Clinton and Trump offer diverse ME scenarios

foreign-policy

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis November 1, 2016:

Whoever is elected US president on Nov. 8, he or she will land in the middle of a foreign policy shambles and face a pressing need to rebuild America’s fences in most parts of the world, including the war-ridden, messy Middle East. The Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican rival Donald Trump, whose approaches are so different in every respect, will both find it impossible to isolate America from the Middle East

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence experts postulate divergent developments in response to the alternative results of the Nov. 8 presidential election, depending on the winner.

If it is Hillary Clinton, then –

  • Russia will deepen its expansion in the region, including in Syria and Iraq. The Russian naval units speeding to the Mediterranean at this moment are part of Moscow’s ramped up deployment in readiness for Clinton’s entry to the White House.
  • Vladimir Putin will not forgive the Democratic candidate in a hurry for her anti-Russian campaign gimmicks of depicting Donald Trump as his friend and alleging that Russian intelligence hacked DNC emails to turn the race against her.
    The Russian leader is not the forgiving sort when it comes to his reputation – and still less so when Russian intelligence, his alma mater, is impugned.
  • The high tensions expected to prevail between the Kremlin and the Clinton White House may well ignite a limited military conflagration between US and Russian forces in the Middle East.
  • Syrian rebels are counting on Clinton giving them arms and funds – in contrast to Barack Obama, and are therefore tenaciously holding out, despite their inferior resources against Russian-backed Syrian and pro-Iranian forces. They see her focusing on Bashar Assad’s ouster and, even more, on empowering the rebels to hamper Russia’s military designs in Syria. In this, she will find support from her friends in the Gulf emirates. The Syrian opposition believes that the sharper the tensions between Washington and Moscow, the better for their cause.
  • Clinton has a dilemma with regard to Iran. As co-author of the nuclear deal, she will also try to improve relations with Tehran. But by doing so, she risks alienating her friends, the Arab Gulf leaders.
  • She will soon discover that Iran’s rulers and military chiefs have no wish to cozy up to Washington, certainly not at the expense of their highly profitable ties with Moscow and Beijing.
  •  Clinton will no doubt try to repair the damage to US relations with Israel that piled up during Obama’s term of office.

If it is Donald Trump, then –

  • He will go for a US-Russian summit with Vladimir Putin to lay out a new world power order for the distribution of spheres of influence in different world regions, including the Middle East. He may make the summit trilateral by inviting Xi Jinping of China.
  • This summit will also seek economic understandings, a prospect which is already unnerving international markets. Trump will ask the Russian and Chinese leaders to share wholly or partly in the plans he put before the voter for strengthening the American economy.
  • The Republican candidate has said repeatedly that he would be glad to leave the war on ISIS in the Middle East to Putin and Tehran. In any case, his military advisers, led by Ret. Army Gen. Mike Flynn, perceive Moscow as already in control of the current military situation in consequence of Obama’s policies.
  • This policy however will put the Trump administration at odds with the Arab world, the Gulf emirates and Israel, all of which fear Iran’s continued drive for expansion across the Middle East under a supportive Russian umbrella.
  • He may try to compensate for this lack of equilibrium by taking a strong line against Tehran – even revoking the nuclear deal, which the outgoing president saw as his crowning foreign policy achievement. This could spark a US-Iranian showdown in the Gulf region. On the other hand, Iran is perfectly capable of dumping the nuclear accord on its own initiative.
  • During Trump’s first year as president, the traditional US-Saudi partnership for political, military and economic policies may start crumbling – especial on oil pricing. This alliance between the royal house of Saud and the US dates from the first encounter between President Franklin Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud 71 years ago. DEBKAfile’s Saudi experts estimate that after some initial rough patches, Donald Trump and King Salman will be able to find common ground and so put relations on a firmer footing than before. This would repair the discord with Riyadh engendered by the Obama administration and during Clinton’s term as Secretary of State.
  • Trump will endeavor to improve ties with Israel. In so doing, he will try and contain Binyamin Netanyahu’s ongoing understandings with Putin on the Middle East.

Analysis: A new crack in the Sunni bloc?

showimage-3The vacuum left by America’s disengagement has thrown the Middle East into a dangerous state of instability, wherein extremist groups thrive and thwart any hopes for peace.

By Zvi Mazel, JPOST, October 16, 2016

There seems to be a growing rift between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the twin mainstays of the Sunni front against the major threats of Iran’s terrorist operations and nuclear building on the one hand, and against the rogue Sunni Islamic State on the other. The two countries no longer see eye to eye on a number of regional issues, although they deny it and insist that they are still coordinating their actions.

The Egyptian president has stated on a number of occasions that the security of the Gulf is essential to the security of his country, while the Saudi king wrote to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that any attack on Egyptian security would be seen as an attack on Saudi Arabia.

Simmering tensions came to the boil at a special meeting of the UN Security Council on Syria on October 8.

Egypt not only voted with Russia to defeat the French proposal calling for a stop to bombing on Aleppo, it also voted for the Russian counter-proposal opposed by the West. The Saudi representative strongly condemned the two votes, which led to a spate of acrimonious articles in Egyptian and Saudi media. Sisi had to intervene; he declared that though Egypt remained committed to good relations with Gulf countries, it had its own interests.

The so-called pragmatic Sunni bloc, which included the Gulf states, Jordan and Morocco, emerged during the Mubarak years, and enjoyed the powerful support of the United States. Israel played a significant role behind the scenes, because the Gulf states and Egypt believed that it would be able to pressure Washington into stopping Iran’s nuclear program, while at the same time hoping that Israel might bomb Iran’s nuclear installations and deliver the region from that threat.

Barack Obama’s gradual disengagement from the Middle East, while favoring Shi’ite Iran over Sunni countries, was a game changer. America jettisoned Mubarak, its long-term ally, and welcomed the Muslim Brotherhood; it turned its back on President Sisi and made a deal with Iran on its nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states felt betrayed and lost their trust in the United States, while Egypt, losing political, economic and military American support, turned to Russia and China for sophisticated weaponry and to develop economic projects – including building a nuclear plant to produce energy with the help of Russia. The Russian and Egyptian armies are conducting joint exercises, further testimony to the deepening ties.

In short, deprived of the strong American backing which was the basis of their common policy, Egypt and Saudi Arabia took different paths based on their divergent interests. Egypt, fearing an Islamic takeover, believes Syrian unity must be preserved at all costs, and aligned itself with Russia with regards to Syria, whose goals are similar to those of Iran, which wants President Basher Assad to remain in place in order to ensure its continued access to its Hezbollah ally in Lebanon through Syria.

Riyadh is steadfastly supporting Sunni rebel groups fighting to eliminate Assad and set up a Sunni regime. These groups include Islamic terrorist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and therein lies the crux of the problem. The Brotherhood is still manufacturing terrorism in Egypt, presenting a very real threat and hampering the country’s economic development. As to Saudi Arabia, although it expelled the Brothers following the 9/11 attacks in New York – 15 of 18 perpetrators being Saudi Muslim Brothers – and has declared that the Brotherhood is a terrorist organization, just as Egypt did, it is now in the uneasy position of forbidding its activities in the kingdom while supporting them abroad. In Yemen, it backs al-Islah, a “Reform” party which is an offshoot of the Brotherhood, against the Shi’ite Houthi rebels, in the hopes that they will rule the country after defeating the rebellion.

Egypt emphatically does not want that to happen. It reluctantly joined the Saudi-led coalition again the Houthis, but is not taking part in military operations beyond patrolling the entrance to the Suez Canal, which is in its own interests. The situation regarding Libya is similar. Egypt backs Gen. Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, who is battling extremist groups with great success, while Saudi Arabia helps Brotherhood organizations.

In short, for Egypt, the most pressing threat is that of the Muslim Brothers, which enjoy the support of Turkey and Qatar. Saudi Arabia is more afraid of Iran, and therefore reluctantly allies itself with Sunni terrorist organizations it abhors. It has even grown closer to Turkey, a country at odds with Egypt over the removal of Morsi and the overthrow of the regime of the Brotherhood.

Sometimes logic goes overboard: Sunni Egypt and Sunni Saudi Arabia should have been united in condemnation of the relentless bombing of Aleppo by Russian and Syrian planes, driving the Sunni population out of the town with the intent to replace them with Alawites – but Egypt voted against the French resolution to end the bombing.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has given Egypt $15 billion in outright grants, loans or deposits into Cairo’s central bank, in order to bolster the Egyptian economy and currency, and has supplied Egypt with natural gas and oil. Both countries will try to overcome their differences, but it will not be easy. Riyadh is sending conflicting signals. It suspended regular deliveries of refined oil in spite of the 25 year contract signed in May, estimated at $23b.; it also significantly raised the price of visas for the pilgrimage to Mecca.

On the other hand, it deposited $2b. into Egyptian banks in September to bolster the Egyptian currency. A high-ranking Egyptian delegation is soon expected in Riyadh to “discuss regional issues and the implementation of the cooperation agreements signed in Cairo, during the visit of King Salman in April,” as well as the Syrian issue. The Saudi ambassador to Egypt has been called home to prepare for the visit.

The vacuum left by America’s disengagement has thrown the Middle East into a dangerous state of instability, wherein extremist groups thrive and thwart any hopes for peace. The Sunni bloc is in disarray. It is every country for itself. This has led to a quiet strengthening of security and intelligence cooperation with Israel, and even greater economic exchanges. But this is kept under wraps. Neither President Sisi nor King Abdullah of Jordan dared attend Peres’s funeral, as this newfound collaboration does not bode well for the much-touted “regional solution” of the Palestinian issue.

The writer, a fellow of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.

Glick: From Yemen to Turtle Bay

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Iran’s game is clear enough. It wishes to replace the US as the regional hegemon, at the US’s expense.

Truth Revolt, by Caroline Glick, October 14, 2016:

Off the coast of Yemen and at the UN Security Council we are seeing the strategic endgame of Barack Obama’s administration. And it isn’t pretty.

Since Sunday, Iran’s Houthi proxies in Yemen have attacked US naval craft three times in the Bab al-Mandab, the narrow straits at the mouth of the Red Sea. The Bab al-Mandab controls maritime traffic in the Red Sea, and ultimately controls the Suez Canal.

Whether the Iranians directed these assaults or simply green-lighted them is really beside the point. The point is that these are Iranian strikes on the US. The Houthis would never have exposed themselves to US military retaliation if they hadn’t been ordered to do so by their Iranian overlords.

The question is why has Iran chosen to open up an assault on the US? The simple answer is that Iran has challenged US power at the mouth of the Red Sea because it believes that doing so advances its strategic aims in the region.

Iran’s game is clear enough. It wishes to replace the US as the regional hegemon, at the US’s expense.

Since Obama entered office nearly eight years ago, Iran’s record in advancing its aims has been one of uninterrupted success.

Iran used the US withdrawal from Iraq as a means to exert its full control over the Iraqi government. It has used Obama’s strategic vertigo in Syria as a means to exert full control over the Assad regime and undertake the demographic transformation of Syria from a Sunni majority state to a Shi’ite plurality state.

In both cases, rather than oppose Iran’s power grabs, the Obama administration has welcomed them. As far as Obama is concerned, Iran is a partner, not an adversary.

Since like the US, Iran opposes al-Qaida and ISIS, Obama argues that the US has nothing to fear from the fact that Iranian-controlled Shiite militias are running the US-trained Iraqi military.

So, too, he has made clear that the US is content to stand by as the mullahs become the face of Syria.

In Yemen, the US position has been more ambivalent. In late 2014, Houthi rebel forces took over the capital city of Sanaa. In March 2015, the Saudis led a Sunni campaign to overthrow the Houthi government. In a bid to secure Saudi support for the nuclear agreement it was negotiating with the Iranians, the Obama administration agreed to support the Saudi campaign. To this end, the US military has provided intelligence, command and control guidance, and armaments to the Saudis.

Iran’s decision to openly assault US targets then amounts to a gamble on Tehran’s part that in the twilight of the Obama administration, the time is ripe to move in for the kill in Yemen. The Iranians are betting that at this point, with just three months to go in the White House, Obama will abandon the Saudis, and so transfer control over Arab oil to Iran.

For with the Strait of Hormuz on the one hand, and the Bab al-Mandab on the other, Iran will exercise effective control over all maritime oil flows from the Arab world.

It’s not a bad bet for the Iranians, given Obama’s consistent strategy in the Middle East.

Obama has never discussed that strategy.

Indeed, he has deliberately concealed it. But to understand the game he has been playing all along, the only thing you need to do listen to his foreign policy soul mate.

According to a New York Times profile published in May, Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes is the president’s alter ego. The two men’s minds have “melded.”

Rhodes’s first foreign policy position came in the course of his work for former congressman Lee Hamilton.

In 2006, then-president George W. Bush appointed former secretary of state James Baker and Hamilton to lead the Iraq Study Group. Bush tasked the group with offering a new strategy for winning the war in Iraq. The group released its report in late 2006.

The Iraq Study Group’s report contained two basic recommendations. First, it called for the administration to abandon Iraq to the Iranians.

The group argued that due to Iran’s opposition to al-Qaida, the Iranians would fight al-Qaida for the US.

The report’s second recommendation related to Israel. Baker, Hamilton and their colleagues argued that after turning Iraq over to Iran, the US would have to appease its Sunni allies.

The US, the Iraq Study Group report argued, should simultaneously placate the Sunnis and convince the Iranians of its sincerity by sticking it to Israel. To this end, the US should pressure Israel to give the Golan Heights to Syria and give Judea and Samaria to the PLO.

Bush rejected the Iraq Study Group report. Instead he opted to win the war in Iraq by adopting the surge counterinsurgency strategy.

But once Bush was gone, and Rhodes’s intellectual twin replaced him, the Iraq Study Group recommendations became the unstated US strategy in the Middle East.

After taking office, Obama insisted that the US’s only enemy was al-Qaida. In 2014, Obama grudgingly expanded the list to include ISIS.

Obama has consistently justified empowering Iran in Iraq and Syria on the basis of this narrow definition of US enemies. Since Iran is also opposed to ISIS and al-Qaida, the US can leave the job of defeating them both to the Iranians, he has argued.

Obviously, Iran won’t do the US’s dirty work for free. So Obama has paid the mullahs off by giving them an open road to nuclear weapons through his nuclear deal, by abandoning sanctions against them, and by turning his back on their ballistic missile development.

Obama has also said nothing about the atrocities that Iranian-controlled militia have carried out against Sunnis in Iraq and has stopped operations against Hezbollah.

As for Israel, since his first days in office, Obama has been advancing the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations. His consistent, and ever escalating condemnations of Israel, his repeated moves to pick fights with Jerusalem are all of a piece with the group’s recommended course of action. And there is every reason to believe that Obama intends to make good on his threats to cause an open rupture in the US alliance with Israel in his final days in office.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s phone call with Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday night made this clear enough. In the course of their conversation, Netanyahu reportedly asked Kerry if Obama intended to enable an anti-Israel resolution to pass in the UN Security Council after the presidential election next month. By refusing to rule out the possibility, Kerry all but admitted that this is in fact Obama’s intention.

And this brings us back to Iran’s assaults on US ships along the coast of Yemen.

Early on Sunday morning, the US responded to the Houthi/Iranian missile assaults by attacking three radar stations in Houthi-controlled territory. The nature of the US moves gives credence to the fear that the US will surrender Yemen to Iran.

This is so for three reasons. First, the administration did not allow the USS Mason destroyer to respond to the sources of the missile attack against it immediately. Instead, the response was delayed until Obama himself could determine how best to “send a message.”

That is, he denied US forces the right to defend themselves.

Second, it is far from clear that destroying the radar stations will inhibit the Houthis/Iranians.

It is not apparent that radar stations are necessary for them to continue to assault US naval craft operating in the area.

Finally, the State Department responded to the attack by reaching out to the Houthis. In other words, the administration is continuing to view the Iranian proxy is a legitimate actor rather than an enemy despite its unprovoked missile assaults on the US Navy.

Then there is the New York Times’ position on Yemen.

The Times has repeatedly allowed the administration to use it as an advocate of policies the administration itself wishes to adopt. Last week for instance, the Times called for the US to turn on Israel at the Security Council.

On Tuesday, the Times published an editorial calling for the administration to end its military support for the Saudi campaign against the Houthis/Iran in Yemen.

Whereas the Iranian strategy makes sense, Obama’s strategy is nothing less than disastrous.

Although the Iraq Study Group, like Obama, is right that Iran also opposes ISIS, and to a degree, al-Qaida, they both ignored the hard reality that Iran also views the US as its enemy. Indeed, the regime’s entire identity is tied up in its hatred for the US and its strategic aim of destroying America.

Obama is not the only US president who has sought to convince the Iranians to abandon their hatred for America. Every president since 1979 has tried to convince the mullahs to abandon their hostility. And just like all of his predecessors, Obama has failed to convince them.

What distinguishes Obama from his predecessors is that he has based US policy on a deliberate denial of the basic reality of Iranian hostility. Not surprisingly, the Iranians have returned his favor by escalating their aggression against America.

The worst part about Obama’s strategy is that it is far from clear that his successor will be able to improve the situation.

If Hillary Clinton succeeds him, his successor is unlikely to even try. Not only has Clinton embraced Obama’s policies toward Iran.

Her senior advisers are almost all Obama administration alumni. Wendy Sherman, the leading candidate to serve as her secretary of state, was Obama’s chief negotiator with the Iranians.

If Donald Trump triumphs next month, assuming he wishes to reassert US power in the region, he won’t have an easy time undoing the damage that Obama has caused.

Time has not stood still as the US has engaged in strategic dementia. Not only has Iran been massively empowered, Russia has entered the Middle East as a strategic spoiler.

Moreover, since 2001, the US has spent more than a trillion dollars on its failed wars in the Middle East. That investment came in lieu of spending on weapons development. Today Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missiles in Syria reportedly neutralize the US’s air force.

US naval craft in the Bab al-Mandab have little means to defend themselves against missile strikes.

The US’s trillion-dollar investment in the F-35 fighter jet has tethered its air wings to a plane that has yet to prove its capabilities, and may never live up to expectations.

Israel is justifiably worried about the implications of Obama’s intention to harm it at the UN.

But the harm Israel will absorb at the UN is nothing in comparison to the long-term damage that Obama’s embrace of the Iraq Study Group’s disastrous strategic framework has and will continue to cause Israel, the US and the entire Middle East.

 

Russia makes fools of US in Syria

putflThe Gorka Briefing, by Dr. Sebastian Gorka,  October 4, 2016

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Vladimir Putin will exploit every single vacuum that Obama and Hillary Clinton have created, especially in the Middle East and Europe. And he is doing it very effectively.

I was on the Brian Kilmeade radio show to discuss.

As mentioned in the interview: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History, by Brian Kilmeade

Iran’s Secret War in Syria

iran-nuclear-deal.sized-770x415xtPJ MEDIA, BY P. DAVID HORNIK, SEPTEMBER 3, 2016

Since the signing of the nuclear deal on July 14, 2015—now, it turns out, with major secret exemptions for Iran—Iran’s brazenness has only grown. The Obama administration, in its ongoing efforts to coddle and appease, has gone so far as to offer to buy Iran’s heavy water and sell Iran Boeings.

But the reason appeasement doesn’t work is that Iran harbors an intense enmity toward the West and particularly its (still) reigning superpower, America, which it wants to destroy. Anyone still not convinced of that should watch this propaganda video of young Iranians sinking American aircraft carriers.

Lately, with the lame-duck President Obama headed for the finish line as he tightly clutches his “legacy”—the nuclear deal—Iran has further stepped up the brazenness. It has harassed U.S. ships in international waters of the Persian Gulf, forcing one of them to fire warning shots. It has deployed the Russian-made S-300 missile-defense system—one of the most advanced in the world—at its Fordo uranium-enrichment site. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in an address to Defense Ministry staff in Tehran, has said Iran must continue its offensive military buildup and “avoid negotiating with the U.S., [as] experience has proven that instead of understanding, the Americans are seeking to impose their will in negotiations.”

The Obama administration, for which the nuclear deal plays a role like the speed of light in Einsteinian relativity—an absolute, immutable principle—reacts to all this solely by expressing “concern.”

A major exposé in the Daily Mail now reveals that, for years, Iran’s military involvement in Syria has been much more extensive and dangerous than many believed.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled opposition group, has passed information to MailOnline that was apparently leaked by senior figures in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Among other things, the activists say Iran now commands about 60,000 Shiite troops in Syria—vastly more than the 16,000 that Western analysts had estimated.

The NCRI, which in 2002 exposed Iran’s then-secret nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak, also says Iran operates a major headquarters near Damascus airport, nicknamed the Glasshouse. About a thousand people work there including Iran’s feared intelligence agencies, and there is also a basement for holding millions of dollars in cash.

The NCRI claims that the total amount Iran has spent on the Syrian war comes to an astounding $100 billion, much of it during years when Tehran was complaining loudly about the ravages of economic sanctions. Western analysts had gauged the sum at only $15 billion.

Most ominously, the activists say Iran is

putting down military roots in 18 locations from northern to southern Syria…, showing how it intends to control large swathes of the country even if Assad is defeated.

Iranian military planners…are said to have divided Syria into “five fronts,” comprising the Northern Front, Eastern Front, Southern Front, Central Command Front and Coastal Front, the NCRI claims.

Revolutionary Guard bases have been established in each of the sectors, which the NCRI says can accommodate up to 6,000 troops, as well as heavy weapons, air power and anti-aircraft missiles.

A situation where, even if the Assad regime falls, Iran would retain effective military control of the country, bristling with offensive and defensive capabilities, would be—as a security source told the Daily Mail—“exactly what many of the region are afraid of. It’s their biggest nightmare.”

All this does not mean Iran is having an easy time in Syria. Of the 60,000-strong Shiite force it is apparently deploying there, only about one-fourth seem to be Iranians. The rest are Shiite mercenaries from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Lebanon (in addition to about 10,000 Hizballah troops with a separate command structure).

One reason there are relatively few Iranians is “growing levels of public unease in Iran at the level of casualties sustained.” As historian Michael Burleigh comments, “[T]he Iranian public has had a bellyful of costly wars, with hundreds of thousands of dead from the 1980-88 war against Iraq.”

Throughout his tenure, however, President Obama has passed up opportunities—starting, most egregiously, with the 2009 Green Revolution that he adamantly refused to support—to leverage domestic discontent to put pressure on Tehran. Even his grudging imposition of sanctions led eventually to the nuclear deal—according to which Iran pockets concessions and cash, at most postpones some aspects of its nuclear development, and continues building a military dominion that could become Obama’s true “legacy,” namely, a 21st-century nightmare fostering conflict on a much more massive scale than what we already see.

Also see:

What if Chaos Were Our Middle East Policy?

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Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, Aug. 31, 2016:

Sum up our failed Middle East policy in a nine-letter word starting with an S. Stability.

Stability is the heart and soul of nation-building. It’s the burden that responsible governments bear for the more irresponsible parts of the world. First you send experts to figure out what is destabilizing some hellhole whose prime exports are malaria, overpriced tourist knickknacks and beheadings. You teach the locals about democracy, tolerance and storing severed heads in Tupperware containers.

Then if that doesn’t work, you send in the military advisers to teach the local warlords-in-waiting how to better fight the local guerrillas and how to overthrow their own government in a military coup.

Finally, you send in the military. But this gets bloody, messy and expensive very fast.

So most of the time we dispatch sociologists to write reports to our diplomats explaining why people are killing each other in a region where they have been killing each other since time immemorial, and why it’s all our fault. Then we try to figure out how we can make them stop by being nicer to them.

The central assumption here is stability. We assume that stability is achievable and that it is good. The former is completely unproven and even the latter remains a somewhat shaky thesis.

The British wanted stability by replicating the monarchy across a series of Middle Eastern dependents. The vast majority of these survived for a shorter period than New Coke or skunk rock. Their last remnant is the King of Jordan, born to Princess Muna al-Hussein aka Antoinette Avril Gardiner of Suffolk, educated at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and currently trying to stave off a Muslim Brotherhood-Palestinian uprising by building a billion dollar Star Trek theme park.

The British experiment in stabilizing the Middle East failed miserably. Within a decade the British government was forced to switch from backing the Egyptian assault on Israel to allying with the Jewish State in a failed bid to stop the Egyptian seizure of the Suez Canal.

The American experiment in trying to export our own form of government to Muslims didn’t work any better. The Middle East still has monarchies. It has only one democracy with free and open elections.

Israel.

Even Obama and Hillary’s Arab Spring was a perverted attempted to make stability happen by replacing the old Socialist dictators and their cronies with the political Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood. They abandoned it once the chaos rolled in and stability was nowhere to be found among all the corpses.

It might be time to admit that barring the return of the Ottoman Empire, stability won’t be coming to the Middle East any time soon. Exporting democracy didn’t work. Giving the Saudis a free hand to control our foreign policy didn’t work. Trying to force Israel to make concessions to Islamic terrorists didn’t work. And the old tyrants we backed are sand castles along a stormy shore.

Even without the Arab Spring, their days were as numbered as old King Farouk dying in exile in an Italian restaurant.

If stability isn’t achievable, maybe we should stop trying to achieve it. And stability may not even be any good.

Our two most successful bids in the Muslim world, one intentionally and the other unintentionally, succeeded by sowing chaos instead of trying to foster stability. We helped break the Soviet Union on a cheap budget in Afghanistan by feeding the chaos. And then we bled Iran and its terrorist allies in Syria and Iraq for around the price of a single bombing raid. Both of these actions had messy consequences.

But we seem to do better at pushing Mohammed Dumpty off the wall than at putting him back together again. If we can’t find the center of stability, maybe it’s time for us to embrace the chaos.

Embracing the chaos forces us to rethink our role in the world. Stability is an outdated model. It assumes that the world is moving toward unity. Fix the trouble spots and humanity will be ready for world government. Make sure everyone follows international law and we can all hum Lennon’s “Imagine”.

Not only is this a horrible dystopian vision of the future, it’s also a silly fantasy.

The UN is nothing but a clearinghouse for dictators. International law is meaningless outside of commercial disputes. The world isn’t moving toward unity, but to disunity. If even the EU can’t hold together, the notion of the Middle East becoming the good citizens of some global government is a fairy tale told by diplomats while tucking each other into bed in five-star hotels at international conferences.

It’s time to deal with the world as it is. And to ask what our objectives are.

Take stability off the table. Put it in a little box and bury it in an unmarked grave at Foggy Bottom. Forget about oil. If we can’t meet our own energy needs, we’ll be spending ten times as much on protecting the Saudis from everyone else and protecting everyone else from the Saudis.

Then we should ask what we really want to achieve in the Middle East.

We want to stop Islamic terrorists and governments from harming us. Trying to stabilize failed states and prop up or appease Islamic governments hasn’t worked. Maybe we ought to try destabilizing them.

There have been worse ideas. We’re still recovering from the last bunch.

To embrace chaos, we have to stop thinking defensively about stability and start thinking offensively about cultivating instability. A Muslim government that sponsors terrorism against us ought to know that it will get its own back in spades. Every Muslim terror group has its rivals and enemies waiting to pounce. The leverage is there. We just need to use it.

When the British and the French tried to shut down Nasser, Eisenhower protected him by threatening to collapse the British pound. What if we were willing to treat our Muslim “allies” who fill the treasuries of terror groups the way that we treat our non-Muslim allies who don’t even fly planes into the Pentagon?

We have spent the past few decades pressuring Israel to make deals with terrorists. What if we started pressuring Muslim countries in the same way to deal with their independence movements?

The counterarguments are obvious. Supply weapons and they end up in the hands of terror groups. But the Muslim world is already an open-air weapons market. If we don’t supply anything too high end, then all we’re doing is pouring gasoline on a forest fire. And buying the deaths of terrorists at bargain prices.

Terrorism does thrive in failed states. But the key point is that it thrives best when it is backed by successful ones. Would the chaos in Syria, Nigeria or Yemen be possible without the wealth and power of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran? Should we really fear unstable Muslim states or stable ones?

That is really the fundamental question that we must answer because it goes to the heart of the moderate Muslim paradox. Is it really the Jihadist who is most dangerous or his mainstream ally?

If we believe that the Saudis and Qataris are our allies and that political Islamists are moderates who can fuse Islam and democracy together, then the stability model makes sense. But when we recognize that there is no such thing as a moderate civilizational Jihad, then we are confronted with the fact that the real threat does not come from failed states or fractured terror groups, but from Islamic unity.

Once we accept that there is a clash of civilizations, chaos becomes a useful civilizational weapon.

Islamists have very effectively divided and conquered us, exploiting our rivalries and political quarrels, for their own gain. They have used our own political chaos, our freedoms and our differences, against us. It is time that we moved beyond a failed model of trying to unify the Muslim world under international law and started trying to divide it instead.

Chaos is the enemy of civilization. But we cannot bring our form of order, one based on cooperation and individual rights, to the Muslim world. And the only other order that can come is that of the Caliphate.

And chaos may be our best defense against the Caliphate.

How Donald Trump could fix Middle East

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks onstage during a campaign rally in Akron, Ohio, U.S., August 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks onstage during a campaign rally in Akron, Ohio, U.S., August 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Asia Times, by  David P. Goldman, Aug. 22, 2016:

The first step to finding a solution is to know that there’s a problem. Donald Trump understands that the Washington foreign-policy establishment caused the whole Middle Eastern mess. I will review the problem and speculate about what a Trump administration might do about it.

For the thousand years before 2007, when the Bush administration hand-picked Nouri al-Maliki to head Iraq’s first Shia-dominated government, Sunni Muslims had ruled Iraq. Maliki was vetted both by the CIA and by the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

With Iraq in the hands of an Iranian ally, the Sunnis–disarmed and marginalized by the dismissal of the Iraqi army–were caught between pro-Iranian regimes in both Iraq and Syria. Maliki, as Ken Silverstein reports in the New Republic, ran one of history’s most corrupt regimes, demanding among other things a 45% cut in foreign investment in Iraq. The Sunnis had no state to protect them, and it was a matter of simple logic that a Sunni leader eventually would propose a new state including the Sunni regions of Syria as well as Iraq. Sadly, the mantle of Sunni statehood fell on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who projected not only an Islamic State but a new Caliphate as well. America had a dozen opportunities to preempt this but failed to do so.

From a fascinating defector’s account in the Foreign Policy website, we learn that the region’s jihadists debated the merits of remaining non-state actors on the al-Qaeda model versus attempting to form a state prior to the launch of ISIS. The defector reports a 2013 meeting in which al-Baghdadi demanded the allegiance of al-Qaeda (that is, al-Nusra Front) fighters in Syria:

Baghdadi also spoke about the creation of an Islamic state in Syria. It was important, he said, because Muslims needed to have a dawla, or state. Baghdadi wanted Muslims to have their own territory, from where they could work and eventually conquer the world….The participants differed greatly about the idea of creating a state in Syria. Throughout its existence, al-Qaeda had worked in the shadows as a non-state actor. It did not openly control any territory, instead committed acts of violence from undisclosed locations. Remaining a clandestine organization had a huge advantage: It was very difficult for the enemy to find, attack, or destroy them. But by creating a state, the jihadi leaders argued during the meeting, it would be extremely easy for the enemy to find and attack them….

Despite the hesitation of many, Baghdadi persisted. Creating and running a state was of paramount importance to him. Up to this point, jihadis ran around without controlling their own territory. Baghdadi argued for borders, a citizenry, institutions, and a functioning bureaucracy. Abu Ahmad summed up Baghdadi’s pitch: “If such an Islamic state could survive its initial phase, it was there to stay forever.”

Baghdadi prevailed, however, not only because he persuaded the al-Qaeda ragtag of his project, but because he won over a large number of officers from Saddam Hussein’s disbanded army. America had the opportunity to “de-Ba’athify” the Sunni-dominated Iraqi Army after the 2003 invasion, the way it de-Nazified the German Army after World War II. Instead, it hung them out to dry. Gen. Petraeus’ “surge” policy of 2007-2008 bought the Sunni’s temporary forbearance with hundreds of millions of dollars in handouts, but set the stage for a future Sunni insurgency, as I warned in 2010.

Trump is right to accuse the Bush administration of creating the mess, and also right to blame Obama for withdrawing American forces in 2011. Once the mess was made, the worst possible response was to do nothing about it (except, of course, to covertly arm “moderate Syrian rebels” with weapons from Libyan stockpiles, most of which found their way to al-Qaeda or ISIS).

Now the region is a self-perpetuating war of each against all. Iraq’s Shia militias, which replaced the feckless Iraqi army in fighting ISIS, are in reorganization under Iranian command on the model of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. The Kurds are fighting both ISIS and the Syrian government. ISIS is attacking both the Kurds, who field the most effective force opposing them in Syria, as well as the Turks, who are trying to limit the power of the Kurds. Saudi Arabia and Qatar continue to support the Sunnis of Iraq and Syria, which means in effect funding either ISIS or the al-Nusra Front.

Russia, meanwhile, is flying bombing missions in Syria from Iranian air bases. Apart from its inclination to bedevil the floundering United States, Russia has a dog in the fight: as a number of foreign officials who have spoken with the Russian president have told me, Putin has told anyone who asks that he backs the Iranian Shi’ites because all of Russia’s Muslims are Sunni. Russia fears that a jihadist regime in Iraq or Syria would metastasize into a strategic threat to Russia. That is just what al-Baghdadi had in mind, as the Foreign Policy defector story made clear:

Baghdadi had another persuasive argument: A state would offer a home to Muslims from all over the world. Because al-Qaeda had always lurked in the shadows, it was difficult for ordinary Muslims to sign up. But an Islamic state, Baghdadi argued, could attract thousands, even millions, of like-minded jihadis. It would be a magnet.

What Trump might do

What’s needed is a deal, and a deal-maker. I have no information about Trump’s thinking other than news reports, but here is a rough sketch of what he might do:

Read the rest

Also see:

What’s the Plan for Winning the War?

iranian-nuclear-weaponDoes anyone in the administration recognize that we’re in one?

CounterJihad, Aug. 25, 2016:

Michael Ledeen makes a clever observation:

Everyone’s talking about “ransom,” but it’s virtually impossible to find anyone who’s trying to figure out how to win the world war we’re facing.  The two keystones of the enemy alliance are Iran and Russia, and the Obama administration, as always, has no will to resist their sorties, whether the Russians’ menacing moves against Ukraine, or the Iranians’ moves against us.

The moves are on the chessboard, sometimes kinetic and sometimes psychological warfare.  Like a chess game, we are in the early stages in which maneuver establishes the array of forces that will govern the rest of the game.  Russia’s deployment of air and naval forces to Syria stole a march on the Obama administration.  Its swaying of Turkey, which last year was downing Russian aircraft, is stealing another.  Its deployment of bombers and advanced strike aircraft to Iran is another.  That last appears to be in a state of renegotiation, as Ledeen notes, but that too is probably for show.  The Iranians have too much to gain in terms of security for their nuclear program, at least until they’ve had time to build their own air force.

Iran is making strategic moves as well.  Ledeen notes the “Shi’ite Freedom Army,” a kind of Iranian Foreign Legion that intends to field five divisions of between twenty and twenty-five thousand men each.  Overall command will belong to Quds Force commander Qassem Suliemani, currently a major figure in the assault on Mosul, having recovered from his injury in Syria commanding Iranian-backed militia in the war there.  The fact of his freedom of movement is itself a Russian-Iranian demonstration that they will not be governed by international law:  Suliemani is under international travel bans for his assassination plot against world diplomats, but was received in Moscow and now travels freely throughout the northern Middle East.

Turkey, meanwhile, has been effectively cut off by Iran’s and Russia’s success in the opening game of this global chess match.  As late as the Ottoman Empire, the Turks looked south through Iran and Iraq to power bases as far away as Arabia.  Now the Ayatollahs are going to control a crescent of territory from Afghanistan’s borders to the Levant, leaving the Turks locked out.  One might have expected the Turks to respond by doubling their sense of connection to Europe and NATO.  Instead, the purge following the alleged coup attempt is cementing an Islamist control that leaves the Turks looking toward a world from which they are largely separated by the power of this new Russian-Iranian alliance.  The Turks seem to be drifting toward joining that alliance because being a part of that alliance will preserve their ties to the Islamic world.

For now, the Obama administration seems blind to the fact that these moves are closing off America’s position in the Middle East.  This is not a new policy.  Eli Lake reports that the Obama administration told the CIA to sever its ties to Iranian opposition groups in order to avoid giving aid to the Green revolution.  Their negotiation of last year’s disastrous “Iran deal” has led to Iran testing new ballistic missiles and receiving major arms shipments from Russia.  Yet while all these moves keep being made around them, the Obama administration proceeds as if this were still just an attempt to crush the Islamic State (ISIS).  The commander of the XVIIIth Airborne Corps has been given a task that amounts to helping the Iranians win.  Our incoherent policy has left us on both sides in Syria.  Our only real ally in the conflict, the Kurds, stand abandoned by America.

Who is even thinking about how to win the war?  Will the legacy of the Obama administration be a shattered NATO, a Turkey drawn into Russia’s orbit, an Iranian hegemony over the northern Middle East, and a resurgent Russia?  It certainly looks to be shaping up that way.  Russia is playing chess while the US is playing whack-a-mole.  The absence of a coherent governing strategy is glaring.

Trump Counter-Terror Speech: What’s Right; What Needs Work

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (Photo: video screenshot)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (Photo: video screenshot)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Aug. 16, 2016:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump outlined his proposed counter-terrorism strategy yesterday. He laid out an impressive ideology-based strategy that includes uplifting Muslim reformers; however, he also vindicated decades of Islamist propaganda by emphasizing his opinion that the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil from its people, which would have required a long-term military occupation to protect it.

What Was Right

The parts of the speech about waging an ideological war on radical Islam were a breath of fresh air.

Criticizing of the past two administrations for not identifying the enemy is not an inconsequential squabbling over semantics. It’s an organizing principle. It is necessary for distinguishing friend from foe and waging the war of ideas. Confronting this ideology should be enthusiastically received by liberals/progressives and conservatives alike.

Trump explained, “Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.”

“My administration will speak out against the oppression of women, gays and people of different faith. Our administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East and will amplify their voices. This includes speaking out against the horrible practice of honor killings…” he continued.

When it comes to outlining the radical Islamic beliefs that we must confront, Trump knocked it out of the park, saying:

“A Trump Administration will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: We should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people. In the Cold War, we had an ideological screening test. The time is overdue to develop a new screening test of the threats we face today.

“In addition to screening out all members of sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles—or who believe that sharia law should supplant American law.

“Those who do not believe in our Constitution or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country.”

He also called for deporting non-citizens who preach hatred, teaching our values and patriotism to newcomers and wisely talked about why assimilation is an “expression of compassion,” rather than “an act of hostility.”

Casting aside his ridiculous and offensive idea of a ban on all Muslims from entering the U.S., he instead advocated “extreme” ideological vetting based around American values.

Dr. Daniel Pipes has some recommendations on a vetting process can separate Islamists from Muslims we should embrace showing that this process is possible by using background checks, link analysis of what groups potential immigrants have associated with and questioning.

What Needs Work

Although this may be coming at a later date, Trump did not provide details of his counter-terrorism strategy except for his plan to halt inappropriate immigration. Trump pledged to uplift moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, something that is extremely necessary, yet did not mention embracing the Iranian opposition.

If Trump wants to be an ally with Muslim reformers and pro-human rights, his plan for a temporary ban on immigration from unstable countries known for exporting terrorism has to be amended to account for persecuted minorities or reformist Muslims fleeing those countries. For example, immigration for persecuted Coptic Christian from Egypt or a Muslim who is swarmed with death threats for challenging honor killings in Pakistan must fall into a special category.

Interestingly, Trump sees “secular” dictators like Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad, Muammar Qaddafi and Hosni Mubarak as net pluses. In other speeches, he has blasted the pursuit of regime changes and undermining of governments.

Isn’t this a contradiction to promoting Muslim reformers?

Playing Into the Hands of Islamists

In the speech Trump firmly stated his opinion that the United States should have seized Iraqi’s oil production capabilites, which have required an indefinite occupation of the country.

“I was saying this constantly and to whoever would listen: Keep the oil, keep the oil, keep the oil. I said, ‘don’t let someone else get it.’…In the old days, when we won a war, to the victor belonged the spoils,” he said.

For decades, one of the main—and most fruitful—Islamist talking points is that the West, particularly the U.S., is scheming to steal oil from the Muslims and is happy to lie and slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocents to get it.

This breeds relentless hostility to American and the West and favorability towards Islamism. If that propaganda is seen as an undeniable fact (though statements such as these), then it becomes almost impossible for moderate Muslim reformers to succeed.

Those who argue that violent jihad against America is permissible use this very argument.

Until now, when speaking to the masses, Islamists had to block statement after statement from American politicians that America is not after the oil of the Muslims.

Now, jihadis have clips of an American presidential candidate supported by about 41% of the country advocating what they’ve claimed all along—that the U.S. wants to militarily conquer their land and take their resources.

***

Prof. Ryan Mauro, Clarion Project’s national security analyst, appears on “The Thom Hartmann Show,” the #1 progressive radio show, to discuss Donald Trump’s counter-terrorism speech on August 15.

What Do American Schools Teach About Islam? PC Or Nothing

Photo amrufm / Flickr

Photo amrufm / Flickr

The Federalist, by Joy Pullmann, Aug. 16, 2016:

Jenny McKeigue’s youngest child enters seventh grade this fall, and she plans to excuse him from a world history class requirement to recite a Muslim conversion prayer called the shahada. McKeigue spent four years attempting to convince her school board in Olmsted Falls, Ohio, to alter some lessons and replace history textbooks after her oldest son in 2012 showed her a reality TV episode his teacher had played in class.

In “30 Days: Muslims and America,” an imam tells a Christian man attempting to live as a Muslim for 30 days that Muslims and Christians worship the same god. The Christian struggles with that idea but ultimately accepts it.

Independent reviewers McKeigue requested also found errors in the district’s textbooks such as listing eleven biblical commandments and stating Muslims historically “practiced religious tolerance” by requiring Christians and Jews to pay extra taxes—not mentioning the alternative was often death. McKeigue said comparative class time and materials were not devoted to other major world religions such as Judaism and Christianity.

The district recently did buy new textbooks—a newer version of the one McKeigue had objected to, which contains many of the same errors.

Take and Read

Textbook errors are so common that several independent organizations review textbooks full-time. The Florida-based Citizens for National Security has issued the most comprehensive reviews about how textbooks treat Islam, and Chairman William Saxton says he fields about six related inquiries per day.

CFNS reports chronicle sins of omission and commission—such as saying “war broke out” between Palestinians and Israelis although one side was the aggressor, glossing over historical realities such as Muslims holding slaves and proselytizing by the sword, and inaccuracies such as stating Jesus was a Palestinian when Palestine did not exist until more than 100 years after his crucifixion.

One of CFNS’s YouTube videos points out that the high school history textbook used in the Boston bombers’ public school, Cambridge Latin School, makes straightforward religious claims about Islam no textbook would mimic in a description of any other religion: “Muhammad’s teachings, which are the revealed word of God…” An unbiased textbook would say something like “Muslims believe Muhammad’s teachings are the revealed word of God.”

Saxton is a retired U.S. intelligence officer with a Harvard University doctorate who volunteers for CFNS. He won’t say which agencies he’s worked for besides the Department of Defense, but will say he has investigated jihadist propaganda professionally. He began going through all the textbooks he could find after visiting a grandson in California in 2009 and looking up the sections on Middle Eastern history.

“That’s when the light lit,” he said. “I said ‘Whoa, we have a problem.’ This is a cultural jihad. It’s a dangerous form because no one is going to know about this.”

He quotes Shabir Mansuri, the founder of the Muslim-Brotherhood-connected Council on Islamic Education, who said their work reviewing textbooks for major publishers is intended to produce a “bloodless” cultural revolution. Reaction to such statements prompted CIE to change its name to the Institute for Religion and Civic Values, where Mansuri continues to review history textbooks for major publishers, write lesson plans, and give seminars to teachers.

Follow the Money

Taxpayers often fund these activities through government grants and contracts, and IRCV claims a “significant working partnership” with the U.S. State Department. It reviewed the textbook McKeigue objected to in her kids’ schools (Holt 2006).

Former CIE senior researcher Susan Douglass now runs a education outreach program for an influential Georgetown University center endowed in 2005 by a $20 million gift from Saudi prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. Recently declassified documents suggest links between the Saudi Arabian government, al-Qaeda, and the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.

Talal, one of the world’s richest men, has suggested America’s foreign policy deserved some blame for 9/11 and donated to the terrorist-linked Council for American-Islamic Relations. John Esposito, the founding director of Talal’s Georgetown center, has raised money for CAIR and publicly promoted organizations the U.S. government later designated terrorist organizations.

The center also receives federal Title VI funds for developing K-12 curriculum materials. Like Mansuri, Douglass travels the country giving seminars at museums, school districts, and conferences. Teacher resources she has written read like Muslim apologetics, including claims such as: “Customs such as honor killing are not part of Islam”; “Of the many current misperceptions about Islam, perhaps the most widespread is that women in Islamic law and Muslim society are oppressed and lack rights”; and “Jihad may not be conducted either to force people to convert or to annihilate or subdue people of other faiths.”

Talal also gave $20 million in 2005 to Harvard University for a similar, federally funded center of resources for K-12 teachers. Many U.S. campuses host such centers, whose employees present themselves as experts to textbook publishers, school teachers, and the media, said Winfield Myers, the director of academic affairs at the Middle Eastern Forum.

“You can see the actual genocide carried against the Christians in the Middle East with very little protest from these departments, because of so many years of Arab supremacism,” Myers said. “In the main, the Middle East studies departments are anti-Western and anti-Israel.”

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The prevalence of Saudi money in American higher education “gives incentives for not asking critical questions,” Myers said. Exacerbating this tendency is that asking questions about Islam quickly sparks accusations of racism, said Shireen Qudosi, an American Sufi Muslim who lives in California.

“Because we’re limited our ability to have these conversations it leads to this entitled attitude of ‘Because I’m Muslim I deserve something extra,’” she said from her cell phone in the car as her five-year-old son, Reagan, fussed in the back seat. She excused herself to hand him a snack.

Her frustrations with Islam in American schools are largely social: “Arabs see themselves as superior and their culture as the only authentic Islamic culture. And since they’re the ones with the money, what they say gets put into play.” Since they fear losing jobs and reputation if accused of racism, school administrators and social workers often sideline Muslim-related conflicts, leaving families to fend for themselves.

This also affects curriculum, because it motivates curriculum companies to similarly downplay religious and racial conflict, at the expense of accuracy and substance. High school teacher Elizabeth Altman, for example, spent eight weeks last summer with materials all over her dining room table, “tearing my hair out” to rewrite her Advanced Placement European history class to fit new guidelines: “I tried to take Sundays off. Tried.”

College Board’s AP tests can earn students college credit in high school. In 2015, 110,000 students took the AP European history exam, and for most it will be their last world history class.

“I was thinking ‘I hope I die before graduation so I don’t have to do this’” because the new material is so tedious and vague, said Altman, who is also the assistant principal at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Academy in Rockford, Illinois, before diving into a detailed explanation of what the College Board left out of its new, 237-page course description.

Goodbye, Religion

Islam is almost completely absent, but it’s not just Islam. Religion, period, has been relegated to a few glancing mentions, notes an extensive review of the curriculum changes from the National Association of Scholars. For example, it treats the Holocaust as a political and racial episode, leaving aside the religious elements.

“To leave religion out as a motivation for war or for domestic policy decisions is to leave out half of the human character,” Altham said. “To treat religious belief as simply a convenient belief of the ruling class is to ignore that the ruling class generally has genuine belief.”

So while ISIS is destroying Roman ruins in Syria because they consider them pagan works of infidels not worth preserving, Western intellectuals are performing an analogous intellectual exercise by erasing major human motivations and pivotal historic events in ways that hamper young Americans’ ability to understand historic and current world affairs, said David Randall, the author of the NAS report.

“Islam is the great inheritor and great rival” to Christian civilization throughout European history, Randall said. “You need to know that.” Since “the war-torn edges between Islam and Christianity depend on the rivalry of religious claims,” it’s impossible to understand European history without understanding exactly what motivated people then—and today.

Joy Pullmann is managing editor of The Federalist and author of the forthcoming “The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids,” from Encounter Books.

Jihadi jumble: Syria’s endless war begins on the Turkish border

The rubble following an airstrike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Kalasa in Aleppo. Picture: Yasser Ibrahim

The rubble following an airstrike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Kalasa in Aleppo. Picture: Yasser Ibrahim

So where is all this heading? Bassam Haji Mustafa, an ethnic Kurd and a senior member of the Islamist Nour al-Din al-Zenki militia group in Aleppo, in conversation with Inquirer, accurately notes the presence of four “projects” in fragmented Syria today — “the Assad regime and its allies; the (Kurdish-led, US-supported) Syrian Democratic Forces; Islamic State; and the rebellion”.

The Australian, by Jonathan Spyer, August 13, 2016:

The town of Gaziantep is located 30km from Turkey’s border with Syria. Over the past five years it has become an epicentre for the unfinished business of the Syrian civil war.

When the history of this most savage of wars is written, there will be a chapter on these dusty border towns and how they came to form way stations for so much of the traffic travelling to or escaping from the killing zones.

I recently visited Gaziantep and the town of Kilis on the border. My purpose was to try to ascertain the current state of the Syrian rebellion against the Assad regime.

Gaziantep in high summer is shimmering in the heat, its many minarets pouring forth the call to prayer. Syrian refugees gather in the evenings to smoke nargileh (hookah) and talk and argue about where things are heading. Deeper down, outside of unaided vision, the complicated politics and logistics of the Syrian war are playing out all around.

Kilis, a short drive south, is the last stop before the war. It feels more Syrian than Turkish. Arabic is spoken everywhere. The apartment blocks with their stone stairs and peeling paint and the tiny shops make it look like a northern Syrian town. The offices of the rebel groups are to be found among them. The shooting begins 5km to the south.

At the beginning of the Syrian war, Gaziantep’s small international airport was one of the main entry points for jihadis from all over the world looking to cross the border to join the fight against Bashar al-Assad. They would arrive in the town, put up in one if its many shabby hotels and await the call from this or that organisation to take the road to Kilis and then across the border. Now the Turkish authorities, pressured by the West, have cracked down on this particular traffic. The airport attack in Istanbul in June cemented the process whereby Islamic State went from tolerated presence in Turkey to deadly enemy.

Islamic State, in invisible form, is in Gaziantep too. Every so often, its presence becomes manifest. In late December, it murdered Naji Jerf, a prominent journalist and critic of the movement, in downtown Gaziantep. Two more people were killed in a suicide bombing in May. “You should be careful here. Its less normal than it feels,” the receptionist tells me with a smile.

Five years since the start of the uprising against the Assad regime, the world’s attention has largely moved on. The war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has sidelined the fight against Assad. What remains of the rebellion is boxed up, frustrated and exhausted, deployed in northwest and southwest Syria, or waiting in these towns across the border in Turkey.

“Of course, if we thought logically, we’d never have begun the revolution,” Yasser Ibrahim of Nour al-Din al-Zenki, one of the Islamist rebel militias, tells Inquirer. “We went out bare-chested in front of the regime. We lost a lot — but we’re continuing.”

They surely are. The Syrian rebels have in recent days broken a government siege on rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo. The rebellion’s entry into Syria’s second city in late 2012 represented perhaps its single most significant advance. The government strangle­hold on the city threatened to reverse this. It lasted a week. So the rebellion is far from broken and remains, despite it all, a potent force.

Where all this is heading, however, is far less clear.

Tangled lines of support
The first and most immediately noticeable element of the Syrian rebellion in northwest Syria is its bewildering variety. An enormous number of rebel groups, all with ringing and grandiose names in Arabic but varying greatly in size and orientation, are engaged. Unity has remained elusive.

The networks of foreign support for the rebels — from the US, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia — are equally confused and confusing. The US maintains a Military Operations Command centre in southern Turkey through which weaponry is supplied to certain vetted rebel militias. There are about 40 such groups. Representatives of Arab and other western countries are also present in the MOC centre.

In a covert operation headed by the CIA, these vetted groups are the beneficiaries of the BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles that have exacted a heavy toll on regime armour in Latakia, Idlib and Aleppo provinces. There are additional lines of support from Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to the powerful Salafi jihadist forces that Washington does not support. ­Finally, there are groups that receive support from the US as well as one or another of these regional players.

But there is no tidy distinction between US-supported and non-US-supported groups, as one might expect. There is a continuum. The groups have the same hierarchy of enemies (Assad at the top, then Islamic State). And they co-operate at ground level. Weaponry finds its way into the hands of the strongest.

The guns and assistance provided by the US and the regional backers have been sufficient to prevent the rebellion from facing defeat at the hands of Assad. But since the Russian intervention, which began in September last year, an outright rebel military victory appears beyond reach.

In the meantime, people on the ground are dying. “The MOC supports us, but the world isn’t seeing the shelling of the schools and children and public buildings by the Russian planes,” says Ezadin al-Salem of the Jabhat al-Shamiya rebel alliance as we sit in his office in Gaziantep.

The rebels, in all their multifarious and confusing variety, are at present locked into two grinding wars of attrition — against Assad and against Islamic State — with no apparent light at the end of the tunnel.

Read more

Jonathan Spyer is a journalist, author and Middle East analyst. Based in Jerusalem, he is director of the Rubin Centre for Research in International Affairs and a fellow at the Middle East Forum

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BOOK RELEASE: Obamabomb: A Dangerous and Growing National Security Threat

Center for Security Policy, July 25, 2016:

(Washington, D.C.): July 14, 2016 was the one-year anniversary of the nuclear agreement with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.

In his new book, Obamabomb: A Dangerous and Growing National Security Threat, Center for Security Policy Senior Vice President Fred Fleitz provides a detailed analysis of the dangers this agreement continues to pose to U.S. and international security, including:

  • Why the threat from Iran’s nuclear weapons program is growing despite the JCPOA;
  • How the nuclear agreement gave Iran a pass on its nuclear weapons work and led the IAEA to dumb down its reports on the Iranian nuclear
    program;
  • How the agreement has made Iran a greater regional and international threat;
  • The Obama administration’s deceptive campaign to implement the agreement; and
  • How the Obama administration is trying to grant further concessions to Iran.

Fleitz speaks on the anniversary of the adoption of the agreement at the Heritage Foundation

Although Fleitz argues that the nuclear deal is so dangerous that the next president should tear it up and start over, Obamabomb also includes recommendations for new sanctions against Iran and these principles that should guide any effort by a future president to re-negotiate the nuclear pact:

  1. Iran must cease all uranium enrichment and uranium enrichment research.
  2. Iran not have a heavy-water reactor or a plant to produce heavy-water.
  3. Robust verification, including allowing anytime, anywhere inspections by IAEA inspectors to all declared and suspect nuclear sites, including military facilities.
  4. Iran must fully and truthfully answer all questions about its prior nuclear weapons-related work.
  5. Iran must curtail and agree to limitations on its ballistic missile program.
  6. Lift sanctions in stages in response to Iranian compliance.
  7. Iran must agree to end its meddling in regional conflicts and sponsorship of terror.
  8. Threats by Iran to ships in the Persian Gulf, U.S. naval vessels and American servicemen and servicewomen must cease.
  9. Iran must cease its hostility toward Israel.
  10. Iran must release all US prisoners.

Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney said about Obamabomb:

“Fred Fleitz’s new book Obamabomb: A Dangerous and Growing National Security Fraud could not be more timely. Fleitz’s detailed analysis of this agreement not only proves the growing danger that the agreement poses to U.S. national security, he explains how the deal is making a U.S. enemy and leading actor in the Global Jihad Movement into a regional hegemon in the Middle East. Fleitz also discusses the dishonest Obama administration campaign to implement this agreement over bipartisan majorities in Congress and the dangerous precedent this set for future presidents.”

Fred Fleitz is Senior Vice President for Policy and Programs with the Center for Security Policy.  He served in U.S. national security positions for 25 years with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee staff.  During the administration of President George W. Bush, Fleitz was chief of staff to John Bolton, then Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.  In his five years with the House Intelligence Committee staff, Fleitz was a senior aide to Chairman Peter Hoekstra and the committee’s expert on the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.

Obamabomb can be viewed for free below or purchased at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats.

ObamaBomb_FINAL_07-12-16

Obamabomb-

Al Qaeda in Iran

(Credit: Newscom)

(Credit: Newscom)

Weekly Standard, by Stephan F. Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn, THE MAGAZINE: From the August 1 Issue:

Last week, President Barack Obama’s administration dismissed reports of Iranian support for al Qaeda as the product of fevered minds. Claims of collaboration between the Islamic regime and the terrorist organization are little more than “baseless conspiracy theories,” an Obama administration official told The Weekly Standard. “Anyone who thinks Iran was or is in bed with al Qaeda doesn’t know much about either.”

That group of ignoramuses apparently includes the Obama administration’s top official on terror financing. Adam J. Szubin, the Treasury Department’s acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, this week designated three senior al Qaeda officials operating in Iran. A statement explaining the designations says Treasury “took action to disrupt the operations, fundraising, and support networks that help al-Qaida move money and operatives from South Asia and across the Middle East by imposing sanctions on three al-Qaida senior members located in Iran.”

One of the three operatives is part of a “new generation” of al Qaeda leaders, replenishing the ranks of those who have been killed by the United States and its allies. Treasury identifies that man, Faisal Jassim Mohammed al-Amri al-Khalidi, as the chief of al Qaeda’s Military Commission and a key operative in al Qaeda’s global network, responsible for weapons acquisition and a liaison between al Qaeda leaders and associated groups.

This is not the first time the Obama administration has targeted the Iran-al Qaeda relationship. The Treasury and State Departments publicly accused the Iranian regime of allowing al Qaeda to operate inside Iran at least 10 times between July 2011 and August 2014. Testifying before Congress in February 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the relationship as a “marriage of convenience.”

There is considerably more evidence of Iran’s support for al Qaeda in the collection of documents captured during the raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound on Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011. Senior U.S. intelligence officials have told The Weekly Standard that the document collection includes letters describing the nature of the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda and specific ways in which Iran has aided al Qaeda’s network and operations. The Obama administration has refused to release the documents to the public and fought to keep them hidden during the negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal.

The Weekly Standard contacted the Obama administration official who last week dismissed Iran-al Qaeda cooperation to see if the new designations changed his view that claims of Iranian support for al Qaeda are “baseless conspiracy theories.” He replied: “Al Qaeda has long used Iran as a transit and facilitation point between South Asia and the Middle East, sometimes with the knowledge of some Iranian authorities. At the same time, the Iranian government has imprisoned some al Qaeda operatives, and we believe today’s action provides another opportunity for Iran to take action against al Qaeda.”

Think about that for a moment. The Obama administration accuses Iran of harboring senior al Qaeda operatives and sanctions those operatives in an effort to prevent them from hurting America and its interests. But rather than scold Iran for continuing to provide safe haven to terrorists devoted to killing Americans, the administration spins the move as an “opportunity” for Iran.

An opportunity? Why would the Iranian regime need the U.S. government to provide an “opportunity” to take action against the very terrorists it has been supporting for more than a decade? This is illogical, insulting, and dangerous. But it is consistent with the kind of irresponsible whitewashing of the radical regime that has become a trademark of the Obama administration’s approach to Iran.

The Obama administration provided Iran with billions of dollars through the nuclear deal despite having evidence in its possession that the country was providing safe haven to senior al Qaeda terrorists and despite acknowledging, publicly, that some of those funds would be used for terror. The administration kept secret crucial details of the agreement from Congress, concessions that the Iranians are now citing, convincingly, as evidence that they fleeced the United States and its partners. The administration withheld from the public and from Congress documents from the bin Laden raid that make clear the extent of the support Iran has provided al Qaeda over the years.

And now the Obama administration pretends that another public accusation of Iran’s complicity in al Qaeda’s terror is just an “opportunity” for the terror-sponsoring regime to stop doing what it is committed to doing?

Iran’s support for al Qaeda is not a “baseless conspiracy theory.” It’s a dangerous reality.

Louie Gohmert and Darrell Issa Renew Push to Designate Muslim Brotherhood as Terrorist Organization

meeting-by-Dustin-640x480Breitbart, by Dustin Stockton, July 13, 2016:

Congressmen Darrell Issa (R, CA) and Louis Gohmert (R, TX) pushed a bill, H.R. 3892, that would officially designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization at a meeting organized by the London Center for Policy research in the Russell Senate building on Wednesday.

The panel included several distinguished American and Egyptian speakers. Egypt has already designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and H.R. 3892 would apply the terror designation to the Muslim Brotherhood for the U.S. government.

After the London Center’s Vice President Eli Gold started the meeting, Congressman Gohmert spoke first by outlining the case against the Muslim Brotherhood and countering arguments made by detractors of the legislation. The outspoken Texas Congressman addressed accusations of racism over his opposition to radical Islam by saying Radical Islam isn’t a race, it’s a violent ideology. Gohmert also hammered the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) as an unindicted co-conspirator in the conviction of the Holyland Foundation for providing material support to terrorists. Gohmert used the words of several prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood to illustrate that the Muslim Brotherhood considers itself an enemy of the United States and that we should take them at their word.

Congressman Issa spoke next,  saying that the Muslim Brotherhood drives hatred of Christians and Jews. Congressman Issa eviscerated arguments from opponents of the legislation that claim the Muslim Brotherhood is just a political organization. “The Muslim Brotherhood should change their name if they want to call themselves a political organization,” Issa said. “They can’t use the same monikers, slogans, and rhetoric and claim they’ve changed their spots.”

After the Congressmen left to attend a vote in the House, President of the London Center for Policy Research, Herb London, talked about the Muslim Brotherhood providing seed money to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. He talked about the revolution in Egypt that initially installed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi as President. Shortly after Morsi was installed nearly a third of Egyptians again took to the streets, this time to remove Morsi. Morsi called on the military to fire on the protesters and General El-Sisi refused, making him a hero and eventually Morsi’s replacement as President, London explained.

London also brought up a speech Egyptian President El-Sisi made denouncing violence and extremism in his own religion and commented that it was unfortunate that it was mostly ignored by the media.

Egyptian actor Mahmoud Kabil also spoke about his experience in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood. Kabil talked about heading “veterans against Morsi” and tied the Muslim Brotherhood to an organization that the United States has already designated as a terrorist organization, Hamas.

London Center Senior Military Fellow Major General Bob Newman talked about the Muslim Brotherhood’s potential for non-kinetic attacks including cyber attacks and an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack on American infrastructure.

Egyptian TV host Michael Morgan warned that the Muslim Brotherhood will lie and say anything to get what they want, which is a foothold to attack from within.

Breitbart News asked another panelist, Senator Ted Cruz’s Legislative Assistant Samantha Leahy, what impact the terror designation would have on the Muslim Brotherhood. She answered by saying that it would give the State Department more leeway to open investigations and follow Muslim Brotherhood finances. A member of the audience asked in a follow-up question if the terror designation would compel the government to take action because the current administration isn’t likely to do anything against the Muslim Brotherhood voluntarily. Leahy answered that terror designation would prevent members of the Muslim Brotherhood from entering the country and compel the monitoring of their finances.

Dustin Stockton is a political reporter for Breitbart News, a community liaison for Gun Owners of America, and a political strategist. Follow him on Twitter @DustinStockton or  Facebook.

Fueling Both Sides of an Arms Race

ISAUDThe US administration’s policy is funding vast increases in the stockpiles of both Sunni and Shia powers.

CounterJihad, June 15, 2016

Eli Lake of Bloomberg has an important piece on the recklessness of American policy in the Middle East under President Barack Obama.

One of the unexpected results of President Barack Obama’s new opening to Iran is that U.S. taxpayers are now funding both sides of the Middle East’s arms race. The U.S. is deliberately subsidizing defense spending for allies like Egypt and Israel. Now the U.S. is… paying for some of Iran’s military expenditures as well.

It all starts with $1.7 billion the U.S. Treasury transferred to Iran’s Central Bank in January, during a delicate prisoner swap and the implementation of last summer’s nuclear deal… For months it was unclear what Iran’s government would do with this money. But last month the mystery was solved when Iran’s Guardian Council approved the government’s 2017 budget that instructed Iran’s Central Bank to transfer the $1.7 billion to the military.

Emphasis added.

The article, if anything, understates the importance of Obama’s so-called “Iran deal” to the flourishing arms race in the Middle East.  In fact, a great deal of the Sunni side of the arms race resulted from bribes the US administration provided them to make them less vehemently opposed to the deal.  The US offered Sunni states billions in arms deals in order to calm their fears of an increasingly aggressive, unbound Iran.

The US is also funding Iran by funding Iraq.  The Iraqi government has been receiving American military assistance since its liberation in 2003.  Reuters has reported that it has seen contracts for $195 million from the Iraqi government for Iranian arms. Doubtless that money is coming out of the “train and equip” funds that the US Department of State has been providing to Baghdad.  In 2014 the US provided nearly as much money to the Iraqi government, which is effectively fighting as an ally of Iran, as the $1.7 billion it provided to Iran directly last year.

Meanwhile, the Russians have been profiting off of all of this American money.  Russia has been transferring its advanced S-300 missile systems to Iran in return for cash payments.  These missile systems are considered by defense experts to be capable of taking down up to fourth generation fighter aircraft, to include American F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s, which jointly make up the major bulk of America’s fighter fleet (71% as of 2012, with an additional 15% being A-10 attack aircraft).  Such fighters would also encompass the entire fighter fleet of Israel’s air force, as well as the Sunni air forces that are arming up right now.

Iran, conversely, has adopted a strategy chiefly of preferring unmanned missiles as a counterbalance to regional air or American air forces.  They have had success in both extending the umbrella of their missiles’ reach, and in improving their accuracy.  As Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently said, “Those who say the future is in negotiations, not in missiles, are either ignorant or traitors.”

In addition to these big-ticket items, small arms sales to the Middle East have doubled.  Though ‘small arms’ sounds as if it were less important than big-ticket items like missiles and bombs, in fact small arms typically cause the majority of fatalities in any conflict.

For now the race to arm the Middle East for an upcoming war is an exciting business venture:  even Canada has greatly increased its participation in making money off the Middle East’s hunger for weapons.  As Willy Stern recently pointed out in his analysis of Hezbollah arms stockpiles in Lebanon, however, it points to an incredibly bloody future war.  The US government has, either recklessly or for reasons they have not disclosed, decided to pour money and arms into both sides of this upcoming conflict.

Also see: