Tag: Middle East

IN MIDDLE EAST, ISRAEL DEVELOPS TIES WITH ARAB COUNTRIES IN RESPONSE TO IRAN THREAT

Iran, Turkey, Russia Threaten Israel in Eastern Mediterranean: Efraim Inbar, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 17, 2018—The fifth Cypriot-Greek-Israeli summit will take place in Beersheba on December 20.

The True Arab Spring is the Dawning of Genuine Peace with Israel: Mike Fegelman, National Post, Nov. 30, 2018 — The sands have certainly shifted in the broader Middle East.

The Fragility of Middle East Alliances: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, November 12, 2018— Three recent developments lay bare the fragility of Middle Eastern alliances and a rebalancing of their priorities…

Praying for Israel: Interview with Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon: Machla Abramovitz, Community, Dec., 2018—…To assess the current state of Israel’s security, we sat down with former IDF Chief of Staff General Moshe (“Boogie”) Ya’alon, following  his keynote address at the 30th anniversary gala of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR) in Montreal.

On Topic Links

Israel and the Arab States (Video): Amb. Dore Gold, JCPA, Dec. 9, 2018

The Spring of Israel’s Relations with its Arab Neighbors: Elie Podeh, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 8, 2018

What Happened to Arab Support for the Palestinians?: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, Nov. 16, 2018

The Grim Cost of the “Oslo War”: Guy Millière, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 14, 2018

 

IRAN, TURKEY, RUSSIA THREATEN ISRAEL

IN EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN  

Efraim Inbar

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 17, 2018

The fifth Cypriot-Greek-Israeli summit will take place in Beersheba on December 20. While much of Israel’s attention is focused on Iran’s proxies on the country’s northern and southern borders, this high-level trilateral meeting is a noteworthy strategic event. Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iranian militias in Syria, and Hamas in Gaza are serious military challenges along Israel’s northern and southern borders. They contribute to a new emerging threat in the eastern Mediterranean. Each of these bad actors is under Iranian influence.

Iran, which is seeking a Shi’ite corridor from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, plans its own air and naval bases on the Mediterranean coast, too. This would allow Iran to project power into the Balkans along the Mediterranean shores, and further west, too, toward the Muslim communities in Europe. There are three Muslim states in the Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Kosovo) that have already been penetrated by Muslim powers Turkey and Iran.

Turkey has adopted a neo-Ottoman foreign policy orientation and signaled its desire for expansion. It is a strong state with a long Mediterranean coast. Turkey’s military has invaded parts of Syria and Iraq, and it has had a long territorial dispute with Greece in the Aegean. Since 1974, Turkey has occupied the northern part of Cyprus, a strategic location in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey’s behavior is also motivated by Islamist instincts. It has supported the radical Islamic Hamas government in Gaza and nourished good relations with jihadist elements in Syria and Libya – both Mediterranean countries. Turkey is bolstering its naval capabilities, and has even threatened to send its navy to accompany ships that attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade around Gaza. Ankara’s Islamist preferences clearly put it at loggerheads with Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, the Mediterranean is no longer a Western lake. Over the Obama years, the US significantly retreated from the Middle East. President Donald Trump has also displayed isolationist sentiments, despite a commitment to enhance US military power. A weakened American military posture is reflected in that the US Sixth Fleet no longer has a permanent aircraft carrier presence in the Mediterranean. (This is also true of the Seventh Fleet in the Indian Ocean.) European naval fleets have similarly lost some of their capabilities and reduced their presence in the eastern Mediterranean.

Instead, the Russian eastern Mediterranean naval presence is growing. Russia secured for itself the naval base at Tarsus and the air base at Khmeimim in Syria, by intervening successfully in the Syrian civil war. Cyprus and Egypt also allow Russia use of their ports. The importance of the eastern Mediterranean in international affairs has grown due to the discovery of large underwater natural gas fields, with more likely to be yet discovered. These gas riches are coveted by Iran’s allies (Syria and Hezbollah) as well as by Turkey and Russia.

The eastern Mediterranean has always been important to Israel because over 90% of Israel’s foreign trade traverses this area. The gas fields discovered and now being mined in Israel’s Mediterranean economic waters have magnified the importance of the Mediterranean arena. The gas is expected to make a significant contribution to the well-being of Israel by providing cheap and clean energy, and by transforming Israel into an energy exporting country. However, Israel’s gas riches are under threat. Hamas and Hezbollah are investing in their naval forces. Hamas already has fired missiles against an Israeli-operated gas rig, and Hezbollah has threatened to do so. Russian and Turkish navies might yet adopt more adventurous postures, too. There may soon be an Iranian naval presence commensurate with Tehran’s hegemonic ambitions.

Thus, Israel has one more strategic flank to protect. Unfortunately, the naval component in the Israeli military has not been sufficiently prioritized. Israel needs a bigger and stronger navy. The rationale for a larger Israeli naval force is even more compelling given the enormous missile threat aimed at Israel, making Israel’s airfields and strategic ground assets ever more vulnerable.

Israel’s military deficit in the eastern Mediterranean is striking, in light of its diplomatic success. It became a close partner in an eastern Mediterranean alignment that consists of Greece and Cyprus. Egypt is indirectly also a member, although it prefers to interact separately with Israel. The four countries share similar concerns about Turkish foreign policy directions and have similar energy interests. Cooperation in Washington on eastern Mediterranean issues is also important; indeed, the US is mulling the option of joint military exercises with Israel and Greece.

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THE TRUE ARAB SPRING IS THE

DAWNING OF GENUINE PEACE WITH ISRAEL                                          

Mike Fegelman

National Post, Nov. 30, 2018

The sands have certainly shifted in the broader Middle East. Though peace and the normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab and Muslim world have proceeded at a glacial and sometimes raucous pace, new relationships have been forged, and old, dormant ties, rekindled. Patience and steadfast determination seem to be a virtue.

The warming of ties between Israel and Sunni-majority Muslim nations and Gulf countries have taken place in the backdrop of shared concerns over Shia Iran’s destabilizing efforts, its supporting terror proxies, and quest for nuclear weapons. The Saudis, just like the Israelis, are grievously concerned about Tehran’s expansionist efforts to gain hegemony in the Middle East and its direct involvement in propping up Syria’s Assad regime, its fomenting violence in Iraq, and its supporting rebels fighting in Yemen and terror groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Hamas, and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

Israel’s détente with its Arab neighbours, both publicly and pseudo-privately, is on full display for all to see. Many Arab world countries are co-operating with Israel on security and defence matters, as well as Israel’s growing high-tech industry. When the mainstream media claim that Israel is “isolated,” these journalists are simply detached from reality.

This past week, Chad President Idriss Déby visited Israel and sought to re-establish ties and relations with the Jewish state. Chad is one of the first majority-Muslim African states to re-establish diplomatic relations with Jerusalem. Chad is a member of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will soon pay a visit to the African nation to formalize the matter. It’s also speculated that Israel plans to establish ties with the Muslim-majority African countries of Sudan, Mali and Niger.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Economy Minister, Eli Cohen, received an official invitation to attend a conference in Bahrain next year, and it’s believed that Israel is working to normalize ties and sign a peace treaty with that Gulf nation. The event, dubbed the “Startup Nations Ministerial Conference,” is a perfect fit for Israel, which is regarded as the world’s leading “startup nation.” As to Bahrain, in May, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa wrote on Twitter, in a message intended for the whole world to see, that Israel has the right to defend itself against Iran.

Also in the news recently, Oman welcomed Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife, along with the head of the Mossad, in a surprise visit last month. This was viewed by regional experts as an apparent sign of Israeli progress in improving ties with Gulf countries and Oman, which has traditionally acted as a regional mediator. Israel’s Transportation Minister, Yisrael Katz, visited Oman for a transportation conference to present his plan for a rail link between Gulf Arab countries and Israel. Importantly, Netanyahu’s meeting with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman serves as an epic failure for BDS activists who want the world to boycott, divest and sanction Israel. Ironically, it’s the Arab and Muslim world who are doing the opposite, and their BDS activism includes Buying, Developing and Supporting Israeli businesses and entrenching relations with Israeli politicians and diplomats.

In the United Arab Emirates, a scene once unthinkable occurred recently when Israeli Cabinet Minister Miri Regev proudly sang Israel’s national anthem “Hatikva” at a sports event in the heart of the Arab world and toured the grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Qatar warmly hosted an Israeli gymnastics team in October and Israelis have been invited to attend the World Cup there in 2022. Then there’s Air India’s historic announcement that it will operate a direct route between Tel Aviv and Delhi over Saudi Arabian airspace, which is seen as a game-changer. There was also news of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s secret visit to Tel Aviv. Israeli military chief Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot reportedly told a Saudi news outlet that he seeks closer ties with the kingdom, and there are continued rumblings about how the Saudis would let Israeli jets use their air space to attack Iran.

From former back-channels of communications to public appearances that have busted long-held taboos, we’re witnessing a remarkable regional shift from the Arab street with unthinkable invitations, gestures of genuine recognition and collaborative efforts where Jews and Muslims work to complement each other’s efforts, not work in contradiction. In recent years, Israel has entered into unprecedented relationships with Arab world countries to discuss security matters and to even share intelligence and co-ordinate security operations. In 2017, Prime Minister Netanyahu boldly stated during a visit to the White House that “for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy but, increasingly, as an ally.”

As Newsweek Magazine recently noted, Arab countries seek to establish direct telecommunication lines and abolish trade limitations with Israel. Additional normalization steps being weighed include the granting of visas to Israeli athletes and business people interested in visiting Gulf states. The signs of progress in the Persian Gulf and the warming of relations with the Jewish state yield the potential for a comprehensive peace to be procured in one of the world’s most volatile regions, abetted by cautiously employed and pragmatic, incremental steps.

Once taboo and clandestine, Israelis are cozying up with the Saudis, Emeratis and Gulf, African and Muslim nations, proving once and for all, that old wounds can be mended, and bitter rivals can become friends, albeit, when based on shared interests, not necessarily shared values. Interestingly, Iran may be the one to thank as its emboldened efforts were likely the catalyst for the public rapprochement that we are bearing witness to. Who would have thought that the long road to normalization between Israel and the Muslim and Arab world would run through Tehran!

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THE FRAGILITY OF MIDDLE EAST ALLIANCES

Dr. James M. Dorsey

BESA, November 12, 2018

Three recent developments lay bare the fragility of Middle Eastern alliances and a rebalancing of their priorities: the Russian-Turkish compromise on an assault on the rebel-held Syrian region of Idlib, the fate of troubled Abu Dhabi airline Ettihad, and battles over the reconstruction of Syria. These developments highlight the fact that competition among Middle Eastern rivals and ultimate power within the region’s various alliances is increasingly as much economic and commercial as it is military and geopolitical. Battles are fought as much on geopolitical fronts as they are on economic and cultural battlefields such as soccer.

As a result, the fault lines of various alliances across the greater Middle East, a region that stretches from North Africa to northwestern China, are coming to the fore. The cracks may be most apparent in the Russian-Turkish-Iranian alliance, but they also lurk in the background of Gulf cooperation with Israel in confronting Iran, as well as the unified front put forward by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Russia prevented, at least for now, a rupture with Turkey by delaying an all-out attack on Idlib despite Iranian advocacy of an offensive. Turkey, already home to three million Syrians, feared that a Syrian-Russian assault would push hundreds of thousands, if not millions, more refugees across its border. If Iran was the weakest link in the debate about Idlib, it stands stronger in its coming competition with Russia for the spoils of reconstruction of war-ravaged Syria. Similarly, Russia appears to be ambivalent towards a continued Iranian military presence in post-war Syria, a potential flashpoint given Israel’s opposition and Israeli attacks that led recently to the downing of a Russian aircraft.

By the same token, Turkey, despite its backing of Qatar in its 15-month-old dispute with a Saudi-UAE-led alliance that is boycotting the Gulf state diplomatically and economically, poses perhaps the greatest challenge to Qatari efforts to project itself globally by operating one of the world’s best airlines and positioning itself as a sports hub. Turkey, despite its failure to win the right to host Euro 2024 and its lack of the Gulf’s financial muscle, competes favorably on every other front with Qatar as well as the UAE, which is also seeking to project itself through soft as well as hard power. The UAE opposes Erdogan because of his Islamist leanings, ties to Iran, and support of Qatar. Turkey wins hands down against the small Gulf states when it comes to size, population, location, industrial base, military might, and sports performance.

That, coupled with a determination to undermine Qatar, was likely one reason why the UAE’s major carriers, Emirates and Etihad (which is troubled by a failed business model), have, despite official denials, been quietly discussing a potential merger that would create the world’s largest airline. Countering competition from Turkish Airlines, which outflanks both UAE carriers with 309 passenger planes that service 302 destinations in 120 countries, may well have been another reason. Emirates, the larger of the two Emirati carriers, has a fleet of 256 aircraft flying to 150 destinations in 80 countries.

These recent developments suggest that alliances, particularly the one that groups Russia, Turkey and Iran, are brittle and transactional. They are geared towards capitalizing on immediate common interests rather than shared long-term goals, let alone values. This is true even if Russia and Turkey increasingly find common ground in concepts of Eurasianism. It also applies to Turkey and Qatar, who both support Islamist groups, as well as to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who closely coordinate policies but whose different goals are on display in Yemen.

The fragility of the alliances is further underscored by Turkish, Russian, and Iranian aspirations of resurrecting their respective empires in a 21st century mold and the Saudi quest for regional dominance. Notions of empire have informed policies since long before the realignment across Eurasia as a result of the shift in the American focus from the Middle East to Asia, particularly the rise of China. Relations between the West and Russia have been increasingly strained, and Middle Eastern states like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran have been increasingly assertive…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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PRAYING FOR ISRAEL:

INTERVIEW WITH FORMER IDF CHIEF OF STAFF MOSHE YA’ALON

Machla Abramovitz                                                           

Community, Dec., 2018

…To assess the current state of Israel’s security, we sat down with former IDF Chief of Staff General Moshe (“Boogie”) Ya’alon, following his keynote address at the 30th anniversary gala of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR) in Montreal…

Ya’alon is critical of the Obama administration’s Middle East policies. “Yasser Arafat’s duplicitousness didn’t matter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, as they were trying to curry support among the Arabs by propping up Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians. The JCPOA [the deal reached by the Obama administration with the Republic of Iran] is a disaster. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, is doing wonderful things for Israel. Over 80 percent of Israelis support him.” The following is an edited transcript of the rest of our conversation with the General:

CM: Are wars between Israel and Iran, as well as Hamas, inevitable?

Ya’alon: Let’s distinguish between Iran and Hamas. The Iranians are trying to open another front against us in Syria. In 2015, they started launching missiles at Israel. In less than a year, this attempt ended after Israel hit back hard. This February, their units began launching drones and rockets. Subsequently, the IAF destroyed 15 Iranian units. Iran understands that they cannot successfully challenge Israel. Israeli power is superior to theirs militarily and intelligence-wise.

We don’t want Iran to either violate our sovereignty or arm our enemies; any violations on their part contravenes what we call our Red Line Strategy. [Israel prevents the Iranians from shipping arms to Hezbollah by bombing their ammunition depots and highways traveled by convoys.] I don’t see a war with Iran coming soon. Hezbollah’s 15,000 long-range, guided missiles are a problem, which Israel will eventually deal with. I foresee the possibility of a massive Israeli assault in Lebanon. Because Hezbollah installs these missiles in villages and towns and next to hospitals – as they do in Gaza – this will result in a large-scale PR problem because specific civilian structures must be destroyed to root these missiles out.

The challenge with Hamas is different. Since 2014, Hamas didn’t shoot a single bullet; and they arrested any proxy group that did. They don’t want to escalate the situation to a full-scale war. During Operation Protective Edge, we destroyed over 10,000 buildings in Gaza. They’ve been reconstructing Gaza for 20 years. So, Gazans are now releasing dangerous, incendiary balloons and kites, and are demonstrating along the border to express their frustration. The IDF is responding in a limited way. I don’t like this. We should not have accepted this behavior from the onset. It’s impossible to intercept every balloon and every kite. We must confront these terrorists vigorously. It’s the only way to handle things in the Middle East. Still, it’s not deterministic that we are going to war, even though the Middle East can erupt at any time even when it’s not intentional. I hope the government and the IDF will be able to change the rules of the game. The rules as they exist now are not in our favor.

CM: Despite Israel’s ability to manage Iranian aggression in Syria, doesn’t Iran remain a severe threat to its security?

Ya’alon: Iran remains a crucial issue. Still, with enough pressure placed on it, I believe the current regime can be persuaded to act in Iran’s best interests. Iran suspended its nuclear project in 2003 when the US invaded Afghanistan. They were afraid of President George W. Bush. The project was renewed two years later when Ayatollah Khamenei saw that the US lost its stomach for war. In 2012, he decided to re-engage with America because of political isolation, crippling economic sanctions, a credible military option, and a fear of a general uprising among Iranians. His economists told him his regime could not survive another year if he continued with his expansionist policies. Unfortunately, President Barak Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry headed the negotiations. President Trump’s determination to renew the sanctions is an excellent idea. This “irrational” regime becomes very rational when presented with a dilemma, whether to continue with their hegemonic drive or choose to survive [due to the implosion of the economy and fear of a popular uprising.] I believe they will choose to survive…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

Machla Abramovitz is a CIJR Academic Fellow

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Israel and the Arab States (Video): Amb. Dore Gold, JCPA, Dec. 9, 2018—An Insider’s View of Israeli Diplomacy. Dore Gold at the Hudson Institute, November 27, 2018

The Spring of Israel’s Relations with its Arab Neighbors: Elie Podeh, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 8, 2018—In the past few weeks it seems that Arab and Muslim countries have been competing with each other over Israel. Following news on back-channel intelligence ties with Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to a well-publicized visit to Oman.

What Happened to Arab Support for the Palestinians?: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, Nov. 16, 2018—Debate with Sarah Feuer, Jonathan Schanzer, Asaf Romirowsky, Michael Wilner, Hillel Frisch, Neri Zilber, James Dorsey.

The Grim Cost of the “Oslo War”: Guy Millière, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 14, 2018—September 13, 1993. Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the lawn of the White House. They have just officially signed the document that was supposed to start Peace: the Oslo Accord. The cogs of this machine began their work.

ISRAEL IS THE “VANGUARD OF FREEDOM” IN CHAOTIC MIDDLE EAST

Jihadism, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the “Frontier States”: Dr. Spyridon N. Litsas, BESA, Oct. 8, 2018— Many analysts, in their eagerness to trace the origins of the radicalization of Islam, look to the rise of the theocratic Shiite regime in Iran in 1979 as the starting point.

The Logic Behind Iranian Moves in the Middle East: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 5, 2018— The effort by the US and its allies to contain and ultimately roll back the gains made by Iran in the region over the last half decade is currently taking shape, and is set to form the central strategic process in the Middle East in the period now opening up.

Who is Fighting Iran’s Expansion? Who is Stopping ISIS?: Giulio Meotti, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 15, 2018— The effort by the US and its allies to contain and ultimately roll back the gains made by Iran in the region over the last half decade is currently taking shape, and is set to form the central strategic process in the Middle East in the period now opening up…

Middle Eastern Interventions in Africa: Tehran’s Extensive Soft Power: Hassan Dai, Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2018 — Since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has made enormous efforts to export its revolution around the world.

On Topic Links

Peace, Equality, Plurality – Just Not in the Middle East (Video): Jewish Press, Oct. 22, 2018

Iran Strike’s Message to Region: “Borders Don’t Matter”: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 01, 2018

The Next War in the Middle East: Vivian Bercovici, Commentary, Oct. 5, 2018

There’s a War Going on out There: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Sept. 6, 2018

 

                             JIHADISM, THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN,

                                        AND THE “FRONTIER STATES”                                                                           Dr. Spyridon N. Litsas

BESA, Oct. 8, 2018

Many analysts, in their eagerness to trace the origins of the radicalization of Islam, look to the rise of the theocratic Shiite regime in Iran in 1979 as the starting point. Others focus on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, or the predominantly Muslim region of Bosnia Herzegovina during the Yugoslav civil war. Still others who are more theoretically inclined go back to the first decades of the 20th century to examine the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, a blended creed that accommodates both a profound anti-colonial stance and a pronounced Salafism. Some go back to the 18th century’s austere enactments of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, or even further back to the reactionary utterances of Ibn Taymiyyah in the second half of the 13th century and the first half of the 14th.

None of these approaches is wrong, but they all disregard a basic feature of Islam that has accompanied it since its early days. Islam is a religion based on oxymorons. This can be clearly seen in the matter of violence and its relationship with religious practice. Jihad, the great issue relating to the use of violence within the context of Islamic religious practice, does not exist in a theoretical vacuum but has a direct link with all four fundamental schools of Islamic jurisprudence: the Hanafi, the Maliki, the Shafi’i, and the Hanbali. According to all four, the world is divided into two spheres: Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam), where the faith has established itself; and Dar al-Harb (the House of War), where it is incumbent on Muslims to fight non-believers in order to establish the rule of Islam. As the prophet Muhammad famously asserted in his farewell address: “I was ordered to fight all men until they say, ‘There is no god but Allah.’”

It can be argued that Islam is not a religion of violence but rather a religion that understands its utility for the promotion of its revolutionary essence according to Martin Wight’s international theory. This conceptual utility of violence, which lies deep in the doctrinal core of Islam, is the driving force behind its continual radicalization. Islam, especially its majority Sunni branch, has never ceased to turn to radicalism every time it seems necessary.

But if radicalization is not new to Islam, what is different about today? Why do jihadist groups seem not only exceptionally powerful but also so resourceful at finding new means of spreading terror and death among their enemies?

The main difference between the past and the present regarding the radicalization process within Islam is technology – specifically, the existence of the internet. Images of terror and indirect methods of primitive psychological warfare, mainly targeting western societies, can be easily viewed in western homes. The 21st century is not the era of Islamic radicalization but the era during which jihadist Islam acquired the ability to promote and broadcast its messages of primitive hate and raw nihilism to millions.

The highly advanced technological means available to jihadist Islam offer it the opportunity to make contact with even wider audiences through the “dark web.” This further boosts the number of people who can be reached. Technology is changing everything in the War on Terror. This is the first time in human history that the global community of Muslims, the umma, has taken on a specific form and shape in the digital dimension. This represents a threat maximizer because jihadist groups now have numerous channels of communication through which they can organize actions and recruit members.

In J.J. Grygiel and A. Wess Mitchell’s latest work on US foreign policy, they show that it is necessary for Washington to form a new grand strategy that gives greater importance to its frontier state allies. Israel is on this list due to its key role in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Another pivotal state, Greece, is not included. This is an oversight, as Greece is essential to efficiently tackling jihadist Islam today. The strong ties between Athens, Jerusalem, and Nicosia go well beyond the promotion of open communication links in the field of energy. The strategic triangle, and especially the close cooperation between Athens and Jerusalem, can help the rest of the western world obstruct jihadists as they attempt to target western states.

How do Athens and Jerusalem help in this regard? By establishing a network of flow control of refugees now that Turkey seems unable and unwilling to do so. Jihadists make use of the continuous flow of refugees into Greece through the Aegean corridor in order to gain access to the West; By putting preemptive military operations into action from Greek, Israeli, and Cypriot ground against human smugglers acting in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greek military naval capacity combined with the Israeli military air force can transform the Eastern Mediterranean into a region relatively immune to external jihadist action; Israel is a tech leader while Greece has a large soft power capacity. This combination can lead to the creation of a political narrative that can counter the power formula of jihadist Islam in the Eastern Mediterranean.

For all of these to be implemented and to influence developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and southeastern Europe, the US will have to maintain its open support of Israel. The decision by the White House to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem was a political gesture of great importance in this direction. So too should Washington attribute the status of frontier state to Greece.

The radicalization of Islam will continue as a new generation of Takfirism, a hybrid form of nihilism and ultra-religious fanaticism, is growing in Libya, Syria, and the Sahel. The strategic importance of Israel and Greece as the last frontiers before the stormy Muslim archipelago – considering as well the Russian and Chinese poles of influence – reveals the embryonic capabilities the two states possess as the two major western actors in the region.

The world is changing fast, with numerous state and non-state actors openly challenging the post-WWII sociopolitical and economic system. A fundamental strategic restructuring of the western world is greatly important during this period. The Eastern Mediterranean, with its upgraded geostrategic value, will be a key venue for both challenges and opportunities in the decades to come.

Greece and Israel both have important roles to play as western frontier states. The coming period will be characterized by challenges all along the periphery lines between the western and the Muslim worlds. This will not be a confirmation of the Clash of Civilizations of S.P. Huntington, because jihadist groups target Muslim states as well, but a recognition that a new era has arrived with frontier states having more responsibilities to strengthen collective security than before.

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          THE LOGIC BEHIND IRANIAN MOVES IN THE MIDDLE EAST                                                            Jonathan Spyer                                                                                                                            Jerusalem Post, Oct. 5, 2018

The effort by the US and its allies to contain and ultimately roll back the gains made by Iran in the region over the last half decade is currently taking shape, and is set to form the central strategic process in the Middle East in the period now opening up.

New sanctions on the export of Iranian oil are due to be implemented from November 4. Israel’s campaign against Iranian entrenchment in Syria is the most important current file on the table of the defense establishment. The US appears set now to maintain its assets and its allies in Syria as part of the emergent strategy to counter Iran. In Iraq, the contest between Iran-associated forces and those associated with the US is the core dynamic in the country, with the independent power on the ground of the Iran-associated Shia militias the central factor. In Yemen, the battle of attrition between the Iran-supported Ansar Allah (Houthis) and the Saudi and UAE-led coalition is continuing, with limited but significant gains by the latter.

Iran’s response is also becoming clear. At the present time, Tehran’s ballistic missile capabilities appear to be the preferred instrument for Tehran to express its defiance. Notably, for the moment at least, Iran appears to be erring on the side of caution in its choice of targets. This phase is unlikely to last, however, assuming the US is serious in its intentions. In the early hours of Monday, October 1, the Fars News Agency, associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reported that the IRGC had fired a number of Zulfiqar and Qiyam ballistic missiles at targets east of the Euphrates River in Syria. The strike came in response to an attack on an IRGC parade in Iran’s Arab-majority Khuzestan province on September 22.

According to Fars, the missiles fired were decorated with slogans including “Death to America,” “Death to Israel,” and “Death to Al Saud.”

It is noteworthy, however, that the missiles were not directed at any of the aforementioned enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Rather, the IRGC targeted the Hajin pocket, a small enclave east of the Euphrates still held by Islamic State. This was in response to a claim of responsibility by ISIS for the September 22 attack. (A somewhat more credible claim was made by the Ahwaziya, or Ahvaz national resistance, an Arab separatist group in Khuzestan.) Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani later tried to frame the attack as a response to American threats, because of the close proximity of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to the area targeted.

Similarly, on September 8, the IRGC fired seven Fateh-110 short-range missiles at a base maintained by the PDKI (Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan) in the city of Koya in eastern Iraq. The PDKI is engaged in an insurgency against the IRGC and the Iranian regime, centered on the Kurdistan Province of western Iran. Eleven people were killed in the attack. In both these cases, Tehran chose to make its demonstrations of strength against the very weakest of the forces opposed to it (in the case of Islamic State, a force indeed mainly engaged against the enemies of Iran). Shamkhani’s bluster after the fact tends to draw attention to this, rather than detract from it.

By contrast, when Iran wishes to act against or threaten the interests of any of the powerful states whose names were written on the missiles fired at ISIS in Hajin, it takes care to do so in ways that avoid attribution. Thus, the Lebanese Hezbollah organization, in military terms a direct tributary of the IRGC, is the force entrusted with the missile array facing Israel.

When ballistic missiles are fired at Riyadh from Yemen, the act is claimed by the Houthis, and the missiles are identified as “Burkan 1” and “Burkan 2” missiles, developed in Yemen. These missiles are considered by the US State Department and senior US officers to be Iranian in origin, possibly the Qiam 1 or Shihab 2 system with minor modifications. Certainly, the Houthis, a lightly armed north Yemeni tribal militia, did not acquire the knowledge required to operate ballistic missiles locally. There is evidence to suggest that Lebanese Hezbollah operatives are engaged by Iran in Yemen to carry out these launches.

In Iraq, according to a Reuters report in August, the IRGC has begun to transfer ballistic missiles to its militia proxies in that country, presumably with the intention of using these against Israeli or US personnel. So Iran acts through deniable proxies in its wars against powerful states, but acts directly only against small and marginal non-state paramilitary groups. The purpose, of course, is to enable the Iranian state to avoid retribution, while gaining benefit from the acts of the militias.

THIS PRACTICE has proven effective in recent years, though it projects weakness as much as strength. It is of use only for as long as Iran’s enemies are willing to participate in the fiction of separation between the IRGC and its client militias. At a certain point, if the US and its allies are serious about rolling back Iran from its regional gains, the question will arise as to whether success in this endeavor can coexist with the tacit agreement to maintain this fiction.

In Israel’s case, the decision to cease adherence to this convention was taken earlier this year, when Israeli aircraft began openly targeting Iranian facilities in Syria. For the US, such a decision is likely to emerge, if it emerges, as a result of the dynamics set in motion by the decision to challenge Iran’s advances…

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

 

Contents

   

WHO IS FIGHTING IRAN’S EXPANSION? WHO IS STOPPING ISIS?                                                     Giulio Meotti

                                                Arutz Sheva, Oct. 15, 2018

Over the weekend, in front of 140 journalists from 40 countries, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a great speech: “Who is fighting the Iranian takeover of Syria? Israel is doing it. Who is fighting ISIS? In the last three years, Israel stopped 40 terror attacks by ISIS world wide. Israel is the vanguard of freedom in the heart of the Middle East. Without Israel, radical Islam would have overrun the Middle East. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian community thrives and grows”.

Netanyahu said the most explosive truths about Israel in its relations with the civilized world.  Only Israel today is able to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, in the Middle East (twice Israel bombed and stopped an Arab-Islamic atomic bomb). Only Israel is able to combat radical Islamic ideology.

Israel belongs to a small group of countries – the United States, the UK and Canada among them – that have never suffered intervals of non-democratic regimes. Only Israel is able to promote the capitalistic economic development of the region. Only Israel is able to expand the values of the West in the region, competing with those of radical Islam. Israel is one of only two Western democracies that constantly face an adverse environment since its creation (the other one is South Korea). Israel is older than more than half of the democracies and belongs to a small group of countries – the United States, the UK and Canada among them – that have never suffered intervals of non-democratic regimes. France has been less democratic than Israel, to mention one country.

If Israel were to disappear, Iran would extend its totalitarian hegemony throughout the entire Middle East to the Mediterranean and would humiliate the West by reducing and controlling oil production. If the Islamist groups like ISIS have not yet been able to seize the power in Jordan by toppling the Hashemite Kingdom, it is only thanks to the presence of the Israeli army at the border. If Israel were to succumb, the whole world and Western civilization would fall into chaos (who will prevent the fall of Sinai to Jihadists?). A Jihadist takeover of Jerusalem would give to the Islamists a victory like the fall of Christian Constantinople in 1453. If Israel were to succumb, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia would all fall to the Jihadists or the Iranian ayatollahs.

We have been close to this destabilization in recent years, with the taking of power by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and deaths and chaos in its streets, the killing of the American ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya, the rise of Isis in the Mediterranean coasts, the Syrian civil war, the birth of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, the construction of an Islamic State over a third of the Iraqi territory. Israel is the only Western buffer against an Islamist tsunami that would overrun Europe. The West should think of Israel not only as the Jewish State or in terms of the failed “peace process” in the Middle East, but as a Western outpost under siege. If Israel falls it is as if Vienna had fallen in 1683, when the Muslims were rejected at its doors and Europe was saved. The philosopher Leo Strauss called Israel “the only outpost of the West in the East”.

Unfortunately, the West, by undermining Israel, has become more vulnerable, it has not understood that that small Jewish state is an indispensable part of the West, that the millions of Israeli Jews who persist in inhabiting this world despite the Holocaust and the wars are the personification of the best values of our civilization.                                                      Contents

   

MIDDLE EASTERN INTERVENTIONS IN AFRICA:

TEHRAN’S EXTENSIVE SOFT POWER

Hassan Dai

Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2018

Since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has made enormous efforts to export its revolution around the world. Iranian diplomats, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and subordinate organs have spread Shiite doctrine and engaged in direct subversion, terrorism, and organized crime such as drug smuggling.

Dai-al-Quds.jpg Iran-sponsored al-Quds Day rally in Yola, Nigeria, 2017. Iran’s Al-Mustafa International University is responsible for exporting Tehran’s revolutionary ideology. The university’s goal is to spread anti-American ideology and to “liberate Palestine” and “eradicate Israel.” Yet while Tehran’s exertions in the Middle East, Central Asia, and even Latin America have received widespread international exposure, Iranian efforts in Africa have attracted scant attention though the Islamist regime has invested substantial resources to expand its soft power and influence across the continent. So much so that it is arguable that Tehran is reshaping African Islam and the continent’s politics.

While Iran’s primary target for the export of its revolution has been the Middle East, Africa has also been seen as a strategically important region for several reasons. Nearly 45 percent of the continent’s 1.2 billion persons are Muslim, and Tehran recognizes that the lack of influence there presents a serious handicap to its quest to dominate the Islamic world. Gaining popular support within the Muslim communities could also influence the policies of African governments toward Iran. Furthermore, Africa’s Shiite communities have been a source of financial support for Tehran’s Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon. At the same time, a strong presence on the continent provides Iran with a network and routes for logistical support to radical groups in the Middle East.

To win the hearts and minds of African Muslims, the Iranian regime and its institutions organize conferences, conduct religious and political events, work with local partners, and run more than one hundred Islamic centers, schools, seminaries, and mosques in more than thirty African countries with thousands of students, clerics and missionaries. In addition, Tehran has offered financial and economic incentives to African governments and used two of its charities, the Iranian Red Crescent and the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, to provide a wide range of free social and health services in several African countries.

The two main organizations spearheading this quest for soft power are the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, which operates through cultural attachés at Iranian embassies, and the Al-Mustafa International University, which trains foreign clerics and missionaries around the world. These and other organizations disseminate Tehran’s fundamentalist ideology and generate grassroots support for its foreign policy, its position in the Islamic world, and its quest to dominate the Middle East. They also provide the regime with a recruiting pool for the IRGC’s Quds Force and other Iranian institutions responsible for terrorism or military activities abroad.

Indeed, over the last several years, various African governments have arrested Iranian terrorist suspects, dismantled pro-Tehran networks, and seized Iranian weapons shipments to radical groups in the Middle East. In February 2018, for instance, two Lebanese citizens were arrested in South Africa and charged with illegally buying digital components used in drones and sending them to Hezbollah…

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

 

Contents 

On Topic Links

Peace, Equality, Plurality – Just Not in the Middle East (Video): Jewish Press, Oct. 22, 2018

Iran Strike’s Message to Region: “Borders Don’t Matter”: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 01, 2018—On September 22, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired six ballistic missiles at areas in Syria “east of the Euphrates” in retaliation for an attack on them in Ahvaz.

The Next War in the Middle East: Vivian Bercovici, Commentary, Oct. 5, 2018—Everyone says they don’t want war, but the fourth armed conflict since 2006 between Hamas and Israel may be imminent.

There’s a War Going on out There: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Sept. 6, 2018—Wars are raging in various parts of the Middle East, although there is a tendency not to call the conflicts by that name because of the fear conjured up by the word.

PALESTINIAN REJECTION OF ISRAEL’S LEGITIMACY REMAINS THE MISSING INGREDIENT IN THE “PEACE PROCESS”

Time for a Peace Process Paradigm Change: Jonathan S. Tobin, Algemeiner, Nov. 20, 2017 — What are the details of the Middle East peace plan that President Donald Trump will use to craft what he hopes is the “ultimate deal?”

A Palestinian Arab State – Enhancing or Eroding US National Security?: Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, BESA, Nov. 18, 2017— The choice of business and social partners should be based – objectively – on a proven track record, not – subjectively – on unproven hopes and speculation.

Belief in Palestinian Openness to Two-State Solution Amounts to Insanity: Efraim Karsh, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 21, 2017— I never thought I would concur with anything written by veteran Israeli “peace” activist Uri Avnery…

Why Palestinian Delusions Persist: Daniel Pipes, Israel Hayom, Nov. 13, 2017— In 1974, Second Lt. Hiroo Onoda of the Imperial Japanese Army was still fighting for his emperor, hiding in a Philippine jungle.

 

On Topic Links

 

US, Israeli Lawmakers Issue Joint Declaration ahead of Trump Mideast Initiative: Middle East Forum, Nov. 16, 2017

Back to Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations? – Some Basic Truths: Amb. Alan Baker, JCPA, Nov. 14, 2017

Palestinians: If You Do Not Give Us Everything, We Cannot Trust You: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 21, 2017

Before Any Talks, the Palestinians Must Move From Rejection to Recognition: Avraham Neguise, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 23, 2017

 

 

AS WE GO TO PRESS: AT LEAST 235 KILLED IN EGYPT ATTACK — Egypt is reeling from the bloodiest terror attack in its history after suspected I.S. fighters slaughtered at least 235 people during prayers by detonating explosives inside a Sinai mosque and then killing the worshippers in a hail of gunfire. The terrorists struck a mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed in northern Sinai where hundreds of people had gathered for prayers on Friday. The attack began with a powerful explosion at the al-Rawdah mosque and gunmen leapt out of vehicles to kill people as they fled. More than 100 were wounded. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but suspicion fell on the I.S. affiliate in the Sinai desert, which has waged a bloody insurgency against the Egyptian military and the country’s Christian minority. (Telegraph, Nov. 24, 2017)   

                                                           

 

 

TIME FOR A PEACE PROCESS PARADIGM CHANGE

Jonathan S. Tobin

Algemeiner, Nov. 20, 2017

 

What are the details of the Middle East peace plan that President Donald Trump will use to craft what he hopes is the “ultimate deal?” Sometime in the next few months, they will be unveiled as part of an effort to revive the dead-in-the-water peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Though we’ll have to wait and see what exactly is in the proposal being cooked up by a team led by presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and chief negotiator Jason Greenblatt, the only two things that seem certain are that it is likely to be acceptable to Saudi Arabia and that it will have zero chance of success.

 

That’s why instead of merely repeating the mistakes of its predecessors, the Trump team should try a paradigm shift that will predicate peace on a simple concept: the Palestinians have to admit they’ve lost their war on Zionism. Avoiding this admission in order to mollify them or their supporters or concentrating, as every US administration has done, on pressuring Israel to make concessions, merely makes it impossible for the Palestinians to accept the sea change in their political culture that is the only thing that will make peace on any terms possible.

 

It was this idea that brought two members of the Knesset — representing a larger group of legislators that come from six different parties that are in and outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government — to Washington to meet with several like-minded members of Congress to promote the concept of an Israeli victory in the long conflict rather than a self-defeating compromise. The launch of a joint #IsraelVictory caucus at the Capitol Hill gathering is a small step and, as of yet, hasn’t influenced the administration’s thinking. But the gathering, which was sponsored by the Middle East Forum think tank, is a long overdue effort to promote a concept Kushner and company ought to be thinking about.

 

Trump’s team is likely to embrace an “outside-in” strategy in which Arab states, principally the Saudis, will use their influence and money to pressure the Palestinians into finally accepting a two-state solution. In return, the US would get the Netanyahu government to agree to terms that are likely to largely resemble past plans floated by the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations. Trump may think the missing ingredient for peace has been the absence of a master dealmaker, but this scheme has no more chance of working than the efforts of his predecessors.

 

The reason is that the essential element for peace is still missing. The Palestinians are still stuck in a mindset that rejects Israel’s legitimacy. The Palestinian Authority (PA) won’t accept a deal that ends the conflict for all time no matter where Kushner, Greenblatt and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman draw the borders between the two states, how much of Jerusalem the Palestinians receive, how many descendants of the 1948 refugees are allowed to “return” to Israel or even how much money is thrown at them. That’s because the Palestinians’ national identity as a people is still inextricably bound up in a futile century-old war on Zionism that its people have been taught to think they will eventually win.

 

At various times, the PA has declared a willingness to accept peace. Yet every such gesture has been undermined by its cradle-to-grave incitement that promotes a culture of hatred for Israel and Jews, and makes new rounds of bloodshed inevitable. The history of the last 24 years of negotiations since the Oslo Accords shows that peace is impossible so long as the Palestinians still hold onto hope of eventually winning this war. As with every other conflict, this one will only be settled when one side admits defeat and that is something no one, not even a Trump team that appears to be more realistic about Palestinian behavior and intentions than past administrations, seems willing to force them to do.

 

Critics of the #IsraelVictory idea mock its simplicity. But generations of would-be peacemakers have forgotten that it really is that simple. Once the Palestinians concede the war is lost rather than being paused and put aside their dreams of a world without a Jewish state, compromise would be possible. But if the compromises precede acknowledgement of an Israeli victory, then all the Jewish state will be doing is trading land for more terror, not peace. The Trump team may not be listening to the #IsraelVictory caucus as it hatches its plans. But if the White House ignores the basic truths the caucus proclaims, it will be wasting its time and making the next round of violence more, rather than less likely.

                                                                       

 

Contents

A PALESTINIAN ARAB STATE –

ENHANCING OR ERODING US NATIONAL SECURITY?

Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Arutz Sheva, Nov. 18, 2017

 

The choice of business and social partners should be based – objectively – on a proven track record, not – subjectively – on unproven hopes and speculation. Similarly, the assessment of the potential impact of the proposed Palestinian state on US national security should be based – objectively – on documented, systematic, consistent Palestinian walk (track record) since the 1930s, not – subjectively – on Palestinian talk and speculative scenarios. Furthermore, an appraisal of the Arab attitude toward a proposed Palestinian state should be based – objectively – on the documented, systematic and consistent Arab walk since the mid-1950s, not – subjectively – on the Arab talk.

 

Since the 1993 Oslo Accord, the documented track record of the Palestinian political, religious and media establishment has featured K-12 hate-education and religious incitement. This constitutes the most authoritative reflection of the worldview, state-of-mind and strategic goals of the proposed Palestinian state. Moreover, since the 1930s, the Palestinian track record has highlighted close ties with the enemies and adversaries of the US and the Free World.

 

For example, the Palestinian Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, whose memory and legacy are revered by the Palestinian Authority, embraced Nazi Germany, urging Muslims to join the Nazi military during World War II.  Moreover, in 2017, Hitler is still glorified by Palestinian officials and media, and Hitler’s Mein Kampf is a best-seller in the Palestinian Authority. During and following the end of WW2, the Palestinian leadership collaborated with the Muslim Brotherhood – the largest intra-Muslim terror organization – which also aligned itself with Nazi Germany.  In fact, Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas were key leaders of the Palestinian cell of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.

 

Throughout the Cold War, Palestinian leaders aligned themselves with the USSR and the rogue East European regimes. Thus, Mahmoud Abbas acquired fluent Russian and his Ph.D. at Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba University, publishing a thesis on “the myth of the Jewish Holocaust.”  Mahmoud Abbas’ PLO, and other Palestinian organizations, were trained by top Soviet Bloc experts on terrorism, subversion, intelligence, staff and command. It resulted – during the 1970s and early 1980s – in a series of PLO camps in Lebanon, training anti-US Asian, African, European, South American and Muslim terrorists and hijackers.

 

The PLO – which is legally superior to the Palestinian Authority – was an early supporter of the Ayatollahs, following their toppling of the pro-US Shah of Iran. At the same time, three PLO battalions participated in Saddam Hussein’s invasion and plunder of Kuwait, which triggered the First Gulf War. Since 1966, the Palestinian leadership has maintained close ties with North Korea, benefiting from military, economic and diplomatic support, and maintaining one – of only 25 – embassies in Pyongyang. The Palestinian Authority also sustains close ties with Cuba, Venezuela, China, Russia and Iran.

 

While the Palestinian issue is pivotal in the Arab-Western talk, it is marginal in the intra-Arab walk. Pro-US Arab leaders are preoccupied with their primary, survival concerns – the lethal Arab Tsunami and the Ayatollahs’ machete at their throats – which are not related directly, or indirectly, to the Palestinian issue. While Western leaders are impressed with the generous pro-Palestinian Arab talk, they have ignored the harsh Arab walk, and the meager Arab financial assistance to the Palestinians (10% of the Saudi aid to the anti-Soviet Mujahidin in Afghanistan). Pro-US Arab leaders do not forget, nor forgive, the persistent Palestinian subversion and terrorism in Egypt (1950s), Syria (1960s), Jordan (1970), Lebanon (1970-1983) and Kuwait (1990)…

 

The aforementioned, Palestinian systematic rogue track record – against the backdrop of the rocky Hashemite-Palestinian relations – suggests that a Palestinian state could be the straw, which could break the Hashemite back. A Palestinian state west of the Jordan River and the Hashemite regime constitutes a classic oxymoron. It could transform Jordan into another platform of intra-Islamic terrorist warfare, establishing another anti-US Arab regime, which could be subservient to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ayatollahs (in neighboring Iraq) or ISIS, with lethal ripple effects into neighboring Saudi Arabia, all other pro-US Arab entities and the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea – a dramatic financial, national security and homeland security threat to the US and the globe.

 

A Palestinian state could provide docking and landing rights, and possibly a land-base, to Russia, and possibly China and/or Iran, which would destabilize the region, challenging the US military presence in the Mediterranean and Middle East. The aforementioned track record would result in an additional anti-US vote in the UN, and in the flight of the dwindling Christian community, which was a majority in Bethlehem before the 1993 Oslo Accord; now, reduced to a 15% minority and still declining in 2017. While Western conventional wisdom assumes that the Palestinian issue is a core-cause of Middle East turbulence, a crown-jewel of Arab policy-makers and the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the increasingly volatile Middle East reality pulls the rug from under such assumptions, documenting the Palestinian issue as a red herring, which diverts attention away from the clear and present, lethal threats to all pro-US Arab regimes…

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

 

Contents

BELIEF IN PALESTINIAN OPENNESS TO

TWO-STATE SOLUTION AMOUNTS TO INSANITY

Efraim Karsh

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 21, 2017

 

I never thought I would concur with anything written by veteran Israeli “peace” activist Uri Avnery, but I find myself in full agreement with his recent prognosis that “sheer stupidity plays a major role in the history of nations” and that the longstanding rejection of the two-state solution has been nothing short of grand idiocy.

 

But it is here that our consensus ends. For rather than look at the historical record of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and draw the self-evident conclusions, Avnery retreats into the counterfactual fantasyland in which he has been living for decades. “When I pointed this out [i.e., the two-state solution], right after the 1948 war,” he writes, “I was more or less alone. Now this is a worldwide consensus, everywhere except in Israel.”

 

Ignoring the vainglorious (mis)appropriation of the two-state solution by the then 25-year-old Avnery, this assertion is not only unfounded but the inverse of the truth. Far from being averse to the idea, the Zionist leadership accepted the two-state solution as early as 1937 when it was first raised by a British commission of inquiry headed by Lord Peel. And while this acceptance was somewhat half-hearted given that the proposed Jewish state occupied a mere 15% of the mandate territory west of the Jordan river, it was the Zionist leadership that 10 years later spearheaded the international campaign for the two-state solution that culminated in the UN partition resolution of November 1947.

 

Likewise, since the onset of the Oslo process in September 1993, five successive Israeli prime ministers – Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu – have openly and unequivocally endorsed the two-state solution. Paradoxically it was Yitzhak Rabin, posthumously glorified as a tireless “soldier of peace,” who envisaged a Palestinian “entity short of a state that will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its control,” while Netanyahu, whom Avnery berates for rejecting the two-state solution, has repeatedly proclaimed his support for the idea, including in a high-profile 2011 address to both houses of the US Congress.

 

By contrast, the Palestinian Arab leadership, as well the neighboring Arab states have invariably rejected the two-state solution from the start. The July 1937 Peel Committee report led to the intensification of mass violence, begun the previous year and curtailed for the duration of the commission’s deliberations, while the November 1947 partition resolution triggered an immediate outburst of Palestinian-Arab violence, followed six months later by an all-Arab attempt to destroy the newly proclaimed State of Israel. Nor was the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), established in 1964 at the initiative of Egypt’s president Gamal Abdel Nasser and designated by the Arab League in 1974 as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinian people, more receptive to the idea. Its hallowed founding document, the Palestinian Covenant, adopted upon its formation and revised four years later to reflect the organization’s growing militancy, has far less to say about Palestinian statehood than about the need to destroy Israel.

 

In June 1974, the PLO diversified the means used to this end by adopting the “phased strategy,” which authorized it to seize whatever territory Israel was prepared or compelled to cede and use it as a springboard for further territorial gains until achieving, in its phrase, the “complete liberation of Palestine.” Five years later, when president Carter attempted to bring the Palestinians into the Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations, he ran into the brick wall of rejectionism. “This is a lousy deal,” PLO chairman Yasser Arafat told the American Edward Said, who had passed him the administration’s offer. “We want Palestine. We’re not interested in bits of Palestine. We don’t want to negotiate with the Israelis. We’re going to fight.” Even as he shook prime minister Rabin’s hand on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, Arafat was assuring the Palestinians in a pre-recorded Arabic-language message that the agreement was merely an implementation of the PLO’s phased strategy.

 

During the next 11 years, until his death in November 2004, Arafat played an intricate game of Jekyll and Hyde, speaking the language of peace to Israeli and Western audiences while depicting the Oslo accords to his subjects as transient arrangements required by the needs of the moment. He made constant allusions to the phased strategy and the Treaty of Hudaibiya – signed by Muhammad with the people of Mecca in 628 CE, only to be disavowed a couple of years later when the situation shifted in the prophet’s favor…

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

 

Contents

WHY PALESTINIAN DELUSIONS PERSIST

Daniel Pipes

Israel Hayom, Nov. 13, 2017

 

In 1974, Second Lt. Hiroo Onoda of the Imperial Japanese Army was still fighting for his emperor, hiding in a Philippine jungle. He had rejected many attempts to inform him of Japan's surrender 29 years earlier. During those long years, he senselessly murdered about one Filipino and injured three others per year. Only a concerted effort by his former commander finally convinced Onoda that the emperor had accepted defeat in 1945 and therefore he too must lay down arms. The Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza are Onoda writ large. They formally acknowledged defeat by Israel 24 years ago, when Yasir Arafat stood on the White House lawn and recognized "the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security." Trouble was, Arafat himself did not sincerely offer this act of surrender and most Palestinians rejected it.

 

Accordingly, the war continues, with Palestinians emulating that grizzled, vicious Japanese soldier: they too battle on for a failed cause, murder senselessly, and ignore repeated calls to surrender. Just as Onoda insisted on believing in a divine emperor, Palestinians inhabit a fantasy world in which, for example, Jesus was a Palestinian, Jerusalem was always exclusively Islamic, and Israel is the new Crusader state on the verge of collapse. (In this spirit, Iranian dictator Ali Khamene'i has helpfully provided the precise date of Sep. 9, 2040, when Israel will vaporize, and his acolytes built a large doomsday clock to count down the days.) Some imagine Israel already gone, with nearly every Arabic map of "Palestine" showing it replacing the Jewish state.

 

How do Palestinians ignore reality and persist in these illusions? Due to three main factors: Islamic doctrine, international succor, and the wariness of the Israeli security services. (The Israeli Left was once a major factor but it barely counts anymore.) First, Islam carries the expectation that a land once under Muslim control (Dar al-Islam) is an endowment (waqf) that inevitably must revert to Muslim rule. Bernard Lewis notes that Muslims historically responded to the loss of territories in Europe with the expectation that these were "Islamic lands, wrongfully taken from Islam and destined ultimately to be restored." This assumption of righteousness and inevitability has abiding power as shown by such aggressions as Turkey's in Cyprus and Syria's in Lebanon.

 

Jerusalem especially arouses intense Islamic sentiments. First exploited at a pan-Islamic conference in 1931 hosted by the mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, many others since then – including Yasir Arafat, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – have picked up this rallying cry. July's Temple Mount fracas over metal detectors revealed the city's atavistic power, prompting such varied powers as Muslim Brotherhood theorist Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Jordan's monarch, the Arab League, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation loudly to support the Palestinian position, no questions asked, as though it were still the 1950s with its shriek of unthinking rhetoric.

 

Second, assorted governments, Leftists, do-gooders, and other internationals encourage Palestinians to sustain the reverie of victory through a combination of obsessive anti-Zionism and the pretense that a "Palestine" exists. Athletes have represented the sham state of "Palestine" at the Olympics since 1996. Israel maintains diplomatic missions in just 78 countries compared to 95 for the Palestinian Authority. With a solitary exception in 2013, every critical UNESCO country-specific resolution in recent years has focused on Israel. This international support encourages Palestinian delusion. Third, despite recent polling that shows how a large majority of Israelis want to push Palestinians into recognizing that the conflict is over and Israel won, no Israeli government since 1993 has taken such steps. Why this persistent discrepancy? Because Israel's security services, which usually have the last word on policy, resist any steps that could possibly provoke Palestinian violence. "Things now are about as good as possible," they imply, "so please stay away with any hare-brained ideas about our getting tougher."

 

This reluctance explains why Jerusalem tolerates massive illegal housing, releases murderers from prison, provides water and electricity to Palestinians at advantageous terms, and urges international donors not just to subsidize the Palestinian Authority but to fund mega-projects of Israeli devising (such as an artificial island off Gaza). Contrarily, Israel's wizened security types nix any initiative that deprives the Palestinians of funds, punishes them more severely, or infringes on their existing prerogatives (such as control of the Temple Mount). Palestinian delusion results, then, from a toxic mix of Islamic doctrine, international succor, and Israeli timidity.

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

US, Israeli Lawmakers Issue Joint Declaration ahead of Trump Mideast Initiative: Middle East Forum, Nov. 16, 2017—Washington, DC – November 16, 2017 – An unprecedented joint declaration by members of Congress and Israel's Knesset has laid the core principles of a bold new approach to ending the Israel-Palestinian conflict ahead of an expected new push for Middle East peace by President Trump.

Back to Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations? – Some Basic Truths: Amb. Alan Baker, JCPA, Nov. 14, 2017—The buzz and expectation in anticipation of the soon-to-materialize American plan1 for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians obviously should not be underestimated. “We’re working very hard on it,” U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said of the Middle East peace plan on November 13, 2017.

Palestinians: If You Do Not Give Us Everything, We Cannot Trust You: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 21, 2017—The Palestinians are once again angry — this time because the Trump administration does not seem to have endorsed their position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians are also angry because they believe that the Trump administration does not want to force Israel to comply with all their demands.

Before Any Talks, the Palestinians Must Move From Rejection to Recognition: Avraham Neguise, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 23, 2017—In 2014, at the height of the Obama administration’s attempts to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas scuttled any remaining hopes for progress by proclaiming his complete and utter rejection of recognizing Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people at a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo.

 

 

 

AS HEZBOLLAH’S POWER IN LEBANON GROWS, THE TERRORIST ARMY HAS BECOME KEY IN ADVANCING IRAN’S REGIONAL AGENDA

Riyadh Realpolitik: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, Nov. 17, 2017 — What are the Saudis trying to do in Lebanon? They have clearly forced the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

It’s Not the Saudis Destroying Lebanon — it’s Iran: Benny Avni, New York Post, Nov. 20, 2017— If you read media coverage of the latest crisis in Leba

non, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all pretty simple…

Hizballah's Firm Grip Over Lebanon Fuels Region's Sectarian Strife: Yaakov Lappin, IPT News, Nov. 14, 2017— Chief Iranian proxy Hizballah has a firm grip over Lebanon, and its bloody intervention in Syria was instrumental in preserving the brutal Assad regime.

Israel's Coming War with Hezbollah: Thomas Donnelly, American Interest, Nov. 3, 2017— Donald Trump’s feud with North Korea’s “Little Rocket Man” notwithstanding, the most likely major war on the horizon is one between Israel and Hezbollah…

 

On Topic Links

 

Lebanese PM Hariri lands in Beirut, Attends National Day Parade: Jerusalem Post, Nov. 22, 2017

Iran Commander: Hezbollah’s Weapons are ‘Nonnegotiable’: Times of Israel, Nov. 23, 2017

Hezbollah Consolidates Its Stranglehold Over Lebanon: Michael J. Totten, World Affairs Journal, Nov. 7, 2017

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

                                                           

 

 

RIYADH REALPOLITIK

Elliott Abrams

Weekly Standard, Nov. 17, 2017

 

What are the Saudis trying to do in Lebanon? They have clearly forced the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Do they want to destabilize the country? Destroy its government? Is the new Saudi approach another example of the often-alleged incompetence and overreach of the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman? Does it show, once again, that he is in over his head? Not in my view. On the contrary, the new and tougher Saudi approach seems to me more realistic—and (unsurprisingly) in line with the new Israeli approach. And both are not actions but reactions to the reality that Hezbollah is in fact in charge of Lebanon.

 

First, a bit of history. In the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon, Israel made a sharp distinction between Hezbollah and Lebanon. Israeli attacks decimated Hezbollah targets but did not focus on Lebanon’s infrastructure. For example, to put the Beirut airport out of use the Israelis hit the runway, making takeoffs and landings impossible. They did zero damage to the terminal and hangars, so that repaving the runway and opening the airport could be done fast when hostilities ended. Similarly, I recall visiting Beirut with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the conflict and seeing the tall lighthouse in the port. An Israeli missile had gone right through the lighthouse’s top and taken out its searchlight. There was no significant damage to the structure, so that all that was needed was a new searchlight for the lighthouse to be operational again. Israel made a special effort to avoid major damage to the Lebanese national infrastructure, despite claims to the contrary from the Lebanese government.

 

In May 2008, Hezbollah ended a government crisis over its own powers by using its weapons—allegedly meant only to protect the country from Israel—to seize control of Beirut’s streets and effectively of the entire state. The New York Times quoted one expert on Hezbollah concluding back then, “This is effectively a coup.” In the near decade since, Hezbollah’s power has grown and so has its domination of Lebanon. During the war in Syria since 2012, Hezbollah has served as Iran’s foreign legion and sent thousands of Lebanese Shia across the border to fight. A story in the New York Times this August summed up the current situation:

 

[Hezbollah] has rapidly expanded its realm of operations. It has sent legions of fighters to Syria. It has sent trainers to Iraq. It has backed rebels in Yemen. And it has helped organize a battalion of militants from Afghanistan that can fight almost anywhere. As a result, Hezbollah is not just a power unto itself, but is one of the most important instruments in the drive for regional supremacy by its sponsor: Iran. Hezbollah is involved in nearly every fight that matters to Iran and, more significantly, has helped recruit, train and arm an array of new militant groups that are also advancing Iran’s agenda. That story concluded that “few checks remain on Hezbollah’s domestic power” in Lebanon. And throughout 2017, Israeli officials have been warning that the distinction between Hezbollah and Lebanon can no longer be maintained. Hezbollah is quite simply running the country. While it leaves administrative matters like paying government salaries, paving roads, and collecting garbage to the state, no important decision can be taken without Hezbollah’s agreement.

 

Lebanon’s president must constitutionally be a Christian, but today that man is Michel Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah since 2006. That is why he got to be president in 2016. As an analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel put it, “Hezbollah has been very squarely backing Aoun for president, and this was always the deal between Aoun’s party and Hezbollah. Hezbollah has upheld its end of the deal. With this election .  .  . you can see Hezbollah being consolidated in terms of its political allies as well as its position in Lebanon.” Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who specializes in Lebanon, concurred: “In terms of the actual balance of power, the actual power on the ground, regardless of the politics, regardless of the cabinets, regardless of the parliamentary majorities: It’s Hezbollah.”

 

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), a recipient of U.S. assistance, is increasingly intertwined with Hezbollah. David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy described the situation this way: [I]n April 2017, Hezbollah brought more than a dozen international journalists on a tour of Lebanon’s frontier with Israel, breezing through several checkpoints manned by national intelligence organs and LAF units, suggesting a high degree of coordination. The next month, Hezbollah turned over several of its Syria border observation posts to the LAF. .  .  . Finally, in late June, the LAF sent 150 officer cadets to tour Hezbollah’s Mleeta war museum, near Nabatiyah, a shrine to the organization’s “resistance” credentials vis-à-vis Israel. Where does all that leave Lebanon? Last summer Badran, in an article entitled “Lebanon Is Another Name for Hezbollah,” concluded, “The Lebanese state .  .  . is worse than a joke. It’s a front.”..

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

 

Contents

IT’S NOT THE SAUDIS DESTROYING LEBANON — IT’S IRAN

Benny Avni

New York Post, Nov. 20, 2017

 

If you read media coverage of the latest crisis in Lebanon, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all pretty simple: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pushing Lebanon to the brink of war that will involve Israel and perhaps even America. But that simplistic take ignores the fact that the crisis was instigated a while ago — by Iran.

 

It’s easy to see why the Saudis get blamed: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is scheduled to return to Beirut on Wednesday. He’ll officially hand in his resignation and return to Paris, where he’ll live comfortably from now on — all because his patrons in Riyadh, where the Hariri family acquired its considerable wealth, pushed him to quit. The Saudis, so the narrative goes, are intensifying this crisis even beyond Hariri’s resignation. They’re pulling cash from Beirut banks, calling on their citizens to avoid Lebanon’s posh hotels and withdrawing investments from the country. Lebanon’s ensuing economic collapse will intensify sectarian rivalries and embolden its most aggressive hotheads. And (in this narrative’s most ridiculous form) Israeli soldiers will next do Riyadh’s bidding and fight Hezbollah on behalf of the Saudis.

 

That last one, often heard in conspiratorial tones in Mideastern cafes, rings awfully familiar: From Pontius Pilate through the tsar to Washington’s neocons, Jews have long been accused of whispering evil in the king’s ear. Except in this version, the roles are reversed, and a young, irresponsible Saudi royal is pushing gullible Israelis and Americans into a proxy war in Lebanon. That, of course, isn’t how Riyadh sees it. Saudi officials point out it was their country that spent a fortune rebuilding Lebanon after the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah left it in ruins. But rather than regaining its status as “Paris on the Mediterranean,” Beirut became an Iranian stronghold and Hezbollah now controls every aspect of Lebanese life.

 

Which is true. Under plans enshrined in UN Security Council resolutions, the Lebanese Army was supposed to disarm all militias. Instead, Hezbollah now controls the army. What happened since the 2006 war was a spectacular Lebanese takeover by Hezbollah. America, which under President Barack Obama saw no evil coming from Tehran, allowed it to happen, blind to the Iranization of Lebanon’s politics, culture and military. (We still train and equip the Lebanese army.)

 

Meanwhile Hezbollah, created by Iran in the 1980s to counter Israel’s military power, has repurposed its mission. Arguing it must stay armed and dangerous as part of “resistance” to Israel, it in fact became Iran’s model proxy army and its global gun for hire. Far from a “Lebanese” power, it’s a Persian tool. When Tehran says jump, Hezbollah asks how high. Every Shiite Lebanese family has lost someone in Syria, where for over six years Hezbollah has been fighting to achieve Iran’s goal of securing Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power. Hezbollah agents train and supervise Iraqi forces, building Iran-affiliated militias in their own image. They’re in Iranian outposts in Asia, Africa and South America. They even tried to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, DC.

 

In Yemen, Hezbollah supervises the Houthis’ fight against Saudi-backed forces. Recently the Saudis intercepted Iranian-made missiles shot at Saudi territory from Yemen. No wonder the Saudis are fed up with Lebanon. True, Prince Mohammed is much better at diving into a crisis than at plotting a strategic way out of it. But it’s Iran, not him, that’s responsible for bringing us here.

 

And no, Israel isn’t being pushed by Saudis. Jerusalem has long known it one day might need to eliminate the estimated 150,000 Lebanese-based warheads Hezbollah has aimed at its urban centers. But Israel has long sought to postpone that war, knowing how bloody and painful it would be for both sides. After ignoring Iran’s ruinous Lebanese-centered strategy for over a decade, it’s time America woke up, too: The Saudis aren’t an enemy. They just decided to stop financing, aiding and giving diplomatic cover to a state that endlessly acts against their interests. Perhaps so should we.

 

Contents

HIZBALLAH'S FIRM GRIP OVER LEBANON

 FUELS REGION'S SECTARIAN STRIFE

Yaakov Lappin

IPT News, Nov. 14, 2017

 

Chief Iranian proxy Hizballah has a firm grip over Lebanon, and its bloody intervention in Syria was instrumental in preserving the brutal Assad regime. Yet Hizballah's meddling in other regions of the Middle East usually does not receive as much attention. That changed drastically earlier this month, when Saudi Arabia publicly accused the Shi'ite terrorist organization of firing a ballistic missile at its capital, Riyadh, from Yemen.

 

Saudi Arabia is alarmed at the rapid expansion of Iran and its proxies. It is leading a coalition of Sunni states in a war against the Iranian-supported Shi'ite Houthi radical organization, Ansar Allah, which has taken over parts of Yemen. "It was an Iranian missile, launched by Hizballah from territory occupied by the Houthis in Yemen," charged Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. A Saudi air defense battery shot the missile down before it struck Riyadh's airport, but the incident has seen Saudi- Iranian tensions, which were already high, spike. A United States Air Force source has reportedly confirmed the Saudi information about the Iranian origins of the missile.

 

Iran denied the Saudi accusation, and played down its links with the Houthis. But this denial flies in the face of mounting evidence of an important Hizballah and Iranian role in assisting Ansar Allah in Yemen. Some of this evidence comes from Hizballah itself, or more precisely, its unofficial mouthpiece in Lebanon, the Al-Akhbar newspaper. Editor Ibrahim Al-Amin published a boastful article in July 2017 detailing Hizballah's spread across the region. "In Yemen, Hizbullah has become a direct partner in strengthening the military capabilities of the Houthi Ansar Allah, who consider Hizballah to be their truthful ally," Al-Amin wrote. The same article proudly said that in Iraq, Hizballah's "experts are present in the biggest operations rooms … [Hassan] Nasrallah serves as the commander of the Popular Mobilization Units [the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias] in Iraq."

 

Hizballah's activities around the Middle East have become a controversial topic in Lebanon, where a portion of the population opposes its monopoly on political and military power, its militant ideology, and Iran's proxy control of the country. Last year, Future TV, a station owned by the recently retired Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (who quit in protest of Iran's takeover of Lebanon), broadcast what it said was a video of a Hizballah operative providing military-terrorist training to Houthi fighters. "So I have (for example) the assassination, God willing, of the head of the Saudi Border Guard," the Hizballah operative says in the video. "We take a group, a special unit, it goes in, assassinates, kills and plants a large bomb. This is what we call a special operation. I have a special operation in Riyadh".

 

At this stage in the video, the Hizballah member briefing the Houthis is interrupted with a question: "[Is this] a suicide operation?" He replies: "Possibly a martyrdom operation. We do not call it suicide. We call it a special operation." An examination of the flag used by Ansar Allah finds that its red and green colors are influenced by the Iranian flag, and more importantly, the motto etched on the flag: "Death to America, Death to Israel, A Curse Upon The Jews, Victory to Islam" is inspired by official Iranian mottos.

 

The Houthis have been influenced by Hizballah in more than one way, said Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel. "The group's use of militant anashid (jihadist anthems) in its videos further portrays it as more in line with Hizballah's models of 'resistance,'" he told the IPT. "Images depicting Houthi fighters with the sun as a background further draw a parallel to other Shi'ite jihadist groups, giving the Houthis spiritual legitimacy within the context of a Shi'ite jihadist organization." Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the current Houthi leader, delivers speeches in a style inspired by Hizballah's Nasrallah, Karmon said.

 

Houthi leaders also appointed a prominent Iranian-educated religious figure with close links to the Islamic Republic as the top Islamic authority in Yemen's capital, Sana'a. A May 2015 Financial Times report, "Lebanon's Hizballah and Yemen's Houthis open up on links," cited Hizballah members saying they have "played a more active role on the ground in Yemen. A Houthi official in Beirut said relations with the Lebanese movement span over a decade, while a Hizballah commander said Houthis and Hizballah trained together for the past 10 years in Iran, then in Lebanon and in Yemen." …

 

Earlier this year, Karmon assessed that "[a] physical Iranian presence based on a strategic cooperation with the Houthis, both ground and naval," in Yemeni ports on the Red Sea, as well as control over other strategic waterways "represent a direct threat to Israel's security and interests."The Houthi takeover of Yemen's capital and other regions increased Shi'ite Iran's influence there, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported. Based on publicly available information, it seems safe to conclude that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps uses Hizballah to strengthen the Houthis militarily in Yemen, and to help Iran increase its influence over this poor, war-torn state, which is also experiencing a humanitarian disaster on a grand scale due to the ongoing conflict. Hizballah's role as a regional proliferator of terrorism, radicalism, and high-level operational capabilities is a constant threat to the Middle East and beyond.

 

Contents

ISRAEL'S COMING WAR WITH HEZBOLLAH

Thomas Donnelly

Weekly Standard, Nov. 3, 2017

 

Donald Trump’s feud with North Korea’s “Little Rocket Man” notwithstanding, the most likely major war on the horizon is one between Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia that, thanks to years of experience and an increasingly lethal arsenal, has become part of the vanguard in Iran’s drive for hegemony in the Near East. Indeed, such a war would be a huge next step for Iran after its rescue of the Assad regime in Syria and its increasingly powerful posture in post-ISIS Iraq. For just such reasons, this war would be a potential tipping point in the Middle East balance of power, a frightfully violent prospect that is equally ripe with strategic opportunity for the United States.

 

As Willy Stern chronicled in these pages last year (“Missiles Everywhere,” June 20, 2016), an Israel-Hezbollah conflict would be nasty and brutish but not short. Ever since its 2006 clash with Israel, Hezbollah has been stockpiling hundreds of thousands of rockets, missiles, and mortars capable of reaching not just border areas but deep into Israel. This arsenal includes hundreds of ballistic missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads—some of Assad’s chemical weaponry no doubt made its way to Hezbollah—as well as substantial conventional explosives. More important is their improved accuracy; Hezbollah might actually hit something for a change, and not just large cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv but military bases and airports. Despite Israel’s successful development of missile defenses like the “Iron Dome,” “Arrow,” and “David’s Sling,” it’s unlikely that an all-out or sustained series of attacks could be fully blunted.

 

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has been making increasingly warlike comments in recent months and claimed in June that his men would be reinforced in battle by “tens .  .  . or even hundreds of thousands” of Shiite fighters from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Nasrallah may be boasting, but Israeli intelligence assessments put the likely strength of such forces at about 40,000. In addition to expanding the number of Hezbollah-like militias it commands, Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the IRGC, has improved its ability to shuttle forces to decisive points. In the fight to evict ISIS from western Iraq, the Iranian proxy Popular Mobilization Units have played as critical a role as U.S. or Iraqi regular forces, not least in the recent clashes that drove Kurdish militias out of Kirkuk.

 

Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has long argued that the next Israel-Hezbollah conflict would be quite unlike the 2006 edition of this “forever” war or any of the recent Israeli campaigns against Hamas. The numbers of missiles, including anti-ship cruise missiles, would dwarf previous Hezbollah salvos and, including upgraded versions of the ubiquitous Scud, could be launched from deep within Lebanon at targets deep within Israel. And the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) could well confront its nightmare scenario—a two-front war in the form of simultaneous attacks launched from the Syrian part of the Golan Heights. As White and his colleague Michael Eisenstadt recently noted, an IRGC general was killed in a January 2015 IDF airstrike while he was touring the Syrian Golan with Hezbollah hosts.

 

Israel has not faced such a powerful threat since the 1973 war, and confronting the Iran-Hezbollah-Assad coalition will tax the IDF heavily. To begin with, even if its missile defenses live up to their advertising, they cannot obviate the need to conduct counterstrikes into Lebanon and Syria. While the Israeli air force has long ruled the local skies, the proliferation of advanced Russian-made air defenses calls into question how rapidly—and at what cost—the IDF can establish or sustain the kind of air supremacy it will need. The best way to remove the Hezbollah missile threat is to seek and destroy the launchers or to deny use of customary launch sites. The Israelis have worked very hard to improve their mobile-missile-hunting abilities, but this would be a risky mission.

 

Moreover, the best missile defense is a large-scale ground assault. Both sides know this, and Israel’s enemies have made strenuous preparations for the IDF counterattacks—again, simultaneously into Lebanon and Syria—that must come. The IDF has worked to improve the survivability of its mechanized infantry and armored forces and the responsiveness, lethality, and accuracy of its artillery. For its part, Hezbollah, which showed considerable tactical skill in defending southern Lebanon in 2006, has added advanced anti-armor weaponry and new layers of defenses. The terrain in southern Lebanon and on the Golan is well suited for such purposes; the IDF will have to pick its way forward cautiously, through ambush after ambush, and ultimately it may have to go farther north and east than in 2006.

 

These daunting tactical challenges also, as in the past, generate strategic and geopolitical problems. The perception of victory often counts more than the battlefield result, both in the region and in the larger international contest. Nasrallah excels at spinning defeat into victory. The 2006 war began when Hezbollah captured two IDF soldiers. In an unguarded moment shortly after the cessation of hostilities, he admitted that he did not anticipate, “even by 1 percent,” that the snatch “would result in such a wide-scale war, as such a war did not take place in the history of wars. Had we known” what would result, “we would not have carried it out at all.” But in short order, survival became triumph, a bit of propaganda that caught on in outlets such as the Economist, which declared, “Nasrallah wins the war.” By now even many Israelis, especially on the political left, concur; in an otherwise thoughtful analysis of the current situation, Ha’aretz concluded that the 2006 campaign “remains a resounding failure.” The standard of victory for Israel remains almost impossibly high…

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

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Lebanese PM Hariri lands in Beirut, Attends National Day Parade: Jerusalem Post, Nov. 22, 2017—Saad al-Hariri attended independence day celebrations in Beirut on Wednesday after returning to Lebanon for the first time since resigning as prime minister in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia. Hariri, whose sudden resignation on November 4 pitched Lebanon into crisis, flew into Beirut late on Tuesday. He stood alongside President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at a military parade in central Beirut.

Iran Commander: Hezbollah’s Weapons are ‘Nonnegotiable’: Times of Israel, Nov. 23, 2017—The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Thursday rejected the possibility of disarming the Iran-backed and Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror organization or entering into negotiations over its ballistic missile program.

Hezbollah Consolidates Its Stranglehold Over Lebanon: Michael J. Totten, World Affairs Journal, Nov. 7, 2017— Saad Hariri resigned his post as Lebanon's prime minister, citing an assassination plot brewing against him, presumably from his former government coalition partner Hezbollah.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

TRUMP, ONE YEAR AFTER ELECTION, HAS SEVERAL ACHIEVEMENTS. YOU WOULDN’T KNOW IT FROM THE MEDIA

Trump is Already the Most Successful U.S. President Since Ronald Reagan: Conrad Black, National Post, Nov. 17, 2017— It is distressing to read and listen to the nonsense in the Canadian media about Donald Trump.

Trump's Unsung Success in the Middle East: David P. Goldman, PJ Media, Nov. 14, 2017— President Trump's Middle East policy is simple: Back our friends and scare the hell out of our enemies, and negotiate where possible with our competitors like Russia and China.

Trump, One Year After the Election: Achievements and Failures: Prof. Eytan Gilboa, BESA, Nov. 20, 2017— Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential elections held a year ago surprised veteran politicians, renowned election experts, prominent journalists, seasoned commentators, and senior academicians.

The GOP Better Wake Up to the Lessons of this Election: Salena Zito, New York Post, Nov. 11, 2017— A Republican friend of mine is a suburban businessman who dutifully votes in every election, always straight party.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Outlines of Trump’s Asia Strategy: Daniel Blumenthal, American Interest, Nov. 17, 2017

Trump: No More Nation-Building Abroad: Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta, BESA, Oct. 17, 2017

Border Walls Are All the Rage Worldwide Because They Work: Michel Gurfinkiel, PJ Media, Nov. 7, 2017

Hillary Had to Know all About the Dossier: Douglas E. Schoen and Andrew Stein, New York Post, Oct. 27, 2017

                                                           

 

 

TRUMP IS ALREADY THE MOST SUCCESSFUL

U.S. PRESIDENT SINCE RONALD REAGAN                 

Conrad Black

National Post, Nov. 17, 2017

 

It is distressing to read and listen to the nonsense in the Canadian media about Donald Trump. It is too early to predict whether he will be a successful president or not. But no one relying on the Canadian media would be aware that he has more than doubled the economic growth rate, reduced illegal immigration by about 80 per cent, withdrawn from the insane Paris Climate accord, helped add trillions to U.S. stock market values, created nearly two million new jobs, led the rout of ISIL, and gained full Chinese adherence to the unacceptability of North Korean nuclear military capability. He will probably pass the greatest tax cuts and reforms since Reagan, if not Lyndon Johnson, by Christmas, and may throw out the most unpopular feature of Obamacare, the coercive mandate, with it.

 

He can be a tiresome and implausible public figure at times, and the reservations widely held about him, in the United States and elsewhere, are understandable and not unfounded. He is, however, the most effective U.S. president since Reagan. In the 20 pre-Trump years, over $5 trillion and scores of thousands of American casualties were squandered in Middle East wars (while most Iraqis were handed over to Iranian influence), an immense humanitarian refugee tragedy was provoked, along with the greatest world economic crisis since the 1930s, American GDP per capita growth and capital investment shrunk by 75 per cent, the work force lost over 15 million people, millions of unskilled, illegal migrants were admitted, and the national debt of 233 years of American independence more than doubled in the last seven years of Obama. Those 20 years were the only time of absolute decline in American history, as well as a period of prolonged economic stagnation. Americans, unlike the older great nations of Europe and the Far East, have never experienced such setbacks and stagnation, and don’t like or accept them. It was in these circumstances that this unusual president was elected.

 

In addition to these American problems, there is the international phenomenon of ever-widening disparity of wealth and income, with no obvious solution — taking money from people who have earned it and giving it to those who haven’t will just drive out the high economic achievers who provide most of the personal income tax revenue already. And there is the problem that, for the first time, higher technology produces unemployment rather than employment, and increased productivity, unlike in the Reagan years, has not, until Trump was elected, led to job creation.

 

In many advanced democratic countries, the political systems have begun to fragment. The German Social Democrats have half-disintegrated, the British Labour Party has been taken over by outright Marxists, France has practically obliterated its traditional parties except for the residue of the Gaullists, and in elections where only 30 per cent of eligible voters voted, the French handed the legislature to a party that was only invented, out of whole cloth, 15 months ago. The Austrian and Czech electorates have divided their support among a variety of parties and elevated, as France has, men in their thirties, who could be young nephews of Justin Trudeau. It was in these circumstances that Hillary Clinton narrowly kept her Democratic Party out of the hands of Senator Bernie Sanders and his socialist option, and Donald Trump, as he smashed the Bush-McCain-Romney tweedle-dee near-Democrats, also defeated the Ted Cruz far-right Republicans.

 

The Canadian media has almost uniformly bought into the line of the Trump-hating national U.S. media, that he is already a failed and probably illegitimate president. I was on CTV with my friend Evan Solomon about 10 days ago, and the preceding commentators claimed that “the noose is tightening around (Trump’s) neck,” and another said that it all “reminded (him) of Nixon,” as if Trump were about be convicted of “high crimes and misdemeanours.” The stupidest of these inescapable divinations of impeachable skullduggery I have seen is Scott Gilmore’s Maclean’s piece of Nov. 11, titled “Donald Trump; Putin’s Manchurian Idiot,” though he in fact excuses Trump from the charge of being a Manchurian candidate. Gilmore baldly states that there was heavy collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, though Trump, in his simplicity may not have known of it. The only person in American history elected president who has made billions of dollars and had never sought or held a public office, elected or otherwise, or a high military position, is dismissed as an imbecile who has no concept of what forces, treasonous as they obviously were, propelled him to his great office.

 

One of Canada’s most eminent emeritus journalistic personalities approvingly just sent me a really insane piece from the droolingly Americophobic (U.K.) Guardian, fortunately on the verge of bankruptcy and reduced to a pitiful variation of crowd-funding, which asserts that Putin has manipulated the entire American political system for many years. This astounding surge of Russia to the status of a bogeyman greater than it ever enjoyed in the febrile ravings of Joseph R. McCarthy is piquant. Russia is an economic basketcase with a GDP smaller than Canada’s though it has more than four times our population. It is a geographically important country and a distinguished culture but has no durable political institutions, has never had a day of good government by Western standards, and could be bankrupted and swept out of the seas and skies of the world by the United States in a couple of weeks. The only danger it presents to America is that, if the Americans rebuff Russia too robustly, it will drive them into the arms of the Iranians and Chinese in a way that would be counter-productive to the U.S. national interest.

 

Canadians of all people should recognize that what is really going on in the United States is the tawdriest political charade in the country’s history. The Clinton campaign commissioned, through intermediaries, a dossier of salacious gossip and outright fabrications about Trump, from unidentified, unverifiable Kremlin sources, desperately shopped it to the U.S. media (remember the “Golden Shower” of Trump-synchronized urinating prostitutes in a Moscow hotel?), and managed to hand off the dossier to the FBI, politicizing that organization. Trump fired the FBI director, James Comey, who, in revenge, removed a government document, a much contested memo to himself about a conversation with the president, to force the appointment of a special counsel, who turned out to be none other than Comey’s chum and mentor and preceding FBI director, Robert Mueller…

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

                                                                       

 

Contents

TRUMP'S UNSUNG SUCCESS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

David P. Goldman

PJ Media, Nov. 14, 2017

 

President Trump's Middle East policy is simple: Back our friends and scare the hell out of our enemies, and negotiate where possible with our competitors like Russia and China. By and large it's working, unlike the catastrophically failed polices of the previous two administrations. Trump did what he said he would do and succeeded. You wouldn't know that from the #fakenews media.

 

Start with Israel: The Muslim strategy to destroy Israel hasn't envisioned war–not at least since 1973–because Israel in all cases would win. Instead, the objective is to ring Israel with missiles and force Israel to retaliate against missile attacks in such a way that the "international community" would respond by imposing a "settlement" on Israel that would leave Israel vulnerable to further missiles attacks, and so forth. This is stated explicitly by Palestinian strategists cited by Haviv Rettig Gur in The Times of Israel.

 

George W. Bush and Obama gave aid and comfort to the encircle-and-strangle strategy by tying Israel's hands. Then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wouldn't let Olmert attack Hezbollah with full force in 2006. Rice thinks the Palestinian movement is a branch of the U.S. civil rights movement (if you don't believe that characterization, read her book "Democracy," which I will review for Claremont Review of Books). Obama sandbagged Israel during the 2014 Gaza rocket attacks, suspending delivery of Hellfire missiles to the Jewish State. Israel is the only country in the world that embeds human rights lawyers in every infantry company to make sure that its soldiers keep collateral damage to a minimum.

 

Hezbollah, Iran's Lebanese militia, has 150,000 rockets aimed at Israel, and many of them can hit any target in the country. In the case of a major rocket attack from Hezbollah against Israel, military logic dictates the preemptive neutralization of rocket launchers embedded in civilian populations–what an Israeli strategist close to the PM described to me as "Dresden." There would be tens of thousands of civilian casualties. Trump will not tie Israel's hands in the case of attack, and will not interfere with Israel's ability to defend herself. That makes Israel's deterrent against Iran credible.

 

Hillary Clinton insisted that the "technology of war," in particular the rockets ringing Israel, would force Israel to accept a phony peace agreement whose main effect would be to bring the rocket launchers closer to Israel. The photograph below shows the runways and main terminal building of Israel's international airport from an Arab village in Judea: Hand this over to the Palestinians and primitive short-range missiles can shut down the Israel economy. There's an easy way to stop the rockets, which is to kill the people who shoot them. That might mean killing the human shields whom the cowardly terrorists put in front of the rockets, but under international law, a country acting in self-defense has every right to kill civilians. For that reason alone, anyone who claims to be a friend of Israel must support Trump against the alternative. One can criticize Trump all day with justification, but the existential issue of Israel's survival requires Jews to support him. Jewish never-Trumpers are infected with what our rabbis of antiquity called "baseless hatred."

 

The second big issue is Saudi Arabia, which competed with Iran for decades as the biggest funder of terrorists and religious extremists. After Trump's March 2017 trip to Saudi Arabia, where he read the riot act to assembled Arab leaders, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince has centralized control of the government and seized hundreds of billions of dollars of royal family assets. The $800 billion of royal family wealth targeted is larger than the national reserves of the kingdom. As I wrote in Asia Times last week, Saudi Arabia has gotten its first real government, as opposed to the family regime that allowed every crazy cousin to write checks to terrorists. Of course, the kingdom well might get its second, third and fourth real government in short order if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman fails. But the de facto coup is a huge blow to Sunni jihadism and a victory for American policy.

 

Prince Mohammed and his father King Salman had visited Moscow in late September, and the Russian and Chinese press express guarded optimism about the regime change (see the cited Asia Times article). Russia and China have a great deal to fear from Sunni jihadists (virtually all their Muslim citizens are Sunni) and a Saudi ruler willing to close the tap is good for them. As I wrote, its win-win-win-win for the U.S., Russia, China and Israel. That ought to scare the Persians plenty. The Saudis get very bad press for chopping up the Houthi-led tribes in Yemen, Iran's allies. They are making a horrible example of the Houthi for the edification of Iran. That is disgusting, to be sure, but that's the way things are done in that part of the world. The Assad government in Syria did much worse, deliberately bombing civilians to drive out the Sunni majority in order to replace it with Shi'ite colonists.

 

The Saudis don't have much of an army, and their air force depends on Pakistani mercenaries, but they do have nearly 300 fourth-generation aircraft (F-15's, Eurofighters, and Tornadoes) as well as a huge stock of Chinese-made medium range missiles. They can hire Pakistanis or Egyptians to fly them if necessary. Iran has tough soldiers but no air force to speak of. If it comes to war (which it shouldn't) between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iran will suffer badly. A dozen power plants provide more than half the country's electricity, for example, and could not be defended in case of war. There isn't much to do about Iran now that its economic ties point eastwards to China, except to terrify the Tehran mullahs. That's old-fashioned balance of terror–not my favorite way of doing things, but a policy that worked reasonably well during the Cold War. It's easy to talk about tearing up the Iran nuclear agreement–but now there are two rail lines linking Iran to China, and the West's influence in the region has vastly diminished. Unfortunately, grand gestures may not bring grand results, and the U.S. has to play tought and sometimes dirty…

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

 

Contents

TRUMP, ONE YEAR AFTER THE ELECTION:

ACHIEVEMENTS AND FAILURES

Prof. Eytan Gilboa

BESA, Nov. 20, 2017

 

Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential elections held a year ago surprised veteran politicians, renowned election experts, prominent journalists, seasoned commentators, and senior academicians. Few believed that a real estate tycoon lacking political or public experience and exhibiting an unruly and excitable style could be elected to one of the world’s most important positions. Experts failed to grasp the degree of alienation and revulsion felt by voters in the face of the failing conduct of Washington politicians.

 

After Trump entered the White House, many believed or at least hoped that the sheer weight of the position and the responsibility would render his conduct more presidential, but this did not happen. Personality changes are not easily made, especially at an advanced age. Trump is one of the strangest presidents in American history. He is blunt and sometimes rude; he likes to confront and humiliate both individuals and whole sectors; he is temperamental, at times to an extreme; and he takes almost everything personally. Many share the sense that he sees himself and his job as nothing more than as host of a reality show – a sequel of sorts to “The Apprentice,” a program he hosted successfully in the past.

 

At times, it seems Trump is driven solely by the desire to systematically undo the legacy of his predecessor, Barack Obama – its good parts as well as its bad. Whether or not that was his original intent, he frequently changes his mind and sometimes contradicts himself. Trump was unable to create a functioning system in the White House, and broke records in terms of bizarre appointments and quick layoffs. For almost the entire first year of his term, complete chaos ruled in the White House. Within a few months, he had fired or forced the resignation of senior officials and confidants. They included his political adviser, widely considered the architect of his victory, Steve Bannon; White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer; his replacement, Anthony Scaramucci; White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus; and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

 

Trump broke many conventions. He was the Republican Party’s nominee, but some of its leaders viewed him as a foreign element, criticized his style, and objected to his positions on important domestic and foreign issues. Those within the party who have been opposed to Trump included John McCain (the Republican presidential candidate against Obama in the 2008 elections), Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and former President George W. Bush. Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who was Trump’s confidant and candidate for secretary of state, described the president as unstable. He said Trump has turned the White House into “an adult day care center,” and suggests that he is a dangerous man on the path to bringing about World War III.

 

From the onset of his term, Trump has struggled with the authorities and the media. He condemned judges who canceled his immigration restrictions, dismissed FBI Director James Comey on the grounds that he had been negligent in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, and nearly fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions for not rising enough to his defense on the “Russiagate” investigation. He also confronted Congress for rejecting his efforts to cancel Obamacare and to pass laws he advocated. Trump also conducted an unprecedented campaign against the media, both print and electronic, which he accused of disseminating “fake news” about his conduct and policies. Indeed, the media, especially east coast liberal outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC, and CNN did attack him with a fair amount of bias, but his retorts went far beyond focused, substantive responses. He used his Twitter account to lash out against his rivals both domestically and abroad. Never has there been an American president who acted in such a way, with all attempts to reduce or moderate his tweets coming to nothing.

 

In one area – a very important area to him and to the public – he has succeeded greatly. The US economy is flourishing, showing mostly positive data: growth reached 2.4%, and industrial productivity went up about 3%. Wall Street investments are up almost a third. At the same time, unemployment fell to 4.3% and inflation to 1.6%. Trump also blocked the transfer of whole factories from the US to Mexico. These results were not, of course, achieved in a week or a month, and some are the product of Obama’s economic policies. Still, it seems that the aura of Trump as a successful businessman has contributed to the flourishing of the economy…

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

 

Contents

THE GOP BETTER WAKE UP TO THE LESSONS OF THIS ELECTION

Salena Zito

New York Post, Nov. 11, 2017

 

A Republican friend of mine is a suburban businessman who dutifully votes in every election, always straight party. His best friend is a rabbi, a respected member of the community and a progressive liberal. On Tuesday the rabbi stood in line to vote for a new governor at 6:50 a.m. in the pouring rain. The Republican? He made his way to the polls eventually, five minutes before they closed.

 

While both Virginians cast votes (and didn’t want their names used in this article), the rabbi’s enthusiasm represents the problem Republicans are facing right now. Many Democrats are energized to vote against Donald Trump — and on the first Election Day since the president was inaugurated, they voted in droves. Despite all the polls that showed the two candidates for Virginia governor were neck and neck, Ralph Northam clobbered his Republican opponent Ed Gillespie by 300,000 votes. Northam also won 600,000 more votes than his party’s gubernatorial candidate in 2009. “The Democrats finally woke up. Last year we were complacent, and we didn’t have a great motivator. Now we do,” said Dane Strother, a Democratic strategist and Virginian. Strother said this is no different from when highly motivated Republicans showed up to vote against President Barack Obama in the 2010 and 2014 midterms, bringing independents and moderate Republicans with them. Even though Gillespie played down his endorsement from Trump, he lost because of his association with the president. “I’d argue that the Trump coalition didn’t fall apart, it’s still intact,” Strother said.

 

But now there is a large number of “motivated people who didn’t vote for Trump” ready “to make their mark.” Freed from the burden of the uninspiring and controversial candidacy of Hillary Clinton, Democrats were finally able to vote for a person who is low-drama and likeable. Northam is a nice, pragmatic moderate (he voted for George W. Bush not once but twice) who talks with a twang. The newly elected governor is the first model for a successful Democratic candidate in the Trump age, and if others like him run for office, Republican majorities in congress and state legislative bodies across the country could be in jeopardy in the 2018 midterms.

 

All 435 congressional House seats are up for reelection next year and Democrats need just 24 seats to win back the majority. “Fear is a much greater motivator than love,” said Strother, adding that Trump stokes fear among Democrats. The effect was seen across the country as Democrats performed well in Washington state, Westchester and Nassau counties, and in New Jersey where Democrat Phil Murphy defeated a Republican to take the governor’s seat. In Virginia, the Democrats won for a few reasons, but none of them were to do with the national party apparatus. Not only did Northam beat Republican Gillespie, he triumphed over former Virginia congressman Tom Perriello, a strident progressive who enjoyed the support of both Obama and liberal icon Bernie Sanders, in the primaries. Perriello was set to be a progressive standard bearer for the Democrats in the first big post-Trump statewide election, but his radical platform flatlined. Northam handily beat Perriello by over 10 percentage points…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

The Outlines of Trump’s Asia Strategy: Daniel Blumenthal, American Interest, Nov. 17, 2017—During its long and eventful trip, the Trump Administration laid down important markers as it fashions its strategic approach to Asia.

Trump: No More Nation-Building Abroad: Dr. Jiri and Leni Valenta, BESA, Oct. 17, 2017—On September 27, 2017, during a visit to Kabul, US Defense Secretary James Mattis – having escaped being targeted by insurgents during the visit – was unambiguous about the challenges the US faces in Afghanistan. Those challenges are serious: the Taliban now controls 40% of Afghanistan and a third of its population.

Border Walls Are All the Rage Worldwide Because They Work: Michel Gurfinkiel, PJ Media, Nov. 7, 2017—One may support or oppose the Trump administration's grand design in terms of home security: the building, or the "updating," of a 3200-kilometer barrier between the United States and Mexico. One cannot deny, however, that such structures – hermetic and heavily monitored separations, instead of merely classic borders – are quite common today.

Hillary Had to Know all About the Dossier: Douglas E. Schoen and Andrew Stein, New York Post, Oct. 27, 2017—This week, the news broke that Marc Elias, general counsel to Hillary for America and a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie, hired the research firm Fusion GPS to commission the infamous Steele Dossier on President Trump.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IRAQI KURDS, WHO VOTE ON INDEPENDENCE THIS MONTH, STAND “ON THE BRINK OF STATEHOOD”

The Kurds Are About to Blow up Iraq: Michael J. Totten, World Affairs Journal, Aug. 17, 2017— …On September 25, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil will hold a binding referendum on whether or not to secede from Iraq.

The Strategic Case for Kurdistan: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 31, 2017—…Whereas Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu restated his support for Kurdish independence earlier this month in a meeting with a delegation of visiting Republican congressmen

Sunni Muslim Kurds, Christian Assyrians, and Yazidis at odds in Quest to Create Sovereign Homelands: Sargis Sangari, Western Free Press, June 30, 2017— The current Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) leadership has decided to hold a referendum on 25 SEP 17 to separate from Iraq in order to create a Sunni Muslim Kurdish state.

The Kurds Are Not Children: Bernard-Henri Lévy, Foreign Policy, Sept. 6, 2017— The timidity of the international community in the face of the Sept. 25 referendum on an independent Kurdistan is a trifecta of shame, absurdity, and historic miscalculation.

 

On Topic Links

 

Iraqi Parliament Rejects Iraqi Kurdish Referendum: Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2017

For Iraq’s Long-Suffering Kurds, Independence Beckons: Tim Arango, New York Times, Sept. 9, 2017

Iraqi Kurds’ Referendum Fever Spills Over to Turkish Cousins: Mahmut Bozarslan, Al-Monitor, Sept., 2017

Is Barzani the Savior of the Kurdish “Nation,” or is He in Fact its Enemy?: Sargis Sangari, Western Free Press, Aug. 7, 2017

THE KURDS ARE ABOUT TO BLOW UP IRAQ

Michael J. Totten

World Affairs Journal, Aug. 17, 2017

 

…On September 25, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil will hold a binding referendum on whether or not to secede from Iraq. It will almost certainly pass. More than a decade ago, the Kurds held a non-binding referendum that passed with 99.8 percent of the vote. No one knows what's going to happen. Iraq is the kind of place where just about anything can happen and eventually does.

 

Kurdish secession could go as smoothly as a Scottish secession from the United Kingdom (were that to actually happen) or a Quebecois secession from Canada, were that to actually happen. It could unfold like Kosovo's secession from Serbia, where some countries recognize it and others don't while the Serbs are left to stew in their own juices more or less peaceably. This is a serious business, though, because Iraq is not Britain, and it is not Canada. And there's a potential flashpoint that travelers to the region would be well advised to stay away from for a while.

 

Shortly after ISIS invaded Iraq from Syria in 2014, the Kurdistan Regional Government effectively annexed the oil-rich governorate of Kirkuk. Ethnic Kurds made up a plurality of the population, with sizeable Arab and Turkmen minorities, before Saddam Hussein's Arabization program in the 1990s temporarily created an artificial Arab majority.

 

Since then, Kurds have been returning to the city en masse while many Arabs, most of whom had no history in the region before Saddam put them there, have left. No one really knows what the demographics look like now. It's a tinderbox regardless of the actual headcount. Some of the Arabs who still live there could mount a rebellion at some point, either immediately or down the road. If they do, they might engage in the regional sport of finagling financial and even military backing from neighboring countries. Then again, Arabs have been trickling north into the Kurdistan region for years because it's peaceful and quiet and civilized. It's the one part of Iraq that, despite the local government's corruption and inability to live up to the democratic norms it claims to espouse, works remarkably well. I've been to Iraqi Kurdistan a number of times. It's safer than Kansas. My only real complaint is that it gets a bit boring after a while. If you're coming from Baghdad or Mosul, it's practically Switzerland.

 

Kirkuk Governorate, though, is—or at least recently was—another story. The three "core" Kurdish governorates—Dohuk, Erbil, and Suleimaniyah—have been free of armed conflict since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, but Kirkuk was down in the war zone. I went there ten years ago from Suleimaniyah and was only willing to do so under the armed protection of Kurdish police officers. Had I wandered around solo as I did farther north, I would have risked being shot, kidnapped or car-bombed. I still could have been shot or car-bombed alongside the police, but at least kidnapping was (mostly) off the table. The very fact that Kirkuk was a war zone at a time when the Kurdish governorates to the north were not suggests that the Kurds may be swallowing more than they can digest.

 

Kirkuk has oil, though, while the governorates to the north mostly don't, so of course the Kurds want it. Baghdad, of course, wants to keep it for the same reason. Will Iraq's central government go to war over it? Probably not. Saddam Hussein lost his own war against the Kurds in the north, and he had far more formidable forces at his disposal than Baghdad does now. Still, it's more likely than a war between London and Edinburgh, or between Ottawa and Montreal.

 

The biggest threat to an independent Iraqi Kurdistan comes not from Baghdad but from Turkey. The Turks have been fighting a low-grade counter-insurgency against the armed Kurdish separatists of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) since the 1970s that has killed tens of thousands of people, and they're deathly afraid that a free and independent Kurdish state anywhere in the world will both embolden and assist their internal enemies.

 

While Turkey is no longer likely to invade Iraqi Kurdistan on general principle if it declares independence—a going concern shortly after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein—the Turkish government is making it clear that it is supremely unhappy with the KRG including Kirkuk in its referendum. "What really concerned us," a spokesperson for Turkey's president said in June of this year, "was that Kurdish leaders want to include Kirkuk in this process while according to the Iraqi constitution Kirkuk is an Iraqi city and is not within Kurdish boundaries … If any attempts will be made to forcefully include Kirkuk in the referendum question, problems will be made for Kirkuk and its surrounding areas."…

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

 

 

Contents

THE STRATEGIC CASE FOR KURDISTAN

Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, Aug. 31, 2017

 

…Whereas Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu restated his support for Kurdish independence earlier this month in a meeting with a delegation of visiting Republican congressmen, the Trump administration has urged Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and his colleagues to postpone the referendum indefinitely. US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who visited with Barzani in the Kurdish capital of Erbil two weeks ago, said that the referendum would harm the campaign against Islamic State. In his words, “Our point right now is to stay focused like a laser beam on the defeat of ISIS and to let nothing distract us.”

 

Another line of argument against the Kurdish referendum was advanced several weeks ago by The New York Times editorial board. The Times argued the Kurds aren’t ready for independence. Their government suffers from corruption, their economy is weak, their democratic institutions are weak and their human rights record is far from perfect. While the Times’ claims have truth to them, the relevant question is compared to what? Compared to their neighbors, not to mention to the Times’ favored group the Palestinians, the Kurds, who have been self-governing since 1991, are paragons of good governance. Not only have they given refuge to tens of thousands of Iraqis fleeing ISIS. Iraqi Kurdistan has been an island of relative peace in a war-torn country since the US-led invasion in 2003. Its Peshmerga forces have not only secured Kurdistan. They have been the most competent force fighting ISIS since its territorial conquests in 2014. The same is the case of the Kurdish YPG militia in Syrian Kurdistan.

 

As for Mattis’s argument that the referendum, and any subsequent moves to secede from Iraq, would harm the campaign against ISIS, the first question is whether he is right. If Mattis is concerned that the referendum will diminish Iranian and Turkish support for the campaign, then his concern is difficult to defend. Turkey has never been a significant player in the anti-ISIS campaign. Indeed, until recently, Turkey served as ISIS’s logistical base.

 

As for Iran, this week Iranian-controlled Hezbollah and Lebanese military forces struck a deal to permit ISIS fighters they defeated along the Lebanese-Syrian border to safely transit Syria to ISIS-held areas along the Syrian border with Iraq. In other words, far from cooperating with the US and its allies against ISIS, Iran and its underlings are fighting a separate war to take ISIS out of their areas of influence while enabling ISIS to fight the US and its allies in other areas.

 

This then brings us to the real question that the US should be asking itself in relation to the Kurdish referendum. That question is whether an independent Kurdistan would advance or harm US strategic interests in the region. Since the US and Russia concluded their cease-fire deal for Syria on July 7, Netanyahu has used every opportunity to warn that the cease-fire is a disaster. In the interest of keeping Mattis’s “laser focus” on fighting ISIS, the US surrendered its far greater strategic interest of preventing Iran and its proxies from taking over the areas that ISIS controlled – such as the Syrian-Lebanese border and the tri-border area between Iraq, Syria and Jordan. As Netanyahu warns at every opportunity, Iran and its proxies are moving into all the areas being liberated from ISIS.

 

And Iran isn’t the only concern from either an Israeli or an American perspective. Turkey is also a looming threat, which will only grow if it isn’t contained. Turkey’s rapidly accelerating anti-American trajectory is now unmistakable. Last week during Mattis’s visit to Ankara, Turkish- supported militias in northern Syria opened fire on US forces. Not only did Turkey fail to apologize, Turkey condemned the US for retaliating against the attackers. Moreover, last week, Turkish authorities announced they are charging US pastor Andrew Brunson with espionage, membership in a terrorist organization and attempting to destroy Turkey’s constitutional order and overthrow its parliament. Brunson was arrested last October.

 

Whereas until last year’s failed military coup against the regime of President Recep Erdogan, Turkey demonstrated a firm interest in remaining a member of NATO and a strategic ally of the US, since the failed coup, Turkey has signaled that at best, it is considering its options. US generals say that since the failed coup, they have almost no one to talk to in the Turkish military. Their interlocutors are either under arrest or too afraid to speak to them. The regime and its supporters express both neo-Ottoman and neo-colonial aspirations, both of which place Turkey on a collision course with the US. For instance, Melih Ecertas, the head of Erdogan AKP Party’s youth wing proclaimed that Erdogan is not merely the president of Turkey. He is “President of all the world’s Muslims.”…

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

                                                           

                                                                       

Contents

SUNNI MUSLIM KURDS, CHRISTIAN ASSYRIANS,

AND YAZIDIS AT ODDS IN QUEST TO CREATE SOVEREIGN HOMELANDS                                                                     Sargis Sangari    

Western Free Press, June 30, 2017

 

The current Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) leadership has decided to hold a referendum…to separate from Iraq in order to create a Sunni Muslim Kurdish state. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the referendum will pass, with the majority of the KRG’s Sunni Muslim Kurdish population expected to vote overwhelmingly in its favor. Masoud Barzani (President of Iraqi Kurdistan), has left nothing to chance in this regard, providing “his” Kurds and allies with financial support and direct monetary payouts on the understanding that they will vote for statehood. In August 2015, Iraqi Kurdistan’s Shura Council (or upper house of parliament) voted to extend President Barzani’s term as KRG president by two years. But that’s not enough for Barzani. He wants to stay in power indefinitely. To that end, he has pushed for secession of the KRG from Iraq and the creation of a Kurdish state — which he will head, as it’s de facto leader-for-life.

 

Even though it stands on the brink of statehood, the KRG has not yet proposed or even written a constitution for their new country. But Barzani and his underlings have left no doubt as to who will control it. On 29 JUN 17 at a conference in Brussels, Belgium, KRG leaders articulated measures for the soon-to-created Kurdistan that would establish the Sunni Muslim Kurds as the new state’s dominant political group. All non-Kurds — including, notably, the region’s Assyrian Christians – would be effectively (and deliberately) marginalized by this arrangement.

 

Thus the KRG leadership sought to compel Christian Assyrian support for absorbing the Assyria Nineveh Plain (ANP) into Kurdistan. Amazingly, they tried to cast this move in a favorable light, and thereby win world opinion to their side, by portraying Sunni Muslim Kurds as saviors and protectors of the Assyrian Christians. But Assyrian political groups and Assyrian church representatives were not fooled, and promptly withdrew from the European Union Conference.

 

As they demonstrated at the conference, the Sunni Muslim Kurds want the ANP and Sinjar for Kurdistan. They covet the region’s vast untapped oil reserves, and will do everything in their power to take them for their own. If they get their way, the consequences will be dire. For starters, the Government of Iraq (GOI) will no longer recognize the legitimacy of Kurdish political parties, Assyrian political parties, and the Yazidi alliance in the Iraqi north. As a result, the Assyrians and Yazidis will no longer receive financial support and security protections from the GOI, which is currently provided to them under current constitutional mandates. Also, Article 125 of the Iraqi constitution will no longer apply in support of the Assyrians as an indigenous people of Iraq.

 

Even worse, Christian Assyrians who live in the ANP and Yazidis living in Sinjar and throughout the Iraqi north all will be expected to acquiesce in the formation of the Kurdish state. They will have to renounce their aspirations for an Assyrian state, and if they refuse to do so they will be branded as rebels and foreigners by their newest Sunni Muslim masters. These Christians and Yazidis will effectively become second-class citizens in the Sunni Muslim Kurdish state, and they will be stripped of their rights as a distinct ethnicity to create a state in their own historical homeland.

 

Over time, the Christian Assyrians will be “encouraged” to leave the Kurdish state. Those that stay will be forced to accept Kurdish occupation of their lands along with the heavy handedness of Kurdish rule. They will be persecuted for their Christian faith, and the use of the Assyrian language will be marginalized…Here we would remind readers that first Christian genocide of the 20th century, 1915-1923, saw the massacre of tens of thousands of Anatolian Assyrians, Pontic Greeks, and Armenians. The mass murders were carried out in large measure by Kurdish tribesmen and Kurdish assassins, acting at the behest of their Ottoman Turk overlords – and Sunni co-religionists.

 

Kurdish maltreatment of Christian Assyrians and Yazidis continues in the present day. It has not reached the levels of violence that obtained during and after the First World War, but we fear that it could, and soon rather than later. We fear that a storm is coming: the first holocaust of the twenty-first century, with Christian Assyrians and Yazdis as its primary victims. The Assyrians of Iraq must take bold action to prevent their annihilation. They must act to save themselves, because no one else will. Certainly they cannot expect help from the global powers, which are focused on their own agendas and perceived self-interests to act meaningfully on the Assyrians’ behalf. A preemptive (albeit peaceful) “strike” by the Assyrians aimed at blocking the KRG’s agenda for the ANP is needed. On the same day as the Current KRG leaders hold a referendum for statehood the Assyrian and Yazidi political parties should declare their intent to create their own nation-state, in the hearth of their historical homeland, to encompass the Assyria Nineveh Plain, Dahok, Sinjar, and portions of Erbil (i.e., Ankawa, which has an overwhelming Assyrian Christian populace).

 

Further, the Assyrians are willing to announce their desires to work with the GOI to achieve the objective of an Assyrian state as part of a federalized Iraqi system. If the GOI and the international community are willing to back the creation of a state for Sunni Muslim Kurds, they should be equally willing to back the creation of an Assyrian state for the Christian and Yazidi peoples of northern Iraq in their own historical homeland. If the Assyrians and or the Yazidis follow through on their declaration, the Sunni Muslim Kurds must leave Dahok (Assyria Nuhadra) and give up their control over Ankawa, which they presently occupy. The GOI acting in collaboration should mandate their departure from Dahok/Nuhadra with the international community…

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

 

 

Contents

THE KURDS ARE NOT CHILDREN                  

Bernard-Henri Lévy

                                                 Foreign Policy, Sept. 6, 2017

 

The timidity of the international community in the face of the Sept. 25 referendum on an independent Kurdistan is a trifecta of shame, absurdity, and historic miscalculation. We are talking about a people who have been deported, Arabized by force, gassed, and pushed into the mountains where, for a century, they have mounted an exemplary resistance to the tyranny their Baghdad masters successively imposed on them in defiance of geography and of the Kurds’ thousand years of history.

 

Theirs is a region that finally gained autonomy with the fall of Saddam Hussein — a region that, when the tsunami of the Islamic State crashed over Mesopotamia in 2014 and the Iraqi Army took flight, was the first to organize a counteroffensive. Since then, over a front 600 miles long, the Iraqi Kurds held off the barbarians and thus saved Kurdistan, Iraq, and our shared civilization. And it is the Kurds again who, in the run-up to the battle of Mosul, went on the offensive on the Plains of Nineveh, opened the gates to the city, and, through their courage, enabled the coalition to strike at the heart of the Islamic State.

 

But now that the time has come to settle up, the United States remains stubbornly opposed to the referendum, urging the Kurds to put off their aspirations for independence to an indeterminate date in the future. Instead of thanking the Kurds, the world is telling them, with thinly veiled cynicism, “Sorry, Kurdish friends, you were so useful in confronting Islamic terror, but, uh, your timing is not so good. We don’t need you anymore, so why don’t you just go on home? Thanks, again — see you next time.”

 

It is said the referendum will distract attention from the common fight against the Islamic State and interfere with the Iraqi elections scheduled for next year. But everyone knows, except when they choose not to admit it, that the military part of the battle ended with the fall of Mosul, thanks largely to the Kurds themselves. Moreover, who can guarantee that the Iraqi national elections will take place as scheduled rather than being adjourned, just as we are asking the Kurds to adjourn theirs? An independent Kurdistan, the commentators continue, would imperil regional stability. As if Syria, mired in war; Iran, with its revived imperial ambitions; and decomposing Iraq, that artificial creation of the British, are not dangers far greater than little Kurdistan, a secular and democratic friend of the West with an elected parliament and free press!

 

Independence, the talking heads insist, would threaten the territorial integrity of the four nations — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey — across which the Kurdish nation is spread. It is as if these voices are unaware that the present referendum concerns only the Kurds of Iraq, who have no ambition to form a greater Kurdistan with their “brothers” and “sisters” in Turkey and Syria, whose crypto-Marxist leadership is ideologically incompatible with that of the Iraqi Kurds. But what about the reaction of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, one asks? What about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reported threat to cut the pipelines that connect Iraqi Kurdistan to the rest of the world? I do not believe that it is the role of the West to act as a press agent for two dictatorships that detest us, nor do I see why the blackmailing of one’s neighbors should be condemned when practiced by Pyongyang but facilitated when it comes to Tehran or Ankara.

 

Sadly, however, no argument is too feeble to be used to justify our request to “delay.” It feels like an Orwellian nightmare, or a festival of bad faith, in which all arguments are turned into their opposites. What of the Kurds’ organizing themselves into an autonomous island of democracy and peace, even after the Peshmerga had not been paid by Baghdad for three years? That should be enough for them, claim U.S. State Department experts who cannot seem to grasp why the Kurds should want to take the last step from autonomy to independence. What of the Kurds’ controlling oil in the Kirkuk region? Instead of seeing this as a boon, which should provide immediate assurance of their ability to finance the development of their new country, observers seem to think only of the covetousness that these riches might stimulate. And when the two major parties scramble for votes — which anywhere else would be seen as a sign of healthy republican civic culture — this is suddenly viewed as the seeds of divisions and disputes to come!…

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Iraqi Parliament Rejects Iraqi Kurdish Referendum: Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2017—Iraq's parliament voted on Tuesday to reject an Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum planned for Sept. 25, authorizing the prime minister to take all measures to preserve Iraq's unity, a lawmaker said.

For Iraq’s Long-Suffering Kurds, Independence Beckons: Tim Arango, New York Times, Sept. 9, 2017—A pair of rusted eyeglasses, a grimy antique watch, torn bank notes and old identification cards. These simple items on display at a museum here in northern Iraq, dug from a mass grave of Kurdish tribesmen massacred by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen, help explain why there is little doubt about how Kurds will vote in a referendum this month on independence from Iraq.

Iraqi Kurds’ Referendum Fever Spills Over to Turkish Cousins: Mahmut Bozarslan, Al-Monitor, Sept., 2017—Iraqi Kurdistan is gripped by excitement ahead of the Sept. 25 independence referendum. The sense of hopeful anticipation, however, is not limited to Iraqi Kurds. Their cousins in neighboring Turkey — reeling from Ankara’s heaviest crackdown in years — are watching the process with an equal excitement, hoping that a vote for independence will boost the standing of Kurds across the region. And some are not only watching.

Is Barzani the Savior of the Kurdish “Nation,” or is He in Fact its Enemy?: Sargis Sangari, Western Free Press, Aug. 7, 2017—How can Barzani be considered the enemy of a future Kurdish State? Concerning the SEP 25 referendum on Kurdish statehood:  do the Kurdish people generally support his bid for statehood, or are they against him? Before the referendum is voted on, can he guarantee that all the Sunni Muslim Kurdish political parties and organizations support his project?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

On Topic Links

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Charles Bybelezer

The Media Line, Sept. 11, 2017

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

Charles Bybelezer is a Former CIJR Publications Manager

 

                                                                       

Contents

ISRAEL’S BOMBING OF A WEAPONS FACTORY IN SYRIA:

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Elliott Abrams

Council on Foreign Relations, Sept. 10, 2017

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

Contents

 

WHERE IS THE MIDDLE EAST HEADED?                            

Prof. Efraim Inbar       

Israel Hayom, Aug. 24, 2017

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Contents

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

Zev Chafets

                                                 Washington Post, Sept. 11, 2017

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISRAEL, ALIGNING WITH SUNNI STATES AGAINST QATAR, PLANS TO SHUTTER AL JAZEERA

 

Qatar’s Support of Islamists Leads to Global Terrorism: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2017— Should Israel join the status-quo Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia in their pressure campaign against terrorism-supporting Qatar, which is promoting Islamist revolutionary movements across the region, including in Israel?

Qatar's Comeuppance a Long Time Coming: Raymond Stock, The Diplomatist, July 2017— Jutting into the Persian Gulf like lower Michigan minus its thumb, the super-rich peninsular nation of Qatar has long been a problem—one that has now brought the region to the brink of a potentially catastrophic conflict.

The Cost of Supporting Israel Has Never Been Lower: Elliot Kaufman, National Review, July 17, 2017— In Oslo, the Tony Award–winning play set in the early 1990s, a Palestinian negotiator makes a powerful claim to his Israeli counterpart: “Until you make peace with us,” he says, “you’ll never be accepted by your neighbours.”

Living in the Real World Means Doing Business with Bad Guys Like the Saudi Regime: Editorial, National Post, Aug. 4, 2017 — It isn’t terribly surprising to learn that Canadian-made military vehicles are apparently being used against civilians by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

 

On Topic Links

 

Joining Arab States, Israel Says it Plans to Ban Al-Jazeera: National Post, Aug. 6, 2017

Latest Developments in Saudi Arabia Chart a Course for Israeli Ties With Arab World: Sean Savage, JNS, July 3, 2017

Qatar and the Saudis – Getting Ready for the Next Round: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, July 10, 2017

Former Liberal Cabinet Minister Calls for End to Canadian Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia: Steven Chase, Globe & Mail, Aug. 1, 2017

 

 

QATAR’S SUPPORT OF ISLAMISTS LEADS TO GLOBAL TERRORISM

Ariel Ben Solomon

Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2017

 

Should Israel join the status-quo Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia in their pressure campaign against terrorism-supporting Qatar, which is promoting Islamist revolutionary movements across the region, including in Israel? Israel took a step in this direction on Wednesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Facebook that he will seek to remove Qatar’s pan-Arab media channel Al Jazeera from the country for inciting violence in Jerusalem.

Also on Wednesday, US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) stated in congressional testimony, “Qatar has been known to be a permissive environment for terror financing reportedly funding US designated foreign terrorist organizations such as Hamas as well as several extremist groups operating in Syria.” The congresswomen went on point out that all Gulf states have had problems with facilitating terrorism, but that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are dealing with the issue at a “faster rate.” Not so in Qatar.

 

In a study by David Andrew Weinberg that was published in January by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) titled “Qatar and Terror Finance: Part II: Private Funders of [al-Qaida] in Syria,” he wrote: “Based on these cases, there is no persuasive proof that Qatar has stopped letting certain terror financiers off the hook…Indeed, it is impossible to identify even a single specific instance of Qatar charging, convicting, and jailing a US- or UN-designated individual,” said the report.

 

Qatar is a principal funder of Hamas – both in Gaza and in the West Bank.  For example, Israel could lobby the US and European governments to up the pressure on Qatar, so that it withdraws support for radical groups, preachers and the radical Islamist content promoted on its popular pan-Arab Al Jazeera media channel, which is broadcast in hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arab living rooms.

 

By joining with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain, which already cut ties with Qatar, Israel would be able to further align its national interest with these countries, and particularly in opposition to Iran, the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world. Israel could also join the lobbying effort to get Qatar to break off its relations with Iran, with which it shares the largest offshore gas field in the world, known as the North Dome/ South Pars.

 

Qatar hedges its position with Iran because it fears that its relatively small population of 250,000 citizens and over 2 million people total (and lackluster military prowess), would place it at risk from the regional power of nearly 83 million that is located just a hop across the Persian Gulf. Qatar has invited Turkey, another supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, to deploy its troops there, to deter Saudi Arabia and other neighbors. Additionally, Qatar feels protected because it hosts the Al Udeid military base, the largest US base in the Middle East.

 

However, the Trump administration has hinted that it could easily be moved to another Arab country. “If we ever had to leave, we would have 10 countries willing to build us another one, believe me, and they will pay for it,” US President Donald Trump said in an interview with CBN News this month. This coalition of Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, along with Israel and the US, could work to counter the Brotherhood brand of Islamism globally – by cutting off its funding and incitement on media platforms – and this starts with Qatar.

 

The US has tremendous leverage over Qatar not only because of the base, but also because it could put pressure on the country through the international financial banking system Washington controls. Qatar and prominent financiers residing there back the Muslim Brotherhood movement, its Palestinian offshoot Hamas and allegedly also jihadi groups al-Qaida and Islamic State. The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, has served as the ideological gateway for more radical Islamist offshoots such as Islamic Jihad, al-Qaida and Islamic State, which strike out against regional governments and the West.

 

As John Hannah at FDD, a former official in the George W. Bush White House, stated at a conference in May: “It’s no coincidence, Muslim Brotherhood has been the gateway drug for violent Islamists the world over.” However, all Islamist groups have the ultimate goal to strive for global power, they just go about it with varying degrees of violence and pragmatism…

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

 

 

Contents

QATAR'S COMEUPPANCE A LONG TIME COMING

Raymond Stock

    The Diplomatist, July 2017

 

Jutting into the Persian Gulf like lower Michigan minus its thumb, the super-rich peninsular nation of Qatar has long been a problem—one that has now brought the region to the brink of a potentially catastrophic conflict.

 

Seen for decades as a more liberal extension of the arch-conservative Saudi Kingdom, since the mid-1990s Qatar has striven to maintain that façade, even as it aided and funded the global jihad, both directly indirectly, and grew dangerously close with an ever-more strident and aggressive Iran. As the tensions built, erupted, subsided and built again during this time, it finally took a US administration willing to back up and rally the countries that Qatar's actions have threatened—primarily the very states that have moved against it now—to bring matters to a head.

 

The result has been a lengthening physical and diplomatic embargo on Qatar that could lead to war, or perhaps impede the war to kill the Islamic State (IS). In either case it would leave a lasting rift among four of the six states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and lands far beyond them. Begun by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain, later joined by Chad, Libya, the Maldives, Niger and Yemen, this was a crisis, sadly, whose time had come.

 

While much has been made of the reaction to a May 23 report by Qatar's state news agency (improbably) praising both Iran and Israel and predicting a short term in office for Trump, it does not appear to have been the real trigger for the incident. Qatar claims it was hacked, dismissing the disputed posting as "fake news." CNN reported on June 7 that US intelligence believes it was the work of unnamed Russians, though the FBI is now on the case.

 

Yet the real kicker was clearly the $1 billion Qatar paid in April to free a group of 26 of its nationals kidnapped by the Iran-linked Shi'ite militia Kita'eb Hizbollah while hunting in Iraq in December 2015. Freed in the same deal were 50 Islamists seized by other jihadis in Syria, as reported in The Financial Times on June 5—thus both "Iranian security officials" and an al-Qaeda (AQ) affiliate, al-Nusra Front, apparently received the cash. Worse, the deal was evidently done behind the back of the Baghdad government led by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi—who is trying to rein in the brutal Shi'ite militias while fighting ISIS. Al-Abadi announced in April that Iraq had confiscated "millions of dollars" in suitcases from Qatari planes on its territory, says the FT.

 

Meanwhile, Iyad Allawi, Iraq's secular Shi'ite vice president, quoted by Reuters at a Cairo news conference June 19, accused Qatar of seeking to divide Iraq "into a Sunni region in exchange for a Shi'ite region…It is time we spoke honestly and made things clear (to the Qataris) so that we can reach some results," Allawi insisted. "After that confrontation, comes reconciliation," he stated–without saying how.

 

Qatar has not always behaved this way. I served as Head of the Academic Section under the Cultural Attaché of the State of Qatar, part of the Qatari embassy in the US, from 1986-90, advising students on university scholarship from Doha in North America. The Qataris with whom I worked and met at the time were generally conservative, but kind-hearted, forward-looking and not fanatical—hence it is hard indeed to personally advocate action against their country.

 

The trouble began with the overthrow of the old emir, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, by his son, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in 1995. Sheikh Hamad pushed for a more modern, constitutional, somewhat more egalitarian government at home (primarily for its roughly 300,000 citizens, rather than its 2,000,000-plus, often virtually enslaved foreign workers)—while apostasy from Islam, adultery and homosexuality remain capital crimes.

 

He also allowed the creation of Al Jazeera television, hailed by many as a voice of open democracy—though its Arabic arm has mainly carried a mixture of Islamist and other anti-Western propaganda with agitation against other Arab regimes (along with often vociferous debate programs), and has had ties to AQ behind the scenes. (The network's more secular-left leaning English-language service has won many fans in the West, who do not grasp or would even rationalize the radicalism of the Arabic version seen in the Middle East.)

 

Stunningly, Al Jazeera's former bureau chief in Cairo, Canadian-Egyptian citizen Mohamed Fahmy, jailed for 438 days in Egypt for allegedly colluding with efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to overthrow Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in 2014, has recently filed a lawsuit in British Columbia against his former employers. Eli Lake of Bloomberg News wrote on June 23 that Fahmy accuses Al Jazeera of deliberately serving the MB and of being "a mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence" and "a voice for terrorists," something he says he learned from Islamists in Cairo's infamous Tora Prison, who told him how they had cooperated closely with the network…

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

 

 

Contents

THE COST OF SUPPORTING ISRAEL HAS NEVER BEEN LOWER

                             Elliot Kaufman

                                                  National Review, July 17, 2017

 

In Oslo, the Tony Award–winning play set in the early 1990s, a Palestinian negotiator makes a powerful claim to his Israeli counterpart: “Until you make peace with us,” he says, “you’ll never be accepted by your neighbours.” But that’s just not true any more for Israel — with major implications for American foreign policy. Allying with Israel no longer risks losing the Arabs to the Soviet camp or risks the wrath of OPEC. In fact, U.S. support for Israel no longer alienates Arab governments at all. In a surprising twist of fate, Arab states now tend to view Israel as a crucial partner in their more important standoff against Iran. These nations do not have the luxury of worrying about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict right now. The rise of Iran, its nuclear program, and its proxies are far more pressing.

 

All of this means that American support for Israel has never been less costly — and has never made more sense — than it does now. As Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, declared in February, “for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally.” Even the leader of Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy in Lebanon, has noticed that “these days Israel is [no longer] officially considered the Arab League’s enemy.”

 

When Israel and Hezbollah agree about something, it’s probably true. Take Saudi Arabia, the most powerful Gulf state. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini used to call Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi leaders a “band of heretics,” and the Wahhabis feel more or less the same about Iran’s Shia majority. Moreover, both nations struggle for power in the region. Especially since the rapid ascent of Mohammed bin Salman, the hawkish new Saudi crown prince, Saudi Arabia has worried about Iran’s efforts to expand its control over Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It worries even more about the Iranian nuclear program.

 

On all of these issues, Israel is a key ally. It was Israel, after all, that pushed for a better nuclear deal, that delayed Iran’s nuclear program with cyberwarfare and targeted assassinations, that fights Hezbollah in Lebanon, and it is Israel that destroyed the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007. Furthermore, reports have suggested that Israel is providing the Saudis with crucial intelligence on Iran, ISIS, and Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen and Syria. Relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia have not yet been normalized, but they are no longer frigid. Last summer, a Saudi general met a former Israeli diplomat at the Council on Foreign Relations. The two shook hands and smiled before flashing cameras. If that had happened just a few years ago, the general could have expected to find himself out of a job or worse.

 

Another meeting joined Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal with a retired Israeli major general. Remarkably, Prince Faisal spoke of “cooperation between Arab countries and Israel in meeting the threats, wherever they come from — whether it is Iran or any other source.” Ahmed Asiri, the kingdom’s deputy intelligence chief, acknowledged in February that “we have the same enemy, the same threat . . . and we are both close allies of the Americans.” Numerous reports support these statements; senior Israeli and Saudi officials have supposedly been secretly meeting for at least the past six years.

 

The Saudis still want Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, but protracted negotiations will not get in the way of security cooperation. After all, if you believe that “Iran is on a rampage” in order to “reestablish the Persian Empire,” as the Saudi foreign minister told Politico, you start looking to untraditional allies. You might even try convincing your people that Israel isn’t so bad. As early as last summer, the tightly controlled Saudi media began criticizing anti-Semitism repeatedly. Saudi TV no longer fixates on “Israeli aggression.” Now the new buzzword is “Persian aggression.” A column in the Saudi daily Al Riyadh argued that there was no reason to “unjustifiably demonise” Israel. These things do not happen by accident in Saudi Arabia. Saudi leadership is preparing their people for better relations with Israel. Saudi propaganda and the reality of the Middle East — Iran is advancing while Israel is not — have steadily combined to get the message across to regular Saudis. A recent poll found that only 18 percent of Saudis view Israel as their principal enemy, good enough for just third place, while 22 percent pointed to ISIS and 53 percent chose Iran.

 

The good news for Israel, however, is not limited to Saudi Arabia. Israeli officials have reportedly made multiple secret trips to the United Arab Emirates, where Israel has opened its first diplomatic mission. Almost bizarrely, the UAE’s foreign minister recently went so far as to slam Al Jazeera for its anti-Semitic coverage. Who knew they cared? Jordan, fearing Iran, ISIS, and the spillover from Syria, has also found reason to turn to Israel. Israeli intelligence now helps keep Jordan safe, and a new agreement ensures that Israeli natural gas keeps it prosperous. Their peace treaty, signed in 1994, goes unchallenged…

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

 

                                                                       

Contents

LIVING IN THE REAL WORLD MEANS DOING

BUSINESS WITH BAD GUYS LIKE THE SAUDI REGIME                                                                           

Editorial                                                                                                                        

National Post, Aug. 4, 2017

 

It isn’t terribly surprising to learn that Canadian-made military vehicles are apparently being used against civilians by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The decision by the former Conservative government to sell Saudi Arabia light armoured vehicles — infantry carriers armed with machine guns, anti-tank cannons and missiles and light automatic cannons — was controversial at the time for this very reason. Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is appalling. Its oppression of its own people at home (including the entire female population) is a matter of record. International rights groups have also slammed the Saudi military’s conduct in combat during the ongoing intervention in Yemen’s civil war, with reports of air strikes that have not only killed civilians, but seemed to have no apparent military objective. Collateral damage is bad enough; deliberately bombarding civilian areas is a war crime.

 

None of this was unknown or unforeseeable when Canada agreed to sell the Saudis military equipment. But the Conservatives first, then the Liberals (who stood by the arms sales after the 2015 election), were clearly seduced by the amount of cash on offer: at least $15 billion for 900 light armoured vehicles from London, Ont.’s, General Dynamics, and a series of smaller contracts with other Canadian firms for other items of military kit. And while it was the giant General Dynamics contract that attracted all the attention, it is a smaller contract, to Terradyne, a firm north of Toronto, that has thrust this issue back into the spotlight.

 

Video footage has recently emerged that appears to show Canadian-made Terradyne Gurkha vehicles — similar to an American Hummer-style vehicle — being used in a security operation against Saudi civilians, specifically, members of the Shiite Muslim religious minority in a restive province of the kingdom. This isn’t surprising, given the monarchy’s horrific record of abusing its own civilians, particularly its small Shiite minority. But it does put Ottawa in an awkward position. Both the Conservatives and Liberals had insisted that they had been given Saudi assurances that our weapons would not be used against civilians; if they were, we could suspend further sales.

 

We have that right. Canada’s export rules, flagging restrictions on defence sales to countries with “poor human-rights records,” even point in that direction. But as appalling as the Saudi regime can be, there are other Canadian interests involved here that Ottawa has a duty to also consider. Saudi Arabia is not an ally, per se, but it is a security partner. Given the multiple overlapping disasters currently unfolding in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is a country we need on our side. Geopolitics is an unavoidably ugly business and the reality that these kinds of arrangements are necessary is the reason why.

 

We would prefer to live in a world where we could have our armoured cake and sell it, too. If it was possible to sustain our large and growing armaments industry entirely on the back of sales to The Netherlands and New Zealand, we could content ourselves on providing everything our Dutch and Kiwi allies need to annihilate a Russian tank division or two, and for a tidy profit. Though we often roll our eyes at the horrible habit all Canadian governments tend to fall into of using military procurement projects to develop or sustain a domestic armaments industry, we do acknowledge the strategic value of our military having domestic supplies for advanced weaponry. Exporting those arms abroad helps offset the simple reality that the Canadian Armed Forces are themselves not large enough to sustain the kind of industry we have developed here. Exports are essential to sustain these jobs and capabilities.

 

While this whole affair stinks, consider the alternative: Canada doesn’t sell to Saudi Arabia, our economy suffers, our own domestic military production capabilities suffer (or die); meanwhile, Saudi Arabia sinks its vast cash reserves into buying someone else’s weapons and carries on as ever. Canada can keep its hands more or less clean, or it can sustain an arms-export industry that provides important economic and security benefits to our own country. If it’s possible to do both at once, we’ve yet to figure out how.

 

Canadians are not used to pondering geopolitics in these terms. We prefer to view the world as neatly divided into good and bad. Two generations of relative peace, along with our peacekeeping myths, have sheltered us from the realities of a frequently violent world. But there is nothing new about doing business with governments we find odious because it serves a greater good. Saudi Arabia, for all its offences, has proved to be a fundamental Middle East partner in combating the Islamic State and containing Iran’s belligerent ambitions and regional warmongering. Given the grave new stakes at play in the Middle East, even Israel has recognized the need of working alongside the Saudis.

 

It’s always possible that this sort engagement will help bring Saudi Arabia further into the fold of Western liberal democracy, just as some Canadians believe that our deepening friendship with China can moderate that inhumane regime. We’re skeptical on both counts. But in the meantime we must deal with, and make deals in, the world as it is, with all its imperfections.

 

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Joining Arab States, Israel Says it Plans to Ban Al-Jazeera: National Post, Aug. 6, 2017 —Israel said Sunday it plans to ban Qatar’s flagship Al-Jazeera news network from operating in the country over allegations it incites violence, joining Arab nations that have shut down the broadcaster amid a separate political dispute.

Latest Developments in Saudi Arabia Chart a Course for Israeli Ties With Arab World: Sean Savage, JNS, July 3, 2017—Building off the last few years of rumors and reports regarding clandestine relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, mainly motivated by their shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and destabilizing regional activities, two recent developments highlight a potential route for Israel to firm up support within the Arab world.

Qatar and the Saudis – Getting Ready for the Next Round: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, July 10, 2017—Tensions are at an all time high between the four countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Emirates and Egypt – and Qatar, supported by the large, powerful forces of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Russia and Hezbollah. The four countries handed Qatar a list of 13 demands and an ultimatum: either carry them out to the letter or else. They have since retracted them.

Former Liberal Cabinet Minister Calls for End to Canadian Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia: Steven Chase, Globe & Mail, Aug. 1, 2017—A former federal Liberal cabinet minister and human-rights lawyer says Saudi Arabia’s apparent deployment of Canadian-made combat vehicles against Saudi citizens demonstrates why Canada should end all arms sales to the Islamic kingdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

M.E. LEADERS INCREASINGLY COOPERATE WITH ISRAEL, BUT “ARAB STREET” REFUSES TO MAKE PEACE WITH JEWISH STATE

 

Arabs Marginalize the Palestinian Issue: Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 6, 2017 — The Al-Aqsa Mosque controversy has exposed, once again, the non-centrality of the Palestinian issue in the overall Arab order of priorities.

Israel and the Arab World: Needed by the Rulers, Hated by the People: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2017— This week’s stabbing and shooting incident at Israel’s embassy compound in Amman, the manner in which it was resolved, and the reactions on the street in Jordan say much about Israel’s current situation in the Mideast.

Could the Mideast Use Some ‘Trumpification’?: Eli Verschleiser, Algemeiner, July 28, 2017— Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, recently spoke out against what he called the “Trumpification” of the Middle East.

As Daesh Is Crushed, Future Of Middle East At Stake: Yaakov Amidror, Breaking Defense, July 28, 2017 — When I first started working as a journalist, a colleague asked me for advice because he was going to interview a chasidic man for a story.

 

On Topic Links

 

Trump, Israel, Jordan and Egypt Can Redress the Obama-PLO Debacle: David Singer, Arutz, Sheva, Aug. 7, 2017

Why the Middle East Hated Obama But Loves Trump: Susan B. Glasser, Politico, July 31, 2017

The Root Cause of the Disasters in the Middle East: David Horowitz, Frontpage, July 31, 2017

What Trump Gets Right About the Middle East: Steven A. Cook, Politico, July 05, 2017

 

 

ARABS MARGINALIZE THE PALESTINIAN ISSUE

Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger    

   Arutz, Sheva, Aug. 6, 2017

 

The Al-Aqsa Mosque controversy has exposed, once again, the non-centrality of the Palestinian issue in the overall Arab order of priorities. Contrary to Western media headlines, Arab policy-makers and the Arab Street are not focused on Palestinian rights and Al Aqsa, but on their own chaotic, raging local and regional challenges, which are not related to the Palestinian issue.

 

For example, while the top Palestinian religious leader, Mufti Muhammad Hussein, castigates Arab leaders for their inaction on behalf of the Al Aqsa Mosque, Egyptian President General Sisi, and the Egyptian street, are preoccupied with traumatizing economic and social decay and challenges; the dwindling level of tourism, which is a main source of national income; the lethal, domestic threat of Muslim Brotherhood terrorism; the Libyan chaos and its effective spillover into Egypt; the entrenchment of Islamic terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula, across the Gulf of Suez; the Gaza-based terrorism; the threatening collaboration of Turkey-Qatar-Iran and Turkey’s support of Hamas; the potentially-explosive border with Sudan; etc. General Sisi invests much more time in geo-strategic coordination with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, other Arab Gulf States, the US and Israel – which are perceived as critical allies in combatting terrorism – than with the Palestinian Authority, which is perceived as a destabilizing entity.

 

According to the July 20, 2017 issue of the London-based Middle East Monitor, “Al Aqsa has been abandoned by those who profess the leadership of the Muslim World…. [Egypt’s and Saudi Arabia’s] cold indifference…is unworthy of institutions that profess to be the preeminent leaders of Muslims around the world…. The religious institutions in Makkah, Madinah and Cairo have gone absent without leave despite the dangerous situation at the Noble Sanctuary in occupied Jerusalem…. Both countries are spearheading a regional drive for full normalization of relations with Israel. Their reasoning is that friendship with Israel is the best guarantee of US support for themselves….”  

 

The London-based Palestinian newspaper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, published a cartoon, depicting the Arab World as an ostrich burying its head in the sand, while the Al Aqsa Mosque bleeds. Since 1948, and in defiance of Western foreign policy, academia and media establishments, the Arab/Islamic agenda has transcended the Palestinian issue.

 

While showering the Palestinian issue with substantial talk, the Arab/Islamic walk has mostly been directed at other issues: the 1,400-year-old regional, intra-Arab/Islamic unpredictability, fragmentation, instability and intolerant violence; the Islamic Sunni terrorist machete at the throat of all pro-US Arab regimes; the clear and present danger, posed by Iran’s Ayatollahs, to the same regimes; the destructive role played by Qatar in the context of – and in assistance to – the Ayatollahs; the lethal, regional ripple effects of the disintegration of Iraq, Syria and Libya; the inherent, tectonic (disintegration) potential in every Arab regime; the impact of the global energy revolution on the potency of the Arab oil producing regimes; and the enhanced role of Israel in the battle against the aforementioned threats. 

 

The dramatic gap between the Arab walk and talk on behalf of Palestinians was particularly noticeable during the Israel-Palestinian wars of 1982 (in Lebanon), 1987-1991 (the 1st Intifada), 2000-2003 (2nd Intifada) and the Israel-Hamas wars of 2009, 2012 and 2014. Arabs have never shed blood – nor have Arabs dedicated their economic power – on behalf of Palestinians. Moreover, current Iraqi policy-makers and the Iraqi Street are well-aware of the intense Palestinian collaboration with the repressive regime of Saddam Hussein, which caused the Palestinian flight from Iraq following the fall of Saddam.  The Syrian Street has not taken kindly to the Palestinian support of the Assad regime, which has produced an expanding Palestinian emigration from Syria since the eruption of the civil war in 2011.

 

Furthermore, most Arab policy-makers consider the well-documented subversive, terroristic Palestinian track record – against fellow Arabs – to be a potential threat to domestic and regional stability.  The Arab aim has been to reduce the number of stormy spots in the Middle East, realizing that each eruption of violence resembles a rock thrown into a pool, generating ripple effects throughout the pool, as has been documented by the Arab Tsunami, which is simmering in every Arab country. Thus, violence west of the Jordan River could have an infectious impact east of the river, posing a deadly threat to the pro-US Hashemite regime, which could spread southward to Saudi Arabia and other pro-US Arab Gulf states…

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

 

Contents

ISRAEL AND THE ARAB WORLD:

NEEDED BY THE RULERS, HATED BY THE PEOPLE

Herb Keinon

Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2017

 

This week’s stabbing and shooting incident at Israel’s embassy compound in Amman, the manner in which it was resolved, and the reactions on the street in Jordan say much about Israel’s current situation in the Mideast. The neighboring governments – or at least some of them – need Israel, want its security and intelligence cooperation, and even appreciate what the country has to offer in the fight against their greater threats in the region: Iran and fanatical Islamic terrorism.

 

The first part of the above equation explains why Jordan’s King Abdullah II let the embassy security guard go back to Israel after he was stabbed Sunday night, and fired two shots that killed the assailant and another man at the scene. The second part of the equation explains the Jordanian public’s furious reaction to the release of the guard. While the incensed public reaction can be explained in part by the fact that the guard did kill two Jordanians – one, evidently, who had nothing to do with the stabbing – there was more to the anger than just this incident, and it reflects a deep, intense hostility toward Israel felt by many Jordanians.

 

Just witness the praise heard in the Jordanian parliament for the three Israeli Arabs who killed two border policemen on the Temple Mount on July 14. The speaker of the parliament, Atef Tarawneh, offered this prayer for the dead terrorists: “May the mercy of Allah be upon our martyrs who sowed and watered the pure land. We will raise our heads through the sacrifice of the young Palestinians who are still fighting in the name of the nation.”

 

Witness as well the angry marches in Amman following the installation of the metal detectors on the Temple Mount – even before the incident in the embassy compound – where protesters chanted, “How beautiful it is to kill soldiers from Jerusalem.” Abdullah let the security guard return to Israel because he realizes the utility – the importance – of good cooperation with Israel: military cooperation, intelligence cooperation, and cooperation in the form of buying from Israel desperately needed water and gas.

 

Israel plays a critical role in the survival of the Hashemite Kingdom. The king knows it, his inner circle knows it, the people less so. The Hashemite Kingdom’s survival depends on the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel – yes, Israel, though that is obviously not going to be something that Abdullah broadcasts to his people. Jordan, of course, is also of critical strategic importance to Israel – providing a key buffer to the east – but the relationship is not symmetrical. If Abdullah were toppled, Israel would survive, albeit with additional headaches from the east.

 

If Israel were to cease to exist, however, it is not clear whether the Hashemite Kingdom – with over a million refugees who have filtered down from Syria, hostile Shi’a forces on its eastern border with Iraq, and a fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood constituency within – would endure. Abdullah wants and needs this relationship. As a result, he is not going to let a stabbing attack at the Israel Embassy, or even metal detectors at the Temple Mount, destroy it, and indeed will work to find a way to resolve these issues.

 

At the same time, Abdullah is well attuned to the mood of his people. With public opinion furious, he has to flex a muscle toward Israel, which explains his angry outburst at Netanyahu when the king returned from abroad on Thursday. This also explains Jordan’s threat not to let Israel reopen the embassy in Amman until the guard is placed on trial. He, too, has domestic considerations. Despite, these considerations, however, he did work this week to try to resolve both crises.

 

The guard issue was resolved within 30 hours, the Temple Mount issue was trickier, largely because while Jordan had an interest in calming down passions, others – from Hamas to elements inside the Palestinian Authority, to the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – had an interest in fanning them. That Abdullah was so heavily involved in trying to resolve both issues shows the strength of Israel’s relationship with the government of Jordan. With the government, but not with the people. And there is one of Israel’s major problems right now in the Middle East – good relations with select rulers, miserable relations with the masses.

 

Israel has peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have stood both the test of time and of crisis. Those governments appreciate the importance of the relations and benefit mightily from them, as does Israel. But none of that has filtered down to the people. And therein lies Israel’s dilemma. After nearly 70 years, Israel has established itself as a presence in the region. But, as former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was quoted as saying in an interview to the German news magazine Der Spiegel in the mid-1990s, Israel is “a knife plunged into the heart of the nations of this region.”

 

It is the difference between recognizing Israel as an existing fact, which Yasser Arafat did in a letter to Yitzhak Rabin in 1993, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s continuous refusal to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The latter type of recognition would signal a recognition not only of Israel the fact, but of its legitimate right to exist. An existing fact you might believe you can eventually move; a legitimate right is something you will have to accommodate yourself to.

 

The governments of Jordan and Egypt have come around to recognizing that Israel is an immovable object in the region. Not only is it an immovable object, but also one that could be helpful to them. So they cooperate. The people, however, are at a different place, nourished for decades on the idea that Israel is an oppressor, a usurper, a tool of the colonialist West, a passing historical episode. Even in countries with which Israel has peace treaties, such as Egypt and Jordan, this narrative has never been abandoned.

 

During the 30 years when Mubarak ruled Egypt with an iron fist, there was a huge anomaly in the relationship with Israel. On the one hand Mubarak carefully kept the peace treaty, yet on the other he let a virulent anti-Israeli, even antisemitic press flourish in the country. Wasn’t that a contradiction? Peace on one hand, yet hatefilled articles and television programs in the state run media on the other? It was a contradiction, but one that served Mubarak’s purpose. The peace with Israel was good for Egypt (just as it was good for Israel). But encouraging the hate of Israel on the street was also good for Mubarak, because it diverted the public’s attention from his abuses of power and the real issues facing the country – issues that came to the fore in the events of 2011 that deposed him.

 

Saudi Arabia and Israel, according to various accounts, currently have close security cooperation because of the common threat of Iran and jihadist fundamentalist terrorism, whether of the Shi’a or Sunni variety. But the Saudis are unable to make any of that cooperation public, unwilling to admit to these ties. Instead, the Saudis remove Israeli-grown fruits from supermarket shelves and block access to websites with stories about Saudi plans to normalize ties with Israel. Why? Because after 70 years of educating the people to believing that Israel is evil incarnate, a passing nightmare for the Muslim world, the country’s rulers can’t just wake up one morning, slap their foreheads with their palms and say, “Our bad, Israel really is not all that terrible, let’s make a deal.”…

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

                                                                                   

 

Contents

COULD THE MIDEAST USE SOME ‘TRUMPIFICATION’?

                             Eli Verschleiser

                                                  Algemeiner, July 28, 2017

 

Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, recently spoke out against what he called the “Trumpification” of the Middle East. “The recent massive arms deals President Trump made with the Gulf monarchies exacerbate the risk of a new arms race … I am very concerned by the dramatic escalation of the situation and the consequences for the whole region,” Minister Gabriel said.

 

He was referring to the White House siding with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar for its evident support of Iran and jihadist terror via the Muslim Brotherhood. This has built into quite the standoff and the resulting blockade has sent ripples throughout the region. The Qatari riyal has taken a beating and they are seeking compensation for the blockade. In addition to the Saudis and UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Maldives and Yemen have all cut ties with Qatar.

 

It’s a mess all right, but with due respect to the Germans and other critics, “Trumpification” may not be such a bad thing. In taking a hard line against Doha, the president is continuing the Bush doctrine, that the US “should make no distinction between terrorists and the nations that harbor them — and hold both to account.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is within his purview to try to negotiate a solution to this standoff, but, despite his evident misgivings and indignation about the key role played by Trump adviser Jared Kushner, he should support his boss on this.

 

Trump reportedly doubled down on his position in a call with Gulf region leaders. According to the White House, as reported by Reuters, “He reiterated the importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology. The president also underscored that unity in the region is critical to accomplishing the Riyadh Summit’s goals of defeating terrorism and promoting regional stability…President Trump, nevertheless, believes that the overriding objective of his initiative is the cessation of funding for terrorism,” the White House continued. In addition to its links with the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar has also nurtured ties with Israel’s most fierce enemy, Hamas, under the claim that it is trying to promote more engagement and moderation.

 

Yes, it was disappointing that the president has shelved his campaign promise to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But he certainly made a solid statement about Jerusalem as the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall. And there’s much else to like about the emerging Trump Middle East policy. Unlike his predecessor, he acted quickly when Syria crossed the imaginary “red line” by gassing civilians, launching a quick and punishing airstrike.

 

He also seems to take the more realistic view of the region and what our goals there should be. Writing in Politico, Steven A. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations noted that Trump’s policy “reflects a sound understanding of what the United States can achieve in the region and, importantly, what it cannot.” Noting that Western efforts to promote democracy that led to the Arab Spring produced more fractured societies but no real change agents, Cook added, “The Trump administration seems to understand this and has pragmatically shifted American policy to achievable goals like rolling back the Islamic State and challenging Iran’s efforts to extend its influence around the region.”

 

Those who believe Trump, a businessman and political amateur, is not a serious president with real policy goals may dismiss his Mideast stance. But it suggests a practical view of the fight against ISIS recognizing that, other than democratic Israel, there are no other perfect allies in the Middle East. The 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and the country has a troubling history of terror support. However, Iran is worse in that its leaders continue to make threatening statements against Israel and the US, while almost surely planning to resume their nuclear arms quest as soon as they can get away with it. While he’s keeping the John Kerry-brokered nuclear deal in place for now, President Trump is avowedly pessimistic about it.

 

The Saudis on the other hand have growing, low-key ties with Israel based on strategic interests and common enemies. Given the disastrous Middle East policy of Barack Obama, which entailed alienating Israel while cozying up to and placing misguided trust in Iran, and chasing pipe dreams about the spread of democracy if we just talk nicely to people and avoid saying “Islamic terror,” “Trumpification” seems to me to be potentially one of the best processes to come along in years.                  

 

Contents

 

AS DAESH IS CRUSHED, FUTURE OF MIDDLE EAST AT STAKE                                                

Yaakov Amidror                                                                                                 

Breaking Defense, July 28, 2017

 

The future of the Middle East is currently being determined, in a process that is almost entirely hidden from view. In recent weeks, the gaze of the world has been fixed on the fight against Daesh (aka ISIL), as the end of its occupation in Mosul, Iraq, and the breaching of its defenses in Raqqa, its Syrian capital, have symbolized the success of operations against this evil organization. But the future of the Middle East is not being decided in Mosul or Raqqa, despite the importance of ending Islamic State rule over both. It will be determined by a fight that has attracted far fewer headlines—the struggle for control of the border between Iraq and Syria.

 

The US-led coalition is fulfilling the promise extended by President Obama “to destroy the organization” of Daesh. Obviously, the end of the terrorist group’s control over the territories it captured in Syria and Iraq does not mean the end of the organization itself, as it will continue to hawk its ideas throughout the Sunni world and to carry out terror attacks around the world. But from now on, it will be just another “ordinary” terror organization, like al-Qaida, for example. Daesh will no longer be seen as unique, as a remarkable success, as it was when it managed to hold such large swathes of territory and to rule over so many civilians.

 

Who takes over this territory once held by Daesh will determine the future of the Middle East. The Iranians are conducting an effort with great strategic implications, via their proxy Shia militias that operate in both Iraq and Syria. This effort seeks to change the map of the Middle East. It includes the displacement and extermination of Sunnis in key areas; the settlement of Shias into these areas, such as Mosul; and the creation of Shia ground corridors linking Iraq to Syria, with the aim of attaining a contiguity that has never previously existed, connecting Iran—the leading Shia power—to the Mediterranean Sea.

 

This will accomplish three goals for Iran: It will cut a Shia crescent through the heart of the Sunni world, from Tehran via Baghdad, to Damascus and Beirut. It will provide a territorial link to Iran’s forces in Syria and Lebanon, thus creating a direct strategic threat to Israel, supported by a Shia hinterland. And it will allow Iran to supply every Shia force in the region, posing new threats to the borders of Jordan to the south and Turkey to the north.

 

There is currently no force in this area—between Turkey and Jordan, along the Syrian-Iraqi border—capable of stopping Iran. The bizarre alliance struck between Russia, Iran, and the Shia militias (Hezbollah foremost among them) was only made possible by the nuclear agreement. The agreement made Iran a legitimate ally, by allowing it back into the international community and opening up trade. Russia, of course, has leapt at the opportunity: The two countries are now partners in the Syrian state, nominally headed by Assad, who would be long gone were it not for the Russian presence. Russia provides the air power and the international backing, while Iran provides the ground forces to fight the Alawite regime’s vicious battles.

 

For the region’s Sunni countries, this is nothing less than a strategic earthquake. For Israel, it is a nightmare. Therefore, it is imperative that there be active cooperation between the Sunni countries and Israel, including the use of military force, to stop this in its tracks. The Arab states are too weak to deal with the problem alone, and Israel needs regional legitimacy in order to deploy its military might. While it would make things easier if the United States were to give its blessing to such a collaboration, this is by no means a necessary condition. Such an alliance, if created, would be able to act without American involvement. The United States would be asked only to provide an umbrella of international legitimacy…

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

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Trump, Israel, Jordan and Egypt Can Redress the Obama-PLO Debacle: David Singer, Arutz, Sheva, Aug. 7, 2017—President Trump continues to ponder the way forward to end the 100 years conflict between Arabs and Jews – as negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – stalled since April 2014 – show no sign of being resumed.

Why the Middle East Hated Obama But Loves Trump: Susan B. Glasser, Politico, July 31, 2017—Russia won in Syria thanks to President Barack Obama’s inaction. The Middle East unraveling of the past decade is due in no small part to America not listening to her allies in the region. Never mind President Donald Trump’s Muslim-bashing rhetoric, he may just be a better partner.

The Root Cause of the Disasters in the Middle East: David Horowitz, Frontpage, July 31, 2017 —During the eight years of the Obama administration, half a million Christians, Yazidis and Muslims were slaughtered in the Middle East by ISIS and other Islamic jihadists, in a genocidal campaign waged in the name of Islam and its God.

What Trump Gets Right About the Middle East: Steven A. Cook, Politico, July 05, 2017—When President Donald Trump wanted to jump-start Middle East peace talks, he did something utterly unconventional: He sent his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to bang Israeli and Palestinian heads together.

 

 

 

 

 

EGYPT’S CHRISTIANS SLAUGHTERED BY I.S.; MEANWHILE, CAIRO & U.S. RESET RELATIONS

 

 

44 Dead Christians: Islam’s Latest Victims: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, Apr. 10, 2017— Egypt’s Christians started Holy Week celebrations by being blown up yesterday. 

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox are Proud to be Slain by ISIL for their Christianity. That is Awesome: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, Apr. 11, 2017 — It is an awful thing — a blasphemous thing, a sacrilegious thing — to massacre people at prayer, as ISIL did on Palm Sunday in Egypt, killing more than 40 Coptic Orthodox at two churches, including the cathedral in Alexandria.

Fighting Terror, Appeasing Autocrats: Max Boot, Commentary, Apr. 10, 2017 — Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s visit to President Trump signals the restoration of the close U.S.-Egyptian relations that have been a key pillar of U.S. policy toward the Middle East for four and half decades.

Can Trump Cut a Deal With Egypt?: Eric Trager, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 30, 2017 — The relationship between Egypt and the U.S. will look sunnier on Monday…

               

On Topic Links

 

Egypt Terror Ensnares Israel as Sinai Border Crossing Closed: Fox News, Apr. 10, 2017

A Day After Attack, Grief Turns to Anger for Egypt’s Christian Minority: Maria Abi-Habib and Dahlia Kholaif, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 10, 2017

Palm Sunday Bombing Underscores Depth of Egypt's Anti-Christian Bigotry: John Rossomando, IPT, Apr. 12, 2017

After White House Visit, Egyptian President Sisi Said to Be ‘Very Optimistic’ About Trump Administration: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Apr. 7, 2017

 

44 DEAD CHRISTIANS: ISLAM’S LATEST VICTIMS

                                                 Raymond Ibrahim                                                                                                                    Frontpage, Apr. 10, 2017

 

Egypt’s Christians started Holy Week celebrations by being blown up yesterday.  Two Coptic Christian Orthodox churches packed with worshippers for Palm Sunday mass were attacked by Islamic suicide bombers; a total of 44 were killed and 126 wounded and mutilated. Horrific scenes of carnage—limbs and blood splattered on altars and pews—are being reported from both churches.   Twenty-seven people—initial reports indicate mostly children—were killed in St. George’s in Tanta, north Egypt.  “Where is the government?” yelled an angry Christian there to AP reporters. “There is no government! There was a clear lapse in security, which must be tightened from now on to save lives.”

 

Less than two hours later, 17 people were killed in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, which—since the original church building founded by the Evangelist Mark in the first century was burned to the ground during the 7th  century Muslim invasions of Egypt—has been the historic seat of Coptic Christendom.  Pope Tawadros, who was present—and apparently targeted—evaded the carnage.

 

In death toll and severity, Sunday’s bombings surpass what was formerly considered the deadliest church attack in Egypt: less than four months ago, on Sunday, December 11, 2016, an Islamic suicide bomber entered the St. Peter Cathedral in Cairo during mass, detonated himself and killed at least 27 worshippers—mostly women and children—and wounded nearly 70.  Descriptions of scenes from that bombing are virtually identical to those coming from Egypt now: “I found bodies, many of them women, lying on the pews. It was a horrible scene.  I saw a headless woman being carried away.  Everyone was in a state of shock. We were scooping up people’s flesh off the floor.  There were children. What have they done to deserve this? I wish I had died with them instead of seeing these scenes.” 

 

Before the December 11 attack, the deadliest church bombing occurred on January 1, 2011.  Then, while ushering in the New Year, 23 Christians were blown to bits. The Islamic state claims both December 11’s and yesterday’s bombings. (Because there was no “Islamic State” around in 2011, only generic “Islamics” can claim that one.)  This uptick in Christian persecution is believed to be in response to a video recently released by the Islamic State in Sinai.  In it, masked militants promised more attacks on the “worshipers of the cross,” a reference to the Copts of Egypt, whom they also referred to as their “favorite prey” and—in a bit of classic Muslim projection—as the “infidels who are empowering the West against Muslim nations.”

 

It should be remembered that for every successful church bomb attack in Egypt, there are numerous failed or “too-insignificant-to-report” ones.   Thus, in the week before yesterday’s bombings, an explosive device was found by St. George’s in Tanta and dismantled in time.  Before that, another bomb was found planted at the Collège Saint Marc, an all-boys school in downtown Alexandria.  Similarly, a couple of weeks before December 11’s church bombing, a man hurled an improvised explosive at another church in Samalout.  Had that bomb detonated—it too was dismantled in time—casualties would likely have been very high, as the church was packed with thousands of worshippers congregating for a special holiday service.  In a separate December incident, Islamic slogans and messages of hate—including “you will die Christians”—were painted on the floor of yet another church, that of the Virgin Mary in Damietta.

 

Yesterday’s church bombings also follow a spate of murderous hate crimes against Christians throughout Egypt in recent weeks and month—crimes that saw Copts burned alive and slaughtered on busy streets and in broad daylight and displaced from the Sinai.  In a video of these destitute Copts, one man can be heard saying “They are burning us alive! They seek to exterminate Christians altogether!  Where’s the [Egyptian] military?”  Another woman yells at the camera, “Tell the whole world, look—we’ve left our homes, and why? Because they kill our children, they kill our women, they kill our innocent people!  Why? Our children are terrified to go to schools.  Why? Why all this injustice?!  Why doesn’t the president move and do something for us?  We can’t even answer our doors without being terrified!”…

 

In response to yesterday’s church bombings, President Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency, adding in a statement that such attacks will only strengthen the resolve of Egyptians against “evil forces.” For his part, President Trump tweeted that he is “so sad to hear of the terrorist attack” but that he has “great confidence” that Sisi “will handle the situation properly.”  Sisi further said in his statement that “Egyptians have foiled plots and efforts by countries and fascist, terrorist organizations that tried to control Egypt.”

 

But what of what happens right inside of Egypt?  Is Sisi “handl[ing] the situation properly” there?  Whether those terrorizing Coptic Christians are truly card-holding members of ISIS or are mere sympathizers, the fact is they are all homegrown in Egypt—all taught to hate “infidels” in the mosques and schools of Egypt.

 

Sisi himself openly acknowledged this in 2015 when he stood before Egypt’s Islamic clerics of Al Azhar and implored them to do something about how Islam is taught to Muslims.  Among other things, Sisi said that the “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries” are  “antagonizing the entire world” and that Egypt (or the Islamic world in its entirety) “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”

 

Just how seriously his words were taken was revealed last November when Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb—who appeared sitting in the front row during Sisi’s 2015 speech—defended Al Azhar’s reliance on that very same “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas … sacralized over the centuries” which many reformers are eager to see eliminated from Egypt’s curriculum because they support the most “radical” expressions of Islam—including killing apostates, burning infidels, persecuting Christians and destroying churches. 

 

Egypt’s Grand Imam went so far as to flippantly dismiss the call to reform as quixotic at best: When they [Sisi and reformers] say that Al Azhar must change the religious discourse, change the religious discourse, this too is, I mean, I don’t know—a new windmill that just appeared, this “change religious discourse”—what change religious discourse?  Al Azhar doesn’t change religious discourse—Al Azhar proclaims the true religious discourse, which we learned from our elders. And the law that the elders of Islam, the ulema, bequeathed to Muslims preaches hate for “infidels”—which, in Egypt, means Christians.  This is Egypt’s ultimate problem, not, to quote Sisi, foreign “countries and fascist, terrorist organizations,” which are symptoms of the problem.                                                                           

 

Contents   

                     

EGYPT’S COPTIC ORTHODOX ARE PROUD TO BE

SLAIN BY ISIL FOR THEIR CHRISTIANITY. THAT IS AWESOME

Father Raymond J. de Souza                                                                         

National Post, Apr. 11, 2017

 

It is an awful thing — a blasphemous thing, a sacrilegious thing — to massacre people at prayer, as ISIL did on Palm Sunday in Egypt, killing more than 40 Coptic Orthodox at two churches, including the cathedral in Alexandria. It is an awesome thing — literally rendering us full of awe — to behold the death of those killed while most fully Christian, singing God’s praises and giving witness to Him.

 

This is not the first jihadist massacre of Christians in Egypt; not so many years ago there will killings of Christians leaving Christmas Mass. I try not to let the lack of novelty diminish the hot and righteous anger that ought greet such assaults, but this time was different. By the time I heard the news — I spend less time following the travails of the world on Sundays — I was also able to hear the response of the Coptic Church. I bow my head before their great faith. “With great pride, the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, the Church of Martyrs, bade her sons farewell, who were martyred today Sunday April 9, 2017, during the liturgy of Palm Sunday,” the official statement read. “They were carrying the palm leaves, praying and celebrating the commemoration of the entry of Christ, the King of Peace, to the city of Jerusalem.”

 

“The souls of the martyrs have been slain by the hands of the enemies of humanity, the enemies of peace and the carrier of tools of destruction. But now, with all the Church, they are offering their prayers to the Just Judge who sees, hears and writes a book of remembrance.” They have “great pride” that their own are counted among the number of the martyrs! What amazing grace. It was not their choice to be killed because they were Christians. It is their choice to receive that martyrdom precisely as Christians, strengthened, not diminished, in their faith. It is an inspiration, just as those Coptic Christians beheaded on the beach two years ago whispered the name of Jesus as the jihadists drew their knives against their necks.

 

“We have seen the photos. It is very heartbreaking,” said Bishop Makar of Sharquia about his fellow Orthodox murdered on Palm Sunday. “The deacons are standing for prayer, starting the liturgy on earth to be ended in heaven. I was one of them long ago; I used to stand with them, chanting hymns together. They continue now in heaven. Life with Christ starts on earth but it is completed in heaven.” For Orthodox and Catholics, the purpose of the liturgy is not only to listen to God and speak to Him, but more than that. The liturgy of heaven — the saints gathered around the crucified and risen Jesus — somehow breaks into this world. At the earthly liturgy we are already beholding what shall be. To be martyred like those deacons chanting, or the French priest murdered at the altar last summer, is to move directly from the antechamber of heaven to the great throne room.

 

The funerals were led by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II who was at the cathedral of Alexandria when the bombing took place there, but was not hurt. As leader of the 10-million Coptic Orthodox in Egypt, it may have been that ISIL planned to assassinate him. Alexandria is one of principal seats of ancient Christianity where, one might note, Christians have been worshipping since before Islam existed. When each coffin was brought in to the funeral, the congregation interrupted their sobs with thunderous applause. They recognized in their dead the principal mystery of this Holy Week: that the Cross of Christ ends not in the tomb, but with the promised glory of the resurrection.

 

On Palm Sunday, Christians wave palm branches, recalling the triumphal entry of Jesus — just days before His arrest and crucifixion — into Jerusalem, the holy city. The palm branch then was waved in homage, as for a king. In Christian iconography the palm branch has since become a symbol of martyrdom; martyred saints are often depicted carrying it. And so the Copts were, unwittingly, hailing the martyrs in their own midst. In every Catholic Church in the world on Palm Sunday, from the hermit priest at his solitary altar to the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Square, Psalm 22 was proclaimed. It begins with the cry that no doubt filled the churches in Egypt as the bombs exploded: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

 

The psalm is a prayer of great desperation, even a cry of dereliction. But it concludes with a confession of faith: “I will proclaim Your name to my brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise You.” That is what the Christians of Egypt did on Sunday, at the beginning of Holy Week. They proclaim God’s praises in the assembly and before the entire world.                                                                                   

 

Contents                                                                                                       

FIGHTING TERROR, APPEASING AUTOCRATS                                                                             

Max Boot                                                                                                                               

Commentary, Apr. 10, 2017

 

A week ago, President Trump rolled out the red carpet for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who was persona non grata in the Obama White House because of his human-rights violations. There is no evidence that Trump even brought up the human-rights issue. Instead he extended unwavering praise, saying, “We agree on so many things. I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President el-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt. The United States has, believe me, backing, and we have strong backing.”

 

It was widely noted that Trump enthusiastically shook Sisi’s hand after having previously refused to shake hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a photo-op. Body language spoke volumes. The reason for Trump’s embrace of the Egyptian president is obvious: He sees Sisi as a good guy because he overthrew a Muslim Broterhood regime and is actively repressing the Brothers. In the war against “radical Islamic terrorism,” there is no doubt which side Sisi is on. But while Sisi’s zeal in persecuting jihadists is undoubted, his skill and success are very much open to doubt. That was evident on Sunday when ISIS suicide bombers killed at least 44 people at two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt. This is only the latest such attack; a previous bombing at a Christian church in December killed at least 28.

 

The situation in the Sinai, where the Egyptian ISIS affiliate is based, is even worse. As Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy noted: “ISIS in Sinai has used advanced weapons to shoot down Egyptian military helicopters, destroy an M60 battle tank, and sink an Egyptian patrol boat off the coast of El-Arish. It also claimed responsibility for the October 2015 bombing of a Russian passenger jet in which 224 civilians were killed. U.S. government officials estimate that approximately 2,000 Egyptian soldiers have been killed in Sinai since the operation began – a shocking figure, considering that estimates typically put ISIS in Sinai’s membership at 1,000-1,500.”

 

Why isn’t Sisi being more successful? A lot of the problem, Trager argues, is that Egypt’s military is still locked in a conventional warfare mindset, similar to the U.S. military in Vietnam or in the early stages of the Iraq War. Thus, the Egyptian generals neglect the kind of more subtle, less heavy-handed counterinsurgency approaches that are usually the most effective. Sisi’s widespread repression doesn’t help. Not only is he locking up large numbers of Muslim Brothers, but he is also targeting liberal civil-society activists and anyone else suspected of disloyalty to his regime. That could wind up costing his regime the kind of popular support it needs to effectively gather intelligence against the terrorists.

 

Meanwhile Sisi is mismanaging the economy. As Robert Kagan and Michelle Dunne, co-chairs of the bipartisan Working Group on Egypt, observed, while Sisi has made some positive moves such as floating Egypt’s currency and reducing energy subsidies, “he has failed to take badly needed steps to train the burgeoning labor force and to encourage job creation in the private sector. According to official statistics, Egypt’s misery index in February was 45 percent: 33 percent core inflation plus 12 percent unemployment. Unemployment among Egyptians under 30 is much higher. Instead, Sissi has funneled billions into the vast business empire of the Egyptian military. Mega-construction projects such as the $8 billion Suez Canal expansion and the $45 billion new desert capital city keep the generals happy — and Sissi coup-proof.”

 

In short, Sisi is hardly a model ally, even if his rule is preferable to that of the Muslim Brotherhood. There is a real danger, in fact, that, just like Hosni Mubarak, he is presiding over a repressive, dysfunctional regime that will create more terrorism than it eliminates. As a major Sisi backer, the U.S. will find itself in the crosshairs of Egyptian radicals. Given that the current head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is an Egyptian physician who was radicalized under the Mubarak regime, we know what that kind of blowback might look like. there is a case for giving Sisi a bear-hug and then, once he has confidence in the United States, pressuring him to ease up on human-rights violation, to refine his blunderbuss conventional campaign against terrorism, and to take badly needed steps for economic growth. Perhaps that is Trump’s strategy. But Sisi, who receives $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid, is more likely getting the message that Washington has given him a blank check for repression. That will not serve U.S. interests well.                            

 

Contents

                                                                        

CAN TRUMP CUT A DEAL WITH EGYPT?                                                                                         

Eric Trager                                                                                                   

Wall Street Journal, Mar. 30, 2017

 

The relationship between Egypt and the U.S. will look sunnier on Monday, when President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi visits President Trump in Washington. Under the Obama administration, Mr. Sisi’s authoritarianism made him persona non grata. The key question: Can Mr. Trump translate the warm welcome into a “good deal” for America? This isn’t the first U.S.-Egypt “reset.” Upon taking office, President Obama courted Mr. Sisi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, who had resented the Bush administration’s “freedom agenda.” Mr. Obama emphasized convergence with Egypt on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, while playing down human-rights concerns.

 

Mr. Obama’s priorities shifted, however, once Mr. Mubarak was overthrown in 2011. The White House backed Egypt’s democratic transition and cooperated with the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi, who won the 2012 presidential election. The following year, after mass protests in Egypt, the military, led by Mr. Sisi, ousted Mr. Morsi and oversaw a deadly crackdown on Morsi supporters. The Obama White House responded by withholding weapons shipments. Cairo interpreted this as U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt soon declared a terrorist organization. Weapons shipments resumed in 2015, but Cairo’s distrust of Washington persisted. Meanwhile, Egypt deepened its ties to Russia through arms deals and joint military exercises.

 

Now Mr. Sisi will encounter a friendlier White House. Mr. Trump is skeptical of democracy promotion and won’t press Egypt on political reform. Officials in the Trump administration have praised Mr. Sisi’s 2014 speech urging Muslim clerics to combat extremism. And they share his view that the Brotherhood is a terrorist organization.

 

Warmer relations could improve intelligence sharing and strategic cooperation. At the very least, Cairo should consult with Washington regarding Russia’s reported deployment of troops in western Egypt. Perhaps support for Mr. Sisi would dampen the anti-Americanism in Egypt’s media. If Mr. Trump insists, maybe Mr. Sisi will release Aya Hegazy, a U.S. citizen who has been arbitrarily detained since 2014. Still, both countries’ domestic politics pose challenges. Egyptian officials have requested more U.S. military and economic aid. Egypt also wants Washington to renew cash-flow financing, which enables it to sign more expensive weapons contracts. But Mr. Trump vows to cut foreign aid.

 

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump ought to prioritize Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts. Egypt’s military was built to fight land wars, and its brass refuses to focus aid on counterterrorism. Cairo may try to win this debate by playing to Mr. Trump’s pledge to create jobs: Buying weapons systems ultimately helps employment in the defense industry. Mr. Trump’s best chance to cut a “good deal” with Mr. Sisi may be on Monday, when the Egyptian leader receives the Washington welcome he has long desired. But if Mr. Sisi pockets that victory without conceding anything on his country’s deepening relationship with Russia, prosecution of Americans, or aid priorities, Mr. Trump will have wasted Washington’s best hand in years.

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Egypt Terror Ensnares Israel as Sinai Border Crossing Closed: Fox News, Apr. 10, 2017—Warnings of an "imminent" terror attack forced Israel to close its Taba border crossing to the Sinai peninsula Monday, one day after terrorists in Egypt bombed two Christian churches, killing dozens of worshippers on Palm Sunday.

A Day After Attack, Grief Turns to Anger for Egypt’s Christian Minority: Maria Abi-Habib and Dahlia Kholaif, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 10, 2017—As family and friends gathered Monday to bury a university student killed in the suicide attack on worshipers here on Palm Sunday, grief boiled over into anger over the government’s inability to protect Egypt’s Christian minority.

Palm Sunday Bombing Underscores Depth of Egypt's Anti-Christian Bigotry: John Rossomando, IPT, Apr. 12, 2017—Suicide bombings of two Coptic churches in Egypt Sunday by ISIS terrorists should not be viewed in isolation. The bombings killed 44 people and injured 100 more, and mark the deadliest in a series of attacks targeting the country's Christian minority.

After White House Visit, Egyptian President Sisi Said to Be ‘Very Optimistic’ About Trump Administration: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Apr. 7, 2017—Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is “very optimistic” about the Trump administration, a lobbyist who took part in a Washington, DC meeting with the leader this week told The Algemeiner on Friday.