ISIS hits Paris again, this time on Champs-Elysees

Omarukai | Flickr

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, April 20, 2017:

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a deadly terrorist attack in Paris Wednesday that resulted in the deaths of two police officers.

The attack occurred on a street known as the “Champs-Elysees,” the same avenue that contains the famous Arc de Triomphe. Authorities say one police officer was killed in the attack, and another was wounded.

ISIS took credit for the attack through its Amaq news service. They claim it was carried out by a man they called Abu Yussuf al Beljiki (in English: the Belgian).

French police say the terrorist was already the subject of a “Fiche S,” which means that he was under surveillance and being watched by French intelligence authorities. CNN reports that “The shooting has not officially been declared a terrorist act but anti-terrorist forces are leading the investigation, French President Francois Hollande said.”

At about 9 p.m. local time, the suspect “got out of the vehicle and shot at the police vehicle with an automatic weapon, killing one policeman instantly,” said French Interior Ministry Spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet. He then “ran away, managing to shoot and wound two other policeman. Other policeman engaged and shot and killed the attacker,” Brander added.

The attack occurred just three days before the French presidential election on Sunday. Several candidates — Marine Le Pen, Francois Fillon, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Emmanuel Macron, Benoit Hamon, and others — are vying for the nation’s highest position and tweeted their condolences to the victims of the jihadi assault.

France continues to be on the receiving end of a recent wave of Islamic terror.

On March 18 of this year, an Islamic terrorist was neutralized after he tried to take a weapon from a soldier’s automatic rifle.

On February 3, an Egyptian man yelling “Allahu akbar” attempted to break into the Louvre museum wielding a machete.

The past few years has seen some of the deadliest attacks in the nation’s long history.

July 14, 2016: an Islamic terrorist purposely drove his 19-ton cargo truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille day, killing 86 people and injuring 434.

Nov. 13-14, 2015: Jihadis connected to the Islamic State stormed the Bataclan theater and several other locations, resulting in the deaths of 137 and hundreds more injuries, marking the single deadliest terrorist attack in the history of France.

Jan. 7-9, 2015: al-Qaeda linked militants massacred the staff at Charlie Hebdo to get back at them for drawing cartoons of Islam’s Muhammad. A third Islamic radical shot up a nearby Jewish supermarket.

Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for CR. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel. 

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Rounding up gays in Chechnya

It’s all about Islam, folks.

Front Page Magazine, by Bruce Bawer, April 18, 2017:

Four years ago, when the perpetrators of the Boston bombing were identified as two brothers from Chechnya, the American media, as Daniel Greenfield wrote at the time, went “into ‘Palestinian’ mode insisting that we need to talk about the conflict in Chechnya.”

Yes, Greenfield agreed, we could talk about that conflict. But he added:

There is a conflict in Chechnya and Iraq and Pakistan and Afghanistan and Thailand and Nigeria and the Philippines and India and Israel and France and a hundred other countries.

Where there is a sizable Muslim majority or even sizable minority, there is conflict.

Indeed. And Chechnya, which is a “semi-autonomous republic” within Russia, happens to be 95% Muslim. Its president, Ramnaz Kadyrov, has defended honor killings on the grounds that wives are their husbands’ property. He’s told Chechen women that their primary reason for existing is to bear children. He’s encouraged Chechen men to practice polygamy, even though it’s against Russian law. He’s required all females in Chechnya to wear headscarves in schools and other public buildings. And he’s left no doubt that his fanatical support for all of these positions is rooted in his faith. “No one can tell us not to be Muslims,” he has said. “If anyone says I cannot be a Muslim, he is my enemy.”

It was Chechen Muslims who committed two of the most appalling terrorist acts since 9/11. The first, in 2002, was the gruesome armed seizure of that Moscow movie theater, in which about 130 hostages died. Remember? It’s hardly ever mentioned anymore, and rarely cited when people are making lists of major acts of jihadist terrorism.

The second, and even worse, atrocity was the 2004 school siege in Beslan, in which 330 hostages, including no fewer than 186 children, were murdered. For all the horror of that incident, you don’t hear much about it these days, either.

As with the Boston Marathon bombings, the American media were quick to link both of these actions to the cause of Chechen separatism. But the Moscow atrocity was, in fact, committed by three groups of Chechen jihadists: the Riyad-us Saliheen Brigade of Martyrs (formerly known as the Islamic Brigade of Shaheeds), the Islamic International Brigade, and the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment. The Beslan massacre was committed solely by the first-named of these organizations.

Now Chechnya is again making headlines in the West. In recent weeks, hundreds of gay Chechen men have been rounded up and placed in newly built concentration camps constructed precisely for the detention of homosexuals. Most of these men have been – and are still being – cruelly tortured; some (it’s not yet clear how many) have been killed. Igor Kochetkov, a gay-rights activist based in St. Petersburg, Russia, told the Guardian that the scale of this action is “unprecedented not only in Russia but in recent world history.” Near the top of its long, grimly detailed, and deeply disturbing piece, the Guardian informed its readers – and it repeated these points later, too – that Chechnya is an “ultra-conservative Russian republic” and that “Chechen society is extremely conservative and homophobic.” What the Guardian mentioned only en passant, many paragraphs into the article – in fact, the detail was tucked away as expertly as possible – was that Chechnya is Islamic.

And as with the massacres at the Boston Marathon and the Beslan school and the Moscow theater, that’s the key fact here: Islam. Yes, gay rights in the rest of Russia are nothing to write home about, either. They’ve been the subject of international outrage, and rightly so. But the very fact that there are gay activists like Kochetkov operating openly in St. Petersburg, and that the members of the pro-gay protest group Pussy Riot are still alive and on the loose, shows that there’s a real difference between Chechnya and the rest of Russia when it comes to gay rights. In Russia proper, homosexuality is legal, even though it’s widely viewed as highly unacceptable and police, in particularly, tend not to be too gay-friendly; in Chechnya, however – as under sharia law – being gay is officially punishable by death, period.

Those familiar with Islamic societies will not be surprised by some of the details reported by the Guardian – for instance, that “some gay men” in Chechnya “may have been killed by their families after being outed by authorities.” After police had their way with one young gay man, they released him to his parents, saying (according to him): “Your son is a faggot. Do what you need to with him.” The kid was savvy enough to get out of Dodge pronto. That’s Islam, folks. And then there’s President Kadyrov’s own public statement about the whole matter, which recalled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s famous remark that there are no gays in Iran: no gays, insisted Kadyrov, had been harassed by officials in Chechnya, because “[y]ou cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic.” And if there were gays in Chechnya, he maintained, “the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”

A report by the Daily Mail takes the dark picture painted by the Guardian and makes it even darker. According to the Mail, Chechnyans are actually “being ordered to murder their gay relatives after they are released” from the concentration camps. One survivor of the camps, who was lucky enough to escape to Europe immediately after his release, told the Mail about a not-so-lucky friend, aged 20 or 21, who was let go from one of the camps “on the condition that his family would kill him.” They did. Another gay man, who so far has avoided incarceration, told the Mail that gay acquaintances of his who were taken to the camps “were half dead after the beatings” they suffered there “and were returned to relatives like a bag with bones.” Whether their parents were devout enough Muslims to finish them off was unclear.

How ‘Islamophobia’ Endangers Us All

Vigil in memory of the terror attack outside Parliament in London, UK – 24 Mar 2017. (Rex Features via AP Images)

PJ MEDIA, BY ROBERT SPENCER, APRIL 18, 2017:

Counterterror analyst Paul Sperry reported in the New York Post last Saturday:

[The New York Police Department] censored an anti-terror handbook to appease offended Muslims, even though it has accurately predicted radicalization patterns in recent ‘homegrown’ terror cases.”

So it is demonstrated yet again: Islamophobia endangers us all.

To clarify: “Islamophobia” is a propaganda neologism with no fixed meaning.

Nowadays, it is frequently used to refer to two phenomena that are actually quite disparate: vigilante attacks and harassment of innocent Muslims, which are never justifiable; and honest examination of how Islamic jihadis use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify hatred, violence, and oppression. Both are called “Islamophobia,” and held to be beyond the pale in polite society.

When I say that “Islamophobia endangers us all,” I am referring to the application of the label “Islamophobia” to realistic appraisals of jihad terrorists’ motivating ideology. The stigmatization and marginalization of such analysis is endangering Americans, and will continue to do so.

Here’s how. Patrick Dunleavy, former deputy inspector general of the New York state prisons’ criminal intelligence division, noted:

[The discarded NYPD report] was extremely accurate on how the radicalization process works and what indicators to look for.

Former FBI agent John Guandolo explains the facts on the ground:

The FBI has its hands full with over 1,000 open cases on ISIS terrorist suspects already in the U.S., and it needs the help of well-trained eyes and ears on the ground at the local and state level. The bad guys know if police don’t know this stuff at the ground level, they win.

In December 2015 in San Bernardino, when the Islamic jihadist couple Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik murdered fourteen people at a Christmas party, a friend of one of their neighbors recalled that the neighbor had told him about suspicious activity at the couple’s home. Said the friend:

Sounds like she didn’t do anything about it … She didn’t want to do any kind of racial profiling. She’s like, “I didn’t call it in … maybe it was just me thinking something that’s not there.”

For years, this neighbor had been force-fed the value that noticing suspicious behavior by Muslims amounts to “bigotry” and “racial profiling,” or “Islamophobia.” Fourteen people are now dead because politically correct niceties were preserved; because hurt feelings were placed ahead of objectivity.

This wasn’t a singular incident. The fear of “Islamophobia” charges has overridden, or threatened to override, concern about jihad terrorism for years. On December 22, 2008, five Muslims were convicted of plotting to enter the U.S. Army base in Fort Dix, New Jersey to murder as many soldiers as they could. A sixth received five years in prison for weapons offenses. The plot was uncovered in January 2006 when two of the terrorists entered a Circuit City in New Jersey and asked a clerk to convert a videotape to DVD. The video showed men shooting automatic weapons and screaming “Allahu akbar.”

Although the clerk was alarmed, he hesitated over what to do.

Years of politically correct indoctrination from the establishment media made him wonder if it would be wrong to stop these men. Finally, he asked a coworker:

Dude, I just saw some really weird s—. I don’t know what to do. Should I call someone or is that being racist?

His concern was ironic, given that the Fort Dix plotters were all white European Muslims from the former Yugoslavia. In any case, his coworker urged him to contact police, and he ultimately did.

His hesitation is yet another indication of how successful American Muslim advocacy groups have been in portraying resistance to the global jihad as “racism” and “Islamophobia.” We can be grateful that this young man came forward eventually. Because, as with the San Bernardino attack, we know what may happen if the next young person in his position decides that it is better to keep silent than to do anything that might appear to be “racist” or “Islamophobic.”

Islamophobia: it endangers us all. But not in the way the establishment media would have you believe.

Sharia Councils and Sexual Abuse in Britain

Gatestone Institute, by Khadija Khan, April 14, 2017:

  • As bad as this is, there is an even darker side to the story: Under sharia law, the second husband is under no obligation to give his wife a quick divorce – allowing him to keep her as his virtual sex slave for as long as he wishes.
  • If one asks how all of this jibes with British law, the answer is that it does not.
  • The UK-based NGO, Muslim Women’s Network, penned an open letter — with 100 signatories — to the British government and Home Affairs Select Committee demanding that the Sharia Council be investigated to determine whether its practices adhere to British law. In response, the Sharia Council declared the letter to be “Islamophobic” and accused the Muslim Women’s Network of being an anti-Muslim organization.
  • It is British law, not sharia, law that protects Muslim individuals and couples, as it does any other citizen. Contrary to what apologists for this travesty say, the plight of Muslim women should be treated as an issue of human rights.

The most recent scandal surrounding the sexual exploitation of Muslim women by Islamic religious leaders in the UK is yet further proof of the way in which Britain is turning a blind eye to horrific practices going on right under its nose.

A BBC investigation into “halala” — a ritual enabling a divorced Muslim woman to remarry her husband by first wedding someone else, consummating the union, and then being divorced by him — revealed that imams in Britain are not only encouraging this, but profiting financially from it. This depravity has led to many such women being held hostage, literally and figuratively, to men paid to become their second husbands.

This ritual, which is considered a misinterpretation of Islamic sharia law even by extremist Shi’ites and Saudi-style Salafists, is practiced by certain Islamic sects, such as Hanafis, Barelvis and Deobandis. When a husband repeats the Arabic word for divorce — talaq — three times to his wife, these sects consider a Muslim marriage null and void. For such a woman to be allowed to return to the husband who banished her, she must first marry someone else — and have sex with him — before the second husband divorces her.

These divorce rites, despite the laws of the land, are common in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other Asian countries, where a majority of the people belong to the Hanafi, Barelvi or Deobandi sects. Nevertheless, local seminaries, mosques and online services openly advertise and promote halala with impunity; it is accepted by society and rarely monitored by state authorities.

In Britain, halala has emerged as a booming business, with websites and social media sites offering to provide women with second husbands for exorbitant sums of money. As bad as this is, there is an even darker side to the story: Under sharia law, the second husband is under no obligation to give his wife a quick divorce — allowing him to keep her as his virtual sex slave for as long as he wishes.

One Muslim woman, who changed her mind about going through with halala after looking into the process, told the BBC that she knew others who did undergo the process, and ended up being sexually abused for months by the second husbands paid to marry them. According to a report in The Guardian, the Sharia Council of Britain says it deals with hundreds of divorce cases annually.

This infamous council is indirectly responsible for what essentially has become a rape pandemic, since it does nothing to stop or refute halala. In fact, it declares that the practice is completely legal under sharia law. The only caveat, the council states, is that the imams presiding over it are not following the proper guidelines, according to which the second marriage and divorce should not be premeditated, but rather happen naturally.

If one asks how all of this jibes with British law, the answer is that it does not. But young Muslims in the UK are discouraged by their communities from marrying through the British system, and are told to have imams perform their weddings and sharia councils register their marriages. Couples who comply end up being at the mercy of Islamic authorities in family matters, including divorce.

Due to its often unethical practices conducted in the name of religious law, the Sharia Council has come under scrutiny a number of times. Last November, for instance, the UK-based NGO, Muslim Women’s Network, penned an open letter — with 100 signatories — to the British government and Home Affairs Select Committee demanding that the Sharia Council be investigated to determine whether its practices adhere to British law.

In response, the Sharia Council declared the letter to be “Islamophobic” and accused the Muslim Women’s Network of being an anti-Muslim organization. In addition, Labour MP Naz Shah jumped to the defense of the Sharia Council, rejecting the idea of an inquiry, on the grounds that shutting down such councils could mean that more women would be stuck in abusive marriages.

While acknowledging that these councils could be used as a tool to deny women their rights, Shah said that they also serve as valuable arbitrators in marital disputes.

Her claims are totally baseless. It is British law, not sharia, law that protects Muslim individuals and couples, as it does any other citizen.

Haitham al-Haddad is a British shari’a council judge, and sits on the board of advisors for the Islamic Sharia Council. Regarding the handling of domestic violence cases, he stated in an interview, “A man should not be questioned why he hit his wife, because this is something between them. Leave them alone. They can sort their matters among themselves.” (Image source: Channel 4 News video screenshot)

Had the British government addressed Sharia Council malpractice when it was first revealed, we would not be facing this pandemic today. Contrary to what apologists for this travesty say, the plight of Muslim women should be treated as an issue of human rights.

It is time for the British government to wake up and take a tough stand on such unethical, and probably illegal, system. And the sooner the better, lest the whole sharia council system go “underground” and out of reach to protect thousands of women from abuse.

Khadija Khan is a Pakistan-based journalist and commentator.

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Al-Azhar, the foremost institution in Sunni Islam, refuses to declare the Islamic State apostate

Jihad Watch, by Robert Spencer, April 16, 2017:

In June 2009 at al-Azhar, Barack Obama said: “For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning.”

In October 2001, right after 9/11, the New York Times called Al-Azhar “the revered mosque, the distinguished university, the leading voice of the Sunni Muslim establishment.” It quoted a Muslim cleric: “Al Azhar is the only institution in the world that has learned the moderate Islam and taught it in a moderate way without fanaticism, and without abiding by the teachings of a school that promotes rigidity or violence.”

So why doesn’t al-Azhar declare the Islamic State apostate? Non-Muslim authorities all over the West assume that the vast majority of Muslims reject and abhor the understanding of Islam taught by the Islamic State. Why doesn’t the foremost institution in Sunni Islam validate that assumption? Because they know that what the Islamic State is doing has ample justification in Islamic texts and teachings. The beheadings (Qur’an 47:4); the subjugation of Christians as dhimmis (Qur’an 9:29) or the massacre of Christians who refused to submit (Qur’an 9:5); the sexual enslavement of infidel women (Qur’an 4:3, 4:24, 23:1-6, 33:50, 70:30) — it’s all there.

“Why does Egypt’s largest Muslim beacon, Al-Azhar, refuse to declare IS ‘apostate’?,” by Taha Saker, Egypt Independent, April 14, 2017:

After the Islamic State (IS) militant group declared its responsibility for Palm Sunday’s deadly attacks that targeted two Coptic churches in Egypt’s Delta and Alexandria city, several media figures and organizations launched severe attack against Egypt’s largest religious institution, Al-Azhar University, considering its teachings as fostering religious extremism.

Through these outlets, Al-Azhar is now facing the backlash of taking part in supporting the IS-affiliated members through its insistance [sic] to refuse considering the IS group as ‘apostates’ and through maintaining some extremist teachings in the syllabuses that are taught to its students.

The backlash criticized the educational syllabuses that are being currently taught in Al-Azhar institution that include teachings from some prominent clerics. These teachings directly incite the brutal killing of anyone who does not follow Islam or who had been deemed to be an ‘infidel’.

The criticism, released from those figures and other media outlets, accused the aforementioned teachings of Al-Azhar by increasingly contributing to generate numerous members affiliated to IS.

Moreover, Al-Azhar’s teaching are perceived by some as the main platform that legitimizes the killing and slaughtering which are currently being practiced by IS group in different parts of the world, in the name of Islamic (Sharia) law….

PBS lesson plan encourages students, teachers to sympathize with Islamic suicide bombers

Islamic terrorist Majdi Amer, 25, is interviewed in documentary used in “Dying to be a Martyr” lesson plan provided to students and teachers nationwide by the Public Broadcasting Service. (Image source: PBS/Wide Angle)

The Blaze, by Justin Haskins, April 12, 2017:

“Dying to be a Martyr.” That’s the name of a lesson plan offered to students and teachers at no cost by the Public Broadcasting Service, a taxpayer-funded nonprofit, and some of the material seems to encourage students to learn to sympathize with radical Islamic terrorists.

The “Dying to be a Martyr” lesson plan is offered through PBS’ LearningMedia website, “a media-on-demand service offering educators access to the best of public media and delivers research-based, classroom-ready digital learning experiences,” according to the PBS website.

The stated “objectives” for the lesson plan, which is designed for use by students in grades nine through 12, include analyzing “why the Middle East conflict began and continues today,” discussing “how religions can unite or divide people” and explaining “why individuals and groups sometimes turn to tactics of terrorism, and evaluate how terrorism affects the world we live in.”

“Part 1” of the lesson instructs teachers to use the provided materials to help explain the similarities and differences between Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

In “Part 2,” students are provided with material that is meant to show how the nation of Israel came into existence and to explain the source of the conflict between the people of Palestine and Israel. Students examine several important historical documents, including the Balfour Declaration and U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181.

At the end of “Part 2,” teachers are instructed to ask students “to draw two faces that show emotions—one face for a Palestinian Muslim after seeing these documents, and one face for an Israeli Jew … (For example, a student may draw a happy face for an Israeli Jew and an angry face for a Palestinian Muslim).”

It’s in “Part 3” the lesson plan takes a disturbing turn. First, students watch a video of 18-year-old Mohanned Abu Tayyoun, a Palestinian terrorist “who entered Israel carrying a bag of explosives with the intention of carrying out a suicide bombing.” Mohanned “wavered, however, and returned home without carrying out the mission.”

In the video, which is called by the lesson plan the “Martyrdom” video, Mohanned is interviewed from a jail cell in Israel, where he is asked why he wanted to be a suicide bomber.

Mohanned responds, “It was my decision. Martyrdom leads us to God. I don’t want this life. When you become a martyr, your prize for carrying out the operation is going to heaven. … We Palestinians prefer to die, just kill ourselves, rather than live this worthless life. Our lives are worthless. We are hollow bodies living a pointless life.”

“Israelis enjoy their life,” Mohanned continued. “They go out at night. They have cafes and nightclubs. They travel all over the world. They go to America and Britain. We can’t even leave Palestine.”

Teachers are then instructed, “Check for understanding by asking students to respond to the focus question. (Mohanned feels he would rather die and by a martyr than live his life, sees his life as hollow—in contrast he sees Israelis as happy, going out, having fun, traveling.) Ask your students why Mohanned may feel that way (Answers may include: Palestinians have less land, fewer privileges, cannot come and go as they please.)”

Nothing in the instructions tells teachers to denounce Mohanned’s claims or radical Islamic views in general.

In Part 4, students are asked to watch a third video interview of an Islamic terrorist. This time, the video includes a terrorist who actually was involved in a suicide bombing. According to the lesson plan, “this is taken from an interview with 25-year-old Majdi Amer, who in March 2003 built a bomb and prepared a suicide bomber for a bus bombing in Haifa that killed 17 people and wounded 50.”

In the interview, Majdi is asked why he believes it’s acceptable to kill women and children, to which he explains, “If the Israelis kill a child in Gaza, I’m ready to kill one in Tel Aviv. If they destroy houses in Gaza, I’ll do it in Tel Aviv. If they give me security in my land, then there’s no problem.”

After students watch the interview, teachers are expected to ask students to explain “how Majdi and Mohanned’s opinions differ from one another, even though they are both Palestinians involved in suicide bombing plots. (Majdi feels that Islam calls for him to defend his land any way he can, he does not recognize the Jewish state, he will kill an Israeli for every Palestinian killed. Mohanned did not see every Jew as an enemy, did not want to kill innocent people, felt that God wanted him to live.)”

No instructions are provided telling teachers to denounce the radical claims made by Majdi, and there are no other lesson plans describing the conflict from the point of view of the Israelis.

On the lesson plan’s website, under the “Credits” section, JP Morgan Chase and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are listed as the sources of funding. CPB is funded by the U.S. federal government, and it was first created by an act of Congress in 1967, under the leadership of Democratic Party President Lyndon Johnson.

Although it’s difficult to determine just how many teachers have used this lesson plan in their classrooms, it has been confirmed the lesson plan is listed in the New York State Education Department’s “Global History & Geography Online Resource Guide.” Tami Goldstein, a public school teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, lists the lesson plan on a website for a course she teaches at the school titled “Modern World History.”

On PBS’ website for teachers and students seeking educational resources, the lesson plan has been viewed more than 1,200 times.

At the end of March, the Christian Action Network sent a “Letter of Demand” to officials at the U.S. Department of Education, mandating the PBS LearningMedia website cease its “so-called educational material” covering topics related to Islam, which CAN said are “nothing more than indoctrinating students into Islamic religious beliefs, duties and actions.”

A review of the LearningMedia website by The Blaze found at least six lengthy lesson plans focused on teaching students about various aspects of Islam, including “The Five Pillars of Islam,” “The Haj: Journey to Mecca” and “Salat: Prayer in Muslim Life.” However, no similar lesson plans covering other religious groups—including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism or Hinduism—were discovered on the website.

How to Oust Assad (If We Decide To)

Family Security Matters, by N. M. GUARIGLIA, April 12, 2017:

It would require cooperation from Russia.

Sean Davis, a co-founder of The Federalist, has written a very timely piece outlining the top fourteen questions America must ask itself should President Trump eventually expand on last week’s airstrikes and decide to remove Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from power.  As Davis states: “We owe it to the American men and women whose blood was shed in Iraq, and their families, to not repeat the same mistakes we made there in Syria.  We owe it to the men and women who would be deployed overseas to have a clear understanding of our political goals in Syria, what military resources will be required to achieve them, and what risks we face, both militarily and politically, as a result of approving military action to remove Assad.”

Indeed.  Therefore, allow me to humbly address these concerns one by one.

Question 1: “What national security interest, rather than pure humanitarian interest, is served by the use of American military power to depose Assad’s regime?”

Answer: This presumes military power is necessary to depose Assad; a presumption America should not automatically make.  American foreign policy history is littered with examples of nonviolent regime change (the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite regimes among the most prominent).  Regime change can be done through political means, not just military means.  In fact, nonviolent regime change can avoid a war.

As for our national security interest, the answer is straightforward: with the death of Saddam Hussein over a decade ago, Bashar al-Assad is among a handful of living men – perhaps the only living man – to have crossed the calamitous threshold of having used a weapon of mass destruction.  And he has done so multiple times.  Removing Assad from power would deny his ability to do so again.  It is not out of the realm of imagination for Syrian intelligence operatives – or terrorists employed by Syria – to release sarin gas in crowded American cities.  In short, those Syrian children we have seen grasping for air on television could very easily be American children.

The Assad dynasty has been an enemy of America for decades.  Assad remains one of the world’s leading state sponsors of jihadist terrorism.  Should Assad fall, the world’s primary state sponsor of jihadist terrorism, Iran, would lose its chief ally.  Terrorist groups like Hezbollah would lose their principle supporter.  A regime responsible for murdering hundreds of American soldiers and Marines would be brought to justice (if you consider this hyperbole, research the role that the “Syrian ratlines” played in Anbar Province during Gulf War II).

Assad is a genocidal monster and his longtime hostility toward the West should not be taken lightly simply because he is currently engaged in a turf war with ISIS. 

Question 2: “How will deposing Assad make America safer?”

Answer: This is similar to the first question and therefore contains the same answers.  If Assad were to vanish tomorrow and be replaced by a non-hostile strongman – someone like General Sisi in Egypt or King Abdullah in Jordan – the anti-ISIS coalition in Syria would be unified.  No longer would a large percentage of Syrian people feel obligated to fight both ISIS and the Syrian government, thereby dividing their efforts.  Instead, the new Syrian leader, if he were adequately benevolent and did not use chemical weapons on the Syrian people, could unite the Syrian military with the anti-ISIS rebels.  Rather than have a three-way regional war with Russia, Iran, and Syria’s leadership in one corner, America and ragtag Syrian rebels in another corner, and ISIS in the third corner, we could instead craft a three-on-one alliance with America, Russia, and Syria’s new leadership uniting together against ISIS, cutting the Iranians out entirely from their traditional sphere of influence along the Mediterranean.  That would expedite the defeat of ISIS and make America safer.  It would kill three strategic birds (Assad, Iran, ISIS) with one tactical stone. 

Question 3: “What does final political victory in Syria look like (be specific), and how long will it take for that political victory to be achieved?  Do you consider victory to be destabilization of Assad, the removal of Assad, the creation of a stable government that can protect itself and its people without additional assistance from the United States, etc.?”

Answer: We do not need to turn Syria into a liberal democracy to achieve our political and strategic objectives.  Final political victory in Syria would probably look much like Jordan today; a relatively benign government at peace with its neighbors and within its own borders.  That means no Assad.  That means no ISIS.  Both of those objectives are entirely within our grasp, especially if we work in concert with Russia (or I should say, if Russia works in concert with us).

As for how long it will take: who knows?  As long as America is not taking casualties – and not throwing billions down a bottomless pit with no end in sight – does the length of our “involvement” really matter?  We have provided logistical support to the Jordanians and Egyptians for decades.  Nobody cares.  We have been conducting an air campaign over Yemen and Somalia for years.  Nobody cares.  We may require a similar posture toward Syria in a post-Assad environment.

At this time, it appears President Trump has no interest in using military action to overthrow Assad from power.  Very well.  But if events in Syria lead to that outcome, given the emphasis with which Secretary of Defense Mattis has placed on speed and operational tempo, I suspect any overt U.S. military intervention in Syria would be overwhelming, devastating, and swift – taking days and weeks, not months and years.

Question 4: “What military resources (e.g., ground troops), diplomatic resources, and financial resources will be required to achieve this political victory?”

Answer: This is a great question to which I do not have the answer.  And it certainly must be answered.  It would depend upon how we go about it strategically.  In the event that overt military force is used – even if conventional ground forces were used – there is no reason to believe that would necessitate a years-long military occupation and nation-building effort.  President Trump is famously averse to nation-building (and for good reason).  He wants the U.S. military to be the SWAT team that kicks the door down; not the meter-maid handing out parking tickets.  This is to his credit.

In fact, Trump’s view of how the military should be used has always been the traditional American view.  It has only been since the Marshall Plan in the aftermath of World War II that we decided to tie our hands to long-term reconstruction efforts in all postbellum environments.  Before going into Iraq, Colin Powell famously warned George W. Bush of the Pottery Barn rule: “If you break it, you own it.”  Lame.  I suspect Trump’s view of war is to break things without taking on the contemporary obligation of making them nicer after doing so.  Cheers to that.  Breaking things is fast, easy, and cheap.

Question 5: “How long will it take to achieve political victory?”

Answer: This is similar to Question 3.  Military force and political victory are admittedly two separate concepts.  Syria has been in a state of civil war for the better part of six years.  I believe “political victory” would take less than that.  Much less.  Indeed, militarily speaking, ISIS in Syria already seems to be on the ropes.  Removing Assad from office could take days or weeks.  The final destruction of ISIS may take another six months.  In short, the length of any regime change effort is completely unknowable, and would entirely depend upon the nature of our strategy.  If America and Russia were to work together, I do not see why Assad should last more than a few hours.  Perhaps Putin will eventually offer the Assads an asylum package?

Question 6: “What costs, in terms of lives (both military and civilian), dollars, and forgone options elsewhere as a result of resource deployment in Syria, will be required to achieve political victory?”

Answer: This is a question for the U.S. Congress.  America is a constitutional republic that requires the will of the people to go to war.  Therefore, in order for our national wars to be politically sustainable, they should be won as quickly as possible.  Our strategic and political objectives must be clearly defined and limited enough so that they are obtainable through military operations.  If an American war takes longer than 90 days, results in more than 300 dead Americans, and costs more than 5% of the annual defense budget, we’re probably doing it wrong.

Question 7: “What other countries will join the United States in deposing Assad, in terms of military, monetary, or diplomatic resources?”

Answer: England and France would join.  As would Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and others Sunni Arab states fearful of both ISIS and the Iranians.  Israel would join too, of course, although we may want them to sit on the sidelines for geopolitical reasons.

But the real key would be to obtain Russian support.  Russia has upwards of 4,000 troops in Syria, all of whom are currently supporting the Assad regime.  So it seems at the moment almost preposterous to seek Russian support in the removal of Assad, does it not?  However, I believe this is where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – who has known Vladimir Putin for many years – could work his diplomacy.  In fact, the presence of Russia within Syria may even accelerate the speed with which Assad could be overthrown.

For starters, America does not want to inadvertently kill Russian soldiers in Syria.  Such an event could potentially lead to World War III.  Therefore, since neither America nor Russia want nuclear apocalypse, I believe both countries are likely to deepen coordination efforts in Syria so as to avoid unintentional friendly-fire.

Secondly, we should not forget that Russia was supposed to disarm Assad of his chemical weapons in 2013 as a precondition for President Obama not enforcing his feckless “red line.”  Whether intentional or not, Russia clearly did not fully disarm Assad.  The international community has every right to hold Russia to account for such negligence; the mere threat of doing so may force Moscow to cut ties with Assad.  Why should Moscow expend enormous geopolitical capital defending a man they could easily replace?

Of course, enlisting the support of Russia would come at a price.  Putin would likely demand something significant from America in exchange for turning his back on Assad.  The question is: what would that be?  Therein lies the foundation of negotiations that one could reasonably conclude are about to take place.

Question 8: “Should explicit congressional authorization for the use of military force in Syria be required, or should the president take action without congressional approval?”

Answer: Many lawyers believe the War Powers Resolution gives President Trump 60 days to conduct military operations before needing congressional authority.  Many lawyers and constitutional experts disagree.  It’s a moot point if we pursue regime change non-militarily in coordination with Russia.

Question 9: “What is the risk of wider conflict with Russia, given that nation’s presence and stake in Syria, if the United States chooses to invade and depose Assad, a key Russian ally in the Middle East?”

Answer: The entire premise of deposing Assad non-militarily is that it should incorporate Russian assistance so as to avoid precisely this risk.

Question 10: “If U.S. intervention in Syria does spark a larger war with Russia, what does political victory in that scenario look like, and what costs will it entail?”

Answer: A war with Russia would be TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it).  There would be no political victory.  Those of us that survive the fallout would spend the rest of our days eating squirrels in the woods.  That’s why it likely won’t happen.  A half-century of nuclear deterrence and the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction” has proven that the Russians prefer their own existence to the annihilation of America.  We feel the same way.  One must believe that rational minds will yet again prevail before tensions begin to even approach this point.

Question 11: “Given that Assad has already demonstrated a willingness to use chemical weapons, how should the United States respond if the Assad regime deploys chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons against the United States?”

Answer: Assuming U.S. ground forces are used – a bold assumption that I do not believe will come to fruition – we will be faced with the same question we were forced to address prior to invading Iraq in 2003: what do we do if the regime we are overthrowing uses WMD on our troops?  The answer, as far as I can tell, is the same as it was then, and two-fold: protect U.S. ground forces with CBRN Hazmat suits and retaliate against any WMD usage with the wrath of an angry psychotic god.

It is worth recalling the reason Assad does not today have nuclear weapons (by way of North Korean scientists): because the Israelis took aggressive military action on a secret Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007.

Question 12: “Assuming the Assad regime is successfully removed from power, what type of government structure will be used to replace Assad, who will select that government, and how will that government establish and maintain stability going forward?”

Answer: If America and Russia both agree to replace Assad together, then the new leader would be someone that has the backing of both America and Russia.  This person could be found within the existing Syrian polity or from the outside.  So long as the new leader sufficiently breaks with the Iranians and continues to fight ISIS, America’s interests are met.  Once the insurgency is squashed and the civil war has ended, then Syria’s political future would belong to the Syrian people.  The goal must be to find someone that: a) won’t use WMD against innocent people; b) won’t support terrorist organizations; and c) won’t be a stooge of the Iranian government.

Question 13: “Given that a change in political power in the United States radically altered the American position in Iraq in 2009, how will you mitigate or address the risk of a similar political dynamic upending your preferred strategy in Syria, either in 2018, 2020, or beyond?” 

Answer: This question presumes Republican losses in 2018 and 2020.  Nevertheless, given his “America First” rhetoric and campaign pledges, I cannot envision a scenario whereby President Trump agrees to a Syria strategy that ties America’s hands for years to come.

Question 14: “What lessons did you learn from America’s failure to achieve and maintain political victory following the removal of governments in Iraq and Libya, and how will you apply those lessons to a potential war in Syria?”

Answer: The primary lesson from Iraq and Libya is to have a political alternative ready to assume control once we have ousted the regime in question.  It only makes logical sense to pursue regime change in Syria if such a political alternative is identified prior to removing Assad.  This would require enlisting Russian support.

Putin turning his back on Assad might seem improbable.  But it certainly isn’t impossible.  When Trump and Putin put their dalliance aside and get down to truly negotiating about the future of the world, it is not unreasonable for the American side of table to bring up the replacement of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Contributing Editor N.M. Guariglia is an essayist who writes on Islam and Middle Eastern geopolitics.