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Kurds with Russian Support Cross Turkey’s “red lines” in Syria

The Munich Communique reached by 20 countries last week imposed a cessation of hostilities by the opposing forces in the Syrian civil war with its mounting death toll. It has been breached by Erdogan, Russian backed Assad regime forces and their allies, Iran and proxy Hezbollah. The latter have successfully blocked Syrian opposition forces in both Latakia and Aleppo provinces. There are enough holes in the Agreement to permit freedom of action by Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

This weekend   brought news concerning Turkey’s cross border shelling of Syrian Kurdish YPG/PYD forces with Russian air support violating Erdogan’s “red line” crossing the Euphrates and seizing another strategic  air field.  This occurred despite Obama’s Special Middle East envoy in the war against the Islamic State (IS),  Brett Mc Gurk, meeting with Syrian Kurdish YPG/PYD forces in Syria and Vice President Biden’s meeting with Erdogan and Premier Davutoglu in Ankara last week.  Erdogan considers the YPG/PYD forces as an extension of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) that Turkey, the EU and US consider as a ‘terrorist group”. This despite his breaking a cease fire agreement with PKK head Abdullah Ocalan under house arrest.  Erdogan’s security forces have a real battle on their hands in predominately Kurdish Southeastern Turkey trying to subdue stubborn urban resistance, a change from the 30 year war with Turkey’s Kurds. The advent of a Kurdish party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, the HDP, in the Ankara parliament, that Erdogan has endeavored to isolate but failed to vanquish. is a reflection of the growing Kurdish minority flexing its political strength.

These developments in both Syria and Turkey underline the Administration’s virtual abdication of the countervailing power vacuum in the Middle East that Putin has seized possibly bolstering the regional Kurdish aspirations for a long sought independent resource rich state.  This might be viewed as further pushback against the Islamist AKP regime of Turkey’s Erdogan.  All of these developments arose following Turkey’s shoot down of a Russian SU -24 bomber in October 2015 and dramatic break off in relations and joint economic projects between Russia and Turkey. Now, there are rumblings from Russian Prime Minister Medvedev in an interview indicated that the rising conflict with Turkey might possibly lead to “new Cold War era.”  Frederica Mogherini, EU Foreign Relations Commissioner downplayed that saying she had seen any evidence of that  in the last few days. Meanwhile both Poland and the Baltic States aren’t so sanguine. Turkey is a NATO member which can invoke an Article in the Charter of the mutual defense group requiring all members to come to its aid should there be an alleged attack by Russia.

Note this background  in a EUobserver report, “Turkey clashes with allies over attack on Syria Kurds:”

France and the US have urged NATO ally Turkey to stop firing on Kurdish groups in Syria, putting at risk a new “cessation of hostilities” accord.

The French foreign ministry appealed on Sunday (14 February) for an “immediate halt to bombardments, by the [Syrian] regime and its allies in the whole country, and by Turkey in Kurdish zones”.

It added that the “absolute priority is the implementation of the Munich communique” – a deal to pause fighting agreed by almost 20 states at a security congress in Munich last week.

The White House said US vice president Joe Biden had made a similar appeal to Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu by phone on Saturday.

“The vice president noted US efforts to discourage Syrian Kurdish forces from exploiting current circumstances to seize additional territory near the Turkish border, and urged Turkey to show reciprocal restraint by ceasing artillery strikes in the area,” it said.

Brett McGurk, a US special envoy on the fight against Islamic State (IS), said on Twitter: “We have … seen reports of artillery fire from the Turkish side of the border and we have urged Turkey to cease such fires.”

Turkey warns Kurds have crossed its red lines in Syria:

The appeals came after Turkish howitzers shelled Kurdish PYD and YPG groups in northern Syria, killing dozens of people, after Kurdish fighters, helped by Russian air strikes, seized territory including the Menagh air base near the Turkish border.

The US and EU powers see the Kurdish militias as allies in the fight against IS. But Turkey says they are a branch of the PKK, a Kurdish group designated by the US and EU as a terrorist entity, which has been fighting a 30-year insurgency against Turkish authorities.

The Turkish leadership has refused to back down.

Davutoglu told German chancellor Angela Merkel over the phone on Sunday that his forces “gave the necessary response and will continue to do so”, according to his office.

He added that the PYD-YPG offensive was aimed “not just at Turkey but also the European Union” and that it would prompt a “new wave of hundreds of thousands of refugees” from Syria.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking in Munich to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, urged the US and EU to back safe zones for refugees inside Syria if they wanted to stem the flow of people.

Turkey’s deputy PM, Yalcin Akdogan, told the Kanal 7 TV broadcaster:.

“The YPG crossing west of the Euphrates is Turkey’s red line.”

The comments follow strident words by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week, who told the US: “Are you together with us, or are you with the PYD and YPG terror groups?

The February NER featured a discussion with Dan Diker and Shoshana Bryen  about what motivated Putin’s entry into Syria,Russian Intervention in Middle East Conflicts .” One is the ability to attack radical Sunni Islamists; the other is achievement of  Russian national  security and economic interests. Further,  as pointed  out the alliance with Iran and proxy Hezbollah is tentative at best.

Obama in his final year in office has abdicated the traditional Sunni alliances creating a power vacuum via the rapprochement with Islamist Iran to achieve a fragile equilibrium in the Middle east.   Putin allegedly has no intentions of threatening Israeli national security on its northern frontier or engaging in support of Palestinian aspirations.

The Russian  aerial assault on Turkmen and rebel Sunni forces supported by Turkey and  Saudi Arabia in Syria’s north sealing off  Sunni rebel opposition groups and supporting  Syrian Kurds is also part of Russian strategic moves in the region.   It threatens Erdogan’s and US aspirations of creating a no fly zone to stem the tide of further Sunni Muslim refugee  flight to Turkey and hence to Europe. It may also enable the closure of the remaining gap in the northern frontier of Syria between the autonomous Kurdish enclaves of Rojava and Afrin. This would cut off the open border through which foreign Sunni jihadis and smuggled oil and other trade with Turkey from ISIS has poured. Erdogan is also under enormous economic pressure given Russian economic sanctions and the suspension of the gas pipeline deal struck in 2014.

Erdogan has euchred baksheesh in billions of Euros from the EU to stop Muslim migration to no avail. Erdogan blusters about invading Syria to block irredentist Kurdish aspirations in Syria while conducting an inflammatory counterterrorism campaign against stubborn Kurdish resistance in the urban centers of the country’s Kurdish dominant Southeast. Putin is poised to support Kurdish autonomy aspirations on both sides of the Syrian/Turkish border as leverage against Erdogan.

That would enable the Syrian Kurdish forces to vanquish Sunni rebel and ISIS forces in Syria’s north blocking the Islamic state. This offensive operation might set the stage for a massive Russian aerial campaign against the Caliphate. That is something the US led coalition has failed to achieve because of the Administration’s rules of engagement and failure to supply both Iraqi Peshmerga and Syrian Kurdish forces with heavy arms. Thus, Putin is using his playbook from the seizure of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine in the Middle East. Russia is fast becoming the strong horse that Israel, the Gulf Sunni States and the Saudis must come to some form of accommodation.  Netanyahu’s trip to Moscow in September 2015 enabled the Jewish nation to exercise its sovereign national security interests attacking Iranian supply of strategic arms to proxy Hezbollah. Netanyahu’s security concerns on his northern frontiers are complicated with Russian support of Assad operations aimed at retaking Daraa in the country’s south not far from the Golan frontier with Israel.  That might raise the possibility of Iranian Basij paramilitaries and Quds Force based along the Syrian side of the Golan threatening cross border terrorist actions. That would add to the mix of threats there including al Nusra and ISIS units.

This is the 21st Century version of the classic great game that Czarist Russia played in the 19th Century against imperial Britain in Russia’s march to the Far east and Pacific that failed to achieve warm water ports in the Mediterranean and South Asia.  See:  Peter Hopkirk’s, The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia.

The difference in the 21st Century is that Putin has his warm water bastions in the naval and air bases he has built on the Mediterranean coast of the Alawite Latakia province in Syria.

As to the blustering statements made by Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump during primary debates suggesting a strategic alliance between Russia and the US in the Middle East, that awaits the outcomes of the fractious nomination process for both the Republican and Democratic parties in the run up to the 2016 elections in the US. Suffice to say 2016 exemplifies the ancient Chinese curse. May you live in interesting times.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Kurdish YPG fighters: Seen as allies by the US and EU, but as PKK-linked terrorists by Turkey. Photo: Kurdishstruggle.

Russian Intervention in Middle East Conflicts

In the waning months of the Obama Administration, its lack of effective leadership in the war against the Islamic State and the civil war in Syria created a potentially dangerous power vacuum. The White House was pre-occupied with concluding a UN-endorsed pact, hoping to rein in Iran’s quest for a nuclear capability – a capability that a number of analysts have concluded it may already have. Purported cooperative development may have been behind North Korea’s fourth nuclear test since 2006 on January 6, 2016. While official propaganda from Pyongyang suggested that the test involved elements of a possible fusion or hydrogen bomb, a few astute observers suggested it might have been a so-called boosted fission weapon. It was likely a nuclear warhead for a missile. Iran has derived test data and been a customer for North Korea’s missile technology. Iran violated UN sanctions and JCPOA bans against missile tests with the launch of two precision guided missiles in the Persian Gulf in October and November 2015. In late December, Iranian Revolutionary Guards naval forces staged a live fire missile exercise provocatively firing less than 1,500 yards from the USS carrier Harry S. Truman, accompanying destroyer, the USS Bulkley and a French frigate.

Mahdist Iran had endeavored to assert its hegemony in the Middle East encircling Saudia Arabia and the Sunni Gulf States by supplying Revolutionary Guards and proxy Hezbollah forces in support of the beleaguered Assad regime in Syria. Further, Iran had lent Quds force leadership to provide technical assistance to Iraqi Shia militias in the conflict with the Islamic State in Iraq. Both countries had squared off in Yemen with Iran supporting the Shia Houthi rebels while Saudi forces supported the overthrown government. These roiling geo-political conflicts between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two major oil producers in the Gulf Region, came to a flash point in early January 2016. The Saudi Wahabbist regime in Riyadh summarily executed a long held dissident Shia Imam. That provoked a torching of its Embassy in Tehran by Basij paramilitaries loyal to Ayatollah Khamenei.

These actions resulted in a break off of diplomatic relations between these two Islamic countries. Both propound extremist Qur’anic doctrine and interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) that have origins in the contending meta-narratives of the Muslim prophet Mohammed’s succession. The Shia in Tehran contend that the rightful inheritor of Islam’s jihad should have been the prophet’s son-in-law Ali, killed at the battle of Karbala in what is now Iraq. The Sunni Wahabbists in Riyadh contend the rightful successor to be one of the early Caliphs and companions of Mohammed, Abu Bakr.

It is not without precedent that former Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi chose that name when he declared the Islamic State during of the Civil War in Syria. Al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State put out the call to the global sunni ummah, gathering more than 30 to 40,000 foreign fighters and settlers to experience seventh century pure Islam in a renewed jihad to restore the Caliphate. That jihad created a virtual state the size of Britain that burst the borders between Syria and Iraq armed with US and Russian weapons captured from fleeing Syrian and Iraqi forces. The Islamic State has its own Sharia law courts, and a treasury filled with plundered gold and cash. These are funds from sales of smuggled oil, jizya taxes collected from conquered subjects and human trafficking of enslaved religious minorities like the Yazidis and Christians in Iraq and Syria.

The barbarous beheadings and crucifixions of infidels were grisly props for the Islamic State prompting millions of refugees and internally displaced persons to flee to sanctuaries in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. One million of those refugees from the hot spots across the Muslim Ummah made treacherous crossings of the Mediterranean. They burst the borders of the open Schengen system in a new Dar al Hijrah immigration wave deepening the Islamization of Eurabia. Among that stream of asylees were ISIS foreign fighters who became shahids, martyrs, in the November 13, 2015 Paris massacres that claimed the lives of 130 and hundreds of injured innocent civilians at open air cafes, a music hall and outside a soccer stadium. Less than a week later the Belgian-born ISIS commander and other jihadis who participated in the attack were killed in a shootout with French police swat teams in a Paris suburb. Now we have the release of an ISIS video showing the nine attackers beheading hostages and training for the Paris attacks orchestrated by the Islamic State.

Into the cockpit of the Syrian civil war in September 2015 came Russian President Putin. He sent Russian forces to establish airbases and launch air assaults against Syrian opposition forces from the Alawite bastion of Latakia with its Mediterranean naval base. Putin, fresh from his adventures in both Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, entered the fray to prop up Russian interests in Syria and President Assad. The downing of a Russian Metro-jet flight on October 31, 2015, in an alleged terrorist bombing by an Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, resulted in the deaths of 224 civilians and air crew aboard. The Islamic State propaganda machine claimed responsibility for the bombing. That resulted in extending Russian air assaults to target the Islamic State, especially its administrative capital of Raqaa in Syria.

However, it was the downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber by a Turkish F-16 jet fighter on November 24, 2015, ordered by Turkish President Erdogan that ratcheted up the geo-political conflicts in the Middle East. The Russian plane had purportedly penetrated Turkish airspace for less than 20 seconds. The Russian flight had targeted Syrian Turkmen opposition forces in the border region with Turkey. Putin called Erdogan’s action “a stab in the back” and would not accept his “apology.” Putin promptly cut off diplomatic contact imposing sanctions on significant trade between the two countries. That included Putin suspending construction of a $12 billion pipeline deal with Erdogan. Erdogan had clearly miscalculated. That sent Erdogan scrambling to replace it with Israeli offshore gas from its Mediterranean fields amid talks about renewing diplomatic relations cut off after the Mavi Marmara Free Gaza flotilla incident in 2010.

Putin put out word to Syrian Kurdish YPG-led forces that it would provide air support by establishing an air field at Qumishli in the Kurdish enclave of Rojava in northeastern Syria. The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces captured a key Euphrates River Dam in late December 2015. It was given offers from the Russians of air support to assist it in closing the Turkish border to join up with the western enclave of Afrin. The Turks in turn began military preparations on their side of the border. Erdogan is engaged in an internal operation against the YPG affiliated Turkish Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), that Turkey, the EU and we have designated a terrorist organization.

Putin Netanyahu Moscow September 2015

Russian President Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Moscow September 2015.

That left the Israelis, concerned about Al Qaeda, Iran proxy Hezbollah and ISIS ranging on all of its borders. Of special concern is the threat on Israel’s Northern border with Lebanon and Syria, but also its Southern border with ISIS affiliates in the Egyptian Sinai. Israeli PM Netanyahu and several top military and security aides flew to Moscow on September 21, 2015 to establish a mutual understanding with Putin over national security issues in Syria. Israel would continue to attack shipments by Syria and Iran to the latter’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah. Putin has no agenda involving Israel. Netanyahu was immediately concerned with a low-intensity terror war waged daily since September 2015 by Palestinians and some Israeli Arabs allegedly incited by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian and Israeli Arab violence has claimed 28 Israeli, US and foreign migrants dead and dozens injured from knifings, car rammings and shootings. 149 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security. In one troubling case, in January 2016, an Israeli Arab using a semi-automatic weapon at a Tel Aviv café killed three persons. He fled the scene and was eventually tracked by Israeli security forces to his home area in Northern Israel and killed.

On the weekend of January 17, 2016, the UN nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, announced that Iran had complied with the JCPOA declaring the start of Implementation. President Obama released to Iran upwards of $100 billion in impounded Iranian oil revenues held in several foreign banks. As a result of a 14 month long secret negotiation, four Americans hostage and an American student were released in exchange for clemency for seven Iranians, six, dual US citizens and one Iranian national. They were convicted or charged with engaging in illicit procurement of sensitive technology. Subsequently it was revealed that $1.7 billion had been wired to Tehran in what Congressional critics called a “ransom payment.” In the week prior to these dramatic developments, 10 US sailors and their Riverine command boats wereseized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ naval forces and held for 24 hours on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf waters controlled by Iran.

Against this background, we convened another in the series of 1330 AM WEBY international Middle East Round Tables with Daniel Diker, a Fellow and Project Director for Political Warfare at the Jerusalem Center for Public affairs, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and Shoshana Bryen, senior director at the Washington, DC-based Jewish Policy Center.

Michael Bates

Michael Bates:  Good afternoon and welcome to Your Turn. This is Bates. We are doing our special periodic International Roundtable about what is going on in the Middle East and I have joining me in the studio, Gordon, Senior Editor of the New English Review and its blog, The Iconoclast. Welcome, Jerry.

Jerry Gordon

Jerry Gordon:  Glad to be back, Mike.

Bates:  Joining us by telephone, Shoshana Bryen, Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center in Washington. Shoshana, welcome back.

Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen:  Thank you.

Bates:  And, from Jerusalem, Israel, Dan Diker, head of the Political Warfare Program at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a columnist forThe Jerusalem Post. Diker, welcome.

Dan Diker

Dan Diker:  Shalom to you and Florida from Jerusalem.

Bates:  Shalom. Question, I’ll open with you, Dan. What is the security situation in Israel right now? I’m reading a lot about more of daily attacks, shootings and stabbings, I don’t want to say small time because if you’re the victim it is pretty significant. But, it doesn’t appear from this vantage point in any way that it is a full blown intifada with suicide explosives going on. What are you seeing in Israel right now?

Diker:  Mike, it is a very good lead in to the question because the signs are not pointing to a third intifada which in Arabic means “uprising.” These are “Lone Wolf Attacks” that are suggestive of network terrorism. The kind of terrorism that we saw in Paris recently. However, most of the attacks here have been stabbings or car terrorism – running over victims with cars. We finally saw in the last week and a half a meaningful shift in the type of sophistication of attacks. One Israeli Arab terrorist was neutralized by Security Forces just a few days ago, after they took a little over a week to find him up in Northern/North Central Israel. His methodology was suggestive of ISIS and Al-Qaeda in that he wore a black outfit and his shooting attack was very reminiscent of what we saw in some of the Paris attacks. This type of attack had enormous cognitive echo effect frightening Israelis throughout the entire country. The fear factor was rather extraordinary because security forces could not find him for seven days which was quite unusual for Israel. I do think that last week’s shooting attack on Dizengoff Street, which is one of the main streets in Tel Aviv, was a concern of people here because it is rather easy for people to get their hands on an M-16 or another automatic weapon and just fire indiscriminately as he did into a Tel Aviv bar. So, that has really created concern, deep concerns here, and has had a profound psychological effect on the population. Overall, bottom line though, Mike, terrorism is at a reasonable level, even though it sounds strange to say that. It is not at a front burner level, the flames are not super high, Security forces, as well as citizens legally carrying firearms, especially in Jerusalem and in the Gush Etzion have done a good job in killing terrorists when they try to stab Israeli children, men and women. So, things are at a reasonable level. The psychological effect though has been stronger following the last shooting attack in Tel Aviv.

Bates:  If these attacks are being done by Lone Wolf operatives, how can the Israel security forces predict or prevent them because it’s not like they are intercepting communications from the conspiracy. It’s all in the guy’s head. So, does that complicate things?

Diker:  It certainly does. In fact, this type of Lone Wolf network terrorism is very difficult for Security Forces to use traditional lines of Intelligence in order to snuff this out and prevent it before it happens. There are strong signs that Hamas has been directly involved in the planning and in the directing of some of these attacks, not the majority, but Security Forces and Intelligence Services have been focusing on what it requires to address this type of terrorism.  What it requires is very quick reaction on the part of Israelis in the street. If you come to Jerusalem, you will see the epicenter of the 240 attacks in the last 3 1/2 months. I would say well over 200 have been in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. I’m actually speaking to you directly from Gush Etzion, which is a bedroom community of Jerusalem. Here, there have been 20 to 25 attacks within five minutes from where I live in the very intersection where people go to fill up their cars with gas or take their children to schools. I take my daughters to school there every day and there you can see soldiers from very top units stationed about 15 feet, one from the other around a traffic circle. People here are legally able to carry firearms as you have thousands of people in Jerusalem. It really requires this quick type of response because traditional Intelligence-top down Intelligence – is not quite as effective against this type of terrorism.

Bates:  Are the perpetrators of these attacks Arab Israeli citizens. Clearly they’re not coming from Samaria and Judea through the wall, right?

Diker:  There is a breakdown of the 240 attacks. The majority have been Palestinian Arabs from areas in the West Bank, in Judea and Samaria

Bates:  Oh, okay.

Diker:  Where Jews and Arabs live together, they are on the Israeli side of the security barrier; however, others of them are Palestinians. There are some 100,000 Palestinians from the Palestinian controlled areas of the West Bank that cross into Israel every day to earn 2-3 times from the Israeli employers what they would be earning from their Palestinian Authority employers. That illustrates the kind of risk that Israel is still prepared to take upon itself in order to ease Palestinian area employment problems. They still allow 100,000 Palestinian workers to come into Israel every day and some of those have been found to be knife terrorists. Others of them have been Jerusalem Arabs who are not citizens of the State.  However, they receive all of the social benefits of Israel Arabs although they live in Jerusalem in areas that have not yet been decided whether they will become Israeli citizens or whether they will stay under Palestinian Authority control. The minority of these attacks has come from Arab Israeli citizens and there is a real question as to why. Many believe that the vast majority of Israeli Arabs are loyal to the State of Israel. They want to work and get ahead and send their children to good schools and flourish in the democratic Jewish State of Israel. That is the way things are looking right now.

Gordon:  Shoshana, Prime Minister Netanyahu made an announcement this week regarding the fact that he wants the rule of law for one state and not two peoples. What did he mean by that and what kind of initiatives did he announce?

Bryen:  Actually I’m going to send most of that question back to Dan who deals it on a more day to day basis. Essentially what the Prime Minister said was for Israeli Arabs and for Israeli Jews, you have one national grouping and you need one set of laws. There is a concern in Israel that Israeli Arabs are often held to a lesser legal standard than Jews. You see it most definitely in the housing field. The Israeli Arabs build houses without legal Israeli Government permits and, these are people who are full citizens of the State. They ignore the laws that they don’t care to obey. This kind of general lawlessness, this ability to say that I don’t have to follow the laws of the State gives rise to people who will either attack Jews or in some other way undermine the State. The Prime Minister was saying, “One people, one national people, one set of laws.”  As Jews are held to a standard, Arabs have to be held to the same standard inside the State of Israel.

Gordon:  Dan, do you have a response to that?

Diker:   I think that Shoshana makes the basic point in a very distinct, eloquent manner. I think that the context here is there has been an unspoken agreement from the Israeli Government to agree not to enforce certain laws for Arab Israeli citizens for fear that would cause unrest. For fear that it would exacerbate a sensitive situation where their identities in some cases are split. They are subject to incitement to murder and violence by the Palestinian authority. Some 20 to 30 Israeli Arabs have gone off to fight the global jihads in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. There is a sense here that the Israeli Government would not enforce (to the same severity) domestic law and criminal law that they would for Israeli citizens of Jewish and other backgrounds. Netanyahu was basically trying to do a reset, especially in the aftermath of this terrible shooting in Tel Aviv which was perpetrated by an Israeli Arab from a family that, on one hand had cooperated with the Israeli Authorities. His father and family had been good citizens of Israel. On the other hand, what the authorities have discovered in the aftermath of the shooting is that the terrorist received a great deal of assistance from his extended family, cousins, uncles and others as well as neighbors where he lived in the North. So there is this sense by Netanyahu and the government that they want to do a reset and stay with one law for one state and this is something that echoed with the Bedouins in the South which have been in many cases as lawless as some of the Arab Israeli citizenry, in the North. This is a real attempt to clear the table and say look, we are one state, different culture, but it’s one law. This is democracy and it’s a state of law, a country of laws and it will be enforced equally. It was also a message to the Arab Israeli leadership in the Knesset, which has been extraordinarily irresponsible in representing local constituencies. The Arab Israeli leadership traditionally, certainly in the last 25 years could be deemed an extension of the Palestinian National Movement in the West Bank. This was also a call to them to try to bring them onto the same page as the law enforcement agencies and the government.

Gordon:  Shoshana, the Russians are having more and more involvement in the Middle East. What are they up to?

Bryen:  The Russians have two goals in the region. One is to keep their warm water port and their naval base at Latakia and the other is to kill Sunni jihadists. In order to pursue both of those goals, they need to keep the central Syrian state alive as long as possible and that means allying with Bashar al-Assad. It also means that they ally secondarily with Hezbollah and Iran. However, Russian relations with Hezbollah and Iran are not those of allies. They are those of people that work together because they need the same sorts of things at the moment. Russia is hardly tied at all to Hezbollah and is only marginally tied to Iran. They have been very careful. For example, what they sell to Iran. They announce big stuff but they sell small stuff. What the Israelis have been able to do is talk to the Russians about Israeli red lines in Syria. I don’t mean water colored pink lines like the Obama Administration has. We are talking about serious Israeli red lines of which there are two. One is that there will be no Iranians or Hezbollah on the Syrian side of Golan Heights and the other is that there are certain weapons that will not be permitted to go to Hezbollah. Those are the red lines. The Russians seem to have respected them to date. The killing of Samir Kuntar (a terrorist convicted in Israel for the murder of a four-year-old girl and her father) was because he was working on terrorist activity that would emanate from the Golan and reach into Israel-and the Israelis said, “No, that’s not acceptable, he has to go.” There are reports right now that Hezbollah is receiving more sophisticated weapons from Russia than the Israelis would permit. However, if you trace those reports back to their sources, the sources are all Hezbollah. Hezbollah says, “We are getting laser guided missiles and we’re getting sophisticated weapons and we’re getting them directly from Russia.” For the moment at least, I cannot find an independent source that suggests that is true. What you really have is the Russians laid down their markers, having determined what is important to them, and they are carrying that out with a variety of countries including Israel.

Bates:  Shoshana, the Russians clearly want to keep Bashar al-Assad in power and the policy of the American Government is regime change. Those obviously cannot coexist at the same time. Are we potentially going to have to confront the Russians over Syria?

Bryen:  I’m not sure that the American position is any longer that al-Assad has to go. It used to be that we told him to be a “reformer.” Then we told him to step down: ”We want you to go right now.” Then we armed people to try to take him out. Now we have told the Russians, in the context of a political conversation al-Assad will have to make a promise to go at some point. The Russian position is not that firm either. The Russian position is that someday there will be an election in Syria and perhaps in the context of an election in Syria perhaps al-Assad will go. So, nobody is saying that al-Assad stays permanently. Both sides are edging their way toward a mechanism that could separate al-Assad from the seat of power in Damascus.

Bates:  The Russians clearly have an interest with that warm water port in Syria on the Mediterranean. Whoever replaces al-Assad, the Russians are going to want him to be friendly to them.

Bryen:  Yes, of course. By the way, that is not something to which the United States can very well object. We have ports all over the world. If the Russians’ goal is to keep the port, the Russians care less who sits in Damascus than whoever sits in Damascus will allow them to maintain the port they need. We shouldn’t object to that.

Gordon:  Interesting question for you both. How does Russia support the Kurds who are allies of the United States in Syria and also support the Kurds in Turkey?

Bryen:  Russians have to support the Kurds in Turkey at least nominally because the Russians and the Turks are not on good terms at the moment. Anything that irritates the Turks is good from the Russian point of view so they support the Kurds. There seems to be a difference with the Kurds in Syria because the Kurds in Syria are among the best fighters in Syria. At the moment, they don’t bother the Russians but there is no reason for the Russians to support them, either.

Bates:  Shoshana, you said the Russians and the Turks are not on good terms right now. How would you describe the terms that the United States and the Turks are on?

Bryen:  Terrible, actually. Erdogan came into office in Turkey with the policy called “No Problem with the Neighbors.” By this he meant no problem with Syria, no problem with Iran, no problem with Israel. No problem with anybody. He was going to be friends with everybody. When that was true, Turkey’s economy took off and he looked like the great hero of the Middle East. He has today, poor relations with all of his neighbors, very bad relations with the Russians and very bad relations with us.

Bates:  Those relations with the Russians of course were made worse by the recent shooting down of the Russian jet ostensibly over Syria. The map I saw indicated that the Russian fighter was over Syria for probably less time that it takes time to introduce yourself, a few seconds at most, but it was in fact shot down and one of the pilots killed. Right?

Bryen:  Yes.

Bates:  So, what has the fallout been from that?

Bryen:  The biggest piece of fallout has been the suspension of a pipeline called Turkey Stream that the Russians were building. It was a 12 billion dollar project that was going to bring Russian gas to Turkey and into other European countries. The Russians have put it on hold. The Turks did not expect that. That is one of the reasons they turned to Israel. They are concerned now that they will not have access to Russian gas in the future. Where does Erdogan go? He looks at Israel and says, “Can we have yours please?” The Israelis are handling this very cautiously.

Bates:  Dan, what are you seeing?

Diker:  I just wanted to add an additional point that the way we understand and hear the Obama Administration had pursued Erdogan and Turkey quite aggressively in its first Administration. That things have gotten sour has been a major source of frustration to the Obama Administration because the White House had really made overtures to Turkey to be the new emerging power. The political Islam, or Muslim Brotherhood based government that Erdogan leads today was looked at by the Obama Administration as the model for his new Middle East. The fact is that Turkey is having its difficulties with Washington as they are with Russia.

Bates:  Dan you were addressing the Israeli/Turkish relationship. Please finish that thought.

Diker:  Yes for the first time since 2010, the Turks and the Israelis have instead kissed and made up to a certain degree. Trade is at an all time high, military cooperation has continued and it seems that the Turks are looking to balance their interests. They don’t like what they see around them and in terms of Iran and because of Russian involvement in Syria on Turkey’s border. They look at the Israelis as sharing of some of their views vis-a-vis the Iranian threat.

Gordon:  Dan, why did Erdogan virtually crawl back to Israel after five years of suspended relations over the Mavi Marmara Free Gaza Flotilla event in May of 2010?

Diker:  At that particular time, Turkey was pressing a lot of buttons around Hamas trying to assert itself, you know, as an emerging hegemon in the region, opposite Iran. In a region in which Arab states were collapsing left and right every time you turned around. Today, Turkey’s fortunes have changed. They look at the Assad regime on their border, they look at Iran crawling through the Middle East and funding, directing, and arming a Shiite terror group. They look at the United States as conducting outreach to the Iranian regime. They see a nuclear weapon problem coming from Iran. They see a serious regional terror spread from Iran. I think that Erdogan as Shoshana mentioned, has difficulties with the United States. I think they have agreed to re-engage with the Israelis. I will say it may not be that Erdogan will make a state trip to Israel or that Netanyahu will make a state trip to Ankara. Clearly there is a lot more cooperation than there was six years ago.

Gordon:  Shoshana, the world has been stunned by the sectarian divide, almost an abyss between the Wahabbist Saudis and the Mahdist Shia in Tehran. How is that going to impact on the Russians and the U.S.?

Bryen:  It shouldn’t be surprising because Saudi Arabia is the chief funder of Sunni jihad. The biggest fear the Russians have is Sunni jihad because it happened in their country. The Saudis turned the Chechen War in Russia from a nationalist war – the first war – into a religious war – the second war – in the earlier part of this century. So, the Russians and the Saudis really despise one another. The Saudis for a long time now maintained a strategy of pumping lots of oil. They pumped oil to maintain their market share and drop the price. Dropping the price drives the Russians crazy because the Russians have nothing to sell but oil and gas. They’re not a sophisticated country; they’re not a first world economy. The Iranians, the Russians and the Venezuelans, by the way, have been driven crazy by Saudi policy. The Russians needed oil to be $119 a barrel to balance their budget. Last year Moscow admitted that it reconfigured the budget using $85 a barrel of oil. Oil is right now is at $30 a barrel.

Bates:  I think it’s actually below $30.

Bryen:  Let’s say that it doubles because the price is going to go up at some point and it goes back up to $70, it’s still not enough. So the Russians hate Saudis. That has largely been missed because what the Saudis do, they do quietly and they do it behind the scenes. They are a major driving factor in Sunni jihad. Now, at the moment, that is an uncomfortable place to be for the Saudis. They don’t really want to be funding jihad. They are afraid it will come home to hurt them. So, I don’t think it will change Russian policy at all. They hated them before, they hate them now. The Saudis are probably withdrawing some of their financial support. The Saudis also have budgetary issues although they are very well placed to ride out this wave of low oil prices. They have an enormous stash of cash.

Bates:  Shoshana I read that the Saudis had a 98 billion dollar deficit.

Bryen:  Yes, they do. However, they have $600 billion in hard currency reserves. If they want to cover that deficit they can. They are probably good for the next five years. Five years is a very long time in the Middle East.

Bates:  I have this theory about these low oil prices. I’m curious to know if you subscribe to it or if I’m way off base. During the Regan Administration, there was an alignment with the Saudis and the Vatican to bring down the Russians through the Solidarity Movement in Poland.  That was the Vatican’s connection with Pope John Paul II. With low oil prices through Saudi Arabia in order to bankrupt the evil empire, Soviet Russia. It appeared to have worked. Are we seeing something like that again, where the Saudis are part of a geopolitical strategy to bankrupt the Russians, Venezuelans and ISIS and all of these other oil producing bad guys?

Bryen:  That would give too much credit to the United States for having a strategy. Saudi Arabia is very definitely opposed to Russia and is doing this on purpose with an eye toward as much damage as they can inflict on Russia and on Iran. I think the Venezuelan thing is a happy accident but if you want to ask the question is it being driven by the United States or somehow coordinated with the United States, absolutely not. Because it is not in the President’s interest to collapse the Iranians. It’s not in the Obama Administration’s playbook.

Bates:  Yes, I would love to see the Iranian regime collapse but Barack Obama is not interested in that. Shoshana, you were talking about the interest of the Obama Administration in regime change with Iran. I’m quite interested in getting those Mad Mullahs out of Iran but is it not official U.S. policy to do so anymore?

Bryen:  No, it’s not. It has been the Obama Administration Policy to find a way to work with Iran, to bring Iran into the family of civilized countries. It seems to me, that the Obama Administration’s view of the Middle East was to have Turkey take care of the Sunni side and Iran takes care of the Shiite side and the United States leave. The people who most adamantly objected to that were the Saudis. So part of this cheap-oil flood-the-market deal is the Saudis’ desire to create pain in Iran. Had we been smarter, more farsighted and we had a different Administration, it was the perfect time to collapse the Mullah regime. Sanctions were working, sanctions were making it terribly difficult for the Mullahs to maintain their grip on the population and the Saudis were about to administer the coup de grace. Instead the Obama Administration saved them. We told them we will lift the sanctions. We told them they don’t have to do anything about their internal problems. They didn’t have to do anything about the boot they have on the neck of the Iranian people. We saved them. Looking at the economics of Iran, it’s still in terrible shape.

Gordon:  One of the more significant events this past week was the explosion of a fourth nuclear device in North Korea. The question is less whether it was a miniature hydrogen bomb, but really the connection between that test and he Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Bryen:  It’s an intellectual connection. The Iranians would like to know how far they can push us without penalty. The North Koreans would like to know if they could claim that it was a hydrogen bomb and we would believe it. But it wasn’t. Even though the Iranians fired a missile within 1,500 yards of the U.S.S. Harry Truman, an aircraft carrier, as it was sailing in international waters in the Straits of Hormuz. We didn’t do anything about it; we didn’t acknowledge that it happened for about a month.

Bates:  I saw the video of that incident. The missile wasn’t shot towards the American Carrier, but it was only 1,500 yards away. Is that a violation of International Law? The Iranians did announce it over the radio, so it wasn’t a surprise attack. Do you, Shoshana know if that is legal under the Laws of Navigation, Laws of the Sea?

Bryen:  Firing ballistic missiles in international waterways is frowned upon by the international community. It doesn’t really matter if they announced it or didn’t announce it; to put a missile like that out there in international waters is a violation of common sense among other things. So, no, it is not an act of war, it’s not that they were firing at the Harry S. Truman in order to start a war with us. However, it also does not comport with the way countries normally do business. So, it should have concerned us. What it really is was another test by the Iranians, “What can we do and what will they say?”

Bates:  They can do anything and we will do nothing. Do you see a connection, Shoshana, between the North Korean Nuclear Program and the Iranian Nuclear Program?

Bryen:  There is a very definite connection. That connection has been uncovered for a long time. For example, when Israel bombed a reactor site in Syria, there were people who were killed who were North Korean scientists. The North Koreans built that facility, the Iranians paid for it. It was meant to be outside Iran in the hopes that nobody would touch it. Actually, it made it easier to get rid of it because it was in Syria. Notwithstanding, it was a North Korean/Iranian joint center.

Bates:  Is there any danger that the Iranians under the JCPOA will simply develop their nuclear capability in North Korea and then just ship the missiles home when they need them?

Bryen:  That has been a theory for a long time. That North Korea is actually the testing grounds for Iranian capabilities. It wouldn’t surprise me. No, I don’t think we have specific evidence of it.

Bates:  No evidence but certainly a possibility.

Bryen:  Certainly a possibility. The North Koreans need money more than anything else. Iran has it and they are willing to spend it on that program, I would be shocked if they weren’t doing it.

Bates:  Jerry, what about the documentary on PBS Frontline on Benjamin Netanyahu. Do you see that and if so, what did you think of it?

Gordon:  Yes, I saw it. I thought it was kind of contrived. However, in retrospect, I think the presentation probably overcame many of the extreme left wing speakers in Israel and even here in the United States. There were two episodes in the documentary that were disturbing. One had to do with an event that was held in Tel Aviv at which Bibi appeared to a throng of protestors in Tel Aviv and the second were comments which I think had been subsequently denied by Martin Indyk, the former US. Ambassador to Israel. He was a Special Aide to the Obama Administration in negotiations before he left in 2013 and those comments were alleged to have occurred between Indyk and Bibi at Rabin’s funeral, and I think those were the most disturbing. Shoshana and Dan, do you have any comments about that?

Bryen: Let me just comment on the Indyk incident that was alleged to have happened. Martin Indyk said that sitting next to him at Rabin’s funeral was Bibi and Bibi leaned over to him and said something like, “it’s too bad Rabin is dead because now he will be a martyr and when he’s a martyr he will make it harder for the right and it’s going to cost me votes.” Indyk said directly to the camera that Netanyahu had told him that. As it turns out, there is photographic evidence from Rabin’s funeral that they weren’t sitting together. That part of the story fell apart and Indyk’s response to that was, “Oh well maybe it happened somewhere else.” So, I think it is pretty clear that comment was put into Bibi’s mouth directly by Martin Indyk. I don’t want to say that he lied, but he lied. So that should give you an idea what was going on in that segment.

Gordon:  Dan, you had comments about Bibi?

Diker:  A couple of things. Martin Indyk was a two time US Ambassador to Israel and he made his disdain for center right wing politics in Israel very clear. That is a very questionable position for an ambassador to take, commenting and intervening in the internal polices of the country in which they are situated. There were a number of examples of Ambassador Indyk doing that in Israel. That was one example of what we have seen over the last 20 years from Ambassador Indyk. The other was what you mentioned, Jerry, in the Frontline documentary was Netanyahu’s alleged incitement. The context for that was in the days preceding the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. It was shown to be false, that Netanyahu incited the protesters. Netanyahu did not incite the public he was attempting to calm the crowds below and to hold a civil discourse. In fact, it has also been revealed which may be a surprise to our American friends, that Israel internal security services had actually put up some of the posters that violently portrayed former Prime Minister Rabin in Arab keffiyeh, trying to liken him to an image of Arafat. That was shown to be a setup by political activists. Talk about political warfare, political activitism by Israel’s left. This will go down in history as a very internally, civilly violent period by the left towards the center right and the right in Israel. It actually had nothing to do with Netanyahu’s alleged incitement. It was in fact a staged political event by the left wing political sector of Israeli society. It is a rather shameful episode and all too misunderstood in the West.

Bates:  Dan, I’ve got to ask the question because I think it’s important. How do you see the Israeli-American relationship and for terrorism around impacting the U.S. election cycle.

Diker:  Middle Eastern terrorism, the global jihad, ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, and others in radical Islam, and Iran will be a major American election issue. Israel is leading the Western counter-attack against radical Islam in the Middle East. I think all of the candidates frankly recognize that and I do think we’re going to see a major shift away from the current White House strategy and treatment of Israel.

Bates:  Foreign Policy and National Security, the Republicans win. Domestic Policy and Welfare the Democrats win.

Bryen:  Dan was making a point that terrorism within the United States raises the threat level in the eyes of the American public. That is not a political statement and it’s very true. I think that the President has told us that we have nothing to worry about. However, for very good reasons the American people believe we do. And, that’s going to be an argument. The President says “no, no it’s fine, it’s no problem’ and the people here say “Hey wait a minute, what about this killings, what about the killing over there? What about the attacks on military recruiting centers?” 2015 was a banner year for arresting and trying domestic terrorists, all of whom happen to have been Muslims.

Bates:  We will see where it leads and I’m certain we will have this conversation again many times before the November 8th election. Thanks so much for joining us, Gordon, Senior Editor of the New English Review and its blog The Iconoclast, Bryen, Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center in Washington and Diker, Head of the Political Warfare Program of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

How Fateful are Israel’s Knesset Elections on March 17th?

Sunday, March 15th, the Voice of Israel (VOI) Global Radio System aired a “National Security” program with Executive Producer and host Dan Diker and guests Dr. Harold Rhode former Pentagon Islamic Affairs expert, Distinguished Gatestone Institute Senior Fellow and Bassem Eid Arab correspondent for VOI. Eid is founder of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. The thought provoking title was “Whom Do Radical Islamists Want as Israel’s Next Prime Minister?

This is a must listen program for all those concerned about Israel’s future in the run up to Tuesday’s March 17th Israeli Knesset elections.  Those elections have more than 20 parties competing for 120 seats. It will pit the current ruling coalition Likud government led by PM Benjamin Netanyahu against the Zionist Union headed by MK Yitzhak Herzog and former Justice Minister of Hatnuah, Tzipi Livni. There is also a new emerging factor. A coalition negotiated following the Knesset elections. It could include a Joint Arab List that might secure upwards of 13 to 15 seats. The Joint Arab List electoral results might possibly bolster the Zionist Union led opposition, including the leftist Meretz party, seeking to be given the nod to form a ruling coalition if selected by Israel President Reuven Rivlin. The VOI will have extensive live and extended coverage of these important Israeli Knesset elections on March 17th.

You may register and listen live to the VOI here.

Overarching this Knesset elections were disclosures this weekend of the U.S. Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee addressing complaints by PM Netanyahu of “foreign country involvement.” This is a reference to reports that the U.S. Administration has funded NGOs engaged in possible anti-Netanyahu “anyone but Bibi” vote campaigns among the country’s Arab and urban Jewish voters. The effort involves former Obama Presidential campaign field operations staff headed by Jeremy Bird of 270 Strategies.   Support has come from major Obama Jewish Democratic contributors and possibly State Department funding of NGOs.  Whether the Administration would prefer a new Israeli government whose policies might materially affect the national security and sovereignty of Jewish nation is at question?

This  Ides of March VOI “National Security” program, is a fascinating and elucidating commentary about the  dynamics of the contending forces in the regional  Muslim communities,  both Shia and Sunni, and  views of the US Administration as an unreliable ally. That is reflected in the views of Saudi -backed Al Arabiya  that gave  high marks to PM Netanyahu for standing up to the threat posed by  the Islamic State,  Iran  and proxies Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad  and Hezbollah. As pointed out by Dr. Rhode, Al Arabiya, strongly endorsed Netanyahu’s address before the Joint Meeting of Congress on March 3rd seeking to obtain a better deal to deter Iran from achieving nuclear hegemony in the region. There is also discussion of Egypt’s President Al-Sisi’s emerging role of importance trying to fashion a Sunni regional coalition of forces, the equivalent of a NATO – type organization to confront IS.  Al-Sisi’s New Year’s speech in  Cairo, before Al Azhar and the Awqfar  Ministry,  espoused reform of underlying Qur’anic doctrine  that has returned to the takfir purist form of Islam emblematic of the apocalyptic IS, a self styled Caliphate. A Caliphate that as Dr. Rhode pointed out may have been fostered originally by Shia Mahdist Iran now ironically engaged in combating IS in Iraq.

Rhode and Diker suggested that if a more compliant Israel government was elected on Tuesday that IS and Hamas cells in the West Bank and Hezbollah with Iran on the Golan might foment possible trouble.  Iran, as noted by Diker and Rhode, is rapidly spreading its hegemony threatening the region from Yemen on the Red Sea, across the Arabian Peninsula to the shores of the Persian Gulf and through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast. An Iran whose nuclear quest may have already triggered nuclear proliferation with Saudi Arabia’s disclosure of a recent nuclear development deal with South Korea.  We found fascinating the discussion among Diker, Rhode and Bassem Eid, astute VOI Arab correspondent, on the internal Israel Arab Muslim divide over the question of whether they would support the United Arab List.

Bassem disclosed the previously not well known fact that 60 percent of Israeli Arab Muslims are more likely to vote for Jewish parties as loyal citizens rather than for the Arab list. The Party’s leaders are more concerned about Israel as an ‘apartheid state’.  They have fashioned seditious relations with Ramallah, Gaza, Damascus and even Tehran and all   enemies of Israel. Bassem also noted that the Palestinians view the Likud government and Netanyahu as more reliable with honoring commitments than prior experiences with both Labor and Kadima governments.  Rhode explained that regional Arabs view favorably the Israeli democratic traditions that Arab Muslim citizens enjoy. He told of the impact of that on the Egyptian body guards of the late President Anwar Sadat when he came to Jerusalem in 1977 to give a speech before the Knesset. They noted, he said, the sharp contrast between the quiet respect paid to President Sadat when he spoke and the vigorous debates in the Knesset chamber that followed his address.  The VOI program offers insights into what might occur Tuesday when Israel votes for the 33rd Knesset.  The comments of these American and Israeli experts raise serious questions about the objectives of the US Administration Vis a vis a P5+1 non-binding deal to facilitate Iran’s nuclear hegemony.

Monday, March 16th, this writer and Mike Bates, co-host of Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio 1330 am WEBY will be interviewed by VOI National Security host Dan Diker. That recorded program will address Obama Administration funding via State Department AID and US Jewish moguls involved with OneVoice, V-15 and the Abraham Fund to get out the anti-Bibi vote in Israel. The program will also delve into controversy surrounding Sen. Cotton’s ‘Iran letter’. That controversy has led to revelations suggesting that  the Administration is striving to establish a  rapprochement with the Islamic Republic of Iran  avoiding Congressional review instead  seeking a  nuclear agreement  by the P5+1 at the UN  via a Security Council resolution.  That could result in lifting more than an estimated $70 billion in UN financial sanctions against Iran held in US banks controlled by the US Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control.  Sunday talk show criticism of the Cotton letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran by Secretary of State Kerry and former Secretary Madeleine Albright on CBS’ Face the Nation were contested by Sen. Cotton who drew attention to the precedent of a non verifiable deal made during the Clinton Administration with North Korea that eventuated in the latter’s creating a nuclear stockpile of weapons 12 years later.

Tuesday, VOI host Diker will join Northwest Florida’s talk radio 1330 am WEBY periodic Middle East Round Table co-hosts Bates and Gordon to report first returns from what many consider the fateful 2015 Knesset elections during 4:00 PM CST (5:00 PM EST) segment of “Your Turn”.

Listen Live here.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Obama’s Phased Nuclear Deal with Iran: Kicking the bomb down the road?

This column is co-authored with Ilana Freedman who is a veteran intelligence analyst and specialist in counter-terrorism. Ilana is Editor of FreedmanReport.com.

When we posted late Monday night, February 23, 2015, on breaking news about the phased deal resulting from bilateral discussions between U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, we knew from our sources that more shoes would be likely to drop. Last night we received information from these reliable sources on the extent to which the Administration had strayed from its original mandate. The information was:

  • Secretary of State John Kerry is poised to sign a secret Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the U.S. and Iran that was completed by negotiators on Saturday, February 14.
  • The State Department has received a decision from Eric Holder’s Department of Justice that the MoU does not require approval by the U.S. Senate in the Constitutionally defined process of Advise and Consent for treaties between the United States and other nations, and that therefore Congress will not be consulted.
  • The agreement does not cover the subject of inspections, removing the requirements of having inspections at any of the sites covered by the memorandum.
  • The agreement will allow Iran to have 10,000 enhanced centrifuges that will increase their nuclear program capacity by upwards of 50%.
  • Of the 10,000 centrifuges allotted, all of Iran’s 6,000 existing centrifuges will be converted to the enhanced, next generation versions. The conversion can begin immediately after the agreement is signed. This will enable Iran to achieve a nuclear threshold state in less than two years. The balance of 4,000 centrifuges will, according to our sources, be supplied by Russia.
Alireza Jafarzadeh Deputy Director of Natioal Council of Reskistance of Iran National Press Club  @-24-15 Source AFP

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director, Washington Office of NCRI, National Press Club, Feb. 24, 2015.

It is not known whether other Iranian nuclear sites will likewise fall under this inspection exemption, including military test sites like Parchin and the secret parallel Lavizan site, which was disclosed in Washington on Tuesday, February 24th by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in a National Press Club briefing. At the NPC briefing, Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the NCRI’s Washington D.C. office, reported on a secret test site which has been previously identified in reports of the Washington, D.C. based, Institute for Science and International Security.

“Despite the Iranian regime’s claims that all of its enrichment activities are transparent … it has in fact been engaged in research and development with advanced centrifuges at a secret nuclear site called Lavizan-3,” he said.  Jafarzadeh said the site was hidden in a military base in the northeastern suburbs of Tehran.

According to the presentation, the complex was described as a facility 164 feet underground. The Lavizan-3 site was apparently constructed between 2004 and 2008 and has underground labs connected by a tunnel, and lead-lined doors to seal out radiation leaks.  The facility itself is heavily shielded from radiation and insulated against noise and radiation leaks to avoid detection.

“Since 2008, the Iranian regime has secretly engaged in research and uranium enrichment with advanced… centrifuge machines at this site,” Jafarzadeh said.

The NCRI called the existence of the site “a clear violation” of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as UN resolutions and an interim November 2013 deal struck with the P5+1 group, he said.

When asked about the NCRI findings at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the bi-lateral discussions with Iran, Secretary Kerry commented:

That U.S. officials knew of charges related to the site prior to this week, but that “it has not been revealed yet as a nuclear facility.”

“It is a facility that we are well aware of, which is on a list of facilities we have,” the Secretary of State said during a Capitol Hill budget hearing on Wednesday morning. “I’m not going to go into greater detail. . . .But these things are obviously going to have to be resolved as we go forward.”

Rep. Brad Sherman, ranking Democrat on the House Affairs Committee replied to Kerry:

 “The MEK sometimes gives us accurate information.”

“They are the ones that told the world about the Iranian nuclear program,” Mr. Sherman said. “They now say that there’s a secret facility at Lavizan-3.”

A credible independent expert monitoring Iran’s nuclear program raised questions about the NCRI findings.  David Albright of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Science and International Security commented in a USA Today article, February 27, 2015:

“The basic story raises questions about its authenticity. They may have answers but the questions raise further doubts,” Albright said. “The claims are so controversial that any manipulated evidence casts doubt on the whole story.”

The matter of possible violations of the P5+1 interim agreements, the lack of inspections of military applications facilities like Parchin, the Arak heavy water reactor and the Lavizan-3  site near Tehran underlines the evidence of Iran’s  retention of significant uranium enrichment  centrifuge capabilities under the suggested 10 year phase deal the Administration announced  earlier this week.  It begs the question of why any enrichment capabilities are provided to Iran under the proposed arrangement, given that the principal use of centrifuges is for enrichment of uranium into fissile materials for bomb making.

That was a point made by Dan Diker, executive producer of the Voice of Israel “National Security” program during a Middle East Round Table discussion on 1330am WEBY Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio, “Your Turn” with co-hosts Mike BatesJerry Gordon of the NER and Shoshana Bryen , senior director  of the Washington, D.C. based Jewish Policy Center.

Diker of the VOI noted:

The notion that Iran would be able to enrich any uranium is completely unacceptable.  The civilian nuclear programs around the world hosted by Canada and other western countries have nothing to do with centrifuges.  They are just not part of the nuclear file.  Many countries want to have peaceful civilian nuclear power.  The notion that the Iranians would claim that they need centrifuges to produce peaceful nuclear power is an absurdity.  The fact that the P5+1 have allowed any uranium to be enriched is an extremely dangerous proposition.  That is the message that Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to bring to the American people and by extension to the world community.

As to why President Obama and Secretary Kerry would sanction the phased program, Bryen of the JPC suggested:

“[The President’s] thinking appears to be that ten years from now the Mullahs will have fallen, young Iranian democrats will have taken over, and it will be OK.  The big piece of this that he missed is that the Mullahs only represent one part of the Iranian body politic and that is the religious part. Iran is also Persian and Persians are empire-oriented.  Even if we get rid of the Mullahs, even if we get rid of the religious basis for governance in Iran and we have secular people, secular people in Persia believe in a Persian Empire. If we kick this can down the road ten years and the Mullahs are gone, Obama thinks that will be a good thing. I’m not sure that’s true.”

Listen to the February 24, 21015 1330am WEBY Middle East Round Table discussion on the Iranian nuclear program: Segment 1Segment 2Segment 3Segment 4.

An article based on the 1330am WEBY Round Table program will be published in the March 2015, NER.

The WEBY panel will also be heard on a separate Voice of Israel “National Security” program, Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 1PM Israel Standard Time ( 6:00 AM EST in the U.S.).  A sound cloud of that VOI broadcast will also be available on March 1st.

Iran’s provocative activities during the so-called Great Prophet-9 maneuvers this week raised questions about the untimely demonstrations of force directed at the US Fifth Fleet presence in the Persian Gulf. The first episode was the destruction by Iranian cruise missiles on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 launched at a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier as a target near the international oil/gas choke point, the Straits of Hormuz, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf.  Watch the video, here.

Then on Friday, February 27, 2015, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy announced the successful launch of a cruise missile from a submerged Ghadir midget-submarine with a range of 150 miles. Watch the video, here.   Sepah news service quoted Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, commander of IRGC-N saying:

The new weapon would be critical in any future naval war against the U.S.

“The new weapon will have a very decisive role in adding our naval power in confronting threats,” he was quoted as stating in Sepah News.

Iran’s latest operations in the Persian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz raises many questions. Why mount exercises in which a mock US aircraft carrier is destroyed by the Iranian navy? Or launch cruise missiles designed to take out a US naval destroyer just as the US is about to give them everything they want without a shot fired?  It may be a show of arrogance, a finger in the eye of the Obama administration (which it believes to be weak and foolish), or a move beyond the MoU into a new level of saber rattling to show its neighbors the seriousness of its ambitions. Or it might be all three, a typical multi-dimensional Persian chess play by the IRGC.

What the US must learn – and fast – is that this is not an enemy one can toy with. As in most Middle East politics, the weak are despised and the game goes to the powerful. As the secrets of Obama’s secret negotiations are revealed (or leaked), and the truth comes out about our feckless policies of negotiations and appeasement, the outcome is likely to be devastating for the region and the world.  Iran revels in its possible conquest of American might and moves a giant step closer to achieving its nuclear ambitions with America’s assistance – and blessings.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Hamas Murderers of Israeli Yeshiva Students Killed in Shootout near Hebron

hamasmurderers

Marwan Kawasmeh and Amer Abu Eisha killers of three Israel Yeshiva students.

Marwan Kawasmeh and Amir Abu Eisha, the two alleged perpetrators  of the June 2014 kidnap/murders of  three Israeli Yeshiva Students, were killed early Tuesday morning in a shootout at an armed compound near Hebron by a special operations unit of Israeli Border Police aided by Shin Bet. Hamas, which took responsibility for the murders, praised the two slain perpetrators  as so-called ‘martyrs’ during a funeral today. See our NER interview with Dan Diker,”Exposing Hamas’ Kidnapping Strategy.

According to a report in Arutz Sheva, Israel National News, “Murderers of the Three Teens Eliminated”, the kidnapping and murder of the three Yeshiva students was preplanned. A relative of the family obtained a car with Israeli license tags and the perpetrators were dressed as orthodox Jews  to mislead  and entrap the three hitchhiking victims, Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha’ar, and Naftali Frenkel.   Hamas used the manhunt that ensnared hundreds of its members on the West Bank as a pretext for the launch of 50 day rocket and terror tunnel campaign and IDF Operation Protective Edge in July and August 2014.  67 IDF soldiers and 6 Israel civilians were killed, while 2,100 Palestinians were killed, nearly half of whom may have been Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters.

Here are excerpts from the Arutz Sheva report. On the raid that killed the two murderers:

The operation was carried out by the Yamam, a special unit of the Border Police, and the IDF, in Hevron. An attempt was made to arrest the suspects but an exchange of fire developed in which they were killed.

The operation was made possible by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), which located the murderers’ hideout. In the last few days, several Hamas suspects were arrested and questioned on the assumption that they were assisting the fugitives.

“We have been pursuing these two since the abduction,” said Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadai. “Last night the investigation ripened as regards their location and we have been surrounding the place where they were hiding since 1:00 a.m. We killed them and there are arrests of several other collaborators.”

“We began arresting suspects and at the same time we applied [IDF] ‘pressure cooker’ protocol on the house. It is a big house and they hid out in a secret arms store on the basement floor. The floor is not visible from the outside. At one stage they went outside and opened fire. One was shot and the other fell inside, into a hole.”

“There was use of weapons, like hand grenades and the deployment of explosives that were prepared ahead of time,” he added. “We know that they have been staying in this location quite a lot in the last few days. We know for certain that they were not here the whole time. They had weapons like M-16s, a Kalashnikov and handguns, too.”

3 isreali students murdered

Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Sha’ar,  Eyal Yifrah Two Israelis and an Israel American kidnapped and murdered by slain Hamas operatives.

The accomplices and planning for the kidnapping:

Kawasmeh’s close relative Hussam was arrested in Jerusalem in August for planning the attack, which was carried out physically by Marwan, along with Amer Abu-Eisha.

The abduction and murder reportedly was planned by a third Kawasmeh, Mahmoud, along with Hussam, under the support of Hamas’s military branch, the Al-Qassam Brigades, through their branches both in Gaza and abroad.

The Brigades transferred funds via Mahmoud to purchase a car with an Israeli license plate, weapons and hideouts which were arranged in advance, according to security sources. They added that the three Israeli teens were buried on land purchased by the Kawasmeh family long before the attack. Hussam admitted in investigation to having shaven his beard off and obtained a forged passport in an attempt to flee the country to Jordan.

[…]

The source claimed the kidnappers used a silenced weapon, indicating their attempt to actually use the gun, and dressed up as religious Jews to lure the victims into their car.

The Jerusalem Post reported Israeli PM Netanyahu saying that Israel “had fulfilled its pledge”:

“I said from the very first that Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping and murder, and as the evidence that we brought mounted, Hamas admitted that it was also behind that attack.”

Netanyahu, who thanked the security services for their efforts, said he spoke to the families of the murdered teens in the morning, and said that nothing could balm their pain or bring the boys back. “But I said there was justice, and that we carried out the mission that we pledged before them and the entire nation that we would carry out”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Florida Legislature Unanimously Passes Resolution for Israel

Florida State Representative Mike Hill, Pensacola Stand for Israel Rally. Source: John Blackie, PNJ

The Pensacola Rally for Israel witnessed an outpouring of support in the Northwest Florida community for the Jewish nation exceeding organizers’ expectations. The rally, sponsored by the Pensacola Jewish Federation, was underwritten by anonymous donors from the Jewish community.

The Pensacola Police security detail estimated the crowd in excess of 500 attendees. The large polite crowd was composed of Jews from several denominations, Baptists, Pentecostals and other Christian groups. Mike Bates of Northwest Florida’s AM 1330 WEBY and this writer served as co-hosts for the rally.
A climactic event was the appearance of Florida House Representative Mike Hill. A Pensacola News Journal article on the rally, “Hundreds gather to support Israel,” reported: “He brought the crowd to their feet when he announced a Stand with Israel resolution to be voted on in a special session this week in Tallahassee.”

Hill said:

What is being done to Israel is evil. Israelis are our allies, and they need our support. Let’s show the nation that Florida is leading the way in support for Israel.

Rep. Hill texted both Bates and the author on the afternoon of August 11th that the House unanimously passed a resolution supporting Israel in Operation Protective Edge and condemning Hamas. Hill commented in a text message: “proud of the body, today.” Sen. Alan Hays texted a companion unanimous vote  in the Florida State Senate.

Mike Bates of 1330AM radio WEBY, Pensacola Stand for Israel host at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, March 2014.

Mike Bates set the agenda for the rally program saying:

We’re here to stand up for the good guys. To stand with the truth, to stand with what is right, to stand with justice. We are here today to stand with Israel.

There were several emotional moments during the rally. Mike Bates periodically would advise the crowd of the minutes since the last rocket was fired from Gaza headed towards Israel. He followed this with a request for a moment of silence to pray for Israelis threatened by terror from the skies. There were also moments of silence praying for the protection of Christians and other religious minorities confronting the barbarism of the Islamic State, formerly ISIS.

ates drew attention to the irony that in the midst of this conflict, Israel continued to supply food, gas, water and electricity to Gazans living under the tyranny of Islamist extremist Hamas. He remarked to the audience he couldn’t conceive of the US doing that during WWII. Several speakers drew attention to Hamas’ launch of rockets near or from UNWRA schools, hospitals, mosques, churches, or residences using civilians as human shields.

This author was also interviewed by the PNJ following opening remarks. As cited in their report, I said:

Americans incorrectly perceive Israel to be the villains in the current fighting because the media doesn’t report the historic context of the conflict. While I hoped a resolution to the fighting could be found, certain conditions would have to be met. The only breakthrough would come if they negotiated a deal to demilitarize Gaza. However I said that the chances of that are really low, unfortunately. One never knows what may happen, but certainly there is a lot of regional sentiment for that.

The genesis for the rally had been sparked in early July with onset of Hamas’ rocket and terror tunnel war against Israel and Israel’s response in Operation Protective Edge. That led to a series of weekly one hour updates and discussions on WEBY‘s talk radio program, “Your Turn,” hosted by Bates. Public service announcements (PSA) followed in earnest after a city public park site was secured by the local Jewish Federation for a Stand for Israel rally. This was preceded by a series of pro-Gaza rallies by Palestinian activists in downtown Pensacola. The radio discussions and PSA’s at WEBY were materially assisted by distribution of flyers, announcements from synagogue, temple and church pulpits. Event and news releases were sent to media outlets in the combined Northwest Florida and adjacent Eastern Alabama.

The rally occurred on a hot and sultry day with a heat index in the high 90’s and a 70 percent chance of thunderstorms forecast. Ha Shem must have looked with favor on the event as thunderstorms held off. A minor miracle, not quite those cited by several speakers at the rally who drew attention to several that spared both Tel Aviv and IDF forces in combat from death and destruction. There was a Hamas rocket that failed to be intercepted by three Iron Dome missiles headed for Tel Aviv. Suddenly, a wind arose from the east blowing it to fall harmlessly into the Mediterranean. There was a contingent of IDF soldiers about to go on a daytime mission into Gaza that was cloaked in a fog. They successfully completed their mission without a casualty. There was a bird that alighted on a trip wire in a Hamas terror tunnel during a clearance operation by IDF troops, triggering an explosion of booby traps, sparing Israeli casualties.

Rabbi Joel Fleekop Temple Beth El Penscola, FL. Source: John Blackie, PNJ.

The rally organizers had lined up a broad array of local, regional, national and international speakers. Rabbi Joel Fleekop from Temple Beth El in Pensacola gave a thoughtful and spiritually uplifting invocation. Rabbi Steven Silberman, of Mobile Synagogue Ahavas Chesed, spoke of his eyewitness to Hamas’ rocket war in Israel noting it was his first exposure to the chilling red alert wailing sirens. He also had a chance meeting with two Polish Catholic women, surprised to find an American rabbi at their hotel during the conflict. Fred Zimmerman, a member of the National Jewish Federation campaign cabinet from Nashville, spoke via phone to the rally attendees about his experience in Israel during Operation Protective Edge and the Federation’s  Stop the Sirens campaign.

Jerry Barnett of Volunteers for Israel told of the group’s mission to enlist civilian volunteers to assist in the maintenance of IDF bases. He read an email requesting volunteers of all ages to sign and assist Tzahal at this time of need. Kenneth E. Lamb, a member of a local Pentecostal church spoke of the covenant relationship between Ha Shem and the Children of Abraham, the Jews and Israel. The international speaker at the rally was Dan Diker from Israel who called while on vacation with his family in northern California. Diker is a former secretary general of the World Jewish Council and a noted Middle East Affairs expert with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Diker has been on several AM 1330 WEBY International Middle East Round Table discussions. Diker spoke of Hamas and its intentions to obliterate the Jewish people and Israel and the difficulty of obtaining a truce in the face of implacable demands. He noted the dramatic turn of events of Israel receiving tacit support from Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and especially Egypt that has cooperated with Israel in closing off the Gaza frontier.

In the midst of Diker’s call there was a sudden outburst of calls of “Israel, Israel, Israel” endeavoring to call out a small contingent of pro-Gaza protesters waving a large Palestinian flag carrying placards accusing Israel of murdering civilians in Gaza.

Pro-Israel Supporters listen to Rabbi Steven Silberman of Cong. Ahavas Chesed, Mobile.

At the conclusion of the rally, Mike Bates quoted these verses from Psalm 122:

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may they prosper that love thee.
7 Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.
8 For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say: ‘Peace be within thee.’
9 For the sake of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.

My final comment used  the Hebrew words Goy Tzedek or righteous Gentiles to characterize the Christians who attended the rally; followed Am Yisrael Chai, “the people Israel live.”

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. The featured photo is of Linda Wolfe praying for Israel at Pensacola, FL Rally. Source : John Blackie, PNJ.

What will Israel do with ISIS on its Doorstep?

ISIS Flags at Gaza Funeral

ISIS Flags at Funeral in Gaza.

Yesterday, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) declared a Caliphate to be ruled under Sharia in the lands it has conquered in Syria and Iraq.   Jerusalem-based Dan Diker on yesterday’s Lisa Benson Show, on the Salem Radio Network was in the midst of a discussion with Mudar Zahran about the ISIS threat with “Jordan in its gunsight”, listen here.   He commented that the announcement should be viewed as a political statement to Al Qaeda and its leader Ayman al Zawihiri.

Zahran noted that  Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) had morphed into ISIS.  AQI  founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a Jordanian from Zarqa who became self indoctrinated, joined Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 1990’s and  ran his own Jihadi training center. He established brutal barbaric assaults in Iraq in 2005 engaging against US military and contractors,  and Shia Iraqis that set a precedent for ISIS.  al-Zarqawi was killed in a 2006 USAF -F16a  bombing attack at a targeted safe house in Iraq.

The ISIS declaration was also a statement to other Sunni terrorist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, Hamas.  The Algemeiner reported  ISIS flags were flying this weekend on pickup trucks in Gaza for a funeral an indication that it was operating there.   Conquering large swaths of terrain, looting upwards of a billion dollars worth of  money and gold, capturing US supplied Humvees and Blackhawk helicopters abandoned by a corrupt and incompetent Iraqi Army have morphed ISIS into an Islamic State with its own army.

ISIS is more than just a political threat elsewhere in the sectarian turmoil of the Middle East. That was recognized in comments by  New York Rep. Pete King  onABC’s This Week that President Obama should be “very  very aggressive” about ISIS.  He was most immediately concerned about protecting our Embassy in Baghdad with  500 US security troops.  There are also 300 US military advisors engaged in assessing what to do with a divided Shiite- dominated al Maliki government in Iraq. A government whose military is now  supported by drones of Iran’s Quds Force gathering intelligence on ISIS forces near the capital of Baghdad.

King was also concerned about the estimated 100 American jihadis reported to be fighting with ISIS. ISIS has enticed them with English language  weekly and annual reports and videos.    My co-host on yesterday program, Lisa Benson,  commented off –line about the plethora of such sophisticated ISIS social media that is published daily.  That brought back memories of the campaign  2008 endeavoring to get Google to shut down Al Qaeda jihadist training sites.

The Administration for its part looks like the proverbial deer frozen in the headlights of ISIS.  Last week, It floated  the belated idea of funding $500 million to train “moderate” rebel fighters in the Syrian civil war. A civil war  that looks increasingly like a stalemate between ISIS and  the Assad forces are  backed by Hezbollah and Iran’s Quds Force with support from Putin’s Russia.  That Administration proposal may be more than a day late and a dollar short.  We had reports in mid-June from Der Spiegel and other sources that the some CIA-trained rebel fighters in Jordan  opted to join ISIS given its stunning successes.

As Diker pointed out on Sunday’s Lisa  Benson  Show the makeup of the anti-Assad  rebels  according to a Times of Israel report may control 95 percent on the Syrian side of the Golan Height. He, said, “we can see Hezbollah flags flying”.  Then he noted that the balance might be Al Nusrah, the official Al Qaeda anti-Assad contingent that increasingly has seen their fighters opt to join the “successful” ISIS.

ISIS Flags in Ma’an, Jordan

I asked Zahran, who is pro-Israel and promotes the view that Jordan is Palestine, about the peculiar circumstances  behind  last Thursday’s Jordanian Security Court decision acquitting  Al Qaeda preacher, Abu Qatada.   Abu Qatada had been extradited from the UK  for preaching incitement and allegedly raising funds for terrorist causes. The Jordanian court had dismissed one charge based on a failed 1999 plot to attack an American School in Amman. The second charge of plotting terrorism against Israel targets has yet to be heard.  Last month on May 28, 2014, the Jordanian Security Court had sentenced 11 allegedly involved in an  2012  Al Qaeda plot to attack both British and US Embassies in Amman.  Zahran drew attention to the nearly six decade dalliance with the Islamic Action front, the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, by the Hashemite Kingdom under the late King Hussein and now his son, King Abdullah II.   Zahran noted that the IAF, Muslim Brotherhood which is largely Bedouin, is the strongest organized Islamist group in Jordan. He drew attention to the daily pitched battles in  the southern town of Ma’an  between  Jordanian security forces and  local tribal supporters  of the IAF flying ISIS flags. Ma’an is located  less than three kilometers from Israel’s frontier.  The headline in a Washington Post report on the turmoil in Ma’an read, “Jordan fears homegrown ISIS more than invasion from Iraq”.

The security of Jordan as a buffer state, as  Diker pointed out is foremost on the agenda of Israel ‘s national security. We note the comments in The Times of Israel  by  former  Israeli  security cabinet strategic advisor Gen. Yaakov Amidror,  who  said that Israel should bolster the defense of Jordan against the ISIS onslaught.  At the Institute of National Security Studies  (INSS) of Tel Aviv University, yesterday Israeli PM Netanyahu underlined these security issues.     He talked about support for an Independent Kurdistan and completing a security fence along Israel’s eastern frontier from the Golan to Eilat.  Netanyahu said:

The forces of fanatical Islam are already knocking on our door” and  Israel needs to be proactive to bolster its defense against enemy infiltration.

“The first thing that we need to do is to build a security fence on our eastern border, and to build it gradually all the way from Eilat to merge with the security fence that we’ve been building over the last two years in the Golan Heights,” he said. “That fence does not hermetically prevent infiltration; it doesn’t prevent shooting through the fence as we saw tragically just a week ago; it doesn’t prevent barrages of missiles over it, or the digging of tunnels underneath it. But it does narrow down dramatically that permeatio on Israel’s border.”

Israel will not cede the Jordan Valley approaches, much sought after by Secretary of Kerry and the US facilitator in bi-lateral discussions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, former US Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk.  Diker pointed out Indyk’s announced return to the Washington-based Brookings Institution indicative of the US failure to achieve a final status agreement with the unified Palestinian government of Fatah with Hamas.  Diker cited the abduction of three Israel youths, including one American, by Hamas the prime suspects sought in the massive Operation Brother’s Keeper as evidence that no security for Israel could have emerged from the US facilitated negotiations. Unfortunately, the bodies of the three youths were recovered by the IDF, today amidst grief for their families and sorrow expressed by many Israelis and Americans.

Deceased three Israeli abductees likely slain by Hamas suspects. From left: INaftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, in three undated family photos. Credit Image by Reuters

Netanyahu’s  INSS remarks reflect the deep concerns about the stability of Jordan rife with more than 1.4 million Syrian refuges, and a million Iraqis. There are an estimated 1.5 million  Arabs Refugees of Palestinian origin.  Jordan’s population of 7.9  million is based on CIA Factbook estimates.  Note the last census was taken in 2004.  Then there is the  accommodation of Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist support growing in the country’s Bedouin population . They feel aggrieved about  the lack economic participation and high unemployment amid  alleged  corruption charges against the ruling autocratic Hashemite King and family.

Umm al Fahm, Israel protests by Islamic Movement, June 27, 2014.

Netanyahu also recognized internal threats to Israel’s  security at yesterday’s cabinet meeting.  He announced that  he would move to outlaw the Northern Branch of the Islamist movement, whose leader, Sheikh  Read Salah,  has proposed to establish  a Caliphate on the Temple Mount.  In October 2013, we wrote in the Iconoclast  post about Israeli Arab adherents of Sheik Salah joining up with anti-Assad Al Qaeda rebel forces in Syria.   Last Friday, there were rallies organized by  Salah and his Islamist adherents in the Israeli Arab town of Umm al Fahm protesting the raids by the IDF in Operation Brother’ s Keeper denying Hamas abduction of the three slain  youths.  Rock throwing by protesters was broken up Israeli riot police with tear gas and sound bombs. Netanyahu noted:

[The northern Branch of the Islamist Movement] constantly preaches against the State of Israel and its people. [The Islamist Movement ] publicly identify with terrorist organizations such as Hamas. Therefore, I directed the relevant authorities to consider declaring the northern branch of the Islamic Movement as an illegal organization. This would give the security authorities significant tools in the struggle against the  movement.”

In May 2014, Netanyahu had been thwarted in such a move against the northern branch of the Islamist Movement by the Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of Hatnua, because these enemies of the Jewish State are citizens. They are represented in Israel’s Knesset by Arab parties, espousing pro Palestinian positions verging on sedition.

Israel knows what it has to do with ISIS on its doorstep and fellow travelers inside. The question is the resolve of Jerusalem to take the hard steps. Israel’s friends in the US Congress are urging the Administration to undertake actions to protect its only reliable ally and interests in the region.   The ISIS Caliphate’s declaration means that Israel will have to defend itself from jihadis both inside and on its doorstep.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.