State Department Orders Crash Course on Negotiating Week After Iran Deal

John Kerry / AP

John Kerry / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Elizabeth Harrington, April 8, 2015:

Less than a week following the framework of a nuclear deal with Iran that allows the Islamic Republic to continue operating core aspects of its program, the State Department is looking for a new training course on how to negotiate.

The agency released a solicitation for “Negotiations” on Wednesday, revealing that the State Department is seeking a class for U.S. diplomats on “making and receiving concessions wisely.”

“The overall course teaches the essential skills, knowledge, and attitudes for U.S. diplomats to succeed in any of 275 overseas posts performing the full spectrum of political and economic work,” the solicitation said. “This module will focus on the complex art of negotiating across diverse cultures to find common ground for advancing mutual interests.”

The training is meant to increase “understanding and effectiveness” of negotiations between foreign powers.

The State Department said upon completion of the course diplomats will be better able to describe “basic, universal negotiating concepts and vocabulary,” and identify “objectives and underlying interests of negotiating parties.”

“Preparing relevant strategies for diplomatic persuasion,” and “analyzing ‘Lessons Learned’ through debriefing to improve future outcomes,” are other goals of the course.

The three-week course also seeks for State Department diplomats to understand “cultural considerations” and “building trust” between their foreign counterparts.

“Applying appropriate negotiation techniques to a given scenario, including but not limited to: clarifying assumptions, generating and evaluating alternatives, making and receiving concessions wisely, understanding cultural considerations and behavioral preferences, building trust, representing one’s own and others’ interests, and being aware of assumptions,” the solicitation said.

America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State John Kerry, extended his stay last week in Lausanne, Switzerland, past the March 31 deadline to reach a nuclear agreement with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

The framework for the agreement, agreed to by the United States, the European Union, and the “P5+1” nations, allows Iran to continue to run major portions of its nuclear program and will terminate economic sanctions against the country.

“We will continue enriching; we will continue research and development,” Zarif said following the agreement.

Zarif accused Kerry and the Obama administration of lying hours after the framework was released, saying that the United States had promised sanctions would be immediately terminated, not lifted gradually.

Also see:

Obama: ‘Fundamental Misjudgment’ of Netanyahu to Demand Iran Recognize Israel

iran-ayatollah-missile-AP-640x480

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, April 7, 2015:

President Obama grinned in an NPR interview when asked about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request that Iran recognize the state of Israel in a final nuclear deal.

“Well, let me say this. It’s not that the idea of Iran recognizing Israel is unreasonable. It’s completely reasonable and that’s U.S. policy. And I’ve been very forceful in saying that our differences with Iran don’t change if we make sure that they don’t have a nuclear weapon. They’re still going to be financing Hezbollah. They’re still supporting Assad dropping barrel bombs on children. They are still sending arms to the Houthis in Yemen that have helped destabilize the country,” Obama said.

“There are obvious differences in how we are approaching fighting ISIL in Iraq, despite the fact that there’s a common enemy there. So there’s still going to be a whole host of differences between us and Iran, and one of the most profound ones is the vile, anti- Semitic statements that have often come out of the highest levels of the Iranian regime,” he continued.

“But the notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.”

Obama said that “if suddenly Iran transformed itself into Germany or Sweden or France, there would be a different set of conversations about their nuclear infrastructure.”

“The key here is not to somehow expect that Iran changes, although it is something that may end up being an important byproduct of this deal, but rather, it is to make sure that we have a verifiable deal that takes off the table what would be a game changer for them if in fact they possess nuclear weapons,” he added.

His message to the Israeli people?

“You are right to be suspicious of Iran. There’s no reason why you should let your guard down with respect to Iran. We have to make sure that Israel has the capabilities to protect itself, not only from Iran but also proxies like Hezbollah. But ultimately, Iran is deterrable, and it is deterrable not just because of Israelis — Israel’s superior military and intelligence capabilities but also because you got a really strong ally in the United States of America,” Obama said.

“And if, over time, there are opportunities in which we see changes in the Iranian regime, all the better. But we don’t have to count on that. We have to make sure that even if Iran doesn’t change the Israeli people are safe.”

Obama stressed that despite the statements of potential GOP presidential candidates to the contrary — most recently Gov. Scott Walker — he’s confident that they won’t end up overturning the Iran agreement.

“I am confident that any president who gets elected will be knowledgeable enough about foreign policy and knowledgeable enough about the traditions and precedents of presidential power that they won’t start calling into question the capacity of the Executive Branch of the United States to enter into agreements with other countries,” the president said.

“If that starts being questioned, that’s going to be a problem for our friends and that’s going to embolden our enemies. And it would be a foolish approach to take, and, you know, perhaps Mr. Walker, after he’s taken some time to bone up on foreign policy, will feel the same way.”

***

Transcript

Also see:

Decoding the Obama Doctrine

by Daniel Pipes
Washington Times
April 6, 2015

James Jeffrey, Barack Obama’s former ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Iraq, has this to say about the administration’s current record in the Middle East: “We’re in a goddamn free fall.”

Count the mistakes: Helping overthrow Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, leading to anarchy and civil war. Pressuring Husni Mubarak of Egypt to resign, then backing the Muslim Brotherhood, leading now-president Sisi to turn toward Moscow. Alienating Washington’s most stalwart ally in the region, the Government of Israel. Dismissing ISIS as “junior varsity” just before it seized major cities. Hailing Yemen as a counterterrorism success just before its government was overthrown. Alarming the Saudi authorities to the point that they put together a military alliance against Iran. Coddling Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, encouraging his dictatorial tendencies. Leaving Iraq and Afghanistan prematurely, dooming the vast American investment in those two countries.

And, most of all: Making dangerously flawed deals with the nuclear-ambitious mullahs of Iran.

 

Qaddafi of Libya, an Obama success story?

Is this a random series of errors by an incompetent leadership or does some grand, if misconceived, idea stand behind the pattern? To an extent, it’s ineptitude, as when Obama bowed to the Saudi king, threatened Syria’s government over chemical weapons before changing his mind, and now sends the U.S. military to aid Tehran in Iraq and fight it in Yemen.

But there also is a grand idea and it calls for explanation. As a man of the left, Obama sees the United States historically having exerted a malign influence on the outside world. Greedy corporations, an overly-powerful military-industrial complex, a yahoo nationalism, engrained racism, and cultural imperialism combined to render America, on balance, a force for evil.

Being a student of community organizer Saul Alinsky, Obama did not overtly proclaim this view but passed himself off as a patriot, though he (and his charming wife) did offer occasional hints of their radical views about “fundamentally transforming the United States.” On ascending to the presidency, Obama moved slowly, uneager to spread alarm and wanting to be reelected. By now, however, after six full years and only his legacy to worry about, the full-blown Obama is emerging.

 

Saul Alinsky, the community organizer par excellence. (And whom the author of this article met in about 1965.)

The Obama Doctrine is simple and universal: Warm relations with adversaries and cool them with friends.

Several assumptions underlie this approach: The U.S. government morally must compensate for its prior errors. Smiling at hostile states will inspire them to reciprocate. Using force creates more problems than it solves. Historic U.S. allies, partners, and helpers are morally inferior accessories. In the Middle East, this means reaching out to revisionists (Erdoğan, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Republic of Iran) and pushing away cooperative governments (Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia).

Of these actors, two stand out: Iran and Israel. Establishing good relations with Tehran appears to be Obama’s great preoccupation. As Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute has shown, Obama during his entire presidency has worked toward rendering Iran what he calls “a very successful regional power … abiding by international norms and international rules.” Contrarily, his pre-presidential friendships with truculent anti-Zionists such as Ali Abunimah, Rashid Khalidi, and Edward Said point to the depth of his hostility toward the Jewish state.

The Obama Doctrine demystifies what is otherwise inscrutable. For example, it explains why the U.S. government blithely ignored the Iranian supreme leader‘s outrageous “Death to America” yelp in March, dismissing it as mere domestic pandering, even as Obama glommed onto the Israeli prime minister‘s near simultaneous electoral campaign comment rejecting a two-state solution with the Palestinians during his term of office (“we take him at his word”).

 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamene’i can say most anything and Obama won’t mind.

The doctrine also offers guidelines to predict possible developments during Obama’s remaining tenure, such as: Wretched P5+1 deals with Iran compel Israel’s government to attack Iranian nuclear facilities. Gentle policies toward Damascus clear the way for the Assad regime to re-extend its power. Ankara chooses to provoke a crisis in the eastern Mediterranean over Cypriot gas and oil reserves.

The great question ahead is how, in their wisdom, the American people will judge the Obama Doctrine when they next vote for president in 19 months. Will they repudiate his policy of shuffling and contrition, as they comparably did in 1980 when they elected Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter? Or will they choose four more years of it, thereby turning the Obama Doctrine into the new norm and Americans into European-style remorseful masochists?

Their verdict in 2016 has potentially world-historical implications.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

The Search for a New Grand Strategy for the United States: The Path to a New NSC 68

us-soldiers-sandstorm-AP-640x480By Virgil, April 4, 2015:

I. The Current Confusion

Newt Gingrich’s piece in National Review, “We’re Losing the War Against Radical Islam,” deserves a wide audience; after all, it’s our country, and our civilization, that’s at risk. As the former Speaker of the House wrote, “After 35 years of conflict, dating back to the Iranian seizure of the American embassy in Tehran and the ensuing hostage crisis, the United States and its allies are losing the long, global war with radical Islamists.”

And so, Gingrich continued, what is needed is a whole new and better approach: “Congress has a duty to pursue the truth and to think through the strategies needed and the structures which will be needed to implement those strategies.”

Meanwhile, for its part, the Obama administration seems to think that things are going fine. Indeed, on March 29, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest taunted one of the leaders of the Republican opposition:

“If John Boehner thinks U.S. troops should be on the ground in Yemen, fighting, or that we should reoccupy Iraq, or that the United States should bomb Iran to keep them from having a nuclear weapon — if he feels that way, he should have the courage of his convictions to say so. The President . . . does not believe it is in the best interest of the United States to commit ground troops.”

Boehner, sitting in Gingrich’s former chair, has not, in fact, said that the US should be fighting in Yemen, or reoccupying Iraq, or bombing Iran. But the Republican response to Obama has been sufficiently diffuse—we might think of the difference between the views of, say, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Rand Paul—so that Democrats such as Earnest can pick and choose which Republican positions they wish to respond to.

Yet beyond the partisan cutting and thrusting, Gingrich has a point: America needs policies that are serious, effective, and sustainable. And historical experience, as well as common sense, tells us that such an effective policy can come only from a robust and far-reaching debate—ratified, of course, by the voters. As we shall see, the annals of American national-security policy provide ample, and encouraging, precedent, not only for systematic deliberation, but, even more importantly, for effective follow-through.

We can further note that a new policy, if there is to be one, will almost certainly come from the next commander-in-chief—the next president. It’s the president who has access to the whole of the executive branch, as well as the bully pulpit.

And so with Gingrich’s point in mind, let’s review what US presidents have been saying heretofore about the threat from radical Islam.

Read more at Breitbart

Why Allying With Iran Helps ISIS

287x203xIslamic_State_IS_insurgents_Anbar_Province_Iraq1Frontpage, by Daniel Greenfield, March 31, 2015:

The Jihad is a machine for generating atrocities.

A new horror is deployed. Then it becomes routine. The horror of one decade, such as suicide bombing, has to be made dirtier and uglier by using women and children, by targeting houses of worship and families, and then finally superseded by the horror of another decade, mass beheadings.

Terrorism is a shock tactic. It only works if you’re horrified by it. If you get bored of ISIS beheading its victims, it will bring out child beheaders. It will set men on fire. Then it will have children set men on fire.

Like an acrobat juggling at a telethon, it’s always looking for ways to top its last trick.

In a crowded market, each Jihadist group has to be ambitious about its atrocities. No matter what horrifying thing an Islamic group did last year or last decade, another group will find a way to top it.

The old group will become the lesser evil. The new group will become the greater evil.

“If Hitler invaded Hell,” Churchill said of the Nazi invasion of the USSR, “I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”

There are a lot of favorable references to the Jihadist devil in Foggy Bottom where the terrible terror groups of yesteryear turn out to be misunderstood moderates who can help us fight this year’s devil. Obama’s Countering Violent Extremism program is tweeting Al Qaeda criticisms of ISIS. Iran and its Hezbollah terrorists no longer show up on the list of terror threats. Instead they’re our new allies.

When Western governments embrace the “lesser evil” doctrine, they ally with terrorists who are not fundamentally any different than the terrorists they are fighting. When ISIS broke through into the media, multiple stories emphasized that it was more extreme than Al Qaeda (despite having once identified as Al Qaeda.) But is a terrorist group that flies planes full of civilians into buildings full of civilians more moderate than a sister group that chops off heads on television? Is ISIS’s sex slavery more extreme than Iran’s practice of raping girls sentenced to death so that they don’t die as virgins?

The distinction between one evil and another is insignificant compared to their overall evil. The search for the lesser evil is really a search for ways to exonerate evil.

The Jihad creates endless greater evils. Today’s greater evil is tomorrow’s lesser evil. If another Jihadist group rises out of Syria that commits worse atrocities than ISIS, will we start thinking of the Islamic State’s rapists and headchoppers as moderates? The behavior of our diplomats suggests that we will.

Experts used the rise of ISIS to urge us to build ties with everyone from Hamas to Hezbollah to the Taliban to head off ISIS in their territories. The new president of Afghanistan is proposing apologies to the Taliban while defining ISIS as beyond the pale. Obama has chosen to turn over Iraq and Syria to Iran and its terrorist groups to fight ISIS.

If the process continues, then the United States will end up allying with terrorist groups to fight ISIS. And all this will accomplish is to make ISIS stronger while morally corrupting and discrediting our own fight against Islamic terrorism.

And if ISIS loses, there will always be a Super-ISIS that will be even worse.

We had few options in WW2, but ISIS is not the Wermacht. We don’t need to frantically scramble to ally with anyone against it; especially when the distinctions between it and our newfound allies are vague.

The Syrian opposition, that we armed and almost fought a war for, consists of Jihadists, many of them allied with Al Qaeda. But the Syrian government which we are now allied with, turned the Iraq War into a nightmare by funneling the suicide bombers across the border that ISIS used to kill American soldiers.

ISIS may be officially at war with the Syrian government, but it’s also selling oil to it, and there have been accusations that there is a secret understanding between Assad and ISIS.

How unlikely is that? Almost as unlikely as a Hitler-Stalin pact.

The Communists and the Nazis were tactically intertwined, despite their official ideological enmities, because they shared many of the same enemies (moderate governments, the rest of Europe) and many of the same goals (seizing territory, radicalizing populations, shattering the European order).

Iran and Sunni terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, cooperate based on similar premises. That was why Al Qaeda could pick up terror tips from Iranian terror groups to prep for September 11. Both Sunni and Shiite Islamic revolutionaries want to topple governments, conquer territory and radicalize populations. Despite their mutual enmity, they share bigger enemies, like America, and bigger goals, destroying the current map of the Middle East and remaking it along completely different lines.

The collapse of the Iraqi military that led to ISIS marching on Baghdad was caused by its Shiite officer corps inserted into place by a sectarian Shiite government. That government was not interested in maintaining the American fantasy of a multicultural democratic Iraq. It wanted to crush the Sunnis and Kurds through a partnership with Iran. The collapse of the Iraqi military endangered its survival, but fulfilled its overall goal of driving recruitment to Shiite militias in Iraq trained and commanded by Iran.

Obama’s avoidance of Iraqi entanglements and panic at the ISIS juggernaut led him to a deal with Iran. The deal effectively gives control of Iraq to its Shiite proxies. The sheiks of the Sunni Awakening were ignored when they came to Washington. The Kurds have trouble getting weapons. Instead they’re going to the Shiite militias. By using ISIS to create a crisis, Iraq’s Shiite leaders forced a US deal with Iran.

ISIS has killed a lot of Shiites, but for Iran taking over Iraq is a small price to pay for losing the pesky ‘not really Shiite’ Alawites of Syria. And it hasn’t actually lost them yet.

Iran’s ideal situation would be an ISIS Caliphate spread across parts of Syria and Iraq that would destabilize the Sunni sphere. Like the Hitler-Stalin pact, such an arrangement could end with the ISIS Hitler stabbing the Iranian Stalin in the back, but ISIS does not actually need to defeat Assad. It is not a nationalist group and doesn’t believe in nations. Its focus is on ruling Sunni territories.

Sunni nations have far more to worry about from ISIS than Iran does. Its advance challenges the bonds that hold their nations together. Its goal is the destruction of the Sunni countries and kingdoms.

That is also Iran’s goal.

Both the USSR and Nazi Germany described Poland as an illegitimate child of Versailles. Iran and the Sunni Islamists likewise view the countries of the Middle East as illegitimate children of Sykes-Picot with Israel standing in for Poland as the infuriating “foreign-created” entity ruled by a “subject” people.

ISIS and Iran want to tear down those old borders and replace them with different allegiances. The USSR and the Nazis elevated ideology and race over the nation state. Iran and ISIS elevate the Islamic religion over the nation state. It’s an appeal that can destroy the Sunni nations that block Iran’s path to power.

The trouble with the “lesser evil” doctrine is that the lesser evil is often allied with the greater evil. Hitler used Stalin to cut off any hope of support for Eastern Europe. Stalin then used Hitler to conquer Eastern Europe. While huge numbers of Russians died, Stalin got what he wanted. And that’s all he cared about.

Shiites are dying, but Iran is getting what it wants from ISIS.

Before we start saying favorable things about the devil, we might want to think about the hell we’re getting into.

Also see:

The U.S. Is Providing Air Cover for Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq

464763530_iraq2michaelweissBy Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent:

American warplanes have begun bombing the Islamic State-held Iraqi city of Tikrit in order to bail out the embattled, stalled ground campaign launched by Baghdad and Tehran two weeks ago. This operation, billed as “revenge” for the Islamic State (IS) massacre of 1,700 Shiite soldiers at Camp Speicher last June, was launched without any consultation with Washington and was meant to be over by now, three weeks after much triumphalism by the Iraqi government about how swiftly the terrorist redoubt in Saddam Hussein’s hometown was going to be retaken.

U.S. officials have variously estimated that either 23,000 or 30,000 “pro-government” forces were marshaled for the job, of which only slender minority were actual Iraqi soldiers. The rest consisted of a consortium of Shiite militia groups operating under the banner of Hashd al-Shaabi, or the Population Mobilization Units (PMU), which was assembled in answer to afatwah issued by Iraq’s revered Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani in June 2014 following ISIS’s blitzkrieg through northern Iraq. To give you a sense of the force disparity, the PMUs are said to command 120,000 fighters, whereas the Iraqi Army has only got 48,000 troops.

Against this impressive array of paramilitaries, a mere 400 to 1,000 IS fighters have managed to hold their ground in Tikrit, driving major combat operations to a halt. This is because the Islamic State is resorting to exactly the kinds of lethal insurgency tactics which al Qaeda in Iraq (its earlier incarnation) used against the more professional and better-equipped U.S. forces. BuzzFeed’s Mike Giglio has ably documented the extent to which IS has relied upon improvised explosive devices, and just how sophisticated these have been. Even skilled explosive ordnance disposal teams — many guided by Iranian specialists — are being ripped apart by what one termed the “hidden enemy” in Tikrit.

Because IS controls hundreds of square miles of terrain in Iraq, it has an unknown number of bomb manufacturing plants, and because it knows the terrain so well, it’s been able to booby-trap houses and roads. Even Shiite prayer beads left lying on the ground are thought to be rigged to explosives. One Kurdish official told Giglio that the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters alone have “defused or detonated more than 6,000 IEDs along their 650-mile front with ISIS since the war began in August.”

The toll this has taken on the militias is extraordinary. Cemetery workers in Najaf told the Washington Post that as many as 60 corpses are arriving per day. Former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Derek Harvey tweeted last week that an Iraqi Shiite source told him the number of militia war dead from the Tikrit offensive so far may be as high as 6,000. So the militias’ triumphalism, much of it no doubt manufactured by Iran’s propaganda machine, proved to be misplaced. Jeffrey White, another former DIA analyst now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, notes “there’s a failure of will on the part of the militias and government forces. They just didn’t have the sufficient desire and determination to take the fight forward given the casualties they’ve been sustaining.”

So now, the same Iraqi government which earlier dismissed the need for U.S. airpower had to put in an eleventh-hour request for it, lest an easy victory descend into embarrassing folly. But the past few months ought to have shown that even indirectly relying on Iranian agents to conduct a credible ground war against Sunni extremists was always a lousy idea for three reasons: those agents hate the United States and have threatened to attack its interest in Iraq; they’re guilty of IS-style atrocities themselves; and they’re lousy at fighting an entrenched jihadist insurgency.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey told Congress on March 3: “What we are watching carefully is whether the militias — they call themselves the popular mobilization forces — whether when they recapture lost territory, whether they engage in acts of retribution and ethnic cleansing.” He needn’t watch any longer. They are engaging in exactly that.

The crimes of war

On March 10, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a comprehensive study of human rights violations committed by both IS and pro-Iraqi forces. The Islamic State, OHCHR concluded, has likely committed genocide against the Yazidis, a ethno-religious minority in Iraq, in a catalogue of war crimes and crimes against humanity that include gang-rape and sexual slavery. But OHCHR’s language is equally unambiguous in condemning the other side on the battlefield: “Throughout the summer of 2014,” the report noted, “[PMUs], other volunteers and [Shiite] militia moved from their southern heartlands towards [Islamic State]-controlled areas in central and northern Iraq. While their military campaign against the group gained ground, the militias seem to operate with total impunity, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake.” [Italics added.]

Sunni villages in Amerli and Suleiman Bek, in the Salah ad-Din province, have been looted or destroyed by militiamen operating on the specious assumption that all inhabitants once ruled by IS must be IS sympathizers or collaborators. Human Rights Watch has also lately discovered that the “liberation” of Amerli last October — another PMU/Iranian-led endeavor, only this one abetted by U.S. airstrikes in the early stages — was characterized by wide-scale abuses including the looting and burning of homes and business of Sunni residents of villages surrounding Amerli. The apparent aim was ethnic cleansing. Human Rights Watch concluded, from witness accounts, that “building destruction in at least 47 predominantly Sunni villages was methodical and driven by revenge and intended to alter the demographic composition of Iraq’s traditionally diverse provinces of Salah al-Din and Kirkuk.”

Sunnis weren’t the only demographic subjected to collective punishment. A 21-year-old Shiite Turkmen from the Yengija village was “burned with cigarettes and tied to a ceiling fan” by militants of Saraya Tala’a al-Khorasani, another Iran-backed militia. He told Human Rights Watch: “They kept saying, ‘You are ISIS,’ and I kept denying it. They were beating me randomly on my face, head, shoulders using water pipes and the butts of their weapons…. They went to have lunch and then came back and beat us for an hour and half. Later that night they asked me if I was Shia or Sunni. I told them I was Shia Turkoman and they ordered me to prove it by praying the Shia way…. They kept me for nine days.”

This account tracks with a mountain of social media-propagated video and photographic evidence showing that Iraq’s Shiite militias are behaving rather like the Islamic State — beheading and torturing people they assail as quislings, and then exhibiting these atrocities as a means of recruitment. More worrying, a six-month investigation by ABC News has found that U.S.-trained Iraqi Security Force personnel are also guilty of anti-Sunni pogroms, with officers from Iraq’s Special Forces shown in one video accusing an unarmed teenaged boy of being a shooter (a charge the boy denies) before opening fire on him.

Looking the other way

The Obama administration’s counterterrorism-driven policy for the Middle East, and a quietly pursued diplomatic reconciliation with Iran, has resulted in America’s diminishment of grave war crimes committed by Iran’s clients and proxies, and the problem is hardly just confined to Iraq. In Syria, for instance, the National Defense Force, a conglomerate of militias trained and equipped by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force (IRGC) — a U.S.-designated terrorist entity — has been accused by the Syrian Network for Human Rights and the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, of “[burning] at least 81 people to death, including 46 civilians; 18 children, 7 women, and 35 of the armed opposition fighters,” along with other pro-Assad forces. The State Department has offered condolences to Iran’s President Hasan Rouhani on the death of his mother; to date, it has not said a word about the immolation of these Syrians at the hands of a Quds Force-built guerrilla army.

All of which raises the question: Does the United States have a “common interest,” as Secretary of State John Kerry phrased it, with a regime in Tehran whose proxies are currently burning people alive in their houses, playing soccer with severed human heads, and ethnically cleansing and razing whole villages to the ground?

Read more at FP

Why Yemen Matters

by Daniel Pipes
Washington Times
March 28, 2015

The Middle East witnessed something radically new two days ago, when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia responded to a plea by Yemen’s president and led a 10-country coalition to intervene in the air and on the ground in the country. “Operation Decisive Storm” prompts many reflections:

Saudi and Egypt in alliance: Half a century ago, Riyadh and Cairo were active in a Yemen war, but then they supported opposing sides, respectively the status-quo forces and the revolutionaries. Their now being allies points to continuity in Saudia along with profound changes in Egypt.

Arabic-speakers getting their act together: Through Israel’s early decades, Arabs dreamt of uniting militarily against it but the realities of infighting and rivalries smashed every such hope. Even on the three occasions (1948-49, 1967, 1973) when they did join forces, they did so at cross purposes and ineffectively. How striking, then that finally they should coalesce not against Israel but against Iran. This implicitly points to their understanding that the Islamic Republic of Iran poses a real threat, whereas anti-Zionism amounts to mere indulgence. It also points to panic and the need to take action resulting from a stark American retreat.

Arab leaders have a long history of meeting but not cooperating. From the right: King Hussein of Jordan, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Yasir Arafat of the PLO, and Muammar Qaddafi of Libya in September 1970.

Yemen at the center of attention: Yemen played a peripheral role in the Bible, in the rise of Islam, and in modern times; it’s never been the focus of world concern – until suddenly now. Yemen resembles other once-marginal countries – the Koreas, Cuba, the Vietnams, Afghanistan – which out of nowhere became the focus of global concern.

The Middle East cold war went hot: The Iranian and Saudi regimes have headed dueling blocs for about a decade. They did combat as the U.S. and Soviet governments once did – via contending ideologies, espionage, aid, trade, and covert action. On March 26, that cold war went hot, where it’s likely long to remain.

Can the Saudi-led coalition win? Highly unlikely, as these are rookies taking on Iran’s battle-hardened allies in a forbidding terrain.

Islamists dominate: The leaders of both blocs share much: both aspire universally to apply the sacred law of Islam (the Shari’a), both despise infidels, and both turned faith into ideology. Their falling out confirms Islamism as the Middle East’s only game, permitting its proponents the luxury to fight each other.

The Turkey-Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood alliance in decline: A third alliance of Sunni revisionists somewhere between the Shi’i revolutionaries and the Sunni status-quotians has been active during recent years in many countries – Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya. But now, in part thanks to diplomacy initiated by the brand-new King Salman of Saudi Arabia, its members are gravitating toward their Sunni co-religionists.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has done something unprecedented in putting together a military coalition.

Isolated Iran: Yes, a belligerent Tehran now boasts of dominating four Arab capitals (Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Sana’a) but that’s also its problem: abrupt Iranian gains have many in the region (including such previously friendly states as Pakistan and Sudan) fearing Iran.

Sidelining the Arab-Israeli conflict: If the Obama administration and European leaders remain obsessed with Palestinians, seeing them as key to the region, regional players have far more urgent priorities. Not only does Israel hardly concern them but the Jewish state serves as a tacit auxiliary of the Saudi-led bloc. Does this change mark a long-term shift in Arab attitudes toward Israel? Probably not; when the Iran crisis fades, expect attention to return to the Palestinians and Israel, as it always does.

American policy in disarray: Middle East hands rightly scoffed in 2009 when Barack Obama and his fellow naïfs expected that by leaving Iraq, smiling at Tehran, and trying harder at Arab-Israeli negotiations they would fix the region, permitting a “pivot” to East Asia. Instead, the incompetents squatting atop the U.S. government cannot keep up with fast-moving, adverse events, many of its own creation (anarchy in Libya, tensions with traditional allies, a more bellicose Iran).

Impact on a deal with Iran: Although Washington has folded on many positions in negotiations with Iran and done the mullah’s regime many favors (for example, not listing it or its Hizbullah ally as terrorist), it drew a line in Yemen, offering the anti-Iran coalition some support. Will Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i now stomp out of the talks? Highly unlikely, for the deal offered him is too sweet to turn down.

American diplomats meet again with their Iranian counterparts to capitulate on yet another difference.

In sum, Salman’s skilled diplomacy and his readiness to use force in Yemen responds to the deadly combination of Arab anarchy, Iranian aggression, and Obama weakness in a way that will shape the region for years.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Also see:

Obama’s Mideast ‘free fall’

Barack Obama faces a slew of Middle East crises that some call the worst in a generation, as new chaos from Yemen to Iraq — along with deteriorating U.S.-Israeli relations — is confounding the president’s efforts to stabilize the region and strike a nuclear deal with Iran.

The meltdown has Obama officials defending their management of a region that some call impossible to control, even as critics say U.S. policies there are partly to blame for the spreading anarchy.

“If there’s one lesson this administration has learned, from President Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech through the Arab Spring, it’s that when it comes to this region, nothing happens in a linear way — and precious little is actually about us, which is a hard reality to accept,” said a senior State Department official.

Not everyone is so forgiving. “We’re in a goddamn free fall here,” said James Jeffrey, who served as Obama’s ambassador to Iraq and was a top national security aide in the George W. Bush White House.

For years, members of the Obama team have grappled with the chaotic aftermath of the Arab Spring. But of late they have been repeatedly caught off-guard, raising new questions about America’s ability to manage the dangerous region.

Obama officials were surprised earlier this month, for instance, when the Iraqi government joined with Iranian-backed militias to mount a sudden offensive aimed at freeing the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Nor did they foresee the swift rise of the Iranian-backed rebels who toppled Yemen’s U.S.-friendly government and disrupted a crucial U.S. counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda there.

Both situations took dramatic new turns this week. The U.S. announced its support for a Saudi-led coalition of 10 Sunni Arab nations that began bombing the Houthis, while Egypt threatened to send ground troops — a move that could initiate the worst intra-Arab war in decades.

Meanwhile, the U.S. launched airstrikes against ISIL in Tikrit after originally insisting it would sit out that offensive. U.S. officials had hoped to avoid coordination with Shiite militias under the direct control of Iranian commanders in the country.

Now the U.S. is in the strange position of fighting ISIL alongside Iran at the same time it backs the Sunni campaign against Iran’s allies in Yemen — even as Secretary of State John Kerry hopes to seal a nuclear deal with Iran in Switzerland within days.

On Thursday, Iran’s foreign minister, who has been meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry in Switzerland to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, demanded an immediate halt to the Yemen incursion.

At the same time, civil war rages on in Syria. On Thursday, Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, sent Obama a letter urging him to respond to charges that the regime of Bashar Assad — a close ally of Tehran — has used chlorine gas against civilians. In late 2013, Obama threatened to punish Assad with airstrikes after his forces deployed nerve gas.

Also in chaos is Libya, home to two dueling governments — and another target of cross-border Arab military action when Egypt and the United Arab Emirates conducted airstrikes against alleged Islamic extremists there in August. That action also reportedly surprised U.S. officials.

It all amounts to a far cry from Obama’s optimistic vision when he came to office suggesting that by withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and focusing on Israeli-Palestinian peace he could stabilize, if not completely calm, the long-troubled area.

Instead, Obama looks poised to leave an even more dangerous and unpredictable region than the one he inherited in 2009.

“The mood here is that we really are at a crisis point that is unprecedented in recent memory,” said Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow in the Middle East policy center at the Brookings Institution, who spoke from the Qatari capital of Doha. “This feels more intense and more complicated” than past moments of turmoil, Maloney added.

Read more at Politico

Do read the article Crash Position linked to in the featured graphic…h/t Sundance

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALLY ON EVERY SIDE OF EVERY MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT

obama-wut-AP-640x480Breitbart, by Ben Shapiro, March 26, 2015:

On Wednesday, the government of Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, which has now collapsed into civil war. Egypt is set to join in the Saudi effort even as Saudi Arabia establishes a no-fly zone. Meanwhile, rebels claimed that Yemen’s president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, fled Aden in advance of their consolidation of power on the ground. And Iran, which has fomented the chaos in Yemen, has warned Saudi Arabia that it had taken a “dangerous step.”

The good news: In President Obama’s world, none of this is happening. It’s all Skittles and rainbows for the White House.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest insisted Wednesday that President Obama’s September 2014 characterization of Yemen as an anti-terror success story was perfectly accurate. Earnest told Jonathan Karl of ABC News, “The White House does continue to believe that a successful counter-terrorism strategy is one that will build up the capacity of the central government to have local fighters on the ground to take the fight to extremists in their own country.” Karl called the exchange “astounding.”

But Earnest wasn’t done. Ed Henry of Fox News incredulously asked, “The President said it’s a success. He was wrong, right? Why can’t you say he was wrong and we’re trying to fix it?”

Earnest answered, “We have put intense pressure on extremists inside of Yemen, and it has mitigated the threat that they have posed to the U.S. and the West.” Pressure, like calling the Houthis, who chant “Death to America, Death to Israel, a Curse on the Jews, and Victory to Islam,” a “legitimate political constituency.”

But it’s not like the White House is doing nothing about Yemen. Earnest explained the Obama administration’s powerful move for peace: “We would call on [the Houthis] to stop that instability and that violence and cooperate with this UN-led process to resolve the difference among all the sides.”

That solves that!

At the same moment the White House supports the Saudi airstrikes in Yemen, it acts as the air force for Iran in Iraq against ISIS. Beginning Wednesday, the U.S. launched airstrikes against ISIS in Tikrit, The Daily Beast noted that the airstrikes marked a shift in American policy, since “the American military has long insisted that it wouldn’t coordinate too closely with the Iranians, even as both forces fight a common enemy in Iraq: ISIS.” The Daily Beast reported some qualms from the Pentagon about “the implications of coming to the rescue of a failed Iranian-led effort.”

Meanwhile, the White House continues to negotiate a nuclear deal with the Iranians, even as the Iranians foment precisely the chaos in Yemen the White House opposes – or at least pretends to oppose. Secretary of State John Kerry, presumably while humming “Everything Is Awesome!” from The Lego Movie, said that the United States had no choice but to come to a deal with the Iranians, since if the United States were to “walk away from a plan that the rest of the world were to deem to be reasonable … the talks would collapse. Iran would have the ability to go right back spinning its centrifuges and enriching to the degree they want … and the sanctions will not hold.” This, of course, neglects the fact that the reason the sanctions will no longer hold is because the Obama administration has spent years undermining them. As for the deal itself, the Iranians now insist that no deal be reduced to writing, and that snap inspections of nuclear facilities play no role in the deal. The deal will reportedly be consummated with a pinky swear.

The shotgun strategy of diplomacy – if you fire at everyone, you’re bound to hit someone! – is the administration’s new “lead from behind.” Even Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the Obama administration’s designated journalistic court Jew, was forced to briefly stop typing one-handed while gazing longingly at President Obama’s portrait to tweet, “Negotiating with the Iranians in Switzerland, bombing their allies in Yemen, bombing their enemies in Syria and Iraq. Makes sense.” (Minutes later, Goldberg went back to one-handed typing, tweeting, “People who blame mainly WH for current Middle East mess aren’t really focused on nature and history of Middle East mess.” Ah, well.)

Nearly every country in the Middle East is now at war, thanks in large part to the complete absence of any coherent policy from the world’s only superpower. And we are on every side of all of those wars. Iran and its associated forces are at war in Iraq (We support Iran in Iraq, but only after opposing Iran in Iraq.), Syria (Assad had to go until he didn’t.), Lebanon (We just took Hezbollah off the terrorist group list.), and Yemen (where we are okay with the Houthis, except when we support bombing them). Lebanon, Syria, and the Palestinians are at war with Israel. (We fund Israel’s Iron Dome, but rip them when they exercise their right to self-defense and cut off arms shipments mid-war, then castigate them as non-democratic for not negotiating with terrorists.) Egypt (where we supported the Muslim Brotherhood and then the coup against the Muslim Brotherhood and then opposed the regime that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood) is at war with Libya (where we ousted Muammar Qadaffi and then watched as the state turned into a terrorist playpen) and Yemen. Saudi Arabia (whom we oppose in their efforts to stop Iranian nukes) is at war with Yemen (where we are on the side of the Saudis) and in a proxy war with Iran. (We’re not sure.) Tunisia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and Syria are all in civil war. Now, there are reports that the Saudis and Jordanians and Egyptians are all seeking nuclear weapons not to fight Israel, but to counter Iran.

But at least President Obama has his Nobel Peace Prize. And his delusions.

Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book,The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.

Also see:

Presidential Race 2016 Candidate Profile – Ted Cruz, Republican

PresidentialRace2015Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, March 24, 2015:

The Presidential race for 2016 is gearing up and candidates are preparing themselves for the upcoming campaign. Senator Ted Cruz is the first to announce his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

As each candidate announces their intention to run, Clarion Project will provide a summary of each candidate’s positions on issues relating to Islamic extremism, in order to help our readers make the most informed possible choice come voting day. Should there be any significant changes, we intend to update our readers on the positions of any given candidate.

As Clarion is a bipartisan organization, we will not be endorsing any party or any candidate. All information provided is intended as informative only and should not be taken as evidence of Clarion’s preference for any given candidate.

As Senator Ted Cruz is the first candidate to announce, a summary of his record on Islamic extremism is what follows:

Ted-Cruz-Inside-Pic-245x306GOP Presidential Candidate Senator Ted Cruz: Record on Islamist Extremism

Senator Ted Cruz announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on March 23, 2015.

The following is the Clarion Project’s compilation of Senator Cruz’s positions on Islamist extremism. It will be updated as the campaign develops.

Relevant Experience

Single-term Republican Senator from Texas (2012-Current)

  • Serves on Senate Committee on Armed Services:
    • Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
    • Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
    • Subcommittee on Seapower

Islamist Groups in America

Iran

Iraq and ISIS

  • The U.S. should not deploy ground troops to Iraq to fight ISIS if they must rely on the Iraqi government or Iran-linked militias for security.
  • The U.S. should first increase support for the Kurdish Peshmerga instead of sending additional ground troops to Iraq.
  • The citizenships of Americans that have joined terrorist groups like ISIS overseas should be revoked so they cannot reenter the country or receive constitutional protections.

Muslim Brotherhood & Egypt

  • The U.S. should have successfully pressured Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to oversee a democratic transition but should not have supported his removal because he was an ally.
  • Criticism of his human rights abuses was acceptable but “[President Obama] went further than that to topple him and replace him with the Muslim Brotherhood, whose interest and animus was rabidly anti-American.”
  • The U.S. should have demanded concessions from the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Egypt in return for pledges of additional foreign aid.
  • He said the U.S. should have severed aid to Egypt once the protests against the Muslim Brotherhood began. The lack of support for the opposition made the U.S. “in both perception and reality — entrenched as the partner of a repressive, Islamist regime and the enemy of the secular, pro-democracy opposition,” he wrote.
  • The Egyptian military’s popularly-supported overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood is a “coup” and all U.S. aid to Egypt should have been suspended. Sen. Cruz’s position was even more hostile to the new Egyptian military’s overthrow of the Brotherhood than that of the Obama Administration.
  • The Egyptian military’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhoodis responsible for provoking the Islamist group into violence and attacking Coptic Christians.
  • The U.S. should only provide aid to Egypt if it advances the creation of a secular and inclusive government that honors the peace treaty with Israel.
  • He praised Egyptian President El-Sisi for calling on the Muslim world to stand against terrorists who act in the name of Islam.

Syria

  • The U.S. should have swiftly called for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2011 “when there was a unified, peaceful and secular opposition to him.” However, on March 24, 2015, Cruz appeared to disavow a policy supporting Assad’s removal by saying he’s a “monster” but does not “pose a clear and present danger to America.”
  • The U.S. must not arm Syrian rebels because of the inability to determine which rebels are a threat to the West and the likelihood that U.S. supplies will fall into the hands of terrorists.
  • The U.S. must take the lead in developing a plan to “go in” and eliminate Syrian stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction to prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorists. This was stated in June 2013.
  • In September 2013, he opposed the Obama Administration’s proposal for airstrikes on Syrian WMD capabilities and other regime targets after it ignored U.S. warnings against using chemical weapons in the civil war.

Egypt Fights ISIS—Obama Cuts Off Egypt

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

PJ Media, By P. David Hornik On March 18, 2015:

Again, those disturbing questions about whose side the president is on.

A disturbing report by Avi Issacharoff, one of Israel’s leading Middle East analysts, notes that Egypt is now under assault by ISIS from two directions—from its own Sinai Peninsula to the northeast and from the state of Libya, or what’s left of it, to the West.

It was last month that 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians living in Libya were kidnapped by ISIS and subjected to a mass beheading on a beach. In response to that violent episode, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ordered airstrikes against ISIS in Libya.

And in Sinai, Egyptian forces trying to tame the region have been hit by at least three ISIS terror attacks just last week. The trouble, Issacharoff notes, is that “precisely during these difficult days for the Egyptians, Washington is delaying military assistance deliveries to Cairo . . .”

The Obama administration has held a deep grudge against the government ever since Sisi, backed by a massive popular revolt, overthrew Egypt’s short-lived Muslim Brotherhood regime in July 2013. The administration reacted by embargoing arms—even though Egypt had been a longstanding U.S. ally and Sisi’s is a nonradical, anti-terror government.

It was Sisi who, when recently addressing an audience of Sunni clerics at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, called for a more moderate Islam that would not “want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants.”

Soon after, Sisi took the unprecedented step for an Egyptian leader of attending mass at a Coptic church.

Sisi also appears likely to keep the peace between Egypt and Israel. The two countries are tacitly collaborating against terror both in Sinai and Gaza, as Sisi cracks down hard on a common enemy—Hamas.

None of this is meant to say that Sisi is an angel who has brought democracy to Egypt by waving a magic wand. Seemingly, though, he deserves better treatment from Washington.

Things did seem to be improving last September when Washington said it was going through with a sale of ten Apache helicopters to Egypt.

But since then, says Issacharoff, Washington:

Has been making it increasingly difficult for Cairo to make additional military purchases.

For example, the US is delaying the shipment of tanks, spare parts and other weapons that the army desperately needs in its war against Islamic State.

So why is it? Why is an administration that seemingly has made fighting ISIS one of its missions choking off a would-be friendly state under ISIS assault?

The administration’s coziness with the Brotherhood—the incubus of modern Sunni terror, subject of a possible imminent crackdown in Britain—is well known (see, for instance, here and here). Thus, is the punishment for overthrowing a Brotherhood regime—even when that overthrow was backed by the most massive popular protest in history—getting thrown to the dogs amid an ISIS siege?

“According to an Egyptian official,” says Issacharoff, “the formal explanation [for the arms cutoff] is that Cairo does not respect human rights.”

As mentioned, Sisi has not transformed beleaguered Egypt into the Arab world’s first model democracy. Still, the idea that Egypt is being punished for human-rights failings is peculiar especially in light of reports of severe abuses by U.S.- (and Iran-) supported Shiite militias fighting ISIS in Iraq.

ABC now reports that “U.S.-trained and armed Iraqi military units, the key to the American strategy against ISIS, are under investigation for committing some of the same atrocities as the terror group…” Compared to such forces, let alone the Iranian regime itself, Sisi’s government is indeed a very mild human rights culprit (not to mention Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood regime, which was hardly a human rights beacon).

The situation is also parallel in some respects to the administration’s arms cutoff to Israel while it was fighting Hamas in Gaza last summer. That move may have been prompted by Palestinian civilian casualties, and the U.S.-Israeli defense relationship was eventually resumed. Still, a similar message came through: that being a U.S.- and Western-aligned country that is fighting terror is no guarantee of sympathy from the Obama administration.

The administration’s strange behavior at present—supporting ISIS-fighting forces on one front that are just as barbaric as ISIS; denying support to much more moderate ISIS-fighting forces on another front—can perhaps be explained in terms of moral confusion, of difficulty  distinguishing between friends and enemies. Or perhaps in terms of something darker. [emphasis added]

In any case, Egypt, the largest and, in some ways most important, Arab country and a would-be ally of civilization, is now in acute distress.

Also see:

Hero of the Middle East: Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

Gatestone Institute, by Bassam Tawil, February 23, 2015:

The courageous, historic speech yesterday by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni Islam, calling for the reform of Islam, was the result of the even more courageous, historic speech delivered a few weeks ago by Egypt’s devoutly Muslim President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the current American administration’s great friend, is the tree whose fruit is the Islamist terrorism embodied by the ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al-Nusra Front, Boko Haram and others.

Apparently some of the Sunni Arab States have not yet realized that their own national security, and ability to withstand Iran, depend on how strong Egypt is.

It is possible, in fact, that U.S. policy is to weaken the Sunni world seeking to unite under el-Sisi’s flag of modernity. With European complicity, the U.S. Administration is trying to defraud the Arabs and turn the Israel-Palestine conflict into a center of Middle Eastern chaos, in order to hide the nuclear deal they are concocting with Iran.

The treachery of the U.S. Administration is the reason why Egypt’s faith in the United States, which is supposed to defend the Arabs against a nuclear Iran, has effectively evaporated.

And now the greatest American insanity of all time: America and Turkey are arming and training Islamist terrorist operatives in Turkey, on the ground that they are “moderates” opposed to Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. They either ignore or are unaware that there is no such thing as a moderate Islamist terrorist. The other name of the “moderates” opposing Assad is ISIS.

The Muslim Brotherhood, in effect, runs Turkey. According to recent rumors, Turkey is also planning to build a nuclear reactor, “for research and peaceful purposes.”

Sheikh Dr. Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni Islam, yesterday delivered a courageous, historic speech in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, urging reform in religious education to curb extremism in Islam. Al-Tayyeb’s address was the result of an even more courageous and historic speech, delivered a few weeks ago by Egypt’s devoutly Muslim President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, at Al-Azhar University.

El-Sisi’s monumental statement, truly worthy of a Nobel Prize, is having a seismic result. Al-Sisi directed his remarks, about the ills of Islam to Islamic clerics in Egypt and around the world. It was enormously brave of him. He did not single out radical Islam, but he did call on all Muslims to examine themselves, carry out a religious revolution and renew their faith.

El-Sisi, a man of monumental courage, urged Muslims not to behave according to the ancient, destructive interpretations of the Qur’an and Islam that make the rest of the world hate them, destroy Islam’s reputation and put Muslim immigrants to Western countries in the position of having to fight their hosts. He claimed that it is illogical for over a billion Muslims to aspire to conquer and subdue six billion non-Muslims.

Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, delivered a historic speech to top Islamic scholars and clergy at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, December 28, 2014. (Image source: MEMRI)

Islam deals in depth with uniting the Muslim nation (umma) and mutual responsibility among Muslims, as though they were one entity. The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.A.W.) said that every drop of Muslim blood is more precious than the entire Kaaba. Thus the liberty ISIS took upon itself to burn alive a Jordanian pilot and 45 Egyptians, to spread terrorism throughout Syria, Iraq and Egypt and to kill other Muslims in various locations around the globe, claiming they were “infidels,” is heresy in and of itself.

The calls for the deaths of “a million shaheeds” and the killing of Jews for the sake of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, as was done by Arafat in the past, and is being done now by his heirs in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, are a crime; they are extremist incitement that is opposed to the forgiving and compromising spirit of Islam. The murder and terrorism carried out by terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad [PIJ] and other Islamist organizations against Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims is contrary to the modern Islam needed in the contemporary era.

El-Sisi was correct that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sunni ideology, which drives most of the extremist Islamist organizations around the world, preaches forced conversion of “infidels” to Islam at any price, or death. Some of the “infidels” are supposed to join Islam of their own accord (targ’ib), out of self-serving interest, and some not of their own accord (tarhib), out of fear and death threats. Such conversions are also contrary to the original Islam, which states that no one is to be forced to convert to Islam and that a calm religious dialogue should be held.

However, a few days after President el-Sisi’s speech, which attempted to unify Muslims and Christian Copts, the Muslim Brotherhood and their affiliated terrorist organizations increased their attacks on Egyptian civilians and security forces throughout Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, as well as murdering 21 Egyptian Christian Copts in Libya. The Muslim Brotherhood knows that behind the scenes, U.S. President Obama supports the movement, especially the branch in Egypt seeking to overthrow President Sisi. This approval from the U.S. encourages the Muslim Brotherhood to be even more determined to subvert and undermine Egypt’s stability, sabotage its economic rehabilitation and destroy the el-Sisi regime.

In this atmosphere of American support, the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis terrorist group in the Sinai Peninsula operates under Muslim Brotherhood protection. It recently changed its name to the “Sinai Province” of the Islamic State and swore allegiance to the “Caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It is currently working hand-in-hand with Hamas in the Gaza Strip to weaken el-Sisi’s Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula.

Other Islamist terrorist organizations also kill Egyptian civilians and security forces with bombs and assault rifles. In the name of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, they indiscriminately attack people on public transport, in airports and in public places, with the intent of retaking control of Egypt.

For this reason, an Egyptian court recently designated Hamas a terrorist organization, along with its military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and outlawed both of them. In response, Qatar, a slippery agent in the service of America but also, treacherously, in the service of Iran, allowed armed Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives to be interviewed by its Al-Jazeera TV. The operatives called the Egyptian president a traitor to the Islamic-Arab cause and to those seeking to “liberate Palestine.”

At the same time, Qatar continues to use its Al-Jazeera TV to broadcast hate propaganda targeting the el-Sisi regime, to disseminate videos and to fabricate insulting quotes intended to cause friction between el-Sisi on one side and the leaders of the Arab world and the Gulf States on the other — and to keep them from giving hungry Egyptians economic aid.

As the date for the economic conference in Sharm el-Sheikh (in the Sinai Peninsula) nears, Al-Jazeera’s propaganda machine has moved into ever-higher gear. Apparently, some of the Sunni Arabs states have not yet realized that their own national security and ability to withstand Iran depend on how strong Egypt is.

The U.S. Administration could easily halt the subversion of Egypt, but not only does it turn a blind eye, it suffers from a peculiar form of ignorance that makes it fight ISIS while at the same time supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, the hothouse of most Islamic terrorist organizations, including ISIS. The damage done to Egypt and the cracks in the weak Sunni Muslim ranks in the Middle East will eventually harm American interests and expose the Gulf States to the increasing Iranian threat.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the current American administration’s great friend, is the tree whose fruit is the Islamist terrorism embodied by ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al-Nusra Front, Boko Haram and others. This linkage has become obvious to all the Arab states, while the U.S. and Europe steadfastly ignore the danger to their own survival, and refuse to outlaw them.

It is possible, in fact, that U.S. policy is to weaken the Sunni world that is seeking to unite under el-Sisi’s flag of modernity. With European complicity, the U.S. Administration is trying to defraud the Arabs and turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a center of Middle Eastern chaos, in order to hide the nuclear deal they are concocting with Iran. That is why the West does not really want to rehabilitate the Palestinian refugees by settling them in the Arab states, and why the West continues to nourish false Palestinian hopes that perpetuate this conflict.

The treachery of the U.S. Administration is the reason why Egyptians’ faith in America, which is supposed to defend the Arabs against a nuclear Iran, has effectively evaporated.

In the meantime, Iran’s Houthi proxies have taken over Yemen, threatening the entire Persian Gulf from the south. The el-Sisi regime is currently in the market for new allies, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin recently paid a visit to Egypt to examine the possibilities of building a nuclear reactor, sounding the first chord of a regional nuclear arms race.

The problems of the Middle East begin in the United States: that was the claim of participants in the Al-Jazeera TV show, “From Washington.” They described American policy towards Egypt as hesitant, indecisive and undemocratic. They claimed that the U.S. Administration had not yet decided whether or not to support el-Sisi, who heralded change and the willingness to fight radical Islam (a fight America used to participate in) or to remain neutral and waffle, in view of Egypt’s presumed instability. The Americans seem to be putting their all money on the extreme Islamists, who they seem to think will eventually win the bloody conflict currently being waged in Egypt.

The Americans have forgotten that under Mubarak, the regime turned a blind eye to attacks against Israel that were carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood and their carefully fostered agents. Unfortunately, since el-Sisi was elected, Egypt itself has become a victim of radical Islamic terrorism. The U.S. Administration, however, appears clearly to hate el-Sisi, and seems to be doing its utmost to undermine him and see him thrown out.

Under ousted President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt was tolerant and patient toward the U.S. Administration’s best friends, the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Islamist and Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Al-Qaeda, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, all of which set up camp in the Sinai Peninsula. These terrorist groups smuggled weapons in from Iran, Sudan, Libya and Lebanon; dug smuggling and attack tunnels; developed missiles and carried out terrorist attacks “only” against Israel, the current U.S. Administration’s other apparent enemy, even though so many American Jews foolishly voted for them.

Now those same Islamist and Palestinian terrorist organizations are striking a mortal blow to the security or Egypt, and killing its civilians and security personnel.

The Muslim Brotherhood, mindful of America’s pro-Islamist policy toward it, is deliberately indulging in a wave of terrorism in Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula. Muslim Brotherhood operatives there are targeting civilians, public transport, airports and natural gas pipelines, all to undermine Egypt’s internal security and bring down el-Sisi’s regime in favor of extremist Islamists and a nuclear-threshold Iran.

In the current international situation, the U.S. Administration has apparently finally cut a deal with Turkey — which will be flimsy and ethereal — that allows Turkey to do the only thing it really cares about: to bring down the regime of Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad.

The U.S. is also trying to cut a deal with Qatar, which along with Turkey openly supports the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist proxies in Egypt, Gaza, Syria and Iraq, who in general work against Western interests.

The ironic result is that Turkey plays host to both NATO and senior Hamas figures, while it deliberately ignores the slaughter by ISIS of Kurds and other ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood, in effect, actually rules Turkey. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP party make it easy for foreign fighters to cross the Turkish border into Syria and join the ranks of ISIS. Meanwhile, the Turkish government wages a diversionary propaganda war against Israel. According to recent rumors, Turkey is also planning to build a nuclear reactor, “for research and peaceful purposes.”

Another surreal result is that Qatar hosts the U.S. military bases, while it finances and encourages terrorist organizations operating against Israel and the Egypt. It also panders to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual mentor of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist terrorist who issues fatwas permitting the murder of civilians and approves death sentences for apostasy.

And now the greatest American insanity of all time: the U.S. and Turkey are arming and training Islamist terrorist operatives in Turkey, on the grounds that they are “moderates” opposed to Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. They either ignore or are not aware that there is no such thing as a moderate Islamist terrorist.

The other name of the “moderates” opposing Bashar Assad is ISIS; Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah are now even saying that the U.S. is arming ISIS.

In the meantime, the Egyptian army continues its struggle against Islamist terrorist targets in the Sinai Peninsula and Libya, unaided, and even undermined, by the U.S.

In view of the U.S. Administration’s collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, I am persuaded that in the near future it will be possible to find a joint Egyptian-Israeli-Palestinian formula for eradicating the Hamas-PIJ enclave of terrorism, this time by Arabs.

Most ironically of all, in the shadow of American zigzagging, a joint Arab-Israeli front is developing against Sunni and Shi’ite radicalism, and the Palestinians can only profit from it. Thus el-Sisi, who, with towering vision and courage, dares to speak openly about the tree of radical Islam and its fruit, when others are afraid, is a truly great Islamic hero.

Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.

****

On the Ground in Egypt: Patrick Poole and Stephen Coughlin – US Policy and Egyptian Counter-terrorism Efforts

Published on May 13, 2014 by securefreedom

Recorded at Center for Security Policy’s National Security Group Lunch on Capitol Hill on Friday, 9 May, 2014
Patrick Poole, National Security and Terrorism Correspondent for PJ Media; and Stephen Coughlin, Senior Fellow, Center for Security Policy

Also see:

When a terrorist organization becomes an ‘armed insurgency’

American Thinker, by Rick Moran, Jan. 29, 2015

An organization that regularly uses suicide attacks against innocent civilians has been designated an “armed insurgency” by the White House.

The Afghanistan Taliban has sent dozens of suicide bombers and attackers to hit soft targets in Afghanistan, but the administration says it’s OK to negotiate with them because they’re not terrorists.

This pretzel logic was dispensed by deputy press secretary Eric Schultz, who was responding to a question about the proposed exchange of a Japanese civilian prisoner and a Jordanian pilot for an Iraqi woman convicted of terrorism in Jordan.  Isn’t that the same as us exchanging five Taliban commanders for deserter Bowe Bergdahl?

Not at all, said Schultz.

Wall Street Journal:

“Our policy is that we don’t pay ransom, that we don’t give concessions to terrorist organizations,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Wednesday. “This is a longstanding policy that predates this administration and it’s also one that we communicated to our friends and allies across the world,” he added.

But the U.S. engaged in a similar prisoner swap with Afghanistan’s Taliban last year, releasing several Guantanamo Bay prisoners in exchange for the freedom of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Mr. Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban as a prisoner since 2009 until his release last year as part of a prisoner swap.

The White House said the situation was different because Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is a terrorist group operating in Syria and Iraq while the Taliban is not, in the administration’s thinking.

“The Taliban is an armed insurgency, ISIL is a terrorist group. We don’t make concessions to terrorist groups,” Mr. Schultz said.

Asked directly if the White House considered the Taliban a terrorist group, Mr. Schultz repeated the line that they are an armed insurgency and said that the swap for Mr. Bergdahl was part of the “winding down of the war in Afghanistan.”

The Taliban was the ruling government of Afghanistan before being ousted by U.S. forces in late 2001 over the government’s refusal to hand over members of al Qaeda who were believed to be complicit in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

Since then, the Taliban has emerged as an insurgent force with bases of power in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan that continues to attack U.S. forces, Afghan government forces and civilians in both countries. In December, Taliban militants staged an attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, where 145 people were killed, mostly children.

The United States does not list the Taliban on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list run by the State Department, but it has listed the group on a separate Specially Designated Global Terrorist list since 2002. And the National Counterterrorism Center lists the “Taliban Presence in Afghanistan” on a map of global terrorism presences.

 

The administration is scrambling to differentiate the Taliban from IS because the army is apparently ready to charge Bergdahl with desertion, and giving away five terrorist commanders for a deserter is “bad optics” for the White House.  Besides, the administration would still like to cut a deal with the “good” Taliban to bring them into the Afghan government in a power-sharing arrangement.  If they were to refer to the Taliban as “terrorists,” it would look like an even worse idea than it already is.

There’s no doubt that in diplomacy, exactitude in language is an absolute necessity.  But this constant parsing of words from the White House about the terrorism issue is bizarre and unprecedented and not done to further our understanding of the threat, but rather to obscure it.  It is motivated not by diplomacy, but by domestic politics.

The next bunch of Taliban terrorists who shoot up a school can relax.  Your cause has been legitimized by the White House when they refer to you as an “armed insurgency.”

General Tells Senators al-Qaeda Has ‘Grown Fourfold in Last Five Years’

Published on Jan 28, 2015 by One Post

Full testimony here

PJ Media, By Bridget Johnson On January 27, 2015

The former vice chief of staff of the Army warned the Senate Armed Services Committee today that al-Qaeda has “grown fourfold in the last five years.”

“AQ and its affiliates exceeds Iran in beginning to dominate multiple countries,” retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane testified.

Using a term that the Obama administration now eschews, Keane called radical Islam “the major security challenge of our generation.”

“Radical Islam, as I’m defining it for today’s discussion, consists of three distinct movements who share a radical fundamentalist ideology, use jihad or terror to achieve objectives that compete with each other for influence and power,” he said.

“In 1980, Iran declared the United States as a strategic enemy and its goal is to drive the United States out of the region, achieve regional hegemony, and destroy the state of Israel. It uses proxies, primarily as the world’s number one state sponsoring terrorism. Thirty plus years Iran has used these proxies to attack the United States. To date, the result is U.S. troops left Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, while Iran has direct influence and some control over Beirut, Lebanon, Gaza, Damascus, Syria, Baghdad, Iraq, and now Sana’a, Yemen,” the general continued.

“Is there any doubt that Iran is on the march and is systematically moving toward their regional hegemonic objective? Iran has been on a 20-year journey to acquire nuclear weapons, simply because they know it guarantees preservation of the regime and makes them, along with their partners, the dominant power in the region, thereby capable of expanding their control and influence. Add to this their ballistic missile delivery system and Iran is not only a threat to the region, but to Europe, as well. And as they increase missile range, eventually a threat to the United States. And as we know, a nuclear arms race, because of their nuclear ambition, is on the horizon for the Middle East.”

Keane detailed the growth of al-Qaeda in its quest to “eventually achieve world domination.”

“Third, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS, is an outgrowth from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was defeated in Iraq by 2009. After U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq in 2011, ISIS reemerged as a terrorist organization in Iraq, moved into Syria in 2012, and began seizing towns and villages from the Syria-Iraq border all the way to the western Syria from Aleppo to Damascus,” he reminded the committee.

That leads to an “unmistakable” conclusion that “our policies have failed,” Keane added.

“And the unequivocal explanation is U.S. policy has focused on disengaging from the Middle East, while our stated policy is pivoting to the east,” he said. “U.S. policymakers choose to ignore the very harsh realities of the rise of radical Islam. In my view, we became paralyzed by the fear of adverse consequences in the Middle East after fighting two wars. Moreover, as we sit here this morning, in the face of radical Islam, U.S. policymakers refuse to accurately name the movement as radical Islam. We further choose not to define it, nor explain its ideology, and most critical, we have no comprehensive strategy to stop it or defeat it.”