Khaled Abu Toameh: The "Other" Palestinians
Nearly 3,500 Palestinians have been killed in Syria since 2011. But because these Palestinians were killed by Arabs, and not Israelis, this fact is not news in the mainstream media or of interest to "human rights" forums.Awaiting the next barrage of Palestinian propaganda
How many Western journalists have cared to inquire about the thirsty Palestinians of Yarmouk refugee camp, in Syria? Does anyone know that this camp has been without water supply for more than 720 days, and without electricity for the past three years? In June 2002, 112,000 Palestinians lived in Yarmouk. By the end of 2014, the population was down to less than 20,000.
Nor is the alarm bell struck concerning the more than 12,000 Palestinians languishing in Syrian prisons, including 765 children and 543 women. According to Palestinian sources, some 503 Palestinian prisoners have died under torture in recent years, and some female prisoners have been raped by interrogators and guards.
When Western journalists lavish time on Palestinians delayed at Israeli checkpoints, and ignore bombs dropped by the Syrian military on residential areas, one might start to wonder they are really about.
Once again, Hamas has launched a series of rocket attacks against Israeli civilian targets, including schools and kindergartens. Again, too, Israel has responded, as it must, with tactically suitable and law-enforcing retaliations. Nonetheless, and in predictably short order, the Palestinian side will surely allege a variety of Israeli violations, including the always manipulable charge of “disproportionality.”Jennifer Rubin: It’s not just Arab governments that want to get along with Israel
In this connection, unassailably, the fact that the rule of proportionality under the law of war has nothing to do with equivalence will be very conveniently swept under the rug.
Significantly, recurrent Israeli resorts to force in Gaza are never gratuitous or contrived. Why should they be? Unlike their Hamas terrorist foes, Israelis deeply regret each and every resort to arms. Starkly unlike their bitterly recalcitrant enemies, Israelis receive no inherent joy from the organized killing of other human beings.
In the presumptively endless Palestinian war against Israel, every sham is carefully glossed over with a shimmering patina. To begin, Hamas always takes calculated steps to ensure that Israeli reprisals will kill or injure Palestinian noncombatants. Again and again, by systematically placing elderly women and young children in exactly those same areas from which rockets are intentionally launched into Israeli homes, hospitals and schools, Hamas openly violates the most elementary expectations of the law of war.
The almost ritualistic Hamas practice of “human shields” – the very same practice originally championed by Hezbollah in Lebanon – is more than an expression of “mere” immorality or cowardice. It also represents a very specific crime under international law. The technically correct name for this egregious crime is “perfidy.”
As violent and unstable swaths of the Middle East may be, there are also unintended, positive consequences of the administration’s blunders. “The conclusion is clear: today a broader regional approach to Arab-Israeli peacemaking, rather than a strictly bilateral Israeli-Palestinian one, offers somewhat better prospects of success — whether at the official, elite, media, or even popular levels,” Pollock writes. “Normalization with Israel remains controversial in Arab circles, but it is no longer taboo. For an increasing number of Arabs, the Israeli ‘enemy of my enemy’ may not be a friend, but could become a partner. The next U.S. Administration would do well to ponder this unaccustomed situation, and to adjust its policies accordingly.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority remains mired in corruption and ineptitude. Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams writes: “Municipal elections are scheduled for October 8th in the West Bank and Gaza. … The unpopularity of the Palestinian Authority and the ruling Fatah Party due to corruption, incompetence, and growing repression helps explain why West Bank voters might choose Hamas.” As in 2006, the avowed terrorist group Hamas may prevail. The difference, Abrams notes, is that since 2006 “[Mahmoud] Abbas is ten years older and his time in office is closer to its end. Until succession issues are dealt with the notion of serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is completely unrealistic — whatever happens at the United Nations, whatever the French suggest or the Russians try, and whatever the Obama administration or its successor believe.”
So where does that leaves everyone? The administration that continually mouthed the platitude that the “status quo is unsustainable” between Israel and the Palestinians is proving the opposite. Israel thrives economically and is embraced by new Arab friends. The Palestinians still suffer from lack of honest, democratic and competent leadership. Until the latter changes, the status quo will suit Israel just fine.
Africa and Israel's roots are long-standing and ought to bear fruit for both
Israel and Africa are neighbours and our relations go back to the biblical time of Genesis. The very beginnings of Jewish peoplehood began when Jacob and his sons wandered to Egypt — to Africa — and the story of our exodus has been a source of human inspiration and freedom for thousands of years.‘They’re All Crazy!’ — The Language We Use When Reporting on Terror Attacks
In modern times, the vision for a Jewish state was connected from the start to Africa. Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism, who posited the idea that Jews, too, should have our own homeland, also wrote in 1902 about African liberation: “There is still one other question arising out of the disaster of nations which remains unsolved to this day, and whose profound tragedy, only a Jew can comprehend. This is the African question. … I am not ashamed to say, though I may expose myself to ridicule for saying so, that once I have witnessed the redemption of the Jews, my people, I wish also to assist in the redemption of the Africans.”
And it seemed natural, in the shadow of the Holocaust, a newly founded, tiny state of Israel joined together with many independent African states, and led by then foreign minister Golda Meir to carry out Herzl’s dream, offered partnership in our shared post-colonial experiences. Israeli experts in fields such as agriculture, education, homeland security, policing and community work were dispatched, working in dozens of countries across Africa. Leaders, officials and students visited Israel to see for themselves the success of these policies as carried out in Israel.
Geopolitics is a complicated thing and countries often get swept up beyond their individual interests. So it was when, in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, nearly every country in Africa broke off relations with Israel, under intense pressure from Arab states.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people, Alice remarked.Charity group urges public trial as Gaza staffer set to face terror charges
Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat. “We’re all mad here.” — Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.
It has become fashionable to invoke the M’Naghten rules as soon as there is a terrorist attack in Europe. Typically, the perpetrator shouts “Allahu Akhbar” and murders innocent bystanders at some restaurant, bus stop, theater, night club or what have you. Authorities quickly follow up by darkly muttering that the terrorist was actually a person with mental-health issues. Their job is to convince the public how to engage in denial.
Whereas Freud explained 100 years ago how defense mechanisms such as denial, projection and rationalization affected human behavior, today we embrace these concepts as an integral and essential part of political correctness. For instance, politicians have suddenly become theologians and experts in comparative religion by stating that shouting “Allahu Akhbar” has nothing to do with the real Islam. Security officials, backed up by government ministers, on the other hand, suddenly transform into psychologists and psychiatrists, becoming mental-health experts. It’s a new form of multitasking.
The M’Naghten rules were formulated in 1843, after Daniel M’Naghten was acquitted of the charge of murdering Edward Drummond, whom he had mistaken for British Prime Minister Robert Peel. He had believed that Mr. Peel was conspiring against him. The court found him not guilty by “reason of insanity,” which resulted in a public outcry to the extent that Queen Victoria intervened and recommended stricter criteria for insanity.
Unlike today’s government spokespeople and security officials, the courts continue to grapple with complicated insanity issues in criminal matters, despite the input of expert mental-health witnesses.
Of course, labeling each Islamist attack as a mental-health issue could be counterproductive.
The international charity World Vision has called for a “fair and transparent” trial for a Gaza employee arrested by Israel for allegedly funneling money to Hamas.JPost Editorial: Dialogue, not diktat
Israel accuses Mohammed Halabi, a manager of the aid group’s Gaza office, of diverting millions of dollars from World Vision’s budget to the Islamic terror group Hamas, helping it build underground tunnels, military bases and purchasing arms. His trial is expected to begin soon.
The comments on Monday by Kevin Jenkins, World Vision’s international CEO, came as Amnesty International also called for a fair trial amid reports that Halabi’s proceedings will be closed.
Trials for cases that Israel considers highly sensitive are sometimes held in secret.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said “it’s clear that the trial will be fair.”
A first court hearing for Halabi is set for Tuesday and is expected to be held in secret. Halabi’s legal team has appealed.
What would happen if the international community made it clear to Palestinians that their only path to statehood was via direct negotiations and dialogue with Israel? What if the Palestinians were faced with a reality in which no international body or major world power condoned imposing unilateral measures on Israel? What would Palestinians do if they realized that there only hope for political autonomy was to gain the trust of Israelis? It is impossible to know because a body called the UN Security Council exists. And on October 14, in yet another misguided decision, the UNSC will hold a meeting to condemn Israel for settlement building.The partitioning of the Middle East
Nothing will likely be said about the Palestinian Authority’s supposedly “moderate” President Mahmoud Abbas, and his refusal to enter into direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions. Nor will the UNSC mention Palestinian incitement to violence against Israel as an obstacle to peace.
The UNSC’s focus on settlements as the main impediment to peace plays right into the hands of the Palestinians: why enter into direct negotiations with Israel if respected international bodies like the UNSC accept the Palestinian claim that settlement construction must stop as a precondition to peace talks? Palestinians can put pressure on Israel and get what they want without having to make compromises of their own, as part of the give and take that is central to all sincere negotiating practices.
News that the UNSC was planning to address Israeli settlement building emerged after UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov appeared before the UNSC this week and slammed Israel for continuing to build settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Arab propaganda has always parroted the mantra that the Zionists, in conjunction with the United States, are trying to splinter and divide Arab states in order to take control of Middle Eastern treasures, and today, too, we can see opinion pieces in the Arab press accusing Israel of this conspiracy. In an ironic twist of fate, however, in recent years the Arabs have triggered their own fragmentation, which one can assume will eventually result in some of these states being divided and new entities emerging in our region.Israel's new envoy to Egypt takes post amid warming Jerusalem-Cairo ties
The Middle East is on the verge of looking very different, and it will look different for a long time to come.
One of the consequences of the Arab Spring is that it exacerbated the schism in Arab society, expanded the rift between religious and secular, between nationalists and traditionalists, and certainly between Sunnis and Shiites. The struggles that have arisen from the ongoing conflicts in several states will ultimately -- according to estimates from experts in the Arab world and the discernible mood among Arab bloggers and media pundits -- lead to their division. Although it goes without saying, these are merely projections. We already know, however, that the Middle East has become a fascinating riddle, whereby trying to guess what will happen to it is fascinating on its own.
Let's begin with Egypt: The overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi led to a totalitarian government and power struggles between the Muslim Brotherhood and the establishment, underscored by the continuous trampling of minorities there, such as the Copts (Christians), innocent bystanders paying the price of racism and hatred.
Israel's ambassador to Egypt David Govrin formally presented his credentials to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday, officially becoming Israel's 13th ambassador to Egypt since the countries established ties in 1980.In Saudi Arabia, signs of an effort to break the Israel taboo
Govrin was one of eight ambassadors who presented their credentials to Sisi on Wednesday, the others being the new envoys from the United Arab Emirates, Somalia, Mexico, Myanmar, Netherlands, Belgium and Greece. The ambassadors waited in line -- one behind the other -- to present their credentials to the Egyptian president. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with the UAE or Somalia. Presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef was quoted as saying that the president greeted the new envoys and wished them success.
The ceremony took place in the presence of Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry who visited Israel last month – the highest Egyptian official to do so since 2007.
Govrin’s formally becoming ambassador – he arrived in Egypt last month – comes during an uptick in ties between the two countries, with the Egyptians interested not only in close security cooperation with Israel, but also in wanting to play a role in pushing forward an Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process.
Saudi state-run media appears to be softening its reporting on Israel, running unprecedented columns floating the prospect of direct relations, quoting Israeli officials and filling its newsholes with fewer negative stories on Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.The Russia-Israel romance
The public shift – from outlets such as al-Arabiya and Riyadh newspaper, among other local or state-owned outlets – reflects secret, under the-table contact between the Arab kingdom and the Jewish state that has been a work in progress for years.
But media movement marks a new phase in t hat diplomatic process, according to some experts on the kingdom, who see signs of a monarchy effort to prepare Saudi society for debate that had previously been off limits.
“The key here is that everybody understands this is not going to turn around overnight, and its probably not going to convince a lot of people. But that’s not really the point,” said David Pollock, an expert on the region at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The point is to establish this as a debatable proposition, and to break the taboo of even debating about it – about the prospect of normalizing relations.”
“Once you’ve done that, you’ve made it legitimate,” Pollock added. “There are suddenly two sides.”
What is especially interesting is how Russia views the Jewish state's military achievements. If in certain Western circles the IDF is seen as a "hunchback" deserving of criticism, the Russians see Israel's strength as something to be admired. For the Russians, military might means an independent, confident country, and only countries like that are they willing to accept as equal partners.The Brotherhood returns: The ballot and the Book
This situation is due to intensive work by many Israeli elements. The Israeli Embassy in Moscow, the network of Israeli cultural centers, Jewish Agency offices -- they all do work that is worth its weight in gold. Even now, at the end of summer, which is traditionally vacation time in Russia, the capital is buzzing with Israeli activity. Just this week, three major events are underway: an exhibition of giant photographs of Israeli landscapes; the Israeli Film Festival; and the IDF band's appearance at an international festival of military bands.
When the Russian media mentions Israel, the consensus is largely favorable. The Russian government has such tight control over the state media that it's clear that the affection for Israel feeds off the sentiment of the "commander." Herein lies some uncertainty about the future: What will happen to the pro-Israel approach if the government changes its stance? That's not a scenario we currently foresee, but there is real -- if unseen -- competition between Russia and Israel. Russian Jews making aliyah, one of the founding principles of the Jewish state, is seen differently by the Russian powers. In their eyes, emigration is a battle for the most important resources of all, human assets. The stream of emigrants out of Russia upsets the country.
Nevertheless, Moscow's residents cheer on the IDF band as it performs in Red Square, buy tickets to Israeli films, and crowd around the images of Israel's landscapes. Our image in the Russian capital has never been better.
“WHOOPS!” seems to be all aghast officials can say. On either side of the River Jordan, the Hashemite kingdom and the Palestinian Authority have called elections expecting easy wins. Instead, to their surprise, the local arms of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group, have ended their boycotts of the ballot and are now the front-runners. The king’s men in Jordan anticipate that the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the brothers’ political arm in Jordan, will emerge from the general elections on September 20th as the largest single party. In adjacent Palestine, ministers speculate that Hamas, the Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot, might sweep all eight of the West Bank’s cities in municipal elections set for October 8th.Turkey’s Erdogan ratifies Israel reconciliation deal
This would mark a turn for democratic Islamism, which had seemed on the verge of oblivion in the Arab world after the Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi was overthrown as president of Egypt in 2013. Hounded into hiding and despairing of electoral politics, Sunni Islamists across the region abandoned the ballot box for bullets and boats to Europe. King Abdullah of Jordan declared the Brotherhood “a Masonic cult” and banned it (although he eschewed the mass arrests that have taken place in Egypt). Now, both the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and King Abdullah will have to engage with the Islamists again. “We’re not Cairo,” proffers a Jordanian official.
After preaching revolution and gaining little from it, many Islamists crave the legitimacy that elections offer. They are unlikely to regain the close relationship with power they enjoyed under King Abdullah’s father, Hussein, when he ruled both sides of the Jordan. But in both Jordan and the West Bank mayhem and infighting in the ranks of the ruling parties have bolstered the brothers’ chances.
By contrast, the IAF’s headquarters is a hive of strategists and statisticians calculating campaigns and polls. It is fielding candidates in 15 of Jordan’s 23 electoral districts. Its nearest rivals struggle to muster a handful. “Only the Brotherhood has the social support, the political platform and the cross-country organisation to get out the vote,” says Curtis Ryan, an American political scientist.
Pragmatism is also helping their cause. In both Jordan and the West Bank the authorities sought to stack the ballot against the Islamists by reserving a disproportionate number of seats for groups such as Christians, Circassians and women. But the Islamists have outwitted them by reaching out to minorities. Five Christians are on the IAF’s list and Hamas, for the most part, has sidestepped the usual bombast about “resistance” and cast itself as a technocratic alternative to Mr Abbas’s corrupt and sclerotic faction, Fatah. They have also wooed Christian candidates. “The Brotherhood is going to taste the sweetness of being not just Islamist leaders but national leaders,” says Leith Shubeilat, a veteran Islamist and scourge of the Jordanian royal family.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday ratified the Israel-Turkey reconciliation deal agreed upon by the two countries’ leaders in June.PreOccupiedTerritory: Penn & Teller To Revive ‘Bulls**t!’ To Debunk Palestinian Claims
His country’s parliament voted to approve the pact earlier this month before it closed for a summer recess.
Relations between the former allies imploded in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish aid ship trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The raid, in which IDF commandos were attacked by activists on board, left 10 Turks dead and several soldiers wounded.
Under the terms of the reconciliation agreement, Israel will pay a “lump sum” of $20 million in compensation to the victims within 25 days.
Individual Israeli nationals also would not be held criminally or financially liable for the incident.
A duo of prominent stage magicians known for their outspoken stances on political issues and for their vocal support of skepticism toward many widely-held beliefs have announced they will produce a once-off revival of their Emmy-nominated TV show arguing for skepticism of those notions, with the special episode focused on the disingenuous, distorted, and outright false claims behind the Palestinian national movement.Israel, Iran and Pakistan said cooperating on landmark science project
Penn Jillette and Raymond Teller, one of the most famous magic acts in history, issued a press release today to the effect that “Penn & Teller’s ‘Bulls**t!'” would come back for a special one-time, two-hour episode to examine the common misconceptions, myths, and falsehoods peddled by advocates for the Palestinian cause, aiming to demonstrate that support for such a cause keeps millions of people stateless and miserable, perpetuates violent conflict, discourages a peaceful resolution of Arab-Israeli differences, and draws precious international resources away from where they are actually needed.
“I have to say our biggest regret, in terms of the topics we took on in our show, was not devoting attention to the Palestinian cause,” said Jillette, referring to the seven-year run on the Showtime cable channel that ended in 2010. “Teller and I shifted our emphasis when the run ended, but we’ve always had a nagging sense that we needed to go back and tackle this topic. It’s a source of tremendous bulls**t, after all.”
Israeli scientists are reportedly participating with colleagues from Pakistan, Iran, Egypt and Jordan on a $100 million project to develop the Middle East’s new particle accelerator — the Synchrotron-Light for Experimental Science and Applications, or Sesame.Israel’s West Bank governing body okays 466 settlement homes
Construction of the site, which is due to be formally inaugurated next spring in the hillside town of al-Balqa, northwest of Amman, is underway and the first experiments are expected to take place this autumn, The Guardian reported.
Sesame’s members are Iran, Pakistan, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Bahrain — a group among which diplomatic discomfort is rife: Iran and Pakistan don’t recognize Israel, for example, nor does Turkey recognize Cyprus.
Iran’s participation continued even after two of its scientists, who were involved in the project, quantum physicist Masoud Alimohammadi and nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, were assassinated in operations blamed on Israel’s Mossad, The Guardian said.
“We’re cooperating very well together,” said Giorgio Paolucci, the scientific director of Sesame told The Guardian. “That’s the dream.”
“I don’t know how many places there are where all these governments have representatives who have the opportunity to come and talk to each other,” he added.
Israel’s governing body in the West Bank approved the construction of 466 new housing units in a slew of settlements on Wednesday.Syrian rebel leader quits after interview with Israeli
Construction in the settlements of Elkana, Ofarim, Beit Aryeh, Givat Ze’ev and Har Gilo was approved by the Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee, which had been convened at the insistence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Army Radio reported.
Two projects involving nearly 80 units in the settlements of Nofim and Efrat were dropped.
The largest single bloc, in the settlement of Elkana, east of Tel Aviv, entails the construction of 234 housing units.
The move by the Civil Administration helped the housing units pass an intermediary hurdle on the way to breaking ground.
And 179 illegally constructed units in the West Bank settlement of Ofarim, north of Ramallah, were retroactively approved.
Just earlier this week a UN envoy rapped Israel for a “surge” in settlement construction in the two months since the diplomatic Quartet called for a halt to the construction of Jewish outposts on Palestinian land. Nickolay Mladenov’s statement was rejected by an Israeli government spokesman.
Its hard to keep track of the number of rebel factions fighting in the Syrian civil war. However, one of the major rebel confederations, comprised of over 40 rebel groups with Sunni Salafist Islamic ideologies is Jaysh al-Islam - or Army of Islam.Israel shuts down Palestinian radio station for incitement in overnight raid
This enormous confederation of fighting groups operates primarily in the areas around Damascus and controls territory in Lebanon. Along with fighting against the Assad regime, they also fight against ISIS and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). They are allied with groups such as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat a-Nusra), Ahrar a-Sham, and both the Turkish and Saudi governments.
Recently, Israeli researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov at the Forum for Regional Thinking held a rare interview with Jaysh al-Islam spokesman Islam Aloush.
"I've been researching Syria for years and have been in contact with hundreds of Syrians all over the country,as well as refugees. I've never hidden my Israeli identity," Tsurkov said.
"Over the years I've interviewed activists, fighters, civic leaders, and politicians – almost always on condition of anonymity," she explained. "This is out of their fear that they would be viewed as 'collaborators' with Israel. The only ones who let me use their names have been Syrian refugees in Europe and Turkey. There's a really big taboo against talking to Israeli media or even with Israelis. It's seen as normalization with Israel and a lack of solidarity with the Palestinians."
Tsurkov went on to explain how she met with Syrian political and military leaders in southern Turkey.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) together with the IDF, Israel Police and the Civil Administration shut down the "al-Snabel" radio station in the West Bank overnight, security forces said on Wednesday.Why did Abbas call municipal elections?
"Al-snanbel" was located in Dura, near Hebron. The station was shut down due to their incitement of terror.
All the technical equipment and transmitters were confiscated. Five of the radios employees were arrested in the raid.
This is not the first time a media channel in the West Bank was shut down for incitement. In March, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) together with the IDF and Israel Police shut down an Islamic Jihad television station in the West Bank.
The television station, Falastin al-Yom (Palestine Today), also used social media networks to send out its content. According to the Shin Bet, the channel “calls for the carrying out of terrorist attacks against the State of Israel and its citizens.
Separately, Tuesday night, security forces also arrested eight Palestinians in the West Bank.
Six of the suspects were arrested for terrorist-related activities and acts of violence against civilians and security forces.
‘Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake,” Napoleon Bonaparte once famously said. The Hamas leadership might not know the above quote, but will certainly be rubbing their collective blood-soaked hands with glee at the frankly mind-boggling decision by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to call municipal elections for October 8 in the West Bank.Confiscated ISIS documents provide glimpse into terror group's inner workings
It’s one of the strangest political moves that political geeks like us have witnessed in a long time, and judging on the number of conversations we have had with European Parliament offices, staffers and policy makers here in Brussels since the end of the summer recess last week, you might think that all the EU’s Middle East watchers are suffering an epidemic of head lice.
You see, despite the recent fiasco over Britain’s exit from the EU, it’s a commonly held and observed maxim here at the heart of the EU that most politicians call elections when they are reasonably certain of winning, and furthermore that you never ask the electorate a question unless you already know the answer. And it’s blindingly obvious to any observer of the conflict that Abbas’ popularity is at an all-time low and that Palestinian opinion is deeply divided.
Of course, one could make the claim that this division is entirely of the president’s own making, having delivered next to nothing for the Palestinian population since the previous elections 10 years ago.
A packet of alleged Islamic State documents confiscated by rebel forces in Syria appear to shed light on the internal operations of the terrorist group, the US news outlet Daily Beast reported Tuesday.Elliott Abrams: The Syria Red Line, Three Years Later
While the extremist organization known as ISIS has been ravaging swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq in its quest to establish a medieval caliphate throughout the Middle East, the documents appear to further show instances of failures in the group's messianic pursuits.
As ISIS has recently suffered losses on the ground and among troops, the reportedly seized documents provide examples of operational misdoings, financial grievances by jihadi fighters, infiltrations by double agents and bureaucratic hurdles that the group's leadership has faced.
The Daily Beast claims that it exclusively obtained the official ISIS-stamped files that provide insight into the inner-turmoil afflicting various ranks of the terrorist group's expansive operations.
It was three years ago, Labor Day weekend in 2013, that President Obama reversed himself and refused to enforce his “red line” against use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.Leaked Intelligence Reveals 60,000 Iranian-Backed Troops Stationed in Syria
What’s the outcome of that decision? In July, 2016, former Obama administration official Derek Chollet wrote an article in Politico with this subtitle: “The offhand remark spurred a massive success in Syria. Why does the foreign policy establishment consider it a failure?”
Well, here’s one answer: the fact that the Syrian regime continues to use chemical weapons. On August 25, the White House itself condemned the regime for doing so. “It is now impossible to deny that the Syrian regime has repeatedly used industrial chlorine as a weapon against its own people,” a National Security Council spokesman said. So what exactly is that “massive success?”
The Obama administration’s former point man for Syria, Fred Hof, today offered a better answer to Chollet’s question:
More than half of Syria’s pre-war population now falls into one of the following categories: dead; dying; disabled; tortured; terrorized; traumatized; sick; hungry; homeless. The regime of Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the bulk of this rampant, remorseless criminality. The administration of Barack Obama, if it stays on its present course, will make it through noon, January 20, 2017, without having defended a single Syrian civilian from the Assad-Russia-Iran onslaught.
If that is “massive success” one has to wonder what failure would look like.
Iran is shoring up the Syrian regime from a secret HQ in Damascus nicknamed “the Glasshouse” — and commanding a huge covert army in support of Assad, according to leaked intelligence passed by activists to MailOnline.Why Did Iran Put Missiles at Fordo?
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) claims that the theocratic state’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has spent billions in hardware for its ally Bashar al-Assad in the last five years — and runs operations on the ground from a five-floor monolith near Damascus airport.
But the questions about the S-300s at Fordo go deeper than the obvious suspicions about illicit activities or secret nuclear work in the area. Iran knows that all the talk about “snapping back” sanctions if Iran violated the deal or the possibility that force might be used if a “break out” to a weapon were detected by the U.S. is just empty posturing. The U.S. and the Europeans couldn’t wait to dismantle the sanctions on Iran, and it’s not clear what, if anything, it is that Iran could do to convince the West to re-impose them.Erdogan Admits He Made Up Coup Story After Vandalizing Gas Station While Intoxicated (satire)
The brazen deployment of advanced missiles at a supposedly clean site is one more example of Iran behaving as if it knows it can violate the nuclear deal with impunity. Just as likely is an Iranian strategy of pushing the envelope in terms of compliance that will make the transition to a weapon swift and easy once all of the provisions in the weak accord expire within the next 10-15 years. We already know that Iran has been cheating on the deal as it seeks to acquire illegal nuclear technology in Europe and has also violated other agreements on the testing of ballistic missiles that have no purpose but to provide a delivery system for the bomb that they still disingenuously claim they don’t want.
President Obama’s approach to Iran was always predicated on the notion that its leaders wanted a chance to “get right with the world.” That provided the rationale for a U.S. policy of allowing Syria to descend into chaos since action there would have offended an Iran that was determined to keep its ally, Bashar Assad, in power. But while Iran was grateful for Obama’s willingness to abdicate U.S. responsibilities in the Middle East, its enthusiasm for cooperation was limited to its desire to profit from the end of sanctions and the release of frozen assets that could strengthen its economy, thereby protecting the longevity of the theocratic regime and aiding its push for regional hegemony and support for international terrorism. Since the deal was concluded, Iran has taken every possible opportunity to flaunt its defiance of the West and the presence of the missiles at Fordo is just the latest instance.
Connecting the dots between all of these pieces of evidence about Iran’s current and future plans isn’t that difficult. But doing so requires a determination to look at the facts rather than cling to the administration’s failed hopes about the deal. It remains to be seen whether the president’s successors will be prepared to think clearly about the mess he is leaving them before it is too late to do something about it.
Saying he was “110 percent sorry,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted Thursday that he had fabricated his story about an alleged coup against his government after he drunkenly vandalized a gas station.
After a July 15 incident, Erdogan claimed that he and his government had been the victim of an attempted coup d’état, with the president narrowly avoiding an attempt by the perpetrators to harm or imprison him. The story soon unraveled, however, as it became apparent that the army was simply trying to recoup $30 for damages at a military-owned gas station restroom after a drunken Erdogan urinated behind the station and damaged a soap dispenser in the bathroom.
“I was coming from the Presidential Palace, I was highly intoxicated and I made immature allegations,” admitted a contrite Erdogan, referring to a Facetime interview with CNN Turk in which Erdogan claimed armed commandos had tried to kill him and were bent on overthrowing his government. “I just want to say to the military, to the Turkish people and to Fethullah Gulen, I am truly sorry.”
As of press time, the president had boarded a plane to Greece to avoid facing charges for filing a false police report. (h/t Ian Nairn)
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