The Watchman: Jihadists on the March

Published on Jul 8, 2014 by The Christian Broadcasting Network

On this week’s edition of The Watchman, we sit down with Middle East experts Raymond Ibrahim and Tawfik Hamid to discuss the latest developments with the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Iran and what can be done to counter the jihadist.

ISIS Declares Caliphate & Demands Loyalty From All Muslims

Screenshot from the Islamic State propaganda video 'Breaking the Borders'

Screenshot from the Islamic State propaganda video ‘Breaking the Borders’

“We took it forcibly at the point of a blade.
We brought it back conquered and compelled.
We established it in defiance of many.
And the people’s necks were violently struck,
With bombings, explosions, and destruction,
And soldiers that do not see hardship as being difficult,”

And lions that are thirsty in battle,
Having greedily drunk the blood of kufr (infidel).

Our khilāfah has indeed returned with certainty” – From the declaration of the Caliphate entitled “This is the Promise of Allah” delivered by the Islamic State spokesman al-Adnani.

On Sunday the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) declared itself a caliphate. It dropped ‘Iraq and Syria from its name and now wishes to be known as the Islamic State. The announcement was made to coincide with the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. They have also changed their flag.

The last caliphate was abolished by the Turks in 1924, bringing an end to the Ottoman Empire, the last of the great empires which ruled the Muslim world. The caliphate that ISIS seeks to recreate, however, is based on the original caliphates of the successors to the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, rather than what they would regard as the weak and corrupted caliphates of later times. The ruler, a caliph, is a religious, political and military position akin to a divinely sanctioned monarchy.

A caliphate is regarded by Sunni Islamic extremists as the only legitimate form of government. Re-establishing it has consistently remained a key goal of groups ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood to Al Qaeda.

Abu Bakr Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) as the caliph and “the leader of Muslims everywhere.” In declaring himself thus, Baghdadi is attempting to seize legitimacy as the leader of the jihadi movement in particular and the Muslim world in general. He was capitalizing on recent sweeping gains made by the group in its capture of Mosul. He will now take on the name and title “Caliph Ibrahim.

One of the primary duties of the caliph is to wage jihad against the kuffar (infidel). In Islamic terms, only a caliph has the authority to declare jihad, immediately marking the Islamic State, in its own eyes, as the only legitimate jihadi organization.

This puts the new caliphate directly at war with Al Qaeda and potentially at war with other jihadi organizations should they refuse to accept the authority of the new caliphate. Professor Peter Neumann of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization regards the announcement as a “declaration of war against the West and al Qaida.”

Read  more at Clarion Project

 

 

 

Brigitte Gabriel and Zuhdi Jasser disagree on the idea of instilling Jeffersonian Democratic Ideals in the Middle East

In the first video they seem to agree on the nature of threat from the rise in Islamic terrorism and lack of moderate Muslim condemnation of it. In the second video however a point of contention arises over why moderates are not speaking out. Zuhdi believes it is due to a lack of committed, sustained American leadership to help Muslims “evolve into a Jeffersonian type Democracy” over a period of generations (nation building) “Brigitte is shaking her head “No”. She says you must first confront the ideology driving radicalization. Watch…

Brigitte Gabriel Explains the Rise of Jihad

 

Why has jihadist threat escalated in last 3 years?

 

 

The Al Qaeda Spring Is Here

iraq1by Daniel Greenfield:

Many of us declared the Arab Spring dead and buried. But the Arab Spring really came in two phases.

The first phase was the political destabilization of formerly stable Arab countries by liberals and Islamists. The second phase was an armed conflict by Islamists to take over entire countries.

These phases overlapped in some cases and the second phase has been underway for a while already. In Libya and Syria the first phase of the Arab Spring became the second phase. When protests didn’t work, the Islamists turned to force. When elections didn’t work for them in Libya, they turned to force for a second time. The Benghazi attack was arguably a collateral effect of Islamist attempts to take over Libya after a poor election performance that same summer.

Advocates of the Arab Spring promised that political Islam would lead to an end to Islamic terrorism, but armed Jihad and political Jihad are two phases of the same Islamic struggle. Now the shift to the second phase is complete. The real beneficiaries of the Arab Spring were always going to be those who had the most guns and cared the least about dying in battle. And that was always going to be Al Qaeda.

Libya and Syria’s civil wars had a ripple effect as weapons were seized and recruits assembled. The lessons of the Afghan wars should have made it clear that the Jihadists involved in those conflicts would not simply go home and live normal lives once the fighting was concluded.

Instead they would find other wars to fight.

The War on Terror was fed by veterans of those wars. So were a dozen more minor Jihadist conflicts that don’t normally make the news. Those conflicts produced their own veterans and spread the war around.

The Arab Spring was supposed to use “moderate” political Islamists to thwart “extremist” terrorists, but that was never going to happen. There is no such thing as a moderate Islamist. There are only Islamic activists more focused on one phase of the conflict. Like the distinction between the political and armed branches of terrorist groups, these distinctions are tactical. They are not ideological.

Read more at Front page

ISIS Rampages, the Middle East Shakes

by Daniel Pipes
National Review Online
June 12, 2014

The jihadis’ takeover of Mosul on June 9 won them control of Iraq’s second-largest city, a major haul weapons, US$429 million in gold, an open path to conquer Tikrit, Samarra, and perhaps the capital city of Baghdad. The Iraqi Kurds have seized Kirkuk. This is the most important event in the Middle East since the Arab upheavals began in 2010. Here’s why:

Regional threat: The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a designated terror group, is in a position to overthrow the governments of Iraq and Syria and perhaps beyond, starting with Jordan. Straddling the Iraq-Syrian border, it may both erase the nearly century-old border between these two colonial creations and end their existence as unitary states, thereby overturning the Middle Eastern political order as it emerged from World War I. Rightly does the U.S. government call ISIS “a threat to the entire region.”

 

Map with towns under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Unexpected strength: These developments establish that the most extreme and violent form of Islamism, as represented by Al-Qaeda and like groups, can go beyond terrorism to form guerilla militias that conquer territory and challenge governments. In this, ISIS joins the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Al-Nusra Front in Syria, Ansar Dine in Mali, and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

 

A suicide bomber along with Al-Qaeda’s flag (“There is no deity but God, Muhammad is the prophet of God”) and “The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” both below and in the upper right.

Muslims hate Islamism: Thanks to the ferocious reputation ISIS has established in its capital city of Raqqa, Syria, and elsewhere, an estimated quarter of Mosul’s population of almost two million has fled. The current round of ISIS brutality will newly render Islamism obnoxious to millions more Muslims.

 

Mosul residents fleeing ISIS turned roads into parking lots.

Ultimate frustration: Therefore, however much damage the Al-Qaeda-type organizations an do to property and lives, they ultimately cannot emerge victorious (meaning, a caliph applying Islamic law in its entirety and severity) because their undiluted extremism both alienates Muslims and scares non-Muslims. In the end, tactically cautious forms of Islamism (e.g., that of Fethullah Gülen in Turkey) have the greatest potential because they appeal to a broader swath of Muslims and less worry non-Muslims.

Sunnis vs. Shi’ites: ISIS military advances directly threaten Iraq’s Shi’ite dominated, pro-Iran regime. Tehran cannot allow it to go under; accordingly, Iranian forces have already helped retake Tikrit and greater Iranian involvement has been promised. This points to a replica of the ethnic lines in Syria’s civil war, with Turkish-backed Sunni jihadis rebelling against an Iranian-backed Shi’ite-oriented central government. As in Syria, this confrontation leads to a humanitarian disaster even as it turns Islamists against each other, thereby serving Western interests.

The Mosul Dam looms: In the 1980s, Saudis and other Arabs funded a poorly constructed, quickie damon the Tigris River about 35 miles northwest of Mosul. Substandard construction means it leaks and needs constant grouting and other expensive measures to avoid cataclysmic collapse. Will ISIS hotheads continue these repair works? Or might they skimp on them, thereby threatening not just Mosul but much of inhabited Iraq with catastrophic flooding?

American failure: More clearly than ever, the success of ISIS forces exposes the over-ambitious goals of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (and, likewise, of Afghanistan), which cost the West thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars. The fancy façade of $53 billion in American-sponsored institutions, from failed hospitals to the Iraqi National Symphony, have been exposed as the fiasco they are. ISIS soldiers standing triumphant atop U.S.-supplied military equipment brings home the folly of once-high American hopes for “a stable, democratic, and prosperous Iraq.”

Government of Iraq security shed their uniforms to escape ISIS.

Republicans: Republicans unfairly blame the ISIS victories on Barack Obama: no, George W. Bush made the commitment to remake Iraq and he signed the “Status of Forces Agreement” in 2008 that terminated the American military presence in Iraq at the close of 2011. For the Republican Party to move progress in foreign policy, it must acknowledge these errors and learn from them, not avoid them by heaping blame on Obama.

Democrats: The execution of Osama bin Laden three years ago was an important symbolic step of vengeance. But it made almost no difference operationally and it’s time for Obama to stop crowing about Al-Qaeda being defeated. In fact, Al-Qaeda and its partners are more dangerous than ever, having moved on from terrorism to conquering territory. The well being of Americans and others depend on this reality being recognized and acted upon.

Western policy: This is basically a Middle Eastern problem and outside powers should aim to protect their own interests, not solve the Middle East’s crises. Tehran, not we, should fight ISIS.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

ISIS Threatens to Invade Jordan, ‘Slaughter’ King Abdullah

Gatestone Institute, by Khaled Abu Toameh:

The recent victories in Iraq and Syria by the terrorists of ISIS — said to be an offshoot of al-Qaeda — have emboldened the group and its followers throughout the Middle East. Now the terrorists are planning to move their jihad not only to Jordan, but also to the Gaza Strip, Sinai and Lebanon.

Failure to act will result in the establishment in the Middle East of a dangerous extremist Islamic empire that will pose a threat to American and Western interests.

“The danger is getting closer to our bedrooms.” — Oraib al-Rantawi, Jordanian political analyst

Islamist terrorists in Iraq and Syria have begun creeping toward neighboring countries, sources close to the Islamic fundamentalists revealed this week.

The terrorists, who belong to The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS -- known as DAESH in Arabic] and are said to be an offshoot of al-Qaeda, are planning to take their jihad to Jordan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula — after having already captured large parts of Syria and Iraq, the sources said.

The capture this week by ISIS of the cities of Mosul and Tikrit in Iraq has left many Arabs and Muslims in the region worried that their countries soon may be targeted by the terrorists, who seek to create a radical Islamist emirate in the Middle East.

According to the sources, ISIS leader Abu Baker al-Baghdadi recently discussed with his lieutenants the possibility of extending the group’s control beyond Syria and Iraq.

One of the ideas discussed envisages focusing ISIS’s efforts on Jordan, where Islamist movements already have a significant presence. Jordan was also chosen because it has shared borders with Iraq and Syria, making it easier for the terrorists to infiltrate the kingdom.

Jordanian political analyst Oraib al-Rantawi sounded alarm bells by noting that the ISIS threat to move its fight to the kingdom was real and imminent. “We in Jordan cannot afford the luxury of just waiting and monitoring,” he cautioned. “The danger is getting closer to our bedrooms. It has become a strategic danger; it is no longer a security threat from groups or cells. We must start thinking outside the box. The time has come to increase coordination and cooperation with the regimes in Baghdad and Damascus to contain the crawling of extremism and terrorism.”

The ISIS terrorists see Jordan’s Western-backed King Abdullah as an enemy of Islam and an infidel, and have publicly called for his execution. ISIS terrorists recently posted a video on YouTube in which they threatened to “slaughter” Abdullah, whom they denounced as a “tyrant.” Some of the terrorists who appeared in the video were Jordanian citizens who tore up their passports in front of the camera and vowed to launch suicide attacks inside the kingdom.

 

A Jordanian ISIS terrorist wearing a suicide bomb belt and holding his Jordanian passport declares his willingness to wage jihad in an ISIS video. (Image source: All Eyes on Syria YouTube video)

Security sources in Amman expressed deep concern over ISIS’s threats and plans to “invade” the kingdom. The sources said that King Abdullah has requested urgent military aid from the U.S. and other Western countries so that he could foil any attempt to turn Jordan into an Islamist-controlled state.

Marwan Shehadeh, an expert on Islamist groups, said he did not rule out the possibility that ISIS would target Jordan because it views the Arab regimes, including Jordan’s Hashemites, as “infidels” and “apostates” who should be fought.

The recent victories by ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria have emboldened the group and its followers throughout the Middle East. Now the terrorists are planning to move their jihad not only to Jordan, but also to the Gaza Strip, Sinai and Lebanon.

This is all happening under the watching eyes of the U.S. Administration and Western countries, who seem to be uncertain as to what needs to be done to stop the Islamist terrorists from invading neighboring countries.

ISIS is a threat not only to moderate Arabs and Muslims, but also to Israel, which the terrorists say is their ultimate destination. The U.S. and its Western allies need to wake up quickly and take the necessary measures to prevent the Islamist terrorists from achieving their goal.

Failure to act will result in the establishment in the Middle East of a dangerous extremist Islamist empire that will pose a threat to American and Western interests.

ISRAEL-Cornerstone of the West

The United West, Published on May 16, 2014

In this micro-classroom video, The United West presents Mark Langfan’s amazing geopolitical analysis of Israel’s strategic security value to all Western countries! If you OBJECTIVELY view this demographic, geographic and cultural presentation you MUST conclude that Israel is not (as many try to make you think) the cause of INSTABILITY in the world, but indeed Israel is the cause of STABILITY in the world. The facts speak for themselves. Now, only if our American leaders would understand this information and develop policy based upon FACTS and not FANTASY.

Guest Column: The Palestinian Country of Lies

Egypt Joins Other Arab States In Pulling Ambassador From Qatar

By gmbwatch:

US media has reported that Egypt joined three other Arab states last Thursday in withdrawing its ambassador from Qatar over its support of the Muslim Brotherhood. According a New York Times report:

Egypt

Egypt

March 6, 2014 CAIRO — Egypt on Thursday became the fourth Arab state in two days to pull its ambassador from Qatar over its support for Islamists around the region, including the deposed Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, and his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood.

After the withdrawal of envoys from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Egypt’s statement formalizes a breach between Cairo and Doha that began shortly after the military ouster of Mr. Morsi last summer. Its move adds to Qatar’s sudden isolation in the region and reinforces the alliance binding Egypt’s new military-backed government to the other oil-rich Persian Gulf monarchies.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were deeply apprehensive about the potential influence on their own populations of either democratic or Islamist leadership in Cairo. Since the Egyptian military removed Mr. Morsi, the conservative gulf states have donated billions of dollars to support the new government, just as Qatar had spent heavily to try to prop up the previous Islamist one.

Egyptian state news media declared Thursday that most of the Arab world had now repudiated Qatar, asserting that Doha must now decide whether it would stand on the side of ‘Arab solidarity’ or against it.

Read the rest here.

The GMBDW has been comprehensively covering the increasing pressure faced by the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf countries including:

  • The withdrawal by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates of heir envoys to Qatar
  • The troubles of Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi who has been antagonizing Gulf rulers with his increasingly strident criticisms.
  • The trials of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and cadre in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • The actions taken by Saudi Arabia of late against the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • The increasingly difficult situation faced by the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait.

In a Featured Story, the GMBDW reported yesterday on the Saudi decision to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, noting that the decision did not appear to prevent two well-known leaders in the Global Muslim Brotherhood from attending a recent conference of the Saudi Muslim World League.

************

That last embedded link includes the following important observation:

However, research by the GMBDW suggests that while clearly targeting the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf, the move by Saudi Arabia may not reflect the Kingdom’s abandoning of support for the wider Global Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi media has reported on the conclusion of last week’s global conference sponsored by the Muslim World League (MWL) titled ““The Islamic World, Problems and Solutions” which among other things, proposed the institution of the King Abdullah Islamic Solidarity Prize. Established in 1962 as a means for the propagation of Saudi “Wahabbi” Islam. Muslim Brothers played an important role in its founding and the League has always been strongly associated with the Brotherhood. US government officials have testified that MWL has in the past been linked to supporting Islamic terrorist organizations globally. According to the MWL’s own reporting, two leaders in the Global Muslim Brotherhood were in attendance at last weeks conference.

  • Ahmed Al-Rawiidentified as the head of the Islamic Waqf in Britain (aka Europe Trust), was said to have discussed the issue of Muslim Minorities. Dr. Al-Rawi is the current head of the Europe Trust, the endowment/funding arm of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), and a former FIOE President. FIOE, in turn, is the umbrella group representing the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe and known to have received funding from the MWL.
  • Issam Al-Bashiridentified as President of the Islamic Fiqh Council in Sudan, was said to have addressed the participants at the conference which he thanked for “their interest in supporting projects of Islamic solidarity.” Dr. Bashir has held numerous positions associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood including as a former director of the UK charity Islamic Relief, a member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, and as a former Minister of Religious Affairs in the political party of Hassan Al-Turabi, formerly closely tied to the Brotherhood.

The presence of two important leaders in the Global Muslim Brotherhood at an important Saudi conference invoking the name of King Abdullah suggests that the Saudi regime either not understand the GMB fully or may in fact be prepared to prepared to allow continued support of the GMB while attempting to limit or destroy the Brotherhood presence in the Gulf.

 

 

 

Saudi Arabia designates Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist group: Interior Ministry

 

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans against the military and interior ministry, while gesturing with four fingers, during a protest in front of riot police outside a police academy, on the outskirts of Cairo January 8, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/AMR ABDALLAH DALSH

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans against the military and interior ministry, while gesturing with four fingers, during a protest in front of riot police outside a police academy, on the outskirts of Cairo January 8, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/AMR ABDALLAH DALSH

(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, official Saudi television reported citing a statement by the Interior Ministry.

The kingdom has also designated Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, whose fighters are battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as terrorist organizations.

Friday’s move appeared to enforce last month’s royal decree where Riyadh said it would jail for between three and 20 years any citizen who fought guilty of fighting in conflicts abroad.

The kingdom’s authorities want to deter Saudis from joining rebels in Syria and posing a security risk once they return home.

Riyadh also fears the Brotherhood, whose conservative Sunni doctrines challenge the Saudi principle of dynastic rule, has tried to build support inside the kingdom since the Arab Spring popular revolutions in the Arab-speaking world.

In Egypt, the Brotherhood, which won every election following the toppling of long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011, has been driven underground since the army deposed President Mohamed Mursi, a longtime member of the group that also endured repression in the Mubarak era.

The army-backed government in Cairo designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist group in December after accusing it of carrying out a suicide bomb attack on a police station that killed 16 people. The Brotherhood condemned that attack and denies using violence.

Saudi Arabia’s Islamic religious authorities have previously spoken out against Saudi fighters going to Syria, but the Saudi Interior Ministry estimates that around 1,200 Saudis have gone there nonetheless.

Op-Ed: Egypt Deports Code Pink Leader: ‘Stop the ISM’ Did It

medea-benjaminArutz Sheva, By Lee Kaplan:

The news wires were all abuzz today with the report that Medea Benjamin of Code Pink was deported from Egypt on trying to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Stop the ISM, a division of DAFKA.org was responsible for this.

Upon learning that Benjamin was planning a trip to Gaza under the ruse of bringing lanterns to the Palestinian Arabs, our agency contacted the Egyptian embassy in Washington D.C.  and alerted them to her plans. The result was  Egyptian officials met her airplane when she arrived and immediately arrested her.

Benjamin, who exults in creating media scenes, attempted to resist the Egyptian police who, she claims, then dislocated her shoulder as they dragged her to a holding cell prior to her deportation to Turkey.

Benjamin is a lifelong communist and funds the BDS movement in the United States through one of her nonprofits, Global Exchange, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Until recently, Benjamin was employing Dalit Baum of Who Profits in Israel to tour the U.S. and promote BDS against Israel and Jewish institutions as well as corporations that do business with Israel.

Baum now works for another part of the ISM, the American Friends Service Committee, which helps her organize her tours, mainly of college campuses.

Benjamin has become famous by creating rackets and demos in the U.S., demonstrating against the United States and Israel, appearing topless on more than one occasion. She even interrupted President Obama during a speech in Washington to scream about drones being used against al Qaeda in Yemen. In that instance, she was not arrested, as usual, and got away with her antics.

Benjamin’s arrest and deportation show a serious shift in Egypt’s relationship with Hamas since the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi from that country. Only days ago, Egypt closed the Hamas office in the country and put out a clear signal that Egypt recognizes that the threat from Hamas extremists poses just as much of a threat to stability in Egypt as elsewhere in the Middle East.

Benjamin is part of the ISM network in the United States and was involved in several excursions to Gaza where her NGO’s would bring support to the Hamas terrorist leadership in Gaza.

Egypt is to be commended for finally putting a stop to this woman’s penchant for encouraging aid to a terrorist organization and disguising that aid as “humanitarian work.”  In any case, her arrest and removal by the Egyptian authorities is the first concrete step taken toward reining in Hamas in Gaza.

Hamas has been aligning itself more and more with Iran, also increasingly supported by Benjamin, so that she is seen as posing a security concern for Egypt.

img317054LEE KAPLAN, DAFKA’s chief editor is an investigative journalist, news bureau head, businessman and political activist. He formed DAFKA to create a more proactive movement against the Saudis’ well-financed campaign against Israel on US college campuses and elsewhere, as well as the professional propaganda plans of PASSIA. Readers of the DAFKA website can read about PASSIA in our opening issue and in later issues can find this information under our search engine. DAFKA chapters on college campuses nationwide play Palestinian Television for all to see the reality of the Arab movement to create a “Palestinian” country to destroy Israel.

 

Also see:

 

Obama to Israel — Time Is Running Out

OBAMA AND NETANYAHU IN ISRAEL IN 2013. WILL THIS WEEK'S TALKS IN WASHINGTON BRING THEM ANY CLOSER? PHOTOGRAPHER: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM-POOL/GETTY IMAGES

OBAMA AND NETANYAHU IN ISRAEL IN 2013. WILL THIS WEEK’S TALKS IN WASHINGTON BRING THEM ANY CLOSER? PHOTOGRAPHER: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM-POOL/GETTY IMAGES

By :

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House tomorrow, President Barack Obama will tell him that his country could face a bleak future — one of international isolation and demographic disaster — if he refuses to endorse a U.S.-drafted framework agreement for peace with the Palestinians. Obama will warn Netanyahu that time is running out for Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy. And the president will make the case that Netanyahu, alone among Israelis, has the strength and political credibility to lead his people away from the precipice.

In an hourlong interview Thursday in the Oval Office, Obama, borrowing from the Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel, told me that his message to Netanyahu will be this: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?” He then took a sharper tone, saying that if Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach.” He added, “It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”

Unlike Netanyahu, Obama will not address the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, this week — the administration is upset with Aipac for, in its view, trying to subvert American-led nuclear negotiations with Iran. In our interview, the president, while broadly supportive of Israel and a close U.S.-Israel relationship, made statements that would be met at an Aipac convention with cold silence.

Obama was blunter about Israel’s future than I’ve ever heard him. His language was striking, but of a piece with observations made in recent months by his secretary of state, John Kerry, who until this interview, had taken the lead in pressuring both Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to agree to a framework deal. Obama made it clear that he views Abbas as the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians may ever have. It seemed obvious to me that the president believes that the next move is Netanyahu’s.

“There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices,” Obama said. “Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab-Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?”

During the interview, which took place a day before the Russian military incursion into Ukraine, Obama argued that American adversaries, such as Iran, Syria and Russia itself, still believe that he is capable of using force to advance American interests, despite his reluctance to strike Syria last year after President Bashar al-Assad crossed Obama’s chemical-weapons red line.

“We’ve now seen 15 to 20 percent of those chemical weapons on their way out of Syria with a very concrete schedule to get rid of the rest,” Obama told me. “That would not have happened had the Iranians said, ‘Obama’s bluffing, he’s not actually really willing to take a strike.’ If the Russians had said, ‘Ehh, don’t worry about it, all those submarines that are floating around your coastline, that’s all just for show.’ Of course they took it seriously! That’s why they engaged in the policy they did.”

I returned to this particularly sensitive subject. “Just to be clear,” I asked, “You don’t believe the Iranian leadership now thinks that your ‘all options are on the table’ threat as it relates to their nuclear program — you don’t think that they have stopped taking that seriously?”

Obama answered: “I know they take it seriously.”

How do you know? I asked. “We have a high degree of confidence that when they look at 35,000 U.S. military personnel in the region that are engaged in constant training exercises under the direction of a president who already has shown himself willing to take military action in the past, that they should take my statements seriously,” he replied. “And the American people should as well, and the Israelis should as well, and the Saudis should as well.”

I asked the president if, in retrospect, he should have provided more help to Syria’s rebels earlier in their struggle. “I think those who believe that two years ago, or three years ago, there was some swift resolution to this thing had we acted more forcefully, fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the conflict in Syria and the conditions on the ground there,” Obama said. “When you have a professional army that is well-armed and sponsored by two large states who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict — the notion that we could have, in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces, changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”

He portrayed his reluctance to involve the U.S. in the Syrian civil war as a direct consequence of what he sees as America’s overly militarized engagement in the Muslim world: “There was the possibility that we would have made the situation worse rather than better on the ground, precisely because of U.S. involvement, which would have meant that we would have had the third, or, if you count Libya, the fourth war in a Muslim country in the span of a decade.”

Obama was adamant that he was correct to fight a congressional effort to impose more time-delayed sanctions on Iran just as nuclear negotiations were commencing: “There’s never been a negotiation in which at some point there isn’t some pause, some mechanism to indicate possible good faith,” he said. “Even in the old Westerns or gangster movies, right, everyone puts their gun down just for a second. You sit down, you have a conversation; if the conversation doesn’t go well, you leave the room and everybody knows what’s going to happen and everybody gets ready. But you don’t start shooting in the middle of the room during the course of negotiations.” He said he remains committed to keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and seemed unworried by reports that Iran’s economy is improving.

On the subject of Middle East peace, Obama told me that the U.S.’s friendship with Israel is undying, but he also issued what I took to be a veiled threat: The U.S., though willing to defend an isolated Israel at the United Nations and in other international bodies, might soon be unable to do so effectively.

“If you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction — and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time,” Obama said. “If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.”

We also spent a good deal of time talking about the unease the U.S.’s Sunni Arab allies feel about his approach to Iran, their traditional adversary. I asked the president, “What is more dangerous: Sunni extremism or Shia extremism?”

I found his answer revelatory. He did not address the issue of Sunni extremism. Instead he argued in essence that the Shiite Iranian regime is susceptible to logic, appeals to self-interest and incentives.

“I’m not big on extremism generally,” Obama said. “I don’t think you’ll get me to choose on those two issues. What I’ll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits. And that isn’t to say that they aren’t a theocracy that embraces all kinds of ideas that I find abhorrent, but they’re not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.”

This view puts him at odds with Netanyahu’s understanding of Iran. In an interview after he won the premiership, the Israeli leader described the Iranian leadership to me as “a messianic apocalyptic cult.”

I asked Obama if he understood why his policies make the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries nervous: “I think that there are shifts that are taking place in the region that have caught a lot of them off guard,” he said. “I think change is always scary.”

Go to at Bloomberg View for complete transcript

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA PARTICIPATES IN AN INTERVIEW WITH JEFF GOLDBERG IN THE OVAL OFFICE, FEB. 27, 2014. (OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY PETE SOUZA)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA PARTICIPATES IN AN INTERVIEW WITH JEFF GOLDBERG IN THE OVAL OFFICE, FEB. 27, 2014. (OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY PETE SOUZA)

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Iran’ Nuclear Deal: Washington’s greatest mistake

By Walid Phares:

The Obama administration, in its first and second terms, has committed strategic mistakes in the Middle East which will undermine U.S. national and security interests for many years, even under subsequent administrations after 2016.

Obama & Rouhani

The damage done is severe, and a remedy seems out of reach unless earth shattering changes are applied to Washington’s foreign policy—either under the incumbent’s administration or the next. The common core of U.S. strategic mistakes has been the perception of partners in the region since day one of the post-Bush presidency. While Bush’s narrative on backing pro-democracy forces was right on track, the bureaucracy’s actions betrayed the White House’s global aim. By the time the Obama administration installed itself on Pennsylvania Avenue in 2009, little had been accomplished by the Bush bureaucrats in regards to identifying these pro-democracy forces and supporting them. When the current administration replaced Bush, however, civil society groups in the Middle East were systematically abandoned—aid to their liberal forces was cut off and engagement with the radicals became priority. The mistakes of the Bush bureaucracy became the official policy of the Obama administration.

Washington’s “new beginnings” in the region moved American Mideast policy in a backward direction on two major tracks. The first derailment was to partner with the Muslim Brotherhood, not the secular NGOs, in an attempt to define the future of Arab Sunni countries. The second was to engage the Iranian regime, not its opposition, in attempt to define future relations with the Shia sphere of the region. These were strategic policy decisions planned years before the Arab Spring, not a pragmatic search for solutions as upheavals began. Choosing the Islamists over the Muslim moderates and reformers has been an academically suggested strategy adapted to potential interests—even though it represents an approach contrary to historically successful pathways.  In June 2009, President Obama sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader asking for “engagement.” This move, coupled with Obama’s abandonment of the civil revolt in Iran that same month, sent a comforting message to the ruling Khomeinists: The United States is retreating from containment and will not support regime change in Iran. That undeniably emboldened Tehran to go on the offensive in the region after less than a decade of status quo.

The nuclear program was boldly defended despite American and UN economic sanctions; Iranian penetration of Iraq deepened; support to Hezbollah escalated with a presidential visit to Lebanon by Ahmedinijad; and aggressive backing of pro-Iranian elements in Arabia was sustained. The Arab Spring revealed more assertive Iranian behavior as Pasdaran and Hezbollah militias were dispatched to Syria in support of the struggling Assad regime. Across the region, the Ayatollahs increased their support to regimes and organizations bent on crushing civil society uprisings and also clamped down on their own oppositions—both inside the country and abroad. Tehran used Washington’s unending search for dialogue with the Ayatollahs as an opportunity to attack the exiled Iranian community inside Iraq, one of the best cards in the international community’s hands to pressure the Iranian regime. The tragedy of dismantling Camp Ashraf ran parallel to a systematic persecution of Iranian dissidents who rose in 2009 against the mullahs. U.S. retreat from Iran’s containment led to an unparalleled bleeding of the political opposition, the only long term hope for a real change in Iran.

Read more at HNN

Obama Appoints New National Security Director For Mideast; Robert Malley Heads Group With Board Members Tied To Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas

By :

US media is reporting that President Obama has selected Robert Malley, the program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group (ICG), as the senior director at the National Security Council responsible for devising US policy in the Middle East. According to a New York Times report:

Robert Malley

Robert Malley

February 18, 2014 WASHINGTON — The last time Robert Malley went to work for the White House, it was as a Middle East peacemaker, advising President Bill Clinton during his futile effort to broker an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians at Camp David in 2000.

Now, Mr. Malley is coming back to the White House, administration officials said on Tuesday. This time, he will manage the fraying ties between the United States and its allies in the Persian Gulf, a job that says a lot about how America’s role in the Middle East has changed.

As a senior director at the National Security Council, Mr. Malley will help devise American policy from Saudi Arabia to Iran. It is a region on edge, with the Saudis and their Sunni neighbors in the gulf fearful that the United States is tilting away, after decades of close ties with them, toward a nuclear accommodation with Shiite Iran.

With his many contacts throughout the Arab world, Mr. Malley, who has been program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, would seem well suited for such a post. But he has also been something of a lightning rod in a field that can be culturally and ideologically treacherous.

In 2008, Mr. Malley was forced to sever his ties as an informal adviser to the campaign of Barack Obama when it was reported that he had met with members of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, which the State Department classifies as a terrorist organization.

The meeting, Mr. Malley said in a letter to The New York Times, was hardly a secret and came in the course of his work with the I.C.G., a nonprofit group focused on preventing conflict. Still, he felt obliged to distance himself from Mr. Obama to avoid misperceptions of the “candidate’s position regarding the Islamist movement.

Read the rest here.

Reporting by the GMBDW raises serious questions about the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas within the ICG, founded in 1995 as “an international non-governmental organization on the initiative of a group of well known transatlantic figures who despaired at the international community’s failure to anticipate and respond effectively to the tragedies in the early 1990s of Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia.” The ICG is currently chaired by former US Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering and former UN official Mark Malloch-Brown. Notable members of the board include former Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, financier George Soros, former Nato commander Wesley Clark, and former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer. In 2008 our predecessor publication reported that  International Crisis Group (CG) had issued a report recommending that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood be integrated in Egyptian political life and that Brotherhood posted a statement on its website saying that the group agrees with the recommendations. The GMBDW has reported since 2007 on the Muslim Brotherhood and/or Hamas background of two of the ICG Trustees which may help to explain the ICG position on the Brotherhood.

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Red Star Says It All: Egypt Makes Strategic Alliance with Russia

Sisi PutinBY RYAN MAURO:

Egyptian Defense Minister El-Sisi, whose power essentially makes him the head of state, made his first trip abroad. It wasn’t to the U.S., or even to Saudi Arabia. It was to Russia, where he was photographed wearing a jacket with a red star given to him by President Putin.

This single photograph sums up what has happened since the Muslim Brotherhood was toppled from power in Egypt. The Egyptian government immediately turned to Russia after the U.S. criticized the toppling of the Brotherhood and the subsequent crackdown on the Islamist movement. Egypt’s Arab allies like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are also moving towards Russia in response to U.S. policy towards Iran.

This change in relations was music to the ears of President Putin, who said in a national address that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the century. When Egypt embraced Russia, the Egyptian Foreign Minister said, “We want to give a new impetus to our relations and return them to the same high level that used to exist with the Soviet Union.”

Both parties have agreed that they want to return to the days of the Cold War. That agreement was on display when Putin gave El-Sisi the jacket bearing a red star and he publicly wore it.

Putin signaled to the Egyptian delegation that his meeting with El-Sisi isn’t just about selling arms. It’s strategic positioning. He told them, “Egypt is the center of stability in the Middle East.”

The language of the Russian government is clearly designed to contradict that of the U.S. Putin zeroed in on the points of friction between the U.S. and Egypt.

The U.S. opposed the Egyptian military’s toppling of the Brotherhood and almost certainly opposes his inevitable presidential bid. Putin, on the other hand, came as close to endorsing El-Sisi’s candidacy as a foreign head of state can.

Read more at Clarion Project