Monday, May 29, 2017

Why Eastern Syria is Essential to Containing Iran - Jonathan Spyer

by Jonathan Spyer

As the eclipse of the Caliphate draws near, the race is opening up to inherit its former domains.

Originally published under the title "Race for the Ruins."

Islamic State lacks the manpower to defend its diminishing territory in eastern Syria, as suggested by this U.S. military propaganda leaflet.
Events taking place in a remote stretch of southeast Syrian desert in recent days reveal the current direction of US Middle East strategy.
An observable ratcheting up of US and allied air and special forces activity in eastern Syria is currently under way. This in turn appears to derive from a new, hard-nosed understanding of the nature of the strategic game in the large, strife-ridden area covering what was once Syria and Iraq.

On Thursday, May 18th, US aircraft launched strikes on a column of Assad regime vehicles including tanks and earth-movers, 18 miles from the town of al-Tanf, on the Syrian-Iraqi border. The strikes took place after the vehicles entered an agreed deconfliction zone around the town. US and British special forces are currently training "vetted partner forces," i.e. Syrian Sunni Arab rebels, in the town.

This was the second occasion in recent weeks that US aircraft have directly engaged against Assad's forces. On the first occasion, the target was the al-Shayrat airbase. That raid took place on April 6. It was a clear retaliation for the regime's use of sarin gas at Khan Sheikhoun on April 4. The Shayrat raid was generally interpreted as a belated attempt to enforce the American "red line" against further regime use of chemical weapons. As such, it was not widely seen as indicating a more general change of policy.

The attack on the column near al-Tanf, by contrast, was not preceded by any unusual regime activity, apart from the approach of the column itself, and its too close vicinity to Western forces. On Monday, the pro-opposition website Syria Direct quoted an un-named US military spokesman as saying that "if pro-regime forces move further south or east from their current positions, this will be considered a threat." The website also reported that regime forces are preparing to move toward the Badia area, a stretch of desert to the north east of al-Tanf.

The battle for the territorial holdings of the Islamic State in Syria is reaching its final phase.

What is the significance of this butting of heads?

The battle against the territorial holdings of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is reaching its final phase. The re-conquest of Mosul is almost done. The assault on Raqqa city, the capital city of the Caliphate is about to begin. It is set to be a hard and bloody fight. But its eventual outcome is not in question. Islamic State as an entity controlling ground will be destroyed. At which point the movement will revert back to its former status as a clandestine terror network. As the eclipse of the Caliphate draws near, the race is opening up to inherit its former domains.

The competitors in this contest are Iran and its various allies and proxies, and forces associated with the West and the Sunni Arab states.

The Iranians and their allies want to penetrate IS territory from west to east – with the Iraqi Shia militias pushing westwards from Tel Afar and Assad regime forces and pro-Assad militias (including Hizballah) probing east.

The regime forces nosing around in al Tanf are in the process of seeking to seize border areas with both Jordan and Iraq. The US is determined to prevent that. The town of Deir al-Zour and the surrounding oil rich areas will form an important part of the prize.

US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters on the northern outskirts of Deir Ezzor, Syria.

Pro-Western forces, meanwhile are pushing north from Jordan and south from the Kurdish-controlled area north of the IS enclave. The forces engaged on this side are the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the Kurdish YPG, and the Maghawir a-Thawra (Commandos of the Revolution, formerly the New Syrian Army) rebels, supported by the US, UK and Jordan, from the south.

The outcome of this contest is of strategic significance, despite the remote and arid nature of much of the territory concerned. The Iranians want to create a contiguous line of territory controlled by themselves and their allies stretching from Iraq into Syria, and thence to the Mediterranean Sea and the border with Israel.

Islamic State has formed a buffer against the achievement of this goal. But Islamic State, in the usual manner of Sunni Salafi organizations when they control territory, declined to be satisfied with the stewardship of a small domain. Instead, the Sunni jihadis elected to declare war on the West, using the territory as a base to hold and execute captured Western prisoners, to prepare attacks against Western civilian targets, to administer a regional network of franchise groups, and to attempt genocide against a non-Muslim population, the Yezidis. As a result, the West, unsurprisingly, made it a goal to destroy the Islamic State.

Iran wants to control a contiguous line of territory stretching from Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and Israel's borders.

The question now is who will inherit. The Americans, it appears, have understood that to stand a chance of re-establishing influence and standing in the region, and beginning the process of turning back the Iranian advance, it is necessary to have skin in the game, i.e., to develop reliable proxies and have them control ground, in this pivotal area.

Only thus can a contiguous line of Iranian control from the Iraq-Iran border to the Mediterranean and Israel be prevented. Only thus will the US be able to prevent an eventual outcome in Syria and in Iraq entirely favorable to the Iranians. Hence the development by the US Department of Defense of the relationships with the YPG and elements among the Jordan-supported Sunni Arab rebels in the south.

It is worth also noting that the outcome in eastern Syria is not of primary interest to the Russians. Russia wants to preserve the regime in existence and to keep its naval investments in Latakia Province. Neither of these interests is threatened by events further east. Controlling the east is an Iranian and Assad regime goal only.

The outcome in eastern Syria is not of primary interest to the Russians.

The outcome of this emergent contest will be of deep interest also to Israeli strategic planners. While some recent analysis has suggested that Israel favors or should favor allowing IS to continue in existence as a quasi-state, it is obvious that this is no longer an option. Syria as a state has largely ceased to exist. The question now, as it is parceled out into zones of influence, is who will gain and who will lose.

Alongside the military jockeying on the ground, the diplomatic processes in Astana and Geneva will sputter on. Their eventual outcome, though, will depend on the balance of forces on the ground. Iran wants its contiguous line not least in order to move weaponry and fighters both in preparation for and no less importantly in the course of a future war with Israel. Preventing this is an Israeli national security interest par excellence.

This emergent US strategy has not yet been officially confirmed. Indeed, Defense Secretary James Mattis was quoted by Agence France Presse after the al-Tanf strike as denying that the raid heralded any "increased role" for the US in the Syrian war.

The pattern on the ground suggests otherwise. The US administration has defined the Iranians and the Sunni jihadis of IS as its main adversaries in the region. Eastern Syria is an area where the defeat of the latter by pro-Western forces will constitute also a setback also for the former. This is a game which is now afoot. Much depends on its outcome.

Jonathan Spyer, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2011).

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Trump furious with Abbas: You lied to me - David Rosenberg

by David Rosenberg

President Trump reportedly outraged with Palestinian Authority leader. 'The Israelis showed me that you are involved in incitement.'

Abbas and Trump
Abbas and Trump
President Donald Trump lambasted Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, after the president claims the PA leader deceived him regarding his party’s involvement in anti-Israel incitement.

Trump met with Abbas in the PA-controlled city of Bethlehem last week during his two-day visit to Israel. The two held a joint press conference, at which time the president praised Abbas’ commitment to restarting negotiations with Israel for a final status agreement.

But according to a report by Channel 2 Sunday evening, the closed-door meeting between the president and the PA chairman was anything but cordial.

A US official present during the meeting claims the president expressed outrage with Abbas, yelling at him regarding Abbas’ claims that his Fatah faction was not involved in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement.

“You tricked me in Washington,” the president is said to have yelled at Abbas, referencing the PA leader’s March trip to the US capital.

During his March get-together with the president, Abbas claimed he was dedicated to advancing peaceful relations with Israel, and that the PA was not engaged in incitement against the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu publicly called out Abbas’ claim, noting the PA’s continued material support for jailed terrorists and promotion of hateful propaganda encouraging young Arabs to take up arms against Israel.

"I heard President Abbas yesterday say that the Palestinians teach their children peace,” said Netanyahu. “Unfortunately, that's not true. They name their schools after mass murderers of Israelis and they pay terrorists,” he said at the opening of a meeting with the Romanian prime minister in Jerusalem.

According to the American official who spoke with Channel 2, beyond the PM’s statement, Israel also provided the White House with proof of the PA’s support for and promotion of terrorism.

“You talked to me about peace, but the Israelis showed me that you are personally supporting incitement,” Trump reportedly told Abbas last week.

During their joint presser last Tuesday, President Trump alluded to the PA’s funding for jailed terrorists, calling it an obstacle to peace.

"Peace can never take root in a place where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded,” said President Trump.

“We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single, unified voice. Peace is a choice we must make each day, and the United States is here to help make that dream possible for young Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children all across the region."

David Rosenberg


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The Keys to True Peace in the Middle East - Rovvy Lepor

by Rovvy Lepor

Dershowitz: If the Mafia offered bounties to kill its opponents, no one would sympathize with those who made the offer. Yet the Palestinian leadership that does the same thing is welcomed and honored throughout the world

If the Trump Administration wishes to succeed in achieving true peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors in Judea and Samaria, the U.S. must first recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and must demand a full stop to Palestinian terrorism and incitement against Israel. This makes all the difference between true peace and an empty agreement.

The Trump administration appears determined to finally achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). This attempt to broker true peace between Israel and Arabs living in Judea and Samaria (aka the Palestinian Arabs) is doomed to failure unless and until the “peace process” takes a radically different approach toward making peace.

If the Trump administration simply follows the strategy of the previous three administrations (Clinton, Bush, and Obama) it is doomed to also fail in achieving peace. The strategy of the previous administrations was to pressure both sides to negotiate and demand numerous concessions from Israel, from security concessions to transfer of land from Israel to the PA. Such concessions have often led to a significant deterioration in peace, with Palestinian terrorists attacking Israel. One such infamous example was the “disengagement” from Gaza where roughly 10,000 Jews were expelled from their homes. Shortly thereafter, Hamas took control of Gaza. Since then there have been three major military conflicts between Israel and Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.

Therefore, if the Trump administration truly wants to see if peace is even achievable, they must take a very different approach than previous administrations. Otherwise, if the U.S. wants to achieve a meaningless declaration of peace signed by both parties on a piece of paper, even if it leads to violence rather than peace, they would simply be proclaiming “‘peace, peace!’ while there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8:11)

To determine if peace is even feasible, the Trump administration must immediately recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel once and for all and move its embassy to Jerusalem. Israel will never agree to a peace deal that does not recognize Jerusalem as its capital. That recognition must also come from the PA prior to a peace agreement.

By immediately moving its embassy to Jerusalem, the U.S. would initially recognize “West Jerusalem” as the capital of Israel. President Trump could then send the following ultimatum to Mahmoud Abbas: in one year we will recognize a United Jerusalem as the capital of Israel unless the PA stops all incitement against Israel and Jews for that entire year. This includes all forms of encouraging terrorism. In addition, the PA must prevent all terrorist attacks against Israel. If they do not comply, the U.S. will stop all aid to the Palestinians forthwith.

PA controlled media, including television, radio, Internet, and print, all incite Arabs to murder Jews and Israelis. This is also rife in the Palestinian school system. The Jerusalem Post reports that “over 200 U.S. government [i.e., Obama administration] approved textbooks used in hundreds of Palestinian UNRWA-sponsored schools” teach Arab children to murder Israelis “and sacrifice themselves… to drive Jews out of the country.” This incitement reaches to the highest levels of the Palestinian government. In September 2015, Mahmoud Abbas said, “We salute every drop of blood spilled for the sake of Jerusalem. This blood is clean, pure blood, shed for the sake of Allah, Allah willing. Every martyr will be placed in Paradise, and all the wounded will be rewarded by Allah.”

The PA must stop naming squares, streets, and institutions after terrorists and must remove all such names and references to terrorists immediately. (One of many examples of this practice occurred in 2010 when the PA named a square after a terrorist who murdered 37 Israelis in 1978. Another is the PA’s frequently honoring the arch-terrorist Abu Jihad who was responsible for the murders of 125 Israelis, including naming a park after him.)

The PA must immediately stop all payments to terrorists in Israeli jails. In 2016 alone, the PA paid $140 million to Arab terrorists who had been imprisoned by Israel and another $175 million to the families of Arab “martyrs.” This accounts for a whopping 7% of the PA’s budget.

The Palestinian Authority must ban all terrorists from running in Palestinian elections. Mahmoud Abbas should start with his own Fatah; after all he is the President of Fatah. The PA continued to show its support of terrorists with the election this month of Tayseer Abu Sneineh as mayor of Hebron, the largest Palestinian controlled city in Judea and Samaria. Sneineh is a terrorist convicted of the 1980 murder of six Israeli Jews, including two American citizens and a Canadian national. Sneineh was a candidate of Abbas’ Fatah Party!

Israel has already demonstrated its willingness to make peace through so-called “confidence building measures” including the 10-month building freeze in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank). Israel has already done its part. To achieve true peace, it is time for Palestinian concessions. For peace to work, President Trump should not insist on a transfer of Israeli territory to Palestinian rule as part of a so-called “confidence building measure.” That would be a path to failure.

President Trump called terrorists “evil losers” and in his speech this week at the Israel Museum said that “we must drive out the terrorists and the extremists from our midst, obliterate this evil ideology, and protect and defend our citizens and people of the world” adding that “all decent people want to live in peace.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, during his Senate confirmation, said in reference to the PA: “It’s one thing to renounce [terrorism] and another thing to take serious actions to prevent it,” adding that Palestinian leaders have to do “something to at least interrupt or prevent [terrorism]” before there can be “any productive discussion around [Israeli] settlements.”

President Trump stated that Mahmoud Abbas is ready for peace, saying, “I had a meeting this morning with President Abbas and can tell you that the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace.” President Trump should judge Abbas and the Palestinian leadership by its actions and regular incitement to violence rather than by statements made by Abbas in personal meetings with him.

Alan Dershowitz explains the reality on the ground when it comes to PA incitement to violence:
“…when the Palestinian Authority claims to reject terrorism, they reward the families of suicide bombers and other terrorists with large compensation packages that increase with the number of innocent victims. If the perpetrator of the Manchester massacre had been Palestinian and if the massacre had taken place in an Israeli auditorium, the Palestinian Authority would have paid his family a small fortune for murdering so many children. There is a name for people and organizations that pay other people for killing innocent civilians: it’s called accessory to murder. If the Mafia offered bounties to kill its opponents, no one would sympathize with those who made the offer. Yet the Palestinian leadership that does the same thing is welcomed and honored throughout the world.”
If the Palestinians truly want a state, they must start by permanently and immediately stopping all incitement against Israel and Jews in every form. They must stop rewarding and encouraging terrorism. If they are truly serious about peace with Israel, they will stop their terror war against Israel. If the Palestinian Authority does not stop funding, inciting, and committing terrorism against Israelis, there can be no peace deal.

Rovvy Lepor


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Democrats and Islamists Share the Edge of the Cliff - Clarice Feldman

by Clarice Feldman

If you read accounts of them in your paper or viewed them on television you will be in the dark about the earth-shattering shift in U.S. policy and the clarity this president brings to the issue of Moslem extremism and how to crush it

This has been such a newsworthy week that I will deal only briefly with a few items which normally would be column-worthy so I can concentrate on the blow to the Democrats and Jihadists by the President this week and the revelations about the Obama administration’s police-state tactics. 

1.The Fourth Circuit Applies the Maxine Waters Doctrine on the Law

It was an amusing tell last week when Democrat demagogue Maxine Waters conceded it would have been fine if Hillary had been elected and fired James Comey, because he deserved it, but it was improper for President Trump to have done so. It’s less easy to dismiss the blow to the rule of law and our constitution that the Fourth Circuit dealt this week when in a lengthy opinion they said the same thing about the travel moratorium: Okay if a Democrat did it, not okay if Trump did. This will head to the Supreme Court, which unless it decides we are to become a banana republic where decisions are based on the political appetites of the judiciary instead of the law, it will be overturned. If you like this opinion -- that is, to say if you are a Democrat -- remember the political tilt of the federal judiciary is in the process of being altered and this precedent will work against you.

2. The Democrats’ Quixotic Effort to Create “Referenda on Trump” Fails Again

In the face of declining support in federal and state elections countrywide, the geniuses in the DNC decided on a strategy seeking to pick up seats in special elections. These elections usually involve low voter interest and turnout, and the DNC reasoned if they pumped millions into these elections they could pick up seats. Their media buddies prophesied each time that this election was going to be a “referendum on Trump.” If so, he’s continued to beat them time after time. This week it was Greg Gianforte who crushed their designated banner bearer. And he won despite a last-minute effort by a notorious political hack and provocateur; Ben Jacobs, previously with the Daily Beast, now sporting UK Guardian press credentials.

3. The President’s Splendid Foreign Adventure

Nancy Pelosi was critical of the President’s first foreign trip which began in Saudi Arabia, continued on to Israel, the Vatican City, Belgium, and Italy because it wasn’t done in “alphabetical” order

I am linking to the transcripts of his Saudi Arabian and Israel speeches. I urge you to read them in their entirety. If you read accounts of them in your paper or viewed them on television you will be in the dark about the earth-shattering shift in U.S. policy and the clarity this president brings to the issue of Moslem extremism and how to crush it, something distorted and concealed for at least the previous eight years of his successor and even longer in the Deep State with its Arabist slant. Compare the text, for example, with these reporters’ tweets:
Jim Acosta [CNN]@Acosta
Trump rightly asked this part of world to stiffen spine in battle against terrorism. But where was the appeal to our collective humanity?
Julie Pace‏[AP] Verified account @jpaceDC
Trump lavishes praise on "magnificent" Saudi Arabia, but stays publicly silent on human rights
When Bob Schieffer ventured praise for Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia, the CNN host accused him of “normalizing” the president. Can’t have that on CNN apparently.

If you hope to have any understanding of what this president has to say you must simply go online and read the transcripts or watch the full video recordings. There are no reliable shortcuts, I’m afraid.

The press, doubtless hoping the President would fail, did cover the Saudi trip. When it was obvious he did not bomb, but rather acquitted himself brilliantly, they cut short coverage of the Israeli portion of the trip . Why did they do this selective coverage? As my online friend Tom Lipscomb sagely observes: “The Dems only believe what is real is restricted to what is covered by their press outlets.” Obviously, they decided he was dashing their predictions and so decided that to cover the trip in depth would only underscore their error.

4. The Massive Illegal surveillance of Americans and the Justifiable dismissal of James Comey

Honest and full coverage of the foreign trip was not the only major event airbrushed by the media this week. Several online publications fill in the blanks about the massive, illegal surveillance conducted by the Obama administration over the eight years he was in office and the deceptive, partisan, and incompetent administration of the FBI under Comey.

If you hope to understand the massive, illegal surveillance and weaponizing of intelligence against citizens by the Obama administration, you need to read three online sources, Circa, Sharyl Attkisson and National Review.

This week Circa revealed that on October 26, just weeks before the election, the Obama administration finally revealed to the FISA Court it had been ordering illegal NSA searches of Americans for years:
The National Security Agency under former President Barack Obama routinely violated American privacy protections while scouring through overseas intercepts and failed to disclose the extent of the problems until the final days before Donald Trump was elected president last fall, according to once top-secret documents that chronicle some of the most serious constitutional abuses to date by the U.S. intelligence community.
More than 5 percent, or one out of every 20 searches seeking upstream Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s so-called Section 702 database violated the safeguards Obama and his intelligence chiefs vowed to follow in 2011, according to one classified internal report reviewed by Circa.
The Obama administration self-disclosed the problems at a closed-door hearing Oct. 26 before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that set off alarm. Trump was elected less than two weeks later.
The normally supportive court censured administration officials, saying the failure to disclose the extent of the violations earlier amounted to an “institutional lack of candor” and that the improper searches constituted a “very serious Fourth Amendment issue,” according to a recently unsealed court document dated April 26, 2017.
The admitted violations undercut one of the primary defenses that the intelligence community and Obama officials have used in recent weeks to justify their snooping into incidental NSA intercepts about Americans.
You can check the accuracy of Circa’s summation by reading the FISA court opinion

Sharyl Attkisson, formerly of CBS, has prepared an extensive timeline of the Obama administration’s surveillance and weaponizing of intercepted intelligence against opponents, reporters, and even Congress. There was a consistent pattern of surveilling and leaking information about anyone who opposed anything the administration did and punishing severely whistleblowers and reporters who tried to report wrongdoing. 

It began on April 2009 within three months of Obama’s inauguration with the leaking of a conversation Congresswoman Jane Harmon with pro-Israeli lobbyists. It grew to include FBI contractor Shamai Leibowitz, “Tea Party” and “patriot” applicants for special status with the IRS, Fox news reporter James Rosen, Sharyl Attkisson herself, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Fox news reporter Mike Levine, ATF whistleblower John Dodson, CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, journalists from the AP and New York Times, reporter Audrey Hudson, Senate intelligence Committee computers, Joint Chiefs of Staff James Cartwright, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Carter Page, and lawmakers and Jewish groups opposed to the Iran “deal.”

It was, Attkisson notes, not until this month that we learned from Circa that during the past election year 2016: ”the Obama administration vastly expanded the searches of NSA database for Americans and the content of their emails and phone calls: From 9500 searches involving 198 Americans in 2013 to 30,355 searches of 5,288 Americans in 2016.”

Circa followed up its first account with yet another -- this one about how the FBI illegally shared the raw intelligence about Americans with unauthorized third parties.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, now under new management with President Donald Trump, confirms that the 654 unmaskings reported last year for fiscal 2015 was underreported by a factor of more than three times. The correct number was actually 2,232.
So how does an agency entrusted with producing some of the nation’s most sensitive intelligence and secrets get its math so mixed up? Apparently, it was a case of providing statistics from the wrong category. [/snip] “Transparency isn’t any good if the numbers you expose aren’t correct. And there seems to have been a lot of downplaying of unmaskings so I think this a question worth exploring. Who approved the inaccurate number and was it an innocent mistake or part of a larger pattern,” said a congressional aide directly involved in the investigations, speaking only on condition of anonymity because they were not approved to talk to reporters.
Republicans want to question former Obama administration National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who originally denied know about any unmasking of identities of Trump campaign associates. But after Circa reported she had in fact requested or read several intelligence reports with the names of Trump associates unmasked, Rice reversed course and acknowledged she had done so but insisted her intentions were national security related and not political.
Rice turned down a request to testify before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing earlier this week. But expect GOP investigators to keep up their pursuit to put her under oath.
The NSA is allowed under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to spy on foreign powers without a court warrant but the law prohibits the targeting of Americans for such surveillance. If the NSA accidentally intercepts Americans or information about them overseas, it is supposed to legally put the information in a virtual lock box.
Circa also has asked the Trump administration to declassify and make public the total number of times Americans in sensitive jobs like Congress, presidential campaigns, journalism, the medical profession, the legal profession and the federal judiciary either had their names searched in the NSA database or their names unmasked in NSA intelligence reports.
After explaining the legal and technical aspects of NSA data collection and the handling of intercepted communications under the law, Andrew C. McCarthy looks at these disclosures and notes they create a new legacy for Obama:
The rules from 2011 forward were simple: Do not use American identifiers. Yet NSA used them -- not once or twice because some new technician didn’t know better. This violation of law was routine and extensive, known and concealed. Clearly, this new scandal must be considered in context. The NSA says it does not share raw upstream collection data with any other intelligence agency. But that data is refined into reports. To the extent the data collected has increased the number of Americans whose activities make it into reports, it has simultaneously increased the opportunities for unmasking American identities. Other reporting indicates that there was a significant uptick in unmasking incidents in the latter years of the Obama administration. More officials were given unmasking authority. At the same time, President Obama loosened restrictions to allow wider access to raw intelligence collection and wider dissemination of intelligence reports. This geometrically increased the likelihood that classified information would be leaked -- as did the Obama administration’s encouragement to Congress to demand disclosure of intelligence related to the Trump campaign (the purported Trump–Russia connection). And of course, there has been a stunning amount of leaking of classified information to the media. Enabling of domestic spying, contemptuous disregard of court-ordered minimization procedures (procedures the Obama administration itself proposed, then violated), and unlawful disclosure of classified intelligence to feed a media campaign against political adversaries.Quite the Obama legacy.
5. Conrad Black explains why he believes the Comey firing will prove to be a decisive victory for Trump and why the “resistance” is in its death throes

Like me, he thinks Comey’s donning the mantle of an electoral college of one was a huge mistake and predicts the democrats are heading for the last round-up:
While Mueller and McCabe sort out the facts, the Supreme Court will toss out the attention-seeking antics of the West Coast flake-judges who gained their fleeting moment of gimcrack fame by challenging the president’s clear authority over immigration. The Democrats’ policy of obstruction will come crashing to ground, and the commentariat and White House press corps who are the real opposition now, will be afflicted by chronic glottal stops. The president will put through his health care and tax reforms and drive on. And the honeymoon, to which all incoming holders of great office are entitled, will finally begin.
While the Clintons and Obamas wait to see if they are in danger of indictment, with no one of either family to lead the Democrats for the first time in 25 years, the once loyal opposition have sown and they shall reap. The president has evident draw-backs, but he is trying to do what he was elected to do. Trump’s enemies right now are an abominable mélange of snobbery, hypocrisy, and psychopathic partisanship. They will be weighed in the balance and they will be found wanting.
Like the Islamists who think they have supremacy over the Abrahamic religions which preceded them, the Democrats who imagined themselves to be the vanguard of an inevitable march of history have reached the edge of the cliff and Trump is there to kick them off it into the abyss. 

Clarice Feldman


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Turkey’s Tightrope Dance - Robert Ellis

by Robert Ellis

The uncertain future of U.S.-Turkish relations.

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was recently in Washington in search of "a new era" in Turkish-U.S. relations, was also out with the begging bowl. At a meeting with 40 prominent U.S. investors, Erdoğan urged them to increase investments in Turkey and shared recent developments regarding Turkey’s investment environment and economic agenda. What he did not share was the increasingly repressive environment that Erdoğan himself has created in search of absolute power.

But the true nature of Erdoğan’s regime did not go unnoticed when his bodyguards attacked a group of demonstrators, which seems to be a constant feature of the president’s foreign trips. Senator John McCain even suggested that the U.S. should “throw their ambassador the hell out.” Once safely home, Erdoğan reassured the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSIAD) that the state of emergency, where he has ruled by decree since the failed coup last July, was no hurdle for business.    

According to Erdoğan, Turkey is preparing for “a new leap in democracy,” but there are no signs that this is true. On the contrary, Turkey has plans to build 174 new prisons to accommodate the thousands who have been purged since last July. At the beginning of April Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said that 113,260 had been detained and 47,155 had been arrested, including over 10,000 police officers, 7,631 from the military and 2,575 judges and prosecutors. These numbers have since increased, not to forget the 231 journalists who have been arrested. In addition, over 140,000 have been dismissed from public employment, so that they and their families are now ‘non-persons’ in the new Turkey.    

Turkey’s economy is in the doldrums and foreign investors, not surprisingly, are heading for the door. Growth is stagnant, there is double-digit inflation and unemployment is rising, particularly among young people. There is desperate need for foreign capital to reduce the growing current account deficit, which is why Turkey has been badly hit by the drop in the number of foreign, particularly European visitors. Erdoğan’s vitriolic attack on various European countries, for example, accusing Germany of “Nazi methods” and calling the Dutch “Nazi remnants” and “fascists,” hasn’t helped either.

Turkey’s economy minister, Nihat Zeybekci, has launched a campaign involving 17 global companies to restore investor confidence in Turkey. Potential investors are invited to “Come to Turkey and discover your own story,” but given the political situation, a number of multinationals, for example, Switzerland’s Nestlé and the Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis, are having second thoughts.

Three years ago, the president of TÜSIAD, Muharrem Yılmaz, warned: “A country where the rule of law is ignored, where the independence of regulatory institutions is tainted, where companies are pressured through tax penalties and other punishments, where rules on tenders are changed regularly, is not a fit country for foreign capital.” Erdoğan denounced Yılmaz as a traitor and he was forced to resign.

President Erdoğan will brook no opposition nor tolerate any criticism and now his control of the legislature and the judiciary has been reinforced by the constitutional amendments narrowly approved in April’s referendum. Since the failed coup 879 companies, including large conglomerates, have been seized  by the Turkish government and the assets of dozens of businessmen have been confiscated.

The security of any registered foreign investment should be guaranteed by the rule of law and according to the U.S.-Turkey Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), “Investments shall at all times be accorded fair and equitable treatment and shall enjoy full protection and security in a manner consistent with international law.”

However, as Işıl Karakaş, a Turkish judge who is also the vice-president of the European Court of Human Rights, has pointed out, Turkish judges are ignorant of international law. Instead, they wear “ideological glasses” and believe that protecting the state is their fundamental job.

In which case, a foreign investor who is a victim of fraud or other malfeasance stands little chance in a Turkish court. The only recourse is arbitration by the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID] and legal fees which can amount to several million dollars.     

Anti-American sentiment is prevalent in Turkey, as Erdoğan has claimed the abortive coup was not planned in Turkey but orchestrated abroad. He even accused CENTCOM’s commander General Joseph Votel and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper of siding with the plotters and told them: “Know your place.”

President Trump’s approval of the Pentagon’s plan to supply weapons to the Kurdish militia in northern Syria has not improved U.S.-Turkey relations, and Trump’s invitation to President Erdoğan was intended to paper over the cracks. It hardly had that effect, and now Trump is beleaguered by the appointment of Robert Mueller as special prosecutor. Back home, Erdoğan is confronted by an increasingly divided and unstable Turkey.

There is a Turkish proverb: iki cambaz bir ipte oynamaz (two acrobats can’t dance on the same tightrope). What remains to be seen is whether one or both will fall off.

Robert Ellis is a regular commentator on Turkish affairs in the Danish and international press.       


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Israel: The Inconvenient Truth of Occupation - Maggie Villines

by Maggie Villines

It is an inconvenient truth that under international law, it's not illegal to win a territorial fight.

It is an inconvenient truth that under international law, it's not illegal to win a territorial fight. Media rhetoric pummels hearts and minds and rallies a false cause, and the United Nations depicts the people of Israel to be a pariah, a hated "occupier," and routinely takes steps to sanction the occupier. The Middle East, an area of 8,804.395 square miles – equivalent to about ninety percent of the contiguous United States – considers Israel undeserving of the right to exist on the original, tiny 10,875 square miles unanimously granted by the League of Nations and upheld by the U.N. 

International laws of war, declared or undeclared, are ignored. Ignorance prevails around the globe. Pertinent laws are eye-opening – not a seductive read, but easy to understand and necessary for discovering truth, whatever your moral imperative, which fails to replace law.

Is Israel an "occupier," and if the answer is yes, is the "occupation" legal according to international law? Consider the following:

1) Egypt has never held or claimed sovereignty (ownership) over the Gaza Strip.
2) Egypt has occupied (established authority over) the Gaza Strip.
3) Jordan has never been sovereign over the West Bank.
4) Jordan has occupied the West Bank.
5) Jordan claimed sovereignty over the West Bank but abandoned the quest after failing to convince Arab neighbors or any nations, other than Pakistan and Britain, of a legitimate claim.
6) Syria is sovereign over the Golan Heights, although Israel gained a portion of the territory in the 1967 war. That portion of the Golan remains under Israeli control. Syria accuses Israel of "illegal occupation" as Syria's own Iranian-funded military occupies Lebanon. Israel shares a border with Lebanon, from which Hezb'allah, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, attacks Israel, forcing Israel to respond to protect its citizenry.

The definition of a territorial "occupier" has existed, unchanged, since the early 1900s. "Customary" warfare law is settled law.

1. The purpose of the 1907 Hague Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land:

Hague Article 42, in part: The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.

Hague Article 43, in part: The authority of the legitmate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country. 

2. The Fourth Geneva Convention, August 1949: "After WWII this body examined "occupation" through a more focused lens and added to the Hague. The definition of occupation did not change. Hague remained and continues to be customary law. The Geneva purpose shifted from protecting the sovereign to protecting civilian populations."

Geneva IV: Part I, Articles 2 and 3, in part:
[T]he present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them[.] ... The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance.
The Gaza Strip and West Bank have no existing "legitimate power" and have been without sovereignty since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Israel is not illegally occupying the Gaza Strip today, nor did it between 1967 and 2005, when it handed the territory over to Hamas. Twenty-one Jewish housing settlements were dislodged. To maintain border security, Israel continues to control air traffic, seaports, and coastal fishing.

Syria is sovereign over the Golan Heights but in 1967 fired down on Israel from the heights of Golan's rocky plateaus. A few days later, Israel took that territory, eliminating one more security threat.

Conquerors lawfully exist under law but are charged with restoring public order if possible. International laws of war do not demand that land be returned after conquest. The United Nations and the International Court of Justice have no legislative power, including authority to determine sovereignty over a nation or territory.

Moral imperative is our privilege but fails to replace law.

1981: Israel annexed the Golan Heights. 1988: The PLO, with Yasser Arafat's endorsement, declared a Palestinian State on the territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Neither occurrence is internationally acknowledged. The U.N. denies the Israeli annexation and accepts the Palestinian state. The U.N. position is a statement. The U.N. has no legislative power.

Hague is "customary law." Geneva IV is "conventional law." Cornell Law defines "Customary" and "International":
Customary International law results when states follow certain practices consistently out of a sense of legal obligation[.] ... Conventional international law derives from international agreements and may take any form that the contracting parties agree upon.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) endorsed Geneva IV and upheld Hague:
The Convention does not invalidate the provisions of the Hague Regulations of 1907 on the same subjects but it is supplementary to them.
Arab countries point to U.N. post-1967 war Resolution 242 as proof of Israel's illegal occupation. Resolution 242 does not mention Palestine but states the goal of a "just and lasting peace in the Middle East" – in part:
... respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state [Israel included] in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.
The Arab League did not successfully rally members to offer "respect" or "secure borders" to Israel. The Arab Peace Initiative was tempting to both sides, but Hamas refused to sign on. The Arab League acts as one. Hamas dominated.

Hamas, also an internationally recognized terrorist organization, was founded in 1987. Eight months later, a charter was adopted. Immediately after the preamble, the Hamas Covenant of 1988 (Constitution) says:
Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.
Hamas has not renounced the Covenant but argues that its 2006 "Electoral Campaign Platform List for Change and Reform" (C&R) is the voice of Hamas.
2. Palestine is Arab and Muslim Land.
3. The Palestinian people are still in the process of National Liberation and have the right to use all means including armed struggle to achieve this goal.
Confirming my assertion that media shape their worldview with false rhetoric, relying on the public's moral imperative while willfully ignoring law when convenient, the C&R declares:
Culture and media play a vital role in shaping the mentality and thought of citizens, and building up the nation's personality.
The inconvenient truth of Israel's supposed illegal occupation: in all cases, Israel legally occupies.

Maggie Villines


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Turkey: Erdogan's Goon Squad Comes to Washington - Burak Bekdil

by Burak Bekdil

Erdogan's political ideology is deep-rooted in an often-aggressive blend of Sunni Islamist supremacy and neo-Ottoman, Turkish nationalism.

  • The savagery of Erdogan's Turkish enforcers in Washington, whom many observers viewed as thugs, reflects a new dimension in carrying his message to any potential leader who may host him in the future: We treat peaceful dissent abroad as we treat it in Turkey.
  • Turkey probably was protesting the United States for not giving President Erdogan's men a license to kill.
According to the official narrative, U.S. President Donald Trump was hosting in Washington the leader of a long-friendly country and historic ally. In typical diplomatic niceties, Trump mentioned Turkey's role as a pillar in the Cold War against Soviet expansion, and Turkey's legendary courage in fighting alongside American soldiers in the Korean War in the 1950s. Trump also said, speaking of the present, that he looks forward to "working together with President Erdogan on achieving peace and security in the Middle East, on confronting the shared threats, and on working toward a future of dignity and safety for all of our people." Facts on the ground, however, are frequently less pleasant than Kodak-moment niceties.

The fundamental incompatibility between Trump and Erdogan was too apparent from the beginning of what looks like a largely transactional, pragmatic but problematic relationship. Erdogan's political ideology is deep-rooted in an often-aggressive blend of Sunni Islamist supremacy and neo-Ottoman, Turkish nationalism. Erdogan, disregarding Saudi Arabia and other possible contenders for the title, claims to be the protector of Sunni Muslims across the Middle East, and does not hide his ideological kinship with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, of which Trump is not a great admirer. In contrast, Trump hit out at Muslims during his campaign and proposed both a "Muslim travel ban" and a "Muslim registry". It was only too predictable: in response, Erdogan, in June 2016, called for Trump's name to be stripped from the Trump Towers in Istanbul.

Erdogan's Washington, DC visit, apart from Trump and Erdogan agreeing to disagree on more essential issues, will be remembered as a Turkish excess, with scenes of the bloodied faces of peaceful protestors beaten up by Erdogan's bodyguards in front of the Turkish ambassador's residence. Although these unpleasant incidents caused an uproar in America, such brutality should have come as no surprise.

Slightly over a year ago, Erdogan and his team were in America on another visit, with the Turkish president scheduled to speak at the Brookings Institution. His security guards harassed and physically assaulted journalists trying to cover the event; they also forcibly attempted to remove several journalists, although they were on the guest list. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Brookings staff prevented them from ejecting the reporters. One Turkish journalist was removed from the building while checking in. But that was not the entire show. An American reporter attempting to film the harassment was kicked in the chest. The National Press Club was outraged. "We have increasingly seen disrespect for basic human rights and press freedom in Turkey," said the president of the Club, Thomas Burr. "Erdogan doesn't get to export such abuse".

Shortly before that, in February 2016, Erdogan had embarked on a Latin America trip. During his speech at the Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales (National Higher Studies Institute) in Ecuador's capital, Quito, a group of women began shouting "Fuera Ecuador Erdogan" ("Get out of Ecuador, Erdogan") and "Asesino" ("Murderer"). About a minute later, Erdogan's bodyguards brutally attacked and forcefully removed them from the room: they punched the protesters in their heads and breasts. As the women were removed from the room, Erdogan said: "As we see now, there are sometimes disrespectful characters as well. Appropriate responses will always be taken to handle these disrespectful people".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Photo by Justin Tallis - Pool/Getty Images)

The embassy violence, however, and the savagery of Erdogan's Turkish enforcers, whom many observers in Washington viewed as thugs, reflects a new dimension in carrying his message to any potential leader who may host him. CNN's Marc Randazza, after mentioning video footage showing Erdogan speaking to the black-suited agents before they rushed the protesters, said, "It was brutal -- with the agents punching protesters and kicking them while they were on the ground.... The word outrage," he wrote, "does not come close to describing this incident". The bloody clash sent nine people to the hospital. The White House remained silent, but the Turkish ambassador was summoned to the State Department, which "raised its concerns about these events..." Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the administration's "dismay" had been expressed to the Turkish government.

Arizona Senator John McCain and California Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote to Erdogan that "the actions of your staff violate the constitutional protections of freedom of the press and freedom of assembly enjoyed by all Americans." McCain even suggested:
"We should throw their ambassador the hell out... This is the United States of America. This isn't Turkey; this isn't a third-world country; and this kind of thing cannot go unresponded to diplomatically".
Instead, the Turks added insult to injury. The Turkish Foreign Ministry on May 22 summoned U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass over the incident to give him a verbal and written protest. But what could Turkey be protesting after its president's bodyguards attacked a defenseless, small bunch of peaceful protesters? Read the Turkish ministry's statement about the protest: "... due to the aggressive and unproffessional [sic] actions taken, contrary to diplomatic rules and practices, by US security personnel towards the close protection team..." Turkey probably was protesting the United States not giving President Erdogan's men a license to kill.

The second "Turkish circus" in Washington in a span of about a year must have demonstrated to the free world the kind of oppression that any kind of dissent may earn protesters in Turkey. There is one difference, though. The peaceful protesters in Washington, mostly Kurds, were merely beaten up by Erdogan's bodyguards. Similar protests in Turkey usually end up with brutal police beatings -- followed by arrest and prosecution, often on charges of "terrorism".
Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was just fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Europe Fights Back with Candles and Teddy Bears - Giulio Meotti

by Giulio Meotti

We fight against global warming, malaria and hunger in Africa. But are we not ready to fight for our civilization?

  • Europe still has not realized that the terror which struck its metropolis was a war, and not the mistake of a few disturbed people who misunderstood the Islamic religion.
  • We are apparently not ready to abandon our masochistic rules of engagement, which privilege the enemy's people over our own.
  • It appears that for Europe, Islamic terrorism is not real, but only a momentary disruption of its routine. We fight against global warming, malaria and hunger in Africa. But are we not ready to fight for our civilization? Have we already given up?
This long and sad list is the human harvest of Islamic terrorism on Europe's soil:

Madrid: 191. London: 58. Amsterdam: 1. Paris: 148. Brussels: 36. Copenhagen: 2. Nice: 86. Stockholm: 4. Berlin: 12. Manchester: 22. And it does not take into account the hundreds of Europeans butchered abroad, in Bali, in Sousse, in Dakka, in Jerusalem, in Sharm el Sheikh, in Istanbul.

But after 567 victims of terror, Europe still does not understand. Just the first half of 2017 has seen terror attacks attempted in Europe every nine days on average. Yet, despite this Islamist offensive, Europe is fighting back with teddy bears, candles, flowers, vigils, Twitter hashtags and cartoons.

Candles and flowers left behind following an evening vigil on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England, held after a suicide bombing by an Islamic terrorist who murdered 22 concert-goers the night before. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

After 9/11 and 2,996 victims, the U.S. under George W. Bush rose to the fight. The United States and a few brave European allies, such as the UK, Italy and Spain, proved themselves "the stronger horse". Islamic warriors were thrown on the defensive; Jihadist recruits dropped off and dozens of terror plots were disrupted. But that response did not last. Europe quickly retreated into its own homefront, while the Islamists carried the war onto Europe's soil: Madrid, London, Theo van Gogh...

Since then, the situation has only become worse: a simple calculation shows that we went from one attack every two years to one attack every nine days. Take just the last six months: Berlin, London, Stockholm, Paris and now Manchester.

Europe has still not realized that the terror which struck its metropolis was a war, and not the mistake of a few disturbed people who misunderstood the Islamic religion. Today there are more British Muslims in the ranks of ISIS than in the British Armed Forces. According with Alexandre Mendel, author of the book Jihadist France, there are more violent Salafists in France than regular soldiers in the Swedish army.

Thirteen years after the attack on Madrid's trains, Europe's leaders read from the same script: hiding the images of pain, so as not to scare anyone; concealing that the Islamist attackers are "made in Europe" insiders; repeating that "Islam is a religion of peace"; being prisoners inside our liberties; watching them removed one-by-one while we proclaiming that "we will not change our lifestyle"; and eradicating the fundamentals of our civilization -- freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom of movement, freedom of religion -- the entire basis, in fact, of the Judeo-Christian West.

Radical Islam is the greatest threat to Europe since Nazism and Soviet Communism. But we still have not been inclined to question any of the political or ideological pillars that have led to the current disaster, such as multiculturalism and mass immigration. Hard counter-terrorism measures, the only ones that could break the terrorists' plans and morale, have never been taken. These would include shutting down mosques, deporting radical imams, banning foreign funding of mosques, closing toxic non-governmental organizations, draining the welfare financing of Europe's jihadists, refraining from flirting with jihadists, and stopping foreign fighters from returning home from the battlefront.

We treat war and genocide as if they are simply mistakes made by our intelligence agencies.

We dismiss radical Islam as the "mental illness" of a few disturbed people. Meanwhile, every week, two new Salafist mosques are opened in France, while radical Islam is preached in more than 2,300 French mosques. Thousands of European Muslims have gone off to wage jihad in Syria and Iraq, and fundamentalists are taking control of mosques and Islamic centers. In Brussels, all the mosques are controlled by the Salafists, who are disseminating radical Islam to the Muslim masses.

The sad truth is that Europe has never had the political will to wage a total war against ISIS and the other jihadist groups. Otherwise, Raqaa and Mosul would already have been neutralized. Instead, Islamists have been taking over Molenbeek in Belgium, the French suburbs and large swaths of Britain. We now should be celebrating the liberation of Mosul and the return of Christians to their homes; instead we are mourning 22 people murdered and 64 wounded by an Islamic suicide-bomber in Manchester, and 29 Christians killed in Egypt this week alone.

Serious fighting would require massive bombing to eliminate as many Islamists as possible. But we are apparently not ready to abandon our masochistic rules of engagement, which privilege the enemy's people over our own. Europe also never demanded that its Muslim communities disavow jihadism and Islamic law, sharia. This silence is what helps Islamists shut the mouths of brave Muslim dissidents. Meanwhile, Europe's armies are getting smaller by the day, as if we already consider this game done.

After every attack, Europe's leaders recycle the same empty slogans: "Carry on"; "We are stronger"; "Business as usual". The Muslim Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, tells us that we must get used to daily carnage! He says he believes that the threat of terror attacks is "part and parcel of living in a big city", and that major cities around the world "have got to be prepared for these sorts of things". Does he seriously mean that we are supposed to get used to the massacre of our own children in the Manchester Arena? Islamic terror has now become part of the landscape of so many major European cities: Paris, Copenhagen, Nice, Toulouse, Berlin....

Instead of concentrating on jihad and radical Islam, Europe's leaders continue to talk about the "Russian threat". It would indeed be a mistake to neglect Russian expansionism. But did Vladimir Putin's troops attack Westminster? Did Russian agents blow themselves up, taking the lives of children at a Manchester concert? Did a former Soviet spy massacre Swedes walking in Stockholm? For Europe's leaders, talking about Putin appears a welcome distraction from the real enemies.

The French writer Philippe Muray wrote in his book, Dear Jihadists:
"Dear Jihadists! Quake before the wrath of the man in Bermuda shorts! Fear the rage of consumers, of travellers, of tourists, of holiday-makers, who rise from their caravans! Imagine yourselves like us, as we wallow in the joy and luxury that have weakened us".
It seems that for Europe, Islamic terrorism is not real, but only a momentary disruption of its routine. We fight against global warming, malaria and hunger in Africa, and for a global world of equality. But are we not ready to fight for our civilization? Or have we already given up?

Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.


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