Thursday, December 31, 2015

Obama Uses Government Agency to Spy on Congress


U.S. Spy Net on Israel Snares Congress - Adam Entous & Danny Yadron

NSA’s targeting of Israeli leaders swept up the content of private conversations with U.S. lawmakers
[Wall Street Journal]

Obama Administration Spying Scandal - Elliot Abrams

Sure, there can be exceptions and moments when the rules must be suspended briefly for national-security reasons. But the pattern of capturing allies' internal communications, the communications of senators and congressmen and women, and the speech and emails of Americans engaged in politics is what we see in the new revelations about Obama-era spying.

The administration faced a battle in Congress, and it spied on the other side.

That's the kind of conduct we see in third-world countries where control of the spy agency is one of the ways an incumbent regime holds on to power and defeats its political opponents. It ought to be a major scandal when such practices reach the United States.
[National Review]

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Role Model for Fighting Islamism

John III Sobieski, a Polish king in the late 1600's, may be an important role model for the West's battle with Radical Islam

Will the West Defend Its Own Values Against Radical Islam?
- Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser
  • The [West's] strategy toward radical Islam must begin with recognition of the threat and with preparedness to take realistic measures to counter it. The West must stop treating representatives of Islamic extremists, Muslim Brotherhood organizations, and supporters of the Iranian regime as its allies. This policy weakens the pragmatists and encourages radicalization.
  • Finally, the West must make clear that it is committed to its own values and prepared to defend them. Settling for airstrikes, while using the ridiculous excuse that ground activity is what ISIS wants, displays weakness and confusion and plays into the radicals' hands.
  • The admired Polish king and commander, John III Sobieski, went boldly into the decisive battle at the gates of Vienna in 1683, and his victory saved Europe and enabled the flourishing of Western culture. Can the West regain its resolve this time as well?

    The writer, director of the project on the Regional Implications of the Syrian Civil War at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs.

Monday, December 21, 2015

"The Backlash Industry"

The anti-Muslim backlash that some media and NGOs have been warning about for years has yet to materialize.

Muslims in America: The Backlash Industry - A.J. Caschetta

Addressing the 10th Anniversary celebration of an Islamic advocacy group, Attorney General Loretta Lynch became the latest governmental official to warn of an impending anti-Muslim backlash. In the December 3rd speech, which echoed the admonitions of her predecessor Eric Holder, she took it a step further by vowing to prosecute those who speak or write about Islam in a way that she does not approve.

She described her "greatest fear" as "the incredibly disturbing rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric" and vowed to prosecute speech that "edges towards violence." Lynch's hyperbole is in line with fears of an ever-imminent anti-Muslim backlash that much of the media has been warning about since the afternoon of September 11, 2001. Of course the backlash never came.

The Attorney General's not-so-veiled assault on free speech and common sense ignores the real assault while instead conjuring up hyperventilated fantasies. In fact, American society has been incredibly tolerant of both Muslims and even Islamists – so much so that rather than focusing on the growing evidence of violent Islamists living among them, the majority of Americans seem more concerned about discomfiting their Muslim neighbors or being labeled Islamophobes. Consider the Redlands, California neighbors of the latest Islamist terrorists who were suspicious of the goings on in the Farook/Malik household but kept it to themselves, fearing the backlash that would befall them were they to be accused of "racial profiling" for speaking up.

After the ISIS attacks in Paris on November 13, the media was awash with breathless prognostications about the imminent anti-Muslims backlash: The Atlantic, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post, and many more.

Most Muslim advocacy groups (like CAIR and MPAC) are the prime movers of the backlash myth. In fact, the Attorney General's cautionary speech was given to a group called Muslim Advocates, which describes itself as a "national legal advocacy and educational organization." Her comforting words (to the Muslim audience) and admonition (to everyone else) might have been drawn from the Muslim Advocate's "study" titled "Anti-Muslim Bigotry Rises Alongside Hateful Rhetoric" which, as of this writing, lists 32 events comprising the post-San Bernardino backlash. Many of these purported backlash events are anecdotal. Most of the "assaults" are verbal. Four involve violence against Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims.

So while the left continues with its infantilizing condescension towards the American public, it ignores the FBI's own hate crime statistics which tell a different tale: 60.3 percent of all hate crimes in the U.S. are perpetrated against Jews while 13.7 percent are committed against Muslims.
[Middle East Forum]


Americans Aren't Intolerant - Gregg Roman & Gary Gambill

Notwithstanding all the recent media warnings of anti-Muslim backlash, it's worth bearing in mind that exactly two Americans have committed murder linked to anti-Muslim backlash since 9/11 ( Frank Roque and Mark Stroman, both unstable dimwits who mistakenly killed non-Muslims). We're leading the world in tolerance of Muslims.
[The Albany Times-Union via Middle East Forum]

The Lessons Palestinians Won't Learn

What Palestinians Can Learn from the Kurds - Bob Feferman & Dan Feferman

Northern Syria's 4.5 million Kurds have banded together in an enclave about the size of Connecticut called Rojava. Northern Iraq's 6 million Kurds have turned an area the size of Switzerland into the safest, most tolerant and stable part of the region. Upscale homes, malls, fancy cars and all manners of normal life cover the now-booming capital in Erbil. The Economist reports that the area has become a proto-democracy where "regular elections, a boisterous parliament, an array of political parties and a raucous media," secular government and even women's rights have become mainstays.

The key take-away is that the Kurds realized that the trappings of statehood meant little if the basis for a functioning society underneath was absent. Rather than apply for meaningless membership to myriad international organizations, in clear contrast to the Palestinians, the Kurds sought economic prosperity and good governance. If the Palestinians' end-game is an independent state alongside Israel, then the millions of (donor) dollars spent on supporting 106 diplomatic missions would be far better spent building a civil society from the ground up.

Rather than focusing on building a state in name but not in function to join other failed states, the Palestinians should look to Rojava and Erbil, where the Kurds have created functioning democracies that should serve as a source of inspiration for us all.
Dan Feferman is a major (res.) in the IDF. Bob Feferman is community relations director for the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley in South Bend, Indiana.
(Jerusalem Post)

The New Palestinians - Ben Caspit

The Israeli security establishment is seeking to define, characterize and restrain the young Palestinians leading the current terror wave. The new Palestinian defies authority and is not subject to any kind of higher hierarchy. He was around 3 or 5 years old during the second intifada (2000-2005) and doesn't really remember those years when more than 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians were killed.

The new Palestinian goes to college. At least 30,000 Palestinians earn undergraduate degrees every year in the West Bank and another 20,000 in Gaza. But there is nothing they can do with their degrees. There are no decent positions, no high-tech jobs and no serious economic infrastructure. The new Palestinian has no tangible hope of accomplishing the things that he sees others achieving on social networks.

The new Palestinian is convinced that he is in the right, blind to the positions of others, and follows the international community's stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and draws encouragement from it. He is completely open to the various conspiracy theories about Israel that spread through the Arab street.

According to Israeli security experts, Israel is now "paying" for things that it is not even guilty of. The economies of the Arab states in general have long been weak, and the Palestinian economy in particular cannot give its youths any real hope of improvement.

The new Palestinian is unaware that compared to the other Arabs in the Middle East today, his situation is better than theirs. The only Arab region in which electricity is available 24/7 is in the West Bank. The same is true regarding infant mortality and the standard of medical care.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Iran Deal Violations Ignored

Legacy or bust - Charles Krauthammer, MD

On Nov. 21, Iran conducted its second test of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile in direct contravention of two U.N. Security Council prohibitions, including one that incorporates the current nuclear agreement - which bans such tests for eight years.

Our response? After Iran's first illegal launch in October, the administration did nothing. A few words at the United Nations. Weren't we repeatedly assured that any Iranian violation would be met with vigorous action? No worry, again. As U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power told a congressional hearing last week, "discussions are a form of U.N. action." 

The heart sinks. 

It was obvious from the very beginning that the whole administration promise of "snapback" sanctions was a farce. The Iranians knew it. Hence their contempt for even the prospect of American pushback: two illegal missile launches conducted ostentatiously even before sanctions are lifted and before they receive their $150 billion in unfrozen assets early next year.

They know Obama will ignore, downplay and explain away any violation, lest it jeopardize his transformative foreign policy legacy. It's a legacy of fictional agreements. The proliferators are not bound. By our own volition, we are.  
[Washington Post via JWR]


Iran Provokes the World - Editorial

[A] UN panel has determined that Iran test-fired a nuclear-capable missile on Oct. 10, in violation of a UN resolution that prohibits such launches. Moreover, it appears likely that a second missile launch occurred on Nov. 21, also in violation of Security Council Resolution 1929.

U.S. officials argue that Iran's nonnuclear violations make it all the more important that the nuclear deal be implemented. But that ignores the clear connections between the missile launches and Tehran's ambitions to become a nuclear power. The only practical military purpose of the missiles the regime is testing is to carry atomic warheads.

Iran is clearly testing the will of the U.S. to enforce the overall regime limiting its nuclear ambitions. If there is no serious response, it will press the boundaries in other areas - such as the inspection regime. The administration would be wise to take firm action now in response to the missile tests rather than trying to sweep them under the carpet.
(Washington Post)

The Risks of Inaction - Michael Singh

The Obama administration has emphasized that the nuclear deal with Iran was not intended to address concerns such as Iran's support for terrorism or its regional activities. Since the agreement was signed in July, Iran has sentenced Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and imprisoned another Iranian-American. It has defied UN sanctions by exporting arms to Yemen and Syria, and by conducting two ballistic missile launches. In addition, Iranian hackers have reportedly engaged in cyber attacks on the State Department.

In defending the nuclear deal, administration officials were at pains to note the multiple multilateral and unilateral options remaining to them to respond to just these sorts of situations. But the administration has not acted. Inaction in the face of Iranian misbehavior implies that Tehran stands to receive broader-than-intended relief.

Maintaining deterrence as well as the integrity of UN sanctions will require meaningful responses to Iranian provocations with the full range of tools at Washington's disposal. It means wielding carrots and sticks together, and not neglecting U.S. commitments. 

If Iran's disregard for international injunctions is ignored, it cannot be long before Tehran treats the nuclear deal the same way.
The writer, managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, worked on Middle East issues at the National Security Council from 2005 to 2008. 
(Wall Street Journal)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Palestinians "Completely Irrelevant"

The Price of Unjustifiable Murder - Jonathan S. Tobin

The Palestinians should understand that if they continue to practice indiscriminate terror, they may ultimately pay a price, even if mass murder is something their leaders tell them is not only justifiable but think is a smart tactic.

In the last few months PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has fomented a new surge of violence with lies about mythical Israeli plots against the Temple Mount mosques. Then he has treated those Palestinians that attempt to murder random Jews as "martyrs" or victims of Jewish persecution and part of a "popular peaceful uprising."

Though the Obama administration hasn't specifically condemned Abbas' incitement, as they should, they've grown tired of justifying him.

Abbas may believe, as Arafat did, that more violence only generates greater interest in the Palestinian cause.

But support for a terrorism double standard that exempts Palestinians from the consequences of their actions is not inexhaustible.

With the world distracted from the myth of the centrality of the Palestinians by ISIS and the wars in Syria and Iraq, the Palestinians are on the verge of rendering themselves completely irrelevant.

The Palestinians are watching their opportunity for peace and statehood dissolve in the gore of a stabbing intifada that is disabusing even their most ardent apologists.

It is impossible to imagine anyone caring much about a national movement that cannot even pretend to distance itself from random slaughter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Taking Our Eyes Off the Ball

With All Eyes on ISIS, U.S. Could Lose Focus on Iran - Karoun Demirjian

Washington is all but singularly focused on how to combat and protect the country from the Islamic State.

But some lawmakers say that President Obama and his administration should be paying more attention to Iran, which reportedly conducted new ballistic missile tests in November.

"I understand that most of Congress and the administration are very distracted by the global refugee crisis, by the terrorist attacks in Paris, by our conflicts with ISIS," said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). "The reality is with this [Iran] deal, I'm on the administration's side, but they need to be doing more....We have to have a menu of responses that we and our allies have agreed on and that we will take. Or the Iranians will pocket it and keep moving."

Republicans - including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who opposed the nuclear pact - openly worry that if the Obama administration doesn't punish Iran now, it will fail to castigate it in the future for any infractions of the Iran deal.

"It is critically important that the United Nations Security Council continue to enforce the resolutions that govern Iran's acquisition and development of missile technology," Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) wrote in a letter to Obama co-authored with Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). "Should the UNSC fail to do so, the United States must take action on its own."  
(Washington Post)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Muslims "By The Numbers:" VideoBite

Not a soundbite, but if you have 14 minutes, this is a must see video

- John Hannah

Polling expert David Pollock reports that the overwhelming majority of Arabs, consistently upwards of 95%, express a negative view of the Islamic State, a number that has been increasing over time. Interestingly, expressions of support for the Islamic State are somewhat higher in non-Arab Muslim societies - 8% in Turkey, 11% in Malaysia and Senegal, and 20% in Nigeria.
However, between 20% and 60% of Muslims are at least "somewhat supportive" of violence, suicide bombings, and terrorism so long as it is perpetrated "in defense of Islam."

Similarly, in several key countries, support for other hardcore Islamist movements - the Muslim Brotherhood, in particular - regularly draws support from as many as one-third of respondents. 
The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
(Foreign Policy)

Rapid Defeat of ISIS Needed

The U.S. Needs an Anti-IS Playbook - Harold Rhode & Joseph Raskas

It would appear that the Islamic State (IS) has set its sights on the U.S. From an Islamist perspective, waging war to end the sovereignty and supremacy of the unbelievers is ultimately necessary and just. Drawing swords is not religious fanaticism; it is, rather, a mode of faith believed to hasten the demise of infidels. Western civilization is viewed as a collective affront, targeted for extinction by radical Islam.

The "strong horse" principle [Bin Laden taught that people follow the strong horse over the weak horse] is the predominant governing philosophy of Middle Eastern culture. The same principle must be applied to reshape the fight against IS. Rapid and overwhelming defeat is necessary to liquidate IS' capacity to effectively govern, as well as to prevent it from recruiting more foreign fighters. Half-measures are self-defeating, as they will only highlight American weakness and leave the door open for wider insurrection.
Harold Rhode served for 28 years as an analyst covering Middle Eastern affairs at the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. Joseph Raskas is a combat veteran of the IDF.
(Jerusalem Post)

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

A Quiet Palestinian West Bank Town

Why Jenin Is Staying Out of Current Wave of Terrorism - Elior Levy 

Jenin, once a stronghold of suicide bombers, is the quietest town in the West Bank these days. There were four attempted terror attacks at the nearby Jalamah checkpoint in late October and early November. All four were teenagers, all wielding knives, all from the Jenin-district town of Qabatiya - they even all went to the same school. But no teens have been seen on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint for the past month.

The reason is that 100 meters away from the checkpoint are plain-clothed Palestinian policemen who have already managed to stop three different women who each wanted to perpetrate a stabbing attack. "The Palestinian security forces are indeed on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint and they prevent kids from coming to it, since we don't want these kids to die," says Jenin Governor Ibrahim Ramadan.

Moreover, Hisham Massad, a prominent Jenin businessman, explained: "A delegation of senior government members and respected community members visited the schools in Qabatiya to speak with the students and their parents....The goal was to lower the tensions and take a strong stance against the terrorist attacks." 

In addition, a meeting with the Qabatiya community leaders took place, led by Governor Ramadan. Sources say it was the people of Qabatiya who asked the governor to take steps that would prevent the youths from reaching the checkpoint and perpetrating attacks
(Ynet News)

Understanding the Refugee Crisis

Turkey's Human Wave Assault on the West
- Gregg Roman & Gary Gambill

For months, Western policymakers have agonized over what to do with the masses of Sunni Muslim migrants flooding Europe by the boatload, particularly Syrians. Largely missing from this discussion is the question of why this flood is happening.

[I]t doesn’t have much to do directly with the civil war in Syria or the rise of ISIS. The vast majority of the 886,662 migrants who illegally entered Europe this year embarked from Turkey, a little over half of them Syrians who took shelter in the country over the past four years. “EU officials have said … Ankara was very effective in previous years in preventing the outflow of refugees from the country,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
What caused the spike in migration is that Ankara stopped containing it. Over the past year or so, the Turkish government has allowed human traffickers to vastly expand their operations, bringing prices down tenfold (from $10,000-$12,000 per person last year to around $1,250 today, according to one report. This spawned what the New York Times calls a “multimillion-dollar shadow economy” profiting from the traffic, ranging from the smugglers to manufacturers of cheap rafts, life vests, and other equipment.

By the spring of this year it had become easier and cheaper than ever before to illegally enter Europe through Turkey, and more people have taken advantage of the opportunity Ankara has created.

So why did Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan open the spigot? Put simply, to extract financial, political, and strategic concessions from European governments in exchange for closing it.

[T]he first step in doing anything about it is to call Erdogan out for what he is – dangerous and manipulative – no partner for Western leaders. Still, after meeting with the Erdogan in Paris on Tuesday, President Obama praised Turkey for being “extraordinarily generous when it comes to its support of refugees.”
Western material support to Turkey should be cut off entirely unless Ankara puts an end to the refugee crisis it is manufacturing and begins to play a constructive role in bringing stability to the region.
[The Hill]

Will Europe Get Wise to Jihad?

Photo: PBS

A far-right, pro-Israel France? Expert says this is where all of Europe is heading
-Michelle Malka Grossman

France went to the polls on Sunday in regional elections and the far-right National Front party, formerly known for its anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant stances but now known for its support of Israel and opposition to radical Islam, came out as a winner across the country.

The regional election outcomes are taken seriously since they are thought to be a bellweather for what will come when France votes in the 2017 national elections.

Though some have pinned the party's success on its occurrence so soon after the November 13 terror attacks in Paris, one Israeli expert told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that France has been moving to the right for years and is part of an overall trend in Europe of far-right parties becoming the mainstream.

Dr. Esther Lopatin, director of the European Studies program at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, said that Europeans are frustrated by leaders who have ignored their concerns about rapid immigration and radical Islam on the continent.

"Europe is going through a makeover," she said, noting that overall voters are moving to the right politically because "the public is not happy." The voters for far-right parties, Lopatin said, used to be only racists but now include the average French voter "the type that would have voted for [former French president Nicolas] Sarkozy"

"They have the feeling that they have been deserted by the leadership who didn't take their concerns [about immigration and radical Islam] seriously," she said. 
[Jerusalem Post]

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Islamic State's Demise is Coming

ISIS' Imminent Demise - Daniel Pipes, PhD

U.N. Security Council Resolution 2249, passed unanimously on Nov. 20, sums up the consensus that the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL Daesh), poses a mortal danger to civilization by calling it an "unprecedented threat to international peace and security." There's also a widespread sense that ISIS will be around for a long time; for example, Barack Obama has predicted that the fight against it will be "a long-term campaign." Permit me to disagree strenuously on both counts.

On the first: ISIS is not exactly the equivalent of Nazi Germany. It's a little bug that the powers could quash at will if they put their minds to it. It survives only because no one really takes it seriously enough to fight with ground troops, the only gauge of an intention to prevail.

On the second: Between its alienation of its subject population and its gratuitous and unrestrained violence toward foreign countries, ISIS has made enemies of nearly everyone. Recent days alone have seen attacks on three powerful states: Turkey (the bombing in Ankara), Russia (the airliner over Sinai), and France (the attacks in Paris). This is not a path for survival. Friendless and despised, its every success shortens its life.

Contrary to other analysts, I foresee that ISIS will disappear without warning and as abruptly as it arose. This could follow on some combination of internal revolt, internecine feuds, economic collapse, and external attack.

And when that happy day comes, we can all focus on the real "unprecedented threat to international peace and security," namely nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran's apocalyptic leadership.
[National Review Online]


U.S. Intelligence: ISIS Is Not Contained - Kimberly Dozier  

A new U.S. intelligence report on ISIS, commissioned by the White House, predicts that the Islamic State will spread worldwide and grow in numbers unless it suffers a significant loss of territory on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials said.
(Daily Beast)

A Global Strategy - Mary Habeck et al. 

If we fail to stop the extremists from taking territory and undermining states, al-Qaeda or ISIS will obtain weapons of mass destruction, and then it will be too late to act.
(American Enterprise Institute)

The Origins of ISIS - Shlomo Ben-Ami 

The Arab fundamentalist monarchies played a role in reviving the seventh-century vision that ISIS (and others) seek to realize. ISIS' army of psychopaths and adventurers was launched as a "startup" by Sunni magnates in the Gulf who envied Iran's success with its Lebanese Shia proxy, Hizbullah.

The Arab Middle East is not susceptible to quick fixes. It requires profound indigenous change that might take the better part of this century to produce. For now, turning the caliphate into yet another failed state in the region seems to be the best possible outcome.
The writer, a former Israeli foreign minister, is vice president of the Toledo International Center for Peace in Spain.
(Project Syndicate)

Monday, December 07, 2015

President Obama's Speech: A Mixed Bag 5 Days Late

Click on graphic for larger view

Obama’s San Bernardino Speech - David Harris

U.S. President Barack Obama’s December 6 speech contained few surprises and, on many points, he said the right things.

He mentioned the “I” word, admitting there is a perversion of Islam out there that resulted in last week’s San Bernardino massacre. He gave us the very quotable quote: "If we are to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as our strongest allies in rooting out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization."

But outside of that, and a plea for all in America to use non-inciting language, his televised White House speech focused on ISIS. His speech lacked a clear policy on what to do about the Islamist extremists already operating in the United States – with or without the support of ISIS, al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization.

This was where Obama missed the point in his speech:
But over the last few years, the threat has evolved as terrorists have turned to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all-too common in our society. For the past seven years, I have confronted the evolution of this threat each morning. Your security is my greatest responsibility. And I know that, after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.”

The obvious follow up to this would have been to give at least some details of the numbers of arrests in the U.S., or the types of actions being taken by the FBI and other agencies, without going into sensitive operational details. However, Obama’s logical follow up was not on home soil but rather:
"So, tonight, this is what I want you to know: The threat of terrorism is real, but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us." (this part of the speech was bolded in the statement to the media)

Maybe the president is trying to avoid panic in the homeland, but he did not give the American public any reason to feel calmer by ignoring the very real, palpable threat in the United States.

Suffice it to say, unless the president announces a clear intention to increase surveillance and other interventionist measures at home – and yes, it should come from the president himself – he will leave Americans scared and the terrorists feeling emboldened.
[Clarion Project]

Note: For President Obama's full speech click HERE
Note: President Obama has raised the issue of the terror watch list and purchasing weapons.  A more salient issue is that 72 Homeland Security employees are on the terror watch list

Friday, December 04, 2015

Obama: A National Embarrassment

America's pathological denial of reality - Caroline Glick

How much lower will America sink before it regains its senses?

Wednesday, two Muslims walked into a Christmas party at a community service center in San Bernardino, California where one worked. They were wearing body armor and video cameras and carrying automatic rifles, pipe bombs and pistols. They opened fire, killed 14, and wounded 21.

The murderers, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik were killed by police.  Speaking to the Daily News, Farook’s father said his son, “was very religious. He would go to work, come back, go to pray, come back. He’s Muslim.”  Farook’s neighbor told the paper that over the past two years, Farook exchanged his Western dress for Islamic gowns and grew a beard.

These data points lead naturally to the conclusion that Farook and his wife were jihadists who killed in order to kill in the name of Islam. But in America of December 2015, natural conclusions are considered irresponsible, at best.

In an interview with CNN following the shooting, US President Barack Obama said the massacre demonstrates that the US needs stricter gun laws. As for the motives of the shooters, Obama shrugged. “We don’t yet know the motives of the shooters,” he insisted.

Here is the place to note that California has some of the most stringent gun control laws in the US.  According to the victims, Farook and his partners were able to reload their weapons and shoot without interruption for several minutes until the police arrived because there was no one to stop them.
Following the jihadist attacks on Paris on November 13, Obama maintained his insistence that climate change is a graver threat to US national security than terrorism. It could be that this prioritization of concerns is playing a role in the administration’s apparent determination not to seriously fight Islamic State.

In an interview with Charlie Rose last month, former CIA director Michael Morell explained that the administration decided not to bomb Islamic State’s oil infrastructure “because we didn’t want to do environmental damage.”  According to the Guardian, Islamic State makes between one to four million dollars per day from oil sales.

Perhaps the shooters in San Bernadino were just mad at their boss. Maybe Farooq suffered from clinical depression or ADD, or PTSD, or something.  And maybe Islamic State, with its new colony Sirte in “liberated” Libya, just 400 miles from Italy, is on the run. Maybe as well, Turkey is just a patsy and Russia is really Islamic State’s largest trading partner, or maybe Israel is, or Ireland.

But if facts are to be taken seriously, then the fact is that in December 2015, the US is acting with pathological devotion to ideological narratives that bear no relationship to reality.
[Jerusalem Post via JWR]

Great Question from a Statesman

Does the World Need a Weak or Failing Palestinian State?
- Aaron David Miller

Henry Kissinger recently asked an intriguing and politically incorrect question: With the state structure weakened in several Arab states and having collapsed in others, with Iran and Islamic State rising, and amid general instability in the Arab world, why create another potentially weak, dysfunctional Arab state in Palestine?

The region will be unstable for years to come, thanks to widespread dysfunction and/or plain bad governance, lack of respect for human rights, systemic corruption, and the absence representative institutions. And there is little in the history of the Palestinian national movement or the Palestinian Authority's governance style to suggest anything but disruptive politics, much less a smooth transition to functional statehood.
The writer is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.
(Wall Street Journal)

Evil Meets Evil

Islamic State's Commander Visits Gaza
The commander of Islamic State forces in Sinai, Shadi al-Menei, is currently on a secret visit to Gaza, meeting with Hamas leaders to widen cooperation and coordinate attacks on Egyptian and Israeli targets, Israel Channel 2 TV reported. Hamas has smuggled weaponry from Gaza to Sinai, including Cornet anti-tank missiles, which have caused heavy losses to Egypt.

Al-Menei is responsible for occasional rocket fire from Sinai at the Israeli southern resort town of Eilat. He was also behind a 2011 terrorist attack in southern Israel which targeted a bus and several Israeli army vehicles, killing six Israeli civilians, two Israeli soldiers and several Egyptian soldiers.

The close interaction between Hamas and IS in Sinai is "one of the most carefully guarded secrets of the Hamas military wing in recent months," the Times of Israel's Avi Issacharoff reported.
(Times of Israel)

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Islamic State Almost Had a Nuke

Imagine ISIS with a Nuclear Reactor - Shai Baitel

In 2007, Syria was suspected of initiating a nuclear program - quite possibly designed to produce weapons-grade plutonium, with a sizable assist by North Korea. When it became clear that the U.S. was not going to intervene, Israel went for it herself, and destroyed the Al Kibar nuclear reactor construction site, located in Syria's Deir ez-Zor region.

Despite serious concerns about Syrian retaliation, Israel acted out of conviction of the necessity of a strike and a belief that it is the supreme duty of a state to protect its citizens. That decision was validated four years later when the International Atomic Energy Agency officially confirmed that the site had been a nuclear reactor. Had it never been destroyed, the reactor would have been smack in the center of Islamic State territory.

Thinking about the Jewish state's action at the Deir ez-Zur reactor site, now in ISIS territory, it might be time to thank Israel.
The writer is a fellow in the Program on Applied Decision Analysis at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at IDC Herzliya, Israel.
(New York Daily News)

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Gaza Development

Egypt Discovers Iron Tunnel Network under Gaza Border - Roi Kais 

Egyptian border guards discovered a network of 17 underground tunnels with walls of iron 40 cm. thick under the border with Gaza, according to Egyptian security officials. 

Building such a tunnel would be extremely expensive. The Egyptian news portal al-Masrawi reported that Egyptian officials believe Hamas used considerable funding from Qatar to construct the tunnels.
(Ynet News)

Israeli Army Trains for Anti-Tunnel Warfare - Barbara Opall-Rome 

[A] massive new IDF urban training base with underground facilities for anti-tunnel warfare is under construction in the Golan Heights.

The Snir training base is "a city on top of a city, with all the sophisticated instrumentation and live-fire opportunities needed to train all echelons for all scenarios...on the ground and under the ground," said Ground Forces commander Maj.-Gen. Guy Zur.

Units will begin training at the new facility next year...

In recent months, Israeli contractors supported by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have dug out tunnels designed to replicate the underground labyrinth that Hamas used in the Gaza war in 2014.  
(Defense News)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Iran Deal Shocker

State Department: Iran Deal Not ‘Legally Binding’ and Iran Didn’t Sign It

President Obama didn’t require Iranian leaders to sign the nuclear deal that his team negotiated with the regime, and the deal is not “legally binding,” his administration acknowledged in a letter obtained by National Review.

“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document,” wrote Julia Frifield, the State Department assistant secretary for legislative affairs, in the November 19 letter.
[C]haracterizing the JCPOA as a set of “political commitments” rather than a more formal agreement, is sure to heighten congressional concerns that Iran might violate the deal’s terms.
[National Review]


Tehran Hides Its Past Weaponization Work; the UN Gives Up
- Editorial

The nuclear deal has already become a case of Iran pretending not to cheat while the West pretends not to notice. 

(Wall Street Journal)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

New Anti-Riot Weapon

Israeli Skunk Spray Effectively Dispersing Violent Arabs

Israel unveiled a new kind of crowd control, affectionately known as Skunk Spray.  The “aromatic” spray is shot from a water cannon, soaking the target in gut wrenching, putrid smell. But, believe it or not, as smelly as it is, the Skunk is environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and so harmless you can drink it without fear of harm.

There’s been a worldwide interest in the new weapon. Freedom through chemistry!

The opposition is fuming: B’Tselem put out its own video showing Israel’s armored tanker trucks fitted with water cannons which spray the foul fluid at Palestinian protesters.  You can’t please some folks: the IDF units switched from live to rubber bullets – and they complained. Now that there are no bullets at all being used – they’re still complaining.
[The Jewish Press]
Hat tip: Linda F


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Get The Facts: VideoBite

A new film to be released by The Clarion Project :
"By The Numbers: The Untold Story of Muslim Opinions & Demographics"

Monday, November 23, 2015

Understanding ISIS & Its Demise

Kurdish flag

The Kurds Can Defeat ISIS – Jonathan Spyer

Islamic State does not, like some other manifestations of political Islam in the region, combine vast strategic goals with a certain tactical patience and pragmatism. Rather, existing at the most extreme point of the Sunni Islamist continuum, it is a genuine apocalyptic cult. It has little interest in being left alone to create a model of Islamic governance according to its own lights, as its Western opponents had apparently hoped.

Its slogan is "baqiya wa tatamaddad" (remaining and expanding). The latter is as important an imperative as the former. Islamic State must constantly remain in motion and in kinetic action.

If this action results in Western half-measures and prevarication, then this will exemplify the weakness of the enemy to Islamic State supporters and spur further recruitment and further attacks. And if resolve and pushback are exhibited by the enemy, these, too, can be welcomed as part of the process intended to result in the final apocalyptic battles which are part of the Islamic State eschatology.
Because of this, allowing Islamic State to quietly fester in its Syrian and Iraqi domains is apparently not going to work.

The problem and consequent dilemma for Western policy-makers are that Islamic State is only a symptom, albeit a particularly virulent one, of a much larger malady. Were it not so, the matter of destroying a brutal, ramshackle entity in the badlands of Syria and Iraq would be fairly simple. A Western expeditionary force on the ground could achieve it in a matter of weeks and would presumably be welcomed by a grateful population.
This, however, is unlikely to be attempted, precisely because the real (but rarely stated) problem underlying Islamic State is the popularity and legitimacy of virulently anti-Western Sunni Islamist politics among the Sunni Arab populations of the area.

As the Iraq insurgency and the Syrian and Palestinian examples show, the tendency of popular and street-level Arab politics in the Levant and Iraq is to take the form of violent politicized religion. As a result, any Western force entering Islamic State territory as a liberator would rapidly come to be considered an occupying force and would be the subject of attacks.
Islamic state is part of a larger process whereby Iraq and Syria have collapsed and fragmented into their component parts, and vicious sectarian war among their ruins is taking place. If Western policy- makers conclude that even given the continued existence of this larger process, Islamic State is a particular manifestation that must be wiped out, and if they seriously wish to pursue this policy, how might it be achieved, given the determination to avoid a Western ground invasion for the reasons noted above? The answer is through the effective partnering with reliable local forces, which could be persuaded, bribed or induced to undertake the military task of destroying Islamic State, in cooperation with Western air power.

The obvious candidates to undertake such a task would be the powerful Kurdish military organizations in both Iraq and Syria, presumably with a leavening or decoration of Arab fighters (Sunni Arab tribal forces in Anbar, small Free Syrian Army-associated groups in Syria, and so on) for appearance's sake and for holding the area following the destruction of Islamic State.
The problem here, of course, is that the Kurds, reliable as they are, have little or no motivation for risking the lives of their fighters in the probably thankless task of providing the backbone for a ground assault on Islamic State.

This problem is not insurmountable, but it would require a strategy able to provide sufficient political inducements for the Kurds. This would almost certainly have to include support for Kurdish statehood...
Jonathan Spyer is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
[The Jerusalem Post via Middle East Forum]



How to Beat ISIS - Walter Russell Mead

Running wild through the streets, gunning down the crowds in a night club: This is fantasy violence, video games brought into the real world. ISIS is again the coolest of jihadi brands, the cutting edge of the war against the real. The intent is not so much to terrorize the West as to galvanize the faithful.
The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and professor of American foreign policy at Yale University.
(American Interest)

To Defeat ISIS, Create a Sunni State - John Bolton

Recent proposals lack a strategic vision for the Middle East once the Islamic State is actually defeated. Today's reality is that Iraq and Syria as we have known them are gone. The Islamic State has carved out a new entity, mobilizing Sunni opposition to the Assad regime and the Iran-dominated government of Iraq.

If defeating the Islamic State means restoring to power Assad in Syria and Iran's puppets in Iraq, that outcome is neither feasible nor desirable. Rather than striving to recreate the post-World War I map, Washington should recognize the new geopolitics.

The best alternative to the Islamic State in northeastern Syria and western Iraq is a new, independent Sunni state. This "Sunni-stan" could be a bulwark against both Assad and Iran-allied Baghdad. 

Many Sunnis today support the Islamic State as a bulwark against being ruled by Tehran via Baghdad. Telling these Sunni people that their reward for rising against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq will be to put them back in thrall to Assad and his ilk, or to Shiite-dominated Baghdad, will simply intensify their support for the jihadists.
The writer, a former U.S. ambassador to the UN, is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
(New York Times)

Defeating Islamic State - Amitai Etzioni

The U.S. actually won the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq easily and quickly. The 2001 overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan was carried out within a few weeks, with minimal American casualties. The 2003 removal of Saddam's regime also was carried out with few casualties and low costs. Both campaigns ended up badly only after the U.S. decided to make stable, democratic, U.S.-friendly regimes out of these nations.

Saddam had 400,000 soldiers; IS has about 40,000. Its seasoned fighters are being killed off and it now relies increasingly on newcomers. If the U.S., France and the UK were to put a force on the ground working with the Kurds, IS would not be much of an opponent. Once IS is defeated, though, the U.S. cannot engage in rebuilding Syria. The other parties in Syria must be left to work out their differences.
The writer is a professor of international relations at George Washington University. 
(Jerusalem Post)