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)

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.
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.


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)

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]

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. 

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)

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]


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)


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]

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]

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]


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]

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]

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]


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]

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)
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. 

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)

UN Pimps for Palestinian Thugs

The UN: Clueless or Complicit in Gaza? - Claudia Rosett

If UNRWA officials knew that Hamas was building terror tunnels, but raised no public alarm, then that should be grounds for a major inquiry into UNRWA complicity with terrorists. There's also the question of whether UNRWA employs or directly supports members of Hamas. If so, that should block the agency from receiving money from the U.S.

The U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 forbids funding to UNRWA unless it takes "all possible measures" to ensure that no U.S. assistance goes to any refugee who has received "military training" as a member of the Palestine Liberation Army, or any other "guerrilla-type organization," or who has "engaged in any act of terrorism." UNRWA promised to check its staff against specific UN sanctions lists. But those lists are not that relevant to Gaza: They cover al-Qaeda and the Taliban (there is no UN sanctions list for Hamas).
The writer is journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
(National Review)

Reveal UNRWA's Bluff - Einat Wilf

During the fighting in Gaza, Israeli forces were fired at from UN facilities. Now that the fighting over, Israel should recognize UNRWA as a hostile Palestinian organization that perpetuates the dream of the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel - and treat it accordingly.

Even if UNRWA itself does not attack the IDF directly, it ensures that there will always be someone to do so in the future. Under a thin veil of humanitarian activities, UNRWA acts with a clear political agenda, aimed at perpetuating the situation of Palestinian refugees and fostering the dream of their return to Israel.

UNRWA is directly responsible for the fact that 5 million people are registered as Palestinian refugees, a large number of whom continue to live in refugee camps. UNRWA works to inflate the number of registered refugees in two ways. First, the descendants of refugees from 1948, already the fifth generation, are automatically "entitled" to refugee status. And second, UNRWA thwarts any attempt to absorb refugees where they currently live or in third countries. If UNRWA operated the same way as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which is responsible for all other refugee groups in the world, today there would be only tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees, rather than millions.

UNRWA's continued existence depends on donations totaling $1 billion per year from Western nations, including $250 million from the U.S. and more than $500 million from Europe. Why do Western taxpayers fund an organization which acts in stark contrast to the policy of finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
The writer, a former member of the Knesset, is a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute.
(Israel Hayom)