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Trump Administration countering Iran’s influence in Latin America and winning key support

“The Trump administration’s push to counter Iran’s influence in South America won key support from leaders in the region in recent days, with three Latin American nations officially declaring Lebanon’s Tehran-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.”

The work of Iranian jihadist proxies worldwide is underrated and under reported. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo captures the magnitude of the Iranian proxy problem well in this statement:

 When you see the scope and reach of what the Islamic Republic of Iran’s regime has done, you can’t forget they tried to kill someone in the United States of America. They’ve conducted assassination campaigns in Europe. This is a global phenomenon.

And the phenomenon of narcoterrorism is linked to Iranian proxy Hizballah, as indicated in this exposé by the Washington Times: “Hezbollah moving ‘tons of cocaine’ in Latin America, Europe to finance terror operation.”

“Trump administration homing in on Iran-backed operations in Latin America,” by Guy Taylor, Washington Times, January 23, 2020:

The Trump administration’s push to counter Iran’s influence in South America won key support from leaders in the region in recent days, with three Latin American nations officially declaring Lebanon’s Tehran-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras have now officially joined with Paraguay and Argentina in recognizing the designation, with the new conservative government in Bogota joining with Washington in declaring Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization as well.

At a counterterrorism conference in Bogota this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other U.S. officials underscored the global reach of Lebanon-based Hezbollah — a Shia Muslim militant-political movement and a part of the Lebanese political establishment that Washington has listed as a terrorist organization since the late 1990s.

Hezbollah was a big winner in the political upheaval that has gripped Lebanon this month, with new government made up of appointees nominated by Hezbollah and its allies — a development that has worried both the U.S. and Israel, Lebanon’s neighbor. Counterterrorism analysts consider the well-armed Hezbollah one of Tehran’s most effective military proxies in the region.

Heading into this week’s conference in Bogota, State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan Sales told the Miami Herald and Nuevo Herald that U.S. officials “know that Hezbollah operatives and facilitators and finance leaders are active” in the loosely governed “Tri-Border Area” between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

U.S. and Israeli officials say Hezbollah orchestrated and executed a 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina that killed 29 people, as well as a 1994 attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead…..

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EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission. © All rights reserved.

First 50 Syrian families head home to ‘safe zone’ in Syria….

….And, it has nothing to do with any Trump Administration plans. Other actors have stepped in to begin to make it happen and as the story tells us, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had no comment.

Before critics jump in, it should be none of our business if these families want to put their lives in the hands of Hezbollah, it is not our role (or the UN’s!) to play the papa and tell them where to live and what to do with their lives (which is a large part of the psychology that drives refugee resettlement—the ‘we know what’s good for you’ mentality!).

From Lebanon’s Daily Star (hat tip: Joanne)

BEIRUT: Dozens of refugee families returned to Aasal al-Ward in southern Syria after leaving the Lebanese border town of Arsal over the weekend as part of a deal brokered by Hezbollah and Syrian rebel factions.

Photo accompanying Daily Star story.

The Lebanese Army said in a statement that 30 civilian vehicles carrying an estimated 50 families departed from the northern Lebanese town in the early hours of Saturday and a military escort accompanied them until the last military checkpoint.

According to the Army statement, the move was undertaken in response to a “keen interest of the families” to return to their homeland. Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV circulated a video Sunday depicting the Syrian families celebrating their return to their hometown.

Local media estimated that 50 families chose to leave Lebanon for Syria Saturday. A total of 500 families are expected to relocate following negotiations earlier this year to establish small safe zones for civilians in the Qalamoun region, brokered by Hezbollah.

A security source in the town of Arsal told The Daily Star Saturday that the return of dozens of displaced families was the result of behind-the-scenes negotiations between Hezbollah and the Syrian regime on one hand, and armed factions present in the area on the other.

[….]

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, had no comment when contacted Sunday evening.

There is more, but you may have to subscribe to get it.

Truth be told, most ‘refugees’ just want to go home and that should be our number one goal—to get them there—not move them around the world like pieces on a chessboard.

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U.S Spying on the Whole World, including their ‘Friends’

Spy craft, especially Electronic Intelligence or ELINT, is one of the tools of the trade used to collect information on enemy activities. It is also used to monitor allies’ activities. Nothing new there. Thus the latest release by Snowden from his base of operations in exile in Moscow lit up the left media. They spotlighted the latest episode of both Britain’s GCHQ and the NSA. GCHQ and NSA were partners in a nearly two decade operations endeavoring to obtain real time video feed from Israel drones and aircraft in operations over Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and possibly Iran.

1-2010 GCHQ hacked picture of IAI Heron TP with Missile

January 28, 2010 GCHQ hacked picture of Israeli Heron TP (Eitan) UAV with Missile.

If you read the underlying story in The Intercept about hacking video feed from Israeli drones with alleged off the shelf software. See: “Anarchist Snapshots: Hacked Images from Israel’s Drone Fleet”. It is more than apparent that the left media used the Snowden revelations about the “Anarchist” operation of GCHQ and NSA to show how vulnerable the Israeli drone capabilities may be to intercept of real time imagery uplinked from drones and fighter aircraft to satellites. Israel is the world’s leading developer and exporter of drones.  The Israelis are not the only ones vulnerable.  US drone activity in Iraq was intercepted by Saddam Hussein’s ELINT group during the Second Gulf War. Moreover, Iran as we saw in news reports and photos flying over the USS Harry Truman has its own drone capabilities and ELINT capabilities as does its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas.

“Anarchist” operations were based in a long term NSA complex at a former Royal Air Force base in the Trodoos Mountains of Cyprus.  The Intercept article reported that the GCHQ has been monitoring Israeli drone video feed since 1998. The atmospheric conditions from that ELINT base are such that it covers virtually most of North Africa and the Middle East.  The NSA listening post may have been involved during the USS Liberty incident in the June Six Days of War of 1967 coupled with airborne ELINT aircraft. The Intercept article describes instances of real time video feed in drone strikes by Israel in Gaza operations against Hamas beginning in 2009.  In one instance, the pictures are from a helmet heads-up display of an Israeli piloted F-16. One of the images captured by “Anarchist” purports to show an Israeli Heron TP  drone armed with missiles under its long wings conflated to be on a possible mission to Iran.

Israel official complaints about Snowden’s revelations from former Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz have focused on the long history of the Anarchist UK-US ELINT ops and recent revelations about U.S. spying on Israeli PM Netanyahu. The Jerusalem Post reported Steinitz saying:

We are not surprised; we know that the. That is disappointing, because for decades we have not spied, collected intelligence or attempted to crack the encryption of the United States.

IAI Heron TP Drone

Israeli Air Force Heron TP (Eitan) UAV.

Israel was alleged to have monitored U.S. negotiations of the nuclear pact with Iran.  It has been common knowledge that Israeli development and tactical use of drones may be the 21st Century offensive weapon of choice. In Israel’s case that is coupled with deep submergence air breathing attack submarines like the five Israeli Navy Dolphin submarines prowling the Arabian Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. They are equipped with both conventional and nuclear warheads, as well as covert intelligence ops capabilities for a second strike in the case of a nuclear attack. Moreover, there is the draconian capability of the Israeli Jericho III ICBM to launch a low yield nuclear warhead capable of creating an Electronic Magnetic Pulse against existential threats. That is Israel’s version of a MAD deterrent capability under the triple anti-rocket and missile shield composed of Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the jointly developed Arrow III, ABM system.

We have written about the Israeli drone prowess in NER articles and Iconoclast blogs over the past seven years.  In a 2009 Israeli strike against a convoy of Iranian weapons in the Sudan we noted in an NER article:

The London Times revealed in a later report that Israel may have used armed UAVs, the Hermes 450 manufactured by Elbit that is equipped with two Hellfire missiles.  A Hermes UAV squadron is based at Pachamim air base south of Tel Aviv.  Mossad may have developed the target intelligence. Further, the Israel Air Force may have used the larger Heron TP Eitan UAV with a wingspan of 110 feet to possibly refuel the Hermes UAVs. The Hermes 450 UAV can remain aloft for 24 hours, while the Eitan can stay up for 36 hours.

[…]

What should not be lost on Iran and the Sudan is that the alleged IAF raid on the convoy in January was within the same operational radius of approximately 700 nautical miles-equidistant from Jerusalem to both Port Sudan and Tehran.

When there was speculation in early 2012 about a possible strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities we interviewed Yediot Ahronoth intelligence columnist Dr. Ronen Bergman and had this exchange:

Gordon:  The recent crash of a heavy lift Hermes Drone, disclosed that Israel has the capability of reaching Tehran with UAV’s. Could Israel launch waves of drone attacks on Iranian Nuclear projects and missile sites with any degree of success?

Bergman:  The question refers to my remarks on using drones. I did not say and I didn’t mean that Israel is capable of launching a strategic strike using drones alone. Far from it; however, Israel is using drones for various surveillance and operational activities. These can be very useful in a possible strike. Deploying drones, especially drones that can stay in the air for 48 hours and carry a payload of up to one ton, would be a powerful weapon when you have many of these involved in a massive, coordinated strike over Iran.

Then there was the Israeli attack in 2012 on the Sudan Yarmouk weapons factory that prompted this comment about the use of Israeli drones equipped with the equivalent of the Boeing CHAMP missile capable of producing non-nuclear EMP effects in an Iconoclast blog post:

An AP story in a 2012 Washington Times report successful bomb damage assessment by a disputed IAF raid on the Yarmouk munitions factory near Khartoum in the Sudan drawn from satellite imagery studies.  As noted in the AP/Israel Hayom news story, “Satellite Images Shed Light on Sudan Weapons attack”, Israeli commentators confirmed our NER/Iconoclast assessment that Israel has the conventional capability to attack Iranian nuclear and missile development facilities.  As we commented in that post, Israel may also have unconventional means equal to recent US tests of new high energy electronics killer cruise missiles, as well.

Some Israeli commentators suggested that if Israel did indeed carry out an airstrike that caused the Sudan blast, it might have been a trial run of sorts for an operation in Iran. Both countries are roughly 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away from Israel, and an air operation would require careful planning and in-flight refueling.

Israel could have a new unconventional capability given Boeing’s development of the CHAMP cruise missile that could produce high energy non-nuclear EMP effects to take out electronics.  Note this recent Digital Journal report, “New cruise missile will fry electronic targets, change warfare”.

The three IDF operations against Hamas in 2009, 2012 and the 2014 fifty day summer war clearly demonstrated the prowess and accuracy of Israeli drones and aircraft Israeli military maintain disciplined silence about attack victories. For example Operation Orchard in 2007 that took out the Syrian plutonium reactor built with North Korean assistance and some believe paid for by Iran. Launching ground hugging cruise missiles with CHAMP capabilities from Hermes heavy lift drones in a swarming attack against Iranian nuclear facilities just could be Israel’s future prowess. It beats sending in young men and women in aging F-15s and F-16s in what could be suicidal missions.

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

PODCAST: Pakistani Terrorist Camps in the United States

Listen to this podcast of the January 3, 2016 Lisa Benson Show on KKNT 960 AM Radio – The Patriot. Lisa Benson and New English Review Senior Editor Jerry Gordon co-hosted this show with the assistance of Board of Advisers member, Richard Cutting.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Foundation of Islam and Democracy and the U.S. Commission for international religious discussed the recently launched Freedom Muslim Reform Movement, the deteriorating situation inside Syria and U.S. failure to contend with NATO ally Turkey under Islamist President Erdogan in the war against ISIS.

Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish Policy Center, addressed allegations in a recent Wall Street Journal expose of NSA spying on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, U.S. Congressional Members and American Jewish leaders, Israeli preparedness against ISIS threats in Syria and the Sinai and the tacit cooperation with Egypt and the fascinating understanding struck with Putin’s Russia to contain Hezbollah. We will be posting Bryen’s written responses to these and other questions, separately.

Jamaat ul-Fuqra fbi

FBI agents embracing members of Jamaat ul-Fuqra, a Pakistani based terrorist group in the United States.

Ryan Mauro, National Security Analyst at The Clarion Project addressed the terrorist training camps established in both Canada and America by radical Pakistani Sufi Sheik Mubarak ali Gilani, who has not been investigated by the FBI despite his founding a network of Jamaat ul-Fuqra/Muslim of America (MOA) paramilitary camps in both Canada and the U.S. that conveyed extremist Islamist ideology and provided weapons training for prison converts to Islam. These MOA camps fostered a three decade record of attempted assassinations, criminal activities supporting terrorism akin to that of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino massacres. Yet, as Mauro pointed out, Sheik Gilani does not support ISIS.

Our usually astute European listener had these comments on the January 3, 2016 Lisa Benson Show:

To hear Dr. Jasser state the plan to reform the religion of Islam was very interesting. The Sharia Islamic law actually promoted by Sunni Islam is both political and religious. For these extremists their ideology requires them to conquer the world and forcefully ask all the non-Muslims to convert to Islam or become third class citizens of their caliphate.

What Dr. Jasser is proposing is to separate religion state from religion in Islam. A modernized religious law will take a lot of time.  However, this is the only way to advance eliminating extremist Islam from all around the world. Dr. Jasser should not call this reform a new Sharia law, but the New Moslem Religious law. The word Sharia has another meaning for all Moslems. It will be interesting to watch how many mosques and Imams would adopt Dr. Jasser’s propositions because many are still funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Moslem Brotherhood. Let us not forget that Muslim Brotherhood/CAIR members have been engaged by the Administration in such policy considerations.

Dr. Jasser has to be congratulated for the dangerous and wonderful work he is doing.

Wonderful to hear Shoshana Bryen giving her opinion and analysis. The Israelis know that they are being tapped and they know quite well what encryption services they can use for their communications which are Top Secret. Shoshana knows all about what is going on and she writes about it explicitly.

The details that Ryan Mauro provided are diagnostic of the chronic illness of these Islamist Muslim of America camps.  It is unbelievable that the FBI, even with limited resources, has not taken the necessary steps to indict all those who are embedded in these groups. I sincerely hope that there will not be a major terror attack in the US perpetrated by members of these Islamist camps.

I think the radio show is really getting better and better. The American public needs to hear these comments to wake up and contact their law makers in order to have a safe America.

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

Revealed: Russia’s Great Game in the Middle East

It was a bizarre turn of events at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York on the 70th Anniversary of the world body.  President Obama gave a speech lambasting Putin’s Russia over its seizure of Crimea and  invasion of eastern Ukraine violating the country’s sovereignty. However, he paid court to Russia and China for supporting the  Iran nuclear pact unanimous approved  by the UN Security Council poised to release tens of billions in sequestered funds as of December 15, 2015. He  questioned Russia’s sudden military presence in western Syria building a military complex to bolster the Assad regime.  A regime that rained barrel bombs causing the deaths of 250,000. A regime ethnically cleansing the country’s Sunni population sending millions to displaced persons camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and hundreds of thousands in flight to the EU.  The President got warm applause over his rapprochement with Cuba.

Putin, when he had his turn at the rostrum accused the U.S., without naming it, of causing the rise of the Islamic State through its invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan,  ultimately creating a Sunni supremacist Caliphate.  Following Putin Iranian President Rouhani  had his turn at the rostrum in the Assembly hall. He made the astounding proposal that an international alliance including Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq  combat terrorism in the Middle East.  A proposal that Rouhani  said should be confirmed in another Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action akin to the Iran nuclear pact.  He noted the nuclear pact  was  concluded  “without the impediment of the Zionist enterprise”, meaning Israel.  Witness  the cheek of President Rouhani   of Iran  suggesting  a new Shia alliance in the Middle East, plus Russia welcoming  the US to join in fighting Sunni Supremacist  Islamic State.

What was on display at the UN was the supplanting  of the U.S. in the new great game of the Middle East by  Russia.  It was enough to make one’s head spin with these sudden turns  of events. It made the U.S., look like a “JV team “struggling  to keep up.

The usually astute Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, DC-based  Jewish Policy Center  was asked  by this writer during the September 27, 2015 Lisa Benson Show why  these developments occurred so suddenly.  She said that  Putin’s Russia like all great powers do when they are confronted by a vacuum, especially one that threatens its national  interests.  Thousands of Jihadists have left Chechnya, Dagestan, and Tartarstan in Russia attracted by the Salafist  Islamic doctrine of the Islamic State as a declared Caliphate.  Thus  Putin’s objective is to “bottle” up these Sunni Jihadists in Syria and Iraq.  Putin admitted as much in a CBS 60 Minutes interview with Charlie Rose  Sunday evening when he said:

More than 2,000 fighters from Russia and ex-Soviet republics are in the territory of Syria. There is a threat of their return to us. So instead of waiting for their return, we are better off helping Assad fight them on Syrian territory.

Watch the CBS 60 Minutes Charlie Rose interview with Russian President Putin:

When Lisa Benson asked Bryen about  where Iran’s proxy Hezbollah stood in these developments, she  replied  Hezbollah “had not been an efficient fighting force in Syria.  Further, she commented that Russian presence in Syria is meant to actually limit Hezbollah’s  involvement, perhaps  to a defensive role “in the Alawite enclave.”  Moreover, she noted  that Putin is not interested  in a war with Israel ,suggesting that the meeting with Netanyahu  in Moscow was  to coordinate means to avoid conflict. However, Bryen  noted  Putin has another interest in the region, “control over the flow of gas to Europe” being developing offshore in Israeli, Egyptian,  and Lebanese fields.  Bryen thinks there is ‘no evidence’ of Russian presence on the Syrian frontier on Israel’s Golan Heights.  Notwithstanding a spate of rocket and mortar attacks on the Golan responded to by the IDF this past weekend that Israeli Minister of Defense Ya’alon thinks were ordered by Iran.  We shall soon see whether Putin’s gamble pays off.  Or results in another graveyard  like Afghanistan  rout of the Soviet 40th Army in 1989.

We could see this  thunder clap about to occur in the run up to the UN General Assembly session.  We had the Russian announcement of  military aid and mission to be established in the Alawite bastion of Latakia province.  Included were  the building of expanded landing fields to accommodate Ilushin cargo aircraft  and squadrons of  Mig and Sukhoi fighters, transiting from Russia to Syria  via Iran and Iraqi airspace. Then there was the announcement of Black Sea fleet maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.  In late July, following the UN endorsement of the Iran deal, Revolutionary Guards Quds Force Commander  Qasem Soliemani in Moscow  met with Putin and  Russian Defense Minister Shogui. Those discussions were  ostensibly to expedite deliveries of Russian advanced air defense systems, but  in reality to plan for Russian direct involvement with Iranian forces . In May , we witnessed an alleged US ally, Iraqi Premier Haidar al-Abadi traveling to Moscow  to obtain additional fighter  deliveries to aid in the battle against the Islamic State. Meanwhile, President Obama had committed 3, 500 American military trainers to assist  the  Iraqi National Security forces  to recover Anbar province and  Mosul. Abadi, our alleged ally in the coalition against ISIS,   brought in Russian military advisors to link  up with   Soliemani  directing  Iraqi Shia militia forces.

The unkindest  cut of all was the announcement  on the eve of the UN General Assembly of a joint intelligence and security operations center in Baghdad sharing  information among Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq.

There was  also evidence that the U.S. led coalition strategy in Syria and Iraq “defeating and degrading” ISIS had collapsed.  That was reflected  in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee by CENTCOM commander, Gen. Lloyd Austin who told Senators that  the $500 million program to train Syrian opposition fighters had failed ignominiously. We had spent $40 million training and equipping 60 candidates, who signed waivers that they were to fight ISIS, not Assad. 40 of those surrendered their weapons and joined Al Qaeda affiliate jabhat al Nusra.    If that wasn’t  enough, we had the roiling scandal of a revolt by CENTCOM  intelligence analysts who requested a Pentagon Inspector General  investigation into why assessments were being prettied up by superiors  to present a misinformed picture to the President and National Security Staff that we were succeeding in the air campaign without US boots on the ground.  That was further depicted in testimony by ex-CIA director, retired Army General Petreaus , who  testified  before the same Senate Armed Services Committee  recommending establishing   no fly zones, sanctuary havens in country and deploying  Special Forces teams.  Add to that the failure of the Obama White House to honor its commitment to supply  Syrian Kurdish YPG  and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces with updated weapons, ammunition and equipment.  The Kurds are  being attacked by Turkish air force fighters.  To cap things off, retired Marine Gen. John Allen, coordinator of the  Coalition effort,  resigned after a year of service.  As former Defense Intelligence Agency  head, retired Army General Michael Flynn observed, this is what you get when you “politicize intelligence”. The President suggested in his UN address  that the Islamic State   “violent extremism , distorts ”the true meaning of the Islamic faith.”

Russian may have “frozen” the Syrian conflict in a stalemate.  The U.S. finds itself suddenly on the sidelines, largely, by its own “red lines”. Now with Russia’s direct involvement in Syria and Iraq, we will soon find out if ISIS is vanquished or remains a growing global threat. Such are the rules of The Great Game that in the 19th Century pitted imperial Czarist Russia against the British Empire.

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

Lebanese Christian Politician Attacks Israel

Noted Israeli-Canadian scholar Dr. Mordechai Nisan’s, latest book, War and Politics in Lebanon, reveals that very few Lebanese Christian politicians and commanders had a high level of ethics.  See “Engimatic Lebanon”, in the September 2015, New English Review. Those who didn’t lust after power were few. Some were powerless like Charles Malek and Fuad Bustany. Others are dying like Antoine Lahd. Or are in exile such as Etienne Sacr.  Nisan cites  the  example of Christian leaders, like Michel Aoun who have opted to form alliances with Iran and its proxy Hezbollah.  Another Nisan also drew attention to is Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces political party. Nisan wrote, “Aoun and Geagea .. both tore Maronite unity into shreds and bloodshed.”

Geagea led the Lebanese Forces Christian militia from 1985 to 1990 in full alliance with Israel. That was before he was jailed by the Syrian-backed regime in 1994 for eleven years for “assassinations of Lebanese citizens”.

Now Samir Geagea has apparently made  a major ideological and strategic change of direction. In a surprising statement issued yesterday, Geagea attacked “the aggressive Israelis for their violence against Palestinians, and Israel’s suppression of Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem.”   Contrast this with his earlier condemnation of Hezbollah in the  January 2015 attacks by Hezbollah the killed two IDF soldiers near Mount Dov near the Lebanese border. The Algemeiner reported Geagea saying at the time: “Hezbollah has no right to implicate the Lebanese people in a battle with Israel. There is a government and a parliament which can decide on that.”?

This statement didn’t appear out of the blue.  Geagea and his wife MP Setrida Geagea had just returned from a visit to Qatar; a major supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. The visit took place after sources revealed that Geagea’s political party went in quest of funding.  He had received Saudi petrodollars in the past, according to wikileaks.

However, the pro-Muslim Brotherhood  and pro-Hamas attitude of Geagea isn’t of recent origin. He  dispatched a member of his party’s political bureau, MP Antoine Zahra, to Gaza in support of Hamas. Geagea supporters argue that he needs to play the Sunni card to create a balance with Hezbollah and Iran.  Lebanese Christian sources dismiss the Sunni Shia reason. They say, “Geagea could have kept his connections to moderate Sunnis like Sa’ad Hariri.  However, he openly allied himself with Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas which is a huge mistake. It is about Petrodollars of course.”

Waging an attack on Israel to buy credit among Islamist fundamentalists is not a Geagea invention. Before him, another Lebanese Christian leader General Michel Aoun who fought Assad in 1989 and went into exile for 15 years, reversed his position  upon his return to Lebanon in 2005.  He openly sealed an alliance with Hezbollah.  Aoun engaged in a decade long alliance with Assad, Hezbollah and Iran. Thus the two most powerful Christian politicians, who have fought the radical Islamists and Iran in the past, have become allies to the Jihadists, both Sunnis and Shia.  All to the surprise of  veterans of both the Lebanese Forces militia and the Lebanese Army.

In the 1980s, another former commander of the Christian militia, a close ally of Israel, Elie Hobeika, also  reversed course and shifted from being anti Assad to becoming an ally of the Syrian regime in 1985. He was attacked by both Geagea and Aoun in 1986 and removed from East Beirut. Ironically Geagea and Aoun, years later also abandoned their Lebanese Christian legacy to become allies with either Hamas or Hezbollah.

A Lebanese Christian scholar living in Beirut, who knew both Aoun and Geagea, said “this is a sickness of power. We haven’t seen anything like that when Bashir Gemayel was alive.  Geagea and Aoun are  power hungry. They abandoned their people and are aligning with radicals just  hoping one day they will snatch the supreme office of President of the Lebanese Republic. This is disgusting. We blame Geagea more, because he once led a force that was the heart of the Lebanese Christian resistance. He knew better, his betrayal is bigger.”

Geagea, we note,  fell short of  the  65 Parliamentary votes needed in the April 2014 election to succeed Michel Sleiman’s term as the Maronite President in the confessional political system. He only got 48 votes.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Samir Geagea  Christian Lebanese Forces political leader.

Congressional Report: Iran Spends Billions to Foment Global Terror

Responding to a request from Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), the Congressional Research Service prepared a report detailing monies spent by Iran supporting terrorist organizations in the Middle East.

The report, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, outlined the massive expenditures by the Iranian regime on Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite militias Syria and Iraq, the Assad government, the Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, as well as Iran’s own military program.

These expenditures will only increase with the expected release of $150 billion in sanctions relief due to the current nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers.

Iranian Military Spending

Although in May 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama stated Iran’s military budget was “$15 billion compared to $150 billion for the Gulf States,” Press TV, an Iranian-owned media outlet, reported in March the Iranian parliament had approved a $300 billion budget for the military for 2015.

The report names the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force as the main vehicle that carries out terrorism for the regime, citing one study that claims the actual funding for the force is “much greater” than the amount allotted to it in the official budget “as the group’s funds are supplemented by its own economic activities.”

Assad Government

Iran provides an estimated $6-20 billion per year in aid to the Assad regime in Syria. One source estimated in 2013 Iran was giving $600-700 million per month to Syria, while another says that the amount has since doubled. The money funds militias, weapons and military training as well as the purchase of subsidized oil from Iran and other commodities.

Although Iran claims to be cash strapped because of international sanctions, this past July, Iran extended $1 billion in additional financial credit to the Syrian regime.

Shiite Militias in Syria

Iran provides training for Iraqi Shiite militias who are fighting for the Assad regime in Syria. An estimated 5-10,000 Iraqi Shiites are said to comprise these forces that fight alongside Hezbollah and form sniper teams, lead ambushes, establish checkpoints and provide infantry support for Syrian armored corps. Iran also recruits fighters for the Assad regime from Afghanistan and from within Syria itself. Iran pays each fighter an estimated $500-1,000 per month.

Shiite Militias in Iraq

One Iranian cleric cited in the congressional report estimates Iran has spent more than $1 billion in military aid to Iraq since the Islamic State swept through the country and captured large swathes of territory in the north last summer.

The militias Iran funds in Iraq are theose that fought against the United States between 2003 and 2011. Iraqi intelligence officials say just one of these militias, As’aib Ahl Al Haq (League of the Righteous), receives between $1.5 and $2 million per month from Iran.

A report published by Amnnesty International in 2014 titled Absolute Impunity: Militia Rule in Iraq documented the horrific kidnapping and murder of Sunni men by these Shiite paramilitary groups.

Hezbollah

The latest State Department Country Report on Terrorism (2014) states Iran provided Hezbollah with “training, weapons, and explosives, as well as political, diplomatic, monetary, and organizational aid.” The Department of Defense estimates Tehran gives Hezbollah between $100-200 million in aid per year.

Iran-Khamenei-Nasrallah-Kiss-IP_0

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah kisses Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Photo: © Reuters)

Hamas

In 2006, it was estimated Iran was providing Hamas with $20-25 million per month to cover its governing budget as well as supplying the Gaza-based terror group weapons, technical assistance and military training.

In the years following, it was reported the aid had been cut, while at the same time Iran began sending more assistance to an alternate terror group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Most recent media reports say Iran has resumed its support of Hamas, providing “tens of millions of dollars” to Hamas’ military efforts including the rebuilding of tunnels destroyed the 2014 Israel-Gaza war, the replenishment of rockets and the salaries of fighters.

Houthi Rebels

Over the past number of years, Iran has been increasing its activities in Yemen. The Islamic republic is currently supporting the Houthi rebels who are fighting against the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, providing them with “tens of millions of dollars.”

The infusion of $150 billion dollars in sanctions relief due to the current nuclear agreement with the world’s powers, in addition to monies garnered through vast business dealings with the West, will provide Iran will more fodder as it fans out its terrorist fires across the globe.

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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Legality of Lifting Sanctions Against Iran Called Into Question

Lebanon: Unraveling the Enigma

Politics and War in Lebanon book coverTo paraphrase Winston Churchill, “Lebanon is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Unraveling the Lebanese enigma is the objective of a new book by Dr. Mordechai Nisan, Politics and War in Lebanon. Nisan is an accomplished Israeli political scientist and retired Hebrew University lecturer. His  body of work covers Zionism, Islam, Arab history, minority peoples, Lebanon, U.S. Middle East policy and the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is rare that a book achieves its objective of unraveling the complex nuances of the Lebanon puzzle in both an astute and yet literate manner. Dr. Nisan has views on many issues including why the 80 year old confessional political system persists and has resilience. It has a lot to do with the adoption of the Maronite Christian independence ethos arising from the historic resistance against centuries of Muslim and later Ottoman rule under Islamic Sharia law.

The confessional political system maintains, a Maronite as President, Sunni as Premier and Shiite as Speaker of the Lebanese National Assembly. The Lebanese Parliament has 128 members split equally between Christians and Muslims elected to four year terms in multi-member constituencies, which often produces unexpected alliances. Nisan writes: “the idea of a numerical democracy for Lebanon, as for all typical democratic states, had been, as we know, rejected in favor of political confessionalism by assigning office according to a sectarian key.” Of course the Lebonese paradox was assisted by the fact that it only had one census back in 1932 that reflected a Maronite Christian majority which has since dwindled due to war, emigration and the demographic rise of both Sunni and Shia. Even during the period of the internal wars triggered by Palestinians against the Maronite hegemony that began in 1975, there were episodes where Druze, Shia and Sunni militias protected the precinct of the Maronite patriarch. The confessional political system remains durable despite the inroads made by external enemies like Syria, the Palestinians and internal ones, like Iran’s proxy Hezbollah dominating the country’s southern border and Eastern Bekaa Valley adjoining Syria.

There is also the long standing history of Maronite Christian – Zionist mutual respect that has never been recognized in formal agreements. Yet that figures prominently in understanding  the role of Israel in episodic military operations in Lebanon – dislodging PLO-Fatah terrorist armies, only to have them replaced with Shia Hezbollah forces occupying the Southern security belt that the IDF abandoned in 2000. Now, that Southern border is crenellated with underground fortifications and tunnels, equipped with over 150,000 Iranian-supplied rockets and missiles. That could figure significantly in a new Middle East War arising from a possible nuclear deal with Hezbollah’s creator, Iran. Nisan considers that episode one of Israel’s most abject geo-political failures.

Among the issues addressed in Nisan’s timely and cogent book is the political disintegration triggered by the Palestinian war on the Maronites in 1975. He addresses the Israeli incursion in 1978 and First Israeli Lebanese War in 1982 that ousted Yassir Arafat and Fatah-PLO leaders sending them packing under UN auspices to Tunisia and nine other countries. Nevertheless, he is critical of Israel’s pell mell abandonment of the southern security belt, held by the IDF and the South Lebanese Army (SLA) in alliance with Israel. The evacuation was ordered by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in May 2000. That catastrophe gave rise to the Hezbollah takeover and ethnic cleansing of South Lebanon. There is also the nearly 20 year predatory Syrian occupation of large sections of Lebanon that began in 1976.

Nisan has nothing but contempt for the behavior of the Assad Syrian regime of both father and son in what could only be characterized as the virtual looting of Lebanon’s economic and natural resources. There were Syrian companies grabbing Lebanese tenders, Syrian officials  pocketing tax revenues and running a protection extortion racket with local businesses. The results were a once vibrant economy faltering, with unemployment and poverty soaring. He notes that Syria never recognized an independent Lebanon in 1946. He considers the Syrian occupation the equivalent of the Nazi Anschluss of Austria comparing Lebanese Sunni and Orthodox Christians as the equivalent of pan-Germanic Austrians, because the latter identified strongly with both Syria and being Arab.

Nisan contends that the Israeli justification for the Southern withdrawal in 2000 was faulty. It was based on the following logic:

  1. Israel had to dismantle the SLA to comply with UN Resolution 425 of March 1978 that called for Israel to withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory.
  2. Hezbollah would overwhelm and murder its Christian and Shiite elements prompted by the memories of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp massacres.
  3. That if the SLA put up resistance against Hezbollah that it might complicate withdrawal leading to a possible return by Israel to assist its former allies.
  4. Israel sacrificed the SLA as a necessity to assure that Hezbollah not interfere with Israel’s withdrawal from the South.

Nisan believes that the debacle that occurred in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal might have been prevented if:

  1. Israel had bolstered the SLA as an independent force.
  2. Israel might have disarmed both the SLA and Hezbollah.
  3. Israel had called upon Syrian Forces to withdraw simultaneously with the IDF.

He concludes, “In Lebanon, Israel was drained of its political and public energy, had done little strategic planning, and in the end lacked a moral compass.”

Nisan notes the three signal events that occurred in 2000:

  1. In May the Israeli Army withdrew from Southern Lebanon and likewise forced the collapse of its SLA ally there.
  2. In June President Assad of Syria died and was succeeded by his son Bashar.
  3. Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader, and a variety of political personalities, both Christian and Muslim, called for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.

In mid-July 2015, a worldwide gathering of Lebanese activists occurred in Washington, DC in the First Convention on the Cedars Revolution. It was the commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the Cedars Revolution. Several sessions were held with Members of Congress, the State Department and the Pentagon. The issues they addressed concerned the preservation of democracy in Lebanon’s confessional political system, military and security matters with the incursion of Syrian forces, reminiscent of original issue that ignited the Cedars Revolution in March 2005. It is indicative of the abiding concerns of the Lebanese and largely Christian diaspora, estimated at upwards of 14 million.

Even during several Arab Israeli conflicts, Lebanon stayed out of the conflicts. After the failure of the 1970 Black September campaign between PLO-Fatah forces and the Kingdom of Jordan, Yassir Arafat and Palestinian resistance leadership were given sanctuary in Lebanon. Less than five years later, Arafat fomented open warfare on Christians in a ferocious and bloody conflict. It was during that period that Lebanese Maronite leaders like Etienne Sakr (Abu Arz) and Pierre Gemayel reached out to Israel whose military covertly provided training and equipment to Christian militia forces. There were hopes of an eventual enduring peace between Lebanon and Israel. That possibility ended with the assassination on September 15, 1982 of Maronite President-Elect and leader of Lebanese Forces Bashir Gemayel of the Phalange Party. He was allegedly on his way to conclude a treaty with Israel in Jerusalem.

Nisan addresses the transformation of Lebanese Shia under Sayyid Fadlaallah from willing confessional participants to Sharia infused support of an Islamic state, reducing the dominant Maronite and other Christians to dhimmi status. Along with that, Fadlaallah denied Israel’s legitimacy and boosted the Palestinian cause against the “Zionist enterprise.” Instead of involving himself in the Lebanon political structure, Fadlaallah sought out the means of supporting jihad, through zakat, Muslim charity. The person who completed the transformation of Lebanon’s Shia was Imam Musa al-Sadr who, in the political chaos of the mid-1970’s, created the Movement for the Disinherited (al Harakat al-Muhrimum) to promote Shiite social equality and political activism and its companion military wing, Amal (“Hope”). Sadr disappeared in 1978 on a flight to Rome under mysterious circumstances. Leadership of Amal fell to successors Hussein al-Husseini, who later became Speaker, and ultimately, lawyer Nabih Berri. Berri sought resistance against the PLO in the 1970’s and 1980’s including laying siege to Palestinian refugee camps. However, the ultimate destination of Lebanon’s Shia community was to Iranian theocratic influence emanating from Shia seminaries in Iraq. The pro-Khomeinist returnees from Najaf provided fertile grounds to build Hezbollah – the party of God, a Qur’anic designation. Nisan notes that the ultimate leadership of Hezbollah was drawn from Southerners like Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah and Abdul Karim Obeid, graduates of the apocalyptic Twelver seminary in Qom, Iran. By 1982, 1,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards were stationed in the Bekaa Valley training young Lebanese Shia fighters in Khomeinist doctrine and providing them with weapons and millions in funding. Syria under the Assad family became a strategic ally during the Iran–Iraq War of the 1980’s allowing Damascus to become a transfer point for Iran to supply its proxy, Hezbollah. Hezbollah became Iran’s global terrorism arm. That is reflected in Iran’s support for Lebanese Shia émigrés in the Latin American tri-border area that provided a base for the 1992 Buenos Aires Israeli Embassy and 1994 Jewish AMIA blasts. The later is still roiling Argentine politics with the recent mysterious death of Argentine Jewish prosecutor Alberto Nisman and accusations of involvement at the highest political levels in both Iran and Argentina.

The Israel invasion of 1982 launched a series of terrorist spectacles by the late Imad Mughniyahin. In Beirut in 1983  he killed over 400 French paratroopers, US Marines and US embassy staff. That was followed by the 1986 TWA flight hijacking and killing of a US Navy diver hostage. Mughniyah, went big time with the Khobar Towers blast in Saudi Arabia in 1995. He had links to the East African US Embassy blasts in 1998 and a major role in training and facilitating the travel via Iran and Germany of the 19 Sunni perpetrators of 9/11. Mughniyah’s leading terrorist role ended in Damascus in February 2008, when his vehicle exploded in what many believe was a Mossad revenge attack.

The big breakthrough for Hezbollah was its campaign of attacks in the South of Lebanon and Israeli border incursions in the late 1980’s to 2000. Nisan notes that Hezbollah undertook 1,030 military operations over the period from 1990 to 1995, escalating to more than 4,928 operations from 1996 to 2000.

Nisan links Hezbollah’s political rise with the adoption of the triumvirate Lebanese Presidency system with the Taif agreement. That enabled Hezbollah to secure seats in the Chamber of Deputies in competition with the Shia Amal party. Its further rise to power was the product of one of its three expressed objectives of a 1985 Open Letter:

  1. Accepting Ayatollah Khomeini as leader of the world’s Muslims.
  2. Wiping out Israel and opposing America.
  3. Forming relations with Christians in Lebanon while calling them to embrace Islam.

Nisan noted the impact of the third objective expanding the 128 member Assembly split 64 Christian/64 Muslim. He wrote, “many Muslim voters were electing Christian deputies in the South, while Christians elected a Shiite in Jbayl and Sunnis were elected by Maronites and Druze in the Shouf.”

By 1999, when the US State Department designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist group, Hezbollah was a mini-state within a state. In May of 2000, the ring of fate was sealed in Southern Lebanon with the Israel evacuation and collapse of the SLA resistance. Under a secret agreement between Hezbollah and the IDF, the former agreed not to attack Israeli forces as they completed their retreat. That action, as Nisan notes, led Yassir Arafat to instigate the so-called Temple Mount Second Intifada triggered by the visit of Israel PM Sharon on September 28, 2000. Sharon was the Defense Minister who undertook the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

At the conclusion of Nisan’s book, he posits three scenarios:

  1. The Iranian Shiite axis could collapse with a short time.
  2. The Arab world could continue its slide into fissured decay while distracted from its historic and national vision.
  3. The Arab-Israeli conflict will likely remain intractably irresolvable according to the tried and tested formulae for peace.

In the midst of Nisan’s speculations he draws attention to the aftermath of the Maronite Patriarch a-Ra’I 2012 visit to Jerusalem. That enraged Hezbollah, but brought commendation from Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. Maronite President Sleiman whose term ended in 2014 paid a visit to Jumblatt’s home town of Mukhtara before he stepped down. The message was one of reconciliation within the confessional system that might bring the sectarian groups together and avoid a civil war. With a vacant presidential post and parliamentary elections postponed until 2017, trouble looms for the country caught up in the vicissitudes of the Syrian civil war spilling over its borders, bringing in a flood of refugees. Currently, Lebanon is embroiled in a highly politicized trash crisis involving a protest Group “You Stink” that some believe may cover a possible power grab by the Hezbollah party and Michael Aoun’s Free Patriot Movement. The concern is the crisis might bring down the National Unity Government of Sunni Prime Minister Tammam Salam.Reuters reported both Saudi Arabia and Iran gave their blessing to the present government with a Cabinet composed of Sunni Muslim former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s Future movement, Shi’ite Hezbollah and Christians. Nisan wrote about a hopeful sign, “The March 14 camp asked Patriarch Beshara a – Ra’I to suggest names for the presidential post. Maybe somehow two Maronites – patriarch and president would help save the country from oblivion.” The expression in Hebrew is, alevai. Its English meaning, “that should only be.”

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. Also see Jerry Gordon’s collection of interviews, The West Speaks.

Israel: ‘No Choice’ but Military Option against Iran’s Nuclear Program?

Israel - Iran War Scenarios  12-14(2)In 1964, I sat in a darkened movie theater in Washington, D.C. with a fellow Army Intelligence officer watching Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant dark satire film on how to live with thermonuclear warfare, Dr Strangelove: or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. My colleague and I laughed nervously as we had just finished secret intelligence assignments. That memory was triggered by a recent American Thinker article by veteran nuclear war gaming and arms control expert, John Bosum, “Thinking About the Unthinkable: An Israel-Iran Nuclear War”.  That was a reference to books and articles by nuclear game theorist and Hudson Institute co-founder Herman Kahn and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on limited nuclear warfare.

Scary prospects then, scary prospects now with the world on the verge of concluding a nuclear agreement with the apocalyptic Islamic Republic of Iran virtually assuring it of an arsenal of nuclear weapons in a decade, if not sooner funding in part by the lifting of $150 billion in sanctions. The U.S. says it has the means of striking back at Iran if it is found cheating, a reference to possible military actions. The reality is that the Administration has hollowed out the nation’s military capabilities leaving Israel isolated. The Jewish nation would doubtlessly be reviled by world opinion, should it undertake a strike of its own on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The Israeli Limited Nuclear Attack Scenario

There are daunting prospects facing Israel with the looming Congressional vote rejecting the Iran nuclear pact in the face of a likely veto threat by President Obama that may not be overridden. John Bosum, in his American Thinker article vets a possible limited nuclear attack by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities. His credibility stems from his considerable expertise and professional background in nuclear war gaming and arms control.  He posits an attack scenario using conventional air craft equipped with US supplied GBU 28 “bunker busters” followed by tactical nukes or nuclear tipped cruise missiles launched from Israeli Dolphin subs offshore in the Arabian Sea.  That scenario faces the realities of estimated losses by Israel Ministry of Defense planners. They have estimated that such a scenario might result in the loss of 40 percent of air crews-a heavy price to pay for young IAF pilots.  Then there is Bosum’s suggestion that Israel might use a low altitude EMP attack on Iran by a Jericho 2 missile.  Ex-CIA official Chet Nagle suggested that Israel might pursue that during a Capitol Hill EMPact program on the EMP Threat several years ago. There is also the non nuclear option using swarms of Drone- launched CHAMP cruise missiles that could take out specific targets. Examples are computer controllers and major power transformers for underground enrichment and centrifuge R& D facilities as well as command and control networks. Israeli encrypted software managing large swarms of drones may provide a stealth shield against the Russian supplied S300 batteries. In September 2008 the IAF flew simulated missions against Greek S300 systems involving swarms of IAF aircraft that rattled the IRGC military. From that exercise the IAF may have developed electronic means of spoofing these Russian systems version of S-300 air defense systems.

Bosum believes that Israel’s anti-missile umbrella including the Arrow anti-ICBM, David Sling, Iron Beam and Iron Dome systems, might not be able to withstand barrages of Iranian rockets and medium range ballistic missiles. There is evidence from the Tel Aviv University Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) November 2012 Iran attack simulations that a conventional attack might succeed in setting back the Iranian program by three years.  Moreover, the simulations suggest that the anti-missile umbrella may destroy significant numbers of incoming Iranian missiles sparing Israel’s major population centers. From reliable sources we understand that Israel may have successfully conducted tests against North Korean developed Shahab 3 missiles likely candidates for nuclear equipped MIRV warheads.

The real issues for Israel are priorities and staging of a limited nuclear attack scenario on Iran’s nuclear program.  From release of  interview audio tapes  this weekend on Israeli Channel 2  by the authors of a forthcoming memoir of  former Defense Minister Ehud Barak   there were allegations  that  Netanyahu was thwarted  from undertaking possible Iran nuclear attack missions  because of objections from  former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, “cold feet” of Ministers Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Defense Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon  and  looming joint Israel US military exercises in 2012. There were reports that President Obama threatened to invoke the Brzezinski Doctrine with orders to shoot down IAF aircraft attacking Iranian targets.  Problem is Barak’s representations may have been part of a promotional effort to enhance his reputation and legacy.  There were also rumors that current Minister of Defense, Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon may have also revisited the limited Iran nuclear attack option this past year.  He broadly hinted  that “steps” might have to be taken during a May 5, 2015 conference in Tel Aviv hosted by the Israel Law Center, sufficient to bring a reaction from Iran’s UN Ambassador. Ya’alon was cited in a Times of Israel report saying:

“Certain steps” Israel might consider against tyrannical regimes threatening the nation’s security.

Cases in which we feel like we don’t have the answer by surgical operations we might take certain steps that we believe…should be taken in order to defend ourselves.

Of course, we should be sure that we can look at the mirror after the decision, or the operation. Of course, we should be sure that it is a military necessity. We should consider cost and benefit, of course. But, at the end, we might take certain steps.

He was reminded of US president Harry Truman who “was asked how you feel after deciding to launch the nuclear bombs, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing at the end the fatalities of 200,000, casualties? And he said, “When I heard from my officers the alternative is a long war with Japan, with potential fatalities of a couple of millions, I thought it is a moral decision.

We are not there yet, Ya’alon then added.

The Hezbollah Attack Scenario

The release in mid-August 2015 of a definitive national strategy document by IDF Chief of State (COS) Gen. Gadi Eizenkot,  criticized failures to combat both Hamas and Hezbollah, raised the risk from non-state fundamentalist Islamic State, but downplayed the Iran threat.   It is not without moment in late August that there was a stream of contradictory declarations from PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon that Iran is behind a series of low intensity and rocket attacks on Northern Israel and the Golan frontier since the beginning of this year. The attacks involved IRGC officers and Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  Israeli PM Netanyahu referencing acceptance of the Iran nuclear pact by world powers said, “You rush to embrace Iran, they fire rockets at us. We will harm those who harm us”

From the assessments of retired Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, former National Security Adviser, the immediate objective is the elimination of the near enemy and proxy of Iran, Hezbollah.  Recently Iran unveiled a new solid fuel surface to surface missile, the Fateh 313, that President Rouhani threatened  ballistic missile exercises would demonstrate the ability of longer range missiles to strike both Israel and Saudi Arabia.  The limited range of 310 miles of the Fateh-113 makes the weapon suitable for possible launch from Syria and Lebanon against population centers in Israel. Further, this threat is bolstered by the turmoil in Lebanon behind the unresolved political crisis over the possibility of a power grab by Hezbollah.

An Israeli preemptive attack scenario is at the heart of Jon Schanzer’s article, “The Iran Nuclear Deal Means War between Israel and Hezbollah”.   Schanzer argues that the Iran nuclear deal may trigger a major war against Hezbollah to eliminate the Iranian- supplied rocket and missile inventories and the command and control echelons of Hezbollah.  Schanzer refers to discussions with senior Israeli defense officials who appear committed   to dislodge Hezbollah and destroy the huge inventory of 150,000 rockets and missiles in Lebanon. Israel has both air and naval combat capabilities to achieve this including interdiction of Iranian and Chinese supplied anti-ship missiles. Further, the IDF would not have to rely on those U.S.-supplied GBU-28’s bunker busters.  It has sophisticated weapons like the Rafael SPICE precision guided glide bombs used to foil weapons deliveries from Syria to Hezbollah in the Bekaa Valley. It also has its own variant of the Boeing CHAMP cruise missiles capable of non-nuclear EMP effects against command and control nets. Moreover, unlike the inconclusive Second Lebanon War of 2006, the IDF has learned its lessons about unit training, command and control and effective means of taking out anti-air,  anti-tank rockets and  launching precision battlefield missiles, using the Iron Beam, Trophy and Pereh systems.

This sequencing of threat priorities was reflected in a Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition Interview by Sohran Ahmari with former Saudi General and National Security Advisor Anwar Eshki, “The Saudis Reply to Iran’s Rising Danger.”  General Eshki held colloquies with Dr. Dore Gold   director general of the Israel Foreign Ministry. The most notable one was the public forum at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. General Eshki’s conclusion drawn from a Socratic dialogue on the near versus far enemy decision paradigm was: “Israel is thinking first of all to destroy Hezbollah, to solve the problem with Hezbollah. After that they can attack Iran.”

Walla News in Israel reported a senior defense official   saying that Israel may be capable of undertaking an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and defending Israel against a retaliatory strike:

Every year that passes, the IDF improves. We never stand still. The professional level increases. In the coming year we will receive another submarine, F-35 fighter jets and other platforms. Intelligence is improving as well.

Further, Walla reported IDF COS Eizenkot instructing deputy, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan to revise military plans for a possible military strike. But it cautioned that the military option was off the table until there are ‘significant developments’.  That may be for public consumption. Israel has a tradition of saying nothing or opaquely very little when such events occur

Conclusion

The planners in the Ministry of Defense pits in Tel Aviv have multiple threats and must prioritize resources. By necessity Israel must plan for taking out the near enemy, Hezbollah, which would enable them to have a clear path to attack Iran.  Thus, it must be prepared to accomplish both threats.  At issue is whether Israel I PM Netanyahu and the security cabinet have the resolve to accomplish both despite adverse world opinion and likely intervention by the Obama Administration.

When Israeli PM Begin ordered the “raid against the sun’ in 1981 that took out Saddam Hussein’s  Osirak nuclear reactor , it took a decade for former Vice President Dick Cheney to thank Israel when the US led coalition unleashed the First Gulf War.  No such thanks came from the Bush Administration following the IAF’s successful obliteration of the Syrian al-Kibar nuclear bomb factory following the September 2007 raid.  . The Obama Administration has demonstrated its inability or unwillingness to exercise a possible military option should Iran be found cheating under the terms of the JCPOA. It has hollowed out the US military capability under the Congressional Sequester.  We have the smallest navy since WWI and the smallest Army since before WWII. We have less than 26,000 first line aircraft.  Israel has no choice, but to undertake its sovereign right to defend the Jewish nation against such existential threats.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Iranian President Rouhani and Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan with Fateh-313 Sold Fuel Missile, August 22, 2015. Source: Iranian Presidential office/AP.

Iranian official: “Israel should be annihilated”

“We reject the existence of any Israeli on this earth.” More genocide dreams from our new pals in the Islamic Republic of Iran. “‘Israel should be annihilated,’ senior Iran aide says,” Times of Israel, August 25, 2015:

A senior Iranian official on Tuesday said Israel “should be annihilated,” and that the thawing relations with the West would not translate into a shift in Tehran’s position concerning the Jewish state.

Hussein Sheikholeslam, a foreign affairs adviser to parliament speaker Ali Larijani, told Iranian media that contrary to remarks by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, “Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan.”

Hammond was in Iran on Monday for the reopening of the UK embassy in Tehran, and said that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had indicated a “more nuanced approach” to Israel’s existence. Hammond said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “revolutionary sloganizing” should be distinguished from “what Iran actually does in the conduct of its foreign policy.”

“We’ve got to, as we do with quite a number of countries, distinguish the internal political consumption rhetoric from the reality of the way they conduct their foreign policy,” the Guardian quoted Hammond saying.

Sheikholeslam told a Hamas news outlet earlier this month that Iran has resisted pressure exerted by the P5+1 world powers during the nuclear negotiations to halt its political involvement in Gaza, Syria and Yemen.

“These powers admitted that the reason for their pressure on us is our position on Israel,” he said. “We told them that we reject the existence of any Israeli on this earth.”

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Will The Trash Crisis In Lebanon Bring Hezbollah to Power?

Trash has been piling up in the streets of Beirut for nearly two months.  This weekend violence erupted in the Grand Serail in central Beirut with the Army rushing in with water cannons to quell the crowds; dozens were reported injured.  An alleged non –sectarian activist group “You Stink” is directing its ire at the government, which lacks a President, usually a Maronite Christian in the confessional political system of Lebanon.  The Sunni premier, Tammam Salam is under fire, as Cabinet Ministers rejected new tenders to end the trash dispute.

Noteworthy is the alliance between Hezbollah’s and the Christian Maronite group Lebanon Forces are suggesting that a new government be elected, despite the postponement of a national election till 2017.  Such is the topsy turvy politics in Lebanon’s enigmatic political system, given the overarching problems of contending with Hezbollah involvement in the Iranian regime backed alliance with Syria’s Assad. The Lebanese trash crisis gives new meaning to the well tuned phrase by 19th Century American journalist, Charles Dudley Warner: “politics make strange bedfellows.” Despite the alleged resilience and durability of the Lebanese confessional political system, could failure to obtain new tenders for the removal of stinking piles of trash on the streets of Lebanon’s cities result in Hezbollah emerging as the eminence grise behind a new government in Beirut?

Reuters has the latest developments in the roiling trash dispute turned violent, Lebanese ministers walk out of meeting over garbage crisis:”

The powerful Shi’ite party Hezbollah and its Christian allies walked out of an emergency Lebanese cabinet meeting on Tuesday in protest at a proposed solution to a garbage disposal crisis that has ignited violent protests in Beirut.

The national unity government led by Prime Minister Tammam Salam also canceled a tender to select new refuse collection firms, underscoring the difficulties it faces overcoming the crisis that has brought popular calls for it to step down.

Public anger that has come to a head over the trash crisis turned violent at the weekend, with scores of protesters and security forces injured. Salam has threatened to resign, expressing frustration at the failings of his cabinet, which groups Lebanon’s rival parties.

Failure to agree a solution to the crisis has laid bare wider political stagnation in Lebanon, where sectarian and power rivalries have been exacerbated by Syria’s four-year-old conflict.

Ministers including members of Hezbollah and Christian politician Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement walked out of Tuesday’s emergency meeting, the information minister said.

Hezbollah in a statement slammed the “mounting and worsening corruption” it said the garbage crisis reflected.

A government statement released after the walkout said tenders announced on Monday to award contracts for waste disposal to private companies had “included high costs”, and had therefore been rejected.

Media reports and activists had accused the cabinet of awarding the contracts to a number of companies based on regional and political affiliation, reflecting alleged corruption and politicization of the issue.

The government said that as a temporary measure rubbish, which has festered on the streets of Beirut, would be tipped in Akkar province in north Lebanon, in return for a $100 million “sum” that would go toward development projects in that region.

The information minister said it was the proposed sum that triggered the walkout. Akkar, one of the poorest regions in Lebanon, is mostly Sunni but also has many Christian areas.

You stink cartoon Daily Star

“You Stink” Cartoon. Source: The Daily Star, Beirut

Worsening problems emerge in the trash crisis.

Beirut-based activists from the “You Stink” campaign held two large rallies over the weekend and a smaller march on Monday, with calls for a solution to the rubbish crisis quickly turning into calls for the cabinet to resign.

Protest organizers have called on Lebanese at home and abroad to join them in a large rally on Saturday.

Lebanon’s army commander General Jean Kahwaji said late on Monday the armed forces would protect any peaceful demonstrations but would not tolerate “security violators or infiltrators” who sought to sow “sedition and chaos.”

Organizers of protests, which began peacefully, have blamed the violence on troublemakers whom they say are connected to rival sectarian parties. The U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon on Monday urged “maximum restraint” by all sides.

Calm has prevailed since the weekend clashes, however, and later Tuesday, workers were removing concrete blast walls erected the day before outside the cabinet headquarters which protesters had covered with colorful anti-government graffiti.

The protest campaign, which has mobilized independently of the big sectarian parties that dominate Lebanese politics, blames political feuding and corruption for the failure to resolve the crisis that has left piles of uncollected garbage stinking in the scorching sun in recent weeks.

The cabinet and parliament are deadlocked, and politicians have been unable to agree on a new president for more than a year while Syria’s war next door has aggravated sectarian tensions and driven more than one million refugees into the country.

The Salam cabinet, formed last year with the blessing of regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, has avoided a complete vacuum in the executive arm. It brings together Sunni Muslim former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s Future movement, Shi’ite Hezbollah and Christians.

Mordechai Nisan

Dr. Mordechai Nisan

But it has struggled to take even basic decisions and tension in cabinet has escalated over appointments in the security agencies and army.

This latest crisis comes as we are about to publish in the September edition of the NER   a book review and interview with Dr. Mordechai Nisan, a well published author  lecturer and  respected Israeli expert on Lebanon and minorities in the Middle East. In our interview with Nisan we asked a question about the survivability of the 80 year confessional political system in Lebanon. Here is the exchange:

Gordon:  Did the assassination of Lebanese PM Hariri and the Cedars Revolution of 2005 spell the demise of the confessional system in Lebanon?

Nisan:      The durability of Lebanon’s confessional political system remains in place. It is both traditional and consensual that the President be a Maronite, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Legislature a Shiite Muslim. These arrangements have persevered for some 80 years as an organic model for the special case of Lebanon.

In our review of his latest book, Politics and War in Lebanon: Unraveling the Enigma, we noted Nisan’s concluding commentary set against the background to the present political crisis:

With a vacant presidential post and parliamentary elections postponed until 2017, trouble looms for the country caught up in the vicissitudes of the Syrian civil war spilling over its borders bringing a flood of refugees and a roiling trash crisis.Nisan wrote about a hopeful sign, “The March 14 camp asked Patriarch Beshara a – Ra’I to suggest names for the presidential post. Maybe somehow two Maronites –patriarch and president would help save the country from oblivion.” The expression in Hebrew is, Alevai. Its English meaning, “That should only be.”

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

Iran: The Nuke Deal will Help Us Target Israel

Zarif isn’t even bothering to hide Iran’s intentions. The deal is done. He knows he has John Kerry in his pocket, and that nothing can stop the mullahs now.

“Iran says the nuke deal will help it target Israel,” New York Post, August 13, 2015 (thanks to Eli):

President Obama says his nuclear deal with Iran is good not just for America, but also for US ally Israel. Iran’s foreign minister disagrees.

Mohammad Zarif was in Lebanon this week, meeting with the head Hezbollah terrorist, Hassan Nasrallah.

Hezbollah’s TV station al-Manar reported, “Zarif said from Beirut that the nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers created a historic opportunity for regional cooperation to fight extremism and face threats posed by the Zionist entity.”

Translation: With a “signing bonus” to Iran of $100 billion or more, the nuke deal will empower the Islamic Republic to send more cash, rockets and other arms to Hezbollah and other anti-Israel terrorist groups.

It will also boost Tehran’s regional prestige — allowing it to bully other nations into greater hostility toward Israel.

Plus, the deal provides a glide-path for Iran to go nuclear in a decade or so, even without cheating. And Iranian nukes will drastically shift the regional balance of power in Tehran’s favor — and against Jerusalem.

No, this isn’t just spin from the Hezbollah station. Zarif told reporters that Iran’s top challenge in the region involves “confronting” “the Zionist and extremist regime.”…

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That Imaginary War Room by Hugh Fitzgerald

We have all had fantasies — have we not? — of being President or Chief of Staff, and being present, somewhere in the Pentagon, in a War Room that, we like to think, directs that campaign of self-defense against the hydra-headed Jihad.

And we like to imagine, too, what might go on in that room, what kinds of things we hope are being discussed and planned.

Consider, among the many imagined scenarios, these three:

1) A War Room devoted to the counter-Jihad in the Muslim World itself. In this War Room, the computers bristle with information about the active fighting going on in the Middle East and North Africa (Libya) and Central Asia (Afghanistan), and with news of what war materiel has been requested, and is being sent, and what troops have been sent, too, to Egypt, to Iraq, to Jordan, to Yemen, to a dozen other possible places. And there are solemn debates about how to keep the countries of the Middle East from being “failed states” and succeeding, thanks to our help, with the assumption being that this is the only conceivably correct goal.

2) A War Room devoted to the domestic front — for by now there would be recognition that there is a war inside our countries, too. That would take the form of non-military aid being given to “moderate” Muslims in the United States and Western Europe, who, if only they are given enough access to, and support from, Western leaders and the media, and funds, too (as the French government supplies so generously to what it thinks are “tame because government-subsidised mosques” in France), these “moderates” will be able to sway the local Muslims, now within the West by the millions, to embrace, unswervingly, democratic ideals, and what those ideals imply, such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. And little is said about what is in the Qur’an and Hadith; for the planners, such a discussion would only complicate matters, would make what they are doing seem even less plausible, would show up the egg on too many faces. So what is in the Qur’an, as glossed by the Sunnah (Hadith and Sira), doesn’t come up. It’s “real people” who are being kept in mind in this particular War Room.

3) Finally, in the third of our imagined War Rooms, everyone is already well-versed in Islam, and disinclined to deny what is contained in the texts; disinclined, too, to find reasons to explain or interpret away those texts. The strategies of denial that were in fashion for so very long, despite all the evidence, have finally been put to rest. And it is the members of this hard-headed group, chastened by more than a decade of experience dealing with Islam and Muslim peoples, in this War Room, on whose computer screens would be displayed the strategies for demoralizing and dividing the Camp of Islam. Not much about soldiers and weapons here, for military intervention in Muslim lands is not regarded as much use. It has only allowed Muslims to blame the interfering Infidels, and not one another, nor themselves. But in this War Room, measures are discussed to limit, in the West, the survival — or still worse, spread — of intellectual bromides about Islam that do not correspond to what the best-prepared students of the subject, which includes the “defectors” from Islam such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Wafa Sultan, and Ibn Warraq, tell us that Islam inculcates. The internecine conflicts within the Muslim world would not be deplored, but regarded with grim satisfaction, knowing that such conflicts have no natural end.

Indeed, who thinks the conflict in Syria will come to an end, or that Syria itself can possibly be reconstituted? How exactly would the bitterest of enemies now make peace and live together? It isn’t possible. Instead, in this War Room the discussion would be about how refusing to intervene leads to a better outcome for the West, if not for Muslims.

And in this War Room, a great deal of the planning would be about how best to support and protect  non-Muslim figures, especially those members of the media who, having prepared themselves at length by appropriate reading of Qur’an and Hadith, and a lot else besides, are of great national worth, for everyone who writes in a no-nonsense fashion about Islam has overcome an atmosphere of such nonsense and lies as to deserve a Pulitzer just for that mental persistence. Instead of mockery, they deserve  thanks, support, and dissemination of their message.

The theme of the third imagined War Room is Division and Demoralization — of Muslims. This involves exploiting, often by not moving to mend, the fissures within the Muslim Camp, the main one being that between Sunni and Shi’a, but there are also the ethnic hostilities between Arab and non-Arab Muslims, most obviously between Arab and Kurd in Iraq, but hardly limited to that case. The non-Arabs can be encouraged to note, and resent, the conviction of the Arabs that they are superior in the Muslim hierarchy, that it is right that non-Arabs must forget their own histories and civilization, for as Muslims they must  read the Qur’an in Arabic, turn Arabia-wards five times a day in prayer, emulate the mores of 7th century Arabs, and ideally take Arab names. That resentment surely can be encouraged; the rich pre-Islamic pasts of many Muslim peoples could be written and spoken about, and the consciousness raised about how Islam has razed history the way the Islamic State has razed historical monuments.

Of the three, which do you favor? Do you think constant military intervention, and especially the wars in Iraq, and in Afghanistan, and the overthrow of Qaddafi in Libya, have been a wise use of Western resources? Is Islam weaker as a result? Has the West been made more secure? And is the Muslim presence in the West smaller or larger, and growing? Has the experience of the past 15 years made a sufficient number of people in the West more aware of what they face, or simply anxious and confused, and feeling things are out of their hands, “there is nothing we can do,” for example, when our governments increase the number of Muslim immigrants?

Have the “moderate Muslims” in Europe, other than an occasional showy denunciation of this or that Islamic State outrage as “un-Islamic,” done a single thing to further the right education of non-Muslims, and to come to grips with the need to discuss, in order if possible to modify (as Ayaan Hirsi Ali holds out, just, as a possibility), through interpretation, what is contained in the Qur’an and, especially, the Hadith? They have not, and they cannot. So it is up to the people in that imaginary third War Room to help create demoralization, as well as to do nothing to prevent division within the Camp of Islam.

How many Muslims are capable of interpreting the Qur’an in such a way, and ignoring so much of the Hadith, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali suggests will be necessary if there is to be co-existence, or any sort of harmony? Many? Few? And how might one encourage their numbers to grow, or even to encourage people to do that seemingly impossible thing, leave Islam altogether? One way, as those in that third War Room know, is to make public as much news about the relative performance of Muslim peoples and states as possible. Long ago, the scholar Armand Abel wrote an article that deserves widespread study:  “Underdevelopment, stagnation, and decadence. The study of a psychotype: the case of Islam.” Why is it that Muslim states have not created modern economies? The handful of Croesus-rich oil sheikdoms are not exceptions; they are rentier-economies, dependent on the result of an accident of geology. What Muslim state has succeeded, or put differently, is it not true that those Muslim states that have either had a significant non-Muslim population (as Lebanon and Malaysia) or a long secular history (Kemalist Turkey), have created those economies not dependent on the three mainstays of most Muslim states: oil, Western tourism, Western foreign aid?

This third War Room would conduct a campaign to unsettle and demoralize the enemy, a war of propaganda. It involves holding up, for constant inspection and discussion, all the ways that Islam itself can be considered a retrograde (Churchill’s word) force. Does Islam encourage democracy, or in Islam is the despot to be obeyed as long as he is Muslim? Does Islam encourage economic innovation, or does Islam denounce bida (innovation, new ways of doing things)? Does Islam encourage equality of the sexes and equal treatment of minorities under law? What is the evidence that we see before us, presented in the news every day? Does Islam encourage people to think for themselves, or does it discourage free and skeptical inquiry? Have you heard of anyone being lashed recently, or attacked by a mob, or killed, because that someone dared to question something about Islam? Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, the freethinkers hacked to death in Bangladesh, the endless attacks on those who dare to think for themselves in Pakistan, the endless prison sentences meted out in Iran — what should we make of this, if not that Islam does indeed punish free inquiry? Can’t you feel sympathy for the people living in these places, who think for themselves but can never express it?

The third War Room would offer subventions to publishers, so that works by ex-Muslims, as valuable as that of defectors from the KGB, would appear, in millions of copies, small in format so that they could be easily smuggled in, and of course — most important — there would be websites, well-publicized websites, where such works could be read in full.

Islam itself is the source of the many failures, political, economic, social, moral, and intellectual, of Muslims themselves. How many times have I said this? It is the spelling out of that proposition that requires efforts, at length,  ad nauseam, till it all seems so obvious that no one in his right mind could disagree. That is the task of this ideal War Room. Political failure: the despot is permitted in Islam; the citizen, rather than the subject, protected by civil rights that we take for granted in the West, does not exist. That is not complicated to say, but apparently complicated enough so that many refuse to understand.  Economic failure: inshallah-fatalism, the belief that everything is in the hands of Allah, who can undo our efforts at whim, and to whom we also owe our riches (and the oil of the Gulf might be seen to confirm it), suggests to Muslims that neither hard work, nor entrepreneurial flair, are either sufficient or necessary. And the readiness of the West to supply aid to so many Muslim states has allowed them to think of this, too, as a kind of jizyah, a tribute exacted on the non-Muslims to which they willingly submit, manna that will not stop.

Those in the third War Room should not be swayed by talk of “failed states.” They should stop all American aid to Muslim states, in order to allow the economic failures of Islam to become more apparent to Muslims themselves. Social failures: the War Room will promote discussion of how women are mistreated in Islam, how minorities are treated, and why these reflect the teachings of Islam, clearly misogynistic and clearly uninterested in the position of non-Muslim minorities. Moral failures: vide the Islamic State. Or see how both sides treat the other side in Syria or Libya or Yemen or Iraq. This is what that War Room should be publicizing, talking about, forcing Muslims to talk about.

The Islamic basis for Muslim failure is now much more widely understood among non-Muslims; websites such as this one have had a considerable role in forcing this understanding. But the trick is to force Muslims to understand the sources of their own unhappinesses of so many different kinds. Look at Al-Sisi. Do you not sense in him someone who knows that Islam has to be modified, or re-interpreted, or if nothing else will work, ruthlessly constrained, as he is doing with the True Believers the Muslim Brotherhood? For Al-Sisi is afraid of the effect of too much Islam, taken straight up, on the minds of True Believers. And that is because he has spent decades thinking about Islam, and having studied in the United States, surely noted from afar the very failures that we’ve been discussing.

Would that in the Pentagon and the White House there were more who have come to the conclusion that Islam itself, with its amazing power over the minds of men, is the problem. Then imagine a thousand articles commissioned by that War Room from authorities in different fields: economists would write about the lack of major innovation in Islamic world, political scientists would write about  the persistence of despotism in the Islamic world, sociologists would study the comparative treatment of women, and the position of minorities; psychologists would write about the moral insensitivity of Muslims to the suffering of their enemies (see those Yazidi women). This would create an atmosphere — call it demoralization —  that could force Muslims to admit that something was wrong, and then to begin to analyze the problem correctly, and not find themselves suppressed. The ability to think would come, albeit slowly. All of this has been said before, and all must be said again and again.

But isn’t this the essential strategy worth trying, not only in that Ideal War Room of our imagination, but in the real one?

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Anthrax Released: Should we be concerned?

US Army Dugway Proving Ground Main GateThe abrupt news that live anthrax samples  had been shipped from the U.S. Army Dugway proving ground to laboratories in the U.S., an air base in South Korea and possibly Australia came as a reminder to Americans and the world that biological warfare  training exercises might lead to troubling inadvertent releases. Fortunately, 22 military personnel exposed at the south Korean  airbase are being treated with the antibiotic Cipro. However, this latest release of a BW agent has caused both the U.S. Army bio-warfare directorate and the CDC to review safety precautions, packaging and procedures for the transmission of possible live anthrax spores and why samples had not been made inert?

The BBC reported that the U.S. military has ordered a review of how it handles anthrax after discovering more cases of live samples being accidentally sent to labs:

Live anthrax samples were believed to have been sent to a total of 24 labs, in 11 U.S. states as well as South Korea and Australia, the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon says that there is no known risk to the general public.

Experts in bio-safety have heavily criticized the lapse and called for improved precautions.

Symptoms of anthrax exposure include skin ulcers, nausea, vomiting and fever, and can cause death if untreated.

News of the live shipments first emerged on Wednesday, as the U.S. said it had accidentally shipped live anthrax spores from Utah to labs in Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California and Virginia, as well as an air base in South Korea.

Those shipments took place between March 2014 and April 2015, a U.S. official said, according to Reuters.

On Friday, the Department of Defense said it had identified “additional inadvertent live anthrax shipments”, including a suspect sample sent to Australia from a batch of anthrax from 2008.

It is not clear when that sample was shipped to Australia.

The military has ordered all of its labs that have previously received inactive anthrax samples to test them. In addition it is advising all labs to cease working with these samples until told otherwise.

Shortly after 9/11, the American public concern over bio-terrorism was raised  by the release of Anthrax in powdered form in letters sent to members of Congress and randomly to private persons. 22 persons were sickened, 5 died, the U.S. Senate building was shut down and inspected.  Anthrax exists naturally, but more powerful variants have been developed synthetically by dual use laboratories in rogue states like Iran, North Korea and Assad’s Syria.  Bio-warfare laboratories have been established by Al Qaeda and ISIS has been rumored to have obtained access to materials in Syria, as well. Remember the arrest in Afghanistan, prosecution and conviction in the U.S. of Brandeis University and MIT trained scientist, “Lady Al Qaeda”, Aafia Siddiqui .  There is also evidence that Iran’s terrorist proxy, Hezbollah may have been transferred BW capabilities and agents  by Syria that could be deployed against America’s ally , Israel and globally through major transportation nodes in Europe.

Jill Bellamy van Aalst(3)

Dr. Jill Bellamy

We asked Dr. Jill Bellamy, noted expert on biological warfare and threat reduction about this latest incident.  We have published articles by Dr. Bellamy on Syrian, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and Iranian BW programs in both the NER and our blog the Iconoclast.

She commented:

Clearly from a bio-safety perspective this is a very serious breach of protocol and demands a full and transparent investigation. As anyone who works with inactivated anthrax would be routinely vaccinated with AVA, exposure from a clinical perspective is probably not as much of a concern as the general public may believe. Of course if anyone outside military labs the live anthrax was sent to and persons who have not been routinely vaccinated were exposed, this would be concerning. I would worry about the time frame from exposure. It appears from the reports that we are talking about several weeks or months during which the anthrax was shipped. It is probably a good sign that none of the labs has reported a laboratory acquired disease or LAD. If exposure is known Cipro (ciprofloxacin hydrochloride) is given for inhalation anthrax and usually a 60 day course is advised. The lab workers in these labs  would surely  have all been vaccinated, so how much of a health risk it poses is debatable.

The bio-safety side is more worrying. CDC and a number of other labs have previously had exposures from the accidental handling of live anthrax. There are very stringent regulations in place for the shipping and transport of live agents. It is doubtful there was any risk to public health during the transport as this would be handled by the military. What is more problematic is that the research done  at US Army labs and Dugway proving ground  are critical to national security.  Incidents like this feed an uninformed section in non-proliferation circles who then call for the closing of these labs or hype the danger they pose to the general public. It makes it more difficult to assure the public that such labs are a vital aspect to protecting citizens from BW attacks and ensuring vaccines and therapeutic countermeasures are available and stockpiled in the event of a deliberate attack. Hopefully this is an incident we will learn a great deal from in terms of bio-safety training, protocols and bio-security.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of  microscopic anthrax spores. Source: Reuters.

Did Pope Francis call Abu Mazen an ‘Angel of Peace’?

Today we try something a little different as we go back to our “radio-only” days, before we started producing a regular TV show.

So listen as we take some “calls” from our (make-believe) audience and enjoy the ride. Of course, we have to address the nonsensical decision of the Vatican to recognize “Palestine” as a “State,” and just what state may that be?

Tune in and find out.

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