Trump-Putin call focuses on Syria, security zones

DEBKAfile, May 2, 2017:

One of the most consequential exchanges on the disposition of Syria’s border lands with Israel and Jordan – and the future of the Syrian conflict at large – took place between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Tuesday, May 2. The call took place when German Chancellor Angela Merkel was visiting Putin at his Black Sea residence in Sochi.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reveal that the two presidents focused strongly on an effort to agree on how de-escalate the Syrian conflict now in its sixth year and bring it to an end. The Russian leader proposed drawing armistice lines between the warring sides under the guarantee of a special Russian military mechanism. The Americans have not released any ideas, but they are believed to be contemplating establishing safety zones barred to the Syrian air force. One of those zones would be marked out in the south on Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.

The Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, the Iranian military-political command and Hizballah are resisting US feelers for the introduction of these safe zones, regarding the plan as a ploy hatched by the Saudis, Israelis and Jordanians to take control of South Syria by engaging local Syrian rebel groups as their vehicle. Damascus, Tehran and Beirut believe that if they allow the scheme to go forward without resistance, it will be the start of similar off-limits enclaves in other parts of Syria, and the country will quickly fall apart into self-ruling segments.

That is why late last month, Syrian army units, the Shiite militias under Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers’ command and Hizballah combined their resources to push against the local Syrian rebels of the South in the regions of the borders with Israel and Jordan.
It is doubtful whether Trump and Putin were able to work out something tangible in their first phone conversation since the US fired Tomahawk cruise missiles against the Syrian Shayrat air base on April 7. The Russian president used the shock of that event to cultivate closer ties with the Syrian ruler and strengthen his missile defenses, in case of an American repeat attack or Israeli air strikes on military targets in Syria.
At the same time, Putin becamed more careful about infringing on parts of Syria deemed to be under American influence, especially the Kurdish enclaves.
The US president was also careful not to direct personal attacks on Putin or criticize Russia’s military involvement in Syria, merely expressing the hope that at some point the two powers could reach an understanding to end the vicious conflict.
When reporters in Sochi asked the Russian president if he thought he could sell his plan to Assad, he replied: “A ceasefire is the first priority and cooperation with Washington is critical.”

At the same time, Russia operates in tandem with Turkey and Iran and was trying to “create the conditions for political cooperation on all sides,” he said.

Clearly, Putin was making the point that, just as the US deals with the Syrian issue in alignment with Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan, Russia coordinates its actions with Iran and Turkey. Since both presidents are similarly weighed down by their allies, the road to a consensus between Washington and Moscow is destined to be long with many convolutions. Therefore, the tension on the Israeli and Jordanian borders of southern Syria will continue to escalate before it abates.

White House Clearance Process Increasingly Politicized

Ben Rhodes, Michael Flynn / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz, May 1, 2017:

Security clearances granting access to state secrets have become increasingly politicized in a bid by opponents to block senior advisers to President Trump from joining the closed White House community of those with access secret intelligence.

In February, intelligence agencies denied a high-level security clearance to Robin Townley, an African affairs specialist and close aide to then-White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

The denial of the Top Secret, Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance, the high-level security clearance known as TS/SCI, was widely viewed as a bureaucratic power play by opponents of both Flynn and Townley inside intelligence agencies.

Angelo Codevilla, an intelligence expert, said the denial of clearances was engineered by the CIA and came despite Townley’s holding of the high level clearance for many years when he worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The clearance denial drove Townley out of the White House National Security Council staff.

The apparent motivation was political, as Townley was known inside government as a critic of the current intelligence structure. Townley, like Flynn, advocated for intelligence reforms designed to improve what many critics regard as an outdated system of intelligence agencies.

“The CIA did not want to deal with him,” Codevilla stated. “Hence, it used the power to grant security clearances to tell the president to choose someone acceptable to the agency, though not so much to him.”

Flynn also is under scrutiny from the Pentagon inspector general over foreign payments he received after retiring as an Army three-star general and whether they were reported on security clearance forms.

Several months before Townley’s clearance denial, Democrats on Capitol Hill complained about plans to give high-level security clearances to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner. Both were granted interim TS/SCI clearances and currently are presidential advisers.

The blocking of security clearances under Trump contrasts with the handling of clearances during the Obama administration when a key liberal adviser with a questionable security background was given a high-level clearance.

Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser for strategic communications under Obama, was denied an interim TS/SCI clearance by the FBI in October 2008, according to an email obtained from John Podesta last year.

The email stated that Rhodes was the only White House official out of 187 prospective White House aides to be denied the interim TS/SCI clearance.

Yet, despite the denial, Rhodes would later be granted access to some of the most secret U.S. intelligence information and emerge as one Obama’s closest aides who boasted of a “mind-meld” with the president on various issues.

Rhodes became one of the most active originators and shapers of key American foreign and national security policies under Obama.

He engineered what he dubbed the “echo chamber” of pliable news reporters and think tank experts who could be relied on to spread White House propaganda, including false and misleading information, to the American public on the Iran nuclear deal in a bid to win congressional backing for the accord.

Two House Republicans asked the FBI in January to investigate how Rhodes was granted access to secrets for eight years after the initial denial of an interim clearance in 2008.

Regarding Ivanka Trump and Kushner, two House Democrats, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) and Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.) complained on Twitter in November that granting clearances to the couple would be improper and a conflict of interest because they were in business and lacked government experience.

High-level security clearances are granted to White House officials so they can participate in various activities, including policy development work, meetings with the president and senior advisers, working groups, and intelligence briefings.

Most internal meetings are classified and thus a security clearance is required for access. Denying a clearance to an official can be tantamount to firing.

In the White House complex, junior clerical staff members often are granted TS/SCI clearance.

Most jobs inside the White House complex, which includes the executive mansion and the adjacent Eisenhower executive office building, where the National Security Council and other key posts are located, require the TS/SCI clearance. Other clearance levels include Secret and Confidential.

The process for gaining a clearance includes filling out Form SF-86 that requires disclosing details of past employment and finances.

Chinese hackers were able to gain access to millions of the secret and highly sensitive forms during the hack disclosed last year of the Office of Personnel Management. The stolen SF-86s were among some 22 million documents on federal employees stolen and could greatly assist Chinese intelligence agent recruitment and cyber espionage operations.

Ground for clearance denial can include illegal drug use, contacts with foreign governments, or a history of bankruptcy.

The TS/SCI clearance grants a holder access to special intelligence, such as information obtained from foreign recruited agents and electronic communications intelligence.

The clearance also can include signing extensive non-disclosure agreements.

Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s Long Road to Islamic Reform

Egyptian Leader Al-Sisi.

Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, April 20, 2017:

“There has been a lot of positive symbolism” from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi regarding Islamic reform but little action, stated former American Ambassador Alberto Fernandez on April 3 in Washington, DC.  He and his fellow Hudson Institute panelists examined the enormous difficulties confronting any reform of the doctrines underlying various jihadist agendas even as America’s new President Donald Trump prioritizes counterterrorism.

Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom Director Nina Shea opened the panel before a lecture room filled with about 70 listeners by noting the Sisi-Trump White House meeting at that very moment.  Shea observed that America’s important ally Egypt is the most populous Arab country (94 million people) with a quarter of all Arab speakers in the world.  Egypt also has the Middle East’s largest Christian community, the Copts, accounting for an estimated ten percent of Egypt’s population, more than all the Jews in Israel.

Addressing Trump’s meeting with Sisi, Fernandez stated that the “number one issue in for this administration in this regard is obviously writ large the counterterrorism issue,” particularly concerning defeating the Islamic State.  He emphasized the necessity “to find creative, smart, aggressive ways to challenge the appeal of the default ideology in the Middle East today,” namely “some type of Islamism.”  Such ideologies had a long history, as in the 1970s “Egypt was the proving ground for all of this stuff that we saw with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State” involving atrocities against Mesopotamia’s Christians and other minorities.  He recalled visiting Egypt as a young diplomat for the first time in 1984 and seeing policemen guarding every Christian church and cemetery, an indication of this community’s peril.

Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Samuel Tadros, himself a Copt, stated that “there is no doubt that the Islamist message is appealing in Egypt” and reprised his previous analysis of Islamism.  “Islamism seeks to create a state that connects heaven and earth,” an ideology that is still credible in the public imagination and has no viable contenders in the marketplace of ideas.  Despite repeated failures to create this idealized state by groups like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, the “basic premises of Islamism make sense for an average Egyptian.”

Fernandez and Tadros accordingly dashed any high hopes raised by Sisi’s 2015 New Year’s Day address on Islamic reform to Al Azhar University in Cairo, often considered Sunni Islam’s preeminent theological authority.  Tadros stated that the speech “was general, it was unprepared” while Fernandez noted that “Sisi kind of put out a very enticing marker but there is a lot of work that has to happen which hasn’t even begun yet.”  Although globally the “speech that Sisi gave was very well received,” the follow-on reminded Fernandez of the Arab proverb “she was pregnant with a mountain but gave birth to a mouse.”

While “there is a tremendous amount of space for Islamist extremism in Egypt still” as the 2015 blasphemy conviction of an Egyptian talk show host showed, Fernandez remained unimpressed with Sisi’s Islamic reform advocacy.

There has been a nibbling around the edges.  But you cannot say that the Egyptian government has done something which would be truly revolutionary, that has never happened in the Arab world, which is to have a government on the level of ideology, on the level of textbooks, on the level of the religious establishment really embrace a kind of liberal reinterpretation of problematic texts and concepts that are used by Salafi-jihadists and by Islamists.

“While Washington has welcomed this talk a lot, there are actually a lot of limits to what Sisi can offer in this regard,” Tadros warned.  Sisi “would like to see a reform of the religious discourse, but he has no plan, plus he has to deal with the reality of Al Azhar” as his appeals to reform easy divorce laws had shown.  The “answer from Al Azhar was a very clear public humiliation of the president….This is not debatable, this is the religion as it is; basically don’t talk about these issues.”

Given Sisi’s societal circumstances, Fernandez noted that “even the weak tea that we see with that symbolism actually provokes a reaction” from Islamists like an Islamic State video attacking Sisi as a “slave of the cross.”  Fernandez and Tadros likewise discussed rampant antisemitism permeating Egyptian society as exemplified by Fernandez’s last visit to Egypt three years ago.  The bookstore of the five-star Intercontinental Semiramis Hotel where he was staying had an entire shelf of anti-Semitic literature including the Jew-hatred staple, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and books featuring vampires with Stars of David.

Such intellectual poison is unsurprising given Tadros’ assessment that the “Egyptian educational system remains a disaster; it simply teaches nothing about the outside world.”  A Christian Egyptian friend astounded him once when she related the inquiry of her fellow journalist about where her fiancée would spend his wedding night.  On the basis of the movie Braveheart, the inquiring journalist had obtained the bizarre belief that Coptic women spend their first night of marriage having sex with a Coptic priest.

For Tadros, the journalist’s pitiful ignorance about Copts is no anomaly, even though they are the indigenous people of an Egypt Islamicized after a seventh century Arab conquest.  Among Egyptian Muslims there is an “absence of any actual information about people that they have shared 14 centuries of living together.”  This allows “all these superstitions, these conspiracy theorists, this propaganda by Islamists to fill that vacuum.”

The only bright spot in the panel appeared in Tadros’ estimation most Egyptians considered Sisi, who came to power in a 2013 military overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood, as the only current acceptable political alternative.  “There are huge human rights abuses in the country, but it is also a very popular regime.  I have no doubt that even in free and fair elections President Sisi would win.”  He represents a “certain rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood, a demand for a return to normalcy, to stability.”

Andrew E. Harrod is a researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. He can be followed on twitter at @AEHarrod.

How to Oust Assad (If We Decide To)

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

It would require cooperation from Russia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXCLUSIVE – Feminist Leader Phyllis Chesler: Women Strike Movement Hates Israel Instead of Islamic Misogyny

Phyllis Chesler/Joan Roth

Breitbart, by Deborah Danon, March 9, 2017:

TEL AVIV – Leaders of the International Women’s Strike have no idea about the meaning of feminism and have hijacked the movement to protest the “occupation of Palestine” and “Israeli apartheid” instead of speaking out against the “occupation of women’s bodies” and “Islam’s religious and gendered apartheid,”  a leading Jewish-American feminist told Breitbart Jerusalem.

According to Dr. Phyllis Chesler, emerita professor of psychology at City University of New York and a bestselling author, following Israel’s 1967 defensive war, Palestinians replaced women as “the favored victims of the month” in liberal circles.

“Now, it was formerly colonized Arab men of color, symbolized by the Palestinians, that became an obsession,” she told Breitbart Jerusalem.

Even feminists themselves, Chesler noted, were no “longer concerned with the occupation of women’s bodies worldwide, but rather with the alleged occupation of a country that had never existed: Palestine.”

Chesler, considered a second wave feminist leader, said her generation was focused on “the sexual objectification of women; economic parity; abortion rights; and on all the violence that took place mainly against women: rape, incest, sexual harassment, woman-battering, pornography, and prostitution.”

But then, “post-colonialism and postmodernism swept the Western Academy,” she said.

Indeed, organizers of Wednesday’s Women’s Strike published on their website that they “stand for an uncompromising anti-racist and anti-colonial feminism” first and foremost the “decolonization of Palestine.”

As Chesler notes, women’s rights have been pushed out the picture in favor of a warped anti-colonialist view.

“The West, including Israel, became the world’s worst colonialists. Israel, not Islam, was accused of practicing apartheid. In reality, Islam is the largest practitioner of both gender and religious apartheid, but Israel served as the scapegoat for all the crimes perpetrated by Muslims including slavery, anti-black racism, conversion via the sword, persecution of non-Muslim religious minorities, imperialism, colonialism – and the most barbaric abuse of women,” Chesler said.

“Feminists and other Western academics and progressives simply do not want to know about Islam’s history or current nature. Those who critique Islam, however mildly, are accused of being racists and Islamophobes and may be sued or killed,” she added.

Chesler said that feminists today should be focusing on combating “forced face-veiling, forced child marriage, female genital mutilation, polygamy, and femicide, or honor killing.”

“Sadly, tragically, the feminists who are being funded by Soros; the non-Muslim feminists who proudly wore the hijab at the anti-Trump march simply do not understand that girls and women are killed for refusing to wear the hijab,” she said.

She praised Israel for having robust feminist and gay rights movements and mused that any activists hoping to spearhead similar movements in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, and Pakistan, would end up being “jailed, tortured, raped, and murdered, perhaps beheaded.”

Women like Rasmea Odeh and Linda Sarsour, the faces behind Wednesday’s women’s strike as well as January’s Women’s March, are not feminists, Chesler said.

As Breitbart Jerusalem reported, Odeh, who together with other strike organizers are calling to “decolonize Palestine” and protest the “white supremacists in the current government,” is a convicted terrorist accused of bombing attacks in the late 1960s that killed two Israeli university students and injured nine more.

In 1980, Odeh was freed from an Israeli jail as part of a prisoner exchange deal, and a decade later emigrated to the U.S. She recently made headlines again after being charged with immigration fraud for lying about her terrorist background when applying for U.S. citizenship.

For her part, Linda Sarsour is an anti-Israel Palestinian-American activist who made headlines for becoming the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against Trump’s executive order on immigration.

***

The Ninth Circuit’s stolen sovereignty should serve as final wakeup call

Africa Studio | Shutterstock

Africa Studio | Shutterstock

“What it evidences is the deep and perhaps irremediable corruption of our legal culture’s conception of constitutional interpretation” ~ Justice Samuel Alito, (Obergefell v. Hodges, dissenting)

Conservative Review, by Daniel Horowitz, February 10, 2017:

Last night, we saw the logical outcome of over a half century of political agreement on the Right and Left that the opinions of the courts are the sole and final arbiter of every public policy issue, no matter how divorced from the Constitution and inimical to national interests those decisions may be.

The Ninth Circuit, although not “officially” deciding the merits of the immigration case, indicated that there is a constitutional right for anyone to immigrate, even during a time of war, even from countries we were so careful never to take immigrants from until recently. It concluded the president must show the courts sufficient evidence that each person will be a terrorist and anything short of that creates a due process right to be here.

It’s very important to remember that this is not about the executive action. President Trump’s executive order is following a statute, really a series of statutes, which grant any president ABSOLLUTE at-will power to shut off all or any immigration. According to the perverted rationale of the courts, even Congress couldn’t cut off immigration, even from part of the Middle East because it poses issues to the Left’s social justice agenda, which has been retroactively enshrined into the Constitution.

The outcome of this case is that even if Congress was to merely bar visas from countries that support terror (which is current law for state-sponsors of terror), that law would be open to lawsuits and would be enjoined nationwide by one district within one liberal circuit — and there’s not a darn thing we can do about it. It means any Islamic supremacist sitting in a shack in Somalia has due process rights to immigrate here and liberal states can sue on his behalf.  It means any Muslim in Syria can sue us if they believe a Christian was admitted as a refugee in front of them. After all, we already know that four of the justices on the Supreme Court will never defy any political agenda of the Left, and that Anthony Kennedy is terrible on immigration.

Those radicals breaking windows and beating people up in the streets? Those views are not only represented in Congress but are now codified into law and the Constitution by the misconceived supremacy of the judicial branch of government. As I predicted in my book, within a few years (perhaps less), there will be wholesale judicial amnesty for all of the illegal immigrants in this country under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. It’s already happening in the lower courts. Last night, it was codified into law by the Ninth Circuit when it said illegals have due process rights (to remain in the country).

So where does it say in the Constitution that there is a right for foreign nationals to immigrate, especially when courts have said the opposite for 200 years? It’s in the same clause as “separation of church and state,” gay marriage, sex change operations, and the right to 30 days of early voting.

It’s not worth re-litigating what is so obvious to a sane person and frankly what is obvious to these judges themselves. We’ve covered every aspect of this case in the following articles:

What I would like to focus on is the solution. In the coming days I plan to focus on the strategy of wholesale judicial reform as well as the need to continue the push for an Article V Convention of the States. But the first step is understanding the severity of the problem and to stop legitimizing the false premise that courts have the final say on political questions.  Let’s say this together: The federal judiciary is IRREMEDIABLY broken, and as witnessed by these cases, half the GOP judges are just as bad.

We must also stop legitimizing the notion that Congress doesn’t have full authority over the jurisdiction and structure of the courts.

Let me leave you with the following twisted irony.

Samuel Chase was one of first Supreme Court justices and one of the earliest supporters of judicial review (which is not synonymous with judicial exclusivity/supremacy). Chase was impeached, at the behest of President Jefferson, for using the court to advance his political agenda. Yet, even this judicial strongman of his day, when defending the original rationale for the power of judicial review against laws passed by legislatures, declared, “an act of the Legislature contrary to the great first principles of the social compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority.” Chase believed the Court could strike down laws passed by Congress that violated the essence of the social compact and fundamental natural rights.

Fast-forward two centuries and we have unelected judges, not the legislature, violating the essence of the social compact by redefining marriage and gender itself (the ultimate natural law). Courts have violated the popular and jurisdictional sovereignty of our states and federal union in hamstringing the elected representatives from protecting us against those who come here without our consent and harm our society. The fact that any liberal state official can sue to bring in people who don’t share our values and might do us harm violates the very essence of the consent-based national sovereignty at the core of the social compact and at the foundation of why the Constitution gave national sovereignty questions to the national government. As Justice Scalia warned, we are suffering from social transformation without representation.

Until and unless we reclaim our sovereignty from the courts, we are no longer a sovereign nation.

Report: Trump to Announce U.S. Embassy Move to Jerusalem Monday

THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

Breitbart, byJoel B. Pollak, Jnuary 22, 2017:

Numerous unconfirmed reports are circulating in the international media that President Donald Trump intends announcing Monday that he will relocate the U.S. embassy to Israel from the coastal city of Tel Aviv to the capital city of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital city since its founding in 1948, but most countries have deferred moving the embassy there because the original UN partition plan for the British Mandate proposed Jerusalem as a city under international sovereignty.

Jordan, the Palestinians, and all surrounding Arab nations rejected the UN plan, and the Jordanian army took over the eastern half of Jerusalem in 1948, expelling the Jewish inhabitants of the Old City, where Jews had lived for several millennia.

With that part of the UN plan effectively rejected by Jordan and the Arab world, Israel established its capital in western Jerusalem. Though Palestinians, in theory, claim all of Jerusalem for themselves, the part of Jerusalem west of the 1949 armistice line (the “1967 lines,” or the “Green Line”) will unquestionably remain part of Israel in any peace agreement.

The core of the Arab and Muslim rejection of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a rejection of Jewish claims to religious and historical connection to the city itself. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat once turned down an offer of shared sovereignty over the Temple Mount because, as he told then-President Bill Clinton, he saw the Jewish claim to the holy site as fictitious.

In 1995, Congress mandated that the U.S. move the embassy to Israel through the Jerusalem Embassy Act. The law, however, contained a waiver that allowed the president to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv, acknowledging the supremacy of the executive in determining the foreign policy of the U.S. Trump’s pledge on Monday — if it comes to fruition — would decline that waiver.

Opponents of the decision to move the embassy have warned that it would set off violence in the Arab world. But it would also inspire joyful celebrations in Israel and around the world, as the U.S. would likely inspire other countries to follow its example, and would help Israel cement its national vision of “a free nation in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

At the inaugural ceremony itself, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles stressed the themes of Zion and Jerusalem, quoting from Psalm 137:5: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill.”

President Trump was scheduled to speak to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayhu by telephone on Sunday afternoon.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.