Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Biden Shows Teeth Toward Israel



Biden's Assault on Israel - Elliott Abrams

On the same day that a bomb injured 21 people in a bus in Jerusalem, Vice President Joe Biden addressed J Street with a rhetorical attack on the government of Israel. President Obama is about to join a GCC summit in Saudi Arabia. Does Biden really think the Arabs pay no attention to how we treat our closest friends and allies? Does he not know that they will read all of this and wonder when they will be getting the same treatment?
  

Then there are the facts. How do you get to "systematic" expansion of settlements when Netanyahu has been constraining many aspects of settlement growth? And why is Biden not familiar with the history of his own administration's peace efforts? As Dennis Ross made clear in his most recent book, Doomed to Succeed, Netanyahu was in fact ready to take significant political risks to meet American requests - and Abbas was not. 
The writer, a senior fellow at CFR, was a U.S. deputy national security advisor. 
(Council on Foreign Relations)


 
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia No Longer See Anything the Same Way 
- Ray Takeyh

As President Obama traveled to Saudi Arabia, the latest developments in the Iran nuclear deal are not anything the Tehran-phobic Saudis want to talk about. Obama has expressed a vague desire that Iran and Saudi Arabia should "share the neighborhood" without saying how he hopes that will be accomplished.
   

As the U.S. grows more energy independent and Saudi oil becomes less relevant, the lure of petroleum is increasingly not enough to sustain an alliance always built on a shaky foundation.
   

Changing the occupant of the White House early next year will not substantially alter America's policies. Obama reflects a mood of disenchantment with the Middle East within the Democratic party, while Republican front-runners denounce expansive visions for transforming the political culture of the Middle East and implanting democratic regimes in the heart of the Arab world. U.S. politicians on both sides are tired of expending precious resources to stabilize a region coming undone. 
The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was senior advisor on Iran at the U.S. State Department. 
(Politico)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Glick on Settlements


 
This excellent 4 minute video gets to the heart of the problem in the Arab-Israeli conflict

Brussels Bomber: Israel Was The Target

Mohamed Abrini [far right] was captured and is talking

Brussels Terrorists Planned to Attack Travelers Flying to Israel 

Mohamed Abrini [pictured above, on right], who was captured last week after appearing in video footage at Brussels airport walking alongside two suicide bombers, said that his accomplices had planned to attack travelers who were flying to Israel, the U.S. and Russia, French BFM TV reported.  
(Jerusalem Post)
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dramatic Plea from Saudi News Anchor

Nadine Al-Budair
 


Saudi News Anchor: Muslims Should Take Responsibility for Terrorism
- Kara O'Neill

In the middle of a TV broadcast on a Saudi Arabian news channel, newsreader Nadine Al-Budair said: "Whenever terrorism massacres peaceful civilians, the smart alecs and the hypocrites vie with one another in saying that these people do not represent Islam or the Muslims....It is we who blow ourselves up. It is we who blow up others....Don't these perpetrators emerge from our environment? Don't their families belong to our society?"
   

"After the abominable Brussels bombings, it's time for us to feel shame and to stop acting as if the terrorists are a rarity. We must admit that they are present everywhere, that their nationality is Arab, and that they adhere to the religion of Islam. We must acknowledge that we are the ones who gave birth to them." 
(Mirror-UK)
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Monday, April 04, 2016

Obama Continues to Cave to Iran





The Iran Nuclear Deal Keeps Changing - Eli Lake

Like most of Washington, I was under the impression that the nuclear negotiations with Iran ended in July. That turns out to have been wrong. While it's true that the Iranians have disposed of nuclear material, modified sites and allowed more monitoring, they also keep haggling over the terms.

Now the U.S. is considering a rule change to allow some Iranian businesses to use offshore financial institutions to access U.S. dollars in currency trades. When the White House sold the deal to Congress, senior Treasury officials promised the nuclear agreement would not allow such dollar transactions, since it only lifted nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, but kept in place other sanctions to punish the country's support for terrorism, human rights abuses and its ballistic missile program.

Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said:
"The Administration had indicated that there would be no further concessions beyond those specifically negotiated and briefed to Congress. I do not support granting Iran any new relief without a corresponding concession."   
(
Bloomberg)

UPDATES:

- Eric B. Lorber and Peter Feaver

The Obama administration has signaled that it is about to make an additional and unexpected concession to Iran that significantly weakens remaining U.S. leverage: giving Iran backdoor access to financial transactions in dollars. Congress is crying foul, asserting that such dollar access was not included in the original deal and constitutes a gift to Iran that should not be given without additional Iranian concessions. When selling the agreement to Congress, Acting Undersecretary of the Treasury Adam Szubin assured lawmakers on September 17, 2015, that "no Iranian banks can access the U.S. financial system." 
Eric Lorber is an adjunct Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Peter Feaver is a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University. 
(Foreign Policy)


- Edith M. Lederer
 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reported progress after a meeting on Iranian complaints that it's not getting the sanctions relief it deserves under last year's nuclear deal. Iran says it is locked out of the international financial system.
   
The White House, Treasury and the State Department have all said the U.S. has done what is required, but U.S. officials say the Obama administration is considering easing financial restrictions that prevent U.S. dollars from being used in transactions that enable business with Iran. On Monday Kerry said Iran has so far received only $3 billion of $55 billion expected under the deal. 
(AP-ABC News)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Iran Wins at Syrian Monopoly




Iran Is Buying Syria
(Al-Souria Net-Syrian Observer)
    
Iranian traders have bought a large amount of Syrian real estate, primarily in the center of Damascus and Homs.
    
Several hotels in the heart of Damascus - such as Al Iwan, Asia, Damascus International, Phoenicia and the Petra - have become the property of the Iranian embassy, in addition to shares in the luxury Semiramis Hotel.
    
At Sky News, political researcher Ghassan Ibrahim said: "The [Syrian] regime has nothing to offer but real estate to Iran as guarantees in exchange for the huge amounts of money it spent to support the Assad regime."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fighting Jihad with Emojis



Post-Jihad Gesture Theater - Michelle Malkin

While homicidal, suicidal and genocidal jihadists are busy plotting the next soft-target terror attacks on the West, docile Westerners are busy shedding cartoon tears and doodling broken hearts on social media.

European artists rushed to fill Twitter and Instagram with images of Belgian comic book character Tintin weeping after vengeful Muslim terrorists left the Brussels airport and subway system buried in rubble and dead bodies.

Residents of the besieged city meekly protested the Quran-inspired violence by leaving pastel-colored chalk messages pleading for "peace no war." [T]ens of thousands of people spread the "JeSuisBruxelles" message with their thoughts, prayers and memes.

And, of course, there will be flags lowered and monuments lit up all over the world this week in the national colors of Belgium to show "solidarity" with victims of The Perpetrators Whose Religion Shall Not Be Named.

To borrow a useful phrase coined by British journalist James Bartholomew last year, we have reached the oversaturation point of post-terrorism "virtue signaling:" Hashtags, avatars and animated GIFs ad nauseam. These are the easy advertisements and maudlin displays of one's resolute opposition to an unidentified something that must be stopped somehow by unspoken means.

Virtue signals are "camouflage," Bartholomew explained. They are sincere-seeming shows of collective unity that disguise the millennial-age indulgence of publicly patting one's own back for supposed moral courage. "No one actually has to do anything," he opined. Virtue now "comes from mere words or even from silently held beliefs."

Pre-Twitter, outraged Americans all donned "Never forget" magnets and ribbons on our cars and lapels after 9/11. I was one of them. But after 15 years of hapless homeland security theater and bipartisan pandering to terror-coddling "Islamophobia" shriekers, I'm so, so sick of noble gesture paraphernalia.

I'm sick of Silicon Valley moguls who pretend to champion free speech while muzzling the speech of those who use the Internet to criticize the very open door immigration policies that fertilized European and American soil for jihadists. I'm sick of all the same old emasculated politicians who declare that "justice will be served," "this must end" and "we stand against terror," while refusing to take even the smallest baby steps to...drain the jihad swamps inside our own borders.

We've had enough piles of memorial flowers. We've heard enough hollow lip service paid to resolve. Where is the world's active resistance to the sharia-imposing soldiers of Allah?

We need Tintin to wipe his nose, man up and
The famous Belgian comic character Tintin,
depicted reacting to the terror attacks.
remember Belgium's once proud history.

When German invaders attempted what they thought would be an easy romp through the tiny neutral country in 1914 on their way to Paris, resistance fighters who were outnumbered 14 to 1 took a brave stand in defense of their sovereignty.

Bracing for an onslaught, King Albert addressed his people:
"One single vision fills all minds: that of our independence endangered. One single duty imposes itself upon our wills: the duty of stubborn resistance. In these solemn circumstances two virtues are indispensable: a calm but unshaken courage, and the close union of all Belgians. ... It is the moment for action. ... [A] country which is defending itself conquers the respect of all; such a country does not perish!"

How far the West has fallen. Farewell, steeled wills. You've been replaced by an army of sad-faced emojis.
[Jewish World Review]


The dark path to Brussels - David Ignatius

The value of catastrophic events is that they can help people face up to problems that are otherwise impossible to address. Maybe this will be the case with Tuesday's horrific attacks in Brussels.

Europe is facing a security threat that's unprecedented in its modern history, at a time when its common currency, border security and intelligence-sharing are all under severe stress. If Europe were a stock, a pragmatic investor would sell it, despite the sunk cost and sentimental attachment. Without radical restructuring, it's an enterprise that's headed for failure. 

The European Union needs to reinvent its security system.

The jihadist wave rolling back toward Europe is dizzying: U.S. intelligence agencies estimate that more than 38,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Iraq and Syria since 2012. At least 5,000 of them came from Europe, including 1,700 from France, 760 from Britain, 760 from Germany and 470 from Belgium, according to official data collected by the Soufan Group, a security consulting firm. Relative to its population, Belgium spawned the largest number of these fighters.

Belgian authorities couldn't find Salah Abdeslam, the logistical planner of the November Paris attacks, for more than 120 days -- until they finally nabbed him last Friday a few blocks from where he grew up in the Arab enclave of Molenbeek. He was hiding in plain sight. But Belgium's failure was cooked into the system: The jihadists move stealthily, and the Belgians didn't collect or share enough of the intelligence that was there. The authorities had allowed Molenbeek to become a safe haven -- more dangerous to Belgium than even the jihadists' sanctuaries in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Americans, who are less exposed to the threat, may smugly imagine they can wall themselves off. But the Islamic State's rampage is more an American failure than a European one. The United States formed a global coalition to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State back in September 2014. This strategy hasn't worked; the Islamic State's domain has shrunk in Iraq and Syria but expanded elsewhere.

The failure of the U.S.-led coalition to contain the jihadists has left a fragile Europe exposed to terrorism and social upheaval. President Obama hopes that history will affirm his prudent policy, but this view is surely harder to maintain after the Paris and Brussels attacks.
[Jewish World Review]
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Young Muslims in the West: A Ticking Time Bomb? - Raheem Kassam

Pew Research from 2007 found that 26 percent of young Muslims in America believed suicide bombings are justified, with 35 percent in Britain, 42 percent in France, 22 percent in Germany, and 29 percent in Spain feeling the same way.
[Middle East Forum]
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UPDATES

"Excuses" for Terrorists - Douglas Murray

The day after the Brussels terror attack, landmarks in the UK were lit up in the colors of the Belgian flag. But after 67 years of terror, the UK still has not found the blue and white lights it would need to project the flag of Israel onto any public place. 

When Israel is attacked, the steps of the Israeli embassies in London and other European capitals are not littered with flowers, teddy bears or candles, or scrawled notes of sympathy.
The writer is associate director of the Henry Jackson Society in London. 
(Gatestone Institute)


Enough Teddy Bears: Time to Take Civilization Back
-Raheem Kassam

And if like dead bodies Facebook profile pictures lost heat, it would be accurate to say that the Tricolores that adorned the social media profiles of many had hardly become cold before we were all changing the colours of the bands on the flags. From blue to black. From white to yellow. The blood red remains.

Because nowadays, teddy bears are the new resolve. They symbolise everything we have become in response to our way of life being threatened, and our people being slaughtered on our streets: inanimate, squishy, and full of crap.

Our security services and our police, hamstrung by political correctness, are just as interested in rounding up Twitter "hate speech" offenders than criminal, rapist, or terrorist migrants. Our borders are as porous as our brains. We refuse to realise that there are now literally millions of people amongst us who hate us. Who hate our way of life, and who will, one day, dominate our public life.

But of course, such statements are dismissed as fear-mongering, alarmist, or "out of touch with reality." As if the data doesn't exist, or the demographics aren't shifting quickly enough to notice.

As if vast parts of our towns and cities haven't become ghettos, or no-go zones, or hubs of child grooming activity, or terrorism.

As if mosques, schools, prisons, and universities aren't used as recruiting grounds for radicals.

As if the blood of our countrymen hasn't even been spilled at all.

Instead, we will now think deeply about how we can "reach out" to these populations. How we can "co-exist" and "be tolerant" of one another. As if toleration – which is actually the permittance of what is not actually approved or desired – is a healthy aspiration for a society.
[Middle East Forum]
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Apple Trumped by Israeli Tech Firm



Israeli firm helping FBI to open San Bernardino shooter's iPhone

Israel's Cellebrite, a provider of mobile forensic software, is helping the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's attempt to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California shooters, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported.
If Cellebrite succeeds, then the FBI will no longer need the help of Apple Inc, the Israeli daily said, citing unnamed industry sources. Cellebrite officials declined to comment on the matter.

Apple is engaged in a legal battle with the US Justice Department over a judge's order that it write new software to disable passcode protection on the iPhone used by the shooter.

The two sides were set to face off in court on Tuesday, but on Monday a federal judge agreed to the government's request to postpone the hearing after US prosecutors said a "third party" had presented a possible method for opening an encrypted iPhone.

The development could bring an abrupt end to the high-stakes legal showdown which has become a lightning rod for a broader debate on data privacy in the United States.

Cellebrite, a subsidiary of Japan's Sun Corp, has its revenue split between two businesses: a forensics system used by law enforcement, military and intelligence that retrieves data hidden inside mobile devices and technology for mobile retailers.
[Jerusalem Post]

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Syria's Future



Inevitable Syrian Collapse amid Russian Exit - Guy Taylor

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that the collapse of Syria as a functioning country is inevitable, as Russian forces begin pulling out of Syria.


He said the U.S. and other powers are engaged in "wishful thinking" by pursuing a strategy in which Syria remains a nation as it was before the outbreak of war in 2011.

He said the only way forward is "to have a kind of federation" that includes an autonomous Kurdish "sector," even if such is opposed by Turkey. Other sectors might include an "Alawistan" led by Assad and a "Druzistan" for the nation's Druze population.
(Washington Times)
*

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Iranian Missiles Shame Obama Administration

As with some political cartoons, no other words are needed

Palestinians Support Knifings



My Friend Taylor Force Is Dead - David Simpkins

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found in a poll conducted last December that 2/3 of all Palestinians support the knife attacks against Israelis. Not everyone is willing to risk their lives and stab you themselves, but they actively support and cooperate with the ones who do. 

The writer is a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army officer who lives in Israel.
(Times of Israel)

Scholar Nails Islamic State's Progress & Troubles: VideoBite


 
A short scholarly review of the current status of ISIS

Monday, March 07, 2016

Raheel Raza interviewed by Bill Maher


 
Ms. Raza, a true moderate, interviewed by Bill Maher


Gay Muslim Poet Flees to Israel!

Payam Feili in Tel Aviv
Photo c
redit: Uriel Sinai for The New York Times        

Iranian Poet Flees to Israel - Isabel Kershner

In his native Iran, leaders openly wish for Israel to be wiped off the map. Yet Payam Feili, a poet and novelist, developed what he called a “special relationship” with the place, imagining it in his stories, which are replete with gay themes and Jewish symbols.

Now Mr. Feili, who is 30 and openly gay, is living in Tel Aviv as he seeks asylum in Israel. He has tattooed a Star of David on his neck.

“The more I gained a reputation outside Iran, the harder it became for me to live in Iran,” Mr. Feili said of the Islamic republic, where gay people have been executed. “Long before I left Iran,” he added, “I thought that the only other place in the world I could live was Israel.”

In recent years, he was unable to publish anything in Iran and even his friends hesitated to contact him. He said that when he began working with an Israeli who was translating his latest novella into Hebrew, government loyalists wrote articles accusing him of immorality and collaborating with the enemy.

He fled to Turkey in 2014 after being blacklisted and detained several times. Israel granted him entry on a temporary visa as a visiting artist about three months ago.
[New York Times]
Hat tip: Michael W

*

Friday, March 04, 2016

Christians Under the Thumb in Bethlehem

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

Palestinian Christians Fleeing Bethlehem - Robert Nicholson

In 1990, Christians made up a majority of Bethlehem's residents; today they make up only 15%. Some say Israel is the reason for the decline, but then why is the Muslim population of Bethlehem growing when both sectors face the same exact set of circumstances? Jewish sovereignty does not, ipso facto,
lead to Christian emigration.

Inside Israel, the Christian population has been growing steadily for decades. The decrease of Christians inside the Palestinian territories is due more to rising Islamism and bad governance by the Palestinian Authority.  

It is no coincidence that Bethlehem was mostly Christian until the 1990s. Until then, Bethlehem was ruled directly by Israel. Palestinian Christians (and Muslims) could travel freely inside Israel, visit the beach, and shop in Jewish neighborhoods. That all changed in the mid-1990s when Israel agreed to let the PLO rule parts of the West Bank and Gaza under the Oslo Accords.

The Palestinian Authority is, by its own constitution, an Islamic state that embodies the principles of shari'a, and Christians are relegated to the status of second-class citizens. It is illegal to convert from Islam to Christianity. Moreover, living as a Christian, one is constantly reminded that he or she is not a member of the majority culture. 

In public, Bethlehem Christians laud their happy coexistence with their Muslim neighbors. They don't have a choice. They are hostages inside their own city.
(Providence)

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Russia "Weaponizing" Syrian Refugees



Refugee Crisis Masking Infiltration of Terrorists to Europe and U.S.
- L. Todd Wood 

NATO's top commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove [pictured], told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that ISIS is using the Syrian refugee crisis to "mask the movement" of terrorists infiltrating Europe and the U.S. 


He said the Islamic State was "spreading like cancer" among the flow of migrants from the Middle East, "taking advantage of paths of least resistance, threatening European nations and our own."
  

Breedlove also said Russia's indiscriminate bombing of civilians is intended to "get them on the road" to Europe, where they can weaken the EU and NATO with violence and division. 

Russia is thus "weaponizing" the Syrian refugees. He added that at least 1,500 ISIS fighters have returned to Europe.
(Washington Times)

Friday, February 26, 2016

How Obama Helped Fund Palestinian Terror

By infusing 150 billion into the Iranian economy, President Obama has aided Iran's terror financing.  Iran just announced their intention to pay dividends to families of terrorist who successfully murder.  Thank you President Obama. 


Nuke Deal Assists Iran's Support for Terror - Herb Keinon

"Yesterday Iran announced that it will finance the families of the terrorists and murderers," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.


"This shows that Iran, even after the nuclear agreement, is continuing to aid terrorism, including Palestinian terrorism, Hizbullah terrorism and its assistance to Hamas.

This is something that the nations of the world must confront and condemn, and assist Israel - and other countries, of course - in repelling."  
(Jerusalem Post)


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Gaza's Future: Peering into the Crystal Ball



Will Gaza Blow Up in Hamas' Face? - Alex Fishman 

Residents of Gaza who have left the Strip believe another military confrontation with Israel is a certainty. 
They also believe that it will be a lot more aggressive, that Israel is sick of playing these games with Hamas, and that Israel will do everything to eliminate the organization.
   

Gazan society has started to disintegrate. The number of suicides is unprecedented. There is a phenomenon of women stabbing their unemployed husbands. Every third person is on anti-depressants. There has been an increase in the phenomenon of teenagers marrying much older men who are able to support them as a second or third wife.
  

50% of Gaza youth said in different surveys that they want to leave Gaza forever.
  

On top of all of this, Gazans are mad that Hamas has built for themselves what amount to underground cities, while they are left without bomb shelters.                  
(Ynet News)



The Next War May Be Fought Underground - Kate Shuttleworth

In 2014 the Israeli army discovered 32 tunnels in Gaza, half of which penetrated into Israel. Recent winter rains caused five Gaza attack tunnels to collapse, killing Palestinian diggers. "The death of the tunnel workers during the last severe storm gave a very serious signal that Hamas is working around the clock, even in the worst weather circumstances," says Mkhaimer Abusada, a professor of political science at al-Azhar University in Gaza. Dr. Abusada believes that some of the much needed building materials entering Gaza through Israel were ending up in Hamas' hands, where they were redirected toward tunnel construction.

While Abusada estimates that two-thirds of the Gazan population do not support another war with Israel, there are many who do. "The Palestinian community in Gaza is divided - those affiliated with Hamas are very comfortable with the strategy of digging tunnels and developing missiles. Hamas create an illusion that Israel will be defeated and that people will be able to pray in al-Aqsa mosque - people buy this fantasy."

Yousra al-Shobaki, mother of a tunnel digger who fought for Hamas, said: "We will win in the end. I ask all the mothers in Gaza to support the jihad and...to teach their sons what jihad means....There is no such thing as Israel." 
(TIME)
*


UPDATE:

Hamas Civil Servants Strike over Unpaid Salaries    

Civil servants hired by Hamas in Gaza implemented a one-day strike on Thursday to protest unpaid salaries.
  

The employees have not been regularly paid since 2014, by some estimates receiving only 40% of what is owed to them.   
(Ma'an News-PA)
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The India - Israel Alliance



India-West Asia Relationship - Daniel Pipes, PhD

[India's] Alliance with Israel: Growing relations with the Jewish state offer a singularly bright note. India's population may be over 150 times larger than Israel's (1,300 million vs. 8 million) but the two countries share important qualities.

Most profoundly, their populations adhere to an ancient, non-proselytizing religion. Both practice democracy and secularism, ally with the United States, and possess nuclear weapons. Both have substantial Muslim minorities (14 percent in India, 19 percent in Israel) whose loyalties remain in question as both countries face a potential existential threat from a Muslim state (Pakistan, Iran).

Beyond these generalities, each country has specific benefits to offer the other: The two states can share intelligence. Jerusalem can help with access in Washington, New Delhi can help with access for what remains of the non-aligned movement. In areas where Israel is a world leader, such as water technology, medicine, security, and hi-tech innovation, Indians need what Israelis have to offer even as Israelis need the vast Indian market. Indeed, India's government is about to purchase US$3 billion in Israeli military hardware, Israel's largest-ever sale.
[Hindustan Times]

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Syria Boils Over: Obama Sleeps



The Syrian Cauldron Boils Over - Jonathan Spyer

Russian intervention which began on September 30, 2015 and which is now rolling across northwestern Syria announces the arrival of a growing de facto alliance between Moscow and the Islamic Republic of Iran. This alliance currently works to the benefit of both parties...

In Syria, the abilities and needs of the Russian and Iranians are complementary. Russia brings an air capacity to the Syrian battlefield against which the Sunni Arab rebels are effectively helpless. But airp ower is of limited use without a committed ground partner. The Russians have no desire to become bogged down in a large-scale commitment of Russian ground troops.

The Iranians lack anything close to the Russian ability in the air. But what they possess, via the skills of the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, is a currently matchless ability to create and mobilize sectarian paramilitary proxies, and then to move them to where needed across the regional chessboard. Hence, the ground partner for Russian air power in northern Syria is today not only or mainly the Syrian Arab Army of Bashar Assad. Rather, Lebanese Hizballah, the Iraqi Shia Badr Brigade, the Afghan Shia Fatemiyun and IRGC personnel themselves are all playing a vital role.

It is not at all clear that this alliance will be able or even willing to complete the reconquest of the entirety of Syria – which remains the goal of the regime as stated by Bashar Assad last week. However, it will certainly be able to preserve the Assad regime from destruction, and may yet deliver a deathblow to the non-IS rebels in the northwest, center and south west of the country.

The potency of this emergent Russian-Iranian alliance is made possible only by the willed absence of the United States from the arena. Russia felt confident enough to launch its attempt to destroy the rebellion because it calculated that the prospect of the United States extending its own air cover westwards to protect the rebels (whose goal it ostensibly supports) was sufficiently close to zero. The Obama administration appears strategically committed to staying out. The US and its allies are making slow progress against the Islamic State. But west of the Euphrates, the United States is an irrelevance.

This brings us to the third salient factor apparent in the situation in northern Syria: namely, the relative impotence of the Sunni powers when faced with the superior force of Russia.

Syrian Kurdish performance both militarily and politically is worthy of note. Militarily, the YPG remains one of the most powerful forces engaged. Politically, the Kurds appear currently to be performing a balancing act whereby east of the Euphrates they partner with US air power against the Islamic State, while west of the river, they seek to unite the Afrin and Kobani cantons in partnership with Russian air power against the Turkish backed rebels – with the acquiescence of both powers.

So put all this together and you have a fair approximation of the current state of the Middle East, as reflected in miniature in the cauldron that is northern Syria: emergent Iranian-Russian strategic alliance, US non-involvement, hapless US-aligned Sunni powers flailing as a result of this absence, state fragmentation, the emergence of powerful 'successor' entities, the domination of Arab politics at a popular level by Sunni political Islam and the emergence of the Kurds as a militarily able and politically savvy local power.
Jonathan Spyer is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
[Jerusalem Post]
*

Monday, February 22, 2016

Minneapolis Moderate Muslim Presses Youth on Identity

Screenshot from an 'Average Mohammed' cartoon



'Average Mohamed' Cartoons Fight Radicalization in U.S.

At first glance, the idea that a cartoon could fight the Islamic State, a brutal international terror organization, seems absurd. However, Mohamed Ahmed, the inventor of Average Mohamed, designed the cartoons to target a specific demographic -- young people -- who have ideologocial questions which, if answered incorrectly, can lead to radicalization.
Mohamed Ahmed

The cartoons openly discuss issues troubling young Muslims -- the same demographic the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is targeting. Questions of identity, religious authenticity and wanting to make a difference in the world are tackled in an honest way, using both Islamic sources and common sense.
The idea for Average Mohamed came to Ahmed after the realization that "it is average people recruiting each other and becoming extremists. So we felt like it's the same way we need an average guy espousing the values of majority Muslims."

Ahmed fit the bill. A gas station manager with a wife, mortage and four kids in Minneapolis, Minnesota (home to a large Somali community from which ISIS has successfully recruited), Ahmed decided four years ago that he needed to do something to stop the flow of young people becoming radicalized.

In addition to the Average Mohamed online cartoon series, Ahmed also takes his message to schools, mosques and madrasas. He describes his work as "a counter-ideology platform. And the message is about the values: three principles. One is peace, second one is democracy and the third one is anti-extremism. So it is a way to talk to the youth without veils. And we try to connect with them. [We're getting an] enormous amount of support across faiths, gender, race."

Fundamentally, Ahmed's message to the kids he speaks to is that they have a choice -- a choice about the world that are creating and in which they will be living.
[Clarion Project]

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

ISIS Shmisis


Why U.S. Middle East Policy Is Failing
- Kenneth M. Pollack & Barbara F. Walter

The murderous jihadists
of Islamic State, or ISIS, are only one symptom of a much larger problem in the Middle East. By fixating on this one symptom and then trying to convince everyone else in the region to do the same, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Most Middle Easterners regard ISIS as abhorrent and want to see it obliterated. But ISIS is not the root problem. The real problems of the Middle East stem from the failure of the post-World War II Arab state system, which has produced state collapse, power vacuums and civil wars.
  

The region's civil wars invariably spawn extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, but they have spread only to states in civil war or on the brink. Even if the U.S. were able to "defeat" or "degrade" ISIS, as long as civil wars burn on in the region, the conditions that led to its emergence would still exist, and new radical groups would simply emerge to replace it. End the civil wars, and the terrorist groups will wither.
Mr. Pollack is a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution. Ms. Walter is a professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego.
(Wall Street Journal)
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Dem Slams Obama For Cuts to Anti-Terror Money

 


Schumer Slams Obama Budget Cuts to Anti-Terror Funds
- Michael Balsamo

Sen. Charles Schumer is slamming a White House proposal that would reduce funding for counterterrorism programs across the country by nearly $300 million.
 
The New York Democrat is pushing President Barack Obama to reconsider the cuts.  Schumer notes that the cuts to the Urban Area Security Initiative were included in the proposed 2017 budget released last week by the White House. The initiative helps fund programs in cities across the U.S. to prevent extremist attacks, or respond to and recover from them. The proposed budget would cut the funding from $600 million to $330 million.
 
"These proposed cuts are ill-advised and ill-timed and they must be reversed. End of story," Schumer said in a statement to The Associated Press. "In light of recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and the vow by our extremist enemies to launch more attacks on our shores, it makes no sense to propose cuts to vital terror-prevention programs like UASI."
 
Schumer, who decried the cuts at a news conference on Sunday, said the program is necessary to adequately fund counterterrorism programs in high-density urban areas like New York City.  "New York City remains terror target number one and the NYPD relies on these programs to keep us safe," he said.
[ABC News]

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Technology & Terror-Innovation: It's Not Nice To Call Palestinians 'Rats'

Hamas' "final frontier"


It's Not Nice To Call Palestinians 'Rats:' Technology & Terror-Innovation 
- Bruce

Despite the offense that some will take, I can't help comparing our Palestinian enemies to rats. 

Joshua Mitnick of The Jewish Week observed:

Tunneling has been used for millennia in warfare, from the Vietnam War, to World War I, and all the way back to the Roman era and the Jewish Revolt. Hamas operatives used a tunnel in a 2006 border strike in which soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped into Gaza. Hamas has turned to tunneling because it has become the most effective method of psychological warfare against the Israeli population: Israeli fences have blocked suicide bombers and Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket system is protecting cities from Katyusha attacks. 

As you can see, Mr. Mitnick is a bit more diplomatic than I, saying Hamas has merely picked an "effective method" long used in warfare.  But I cannot help noting the fascinating shift in methodology:

First Palestinian jihadis adopt suicide bombing.  Israel builds a security barrier.  Suicide attacks are thwarted.  Suicide bombing then spreads all over the world.  Thank you Palestinians.  But, of course, Israel is criticized for protecting herself.  The world's heart bleeds for the terrible effect the "wall" has had on poor Palestinians.  The world's heart was not moved when Israelis were slaughtered in cafes and pizza shops.

Then, when they could no longer enter much of Israel, Hamas (& Hezbollah) turned to missiles and rockets.  The world yawned, at least until Israel decided to defend herself.  But the last Gaza War showed that anti-rocket technology could significantly thwart even that means of murder.  I hasten to add that the aforementioned rocket defense technology, began as President Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" proposal.  Now it's called Iron Dome. 

Despite the positive historical precedent of blocking a missile barrage, following the war, the world again expressed sympathy for the poor Palestinians of Gaza and Israel's horrible blockade. 

Blocked from entering and causing mayhem [thank you security barrier] and blocked from hitting their missile targets [thank you Iron Dome] Hamas, never lacking in murderous creativity, morphed Hezbollah's tunneling technology to create the latest threat to Israel.  Currently, the world is yawning as Israel debates how aggressive to be against this newish threat.  Already responsible for kidnapping IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, this new methodology threatens to lead to mass casualty attacks in and around Israeli kibbutzim near Gaza. 

Anyone wanna guess how this will turn out?  Don't fret, I'll tell you.  Since history is the best predictor of human behavior, we can fully expect that:

1. Israel will (eventually) defend herself and destroy as many tunnels as they can.
2. The world will condemn her for doing so. 
3. Somehow, Palestinians will successfully assert their right to build tunnels. 

I promised at the beginning of this piece to compare our creative enemies to rats.  Before I do so, I must remind my dear readers that Palestinians invented modern terror warfare.  Kindly do not forget that the first terror hijacking of an airline was carried out by (yes, you guessed it) Palestinians.  In that respect, we can thank the Palestinians for 9-11

It is only a matter of time until stabbings and tunnels join other Palestinian terror innovations, and spread worldwide

Imagine a mass casualty attack in the United States carried out by terror operatives tunneling under the Mexican border.  Calls to prevent infiltration there would no longer be a marginal proposal by a controversial GOP candidate [whom I, incidentally, oppose]. 

If I were studying the history of warfare and applying it to the modern arena, I might be impressed with these creative adversaries.  But I am not an impassive observer.  I am a Zionist:

These Palestinian rats have entered their final frontier: under the groundIt is, perhaps, exactly where they belong

There were hints of this a few Gaza wars ago when Hamas leadership hid underneath hospitals.  They figured, correctly, that the IDF would leave them there without consequence. 

Israel is in the process of trying to develop technology to detect Hamas' underground labyrinths.  When they succeed and take action against Hamas, you can bet you life that Hamas will be portrayed by the media as victims and Israel will be painted as the aggressor

If you're an Israeli reading this, you will literally be betting your life.
[Bruce's MidEast Soundbites]
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