Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Palestinians, Poverty & Islamic State

A Jerusalem Post editorial points a finger at Palestinians for not "taking responsibility" for their own condition


A Kurdish TV Parody of Islamic State

Taking Responsibility - Editorial

Palestinians would have had a state decades ago if they had renounced violence and focused on improving their lives. Random suicide bombings, rocket fire directed at civilians and other forms of violence adopted by Palestinians over the decades are not a protest against poverty and unemployment. They are a cause of it.

As long as Palestinians continue to justify violence as a legitimate means of political action they will live in poverty.
(Jerusalem Post)


Another obscene Israel analogy - Ben Cohen

We all know about the ludicrous and insulting parallel drawn between Israel and the former apartheid regime in South Africa.

And we know, too, of the obscene comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany.

But now there’s a new analogy—and it’s one that attacks Israel by using a contemporary reference. Appropriately for our digital age, it takes the form of a Twitter hashtag: #JSIL.

If it’s not immediately clear what that means, JSIL is a spinoff of ISIL, the barbaric jihadist terrorist organization with whom we are now at war. JSIL, meanwhile, stands for “Jewish State in the Levant.”

Yes, you read that correctly. There are people out there who are seriously equating a gang of rapists, decapitators, slave traders, and genocidal killers with a democratic state that takes the trouble, whenever it is dragged into an armed conflict, of informing civilians on the other side when and where it will be launching an attack so that they can get themselves to safety.

Just this week, Deutsche Welle, the taxpayer-funded German broadcaster, published an article on its website that cast American Jews volunteering for the IDF in the same light as Muslims from Europe and elsewhere joining the Islamic State terrorists. Germans should, by now, know better.

[W]hat the Deutsche Welle piece demonstrates is how easily this clumsy, morally illiterate argument can penetrate the mainstream.
[JNS.org]
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What Was Kerry Thinking? - David P. Goldman

Israel has nothing whatever to do with any of this suffering. It is all the result of social and political disintegration in the Muslim world itself. To blame ISIS' recruitment of young Muslims on the refugee problem of 1948, as Secretary of State John Kerry did last week, boggles the imagination. It is one thing to ignore the elephant in the parlor, and another to pretend it is not there when it is standing on one's toe.
[Middle East Forum]
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UPDATE:

No Connection Mr. Kerry - Khaled Abu Toameh

The rise of the Islamic State is one of the by-products of the "Arab Spring," which began as a secular revolt against decades of tyranny and corruption in the Arab world. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the last thing Arabs had in mind when they took to the streets to protest against decades of dictatorship and bad government.
     

In fact, the "liberation" of Jerusalem is ranked sixth among the Islamic State's objectives. Indeed, the group's failure to express solidarity with the Palestinians or Hamas during the Gaza war drew strong condemnations in the Arab world. 
(Gatestone Institute)
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Monday, October 20, 2014

Will Obama Allow Iran to Remain A Nuke Threshold State?


 
Don't Make a Bad Deal with Iran - Yuval Steinitz (New York Times)
  • Israel is deeply concerned about the trajectory of the ongoing negotiations concerning Iran's nuclear program. The talks are moving in the wrong direction, especially on the core issue of uranium enrichment.
  • Iran has softened its inflammatory anti-Western rhetoric and shown some flexibility on less important issues, but we must not be duped by these gestures. President Obama must stand by his declaration that no deal with Iran is better than a bad deal.
  • Israel also worries that the ongoing campaign against the Islamic State will come at the expense of the critical struggle against Iran's nuclear program. Fighting the Islamic State is vital and Israel unequivocally supports the global effort to prevent the formation of a new Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. But even more important is the imperative to preclude the already existing Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
  • Iran has already made considerable progress in its attempt to advance toward nuclear weapons. An agreement that allows Iran to continue circling in a holding pattern will resemble what happened with North Korea after the 2007 agreement left large parts of Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities intact, which enabled the North Koreans to produce several nuclear weapons in the following years.
  • Second, a flawed deal would hand Iran practical advantages in return for almost nothing. In return for an insignificant and temporary reduction of its enrichment capacities, Iran stands to reap $100 billion per year when the sanctions are lifted; gain formal legitimacy for its uranium enrichment activities; and, despite its history of nuclear fraud and concealment, preserve the capability to produce nuclear weapons at a time it deems appropriate.
  • Barring a surprising change in Iran's negotiating stance, there is zero chance of reaching a satisfactory good deal before the Nov. 24 deadline. Standing our moral ground will transmit a clear message to the leaders in Tehran that the only way to escape mounting pressure will be through ultimately making the necessary significant compromises.

    The writer is Israel's minister of intelligence.
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UPDATES: 

Report: U.S. Willing to Accept 5,000 Iran Centrifuges
 
Israel Channel 2 TV reported that the U.S. is willing to accept an agreement with Iran that would permit it to retain 5,000 centrifuges.
(Israel Hayom)
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No Agreement Seen as Deadline Looms - Dennis Ross

Hardly anyone involved in the Iranian nuclear negotiations has expressed optimism about meeting the Nov. 24 deadline for a comprehensive agreement. A rollback of the Iranian nuclear program in return for a rollback of sanctions seems increasingly beyond reach.
     

One possibility would be an extension of the negotiations under the current terms. Yet this would essentially recognize a new status quo for Iran's nuclear program, in which Iran is only two or three months away from being able to break-out to producing weapons-grade enriched uranium. 
The writer served as special assistant to President Obama and as a senior director at the National Security Council.
(Foreign Affairs)
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hamas' Strategy to Spread Out of Gaza



Hamas Searches for a New Strategy - Ehud Yaari
 

Hamas' Executive Council is taking a hard look at the realities it faces. Gaza's local Hamas leadership, under growing pressure from residents, pushed Hamas' top leader, Khaled Mashal, to accept a cease-fire long before he himself was willing to drop his preferred terms in return for a cessation of hostilities. The main conclusion for Hamas is that beyond the bombastic rhetoric about the "success of the resistance," its military strategy has proven self-defeating.

The tendency among most in Hamas' leadership council is to finally accept that Gaza offers only limited opportunities for escalating the struggle against Israel. Mashal has explicitly stressed the far greater importance of the West Bank and east Jerusalem for any military undertakings, reflecting a recognition of the limited opportunities offered by Gaza for future military assaults.

As Hamas is prepared to give up its monopoly of governance in Gaza, in return, Hamas aspires to receive a much wider scope for operating in the West Bank. Hamas would tolerate reemergence of Fatah activities in Gaza as the price for opening the West Bank's gates to Hamas, including permission for political mobilization, which will serve as a cover for resurrecting underground military networks
The writer is a fellow of The Washington Institute and a Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel 2 TV.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
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UPDATE:

Hamas Determined to Retain Gaza Grip - Avi Issacharoff

While Hamas has stated that the Palestinian unity government will oversee the reconstruction of Gaza, Hamas has no intention of relinquishing practical control over the strip. Its police and military hierarchies will continue to operate throughout Gaza, and Abbas' PA security forces will not, except perhaps at the border crossings.
   

Meanwhile, the Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades has launched a recruitment drive. Last Thursday the brigades held a large military parade in Shejaiya - intended to convey a clear message to the residents of Gaza: the "resistance" is not about to disarm.
(Times of Israel)
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British Spit @ Israel

London anti-Israel protest featuring this scum with Hitler facsimile t-shirt and Israel flag toilet paper

Historic decision to recognise Palestinian state -Oliver Wright

Parliament took the historic step tonight of voting unilaterally to back the recognition of Palestinian statehood. Voting by 274 to 12, a majority of 262, MPs on all sides urged the Government to “recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel” as part of a “contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution”.

Support for the motion, while symbolic, marks a significant change in the political landscape, following the failure of successive peace negotiations and the bitter conflict in Gaza over the summer.
[The Independent - UK]


Recognizing Palestine Won't Promote Peace - Melanie Phillips
 

According to the main proposer of a motion in Parliament to recognize Palestine, Labour MP Grahame Morris, the international community has "cruelly refused" the Palestinians their right to a state. Totally untrue. The sole reason no Palestine state exists alongside Israel is that the Arabs have consistently refused to accept one.

Such a state was proposed in 1937, 1948, 2000 and 2008. The Jews agreed to or promoted every such proposal. The Arab answer has always been rejection, war and terrorist campaigns.
     

Recognizing Palestine makes no sense, as such a state has no agreed boundaries. Negotiations with Israel are supposed to hammer out the borders. Unilaterally declaring a state tears up the Oslo treaty that committed both sides to a negotiated settlement. Imposing Palestinian demands upon Israel in this way would destroy the peace process altogether. 
(The Times-UK)
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UPDATES:

Which Palestine Do Europeans Recognize? - Jonathan S. Tobin
  • As long as the Europeans are talking about recognition of Palestine as a state, it's fair to ask which Palestine they are ready to welcome into the family of nations: The weak, corrupt, and undemocratic Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or the terrorist Hamas state in Gaza? Or both?
  • The vote in London was pushed by rank-and-file members of the opposition Labor Party, apparently driven by a desire to embarrass its leader Ed Milliband more than anything else. Prime Minister David Cameron, with the rest of his government and its supporters, abstained on the measure.
  • Undoubtedly, supporters of the measure were thinking of the Palestinian Authority. But, in truth, that Palestine is a corrupt kleptocracy run by Mahmoud Abbas, a man currently serving the 10th year of a four-year presidential term.
  • The Fatah-ruled West Bank is a petty tyranny that oppresses and robs Palestinians while raking in billions in economic aid. Abbas is adamant about being unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn.
  • Were Europe's governments truly interested in peace, they would understand that unilateral recognition of independence is a way for the PA to avoid having to talk with Israel.
  • A two-state solution can only happen when the Palestinians stop waiting for their foreign friends to hand them Israeli concessions - or Israel itself - on a silver platter.
(Commentary)
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Road to Peace Does Not Pass through the House of Commons
- Ron Prosor


In November 2012, the PA asked the international community to grant it observer status at the UN; and 138 countries chose to disregard the regime of terror in Gaza, the lack of governance and the rife-with-corruption civilian services, thereby signaling that terror trumps dialogue. Ever since, Mahmoud Abbas has been channeling his efforts towards finding ways to bypass negotiations, by appealing to various international institutions.
   

The road to peace between Israel and the Palestinians does not pass through New York or Stockholm. The Palestinians need to internalize the fact that a state created through paperwork will remain a state on paper only. True peace will be achieved only via direct negotiations. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the UN.
(Ynet News)
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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Yemen Falls

Sanaa, Yemen's beautiful capital



Shiite Rebels Are Yemen's New Masters - Hamza Hendawi
 

Anti-American Shiite rebels known as Houthis man checkpoints and roam the streets in pickups mounted with anti-aircraft guns after they overran Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, two weeks ago. Rebel fighters have plastered the city with fliers proclaiming their slogan - "Death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews and victory to Islam."
     

The Houthis, who are backed by Shiite-led Iran, are poised to become Yemen's version of the Shiite Hizbullah in Lebanon - top powerbrokers dominating the government. After the fall of Sanaa, Houthis staged a massive victory rally in the city, flying Hizbullah flags and portraits of Iran's late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
(AP-ABC News)


Yemen Changes Hands: Will an Iranian Stronghold Emerge?
- Jacques Neriah
 

Zaydi Shiites from the Houthi clan have taken control of the capital of Yemen. While the Zaydi Shiism practiced in Yemen differs from the Shiism practiced in Iran, in recent years Iran has sought to bring the Zaydis under its wings. Last year an Iranian weapons boat bound for Yemen was interdicted. 

A Houthi-controlled Yemen could evolve into a full-scale Iranian stronghold in the future and threaten freedom of movement through the Bab al Mandab Strait, the gateway to the Red Sea and a vital sea route between Europe and the Far East.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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Yemen May Not Offer Best Model

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: "This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL, wherever they exist, using our air power. And our support for partners - forces - on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years."
[National Public Radio]
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Monday, October 06, 2014

Obama As Wartime President




The Education of a Wartime President: Obama Admits Rule on Civilian Casualties Is Unworkable in Fighting ISIS
- Alan M. Dershowitz  


Last year the Obama administration issued, with considerable fanfare, a new military policy designed to reduce civilian casualties when U.S. forces are attacking enemy targets. This policy required "near certainty" that there will be no civilian casualties before an air attack is permitted.
   

When Israel acted in self-defense this summer against Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks, the Obama administration criticized the Israeli army for "not doing enough" to reduce civilian casualties. Now the Obama administration has exempted itself from its own "near certainty" standard in its attacks against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Its statement came after a Tomahawk missile last week struck the village Kafr Daryan in Syria, reportedly killing and injuring numerous civilians including children and women.
   

In every attack on terrorists who operate from civilian areas, there will be civilian casualties. The Obama administration's theoretical "near certainty" policy has proved to be unworkable and unrealistic in actual battle conditions involving human shields and enemy fighters embedded in densely populated areas.
   

There must be a single universal standard for judging nations that are fighting the kind of terrorism represented by ISIS and Hamas. This standard must be both moral and realistic, capable of being applied equally to all nations committed both to the rule of law and to the obligation to protect citizens from terrorist attacks.
The writer is a Democrat, supporter of President Obama and a law professor emeritus at Harvard University.
(Wall Street Journal)


The Genome of Islamic Terrorism - Moshe Arens

It took the grizzly, televised beheadings of two journalists by an Islamic State executioner to arouse the Western world to the dangers of Islamic terrorism. In short order, President Obama assembled a coalition to fight Islamic State and within days the bombing of IS targets by coalition aircraft began. They evidently did not take the kind of precautions taken by the Israeli Air Force in Gaza - prior warnings, "knocks on the roof," a call for civilians to evacuate the area - in order to minimize casualties among innocent civilians, and there was the inevitable collateral damage.
   

Israel has been contending with Islamic terrorism for many years, alone - against Hizbullah, funded, armed and directed by Iran, and against Hamas, an ideological affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, also armed by Iran. Although both Hizbullah and Hamas are considered by the U.S. and EU as terrorist organizations, Israel has received little sympathy when battling them, and on occasion has even come in for severe criticism for causing collateral damage. So far no coalition has been organized to fight Hizbullah and Hamas. That job has been left to Israel.
Yet I[slamic] S[tate], Hamas, and Hizbullah are similar versions of Islamic terrorism. They all have a common denominator - they see the West as their enemy and they all carry the gene that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. It is a myopic view to see IS as the only terrorist threat to the world.
The writer served as Israel's Minister of Defense three times and once as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
(Ha'aretz)
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UPDATE:

Bombing for show? Or for effect? -Charles Krauthammer, MD

For almost a month, Kobane Kurds have been trying to hold off Islamic State fighters. Outgunned, outmanned and surrounded on three sides...
 
It took Vice President Biden to accidentally blurt out the truth when he accused our alleged allies in the region of playing a double game — supporting the jihadists in Syria and Iraq, then joining the U.S.-led coalition against them. His abject apologies notwithstanding, Biden was right.
 
The vaunted coalition that President Obama touts remains mostly fictional. Yes, it puts a Sunni face on the war. Which is important for show. But everyone knows that in real terms the operation remains almost exclusively American.
 
No one is asking for U.S. ground troops. But even as an air campaign, this is astonishingly unserious. As former E.U. ambassador to Turkey Marc Pierini told the Wall Street Journal, "It [the siege] could have been meaningfully acted upon two weeks ago or so" — when Islamic State reinforcements were streaming in the open toward Kobane. "Now it is almost too late."

Obama has committed the United States to war on the Islamic State. To then allow within a month an allied enclave to be overrun — and perhaps annihilated — would be a major blow.  Guerrilla war is a test of wills. Obama's actual objectives — rollback in Iraq, containment in Syria — are not unreasonable. But they require commitment and determination. In other words, will. You can't just make one speech declaring war, then disappear and go fundraising.

The indecisiveness and ambivalence so devastatingly described by both of Obama's previous secretaries of defense, Leon Panetta and Bob Gates, are already beginning to characterize the Syria campaign.

The Iraqis can see it. The Kurds can feel it. The jihadists are counting on it.
[Jewish World Review]
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Thursday, October 02, 2014

Eye on Iran

By John Branch, The San Antonio Express-News


Iran on the Verge of a Diplomatic Triumph - David Frum

  • The rulers of Iran stand on the verge of scoring a stunning diplomatic triumph over the U.S. Even more impressive: They did it all on bluff.
  • A year ago, the rulers of Iran faced disaster. Their currency had lost 3/4 of its value, due in largest measure to the tough economic sanctions signed into law by President Obama at the beginning of 2012. Inflation was raging, unemployment was surging. And their most useful regional ally, Syria's Bashar al-Assad, seemed doomed.
  • Today, the U.S. is coordinating bombing missions with Assad. Iran has obtained considerable sanctions relief. Its currency has strengthened, inflation has abated, and foreign trade and investment are reviving. The U.S. has progressively reduced its demands for nuclear limits on Iran.
  • The New York Times reports that the Obama administration has retreated from the longstanding demand that Iran dismantle its nuclear centrifuges, allowing its nuclear-enrichment capacity to remain intact, marking the latest in a series of American climb-downs.
  • On the present trajectory, any final agreement will leave Iran paused on the verge of nuclear-weapons capability - and this time, with the U.S. having signed away any non-military means of preventing Iran's final drive to complete a bomb.
  • The U.S. - which began the nuclear talks from a position of strength - has acted throughout the negotiations like the weaker party. The U.S. visibly hungered for a deal, and Iran took advantage of that hunger.
(Atlantic Monthly)
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Netanyahu to Obama: Don't Allow Iran @ Nuclear Threshold
- Matt Spetalnick

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told President Obama that he must make sure that any final nuclear deal with Iran does not leave it at the "threshold" of being able to develop nuclear weapons. "As you know, Mr. President, Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you worked so hard to put in place and leave it as a threshold nuclear power," Netanyahu said. "I firmly hope under your leadership that would not happen." 

(Reuters)
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UPDATE:

Iran Is a Greater Threat than Islamic State - Melanie Phillips

  • "To defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week.
  • It is perplexing that Iran is not being treated by the West as the threat that it so patently is, despite its serial atrocities against Western interests. In Britain, the main anxiety is not about a nuclear Iran but the possibility that Israel might attack it.
  • This week the British home secretary, Theresa May, observed that "the lesson of history tells us that when our enemies say they want to attack us, they mean it." She was talking, however, not about Iran but about the Islamic State, which she described as planning to establish "the world's first truly terrorist state."
  • But that's precisely what Iran already is. And if the Islamic State with its 25,000 followers is such a threat, why isn't Iran, with its standing army of more than half a million and its terror proxies, rocket arsenals and imminent genocide bomb, seen as immeasurably more dangerous?
  • Iran is the world's principal terrorist regime. It is surely beyond irresponsible to allow it to become a nuclear-capable power.
  • The alternatives for the U.S. and its allies are stark. Either they support Israel in fighting Iran as the principal enemy of the West - or they crumble before Iran and thus inescapably empower its attack on the West.
 (Jerusalem Post)
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CartoonBite: Islamic State & Tolerance

A stunning cartoon...sometimes few words are needed

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Israeli Arab Priest Supports Israel

Israeli Arab Priest Tells UN Council to "End Witch Hunt" of Israel
- Marissa Newman

Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Israel, defended the Jewish state before the UN Human Rights Council, arguing that it is the only country in the Middle East where Christians are not persecuted, and implored the body to "end your witch hunt of the only free country in the region." 


"In the Middle East today, there is one country where Christianity is...affectionately granted freedom of expression, freedom of worship and security," Father Naddaf said. "It is Israel, the Jewish state. Israel is the only place where Christians in the Middle East are safe."
    

According to Naddaf, some 120,000 Christians have been killed each year in the Middle East for the last decade. "That means that every five minutes a Christian is killed because of his faith." 
(Times of Israel)
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Keep Your Eye on Iran, Not ISIS



Iran Outwits Obama in the Middle East - Seth Mandel

[A] theme has emerged in the Middle East: long engaged in a proxy war against America, Tehran is now, in the age of Obama, simply running circles around Washington.

America is more or less acting as Iran’s air force: in Iraq, that comparison is made directly; in Syria, it is by acting essentially as Bashar al-Assad’s air force–and Assad is an Iranian proxy hanging on to power in large part through Iran’s investment.

Israel fought a summer war against Hamas, an Iranian client firing Syrian missiles delivered by Iran. Far from understanding what was taking place, the Obama administration played right into Iran’s hands by distancing itself from Sisi’s Egypt and not only pressuring Israel to give in to Hamas’s terror but even sending Secretary of State John Kerry to Cairo with a ceasefire agreement reflecting the wishes of Hamas’s patrons. When Israel objected, President Obama took retribution against Jerusalem, withholding arms transfers while Israel was under fire.

And then there is the direct American engagement with Iran on its nuclear program. On this, the Iranians saw early on that Obama and Kerry wanted a deal of some sort that would kick the can down the road while enabling the president to claim progress. It’s doubtful any such plan was more obviously bush league than begging the Iranians to disconnect some pipe rather than dismantle the program. But the limitless diplomacy, in which deadlines float past with nary a thought, has done its damage as well by giving the Iranians additional leverage–and a powerful bargaining chip–on other issues on which the U.S. would want Iranian cooperation.

Tehran has continually played Washington, setting fires and then offering to help Obama put them out, for a price. It’s a predictable racket, but Obama keeps falling for it.
[Commentary]
Hat tip: Joel B


Criticisms of the U.S. ISIS Campaign -Daniel Pipes, PhD

Keep an eye on the ball:
the Iranian nuclear build-up is
1,000 times a greater threat than ISIS.
[National Review Online]


U.S. Considering Meeting Iran "Close to Half Way" in Nuke Talks
- George Jahn

The U.S. is considering softening present demands that Iran gut its uranium enrichment program in favor of a new proposal that would allow Tehran to keep nearly half of the project intact while placing other constraints on its possible use as a path to nuclear weapons, diplomats said.

(AP)


Tehran Holds Firm While the U.S. Keeps Making Nuclear Concessions
- Editorial
  • Nuclear negotiations with Iran have gone nowhere after nearly a year. The Administration is now seeking ever more creative ways to give the mullahs what they want.
  • The latest Administration brainstorm is to abandon the longstanding demand that Iran dismantle its uranium-enriching centrifuges. Under one Western proposal, Iran would merely be asked to disconnect some of the pipes connecting one centrifuge to the next. Another idea is to allow Iran to keep as many as 4,500 centrifuges, provided Iran agrees to enrich uranium at a lower rate.
  • The larger problem is that these diplomatic gambits rest on the fanciful notion that the same regime that is stonewalling the IAEA can be trusted not to reconnect its centrifuges on short notice or increase their rates of uranium production or develop more powerful rockets. Iran has spent a decade taking advantage of the diplomatic process to buy time and advance its nuclear programs.
  • "The Iranian nuclear game is to compromise on the elements of the program they've already perfected in order to gain time on the elements they haven't," says Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
  • "They've perfected enrichment so they can suspend it for the time being. What they've gained in exchange is time to work on advanced centrifuge R&D. The more efficient the centrifuges, the fewer they need; the fewer they need, the easier they are to hide."
(Wall Street Journal)
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Krauthammer Compliments & Prods Obama



Our real Syria strategy - Charles Krauthammer, MD [pictured]

Late, hesitant and reluctant as he is, President Obama has begun effecting a workable strategy against the Islamic State. True, he's been driven there by public opinion. Does anyone imagine that without the broadcast beheadings we'd be doing anything more than pinprick strikes within Iraq? If Obama can remain steady through future fluctuations in public opinion, his strategy might succeed.

But success will not be what he's articulating publicly. The strategy will not destroy the Islamic State. It's more containment-plus: Expel the Islamic State from Iraq, contain it in Syria. Because you can't win from the air. In Iraq, we have potential ground allies. In Syria, we don't. The order of battle in Iraq is straightforward. The Kurds will fight, but not far beyond their own territory. A vigorous air campaign could help them recover territory lost to the Islamic State and perhaps a bit beyond. But they won't be anyone's expeditionary force.

Our key potential allies are the Sunni tribes. We will have to induce them to change allegiances a second time, joining us again, as they did during the2007-2008 surge, against the jihadists. Having abandoned them in 2011, we won't find this easy. But it is necessary.

Syria is another matter. Under the current strategy, the cancer will remain. The air power there is unsupported by ground troops. Nor is anyone in Obama's "broad coalition" going to contribute any. Perhaps Turkey will one day. But Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not just refusing to join the air campaign. He has denied us use of his air bases.

[A]ir power is [not] useless. It can degrade and disrupt. If applied systematically enough it can damage the entrenched, expanding, secure and self-financing Islamic State, turning it back to more of a fugitive guerrilla force constantly on the run.

What kind of strategy is that? A compressed and more aggressive form of the George Kennan strategy of Soviet containment. Stop them, squeeze them and ultimately they will be defeated by their own contradictions. As historian David Motadel points out, jihadist regimes stretching back two centuries have been undone by their own primitivism, barbarism, brutality — and the intense hostility thus engendered among those they rule.

Or to put it in a contemporary Middle East context, this kind of long-term combination of rollback and containment is what has carried the Israelis successfully through seven decades of terrorism arising at different times from different places proclaiming different ideologies. There is no one final stroke that ends it all. The Israelis engage, enjoy a respite, then re-engage. With a bitter irony born of ceaseless attacks, the Israelis call it "mowing the lawn." They know a finality may come, but alas not in their time. They accept it, and go on living.

Obama was right and candid to say this war he's renewed will take years. This struggle is generational. Today jihadism is global, its religious and financial institutions ubiquitous and its roots deeply sunk in a world religion of more than a billion people. We are on a path — long, difficult, sober, undoubtedly painful — of long-term, low-intensity rollback/containment.

Containment-plus. It's the best of our available strategies. Obama must now demonstrate the steel to carry it through.
[Jewish World Review]
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

Panetta Slames Obama on Islamic State



 
- Kellan Howell

Two former defense secretaries who served under President Obama are now criticizing his latest strategy to combat Islamic State militants.

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CBS Evening News on Friday that the terrorist group rose to power because the U.S. pulled out of Iraq too quickly and waited too long to act in Syria.

“I really thought that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq,” Mr. Panetta said in an interview set to air on “60 Minutes,” CBS reported Friday.

Mr. Panetta said the entire national security team urged Mr. Obama to give more support to rebels fighting in Syria against Bashar al-Assad.
[Washington Post]
Click HERE for video of Panetta


Kurds Flee to Turkey after IS Advance

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said that more than 60,000 Syrian Kurds had crossed into the country, fleeing an onslaught by the Islamic State. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 300 Kurdish fighters had entered Syria from Turkey to reinforce the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) that are fighting the militants.
    

"The IS came to our village and threatened everyone. They bombed our village and destroyed all the houses. They beheaded those who chose to stay," said Mohammed Isa, 43.
(France 24)


Iran Wants Western Concessions for Cooperation Against ISIS
- Parisa Hafezi and Louis Charbonneau

Iran is ready to work with the U.S. to stop Islamic State militants, but would like to see more flexibility on Iran's uranium enrichment program, senior Iranian officials told Reuters. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Iran has a role to play in defeating the Islamic State. 


Iran "can help in the fight against the ISIL (IS) terrorists...but it is a two-way street. You give something, you take something," said a senior Iranian official. 
(Reuters)


ISIS Calls for More Attacks on Egyptian Security Forces
 
The Islamic State called on insurgents in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula to press ahead with attacks against Egyptian security forces and continue beheadings.

"Rig the roads with explosives for them. Attack their bases. Raid their homes. Cut off their heads," ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said.into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him." 
(Al Arabiya)
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VIDEOBITE:
Alan Dershowitz Weighs in on How Obama Can Defeat Islamic State:



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Obama Takes Aim @ Islamic State



Notes on Obama’s this-is-not-a-war speech - Shmuel Rosner

Obama’s speech on ISIS was thin on detail but fairly clear in intent.

A coalition is always better than acting alone, except when it is not. That is, when the coalition becomes a burden and complicates the mechanism of action instead of simplifying it. That Obama wants to build a coalition is understandable. If he is able to build an effective one is an open question. That he’d have to pay for such a coalition is a certainty. What he is willing to give in return for cooperation – we don’t know. 

In Jerusalem (but also in Riyadh) the government will be wearily following the possibility of a US collaboration with Iran.

It is not usually recommended for a leader that goes to war to tell the enemy what measures will not be used against it. Yet Obama does it time and again. He always seems to be more determined on the “no” parts of his policies than on the “yes” parts. So no boots on the ground.

There are positive and negative ways to interpret Obama’s commitment to not sending American troops to the region.

Positive: Obama is sending a clear message to probable partners (see: coalition) that the US is not going to do the dirty work for them. If Iraqis don’t want to be subjected to the horrors of ISIS rule, they’ll have to fight. Obama is willing to help, but he will not send Americans to fight for them.

Negative: Obama does not have a foreign policy. He has polls. The polls told him that he has to act – because he is seen as weak. They also told him that Americans have no appetite for sending troops to the Middle East. His plan suspiciously looks like one that could have been devised by political consultants.

"It will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIS”, the president said. Before the speech the White House and State Department talked about “three years”. So if you want to be cynical, you might not overlook the fact that three years is just enough time for the president to pass the problem on to his successor (if necessary, the poor successor will be the one putting boots on the ground). 

Obama doesn’t like the word “war”. He is a post-war president. Wars are something that President Bush used to do “in Iraq and Afghanistan”. It is something that Syrians do (“sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war”). Obama is never warring. Three weeks ago, when he spoke about the execution of James Foley, he used the word “war” in reference to what the enemy thinks it is doing, but which Obama still doesn’t buy: “They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.”

Surely, the president refuses to see this as a “war”. What is it then? It is a “fight against terrorism”, Obama said, and throughout his speech he generally refrained from giving it a clearer definition.

Surely, the strategy might work without a definition – or it might not. The problem with Obama’s insistence on a limited definition, or on no definition, is that the President isn’t the only one who’s making definitions and decisions in this battle. A lack of American definition gives the other side an opportunity to make its own definition the important one. Obama might want it to be a limited battle, but what if ISIS expands it? Obama might want the coalition to bear most of the brunt, but if it can’t or won’t? Obama might want to eradicate ISIS from the air, but what if ISIS persists and makes gains?

What if ISIS conquers more areas and rules more territory – would that make it a war? What if ISIS takes over a whole country, would that be reason enough to involve American troops in the fight? What if ISIS strikes in the US, would that be a reason to change the strategy?

Of course, we should all hope this will never happen.
[Jewish Journal]
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UPDATES

U.S. Is Open to Talking to Iran about ISIS
- Michael R. Gordon and Thomas Erdbrink

The Obama administration is open to talking with Iran on the security crisis in Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry said in Paris, at a conference to which the Iranians were not invited. [But] Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, said he was "listening to Americans making statements on combating ISIS - it was really amusing."

(New York Times)


ISIS Draws Recruits from Turkey - Ceylan Yeginsu

One of the biggest sources of ISIS recruits is neighboring Turkey, a NATO member. As many as 1,000 Turks have joined ISIS, according to Turkish news media reports.

Washington wants Turkey to stanch the flow of foreign fighters and to stop ISIS from exporting the oil it produces on territory it holds in Syria and Iraq. So far, Turkish President Erdogan has resisted pleas to take aggressive steps against the group... 

Turkey declined to sign a communique last Thursday that committed a number of regional states to take "appropriate" new measures to counter ISIS.
(New York Times)
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MORE UPDATES:



After a week of talks and shuttle diplomacy, aside from Australia, no one has committed forces. Germany, Britain and France have either refused to participate or have yet to make clear what they are willing to do.

The Kurds will not fight for anything but Kurdistan.

The Iraqi Army is a fiction.
 
The Iraqi Sunnis support IS far more than they trust the Americans.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will either cheer the US on from a distance, or in the best-case scenario, provide logistical support for its operations.

It isn't just that these states have already been burned by Obama whether through his support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi. And it isn't simply that they saw that the US left them hanging in Syria.

They see Obama's "strategy" for fighting IS — ignoring the Islamic belief system that underpins every aspect of its existence, and expecting other armies to fight and die to accomplish the goal while the US turns a blind eye to Turkey's and Qatar's continued sponsorship of Islamic State. They see this strategy and they are convinced America is fighting to lose. Why should they go down with it?
 
Islamic State is a challenging foe. To defeat it, the US must be willing to confront Islamism. And it must be willing to fight to win. In the absence of such determination, it will fight and lose, in the region and at home, with no allies at its side.
[Jewish World Review]
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Interpreting Islamic State's jihadi logic -Charles Krauthammer, MD

It was an easily sprung trap to provoke America into entering the Mesopotamian war. Why? Because they're sure we will lose. Not immediately and not militarily. They know we always win the battles but they are convinced that, as war drags on, we lose heart and go home.

They count on Barack Obama quitting the Iraq/Syria campaign just as he quit Iraq and Libya in 2011 and is in the process of leaving Afghanistan now. And this goes beyond Obama. They see a post-9/11 pattern: America experiences shock and outrage and demands action. Then, seeing no quick resolution, it tires and seeks out leaders who will order the retreat. In Obama, they found such [a] quintessential leader.

As for the short run, the Islamic State knows it will be pounded from the air. But it deems that price worth paying, given its gains in propaganda and prestige — translated into renown and recruiting — from these public executions.

Understanding this requires an adjustment to our thinking. A common mantra is that American cruelty — Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, "torture," the Iraq war itself — is the great jihadist recruiting tool. But leaving Iraq, closing Abu Ghraib and prohibiting "enhanced interrogation" had zero effect on recruiting. In fact, jihadi cadres from Mali to Mosul have only swelled during Obama's outstretched-hand presidency.

Turns out the Islamic State's best recruiting tool is indeed savagery — its own. Deliberate, defiant, triumphant. The beheadings are not just a magnet for psychopaths around the world. They are choreographed demonstrations of its unbounded determination and of American helplessness. In Osama bin Laden's famous formulation, who is the "strong horse" now?

We tend to forget that at this stage in its career, the Islamic State's principal fight is intramural. The strategy is simple: Draw in the world's great superpower, create the ultimate foil and thus instantly achieve supreme stature in radical Islam as America's nemesis.
 
Obama's "broad coalition" remains a fantasy. Turkey denied us the use of its air bases. The Sunni Arab states are reluctant to do anything militarily significant. And not a single country has volunteered combat troops. Hardly a surprise, given that Obama has repeatedly ruled that out for the U.S. itself.
 
[W]hen the enemy deliberately draws you into combat, it is all the more imperative to show the world that he made a big mistake.
[Jewish World Review]
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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Is The Islamic State Overrated?



The Levant Is Unmanageable - David P. Goldman

ISIS is overrated. A terrorist organization that beheads Americans and posts the video needs to be annihilated, but this is not particularly difficult. [T]hey live in a desert. They may be hard to flush out of towns they occupy, but they cannot move from one town to another in open ground if warplanes are hunting them. That is what America and its allies should do.

More dangerous is Iran, as Henry Kissinger emphasized in a recent interview with National Public Radio. Iran can make nuclear weapons and missiles; ISIS cannot. If we had had the foresight to neutralize Iran years ago, the crisis could have been managed.

We cannot do the killing ourselves, except, of course, from the air. We are too squeamish under the best of circumstances, and we are too corrupted by cultural relativism to recognize utterly evil nihilism when it stares us in the face. In practice, a great deal of the killing will be done by Iran and its allies: the Iraqi Shi'a, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Assad regime in Syria.

It will be one of the most disgusting and disheartening episodes in modern history and there isn't much we can do to prevent it.
David P. Goldman is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and Wax Family Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
[Middle East Forum]
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UPDATE:

The so-called Islamic State, better known as ISIS, is not just a collection of barbaric psychopaths willing to engage in the most brutal and sordid forms of violence without any hesitation born of normal human morality. They are also the most irreparably stupid jihadists ever to slaughter their way onto the international stage.
 
And therein lie not only the seeds of their ultimate destruction, but the reason America should not rush in to take on these thugs. It needs to wait and see how successful ISIS’s many other enemies are in attacking it.
[Jewish World Review]
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Monday, September 08, 2014

Egypt's Newly Minted Peace Plan





Egypt Proposes Extending Gaza into Sinai for Palestinian State
- Aliel Shahar
 

Israel Army radio reported that Egyptian President al-Sisi offered to provide the Palestinians with an area in Sinai five times larger than Gaza and adjacent to it to establish a Palestinian state. The Palestinian refugees would return to this country and it would be demilitarized. 
(IDF Radio-IMRA)


Egypt offers to absorb Palestinians. Why did Abbas refuse?
-Jonathan Tobin

When the Egyptian government reached out to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas recently, one surprising and one predictable thing happened. The tale of this offer and its rejection tells us all we need to know about Palestinian politics and the changing political landscape of the Middle East.

The Palestinian Ma'an News Agency reports that in a speech given to members of his Fatah Party this week, Abbas said that the Egyptian government had made a startling offer to the PA. The Egyptians told Abbas that they were willing to cede a 618-square mile area of the Sinai adjacent to Gaza for resettlement of the Palestinian refugees, an idea first floated by former Israeli National Security Adviser Giora Eiland.

The remarkable thing about this is the decision of the Sisi government to embrace such a practical solution to the long, sad tale of the 1948 Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Like the rest of the Arab world, the Egyptians were never interested in resettling the refugees anywhere, let alone on a huge swath of the Sinai next door to Gaza.

Egypt's offer to the PA is a healthy sign that many in the Arab world are rising above their hatred for Israel and ready to make peace, if not for the sake of the Jews then to help them combat the Islamist terror threat. That is a remarkable thing that should be celebrated. The Palestinian refusal is, however, a very unremarkable confirmation of the fact that they remain unready and unwilling to make peace.
[Jewish World Review]
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Israeli politicians praise Sisi plan -Lahav Harkov

Israeli politicians responded enthusiastically to reports that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was willing to give Palestinians land in Sinai adjacent to Gaza for a state.

Army Radio reported that Sisi had offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas 1,600 square kilometers in Sinai to expand the Gaza Strip to five times its current size. According to the plan, the territory would serve as a Palestinian state under the complete control of the PA.

In addition to the "Greater Gaza State," the cities currently in the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank would be under the autonomous rule of the PA. In exchange, Abbas would give up claims to a state within the pre-1967 lines.
[Jerusalem Post]
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UPDATES:


Sisi's proposal is a windfall. [I]t indicates that the Egyptian-Saudi- UAE decision to back Israel against Hamas in Operation Protective Edge was not a fluke. It was part of an epic shift in their strategic assessments.

And if their regimes survive, their assessments are unlikely to change so long as Iran and the Sunni jihadists continue to threaten them. This means that for the first time since Israel allied with Britain and France against Egypt in 1956, Israel can make strategic plans as part of a coalition.

Sisi's offer demonstrates that for non-jihadist Sunnis, not only is Israel not the problem in the Middle East, a strong Israel is a prerequisite for solving the region's troubles. Here is a major Arab leader willing to stand with Israel even if it means discrediting the PLO .

As a consequence, Sisi's offer is a challenge to the US and Europe.

Sisi's offer shows Washington and Brussels that to solve the Palestinian conflict with Israel, they need to stand with Israel, even if this means abandoning Abbas.
[Jewish World Review]
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Egyptian President Denies Offering Part of Sinai to Palestinians 

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has denied news reports of his approval of the expansion of the Gaza Strip into Sinai.     
(Al-Masry Al-Youm-Egypt)
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Note: Just because al-Sisi now denies the report, does not mean he did not make the offer. It just means he denies it publicly.  He waited several days to issue this denial. 
Bruce


Assessing Change in Today's Middle East - Robert Satloff 

I don't believe the news stories that Sisi offered a piece of Sinai to the Palestinians to create a state. But one should appreciate the core reality - that Israel and Egypt view the regional situation in a similar way and act on that convergence of analysis and interests. This is one of the most hopeful elements of the Middle East today.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
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