In Syria, Iran Sees a New Opportunity to Build a War Machine: Yaakov Lappin, IPT News, Dec. 31, 2018— If it goes ahead, Iran likely will view President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from eastern Syria as a green light to build a new war machine in the region.

Let’s Make Sure ISIS Fighters Stay Locked Up – Even After Our Syria Pullout: Marc Thiessen, New York Post, Dec. 28, 2018— President Trump’s decision to withdraw all US forces from Syria is already having unintended consequences.

The US Withdrawal from Syria: A Blessing in Disguise?: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, Dec. 30, 2018— The Oslo process took place under unique global circumstances.

America’s Loyal Syrian Kurdish Allies Evade Annihilation: Malcolm Lowe, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 31, 2018— In April 2018, we warned that President Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria would be a repetition of President Obama’s worst mistake, the precipitate withdrawal from Iraq that facilitated the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State (ISIS).

On Topic Links

The U.S. Withdrawal from Syria: Implications for Israel (Video): Amb. Dore Gold, JCPA, Jan. 1, 2019

Donald Trump is Right to Pull U.S. Troops out of Syria: Andrew Preston, Globe and Mail, Dec. 31, 2018

Syria’s Kurds, Feeling Betrayed by the U.S., Ask Assad Government for Protection: Ben Hubbard, New York Times, Dec. 28, 2018

House of Assad: Inside Syria’s Dangerous Dynasty: Nick Green, Telegraph, Oct. 9, 2018




Yaakov Lappin

IPT News, Dec. 31, 2018

If it goes ahead, Iran likely will view President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from eastern Syria as a green light to build a new war machine in the region. But Iran also received a red light recently, apparently reminding it that Israel is standing guard against Tehran’s takeover plans. That red light came Dec. 25 in the form of an alleged Israeli air strike on an Iranian weapons depot in Syria. The strike looks like the latest signal of Israel’s determination to block Iran’s path into Syria, with or without an American ground presence.

According to media reports, including a report by the Israeli satellite image company ISI, the strike destroyed a warehouse that contained Iranian Fajr-5 rockets. The warehouse was just 40 kilometers – about 25 miles – away from Israel. Israel’s military says Fajr 5 rockets are produced in Iranian weapons factories and have a range of 75 kilometers, or just under 50 miles. In past years, Iran smuggled these types of rockets to terrorist organizations that are ideologically committed to attacking Israel, including Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Now, Iran is trying to flood Syria with them.

So far, the Fajr 5s that have been in the inventory of Israel’s enemies were unguided rockets. That does not stop them from posing a serious threat. Hamas fired a Fajr 5 rocket in November 2012 in the midst of an eight-day conflict, severely damaging an apartment building in Rishon Lezion, south of Tel Aviv. Residents survived due to an air raid siren, which sent them scurrying into a safe room before the rocket struck. In February 2017, reports emerged saying that Iran’s defense industry has begun manufacturing a new, guided version of the Fajr 5. These can be fired quickly and in succession from a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS). The arrival of such weapons would present terrorists in Syria seeking to attack Israel with new precision abilities.

It remains unclear whether the Fajr 5 rockets destroyed in the alleged Israeli strike were guided, but Israel has drawn a clear red line that forbids the arrival of Iranian guided projectiles in the area. Once in Syria, precision weapons can be given to Shi’ite militias under Iran’s command, or be used by Iranian military forces themselves, which are operating on Syrian soil. That’s what happened last May, when Islamic Republican Guards Corps (IRGC) used a truck-mounted rocket launcher to fire on the Golan Heights. In other cases, batches of Iranian weapons that have made their way into Syria are subsequently smuggled into neighboring Lebanon, where Hizballah has built up one of the world’s largest arsenals of surface-to-surface projectiles. Hizballah’s estimated 130,000 rockets and missiles are pointed at Israeli cities, power plants, ports, airports, and military installations.

Thus, Iran has already turned Lebanon into a forward military post against Israel. Its goal now is to do the same in Syria. Although the U.S. forces stationed in Syria are there exclusively to combat Salafi-jihadist Sunni ISIS terrorists, their presence in the strategically important Al-Tanf region, on the Syria-Iraq border, also helps block the expansion of the radical Iranian-Shi’ite axis. The U.S. presence has helped stop Iran from trying to use the Al-Tanf border crossing as a gateway for land convoys carrying Iranian weapons and Shi’ite militias, from Iraq into Syria. The Al-Tanf border area is one of two ground corridors that Iran is hoping to use in its Syrian expansion project.

The second main land ‘entrance’ to Syria is located further north, at the Albu Kamal border crossing. This area has been the scene of repeated Iranian and Hizballah-controlled traffic of militias and weapons. But this site also drew at least one major alleged Israeli strike in June, resulting in dozens of casualties, including Iranian military officers and Iraqi Shi’ite militia members. Currently, Israel and Iran remain locked in a shadow war over Syria’s future. Israel is employing preventative force to stop Iran from converting Syria into second front, alongside Lebanon. Tehran’s takeover efforts are being led by the IRGC, which acts as the ‘long arm’ of Iran across the region, particularly through the overseas expeditionary elite unit, the Quds Force, commanded by the notorious General Qassem Soleimani.

With Israel ‘covering’ the northern Albu Kamal crossing, the U.S. had been ‘covering’ the southern Al-Tanf crossing, meaning that Iran’s ground expansion scheme had run into some difficulties. Iran was forced to rely on its more traditional trafficking method – cargo flights – though this too had become increasingly difficult, with Israel monitoring suspicious flights around the clock, and reportedly taking action when intelligence called for it…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





EVEN AFTER OUR SYRIA PULLOUT                                                              

Marc Thiessen

New York Post, Dec. 28, 2018

President Trump’s decision to withdraw all US forces from Syria is already having unintended consequences. The American departure could lead to the release of 1,100 Islamic State fighters now held in ­detention camps in northeastern Syria, creating a dangerous new terrorist threat to the West.

The Syrian Democratic Forces — the Kurdish and Arab proxy forces whom the US armed and trained to fight the Islamic State — don’t have the capacity to guard and feed so many terrorists without American support. And The Washington Post reports that their home countries “are refusing to repatriate their citizens, citing the risk that they would spread radical ideology or perhaps carry out attacks back home.” If Washington abandons the SDF, the group might have no choice but to release the Islamists.

How much damage could these terrorists cause? To put it in perspective, the Islamic State had only about 700 fighters left when President Barack Obama withdrew US forces from Iraq in 2011 — yet from that tiny nucleus, the group grew into the world’s largest, most powerful terrorist network, until Trump unleashed our military to beat the fanatics back. Now imagine what destruction 1,100 terrorists could wreak across the globe. The Islamic State detainees hail from 32 countries, including many believed to be from Europe. As a Syrian Kurdish foreign affairs official noted, the US withdrawal would create “a security vacuum that these criminals could exploit to escape and pose a danger to all of us,” adding that “they could make their way back to their home countries and carry out bombings.”

The optimal solution would be for Trump to reconsider his withdrawal plan so that we can keep these detainees in Syria under the watchful eye of US intelligence and Special Operations forces. But there is also another possible solution — one that would help the president keep another campaign promise: Send them to Guantanamo Bay. In January, Trump issued an executive order that authorized the US military and intelligence community to “transport additional detainees to US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay when lawful and necessary to protect the Nation.”

During his State of the Union address, Trump asked Congress “to ensure that, in the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda, we continue to have all the necessary power to detain terrorists. . . . And in many cases for them it will now be Guantanamo Bay.” In March, Congress responded by approving more than $200 million in new construction for Guantanamo Bay as part of the omnibus spending bill. The Pentagon followed up by formally authorizing the station to receive new detainees who pose a “continuing, significant threat.”

There is little doubt that a number of the Islamic State fighters now held in Syria would make excellent candidates for detention at Guantanamo Bay. Trump should order the intelligence community to conduct a threat assessment for each of the detainees, to see which ones would qualify for transfer. No doubt, a decision to move some of the prisoners from Syria to Guantanamo would create an ­uproar in Europe. These would be the very same countries currently refusing to take custody of their citizens who went to fight for the Islamic State.

Trump should give any complaining countries an ultimatum: Either take your nationals back, or they are headed to Guantanamo. Transfer to Guantanamo is a less than optimal solution, because right now high-value detainees held on the battlefield in Syria don’t have access to lawyers and can’t challenge their detentions in court — which means they can be effectively interrogated for intelligence purposes. But once transferred to Guantanamo, they would immediately get lawyers and the right of habeas corpus — which dramatically ­reduces their intelligence value.

Instead of transferring these terrorists, we should keep them where they are — and continue supporting the SDF until the estimated 30,000 Islamic State fighters still at large in Iraq or Syria are all killed or captured. The Islamic State is not defeated — not even by a long shot. But this much is clear: We can’t allow more than a thousand dangerous terrorists to be released into the world so that they can return to the fight.





Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen

BESA, Dec. 30, 2018

The Oslo process took place under unique global circumstances. The Soviet Union had just collapsed and the Cold War had come to an abrupt end with the West’s clear victory. The US became “the only remaining superpower” and the “End of History” loomed over the horizon.

Since then, far-reaching changes have taken place. Russia has reemerged as a major global force and has reassumed its great-power status through direct military interventions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria. The US, by contrast, has substantially reduced its global involvement over the past decade and has lost its hegemonic position in the Middle East. In this respect, President Trump’s recent decision to withdraw US troops from Syria is but the continuation of the disengagement policy begun by his immediate predecessor. It is arguable, of course, that the withdrawal casts serious doubt on the credibility of the US as a strategic ally. Yet for all its attendant flaws, this step gives Israel a chance to reconsider its longstanding belief in seemingly unshakable US backing.

For quite some time, the Jewish state has found itself in a strategic quandary. On the one hand, the more omnipotent the American image, the stronger Israel’s reputation as a major military and political player. On the other hand, the widespread belief in Washington’s ostensible ability to guarantee any Arab-Israeli peace agreement has placed Jerusalem under constant pressure to take the risks associated with withdrawal from areas vital to its national security. Thus, for example, by way of paving the way for the IDF’s total withdrawal from the West Bank as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, the Obama administration proposed a complex security package that substituted the deployment of US forces in the Jordan Valley for Israel’s longstanding demand for defensible borders (accepted by Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967).

But to what extent can foreign military forces operating in a wholly alien environment provide an adequate substitute for the IDF in enforcing the West Bank’s demilitarization? Judging by the experience of international forces in the Middle East in recent decades, the answer is far from satisfactory. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), deployed along the Israeli-Lebanese border since 1978, for example, has miserably failed to prevent the transformation of the area under its jurisdiction into an unreconstructed terrorist entity – first by the PLO (until 1982), then by successive Shiite terrorist organizations. As starkly demonstrated by the recent exposure of Hezbollah’s attack tunnels penetrating Israel’s territory, UNIFIL has totally failed to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 11, 2006, at the end of the Second Lebanon War, which stipulated the disbanding of all armed militias in Lebanon and prohibited arms supplies to any group without government authorization, as well as the presence of armed forces south of the Litani River. Nor does the West’s experience in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decades inspire much confidence in the ability of external powers to cope effectively with sustained subversive, terrorist, and jihadist insurgencies.

These operational constraints notwithstanding, the idea of international supervision suffers from an inherent political-constitutional flaw, namely its total dependence on the consent of the host government, which can demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces from its territory (as happened with the removal of UN forces from Egypt in May 1967). To this must be added the numerous instances where international supervisory and/or intervention forces were withdrawn from countries they were supposed to protect as a result of unilateral decisions by the sending governments: from the evacuation of the American-French-British-Italian force from Lebanon following Hezbollah’s bombing of its Beirut headquarters in October 1983, to the hasty withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in 2011 with the attendant rise of ISIS and its takeover of large swaths of Iraq and Syria, to President Trump’s latest decision.

According to Israeli security experts, the US withdrawal has left Israel alone in the battle against Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. True enough, but this setback can potentially entail an important silver lining. For the sooner Israel recognizes the precariousness of a regional “Pax Americana,” the sooner it will grasp the futility of “painful territorial concessions” in the West Bank, let alone on the Golan Heights.

What Israel needs most from the US at the present time is political and diplomatic backing in support of its vital national interests, primarily 1) support for its continued hold of the Golan as a vital condition for its defense; and 2) cessation of pressure for further territorial withdrawals in the West Bank. With luck, Trump’s Syria turnaround might catalyze a shift in US regional strategy in this direction.





Malcolm Lowe                                          

Gatestone Institute, Dec. 31, 2018

In April 2018, we warned that President Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria would be a repetition of President Obama’s worst mistake, the precipitate withdrawal from Iraq that facilitated the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State (ISIS). We perceived that the immediate consequence of abandoning Syria would be a Turkish-led campaign to annihilate America’s Syrian Kurdish allies, who heroically bore the brunt of defeating the ISIS in Syria and capturing its capital, Raqqa.

The conclusion drawn was that the Syrian Kurds would have no choice but to appeal to Iran for help. For it was only Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman who had protested vehemently against the Turkish-facilitated capture of Afrin, a Kurdish town in northwest Syria, in March by an Islamist militia. In the meantime, Turkey has sent many thousands of Kurds fleeing, who have been replaced with “displaced Syrian Arabs from East Ghouta.” The Islamist militia has subjected Christians to Sharia-style dhimmitude and forced Yazidis to convert to Islam on pain of death. Amnesty International has also reported on rampant offences against property and individuals; it mentions the thousands of refugees who have fled from Afrin.

In these recent December days, the scenario then foreseen has been playing itself out rapidly. On December 14, in a telephone conversation with Turkey’s President Erdogan, President Trump not merely made a final decision to remove US forces from Syria but invited Erdogan to replace them with Turkish forces. The invitation has terrified not just the Syrian Kurds but also other militias in the Syrian Democratic Forces that fight alongside them against ISIS. An example is the Syriac Military Council, a Christian militia that has issued its own appeal to Trump to reconsider: “The outcome of the invasion of Afrin makes visible what will happen to us. Churches will be destroyed. Christians and Yazidis, designated ‘infidels’ by Turkey’s mercenaries, will be killed and massacred … Women of all ethnicities, now free, will be raped, enslaved and veiled.”

Trump overruled the objections of all his advisors, generals and supporters in Congress, assuring them that Erdogan had promised to deal with any remnants of ISIS in the area. Apparently, Trump is the only person among them all who ignored — or maybe does not even understand — that Erdogan had eagerly accepted Trump’s invitation not on account of ISIS but in order to inflict his Afrin operation upon the entire population of America’s loyal allies in Syria. The prospect of such a US withdrawal from Syria — and such a betrayal — has even provoked articles with almost the same title as ours, such as Mark A. Thiessen in the Washington Post and Boston Herald on December 23: “Trump repeating Obama’s mistake in the Middle East.” Search for those words on internet and you will now find others coming to the same conclusion.

Events rolled on with Trump’s unannounced arrival at a US base in Iraq on December 26. Trump declined to meet first in Baghdad with Adil Abdul Mahdi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, but invited Mahdi to join him at the base. Apparently, Trump did not realize that he had humiliated Abdul Mahdi, as if the latter were a lackey at his beck and call.

There were furious protests in the Iraqi Council of Representatives (the parliament), both from the Iran-friendly Bina Bloc – with calls for the expulsion of US forces — and from the more independent-minded Islah Bloc. The two blocs command respectively 73 and 126 seats in the 329-seat Council, thus a decisive majority. They had come together to ratify the appointment of Abdul Mahdi in October. The parliamentary leader of Islah, Sabbah al-Saadi, called for an emergency session of the Council “to discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: the US occupation of Iraq is over.” Oblivious, possibly, that he was far from welcome in Iraq, Trump told US military personnel that — as he was planning to keep them in Iraq – there was no problem in abandoning Syria: “If we see something happening with ISIS [in Syria] that we don’t like, we can hit them so fast and so hard they really won’t know what the hell happened. We’ve knocked them silly.”

Strategic wisdom would dictate the opposite. In December 2017, the then Iraqi government led by Haider al-Abadi declared ISIS defeated in Iraq. The remaining pockets of ISIS fighters are not seen by Iraqis as a serious threat. They are smaller than in Syria, while Iraq’s army is now battle-hardened and will not repeat its disgraceful flight from Mosul upon the arrival of ISIS fighters in June 2014. Also, although the mainly Shiite militias that fought fiercely alongside the army have now been largely disbanded, they could be remobilized at any time. In eastern Syria, by contrast, the local Kurdish and Arab population begged the Americans to stay and help them defend themselves. The remnants of ISIS are substantial. The area also contains most of Syria’s oilfields, the only major source of income left undamaged by the civil war, so a presence there would give the US a powerful card to play in determining the country’s post-war future.

It would be strategic wisdom, therefore, to maintain the small US presence in Syria (about 2,000 personnel) while reducing the US profile in Iraq in order to forestall a looming demand by the Iraqi parliament for a total US withdrawal. Now it is probably too late because the Syrian Kurds have decided to abandon the US before the US abandons them. It seems that US forces will leave Syria not on American and Turkish terms but on Russian and Iranian terms. For months, Turkey has been planning to repeat its Afrin operation in Manbij, a Kurdish town further east, where Erdogan was deterred only by the US and French forces stationed inside the town. In recent weeks, thousands of Turkish-backed Islamists gathered for this purpose. Two days after Trump’s confident address to US forces in Iraq, the Kurds of Manbij invited the Syrian army to deploy west and north of the town in a protective shield on December 28….

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



On Topic Links

The U.S. Withdrawal from Syria: Implications for Israel (Video): Amb. Dore Gold, JCPA, Jan. 1, 2019—There are two basic approaches for understanding the implications of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria for Israel.

Donald Trump is Right to Pull U.S. Troops out of Syria: Andrew Preston, Globe and Mail, Dec. 31, 2018—On Dec. 19, Mr. Trump abruptly announced he would be withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria, where they have been fighting a slow-burning but intense war against the Islamic State.

Syria’s Kurds, Feeling Betrayed by the U.S., Ask Assad Government for Protection: Ben Hubbard, New York Times, Dec. 28, 2018—Feeling betrayed by the United States, its Kurdish allies in Syria asked the Syrian government on Friday to protect them from possible attack by Turkey.

House of Assad: Inside Syria’s Dangerous Dynasty: Nick Green, Telegraph, Oct. 9, 2018—Many have wondered how Bashar al Assad and his British born wife, Asma, a couple once heralded as the force to modernise the Middle East, ended up running a regime accused of war crimes.


Bring Asia Bibi to America: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, Nov. 13, 2018— Eight years ago this month, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to be hanged on the charge of blasphemy.

Desperate Pakistani Christians Languish in Thailand: Doug Bandow, National Review, Oct. 29, 2018— Thailand’s capital of Bangkok is a large, bustling, chaotic metropolis.

Taliban Slaughter Elite Afghan Troops, and a ‘Safe’ District Is Falling: Rod Nordland, New York Times, Nov. 12, 2018— One pickup truck after another arrived at the government compound in a district capital in Afghanistan on Sunday, pulling around to the back of the governor’s office to unload the dead, out of sight of panicked residents.

The Islamic State’s Future in Afghanistan: Daud Khattak, BESA, Oct. 1, 2018— The Islamic State (ISIS) temporarily managed to win over disgruntled elements among the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban alongside youth from the remote districts…

On Topic Links

The West Must Offer Immediate Asylum to Asia Bibi: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 14, 2018

Violence Continues as Pakistani Islamists Protest Christian Woman’s “Blasphemy” Acquittal: IPT News, Nov 2, 2018

The Talib Across the Table: Editorial, Weekly Standard, Nov. 12, 2018

Freeland Orders Internal Review of Afghan Aid: Globe & Mail, Nov. 8, 2018




Clifford D. May

Washington Times, Nov. 13, 2018


Eight years ago this month, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to be hanged on the charge of blasphemy. She has spent the years since on death row. Now, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has overturned her conviction on grounds of insufficient evidence. So this sad story turns out to have a happy ending, right? C’mon, you knew it wasn’t going to be that simple.

Let’s begin in 1947, before Ms. Bibi, now 53 years old, was even born. British India was partitioned into two independent nation-states, one with a Hindu majority, one with a Muslim majority. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder, intended for his country’s minorities — Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Ahmadis and Christians among them — to enjoy full citizenship, with human and civil rights guaranteed. His vision was not realized. Less than a decade later, Pakistan became an Islamic Republic, one that has become increasingly intolerant. In 1986, President Zia ul-Haq made blasphemy a capital offense.

Year after year, Pakistan’s minorities, subject to increasing discrimination and persecution, have been emigrating. Asia Bibi, her husband and their five children are among those who have remained. On a hot June day in 2009, while working on a farm near Lahore in the Punjab Province, she was asked to fetch water for a group of Muslim women. One of the women refused to drink from the cup she brought them, saying that because it had been touched by a non-Muslim, it was unclean. Ms. Bibi is alleged to have told the Muslim women that Jesus “died on the cross for the sins of mankind,” and then asked: “What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?”

The Muslim women complained to the authorities who promptly arrested her for insulting Islam. Punjab’s governor, Salmaan Taseer, a vocal opponent of blasphemy laws, visited her in prison, and argued that it would be a gross injustice to execute her. On Jan. 4, 2011, Mr. Taseer was shot multiple times at close range as he was getting into his car following lunch. His assassin, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadrihe, was a member of the elite police unit assigned to protect him. The killer explained to a television crew that arrived on the scene: “I am a slave of the Prophet, and the punishment for one who commits blasphemy is death.” Hundreds of clerics expressed support for him and called for a boycott of Mr. Taseer’s funeral.

Following Ms. Bibi’s acquittal last week, violent protests erupted around the country. Pakistan’s new prime minister, Imran Khan, a former cricket star, warned demonstrators not to “test the patience of the state.” It is by no means certain, however, that Mr. Khan will stand up to the Islamic supremacists. His government has not yet agreed to allow Ms. Bibi to leave Pakistan, obvious though it is that for her to stay would be perilous. She is now reportedly under protective custody at an undisclosed location. According to the Huffington Post, her “appeal to Britain for asylum has been denied because her arrival in the country may stir civil unrest.” If true, that represents a British surrender to jihadists — not least, the thousands who now hold U.K. citizenship.

A modest proposal: President Trump should invite Ms. Bibi to come to America and request asylum. To do so would be just, moral and wise. Just and moral because her life is in peril based on the fact that she is a Christian living in one of the many unfree Muslim-majority countries from which Christians are, in this century, being “cleansed.” Wise because Mr. Trump is being reviled — unjustifiably, in my opinion — for refusing to open America’s doors to “caravans,” facilitated by a group called Peoples Without Borders, heading north from Central America. The president believes that the United States cannot integrate the tens of millions of people who — understandably, in my opinion — want to leave countries ruled by despots and/or incompetents, and enjoy the liberties and opportunities that America provides.

I don’t see how it is either wrong or heartless to insist that the United States have laws concerning immigration, and that those laws be enforced. Surely, American citizens have both a right and a responsibility to decide how many immigrants — “migrants” is an intentionally misleading term — we take in, and who should be at the front of the long line. The American welfare state is not so strong that its back can’t be broken. What happens then?

Some European countries are reportedly considering offering asylum to Ms. Bibi and her family. But just last month, the European Court of Human Rights affirmed the conviction of an Austrian woman for “disparagement of religious precepts,” a sophisticated way of saying she had insulted Muhammad (by critically discussing his marriage to Aisha, who was 6 years old when wed). The court called that defamation, adding that it “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate,” and “could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace.” The Austrian woman was given a choice between paying a 480 euro fine and spending 60 days in jail. She was not sentenced to be hanged, as would be the case in Pakistan. I find that less than entirely reassuring.



Doug Bandow                                                                                                       

National Review, Oct. 29, 2018 

Thailand’s capital of Bangkok is a large, bustling, chaotic metropolis. The friendly, informal nation of Thailand draws visitors from around the world. Filling some backstreet neighborhoods are impoverished Pakistani Christians, stranded in the Thai capital while hoping to gain religious asylum elsewhere…

The problem reflects domestic failures in Pakistan, especially social and legal discrimination and persecution, often violent, against religious minorities. Islamabad is formally an American ally but in practice has constantly challenged U.S. interests. The domestic political system is unstable, corrupt, and dominated by the military. Religious minorities suffer: not just Christians, but Ahmadis, Hindus, and others as well. Pervasive persecution has driven Pakistanis abroad in search of asylum. Noted the Global Minorities Alliance: “An increase of attacks against minorities in Pakistan . . . has led to Christians heavy-heartedly fleeing their country,” many to Thailand.

There’s not much the U.S. government can do to ease Christians’ plight in Pakistan, other than press Islamabad to protect the lives, dignity, and liberties of all their peoples. But Washington could accept the few thousand Pakistanis stuck in Bangkok, essentially people without a country, unable to go either forward or backward. Even the Trump administration should welcome religious minorities fleeing Islamist oppression.

Pakistan long has been inhospitable to anyone other than Sunni Muslims. General-turned-president Muhammad al-Zia-ul-Haq ruled from 1978 to 1988; he consolidated power by playing to radical Islamist sentiments, shifting the nation away from the original secular vision of founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The latter promised: “Minorities, to whoever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith, or belief will be secure.” Alas, that sentiment died years ago, and the furies Zia loosed now are ravaging the country. Christian-persecution watchdog group Open Doors ranked Pakistan as the world’s number-five persecutor on its World Watch List. Islamabad lags behind only North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Sudan.

The British All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief recently detailed the awful state of religious liberty in Pakistan. The MPs’ report noted: “Pakistan presents a particularly bleak environment for individuals wishing to manifest their right to freedom of religion or belief.” Important issues, the group pointed out, include lack of political representation, blasphemy laws, inadequate protection of religious minorities and their defenders, and brutal threats against women, adults, and children.

The problem is twofold: There is both state and private persecution. The APPG warned that the result is “a dangerous environment for any adherent of a religious belief not deemed ‘orthodox’ by those around them to practice their right to manifest their beliefs.” Of course, not everyone suffers equally. The report noted “the likelihood of persecution depends on factors such as their encounters with and actions amongst people of other/different faiths or beliefs,” as well as other issues. One action that makes anyone vulnerable is conversion: “If a Muslim makes a decision to become a Christian — becoming an apostate and, in turn, blaspheming against the Prophet — and their conversion becomes public knowledge, their life will be at risk.”

Last year the Global Minorities Alliance produced a report entitled “Are Christians in Pakistan Persecuted?” The answer was an obvious yes. Pakistan has the world’s second-largest Muslim population, trailing only Indonesia. More than 96 percent of Pakistan’s population is Muslim; just 1.5 percent are Christians, who nevertheless constitute the largest minority group. The GMA found that they, along with other religious minorities, “are routinely marginalized and are often condemned to a life of poverty, disadvantage and the fear of persecution.”

Jinnah’s inclusive vision “was never fulfilled,” concluded GMA. Even under Zia the situation deteriorated, after the introduction of blasphemy laws in the 1980s. The situation worsened again under President Pervez Musharraf, after he backed the Bush administration’s “war on terror.” The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom rated Pakistan a “country of particular concern,” and the State Department put Pakistan on its “Special Watch List.” State’s annual religious-liberty report repeats the sad saga of pervasive discrimination, brutality, and persecution. False blasphemy charges often led to mob violence, the “basic rights” of Ahmadis were denied, and the “authorities often failed to intervene in instances of societal violence against religious minorities.”

Such general descriptions do not give a true sense of the ubiquitous and oppressive nature of religious persecution in Pakistan. Umair Javed, a columnist for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, writes that “violence against minority groups is deeply embedded within political and social processes in Pakistan.” These reports identify several instances of attacks on Christians. Christian women are subjected to forced marriages and conversions. Asia Bibi, an illiterate field worker and mother of five, has been imprisoned since 2009 on charges widely believed to false, made by co-workers angry that she shared their cup when drinking water…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]                  





Rod Nordland

New York Times, Nov. 12, 2018

One pickup truck after another arrived at the government compound in a district capital in Afghanistan on Sunday, pulling around to the back of the governor’s office to unload the dead, out of sight of panicked residents. Soldiers and police officers, many in tears, heaved bodies of their comrades from the trucks and laid them on sheets on the ground, side by side on their backs, until there were 20 of them.

The dead all wore the desert-brown boots of Afghanistan’s finest troops, the Special Forces commandos trained by the United States. Four days earlier, the soldiers had been airlifted in to rescue what is widely considered Afghanistan’s safest rural district, Jaghori, from a determined assault by Taliban insurgents. Early on Sunday, their company of 50 soldiers was almost entirely destroyed on the front line. And suddenly, Jaghori — a haven for an ethnic Hazara Shiite minority that has been persecuted by extremists — appeared at risk of being completely overrun by the Taliban…

A small team of journalists …went into Jaghori’s capital, Sang-e-Masha, on Sunday morning to report on the symbolic importance of what everyone expected to be a fierce stand against the insurgents. Instead, we found bandaged commandos wandering the streets in apparent despair, and officials discussing how they could flee an area almost entirely surrounded by the Taliban. By the end of the day, we were on the run, too.

Officials told us that more than 30 of the commandos had been killed, and we could see, on the streets and in the hospitals, 10 other wounded commandos. An additional 50 police officers and militiamen were also killed in the previous 24 hours, according to the militia’s commander, Nazer Hussein, who arrived from the front line with his wounded to plead for reinforcements. “This is genocide,” Commander Hussein said. “If they don’t do something soon, the whole district will be in the Taliban’s hands.”

The disaster prompted a protest by Hazaras in Kabul, who railed against what they said was government inaction, but even that took a deadly turn. The demonstration had just ended on Monday when a suicide bomber struck, killing three women and three men, one of them a police officer, according to a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

Jaghori’s 600,000 people are poor and live in an isolated part of the central highlands, an area that has no paved roads or electric lines, with terraced wheat fields and abundant orchards of almond and apple trees. But the district is famous for how peaceful it had been. Most people say they cannot remember the last time there was a murder or serious robbery. And the district’s education record is aspirational for the rest of the country: Schooling is nearly universal among girls, and much higher than the Afghan average for boys. (Nationally, less than a fourth of Afghan girls complete high school.)

Many of Afghanistan’s most prominent women are from Jaghori, where the sight of girls riding bicycles and even driving vehicles — virtually unknown in major Afghan cities — is common. In recent years, though, Jaghori District has largely been cut off from the rest of the country, since it is in Ghazni Province, much of which is controlled by the Taliban, and the main roads leading to the district have been blocked by the insurgents. Three years ago, a small airstrip was put in, but scheduled air service has yet to begin. People who have managed to get out of Jaghori are usually smuggled by drivers along remote tracks. That trip used to cost about $50 a person. In the past week, it has increased to $350.

A week ago, the Taliban broke a longstanding truce and attacked Jaghori from three directions in what appears to be a determined effort to take the district, as the insurgents have done elsewhere with increasing frequency, inflicting steadily rising death tolls on government forces. Nazer Hussein, a militia commander, arrived to plead for reinforcements. “If they don’t do something soon, the whole district will be in the Taliban’s hands,” he said.  “The Taliban attacked us because this is where all the schools are, and because here there are even more girls in school than boys,” said Mubarez Nabizada, who works for the charity Shuhada, which runs orphanages and a hospital…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]




THE ISLAMIC STATE’S FUTURE IN AFGHANISTAN                                                 

Daud Khattak

BESA, Oct. 1, 2018

The Islamic State (ISIS) temporarily managed to win over disgruntled elements among the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban alongside youth from the remote districts in Afghanistan’s east soon after restructuring and renaming itself Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K) in 2014. IS-K’s initial victories against the Taliban and the Afghan government on both the battle and propaganda fronts rang alarm bells in world capitals, particularly among the weaker neighboring Central Asian states.

The group’s emergence and battlefield successes also panicked the Afghan Taliban, the insurgent group monopolizing violence in Afghanistan. For a while, their status as the sole non-state actor to take on the Afghan government and the international community in that country was challenged. However, over the passage of months, IS-K’s propaganda lost its appeal among common Afghans and Pakistanis as the group mostly reversed its battlefield gains in eastern Afghanistan. One of the prime reasons for these reversals is the group’s incompatibility with the region.

The majority of IS-K’s senior leadership was removed from the scene within months of the groups’ emergence in eastern Afghanistan in the second half of 2014. Hafiz Saeed Khan, Rauf Khadim, and Shahidullah Shahid, the founding members, were killed in drone strikes and special forces operations within a year of its announcement. The latest blow was the elimination of top commander Abu Saeed Orakzai, aka Saad Arhabi, who was killed in a joint operation by Afghan and coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan in late August. Arhabi was the fourth IS-K chief killed since the group’s establishment.

Apart from the eastern Nangahar province, Jawzjan in Afghanistan’s north was reckoned as the other stronghold of the Syria-based group. However, droves of IS-K fighters and commanders, both local and foreign, surrendered to the Afghan government in early August after a year-long siege by the Taliban. The surrender came less than a month after the killing of IS-K’s top leader, Taliban renegade Qari Hekmat, in a US airstrike in the same area. The rapid successive losses of senior commanders have kept IS-K from developing into a well-coordinated group like the Afghan Taliban despite its fighting skills and extreme brutality.

Apart from the Afghan government and the coalition troops, the IS-K’s biggest challenge on Afghan turf is the Taliban, the group that has monopolized violence since its ouster from power in late 2001. The Afghan Taliban draw their inspiration from the life and struggle of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the self-proclaimed Amir al-Mu’minin (Leader of the Faithful), who led the Taliban movement in the mid-1990s and seized Kabul from the warlords to establish a hardline regime in the country.

IS-K, on the other hand, shows allegiance to Abu Bakar Baghdadi, the leader of its ISIS parent organization, with little regard for the Taliban’s spiritual chief. Religious differences apart, the two groups are the antithesis of one other politically as well. An IS-K victory is reckoned as a loss for the Taliban, who would never allow an “alien” group to set up shop in an area they have retained and kept under their exclusive influence for the past 17 years. More than the Afghan government or the coalition forces, it is the Afghan Taliban who are resisting the IS-K presence in both the eastern and northern parts of Afghanistan.

Apart from intra-group grievances over the distribution of authority and other petty disputes, many commanders and fighters from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban joined IS-K in the hope of gaining access to the huge financial support they believed (or were made to believe) was coming from ISIS. Even local thugs and criminals joined the group in some remote towns and villages to gain power and get access to the cash. At the very beginning, unemployed youth who joined the group were offered better monthly payments than Afghan policemen or soldiers, with the promise of still more in the days ahead.

However, hopes began to fade with the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. IS-K would have continued to flourish, at least in areas where the group had established a foothold in the early stages, had they received sufficient sums from their Middle East-based patrons to support their jihadist activities in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. But that channel dried up very early on…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]


On Topic Links

The West Must Offer Immediate Asylum to Asia Bibi: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 14, 2018—Asia Bibi’s case looks as if it is coming from “another, medieval world.”

Violence Continues as Pakistani Islamists Protest Christian Woman’s “Blasphemy” Acquittal: IPT News, Nov 2, 2018—Thousands of Islamist demonstrators in Pakistan continue to violently protest the acquittal of Asia Bibi…

The Talib Across the Table: Editorial, Weekly Standard, Nov. 12, 2018—The Obama Administration’s decision in 2014 to trade five imprisoned Taliban fighters for Bowe Bergdahl…

Freeland Orders Internal Review of Afghan Aid: Globe & Mail, Nov. 8, 2018— Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is ordering an internal review of Canadian aid to Afghanistan to determine whether taxpayer money has been wasted on questionable projects and to ensure more oversight.


Egypt’s New Campaign Against Islamic State in Sinai: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, Feb. 11, 2018 — The three months that Egyptian President Sisi allotted to the chief of staff, General Muhammad Hegazy, to eradicate Islamic State terrorism in northern Sinai will soon end.

New Egyptian Era: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 4, 2018— It is no secret that new and surprising alliances have been formed between Israel and a number of Arab states in the region.

Why Sunni Middle East ‘Powers’ Cannot Win Their Own Battles: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Feb. 5, 2018— The New York Times this weekend reported on Israel’s secret air campaign against Islamic State terrorists in the Egypt-controlled Sinai Peninsula…

Palestinians: The Hamas-ISIS War, Corrupt Leaders: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 10, 2018— What do Muslim terrorists do when they are not killing "infidels" and non-Muslims? It is simple: They start killing each other.


On Topic Links


What's Behind the Egyptian-Israeli Cooperation in Sinai?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2018

Egypt Election Appears to Follow an Old Formula: Hamza Hendaw, Times of Israel, Jan. 28, 2018

Egypt's War Against the Gaza Tunnels: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Feb. 4, 2018

Egypt’s Phantom Airline (Video): Jewish Press, Feb. 11, 2018





Yoni Ben Menachem

JCPA, Feb. 11, 2018


The three months that Egyptian President Sisi allotted to the chief of staff, General Muhammad Hegazy, to eradicate Islamic State terrorism in northern Sinai will soon end. The terror has been going on for four years. Sisi gave the order to destroy the terror group after Islamic State murdered more than 300 worshippers in an attack last November on the Al-Rawdah Mosque in northern Sinai.


In recent days the Egyptian army has launched a large-scale military operation in northern Sinai, aimed at carrying out the final stage of creating a five-kilometer buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza. Hundreds of soldiers including special forces, as well as tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy engineering equipment, have been brought to the area. Bedouin sources believe this operation is being coordinated with Israel, since it involves much larger forces than what the military annex of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty allows.


The Egyptian army has already begun to operate in several neighborhoods of the city of Rafah, destroying homes and evacuating residents to facilitate widening the buffer zone. Last week there were several shooting incidents. Islamic State fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades at Egyptian military forces in the midst of their work, also firing at them with light weapons.


Northern Sinai residents believe that the Egyptian army plans to uproot all the homes in Rafah and disperse thousands of its residents to various locations in Sinai, thereby ensuring its control of northern Sinai and the defeat of the Islamic State. In the northern Sinai city of El-Arish as well, the Egyptian army has begun a large-scale endeavor of building a five-kilometer security zone around the city’s airport.  About a month ago Islamic State terrorists tried to assassinate the visiting Egyptian defense minister and interior minister by firing an antitank missile from one of the fields adjoining the airport. The missile struck a helicopter not long before the two officials boarded it.


The Egyptian army plans to annex about half the territory of El-Arish to the new security zone, and has already begun destroying homes and fields and evacuating residents. On February 7, the Shehab News Agency reported that the Egyptian army had put all the hospitals in the city of Ismailia on a state of alert, anticipating an influx of wounded. Ismailia is about 200 kilometers from El-Arish, and the army’s assessment is that El-Arish residents will resist evacuation with acts of extreme violence.


The Egyptian chief of staff’s exact plans still are not clear. Northern Sinai residents, however, in light of the large size of the forces brought to northern Sinai in recent days and the launching of the engineering works, are deeply apprehensive. Sisi has tried unsuccessfully for four years to eradicate terror in Sinai. In recent months the Islamic State contingent has been reinforced by hundreds of experienced fighters from Syria and Iraq after the group’s defeat in the battles there, and these fighters come with advanced weaponry. Sisi cannot yet boast significant achievements in this war. As the presidential elections approach, he needs security achievements that he can display to the Egyptian people, even though his victory in the elections is assured since only one candidate is running against him.


Does erasing Rafah from the map and completing the expanded buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza constitute an image of victory that the Egyptian president wants to tout in the run-up to the elections? The answer may be yes. Sisi intends to visit the area when the tasks are finished, and he may declare the defeat of the northern Sinai terror and ask the Egyptian people to restore their trust in the country’s defense establishment. The Islamic State is believed to have about 1,000 fighters in the area. According to a February 7 report on Egypt’s Aman website, the group’s leader in northern Sinai is Rassem Abu Jazar, who gained extensive combat experience in Syria. Although the group announced that Abu Jazar had been killed in Syria, an interrogation of members of an Islamic State cell captured last week by the Egyptian army revealed that this was an attempt to cover his tracks.


The Islamic State’s fighters are skilled at guerrilla warfare, and Bedouin sources in northern Sinai report that ISIS is well aware of the Egyptian army’s plans and is planning to move its operations to the northern Sinai town of Sheikh Zawid. It will take another few weeks to know whether the Egyptian chief of staff has fulfilled President Sisi’s goal of wiping out terror in northern Sinai. It appears that bloody fighting is imminent.                                                       





Jerusalem Post, Feb. 4, 2018


It is no secret that new and surprising alliances have been formed between Israel and a number of Arab states in the region. Iran has been killing Arab Sunnis and taking control of their land in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. Islamic State and other proponents of political Islam have posed a threat to regimes in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, to name a few. Israel, with its military capabilities, extensive intelligence and advanced technologies, is viewed by many Arab regimes in the region as an important and perhaps even an essential ally in the fight against Islamists, whether they be Sunnis or Shi’ites.


The New York Times revealed yet another example of how Israel has proven to be critical to continued regional stability. According a report published over the weekend, for more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have been carrying out clandestine attacks – over 100 of them – against Islamists operating in Sinai, in full coordination with Egypt’s military regime headed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The cooperation serves both Egyptian and Israeli interests, according to the Times report. For Egypt, the Israeli military involvement is critical for the successful fight against Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and other Islamist terrorist groups operating in the Sinai.


Before Israel’s reported involvement, it seemed that Egypt was losing the battle. On July 1, 2015, Islamists briefly captured control of the northern Sinai town Sheikh Zuweid. In October of the same year, the terrorists shot down a Russian charter jet, killing all 224 people aboard. The air strikes – which according to the report, Israel launched at the end of 2015 – tipped the tide in favor of the Egyptians, say American sources quoted by the Times. Israel, meanwhile, has a vested interest in ensuring that Islamists are prevented from taking control of Sinai, which is located on Israel’s southern border.


Gradually, it seems the semi-clandestine cooperation between Egypt and Israel is becoming widely known in diplomatic and military circles. Zack Gold, an analyst and specialist on the Sinai Peninsula who was interviewed by the Times, likened the under-the-radar cooperation between Egyptian and Israel to Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity. Though, according to foreign news sources, Israel has atomic bombs, the Jewish state has never officially affirmed this, which allows Israel to deny the claim while at the same time enjoying the deterrence afforded countries with nuclear weapons.


Similarly, both Israel and Egypt are wary of publicizing their cooperation in Sinai for fear that doing so will spark opposition within Egyptian society, where Israel is regularly pillorized. Leaders from neither country wish to see a backlash. As a result, no official sources on either side are willing to confirm the military cooperation in Sinai. At the same time, the two countries see the cooperation as essential to the continued stability of the Sinai Peninsula. The idea that the cooperation is not a complete secret also serves as something of a deterrent for Islamist groups with aspirations to expand their operations in the Sinai.


We believe, however, that the strengthening ties between Israel and countries like Egypt should cease to remain a secret. It has been over four decades since Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty. Yet relations remain uneasy, due entirely to stereotypes and antisemitic sentiments perpetuated in Egyptian society. The time has come for the Egyptian president and other Egyptian leaders who benefit from Israeli support to begin changing Egyptian public opinion about Israel. It is, after all, the role of true leaders to initiate change and lead their people, not just to be the slaves of public opinion.


Iran and Islamic State, not Israel, are the ones endangering Arab lives, undermining Arab governments and conquering Arab land. Not only is Israel not a threat to Arabs, it is a country that has proven to be instrumental in confronting and stopping Iran and IS. Egypt’s and Saudi Arabia’s muted response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was a positive step. Now it is time for Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s 2016 visit to Jerusalem to be followed by one by Sisi. Covert military cooperation should be translated into full-fledged and open diplomatic relations and end the uneasy peace between Jerusalem and Cairo.             





Charles Bybelezer

The Media Line, Feb. 5, 2018


The New York Times this weekend reported on Israel’s secret air campaign against Islamic State terrorists in the Egypt-controlled Sinai Peninsula, bringing into stark focus the close military cooperation that has developed between Jerusalem and Cairo. According to the Times, since 2015 Israel has conducted more than 100 strikes in the Peninsula, where the ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province—formerly the Al-Qa’ida-linked Ansar Beit al Maqdis—has waged an insurgency since the counter-revolution that brought President Abdel Fatteh Al-Sisi to power.


One of the report’s “bombshells” was the assertion that Israel’s actions in Sinai have come with al-Sisi’s total approval, albeit the president has been remiss to publicize the coordination given the Egyptian populace harbors near-universal negative attitudes towards the Jewish state. For its part, Israel has a significant interest in maintaining order in the vast Egyptian territory which borders the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, both to prevent the smuggling of arms into the Palestinian enclave and also to ensure that the Sinai Province cannot build up its arsenals—primarily with advanced arms originating from Libya and Sudan—to a level that could pose a significant strategic threat.


While much has been made about the rapprochement between Israel and Egypt—and, more broadly, the Jewish state’s burgeoning ties with regional Sunni countries driven by a shared goal to counter Islamist terrorists, in general, and Iran’s expansionism and potential nuclearization, in particular—less attention has been paid to Cairo’s inability to do its own dirty work; this, despite being led by a military regime supported to the tune of $1.3 billion in annual American aid.


The number of active Sinai Province members is believed to be between 1,000 and 1,500. By contrast, the Egyptian military has an estimated 450,000 active personnel and nearly a million reserve forces. It has some of the most modern weaponry available to it both on the ground and in the skies—some 4,000 combat tanks, 350 fighter jets and more than 250 attack helicopters—whereas the Sinai Province perpetrates most of its attacks using improvised explosive devices and automatic rifles. Nevertheless, even as Egypt has increased its anti-ISIS operations only 150-200 terrorists were eliminated in Sinai in 2017 whereas some 100 Egyptian security officials and approximately 500 civilians were killed over the same time frame. Such a ratio, given Cairo’s military superiority, raises serious questions about the efficacy of its undertakings.


According to Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a Senior Researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the former deputy head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence, while Egypt faces a significant challenge in rooting out terrorists embedded within the local population, the army has nonetheless performed unspectacularly. “It took the Egyptians six years to even prepare a very limited war in the Sinai,” he explained to The Media Line, “which shows that the army is plagued by inefficiencies, which permeate all aspects of Egypt’s society. They have the right tools to deal with ISIS, maybe not to eradicate it completely, but at least to stop terrorists from perpetrating attacks like the one on the [al-Rawda] mosque [in November] that killed more than 300 people.”


Dr. Neriah believes the Egyptian military’s failures are even more concerning given that Israel permitted Cairo to deploy large amounts of personnel and heavy weaponry into the Peninsula in contravention of the 1979 peace treaty signed between the countries. He attributes the struggle primarily to an enormous bureaucracy that has made the Egyptian army inflexible, with decisions made extremely slowly and orders needing to go through multiple channels before they are carried out. And as regards President al-Sisi, “he is part of the system itself and cannot move too far against it as he has to manage the interests of many people.”


Egypt’s apparent deficiencies are mirrored by those of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen, which has made a mess of a three-year-long campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Riyadh, with tens of billions of dollars-worth of U.S.-made military hardware has been unable to overcome the vastly inferior Shiite force. Whereas Saudi Arabia has nearly a quarter of a million active military personnel, the Houthis have an estimated 100,000 total followers, including a large percentage of unarmed loyalists.


Dr. Yoel Guzansky, Senior Research at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies and a former Israeli National Security Council staffer, noted to The Media Line that the Saudis did not send any ground troops to Yemen and have instead relied upon local mercenaries whose alliances are fleeting, as evidenced by the recent fighting between Yemeni government forces and southern secessionists who were previously aligned with Riyadh. He also suggested that mistakes have been made at the political level, particularly by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) who has come under fire for his directing of the conflict.


“MBS may not have really thought this through,” Dr. Guzansky explained, “and if you look at other initiatives such as the boycott of Qatar and the forced resignation of [Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri, the Saudi leader appears a bit impulsive.” Moreover, he concluded, “while it is hard for any country to fight this kind of guerilla warfare, especially from 40,000 feet, it is amazing that the Saudis, with the fourth biggest defense budget in the world, need U.S. refueling of its planes as well as American intelligence and logistical help on the ground.”


Meanwhile, Turkey, which has the second largest army of any NATO member, has had dubious success thus far in its offensive against the Kurdish YPG in Afrin, Syria. Ankara launched the military campaign on January 20 against a largely isolated Kurdish force numbering approximately 10,000 fighters, who must be distinguished from units directly backed by U.S. forces located further eastward. On Saturday, the Turkish military incurred seven fatalities, as “Operation Olive Branch,” intended to extend Ankara’s buffer zone inside Syria to around 20 miles, risks spiraling out of control. Specifically, the Turkish offensive places it on a collision course with Washington, whose NATO compatriot is taking on its main ally in Syria, the Kurds, who were instrumental in retaking the Islamic State’s de-facto capital of Raqqa. Furthermore, if the Turkish assault moves towards the town of Manbij, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned, there is a very real risk of direct clashes with U.S. troops.


In Turkey’s case, many analysts attribute the dysfunction to Erdogan’s purge of the armed forces in the wake of the July 2016 attempted coup. Hundreds, if not thousands of generals and officers were dismissed from their positions, leading to a situation whereby Turkey’s military—estimated at about 750,000 personnel, half of whom are reservists—today has more fighter planes than available pilots. Notably, the former head of Turkey’s Second Army, who was previously responsible for overseeing the border with Syria, is languishing in prison. And there have been numerous incidents of Turkish military miscues in Syria, leading some observers to postulate that the Kurds may stand a chance of defeating the Afrin offensive…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link…Ed]          




Bassam Tawil

Gatestone Institute, Feb. 10, 2018


What do Muslim terrorists do when they are not killing "infidels" and non-Muslims? It is simple: They start killing each other. Take, for example, the Islamic terror groups Hamas and Islamic State (ISIS). Although the two groups share the same ideology and seek to kill anyone who obstructs their effort to spread their version of Islam to the rest of the world, it now seems that the throats they are looking to slit are each other's.


The quarrel between Hamas and ISIS is not a spat between good guys and bad guys. Rather, it is a dispute between two bloodthirsty, vicious and ruthless Islamic terror groups that have the blood of countless non-Muslims on their hands. Until recently, Hamas and ISIS were said to be working together, especially in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula. Hamas has been providing fighters to ISIS in return for weapons smuggled into the Gaza Strip. The cooperation between the two groups enabled ISIS to carry out a series of terror attacks against the Egyptian army and civilians in Sinai.


The past few months, however, have seen a rapid deterioration in relations between Hamas and ISIS, particularly in light of Hamas's effort to mend fences with the regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi. The new rapprochement between Hamas and Egypt has apparently enraged ISIS, prompting it to declare war on its Palestinian sister group, Hamas. Hamas, for its part, has also been wary of ISIS's attempts to infiltrate the Gaza Strip and undermine the regime Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement there.


Hamas brooks no competition. Instead, the group zealously maintains its death grip on the two million Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip. Hamas already has Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction trying to rein it in, so the last thing it needs is for a rival Islamic group to challenge its rule in Gaza. But now it is official: Hamas and ISIS are at war with each other. This dispute, of course, should be seen as good news. There is nothing more comforting than watching two radical Islamic groups rip each other to bits. All one can do now is wish both groups total success!


The war between the two terror groups reached its peak this week, with revelations that ISIS had plotted to assassinate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. According to an Egyptian intelligence report, Hamas recently arrested 18 ISIS suspects who planned to carry out the assassination in the Gaza Strip. The ISIS cell evidently was planning to place explosives in the "White Mosque" in the Gaza Strip, where Haniyeh prays, the reports said. The plot, they added, was uncovered thanks to cooperation between Hamas and the Egyptian authorities.


Earlier, Hamas had announced that its security forces arrested two ISIS terrorists who infiltrated the Gaza Strip from Sinai. According to Hamas, the two terrorists confessed during interrogation that one of the goals of ISIS in Sinai was to prevent humanitarian aid from being smuggled into the Gaza Strip. The arrests came shortly after ISIS released a video featuring the execution of two Hamas members in Sinai. One of the men was identified as Musa Abu Zmat, a senior commander of the military wing of Hamas, Ezaddin Al-Qassam. Abu Zmat was found guilty of smuggling weapons from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. He was killed with a single shot to the head.


ISIS later released another video in which it accused Hamas of "betraying" the Palestinians by arresting Muslim extremists in the Gaza Strip. ISIS also charged Hamas of failing to thwart U.S. President Donald Trump's recent announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and of receiving financial aid from Iran. In the video, ISIS also called for attacking Hamas figures and installations, as well as Christians in the Gaza Strip…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link…Ed]





On Topic Links


What's Behind the Egyptian-Israeli Cooperation in Sinai?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2018—For more than two years “unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 air strikes,” claims a report in Saturday’s New York Times. This report reveals what has been quietly rumored for years. It also provides more evidence for the unprecedented levels of security cooperation that have developed between Egypt and Israel.

Egypt Election Appears to Follow an Old Formula: Hamza Hendaw, Times of Israel, Jan. 28, 2018—To some Egyptians, it looks like the old days are back. With one potential challenger after another arrested, quitting or being forced out of the race, the March presidential election is increasingly taking on the character of the one-candidate referendums held for decades by Egypt’s authoritarian rulers.

Egypt's War Against the Gaza Tunnels: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Feb. 4, 2018—The Egyptian army announced on February 2, 2018, the destruction of a tunnel under the Gaza border. A spokesman said that explosive devices in three warehouses, as well as a tunnel used by "terrorists," were destroyed.

Egypt’s Phantom Airline (Video): Jewish Press, Feb. 11, 2018—Arab Blogger, Nas, recently visited Israel and flew here from Egypt on a phantom Egyptian airline called Air Sinai. He was surprised because the actual airplane had no name on it, as well as no logo, symbols or branding to indicate that it was an Egyptian airline or that it even exists. They don’t even have a website. They may have a physical office in Tel Aviv.





The ISIS Threat: Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom, Jan. 5, 2018— Will the Islamic State forces in Sinai take part in the next clash between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip?

Analysis: Is ISIS Done For?: Yochanan Visser, Arutz Sheva, Dec. 17, 2017— The United States and Iraq celebrated the defeat of the Islamic State on the Sunday after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the Jihadist organization had been driven out of the country.

ISIS in Sinai: Battered, Weakened But Still Dangerous: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 15, 2018— Jihadi organization Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which morphed into “the Sinai Province of the Islamic State”…

ISIS Takes Hold in Pakistan: Kaswar Klasra, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 28, 2017— Concern over the extent of the presence and power of ISIS in Pakistan resurfaced on December 17, when a suicide-bombing at a church in Quetta left at least nine worshipers dead and more than 50 seriously wounded.


On Topic Links


Syria's Post-ISIS Future (Audio): Hillel Frisch, Middle East Forum, Jan. 3, 2018

Returning ISIS Jihadists Pose Long, Uncharted Challenge: Abigail R. Esman, IPT News, Oct. 16, 2017

Are Jihadi Motives Really a Mystery?: Raymond Ibrahim, PJ Media, Jan. 5, 2018

The Jihadist Threat Won't End With ISIS' Defeat: Barbara F. Walter, Foreign Affairs, Dec. 22, 2017





Nadav Shragai

Israel Hayom, Jan. 5, 2018


Will the Islamic State forces in Sinai take part in the next clash between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip?

Officials in the intelligence community who are monitoring the group's growing strength and movements on the Sinai Peninsula tend to think so, and Israel is preparing accordingly. The IDF has even notified communities in the Eshkol Regional Council that it is considering lengthening the anti-tunnel barrier that has been dug along the Gaza border to areas on Israel's border with Egypt to counter Islamic State in Sinai.


The Institute for National Security Studies has been busy studying the jihadi group for years. This week, the institute presented President Reuven Rivlin with its annual security assessment. Among other issues, the report discusses the potential for a major terrorist event in Islamic State-controlled Sinai. "If there is another war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas and other organizations there, we can assume that the parts of Sinai controlled by the Islamic State will also take part in it,"Lt. Col. (res.) Yoram Schweitzer, who heads the Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict at the INSS and is an expert in the field, says In an interview with Israel Hayom.


As someone who has spent years studying the globalization of suicide terrorist attacks, and who formerly served as head of the IDF's international counterterrorism department, Schweitzer shares the belief that ISIS in Sinai will not remain idle if another clash erupts in the south. He can point out family ties and mutual interests that Hamas in Gaza and the ISIS leadership in Sinai share. "Although ISIS sees Hamas as heretics, and there are deep ideological divides between the two groups, the relations between Hamas in Gaza and the Islamic State in Sinai include mutual interests, a history of cooperating on weapons smuggling and some Hamas members who crossed the border and joined ISIS in Sinai.


"The two groups mix. There are some Hamas members who were disappointed with the group and crossed over to operate as part of [ISIS] in Sinai, and there are clans in Gaza and Sinai who have some members who are active in Hamas in Gaza and others who are active within the framework of ISIS in Sinai," Schweitzer says. The analyst goes on to discuss the "complicated organizational ties between Hamas and ISIS in Sinai, which have had ups and downs." "Even when the Egyptians are putting heavy pressure on Hamas, the group does not turn over members of ISIS-Sinai who have sought shelter in Gaza," he adds. According to Schweitzer, this means that "Hamas is still leaving itself room to cooperate with ISIS in Sinai. A supply and weapons smuggling pipeline to Gaza, with assistance from ISIS-Sinai, is turning out to be an interest stronger than the fear of threats from Egypt, which is demanding that Hamas turn in Islamic State operatives who are hiding in Gaza."


Islamic State in Sinai has proved its military capabilities and professionalism over the past few years, in particular in recent months. The possibility of ISIS in Sinai taking part in the next round of Gaza fighting demands that we review what the organization has managed to perpetrate against Egyptian and Israeli targets these past few years. The worst terrorist attack ISIS in Sinai has carried out against an Egyptian target took place at the Sufi al-Rawdah Mosque in northern Sinai at the end of this past November. A total of 311 worshippers were killed, including dozens of children. The unusual target was apparently chosen because the Sawarka Bedouin clan and the mosque's imam were cast as vigorous opponents of the Islamic State and as collaborators with the Egyptian government's war on ISIS.


The al-Rawdah bombing was the worst terrorist attack in the history of modern Egypt, and it came after ISIS terrorists managed to slip a bomb onto a Russian tourist plane in Sharm a-Sheikh in October of 2015. The plane blew up in mid-air, and all passengers and crew – 224 people in all – were killed. Every year for the past three years, more than 400 Egyptian civilians and members of Egypt's security forces meet their deaths in jihadi terrorist attacks, mainly executed by Islamic State. The attacks are not limited to Sinai; they are creeping into Egypt proper. Often, they target the country's Coptic Christians and tourist destinations in Egypt and Sinai, like the shooting attack at St. Catherine's monastery last April.


According to foreign reports, as well as reports from the Islamic State delegation in Sinai, Israel is helping Egypt fight ISIS terrorism, contributing intelligence and airstrikes. This is prompting ISIS in Sinai to attack Israeli targets as well, although the jihadis in Sinai had Israel in their crosshairs long before Israel was involved in any way in Egypt's efforts to eradicate the jihadis from the Sinai Peninsula.


As early as October 2004, three explosives-rigged cars blew up at the main Israeli tourist destinations in Sinai – the Taba Hilton and the Ras al-Shitan beach, killing 34 people, 12 of whom were Israelis. In the summer of 2011, Salafi jihadis managed to infiltrate Israel from Sinai and attack two Egged buses and a number of cars near Eilat, close to the Egyptian border. Six Israeli civilians, an IDF soldier, and a member of the Israel Police special forces were killed in these attacks. A year later, the Sinai terrorists almost managed to perpetrate a disastrous attack when they used an explosives-rigged APC and truck to breach the Israeli border near Kerem Shalom. The truck hit an old British "pillbox" guard post at the border crossing and blew up, while the APC continued moving forward into Israeli territory until an IDF attack helicopter destroyed it with a missile.


Between 2011-2012, the natural gas pipeline running from Al-Arish in Sinai to Israel and Jordan was sabotaged 15 times. The Sinai-based terrorists have also fired rockets, although relatively few, at Israel over the years. Between 2010 and 2015, 22 Grad rockets were fired at Eilat and the communities in the Eshkol region. Three years ago, ISIS in Sinai claimed responsibility for one of the rocket attacks for the first time, after firing three rockets toward the Eshkol Regional Council. In 2017, another six rockets were fired, four at Eilat and two at the Eshkol region. The concern now is that in the next clash with Hamas, ISIS in Sinai will launch rocket attacks against Israeli communities, this time more numerous…

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





Yochanan Visser

Arutz Sheva, Dec. 17, 2017    


The United States and Iraq celebrated the defeat of the Islamic State on the Sunday after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the Jihadist organization had been driven out of the country. "Today, our troops were able to purge islands of Nineveh and Anbar in full, and they (the forces) are now fully controlling the Iraqi-Syrian borders,” al-Abadi said…“These victories are not only for the Iraqis alone, though the Iraqis were themselves who achieved such victories with their sacrifices. But the victories are for all Arabs, Muslims and the world alike,” the Iraqi leader added.


“Honorable Iraqis, your land has been completely liberated, the flag of Iraq is flying high today over all Iraqi territory and at the farthest point on the border,” according to al-Abadi who declared Sunday a national holiday. The U.S. State Department followed suit with spokeswoman Heather Nauert issuing a statement congratulating the Iraqi people and “the brave Iraqi Security Forces, many of whom lost their lives heroically fighting ISIS." Nauert cautioned, however, that the victory in Iraq doesn’t mean the war against terrorism and even Islamic State in Iraq is over.


A day after she issued her warning ISIS suicide bombers tried to attack the Iraqi city of Rashad but the assault was foiled by the Hashd al-Shaabi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias which killed 10 Islamic State terrorists. It didn’t prevent al-Abadi from organizing a military parade in Baghdad with soldiers of the Iraqi army marching through the center of the city while helicopters and warplanes were flying overhead.


The announcement about the final victory over ISIS in Iraq came two days after the Russian army declared victory over the barbaric group in Syria. Both statements seem to be premature, however, and an Iraqi MP even accused al-Abadi of electoral propaganda by declaring victory over Islamic State at this point. Hushyar Abdullah, a member of the Iraqi security and defense committee, wrote on his Facebook account that ISIS is still able of creating new battle fronts in Iraq. “Domestic and foreign reasons that led to the emergence of ISIS still persist in Iraq and the region,” he added according to The Baghdad Post. Abdullah said the political failures in Iraq are “at their worst level,” but didn’t elaborate.


Experts agree with Abdullah and warn a repeat of al-Qaeda’s resurrection in Iraq, which led to the founding of the Islamic State group, could happen because “the earth on which IS flourished” has not dried out. “The jihadists have been deprived of oxygen and defeated militarily but the womb from which they emerged remains fertile.” Karim Bitar a French Middle East expert warned. He meant economic and social problems as well as marginalizing minorities and widespread corruption in the central government in Iraq. Another huge problem is that in Iraq a whole generation has grown up knowing only cruel war and being brainwashed by Islamist ideology.


To understand why it is premature to celebrate victory over the Islamic State group one should take a look at the broader picture of the war against ISIS. Take, for example, what is happening in Egypt and Libya, as well as countries in Asia, Africa and the Western nations. In Egypt Islamic State is on the rise despite a four-year-old campaign by the Egyptian military and continues to expand its destabilizing activities in the country of 90 million. Wilayat Sinai, the local ISIS branch, which began its activities under the name Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, has roughly 1200 fighters in the Sinai Peninsula, 80 percent of them foreigners according to the Woodrow Wilson Center.


The Jihadist group carried out the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s history at the end of November and has expanded its terrorist operations to the densely populated Nile Delta and to the desert in western Egypt all the way up to the porous Libyan border. Via that border, ISIS terrorists who fled from Syria and Iraq are now regrouping in Libya – that thought it also had routed the Jihadist group after the fall of its local capital Sirte.


Then there is Gaza where ISIS-affiliated Salafist terror groups are more and more challenging Hamas rule over the enclave in southern Israel and who are reportedly behind the renewed rocket attacks on Israeli cities and communities in the vicinity of Gaza. Islamic State also has a presence on the Golan Heights where it operates under the name Khalid ibn al-Walid Army. Channel 2 in Israel reported in October on several senior ISIS commanders who fled from Iraq and Syria and were recruiting local youth who were receiving military training in camps a few kilometers from the Israeli border.


Farther away in Africa Islamic State’s ideology is leading to the formation of new terror groups which joined their brothers of Boko Haram in Nigeria, an Islamist group that swore allegiance to ISIS in 2015. In Niger and Somalia ISIS’ affiliates have already staged deadly terrorist attacks which aim to destabilize the countries to the point the regime collapses. In the middle of October the ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliated group al-Shahaab killed at least 276 people when a truck bomb flattened the center of Mogadishu in Somalia.


Pakistan and Afghanistan in Asia have also proven to be fertile ground for Islamic State’s radical Islamist ideology and have witnessed a number of devastating terror attacks committed by local ISIS affiliates. Further east in the Philippines ISIS founded a new branch which operates under the name Al-Shabaab and committed a massacre in the predominantly Muslim city of Marawi, leaving more than 200 people dead this summer.


Then there is Europe where returning ISIS terrorists are increasingly staging so-called lone wolf attacks on Westerners and are forming local terror cells which, like in Spain, are able to wreak havoc. Some 1,200 Islamic State terrorists have returned to European countries and Andrew Parker, the director of the MI5 British intelligence service, warns that the threat they pose is evolving rapidly. “That threat is multi-dimensional, evolving rapidly, and operating at a scale and pace we’ve not seen before,” according to Parker. The United Kingdom tops the list of countries which are harboring ISIS terrorists, with 425 individuals who fought in Syria and Iraq.


The threat Islamic State poses to the world now tops the list of worries among the public. A Pew Research Center report from August 2017 showed that 61 percent of people interviewed in countries across the globe said Islamic State remains the greatest threat worldwide.





Zvi Mazel

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 15, 2018


Jihadi organization Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which morphed into “the Sinai Province of the Islamic State” when it pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS, is slowly losing steam. Torn apart by internal strife and new enemies it is less and less active. Terrorist attacks plummeted from 594 in 2015, to fewer than half that in 2016 and 2017, according to a recent report of Al-Ahram Weekly. This is due to several factors, first and foremost, the Egyptian Army which is doing much better since it killed the organization’s leader Abu Anas el Ansari in May 2016.


ISIS appointed in his stead Abu Hajer al-Hashemi, who is not Egyptian and is rumored to be a former Iraqi Army officer. More non-Egyptians were appointed to the leadership of the group or swelled the terrorists’ rank and file. Among them were deserters from the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, who fled the Gaza Strip because they were dissatisfied with what they perceived as the lack of resolve of Hamas against Israel and against the Palestinian Authority.


The growing influence of these “foreigners” led to significant changes. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis no longer took into consideration the tribal intricacies of northern Sinai and did not hesitate to target local civilians and Beduin, even those who in the past had demonstrated sympathy toward the jihadists. The new policy was following the basic tenet of Islamic State: Apply maximum savagery to terrify to reach its goal: setting up an Islamic regime based on the Shari’a and ruled by a caliph.


The November 24 massacre at Al-Rawdah Mosque, linked to the Sufi school of Islam, was a stark demonstration of that new policy. More than 300 civilians were killed in the attack carried out during the Friday morning prayers. The large Tarrabin tribe, which in the past had helped the jihadists, supplying them with information and affording them sanctuary, then turned hostile and greatly hampered their movements. According to reports, armed tribesmen had started unspecified operations against the jihadists last summer. Meanwhile, there were bitter conflicts between the “Egyptians” and the newcomers among the terrorists.


The tribe’s hostility combined with the growing pressure from the army led to the desertion of many militants. Some went back to Gaza, others departed for Libya. Those who did not want to leave the Sinai Peninsula joined another terrorist group, The Army of Islam, which protects them from the vengeance of Daesh. It is a small organization affiliated with al-Qaida that appeared in 2011 and lately carried out two attacks, against the army and against Daesh. Worse, there were incidents between the two sides inside Daesh. Some weeks ago, 20 bodies were found in a desert area south of El-Arish, apparently the result of an armed confrontation between their followers…

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





Kaswar Klasra

Gatestone Institute, Dec. 28, 2017


Concern over the extent of the presence and power of ISIS in Pakistan resurfaced on December 17, when a suicide-bombing at a church in Quetta left at least nine worshipers dead and more than 50 seriously wounded. Had Pakistani security forces not responded swiftly to the attack on the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church — where 400 men, women and children were attending Sunday services – the assailants "would have managed to reach the main hall of the building, and the death toll would have been much higher," Sarfraz Bugti, the provincial home minister of the Baluchistan province, where Quetta is located, told Gatestone Institute.


Responsibility for the attack — in which two terrorists, clad in explosive vests and armed with AK-47 rifles — was later claimed by ISIS, which has an impressive record of honesty in taking credit for attacks, in a statement published by the Amaq News Agency. This was the sixth ISIS attack in Pakistan in the past year and a half. The first took place on August 8, 2016, when a suicide bomber killed at least 70 people and wounded more than 100 in an attack on a crowd of lawyers and journalists gathered in a government hospital in Quetta — in the province that borders Afghanistan and Iran — to mourn a lawyer who had been murdered earlier in the day. The attack was claimed by a joint ISIS-Taliban faction.


On October 24, 2016, ISIS claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a police training college in Quetta. The assault, committed by three heavily armed terrorists against sleeping cadets, left more than 60 dead and more than 165 others wounded. On February 16, 2017, an ISIS-affiliated suicide bomber blew himself up at a Sufi shrine in Pakistan's Sindh province, killing more than 90 worshipers and wounding more than 300. On April 18, 2017, the Pakistani army foiled a planned Easter suicide bombing against Christians in Lahore. Given the amount of explosives recovered from the perpetrators, had the attack succeeded, there would have been mass casualties.


On May 12, 2017, an ISIS suicide bombing on the convoy of the deputy chairman of the Pakistani Senate, traveling on the National Highway in the Mastung District of Baluchistan, left at least 28 people dead and 40 wounded. On August 12, 2017, an ISIS suicide bombing on a convoy of the Pakistani military in Quetta left 15 people dead – among them eight soldiers – and 40 others wounded.


All of the above attacks could have been anticipated. In February 2016, the director general of the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau warned the government that ISIS was emerging as a threat, with Pakistani terrorists providing a foothold for the group, whose Pakistani branch is called Walayat-e-Khurasan. Operatives in neighboring Afghanistan have also been playing a major role in the terrorist network. ISIS enlists "partners of convenience" in Afghanistan and "outsources" terror attacks to Pakistani organizations — such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar — a recent UN Security Council counter-terrorism report revealed. In addition — according to Punjabi Law Minister Rana Sanaullah — as many as 100 Pakistanis left the country in 2015 to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria.


Both revelations are interesting in light of the fact — told to reporters in Islamabad by Pakistani Ambassador to Iraq Ali Yasin Muhammad Karim after the liberation of Mosul in July 2017 — that Pakistan secretly supported Iraq in the fight against the terrorist group. "Pakistan's security forces have the capability and expertise to deal with terrorist groups," Mohammad Ali, an Islamabad-based security expert, told Gatestone Institute. "I hope they take the threat from ISIS seriously."…

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



On Topic Links


Syria's Post-ISIS Future (Audio): Hillel Frisch, Middle East Forum, Jan. 3, 2018—With the demise of the Islamic State, Syrian President Basher Assad defeated the foremost threat to his regime thanks to Russian and Iranian support. But with substantial parts of Syria held by Kurdish forces, key strategic areas dominated by Turkey, and remnants of jihadist forces still active, the regime has yet to regain full control over his rebellious subjects.

Returning ISIS Jihadists Pose Long, Uncharted Challenge: Abigail R. Esman, IPT News, Oct. 16, 2017—For months now, Western counterterrorism experts have sounded the alarm: as ISIS loses ground, foreign fighters from America and Europe may try returning home. When they do, the experts cautioned, they will carry the terror threat with them, ready and willing to strike. Law enforcement needs to be prepared.

Are Jihadi Motives Really a Mystery?: Raymond Ibrahim, PJ Media, Jan. 5, 2018—The so-called mainstream media's approach to and apologias for Islamic terrorism have become as predictable as they are farcical.

The Jihadist Threat Won't End With ISIS' Defeat: Barbara F. Walter, Foreign Affairs, Dec. 22, 2017—Since October, the Islamic State (or ISIS) has appeared to be on the verge of defeat. Yet even if ISIS were never to reemerge, the United States is no more secure against the jihadist threat than it was in the past.





Latest Tunnel Strike Puts Hamas Leaders in a Tough Spot with Cairo: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Jan. 14, 2018— Hamas leaders find themselves in a worrisome situation.

ISIS Sets Its Sights on Gaza: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 10, 2018— There is nothing more delightful than watching two Islamic terror groups fight each other to the death.

Egypt Versus the New York Times: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 29, 2017 — The full repercussions of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital have yet to be felt.

Egypt’s Nuclear Deal with Russia: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, BESA, Jan. 8, 2018— Egypt is taking its nuclear energy effort out of the deep freeze.


On Topic Links


Ancient Egyptian Monastery Closed and Christmas Canceled: Raymond Ibrahim, Breaking Israel News, Jan. 10, 2018

Can Sisi Rival Gain Support of Egypt's Copts in 2018 Elections?: Ahmed Fouad, Al-Monitor, Dec. 18, 2017

Egypt's Al-Azhar University: Moderation or Dissimulation?: A. Z. Mohamed, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 10, 2018

Protecting His Nation From Puppeteers and Belly Dancers: Declan Walsh, New York Times, Jan. 12, 2017





Avi Issacharoff

Times of Israel, Jan. 14, 2018


Hamas leaders find themselves in a worrisome situation. Another of their tunnels penetrating into Israeli territory has been exposed and destroyed. In total, two of their tunnels have been destroyed in about two and a half months (another one, possibly two, belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has also been demolished), and it seems like Hamas is quickly losing its most significant strategic weapon ahead of the next possible military confrontation with Israel.


Yes, the terror group still has its rockets — and due to the success of the Iron Dome defense system, it has focused on developing short-range rockets with large warheads and mortars. But still, the attack tunnels were considered the crowning glory of Hamas’s military capabilities. Now, it’s becoming clear, that weapon is about to lose its relevance. This could push Hamas to initiate an offensive in the near future in an attempt to utilize its remaining tunnels reaching into Israeli territory.


But the probability of such a scenario is not high. Had Hamas leaders in Gaza, headed by Yahya Sinwar, wanted to do so, they would have acted a long time ago. It is clear that the group’s leaders in the Strip are not interested right now in an outbreak of violence. That could have been deduced from Hamas’s lack of reaction after the March assassination of Mazen Fuqha, its Gaza operative who directed terror networks in the West Bank, and of course more recently after the various tunnels were demolished.


Hamas’s wish to avert a military confrontation at this time can also be inferred from its actions to prevent escalation with Israel, like arresting operatives belonging to “rogue” organizations and the remarkable deployment of “restraint forces” whose job is to foil attacks on Israeli territory. Indeed, rockets are still lobbed from time to time at Israeli towns, but it is now clear that those attacks aren’t being carried out with Hamas’s blessing. The organization is also continuously trying to lower the tensions with Egypt, including cutting its various ties with Sinai Province — the Islamic State’s branch in the peninsula — which led to the latter declaring Hamas a “heretic” group that needs to be fought.


In this context, the route of the tunnel destroyed Saturday is a source of great embarrassment to the Hamas leadership as it seeks to strengthen its ties with Cairo. Less than a week has passed since senior Egyptian intelligence officials toured the border between Sinai and Gaza with Hamas officials, to closely monitor Hamas’s actions to prevent smuggling into and out of Gaza, and also to prevent terror operatives from crossing from the Strip into Sinai. Relations between Cairo and the organization’s elite in Gaza have greatly improved in recent months, with leaders Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh perceived in Egypt as important partners in the significant moves toward inter-Palestinian reconciliation. And yet, it now emerges that under the nose of the Egyptian security system, Hamas has not only allowed the construction of a tunnel that can be used for the smuggling of good(s) and fighters; it has apparently constructed it itself.


One can only imagine the conversation that Hamas leaders will have with Egyptian intelligence officials demanding explanations on the nature of the tunnel, and what they knew and didn’t know about it. The tunnel passed directly under the triple border between Gaza, Egypt and Israel, where the Kerem Shalom border crossing operates. It probably also reached places where it could have been used for attacks on Israeli soil and for entry into Egypt. This isn’t the first and won’t be the last time Hamas is making use of the crossing’s space. The fact that it is the main windpipe for Gaza’s economy doesn’t seem to have had an impact on the group’s military decision-making.


Time after time, we’ve learned how much the suffering of Gaza’s residents could have been mitigated, and how much could have been invested in improving their well-being, if funds were not used for tunnels and rockets. But Hamas, as usual, doesn’t care. At the same time, the terror group is making huge efforts to shift the blame for the humanitarian situation in Gaza onto Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The blows to Hamas’s strategic weapon — the tunnels — could cause the group to focus its efforts on other weapons: drones (as in the incident of the swarm of drones that attacked the Russian base in Syria), commando forces, multicopter drones and more. It isn’t at all easy to change a well-established modus operandi worked on for years with great financial expenditure and physical exertion — but Hamas may do just that in the face of recent Israeli success…

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




Bassam Tawil

Gatestone Institute, Jan. 10, 2018


There is nothing more delightful than watching two Islamic terror groups fight each other to the death. For several years now, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and ISIS in Sinai have been cooperating with each other, especially in smuggling weapons and terrorists over the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. It was a win-win: Hamas supplied ISIS with terrorists; ISIS supplied Hamas with weapons that were smuggled into the Gaza Strip. It appears, however, that the honeymoon between the two terror groups is over.


Last week, ISIS published a video documenting the execution of one of its men after he was found guilty of smuggling weapons to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The execution of Musa Abu Zmat, a former Hamas terrorist who fled the Gaza Strip to join ISIS, took place in Sinai. A screenshot from the ISIS video, showing Musa Abu Zmat, a former Hamas terrorist, blindfolded and awaiting execution. In the video, the ISIS terrorists accuse Abu Zmat of being an "apostate" for smuggling weapons to Hamas's armed wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam, in Gaza. They also accuse Abu Zmat of smuggling dozens of people from Al-Arish, in the Sinai, into the Gaza Strip.


The ISIS terrorist who carried out the execution by a single shot to the head has been identified as Mohammed Al-Dajni, who is also from the Gaza Strip but fled to Sinai to join ISIS. Al-Dajni's father, Abu Rashed, is a senior Hamas official who previously held a top position in the health services in the Gaza Strip. Another ISIS operative who appeared in the execution video has been identified as Abu Kathem Al-Makdisi. In the video, Al-Makdisi is referred to as a "sharia judge." He is the one who read out verdict against Abu Zmat before the execution. Al-Makdisi also condemns Hamas in the video and calls on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to join ISIS.


Palestinian sources say that Al-Makdisi's real name is Hamzeh Al-Zamli, a convicted thief who fled the Gaza Strip several years ago. The sources note that he had been convicted of robbing several businesses in Gaza before he crossed the border to Sinai. The families of the two ISIS executioners (Al-Dajni and Al-Makdisi) have issued strong statements condemning and disowning their sons.


Here is what we need to learn from this video: There are many Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who have joined ISIS in the past few years. It is worth noting that ISIS and its affiliates in Sinai have carried out many atrocities against Egyptian civilians and the Egyptian army. Many of the Palestinians who have been joining ISIS are former members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Some even held senior positions in the armed wings of those two terror groups. The business of smuggling weapons and terrorists across the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt has flourished for many years. Until recently, ISIS and Hamas were in full cooperation on the smuggling business and this has undoubtedly facilitated some of the major terror attacks carried out by ISIS in Sinai in recent years.


ISIS is making it clear that it now has its eyes set on the Gaza Strip. By calling on Palestinians to rebel against Hamas, ISIS is hoping to facilitate its mission of infiltrating the Gaza Strip. Previous attempts by ISIS to infiltrate the Gaza Strip have been successfully thwarted by Hamas. Hamas brooks no competition. Ever. It shows that despite its denials, Hamas is involved in smuggling weapons from Sinai into the Gaza Strip. The man who was executed by ISIS last week was accused of smuggling weapons for Hamas's military wing inside the Gaza Strip. This means that he was either a double agent (for Hamas and ISIS) or that he did something to annoy his ISIS cohorts. Hamas has repeatedly assured the Egyptian authorities that it has no links to ISIS in Sinai and that it supports Egypt's war on terrorism. This is quite a statement from a terror group. The Egyptian authorities have taken the claim with a grain of salt and continue to impose a blockade on the Gaza Strip by keeping the Rafah border crossing shut.


To be clear: the latest dispute between Hamas and ISIS is not a power struggle between good guys and bad guys. This is a power struggle between bad guys and bad guys. It is a power struggle between two ruthless Islamic jihadi terror groups who even have much in common regarding strategy and ideology. Both groups want to spread sharia and eliminate the "infidels" and "apostates." Both groups are responsible for some of the most horrific terror attacks and atrocities in modern history. While Hamas is probably the lesser of the evils in this instance, it is far from moderate. Ironically, it is probably Hamas's cooperation with ISIS that has brought Hamas to its current level of deterioration. Hamas wanted help from ISIS to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip and they got it. Hamas, in return, allowed ISIS terrorists to cross back and forth into the Gaza Strip and Sinai.


For now, no one knows where this ISIS-Hamas feud is headed. What is certain is that the ongoing attempts by ISIS to infiltrate the Palestinian arena should worry not only Palestinians, but Israel and Egypt as well. If ISIS manages to get a toehold in the Gaza Strip, they will be that much closer to Israel's doorstep, and their jihadis minutes from Israeli towns and cities. For the Egyptians, this means that one day they will have to fight ISIS not only in the Sinai, but also inside the Gaza Strip. The biggest losers, once again: the Palestinians.           





Neville Teller

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 14, 2018


The full repercussions of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital have yet to be felt.  One rather strange little by-product does not seem to have grabbed the world’s attention as yet.  It is a story capable of a number of interpretations, not all of them complimentary to the principal players.


The facts are these.  On January 6, 2018 the New York Times published an exclusive news item based on four audio recordings that it said it had obtained.  The Times report did not vouchsafe precisely how they had come into its possession. These recordings, it said, took place shortly after Trump had startled the world by announcing that the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and would move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.  They were, it said, recordings of telephone conversations between an officer in Egypt’s Intelligence Service, Captain Ashraf al-Kholi, and four very well-known Egyptian media personalities, three of them hosts of influential talk shows. The TV hosts were Azmy Megahed, Mofid Fawzy, and Saeed Hassaseen. The fourth person contacted by al-Kholi was Egyptian movie star Yousra.


Captain al-Kholi told the four people he phoned that Egypt, “like all our Arab brothers,” would denounce Trump’s decision in public, but that conflict with Israel was not in Egypt’s national interest. He suggested that instead of condemning Trump’s decision, these media personalities should persuade their viewers to accept it.  In its report, the New York Times included the interesting information that TV chat show host Azmi Megahed had confirmed the authenticity of the recordings, and had described al-KhoIi as a longtime acquaintance.


The Times article, which was immediately published on-line, raised a torrent of furious commentary in Egypt’s pro-government media and in parliament, where it was denounced as part of an international conspiracy to embarrass Egypt. This accusation was partly confirmed when the very same audio recordings were broadcast by an Istanbul-based television network linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. The suggestion of a connection with the Brotherhood, which Egypt has banned as a terrorist group, added to the outrage from supporters of the Egyptian government.


Once in the public domain, an allegation that Egyptian intelligence had secretly attempted to sway public opinion in favor of accepting Trump’s decision on Jerusalem could not go unanswered.  Four days later Egypt’s prosecutor general, Nabil Sadek. ordered a criminal investigation. The New York Times article, he maintained, “undermines Egypt’s security and public peace, and harms the country’s public interest.”


The next developments were as one might have expected.  Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) released a statement denying the accuracy of the Times report on almost every count.  No one named Ashraf al-Kholi, it maintained, worked for the intelligence service.  Fawzi had not presented any TV programs for years, and Hassaseen’s show had ended weeks before Trump’s declaration, and he was not currently presenting any program on air. As for Yousra, SIS said that she was a movie actress totally unconnected with TV talk shows.


Much of this may be true, but it has little relevance to the high profile enjoyed by those particular individuals among the Egyptian public.  And it seems clear that SIS, and perhaps other organs of the state, subsequently subjected them to intense political pressure.  It was not long before Megahed publicly retracted his original statement authenticating the recordings and claiming that he was an old acquaintance of Kholi.  In an Egyptian television interview Megahed said that the New York Times had misquoted him. “This is the first time I’ve heard of this Kholi man,” he said.


Next, actress Yousra and the other TV anchors denied knowing anyone named al-Kholi or participating in telephone conversations with him. Yousra claimed not to have been in Egypt at the time they were reported to have taken place.  The clear implication is that the recordings were faked.  Not unsurprisingly, conspiracy theories followed.  Pro-government television anchors called on the Times to explain how the recordings ended up with the Brotherhood-affiliated TV channel, and suggested that the newspaper was secretly in cahoots with Qatar. Egypt is one of four Arab nations that imposed a punishing boycott on Qatar last June, accusing it of financing Islamist terrorism and sheltering Brotherhood leaders.


The speaker of parliament, Ali Abdel Aal, went along with this, and said the article proved that the Times was allied with the Brotherhood and with Qatar, and was stoking controversy in advance of Egypt’s forthcoming presidential elections. Finally all the SIS could do was issue a statement asserting that Egypt had repeatedly declared its “inalienable position on Jerusalem,” side-stepping the fact that, in doing so, it was confirming what al-Kholi had said would be the official stance. A stout riposte was provided by Michael Slackman, the Times’s international editor.  “Our story was a deeply reported, consequential piece of journalism,” he said, “and we stand fully behind it. The audio recordings were provided to the Times by an intermediary supportive of the Palestinian cause, but we had no agenda other than giving our readers the facts they needed to know.”


This whole episode, true or false, comes at a delicate time for Egypt politically. The first round of new presidential elections is scheduled for March 26. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is running for re-election, faces only a weak rival since his principal challenger, former prime minister Ahmed Shafik, pulled out of the race (Shafik’s lawyers claimed that officials had pressed him to quit on the threat of corruption prosecutions).  All the same, the Egyptian public is unlikely to look kindly on a government-inspired endorsement – even a covert one – of Trump’s Jerusalem declaration.  The last thing Sisi wants, come March, is a poor turnout in his presidential poll.  The result of the prosecutor general’s criminal investigation into the New York Times report is bound to make interesting reading.      





Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek

BESA, Jan. 8, 2018


Egypt is taking its nuclear energy effort out of the deep freeze. On December 11, 2017, during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Cairo, the two countries signed a nuclear agreement that reflects a convergence of their interests: Russia would like to return to its position as the dominant power in the Middle East, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi wants to rehabilitate his country’s economy and once again make Egypt a central actor in the Arab world.


The agreement stipulates that Russia’s Rosatom Corporation will build a nuclear power plant at El-Dabaa, about 140 kilometers west of Alexandria.  The plant will include four light-water reactors for electricity production, each with a 1,200-megawatt output. Egypt and Rosatom also concluded that a storage depot would be built beside the nuclear plant to hold spent nuclear fuel from the reactors before it is sent to Russia for reprocessing. Test runs of the first reactor are expected in 2022 and its full commissioning is anticipated in 2026. Rosatom estimates that the project will be completed in 2028 or 2029.


Russia will also build factories in Egypt for the domestic manufacture of nuclear plant components, bringing in the required expertise; and Rosatom will service the plant for 60 years. According to reports, the project will cost about $30 billion, with $25 billion to be provided by Russia as a loan to be repaid over 35 years. There are many gas deposits in Egypt as well as oil fields, but the country’s faulty pricing policy and economic crisis have caused the energy industries to collapse. With a population now numbering 104 million, Egypt urgently needs nuclear power to improve its energy sector.


Many in Egypt, from disparate parts of the population, oppose building a nuclear plant at El-Dabaa. Businesspeople want to develop tourism in the area, which is on the seacoast; some are concerned about environmental damage; and the Bedouin tribes in the area claim the land has been stolen from them. In February 2012, amid the chaos in Egypt following the revolution, the El-Dabaa site was attacked by thousands of Bedouin; the costs from damage and the looting of equipment were estimated at $80 million.


Egypt’s plans to build a nuclear reactor go back to the days of Nasser. As Egyptian energy expert Ali Saidi, who served as electricity and energy minister from 1999 to 2001, told Al-Monitor in September 2015: “At first, the nuclear project was stopped because of the 1967 war. It was to be implemented with the Soviet Union at that time … The project was bid upon in the 1970s in a competition between US companies, after US President Richard Nixon promised to provide nuclear plants to both Egypt and Israel. Then a US law was passed obliging countries acquiring nuclear plant technologies to be subject to inspection standards from the country of origin, which was America, so the project stopped.”


Saidi added that in the 1980s, during Mubarak’s presidency, American and French companies competed over the nuclear plant project. He explained that the project was dropped from the agenda for two reasons: negative public opinion in Egypt after the disaster of the Ukrainian Chernobyl reactor (1986), and the discovery of gas deposits in the 1990s. Saidi focused solely on the civilian aspect of nuclear energy in Egypt as a source of electricity production. However, Israeli intelligence has suspected for years that Egypt is interested in covertly building a military nuclear potential – from the crisis of the German scientists, who helped Egypt develop ballistic missiles in 1962, through the Mubarak presidency. Naturally, the issue of Israeli nuclear weapons has had an effect on Egypt’s nuclear development efforts. Egypt’s entry into the nuclear arena was primarily impelled, however, by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s pan-Arab policy and by his view of Egypt as a leading country in the Arab world.

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



On Topic Links


Ancient Egyptian Monastery Closed and Christmas Canceled: Raymond Ibrahim, Breaking Israel News, Jan. 10, 2018—Local authorities decided to close down the Saint Catherine Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on January 5 and January 6, when Christmas church services are held according to the Coptic Orthodox calendar. The general directorate of tourist police further ordered all tourist companies not to lead tours to the historic monastery.

Can Sisi Rival Gain Support of Egypt's Copts in 2018 Elections?: Ahmed Fouad, Al-Monitor, Dec. 18, 2017—Just like in 2012, religious institutions in Egypt continue to influence the actions of candidates running for the 2018 presidential elections. Local press reports from Nov. 30 said that former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq had contacted a number of politicians, including leaders in the Salafist Nour Party, before he announced Nov. 29 his intention to run for the 2018 elections.

Egypt's Al-Azhar University: Moderation or Dissimulation?: A. Z. Mohamed, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 10, 2018—Al-Azhar University seemed to have either an ambivalent attitude or a two-faced, taqiyah [dissimulation] one regarding tolerance towards Christians in particular and Islamic moderation in general, according to a report, "Two Faces Of Egypt's Al-Azhar: Promoting Goodwill, Tolerance Towards Christians In Informational Holiday Campaign – But Refusing To Do The Same In Its School Curricula," disclosed by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

Protecting His Nation From Puppeteers and Belly Dancers: Declan Walsh, New York Times, Jan. 12, 2017—In a cluttered corner of his labyrinthine law office, amid dog-eared files and half-empty coffee cups, Samir Sabry stood over a computer screen, his face grave as a stone, watching a clip of a potty-mouthed puppet.






Mosque Attack is a Testament to Egypt’s Impotence in Sinai: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Nov. 25, 2017— The terror attack Friday at a mosque in the small northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abd wasn’t especially sophisticated.

Why Does ISIS Kill Muslims?: Raymond Ibrahim, FrontPage Magazine, Nov. 27, 2017— On Friday, November 24, some 30 gunmen carrying the Islamic State flag bombed and stormed a Sufi mosque in Egypt's North Sinai, about 125 miles northeast of Cairo.

Egypt's Peace Interest: Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, Nov. 28, 2017— Forty years after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Israel, and after a long hiatus due to the "Arab Spring" and ensuing "Islamic winter" that hit the country, Egypt has returned to playing a leading role in the region.

For How Long Will the Peace Treaty with Egypt be Robust?: Efraim Inbar, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 27, 2017— Israel is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the historic visit of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem, that led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.


On Topic Links


Islam and Freedom of Religion: Philip Carl Salzman, Frontier Centre, Oct. 25, 2017

In Egypt, Furious Retaliation but Failing Strategy in Sinai: Declan Walsh and David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Nov. 25, 2017

Egypt-Israel Cooperation Likely to Increase after Sinai Massacre: United With Israel, Nov. 27, 2017

Remembering Anwar Sadat’s Legacy: Yehuda Yaakov, Boston Globe, Nov. 19, 2017







Avi Issacharoff

Times of Israel, Nov. 25, 2017


The terror attack Friday at a mosque in the small northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abd wasn’t especially sophisticated. Rather than advanced military skills, the gruesome scene was testimony only to the moral blindness and cruelty of the perpetrators. First, they set off two bombs inside the mosque, which was thronged with Friday worshipers. Then, when the survivors streamed toward the exits, terrorists waited outside in all-terrain vehicles, picking off those who emerged.


In that fashion, some 305 people were killed and 128 wounded. Based on assessments on social media, before the attack, Bir al-Abd was a town of some 1,500 souls, meaning that about one in three of its residents was a casualty. As of Saturday evening, there had been no claim of responsibility for the attack, but the immediate suspicion falls on Islamic State’s Sinai Province, the group formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. Its leader, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Osama (his real name is Muhammad al-Isawi), took over after his predecessor, Abu Du’a al-Ansari, was assassinated in August 2016.


The pretext for Friday’s attack was likely the mosque’s affiliation with Islam’s mystical Sufi stream. It is known as the birthplace of Sheikh Eid al-Jariri, considered the founder of Sufism in the Sinai. The Islamic State, like al-Qaeda and other radical Sunni organizations before it, has denounced the Sufis. But for IS it isn’t merely about religious differences: In the past two years, the Sufis have worked in tight cooperation with Egyptian security forces in the peninsula in an effort to counter the Islamic State and curb recruitment among the local Beduin.


Recent months have also seen a clan war that has pitted several tribes (notably Tarabin) against the Islamic State. The spate of mutual killings, which has included beheadings (not only on the part of IS), may also be connected to Friday’s attack. Last May, tribesmen executed eight Sinai Province operatives in retribution for a car bomb the terror group detonated near a Tarabin encampment. Among the triggers for those incidents was Sinai Province’s effort to take control of smuggling along the border with the Gaza Strip and to stem the flow of cigarettes, which they forbid, into the Sinai. Those restrictions threatened the livelihood of the Tarabins, who responded with violence.


But beyond IS cruelty and inter-tribal strife, what this attack drives home – and not for the first time – is the extent of the difficulty facing the Egyptian army in its efforts to counter the Islamist insurgency in the Sinai. Indeed, the frequency of attacks in mainland Egypt has gone down of late, and even within the Sinai the military has been able to operate relatively unmolested. Yet, Egyptian intelligence has come up against obvious difficulties in its effort to gain a real foothold in the peninsula, including amassing sufficient human and technological assets to clamp down on terrorism there.


In the immediate aftermath of Friday’s attack, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi declared a new military onslaught against the perpetrators. Hours later, reports emerged of airstrikes against terror targets and dozens of dead among the insurgents. The question is what prevented Egypt from taking such action before the attack, and why previous efforts in the wake of earlier attacks did not yield significant gains.


Egypt has long refrained from embarking on an extensive operation, in the vein of the IDF’s Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank and Gaza in 2002. Perhaps the cost of such a campaign would be prohibitive, or maybe it’s that as long as terrorism is more-or-less confined to the northeastern Sinai, Cairo doesn’t care as much. Eventually, though, those same terrorists who decimated the small town of Bir al-Abd will target vacationers on the sunny shores of the Red Sea, and then in Cairo itself.





Raymond Ibrahim

FrontPage Magazine, Nov. 27, 2017


On Friday, November 24, some 30 gunmen carrying the Islamic State flag bombed and stormed a Sufi mosque in Egypt's North Sinai, about 125 miles northeast of Cairo. They managed to massacre at least 305 people, 27 of whom were children. "The scene was horrific," said Ibrahim Sheteewi, an eyewitness. "The bodies were scattered on the ground outside the mosque. I hope God punishes them for this."


Not only is this considered the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt, but one of the strangest as well. As the NYT explains, "The scale and ruthlessness of the assault, in an area racked by an Islamist insurgency, sent shock waves across the nation — not just for the number of deaths but also for the choice of target. Attacks on mosques are rare in Egypt, where the Islamic State has targeted Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims but avoided Muslim places of worship." Indeed, whereas the bombing and burning of churches and the slaughter of Christians in Egypt at the hands of, not just ISIS, but Muslim mobs and murderers, is hardly an uncommon occurrence in Egypt, attacks on mosques in the name of jihad naturally are.


ISIS does not view its Muslim victims as true Muslims. One Muslim cleric from the region who requested anonymity best voiced the general view: "I can't believe they attacked a mosque." In the West, this selfsame shock of Muslim on Muslim terrorism is used to support the politically correct mantra that terror groups such as the Islamic State truly have nothing to do with Islam—otherwise they would not bomb mosques and kill fellow worshippers of Allah. Because the attack occurred late Friday—and, as of this writing, it is only Sunday, meaning still the weekend—capitalizing on this tragedy as a way to distance Islam from terrorism has not yet begun in the West; but, if precedent is any indicator, it soon will.


For example, last year during the closing days of Ramadan, a spate of terror attacks occurred in Bangladesh, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia—all Muslim nations; these were followed by a media outpouring of "told you Islam wasn't responsible for terrorism," or, to quote Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, "Anyone who believes in religion cannot do such act. They [Islamic State] do not have any religion, their only religion is terrorism." Speaking after the San Bernardino terror attack that left 14 dead, Barrack Obama agreed: "ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death… Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim." After the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, which left 130 people dead, the UK's Independent published an article titled, "Paris attacks: Isis responsible for more Muslim deaths than western victims." And the Daily Beast argued that, "Before the Paris horror, ISIS was killing Muslims on a daily basis. We Muslims despise these crazy people more than anyone else does…. But the number one victim of this barbaric terror group is Muslims. That's undisputed."


Along with distancing Islam from violence—real Muslims are not supposed to kill other Muslims in the name of jihad—this argument further clouds the issue of who is the true victim of Islamic terrorism: Why talk about the Muslim slaughter of non-Muslims—whether Western people, Israelis, or Christian minorities under Islam—when it is Muslims who are the primary victims most deserving of sympathy?


Killing 'fellow Muslims' doesn't make ISIS un-Islamic. The problem with this argument, however, is that the Islamic State does not view its victims as Muslims. Indeed, mainstream Sunni Islam—the world's dominant strand of Islam which 90 percent of the world's Muslims, including ISIS, adhere to—views all non-Sunnis as false Muslims; at best, they are heretics who need to submit to the "true Islam." This is largely how Sunnis view Shias and vice versa—hence their perennial war. While Western talking heads tend to lump them all together as "Muslims"—thus reaching the erroneous conclusion that ISIS is un-Islamic because it kills "fellow Muslims"—each group views the other as enemies.


A saying attributed to the Muslim prophet Muhammad even validates this: "This umma [nation] of mine will split into seventy-three sects; one will be in paradise and seventy-two will be in hell." When asked which sect was the true one, the prophet replied, "al–jama'a," that is, the group which most literally follows the example or "sunna" of Muhammad.


Overall, then, when Sunni jihadis slaughter Shias—or Sufis, Druze, and Baha'i—they do so under the exact same logic as when they slaughter Christian minorities, or European, American, and Israeli citizens: all are infidels who must either embrace the true faith, be subjugated, or die.


Concerning Sufis in particular, last January an ISIS commander situated in Sinai "outlined the group's hatred for Sufis and their practices, including the veneration of tombs, the sacrificial slaughter of animals and what he termed 'sorcery and soothsaying.'" The Islamic State has further referred to Sufism as a "disease" that needs to be "eradicated." Accordingly, a year ago, ISIS beheaded Sulayman Abu Hiraz, a Sufi cleric reportedly over 100 years old, on the charge of sorcery.


The argument that ISIS and other jihadi organizations kill fellow Muslims proves nothing. Muslims have been slaughtering Muslims on the accusation that they are "not Islamic enough" or the wrong "kinds" of Muslims from the start: So what can the open non-Muslim—such as the Western infidel—expect? Indeed, if anything, that ISIS kills other "Muslims" only further validates the supremacist and intolerant aspects of Sunnism, which is hardly limited to ISIS. Just look to our good "friend and ally," Saudi Arabia, the official religion of which is Sunni Islam, and witness the subhuman treatment Shia minorities experience. In the end, it's just jihad and more jihad, for all and sundry.






Prof. Eyal Zisser

Israel Hayom, Nov. 28, 2017


Forty years after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Israel, and after a long hiatus due to the "Arab Spring" and ensuing "Islamic winter" that hit the country, Egypt has returned to playing a leading role in the region. More specifically, in the Israeli context, Egypt is also an integral part of U.S. efforts to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.


For the most part, the Arab world has grown weary of the Palestinian issue. Most Arab countries are preoccupied with their own troubles, with problems that are more urgent and more important to them than helping the Palestinians resolve their internal disputes or the conflict with Israel.


For Egypt, however, this matter is neither distant nor irrelevant. From its perspective, pushing the peace process forward could help Egypt cope with a bevy of serious problems knocking on its doorstep. First, the threat of jihadist terrorism, which has hit the country repeatedly and just last week claimed the lives of hundreds of Sinai residents in a horrific slaughter at a mosque. In Egypt's view, Islamic State and its "Sinai branch" are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt proper. For Cairo, Islamic State is a terrorist organization that perpetrates attacks in the distant Sinai Peninsula, while the Muslim Brotherhood is a potentially lethal cancer eating at the heart of the Egyptian body.


Hamas is a sister movement of the Muslim Brotherhood and in the past has aided Islamic State in Sinai. Like Israel, Egypt recognizes reality and understands that Hamas will not suddenly disappear from the face of the earth. Egypt hopes that a peace process, preceded by an inter-Palestinian reconciliation process, would "contain" the Hamas threat and perhaps, in the long term, even pave the way for the Palestinian Authority to oust the terrorist organization from Gaza. The Egyptians are not naive, but their national interest is to lower the flames, and any progress or even discussion of peace can help them.


In contrast to his predecessor Mohammed Morsi, Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi is determined to improve the Egyptian economy, a requirement for ensuring the country's long-term stability. But for this to happen, Sissi needs an atmosphere of peace. Even more importantly, he needs generous monetary aid from the United States – Russia, after all, can provide weapons, not dollars.


Egypt used to be leader of the Arab world. Now, though, it looks on longingly as Iran and Turkey try to claim the leadership crown for themselves. Egypt's return to the helm of the Arab world and Middle East depends on how it fares against Iran and Turkey, unlike in the past when it largely depended on conflict with Israel. This too, requires a diplomatic process.


These are all good reasons for Egypt to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians; it certainly will not be upset if a peace agreement is reached.






Efraim Inbar

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 27, 2017


Israel is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the historic visit of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem that led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. The move by Egypt, the largest and strongest Arab state, changed the dynamics of the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Sadat violated the Arab taboo against good neighborly relations with the Jewish state and opened the way for additional peace agreements. The defection of Egypt from the Arab military coalition eliminated the option of a two-front conventional war against Israel and saved the Israeli taxpayer billions of dollars. The heavy price paid by Israel to Egypt was total withdrawal from the Sinai and removal of settlements. But, in retrospect, it worked out well, turning Israel into “the land had peace for forty years.”


The peace treaty withstood many difficult tests: Israel’s strike on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1982, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the 1987 Palestinian uprising, Israeli measures against the Palestinian terrorism campaign since 2000 and the Israel-Gaza wars. Even the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt (2012-13) did not cancel the peace treaty.


Unfortunately, Israeli expectations for normal inter-state and people-to-people interactions were not realized. The rooted cultural and religious barriers to having good relations with the Jewish state have been too difficult to overcome. In the Arab world, Israel is mostly seen as an alien body. For Egypt, this has not changed after 40 years of formal peace. In the absence of drastic change in the Arab educational systems, these perceptions of Jews and their state will continue. Hopes for peaceful relations with Arab countries – such as between the US and Canada – are fanciful dreams. This insight should be taken into consideration when calculating the Israeli price for Arab peace offers.


Moreover, the robustness of the peace treaty is not self-evident. History teaches us that most wars break out in violation of a peace treaty. The survival of the peace treaty seems threatened by several developments. We have to remember that the change in Egypt’s position toward Israel was a result of Cairo gradually preferring the US to the Soviet Union.


Egypt realized that the US had greater leverage on Israel in its attempt to gain back the Sinai. However, its pro-American orientation is not a constant. Nowadays, the US seems to have become a less desirable ally. Its international standing has deteriorated and its Middle East policy, under presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, favors disengagement rather than involvement.


At the same time, Russia has become more influential in the region. Egypt seems to sense the change and now buys Russian weapons. It also purchased two Russian nuclear reactors, which has created a long-term dependency upon Moscow. A change in Egypt’s foreign policy orientation also affects its relations with Israel. The region, whose character is changing due to the ascendance of Iran, also provides reasons to worry.


States in the region are aware of a projected American weakness and are left with only two choices when facing an Iran that cooperates with Russia. They can form an alliance to curb Iranian influence (the choice of Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf States) or get closer to Iran (the choice of Turkey and Qatar). Egypt is usually seen as part of the Sunni moderate camp that fears greater Iranian clout. Egypt is much more dependent upon financial support from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Nevertheless, Egypt supported Bashar Assad in Syria – an Iranian ally. If the Gulf region falls under Iranian influence, Cairo might have to adopt a different posture and also look for support in Tehran. This might put an end to the peace treaty with Israel.


Finally, the large growth of the Egyptian military and its modernization is a source of concern. The growth of the Egyptian air force, navy and land forces remains a mystery, particularly with no enemy on Egyptian borders in sight. The investments in logistics infrastructure from Cairo eastwards and the building of tunnels under the Suez Canal seem to have no reasonable civilian rationale. Moreover, the demilitarization of Sinai, the most important stabilizing element in the peace treaty, has been eroded, as Israel agreed to the infusion of Egyptian units into the Sinai to fight the radical Islamic insurgency.


While an Egyptian-Israeli military confrontation is unlikely, we see the emergence of conditions that make an Egyptian attack easier. Everything must be done by Jerusalem to preserve the peace treaty with Egypt, but Israel should still prepare itself for worst-case scenarios.




On Topic Links


Islam and Freedom of Religion: Philip Carl Salzman, Frontier Centre, Oct. 25, 2017—Islam is difficult for Westerners to understand because we view it through our own cultural categories. Our categories have been formed by the post-Enlightenment and post-industrial revolution in the West. Modern Western society has been organized on the basis of occupational specialization and division of labour. This is why we see our societies divided among distinct spheres of activity: familial, economic, political, cultural, and religious.

In Egypt, Furious Retaliation but Failing Strategy in Sinai: Declan Walsh and David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Nov. 25, 2017—After militants massacred 305 people at a packed mosque on Friday in a stunning assault on a sacred place, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi responded as he knows best.

Egypt-Israel Cooperation Likely to Increase after Sinai Massacre: Algemeiner, Nov. 27, 2017—After terrorists killed more than 300 people during prayers at a mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Friday, experts say that weaknesses in the Arab country’s counter-terrorism operations will likely lead to increased Israeli-Egyptian security cooperation.

Remembering Anwar Sadat’s Legacy: Yehuda Yaakov, Boston Globe, Nov. 19, 2017—Forty years ago — on Nov. 19, 1977 — Egyptian President Anwar Sadat embarked on a groundbreaking visit to Jerusalem. The 1979 peace treaty he later signed with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin set in motion the unmistakable dynamic of the Israeli-Arab rapprochement we witness today.


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

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

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

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


On Topic Links


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

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

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

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




IT DOESN'T INVOLVE DEMOCRACY                                                 

Robert Fulford

National Post, Nov. 10, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




Victor Davis Hanson

National Review, Nov. 7, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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





Dr. James M. Dorsey

BESA, Nov. 10, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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

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





Bassam Tawil

Gatestone Institute, Nov. 13, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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

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





On Topic Links


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

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

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

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

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




Surprise! Study Shows Islamic Terrorism is Islamic: Judith Bergman, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 31, 2017— Western leaders insist that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.

The Jewish Blindspot to the Horrors of the Niqab: Barbara Kay, National Post, Oct. 31, 2017— Sir Salman Rushdie spoke at Montreal’s Jewish Public Library last week. We were two of an estimated 700-strong (mostly Jewish) audience.

Burkas, Niqabs Pose Public Safety Risk: Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, Oct. 24, 2017— The slur of "racism" has been hurled at Muslims who support Quebec's Bill 62 — the new law banning face coverings, for example the burka and niqab, when giving or receiving government services.

Islamic State Threat is Alive at Israel’s Doorstep Despite Terror Group’s Losses Elsewhere: Yaakov Lappin, JNS, Oct. 26, 2017— During the last several months, Islamic State has seen its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria erode at the hands of a U.S.-backed coalition.


On Topic Links


Via Rail Plotters Weren’t Sick or Addicted — They Were Evil, FBI Undercover Agent Says: Tom Blackwell, National Post, Oct. 24, 2017

Rohingya Refugee Crisis: The Role of Islamist Terrorists: Lawrence A. Franklin, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 25, 2017

Saudi Women Behind the Wheel: Prince Mohammed’s Litmus Test: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Oct. 4, 2017

New Study: Most UK Jihadists Tied to Non-Violent Islamism: IPT News, Oct 2, 2017



SURPRISE! STUDY SHOWS ISLAMIC TERRORISM IS ISLAMIC                                                                      

Judith Bergman

Gatestone Institute, Oct. 31, 2017


Western leaders insist that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. Evidence to the contrary appeared again this week from Mohamad Jamal Khweis, an ISIS recruit from the United States who said in a 2016 interview with Kurdistan24, "Our daily life was basically prayer, eating and learning about the religion for about eight hours." Khweis was sentenced to 20 years in prison on October 27 for providing material support to ISIS, according to CBS News. As early as 2001, immediately after 9/11, then-President George W. Bush gave a speech in which he claimed that in the United States, the terrorist acts in which over 3,000 people were killed "violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith" and that "Islam is peace".


Twelve years and many spectacular terrorist attacks later, in 2013, when two jihadists murdered Lee Rigby in broad daylight in London, the prime minister at the time, David Cameron, declared that the attack was "a betrayal of Islam… there is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act". In January 2015, jihadists in Paris shouting "Allahu Akbar" attacked Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, murdering 15 people. French President François Hollande said that the jihadists had "nothing to do with the Muslim faith". Two years later, when a jihadist targeted the very heart of European democratic civilization, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge, British PM Theresa May said: "It is wrong to describe this as Islamic terrorism. It is Islamist terrorism and the perversion of a great faith".


In the face of hundreds of Muslim terrorists yelling "Allahu Akbar" while bombing, shooting, stabbing, and car-ramming thousands of innocent civilians to death and wounding thousands of others, it would be reasonable to assume that elected representatives might feel obliged to put their denial of reality on hold long enough to read at least bits of the Quran. They might start by reading the commands in "Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them…" (9:5), or, "So fight them until there is no more fitna [strife] and all submit to the religion of Allah" (8:39).


If that is asking too much, perhaps they might be willing to consider a recent study by Islamic theologian and professor of Islamic religious education at the University of Vienna, Ednan Aslan, which was commissioned by the Austrian ministry of Foreign Affairs. The purpose of the 310-page study, which was conducted over 18 months and involved interviews with 29 Muslims who were all jailed or in juvenile detention (over half for having committed terrorist offenses) was reportedly to investigate the role that Islam plays in the radicalization of young Muslims in Austria. The study showed that jihadists are not, as Western leaders claim, ignorant of Islam and therefore "perverting" it. On the contrary, the jihadists apparently have a deep understanding of Islamic theology. Aslan explicitly warns against reducing the issue of Islamic terrorism to questions of "frustrated individuals, who have no perspective, are illiterate and have misunderstood Islam".


The study found that three factors were particularly relevant to the radicalization process of the interviewees. The first factor was Islam itself: The interviewees had actively participated in their own radicalization, by engaging with the content, norms and standards of Islamic doctrine, and had apparently found this engagement to be a positive turning point in their lives. The study describes the approach to Islam of these men as "Salafism", which it defines as the view that Islam comprises all aspects of life, religious, personal and societal. Moreover, the majority of the men evidently came from religious Muslim homes and were therefore already familiar with the foundations of Islam. The study explicitly states that the prevailing assumption that the majority of radicalized Muslims know very little about Islam could not be confirmed by the interviewers' findings.


The second factor was the environment: the specific mosques and imams to which the men went and on which they relied. Although the internet evidently did play a role in the radicalization process, the study showed that face-to-face encounters were more important, and that dawa, proselytizing Islam, played a central role in this process, as the men themselves became missionaries for Islam. Notably, the study showed that the level of theological knowledge determined the individual's role in the hierarchy — the more knowledge they had of Islam, the more authority they had. The third factor was the establishment of a "them and us" distinction between the radicalized men and the rest of the world, especially the belief that the West is an enemy of the Muslim world. The distinction also involved a rejection of democracy and a commitment to the establishment of a caliphate governed by sharia law, which the men want to bring about either through dawa (proselytizing) or violence (jihad)…

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



THE JEWISH BLINDSPOT TO THE HORRORS OF THE NIQAB                                                  

Barbara Kay

National Post, Oct. 31, 2017


Sir Salman Rushdie spoke at Montreal’s Jewish Public Library last week. We were two of an estimated 700-strong (mostly Jewish) audience. Rushdie’s insightful and entertaining address on “literature and politics in the modern world” was excellent, but the evening’s most noteworthy moment arrived with the Q&A, when, inevitably, his response was solicited regarding Quebec’s new Bill 62, which bans face coverings in the realm of public services. Rushdie gracefully sidestepped any comment on the law itself, but did express a robust opinion on the niqab.


His own family, Rushdie said, ranged from atheism to full Islamic practice, but “Not even the religious members would accept wearing a veil. They would say it is an instrument of oppression.” My husband and I applauded loudly, but few others did. Rushdie added, “Muslim women in the West who see it as an expression of identity are guilty of what Karl Marx called ‘false consciousness.’ A lot of women are forced to wear the veil. To choose to wear it, in my view, assists in the oppression of their sisters in those parts of the world.”


At this point I clapped even more enthusiastically and (alone) bellowed, “Bravo!” But most of the audience continued to sit on their hands. To say I was disappointed in my fellow Jews is an understatement. Here, after all, is a man who knows Islamic fundamentalism and oppression first hand, having endured 20 years of tense vigilance following fatwas against his life for the alleged crime of insulting Islam.


The tepid reaction to Rushdie’s statements thus struck me as a rebuke both to Rushdie’s personal ordeal and to the wisdom he brings to the face-covering debate as a critical insider. It’s also proof that even someone of Rushdie’s moral authority is powerless to shift liberal Jews’ reflexive instinct to identify with a perceived underdog, whatever the actual stakes at issue. I even had the sneaking suspicion that if a niqab’d woman in the audience had risen to shake her fist at Rushdie, she would have sparked an approving ovation.


I understand why young people are loath to criticize any cultural practice by the Other. They’ve long been steeped in cultural Marxism, which encourages white guilt and forbids criticism of official victim groups, including Muslims (but not Jews). But how did so many of my pre-Marxist, classically liberal Jewish contemporaries, who were, age-wise, disproportionately represented in the audience — especially the women, feminists one and all — fall for what public intellectual Phyllis Chesler calls a “faux feminism” that is “Islamically correct”?


I had assumed that my opinion on Bill 62 — that it is a fair law that privileges socially-level communications over a misogynist tribal custom — had solid, if minority, support in my community. The Rushdie evening disabused me of that illusion. Yet, I remain bewildered that Rushdie’s words don’t ring as true to my peers as they do to me. And not just Rushdie. Many Muslims are as “triggered” by the niqab as I am, and for better reason: they came to Canada to escape what it represents in those Islamic countries where it is customary (or obligatory) to wear it. They’re eager to speak up, but most media are too busy romancing the niqab-wearers to hear them.


Here’s a thought experiment I’d put to my progressive Jewish friends: How do you feel about the “frumqa”? “Frum” means religious in Yiddish. A frumqa is the Jewish burqa, worn by a few hundred Haredi women in Jerusalem who are sometimes called the “Taliban women.” The frumqa’s creator, Bruria Keren says she wears it “to save men from themselves. A man who sees a woman’s body parts is sexually aroused … Even if he doesn’t sin physically, his impure thoughts are sin in themselves.”


I’m glad the frumqa exists for one reason: I can say I find it disturbing in itself and abusive to girls without being called Islamophobic. I can freely say that Haredi fundamentalism and the obsessive gender extremism it incubates is a blot on the Jewish halachic and cultural landscape. Please don’t speak to me of a Jewish woman’s “right” to wear such a travesty of “tzniut” (modesty in dress and behaviour). Indoctrinated women, like inebriated women, are not competent to give informed consent to practices that reduce them to sexual and reproductive “things.”


I’d wager there isn’t a single Jewish woman in that Rushdie audience who wouldn’t privately express her visceral disgust with the frumqa, and who furthermore wouldn’t turn a hair if it were banned in Israel (it can’t be: the Haredim hold too much political power there). But over the Other’s burqas they draw a politically correct veil. Forgive me if I conclude it isn’t just Muslim women in the West who are guilty of false consciousness.




Tarek Fatah

Toronto Sun, Oct. 24, 2017


The slur of "racism" has been hurled at Muslims who support Quebec's Bill 62 — the new law banning face coverings, for example the burka and niqab, when giving or receiving government services. From Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne to Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, many white politicians and liberal media commentators have been quick to label any support of Bill 62 racist.


Since I, a Muslim, support Bill 62, I guess that makes me a racist. Indeed, it's not uncommon to hear whispers suggesting Muslims like me who support the burka and niqab ban are "sell-outs" within the Muslim community. And that white politicians who oppose Bill 62 are trying to salvage the reputation of our community, despite our supposed betrayal.


Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown are fierce political rivals, but both have been quick to label any support of Bill 62 racist. After all, what do these politicians have to lose? The political race to the bottom to curry favour with the so-called "Muslim vote bank" in Canada, as they see it, has worked well for both Conservatives and Liberals, charmed as they are by many second-generation radical Muslims who were born in Canada, some of whom hate Western civilization more than their parents do.


But none of the attacks on Quebec's burka/niqab ban were more disingenuous than one told by a well-coiffed hijabi on Canadian television recently, dismissing the public safety aspect of people wearing facemasks. This young Muslim woman claimed there has not been a single incident where someone wearing a burka committed a crime. To set the record straight, here are just a few examples of criminal activities committed by men and women wearing burkas and other face coverings in Canada:


Two months ago, on Aug. 17, 2017, an armed robbery took place at a Scotia Bank branch in Milton, Ontario. Police said one of the two suspects was wearing a balaclava; On Sept. 9, 2015, two burka-wearing male teens charged into a Toronto bank in the Yonge Street and Highway 401 area. Both were later arrested in Ajax; On Oct. 14, 2014, two men wearing burkas robbed a Toronto jewelery store in the York Mills and Leslie Street area, and walked away with $500,000 worth of gold and precious stones; On Aug. 18, 2010 an armed robbery by two masked men took place at a Scotiabank branch in Vaughan, north of Toronto; Ottawa police have in the past cited a handful of robberies in that city involving male suspects using Muslim women's religious garments as disguises.


Some of us will never forget how a young Toronto Muslim woman, Bano Shahdady, threw off her burka as she was divorcing her husband, only to be stalked by him disguised in a burka. He entered her apartment building and killed her in July 2011. It was a story few media were willing to delve into, but because I knew the family, one journalist did report about this burka-related murder that almost went unreported.


Around the world, numerous criminals have fled arrest wearing burkas, everywhere from London's Heathrow airport to the infamous Lal Masjid armed revolt by jihadis in Islamabad. My plea to vote-grabbing Canadian politicians of all political stripes in English-speaking Canada is, for once, be honest. Put the racist card aside and recognize burkas and niqabs pose a serious public safety risk.






Yaakov Lappin

JNS, Oct. 26, 2017


During the last several months, Islamic State has seen its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria erode at the hands of a U.S.-backed coalition. With the recent liberation of Islamic State’s de-facto capital in Raqqa, Syria, by coalition forces, many experts see the jihadist group attempting to bounce back by shifting from “state-building” to bolstering its terror network, including by exploiting lawless areas of the Middle East.

In Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, despite ongoing efforts by the Egyptian military, an Islamic State-affiliated terror group continues to deliver a succession of painful, deadly attacks on the Arab country’s security forces. With Islamic State’s losses in Syria and Iraq piling up, the Sinai remains an area where the terrorist organization is active and on the attack.  Occasionally, Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate, known as Sinai Province, fires rockets into southern Israel—including an attack in mid-October, sending residents of the Eshkol region fleeing for cover.


Yoram Schweitzer, head of the Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, pointed out that Egyptian authorities do not operate in the Sinai like they do in the Egyptian heartland. Egypt’s counter-terrorist campaign “has some achievements, but not enough to solve the problem and to significantly lower ISIS’s activities.”


Egypt has struggled to integrate its security forces effectively, or deploy sufficient special forces, but has been able to cause real damage to Sinai Province during the past year and a half, Schweitzer said. “I don’t think Sinai Province is getting stronger. To a certain extent, it is weaker, but not enough to be repressed,” he told JNS.org. Egypt’s efforts are now receiving support from Bedouin tribes in the Sinai—like the Tarabin tribe—who have grown resentful of Islamic State’s presence, said Schweitzer, a former head of the Counter International Terror Section in the IDF. “The effort is better, but we see that terrorism isn’t breaking,” he said.


“They are still able to strike and kill soldiers in high numbers. The Egyptians can’t solve this problem,” Schweitzer added. One possible reason for this, he said, is the fact that Egypt “still doesn’t see Sinai as central enough. So long as there are not massive attacks in the Egyptian heartland, hitting senior government officials or tourist sites, this view will not change.”


An Israeli security source closely familiar with the Sinai sector offered rare confirmation of what she described as “tactical cooperation” between Israeli and Egyptian security forces on the border. “We have the same interests,” the source told JNS.org. “We both want to defend the border. We both understand that we are targets for terrorism. Hence we coordinate. It is clear to everyone who the enemy is, and that it is not us or them.” As evidence, the source pointed out that for the past year and a half, Egypt’s border police forces have constructed posts so that their openings face the Israeli side. “They did this out of an understanding that we have a common interest,” she said. “They understand that Israel is the safe side.”


The Israeli security source said that once in a while, Islamic State’s Sinai affiliate finds “ways to signal to us that we are in their crosshairs.” Israel does not confirm or deny reports that it launches air strikes on Islamic State in the Sinai, though the terror organization has accused the Jewish state of doing so repeatedly. It is difficult to estimate the size of Sinai Province, but assessments range from between hundreds and a few thousand members, the Israeli source stated. “Its weapons capabilities are varied. It has explosives that are both industrial and homemade, and a rocket stockpile that is not large,” she said. 


Asked about the scope of the threat to Israel, the source said, “As of now, our understanding is that Sinai Province’s leadership has issued a directive to focus efforts against the Egyptian security forces. We see that this directive is being followed.” The source was quick to point out that “this does not mean they like us. We are taking into account the fact that a decision, and having the ability, is what separates us from an attack against us.”


The IDF is building up its ability to deal with a variety of potential attacks from terrorists in the Sinai—including attempts to infiltrate into Israel and conduct a major attack. “Anything that approaches this sector comes under intense surveillance,” the source said. The Israeli military’s surveillance goes far beyond the Israel-Egypt border fence; any unusual movements are “checked thoroughly,” the source said. Various Israeli intelligence forces have joined forces to keep the area “clean from terrorism,” she added.


The source does not believe that Islamic State is getting stronger in the Sinai, but rather, that the terror group has succeeded in maintaining its power there, while it grows weaker in the rest of the Middle East. “They created an ability to continue attacking, keeping up their ‘output,’ and it turns out they can continue to recruit successfully,” she said. “This has not happened in other ISIS zones.” One reason for Islamic State’s continued presence in the Sinai, said the source, is that “for many years…Sinai has been the backyard of Egypt. There was no orderly Egyptian political sovereignty there. This created fertile ground for terrorism to grow uninterrupted.”





On Topic Links


Via Rail Plotters Weren’t Sick or Addicted — They Were Evil, FBI Undercover Agent Says: Tom Blackwell, National Post, Oct. 24, 2017—By the time he was sentenced to life in prison for plotting to wreck a Via Rail train and other terrorist acts, Chiheb Esseghaier had been diagnosed as psychotic, having gone on incoherent rants, spit at a witness and fallen asleep during his trial.

Rohingya Refugee Crisis: The Role of Islamist Terrorists: Lawrence A. Franklin, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 25, 2017—Although the media has extensively covered the Burmese Army's expulsion of Muslim Rohingya people from Rakhine Province in Myanmar — and although no one is recommending the horrors of murder or mass expulsions — little attention has been paid to Rohingya ties to international Islamic terrorism.

Saudi Women Behind the Wheel: Prince Mohammed’s Litmus Test: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Oct. 4, 2017—If last week’s national day celebrations, during which women were for the first time allowed to enter a stadium, is anything to go by, opposition to the lifting of Saudi Arabia’s ban on women’s driving is likely to be limited to protests on social media.

New Study: Most UK Jihadists Tied to Non-Violent Islamism: IPT News, Oct 2, 2017—Ties to non-violent Islamism are strongly associated with an eventual embrace of jihadism, according to a new study that explores the trajectories of British jihadists.





ISIS: Some Things Cannot Be Killed Off: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, BESA, Oct. 26, 2017 — As the city of Raqqa, the capital of the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” falls to the Free Syrian Army, made up primarily of Kurdish and Syrian militias, the question is what the aftermath of ISIS will look like.

Real Threat to the West: Why Can’t Britain See It?: Melanie Phillips, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 26, 2017 — Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia has been making some remarkable comments.

Israel Takes On the Shia Crescent: Joseph Klein, Frontpage, Oct. 2, 2017 — Despite Israel's repeated warnings, Barack Obama's reckless appeasement of the Iranian regime has enabled its rise as a hegemonic threat in the Middle East region as well as a threat to international peace and security.

Why There Is No Peace in the Middle East: Philip Carl Salzman, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 14, 2017— Living as an anthropologist in a herding camp of the Yarahmadzai tribe of nomadic pastoralists in the deserts of Iranian Baluchistan clarified some of the inhibitions to peace in the Middle East.


On Topic Links


The Fall of Kirkuk: An IRGC Production: Jonathan Spyer, Breaking Israel News, Oct. 22, 2017

What Iraq’s Recent Moves Against Kurds Mean for Israel and Region: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 26, 2017

The U.S. is on a Collision Course with Iran in the Middle East: Liz Sly, Washington Post, Oct. 26, 2017

Between the Iranian Threat and the Palestinian State Threat: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 22, 2017





Dr. Mordechai Kedar

BESA, Oct. 26, 2017


As the city of Raqqa, the capital of the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” falls to the Free Syrian Army, made up primarily of Kurdish and Syrian militias, the question is what the aftermath of ISIS will look like. The answer is threefold and involves the organization, its members, and its ideology.


The organization may well be routed and eradicated. The large swathe of territory it controlled will be divided among Syria, Iran, Turkey, and the Kurds, and its government institutions will become relics of the past. The attempt to reestablish the Islamic caliphate failed because the Muslim world – not only the “infidels” – despised its gruesome, seventh-century execution methods.


Most of the organization’s members are already elsewhere, however, and they carry a sense of righteousness in their hearts. They feel betrayed and will seek revenge against all those who attacked them. Those include the Kurds and the coalition countries; Muslims who stood by and did not help them, such as former Soviet bloc countries; and countries that helped but then abandoned them along the way, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.


These jihadists have dispersed in many countries. They are establishing proxies in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, Mali, the Philippines, and elsewhere, with each branch adjusting its structure and activities to the environment in which it operates. Variables include the degree to which local governments effectively wield power, the degree to which the local Muslim population is supportive, and the degree to which a terrorist organizational infrastructure already exists and can be utilized. We saw a similar phenomenon after the defeat of al-Qaida in Afghanistan in late 2001, when one of its offshoots settled in Iraq and joined with the local Sunni population and the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s army to form ISIS. Beginning in April 2003, it began exploiting the weak central government in Baghdad, and in March 2011, the government in Damascus.


Every local proxy, however, will suffer from the same fundamental problems prevalent in any radical Islamic group. There will be disagreements within the group over Sharia law and its implementation; over ruling a territory or remaining a non-sovereign jihadist entity; the severity of punishment for offenders; the title of leader (whether he will be named caliph or not) and his authority; the group’s relations with similarly minded organizations; the status structure within the organization (Arabs versus non-Arabs, Muslims by birth versus Muslims by conversion), and more. There will also be the problem of hostility between the Islamic organization and the local population, Muslim or otherwise, over which it wants to rule. In addition, the international community’s traditionally negative view of Islamic terrorist organizations could lead to all-out war.


Another question is how the Islamic world will be affected by the dashed dream of a caliphate. The fall of ISIS will assuredly bolster those who oppose political Islam. On the other hand, the fall of the Sunni organization strengthens the Shiite axis. The slow crawl of Sunni leaders (Turkey and Saudi Arabia) towards Iran is one sign of the Shiite axis’s growing power at the expense of the Sunnis. (US President Donald Trump’s recent speech might slow this trend down, depending on the action the US takes.)


The idea of an Islamic caliphate is not dead. It is alive and well in religious scriptures, textbooks, Friday sermons, internet forums, and the hearts of many millions. In the near or distant future it will be resurrected, shake off the memory of recent events, and begin anew. There will always be people who dream of ancient glory, of the resurrection of ancestral Salafism and its forefathers – the prophet Muhammad and his cohort, who “lived an ideal and proper lifestyle and showed us the right path for any place, time and environment.”


What is clear is that the fight against the “heretic, permissive, hedonistic, materialistic, drugged and inebriated West” will persist through lone-wolf or small-cell terrorist attacks. Countries around the world will continue to suffer from ramming attacks, stabbings, shootings, rapes, violence against women and children, public vandalism, and other variances of jihad against all those who do not belong to the religion of Muhammad. ISIS may well disappear as an organization, but the world is likely to continue feeling the evil ideology this organization has instilled in the hearts and minds of too many Muslims.     




                                       Melanie Phillips

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 26, 2017


Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia has been making some remarkable comments. In an interview with The Guardian, the recently designated heir to the Saudi throne said the desert kingdom had been “not normal” for the past 30 years. He blamed the extremist Wahhabi form of Islam, which successive leaders “didn’t know how to deal with” and which had created a problem around the world.


“Now is the time to get rid of it,” he said. Saudi Arabia would now revert to “what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions. Seventy percent of the Saudis are younger than 30. Honestly, we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts. We will destroy them now and immediately.”


Open to all religions? Churches and synagogues in Saudi Arabia? An end to the Wahhabi extremism which has spawned jihadism across the globe? Can he be serious? We know the prince is a reformer. Aware that the oil weapon is fast disappearing as the price of crude falls, he wants to open up the economy. That means modernization. Recently, Saudi women were given the right to drive. Religious police have been reined in and deprived of their powers of arrest. Small moves maybe, but anathema to the hard-line clerics.


Is it possible, though, to close Pandora’s jihadi box? Was Saudi Arabia ever religiously moderate? The prince says it became extreme only in response to the 1979 Iranian revolution. That is not quite true. The creed of Wahhabi Islam, which seeks to proselytize via the sword both non-Muslims and not-extreme-enough Muslims to its ferocious dogma, was imposed under the chieftain Muhammad al-Saud in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


After the Iranian revolution, an attempt was made to overthrow the House of Saud on the grounds that it had deviated from the true Wahhabi path. In a deal made with the clerics, the Saudi rulers not only hardened religious rules at home but poured money into spreading the jihad through mosques, madrasas and universities across the world.


The prince’s reformist agenda goes hand in hand with the kingdom’s tactical alliance with America in the common fight against Saudi Arabia’s arch enemy, Iran – in which it is cooperating below-the-radar with Israel, too. To the British government, with its close economic ties with Saudi Arabia, these reformist noises come as a relief, since Saudi human rights abuses continue to cause it severe embarrassment. Nevertheless, Britain is not on the same page as Saudi Arabia in trying to constrain Iran. Perversely, Britain remains intent upon a course of action that is instead empowering Iran by continuing to support the cynical and dangerous nuclear deal the UK helped US president Barack Obama broker in 2015.


President Donald Trump has now refused to certify Iran’s compliance with that deal, saying Iran has breached it several times by exceeding the limits it set on heavy water and centrifuge testing. More remarkably, the deal’s own terms allow Iran to make a mockery of its fundamental purpose in constraining Iran’s nuclear weapons program, for the inspection procedure takes place only at sites where Iran has agreed to allow inspection. These exclude its military sites. The deal’s proponents can claim that a robust inspection is being applied, while Iran is able to evade inspection of the sites that really matter.


Recently the International Atomic Energy Authority stated it could not verify that Iran is “fully implementing the agreement” by not engaging in activities that would allow it to make a nuclear explosive device. When it came to inspections, said the IAEA, “our tools are limited.” According to the Institute for Science and International Security, as of the last quarterly report released in August, the IAEA had not visited any military site in Iran since implementation of the deal.


In any event, the deal does not prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons, because its “sunset clause” allows it to do so in 10 or 15 years’ time – and reports suggest it has the capacity to develop them extremely quickly. Worse still, the deal allows Iran to develop ballistic missiles. Sanctions relief has enabled it to pour money into its proxy army Hezbollah, promote Hamas terrorism and spread its influence and terrorism into Syria, Iraq and Yemen.


Yet the British government not only helped create but still implacably supports this terrible capitulation to Iranian power. Parting company with Trump, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the nuclear deal is “a crucial agreement that neutralized Iran’s nuclear threat” which has “undoubtedly made the world a safer place.” What planet is he living on? Iran is marching toward regional hegemony. In Iraq, there are reports that its Quds Force has been coordinating with Iraqi government officials to recruit the most effective ISIS fighters and release them from Iraqi prisons. These fighters are being organized, trained, and equipped to attack US and other regional forces.


Despite all this, however, the threat that worries Britain most is not Iran, but the prospect of war against Iran. The fact that Iran has been waging war against the West since 1979, in the course of which it has repeatedly attacked Western targets, murdered countless civilians and been responsible for the deaths of many British and American soldiers in Iraq, is brushed aside. Unless it really does reform itself, Saudi Arabia will continue to pose a threat from its religious extremism. Nevertheless, it is an ally against the greater enemy at this time: Iran. The Iranian regime must be defeated. It is shocking that, unlike President Trump, Britain is intent on appeasing it.                                                                    



ISRAEL TAKES ON THE SHIA CRESCENT                                                   

Joseph Klein

Frontpage, Oct. 2, 2017


Despite Israel's repeated warnings, Barack Obama's reckless appeasement of the Iranian regime has enabled its rise as a hegemonic threat in the Middle East region as well as a threat to international peace and security. In 2009, Obama turned his back on millions of dissidents in the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities, who were peacefully protesting the rigged election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. In 2011, Obama precipitously removed the remaining U.S. combat troops from Iraq, giving rise to ISIS’s re-emergence in Iraq from its bases in Syria. The radical Shiite Iranian regime purported to come to the “rescue” of both countries from the Sunni terrorists, turning Iraq into a virtual vassal state of the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the process. Obama's disastrous nuclear deal with Iran legitimized Iran's path to eventually becoming a nuclear-armed state, while immediately filling its coffers with billions of dollars to fund its aggression.


Meanwhile, Syria has become ground zero for Iran's execution of its regional ambitions, which is to establish its Shiite Crescent connecting with its allies, including Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This plan has included the establishment of a land route that Iranian-backed militias secured in June, beginning on Iran’s border with Iraq and running across Iraq and Syria all the way to Syria’s Mediterranean coast. This road makes Iran’s job easier in supplying arms by land, as well as by air and sea, to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and to equip Iran’s own forces fighting inside of Syria in support of Assad. This helps explain why Iran has placed so much importance on helping the Syrian regime establish control over the Deir ez-Zor area in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border.


“Everything depends now on the Americans’ willingness to stop this,” said an Iraqi Kurdish official who was quoted in a New Yorker article. However, U.S.-led coalition forces apparently have done next to nothing to stop this major advance in Iran’s Shiite Crescent expansion. “Obama ran down our options in Syria so thoroughly, by the time this administration took over,” said Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The Iranian influence is spreading because they are so heavily involved in regime activities,” Tabler added. “It’s a new monster.”


Furthermore, Iran has funded and armed its terrorist proxy Hezbollah, which has sent its militia from its home base of Lebanon to fight alongside Assad's forces.  And Iran has used Syria as a transit point for shipment of sophisticated rockets to Hezbollah in Lebanon for future use against Israeli population centers. Despite the fact that Hezbollah has American blood on its hands, the U.S.-led coalition has chosen not to do anything about Hezbollah’s presence in Syria, bought and paid for by Iran.


While Israel chose not to take sides in Syria's civil war with military intervention of its own, it has bombed weapons storage facilities and convoys inside Syria for its own protection. Just recently, on September 7th, Israeli jets struck a Syrian weapons facility near Masyaf, which was reported to have been used for the production of chemical weapons and the storage of missiles. Israel will also do what is necessary to repel Iranian-backed forces if they edge too close to areas near the Golan Heights, shrinking the buffer between Israel and Iranian controlled territories.


However, such tactical measures may not be enough to thwart Iran’s larger ambitions. In light of intelligence reports that Assad may be ready to invite Iran to set up military bases in Syria, Israeli leaders have concluded that they cannot wait until the Trump administration decides to deal more forcefully with Iran's growing use of Syria as a staging area for carrying out its expansionist Shiite Crescent strategy.  “Their overriding concern in Syria is the free reign that all the major players there seem willing to afford Iran and its various proxies in the country,” wrote Jonathan Spyer in an article for Foreign Policy. As long as nobody else is addressing the concern Iran’s growing control raises in a satisfactory manner, “Israel is determined to continue addressing it on its own.”


At least, Israel has a more sympathetic ear in the Trump administration than it did in the Obama administration for raising its concerns about Iran’s growing threat, not only to Israel but to U.S. interests in the region and beyond. President Trump’s sharp denunciation of the Iranian regime during his address to the UN General Assembly represented a welcome departure from the Obama administration’s milquetoast approach to Iran.


As the U.S.-led coalition continues to drive ISIS from its bases of operation in Syria, the Trump administration has proclaimed its intention not to allow Iran to turn Syria into its own satellite, as Iran has essentially done in Iraq. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that the “so called liberation of areas by Assad’s forces and Iranian proxies could actually accelerate the cycle of violence and perpetuate conflict rather than get us to a sustainable outcome.” He claimed that the Trump administration’s “objectives are to weaken Iranian influence across the region broadly,” without discussing the means to accomplish those objectives. Whether the Trump administration follows through remains to be seen. In the meantime, Israel will have to deal with the fallout of Iran’s ambitions in Syria itself.





Philip Carl Salzman

Gatestone Institute, Oct. 14, 2017


Living as an anthropologist in a herding camp of the Yarahmadzai tribe of nomadic pastoralists in the deserts of Iranian Baluchistan clarified some of the inhibitions to peace in the Middle East. What one sees is strong, kin-based, group loyalty defense and solidarity, and the political opposition of lineages, whether large or small. This raised the question how unity and peace could arrive in a system based on opposition.


Peace is not possible in the Middle East because values and goals other than peace are more important to Middle Easterners. Most important to Middle Easterners are loyalty to kin, clan, and cult, and the honour which is won by such loyalty. These are the cultural imperatives, the primary values, held and celebrated. When conflict arises and conflict-parties form based on loyal allegiance, the conflict is regarded as appropriate and proper.


The results of absolute commitment to kin and cult groups, and the structural opposition to all others, can be seen throughout Middle Eastern history, including contemporary events, where conflict has been rife. Turks, Arabs and Iranians have launched military campaigns to suppress Kurds. Meanwhile, Christians, Yazidis, Baha'is and Jews, among others, have been, and continue to be ethnically cleansed. Arabs and Persians, and Sunnis and Shiites, each try to gain power over the other in a competition that has been one of the main underlying factors of the Iraq-Iran war, the Saddam Hussein regime, and the current catastrophe in Syria. Turks invaded Greek Orthodox Cyprus in 1974 and have occupied it since. Multiple Muslim states have invaded the minuscule Jewish state of Israel three times, and Palestinians daily celebrate the murder of Jews.


Some Middle Easterners, and some in the West, prefer to attribute the problems of the Middle East to outsiders, such as Western imperialists, but it seems odd to suggest that the local inhabitants have no agency and no responsibility for their activities in this disastrous region, high not only in conflict and brutality, but low by all world standards in human development.


If one looks to local conditions to understand local conflicts, the first thing to understand is that Arab culture, through the ages and at the present time, has been built on the foundation of Bedouin tribal culture. Most of the population of northern Arabia at the time of the emergence of Islam was Bedouin, and during the period of rapid expansion following the adoption of Islam, the Arab Muslim army consisted of Bedouin tribal units. The Bedouin, nomadic and pastoral for the most part, were formed into tribes, which are regional defense and security groups.


Bedouin tribes were organized by basing groups on descent through the male line. Close relatives in conflict activated only small groups, while distant relatives in conflict activated large groups. If, for example, members of cousin groups were in conflict, no one else was involved. But if members of tribal sections were in conflict, all cousins and larger groups in a tribal section would unite in opposition to the other tribal section. So, what group a tribesmen thought himself a member of was circumstantial, depending on who was involved in a conflict.


Relations between descent groups were always oppositional in principle, with tribes as a whole seeing themselves in opposition to other tribes. The main structural relation between groups at the same genealogical and demographic level could be said to be balanced opposition. The strongest political norm among tribesmen was loyalty to, and active support of, one's kin group, small or large. One must always support closer kin against more distant kin. Loyalty was rewarded with honour. Not supporting your kin was dishonourable. The systemic result was often a stand-off, the threat of full scale conflict with another group of the same size and determination acting as deterrence against frivolous adventures. That there were not more conflicts than the many making up tribal history, is due to that deterrence…

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





On Topic Links


The Fall of Kirkuk: An IRGC Production: Jonathan Spyer, Breaking Israel News, Oct. 22, 2017—Iraqi forces took Kirkuk city from the Kurds this week with hardly a shot fired. Twenty-two Kurdish fighters were killed in the sporadic and disorganized resistance, while seven Iraqi soldiers also lost their lives.

What Iraq’s Recent Moves Against Kurds Mean for Israel and Region: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 26, 2017—On Sunday, Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi began a historic visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is meeting the king of Saudi Arabia and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The U.S. is on a Collision Course with Iran in the Middle East: Liz Sly, Washington Post, Oct. 26, 2017—President Trump’s assertive new strategy toward Iran is already colliding with the reality of Tehran’s vastly expanded influence in the Middle East as a result of the Islamic State war.

Between the Iranian Threat and the Palestinian State Threat: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 22, 2017—The greatest threat to Israel’s existence is neither Shiite militias on the Golan border nor the Iranian nuclear threat, which are of physical and military nature.





The Coming Confrontation Between Israel and Iran: Elliott Abrams, Atlantic, Oct 15, 2017— In the United States, discussions of Iran have, for the last few years, centered mostly around the JCPOA—the nuclear deal negotiated by President Obama.

In Syrian Barrage, a Confident Message Signed by Iran and Russia: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Oct. 22, 2017— It’s not clear if the sudden barrage of rockets “bleeding” into Israel from Syria Saturday had anything to do with the presence in Damascus of Iran’s defense chief.

Hizballah's Nasrallah Escalates Threats as Syria Turns Into Iranian Base: Burak Bekdil, BESA, Oct. 10, 2017— A recent speech by Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah contained unusually aggressive statements, calling for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel, and claiming that a future war would lead to Israel's "demise."

Russia’s Air Defenses in Syria: More Politics than Punch: Guy Plopsky, BESA, Oct. 18, 2017— In early October 2016, Russian Defense Ministry chief spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov warned the US-led anti-ISIS coalition that “Russian air defense crews are unlikely to have time to clarify via the [de-confliction] line the exact flight path of missiles and who their carrier platforms belong to,”…


On Topic Links


Golan Heights Residents on Edge After Latest Cross-Border Exchange of Fire: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Oct. 22, 2017

As ISIS’ Role in Syria Wanes, Other Conflicts Take the Stage: Anne Barnard & Hwaida Saad, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017

Moscow Nears ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Syria: Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, Oct. 23, 2017

Iran Steps Up Its Economic Domination in Syria: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Oct. 19, 2017




Elliott Abrams

Atlantic, Oct 15, 2017


In the United States, discussions of Iran have, for the last few years, centered mostly around the JCPOA—the nuclear deal negotiated by President Obama. In the Middle East, things are different. This is because, while we have been debating, Iran has been acting—and Israel has been reacting. Israel has struck sites in Syria 100 times in the last five years, bombing when it saw an Iranian effort to move high-tech materiel to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Last month Israel bombed the so-called Scientific Studies and Researchers Center in Masyaf (a city in central Syria), a military site where chemical weapons and precision bombs were said to be produced. Now, there are reports…that Iran is planning to build a military airfield near Damascus, where the IRGC (Revolutionary Guards) could build up their presence and operate. Fishman also wrote that Iran and the Assad regime are negotiating over giving Iran its own naval pier in the port of Tartus, and that Iran may actually deploy a division of soldiers in Syria.


Such developments would be unacceptable to Israel, and it will convey this message to Russia and to the United States. Russia’s defense minister will soon visit Israel, after which Israel’s defense minister will visit Washington. Previous Israeli efforts to get Putin to stop Iran (during Netanyahu’s four visits to Moscow in the last year) have failed, which suggests that Israel will need to do so itself, alone—unless the new Iran policy being debated inside the Trump administration leads the United States to seek ways to stop the steady expansion of Iran’s military presence and influence in the Middle East. Whether this happens remains to be seen. Whatever the debate over the JCPOA, there may well be a broader consensus in the administration that Iran’s growing military role in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the region must be countered.


Whatever the American conclusion, if Iran does indeed plan to establish a large and permanent military footprint in Syria—complete with permanent naval and air bases and a major ground force—Israel will have fateful decisions to make. Such an Iranian presence on the Mediterranean and on Israel’s border would change the military balance in the region and fundamentally change Israel’s security situation. And under the JCPOA as agreed by Obama, limits on Iran’s nuclear program begin to end in only eight years; Iran may now perfect its ICBM program; and there are no inspections of military sites where further nuclear weapons research may be underway. As Senator Tom Cotton said recently, “If Iran doesn’t have a covert nuclear program today, it would be the first time in a generation.” Israel could be a decade away from a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and bases in Syria—and could logically therefore even place nuclear weapons in Syria, just miles from Israel’s border.


Fishman, the dean of Israel’s military correspondents, wrote: “If the Israeli diplomatic move fails to bear fruit, we [Israel] are headed toward a conflict with the Iranians.” That conclusion, and the Iranian moves that make it a growing possibility, should be on the minds of Trump administration officials as they contemplate a new policy toward Iran’s ceaseless drive for power in the Middle East.






MESSAGE SIGNED BY IRAN AND RUSSIA                                                           

Avi Issacharoff

Times of Israel, Oct. 22, 2017


It’s not clear if the sudden barrage of rockets “bleeding” into Israel from Syria Saturday had anything to do with the presence in Damascus of Iran’s defense chief. But given Iran’s seemingly unstoppable drive to entrench itself militarily in the region, the Syrian regime’s newfound confidence, and some other suspicious factors, it’s likely the volley was more than just an accident.


Though inadvertent fire has hit Israel in the past, this incident doesn’t fit that mold, and seems more like a Syrian attempt to send a message. First, there’s the timing — around 5 a.m. Most of the fighting in the Syrian civil war has taken place in the daylight hours, certainly not before the crack of dawn. Second, none of the previous inadvertent volleys consisted of five consecutive rockets. Indeed, the incident appears to be connected to the anti-aircraft fire Syria directed at Israeli jets flying a reconnaissance mission over Lebanon last week, and a more aggressive recent tone from Damascus.


These developments are evident of the boost in self-confidence the Syrian regime is experiencing. Just Saturday, Assad’s army captured the Christian town of Qaryatayn, which had previously been taken by Islamic State and used as a base for the terror group. Assad may feel that victory in the civil war is within his reach thanks to having Tehran by his side, along with Shiite militias from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and 8,000 well-armed Hezbollah fighters. So maybe he considers this a good time to send Israel a defiant message.


It doesn’t hurt that the same day, Iranian defense chief Mahmoud Bagheri signed a memorandum of understanding with his Syrian counterpart, Ali Ayyoub. According to the Syria’s state-run SANA news outlet, the memorandum is meant to deepen ties between the countries in intelligence sharing, technology and military to “improve the fight against terror.” The statement also served as a reminder of how deeply Iran is managing to entrench itself unimpeded in Syria, as the US-led coalition and Kurdish militias wrap up their campaign to drive Islamic State out of the country.


For now, at least, it doesn’t seem there is anybody who can stop the spread of Iran’s influence in the region. Russia may be willing to turn a blind eye to the next Israeli airstrike, but that won’t torpedo Iran’s plan for Syria, which includes a broad and lasting military presence. As for the Americans: The US is increasingly seen as unwilling to intervene, even for its allies. That was made clear by the blind eye the Trump administration turned to the retaking of Iraqi Kirkuk from the Kurdish forces it had backed. The US sold the Kurds down the river in favor of a Baghdad government backed by Shiite militias supported by Iran, if only to keep the Iraqis close to Washington.


In many ways, the US abandonment of Kirkuk may come to echo the aftermath of the Ghouta chemical attack of 2013, when president Barack Obama failed to enforce his red lines. Then, to Moscow, Damascus and the rest of the Middle East, the lack of action translated into the idea that the US was afraid.


Russia, in contrast, hasn’t hesitated to step in and protect its allies, and it is Moscow’s assistance that is most credited with bringing Assad’s regime back from the dead. In a roundabout way, Assad has Islamic State to thank for bringing Russia riding in to save him. One of the main reasons for Moscow’s intervention in the war was the fear that IS could spread, both as a military power and as an idea, to the Allawite-majority region near the coast, where Russia has strategically important assets including a naval base.


There’s no reason to assume that had the Syrian regime been battling the Free Syrian Army or another moderate group, the Kremlin would have been so quick to jump into action to back Assad, one of the greatest tyrants of modern history, a man responsible for the death of some half a million people — many through torture, execution, and chemical attacks. Islamic State may have been the greatest threat to the Assad regime, but it was also his greatest lifeline.         




AS SYRIA TURNS INTO IRANIAN BASE                                                        

Yaakov Lappin

IPT, Oct. 8, 2017


A recent speech by Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah contained unusually aggressive statements, calling for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel, and claiming that a future war would lead to Israel's "demise." Nasrallah said Israeli Jews should "leave and return to the countries from which they came so they are not fuel for any war that the idiotic [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu government takes them to… They will have no secure place in occupied Palestine."


The speech echoed rhetoric recently espoused by the Iranian regime and its military officials, who said Tel Aviv would be "destroyed" if Israel made "a mistake," and that Israel would not survive for more than 25 years. "Israel should remain silent and count down the days to its death, because any minor mistake would lead to its demise as fast as lightning," said Iranian army commander Maj.-Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi.


These threats contain two messages. The first message is a reaffirmation of the Shi'ite axis's jihadist, ideological, long-term commitment to Israel's destruction. The second message is more immediate; it is an attempt to deter Israeli decision makers from trying to stop Iran and its proxies from taking over Syria. Iran, together with its chief agent Hizballah and several other Shi'ite militias, are helping the Assad regime complete its victory in Syria, with the assistance of Russian airpower. This is a victory made possible by the mass murder and terrorization of Syria's Sunni population, and the ensuing mass movement of refugees out of the country.


The upsurge in war-like rhetoric towards Israel is a signal of growing Iranian-Hizballah confidence, fuelled by their victories in Syria. Radical Shi'ite forces – armed, funded, and commanded by Iran – are moving into the vacuum left behind by ISIS. Tehran's objective is to turn Syria into another Lebanon; a heavily armed outpost from which Iran can launch attacks against Israel.


So far, the international community has shown no interest or willingness to stop this development from happening. Despite the latest bluster, Nasrallah made sure to issue his statements from the safety of his Lebanese bunker – an indication he still fears Israel's powerful reach. Nasrallah and his Iranian masters have good reason to remain fearful of Israel, for it is the only state that has both the capability and determination to challenge their takeover of Syria.


There have been a series of reported Israeli precision strikes on weapons production centers and arms smuggling attempts in Syria. One strike reportedly targeted the Assad regime's Scientific Studies and Research Center (CERS) weapons facility, where chemical, biological, and advanced ballistic missiles are developed and manufactured. The targeted facility may have been where Iran tried to hand over powerful weapons to Hizballah.


Israel is running a low profile campaign against the dangerous buildup of Hizballah's weapons arsenal. These are arms that are produced in Iran and Syria, and trafficked to Lebanon. This Israeli campaign is a thorn in the side of the Shi'ite axis. There is a wider Israeli warning here: Jerusalem has no intention of sitting on the side and watching Syria turn into an Iranian-Hizballah base.


Israeli leaders are issuing their own warnings, making it clear that provocations by the Shi'ite axis can lead to devastation. "The next conflict, if it erupts, will have a completely different character. Our enemies will try first to strike our population centers and civilian infrastructure. And if our red lines will be breached, the other side must know in advance that it is going to pay very heavy prices," said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. In addition, Israel has stated it will not tolerate an approach to its border by Iranian or Hizballah forces operating in Syria.


Sunni states like Jordan and Saudi Arabia are equally disturbed by events in Syria. But Israel is the only regional state with the ability to stop the Iranian game plan. Only time will tell whether the world continues to turn a blind eye to the radical Shi'ite entrenchment in Syria, and leave Israel to deal with this mess by itself.


Meanwhile, recent comments by the head of the Mossad, Israel's overseas intelligence service, serve as a timely reminder of the fact that the Iranian nuclear program remains a threat. The nuclear program is only temporarily dormant. "Iran continues to possess a vision of having a significant nuclear capability, leading to a military nuclear ability," said Mossad chief Yossi Cohen in recent days.


"Iran continues to act with increasing aggression in activating military forces and operations in the Middle East, closer to our border than ever, in the Lebanese and Syrian arenas [which are] as one. Iran continues to support Hizballah, and recently, it is increasingly supporting Hamas. Iran continues to transfer advanced and precise weapons to terrorist organizations in our area," the Mossad chief said. The Mossad conducts "thousands of operations, some complex and daring, in the heart of enemy states," Cohen added.


This not-so-cold war between Israel and the Iranian axis looks set to continue. Lines are being drawn in Syria by both sides. Israel's lines are purely defensive, while Iran and its agents are following a belligerent, encroaching agenda, which threaten to destabilize the entire region.





Guy Plopsky

BESA, Oct. 18, 2017


In early October 2016, Russian Defense Ministry chief spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov warned the US-led anti-ISIS coalition that “Russian air defense crews are unlikely to have time to clarify via the [de-confliction] line the exact flight path of missiles and who their carrier platforms belong to,” adding that “any air or missiles strikes on territory controlled by the Syrian government will pose a clear threat to Russian military servicemen.” The warning, issued in response to an accidental US strike against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad the previous month, renewed fears that Russia may attempt to target coalition and Israeli aerial assets.


Since then, however, both the US and Israel have struck pro-regime targets in Syria with no blowback from the Kremlin. Why has Moscow proven reluctant to respond? Concerns about Russia restricting coalition and Israeli freedom of action over Syria intensified in late November 2015, following the downing of a Russian Su-24M strike aircraft by a Turkish F-16. Commenting on the shoot-down, Lieut.-Gen. Sergey Rudskoy threatened that Russia would destroy “every target posing a potential threat.” Shortly afterwards, Russia deployed its much feared S-400 Triumf long-range SAM system at Khmeimim Airbase near Latakia.


The S-400 deployment created the impression that pro-Assad forces would benefit from Russia’s new SAM umbrella. However, numerous IAF strikes against weapons shipments destined for the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group proved this assumption wrong. The strikes indicated that Moscow, despite its rhetoric, takes Jerusalem’s red lines seriously and does not wish to escalate tensions with Israel, a major regional power and key US ally. Moscow has no desire to see Israel expand its involvement in the conflict, especially given that the regional balance of power is not in Russia’s favor. A recent unanswered strike, allegedly executed by Israel, against a chemical and missile production and storage facility near Masyaf – just 13km from a new Russian S-400  site – appears to support this notion.


Several incidents have occurred involving Russian and Israeli military assets, including unconfirmed reports of Russian forces firing on Israeli aircraft. Yet Israeli and Russian leaders have held a number of meetings intended to, in the words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “strengthen the security cooperation between us so as to avoid mishaps, misunderstandings, and unnecessary confrontations.” Furthermore, Israel and Russia established a deconfliction line in October 2015 that has helped reduce the risk of clashes.


Moscow’s warnings to Israel are therefore directed more towards the Syrian and Russian public than they are towards Jerusalem. Offering no threatening response to Israeli airstrikes would make the Kremlin appear weak, prompting pro-Assad factions to question Moscow’s commitment to the regime and weakening Russia’s influence. At the same time, Russia has been rebuilding Syria’s air defenses in the hope that they would deter both Israel and the coalition from further strikes. Russia’s Defense Ministry has mentioned Syrian air defenses in warnings directed at coalition forces and has pledged to “increase [their] effectiveness” following the April 7, 2017, US Navy Tomahawk cruise missile strike against al-Shayrat Air Base. Doing so could backfire for Moscow, however, given that it might prompt Israel or the US to target Syrian air defenses and possibly other regime military assets as well.


As for Russia’s own air defenses, Moscow has not utilized them to defend Assad’s forces and is unlikely to do so for fear of an armed confrontation with the US and its partners. Indeed, while Syrian fighters are known to have flown escort missions for Russian strike aircraft, the reverse has not occurred. Furthermore, like Israel, the US maintains a deconfliction line with Russia and has developed deconfliction agreements to avoid clashes.


Interestingly, a Russian TV special on Khmeimim Air Base, which aired on June 11, 2017, claimed Russia has agreed not to target coalition aircraft as long as they maintain a distance of 60 km or more from the base. The special featured Lieut.-Gen. Viktor Gumyonny, head of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ (VKS) Air and Missile Defense Troops, who asserted that coalition aircraft approaching Khmeimim are tracked by Russian air defenses (presumably by the S-400’s fire control radar) and immediately leave the area. Coalition sources have confirmed neither the validity of these claims nor the truth of whether or not coalition aircraft have flown within close proximity to Khmeimim; nevertheless, such statements highlight Moscow’s reluctance to defend regime forces.


On June 18, a week after the airing of the TV special, a US Navy F/A-18E downed a Syrian Su-22 strike aircraft near Raqqa, prompting Russia’s Defense Ministry to issue another warning – one that seemed to convey a shift in Russia’s policy on targeting coalition aircraft. The warning asserted that “jets and unmanned aerial vehicles of the international coalition discovered west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by Russian air and ground defenses as air targets.” However, as Western analysts were quick to point out, this rather ambiguous threat, like those before it, was intended primarily to reassure Russian and pro-Assad audiences, and to deter coalition forces from further strikes against regime forces. Moreover, though Russia threatened to cut the deconfliction line with the US, the line remained open…

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




On Topic Links


Golan Heights Residents on Edge After Latest Cross-Border Exchange of Fire: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Oct. 22, 2017—Residents of Israel’s Golan Heights region are on edge following the latest exchange of fire on the border with Syria.

As ISIS’ Role in Syria Wanes, Other Conflicts Take the Stage: Anne Barnard & Hwaida Saad, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017— American-backed forces have barely begun to clear the land mines from Raqqa after pushing the Islamic State from the city, the de facto capital of its self-declared caliphate.

Moscow Nears ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Syria: Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, Oct. 23, 2017— By the end of this year, Syria will be free of Islamic State, apart from small pockets that will disappear with time

Iran Steps Up Its Economic Domination in Syria: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Oct. 19, 2017— With the approaching military defeat of the Islamic State, Iran is stepping up its economic involvement in Syria.