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Tag: Iraq

IRAQ AT “CROSSROADS” AFTER DEFEAT OF I.S., KURDISH INDEPENDENCE VOTE, & IRAN’S INCREASING ENTRENCHMENT

Iraq Has A New Government. Now What?: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 04, 2018— The country has faced uncertainty and protests since elections in May. In September, a Sunni Arab Speaker of Parliament was finally chosen.

Murders of Four Trailblazing Iraqi Women Spark Fear of Traditionalist Backlash: Ammar Karim, Times of Israel, Oct. 2, 2018— Over the last few weeks, four go-getting Iraqi women have separately met premature deaths — two falling victim to men firing automatic weapons into their vehicles.

Despite Independence Referendum, Kurds Lack Clout, International Backing to Carve Out Own State: Carlo Muñoz, Washington Times, Oct. 3, 2018— President Trump caused a stir across the Middle East last week with his lavish praise for the Kurds’ role in defeating Islamic State in Iraq and Syria…

Kurds Remain First in Iran’s Firing Line: Ben Cohen, JNS, Sept.14, 2018— Iran’s regime is defying the newly found U.S. resolve to counter its malign influence with whatever means it has at its disposal.

On Topic Links

Iraq’s New Leaders Seen as Technocrats, in a Break From Sectarian Politics: Ben Hubbard and Falih Hassan, New York Times, Oct. 2, 2018

Assassination of Iraq’s Feminists: Beauty Queen Flees to Jordan After Threat, String of Deaths: National Post, Oct. 9, 2018

A Strong Kurdistan Region is Good for US in Iraq: Seth J. Frantzman, The Hill, Oct. 16, 2018

It is Time for the U.S. to Help Liberate the Kurds: Qanta Ahmed, Jerusalem Post, October 3, 2018

 

                              IRAQ HAS A NEW GOVERNMENT. NOW WHAT?                                                                                     Seth Frantzman

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 04, 2018

 

The country has faced uncertainty and protests since elections in May. In September, a Sunni Arab Speaker of Parliament was finally chosen. On Tuesday, Barham Salih, a Kurdish member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party, was selected to become the new president. Now Adel Abdul Mahdi will likely become the next prime minister as he seeks to shore up a coalition.

Abdul Mahdi has a difficult task ahead of him. In Iraq, the prime minister holds the most important and powerful post. The presidency, held by Kurdish leaders since the creation of a new constitution after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, is largely ceremonial.

However, many Iraqis celebrated the appointment of Salih, who previously served as deputy-prime minister and was a prime minister of the autonomous Kurdistan Region from 2009-2012. Salih was chosen after the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and PUK struggled to settle on a single Kurdish choice for the presidency. His election has been positively received in Washington, from where anti-ISIS envoy Brett McGurk tweeted congratulations. Salih is seen as being close to the UK and US.

Iraq is at a crossroads. Having liberated most of the country from ISIS last year, it is now in the midst of US-Iran tensions. The Kurdistan region in northern Iraq voted for independence last year. But Baghdad, under former prime minister Haider al-Abadi, sent tanks into Kirkuk to push the Kurds out and closed airports in the north to punish the autonomous region.

Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias have continued their entrenchment in the country in 2018. In May, Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shi’ite cleric who was once anti-American but has become increasingly nationalist and hostile to Iran, polled first in the elections, ahead of second-place Hadi al-Amiri, head of one of the largest militias. Abadi, who Washington hoped would be a strongman savior of Iraq, came in third.

Now Abadi has congratulated Abdul Mahdi and appears willing to go quietly into the shadows. He graciously exited with a tweet, wishing the new prime minister “success in shaping and choosing who best to fill the government.”

Abdul Mahdi is seen as a pragmatist who will focus on the country’s economy. Since May, massive protests fueled by anger at failed infrastructure and polluted water, have swept southern Iraq. These protests have become increasingly anti-Iranian. Abdul Mahdi will be called upon to thread the needle between Iran’s interests, Washington’s and Iraq’s new connections to Saudi Arabia, and a multiplicity of other problems. For instance, Turkish troops are stationed in northern Iraq fighting the Kurdistan Workers Party, and last month Iran fired ballistic missiles at Kurdish groups in northern Iraq.

Iran has also fired missiles over Iraq at Syria, apparently without informing Iraqi authorities. This makes Baghdad feel that Iraq lacks basic sovereignty. Supporters of Abdul Mahdi see him as less ideological than other candidates for the job. He was once a secular communist, but later become a supporter of Iran’s Islamic revolution.

What does this mean for Iraq in general? Can Abdul Mahdi manage the security forces and rein in the militias? Can he bring in the donors to support rebuilding Mosul and other former ISIS-held cities? Can he use the security forces, who have suffered attrition over the years, to defeat a new ISIS insurgency? Iraq faces major hurdles. For the moment many are hopeful that the new president and his team can help heal wounds and bring the country some momentary peace after decades of conflict.

 

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                        MURDERS OF FOUR TRAILBLAZING IRAQI WOMEN

                    SPARK FEAR OF TRADITIONALIST BACKLASH

                                                         Ammar Karim                                                                                                                                Times of Israel, Oct. 2, 2018

Over the last few weeks, four go-getting Iraqi women have separately met premature deaths — two falling victim to men firing automatic weapons into their vehicles. The deaths have sparked fear among women who dare to break the mold and visibly achieve in the conservative country.

The latest to die was 22-year-old social media influencer and model Tara Fares. Her bloody demise at the wheel of a white Porsche convertible in Baghdad on Thursday has sparked as much debate as her racy photos. Fares had built an Instagram following of 2.7 million people thanks to edgy fashion shoots, assertive missives, and eye-catching, colorful hairstyles. She also posted publicly about a violent ex-husband and a fiance who died after being attacked in Istanbul.

But while Fares’ fearless embrace of social media inspired many young Iraqis, it upset traditionalists. Fares was the target of a deluge of online insults over her perceived lack of modesty, in a society where many adhere to hardline interpretations of Islam. It was this darker side of online platforms that forced the outspoken Fares to quit living in her native Baghdad and spend much of her time in comparatively liberal, secular Iraqi Kurdistan.

Fares is not the only Iraqi fashion and beauty entrepreneur to have met her death in recent weeks. In August, the managers of Baghdad’s two most high-profile aesthetic and plastic surgery centers died in mysterious circumstances. The first was Rafif al-Yassiri, whose nickname was Barbie — the same name as her business venture. A week later Rasha al-Hassan, founder of the Viola Beauty Center, was also found dead. Both were found at their homes, and despite ongoing investigations, the causes of their deaths remain undetermined.

But the rumor mill has churned up plenty of theories: Drugs, heart attacks, and murder. On Tuesday this week, two days before Fares was shot dead, came the first officially confirmed murder among the spate of suspicious deaths. In circumstances that foreshadowed the social media star’s assassination, activist and businesswoman Soad al-Ali was shot several times while travelling in a car in the southern city of Basra. Police opened an investigation and pointed the finger at her ex-husband, who is on the run.

While motivations for the two confirmed murders are far from officially established, women’s rights group Amal is deeply concerned. “Armed groups, tribes, criminal gangs… all these control positions” within the state and security forces, Hanae Edwar told AFP at the NGO’s Baghdad office. The recent assassinations are “threatening messages sent to activists in particular, but also to the whole of society,” she said. “Attacking women who are public figures is a bid to force them to shut themselves away at home,” Edwar added.

The authorities have tried to distance themselves from the deaths and provide reassurance. But Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appeared to draw a link between the events in Baghdad and Basra, ordering elite intelligence units to investigate.

In a statement, Abadi cited “evidence suggesting that there is a plan formulated by organized parties to undermine security under the pretext of fighting against depravity.” Safaa Nasser, a stylist speaking under an assumed name who until recently organised fashion shows, said she had already changed her behavior. “The last few days, my daughters and I go out less and I stay away from the fashion world,” she said. “There are people who don’t want Iraq to develop, or for women to be visible. They want to take us backwards.”

She urged security forces to investigate the deaths, saying an “organized network” was behind the “premeditated” actions. “The women I know are saying that their turn will come” to be targeted,” she said. Chillingly, Fares, Yassiri, and Hassan all died on Thursdays. “Every time, this repeats itself,” said 29-year-old Hawa Walid, shopping in Baghdad. “Now, every Thursday, the stress rises.”

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DESPITE INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM, KURDS LACK CLOUT, INTERNATIONAL BACKING TO CARVE OUT OWN STATE

                                                          Carlo Muñoz

                                                Washington Times, Oct. 3, 2018

 

President Trump caused a stir across the Middle East last week with his lavish praise for the Kurds’ role in defeating Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but just over a year after Iraqi Kurdistan’s ill-fated independence referendum, the Kurds remain even further from statehood in Iraq while the situation for their ethnic counterparts across the region continues to falter.

At a press conference during his week of diplomacy at the U.N. General Assembly last week, Mr. Trump praised Iraq’s Kurds for the prominent role they played in ousting the Islamic State from the country’s north. He pledged Washington’s support for Iraqi Kurdistan as Baghdad cobbles together a unity government. “We do get along great with the Kurds. We’re trying to help them a lot. Don’t forget, that’s their territory. We have to help them,” Mr. Trump said in response to a question from a Kurdish reporter. “I want to help them.”

But the president’s gratitude is running up against the realities of the Middle East, where the Kurds form a significant minority in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey but lack the clout and international backing to carve out a state of their own — despite their outsized contribution to the U.S.-led war on terror groups in the region.

Officials from the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State said Tuesday that top commanders are in regular contact with their government counterparts in Iraqi Kurdistan and military partners in the Kurdish militia known as the peshmerga. “We’re in contact with them almost daily … and told them that we’re here to support [them], and that’s what we plan on doing,” Col. Sean Ryan, coalition spokesman, told reporters at the Pentagon in a briefing from Baghdad.

U.S. and allied commanders battling Islamic State have repeatedly included their Kurdish counterparts in large-scale operations designed to prevent the terrorist group from re-emerging in northern Iraq, Col. Ryan said. U.S. military advisers are also looking to strengthen ties between the peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces and working to create a joint command center to integrate and streamline counterterrorism and security operations by both forces, he said.

But the Sept. 25, 2017, Kurdish referendum in support of greater autonomy appears to have backfired by failing to get support from Baghdad and resulting in a leadership shake-up among the Kurds. Support for independence was overwhelming — 93 percent — which only seems to galvanize other forces in Iraq and the region to resist the independence demand.

The State Department and Pentagon have been focused in recent months far more on the political maneuvering over the formation of a new Iraqi government, with Kurdish priorities largely sidelined. The wrangling after May’s national elections appears to have ended this week with the formation of a ruling coalition, a compromise prime minister and the naming of longtime moderate Kurdish politician Barham Salih to the largely ceremonial post of president — traditionally reserved for a Kurd in Iraqi political practice. “With the government still not formed, things are just taking time right now [in Iraqi Kurdistan] because that’s the No. 1 priority,” Col. Ryan said as a coalition deal was coming together this week.

But Kurds complain that Trump administration promises of political and especially military support to Iraqi Kurdistan have fallen flat in the year after Irbil’s fateful decision to press for independence. The effort is unlikely to gain further momentum despite Mr. Trump’s rhetoric last week. “Most people who have worked on U.S. foreign policy would argue that a strong American relationship with the KRG should be an essential pillar of U.S. strategy toward Iraq and the broader Middle East,” said John Hannah, a specialist in Middle East affairs who served as a security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

“I think that the narrow focus on defeating ISIS, as well as a lack of bandwidth, limited the [Trump] administration’s ability to think strategically about Iraq’s future in ways that came back to bite us,” particularly in the case of Iraq’s Kurds, said Mr. Hannah, now a senior counselor at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. As a result, “the dream of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan has been put on hold indefinitely,” he said.

It’s a far cry from the scene just a year ago, when the streets of Irbil were filled with Iraqi Kurds reveling in the historic independence referendum. Many saw the vote as the precursor to an eventual autonomous Kurdish state. But those hopes were quickly dashed by a swift and heavy-handed response from then-Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a close ally of Washington who deployed government forces to secure control over key areas within Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraqi government forces and Shiite paramilitary units trained and equipped by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps rapidly recaptured critical territories in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk and Sinjar governorates in the weeks after the referendum.

“The referendum was not worth doing because we lost Kirkuk,” Kayfi Adil, an Irbil taxi driver, told the Agence France-Presse news agency last month. “I believe it was not a good idea to hold the referendum because we did not benefit from it.” In the end, KRG President Masoud Barzani was forced to abandon the push for independence and Kurdish leaders in Irbil found themselves fighting for political relevance among Baghdad’s Shiite and Sunni power brokers. “This has been the Kurdish Regional Government’s annus horribilis,” Mr. Hannah said, adding that Iraqi Kurdish leaders badly miscalculated U.S. support for their cause…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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KURDS REMAIN FIRST IN IRAN’S FIRING LINE

Ben Cohen

JNS, Sept.14, 2018

Iran’s regime is defying the newly found U.S. resolve to counter its malign influence with whatever means it has at its disposal. On Sept. 8, seven missiles were launched against the headquarters of an Iranian Kurdish rebel group in Koysinjaq, close to the border with Iraq, claiming the lives of at least 15 people—a death toll that the mullahs in Tehran found most satisfying.

The attack on the Kurds was carefully designed to send the region a message. “With a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), our missiles endow the Iranian nation with a unique ability to fight against arrogant foreign powers,” Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), told the semi-official ISNA news agency.

“All those that have forces, bases and equipment within a 2,000-kilometer radius of Iran’s sacred borders should know that (our) missiles are highly accurate,” Jafari continued pointedly. (Tel Aviv, of course, lies 1,900 kilometers to the west of Tehran.) “Our recent vengeance upon terrorists,” he went on, using the official regime term for Iranian Kurds seeking autonomy, “had a very clear message for enemies, especially superpowers who think they can bully us.”

The message is that Iran is not afraid to resort to military force, either through its ongoing ballistic-missile program or through interventions on the ground carried out by Iran’s own forces or their local proxies. As the missile attack on the Kurds demonstrated, that is not idle talk.

It is the Kurds, in fact, whose experiences over the last year are the best—and therefore, the grimmest—evidence of what happens when Iran occupies your territory. The latest ordeal facing this nation of 25 million—by far the largest stateless nation in the Middle East, but receiving only a fraction of the media coverage enjoyed by the 5 million Palestinians—was conceived in Tehran after the independence referendum of September 2017 in the Kurdish region of Iraq. That vote resulted in a 93 percent majority favoring independence, but what should have been a cause for celebration for their Kurds and their allies ended up as a disaster.

Many countries, especially those with Kurdish populations, issued barely veiled threats of invasion before the vote even took place. Turkey, Iran and the Iranian-backed Iraqi government all denounced the vote as an attempt to create a “second Israel” in the region, with the term “fifth column” frequently deployed in the media to describe the alleged status of the Kurds within Israel’s strategic calculations.

An Iranian-backed military offensive, involving Iraqi government forces and the Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary organization—the Iraqi equivalent of Lebanon’s Hezbollah—smashed through Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq throughout October and November. That operation was directed by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the IRGC’s “Quds Force,” the notorious military agency that co-ordinates Iran’s regional interventions in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

By the time the offensive ended, more than 50 percent of the territory liberated from ISIS by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, including the city of Kirkuk, lay in the hands of the Iraqi government in Baghdad and Hashd al-Shaabi. “This attack, waged by the Iraqi government, Hashd al-Shaabi and forces associated with the Headquarters of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force, is in retaliation against the people of Kurdistan who have asked for freedom,” a Peshmerga statement declared at the height of the fighting.

Yet the outside world remained shamefully disinterested in the Iraqi Kurdish plight last year. That is a key reason why Iran now believes it can make an example of its own 7 million Kurds with impunity. “We have always considered Iran a danger to us,” Mustafa Muludi, the General Secretary of the Kurdistan Independence Party of Iran (KDPI) told the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw after the Sept. 8 missile attacks. “This bombardment has made our fear stronger.”

Their fear should be our alarm bell. The sorry record of international betrayal of Kurdish aspirations dates back to the end of the First World War, and frankly, betrayal remains at the heart of our policy. The Iranian-led assault last year used artillery and armored vehicles supplied by the U.S. government to the Iraqi government. Our response, as the Iranians openly mocked us by using American-made weapons to attack one of our closest regional allies, was to have the State Department confirm its “One Iraq” policy, effectively closing the door on the Kurdish bid for national sovereignty.

Only Israel came out of last year’s disgrace with any honor, as the one country to warmly welcome the referendum result, and to express the hope that the Kurds would join the Jews as a free nation in the Middle East. Yet as much as Israel has covertly aided the Kurdish national movement over the years, it is not in a position to fight on their behalf. As Kurdish leaders repeatedly state, the task of allies is to ensure that their own seasoned warriors can do that for themselves.

Last year, sadly, the Trump administration helped to tie the Kurds’ hands by equivocating over the referendum and the Iranian onslaught that followed. Iran now seeks to test our resolve by continuing its campaign against the creation of a Kurdish state that would be far more open, far more democratic and far more pacific than any of its neighbors. As yet, there is no sign that our shameful policy is changing.

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On Topic Links

Iraq’s New Leaders Seen as Technocrats, in a Break From Sectarian Politics: Ben Hubbard and Falih Hassan, New York Times, Oct. 2, 2018—For nearly five months, Iraqi politicians have wrangled over the shape of their new government. The bloc led by Moktada al-Sadr, the former Shiite militia leader and longtime American enemy, won the most votes in the May election. He had rebranded himself as an “Iraq First” populist, vowing to fight corruption, opposing both American and Iranian intervention, and promising a new nonsectarian politics.

Assassination of Iraq’s Feminists: Beauty Queen Flees to Jordan After Threat, String of Deaths: National Post, Oct. 9, 2018—A former Miss Iraq beauty queen has fled the country following a spate of killings of high-profile women. Shimaa Qasim Abdulrahman said she left for Jordan after receiving death threats from a man purporting to be an Islamic State member who told her, “You’re next”.

A Strong Kurdistan Region is Good for US in Iraq: Seth J. Frantzman, The Hill, Oct. 16, 2018—Over 200 publishing companies from 35 countries converged on northern Iraq on Oct. 10 to showcase their work at the city’s 13th annual Erbil International Book Fair. Leading officials came to see the ribbon cutting to open the fair in the Kurdistan region’s capital. It was a symbol of the normality that has swept the region more than a year after ISIS was defeated in Mosul, an hour’s drive northwest of the city.

It is Time for the U.S. to Help Liberate the Kurds: Qanta Ahmed, Jerusalem Post, October 3, 2018—Marking the one-year anniversary of the Kurdish referendum this week, the moral obligation to support Kurdish independence for more than 36 million Kurds hangs heavily. While the will of the Kurdish people was clear in a 73% turnout in the vote last September, 93% voted for independence from Iraq. It seemed the world – including the US – ignored the referendum and then, worse, showed remarkable contempt by dismissing the desires of the largest stateless nation of peoples in the world, with a population less than those of Canada and Australia.

IN IRAQ, ELECTION RESULTS SHOCK IRAN & U.S., KURDS IN “DISARRAY” & CHRISTIANS DISAPPEARING

The Populist Revolt Reaches Iraq: Michael J. Totten, World Affairs Journal, May 22, 2018— The worldwide populist revolt toppling conventional politicians in the United States, Europe and even the Philippines has now reached Iraq.

The Results of the Iraqi Elections? A Slap in the Face to Iran: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, May 22, 2018— The results of the Iraqi legislative elections have taken both Iran and the United States by surprise.

Kurds in Iraq Adrift After Iraqi Election: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, May 26, 2018— At a meeting of Kurdistan Democratic Party officials on Saturday in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq, the party sought Kurdish unity in negotiations with Baghdad.

Iraq’s Christians: Eighty Percent Have “Disappeared”: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Apr. 1, 2018— Persecution of Christians is worse today “than at any time in history”, a recent report by the organization Aid to the Church in Need revealed.

On Topic Links

Once Hated by U.S. and Tied to Iran, Is Sadr Now ‘Face of Reform’ in Iraq?: Margaret Coker, New York Times, May 20, 2018

Iraqi Election Opens New Chapter: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, May 20, 2018

The ISIS Tactics That Have Left Iraqi Special Forces Weakened: Chirine Mouchantaf, Defense News, May 8, 2018

A Future for Kurdish Independence?: Michael Eppel, Middle East Quarterly, Mar. 01, 2018

 

THE POPULIST REVOLT REACHES IRAQ

Michael J. Totten

World Affairs Journal, May 22, 2018

 

The worldwide populist revolt toppling conventional politicians in the United States, Europe and even the Philippines has now reached Iraq. Most Westerners still following Iraqi politics assumed that incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Victory coalition would handily win the parliamentary election, but nope. Abadi’s coalition came in third. Firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Sairun coalition came in first.

You remember Moqtada al-Sadr. He’s the guy who mounted an Iranian-backed Shia insurgency against the United States, the Iraqi government and his Sunni civilian neighbors between 2003 and 2008. He’s a very different person today. He still raises and shakes his fist in the air but today he’s shaking it at crooked elites, and he’s shaking it at his former Iranian patrons. “If corrupt (officials) and quotas remain,” Sadr declared, “the entire government will be brought down and no one will be exempt.” In other words, drain the swamp.

He’s Iraq’s version of the rabble-rousing populist: fundamentalist, anti-establishment and anti-foreigner. A champion of the working class and a declared enemy of liberal Western ideas. His list even included Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the colorful journalist who famously threw a shoe at President George W. Bush at a press conference in Baghdad in 2008.

He would of course be nowhere without the Westerners he despises. Americans, after all, cleared Saddam Hussein’s totalitarian Baath Party regime out of the way and established the election system that put him on top. He’d also be nowhere without Iran. His former allies in the Islamic Republic next door armed his Mahdi Army militia and gave him refuge when the Americans were coming to get him. Now that the United States is (mostly) gone from Iraq, and now that Iran has been mucking around in Iraqi politics to disastrous effect for more than a decade, Sadr has become as anti-Iranian as he is anti-American. He’s not at all happy with a foreign capital using his government as a hand-puppet, whether that foreign capital is Washington, DC, or Tehran.

No need for surprise here. Many in Iraq’s large Shia majority feel a natural kinship with the even larger Shia majority in Iran, but ethnic tension between Arabs and Persians has been a feature of Middle Eastern geopolitics for as long as Arabs and Persians have inhabited the region, and nationalist tension between Iran and Iraq has been present throughout Iraq’s entire (albeit brief) history as a modern nation-state. Shia Iraqis and Shia Iranians are natural allies, but at the same time, Arab Iraqis and Persian Iranians are natural enemies.

Sadr is painfully reactionary and more than a little bit dangerous. He’s also complicated. He is a Shia sectarian whose militia brutally “cleansed” Sunnis from neighborhoods in and around Baghdad but he’s also what passes today for an Iraqi nationalist, disavowing violence against all Iraqis and opposing all foreign influence. “We won’t allow the Iraqis to be cannon fodder for the wars of others nor be used in proxy wars outside Iraq,” says Sadrist movement member Jumah Bahadily of the Syrian civil war. He also forged an alliance with communists—a horrifying ideological cocktail from the point of view of any liberal-minded Westerner, but alas there are few Jeffersonian democrats in old Mesopotamia. There are however, some secular reformists and technocrats, and they also formed an alliance with the Sadrists. Tehran has taken notice and isn’t happy about it. “We will not allow liberals and communists to govern in Iraq,” says Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Iranian ruler Ayatollah Khamenei.

Precious few Americans would enjoy living under a government run by Sadrists. Even so, his pushback against Iran is nothing to sniff at. Westerners and Arabs alike have bemoaned Iran’s rising influence in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam, thanks in large part to Sadr’s own Mahdi Army, yet no one is resisting Iranian influence in Iraq as successfully right now as he is. Sure, the Sunni parties are pushing back as they always do, but the Sunnis are a small minority. Nearly all Iranian influence in Iraq comes through the Shias. Only they can successfully resist Tehran because they’re the only ones who can enable Tehran in the first place. With Sadr’s movement in the saddle, Iran faces the most formidable obstacle in Baghdad since Saddam flitted from palace to palace.

Sadr will not be Iraq’s next prime minister. His list won the most votes but he himself did not stand for election. He could be the next kingmaker, so to speak, but even that’s not guaranteed. While his party won more seats than the others, it did not win the majority. It’s still possible that the others will unite in a coalition against him. Nobody knows yet. Whatever ends up happening, the main takeaway here ought to be this: Iraq isn’t even in the same time zone as high-functioning liberal democracies like New Zealand and France, but we can parse the result and guess at the ultimate outcome of its fourth consecutive election as if it were.

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THE RESULTS OF THE IRAQI ELECTIONS?

A SLAP IN THE FACE TO IRAN

Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah

JCPA, May 22, 2018

 

The results of the Iraqi legislative elections have taken both Iran and the United States by surprise. The party of Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American and anti-Iranian Shiite cleric, succeeded in winning 54 out of the 329 seats in the newly-elected Iraqi parliament. By doing so, his Sairoun party list (Arabic for “going forward”) became the biggest parliamentary faction. Al-Sadr’s Sairoun beat the favorite pro-Iranian parties headed by Hadi al-Amiri, commander of the pro-Iranian Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi (Arabic for “popular mobilization units”) militia, which took part in crushing ISIS and presented itself under the name Al-Fath (Arabic for “conquest”), which lost by seven seats (47). Another party led by a pro-Iran candidate, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, won 26 seats.

The final results were published on May 19, 2018, seven days after the election day, due to allegations of massive fraud within the Kurdish-populated provinces of Kirkuk and Dahuk. The tabulations confirmed the partial results, which were published immediately after the elections, and the projection that Muqtada al-Sadr’s faction was the biggest parliamentary group. Although al-Sadr will not become prime minister since his name was not included in the list, he will likely play the role of the “kingmaker” behind the scenes and form the next Iraqi government – if Iran does not succeed in blocking him. In 2010, that is precisely what Iran did after Ayad Allawi won the most seats but could not form a government. Instead, Iran intervened and presented another pro-Iranian alternative. Indeed, despite the fact that al-Sadr’s faction is the biggest in the coming parliament, under the Iraqi constitution a larger coalition of factions is tasked with forming a new government.

Muqtada al-Sadr (born 1973) became famous in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq as the leader of a militia who led two armed uprisings against the U.S. forces. He also incited sectarian violence but rebranded himself as a champion of the poor, promoter of social protests, and corruption fighter. Al-Sadr was also vehemently anti-Iranian and criticized Iraqi politicians who became vassals of the Ayatollahs in Iran. Muqtada al-Sadr’s success stems primarily from the fact that the 44.25 percent election turnout was the lowest since 2003 and a drop from 62 percent in 2014, which played in al-Sadr’s favor since his followers voted en masse while others either abstained or showed a lack of interest…Moreover, Muqtada al-Sadr called on all “patriotic” factions, while emphasizing his rejection of the two main pro-Iranian blocs – Hadi al-Amiri’s Al-Fath list and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s “State of Law Coalition” to join his coalition in order to restore to Iraq its dignity, independence, and freedom of choice.

By the end of the week (May 18, 2018), al-Sadr scored yet another victory by rallying Ammar al-Hakim, a cleric and politician, former leader of the Islamic Council of Iraq (2004-2017), and head of the “National Wisdom Movement” (Al Hikma), who won 19 seats in the elections and agreed to explore establishing a united faction. Ammar al-Hakim was part of Haider al-Abadi’s coalition in 2014, but he decided to split away before the 2018 elections. Muqtada al-Sadr, whose list included Communists and liberal factions, has called to form a technocratic government to fight party corruption. He emphasized in his Tweets after the elections the need to restore the independent identity of Iraq, “making Baghdad the capital of our identity” and pointing very clearly at the need to depart from Iranian tutelage…

Muqtada al-Sadr’s goal is to reach a coalition of 165 seats (which represent a majority of one seat in the 329-seat Parliament) to assure his government a majority and to block any attempts from pro-Iranian factions to form an alternative pro-Iranian government. To do so, he still needs to rally a plethora of petty political factions, such as Osama al-Nujaifi’s al-Qarar al-Iraqi alliance (14 seats ), Hanan al-Fatlawi’s Eradaa bloc (two seats), former Defense Minister Khaled al-Obaidi’s list (two seats), and the Kurdish Shasour Abd el-Wahed’s faction (one seat). There is no doubt that negotiations between the parties will last a long time. However, the chances are that those petty lists will agree to join the coalition in the “biggest bang” of politics in Iraq since the American invasion of 2003…

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

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KURDS IN IRAQ ADRIFT AFTER IRAQI ELECTION

                                                Seth J. Frantzman

Jerusalem Post, May 26, 2018

 

At a meeting of Kurdistan Democratic Party officials on Saturday in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq, the party sought Kurdish unity in negotiations with Baghdad. Two weeks after the May 12 election, the Kurdish parties, of which the KDP is the largest, are trying to determine how they can continue to play a central role in the coalition building that must take place for a new government to be formed.

But Kurdish politics has been in disarray since the independence referendum last September, and critics say the current discussions with Baghdad look more like begging for a role than playing the kingmaker as Kurds once did. The KDP came in fourth in the election, worse than Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon party, Hadi al-Amiri’s Fateh alliance and Haider al-Abadi’s Victory alliance. With 25 seats in the unicameral, 329-member legislature, they have the same strength as Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition. Maliki, Amiri, Sadr and Abadi all run parties whose main supporters are Shi’ite Arabs.

Together, all these other parties could simply run the country, without the Kurds or the Sunni Arabs. But politics isn’t so simple in Iraq. Amiri’s and Maliki’s parties are very close to Iran, while Sadr’s positioned itself as a nationalist party opposed to both Iranian and American influence in Iraq. This gives the Kurds the ability to sign on with one camp or another.

The current position of the Kurds illustrates how much things have changed in the last decade and a half since Iraq was liberated from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. In the parliamentary election of December 2005, Massoud Barzani, leading a united Kurdish list, came in second with 53 seats. Since then the myriad Kurdish parties have increasingly contested the elections on their own, with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan taking around 20 seats each time and the smaller Kurdish Islamic parties and the Gorran (Change) movement taking a dozen seats between them. The fragmentation has weakened the Kurdish bargaining power in Baghdad.

During the four years of war against ISIS, this weakened bargaining power mattered less, because Baghdad’s policies appeared to have failed Iraq and allowed ISIS to take control of a third of the country.

In those years it was common to hear Kurdish Peshmerga on the front line say that Iraq was finished as a country; how could it recover from the divisions created by ISIS. Increasing Iranian influence and the growth of sectarian militias, called the Popular Mobilization Units, appeared to show that Iraq was slipping into corruption and chaos. Kurds could point to their region in the northeast as the one stable and economically viable area. The stability in the Kurdish region began to change after the referendum, when Baghdad took advantage of Kurdish divisions to retake Kirkuk in October 2017 from the Peshmerga, who had defended it against ISIS. Anger over late payment of salaries and accusations of corruption at the highest levels led to a series of mass protests in December.

It was in this context that Kurdish parties contested the recent election. But any thought that voters would punish the leading KDP and PUK parties did not materialize. Instead the traditional parties performed as expected. Nevertheless the bitterness from the fall of 2017 remains. After the election in Sulaimaniya, the Gorran party headquarters was fired upon. Four smaller Kurdish parties (Gorran, Coalition for Justice and Democracy, Kurdistan Islamic Union and Kurdistan Islamic Group) met with US anti-ISIS envoy Brett McGurk this past Tuesday, demanding the election results be annulled due to allegations of fraud. It’s unclear why they thought McGurk could get the results changed, he’s ostensibly in Iraq to coordinate the anti-ISIS fight, but there is widespread perception that he is there to represent US interests in coalition building after the election.

The KDP and PUK pursued a different avenue. On Wednesday, Sadr met with representatives of the PUK and KDP, and on Thursday the two leading Kurdish parties met with Maliki and Amiri in Baghdad. It’s not entirely clear what came out of the meetings between the Kurdish parties; it wasn’t so long ago that Maliki and Amiri were despised in Erbil; Maliki accused of being an Iranian pawn, and Amiri’s Shi’ite militias seen as a Shia version of ISIS. But power politics now takes precedence over old biases. There are rumors that Iran would like to see a coalition without Sadr, which would include the Kurdish parties and the other Shi’ite parties. But there are also rumors that the Kurdish parties could work with Sadr to undermine Iran’s influence.

Either way, Erbil’s demands appear to be mostly about salaries and economic rights. The region exports oil and wants its public salaries paid by Baghdad. The region is holding out hope that the new US strategy on Iran will mean more support for the Kurds as a traditional ally of Washington. The Kurdish region can only hope that it is needed as a coalition partner in Baghdad and by Washington to continue playing a vital role in Iraq.

 

Contents

   

IRAQ’S CHRISTIANS: EIGHTY PERCENT HAVE “DISAPPEARED”

Giulio Meotti

Gatestone Institute, Apr. 1, 2018

 

Persecution of Christians is worse today “than at any time in history”, a recent report by the organization Aid to the Church in Need revealed. Iraq happens to be “ground zero” for the “elimination” of Christians from the pages of history. Iraqi Christian clergymen recently wore a black sign as a symbol of national mourning for the last victims of the anti-Christian violence: a young worker and a whole family of three. “This means that there is no place for Christians,” said Father Biyos Qasha of the Church of Maryos in Baghdad. “We are seen as a lamb to be killed at any time”.

A few days earlier, Shiite militiamen discovered a mass grave with the bodies of 40 Christians near Mosul, the former stronghold of the Islamic State and the capital of Iraqi Christianity. The bodies, including those of women and children, seemed to belong to Christians kidnapped and killed by ISIS. Many had crosses with them in the mass grave. Not a single article in the Western mainstream media wrote about this ethnic cleansing.

French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia made an urgent plea to Europe and the West to defend non-Muslims in the Middle East, whom he likened to Holocaust victims. “As our parents wore the yellow star, Christians are made to wear the scarlet letter of nun” Korsia said. The Hebrew letter “nun” is the same sound as the beginning of Nazareen, an Arabic term signifying people from Nazareth, or Christians, and used by the Islamic State to mark the Christian houses in Mosul.

Now a new report by the Iraqi Human Rights Society also just revealed that Iraqi minorities, such as Christians, Yazidis and Shabaks, are now victims of a “slow genocide”, which is shattering those ancient communities to the point of their disappearance. The numbers are significant. According to the report, 81% of Iraq’s Christians have disappeared from Iraq. The remaining number of Sabeans, an ancient community devoted to St. John the Baptist, is even smaller: 94% have disappeared from Iraq. Even 18% of Yazidis have left the country or been killed. Another human rights organization, Hammurabi, said that Baghdad had 600,000 Christians in the recent past; today there are only 150,000.

These numbers may be the reason Charles de Meyer, president of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient, has just spoken of the “extinction of Christians”. Father Salar Kajo of the Churches’ Nineveh Reconstruction Committee just spoke of the real possibility that “Christianity will disappear from Iraq”. Many ancient Christian churches and sites have been destroyed by Islamic extremists, such as Saint George Church in Mosul; the Virgin Mary Chaldean Church, attacked by car bomb, and the burned Armenian Church in Mosul. Hundreds of Christian homes have been razed in Mosul, where jihadists also toppled bell towers and crosses. The Iraqi clergy recently warned, “The churches are in danger”.

Tragically, Christians living in lands formerly under the control of the “Caliphate” have been betrayed by many actors in the West. Governments ignored their tragic fate. Bishops were often too aloof to denounce their persecution. The media acted as if they considered these Christians to be agents of colonialism who deserved to be purged from the Middle East. And the so-called “human rights” organizations abandoned them. European public opinion, supposedly always ready to rally against the discrimination of minorities, did not say a word about what Ayaan Hirsi Ali called “a war against Christians”.

Some communities, such as the small Christian enclaves of Mosul, are now lost forever. Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II said there is a “real danger” Christianity could just become a “museum” in the Middle East. He noted that Iraq has lost 80-90% of its Christian population. A few Christian villages have begun a slow and painful process of reconstruction with funds donated mainly by international relief organizations such as the US Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need. US Vice President Mike Pence recently promised to help these Christians. Action now must follow words. Christians who escaped and survived ISIS cannot depend today only on aid from churches and private groups.

Among European governments, only Hungary took a principled position and openly committed itself to save Iraqi Christianity from genocide. Recently, the Hungarian government opened a school for displaced Christians in Erbil; Hungary’s Minister of Human Resources, Zoltan Balog, attended the event. Imagine if all the other European countries, such as France and Germany, had done the same. The suffering of Christians in Iraq would today be much less and their numbers much higher.

The West was not willing to give sanctuary to these Christians when ISIS murdered 1,131 of them and destroyed or damaged 125 of their churches. We must now stand by their side before it is too late. After the mass displacements and the mass graves, we must help Christians rebuild in the lands where their people were martyred. Otherwise, even the smallest hope of hearing the sound of Christian church bells in the ancient lands of the Bible will be forever lost.

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Once Hated by U.S. and Tied to Iran, Is Sadr Now ‘Face of Reform’ in Iraq?: Margaret Coker, New York Times, May 20, 2018

Iraqi Election Opens New Chapter: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, May 20, 2018— During the British House of Commons’ stormy debate on 29 August 2013 on whether or not to intervene in Syria to stop further chemical weapon massacres by President Bashar al-Assad, the then leader of the opposition Ed Miliband boasted that he could prove intervention wrong by just one word: Iraq!

The ISIS Tactics That Have Left Iraqi Special Forces Weakened: Chirine Mouchantaf, Defense News, May 8, 2018— It took Iraqi forces three years to significantly drive Islamic State militants out of the country, but the group’s nontraditional tactics have damaged Iraq’s special forces, according to one major Iraqi military commander.

A Future for Kurdish Independence?: Michael Eppel, Middle East Quarterly, Mar. 01, 2018— The Kurdish independence referendum of September 25, 2017, has proven thus far to be an ill-conceived high-risk gamble.

ON IRAN PROTESTS & JERUSALEM TRUMP HAD COURAGE TO SPEAK THE TRUTH, UNLIKE OBAMA AND WEST’S “PROGRESSIVES”

Jerusalem and Now Iran: Is Donald Trump Turning Into a Morally Serious President?: Jonathan S. Tobin, Ha’aretz, Jan. 02, 2018— In the summer of 2009, as the forces of the Iranian government brutally repressed mass demonstrations protesting a stolen election, the United States sent the people of Iran an unmistakable message.

If 'Canada's Back,' Like Trudeau Says, We Should be Supporting Iran's Protesters: Kaveh Shahrooz, National Post, Jan. 3, 2018— “Canada’s back,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau likes to say in progressive international circles. 

Hungry for Regional Hegemony, Iran Takes a Bite Out of Hamas: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Jan. 4, 2018— One week of popular protests in Iran has brought into stark focus the country's deep internal divisions…

How Iran Became the Dominant Power in the Middle East: Prof. Benjamin Miller, BESA, Jan. 4, 2018— Iran has emerged as the winner of the so-called “Arab Spring,” a state of affairs some lay at the feet of the Obama administration.

 

On Topic Links

 

Iran’s Protests are Fading, but Iranians Are Still Angry: Amanda Erickson, Washington Post, Jan. 4, 2018

The Uprising in Iran: ‘This is What Revolution Looks Like’: Terry Glavin, Maclean’s, Jan. 1, 2017

What Washington Can Do to Support Iran’s Protesters: Richard Goldberg and Jamie Fly, New York Post, Jan. 2, 2018 Iran has a peculiar habit of surprising Americans.

Protests in Iran: Social Challenges vs. Foreign Policy Ambitions: Dr. Doron Itzchakov, BESA, Jan. 3, 2018

 

 

 

JERUSALEM AND NOW IRAN: IS DONALD TRUMP

TURNING INTO A MORALLY SERIOUS PRESIDENT?

Jonathan S. Tobin

Ha’aretz, Jan. 02, 2018

 

In the summer of 2009, as the forces of the Iranian government brutally repressed mass demonstrations protesting a stolen election, the United States sent the people of Iran an unmistakable message. The man regarded as an international beacon of hope offered them no encouragement. President Barack Obama’s initial silence, and then continued restraint, in his remarks about what was going on, was a significant milestone along the road to the Iran nuclear deal he would later sign. It told Iranians they were on their own with respect to any international effort to secure their freedom.

 

But now, more than eight years later, as a new wave of protests spreads throughout Iran, those suffering under the theocratic rule of the ayatollahs are getting a very different message from the United States. President Donald Trump’s tweets reminded the ayatollahs that "the world is watching" as they sought to put down the protests against their regime’s tyranny, corruption and support for terror. Trump let Iranian dissidents know the world is with them and turned up the pressure on Tehran – just at the moment when he wants to start a conversation about renegotiating the nuclear deal, so as to remove the sunset clauses that make the regime’s acquisition of a bomb inevitable.

 

Yet, as was the case with Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, many on the left, as well as others on the right, who are still appalled by the Trump presidency, are not prepared to give him credit even when he is obviously in the right. In their view, Trump’s inappropriate behavior and statements rob him of any moral legitimacy, therefore nullifying the impact of anything that he does or says that they would approve of if someone else had done it.

 

But the contrast with Obama is instructive, not only in terms of the debate over Iran, but because it also undermines the narrative which portrays the Trump administration as patently illegitimate. As was the case with Jerusalem, it is Trump who had the courage and the will to state an important truth about Iran, while it was Obama who failed that great moral test.

 

That contradicts the assumptions of both the "resistance" on the left and the conservative "Never Trump" faction. This ought to force even the president’s sternest critics to reassess their belief that Trump’s administration cannot be taken seriously, especially when so much of the arguments against him are premised on the notion that his character is such that he must be opposed under any and all circumstances.

 

Rather than see the contrast between the two successive administrations as one of stark choices between good and evil, Trump’s ability to do the right thing on Iran while Obama conspicuously failed, means his administration should be judged, as all governments must be, in shades of grey rather than in terms of moral absolutes.

 

The attempt, principally by Obama administration alumni, to claim that the best course for the West on Iran is to be silent about the protests, is unpersuasive. As in other efforts to deal with tyrannies, such as that of the former Soviet Union, outside pressure aimed at bolstering internal dissent is a critical factor in undermining support for any such authoritarian government. Moreover, Obama’s diffident posture toward the 2009 protests gives us a clear example of how Western democracies encouraged the theocrats to believe they can murder with impunity and not face any international consequences.

 

Obama believed that the objective of obtaining a nuclear accord with Iran justified any concession. But that choice and others, such as the reports that he discouraged federal authorities from pursuing efforts to curtail Hezbollah’s drug-running operations in order to further appease Tehran, weakened his negotiating position, as well as undermining other Western interests. It also made it easier for the regime to convince Iranians they had no choice but to meekly accept the continued rule of a government that used the wealth it acquired from the pact to enrich regime entities, while doing little to help its people.

 

By contrast, Trump’s truth-telling sets the record straight in a way that ought to alter the debate not only about Iran, but on other foreign policy issues too. His critics generally dismiss the president as ignorant or foolish. But it is difficult to see how either former Obama officials or European governments (who have been conspicuously silent on recent events in Iran) are in any better position to preach to Trump about morality.

 

The implications for Israel and those who care about it from this discussion are clear. Trump’s more favorable attitude toward Israel, as well as his willingness to hold the Palestinians accountable for their rejectionism and support for terror, does not erase his other shortcomings. Yet, as with his reversal of a decades-long policy that denied the truth about Jerusalem, Trump’s ability to say what needed to be said about Iran, and in a way that Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t, needs to be acknowledged. It should be seen as a significant measure of how his administration should be judged going forward as it tackles the ongoing challenges relating to the Mideast peace process and terrorism.

 

Disgust with some of what Trump says and tweets is understandable. But we have no choice but to judge leaders by their choices, rather than our assumptions about their character and intentions. After the Jerusalem stand and the Iran protests, it’s getting increasingly difficult to pretend that the moral dichotomy between Obama and Trump is as clear-cut as the president’s detractors claim it to be. Hard as it may be for the "resistance" and the Never Trumpers to accept, it may be that it is possible that Donald Trump is turning out to be a morally serious president.

                                                                                   

 

Contents

IF 'CANADA'S BACK,' LIKE TRUDEAU SAYS,

WE SHOULD BE SUPPORTING IRAN'S PROTESTERS

Kaveh Shahrooz

National Post, Jan. 3, 2018

 

“Canada’s back,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau likes to say in progressive international circles.  But since the outbreak of the growing protests that have rocked Iran, Canada has been nowhere to be found. The protests, which began in the religious city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran, have been raging across the country for nearly a week and, to date, have claimed nearly 20 lives. The protesters’ demands were initially about economic justice, but have quickly transformed into a rejection of Iran’s theocratic structure and the Iranian government’s military adventurism in Syria and Yemen.  

 

In the face of this, Canada’s Global Affairs department released a statement that indicated Canada is “encouraged” by the protesters’ exercise of their rights, and stated that Canada will continue to monitor the situation. This statement — tepidly recognizing the protests without endorsing their message, and emphasizing the protesters’ rights to free expression without giving any offence to Iran’s rulers — was the diplomatic equivalent of hedging Canada’s bets.

 

As of the time of this writing, neither Trudeau nor Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland have weighed in. Domestically, this is in contrast to a strong statement of support by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. And, internationally, it is inconsistent with the very strong statements by President Donald Trump and members of his administration. Why, then, is Canada hesitating to offer support to the protesters? The answer, likely, lies in the prime minister’s commitment to reverse Stephen Harper’s decision to cut off diplomatic relations with Iran and close the Iranian embassy in Ottawa. 

 

It is probable that Trudeau believes supporting the protesters will make it harder for him to deliver on his promise. Such failure may, in turn, entail political costs, as Iranian-Canadians are becoming an electoral force in at least two Greater Toronto Area ridings. The Liberals may believe that segments of the Iranian-Canadian community, some of whom legitimately suffer due to lack of access to consular services in Canada and some with financial ties to the Iranian government, will punish them in the next election if they don’t make good on their commitment.

 

But the prime minister should break his silence on Iran. The reason for that is simple: It is because doing so is the morally right thing to do. The cause championed by the brave protesters in Iran’s streets is just. They are calling for an end to a theocracy that has produced nothing for Iranians except economic stagnation, repression, mass executions, and gender and religious apartheid. Does Canada’s feminist prime minister wish to be on the side of a government that treats women as second-class citizens? Can he pay lip service to diversity and inclusion on the one hand, and keep silent in the face of a government that treats its Baha’i religious community as non-persons? In short, in the clash between a theocratic regime that murders its citizens (and Canadian citizens, as it did in 2003 with Zahra Kazemi) and young protesters calling for democracy, which side does Trudeau wish to be on?

 

Re-engaging the Iranian government may be a sincere Liberal government commitment, but it surely isn’t worth sullying Canada’s reputation as a force for justice and human rights in the world. And if the prime minister decides that he wants to express solidarity with the protesters, there are several concrete steps he can take. First, he ought to make a powerful statement that supports the protesters and their demands. The importance of such a statement cannot be overstated. Given the bellicose language of the Trump administration, the Iranian government would love nothing more than to paint the protesters as saboteurs doing America’s bidding. Given that Trudeau is the anti-Trump, the PM’s support of the protest would considerably weaken the Iranian government’s rhetoric. 

 

Second, Canada ought to make clear to Iranian authorities that any violation of the protesters’ rights would lead to significant consequences. For example, Iran ought to understand that in the face of a serious crackdown, re-engagement should no longer be on the table. In addition, now that Canada has its own version of the Magnitsky Act (a law that freezes assets and limits travel for government officials who engage in human rights abuses abroad), Iranian officials ought to be warned that they could end up on its list if they illegally silence protesters.   In addition, Canada should exert its influence to get other countries to stand with the protesters. Each year, Canada leads a resolution at the UN General Assembly that condemns Iran’s human rights abuses. We have the experience, know-how, and moral authority to lead on this issue, too.

 

Finally, Canada should take serious aim at Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the military and economic juggernaut responsible for so much domestic repression and regional conflict. It is now time to sanction the IRGC using a bill (S-219) that has so far stalled in the Senate thanks to Liberal-affiliated Senators. The prime minister ought to make the sanctioning of the IRGC a priority.   Iran’s protesters are taking tremendous risks these days to secure freedom and democracy. They need Canada’s support and solidarity. We should provide it.                   

 

Contents

HUNGRY FOR REGIONAL HEGEMONY, IRAN TAKES A BITE OUT OF HAMAS

Charles Bybelezer

The Media Line, Jan. 4, 2018

 

One week of popular protests in Iran has brought into stark focus the country's deep internal divisions, along with widespread resentment towards the mullahs, which have remained relatively dormant since regime forces brutally quashed the Green Revolution in 2009. What started last Thursday in the city of Mashhad as a small economic rally—with participants primarily venting frustration over the lack of trickle-down effect from some $100 billion in sanctions relief granted to Tehran in the 2015 nuclear deal—has morphed into nationwide, deadly demonstrations against the rulership of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

 

Across Iran chants of "death to the dictator" have become common refrain as pictures of the ayatollah are set on fire. Among the many grievances being aired is anger over the Islamic Republic's deep military, and thus financial, involvement in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, in addition to support for Lebanese-based Hezbollah. Somewhat less pronounced is the regime's bankrolling of the Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, although protesters have reportedly recited slogans such as 'Let go of Palestine' and 'Forget Palestine' while invoking the Gaza Strip in particular.

 

In this respect, relations between Shiite Iran and Sunni Hamas have thawed since the former froze ties with Gaza's rulers after they refused to support the Assad government at the onset of the Syrian war. Now, Tehran's renewed funding of Hamas is part and parcel of the Islamic Republic's attempt to increase its regional influence and, on the micro level, its presence along Israel's borders. The latter entails accelerating Hezbollah's militarization in Lebanon and establishing a permanent presence in Syria, including the entrenchment of Shiite proxies in the Golan Heights.

 

According to Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser (ret.), former director general of the Israeli Ministry of International Affairs and Strategy, Iran's growing involvement in Gaza is based on a convergence of interests. "On the one hand, Hamas has become weaker as it lost the ability to rely on its usual supporters, while its effort to forge unity with the Palestinian Authority appears to have failed. "On the other hand," he explained to The Media Line, "the Iranians want to increase the strength of the 'resistance' axis that opposes Israel and promotes radical Islamic ideology and Hamas can be a useful ally in this cause."

 

Brig. Gen. (res.) Eli Ben Meir, who served as the IDF's chief intelligence officer, agrees that Iran is making inroads in the Strip to fill the vacuum created by Hamas' isolation, but also in response to developments in the north. "There is a potential for escalation in Syria," he told The Media Line, "as Israel has repeatedly talked about enforcing its red lines [and reportedly carried out multiple strikes against Iranian assets to uphold them]. So Tehran is sending a message that such action can be met with a response from Gaza." In fact, there has been a marked uptick in rocket attacks against Israel emanating from the Palestinian enclave since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the Jewish state's capital. However, in the wake of last week's apparent targeting of a ceremony honoring an IDF soldier whose remains are being held by Hamas, multiple Israeli officials have publicly accused Tehran of deliberately raising tensions.

 

For his part, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman released a video in which he slammed the Islamic Republic for working to "destroy" Gaza while "hurting Israel as much as possible." Intelligence Minister Israel Katz referred to the Strip as a "ticking time bomb" caused by a "direct Iranian intervention," with Tehran allegedly having supplied some of the mortars fired at southern Israeli towns. Former defense chief Moshe Ya'alon warned that Iran, empowered by military successes throughout the region, is likely to shift some of its attention towards subverting Israel.

 

On Monday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot revealed that Tehran has increased its funding to Hamas and Islamic Jihad from an estimated $70 million to $100 million annually in order to exert more influence over Gaza. Nevertheless, he described as "irresponsible" those calling for a stronger response to attacks, while confirming that the IDF is "carrying out various covert and open efforts including [the] promotion of restraining factors." Indeed, there appears to be disagreement within the Israeli political and military establishments over how to deal with the growing threat from Gaza, where the Jewish state has fought three wars over the past decade. "There are three main courses of action that Israel can take," Ben Meir explained to The Media Line. "The first is a full-scale operation that involves throwing Hamas out of the Strip. The second is conducting low-intensity warfare, a tit-for-tat approach—such as responding to rocket fire with airstrikes—in order to contain the situation. And the third option is finding a way to dramatically change the severe civilian economic conditions."…

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

                                                                       

 

Contents

HOW IRAN BECAME THE DOMINANT POWER IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Prof. Benjamin Miller

BESA, Jan. 4, 2018

 

Iran has emerged as the winner of the so-called “Arab Spring,” a state of affairs some lay at the feet of the Obama administration. When the US administration (together with five other powers) signed a nuclear accord with Tehran to curb its nuclear program, it did not insist on a halt to Iran’s assorted aggressions in the Middle East. But Obama is not entirely to blame for Iran’s success. In each of the four Arab countries in which Tehran has made incursions, its rivals inadvertently played a key role in strengthening the Iranian position through the trans-border Shiite connection.

 

In other words, interventions by other foreign powers unintentionally strengthened the pro-Iranian Shiite group in each of the countries in question. In some cases (though not all), the outcome was influenced by nationalist opposition to foreign interference. In all four cases, however, the interventions reinforced a regional transnational sectarian connection that is enabling the fulfillment of Iranian aspirations to become the dominant force in the Middle East.

 

How have the other intervening powers helped Iran win the Middle East game (at least for now)? In the case of Iraq, another enemy of the Islamic Republic accidentally brought about Iranian dominance in a country that used to be a major rival. In this instance it was the US that played the key role. Following their 2003 occupation of Iraq, the Americans tried to democratize the country. But elections in an ethnically and religiously fragmented state like Iraq mean that the largest ethnic or sectarian group is going to win.

 

The Shiites are the majority group in a polarized Iraq, and some of their leaders are allies of the Iranian Shiite regime. This trans-border connection has guaranteed significant Iranian influence in Iraq. Thus, the US invasion and democratization project in Iraq brought to power forces allied with its main enemy in the region – even if the alliance with Tehran is not welcomed by all Iraqis, including some Shiites.

 

The (next) case of an external intervention that resulted in growing Iranian influence is the Russian involvement in Syria. In this instance, the intervening power is not an enemy of Iran’s – at the moment. It was one for a very long time, however, and the future of the alliance is uncertain. At any rate, the Russian bombing in 2015 was the decisive factor that ultimately brought about the victory of the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war. This is the case even though Tehran, Hezbollah, and other Iranian-led Shiite militias had been fighting alongside the regime since well before the Russian bombing started.

 

As in the other cases, the support of Iran and its Shiite allies for the Alawite regime in Damascus is based at least partly on a common sectarian affiliation, as the Alawites are considered an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The Assad regime’s dependence on the Iranian/Shiite militias’ support seems to guarantee that Tehran will remain a major influence in Syria.

 

While the Russian bombing provided the coup de grâce, the Iranians and their allies continue to provide the ground forces necessary to preserve the regime. Israel is worried that the regime’s debt to Iran will translate into a continuous Iranian/Hezbollah military presence in Syria near the border with the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Recent Russian statements seem to indicate Moscow’s acceptance of such a military presence. This forward military deployment of Iran and its allies creates the potential for escalation, whether intended or inadvertent…

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

 

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Iran’s Protests are Fading, but Iranians Are Still Angry: Amanda Erickson, Washington Post, Jan. 4, 2018—For just a moment around the new year, Iran seemed poised for something big. What started as a couple of scattered protests on Dec. 8 over the cost of eggs quickly erupted into a countrywide movement. Iranians took to the streets in nearly every province, calling for an end to corruption, a better economy and a less-oppressive government.

The Uprising in Iran: ‘This is What Revolution Looks Like’: Terry Glavin, Maclean’s, Jan. 1, 2017—The Iranian uprising that began last Thursday in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, was initially reported as an isolated protest over food prices and unemployment. By Sunday, the entire country was heaving in convulsions.

What Washington Can Do to Support Iran’s Protesters: Richard Goldberg and Jamie Fly, New York Post, Jan. 2, 2018 Iran has a peculiar habit of surprising Americans. —Even before the widespread anticlerical protests in Iran, President Trump made clear what he thinks of the regime. In recent days, he has even gone so far as to support those Iranians protesting the regime, in stark contrast to President Barack Obama’s desperate attempt in 2009 to curry favor with their oppressors.

Protests in Iran: Social Challenges vs. Foreign Policy Ambitions: Dr. Doron Itzchakov, BESA, Jan. 3, 2018—The social protests currently taking place in Iran arise from the gap between the Islamic leadership’s ambition for regional hegemony and ordinary people’s desire for a lower cost of living and an improved standard of living – expectations stemming from promises made by President Hassan Rouhani during his first term in office and reinforced by the July 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) and the attendant release of Iranian assets worldwide.

 

 

 

                                                              

 

 

IDF AIMS TO NEUTRALIZE FUTURE HEZBOLLAH & HAMAS THREATS WITH MINIMAL COLLATERAL DAMAGE

IDF: Israel Prepared to ‘Neutralise’ Hezbollah with ‘Overwhelming’ Force in Next War: Adam Abrams, JNS, Sept. 19, 2017— Despite the raging civil war to Israel’s north and east in Syria, the Jewish state’s northern border has remained precariously quiet over the last decade.

Victory, Not Deterrence, Will be the Goal if There is Another Gaza War: Yaakov Lappin, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 29, 2017— In past models of conflict, Israel responded to Hamas aggression through the use of force in a way that was designed to punish Hamas and convince it to return to a state of calm.

Israel Unveils New Defense Technology That Can Predict Future Battlefields: Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 5, 2017— As the nation’s enemies continue to develop their military capabilities, Israel works to stay at least one step ahead, predicting what types of technology will be needed in future wars.

Israel Has a Playbook for Dealing With North Korea: Zev Chafets, Bloomberg, Sept. 7, 2017 — Israel and North Korea are on opposite sides of the Asian landmass, separated by 5,000 miles as the ICBM flies.

 

On Topic Links

 

As Syrian War Winds Down, Israel Sets Sights on Hezbollah: National Post, Sept. 20, 2017

Israel vs. Iran and Hezbollah: Towards a Military Clash?: Ehud Eilam, Israel Defense, Sept. 14, 2017

Cyber Warfare — Reasons Why Israel Leads The Charge: Christopher P. Skroupa , Forbes, Sept. 7, 2017

‘Killer Robots’ Can Make War Less Awful: Jeremy Rabkin and John Yoo, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 2, 2017

 

 

 

IDF: ISRAEL PREPARED TO ‘NEUTRALISE’ HEZBOLLAH

WITH ‘OVERWHELMING’ FORCE IN NEXT WAR

Adam Abrams

JNS, Sept. 19, 2017

 

Despite the raging civil war to Israel’s north and east in Syria, the Jewish state’s northern border has remained precariously quiet over the last decade. No stranger to looming threats, Israeli officials are planning and ready for several worst-case scenarios in the north as Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah continue to forge their stranglehold on the region…

 

In a possible war scenario with Hezbollah, the Israeli military can launch a “massive and overwhelming” operation that would effectively “neutralize” a significant part of the Lebanese terror organization’s military capability, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, the head of the International Media Branch for the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, told JNS.org. The IDF’s operation would be based on “very accurate intelligence” collected “relentlessly” and “would minimize to the greatest extent possible, harm to non-combatants…. by using the most precise guided munitions that strike only at the legitimate military targets,” Conricus said.

 

Striking only Hezbollah targets without collateral damage will be a challenging military feat because Hezbollah is deliberately “deployed in order to maximize collateral damage” to civilians, he added. One-third of the homes in southern Lebanon’s 130 villages are known to house military components belonging to Hezbollah. “Hezbollah’s strategic choice of the battlefield, embedding its military assets in Shiite villages and towns, has put the majority of the Shiite population in Lebanon in harm’s way, using it as human shields….” Brigadier general (Res.) Assaf Orion, a senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), told JNS.org.

 

Defeating the terror group would likely involve “significant IDF ground incursions into Lebanon as well as taking out Hezbollah rocket positions located in high-density population areas,” in hospitals, schools and apartment buildings, Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, told JNS.org. In a future conflict, one could expect “significant damage to Israel,” Orion said, but simultaneously “a devastating and unprecedented destruction in Lebanon, including a significant victory against Hezbollah’s military forces and destruction of most infrastructure enabling its war fighting capacity.”

 

Due to Hezbollah’s deep entrenchment within civilian infrastructure, the IDF has narrow windows of opportunity to engage “legitimate military targets,” Conricus said. However, the IDF is prepared for this scenario and recently completed its largest drill in two decades in Israel’s northern region, simulating cross-border Hezbollah attacks on Israeli towns in which the terror group aims to commit massacres and take hostages.

 

The exercise was planned over a year and half in advance and tens of thousands of soldiers from all branches of the IDF participated. During the initial stage of the drill, soldiers simulated rooting out Hezbollah terrorists from Israeli towns and defending the Jewish state’s sovereignty. The drill’s second stage simulated “decisive maneuver warfare” into the depths of Hezbollah’s territory, Conricus said. The exercise sought to enhance “coordination and synchronization” between the IDF’s ground forces, air force, navy, intelligence and cyber units, and shorten “the intelligence cycle” from when a “target is identified to any type of munition meeting that target,” he added.

 

The IDF has acknowledged that since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah has matured from a guerilla organization to a fighting force equipped with heavy artillery, high-precision missiles and drones. The terror group also receives about $800 million a year in funding from Iran. A third of Hezbollah’s forces are currently entrenched in Syria’s ongoing civil war — becoming battle-hardened, but simultaneously overstretched, losing some 2,000 fighters in the conflict.

 

Hezbollah and Iran have established weapons factories in Lebanon that can produce powerful missiles and, according to the IDF official, “more than 120,000 rocket launchers and rockets” are positioned in southern Lebanon, “in clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.” Iran and Hezbollah are also constructing permanent military facilities in southern Syria to establish a land bridge stretching from Tehran to Beirut along Israel’s northern border.

 

According to Schanzer, this indicates the next war with Hezbollah “would likely be a two-front battle in Lebanon and Syria,” which could also include other Iranian terror proxies in the region. The IDF official confirmed, “it is definitely possible and plausible” that the Israeli military will be required to fight on more than one front, which the military is prepared for.

 

Using its “networked intelligence,” the IDF is prepared to implement “a massive precision strike…. on a scale which far exceeds the assessed growth in Hezbollah’s military [capability],” Orion said. Since 2006, Hezbollah has occasionally been given a glimpse of the “quality, scope and intimacy” of Israeli intelligence collected against it, the IDF official said, which has created a deterrence and quiet for the past 11 years. A recent purported Israeli airstrike against a Syrian chemical weapons facility Sept. 7, which occurred during the massive IDF exercise, may have served as one such glimpse into Israel’s intelligence capability directed against the terror group and its allies.

 

Israel is “far better prepared for the next war with Hezbollah” than it was in the 2006, Schanzer said. “We see now the appearance of stealth tank technology, the preparation for ground warfare and the possibility of tunnels into Israel… as well as the preparation for mass volleys of rockets launched by Hezbollah into Israel.” The Israeli Air Force has also acquired several new state-of-the-art F-35 “Adir” stealth fighter jets, and in recent weeks the military unveiled multiple revolutionary defense technologies that will soon be added to its arsenal.                                                                     

 

Contents

VICTORY, NOT DETERRENCE, WILL BE THE GOAL

IF THERE IS ANOTHER GAZA WAR

Yaakov Lappin

Arutz Sheva, Aug. 29, 2017

 

In past models of conflict, Israel responded to Hamas aggression through the use of force in a way that was designed to punish Hamas and convince it to return to a state of calm. Systematically destroying Hamas’s military capabilities was not an Israeli objective. Today, while Israel hopes to avoid war, it is preparing for the possibility of a new conflict. War could erupt again in Gaza for a wide range of reasons.

 

Should hostilities resume, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) plans to make sure the end stage of that clash will be an unmistakable Israeli victory, and that no one will be able to mistake it for a tie or stalemate. This change in approach has been brewing over the past three years, ever since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. That operation was launched by Israel to defend itself against large-scale projectile attacks and cross-border tunnel threats from Gaza. At two months’ duration, it was one of Israel’s most protracted conflicts. It was also the third large-scale clash fought with Hamas since 2009. At the end of each round of fighting, the military wing of Hamas remained intact, and was able to quickly begin rearming and preparing new capabilities for the next outbreak of hostilities.

 

Should Hamas initiate another conflict with Israel, Jerusalem should not be expected to return to the deterrence model. It will not make do with the goal of returning calm to the area, as it did in 2014, 2012, and 2009. Instead, Israel would likely seek to destroy Hamas’s military wing, including its underground labyrinth of tunnels under Gaza City, built to enable operations out of Israel’s sight. Hamas’s decision to embed many of its offensive capabilities in Gaza’s civilian areas will not immunize it to Israeli strikes. The IDF would, however, make every effort to minimize harm to noncombatants.

 

After 2014, the IDF’s Southern Command began moving away from the “frequent rounds” model, concluding that Israel should not be dragged into major armed conflicts with Hamas every two to three years. The Southern Command identified three alternatives for Israel and Gaza. Under the first, Israel would continue to experience short, temporary truces – an option deemed unacceptable. In the second scenario, Israel would conquer Gaza and topple the Hamas regime completely. In such a scenario, Israel would either rule the Strip and its two million Palestinian inhabitants or find someone who would. It is unlikely that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would take over Gaza after an Israeli “handoff.” Not only would the PA lose domestic legitimacy, but its ability to retain Gaza without IDF assistance would be in serious doubt.

 

As a result of these calculations, the defense establishment identified a long-term truce, fueled by Israeli deterrence, as the best option. That is the current situation between the combatants: a long-term truce. During the time the truce has lasted, the idea of facing two bad choices – occupying Gaza or accepting the “frequent rounds” model – has evolved. One possibility, in the event of a new conflict, is that the IDF takes out Hamas’s military wing but leaves in place its political wing and police force, thereby creating a feasible Israeli exit from Gaza that does not depend on Jerusalem’s finding new rulers for the Strip.

 

Today, three years after Operation Protective Edge, Hamas continues to rebuild itself. Its domestic arms industry is producing rockets, mortar shells, and tunnels. Tunnels under Gaza City are designed to enable Hamas battalions to launch hit-and-run attacks on the IDF and to move weapons and logistics out of Israel’s sight. The other kind of tunnel threat, the network of cross-border tunnels, is on borrowed time. Israel is building an underground wall along the 65-kilometer Gazan border, and it progresses with each passing day. Israel has invested billions of shekels in that project, and an anti-tunnel detection system is also operational.

 

Hamas is not sitting idle during the truce. It is looking for new assault tactics. It seeks to be able to flood southern Israel with short-range projectiles that can carry a warhead as big as a half-ton, which would pose a major threat to any built-up area near the Strip. Hamas can also try to paralyze central Israel with medium-range projectiles, even if these are intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. Air raid sirens and interceptions are severely disruptive for Israel even without significant projectile damage.

 

Hamas continues to work on its naval commando cells, which are designed to infiltrate Israel via the coast. It is also continuing to pursue its drone program, with which it hopes to send explosives at targets in a guided manner. Israel is well aware of these capabilities. Hamas remains a serious combat challenge, and has proven its ability to adapt to Israel’s progress. But Hamas is also under intense, unremitting Israeli intelligence surveillance. Hamas is likely aware that any new clash would involve upgraded Israeli combat capabilities that are better suited for the Gazan arena.

 

Israel has been using the truce to build up its force and study the Gazan battlefield. It is building a growing fleet of armored personnel carriers and tanks that can defend themselves with active protection systems. In Gaza, where practically every Hamas fighter is armed with an armor-piercing RPG, that kind of protection is a game changer.

 

Israel’s ability to strike Hamas’s underground city has also been enhanced significantly in recent years. Hamas will have nowhere to hide if war resumes. Hamas is likely aware that although it can pose serious challenges to the IDF and to the Israeli home front, Israel has changed its end game. For the time being, Hamas’s cost benefit analysis has led it to conclude that a lengthy truce is in its own best interest.

 

                                                                                   

Contents

ISRAEL UNVEILS NEW DEFENSE TECHNOLOGY

THAT CAN PREDICT FUTURE BATTLEFIELDS                                                                    

Anna Ahronheim

Jerusalem Post, Sept. 5, 2017

 

As the nation’s enemies continue to develop their military capabilities, Israel works to stay at least one step ahead, predicting what types of technology will be needed in future wars. “MAFAT is trying to predict the future battlefield, both in terms of threat and technologically,” Brig.-Gen. (res.) Dr. Danny Gold, head of the Defense Ministry’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (MAFAT), said on Monday during a briefing for military correspondents at the Kirya army headquarters in Tel Aviv.

 

MAFAT, which works with the IDF and civilian companies and engages in extensive cooperation with many countries around the world, is critical in providing the technology that make it possible for the IDF to outflank its enemies in all areas. Gold outlined several systems expected to be used by the IDF, including advanced facial-recognition technology, an armed, lightweight quadcopter developed by an Israeli start-up company and a new armored fighting vehicle.

 

Drawing lessons from 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, where IDF soldiers fought in narrow streets and alleys in the Gaza Strip, the 35-ton, tracked AVF is designed to be simple to operate, relatively inexpensive, agile and lethal with firepower designed for close and urban combat. The AFV, called Carmel (a Hebrew acronym for Advanced Ground Combat Vehicle), is under development by MAFAT and the Defense Ministry’s Merkava Tank Administration and will “constitute a quantum leap” in the field of armored vehicles, Gold said.

 

As part of the multi-year project, breakthrough technologies are being developed for the Carmel, including modular transparent armor, next-generation cooperative active protection, an IED alert and neutralization system, and a hybrid engine. While MAFAT expects the development and demonstration testing of the Carmel to extend over the coming decade or more, the first stage of the development plan is proof of its feasibility, Gold said. Israel is staying one step ahead of her enemies such as Iran and other countries that have “dramatically improved” their military capabilities, he said.

 

Gold, who took up his post last year, added that even beyond the Islamic Republic, there has been an expansion of the threats facing Israel, including the continued transfer of advanced weapons to the Middle East, the increase in the intensity and accuracy of firepower by enemy states and sub-state groups, and threats in the cyber domain. “We want total protection and intelligence control in cyberspace,” Gold said, explaining that the use of advanced cameras and other technological advancements were of significant help in the early prevention of terrorist attacks during the recent wave of Palestinian violence in the West Bank.

 

MAFAT is investing significant effort and funds into safeguarding the borders from existing and future threats, be they from missiles or drones, cyberattacks, and threats from underwater and underground, he said. One project currently in the works to protect Israel from naval threats are two unmanned submarines. One, named Caesar, is a small submarine that would be used primarily for reconnaissance and mapping missions. Developed in cooperation with Ben-Gurion University, the Caesar is at the forefront of global technology, characterized by its ability to dive rapidly and almost vertically.

 

“What do we need to have in order to be ahead of our enemy? It’s very complicated to think ahead of time how each solution will fit everything,” Gold said, explaining that Israel need robustness and flexibility in all defense systems in order to locate and eliminate any and all possible targets. “For example, the threat posed by precision missiles, it was clear to me that 10 years ago this type of threat would eventuate,” Gold said. Another system developed with the help of MAFAT is the Barak-8 radar, which has since been sold for billions of dollars to international clients. “This was built on the technology that we invested in when no one else believed in it,” he said.                            

 

Contents

 

ISRAEL HAS A PLAYBOOK FOR DEALING WITH NORTH KOREA                                                               

Zev Chafets       

Bloomberg, Sept. 7, 2017

 

Israel and North Korea are on opposite sides of the Asian landmass, separated by 5,000 miles as the ICBM flies. But Israelis feels close to the nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang. They have faced this sort of crisis before, and may again.

 

Some history: In the mid-1970s, it became clear to Israel that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was working on acquiring nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. Saddam had already demonstrated an uninhibited brutality in dealing with his internal enemies and his neighbors. He aspired to be the leader of the Arab world. Defeating Israel was at the top of his to-do list. After coming to office in 1977, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin tried to convince the U.S. and Europe that Saddam was a clear and present danger to the Jewish state, and that action had to be taken. Begin was not taken seriously.

 

But Begin was serious, and in 1981 he decided that Israel would have to stop the Iraqi dictator all by itself. His political opponents, led by the estimable Shimon Peres, considered this to be dangerous folly. Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, the legendary former military chief of staff, voted against unilateral action on the grounds that it would hurt Israel’s international standing. Defense Minister Ezer Weizmann, the former head of the air force (and Dayan’s brother-in-law) was also against a military option. He thought the mission would be unacceptably risky. Begin had no military expertise. But his family had been wiped out in the Holocaust. He looked at Saddam, who was openly threating Israel, and saw Hitler. To Begin, sitting around hoping for the best was not a strategy; it was an invitation to aggression. If there was going to be a cost — political, diplomatic, military — better to pay before, not after, the Iraqis had the bomb.

 

In the summer of 1981, Begin gave the order. The Israeli air force destroyed the Osirak reactor. The United Nations Security Council condemned the attack. The Europeans went bonkers. The New York Times called it “inexcusable.” But the Israeli prime minister wasn’t looking to be excused by the Times or the Europeans or even the usually friendly Ronald Reagan administration. He enunciated a simple rationale that would come to be known as the Begin Doctrine: Israel will not allow its avowed enemies to obtain the means of its destruction. The wisdom of this doctrine became clear a decade later, during the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein made good on his threat to fire Russian-made SCUD missiles at Israeli cities. The SCUDs landed, and caused some damage and a fair amount of panic, but they were not armed with unconventional warheads. Israel had taken that option off the table.

 

Similarly, in 2007, Israel confirmed what it had suspected for five years: Syria, with North Korean help, was trying to build a nuclear reactor. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a Begin disciple, sent Mossad chief Meir Dagan to Washington, to ask for American intervention. The CIA chief, Michael Hayden, agreed with Israel’s contention that Damascus (with Iranian financing) was constructing the reactor. But Hayden convinced President George W. Bush that bombing the site would result in all-out war, and who wants that?

 

Acting on its own, Israel destroyed the Syrian site (reportedly killing a group of North Korean experts in the process). Hayden was wrong about how Syria would react, as he later admitted. If Israel had been reasonable and listened to the CIA, Bashar al-Assad would have nuclear weapons right now. A few years later, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak spent billions of dollars preparing and training to take out the Iranian nuclear program. Barak, not a member of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud Party, explained: “There are instances where it appears it is not necessary to attack now, but you know that you won’t be able to attack later.” In such cases, he said, the “consequences of inaction are grave, and you have to act.”…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

As Syrian War Winds Down, Israel Sets Sights on Hezbollah: National Post, Sept. 20, 2017—With President Bashar Assad seemingly poised to survive the Syrian civil war, Israeli leaders are growing nervous about the intentions of his Iranian patrons and their emerging corridor of influence across the region.

Israel vs. Iran and Hezbollah: Towards a Military Clash?: Ehud Eilam, Israel Defense, Sept. 14, 2017—Since 1979, Israel and Iran have been in a state of cold war, a conflict which has intensified since the early 2000s with the development of Iran’s nuclear program.

Cyber Warfare — Reasons Why Israel Leads The Charge: Christopher P. Skroupa , Forbes, Sept. 7, 2017—Cyber warfare is a relatively new kind of war that transcends the typical “declaration” that previous wars have had in the past. The war never officially started, yet its investment began more than a decade ago.

‘Killer Robots’ Can Make War Less Awful: Jeremy Rabkin and John Yoo, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 2, 2017—On Aug. 20, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and dozens of other tech leaders wrote an open letter sounding the alarm about “lethal autonomous weapons,” the combination of robotics and artificial intelligence that is likely to define the battlefield of the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LESSON OF 9/11: ISLAMIC JIHAD IS THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND GLOBAL TERRORISM

How has the Face of Islamic Terrorism Changed Since 9/11?: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Sept. 11, 2017— 'Where were you on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001?' is to Millennials what 'Where were you when Kennedy was shot?' is to Baby Boomers…

Israel’s Bombing of a Weapons Factory in Syria: What Comes Next?: Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations, Sept. 10, 2017— This week Israel bombed a site in Syria, from Lebanese air space.

Where is the Middle East Headed?: Prof. Efraim Inbar, Israel Hayom, Aug. 24, 2017— Since the Middle East events of 2011 (mislabeled "the Arab Spring"), the region has been in turmoil.

If Israel Played by America's Rules, Iraq and Syria Would Have Nuclear Weapons: Zev Chafets, Washington Post, Sept. 11, 2017— Israel and North Korea are on opposite sides of the Asian landmass, separated by 5,000 miles.

 

On Topic Links

 

In Israel, a 9/11 Memorial Like No Other (Video): Breaking Israel News, Sept. 11, 2017

Israel Just Showed What a ‘Red Line’ is Really Supposed to Mean: Benny Avni, New York Post, Sept. 7, 2017

The Next Middle East War: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 7, 2017

Iran Versus Turkey, Again: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, Aug. 22, 2017

 

 

 

HOW HAS THE FACE OF ISLAMIC TERRORISM CHANGED SINCE 9/11?

Charles Bybelezer

The Media Line, Sept. 11, 2017

 

'Where were you on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001?' is to Millennials what 'Where were you when Kennedy was shot?' is to Baby Boomers; namely, questions representing moments that became etched into the nation's collective consciousness and subsequently shaped the views and experiences of a generation. On 9/11, as it would come simply to be known, Americans awoke to scenes of previously unwitnessed carnage on their home soil, as two commercial jets hijacked by al-Qaida terrorists slammed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City.

 

Less than two hours later, the massive buildings, a symbol of US ingenuity, economic might and perhaps, until then, perceived invincibility, came crashing down in a heap of shattered humanity. Concurrently, a third plane was flown into the Pentagon, the emblem of American military dominance in a unipolar world while a fourth hijacked airliner was, heroically, downed by passengers in a Pennsylvania field while en route to the White House, where the leader of the free world resides. When the dust settled and the smoke cleared, 2,997 people were dead, another 6,000 were injured and the course of history was changed forever.

 

Prior to 9/11, terrorism, while rarely crossing the mind of the average individual, was viewed by analysts mainly as a geopolitical weapon limited primarily in scope to the Middle East. There had, of course, been various remarkable attacks outside the region such as the Munich Olympic Massacre in 1972 by the Black September Palestinian group, but that targeted Israelis. The 1988 Lockerbie Bombing, which killed 259 passengers and crew aboard Pan Am Flight 103, was attributed to then-Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi and was therefore viewed foremost through the prism of Mideast turmoil.

 

But 9/11 was different. While there were political undertones, it was inarguably religiously motivated, with Osama Bin Laden making clear that Islamic jihad was the driving force behind his targeting of America. The attack also brought into stark focus a fringe subject that had otherwise been relegated to the margins of the western psyche. In response, the US launched the "War on Terror" with a full-blown invasion of Afghanistan, where al-Qaida was being harbored by the Taliban. At the time, the terror organization was highly centralized and Washington's ostensible goal was to neutralize the group's capabilities by decimating its "core."

 

Even while on the defensive, though, attacks continued in the image of the "9/11 model," with al-Qaida orchestrating the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 192 people and injured some 2,000, and the multi-pronged attack in London the following year, which killed 52 people and injured hundreds more. Other groups that had either direct ties to al-Qaida, had sworn allegiance to it or merely shared its ideology carried out major acts of terrorism targeting foreign nationals or non-Muslims in, among other places, Bali in 2002 (202 dead), Turkey in 2003 (57 dead) and Morocco that same year (45 dead).

 

By the turn of the decade, however, mass-casualty attacks had become less frequent, as western forces were largely successful in destroying al-Qaida's infrastructure in Afghanistan, while intelligence agencies became much more adept at collecting the information necessary to thwart terrorism. But while Osama and his henchmen were on the run in the far-east, an offshoot was becoming firmly entrenched in nearby Iraq. And it is there, amid the American-led war, that the nature of terrorism would change once more.

 

The Islamic State originated around the year 2000 as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which would pledge allegiance to al-Qaida before participating in the post-2003 western invasion insurgency. During the ensuing decade, the group drew support from the local Sunni population that viewed itself as being under siege while over time becoming increasingly independent. In the process, ISIS was empowered to such a degree that it was able to take over large swaths of territory and, by 2014, declare the formation of a "caliphate" — a state run according to strict, fundamental readings of Islamic law —spanning some 75,000 square kilometers across both Iraq and Syria. At its peak, ISIS comprised some 30,000 fighters (many of them recruits from the West), had an annual operating budget of an estimated $1 billion and governed up to 10 million people under its bootstrap.

 

From its base, like al-Qaida before it, ISIS was able to coordinate large-scale operations against the West, specifically in Europe, where Paris in particular was brought to its knees in November 2015, with a spectacularly brutal attack targeting multiple venues that killed 130 people. But so too, as in the case of al-Qaida, the West would strike back, with ISIS since having lost nearly 75% of its territory in Iraq and 60% in Syria as a result of an ongoing US-led military effort which includes some 70 other states…

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

 

 

Charles Bybelezer is a Former CIJR Publications Manager

 

                                                                       

Contents

ISRAEL’S BOMBING OF A WEAPONS FACTORY IN SYRIA:

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Elliott Abrams

Council on Foreign Relations, Sept. 10, 2017

 

This week Israel bombed a site in Syria, from Lebanese air space. This was the so-called Scientific Studies and Researchers Center in Masyaf, a city in central Syria, and it was hit because it is a military site where chemical weapons and precision bombs are said to be produced. Israel had made clear in a series of statements in the last six months that such a facility in Syria producing such weapons for use by Hezbollah against Israel would not be tolerated.

 

I was reminded of 2007 and 2008, when Israeli officials repeatedly told me and other American officials that the rocketing of Israel by Hamas in Gaza was intolerable. If it does not stop, they said, an operation is inevitable. They meant it, and the result was Operation Cast Lead, which began on December 27, 2008. We in the Bush administration had been given fair warning.

 

Today again, Israel has given the United States fair warning that there are limits to what Israel will tolerate in Iranian conduct and the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has long intervened, perhaps 100 times over the years, to stop advanced weaponry from being transferred by Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Those were moving targets: caravans of trucks carrying such weaponry. But this week there was a stationary target, and I imagine the decision to fire from Lebanese air space was also a message—to Iran, Syria, and Lebanon.

 

On August 23, Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The goal, I believe, was to tell Putin certain actions by Iran in Syria would be intolerable, and to ask him to restrain Iran—his ally in Syria. Putin’s reply was negative. In effect, he told Netanyahu “I’m not restraining you and I’m not restraining them. Not my job. Take care of your own security.” Having learned that there would be no help from that quarter, the Israelis acted. The Russians seem not to object: Netanyahu is doing what he said he would do, and what Putin would do in a similar situation.

 

Israel is also acting in part because the United States does not seem willing to restrain Iran in any serious way in Syria. We are doing less, not more, while the Assad regime’s forces and Iran’s gain ground. Some news stories have suggested that war between Hezbollah and Israel is very likely now. In my view, the chances may have risen but I do not see why it is in Hezbollah’s interest to start such a war now. They are deeply involved in Syria, and they—and Iran—appear to be gaining ground steadily. Why start a war that may well involve Syria as well, with unpredictable effects on the conflict there? Why not continue making gains in Syria, and consolidate those gains?

 

Bottom line: Israel is protecting its security, exactly as it has been telling the world it would. Israel’s strategic situation has been seriously damaged in the last several years because there is now an Iranian presence in Syria. The Israelis are not going to go into Syria and try to drive Iran, the Shia militias, and Hezbollah out, but they are trying to establish some limits to acceptable Iranian behavior.

 

In my view this ought to be part of U.S. policy in the region as well. We do appear to have taken control of the Bab el Mandab strait leading to the Suez Canal, making it clear that Iran would not be permitted to threaten shipping there (on the seas or via missiles supplied to Houthi rebels in Yemen). We have not stopped Iran from threatening our ships in the Gulf. Candidate Trump said a year ago that “by the way, with Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures that our people — that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water,” but Iran has continued to do this after a brief pause right after Trump’s inauguration. And the administration has not clarified its policies in Iraq and Syria when it comes to limiting Iran’s provocative and aggressive behavior.

 

What lies ahead is unclear because we cannot predict whether Iran will decide that the limits Israel is imposing are acceptable. Iran could well conclude that it does not absolutely need to have factories producing precision weapons in Syria. Iran can continue as it has for years producing such weapons in Iran and trying to move them to Hezbollah by land or sea. What would be useful at this point, it seems to me, is a statement by the United States that we approve of the action Israel took, and that in the event of a conflict Israel would have our support in defending itself—for example by allowing the Israelis to have access to the stocks of weapons that we store in Israel. This is the billion-dollar stockpile of ammunition, vehicles, and missiles in the “War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel.” Such a statement might, like the Israeli bombing of the weapons factory in Syria, help persuade Iran and Syria to observe the limits Israel is imposing, and might help avoid a wider conflict.

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

 

 

Contents

 

WHERE IS THE MIDDLE EAST HEADED?                            

Prof. Efraim Inbar       

Israel Hayom, Aug. 24, 2017

 

Since the Middle East events of 2011 (mislabeled "the Arab Spring"), the region has been in turmoil. The inability of the Arab statist structures to overcome domestic cleavages became very clear. Even before 2011, Lebanon, Iraq, Somalia, as well as the Palestinian Authority failed to hold together. After 2011, Syria and Yemen descended into a state of civil war. Similarly, Egypt underwent a political crisis, allowing for the emergence of an Islamist regime. It took a year for a military coup to restore the praetorian ancient regime. All Arab republican regimes were under stress. While the monarchies weathered the political storm, their future stability is not guaranteed.

 

Growing Islamist influence put additional pressure on the Arab states. The quick rise of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq was the most dramatic expression of this phenomenon that spread beyond the borders of the Middle East. Despite its expected military defeat, the ideology behind the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and variants of radical Islam remain resonant in many Muslim quarters. Therefore, the pockets containing ISIS and al-Qaida followers, as well as the stronger Muslim Brotherhood are likely to continue to challenge peace and stability in the Middle East and elsewhere.

 

The Sunni-Shiite divide, a constant feature of Middle Eastern politics, has become more dominant as Iran becomes increasingly feared. The 2015 nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) between Iran and world powers has been generally viewed in the Middle East as an Iranian (Shiite, Persian) diplomatic victory. Shiite-dominated Iraq (excluding the Kurdish region) turned into an Iranian satellite as well, while the military involvement of Iran and its proxies on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria appears to achieve the completion of a Shiite corridor from Iran to the Mediterranean. Iran continues its long-range missile program unabated and makes progress even in the nuclear arena within the limits of the flawed JCPOA. Its proxies rule Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, and Sanaa, signaling increasing Iranian clout.

 

In contrast, the Sunni powers display weakness. Saudi Arabia (together with Sunni Turkey) failed to dislodge Assad, Iran's ally, in Syria. Saudi Arabian Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman‎ pushed Saudi Arabia into a more muscular posture, but failed to win the civil war in Yemen — its backyard. Moreover, Riyadh has not been successful so far in strong-arming its small neighbor Qatar into dropping its pro-Islamist and pro-Iranian policies.

 

Egypt is an important Arab Sunni state in the moderate camp. Yet the traditional weight it has carried in the Arab world is lighter nowadays, primarily because of its immense economic troubles. Providing food for the Egyptian people is Cairo's first priority. At the same time, Cairo is fighting an Islamist insurgence at home. This situation, which leaves little energy for regional endeavors, is hardly going to change any time soon.

 

Israel is an informal member of the moderate Sunni camp since it shares its main concern — the Iranian quest for hegemony in the region. While powerful and ready to use force when necessary, Israel, under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is reluctant to interfere beyond its borders. This prudent approach is based on the understanding that Israel, a small state endowed with limited resources, lacks the capacity for political engineering in the Middle East. A growing Iranian presence near Israel's borders and the reestablishment of an eastern front might become a serious military challenge.

 

The disengagement of the U.S. from the Middle East, accentuated by the foreign policy of then-President Barak Obama, continues. Under Obama, the attempts to engage Syria and Iran were generally viewed as weakness, perceptions that were reinforced by the signing of the JCPOA with Iran. The obsessive campaign to defeat ISIS, started by Obama and continued by President Donald Trump, primarily helped Iranian schemes. The new Trump administration has failed so far to formulate a coherent approach to the Middle East. Moreover, the gradual erosion in the U.S. capability to project force into the region amplifies the sense that America has lost the ability to play a role in regional politics. The vacuum created by American feebleness has been filled to some extent by the Russians. The Russian military intervention in the Syrian civil war saved the Assad regime from defeat. It constrained Turkey's involvement in Syria and helped Iranian encroachment in the region.

 

We also see growing Chinese interest. The ambitious One Belt One Road infrastructure project tries to tie the Middle East to Chinese economic and political endeavors. China inaugurated its first overseas naval base in Djibouti in July 2017. Located astride a crucial maritime choke point, the military installation is symbolic of its growing confidence as an emerging global power, capable of projecting military force and directly protecting its interests in the Middle East, Africa and the western Indian Ocean. Yet extra-regional powers can hardly change the political dynamics in the region. The regional forces are usually decisive in determining political outcomes. Moreover, Middle East history provides many examples of external actors being manipulated by regional powers for their own schemes…

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

 

Contents

IF ISRAEL PLAYED BY AMERICA'S RULES, IRAQ AND SYRIA WOULD HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS                           

Zev Chafets

                                                 Washington Post, Sept. 11, 2017

 

Israel and North Korea are on opposite sides of the Asian landmass, separated by 5,000 miles. But Israelis feels close to the nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang. They have faced this sort of crisis before, and may again.

 

In the mid-1970s, it became clear to Israel that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was working on acquiring nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. Saddam had already demonstrated an uninhibited brutality in dealing with his internal enemies and his neighbours. He aspired to be the leader of the Arab world. Defeating Israel was at the top of his to-do list. After coming to office in 1977, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin tried to convince the U.S. and Europe that Saddam was a clear and present danger to the Jewish state, and that action had to be taken. Begin was not taken seriously.

 

But Begin was serious, and in 1981 he decided that Israel would have to stop the Iraqi dictator all by itself. His political opponents, led by the estimable Shimon Peres, considered this to be dangerous folly. Foreign minister Moshe Dayan, the legendary former military chief of staff, voted against unilateral action on the grounds that it would hurt Israel’s international standing. Defense minister Ezer Weizmann, the former head of the air force (and Dayan’s brother-in-law) was also against a military option. He thought the mission would be unacceptably risky. Begin had no military expertise. But his family had been wiped out in the Holocaust. He looked at Saddam, who was openly threatening Israel, and saw Hitler. To Begin, sitting around hoping for the best was not a strategy; it was an invitation to aggression. If there was going to be a cost—political, diplomatic, military—better to pay before, not after, the Iraqis had the bomb.

 

In the summer of 1981, Begin gave the order. The Israeli air force destroyed the Osirak reactor. The United Nations Security Council condemned the attack. The Europeans went bonkers. The New York Times called it “inexcusable.” But the Israeli prime minister wasn’t looking to be excused by the Times or the Europeans or even the usually friendly Ronald Reagan administration. He enunciated a simple rationale that would come to be known as the Begin Doctrine: Israel will not allow its avowed enemies to obtain the means of its destruction. The wisdom of this doctrine became clear a decade later, during the Gulf War, when Saddam made good on his threat to fire Russian-made SCUD missiles at Israeli cities. The SCUDs landed, and caused some damage and a fair amount of panic, but they were not armed with unconventional warheads. Israel had taken that option off the table.

 

Similarly, in 2007, Israel confirmed what it had suspected for five years: Syria, with North Korean help, was trying to build a nuclear reactor. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a Begin disciple, sent Mossad chief Meir Dagan to Washington, to ask for American intervention. The CIA chief, Michael Hayden, agreed with Israel’s contention that Damascus (with Iranian financing) was constructing the reactor. But Hayden convinced President George W. Bush that bombing the site would result in all-out war, and who wants that?

 

Acting on its own, Israel destroyed the Syrian site (reportedly killing a group of North Korean experts in the process). Hayden was wrong about how Syria would react, as he later admitted. If Israel had been reasonable and listened to the CIA, Bashar al-Assad would have nuclear weapons right now. A few years later, Prime Minister Netanyahu and then-defence minister Ehud Barak spent billions of dollars preparing and training to take out the Iranian nuclear program. Barak, not a member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party, explained, “There are instances where it appears it is not necessary to attack now, but you know that you won’t be able to attack later.” In such cases, he said, the “consequences of inaction are grave, and you have to act.”

 

Israel was prevented from kinetic action by the Barack Obama administration, which along with five other powers cut a deal with Iran in 2015—over Israel’s vociferous objections. Netanyahu warned that the deal was full of loopholes; it would allow Iran to hide its nuclear program and continue building new means of delivery. This was confirmed in 2016 when Iran tested a new missile. “The reason we designed our missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometres,” Iranian Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said, “is to be able to hit our enemy the Zionist regime from a safe distance.”…

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

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

In Israel, a 9/11 Memorial Like No Other (Video): Breaking Israel News, Sept. 11, 2017—Israel’s moving 9/11 memorial, created with remains from the Twin Towers and shaped into an American flag flickering like a flame in the wind, is the only one outside of the US with the name of every victim listed on it. Israel remembers.

Israel Just Showed What a ‘Red Line’ is Really Supposed to Mean: Benny Avni, New York Post, Sept. 7, 2017—A red line’s a red line. That was Israel’s message Wednesday, when it struck a major Syrian arms facility from the air.

The Next Middle East War: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 7, 2017 —Israel launched airstrikes on a military compound in Syria on Thursday, and the bombing should alert the Trump Administration as much as the Syrians. They carry a warning about the next war in the Middle East that could draw in the U.S.

Iran Versus Turkey, Again: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, Aug. 22, 2017—News that Iran’s and Turkey’s governments reached an accord on Idlib, a Syrian town now the focus of American interests, brings relations between the two of the largest and most influential states in the Middle East momentarily out of the shadows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SYRIA CEASE-FIRE HOLDS; M.E. PLAYERS COMPETE FOR CONTROL OF POST-I.S. LANDSCAPE

Who Wins and Loses From Syrian Ceasefire Deal?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, July 9, 2017— A cease-fire went into effect on Sunday in southern Syria along the border with Israel and Jordan that covers the provinces of Deraa, Quneitra and Suweida.

America Needs a Post-ISIS Strategy: John R. Bolton, Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2017— The headlines out of Syria are eye-catching: There are signs the Assad government may be planning another chemical attack.

Kurdistan: From Referendum to the Road to Independence: Dr. Edy Cohen, BESA, June 24, 2017— After WWI, the victorious powers promised independence for the Kurds.

Mosul Is Liberated—But Not Yet Free: Bernard-Henri Lévy, Tablet, July 11, 2017 — There are joyous liberations.

 

On Topic Links

 

How Long Will the Southern Syria Ceasefire Last?: Elizabeth Tsurkov, Jerusalem Post, July 10, 2017

Israel a Key Player in Syria Ceasefire Deal: Alex Fishman, Ynet, July 9, 2017

Despite Ceasefire Deal, Iranian Stronghold in Syrian Golan Still Possible: Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet, July 9, 2017

After the Defeat of ISIS in Mosul, Iran Prepares for Regional Domination: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, July 13, 2017

 

WHO WINS AND LOSES FROM SYRIAN CEASEFIRE DEAL?

                             Seth J. Frantzman

                                                  Jerusalem Post, July 9, 2017

 

A cease-fire went into effect on Sunday in southern Syria along the border with Israel and Jordan that covers the provinces of Deraa, Quneitra and Suweida. US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster provided the usual boilerplate reasons behind American support for the move, saying the United States is committed to “helping to end the conflict in Syria,” and that this agreement would be an “important step toward common goals.”

 

The deal is unique in that it was signed by the US, Jordan and Russia and came amidst G20 talks in Hamburg. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the cease-fire as relating to the “de-escalation zones” that had been agreed to in Astana in May. The cease-fire in southwest Syria shows that Russia and the US are capable of working together in Syria – at least for the moment. After the Astana talks in May, Syria rejected US monitoring of the four “de-escalation zones” around Idlib, Homs, East Ghouta in Damascus and southern Syria.

 

Hamidreza Azizi, an assistant professor at Shahid Beheshti University in Iran, wrote in the Middle East journal Al-Monitor on May 24 that Iran supported the de-escalation zones to enhance its prestige because doing so would bring Tehran and Moscow closer together. Turkey’s Syrian rebel allies were outraged at Iran’s participation in Astana. Today we see the fruits of that outrage in this separate deal. It also represents the US “buying in” to southern Syria, where the US already has interests at its base in al-Tanf and in supporting Israel’s concerns in the Golan. The US won’t work with Iran, but it can work with Moscow.

 

Jordan has emerged as a key US ally in all of this. The king of Jordan was in Washington for his third visit with Trump administration officials, according to reports, in the last days of June. In March, Abdullah II told Trump that Jordan wanted an end to the conflict in Syria, according to a White House statement on the meeting. The June visit came as fighting flared along the Golan Heights border with Syria. On July 6, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly phoned Trump in Europe to discuss ramifications of the cease-fire. This comes amidst Israel’s warnings against Iran’s and Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon and Syria.

 

Israel can’t be a signatory on the cease-fire memorandum, for obvious reasons, since countries involved with the Syrian civil war would reject official Israeli involvement, and Israel doesn’t want to be officially involved. But Jordan and Israel’s security interests in southern Jordan dovetail, and Jordan was a key player in this deal. “We’ll continue working with US and Russia to ensure success of cease-fire deal in south Syria and final de-escalation area plan,” tweeted Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on July 7. The goal is a comprehensive cease-fire “and political solution accepted by Syrians that safeguards integrity, independence and sovereignty of Syria,” he wrote.

 

So who wins and loses in the latest cease-fire? Jordan is the big winner. The kingdom has forged a unique bond with Trump’s administration, which listens to Amman. It was an observer at the Astana talks on July 4-5, but appears to have been working the whole time on a separate cease-fire for the south with the US and Putin. For Jordan, the situation in southern Syria is key to security. It wants the million Syrian refugees who have fled to return to their homes – only peace and cease-fires can achieve that.

 

The Syrian rebels of the Southern Front also seem to be winners. They distrust Iran’s role at Astana, and Jordan is their lifeline for humanitarian aid and other supplies. Also, Jordan and the US likely want to eradicate an ISIS pocket bordering the southern Golan. Air strikes there last month killed two ISIS leaders. The US is a winner if the cease-fire works because it shows that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump can accomplish something on the ground. Putin and Trump have a complex relationship because of accusations of Russian meddling in the US elections. Any kind of official success they can have at achieving peace in Syria might change the conversation and show Trump’s Putin relationship to bear positive fruit.

 

For Israel, this is a test of who guarantees the cease-fire and whether there is an opening to move Iran away from the Russia-Syria access. Weakening Iran’s role in Syria, and therefore Hezbollah’s role, would make Jerusalem less concerned. It could also cause Hezbollah to lash out to sink the cease-fire. Turkey is also making noises about the Kurds in northern Syria, which could cause a crisis. The US and Russia have invested in this cease-fire; if it works, it could prove Tillerson’s July 8 comment about “other areas where we can work together” prescient. That would mean the Syrian civil war is turning a new corner. But six years teaches us not to be so hopeful.                                              

 

Contents  

             

AMERICA NEEDS A POST-ISIS STRATEGY

John R. Bolton

Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2017

 

The headlines out of Syria are eye-catching: There are signs the Assad government may be planning another chemical attack. American pilots have struck forces threatening our allies and shot down a Syrian plane and Iranian-made drones. The probability of direct military confrontation between the U.S. and Russia has risen. Yet the coverage of these incidents and the tactical responses that have been suggested obscure the broader story: The slow-moving campaign against Islamic State is finally nearing its conclusion — yet major, long-range strategic issues remain unresolved.

 

The real issue isn't tactical. It is instead the lack of American strategic thinking about the Middle East after Islamic State. Its defeat will leave a regional political vacuum that must be filled somehow. Instead of reflexively repeating President Obama's errors, the Trump administration should undertake an "agonizing reappraisal," in the style of John Foster Dulles, to avoid squandering the victory on the ground.

 

First, the U.S. ought to abandon or substantially reduce its military support for Iraq's current government. Despite retaining a tripartite veneer of Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs, the capital is dominated by Shiites loyal to Iran. Today Iraq resembles Eastern Europe in the late 1940s, as the Soviet anaconda tightened its hold. Extending Baghdad's political and military control into areas retaken from ISIS simply advances Tehran's power. This cannot be in America's interest.

 

Iraq's Kurds have de facto independence and are on the verge of declaring it de jure. They fight ISIS to facilitate the creation of a greater Kurdistan. Nonetheless, the Kurds, especially in Syria and Turkey, are hardly monolithic. Not all see the U.S. favorably. In Syria, Kurdish forces fighting ISIS are linked to the Marxist PKK in Turkey. They pose a real threat to Turkey's territorial integrity, even if it may seem less troubling now that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plans have turned so profoundly contrary to the secular, Western-oriented vision of Kemal Atatürk.

 

Second, the U.S. should press Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf monarchies for more troops and material assistance in fighting ISIS. America has carried too much of the burden for too long in trying to forge Syria's opposition into an effective force. Yet even today the opposition could charitably be called "diverse." It includes undeniably terrorist elements that are often hard to distinguish from the "moderates" the U.S. supports. Getting fresh contributions from Arab allies would rebalance the opposition, which is especially critical if the U.S. turns away, as it should, from reliance on the Iraqi forces dominated by Tehran.

 

Third, the Trump administration must take a clear-eyed view of Russia's intervention. The Syrian mixing bowl is where confrontation between American and Russian forces looms. Why is Russia active in this conflict? Because it is aiding its allies: Syria's President Bashar Assad and Iran's ayatollahs. Undeniably, Russia is on the wrong side. But Mr. Obama, blind to reality, believed Washington and Moscow shared a common interest in easing the Assad regime out of power. The Trump administration's new thinking should be oriented toward a clear objective: pushing back these Iranian and Russian gains.

 

Start with Iran. Tehran is trying to cement an arc of control from its own territory, through Baghdad-controlled Iraq and Mr. Assad's Syria, to Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon. This would set the stage for the region's next potential conflict: Iran's Shiite coalition versus a Saudi-led Sunni alliance. The U.S.-led coalition, enhanced as suggested above, needs to thwart Iran's ambitions as ISIS falls. Securing increased forces and financial backing from the regional Arab governments is essential. Their stakes are as high as ours — despite the contretemps between Qatar and Saudi Arabia (and others) — but their participation has lagged. The U.S. has mistakenly filled the gap with Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias.

 

Washington is kidding itself to think Sunnis will meekly accept rule by Iraq's Shiite-dominated government or Syria's Alawite regime. Simply restoring today's governments in Baghdad and Damascus to their post-World War I boundaries would guarantee renewed support for terrorism and future conflict. I have previously suggested creating a new, secular, demographically Sunni state from territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria. There may well be other solutions, but pining for borders demarcated by Europeans nearly a century ago is not one of them.

 

At the same time, the U.S. must begin rolling back Russia's renewed presence and influence in the Middle East. Russia has a new air base at Latakia, Syria, is involved in combat operations, and issues diktats about where American warplanes in the region may fly. For all the allegations about Donald Trump and Russia, the president truly in thrall to Moscow seems to have been Mr. Obama…

 

Russia's interference, particularly its axis with Mr. Assad and Tehran's mullahs, critically threatens the interests of the U.S., Israel and our Arab friends. Mr. Assad almost certainly would have fallen by now without Russia's (and Iran's) assistance. Further, Moscow's support for Tehran shatters any claim of its truly being a partner in fighting radical Islamic terrorism, which got its modern start in Iran's 1979 revolution.

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

                                                                       

 

Contents

KURDISTAN: FROM REFERENDUM TO THE ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE

Dr. Edy Cohen

BESA, June 24, 2017

 

After WWI, the victorious powers promised independence for the Kurds. This did not materialize, however, mainly due to the opposition of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Since then, the Kurds have suffered persecution and oppression in the countries where they reside: Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. The Kurds now constitute the largest national group in the world without a state to call their own.

 

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Kurds have enjoyed a broad autonomy that has rekindled their aspiration for independence. This aspiration gained great momentum due to the considerable assistance provided by the Peshmerga, the Kurdish military militia, to the war effort against ISIS, without which the Iraqi army would not have succeeded in liberating the Mosul area from the Islamist terrorist organization. But there is a certain irony to the Iraqi victories in Kurdistan: they led to a mini-crisis between the Baghdad government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the revival of Kurdish national aspirations.

 

On this subject, it seems there has been no change in the position of the current Iraqi government in relation to that of its predecessors. According to the central government and Iraqi public figures who oppose Kurdish independence, the Kurds – like Assyrians, Yazidis, and Turkmens – are an inseparable part of Iraqi society who must not disengage from the Iraqi motherland. Moreover, harsh disputes exist between the KRG and the Iraqi government over oil ownership in Kurdistan and the reimbursement of funds demanded by the government for the sale of that oil. Unexpected support on this matter was recently received from Saudi Arabia, which sought to take revenge on Ankara for its support of Qatar.

 

As for Israel, while there is a thunderous official silence on the subject, there is no doubt that Jerusalem would support an independent Kurdish state. About three years ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared Israel’s support for the establishment of such a state in the part of Iraq where Kurdish autonomy is today. “We must support the Kurds’ aspirations for independence; they deserve it,” Netanyahu declared in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

 

This statement received a harsh response from Nuri al-Maliki, former prime minister of Iraq (2006-14), who repeatedly told the media pejoratively that Kurdistan would be a “second Israel.” When Israeli reporters arrived in Iraq to cover the war on ISIS, Maliki did not hide his anger. Many other Iraqi leaders besides Maliki accuse the president of the Kurdish autonomous region, Massoud Barzani, of collaborating with Israel, thereby hinting at the military assistance given by Israel in the 1960s and 1970s to the Kurds under the leadership of Mustafa Barzani (Massoud’s father) in their war against the central government.

 

Few countries support a referendum and the granting of independence to the Kurdish people in their state. The Kurdish region, which has no sea outlet and is surrounded by enemies, shares a border with Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. These countries, especially Iran and Turkey, all strongly oppose the establishment of a Kurdish state. They fear, like Maliki, that Kurdistan – which has managed to build a friendly island of calm and stability in an area surrounded by enemies and war – will indeed become that distasteful thing, a “second Israel.” This expression has been used extensively in recent years whenever the issue of Kurdistan’s independence has made headlines. It is entirely possible that the Iranians and the Turks will try to derail the referendum and divide the Kurdish factions.

 

For its part, Israel has an economic and security interest in supporting a Kurdish state. In view of the profusion of jihadist militias in Syria and Iraq, Jerusalem must be involved in developments in Kurdistan. It would be in Israel’s interest for the IDF to train and instruct Peshmerga soldiers in any future Kurdish state. One could go further – it might be sensible to build an air force base in Kurdistan for the state’s protection. Moreover, the independent Kurdish state may well allow the restitution of its former Jewish population, driven from Iraq for its plundered property, thus setting an important precedent for future Arab-Israeli peace agreements.

 

Beyond these vital interests, the people of Israel greatly sympathize with the just struggle of the Kurds. There are many commonalities between the Kurdish people and the Jewish people, both of whom have suffered continuous long-term persecution and are scattered throughout the world. Iran, Turkey, and the Arab states will never support the independence of Kurdistan. The Kurds must lose no time after the referendum in declaring their disengagement from Iraq and the establishment of the independent state of Kurdistan.

 

In all probability, the state of Kurdistan will be an island of stability that is respectful of human rights. It will therefore differ substantially from the countries surrounding it. The Trump administration should support the referendum and the independence of the Kurdistan region and its disengagement from Iraq, since this development is of interest to the entire region. The Kurdish people must have a state of their own, and the sooner the better. The international community should support the independence of Kurdistan, not only the establishment of a Palestinian state. Self-determination and independence should be the prerogative of all peoples, not a principle selectively applied.               

 

Contents

MOSUL IS LIBERATED—BUT NOT YET FREE

Bernard-Henri Lévy

Tablet, July 11, 2017

 

There are joyous liberations. Of Paris in 1944, for example—a liberation insurrectionary and exultant. And then there are leaden liberations: Warsaw’s in 1944; Berlin’s in 1945; and, more recently, Sarajevo’s. The liberation of Mosul obviously falls into the second category. There is a sense of relief, of course. There is, too, the elation of victory—and, for someone who experienced some of the most terrible phases of the battle from the inside, there is intense emotion.

 

But, seeing the images of survivors emerging from the city, their faces frightened and drawn from eight months in hell; viewing the field of ruin to which one of the oldest cities in the world has been reduced; reckoning up the numbers of those killed, those displaced, people from whom the Islamic State took everything while losing this war, it is hard not to feel great dismay.

 

Was it really necessary, first of all, to wait three years before deciding to act? Before launching the assault, did we have to give the enemy time to fortify its positions, to acquire sophisticated weapons, to irrigate terrorist networks abroad, to slaughter and then slaughter some more? When the evidence of horror was as manifest as it was in Mosul, could we not have taken the initiative and killed the serpent’s egg, as Ingmar Bergman urges in one of his finest films?  And what of the “Day After”? Will the coalition decide that its job is done now that it has finally managed to overcome, with its vast forces, a few thousand badly disciplined fighters who were strong only because of our weaknesses (notably our temporizing)? And will we, once more, brag “Mission Accomplished” as the stragglers from the ragtag Islamist force fall back to Hawija, Tal Afar, Raqqa … or Paris?

 

What fate will the victors reserve for the million Mosul residents, so many of whom viewed the Islamic State favorably before quickly becoming disenchanted? Will the victors treat those who remained—or who fled very late in the game—as collaborators, or will they see them instead as hostages? Is it possible that we may fail to realize that the behavior of the liberators—whether magnanimous or inspired by revenge—will determine the future face of a city that, with a little work, could be turned into a laboratory of peace and reconciliation? Who will lend themselves to that work of reconstruction, work that if done right will be a second liberation? Iraq? A state that has been in a state of chronic chaos since the fall of Saddam Hussein? Iraq alone, a state governed by Shiites, whose hate for the Sunni majority of Mosul’s population is an open secret?

 

Instead, might we not imagine, given the high stakes, that the city should come temporarily under international administration? Why not—confronted with this blank slate on which no schools, hospitals, repositories of memory, or social forums remain standing—entrust reconstruction to a pool of donor nations, global institutions, and sovereign funds, Arab and non-Arab? Is it not geopolitically critical that the former Nineveh should become again the cosmopolitan city that it has been since humans began living in cities?

 

And one last question: the Kurds. It was the Kurdish peshmerga that, in October and November 2016, opened Mosul’s gates for the Iraqis. It is they who, for two long years, held fast (as England alone resisted the Nazis until well into 1941) while the Iraqi army recovered from the rout of August 2014; it is they who held a front line 1,000 kilometers long before ultimately repelling the Islamic State. Fighters, they were, from the very start, sentinels of a free world that everywhere else was buckling under the Islamist surge. And so, the question is this: Will the world, having thanked the Kurds on the eve of the final battle, dismiss the historic role they played?

 

On Sept. 25, the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will vote in a referendum on the independence that was promised them a century ago and to which they believe more strongly than ever that they have a right. In a way, that question is addressed to the world as well; and the world will have to choose between two responses:

 

• To throw up a great hue and cry, as Ankara, Teheran, and Moscow have already done, to urge this erstwhile ally, no longer needed, to be a good little ally and to cool its heels: Let’s not add chaos to chaos, goes the argument; let’s not pour more powder into the powder keg of the area; no one needs a new state to further inflame a Middle East that is already complicated enough.

 

• Or to heed the opposing voices contending that Iraq is the factitious state, a state born from the convulsions of World War I, a colonial artifact. And to bring stability to the region nothing could be better, the counterargument continues, than to recognize a nation already endowed with solid democratic institutions, a culture of respect for non-Kurdish minorities and for women, a taste for secularism, a concern for good governance, and a sincere tilt toward the West.

 

For me, having spent two years crisscrossing these lands of strife and hope, the right answer is as clear as day. Far from destabilizing the region, the emergence of a free Kurdistan would be a potent force for stability and peace. The conclusion of the battle of Mosul challenges us all to make this heartfelt choice for justice and reason.

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

How Long Will the Southern Syria Ceasefire Last?: Elizabeth Tsurkov, Jerusalem Post, July 10, 2017—The ceasefire negotiated by the US, Russia, Jordan and reportedly Israel covering southern Syria is the latest, but not last ceasefire agreements negotiated by the foreign backers and warring parties in the Syrian civil war.

Israel a Key Player in Syria Ceasefire Deal: Alex Fishman, Ynet, July 9, 2017—Without Israeli involvement, it’s very unlikely that the ceasefire agreement in Syria would have been born.

Despite Ceasefire Deal, Iranian Stronghold in Syrian Golan Still Possible: Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet, July 9, 2017—From an Israeli perspective, the ceasefire agreement in southwestern Syria, which goes into effect at noon Sunday, is a positive development—but not positive enough.

After the Defeat of ISIS in Mosul, Iran Prepares for Regional Domination: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, July 13, 2017—When the Iraqi army liberated Mosul from ISIS this week, they were joined by the Shiite militia, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or in Arabic the Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi.  Leading the PMF is Jamal al-Ibrahim, known by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bradley Martin: Israel Is the Last Hope for Christians in the Middle East

 

 

“If Christianity [in the Middle East] survives, it will not be because of any interest taken by Christians in our part of the world, but rather because the State of Israel, the people of Israel, and conscientious Jews everywhere are dedicated to saving it,” said Dr. Paul Merkley, Professor of History at Carleton University, last week in a panel discussion at Toronto’s Beth Radom synagogue.

 

The academic conference, titled “Christian Genocide in the Middle East: Why is the World Silent?” was co-sponsored by the… the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

“In 1910, it’s estimated that Christians were 14% of the Middle Eastern population” said Dr. Frederick Krantz, Director of CIJR. “Today, they are under 4% and rapidly declining.”

 

Other figures were highlighted throughout the conference, such as how in Iraq alone, there were 1.5 million Christians until 2003. Today, that number is estimated at 275,000 with the strong likelihood that there won’t be any more of a community left within five years.

 

Much of the present-day persecution was tied to the Islamic State. National Executive Director of ICEJ Canada, Donna Holbrook, showed graphic images of the genocide of Christians currently taking place in Iraq.

 

“This mother was killed, but not before the terrorists made her watch them kill her baby,” said Holbrook, showing a horrific image of an Iraqi Christian woman murdered by ISIS terrorists.

 

Lt. Col. Sargis Sangari, Chief Executive Officer of the Near East Center for Strategic Engagement, who recently returned from Iraq, weighed in on the atrocities being committed by ISIS against Assyrian Christians. Sangari showed footage from a summer school program, whose children lost a year of schooling due to the ISIS invasion.

 

“ISIS. They are all beasts! They didn’t leave us anything in this country!” said a young Assyrian boy at the school, overwhelmed with tears as he recounted being expelled from his home. His mother was dying of cancer as a result of ISIS bombing his neighborhood.

 

While in Iraq, Sangari worked to promote unity of effort and commonality of purpose between the churches, political parties and Christian militias in Iraq, in a first-of-its kind document signed by representatives of these groups and blessed by church leaders. The agreement affirmed the signatories to work as partners to retake their historical homeland in the Nineveh Plain.

Apart from criticizing the silence of Western governments and churches in the face of this genocide, Israel was highlighted as the last hope for Christians in the region.

 

“There is a powerful irony in the fact that the last hope for Christians in the Middle East is in Israel,” said Carleton history professor Merkley. “Israel is the only polity within the entire Middle East where Christian numbers are increasing.” Merkley went on to praise the Jewish State for providing protection and aid to Ethiopian and Somalian Christians taking refuge in Israel, noting that Christians are to be found in every aspect of Israeli society such as the private sector, the government, the military, and even the Supreme Court.

 

Merkley also condemned UNESCO for their recent resolution denying Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, describing it as “utterly insane.” The panel affirmed that the Judeo-Christian values that tied Israel and Christians in the region together were under attack.

 

“It’s not the denial of genocide that is being perpetrated,” said Sangari, “but the denial of the existence of evil.…  The good is represented by the Chosen People, the Jewish people, and the principles and ideals which are an integral part of their inheritance.” Sangari would later say that it was precisely the strong commitment to these Judeo-Christian values that led to the ongoing genocide of Assyrian Christians by ISIS.

 

Sangari cited biblical texts to illustrate that the Assyrian Christians and the Jewish people were “bound together by a common inheritance of good.” Examples included Genesis 11:31, which states that Abraham came from Ur of Kaśdim, which is ancient Assyria. The Book of Jonah details how God sent the Prophet Jonah to the Ninevites to prophesy against their wickedness. Assyrian Christians to this day commemorate that event with an annual three-day fast to praise God for their deliverance from evil.

 

Sangari also cited Isaiah 19:23-25, which details how there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria with God blessing the three nations: “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”

 

Sangari advocates closer ties between Israel, Assyrian Christians, and Egyptian Copts. Apart from being a refuge for Christians within its borders, Israel was looked upon as a model for how to resolve the continuing decline of Christians throughout the Middle East.

 

An audience member asked the panel how practical such a solution could be for Assyrian and other Christians in the Nineveh Plain, considering the demographic disadvantage Christians face in the region when compared to the overwhelming Muslim majority in Iraq and throughout the region. Sangari dismissed this concern, saying that while he was in Iraq, he was privy to a force consisting of a 20,000-man Yazidi-Christian-Assyrian capability that stretches from the Nineveh Plain to the Sinjar Mountains.

 

On that note, the panel closed with Merkley quoting Luma Simms, Associate Fellow at the Philos Project.

 

“Let it always be said: In the dark age of ISIS, when desolation and despair covered the Arab world, Israel was the house of light. Like the prophet, Jonah whom God commanded to go to Nineveh and offer redemption to the Assyrians, may Israel go and redeem Assyria — redeem the Nineveh plains once again.”

 

Article Reprinted From American Spectator with Author's Permission

 

(Bradley Martin is Deputy Editor for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research

and Fellow of the Haym Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought)

 

WHILE ISLAMISTS PERSECUTE M.E. CHRISTIANS, UNESCO CONDEMNS ISRAEL FOR JERUSALEM “AGGRESSIONS”

 

UNESCO Has Cast Out Christianity: Paul Merkley, Bayview Review, Oct. 31, 2016 — The official website of UNESCO…

Hungary Opens Office for Persecuted Christians: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, Oct. 14, 2016 — The nation of Hungary recently did something that is as unprecedented as it is commonsensical and humanitarian: it “has become the first government to open an office specifically to address the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Europe.” 

Securing a Future for Religious Minorities in the Middle East: Ben Cohen, JNS, Oct. 7, 2016 — You have to wonder if the barbarians fighting under the flag of the Islamic State still believe that 72 virgins will be waiting for them in paradise once they become "martyrs."

The Palestinians’ War on the Balfour Declaration: Ruthie Blum, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 30, 2016 — Encouraged and empowered by the recent UNESCO resolution that rejects Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall…

 

On Topic Links

 

Why was Pope Francis AWOL at UNESCO vote?: Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein, Jewish Journal, Nov. 1, 2016

Embattled Christians Push for Homeland in Middle East: Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News, Sept. 13, 2016

US Must Support Safe Haven for Persecuted Christians in the Middle East: Mario Bramnick, JNS, Oct. 17, 2016

A Rabbi's Warning to U.S. Christians: Rabbi Daniel Lapin, CERC, 2007

 

UNESCO HAS CAST OUT CHRISTIANITY

Paul Merkley

                                      Bayview Review, Oct. 31, 2016

 

The official website of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) explains that the body “was created in order to respond to the firm belief of nations, forged by two world wars in less than a generation that political and economic agreements are not enough to build a lasting peace. Peace must be established on the basis of humanity’s moral and intellectual solidarity.”

 

Over the last few days, serving in the cause of humanity’s moral and intellectual solidarity, UNESCO has ground out several resolutions condemning Israel for “aggressions” throughout Jerusalem and for “illegal measures” against the freedom of worship of Muslims. In the latest of these declarations, the sites upon and around the  Temple mount are referred only by their Muslim names – which has the intended effect of erasing memory of the Temple and of any belonging of Israel and the Jews.

 

While the attention of most of the world was on the mindless subversion of the right of Jews to belong in Jerusalem, few have noticed that these declarations – not incidentally, but frontally — eradicate the grounds for acceptance of the Gospel.

The hope of the gang of dictators and Muslim absolutist that run UNESCO is that they have damaged Israel by damaging Judaism.  However that may be, there can be no doubt that their greater mandate is to cast Christianity out into utter darkness – by decree of the Parliament of Nations.

 

As expected, the historic churches of the Western world … have so far ignored these resolutions altogether – on the assumption that they are intended to weaken the Jews, who, after all, have this coming. The only writers I have discovered who have noticed the larger threat that it presents to Christian are Jews. These are Shimon Koffler Fogel (National Post, October 19, 2016,) and Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary, Oct. 2016.) What does this tell us about the theological alertness of Christian theologians?

 

Fogel notes: “The Christian Gospels explicitly record how Jesus, a practising Jew, preached in synagogues and visited the Temple in Jerusalem. To deny the presence of a Jewish Temple, a matter confirmed by independent scholarship, is to tell Christians that their Bible — and their understanding of the life of Jesus — is based on false history…From the heart of one brother to another, I urge my Christian friends: don’t be silent when those motivated by the politics of hate attempt to erase your Bible and our shared heritage.”…

 

In the immediate wake of World War, there went up a great sigh of surge of relief. Civilization had been rescued from barbarism, all the deep-thinkers said; democracy had passed its ultimate test. A spasm of idealism took hold among the intellectuals. Most of the world was still well outside the sphere of democracy and liberalism, but all would soon be inducted into a global fraternity of democracies. Champions of imperialism fell silent. Within two years, the British colonies of India and Pakistan were released to form independent nations –to be followed before long by all the other peoples that had made up the British, the French, the Italian and the Dutch empires.  The universal hope was that our civilization would set the example for the great community of self-governing community of free nations — ribs out of the side of European civilization…

 

The founding of the United Nations in 1945 was the earliest fruit of the new age of universal cooperation. But in fact over the next several years, every major issue that came before the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly immediately occasioned bitter confrontation between the two Super Powers — the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. The only exception was the decision to Partition the Palestine Mandate. A vote of two-thirds was required:  33 voted in favor 13 against. All 11 of the Muslim states were among those who voted against. Britain abstained – not her finest hour.

 

This action could not have happened except at this moment when the level of idealism was high in Western politics, following the overthrow of the Axis powers. This would not happen again until the Soviet Union itself collapsed in 1990. But there was a large and ugly worm in this apple: all Arab nations and all Muslim nations opposed the Partition decision on theological grounds. Any lands once ruled by Muslims, they screamed, can never be yielded to non-Muslims.  In the case of Palestine, this general dictum was fortified by the circumstance that the world was asking Muslims to yield to Jews!

 

The Jewish people accepted and supported the Partition – which called for the creation of an Arab (not “a Palestinian” state.) The entire Arab world, abetted by the entire Muslim world, refused—and resorted to the God of War. The decision of the Jewish people in 1947 to comply with the UN decision with regard to Partition of Palestine and the refusal of the Muslim world to do the same has brought us today to Israel’s condemnation and the triumph of the non-compliant states. Because of the total solidarity in action of all Muslim nations within the UN and the consistent collaboration with them of that minority of the others who see advantage in trading favours with the UN’s largest bloc, UNESCO has become a patient partisan of Islam.

 

A similar sad history belongs to UNESCO, founded in 1945.  A shiny product of this mood of liberal optimism, it was intended as a device for accomplishing civilization, as understood by Western people, of putting scientific discovery at service of mankind to achieve global peace and good will among men. Muslim contempt for historical fact has become absolute during the last half-century or so. Back when the British ruled over Muslims and Jews within the Mandate that it held from the League of Nations, the Supreme Moslem Council published “A Brief Guide to al-Haram al-Sharif, wherein we read: “The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.”

 

But somewhere along the way Muslims everywhere have lost the little interest that they ever had in historical fact. The current head of the Supreme Moslem Council, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, now proclaims:  “The Al-Buraq Wall [Western Wall] and its plaza are a Muslim religious property, and the Israeli government’s decisions do not affect it…The Al-Buraq Wall is part of the Al Aqsa Mosque. The Jews have no relation to it. (Al Ayam, Nov. 22, 1997) In the same spirit this imam calls for erasure of the myth of the Holocaust: “Six million Jews dead? No way, they were much fewer. Let’s stop with this fairytale exploited by Israel to capture international solidarity…” (Interview in La Republica, March 24, 2000, translated by MEMRI)…                        

 

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

Contents                                                                                                          

                                     

HUNGARY OPENS OFFICE FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS                                                     

Raymond Ibrahim                                                                                                          

Frontpage, Oct. 14, 2016

 

The nation of Hungary recently did something that is as unprecedented as it is commonsensical and humanitarian: it “has become the first government to open an office specifically to address the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Europe.” Zoltan Balog, Hungary’s Minister for Human Resources, explained: “Today, Christianity has become the most persecuted religion, where out of five people killed [for] religious reasons, four of them are Christians.  In 81 countries around the world, Christians are persecuted, and 200 million Christians live in areas where they are discriminated against. Millions of Christian lives are threatened by followers of radical religious ideologies.” “Followers of radical religious ideologies” is of course code for Muslims—they who are responsible for the overwhelming majority of Christian persecution in the world.

 

This move comes “after Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, Victor Orban, drew criticism in the EU by saying Europe should focus on helping Christians before helping millions of Muslims coming into Europe.” 

Orban explained: “If we really want to help, we should help where the real problem is.… We should first help the Christian people before Islamic people.” But do Western governments “really want to help” those suffering true persecution?  For if they did, not only would taking in “Christian people before Islamic people” be the most humane thing to do; it would also benefit Western nations as well.

 

Consider some facts: Unlike Muslims, Christian minorities are being singled out and persecuted simply because of their despised religious identity.  From a humanitarian point of view, then—and humanitarianism is the reason being cited for accepting millions of refugees—Christian refugees should receive greater priority over Muslim migrants.  Even before the Islamic State was formed, Christians were and continue to be targeted by Muslims—Muslim individuals, Muslim mobs, Muslim regimes, and Muslim terrorists, from Muslim countries of all races (Arab, African, Asian)—and for the same reason: they are infidel number one.  (See Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians for hundreds of anecdotes before the rise of ISIS as well as the Muslim doctrines that create such hate and contempt for Christians.)

 

Conversely, Muslim refugees—as opposed to the many ISIS and other jihadi sympathizers posing as “refugees”—are not fleeing religious persecution (most Muslim migrants are, like ISIS, Sunnis), but chaos created by the violent and supremacist teachings of their own religion.  Hence why when large numbers of Muslims enter Western nations—in Germany, Sweden, France, the UK—tension, crimes, rapes, and terrorism soar.    And hence why Hungarian minister Balog also said: “Our interest not only lies in the Middle East but in forms of discrimination and persecution of Christians all over the world.  It is therefore to be expected that we will keep a vigilant eye on the more subtle forms of persecutions within European borders.”

 

Indeed, what more is needed than the fact that so-called Muslim “refugees” are throwing Christians overboard during their boat voyages across the Mediterranean to Europe?  Or that Muslim majority refugee centers in Europe are essentially microcosms of Muslim majority nations: there, Christian minorities continue to be persecuted.

 

Most recently a report found that 88% of the 231 Christian refugees interviewed in Germany have suffered religiously motivated persecution in the form of insults, death threats, and sexual assaults. Some were pressured to convert to Islam.  “I really didn’t know that after coming to Germany I would be harassed because of my faith in the very same way as back in Iran,” one Christian refugee said.  “These are not isolated cases. I don’t know of any refugee shelter from Garmisch to Hamburg where we have not found such cases,” said a German authority. Is persecuting religious minorities the behavior of people who are in need of a sympathetic welcome by Europeans and Americans? Or is this behavior yet another reminder that it is non-Muslims from the Middle East who are truly in need of sanctuary?

 

Western nations should further accept Christian refugees because Western foreign policies are directly responsible for exacerbating their persecution.  Christians did not flee from Bashar Assad’s Syria, or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, or Muamar Gaddafi’s Libya.  Their systematic persecution—to the point of genocide—began only after the U.S. and other European nations interfered in those nations under the pretext of “democracy.”  All they did is unleash the jihadi forces that the dictators had long kept suppressed. Now the Islamic State is deeply embedded in all three nations, enslaving, raping, and slaughtering countless Christian “infidels” and other minorities.

 

Surely if the West is responsible for unleashing the full-blown jihad on Christians, the least it can do is put Christians on the top of its refugee list—that is, if it “really cares” about helping?  In fact, it’s the opposite: report after report has shown that in Western nations persecuted Christians are “at the bottom of the heap” of refugees to be granted asylum.  Despite the U.S. government’s acknowledgement that ISIS is committing genocide against Christians in Syria, the Obama administration has taken in 5,435 Muslims, but only 28 Christians—even though Christians are approximately 10 percent of Syria’s population; in other words, to be on the same ratio with Muslims, at least 500 Christians should’ve been granted asylum, not 28.

 

There are even some benefits in taking in Mideast Christians instead of Muslims.  Christians are easily assimilated in Western countries, due to the shared Christian heritage.  Muslims follow a completely different blueprint, Islamic law, or Sharia—which condemns and calls for constant war (jihad) against all non-Muslims, and advocates any number of distinctly anti-Western practices (female subjugation and sex slavery, death for blasphemers and apostates, etc.).   Hence it’s no surprise that many Muslim asylum seekers are anti-Western at heart—or, as the German police union chief recently said, Muslim migrants “despise our country and laugh at our justice.”…

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

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                                                                   

                      

SECURING A FUTURE FOR RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

IN THE MIDDLE EAST                                                                 

Ben Cohen                                                          

JNS, Oct. 7, 2016

 

You have to wonder if the barbarians fighting under the flag of the Islamic State still believe that 72 virgins will be waiting for them in paradise once they become "martyrs." I say this not because the leaders and foot soldiers of ISIS have suddenly woken up to the possibility that this belief is based, according to several scholars, on a mistranslation of the relevant verse of the Qu'ran; that would be expecting too much of them. I say this because they have already had a taste of that paradise here on earth, as a result of their campaign of genocide against the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq and Syria. One aspect of this horrific slaughter has been the kidnapping of thousands of Yazidi women and girls to serve as sexual slaves to these savages.

 

A recent report from the U.N. Human Rights Council – a body that spends most of its time condemning Israel for alleged human rights violations – sheds some light on both the scale and the nature of the genocide, which was ignored by the international community for far too long. The campaign against the Yazidis was launched by ISIS over two years ago, in Aug. 2014, when its forces began an assault upon the Yazidi villages in Sinjar, a district in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh. At least 5,000 Yazidis have been killed during the genocide, while 3,200 women and children remain in ISIS captivity. About 70,000, estimated to make up 15 percent of the overall Yazidi population, are reported to have fled Iraq.

 

The stories related by the U.N. report will be depressingly familiar to anyone who has studied genocide over the last century. Men and boys are either executed or forcibly converted, while women and girls exist solely for the use and pleasure of ISIS terrorists. The manner of the persecution is gruesome. "After we were captured, ISIS forced us to watch them beheading some of our Yazidi men," said one 16-year-old girl. "They made the men kneel in a line in the street, with their hands tied behind their backs. The ISIS fighters took knives and cut their throats."

 

Despite this reign of terror, the Yazidis have not been destroyed as a distinctive group. Before the ISIS attacks began, around 700,000 Yazidis are said to have lived in Iraq, the largest single concentration of the religion's followers. Kurdish in terms of their ethnicity, the Yazidi faith is described by scholars as syncretic, which means it combines elements of other religions, including Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. Based on that, it's worth noting that ISIS isn't the only Islamist group that regards the Yazidis as infidels. The theology of more mainstream Islamist groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, assigns them a similar status.

 

Presently, the main focus for the Yazidis is the rescue of their women and girls from the clutches of ISIS. Often this is done through ransom payments, involving middlemen who collect huge sums from their families – one recently reunited family paid a total of $34,000 for their two daughters – which are then paid to ISIS. After their release, both girls said they didn't expect that they would see each other again, describing their captors as "dirty and abusive," who subjected them to regular beatings. What this illustrates is the need for greater physical security for the Yazidis, as well as for other religious minorities in the region, if and when ISIS is defeated. Without that concrete measure, continued religious and ethnic conflict in the Middle East will target vulnerable minorities first and foremost…

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

 

Contents           

             

THE PALESTINIANS’ WAR ON THE BALFOUR DECLARATION                                                

Ruthie Blum                                                                                             

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 30, 2016

 

Encouraged and empowered by the recent UNESCO resolution that rejects Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, the Palestinian Authority is boasting about plans to hold a series of global events throughout the coming year to decry the establishment of the State of Israel. The purpose of the campaign, described by the Qudsnet News Agency as “massive,” is to “make the international community, and especially Britain, confront their historical responsibilities and call on them to atone for this major crime committed, and raise the issue of the historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people.”

 

The “major crime” in question is the November 2, 1917 Balfour Declaration, sent by the UK foreign secretary to Jewish community leader Walter Rothschild, to be delivered to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. “His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country,” it stated.

 

Though this was well before the term “Palestinians” – or people calling themselves “Palestinians” – even existed – distorting history is part and parcel of their effort to delegitimize Israel in any and every way possible. The UNESCO vote is but one tiny example of this practice, which is gaining momentum with the help of Western leftists. Another is the incessant cacophony about Israeli settlements constituting an “obstacle to peace.” Ironically, the very fact that all PA factions make no bones about considering the Jewish state a catastrophe worthy of annual mourning – and deserving of the slaughter of innocent Jews – does not serve to dissuade proponents of a two-state solution from their claim that new apartments in the West Bank are unnecessarily provocative.

 

On the contrary, though PA President Mahmoud Abbas said clearly that no Jews would be welcome in PA-controlled territory under any circumstances, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called attention to this blatant antisemitism, it was he who was mercilessly berated far and wide, especially by the White House and State Department. Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief “peace” negotiator, took the opportunity, as he always does, to use US criticism of Israel as a way to prove that the Jewish state was born and lives in sin. In a Washington Post op-ed last Tuesday, Erekat did this in the context of the Balfour Declaration, which he called the “symbolic beginning of the denial of our rights.” Chastising the world for not taking significant steps to end the travesty of Israel’s existence, he spewed customary lies about how the Jewish state came into being.

“The Palestinian people were violently dispossessed from their homes and exiled from their homeland in 1948, endured the occupation in 1967, only to be forced into the historic compromise recognizing the 1967 border as the borders of the state of Palestine,” he wrote, conveniently omitting the true story of Israel’s War of Independence and the Six Day War 19 years later – the assault of surrounding Arab armies on a tiny fledgling country that spent much of its time trying to come to an arrangement with those bent on its annihilation.

 

Erekat’s piece was in keeping with Abbas’ announcement in July that the PA was going to file a lawsuit against Britain for the Balfour Declaration. This was conveyed in July by PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki to the Arab League Summit in Mauritania, which Abbas was unable to attend due to the death of his brother. In spite of the fact that Omar Abbas had been treated for cancer at a Tel Aviv hospital – along with the family members of many top figures in Fatah and Hamas – the PA leader was going ahead with his litigation against the UK over the 100-year-old document, “after which hundreds of thousands of Jews arrived from Europe and other places in Palestine at the expense of our people.” With such a blatant admission of its actual position on Jewish statehood – going so far as to wage war on the Balfour Declaration – the PA should be treated with the disdain and derision it deserves.

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

On Topic Links

 

Why was Pope Francis AWOL at UNESCO vote?: Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein, Jewish Journal, Nov. 1, 2016—The actions of the Arab-led coalition that pushed through the UNESCO resolution on the Temple Mount were despicable but expected. The silence of the Catholic Church was cowardly, unpredictable, and disappointing.

Embattled Christians Push for Homeland in Middle East: Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News, Sept. 13, 2016—Christians driven from their ancestral homelands and persecuted by Islamist terrorists are pressing for an autonomous region of their own if the dust of Middle East violence ever settles.

US Must Support Safe Haven for Persecuted Christians in the Middle East: Mario Bramnick, JNS, Oct. 17, 2016 —Great suffering is occurring in Iraq and Syria. The region is ravaged by terror. Millions have been forced from their homes. Christians and other ethno-religious minorities have suffered genocide at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS). The shutting down of U.S. military operations in Iraq created political instability that left a power vacuum filled by terror groups bent on destroying Western civilization. ISIS has forced millions of Iraqis and Syrians from their homes destabilizing the surrounding nations and exporting the problems of the Middle East to Europe.

A Rabbi's Warning to U.S. Christians: Rabbi Daniel Lapin, CERC, 2007—During the 1930s, Winston Churchill desperately tried to persuade the English people and their government to see that Hitler meant to end their way of life. The British ignored Churchill, which gave Hitler nearly 10 years to build up his military forces. It wasn't until Hitler actually drew blood that the British realized they had a war on their hands. It turned out to be a far longer and more destructive war than it needed to be had Churchill's early warning been heeded.

 

 

 

 

DESPOTIC, ISLAMIST ERDOGAN FIGHTS INTERNAL POLITICAL OPPONANTS, & EXTERNAL WARS IN IRAQ & SYRIA

 

Turkey: Erdogan's Galloping Despotism: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 2, 2016 — Both fascism and communism exercised a large influence on the Arab "Baathist" ideology…

Turkey’s Wars: Shoshana Bryen, Breaking Israel News, Oct. 30, 2016 — Turkish air and ground forces are attacking northern Syria. 

Turkey’s Rogue Aggression Helps ISIS — and Threatens Wider War: Editorial, New York Post, Oct. 29, 2016 — Washington is recruiting in Syria for an offensive against Raqqa, the capital of the self-styled Islamic State.

Turkey à la Carte – Stretching the Boundaries: Editorial, Globe & Mail, Oct. 28, 2016  — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has a couple of times recently complained that Turkey didn’t end up with enough territory when its borders were settled at the end of the First World War, specifically in the Treaty of Lausanne.

Jews Die, Turks Celebrate: Robert Jones, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 1, 2016— Two important Jew have lost their lives lately: Shimon Peres, the ninth President of Israel, and Ishak Alaton, a Jewish businessman from Turkey.

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkey’s New Maps Are Reclaiming the Ottoman Empire: Nick Danforth, Foreign Policy, Oct. 23, 2016

Erdogan’s Academics: Middle East Studies Scholars Shill For A Tyrant: A.J. Caschetta, Daily Caller, Oct. 28, 2016

The Politics of the Battle for Mosul: Melik Kaylan, World Affairs, Oct. 24, 2016

Why Turkey’s Jewish Population Continues to Decline: Robert Jones, Algemeiner, Oct. 30, 2016

 

 

TURKEY: ERDOGAN'S GALLOPING DESPOTISM

Burak Bekdil                                                                

Gatestone Institute, Nov. 2, 2016

 

Both fascism and communism exercised a large influence on the Arab "Baathist" ideology — "resurrection" in Arabic, and which started as a nationalist, Sunni Arab movement to combat Western colonial rule and to promote modernization. In Iraq, the despotic Baathist regime survived 35 years, largely under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. In Syria, it is still struggling under the tyranny of President Bashar al-Assad. These days a non-Arab, but Islamist version of the Baathist ideology is flourishing in an otherwise unlikely country: candidate for membership in the European Union (EU), Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's increasing authoritarianism is killing Turkey's already slim chances of finding itself a place in the world's more civilized clubs and turning the country more and more into a "Baathist" regime.

 

In 2004 Erdogan's government abolished the death penalty as part of his ambitions at the time to join the EU. Twelve years later, on Oct. 29, 2016, Erdogan addressed fans of his party, and said he would ratify a bill reinstating capital punishment once it passed in parliament despite objections it might spark in the West. He said: "Soon, our government will bring (the bill) to parliament … It's what the people say that matters, not what the West thinks".

 

EU officials had warned in July that such a move would kill Turkey's accession process. If Turkey reintroduces the death penalty, said Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief, it will not be joining the European Union. "Let me be very clear on one thing," she said, "… No country can become an EU member state if it introduces [the] death penalty." On October 30, Europe once again warned Turkey. "Executing the death penalty is incompatible with membership of the Council of Europe," the 47-member organization, which includes Turkey, tweeted.

 

The potential re-introduction of the death penalty is not the only "Baathist" signal Erdogan's Turkey is making. A court in the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakir arrested Gulten Kisanak and Firat Anli, the Kurdish co-mayors, following their detention, in the latest blow to political opposition in Turkey. The co-mayors are being charged with "being a member of an armed terrorist group," while Anli is also charged with "trying to separate land under the state's sovereignty." "Arrest is a legal term, but [in Turkey] there is no law," said Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of a pro-Kurdish opposition party. "This is abduction and kidnapping."

 

Erdogan could not care less. He is busy strengthening his one-man rule. A governmental state of emergency decree on October 29 gave Erdogan powers directly to appoint presidents to nearly 200 universities in the country. Before that decree, he had to choose from three candidates offered by a central board that oversees higher education, based on free elections at universities.

 

Before the Turks could digest so many undemocratic practices they had to face in one week, they woke up only to learn that scores of journalists at a newspaper critical of Erdogan had been detained. On October 31, police raided the homes of 11 people, including executives and journalists of Cumhuriyet newspaper, after prosecutors initiated a probe against them on "terrorism" charges. Cumhuriyet said detention warrants were issued for 15 journalists. The prosecutor's office said the operation was based on accusations that the suspects were "committing crimes on behalf of two terror organizations."

 

Large crowds gathered outside the Cumhuriyet office in Istanbul to protest the detention of journalists, while leading press organizations also slammed the raids. The Contemporary Journalists Association released a written statement, saying: "This is about … abolishing all universal values including the right to live and social rights. The most explicit indications of it are the growing pressure against the Turkish press and the policies to destroy it. This is the process of the destruction of free thought." Precisely. "Universal liberties" and "Turkey" have already become a very unpleasant oxymoron. Erdogan's populism, based on religious conservatism and ethnic nationalism, are fast driving Turkey toward Arab Baathism instead of Western democratic culture.                                                                                                                                   

 

Contents                                                                                                          

                                                                                            

TURKEY’S WARS                                                                                                       

Shoshana Bryen                                                                                                   

Breaking Israel News, Oct. 30, 2016

 

Turkish air and ground forces are attacking northern Syria.  The target is not ISIS – the presumed threat to Turkish interests – but rather Kurdish forces that have borne the brunt of anti-ISIS ground fighting and are key to the battle for Mosul in Iraq.

 

Since the July aborted coup in Ankara, the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been making internal war against what it calls the “Gülenist threat,” followers of Turkish cleric Fetullah Gülen, who Erdoğan believes engineered the coup.  Tens of thousands of Turks have been arrested, dismissed from their jobs, and otherwise harassed.  Turkey has also been conducting an external war – either overtly or by proxy – to control sensitive areas of Iraq and Syria and short-circuit any possibility of Kurdish independence or large-scale autonomy emerging from the wreckage of wars in both those countries.

 

After shelling Kurdish positions just north of Aleppo, the Turkish Air Force bombed headquarters, ammunition dumps, and shelters.  Turkish sources claimed 200 dead; Kurdish sources said 10 people were killed.  They were PKK, said the Turks – members of the Peoples Workers Party, which has carried out operations inside Turkey for decades.  The People’s Protection Units (YPG), however, said in a statement that the airstrikes targeted fighters from the YPG-affiliated Jaish al-Thuwar (Revolutionary Front), which was advancing against ISIS in the city of Ifrin. Turkey makes little distinction among Kurdish groups.  The U.S. takes a different tack, agreeing that the PKK is a terrorist organization but arming and training the YPG and finding it the most effective force on the ground fighting ISIS.  A U.S. official says the particular Kurds targeted this time were not among those we have trained, so there were no Americans in the area of Turkish fire.  This time.  But the possibility of direct U.S.-Turkish confrontation is rising daily.

 

There has been little mention of Turkey’s wars in the American press, aided by the fact that militias, rebel armies, terrorist groups, and sub-state actors sound like alphabet soup: FSA, PKK, PYD, YPG, JAN, ISIS, AQI, and more fight in Syria and Iraq.  Even when they have names, Americans are likely to find themselves confused.  How does Jaish al-Thuwar relate to the Khalid ibn al-Walid Brigade, or the Free Syrian Army or the Authenticity and Development Group, the Sun Battalion, the Al-Qousi Brigade, or the Truthful Promise Brigade? Confusion is serving Turkey well.

 

There are an estimated 60 million Kurds in the Middle East and adjacent regions, divided among Turkey (25.8 million), Iran (11 million), Iraq (10.2 million), Syria (4 million), and Afghanistan (9 million).  Another 2 million are estimated to be in Europe, primarily in Germany. Turkey adamantly opposes independence for the Kurds, and the U.S. had trouble gaining even reluctant Turkish acceptance of Northern Iraq’s regional autonomy after the 2003 ouster of Saddam from Baghdad.  The dissolution of Assad’s control of Northern Syria and the possibility that Iraqi and Syrian Kurds might construct a contiguous Kurdish area appears to pose a greater problem for Turkey than the rise and spread of ISIS.  It is against the Syrian Kurds, therefore, not ISIS that Turkey has been operating for months.In late August, Turkey directly intervened with tanks and planes to assist the Syrian Nour el-din el-Zinki rebel group in attacking Kurdish forces.  The Kurds, members of the YPG militia, had captured the ISIS-held town of Manbij, but the Turks wanted them to hand the town over to its proxy.  The U.S. caved to Turkish demands and ordered the YPG – its ally – out of town.

 

Following U.S. pressure on the Kurds, the Turks have increased the pace and lethality of their attacks.  Unsurprisingly, Kurdish groups have begun to challenge reliability of the West – and the U.S. in particular.  This round of fighting began just before a scheduled visit to Turkey by U.S. secretary of defense Ashton Carter.  Carter, no doubt planning to ensure continued use of Turkey’s Incirlik air base to launch strikes against ISIS and to support Iraq, struck a conciliatory tone toward Ankara when asked about the airstrikes – something sure to rankle the Kurdish militias.  “With respect to Turkey, our partnership is very strong in the counter-ISIL campaign,” he said.  “We’re working with the Turks now very successfully to help them secure their border area.”

 

To many in the Middle East, the United States not only appears unreliable, which is bad enough, but seems to have frequently abandoned its friends and allies, which is worse.  In the Obama administration, not only the president, but also the vice president, secretary of state, and secretary of defense bear responsibility for these impressions.  While Turkey is, by treaty, an American ally and a NATO member, the U.S. has to either rein in the Turks or face the consequence of a powerful and reckless Turkish government shooting up Turkey and its neighborhood – and our allies…

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

                                                           

 

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TURKEY’S ROGUE AGGRESSION HELPS ISIS —

AND THREATENS WIDER WAR                                                                  

Editorial                                                                        

New York Post, Oct. 29, 2016

 

Washington is recruiting in Syria for an offensive against Raqqa, the capital of the self-styled Islamic State. Unfortunately, the Syrian Kurds behind most of the success in the advance on Raqqa are . . . getting bombed by America’s NATO ally Turkey. The Pentagon’s warned that Raqqa needs to fall fast, since terror attacks against the West are being planned there. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says: “We are putting [further intervention] on our agenda . . . to remove the threat against our country.”

 

What threat? Since he reopened Ankara’s longtime war on Turkey’s own Kurdish minority, Erdogan’s worried about gains by Syrian Kurds of the YPG, or People’s Protection Units. Ankara sees the YPG as an arm of the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, regularly accused of terrorist tactics in its decades-long insurgency. Washington sees it as a vital ally against ISIS. “The facts are these: The only force that is capable [of taking Raqqa] on any near-term timeline are the Syrian Democratic Forces, of which the YPG are a significant portion,” Gen. Stephen Townsend, who heads the international anti-ISIS coalition, told reporters Wednesday.

 

But Erdogan plainly doesn’t care: He’s been bombing YPG units for weeks now and threatens ground combat. In the operation Ankara calls “Euphrates Shield” (after the river that runs through Turkey, Syria and Iraq), Turkey aims to advance on the Syrian border town of al-Bab (held by the Islamic State), then march to Manbij, recently liberated from the terrorists by a YPG-led Syrian militia. There’s more: Erdogan is also demanding “a place at the table” in the ongoing fight in Iraq to free Mosul from ISIS. He’s already got troops nearby, uninvited — certainly not by the Iraqis whose territory he’s violated. Asked by Washington and Baghdad to pull out, he threatened to send in more. He may plan to stay: Erdogan’s also announced that Turkey will no longer “voluntarily accept the borders of our country” — a clear reference to his country’s claim to Mosul dating back to 1920.

 

In the past, Erdogan’s been all bluster, no action. But his recent moves are already Turkey’s most aggressive since the 1974 invasion of Cyprus. His response to the recent failed coup attempt has been to essentially end Turkish democracy, so all bets are off. At a minimum, Erdogan could undermine the effort to crush ISIS — but the risks run all the way to triggering a regional war. All this from a guy who just a few years back was widely known as President Obama’s favorite leader in the Muslim world.  

 

 

Contents           

                       

TURKEY À LA CARTE – STRETCHING THE BOUNDARIES                                                                 

Editorial                                                                                                      

Globe & Mail, Oct. 28, 2016  

 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has a couple of times recently complained that Turkey didn’t end up with enough territory when its borders were settled at the end of the First World War, specifically in the Treaty of Lausanne. That might seem to be just pointless, resentful grumbling, but at a time when the very existence of a state called Syria is in question – with a number of rebel factions with their own territories, and the toxic entity known as ISIS/Daesh still in play – Mr. Erdogan may be staking claims with a view to a new settlement.

 

An article this month by Nick Danforth in the American journal Foreign Policy rightly points out the risks of reopening the borders set almost 100 years ago. He does not accuse Mr. Erdogan, however, of planning for a vast new Ottoman empire. Some of Mr. Erdogan’s flatterers seem to be pushing the envelope, however. The borders on a few Turkish maps have suspiciously crept beyond those set by the Treaty of Lausanne. Small but unmistakable chunks of Greece, Bulgaria (in the former European lands of Thrace) have “lost” land on their north and west. Similarly, in Western Asia, someone has taken bites out of Georgia and Armenia. More dangerously yet, one map appears to assert Turkish spheres of influence in both Iraq and Syria. This is particularly disappointing at a time when Greek and Turkish Cypriots are making better progress than ever toward peace, after many years of a divided Cyprus. With its ever-increasing Turkish nationalist and Islamist orientation, Ankara is most unlikely to encourage mutual accommodation on the island.

 

In the earlier phases of the Syrian civil war, the Erdogan government stood by passively on the Turkish-Syrian border, with a substantial military buildup, biding time, hoping that the ultra-Shiite regime of the Assad family would just collapse. But Vladimir Putin has no intention to let that happen, endangering Russia’s only Mediterranean naval base. Mr. Erdogan is risking new conflict, in a competition over the city of Mosul, between the Turkmen minority (akin to the Turks) and the Shiite government of Iraq. Instead, Mr. Erdogan should devise a constructive policy for a region that could certainly do with some peace and co-operation.

 

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JEWS DIE, TURKS CELEBRATE       

 

Robert Jones                                                                                              

Gatestone Institute, Nov. 1, 2016

 

Two important Jew(s) have lost their lives lately: Shimon Peres, the ninth President of Israel, and Ishak Alaton, a Jewish businessman from Turkey. Upon receiving the news of the deaths of these two men, many Turks rushed to Twitter proudly and openly to show off their hatred of Jews, according to the Turkish news site, Avlaremoz, which covers Jewish affairs…Some people might attempt to normalize these Turks' hatred of Peres by pointing out that Peres was an Israeli state leader. However, the reactions many Turks gave on social media after a Turkish businessman of Jewish origin died shows that these reactions are instead simply raw Jew-hate, which has little to do with the policies of the state of Israel.

 

Ishak Alaton, a Turkish businessman and investor of Jewish descent, born in Istanbul in 1927, died of heart failure on September 11, at the age of 89. This is how some Turks on Twitter paid farewell to him: "Ishak Alaton, the darling of Soros and the Jewish usurer, has croaked. Master Baphomet was not able to protect him. I wish the same for other Jewish vampires."… "Even those whose top expertise is making money eventually bid farewell to life. Ishak Alaton lost his life." … [Responding to a tweet that wished Alaton to rest in peace:] "Idiots, since when have non-Muslims been wished to rest in peace? You do not even know about that. You have nothing to do with religion." … "Even his air conditioners will not be enough to cool him down in the afterlife." … "It is cause for rejoicing that one more Jew falls before the Bayram [Eid al-Adha, the Islamic 'Sacrifice Feast']."

 

Alaton had contributed immensely to the Turkish economy, and culture, as well as to the efforts of democratization of the country. Between 1947 and 1948, he performed his military service in the Turkish army, compulsory for all male Turks. After studying and working in Sweden from 1951 to 1954, he returned to Turkey, co-founded the Alarko group of companies, and employed thousands of people. A prominent businessman and philanthropist, Alaton was granted the Swedish Order of the North Star and the Spanish Order of Civil Merit. Yet he preferred to live in Turkey. There he became the chairman of one of the most prominent businesses in the country and established the Turkey Foundation of Economic and Social Studies.

 

The Turks that spewed Jew-hatred after his death are evidently sure that no prosecutor in Turkey will hold them accountable … for their remarks calling for hatred and even violence against Jews. They seem to think that no matter what you say or write about Jews, you can get away with it. In fact, celebrating Jewish deaths on social media seems to be a tradition for some Turks. Following an attempted stabbing at the Israeli Embassy in Ankara on September 21, and the bombing attack in Istanbul's Taksim district which resulted in three Israeli deaths, many Turkish Twitter-users had filled Twitter with hate-filled messages again.

 

This should come as no surprise: 71% of the Turkish adult population harbors anti-Semitic attitudes, according to the 2015 Anti-Defamation League Global 100 Poll. "I do not think that there has ever been a period in this country in which anti-Semitism and hatred against Jews has decreased," said Isil Demirel, an anthropologist from Turkey and an author for Avlaremoz. "And during the current political atmosphere, hate speech against Jews in Turkey is even more commonplace."

 

The Jewish community in Turkey has also been exposed to deadly terror attacks at the hands of Muslim groups. On September 6, 1986, Palestinian Arab terrorists affiliated with the Abu Nidal Organization bombed and opened fire at Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul during a Sabbath service; 22 people were killed. On November 15, 2003, Islamist Turks and Al-Qaeda sympathizers exploded near-simultaneous car bombs outside two Istanbul synagogues — Neve Shalom and Beth Israel — both filled with worshippers. At least 23 people were murdered, and more than 300 wounded. According to Demirel:

 

"The attacks against synagogues in particular have made security an even more alarming issue for the Jewish community. That is why, for many years, synagogues and other Jewish institutions have been protected by safety measures…. The government should immediately recognize anti-Semitism as a hate crime and impose penal sanctions on the perpetrators. I think this is the most important step to be taken to help the Jewish community live in peace here."

 

But given the anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli statements of state authorities in Turkey, it does not seem realistic to expect them to make laws that would recognize anti-Semitism as an offense in Turkey. For example, on July 18, 2014, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "The state that knows best how to kill children is Israel. The obvious reality is that Israel is the country that threatens peace in the world and in the Middle East. Israel has never been pro-peace. It has persecuted and continues the persecution…Israel might seem to be the winner now. But it will eventually be defeated. This will also bother the Jews living in certain parts of the world. We as Turkey and myself — as long as I am in charge — can never have a positive view of Israel."

 

According to a 2014 Pew Poll, Israel is the most hated country in Turkey, with 86% of respondents holding an unfavorable view of the Jewish state, and only 2% viewing it positively. Although the Jewish people have not been allowed to live free and safe lives in Turkey, they have resided there for millennia — as have the Armenians and the Greeks, who were also persecuted, and the Alevis and the Kurds who are persecuted now. "The Jewish presence in Asia Minor dates back to Biblical times," writes Professor Franklin Hugh Adler. "This is mentioned by Aristotle and several Roman sources, including Josephus…Jews, in fact, had inhabited this land long before the birth of Mohammed and the Islamic conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries, or for that matter, the arrival and conquests of the Turks, beginning in the eleventh century…At the beginning of the Turkish Republic, in 1923, the Jewish population was 81,454. Nevertheless, Turkey's current Jewish population has diminished to 15,000."…

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

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkey’s New Maps Are Reclaiming the Ottoman Empire: Nick Danforth, Foreign Policy, Oct. 23, 2016—In the past few weeks, a conflict between Ankara and Baghdad over Turkey’s role in the liberation of Mosul has precipitated an alarming burst of Turkish irredentism.

Erdogan’s Academics: Middle East Studies Scholars Shill For A Tyrant: A.J. Caschetta, Daily Caller, Oct. 28, 2016 —In the days after the July coup attempt against his regime, Turkey’s tyrant Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused a group of scholars attending a conference in Istanbul of conspiring against him and directing the plot.  After his widespread paranoid purge of Turkish academia, it seems Erdogan has now found a group of scholars he can live with.

The Politics of the Battle for Mosul: Melik Kaylan, World Affairs, Oct. 24, 2016 —The battle for Mosul is as much a political endeavor as its post-conflict status will be. The entire venture pivots on the trust between the allied factions: the Kurds, the Christians, the Yazidis, and the Iraqi army which has its own Shia-Sunni divisions—not to mention the Turks hovering on the horizon threatening to join the hunt. For the ground war to work the factions need to believe that they share a common goal for the long-term future of Mosul. That's a tall order because the major players have divergent, even opposing, agendas.

Why Turkey’s Jewish Population Continues to Decline: Robert Jones, Algemeiner, Oct. 30, 2016—“Due to deaths and emigration, there are now 450 fewer Jews [in Turkey] this year,” wrote Mois Gabay, a columnist for the Turkish-Jewish weekly, Salom. This, he said, is not only because the community is aging and has a decreasing birthrate, but as a result of “the traumas that every Jewish generation has endured” in the country.

 

 

 

 

I.S. MAY BE MORE “FLASHY”, BUT A NUCLEAR IRAN POSES GREATER THREAT TO WEST

The Case for (Finally) Bombing Assad: Dennis B. Ross & Andrew J. Tabler, New York Times, Aug. 3, 2016— The Obama administration wants to reduce the violence and suffering in Syria and, at the same time, quash jihadist groups there.

The Destruction of Islamic State is a Strategic Mistake: Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA, Aug. 2, 2016— US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently gathered defense ministers from allied nations to plan what officials hope will be the decisive stage in the campaign to eradicate the Islamic State (IS) organization. This is a strategic mistake.

The Most Dangerous Anti-American Force Isn’t ISIS, It’s Iran: Robert Spencer, New York Post, July 30, 2016— The greatest threat to national security today isn’t ISIS, or China, or Russia or even the administration’s favorite bogey, climate change.

Unhappy Anniversary: Thomas Joscelynm, Weekly Standard, Aug. 1, 2016— Ayatollah Khamenei, the "Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution," commemorated the end of Ramadan with a lengthy anti-American, antisemitic screed.

 

On Topic Links

 

Iranians Execute Scientist Mentioned in Clinton’s E-mails: Jim Geraghty, National Review, Aug. 8, 2016

Report: U.S. Sent $400M Cash to Iran as American Detainees Freed: CBS News, Aug. 3, 2016

Iran Sells Weapons to ISIS' Sinai Branch: Ami Rojkes Dombe, Israel Defense, Aug. 8, 2016

Ethnic Opposition to Iran’s Regime Is on the Rise: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, July 24, 2016

 

 

THE CASE FOR (FINALLY) BOMBING ASSAD

Dennis B. Ross & Andrew J. Tabler

New York Times, Aug. 3, 2016

 

The Obama administration wants to reduce the violence and suffering in Syria and, at the same time, quash jihadist groups there. This is why the White House is now pushing a plan for the United States to cooperate with the Russian military in Syria, sharing intelligence and coordinating airstrikes against the Islamic State and the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. In return, Russia would force the government of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, to stop using barrel bombs and air attacks in areas in which neither extremist group is present.

 

Wiping out terrorist groups in Syria is an important goal and, after years of death and destruction, any agreement among the country’s warring parties or their patrons may seem welcome. But the Obama administration’s plan, opposed by many within the C.I.A., the State Department and the Pentagon, is flawed. Not only would it cement the Assad government’s siege of the opposition-held city Aleppo, it would push terrorist groups and refugees into neighboring Turkey. Instead, the United States must use this opportunity to take a harder line against Mr. Assad and his allies.

Secretary of State John Kerry hopes that this understanding with Russia will help lead to progress on other issues, including restoring the “cessation of hostilities,” a partial truce that began in February and broke down in May, and returning to negotiations on a political transition. These are reasonable goals, which are also embodied in a United Nations Security Council resolution adopted last December.

 

But a leaked text of the proposed agreement with Russia shows that it is riddled with dangerous loopholes. American and Russian representatives are now delineating areas where the Nusra Front is “concentrated” or “significant” and areas where other opposition groups dominate but “some possible Nusra presence” exists. This will still allow Mr. Assad and his Iranian and Russian backers to attack the non-Nusra opposition in those areas, as well as solidify the Syrian government’s hold on power.

 

More worrying is that the Assad government lacks the manpower to hold rural Sunni areas and so will rely on Hezbollah and other Shiite militias to do so. These brutal sectarian groups will most likely force the Nusra Front and other Sunni rebels to decamp to Turkey, bringing them, and the threat of militant violence, closer to the West. The fighting will similarly displace Sunni civilians, leading more of them to try to make their way to Europe.

 

The administration’s initiative with Russia is driven by either hope or desperation, but surely not by experience. During the partial truce, Russia took advantage of similar loopholes that permitted it and the Assad government to keep fighting the non-Nusra and non-Islamic State opposition. Such violations have allowed Mr. Assad and his allies to gain territory and besiege Aleppo.

 

The Obama administration appears to believe that President Vladimir V. Putin is looking for a way to limit Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. We doubt it. Mr. Putin is more interested in demonstrating that Russia and its friends are winning in Syria and the United States is losing. He will not alter his approach unless he becomes convinced that it has grown too expensive. Instead, because Mr. Putin knows the United States will not take action to punish Russia for its support for the Assad government, he and Mr. Assad will probably treat the emerging agreement no differently from the previous ones.

 

There is an alternative: Punish the Syrian government for violating the truce by using drones and cruise missiles to hit the Syrian military’s airfields, bases and artillery positions where no Russian troops are present. Opponents of these kinds of limited strikes say they would prompt Russia to escalate the conflict and suck the United States deeper into Syria. But these strikes would be conducted only if the Assad government was found to be violating the very truce that Russia says it is committed to. Notifying Russia that this will be the response could deter such violations of the truce and the proposed military agreement with Moscow. In any case, it would signal to Mr. Putin that his Syrian ally would pay a price if it did not maintain its side of the deal.

 

If Russia does want to limit its involvement in Syria, the threat of limited strikes should persuade it to make Mr. Assad behave. Conversely, if the skeptics are right that Mr. Putin will get serious about a political solution only if he sees the costs of backing Syria’s government increasing, the threat of such strikes is probably the only way to start a political process to end the war. Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry have long said there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict. Unfortunately, Russia and Iran seem to think there is — or at least that no acceptable political outcome is possible without diminishing the rebels and strengthening the Syrian government. It is time for the United States to speak the language that Mr. Assad and Mr. Putin understand.

                                                           

 

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THE DESTRUCTION OF ISLAMIC STATE IS A STRATEGIC MISTAKE                                                          

Prof. Efraim Inbar                                                                                                         

BESA, Aug. 2, 2016

 

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently gathered defense ministers from allied nations to plan what officials hope will be the decisive stage in the campaign to eradicate the Islamic State (IS) organization. This is a strategic mistake. IS, a radical Islamist group, has killed thousands of people since it declared an Islamic caliphate in June 2014, with the Syrian city of Raqqa as its de facto capital. It captured tremendous international attention by swiftly conquering large swaths of land and by releasing gruesome pictures of beheadings and other means of execution.

 

But IS is primarily successful where there is a political void. Although the offensives in Syria and Iraq showed IS’s tactical capabilities, they were directed against failed states with weakened militaries. On occasions when the poorly trained IS troops have met well-organized opposition, even that of non-state entities like the Kurdish militias, the group’s performance has been less convincing. When greater military pressure was applied and Turkish support dwindled, IS went into retreat.

 

It is true that IS has ignited immense passion among many young and frustrated Muslims all over the world, and the caliphate idea holds great appeal among believers. But the relevant question is what can IS do, particularly in its current situation? The terrorist activities for which it recently took responsibility were perpetrated mostly by lone wolves who declared their allegiance to IS; they were not directed from Raqqa. On its own, IS is capable of only limited damage.

 

A weak IS is, counterintuitively, preferable to a destroyed IS. IS is a magnet for radicalized Muslims in countries throughout the world. These volunteers are easier targets to identify, saving intelligence work. They acquire destructive skills in the fields of Syria and Iraq that are of undoubted concern if they return home, but some of them acquire shaheed status while still away – a blessing for their home countries. If IS is fully defeated, more of these people are likely to come home and cause trouble.

 

If IS loses control over its territory, the energies that went into protecting and governing a state will be directed toward organizing more terrorist attacks beyond its borders. The collapse of IS will produce a terrorist diaspora that might further radicalize Muslim immigrants in the West. Most counter-terrorism agencies understand this danger. Prolonging the life of IS probably assures the deaths of more Muslim extremists at the hands of other bad guys in the Middle East, and is likely to spare the West several terrorist attacks.

 

Moreover, a weak and lingering IS could undermine the attraction of the caliphate idea. A dysfunctional and embattled political entity is more conducive to the disillusionment of Muslim adherents of a caliphate in our times than an IS destroyed by a mighty America-led coalition. The latter scenario perfectly fits the narrative of continuous and perfidious efforts on the part of the West to destroy Islam, which feeds radical Muslim hatred for everything the West stands for.

 

The continuing existence of IS serves a strategic purpose. Why help the brutal Assad regime win the Syrian civil war? Many radical Islamists in the opposition forces, i.e., Al Nusra and its offshoots, might find other arenas in which to operate closer to Paris and Berlin. Is it in the West’s interests to strengthen the Russian grip on Syria and bolster its influence in the Middle East? Is enhancing Iranian control of Iraq congruent with American objectives in that country? Only the strategic folly that currently prevails in Washington can consider it a positive to enhance the power of the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus axis by cooperating with Russia against IS.

 

Furthermore, Hizballah – a radical Shiite anti-Western organization subservient to Iran – is being seriously taxed by the fight against IS, a state of affairs that suits Western interests. A Hizballah no longer involved in the Syrian civil war might engage once again in the taking of western hostages and other terrorist acts in Europe.

 

The Western distaste for IS brutality and immorality should not obfuscate strategic clarity. IS are truly bad guys, but few of their opponents are much better. Allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys. The Hobbesian reality of the Middle East does not always present a neat moral choice.

 

The West yearns for stability, and holds out a naive hope that the military defeat of IS will be instrumental in reaching that goal. But stability is not a value in and of itself. It is desirable only if it serves our interests. The defeat of IS would encourage Iranian hegemony in the region, buttress Russia’s role, and prolong Assad’s tyranny. Tehran, Moscow, and Damascus do not share our democratic values and have little inclination to help America and the West.

 

Moreover, instability and crises sometimes contain portents of positive change. Unfortunately, the Obama administration fails to see that its main enemy is Iran. The Obama administration has inflated the threat from IS in order to legitimize Iran as a “responsible” actor that will, supposedly, fight IS in the Middle East. This was part of the Obama administration’s rationale for its nuclear deal with Iran and central to its “legacy,” which is likely to be ill-remembered. The American administration does not appear capable of recognizing the fact that IS can be a useful tool in undermining Tehran’s ambitious plan for domination of the Middle East.

 

 

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         THE MOST DANGEROUS ANTI-AMERICAN FORCE ISN’T ISIS, IT’S IRAN                                                                 

                                                                Robert Spencer

New York Post, July 30, 2016

 

The greatest threat to national security today isn’t ISIS, or China, or Russia or even the administration’s favorite bogey, climate change. The greatest threat is the Islamic Republic of Iran, a regime that has been on a war footing toward the United States since 1979, mandates chants of “Death to America” in every mosque in the country at Friday prayers, and now, thanks to President Obama and John Kerry, is on the fast track to obtaining nuclear weapons.

 

Iran is not as flashy as ISIS but is actively working now on numerous anti-American initiatives that could turn out to be even more lethal than anything ISIS has yet perpetrated. In June 2011 Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared: “Wherever a movement is Islamic, populist and anti-American, we support it.” In 2012, Khamenei called for terror attacks in the West — but now, because of Obama, Iran is newly flush with billions of dollars in sanctions relief to finance such attacks.

 

As I show in my new book “The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran,” the nation is a breeding ground for terrorist activity: funding and controlling a global network of jihad terror organizations with a truly global reach, ready to do Iran’s bidding up to and including the killing of its perceived enemies. Chief in this network is Hezbollah, a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Most notoriously, Hezbollah was responsible for the murder of 241 US servicemen in the bombing of military barracks in Beirut in 1983. Iran has also been implicated in the bankrolling of the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, which housed members of the US Air Force, and in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which over 200 people were killed.

 

Iran’s Hezbollah doesn’t just operate in Lebanon. It continues to target the United States through Mexico, where it has teamed with drug cartels along the US border. This partnership is mutually beneficial: Hezbollah gets massive amounts of cash to finance its jihad operations, and the drug cartels receive extensive training in ways to strike terror into the hearts of their enemies. That is one principal reason why the Mexican drug cartels have adopted what up until recently had been two trademarks of jihad groups: kidnapping and beheading.

 

It’s not just Hezbollah that Iran bankrolls. Despite the Sunni/Shiite divide, the Sunni jihad groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as the Shiite Houthis in Yemen and the Iraqi Shiite group Kata’ib Hezbollah are all funded by the Islamic Republic. Nor does it work only through jihad terror groups: It has funded the Spanish left-wing populist party, Podemos — a vivid illustration of how the international left and the global jihad movement can and do make common cause against the West.

 

Iran was even involved in planning the 9/11 terror attacks: in the months leading up to the attacks, at least eight of the hijackers traveled repeatedly to Iran and met with Iranian agents there, who facilitated their travel to Afghanistan for training. Their passports were left unstamped by Iranian border guards so that they would be able to enter the United States undetected.

 

Iranian adventurism has continued. In 2012, the government of Canada closed Iran’s embassy in Ottawa and recalled its own diplomats from Tehran in protest of subversive activities by Iranians in Canada, directed from the Embassy. Former Iranian diplomat Abolfazl Eslami admitted that Iran had been plotting subversive activities through their embassies in Canada and other countries. And earlier this year, the US indicted seven Iranian hackers linked to the government of the Islamic Republic for cyber attacks on US banks and a dam in New York State.

 

As a result of Obama’s supine appeasement policy toward the Islamic Republic, Iran is bolder and more belligerent than ever — as evidenced by its capture and public humiliation of US Navy sailors last January. But it is not too late. While a new president will not be able to recover the money that Obama has showered upon Iran, the next chief executive can and should repudiate the nuclear deal and put the Iranian regime on notice that not only its pursuit of nuclear weapons, but its global adventurism will no longer be tolerated.

 

The Iranian opposition, however imperfect, that Obama refused to support in 2009 must be given active aid of all possible kinds. And any future negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran should only be entered into with a clear-eyed understanding of that regime’s bloodthirstiness, willingness to deceive and unshakable hostility to the United States. Iran is more dangerous than ISIS, but the Iranian people are the heirs of one of the oldest civilizations on earth. They deserve better than the Islamic Republic. As do we all.       

                                               

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UNHAPPY ANNIVERSARY

             Thomas Joscelyn

                                                 Weekly Standard, Aug. 1, 2016

 

Ayatollah Khamenei, the "Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution," commemorated the end of Ramadan with a lengthy anti-American, antisemitic screed. Khamenei has repeatedly accused the West and Israel, rather than Muslim-majority forces, of sponsoring violence in the region, and the title of his sermon, "American, Zionist and English Intelligence Services Created Terrorism in the Islamic World," reinforced his favorite talking point. Khamenei blamed these actors for a string of high-profile terrorist attacks during Ramadan—in Iraq, Istanbul, Bangladesh, Yemen, and elsewhere—all of which were carried out by the Islamic State and its followers. "This is the work of intelligence services—particularly the dangerous hands of American, Zionist, and English intelligence services—which have cultivated terrorism," Khamenei said July 6. "It is they who have created terrorism in the world of Islam."

 

Just over one week later, on July 14, Secretary of State John Kerry celebrated the first anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. The agreement "guaranteed to the world that Iran would not be pursuing a nuclear weapon," Kerry declared. The administration believes, Kerry added, "that the door that has been opened as a consequence of this dialogue gives us an opportunity" to discuss various "continuing issues" with Iran, including "in Syria or Yemen, on terrorism." The two views could not be more diametrically opposed. Khamenei claims the United States and its allies are responsible for terrorism throughout the Muslim-majority world, an absurd claim to American ears. Kerry, meanwhile, believes he can now engage in constructive dialogue with the Iranians about their own ongoing sponsorship of terrorism. Clearly, there is a disconnect.

 

It is no secret that President Obama and other top administration officials hoped the nuclear accord with Iran would lead to a new era of improved relations between the two foes. At times, Obama even entertained the idea that the Iranian regime could evolve beyond its aggressively anti-American origins. Take off the rose-colored glasses Kerry donned in Paris, however, and a stark reality comes into focus. In the year since the United States and several other countries agreed to the JCPOA, the Iranian regime's terrorist tentacles have grown longer and thicker. Iran remains the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism, backing anti-American, anti-Israeli, and anti-Sunni-Muslim forces throughout the world. In every country where Iran and its paramilitary agents operate, American interests are damaged, not advanced, by the supreme leader's Islamic Revolution. And the Iranian regime continues to harbor some of al Qaeda's most dangerous terrorists.

 

Consider what Kerry's own State Department had to say this spring. "Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2015, including support for Hizballah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East," reads Foggy Bottom's Country Reports on Terrorism 2015, released June 2. Iran even "increased" its terrorist activities in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. government has designated Iran a state sponsor of terror every year since 1984. The State Department's bottom line: Iran's behavior in 2015, the year of the landmark nuclear deal, was no better than that of the previous three decades.

 

A brief overview of several key issues demonstrates just how unhelpful Iran's ongoing anti-American revolution still is…Iranian-backed forces frequently battle the Islamic State in Iraq, but the net effect of Iran's growing presence is negative. "Look, we have challenges with Iran as everybody knows and we are working on those challenges," Kerry said at the Aspen Ideas Festival on June 28. "But I can tell you that Iran in Iraq has been in certain ways helpful, and they clearly are focused on ISIL-Daesh, and so we have a common interest, actually."

 

In fact, just weeks earlier, the State Department itself recognized why Iran's leadership position on the ground in Iraq is so harmful. In 2015, a summary in Country Reports on Terrorism notes, Iran "increased its arming and funding of Iraqi Shia terrorist groups in an effort to reverse ISIL gains in Iraq." The report continues: "Many of these groups .  .  . have exacerbated sectarian tensions in Iraq and have committed serious human rights abuses against primarily Sunni civilians."

 

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On Topic Links

 

Iranians Execute Scientist Mentioned in Clinton’s E-mails: Jim Geraghty, National Review, Aug. 8, 2016—Yes, the Iranian regime executed a nuclear scientist who reportedly helped U.S. intelligence who was mentioned in Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. From this, one might think that Clinton’s insecure server got the man killed. It probably didn’t help Amiri, but the story is a bit more complicated than that.

 

Report: U.S. Sent $400M Cash to Iran as American Detainees Freed: CBS News, Aug. 3, 2016— When Iran released four American prisoners in January, including journalist Jason Rezaian and former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, it was heralded as a diplomatic breakthrough, CBS News' Margaret Brennan reports.

Iran Sells Weapons to ISIS' Sinai Branch: Ami Rojkes Dombe, Israel Defense, Aug. 8, 2016—A publication on Twitter (oryxspioenkop) reveals photos of ISIS activists holding the Iranian-made AM-50 Sayyad rifle (which is based on the Steyr HS .50). In the past, such weapons were spotted in Gaza, Syria and other places in the Middle East. The capacious10 website adds that the ISIS' Sinai branch is also in possession of Kornet missiles and armored vehicles taken from the Egyptian army. All of the published photos are taken from a video released by the ISIS' Sinai branch.

Ethnic Opposition to Iran’s Regime Is on the Rise: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, July 24, 2016—Since June 2016 and to a lesser extent before then as well, Iran has been enduring terror attacks and assassinations by ethnic-opposition elements operating within its territory and adjacent to it. These include Kurds in the north and near the Iraqi border, Salafi Sunnis near Iran’s eastern border with Pakistan, and Sunni Arabs in the Khuzestan province near the Iraqi border in the southwest.