In Sinai, ISIS Grows with Iran’s Help

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The Tower, by Arik Agassi, January 2016:

Most people assume that the Sunni terrorist group ISIS is the natural and mortal enemy of Shia Iran, but this is not always the case. In fact, in at least one part of the Middle East, Iran has become a crucial, if indirect, sponsor of its supposed enemy.

As the world’s eyes are focused on ISIS terrorism in Europe, the Middle East, and even the U.S., the group’s branch in the Sinai has become one of the most powerful, dangerous, and effective in the region. Recent reports indicate that Iran, through the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, is primarily responsible for this.

The Iran-Hamas-ISIS axis is part of Iran’s strategy of using proxy forces against U.S. allies like Egypt and Israel as part of a larger strategy to achieve hegemony over the Middle East. This has resulted in one of the region’s best kept secrets: An intensive cooperation mechanism between Iran, Hamas, and ISIS, based on money, weapons, military equipment, and training.

Iran’s foreign policy goal of hegemony over the Middle East is based on its primary ideological pillar – exporting the Islamic Revolution to other countries using terrorism and political subversion. In pursuing its ambitions, Iran has often put aside its religious differences with radical Sunni groups like ISIS and Hamas. The Islamic Republic is more than willing to cooperate with these groups as long as doing so helps promote its larger interests.

“By directly supporting Hamas in Gaza and indirectly supporting ISIS in the Sinai, Iran is able to gain foothold against Israel and Egypt to destabilize them, undermine America’s regional influence, create another Iranian power base in a Sunni-dominated region, and project its power and influence in its pursuit of regional hegemony,” Major (res.) Dan Feferman, a former senior IDF intelligence officer and Iran specialist, told the Tower. When asked why Iran would indirectly fund a serious rival such as ISIS, Feferman said that Lebanon, Iraq, and especially Syria are more important to Iran than the Sinai, as Iran wants to preserve its influence in states affected by the Syrian civil war – so Iran fights ISIS in those counties. In places where Iran does not have a strong influence, such as Egypt, it feels comfortable supporting ISIS, albeit indirectly.

“Just like Iran needs ISIS in Syria and Iraq to maintain its relevance among world powers such as Russia and the United States, it has no problem with ISIS gaining strength in Sinai for the time being,” added Brigadier General (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and former head of Israeli intelligence’s Research and Assessment Division added. “If ISIS gains more power in the Sinai and Iran is able to help demean that power in the future, it will once again position itself as an address to world powers and thus demand something in return. Moreover, as long as Iran is able to weaken the moderate Sunni Arab state alliance of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan by indirectly supporting ISIS Sinai through Hamas, it won’t stop doing so.”

But Iran’s support of ISIS via Hamas goes deeper than mere strategic considerations. Despite the deep ideological rifts between Iran, Hamas, and ISIS in Sinai, as well as the traditional animosity between Shias, Sunnis, and Salafists, all three groups see each other as temporary partners in

1. The destruction of the state of Israel.
2. Undermining the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ authority.
3. Opposing and destabilizing Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s Western-oriented regime, especially in regard to its peace treaty with Israel.
4. Harming U.S. interests in the region and undermining its presence in the Middle East as a whole.
5. Bridging the Sunni-Shia divide and reconstituting a Muslim caliphate.

For Iran, Hamas and ISIS serve different aspects of these ambitions. Iran uses Hamas to deepen the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians by supporting Palestinian terror and a rejectionist approach to the peace process. It uses ISIS in the Sinai against al-Sisi and to further its vision of a caliphate dominated by Iran.

Iran could not support ISIS in Sinai or pursue its ambitions against Israel and Egypt without Hamas. The relationship between the terrorist organization and Iran is deep and of long standing. Indeed, Iran has provided funding, weapons, training, technology, and political support to Hamas for decades.

This relationship began almost simultaneously with the founding of Hamas, and has intensified every time the peace process appeared to be gaining momentum. In October 1991, Iran convened a conference in Tehran whose purpose was to unite various radical organizations led by Hamas who were hostile to the PLO’s negotiations with Israel at the Madrid peace summit. The groups gathered in Tehran called for the destruction of Israel and pledged to make every possible effort to sabotage the newborn peace process, which was seen as a direct threat to their strategic goals.

Iran-Hamas relations were officially formalized in October 1992, when a Hamas delegation led by then-Secretary General Mousa Abu-Marzuq visited Tehran for talks. Iran permitted Hamas to open an office in Tehran, provided it with millions of dollars in cash, and agreed to have the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps train thousands of Hamas members in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon.

This initially lukewarm relationship became a full-blown alliance when the second intifada began in 2000. Iran began funding, recruiting, directing, training, and supporting Palestinian terrorists and building the infrastructure to support them. This included carrying out suicide bombings, paying the families of terrorists, and providing monthly salaries to terrorists in Israeli jails.

Hamas soldiers take part in a military parade marking the first anniversary of the killing of Hamas’s military commanders Mohammed Abu Shammala and Raed al-Attar, in Rafah, Gaza Strip, August 21, 2015. Abu Shammala and al-Attar were killed by an Israeli air strike during a 50-day war between the terror group and Israel the previous summer. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90

Hamas soldiers take part in a military parade marking the first anniversary of the killing of Hamas’s military commanders Mohammed Abu Shammala and Raed al-Attar, in Rafah, Gaza Strip, August 21, 2015. Abu Shammala and al-Attar were killed by an Israeli air strike during a 50-day war between the terror group and Israel the previous summer. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90

The Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005 created a new reality. Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006, which resulted in a significant increase in Iranian funding. Immediately following the elections, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal visited Iran and secured an estimated $20 million per month from the Islamic Republic – enough to cover Hamas’ entire budget. This was followed by a visit from Hamas’ former Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, in which Iran pledged $250 million in aid. The funds were earmarked to pay the wages of civil servants, bankroll Hamas security forces, and compensate Palestinian families that lost their homes during Israeli military operations.

In June 2007, Hamas carried out a putsch in the Gaza Strip, neutralized Fatah and the Palestinian Authority’s military and political power, and set up a radical Islamic government. Following the takeover, Iran became a patron of the new Gaza regime, providing Hamas with military, financial, political, and media support. Iran saw the establishment of Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip as a way to wage an armed campaign against Israel and advance its influence in the Palestinian arena. The exposure of the Israeli home front to rocket fire during three rounds of armed confrontation between Israel and Hamas showed the Iranians the great benefits they could reap by constructing a military infrastructure for Hamas.

As a result, Iranian money, equipment, and military expertise keep flowing to Hamas and then to ISIS.

Despite some rifts between Iran and Hamas’ political wing since 2012 (stemming from Hamas moving its headquarters from Syria and refusing to follow the Iranian line by supporting President Bashar al-Assad), the Times of Israel reported in September that, boosted by the nuclear deal, Iran has increased its funding to Hamas’ military wing with literally “suitcases of cash” sent directly to leaders in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, The Wall Street Journal and The Daily Telegraph quoted top senior Western intelligence officials in April saying that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have transferred tens of millions of dollars to Hamas.

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Listen to Kyle Shideler, Director of the Center for Security Policy’s Threat Information Office, discuss the relationship between ISIS and Hamas in this Secure Freedom Podcast:

Podcast (podcast2): Play in new window | Download

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We’ve Got It Wrong: ISIS Is Not the Main Problem in the Middle East

ISIS-Sunni-Shia-Iran.sized-770x415xtPJ MEDIA, BY JONATHAN SPYER JANUARY 19, 2016:

On a recent reporting trip to Iraq and northern Syria, two things were made apparent to me — one of them relatively encouraging, the other far less so. The encouraging news is that ISIS is currently in a state of retreat. Not headlong rout, but contraction.

The bad news?

Our single-minded focus on ISIS as if it were the main or sole source of regional dysfunction is the result of faulty analysis, which in turn is producing flawed policy.

Regarding the first issue, 2015 was not a particularly good year for ISIS. In the course of it, the jihadis lost Kobani and then a large area to its east, bringing the Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG and their allies to within 30 km of the Caliphate’s “capital” in Raqqa city.

In late December, the jihadis lost the last bridge over the Euphrates that they controlled, at the Tishreen Dam. This matters because it isolates Raqqa, making it difficult for the Islamic State to rush reinforcements from Aleppo province to the city in the event of an attack.

Similarly, the Kurdish YPG advanced south of the town of al-Hawl to Raqqa’s east.

In Iraq, the Iraqi Shia militias and government forces have now recaptured Ramadi city (lost earlier in 2015) following the expulsion of ISIS from Tikrit and Baiji.

The Kurdish Pesh Merga, meanwhile, have revenged the humiliation they suffered at the hands of ISIS in the summer of 2014. The Kurds have now driven the jihadis back across the plain between Erbil and Mosul, bringing them to the banks of the Tigris river. They have also liberated the town of Sinjar.

The city of Mosul nestles on the western side of the river. It remains ISIS’s most substantial conquest. Its recapture does not appear immediately imminent, yet the general trend has been clear. The main slogan of ISIS is “Baqiya wa’tatamaddad,” “Remaining and Expanding.” At the present time, however, the Islamic State may be said to be remaining, but retreating.

This situation is reflected in the confidence of the fighters facing ISIS along the long front line. In interviews as I traversed the lines, I heard the same details again and again regarding changing ISIS tactics, all clearly designed to preserve manpower.

This stalling of the Islamic State is the background to their turn towards international terror, which was also a notable element of the latter half of 2015. The downing of the Russian airliner in October, the events in Paris in November, and the series of suicide bombings in Turkey since July attest to a need that the Islamic State has for achievement and for action. They need to keep the flow of recruits coming and to maintain the image of victory essential to it.

Regarding the second issue: seen from close up, the Islamic State is very obviously only a part,and not necessarily the main part, of a much larger problem. When talking both with those fighting with ISIS and with those who sympathize with it in the region, this observation stands out as a stark difference in perception between the Middle Eastern view of ISIS and the view of it presented in Western media. The latter tends to present ISIS as a strange and unique development, a dreadfully evil organization of unclear origins, which is the natural enemy of all mainstream forces in the Middle East.

From closer up, the situation looks rather different.

ISIS has the same ideological roots and similar practices as other Salafi jihadi organizations active in the Syrian arena. ISIS treats non-Muslims brutally in the areas it controls, and adheres to a rigid and fanatical ideology based on a literalist interpretation and application of religious texts. But this description also applies to Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria.

Nusra opposes ISIS, and is part of a rebel alliance supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. In March 2015, when Nusra captured Idleb City in northern Syria, the city’s 150 Christian families were forced to flee to Turkey. Nusra has also forcibly converted a small Druze community in Idleb. The alliance Nusra was a part of also included Muslim Brotherhood-oriented groups, such as the Faylaq al-Sham militia, which apparently had no problem operating alongside the jihadis.

ISIS is not a unique organization; rather, it exists at one of the most extreme points along a continuum of movements committed to Sunni political Islam.

Meanwhile, the inchoate mass of Sunni Islamist groups — of which ISIS constitutes a single component — is engaged in a region-wide struggle with a much more centralized bloc of states and movements organized around the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is committed to a Shia version of political Islam.

The Middle East — in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and to a lesser extent Lebanon, all along the sectarian faultline of the region — is witnessing a clash between rival models of political Islam, of which ISIS is but a single manifestation.

The local players find sponsorship and support from powerful regional states, themselves committed to various different versions of political Islam: Iran for the Shias; Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Muslim Brotherhood-supporting Qatar for the Sunnis.

The long awakening of political Islam as the dominant form of popular politics in the Middle East started decades ago. But the eclipse of the political order in the region, and of the nationalist dictatorships in Iraq, Syria, Egypt (temporarily), Tunisia, and Yemen in recent years, has brought it to a new level of intensity.

States, indifferent to any norms and rules, using terror and subversion to advance their interests, jihadi armed groups, and the refugee crises and disorder that result from all this are the practical manifestations of it.

This, and not the fate of a single, fairly ramshackle jihadi entity in the badlands of eastern Syria and western Iraq, is the matter at hand in the Middle East.

***

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Iran / Saudi Feud Begins to Boil

iran 1Iran Truth, Jan. 4, 2015:

Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties to Iran, saying Iran must act like “a normal country” instead of “a revolution.”  The remarks came after an Iranian mob, allegedly made up of protesters, attacked the Saudi embassy.  The attack was in reprisal forSaudi Arabia’s execution of a Shi’ite clericSheikh Nimr al-Nimr, as part of a wave of executions allegedly aimed at crippling terror organizations within the Kingdom.  The Sheikh had accused the Saudi government of mistreating Shi’ites, and called for the secession of the eastern part of the country.  Others among the 47 executed included alleged al Qaeda leaders.  Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s top religious leader, said that the executions were “a mercy to the prisoners” because it would keep them from further damaging their souls via evil acts.

Although Iran says that a top police official went to the mob attacking the Saudi embassy to disperse it, the suspicion that the mob was a proxy by Iran’s government is highly credible.  Iran still celebrates as a national holiday the Iranian Revolution’s mob overrunning of the American Embassy in 1979, when the hostages seized and held for more than a year were used by the new Islamic Republic of Iran in an attempt to extort the United States.  In that environment, even without official organization the citizens of Iran know that mob attacks on the diplomatic enemies of their government will be welcomed and praised as authentic examples of the spirit of the revolution.  Saudi Arabia’s comments about Iran needing to act like a normal nation instead of a revolution are meant in that context.

The feud between the two nations has both ancient roots and contemporary flash points.  Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leader of the Islamic world as a whole, because it contains the holy city of Mecca and most of the important scenes of the life of Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic religion.  However, it sides with the Sunni view of the proper leadership of Islam, a civil war between factions of the Islamic world that began hundreds of years ago shortly after Mohammed’s death.  Sunnis followed a claim that the leadership of the Islamic world should fall to those with the greatest degree of education and investment in the religious ideology.  Shi’a Islam believed that only blood descendants of Muhammad ought to lead Islam.  This led to a series of murders and bloodshed among the generation immediately after Muhammad, capped by the Battle of Karbala in the 61st year of the Islamic calendar, or A.D. 680.  The Shi’ite faction lost and their leader, Hassan ibn Ali, was killed.  The Shi’ite holy festivals of Ashura and Arba’een commemorate this defeat, and are still today marked by huge pilgrimages with self-flagellation and self-cutting by the pilgrims.

In terms of the current flash points, Iran and Saudi Arabia are backing opposite sides in a regional conflict dominated by the wars in Syria and Yemen.  Iran has beendeveloping a series of Shi’a militias ideologically loyal to its particular vision of that faith as a means of exerting its influence to dominate a crescent of the Middle east from Yemen and Afghanistan to the Levant.  The Saudi government officially bans support to terrorist groups, but has been allowing its citizens to route money through Kuwait to radical Sunni groups including al Nura Front and the Islamic State (ISIS).  Saudi Arabia is also leading a coalition of regional nations against Iran’s proxies in Yemen, the Houthis, a band of Shi’ite tribes bent on replacing the admittedly corrupt and inefficient government there.

Saudi Arabia has diplomatic allies who are backing its play.  Bahrain, which happens also to be the headquarters of the United States Fifth Fleet, has joined Saudi Arabia in suspending diplomatic relations with Iran.  The UAE has downgraded its relationship.  Sudan has also cut off Iran.

Although Iran is framing its immediate conflict with Saudi Arabia as over what it describes as politically-motivated executions, Iran has executed three times as many persons as Saudi Arabia in recent years.  Many of these, possibly thousands of them, are of political dissidents opposed to the existing regime.  By contrast, Saudi Arabia executed fewer than fifty in the end-of-year purge.

Outside of the realms of diplomacy and war, the conflict also has ramifications for the global price of oil.  However, rising oil prices may be offset by the entry of Iran’s oil reserves into the global markets pending the full implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.

***

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Angelo Codevilla’s “The Lost Decade”

As we close out 2015 with the usual end of year pondering on where we’ve been and where we are headed, I thought I would share this 2011 article by Angelo M. Codevilla that was recently quoted on twitter by @alimhaider. It is amazingly insightful and offers a much needed perspective for Americans making up their minds on who they want for their next president. It is very long but well worth the time so grab your favorite caffeinated beverage and settle in for a good read!

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The Lost Decade, by Angelo M. Cordevilla, The Claremont Institute, October 20, 2011

America’s ruling class lost the “War on Terror.” During the decade that began on September 11, 2001, the U.S. government’s combat operations have resulted in some 6,000 Americans killed and 30,000 crippled, caused hundreds of thousands of foreign casualties, and spent—depending on various estimates of direct and indirect costs—somewhere between 2 and 3 trillion dollars. But nothing our rulers did post-9/11 eliminated the threat from terrorists or made the world significantly less dangerous. Rather, ever-bigger government imposed unprecedented restrictions on the American people and became the arbiter of prosperity for its cronies, as well as the manager of permanent austerity for the rest. Although in 2001 many referred to the United States as “the world’s only superpower,” ten years later the near-universal perception of America is that of a nation declining, perhaps irreversibly. This decade convinced a majority of Americans that the future would be worse than the past and that there is nothing to be done about it. This is the “new normal.” How did this happen?

September 11’s planners could hardly have imagined that their attacks might seriously undermine what Americans had built over two centuries, what millions of immigrants from the world over had come to join and maintain. In fact, our decline happened because the War on Terror—albeit microscopic in size and destructiveness as wars go—forced upon us, as wars do, the most important questions that any society ever faces: Who are we, and who are our enemies? What kind of peace do we want? What does it take to get it? Are we able and willing to do what it takes to secure our preferred way of life, to deserve living the way we prefer? Our bipartisan ruling class’s dysfunctional responses to such questions inflicted the deepest wounds.

Wars in general increase the power of any polity’s ruling class to answer such questions in its way, and to work its will. Hard times force regimes, as they force individuals, to prove what they are made of. That is why regimes are never more themselves, at home and abroad, than during wartime. After 9/11, at home and abroad, our bipartisan ruling class did the characteristic things it had done before—just more of them, and more intensely. In short, the War on Terror empowered this ruling class to show its mettle, and it did so. Ten years later, the results speak for themselves: the terrorists’ force mineure proved to be the occasion for our own ruling elites and their ideas to plunge the country into troubles from which they cannot extricate it.

Most often, wars are won and lost by a faction of a diverse ruling class. Victories validate the winners and what they stand for. Defeats usher in competitors waiting in the wings. So for example, the defeat of Lord North’s cabinet in the American Revolutionary War empowered William Pitt the Younger’s faction, including Adam Smith. When John F. Kennedy’s old-line liberals lost the Vietnam War, their discredit empowered Democratic and Republican successors who embodied an America more collectivist at home and more timid abroad. Such changes, though big, are evolutionary because they simply bring to the fore people and ways that had been gestating within the Establishment.

When, however, the losers are a whole ruling class, and when that class is pervasive enough to have banished to society’s margins any people and ideas that diverge from it, its discredit really does put society in a revolutionary situation. For example, the Soviet regime’s loss of the Cold War plunged that country into a downward spiral because three generations of Communist rule had utterly destroyed living memory of anything but dysfunctional people and ways.

America’s current ruling class, the people who lost the War on Terror, monopolizes the upper reaches of American public life, the ranks of those who make foreign and domestic policy, including the leadership of the Republican and Democratic parties. It is more or less homogeneous socially and intellectually. In foreign affairs, the change from the Bush to the Obama Administrations was barely noticeable. In domestic matters, the differences are more quantitative than qualitative. Dissent from the ruling class is rife among the American people, but occurs mostly on the sidelines of our politics. If there is to be a reversal of the ongoing defeats, both foreign and domestic, that have discredited contemporary America’s bipartisan mainstream, heretofore marginal people will have to generate it, applying ideas and practices recalled from America’s successful past.

The world of 2011 is even less congenial to America and Americans than it was on September 10, 2001. The U.S. government is not responsible for all the ways in which the world was menacing then and is menacing now, of course. Regardless of what America did, China’s challenge to the post-1945 Peace of the Pacific was going to become more serious. Vladimir Putin’s neo-Soviet Russia was not and could not be anything but a major bother. Western Europe would be living off civilizational capital it had lost the will to replenish, irrespective of any American deeds or entreaties. The Muslim world would be choking on the dysfunctions inherent in its government and cultures.

But U.S. policy has made things worse because the liberal internationalists, realists, and neoconservatives who make up America’s foreign policy Establishment have all assumed that Americans should undertake the impossible task of changing such basic facts, rather than confining themselves to the difficult but vital work of guarding U.S. interests against them. For the Establishment, 9/11 meant opportunities to press for doing more of what they had always tried to do.

At home, the American people are less free, less prosperous, more bitterly divided, and much less hopeful in 2011 than in 2001 because a decade of the War on Terror brought a government ever bigger and more burdensome, as well as “security” measures that impede the innocent rather than focusing on wrongdoers. Our ruling class justified its ever-larger role in America’s domestic life by redefining war as a never-ending struggle against unspecified enemies for abstract objectives, and by asserting expertise far above that of ordinary Americans. After 9/11, far from deliberating on the best course to take, our rulers stayed on autopilot and hit the throttles.

We must, then, understand what our bipartisan ruling class wrought in international and domestic affairs during the post-9/11 war, and how differently the decade might have turned out had our rulers pursued the proper ends of domestic and international statecraft.

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Rubio, Cruz and US Global Leadership

16470387237_589bd6b8ef_o_1Frontpage, by Caroline Glick, Dec. 18, 2015:

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.

At some point between 2006 and 2008, the American people decided to turn their backs on the world. Between the seeming futility of the war in Iraq and the financial collapse of 2008, Americans decided they’d had enough.

In Barack Obama, they found a leader who could channel their frustration. Obama’s foreign policy, based on denying the existence of radical Islam and projecting the responsibility for Islamic aggression on the US and its allies, suited their mood just fine. If America is responsible, then America can walk away. Once it is gone, so the thinking has gone, the Muslims will forget their anger and leave America alone.

Sadly, Obama’s foreign policy assumptions are utter nonsense. America’s abandonment of global leadership has not made things better. Over the past seven years, the legions of radical Islam have expanded and grown more powerful than ever before. And now in the aftermath of the jihadist massacres in Paris and San Bernadino, the threats have grown so abundant that even Obama cannot pretend them away.

As a consequence, for the first time in a decade, Americans are beginning to think seriously about foreign policy. But are they too late? Can the next president repair the damage Obama has caused? The Democrats give no cause for optimism. Led by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential hopefuls stubbornly insist that there is nothing wrong with Obama’s foreign policy. If they are elected to succeed him, they pledge to follow in his footsteps.

On the Republican side, things are more encouraging, but also more complicated.

Republican presidential hopefuls are united in their rejection of Obama’s policy of ignoring the Islamic supremacist nature of the enemy. All reject the failed assumptions of Obama’s foreign policy.

All have pledged to abandon them on their first day in office. Yet for all their unity in rejecting Obama’s positions, Republicans are deeply divided over what alternative foreign policy they would adopt.

This divide has been seething under the surface throughout the Obama presidency. It burst into the open at the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night.

The importance of the dispute cannot be overstated.

Given the Democrats’ allegiance to Obama’s disastrous policies, the only hope for a restoration of American leadership is that a Republican wins the next election. But if Republicans nominate a candidate who fails to reconcile with the realities of the world as it is, then the chance for a reassertion of American leadership will diminish significantly.

To understand just how high the stakes are, you need to look no further than two events that occurred just before the Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate.

On Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to close its investigation of Iran’s nuclear program. As far as the UN’s nuclear watchdog is concerned, Iran is good to go.

The move is a scandal. Its consequences will be disastrous.

The IAEA acknowledges that Iran continued to advance its illicit military nuclear program at least until 2009. Tehran refuses to divulge its nuclear activities to IAEA investigators as it is required to do under binding UN Security Council resolutions.

Iran refuses to allow IAEA inspectors access to its illicit nuclear sites. As a consequence, the IAEA lacks a clear understanding of what Iran’s nuclear status is today and therefore has no capacity to prevent it from maintaining or expanding its nuclear capabilities. This means that the inspection regime Iran supposedly accepted under Obama’s nuclear deal is worthless.

The IAEA also accepts that since Iran concluded its nuclear accord with the world powers, it has conducted two tests of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons, despite the fact that it is barred from doing so under binding Security Council resolutions.

But really, who cares? Certainly the Obama administration doesn’t. The sighs of relief emanating from the White House and the State Department after the IAEA decision were audible from Jerusalem to Tehran.

The IAEA’s decision has two direct consequences.

First, as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday, it paves the way for the cancellation of the UN’s economic sanctions against Iran within the month.

Second, with the IAEA’s decision, the last obstacle impeding Iran’s completion of its nuclear weapons program has been removed. Inspections are a thing of the past. Iran is in the clear.

As Iran struts across the nuclear finish line, the Sunni jihadists are closing their ranks.

Hours after the IAEA vote, Turkey and Qatar announced that Turkey is setting up a permanent military base in the Persian Gulf emirate for the first time since the fall of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. Their announcement indicates that the informal partnership between Turkey and Qatar on the one side, and Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic State on the other hand, which first came to the fore last year during Operation Protective Edge, is now becoming a more formal alliance.

Just as the Obama administration has no problem with Iran going nuclear, so it has no problem with this new jihadist alliance.

During Operation Protective Edge, the administration supported this jihadist alliance against the Israeli-Egyptian partnership. Throughout Hamas’s war against Israel, Obama demanded that Israel and Egypt accept Hamas’s cease-fire terms, as they were presented by Turkey and Qatar.

Since Operation Protective Edge, the Americans have continued to insist that Israel and Egypt bow to Hamas’s demands and open Gaza’s international borders. The Americans have kept up their pressure on Israel and Egypt despite Hamas’s open alliance with ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula.

So, too, the Americans have kept Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at arm’s length, and continue to insist that the Muslim Brotherhood is a legitimate political force despite Sisi’s war against ISIS. Washington continues to embrace Qatar as a “moderate” force despite the emirate’s open support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and ISIS.

As for Turkey, it appears there is nothing Ankara can do that will dispel the US notion that it is a credible partner in the war on terror. Since 2011, Turkey has served as Hamas’s chief state sponsor, and as ISIS’s chief sponsor. It is waging war against the Kurds – the US’s strongest ally in its campaign against ISIS.

In other words, with the US’s blessing, the forces of both Shi’ite and Sunni jihad are on the march.

And the next president will have no grace period for repairing the damage.

Although the Republican debate Wednesday night was focused mainly on the war in Syria, its significance is far greater than one specific battlefield.

And while there were nine candidates on the stage, there were only two participants in this critical discussion.

Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz faced off after weeks of rising contention between their campaigns.

In so doing, they brought the dispute that has been seething through their party since the Bush presidency into the open.

Rubio argued that in Syria, the US needs to both defeat ISIS and overthrow President Bashar Assad.

Cruz countered that the US should ignore Assad and concentrate on utterly destroying ISIS. America’s national interest, he said, is not advanced by overthrowing Assad, because in all likelihood, Assad will be replaced by ISIS.

Cruz added that America’s experience in overthrowing Middle Eastern leaders has shown that it is a mistake to overthrow dictators. Things only got worse after America overthrew Saddam Hussein and supported the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak.

For his part, Rubio explained that since Assad is Iran’s puppet, leaving him in power empowers Iran. The longer he remains in power, the more control Iran will wield over Syria and Lebanon.

The two candidates’ dispute is far greater than the question of who rules Syria. Their disagreement on Syria isn’t a tactical argument. It goes to the core question of what is the proper role of American foreign policy.

Rubio’s commitment to overthrowing Assad is one component of a wider strategic commitment to fostering democratic governance in Syria. By embracing the cause of democratization through regime change, Rubio has become the standard bearer of George W. Bush’s foreign policy.

Bush’s foreign policy had two seemingly contradictory anchors – a belief that liberal values are universal, and cultural meekness.

Bush’s belief that open elections would serve as a panacea for the pathologies of the Islamic world was not supported by empirical data. Survey after survey showed that if left to their own devices, the people of Muslim world would choose to be led by Islamic supremacists. But Bush rejected the data and embraced the fantasy that free elections lead a society to embrace liberal norms of peace and human rights.

As to cultural meekness, since the end of the Cold War and with the rise of political correctness, the notion that America could call for other people to adopt American values fell into disrepute. For American foreign policy practitioners, the idea that American values and norms are superior to Islamic supremacist values smacked of cultural chauvinism.

Consequently, rather than urge the Islamic world to abandon Islamic supremacism in favor of liberal democracy, in their public diplomacy efforts, Americans sufficed with vapid pronouncements of love and respect for Islam.

Islamic supremacists, for their part stepped into the ideological void without hesitation. In Iraq, the Iranian regime spent hundreds of millions of dollars training Iranian-controlled militias, building Iranian-controlled political parties and publishing pro-Iranian newspapers as the US did nothing to support pro-American Iraqis.

Although many Republicans opposed Bush’s policies, few dared make their disagreement with the head of their party public. As a result, for many, Wednesday’s debate was the first time the foundations of Bush’s foreign policy were coherently and forcefully rejected before a national audience.

If Rubio is the heir to Bush, Cruz is the spokesman for Bush’s until now silent opposition. In their longheld view, democratization is not a proper aim of American foreign policy. Defeating America’s enemies is the proper aim of American foreign policy.

Rubio’s people claim that carpet bombing ISIS is not a strategy. They are right. There are parts missing from in Cruz’s position on Syria.

But then again, although still not comprehensive, Cruz’s foreign policy trajectory has much to recommend it. First and foremost, it is based on the world as it is, rather than a vision of how the world should be. It makes a clear distinction between America’s allies and America’s enemies and calls for the US to side with the former and fight the latter.

It is far from clear which side will win this fight for the heart of the Republican Party. And it is impossible to know who the next US president will be.

But whatever happens, the fact that after their seven-year vacation, the Americans are returning the real world is a cause for cautious celebration.

NATO is harbouring the Islamic State

1-uPGE-GLlKmVVEvfyKjqzHwWhy France’s brave new war on ISIS is a sick joke, and an insult to the victims of the Paris attacks

INSURGE INTELLIGENCEby Nafeez Ahmed, Nov. 19, 2015:

“We stand alongside Turkey in its efforts in protecting its national security and fighting against terrorism. France and Turkey are on the same side within the framework of the international coalition against the terrorist group ISIS.”

Statement by French Foreign Ministry, July 2015

The 13th November Paris massacre will be remembered, like 9/11, as a defining moment in world history.

The murder of 129 people, the injury of 352 more, by ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS) acolytes striking multiple targets simultaneously in the heart of Europe, mark a major sea-change in the terror threat.

For the first time, a Mumbai-style attack has occurred on Western soil — the worst attack on Europe in decades. As such, it has triggered a seemingly commensurate response from France: the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency, the likes of which have not been seen since the 1961 Algerian war.

ISIS has followed up with threats to attack Washington and New York City.

Meanwhile, President Hollande wants European Union leaders to suspend the Schengen Agreement on open borders to allow dramatic restrictions on freedom of movement across Europe. He also demands the EU-wide adoption of the Passenger Name Records (PNR) system allowing intelligence services to meticulously track the travel patterns of Europeans, along with an extension of the state of emergency to at least three months.

Under the extension, French police can now block any website, put people under house arrest without trial, search homes without a warrant, and prevent suspects from meeting others deemed a threat.

“We know that more attacks are being prepared, not just against France but also against other European countries,” said the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. “We are going to live with this terrorist threat for a long time.”

Hollande plans to strengthen the powers of police and security services under new anti-terror legislation, and to pursue amendments to the constitution that would permanently enshrine the state of emergency into French politics. “We need an appropriate tool we can use without having to resort to the state of emergency,” he explained.

Parallel with martial law at home, Hollande was quick to accelerate military action abroad, launching 30 airstrikes on over a dozen Islamic State targets in its de facto capital, Raqqa.

France’s defiant promise, according to Hollande, is to “destroy” ISIS.

The ripple effect from the attacks in terms of the impact on Western societies is likely to be permanent. In much the same way that 9/11 saw the birth of a new era of perpetual war in the Muslim world, the 13/11 Paris attacks are already giving rise to a brave new phase in that perpetual war: a new age of Constant Vigilance, in which citizens are vital accessories to the police state, enacted in the name of defending a democracy eroded by the very act of defending it through Constant Vigilance.

Mass surveillance at home and endless military projection abroad are the twin sides of the same coin of national security, which must simply be maximized as much as possible.

“France is at war,” Hollande told French parliament at the Palace of Versailles.

“We’re not engaged in a war of civilizations, because these assassins do not represent any. We are in a war against jihadist terrorism which is threatening the whole world.”

The friend of our enemy is our friend

Conspicuously missing from President Hollande’s decisive declaration of war, however, was any mention of the biggest elephant in the room: state-sponsorship.

Syrian passports discovered near the bodies of two of the suspected Paris attackers, according to police sources, were fake, and likely forged in Turkey.

Earlier this year, the Turkish daily Meydan reported citing an Uighur source that more than 100,000 fake Turkish passports had been given to ISIS. The figure, according to the US Army’s Foreign Studies Military Office (FSMO), is likely exaggerated, but corroborated “by Uighurs captured with Turkish passports in Thailand and Malaysia.”

Further corroboration came from a Sky News Arabia report by correspondent Stuart Ramsey, which revealed that the Turkish government was certifying passports of foreign militants crossing the Turkey-Syria border to join ISIS. The passports, obtained from Kurdish fighters, had the official exit stamp of Turkish border control, indicating the ISIS militants had entered Syria with full knowledge of Turkish authorities.

The dilemma facing the Erdogan administration is summed up by the FSMO: “If the country cracks down on illegal passports and militants transiting the country, the militants may target Turkey for attack. However, if Turkey allows the current course to continue, its diplomatic relations with other countries and internal political situation will sour.”

This barely scratches the surface. A senior Western official familiar with a large cache of intelligence obtained this summer from a major raid on an ISIS safehouse told the Guardian that “direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking ISIS members was now ‘undeniable.’”

The same official confirmed that Turkey, a longstanding member of NATO, is not just supporting ISIS, but also other jihadist groups, including Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. “The distinctions they draw [with other opposition groups] are thin indeed,” said the official. “There is no doubt at all that they militarily cooperate with both.”

In a rare insight into this brazen state-sponsorship of ISIS, a year agoNewsweek reported the testimony of a former ISIS communications technician, who had travelled to Syria to fight the regime of Bashir al-Assad.

The former ISIS fighter told Newsweek that Turkey was allowing ISIS trucks from Raqqa to cross the “border, through Turkey and then back across the border to attack Syrian Kurds in the city of Serekaniye in northern Syria in February.” ISIS militants would freely travel “through Turkey in a convoy of trucks,” and stop “at safehouses along the way.”

The former ISIS communication technician also admitted that he would routinely “connect ISIS field captains and commanders from Syria with people in Turkey on innumerable occasions,” adding that “the people they talked to were Turkish officials… ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks.”

In January, authenticated official documents of the Turkish military were leaked online, showing that Turkey’s intelligence services had been caught in Adana by military officers transporting missiles, mortars and anti-aircraft ammunition via truck “to the al-Qaeda terror organisation” in Syria.

According to other ISIS suspects facing trial in Turkey, the Turkish national military intelligence organization (MIT) had begun smuggling arms, including NATO weapons to jihadist groups in Syria as early as 2011.

The allegations have been corroborated by a prosecutor and court testimony of Turkish military police officers, who confirmed that Turkish intelligence was delivering arms to Syrian jihadists from 2013 to 2014.

Documents leaked in September 2014 showed that Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan had financed weapons shipments to ISIS through Turkey. A clandestine plane from Germany delivered arms in the Etimesgut airport in Turkey and split into three containers, two of which were dispatched to ISIS.

A report by the Turkish Statistics Institute confirmed that the government had provided at least $1 million in arms to Syrian rebels within that period, contradicting official denials. Weapons included grenades, heavy artillery, anti-aircraft guns, firearms, ammunition, hunting rifles and other weapons — but the Institute declined to identify the specific groups receiving the shipments.

Information of that nature emerged separately. Just two months ago, Turkish police raided a news outlet that published revelations on how the local customs director had approved weapons shipments from Turkey to ISIS.

Turkey has also played a key role in facilitating the life-blood of ISIS’ expansion: black market oil sales. Senior political and intelligence sources in Turkey and Iraq confirm that Turkish authorities have actively facilitated ISIS oil sales through the country.

Last summer, Mehmet Ali Ediboglu, an MP from the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party, estimated the quantity of ISIS oil sales in Turkey at about $800 million — that was over a year ago.

By now, this implies that Turkey has facilitated over $1 billion worth of black market ISIS oil sales to date.

Read more

Also see:

The Center for Security Policy’s Middle East and North Africa Briefing

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Center for Security Policy, Nov.13, 2015:

The Middle East and North Africa: National Security and a Secure Freedom Strategy to respond to the threats posed by the Islamic State and the Global Jihad Movement.

  • Pete Hoekstra, Shillman Senior Fellow, Investigative Project on Terrorism; Former Chairman, U.S. House Intelligence Committee; Author, Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya (2015)
  • Elliot Chodoff, Major in the IDF Reserves; Counter terrorism expertPartner, Lecturer, and Political and Military Analyst at Hamartzim Educational Services
  • Jim Hanson, Executive Vice President, Center for Security Policy, Author, Cut Down The Black Flag: A Plan To Defeat The Islamic State (2015)

Moderator: Frank Gaffney, President & CEO, Center for Security Policy.

The New Cold War: The Russia-Shia Alliance VS the Islamic State

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (2nd L) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (2nd L) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev.

By Brian Fairchild, October 31, 2015

The New Cold War:

In late-September 2015 Russia and Iran launched a clandestine strategic military campaign to support Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.  Russia’s bold move took the West by surprise and changed the balance of power in the Middle East in Russia’s favor.  It will go down in history as the milestone depicting Russia’s first aggressive military action outside of its own sphere of influence since the fall of the Soviet Union, and, when viewed from a global strategic perspective, will be remembered as the first clear sign that a New Cold War had erupted between the US and Russia.

Russia’s Middle Eastern campaign is formed around the new “quadrilateral alliance”, which has divided the region into two sectarian blocs:  the Russian-led Shia Muslim alliance, which forms a powerful “Shia Crescent” stretching from Iraq, through Iran and Syria, to Lebanon, and the Sunni Arab bloc led by Saudi Arabia with minimal backing by the United States.

Thus far, Russia’s campaign has been executed seamlessly. Upon entering Syria clandestinely, Russian forces immediately deployed sophisticated surface to air missile defense batteries as well as top-of the-line jet fighters to protect Russian and Syrian forces from the US coalition.  Once air defenses were in place, Moscow began a barrage of airstrikes targeting anti-Assad rebels in order to re-establish and consolidate Assad’s power.  The airstrikes were subsequently integrated with ground operations carried-out by Syrian military units, Iranian Quds forces, Shia militia from Syria and Iraq, and Hezbollah fighters.  There are also credible news reports that Cuban Special Forces have joined the fray for the first time since Cuba’s proxy wars in Angola and central Africa in the 1970’s on behalf of the Soviet Union.

The Russia-Shia Alliance and its Effect on Iraq, Jordan, and the Kurds:

Iraq:

In tandem with its military campaign, Russia launched a diplomatic campaign that has been just as effective.  Iraq is the geographical base for US coalition operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but American influence in Iraq has steadily diminished over the past year.

In early October 2015, Iraq secretly established a new Russia-Iran-Syria-Iraq intelligence center in the middle of Baghdad that surprised and angered American military commanders.  Worse, after Russia’s increasingly effective Syrian air campaign, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for Russia to begin unilateral airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq.  The Pentagon became so alarmed by the possibility that Russia might get a strategic foothold in Iraq that on October 21, 2015, it dispatched Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford to Baghdad to deliver an ultimatum to the Iraqi leadership.  Dunford told the Iraqi Prime Minister and Defense Minister that Iraq had to choose between cooperating with Russia or the US.  Upon his departure from Baghdad, General Dunford told the media that he received assurances that Iraq would not seek Russian assistance, but just three days later, Iraq officially authorized Russian airstrikes in-country.

Jordan:

On that same day, another of America’s most dependable allies, the Kingdom of Jordan, announced its agreement to create a new Russian-Jordanian military coordination center to target the Islamic State and that this center would go well beyond just a formal information exchange.  According to Jordan’s Ambassador to Russia:

  • “This time, we are talking about a specific form of cooperation — a center for military coordination between two countries. Now we will cooperate on a higher level. It will not be just in a format of information exchange: we see a necessity ‘to be on the ground’ as Jordan has a border with Syria”

The Kurds:

Moscow is attempting to undermine US relations with the Kurds.  Since the rise of the Islamic State, the US has sought to provide anti-Islamic State military support to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq via the Iraqi central government, but the Iraqi government has no desire to see the KRG gain additional power in the north so this mission has been largely ineffective.  The US has had a measure of success providing limited support to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), but has balked at providing full support because any support whatsoever angers Turkey due to contacts between the YPG and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), a separatist organization, that seeks to overthrow the Turkish government.  On October 29, 2015, Turkish president Erdogan demonstrated this anger when he vehemently criticized US support for the YPG and stated that Turkey would attack the YPG on the Iraqi side of the border if it attempts to create a separatist Kurdish administrative zone.  Because Turkey is a NATO ally, Turkish threats cause the US significant political and diplomatic problems, but they will not deter Putin from moving to organize and utilize Kurdish forces in pursuit of his goals; in early October, he went out of his way to show disdain for Turkey and NATO by allowing his Syrian-based jets to illegally invade Turkish airspace.

No Kurdish group is happy with the current situation of getting limited support from the United States to fight the Islamic State, but all of them have expressed interest in cooperating with Russia.  Significantly, Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Kremlin administration, specifically urged cooperation between the Syrian Kurdish militia and the US-backed YPG.

The Russia-Shia Alliance and the Islamic State:

The Shia composition of the quadrilateral alliance is extremely significant because it plays directly into the Islamic State narrative.  The Islamic State and the majority of the world’s Muslims are Sunni, but in the heart of the Middle East, the Shia governments of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, with Russian support, dominate, and these countries surround the Islamic State’s new “caliphate” on three sides.  Understanding this strategic disadvantage, the Islamic State knows that it must muster as much international Sunni support as possible to survive, so it carries-out a relentless policy to polarize the international Sunni population against the Shia.

The chance to remove Bashar al-Assad, who represents the Shia Alawite sect, was the primary reason the Islamic State moved to Syria from Iraq, and removing al-Assad from power served as its initial rallying cry to the global Sunni community.  It was this rallying cry that created the dangerous “foreign fighter” phenomenon that subsequently brought more than 30,000 radical Sunni Muslims from around the world to the new caliphate.

The Islamic State repeatedly emphasizes in its official publications and statements its contention that Shia Muslims are not true Muslims and must be eradicated, and, in these communications, it refers to Shia Muslims as “Rafidah” (rejecters).  But of all the Shias in the world, the Islamic State has a particular hatred for the Shia Iranians, who are Persian rather than Arab, and who ruled Islam during the ancient Safavid (Persian) empire, which the Islamic State regards as religiously illegitimate.  It therefore refers to Iranians as the “Safavid Rafidah”.

Moreover, the Islamic State accuses the US and Russia of being modern day “crusaders” who have joined forces with the Iranians to destroy Sunni Islam, a contention made clear on March 12, 2015, when its spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani stated:

  • The Safavid Rāfidah (Shia Iranians) today have entered a new stage in their war against the Sunnis. They have begun to believe that it is within their power to take areas of the Sunnis and control them completely. They no longer want a single Muslim from the Sunnis living in the empire they desire…O Sunnis…if the Islamic State is broken…then there will be no Mecca for you thereafter nor Medina…Sunnis! The Crusader-Safavid (Christian-Iranian) alliance is clear today.  Here is Iran with its Great Satan America dividing the regions and roles amongst each other in the war against Islam and the Sunnis…We warned you before and continue to warn you that the war is a Crusader-Safavid was against Islam, and war against the Sunnis…”

The Shia Alliance and the Saudis:

Saudi Arabia considers itself to be the leader of the world’s Sunni population and the custodian of Islam’s two most holy places:  the mosques of Mecca and Medina where the prophet Muhammad received Allah’s revelations.  Because Iran is the Kingdom’s religious and regional nemesis the Islamic State’s anti-Shia narrative resonates greatly among many Saudis who are increasingly alarmed at Iran’s growing military influence and power.  In a letter signed by 53 Saudi Islamic scholars in early October 2015, the clerics lashed out at Iran, Syria and Russia and echoed the main points made by the Islamic State:

  • “The holy warriors of Syria are defending the whole Islamic nation. Trust them and support them … because if they are defeated, God forbid, it will be the turn of one Sunni country after another”

Saudi King Salman was willing to allow this unofficial letter to be published because it permitted the Saudi government an indirect manner to issue a warning to Iran, but as the Russian-Iran alliance continued to make military gains throughout October, the Kingdom’s anxiety was such that it decided to allow its Foreign Minister to issue the following direct warning to Iran:

  • “We wish that Iran would change its policies and stop meddling in the affairs of other countries in the region, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen…We will make sure that we confront Iran’s actions and shall use all our political, economic and military powers to defend our territory and people…”

Conclusion:

The New Cold War:

Just one month ago, the US was the only major military player in the Middle East, but that has all changed.  Russia’s aggressive and well-planned military campaign in Syria has tilted the balance of power in the region away from the US and toward Russia and its new Shia-dominated quadrilateral alliance.  As a result, the US plan to effect regime change in Syria is now impossible, but more importantly, US influence in Iraq is steadily diminishing, and thus, the number of options available to American military commanders to degrade the Islamic State are also diminishing.

Five days after Iraq rejected General Dunford’s ultimatum and authorized Russian airstrikes in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter ignored this fact in his testimony before the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee when he stated that the United States plans to increase the number of airstrikes in Iraq as well as direct action raids by US special operations forces in Iraq.

Unfortunately, such an increase in US military actions require Iraqi permission, and for the second time in a week, Iraq rejected the United States.  On October 28, 2015, Prime Minister al-Abadi’s spokesman told the media that Iraq has no intention of allowing increased American participation because:

  • “This is an Iraqi affair and the government did not ask the U.S. Department of Defense to be involved in direct operations…”

If Iraq enforces this restriction, and limits the US to only training and arming Iraqi forces while allowing Russia to conduct aggressive operations in-country, the situation could become untenable for the United States, further reducing America’s ability to degrade the Islamic State.

The Islamic State:

Once Russia consolidates Assad rule in Syria, Putin will undoubtedly use the new Russia-Shia alliance to move against the Islamic State.  Because the alliance dominates the geographical terrain on three sides of the “caliphate” and has demonstrated a willingness to engage in unified military air and ground operations, it is likely that Russian airpower and Shia ground forces will succeed in dismantling many Islamic State elements in Syria and Iraq.

Such success by the Russia-Shia alliance, especially if it forces the evacuation of the capital of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Raqqa, Syria, will further polarize and enrage radical Sunnis and likely increase the number of foreign fighters from Europe and the Middle East.  It will also likely result in more domestic lone jihad attacks in the US and Russia, a call the Islamic State has already made in its October 13, 2015 statement:

  • “…the Islamic State is stronger today than yesterday, while at the same time America is getting weaker and weaker…America today is not just weakened, it has become powerless, forced to ally with Russia and Iran…Islamic youth everywhere, ignite jihad against the Russians and the Americans in their crusaders’ war against Muslims.”

If the Islamic State experiences set-backs and defeats in Syria and Iraq such defeats would likely motivate it to launch mass casualty attacks in the United States and Europe in order to prove to its followers that it remains relevant. Mass casualty attacks in tandem with increased lone jihad attacks would make an already bad domestic security situation, grave.

On October 23, 2015, FBI Director Comey revealed that the FBI is pursuing approximately 900 active cases against Islamic State extremists in the United States and that this number continues to expand.  Comey added that should the number of cases continue to increase, it won’t be long before the FBI lacks the adequate resources to “keep up”.   Europe, too, faces grave security challenges.  A few days after Comey’s revelations, the head of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence service, stated that the terror threat in the United Kingdom from the Islamic State and al Qaeda is the highest he has “ever seen”.

Brian Fairchild was a career officer in CIA’s Clandestine Service.  He has served in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan.  Mr. Fairchild writes periodic intelligence analyses on topics of strategic importance.

The US Vacuum in the Middle East

rsme

The Gorka Briefing, by Sebastian Gorka, Oct 12, 2015:

The Obama administration created a vacuum in the Middle East and then ISIS moved in and now Russia is establishing a beachhead. I discuss this and more on the Sam Sorbo radio show. (17 min)

audio snip 2

Also see:

Expeditionary Warfare  Is the Russian venture in Syria a “Force Protection” or  Expeditionary War at quite a significant scale? NATO countries seem to be missing a common threat assessment over what Moscow is undertaking. I discuss these issues and more on the John Batchelor radio show. (9 min)

Obama surrenders the Middle East to Russia, and it matters

20150928_obamaputinmiddleeast_Family Security Matters, by Dr. Robin McFee, Sep. 29, 2015:

Putin asserts it is difficult to defeat ISIS without the current Syrian government. Whether that government is a puppet of Iran and Russia, is currently irrelevant. Putin is correct. Syria could act as a magnet to draw in ISIS fighters, and a kill box within which to defeat them, or at least eliminate a not insignificant number of their fighters.

Putin has doubled down on Syria in recent days. No news there. He has had bases in that beleaguered nation for years. He is in a good position to weaken ISIS in the process – to a far greater degree than the US has been willing to do.

Speaking of which, Obama, not having learned anything from his many foreign policy misadventures in the region, has decided to invest in Syrian “rebels” who somehow have become virtuous patriots – instead of merely another assemblage of Jihadists, former mujahideen, current members of the various Al Qaeda franchises, and to be clear, NOT friends of democracy or freedom fighters. Obama just doesn’t get it. There are no freedom fighters or prodemocracy plays in that region. It is a war of the roses based upon religion, anti-West sensibilities, adherence to Sharia, tribal power skirmishes, and territorial control. The old saw ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is both tired, misrepresentative of the landscape, and a dangerous game for amateurs to play.

Syria is an important place – geographically and geopolitically. Putin knows this. More importantly, Assad is his ally. Putin – spy master, politician, businessman, diplomat, quasi-dictator, martial artist, energy expert, possible assassin, and global force to be reckoned with – recognizes the importance of supporting your allies. We could learn something from him, as we continue to abandon our friends, and give benefits to our enemies. Reputations matter. Consider this….If you had to select a second for a street fight, would you pick Putin or Obama? A sad reality, but who does the world trust more? Not who does the world use more, or misuse more, or abuse more, but trust or fear more.

Like Assad or not, he has created a vortex within which ISIS is being drawn in. Al Qaeda is in play there as well. We ought to think of it as an opportunity to let savages kill each other, and their teams become severely degraded. Instead we are arming, at ridiculous expense, a handful (think meaningless) of jokers to represent our interests over there.

Yes Assad is an unsavory fellow, using chemical weapons. He isn’t alone. And to his credit – even bad guys have their good points – he has protected Christians far more than any other dictator in the region.  Putin is supporting Assad. And?

As an aside, think Christians have had any political patronage in Iraq lately? Or Iran? How are Christians faring in other Moslem nations with few exceptions, like Morocco? A bit closer to home, how are Christians treated in the US? While Obama is yammering about human rights, and taking in refugees from the Middle East (let us not forget much of this mess is his fault), he is about to deport Christian refugees, and has been hesitant to allow Christians under siege in Iraq to enter the US. Double standard anyone?

Like it or not, the world is one big Stratego ® or Risk ® game board. It is winner take all. The good guys can choose to be benevolent victors, and good trade partners, even good neighbors, but at the end of the day it is all about which team controls the natural resources, the transit routes, influences decisions, trade deals, and leads globally with manufacturing and distribution infrastructure that wins the game.

We are losing the game, and badly. This is not to be gloom and doom, but to remind that our future, and that of our children depends upon the economic and security future we create and pass along. The two are inextricably intertwined. One cannot separate the economy, energy, immigration, and security issues. Within that construct, the Middle East matters to our economy and security – unfortunately.

We blew Iraq – which has been and remains an extremely important nation in the history of the Arab and Middle Eastern world. Located in a strategic crossroads, and a former ally we misread (thank you Barack Obama), and abandoned a vital piece of real estate. Not to mention our feckless behavior has emboldened the behaviors of radical Islamists, including ISIS.

As for ISIS or Assad or Libya or…There are no consequences that our enemies face when doing barbaric acts against Americans or our interests. Obama’s laughable lines in the sand, and threats aimed at ISIS, ISIL, Russia, Assad or fill in the blanks, they are as fragile as a sand castle near the ocean during a tropical storm.  And as meaningless!

Could you, would you trust Obama if your life depended on it? Ask Pastor Saeed, who languishes in Iran, when he and 3 other Americans could easily have been ransomed for, say $150 billion dollars?! That is what BHO is giving Iran. Ask the Iraqis who risked their lives to provide intelligence to our military, and are now isolated, hunted, alone. Ask the Christians who are being butchered by ISIS and other Islamists in the region. Where is Obama? Where is the United States? Russia has provided more moral clarity on the issue than we have. Wow, the world is upside down, when that can be said!

The vacuum created when Obama placed politics over patriotism and popularity over leadership by removing our military from Iraq, and then added stupidity to idiocy, by reaching out to Iran to help us fight ISIS (tacitly giving Tehran the political cover to enter, and likely capture much of Iraq), and capped it off with a moronic two year diplomacy play that has been a major financial and political coup for Tehran, and completed the process of colossal foreign policy failures by mishandling Syria, betraying Israel, ignoring Egypt as well as Morocco, the Kurds, and screwing up North Africa, has set the stage for a new sheriff to emerge…Putin.

All small entities need a big brother. Whether it is Israel, or Bahrain, or the Kurds (Putin supports), Libya or Syria or the Falklands, most countries recognize it is a dangerous world with unsavory neighbors. Even the vaunted Israeli military recognizes it cannot control the region alone. It needs an ally. It used to be the United States without question. Now Israel has to play Oliver asking for more soup every time it needs something from Obama’s United States. Putin recognizes this, and has reached out to most of the countries in the Middle East, and starting with North Africa, establishing or reestablishing affiliations and alliances. Consider for a moment how Putin treats Netanyahu and Israel with more concern, and respect than POTUS; a deft, radical departure from prior Russian/Soviet strategy. And Vladimir has, in at least small ways, used his powerful influence to stem some of the attacks from Iran’s proxies.

Make no mistake about it – Iran, Syria, Turkey are all critical to Russia’s energy, security, and geopolitical strategy. Poking the US in the eye in the process is just a bonus for Putin. Israel offers potential for Russia, too. Keep a watch on that.

Obama has surrendered leadership of the Middle East to Russia. Pure and simple!  And we should not blame Putin for that. He is doing what the leader of Russia is supposed to do – look out for the interests of his nation.

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Middle East Provocations and Predictions

by Daniel Pipes
Mackenzie Institute
September 9, 2015

The Middle East stands out as the world’s most volatile, combustible, and troubled region; not coincidentally, it also inspires the most intense policy debates – think of the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Iran deal. The following tour d’horizon offers interpretations and speculations on Iran, ISIS, Syria-Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Islamism, then concludes with some thoughts on policy choices. My one-sentence conclusion: some good news lies under the onslaught of misunderstandings, mistakes, and misery.

Iran

Iran is Topic No. 1 these days, especially since the nuclear deal the six great powers reached with its rulers in Vienna on July 14. The “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” seeks to bring Tehran in from the cold, ending decades of hostility and inducing Iran to become a more normal state. In itself, this is an entirely worthy endeavor.

The problem lies in the execution, which has been execrable, rewarding an aggressive government with legitimacy and additional funding, not requiring serious safeguards on its nuclear arms program, and permitting that program in about a decade. The annals of diplomacy have never witnessed a comparable capitulation by great powers to an isolated, weak state.

The Iranian leadership has an apocalyptic mindset and preoccupation with the end of days that does not apply to the North Koreans, Stalin, Mao, the Pakistanis or anyone else. Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i et al. have reason to use these weapons for reasons outside of the normal military concerns – to bring on the end of the world. This makes it especially urgent to stop them.

Ali Khamene'i (r) is often placed along side Ayatollah Khomeini in Iranian iconography.

Ali Khamene’i (r) is often placed along side Ayatollah Khomeini in Iranian iconography.

Economic sanctions, however, amount to a sideshow, even a distraction. The Iranian government compares to the North Korean in its absolute devotion to building these weapons and its readiness to do whatever it takes, whether mass starvation or some other calamity, to achieve them. Therefore, no matter how severely applied, the sanctions only make life more difficult for the Iranian leadership without actually stopping the nuclear buildup.

The only way to stop the buildup is through the use of force. I hope the Israeli government – the only one left that might take action – will undertake this dangerous and thankless job. It can do so through aerial bombardment, special operations, or nuclear weapons, with option #2 both the most attractive and the most difficult.

If the Israelis do not stop the bomb, a nuclear device in the hands of the mullahs will have terrifying consequences for the Middle East and beyond, including North America, where a devastating electromagnetic pulse attack must be considered possible.

To the contrary, if the Iranians do not deploy their new weapons, it is just possible that the increased contact with the outside world and the disruption caused by inconsistent Western policies will work to undermine the regime.

ISIS

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (aka ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh) is the topic that consumes the most attention other than Iran. I agree with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, that Iran is a thousand times more dangerous than ISIS. But ISIS is also a thousand times more interesting. Plus, the Obama administration finds it a useful bogeyman to justify working with Tehran.

Emerging out of almost nowhere, the group has taken Islamic nostalgia to an unimagined extreme. The Saudis, the ayatollahs, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and Shabaab each imposed its version of a medieval order. But ISIS went further, replicating as best it can a seventh-century Islamic environment, down to such specifics as public beheading and enslavement.

This effort has provoked two opposite responses among Muslims. One is favorable, as manifested by Muslims coming from Tunisia and the West, attracted moth-like to an incandescently pure vision of Islam. The other, more important, response is negative. The great majority of Muslims, not to speak of non-Muslims, are alienated by the violent and flamboyant ISIS phenomenon. In the long term, ISIS will harm the Islamist movement (the one aspiring to apply Islamic law in its entirety) and even Islam itself, as Muslims in large numbers abominate ISIS.

One thing about ISIS will likely last, however: the notion of the caliphate. The last caliph who actually gave orders ruled in the 940s. That’s the 940s, not the 1940s, over a thousand years ago. The reappearance of an executive caliph after centuries of figurehead caliphs has prompted considerable excitement among Islamists. In Western terms, it’s like someone reviving the Roman Empire with a piece of territory in Europe; that would get everybody’s attention. I predict the caliphate will have a lasting and negative impact.

Syria, Iraq, and the Kurds

In certain circles, Syria and Iraq have come to be known as Suraqiya, joining their names together as the border has collapsed and they have each simultaneously been divided into three main regions: a Shiite-oriented central government, a Sunni Arab rebellion, and a Kurdish part that wants out.

This is a positive development; there’s nothing sacred about the British-French Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 which created these two polities. Quite the contrary, that accord has proven an abject failure; conjure up the names of Hafez al-Assad and Saddam Hussein to remember why. These miserable states exist for the benefit of their monstrous leaders who proceed to murder their own subjects. So, let them fracture into threes, improving matters for the locals and the outside world.

As Turkish-backed Sunni jihadis fight Iranian-backed Shi’i jihadis in Suraqiya, the West should stand back from the fighting. Neither side deserves support; this is not our fight. Indeed, these two evil forces at each others’ throats means they have less opportunity to aggress on the rest of the world. If we do wish to help, it should be directed first to the many victims of the civil war; if we want to be strategic, help the losing side (so neither side wins).

As for the massive flow of refugees from Syria: Western governments should not take in large numbers but instead pressure Saudi Arabia and other rich Middle Eastern states to offer sanctuary. Why should the Saudis be exempt from the refugee flow, especially when their country has many advantages over, say, Sweden: linguistic, cultural, and religious compatibility, as well as proximity and a similar climate.

The rapid emergence of a Kurdish polity in Iraq, followed by one in Syria, as well as a new assertiveness in Turkey and rumblings in Iran are a positive sign. Kurds have proven themselves to be responsible in a way that none of their neighbors have. I say this as someone who, 25 years ago, opposed Kurdish autonomy. Let us help the Kurds who are as close to an ally as we have in the Muslim Middle East. Not just separate Kurdish units should come into existence but also a unified Kurdistan made up from parts of all four countries. That this harms the territorial integrity of those states does not present a problem, as not one of them works well as presently constituted.

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How Obama and Hillary made the Arab world safe for radical Islam

20150310_obamahillaryclinton2014Family Security Matters, by LAWRENCE SELLIN, PHD, August 13, 2015:

Far from being “spontaneous” and “indigenous,” the uprisings known as the “Arab Spring” that swept North Africa and the Middle East were long planned and planned from abroad with the Muslim Brotherhood’s role hidden in plain sight.

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 as a Sunni Islamist religious, political and social movement.  According to Lawrence Wright in his book “The Looming Tower,” its founder Hassan al-Banna “rejected the Western model of secular, democratic government, which contradicted his notion of universal Islamic rule.” The fundamental goal of the Muslim Brotherhood remains Islam’s global domination, an effort that quickly turned violent and eventually spread to over eighty other nations. For example, one Muslim Brotherhood splinter group was responsible for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for his peace treaty with Israel and another offshoot is the terrorist organization Hamas.

Barack Obama clearly supports the Muslim Brotherhood as a so-called “moderate” alternative to more violent Islamist groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and a vehicle for political reform in the Middle East and North Africa, as outlined in the secret 2011 directive called Presidential Study Directive-11, or PSD-11.

In addition to a wide-spread infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into the Obama Administration, Hillary Clinton’s longest serving assistant, Huma Abedin, has enjoyed an intensely close relationship with the Brotherhood for decades. Her father, Zyed Abedin, served as editor of an anti-Semitic journal funded by an Islamist; her mother, Saleha Mahmood Abedin, replaced him as editor in 1993 when he died. As editor, Saleha has promoted the Muslim Brotherhood violent jihad and the “right” of women to be repressed under sharia.

Therein rests the motivation for the policies formulated and actions taken by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Egypt, Libya and Syria, all of which led to the growth of radical Islam in North Africa and the Middle East.

In terms of US foreign policy and national security, the role of Hillary Clinton in the Libyan fiasco was as reckless as it was cataclysmic.

Clinton was among the most vocal early proponents of using U.S. military force to topple Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, claiming erroneously that Gadhafi was about to engage in a genocide against civilians in Benghazi, where the Islamist rebels held their center of power.

Even Obama bowed to her leadership on the issue, privately informing members of Congress that Libya “is all Secretary Clinton’s matter.”

Yet according to Jeffrey Scott Shapiro and Kelly Riddell of the Washington Times:

“Top Pentagon officials and a senior Democrat in Congress [Dennis Kucinich] so distrusted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2011 march to war in Libya that they opened their own diplomatic channels with the Gadhafi regime in an effort to halt the escalating crisis, according to secret audio recordings recovered from Tripoli.”

The Pentagon liaison to Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Seif, indicated that Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., a top aide to then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen, “does not trust the reports that are coming out of the State Department and CIA, but there’s nothing he can do about it.”

Despite these concerns, the Obama Administration, on March 17, 2011, supported U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 for military intervention in Libya. On that day Clinton ordered a general within the Pentagon to refuse to take a call from Gadhafi’s son Seif and other high-level members within the regime, to help negotiate a resolution. A day later, on March 18, 2011, Gadhafi himself called for a cease-fire, another action the administration dismissed.

In released, but redacted emails, Clinton expressed interest in arming Libyan opposition groups using private security contractors, though at the time, the opposition was not formally recognized by the U.S. or United Nations, which prohibited arming without following strict guidelines and oversight. In an April 8, 2011 email to her then-deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan, Clinton wrote: “FYI. The idea of using private security experts to arm the opposition should be considered,” attaching an intelligence report from adviser Sidney Blumenthal, her preferred source of intelligence.

It now appears probable that, in 2011, at Clinton’s urging, Obama secretly approved the arming of rebels in Libya and Syria via a third party, likely Qatar, the only Arab nation at the time that recognized the rebel government and brokered the sale of more than $100 million in crude oil from rebel-held areas.

Many of those weapons would ultimately be destined for Syria.

Through shipping records, Fox News confirmed that the Libyan-flagged vessel Al Entisar, which means “The Victory,” was received in the Turkish port of Iskenderun — 35 miles from the Syrian border — on Sept. 6, 2012, five days before the Benghazi terrorist attack. The cargo reportedly included surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles, RPG’s and Russian-designed shoulder-launched missiles known as MANPADS, all believed destined for Syrian rebel groups.

Both Obama and Clinton had a vested interest in lying about Benghazi and permanently concealing the truth; Obama to ensure his reelection prospects in 2012 and Hillary to protect hers for 2016. It is significant, however, that Clinton was the most aggressive administration official promoting the arming of the Libyan Islamists and the first to associate the video with the Benghazi attack (see timeline) as well as its most vigorous and persistent advocate.

A Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report presented in August 2012 and declassified in May 2015, stated that “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al- Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” being supported by “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey.”

An article published a year earlier, on June 21, 2014, noted:

“The present Shia-Sunni civil war in Iraq was fueled by American abdication of a foreign policy in Syria, where we sub-contracted our interests to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Instead of dealing directly with the moderate Free Syrian Army, we outsourced the funding and arming responsibilities.

They then pursued their own interests; the Saudis supporting radical Islamic Salafis, while the Turks and Qataris backed the Muslim Brotherhood, all of which was at least partially meant to counter growing Iranian influences in the region, but complicating America’s anti-terrorism efforts.”

An interview with retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, former head of the DIA, given to Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan, confirms earlier suspicions that Washington was monitoring jihadist groups emerging as an opposition in Syria. General Flynn dismissed Al Jazeera’s supposition that the US administration “turned a blind eye” to the DIA’s analysis, stating: “I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.”

The disintegration of Libya and the rise of ISIS can rightfully be placed at the doorsteps of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

History will prove that it was not just incompetence, but criminal negligence in the conduct of foreign policy and the safeguarding of American lives.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of “Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution “. He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.

See also:

World View: The Arab World is Disintegrating into War

ISIS video

ISIS video

Breitbart, by JOHN J. XENAKIS, July 19, 2015:

Behind the scenes in the Iran nuclear deal

President Barack Obama and Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei (AFP)

President Barack Obama and Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei (AFP)

I like to reference Debka’s newsletter because it contains valuable insights into what’s going on, but it is written from Israel’s point of view, and sometimes gets things wrong. This week’s subscriber-only newsletter (sent to me by a subscriber) contains an analysis of the behind the scenes activities that led to the Iran nuclear deal:

  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has been talking about developing nuclear technology, but it really is a bluff, designed to get the US to negotiate the nuclear deal and remove sanctions. Iran has no intention of developing a nuclear weapon while Obama is in office, since the relationship with Obama is more important. — This is plausible, and probably true
  • The Shah of Iran was overthrown by Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini in 1979 with the support of President Jimmy Carter and his national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. The Shah was double-crossed. — This is plausible, but I have no idea whether it’s true.
  • Brzezinski and his long-time associate Brent Scrowcroft were influential in the new Iran-US deal. — This is plausible.
  • Obama now expects Iran, perhaps naively, to shoulder most of the burden of fighting the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Iraq and Syria. — It’s plausible that Obama believes this.
  • Many Sunni Arab leaders, including Saudi’s new king Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, believe that Obama helped bring about the “Arab Spring” in order to help Iran’s rise. — It’s plausible that Arab leaders believe this, but it’s not possible for Obama or any politician to have caused or prevented the Arab Spring. For that matter, Carter and Brzezinski could not have caused or prevented Iran’s Great Islamic Revolution. These great events were caused by enormous generational changes that could not have been stopped any more than a tsunami can be stopped.
  • Obama turned his back on the Sunni Arab nations because he sees the Arab world as disintegrating into bloody, hopeless wars.
  • The continuing rhetorical fury of Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Iran agreement has outlived its usefulness, according to some Israeli officials, who feel he should moderate his statements and instead focus on a new strategy to deal with the new world following the agreement.

Generally, the Debka view is consistent with my article “15-Jul-15 World View — Arab views of Iran nuclear deal,” including the fact that Iran is becoming America’s ally, and the Sunni Arabs will be America’s enemy. Debka

The Arab world is disintegrating into war

The same Debka newsletter points out that the number of conflicts in the Arab world is larger than the number of Arab nations involved in the conflicts:

  • Libya has fallen apart and is mired in tribal warfare and war with ISIS.
  • Egypt is plagued by frequent terrorist attacks by both ISIS (as “Sinai Province”) and the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Syria is mired in an endless war pitting Bashar al-Assad’s army plus Hezbollah plus Iran plus Shia militias from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan versus ISIS plus other jihadists and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
  • Iraq is in full-scale war with ISIS.
  • Lebanon is poised on a knife’s edge from the spillover of the Syrian war.
  • Jordan is ostensibly stable, but Bedouin tribes’ traditional loyalty to the crown is being undermined, and Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and ISIS are each poised to move in on Amman.
  • Yemen is in a civil war, in which Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations are fighting the Iran-backed Houthis. The battle is being exploited by al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS to seize large swathes of land.
  • Saudi Arabia is caught up in three wars — Yemen, Iraq and Syria — with grave domestic challenges from the Shias in the east and from the 16-19 year old Sunni youths, nearly a third of whom are without jobs and have set up clandestine cells across the kingdom dedicated to toppling the House of Saud.

On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman have lined up behind the Iran nuclear deal and have maintained good relations with Iran. In particular, the UAE expects to gain from the Iran’s post-sanctions import and export trade by having Dubai become the biggest free port in the Gulf.

Debka says that the Arab governments are, like Israel, in a state of disarray after being swept aside by the Iran deal, and in a state of gloom over all the wars going on. The Arab nations need to focus on creating a new Arab regional structure to replace the outdated Arab League.

As we have been saying for many years, the Mideast is headed for a major regional ethnic and sectarian war with 100% certainty, and events seem to bring that war closer every week. This is particularly true of last week’s major event, the Iran nuclear deal.

It is impossible to predict the sequence of political events that will lead to this regional war, but the concept of “a new Arab regional structure” suggests one possibility. My expectation is that, sooner or later, the Arab states will unite with ISIS to fight Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, and this new Arab regional structure may be the political mechanism that brings all these Sunni and Arab elements together to fight Iran. Debka

Saudi Arabia conducts major anti-terrorism sweep against ISIS

In a major anti-terrorism sweep across the country, Saudi Arabia has arrested 431 people believed to belong to ISIS cells, “as part of a scheme managed from troubled areas abroad and aimed at inciting sectarian strife and chaos.” According to the Saudi statement statement:

The number of arrested to date was 431 … detainees, most of them citizens, as well as participants holding other nationalities including Yemeni, Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, Algerian, Nigerian, Chadian, and unidentified others.

What combines these cells (which were subjected to security restrictions by not making direct contacts among themselves) is the belonging to the terrorist ISIS organization in terms of the adoption of thought, takfir of society and bloodshed, and then exchanging roles to implement the plans and objectives dictated from abroad.

There have been several terrorist attacks on Shia mosques in eastern Saudi Arabia, and the purpose of the announcement in part was to make it clear to the Shias in the east that the government is doing something. The Saudis claim that they have thwarted six additional planned attacks on Shia mosques.

The fact that over 400 people have been arrested gives an idea of the scale of threat that the Saudis face in ISIS. Saudi Press Agency and AP and Arab News

Massive bomb attack in Iraq market kills over 130

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a massive bomb attack in a crowded open-air market in Khan Bani Saad, a mostly Shia town 20 miles northeast of Baghdad. The death toll is 130 and climbing, making it the biggest ISIS civilian terror attack in the country.

A man in a truck pulled up to the marketplace in the extreme summer heat and said he was selling ice at a discount to celebrate the end of Ramadan. He lured over 100 people to the truck, and the detonated at least one ton of explosives.

Khan Bani Saad is in Diyala province, which borders Iran. It’s the only province in Iraq where Iranian jets are known to have conducted airstrikes against ISIS earlier this year.CNN and AP

Obama Makes the Worst Trade in US History: Israel for Iran

iran-oabmaThe Blaze, by Benjamin Weingarten, July 14, 2015:

On the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, a despicable and disastrous betrayal has become clear: President Barack Obama has traded Israel for Iran.

In the annals of the history of American foreign policy filled with pages of willful blindness, amorality and often State Department-led folly, there are few things more substantively and symbolically egregious than this fundamental transformation.

Consider the two nations of which we are speaking: One is the largest state sponsor of terror in the world, run by genocidal jihadist theocrats who in their Twelver Shiite theology seek to bring on the apocalypse by destroying the cradle of world civilization. The other is a bastion of liberty, plurality, dynamism, creativity and innovation, despite being surrounded by myriad hostile regimes.

In a sane world, it would be unthinkable, unconscionable, and un-American for us to turn on the state of Israel – the front line of Western civilization against barbarians who seek to take us, and who are fast taking themselves, back to the seventh century.

But then we are in year seven of the Obama presidency, an “Alice in Wonderland” world in which the seemingly perverse has become the norm, all in the name of regressive progressivism.

While Americans focus on the seen of beheadings or the destruction of ancient artifacts by Islamic State in high definition, that shock our collective conscience, the unseen is that Iran is quietly becoming the hegemon in the Middle East – and perhaps in the eyes of President Obama, America’s top ally in the region.

The easing of sanctions allowing billions of dollars of wealth to flow to a tottering economy and allowing thecontinued enrichment of uranium – will provide legitimacy to a terrorist regime and show the world that – like Neville Chamberlain’s England – America has chosen to appease evil rather than confront it.

Meanwhile, as DEBKA asserted in a recent memo, Iran has concurrently been “taking up forward positions in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, where they are busy fashioning a Shiite Crescent that encircles Sunni Arab states as well as Israel.”

(Image Source: DEBKA)

(Image Source: DEBKA)

America under this president has consciously chosen to stand by all the while. As Tony Badran wrote in a stunning analysis at NOW [emphasis mine]:

In one of Obama’s several letters to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, he reportedly presented finalizing the deal on the nuclear program as the gateway to a broader regional partnership, especially against Sunni extremist groups like the Islamic State (ISIS).

This partnership is central to Obama’s broader objective of extricating the U.S. from the Middle East and leaving in place a new security structure, of which Iran is a principal pillar. His tacit policy from Baghdad to Beirut has been to partner with Iranian-backed forces as the boots on the ground in the campaign against Sunni extremists. In Iraq and Lebanon especially, the U.S. partnership with Iranian assets and Iran-dominated state institutions has created a de facto condominium between the U.S. and Iran. 

Lest we conclude the spread of Iran’s tentacles throughout the Levant primarily endangers Sunni jihadists, the title of a recent paper from MEMRI spells out the real casualty: “From The Mediterranean to the Golan, Iran Builds Active Front And Direct Military Presence On Israel’s Border To Deter Israel And Further Ideology Of Eliminating The Zionist Regime.”

MEMRI quotes from a columnist for the Lebanese Al-Akhbar paper:

Israel faces a fateful crisis. As much as it feared the Iranian nuclear program, it never imagined that Iran would be standing on its border even before its nuclear agreement with the Americans was complete. The Iranian threat to Israel is no longer theoretical…[t]he threat has become direct, practical and conventional.

President Obama’s strategy during this time, as DEBKA pithily put it, has been to make:

…sure Israel was well supplied with all its material security needs. This enabled him to boast that no U.S. president or administration before him had done as much to safeguard Israel’s security.

But behind this façade, Obama made sure that Israel’s security stayed firmly in the technical-material-financial realm and never crossed the line into a strategic relationship.

That was because he needed to keep his hands free for the objective of transferring the role of foremost U.S. ally in the Middle East from Israel to Iran, a process that took into account the ayatollahs’ nuclear aspirations.

This process unfolding over recent years has left Israel face to face with a nakedly hostile Iran empowered by the United States.

To pause for a second, it bears emphasizing: Today analysts are discussing Iran as the center of stability and top ally in the Middle East, referring to a “special relationship” between America and a genocidal, Jew-hating, jihadist regime. Nary anyone has stopped to acknowledge the monumental, shameful and, dare I say, treasonous implications of this fact.

Those in the Middle East however are fully awake to this metamorphosis, which is why Egypt has perhaps become Israel’s staunchest ally, and why several Arab nations – which may still detest Israel’s existence, but not as much as they fear their own survival — are effectively siding with Israel against Iran.

That the Obama administration was rebuffing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu several days before he was even scheduled to speak in front of Congress – that the Obama administration even had to producetalking points about its support for Israel — evinces the Israel-Iran trade.

Nations, like friends, should not have to recite talking points to prove their allegiance. And actions speak louder than words.

***

We have two choices:

We can believe that President Obama genuinely thinks Iran — an enemy of America since 1979, whose proxies have been responsible for countless terrorist attacks against our citizens and our interests – will cease its nuclear weapons program, and serve as a stabilizing influence in the Middle East.

Alternatively, we can believe that President Obama knows that the Iranians are committed to undermining Israel and the interests of the West.

If we conclude the former, there is slightly less cause for concern.

Yet if we conclude the latter, we must also conclude that America’s president has knowingly aided, abetted or enabled Israel’s worst enemies – led by Iran – in the Middle East, presumably under the logic that global social justice demands it.

Israel – a free, tolerant and modern nation – has morphed through the propaganda of the global Left into a colonialist, apartheid state. Those who seek her destruction are considered by the Left to be legitimately aggrieved, and “lest we get on our high horse,” as the president likes to say, don’t forget about the Crusades.

In the Edward Said, Rashid Khalidi, Saul Alinsky world of progressive elitism in which President Obama considers himself a global citizen in good standing, what is moral and just is to redistribute power from America’s historical allies (the oppressors) to America’s historical enemies (the oppressed).

Hence President Obama’s “open hand” foreign policy towards “clenched fists,” a policy declared from the beginning of his presidency under which he has aided the global jihad generally and Iran specifically.

Those who argue that President Obama’s foreign policy has been one of retreat are only half right: The president has stepped back from the situations that most require American leadership and moral clarity in support of our allies against evil, while interjecting himself needlessly in other situations – implicitly or explicitly – on behalf of our enemies.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in President Obama’s trade of Israel for Iran.

Ben Weingarten is a frequent Blaze contributor, Host and Producer of TheBlaze Books podcast, Editor of TheBlaze Books and Publishing Manager, focusing on defense.

***

Also see:

THE MIDDLE EAST PROSPECT

unholyalliancePowerline, by Scott Johnson, July 12, 2012:

The David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Texas retreat took place last month in Dallas. I have posted videos of the presentations by Stanley Kurtz and Bret Stephens at the retreat. Other videos from the retreat are posted here.

In the video below, Daniel Pipes presents a survey of the Middle East in the Age of Obama. It works as an excellent companion to Stephens’s presentation; Pipes provides a regional close-up following Stephens’s global view (to borrow the title of Stephens’s weekly Wall Street Journal column). As with the the other two videos, I commend this one to your attention with the thought that it is worth your time. Even if you follow the news closely I think you are likely to learn something from this presentation.

The son of Richard Pipes, the prominent historian of Russia, Daniel Pipes is a brilliant student of the Middle East. He is the author of notable books including The Rushdie Affair and, most recently, Nothing Abides.

One of the ladies at PolitiChicks caught up with Pipes after his presentation in Dallas last month. She asked him to identify the greatest threat to the United States (video below). Let’s just say that we’re on the same wavelength.

I have been a reader and fan of Pipes for a long time. I saw him speak about Islamic terrorism before a campus audience at Yale in 2005 or so. He struck me as a scholar with the soul of a warrior. I caught up with Pipes in Minneapolis in 2012 when he was in town for a family wedding and posted a brief video in which I inarticulately asked him about the current relevance of the Rushdie affair here.

***

Politichicks also interviewed Andrew McCarthy. They discussed threats to U.S. & justice for Benghazi