stretch of desert between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

 

Although a long way from being defeated, ISIL appears today to be on the defensive in Iraq. But the Daesh brand — and those who claim an allegiance to it and its dream of a vast caliphate where Sharia law is supreme — continues to grow in other parts of the Islamic world, from southeast Asia to Afghanistan, sub-Saharan Africa and the Maghreb.

 

This is especially true of Libya, which has been allowed to devolve into a lawless state since NATO warplanes deposed Moammar Gadhafi. Libya’s importance is obvious: it sits at the crossroads between southern Europe and Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, where Islamic terror is encouraging others in equatorial Africa, and it has a malignant influence on events in Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. ISIL is already causing grief for Egypt and putting pressure on Israel because of its machinations in the Sinai Peninsula, where the independent Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping organization is led by a Canadian — Maj.-Gen. Denis Thompson, who once ran Canada’s war in Kandahar.

 

How will NATO respond if ISIL becomes seaborne and uses the Maghreb as a launching point for terrorist attacks on southern Europe or to disrupt trade in the Mediterranean? After all, unlike Iraq and Syria, Libya is practically in Europe’s backyard. Tripoli is less than 500 kilometres from Sicily, eastern Libya is about 300 kilometres from Crete, and even closer to Malta, with its strong ties to Britain and membership in the European Union.

 

What role Canada and the West might play across this much broader canvas is already being talked about in Ottawa, at NATO headquarters in Belgium and at announced and unannounced meetings in Washington, Europe and the Middle East.

 

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Marine who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke late last month of the need “to take decisive action” against ISIL in Libya. U.S. jets and drones carried out air strikes three days ago against an ISIL training camp on the Mediterranean coast near Tunisia, and U.S. special forces are undoubtedly already conducting covert operations in the neighbourhood.

 

An Italian three-star general is to lead an eventual international military mission in Libya, although what shape it will take and what its mandate will be remains unclear. The British will help the Italians. The French are to be involved, too.  Ottawa has said almost nothing publicly about its potential involvement there. However, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan had private talks about Libya in Europe in December and again this month.

 

In many respects an international operation against ISIL in Libya would be tailor-made for Canada, given the Trudeau government’s championing of what has been described as Canada’s unique expertise in helping failed states with a comprehensive approach that includes governance, humanitarian aid and development.

 

Another factor that should compel Canada to act: we bear some responsibility for the chaos now gripping Libya. A Canadian general, Charlie Bouchard, ran the successful NATO air campaign against Gadhafi in 2011. Regrettably, neither Canada — which contributed CF-18 fighters to that push — or its allies, had any plan to restore order in Libya once Gadhafi was gone. The anarchy that followed the dictator’s death created a vacuum that ISIL has inevitably and ruthlessly exploited.

 

Canada’s special forces, already assisting the Peshmerga in Iraq, will likely be involved in Libya. But these commandos should only be a small part of an eventual whole-of-government approach. Using parts of Canada’s Afghan template, that could involve conventional forces serving as trainers, as well as experts from half a dozen government ministries and agencies to help establish the stability that Libya desperately needs. The bedlam in Libya presents the UN Security Council with an opportunity to pass a resolution authorizing an international response to Libya. For once, Western, Russian and Chinese interests may be in sync on such an undertaking.

 

ISIL’s rise in Iraq and Syria happened largely because the West and its Arab allies were asleep to the consequences, including the refugee crisis it spawned. The key for Canada and its allies is to get ahead of ISIL for once, and end its ability to dominate the narrative. Eliminate the jihadists in Libya before they can establish the deep roots there that they have now in Iraq and Syria.

 

 

Contents

  TUNISIAN CLASH SPREADS FEAR THAT LIBYAN WAR IS SPILLING OVER

Farah Samti & Declan Walsh                   

          New York Times, Mar. 7, 2016

 

Fear engulfed Tunisia on Monday that Islamic State mayhem was spilling over from neighboring Libya, as dozens of militants stormed a Tunisian town near the border, assaulting police and military posts in what the president called an unprecedented attack. At least 54 people were killed in the fighting in the town, Ben Gardane, which erupted at dawn and lasted for hours until the security forces chased out what remained of the assailants. An enormous stash of weapons was later found.

 

The authorities said at least 36 militants were among the dead. The others were a mix of security forces and civilians, including a 12-year-old girl. It was unclear where the assailants had come from, although some witnesses reported that they had local accents and had pronounced themselves as liberators. But President Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia, increasingly alarmed about the Islamic State’s expansion in Libya, blamed the militant group. In a televised address, he suggested that the motive was to create a new Islamic State territory on Tunisian soil, similar to the 150-mile stretch it controls in Libya.

 

The authorities sealed the border, erected checkpoints in Ben Gardane and used bullhorns to announce a curfew as security officials searched for other attackers. A nearby beach resort popular with Western and local tourists was closed. It was the second time in a week that the area around Ben Gardane had been assaulted, and the first time that Tunisian military facilities had been targeted. Mr. Essebsi said that the Tunisian forces had expected such an attack. “Most Tunisians are in a state of war against this recklessness, against these rats,” he said, referring to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

 

In the past year, the Islamic State has exploited Libya’s chaotic civil war not only to establish control of coastline around the central town of Surt, but also to establish bases near the Tunisian border. Tunisian troops raised their alert after Feb. 18 when American airstrikes against an Islamic State camp in Sabratha, 60 miles from the border, stoked worries that some fighters would try to slip into Tunisia.

 

Considered a conspicuous success story among the countries upended by popular uprisings in 2011, Tunisia has of late steeled itself against a growing Islamist threat. In two high-profile attacks last year, militants targeted Western tourists at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, and at the beach resort of Sousse where they killed 38 people, mostly British tourists. Tunisian officials said the attackers had been trained in Libya.

 

The American airstrikes last month against an Islamic State training camp in Sabratha, which killed at least 43 people, had sought to eliminate a militant commander linked to the Tunis and Sousse assaults. He is believed to have been killed. American commanders say such strikes are part of an effort to contain the spread of the Islamic State while the United States and its allies consider a much wider campaign of airstrikes against the group in Libya.

 

In an effort to stop militant infiltration, Tunisia has built a 125-mile-long berm along half of the border with Libya, and says it has contracted American and German firms to install electronic surveillance equipment to further secure that border.

 

Still, tensions are rising. In violence that foreshadowed the Ben Gardane assault, Tunisian soldiers clashed with militants on Wednesday near the town, killing five people. After the Ben Gardane assault, the Tunisian security forces said they had discovered a large cache of weapons including rifles, explosives and rocket launchers. They blocked nearby border crossing points at Ras Ajdir and on the island of Djerba, a beach resort home to a small population of Tunisian Jews.

 

In a statement, the Interior Ministry urged locals to remain indoors but assured them that the situation was “under control.” Although militants had never targeted a military installation in Tunisia, 12 people died in a suicide attack on a bus carrying members of the presidential guard in Tunis in November.             

 

                                                           

Contents

HOW TUNISIA BECAME A TOP SOURCE OF ISIS RECRUITS

Yaroslav Trofimov        

                                                Wall Street Journal, Feb. 25, 2016

 

The cradle of the Arab Spring, Tunisia remains the freest Arab democracy. It has one of the region’s most developed economies and highest literacy rates. And it is also by far the largest source of foreign fighters heading to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

 

Between 6,000 and 7,000 Tunisians have left the small North African country to fight for the self-proclaimed caliphate—several times more than from much-more populous Algeria or Egypt. As many as 15,000 others have been barred from international travel because Tunisia’s government suspects them of planning to follow suit. The Tunisian exodus is remarkable because it defies conventional wisdom that has long sought to explain terrorism by evoking “root causes” such as political repression by dictatorial regimes, or the frustrations of poverty.

 

The working-class Hay Ettadhamen suburb of Tunis, a spread of drab concrete buildings that wouldn’t be out of place in parts of Spain or Eastern Europe, is one of the hot spots for such departures to Syria and Iraq.

Ahmed Amine Jebri, a 27-year-old architecture student, counted some 20 neighbors who had joined Islamic State: a childhood friend with whom he used to play the “Counter-Strike” videogame, a classmate, an older man who sold dried fruit and cigarettes in a corner store. Several of them are now dead.

 

“So many people have left from here, and quite a few of them were rather well-off,” Mr. Jebri said. “Some in the neighborhood believe these guys are fools who had gone to Syria to get killed. But many others say they are now in paradise with the virgins.” Increasingly, Tunisians also form the backbone of Islamic State’s growing presence in neighboring Libya. A U.S. airstrike last week on an Islamic State training camp west of Tripoli killed as many as 50 people, most of them Tunisian fighters.

 

So what explains this paradox? In a country that remains deeply divided, the answer, predictably, depends on whom you ask. Tunisia’s functioning democracy remains an exception: Arab Spring revolutions elsewhere have either turned into civil wars, as in Syria, Libya or Yemen, or were crushed by re-established dictatorships, as in Egypt.

 

Yet even in Tunisia, popular disappointment is spreading, said Moncef Marzouki, a human-rights activist who served as democratic Tunisia’s first president from 2011 and until the end of 2014. While the country’s Jasmine Revolution ushered in democracy, it failed to spur economic growth or curb rampant corruption, he said.

 

“Why do we have educated people, people with jobs, who go to ISIS?” wondered Mr. Marzouki. “It’s not the matter of tackling socioeconomic roots. You have to go deeper and understand that these guys have a dream—and we don’t. We had a dream—our dream was called the Arab Spring. And our dream is now turning into a nightmare. But the young people need a dream, and the only dream available to them now is the caliphate.”

 

Mr. Marzouki’s successor as president, 89-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi, served as foreign minister and parliament speaker in prerevolutionary administrations. Many other former officials returned to power after the 2014 elections. To some, especially in disadvantaged areas, the new Tunisia isn’t that different from the Tunisia of old.

 

“In Tunisia, a policeman can, just as before, stop a citizen on the street and slap him,” said Rafik Ghaki, an attorney who represents hundreds of Tunisians who returned from battlefields in Syria and Iraq, usually to face immediate detention. “A woman who wears the veil, a young man with a beard—they still feel discriminated” against.

 

To more-secular Tunisians, such explanations ignore what they see as the ambiguous attitude of postrevolutionary governments toward Islamist extremists. The local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood dominated Tunisia’s administration after the first elections in 2011, and remains a minority partner in the current government.

 

An amnesty declared soon after the revolution freed imprisoned jihadists and allowed others to return from exile. The government initially tried to entice radical groups to participate in politics. It began to crack down on Islamist radicals after their attempt to storm the U.S. Embassy compound in 2012, followed by a series of assassinations and terrorist attacks.

 

To critics—including some relatives of jihadists—the government is still far too lenient to those who incite radicalism. “These people have political cover here. Nobody interferes with them,” said  Mohammed Iqbel Ben Rejeb, president of the Rescue Association of Tunisians Trapped Abroad, a group that unites some 250 families of Tunisians who joined extremist groups in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

 

Mr. Ben Rejeb’s brother Hamza—who moves in a wheelchair and has to use both hands to raise a glass of water because of his muscular dystrophy—left for Syria in 2013 along with six friends. Realizing how inhospitable Syria was, the brother managed to return home quickly. “When a person is hypnotized, he doesn’t even know why he’s going there,” Mr. Ben Rejeb said. “It is like a virus.”

 

 On Topic

 

A Radical Idea to Rebuild a Shattered Libya: Restore the Monarchy: Declan Walsh, New Tork Times, Feb. 24, 2015—The deserted royal palace here, hidden behind locked gates and an overgrown garden, stands as a monument to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s virulent rejection of Libya’s monarchy.

ISIS Leader Moves to Libya: Pete Hoekstra, IPT, Feb. 16, 2016 —The barbaric and elusive Chechen commander who recruited British executioner "Jihadi John" has moved to Sirte, Libya to assume control of ISIS operations in the terrorist organization's metastasizing Mediterranean caliphate.

Africa’s Terror Crescent: Wall Street Journal, Feb. 16, 2016—For all the attention attracted by the battle against Islamic State in the Middle East, Islamism is also wreaking havoc in Africa. Jihadist groups control territory stretching from the Horn of Africa to the Mediterranean coast and south to Nigeria, and that crescent was ablaze this weekend.

Liberals’ Vision for Canadian Forces Unlikely to be Swayed by Public Consultations: John Ivison, National Post, Mar. 7, 2016—Within days, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will launch public consultations on the new review that will mandate the future size of the Canadian Forces, what kind of equipment they will use and the theatres in which they will operate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        

 

 

 

                  

 

 

 

MIDDLE EAST ISSUES: SYRIAN WAR, & SUNNI-SHIA CONFLICT, REFLECT A REGION PLAGUED BY GEOPOLITICAL TURMOIL AND SECTARIANISM

The Syrian Cauldron Boils Over: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 19, 2016— Over the ruined landscape of northern Syria, a number of core factors that today define the strategic reality of the Middle East are colliding.

Shiites vs. Sunnis: A Region at War: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, Jan. 24, 2016— Three very important events took place recently in the Sunni-Shiite battle of titans being waged across the eastern part of the Arab world, the region between Turkey to the north, Saudi Arabia to the south, and Iran in the east.

Sunni vs Shiite: A Cold War Simmers in an Ancient Hatred: Amb. Zvi Mazel, JCPA, Ja

n. 10, 2016— The roots of the crisis are to be found in the long-standing feud between Sunni and Shiite, which dates from the very beginning of Islam.

Israel Looks Beyond America: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 15, 2016 — Talk to Israelis about the United States these days and you will provoke a physical reaction.  Barack Obama is an eye roll.

 

On Topic Links

 

Crime, Punishment and Foreign Policy: Prager U, Feb. 1, 2016

The Saudi/Iranian Tug-of-War: Joshua Teitelbaum, Middle East Forum, Feb. 16, 2016

Saudi Arabia, Russia to Freeze Oil Output Near Record Levels: Mohammed Sergie, Bloomberg, Feb. 16, 2016

New Permutations in the Mideast “Game of Camps”: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, Jan. 17, 2016

         

                             

                                 THE SYRIAN CAULDRON BOILS OVER

           Jonathan Spyer            

   Jerusalem Post, Feb. 19, 2016

 

Over the ruined landscape of northern Syria, a number of core factors that today define the strategic reality of the Middle East are colliding. Close observation of that blighted area therefore offers clues as to the current state of play more broadly in the region – who is on the way up, who on the way down, and what might this imply for Israel in the short to medium term. Let's identify the factors interacting discernibly in the north Syrian maelstrom:

 

Firstly and most importantly, the Russian intervention which began on September 30, 2015 and which is now rolling across northwestern Syria announces the arrival of a growing de facto alliance between Moscow and the Islamic Republic of Iran. This alliance currently works to the benefit of both parties, in spite of the clear difference of interests and sometime tension between them.

 

In Syria, the abilities and needs of the Russian and Iranians are complementary. Russia brings an air capacity to the Syrian battlefield against which the Sunni Arab rebels are effectively helpless. The tightening grip around Aleppo and the crossing of the Azaz corridor are the main results of this so far. But air power is of limited use without a committed ground partner. The Russians for domestic reasons have no  desire to become bogged down in a large-scale commitment of Russian ground troops. Russia's air power and Iran's ability to mobilize sectarian paramilitaries complement each other perfectly.

 

The Iranians lack anything close to the Russian ability in the air. But what they possess, via the skills of the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, is a currently matchless ability to create and mobilize sectarian paramilitary proxies, and then to move them to where needed across the regional chessboard. Hence, the ground partner for Russian air power in northern Syria is today not only or mainly the Syrian Arab Army of Bashar Assad. Rather, Lebanese Hizballah, the Iraqi Shia Badr Brigade, the Afghan Shia Fatemiyun and IRGC personnel themselves are all playing a vital role.

 

It is not at all clear that this alliance will be able or even willing to complete the reconquest of the entirety of Syria – which remains the goal of the regime as stated by Bashar Assad last week. However, it will certainly be able to preserve the Assad regime from destruction, and may yet deliver a deathblow to the non-IS rebels in the northwest, center and south west of the country.

 

The potency of this emergent Russian-Iranian alliance is made possible only by the willed absence of the United States from the arena. Russia felt confident enough to launch its attempt to destroy the rebellion because it calculated that the prospect of the United States extending its own air cover westwards to protect the rebels (whose goal it ostensibly supports) was sufficiently close to zero. The Obama administration appears strategically committed to staying out. The US and its allies are making slow progress against the Islamic State. But west of the Euphrates, the United States is an irrelevance. Russian-Iranian gains are made possible by the willed absence of the United States from the Syrian arena.

 

This brings us to the third salient factor apparent in the situation in northern Syria: namely, the relative impotence of the Sunni powers when faced with the superior force of Russia. The Russian advance eastwards in Aleppo province and the disinclination of the United States to prevent it presents the Sunni state backers of the rebellion in Syria with two equally unpalatable alternatives. These are: to acquiesce in the face of superior force and thus face the prospect of the final eclipse of the Sunni Arab rebellion in Syria, or to seek to confront the Russian/Iranian/regime side head on, and thus face the prospect of head on collision with a major world power, without any guarantee of western support. These are the stark alternatives. It isn't possible of course to predict with certainty which one the Saudis and Turks will choose. But the likelihood is that they will opt for the former, while engaging in face saving exercises to prevent this from being too obvious.

 

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jbeir told a press conference in Riyadh this week that "The Kingdom's readiness to provide special forces to any ground operations in Syria is linked to a decision to have a ground component to this coalition against Daesh (Islamic State) in Syria – this U.S.-led coalition – so the timing is not up to us." The Turks, meanwhile, evidently canvassed their allies over the possibility of a joint ground incursion into northern Syria. But finding no enthusiasm, they appear currently content with shelling the positions of the Kurdish YPG south of the key border town of Azaz. Turkish officials speaking in Istanbul this week appeared to rule out a unilateral incursion.

 

The fourth regional factor apparent in northern Syria is the contraction of the state and collapse and fragmentation of the 'nation' in Syria, and the salience of ethnic and sectarian organizations in the war over their ruins. The remaining rebel forces in northern Syria are entirely dominated by Sunni Islamist groups. The remaining 'rebel forces' in northern Syria today are entirely dominated by Sunni Islamist and jihadi groups. The collapse of the state, and the apparent inability of Arab politics at the popular level to generate anything other than forces aligned with political Islam is a profoundly important component of the current reality both of Syria and of the wider region.

 

This fragmentation is also giving birth to more potent forces. In this regard, the Syrian Kurdish performance both militarily and politically is worthy of note. Militarily, the YPG remains one of the most powerful forces engaged. Politically, the Kurds appear currently to be performing a balancing act whereby east of the Euphrates they partner with US air power against the Islamic State, while west of the river, they seek to unite the Afrin and Kobani cantons in partnership with Russian air power against the Turkish backed rebels – with the acquiescence of both powers.

 

So put all this together and you have a fair approximation of the current state of the Middle East, as reflected in miniature in the cauldron that is northern Syria: emergent Iranian-Russian strategic alliance, US non-involvement, hapless US-aligned Sunni powers flailing as a result of this absence, state fragmentation, the emergence of powerful 'successor' entities, the domination of Arab politics at a popular level by Sunni political Islam and the emergence of the Kurds as a militarily able and politically savvy local power.

 

As for Israel – it is mainly watching and waiting. But the fact that the historic maelstrom sweeping the region has not yet managed to make a major impact on the daily lives of those – Jew and Arab – living west of the Jordan River offers a certain testimony to the cautious and prudent policies pursued by Jerusalem. In the Syrian, and the broader regional cauldron, you're either one of the cooks – or you're on the menu. As of now, Israel appears to be managing to stay in the former category.

                                                           

 

Contents

SHIITES VS. SUNNIS: A REGION AT WAR

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror                                     

       BESA, Jan. 24, 2016

 

Three very important events took place recently in the Sunni-Shiite battle of titans being waged across the eastern part of the Arab world, the region between Turkey to the north, Saudi Arabia to the south, and Iran in the east.

 

The most important event is the removal of sanctions from Iran. As part of a process that began when the agreement on its nuclear program was signed, Iran is returning to the world with an American stamp of approval as a regional power. Iranian intellectuals understood this as soon as the interim deal was signed between Iran and the world powers in November 2013 and explained at conferences throughout the world that that recognition was a clear right of the Iranians given their country's importance, strength, history, and achievements in the region in general and in the nuclear negotiations in particular.

 

Doubtless, this sense of power and international legitimacy in Iran jumped following the final nuclear deal and the removal of sanctions this week. This means that from now on, Iran will keep growing economically and militarily while living up to the agreement, as least until its economy improves significantly. During this upcoming period, Iran will behave like a regional power, and anyone who does not accept its status will have to deal with its increasing power and the strength of its emissaries in the region.

 

The American move in making the deal, and its ramifications for Iran's stature, serve as a kind of proof for the Sunnis of an American decision to align with the Shiite side of the struggle. Moreover, Sunni heads of state see it an American license, if not an overt one, for Iran to take more aggressive action that will pose a risk to the Sunni world, led by Saudi Arabia.

 

The second-most important event was the response of the Saudis. The Kingdom executed a Shiite preacher who was imprisoned after a trial (the sentence was handed down a year and a half ago) to send a clear message to the Iranians, as well as to Saudi Arabia's own allies in the Sunni world, that Riyadh would not give up on its fight against the Iranian Shiites – certainly not when it comes to Iran's attempts to attack Saudi Arabia's intactness by stirring up its Shiite minority. This decision was similar in principle to an earlier Saudi decision to employ force in Yemen and battle against the Houthis, whom the Saudis perceived as agents of Iran.

 

Saudi Arabia has undoubtedly changed its behavior under its new king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, and steered by his son Mohammed‎ bin Salman, the country's 30-year-old defense minister. This means that Saudi Arabia is prepared to take risks and pay prices that it was not prepared to pay in the past. In this case, the price of severing relations with Iran, a step the Saudis decided to take after Iranian demonstrators set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran in protest over the execution of the Shiite preacher…

 

The third event slipped under the radar of most of the Israeli media. This was an announcement by Pakistan made during a visit to that country by the Saudi defense minister and heir to the throne. The host declared that Pakistan would respond severely to any attack on Saudi Arabia. This declaration is of utmost importance, since this is the only Muslim country that has nuclear weapons. It is generally accepted that Pakistan has a special obligation to Saudi Arabia in the field of nuclear weapons, because Saudi Arabia funded part of Pakistan's investment in and development of a nuclear bomb.

 

Whether or not that is true, the Pakistani threat comprises an interesting development. Thus far, Pakistan's nuclear weapons have been portrayed as an element of the conflict between Pakistan and India, and now all of a sudden they're being used in a Middle Eastern context, in a conflict between the Shiite superpower and the entity who wants to be perceived as its Sunni counterpart. This is a real change in the balance of power throughout the entire Middle East. If Pakistan moves from a one-time declaration to actual intervention in these tussles, the regional balance of power will change, but past experience indicates that they will be very careful about committing themselves.

 

What will be the ramifications of the intensifying conflict? First, it is quite clear that it will be much harder to deal with the war in Syria properly. That war is not just a civil war between different factions of Syrian society. It is a war between Shiites and Sunnis, with Iran standing behind one side and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and Turkey, to a certain extent, backing the other. Even if there were some agreement in Syria about peace talks, which is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future, Iran and Saudi Arabia will not take any steps toward each other, so the Syria war will continue. The Iranians will also seek out Saudi Arabia's soft underbelly, probably via the many Shiites in Saudi Arabia and in some Gulf states, and the Saudis will respond with all their strength, mainly through economic and other forms of aid to anyone in the Middle East who opposes the Shiites…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

                                                           

Contents

SUNNI VS SHIITE: A COLD WAR SIMMERS IN AN ANCIENT HATRED

Amb. Zvi Mazel            

                                                JCPA, Jan. 10, 2016

 

The roots of the crisis are to be found in the long-standing feud between Sunni and Shiite, which dates from the very beginning of Islam. The execution of Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite cleric and bitter opponent of the Saudi regime who regularly and publicly insulted the royal family, has triggered an unprecedented crisis between Tehran and Riyadh. Though it was not totally unexpected given the present geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East, the roots of the crisis are to be found in the long-standing feud between Sunni and Shiite, which dates from the very beginning of Islam.

 

The Prophet Mohammad wanted all Arab tribes to remain united, but the battle for his successor left Islam torn between Sunni and Shiite, though both believe in the prophet and in the Koran and aspire to impose the rule of Islam on the entire world. Each developed their own narrative and their own ethos, which leaves no room for compromise or reconciliation.

 

Following historical ups and downs, Sunni Islam, with Saudi Arabia as its leader, today accounts for 85 percent of all Muslims while Shiite Islam, spearheaded by Iran, musters the remaining 15 percent. The Sunni block, however, is no longer monolithic. There are a number of radical organizations – from al-Qaida to Islamic State and some 40 smaller groups – aiming to use force to restore the caliphate through jihad. They are generally lumped under the name of Islamist or jihadist radical Islamic organizations. Like main stream Sunnis, their teachings are based on the Shari’a, perhaps professing stricter observation.

 

Meanwhile, in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who came to power in 1979, launched a new drive to impose Shiite Islam on the whole Middle East as a first step to be followed by a world takeover. He called on Shiite minorities in Sunni states to act against these states to destabilize them from within and eventually topple them and set up a Shiite regime in their stead, thereby securing Iran’s position as regional power.

 

Syria, ruled by the Alawites and hitherto shunned by mainstream Sunni, was given legitimacy by the Ayatollahs and became Teheran’s willing ally. Building on the frustrations of the Shiite in Lebanon, which complained of discrimination, Iran set up the Hizbullah with a three-pronged objective: taking over the country, threatening Israel and developing subversive activities in Jordan and Egypt. In 2008, Egyptian authorities exposed a Hizbullah cell that planned an attack on the Suez Canal; today Hizbullah fighters are helping Assad in Syria at Tehran’s bidding.

 

In the Gulf, Saudi Arabia is the main bulwark of Sunni Islam against Iran’s subversive activities and, as such, is considered that country’s arch-enemy. The kingdom has a number of unassailable assets. Both of Islam’s holiest sites – Mecca and Medina – are situated in its territory; it has the largest oil reserves in the world, and it is – or was – both friend and ally of the United States.

 

Once again, Tehran resorted to subversion, inciting Shiite minorities in the area. Iran did not hesitate to proclaim that Bahrain, where there is a Shiite majority though the country, as Iran’s 14th province despite the fact that Bahrain is ruled by the Sunni Al Khalifa family. Egypt’s then-president Hosni Mubarak rushed to Bahrain’s capital Manama to demonstrate to the Iranians that security in the Gulf was an essential component of Egyptian national security. In 2011, soon after Mubarak was ousted during the so-called Arab Spring, violent manifestations threatened to topple the regime in Bahrain, as well. Saudi Arabia and other Emirate countries sent troops to help quell the revolt…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                              

 

 Contents

ISRAEL LOOKS BEYOND AMERICA

Bret Stephens                                                                                      

Wall Street Journal, Feb. 15, 2016

 

Talk to Israelis about the United States these days and you will provoke a physical reaction.  Barack Obama is an eye roll.  John Kerry is a grimace. The administration’s conduct of regional policy is a slow, sad shake of the head. The current state of the presidential race makes for a full-blown shudder. The Israeli rundown of the candidates goes roughly as follows: “Hillary—she doesn’t like us.” “Cruz—I don’t like him.” “Rubio—is he done for?” “Sanders—oy vey.” “Trump—omigod.”

As for Israel’s own troubles—a continuing Palestinian campaign of stabbings; evidence that Hamas is rebuilding its network of terror tunnels under the Gaza border and wants to restart the 2014 war; more than 100,000 rockets and guided missiles in the hands of Hezbollah—that’s just the Middle East being itself. It’s the U.S. not being itself that is the real novelty, and is forcing Israel to adjust.

 

I’ve spent the better part of a week talking to senior officials, journalists, intellectuals and politicians from across Israel’s political spectrum. None of it was on the record, but the consistent theme is that, while the Jewish state still needs the U.S., especially in the form of military aid, it also needs to diversify its strategic partnerships. This may yet turn out to be the historic achievement of Benjamin Netanyahu’s long reign as prime minister.

 

On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon publicly shook hands with former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal at the Munich Security Conference. In January, Israeli cabinet member Yuval Steinitz made a trip to Abu Dhabi, where Israel is opening an office at a renewable-energy association. Turkey is patching up ties with Israel. In June, Jerusalem and Riyadh went public with the strategic talks between them. In March, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi told the Washington Post that he speaks to Mr. Netanyahu “a lot.”

 

This de facto Sunni-Jewish alliance amounts to what might be called the coalition of the disenchanted; states that have lost faith in America’s promises. Israel is also reinventing its ties to the aspiring Startup Nations, countries that want to develop their own innovation cultures.  In October, Israel hosted Indian President  Pranab Mukherjee for a three-day state visit; New Delhi, once a paragon of the nonaligned movement that didn’t have diplomatic ties to Israel for four decades, is about to spend $3 billion on Israeli arms. Japanese Prime Minister  Shinzo Abe, who is personally close to Mr. Netanyahu, sees Israel as a model for economic reinvention. Chinese investment in Israel hit $2.7 billion last year, up from $70 million in 2010. In 2014, Israel’s exports to the Far East for the first time exceeded those to the U.S.

 

Then there is Europe—at least the part of it that is starting to grasp that it can’t purchase its security in the coin of Israeli insecurity. Greece’s left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras used to lead anti-Israel protests. But Greece needs Israeli gas, so he urges cooperation on terrorism and calls Jerusalem Israel’s “historic capital.” In the U.K., Prime Minister David Cameron’s government is moving to prevent local councils from passing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) measures against Israel.

 

All this amounts to another Obama administration prediction proved wrong. “You see for Israel there’s an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up,” Mr. Kerry warned grimly in 2014. “There are talks of boycotts and other kinds of things. Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100%, cannot be maintained.” Except when the likely alternatives to the lousy status quo are worse. Over the weekend, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power came to Jerusalem to preach the virtues of a two-state solution. Her case would be unarguable if the Palestinian state to be created alongside Israel were modeled on Costa Rica—democratic, demilitarized, developing, friendly to outsiders.

 

But the likelier model is Gaza, or Syria. Why should Israelis be expected to live next to that? How would that help actual living Palestinians, as opposed to the perpetual martyrs of left-wing imagination? And why doesn’t the U.S. insist that Palestinian leaders prove they are capable of decently governing a state before being granted one?

 

Those are questions Mr. Obama has been incapable of asking himself, lest a recognition of facts intrude on the narrative of a redemptive presidency. But a great power that cannot recognize the dilemmas of its allies soon becomes useless as an ally, and it becomes intolerable if it then turns its strategic ignorance into a moral sermon. more than one Israeli official I spoke with recalled that the country managed to survive the years before 1967 without America’s strategic backing, and if necessary it could do so again. Nations that must survive typically do. The more important question is how much credibility the U.S. can afford to squander before the loss becomes irrecoverable.

 

 

On Topic

 

Crime, Punishment and Foreign Policy: Prager U, Feb. 1, 2016 —Is there a middle ground between the aggressive foreign policy of the Bush Administration and the passive and hesitant foreign policy of the Obama Administration? Yes, and New York City is a model. How so? Bret Stephens, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Wall Street Journal, explains how the NYPD's "broken windows" policy–swiftly and forcefully punishing even petty crimes–can be applied by the United States on a global scale.

The Saudi/Iranian Tug-of-War: Joshua Teitelbaum, Middle East Forum, Feb. 16, 2016 —Saudi Arabia's recent execution of the prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr sparked a sharp crisis between the desert kingdom and its Iranian neighbor that can be best understood in the context of the historic Sunni-Shiite rivalry.

Saudi Arabia, Russia to Freeze Oil Output Near Record Levels: Mohammed Sergie, Bloomberg, Feb. 16, 2016—Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to freeze oil output at near-record levels, the first coordinated move by the world’s two largest producers to counter a slump that has pummeled economies, markets and companies.

New Permutations in the Mideast “Game of Camps”: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, Jan. 17, 2016—The first few days of 2016 have already provided fresh evidence of the changing dynamics of the regional balance of power. The escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran are the most salient aspect of a larger drama now unfolding across a broad landscape – from Yemen to Syria and from the Gulf to Libya.

 

                        

 

 

 

                  

 

 

 

Frederick Krantz: DRIVEN ACROSS DARK SEAS AND HOSTILE LANDS: THE MUSLIM REFUGEE PROBLEM AND EUROPE

 

 

 

 

There are two key, related, and little-remarked dimensions of the current Middle Eastern migration crisis. These are, on the one hand,  the almost complete economic and political collapse of the Muslim societies and states furnishing the millions of desperate refugees.   The second dimension of the phenomenon is the immense strains the millions of Moslem refugees are putting on the European Union countries and the notion of a unified Europe and, indeed, on the much-vexed question of a ”European” identify itself.

 

The migrants are coming above all from a disintegrating Syria, but also from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Eritrea, Morocco, Tunisia,  Egypt, and other countries. Millions of refugees are already in under-funded camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, and hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Muslim failed states are risking their lives to reach Europe. For the latter (generally with more money than the refugee camp residents) their first stops after Turkey are in southern Europe (Greece, Italy, southern France, followed by journeys to points northwest(through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary to the promised lands of Germany, Sweden, and Austria. (Another route winds from Libya to France to Belgium, the Netherlands and (via Calais) to Great Britain.)

 

These desperate people—almost 440,000 so far this year, according to the UN–, largely young adult males but also including whole families and young couples with infants, cross treacherous waters from Turkey and North Africa to reach Italian, Greek and French ports, on flimsy boats and inflatable dinghies, often capsizing before reaching safety (almost 3,000 have already died this year). Western consciences, long dormant in regard to the refugees—in Syria, the civil war and its refugee tide is, after all, now in its fifth year–have finally been touched by the recent, tragic pictures of Ayan Kurdi, the three-year-old who drowned off Turkey with his five-year-old brother and mother.  

 

The European Union states, wholly unprepared for the onslaught and without a common policy or enforcement mechanism, are overwhelmed. UN refugee funding this year is only 37% of the estimated $4.5 billion need; its World Food Program is 63% underfunded, and available monies for Syrian relief are only 43% of requirement; the World Health Organization stands at only 27% of need. These figures are somewhat offset by Germany, which has said it would budget $4.5 billion in 2015, and by the EU, which is asking member-=states to allocate $1.1 billion for 160,000 refugees.  Even so, needs are immense and increasing, and total available funds are scarce. 

 

Already concerned with ever-increasing and partially unassimilated domestic Muslim populations, all but Germany and Sweden have resisted taking in additional tens of thousands of migrants. (The recent emergency European Union conference, called by Angela Merkel, to spread responsibility around by assigning shared quotas to all EU states, has failed over Hungarian-led eastern European resistance.)

 

Remarkably, Germany, the major exception, initially announced it would admit over 800,000 migrants this year alone (1% of its population). Berlin’s motives are variously attributed, to an inherited, compensatory guilt over the Nazi period, to a sense as Europe’s most powerful state, of economic and political noblesse oblige, to an aging population’s less-than-replacement rate and desperate need for young skilled and semi-skilled labor.

 

Indeed, Germany’s readiness to violate the EU’s “Dublin regulations” for the orderly processing of refugee claims (registration, processing, and internment in the first country of refuge) was denounced by Prime Minister Orban of Hungary. Quickly putting up razor-wire fences to block access to the tens of thousands of migrants, even as he pronounced the need to preserve Hungary’s (and Europe’s) “Christian heritage” from being swamped by the Muslim tidal-wave, Orban blamed Berlin’s open-door policy for creating the crisis in the first place.)

  

While the total world refugee population has been estimated at ca.37 million, Europe currently is looking at a potential flow of several million predominantly Muslim people annually (currently, Syrian refugees constitute the lion’s share, 51%, with Afghans second at 15%, followed by Iraqis and others). When tens of thousands piled up in and around Budapest, the conservative-nationalist regime there built its razor-wire walls to shut off the flow across its territory to Austria. (Now Croatia, which initially announced it would allow transit, connecting the flow to Slovenia and hence to northern Europe, has also reneged and closed its borders, creating a crisis in the formerly “borderless” (Schengen Agreement) European Union.        

 

Some years ago French-Jewish scholar Bat Ye’or wrote a study of Muslim immigration to France and Europe called "Eurabia". She argued that a kind of deal, explicit and implicit, between Western states and Arab regimes—acceptance of large-scale Muslim immigration in Europe in return for Western investment in the Middle East states—would change the face of the Old Continent. The result would be increasingly culturally mixed, and increasingly antisemitic and anti-Israel, European societies.

  

That vision has largely been realized, and in some ways even Bat Ye’or probably could not have envisioned. Who could have foreseen the total failure of the so-called “Arab Spring”, and the terrible ensuing, and ongoing, civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Somalia (not to mention conflicts in Nigeria [Boko Haram], Mali, Kenya, Algeria, and so on)? And how have predicted the further destabilizing impacts of the American pull-out from the region (engineered by Obama, Kerry and Hillary Clinton, and concretely sealed by the recent nuclear “deal” with Iran); of the Russian intervention in support of Assad in Syria (now radicalized by the introduction of jet fighters and tanks); and of Iran’s intervention in Syria (using Hezbollah proxies) and in Yemen. 

                 

What is truly remarkable in all this, and again rarely remarked upon, is the evident attraction of Western secular (and formally/formerly Christian) Europe to the Muslim-world migrants and refugees. It is largely the relatively educated and fairly comfortable Syrian and other middle-class migrants, who have the money for travel, food, illegal smugglers, and the cellphones which keep them in touch with one another and the families left behind.

 

Europe is the magnet for these relatively well-off people seeking safety, stability and, as some say, liberty. And some, according to news reports, are even ready to convert to Christianity to assure their access to European status. (The poorer Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Eritreans, Somalis, Libyans and others, pushed out by or fleeing from civil war and chaos, from ISIS, al-Nusra Front, the Taliban and the Shabab, remain in squalid conditions and under-funded Lebanese, Jordanian and Turkish refugee camps (2½ million in Turkey alone). Despite shared Muslim religious, and linguistic, identity, they are—as is usual in Arab lands—-excluded by their Arab “host” countries from education, job training, and becoming permanent citizens. Nor have the wealthiest, and sparsely inhabited, Arab states—Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates—yet to accept a single Syrian or other refugee.

 

This crisis, like the socio-political collapse of the Arab states which is its primary motor, shows no signs of letting up. In Syria, now approaching 300,000 war-related deaths, there are 12 million refugees, over 4 million of them external (some of this is a kind of ethnic cleansing, of Alawite Assad forcing millions of Sunni antagonists out).   No meaningful Western intervention is in the offing, no “boots on the ground” to stiffen Arab resistance to ISIS and compensate for the weak air campaigns so far launched, no prospect of a political deal which alone might end the civil war and stem the flood of migrants.

 

The size and implications of this modern version of the late classical and early medieval Voelkerwanderungen, the large-scale movement of peoples, whole Germanic tribes, across Europe, east to west, are staggering.  There is no way contemporary Europe, either western,  or less developed eastern, can enforce a general, shared policy. Hungary, Croatia and Slovakia are closing their borders; Denmark’s and Poland’s are already shut. Britain and France are resisting (indeed Britain may exit the European Union altogether in a coming referendum). And Germany—which already excludes Balkan immigrants (some of whom now are masquerading as Syrians)—is, faced with growing opposition within and without Chancellor Merkel’s own Christian Democratic party, closing the open doors of her earlier, high-mindedly moral, policy.

 

Europe’s record of being able to assimilate earlier Muslim immigrants is not good. Arab, Turkish, and African immigration, though smaller in annual scale, totalled over time hundreds of thousands, had already engendered rising national opposition and, increasingly, restrictive legislation.

 

Much of the marked rise in recent years of European antisemitic incidents and suburban violence and murder issues from Islamist immigrants and radicalized European-born Muslim youth (from the Charlie Hebdo murders to the attacks on synagogues and the Supermarché Kasher, to the killing of an anti-Islamist film-maker in Holland and the beheading of a British soldier in London) It reflects unsuccessful assimilation tied to the influence of Islamist sharia activism and  terrorist infiltration, worsened by the weak European economies’ inability to create sufficient jobs and social mobility.  

 

(Indeed, several observers of the recent wave of Muslim migrants in Greece, Macedonia and Hungary have noted a tendency—despite the fact that they are being pushed out of their own Arab-Muslim countries by  the violence and oppression of Arab regimes and the indifference of fellow Muslims—to blame “the Jews” or “Israel” for their predicament.

 

This should call to mind the largely-forgotten violent oppression and eviction of 800,000 Jews from Arab lands after 1948. In this regard, what warrant is there to think that the addition of millions of Muslims to European states already marked by existing tensions will not in fact worsen them?(What will many of the newcomers drawn to “Mother Merkel”’s Germany make of their new homeland’s “sacred relationship” of support for Jewish Israel?)

 

It is beyond Europe’s capacity, and the Europeans’ will, wholly to absorb this massive migration. And even if it were possible it could, when added to Europe’s already large and growing Muslim populations, well unbalance the European Union’s current populations. (Hungary’s Prime Minister Orban’s protest–mirrored by the views of Polish, Croatian, Slovakian and other officials–that the nature of “Christian Europe” demands limits on Muslim immigrants, may be politically incorrect, but it expresses a genuine and growing European concern. If ignored by current political elites, this could lead to an ultra-right-wing and nationalist reaction.)   

 

This deep crisis reveals deep cracks in European cultural identity and  “unity”. It is far more threatening than Greece’s potential bankruptcy and threatened turn from the euro to the drachma, and may well shatter, politically as well as culturally, the already-fragile European Union, It raises difficult questions about the limits of globalism and “diversity”, and the continuing role of national political and cultural identities, in Europe as much as in the Middle East.

 

And even as the post- or trans-national identity of “Europe” is being called into question, with a possible strengthening of national-traditional elements, the Arab states’ collapse means the end of “national” post-Ottoman Empire political constructs (“Iraq”, “Syria”, “Libya”) imposed by the West European powers in the early twentieth century (the Sykes-Picot treaty). However precarious and artificial such colonialist-era identities in fact were, they nevertheless created  order and survived a hundred years–what will replace them now? Al-Baghdadi’s bloody ISIS Caliphate? semi-anarchical local-regional tribal sheikhdoms?

 

As long as these failing Muslim states are wracked by civil war and unending violence and bloodshed–and no end is yet in sight–the desperate migrants, driven across dark seas and rivers and hostile lands like a whirling crowd of lost souls out of Dante’s Inferno, will, ironically, seek their future in a once-Christian Europe. Where will they go, who will accept them, and with what consequences? And when will it end?

 

(Professor Frederick Krantz is Director of

the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)