Tag: U.S. diplomacy


Jared Kushner’s Mideast Peace Push Is Going Nowhere. That’s Why Israelis Love It.: Benny Avni, The Daily Beast, Aug. 28, 2017 — Jared Kushner's second visit to the Mideast is widely perceived as a Seinfeld-like show about nothing—and the Israelis love it.

Russia Feels American Pressure: Emil Avdaliani, BESA, August 16, 2017 — Recent tensions between Moscow and Washington could drive the two superpowers to a deadlock.

On Radical Islam, Trump Has Lost His Focus: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 11, 2017 — Candidate Donald Trump vowed to take a fresh approach to Islamic extremism.

Trump’s Foreign Policy: The Conservatives’ Report Card: Bret Stephens, New York Times, July 21, 2017 — If you’re a liberal judging Donald Trump’s foreign-policy record at the six-month mark, it’s not hard to guess the grade you’d give him.


On Topic Links


Keep Telling the Horrific Truth About North Korea: Benny Avni, New York Post, Aug. 15, 2017

U.S. Policy in Lebanon Is Now Helping Hezbollah and Iran: Matthew R.J. Brodsky, Weekly Standard, Aug. 16, 2017

Name-Calling Critics Fail to Refute ZOA’s Concerns About McMaster: Morton A. Klein, Elizabeth Berney and Daniel Mandel, Algemeiner, Aug. 27, 2017

The West Betrays U.S. Heroes Who Prevented Another 9/11: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 14, 2017






Benny Avni

The Daily Beast, Aug. 28, 2017


Jared Kushner's second visit to the Mideast is widely perceived as a Seinfeld-like show about nothing—and the Israelis love it. Seeking President Trump’s “ultimate deal”—peace between Israelis and Palestinians—Kushner arrived in Jerusalem and Ramallah this week, where few could point to any progress made in promoting a deal between the parties. White House officials say they're keeping mum on progress by design, but commentators in the Israeli and Palestinian press claim there is little substance behind the first son-in-law’s diplomacy.


And that's just fine by Israeli government officials, who quietly express hope that Kushner's latest trip, and perhaps future ones as well, will yield no earth-shaking results. “Past American administrations jumped into the peace process pool before checking if there’s any water in it; we jumped after them and cracked our heads,” Dani Dayan, Israel’s consul general in New York, told The Daily Beast. He commended Kushner’s go-slow approach, saying, “Perhaps he’ll realize there’s no water in this pool, and so there's no reason to jump in.”


Publicly, after meeting with Kushner, Jerusalem and Ramallah officials made statements that were remarkably similar, using words diplomats have long employed to obscure content. Privately, however, several Israeli officials say they expect no progress. Further, they're grateful the Trump administration, unlike previous ones, exerts no pressure on them to make major concessions. Political conditions are far from optimal for a meaningful peace process. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under unprecedented pressure, as investigations of various alleged wrongdoings mount against him. The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, is unpopular and weak.


While Kushner and international negotiator Jason Greenblatt do their best not to discuss the substance of their talks—saying they would rather conduct quiet diplomacy—critics note that not too long ago Kushner told White House interns, in a conversation that was leaked to the press, that there may be “no solution” to the Israeli Palestinian problem. Dayan—a former leader of Yesha, the West Bank settler movement—said that rather than seeking a final deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian dispute once and for all, Kushner should seek smaller victories. Dayan cited a deal reached recently about water-sharing between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. “You won’t get a Peace Nobel for things like that, but they may be more achievable" and helpful, he told The Daily Beast.


The Palestinians fear that kind of approach would muddy their goal: to be recognized as an independent state. In a recent State Department briefing, spokeswoman Heather Nauert declined to endorse the two state solution, a formula expressed by three prior administrations that calls for the creation of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state next to the Jewish state of Israel. “We are not going to state what the outcome has to be,” Nauert said, adding, “It has to be workable to both sides.” Palestinians were outraged. Even as Kushner met for several hours with Abbas in Ramallah Thursday, demonstrators, said to be organized by Abbas’ own lieutenants, gathered outside the presidential headquarters, known as the Muqata, with some reportedly carrying anti-Trump signs, including one depicting the president as being led on a leash by daughter Ivanka, who is married to Kushner.


A White House official close to the negotiations noted however that Abbas has threatened—as he’s often done in the past—to resign and dissolve the Palestinian Authority if Kushner declined to push hard on the peace process. But then, the official said, "Abbas didn’t pull out,” which indicates that the talks are substantial after all. “This shows it’s not about nothing," the official added. The official asked to speak on background as part of Kushner’s and Greenblatt’s expressed desire to keep the content of the negotiations under wraps. This, the official said, may be the reason many feel no progress is being made, but it is a deliberate strategy.


Past administrations “put process ahead of results. It was about a road map, time lines, impositions of deadlines,” the official said, adding that past diplomacy “suffered from a constant effort to show some achievement,” which doomed it to failure as the parties pushed back against public statements in Washington. Critics however say that the current diplomatic ambiguity may lead to failure. “You have to say publicly where you want to go,” said Gilead Sher, a senior fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. Kushner, he says, is undermining progress by not stating what the American goal is. “When no one knows which way America is sailing, it’s impossible for all to steer their boats," he added…

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






Emil Avdaliani

BESA, August 16, 2017


Recent tensions between Moscow and Washington could drive the two superpowers to a deadlock. On July 30, Russia retaliated against the US by ordering 755 American diplomats to leave the country. Moscow’s move came after Washington toughened its own anti-Russia sanctions (although the Russian move was intended more as a countermeasure against former US President Barack Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in late 2016).


Moscow cannot afford to impose serious countersanctions, as they would cause greater harm to the much-troubled Russian economy than they would to the US. Consider, for example, the case of NASA, which depends largely on Russian engines. Stopping their export could cause significant difficulties for the US aerospace industry, but for the Russian economy, it would represent a loss of approximately $1 billion in revenues in a couple of years.


The relationship, troubled as it is, has not necessarily hit rock bottom. On August 1, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “the [US-Russia] relationship was at a historic low since the end of the Cold War, and it could get worse.” On August 3, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev tweeted that any hope for improvement in relations was lost with Trump’s sanctions. There are reasons for Moscow to be worried. American politicians openly state how supportive the US will be towards eastern European countries and Georgia in the event that Russia increases its military capabilities in the region. This US resolve was highlighted recently when VP Mike Pence visited Estonia, Georgia, and Montenegro.


A steady US/NATO military and security buildup is underway in eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. Georgia, for example, hosted the biggest military exercises ever held on its soil, in which US forces took part along with other allies. Washington has also outlined its position that any progress with Moscow would depend entirely upon the latter’s ceasing its military and financial support for pro-Russia separatists in east Ukraine, Georgia’s breakaway territories of Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.


Rather than compromise, the Russians have in fact expanded their military bases in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and other breakaway territories across the former Soviet space. As an international relations realist, Putin knows the only hope of pressuring Washington is to gain an advantage in other theaters where Moscow has significant political leverage. However, despite strained relations, Moscow and Washington still share similar – if limited – perspectives in several areas. Syria is first among several potential points of cooperation. Russia and the US share a vision of defeating ISIS, and there was even a joint announcement of a ceasefire in southwestern Syria in early July. To both countries’ credit, the ceasefire still holds.


East of the Syrian battlefield, Afghanistan could be another theater for cooperation. Russia fears a spillover of militancy from both the Taliban and ISIS across the Afghan border into Central Asia, and would not oppose a US presence in Afghanistan as a bulwark against it. Yet another geographic area of possible Russian-American cooperation could be the Korean peninsula, where the situation is heating up. The Pyongyang leadership is rigorously pursuing its nuclear program and has made significant progress in successfully testing its ICBM. Both Moscow and Washington are concerned that North Korea’s military capabilities could deal a final blow to the policy of non-proliferation.


However, there are limits to these areas of converging interests. In Syria, for instance, Russia’s grand strategy of linking the Syrian crisis with the Ukrainian one in order to gain diplomatic advantage in negotiations with the west has failed. In Afghanistan, the US suspects Moscow of providing military support to the Taliban, while in North Korea, Washington does not openly rely on Russian support. Washington recently criticized both Moscow and Beijing for not doing enough to stop the North Korean nuclear program.


Russian-US relations have reached their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. There do exist several theaters in which the two superpowers can work together, but there are significant limits that will block any breakthroughs. There is thus little possibility for any rapprochement between the two powers across the former Soviet space. Different geopolitical readings on Ukraine, Georgia, and wider eastern European security make near-term progress in Russia-US relations improbable at best.                      




ON RADICAL ISLAM, TRUMP HAS LOST HIS FOCUS                                                                              

Ayaan Hirsi Ali                                         

Wall Street Journal, Aug. 11, 2017


Candidate Donald Trump vowed to take a fresh approach to Islamic extremism. He ditched the politically correct language of the Obama administration by declaring that we were mired in an ideological conflict with radical Islam, which he likened to the totalitarian ideologies America had defeated in the 20th century. Mr. Trump also promised, as part of his immigration policy, to put in place an “extreme vetting” system that screens for Islamic radicalism. He vowed to work with genuine Muslim reformers and concluded with the promise that one of his first acts as president would be “to establish a commission on radical Islam.”


Mr. Trump has had more than six months to make good on these pledges. He hasn’t gotten very far. The administration’s first move—a hastily drafted executive order limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries—backfired when it was repeatedly blocked in court. Worse, subsequent moves have tended to run counter to Mr. Trump’s campaign pledges. Aside from a new questionnaire for visa applicants, there has been no clarity regarding the promised “extreme vetting” of Muslim immigrants and visitors. The promise to work with and empower authentic Muslim reformers has gone nowhere. The status of the promised commission on radical Islam remains unclear. Perhaps most discouragingly, the administration’s Middle Eastern strategy seems to involve cozying up to Saudi Arabia—for decades the principal source of funding for Islamic extremism around the world.


Some administration critics have blamed the loss of focus on Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who became White House national security adviser in February. The most charitable formulation of this criticism is that military men who slogged their way through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have an aversion to the argument that we face an ideological opponent, as opposed to a series of military problems. But I put the responsibility on Mr. Trump. With regard to radical Islam, he simply seems to have lost interest. Is all hope of a revamped policy on radical Islam lost? Not necessarily. Prominent members of Congress—among them Sens. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Reps. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) and Trent Franks (R., Ariz.)—understand that Islamism must be confronted with ideas as well as arms.


And this need not be a partisan issue. In the early years after 9/11, Sens. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.), Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) worked together to analyze the threat of Islamist ideology. Even President Obama’s former representative to Muslim communities, Farah Pandith, who visited 80 countries between 2009 and 2014, wrote in 2015: “In each place I visited, the Wahhabi influence was an insidious presence . . . Funding all this was Saudi money, which paid for things like the textbooks, mosques, TV stations and the training of Imams.” In 2016, addressing the Council on Foreign Relations, Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) sounded the alarm over Islamist indoctrination in Pakistan, noting that thousands of schools funded with Saudi money “teach a version of Islam that leads . . . into an . . . anti-Western militancy.” We have already seen one unexpected outbreak of bipartisanship in Washington this summer, over tightening sanctions on Russia in retaliation for President Vladimir Putin’s many aggressions.


I propose that the next item of cross-party business should be for Congress to convene hearings on the ideological threat of radical Islam. “Who wants America on offense, with a coherent and intelligible strategy?” Newt Gingrich asked in 2015, when he called for such hearings. Then as now, if the executive branch isn’t willing—if the president has forgotten his campaign commitments—lawmakers can and should step up to the plate.                                                                          





THE CONSERVATIVES’ REPORT CARD                                                                   

Bret Stephens

                      New York Times, July 21, 2017


If you’re a liberal judging Donald Trump’s foreign-policy record at the six-month mark, it’s not hard to guess the grade you’d give him. An F is too generous for your taste. An F-minus? How about a negative F? What if you’re conservative? Here your grade will depend on what kind of conservative you happen to be.


(1) You’re a Trumpkin. What’s not to like? Wasn’t it Machiavelli — or some other Italian with a similar-sounding name — who said, “it is much safer to be feared than loved”? Isn’t it about time that Bashar al-Assad fears us? Isn’t it about time we have an American president who couldn’t care less whether he’s loved in Paris or Brussels — capitals our soldiers once liberated only so that they could repay us with freeloading and condescension? And isn’t it about time we throw our weight around the world on our own behalf, and not for the sake of some make-believe “international community”? Grade: The easiest A since you took “rocks for jocks” in college.


(2) You’re not a Trumpkin, but you’re happy Hillary Clinton isn’t president. Well, what did you expect? We all knew he was a policy neophyte, with some bad ideas but reasonably decent instincts. And, on the whole, his instincts are serving us well. What, you have an objection to Jim Mattis at Defense, John Kelly at Homeland Security, Mike Pompeo at C.I.A. and H. R. McMaster as security adviser? The Clinton team would have consisted of Brookings Institution types trying to extend the Obama administration’s legacy of American retreat — of appeasing adversaries, alienating allies, and turning us into a country whose enemies didn’t fear us and whose friends didn’t trust us. It’s been only six months, and Trump still has a lot to learn. But he’s jettisoned some of his worst ideas — on NATO being obsolete, for instance — while taking a more muscular approach against the Islamic State, Iran and North Korea. Grade: B.


(3) You’re the sort of conservative who doesn’t believe we should grade college students on a curve, much less our commander in chief. Yes, Machiavelli did say it was better to be feared than loved. But the great Florentine also said, “a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred.” The United States has had unpopular presidents. But not one — not Richard Nixon in the Watergate crisis; not George W. Bush at the worst moments of the Iraq war — inspires the sort of hatred that Trump does.


Much of this is self-inflicted. Trump didn’t need to start his presidency by infuriating the president of Mexico on the eve of a planned visit to Washington, or by comparing the American intelligence community to Nazi Germany, or by throwing a tantrum with the prime minister of Australia. He didn’t need to demand that Seoul pay for missile defenses that would protect American troops in the event of war with North Korea, or toy with our NATO allies as he mulled whether to reaffirm our mutual-defense obligations.


Trump could have avoided all of this. He didn’t, either because his personality is defective or because he thinks humiliation is an appropriate tool of presidential power. Character is destiny, conservatives used to think. We are living this destiny.


Conservatives must also wonder what happened to the “conservative” foreign policy they were promised in the campaign. The administration certified this month that Iran was complying with the 2015 nuclear deal; according to the Institute for Science and International Security, it isn’t fully. We were supposed to support our allies in Syria fighting both the Islamic State and Assad; we ditched them. We were supposed to get serious about the threat from Russia. In Hamburg this month, Trump again showed how eager he was to oblige his man-crush in the Kremlin, this time at the expense of Israel.


But the deeper flaw of Trump’s foreign policy isn’t psychological. It’s philosophical. The Trump administration is the first to make an open break with the anti-isolationist postwar consensus of Harry Truman, Arthur Vandenberg and Dean Acheson. “The world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage,” McMaster and Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. Mark this as the shift from internationalism to transactionalism; from a values-based foreign policy rooted in Alexis de Tocqueville’s notion of “self-interest, rightly understood” to an approach that might be called neo-Maguirism, after “Jerry Maguire.” To wit: “Show me the money!”


It’s not that the administration has done everything wrong, at least by conservative lights: It’s always possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason. But if serious conservatives believe in anything, it’s that we really are, as Lincoln said, “the last best hope of earth,” and that our foreign policy should be equal to that hope. That’s “hope,” Donald, not “joke.” Grade: O.M.G.




On Topic Links


Keep Telling the Horrific Truth About North Korea: Benny Avni, New York Post, Aug. 15, 2017—Equating President Trump’s tough North Korea talk with Kim Jong-un’s bluster, as the president’s critics have done over the past week, is dumb — not least because it’s clear Trump’s tack is working. The White House’s hard-edged messaging knocked Pyongyang’s dynastic tyrant out of his comfort zone.

U.S. Policy in Lebanon Is Now Helping Hezbollah and Iran: Matthew R.J. Brodsky, Weekly Standard, Aug. 16, 2017—The U.S. is deploying special forces on the ground in Lebanon to provide training for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) for missions that partner with Hezbollah—Iran’s most valuable terrorist ally—against ISIS.

Name-Calling Critics Fail to Refute ZOA’s Concerns About McMaster: Morton A. Klein, Elizabeth Berney and Daniel Mandel, Algemeiner, Aug. 27, 2017—The Zionist Organization of America’s August 2017 report detailed US National Security Chief General H.R. McMaster’s troubling record regarding Iran, Israel and radical Islamist terrorism.

The West Betrays U.S. Heroes Who Prevented Another 9/11: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 14, 2017—One of the most important chapters in the war on terror is being rewritten — with a moral inversion. Islamic terrorists who were arrested and deported have become "liberal causes célèbres", while agents of the CIA who questioned them are not only being condemned but also financially crushed by punishment and legal bills — for having tried, legally, to save American lives.











Rubio, Trump and Israel: Ruthie Blum, Israel Hayom, Feb. 26, 2016— During Thursday night's CNN-hosted Republican debate in Houston, Texas, candidate Marco Rubio finally took on leading contender Donald Trump, face-to-face, about Israel.

Iran’s Fake Reformers Win Bogus Elections: Terry Glavin, National Post, Mar. 2, 2016— In the matter of respectable opinion on the subject of last weekend’s sham elections in Iran, a new kind of Canadian consensus can be discerned from the headlines.

Argentine Prosecutor Asserts Alberto Nisman Was Murdered. Now, to Find His Killers.: Lee Smith, Tablet, Feb. 26, 2016 — A federal prosecutor in Argentina claimed yesterday that his former colleague, Alberto Nisman, was murdered last year…

Israel’s Options in a Chaotic Middle East: Yossi Klein Halevi, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 26, 2016— One recent morning, a Palestinian teenager stabbed a security guard at the light rail station minutes from my home in Jerusalem.


On Topic Links


Orchestra of Exiles (Video): American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (AFIPO), 2015

Trump Dominates on Super Tuesday – But Will Jewish Republicans Back the Donald?: Abra Forman, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 2, 2016

Bernie Sanders Is Jewish, but He Doesn’t Like to Talk About It: Joseph Berber, New York Times, Feb. 24, 2016

Torrent of Anti-Israel Advice Found in Hillary’s Emails: Shmuley Boteach, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 1, 2016

Donald Trump and the Art of the Mideast Peace Deal: Aaron David Miller, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 22, 2016





       Ruthie Blum

       Israel Hayom, Feb. 26, 2016


During Thursday night's CNN-hosted Republican debate in Houston, Texas, candidate Marco Rubio finally took on leading contender Donald Trump, face-to-face, about Israel. Referring to Trump's statements that he would be a "neutral broker" between Israel and the Palestinians, Rubio argued, "The Palestinians are not a real estate deal, Donald." "A deal is a deal," Trump replied. "A deal is not a deal when you're dealing with terrorists," Rubio said.


This is what Rubio knows in a nutshell — something the Obama administration has ignored for the past seven years, and not only in relation to the Palestinian Authority. It is a key reason, though by no means an exclusive one, for getting the Democrats out of the White House and State Department. Rubio has been consistent about his grasp of why Israel and America are both the globe's good guys and natural allies.


At a rally on Wednesday night, in the lead-up to the final debate before Super Tuesday on March 1, Rubio was inspired and inspiring on this point. "We're going to have a policy of moral clarity," he said. "I'll give you a perfect example — Israel. Israel is the only pro-American free-enterprise democracy in the entire Middle East. I'll put it to you this way: If there were more Israels in the Middle East — more pro-American, free-enterprise democracies — the world would be so much safer." He also attacked the UN for being "obsessed" with the Jewish state. "Every week, they've got new resolutions condemning Israel," he said, using this to illustrate the "new face of anti-Semitism in the world."


As for the Palestinians, Rubio said, "They teach little kids — five-year-olds — that it's a glorious thing to kill Jews." Indeed, he emphasized, "The Palestinians don't want a deal, [and] they've already said, 'We want to destroy Israel.' So what are you going to negotiate? The rate of the destruction? The date of the destruction? We will not be an impartial advocate when it comes to the issue of Israel. When I'm president, we're going to take sides. We are going to be on Israel's side."


Even before Rubio announced he would be running for America's highest office, however, he made impassioned speeches on Israel's behalf. Two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected in March 2015 — nearly a year ago — Rubio delivered a 15-minute tribute to Israel on the floor of the Senate. Netanyahu had won by a surprise landslide, after polls predicted a very different outcome. Yet he was still under attack at home and abroad for asserting there would be no two-state solution on his watch.


"[Netanyahu's] right," Rubio stated unapologetically. "The conditions don't exist. But first, let's go through the history. In 2000 at Camp David, Israel offered the Palestinian Authority nearly all of the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and Gaza. And the Palestinians said no. In 2000, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon. You know what that is today? A place [from] where they launch rockets against Israel. In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza. You know what that is today? A place that they launch rockets against Israel from. In 2008, Israel offered the PA, again, nearly all of the West Bank — Judea and Samaria — and all of eastern Jerusalem. The PA said no. What about the Palestinian record? … About 6% of the Palestinian budget is diverted to pay the salaries of … terrorists, of people who have blown up centers and killed civilians, including Americans. And they are being paid salaries and benefits, including with money from donors, such as the U.S., Great Britain, Norway and Denmark."


He then listed ways in which the PA envisions and educates its people to hope for a world without Israel, quoting blatant anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist passages from a Palestinian school book and the PA-run press.

"And these are the people that we're pressuring [Israel] to cut a peace deal with," he said, referring to people who say "that there is no such thing as the Jewish people; that any method of destroying them is valid." Rubio concluded: "No people on earth want peace more than Israel. No people have suffered more at the hands of terrorism than the people of Israel. … If America doesn't stand with Israel, who would we stand with?"


Hearing Trump — whose consistently soaring popularity is due to Americans being rightly fed up with the totalitarianism of the left-wing "political correctness" that has been corroding American power, exceptionalism and free-market economics — assert even-handedness solely in relation to Israel is cause for serious concern.


If the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians were a real-estate problem, even the Democrats would have been able to solve it. In fact, if it were an issue of dividing up plots of land, the Arabs of Palestine would have had a state starting in 1947. Indeed, if killing or kicking the Jews out had not been the true bone of contention all along, the Palestinians today could and would be leading the kind of normal lives that Israelis take for granted.   




           Terry Glavin

National Post, Mar. 2, 2016


In the matter of respectable opinion on the subject of last weekend’s sham elections in Iran, a new kind of Canadian consensus can be discerned from the headlines. Here is a representative sampling: “Iranian moderates win majority in parliament, clerical body;” “Iranian reformists win all parliamentary seats in Tehran;” “Far from perfect, but democracy is in Iran (yes, really).”


This is all almost entirely rubbish, most obviously because it requires a suspension of disbelief made possible by a cavalier indifference to the objective meaning of words — such as “reformists” and “moderates.” But it allows a new unanimity of convenience among the regime’s Canadian apologists, the corporate lobbyists chafing for all those post-sanctions business opportunities and Canada’s new, fashion-conscious Liberal government.


It’s rubbish all the same, and it stands as a rebuke to what was once a robust, evidence-based Canadian consensus about how to make sense of the theocratic torture state that calls itself the Islamic Republic of Iran. But now that U.S. President Barack Obama has unleashed a corporate free-for-all by effectively decoupling the NATO countries’ Iranian sanctions system from the cause of universal human rights, it is not at all certain that the former Canadian consensus can be sustained. It’s not even clear why we would bother trying.


But before the Obama administration decided to exchange the American-patrolled order across the Middle East for a barbaric Russian-Iranian-Baathist hegemony of barrel bombs and starvation sieges, there really was a Canadian consensus. This is where the same “reformists” whose poll-count victories we are all now expected to be happy about come into it quite directly. Set aside the fact that Iran’s elected bodies are subservient under Iran’s constitution to the unelected Guardian Council and the supreme leader. Also set aside the fact that at least half the candidates for the 290-seat parliament and about 600 of the 800 candidates for the assembly of ayatollahs who advise the big boss, Supreme Leader Ali Khameinei, were disqualified for being insufficiently Islamist.


Let’s just pretend for a moment that “reformists” have just now been elected in a slight majority over the candidates we are further encouraged to comprehend as “hardliners.” Who are these “reformists,” exactly? They are by no means the reformists of 2009, when Iran was gripped in a non-violent “Green Revolution” that ended in bloodshed, state terror and the “election” of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (a “hardliner”). The reformist contenders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, remain under house arrest.


The term “reformist” nowadays refers to the clerical faction in the Khomeinist ruling class that is most gluttonous about the $100-billion windfall in sanctions relief that comes with the regime’s nuclear deal. So, if you are unashamedly pleased to admit Obama as a willing accomplice with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the slaughter of nearly 500,000 Syrians over the past five years, you’re a “reformist.” If you are content to reconfigure the American-led coalition against the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq & the Levant as an ally in the expansionist brutality the Shia theocracy has been waging against the region’s Sunni Arab majority, you’re a “reformist.”


Such rhetoric allows a new unanimity of convenience among the regime’s Canadian apologists. By the specific terms of what was once the Canadian consensus on Iran, however, these “reformists” are the same individuals that the House of Commons was unanimous only three years ago in wanting to see in the prisoners’ dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, rather than standing for election to Potemkin assemblies in Tehran.


Throughout the Conservative years under prime minister Stephen Harper, Canada led the way at the United Nations with an annual General Assembly excoriation of the Khomeinist regime’s gross abuse of the human rights of its captive subjects. The tradition was begun by Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien in 2002.


As for the sanctions, when the Liberals were in opposition, they used to complain that the Conservative government’s strategy of diplomatic and economic isolation of the Iranian regime — rather than being “irrational and ideological,” as Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion recently described it — didn’t go far enough. The Liberals used to insist that sanctions should encourage regime change.


Three years ago, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act enjoyed all-party support in Parliament. Now, the judge in a civil suit being brought against the Iranian government under the act has expressed doubts about whether he’ll still have a statute to rule under by the time all the evidence and testimony are in. The case has been proceeding in a Toronto courtroom, pitting plaintiffs against the Khomeinist state for terrorist outrages committed by the regime’s proxies in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Argentina.


It’s not as though the Iranian government has sworn off its habit of sponsoring terrorism outside Iran’s borders. Just ask any Syrian who has had to watch his children starve to death in one of the Syrian towns encircled by Iran’s Hezbollah mercenaries. As if to rub it in, Iran’s “reformists” are now replicating the terror-subsidizing practices pioneered by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: last week the Iranian ayatollahs announced cash rewards worth $9,400 to the families of every Palestinian “martyred” in the current wave of stabbings targeting Israeli Jews…                                                         

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






Lee Smith                                       

Tablet, Feb. 26, 2016


A federal prosecutor in Argentina claimed yesterday that his former colleague, Alberto Nisman, was murdered last year after accusing former President Cristina Kirchner of trying to sabotage his investigation into the 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded hundreds more. A day before Nisman was to testify about Kirchner’s alleged cover-up of Iranian responsibility in the bombing, he was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment.


The prosecutor, Ricardo Sáenz, explained in an 11-page legal brief that “Tests done on Nisman’s hands and on the gun used show that we are looking at a homicide.” Other evidence Sáenz cited includes: the assertion by a doctor present at the crime scene that Nisman’s body had been moved; Nisman’s apartment was cleaned of fingerprints that would have been left by those who were there in the days and hours before his death; Nisman’s laptop had been manipulated after his death and his cellphone wiped of key information, including registries of calls, text messages, and chats.


Presumably, the investigation into Nisman’s death will now be re-opened. As I noted when Nisman was found dead last year, there are plenty of parties who had an interest in silencing him. Principally, there was Kirchner and other high-ranking officials who were helping to whitewash Iranian culpability for the bombing in exchange for improved bilateral relations. Such relations would, among other things, give Argentine agricultural products privileged access to Iranian markets, while Iran would send cheap oil to Argentina.


The fact that Nisman was murdered virtually clinches his case regarding the 1994 bombing. If Iran wasn’t responsible then there was nothing for Kirchner to conceal. But he was, which may turn out to be an even bigger scandal than the fact that the attack on the Jewish Community Center was sponsored by a nation-state, and covered up by the nation-state Iran targeted. Now the task is to find out who is responsible for killing Nisman. Buenos Aires will have to sort out whether its own intelligence service murdered a man for revealing the authorship of a huge state-sponsored terrorist crime on its own soil that targeted Argentine citizens; or whether the murder was committed by the same foreign power that sponsored the original crime: Iran.


Perhaps the likeliest scenario would point to Iranian and Argentine coordination. In any case, you can bet Cristina Kirchner is somewhere in the middle of it all. Now it’s up to her successor, Mauricio Macri to win the justice that he promised Nisman’s daughters when he was elected in November. Justice for Nisman, for the victims of the 1994 attack as well as the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, and justice for an Argentina that deserves better than a corrupt government which took Iran’s bloody hand in partnership.




                Yossi Klein Halevi                            

                                                Wall Street Journal, Feb. 26, 2016


One recent morning, a Palestinian teenager stabbed a security guard at the light rail station minutes from my home in Jerusalem. About an hour later, I drove past the station and was astonished to see—nothing. No increased police presence, not even police barricades. The guard had managed to shoot his attacker, and ambulances had taken both away. Commuters were waiting for the next train. As if nothing unusual had happened.


The ability to instantly resume the pretense of normalcy is one of the ways that Israelis are coping with the latest wave of Palestinian terrorism. For the last six months, Palestinians—some as young as 13—have attacked Jews with knives and hatchets and even scissors, or else driven their cars into Israeli crowds, killing over two dozen people. (About 90 Palestinians have been killed carrying out the attacks.) The violence was provoked by the unsubstantiated Palestinian claim—strongly denied by the government—that Israel intended to permit Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a place sacred to both Muslims and Jews.


The almost daily attacks tend to blur together, though several have become emblematic—like the stabbing murder of a mother of six in her home while her teenage daughter ran to protect her siblings. Still, by Israeli standards, the violence so far has been manageable. Israelis recall that in the early 2000s, when suicide bombers were targeting buses and cafes, almost as many victims would die in a single attack as have been murdered in the current wave of terror.


Israelis have been here before. In 1992, a monthslong stabbing spree by Palestinian terrorists in Israel’s streets helped to catalyze one of the great upsets in Israeli politics, the election of Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin as prime minister, ending over a decade of rule by the right-wing Likud Party. The stabbings were the culmination of a four-year Palestinian revolt against Israel’s occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. This first intifada (“uprising” in Arabic), as it came to be known, forced the Israeli public to come to terms with Palestinian nationalism. It also convinced many Israelis that the Likud’s policy of incremental annexation of the West Bank and Gaza was simply not worth the price.


Until the first intifada, Israelis had tended to regard control of the territories won by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War as benign, bringing prosperity to the occupied as well as to the occupiers. As the intifada took hold, Israeli anger turned not only against the Palestinians but against the ruling Likud. There were antigovernment riots, and Likud Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was widely ridiculed for his passivity and lack of vision.


Today, too, there is widespread disaffection with a Likud government’s response to stabbings. Some 70% of Israelis say that the government has been ineffectual, and nearly as many say they feel personally unsafe. Yet, unlike 1992, there are no antigovernment demonstrations, and few calls for a resumption of the moribund peace process.


Indeed, a private poll recently commissioned by one of the parties in the coalition government reveals that only 4% of Israelis consider the peace process their highest priority—the lowest percentage for any major issue. Improbably, the Likud remains the most popular party. And what little support the Likud is losing isn’t to the left but further to its right, to parties advocating a tougher response to terror and the annexation of large parts of the West Bank.


One reason for the radically different responses in 1992 and 2016 is that Israelis are living in a very different Middle East. The Middle East of the early 1990s seemed a place of promise: An American-led coalition, including Arab states, had defeated Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, while the Soviet Union, sponsor of Arab radical regimes and the Palestinian cause, had vanished. Palestinian leaders seemed ready to negotiate an agreement with Israel, and a majority of Israelis, especially after the first intifada, were ready to try. In today’s disintegrating Middle East, by contrast, Israelis question the viability of a Palestinian state. Which Arab state, Israelis ask, will be a likely model for Palestine: Syria? Iraq? Libya?


Few Israelis believe that a Palestinian state would be a peaceful neighbor. In part that’s because the Palestinian national movement—in both its supposedly moderate nationalist wing and its radical Islamist branch—continues to deny the very legitimacy of Israel. The Palestinian media repeat an almost daily message: The Jews are not a real people, they have no roots in this land and their entire history is a lie, from biblical Israel to the Holocaust. The current wave of stabbings has been lauded not only by the Islamist Hamas but by the Palestinian Authority. “We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem,” said Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas in September. “Every martyr will reach paradise.”


The result is profound disillusionment with the peace process across the Israeli political spectrum. Writing recently in the left-wing newspaper Haaretz, the political scientist Shlomo Avineri, long one of Israel’s leading voices against the occupation, lamented that the Palestinian national movement regards Israel “as an illegitimate entity, sooner or later doomed to disappear.” Labor Party leader Yitzhak Herzog, in a dramatic reversal of his rhetoric in last year’s election, recently conceded that there was no chance anytime soon for a deal with the Palestinians.


Most Israelis still support, at least in principle, a two-state solution. Many understand that the creation of a Palestinian state is an existential necessity for Israel, extricating it from a growing pariah status in the world at large, from the wrenching moral dilemmas of occupying another people, from a demographic threat that endangers Israel as both a Jewish and a democratic state. And they understand that the continuing expansion of settlements on the West Bank will only complicate Israel’s ability to withdraw eventually…                  

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


CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!


On Topic


Orchestra of Exiles (Video): American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (AFIPO), 2015

Trump Dominates on Super Tuesday – But Will Jewish Republicans Back the Donald?: Abra Forman, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 2, 2016—Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the clear victors on Super Tuesday, with each winning seven of the ten states voting to determine the 2016 election nominees. But as Trump makes enormous strides towards the Republican party nomination, many members of the GOP are drawing back from supporting him – especially Jewish ones.

Bernie Sanders Is Jewish, but He Doesn’t Like to Talk About It: Joseph Berber, New York Times, Feb. 24, 2016—When Senator Bernie Sanders thanked supporters for his landslide victory in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, he wistfully reminisced about his upbringing as “the son of a Polish immigrant who came to this country speaking no English and having no money.”

Torrent of Anti-Israel Advice Found in Hillary’s Emails: Shmuley Boteach, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 1, 2016—It’s already been established that one of Hillary Clinton’s most trusted advisers, Sid Blumenthal, sent her anti-Israel articles, ideas and advice during her time as secretary of state. But the stream of anti-Israel advice received by Clinton was much more comprehensive.

Donald Trump and the Art of the Mideast Peace Deal: Aaron David Miller, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 22, 2016—Presidential elections produce stunning bursts of pro-Israel sentiment and support from candidates of both political parties.

















Donald Trump, Israel and the Jews‎: Eytan Gilboa, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 28, 2015 — The Donald Trump phenomenon is challenging both Israel and American Jewry.

How Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio Are Battling for the Future of GOP Foreign Policy: Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, Dec. 27, 2015 — A few weeks ago, Ted Cruz committed a shocking act of heresy against the Republican Party Establishment.

Hillary Clinton’s Troubling Relationship With Israel-Hating Advisor: Shmuley Boteach, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 11, 2015— Who is Max Blumenthal, why is he a Hillary Clinton Israel Svengali and does he pose as big a headache for Hillary as Jeremiah Wright did for President Barack Obama?

Time to Investigate the Clintons for Violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act: Jan Sokolovsky, American Thinker, Jan. 4, 2016 — Now that Hillary Clinton has openly declared that Bill Clinton will be part of her campaign, it is time for the FBI to investigate the Clinton Foundation, of which Bill is the founder, for possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.


On Topic Links


Taking the U.S.-Israel Relationship to the Next Level: Hillary Clinton, Jewish Journal, Jan. 6, 2016

Hillary's Watergate Looms: Roger L. Simon, PJ Media, Jan. 6, 2016

Obama Reveals His Foreign Policy Fatalism: Fred Hiatt, Washington Post, Jan. 13, 2015

The Last Temptation of Barack Obama and John Kerry: Aaron David Miller, Foreign Policy, Jan. 11, 2015




Eytan Gilboa

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 28, 2015


The Donald Trump phenomenon is challenging both Israel and American Jewry. Trump, who continues to lead the Republican list of presidential hopefuls and can no longer be dismissed as a bizarre candidate, has consistently and strongly supported Israeli positions on many critical issues, including the Iran nuclear deal and Israeli- Palestinian relations. He has also criticized US President Barack Obama for his attitudes toward Israel and warmly praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On the other hand, he has proposed policies and made statements that no Jew can in good conscience accept or identify with.


Trump has often used pro-Israel rhetoric. He called Israel America’s best and most reliable friend, and argued that it should be viewed as the cornerstone of US policy in the Middle East. He has accused Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry of “selling Israel out,” and said that the US should do everything possible to protect and defend it. “They’ve always been there for us and we should be there for them,” he declared. “They are the only stable democracy in a region that is not run by dictators. They are pioneers in medicine and communication and a close fair trading partner.” And, like his father, he said, he had always been loyal to Israel and “would do more for Israel than anybody else.”


Trump highlights the facts that he served as grand marshal for the Israel parade in New York in 2004 and that he has received many awards from American Jewish organizations for his support of Israel. Last February, on receiving such an award from the Algemeiner, a Jewish news organization, he said, “We love Israel. We will fight for Israel 100 percent, 1,000 percent. It will be there forever.” On June 16, when he declared his candidacy, Trump vehemently attacked the Iran nuclear deal calling it “a disaster” that could threaten Israel’s survival.


In the background, there was also a close personal connection between Trump and Netanyahu. Before the 2013 Israeli election, Trump recorded a 30-second video message endorsing the Likud leader. “You truly have a great prime minister in Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s a winner, he’s highly respected, he’s highly thought of by all. Vote for Benjamin – terrific guy, terrific leader, great for Israel,” he enthused.


On the other hand, Trump’s statements on prisoners of war, Jewish campaign contributions, immigration and entry to the US have touched on a very raw Jewish nerve. On John McCain, who spent six years as a POW in Vietnam and refused early release when his captors discovered that his father was an admiral, Trump flippantly said he was “a war hero only because he got captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” In Israel the nation as a whole cares about its POWs and the government invests huge resources in attempts to release them. The protracted and ultimately successful effort to free Gilad Schalit, a soldier who was captured and held hostage for five years by Hamas in Gaza, well illustrates this ethos.


On December 3, Trump told members of the Republican Jewish Coalition that he suspects many members won’t back him because he is rich and doesn’t want their contributions. Trump may have thought he was making a joke, but the Israeli media saw his comments as reinforcing anti-Semitic stereotyping of Jews as rich people who “control the world” and can “buy” elections with their money.


Trump has also made highly provocative and controversial statements on immigration and entry to the US. On June 16, he said that Mexico is sending in people bringing drugs, crime and rape. Later he extended this observation to include immigration from other Latin American countries. And after the recent San Bernardino massacre, he called for a temporary ban on the entry of Muslims to the US, until the government figures out “what the hell is going on.”


Jews, who have suffered from closed immigration gates and been saved by open ones, find these statements appalling. Mass Jewish immigration from Russia and Eastern Europe to the US, Palestine and other countries, especially from the beginning of the 20th century, saved Jews from pogroms, persecution and oppression. Mass Jewish immigration from the Arab countries to Israel after the 1948 War of Independence saved them from a similar fate. On the other hand, before, during and immediately after the Second World War, Jews trying to flee Nazi Germany or occupied Europe were refused entry to many countries, including the US.


Millions perished. Therefore, Jews cannot but protest a wholesale, religion-based ban on entry to the US. Indeed, many Jewish organizations in the US, as well as political and religious groups in Israel, overwhelmingly rejected Trump’s call for a ban on the entry of Muslims to the US. Trump had intended to visit Israel and meet Netanyahu on December 28. The parties had agreed on the itinerary two weeks before Trump’s Muslim ban statement. Thirty- seven Knesset members, all but two from the opposition, strongly criticized Trump’s proposed blanket ban on Muslim entry and urged Netanyahu to cancel their meeting in protest. Netanyahu rejected this demand but issued a critical statement of his own: “The State of Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens. At the same time, Israel is fighting against militant Islam that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews alike and threatens the entire world.”…


Trump had hoped his visit to Israel on the eve of the Republican primaries would bolster his lead in the race. He wanted to project interest and knowledge in national security and foreign affairs, especially in the Middle East, the No. 1 source of violence, terrorism and instability in the world. He also wanted to garner legitimacy for his controversial positions on the region, and to contrast his support for Israel with what he called the Obama administration’s abandonment of the Jewish state. The strategy made sense, but the injudicious Muslim ban statement undermined any chance of successfully implementing it. Had Trump stuck to his plan, the protests and demonstrations in its wake would almost certainly have rendered it counterproductive.


Trump has certainly been exploiting the weaknesses and confusion in Obama’s handling of Israel, Islamic extremism and terrorism. The president’s blaming only Israel for the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations has only strengthened Palestinian recalcitrance. The delay in defining the San Bernardino massacre as terrorism, Obama’s refusal to use the term “Islamic terrorism” and his pathetic attempts to characterize the Islamic State organization as non-Muslim reveal an acute denial of both American and Middle Eastern realities.


Indeed, American Jews have been disappointed by Obama. In the 2008 elections, they voted for him by a ratio of 78 percent to 22 percent; in 2012, this had dropped to 69 percent to 30 percent. Gallup’s surveys show that in 2008, 71 percent of American Jews identified themselves as Democrats or leaning to the Democratic Party, while 22 percent identified themselves as Republicans or leaning to the Republican party. In 2014, this ratio dropped to 61 percent to 29 percent…

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





FOR THE FUTURE OF GOP FOREIGN POLICY                                                                          

                           Jonathan Chait                                                                                                 

               New York Magazine, Dec. 27, 2015


A few weeks ago, Ted Cruz committed a shocking act of heresy against the Republican Party Establishment. “If you look at President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and, for that matter, some of the more aggressive Washington neocons,” he told Bloomberg News, “they have consistently misperceived the threat of radical Islamic terrorism and have advocated military adventurism that has had the effect of benefiting radical Islamic terrorists.” Cruz was cleverly making a point about the Obama administration’s intervention in Libya, which resulted in a failed state that has nurtured ISIS, but his attack cut much deeper than it might have first appeared. One of the supporters of that venture was Marco Rubio, Cruz’s primary rival for the affection of regular (non-Trump-loving) Republicans. Rather than frame his contrast with Rubio as a matter of personal judgment or partisan loyalty, though, Cruz defined his opponents in ideological terms (“the more aggressive Washington neocons”). Indirectly, he was reminding his audience of another country in the Middle East where neocon military adventurism has wound up benefiting Islamic extremism — and harking back to an older conservative approach.


While Trump has distracted the party with bombastic grossness, Cruz has undertaken a concerted attack on an unexpected weak point: the belief structure, inherited by Rubio, that undergirds the party’s foreign-policy orthodoxy, opening up a full-blown doctrinal schism on the right. The Iraq War remains the Republican Party’s least favorite subject, but the principles that drove the Bush administration into Baghdad (without a plan for the occupation) have remained largely intact. Most Republican leaders still espouse the neo­conservative belief in confronting autocratic governments everywhere, that demonstrations of American military power will inevitably succeed, and that the championing of democratic values should inform all major foreign-policy strategy.


When he first came to Washington, Rubio distanced himself from these beliefs. “I don’t want to come across as some sort of saber-rattling person,” he said in 2012, the next year insisting that higher military spending be paid for with offsetting cuts elsewhere. The next year, he started rattling sabers. Rubio came to support higher defense spending even if it increased the deficit, and turned sharply against the Iran nuclear deal. Now a full-scale hawk poised to restore the banished Bush doctrine, Rubio has surrounded himself with neoconservative advisers, using buzzwords like “moral clarity,” and promised to stand up to Russia, China, Cuba, and North Korea, unworried by the possibility that standing up to some of the bad guys might require the cooperation of other bad guys. “I’m ready for Marco,” enthused William Kristol.


The Bush years trained liberals to think of neoconservatism as the paramount expression of right-wing foreign-policy extremism. But neoconservatism runs against the grain of an older and deeper conservative tradition of isolationism. Cruz has flitted about the edges of the libertarian right, sometimes forming alliances in the Senate with Rand Paul, an isolationist who — after briefly being in vogue — has largely been marginalized within his party. At the last Republican foreign-policy debate, Cruz identified himself with that creed more openly than he ever had. Just as Rubio’s buzzwords signal his neoconservative affiliation, Cruz conveyed his isolationism by calling for an “American-first foreign policy” and dismissing Rubio as a “Woodrow Wilson democracy promoter.” The face-off between Rubio and Cruz at that debate represented something far more profound than the usual exchange of canned sound bites.


The isolationist tradition has long been misunderstood to mean a policy that perished overnight on December 7, 1941, and that promoted complete withdrawal from world affairs. In fact, isolationist thought grew out of — and, in some ways, represented the apogee of — American exceptionalism.

It regarded other, lesser countries with disgust, a sentiment that bred the competing impulses to both be distant from the rest of the world and to strike out at it.


Isolationism dominated conservative thought from the end of World War I — as a reaction against Wilson’s costly democratization crusade, as Cruz implied — through Pearl Harbor. After the war, without losing its hold on large segments of the GOP, the worldview mutated in the face of communism. The Soviet threat intensified the contradiction between the desire to quarantine America from the communist contagion and to eradicate it. The old isolationists resolved the tension by developing a fixation on airpower as a substitute for diplomacy and land forces. American planes would allow it to dominate the world while remaining literally above it. (Airpower, wrote the historian Frances FitzGerald, “would allow America both to pursue its God-given mission abroad and to remain the virgin land, uncorrupted by the selfish interests of others or foreign doctrines.”)…

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





WITH ISRAEL-HATING ADVISOR                            

Shmuley Boteach

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 11, 2016


Who is Max Blumenthal, why is he a Hillary Clinton Israel Svengali and does he pose as big a headache for Hillary as Jeremiah Wright did for President Barack Obama? The well-known proverb declares you can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep. Last summer, in the wake of the impending Iran deal, which she herself helped to create and vocally supported, Hillary reached out to calm the jitters of her wealthiest Democratic Jewish supporters in an attempt to convince them that she would always support Israel. She also emphasized that she utterly condemns the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that Israel is currently facing. But she has been a harsh critic of the Jewish state, often relishing her role.


During a speech in 2012 she spoke of Israel’s “lack of generosity” and “lack of empathy” toward the Palestinians. She admitted that during her time as secretary of state she oftentimes was the “designated yeller” at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She once yelled at him for 45 minutes when Israel granted permits to build houses in the eastern neighborhoods of its capital Jerusalem during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel.


But with the recent dumps of emails from Hillary’s private Internet server the public has received an in-depth look at the very important role that Sidney Blumenthal played for Hillary during her time in the Obama administration. Blumenthal is one of Hillary’s closest advisers and a longtime family friend. He was a senior adviser during Bill Clinton’s presidency and served again as senior adviser for Hillary’s failed 2008 run for the White House. Blumenthal was clearly a man whose advice Hillary trusted and she was willing to pay him $10,000 a month for his services. However the information coming to light paints a troubled picture. What they show is a slew of anti-Israel writings and opinions, many of which originated from articles written by Blumenthal’s own son, Max Blumenthal.


Max is a writer and self-declared “anti-Zionist,” known for his active support of the BDS movement and his calls for the dismantling of the State of Israel. He trolls pro-Israel writers, as I can personally attest. Max’s widely panned 2013 book Goliath, Life and Loathing in Greater Israel is full of anti-Israel rants, omissions and outright lies. In it, he repeatedly compares the Jewish state to Nazi Germany, and advocates that the majority of Jews currently living in Israel must be removed from the land to make way for a Palestinian state. Mimicking the Islamic State’s acronym ISIL, Max created the hashtag #JSIL – Jewish State in the Levant. To Max, the democratic State of Israel and Islamic State are morally equivalent entities.


His opinions are seen as radical leftist claptrap even by Left-leaning detractors of the Jewish state. The Nation columnist Eric Alterman – himself a critic of Israel’s presence in the West bank – described how the book “could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club.” J. J. Goldberg of The Forward described Goliath as an “unpleasant book.” By contrast, David Duke, the racist former Klu Klux Klan leader, praised Blumenthal’s book.


What is truly concerning is that Sidney Blumenthal has not only failed to ever condemn his son’s anti-Israel writings, but has actively advocated for and defended the warped, outrageous ideas conveyed therein. In fact, after learning of Alterman’s critique of Max’s book, Blumenthal began sending out emails attacking Alterman and supporting his son’s shoddy and repugnant anti-Israel scholarship. One such email included an article from the radical anti-Zionist website Mondoweiss (which loved the book and for which Max has written for in the past) attacking Alterman’s review.


But even more concerning than all of this is that Hillary Clinton, the nation’s chief diplomat, valued Max Blumenthal’s disturbed anti-Israel rants so much that she forked out $120,000 a year to his dad to keep the flow of information coming.


Among the emails Sidney Blumenthal sent to Hillary is a link to a November 2010 blog post written by his son. In it, Max attempts to equate the views and policies of far Right Dutch politician Geert Wilders with those of Israel. Max goes so far as to claim that Wilders learned from, and formulated his views as a result of his living in Israel. Max writes: “Israel’s mainstream leadership echoes Wilders’ crudest talking points on a regular basis.” Max describes how “the extreme right [in Europe] is also attracted to Israel because the country represents its highest ideals. While some critics see Israel as a racist apartheid state, people like Wilders see Israel as a racist apartheid state – and they like it.”


He continues, “They richly enjoy when Israel mows down Arab Muslims by the dozens and tells the world to go to hell; they admire Israel’s settler culture.” Max also writes, “Most of all, they yearn to live in a land like Israel that privileges its ethnic majority above all others to the point that it systematically humiliates and dispossesses the swarthy racial outclass.” He adds, “The endgame of the far-right is to make Europe less tolerant and more Israeli.” What was Hillary’s response to this racist, anti-Israel tirade? She writes back to Blumenthal, “A very smart piece – as usual.”…

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






Jan Sokolovsky

American Thinker, Jan. 4, 2016


Now that Hillary Clinton has openly declared that Bill Clinton will be part of her campaign, it is time for the FBI to investigate the Clinton Foundation, of which Bill is the founder, for possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (22 USC 611 et seq).


Since 2008, according to numerous reliable reports, the Clinton Foundation has received hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions from as many as 19 foreign countries and many significant foreign corporations.  These include Algeria, Australia, Brunei, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Kuwait, Morocco, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Taiwan, and the UAE.  During the same period, former President Bill Clinton has personally received millions in speaking fees from a number of these same nations and corporations.


Common sense and an examination of the record indicate that there was no altruistic explanation for these contributions and fees.  On the contrary, these foreign donors were involved in projects or activities that could have benefited politically or commercially from favorable policy decisions by the secretary of state, or from the Clintons’ global contacts.  Therefore, the Foundation and the Clintons individually should be investigated for violating the Federal Agents Registration Act (FARA) for failing to register as agents of those foreign governments and failing to fully disclose these payments.


The issue of donations and fees from foreign governments to the Clintons received a great deal of media attention during March and April of this year, particularly after the publication of the book Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer.  Since then, Hillary’s email scandal has pre-empted the attention of the press.  However, we should not permit the likelihood of violations of FARA by the Clintons to fade from public scrutiny, and we should resume the demand for an investigation into what is prima facie a massive sale of influence that so far has been conducted with impunity.


In fact, there may be a direct connection between payments by foreign governments to the Foundation and the email scandal, since Mrs. Clinton may well have determined that her email correspondence involving the Foundation was “personal” and therefore would not be turned over to the State Department and would ultimately be “wiped.” Well-publicized examples that suggest a direct connection between contributions to the Clinton Foundation and United States policy decisions include the sale of 20% of U.S. uranium reserves to a Russian company (2008-2010), the decision not to criticize Algeria’s human rights record (2010), changing its position on the Keystone Pipeline after the Canadian government made a major donation (2014), and a decision not to investigate a donor for violating the Iran sanctions law…

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



On Topic


Taking the U.S.-Israel Relationship to the Next Level: Hillary Clinton, Jewish Journal, Jan. 6, 2016—In this time of terrorism and turmoil, the alliance between the United States and Israel is more important than ever.  To meet the many challenges we face, we have to take our relationship to the next level.

Hillary's Watergate Looms: Roger L. Simon, PJ Media, Jan. 6, 2016— Of all the welter of predictions for 2016, by far the most dramatic seems to have been given short shrift or swept under the rug — the possible indictment of Hillary Rodham Clinton while running for the presidency. 

Obama Reveals His Foreign Policy Fatalism: Fred Hiatt, Washington Post, Jan. 13, 2015—In his final State of the Union address, President Obama returned to the optimism that he personified in his first campaign — but applied it only to America.

The Last Temptation of Barack Obama and John Kerry: Aaron David Miller, Foreign Policy, Jan. 11, 2015—As we enter the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency, Mideast watchers might have begun 2016 convinced that the current administration was done with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.





















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)





Obama Has Just Begun: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Nov. 24, 2015 — Insidiously and inadvertently, Barack Obama is alienating the people and moving the country to the right.

Obama’s Phony War: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Nov. 19, 2015 — Tell me: What’s a suicide bomber doing with a passport? He’s not going anywhere.

Uncertain Leadership in Perilous Times: Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 20, 2015— After great pain, a formal feeling comes—The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs.

Is Obama Too Busy Eyeing a Plum Post-Presidential Gig?: Barbara Kay & Robert Cutler, National Post, Nov. 17, 2015 — U.S. President Barack Obama characterized the terrorist acts in Paris last week as “an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share.”


On Topic Links


Obama Reminds Us That Pilgrims Were Refugees Once, Too: Roberta Rampton, Huffington Post, Nov. 26, 2015

The One-Minute Guide to Obama’s Foreign Policy: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Oct. 13, 2015  

White House Hits Hoekstra on Libya Book: John Gizzi, Newsmax, Nov. 11, 2015

Allen West: Obama Made ‘Greatest Military Blunder World Will Ever Know’ in Iraq: Barbara Hollingsworth, CNS News, June 12, 2015                                                                             


OBAMA HAS JUST BEGUN                           

                      Victor Davis Hanson                                          

National Review, Nov. 24, 2015



Insidiously and inadvertently, Barack Obama is alienating the people and moving the country to the right. If he keeps it up, by 2017 it will be a reactionary nation. But, counterintuitive as it seems, that is fine with Obama: Après nous le déluge. By sheer force of his personality, Obama has managed to lose the Democratic Senate and House. State legislatures and governorships are now predominantly Republican. Obama’s own favorable ratings rarely top 45 percent. In his mind, great men, whether Socrates or Jesus, were never appreciated in their time. So it is not surprising that he is not, as he presses full speed ahead.


Obama certainly has doubled down going into his last year, most recently insisting on letting in more refugees from the Middle East, at a time when the children of Middle Eastern immigrants and contemporary migrants are terrorizing Europe. What remaining unpopular executive acts might anger his opponents the most? Close down Guantanamo, let thousands more refugees into the United States, free thousands more felons, snub another ally, flatter another enemy, weigh in on another interracial melodrama, extend amnesty to another million illegal aliens, make global warming laws by fiat, expand Obamacare, unilaterally impose gun control? In lieu of achievement, is the Obama theory to become relevant or noteworthy by offending the public and goading political enemies?


An Obama press conference is now a summation of all his old damn-you clichés — the fantasy strawman arguments; the caricatures of the evil Republican bogeymen; the demagogic litany of the sick, the innocent, and the old at the mercy of his callous opponents; the affected accentuation (e.g., Talîban; Pakîstan, Îslám, Latînos, etc.) that so many autodidacts parade in lieu of learning foreign languages; the make-no-mistake-about-it and let-me-be-clear empty emphatics; the flashing temper tantrums; the mangled sports metaphors; the factual gaffes; and the monotonous I, me, my, and mine first-person-pronoun exhaustion. What Obama cannot do in fact, he believes he can still accomplish through invective and derision.


In the 2016 election campaigns, most Democratic candidates in swing states will have distanced themselves from the last eight years. Otherwise, they would have to run on the patently false premise that American health care is more affordable and more comprehensive today than it was in 2009; that workforce participation is booming; that scandals are a thing of the past; that the debt has been addressed; that Obama has proved a healer who brought the country together; that immigration at last is ordered, legal, and logical; that the law has never been more respected and honored; that racial relations are calmer than ever; that the campuses are quiet; that the so-called war on terror is now over and won with al-Qaeda and ISIS contained or on the run; that U.S. prestige aboard has never been higher; that our allies appreciate our help and our enemies fear our wrath; that Iran will now not go nuclear; that Israel is secure and assured of our support; and that, thanks to American action, Egypt is stable, Libya is ascendant, Iraq is still consensual, and the Middle East in general is at last quiet after the tumultuous years of George W. Bush.


The hordes of young male migrants abandoning the Middle East for the West are merely analogous to past waves of immigrants and should be uniformly welcome. For Obama, there is no connection between them and his slashing of American involvement in the Middle East — much less any sense of responsibility that his own actions helped produce the crisis he now fobs off on others.


If an American president saw fit to attack fellow Americans from abroad, and lecture them on their illiberality, there are better places from which to take such a low road than from Turkey, the embryo of 20th-century genocide, and a country whose soccer crowds were recently shouting, “Allahu akbar!” during what was supposed to be a moment of silence offered to the Paris dead. Surely an American president might suggest that such grassroots religious triumphalism about mass death is much more reprehensible behavior than are his own fellow citizens’ demands to vet the backgrounds of refugees.


If you suggested to Obama that, in his search for a contrarian legacy, he should do something to stop the slaughter in the Middle East and be careful about letting in more unexamined refugees, in answer, he would be more likely to do less than nothing abroad and vastly expand the influx of migrants. Getting under his critics’ skin is about all that is left of a failed presidency. Many of our observers still do not quite grasp that Obama will end his presidency by seeking to get his opponents’ goat — and that his resentment will lead to some strange things said and done…


Abroad, from Obama’s post-Paris speeches, it is clear that he is now bored with and irritated by the War on Terror. He seems to have believed either that Islamist global terror was a minor distraction with no potential for real harm other than to bring right-wingers in backlash fashion out of the woodwork, or that it was an understandably radical manifestation of what was otherwise a legitimate complaint of Islam against the Western-dominated global system — thus requiring contextualization rather than mindless opposition.


A lot of ambitious and dangerous powers are watching Obama assume a fetal position, and may well as a consequence act foolishly and recklessly this next year. Not only Russia, China, and North Korea, but also Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, ISIS, and assorted rogue states may take chances in the next 14 months that they would otherwise never have entertained (given that America is innately strong and they are mostly in comparison far weaker) — on the premise that such adventurism offers tangible advantages without likely negative consequences and that the chance for such opportunities will not present itself again for decades to come.


At home, Obama feels liberated now that he is free from further elections. He thinks he has a legitimate right to be a bit vindictive and vent his own frustrations and pique, heretofore repressed over the last seven years because of the exigencies of Democratic electioneering. Obama can now vent and strike back at his opponents, caricaturing them from abroad, questioning their patriotism, slandering them for sport, and trying to figure out which emblematic executive orders and extra-legal bureaucratic directives will most infuriate them and repay them for their supposed culpability for his failed vero possumus presidency. The more contrarian he becomes, and the more he opposes the wishes of the vast majority of the American people, all the more Obama envisions himself speaking truth to power and becoming iconic of something rather than the reality that he is becoming proof of nothing. Hold on. We haven’t seen anything yet.





OBAMA’S PHONY WAR                                                     

Charles Krauthammer               

                                 Washington Post, Nov. 19, 2015


Tell me: What’s a suicide bomber doing with a passport? He’s not going anywhere. And, though I’m not a religious scholar, I doubt that a passport is required in paradise for a martyr to access his 72 black-eyed virgins. A Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the terrorists. Why was it there? Undoubtedly, to back up the ISIS boast that it is infiltrating operatives amid the refugees flooding Europe. The passport may have been fake, but the terrorist’s fingerprints were not. They match those of a man who just a month earlier had come through Greece on his way to kill Frenchmen in Paris.


If the other goal of the Paris massacre was to frighten France out of the air campaign in Syria — the way Spain withdrew from the Iraq war after the terrorist attack on its trains in 2004 — they picked the wrong country. France is a serious post-colonial power, as demonstrated in Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic and Mali, which France saved from an Islamist takeover in 2013. Indeed, socialist President François Hollande has responded furiously to his country’s 9/11 with an intensified air campaign, hundreds of raids on suspected domestic terrorists, a state of emergency and proposed changes in the constitution to make France less hospitable to jihad.


Meanwhile, Barack Obama, titular head of the free world, has responded to Paris with weariness and annoyance. His news conference in Turkey was marked by a stunning tone of passivity, detachment and lassitude, compounded by impatience and irritability at the very suggestion that his Syria strategy might be failing. The only time he showed any passion was in denouncing Republicans for hardheartedness toward Muslim refugees. One hundred and twenty-nine innocents lie dead, but it takes the GOP to kindle Obama’s ire.


The rest was mere petulance, dismissing criticisms of his Syria policy as popping off. Inconveniently for Obama, one of those popper-offers is Dianne Feinstein, the leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. She directly contradicted Obama’s blithe assertion, offered the day before the Paris attack, that the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIL) was contained and not gaining strength. “I have never been more concerned,” said Feinstein. “ISIL is not contained. ISIL is expanding.”


Obama defended his policy by listing its multifaceted elements. Such as, “I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters.” An “entire” discussion, mind you. Not a partial one. They tremble in Raqqa. And “We have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIL.” Yes, and what would we do without Luxembourg?


Obama complained of being criticized for not being bellicose enough. But the complaint is not about an absence of bellicosity but about an absence of passion, of urgency and of commitment to the fight. The air campaign over Syria averages seven strikes a day. Seven. In Operation Desert Storm, we flew 1,100 sorties a day. Even in the Kosovo campaign, we averaged 138. Obama is doing just enough in Syria to give the appearance of motion, yet not nearly enough to have any chance of success.


Obama’s priorities lie elsewhere. For example, climate change, which he considers the greatest “threat to our future.” And, of course, closing Guantanamo. Obama actually released five detainees on the day after the Paris massacre. He is passionate about Guantanamo. It’s a great terrorist recruiting tool, he repeatedly explains. Obama still seems to believe that — even as ISIS has produced an astonishing wave of terrorist recruitment with a campaign of brutality, butchery and enslavement filmed in living color. Who can still believe that young Muslims are leaving Europe to join the Islamic State because of Guantanamo?


Obama’s other passion is protecting Islam from any possible association with “violent extremism.” The Islamic State is nothing but “killers with fantasies of glory.” Obama can never bring himself to acknowledge why these people kill and willingly die: to advance a radical Islamist millenarianism that is purposeful, indeed eschatological — and appealing enough to have created the largest, most dangerous terrorist movement on Earth. Hollande is trying to gather a real coalition to destroy the Islamic State, even as Obama touts his phony 65. For 11 post-World War II presidencies, coalition leading has been the role of the United States. Where is America today? Awaiting a president. The next president.                                                                                                                          




UNCERTAIN LEADERSHIP IN PERILOUS TIMES                                                                 

Peggy Noonan                                                                                                     

Wall Street Journal, Nov. 20, 2015


After great pain, a formal feeling comes—The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs— In the days after Paris Emily Dickinson’s poem kept ringing through my mind as I tried to figure out what I felt—and, surprisingly, didn’t feel. I did not, as the facts emerged and the story took its full size, feel surprised. Nor did I feel swept by emotion, as I had in the past. The sentimental tweeting of that great moment in “Casablanca” when they stand to sing “La Marseillaise” left me unmoved. I didn’t feel anger, really. I felt grave, as if something huge and terrible had shifted and come closer. Did you feel this too?


After the pain of previous terror incidents, from 9/11 straight through to Madrid 2004 (train bombings, 191 dead), London 2005 (suicide bombers, 52 dead) and Paris 10 months ago (shootings, 17 dead), the focus was always on the question: What will the leaders—the political and policy elite—think? This attack immediately carried a different question: What will the people think, Mr. and Mrs. Europe on the street, Mom and Pop watching in America? What are the thoughts and conclusions of normal people who are not blinkered by status, who can see things clear? …


So again, the only question: What to do? On this issue the American president is, amazingly, barely relevant. The leaders and people of Europe and America will not be looking to him for wisdom, will, insight or resolve. No commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces can be wholly irrelevant, but to the extent one can be, Mr. Obama is. He has misjudged ISIS from the beginning—they were not, actually, the junior varsity—to the end. He claimed last week, to George Stephanopoulos, that ISIS has been “contained.” “I don’t think they’re gaining strength,” he said just before Paris blew.


After the attacks Mr. Obama went on TV, apparently to comfort us and remind us it’s OK, he’s in charge. He prattled on about violence being at odds with “universal values.” He proceeded as if unaware that there are no actually universal values, that right now the values of the West and radical Islam are clashing, violently, and we have to face it. The mainstream press saw right through him. At the news conference, CNN’s Jim Acosta referred to the “frustration” of “a lot of Americans,” who wonder: “Why can’t we take out these bastards?” The president sighed and talked down to him—to us. He has a strategy and it’s the right one and it’s sad you can’t see it. Let him prattle on about climate change as the great threat of our time.


All he can do at this point is troll the GOP with the mischief of his refugee program. If he can’t work up a passion about radical Islamic violence, at least he can tie the Republicans in knots over whether they’re heartless bigots who want to prevent widows and children from taking refuge from the Syrian civil war. This is a poor prioritizing of what faces us. The public is appropriately alarmed about exactly who we might be letting in. It would be easy, and commonsensical, to follow their prompting and pause the refugee program, figure out how to screen those seeking entrance more carefully, and let in only the peaceable. If that takes time, it takes time.


If Mr. Obama had wisdom as opposed to pride and a desire to smack around the GOP—a visit to Capitol Hill this week showed me he’s thinking a lot more about them than they are about him—he would recognize the refugee issue as a distraction from the most urgent priorities. Those would include planning for and agreeing on how to deal with both the reality and the aftermath of a parade of possible horribles on which we should once again concentrate—anything from shootings in Times Square to suicide bombings in Washington to a biological device in, say, Greeley, Colo. It would include planning for any military activity that might likely follow such an event or events.


If what we are experiencing now results in an epic collision, are we ready? Deeper attention now will go to candidates for the presidency. Hillary Clinton Thursday delivered a speech on her strategy to face the current crisis; it sounded a lot like Mr. Obama’s strategy, whatever that is. But Paris should have impact on the Republican debate that has cropped up the past month about defense policy. It’s been approached as a question of spending. That may quickly come to look like the wrong approach…                                       

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




IS OBAMA TOO BUSY EYEING A PLUM POST-PRESIDENTIAL GIG?                                      

Barbara Kay & Robert Cutler                                                                                                

National Post, Nov. 17, 2015


U.S. President Barack Obama characterized the terrorist acts in Paris last week as “an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share.” But the terrorists and those whom they represent clearly do not share those values. As journalist Mark Steyn noted, these acts are “an attack on the West, on the civilization that built the modern world.” Yet Obama continues to obfuscate the specific nature of the attack, and in a manner consistent with his approach to Islamist terror in general. We have a hypothesis as to why.


Obama will still be a young man when he leaves the presidency. His multiple policy failures (which are failures by his own self-imposed yardsticks: Russia, Iran, Israel-Palestine, Syria) will not have diminished the capacious ego that he brought, and which brought him, to the White House. What post-presidency career would Obama consider worthy of his future attention and efforts? Few jobs of Olympian prestige are available, and his self-admittedly vast self-esteem might diminish the list still further. Ambassador to Kenya? We think not. No, we agree with a number of other observers that Obama has his sights set on the office of United Nations Secretary-General.


If there is a litmus test for becoming UN Secretary-General, then that is winning the approval of the 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (nearly 30 per cent of all UN members). For seven years, Obama appears to have bent over backwards to avoid hard truths that may offend them. This sycophantic behaviour has produced the American foreign policy failures, whose consequences are before us. More than any of his predecessors, President Obama has been unable to distinguish the bright line between America’s national interest and his own career interests.


Tactically clueless, drawing “red lines” in public and then just as publicly erasing them, Obama has often appeared to lack any game plan at all. The only really continuously traceable thread in the tapestry of Middle Eastern troubles since 2009 has been his efforts to maintain a teflon image-coating. Of course, this is also partially a legacy of the Chicago school of one-party politics that spawned the political Obama. Recall, for example, the large proportion of votes in the Illinois legislature to which Obama responded “present” rather than “yea” or “nay.” He was already keeping a blank slate as clean as possible, so that American voters might project any and all hopes and dreams onto an eventual presidential candidacy.


Obama’s choice of Cairo for his pandering speech to the Islamic world in June 2009 capped his four-continent “apology tour” for U.S. foreign policy. During this trip he was caught in a photograph bowing to the Saudi king, for which he was widely criticized. (Benjamin Franklin had declined to do this at the Court of St James’s, where it was protocol, explaining that the representative of a democratic republic does not bow to a sovereign monarch.)


Also in 2009 Obama scandalously refused to support Iran’s “Green Revolution,” disappointing the youth and middle classes of the country who sought to topple Teheran’s tyrannical mullahcracy. Finally, rather than acknowledge the anti-Americanism of the al-Qaeda-related terrorists who planned and executed the 9/11 anniversary attack on the U.S. diplomatic Benghazi compound in 2012, Obama and his minions sought to put the blame on an anti-Islamic video by an obscure Texas preacher, despite having (as we know now) real-time information from sources on the ground about what was really going on.


Never once in his seven years in office has Obama described acts of Islamic terrorism as such, not even the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood by Army Major Nidal Hasan, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he opened fire and, in handwritten and typed documents sent to the media on the eve of his trial, declared that “Islam was brought to prevail over other religions.” Obama ludicrously dismissed the tragedy as “workplace violence.” His preferred locution for Islamist terrorism is “extremism,” which mistakes the form of political violence for the essence of declared motivation.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s term expires in early 2017. One supposes that a President Hillary Clinton would welcome having Obama in such a position. Yet even a Republican president who only pays lip service to the UN might not look askance at having a former U.S. president of any party in that role.


Meanwhile, Obama is reported to be hedging his bets by seeking to raise no less than $1 billion for his presidential library and add-on foundation. He wishes in this way to avoid Bill Clinton’s mistake of raising only $250 million for his own library and leaving additional fund-raising for his post-presidential career, notably from foreign donors. The appearance of corruption around this, with his wife as secretary of state, has been the subject of no little media attention.


Obama’s capacity for speechifying combined with his political packaging brought him to the presidency. It cannot be excluded that they will bring him a plum job at the United Nations. And what could be plummier than the office of Secretary-General? There would be no pesky reporting requirements to the U.S. Congress, no real performance benchmarks to worry about. It may be the only office that he would not consider beneath him.


We do not begrudge Obama the job of UN Secretary-General. In fact, we approve of it. It is a job where words are considered more important than action, and where his flowery speeches will be at home. He may not do much good there, but he would also be prevented from doing much further harm. Indeed, we would regret that he did not go straight to the UN from the U.S. Senate, but for the fact that this would probably have meant eight years of Hillary Clinton in the White House: a fate, alas, that looks likely to come to pass after all.        

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


On Topic


Obama Reminds Us That Pilgrims Were Refugees Once, Too: Roberta Rampton, Huffington Post, Nov. 26, 2015—President Barack Obama urged Americans to show generosity to Syrian refugees in his Thanksgiving message on Thursday, reminding them that the Pilgrims who came to America in 1620 were themselves fleeing persecution.

The One-Minute Guide to Obama’s Foreign Policy: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Oct. 13, 2015 — We who follow U.S. foreign policy, and especially the Middle East, sometimes get asked whether Barack Obama is a community-organizing naïf way out of his depth or a brilliant ideologue who knows exactly what he is doing. Is he inept or purposeful? Does he see his foreign policy as a failure or a success?

White House Hits Hoekstra on Libya Book: John Gizzi, Newsmax, Nov. 11, 2015—The White House hit back hard Tuesday afternoon at charges in a new book by former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra that the Obama administration is primarily responsible for turmoil in Libya through its support of the overthrow of strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Allen West: Obama Made ‘Greatest Military Blunder World Will Ever Know’ in Iraq: Barbara Hollingsworth, CNS News, June 12, 2015—President Obama’s decision to ignore his generals’ recommendations and withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, leaving behind a power vacuum that is being exploited by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is “probably the greatest military blunder the world will ever know,” Lt. Col. Allen West (Army-Retired) told CNSNews.com.                        









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


Did U.S. Policy Allow Ramadi to Fall?: Jonathan Spyer, PJ Media, May 18, 2015 — The fall of Ramadi to the fighters of the Islamic State is a disaster for the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Islamic State Is Winning in Iraq: Norman Ricklefs & Derek Harvey, Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2015— In the closing years of the Vietnam War it was often noted sardonically that the “victories” against the Viet Cong were moving steadily closer to Saigon.

Why Does Baghdad Let ISIS Keep Winning?: Jacob Siegel & Michael Pregent, Daily Beast, May 18, 2015 — The road to Baghdad runs through Ramadi.
White House Hopefuls: Iraq War was a Mistake: Connie Cass, Times of Israel, May 18, 2015— A dozen years later, American politics has reached a rough consensus about the Iraq War: It was a mistake.


On Topic Links


Were We Right to Take Out Saddam?: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, May 19, 2015

Fall of Ramadi Raises Doubts About US Strategy in Iraq: Robert Burns, AP, May 19, 2015

Time for Military to Admit ISIS is Winning: Max Boot, Commentary, May 18, 2015

My Son Died for Ramadi. Now ISIS Has It.: Michael Daly, Daily Beast, May 19, 2015



DID U.S. POLICY ALLOW RAMADI TO FALL?                                                                        

Jonathan Spyer                                                    

PJ Media, May 18, 2015


The fall of Ramadi to the fighters of the Islamic State is a disaster for the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The taking of the city brings IS to just over 60 miles from Baghdad. In addition to showcasing the low caliber of the Iraqi security forces, the events surrounding the fall of the city lay bare the contradictions at the heart of Western policy in Iraq.


Prime Minister Abadi had ordered the garrison in Ramadi to stand firm. He hoped to see a successful stand in the city as a prelude to a government retaking of Anbar province, over half of which is still in IS hands. But in a manner reminiscent of the fall of Mosul in June 2014, Iraqi security forces ignored orders to defend Ramadi, and fled eastwards to the neighboring town of Khalidiyeh. This left Ramadi to the tender mercies of the fighters of the Islamic State, who have reportedly since slaughtered at least 500 people. It is important to note that even U.S. airstrikes were not sufficient to prevent the debacle. As of now, Shia militias are heading for the city’s outskirts. A militia-led counterattack is expected in the coming days. A further advance eastwards by the Sunni jihadis, at least in the immediate future, is unlikely.


So what is behind the failure of the Iraqi security forces and the continued advance of the jihadis? On the simplest level, the greater motivation and determination of the IS fighters explains their continued successes against the Iraqis. The jihadis are all volunteers. Not all of them are highly skilled fighters, but their level of motivation is correspondingly very high. By contrast, Iraqi soldiers are often serving far from home, defending communities for whom they have little concern. Most joined the army for the salary. Their unwillingness to engage against the murderous jihadis of the Islamic State is not hard to understand or explain. However, this problem has now been apparent for nearly a year, ever since the Sunni jihadis first crashed across the border from Syria last June. So why has it not been addressed? The blame for this cannot be placed at the feet of low ranking Iraqi soldiers.


The blame lies at the policymaking level. The United States is committed to the territorial unity of Iraq. It therefore is determined to relate to the government of Haider al-Abadi as the sole authority in the country.

The problem with this stance is two-fold. Firstly, it precludes providing arms directly to the elements who are most willing to use them against the Islamic State (namely, the Kurdish Peshmerga and further south, the elements among the Sunni tribes whom the U.S. aided during the “surge” in the 2006-2007 period). In the north, this has not prevented the Kurds from successfully defending the area west of Erbil (with the vital assistance of coalition air power). But it has served to keep the Kurds militarily dependent on the coalition, thus reducing the possibility of their making a bid for independence from Baghdad in the immediate future.


Secondly, and more importantly, the U.S. commitment to the territorial unity of Iraq is leading to a willful blindness regarding the actual nature of the government in Baghdad and its true sources of strength and support. The supposedly legitimate armed forces of Baghdad are, as has been witnessed again in Ramadi, not fit for the purpose. The true defenders of Baghdad and of the government are right now heading toward Ramadi. They are the forces of the “Hashd al-Shaabi” (popular mobilization). They are the Shia militias, supported by Iran. These militias are the wall behind which the Amadi government shelters. The West insists on maintaining the illusion that the government in Baghdad is something other than a Shia sectarian-dominated entity in the process of entering a de facto military alliance with the Iranians. This stubbornness is producing the current absurd situation in which Western air power is being used in support of Shia Islamism.


It is important to understand that this is not taking place because there is no other option for stopping the advance of the Islamic State. There is another, more effective option:  direct aid to the Kurds, and to the Sunni tribes further south. This support of Shia Islamism is taking place because of the conviction in Western capitals — most importantly, of course, Washington, D.C. — that the advance of Iran and the building of Iranian strength in Lebanon and in the collapsed states of Iraq and Syria is not a phenomenon to be prevented. Rather, Western capitals believe that growing Iranian influence can be accommodated and perhaps even allied with.


This conviction combined with the desire to maintain the fictions of “Iraq” and “Syria” are the foundations of current policy. For these reasons, in the coming days we will witness U.S. and Western air power, astonishingly, supporting Shia Islamist militants as they battle with Sunni Islamist militants. Meanwhile, overtly pro-Western forces further north lack arms. The Islamic State just took Ramadi. In Western capitals where Middle East policy is made, folly is engaged on a similarly triumphant march.





ISLAMIC STATE IS WINNING IN IRAQ                                                                         

Norman Ricklefs & Derek Harvey                                                                                

Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2015


In the closing years of the Vietnam War it was often noted sardonically that the “victories” against the Viet Cong were moving steadily closer to Saigon. The same could be said of Baghdad and the victories claimed against Islamic State, or ISIS, in Iraq in the past year. The ISIS takeover of Ramadi in the Anbar province over the weekend exposed the hollowness of the reported progress against ISIS. The U.S.-led bombing campaign in support of Iraqi forces isn’t working.


Clearly, the Iraqi government needs greater military assistance if it is to defeat what is proving to be a formidable enemy. ISIS in Iraq, the successor of al Qaeda in Iraq, is made up of Iraqi Sunnis and foreign Islamist fighters, similar to those the U.S. Army and Marines fought so hard for so many years. ISIS has routinely defeated other rebel groups in neighboring Syria and claimed large swaths of that country’s territory. The militants almost took the Iraqi Kurdish capital city of Erbil in February, despite the fierce resistance of the vaunted fighters of the Kurdish Peshmerga.


Shiite militias—some armed by Iran and manned by Iranian fighters—haven’t performed well against ISIS on the battlefield. After a month of fighting in Tikrit, during which the Iraqi media estimate some 5,000 Shiite militiamen were killed, ISIS abandoned the city once the U.S. and its allies began airstrikes in late March. That is what happens in guerrilla warfare. Having extracted its price in blood, ISIS withdrew rather than endure heavy casualties. When Iraqi armed forces confronted ISIS in Anbar province in the second week of April, the Islamists responded with the massive counterattack that ultimately took Ramadi, the provincial capital, and they also attacked the Beiji oil refinery. ISIS now effectively controls the refinery, though it is too damaged to operate for now.


We are in communication with members of the Iraqi military, who report that Iraq’s special forces performed well against ISIS fighters in Ramadi. The special forces are the only ones with the technical ability to call in accurate airstrikes. But the regular Iraqi army continues to struggle. In a fight in northern Anbar last month, Iraqi soldiers were butchered after they ran out of ammunition, while a convoy of armored Humvees sent to rescue them was ambushed with a senior commander of the Iraqi army among the many killed.


The defense of Ramadi, according to our sources, was largely left to local Sunni tribesman who were small in number and unreliable allies. The Iraqi government may now be responding to the Ramadi challenge—on Monday 3,000 mostly Shiite paramilitary forces were reported massing outside the city, intent on trying to retake it. Tens of thousands of refugees from Anbar are now testing the capabilities of Iraq’s authorities. It is no coincidence that terrorist bombings in Baghdad, which had enjoyed a prolonged period of relative quiet, have increased as refugees began flooding into the city. Now there are scores of bombings weekly. ISIS has always fomented strife between communities, and no doubt hopes that Shiite militias will retaliate against the Sunnis fleeing Anbar.


U.S.-led airstrikes have allowed the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shiite, to consolidate its power even as it cedes ground to Iranian-backed Shiite militias of questionable motivations. The airstrikes may not have reversed ISIS gains, but the bombing campaign has complicated ISIS recruitment, financing, command and control, logistics and operational capabilities. But that is not enough. The U.S. needs to play a more robust role against ISIS before conditions in Iraq deteriorate further. The Pentagon should employ more ground operations by Special Operations forces, like the raid in eastern Syria on Friday that took out ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf. More Apache attack helicopters and transport planes are also needed, as is a brigade dedicated to improving operational command and intelligence support.


Moreover, the Pentagon needs to end the “boots on the ground” shell game of relying on temporary deployments to work around the president’s 3,000 personnel cap, which has proved dysfunctional. Most of the U.S. troops currently in Iraq are training and advising Iraqi forces. That is useful, but more need to be embedded with Iraqi units to improve the accuracy of U.S.-led airstrikes. American logistics assets, whether uniformed or contractor, should be deployed to supply the Iraqi army—the least we can do is ensure that Iraqi soldiers don’t have to worry about running out of ammunition. In addition, the U.S. must return to its role as an honest broker between Iraq’s majority Shiites and minority Sunnis, as it did in 2006-07 with great success.


Like it or not, the U.S. is the only country with the strength and know-how to rid Iraq of ISIS. Iran’s proxy forces are on the defensive in Syria and have made no overall progress in Iraq. Some argue that Iran isn’t serious in trying to defeat ISIS. It’s more likely that Iran isn’t capable of doing so. What is needed is decisive U.S. leadership. Without it, the long-term entrenchment of Islamic State in Iraq may become a disturbing reality.                                       




WHY DOES BAGHDAD LET ISIS KEEP WINNING?                                                               

Jacob Siegel & Michael Pregent                                                                                             

Daily Beast, May 18, 2015


The road to Baghdad runs through Ramadi. So why hasn’t the Iraqi government done more to reinforce the city, which has been under siege from ISIS forces since early 2014, even before the fall of Mosul? The answer is politics: Ramadi is predominantly Sunni, and powerful elements of Baghdad’s Shia ruling class fear empowering Iraq’s Sunnis more than they fear allowing ISIS to continue attacking and bleeding the country’s Sunni regions. “Ramadi is very close to Baghdad,” said General Najim Abed al-Jabouri, who was recently appointed Nineveh operations commander for the Iraqi army. “If the terrorists control Ramadi, Baghdad is under a bigger threat.”


The general is planning and eventually will lead the effort to retake Mosul. But that can’t happen until Ramadi is pacified. The Sunni force to retake Mosul has not been built yet. The force to take back Ramadi exists, but it needs weapons, ammo, and more important, Baghdad’s willingness to trust it enough not to disarm it afterward. It may also need Iran’s approval. The strategic goals of Baghdad are currently aligned with Iran’s: to secure infrastructure and negate Sunni threats along the Shia-sectarian fault lines in and around Baghdad, Diyala, and Salah-ad-Din. This strategy is evident in the Tikrit offensive and the commitment of limited forces for the stalled offensive in Baiji. For the Tikrit offensive, a force of reportedly 30,000 fighters was generated to liberate Saddam Hussein’s hometown from ISIS and decide who gets to resettle it.


Shia militia-led Peoples Mobilization Units (PMUs) outnumbered Iraqi army and National Police units on the ground. These militias and paramilitary forces were led by Katiab Hizbollah’s al-Muhindis and Badr’s Hadi al-Ameri. Just behind the scenes, Iran made no secret of its role planning the operation and the leading role played by its Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani. The rallying cry for the offensive was to avenge the Camp Speicher massacre of June 2014, when ISIS executed 1,700 Shia cadets. It was also a symbolic operation to move into the Sunni heartland and demonstrate that Shia militias aligned with Iran can, acting alone, negate future Sunni threats to Baghdad and, by extension, Tehran.


It didn’t work out that way. The Iran-planned, militia-led offensive stalled, and Iraq’s government requested U.S. airstrikes to break the stalemate. The United States delivered the airstrikes on the condition that militias not take part in the operation. They reluctantly complied, and the U.S. air support broke ISIS’s hold on the city. But what now for Tikrit? What prevents ISIS, a group fond of launching counterattacks, from overrunning the city again? Iraq’s government had announced that thousands of Sunni tribesmen would be part of the effort to clear ISIS from Tikrit. But their role never materialized. After Tikrit was cleared, without a force viewed as legitimate left to hold the city, it has become a lawless ghost town.


There is no emotional magnet event in Ramadi to generate a force to retake it, no rallying cry to motivate Shia men from the south to help their Sunni brothers push ISIS back in Anbar, the province where Ramadi is located. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are less willing than ever to fight in places absent Shia political interests and sectarian ties. And the Iraqi security apparatus is increasingly beholden to Shia political parties unwilling to push their fighters into areas without those ties.


Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has made overtures to Iraq’s Sunnis, exposing himself to some political risk in the process. In early April, Abadi visited Anbar, showcasing his effort to bring Sunni tribesmen into the volunteer military units known as the Hashd, which have become the backbone of Iraq’s army. One photo taken during the Anbar visit showed Abadi handing out rifles to Sunni volunteers. But the prime minister faces a powerful opposition led by Iraq’s former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is closely aligned with Iran and with Iraq’s powerful Iranian-backed militias. Even if Abadi’s gestures to Iraq’s Sunnis are entirely sincere, and many in the country doubt that, carrying the policies through could cost him his own power. “Abadi can’t realistically empower Sunnis without losing his own power,” said Sterling Jensen, who worked closely with Anbar’s Sunni tribal leaders as an interpreter for the U.S. government from 2006 to 2008 and stays in close contact with several high-level officials in Anbar. “If he empowers Sunnis, the Shia militias and his constituency in Baghdad will strip him of his power.”


Meanwhile, without a Sunni force in Anbar, ISIS has staged another assault and gotten closer to the seat of government power in Baghdad. A related problem with Abadi’s attempt to bring Sunnis into the security forces is how little came of it. Despite promises of arms going to Sunni volunteers in Anbar, few have been delivered, according to people there. Multiple people in Anbar who once fought alongside the U.S. against an earlier incarnation of ISIS “haven’t been getting the weapons they need,” Jensen said. And what weapons are delivered in Anbar, he said, go to people “connected to the Iraqi army or the joint operations command” rather than to the kind of local irregular forces critical to Anbar’s defense.


General Jabouri acknowledged that the number of weapons sent to Anbar “wasn’t enough.” But arming the tribes is complicated by questions about their allegiance, he said. “Yes, it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t all the tribes who received them,” the general said. “But the situation in Anbar is very complex. You don’t know who is your enemy. Because of the corruption before, many of the weapons that went to Anbar from the government went to the black market or to Da’ash,” the Arabic term for ISIS. There are undoubtedly Sunni sectarians in Iraq. Some are of the religious variety, like ISIS, while others are revanchists unwilling to be ruled by or share power with the country’s Shia majority. But Baghdad has shown little interest in distinguishing between Sunnis who have actively collaborated with ISIS or are otherwise irreconcilable and those have grievances against the government but are suffering under ISIS and desperate for the resources to fight it…

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





Connie Cass                                     

Times of Israel, May 18, 2015


A dozen years later, American politics has reached a rough consensus about the Iraq War: It was a mistake.

Politicians hoping to be president rarely run ahead of public opinion. So it’s a revealing moment when the major contenders for president in both parties find it best to say that 4,491 Americans and countless Iraqis lost their lives in a war that shouldn’t have been waged. Many people have been saying that for years, of course. Polls show most of the public have judged the war a failure by now. Over time, more and more Republican politicians have allowed that the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq undermined Republican President George W. Bush’s rationale for the 2003 invasion.


It hasn’t been an easy evolution for those such as Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, now favored to win her party’s nomination, who voted for the war in 2002 while serving in the Senate. That vote, and her refusal to fully disavow it, cost her during her 2008 primary loss to Barack Obama, who wasn’t in the Senate in 2002 but had opposed the war. In her memoir last year, Clinton wrote that she had voted based on the information available at the time, but “I got it wrong. Plain and simple.”


What might seem a hard truth for a nation to acknowledge has become the safest thing for an American politician to say — even Bush’s brother. The fact that Jeb Bush, a likely candidate for the Republican nomination in 2016, was pressured this past week into rejecting, in hindsight, his brother’s war “is an indication that the received wisdom, that which we work from right now, is that this was a mistake,” said Evan Cornog, a historian and dean of the Hofstra University school of communication. Or as Rick Santorum, another potential Republican candidate, put it: “Everybody accepts that now.” As a senator, Santorum voted for the Iraq invasion and continued to support it for years.


It’s an easier question for presidential hopefuls who aren’t bound by family ties or their own congressional vote for the war, who have the luxury of judging it in hindsight, knowing full well the terrible price Americans paid and the continuing bloodshed in Iraq today. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz weren’t in Congress in 2002 and so didn’t have to make a real-time decision with imperfect knowledge. Neither was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who served an earlier stint in Congress. All these Republicans said last week that, in hindsight, they would not have invaded Iraq with what’s now known about the faulty intelligence that wrongly indicated Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction.


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, in an interview Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” summed up that sentiment: “Knowing what we know now, I think it’s safe for many of us, myself included, to say, we probably wouldn’t have taken” that approach. Rubio, in a long exchange on “Fox News Sunday,” tried to navigate the Iraq shoals once again, making a glass-half-full case that while the war was based on mistaken intelligence, the world still is better off with Saddam gone. These politicians didn’t go as far, however, as war critics such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a declared Republican candidate, who says it would have been a mistake even if Saddam were hiding such weapons. Paul says Saddam was serving as a counterbalance to Iran and removing him from power led to much of the turmoil now rocking the Middle East.


Former President George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, still maintain that ousting a brutal and unpredictable dictator made the world safer. In his 2010 memoir, “Decision Points,” Bush said he got a “sickening feeling” every time he thought about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and he knew that would “transform public perception of the war.” But he stands by his decision. The war remains a painful topic that politicians must approach with some care. Jeb Bush, explaining his reluctance to clarify his position on the war’s start, said “going back in time and talking about hypotheticals,” the would-haves and the should-haves, does a disservice to the families of soldiers who gave their lives. When he finished withdrawing US troops in December 2011, Obama predicted a stable, self-reliant Iraqi government would take hold. Instead, turmoil and terrorism overtook Iraq and American leaders and would-be presidents are struggling with what to do next. The US now has 3,040 troops in Iraq as trainers and advisers and to provide security for American personnel and equipment.


For the most part, the public and the military — like the politicians — are focused less on decisions of the past than on the events of today and how to stop the Islamic State militants who have overrun a swath of Iraq and inspired terrorist attacks in the West. “The greater amount of angst in the military is from seeing the manifest positive results of the surge in 2007 and 2008 go to waste by misguided policies in the aftermath,” said retired US Army Col. Peter Monsoor, a top assistant to Gen. David Petraeus in Baghdad during that increase of US troops in Iraq. “Those mistakes were huge and compounded the original error of going into Iraq in the first place,” said Monsoor, now a professor of military history at Ohio State University. “There’s plenty of blame to go around. What we need is not so much blame as to figure out what happened and use that knowledge to make better decisions going forward.”




On Topic


Were We Right to Take Out Saddam?: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, May 19, 2015—Probable Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush got himself into trouble by sort of, sort of not, answering the question whether he would have supported going into Iraq in 2003 — had he known then what we know now.
Fall of Ramadi Raises Doubts About US Strategy in Iraq: Robert Burns, AP, May 19, 2015—Iraqi troops abandoned dozens of U.S military vehicles, including tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery pieces when they fled Islamic State fighters in Ramadi on Sunday, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Time for Military to Admit ISIS is Winning: Max Boot, Commentary, May 18, 2015—Is ISIS on the defensive and about to lose? To listen to U.S. military commanders, you would think the answer is yes.

My Son Died for Ramadi. Now ISIS Has It.: Michael Daly, Daily Beast, May 19, 2015— Nine years after Marc Alan Lee became the first Navy SEAL killed in the Iraq War, his mother sat watching TV images of the black flag of ISIS flying over the city where her son died.



We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 




King Abdullah and the United States: Ross Douthat, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2015— The Western response to the death of Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, king of Saudi Arabia and custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, followed two paths.

A Smooth Saudi Succession, But a Rough Road Ahead: Karen Elliott House, Wall Street Journal,  Jan. 23, 2015— The death Thursday of Saudi Arabia’s 90-year-old, long-ailing King Abdullah is hardly a surprise, nor are the ascensions of his 79-year-old brother Prince Salman as Saudi king and 69-year-old Muqrin, another brother, as crown prince.

How Did Saudi King Abdullah Become a World Hero?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 25, 2014 — You’d think that Mandela or Gandhi had passed away, such were the poetic love letters sent by world leaders and the way the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah was announced by media.

The Saudis Believe the West is About to Give in to Iranian Demands. Crashing the Price of Oil is How it Fights Back: Conrad Black, National Post, Dec. 20, 2014 — Responses to the decline in world oil prices have been mystifying — flummoxing, in fact.


On Topic Links


New Saudi King and U.S. Face Crucial Point in the Relationship: Helene Cooper, Rod Nordland & Neil Macfarquhar, New York Times, Jan. 23, 2014

Saudi Arabia’s New King Unlikely to Change Direction on Oil Production: Eric Reguly, Globe & Mail, Jan. 23, 2015

Saudi Society Steeped in Racism: Rachel Avraham, Jerusalem Online, Dec. 14, 2015

Gulf States and Qatar Gloss Over Differences, But Split Still Hampers Them: David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Dec. 21, 2014                                                                         



KING ABDULLAH AND THE UNITED STATES                                                                                   

Ross Douthat                                       

New York Times, Jan. 24, 2015


The Western response to the death of Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, king of Saudi Arabia and custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, followed two paths. Along one, various officials and luminaries offered the gestures — half-mast flags, public obsequies — expected when a great statesman enters the hereafter. John Kerry described the late monarch as “a man of wisdom and vision” and a “revered leader.” Tony Blair called him a “modernizer of his country” and a “staunch advocate of interfaith relations,” who was “loved by his people and will be deeply missed.”


Along the other path, anyone outside Western officialdom was free to tell the fuller truth: that Abdullah presided over one of the world’s most wicked nonpariah states, whose domestic policies are almost cartoonishly repressive and whose international influence has been strikingly malign. His dynasty is founded on gangsterish control over a precious natural resource, sustained by an unholy alliance with a most cruel interpretation of Islam and protected by the United States and its allies out of fear of worse alternatives if it fell. Was he a “modernizer”? Well, there were gestures, like giving women the vote in elections that don’t particularly matter. But Abdullah’s most important recent legacy has been counterrevolutionary, in his attempts to rally a kind of axis of authoritarianism against the influence of the Arab Spring. Did he believe in “interfaith relations”? Sure, so long as the other faiths were safely outside Saudi territory, where religious uniformity is enforced by the police and by the lash. Will he be “deeply missed”? Well, not by dissidents, Shiites, non-Muslims, protestors in neighboring countries … and for everyone else, only by comparison with the incompetence or chaos or still greater cruelty that might come next.


But Americans should feel some limited sympathy for the late king, because our relationship with his kingdom has something in common with his own. Like so many despots, Abdullah was to some extent a prisoner of the system he inherited, interested in reform in theory but unable to find the room or take the risks required to see it through. And we in the United States are prisoners as well: handcuffed to Saudi Arabia, bound to its corruptions and repression, with no immediate possibility of escape. Much of America’s post-Cold War policy-making in the Middle East can be understood as a search for a way to slip those cuffs. Three consecutive presidents have tried to reshape the region so that alliances with despotic regimes will no longer seem so inevitable or necessary. And all of them have failed. For Bill Clinton, solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was supposed to be the catalyst — in ways never quite elucidated — for reform and progress in the wider Arab world. For George W. Bush, or at least his ambitious advisers, the invasion of Iraq was supposed to create a brilliant alternative to our Saudi alliance — a new special Middle Eastern relationship, but with an oil-producing liberal democracy this time.


For President Obama, there have been multiple ideas for how we might, as an administration official put it during our Libya campaign, “realign our interests and our values.” The president has tried rhetorical outreach to transcend (or at least obscure) our coziness with tyrants; he tried, in Libya and haltingly in Egypt, to put his administration on the side of the Arab Spring; he and Mr. Kerry have made efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; he has sought some kind of realigning deal with that other font of cruelty, the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iran project is ongoing, but so far all these efforts either have led (in the case of our Libyan crusade) to outright chaos, or have seen things cycle back to the same old stalemates, the same morally corrosive status quo. Here Obama’s experiences are of a piece with Bush’s, albeit without the same cost in blood and treasure. From Saddam’s Iraq to Mubarak’s Egypt, from Libya to the West Bank, the last two presidents have repeatedly pulled the curtain back, or had it pulled back for them, on potential alternatives to the kind of realpolitik that binds us to the Saudis, and potential aftermaths to the dynasty’s eventual fall. So far, they’ve found nothing good.


Meanwhile, the Saudis themselves are still there. And since much of what’s gone bad now surrounds them — the Islamic State very much in business in the north, Iranian-backed rebels seizing power in Yemen to the south — the American interest in the stability of their kingdom, the continuation of the royal family’s corrupt and wicked rule, is if anything even stronger than before. Whatever judgment King Abdullah finds himself facing now, he is at least free of his kingdom, his region and its nightmarish dilemmas. But not America. A king is dead, but our Saudi nightmare is a long way from being finished.                    







Karen Elliott House

Wall Street Journal, Jan. 23, 2015


The death Thursday of Saudi Arabia’s 90-year-old, long-ailing King Abdullah is hardly a surprise, nor are the ascensions of his 79-year-old brother Prince Salman as Saudi king and 69-year-old Muqrin, another brother, as crown prince. But the quick choice of Mohammed bin Nayef as the kingdom’s new deputy crown prince is surprising—and is significant domestically and internationally. The 55-year-old Prince Mohammed is the first of the grandsons of Abdul Aziz, founder of modern Saudi Arabia, to be named in the line of succession. For nearly 60 years, one after another of Abdul Aziz’s more than three-dozen sons followed each other as king. Muqrin is the youngest surviving son.  Watching this band of brothers diminish in number and vigor left many inside the kingdom—and abroad—fearing that one day soon the next-generation princes would quarrel over succession and thereby risk destabilizing oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Now the succession issue appears to be settled. This new leadership trio is likely to continue the kingdom’s foreign policies—specifically its regional competition with Iran, its distrust of the U.S., and its acceptance of low oil prices. At home, the main impact is likely to be further suppression of dissent; the brief spring of more tolerance when King Abdullah began his reign in 2005 is a distant memory.


Mohammed bin Nayef’s appointment surely will be welcomed by the U.S. and other Western nations that have worked closely with him over the past decade as the kingdom’s top officer in charge of curbing terrorism. Educated in the U.S. and fluent in English, Prince Mohammed was long seen as Washington’s preferred candidate among the younger princes who aspired to be king. As a result, some inside Saudi Arabia will see his selection as proof that the U.S., despite growing tensions with Saudi Arabia, still exercises a major say in who leads the kingdom. American support for him is a negative among young Saudi fundamentalists, who oppose Saudi ties with what they see as foreign infidels. Since 2012 Prince Mohammed has been head of the powerful ministry of interior charged with internal security. The ministry has its own paramilitary force to guard key facilities, such as oil installations, and operates a sophisticated surveillance system monitoring Saudi citizens. The ascent of this new-generation ruler could come sooner than expected. The new King Salman is said to suffer from Alzheimer’s, and Crown Prince Muqrin’s credentials to be king continue to be questioned by some in the royal family because his mother was only a Yemeni concubine of Abdul Aziz.


By contrast, the new deputy prime minister has two advantages: First, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is part of the powerful family faction called the Sudairi (a Sudairi woman bore Abdul Aziz seven sons, including King Salman) who have dominated family affairs much of the past half-century. Second, Prince Mohammed has no sons, at least so far, which would make his ascension less threatening to other family factions. What is clear is that the appointment of Mohammed bin Nayef as deputy crown prince and his cousin, Mohammed bin Salman, 30, the new king’s son, as defense minister and chief of his father’s royal court, injects clarity and vigor into the future succession of the Al Saud dynasty. The new deputy crown prince is credited by Saudis for keeping terrorism inside the kingdom at bay, but the new defense minister, who has been his father’s chief aide in recent years, is seen as inexperienced and arrogant and thus lacks public support. In the short term, though, the new leadership team faces serious challenges at home and especially abroad.


Even as the Al Saud princes buried their late king and then gathered after the day’s fifth and final prayer required of Muslims to pledge their bay’ah or allegiance to the new king, crown prince and deputy crown prince, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels had evicted the Saudi-supported leader of neighboring Yemen. (And at home, in Medina, a Saudi jihadist was shot attempting to storm a building housing security agencies.) The kingdom’s efforts to confront and curb Iranian influence will continue unabated. In particular, the Saudis will continue to accept lower oil prices, a tactic that is helping to bankrupt Iran. Efforts to secure U.S. cooperation against the Islamic State terror group, or ISIS, in Syria and Iraq will also continue, as will the kingdom’s disappointment that the Obama administration is doing little to remove Iran’s ally, Bashar Assad, in Syria. Given the late Saudi king’s prolonged poor health, Salman as crown prince was involved in most of the kingdom’s foreign-policy decisions; he is unlikely to change much, unless he decides to be even tougher on Iran…                                                                                                                                     

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




HOW DID SAUDI KING ABDULLAH BECOME A WORLD HERO?                                                          

Seth J. Frantzman                                                                                                        

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 25, 2015


You’d think that Mandela or Gandhi had passed away, such were the poetic love letters sent by world leaders and the way the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah was announced by media. The sixth ruler of what popular Palestinian commentator Jamal Dajani calls “the medieval kingdom,” Abdullah was portrayed as a great world leader. The New York Times lauded him as a “shrewd force who re-shaped Saudi Arabia.” “He will be remembered for his long years of service to the kingdom, for his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths. My thoughts and prayers are with the Saudi royal family and the people of the kingdom,” declared UK Prime Minister David Cameron. He worked for “peace and prosperity,” Cameron said. Former UK leader Tony Blair claimed that the king was a “sound ally, a patient and skillful modernizer.” Flags in England (but not in Scotland) flew at half-mast out of respect, and supposedly due to protocol, for this most wonderful and inspiring of monarchs. US President Barack Obama spoke of a “genuine and warm friendship.” US Secretary of State John Kerry was among the most laudatory, calling Abdullah “a man of wisdom and vision… a revered leader.” The media boasted about Abdullah’s “more than 30 wives” and fawned over the 15,000 members of the royal family, who hold the country’s top diplomatic, military and political posts.


One wonders if Sri Lankan maid Rizana Nafeek saw the great wisdom of Abdullah when she was dragged from a van by Saudi soldiers last year and executed publicly by a sword-wielding man in a white robe, as crowds looked on in pleasure. She was sentenced to death at the age of 17 in 2007 after her employers claimed she was responsible for the death of their child, that she was taking care of as part of her duties as a housemaid. A video posted online shows the gruesome ceremony, the result of the great wisdom Western leaders showed such fawning appreciation for. Did Burmese maid Layla Bint Abdul Mutaleb Bassim share the “modern” vision of the king as she was dragged through the streets and then beheaded in public while being held by four soldiers on January 18 of this year? She plead for her life and declared her innocence. It is tradition in Saudi Arabia’s injustice system that executioners ask those they kill for forgiveness prior to beheading them. But the young Bassim shouted in the street, blindfolded and with her arms tied behind her back: “haram [forbidden], haram, haram, I did not kill, I do not forgive you, this is an injustice.” And then the sword of modernity, of progress, of “warm and genuine friendship,” fell on her neck – three times, as the executioner could not kill her in one stroke. The man who filmed the gruesome legal murder of Bassim was arrested.


And for the dozens of other victims of such executions, many of them young foreign maids, why don’t the flags fly at half-mast in London? In other places in Saudi Arabia there are public canings. Raif Badawi was whipped in public 50 times on January 9 for “insulting religion”; he critiqued Saudi religious clerics on his blog. His 50 lashes were part of a 10-year sentence including 1,000 lashes, to be administered in 50 sessions over 20 weeks. These public whippings were a part of what those like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Abdullah’s “important voice [which] left a lasting impact on his country… a guiding force.” Modi was in an “hour of grief” for the dead king. Modi is right, in a sense. The Saudi king indeed left a “lasting impact”: bloodstained streets and scarred backs. He made a lasting impact on thousands of poor people from families throughout Asia, such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, India and Burma, whose loved ones who were beheaded after working as semi-enslaved housekeepers in the kingdom. When the Times said Abdullah “re-shaped” Saudi Arabia, it was correct; decapitating people is re-shaping them indeed.


There are an estimated 9 million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. Many of them are young women brought over as “maids.” Thousands flee abusive employers every month to their embassies or safe houses. Usually their passports have been confiscated and they have few options. One Sri Lankan maid told an embassy employee, “After three months of work I asked madam [my employer] for my salary and she started to beat me with iron bars and wooden sticks… she would take a hot iron and burn me or heat up a knife and put it on my body… she threatened to take me to a police station and have me arrested.” In Saudi Arabia, you can be executed for false accusations like this. The great “modernizer” for whom leaders waxed lyrical also did “great service” for gay men. In July 2014 a gay man was sentenced to three years and 450 lashes in Saudi Arabia for the crime of using Twitter to arrange dates with other men. But the homosexual men being lashed for using satanic Twitter are only one part of the modernization pie. Another part is the women like the “girl from Qatif,” who was gang-raped in 2006 by men who filmed the rape. Because they did her the “service” of filming it she wasn’t stoned for “adultery” but rather was mercifully given 200 lashes for “being alone with a man” and sentenced to six months in prison…

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






CRASHING THE PRICE OF OIL IS HOW IT FIGHTS BACK                                                                    

Conrad Black                                                                                                       

National Post, Dec. 20, 2014


Responses to the decline in world oil prices have been mystifying — flummoxing, in fact. The secretary general of OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), Abdullah Al-Badri, said last week that speculation was to blame for the decline by 15% since the last increase in production. He ceremoniously denied that there was any attempt by the cartel to discourage production from shale or oil sands, or to put political pressure on Iran or Russia. In general, the world’s media have bought into the theory that discouragement of production from new sources that would reduce oil imports, especially by the United States, is the real reason for increased production and reduced price. If you doubt that, just ask Russian President Vladimir Putin, who harangued reporters for more than three hours Thursday about the anti-Moscow axis of evil formed by B.O. and its two handmaidens, the United States and Saudi Arabia.


Or spare a thought for Scottish leader Alex Salmond, whose campaign to pull Scotland out of the United Kingdom was based on the assurance its share of North Sea oil would guarantee a prosperous and dynamic future. Mr. Salmond lost the vote, which should have Scots thanking their lucky bagpipes around now. This month’s sudden, unforeseen plunge in oil prices would have left a gaping crater in the national budget, before Free Scotland even had a chance to redesign its flag. But Al-Badri has a limited mandate to give the agreed official line of OPEC and has no authority to speak for the motives of the individual member states, and even less standing to mind-read the authorities in those countries and speak for them. OPEC is a slippery cartel at the best of times, many of whose members are virtually, if not actually, at war with each other; the member states don’t necessarily speak truthfully among themselves and anything uttered on behalf of the whole group should be treated with caution. Some member states, including Iraq, Libya and Nigeria, do not really speak for the oil-exporting regions in the country, and there are many other oil-producing countries that either do not export, or even if they do, are not in OPEC, including Canada, Australia, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States.


The explanation of speculation is nonsense, as no sane speculator would encourage the sale of oil at less than its real market value other than to himself, and where the claimed OPEC production is 30 million barrels a day, no unofficial speculation would cause the sort of gyrations in oil prices that have occurred. In general, the decline in China’s rate of economic growth, and conservation and alternate energy-encouragement measures in much of the West and the steady advance of increased domestic production in the United States, explain much of the price reduction. But there is no doubt that Saudi Arabia, as the world’s leading oil exporter, has increased production, whether it is advising Mr. Al-Badri of it or not, and there is no doubt that its motives are chiefly political.


Saudi Arabia has resigned itself to the fact that neither its oft-demonstrated ability to play the periodic U.S. resolve to reduce its dependence on foreign oil like a yo-yo by price-cutting until the impulse of self-discipline passes, nor the agitation of the environmentalists for restrained oil production, will work again. (Shale-sourced oil is relatively environmentally friendly.) President Eisenhower warned over the Suez crisis in 1956 of the dangers of relying on foreign countries for 10% of America’s oil supply; President Nixon did the same in 1973 during the Arab oil embargo, when the percentage of U.S. oil needs provided by imports had risen to 20%. In the late 1980s, President Reagan arranged for the Saudis to over-produce to bring prices back down by half, by selling Saudi Arabia advanced AWACS reconnaissance aircraft and America’s best interceptor jets and sophisticated air-to-air weapons systems. This was part of Reagan’s plan to squeeze the Soviet Union’s foreign exchange sources while spending them to the mat with his Strategic Defense Initiative. The nature of these arrangements really only came to light in the memoirs of some of those involved on the American side about 20 years later.


The principal impact of the reduction in world oil prices from around US$100 a barrel to the mid-50s, and of the cost of gasoline at the pump in the United States from $4.00 to about $2.60, has been severe pressure on the Russian currency (a 50% reduction against the dollar and euro), and the country’s whole financial system, causing severe inflation and drastic interest-rate increases in the usual effort of desperate regimes to maintain a semblance of a believable currency. The Russian ruble has never been a hard currency, even in the piping days of the Romanovs, and that country under Putin is, in economic (and some other) terms, not many rungs above a thugdom of the president and his cronies. But oil speculators operating on their own accounts do not cause the Kremlin to put Holy Mother Russia on the rack of multi-point daily interest rate increases, causing large protests and some public disorder. This is a Saudi move that has ramified very seriously in Russia, far beyond its impact on new oil extraction techniques in the U.S. If a $50 price is reached and maintained, it would negatively alter but not destroy the economics of heavy oil and probably reduce somewhat shale activity, where reserves are more quickly exploited and harder to estimate than traditional subterranean oil fields, even those that are off-shore. But a Saudi move on this scale, with the resulting self-inflicted reduction in their income, makes no sense for the marginal impact it will have on American future production and imports; it is a geopolitical move targeted much closer to home…


Al-Badri’s flimflam, for which there is much precedent in the history of OPEC (essentially, the cartel is a perpetual quarrel among thieves pretending to be price-fixing), naturally seeks to disguise the fact that Saudi Arabia is trying to discourage the use of Iranian and Russian oil revenues to prop up the blood-stained and beleaguered Assad regime in Damascus, to finance Iran’s nuclear military program, and to incite the continuing outrages of Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories against Israel. The exotic community of interest that has suddenly arisen between the historically Jew-baiting Saudis and the Jewish state is because the countries in the area fear, with good reason as far as can be discerned, that the UN Security Council members, plus Germany, may be on the verge of acquiescing in Iran’s arrival as a threshold nuclear military power. The oil-price weapon, in the face of the terminal enfeeblement of the Obama administration, is the last recourse before the Saudis and Turks, whatever their autocues of racist rhetoric, invite Israel to smash the Iranian nuclear program from the air.


It is perfectly indicative of the scramble that ensues when a mighty power like the United States withdraws, fatigued but undefeated, from much of the world, that Saudi Arabia, a joint venture between the nomadic and medieval House of Saud and the Wahhabi establishment that propagates jihadism with Saudi oil revenues, makes common cause with Israel in a way that inadvertently relieves much of the Russian pressure on Ukraine, which was not an objective in Saudi calculations at all. From the Western standpoint, this is a lucky bounce of the political football. But it is Saudi judgment of its self-interest opposite the contending factions in Syria and the hideous prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran that is discommoding the Saudi leaders, not the ineluctable exploitation by the United States of its own oil resources. It need hardly be added that any conventional definition of “speculation” has nothing to do with it; nor that the Western panic at the bonanza of a $500-billion reduction in the West’s energy costs or the obdurate failure of most Western commentators to understand the implications of the oil price reduction, are an unflattering reflection on the financial and political acuity of the pundits of our society.




On Topic


New Saudi King and U.S. Face Crucial Point in the Relationship: Helene Cooper, Rod Nordland & Neil Macfarquhar, New York Times, Jan. 23, 2014—Almost a decade ago, an Arab diplomat famously likened the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia to a Catholic marriage “where you can have no divorce.”

Saudi Arabia’s New King Unlikely to Change Direction on Oil Production: Eric Reguly, Globe & Mail, Jan. 23, 2015—Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah died Thursday night and, the next morning, oil prices rose. A delayed reaction to the launch of the European Central Bank’s €1.1-trillion ($1.52-trillion) quantitative easing assault on deflation might explain the uptick, but markets generally don’t do delayed reactions.

Saudi Society Steeped in Racism: Rachel Avraham, Jerusalem Online, Dec. 14, 2015 —Following the massacre of Shias in Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia, which resulted in the death of 8 people and several others being wounded during the Shiite Ashura holiday this year, Saudi journalist Hussein Shobokshi wrote in an article in Al Sharq Al Aswat that was translated into English by MEMRI that racism and extremism permeates Saudi society.  

Gulf States and Qatar Gloss Over Differences, But Split Still Hampers Them: David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Dec. 21, 2014—Shaking hands and kissing foreheads, the monarchs of the Persian Gulf came together this month to declare that they had resolved an 18-month feud in order to unite against their twin enemies, Iran and the Islamic State.























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Manfred Gerstenfeld: The American Government and the “U” Word in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

If Israel were to have a central counter-propaganda unit, one of its functions would be to address the regular abuse of semantics used to demonize the country. Two expressions of such abuse which easily come to mind are the repeated misuse of international humanitarian law by Western authorities, as well as the term “disproportionality” where Israel’s military reactions are concerned.

At the top levels of the American government a new expression has emerged concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: “unsustainability”, or “unsustainability of the status quo”.  This seemingly rhetorically neutral expression hides a completely different message, i.e., that Israel has to make concessions to the Palestinians so that there will be a two-state solution. One can add that whatever might happen afterward – for instance, the possible Palestinian state takeover by the Hamas movement – is not of interest to those who pressure Israel. 

While celebrating the White House’s Annual Ramadan-Iftar Dinner, American President Barack Obama said in July 2014 that, “The situation in Gaza reminds us again that the status quo is unsustainable and that the only path to true security is a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, where differences are resolved peacefully and in ways that respect the dignity of all people.” It would have been more truthful of him to say that “the extreme criminality in parts of the Muslim world is unsustainable.”

The term was picked up by his Secretary of State John Kerry, who said in October 2014 that, "The current situation, the status quo, is unsustainable." Kerry repeated this sentiment yet again two months later in response to the Palestinian statehood resolution at the United Nations. "The status quo is unsustainable for both parties…Right now what we are trying to is have a constructive conversation with everybody to find the best way to go forward.”

When the United States voted against the Jordanian resolution on Palestinian statehood in the UN Security Council on December 30, 2014, the US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, found it necessary to say, "Today's vote should not be interpreted as a victory for an unsustainable status quo."

All these facts indicate that after the Israeli elections, Americans will most likely pressure the government to make concessions in support of the so-called “peace negotiations.” 

The main concession of the century, which Israel made to the Palestinians was the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government. In 2004, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror and David Keyes wrote for The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that, “the eventual take-over of the Gaza Strip by Hamas certainly cannot be ruled out, given the enormous political clout it already possesses and the relative decline of the Fatah movement in recent years.”

By the summer of 2006, American diplomat Dennis Ross wrote, “with Hamas in control of Gaza and Hezbollah having provoked a conflict that has many in the international community questioning the logic of Israel's response, one might be tempted to say that history's verdict is already in, and it is not kind to Sharon.”

Today, we know that Sharon unilaterally created a “lose-lose” situation. Sharon and the State of Israel initially received some international acclaim after its 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. Since then, however, the Israelis are only worse off due to Gazan terrorism and rockets. Israel is also ferociously criticized by media and politicians for its measures taken against Gazan terrorism. The Gazans are worse off due to the closure of their area and the consequences of Israeli reactions to the endless provocations of Hamas, an Islamo-Nazi movement, which aims to kill all Jews, which the Palestinians voted into power.

When Sharon died in 2014, many Western leaders eulogized him. Several of them, despite having had eight years to think over Ross’ aforementioned conclusion, had yet to understand its validity. Although Sharon had created the Gaza withdrawal disaster, some of these eulogizers presented it as a positive achievement. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “called on Israel to build on the late Prime Minister’s legacy of pragmatism, to work toward the long overdue achievement of an independent and viable Palestinian state next to a secure Israel.” A far more correct statement would have been that Sharon had created a calamity for his country, and that the current Israeli PM should be careful to avoid repeating such mistakes despite the fact that he is under constant international pressure. 

Kerry’s eulogy was less clear, but he also saw Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza as a positive event, saying, “Sharon surprised many in his pursuit of peace, and today we all recognize that Israel has to be strong to make peace. And we also know that peace will make Israel stronger, not just with its near neighbors, but throughout the world.” Kerry’s words were interpreted as putting pressure on Netanyahu to make concessions. Any logical analyst of Sharon’s lose-lose policy in Gaza would draw the opposite conclusion. Israel should stay firm rather than weakening itself to please many in the international community. 

As far as “unsustainability of the status quo” goes, the term is used in the political world in regard to the Palestinian-Israel conflict more than in regard to other conflicts around the globe. It is also used to describe the situation in Gaza. In December 2012, then-EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov released a joint statement in reference to the 2012 Gaza Operation Pillar of Defense. They “fully recognized Israel’s security needs”, but asked for the “unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of goods and persons to and from the Gaza Strip, the situation of which is unsustainable as long as it remains politically and economically separated from the West Bank.” Ashton and Lavrov knew well that the closure of Gaza was a measure taken to assure Israel’s security – which they claimed they wanted to protect, but in reality were willing to sacrifice.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council repeated this sentiment during the summer 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. They stated, “The situation in the Gaza Strip has been unsustainable for many years and a return to the status quo prior to the latest conflict is not an option.”
During his May 2014 visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Pope Francis I said, "The time has come to put an end to this situation, which has become increasingly unacceptable." One wonders whether he hadn’t yet caught up to the fashion of using the term “unsustainable.”
If one starts an internet search, one would have expected many experts to have warned that when the last US troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011, they would leave behind an “unsustainable” situation. Indeed, the Americans have had to return to Iraq in 2014 to fight one of the local factions, Islamic State, and are now also doing so within Syria, as well. The Iraqi situation after the American withdrawal was truly unsustainable, but many great Western pundits could not see the writing on the wall. That should serve as a lesson – that there is a need for the West to systematically assess which are the situations around the world where the status quo is most unsustainable. A number of conflicts within Muslim countries would probably come up on top, well before the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld’s upcoming book The War of a Million Cuts analyzes how Israel and Jews are delegitimized and how to fight it.

He is a recipient (2012) of the lifetime achievement award of the Journal of the Study of Anti-Semitism.



We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 




A Bad Deal Gets Worse: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Dec. 1, 2014— As we go to press, the White House has reportedly offered Iran a deal regarding its nuclear program, a framework agreement with details to be worked out in the coming months.

Obama’s Coming War With Congress Over Iran: Eric R. Mandel, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 8, 2014— In order to win the elections that have been foisted upon him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must run a focused campaign against Israel's bona fide foes, not against the novice and petty politicians with whom he has been squabbling.

Iran Cheats, Obama Whitewashes: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 24, 2014 — Does it matter what sort of deal—or further extension, or non-deal—ultimately emerges from the endless parleys over Iran’s nuclear program?

A Western Tourist Hasn’t a Chance in a Persian Bazaar: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Breaking Israel News, Dec. 1, 2014— There are two kinds of markets in the world today: the Western store and the Eastern bazaar.


On Topic Links


Report: Iran Cheating on Nuclear Sanctions: Daniel Halper, Weekly Standard, Dec. 8, 2014

Iran Extension Foreshadows a Bad Nuclear Deal: Emanuele Ottolenghi, RealClearWorld, Nov. 30, 2014

U.S. Accuses Iran of Secretly Breaching U.N. Nuclear Sanctions: Colum Lynch, Foreign Policy, Dec. 8, 2014

Iran Remains the Greatest Challenge in U.S.-Israel Relations: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror, JCPA, Nov. 30, 2014



A BAD DEAL GETS WORSE                                                       

Lee Smith                                                                                                             

Weekly Standard, Dec. 1, 2014


…The White House has made it clear it wants a deal more than the Islamic Republic does. Under the circumstances, why wouldn’t Tehran wait to see how many more U.S. concessions it can extract? There appears to be compromise on a number of major issues, like the number of centrifuges Iran will be able to keep (around 5,000). Other details, like the pace of sanctions relief and addressing the possible military dimensions of the program, seem to be where the Iranians are trying to force the administration to bend. All we know for certain is that the Obama White House is a long way from where it was a year ago, and not in a good sense.


Back then the administration told Congress not to worry about oversight—it was going to get a good deal or walk away from the table. No deal at all was better than a bad one. Last year, the slogan was “stop, shut, and ship,” which meant the Iranians would have no choice but to cease their weapons program once and for all. Now, the deal would compel the Iranians only to disconnect centrifuges, which would leave them in a position to restart activities promptly—and, without a proper verification regime, secretly. The administration is said to be happy to have bargained Iran down to around 5,000 centrifuges—a number low enough that the international community would have approximately six months’ notice if Iran tried to break out. This assumes transparency—that Washington and its allies can accurately assess the state of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. However, the revelation over the last decade of secret Iranian facilities—at Natanz, then Fordow—is evidence that our window into Iranian nuclear activities is cloudy. It assumes further that if we could forecast a breakout, the international community would have the will to stop Iran, that it would be possible, for instance, to get a resolution through the United Nations Security Council in a timely fashion. It assumes therefore not only the acquiescence of allies, like Germany, already eager to do business with a post-sanctions Iran, but also the agreement of Russia and China, who in fact would be certain to stall, if not block, action at the U.N.


Moreover, it is worth noting that the preceding conditions are applicable only in a best-case scenario, in which the White House might really have six months to act. It is much more likely that the administration will have no margin of error—which is to say, if we are talking about activities at a clandestine facility, the breakout time will be measured not in months but in weeks. As David Albright, founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, explains, one of the major issues dividing the two sides is the issue of how PMDs (the term of art for possible military dimensions) affect the verification regime. The International Atomic Energy Agency, Albright said on a conference call last week organized by the Israel Project, needs to know the history of Iran’s nuclear program. Without that, he said, “we simply cannot understand if Iran .  .  . has hidden parts of [a] past nuclear weapons program, perhaps even nuclear material. And so the IAEA simply cannot give the assurance that there’s not some secret part there unless they understand the history and know who did what, where it was done, and then have assurance that those people and those activities at those facilities have stopped, and they’ve not been moved someplace else.”


In other words, if Iran can already undermine the organization responsible for verifying compliance with the agreement, then it can certainly do so in the future as well. Indeed, as Albright explains, “it would be a lot easier in the future, when there are no .  .  . major economic and financial sanctions that can leverage Iran to cooperate.” Presumably, this is the item the Iranian side is most eager to see the White House concede: to hollow out the verification regime and thereby help Iran keep aspects of its program out of the spotlight of IAEA inspectors. Maybe the Obama administration was simply naïve to have believed that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei would give newly elected president Hassan Rouhani a lot of room to maneuver in nuclear talks. Perhaps the White House was arrogant to think that sanctions relief would get Rouhani, as some administration officials put it, “addicted to cash” and force him to make concessions on the nuclear program in order to revive the Iranian economy.


If it wasn’t simply naïveté and arrogance, then the White House misled the American people and their representatives in Congress as well as U.S. allies. Either way, the  end result is an empowered Islamic Republic and a further crumbling of the American-brokered order in the Middle East. The White House prides itself on the notion that its nuclear negotiations with Iran will have prevented an other-wise inevitable war. The truth is the opposite. In lifting sanctions and yielding repeatedly to an expansionist Iran, the Obama administration has brought America and its allies to this pass: Either Iran will get a nuclear bomb, or war will be the only way to stop it. Worse, the administration has increased the chances we might get both outcomes at once.




OBAMA’S COMING WAR WITH CONGRESS OVER IRAN                               

Eric R. Mandel

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 8, 2014  


What does Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer’s attack on President Barack Obama’ Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) have to do with Iran? If you missed it, Schumer said Democrats “blew the opportunity the American people gave them” by focusing “on the wrong problem – health care.” The politically savvy Schumer, who is adept at reading tea leaves, knows that for 2016 and beyond, very few Democrats will want to hitch their re-election prospects to the Obama legacy. Moderate Democrats in the House and Senate are distancing themselves from an unpopular Democratic president in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. The president has chosen to ignore the shellacking his party sustained in the midterm election, and instead has decided to go on the offensive. He does not see the defeat as a call from the American people for compromise and humility; he sees it as a call for unilateral executive action. It is a policy that scares Democrats who are up for re-election in 2016 because it is farther to the left than where they would like to position themselves before the presidential primaries, which begin in just over a year.


The surprising strong attack by a leader of the Democratic Party, who also was a leading supporter and defender of ObamaCare, has direct implications for the upcoming inevitable confrontation between Congress and the president over Iran. Inevitable because the administration is desperate to sign a deal – any deal – and call it a victory. If Senator Schumer could attack the sacrosanct Accountable Care Act, then he and other Democratic allies may be willing to confront the president on his major foreign policy initiative, concluding the Iranian nuclear negotiations. When it was politically safe to defend the president’s misguided opposition to additional sanctions, Schumer was more than happy to defend the president to a very skeptical pro-Israel community. Never mind that those additional sanctions might have created enough pressure on the authoritarian theocratic regime to actually force it to negotiate in good faith.


Schumer continued to defend Obama when the president mind-bogglingly agreed to Iranian enrichment in the interim deal, which contradicted six UN Security Council resolutions, and also agreed to sunset all Iranian obligations over time. Politics mattered more than what was right for America. However, with a lame duck president and the political winds changing, Schumer now realizes that the America people still fear a nuclear Iran, sympathize with Israel, and have concluded that the administration’s incoherent foreign policy has weakened American security interests and prestige abroad. Schumer will now do what most politicians do: “whitewash” his record and expect his constituents to develop amnesia and forget how his leadership undermined our security interests in the region by weakening our allies, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. If Schumer and some moderate Democrats want to confront the president and his aides over their handling of the Iran negotiations, they will not have to look far for ammunition. All they need to do is expose the broken promises of the administration from last fall, when both the White House and State Department agreed to work with Congress on new sanctions legislation if a treaty were not completed by July 2014.


The president knows he can outflank Congress because the proposed multi-party treaty between the P5+1 and Iran does not require Congressional approval. So what can the Republican Congress and their new Democratic allies do before a deal or framework agreement is signed this winter or spring? Pass new sanctions to become effective if: Iran is allowed to keep the Arak plutonium reactor; Iran is not required to dismantle Fordow, Natanz and Parchin; Centrifuge R&D is not completed halted; The parties agree to a sunset provision of less than 50 years; The treaty allows for more than 1,000 centrifuges or, indeed, any centrifuges other than IR-1M’s…

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






IRAN CHEATS, OBAMA WHITEWASHES                                                              

Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal, Nov. 24, 2014


Does it matter what sort of deal—or further extension, or non-deal—ultimately emerges from the endless parleys over Iran’s nuclear program? Probably not. Iran came to the table cheating on its nuclear commitments. It continued to cheat on them throughout the interim agreement it agreed to last year. And it will cheat on any undertakings it signs. We knew this, know it and will come to know it all over again. But what’s at stake in these negotiations isn’t their outcome, assuming there ever is an outcome. It’s the extent to which the outcome facilitates, or obstructs, our willingness to continue to fool ourselves about the consequences of an Iran with a nuclear weapon.


The latest confirmation of the obvious comes to us courtesy of a Nov. 17 report from David Albright and his team at the scrupulously nonpartisan Institute for Science and International Security. The ISIS study, based on findings from the International Atomic Energy Agency, concluded that Iran was stonewalling U.N. inspectors on the military dimensions of its program. It noted that Tehran had tested a model for an advanced centrifuge, in violation of the 2013 interim agreement. And it cited Iran for trying to conceal evidence of nuclear-weapons development at a military facility called Parchin. “By failing to address the IAEA’s concerns, Iran is complicating, and even threatening, the achievement of a long term nuclear deal,” the report notes dryly.


These are only Iran’s most recent evasions, piled atop two decades of documented nuclear deception. Nothing new there. But what are we to make of an American administration that is intent on providing cover for Iran’s coverups? “The IAEA has verified that Iran has complied with its commitments,” Wendy Sherman, the top U.S. nuclear negotiator, testified in July to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It has done what it promised to do.” John Kerry went one better, telling reporters Monday that “Iran has lived up” to its commitments. The statement is false: Yukiya Amano, the director general of the IAEA, complained last week that Iran had “not provided any explanations that enable the Agency to clarify the outstanding practical measures” related to suspected work on weaponization. Since when did trust but verify become whitewash and hornswoggle? That’s a question someone ought to ask Mr. Kerry or Ms. Sherman at their next committee appearance, especially since it has become clear that the administration has a record of arms-control dissembling. To wit, the State Department under Hillary Clinton had reason to know that Russia—with which the U.S. was then in “reset” mode—was violating the 1987 treaty on Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces. Yet it didn’t disclose this in arms-control reports to Congress, nor did it mention the fact prior to the Senate’s 2010 ratification of the New Start treaty on strategic weapons.


“We’re not going to pass another treaty in the U.S. Senate if our colleagues [in the administration] are sitting up there knowing somebody is cheating.” That was then-Sen. John Kerry in November 2012, complaining about the coverup. The administration only came clean about the Kremlin’s breaches last summer, presumably after it had finally given up hopes for its Russian reset. Why the spin and dishonesty? Partly it’s the old Platonic conceit of the Noble Lie—public bamboozlement in the service of the greater good—that propels so much contemporary liberal policy-making (cf. Gruber, Jonathan: transparency, lack of). So long as the higher goal is a health-care bill, or arms control with Russia, or a nuclear deal with Iran, why should the low truth of facts and figures interfere with the high truth of hopes and ideals? But this lets the administration off too easily. The real problem is cowardice. As a matter of politics it cannot acknowledge what, privately, it believes: that a nuclear Iran is undesirable but probably inevitable and hardly catastrophic. As a matter of strategy, it refuses to commit to the only realistic course of action that could accomplish the goal it professes to seek: The elimination of Iran’s nuclear capabilities by a combination of genuinely crippling sanctions and targeted military strikes.


And so—because the administration lacks the political courage of its real convictions or the martial courage of its fake ones—we are wedded to this sham process of negotiation. “They pretend to pay us; we pretend to work,” went the old joke about labor in the Soviet Union. Just so with these talks. Iranians pretend not to cheat; we pretend not to notice. All that’s left to do is stand back and wait for something to happen. Eventually, something will happen. Perhaps Iran will simply walk away from the talks, daring this feckless administration to act. Perhaps we will discover another undeclared Iranian nuclear facility, possibly not in Iran itself. Perhaps the Israelis really will act. Perhaps the Saudis will. All of this may suit the president’s psychological yearning to turn himself into a bystander—innocent, in his own eyes—in the Iranian nuclear crisis. But it’s also a useful reminder that, in the contest between hard-won experience and disappointed idealism, the latter always wins in the liberal mind.                        







IN A PERSIAN BAZAAR                                                               

Dr. Mordechai Kedar                                        

Breaking Israel News, Dec. 1, 2014


There are two kinds of markets in the world today: the Western store and the Eastern bazaar. In the West, stores have fixed prices for merchandise, with the cost visible on each item by law. Everyone pays the same amount for his purchases, whether he really wants what is for sale or can manage perfectly well without it.  Westerners are used to this kind of shopping, which is why many of them spend a good deal of time and effort to find the stores with the best prices. The price is objective and based on the merchandise, not on the personality of the seller or the identity of the buyer. You will not find someone arguing about a price in a store in the United States and anyone who dares to do so is regarded like a creature from Mars, a barbarian from another culture. 


In contrast, in the Middle East, bazaar culture is the rule and the relationship between buyer and seller is based on totally different cultural norms. The price varies from minute to minute depending on various factors: how badly the seller needs the money he can get from the sale; how much the buyer wants the merchandise; whether the seller is afraid the buyer will leave him and look for another seller; how many other traders are offering the same item. When the seller needs cash and the buyer can live without the merchandise, when there are other traders with similar items and the buyer can get to them easily  – the price goes down. If the seller is not in need of the money, the buyer really wants the merchandise and especially if he says he is willing to pay anything for it, and if there are no others selling the same thing or it is hard to get to them – the price will be high. This is where market forces play a central role in determining the price of merchandise. 


In the Middle Eastern bazaar culture there is another, very important factor, the personal one. The buyer and seller want to see one another, touch one another, talk to each other and feel each other. The interpersonal contact,  smile,  handshake, words of welcome, questions and answers, familiarity, body language, all are part of the negotiations on the price. A deal is not just an economic act, it is an event, almost like a wedding. Factors involved here have nothing to do with economics: if the seller is someone the buyer is not willing to talk to because he is, for example, a Jew, Christian, Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, Persian, Turk or member of any group the buyer does not like, he will not buy from him even if the item is practically free of charge. Someone from the West – let’s say a tourist, for our purposes  – who enters a Middle Eastern bazaar, gets high from the odors, confused by the scenes, dizzy from the colors, excited by the music, disgusted by the crowding, and then buys whatever he sees because the prices are low, only to discover that night, at his hotel , that he overpaid, the paint is peeling off and the merchandise is falling apart or rotten. Besides, some of it is made in China and can be bought on the internet for half of what he paid. Why does this happen? Because the tourist didn’t know the rules of the bazaar and the traders realized that from a mile away. They don’t mind cheating him because he is a Christian, an  American, a stranger who pays what he is asked and doesn’t understand the rules. They also know that he is part of a group of tourists with a limited amount of time to shop in the bazaar and is therefore running from one stand to another in order to manage to buy as many items as possible. He doesn’t bargain because he hasn’t got the time and is not used to doing that at home in the USA. He thinks it is demeaning to try to bargain down prices. 


The negotiations taking place over the last sixteen years between Iran and the West are a perfect example of the cultural abyss between the Western negotiators and their Iranian counterparts, experts at trading in the bazaar where hiding information and cheating are basic principles of their Shiite culture. The differences between the norms of a tourist and the culture of the Persian bazaar brought about the bitter outcome that gave the Iranians the object they needed the most – time. They paid the price of a few sanctions, but now they see those disappearing,  and most important: they have provided very little in terms of limiting their military nuclear plans. The Iranians played the role of the seller throughout, the seller who doesn’t need to be rid of his merchandise and who has all the time in the world. They sold damaged goods over and over in the form of agreements that they did not keep, and the West did not come to the obvious conclusion: they are professional charlatans, inveterate liars and brilliant prevaricators. The reason is that they are the only sellers in the market, and the West  – at least that is how its leaders feel – must reach an agreement with Iran at any price. The Iranians have never felt that the West wants to or is able to give them  – to the Ayatollahs, that is – one good blow that will send them flying from the bazaar to hell so that another trader can take their place. Why, then, should they behave any differently? 


The West played the role of the dumb tourist as it shopped in the Iranian bazaar;  the leaders of world powers sent distress signals about deadlines, because they had to come to their voters with proof that they had achieved a peace deal “in our time”. The Iranians felt the pressure and raised the price, lowered the quality and sold the West agreements they had no intention of keeping. They wore down the Western negotiators, a familiar tactic: they offered a little bit, some kind of concession, the West jumped at it only to discover that is was unconnected to the issue at hand. Most important, crucially important, were the smiles on Rouhani’s face. They just loved to be able to say that he is not Ahmadinejad, that this is a new, nice , friendly man and cannot possibly be putting one over on us because he is not an extremist. He is one of us because he speaks English, surfs the web and uses a smartphone. Zrif continued to leave a similar impression on them. 


The Iranian bazaar was a resounding success, and the Western tourist – who doesn’t know the rules – lost once again: he paid the price of granting the Iranians more time and did not get the merchandise he wanted, because he does not have an agreement and it is not certain that he will ever get one as Iran will have the bomb before then – in another seven months. The West does not understand the most basic fact: there is only one thing that can pressure Iran and the West is not willing to do it:  that is, threatening the continuation of Ayatollah rule. The West has never used that card to get its way, so why should the Ayatollahs pay for an agreement that they do not want? Worst of all is that there were those that warned the Western powers that they would fall into the Iranian bazaar’s pit. One of them was Binyamin Netanyahu, even before he became Prime Minister of Israel. Harold Rhode wrote about it clearly and so did the writer of this article. The problem with those who negotiated with the Iranians is that they thought they knew how Iranians behave, believed the lies of the consummate liars, and the deceptions of the professional deceivers. History will sadly ridicule the story of how a wayward and stubborn country could pull the wool over the eyes of intelligent and well educated, powerful negotiators who were psychologically incapable of using their power, and ensnare them in a Persian bazaar trap where only someone who learns the rules can survive. 





On Topic


Report: Iran Cheating on Nuclear Sanctions: Daniel Halper, Weekly Standard, Dec. 8, 2014Foreign Policy reports that the U.S. believes Iran is cheating on U.N. nuclear sanctions.

Iran Extension Foreshadows a Bad Nuclear Deal: Emanuele Ottolenghi, RealClearWorld, Nov. 30, 2014—The deadline for a nuclear deal came and went Monday with no agreement – just a seven-month extension of the interim agreement.

U.S. Accuses Iran of Secretly Breaching U.N. Nuclear Sanctions: Colum Lynch, Foreign Policy, Dec. 8, 2014—The United States has privately accused Iran of going on an international shopping spree to acquire components for a heavy-water reactor that American officials have long feared could be used in the production of nuclear weapons-grade plutonium.

Iran Remains the Greatest Challenge in U.S.-Israel Relations: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror, BESA, Nov. 30, 2014 —In recent days, following the impolite and inappropriate personal attack against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the American press, from the mouths of high-ranking officials in Washington, relations between Israel and the U.S. have deteriorated to an all-time low. It is time to put things back in proportion, in light of the severity of the American remarks.






















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The Power of Events: Israel’s Sudden Election & Increasing Terrorism, Are Complicated by the U.S.’s M.E. Ambivalence: Prof. Frederick Krantz, CIJR, Dec. 5, 2014— It is an old  dictum that sudden, unexpected events change politics.

Running For Re-Election, Against Whom?: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Dec. 5, 2014— In order to win the elections that have been foisted upon him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must run a focused campaign against Israel's bona fide foes, not against the novice and petty politicians with whom he has been squabbling.

Ground Up Chuck: Wall Street Journal, Nov. 24, 2014 — Chuck Hagel wasn’t our favorite to run the Pentagon, but it speaks volumes about this Administration’s national security decision-making that even he turned out to be too independent for the job.

Enough Idealism: David French, National Review, Sept. 29, 2014— As the president who pledged to end two wars restarts our fight in Iraq (and perhaps expands it into Syria), it’s worth reflecting on one of the cardinal lessons of our 13 years of post-9/11 conflict against jihad: Idealism kills.


On Topic Links


Poll Finds Israelis Appreciate US Support, Wary of Obama’s Policies: Tamar Pileggi, Times of Israel, Dec. 5, 2014

Increasing Numbers of Jewish Democrats Disillusioned With Obama: Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, Dec. 4, 2014

The 'Peace Process' That Kills: Charles Bybelezer, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 24, 2014

Obama: Helping Terror Go Nuclear: Noah Beck, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 20, 2014





Prof. Frederick Krantz                                                                                                    

CIJR, Dec. 5, 2014


It is an old  dictum that sudden, unexpected events change politics. The collapse of Israel’s governing coalition means a March election and new uncertainty, and this as terrorism continues, in and around Jerusalem as well as across the M.E., Iran, and Africa.


Meanwhile, Israel’s situation is worsened by the ambivalence, political and military, of its major (indeed, only) ally, the U.S. Led by a lame-duck Democratic Administration, America’s Hamlet-like President Barack Obama is first in (Syria), then out, then back (ditto re Iraq and Afghanistan); first he’s affirming  “no boots on the ground”, then it’s 1,500, now it may be 3,000; first they’ll only be “trainers”, then, armed, they’ll support forward Iraqi echelons; and so on and on.



Yet even as Obama seems, however unwillingly, to ramp up US commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan, he continues to downsize (“sequestration”) American armed forces. The stated goal? To arrive at a force approximately the size (100,000) of the woefully inadequate Army and Navy of December 7, 1941, at the outbreak of World War II. And this as Russian aggression in Ukraine, and a threatening Chinese naval expansion, continue.


Then, the icing on the disintegrating cake:  Obama forces out his hand-picked Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, a former U.S. Senator and battle-tested U.S. Army veteran, for a more compliant Ashton B. Carter, a neutral Pentagon administrator with absolutely no military background or credibility.


Two recent articles appearing simultaneously in a major newspaper summed up the contradictory, and dangerous, implications of such American ambivalence. One noted that, despite the resumption of American bombing of terrorist Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, their expansion seems not have been appreciably slowed.  The other article reported on growing concern in the American military that the new campaign was ill-conceived, too little, too late, and that extreme fear of the negative media impact of civilian casualties was rendering much of the bombing ineffective.


(Authorization for each mission has to be preceded by detailed reconnaissance flights, with each potential target then relayed to the U.S.-based Command Center for approval at the highest level.  Such a slow, cumbersome process often results in the target moving on or disappearing. The Islamic State fighters—who of course are unconcerned about civilian casualties–have quickly learned how to disperse, hide, and otherwise evade both the reconnaissance process and the actual postponed follow-on attacks.)


America’s continuing foreign policy and military hesitations (confusion?) have emboldened its,  and Israel’s, enemies. Together with the post-Arab Spring collapse of the M.E. state system, the advance of a new territory-acquiring terrorism, and ongoing Iranian nuclear development (yet another example of American irresolution), this was surely not the most auspicious moment for Israel’s governing coalition to collapse.


But events can be turned to advantage. If Netanyahu can win a more stable center-right coalition in March, and (as the 2016 Presidential election looms) the recently-returned Republican majority in both Houses of Congress can put consistent foreign–policy pressure on the White House, the balance in 2015 may well turn in Israel’s favor. It would be, as we celebrate Passover’s message of Jewish freedom, a consummation devoutly to be desired.


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

and Editor of its ISRAFAX journal and Daily Isranet Briefing.)





RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION, AGAINST WHOM?                                           

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Dec. 5, 2014


In order to win the elections that have been foisted upon him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must run a focused campaign against Israel's bona fide foes, not against the novice and petty politicians with whom he has been squabbling. His kvetching about Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid only diminishes him in the eyes of voters. Whiny rants about anarchy in the coalition won't advance Netanyahu too far. Instead, Netanyahu must market himself as a leader who transcends the local mud-slinging and who can responsibly navigate a path for Israel in the face of the many regional and international threats. To put it another way: Netanyahu indeed has rivals worth running against, but they are not Livni and Lapid, nor Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett. Netanyahu should be running against U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.


Obama has made it clear that in coming period he is "not going to be able to manage" to fully defend Israel in international forums. Abbas is seeking condemnation, isolation, criminalization and boycott of Israel, alongside recognition of virtual Palestinian statehood. Obama is going to smirk from the sidelines. Obama himself will undoubtedly turn up the pressure on Israel in various ways in an attempt to precipitously force Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines. He isn't going to leave Israel alone for one single day. And we already know that the U.S. president has decided to acquiesce on Iran's near-nuclear status.


So, Israel has tough challenges ahead, and needs a leader who will stand firm. Netanyahu can and should say forthrightly to the Israeli public: I have stood strong against Obama's unfriendly pressures for six years. Re-elect me in order to see Israel through the ominous final two years of the Obama administration. This is messaging that would be both real and resonant. Israelis fear and resent Obama administration policies, even as they still overwhelmingly believe in America and the American-Israeli alliance. A Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies public opinion poll demonstrated this week that the Israeli public believes that the Obama administration has greatly weakened America's standing in the Middle East, and thinks that its policies on Iran, ISIS and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are truly "bad." This is a key electoral calling card for Netanyahu: Standing tall against a hostile world. It will become even more so if and when the Obama administration and European leaders attempt to intervene in the Israeli election campaign by warning the Israeli public that Israel can expect increased international isolation if Netanyahu is re-elected. Such intervention will likely backfire and actually benefit Netanyahu, as it has in past campaigns, but I suspect Obama and associates won't be able to resist.


In fact, I assume that one of the genuine reasons Netanyahu is going to the polls now is directly linked to such expected pressures. Israel can't be expected to launch any risky diplomatic ventures while in electoral flux. By casting Israel into election mode for a lengthy period of time — it could be July before a new government settles into its cabinet seats — Netanyahu is running down the clock on Obama. That is not a bad diplomatic strategy at all; perfectly legitimate and understandable to the Israeli voter. After all, Netanyahu came to office in order to put a long-term break on the galloping withdrawals of the Oslo era. Netanyahu should find a way to own up to this strategy, even though it's not politically correct to admit to this in diplomatic company. I think he'll be rewarded by the Israeli public. Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog, Livni and Obama may consider Netanyahu a cowardly failure (or "chickenshit") because he won't match the follies of his predecessors and risk the country's security with territorial withdrawals that could result in the creation of another terror state on Israel's doorstep. But Israelis understand that Netanyahu's willingness to say no to Obama is all that stands between them and another fiasco like the destruction of Gush Katif and the gifting of Gaza to Hamas. And consider this too: Wouldn't it be sweet to see Netanyahu outlast Obama in office?


Then there is Abbas. Herzog can go on and on about the need to cut a deal with Abbas, and Livni can ridiculously and pompously assert with certainty that "With me in the negotiating room, peace is attainable" — but the Israeli public knows better. Abbas is washed up as a peace partner, certainly since he partnered with Hamas, launched a campaign of lies and incitement regarding the Temple Mount, and lauded terrorists who attacked Israelis in Jerusalem. Everybody in Israel remembers Abbas' monstrous speech at U.N. in September outrageously accusing Israel of "genocide" in Gaza. Netanyahu can capitalize on this, by highlighting the flimsiness and fancifulness of the opposition's belief in Abbas. I won't let us be suckered by Abbas again — Netanyahu can assert, and it will resonate.


Israeli society needed another election campaign just now like a hole in the head. So much invective, radical rhetoric, and ugliness is ahead — all of it cynically hyped and exaggerated for campaign purposes. Ugh. Therefore, Netanyahu must rise above the fray and focus on the big picture. There are concrete, looming challenges ahead, and nobody else running in this campaign is true prime ministerial material. That's not just an argument for re-election by default. It's a robust and realistic campaign platform.






GROUND UP CHUCK                                                                                              

Wall Street Journal, Nov. 24, 2014


Chuck Hagel wasn’t our favorite to run the Pentagon, but it speaks volumes about this Administration’s national security decision-making that even he turned out to be too independent for the job. The former Republican Senator and infantry soldier chose to resign …  rather than endure more White House micromanagement. As the first Administration official to depart since the election, Mr. Hagel looks like a ritual sacrifice, and not the right one. If President Obama really wanted a fresh start in his last two years, he’d begin by sacking most of his White House national security team. They’re the tenderfoot Talleyrands who have presided over the radiating calamity in Syria, the collapse of the Iraqi military, the rise of Islamic State, and the failure to deter or stop Vladimir Putin ’s march into Ukraine.


Why does national security adviser Susan Rice still have a job? Or spinner-in-chief Ben Rhodes ? Mr. Hagel was hired in part because Mr. Obama believed he would take orders from these visionaries. But as the world turned darker, the Pentagon chief began to represent the views of the generals who are increasingly worried about U.S. security. His worst sin appears to have been sending a memo in October pointing out that the President had to clarify his Syria policy for his campaign against Islamic State to succeed. Mr. Hagel was reflecting the views of senior Pentagon brass. Mr. Hagel has since been vindicated as the U.S. has watched while Bashar Assad ’s government tries to wipe out the Free Syrian Army rebels we are training to be our allies, and Turkey keeps a distance from the coalition because we won’t help to oust Assad. But telling the truth in this Administration gets you a scolding from Vice President Valerie Jarrett, and on Tuesday White House leakers were saying Mr. Hagel wasn’t creative enough in providing security options. The options this White House seems to want are those that provide the appearance of solving problems without having to solve them.


Mr. Hagel’s departure might matter if it means that President Obama recognizes the dangers he faces in his last two years. Everywhere we go we keep hearing the same phrase—that rogues believe they now have a “two-year window” to press their gains until a new President takes office. Other Presidents have recognized failures and adapted in their last two years. George W. Bush switched Defense Secretaries and overrode senior generals to implement the surge that defeated al Qaeda in Iraq. Jimmy Carter , watching the march of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and Central America, began the U.S. rearmament that Ronald Reagan accelerated. Mr. Obama could likewise adapt with the help of a GOP Senate. John McCain will soon chair the Armed Services Committee, and Mr. Obama and a new defense chief could work with him to reverse the freefall in U.S. defense spending. They could end the defense sequester, fortify NATO’s eastern front, and pursue a more aggressive military campaign against Islamic State. Joe Lieberman, the hawkish former Democratic Senator, would be an inspired choice, if he could be cajoled to accept. Michèle Flournoy, who has written for these pages, has Pentagon experience and seems to have enough gumption to challenge the White House. Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed has military experience but has never stood out on Armed Services. Whoever the choice, it won’t matter unless Mr. Obama recognizes the growing disorder and reverses course himself.





ENOUGH IDEALISM                                                                                             

David French                                            

National Review, Sept. 29, 2014


As the president who pledged to end two wars restarts our fight in Iraq (and perhaps expands it into Syria), it’s worth reflecting on one of the cardinal lessons of our 13 years of post-9/11 conflict against jihad: Idealism kills. President George W. Bush, infamous as a “warmonger” to the Left and mocked for his allegedly black-and-white, Manichean worldview, was an idealist. The president who consistently opposed “evildoers” and decried the “axis of evil” is also the president who proclaimed Islam a religion of peace and declared, “I believe God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom.” President Barack Obama, by contrast, apologized for the sins of the Bush era and declared in Cairo, “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country.” Never mind that Cordoba and Andalusia happened to be conquered territories — conquered by Muslim armies; the idealism shines through.


But while Presidents Bush and Obama both declared affection for Islam in their words, their deeds reveal two distinctly different kinds of idealism, both of which move far beyond the all-too-familiar willingness of politicians to deliver “up with people” political saccharin in speeches. Speeches are one thing, policies another — more consequential — thing altogether. In their policies, George Bush possessed a deadly idealism about our potential friends, while Barack Obama possesses a deadly idealism about our enemies…


President Obama is a creature of the American academic Left, with all its assumptions about the way the world works. The short version of its view of the Middle East is this: Muslim extremism grows out of a series of legitimate grievances, including Israeli treatment of Palestinians, American military actions and alleged economic exploitation, and oppressive, Western-supported regimes. Deal with the grievances and you can blunt or neuter the extremism. And so, in a series of colossal foreign-policy blunders, President Obama has actively sided with jihadists in both military and political conflicts — going beyond appeasement to render actual aid (or to attempt to render aid) to some of the world’s most extreme Islamic movements. In Libya, we used the might of NATO airpower to tip the balance in the civil war to a motley collection of jihadists — jihadists who later thanked us by overrunning our diplomatic compound in Benghazi (killing four Americans) and most recently have been filmed swimming in our ambassador’s pool in Tripoli.


In Egypt, we immediately affirmed our support for the Muslim Brotherhood government and promised to continue arms shipments (including F-16s and M1 Abrams tanks) even as the Muslim Brotherhood stood aside and allowed a screaming mob to overrun our embassy, launched a nationwide campaign of persecution against Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, violated the Camp David Accords by moving heavy weapons into the Sinai, and provided direct aid and comfort to Hamas, a State Department–designated terror organization. Even worse, when the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown, in what some have called the largest political protests in history, and replaced with a government that cut off Hamas, restored cooperation with Israel, and took steps to protect the Copts, only then did we end our military aid.


In Gaza, Secretary of State John Kerry defied both Egypt and Israel to advance Hamas’s key allies — Turkey and Qatar — in cease-fire talks, leading to angry denunciations in Israel and one of the worst diplomatic crises in the long history of the American–Israeli alliance. Using the language of moral equivalence to describe the terror tactics of Hamas and the lawful military actions of Israel was its own appalling scandal.  In Syria, the Obama administration has repeatedly sought to arm and support jihadists fighting the Assad regime (and now allegedly fighting the Islamic State). These jihadists are every bit as brutal as Assad, have reportedly signed non-aggression pacts with the Islamic State, and have apparently already allowed American-supplied weapons to fall into the Islamic State’s hands.


And now we face a Middle East in flames, strained relations with key allies (Israel, Egypt, and the Kurds), and jihadists controlling more territory with more men under arms than before 9/11. This summary doesn’t even include Iran’s growing strength and our looming exit from Afghanistan, where President Obama’s idealistic “benevolent counterinsurgency” (Bing West’s excellent description in his recent book One Million Steps) has largely failed to create conditions similar to those that followed President Bush’s much harder-edged surge in Iraq.


It’s time to end the idealism. How many times must it fail before we face reality? Our nation first and foremost must understand its enemies. Jihadists cannot be appeased, they do not have “legitimate grievances,” and they mock and exploit our naïve hopes for their reform. One does not end jihad by providing F-16s to the Muslim Brotherhood or close air support to Syria’s Army of Mujahedeen. At the same time, however, we must be careful about our friends. We have to replace foolish hopes and deadly dreams with hard-nosed evaluations of action. Allies such as the Kurds have proven themselves reliable time and again, and Egypt’s new government has shown promise in its treatment of Hamas. Yet, bizarrely, the Obama administration seems more willing to arm jihadists in Syria than to arm the Kurdish peshmerga in Iraq.


Always — always — we must project real strength. The people of the Middle East don’t respect weakness and are unimpressed with kindness when it’s combined with weakness. I’ll never forget the frustration and contempt that, during my own deployment in Iraq, we got from local villagers when we expressed reluctance to raid a mosque housing a known jihadist terror cell. They were utterly unimpressed with our attempts to respect their faith and instead received the message that only the jihadists had a true commitment to victory. In the Middle East, idealism leads to weakness, and weakness leads not just to death but also to everlasting contempt. This is how the world’s sole military superpower becomes a laughingstock and our citizens pay the price — pawns in jihadists’ deadly games as they jockey for power and prestige in a region that respects strength more than it cares about even the best of our naïve ideals.




On Topic


Poll Finds Israelis Appreciate US Support, Wary of Obama’s Policies: Tamar Pileggi, Times of Israel, Dec. 5, 2014—Israelis have an overwhelming appreciation of the United States, but harbor increasingly negative views of US President Barack Obama’s Middle East foreign policy, according to a public opinion poll carried out by Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

Increasing Numbers of Jewish Democrats Disillusioned With Obama: Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, Dec. 4, 2014—It has been reported that American Jews still voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party in the recent midterm congressional elections.

The 'Peace Process' That Kills: Charles Bybelezer, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 24, 2014—The region was already burning when US Secretary of State John Kerry rolled into town in July 2013, on his fifteenth-odd visit to Jerusalem, Ramallah or Amman in some four months on the job.

Obama: Helping Terror Go Nuclear: Noah Beck, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 20, 2014 —Last Tuesday’s terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue killed five people: four rabbis (including three born in the USA) and a Druze police officer.






















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