Iranian-backed Hizballah and Hamas Bolster Worldwide Terrorist Presence

Lebanese Hezbollah supporters gesture as they march during a religious procession to mark Ashura in Beirut's suburbs. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Lebanese Hezbollah supporters gesture as they march during a religious procession to mark Ashura in Beirut’s suburbs. (photo credit:REUTERS)

by IPT News  •  Jul 1, 2015

While the West extends nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Islamic Republic continues to enhance its international terrorism infrastructure through its proxies. Hizballah has 950 active operatives in the Western European state while Hamas maintains 300 operatives, according to a German intelligence report summarized by the Jerusalem Post.

The number of Islamists in Germany rose from 43,190 in 2013 to 43,890 in 2014, the report said.

Radical Islamists are “the greatest danger to Germany…Germany is on the spectrum of goals for Islamic terrorists,” said Hans-Georg Maassen, president of German’s domestic intelligence agency – the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).

The report’s chapter on “Islamism and Islamic terrorism” reveals that “Hamas was successful” in organizing people beyond its main support base to participate in anti-Israel protests. There were “more Hamas- supporting events than peace demonstrations, and there was clearly public anti-Semitism” during last summer’s war in Gaza.

A reminder about Hizballah’s reach came this week in a Cyprus criminal court, where an operative was sentenced to six years in jail following a guilty plea to all eight charges levied against him in connection with a plot to attack Israeli and Jewish targets. Authorities seized nine tons of ammonium nitrate from Hussein Bassam Abdallah, a Lebanese-Canadian. Prosecutors revealed that Abdallah was recruited into Hizballah’s military wing roughly five years ago and visited Cyprus approximately 10 times since 2012. This incident marks the second time a Cypriot court sentenced a Hizballah operative to prison for planning attacks against Israeli targets in the last three years.

These developments demonstrate that Iranian backed terrorist organizations continue to bolster their presence internationally and plot attacks throughout the world. Over the last few years, Hizballah has planned attacks against Israeli and Western targets in Thailand, India, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Nepal, and Nigeria among others. In 2012, the terrorist group was responsible for a deadly suicide bus bombing which killed five Israeli tourists and the bus driver in Bulgaria.

Hamas, a terrorist group with long-standing Iranian support, is also enhancing its international terrorist infrastructure. For example, recent reports show that Hamas is actively recruiting Palestinians studying in Malaysia, who are then sent to train in Turkey, to conduct terrorist attacks against Israelis upon returning to the West Bank.

Concerns Raised Over US Co-existence with Iranian-Backed Militias in Iraq

Iraqi fighters of the Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq (The League of the Righteous) gesture upon their return to the southern city of Basra, on June 14, 2015. The group is fighting alongside Iraqi security forces against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in an attempt to try to retake the strategic northern town of Baiji. At least 11 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed the previous day near the town of Baiji in a series of suicide attacks claimed by IS jihadists. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI

Iraqi fighters of the Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq (The League of the Righteous) gesture upon their return to the southern city of Basra, on June 14, 2015. The group is fighting alongside Iraqi security forces against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in an attempt to try to retake the strategic northern town of Baiji. At least 11 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed the previous day near the town of Baiji in a series of suicide attacks claimed by IS jihadists. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI

Center for Security Policy, by Jennifer Keltz June 30, 2015:

Last week, news reports surfaced that US troops in Iraq have been sharing the Taqqadum military base with Iranian-backed Shia militias, some of which have killed US troops in the past. The Pentagon said that US forces are separated from the militias, which are operating on a different part of the base, though liaisons that are members of the militias have been working with the US and Iraq.

Iran has been a key contributor to the Iraqi fight against the Islamic State (IS), and this fact has been acknowledged by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. In recent a conversation with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Abadi told Khamenei that Iran’s support of Shia militias fighting IS is essential to defeating the organization.

Iraq has also greatly benefited from US involvement in the fight against IS, as the US has been providing training and supplies to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. In March, the US officially began to provide more concrete support, beyond simply training Iraqi troops, for the offensive against IS in Tikrit. The US began providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance at the request of the Iraqi government.

Throughout the fight against IS, the US has maintained a military presence of 3,100 troops in Iraq. After the fall of Ramadi, the US decided to deploy approximately 400 more troops, signifying its investment in staying involved in the fight. Along with these additional troops to supplement those already in Iraq, senior members of the military have advised expanding the operational capacities of the US troops to allow them to conduct on-the-ground missions.

An escalation of US involvement in Iraq, coinciding with increased coexistence and cooperation between US and Iranian-backed Shia militias, raises some questions.

The first issue that must be addressed is that of the safety of US forces sharing space with the Shia militias. According to the Pentagon, Shia militias left the base before the US troops arrived. However, they are actually staying in a different area on the base, though the base is reportedly very large (larger than Vienna, VA, a town in the Washington, D.C. suburbs). Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq War veteran, is apprehensive of the arrangement because many Americans were killed in Iraq as a result of bombs supplied by Iran. Adding to this concern, the militias are headed by the leader of Hezbollah in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and include the League of the Righteous, which still boasts about a roadside execution of five US soldiers near Karbala in 2007. US troops have not clashed with the militias in the 11 months that US special operations forces will be in Iraq, but a senior administration official said that “there’s no real command and control from the central government. Even if these guys don’t attack us … Iran is ushering in a new Hezbollah era in Iraq, and we will have aided and abetted it.”

The second issue regards the potential for an armed offensive jointly led by US, Iraqi, and Iranian-backed forces. The US gives weapons to the Iraqi government only, but knows that many end up being used by the Shia militias. Additionally, some militia commanders have been allowed to be present at US military and intelligence briefings for the Iraqi government-controlled Iraqi Security Forces. As previously stated, the Shia militias have a history of violence toward US troops, which could prove disastrous if they turn on the US on the battlefield.

Additionally, the US is still engaged in nuclear negotiations with Iran. A short-term military alliance between the US and Iranian-backed forces in Iraq could lead to US officials developing a false sense of security over the veracity of Iran’s commitment to peace.

In reality, Iran will almost certainly use the nuclear capabilities it will gain in the deal with the US for military purposes while continuing to spread weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah, terrorizing the Middle East and the world. Iran views itself as a lostempire and the leader of a global Islamic revolution. The Iranian regime seeks to seize territories formerly controlled by the Persian empire, including Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. Iran recently trumpeted its control of four Arab capitals, including Baghdad, San’aa, Damascus and Beirut.

A battlefield alliance with US forces gives an unacceptable appearance of legitimacy to all of Iran’s military and foreign policy goals. The United States must find a strategy to advance its efforts against the Islamic State without empowering Iran’s Islamic revolution.

Also see:

NIAC June 25 Discussion on Geopolitical Implications of Nuclear Deal with Iran

Slavin-Beinart-Parsi-Kaplan-Web-3CSP, by Caitlin Anglemier, June 26, 2015:

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) serves as de factor influence for Iranian interests in Washington politics, as previously reported by the Center for Security Policy’s Clare Lopez. Trita Parsi, NIAC’s president, has been very influential in this process.

Yesterday, June 25, NIAC held a discussion on “The Geopolitical Implications of an Iran Deal”. The panel of speakers included: Peter Beinart, contributing editor forThe Atlantic and National Journal; Fred Kaplan, war stories columnist for Slate; Dr. Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council; and Barbara Slavin, South Asia Center senior fellow for the Atlantic Council.

The talk began with a discussion on how foreign policy has become a primary focus of the Republican party and how generally, the Democratic party tends to place more emphasis on social and economic issues. The discussion then drifted towards discussing the negotiation talks themselves and the ten-year time period aspect. The panel acknowledged the concern that many have, which is that the ten-year period is just delaying the inevitable truth that Iran could obtain a nuclear weapon within a year. But the panel emphasized the importance of those ten years. While that negative viewpoint is out there, why not try to focus on the time positively and the opportunity it provides for even more talks, negotiations, and compromising?

In trying to frame the ten-year period in such a positive manner, the NIAC panel attempted to depict a reality that is simply not accurate. Solely based on how the nuclear deal negotiations have gone so far, it would be foolish to think that ten years of talks and additional demands would go any better than what has transpired-which has not been good at all.

The discussion then moved to reflecting on the implications of all the money involved in the deal talks. “…[the US] will have released a total of $11.9 billion to the Islamic Republic [of Iran] by the time nuclear talks are scheduled to end in June, according to figures provided by the State Department”. The panel seemed to indicate that if a deal is successfully reached, Iran would utilize the freedom gained from lifted sanctions as well as the cash assets given from the United States to benefit the people of Iran. The panel’s theory was that if Iran continued, over the next ten years, to send money overseas for alternative projects, the people of Iran would start questioning the government and would become upset. In the past, Iran has used the funds it had to fund terrorism and terrorist organizations. If the country has placed an emphasis on aiding terrorism over taking care of its people in the past, why would that change after a new deal?

The last part of the discussion before questioning commenced revolved around the “misfortunate reality” that the US can’t work in alliance with Iran to combat the Islamic State. The panel emphasized how the Islamic State is well aware of the fact that all of its major opponents are at war with one another, and has already taken advantage of this situation. At first glance it does seem that Iran has taken steps towards combatting the Islamic State. However, Iran is actually continuing to fund Hezbollah as well as Shia tribes and militias. While the US clearly wants to abolish the Islamic State, this must be accomplished without simultaneously strengthening Iran and its militant connections. This hypothetical alliance with Iran against IS could never manifest itself in reality.

The last part of the discussion allowed for members of the audience to ask questions to the panel. One of the most prominent themes of questioning revolved around the exact details of the deal talks and their implications. The panel tried to emphasize with great significance the problem of coming to negotiations with lists of hardline demands, and with no willingness to compromise or concede anything on any of the details. The US tried to approach the talks with certain demands, and has essentially back peddled on almost all of them. There has been no compromising either side of the talks. A speaker on the panel described compromise as “a dirty word”. This is not the most effective way to reach agreements and negotiate.

More importantly, even if we were able to compromise and establish a negotiation with Iran on their desires and demands, we have no reason to believe that they will be honest and follow through on said demands in the future. Therefore, this essentially indicates that a “deal” is just a blissfully ignorant façade.

Conclusive, the discussion was polite, peaceful, and very informative. It would be easy to imagine a listener walking away with a positive mental image of Iran and the extensive benefits a successful nuclear deal agreement. However, we must take it upon ourselves to not be so easily deceived. Pursuing an agreement with Iran in nuclear talks is not only a waste of time and resources, it would result in directly providing Iran with significant relief from sanctions as well as billions of dollars. And contrary to what some apparently believe, these billions will in fact not be used towards benefiting the wellbeing of the Iranian citizens, but will continue to be used in funding terrorism and terrorist organizations.

We must abandon these attempts at negotiations with Iran before we make ourselves out to be even greater pushovers than we have already portrayed.

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The Obama administration has been assuring lawmakers that there can be prompt reporting and measures such as “snap back” sanctions if Iran cheats. By now, the record goes far to suggest that in the time it takes State to transmit a legally required report to Congress, Iran could violate its way to a nuclear breakout.

Is Kurdistan Rising?

The State of the Kurds  WSJ 6-20-15

NER, by Jerry Gordon, June 21, 2015:

In the Wall Street Journal Weekend edition, June 20-21, 2015, Yaroslav Trofimov writes of the possible rise of an independent Kurdistan, “The State of The Kurds”.  An independent Kurdistan was promised by the WWI Allies in the Treaty of Sevres that ended the Ottoman Empire in 1920. That commitment was dashed by the rise of Turkish Republic under the secularist Kemal Atatürk confirmed in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne denying an independent Kurdistan in what is now Eastern Turkey. Combined a future Kurdistan encompassing eastern Turkey, Northern Syria, northwest Iran and northern Iraq might comprise a landlocked republic of 30 million with significant energy and agricultural resources.  The rise of Kurdistan is reflected in these comments in the Trofimov WSJ review article:

Selahattin Demirtas, Chairman of the HDP party in Turkey:

The Kurds’ existence was not recognized; they were hidden behind a veil. But now, after being invisible for a century, they are taking their place on the international stage. Today, international powers can no longer resolve any issue in the Middle East without taking into account the interests of the Kurds.

Tahir Elçi, a prominent Kurdish lawyer and chairman of the bar in Diyarbakir, Turkey:

In the past, when the Kurds sought self-rule, the Turks, the Persians and the Arabs were all united against it. Today that’s not true anymore—it’s not possible for the Shiite government in Iraq and Shiite Iran to work together against the Kurds with the Sunni Turkey and the Sunni ISIS. In this environment, the Kurds have become a political and a military power in the Middle East.

Elçi, amplifies a concern that Sherkoh Abbas, leader of the Kurdish National Syria Assembly (KURDNAS) has expressed in several NER interviews an articles with him:

The PKK has made important steps to adopt more democratic ways. But you cannot find the same climate of political diversity in [Kurdish] Syria as you find in [northern Iraq], and this is because of PKK’s authoritarian and Marxist background. This is a big problem.

As effective as the KRG government and peshmerga have been in pushing back at ISIS forces threatening the capital of Erbil, the real problem is the divisiveness in the political leadership. That is reflected in the comment of  Erbil province’s governor, Nawaf Hadi cited by Trofimov:

For 80 years, the Arab Sunni people led Iraq—and they destroyed Kurdistan. Now we’ve been for 10 years with the Shiite people [dominant in Baghdad], and they’ve cut the funding and the salaries—how can we count on them as our partner in Iraq?” All the facts on the ground encourage the Kurds to be independent.

That renewed prospect reflects the constellation of  events in Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

Supporters cheer Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, HDP, in Istanbul, Turkey, in May, 2015. Source: Emrah Gurel/AP

Supporters cheer Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, in Istanbul, Turkey, in May, 2015. Source: Emrah Gurel/AP

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“What Makes You Think Anybody in the White House Cares about American Hegemony in the Middle East?”

obama-smoking-pot-368x350Frontpage, June 23, 2015 by Daniel Greenfield:

I don’t care much for Kissinger myself, but this line from the former Secretary of State in his conversation with former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren certainly gets to the heart of the matter.

“Meeting with Henry Kissinger early in his term, Oren finds the ex-secretary of state gloomy over the president’s eagerness to reconcile with Iran.

Surely, says Oren, the White House realizes that an “Iran with nuclear capabilities means the end of American hegemony in the Middle East?”

Retorts Kissinger: “And what makes you think anybody in the White House still cares about American hegemony in the Middle East?”

And of course no does.

Oren shows himself to be ridiculously out of date and clueless about American politics when he even broaches the subject. This is the post-American White House whose guiding idea is that weakening America will, supposedly lower anti-American feelings.

It’s Carter on crack.

Obama doesn’t want state-based hegemony. He wants the ideological hegemony of the left without recognizing that he can’t community organize the Middle East the way he community organized America. (For one thing the losing majority in the Middle East tends to be a lot less graceful about losing.)

Also see:

A new strategy for Iraq and Syria

Iraq forcesWashington Post, by Charles Krauthammer, June 18, 2015:

It’s time to rethink Iraq and Syria. It begins by admitting that the old borders are gone, that a unified Syria or Iraq will never be reconstituted, that the Sykes-Picot map is defunct.

We may not want to enunciate that policy officially. After all, it does contradict the principle that colonial borders be maintained no matter how insanely drawn, the alternative being almost universally worse. Nonetheless, in Mesopotamia, balkanization is the only way to go.

Because it has already happened and will not be reversed. In Iraq, for example, we are reaping one disaster after another by pretending that the Baghdad government — deeply sectarian, divisive and beholden to Iran — should be the center of our policy and the conduit for all military aid.

Look at Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi. The Iraqi army is a farce. It sees the enemy and flees, leaving its weapons behind. “The ISF was not driven out of Ramadi. They drove out of Ramadi,” said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Our own secretary of defense admitted that “the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.”

We can train them forever. The problem is one of will. They don’t want to fight. And why should they? They are led by commanders who are corrupt, sectarian and incompetent.

What to do? Redirect our efforts to friendly forces deeply committed to the fight, beginning with the Kurds, who have the will, the skill and have demonstrated considerable success. This year alone, they have taken back more than 500 Christian and Kurdish towns from the Islamic State. Unlike the Iraqi army, however, they are starved for weapons because, absurdly, we send them through Baghdad, which sends along only a trickle.

This week, more Kurdish success. With U.S. air support, Syrian Kurds captured the strategic town of Tal Abyad from the Islamic State. Which is important for two reasons. Tal Abyad controls the road connecting the terror group’s capital of Raqqa to Turkey, from which it receives fighters, weapons and supplies. Tal Abyad is “a lung through which [the Islamic State] breathed and connected to the outside world,” said Kurdish commander Haqi Kobane.

Moreover, Tal Abyad helps link isolated Kurdish areas in the Syrian north into a contiguous territory, like Iraqi Kurdistan. Which suggests that this territory could function as precisely the kind of long-advocated Syrian “safe zone” from which to operate against both the Islamic State and the Bashar al-Assad regime.

More good news comes from another battle line. Last week, the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front, backed by and trained in Jordan, drove the Syrian government out of its last major base in eastern Daraa province, less than 60 miles from Damascus.

These successes suggest a new U.S. strategy. Abandon our anachronistic fealty to the central Iraqi government (now largely under Iran’s sway anyway) and begin supplying the Iraqi Kurds in a direct, 24-hour, Berlin-style airlift. And in Syria, intensify our training, equipping and air support for the now-developing Kurdish safe zone. Similarly, through Jordan, for the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front. Such a serious and relentless strategy would not only roll back Islamic State territorial gains, it would puncture the myth of Islamic State invincibility.

In theory, we should also be giving direct aid to friendly Sunni tribesmen in Iraq whose Anbar Awakening, brilliantly joined by Gen. David Petraeus’ surge, utterly defeated the Islamic State progenitor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, in 2006-2007. The problem is, having been abandoned by us once, when President Obama liquidated our presence in 2011, why should the Sunnis ever trust us again?

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A Plan to Defeat ISIS

Published on Jun 18, 2015 by securefreedom

Center for Security Policy Exec. VP Jim Hanson announced CSP’s plan to topple that Caliphate and Defeat ISIS at the National Security Luncheon held at the Capitol Visitor’s Center 17 July 2015

Also see:

Iraq’s PM introduces US-designated terrorist to Iran’s President

Abu Mahdi al Muhandis (left) shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi’s hand is also extended.

Abu Mahdi al Muhandis (left) shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi’s hand is also extended.

LWJ, BY BILL ROGGIO | June 18th, 2015:

During yesterday’s meeting in Tehran between Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the former introduced the latter to Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, the operations chief for the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Committee and a US-listed Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

Muhandis, who the US government has described as “an advisor to” Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’s Qods Force, was photographed with Abadi earlier this month. And he also has been photographed with Soleimani in Baghdad just last month.

Muhandis’ prominence in the top circles of power demonstrates just how much the Iraqi government has relied on the Popular Mobilization Committee to fight its battles after Iraqi security forces all but collapsed in the face of the Islamic State’s advance last summer.

The paramilitary Popular Mobilization Committee is dominated by Shiite militias such as Hezbollah Brigades (directed by Muhandis), Asaib al Haq (the League of the Righteous, led by Qais Qazali, who was in US custody for his role in murdering five American soldiers), Saraya al Salam (Muqtada al Sadr’s Peace Brigades), Harakat Nujaba (led by Akram Abbas al Kabi, a SDGT), Saraya Khorasani (Khorasan Brigades), the Imam Ali Brigades (directed by Muhandis), and the Badr Organization. Hezbollah Brigades is listed by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization while top leaders of Asaib al Haq, the Imam Ali Brigade, and Harakat Nujaba are listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. All of these groups remain hostile towards the US. Two of them, Harakat Nujaba and Saraya al Salam, have threatened to attack US interests as recently as this spring.

Despite the Popular Mobilization Committee’s deep ties to Soleimani and Qods Force, as well as known key leaders being listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, the US government has embraced the group as a moderating force in Iraq, and one worth backing. [See Threat Matrix report, US support for Iranian-backed Shiite militias ‘should not alarm us,’ General Allen says.]

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Also see:

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FDD Senior Fellows Bill Roggio & Thomas Joscelyn speak on the conflicts in the Middle East:

The Most Inexcusable Crime in the Muslim World

Gatestone Institute, by Uzay Bulut, June 16, 2015:

  • Even visionary calls for Islamic reform by Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, were not publicly welcomed by a single Western leader.
  • An ideology that encourages its adherents to engage in deadly rioting, burn down embassies, and kill people over cartoons, but that shows no great signs of sorrow as little girls are sold and raped, most likely does not have much to contribute to advancing civilization.
  • An ideology that treats women as property, that murders or imprisons intellectuals and that sentences a blogger to 1000 lashes and ten years in jail — if he survives — has no right to blame troubles on the West or anyone else.
  • This view has nothing to do with the West or any kind of Western intervention.

Violence and intolerance envelop the Muslim world. People who commit barbaric acts — slaughtering Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus, almost anyone — say they are merely upholding Islamic sharia law against “blasphemy,” apostasy and “unbelievers.” These Islamic extremists daily take those laws in their own hands, murdering anyone who wants to think freely or differently. Every day, arrests, trials, floggings, torture and the murder of journalists, poets, students and human rights activists are a routine practice.

In 2013, a Pakistani Professor of English, Junaid Hafeez, was arrested and jailed on blasphemy charges after a student affiliated with the Jamaat-i-Islami party accused him of insulting Muhammad, the founder of Islam, on Facebook. His original lawyer, Chaudhry Mudassar, left the case in June 2013 after facing a multitude of death threats. His second lawyer, Rashid Rehman, was shot dead in his office in front of his colleagues on May 7, 2014. His current lawyer, Shahbaz Gurmani, has received death threats, including guns fired outside his house, and a letter from the Islamic State (ISIS), warning him against pursuing the case, and stating that he will be beheaded unless he stops.

Junaid Hafeez remains in jail.

On December 28, 2014 the Egyptian writer Fatima Naoot was brought to court for allegedly “insulting” Islam. Her “crime” was to write comments on her Facebook page criticizing the slaughter of animals during Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice. “I will not be defeated even if I am imprisoned,” Naoot told Reuters. “The loser will be the cultural movement.”

Fatima Naoot is a columnist and poet with a critical mind. She has the courage to speak out against the injustices in her society — traits apparently too threatening for many Muslims.

Article 98(f) of the Egyptian Penal Code prohibits citizens from “ridiculing or insulting heavenly religions or inciting sectarian strife.”

But in Egypt, the law seems to function only against followers of religions other than Sunni Islam. According to the 2014 annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom,

“The bulk of the charges target Sunni Muslim entertainers, prominent personalities, and journalists. Yet the majority of those sentenced by a court to prison terms for blasphemy have been Christians, Shi’a Muslims, and atheists, mostly based on flawed trials. Some 40 percent of the defendants were Christians, a high percentage when compared to the approximately 10-15% Christian population.”

A Muslim cleric, Hussein Ya’qoub, said in 2009, “The Jews are the enemies of Muslims regardless of the occupation of Palestine. You must believe that we will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the earth.”

Another Muslim cleric, Sallah Sultan, said in a speech aired on Hamas TV in 2012, that people he meets everywhere “thirst for the blood of the Jews…. Israel used girls with AIDS to seduce young Egyptians and infect them,” he said, evidently without bothering to validate the story, which is just another example of fabricated Jew-hate.

Neither cleric has yet been brought to court for proudly calling for genocide, but Fatima Naoot is tried for criticizing the slaughter of animals during Eid al-Adha.

On August 30, 2014, an Iranian photographer, Soheil Arabi, 30, was sentenced by a criminal court in Tehran to death by hanging for “insulting the prophet of Islam” (Sabbo al-Nabbi) in Facebook postings. On November 24, 2014, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence.

Soheil Arabi (right) was last year sentenced to death by an Iranian court for “insulting the prophet of Islam” in Facebook postings.

In 2014, Raif Badawi, 31, a Saudi blogger and creator of a website intended to foster debate on religion and politics, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes and 1 million Saudi riyals (about $267,000) for “adopting liberal thought” and “insulting Islam.” Badawi received the first 50 lashes of his sentence on January 9, 2015, outside a mosque after morning prayers, “surrounded by a cheering crowd who cried incessantly ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest)” during the whipping.” The sentence was upheld last week by Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court; the only reprieve can come from King Salman.

In Islamic Sharia law, a free mind is the most inexcusable crime in the Muslim world. Being imprisoned, tortured or put to death for having one is also the reason there are centuries between Muslim countries and the West in the field of human liberation. To Euripides, “Not to speak one’s thought, this is slavery;” to many Muslim countries, free thought is death.

Those who have the courage to try to abolish this “slavery” in the Muslim world are forced to pay a huge price. The young Nobel Prize laureate, Malala Yousefzai, was shot in the head for demanding an education. Lawyers representing people trying to abolish this “slavery” or other allegations — even fraudulent ones — are killed.

You can blow up children at school; deliberately run over innocent people for the sake of jihad; slaughter people at prayer and then distribute sweets to celebrate your “victory;” devalue a woman’s worth in countless ways — by taking four wives, beating them, then with a word divorcing them — and you will be praised by many Muslims for being a “hero,” a “martyr” or a “true Muslim.”

This view has nothing to do with the West or any kind of Western intervention. It was not the Europeans, the United States or the State of Israel that spread these coercive sharia-based laws against blasphemy and apostasy among Muslims.

The Muslim regimes, which do not know even the definition of liberty — and their systematic criminalization of free speech; their suppression of inquiry and creativity; and their unending intertribal fights — are the reason their people have remained in the seventh century.

The rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria; the expanding reach of Iran into four more countries (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen) as the United States retreats from three (Libya, Yemen and Iraq), and the indifference of much of the Muslim world in the face of this new catastrophe, all indicate that there is not yet much hope for positive change in the Muslim world. Even visionary calls for Islamic reform by Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, were not publicly welcomed by a single Western leader.

Apart from the defenders of liberty such as Hafeez, Naoot, Arabi, and Badawi, the situation seems to be getting grimmer by the day. A pamphlet handed out by ISIS answers over 27 questions, including: “Can all unbelieving women be taken captive?” and, “Is it permissible to have intercourse with a female slave who has not reached puberty?”

The pamphlet also approves of enslavement, rape (including of prepubescent girls), beating to achieve gratification [darb al-tashaffi], and torture [darb al-ta’dheeb].

An ideology that encourages its adherents to engage in deadly rioting, burn down embassies, and kill people over cartoons, but that shows no great signs of sorrow as little girls are sold and raped, most likely does not have much to contribute to advancing civilization.

An ideology that treats women as property, that murders or imprisons intellectuals and that sentences a blogger to 1000 lashes and ten years in jail — if he survives — has no right to blame its troubles on the West or anyone else.

Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim, is a Turkish journalist based in Ankara, Turkey.

ISIS, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the West

The famous photograph of Abdulaziz ibn Saud meeting with President Franklin Roosevelt in February 1945 aboard the U.S.S. Quincy symbolizes the incongruity of the Saudi-American "special relationship." (Image source: U.S. Navy)

The famous photograph of Abdulaziz ibn Saud meeting with President Franklin Roosevelt in February 1945 aboard the U.S.S. Quincy symbolizes the incongruity of the Saudi-American “special relationship.” (Image source: U.S. Navy)

Gatestone Institute, by Salim Mansur, June 14, 2015:

  • What principally mattered in accepting Christian support was whether such support served the followers of Islam in spreading the faith. The same thing could also apply to an alliance with the Jews and Israel in defending Saudi interests.
  • In the age of totalitarianism — which in the last century flourished under the various headings of Marxism-Leninism, Stalinism, Hitler’s National Socialism and Maoism — Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb added Islamism. Shariah, as God’s law, in covering and monitoring every detail of human conduct, as Qutb insisted, is total; its enforcement through jihad made for an ideology — Islamism — consistent with the temperament of the totalitarian era.
  • American support in the reconstruction of Germany and Japan after 1945 was crucial. The transformation of imperial and militaristic Japan into a peaceful democracy was testimony to how American support can make for a better world. In the Korean Peninsula, American troops have held the line between the North and South since the end of the Korean War in 1953; this has made the vital difference in turning South Korea into a democracy and an advanced industrial society.

In a hard-hitting essay on ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) for The Daily Mail, the 2001 Nobel Prize winning author, V.S. Naipaul, wrote: “ISIS could very credibly abandon the label of Caliphate and call itself the Fourth Reich.” Among the writings on Islam and Muslims in recent years, Naipaul’s, as in the books Among the Believers and Beyond Belief, have been perhaps the most incisive and penetrating in exploring the extremist politics of the global Islamist movement from inside of the Muslim world. And that ISIS on a rampage, as Naipaul observed, revived “religious dogmas and deadly rivalries between Sunnis and Shi’as, Sunnis and Jews and Christians is a giant step into darkness.”

Ever since the relatively obscure Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stepped forth on the pulpit of the Great Mosque in Mosul, Iraq, on June 28, 2014 to announce the rebirth of the Caliphate (abolished in 1924 by the Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk), with al-Baghdadi himself assuming the title of Caliph Ibrahim, the ruling head of the ummah, or worldwide community of Muslims, many might agree with Naipaul, despite the hyperbole — he has left out a potentially nuclear Iran — that “ISIS has to be seen as the most potent threat to the world since the Third Reich.”

It is baffling to read about or watch the sweep of terror spawned by ISIS in the name of Islam — a world religion with a following approaching two billion Muslims. It is insufficient merely to point out that the barbarism of ISIS reflects its origins in the fetid swamps of the Sunni Muslim insurgency of post-Saddam Iraq. But ISIS is neither a new presence in the Arab-Muslim history, nor is the response to it by Western powers, primarily Britain and the United States, given their relationship with the Middle East over the past century.

We have seen ISISes before, and not as al-Qaeda’s second coming.

The first successful appearance of an ISIS in modern times was the whirlwind with which the Bedouin warriors of Abdulaziz ibn Saud (1876-1953) emerged from the interior of the Arabian Desert in 1902 to take hold of the main fortress in Riyadh, the local capital of the surrounding region known as Najd. Some twenty-four years later, this desert warrior-chief and his armies of Bedouin raiders defeated the ruling Sharifian house in the coastal province of Hejaz, where lie Islam’s two holy cities, Mecca and Medina.

Husayn bin Ali (1854-1931), Sharif of Mecca and Emir of Hejaz, had joined his fate with the British against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. One of his sons, Prince Feisal, led the “Arab Revolt” for independence from Ottoman rule made famous by T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935). But in the aftermath of the Great War, which brought the Ottoman Empire to its ruin, Bedouin tribes in the interior of the Arabian Desert were jostling for power, and the House of Sharif Husayn proved inept at maintaining its own against threats posed to its rule over Hejaz, and as the khadim [steward] of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Another Englishman, a counterpart to T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”), was Harry St. John Philby (1885-1960), sent as a British agent during the Great War into the interior of the Arabian Desert. Philby would get to know Abdulaziz ibn Saud; eventually he worked for Ibn Saud as the warrior-chief rose in power and prominence. Philby chronicled the emergence of Abdulaziz ibn Saud as “the greatest of all the kings of Arabia,” and wrote the history of Ibn Saud’s tribe and people under the title Arabia of the Wahhabis. In the West, ironically, Philby is better known as the father of Kim Philby, the Soviet double agent, instead of the confidant of the founder of modern Saudi Arabia. Philby apparently became Muslim, took the name of Abdullah, and lived among the Arabs.

The defeat of the Sharifian forces in Hejaz in 1925 cleared the path for Abdulaziz ibn Saud’s eventual triumph in creating the eponymous Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The fall of Mecca to the Bedouin warriors known as the Ikhwan, or the Brethren (to be distinguished from the movement known as Ikhwan al-Muslimin [Muslim Brotherhood] founded by the Egyptian Hasan al-Banna in 1928), ended the ambition of Sharif Husayn and his sons to rule Arabia with the support of the British. The Sharifian defeat also meant that Britain would not have to referee the conflict between two of its allies — Sharif Husayn and his sons on one side, and Abdulaziz ibn Saud and his Ikhwan warriors on the other — competing for mastery over Arabia.

Philby’s loyalty to Abdulaziz ibn Saud restrained him from mentioning the terror and havocIkhwan warriors perpetrated in the occupation of Hejaz and the capture of Mecca and Medina.[1]But he was effusive in describing what he viewed as the renewal of Islam’s original revolution in the desert soil of its birth. He became the premier salesman of Abdulaziz ibn Saud and his family to the outside world, as T.E. Lawrence was of Prince Feisal and the Sharifian claims to rule the Arabs.[2] Philby wrote,

“Ibn Sa’ud made it clear from the beginning that he would tolerate no criticism of or interference with God’s law on earth… On Friday, January 8th, 1926, in the Great Mosque of Mecca after the congregational prayers, Ibn Sa’ud was proclaimed King of the Hijaz with all the traditional ceremony prescribed by Islamic precedent. It was at once an act of faith and a challenge to the world: to be made good in due course, without deviation from the principle on which it was based, to the glory of God, of whose sustaining hand he was ever conscious amid all the vicissitudes of good and evil fortune, which in the long years to come were to lead his people, under his guidance, out of the wilderness into a promised land flowing with milk and honey. The great fight, of four and twenty years almost to the day, was over; and a greater span, by nearly four years, yet lay before him to develop the fruits of victory for the benefit of generations yet unborn: generations which ‘knew not Joseph’, nor ever heard the war-cry of the Ikhwan.”[3]

ii.

The objective of the ISIS is apparently to remake the map of the Middle East, which was drawn by Britain and France as victorious powers in World War I, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. The goal is to unite the Fertile Crescent — the region between the eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf — under the newly resurrected Caliphate’s rule, where “God’s law” will rule without anyone’s interference — much Saudi Arabia’s founder, Abdulaziz ibn Saud, announced in 1926 on entering Mecca.

ISIS’s self-proclaimed leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in announcing the re-establishment of the Caliphate, have set for ISIS a hugely ambitious program, even if it seems anachronistic for Muslims in the twenty-first century.

But ISIS’s gamble to engineer the creation of the Caliphate and obliterate the post-WWI settlement is not entirely far-fetched when considered in the context of the making of Saudi Arabia.

There is also the shared doctrine of the Wahhabi-Salafi interpretation of Islam, which Abdulaziz ibn Saud insisted, and ISIS insists, is the only true Islam; all other versions and sects of Islam among Muslims are denounced as heresy or, worse, as apostasy, to be violently punished.

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire let loose forces in the Middle East, some of which were contained by Britain and France, as victorious powers, in accordance with their Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916.

In the Arabian Peninsula, Britain kept in check the forces let loose, preventing their spillover into the Fertile Crescent, until one coalition of Bedouin warriors led by Abdulaziz ibn Saud emerged as clear winner over the territories previously held by Turkey in the Fertile Crescent.

The deep forbidding interior of the Arabian Peninsula consists of the highlands and desert of Najd, far removed from what were once the major centers of the Islamic civilization at its peak. Inhabited by Bedouin tribes, deeply conservative in their customs and manner of living, and disapproving of the ways of the outside world, Najd was a primitive backwater of the Middle East and was left on its own.

The emergence of Abdulaziz ibn Saud as the ruler of Najd and Hejaz in the 1920s, and then as the monarch of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the watchful eyes of Britain as the hegemonic power in the Middle East after the World War I, was not merely the result of one coalition of Bedouin tribes trouncing its opponents for the spoils of war. It was also the victory of a doctrine — of Wahhabism,[4] to which Abdulaziz ibn Saud was wedded as a legacy of his family and tribal history, and which provided the religious and ideological legitimacy for the so-called “conservative revolution” or the Wahhabi version of Islamic “reform” he heralded in establishing his kingdom.

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The Obama Administration’s Huge Nuclear Concessions to Iran

iran-nuclear-deal-concessions

National Review, by Fred Fleitz, June 15, 2015:

On June 11, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) released a report on a stunning new concession offered by the Obama administration to break a deadlock in the Iran nuclear talks.

The deadlock stems from Tehran’s refusal to permit inspections of military facilities or answer questions about past nuclear-weapons-related work (known as “possible military dimensions” or PMD in U.N.-speak). With the clock ticking down on a June 30 deadline for a nuclear agreement, the refusal of Iranian leaders to budge on these issues has become a political problem for President Obama, who said in April that Iran has agreed to “the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes has said the nuclear agreement will allow “anytime, anywhere inspections of any and every Iranian facility.”

Several U.S. organizations, including the Center for Security Policy (my employer), the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and the bipartisan Iran Task Force, have made anytime, anyplace inspections and resolving PMD questions red lines for a nuclear agreement with Iran. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said late last month that France will not sign off on a nuclear deal if Tehran rules out inspections of military sites.

According to the MEMRI report, the Obama administration proposed the following to resolve the deadlock over inspections of Iranian military facilities, undeclared nuclear sites, and past nuclear-weapons-related work:

• The United States has proposed to close the International Atomic Energy Agency’s PMD dossier and forgo actual IAEA inspections of suspect Iranian nuclear facilities.

• Instead, the IAEA would conduct token inspections of a handful of nuclear sites — including two military sites — and question several senior Iranian military officials.

• Inspections of Iranian nuclear sites after the token inspections would be limited to declared facilities.

• Undeclared and suspect nuclear-weapons sites would be monitored through intelligence means.

MEMRI, a well-regarded think tank in Washington, D.C., sourced its report to statements cited in the Iranian press from Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and head nuclear negotiator, and Hamid Baidinejad, another Iranian nuclear negotiator. Araghchi reportedly said the Iranian negotiating team agreed to the proposed U.S. concession, but the plan was subsequently rejected by Supreme Leader Khamenei and triggered harsh criticism of Iranian officials in the so-called pragmatic camp. Baidinejad claimed the Iranian negotiating team rejected the proposed U.S. concession but agreed to an American request to present it to Khamenei anyway, who rejected it outright.

MEMRI believes CIA director John Brennan was secretly dispatched to Israel in early June to convince Israeli officials (and EU officials via Israel) that intelligence monitoring of PMD-related sites was sufficient, and actual investigation of these sites could be waived. My guess is that Israeli officials reacted to Brennan’s presentation with laughter and derision.

This proposed U.S. concession is appalling, because it would allow Iran to shield military and undeclared sites from IAEA inspectors. Obviously, if Iran is engaged in nuclear-weapons work, the work is not being conducted at declared sites. Given the poor track record of U.S. intelligence agencies in discovering covert nuclear facilities in Iran and North Korea, the idea that intelligence is an adequate replacement for inspections of military and suspect nuclear sites is absurd.

Iran agreed in late 2013 to resolve an IAEA list of PMD-related issues in twelve areas. Iran has resolved questions in only one of these and is refusing to address the rest. Resolving questions about past Iranian nuclear-weapons work is important to set a baseline for verification, since IAEA inspectors need to know what nuclear research Iran has been engaged in and where this work has been conducted. Closing the IAEA’s PMD dossier would seriously undermine efforts to verify a nuclear agreement and would be another instance of Iran getting a pass for cheating on international agreements.

I’ve written previously in NRO that in their desperation to get a nuclear deal with Iran, which they hope will bolster the legacy of the Obama presidency, Obama officials are pursuing a policy of containment of an Iranian nuclear bomb. President Obama has in effect decided to concede the nuclear bomb to Tehran. In such a context, the latest proposed Obama-administration concession to Iran makes sense. Since the nuclear agreement is all about the Obama legacy, and not about stopping or slowing Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, Obama officials will make almost any concession to Iran to get a deal. Iranian leaders know this and are holding out for further and more generous U.S. concessions.

Congress must put a stop to this madness. If a nuclear agreement is concluded with Iran, Congress must reject it on a bipartisan basis. Congress also must restore a responsible U.S. foreign policy on Iran by passing new sanctions requiring Iran to comply with all U.N. Security Council resolutions on its nuclear program.

***

Obama’s Nuclear Concessions to Iran Accelerating

 On June 10, 2015, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, held an important hearing on Iran’s ballistic missile program and why this program must be part of a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Fred Fleitz talks about the dangerous concessions the Obama administration is making with Iran over the nuclear arms deal.

***

Former CIA Head James Woolsey Launches Unprecedented Attack on Iran

***

From the Iran Short Film Series:

U.S. Arms Sales to Lebanon Empowering Hezbollah, Iran

Hezbollah fighters on parade / AP

Hezbollah fighters on parade / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, June 12, 2015:

Newly announced U.S. arms sales to Lebanon coincide with an Obama administration order to cut funding for an anti-Hezbollah Lebanese group, a move foreign policy insiders describe as empowering the Iranian backers of the terrorist group.

Critics are viewing the cut to anti-Hezbollah efforts as another concession by the administration to Iran—which controls and funds Hezbollah—ahead of attempts to finalize a nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic ahead of a June 30 deadline.

Newly disclosed documents reveal that the Obama administration quietly decided in April to cut funds for Hayya Bina, a leading anti-Hezbollah group in Lebanon, “due to a recent shift in Department of State priorities in Lebanon,” according to a letter notifying the group of the funding cuts.

Soon after this move, the United States announced that it would deliver a slew of new weapons to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which has come under intense criticism for its close relationship with Hezbollah and its efforts to bolster the group’s activities in Syria.

The timing of these decisions by the Obama administration has prompted Middle East leaders and foreign policy insiders to accuse the administration of endorsing Hezbollah and shifting the United States’ regional priorities to be more in line with Iran’s.

The State Department, in its letter, ordered that “all activities [by Hayya Bina] intended [to] foster an independent moderate Shia voice be ceased immediately and indefinitely.”

This directly affects the group’s efforts to provide an alternative to Hezbollah, which is an extremist Shiite Muslim militant group.

On Wednesday, the State Department marked the delivery of more than 200 TOW-II missiles and “dozens of launchers to the LAF,” according to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

The military hardware cost more than $10 million and was jointly funded by the United States and Saudi Arabia, according to the State Department.

Around $82.5 million in weapons and ammunition have been provided to the LAF since August 2014.

Additionally, the Pentagon announced this week that it is considering selling Lebanon six A-29 Super Tucano aircraft and support equipment as well as logistical support.

The sale is estimated to cost $462 million, the Pentagon said.

“The Government of Lebanon has requested a possible sale of six A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, eight PT6A-68A Turboprop engines, eight ALE-47 Countermeasure Dispensing Systems, two thousand Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems, eight AN/AAR-60(V)2 Missile Launch Detection Systems, non-SAASM Embedded Global Positioning System/Initial Navigation System (EGIs), spare and repair parts, flight testing, maintenance support, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, ferry support, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support,” according to the Pentagon.

The sale “will provide Lebanon with a much needed Close Air Support (CAS) platform to meet present and future challenges posed by internal and border security threats,” according to the Pentagon. “The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

However, regional experts disagree with this assessment. They argue that given the LAF’s close relationship with Hezbollah, the arms will support the terror group’s military efforts to bolster Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s embattled president.

The LAF is “basically protecting Hezbollah’s rear and flank on the Lebanese side of the border, which in turn allows Hezbollah to run its operations more freely across the border in Syria,” said Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) who first broke the news of the anti-Hezbollah funds being cut.

“They are essentially acting as an auxiliary force for Hezbollah in Lebanon,” he said, adding, the LAF has “taken on the role of securing the same areas Hezbollah is trying to secure. There’s an overlap and it goes to help sustain Hezbollah’s effort in Syria.”

U.S. assistance to the LAF helps Hezbollah continue its fight in Syria, Badran said.

America is “helping the Lebanese seal the border only in one direction, not both directions,” Badran explained. “We’re helping Lebanon, and thus Hezbollah, against anything coming in from the Syrian side, but not to totally seal the border, which would prevent Hezbollah from continuing its war” in Syria.

“We’re facilitating this war in a way,” Badran explained.” That’s the context of the arms. They’re being deployed in a manner that relieves Hezbollah and assists its war effort.”

All of this activity ultimately boosts Iranian interests in the region, where Hezbollah has been propping up Assad at Tehran’s behest.

The Obama administration is “appeasing [Iran] in order to get the nuclear agreement,” said Michael Doran, a former senior director for the White House’s National Security Council (NSC) under George W. Bush.

“The agreement is [Obama’s] absolute top priority, but it is not the strategic goal” said Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. “The goal of the talks was always détente with Iran and that’s what we’re seeing. The nuclear goal is a means to a larger end.”

Badran also warned that ongoing U.S. military support to the LAF is bolstering Iran’s interests.

There is a “consistent attempt by Obama to assure the Iranians that their regional holdings and spheres of influence are recognized and respected,” he said. “He will not cross them and not jeopardize them. That includes in Syria, but by definition, includes it in Lebanon.”

“What we’re doing indirectly is helping Iran secure its strategic objective in Lebanon and Syria,” he said.

ISIS’s Next Target: Baghdad

2348070765Secure Freedom Radio, June 11, 2015:

With Michael Pregent, Bing West, Michael Auslin, Max Abrahms

MICHAEL PREGENT, Senior Middle East Strategic Analyst and Consultant, Visiting Fellow at the National Defense University:

  • President Obama’s plan for fighting ISIS
  • The sectarian divide in Iraq
  • Thoughts on the U.S. training of Iraqi military and Sunni tribes
  • ISIS’s threat to Baghdad

BING WEST, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs:

  • Effects that American troops can have assisting Iraqi security forces
  • What must the United States do to defeat ISIS?
  • The spread of Iranian militias in the Middle East

MICHAEL AUSLIN, Director of Japan Studies at AEI:

  • What makes China’s hack of OPM unique, and how much might the U.S. retaliate?
  • How American taxpayers are inadvertently subsidizing the growth of the Chinese military
  • Japan’s burgeoning leadership role in Asia
  • Finding an “Asia Policy,” and not merely a “China Policy”

MAX ABRAHMS, Asst. Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University:

  • The Administration’s reasoning for the deployment of troops to train Iraqi security forces
  • Risks behind arming a Sunni force in Iraq
  • Prospects of a partitioned Iraq

General Flynn and Ambassador Joseph Testify on Iran’s Missile Program and a Possible Nuclear Deal

NOT IMPRESSED: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, shown here in 2014, warned a House of Representatives panel that the Obama administration – whose Defense Intelligence Agency he ran until 10 months ago – is clueless in its approach to Iran's nuclear game

NOT IMPRESSED: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, shown here in 2014, warned a House of Representatives panel that the Obama administration – whose Defense Intelligence Agency he ran until 10 months ago – is clueless in its approach to Iran’s nuclear gameCSP, by Fred Fleitz, June 11, 215:

On June 10, 2015 the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held an important hearing on Iran’s ballistic missile program and why this program should be part of a nuclear agreement with Iran.

The witnesses at this hearing were:

Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, U.S. Army (retired)
(Former Director, Defense Intelligence Agency)

Ambassador Robert Joseph
Senior Scholar,  National Institute for Public Policy
Former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Dr. David A. Cooper
James V. Forrestal Professor and Chair of the Department of National Security Affairs, U.S. Naval War College

Dr. Anthony H. Cordesman
Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Although all of the witnesses gave excellent presentations, the remarks of General Flynn and Ambassador Joseph were especially noteworthy.  Both believe the nuclear agreement being negotiated with Iran will not stop or slow its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  They are very concerned at the exclusion of Iran’s missile program which they believe is being developed as a nuclear weapon delivery system.  Flynn discusses his concern about a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program.  Joseph explains why the nuclear deal is likely to undermine global nuclear and missile nonproliferation efforts.

Excepts from Joseph’s and Flynn’s testimonies are in the below video.

[be prepared to adjust for volume fluctuations]

To watch the entire hearing from the House Foreign Affairs Committee website, clickHERE.

U.S. Strategy in Lebanon Stirs Fears

People in Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, holding images of Syria’s president watch Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on a screen during his televised speech last month commemorating the 15th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon. PHOTO: ALI HASHISHO/REUTERS

People in Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, holding images of Syria’s president watch Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on a screen during his televised speech last month commemorating the 15th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon. PHOTO: ALI HASHISHO/REUTERS

WSJ, by JAY SOLOMON, June 9, 2015:

AMMAN, Jordan—The U.S. cut funding for a civil society program in Lebanon that seeks to develop alternative Shiite political voices to Hezbollah, the powerful Iranian-backed militia and political party.

The group that received the U.S. support and critics said that the Obama administration was curtailing its efforts to counter Hezbollah to avoid confronting Shiite Iran, with which it is negotiating to conclude a historic nuclear accord this month.

These people say the funding cut imperils a program that underpinned criticism in Lebanon of Hezbollah’s growing role in supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war.

“We are more immediately worried about the message this sends to Shia communities, in Lebanon and the region, about their options for the future,” said Lokman Slim, director of Hayya Bina, the organization that lost the funding.

State Department officials denied pulling U.S. support for the development of alternative Shiite voices in Lebanon, saying the program wasn’t succeeding in its objectives. They said the administration still funds other programs run by Hayya Bina, including one that teaches English to Lebanese Shiite women.

“The U.S. continues to support groups and individuals who share our goal of a democratic, peaceful, pluralistic, and prosperous Lebanon,” said Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman.

But the U.S. move feeds into an alarmed narrative held by many Arab leaders who say that U.S. and Iranian interests appear increasingly aligned—at their expense. Both Washington and Tehran are fighting Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, with U.S. conducting airstrikes against the militants, but notably not against Mr. Assad’s Iran-backed regime.

Hezbollah, which the U.S. classifies as a terror organization, receives extensive funding and arms from Iran. It has deployed 10,000 soldiers in Syria to back Mr. Assad’s forces and counter Islamic State, U.S. officials estimate.

Saudi Arabia’s leadership, which supports the exiled leader of Yemen, was concerned when the U.S. last month met secretly with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels there that caused him to flee.

Most significantly, the Obama administration is seeking to conclude a deal with Iran by June 30 to curb its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

Some pro-democracy activists in Washington also voiced concern that cutting Hayya Bina’s funding will send a message that the U.S. is tacitly accepting Hezbollah in an effort to appease Iran.

“At best, the decision shows poor political judgment,” said Firas Maksad, director of Global Policy Advisors, a Washington-based consulting firm focused on the Middle East. “Coming on the heels of an expected deal with Iran, it is bound to generate much speculation about possible ulterior motives.”

The U.S. government has continued to pressure Hezbollah financially, including teaming with Saudi Arabia in recent months to jointly sanction some of its leaders. “Disrupting Hezbollah’s far-reaching terrorist and military capabilities remains a top priority for the U.S. government,” Mr. Vasquez said.

But the Obama administration has also cooperated with Lebanese institutions—including the armed forces and an intelligence agency—that are considered close to Hezbollah and combating Islamic State and Nusra Front, an al Qaeda-affiliated militia in Syria.

The program in question was budgeted to receive $640,000 between June 2013 and December 2015, according to Hayya Bina. The funding was halted this spring, $200,000 short of the total amount, though the group continues to receive a smaller amount of U.S. funding for the other programs, as it has since 2007.

Two years before, in 2005, a popular uprising, sparked by the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, drove Syrian forces out of Lebanon. U.S. officials believed at the time the uprising would weaken Hezbollah and Iran in Lebanon since both were close Assad allies. Instead, Hezbollah strengthened itself politically and militarily, U.S. and Arab officials say.

The Hayya Bina program in question was funded through the International Republican Institute, which promotes democracy overseas. It sought to support diverse Shiite voices through workshops, publications and public opinion polling. But in April, the institute notified Hayya Bina that the Obama administration was terminating its support for that program.

The State Department “requests that all activities intended [to] foster an independent moderate Shiite voice be ceased immediately and indefinitely,” said the April 10 letter to Mr. Slim, according to a copy seen by The Wall Street Journal. “Hayya Bina…must eliminate funding for any of the above referenced activities.”

Mr. Slim and other Hayya Bina officials said the State Department expressed no reservations about their program’s effectiveness and that the loss forced them to scramble for new funding.

“As Hayya Bina continues to receive State Department support for other projects, we believe the action taken regarding these objectives reflects reservations over the nature of the programming, rather than our organizational integrity,” said Inga Schei, the group’s program director.

Hezbollah has voiced growing criticism of Shiite political leaders and organizations in Lebanon opposed to the militia’s role in supporting Mr. Assad.

Hezbollah’s leader, Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, has publicly branded some of his Shiite political opponents as “Shia of the American Embassy,” in recent speeches, as well as “traitors” and “idiots.”

Mr. Slim said he has been one of those Shiite leaders singled out by Mr. Nasrallah.

“None of us will change our beliefs,” Mr. Nasrallah said in a late May speech, according to the pro-Hezbollah newspaper, Al Akhbar. “From now on, we won’t remain silent [in the face of criticism]; we will accommodate no one. This is an existential battle.”

Also see:

obama-iran-450x286 (2)

How Obama Made Peace Between Israel and the Saudis

Black__White_Handshake_-_Still_from_the_film_Colour_Blind_2009-425x350Frontpage, by Daniel Greenfield, June 9, 2015:

In Washington D.C., the new director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and a former Saudi Major General, both of whom run think tanks with close ties to their respective governments, shook hands.

It wasn’t their first time.

Obama wasn’t there when it happened, but in a way he was responsible for it.

Both men are foreign policy experts who help shape the foreign policies of their countries and had conducted five previous meetings. The topic of the meetings was Iran.

Obama wouldn’t have been pleased by their meeting or by what it represented, but he had brought them together. While Dore Gold, the Israeli, insisted that they had common ground because “We’re both allies of the United States”, it was Obama’s betrayal of both countries that had led them here.

While Obama likes to talk about making peace in the region, his only successful peace effort was this accidental byproduct of his disastrous policies. He had unintentionally managed to bring the Israelis and the Saudis together by alienating both countries with his permission slip for a nuclear Iran.

It was not a peace that he was likely to claim credit for.

Saudi Arabia was Israel’s oldest and most venomous enemy. Ibn Saud had called the Jews, “a race accursed by Allah according to his Koran, and destined to final destruction.” He had vowed to be content eating nothing but “camel’s meat” rather than give up hating the Jews.

“The word of Allah teaches us, and we implicitly believe this O Dickson, that for a Muslim to kill a Jew, or for him to be killed by a Jew ensures him an immediate entry into Paradise and into the august presence of Allah. What more then can a Muslim want in this hard world,” he had added.

And he meant it.

The origins of most of the anti-Israel activities in the Muslim world and the West can be found in Saudi Arabia. The poisoning of academia was funded by Saudi Arabia. The diplomatic and military leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom were turned against Israel by the Saudis. Anti-Israel narratives wound their way into the press and the public forums courtesy of their hired gun PR agencies.

Even BDS has its heavily disguised origins in the boycott of Israel promoted and enforced by the Saudis.

The Saudis haven’t stopped any of this. They are still waging Ibn Saud’s Koranic war against the Jews using academics, retired politicians, diplomats and generals, along with think tanks and PR agencies as their fronts, but they have found something that they hate and fear even more than the Jews.

The Sunni hatred of Shiites is nearly as old as the Islamic hatred of Jews and the Wahhabi forces of the Saudis had conducted massacres of Shiites that closely resemble ISIS actions today.

But this is more than hatred.  The Saudis are afraid.

Obama’s appeasement of Iran has already led to the fall of Yemen and Iranian naval attacks in international waters in the Persian Gulf. And everyone knows that worse is yet to come.

While the Saudis rush to frantically go nuclear before Iran does, their military, despite its billions in American equipment is unreliable. Obama has aligned with the Iran-Syria-Russia axis despite its members being even more hostile to the United States than the Saudis.

The Saudis have far more influence in Washington than the Israelis ever did, though their influence is subtle and understated, without the gaucherie of an AIPAC dinner. But Obama won’t be moved by the slow infusion of subtle narratives from think tanks, retired diplomats and assorted insiders that the Saudis have ably used to turn American politicians around on issues like the War on Terror or Israel.

Obama has decided what he wants to do and the Saudi-orchestrated drumbeat of criticism, like Netanyahu’s speeches, is an irritant that won’t change his worldview.

The Saudis have tried to play a variety of cards. They tried and failed to cut a deal with Putin. They likely played a significant role in removing Morsi from power in Egypt after his flirtation with Iran. That gave them access to a more reliable military than their own force of princes, but the best proven air force in the region still belongs to Israel.

If there is to be any non-American action against Iran’s nuclear program, it will come from Israel.

The United States has spent generations trying to push for peace between Sunni Muslim states and Israel. Perversely, Obama has come closest to achieving that peace by abandoning both sides while backing Jihadist groups and states hostile to both Israel and Sunni Muslim governments.

Obama’s backing for the Muslim Brotherhood ended up bringing Egypt and Israel closer together. Now his backing for Iran is bringing Israel and the Saudis together.

These relationships are not the final and ultimate peace solutions rhapsodized over by naïve crowds and politicians. Those will never come as long as tribalism and theocracy rule the day. They are pragmatic and temporary interactions made necessary by Obama’s transformation of American foreign policy.

The wave of instability created by Obama’s backing for Muslim Brotherhood regime change and then Iranian expansionism has made even formerly stable countries feel insecure. Israel’s best asset in this crisis is its invulnerability to the sectarian waves of Shiite and Sunni conflicts and the rising tide of the Muslim Brotherhood’s brand of political Islamism. While there are a few Muslim Brotherhood members in Israel’s Knesset under the United Arab List banner, there is no risk of them taking over the country.

Even Netanyahu’s reelection has improved Israel’s standing in the Middle East by demonstrating that it has a reliable and steady government that is publicly at odds with Barack Obama.

For the Saudis, the Israeli option is the final option. And it’s not clear that they are doing anything more than exploring it to send a very particular message to Obama and Iran. But in a region swiftly being divided between Iran and various Muslim Brotherhood splinter groups, including Al Qaeda and ISIS, the Jewish State may have become the most reliable counterweight to Iran and Obama.

The old American strategy had sought to create peace between Jew and Muslim under the security umbrella of the Pax Americana. Instead it’s the collapse of the umbrella that has come closest to bringing peace through war against common enemies. By destabilizing the Middle East and turning on the Saudis and Egyptians, Obama accidentally made Israel seem like a more credible partner.

Making the Middle East worse succeeded where trying to make it better had failed.

The post-American world that Obama has been building is a very different place. It is a world in which aggressors like Russia and China are reshaping regions to their liking through conquest and intimidation, but it is also a world in which former allies of the United States are trying to build dams against the tide.

If Hillary succeeds Obama, the resulting post-American world will be a very dangerous place, but like the countryside after the flood waters have washed much of it away, it may also be an interesting place.

Obama has destroyed the international accomplishments of Wilson, FDR, Eisenhower and Reagan while claiming to be their rightful successor. The world is returning to where it was a century ago. And on this new map of the world, an alliance between Israel and the Saudis is only one more strange new territory.