Nearly Six Years After Obama’s Cairo Speech, Middle East in Total Disarray

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Breitbart, by FRED GEDRICH, March 2, 2015:

The Arab world is rife with political turmoil and violence. The Sunni Muslim Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other jihadi terrorists are continuing their savagery within its boundaries, and Iran’s theocratic terrorist rulers are still exporting and/or solidifying their brand of the Shiite Muslim Islamic Revolution to Arab countries and territories. And the Obama administration appears unable or unwilling to effectively deal with each emerging crisis there.

The competing goals of Sunni and Shiite jihadists are to dominate the Arab world, and their forces and surrogates are engaged in nasty fights for supremacy throughout the region. The area they seek to control generally spans 21 Middle East and North Africa countries as well as territories under Palestinian control in Gaza and the West Bank. Its riches include 364 million people, the world’s largest known oil and gas reserves which fuel developed world economies, and strategic waterways where the petroleum-based commerce flows. About 92 percent of the Arab World population is Muslim (336 million), of which 87 percent are Sunni Muslim and 13 percent Shiite Muslim.

In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke in Cairo, Egypt and promised the Arab and greater Muslim world a ‘new beginning’ in relations with the United States.  However, hopefulness turned into hopelessness for tens of millions of Arab world residents after the speech and Arab Spring which followed. Consider the current state of affairs:

  • Freedom House –a non-profit global freedom watchdog – ranked Middle East and North Africa countries (e.g., most of the Arab world) in 2015 as the world’s most freedom-less area with only Tunisia granting citizens political rights and civil liberties to qualify as a free nation.
  • Freedom House also reported that not one Arab country or territory provided the necessary legal environment, political influences, and economic conditions to guarantee a truly free press.
  • The U.S. State Department reports that 29 of 59 groups on its Foreign Terrorist Organization List have gestated and operate in Arab countries and territories, all of which endanger local residents, Israel, and U.S. citizens and security interests. Twelve FTO’s were added during Obama’s presidency.
  • The U.S. State Department reports that three of four designated state sponsors of terror – Iran, Syria, and Sudan – apply their deadly trade in Arab countries. One of them, Iran, has an illegal nuclear weapons development program.
  • Four Arab states and one territory – Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Gaza– are heavily dependent on Iran’s terrorist leaders for their governments’ survival.
  • Five Arab countries – Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen – are either failed states or don’t exercise sovereignty over their boundaries.
  • The average annual income of Arab world residents is $9,700, which is 26 percent below the global average of $13,100, with a wide income disparity between rich nations like Qatar and poor nations like Somalia.

The persons most responsible for perpetuating these conditions are an assortment of Islamic terror groups and extremists and authoritarian leaders. However, the Middle East and North African landscape is littered with the remnants of dubious Obama administration decisions that contributed to them ranging from the premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq; the Syrian ‘redline;’ the Libyan military misadventure; calling ISIS a junior al-Qaeda varsity team; unwillingness to admit jihadi terrorists are part of Islam; refusal to support Iran’s peaceful Green Revolutionaries, and thinking Iran’s terrorist state can be part of any peaceful Arab world solution.

Muslims consider the dominion of Islam as the central pillar of their global-domination political program. Sunnis and Shiites disagree sharply on which of them, and who, should lead. They agree that the prime basis of governance and administration of justice should be Islamic (Shariah) law as enunciated in the Koran and traditions of Muhammad, and further elaborated by classical Muslim legists.

The global Muslim population contains Islamists and jihadists.  An Islamist is any Muslim who wants to impose and enforce Shariah – whether by violent or nonviolent means. A jihadist is an Islamic terrorist.

Shariah law totally subordinates women and mandates many other human rights violations, such as relegating non-Muslim minorities to a much lower legal status than Muslims and dispensing cruel and unusual punishment. It also rejects freedom of speech and conscience and mandates aggressive jihad until the world is brought under Islamic hegemony.

In forging a path to some kind of durable regional peace, it is not only important to understand the aforementioned Arab world problems and radical Islamic-driven terrorism but to effectively do something about them. Egypt’s Muslim President, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, showed the way by removing the repressive Muslim Brothers from power during a popular revolution, publicly meeting with non-Muslims being persecuted by the various jihadists, and calling on clerics to reform Islam by eliminating rhetoric that fosters violence.

The Arab world is the epicenter of a global jihadist threat, and it is time for the U.S. and its allies, regional and otherwise, to also act diplomatically, economically, and militarily if necessary against all of those jihadist forces – including ISIS and Iran – operating there who are using violence and Shariah to acquire and retain power.  However, seeking to degrade and defeat the Sunni Muslim jihadist brand while leaving the Shiite Muslim jihadist brand intact, as the U.S. is currently doing, will only perpetuate problems for those Arabs and others who genuinely seek a better life and to live in freedom.

The time for decisive and effective action is now. Regional and world peace depends on it.

Fred Gedrich is a foreign policy and national security analyst and served in the U.S. departments of Defense and State.

World View: Reports Indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia Planning Military Action in Libya

Reuters

Reuters

Breitbart, by JOHN J. XENAKIS, March 1, 2015:

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya
  • Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization
  • Egypt and Turkey may try to create a ‘Sunni front’ with Saudi Arabia

Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya

Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)
Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)

Various unconfirmed reports are emerging indicating that there may be joint international action planned in Libya as early as next week.

Egypt is already conducting air strikes against ISIS-linked targets in Derna, close to where Egyptian Coptics were massacred recently, as displayed in a gruesome video. Debka reports that Egypt’s president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi is planning further action in Libya, including more air strikes and possible ground troops, within a few days. According to the report, Egyptian commando and marine forces are preparing for sea landings to seize Derna and destroy the terrorist elements there. If this attack is actually launched, it will be the first time in modern times that an Arab country has sent ground forces into another Arab country.

Al-Jazeera television reports that the Italian navy is getting ready to carry off sophisticated military drills off the coast of Libya as early as Monday. Although Italy claims that it will be a regular exercise, there are many more vessels taking part in this year’s exercise than have in the past, which Italy explains by saying that they are testing out sophisticated new technologies.

There are several reasons why Italy is pursuing this show of force:

  • Italy considers the flood of migrants from Libya into Italy to be an existential threat to Italy itself, because there may be ISIS-trained terrorists smuggled in, along with the other migrants. Italy may be planning some kind of military action in Libya in conjunction with Egypt’s air strikes and other operations.
  • The GreenStream pipeline is a gas pipeline running underneath the Mediterranan Sea from Libya to Sicily. The pipeline is vital to economic relations between Italy and Libya. In recent months, there have been attacks by gunmen on oil installations in Libya, forcing some ports to shut down. The new show of naval force may be related to threats of attack or sabotage on the pipeline.
  • For over a year, Italy ran a search and rescue program called “Mare Nostrum” (“Our Sea”) that saved the lives of thousands of migrants attempting to travel from Libya to Italy. This program required Italian naval vessels near the Libyan coast. In November, the program ended and an EU program called Triton replaced it, but Triton restricts its operations to only 30 miles off the Italian coast. Triton has been considered unsatisfactory because many more migrants are drowning. Italy’s new show of naval force may be an attempt to restore a portion of the Mare Nostrum program.
  • Related to the last point, on Saturday there were large demonstrations in Rome by Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party for the government to do more to keep immigrants out. The naval show of force may help to mollify the protestors.

Some reports indicate that Russia has hinted at a willingness to participate in a naval blockade of Libya to prevent arm supplies from leaving Libya for other countries. Russia could play a role in this because it already has a naval fleet in the Mediterranean.

These are all unconfirmed reports of possible military action in Libya by Egypt, Italy and Russia. There are no reports of possible participation by Nato or the United States. Debkaand Cairo Post

Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization

Egypt on Saturday became the first Arab country to name Hamas as a terrorist organization. The U.S. and the European Union have named Hamas as a terror group. An EU court took Hamas off the list in December 2014, ruling that the designation was not based on solid legal evidence, but the EU is appealing the court’s decision.

According to a decision on Saturday from the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters:

It has been proven without any doubt that the movement has committed acts of sabotage, assassinations and the killing of innocent civilians and members of the armed forces and police in Egypt.

It has been also ascertained with documents that [Hamas] has carried out bombings that have taken lives and destroyed institutions and targeted civilians and the armed forces personnel. It has also been ascertained that this movement works for the interests of the terrorist Brotherhood organization [which Egypt has already declared to be a terrorist organization].

About a month ago, the same court declared Hamas’s military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, to be a terrorist organization. Saturday’s ruling makes the political wing a terrorist organization as well.

A Hamas spokesman denied all the charges and said that the ruling was “dangerous”:

History has recorded Egypt’s support to national liberty movements in the Arab world and Africa, particularly in Palestine. … This ruling serves the Israeli occupation. It’s a politicized decision that constitutes the beginning of Egypt evading its role toward the Palestinian cause. This is a coup against history and an Egyptian abuse of the Palestinian cause and resistance, which fights on behalf of the Arab nation. We call on Egypt to reconsider this dangerous decision.

Al Jazeera and Al Ahram (Cairo) and CS Monitor and Al Resalah (Palestine)

Egypt and Turkey may try to create a ‘Sunni front’ with Saudi Arabia

By coincidence or by planning, the presidents of both Egypt and Turkey will be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week. Egypt’s Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan will both be visiting King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the new king of Saudi Arabia, who has replaced King Abdullah, who died last month.

It is not known whether Erdogan will ever be in the same room as al-Sisi. The two have been bitter enemies ever since a coup by al-Sisi ousted Egypt’s elected president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, and later declared MB to be a terrorist organization. Erdogan’s own political party, the AKP, is an Islamist party like the Muslim Brotherhood, and they had good relations while Morsi was in power.

There has been some speculation that King Salman is going to completely reverse King Abdullah’s policy on the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) had branded MB as a terrorist organization, but some are wondering if Salman is going to shift from that policy. The Saudi foreign minister recently said that his government has “no problem with the Muslim Brotherhood; our problem is with a small group affiliated to the organization,” suggesting that shift is in the works.

Other problems make an Egypt-Turkey rapprochement unlikely: Erdogan vitriolicly hates Israel and supports Hamas. Al-Sisi vitriolicly hates Hamas and works closely with Israel on military matters, especially in North Sinai. It does n0t seem likely that any meeting, if one even occurs, will be pleasant.

If King Salman is able to pull off a miracle and mediate a new relationship between Egypt and Turkey, then it would appear to be the establishment of a new “Sunni front” in the Mideast, to oppose Iran, Hezbollah and the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Al Arabiya and Kurdistan and Arab Times

Syria’s Civil War Could Stabilize Its Region

by Daniel Pipes
The Washington Times
February 26, 2015

Population shifts resulting from Syria’s four-year long civil war have profoundly changed Syria and its three Arabic-speaking neighbors: Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Turkey and Israel have changed too, but less so.) Ironically, amid tragedy and horror, as populations adapt to the brutal imperatives of modern nationalism, all four countries are becoming a bit more stable. That’s because the fighting has pushed peoples to move from ethnic minority status to ethnic majority status, encouraging like to live with like.

Before looking at each country, some background:

First, along with the Balkans, the Middle East contains the most complex and unsettled ethnic, religious, linguistic, and national mix in the world. It’s a place where cross-border alliances deeply complicate local politics. If the Balkans set off World War I, the Middle East might well spark World War III.

Second, historic tensions between the two main Muslim sects, Sunni and Shi’i, had largely subsided before Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power in 1979. Driven by Tehran’s aggression, they have since flared anew.

 

The brutal 8-year war, 1980-88 between Iran and Iraq did much to exacerbate Sunni-Shi’i hostility.

Third, the imperialist European powers nearly ignored the identity of the peoples living in the Middle East as they defined most of the region’s borders. Instead, they focused on rivers, ports, and other resources that served their economic interests. Today’s jumble of somewhat randomly-defined countries (e.g., Jordan) is the result.

Finally, Kurds were the major losers a century ago; lacking intellectuals to make their case, they found themselves divided among four different states and persecuted in them all. Today, they are organized for independence.

Returning to Syria and its Arab neighbors (and drawing on Pinhas Inbari’s “Demographic Upheaval: How the Syrian War is Reshaping the Region“):

Syria and Iraq have undergone strikingly similar developments. After the demise of monstrous dictators in 2000 and 2003, each has broken into the same three ethnic units – Shi’i Arab, Sunni Arab, and Kurd. Tehran dominates both Shi’i-oriented regimes, while several Sunni-majority states (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar) back the Sunni rebels. The Kurds have withdrawn from the Arab civil wars to build their own autonomous areas. Once-ambitious dictatorships barely sustain functioning foreign policies. Also, the century-old boundary separating Syria and Iraq has largely vanished.

Syria: The part of Syria still ruled by Bashar al-Assad is becoming more Shi’i. An estimated half of the pre-war Syrian population of 22 million has been driven from its homes; of them, the 3 million refugees, mostly Sunni, who fled the country are unlikely to return both because of the continuing civil war and the Assad regime’s revocation of their citizenship. The regime appears also to have intentionally reduced its control over the area near the border with Jordan to encourage Sunnis to flee Syria. In another ploy to increase the Shi’i population, reports indicate it has welcomed and re-settled about 500,000 Iraqi Shi’is, conferring Syrian citizenship on some.

 

Bashar al-Assad must have been a better ophthalmologist than dictator.

Iraq: The Syrian civil war provided the Islamic State (or ISIS/ISIL) with an opportunity to move into Iraq, seizing such cities as Fallujah and Mosul, leading to an exodus of non-Sunnis (especially Shi’is and Yazidis), and remaking Iraq along ethnic lines. Given the country’s intermingled population, especially in the Baghdad area, it will be years – perhaps decades – before the sides sort themselves out. But the process appears inexorable.

Lebanon: Sunnis are growing more powerful, beating back the Iranian influence. The million new Sunni refugees from Syria now constitute 20 percent of the country’s population, roughly doubling the Sunni community. Also, Hizbullah, the dominant Shi’i organization in Lebanon, is neglecting its own constituency and losing influence domestically by fighting on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria.

 

Hizbullah militiamen in Syria reduces the group’s influence in its home country, Lebanon.

Jordan: The recent influx of Syrian refugees follows an earlier wave of approximately one million Iraqi refugees. Together, the two groups have lowered the percentage of Palestinians in Jordan to the point that the latter probably no longer constitute a majority of the country’s population, a shift with major political implications. For one, it reduces the potential Palestinian threat to the Hashemite monarchy; for another, it undermines the Jordan-is-Palestine argument championed by some Israelis.

In brief, Iraq and Syria are devolving into their constituent religious and ethnic parts, Lebanon is becoming more Sunni, and Jordan less Palestinian. However gruesome the human cost of the Syrian civil war, its long-term impact potentially renders the Middle East a less combustible place, one less likely to trigger World War III.

Our Dangerous Historical Moment

Photo via NRO

Photo via NRO

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online, Feb. 19, 2015:

World War II was the most destructive war in history. What caused it?

The panic from the ongoing and worldwide Depression in the 1930s had empowered extremist movements the world over. Like-minded, violent dictators of otherwise quite different Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan, and the Communist Soviet Union all wanted to attack their neighbors.

Yet World War II could have been prevented had Western Europe united to deter Germany. Instead, France, Britain, and the smaller European democracies appeased Hitler.

The United States turned isolationist. The Soviet Union collaborated with the Third Reich. And Italy and Japan eventually joined it.

The 1930s saw rampant anti-Semitism. Jews were blamed in fascist countries for the economic downturn. They were scapegoated in democracies for stirring up the fascists. The only safe havens for Jews from Europe were Jewish-settled Palestine and the United States.

Does all this sound depressingly familiar?

The aftershocks of the global financial meltdown of 2008 still paralyze the European Union while prompting all sorts of popular extremist movements and opportunistic terrorists.

After the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, America has turned inward. The Depression and the lingering unhappiness over World War I did the same to Americans in the 1930s.

Premodern monsters are on the move. The Islamic State is carving up Syria and Iraq to fashion a fascist caliphate.

Vladimir Putin gobbles up his neighbors in Ossetia, Crimea, and eastern Ukraine, in crude imitation of the way Germany once swallowed Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

Theocratic Iran is turning Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon into a new Iranian version of Japan’s old Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The Western response to all this? Likewise, similar to the 1930s.

The NATO allies are terrified that Putin will next attack the NATO-member Baltic states — and that their own paralysis will mean the embarrassing end of the once-noble alliance.

The United States has now fled from four Middle Eastern countries. It forfeited its post-surge victory in Iraq. It was chased out of Libya after the killings of Americans in Benghazi. American red lines quickly turned pink in Syria. U.S. Marines just laid down their weapons and flew out of the closed American embassy in Yemen.

America has convinced its European partners to drop tough sanctions against Iran. In the manner of the Allies in 1938 at Munich, they prefer instead to charm Iran, in hopes it will stop making a nuclear bomb.

The Islamic State has used almost a year of unchallenged aggression to remake the map of the Middle East. President Obama had variously dismissed it as a jayvee team or merely akin to the problems that big-city mayors face.

Europeans pay out millions to ransom their citizens from radical Islamic hostage-beheaders. Americans handed over terrorist kingpins to get back a likely Army deserter.

Then we come to the return of the Jewish question. Seventy years after the end of the Holocaust, Jews are once again leaving France. They have learned that weak governments either will not or cannot protect them from Islamic terrorists.

In France, radical Islamists recently targeted a kosher market. In Denmark, they went after a synagogue. In South Africa, students demanded the expulsion of Jewish students from a university. A Jewish prosecutor who was investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina was found mysteriously murdered.

Meanwhile, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being blamed for stoking Middle Eastern tensions. Who cares that he resides over the region’s only true democracy, one that is stable and protects human rights? Obama-administration aides have called him a coward and worse. President Obama has dismissed the radical Islamists’ targeting of Jews in France merely as “randomly shoot[ing] a bunch of folks in a deli.”

Putin, the Islamic State, and Iran at first glance have as little in common as did Germany, Italy, and Japan. But like the old Axis, they are all authoritarians that share a desire to attack their neighbors. And they all hate the West.

The grandchildren of those who appeased the dictators of the 1930s once again prefer in the short term to turn a blind eye to the current fascists. And the grandchildren of the survivors of the Holocaust once again get blamed.

The 1930s should have taught us that aggressive autocrats do not have to like each other to share hatred of the West.

The 1930s should have demonstrated to us that old-time American isolationism and the same old European appeasement will not prevent but only guarantee a war.

And the 1930s should have reminded us that Jews are usually among the first — but not the last — to be targeted by terrorists, thugs, and autocrats.

Also see:

Has Iran Achieved Strategic Checkmate?

iran 2American Thinker, By James M. Waurishuk, Feb. 4, 2015:

The Iranian government may have already secured its greatest geopolitical leverage, achieving a strategic and economic chokehold on a sizable portion of the Middle East, to include Israel and Saudi Arabia at the same time.

I was thinking about this last week as President Obama’s was paying his respects following the death of King Abdullah and to the new Saudi Arabian king, Salman – it could not have come at a more crucial ime. Developments over the past several weeks have been momentous for Middle Eastern stability, which has been increasingly eroding since Obama’s policies (or lack thereof) have been in play over the past six years.

Recent developments threaten to spread instability to the region, and indeed the world. But the media coverage of the demise of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Iran’s further inroads and influence in Lebanon, and the concurrent collapse of the Yemeni government are hardly the most compelling stories, important and unsettling as they are. A less obvious and even more threatening development may have already taken place that can further destabilize the situation for years to come.

Western countries, tacitly led by the Obama administration, have been distracted by trying to justify to the Sunni Arab states their rationale for continuing negotiations with Iran with the goal to manage, perhaps even contain, Iran’s nuclear persistent attempts to acquire a nuclear WMD capability.

Long-standing U.S. allies in the Arab world remain skeptical and unwilling to sign on to Obama’s Iranian overtures. Further, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is so intent on challenging current U.S. policy that he is willing to risk a complete severance of his relationship with President Obama, regardless of Obama’s distain for him, by encouraging the U.S. Congress to push for additional and stricter sanctions against Iran.

But it may already be too late. Iran may have already secured its greatest leverage, achieving a strategic and economic chokehold on both Saudi Arabia and Israel at the same time. It may never need a nuclear weapon to threaten its regional enemies and force their acceptance of its growing influence and regional strategies.

Thanks to events over the past weeks, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, aligned with Iran and supplied and trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, have seized the Red Sea port of Hodeida, a mere 18 miles across the strait from Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. For the first time, Iran now has the ability to control the Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, and the Suez Canal to the north. Iran now is as close as it has ever been to controlling the strategic link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. Through it, over three million barrels of oil pass daily.

The straits in the Middle East are more than just geographical features. They are nothing less than critical lifelines for the region’s countries. The blocking of the Straits of Tiran by Egypt triggered the 1967 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Iran has in the past threatened to block the Straits of Hormuz if it was attacked by the West. Control of the southern entrance to the Red Sea by Iran’s allies makes the threat of an effective use of sanctions against Iran less likely. Iran is now poised to push back the West regarding nuclear negotiations.

The Obama administration’s strategy of essentially accommodating Iran’s nuclear ambitions through a policy of extensions and appeasement has at the same time ignored Tehran’s overall objective of asserting itself as the regional superpower. Failure to deal with the threat of an Iranian takeover of Yemen has now contributed to vastly increasing the cards that the Iranian regime can play. Further complacency will make it even more difficult to tackle this ever-increasing threat to regional and global stability.

James M. Waurishuk is a retired USAF Colonel served for nearly 30-years career senior intelligence and political-military affairs officer — with expertise in strategic intelligence, international strategic studies and policy, and asymmetric warfare.  He is the former Deputy Director for Intelligence for U.S. Central command, MacDill AFB, a former White House National Security Council staffer, and former Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council, Washington, DC. He lives in Tampa Bay, FL.

Replacement Theory: The Administration’s Crazy New Middle East Illusion

Phone-bench-975x320

The Obama administration’s latest approach to the Middle East may be its most dangerous yet, choosing terror-sponsor Iran over longtime Arab allies. And that’s on top of the president’s seeming desperation to strike a nuclear deal at any cost. What is going on?

By David Daoud:

The United States has entered a difficult period in its relations with its traditional Middle Eastern allies—especially Israel, Egypt, and the Gulf states. Much of the tension has resulted from what is often perceived as a confusing set of positions and shifts coming out of the White House: From the declared opposition to an Iranian nuclear weapons program, coupled with the easing of sanctions and a failed negotiation to stop the program; to declared support for Israel and deepened security ties, coupled with frequent public criticism and the desire for “daylight”; to declared support for the fall of the Assad regime in Syria, followed by a series of actions that can only be seen as propping it up (such as launching air strikes against ISIS, Assad’s main enemy); to the curious embrace of Qatar and Turkey—states that actively support the terror group and Iranian proxy Hamas—at the expense of traditional Gulf allies like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and others whose overthrow is sought by Islamists. Things have gotten so bad that the Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulazeez, publicly assailed U.S. policy. “For all their talk of ‘red lines,’” he wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “when it counted, our partners have seemed all too ready to concede our safety and risk our region’s stability.”

But contrary to the common perception, while fundamentally flawed and dangerous for America and our allies, the policy this White House is pursuing is not as confused as it may appear.

In an interview last spring with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, then with Bloomberg View, Obama himself opened a clear window into his vision of a parallel universe in which the clerical regime running the Islamic Republic of Iran is a “force for stability” in the Middle East of today and tomorrow.  It’s an idea that meets with ridicule among almost every party in the Middle East, legislators on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, and even former members of the President’s cabinet, and whose main constituency appears to be in Damascus, Tehran and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Yet, as the region unravels along sectarian lines, the President is quietly attempting to cement a new American regional vision in which Iran is to play a central role.

Considered by most a dangerous rogue state, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, and a regime whose human rights behavior is so heinous that as recently as this year, female victims of rape were stoned to death for “adultery,” Iran is now embraced—not entirely without reason—as the critical player in the region capable of reestablishing order. Energized by the administration’s overriding desire to strike a nuclear accord and the president’s desire to avoid becoming militarily involved in the region at almost any cost, this has led to a major effort to cultivate a far more accommodating policy toward the Islamic Republic and its allies and proxies in the region—a policy simultaneously intended to pressure America’s traditional allies to fall in line with this administration’s new direction.

Kerry ZarifMany interpret America’s softening stance toward Iran as an attempt to make Tehran more amenable to a deal on its nuclear program. But the Obama administration’s new approach to Iran doesn’t end with the nuclear issue, and assuming it does is to miss the true danger of it all. This White House views the nuclear deal currently being negotiated as only a first step toward a general détente and broader cooperation between the two countries. The perception permeating the Situation Room is that filling the power vacuum created by recent Middle Eastern upheavals with Iranian forces—especially its Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its proxy Hezbollah—will help stabilize the ungovernable spaces of the region in Iraq, Syria and beyond. Getting the nuclear deal out of the way is therefore essential to progress on positioning Tehran as “a force for stability” in the region, as the President has described it.

For the Islamic revolutionaries and clerical dictators running the country, this new approach is a welcome change from decades of American efforts to sideline Iran. But Tehran is receptive to Washington’s changes for entirely different reasons. Seizing on what it sees as American weakness under this administration, Tehran believes it can break free of the diplomatic and economic sanctions that have crippled its economy, and freeze Western efforts to stall its regional ambitions.  A nuclear deal in Iran’s favor may be with in its grasp, Tehran believes. And they may not even need to make such an agreement, if simply by negotiating with the West they can resurrect their economy and stall any U.S. action against their takeover of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, removing further obstacles to their regional hegemony.

And it is here, in Iran’s very different view of a possible rapprochement with the United States, that the real danger to regional and American interests lies. Contrary to the expectations of many U.S. policymakers, giving Iran free rein in the Middle East would not be a major diplomatic victory, but a strategic nightmare. Replacing the putative caliphate of the Islamic State with the brutal Imamate of the Islamic Republic, the IRGC, Hezbollah and the rest of Iran’s regional proxies, would be a strategic and moral catastrophe.

Read more at The Tower

Also  see:

Are we toast? Saudi king is dead; ISIS expands; we’re abandoning Yemen and Iran has a missile launcher

ImageSat-Internationals-satellite-image-show-missile-release-facility-in-Iran-300x180By Allen West, Jan. 23, 2015:

On Tuesday evening President Obama stated, “the shadow of crisis has passed and the state of the union is strong” — and of course the blind followers cheered.

Obama also hinted that we had “turned the page” on our fight against terrorism. Remember his unilateral declaration at the National War College that the war on terror had ended — and of course he has commanded that combat operations end in two theaters of operation; Iraq and Afghanistan.

But nothing could shine the light on President Obama’s naiveté (or approval?) more than the fact that just 48 hours after he dismissed the “shadow of crisis,” we are evacuating yet another U.S. Embassy — this time in Yemen.

It’s the same Yemen that just last fall, Obama referred to as the model of his success — just like Vice President Joe Biden once chimed that Iraq would be one of Obama’s greatest successes. When Obama said the shadow of crisis has passed, we had three U.S. Naval warships off the coast of Yemen ready to evacuate the embassy.

Also see:

RECOMMENDED READING: “Saudi Arabia’s Rulers Reconsider Ties To Wahhabi Clergy”

Saudi+Arabia+flagBy , Jan. 9, 2015:

An Arabian business magazine has published an article titled “Saudi Arabia’s Rulers Reconsider Ties To Wahhabi Clergy” that looks at what is said to be an “adjustment” to the Saudi relationship with so-called Wahabbi Islam. The Arabian Business.com report begins:

December 17, 2014 Saudi Arabia’s ruling Al Saud royal family are trying to adjust their relationship with the country’s strict Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam as they increasingly view the teachings of some of its ultra-conservative clergy as a domestic security threat.

Radicalisation of Muslims in the world’s top oil exporter has led to domestic attacks and the involvement of Saudi citizens in jihadist movements in Iraq and Syria, while extreme religious practices have damaged efforts to boost employment.

Over the past decade the House of Saud has not only put in place measures to control clerics and their sermons, but has started to favour more modern clergy for top state positions.

Saudi rulers are also starting to reform areas once the exclusive domain of the clergy, such as education and law, and have promoted elements of national identity that have no religious component.

Saudi Arabia remains one of the most religiously conservative countries on earth, and the royal family are not cutting off the clergy or ditching Wahhabism’s basic precepts, analysts and diplomats say.

They are instead attempting to foster a reading of its teachings that distances it from Islamist militants such as Islamic State, and which better meets the demands of a modern economy. ‘

Read the rest here.

The GMBDW reported in March of last year that Saudi Arabia had formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and was among a group of Gulf countries that had recalled their envoys from Qatar over the issue. We also reported in May 2014 that the country had arrested nine university professors for their alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood and reported the same month that three well-known imams in Saudi Arabia’s Southern Province had been banned for life from delivering sermons after they were found to be connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.  However, at the same time wediscussed certain inconsistencies related to the Saudi Muslim World League (MWL) which appeared to be operating outside of the new Saudi policy on the Brotherhood by maintaining ties to important figures in the Global Muslim Brotherhood. Should the above report prove to be accurate, it would lend further credence to the idea of a sea change in the relationship of Saudi Arabia to the Muslim Brotherhood

In May 2013, Ahram Online published a useful history of the tumultuous and sometimes difficult to understand relationship between Saudi Arabia and the Global Muslim Brotherhood.

The War On Israel and the Middle East

Frontpage:

Below are the video and transcript to the panel discussion “The War on Israel and the Middle East,” which took place at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 20th Anniversary Restoration Weekend. The event was held Nov. 13th-16th at the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. 

Daniel Pipes: I’d like to make three geostrategic points in my few minutes, and I apologize in advance for having to leave, but the plane schedule is as it is. The first point is that — and this has been said before, I’d like to reiterate it — that Iran is a far greater threat than ISIS, and we are making an extraordinary mistake in joining with the Iranians against ISIS. Need one point out that ISIS has perhaps $5 million a day in oil revenue and 15,000 troops and, granted, a dynamism, but that Iran is a powerful state of 75 million people, an oil revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars, and an army of hundreds of thousands and, of course, a terror network and is building up their weapons? I would predict to you, ladies and gentleman, that ISIS, which appeared so suddenly, will disappear suddenly as well because it has so many enemies, it is so overextended, it is trying to do so much at the same time that it is going to collapse before very long and it is going to disappear as a state whereas Iran is going to be a longer lasting entity.

Let me also predict that the real importance of ISIS, Islamic state, ISIL, Daesh, call it what you will, lies not in this sizeable state that now exists between Bagdad and Turkey but rather in the resurrection of the idea of the caliphate. The last executive caliph with power was in the 940s — 940s, not 1940s — a long, long time ago. Yes, the institution of the caliphate continued until 1924, but it was meaningless. It was just a title. The actual caliphate, executive caliphate, disappeared over a millennium ago and then suddenly, this man who calls himself Caliphate Ibrahim resurrected it on June 29, 2014, and this has sent a frisson of excitement through the Muslim world, and this has created the notion of a feasible caliphate once again after having been gone for a millennium, and this is important. I can well imagine other groups taking up this same standard and demanding that they be accepted as the caliphate. I can further imagine that states such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and even Iran in its own Shiite way taking up the claim of caliphate and so this turns Islamist politics into an even more radical direction than it has been in the past and therefore is a very negative development, but that is an idea, and the notion that the U.S. government should be working with Iran against ISIS is madness, just simple madness.

Iran is the ultimate enemy, which is my second point. Iran is of course the ultimate enemy today. The acquisition by Iranian leadership of nuclear weapons will not only change the Middle East but will change the world. Other tyrants have had nuclear weapons — think of Stalin and Mao — but there’s something different about this group of tyrants in that they’re thinking about the end of days. They’re apocalyptically minded. They have ideas that, were they to deploy nuclear weapons, they would bring forward the days of the Mahdi, the Dajjal, and the other sequence events leading to the day of resurrection, so they are even more dangerous. Now, I could have a nice seminar extending for hours on whether they actually would deploy nuclear weapons or not, but I don’t want to find out, and I suspect you don’t either. It is absolutely imperative that they be stopped from doing that and that would not be easy because the Iranian leadership, like the North Korean leadership, is absolutely determined to get nuclear weapons and will pay whatever price is necessary. In North Korea it was mass starvation. In Iran, it will be economic deprivation and other problems, but they’re going to go ahead and while computer viruses and targeted assassinations and bombings, which have been taking place, will certainly slow things down, they cannot stop it. The only way to stop it is through use of force against the Iranian nuclear installations.

So, that I think is all pretty clear, but I’m going to go beyond that and say that when the happy day comes that the Islamic Revolution of Iran is overthrown — and that is a prospect that is real; we saw one run up toward it in June 2009 and it was suppressed, but it wasn’t eliminated and there will be further attempts — and it is certain that one of these days, the Islamic Republic will collapse. When that happens, I suggest to you, the Iranian people who are sick of this ideological state will become quite friendly. Posts show that the overwhelming majority of Iranians hate their government and hate the Islam that their government is purveying. I think that Iranians will be good friends when that day comes.

In contrast, I think our great problem in the Middle East will be Turkey. Turkey, which is also a very substantial state of some 80 million people and which is in an important strategic location, has a real economy, an educated population. Turkey has approached Islamism – well, the Turkish leadership has approached Islamism — in a far more intelligent way than the Iranians. I call Khomeini, “Islamism 1.0,” and Erdogan, “Islamism 2.0.” Khomeini used revolution and violence and so forth and his successor rules despotically, but Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the dominant figure of Turkish politics, is a far more clever figure who has won I think nine elections in 13 years of various sorts, parliamentary, referendum, residential, has tripled the size of the economy and is a figure of enormous importance and popularity in the country. He has a very strong base. This is a not a despotism. Now, granted, over time, he’s becoming increasingly authoritarian, autocratic, unpleasant, decisive, but he has won his place democratically, and he will last and his regime will last much longer than Khomeini’s, and I believe as one looks at 10-20 years in the future, it will be Turkey, not Iran, that will be our great problem and that we should be preparing for that today.

Read more with Ken Timmerman, Daniel Greenfield and Caroline Glick

The National Security “Not Top 10″ of 2014

obamalibya (1)By Patrick Poole:

With the world descending into chaos driven in no small measure by the incoherent, contradictory and frequently non-existent foreign policy of the Obama administration, it was difficult this year to narrow the field for this year’s biggest national security blunders. The task seemed so formidable, I nearly abandoned the endeavor.

But undaunted, I present to you the National Security “Not Top 10” of 2014, in no particular order.

(For past editions of my “Not Top 10”, see: 2012, 2011, 2010)

1) Befriending “moderate Al-Qaeda” in Syria:

There are some ideas so at war with reason and reality they can only exist in the fetid Potomac fever swamps of DC think tanks and foreign policy community. Such was the case in January when three of the best and brightest from those ranks published an article in Foreign Affairs (the same publication that in 2007 brought us the “Moderate Muslim Brotherhood”) contending that the US needed to “befriend” the Syrian jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham as some kind of counter to more extreme jihadist groups, like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. The precedent they cited was the US failure to designate the Taliban (!!!) after 9/11.

Mind you, at the time they wrote this, one of Ahrar al-Sham’s top leaders was a lieutenant for Al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri who openly declared himself a member of Al-Qaeda. After most of their leadership was wiped out in a bombing in September, they have gravitated closer to the jihadist groups they were supposed to counter and their positions have been bombed by the US – much to the consternation of other “vetted moderate” rebel groups. So ridiculous was their proposition that the original subtitle of their article “An Al-Qaeda Affiliate Worth Befriending” was changed online to “An Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Worth Befriending” in the hopes of minimizing the absurdity of their case.

2) Obama Administration deploys three hashtag divisions in response to Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As Ukrainians made their bid to free themselves from Russia’s interference, Putin responded by deploying tanks and troops into Ukraine in violation of the1994 Budapest Memorandum. Obama’s rejoinder was to give a speech and to deploy three divisions of State Department employees all armed with a #UnitedForUkraine hashtag. Hilarity ensued as the Russian Foreign Ministry counterattacked by hijacking the hashtag, prompting State Department spox Jen Psaki to decry, “Let’s hope the Kremlin will live by the promise of hashtag,” leaving many asking: Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

3) Obama: ISIS is the “JV team”.

In January President Obama sat down for an interview with the New Yorker, and when asked about ISIS gains in Iraq, he likened them to the JV team, saying ““The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” Those words came back to haunt him as ISIS surged in both Syria and Iraq, particular when Obama authorized missile strikes against ISIS in August. Even then Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken defended the president’s “JV team” remark, saying they didn’t pose the threat to America as much as Al-Qaeda. A few week later, the Washington Post noted the attempts to spin the president’s statement. By September, Obama laughably claimed in an interview on Meet the Press that he wasn’t talking about ISIS in his New Yorker interview. But even the notoriously biased Politifact rated his walk-back as “false” and two weeks ago the Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler branded Obama’s “JV team” spin as “the lie of the year”.

4) State Dept Official denies Boko Haram targeting Christians.

Just weeks after the Nigerian terrorist group abducted nearly 300 Christian school girls in Chibok and committed them to sexual slavery, State Department undersecretary Sarah Sewall denied in a congressional hearing that Christians were being targeted. As I noted in an article here at PJ Media earlier this month on disturbing trends in Nigeria, the burning of churches and the abduction and murder of Christians continues to intensify, with more than 1,000 churches burned in just a few weeks earlier this year.

Readers might recall that this is the same State Department that in April 2012 was telling Congress that Boko Haram was not driven by religious ideology the day after the group bombed a church during an Easter service that killed 39 worshippers. Not only did the State Department vehemently defend not designating Boko Haram a terrorist organization, this year we discovered that they intentionally lied to Congress about the threat posed by the group. Having only designated them barely a year ago, 2014 has been Boko Haram’s deadliest year yet, with 9,000 killed, 1.5 million people displaced, and 800 schools destroyed. Nigerian authorities still complain that the Obama administration is reluctant to provide the country what it needs to fight the Boko Haram terror insurgency.

5) Homeland Security adviser’s pro-caliphate tweet used by ISIS recruiters.

Twitter proved to be the downfall of Homeland Security Advisor Council Senior Fellow Mohamed Elibiary, when he was unceremoniously let go by DHS in September following a long string of extremist social media statements. Critics, including myself, had noted Elibiary long history of promoting radical Islamic groups and publicly defending terrorist supporters. Things began to unravel when earlier this year he tweeted that America was “an Islamic country with an Islamically compliant constitution,” but the wheels definitely came off when he tweeted about the inevitability of the return of an Islamic caliphate – a statement that was later used by ISIS in their recruiting efforts. After his dismissal, which even international media took note of, I talked with Michelle Fields here at PJTV about Elibiary’s highly controversial tenure at DHS.

Read more at PJ Media

The Destruction of the Middle East

by Denis MacEoin
December 27, 2014

The heritage of centuries has been wiped out in little more than a year.

Eventually the need to wipe out all traces of unbelief becomes obsessive. At one time, for instance, Egyptian law demanded that any house found to contain a copy of The Apology of al-Kindi (a book containing a polemical dialogue between a Muslim and a Christian) would be demolished along with 40 houses around it.

Ethics were defined by what Allah said was good or evil in Sharia law. The Islamic State’s behaviour is solidly rooted in Islamic ideology, law and practice. It is only when this fundamental fact is grasped that we will be able to address what confronts us.

There are many wise and sensible Muslims who favour a shift to a more updated way of thinking. It is their mosques and shrines that are being crushed; it is their heritage. Today, such Muslims use the freedoms bestowed on them in the West to write, network and debate their opposition to fundamentalist interpretation of Islam by the Islamic State and other supporters of murder and destruction.

We are living through ferocious times. Stories about the self-proclaimed Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL/Da’esh] abound in the media, in what has now become a daily round of beheadings, suicide bombings, and general mayhem from Nigeria to Malaysia. It seems that wherever there is a Muslim country, there is extreme violence. But one part of the Islamic State narrative has received less attention than the gruesome rounds of killings: the continuing onslaughts on cities such as Mosul, Aleppo, Raqqa and Kobani. The Islamic State and related movements have rampaged across parts of Iraq and Syria, destroying the entire heritage of ancient regions, demolishing historic churches, synagogues, mosques, Sufi and Shi’i shrines, and major archaeological sites. All this vandalism is driven by a relentless passion to enforce religious purity on the regions they now control.

Around the world, art historians, antiquities experts, and archaeologists scarcely dare open their e-mails every day, fearing loss of another irreplaceable site. Physical destruction in the Islamic realms has now reached proportions of the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century.

In Mosul, the Islamic State set out on an operation of “cultural and historical cleansing” across the city. The group deploys a unit called the Kata’ib Taswiyya, or settlement battalions, who are ordered to identify sites for culling. The unit razes to the ground any mosques, churches or, invariably, shrines that have been built over tombs; such places may attract devotees to pray in them, thereby creating polytheism — in Islam one of the crimes most censured. In addition, the painting or sculpting of the human form is anathema; if man was created in God’s image, to represent man is to presume to know God and therefore to diminish Him.

Graveyards are flattened, headstones are bulldozed, and statues of cultural significance to the people of Mosul are destroyed.

As we face the Islamic State and all the rapidly expanding jihadist movements in the Middle East and beyond, we are starting to recognize that airstrikes have only limited results. If we are to contain or defeat the adversaries in our midst, we have to understand their motivation, their psychology, and their sense of rootedness.

Politicians who proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace do us a disservice; Islam has never been at peace with the world around it. The Islamic State’s behavior is solidly rooted in Islamic ideology, law and practice. Only when this fundamental fact is grasped will we be able to address what confronts us. It is time that not only active jihadists, but their ideological sponsors in Salafi, Wahhabi, Mawdudist, and other classical and modern interpretations of Islam, be discussed openly before they do more harm. They and we do not have the leisure to wait until the oil money runs out and leaves the Saudis or Qataris weak.

We must learn to speak the truth, especially in high places. In the tenth century, Islam abandoned reason and rational pursuits in favor of revelation and revealed law that could not be challenged. Ethics were defined by what Allah said was good or evil in Sharia law. Islam has remained frozen ever since. We cannot go on patronizing this, and nodding acceptance that Muslims know best. Very few grasp the quandary in which non-extremist Muslims, like their ancestors, are captured. Western rationalism, Western ethics, and Western standards of peace and justice need to remain, or the world we know could be trampled underfoot by men and women who prefer death to co-existence, and fundamentalism to tolerance.

There are many wise and sensible Muslims who favour a shift to a more updated way of thinking. Many cannot openly declare their thoughts for fear of reprisals and even execution; others are faithful Muslims who see a desperate need for a valid reinterpretation of their religion.

Today, such Muslims use the freedoms bestowed on them in the West to write, network, and debate their thoughts about the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam by the Islamic State, other Salafis, Wahhabis, Mawdudists, and all other clerics and extremist supporters of murder and destruction. It is their mosques and shrines and ancient monuments that are being crushed; it is their heritage — as much as that of Jews, Christians, Yazidis and Baha’is — that is being wiped from the pages of history.

Losses so far include:

  • The statues of Mulla ‘Uthman al-Mawsili (1845-1923), a famous musician and poet, of a woman carrying an urn, and of Abu Tammam (788-845), author of the celebratedHamasa, one of the greatest literary compilations ever made in Arabic.
  • The destruction of the greatly venerated tomb of ‘Ali ibn al-Athir al-Jazari (1160-1233), a major landmark that had stood in the centre of Mosul for centuries. Ibn al-Athir is celebrated as the author of The Complete History, one of the most important histories of Islam ever written.
  • The Islamic State’s destruction of the Tomb of Yunus (Jonah) Mosque, which was blown to pieces along with all its contents. Even before the explosion, fighters took sledgehammers to ancient tombstones in the building. The mosque was of importance not just to the Muslims of the city, but as a place of pilgrimage for Jews and Christians. St. George’s Monastery church, one of the oldest in the region, has also gone forever.
  • In Kirkuk, the Islamic State has destroyed the tomb of the Prophet Daniel, and in Nineveh, the ancient ruins of which lie across the River Tigris from Mosul, sprawl damaged archaeological ruins.
  • In Mosul, the 13th-century shrine of Imam Awn al-Din — with a stunning vaulted ceiling, designed to resemble a honeycomb, inside a pyramid-shaped tower on the banks of the Tigris, and among the city’s most precious sites — was one of the very few structures to have survived the devastation of the 13th-century Mongol invasion On July 25, 2014, members of the Islamic State reduced it to rubble.
  • In Tikrit, the city’s most famous and most beautiful church of St. Ahoadamah, known as the Green Church, dating from the 7th century, has been erased from history.
  • In Syria, the Jabhat al-Nusra’s destruction of the Deir el-Zour Armenian Church, that stood as a memorial to the 1.5 million slaughtered in the Armenian genocide in Turkey, was blown up.
  • In Mali, much of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site of Timbuktu (Mali) was destroyed during the battles of Gao and Timbuktu, fought between the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and the Islamist Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa between June 26 and 27, 2012. Afterwards, the Islamist group Ansar Dine went on a rampage identical to that of the Islamic State. An official for the group, Abou Dardar, boasted that “not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu.”
  • Sufi shrines have been pulverized in Egypt, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, India, and the Balkans.
  • In Bahrain, 43 Shi’i mosques and tens of other religious structures have been destroyed and damaged by the ruling Sunni government there.
  • Across Syria and Iraq, ancient archaeological sites have been wrecked. They were not just the heritage of those countries, they were central to our understanding of the ancient world, where human civilization first developed in city-states. Apamea, with its famous colonnade and beautiful mosaic, capital of the Seleucid empire, was a major center of Roman rule in the Levant, a leading city in Byzantine Syria, and at one time among the best-preserved archaeological sites in the region. Today, it looks like the face of the moon. Its devastation, the work of demolition done by looters using heavy earth-moving machines, took a mere four or five months.
  • In eastern Syria, one of the world’s richest archaeological remains, Dura-Europos, the “Pompeii of the Syrian Desert,” was obliterated. Remarkable finds had been brought to light: temples, wall decorations, inscriptions, military equipment, and tombs. It had been home to a third-century painted synagogue as well as to the oldest example in the world of a Christian house-church, which contained the earliest depictions of Jesus Christ ever found, dating back to 235 AD. The Islamic State looted the site and, as elsewhere, has apparently sold its treasure on the black market of the antiquities trade, presumably using the proceeds to inflate their already swollen coffers for the promotion of jihad.
  • Both Shi’i and Sufi shrines and mosques have fallen afoul of the Islamic State’s fanaticism. Jewish sites have been targeted so extensively that UNESCO has held aspecial session on threats posed to them. UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova has described the Islamic State’s activities in this respect as “a form of cultural cleansing.” Many other Jewish sites were also destroyed or under threat from Islamist entities in Libya, where an ancient Jewish heritage was all but wiped out under the regime of Mu’ammar Qadhafi, and where what is left is succumbing to fresh attacks.
Locals survey the hill of rubble that resulted from the destruction of the Tomb of Yunus (Jonah), in Mosul, Iraq. The Islamic State blew up the tomb and mosque on July 24, 2014.

The Islamic State, however, does not restrict its demolition to Christian, Jewish or pagan sites. Its members have also evidently culled what may be thought of as their own heritage. In Tikrit, they demolished the country’s oldest Islamic site, the Arba’in (Forty) Shrine and mosque, where forty of the companions (Salaf) of the Prophet were buried.

In this, there is desperate irony, for the form of Islam followed by the Islamic State is Salafism, based on imitating the ways of Muhammad and his companions.

The heritage of centuries has been wiped out in little more than a year. There will be many who argue that this devastation is, at root, the fault of the West; that its colonization, imperial ambitions, and general interference have forced the people of the Middle East to rise up against Europe and America, and find their only solution in the creation of an Islamic state where Shari’a law will dominate and justice prevail. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Syria was never a French colony, but a mandate territory between 1922 and 1936 — fourteen years. Lebanon was a mandate territory from 1922 to 1943 — twenty-one years. Iraq was a British mandate from 1922 to 1932 — ten years. All were colonies of the Muslim Ottoman empire for centuries: Iraq between 1543 and 1918, Syria from 1516 to 1918, and were, before that, colonies of earlier Islamic empires from the Umayyads to the Abbasids to the Mamluks — and so on.

This alone exposes the reality, that the actions of groups such as the Islamic State have their true roots in Islam itself. The Prophet and his companions fought jihad wars and destroyed pagan idols as well as places they may have been concerned would become centers for cults. During the Arab conquests, many religious centers were destroyed, notably in India, where temples were looted and razed, and whole towns ruined by the Ghaznavids and Timurids.

Eventually the need to wipe out all traces of unbelief became more or less obsessive. At one time, for instance, Egyptian law demanded that any house found to contain a copy of The Apology of al-Kindi (a book containing a polemical dialogue between a Muslim and a Christian) would be demolished, along with forty houses around it.[1]

Read more at Gatestone Institute

Meshaal on point of relocating Hamas’ political headquarters from Doha to Tehran

13930311000529_PhotoIDEBKAfile:

Hamas’ political leader Khaled Meshaal, forced to quit his old headquarters in Damascus after abandoning his longtime host Bashar Assad and finding sanctuary in Doha – is again being hounded from pillar to post. DEBKAfile: A deal struck this week between Egypt and Qatar could result in the Hamas leader settling in the Iranian capital. This would afford Tehran a foothold in the Gaza Strip, its second Mediterranean outpost after Lebanon on the Israeli border.

The Egyptian-Qatar deal, revealed here by DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources, covers the future of the Muslim Brotherhood, the nemesis of Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisis, and its offspring, the Palestinian Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. Their memorandum of understanding was concluded Wednesday, Dec. 24, in Cairo by a delegation of Qatari intelligence chiefs and the new Egyptian director of intelligence Gen. Khaled Fawzi. They spent most of the day hammering out its six points, which are listed here:

1.  Qatar withdraws its support from all Brotherhood operations against Egypt and Saudi Arabia;

2.  This point applies equally to any Hamas activity that may be interpreted as inimical to Egypt;

3.  Qatar’s assistance to Hamas will be limited to “civilian” projects (such as repairing war damage in Gaza), which too will be subject to President El-Sisi’s approval;

4. Given the close cooperation maintained at present between the Egyptian president and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on affairs relating to Gaza, Israel will implicitly have the right to disqualify certain Palestinian projects in the enclave;

5.  Qatar is to shut down the anti-Egyptian propaganda channel run by its Al Jazeera television station;

6.  The emirate is not required to sever all its ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, just to keep them under control as its “strategic reserve.”

It is extremely hard to conceive of these two radical Islamist organizations bowing to the restrictions placed on their operations under the Egyptian-Qatari deal.

DEBKAfile’s sources add:  Brotherhood leaders have exited Doha and made arrangements to establish residence and a new center of operations in London, U.K.  Khaled Meshaal, after he was denied permission by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to set up shop in Istanbul, is on the point of a decision to relocate his offices in Tehran. Iran would thus gain a proxy foothold in the Gaza Strip, its second outpost on the Mediterranean after the first was provided by Hizballah in Lebanon. If Meshaal decided to settle in Tehran, Iran would acquire a handy springboard for action against Egypt and southern Israel.

Also see:

GCC states to create regional police, navy

A general view of the meeting of leaders during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Doha on Dec. 9, 2014. (AFP)

A general view of the meeting of leaders during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Doha on Dec. 9, 2014. (AFP)

Al Arabiya, Dec. 9, 2014:

Following the 35th GCC Summit on Tuesday, Gulf leaders announced in Doha the creation of a regional police force in addition to a joint naval force, the Associated Press reported.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah said the police force would improve cooperation against terrorism.

“It will be an Interpol-like force but inside GCC countries,” he told reporters at a news conference.

The police force will be based out of the United Arab Emirates’ capital of Abu Dhabi while the naval force will operate out of Bahrain.

The creation of the police force, known as GCC-POL, and the naval force, was announced at the conclusion of the Gulf bloc’s annual summit in Qatar.

Separately, in a communique read during the closing remarks, the leaders reiterated their support for a political solution in both Yemen and Syria and condemned the militias currently operating in Libya.

They also voiced their support of the Libyan elected national council as the legitimate body to govern the country.

In statements made during the closing of the summit, the leaders said they hoped that the newly-appointed U.N. peace envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura be successful in expediting a solution.

Additionally, the communique announced that the leaders unanimously supported the political roadmap in Egypt and President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud announced that the next summit is to be held in Riyadh.

Separately, as the leaders arrived in Qatar for the summit ahead of the meeting, they honored the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for receiving a certificate from the U.N. Secretary General recognizing him as a leader and supporter of the United Nation’s humanitarian work.

“Honoring the State of Kuwait is an honor for all GCC countries,” he said.

Speaking at the beginning of the summit, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said Tuesday’s meeting comes at a time of highly complex regional and international circumstances.

Prince Tamim also said he hopes the summit would mark the launch of a new march of GCC cooperation.

Read more

Also see:

Netanyahu’s epic understandings with Egyptian, Saudi and UAE rulers – a potential campaign weapon

áðéîéï ðúðéäå áîñéáú òéúåðàéí áîùøã øàù äîîùìä öéìåí : àîéì ñìîïDEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 6, 2014

The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) rulers meet in the Qatari capital of Doha next week amid high suspense across the Arab world. Its agenda is topped by moves to finally unravel the 2010 Arab Spring policy championed by US President Barack Obama, moves that also bear the imprint of extensive cooperation maintained on the quiet between Israel and key Arab rulers.
DEBKAfile reports that the Doha parley is designed to restore Egypt under the rule of President Abdel Fatteh El-Sisi to the lead role it occupied before the decline of Hosni Mubarak. Another is to root out the Muslim Brotherhood by inducing their champion, the young Qatari ruler, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to drop his government’s support.

At talks taking place in Riyadh ahead of the summit, Qatari officials appeared ready to discontinue the flow of weapons, funds and intelligence maintained since 2011 to the Brothers and their affiliates across the Arab world (Libya, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Hamas-ruled Gaza), as well shutting down the El Jazeera TV network – or at least stopping the channel’s use as the Brotherhood’s main propaganda platform.

The Doha summit is designed to crown a historic effort led by Saudi King Abdullah, UAE ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and President El-Sisi to undo the effects of the Obama administration’s support for elements dedicated to the removal of conservative Arab rulers, such as the Brotherhood.

They have found a key ally in this drive in Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who took advantage of the chance of an epic breakthrough in relations with the leading bloc of Arab nations, with immediate and far-reaching effect on Israeli security and its standing in the region.

Yet at the same time, Netanyahu has kept this feat under his hat – even while smarting under a vicious assault by his detractors – ex-finance minister Yair Lapid and opposition leader Yakov Herzog of Labor – on his personal authority and leadership credibility (“everything is stuck,” “he’s out of touch.”) and obliged to cut short the life of his government for a general election on March 17.
He faces the voter with the secret still in his pocket of having achieved close coordination with the most important Arab leaders – not just on the Iranian nuclear issue and the Syrian conflict, but also the Palestinian question, which has throughout Israel’s history bedeviled its ties with the Arab world.
When Yair Lapid, whom Netanyahu sacked this week, boasted, “I am talking to the Americans” while accusing the prime minister of messing up ties with Washington, he meant he was talking to the Americans close to Barack Obama, whom Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, hand in hand with Netanyahu, have judged adverse to their regimes.
This Arab-Israeli collaboration encompasses too many areas to keep completely hidden. Its fruits have begun breaking surface in a string of events.
This week, Israel apparently out of the blue, quietly agreed to Egypt deploying 13 army battalions in Sinai (demilitarized under their 1979 peace treaty), including tanks, and flying fighter jets over terrorist targets.

A joint Saudi-Israeli diplomatic operation was instrumental in obstructing a US-Iran deal on Tehran’s nuclear program.
Another key arena of cooperation is Jerusalem.
Friday, Dec. 5, Jordan announced the appointment of 75 new guards for the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on Temple Mount. The director of the mosque, Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, said they will begin work in the coming days.

This was the outcome of Jordanian King Abdullah’s talks with the Egyptian president in Cairo Sunday, Nov. 30, in which they agreed that the Muslim Waqf Authority on Temple Mount must change its mode of conduct and replace with new staff the violent elements from Hamas, the Al Tahrir movement and Israeli Arab Islamists, which had taken charge of “security.”.

The Moslem attacks from the Mount on Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall below and Israeli police have accordingly ceased in the two weeks since Israel lifted its age restrictions on Muslim worshippers attending Friday prayers at Al Aqsa. Israel groups advocating the right to Jewish prayer on Temple Mount were discreetly advised to cool their public campaign.

The Palestinian riots plaguing Jerusalem for months have died down, except for isolated instances, since, as DEBKAfile revealed, Saudi and Gulf funds were funneled to pacify the city’s restive Palestinian neighborhoods.

Cairo and the Gulf emirates have used their influence with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to get him to moderate his invective against Israel and its prime minister, and slow his applications for Palestinian membership of international bodies as platforms for campaigning against the Jewish state.

Concerned by the way the mainstream Arab world was marginalizing the Palestinian question, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal chose his moment Friday – ahead of the White House meeting between the Jordanian monarch and President Obama – to try and re-ignite the flames of violence in Jerusalem. He went unheeded.
Netanyahu may or may not opt to brandish Israel’s diplomatic breakthrough to the Arab world as campaign fodder to boost his run for re-election.  Whatever he decides, the rulers of Saudi Arabia, the Arab emirates and Egypt are turning out to have acquired an interest in maintaining him in office as head of the Israeli government, in direct opposition to President Obama’s ambition to unseat him.