Friday, January 22, 2016

Pouring Lighter Fluid on MidEast Conflicts

The Real Story of "Implementation Day" - Charles Krauthammer, MD

The real story of Jan. 16 - "Implementation Day" of the Iran deal - was that in a stroke, Iran shed almost four decades of rogue-state status and was declared a citizen of good standing of the international community, open to trade, investment and diplomacy. This, without giving up, or even promising to change, its policy of subversion and aggression. This, without having forfeited its status as the world's greatest purveyor of terrorism.

Cash-rich, reconnected with global banking and commerce, and facing an Arab world collapsed into a miasma of raging civil wars, Iran has instantly become the dominant power of the Middle East. Iran is the regional hegemon, with a hand - often predominant - in the future of Syria, Yemen, Iraq, the Gulf Arab states and, in time, in the very survival of Israel.
(Washington Post)

The Free World Lost, Big Time - Alex Fishman

The removal of sanctions gives the government in Tehran the power to feed the flames between Shi'ites and Sunnis, between Israelis and Palestinians, and to keep subverting the regimes in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Jordan, as well as strengthening the Assad regime in Syria. The Western powers haven't merely given Iran legitimacy, but have provided it with material means that will aid it in realizing its destructive vision.

From Israel's national security perception, Iran remains the number one threat - not ISIS or al-Qaeda. The world will take its attention off Iran with time, but Israel doesn't have that privilege: While they go back to sleep, Israel will have to increase its investments in intelligence. 
(Ynet News)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Normalizing Iran

President Obama says it was a "good day" because the Iran deal was sealed. 
Critics are not so sure.

The Price of American Weakness
- Prof. Eyal Zisser

The photo of 10 American sailors on their knees with their hands over their heads after being captured by the Revolutionary Guards illustrates the prevailing trend of U.S. capitulation to Iran.

Many in the Middle East believe the current U.S. administration is willing to hand the "keys" to the region over to Iran. Tehran publicized the humiliating photo in an effort to send a clear message to the Americans, and essentially to the entire world, that Iran is the "boss" in the region
The writer is former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.
(Israel Hayom)

America's New Ally Iran - Elliott Abrams

When the U.S. appears unable to differentiate between enemies and allies, it gets fewer allies and its enemies grow stronger. Iran is an enemy of the U.S., which has killed hundreds of Americans in terrorist attacks over the decades since 1979 and most recently in Iraq. The photo of the captured American sailors will deeply unsettle America's friends. The Obama administration's reaction was to thank Iran. America's friends are without doubt thinking, "If this is how the Americans react to their own humiliation through an aggressive act, how will they react when we are in danger?"

The writer, a senior fellow at CFR, was a U.S. deputy national security advisor.
(Council on Foreign Relations)

Normalizing Iran - Bret Stephens

Some believe the best way to allay the suspicions - and diminish the influence - of Iranian hard-liners is by demonstrating ever-greater diplomatic flexibility. The Carter administration hailed Ayatollah Khomeini as "a saint." Our embassy was seized. Ronald Reagan sent Khomeini a birthday cake, along with secret arms, to facilitate the release of hostages in Lebanon. A few hostages were released, while others were taken in their place. The world welcomed the election of "moderate" President Mohammad Khatami in 1997. Iran's illicit nuclear facilities were exposed during his second term.

Iran will become a "normal" country only when it ceases to be an Islamic Republic. In the meantime, the only question is how far we are prepared to abase ourselves in our quest to normalize it.
(Wall Street Journal)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Iran Humiliates Obama, Receives a 'Thank you'

Iran humiliated US with no consequences - Ariel Ben Solomon

Propaganda videos of the soldiers blindfolded and kneeling released by Iranian media humiliated the world’s superpower and shows that Iran can continue its aggressive behavior with no consequences.

The Obama administration will not allow anything to get in the way of the nuclear deal’s implementation and the lifting of sanctions on Iran, they said.

“Test fire ballistic missiles. Check. Fire missiles near US ships. Check. Torch US ally’s missions. Check. Seize US sailors. Check. Get paid,” tweeted Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Iran’s continued aggressive behavior since the nuclear deal was agreed upon last summer gives it, and other rogue actors, the impression that it can act with a rather free hand.

Such a message must be terrifying to Israel and other US-Arab allies in the region.

A grand-slam for Iran, and a huge defeat for the US. Now Iran can continue advancing its ultimate goal of gaining nuclear weapons,” said Harold Rhode, a distinguished senior fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute and a former adviser at the Pentagon.
[Jerusalem Post]

Iran's Treatment of U.S. Sailors - Felicia Schwartz & Gordon Lubold

Iran released a set of videos of U.S. sailors who were released after being captured and detained overnight, raising questions about whether Iran mistreated the Americans or violated international law by using them for propaganda purposes. One video broadcast on Iranian television showed several Americans kneeling with their hands clasped behind their heads. Another showed a U.S. sailor admitting wrongdoing and apologizing.

James Ross, legal and policy director of Human Rights Watch, said it has long been recognized that it is unlawful for governments to use photographs or videos of military detainees for propaganda purposes, including publicly releasing a "confession." "The Iranian government actions would appear to be contrary to the intention of the Geneva Conventions," Ross said.

Even if the boats veered into Iranian waters by mistake, under international maritime law such "innocent passage" should have brought an instruction to leave those waters, not a seizure and detention, according to Navy manuals citing the international standards.
(Wall Street Journal)

Iran Seizing Sailors and the Rogue Delusion - Michael Rubin

It's time to stop deluding ourselves, and to judge Iran by what its actions are rather than what we would wish them to be.

The writer, a former Pentagon official and Resident Scholar at AEI, is the author of Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes.
(American Enterprise Institute)

Iran's Capture and Release of U.S. Sailors - Michael Singh

The U.S. sailors captured by Iran were not immediately released, but were held overnight, questioned, and photographed for media consumption. This incident must be triangulated against other Iranian actions, including its testing of ballistic missiles, a live-fire incident in the proximity of U.S. Navy and commercial shipping vessels, the continued detention of Iranian-Americans, the recent ransacking of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and Iran's undiminished support for the Assad regime in Syria. All of these point toward continuity, rather than change, in Iran's regional policy.

The writer is managing director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
(Wall Street Journal)

Lifting of Iran Sanctions Worries Israel - Alex Fishman

Most of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran will be removed on Friday, U.S. State Department officials said. In light of the impending lifting of sanctions, the regime in Tehran announced it plans on rehabilitating the Iranian military.

Israel views the public missile experiments conducted in recent months by Iran as a move to test international reaction. President Obama's decision not to press Tehran on this issue encourages the Iranians to continue chipping away at the international agreements meant to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
(Ynet News)

Iran's Humiliation of U.S. Sets the Tone - Ron Ben-Yishai

  • Iran's seizure of American patrol boats in the Persian Gulf has political ramifications that must be considered in Israel. First, Washington's response to the incident testifies to the fact that the Obama administration will not allow anything to get in the way of implementing the nuclear deal with Iran.
  • In a few days the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to announce that Iran has met all the basic conditions in the agreement, thus permitting the removal of sanctions. Iran needs sanctions removal like people need oxygen. But the U.S. is behaving as though it is the one who needs the sanctions to be removed, not Iran.
  • Two weeks ago the Iranians tested ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. This was a violation of the ban on holding such tests that is part of the UN Security Council's decision that validated the nuclear agreement. But the president himself ordered a halt to the process of imposing sanctions in response. This is a sign that the U.S. will ignore violations of the Iranian nuclear agreement if they are not too over-the-top.
  • Supreme Leader Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards will do anything to show the Americans that Iran is the enemy of all the U.S. represents. They will not miss any opportunity to humiliate the Americans and show them that Iran has not given in to them.
  • It was the Revolutionary Guards who got the last word. Their hatred for Americans outweighed any other considerations. They distributed the video of the humiliated American sailors and their captors treating them humanely. For Israel, the way the current ruling Iranian regime provoked the Americans through video images should be deeply concerning.
(Ynet News)


Iranian Officials: Capture a Display of Power over U.S. - Russ Read 

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi and Chairman of Iran's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi used Iranian media to commend the recent capture and release of ten U.S. sailors and their two riverine boats.

"This is a sign of our might," Araqchi said to Iran's Fars News. He also noted that the apprehension is a sign that Iran controls the security of the Persian Gulf.
(Daily Caller)

Control of the Gulf 

After Iranian authorities arrested 10 American sailors on Jan. 12, the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with Hizbullah, argued that the Revolutionary Guards were sending a message to the U.S. that Iran will be willing to clash with it, and at the same time telling the Gulf states not to mess with Iran.

Al-Akhbar's Jan. 14 front page showed the photo of the American sailors kneeling with hands on their heads, under the headline "Tehran to Washington: I Control the Gulf."  

U.S. Thanks Iran for Resolving the Crisis It Created - Eli Lake

Iran's handling of the situation violated international norms, and to pretend otherwise is to define deviancy down.



Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ross Kicks Sand at Obama

How the U.S. Created a Mideast Vacuum - Dennis Ross

Over the course of five years of war within Syria, President Obama looked at Syria and he saw entanglement in another ongoing Middle East conflict where our involvement would be costly, lead to nothing, and potentially make things worse. In nearly every meeting on Syria when presented possible options to affect the Syrian civil war, the president would ask, "tell me where this ends."

But he failed to ask the corollary question: Tell me what happens if we don't act? Had he known that not acting would produce a vacuum in which a humanitarian catastrophe, a terrible refugee crisis, a deepening proxy war and the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria would occur, his responses might have been different.

When he looked at Syria, he saw Iraq. In his eyes, Iraq was a colossal mistake. He had run against it. He had been elected to get us out of Middle East wars, not into them. But was Syria really Iraq? Syria was not an American invasion of a country but an internal uprising against an authoritarian leader.

A vacuum was created by our hesitancy to do more than offer pronouncements. And that vacuum was filled by others: Iran, Hizbullah and Iran's other Shia militia proxies; Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar; Russia; and ISIL.

We should not overlearn the lessons of the Iraq war and misapply them. Not every conflict in the Middle East is a replay of Iraq - and our choices for responding to them should not be reduced to doing nothing or putting massive numbers of troops on the ground.
Amb. Dennis Ross, a counselor at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served two years as special assistant to President Obama and National Security Council senior director for the Central Region, and a year as special advisor to Secretary of State Clinton.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Rape As Jihad?

From ISIS sex slavery to European assaults, rape has been well documented as a tactic of jihad

The other face of Jihad - Phyllis Chesler, PhD

On New Year's Eve, large gangs of Arab, North African, and Muslim men sexually assaulted women in a large number of cities in both Germany and in Austria. These attackers, often a thousand strong, simultaneously stuck their fingers into every female orifice; groped, licked, hit, and terrified every vulnerable woman who was out celebrating the holiday.

The media under-reported these rapes—not until one hundred German women in the city of Cologne, a number that grew to close to 400 by the weekend, reported their assaults to the police, did the matter become public.

European men rape European women every day.  Gang-rape often characterize rapes perpetrated by young men in the West. But make no mistake:  the pattern of sexual harassment and rape in the Muslim world in general is vastly different. Muslims in Sudan and Nigeria have perpetrated similar horrific attacks upon Christian, animist, and Muslim women. Similar atrocities took place in the former Yugoslavia, perpetrated by both Serb and Croat Christians and Muslims. Nevertheless, in an Islamist era, such Muslim-perpetrated attacks have assumed monstrous proportions.

Recall the roving gangs in Egypt in Tahrir Square in 2011, the mass groping and the assault of blonde American journalist Lara Logan. Realize that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Egyptian Muslim and Christian women were also groped and sexually assaulted, whether or not they were wearing headscarves or face masks.

(Photo by: REUTERS)

In addition to what happened in Germany and Austria, similar male Muslim group gropings and assaults of women on New Year's Eve have now been widely reported to the police in Finland and Sweden.

If Germany and Austria—if all Europe--does not find, prosecute, and deport all the men who took part in the recent New Year's Eve atrocities, they will soon discover that such attacks might become regular features of European life and will occur on most holidays; that, like Muslim women, European women will increasingly live in fear; begin to stay indoors; and that female workers will increasingly suffer from post-traumatic stress symptoms. A European woman’s quality of life and efficiency at work may decrease. This will be true for women of every ethnicity and religion.

How can one educate a barbarian lynch mob? In my opinion, only through the mosques and the Islamist media. That is not likely to happen any time soon. Until it does or, failing that—elimination of the growing threat to the West will be required.

That will only begin to happen when people realize that such mass public gang rapes represent the normalization of “Islamist” ways and  are also another face of Jihad.
[Israel National News]

Europe concerned as scale of alleged migrant attacks on women grows

The mass attacks on women in Cologne and other German cities on New Year's Eve have prompted more than 500 criminal complaints, with Cologne investigations focused largely on asylum seekers or illegal migrants from north Africa, police have said.

The attacks, mostly targeting women and ranging from theft to sexual molestation, have prompted a highly-charged debate in Germany about its open-door policy to migrants and refugees, more than one million of whom came to the country last year.

In Cologne, police said that 379 criminal complaints had been filed by individuals or groups, while police in Hamburg said 133 similar complaints had been lodged in the north German city. Frankfurt also registered complaints, although far fewer. The Cologne attacks also heated up debates on immigration in neighboring Austria and Switzerland.

In Cologne, around 40 percent of the complaints included sexual offenses, including two rapes, police said, as a 100-strong force of officers continued their investigations. No one has yet been charged. "There have been arrests and we will continue to make arrests," a spokeswoman for the Cologne police said. She said police had increased the number of officers on patrol.

In an earlier statement, the city's police had said the suspects in the focus of their investigation "come largely from north African countries" and the investigation "concerns largely asylum seekers and people who are staying in Germany illegally."
[Jerusalem Post]


Purportedly, a video showing women dragged into a subway in Cologne, Germany, New Year's Eve
Migrant 'Rape Game' - Haim Isrovitch
Authorities in Germany suspect that the wave of alleged sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve which were said to have been committed by migrants from North Africa and the Middle East was part of a “rape game” that is popularly known in Arab countries as “taharush.”

The “game,” which is believed to be particularly widespread in Egypt, entails orchestrated sexual assaults by groups of men in large events attended by masses of people.

As part of the “game,” a group of men surround their intended victim. A few members of the group proceed to sexually assault their prey, while others in the gang prevent passersby from intervening. In some cases, the incident ends with full-on rape of the woman or mugging.

The logic behind carrying out such an orchestrated attack during a large-scale demonstration is that it is much easier for the assailants to disappear into the massive crowd and avoid identification, thus enabling them to escape punishment.

Perhaps the most infamous case – at least to Western audiences – involving gang rape in a public space was that of television journalist Lara Logan.
The attacks have deepened public skepticism towards Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door refugee policy and her mantra that Germany can cope with the 1.1 million migrants who arrived in the country last year.
[Jerusalem Post]

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Palestinian Scholar on Israel: 'Jews Ain't Leaving'

Bassam Tawil, Palestinian scholar

Jews Are Here to Stay - Bassam Tawil

The only thing the Palestinian leadership and terrorist organizations can agree on is their obsession to destroy the State of Israel and establish a Palestinian state on its ruins. As long as the Palestinians thought they could get what they wanted through negotiations and intransigence, they concealed their true intentions.

However, when it became clear the Israelis would not waive their demand for the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state or their objection to the right of return, Palestinian extremism came out of hiding. That is evident from the results consistently obtained by opinion polls carried out by Palestinian polling centers, which show that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians support an armed campaign against Israel and want to see it destroyed.

The Palestinian leadership has not yet internalized that nothing will make the Israelis leave. Terrorism only strengthens their resolve. We keep making the awful mistake of educating our children, generation after generation, to hate the Jews and Israelis and to want to destroy the State of Israel. We continually brainwash viewers of government-run Palestinian TV with the nonsense that, with the help of Allah, the State of Israel is temporary and will eventually cease to exist.

We should have understood a long time ago that Jews exist in Palestine, that they are here to stay forever, and that murdering them in the streets is not going to change anything. The time has come to try creating - for the first time in history - a peaceful and demilitarized Palestinian state, which the Israelis have indicated for decades they would be all too happy to help us achieve.
Bassam Tawil is a scholar living in Lebanon
(Gatestone Institute)


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Sunni - Shia War Heats Up

Iran-Saudi Arabia row

Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tehran was ransacked and set alight on Saturday, after it executed Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others.  Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic ties with Iran in response, followed on Monday by its allies Bahrain and Sudan. The Kuwaiti government said it was recalling its ambassador from the Iranian capital...".

Saudi authorities on Sunday severed diplomatic relations with Iran. They said that all commercial and air traffic links were being cut and that Saudi citizens were banned from travelling to Iran. Bahrain's transport ministry also suspended all flights to and from Iran on Tuesday, the official Bahrain News Agency reported.

As well as the moves by Bahrain, Sudan and Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has downgraded its diplomatic team in Iran. And on Monday, the UN Security Council issued a strongly worded statement condemning the attack on the Saudi embassy - making no mention of the execution of the cleric.

Iran-Saudi sectarian proxy wars set to explode - Ariel Ben Solomon

Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr seems likely to escalate sectarian Sunni- Shi’ite violence in the Middle East, experts told The Jerusalem Post. Gulf Sunni states, with the exception of independent- minded Oman, are expected to publicly back the Saudis, while Shi’ite-dominated Iraq and allied Syria back Iran.

“The Shia Sunni conflict is boiling,” Eliezer “Geizi” Tsafrir, a former Arab affairs adviser to the prime minister and senior Mossad and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) official, who is currently a fellow at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, told the Post.

Tsafrir pointed at how tensions were already rife since the Saudis, having had enough of Iranian subversion near its border, launched a war in Yemen last year to defend its interests against Iranian- backed Houthis taking over the country.

Tsafrir added that the decision by Sudan, until recently in Iran’s orbit of influence, to cut off diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic, may be a sign of things to come. He said Khartoum’s maneuver demonstrated how far the conflict between the Sunni and Shi’ite factions has escalated.

“We can expect more steps,” Tsafrir said.

Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on Saudi Arabia and the modern Middle East, told the Post that since King Salman took over a year ago, “he and his advisers have pushed for a more muscular foreign policy to assert Saudi responsibility for Sunni Muslims.”

In addition, Teitelbuam, a senior research associate at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, sees Saudi action as a response to American retrenchment in the region. “The Saudis perceive it as creating a vacuum that the pro-Iranian Shi’ite forces are filling,” Teitelbaum said.
[Jerusalem Post]

Saudi-Iran Breakdown May Prolong Syrian Civil War - Herb Keinon

Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, the former head of Israel's National Security Council, said the breakdown in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia could prolong the Syrian civil war, in which Iran and Saudi Arabia are backing different forces. Referring to attempts to negotiate an end to the Syrian crisis, Amidror said: "It is clear that so much oil has been poured on the flames now that I don't know how long it will take to put them out."  

(Jerusalem Post)



Iran TV Shows Off Nuke-Capable Missiles

Iran unveiled a new underground missile depot, with state television showing weapons in store that the U.S. says are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The Emad precision-guided missiles shown in the footage also violate a 2010 UN Security Council resolution.

Iran's boasts are a challenge for the Obama administration as the U.S. and EU plan to end nearly all international sanctions against Tehran under the nuclear deal reached in July. 
(Reuters-NBC News)

Is the U.S. Tilting toward Iran? - Josh Rogin & Eli Lake

When the White House sold the Iran nuclear deal to Congress, its message was that nothing in the deal would prevent the U.S. from sanctioning Iran for non-nuclear issues. Yet that has not been the case. Last week, the Treasury Department balked at the last moment on sanctioning 11 entities and individuals it deemed responsible for helping the Iranian government develop its ballistic missile program in violation of UN sanctions. The State Department had intervened at the last minute, following objections by the Iranian government.

A week earlier, Secretary of State Kerry wrote personally to Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif to assure him that the Obama administration could waive new restrictions that would require visas for anyone who had visited Iran to enter the U.S. Iran's sentencing of a U.S. journalist on espionage charges in November, and its detention of a U.S.-Iranian dual national in October, have led to no downgrade in relations.

U.S. officials tell us Iran has extraordinary leverage at this moment, as the world waits for it to implement all of its obligations in the nuclear deal. Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said, "The Iranians hold the Obama legacy in their hands. We are constrained and we are acquiescing to a certain degree to ensure we maintain a functional relationship with the Iranians."  

Iran Sacks Another Embassy - Elliott Abrams

Iran is a police state, with plenty of manpower available to stop "protesters" or "students" from entering embassy grounds that the Islamic Republic government is pledged to protect

So it is another piece of evidence that Iran refuses to live by the rules of civilized diplomatic practice, and that its behavior has gotten worse, not better, since the signing of the nuclear deal.
The writer, a senior fellow at CFR, was a deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration.
(Council on Foreign Relations)

The Saudis Are Rightly Concerned about Iran - Dennis B. Ross

The Saudis see the Iranians and their Shiite militia proxies as their preeminent threat. They are far more ready to challenge them, particularly in the aftermath of America's nuclear deal with Iran.

The Saudis see the Obama administration as unwilling to challenge the Iranians and worry about how Iran will exploit the sanctions relief it will soon receive.

In effect, by provocatively executing the nation's leading Shiite cleric, the Saudis are drawing their own red line with Iran because they doubt that the U.S. will.

Iran - in Iraq, in Syria, in Bahrain and in Yemen - has added much to the worsening of the Sunni-Shiite conflict. Will the Iranians provide additional material support to their proxies once they receive sanctions relief? Nearly all of America's friends in the region, including both Arabs and Israelis, are convinced they will and are watching to see how the U.S. responds.
The writer, a former State Department and National Security Council official, was a special assistant to President Obama for the Middle East.

(New York Times)

Nuclear Pakistan Threatens to ‘Wipe Iran the Map’

Pakistani army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif has reiterated that any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity will would evoke a sharp response. He said Pakistan would “wipe Iran off the map.”

Sharif made the remarks in a statement after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman visited him in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, adjacent to the capital. Salman earlier arrived in Islamabad, making him the second top Saudi official to visit Pakistan in a week amid growing tension with Iran.

The bilateral relations between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are historically close and extremely friendly, occasionally described as constituting a special relationship. Pakistan has been called “Saudi Arabia’s closest Muslim ally.
[United with Israel]

Is the U.S. Leaning toward Shiite Iran? - Jackson Diehl

After Saudi Arabia's execution of a Shiite cleric was followed by militants sacking the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, the State Department carefully refrained from blaming the regime of Ayatollah Khamenei for the violence and adopted a neutral position on the bilateral dispute - an extraordinary stance given the decades of U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia and enmity with the Islamic Republic.

It quickly became clear that the White House's overwhelming priority boiled down to avoiding any words or action that would disrupt the ongoing implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal. That was of a piece with its last-minute retreat on Dec. 30 from imposing sanctions on Tehran for missile launches and a promise to waive new congressional restrictions on visas for foreigners who visited Iran.

The embarrassing retreat from imposing missile sanctions was particularly damaging. The administration first accused Tehran of violating a UN Security Council resolution linked to the nuclear deal by testing long-range missiles, then pulled back a relatively mild set of financial penalties on companies and individuals hours after notifying Congress they were coming. The resulting message is that Washington lacks the will to punish Iran for clear violations.

If the bloodletting is to end, minorities - whether Sunni or Shiite, Christian or Kurd - must gain basic rights. It means abandoning the impractical and immoral position that reconstituting Iraq and Syria takes precedence over allowing a Kurdish homeland. And it means removing the vicious regime of Bashar al-Assad, whose crimes against humanity are responsible for much of the chaos.
(Washington Post)

Exposing Facebook Bias Against Israel

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, leader of Shurat HaDin

The Facebook experiment: Do all lives matter?
Wow. Do some lives matter more to Facebook than others? Sounds incredible. Watch the video before you answer. This experiment by the amazing people at Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center needs to be seen by everyone. Share and keep on sharing.
Posted by The Israel Project on Monday, January 4, 2016

Is Facebook biased against Israel? - Coral Braun

With the proliferation of anti-Israel Facebook pages and trending twitter hashtags, cyber jihad has grown to be all too familiar and difficult to control. As jihad accounts are removed from respective networks, new ones are immediately launched in their place, brewing the anti-Israel sentiment that serves as a catalyst for the violence carried out by the young jihadis behind Israel's latest terror wave.

Shurat HaDin, an Israeli based civil rights organization, set out in late December to test whether Facebook holds double standards when it comes to incitement. The NGO launched "The Big Facebook Experiment," which sought to expose the reality of anti-Israel sentiment vis-a-vis the simultaneous launch of two Facebook pages: "Stop Palestinians" and "Stop Israel."

Following the launch of the two nearly-identical pages on December 29, the NGO posted hateful content simultaneously on both pages over the course of the next few days.

The next step in Shurat HaDin's experiment was to report both faux-incitement pages to Facebook to see which, if either, would be removed under the auspices of hateful content.

Despite featuring identical content, however, only one was removed from the online platform.

The page inciting against Palestinians was closed by Facebook (on the same day that it was reported) for "containing credible threat of violence" which "violated our [Facebook's] community standards." The page inciting against Israelis, however, was not shut down, despite its identical hateful content. Facebook claimed that this page was "not in violation of Facebook's rules." Shurat HaDin's staged anti-Israel group "Stop Israel" still remains active on Facebook.

"The Big Facebook Experiment" backs an unprecedented lawsuit which was filed in October by Shurat HaDin law center against Facebook on behalf of 20,000 Israelis to stop allowing Palestinian terrorists to incite violent attacks against Israeli citizens on the social network's platform.

Shurat HaDin argued that Facebook acts as a non-neutral platform and cannot be considered a mere "publisher of speech" since its complex algorithms connect terrorists to inciters and would-be jihadis.

"Calling on people to commit crimes is not constitutionally protected speech and endangers the lives of Jews and Israelis," Shurat HaDin said in its claim.
[Jerusalem Post]

Monday, January 04, 2016

Jihad's Hidden Weaknesses

Remember 2009's Green Revolution in Iran? It could be a signal of deep discontent within Islam.

Two Weaknesses Could Undo the Islamist Movement - Daniel Pipes, PhD

The Islamist movement may appear stronger than ever, but a close look suggests two weaknesses that might doom it, and perhaps quickly.

Its strengths are obvious. The Taliban, Al-Shabaab, Boku Haram, and ISIS take Islamism – the ideology calling for Islamic law to be applied in its entirety and severity – to unbearable extremes, rampaging and brutalizing their way to power. Pakistan could fall into their hands. The ayatollahs of Iran enjoy a second wind thanks to the Vienna deal. Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is becoming Turkey's dictator. Islamist operatives swarm the Mediterranean toward Europe.

But weaknesses within, especially squabbling and disapproval, could undo the Islamist movement.

Infighting became vicious in 2013, when Islamists abruptly stopped their prior pattern of cooperation among themselves and instead began internecine fighting. Yes, the Islamist movement as a whole shares similar goals, but it also contains different intellectuals, groups, and parties with variant ethnic affiliations, tactics, and ideologies.

Its internal divisions have spread fast and far. These include Sunnis vs. Shiites, notably in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen; monarchists vs. republicans, notably in Saudi Arabia; non-violent vs. violent types, notably in Egypt; modernizers vs medieval revivalists, notably in Tunisia; and plain old personal differences, notably in Turkey. These divisions obstruct the movement by turning its guns inward.

The dynamic here is ancient: As Islamists approach power, they fight amongst themselves for dominance. Differences that hardly mattered when in the wilderness take on great importance as the stakes get higher. In Turkey, for example, the politician Erdoğan and the religious leader Fethullah Gülen cooperated until they dispatched their common enemy, the military, from politics, when they turned against each other.

Unpopularity, the second problem, may be the biggest peril for the movement. As populations experience Islamist rule first hand, they reject it. It's one thing to believe in the abstract about the benefits of Islamic law and quite another to suffer its deprivations, ranging from the Islamic State's totalitarian horrors to the comparatively benign emerging dictatorship in Turkey.

Signs of this discontent include the large majorities of Iranians who reject the Islamic Republic, the wave of exiles out of Somalia, and the massive Egyptian demonstrations of 2013 protesting a single year of the Muslim Brotherhood in power. As with fascist and communist rule, Islamist sovereignty often leads to people voting with their feet.

Should these two tendencies hold, the Islamist movement is heading for trouble. Some analysts already see the Islamist era having ended and the emergence of something new from its wreckage. For example, the Sudanese scholar Haidar Ibrahim Ali argues that a "post-Islamization" era has begun, when Islamism's "vitality and attractiveness have been exhausted even among the most ardent of its supporters and enthusiasts."

The enemies of Islamism have much work ahead. Muslims must both fight this movement and develop a compelling alternative to its goal of implementing Islamic law, explaining constructively what it means to be a Muslim in 2016. Non-Muslims can serve as their helpful auxiliaries, providing everything from applause to funds to guns.

Islamism's mounting problems offer grounds for confidence but not for smugness, as another reversal in course could take place at any time. But if current trends hold, the Islamist movement will have been limited, much as fascism and communism before it, damaging Western civilization, not destroying it.
[Boston Globe]

Smart Streetlights Revolutionizes City Lighting

Israeli Town Acquires "Smart" Streetlights - David Shamah

Urban officials around the world are aiming to swap existing energy-inefficient streetlights with more efficient and smart LED streetlights. Ga'ash Lighting, an Israeli company, is installing smart LED streetlights that include wifi repeaters, security cameras, sensors to measure temperature and air quality, and systems to measure traffic congestion. The Apollo system will not only help cities save money on energy, but will give them data to determine where to deploy police, where to pick up garbage, how to prevent traffic jams, and more.

Ga'ash's Apollo smart streetlights allow a technician to set lighting at the proper intensity, as needed. The intensity could be set at 20% as the sun goes down, and put onto full capacity when it's dark; at 3 a.m. in areas where there is no traffic, intensity could be dropped to 50%, substantially cutting a town's electricity bill. Last week the company announced that the Israeli city of Bat Yam would replace its 7,000 streetlights with LEDs.
(Times of Israel)