Report: Global Terrorism Has Tripled Since 2011, Now At An All Time High

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, June 1, 2017:

The Institute for Economics and Peace has released their annual “Global Peace Index” for 2017, reporting some shocking findings.

According to the report, global terrorism has nearly tripled since 2011, and terrorism is now at an all-time high.

The Voice of America reports:

Worldwide terrorism is at an all-time high, and violence cost the global economy $14.3 trillion last year, with a $2.5 trillion impact in the United States alone.

These new figures from the latest Global Peace Index, a report on conflict and security, indicate that world peace has been deteriorating for the past decade, largely driven by terrorism and conflicts in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

The study says the decline interrupts long-term improvements the world had been making since the end of World War II.

According to the report, the annual number of terrorism incidents has almost tripled since 2011.

Deaths from terrorism have risen more than 900% since 2007 in the 35 countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Of those members, 23 nations experienced terrorism related deaths over the past year.

Those countries include Denmark, Sweden, France and Turkey.

One eye-popping graphic from the report (p. 36) shows that terrorism deaths in OECD countries has increased 900 percent since 2007.

This is quite a turn-around from this time last year during the presidential campaign when the media was trumpeting major declines in terrorism.

Only a few were willing to acknowledge the growing terrorism problem developing in the West:

As I noted here at PJ Media after the terror attack in Nice last July, attacks in the West were occurring at a rate of one every 84 hours.

After last month’s suicide bombing in Manchester, among other recent attacks, it appears that another “Summer of Terror” may be in the offing.

But wait!? Didn’t we hear from President Obama that Osama bin Laden was dead, and al-Qaeda had been decimated? The Islamic State was the “JV team”?

In fact, we did.

Going back to April 2013, we had senior Obama State Department officials telling us that the “War on Terror” was over, and the primary reason was that Obama’s Arab Spring had unleashed the forces of democracy by encouraging hardcore Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood, to take over in several critical countries in the Middle East.

[…]

The so-called Arab Spring and the Syrian War – both openly cheered and supported by the Obama administration – unleashed deadly and destructive forces whose full manifestation are only now being seen.

This new data documents the terrorism that has ripped open the Middle East, southeast Asia and Africa. Now it is literally exploding across Europe.

And it may take more than hugs and hashtags to roll it back.

Read more

No, Efforts To Designate The Muslim Brotherhood Aren’t Abandoned

A diverse range of voices favors Washington putting the squeeze on the Muslim Brotherhood, despite debates about to how to move forward effectively.

The Federalist, by Kyle Shideler, May 15, 2017:

If we are to believe media reports, the Trump administration has all but abandoned efforts to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. While Brookings scholar Shadi Hamid trumpeted that “American experts who study the Muslim Brotherhood unanimously oppose their designation,” a wide range of opinion on the Islamist group remains, both inside and outside the Beltway.

In fact, a diverse range of voices favors Washington puting the squeeze on the Muslim Brotherhood, even if there are debates about to how to move forward in the most effective manner. Former Ambassador Dennis Ross, co-author of a leading work on the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch, the terrorist group Hamas, recently wrote a stinging article targeting the tiny gulf state of Qatar for its role in financing the group. Ross notes,

Few countries have done more to promote the Muslim Brotherhood, including its Palestinian offshoot Hamas, than Qatar. The actions of the Muslim Brotherhood may vary from country to country, but it rationalizes attacks against American forces and interests, rejects the very concept of peace with Israel, and promotes religious intolerance.

Just so. While Ross doesn’t explicitly call for designating the group as a terrorist organization, he does poke holes in the view—prevalent during the Obama administration—that the Brotherhood represents a bulwark against Islamic terrorism rather than a network of support for it. That flawed approach has been the basis for much of the immense bureaucratic opposition from both the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department to designating the Brotherhood.

We’re Already Halfway There

Soon after Trump’s victory late last year, State Department and CIA memos opposing designation were leaked to sympathetic media, and fed into a fierce public relations campaign the Brotherhood funded abroad. An echo chamber of validators amplified these efforts, using self-proclaimed Islamist and counterterror experts whose think tanks receive lavish funding from Gulf States like Qatar.

Yet designating the Brotherhood enjoys a base of broad support among Republicans, from conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz to traditional centrists likes Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch, and even a handful of Democrats. Some foreign governments have also supported a designation, including the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

Indeed, elements of the Muslim Brotherhood have already been designated. The effort began in 1993, when President Bill Clinton designated its Palestinian branch—better known as Hamas—as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Then, almost immediately following 9/11, U.S. counterterrorism efforts against the Muslim Brotherhood began in earnest. By the end of President Bush’s second term, numerous Brotherhood charities and organizations, both foreign and domestic, had been designated, and others criminally prosecuted for terrorism activity.

Additionally, a number of Brotherhood leaders were personally designated, including Yemeni Brotherhood leader Abdul Majeed Al-Zindani and one of the leaders of the International Muslim Brotherhood organization, Youssef Nada. Most of these designations took place without invoking the Brotherhood’s name, but they were still intentional blows to the group’s terror support network. While the Obama administration reversed some of these designations, others remain.

What the Trump Administration Should Do

Any effective policy to combat the Muslim Brotherhood would involve freeing the Treasury Department to once against begin designating and sanctioning the Muslim Brothers and their various front organizations and branches for terrorism finance and their other illegal activities.

This step can be taken as soon as key nominees are confirmed, a process that Democratic Senators have unfortunately slowed to a crawl. Just this week, Sen. Ron Wyden announced he would block the nomination of Sigal Mandelker to be undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.

In addition to Treasury enforcement action, knowledgeable federal law enforcement officers within the government recognize the nature and threat of the Muslim Brotherhood. These officers investigated Muslim Brotherhood-related cases during the Bush administration, and they understand the role the Muslim Brotherhood plays in terrorism and terror finance.

This includes agents who have dedicated nearly a lifetime of federal service to investigating the Brotherhood’s terror connections. Unfortunately, the Obama administration broke up the taskforce that won key counterterrorism convictions against Brotherhood leaders, meaning some of America’s best experts on the Muslim Brotherhood have been relegated to other tasks. Restoring this taskforce for federal law enforcement is a necessary step, and could be accomplished by the Trump Department of Justice with a modicum of effort.

Perhaps most importantly, the public debate around designating the Muslim Brotherhood deserves transparency. A tranche of Brotherhood documents federal law enforcement captured, while reportedly not classified, have not been made available to the general public. They should be released immediately.

Additionally, the nature of the U.S. government’s policy towards Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood over the past decade deserves clarification. Presidential Study Directive-11, which reportedly deals with U.S. policy towards Islamist movements in the Middle East, and its associated documents should be declassified and made available for examination. Former House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Pete Hokstra made this argument at a hearing in September last year.

As with the documents taken during the raid on Abbottabad when Osama bin Laden was killed, and the so-called “side deals” of the Iran deal, these documents also deserve to see light of day so a reasoned debate can begin over how the U.S. government should best respond to the threat the Muslim Brotherhood poses. These are all actions the Trump administration can begin immediately.

Finally, a role for Congress remains in this debate. Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Cruz, legislation on designation remains before both the House and Senate. Hearings on the Muslim Brotherhood, its role in supporting terrorism, and U.S. policy towards the group are all not only appropriate, but well overdue as a companion to White House efforts.

It’s inaccurate to say no support exists for designating the Muslim Brotherhood, but it is fair to say the window for a successful effort is closing fast. If the Trump administration intends to keep this important part of their broader platform to make America safe again, they need to move swiftly.

Kyle Shideler is the director of the Threat Information Office at the Center for Security Policy. Kyle has worked for several organizations involved with Middle East and terrorism policy since 2006. He is a contributing author to “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network: America and the West’s Fatal Embrace,” and has written for numerous publications and briefed legislative aides, intelligence, and law enforcement officials and the general public on national security issues.

Unfinished Business: What it will take to make America safe again

Medics rehydrate a member of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division who was overcome by heat and exhaustion while conducting a
mission intended to deny sanctuary to al Qaeda and Taliban fighters along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, July 23, 2002. Photo credit: Scott Nelson / Getty

Weekly Standard Magazine June 5th issue, by Thomas Joscelyn:

Donald Trump is fond of claiming that his predecessor mismanaged America’s role in the world. “And I have to just say that the world is a mess. I inherited a mess,” the president noted during a joint press conference with King Abdullah of Jordan in the Rose Garden on April 5. “Whether it’s the Middle East,” he continued, “whether it’s North Korea, whether it’s so many other things, whether it’s in our country—horrible trade deals—I inherited a mess.”

The world is an inherently messy place, and each president is left with problems unresolved by the man who preceded him. But when it comes to America’s fight against terrorism, Trump has a point. Barack Obama claimed that he brought the war in Iraq to a “responsible end” and promised do the same in Afghanistan. In reality, he ended neither of the 9/11 wars. While Obama was arguing that the “tide of war is receding,” new conflicts emerged and old ones intensified.

Obama always had a tin ear for the psychological impact of terrorism. He liked to tell his staff that the number of Americans killed in terrorist attacks each year was smaller than the number who perished in car accidents or by slipping in the bathtub. But this argument is myopic. Jihadist groups, not automobile manufacturers, are fighting for the control of entire countries. The terrorist threat over here only grew as they gained ground over there. There have been large-scale plots, such as the Islamic State’s assault on Paris in November 2015 and the March 2016 Brussels bombings. Small attacks have become widespread. The December 2015 shooting in San Bernardino and the June 2016 nightclub massacre in Orlando both shocked this nation. Such attacks are often described as the work of “lone wolves,” but this is misleading. Al Qaeda has long sought to inspire individuals to strike out on their own. The Islamic State took this tactic further, using online applications to both attract and guide recruits in the West. The emergence of the so-called caliphate in 2014 created a new justification and urgency for believers to lash out in their home countries.

On May 22, the West was reminded, once again, of the persistent threat when a jihadist detonated a shrapnel-laden bomb at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. The bombing, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility, targeted children who just wanted to see a favorite pop star. At least 22 people were killed and 64 wounded. Britain, like Paris and Brussels before it, was put on high alert as officials worried that a follow-up attack was in the works. Western officials have worked around the clock for years to prevent just such attacks. The casualty count would be much higher if not for their efforts. Thousands of potential terrorists now tie up counterterrorism and law enforcement resources throughout Europe and the United States. The U.S. and allied governments are rightly focused on the jihadist threat—not on the work of bathtub manufacturers or automakers.

Barack Obama does not bear all the blame; he inherited the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from his predecessor, George W. Bush. The Arab uprisings occurred on Obama’s watch, and they opened new opportunities for the jihadists in countries where they had only a minimal presence beforehand. The revolutions were beyond America’s control, but Obama did little to counter the growing jihadist menace and even exacerbated problems. He sought to downplay or dismiss every jihadist threat during his presidency. With few exceptions, such as the killing of Osama bin Laden, there is little Obama can point to as a counterterrorism success in his eight years in office.

The Trump administration is currently crafting its own counterterrorism strategy. An 11-page draft memo was leaked to Reuters on May 5, and in keeping with the president’s views on foreign policy, the administration seems to be planning to call on America’s allies to do more. “We need to intensify operations against global jihadist groups while also reducing the costs of American ‘blood and treasure’ in pursuit of our counterterrorism goals,” the document reads. “We will seek to avoid costly, large-scale U.S. military interventions to achieve counterterrorism objectives and will increasingly look to partners to share the responsibility for countering terrorist groups.”

There’s nothing wrong, in principle or in practice, with asking our allies to do more. President Trump was never likely to order nation-building projects or massive troop deployments. But it is worth noting that Obama described his approach to counterterrorism in terms remarkably similar to those used in the Trump memo. In his last major counterterrorism speech, on December 6, 2016, Obama noted that the current war effort against the Islamic State cost “$10 billion over two years, which is the same amount that we used to spend in one month at the height of the Iraq War.” “Instead of pushing all of the burden onto American ground troops,” he said, “instead of trying to mount invasions wherever terrorists appear, we’ve built a network of partners.”

Obama’s plan, too, was built around reducing “the costs of American ‘blood and treasure.’ ” It’s a fine goal and, in some ways, a sensible one. Limiting the number of American casualties has to be any president’s top concern. Nor can America be the primary force in every country that faces a jihadist fight. Substituting others’ boots reduces the cost to U.S. taxpayers. But an “Allies First” strategy has its limits. There is no better example than the ongoing war in Afghanistan, where America’s partners are struggling to keep the jihadists at bay.

AMERICA’S LONGEST WAR

Late in 2009, Obama ordered 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. But he promised that the Americans deployed under his leadership would come home before the conclusion of his reelection campaign, and he delivered on that pledge.

“We’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and begun the transition to an Afghan lead,” Obama announced in September 2012. “Next month,” he continued, “the last of the troops I ordered as part of the surge against the Taliban will come home, and by 2014, the transition to Afghan lead will be complete.” The soldiers came home, but the Taliban’s “momentum” was never truly broken. It was just slowed. Even Obama eventually realized he had to keep more American troops in Afghanistan than he originally planned. Today, more than 15 years after we invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, large parts of the country are falling back into the hands of the Taliban.

According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, who reports directly to Congress, at least 164 (40 percent) of Afghanistan’s 407 districts were either contested or under the insurgents’ control or influence in February. The jihadists are able to execute spectacular assaults like the April 21 raid on an Afghan military base near Mazar-e-Sharif that left more than 100 dead. The number of civilian casualties has increased as well. The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported in February that 11,418 civilians were killed or wounded in 2016. By contrast, 5,969 civilian casualties were recorded in 2009—Obama’s first year in office.

Testifying before the Senate in early February, Gen. John W. Nicholson, who leads all NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said that a “few thousand” more troops were needed to stabilize the war effort. He called the conflict a stalemate, but there is no denying the Taliban gained significant ground over the previous year.

President Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who held commands in both Iraq and Afghanistan, reportedly wants to send several thousand more U.S. soldiers to the country. Their primary mission would be to train additional Afghan forces in the hopes of stemming the Taliban’s advance. There are currently 8,300 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, so the total proposed force would still be a far cry from the 100,000 or so troops stationed there in 2010-11.

Some in the Trump administration object to even this modest strategy. The Washington Post reported that Afghanistan is now “derisively” called “McMaster’s War” by his West Wing rivals. White House counselor Steve Bannon has been particularly vocal in opposing any troop escalation in Afghanistan—as he opposed the president’s decision last month to strike the Syrian airfield from which the Assad regime had launched a chemical attack. It’s easy to see why Bannon is willing to give up on Afghanistan. The landlocked nation bedeviled foreign powers long before the Taliban ever rose to power. The Afghan government is rife with corruption and often unreliable. Over the last 16 years, 2,387 Americans have perished in the war for Afghanistan and 20,261 others have been wounded. The thought of sending more off to fight in a seemingly intractable war would be disheartening for any president.

But the restoration of the Taliban, or anything close to it, would have dire consequences for the United States, particularly because it would be seen as the result of our capitulation. The myth that faith in Allah was sufficient for the mujahedeen to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980s (ignoring the billions of dollars in arms supplied by the United States) fueled the generation of jihadists from which al Qaeda arose. It is not difficult to imagine what a second vanquished superpower would do for their cause.

“Allah has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat, so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled,” Mullah Omar, the Taliban founder, once said. He passed away in 2013, but his words are beginning to look prophetic. Indeed, an American retreat would be widely regarded as a vindication not just of Mullah Omar and his Taliban heirs, but of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

THE TALIBAN-AL-QAEDA ALLIANCE

Part of the Obama administration’s strategy for ending the Afghan conflict was an attempt to separate the Taliban from al Qaeda. It was a fool’s errand, as anyone aware of the overlapping structures and interests of the two understood. But for eight years, Obama’s advisers built a policy in Afghanistan on this deeply flawed assumption.

Since well before the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda’s chieftains have been loyal to the Taliban’s overall leader. In June 2016, Ayman al Zawahiri, who followed bin Laden as the head of al Qaeda, swore a blood oath to the Taliban’s emir, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. In December, as something of a commemoration of the Obama policy failure, the Taliban released a lengthy video celebrating the historical alliance. There was footage of al Qaeda and Taliban figures—living and dead, including bin Laden and Mullah Omar—and no hint at all that the Taliban regretted the collapse of its rule in Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. invasion in October 2001.

Al Qaeda commanders are integrated with their Taliban counterparts throughout the Afghan insurgency to this day. The man who runs the Taliban’s military operations, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is particularly close to al Qaeda. He and his father, Jalaluddin, were among bin Laden’s earliest allies.

Throughout his tenure as president, Obama repeatedly insisted that al Qaeda was “decimated” and “on the run.” He was willfully blind to the situation in Afghanistan until the end. “Today, by any measure, core al Qaeda—the organization that hit us on 9/11—is a shadow of its former self,” Obama claimed in his December valedictory speech. It is true that al Qaeda suffered significant losses at American hands in Obama’s eight years in office. But the organization has survived the war on terror; it has evolved and it has grown.

In October 2015, the U.S. military made a startling announcement. Over the course of five days, a joint team of American and Afghan forces had raided an al Qaeda training camp far bigger than the one that produced the 9/11 hijackers and their comrades. The facility was nearly 30 square miles—about half the size of Washington, D.C. It was located in the Shorabak district of the southern Kandahar Province and had gone unnoticed for months, even as it churned out scores of new trainees. The whole of Shorabak district was overrun by the Taliban early this year.

The massive camp is indicative of a bigger problem. The Obama administration routinely downplayed the extent of al Qaeda’s footprint in Afghanistan. The CIA estimated in late June 2010 that there were just “50 to 100” al Qaeda operatives inside Afghanistan. U.S. officials stuck with this assessment for years, even as contradictory evidence mounted. Files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011, for instance, demonstrated that his men were operating in at least eight different Afghan provinces as of June 19, 2010. Just one al Qaeda “battalion” operating in the provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, the files showed, had 70 members.

The U.S. military continued to launch raids against al Qaeda positions, but the “50 to 100” range remained fixed. U.S. officials finally conceded in April 2016 that the extent of al Qaeda’s operations inside Afghanistan had been underestimated. In December, just weeks before the end of the Obama administration, Gen. Nicholson noted that 250 al Qaeda operatives had been killed or captured in Afghanistan since the beginning of 2016.

One of those killed was an especially important target. Faruq al Qahtani had been tasked by Osama bin Laden with organizing al Qaeda’s relocation to Afghanistan from northern Pakistan in 2010 at the peak of the Obama administration’s drone campaign. A significant number of al Qaeda leaders and fighters made the move, which allowed them to survive the drone onslaught. Qahtani and his men fought alongside their Taliban comrades. But that was not his sole mission. After Qahtani was struck down in October 2016, the Pentagon announced that he had been “one of the terrorist group’s senior plotters of attacks against the United States.” Al Qaeda is still plotting against America from Afghan soil in 2017, and a complete U.S. withdrawal would only make it easier for them to do so.

Al Qaeda has been expanding throughout South Asia. In September 2014, Zawahiri announced the creation of a new entity: Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). He explained that after two years of negotiations and planning, several preexisting al Qaeda-allied groups in Pakistan and its neighboring countries had merged. Almost immediately after this announcement AQIS members attempted to hijack a Pakistani frigate and fire its missiles at Indian and American warships. The goal was to get India or the United States to retaliate for a perceived attack by Pakistan and start a regional war. The plot, which was carried out by terrorists who had infiltrated Pakistan’s navy, was narrowly averted while it was in motion.

Thus far, the Trump administration has said little about how it plans to fight the Taliban-al Qaeda axis. The U.S. military has been mainly focused on fighting the Islamic State’s upstart presence in eastern Afghanistan—known as ISIS-K, for Khorasan, an old name for the wider central Asian region. Three American soldiers were killed during raids on ISIS-K positions in Nangarhar Province in April, and there is no question that the group poses a challenge. But it is not the gravest threat to Afghan security. At the height of their power, the Islamic State’s representatives controlled approximately ten Afghan districts and contested several others. Today, they control at most three. That is a far cry from the Taliban-led insurgency, which either dominates or is challenging Afghan and NATO forces in more than 160 districts across the country.

The Taliban has its allies, too. Iran long ago cut a deal with it to counter America’s presence in the region. The Russians have provided rhetorical support at the very minimum. Pakistan remains as duplicitous as ever, fighting some jihadists and allowing others to roam free. What little leverage we have in Pakistan today would surely be lost in the event of our withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Taliban was, after all, originally a Pakistani proxy.

NATO countries may be willing to contribute more forces to the Afghan war. And despite the Afghans’ many problems, they will always be the ones doing the majority of the fighting and dying in this war. NATO and the Afghans can do more, of course, but are most likely to do so with the spur of a significant American commitment.

IRAQ AND SYRIA

President Obama was always dismissive of any jihadist threat emanating from Iraq. He described the Islamic State and its predecessor organization as a “kind of mafia” and the “jayvee team,” even as its fighters were laying the groundwork for their caliphate. Underpinning Obama’s casual dismissal was, as he told the New Yorker in January 2014, the idea that “jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes” aren’t a serious threat to the West. Today, the Islamic State’s tentacles reach around the globe, from Southeast Asia, through the Middle East and Africa, all the way into the heart of the United States.

Obama was never going to keep nearly 150,000 troops stationed in the country when he took office. But even a small contingent would have interrupted the rise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s caliphate. Obama and his surrogates liked to blame the Iraqi government’s refusal to enter a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for America’s complete withdrawal at the end of 2011. The claim is false. Obama celebrated his “ending” of the Iraq war throughout his 2012 reelection campaign. It was a point of pride for him, not a lament.

Leon Panetta, Obama’s secretary of defense from 2011-13, wrote in Time in 2014 that the president was never interested in negotiating a new agreement. The Obama administration was “so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests,” Panetta explained. Obama’s rationale is also belied by the fact that when he eventually sent American troops back into Iraq in 2014, he did so without a new SOFA. Difficult negotiations with the Iraqi government aren’t the reason Obama closed the door on Iraq. He believed that the jihadists weren’t a serious threat to American security.

Nonetheless, as his two terms came to an end, Obama argued that his course correction in 2014 left President Trump with a successful strategy for defeating the Islamic State. During his December 6 speech, Obama said, “the results are clear: ISIL [Islamic State] has lost more than half its territory. ISIL has lost control of major population centers. Its morale is plummeting. Its recruitment is drying up. Its commanders and external plotters are being taken out, and local populations are turning against it.” Pointing to the campaigns in Mosul and north of Raqqa, the group’s “self-declared capital,” Obama added: “The bottom line is we are breaking the back of ISIL. We’re taking away its safe havens.”

It may be the case that the zenith of the Islamic State’s power is past. But Obama’s use of ad hoc allies and proxy fighting was an outgrowth of his hasty withdrawal and eventual reversal; it was never a cogent strategy. Iraqi government forces melted away quickly as the Islamic State’s killers marauded their way through the country in 2014. The United States worked to rebuild their capabilities in the years since, but there is no good reason to think the Iraqi army can stand on its own. What’s more, many of the anti-Islamic State actors fighting in Iraq are allies of Iran, which is fomenting an anti-American revolution throughout the region.

Iranian expansion was the poison pill in Obama’s plan for the Islamic State. Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which are involved in the battle for Mosul and operations throughout Iraq, have strong ties to Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). During the height of the Iraq war, the IRGC’s elite Quds Force hunted American-led coalition forces. The deputy commander of the PMF is Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, who has long worked with both the IRGC and Hezbollah, the notorious Iranian terror proxy in Lebanon. In 2009, the Treasury Department designated Muhandis a terrorist for his role in orchestrating attacks against Americans and allied forces in Iraq. Today, he and his men fight as part of the coalition against the Islamic State. The Shiite jihadists battling Baghdadi’s goons in Iraq do not serve America’s long-term interests, they serve Iran’s.

President Trump is aware that Iranian aggression throughout the region is one of Obama’s most troubling legacies. During his speech in Saudi Arabia on May 21, he said that “no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment.” Trump meant Iran and continued, “From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.” It was important for the president to make it clear that the United States views Iran as a major source of terrorism, but it is not at all easy to see how the new administration will untangle the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq from Iranian interests.

If Obama could claim some progress against the Islamic State in his December speech, he could not claim victory. The campaign has been a slog. The fighting to liberate Mosul began seven months ago. The Islamic State is close to losing the city but is also still operating throughout Iraq, having quickly reverted to a potent insurgency in many of the areas it lost. The fight for Raqqa has yet to begin. It is under threat from multiple directions, but the jihadists have had ample time to build a defensive house of horrors for their approaching enemies. The group has also redeployed its forces, securing ground along the Euphrates River and in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, one of the organization’s longtime strongholds. The end of the caliphate may be in sight, but the end of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is not.

Complicating matters is the fact that America’s chosen partners in Syria include members of the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The Trump administration has decided to deepen this alliance, which was first struck under Obama. Earlier this month, the president approved a plan to directly arm the YPG, which is the leading partner in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). There may be no other choice at this point. The SDF has played a crucial role in taking territory from ISIS in northern Syria, including the city of Tabqah and the surrounding area, which are key to the western approach to Raqqa.

The movement for Kurdish independence is gaining momentum, but hopes for a new state are mired in internal rivalries. America has Kurdish allies in both Iraq and Syria, but they are far from a unified force. The presence of YPG/PKK fighters in Iraq has caused persistent problems for the Kurdish regional government, which is coordinating the anti-Islamic State fight in the north of the country. America’s Kurdish partners in the battle for Mosul (the Peshmerga) are sometimes allied with our Kurdish surrogate ground forces in the fight to take Raqqa (YPG/PKK), but they also clash with each other.

Turkey’s government, moreover, is vehemently opposed to the YPG/PKK and, more generally, to any expansion of the Kurdish regional footprint. The Turks present problems in their own right, beginning with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasing autocracy. The country is a safe haven for numerous bad actors, from senior Hamas operatives to al Qaeda figures, and has been the main jihadist pipeline into Syria.

Throughout all of this, Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal regime remains a power in Syria. Without the support of Iran and Russia, Assad would long since have been sent to the gallows. Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have been deployed to Syria on behalf of the butcher of Damascus, and today Assad is safer than he has been in years. If Obama had acted more urgently in 2011 when Assad first started his campaign of mass murder, the region and Europe—which has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees—might look much different today. There is no serious effort, U.S.-led or otherwise, to hold Assad accountable for his crimes. While it is tempting to suggest that wholesale regime change should be America’s policy in Syria, only naïve ideologues could overlook the fact that Sunni jihadists are the strongest force opposed to Assad.

The U.S. focus on fighting the Islamic State has obscured another problematic development: the rise of al Qaeda in Syria. In the first three weeks of 2017, the Defense Department launched airstrikes it says “killed more than 150 al Qaeda terrorists” in Syria. One target was the Shaykh Sulayman training camp, which has been operational since at least 2013. More than 100 al Qaeda fighters were killed in that attack alone. Al Qaeda has also built up al-Nusra Front, which Brett McGurk, whom Obama appointed as special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS in 2015, has described before the Senate as al Qaeda’s “largest formal affiliate in history.” U.S. officials estimate that al-Nusra has amassed at least 10,000 fighters.

Between September 2014 and December 2016, the Obama administration launched repeated drone strikes against individual al Qaeda terrorists residing in Syria. But they were not as significant as the bombings in January. The bulk of al-Nusra’s forces, which now fight under the name of the Assembly for the Liberation of the Levant, long went untouched, and, though they are battling both Assad and Iran’s Shiite militiamen, no American ally is currently fighting this group on the ground.

YEMEN AND SOMALIA

When President Obama announced his strategy for fighting the Islamic State in September 2014, he said it would mirror his administration’s efforts in Yemen and Somalia. Within months, the Yemen plan was a shambles.

The U.S. government had been relying on Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government, supported by targeted drone strikes and Special Forces operations, to suppress Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But in January 2015, Hadi was forced into exile when Houthi rebels stormed the presidential palace in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. The Houthis adhere to their own peculiar brand of Shia Islam and opposed the Sunni-dominated Yemeni government. They have been cultivated by Tehran, which views them as an ally against Saudi Arabia. While the Houthis are not a purebred Iranian terrorist organization like Hezbollah, they are increasingly anti-American, even firing missiles at U.S. ships off the coast of Yemen. They draw crucial support from former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was pushed aside in 2011 during the Arab Spring. Saleh wants to reclaim power, and he has cut a deal with the Houthis, previously his foes, in an attempt to get it.

AQAP is a major force in Yemen. The group took advantage of the Houthi offensive against Hadi to claim parts of southern Yemen. After the United Arab Emirates and the Saudis intervened in 2016, AQAP’s forces melted away, declaring it was better to leave Yemen’s more urban areas intact rather than raze them in a bloody intra-Arab fight. The jihadists lived to fight another day.

The Trump administration has already stepped up the air campaign in Yemen. The United States launched more than 80 airstrikes against AQAP between January and May. The previous high was 41 bombings in all of 2009. President Trump has also approved riskier operations. One Special Forces raid in January gained notoriety for the death of a Navy SEAL in an intense firefight at an AQAP compound, which also led to numerous civilian casualties.

America’s chief partners in the Yemen fight, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are focused on hitting the Houthis and reinstalling Hadi in power. But AQAP also fights the Houthis, which makes for uncomfortable bedfellows. Hadi’s men are also sometimes AQAP’s battlefield allies. Meanwhile, no ground force is significantly opposing AQAP. The UAE does have troops who skirmish with them, but such clashes are so far minor. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Saudi Arabia is widely accused of carrying out indiscriminate bombing raids.

The troubles in Somalia are similar to those in Yemen. The African Union Mission in Somalia and government forces are struggling to contain al Shabaab, the local al Qaeda branch. Earlier this month, a Navy SEAL died in a battle with the group—the first American killed in combat in Somalia since the “Black Hawk Down” episode of 1993. Under Obama, American service members were to “advise, assist, and occasionally accompany regional forces.” In late March, Trump approved a plan that allows them to “provide additional precision fires in support of” our local allies. American service members are going to be called upon to do more in Somalia.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

In late April, Asim Umar, the head of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, released a provocative message. In it, he asked, “What is becoming of that very America?” and took direct aim at Trump’s foreign policy. “America is not only fleeing from Afghanistan, but with the jihadist strikes conducted against it by the sons of the Muslim ummah, inshaAllah, inshaAllah, it will also flee from, and give up the leadership of the world. The ‘America first’ slogan is the first step.”

Umar detected the problem in Trump’s “America first” rhetoric: It is not clear that there is any difference between putting American interests first and retreating from our preeminent position around the globe. It is striking that Umar sees the Trump doctrine as the “first step” to the demise of American “leadership of the world.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. The new president is right when he says he “inherited a mess.” He can begin to fix it by setting the record straight with the American people. We are still fighting a global war against jihadism. Al Qaeda is very much alive and, contrary to the Obama administration’s assertions, remains an international organization active on multiple continents. While the Islamic State has taken its lumps, it is not close to a total defeat. Today’s enemies may not possess the industrial might and war machines of yesterday’s foes, but they are persistent and committed to an anti-American ideology we cannot afford to ignore.

Trump and his advisers can explain why Afghanistan—the original 9/11 war—remains an essential fight. The 9/11 hijackings were launched from Afghan soil, and an American retreat in Afghanistan would be a clear victory for the Taliban-al Qaeda axis. Obama’s total withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 proved disastrous, and a replay of that scenario in South Asia—where Pakistan, the only nuclear-armed state infested with jihadists, is located—could be worse. Trump should quickly approve the McMaster plan to send more troops to Afghanistan. They will not win the war, but they can stem the tide of the jihadists’ advance. The Trump administration wants our NATO allies to step up their commitments. NATO follows America’s lead, not the other way around.

The multi-sided proxy wars in Iraq and Syria are a terrifying mess. During a press briefing on May 19, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that the American strategy, on its present course, would “annihilate” the Islamic State. Mattis praised President Trump for delegating more authority to his military commanders and for blessing a plan to surround “the enemy in their strongholds” and prevent “the return home of escaped foreign fighters.” The previous week, during testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Director of National Intelligence Daniel R. Coats sounded less optimistic. He warned that the Islamic State would maintain “enough resources and fighters to sustain insurgency operations and plan [terrorist] attacks in the region and internationally” for the foreseeable future.

In other words, the U.S. intelligence community is not expecting the defeat of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s enterprise anytime soon. America’s allies are moving slowly in Syria. In Iraq, we have already witnessed how quickly jihadists can rebound from a defeat. To make matters worse, no American-backed force is ready to move on al Qaeda’s strongholds in northwestern Syria. Iran has used the war against the Islamic State to pursue its long-term objective of becoming the regional hegemon, expanding its footprint in Iraq, Syria, and beyond. The president should have the U.S. military developing aggressive options for fighting the jihadists in Iraq and Syria and for maintaining our position as the chief regional broker.

Speaking before the National Governors Association on February 27, President Trump reminisced about the good old days as he remembers them. “We have to start winning wars again,” he said. “I have to say, when I was young, in high school and college, everybody used to say ‘we haven’t lost a war’—we never lost a war—you remember.” Trump pointed out that “now we never win a war.” “We never win,” he reiterated. “And we don’t fight to win. We don’t fight to win. So we either got to win, or don’t fight it at all.” He then complained about the vast sums spent fighting in the Middle East since 2001.

The jihadists believe, as al Qaeda’s Asim Umar said earlier this month, that eventually America won’t fight at all. The president of the United States can prove them wrong.

Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.

 

Trump’s ‘Principled Realism’ Is Not Very Realistic about Islam

The principal fiction in the president’s speech in Saudi Arabia was the claim that we share ‘common values’ with the sharia society.

National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, May 22, 2017:

So for what exactly is the “extreme vetting” going to vet?

That was the question I could not shake from my mind while listening to President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to dozens of Sunni Islamic leaders and a global television audience.

There were certainly some positives in the president’s rhetoric. Trump did not cite American policy or “arrogance” as a contributory cause of jihadist savagery, as President Obama was wont to do. He was less delusional about the splendor of Islam than were Obama and President George W. Bush. Gone were absurd inflations of Islam’s historical achievements and place in the American fabric; gone were allusions to the “religion of peace and love.” In their place was an acknowledgment that Islam is besieged by a “crisis” of terror that is engulfing the world, a crisis that is ideological in nature and that only Muslims themselves can solve.

All true. Nevertheless, the theme that came through the speech is that terrorism is something that happens to Islam, rather than something that happens because of Islam. That is simply not the case, even though it is true, as Trump asserted, that the vast majority of those killed by Muslim terrorists are themselves Muslims.

There is thus a good deal that is not real about “Principled Realism,” Trump’s name for what he heralds as a new American strategy — “new approaches informed by experience and judgment,” a “discarding” of strategies “that have not worked.”

The principal fiction in “principled realism” is that we share “common values” with Sunni Arab sharia societies. That is problematic because these purported “common values” — in conjunction with “shared interests” — are said to be the roots of Trump’s approach.

The president stressed that during his first overseas trip as president, he would be “visiting many of the holiest places in the three Abrahamic faiths.” The irony was palpable, at least to some of us. Trump is not visiting the holiest places of Islam.

Yes, upon departing Saudi Arabia, he headed to Israel where he prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. In the offing is a jaunt to Rome, to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Francis. But for all the treacle about “why I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation [Saudi Arabia] that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic faith,” Trump sidestepped the fact that he is not welcome in those two sites, Mecca and Medina.

Why? Because the president is a non-Muslim. Non-Muslims are not allowed to step their infidel feet in Islam’s sacred cities.

That iteration of Islamic intolerance is squarely based on scripture — see, e.g., the Koran’s Sura 9:28: “Oh you who believe! Truly the idolaters are unclean, so let them not, after this year, approach the sacred mosque” — a verse that specifically relates to the Grand Mosque in Mecca (Makkah), and has been extended by Islamic scholars to Medina. That is why Trump’s House of Saud hosts enforce a ban on entry by non-Muslims to both cities.

I say that this ban is just one “iteration of Islamic intolerance” for two reasons.

First, there are many other iterations. Scripturally based Islamic doctrine systematically discriminates against non-Muslims in many particulars, and against women in many others. Since Trump’s “principled realism” is said to be rooted in “common values,” it might be worth a gander at the guidance Trump’s State Department provides to Americans pondering a trip to the kingdom:

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, imprisoned, subject to physical punishments, or even executed. Penalties for the import, manufacture, possession, and consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs in Saudi Arabia are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines, public floggings, and/or deportation. The penalty for drug trafficking is death . . .

Faith-Based Travelers: Islam is the official religion of the country and pervades all aspects of life in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi authorities do not permit criticism of Islam, religious figures, or the royal family.

The government prohibits the public practice of religions other than Islam. Non-Muslims suspected of violating these restrictions have been jailed. Church services in private homes have been raided, and participants have been jailed.

Muslims who do not adhere to the strict interpretations of Islam prevalent in much of Saudi Arabia frequently encounter societal discrimination and constraints on worship.

Public display of non-Islamic religious articles, such as crosses and Bibles, is not permitted.

[And, of course . . .] Non-Muslims are forbidden to travel to Makkah (Mecca) and Medina, the cities where two of Islam’s holiest mosques are located . . .

LGBTI Travelers: Same-sex sexual relations, even when they are consensual, are criminalized in Saudi Arabia. Violations of Saudi laws governing perceived expressions of, or support for, same sex sexual relations, including on social media, may be subject to severe punishment. Potential penalties include fines, jail time, or death.

The State Department guidance suggests that readers consult the International Religious Freedom Report produced in 2015 by State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. It relates the brutal punishments meted out by some Islamic countries — not jihadist organizations, but governments in Muslim-majority countries — for blasphemy and apostasy. The paragraph on the Kingdom is worth reading:

In Saudi Arabia, media and local sources reported that the General Court in Abha sentenced Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death for apostasy in November, overturning a previous sentence of four years’ imprisonment and 800 lashes (the death sentence was subsequently overturned in February 2016 and a sentence of eight years’ imprisonment and 800 lashes imposed). Officials from the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice initially arrested Fayadh in August 2013, after reports that he had made disparaging remarks about Islam. In a separate incident in January, authorities publicly lashed Raif Badawi 50 times in accordance with a sentence based on his 2013 conviction for violating Islamic values, violating sharia, committing blasphemy, and mocking religious symbols on the Internet.

This is why, watching Trump and his senior aides prance about the palace in Riyadh, doing “the sword dance” with their fellow male revelers, I couldn’t help but wonder if they realized how often their host regime uses the scimitars to carry out beheadings for violations of Islamic law. There were 153 decapitations last year and 158 in 2015.

It is worth emphasizing: That is not something that was done by ISIS for violations of sharia. It was done by the government of Saudi Arabia for violations of sharia.

Which brings us to the second reason why Islamic intolerance must be noted in our consideration of “principled realism”: That intolerance is the foundation of “extremism,” the studiously unexamined term Trump now applies to jihadist terrorism, just as Obama and Bush did before him.

There was much ado in the lead up and delivery of Trump’s speech regarding how he would describe the phenomenon he labeled “radical Islamic terrorism” throughout the 2016 campaign — ridiculing the craven political correctness of rivals who shied away from this terminology. As with much else Trump said on the hustings, the label is the subject of intense infighting in his administration.

Reflecting the view of former military commanders who serve in the administration’s top ranks (and who carried out Bush’s “Islamic democracy” building and Obama’s embrace of our Islamic “partners”), national-security adviser H. R. McMaster is said to be repulsed by the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” apparently seeing it as needlessly provocative. Other Trump strategists, who supported the campaign’s promise to be unflinching in illustrating the nexus between Islamic scripture and Muslim terrorism, strongly favor the term. Trump, who simultaneously wants (a) profitable relations with the Saudis, (b) the refutation of claims that he is anti-Muslim, and (c) credit for being honest about the connection between Islam and terror, seems torn.

The intramural squabble was evident during the speech. As prepared, the text had the president calling for “honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires” (emphasis added). But when he actually delivered his remarks, Trump departed from the script, speaking instead of “honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds.”

An unidentified aide insisted to the New York Times that the president was “exhausted” and simply misspoke when he invoked “Islamic.” To the contrary, I believe he is struggling to resolve this tension. As I pointed out prior to his inauguration, however, it is unclear that Trump grasps why the tension is significant: For him, it may reflect concern over the inevitable criticism if he abandons hot campaign rhetoric, not over whether the distinction between Islamic and Islamist is viable.

We draw this distinction out of a conviction that Islam the religion should not be confounded with Islamism the political ideology. This conviction may be more a matter of wishful thinking than anything that can be called “realism.” That is manifest when we review the afore-described State Department guidance. Intolerance of non-Muslims and subjugation of women is not a reflection of jihadist “extremism”; it is mainstream Islam as practiced and codified in sharia societies.

So here is the problem: The definition of “extremism” that Trump’s “principled realism” sets itself against is artificial and incoherent. It is true, of course, that not all Muslims who support the intolerance rooted in Islamic doctrine and expressed by the policies of majority-Muslim regimes will become violent jihadists. Nonetheless, violent jihad is a natural progression from that intolerance. Yet Trump’s “principled realism” holds that the American people and sharia societies share “common values” that will cause the latter to fight jihadism.

How could anyone believe this is the case unless he is willfully blind to how the kingdom is governed, the longstanding support Saudis have provided for terrorism, and the number of Saudis complicit in anti-American terrorism? Trump is trying to have it both ways: acknowledge that the threat is ideological (and demand plaudits for brave political incorrectness in doing so), but pretend that the violent aspects of the ideology can be — indeed, have been — compartmentalized from the intolerant dehumanization of non-Muslims at the core of the ideology.

If this is Trump’s position, then why all the fuss about “extreme vetting”?

If you are myopically focused on terrorism, you are missing most of the challenge posed by sharia encroachment.

The imperative to enhance the vetting process for people trying to enter the U.S. from hotbeds of radical Islam was a major plank of the Trump campaign. It is the eventual goal hovering over disputes over temporary travel bans the president has tried to impose since the start of his administration. But does anyone remember the objective of “extreme vetting”? It was to bar entry to those adherent to the ideology (which I prefer to call “sharia supremacism”) that promotes not just terrorism but anti-Americanism and anti-constitutionalism. Our immigration law already vets for ties to terrorism.

In his “principled realism” speech, however, the president takes the position that we’re only concerned about violence. “We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do,” he says. Our “goal is . . . to conquer extremism” — a term the president narrows to mean terrorism — lest he insult his “gracious hosts.” If you are myopically focused on terrorism, however, you are missing most of the challenge posed by sharia encroachment. Jihadist terror is not pointless; its purpose is to impose sharia — a version of it similar to what the Saudis enforce.

The president is up in a balloon because, as he explained in his speech, he has “signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.” Perhaps his strategists could inform the president that when Saudi Arabia invests in America, the result invariably includes the construction of schools and mosques that propagate the ideology that causes the State Department to issue the travel guidance outlined above. (See, e.g., my 2010 profile of the Dar al-Hijra mosque in Virginia.)

According to the president, “principled realism” is based not only on purported “common values” but also “shared interests.” That does make sense. The Trump administration is returning American foreign policy to its pre-Obama orientation against the Shiite jihadist regime in Iran. The Sunni states also oppose Iran. That is the “shared interest.” It is a significant area of agreement, but a narrow one. We should not delude ourselves into thinking it signifies “common values.”

In a passage that could as easily have been spoken by President Bush, and probably even by President Obama, President Trump asserted:

This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between Good and Evil [capitalization in White House-issued text].

So we’re back to the question whether Islam has anything to do with Islamist (or Islamic) terrorism.

I’ll take it from the Saudi perspective. Let’s say, as the president does, that we are truly engaged in a battle between good and evil. When you read the State Department’s guidance regarding travel to Saudi Arabia — guidance that is necessary because of the way the Saudi government treats non-Muslims, women, apostates, and homosexuals — do you suppose the Saudis and their Sunni confederates see the United States as the “good” or the “evil” side?

President Trump is banking on the former. I’m not.

Trump in Saudi Arabia: Fight ‘Islamic Terror’ & ‘Drive Them Out’

President Donald Trump delivers a speech to the Arab Islamic American Summit, at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, May 21, 2017:

President Donald Trump delivered the first major foreign policy speech of his tenure Sunday evening in Riyadh, discussing his vision for how America should conduct its international affairs.

America will engage with the world through the lens of a “Principled Realism,” Trump explained, “rooted in common values and shared interests.”

The president delivered on a crucial campaign promise to identify the global jihadist movement as one of the key threats to world stability. Speaking in Saudi Arabia, in front of the leaders of dozens of Muslim nations, Trump called upon the world to “drive out” the “Islamic terror” movements that persist within their countries.

“The true toll of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead. It must also be counted in generations of vanished dreams,” he proclaimed.

In labeling the enemies of world order as “Islamic” terrorists, he diverted from a final prepared transcript of the finished speech that referenced “Islamist” terrorists. The departure is significant. Defining the enemy as “Islamic” signals a call for reform within the religion, while labeling the enemy as “Islamist” refers to a violent supremacist political ideology.

The president demanded that leaders confront “the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamist and Islamic terror of all kinds.”

“And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians,” he added.

Delivering an impassioned plea to his counterparts in the Muslim world, he argued that “a better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists.”

“Drive. Them. Out!” the president exclaimed. “Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land, and drive them out of this earth.

Marking a departure from the Obama administration’s coziness with Iran, Trump highlighted the threat posed by the Iranian regime and its proxies in Lebanese Hezbollah and the Houthis of Yemen. He called on American allies to isolate the Iranian regime and stop it in its quest for global dominance.

“From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror,” President Trump said. “It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.”

The president called upon “nations of conscience”  to “work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”

Trump will wrap up his visit to Saudi Arabia this evening and depart for Israel, where he will spend the next two days.

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

Also see:

On Mideast Policy, the Swamp Drains Trump

FILE — In this Tuesday, March 14, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump stands with Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman before lunch in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. With an eye toward Washington, leaders of a fractured and conflict-ridden Arab world hold their annual summit Wednesday, March 29, 2017, seeking common ground as President Donald Trump weighs his approach toward the region. The stalled Palestinian quest for statehood, is an issue that host Jordan says will take center stage. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

PJ Media, by Robert Spencer, May 18, 2017:

Speaking Friday about President Trump’s trip to the Middle East, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster said that Trump would:

… develop a strong, respectful message that the United States and the entire civilized world expects our Muslim allies to take a strong stance against radical Islamist ideology.

Those who are aware of how badly U.S. foreign policy has run off the rails over the last fifteen years should be deeply disturbed.

The world has been waiting in vain for that decade-and-a-half for “our Muslim allies to take a strong stance against radical Islamist ideology.” McMaster’s words were a disquieting indication that the foreign policy swamp, one in the most dire need of draining, has instead turned the tables on the president.

Trump now appears set to repeat all the mistakes his last two predecessors made in dealing with the global jihad threat.

McMaster added that jihad terrorists were operating according to “an ideology that uses a perverted interpretation of religion to justify crimes against all humanity.” But Trump, on the other hand, “will call for Muslim leaders to promote a peaceful vision of Islam.”

Here we go again.

How many times since 9/11 has one American spokesman or another declared that “the United States and the entire civilized world expects our Muslim allies to take a strong stance against radical Islamist ideology”? And what do we have to show for this expectation? How many years must we expect this before we realize that our “Muslim allies” have vastly different priorities than what mainstream counterterror analysts would wish to believe?

Pakistan’s government sheltered first bin Laden and now Zawahiri, was involved in the Mumbai jihad massacre and other jihad attacks, and has funneled much of the money the U.S. gave it to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban to … al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Turkey has repeatedly refused to strike strongly against the Islamic State (ISIS). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is much more concerned with hitting Assad and the Kurds.

How long do we keep waiting on these “Muslim allies” to do the right thing, and weakly and pusillanimously calling upon them to do so?

And Trump “will call for Muslim leaders to promote a peaceful vision of Islam”? Well, there’s something we’ve never seen tried before!

Where has McMaster been for the last decade-and-a-half? Buried deep in the foreign policy establishment swamp that has been serving up this nonsense all these years. And now he has apparently sold President “Drain The Swamp” on it.

Both Bush and Obama called for Muslim leaders to promote a peaceful vision of Islam; they also both claimed that the jihadis’ version of Islam “uses a perverted interpretation of religion.” Where did it get them? The same place comforting falsehoods always take you: into a maze of blind alleys and failed policies based on incorrect analysis.

Even worse, McMaster said:

[W]ith President Abbas, Trump will express his desire for dignity and self-determination for the Palestinians.

Does no one around Trump understand that a Palestinian state would immediately become a strengthened base for new and more virulent jihad attacks against a weakened Israel? When they met in Washington recently, Abbas lied brazenly to President Trump: he claimed that his government “educates for peace,” and that the Palestinian Authority is “raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace.” Meanwhile, on the same day, Abbas’ government honored 12 jihad mass murderers who are responsible for the deaths of 95 people.

The foreign policy establishment’s house organ, Foreign Policy, is worried that “in the White House ‘Game of Thrones for morons,’ Steve Bannon is trying to turn the president against his national security advisor.” We can only hope that Bannon succeeds. It’s ironic that Foreign Policy would dub the Trump team “morons” when it is the foremost exponent of the analyses and policies that have failed multiple times, and that McMaster is once again pushing.

Once again, because he has done this before. In February, according to CNN:

[A]t an all-hands meeting of the National Security Council, [McMaster] said jihadist terrorists aren’t true to their professed religion and that the use of the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” doesn’t help the US in working with allies to defeat terrorist groups.

A source who has asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals has informed me that he was present in August 2014 when McMaster was the featured speaker for the President’s Lecture Series at National Defense University in Washington. In his address, McMaster said flatly:

The Islamic State is not Islamic.

Now, this was during the Obama regime, when that was the official policy of the U.S. government, but President Trump has repeatedly criticized his predecessor (and his 2016 election opponent) for not being willing to call the problem of jihad terror by its right name. When he first became president, Trump repeatedlystated his determination to eradicate “radical Islamic terrorism.”

But what McMaster has announced represents a giant step backward in the effort to do that.

This represents a huge victory for the McCain/Graham Republican establishment, which subscribes no less than McMaster does to the “Islam is a religion of peace” line, and is also trying to neutralize Trump and keep the swamp from being drained.

Don’t break this promise, Mr. President.

Trump to Give ‘Inspiring’ Speech on Islam, ‘Agenda of Tolerance’ in Saudi Arabia

President Trump shakes hands with Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, May 16, 2017:

WASHINGTON — President Trump will give a speech on his trip to Saudi Arabia this weekend to convey his “hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam,” National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said today.

Trump flies Friday to the Gulf kingdom as the first stop on his first overseas trip since inauguration. He’ll stay through Sunday before flying to Israel for a day, then will visit Pope Francis on Rome the next day before continuing on to a NATO summit in Brussels and then the G7 summit in Sicily.

Briefing reporters about Trump’s agenda today at the White House, McMaster lauded it as a “historic trip.”

The president will have coffee with King Salman after touching down in Riyadh followed by a royal banquet and bilateral meetings.

The day after he arrives, Trump “will meet and have lunch with leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries where he will deliver an inspiring, yet direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and his hopes, the president’s hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam to dominate across the world,” McMaster said.

“The speech is intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilization and to demonstrate America’s commitment to our Muslim partners,” he added.

Trump will “participate in the inauguration of a new center intended to fight radicalism and promote moderation.”

“By establishing and operating this center, our Muslim friends, including Saudi Arabia, are taking a firm stand against extremism and those who use a perverted interpretation of religion to advance their criminal and political agendas,” McMaster continued. “The president also looks forward to participating in a Twitter forum with young people who will be able to live tweet his remarks to people all over the world.”

In Jerusalem, Trump will lay a wreath at Yad Vashem and deliver remarks at the Israeli Museum before having a private dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The next morning the president heads to Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whom he recently welcomed to the White House, to “convey his administration’s eagerness to facilitate an agreement that ends the conflict.”

Trump plans to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and say a prayer at the Western Wall, unaccompanied by any Israeli leaders.

“He’s going to the Western Wall mainly in connection with the theme to connect with three of the world’s great religions and to advance — to pay homage to each of these religious sites that he’s visiting, but also to highlight the theme that we all have to be united against what are really the enemies of all civilized people, and that we have to be joined together in — in a — with an agenda of tolerance and moderation,” McMaster explained.

Israeli Channel 2 reported that a U.S. diplomat planning the trip with Israeli officials said the Western Wall was in Palestinian territory, not Israel. Pressed twice during today’s briefing on whether the Western Wall is part of Israel, McMaster  said, “That sounds like a policy decision.”

“The president’s intention is to visit these religious sites, to highlight the need for unity among three of the world’s great religions: unity in confronting a very grave threat to all civilization, and unity in embracing an agenda of tolerance,” he added.

Also see: