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Trump not only reinforcing the strength of the US to the rest of the world, but also restoring its credibility in the Middle East

After three successive American Presidents had used a six-month waiver to defer moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem for more than two decades, President Donald J. Trump decided not to wait any longer. On December 7, 2017, he declared that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; the official embassy transfer took place on May 14th, the day of Israel’s 70th anniversary.

From the moment of Trump’s declaration, leaders of the Muslim world expressed anger and announced major trouble. An Islamic summit conference was convened in Istanbul a week later, and ended with statements about a “crime against Palestine”. Western European leaders followed suit. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said that President Trump’s decision was a “serious mistake” and could have huge “consequences”. French President Emmanuel Macron, going further, declared that the decision could provoke a “war”.

Despite these ominous predictions, trouble remained largely absent. The Istanbul statement remained a statement. The “war” anticipated by Macron did not break out.

The Islamic terrorist organization Hamas sent masses of rioters from Gaza to tear down Israel’s border fence and cross over, to force Israeli soldiers to fire, thereby allowing Hamas to have bodies of “martyrs” to show to the cameras. So far, Hamas has sent 62 of its own people to their death. Fifty of them were, by Hamas’s own admission, members of Hamas.

Palestinian terrorist groups fired rockets into southern Israel; Israeli jets retaliated with airstrikes. Hamas sent kites, attached to incendiary devices and explosives, over the border to Israel. So far, 200 of the fire-kites that Hamas sent have destroyed 6,200 acres of Israeli forests and farmland.

  • Trump has shown the strength of the United States and restored its credibility in a region where strength and force determine credibility.
  • Trump more broadly laid the foundation for a new alliance of the United States with the Sunni Arab world, but he put two conditions on it: a cessation of all Sunni Arab support for Islamic terrorism and an openness to the prospect of a regional peace that included Israel.
  • Secretary of State Pompeo spoke of the “Palestinians”, not of the Palestinian Authority, as in Iran, possibly to emphasize the distinction between the people and their leadership, and that the leadership in both situations, may no longer be part of the solution. Hamas, for the US, is clearly not part of any solution.
  • Netanyahu rightly said that Palestinian leaders, whoever they may be, do not want peace with Israel, but “peace without Israel”. What instead could take place would be peace without the Palestinian leaders. What could also take place would be peace without the Iranian mullahs.

Pundits who predicted more violent reactions have been surprised by the relatively quiet reaction of the Palestinian and Muslim communities. The reason might be called the “Trump Doctrine for the Middle East”.

One element of it consisted of crushing the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. President Trump had promised quickly to clear the world of what had become a main backbone of Islamic terrorism. He kept his promise in less than a year, and without a massive deployment of American troops. Trump has shown the strength of the United States and restored its credibility in a region where strength and force determine credibility.

Another element of it was put in place during President Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia in May 2017. President Trump renewed ties which had seriously deteriorated during the previous 8 years. Trump more broadly laid the foundation for a new alliance of the United States with the Sunni Arab world, but he put two conditions on it: a cessation of all Sunni Arab support for Islamic terrorism and an openness to the prospect of a regional peace that included Israel.

Both conditions are being gradually fulfilled. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman chose his son Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) as heir to the throne. MBS started an internal revolution to impose new directions on the kingdom. The Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, created on December 15, 2015, was endorsed by the United States; it held its inaugural meeting on November 26, 2017. In addition, links between Israeli and Saudi security services were strengthened and coordination between the Israeli and Egyptian militaries intensified.

An alliance between Israel and the main countries of the Sunni Arab world to contain Iran also slowly and unofficially began taking shape. MBS, calling called Hamas a terrorist organization, saying that it must “be destroyed”. He told representatives of Jewish organizations in New York that Palestinian leaders need to “take the [American] proposals or shut up.”

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was summoned to Riyadh twice — in November and December 2017; and it appears he was “asked” to keep quiet. Never has the distance between Palestinian organizations, and Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Arab world, seemed so far. The only Sunni Arab country to have maintained ties with Hamas is Qatar, but the current Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim ben Hamad Al Thani, has been under pressure to change his stance.

Immediately after President Trump left Riyadh, a third element emerged. The US presidential plane went directly from Riyadh to in Israel: for the first time, a direct flight between Saudi Arabia and Israel took place. President Trump went to Jerusalem, where he became the first sitting US President to visit the Western Wall, the only historical remains of a retaining wall from the ancient Temple of King Solomon. During his campaign, Trump had referred to Jerusalem as “the eternal capital of the Jewish people”, implicitly acknowledging that the Jews have had their roots there for 3,000 years.

After his visit to the Wall, President Trump went to Bethlehem and told Mahmoud Abbas what no American President had ever said: that Abbas is a liar and that he is personally responsible for the incitement to violence and terror. In the days that followed, the US Congress demanded that the Palestinian Authority renounce incentivizing terrorism by paying cash to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists and families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks. President Trump’s Middle East negotiators, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt made it clear to Palestinian leaders that US aid to the Palestinian Authority could end if the US demand was not met. Nikki Haley told the United Nations that the US could stop funding UNWRA if Palestinian leaders refused to negotiate and accept what the US is asking for. Since it was founded in 1994, the Palestinian Authority has never been subjected to such intense American pressure.

The fourth element was President Trump’s decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal. President Trump immediately announced he would restore “the harshest, strongest, most stringent sanctions” to suffocate the mullahs’ regime. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has since presented to Iran a list of 12 “basic requirements” for a new agreement.

President Trump’s decision came in a context where the Iran regime has just suffered a series of heavy blows: the Israeli Mossad’s seizure in Tehran of highly confidential documents showing that Iran has not ceased to lie about its nuclear program; the revelation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Mossad operation, and the Israeli army’s decisive response to an Iranian rocket barrage launched from Syrian territory. By it, Israel showed its determination not to allow Russia to support Iran when Iran uses its bases to attack Israel.

Netanyahu was invited by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Moscow on May 9 to commemorate the Soviet victory over Germany in 1945; during that visit, Putin seems to have promised Netanyahu neutrality if Israel were attacked by Iranian forces in Syria. Putin, eager to preserve his Russian bases in Syria, clearly views Israel as a force for stability in the Middle East and Iran as a force for instability — too big a risk for Russian support.

In recent months, the Iranian regime has become, along with Erdogan’s Turkey, one of the main financial supporters of the “Palestinian cause” and Hamas’s main backer. It seems that Iran asked Hamas to organize the marches and riots along the Gaza-Israel border. When the violence from Gaza became more intense, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was summoned to Cairo by Egypt’s intelligence chief, who told him that if violence does not stop, the Israel military would carry out drastic actions, and Egypt would be silent. It could become difficult for Iran to incite Palestinian organizations to widespread violence in the near future.

It could become extremely difficult for Iran to continue financially to support the “Palestinian cause” in the coming months. It could soon become financially unbearable for Iran to maintain its presence in Syria and provide sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah. Turkish President Erdogan speaks loudly, but he seems to know what lines not to cross.

Protests in Iran have become less intense since January, but the discontent and frustrations of the population persist and could get worse.

The Trump administration undoubtedly realizes that the Iranian regime will not accept the requirements presented by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and that the harsh new sanctions might lead to new major uprisings in Iran, and the fall of the regime. Ambassador John Bolton, now National Security Advisor, mentioned in January that the “strategic interest of the United States” is to see the regime overthrown.

Referring recently to the situation in the Middle East and the need to achieve peace, Pompeo spoke of the “Palestinians”, not of the Palestinian Authority, as in Iran, possibly to emphasize the distinction between the people and their leadership, and that the leadership in both situations, may no longer be part of the solution. Hamas, for the US, is clearly not part of any solution.

No one knows exactly what the peace plan to be presented by the Trump administration will contain, but it seems certain that it will not include the “right of return” of so-called “Palestinian refugees” and will not propose East Jerusalem as the “capital of a Palestinian state”. The plan will no doubt be rejected by both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas; it already has been, sight unseen.

Netanyahu rightly said that Palestinian leaders, whoever they may be, do not want peace with Israel, but “peace without Israel”. What instead could take place would be peace without the Palestinian leaders. What could also take place would be peace without the Iran’s mullahs.

It should be noted that on December 7, 2017, when Donald Trump announced the transfer of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, the leaders of the Muslim world who protested were mostly Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman did not send representatives to the Islamic summit conference in Istanbul. When the US embassy in Jerusalem opened its doors on May 14, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf emirates were quiet.

On that day, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron repeated what they had said on December 7, 2017: that the embassies of Germany and France in Israel would remain in Tel Aviv. Macron condemned the “heinous acts” committed by the Israeli military on the Gaza border but not aggression of Hamas in urging its people, and even paying them, to storm Gaza’s border with Israel.

If current trends continue, Macron and Merkel could be among the last supporters of the “Palestinian cause.” They sound as if they will do just about anything to save the corrupt Palestinian Authority.

They are also doing everything to save the moribund Iran “nuclear deal,” and are deferential to the mullahs’ regime. During a European summit held in Sofia, Bulgaria, on May 16, the Trump administration was harshly criticized by the European heads of state who argued that Europe will “find a way around” US sanctions and “resist” President Trump. European companies are already leaving Iran in droves, evidently convinced that they will be better off cutting their losses and keeping good relations with the United States.

On June 3-5, Benjamin Netanyahu went to Europe to try to persuade Merkel, Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May to give up backing the Iran nuclear deal. He failed, predictably, but at least had the opportunity to explain the Iranian danger to Europeans and the need to act.

As Iran’s nuclear ties to North Korea have intensified in the last two years — Iran seems to have relied on North Korea to advance its own nuclear projects — the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula that might have begun with the Donald Trump-Kim Jong-Un meeting in Singapore on June 12, clearly will not strengthen the Iranian position.

European leaders seem not to want to see that a page is turning in the Middle East. They seem not to want to see that, regardless of their mercenary immorality, of their behavior staying on the page of yesterday, is only preventing them from understanding the future.

 

[From an article by Guy Milliere, published by Gatestone Institute]

 

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Palestinians have an excellent opportunity for peace in Jerusalem…but what will they do with it?

For decades now, Palestinians have interpreted Israeli concessions and gestures as signs of weakness.

This fact is important to bear this in mind as the US administration prepares to launch its plan for peace in the Middle East, which President Donald Trump has referred to as the “deal of the century.”

A report in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv on May 4th claimed that the “deal of the century” calls for placing four Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The four neighborhoods, according to the report, are Jabal Mukaber, Essawiyeh, Shu’fat and Abu Dis. Ma’ariv wrote that the details of the US peace plan were presented to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman during his visit to Washington last week:

“The principles of the peace plan, which were presented to Liberman, include, among other things, large-scale and significant concessions on the part of Israel… the US expects Israel to accept the plan and to come to terms with what the Israelis perceive as painful concessions.”

If true, the reported concessions that Israel is being asked to make as part of the US administration’s “deal of the century” will not be perceived by the Palestinians as a sign that Israel seeks peace. As the past has proven, they will be viewed by the Palestinians as a form of retreat and capitulation.

The Palestinian Authority would be happy to assume control over the four Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. As far as the PA is concerned, the more territory it is handed by Israel, the better. Territory in Jerusalem is especially welcome as it would give the Palestinian Authority a foothold in the city. A foothold, that is, for much, much more.

The four neighborhoods are only a few miles away from the Knesset, the Prime Minister’s Office and other symbols of Israeli sovereignty. Thus, Palestinian sovereignty over the four neighborhoods is of symbolic importance. Make no mistake: the Palestinians will see their presence in the four neighborhoods as the first step towards the redivision of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians will say that these Israeli concessions are not enough. They will demand that Israel hand them control over all 28 Arab neighborhoods and villages that are located within the boundaries of the Jerusalem Municipality and are under Israeli sovereignty. In other words, the handing over of the four communities will only whet the Palestinians’ appetite and drive them to demand more. The Palestinians will argue that Israel has now created a precedent that needs to be followed by further concessions.

Here, it is worth noting that the Palestinian Authority is demanding sovereignty over all of east Jerusalem, including the Old City and the Western Wall. For them, the Old City and all the holy sites in Jerusalem belong to the Palestinians and should all be under Palestinian sovereignty. They will take the four neighborhoods, but that will just be the beginning. Even worse, the Palestinians are likely to use the four neighborhoods as launching pads to carry out terror attacks against Israel to “liberate the rest of Jerusalem.”

Let us consider what happened in 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip after evicting more than 8,000 Jews from their homes and destroying more than 20 settlements.

Even today, it is hard to find a single Palestinian who regards the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as an indication that Israel wants peace. On the contrary. The Israeli “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip was misinterpreted by the Palestinians as a retreat in the face of suicide bombings and rocket attacks.

For the Palestinians, the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was perceived as a capitulation that emboldened Hamas and other terror groups. These groups took credit for “driving the Jews out of the Gaza Strip” through terrorism.

If shooting Israelis worked and drove the Israelis to retreat, good: Keep doing it!

It is no wonder, then, that Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary election a few months later. Hamas ran in the January 2006 election on a platform that boasted that it had forced Israel to “flee” the Gaza Strip through suicide and rocket attacks.

Back then, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said: “This is wonderful, we have killed 1,000 Jews in four years and these Jews run away from the Gaza Strip, so we need to continue shooting at them. Today, they run away from the Gaza Strip. Tomorrow they will run away from Ashkelon, then from Ashdod, then from Tel Aviv, and from there to the sea, and we will achieve our goal of eliminating Israel.”

Needless to say, Hamas and its supporters continued to launch attacks against Israel after the Israeli withdrawal to the international border. They truly believed that the Israeli “disengagement” was nothing but surrender in the face of violence.

The talk now about an Israeli withdrawal from parts of Jerusalem will bring us back to the Gaza Strip scenario.

First, no Palestinian will see such a step as a positive gesture on the part of Israel.

Second, why would anyone think that these neighborhoods will not fall into the hands of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the future?

That is exactly what happened in 2005, when Israel handed the Gaza Strip over to the Palestinian Authority, which later ran away, and handed it over to Hamas.

The timing of the proposed Israeli concessions is also highly problematic. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Ramallah-based government and associates are currently engaged in an unprecedented campaign of incitement against Israel.

They are continuing to spread venomous lies about Israel and incite their people to hate and violence. They are continuing to reward terrorists and their families for killing and maiming Jews. They are continuing to deny any Jewish history and connection to the land, and they are doing their utmost to delegitimize and demonize Jews.

Any Israeli concessions, particularly at this stage, will be interpreted by the Palestinians as a reward to Mahmoud Abbas and his crowd, who are not being required to give Israel anything in return.

Hardly a day passes without Abbas reminding us that he is not a partner for any peace agreement with Israel. Is it wise to reward Abbas now that he has exposed his true anti-Semitism? Is it appropriate to give Abbas a foothold in Jerusalem after he recently claimed that it was, according to him, the Jews’ behavior, and not anti-Semitism, that caused the Holocaust?

Is it appropriate and helpful to reward Abbas at a time when he is refusing to stop payments to Palestinian terrorists and their families?

Moreover, is it appropriate and helpful to reward Abbas and his Palestinian Authority at a time when they are continuing to incite their people against the US administration and its Jewish advisors, Jason Greenblatt, David Friedman and Jared Kushner? Does the Palestinian Authority deserve to be rewarded for its daily incitement against US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley?

There is a saying in Arabic: “They spit in his face but he calls it rain.”

Haven’t the Palestinians already dismissed President Trump’s plan as a “conspiracy aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause and national rights?” Why should the Trump administration give Abbas gifts at a time when he and his friends are boycotting US officials?

The Trump administration needs to understand that the Palestinians view the US as an enemy, not as a friend. Giving Abbas control over four Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem will not advance the cause of peace.

No Palestinian will take to the streets to express gratitude to Israel. Instead, they will take to the streets to intensify their terror attacks on Israel in the hope of extracting further concessions.

Abbas has proven that he is no different than his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. Like Arafat, he too does not recognize Jews’ right to the land, any land. Just look at any current map of “Palestine”: it is an exact duplicate of the map of Israel, but with the names of some cities changed.

Abbas does not aim for control over some areas just in Jerusalem. For Abbas, as for Arafat, Israel is one big settlement that needs to be removed. For him, in his own words, Israel is a “colonial project” that he claims has nothing to do with Judaism. For him, the Jews are nothing more than the greedy moneylenders, parodied in caricatures, who brought the Holocaust on themselves.

Is this a man who deserves to be rewarded? Is this a man who deserves to be brought into Jerusalem? Abbas, and not Israel, ought to be asked for concessions. He should stop denying and distorting Jewish history, he should stop rewarding Jew-killers; he should stop preaching hate to his people. That is the best path to peace.

 

[From an article written by Bassam Tawil for The Gatestone Institute.  Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.]

 

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NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
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President of Turkey now threatens to wipe out the Jews

Turkey's president threatens to wipe out the JewsObama has praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as “a man of action” and one of the five world leaders with whom he had the strongest bond. President Trump met with him at the White House last spring.

And certainly Erdogan has tried to portray himself to Western leaders as a pragmatist with whom they can work.

But at a convention of his ruling party Sunday, Erdogan invoked a Muslim hadith — a collection of the accounts and sayings of Muhammad — that made clear his view of Jews and the state of Israel, according to dissident Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt, the Investigative Project on Terrorism reported.

“Those who think they own Jerusalem better know that tomorrow they won’t be able to hide behind trees,” Erdogan said, according to Bozkurt.

That statement essentially is an affirmation of a prophecy that all Jews will one day be destroyed, the journalist said.

Bozkurt explained Erdogan was making “a veiled threat of killing each and every Jew with a shocking reference to apocalyptic prophecy of tree story.”

The Turkish leader was responding to President Trump’s decision last week to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to begin the process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Bozkurt said anti-Semitism has always been in the background in Turkish society, but this marks the first time Turkey’s head of government has publicly added fuel to it.

Last year, Erdogan shut down Bozkurt’s former newspaper, Today’s Zaman, which had Turkey’s largest circulation, IPT noted.

The full hadith that Erdogan referenced says:

The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.

Erdogan invoked the hadith during a Justice and Development Party gathering Sunday in which he also accused Israel of being a terrorist state.

Turkey, under Erdogan, has harbored and funded Hamas terrorists, provided covert support to ISIS and other jihadists in Syria, and bombed civilians belonging to his own Kurdish minority, IPT said.

IPT pointed out that the Turkish Youth Foundation, run by Erdogan’s son, Bilal, participated in anti-Israel and anti-U.S. rallies calling on Muslims to unite against Trump’s Jerusalem announcement.

On Friday, protesters in Istanbul chanted “Jerusalem is ours and will remain so!” along with “Down with America” and “Down with Israel.”

In May, as WND reported, Erdogan watched his security officials beat protesters outside Turkey’s embassy in Washington. Members of his security team also clashed with demonstrators in 2016 outside the Brookings Institution in Washington, where he was giving a speech.  Brookings issued a statement at the time saying the security team “behaved unacceptably — they roughed up protesters outside the building and tried to drag away ‘undesired’ journalists, an approach typical of the Russians or Chinese.”

WND reported many geopolitical analysts are concerned the NATO nation, once regarded as a potential member of the European Union, is being systematically transformed into an anti-Western power. Fifteen years into his rule, Erdogan is abandoning the secular tradition of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in favor of Islamic nationalism.

In April, Erdogan declared victory in a referendum to grant him sweeping powers in a vote opponents charged was marred by irregularities.

The measure, with 51.5 percent of the vote, replaced Turkey’s parliamentary system with an all-powerful presidency and abolished the office of prime minister.

A week before his visit to the U.S., Erdogan urged Muslims to swarm the Temple Mount to act as a counter to the “insult” of “occupied Jerusalem.”

He called Israel a “racist and discriminatory” state that is reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa.

Erdogan also met with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to work on “unifying efforts to protect Jerusalem against attempts of Judaization,” the independent Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

In December 2016, as WND reported, hacked emails released by WikiLeaks showed Erdogan’s son-in-law was tied to the company accused of importing oil from ISIS. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov previously told journalists in Moscow that Erdogan and his family were “involved” in ISIS’ illegal oil trade and personally benefiting from it.

Turkey also has been accused of training ISIS fighters and of providing direct support to ISIS.

‘Strong’ relationship

At the White House in May, President Trump and Erdogan described the relationship between the two countries as strong but avoided the differences over strategies for confronting ISIS in northern Syria.

The previous week, the Trump administration decided to supply heavy weapons to Syrian Kurdish rebel militias, the YPG, fighting ISIS. Turkey is in an ongoing battle with Kurdish separatists in its southeast.

The Turkish embassy claims the protesters at the embassy Tuesday were affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the leading Kurdish separatist group, which has been banned in Turkey.

Pastor Andrew BrunsonThe case of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been imprisoned in Turkey without formal charges since October 2016, was brought up three times during Trump’s meeting with Erdogan, twice by Trump and once by Vice President Mike Pence, CBN reported.

A former member of Turkey’s Parliament who has advocated for Brunson’s release, Aykan Erdemir, told CBN that Brunson, improbably accused of “membership in an armed terrorist organization,” is now “a pawn, kind of a trump card in Erdogan’s hand.  There’s absolutely no rule of law, no due process in that case, it’s a completely bogus case. Anyone who has looked at the case knows that these are trumped up charges,” he said.

 

[From an article published by WND]

 

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
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Saudi Arabia vows new Islamic alliance ‘will wipe terrorists from the earth’

New Arabian anti-terrorism alliance

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince vowed to “pursue terrorists until they are wiped from the face of the earth” as officials from 40 Muslim countries gathered in the first meeting of an Islamic counter-terrorism alliance.

“In past years, terrorism has been functioning in all of our countries… with no coordination” among national authorities, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi defense minister, said in his keynote address to the gathering in Riyadh.

“This ends today, with this alliance.”

The summit is the first meeting of defense ministers and other senior officials from the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, which officially counts 41 countries and identifies as a “pan-Islamic unified front” against violent extremism.

The alliance was announced in 2015 under the auspices of Prince Mohammed, whose rapid ascent since his appointment as heir to the throne in June has shaken the political scene across the region.  Sunday’s meeting comes as several military coalitions, including key Saudi ally the United States, battle to push the Islamic State group from its last remaining bastions in Iraq and Syria.

The alliance groups are largely, although not exclusively, in Sunni-majority or Sunni-ruled countries, and exclude Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival, Shiite-dominated Iran, as well as Syria and Iraq, whose leaders have close ties to Tehran.

Sunday’s meeting coincides with an escalation in tensions between Riyadh and Tehran, particularly over wars in Syria and Yemen and the political structure of multi-confessional Lebanon.  Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of supporting armed groups across the Middle East, including Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah and Yemen’s Huthi rebels.

“The pillar of this coalition is inclusion,” said Saudi General Abdulelah al-Saleh, the alliance’s acting secretary general, playing down the exclusion of the three countries.  “Our common enemy is terrorism, not any religion, sect or race.”

The alliance meeting in Riyadh brings together Muslim or Muslim-majority nations including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Uganda, Somalia, Mauritania, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen and Turkey.  Retired Pakistani general Raheel Sharif, who has been appointed commander-in-chief, insisted that the coalition was not against any religion or state.

The alliance aims to “mobilize and coordinate the use of resources, facilitate the exchange of information and help member countries build their own counter-terrorism capacity,” Sharif said.

While the alliance officially includes Qatar, which is the target of a six-month boycott led by Saudi Arabia, organizers in Riyadh said no Qatari officials were present at the meeting.  Qatar’s flag was also absent.  Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain abruptly cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June, accusing the emirate of being too close to Iran and supporting Islamist extremism.  Qatar denies the allegations.

Egypt, which sent a military official and not its defense minister to Sunday’s meeting, is reeling from a Friday attack on a mosque that killed more than 300 people during prayer time.

While ISIS has not claimed responsibility, Egyptian authorities say the organization is the main suspect as the mosque is associated with followers of the mystical Sufi branch of Sunni Islam, whom ISIS has branded heretics.

Prince Mohammed said Friday’s “painful event” was a reminder of the “danger of both terrorism and extremism”.  “Beyond the killing of innocent people and the spread of hatred, terrorism and extremism distort the image of our religion,” he said.

Since his sudden appointment as crown prince, Prince Mohammed has moved to consolidate power, announcing crackdowns on both terrorism and corruption.

 

[From an article published by Agence France Presse]

 

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normal@usa1usa.com
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Trump’s travel ban addressed real problems, but now we need to get it packaged correctly

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a nationwide temporary injunction on President Trump’s executive order relating to refugees and visas from seven Muslim-majority countries. The White House says it will not take the case to the Supreme Court, but is rather drafting a version of the executive order that administration officials believe will get past the courts. Perhaps. The unhappy reality is that the 9th Circuit Court’s decision and much of the debate surrounding the executive order partake not of logic and reason but rather issue from a form of politicized hysteria and judicial arrogance.

The 9th Circuit Court argued that “The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries [Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen] named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.”

The language is precise but the intention is false. “Alien” refers to an individual who is not a U.S. citizen, or U.S. national, or permanent resident alien, also known as a green-card holder. In 2011, two Iraqi nationals admitted as refugees, i.e. “aliens,” affiliated with al Qaeda and who fought against U.S. troops in Iraq, were arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky for plotting terrorist attacks in the United States, but did not manage to “perpetrate” one.

U.S dual-nationals, not aliens, from the seven states, as well as permanent resident aliens, have been involved in successful terrorist attacks and plots against the United States. Among others:

Abdul Razak Artan, a Somali refugee, and permanent resident alien, used his car and a knife to attack fellow students at the Ohio State University in December, 2016 before he was shot to death by police.

Anwar al-Awlaki was an American-born dual national with Yemeni citizenship who, according to Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, had a “direct operational role” in the “underwear bomber” plot against a Detroit-bound plane with 289 passengers aboard. Awlaki may also have played a part in the Fort Hood attack, which left 13 dead, and another 30 wounded. Awlaki was killed in a 2011 drone attack ordered by President Barack Obama.

Mansour Arbabsiar, a naturalized American citizen who was also an Iranian national, plotted together with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a Washington, D.C. restaurant. The operation would have likely resulted in mass casualties in the nation’s capital. In September 2013, Arbabsiar was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

It’s clear that nationals from the seven countries have waged, supported, or plotted terrorist attacks on American soil, but the point of the executive order isn’t to punish for past incidents, or else Saudi Arabia, for instance, would be included on the list due to the number of Saudi nationals involved in the 9/11 attacks. The point rather is to protect against future attacks. The reason those seven countries are listed is because they are either state sponsors of terror (Iran, Sudan, Syria), or have dysfunctional central governments or none at all (Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen), which make it more difficult to vet visa applicants with their home country.

Let’s widen the focus some. As I say, the purpose of the executive order is not to punish but to prevent future attacks in the United States. To show that the executive order is a bad mistake, the burden is on those who mean to show there is no evidence that nationals from the seven states have perpetrated acts of terror anywhere—like, for instance, in Europe.

German authorities have stopped a number of terrorist attacks plotted by Syrian refugees affiliated with ISIS, including an attack on a major transportation hub. In July 2016, a Syrian refugee killed a woman with a machete near Stuttgart. The same month, a Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up at a musical festival, injuring 15 people.

Clearly the vast majority of Muslim refugees mean to escape violence, not carry it with them to Europe. But ISIS has used the refugee crisis to disguise their operators and seed European networks. According to a Washington Post report from April 2016, “over the past six months, more than three dozen suspected militants who impersonated migrants have been arrested or died while planning or carrying out acts of terrorism.” Most notorious among them were members of the cell that waged multiple terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 that killed 137 and injured nearly 400. This, including an attack on the Bataclan music hall that killed 90, was only the most dramatic and violent of ISIS-inspired or ISIS-directed operations that have taken place in Europe since 2014. These include the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher attacks that killed 17, and the truck attack in Nice in July 2016 that killed 86 people, including 10 children, and injured 434.

And it’s not just ISIS that’s sending murderers to Europe among the refugees. Militiamen from Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia groups have relocated to the continent, as have war criminals who fought on behalf of Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad. Indeed, Iraq, Syria, and Iran have a long history of exploiting terror networks in Europe, especially in France. In other words, the problem is not simply that some bad people among the migrants are targeting Europe for terror attacks, but that Middle Eastern states are likely to infiltrate the refugee stream with operatives. Thus, states will not only continue their regional conflict with Europeans in the crossfire, but will also be able to shape European policy through blackmail. If you don’t want your charming cities blown up, and your citizens’ blood spilled in the streets, you better do as we say.

Was it a good idea for Europe to open its doors so widely to the problems that have turned the Middle East into a nightmare? Is Europe a better, more diverse place for admitting the sociopathic murderers who fought to defend Assad? What is the upside of importing the region’s issues, its wars and bloody conflicts? America has some portion of that experience. As former FBI director Robert Mueller told Congress in 2011 that among areas of “threat within the United States … relates to individuals going to Somalia to fight with al Shabab.” Indeed there’s a pipeline from Minnesota to Mogadishu that feeds the ranks of al Shabab, an al Qaeda affiliate, and now, NPR reported, ISIS.

There is no doubt that like the Somali community in Minnesota, the vast majority of Syrian asylum seekers, and visa applicants from the seven states listed, are decent and peaceful people who just want a chance to live, prosper, and raise their families outside a war zone. But the reason that America’s experience of the refugee crisis is different from Europe’s to date is largely because compared to the estimated one million-plus Syrian refugees now seeking asylum in Europe, America has received only a small fraction.

Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, the United States has admitted around 15,000 refugees—a little more than 2,000 until 2016, when the Obama administration opened the doors to 12,500 Syrian refugees. Given the small number of refugees the United States has admitted as compared to how many Europe has, the burden of proof is on those seeking to show that Europe’s experience is irrelevant to American national security.

Why wouldn’t the odds of ISIS members or Assad militiamen sneaking into the United States increase as the number of refugees increases? The screening process is deeply flawed. As one former Obama administration official working on the refugee vetting process told the Washington Post, it’s difficult to “determine something as basic as an applicant’s criminal history.” He continued: “We do the best with what we have… We talk to people about what their criminal histories are, and we hear about that. That’s pretty much where we are.”

That was in 2015. But in the last two years the vetting process has been fixed and all the holes patched—that’s what various experts and officials opposed to Trump’s executive order seem to be arguing. “The executive order reads,” one former U.S. official toldMother Jones, “as if the stringent measures that have been put in place over the past 15 years to screen refugees don’t exist.”

The time span of fifteen years is meant to point back to 9/11, but the reality is that while they are better now, there are still dangerous problems, noted by lawmakers and law enforcement officials, as recently as December. After the Ohio State attack, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley wrote to the Department of Homeland Security that the assailant’s family should have been vetted more carefully before they were granted refugee status.

After the Bowling Green case, U.S. officials admitted to problems with a screening process that let through two Iraqi terrorists. “This case demonstrates specific gaps that were present in the screening process that was in place in the beginning of the [Obama] administration,” one Department of Homeland Security Official told ABC News. “Once the administration became aware of these gaps, it took immediate steps to fill them. Today our vetting process considers a far broader range of information than it did in past years.”

It’s unfair to demand perfection from the agencies that protect American citizens, but they realize better than anyone that the vetting process is worse than imperfect. As FBI director James Comey told Congress in November 2015, “a number of people who were of serious concern” slipped through the screening of Iraq War refugees, including the two arrested on terrorism-related charges. “There’s no doubt,” said Comey, “that was the product of a less than excellent vetting.”

The Iraqis were caught because their fingerprints matched those collected by American troops in Iraq. The United States doesn’t have those capabilities in, say, Syria or Iran, nor do we have a relationship with the security services of those two State Department-designated state sponsors of terror that would allow American agencies to rely on the information they might provide. According to Comey, it’s not going to get much better regarding Syrian refugees. “If we don’t know much about somebody, there won’t be anything in our data,” the FBI director told Congress. “I can’t sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s no risk associated with this.”

That’s an honest assessment from an honorable public servant. Unfortunately, much of the expert commentary of late is not. Consider, for instance, why many terrorism experts and former officials argue that the executive order won’t help protect Americans at home. Some specialists, like Jessica Stern, tell us that in fact the executive order is “likely to make us less safe.” The EO, said Paul Pillar, a former official at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, “is not targeted at where the threat is, and the anti-Islam message that it sends is more likely to make America less safe.” How does it make America less safe? Former CIA analyst Nada Bakos explains that, “All it does is help [Islamic State] recruiting.” Yes, agrees ex-FBI agent Ali Soufan, “ISIS members and ISIS leaders, at least in their propaganda, have been calling President Trump and his ban and his recent policies a godsend.”

That those experts and former officials opposed to the executive order contend that suspending visas to Syrian refugees indefinitely and temporarily suspending issuing visas to nationals from seven states will turn some Muslims into terrorists seems to me counterproductive reasoning, to say the least. There are only two logical conclusions to be drawn from this argument—either the United States should impose a permanent and total ban of Muslims until the region stops producing quantities of young men who will kill others if they don’t get their way; or ISIS is entitled to a say in drafting America’s national security and policies.

Both are absurd, and the latter is suicidal. For instance, Hezbollah and Hamas both have narratives, too, with Israel at the center of their paranoid and gruesome worldviews. Should the United States stiff-arm Israel so as not to play into the Hezbollah and Hamas narrative? What happens in the aftermath of a terror attack on America? Should we then tailor our policies to suit the demands of terrorists lest they strike again? How about if ISIS won’t stop killing Americans until America admits numbers of refugees that are acceptable to ISIS?

You don’t get it, say the experts. We’re not trying to appease terrorists; we’re making war on them and Trump’s executive order is making it harder for us to work with regional partners, like the Iraqis. Fine, let the Iraqis throw out American troops. If the central government in Baghdad thinks it can tackle ISIS on its own, without American arms, training, special operations and air support, then we should pack up and go home. But they can’t, which is why it would be self-defeating to stop working with the United States.

The United States is campaigning against ISIS in order to assist states either incapable of doing it themselves, or unwilling to. Further, it keeps the organization on the defensive in the region so that it doesn’t wage attacks here at home. So, let’s suppose that Trump has every intention of keeping his promise to wage a massive campaign against ISIS. In response, ISIS will do everything it can to stop that operation, and take revenge, by attacking targets in the American homeland. Will ISIS try to sneak its operatives into the refugee stream? Have they done so already? The answer to both questions, based on the group’s behavior in Europe, is very likely. A Bataclan-like assault will be the least of it. Trump would be criminally irresponsible if he didn’t do everything in his power to reduce the chances of that effort being successful.

Barack Obama fought ISIS, albeit half-heartedly, for similar reasons. The fact that ISIS has turned a large swath of the Syrian desert into a caliphate is a tragedy for many Syrians and Iraqis, but has little bearing on American interests. However, he understood that a major ISIS attack on the United States would prove catastrophic for a presidency. Al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001 attacks consumed George W. Bush’s two terms in office, during which he waged two inconclusive wars in the Middle East. Obama didn’t want the same, and to cover as many bases as possible, he also kept out Syrian refugees, until 2016 when they were just about to become someone else’s problem.

It can hardly come as a surprise that Trump also wants to avoid a major terrorist attack on his watch, which happens to fit neatly with the description of the job the American public hired him for—to keep Americans safe. Thus the White House has reason to believe it can draft policies intended to protect the welfare of American citizens. Trump was elected to the presidency, and the courts were not. The idea that politically appointed judges are licensed and qualified to make decisions that have both national security and political implications is preposterous, without precedent in American law and practice, and dangerous.

Americans are entitled to an honest debate about immigration, the executive order, Syrian refugees, and how we might best balance our national security interests with humanitarian concern for the welfare of others as well as our wish to make our society better and stronger by welcoming those from around the world who share our most fundamental convictions as Americans. Would, for instance, those Syrian immigrants in flight from a mass murderer, and driven by industry, love of family, and love of their new country, make America a finer country? Do those Somali families whose sons go to Africa to wage war on behalf of an al Qaeda affiliate before returning to the Midwest make us a better nation?

We’re owed that debate. We voted for that much at least. The courts have no legal right, no prerogative to take it from us.

[By Lee Smith, writing for THE WEEKLY STANDARD]

 

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As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Middle East problem is very simple to understand…

 

As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

 

 

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A little heart-lifting story to end your week…

This was sent to us by one of our readers:

Last week I was in Atlanta , Georgia attending a conference. While I was in the airport returning home, I heard several people behind me beginning to clap and cheer.
I immediately turned around and witnessed one of the greatest acts of patriotism I have ever seen.

Moving through the terminal was a group of soldiers in their camos. As they began heading to their gate, everyone (well almost everyone) was abruptly to their feet with their hands waving and cheering.

When I saw the soldiers, probably 30 – 40 of them, being applauded and cheered for, it hit me. I’m not alone. I’m not the only red-blooded American who still loves this country and supports our troops and their families.

Of course, I immediately stopped and began clapping for these young unsung heroes who are putting their lives on the line everyday for us so we can go to school, work and home without fear or reprisal.

Just when I thought I could not be more proud of my country or of our service men and women, a young girl, not more than 6 or 7 years old, ran up to one of the male soldiers. He kneeled down and said ‘hi.’

The little girl then asked him if he would give something to her daddy for her.

The young soldier, who didn’t look any older than maybe 22 himself, said he would try and asked what she wanted to give to her Daddy. Then suddenly the little girl grabbed the neck of this soldier, gave him the biggest hug she could muster and then kissed him on the cheek.

The mother of the little girl, who said her daughter’s name was Courtney, told the young soldier that her husband was a Marine and had been in Iraq for 11 months now. As the mom was explaining how much her daughter Courtney missed her father, the young soldier began to tear up.

When this temporarily single mom was done explaining her situation, all of the soldiers huddled together for a brief second. Then one of the other servicemen pulled out a military-looking walkie-talkie. They started playing with the device and talking back and forth on it..

After about 10-15 seconds of this, the young soldier walked back over to Courtney, bent down and said this to her, ‘I spoke to your daddy and he told me to give this to you.’ He then hugged this little girl that he had just met and gave her a kiss on the cheek. He finished by saying ‘your daddy told me to tell you that he loves you more than anything and he is coming home very soon.’

The mom at this point was crying almost uncontrollably and as the young soldier stood to his feet, he saluted Courtney and her mom. I was standing no more than ten or twelve feet away from this entire event.

As the soldiers began to leave, heading towards their gate, people resumed their applause. As I stood there applauding and looked around, there were very few dry eyes, including my own. That young soldier in one last act of selflessness, turned around and blew a kiss to Courtney with a tear rolling down his cheek.

We need to remember everyday all of our soldiers and their families and thank God for them and their sacrifices. At the end of the day, it’s good to be an American.

RED FRIDAYS —– Very soon you will see a great many people wearing red every Friday. The reason? Americans who support our troops used to be called the Silent Majority. We are no longer going to be silent, and we are also going to voice our love for God, country, and home in record-breaking numbers.

We are not organized, boisterous or over-bearing. We get no liberal media coverage on TV, to reflect our message or our opinions. Many American, like you, me and all our friends, simply want to recognize the vast majority of Americans who support our troops.

Our idea of showing solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect continues each and every Friday until the troops all come home, sending a deafening message that every red-blooded American who supports our men and women afar will wear something red.

By word of mouth, press, TV — let’s make the United States on every Friday a sea of red much like a homecoming football game with a crowd of red-clothed fans in the bleachers.

If every one of us who loves this country will share this with acquaintances, co-workers, friends, and family. It will not be long before the USA is covered in RED and it will let our troops know the once ‘silent’ majority is on their side more than ever; certainly more than the media lets on.

The first thing a soldier says when asked ‘What can we do to make things better for you?’ is…We need your support and your prayers.

Let’s get the word out and lead with class and dignity, by example: WEAR SOMETHING RED EVERY FRIDAY!

WE LIVE IN THE LAND OF THE FREE ONLY BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE. THEIR BLOOD RUNS RED…SO WEAR RED AS A REMINDER TO SUPPORT AND PRAY FOR THEM!  MAY GOD HELP AMERICA TO BECOME ONE NATION UNDER GOD AGAIN.

 

As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis
normal@usa1usa.com
612.239.0970

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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