Monday, September 06, 2021

From Ian:

Bethany Mandel: Perspective: When Biden dropped the ball in Afghanistan, America showed up
When I first asked Corinne Snow if I could talk to her for a piece about grassroots efforts to evacuate and aid Afghan refugees, she demurred. She told me, “I would be more than happy to talk to you but I don’t feel comfortable being highlighted. There are private citizens chartering planes, putting themselves in harm’s way, doing incredible things and I’m just sending emails and texts in between feeding my baby while on maternity leave. I would just feel really foolish taking credit when there are people out there doing really heroic stuff.”

Snow wasn’t alone in her humility; every single person involved in the efforts to rescue Afghans who I asked to talk to for this piece felt similarly.

While Snow may not be chartering planes, her efforts have contributed to the successful evacuations of Afghan families and individuals and more than 8,000 items purchased off of Amazon wishlists she put together for U.S. troops and refugees in conjunction with troops stationed in nearby Qatar. Alongside countless other Americans, Snow played a vital role in getting as many Afghani allies out as possible following the quick and dramatic fall of the government to the Taliban.

None of the individuals I spoke with could pinpoint the moment they became involved: Sometime in the past several weeks, they started to receive requests for help from both those still inside Afghanistan and from individuals around the world who cared about people there. Message after message rolled in, and eventually groups of individuals with connections in the military, on the ground, in the government, or just concerned citizens were formed on WhatsApp and Signal.

Snow worked with another woman, Simone Ledeen, who described her grassroots work as being a communications hub and facilitating connections between parties. Ledeen was the perfect woman for the job. Thanks to spending more than a year in Afghanistan across two deployments — one that brought her around the country, and one stationed in Kabul — Ledeen had a large and varied number of contacts on the ground. A former government employee, Ledeen has an extensive network in government in Washington, D.C., as well, all of which she harnessed over the past two weeks as she worked to connect those who needed help with those who would have a hope of providing it.

Dore Gold: Iran and the Taliban: Bitter Enemies or Potential Partners
At the end of the 1990s, Shiite Iran and the Sunni Taliban nearly went to war. However, the Iranians also pursued a strategy of supplying Taliban units with arms and cash as well as training Taliban fighters, using the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Iran later deployed the Afghan Fatemiyoun Division in Syria, which became the largest external militia involved in the fighting there. Both Iran and the Taliban were committed to seeing U.S. power in Afghanistan weakened. But now that the Americans are gone, does there remain a basis for Iranian-Afghan cooperation?

Will Iran seek to add the demographic weight of Shiite communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan to its cause?
The Taliban Takeover: Iranian Interests in Afghanistan
Iran's primary security interests in Afghanistan are to prevent terrorist infiltration. As of now, Iran regards ISIS as the most significant terrorist threat. According to American reports, the Afghan branch of ISIS has conducted many terrorist attacks against civilian Shiite targets in Afghanistan. The American withdrawal is liable to strengthen ISIS in Afghanistan and reinforce its activity against the Shiite community or Iranian targets.

Iran also wants to safeguard its economic interests as the largest exporter to Afghanistan, one of Iran's largest markets for non-oil exports. Another important Iranian interest is the free flow of water from Afghanistan to Iran - a matter of dispute between the two countries. The Helmand River, which flows from Afghanistan to the Sistan region in Iran, supplies water for about a million people.

The improved relations between Iran and the Taliban, despite the ideological and religious differences and the Shiite-Sunni rift, reflect a large degree of realpolitik. As long as its security and economic interests are preserved, Iran is not expected to support the Taliban's opponents or engage in subversive activity in Afghanistan.

As Taliban Grounds Planes Out of Afghanistan, Biden Administration Says There’s Little It Can Do
The State Department says there is little it can do to help Americans and at-risk Afghans whose planes are reportedly grounded at an airport as the Taliban prevents them from leaving the country.

At least six chartered planes are attempting to evacuate these Americans and others from Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport, but the Taliban is reportedly preventing them from taking off. Since it evacuated U.S. military forces and diplomatic personnel from the war-torn country, the Biden administration has not had the resources necessary to ensure that flights chartered by nonprofit groups and others can depart Afghanistan.

"We do not have personnel on the ground, we do not have air assets in the country, we do not control the airspace—whether over Afghanistan or elsewhere in the region," a State Department spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon. "We understand the concern that many people are feeling as they try to facilitate further charter and other passage out of Afghanistan."

While the State Department says it has little to no information about the situation but is pressing the Taliban to make good on its promise to allow Americans to leave the country, Republican lawmakers are now raising the alarm that the Taliban is grounding planes as leverage to extract concessions from the Biden administration.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who has received classified briefings on the matter, told Fox News on Sunday morning that there are hundreds of American still trapped in Afghanistan and that the "Taliban want something in exchange" for letting these people leave.

McCaul has been tracking the situation and says the State Department cleared these flights to leave, but that the Taliban is responsible for stopping them. The State Department reportedly confirmed to Congress that flights from Mazar-i-Sharif are being held until the Taliban gives its approval.

McCaul says the planes have been stuck at the airport for the past several days and include American passengers, as well as Afghans who are trying to flee the Taliban, which has been trying to detain those citizens who worked with the United States and other coalition forces during the 20-year operation there.

Erdogan's Plans for the Future of Afghanistan: China, Russia and Terrorists
The US and the EU should not buy Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's fake pro-Western posture (such as when he offered to run the Kabul airport, then fled) or his fake anti-radicalism (such as when he is courting the Afghan terrorists). Erdogan's strategy, as a member of NATO, is clearly to bolster Russia's and China's plans for the future of Afghanistan.

Iran, for its part, seems to be hoping to hit two birds with one stone: by systematically facilitating the journey of illegal Afghans to Turkey and toward Greece, it might destabilize both Turkey and Europe.

"The persistence of Erdogan's relationship with Hekmatyar illustrates that it was wishful thinking to believe that Erdogan was ever anything more than a jihadi in a business suit, no matter how many diplomats projected their hopes of change on him." — Michael Rubin, Middle East expert, Washington Examiner, August 11, 2021.

Now, due to Erdogan's long-term anti-Western ideology, he will probably be tempted to seek an alliance with whichever pro-sharia group(s) will, in the near future, be governing Afghanistan.

In call with Blinken, Lapid walks back criticism of US pullout from Afghanistan
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid praised the Biden administration’s evacuation of Afghanistan during a Monday call with United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in what appeared to be an attempt to paper over criticism he voiced over the withdrawal last week.

Lapid and Blinken also discussed Israeli efforts to ease pressure in the Gaza Strip while maintaining security, and Iran’s nuclear program. The two agreed to meet next month, Lapid’s office said.

The call came days after Lapid publicly lobbed criticism at the Biden administration’s Afghanistan pullout, despite Prime Minister Naftali Bennett being fresh off a visit to Washington in which the administrations sought to display warm ties and a shift from the public tiffs of past governments.

“The minister expressed his deep appreciation for the US effort in Afghanistan, especially with regard to the extraordinary evacuation operation,” Lapid’s office said in its readout of the call Monday.

Lapid told reporters on Wednesday that the withdrawal “was probably the right decision maybe that wasn’t performed in the right manner.”

“I think the entire globe was concerned, and first and foremost the Americans themselves. It didn’t happen the way it was supposed to happen,” he said.

Indian Security Alert Warns Jewish Sites May Be Targeted by Terror Groups Over High Holidays
Indian authorities have issued a countrywide alert due to intelligence information that Jews may be targeted by terrorist groups during the high holidays.

Indian English-language paper the Economic Times reported that the alert was issued to police officials across the country, and stated, “Jewish holiday to start on September 6 onwards as per intel input terror groups can again target Israeli citizens or Jewish sites which hold religious value.”

An official was reported saying, “We have shared the alert with various police forces across the country. And if required then the security of such establishments will be increased.”

In accordance with the warning, security personnel have been deployed to Jewish and Israeli sites, particularly in New Delhi. The sites include everything from the Israeli embassy to kosher restaurants to synagogues.

Islamist terror groups, often sponsored by Pakistan, are active in India, and have committed antisemitic attacks in the past.

These atrocities have included the mass-casualty attacks in Mumbai in 2008, which among other sites targeted a Chabad center, and a small bomb detonated near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi in January of this year.
Israel Police hunting for 6 Palestinian prisoners who tunneled out of jail
A massive manhunt is underway for six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from the Gilboa prison in Israel's North using a tunnel. “Overnight, we received a number of reports about suspicious figures in agricultural fields and from the prison service, which discovered very quickly that prisoners were missing from their cells and that six escaped,” police spokesman Eli Levy said.

Police, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Border Police and troops from two IDF companies as well as Special Forces are taking part in the manhunt, and have placed some 200 roadblocks throughout the country to catch the escapees. Security forces are also utilizing special units in the search involving dogs and aerial support.

“Our goal is to catch and arrest them. As long as there is a possibility that they are in Israel,” he said.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that troops in the West Bank have been alerted to the escape and are on high alert.

Walla! News reported that two of the escapees crossed into Jordan and of the four that remain in Israel, two are hiding out in the Druze town of Majdal Shams on the Syrian border.

Police are also investigating the possibility that the escapees may have managed to escape to Jenin.
6 security prisoners escape from Israeli prison Col. (Res.) Alon Eviatar, an expert in Palestinian affairs, analyzes the situation and describes Egypt's attempts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

Gilboa Prison escapees: The ‘sheriff’ of Jenin and the ‘emir’ of Islamic Jihad
Zakaria Zubeidi, one of the six Palestinian inmates who escaped from Gilboa Prison in northern Israel, was one of the “symbols” of the Second Intifada, which erupted in September 2000.

The five other escapees, all members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), are less known to the Palestinian and Israeli public. But all six men were involved, directly and indirectly, in a series of terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Zubeidi, who once called himself a peace activist, was known for his close relations with several Israelis, including journalists covering Palestinian affairs. He would regularly call some journalists to brief them on the latest developments in the Jenin area or to invite them to interview him and his friends.

His mother and brother were reportedly killed in separate incidents involving IDF soldiers who raided the Jenin refugee camp, where the family lives.

The 45-year-old became one of the leaders of Fatah’s armed wing the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the camp and the Jenin area, years after he had been recruited to the Palestinian Authority security forces.

He and his men were known for imposing a reign of terror and intimidation on many Palestinians in the Jenin area, especially businessmen and merchants who were forced to pay protection money to the Fatah gangsters.

PMW: Fatah celebrates the escape of six terrorist murderer “heroes” from prison
Senior Fatah official Munir Al-Jaghoub, head of the Fatah Mobilization and Organization Commission’s Information Office, celebrated the escape of six terrorists from Gilboa Prison this morning with a post he published on his Facebook page and Twitter account:
[Facebook page of Munir Al-Jaghoub, Sept. 6, 2021]

“Zakariya Zubeidi – the dragon defeats the hunter

Great freedom, the dream of freedom, and striving for it are the prisoners’ dream. This is a true challenge to the Israeli security system that boasts of being the best in the world. Gilboa Prison is the most complicated prison in their security system, but 6 heroes succeeded in breaking this system of the occupation. Blessings to you, O heroes, and may God keep the eyes of the [Israeli] agents and plants away from you.

And this occupation has one end – to pass.”

Zakariya Zubeidi is a terrorist who commanded the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Fatah’s terror wing, in Jenin. In the indictment that was submitted against him, he was accused of committing a long list of terror crimes.

Another terrorist Fatah “hero” who was a partner in the escape from Gilboa Prison, and who was also termed a “hero” by Al-Jaghoub, is Ayham Kamamji who murdered young Eliyahu Ashri in 2006, and planned to blow up a bus filled with passengers using an exploding car carrying a massive explosive approximately 100 kilograms in weight.

Yet another terrorist Fatah “hero” who escaped from Gilboa Prison is Muhammad Ardah, an Islamic Jihad member who was put on trial and convicted for his part in initiating and executing a suicide bombing on Nov. 29, 2001, in which 3 people were murdered and many others were wounded.

Remains of Jordanian soldier from 1967 war buried in Jerusalem
A Jordanian soldier killed in the 1967 Six Day War was given a military funeral and laid to rest in East Jerusalem on Monday, in an extraordinary scene that pointed to improved ties between Israel and Jordan after years of tensions.

The soldier’s remains were discovered last month during construction work at Ammunition Hill, the site of a famous battle between Israeli and Jordanian forces.

Funeral prayers were held at the Al-Aqsa mosque and a Jordanian honor guard in uniform, with red-checkered headscarves wrapped around their faces, carried the casket to a nearby Islamic cemetery.

Jordanian military officers and government officials, as well as Palestinian representatives, attended the funeral.

Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want both territories to be part of their future state, a position with strong Jordanian support.

The kingdom gave up its territorial claims decades ago but remains the custodian of Al-Aqsa and other religious sites in East Jerusalem.
Damascus positions itself as energy mafia for Lebanon
According to a Reuters report, “the United States has been in talks with Egypt and Jordan over a plan to ease Lebanon's power crisis. The Lebanese presidency has said it involves using Egyptian gas to generate power in Jordan that would be transmitted via Syria, which is under US sanctions including the so-called Caesar act.”

That means that Syria is basically saying to the US that either it will facilitate Iranian gasoline going to Lebanon or seek US support to go against America’s own sanctions, to enable Syria to bring in gas and electricity from Jordan and Egypt, empowering the Syrian regime as it becomes the new boss of Lebanon’s electric and gas needs. This is a brilliant maneuver for Syria. Egypt has been hinting it wants to bring Syria back into the fold. In addition, the Gulf states, Jordan and Iraq want a stable Syria and have also put out feelers to increase Damascus’ role in the Arab league and welcome it back into the Arab camp. The point is that the Syrian regime was sidelined by the war and many countries even worked with rebel groups.

Today, there is no appetite for more Syrian rebels. Countries want regimes and stability. No one wants the extremism of power vacumes. But Syria’s regime, backed by Russia and Iran wants things too. It wants trade, legitimacy and cash. It knows that relying on Iran is like a poor man relying on another pauper. Iran is under sanctions too. Syria wants the legitimacy that comes with brokering a deal with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon with quiet or tacit US support. This is the magic wand around US sanctions. And Iranian gas can flow as well to help Hezbollah.

Everyone wins, in the Syrian regime view. Hezbollah wins. Iran wins. Egypt and Jordan can also get things. Iraq may win as well, as trucks from Iran transit Iraq to Albukamal.

A hidden aside to this may be why Russia brokered the deal in Dara’a that ended months of fighting and saw 50,000 people displaced. Now Dara’a is quiet. The short-lived rebellion there, the first since the regime retook the area in 2018, was a threat to Damascus and its image. Now, with Russia as a broker again in southern Syria, gas and energy can transit from Jordan. Big money and influence may be at stake.

Regional media sense that something is afoot. Al-Jarida in Kuwait noted that this was the first Lebanese visit of this kind since 2011. “This visit, the first since 2011, has two objectives; The first is technical-economic research related to the import of Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity through Syrian territory. The second is political, giving victory to Hezbollah and an opportunity for President Michel Aoun to strengthen his political position, based on his relationship and his openness to Syria.”

Al-Alam in Iran noted that “after the Syrian-Lebanese talks session at the Syrian Foreign Ministry building, Majdi al-Khoury said: ‘The Lebanese side requested the possibility of Syria's assistance to Lebanon in passing Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity through Syrian territory. The Syrian side welcomed the request and confirmed Syria's readiness to meet that.’”
JCPA: Iran's New Government: An Assertive Regional Policy and a Firm Stance toward the West
Iran’s Parliament (Majlis) approved the list of ministers presented by President Ibrahim Raisi on August 25, 2021. Most ministers are considered conservative, some are on the U.S. government’s sanctions list, and some are accused of international terrorism, such as Ahmed Vahidi, the interior minister, who served as defense minister in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government and is wanted for his role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina) building in Argentina.

The composition of Raisi’s conservative government reflects an expected shift in Iran’s policy in the regional and international arenas. The conservative “capture” of the executive branch effectively completed their takeover of all the centers of government (the government, Parliament, and the judiciary) and left the reform camp outside the decision-making processes and power centers in Iran.

Iran’s new government is more coordinated and in sync with the Supreme Leader’s office and the revolutionary policies it dictates. A tougher line is expected on foreign issues – mainly around the nuclear talks and Iran’s regional policy, especially regarding the strength and scope of its support for the “Resistance Camp.”

For Iran, “Palestine” is just one piece of the complex puzzle of a regional strategy to build the Axis of Resistance from the Persian Gulf, through Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon. Each arena has its own “toolbox,” and the expertise and experience of Hizbullah-Lebanon and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force are copied from arena to arena.
Former Israeli Ambassador to US Ron Dermer: World Will Allow Iran to Acquire a Nuclear Weapon
Former Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer told Israeli daily Israel Hayom in an interview published Sunday that the world will allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon, leaving Israel to contend with the threat alone.

Dermer, who served as ambassador for seven years under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was Israel’s man in Washington through some of the most tumultuous years of the Israel-US relationship, including the intense split between Netanyahu and former president Barack Obama over the Iran nuclear deal.

“In no uncertain terms, the world will allow it to happen,” Dermer said of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“No one wanted North Korea and Pakistan to get nuclear weapons, but it happened. [Former US President Barack] Obama and [current US President Joe] Biden also don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons, but it will happen if we [Israel] doesn’t stop it,” he asserted.

“The Iranians want to turn Israel into South Korea, and Tel Aviv into Seoul,” Dermer said. “They want to surround us with a conventional ring of precision weapons and create a balance of terror so that any time someone fires a rocket from Gaza, you will think twice before responding.”

“In year 15 of the nuclear deal, when your expectation is that the international community will prevent them from acquiring a nuclear weapon, [Iran’s] conventional might will be such that people will say, ‘Now it’s already too late to stop them. They will destroy Tel Aviv,’” he said.


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