Tag: Obama


U.S. Mideast Retreat a Boon for Moscow and Tehran: Efraim Inbar, Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2016— The United States is in retreat in the Middle East, and the adverse implications of this policy shift are manifold.  

‘Mirror Imaging’ and America’s Dangerous Middle East Illusions: Henry A Crumpton & Allison Melia, Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2016— Intelligence officers are taught to avoid “mirror imaging.”

Israel's Emerging Mideast Foreign Policy: C. Hart, American Thinker, June 18, 2016— The 16th annual Herzliya Conference a prestigious gathering that attracts senior Israeli and international leaders in government, economics, and academia, has just wrapped up in Israel.

Israel Among the Nations: Robert M. Danin, Foreign Affairs, July 2016— They are the last eyewitnesses, their hair white, their gait unsteady, but cloaked in determination as powerful as their searing memories.


On Topic Links


Sorry to Tell You, But….: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 22, 2016

Hope for the Arab World?: Robert Fulford, National Post, June 10, 2016

America: History's Exception: Victor Davis Hanson, Town Hall, June 9, 2016

The End of the Sykes-Picot Era: Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, May 17, 2016




Efraim Inbar                          

                             Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2016


The United States is in retreat in the Middle East, and the adverse implications of this policy shift are manifold. These range from acceleration of Tehran's drive to regional hegemony; to the spread of jihadist Islam; to the palpable risk of regional nuclear proliferation following the July 2015 Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA); to Russia's growing penetration of the region; to the possible satellization of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian basin by a resurgent Iran. The manifest U.S. weakness is also bound to have ripple effects far beyond the Middle East as more and more global players question the value of a partnership with a vacillating and feckless Washington.


From his early days in power, President Barack Obama has pursued a grand strategy of retrenchment based on the belief that the Bush administration's interventionist policies had severely damaged U.S. standing and that a very different strategy was required: a non-aggressive, multilateral, and noninterventionist approach. This has resulted in the erosion of U.S. clout in several regions, notably Eastern Europe, the Far East, and the Middle East.


Most unambiguous was Obama's intent to reduce the U.S. presence in the Middle East, and the rationale for this policy shift is clear: The region is among the world's most volatile areas with anti-U.S. sentiments particularly rampant. U.S. forces had fought two costly wars there in the past decade, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, in an attempt to prevent these states from becoming hotbeds of terrorism and to promote their democratization, only to be taught a painful lesson about the limits of power and the need for greater foreign policy realism. As Washington's deficiency in political engineering in the Middle East became clearer, overseas interventions became less popular at home. This evolution in domestic attitudes facilitated Obama's strategic shift.


The desire for a lower profile in the Middle East was not the only factor behind Washington's retreat from the region. Dependence on energy resources from the Persian Gulf has been reduced, thanks to new technologies that can extract natural gas and oil within the continental United States. The country has, in fact, become an influential producer in the global energy market and is heading toward energy independence. According to an Energy Department report, even with low prices, U.S crude oil production was expected to hit a new record in 2015. Under these new circumstances, the Middle East appears less directly relevant to U.S. interests. However, in the long run, this perspective might prove short-sighted as the decline in energy dependency could be temporary.


The preference to downgrade U.S. involvement in the Middle East was reinforced by Washington's pronounced decision to "pivot" toward China, an emerging global challenger. While Asia has always been important for the United States, Obama emphasized that his administration would no longer be diverted by secondary arenas such as the Middle East and would instead elevate Asia to top priority. Despite such declarations, however, "pivoting to China" remains primarily a slogan with little policy content, only underscoring Washington's inaction and weakness.


As a result of this re-prioritization, the Obama administration has reduced military assets available for projecting power in the Middle East. To take one example, there was a recent period during which there were no aircraft carriers in either the eastern Mediterranean or the Gulf—an unprecedented situation since October 2015. And while officials within the Navy continue to recognize the need for a permanent aircraft carrier presence in the gulf or in its vicinity, the department is going ahead with plans for longer periods during which there will be no carriers in the area at all. A U.S. spokesperson has said that the reduced presence is due, not to lack of need, but to the availability of fewer carriers and the prioritization of the Asia-Pacific.


As President Obama's reluctance to act in the Middle East became clearer, his policies were often viewed within the region as unwise, projecting both weakness and a lack of understanding of Middle Eastern politics. One early example was the administration's initial inclination to try to engage foes, such as Iran or Syria. Other defining moments were the passive approach toward the mass protests against the rigged June 2009 Iranian presidential elections; the desertion of long-time ally Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in February 2011; the "leading from behind" strategy in the Western intervention in Libya in March-October 2011, and the retreat from threats to use force against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for crossing a chemical weapons "red line" that Obama himself had promulgated in August 2012. These decisions contributed to widespread perceptions, both in the Middle East and beyond, that Obama is a weak, unreliable ally with a questionable grasp of regional realities.


The campaign against ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sha'm [Greater Syria]) provides additional evidence of the retreat of U.S. power in the Middle East. In August 2014, after a long and confused decision-making process, Washington concluded that ISIS's land conquests were evolving into a significant threat to U.S. interests and ordered its air force to attack ISIS installations and forces in Syria and Iraq. By the summer of 2015, the territory in those areas under ISIS control had indeed shrunk, but ISIS had made gains elsewhere…

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





DANGEROUS MIDDLE EAST ILLUSIONS                                                   

Henry A Crumpton & Allison Melia                                                                    

Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2016


Intelligence officers are taught to avoid “mirror imaging.” That is, assuming your adversary shares your analytic reference points and thinks the way you do. Americans tend to ascribe to other countries the best of our own values: tolerance, equal opportunity, rule of law, freedoms of speech and religion, and separation of church and state. But many countries do not share these values. Two of them are among our most problematic foreign relationships: Saudi Arabia and Iran.


These states, one friend and the other foe, promote ideologies that compete with America’s vision of liberal institutions, secular democracy and world order. Yet instead of confronting their illiberal, repressive, and often reprehensible narratives, we attempt to reconcile their views with our own, giving them a free pass based on our own tolerance of religious differences. The problem is that in these states religion does not exist in a vacuum. On the contrary, their religion is their political ideology—and a critical element of their foreign policy.


Despite its status as an important ally, Saudi Arabia poses a major challenge to the U.S. The ruling Saudi royal family depends upon support from the Wahhabi clergy, who represent an ultraconservative doctrine that is the cornerstone of the country’s identity and the source of the monarchy’s legitimacy. The kingdom has long exported the Wahhabi ideology with billions in funding for religious schools, or madrassas, world-wide. While Saudi rulers proscribe religious leaders from actively supporting violent revolution, terrorist groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State frequently cite or distort Wahhabi principles to justify the repression of women, autocratic rule and violence against non-Muslims.


Moreover, as Princeton scholar Cole Bunzel recently detailed in a report published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Saudi religious establishment has been practically mute as ISIS has laid claim to Wahhabi principles. This irresponsible silence, a tacit endorsement of political violence, especially against Shia Muslims, allows terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS to use the Wahhabi faith as a steppingstone to their violent, apocalyptic political ideology.


Although Saudi Arabia, sometimes with U.S. support, has launched effective counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda and ISIS, these efforts are shortchanged if the Saudi kingdom does not also address the underlying ideology that inspires ISIS attacks around the globe. And Riyadh, as custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, is uniquely positioned to act. Americans’ natural aversion to government involvement in religious matters should not become an excuse for U.S. failure to tackle this ideological challenge.


According to a recent survey of thousands of Arab youth in 16 countries, the overwhelming majority of young Arabs reject ISIS, believe it will fail, and want their government leaders “to improve the personal freedoms and human rights of citizens, particularly women.” Clearly it is time for the U.S. to advance a more rigorous defense of liberal values and abandon our acquiescence to the Wahhabi political agenda wrapped in a religious doctrine.


The Islamic Republic of Iran’s politics are even more entwined with religion. The primary concern of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who ultimately controls the country’s policy direction, is to preserve and advance Iran’s revolutionary ideals. Under the banner of religion, Iran engages directly in international terrorism, supports violent proxies such as Hezbollah, defies international law and norms, and calls for death to America and Israel. At the same time, Mr. Khamenei and his underlings frequently exploit America’s respect for religion by distorting any criticism of Iran’s policies as an attack on Islam.


Tiptoeing around these issues puts the U.S. at a strategic disadvantage when in reality we have considerable leverage in both relationships. The recent transformation of oil markets—driven by softening global demand and the shale oil boom—has reduced U.S. dependence on Saudi oil. Although Saudi foreign policy has become more assertive in some areas, such as Yemen, Riyadh’s security continues to depend on advanced U.S. weaponry, trainers and advisers. Moreover, the country seems to be moving toward a more market-oriented economy, which bodes well for more U.S. commercial cooperation.


The U.S. should redouble its efforts to counter Iranian terrorism—with deadly force if necessary. Meanwhile, U.S. economic power continues to be a valuable tool. Even after the removal of some major sanctions as part of the nuclear agreement, Tehran has sought additional access to U.S. dollars to conduct international transactions and has called for the remaining sanctions to be lifted. Yet that should only happen if Iran ceases its violent, destabilizing behavior, which is unlikely under the current regime.


Religious tolerance is one of our country’s highest ideals. Americans are fortunate to live in a society that respects all religions. Yet we should never allow this inclination to skew our analyses of other nations’ behavior. It is important that we see these states not as an image in the mirror, but as actors willing to use religion-based ideology in ways that undermine our interests.




ISRAEL'S EMERGING MIDEAST FOREIGN POLICY                                                                       

C. Hart                                                                                                                  

American Thinker, June 18, 2016


The 16th annual Herzliya Conference a prestigious gathering that attracts senior Israeli and international leaders in government, economics, and academia, has just wrapped up in Israel. Strategic assessments are given by politicians, diplomats, business and military leaders who analyze Israel’s national, regional, and global concerns. On June 15, 2016, the second day of the Tel Aviv gathering, Israeli ambassador Dr. Dore Gold, who serves as the Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), gave a speech on Israel’s foreign policy objectives.


Claiming that rumors are unfounded about Israel having no foreign policy and being isolated among the nations, Gold stated that the real issue is the political crossroads both Israel and Middle East countries are forced to face in an unstable region. "We need to have a new strategy for the future. Despite the chaos, Israel is very much aware, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is very much aware, that new elements of order are emerging.” According to Gold, one of Israel’s key interests is retaining and building its relationship with the U.S., a strategic ally of the Jewish State.


The disagreement over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, which Israel fought against in the U.S. Congress, was a low point in American-Israel relations. Finalized in July 2015 by the P5+1 nations (China, France, Russia, the UK, U.S., and Germany), the Iran deal became a sticking point between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.


At the Herzliya Conference, Gold wanted to move on from the Iran Nuclear Deal. “Beyond that, Israel is moving in several areas that are important and worth mentioning for those who are still uncertain whether we have a foreign policy.”


Acknowledging that Netanyahu holds both the office of prime minister and foreign minister in this current Israeli government coalition, Gold wanted to make sure that the international community understood Israel is fulfilling its responsibilities in the diplomatic world. "We are trying and we are effectively building a new policy towards the global community,” Gold declared. The most significant part of Israel’s current foreign policy framework has been the public acknowledgement of behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Arab world.


While at one time, negotiations with Arab states were secret, Gold professes that now it is different. “It is no secret that there is a strategic convergence between Israel and many of the Sunni Arab countries” On his foreign policy trips abroad, Gold sits in negotiations with other director generals of foreign ministries. On one occasion, he brought up 13 talking points that his staff at the MFA prepared for him on paper. In the middle of explaining these points, one leader shared that those talking points were the same ones he had received from his staff. Gold sees this as part of Israel’s new ties with Arab states.


For those who have pressed Israel to consider solving the Israeli-Palestinian issue first, before reaching out to the Arab world, Gold had this to say: "In fact, on both papers, the Palestinian issue was not the number one issue. It was pretty close to the bottom. But, we have to realize that isn't, any more, the currency in which you build ties in much of the Arab World, the Sunni World." Gold did admit that the Palestinian issue is important to public opinion and would continue to be one that Israel looks to solve. But, the focus for Israel now is warming ties with moderate Arab leaders. Many of the countries to the east in this region have fears about the rise in Iranian power. The JCPOA was supposed to lead to a change in Iranian behavior, but so far, Iran has been more belligerent towards the Jewish State. Moreover, Iran is gaining ground in Sunni countries, often trying to manipulate and take advantage of Shia forces in those nations. But, in the case of the Yemen war, a number of countries, including Egypt, showed an interest in strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia. This resulted in a deal between Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the Red Sea area.


While Gold would not give any details, reports indicate that Israel secretly met with Saudi Arabia for six years in backchannel negotiations that required a changing of Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt. Two small islands that were in the hands of Egypt but apparently were originally part of Saudi sovereignty, were transferred to Saudi Arabia this year. The fact that the Saudis accepted the international treaty between Israel and Egypt, and, that the Saudis became an integral part of that treaty because they acquired the islands was a positive, unexpected outcome for Israel. Upon Israel’s insistence, these islands will remain demilitarized, which the Saudi’s agreed to in the deal. This advancement in relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia has coincided with Israel establishing deeper relations with Gulf nations. Trust is building. It is another sign of a convergence between Israel and its Arab neighbors…

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





ISRAEL AMONG THE NATIONS                                                                                                         

Robert M. Danin

Foreign Affairs, July 2016


In 1996, Ehud Barak, who was then Israel’s foreign minister and would later serve as prime minister, charac­terized Israel as “a modern and prosperous villa in the middle of the jungle.” Twenty years later, as political turmoil and vio­lence engulf the Middle East, that harsh metaphor captures better than ever the way most Israelis see their country and its place in the region. Their standard of living has never been higher. Their country’s economy is robust, and Israel’s entrepreneurial spirit remains the envy of the world. In 2015, Israel ranked as the planet’s fifth-happiest country on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Better Life Index, topped only by Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Switzerland. In its first half century of existence, Israeli soldiers fought a war virtually every decade against well-armed conventional Arab armies. Today, the threat of such a war has vastly diminished, and the Israeli military has never been stronger, both in absolute terms and relative to its neighbors.


Now, however, it is Israeli civilians, not soldiers, who are the primary targets of Israel’s enemies. They are vulnerable to rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza and by Hezbollah from Lebanon, which have killed over 100 Israelis since 2004. And in the past year, new forms of violence have emerged, as Palestinians have targeted Israelis in over 150 seemingly uncoordinated stabbings and more than 50 attacks in which drivers have intentionally rammed pedestrians with their cars. Israel’s citizens feel more vulnerable in a personal sense, walking their streets, than they have since perhaps the 1948 War of Independence. Even during the second intifada, the Palestinian revolt that lasted from 2000 until 2005 and claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israeli civilians, Jews believed they knew where it was safe to go and where it wasn’t. That’s not true today: in a recent poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, nearly 70 percent of Israeli Jews surveyed said they greatly or moderately feared that they or people close to them would be harmed by the wave of violence that has swept the country since last October.


Meanwhile, chaos appears to loom across almost every border. A bloody and devastating civil war rages in Syria, where the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the jihadists of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) seem intent on out­doing each other in brutality. Neigh­boring Jordan has long served as a buffer of sorts to Israel’s east, but it is now struggling under the burden of hosting more than a million Syrian refugees. And ISIS and other jihadist organizations roam the virtual no man’s land of the Sinai Peninsula, which the somewhat wobbly Egyptian government has struggled to secure.


Confronted with threats at home and disorder all around, many Israelis have come to feel that the idealistic aspirations of earlier eras—all those dreams of peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians and with the greater Arab world—were naive at best and profoundly misplaced at worst. A sense of bitterness, resignation, and hope­lessness now prevails. Many Israeli politicians seem to see greater advantage in stoking, rather than countering, such sentiments. For example, rather than point to the benefits that peace agreements and negotiated territorial concessions have produced, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasizes how other territorial withdrawals—ones that were unilateral and unaccompanied by peace agreements—have resulted in further attacks against Israel.


Yet inside Israel’s defense establish­ment, headquartered at the Kirya mili­tary complex in Tel Aviv, the picture is more nuanced. Israel’s security chiefs share their compatriots’ sense that the Middle East has become chaotic and that today’s threats are more diffuse and inchoate than those Israel used to face. But these officials also recognize that their country is far from defenseless and that the threat of a conventional conflict has virtually disappeared. As the army’s recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate for 2016 concluded, Israel faces no current threat of war and only a low probability of war in the coming year. In fact, the analysts who prepared the document argue that the turmoil sweeping the Middle East may even have improved Israel’s strategic position.


The disconnect between public attitudes, political rhetoric, and military risk assessments reflects a kind of sensory overload. Israeli strategic planners can agree on a long list of threats and chal­lenges but not on how to prioritize them. Like Israel’s political leaders, they suffer from a deep sense of strategic confusion. So far, their response has been to hunker down and ride out the turbulence. That is a natural reaction. But it’s also a risky one, which could lead Israel to forgo the kind of subtle, clever approaches it has adopted in the past when faced with complex threats. For all the danger Israel faces today, the current turmoil has also created real opportunities for Israel to improve its strategic position. But these will come to naught unless the government can see them clearly—and find the strength to take advantage of them…

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



On Topic Links


Sorry to Tell You, But….: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 22, 2016—My dear friends, Jews in Israel and the Diaspora.

I am sorry to tell you that the terror attacks from which we suffer today and from which we suffered yesterday, a week ago, a month, a year and a decade and century ago, are all part of the same war, the same struggle, the same Jihad waged against us by our neighbors for over a century.

Hope for the Arab World?: Robert Fulford, National Post, June 10, 2016 —The wave of protests that swept across the Middle East in 2011 was the first great international disappointment of this century. It began as the Arab Spring, a time of revolutionary hopes, but ended in a nightmare of chaos and violence.

America: History's Exception: Victor Davis Hanson, Town Hall, June 9, 2016 —The history of nations is mostly characterized by ethnic and racial uniformity, not diversity. Most national boundaries reflected linguistic, religious and ethnic homogeneity. Until the late 20th century, diversity was considered a liability, not a strength.

The End of the Sykes-Picot Era: Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, May 17, 2016—On May 16, 1916, 100 years ago Monday, Britain and France signed the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which shaped the Middle East for the century to come.







There’s No Doubt About It — We Are at War: Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, June 14, 2016 — After the (second) jihadist massacre in Paris last year, I listed 20 cities that had been visited by the scourge of terrorism since 2001.

Orlando Atrocity Highlights America’s Divisions: Ben Cohen, JNS, June 15, 2016— In the days since the massacre of 49 people and the wounding of hundreds more by an Islamist gunman at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, America’s political leadership has sounded more discordant than ever.

The West's Most Powerful Ally: Islamic Dissidents: Giulio Meotti, Arutz Sheva, June 13, 2016— Islam, warned the best-selling Algerian novelist, Boualem Sansal, is going to split European society. In an interview with German media, this brave Arab writer painted a vision of Europe subjugated by radical Islam.

Last Nazi Trial: Verdict Friday for Former Auschwitz Guard: Michele Mandel, Toronto Sun, June 16, 2016— They are the last eyewitnesses, their hair white, their gait unsteady, but cloaked in determination as powerful as their searing memories.


On Topic Links


An Israeli Rabbi's Response to Obama's Speech on Radical Islam (Video): Thelandofisrael, June 15, 2016 — All administrations are short-sighted.

How Many Bodies Will it Take?: Phyllis Chesler, Jewish Press, June 15, 2016

Sacks to the Rescue: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, June 13, 2016

Israel and Diaspora Jewry – A Looming Crisis: Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, June 14, 2016




Fr. Raymond J. de Souza                                   

                      National Post, June 14, 2016


After the (second) jihadist massacre in Paris last year, I listed 20 cities that had been visited by the scourge of terrorism since 2001. The travelogue of terror encircles the globe, I wrote then, and now we add Orlando, Fla. The relevant news this time was that the killer attacked a local haven for the gay and lesbian community, a place where many of them felt safe. Jihadist violence against homosexuals is not exactly new, but the scale certainly was, as was the location, in the American homeland.

Before Saturday night, when the world thought about Orlando, people would think about Disney World. I don’t know if they sing It’s a Small World there anymore, but our world is just that, and it’s been made smaller by the fact that Paris, Lahore and Orlando are apparently equally vulnerable to the brutality of Islamist terror.


So what can be said this time that wasn’t said when about 130 were killed in Paris last November, or when 70 were killed in Lahore while celebrating Easter Sunday? It being America, there was no shortage of people shouting on television and the Internet — incendiary commentary being another doleful hallmark of our times, along with identity politics and the gun culture. That the massacre in Orlando brought all three together made it difficult to watch or listen to the news.


So what to say this time? We can’t speak about the Paris attacks of “last year” without distinguishing between the attack in January and the one in November. The travelogue of terror is such that we rarely even notice attacks in Israel anymore. Three days before the murder of 49 people in Orlando, four were killed in a terror attack at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv. Per capita, that’s a greater loss of life in Israel than in America last week. There is so little left to say.


Maybe we should just say less. There is a war afoot, and in war it does not behoove one to explain particular acts of war as having some independent significance. The talk about mental illness, gun laws, gay marriage, immigration and all the rest is an understandable attempt to put a more useful frame, even if it doesn’t fit, onto an act best explained as one of war, in which civilians were targeted and killed. The latest report that the killer might himself be gay, as suggested by his ex-wife, show how fruitless that approach is. Who knows? What if he was? I don’t think it matters very much.


What matters is that in this war with violent jihadism civilians are targeted for death and societies for terror. These civilians were at a gay nightclub, so the gay community feels the loss in a particular way that invites our solidarity, but when jihadis kill fellow Muslims as well as Christians, Jews, concert-goers, shoppers and cartoonists, it is of limited usefulness to the war to inquire as to why this particular nightclub was the target. It is necessary to comfort America in her grief, and the gay community in particular, but the over-analysis of supposed ancillary causes is not necessary when the primary cause is told to us by the killer himself.


The war we are in is not a conventional one between nations; it is a war between a radical ideology, in this case a theologically corrupt form of Islam and, well, it seems everyone else, beginning with alternative forms of Islamic society. In war, one speaks about the enemy more than the tactics. That’s why U.S. President Barack Obama is so awkward when confronted by terror, because in this war he desires to speak about the tactics rather than the enemy. I share Obama’s views about assault weapons — as does almost the entire world outside the United States — but countries with far stricter gun laws than America have suffered worse terror attacks than Orlando.


The danger of not speaking about the enemy with clarity is that we end up speaking about ourselves falsely, too. President Obama said America “needs the courage to change” attitudes toward the gay community. Perhaps America should legalize gay marriage and mandate transgender washrooms in schools? Would that help? In war, the attacks are not about the victims, but the perpetrators. The cause of the Blitz was not to be found in London, but Berlin. There is a peculiar blindness, even self-absorption, in thinking that the jihadists kill because we celebrate Easter, draw blasphemous cartoons, dance in gay nightclubs, drink coffee in cafés or go to work in skyscrapers. Next time the jihadists strike — and there will be a next time — let’s say less, for there is little left to say. Instead, we should do more. That’s how wars are won.



ORLANDO ATROCITY HIGHLIGHTS AMERICA’S DIVISIONS                                                             

Ben Cohen                                                                                                                    

JNS, June 15, 2016


In the days since the massacre of 49 people and the wounding of hundreds more by an Islamist gunman at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, America’s political leadership has sounded more discordant than ever. Never mind the absence of a bipartisan consensus about what we should do; our politicians are engaged in unsightly squabbling about the nature of the problem itself.


In one corner, we have the Democratic Party, led by President Barack Obama, aggressively steering the national debate towards gun control. According to this camp’s account, there was this vague, slippery phenomenon known as “hatred” that prodded and pushed the febrile mind of gunman Omar Mateen, but what really matters is the fact that he legally purchased an assault rifle to carry out his bestial attack.


In the other corner, we have presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his rainbow coalition of the angry, the cheated, and the merely racist. Listening to Trump again advocating for a ban on Muslims entering this country, one could easily picture the many Republicans who would gladly transfer to a parallel universe where a Marco Rubio or a Ted Cruz or even a Jeb Bush is leading their party’s response to the Orlando massacre. That they are stuck with Trump after eight years of the Obama administration tells you all you need to know about how the American conversation about national security has degenerated.


It can and should be recognized that there are many legitimate concerns bound up with the Orlando bloodbath: access to guns, immigration policy, the ugly persistence of homophobia, the vulnerability of soft targets like clubs and restaurants, the fetish for violence that is a feature of nearly all extremist ideologies and individual pathologies. But none of these particular aspects should divert us from appraising the root cause of all this—that is, Islamism.


Depressingly, this argument should be obvious, but it isn’t. Most Americans have known since 9/11 that Islamism, whether in its “constitutional” Muslim Brotherhood guise, or its Shi’a Iranian variant, or in the Sunni version that has spawned both al-Qaeda and Islamic State, is founded on the principle that coexistence with Western civilization and its values should be opposed at all costs. It is violently anti-Semitic, violently homophobic, and violently anti-democratic, and it cannot be anything else. These core precepts explain why Mateen was able to declare support for the Shi’a terrorist group Hezbollah as well as the Sunni Islamic State.


Yet everywhere this understanding of Islamism’s essence, reinforced by each attack, is compromised by parochial agendas. To listen to many Democrats, you’d think that Islamic State was just one of several extremist groups native to America, rather than a creation of the Middle East region (specifically, of the power vacuum in the region left by the Americans, and filled by the Russians and the Iranians.) That, of course, brings us neatly to matters like gun control, hate speech, bullying, and all the other progressive bugbears. Most importantly, it means we can avoid a discussion about our foreign policy and ignore the reality that Islamic State is a global phenomenon that has struck in Paris and Brussels as well as in Orlando.


Trump is no better. He, too, wants to present the Islamist threat as a domestic issue, with his solution involving a ban on Muslims entering the country instead of more restrictions on gun ownership. The corollary of this offensive, lazy, and downright stupid proposal is that we leave the policing of the Middle East to Russian dictator President Vladimir Putin, the one foreign leader idolized by Trump. That means, at least in the short term, the further empowerment of the Iranian regime and its Syrian puppet, President Bashar al-Assad.


Where would that leave the U.S.? That depends on who you think is better placed to manage and leverage the next evolutions in the Middle Eastern balance of power—a former KGB officer, or a reality TV star whose hair would fall out at the first crackle of gunfire. And if your answer is “Hillary Clinton,” I’m afraid that only generates another set of difficult questions, among them whether she can get tough with our enemies with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party breathing down her neck, and how she would sell a future foreign military engagement to the American public with the disastrous intervention in Libya on her record.


This is the reality that we must deal with: two presidential candidates—one compromised by her past record, the other a vulgar neophyte—competing for the votes of a deeply polarized nation. No longer do terrible events like the Orlando atrocity bring us together. To the contrary, they shine a blinding light on our political divisions. In times of grief, it is natural to seek comfort. In the wake of Orlando, though, comfort is in scant supply. There are no soothing words to offer, nor is there much prospect of a positive change in policy on the horizon. All that is visible are the threats: more terrorist attacks here and in Europe, the collapse of the nuclear non-proliferation regime inside and outside the Middle East, the continued flow of refugees from Syria’s brutal civil war. Most of all, our real enemies will multiply outside our borders while we obsess about the phantom enemies, from transgender celebrities to Muslim taxi drivers, within them.



THE WEST'S MOST POWERFUL ALLY: ISLAMIC DISSIDENTS                                                                     

Giulio Meotti                                                                                                         

Arutz Sheva, June 13, 2016


Islam, warned the best-selling Algerian novelist, Boualem Sansal, is going to split European society. In an interview with German media, this brave Arab writer painted a vision of Europe subjugated by radical Islam. According to Sansal, the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels are directed at the Western way of life: "You can not even defeat the weak Arab states, so they have brought in fifth columns to bring the West to destroy itself. If they succeed society will fall."


Mr. Sansal, who has been threatened with death, belongs to a rapidly growing army of Muslim dissidents. They are the best liberation movement for millions of Muslims who aspire to practice their faith peacefully without submitting to the dictates of fundamentalists and fanatics. These Muslim dissidents pursue freedom of conscience, interreligious coexistence, pluralism in the public sphere, criticism of Islam, and respect for the rule of common law. For the Islamic world, their message could be devastating. That is why the Islamists are hunting them down.


It is always individuals, such as Lech Walesa, who make all the difference. The Soviet Union was defeated by only three beings: Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II — and the dissidents. When Professor Robert Havemann died in East Germany, few people noticed it. This intrepid critic of the regime was confined under house arrest in Grünheide, guarded by the Stasi. But the old professor never allowed himself to be intimidated. He continued to fight for his ideas.


A hero of Czechoslovak anti-Communism, Jan Patočka, died under grueling police interrogation. Patočka paid the highest price for fighting silencing. His brilliant lectures were reduced to a clandestine seminar. Although unable to publish, he continued to work in a tiny underground apartment. Hunted by the KGB, Alexander Solzhenitsyn set down the chapters of his Gulag Archipelago and hid them with different trusted friends, so no one possessed the entire manuscript. In 1973 only three copies existed. When the Soviet political police managed to extort the typist, Elizaveta Voronyanskya, to reveal one of the hideouts, thinking the masterpiece was lost forever she hanged herself.


Today a new Iron Curtain has been erected by Islam against the rest of the world, and the new heroes are the dissidents, the apostates, the heretics, the rebels, and the non-believers. It is no coincidence that the first victim of a fatwa was Salman Rushdie, an Indian-British writer from a Muslim family. Pascal Bruckner called them "the free thinkers of the Muslim world." We should support them — all of them. Because if the enemies of freedom come from free societies, those who kneel before Allah's enforcers, some of the bravest defenders of freedom come from the Islamic regimes. Europe should give financial, moral and political support to these friends of Western civilization, while our disgraced intelligentsia is engaged in slandering them.


One, an Algerian author, Kamel Daoud, who called Saudi Arabia "an Isis that had made it," recently sparked an "Islamophobia" row for having directed his own anger at the naïve people, who he says ignore the cultural gulf separating the Arab-Muslim world from Europe. Another, an Iranian exile, now in the Netherlands, the jurist Afshin Ellian, works at Utrecht University, where after the murder of Theo Van Gogh, he is protected by bodyguards. After the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, while Europe's media were busy in blaming the "stupid" cartoonists, Ellian promoted an appeal: "Don't let terrorists determine the limits of free speech."


Another brave dissident and author, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, had to flee from the Netherlands to the U.S., where she rapidly became one of most prominent public intellectuals. The Moroccan mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, is also guarded by police. He recently told fellow Muslims who protested against freedoms they found while living in the West to "pack your bags and f… off." A heroic Christian defender of these freedoms in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, is now on trial accused of "discrimination." "I am in jail," he has said, referring to his safe houses, "and they are walking around free."


Many of these dissidents are women. Shukria Barakzai, an Afghan politician and journalist, declared war on Islamic fundamentalists after the Taliban's religious police beat her for daring to walk without a male escort. A suicide bomber blew himself up near her car, killing three. Kadra Yusuf, a Somali journalist, infiltrated Oslo's mosques to denounce the imams, especially regarding female genital mutilation, not even required in the Koran or the Hadith (added by Mohammad). In Pakistan, Sherry Rehman called for "a reform of Pakistani blasphemy's laws." She risks her life every day. She is branded by Islamists "fit to be killed" for being a woman, a Muslim and a secular activist. The Syrian-American author and psychiatrist, Wafa Sultan, was also branded an "infidel" deserving of death.


Le Figaro recently published a long report about Muslim French personalities threatened with "execution". "Placed under permanent police protection, regarded as traitors by Muslim fundamentalists, they live in a hell. In the eyes of Islamists, their freedom is an act of betrayal of the ummah [community]." They are writers and journalists of Arab-Muslim culture who denounce the Islamist threat and the inherent violence of the Koran. They stand alone against Islamism which uses the physical terrorism of Kalashnikovs, and against the intellectual terrorism which submits them to media intimidation. Seen as 'traitors' by their communities, they are accused by the élites in the West of stigmatizing."…

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




LAST NAZI TRIAL: VERDICT FRIDAY FOR FORMER AUSCHWITZ GUARD                                           

Michele Mandel   

           Toronto Sun, June 16, 2016


They are the last eyewitnesses, their hair white, their gait unsteady, but cloaked in determination as powerful as their searing memories. Gathered from around the world, they crossed oceans and continents in their twilight days to testify in what may well be this country’s final Nazi trial. And now to this quaint city, they return for the verdict which is expected Friday. Their numbers are quickly dwindling and so for them, the added responsibility to seek justice, to speak for the 1.1 million people murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau; for their mothers and fathers, younger brothers and baby sisters, complete families and entire towns, who did not share what in Yiddish is called their mazel, the luck, to escape Hitler’s Final Solution.


For seven decades, Reinhold Hanning has had luck of a different kind. Before he retired, the 94-year-old widower ran a dairy in the neighbouring town of Lage, where no one knew of his SS past, or didn’t care. He wasn’t one of the leaders or the decision makers, just a former young, low-ranking SS sergeant in starched uniform and jackboots following orders. Or so the excuses go. At his comfortable home surrounded by a well-tended garden of pink and salmon roses, the grandfather of three is not available to speak. “This is very difficult for us and for him, too,” says his daughter-in-law.


Hanning almost escaped this day of reckoning, as so many have, except for this belated race against time, a new legal push by some extraordinary German jurists ashamed of their nation’s poor efforts in the past to prosecute its lower level henchmen. In the last five years, lawyers have argued that these SS functionaries at Auschwitz were indispensable cogs in the engine of genocide who must be tried as accessories to murder. The novel legal strategy won convictions against John Demanjuk in 2011 and Oskar Groning, the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, in 2015. Now, after a trial that began in February, Hanning will arrive by wheelchair at the courthouse Friday to hear judgment on charges he aided and abetted the murder of more than 100,000 Jews at Auschwitz. If convicted, prosecutors are seeking a six-year sentence.


In the courtroom to see justice done will be many of the Holocaust survivors who testified against him earlier this year, including two plaintiffs from Toronto. They walk each day haunted by the horrors they witnessed at Auschwitz, yet Bill Glied, 85, and Hedy Bohm, 88, are remarkably free of hatred and bitterness. They share a quiet elegance, an old world sense of culture and courtliness that can be traced back to their youth in Europe before the Second World War. They feel compelled to return here not to seek vengeance, they say, but the due process their murdered siblings and parents never received from the Nazis.


“This is monumental for us, absolutely monumental,” explains Bohm hours after she’s arrived back in Detmold for the second time in three months. “Seventy years ago, this man helped murder my family and I wouldn’t be here when he’s brought to justice? Wouldn’t you be? This is something I never ever dared to dream of.” For her, the victory is that her voice was heard in the heart of a nation that once enslaved her and ordered the extermination of her entire race. “I thought it would be terrible to be here in Germany and to be surrounded by the German language that I dreaded in Auschwitz, but because of the wonderful people I have met, it took the weight and the heaviness from my heart.”


She bristles when asked about those who suggest that as an old man, Hanning should be left alone. “Whoever asks that question of me, I would ask them, ‘How would they feel if their mother and father and family were murdered, would it matter if they found the murderer 70 years later?’ I’m sure they would want justice, no matter how long it took. It would have been better sooner, but justice is being served. Finally. Finally.”


For Glied, this is a moment in history he dare not miss. “This is the very last of the Nazi trials. I don’t think there will be more,” he predicts days before leaving his Toronto home filled with art and antiques. While there other former Nazis still alive, those closely associated with efforts to track them down are doubtful there will be time to bring them to justice before the last of them passes away, which is why Hanning’s verdict has such historical significance. “The world has to know what has happened. In particular, I’m concerned nowawdays so many of the neo-Nazis and their helpers seem to say, ‘Well, the Holocaust never happened and that the only people who talk about it are so-called Holocaust survivors.’ “And I’d like to be able to say, ‘Don’t listen to me. Listen to a German court, a German court that says: ‘Here is a man who’s convicted of the crimes.’”


On Friday, Glied will face the former SS guard with his daughter and granddaughter by his side – the ultimate revenge against Hitler and his disciples who tried to annihilate his family and millions of other Jews. “There’s going to be three generations there,” says the proud father of three and grandfather of eight. “I think that, in itself, is an important factor, that we can say, ‘Hey, you didn’t win at the end. We’re here.’”… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]


AS WE GO TO PRESS: NAZI TRIAL VERDICT: FORMER AUSCHWITZ GUARD SENTENCED TO 5 YEARS IN PRISON IN GERMANY (Berlin) — A 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard was found guilty Friday of being an accessory to the murder of more than 170,000 people for his role in helping kill 1.1 million at the Nazi death camp during World War II, the Associated Press reported. Reinhold Hanning was sentenced to five years in prison. He had faced a maximum of 15 years. (IBT, June 17, 2016)


CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!



On Topic Links


An Israeli Rabbi's Response to Obama's Speech on Radical Islam (Video): Thelandofisrael, June 15, 2016

How Many Bodies Will it Take?: Phyllis Chesler, Jewish Press, June 15, 2016 —After being written off as a racist Islamophobe for fifteen years because I raised precisely the same points that both Carl Bernstein (!) and Barney Frank (!) raised earlier today; after viewing the sweet, doomed faces of the 49 murdered gay and perhaps non-gay people, mainly Latinos and Latinas, often people of color, on my TV screen—what do I have to say?

Sacks to the Rescue: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, June 13, 2016 —Western civilization is in deep crisis, beset from within by moral decline and struck from without by powerful radical enemies. Avoiding disaster requires recommitment to the values taught by biblical tradition, and specifically the ethical and ideological principles embedded in Jewish civilization.

Israel and Diaspora Jewry – A Looming Crisis: Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, June 14, 2016 —The Jewish world, both in Israel and the Diaspora, is undergoing dramatic demographic and ideological changes. The past decades have witnessed a steep decline in the power and influence of Diaspora Jews. Israel’s centrality to Jewish life and the ties which link Jews in the Diaspora to Israel are facing considerable stress. Yet Israel has clearly emerged as the guarantor of the continuity of Jewish life.







The Taliban Attack in Kabul and Afghanistan’s Devolution: Michael Kugelman, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 19, 2016— The consequences of a stalled Afghan peace process were violently illustrated Tuesday morning when the Taliban detonated a truck bomb outside a government facility in Kabul less than a mile from the presidential palace.

The Taliban Three Years After Mullah Omar: Catherine Hirst, Real Clear World, Apr. 28, 2016 — This month marks the three year anniversary of the death of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the infamous, one-eyed cleric who led the Taliban for more than sixteen years.

We Wasted $113B in Afghanistan, no Wonder ‘America First’ Resonates: Paul Sperry, New York Post, May 15, 2016— While Donald Trump took a lot of heat for his recent “America First” speech, which foreign-policy experts rejected as “isolationist,” a scathing new Pentagon report on Afghan reconstruction backs his stance against nation-building.

For Obama, an Unexpected Legacy of Two Full Terms at War: Mark Landler, New York Times, May 14, 2016 — President Obama came into office seven years ago pledging to end the wars of his predecessor, George W. Bush.


On Topic Links


Taliban Cut Off Afghan Highway Linking Kabul to Northern Gateways: Rod Nordland, New York Times, May 14, 2016

Taliban Suicide Attack in Kabul Renews Debate on Afghanistan Troop Cuts: Carlo Munoz, Washington Times, Apr. 19, 2016

John Kerry: Afghanistan One of 'Proudest Achievements of the Obama Administration': Jeryl Bier, Weekly Standard, May 16, 2016

Spring on the Afghan Front Lines: Danielle Moylan, New York Times, May 6, 2016



THE TALIBAN ATTACK IN KABUL AND AFGHANISTAN’S DEVOLUTION                                        

Michael Kugelman                                                                                     

Wall Street Journal, Apr. 19, 2016


The consequences of a stalled Afghan peace process were violently illustrated Tuesday morning when the Taliban detonated a truck bomb outside a government facility in Kabul less than a mile from the presidential palace. The 9 a.m. blast, the terrorist organization’s way of signaling the start of its new fighting season, killed at least 30 people and injured more than 300 others.


An Afghan police commander on the scene said, “First it felt like an earthquake, and then came the powerful sound of the explosion,” the Guardian reported. A wounded witness quoted in the New York Times that he saw “people lying on the road hopelessly—some screaming, other silently giving out their last breath, and some already dead.”


The rush-hour assault came two days after the United Nations said that civilian casualties in Afghanistan for the first three months of 2016 were 2% higher than in the same period of 2015. There were more than 11,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan last year—the highest number since 2001. And the Taliban holds more territory than it has at any time since 2001.


Beleaguered Afghan security forces, no longer assisted by foreign combat forces, have struggled to suppress a relentless insurgency. Despite improvements in war-fighting capacity and sustained efforts, the overall trend is not in their favor. In many far-flung regions the Afghan government has outsourced security responsibilities to undisciplined anti-Taliban militias. Meanwhile, the national government in Kabul is united only in name; constant infighting has bred dysfunction and hampered efforts to address the insurgency.


Afghanistan is likely to be in for a long and bloody year, a prospect that has implications for regional and global stability, especially if Afghanistan’s destabilization enables al Qaeda to establish new sanctuaries. Al Qaeda remains a force to be reckoned with not only in the Middle East and North Africa but also in Afghanistan. In October U.S. forces destroyed what Gen. John F. Campbell, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, described as “probably the largest” al Qaeda training camp found since U.S. troops arrived in 2001. For Afghans, the growing instability has direct and immediate consequences. In the hours after the attack on Tuesday, hundreds descended on hospitals to donate blood; social media posts of their efforts, some noted, are proof of the resilience of Afghan society.


But resilience alone cannot defeat the Taliban. Nor can it resolve Afghanistan’s economic crisis or rein in widespread corruption. This is partly why many Afghans are leaving their country; more than 200,000 were among the refugees flowing into Europe last year, according to the U.N., and others have fled elsewhere. Many are young, educated, and middle class—a demographic that would otherwise make vital contributions to Afghanistan’s struggling economy. This exodus—as understandable as it is unfortunate—makes the Afghan government’s job tougher while further strengthening an emboldened Taliban.     




Catherine Hirst

Real Clear World, Apr. 28, 2016


This month marks the three year anniversary of the death of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the infamous, one-eyed cleric who led the Taliban for more than sixteen years. Omar was a fascinating figure on many fronts. Famously reclusive and enigmatic, no Western journalist ever met him and he wasn't seen in public after 2001. Under his rule, a stringent formulation of Shariah Law was implemented in Afghanistan, including amputation for theft and stoning for adultery. A veteran of the Soviet-Afghan war, Omar and Osama bin Laden were close colleagues and this was an important factor in the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan. After the fall of the Taliban, Omar managed to evade capture for twelve years, despite an intensive US-led manhunt and a $US10 million bounty. He died of natural causes in 2013.


Beyond his notorious exploits, influence, and the mysteries that surround him, Omar's life and death provide fascinating insights into the role of individual leaders in the Jihadi system. Omar commanded almost mythic status as the spiritual and political leader of the Taliban. He was referred to by his followers as Amir al-Mu'minin (Leader of the faithful), the prestigious title used by Islamic Caliphs throughout history. His authority extended beyond the Taliban; Al-Qaeda and other regional Islamist groups were also loyal.


The legitimacy vested in Omar as leader of the Taliban was such that his death was (rather successfully) concealed for more than two years by a small group of high-ranking Taliban members. When the news of Omar's death broke in July 2015, some commentators asserted that the Taliban was facing a ‘legitimacy crisis', that the Taliban and other Afghan and Pakistani Jihadi factions could fracture, and that his death had broken the back of the Taliban.


This has not been the case. Contesting or in control of at least one-fifth of Afghanistan, the Taliban currently holds more territory than at any point since the 2001 invasion. It has even made significant inroads into the opium-rich Helmand province, now controlling seven of the thirteen districts, and threatening the provincial capital Lashkar Gah. Last week heralded the deadliest suicide attack since 2011, with the Taliban killing 30 and wounding more than 300 people in the Afghan capital Kabul.


There are many reasons for the recent resurgence of the Taliban, and Omar is not one of them. Although a significant amount of prestige, legitimacy and power were indeed concentrated in the former Taliban leader, the degree of this concentration and its long-term impact on the organisation has been overstated. Recent gains made by the Taliban show that experienced deputies (such as Mullah Mansour), a breadth of strategic expertise (as represented in the 21-man Rabari Shura or leadership council), multiple revenue streams, the support of foreign fighters (largely Uzbeks and Pakistanis), and a local support base are all important reasons why Jihadist groups can remain resilient despite leadership change.


The experience of the Taliban resonates with other Jihadi organisations and their leadership. Al-Qaeda has been making gains in Afghanistan in spite of Osama bin Laden's death in 2011, defying predictions this would be a crippling blow. Similarly, al-Shabab is faring surprisingly well despite the assassination of its charismatic leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, in September 2014. Predictions that his death would mark the beginning of the end for the group have not been borne out. Al-Shabab has ramped up its attacks over the last 12 months, and has shown remarkable resilience and adaptability in the face of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), Somali Government and US assaults.


Despite the mythic status of many Jihadi leaders, heads are rarely indispensable to their organisations. Leaders are important, but they can be replaced. Ironically, the fact the Taliban has prospered after Omar's death is a testament to how formidable a leader he was.          





Paul Sperry

 New York Post, May 15, 2016


While Donald Trump took a lot of heat for his recent “America First” speech, which foreign-policy experts rejected as “isolationist,” a scathing new Pentagon report on Afghan reconstruction backs his stance against nation-building. In virtually every category — from infrastructure to education to security — our virtual adoption of that nation has been a costly fiasco. In a report to Congress, the Defense Department reveals that Washington so far has spent an eye-popping $113.2 billion to rebuild Afghanistan — an amount that, adjusted for inflation, tops by $10 billion the total we committed to rebuilding post-WWII Europe under the Marshall Plan. Yet in this case, taxpayers have almost nothing to show for it.


Much of the Afghan reconstruction funds have been lost to waste, fraud, abuse and rampant corruption. And unlike Western Europe, where we today enjoy profitable export markets, benighted Afghanistan (formally renamed the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) offers virtually zero return on our massive investment. After 15 years, “The reconstruction effort in Afghanistan is in a perilous state,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko concludes in his 236-page report.


The reconstruction mishaps in Iraq are legion and legendary. But less is known about the rebuilding of Afghanistan, where the screw-ups are just as bad, if not worse. Take security projects and programs, which account for roughly 60% of the $113 billion in Afghan reconstruction funding. Despite spending some $5 billion a year to stand up a national army and police force, “neither the United States nor its Afghan allies know how many Afghan soldiers and police actually exist,” the report says. A large share are AWOL. In fact, Afghan military and police rolls contain potentially tens of thousands of “ghost” personnel, whose cost we still pay and whose absence distorts the security picture. Without US combat troops, the capital of Kabul is now relying almost exclusively on unreliable forces to defend itself from sacking.


A large chunk of the country remains unprotected and unstable. Almost a third of provincial districts are effectively under Taliban control, and the insurgency is intensifying. In the space of just a few days in late March, for example, the Taliban assassinated an Afghan army general in Kandahar and a judge in Ghazni, while bombarding the new Afghan parliament building in Kabul with rockets. The security situation is so bad that American personnel are generally confined to the US Embassy fortress, and have to take a helicopter to get to the airport because the roads are so unsafe. Bombings, raids, ambushes and hit-and-run assaults are common along major highways, even at police checkpoints.


American taxpayers are losing huge amounts of money thanks to corrupt and incompetent Afghan military contractors, who have misappropriated Pentagon funds. Here are just a few examples:  More than $200 million to buy fuel for army vehicles has gone missing. Another half-billion dollars was wasted buying a fleet of second-hand Air Force cargo planes that were deemed too dangerous to fly. More than $1 million was spent building and rebuilding army buildings that “melted” in the rain and crumbled because of substandard bricks and other materials. About $32 million to install steel bars in culverts to prevent the Taliban from placing bombs under roads was also largely wasted.  Many of the bars were installed incorrectly or never installed at all, likely resulting in US troop deaths or injuries, according to the report.


Efforts at drug interdiction have also failed. Despite spending $8.4 billion on counter-narcotics programs, the poppy fields of Helmand province have largely been reclaimed by the Taliban, which sells opium to finance terrorism. The opium trade, in fact, is flourishing. Here’s a stomach-turning stat: The 3,300 tons of opium the United Nations figured Afghanistan produced last year is the same number the UN calculated for the country’s opium production in 2000. So literally nothing has changed.


And despite spending $1 billion promoting Western-style democracy and human rights, harsh religious mandates still dominate Afghanistan, where Islamic law is still considered the supreme law. Girls are still forced into marriage with older men, women are still jailed for “moral crimes,” and both remain wrapped up in the oppressive burka. Despite spending $760 million improving Afghan education, moreover, 3.5 million primary-school-age children — 75% of them girls — remain out of school. Recently, some 714 schools were closed. “Nonexistent or ghost teachers have been a long-standing problem and, in most cases, attendance sheets are not filled out or are frequently forged,” the report said. The inspector general also found fully-staffed schools attended by only a handful of students…


Washington nation-builders had projected they’d add $1.3 billion in growth to the Afghan economy in 2015. But no such boost has occurred. In fact, Afghan GDP actually fell to $19.7 billion in 2015 from $20.4 billion in 2014. Nation-building in Afghanistan has been a boondoggle for US taxpayers. Yet in his fiscal year 2017 budget, President Obama calls for an additional $4.8 billion for major reconstruction funds there. Why throw good money after bad? Trump’s right: let’s stop nation-building overseas and start rebuilding the US.





FOR OBAMA, AN UNEXPECTED LEGACY OF                                                     

TWO FULL TERMS AT WAR                                                                        

Mark Landler                                                                                            

New York Times, May 14, 2016


President Obama came into office seven years ago pledging to end the wars of his predecessor, George W. Bush. On May 6, with eight months left before he vacates the White House, Mr. Obama passed a somber, little-noticed milestone: He has now been at war longer than Mr. Bush, or any other American president.


If the United States remains in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria until the end of Mr. Obama’s term — a near-certainty given the president’s recent announcement that he will send 250 additional Special Operations forces to Syria — he will leave behind an improbable legacy as the only president in American history to serve two complete terms with the nation at war. Mr. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and spent his years in the White House trying to fulfill the promises he made as an antiwar candidate, would have a longer tour of duty as a wartime president than Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon or his hero Abraham Lincoln.


Granted, Mr. Obama is leaving far fewer soldiers in harm’s way — at least 4,087 in Iraq and 9,800 in Afghanistan — than the 200,000 troops he inherited from Mr. Bush in the two countries. But Mr. Obama has also approved strikes against terrorist groups in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, for a total of seven countries where his administration has taken military action. “No president wants to be a war president,” said Eliot A. Cohen, a military historian at Johns Hopkins University who backed the war in Iraq and whose son served there twice. “Obama thinks of war as an instrument he has to use very reluctantly. But we’re waging these long, rather strange wars. We’re killing lots of people. We’re taking casualties.”


Mr. Obama has wrestled with this immutable reality from his first year in the White House, when he went for a walk among the tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery before giving the order to send 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan. His closest advisers say he has relied so heavily on limited covert operations and drone strikes because he is mindful of the dangers of escalation and has long been skeptical that American military interventions work.


Publicly, Mr. Obama acknowledged early on the contradiction between his campaign message and the realities of governing. When he accepted the Nobel in December 2009, he declared that humanity needed to reconcile “two seemingly irreconcilable truths — that war is sometimes necessary, and war at some level is an expression of human folly.” The president has tried to reconcile these truths by approaching his wars in narrow terms, as a chronic but manageable security challenge rather than as an all-consuming national campaign, in the tradition of World War II or, to a lesser degree, Vietnam. The longevity of his war record, military historians say, also reflects the changing definition of war.


“It’s the difference between being a war president and a president at war,” said Derek Chollet, who served in the State Department and the White House during Mr. Obama’s first term and as the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs from 2012 to 2015. “Being a war president means that all elements of American power and foreign policy are subservient to fighting the war,” Mr. Chollet said. “What Obama has tried to do, which is why he’s careful about ratcheting up the number of forces, is not to have it overwhelm other priorities.”


But Mr. Obama has found those conflicts maddeningly hard to end. On Oct. 21, 2011, he announced that the last combat soldier would leave Iraq by the end of that year, drawing that eight-year war to a close. “Our troops will definitely be home for the holidays,” Mr. Obama said at the White House. Less than three years later, he told a national television audience that he would send 475 military advisers back to Iraq to help in the battle against the Islamic State, the brutal terrorist group that swept into the security vacuum left by the absent Americans. By last month, more than 5,000 American troops were in Iraq. A furious firefight this month between Islamic State fighters and Navy SEALs in northern Iraq, in which Special Warfare Operator First Class Charles Keating IV became the third American to die since the campaign against the Islamic State began, harked back to the bloodiest days of the Iraq war. It also made the administration’s argument that the Americans were only advising and assisting Iraqi forces seem ever less plausible.


Afghanistan followed a similar cycle of hope and disappointment. In May 2014, Mr. Obama announced that the United States would withdraw the last combat soldier from the country by the end of 2016. “Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,” the president said in the Rose Garden. “Yet this is how wars end in the 21st century.” Seventeen months later, Mr. Obama halted the withdrawal, telling Americans that he planned to leave more than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan until early 2017, the end of his presidency. By then, the Taliban controlled more territory in the country than at any time since 2001.


Taliban fighters even briefly conquered the northern city of Kunduz. In the bitter battle for control, an American warplane mistakenly fired its missiles into a Doctors Without Borders hospital, killing 42 people and prompting accusations that the United States had committed a war crime. Critics of Mr. Obama have long said his clinical approach to wars weakened the ability of the nation to fight them. “He hasn’t tried to mobilize the country,” Dr. Cohen said. “He hasn’t even tried to explain to the country what the stakes are, why these wars have gone the way they have.” Mr. Bush was also criticized for failing to ask the American people to make any sacrifices during the Iraq war. But, Dr. Cohen said, “for all his faults, with Bush, there was this visceral desire to win.”


Vincent DeGeorge, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University who collected the data on presidents at war, said Mr. Obama’s tone mattered less than the decisions he made. “Does the rhetoric a president uses at home matter to the soldiers who come back wounded or get caught in the crossfire?” he asked in an interview. Mr. DeGeorge acknowledged the complications in measuring Mr. Obama’s wars. The American-led phase of the Afghanistan war, for example, ended formally in December 2014, though thousands of troops remain there. For his analysis, he considered a state of war to exist when less than a month passed between either American casualties or an American airstrike.


More so than Mr. Bush or President Bill Clinton, Mr. Obama has fought a multifront war against militants. Officials at the Pentagon referred to the situation as “the new normal.” But for those who worked in the Obama administration, it made for an unrelenting experience. “As the Middle East coordinator, I certainly felt like it was a wartime pace,” said Philip H. Gordon, who worked in the White House from 2013 to 2015. Still, Mr. Gordon and other former officials drew a distinction between the wars of the 21st century and those of the 20th century. For one, Congress has not specifically authorized any of Mr. Obama’s military campaigns, let alone issued a declaration of war — something that it has not done since World War II. “War doesn’t exist anymore, in our official vocabulary,” Mr. Gordon said.


It is not clear that Mr. Obama’s successor will take the same approach. The front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, has been more receptive to conventional military engagements than Mr. Obama. The presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, has pledged to bomb the Islamic State into oblivion, though he has sent contradictory messages about his willingness to dispatch American ground troops into foreign conflicts.


Military historians said presidents would probably continue to shrink or stretch the definition of war to suit their political purposes. “Neither Clinton nor Obama identified themselves as war presidents, but Bush did,” said Richard H. Kohn, professor emeritus of history and peace, war and defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “War goes back in human experience thousands of years,” he said. “We know that it has an enormous variation of definitions.”



On Topic Links


Taliban Cut Off Afghan Highway Linking Kabul to Northern Gateways: Rod Nordland, New York Times, May 14, 2016—Taliban insurgents have cut the main highway that links the capital with northern Afghanistan and neighboring countries for the past three days, according to Afghan officials in the area.

Taliban Suicide Attack in Kabul Renews Debate on Afghanistan Troop Cuts: Carlo Munoz, Washington Times, Apr. 19, 2016—A devastating Taliban suicide attack that killed at least 28 people and wounded more than 300 others Tuesday in the heart of Kabul has sent concerns soaring that Afghanistan’s struggling security forces will be overmatched in the summer fighting season, which many believe will be among the bloodiest on record.

John Kerry: Afghanistan One of 'Proudest Achievements of the Obama Administration': Jeryl Bier, Weekly Standard, May 16, 2016—Secretary of State John Kerry recently spoke at the Oxford Union and addressed a range of issues from climate change to extremism to political corruption. During the question and answer after Kerry's remarks, one audience member asked the secretary of state to name the "proudest achievements of the Obama administration" now that President Obama's eight years in office are coming to an end.

Spring on the Afghan Front Lines: Danielle Moylan, New York Times, May 6, 2016 — Spring becomes Babaji, a rural suburb of Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern province of Helmand. Light-green wheat fields grow waist-high, and narrow irrigation canals run almost clear. “It’s beautiful,” I told Mohammad Sahi, 21, an officer in the Afghan national police, as we stood on a sagging thatched roof in the afternoon sun.











Can the United States Avert Disaster in Iraq?: Evan Moore, National Review, May 14, 2016— The brutal bombings that rocked Baghdad this week are a stark reminder that ISIS remains a persistent threat to Iraqi security.

The White House’s Iraq Delusion: Washington Post, May 3, 2016 — Secretary of State John Kerry and other Western policy-makers – joined by the “elite” Western media – contend that 68 year-old Israel is increasingly isolated…

Can a Demagogue Help Save Iraq's Democracy?: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, May 4, 2016— Here is an irony to savor. One of Iraq's most notorious demagogues might now be saving the democratic experiment he nearly extinguished more than a decade ago.

Sykes-Picot at 100: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, May 16, 2016 — This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the document that shaped the modern Middle East.


On Topic Links


Obama Hides His Iraq War: William McGurn, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 11, 2016

Research on the Islamic State, Syria, and Iraq: Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, Middle East Forum, Mar. 1, 2016

The Failures of the International Community in the Middle East since the Sykes-Picot Agreement, 1916-2016: Amb. Freddy Eytan, JCPA, 2016

‘A Shocking Document’ Turns 100: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, May 8, 2016



CAN THE UNITED STATES AVERT DISASTER IN IRAQ?                                                            

Evan Moore                                                                                                

National Review, May 14, 2016


The brutal bombings that rocked Baghdad this week are a stark reminder that ISIS remains a persistent threat to Iraqi security. Though the extremist group has lost as much as 40 percent of its territory in the country over the past year, it retains control over the major urban areas that it seized in 2014. It is uncertain at best that Mosul — Iraq’s second-largest city — will be liberated by the end of this year, despite President Obama’s desire to defeat ISIS before he leaves office. And as the Iraqi political situation continues to deteriorate, there is a significant risk that the security situation will also unravel. The Obama administration must recognize that the current chaos in Iraq could completely undermine its campaign against ISIS, and take forceful action immediately in order to avert disaster.


To be sure, the U.S.-led coalition is having an impact on ISIS. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said in March that, “we are systemically eliminating [ISIS]’s cabinet.” Last week’s killing of the top ISIS military official in Anbar province is just the latest proof that that effort proceeds apace. And America’s broader campaign against ISIS has reportedly cost the group as much as $500 million in cash stockpiles, while halving its annual oil revenue to $250 million. Overall, independent reports estimate that ISIS’s monthly income has declined by as much as a third as oil production drops and more territory and people are liberated.


But in response to these gains, ISIS has escalated its use of large-scale terrorist attacks. The group’s campaign of bombings in Baghdad has two objectives: First, it is designed to undermine the Iraqi government’s already tenuous grasp on power by further angering the burgeoning protest movement and reigniting the full-blown sectarian conflict that occurred during the U.S. occupation. Second, it aims to force Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to deploy more troops to secure the capital, diverting manpower that could otherwise be used in offensive operations against ISIS, and thereby stalling the effort to liberate Mosul.


Unfortunately, the Mosul campaign wasn’t going well even before ISIS ramped up its attacks. As the Associated Press reports, the planned assault against the city is still several months in the future — at a minimum — because the ISF is simply not ready. So far, only 18,500 Iraqi troops have been trained by the United States. Experts not only believe the offensive may require up to twice that number of troops, but also question whether the seven-week U.S. training course will sufficiently prepare ISF troops for a major operation. America’s own readiness is also questionable. Although Secretary Carter announced last month that the United States would provide additional advisors, attack helicopters, and artillery to support the ISF, that backup reportedly has yet to arrive at the front, and America’s troop presence in Iraq has actually declined slightly. Though coalition forces are as close to the city as they have been since it fell to ISIS in 2014, they are still some 40 miles away. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has admitted to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius that liberating Mosul “will take a long time and be very messy,” and that he doesn’t “see that happening in this administration.”


It is clear that the situation in Iraq is tenuous, at best, and the United States must be willing to devote considerably more resources in order to keep the country from falling apart. Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey recommends that the Obama administration consider deploying even more forces to support the Iraqi advance than the Pentagon has announced. This would include more trainers and advisers to increase the size and capability of the ISF, as well as more attack helicopters and artillery in order to more frequently strike ISIS positions. But, Jeffrey also says, “a limited commitment of U.S. ground troops — two brigades of 5,000 troops each, reinforced by other NATO forces, along with local allies — could make even more rapid progress.”


The United States must split ISIS from its Sunni support base, which in the short term means creating an indigenous force of Iraqi Sunnis capable of fighting ISIS. The Center for a New American Security recommends building “essentially a Sunni equivalent to the Kurdish Peshmerga.” This should be achieved by providing weapons, training, and advisors to the Sunni tribes, and by “building out a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian Sunni National Guard force that can hold territory taken from [ISIS].” Militarily empowering the Sunni community is important because “if Iraq’s counter-[ISIS] forces consist largely of Shia militias, the end result is likely to be increased sectarian violence. This will only further marginalize Iraq’s Sunni communities and divorce them from the Iraqi central government.”


Militarily empowering Iraqi Sunnis can also pave the way for politically empowering Iraqi Sunnis, another vital requirement to defeating ISIS. Robert Ford, a former deputy U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year that “Iraqi Sunni Arabs . . . no longer hope to dominate the central government. Instead, most said they want to govern themselves in a decentralized or even federal Iraq, enjoying basically the same local governance that the Iraqi Kurds enjoy.” This type of federal power-sharing agreement, Ford notes, “is in line with the political vision of Iraq that the Iraqi Shia and Kurdish leaders used to emphasize ten years ago, and it is consistent with the Iraqi constitution.” But, even if Mosul were to be liberated and ISIS were to be severely set back, Ford warns the terror group would likely return to being an underground insurgency feeding off of Sunni resentments. Denying ISIS its base of support will require political reforms, such as establishing effective local government that can provide “basic services, new jobs, and . . . fair treatment from local police and judges.” …

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




Washington Post, May 3, 2016


Two persistent failings of U.S. foreign policy have been an overdependence on individual leaders, who frequently fail to deliver on American expectations, and a reluctance to accept that an established status quo can’t hold. The Obama administration has committed both those errors in Iraq — and it has done so more than once.


In its zeal to withdraw all U.S. troops in time for President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, the administration threw its weight behind then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, with disastrous consequences. Mr. Maliki’s Shiite sectarianism fractured the fragile political system and opened the way for the Islamic State. In 2014, having pushed for Mr. Maliki’s removal, the administration bet on Haider al-Abadi; now, in its impatience to reduce the Islamic State before Mr. Obama leaves office, it clings to a prime minister who has proved unable to govern the country or reconcile its warring factions.


Mr. Abadi’s impotence was revealed most dramatically over the weekend, when Shiite supporters of anti-American firebrand Moqtada al-Sadr stormed into Baghdad’s walled-off Green Zone and invaded the parliament. Nominally, the protesters were supporting one of Mr. Abadi’s aims, to create a new, technocratic cabinet to replace a corrupt system of dividing ministries according to party and sectarian lines. But Mr. Abadi denounced the invasion, which showed him as unable to control either the political insurgents or the established parties that have repeatedly rejected his reform proposals. The blowup came at a particularly awkward time for the Obama administration, which had just doubled down on its support for Mr. Abadi during a visit to Baghdad by Vice President Biden. As The Post’s Greg Jaffe reported, an administration briefer told reporters that Mr. Biden’s visit was “a symbol of how much faith we have in Prime Minister Abadi” and expressed optimism that his government was getting stronger.


Whether Mr. Abadi survives the present crisis will likely depend on whether Shiite parties, with help from Iran, can patch up their differences. But already he has proved incapable of addressing Iraq’s fundamental political problem, which is the schism among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities. That brings us to the Obama administration’s second error: an unwillingness to accept that Iraq cannot survive under its present system of governance, which centralizes power in Baghdad. Since the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq’s Sunni-majority areas, the administration has stubbornly stuck to the slogan of a “unified Iraq,” even though that has effectively meant depriving Kurdistan’s autonomous government and armed forces of the resources they need to fight the war, and critically delayed the development of a Sunni leadership that could effectively govern areas liberated from the terrorists.


The latest crisis should prompt a reconsideration. Kurdish leaders are now openly saying that Iraq’s post-2003 political structure has collapsed; the United States should be forging closer ties to their regional government. It should also be working to encourage a similar federal state in Sunni areas of Iraq. If Iraq survives as a nation-state, it will be because power, and oil revenues, are radically decentralized from Baghdad. Continuing to center U.S. support on a single Iraqi leader, whether it is Mr. Abadi or someone else, is a recipe for more failure.            




Eli Lake

 Bloomberg, May 4, 2016


Here is an irony to savor. One of Iraq's most notorious demagogues might now be saving the democratic experiment he nearly extinguished more than a decade ago. You may remember his name from the Bush era: Moqtada al-Sadr. He is an Islamic fundamentalist who has used violence for political gain. In 2004, an Iraqi judge issued a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of orchestrating the stabbing murder of rival cleric, Abdul Majid al-Khoei. His Mahdi army tried and failed to take control of the city of Najaf that same year. And while he opposes the strict Iranian conception of Islamic law, his followers have attacked shopkeepers who sell alcohol.


Yet today, Sadr's followers are providing the political muscle that Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi will need to enact the reforms necessary to save Iraq from fiscal insolvency. Over the last weekend, Sadr's followers breached the gates of the heavily fortified "green zone" in the center of Baghdad and briefly took over the parliament to support a slate of technocratic ministers Abadi is proposing for his government. Unless Iraq's political bosses feel some popular pressure, Abadi's relatively modest reforms have no chance.


These reforms are aimed at preventing a dire crisis that's been years in the making. Luay al-Khateeb, a fellow at Columbia University and a former unofficial adviser to the Iraqi parliament on economic and energy issues, told me the decline in oil prices should force Iraq to cut government subsidies on energy as well as make-work jobs created when the price of oil was high. (Abadi has not gone this far) Khateeb said there were 2.5 million federal government jobs in 2003 when Saddam Hussein's government fell. Today, he estimates, there are 7 million, most of them unnecessary. And then there is the massive corruption endemic to Iraq's political system. Over the years, ministers and members of parliament were allotted huge budgets for their personal staffs and other benefits. Even after members retire from public service, in many cases the state continues to pay for their bodyguards and secretaries. This says nothing of the self-dealing that powerful Iraqi politicians and leaders conducted to win government business for friends and associates.


Recently Sadr has positioned himself as an outsider, even though he and his organization benefitted from the corruption in Iraq's political system that he now opposes. Sadr himself fled to Iran in 2007, but was apparently disappointed by the tepid welcome he received from the Islamic Republic's leadership, and returned to Baghdad four years later. So it's no accident that some of his supporters on Saturday were shouting slogans accusing Iraq's political class of being Iranian puppets. Nibras Kazimi, an Iraqi analyst and commentator, told me that Sadr blamed the leader of Iran's Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, for fracturing his Mahdi Army and peeling off followers to form a rival militia known as Asaib Ahl al-Haq. When the Iranians and most Shiite politicians accepted the rule of then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Sadr was one of the only Shiite leaders to openly criticize him for his violent crack down on non-violent protests by Sunni Arabs.


Even some of Sadr's most potent critics acknowledge that, for the moment, he has lined up on the side of reform. Kanan Makiya, a historian whose latest novel, "The Rope," explores the complicity of Shiite leaders in covering up the murder of al-Khoei, told me that Sadr today "is a populist demagogue who happens to be riding the right wave at the right time."


Nonetheless, Makiya is concerned: "I worry that Abadi may become beholden to this very dangerous man." U.S. officials I spoke to this week told me that they, too, worried about Sadr's resurgent influence. Sadr eventually told his supporters to leave the green zone on Saturday, and Iraqi forces did not fire on the mob. But this was not an orderly protest. The protestors manhandled Iraqi legislators, trashed the parliament building and pulled down blast walls on the green zone's exterior. And yet, it was in the service of saving Iraq's beleaguered government.


It all provides a puzzle for the U.S. Washington is working behind the scenes to secure a multi-billion dollar International Monetary Fund loan and other international financing to keep Abadi's government afloat for the coming months and years, in the hopes that he can begin to implement more substantive reforms. Without more stable governance, there is little chance of initiating a campaign to free Mosul, the nation's second-largest city, from the Islamic State. There are also the very real concerns Kurds now face as their leaders threaten to hold a referendum in the fall to vote on independence. Iraq's parliament is expected to meet again on May 10 to try to form the new government. The world will be watching closely — nobody more so than Moqtada al-Sadr.               



                                                                                    SYKES-PICOT AT 100                                                                                                                     

Lee Smith                                                                                                      

Weekly Standard, May 16, 2016


This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the document that shaped the modern Middle East. Known officially as the Asia Minor Agreement, it was authored by the British diplomat Mark Sykes and his French counterpart François Georges-Picot. They were charged with the task of mapping out new zones of influence in parts of the Ottoman Empire, should the Triple Entente, which at the time included czarist Russia, defeat the Ottomans in World War I.


The regions under negotiation were the Syrian coast and what became Lebanon, which would go to France; central and southern Mesopotamia, which would fall under British supervision; and Palestine, which would be under international administration. The huge block of mostly desert in between would have local Arab chiefs under French supervision in the north and British in the south. The agreement was signed May 16, 1916. Now, a century later, according to a wildly diverse body of opinion, from the leader of the Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, Sykes-Picot has finally fallen apart. Over the last hundred years, the very phrase Sykes-Picot has become shorthand for a number of ideas about Middle East history. To wit: Sykes-Picot imposed artificial borders on the region; it legitimized colonial interference in the Middle East; it represented the betrayal of the Arabs by the Western powers. As it turns out, all of these beliefs are premised on conceptions that are grounded not in historical reality, but political ideology.


All borders are artificial. Even before the advent of the state system, borders around the world were either agreed upon by two or more parties or imposed through war or threat of war. Borders are human conventions, even if they are set off by natural landmarks, like bodies of water or mountains. In any case, the Sykes-Picot Agreement did not establish national borders. The borders within the area that Sykes-Picot dealt with were later agreed upon by Paris and London. Sykes-Picot merely allocated zones of influence, a political demarcation consistent with the history of the region, dominated by empires for thousands of years. "One empire, the Ottoman, lost," says Tony Badran, research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, "and two other empires, the French and the British, divided parts of its holdings between themselves. That division was in keeping with how empires have dealt with this area throughout the ages. The imperial tradition in this zone dates back millennia."


Badran traces it back to the historical ancient Near East, when the region's great imperial powers included Egypt, Persia, and what's now Turkey, from the Hittite Empire, to the Byzantines, and lastly the Ottomans. What we refer to as the Levant, says Badran, has simply been a buffer zone between imperial powers. "It's a zone of conflict, a historical theater of war. The people who live here are always assets of bigger powers. If you ally with Egypt and the Assyrians win, it's a losing bet. The kingdom of Judah later sought to align with Egypt against the Babylonians. Egypt and Judah lost, resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon."


Often faulted for being oblivious to the reality of the Middle East, as Badran argues, the Sykes-Picot Agreement actually represented a mature understanding of the region's history. The "colonial interference" that Sykes-Picot stands for was nothing but the latest instance of empires carving out zones of influence, partly to balance each other's power. Even after Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan won independence—the Arabs rejected the 1947 U.N. plan to partition Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states—many Arab political figures and intellectuals claimed that they'd been betrayed by the West. According to this view, the colonial powers had promised them a greater Arab homeland, and instead divided them into separate states. This is the Arab nationalist reading of recent Middle East history.


The central tenet of Arab nationalism is that the people of the Middle East who speak various dialects of the Arabic language constitute one indivisible nation with a shared past and a common destiny. As we now see with the sectarian and ethnic onslaught underway in Iraq and Syria, this notion is fanciful. If there really is such a thing as the Arab nation—rather than a collection of competing sects, ethnicities, and tribes—it is a nation at war with itself. Indeed, the rise of Arab nationalist ideology coincides with the rapid decline of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. It was the Ottomans who, for all their very bloody methods, managed to maintain a certain amount of stability throughout the region, balancing warring factions. With the Ottomans on their way out, regional intellectuals and ideologues, including some among the Middle East's minority populations, saw Arab nationalism as a safety mechanism of sorts, intended to convince the region's various populations that more united them—language, culture, history, future—than set them apart.


The region's political leaders used Arab nationalism for a very different purpose—to undermine their regional rivals. For instance, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser regularly attacked Jordan and Saudi Arabia for betraying the Arab cause—i.e., the war to eliminate the Zionists and liberate Palestine. It is hardly a coincidence that Nasser's targets were American allies, and his Egypt, like the other prominent Arab nationalist regimes, Syria and Iraq, was a Soviet client. Again, the middle of the Arabic-speaking Middle East was a buffer zone, where the world's two great powers competed for zones of influence. Backing Arab nationalist causes and hanging the colonialist/imperialist label on Washington was part of Moscow's Cold War propaganda campaign. And indeed it was the United States that inherited the legacy of Sykes-Picot when Eisenhower ushered France and the United Kingdom out of the region with the 1956 Suez Crisis. Now, according to the Arab nationalist reading, the United States was the great colonial power.


Actually, that wasn't far from the truth, even if a country with its origins in anticolonialism rejected the description. The reality is that the Europeans were irrelevant. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the Cold War over, the Middle East enjoyed more than two decades of relative stability. It was the United States that kept the peace, a peace at least as stable as and an order much more liberal than that of the Ottomans. The peace that the region enjoyed had nothing to do with early-20th-century European diplomats, but was thanks to postwar American power. Sykes-Picot is the euphemism that Americans uncomfortable with the idea of empire have used to describe the American order of the Middle East.


For decades, the Arab-Israeli conflict was understood to be the region's central crisis—solve that, common wisdom held, and everything else will fall into place. As we now understand, compared with the Syrian war and the casualty count over 5 years which dwarfs that of the Arab-Israeli conflict over close to 70, the Arab-Israeli conflict is little more than a skirmish between two tribes. That the international community could afford to devote so much concern and resources to it over the course of decades is a testament to the nature of American power. The issue isn't that the Islamic State crashed the borders of Syria and Iraq in 2014 and therefore the colonial legacy of Sykes-Picot. Rather, it's that the Obama White House wants out. It's the American order of the region that's been dismantled—not by ISIS, but by the president of the United States. In effect, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that seeks to realign American interests in the region with Iran, while plotting a U.S. exit from the region, is a revision of Sykes-Picot.


We can't fix the Middle East, Obama deputy Ben Rhodes told the New York Times Magazine. It's about ancient sectarian and ethnic rivalries and hatreds. But the point was never to solve the problems of the region, a conflict zone for thousands of years. It was merely to ensure stability and protect American interests. The Ottomans were flushed out of the region when they wound up on the losing side of the Great War. The Obama White House opted out because it was tired. The region will pay the price for the administration's self-pity, as will the rest of the world, including America.




On Topic Links


Obama Hides His Iraq War: William McGurn, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 11, 2016—In Barack Obama’s world, the answer is apparently not—not even when they are on the ground exchanging fire with the enemy. This is the fiction supported by Hillary Clinton and largely unchallenged by any of the three Republican candidates for president.

Research on the Islamic State, Syria, and Iraq: Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, Middle East Forum, Mar. 1, 2016

The Failures of the International Community in the Middle East since the Sykes-Picot Agreement, 1916-2016: Amb. Freddy Eytan, JCPA, 2016—This study is a recap of historical facts and aims to shed new light on the many failures of the Sykes-Picot agreement and implementation during the past century. Along with the comments and observations, it is a reminder to avoid naiveté and mistakes of the past. Jerusalem Center experts also explain the reasons for the failure of Western countries in achieving sustainable peace.

‘A Shocking Document’ Turns 100: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, May 8, 2016—The Sykes-Picot accord that has shaped and distorted the modern Middle East was signed 100 years ago, on May 16, 1916. In the deal, Mark Sykes for the British and Francois Georges-Picot for the French, with the Russians participating too, allocated much of the region, pending the minor detail of their defeating the Central Powers in World War I.











Ben Rhodes and the Fiction Behind the Iran Nuclear Deal: A.J. Caschetta, Middle East Forum, May 10, 2016— That the Obama administration's Iran deal is a work of fiction has been known all along, but now Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes is taking credit as its author.

At 68 – Is Israel Isolated?: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, May 12, 2016 — Secretary of State John Kerry and other Western policy-makers – joined by the “elite” Western media – contend that 68 year-old Israel is increasingly isolated…

Sorry to Tell You, But….: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Breaking Israel News, Apr. 26, 2016— My dear friends, Jews in Israel and the Diaspora.

The Improbable Happiness of Israelis: Avinoam Bar-Yosef, Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2016 — The World Happiness Report 2016 Update ranks Israel (Jews and Arabs) 11th of 158 countries evaluated for the United Nations.


On Topic Links


The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru: David Samuels, New York Times, May 5, 2016

Mustafa Badreddine, Hezbollah Military Commander, Is Killed in Syria: Anne Barnard & Sewell Chan, New York Times, May 13, 2016

68 Reasons to Respect, If Not Love, Israel On Its 68th Birthday: Robert Sarner, Forward, May 9, 2016

‘A Shocking Document’ Turns 100: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, May 8, 2016



BEN RHODES AND THE FICTION BEHIND THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL                                                                        

A.J. Caschetta

Middle East Forum, May 10, 2016


That the Obama administration's Iran deal is a work of fiction has been known all along, but now Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes is taking credit as its author. In a long interview with New York Times reporter David Samuels on Sunday, the world learned that Rhodes is "the master shaper and retailer of Obama's foreign policy narratives" who "strategized and ran the successful Iran-deal messaging campaign." Samuels lauds Rhodes as "a storyteller who uses a writer's tools to advance an agenda packaged as politics."


Welcome to the post-modern techno-presidency where everything is a text, easily manipulated by skilled writers and disseminated in 140 or fewer characters. Don't like the facts? Change the narrative. What really counts is "the optics."


In the midst of his fawning profile, Samuels exposes a number of lies behind the Iran narrative, or rather quotes Rhodes himself doing so. For instance, the first outreach to Iran came in 2012, not in 2013. I'd bet it came even earlier. Rhodes even acknowledges that there is nothing "moderate" about Iranian leaders Rouhani, Zarif, or Khamenei. But these dates and facts conflicted with the narrative, so they were finessed, rewritten, and sold to the public with different plot lines and different themes. Outside Washington, DC, this behavior is sometimes called lying.


The Rhodes narrative, at its core, is a simple tale in which a hero, armed with special skills and weapons, goes on a quest that requires a fight against the forces of evil. It incorporates elements of the ancient epic, the medieval romance, and the eighteenth-century novel, with elements of drama splashed in here and there.


The hero, of course, is Rhodes's real-life hero, Barack Obama (with whom he "mind melds," as he apparently tells anyone who will listen). The hero's special weapon is diplomacy — in the case of Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a.k.a., "Iran Deal." But Rhodes himself is also the hero of his tale. As he tells Samuels in one particularly dewy-eyed moment: "I don't know anymore where I begin and Obama ends."


In his tale, Iran is recast into a moderate regime through the magic of fiction, while the new villains are all who oppose the JCPOA, recast into warmongers: Benjamin Netanyahu, Ted Cruz, the majority of Americans. As Samuels puts it: "Framing the deal as a choice between peace and war was Rhodes's go-to move — and proved to be a winning argument."


But it was not really a winning argument. Neither the American public nor Congress was persuaded, which is why Obama did not submit it as a treaty for Senate ratification. At best, Ben Rhodes is the author of a Pyrrhic victory ensuring that the 45th or 46th president will face the same choice Obama faced, but against an Iran armed with nuclear bombs. At worst, Rhodes is the author of a tragedy he does not understand.


Rhodes's narrative is not even particularly good fiction. Mistaken identities, fudged timelines, villains in disguise, and a two-dimensional hero are clichés. But the quality of fiction does not matter as long as consumers line up to buy it. And this is where Rhodes truly excels, as a relatively shallow thinker, adroit mostly at influencing even shallower thinkers and hoodwinking people too busy to bother learning.


Rhodes is proud of the way he manipulates a gullible and hungry media comprised mostly of repeaters pretending to be reporters. From his White House "war room," he and his assistant, Ned Price, reach out to their media "compadres" who are waiting by their iPhones, ready to transform the daily storytelling sessions into facts for the uninformed. Boasting that he "created an echo chamber," and unable to conceal his contempt for the minions who amplify his fiction, Rhodes calls them "27 year olds who literally know nothing." Enter the storyteller who provides them with lines. Samuels shows us he is in on the joke too, by pointing out that "Rhodes has become adept at ventriloquizing many people at once."


In his daily conversation, Samuels tells us, Rhodes lumps together nearly everyone who came before Obama (Kissinger, Clinton, Bush, Gates, Panetta) as "the Blob" — the establishment that damaged the world so badly that only a magical hero can repair it. Rhodes tells Samuels that the "complete lack of governance in huge swaths of the Middle East, that is the project of the American establishment." This is what happens to foreign policy when it is entrusted to the unqualified and undereducated.


In eight months, Ben Rhodes can get back to his former life — as he puts it, "drinking and smoking pot and hanging out in Central Park." And presumably writing more fiction — this time perhaps the honest kind that does not pretend to be non-fiction. The entire world, except perhaps the world of fiction, will be better for it.





Yoram Ettinger                                                                       

Jewish Press, May 12, 2016


Secretary of State John Kerry and other Western policy-makers – joined by the “elite” Western media – contend that 68 year-old Israel is increasingly isolated due to its defiance of global pressure to evacuate the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, which tower over Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport and 80% of Israel’s population, transportation, technological and business infrastructure.


Since 1948, global pressure on Israel to commit itself to dramatic concessions has been a fixture of Israel’s foreign policy and public diplomacy, accompanied by warnings that Israel was dooming itself to painful isolation. An examination of Israel’s global position – economically, militarily and diplomatically – documents that irrespective of Israel’s uphill diplomatic challenges, these warnings crashed on the rocks of reality, and resoundingly refuted by an unprecedented integration of Israel with the global street.


Thus, side-by-side with the rough diplomatic talk which has always pounded Israel, there has been an increasingly mutually-beneficial, geo-strategic walk. This is highlighted by Israel’s unprecedented civilian and military integration with the international community, in response to growing international demand for Israel’s military, economic, technological, scientific, medical, pharmaceutical and agricultural cutting-edge innovations.


Israel’s increasingly global integration is reflected by a series of developments in the last few weeks, which are consistent with Israel’s well-documented 68-year-old track record on the global scene. For example, notwithstanding Europe’s support of the Palestinian Authority and harsh criticism of Israel, NATO does not subscribe to the “isolate Israel” theory, follows its own order of geo-strategic priorities, and therefore refuses to cut off its nose to spite its face. Hence, on May 3, 2016, NATO significantly upgraded its ties with Israel, inviting Jerusalem to establish a permanent mission at their Brussels headquarters. This upgrade will expand the surging, mutually-beneficial Israel-NATO cooperation in the areas of counter-terrorism, intelligence, battle tactics, non-conventional warfare, science, cyber and space technologies and defense industries, where Israel possesses a unique competitive edge.


While Turkey’s President, Erdogan, has blasted Israel brutally on the diplomatic field, Turkey did not block the recent agreement between NATO and Israel. Moreover, the Israel-Turkey balance of trade has catapulted from $2.5 BN in 2009 to over $5 BN in 2015. Turkey has not ignored the unique niches of Israel’s exports in the area of defense, medicine, pharmaceuticals and agriculture.


India, the seventh largest – and one of the fastest rising – economies in the world, has become one of Israel’s closest partners – second only to the USA – in the areas of defense, counter-terrorism, intelligence, manufacturing, agriculture, irrigation, information technologies, space, etc.. Oblivious of the “isolate Israel” school of thought, India has become the largest customer for Israel’s defense systems, with Israel trailing only the US and Russia in terms of military sales to India. On March 29, 2016, Israel’s Rafael Advance Defense Systems concluded a long-term agreement with India’s $15 BN Reliance Defense Systems, which is expected to produce $10 BN in sales. A year and a half ago, Rafael won a $500 MN contract for the supply of missiles to India’s ground forces.


Aiming to leverage the momentum-gaining “integrate Israel” trend, China’s $10 BN Kuang-Chi technology conglomerate is launching an Israel-based international innovation Chinese fund to invest in early, to mid-stage Israeli and global companies, reflecting the vigorous Chinese interest in mature and start-up Israeli companies. Chinese investments in Israeli companies expanded from $70 MN in 2010 to $2.7 BN in 2015, while the China-Israel trade balance surged from $30 MN in 1992 to $11 BN in 2015. The trade balance could have been dramatically larger, but for Israel’s cautious attitude, in light of China’s close ties with Israel’s enemies. China has followed in the footsteps of the Hong-Kong-based tycoon, Li Ka-Shing, whose venture capital fund, Horizons Ventures, invested in 30 Israeli companies, accounting for almost half of its portfolio…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                                  





Dr. Mordechai Kedar

 Breaking Israel News, Apr. 26, 2016


My dear friends, Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. I am sorry to tell you that the terror attacks we from which we suffer today and from which we suffered yesterday, a week ago, a month, a year and a decade and century ago, are all part of the same war, the same struggle, the same Jihad waged against us by our neighbors for over a century. Sometimes it is a full scale war with tanks, noise, flames, planes and ships and sometimes it is a war on a slow burner known as “terror” with explosions, stabbings and shots. Each of these is Jihad in Arabic, each is aimed at Jews just for being Jewish.


I regret to remind you of the fact that this war began way before the establishment of the Jewish state declared in 1948. The riots and massacres of 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936-39 et al, were not due to a Jewish state or what our enemies call the “occupation” of 1948, and certainly not because of the 1967 “occupation”. The bloody and cruel massacre of the Jews of Hevron in 1929 was carried out against Jews who were not part of the Zionist movement, quite the contrary. The Palestine Liberation Movement (Fatah) was founded, may I remind you, in 1959 and The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964, years before the 1967 “occupation” that was a result of Israel winning the Six Day War.


I hate to point out to you that the shouts we heard, mainly in the 1948 War of Independence, were “Itbach al Yahud” – “Butcher the Jews” – and not the “Israelis” or the “Zionists,” because their problem is with the Jews who refuse to be dependent on the mercy of Islam, refuse to live as dhimmi, protected ones, the way Islam mandates for Jews and Christians. In the Arab world, children still sing (in Arabic): “Palestine is our country and the Jews are our dogs.” The dog, in Islamic tradition, is an unclean animal. Sharia law stipulates that if a Muslim is praying and a dog, pig, woman, Jew or Christian walks in front of him, his prayers are worthless and he must begin the entire ritual once again.


It is not pleasant to tell you this, but Israel’s enemies’ most popular chant is (in Arabic) – “Kyber, Khyber O Jews, Mohammed’s army will yet return.” Khyber is an oasis in the Arabian Peninsula that was populated by Jews until Mohammed slaughtered them in 626 C.E. The chant commemorates that event and threatens a repeat performance.  The Jews, according to the Koran (Sura 5, verse 82) are the most hostile enemies of the Moslems. Verse 60 states that Allah’s curse and fury upon them turned them into monkeys and pigs. Since when do monkeys and pigs have the right to a state? Since when are they entitled to sovereignty?


Despite what you think, peace with Egypt was achieved only after Sadat realized that despite Arab efforts to destroy Israel in the 1948 War of Independence, the 1956 Sinai Campaign, the 1967 Six Day War, 1970 War of Attrition, and even the 1973 Yom Kippur War that took Israel by surprise, the Jewish state managed to push back all the Arab armies and bring the war to their territory. That is why Sadat understood that Israel is not conquerable and that there is no choice other than making peace, even if this peace is temporary and based on the precedent of the 628 C.E. Hudabiya Peace in which Mohammed gave a 10 year hiatus to the infidels of Mecca, but broke it at the end of two years when they fell asleep on the watch.


Yassir Arafat did not sign the Oslo Accords because he believed in peace, but because, calling it the “Hudabiya peace,” he saw the agreements as a Trojan horse that would hoodwink the Jews. The only objective of the Oslo Accords was to create a Palestinian entity with an army and weapons that would be used to destroy Israel when the time was ripe. He repeated this constantly, but our decision makers explained that he is only saying it for domestic consumption, and when suicide bombers set themselves off in our streets, the victims were called “victims of peace.” Since when does peace require victims? And when will the rifles we allowed them to obtain be turned on us?


It saddens me to tell you that all of Israel’s efforts to please the Hamas Gazans failed, and Hamas went on from being a terrorist organization to becoming a terrorist state. Deathly rockets, attack tunnels, suicide bombers –  all are considered legitimate in the eyes of Gaza’s Jihadist government, so to hell with the lives of the men, women and children living there, and to hell with their welfare, health  and assets. The Gazans are pawns in the hands of Hamas, the Jihad and the Salafists, all of whom appointed themselves the liaison between the residents of Gaza and Paradise, having already given them a taste of hell on earth.


It pains me to tell all the soul-weary peace seekers in Israel and the world, that the concrete and iron that you forced us to give the Jihadists in Gaza in order to rebuild their destroyed homes, were used to build tunnels of death both to Gazans and Israelis. Instead of building hospitals, schools and infrastructure, the Jihadists built an infrastructure of death, suffering and disaster.


You were wrong again – basing your policy on pipe dreams, delusions and hopes instead of on facts and figures. Analysts, including me, are not entirely blameless: they said in wondrous harmony that when Hamas has to bear the responsibility for food, electricity and welfare in Gaza, its leaders will become more moderate, realistic and pragmatic. We were wrong:  Hamas, despite leaving the opposition in order to rule, has not ceased its Jihad against Israel and has not removed Israel from the top of its list of priorities, nor has it changed in the slightest its wholly negative view of the “Zionist entity.”


I hate to ruin the “two states for two peoples” party, but I must, because what is happening in Gaza today is exactly what will happen to the second Palestinian state you are trying to establish in Judea and Samaria. Hamas will be the winner of elections for the legislature, as they were in Gaza in January 2006, and will win the presidential elections as well. If they don’t they will take over all of Judea and Samaria in a violent putsch, just as they did in Gaza in 2007. And when that happens, what will you say? “Ooops…we didn’t know…we couldn’t imagine…?”  So now you know and do not have to extrapolate. This should be your working hypothesis. If Gaza’s Hamas is digging tunnels of death in the sand today, it will be digging through rocks to build them from Judea and Samaria – and let’s see you find them and blow them up when that happens…

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




THE IMPROBABLE HAPPINESS OF ISRAELIS                                                   

Avinoam Bar-Yosef                                                                                   

Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2016


The World Happiness Report 2016 Update ranks Israel (Jews and Arabs) 11th of 158 countries evaluated for the United Nations. Israel also shines as No. 5 of the 36 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries on the OECD’s Life Satisfaction Index—ahead of the U.S., the U.K. and France.


How can this be so? Israelis live in a hostile and volatile neighborhood, engaged in an endless conflict with the Palestinians and under the threat of nuclear annihilation by Iran. If you crunch the different components of these indexes, Israel falls much further down the lists. It ranks only 24th in GDP per capita, and comes in at No. 30 of the 36 OECD countries on security and personal safety. Israel has only the 17th-highest per capita income in the world. But Israelis do not rank as stupid on any index. Israel was the fifth-most innovative country in the 2015 Bloomberg Innovation Index, and a 2014 OECD study ranked it fourth in the percentage of adults with a higher education.


So what explains the Israeli paradox? Do Israelis only become stupid when thinking about their own happiness? The explanation probably lies in indicators not considered in standard surveys. For instance, a new study by my organization, the Jewish People Policy Institute, looked at pluralism in Israel and found that 83% of Israel’s Jewish citizens consider their nationality “significant” to their identity. Eighty percent mention that Jewish culture is also “significant.” More than two-thirds (69%) mention Jewish tradition as important. Strong families and long friendships stretching back to army service as young adults, or even to childhood, also foster a sense of well-being. All of these factors bolster the Jewish state’s raison d’être.


This year, May 12 will mark the 68th anniversary of Israel’s founding, when a nation was created against all odds. The enormous challenges never eroded Israelis’ energy, or hope. David Ben-Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, once said: “We will know we have become a normal country when Jewish thieves and Jewish prostitutes conduct their business in Hebrew.” Well, in this respect Israel has done much better than he could have dreamed: with one ex-president in jail for rape, and a former prime minister locked up for corruption. Israelis find comfort in the fact that the high and mighty are treated the same under the law as common crooks.


Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who died in 2014, once recalled that after finishing a day’s work with his father in their Kfar Malal fields, he had pointed out in frustration how much was left to be plowed. His father, Samuel, told him to turn around and take in how much they had done. In every aspect of Israel’s existence there is plenty left to be plowed—plenty of room for improvement. Yet Israelis take comfort in looking back and savoring how much has been achieved, how sovereignty over the land of their forefathers was reclaimed. At least 60% of the Israeli population, now eight million, are Jewish immigrants or their children. Jews from more than 90 countries, of all colors and walks of life, are united in one society. They cherish the sense of self-determination.


And it isn’t just Jews. Go to any beach or shopping mall and—despite the frictions—you will see Jews and Arabs peacefully coexisting. They all can take pride in their country’s accomplishments, as when Israel faced a water crisis a decade ago and launched a desalination project that is now the envy of the world.


In 1964, my close childhood friend,  Aryeh Argani, a young Israeli Defense Force pilot, was killed in action. Since then I have visited his grave every spring on Independence Day. Three years ago, I got a phone call from his squadron telling me that they had noticed that no one was participating in the official memorials for Aryeh. He had been an only child, and the sorrow destroyed his parents. The squadron had learned that he and I had been friends, and they invited me to attend a memorial for Aryeh. In the pilots’ club of Squadron 103, I found, a corner of the club is dedicated to Aryeh’s memory. His violin rests there.

These kinds of things make Israelis proud and happy. If the global happiness and satisfaction index could measure them, we might get a better grip on the Israeli paradox.


CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!



On Topic Links


The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru: David Samuels, New York Times, May 5, 2016—Picture him as a young man, standing on the waterfront in North Williamsburg, at a polling site, on Sept. 11, 2001, which was Election Day in New York City.

68 Reasons to Respect, If Not Love, Israel On Its 68th Birthday: Robert Sarner, Forward, May 9, 2016—This week, as Israel celebrates the 68th anniversary of its hard-won independence, it’s worth celebrating the unlikely success story of this embattled little country, amid all its imperfections.

‘A Shocking Document’ Turns 100: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, May 8, 2016 —The Sykes-Picot accord that has shaped and distorted the modern Middle East was signed 100 years ago, on May 16, 1916. In the deal, Mark Sykes for the British and Francois Georges-Picot for the French, with the Russians participating too, allocated much of the region, pending the minor detail of their defeating the Central Powers in World War I.

The “Two State Solution”: Irony and Truth: Louis Rene Beres, Breaking Israel News, May 1, 2016 —There is no lack of irony in the endless discussions of Israel and a Palestinian state. One oddly neglected example is the complete turnaround of former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres.















In 1936 Spanish pro-fascist monarchist forces under General Francisco Franco attacked the legitimate government of the Spanish Republic, setting off a vicious and soon internationalized civil war. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany directly supported Franco’s nationalist forces, with air support, military equipment, advisers, and materiel; France provided some aid to the Republic while Britain maintained neutrality. Soviet Russia countered Fascist-Nazi support to Franco with military equipment and advisers, while thousands of largely socialist and communist foreign volunteers, organized into  International Brigades, also came to the aid of the Republic. 


The viciously partisan war, pitting Catholics against secular Republicans, fascists and monarchists against liberal, socialist, and anarchist republicans, ended with the defeat of the Republican forces in March, 1939, as the Western democracies provided little real help, and the Soviets, fearing the Spanish anarchist-republicans (POUM), withdrew their support.  The war, entailing large-scale urban and rural destruction and dislocation (Guernica), produced the deaths of  hundreds of thousands of people, and over 400,000 Republican refugees.


The Spanish Civil War should in some ways, mutatis mutandis, remind us of the increasingly complex and even more destructive, dangerous and internationalized civil war in Syria. Now almost five years old, with eight million internal and four million external refugees and a death toll approaching 300,000, the Syrian civil war shows no signs of soon ending.   In Syria, of course, the government was, and is, not a legitimate representative Republic, but a one-man, one-party dictatorship, while the initial Syrian rebels were not proto-fascist monarchists but relatively moderate Muslims, demanding, in one of the last gasps of the failed regional Arab Spring, a truly representative government.


While the Assad dictatorship had traditionally been supported by the Soviet Union, a policy continued by its Russian successor, Moscow’s direct intervention has come only  recently. Initially, the West supported the rebels indirectly, with the American President, Obama, calling for Assad’s removal but providing no aid to his opponents.  As Assad moved militarily against his largely civilian opponents, new factors entered the equation: Shiite Iran ramped up its support for the Alawite Syrian ruler, while the anti-Assad Sunni Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arabs (and to some extent the Turks) supported the largely Sunni rebels.


Soon, however, the conflict deepened, with a new element entering the increasingly volatile mix.  An extremist Sunni Islamist force, IS, or Islamic State (or ISIL [Arabic “Daesh”]), breaking away from Al Qaeda, established itself and proclaimed a strict sharia-based Caliphate in both Iraq and Syria. A fundamentalist movement, bloodily repressive, beheading and burning captives and raping and enslaving subordinate Yazidi and other women, IS quickly conquered part of northern Syria, around Raqqa, which it proclaimed its capital, and a swath of north-eastern Iraq around Ramadi, threatening both Iraqi-Turkish Mosul and Baghdad.


As in the Spanish Civil War, an initially internal conflict was soon internationalized. In Spain, the conflict was deepened and broadened by direct Italian-German military support for monarchist-conservative Franco, and indirect and ineffective Western, and then direct Soviet Russian, support for the Republican forces. In Syria, the initial moderate Muslim rebels were soon overshadowed by more radical Islamist forces, financed and supported by Sunni Arab states (Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States), and dedicated to removing Assad,  while Assad received Iranian funding and arms, troops from Iran’s Lebanese client Hezbollah, and increasing Russian support.


In Spain France and Britain gave only minor, indirect support to the Republic (the International Brigades, however heroically motivated, being militarily of relatively modest weight), while the Soviets, providing arms and some military cadres, but always with an eye on the larger international scene, never went “all in”. Similarly, in Syria, where Obama, while proclaiming that Assad had to go, kept the US (and NATO) out of direct involvement. The moderates received moral support, but little direct military aid, with their weakness creating a kind of pro-Sunni vacuum soon filled by IS.


(The rise of IS can, in fact, in large part be laid at Obama’s feet. Allergic to providing  “boots on the ground”, Obama reneged on a pledged “red line” after Assad’s use of chemical weapons was discovered. Lack of American resolve and leadership created the political vacuum into which IS expanded.)


As the crisis deepened, IS expanded and Assad’s area of control steadily shrank. The foreign interventions were now radicalized: the U.S. in 2014, after a series of IS  massacres and the beheading of American captives, championed a rather desultory Western-Sunni Arab  air campaign against IS (but still no “boots on the ground”, save latterly for the use of Kurdish forces in the north-east).  Iran’s support for Assad (before, through and after its nuclear deal with Obama) ramped up, Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops intervened directly, and, finally, as Assad’s regime seemed to totter, Russia intervened directly. (Putin mounted his own air campaign from his Syrian airbase near Latakia against the “terrorists” [supposedly including IS, but actually directed against the coalition of moderate anti-Assad Sunni forces].)


Now, in November, 2015, as Russia’s involvement deepens and the American-led air campaign still shows little sign of markedly impeding IS, the US, in an Obamian about-face, has announced the placing of an initially small contingent of American troops on the ground and a ramping up of the aerial sorties.  So suddenly the two leading world-powers are directly facing off against one another in the downwardly-spiralling Syrian civil war where, despite hurried “deconfliction” talks to avoid accidental confrontations, incidents sparking a deeper crisis—like the recent Turkish shooting down of a Russian bomber–remain quite possible.


In Spain, Nazi-fascist support trumped ineffectual Western, and manipulative Soviet,  aid (see George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, on the Soviets’ duplicity), resulting in a Francoist victory and the destruction of the Republic.  In Syria at this point, something similar in relation to the Assad regime is occurring: Russian-Iranian support for Assad (the equivalent of German-Italian aid to Franco) seems about to trump the moderate rebels who (like the Spanish Republicans), weakly backed by the US (equivalent to the weak British-French in Spain) are losing.


Here IS, as a kind of relatively independent third party to the conflict, breaks the structural parallelisms. Playing off the Alawites and the moderate Sunnis against one another, and oddly (or not so oddly)  not the direct target of the Russians,  the Turks, who have been opposed to Assad from the beginning, or of Assad —IS is holding its own, or better.


(Indeed, some argue that Assad has in fact used IS against the moderate rebels, and is willing—at least in the short-to-medium run–to divide Syria with them. It is also pointed out that the mass emigration of millions of Sunni Syrians to Lebanese, Jordanian and Turkish refugee camps, and thence to Germany and Sweden through southern Europe, is a kind of ethnic cleansing strengthening Assad’s Alawite constituency. And the Turks have proved more concerned with its traditional Kurdish enemies on the Syrian-Turkish border than with IS or Assad.)


The Spanish Civil War was a prelude to World War II, strengthening and encouraging the fascist-Nazi forces and, not least, demonstrating the irrelevance of the League of Nations as well as the appeasement of France and Great Britain.  Even before the War ended in 1939, Hitler had already affected the Anschluss with Austria,  at Munich Czechoslovakia had been abandoned; and by 1939 the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact aligned the Bolsheviks and Nazis, and led to the invasion of Poland and the beginning of WWII. Could the Syrian Civil War, similarly, be the antechamber of a wider regional conflict, one which  —remember Putin in Crimea and Ukraine—could mutate into a major European war?


The book of the future is the hardest of tomes to read, but the obviously deeply unstable Syrian situation indeed has within itself elements of a wider conflict. Aside from accidental confrontations—Russian and American aircraft encountering one another, a Russian-American naval crisis in the Mediterranean, recently-emplaced advanced Russian guided-missile batteries (inserted after the Turks shot down the Russian jet) shooting down a coalition (or Turkish, or Israeli) aircraft, and so on—more “structural” elements, radicalized by the ongoing conflict, may well come into play.


Syria today is what Hobbes, reflecting on an earlier civil war, termed a bellum omnium contra omnes, a “war of all against all”.  The UN, despite the periodic protestations of Ban Ki-moon, is—like the League of Nations in 1936—irrelevant. America, still isolated by appeasement in 1936, has once again withdrawn from world engagement under Obama. But as the Russians respond by stepping up their own involvement, and IS threatens to expand into a world-wide terrorist threat, the US has now begun to be sucked back, however unwillingly and despite the evident distaste of its President, into the vortex.


The Saudis and Gulf Arabs, fearful of Iran and already bogged down by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, are also deeply involved, supporting both elements of the moderate Sunni opposition and IS, while IS remains an expansionist factor with recent gains both in Syria and Iraq, and now in Libya and Afghanistan (as well as killing over 200 Russians by evidently bringing down a jetliner on its way to Moscow from Sharm El-Sheikh over the Sinai, and 130 Frenchmen by its terrorist attack in Paris).


Iran is doubling down by sending in thousands of its own Iranian Revolutionary Guard units, under IRG generals (several recently killed in combat) to support Assad. Turkey, where conservative Sunni Islamist Erdogan, initially against Assad, has been handed a reinforced nationalist majority in the recent election and is moving against the Kurds, inside and outside the Syria-Turkey border And the Kurds, in turn, are the U.S.’s only effective “boots on the ground” in Syria.


Hence the prospect in Syria is one of increasing, unstable, and internationalized combat, which could at points easily escalate into a wider war.  And nothing to this point has been said of Egypt, formerly leader of the Sunni Muslims, opposing IS in the Sinai, which also has a stake in the Syrian outcome.


Nor has mention yet been made of Israel, which to this point has studiously avoided getting involved, save to prevent transhipment of advanced war materiel from Iran through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Yet Iranian-led troops are on the Golan Heights border, and Hezbollah and some 60,000 rockets are on the southern Lebanon border. Fire between Israel and Iranian-backed troops on the Golan has been exchanged, and incidents there and in south Lebanon could easily escalate, and much the same can be said of the Iran-backed elements in Gaza (Hamas).   


Given the rising stakes of the game, the American abdication of regional leadership,   heightened Russian military involvement,  the rising strength of Islamist IS, and many other unstable variables, would seem to indicate that the Syrian Civil War, like Spain’s, could, sooner or later, burst out of its domestic container and spark, if not World War III, then certainly a severe and extremely dangerous regional Middle East conflagration.


(Prof. Frederick Krantz is Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)





We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.


Israeli Preemptive Action, Western Reaction: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Aug. 4, 2015 — The Obama administration seems peeved that almost everyone in Israel, left and right, has no use for the present Iranian–American deal to thwart Iran’s efforts to get the bomb.

Obama’s Enemies List: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 6, 2015 — In President Barack Obama’s defense of his nuclear deal with Iran Wednesday, he said there are only two types of people who will oppose his deal – Republican partisans and Israel- firsters – that is, traitors.

Chuck Schumer Opposes Iran Nuclear Deal, Shaking Democratic Firewall: Jennifer Steinhauer & Jonathan Weisman, New York Times, Aug. 6, 2015 — Senator Chuck Schumer, the most influential Jewish voice in Congress, said Thursday night that he would oppose President Obama’s deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

In Search of the Missing Jews of the Rhine: Barry Shaw, CIJR, Aug. 7, 2015  — Sailing the rivers of Moselle and the Rhine is an eye-opening experience.

September 1, 1939: W. H. Auden, New Republic, Oct. 18, 1939— I sit in one of the dives//On Fifty-second Street//Uncertain and afraid//As the clever hopes expire//Of a low dishonest decade…


On Topic Links


Abe Foxman’s Retirement: End of an Era: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2015

The Iran Nuclear Deal (Video): Dennis Prager, Prager U, 2015

Leading Democrat Donors Haim Saban and Jack Rosen Rally Against Iran Deal: Eliezer Sherman, Algemeiner, Aug. 6, 2015

Condemnation and Condolence by the UN Secretary General — Genuine or Politically Biased?: Amb. Alan Baker, JCPA, Aug. 6, 2015



ISRAELI PREEMPTIVE ACTION, WESTERN REACTION                                                                       

Victor Davis Hanson                                                                                           

National Review, Aug. 4, 2015


The Obama administration seems peeved that almost everyone in Israel, left and right, has no use for the present Iranian–American deal to thwart Iran’s efforts to get the bomb. Indeed, at times John Kerry has hinted darkly that Israel’s opposition to the pact might incur American wrath should the deal be tabled — even though Kerry knows that the polls show a clear majority of Americans being against the proposed agreement while remaining quite supportive of the Jewish state.


President Obama, from time to time, suggests that his agreement is being sabotaged by nefarious lobbying groups, big-time check writers, and neoconservative supporters of the Iraq war — all shorthand, apparently, for pushy Jewish groups. Obama and his negotiators seem surprised that Israelis take quite seriously Iranian leaders’ taunts over the past 35 years that they would like to liquidate the Jewish state and everyone in it.


The Israelis, for some reason, remember that well before Hitler came to power, he had bragged about the idea of killing Jews en masse in his sloppily composed autobiographical Mein Kampf. Few in Germany or abroad had taken the raving young Hitler too seriously. Even in the late 1930s, when German Jews were being rounded up and haphazardly killed on German streets by state-sanctioned thugs, most observers considered such activities merely periodic excesses or outbursts from non-governmental Black- and Brownshirts.


The Obama administration, with vast oceans between Tehran and the United States, tsk-tsks over Iranian threats as revolutionary hyperbole served up for domestic consumption. The Israelis, with less than a thousand miles between themselves and Tehran, do not — and cannot. Given the 20th century’s history, Israel has good reason not to trust either the United States or Europe to ensure the security of the Jewish state. Israel has learned from the despicable anti-Semitism now prevalent at the U.N. and from the increasing thuggery directed at Jews in Europe that the world at large would shed crocodile tears over the passing of Israel on the day of its destruction, but, the next day, sigh and get right back to business in a “that was then, this is now” style.


In 1981 the Israelis took out the Iraqi nuclear reactor — sold to Saddam Hussein by France. They were ritually blasted as state terrorists and worse by major U.S. newspapers and at the United Nations — though not by Khomeini’s Iran, which earlier had failed in a preemptive bombing strike to do much damage to the Osirak reactor. Today, in retrospect, most nations are privately glad that the Israelis removed the reactor from a country that had hundreds of years’ worth of natural-gas and oil supplies and no need for nuclear power — and that is now under assault from ISIS.


In 2007, when the Israelis preempted once more, and destroyed the al-Kibar nuclear facility that was under construction in Syria, the world, after initial silence, again in Pavlovian fashion became outraged at such preemptive bombing. The global chorus claimed that there was no intelligence confirming that the North Koreans had helped to launch a Syrian uranium-enrichment plant. Yet eight years later, most observers abroad once again privately shrug that Bashar Assad most certainly had hired the Koreans to build a nuclear processing plant — and are quietly satisfied that the Israelis took care of it. Note that the al-Kibar site lies in territory now controlled by ISIS. One can imagine a variety of terrifying contemporary scenarios had the Israelis not preempted. Most of those who condemned Israel’s attack would now be worrying about an ISIS improvised explosive device, packed with dirty uranium, that might go off in a major Western city.


In all these cases, the Israelis assumed that Western intelligence about nuclear proliferation in the Middle East was unreliable. They took for granted that Westerners automatically would blame Israelis for any preemptive attack against an Islamic nuclear site. And they likewise concluded that, privately and belatedly, Westerners would eventually be happy that the Israelis had belled the would-be nuclear cat. But in a larger sense, the Israelis also recall the sad story of the West and the Holocaust less than 75 years ago — a horror central to the birthing of a “never again” Jewish state.


By 1943, the outlines of the Nazis’ Final Solution were well known in both Washington and London; Jews were already being gassed at German death camps in Poland in an effort to kill every Jew from the Atlantic Ocean to the Volga River. It was a matter of record that the major Western democracies — America, Britain, and prewar France — had refused sanctuary to millions of Jewish refugees. It was also a matter of record that the major Western democracies — America, Britain, and prewar France — had refused sanctuary to millions of Jewish refugees who had been stripped of their property by the Third Reich and told to leave Germany and its occupied territories. In some notorious cases, shiploads of Jews were turned away after docking in Western ports and were sent back to Nazi-occupied Europe, where the passengers were disembarked and soon afterward gassed.


Moreover, Israelis understand that Hitler’s Final Solution would have been far more difficult to implement without the active participation of sympathetic anti-Semites in occupied European nations, who volunteered to round up their own Jews and send them on German trains eastward to the death camps. In the case of the United States, anti-Semitic or indifferent officials high up in the State Department and elsewhere within the Roosevelt administration went out of their way to hide data about the plight of Jewish refugees, and circumvented protocol in order to refuse entry into the United States to the vast majority of Jews fleeing the Holocaust. The British were nearly as exclusionary, and also did their best to stop Jewish refugees from fleeing to Palestine to escape the death camps…

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






Caroline B. Glick         

Jerusalem Post, Aug. 6, 2015


In President Barack Obama’s defense of his nuclear deal with Iran Wednesday, he said there are only two types of people who will oppose his deal – Republican partisans and Israel- firsters – that is, traitors. At American University, Obama castigated Republican lawmakers as the moral equivalent of Iranian jihadists saying, “Those [Iranian] hard-liners chanting ‘Death to America’ who have been most opposed to the deal… are making common cause with the Republican Caucus.”


He then turned his attention to Israel. Obama explained that whether or not you believe the deal endangers Israel boils down to whom you trust more – him or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And, he explained, he can be trusted to protect Israel better than Netanyahu can because “[I] have been a stalwart friend of Israel throughout my career.” The truth is that it shouldn’t much matter to US lawmakers whether Obama or Netanyahu has it right about Israel. Israel isn’t a party to the deal and isn’t bound by it. If Israel decides it needs to act on its own, it will.


The US, on the other side, will be bound by the deal if Congress fails to kill it next month. So the real question lawmakers need to ask is whether the deal is good for America. Is Obama right or wrong that only partisan zealots and disloyal Zionists could oppose his great diplomatic achievement? To determine the answer to that question, you need to do is ask another one. Does his deal make America safer or less safe? The best way to answer that question is to consider all the ways Iran threatens America today, and ask whether the agreement has no impact on those threats, or whether it mitigates or aggravates them.


Today Iran is harming America directly in multiple ways. The most graphic way Iran is harming America today is by holding four Americans hostage. Iran’s decision not to release them over the course of negotiations indicates that at a minimum, the deal hasn’t helped them. It doesn’t take much consideration to recognize that the hostages in Iran are much worse off today than they were before Obama concluded the deal on July 14. The US had much more leverage to force the Iranians to release the hostages before it signed the deal than it does now. Now, not only do the Iranians have no reason to release the hostages, they have every reason to take more hostages.


Then there is Iranian-sponsored terrorism against the US. In 2011, the FBI foiled an Iranian plot to murder the Saudi ambassador in Washington and bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies in the US capital. One of the terrorists set to participate in the attack allegedly penetrated US territory through the Mexican border. The terrorist threat to the US emanating from Iran’s terrorist infrastructure in Latin America will rise steeply as a consequence of the nuclear deal. As The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote last month, the sanctions relief the deal provides to Iran will enable it to massively expand its already formidable operations in the US’s backyard. Over the past two decades, Iran and Hezbollah have built up major presences in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia.


Iran’s presence in Latin America also constitutes a strategic threat to US national security. Today Iran can use its bases of operations in Latin America to launch an electromagnetic pulse attack on the US from a ballistic missile, a satellite or even a merchant ship. The US military is taking active steps to survive such an attack, which would destroy the US’s power grid. Among other things, it is returning the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to its former home in Cheyenne Mountain outside Colorado Springs.


But Obama has ignored the findings of the congressional EMP Commission and has failed to harden the US electronic grid to protect it from such attacks. The economic and human devastation that would be caused by the destruction of the US electric grid is almost inconceivable. And now with the cash infusion that will come Iran’s way from Obama’s nuclear deal, it will be free to expand on its EMP capabilities in profound ways…

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





SHAKING DEMOCRATIC FIREWALL                                                                             

Jennifer Steinhauer & Jonathan Weisman                                              

New York Times, Aug. 6, 2015


Senator Chuck Schumer, the most influential Jewish voice in Congress, said Thursday night that he would oppose President Obama’s deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program. “Advocates on both sides have strong cases for their point of view that cannot simply be dismissed,” Mr. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a lengthy statement. “This has made evaluating the agreement a difficult and deliberate endeavor, and after deep study, careful thought and considerable soul-searching, I have decided I must oppose the agreement and will vote yes on a motion of disapproval.”


Mr. Schumer had spent the last several weeks carrying a dog-eared copy of the agreement in his briefcase and meeting with Mr. Obama and officials like Wendy R. Sherman, the deal’s chief negotiator. With his decision, he paves the way for other Democrats on the fence to join Republicans in showing their disapproval. “There are some who believe that I can force my colleagues to vote my way,” Mr. Schumer said. “While I will certainly share my view and try to persuade them that the vote to disapprove is the right one, in my experience with matters of conscience and great consequence like this, each member ultimately comes to their own conclusion.”


As if on cue, Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who was widely expected to oppose the deal, announced his opposition Thursday night. Mr. Schumer said his chief concern was that Iran would still be free after a decade to build a nuclear bomb. His announcement comes as Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, labors to build a firewall in the House in support of the deal, which has been denounced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. At six meetings in recent weeks, Ms. Pelosi has assembled an informal team of Democrats determined to win over the 146 House Democrats needed to uphold a veto.


But Ms. Pelosi’s team had had its eye on Mr. Schumer, conceded Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois and one of Ms. Pelosi’s deputies on the Iran deal. Ms. Schakowsky said that Democratic leaders had never put Mr. Schumer “in the ‘yes’ column,” but that “the calculation still is we’ll have the votes” even without him. So far, 12 Senate Democrats and one Democratic-leaning independent, Senator Angus King of Maine, have announced their support for the deal. Two others, Senator Bernie Sanders, a liberal independent from Vermont, and Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, have all but announced their support…                                                    

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



IN SEARCH OF THE MISSING JEWS OF THE RHINE                                                                                    

Barry Shaw                                                                                                                                                           

CIJR, Aug. 7, 2015


Sailing the rivers of Moselle and the Rhine is an eye-opening experience. Ancient stony castles sit on craggy hilltops. Miles and miles of green vineyards precariously grow on impossibly steep inclines to produce the best Riesling wines in the world. Pleasant-looking towns and villages dominated by church spires. The peaceful Moselle gives way to the watery superhighway of the Rhine carrying boats ferrying unusual freight and cargo.


While visiting peaceful and picturesque locations, and learning of their turbulent histories, I began to notice an emptiness that was referred to in places, and ignored in others. The emptiness was the missing Jews of the Rhine. Who were they? What happened to them? And how are they acknowledged by the towns that housed them, and destroyed them?


COLOGNE (KOLN). There were Jews in Cologne (Koln) since the year 321, almost as long as Cologne itself. Over history, the Jewish community suffered persecution, expulsions, massacres and destruction. In the Middle Ages, they were exploited by the rules and the Church and were killed in the name of Christianity, though the real reason was, by killing the Jew, the Archbishops were relieved of having the burden of repaying the debt.


The Nazi era was the last in a long history of Jewish persecution. Jews numbered 19,500 before World War 2. Over 11,000 were killed by the Nazis. There is a Jewish section in the Koln Municipal Museum where the grim story in recounted with evidence of the Nazi crime. Jewish artefacts are on display on the first floor in this museum. When I was there, German schoolchildren were being guided through the permanent exhibition. The Gestapo headquarters were located at 23/25 Appellhofstrasse. This building today houses the National Socialist Documentation Center where 18,000 wall inscriptions tell of persecution, torture and murder under the Nazi regime. The Jews of Cologne were deported to Thereisenstadt between 28 July and 5th September 1942.


In many German towns Stumbling Stones have been laid into the sidewalks outside what were the homes of Jewish residents who were marched to their fate by the Nazis. In Cologne, I saw the stones reminding us of Dr. Max Goldberg and his wife, Olga, who in 1942 were deported to Thereisenstadt. Later, I stood at the stones recalling Theo Hannes who was deported to Drancy and then to Auschwitz where he died in 1942. The Synagogue was destroyed on 9th November 1938. A new synagogue was built in 1959 on Roonstrasse. Today, Cologne’s Jewish community number about 4,500, mainly Jews from Russia.


KOBLENZ. Koblenz is pivotally located at the junction of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Like most German towns, strategically placed along the Rhine, it was bombed by the Allies during the war. Most of the buildings, which contained architecturally picturesque buildings dating back to the 17th century, were reconstructed after the war in the same style making them a delight to wander along the alleyways, small streets and squares.


However, it was in this town that I had an unpleasant experience. I was in a group and our local guide, Werner, spoke excellent English and explained things with a sense of humor and in detail. He was extremely knowledgeable about the development of Koblenz from the Roman and Germanic times through the ages until today. What began to annoy me was his precision in describing the Allied bombing. He recounted the number of planes, the tonnage of bombs that feel on this town, the number of houses that were destroyed, and the number of people killed. In a sympathetic voice he told us that “they” evacuated the women and children to safety in advance of the expected bombing.


Something was missing in his detailed explanation of the history of Koblenz – the Jews. When I asked him how many Jews were in Koblenz prior to the war, he didn’t know. When I asked him if there had been a synagogue in the town he told me that it had been located in a building he had pointed out to us in a square more than half an hour before. His silence on these issues was troubling to me. We arrived in another square where he pointed out a building with steps leading up to the entrance and an archway leading into a cellar section. He told us that it had been the town hall up to the war but the present town hall is located in a newer building in another part of the town. As we continued walking I asked him if the building he had shown us had been the Gestapo headquarters. He hesitantly answered its use was something like that.


I began to be emotional and angry. Out of a pent-up rage I asked him if this was the square where the town’s Jews were assembled before they were marched to the train station. He hesitated and mumbled something oblique in a failed answer to my questioning. I pressed my point and asked him where the train station was located and, indeed, it was not far away from that square. To Werner, there were no missing Jews. There was no admission they existed at all in his town. Shaking with fury I told my wife I was leaving this tour group, explaining to her my anger at his failure to acknowledge this part of his town’s history.  It was a sheer coincidence that no sooner had we left our group that we heard voices in Hebrew. It was an Israeli group being led by their Israeli guide. Later, we came across stumbling stones listing the Daniel family – Otto, Juliane, and Flora – who were deported to Sobibor on 22 March 1942 where they all died.  


Koblenz had a population of 80,000 and, in 1929, the Jews numbered barely 800. By May 1939, there were only 308. Many had fled in advance of the rise of the Nazi regime. The synagogue was burned down in November 1938 as part of the infamous ‘Kristallnacht’ – the Night of Broken Glass. Only 22 Koblenz Jews survived the Holocaust…

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





SEPTEMBER 1, 1939                                                                                                          

W. H. Auden                                                                                                                                             

New Republic, Oct. 18, 1939, 1940


The 18th c. Neapolitan philosophe Giambattista Vico saId that history was not progressive and linear, but cyclical and repetitive. a spiral rather than straight line in which there were ricorsi, "returns" to earlier moments.   Writing in 1939, Auden foresaw the horrors of World War II–did he also, prophetically, foresee out current moment?   [F. Krantz, Editor]


I sit in one of the dives//On Fifty-second Street//Uncertain and afraid//As the clever hopes expire//Of a low dishonest decade: Waves of anger and fear//Circulate over the bright//And darkened lands of the earth,

Obsessing our private lives; The unmentionable odour of death//Offends the September night…

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


CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!





On Topic


Abe Foxman’s Retirement: End of an Era: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2015—I received a call recently from Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in which he castigated me for not consulting him in advance of publishing strong criticism of his remarks.

The Iran Nuclear Deal (Video): Dennis Prager, Prager U, 2015—Is the nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran a good or bad deal? Would it be harder or easier for Iran to develop nuclear weapons? Would it make Iran and its terror proxies stronger or weaker? Should the U.S. Congress support or defeat the deal? Dennis Prager answers these questions and more.

Leading Democrat Donors Haim Saban and Jack Rosen Rally Against Iran Deal: Eliezer Sherman, Algemeiner, Aug. 6, 2015—Top donors to the Democratic party rallied in opposition on Thursday to the Iran nuclear deal pursued by the Obama administration.

Condemnation and Condolence by the UN Secretary General — Genuine or Politically Biased?: Amb. Alan Baker, JCPA, Aug. 6, 2015 —The recent tragic act of terrorism and hatred that caused the murder of a Palestinian child Ali Dawabsha in the West Bank and the serious wounding of the child’s family, cannot, and should not, in any way be minimized.









We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.


Turkey and Its Kurds: At War Again: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 6, 2015 — Even President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's critics, including this author, praised him when, after 40,000 lives lost in a bloody conflict, he (as then prime minister) bravely launched a difficult process that would finally bring peace to a country that suffered much from ethnic strife.

Turkish Democracy Is Being Quietly Stolen: Marc Champion, Bloomberg, Aug. 4, 2015— Remember how, two months ago, hopes for Turkish democracy were buoyed by the success of a Kurdish party that managed to appeal across ethnic divides and make it into parliament?

Obama Strikes Again: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2015 — While Israel and much of official Washington remain focused on the deal President Barack Obama just cut with the ayatollahs that gives them $150 billion and a guaranteed nuclear arsenal within a decade, Obama has already moved on – to Syria.

Thank God for the Atom Bomb: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 3, 2015  — The headline of this column is lifted from a 1981 essay by the late Paul Fussell, the cultural critic and war memoirist.


On Topic Links


Jon Stewart, War Criminals & The True Story of the Atomic Bombs (Video): Bill Whittle, PJTV, 2013

In Turkey’s New Conflict, Erdogan’s Powers at Stake: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2015

Erdogan’s Bait and Switch: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2015

Jihad on Non-Muslim Places of Worship in Turkey: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 2, 2015

Turkey's Nuclear Aspirations: Ami Rojkes Dombe, Israel Defense, Aug. 8, 2015



TURKEY AND ITS KURDS: AT WAR AGAIN                                                                                                

Burak Bekdil                                                                                                       

Gatestone Institute, Aug. 6, 2015


Even President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's critics, including this author, praised him when, after 40,000 lives lost in a bloody conflict, he (as then prime minister) bravely launched a difficult process that would finally bring peace to a country that suffered much from ethnic strife. His government would negotiate peace with the Kurds; grant them broad cultural and political rights, which his predecessors did not; and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the Kurds' armed group, would finally say farewell to arms. Erdogan (and the Kurdish leaders) would then be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.


But now Turkey is in flames again; the country smells of death. Dozens of members of the security forces, as well as civilians, have been killed in clashes in just the two weeks after an Islamic State suicide bomber murdered 32 pro-Kurdish activists in a small Turkish town on the Syrian border on July 20. Several hundred people were injured and more than a thousand were detained by the police.


Turkish cities have once again become a battleground in an almost century-old Turkish-Kurdish dispute: Kurdish militants attack security forces on a daily basis, while the Turkish military buries its fallen soldiers and strikes Kurdish guerrilla camps in northern Iraq. What happened to the Turkish-Kurdish ceasefire and the prospect of sustainable peace? There are three main reasons why all the effort of the last few years has gone into the political wasteland:


1) Erdogan's obsession with Islam(ism): Speaking at a conference in Jakarta on July 31, Erdogan unsurprisingly said: "We have only one concern. It is Islam, Islam and Islam. It is impossible for us to accept the overshadowing of Islam." In the same vein, Erdogan's prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu said in a 2014 interview: "In Turkey's periphery you cannot explain anything without the religion factor."


Erdogan (mis)calculated that he could successfully use Islam as a glue keeping Muslim Turks and Muslim Kurds in unity. Why should they be fighting? After all, they are both Sunni Muslims. He thought he could convince the Kurds to surrender their arms and live happily ever after with their Turkish Muslim brothers. For a historic end to the conflict, Islam had to take a central role. Erdogan would therefore restructure Turkey along multi-ethnic lines but a greater role for Islam would be the cement keeping the nation united. Once again, Erdogan, an Islamist, relied too much on religion in resolving what is essentially an ethnic (not religious) conflict.


2) A dishonest negotiator: Erdogan was not an honest negotiator from the beginning. His counterparts, the PKK leadership, were smart enough not to trust him. They agreed to a ceasefire in 2013, but have never really buried their arms since then, thinking that they would one day need them. Erdogan's real intention was to keep the PKK "inactive," away from bombings and other acts of terror, and therefore minimize the risk of losing votes as the masses turn angry at his government in the face of the tragic loss of human life. Prolonged negotiations with the Kurds would give him enough peaceful time to win one local election (March 2014), one presidential election (August 2014) and one parliamentary election (June 2015). If, afterward, there is peace, that would be fine. If not, the Kurds could go to hell, with the next election scheduled for 2019. In other words, he pretended to negotiate in order to buy time and delay any renewed wave of violence.


3) An unbridgeable gap: It is true that Erdogan's governments granted Turkey's Kurds far more than any other Turkish government did in the past. In 2009, the state broadcaster launched the country's first TV channel in Kurdish. A new electoral law allowed, for the first time, campaigning in Kurdish. Universities and private courses could now teach the Kurdish language. The use of letters like q, w, x, which are necessary for Kurdish Romanization, would no longer be prohibited. Kurdish also would be allowed in courtrooms and at prisons when families visited inmates (previously the language was forbidden).


All of that was nice, but not enough to win Kurdish sympathies for peace. The Kurds simply wanted autonomy in Turkey's southeast, where they are in predominant majority. They wanted to have their own police force, elected governors and budgetary control. They wanted two more things: Official (constitutional) recognition of their ethnicity as co-founders of the Turkish Republic; and the introduction of Kurdish language in school curricula. Erdogan accurately calculated that granting the Kurds relatively minor rights would keep them his loyal voters, and away from arms. He knew that the Kurds would want more. But he also knew that granting the Kurds what they actually want would be political suicide in a notoriously nationalist country. Even to this day, the Kurdish demands remain a taboo for most Turks. Speaking of Kurdish education in schools or Kurdish ethnic identity as part of the constitution could earn anyone a nasty label: Traitor!


But Kurds have more self-confidence today than a decade or two ago. Their next of kin in Iraq have a functioning autonomous administration that is waiting for the right time officially to split from the central government in Baghdad. Syrian Kurds are trying to unite a Kurdish strip of cantons along the Turkish border. The PKK has proven that it did not lose its firepower during the ceasefire…                                   

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





Marc Champion                                        

Bloomberg, Aug. 4, 2015


Remember how, two months ago, hopes for Turkish democracy were buoyed by the success of a Kurdish party that managed to appeal across ethnic divides and make it into parliament? How that seemed to thwart President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plans to create a Russian-style presidency? His ruling party seemed poised, for the first time since gaining power in 2002, to govern in a coalition. None of that happened.


The election took place as described on June 7, but Erdogan ignored the result: He never authorized the winners (his own Justice and Development Party, known as the AKP) to form a new coalition government. And while he may eventually ask Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to create a minority cabinet with some nationalists, the goal will probably be only to hold new elections in the fall. This is worse than it looks because, in order to reverse the election result, Erdogan will need to break the alliance between Turkish liberals and Kurds that allowed the Kurdish People's Democratic Party, or HDP, to make it into parliament. And the best way to do that is to revive the ethnic hatreds that mired Turkey in a 30-year war starting in the mid-1980s, costing an estimated 40,000 lives and untold economic opportunity.


To outsiders, it may not be obvious that this is already happening. Erdogan's decision to finally let the U.S. fly airstrikes against Islamic State from its base at Incirlik has diverted people's attention. But at the same time, Turkey renewed airstrikes against Kurdish insurgents (not part of the HDP), who quickly ended a cease-fire they declared in 2013.  The U.S. air-base rights are helpful, though unlikely to prove decisive in changing the prospects for defeating Islamic State. The renewed war between Turkey and Kurdish militants, on the other hand, is very likely to destroy Turkish democracy.


Erdogan has by now proved he's no democrat. He is, however, a brilliant politician. In 2009, he began a so-called Kurdish Opening to secure Kurdish votes for himself and his party. Turkey's ethnic Kurds were a natural constituency for Erdogan's conservative AKP, because taken as a whole they are among the country's most religiously conservative people. Yet Kurds had to be persuaded to vote for any ruling Turkish party in greater numbers. So he needed to defuse the conflict without alienating his own Turkish-nationalist base.


The path was tortuous, but this year Erdogan had reason to hope that those Kurds who didn't vote for his party would win only their customary 6 percent as independents, and — at least tacitly — back Erdogan's new constitution in return for certain concessions. Instead, HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas categorically ruled out supporting a presidential constitution, decided that Kurdish candidates would run as a party, and appealed for ethnic Turks to back him in order to defeat Erdogan's plans for an elected autocracy. And Demirtas succeeded. His party crossed Turkey's 10 percent threshold to enter parliament, robbing the president of the strong parliamentary majority he needed to approve a new constitution that would have given him the kind of absolute control that President Vladimir Putin enjoys in Russia. Rather than accept this defeat and allow a coalition government to be formed, Erdogan has ignored the vote. His preference seems to be to force a new election so that he can try to drive the HDP back below the threshold.


Luckily for Erdogan, the Kurdish peace process was always fragile. The PKK, a military insurgency that uses terrorist tactics and has a bizarre Marxist-style ideology, had always been reluctant to lay down its weapons and has been quick to return to violence. Now Demirtas is in the invidious position of having to either back the government's war against fellow Kurds, or throw in his lot with terrorists. Either course would cost him support.  If Erdogan succeeds in using a rekindled Kurdish conflict to secure his presidential powers, it will be difficult for Turkish democracy to survive in any meaningful sense. Meanwhile, adding a hot Turkish-Kurdish conflict to the morass of Iraq and Syria will make it that much harder to piece the region's sectarian and ethnic puzzle back together.


The only way to thwart Erdogan's plans now would be for the HDP to go on condemning Kurdish violence and for liberal Turks to stick by the party in a future vote, banding with Kurds such as Demirtas to defend the democratic process. That, however, would take an extraordinary level of restraint and political maturity from both sides.  




OBAMA STRIKES AGAIN                                                                                                   

Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2015


While Israel and much of official Washington remain focused on the deal President Barack Obama just cut with the ayatollahs that gives them $150 billion and a guaranteed nuclear arsenal within a decade, Obama has already moved on – to Syria. Obama’s first hope was to reach a deal with his Iranian friends that would leave the Assad regime in place. But the Iranians blew him off. They know they don’t need a deal with Obama to secure their interests. Obama will continue to help them to maintain their power base in Syria though Hezbollah and the remains of the Assad regime without a deal.


Iran’s cold shoulder didn’t stop Obama. He moved on to his Sunni friend Turkish President Recep Erdogan. Like the Iranians, since the war broke out, Erdogan has played a central role in transforming what started out as a local uprising into a regional conflict between Sunni and Shiite jihadists. With Obama’s full support, by late 2012 Erdogan had built an opposition dominated by his totalitarian allies in the Muslim Brotherhood. By mid-2013, Erdogan’s Muslim Brotherhood- led coalition was eclipsed by al-Qaida spinoffs. They also enjoyed Turkish support.


And when last summer ISIS supplanted al-Qaida as the dominant Sunni jihadist force in Syria, it did so with Erdogan’s full backing. For the past 18 months, Turkey has been ISIS’s logistical, political and economic base. According to Brett McGurk, the State Department’s point man on ISIS, about 25,000 foreign fighters have joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq. All of them transited through Turkey. Most of the antiquities that ISIS plunders in Iraq and Syria make their way to the world market through Turkey. So, too, most of the oil that ISIS produces in Syria and Iraq is smuggled out through Turkey. According to the US Treasury, ISIS has made $1 million-$4m. a day from oil revenue.


In May, US commandos in Syria assassinated Abu Sayyaf, ISIS’s chief money manager, and arrested his wife and seized numerous computers and flash drives from his home. According to a report in The Guardian published last week, the drives provided hard evidence of official Turkish economic collusion with ISIS. Due to Turkish support, ISIS has become a self-financing terrorist group. With its revenue stream it is able to maintain a welfare state regime, attracting recruits from abroad and securing the loyalty of local Sunni militias and former Ba’athist forces. Some Western officials believed that after finding hard evidence of Turkish regime support for ISIS, NATO would finally change its relationship with Turkey. To a degree they were correct.


Last week, Obama cut a deal with Erdogan that changes the West’s relationship with Erdogan. Instead of maintaining its current practice of balancing its support for Turkey with its support for the Kurds, under the agreement, the West ditches its support for the Kurds and transfers its support to Turkey exclusively. The Kurdish peshmerga militias operating today in Iraq and Syria are the only military outfits making sustained progress in the war against ISIS. Since last October, the Kurds in Syria have liberated ISIS-controlled and -threatened areas along the Turkish border.


The YPG, the peshmerga militia in Syria, won its first major victory in January, when after a protracted, bloody battle, with US air support, it freed the Kurdish border town of Kobani from ISIS’s assault. In June, the YPG scored a strategic victory against ISIS by taking control of Tal Abyad. Tal Abyad controls the road connecting ISIS’s capital of Raqqa with Turkey. By capturing Tal Abyad, the Kurds cut Raqqa’s supply lines. Last month, Time magazine reported that the Turks reacted with hysteria to Tal Abyad’s capture. Not only did the operation endanger Raqqa, it gave the Kurds territorial contiguity in Syria.


The YPG’s victories enhanced the Kurds’ standing among Western nations. Indeed, some British and American officials were quoted openly discussing the possibility of removing the PKK, the YPG’s Iraqi counterpart, from their official lists of terrorist organizations. The YPG’s victories similarly enhanced the Kurds’ standing inside Turkey itself. In the June elections to the Turkish parliament, the Kurdish HDP party won 12 percent of the vote nationally, and so blocked Erdogan’s AKP party from winning a parliamentary majority. Without that majority Erdogan’s plan of reforming the constitution to transform Turkey into a presidential republic and secure his dictatorship for the long run has been jeopardized. As far as Erdogan was concerned, by the middle of July the Kurdish threat to his power had reached unacceptable levels.


Then two weeks ago the deck was miraculously reshuffled. On July 20, young Kurdish activists convened in Suduc, a Kurdish town on the Turkish side of the border, 6 kilometers from Kobani. A suicide bomber walked up to them, and detonated, massacring 32 people. Turkish officials claim that the bomber was a Turkish Kurd, and a member of ISIS. But the Kurds didn’t buy that line. Last week, HDP lawmakers accused the regime of complicity with the bomber. And two days after the attack, militants from the PKK killed two Turkish policemen in a neighboring village, claiming that they collaborated with ISIS.


At that point, Erdogan sprang into action. After refusing for months to work with NATO forces in their anti-ISIS operations, Erdogan announced he was entering the fray. He would begin targeting “terrorists” and allow the US air force to use two Turkish air bases for its anti-ISIS operations. In exchange, the US agreed to set up a “safe zone” in Syria along the Turkish border. Turkish officials were quick to explain that in targeting “terrorists,” the Turks would not distinguish between Kurdish terrorists and ISIS terrorists just because the former are fighting ISIS. Both, they insisted, are legitimate targets.


Erdogan closed his deal in a telephone call with Obama. And he immediately went into action. Turkish forces began bombing terrorist targets and rounding up terrorist suspects. Although a few of the Turkish bombing runs have been directly against ISIS, the vast majority have targeted Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria. Moreover, for every suspected ISIS terrorist arrested by Turkish security forces, at least eight Kurds have been taken into custody…                                                                                                             

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




THANK GOD FOR THE ATOM BOMB                                                                                                          

Bret Stephens                                                                                                                                

Wall Street Journal, Aug. 3, 2015


The headline of this column is lifted from a 1981 essay by the late Paul Fussell, the cultural critic and war memoirist. In 1945 Fussell was a 21-year-old second lieutenant in the U.S. Army who had fought his way through Europe only to learn that he would soon be shipped to the Pacific to take part in Operation Downfall, the invasion of the Japanese home islands scheduled to begin in November 1945. Then the atom bomb intervened. Japan would not surrender after Hiroshima, but it did after Nagasaki.


I brought Fussell’s essay with me on my flight to Hiroshima and was stopped by this: “When we learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live.”


In all the cant that will pour forth this week to mark the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the bombs—that the U.S. owes the victims of the bombings an apology; that nuclear weapons ought to be abolished; that Hiroshima is a monument to man’s inhumanity to man; that Japan could have been defeated in a slightly nicer way—I doubt much will be made of Fussell’s fundamental point: Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t just terrible war-ending events. They were also lifesaving. The bomb turned the empire of the sun into a nation of peace activists.


I spent the better part of Monday afternoon with one such activist, Keiko Ogura, who runs a group called Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace. Mrs. Ogura had just turned eight when the bomb fell on Hiroshima, the epicenter less than 2 miles from her family home. She remembers wind “like a tornado”; thousands of pieces of shattered glass blasted by wind into the walls and beams of her house, looking oddly “shining and beautiful”; an oily black rain. And then came the refugees from the city center, appallingly burned and mutilated, “like a line of ghosts,” begging for water and then dying the moment they drank it…


Because Hiroshima and Nagasaki were real events, because they happened, there can be no gainsaying their horror. Operation Downfall did not happen, so there’s a lot of gainsaying. Would the Japanese have been awed into capitulation by an offshore A-bomb test? Did the Soviet Union’s invasion of Manchuria, starting the day of the Nagasaki bombing, have the more decisive effect in pushing Japan to give up? Would casualties from an invasion really have exceeded the overall toll—by some estimates approaching 250,000—of the two bombs?


We’ll never know. We only know that the U.S. lost 14,000 men merely to take Okinawa in 82 days of fighting. We only know that, because Japan surrendered, the order to execute thousands of POWs in the event of an invasion of the home islands was never implemented. We only know that, in the last weeks of a war Japan had supposedly already lost, the Allies were sustaining casualties at a rate of 7,000 a week. We also know that the Japanese army fought nearly to the last man to defend Okinawa, and hundreds of civilians chose suicide over capture. Do we know for a certainty that the Japanese would have fought less ferociously to defend the main islands? We can never know for a certainty.


“Understanding the past,” Fussell wrote, “requires pretending that you don’t know the present. It requires feeling its own pressure on your pulses without any ex post facto illumination.” Historical judgments must be made in light not only of outcomes but also of options. Would we judge Harry Truman better today if he had eschewed his nuclear option in favor of 7,000 casualties a week; that is, if he had been more considerate of the lives of the enemy than of the lives of his men?


And so the bombs were dropped, and Japan was defeated. Totally defeated. Modern Japan is a testament to the benefits of total defeat, to stripping a culture prone to violence of its martial pretenses. Modern Hiroshima is a testament to human resilience in the face of catastrophe. It is a testament, too, to an America that understood moral certainty and even a thirst for revenge were not obstacles to magnanimity. In some ways they are the precondition for it.


For too long Hiroshima has been associated with a certain brand of leftist politics, a kind of insipid pacifism salted with an implied anti-Americanism. That’s a shame. There are lessons in this city’s history that could serve us today, when the U.S. military forbids the word victory, the U.S. president doesn’t believe in the exercise of American power, and the U.S. public is consumed with guilt for sins they did not commit. Watch the lights come on at night in Hiroshima. Note the gentleness of its culture. And thank God for the atom bomb.






On Topic


Jon Stewart, War Criminals & The True Story of the Atomic Bombs (Video): Bill Whittle, PJTV, 2013

In Turkey’s New Conflict, Erdogan’s Powers at Stake: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2015—Turkey’s government—which lost its parliamentary majority last month— bills its new two-front war against Kurdish militants and Islamic State as a much-overdue reaction to terrorism. But, on the third front of domestic politics, this violence could also help President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party regain control.

Erdogan’s Bait and Switch: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2015 —Turkey’s recent intervention aims to prevent the emergence of a de facto Kurdish sovereignty stretching along its southeastern border The latest events in northern Syria constitute a bold move by the Turkish leadership to deal with a most pressing problem, from their point of view.

Jihad on Non-Muslim Places of Worship in Turkey: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 2, 2015—Once upon a time, Asia Minor, now called Turkey, as well as the rest of the Middle East, was for centuries a real cradle of civilization, where many different religions and cultures flourished. But today these tiny, dwindling communities are not able to enjoy any freedom of religion or conscience.

Turkey's Nuclear Aspirations: Ami Rojkes Dombe, Israel Defense, Aug. 8, 2015 —Does Turkey's civilian nuclear program constitute a cover for the development of a military program – as was the case in Iran? A review of Turkey's investment in its defense industry, space industry, civilian nuclear projects and missile technology, along with its aspirations for regional hegemony, raises some tough questions.









We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.


ISIS in Sinai: An International Issue: Dr. Ofer Israeli, Israel Hayom, July 9, 2015 — As his term in office winds down, U.S. President Barack Obama is facing one of the most significant challenges of his career.

ISIS in Sinai is a Serious Threat to Israel: Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet, July 2, 2015— The terror offensive launched Wednesday by the Islamic State (ISIS) organization in the Sinai Peninsula was aimed at undermining President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's military-secular rule in Egypt.

Is Muslim Brotherhood Going Jihadist?: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, July 3, 2015 — The recent escalation of violence in Egypt and the security forces killing of Muslim Brotherhood leaders on Wednesday could facilitate the movement of some of the organization’s younger members to more radical jihadist groups.

The Iranian Nuclear Paradox: Reuel Marc Gerecht & Mark Dubowitz, Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2015 — The lines are clearly drawn in Washington on President Obama’s plan for a nuclear deal with Iran.


On Topic Links


Great Sphinx of Giza, Pyramids of Egypt Are Next ISIS Targets: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, July 8, 2014

Is Hamas Working With Wilayat Sinai?: Shlomi Eldar, Al Monitor, July 6, 2015

Iran’s Hard-Liners Sharpen Attacks on U.S. as Nuclear Talks Continue: Thomas Erdbrink, New York Times, July 8, 2015

Desperately Seeking Diplomatic Defeat: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, July 7, 2015




ISIS IN SINAI: AN INTERNATIONAL ISSUE                                                                                                                

Israel Hayom, July 9, 2015


As his term in office winds down, U.S. President Barack Obama is facing one of the most significant challenges of his career. The Islamic State group, which thus far has operated in conflict zones like Iraq and Syria, has for the first time initiated activity in a sovereign country with a strong army — Egypt. The comprehensive and meticulously planned terrorist attack carried out last week against the Egyptian army in the Sinai Peninsula killed dozens of soldiers. Along with the loss of human life and the damage done to the Egyptian army's reputation, the incident could lead to overall change in a volatile Middle East: the expansion of Islamic State activities to other sovereign states in the region with the goal of causing their collapse.


However, a comprehensive and decisive move by the international community with the United States at the helm could reshuffle the deck and curb the terrorist organization's spread. This strategy would serve the Egyptian interest of returning calm and reinforcing sovereignty in Sinai, as well as the American interest of stopping and rooting out Islamic State in the region.


An exhaustive strategy should use the incidents in Egypt as a case study and operate on three fronts. The first would be declaring full backing and support for the Egyptian struggle against Islamic State and lending legitimacy to Egyptian army activity in the Sinai — statements by international leaders, led by the U.S. president, about Islamic State's illegitimacy along with declarations of support for Cairo's right to operate against the terrorist group would serve this purpose. With this backing, the Egyptian president will be able to turn to his public and to other Arab countries for support for his actions. This kind of support may also lead Egypt back to the West after its recent back-and-forth between Washington and Moscow.


The second would be providing logistical and military support for the Egyptian army. The U.S. must lift the restrictions it previously placed on selling and transferring advanced weapons systems to the Egyptian army under the claim of human rights violations. The situation calls for jumping that hurdle temporarily and reinforcing the military capability of the Egyptian army so that it can deal with the great challenge that Islamic State poses to the integrity of its republic. The U.S. military should also provide the Egyptian army with quality intelligence, air targeting assistance and the use of other specialized military equipment that could help in the struggle.


With American encouragement and backing, Israel can expand its intelligence assistance to the Egyptian military, and it will be possible to bring in more troops and equipment to Sinai, bypassing the peace agreement between the two countries. This cooperation would, of course, need to be done secretly, to prevent making the Egyptian president and his regime appear as if they are collaborating with "the Zionists and the Americans."


Third, the international community, led by the U.S. must look at the incident in Sinai as a case study that demonstrates the need for the provision of a comprehensive defense umbrella for stable countries in the region against Islamic State. If the Americans hesitate, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states will face a similar challenge, which could ultimately lead to their collapse. Therefore, Washington must work with the leaders of these countries to deal with the future danger their regimes will face at Islamic State's hands.


Failed American policy in the Middle East — from Libya, to Egypt, Syria and Iraq — has bred turmoil in the region. The United States must not repeat its past mistakes of avoiding involvement in conflict situations and allowing local forces to deal with the hegemonies in various countries. Repeated American failure will cost Egypt, Israel and the entire international community far too much.


This proposed strategy is in line with the current American strategy against Islamic State, which is designed to stop the group's spread and to diminish its presence until it is completely annihilated. Failure would certainly lead to the organization's proliferation. Therefore the U.S. and the international community must not allow Cairo to deal with this issue alone. If Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's regime collapses, it will come at a very high price to Egypt and to the entire region.





ISIS IN SINAI IS A SERIOUS THREAT TO ISRAEL                                                                          

Ron Ben-Yishai  

Ynet, July 2, 2015


The terror offensive launched Wednesday by the Islamic State (ISIS) organization in the Sinai Peninsula was aimed at undermining President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's military-secular rule in Egypt. But from the reports arriving from Sinai, although they are initial and unclear, it seems that al-Sisi is not the only one who should be concerned – so should Israel.


In the short run, we have to prepare for the possibility that the attack on 15 posts and centers of the Egyptian security forces in northern Sinai, which claimed the lives of dozens of Egyptian soldiers, will develop into an offensive towards the Israeli border. In recent years, global jihad activists in Sinai have already attacked posts of the Egyptian army and of the multinational force in northern Sinai, gained control of armored vehicles, "flattened" the border fence with them and infiltrated Israeli territory. They were stopped by an armored force with the Air Force's help.


The report that ISIS fighters gained control of armored vehicles on Wednesday morning requires special preparations and alert. The jihadists could drive them towards the border terminals with Israel and the border fence in order to break through them with the heavy weight of the tanks and armored personnel carriers. That is why the IDF quickly shut off the crossings and alerted all the communities along the border with Egypt, especially in its northwestern part. The instruction to the residents is to stay alert, and the IDF has also reinforced the presence of armored vehicles on the ground and unmanned aircraft monitoring what is happening near the border. The IDF is likely on the alert with helicopters and fighter jets, which Israel will not hesitate to use in case of an attempt to infiltrate its territory.


The battles taking place between the Egyptian army and the ISIS fighters could also develop into rocket and mortar fire towards Israel, and the Central Command is preparing for that too. In the meantime, it seems that the ISIS men are busy battling the Egyptian army, which is attacking them from the air and from the ground, but the heightened state of alert on the Israeli side will likely continue for a few more days, as experience shows that ISIS will try to create provocations on the border with Israel in a bid to cause a friction between the IDF and the Egyptian army and affect the relationship between Egypt and Israel.


There are good relations between the two countries today and excellent coordination between the IDF and Egyptian army, but there have already been incidents on the border in which the Egyptians expresses their discontent with the fact that the IDF opened fire at global jihad activists in Sinai who attacked, or tried to attack, communities and IDF patrols on the border fence with Egypt.


The greater concern, however, is over the impressive fighting abilities gained by the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis organization, which pledged allegiance to ISIS in November 2014, and its official name today is "The Caliphate in the Sinai District." The strategic and complicated attacks, from a military perspective, executed by the organization in January and this Wednesday in northern Sinai show that it is no longer a gang which only knows how to carry out sporadic fire of short-range and inaccurate rockets, or to ambush a civilian bus or an IDF patrol on the Egypt-Israel border.


What we are now seeing is a semi-military organization using a hybrid method of action, which combines terror and planned, coordinated military fighting. Like the other ISIS branches across the Middle East, the members of the "The Caliphate in the Sinai District" are also well equipped with weapons and modern ammunition. What we should really be concerned about is the fact that they know how to locate a large number of strategic targets, collect intelligence ahead of an operation and attack them simultaneously in accurate timing.


ISIS in Sinai is implementing the classic principle of war with considerable success: It attacked all the 15 targets it had chosen simultaneously, in order to create a surprise. If the attack had not been launched in coordination and at the same time, the Egyptian forces would have raised their level of alertness in the areas which had not been attacked yet. The ISIS fighters succeeded in isolating the operation area through ambushes on the roads leading to the attacked targets, thereby preventing the arrival of reinforcement. The jihadists were able to enter a police station uninterrupted, take the police officers hostage, plant mines on the streets and run wild in public, in a bid to emphasize the Egyptian army's helplessness and achieve a conscious victory.


These abilities and methods of action characterize ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and it seems that someone who came from there went to the trouble of training the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis activists to carry out similar attacks. The evidence is the methods of actions imported from Iraq and Syria and the use of simultaneous suicide attacks through car bombs to carry out Wednesday's attack in Sinai. That is exactly how ISIS operates in Syria and Iraq: A suicide bombing creates the shock and the breaches in the fence and in the wall through which the attacking force enters.


In light of these points, we should consider the possibility that one day these abilities will be directed at us, whether because the Egyptian army eases its pressure on the terrorists in Sinai or because the terrorists gain self-confidence and decide that it's time to launch a front against Israel too. It could happen sooner than we think, and we should also acknowledge the fact that the border fence cannot efficiently block a trained "army" which has experience with complicated fighting operations. ISIS is already on the fences…

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






Ariel Ben Solomon                          

Jerusalem Post, July 3, 2015


The recent escalation of violence in Egypt and the security forces killing of Muslim Brotherhood leaders on Wednesday could facilitate the movement of some of the organization’s younger members to more radical jihadist groups. According to recent reports, younger Brotherhood members are taking over from the group’s elders who are either in jail, killed, or in exile and pushing the group in a more radical direction.


The famed Islamist organization, which formed the ideological roots for more radical jihadist groups such as al-Qaida and Islamic State, is being outshined by its more radical kin. In response to a raid by Egyptian security forces on Wednesday that killed nine men, including Muslim Brotherhood leaders, the organization called for the public to “rise in revolt to defend your homeland” in response to the killing in “cold blood.”


“While the youth who support the Islamist movement want to see a direct, even violent confrontation with Egypt’s army and police, the older generation believes that in order to survive, the movement needs to compromise, and keep a level head for the years to come,” wrote Maged Atef in an article in BuzzFeed this week. “Over the last six months, newly elected Brotherhood spokesperson Mohammad Montasser started issuing strongly worded statements calling for revenge and a ‘revolution that would decapitate heads,’” explained Atef.


Prof. Hillel Frisch of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University told The Jerusalem Post that he sees two main reasons why the Muslim Brotherhood is likely to maintain its current position, and not radicalize in the jihadist direction. First, because Erdogan’s Turkey provides very comfortable asylum and support for members of the Brotherhood and uses the group to delegitimize Egypt’s government, said Frisch. And second, “because of the Brotherhood’s desire to maintain links with the United States.” “Meanwhile, the youth can do the mischief they want in Sinai and elsewhere. The situation will get worse before it gets better, but the Egyptian state will prevail,” he argued.


Zvi Mazel, who served as Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt and is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs today and a contributor to this newspaper, told the Post that the Brotherhood “is very bitter and overwhelmed by what has happened to them.” After they had reached the top in a democratic way after so many years of struggle and received a majority in the parliament and won the presidency, “it all crumbled so fast because of their arrogance,” asserted Mazel. “Now they are really in trouble. The organization is banned and most of their senior members are either in prison or in exile in Britain, Turkey, Qatar and other places,” he said.


Many Egyptians stopped supporting the group after seeing how poorly they performed while in power, which was the real reason they were ousted. The Brotherhood, which is built on total obedience to the group’s elders, “takes about five years to prepare a new Muslim Brother and the most important thing is discipline and obedience and studying in the framework of the family the never ending guidance instructions of the movement.”


Now, “the young generation wants to show that they don’t give in and prefer joining the jihadists openly,” argued Mazel, adding that this could bring about “the total destruction of the movement.” “We are witnessing the decline of the most important Muslim organization in modern times, an organization that aspired to create a caliphate, but lost it in the last minute and is now overtaken by the jihadists to whom they themselves gave birth.”                   




THE IRANIAN NUCLEAR PARADOX                                                                     

Reuel Marc Gerecht & Mark Dubowitz

Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2015


The lines are clearly drawn in Washington on President Obama’s plan for a nuclear deal with Iran. As negotiations for a final agreement continue well past their June 30 deadline, most Republicans oppose the deal and Democrats will not block it.


Many critics claim to believe that a “good deal,” which would permanently dismantle the clerical regime’s capacity to construct nuclear weapons, is still possible if Mr. Obama would augment diplomacy with the threat of more sanctions and the use of force. Although these critics accurately highlight the framework’s serious faults, they also make a mistake: More sanctions and threats of military raids now are unlikely to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear designs. We will never know whether more crippling sanctions and force could have cracked the clerical regime. We do know that the president sought the opposite path even before American and Iranian diplomats began negotiating in Europe.


But hawks who believe that airstrikes are the only possible option for stopping an Iranian nuke should welcome a deal perhaps more than anyone. This is because the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is tailor-made to set Washington on a collision course with Tehran. The plan leaves the Islamic Republic as a threshold nuclear-weapons state and in the short-term insulates the mullahs’ regional behavior from serious American reproach. To imagine such a deal working is to imagine the Islamic Republic without its revolutionary faith. So Mr. Obama’s deal-making is in effect establishing the necessary conditions for military action after January 2017, when a new president takes office.


No American president would destroy Iranian nuclear sites without first exhausting diplomacy. The efforts by Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to compromise with Tehran—on uranium enrichment, verification and sanctions relief, among other concerns—are comprehensive, if nothing else. If the next president chose to strike after the Iranians stonewalled or repeatedly violated Mr. Obama’s agreement, however, the newcomer would be on much firmer political ground, at home and abroad, than if he tried without this failed accord.


Without a deal the past will probably repeat itself: Washington will incrementally increase sanctions while the Iranians incrementally advance their nuclear capabilities. Without a deal, diplomacy won’t die. Episodically it has continued since an Iranian opposition group revealed in 2002 the then-clandestine nuclear program. Via this meandering diplomatic route, Tehran has gotten the West to accept its nuclear progress.


Critics of the president who suggest that a much better agreement is within reach with more sanctions are making the same analytical error as Mr. Obama: They both assume that the Iranian regime will give priority to economics over religious ideology. The president wants to believe that Iran’s “supreme leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hasan Rouhani can be weaned from the bomb through commerce; equally war-weary sanctions enthusiasts fervently hope that economic pain alone can force the mullahs to set aside their faith. In their minds Iran is a nation that the U.S., or even Israel, can intimidate and contain.


The problem is that the Islamic Republic remains, as Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif proudly acknowledges in his memoirs, a revolutionary Islamic movement. Such a regime by definition would never bend to America’s economic coercion and never gut the nuclear centerpiece of its military planning for 30 years and allow Westerners full and transparent access to its nuclear secrets and personnel. This is the revolutionary Islamic state that is replicating versions of the militant Lebanese Hezbollah among the Arab Shiites, ever fearful at home of seditious Western culture and prepared to use terrorism abroad.


Above all, the clerical regime cannot be understood without appreciating the centrality of anti-Americanism to its religious identity. The election of a Republican administration might reinvigorate Iranian fear of American military power, as the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 did for a year or two. But it did not stop Iran’s nuclear march, and there is no reason to believe now that Mr. Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards, who oversee the nuclear program, will betray all that they hold holy.


But a nuclear deal is not going to prevent conflict either. The presidency of the so-called pragmatic mullah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from 1989 to 1997 was an aggressive period of Iranian terrorism. If President Rouhani, Mr. Rafsanjani’s former right-hand man, can pull off a nuclear agreement, we are likely to see a variation of the 1990s Iranian aggression. Such aggression has already begun. Revolutionary Guards are fighting in Syria and Iraq, and Iranian aid flows to the Shiite Houthis in Yemen. Wherever the Islamic Republic’s influence grows among Arab Shiites, Sunni-Shiite conflict grows worse. With greater internecine Muslim hostility, the clerical regime inevitably intensifies its anti-American propaganda and actions in an effort to compete with radical Sunnis and their competing claims to lead an anti-Western Muslim world.


Iranian adventurism, especially if it includes anti-American terrorism, will eventually provoke a more muscular U.S. response. The odds of Tehran respecting any nuclear deal while it pushes to increase its regional influence—unchecked by Washington—aren’t good. Mr. Obama may think he can snap back sanctions and a united Western front to counter nefarious Iranian nuclear behavior, but the odds aren’t good once European businesses start returning to the Islamic Republic. Washington has a weak track record of using extraterritorial sanctions against our richest and closest allies and trading partners. The French alone may join the Americans again to curtail Iran and European profits.


With a failed deal, no plausible peaceful alternatives, and Mr. Obama no longer in office, Republicans and Democrats can then debate, more seriously than before, whether military force remains an option. Odds are it will not be. When contemplating the possibility that preventive military strikes against the clerical regime won’t be a one-time affair, even a hawkish Republican president may well default to containment. But if Washington does strike, it will be because Mr. Obama showed that peaceful means don’t work against the clerics’ nuclear and regional ambitions.






On Topic                                                                                        


Great Sphinx of Giza, Pyramids of Egypt Are Next ISIS Targets: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, July 8, 2014—The leader of Da’esh (ISIS) is exhorting his followers in Egypt to destroy the Sphinx and the pyramids.

Is Hamas Working With Wilayat Sinai?: Shlomi Eldar, Al Monitor, July 6, 2015 —The question of whether Hamas’ military wing cooperated with Wilayat Sinai (literally Sinai Province), the organization that carried out the big terrorist attack in the Sinai Peninsula on July 1, is critical for Hamas.

Iran’s Hard-Liners Sharpen Attacks on U.S. as Nuclear Talks Continue: Thomas Erdbrink, New York Times, July 8, 2015—The chants of “Death to America” and the burning of American flags in the streets are as familiar a part of life here as air pollution and traffic jams. With the United States and Iran on the verge of a potentially historic nuclear accord, however, there has been a distinct change in tone: the anti-Americanism is getting even more strident.

Desperately Seeking Diplomatic Defeat: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, July 7, 2015—Imagine if, on Sept. 12, 2001, I had written a column predicting that within less than 15 ‎years, the president of the United States would be offering the world's leading sponsor of ‎terrorism a path to nuclear weapons and tens of billions of dollars. You'd have thought me a ‎lunatic.





We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.



Nuclear Talks With Iran to Miss Second Deadline in Seven Days: Michael Wilner, Jerusalem Post, July 7, 2015 — World powers and Iran will not meet a self-imposed deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement scheduled for July 7, and will extend their interim agreement until July 10.

The U.S. Response to Iran’s Cheating is a Worrying Omen: Washington Post, July 6, 2015— If it is reached in the coming days, a nuclear deal with Iran will be, at best, an unsatisfying and risky compromise.

Iran Deal: Bleak Prospects for Serious Breakthrough: Jagdish N. Singh, Jewish Press, July 6, 2015 — Although the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany and Iran have agreed to extend the deadline to July 7, prospects of any real breakthrough in the matter are bleak .

Obama Wants a Bad Iran Deal at Any Price: Noah Beck, Algemeiner, July 6, 2015 — Much has been written about just how bad the proposed Iranian nuclear deal has gotten.


On Topic Links


Iran Wants U.N. Arms Embargo Lifted: Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2015

On-Going Debate Over Iran’s Newly Produced LEU Hexafluoride: David Albright and Andrea Stricker, ISIS Nuclear Iran, July 3, 2015

The Fundamental Flaws of the Emerging Nuclear Deal: Mark Dubowitz & Annie Fixler, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, June 19, 2015

On Iran, Worry About the Deal, Not the Deadline: Dennis Ross, Politico, July 6, 2014

Iran Nuclear Talks Complicated by Dispute Over Missiles and Arms: David Blair, Telegraph, July 6, 2015




NUCLEAR TALKS WITH IRAN TO MISS SECOND DEADLINE IN SEVEN DAYS                                                    

Michael Wilner

Jerusalem Post, July 7, 2015


World powers and Iran will not meet a self-imposed deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement scheduled for July 7, and will extend their interim agreement until July 10. Negotiations are at their most "difficult" and "real" phase, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, told press gathered outside the Palais Coburg in Austria's capital. The diplomatic effort has now been under way for two years. "We are continuing to negotiate for the next couple of days. This does not mean we are extending our deadline," she said.


US Secretary of State John Kerry's senior advisor for strategic communications, Marie Harf, said that negotiators are "frankly more concerned about the quality of the deal than we are about the clock." But they also are committed to concluding the process during this negotiating round, she added. "We also know that difficult decisions won't get any easier with time," Harf said. "We are taking these negotiations day to day."


Mogherini characterized the talks as "difficult" and "tense." All parties agree that the negotiations are in their final stage, if not in their final hours. Departing the Coburg, Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, told Russian media that eight issues critical to a deal were still not finalized as negotiators entered their second deadline in seven days. Most foreign ministers would be leaving Vienna, but would return shortly, he said. "There is only one big problem in terms of sanctions," Lavrov said. "It is the problem of a weapons embargo."


The US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany had hoped to seal a comprehensive deal by June 30. Missing that deadline, they extended their effort to July 7. They seek to cap, restrict, monitor and partially roll back Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, after toiling with the prospect of a nuclear Iran for over a decade. Tehran wants that relief immediately.






Washington Post, July 6, 2015


If it is reached in the coming days, a nuclear deal with Iran will be, at best, an unsatisfying and risky compromise. Iran’s emergence as a threshold nuclear power, with the ability to produce a weapon quickly, will not be prevented; it will be postponed, by 10 to 15 years. In exchange, Tehran will reap hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief it can use to revive its economy and fund the wars it is waging around the Middle East.


Whether this flawed deal is sustainable will depend on a complex set of verification arrangements and provisions for restoring sanctions in the event of cheating. The schemes may or may not work; the history of the comparable nuclear accord with North Korea in the 1990s is not encouraging. The United States and its allies will have to be aggressive in countering the inevitable Iranian attempts to test the accord and willing to insist on consequences even if it means straining relations with friendly governments or imposing costs on Western companies.


That’s why a recent controversy over Iran’s compliance with the interim accord now governing its nuclear work is troubling. The deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium, but required that amounts over a specified ceiling be converted into an oxide powder that cannot easily be further enriched. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran met the requirement for the total size of its stockpile on June 30, but it did so by converting some of its enriched uranium into a different oxide form, apparently because of problems with a plant set up to carry out the powder conversion.


Rather than publicly report this departure from the accord, the Obama administration chose to quietly accept it. When a respected independent think tank, the Institute for Science and International Security, began pointing out the problem, the administration’s response was to rush to Iran’s defense — and heatedly attack the institute as well as a report in the New York Times.


This points to two dangers in the implementation of any longterm deal. One is “a U.S. willingness to legally reinterpret the deal when Iran cannot do what it said it would do, in order to justify that non-performance,” institute President David Albright and his colleague Andrea Stricker wrote. In other words, overlooking Iranian cheating is easier than confronting it.


This weakness is matched by a White House proclivity to respond to questions about Iran’s performance by attacking those who raise them. Mr. Albright, a physicist with a long record of providing non-partisan expert analysis of nuclear proliferation issues, said on the Foreign Policy Web site that he had been unfairly labeled as an adversary of the Iran deal and that campaign-style “war room” tactics are being used by the White House to fend off legitimate questions.


In the case of the oxide conversion, the discrepancy may be less important than the administration’s warped reaction. A final accord will require Iran to ship most of its uranium stockpile out of the country, or reverse its enrichment. But there surely will be other instances of Iranian non-compliance. If the deal is to serve U.S. interests, the Obama administration and its successors will have to respond to them more firmly and less defensively.





Jagdish N. Singh                   

Jewish Press, July 6, 2015


Although the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany and Iran have agreed to extend the deadline to July 7, prospects of any real breakthrough in the matter are bleak .


Knowledgeable sources say signs are ominous with seemingly irreconcilable differences between the two main parties in the dialogue, Washington and Tehran. American President Barack Obama has declared he would sign an agreement only after being assured it would prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. A major hitch is over including the inspection of Tehran’s military sites “anytime, anywhere– no bureaucratic committees, no moving the ball, no sites off limits.” Besides, Washington (and close allies) insist Tehran reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to 7.6 tons.   According to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran’s stockpile of the fuel, which can be used to fuel a reactor or processed further for weapons, has grown to eight tons.


Washington argues no future risk can be allowed in regard to the alleged Iranian nuclear weapon program. Both of Iran’s now-declared facilities for processing uranium into fuel have the potential to power a reactor or manufacture a bomb and were developed under military cover, later to be to transferred to civilian authorities. Tehran is very unlikely to oblige Washington in this matter. In Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final word. He has reiterated he is opposed to any long-term freeze on Iran’s nuclear research and development, the full disclosure of past nuclear work, or inspections of military sites.


The sources say it would be hard for President Obama, even if he wished, to accommodate Tehran on such fundamental propositions. He has been under the scrutiny of the powerful US Senate. Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee  Bob Corker  has recently written a letter accusing him of a  “breathtaking” retreat from their ( P5+1)  “original goals and statements” in the nuclear talks with Iran. The letter laments the negotiators “have moved” from a trying to strike a 20-year agreement, to a 10-year one and seem ready to let Tehran proceed with its ballistic missile program and research and development for advanced nuclear centrifuges.


The components necessary to achieving a good deal should include: anywhere, anytime inspections, including military sites; strict limits on centrifuge R&D; disclosure of Iran’s past atomic military work ; phased suspension of sanctions based upon Iran’s compliance with its obligations under a futuristic deal; and the creation of an effective mechanism to re-impose sanctions automatically in the event of any violations.


Unfortunately, the  P5+1 seem prepared to accept a deal that does not include full disclosure of Iran’s past atomic research . They have promised to provide Iran with advanced nuclear technology. Their currently reported  draft promises to supply Iran with light-water nuclear reactors instead of its nearly completed heavy-water facility at Arak, which could produce enough plutonium for several bombs a year if completed as planned. On its part, the Obama administration has deviated a lot from its original path in the matter. Initially, it demanded a “full suspension of uranium enrichment as required by multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.” But now it is permitting Iran to continue enriching uranium with 5060 centrifuges. Initially, the administration insisted that Iran shut down Fordow but now over 1,000 centrifuges are to remain in this underground facility largely impenetrable to attack.


It would not be wise to rule out Iran’s atomic weapons designs in future. American Secretary of State John Kerry recently claimed that Washington has had “absolute knowledge” of Iran’s past atomic weapons work. The Secretary asserted, “It’s critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped.”  But it is impossible to design   an effective verification system that could measure breakout time or ensure atomic weapons “activities have been stopped.” Former Director of the CIA Michael Hayden has refuted even the Kerry claim that Washington has had perfect knowledge of the Iranian nuclear program. Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano is on record having said, “We don’t know what they did in the past.”


The impending agreement allows Iran to conduct R&D on advanced centrifuges. Tehran would be able to install them after the expiration of “the sunset clause” and the breakout period may shrink to zero. Iran could reestablish Fordow as a uranium enrichment centrifuge plant with a capacity far in excess of its current capacity. It is a fortified facility built into a mountainside impervious to military attack. The sunset clause has to be replaced to satisfy Iran’s program is strictly for peaceful purposes. After  10 years there should be a vote to see if restrictions should be extended for another 10 years so as not to leave the world with “an even more insecure and heightened situation… in terms of a greatly reduced Iranian breakout timeline, and more advanced centrifuges spinning and capable of creating weapon-grade uranium…within shorter periods of time.”


The sources suggest economic sanctions may continue. Last winter, Tehran was facing a balance of payments crisis, and its economy was on the brink. The sanctions may rather be increased to give Iran the choice: “Face the heat or dismantle your nuclear program.”


Sources claim that with sanctions in place, Tehran has so far been ‘insensible. ’ Without them, it might be “insane.” The infusion of funds Tehran will receive from an emerging deal may bolster its support for terrorism in the region, particularly Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and embolden it to crush human rights at home.  Iran would receive around $ 30-50 simply for signing an agreement. The subsequent release of frozen funds and increased oil sales would leave Iran with more than $100 billion over the next year. Iran spends approximately $ 200 million per year on Hezbollah and up to $ 15 billion per year to support the authoritarian Assad regime in Syria. With more funds at its disposal, the Khomeninist regime would invest more in such activities.


The impending deal is likely to embolden Tehran to ignore the plight also of the Americans jailed in Iran. Iran currently holds three Americans known to be alive: Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter, was imprisoned by Iran in 2014 and charged with espionage;, Saeed Abedini; and Amir Hekmati. The prisoners are held in Evin prison, one of Iran’s most notorious jails. Another American, retired FBI agent, Bob Levinson, went missing in Iran eight years ago. Levinson’s whereabouts remains unknown.





OBAMA WANTS A BAD IRAN DEAL AT ANY PRICE                                                                                

Noah Beck

Algemeiner, July 6, 2015


Much has been written about just how bad the proposed Iranian nuclear deal has gotten. This outcome is hardly surprising after Israel’s former ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, bravely published Ally, his memoir detailing Obama’s hostility towards Israel. But even without Ambassador Michael Oren’s personal testimony, there is overwhelming evidence that – on the issue most important to global security and Israel’s very existence – Obama has been, at best, reckless and, at worst, treasonous.


Obama’s administration has shown a breathtaking readiness to cover for a wide range of abuses and violations by the same Iranian regime that seeks international acceptance of its nuclear activities. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz recently noted that theState Department was illegally delaying the publication of a report on Iranian human rights violations, which was due last February, to avoid adversely affecting the talks with Iran on its nuclear program.


According to a report by the Institute for Science and International Security, a non-proliferation think tank, Iran has violated the current interim nuclear deal, the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA). The president of the institute, David Albright, noted that “When it became clear Iran could not meet its commitment to convert the LEU into uranium dioxide, the United States revised its criteria for Iran meetings its obligations.” Such leniency on a crucial compliance issue suggests that the world powers negotiating with Iran (the “P5+1”) will ignore or explain away Iranian violations of any future agreement over its nuclear program.


In another breach of the JPOA, Iran continues trying to acquire nuclear-related materials – some of which would be prohibited under the emerging deal. Reuters reported last May that the Czech government had uncovered an Iranian attempt to purchase a shipment of compressors from a U.S.-owned company based in Prague. These parts can be used to extract enriched uranium directly from the centrifuge cascades. In April, the British Government reportedly informed a UN panel about an illicit Iranian nuclear procurement network involving two firms under sanctions for suspected links to Iran’s nuclear activities. Iran fed uranium hexafluoride gas into an advanced centrifuge, yet another violation of the JPOA. In April 2014, Reuters reported that Iran’s oil exports were well above the monthly 1 million barrel-per-day limit imposed by the JPOA. If the P5+1 countenanced all of these Iranian violations of the JPOA, why would they be any more forceful when an even stronger Iran violates a permanent nuclear accord?


The news outlet Al-Monitor reported that the U.S. State Department is three years late in applying certain sanctions on Iran. The report provides more proof that the State Department is intentionally delaying sanctions on Iran in its quest to close a nuclear deal. The Wall Street Journal reported that the administration has pressured the CIA so that its analysts are now in an “impossible position regarding analysis of Iran’s nuclear program.”


Not only has the Obama administration ignored Iranian violations, it has also disregarded evidence that sanctions relief will only support Iran’s most dangerous policies. Under Iran’s “moderate” President Rouhani, spending on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the entity tasked with spreading Iranian influence abroad while suppressing dissent at home, has increased by 48%. Iran spends approximately $200 million per year on Hezbollah and up to $15 billion per year to support the Assad regime in Syria. (Apparently the Obama administration sees no contradiction in calling for Assad’s ouster while helping Iran to fund him by removing sanctions.) Former Senior Advisor on Iran at the State Department, Ray Takeyh, has warned that the “massive financial gains from [a sanctions-lifting nuclear] deal would enable [Iran’s] imperial surge.”  Iran is now the main power broker in four Arab countries (Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria). So how much more powerful and aggressive will Iran become when sanctions are lifted and billions of dollars flow into its economy?


Obama has also disregarded his own former Iran and nonproliferation experts, who last month signed on to a letter warning that the emerging Iran deal may “fall short of the administration’s own standard.” Signatories include the White House’s former chief weapons of mass destruction advisor, Gary Samore, the Department of State’s former principal nonproliferation advisor, Robert Einhorn, the former director of the CIA, David Petraeus, the former special advisor on the Persian Gulf, Dennis Ross, and other notable officials and analysts. The letter asserts that the emerging deal will not dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and outlines the elements of a good deal. These include unlimited inspections, including military sites; strict limits on centrifuge R&D; disclosure of Iran’s past nuclear military work; phased sanctions-lifting that is tied to Iran’s compliance with the deal; and the creation of an effective mechanism to re-impose sanctions automatically in the event of an Iranian violation.


Iran’s breakout time under the emerging deal would be far less than the Obama administration’s estimate of one year, according to one proliferation expert and the former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.


In pursuit of this bad deal, Obama has not only covered for Iranian violations and ignored Iran’s continued ballistic missile developments, it has actually offered the Iranian regime nuclear technology. On what basis does Obama so trust a regime that, for decades, has been one of the most dangerous on the planet, and an arch foe of the U.S. and its closest Mideast allies? In another shocking example of that misplaced trust, the U.S. is sharing a base in Iraq with Iranian-backed Shiite militias, who have killed American soldiers in the past, despite concerns that doing so puts American soldiers at risk by allowing the militias to spy on U.S. operations at the base.


The overwhelming evidence all points to the same troubling question: in the nuclear faceoff between Iran and the West, whose side is Obama on? He may get his “legacy deal,” but it will include nuclear proliferation across the Middle East, an Iranian regime much more able to support terrorism and hegemonic policies, and the far greater prospect of nuclear terrorism and/or doomsday in the world’s most unstable region.


Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis





On Topic                                                                                        


Iran Wants U.N. Arms Embargo Lifted: Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2015—Iran is pushing for a United Nations arms embargo to be completely lifted as part of the international community’s moves to improve relations with Tehran in the wake of an emerging nuclear agreement, a senior Iranian diplomat said Monday.

On-Going Debate Over Iran’s Newly Produced LEU Hexafluoride: David Albright and Andrea Stricker, ISIS Nuclear Iran, July 3, 2015 —The controversy over the status of Iran’s newly produced low enriched uranium (LEU) hexafluoride under the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) initially surprised us at ISIS.

The Fundamental Flaws of the Emerging Nuclear Deal: Mark Dubowitz & Annie Fixler, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, June 19, 2015—Under the emerging Iran nuclear agreement, there is an inherent asymmetry between an expanding Iranian nuclear program and diminishing economic leverage.

On Iran, Worry About the Deal, Not the Deadline: Dennis Ross, Politico, July 6, 2014—Just as June 30 turned out not to be a true deadline for the Iranian nuclear talks, it would be wise to treat July 7 — the extended deadline — much the same way.

Iran Nuclear Talks Complicated by Dispute Over Missiles and Arms: David Blair, Telegraph, July 6, 2015 —Iran’s foreign minister met his counterparts from six world powers on Monday, but the drive for a nuclear deal was complicated by a dispute over United Nations restrictions on missile technology and arms sales.