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The Trump Administration’s Geopolitical Hat Trick

Sudan has become the third Arab country to agree to normalize relations with Israel. The Palestinians are most unhappy: “Palestinians condemn ‘shameful’ Israel-Sudan accord,” by Khaled Abu Toameh and Celia Jean, Jerusalem Post, October 24, 2020:

The Palestinian Authority said on Friday that it “condemns and rejects” the normalization of relations between Arab countries and Israel.

A statement by the PA presidency in Ramallah said that normalization with Israel is in violation of the Arab summit resolutions and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative….

Friday’s statement by the PA, however, did not accuse Sudan of betraying the Palestinians or stabbing the Palestinian people in the back, as was the case with the UAE and Bahrain.

Mahmoud Abbas has apparently figured out that the curses and insults that he and his cronies flung at the UAE and Bahrain when they normalized relations with Israel, did the Palestinians no good, but merely inflamed passions against them. With the Sudan, they’re trying a different, more-in-sorrow approach: How can you do this to us? Don’t you feel our pain?

“No one has the right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian issue,” the statement added. “The path to a just and comprehensive peace should be based on international law and legitimacy so as to end the Israeli occupation of the land of the State of Palestine and achieve independence for the Palestinian people in their state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the 1967 borders. The Palestinian leadership will take the necessary decisions to protect the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”

But Sudan did not arrogate to itself the “right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian issue.” It said nothing at all about the “Palestinians” in its agreement to normalize relations with Israel. It was only addressing, and promoting in two ways, its own national interest. First, to obtain this agreement, the U.S. has removed the Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. That will give it access to foreign investors, and to loans from the World Bank, the IMF, and other institutions. Second, Israel will be eager to prove to the Sudan that it made the right choice, by helping it where it most could use Israeli help: in agriculture. Israel is a world leader in drip irrigation, in wastewater management, and in solar energy, all of which could be of great help to Sudanese farmers.

While not in the official PA statement, Wasel Abu Youssef from the Palestinian Liberation Front, a small faction in the Palestinian Liberation Organization, said that Sudan joining “others who normalized ties with the state of the Israeli occupation represents a new stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a betrayal of the just Palestinian cause.”

“A new stab in the back”? Oh dear. It sounds as if Wasel Abu Youssef of the PLF did not get the memo from Mahmoud Abbas calling for a kinder, gentler approach to Sudan. This kind of charge only infuriated the UAE and Bahrain when it was made about them by the PA; the Sudanese are just as unlikely to be pleased to be described as back-stabbers. The Palestinians really ought to do a better job of coordinating their responses; this mixed-messaging will never do.

Abbas Zaki, a senior official of the ruling Fatah faction, said that Sudan would not gain anything from the normalization accord with Israel….

“Sudan would not gain anything from the normalization accord”? But Sudan has already gained something. It has been removed from the American list of state sponsors of terrorism; that removal will greatly improve Sudan’s ability to attract foreign investment, and will now enable Sudan to receive loans from the IMF, the World Bank, and other financial institutions that were previously impossible to obtain. And then there is the extensive Israeli aid that will be given to Sudanese farmers, just as soon as the agreement goes into effect. Abbas Zaki is whistling in the dark.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the agreement was “not compatible with Sudan’s record of supporting the Palestinians.”

But that “record of supporting the Palestinians” took place under the long and terrible rule of Omar al-Bashir, the dictator of Sudan from 1989 to 2019. Bashir was an ardent supporter of Hamas, allowing it to operate freely in the country. Bashir also gave refuge to Osama bin Laden, who lived securely in the Sudan for four years. The new regime in Sudan wants to end any hint of the country’s previous connection to terrorists; it wants to reconnect with the West, attract investors, and build its economy, especially agriculture. It has gotten nothing from its “record of supporting the Palestinians” except being placed on the list of state sponsors of terror. Now, by normalizing relations with Israel, it has already been taken off that list, allowing it to attract investors, be again eligible for foreign aid, and be able to obtain loans from major financial institutions such as the IMF. Israel is ready to share with Sudanese farmers the benefits of its expertise and advances in at least three key areas – solar energy, drip irrigation, and wastewater management – where it is a world leader.

PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] spokesman Daoud Shehab accused Sudan of presenting Israel with a “free gift” in order to appease the US.

“This is a black day in the history of Sudan,” Shehab added. “The agreement jeopardizes Sudan’s future and identity and is a betrayal of the Arabs and Muslims.”

The PIJ official expressed confidence that the Sudanese people would not accept this “betrayal.”…

It is Israel that will be giving gifts to the Sudan, in the form of aid to its agricultural sector. As for Shehab’s claim that the normalization agreement “jeopardizes Sudan’s future and identity,” since when did the Palestinians become the judges as to the “Arab” identity of others? Because the Sudanese are black, is there possibly an attempt here to hint at doubt as to their “Arab” identity unless they fall back into line with what the Palestinians demand? And what exactly was the “betrayal” by the Sudan? Did it owe the Palestinians anything? Have the Palestinians ever done anything for the Sudan, other than land the country on the list of state sponsors of terrorism?

There is certainly domestic opposition in the Sudan to this new agreement. But the opponents of normalization surely know that the Sudanese quid for that significant American quo was Sudan’s agreeing to normalize relations with Israel. And if they are willing to “give peace a chance,” they will find the new connection with Israel will pay ample dividends, for the Israelis want to make sure that the “early adopters” of normalization realize economic benefits quickly. In the case of Sudan, as bears repeating, that means Israeli help to Sudanese farmers, mainly by sharing Israeli advances in drip irrigation, in waste water management, and in solar energy.

Commending the agreement from the Arab world was Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who tweeted that he welcomed the joint efforts of all three states involved in the agreement.

He added that he also values “all efforts aimed at achieving regional stability and peace.”…

El-Sisi has for a long time been cooperating with Israel on security matters, especially against Jihadis in the Sinai and, naturally, against the Muslim Brotherhood that is the sworn enemy of his regime. He previously praised both the UAE and Bahrain for their normalization agreements with Israel. It is not surprising, but is still heartening, that the most populous Arab state, and Sudan’s immediate northern neighbor, has come out foursquare for the agreement.

The Palestinian Arabs continue to believe that they should have a veto power over the policy toward Israel of all the other Arabs. They seek to deny the Arab states the possibility of making their own arrangements with Israel, arrangements that further their own national interests. The UAE and Bahrain dismissed the Palestinian objections, and went ahead in normalizing relations with the Jewish state. They have had only curses and insults heaped on them by the Palestinians, which only makes them more determined to promote both economic and people-to-people ties with the Israelis – “a warm peace.” Meanwhile, the entire nation of Israel seems ready to make sure their new Arab interlocutors benefit from such normalization; Israeli businessmen, entrepreneurs, scientists, academics, and tourists have gone to the UAE and Bahrain, while Emiratis and Bahrainis are doing the same in the Jewish state. And now, to complete the Trump Administration’s geopolitical hat trick, Sudan has just become the third Arab state to announce its intention to normalize relations with Israel. Abbas rages in Ramallah, for he can do no other, and the caravan moves on.

COLUMN BY

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

Helping Protect Itself Against Iran, Israel Helps Protect Many Others by Hugh Fitzgerald

Not long before tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran reached an unprecedented high point, with the possibility looming of a war that could engulf many other countries besides those two, Israel located a secret Iranian site in Beirut, right near the airport, in the midst of a heavily-populated area (surrounded by thousands of civilians, as a way to discourage Israeli air attacks). The site, according to Prime Minister Netanyahu, holds radioactive material and missiles. The Israelis, after all, have been running circles around the Iranians for years. They assassinated, one after the other, four key Iranian nuclear scientists right in the middle of Tehran. They concocted the fiendishly brilliant Stuxnet worm, the first computer program that caused real-world damage, for it sent messages to the computers it infected, the computers that were regulating Iran’s centrifuges, causing those computers to send messages that made the centrifuges speed up and destroy themselves and even damage other centrifuges. At the same time, other messages were sent back that the computer program was working perfectly.

The Israelis have destroyed, in Syria, hundreds of Iranian missiles, and have kept up the bombing of Iranian bases in Syria, and of Iranian soldiers on Syrian bases, preventing any kind of permanent Iranian outpost to be established. Some time ago Israeli agents carried out a night-time raid in a nondescript commercial district in Tehran, lasting six hours and 29 minutes, bringing away 50,000 pages of documents, and countless discs, which constituted the most important part of Iran’s secret nuclear archive, proving to the world that Iran had never abandoned its nuclear project, and had gotten much farther with it than the world previously believed.

In locating the site in Beirut, Israel again did not just itself but the entire Western world a great service. For the missiles whose guidance systems Iran is improving for Hezbollah, and the nuclear material that Iran is storing in Beirut, to be someday used either by its forces or possibly by Hezbollah, are not a threat only to Israel. Iran has designs on Yemen, as its proxy war against Saudi Arabia, that has already lasted several years, demonstrates. Iran would love to project and solidify Shi’a power in Yemen, right on the Arabian Sea, and to be able to threaten Saudi Arabia from the south, made easier by the porous border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Iran has a desire, too, to deal a direct blow to Saudi Arabia itself, as the richest and most powerful Sunni state, whose clerics talk of the Shi’a as if they were Infidels. That could mean supporting the discontented Shi’a in Saudi Arabia, some 15% of the population, almost all of whom are located in the Eastern Province, where the major oilfields are to be found. Iran also wants to take revenge on the United Arab Emirates, for helping to fight the Shi’a Houthis  in Yemen and, Iran now suspects, helping Arab separatists in Khuzestan, in southern Iran. Of course, Iran always proclaims as its chief enemy, more so even than Israel, the Great Satan, America. All of these countries have reason to be grateful to Israel for slowing down, for several years, Iran’s nuclear project. Stuxnet alone, a computer worm which destroyed 1,000 centrifuges at the Natanz Enrichment Plant, set back Iran’s nuclear project, according to the German scientist Ralph Langer, by as much as two years.

These acts of derring-do did not end there. Israeli agents managed to locate in a dusty part of Tehran the top secret Iranian nuclear archive, to break in, to blowtorch open the many steel doors, to go through the archives and select the huge amounts of material that they then spirited out of Iran to Israel. This archive offered proof to the world that the Iranians had continued to work on their nuclear project after they had supposedly stopped, and that they had gotten much farther along than anyone suspected.

During the last few years, the Iranians have tried to establish their own bases in Syria, and from there hoped both to threaten Israel from closer up than from Iran itself, and to supply Hezbollah with more advanced weapons. But no matter where they put those bases in Syria, and even when the Iranians tried to conceal themselves inside  Syrian bases, Israeli planes have always managed to find and to bomb them. And the Israelis have been staggeringly successful at interdicting Iranian weapons shipments meant for Hezbollah.

And now Israel has uncovered, and shown to the world, a secret Iranian facility near the airport in Beirut, which contains fissile material and machines to manufacture precision-guided missiles. At this point, the Iranians may wonder: do we empty the facility of its contents, or will Israel, with its uncanny spying ability, including eye-in-the-sky drones, be able to see everything that comes out of that building and where it is taken? And if, and when, these machines and that material are taken out of the facility, and are in the open, will it not be easier for Israel to bomb both? Perhaps, by making public its knowledge of this facility, the Israelis are hoping to lure the Iranians into doing just that. It is hard for the Iranians, who have so often been outsmarted by the Israelis, to know what to do. What can Israeli spy drones and spy planes and spy satellites and human spies, find out? Do the Iranians try to smuggle the material and machines out, or do they keep everything as it is, but move even more civilians into close proximity to the building, in the hope that this civilian presence will dissuade Israel from attacking it?

As the Iranians have discovered, to their great displeasure, wherever or whomever or whatever they try to hide from Israel, the Israelis always find them out. The Israelis identified, and then assassinated, four of Iran’s top nuclear scientists; they found, and sabotaged, the computers that controlled the centrifuges at Natanz, they found the secret nuclear archives in Tehran and spirited them away, they found and bombed Iranian bases in Syria, and they found, and showed to the world, the once-secret Iranian facility in Beirut. Iran’s rulers are surely in a quandary.

All of this limits Iran’s aggressive plans. Israel has accomplished these feats in order, of course, to protect itself. But the rest of the West, and some Arab states, too, should recognize that they also benefit from these fantastic acts of human and technological derring-do. Some, at least, from agents in Langley to princes in Riyadh, know enough to be grateful. And so should we.

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

He did it! President Donald Trump signs Executive Order on Refugees

I happened to catch him signing as I came in just before 5 p.m. today.  But, will have to wait for the exact details of the order’s text.

***Update January 28th*** Michael Patrick Leahy at Breitbart reported late last night about the details of the Executive Order, click here.

We believe it includes a 120-day moratorium, a cap on refugee resettlement for this fiscal year at 50,000 and some kind of inter-agency directive to improve the vetting process (the so-called extreme vetting).  Earlier today we pointed out that 50,000 was not that great a reduction, here.

Now the ball must be placed in Congress’ court!

congress

Every effort must be made in those 120 days to pressure Congress to begin to reform the entire Refugee Admissions Program.

I suspect many members of Congress gave a sigh of relief that Donald Trump was going to take the heat (and oh, there will be heat, more on that later), so they can pretend something is being done and THEY DON’T HAVE TO DO IT.

Trump has taken the monkey off their backs, you must put it right back on!

I’m telling you that if the law is not changed we will be back to square one come the end of May!  The President’s pen and phone can only do so much. The next President can undo it all, if the law is not rewritten.

So Trump should threaten to extend that moratorium unless Congress begins the hard work of reevaluating and ultimately rewriting the Refugee Act of 1980.

And, if there are any brave Senators or Members of Congress willing to take the lead, that legislator should hold field hearings around the country to hear directly from citizens about the impact more immigrant labor is having on local workers, to hear about the economic challenges local and state governments are facing, and to assess the cultural upheaval communities are experiencing.

Do not stop doing whatever you are doing in your pockets of resistance, but make sure everything you do gets to the ears of your member of Congress and US Senators.

See our complete Trump Watch! archive here.

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image of President Trump signing the Executive Order on Extreme Vetting at the Pentagon is courtesy of NBC News.

VIDEO: How Could the Islamic State Represent 1.5 Billion Muslims?

In this seventh segment of my Basics of Islam series, I continue discussing the relationship between Islam and the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL).

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Iran: ‘We have no other enemy in the region except for America’

The Iranian Islamic regime has been empowered, emboldened, legitimized in its nuclear aspirations, and financed by Barack Hussein Obama. Yet it still considers the United States its chief enemy. One would think that Obama and the Washington establishment would learn from this. One would be wrong.

“Iran Threatens to Block U.S. Passage in Persian Gulf,” by Adam Kredo, Washington Free Beacon, May 9, 2016 1:12 pm

…Hossein Salami, deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, warned in a recent Persian-language interview that the Islamic Republic would not hesitate to block U.S. entry to the Strait of Hormuz, which is the only passage from the Persian Gulf to the open seas….

“The [Americans] believe that our navy is dangerous. Indeed, that is true,” Salami was quoted as saying in a Farsi-language interview with Iranian state-controlled television that was subsequently translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which monitors regional reports.

“In my view, this is the first time that the Americans have assessed the might of our navy correctly,” Salami continued. “If the Americans want to level threats against us, we can be very dangerous to them, as we have declared. They are aware of our tremendous might. We have increased and expanded our naval might, in order to overcome the military might of superpowers like America.”…

“We warn America, its partners, and its allies in the region that if they decide to use the language of threats against us, we will enforce the article on innocent passage in the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, and we will prevent the passage of any ship or naval vessel that threatens us,” he said. “If they threaten us, this is what will happen, and we will take whatever steps are necessary.”

“After all,” Salami added, “we have no other enemy in the region except for America. The other countries and governments are not our enemies, and we are not theirs. Of course, they do not even have the potential to be our enemy.”

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Trump Campaign Dismisses America First Controversy

George Santayana’s careworn expression may be invoked yet again over the meme adopted in Trump’s first Foreign Policy speech delivered at the Center for National Interest (CNI) in Washington, DC on Wednesday April 27, 2016. America First.  Santayana said: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Trump in his CNI speech issued his emphatic clarion call to the remaining primary voters across America:

It’s time to shake the rust off America’s foreign policy. It’s time to invite new voices and new visions into the fold, something we have to do. The direction I will outline today will also return us to a timeless principle. My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else. It has to be first. Has to be.That will be the foundation of every single decision that I will make. America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.

He did have this welcomed comment on Israel:

Israel, our great friend and the one true democracy in the Middle East has been snubbed and criticized by an administration that lacks moral clarity. Just a few days ago, Vice President Biden again criticized Israel, a force for justice and peace, for acting as an impatient peace area in the region.

That gave rise to criticism by the ADL’s Greenblatt cited in a Ha’aretz article:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urged Trump to reconsider the phrase Thursday citing its “anti-Semitic use in the months before Pearl Harbor by a group of prominent Americans seeking to keep the nation out of World War II.”

According to a statement released by the Jewish watchdog, the most prominent leader of the “America First Committee” was Charles Lindbergh, who “sympathized with the Nazis and whose rhetoric was characterized by anti-Semitism and offensive stereotypes, including assertions that Jews posed a threat to the U.S. because of their influence in motion pictures, radio, the press, and the government.”

Nonetheless, ADL chief Jonathan A. Greenblatt said “the undercurrents of anti-Semitism and bigotry that characterized the America First movement … are fortunately not a major concern today.”

“However, for many Americans, the term ‘America First’ will always be associated with and tainted by this history,” he said, adding that “in a political season that already has prompted a national conversation about civility and tolerance, choosing a call to action historically associated with incivility and intolerance seems ill-advised.”

For those of us old enough to have some knowledge of the isolationist anti-Semitic American First movement championed by Hitler admirer, Charles Lindbergh, who was given a personal award by Der Fuhrer for his aviation exploits, Trump’s use of it was jarring.

When I read the transcript of his speech, I asked a source in the Trump campaign about Dr. Walid Phares, one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, who I knew personally from a decade of interaction including co-hosting radio shows on common subjects dealing with the Middle East, Israel and Jihad. I asked whether he had written Trump’s  America First speech. The answer was,” no.”  instead  I was directed to Phares’ Fox News opinion article that purports to lay out Trump’s foreign policy vision. There was no America First meme presented in his discussion. Lots of suggestions on changes in the traditional Americans alliances, prevention of Iran getting the nuclear weapon, that it may already possess, getting our allies in the NATO alliance to ante up the required annual defense budget allotments, dealing with ISIS and its global affiliates and the Muslim Brotherhood both here and abroad. Phares’ ringing conclusion:

A new popular majority is sweeping the country during these primary elections and another greater national current will legitimize these new principles with the election of Donald Trump as president in November. These new foreign policy directions will have a deeply informed public backing them, so that President Trump can muster the energies of the American people to create a sustainable defense, encompassing clear objectives coupled with a strong international presence.

Now more than ever, confident American leadership is vital for a world in disarray.

The meme of new policy directions figured prominently in a PBS News Hour  discussion on the merits of Trump’s Foreign Policy speech with Phares and former State Department official, now Hoover Institute scholar, Nicholas Burns. Burns found what he deemed lots of contradictions in Trump’s CNI speech. Phares demurred saying it was really about replacing old worn out failed policies with new ones.

Watch the PBS News Hour interview with Phares and Burns.

Phares was interviewed by Steve Inskeep of NPR’s Morning Edition. I have to issue a disclaimer on my part. I had found NPR’s news biased against Israel back in 2003. I participated in coordinating a national one day protest against NPR local affiliates in more than 40 locations, including the one I led in Connecticut. That led to a series of abrupt exchanges with the VP for News at the DC headquarters for several weeks following that protest. Notwithstanding, my attention was drawn to the transcript of NPR interview with Phares. Inskeep of NPR pressed  Phares on what Trump’s speech was all about with alleged contradictions upending the old policies in favor of new directions.  Phares pushed back on that until the inevitable occurred. Inskeep asked him about the American First meme as it brought memories of the pre-WWII American Firster isolationists led by Lindbergh. Here is the transcript exchange:

INSKEEP: Dr. Phares, one other thing. And we’ve just got about 30 seconds here. He uses this phrase, America First. It’s got a particular historical resonance. He’s borrowing a phrase that was used by people who opposed U.S. Involvement against Germany in World War II – 1939, 1940, 1941. Very, very briefly, is there a message here?

PHARES: If you are criticizing Mr. Trump, you will find all the bad connections.  He is very optimistic, and he is very positive none of these sentences that he pronounces go back to dark ages or go back to negative aspects at all.

I returned to the Campaign source and asked about that history. The response:

“America First” is a simple phrase that Mr. Trump uses to describe his approach to all aspects of American relations with the world, including trade, immigration and national defense. Under President Trump, the interests of the American people will be paramount. Putting it in the old category of the isolationists of the past who fought against American involvement in WWII is a mistake.

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

PODCAST: The Panama Papers and the Crisis in the Middle East

This week, world elites were rocked by the release of the Panama Papers, demonstrating that world leaders, their friends and family, and the super wealthy routinely use offshore companies for tax avoidance.

panamapapersMeanwhile, reports out of the Middle East indicate a growing concern of Iran’s activity. From Yemen to Iraq to Gaza, Iran continues to fund and arm terrorist insurgencies that are reshaping the region. Not only Israel, but the Gulf states and their Sunni allies are preparing for potential confrontation. Barack Hussein Obama’s “nuclear deal” has only emboldened Iranian ambitions, and caused tradition U.S. allies to lose faith in the United States dedication to peace and stability in the M.E.

Topics of Discussion:

  • The Panama Papers
  • Report: U.S. considering withdrawal from Sinai
  • Paul Ryan’s Delegation to Middle East – In prep for Republican nomination?
  • Saudi-led Coalition Prepares for Head-on Collision with Iran

& more…

EDITORS NOTE: Readers may listen to USA Transnational Report live on JJ McCartney’s Nightside Radio Studios and on Red State Talk Radio. You may subscribe to USA Transnational Report podcast on iTunes here, subscribe to their podcast with Podbean, here. All previously recorded shows are available here, at the links above, or through Spreaker.

American-Mideast Coalition for Trump calls on voters to support the ‘freedom candidate’

WASHINGTON, D.C. /PRNewswire/ — The Co-Chairs of American-Mideast Coalition for Trump (AMCT) Tom Harb and John Hajjar issued the following statement in support of Donald Trump for President:

We, representatives of Middle East-American groups in the United States, from various ancestries, ethnicities and religions, announce the launching of the “American-Mideast Coalition for Trump” in support of the U.S. Presidential candidacy of Donald J. Trump.

As representatives of United States citizens from Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Iraqi, Arab, Assyrian, Syriac, Yazidi, Sudanese, Berber, Iranian, and other communities from the Greater Middle East, we see Mr. Trump as our favorite candidate in the primaries because of the following reasons:

  1. His opposition to the destructive Iran Deal signed by the Obama administration with the Ayatollah regime in Tehran;
  2. His firm opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist influence in the United States;
  3. His determination to destroy ISIS and push back against all terror groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and all other Jihadi terror groups;
  4. His willingness to take action in defense of the persecuted Christians and Yazidis in the Middle East;
  5. His determination to help in the creation of free zones inside Syria and Iraq to resettle the refugees;
  6. His support for the formation of an Arab coalition against terrorists;
  7. His vision to help the Middle East become stable and prosper.

Based on these seven principles, we extend our support to Donald J. Trump to become the Republican nominee and later be elected as the President of the United States.

We call on all our friends who are members of the Republican Party and all citizens who can vote in the Republican primaries to select Donald J. Trump as their choice. It is important to give Mr. Trump a clear, early and decisive victory in the primaries so that he becomes a strong nominee able to begin engaging in the national election and then be elected as President on November 4, 2016.

We are calling on millions of Americans from Mideast background to join us in supporting Mr. Trump.

Iran to Russia: Take $14 Billion and Build us a Modern Army

russia iranThe Debka File reports:

Iran’s Defense Minister Gen. Hossein Dehghan arrived in Moscow this week at the head of a large military delegation and laid before President Vladimir Putin and his Defense Minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu a $14 billion check. Now, make our Revolutionary Guards Corps and regular forces into an up-to-the-minute war machine, he said.

The plan to make over and upgrade Iran’s military was first approved by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is to be paid for with funds released by newly lifted sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The ayatollah aspires to rebuild the two branches – the IRGC with 150,000 troops and the regular army of 420,000 – as the most powerful armed force in the Middle East.

The fee on offer to Moscow covers the best-quality arms purchases and the foundation of a wide-ranging military industry for turning out Iran’s requirements of warplanes, tanks and other high-grade systems.

The entire project as presented to Russian leaders is estimated to unfold over 10 years, during which relations between Tehran and Moscow should grow progressively stronger.

Read more.

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Weaving a Stronger Sunni Axis

By Gallia Lindenstrauss and Yoel Guzansky:

Gallia LindenstraussYoel Guzansky

Saudi Arabia’s declared objective, driven in part by sectarian fervor, is to stop Iran’s growing influence in the region. To those in charge of making the necessary adjustments to Saudi Arabia’s security and foreign policy in light of regional developments, Turkey is a key player. From Riyadh’s perspective, Turkey is a Sunni regional power that has not realized its potential because it has failed to adopt a more aggressive policy toward Iran. For Turkey, Russia’s military involvement in Syria and the crisis in Turkish-Russian relations following the downing of the Russian fighter jet prompted an adjustment of Ankara’s foreign policy. More specifically, these developments, as well as Ankara’s  diplomatic isolation in the region, have accelerated Turkey’s drive toward a closer alignment with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. Should Saudi Arabia succeed in leveraging the economic assistance it provides to Egypt and mediate effectively between Cairo and Ankara, this could lead to stronger relations between Turkey and other Gulf states, and thereby help weave a stronger Sunni front in the region.

Topics:

Gulf States, Turkey

The nuclear deal signed between Iran and the P5+1 and the initial lifting of the economic sanctions on Iran in January 2016 were formative events for Saudi Arabia that strengthened the supporters in the kingdom of a proactive policy against Iran. Indeed, Saudi Arabia’s declared objective, driven in part by sectarian fervor, is to stop Iran’s growing influence in the region. To those in charge of making the necessary adjustments to Saudi Arabia’s security and foreign policy in light of regional developments, Turkey is a key player. From Riyadh’s perspective, Turkey is a Sunni regional power that has not realized its potential because it has failed to adopt a more aggressive policy toward Iran. For Turkey, Russia’s military involvement in Syria and the crisis in Turkish-Russian relations following the downing of the Russian fighter jet prompted a adjustment of Ankara’s foreign policy. More specifically, these developments have accelerated Turkey’s drive toward a closer alignment with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. This process reached new heights with the deployment of Saudi fighter aircraft at the Turkish air base Incirlik (which may expand to the deployment of ground forces as well) – officially as part of the struggle against the Islamic State, but in effect, to signal inter-state unity.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (l) with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (r) in Riyadh, January 31, 2016. Photo: AFP / SPA / HO

Since King Salman Bin Abdulaziz ascended the Saudi throne in January 2015, there have been noticeable attempts to forge closer relations between Riyadh and Ankara. Already during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Riyadh in December 2015 (which was the Turkish President’s third visit to the kingdom that year), Turkey and Saudi Arabia decided on the establishment of a council for strategic cooperation. Soon after, Saudi Arabia executed Saudi Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and for Riyadh, a nation’s reaction to the execution was akin to a loyalty litmus test. Speaking of the execution, Erdogan said it was “an internal [Saudi] legal matter,” and Ankara condemned the subsequent arson at Saudi Arabia’s missions in Tehran and Mashhad, calling the fire-bombings “unacceptable.” Beyond the rhetorical support for Riyadh, Turkey joined the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism, announced in December 2015 by Saudi Arabia, which includes 34 nations – but not Iran. In addition, as part of their attempt to balance Iran’s influence in Iraq, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have exhibited more public support than in the past for the autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq; this month Saudi Arabia will opening a consulate in Irbil (Turkey has had a consulate there since 2010). Furthermore, Turkey supported Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen and did not criticize the action’s negative humanitarian repercussions.

Following the late January 2016 visit to Saudi Arabia by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who was accompanied by several ministers and the head of the secret service, there was renewed speculation about a possible strengthening of cooperation between the two nations.  Particular emphasis may lie on coordinating positions in the (currently suspended) third round of talks in Geneva on efforts to end the civil war in Syria. It seems that both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are frustrated with US policy on Syria, in part because it does not completely rule out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad retaining his position, at least for an interim period, and are trying to use one another to change this policy. Pressure on the United States has already resulted in some success: the decision that representatives of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), though the dominant element among Syria’s Kurds, would not be among those invited to the Geneva talks. This reflects Turkey’s contention that the PYD is an extension of the PKK, the Kurdish underground operating in Turkey, and therefore unacceptable. Moreover, both Ankara and Riyadh are frustrated by Russia’s military intervention in Syria, not only in that this intervention prolongs Assad’s tenure, but also threatens the opposition forces supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the ability to send supplies and other assistance.

Along with its increased closeness with Riyadh, however, Ankara has called on Saudi Arabia and Iran to return to the diplomatic channel and work on reducing tensions between them, evidence of Turkey’s desire to maintain correct relations with Iran and its reluctance to become overly involved in the Riyadh-Tehran conflict. This is not surprising, given Turkey’s need for  energy imports from Iran, especially natural gas (after Russia, Iran is the second most important provider of gas to Turkey; in 2014, Turkey imported about 18 percent of its natural gas from Iran), and Turkey’s desire to increase the scope of trade with Iran with the lifting of the economic sanctions.

While Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its opposition to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime in Egypt are an obstacle to closer relations with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, Saudi Arabia itself is at present exhibiting a more pragmatic approach than in the past toward the Muslim Brotherhood. From its point of view, Iran’s expansionism is the greatest threat, leading it to desire a large, cohesive Sunni bloc in the region. Moreover, alongside the parties’ geostrategic considerations, the Gulf states – especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar – are significant investors in the Turkish economy.

For some years now, Turkey has enjoyed closer relations with Qatar; these reached a new peak in December 2015 when the nations announced the construction of a Turkish military base in Qatar for the stationing of some 3,000 troops. Although Turkey has soldiers stationed in northern Iraq, the construction of the Qatari base and the scope of forces to be stationed there set new precedents in terms of a Turkish military presence in the Middle East. Turkey also committed itself to continue military training for Qatar’s army. In addition to this strategic security cooperation, the two enjoy joint economic and energy ventures. Indeed, Turkey would like to increase the amount of liquefied natural gas it buys from Qatar, but the size of its existing facilities makes this problematic.

Turkey is also making efforts to rebuild its relations with the UAE, and in particular to ease the same tensions that existed with Saudi Arabia, namely Ankara’s intense criticism of Sisi and Turkish support for the Muslim Brotherhood and, conversely, the UAE’s support for the toppling of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt in July 2013. Manifestations of these tensions are the standstill in the scope of trade between Turkey and the UAE (compared to the growth in trade between Turkey and the other Gulf states) and the fact that there has been no UAE ambassador appointed to Ankara for a long time, both prima facie evidence of Abu Dhabi’s dissatisfaction with Ankara’s policy. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently stated that he intends to visit the UAE soon, apparently in an attempt to turn over a new leaf.

Another reason for Ankara to want to forge closer relations with the Gulf states concerns its diplomatic isolation in the region. Turkey currently has no ambassador in Israel, Egypt, and Syria. Should Saudi Arabia succeed in leveraging the economic assistance it provides to Egypt into mediating between Egypt and Turkey, which would be manifested by the return of the ambassadors to Ankara and Cairo, this could lead to stronger relations between Turkey and other Gulf states, and thereby help weave a stronger Sunni front in the region. At the same time, some kind of rapprochement between Ankara and Cairo could also allow Israel to rebuild its own relations with Turkey. Currently, one of the deterrents to a normalization agreement between Israel and Turkey is the Egyptian concern that in the context of concessions Israel would provide Turkey, Ankara would gain a more significant role in Gaza, which would strengthen Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. A stronger Saudi-Egyptian-Turkish bond might mitigate some of that concern.

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Fox orders pilot of Muslim family sitcom

Here it is at last: the long-desired Muslim family situation comedy that is going to cure “Islamophobia” by showing racist, ignorant, xenophobic Americans that hey, look, Muslims are just like us. Katie Couric called for it during the Ground Zero Mosque controversy, saying that what America needed was a Muslim Cosby Show. Now that Bill Cosby is so resoundingly discredited, Reza Aslan, with his typical moronic arrogance, updated the demand and called for a Muslim “All in the Family,” apparently not realizing that the central character of that show was a butt of jokes and an object of ridicule. But clearly he meant the same thing: if Americans could just see Muslims outside of the context of jihad terrorism, they would love them, and “Islamophobia” would evanesce. And then Barack Obama said last week at the Islamic Society of Baltimore that “our TV shows should have Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security.”

Now we have it. Will it work? Will it make Americans drop their concerns about jihad terror? Unlikely. The whole idea that Muslims are threatened, harassed and discriminated against in the U.S. is a creation of the Islamic advocacy industry, which knows well how well it pays to be a victim in the U.S. today. Those groups — Hamas-linked CAIR, ISNA, MPAC and the rest — will still need to play the victimhood game even while this sitcom is running, and after its run has ended. So we will continue to see fake hate crimes and claims of discrimination, and the failure of this show to stem the tide of “Islamophobia” will be touted as a reason why Muslims deserve special privileges and the further weakening of counter-terror measures.

Nasim Pedrad

Meanwhile, how a 34-year-old woman is going to be convincing playing a 14-year-old boy is an open question, but whether or not Nasim Pedrad can pull it off, it is noteworthy that this Muslim sitcom will feature a 14-year-old boy who has to serve as the man of the house. That suggests that it will not feature the individual who is the center and dominant figure of most real Muslim families: an adult male. That makes it likely that the show will not depict in any remotely realistic manner the way women are treated in observant Muslim homes — and given the purpose of this project, that is not surprising at all.

“Fox Orders ‘Chad’ Comedy Pilot Starring Nasim Pedrad As Teen Middle Eastern Boy,” by Nellie Andreeva, Deadline, February 10, 2016:

Fox has given a late pilot order to Chad: An American Boy, a single-camera Middle Eastern family comedy co-created by and starring Saturday Night Live alumna Nasim Pedrad and directed by Jason Winer.

Written by Pedrad & Rob Rosell, Chad centers on a 14-year-old boy (Pedrad) in the throes of adolescence is tasked with being the man of the house, which leaves him with all the responsibilities of being an adult without any of the perks. Pedrad, Rosell and Winer executive produce with 3 Arts’ Michael Rotenberg and Dave Becky. 20th Century Fox TV is the studio.

“I’m thrilled to be able to portray a Middle Eastern family not working for or against Jack Bauer on network TV,” said Pedrad, who is Iranian American. “Also, a big thank you to Fox for understanding that my true essence is that of an awkward and misguided 14-year-old boy.”

Pedrad’s remark, which references the protagonist in Fox’s terrorism drama 24, echoes President Barack Obama’s recent comment during a visit to a U.S. mosque that “our TV shows should have muslim [sic] characters that are unrelated to national security.”…

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Russian Intervention in Middle East Conflicts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putin Netanyahu Moscow September 2015

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

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

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

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

Michael Bates

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

Jerry Gordon

Jerry Gordon:  Glad to be back, Mike.

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

Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen:  Thank you.

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

Dan Diker

Dan Diker:  Shalom to you and Florida from Jerusalem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bates:  Oh, okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bryen:  Yes.

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

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

Bates:  Dan, what are you seeing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bates:  No evidence but certainly a possibility.

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

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

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

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

Gordon:  Dan, you had comments about Bibi?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greece, Cyprus and Israel to build Eastern Mediterranean Gas Pipeline

Auspicious meetings were held in Nicosia, Cyprus with members of the emerging Trilateral Eastern Mediterranean Gas Pipeline alliance: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Watch this Jerusalem Post news video of the historic triple alliance meeting in Nicosia:

leaders on mediteranian pipeline

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at Nicosia trilateral meeting, January 27, 2016.

The Jerusalem Post reported the triple alliance leaders announcing plans to set up the long delayed Eastern Mediterranean gas pipeline:

NICOSIA – Israel, Cyprus and Greece decided at their first ever tripartite meeting to set up a steering committee to look into laying a gas pipeline from Israel to Cyprus, and then to Greece for further export to Europe.

The decision was announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing next to Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Each leader delivered a statement noting the historic nature of the meeting, and highlighting the possibilities this emerging alliance has for the region. They did not answer any questions from the press.

While both Anastasiades and Tsipras stressed, without mentioning Turkey by name, that this cooperation was not “against anyone else,” Netanyahu did not make a reference at all to Turkey, either directly or indirectly.

National Infrastructure, Water and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was part of the Israeli delegation, told reporters on the plane en route to Nicosia that Israel wanted to have the ability to export the gas both through Greece and Turkey. Laying the pipeline to Turkey is considerably cheaper than through Cyprus and Greece.

Anastasiades, as host of the summit, spoke first, and said this cooperation was based on an appreciation that “it is imperative to work collectively through coordination.” He said that the three leaders signed a joint declaration, which he termed a “historic document” that deals with cooperation in the energy, tourism, research, water-management, anti-terrorism and immigration spheres. He said that a trilateral steering committee will monitor the agreement.

Netanyahu, who said that as the son of a historian he was averse to using the term “historic,” said that the term did however fit the meeting. “I believe this meeting has historic implications,” he said. “The Last time Greeks, Cypriots and Jews sat around a table and talked about a common framework was 2,000 years ago.”

In addition to the gas pipeline, Netanyahu also spoke of a plan to lay an underwater cable to connect the electric grids of all three countries. “You can export gas through electricity,” he said.

Tsipras said that cooperation with Israel and Cyprus was a “strategic choice” for Athens.

EasternMedPipeline(1)In a January 2015, New English Review article, “Could Israel Lose the Energy Prize in the Eastern Mediterranean,” we noted this about the prospects for the Triple Alliance Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline.

“On December 9, 2014, Israel, Cyprus and Greece pitched the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline a day before a conference organized jointly byNatural Gas Europe, the Greek Energy Forum, ESCP Europe, RCEM and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The conference was titled “2030 EU Energy Security, the Role of the Eastern Mediterranean Region” and took place at EESC headquarters in Brussels. Natural Gas Europe in an article on the EESC conference noted the comments of Greek Energy Minister, Ioannis Maniatis:

Europe will need an extra 100 bcm of natural gas in the next 15 years, and in light of Europe’s increasing dependence on imports to fulfill its energy needs, the EU must find a sustainable model to ensure it is a competitive economy.

The EU needs to reduce external dependence, increase efficiency, diversify its sources and routes of supply, and improve interconnectors, he added. Fully connected energy grids, greater transparency, good governance and a thorough understanding of global events should also be the focus of the EU according to Maniatis. He explained that Greece’s importance is growing. The East Med pipeline pitched by Israel, Cyprus and Greece would run from Israel and Cyprus via Greece to Italy and then to the rest of Europe is technically feasible and attached to attractive prospects said Maniatis. He told the audience that the results of a feasibility study on the East Med pipeline will be released next year and that the pipeline would serve as a new source and provider of natural gas comparable to the Southern Corridor. The attractiveness of the East Med Pipeline, said Maniatis, is that unlike the Southern Corridor, it would pass exclusively through four member states and hence deserves strong EU backing for its materialization.

The Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline had received the endorsement of the EC as a priority project for underwriting in November 2013. According to The Guardian that could provide the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline project “access to a €5.85bn fund, and preferential treatment from multilateral banks.”

Natural Gas Europe reported at the time the options under consideration:

The basic plan will see the pipeline stretch from the Leviathan field offshore Israel on to Cyprus ending in eastern part of the Island of Crete in Greece. Three alternate routes were discussed:

  • To the Peloponnesus Peninsula joint via spur with the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP)
  • From Crete to northern Greece where it would join the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB)
  • From Crete to the Revythousa LNG terminal close to Athens. The terminal would be significantly upgraded to accommodate large amounts of gas exports thereafter.

The technically difficult 1,880 kilometer long submarine pipeline project, reaching depths of more than 2,000 meters, would connect Leviathan and Aphrodite gas fields ultimately to Italy. Cost for the project was estimated at over $20 Billion and would likely not be concluded at the earliest until 2020, assuming that production of the Leviathan field in the Israeli EEZ begins in 2017. With the demise of both the Turkish Leviathan-Ceyhan pipeline and the Australian Woodside Pty. Ashdod LNG –Eilat pipeline for delivery of gas to the Asian markets, the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline project may have serious consideration. There is the alternative of the onshore LNG facility at Vassilikos on Cyprus’ south shore to be built by the Consortium at an estimated cost of $10 billion. A Memorandum of Understanding for planning the Vassilikos LNG complex was signed by Cyprus and the Consortium in June 2013. In the interim, offshore floating LNG processing platforms that might be leased to ship processed gas via pressured LNG vessels to receiving terminals in Greece and Italy. However, Noble Energy was not initially supportive of the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline option, instead concentrating on sales from Leviathan to regional users like Jordan and Egypt and building the proposed Cypriot LNG processing facility.”

Israel has overcome the ruling of its former Anti Trust Authority general director, approving an offshore gas development plan with US Partner Noble Energy, inc. and Israeli partner Delek Group involving the Leviathan, Tamar and adjacent Aphrodite gas fields in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone. With yesterday’s announcement in Nicosia by the Triple Alliance of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, a way can now be seen to go forward with the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Pipeline and the LNG facility in Cyprus.  At the time we wrote the January 2015 NER article, Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan had announced a $12 billion Turkey Stream pipeline deal to supply Europe with natural gas. Given the break off in relations between Russia and Turkey over the latter’s downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber, Putin has suspended the project.  That sent Erdogan scrambling to re-open diplomatic relations with Jerusalem seeking supplies of Israeli gas.  The dour circumstances propounded in our January 2015 article appear to be lifted by the geo-resource and political wars in the Syrian and ISIS conflicts.  That is enhanced by the settlement of Israel’s plan for development and distribution of its offshore gas and oil fields.

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

VIDEO: Dr. Mordecahi Kedar on Israel and the Middle East

Dr. Mordecahi Kedar is a Professor at Bar-Ilan University. He spent 25 years with IDF Military Intelligence (Unit 8200).

He is interviewed by the USA Transnational Report at The Villages in Florida.

Majority of Americans Say Christians Face Genocide in Middle East

marist-poll-isis400NEW HAVEN, Connecticut /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — By a wide margin, most Americans agree with the presidential candidates of both parties in calling ISIS’ atrocities against Christians in the Middle East “genocide,” according to a Knight of Columbus-Marist poll conducted this month.

Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and Martin O’Malley have all called the situation genocide.

By almost 20 points, 55 percent to 36 percent, Americans agree that this targeting of Christians and other religious minorities meets the U.N. definition of genocide.

In addition, nearly 6 in 10 Americans (59 percent), say they have heard “a great deal” or “a good amount” about the targeting of Christians and other religious minorities in the region by ISIS.

“The American people, together with presidential candidates and elected officials of both political parties agree that Christians and other religious minorities are facing genocide in the Middle East,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. “With such a bi-partisan consensus, inaction on a declaration of genocide by Congress and the State Department is unconscionable. An entire year has gone by with their silence. The time for action is now – while those being persecuted can still be saved.”

The survey came shortly after a broad coalition of religious leaders, researchers and scholars sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging – based on the overwhelming evidence of their targeting in Iraq and Syria– that Christians be included in any determination of genocide made by the State Department.

In addition, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recently released a statement urging the State Department to declare what is happening to religious minorities in the region as genocide.

Pope Francis has called the situation genocide as well. During his trip to Bolivia, he stated, “Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus. … A form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”

Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, in a letter has also urged Congress to pass the “Genocide” resolution, H.Con.Res. 75.

The survey of 1,517 adults was conducted Dec. 1-7, 2015, by The Marist Poll sponsored and funded in partnership with The Knights of Columbus. Adults 18 years of age and older residing in the continental United States were interviewed in English or Spanish by (landline and cellular) telephone, using live interviewers. Results are statistically significant within +2.5 percentage points.