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VIDEO: Tafsheen Malik Radicalized at Women’s Islamic Academy

From U.S. and Canadian news reports comes evidence that the murderous Jihadi couple, Tafsheen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farooq had  allegedly long been radicalized. The picture above from ABC News is a shot taken on July 27, 2014 when the couple went through customs at O’Hare International  Airport after Ms. Malik had secured a K-1 fiancée Visa to come to the U.S. with her intended husband Farooq.

The Customs photo caught them in Sharia compliant garb reflective of professing  fundamentalist  Muslims.  They were returning from an extensive trip that took Farooq to Saudi Arabia to meet Malik and hence to her parent’s home in Multan in Central Pakistan before returning together to California.  There is the suspicion that Ms. Malik had undergone formal radicalization in her native Pakistan. Information on Malik’s background is emerging from independent investigations about  her attendance at  an Al Huda women’s Islamic Academy in Multan, one of several  across Pakistan propounding a Salafist Islamic doctrine.

mlogoThe Los Angeles Times produced a report on  the Pakistani Al Huda Islamist women’s seminaries and Ms. Malik’s attendance at the one in Multan, San Bernardino assailant attended Islamic institute in Pakistan:”

Tashfeen Malik studied at Al Huda, a chain of religious institutes that teach a fundamentalist strain of Islam, while she was enrolled in a university in Pakistan’s Punjab region several years ago, according to two fellow students.

The two former classmates of Malik’s at Bahauddin Zakariya University in the city of Multan said she regularly attended Al Huda classes, whose stated objective is to bring women “back to their religious roots.”

“She used to go to attend sessions in Al Huda almost every day,” said one of the former classmates, who spoke on condition she not be identified. “She was not too close to any class fellow.”

The former classmate said that Malik, who studied pharmacology at the university, did not share her thoughts on religious issues.

Pakistani security expert points out the ‘fundamentalist’ Islamic doctrine propounded by Al Huda:

Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani security analyst, said Al Huda teaches women “fundamentalist” ideas, though it does not necessarily promote a jihadist agenda.

“I call Al Huda the fourth generation of religious seminaries. It does not promote use of violence but takes you closer to the red line,” she said. “Now, it is a personal decision to cross the red line and take or give one’s life.”

Siddiqa said that the impact of the institutes is widespread, because a child who attends can influence other members of her family. “People would be familiar with, for instance, a daughter going to an Al Huda changing the mother and eventually the entire household. This dynamic is mirrored in more traditional seminaries as well.”

Malik, 29, was born in Pakistan to a land-owning, politically influential family in Karor Lal Esan, in southern Punjab province. Though Malik’s family moved to Saudi Arabia when she was a child, she returned to Punjab to study pharmacology at Bahauddin Zakariya University from 2007 to 2012.

One of her professors, Dr. Nisar Hussain, recalled her as “a very hardworking and submissive student,” and “an obedient girl.” He said she came to school veiled.

“She was religious, but a very normal person as well,” Hussain said in an interview. “I cannot even imagine she could murder people.”

A family member in Pakistan who asked not to be identified said that she had been a “modern girl” who changed during college.

After university, Malik returned to Saudi Arabia. In the last few years, she entered into a relationship with Syed Rizwan Farooq, a Southern Californian of Pakistani descent who she met online.

Another Pakistani academic expert  noted the credo expounded in the Al  Huda seminaries:

Sadaf Ahmad, an assistant professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, has written that Al Huda founder Farhat Hashmi’s denunciation of various cultural practices and disapproval of Westerners and Indians gives women a new conception of their identity as Muslims.

Ahmad found Al Huda graduates  “very intolerant and judgmental toward people who were different from them.”

The Toronto Star had more on Malik and Al Huda founder Farhat Hashmi who had immigrated to Canada, “Founder Pakistan religious school where San Bernardino shooter studied, lives in Mississauga:”

While in Multan, [Malik] also attended a religious school, which Pakistani intelligence officials on Monday identified as the Al Huda International Seminary. The school is a women-only madrassa with branches across Pakistan and in the U.S. and Canada, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The Canadian branch is based in Mississauga, Ont., according to the foundation’s website.

Al Huda’s founder, Farhat Hashmi, who now lives in Canada, has been criticized for promoting a conservative strain of Islam, though the school has no known links to extremists.

Hashmi was not available to comment on Monday, as she is currently in Pakistan, said a staff member at the school’s Canadian branch. The school also released a statement condemning the shooting in California and saying it was looking to increase security around its Mississauga campus.

Hashmi is on the payroll of Muslim Brotherhood affiliate in Canada:

Hashmi’s name surfaced on the payroll of one of Canada’s largest Islamic organizations, despite her not actually working there. An audit in 2011 revealed the Islamic Society of North America Canada was trying to help her immigrate to Canada.

Note the heavy concentration of extremist support in the central region of Pakistan and Malik’s course of study:

The region where the school is located, however, is home to thousands of extremist seminaries, with hundreds of them linked to al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban. Pakistan, which supports Islamic militants battling archrival India in the disputed region of Kashmir and is widely believed to have ties to insurgents in Afghanistan, has long turned a blind eye to institutions that teach radical interpretations of Islam.

Malik spent more than a year at Al Huda, taking classes six days a week, the school’s spokeswoman Farrukh Chaudhry told The Associated Press.

She enrolled in a two-year course to study the Qur’an, its translation and interpretation, but did not finish the course, Chaudhry added. Malik was a student there from April 17, 2013 until May 3, 2014, when she handed in her last paper in the first-year curriculum, the spokeswoman said.

“According to our records, this girl didn’t complete the course,” Chaudhry said, speaking over the phone from the southern port city of Karachi where she is based. “She told us that she was going to get married in two months, and after that she will leave for America.”

Pakistani police and intelligence are conducting further investigations into Malik and her family:

Pakistani authorities have also been looking into Malik’s time in Multan. Police and intelligence agents have searched the house where she lived on two occasions since Friday. Shabana Saif, a counterterrorism official, said intelligence agents seized documents, family photo albums and a laptop belonging to Malik’s sister, Shahida, who was studying engineering at a Pakistani college. It is not clear whether the house, which has been sealed, was owned by Tashfeen or her father.

Watch this AFP TV video report on the Pakistani University where Tashfeen Malik studied:

You may recall this comment from Asra Nomani, former Wall Street Journalist, author and colleague of the late Daniel Pearl in Pakistan from Sunday’s NBC Meet the Press segment on Islam and ISIS:

I saw it in 2002, went to Islamabad, Pakistan, and met women who were supporting this ideology. I call them the Taliban Ladies Auxiliary back then. This young woman in California would’ve been a star member of it.

RELATED ARTICLE: Islamic State Papers: How ISIS is building its state

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured photo, obtained by ABC News, shows Tashfeen Malik, center, and Syed Rizwan Farook, right, going through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on July 27, 2014.

Declaration of Muslim Reform nailed to door of Islamic Center in Washington, D.C.

In the midst of the swirl of events following the Jihad massacre in San Bernardino, a “Summit for 20 Western Muslim Voices for Reform against the Islamic State and Islamism,” was organized in Washington, D.C. At the conclusion a news conference was held at the National Press Club. The press conference capped a two day conference the purpose of which was to publish Declaration of Muslim Reform principles. At the rostrum was an international contingent of reformers from Canada, the U.S., Europe and Pakistan. Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Forum for Islam and Democracy was the organizer and moderator of the event. A list of the organizations  and participants can be found here. The principles of  the reform declaration,  as published in a Gatestone Institute article, co-authored by  Dr. Jasser and Raheel  Raza are:

  • We reject interpretations of Islam that call for any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam. We invite our fellow Muslims and neighbors to join us.
  • We reject bigotry, oppression and violence against all people based on any prejudice, including ethnicity, gender, language, belief, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression.
  • We are for secular governance, democracy and liberty.
  • Every individual has the right to publicly express criticism of Islam. Ideas do not have rights. Human beings have rights.
  • We stand for peace, human rights and secular governance. Please stand with us!

Watch this You Tube video of the Muslim Reform Summit press conference:

muslim reform declaration

Washington Islamic Center custodian removing Muslim Reform Movement Declaration December 4, 2015. Source: Muslim Reform Movement.

Following the conclusion of the National Press Club event, two women from the group headed  over to Massachusetts Avenue, the location  of the Saudi financed and controlled Washington Islamic Center. They nailed a signed copy of the Muslim reform declaration to its door. That was modeled on the 95 Theses that Martin Luther nailed to the door of the All Saints Church on October 31, 1517 that purportedly sparked  the Protestant reformation. However, within seconds a caretaker came out and tore it off the Center’s door.

The daunting problem that the Muslim reformers face is that normative Islam believes that there is no need for reform since any distortion of the uncreated words of Allah, would be deemed idolatrous. However, given the declarations by  Egyptian President  El-Sisi  in a meeting with leading  Sunni clerics at  Al Azhar University in Cairo on New Year’s 2015, at least one Muslim country leader believes that  Islam is in dire need of reform. He says that is required to combat the apocalyptic pure Islamic terrorism  espoused by the self-declared Caliphate  of the Islamic State.

One of the women who participated in the Washington Islamic Center  event  was former Wall Street Journalist and author of Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam, Asra Nomani.  Normani was a colleague of the late Dan Pearl in Pakistan.  She saw him off in October 2002, never to return, kidnapped and slaughtered by 9/11 Al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM).  She was also involved in the 2011 investigations that led to KSM being identified as Pearl’s  killer. Nomani is U.S. born, the daughter of Indian Muslims from Mumbai who settled in Huntington, West Virginia. She is a graduate of both the University of West Virginia and American University.

Asra Q. Nomani

Asra Q. Nomani

Nomani  is in league with  other Muslim  and former Muslim women  like Raheel Raza,  Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji and other like minded reformers who believe the effort to reform should be started.  Nonetheless, she is doubtlessly viewed as an apostate, heterodox in the standards of normative Sunni Islam. Having said that she is a fearless defender of personal freedoms for Muslim women reflected in her proposed Muslim women bill of rights. Further she recognizes the problems that both she and the others at the Reform Summit  see as persisting in Political Islam. Sharia that follows of way of Allah demanding devotion to Jihad against unbelievers.

This morning Nomani was paired off against Dalia Mogahed, a former Gallup pollster on Islam ,now director of research for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Mogahed is what the Obama White House considers as an exemplary American Muslim woman, resplendent in her Hijab.

Back in  July 2010, we wrote  about Mogahed’s  appointment by President Obama to the White House Advisory Council on Faith Based  and Neighborhood Partnerships. She is coauthor of the book and film Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think. She worked  Dr. John L. Esposito, a Georgetown University colleague at the Prince Alaweed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding.   At the Jasser contended in a report by The Investigative Project  that Ms. Mogahed’s outreach to radical Muslim groups did not help.

Dalia Mogahed

Dalia Mogahed

The damage is immeasurable to Muslims seeking non-radical alternatives. They are going to say, why bother? The government has chosen sides in the conflict.

Note this exchange among Rich Lowry of the National Review, Dalia Mogahed and Asra Nomani from today’s  NBC Meet the Press transcript:

RICH LOWRY:

Well, it seems to me that this debate, whether Islam is a religion of peace or not, really, it’s irrelevant for outsiders. It’s for Muslims to decide whether it’s a religion of peace or not. And if enough of them do, then you cut off the oxygen to the radicals. But at the moment, the extremists have significant financial popular and theological backing in the Middle East. And that is an enduring phenomenon. And it’s one that is going to require a long, ideological war to win.

DALIA MOGAHED:

I’m sorry, I’m going to have to disagree with you. They simply do not have ideological, theological, or popular support. And this is a criminal organization that is funding their criminality with things like drug trade and selling oil. They do not have the ideological support that you’re describing at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. They’ve had a number of voices from across the spectrum say that what they’re doing is completely un-Islamic. They have no support popularly, in terms of the general public. So–

RICH LOWRY:

But yet they’re still there.

DALIA MOGAHED:

But so are many other terrorist organizations. And their primary victims are Muslims. I think that’s very important.

ASRA NOMANI:

And to that point, I think what speaks loudest and what speaks to your point is the blood that’s spilling from Australia, to now California. I mean, how much blood has to be spilled until we recognize inside of a Muslim community that we do have an ideological problem? And that we do have support? I mean, there are–

DALIA MOGAHED:

I think the blood is spilling in Syria and it’s mostly Muslims–

ASRA NOMANI:

Excuse me. There are hundreds and hundreds of followers of Islamic State around Europe and the U.S. The Saudis are showing this. And all you have to do is look at the conversation inside of our mosques and inside of our communities. And you will hear it. And I hear it. And I have to say that I saw it in 2002, went to Islamabad, Pakistan, and met women who were supporting this ideology. I call them the Taliban Ladies Auxiliary back then. This young woman in California would’ve been a star member of it.

Watch the Meet the Press segment with  Asra Nomani dueling Dalia Mogahed:

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

Major Gaps between P5+1 and Iran on Framework Agreement

This Passover Easter weekend, the media was abuzz in speculative commentary on President Obama’s announcement in the Rose Garden on Thursday April 2nd of the P5+1 Framework for a nuclear deal with Iran. Problem is no one really knows what is involved in drafting let alone concluding a definitive technical agreement between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran by June 30, 2015, 90 days from now. President Obama extolled the virtues of the deal saying:

Good afternoon, everybody. Today, The United States, together with Allies and Partners, have reached a historic understanding with Iran, which if fully implemented, would  prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, As President and Commander in Chief, I have no great responsibility than the security of the American people. I’m convinced that if this framework leads to a final a final comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies, and our world, safer. This has been a long time coming. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been advancing its nuclear program for decades.

Sound familiar?  It should.  Read the opening stanza of former President Bill Clinton on October 18, 1994, when he announced a previous nuclear framework agreement that failed to stop North Korea from eventually creating a stockpile of nuclear weapons and nuclear tipped missiles:

Good afternoon. I am pleased that the United States and North Korea yesterday reached agreement on the text of a framework document on North Korea’s nuclear program. This agreement will help to achieve a longstanding and vital American objective: an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula.

This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world. It reduces the danger of the threat of nuclear spreading in the region. It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.

In the words of baseball great Yogi Berra, “its déjà vu all over again.”

Today on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd interviewed Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said:

“I’m not trying to kill any deal. I’m trying to kill a bad deal…The current plan “leaves the preeminent terrorist state of our time with a vast nuclear infrastructure.” It would spark an arms race among the Sunni states, a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” the Israeli leader warned. “And the Middle East crisscrossed with nuclear tripwires is a nightmare for the world. I think this deal is a dream deal for Iran and it’s a nightmare deal for the world.”

Netanyahu stressed that when it comes to Iran’s nuclear capabilities, he prefers a “good” diplomatic solution to a military one.

He outlined such a solution as “one that rolls back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and one that ties the final lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program with a change of Iran’s behavior” and insists that Iran stops “calling for and working for the annihilation of Israel.” He also called for further sanctions on Iran as a way to get the country to take a deal that contains no concessions.

Watch the NBC “Meet the Press” segment with Israel PM Netanyahu:

Sen_ Chris Murphy

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)

Connecticut Democratic  Senator Chris Murphy, member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee  who followed Netanyahu on Meet the Press  found the agreement announced by the President, “remarkable. “ He remarked that  “sanctioning Iran into submission is not what the partners signed up for. When the question of changing Iran’s behavior on support for global terrorism and violations of human rights came up, Murphy basically followed the Administration line of let’s get the nuclear agreement done first. The Washington Post reported  Murphy saying:

It’s true that this deal doesn’t turn Iran from a bad guy into a good guy”. “But it’s a little bit of rewriting of history to suggest these negotiations were about all of the other nefarious activities of Iran in the region. These negotiations were about ending their nuclear program, such that we can start to lift up the moderate elements … [and] talk about all these other issues.

You take this issue [the nuclear program] off the table and you empower people like Rouhani and Zarif, who may see a different path for Iran — less as an irritant, more as a member of the global community.  “And you may see a pathway to solving some of these other problems (ballistic missiles, support for terrorism and human rights violations) and you can do it potentially without new rounds of traditional sanctions.

Ehud Yaari

Ehud Ya’ari Israeli Middle East analyst and Channel 2 TV Commentator.

More emerged about the differences in the announcement about the framework parameters between the State Department Fact Sheet and Farsi statement of Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. Noted Israel Middle East analyst, Ehud Ya’ari, a Washington, DC Institute for Near East Policy Fellow and Israel TV Channel 2 commentator, identified six major gaps The Times of Israel reported:

  1. Sanctions: Ya’ari said the U.S. has made clear that economic sanctions will be lifted in phases, whereas the Iranian fact sheet provides for the immediate lifting of all sanctions as soon as a final agreement is signed, which is set for June 30. (In fact, the US parameters state that sanctions will be suspended only after Iran has fulfilled all its obligations: “US and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.” By contrast, the Iranian fact sheet states: “all of the sanctions will be immediately removed after reaching a comprehensive agreement.”)
  2. Enrichment: The American parameters provide for restrictions on enrichment for 15 years, while the Iranian fact sheet speaks of 10 years.
  3. Development of advanced centrifuges at Fordo: The US says the framework rules out such development, said Ya’ari, while the Iranians say they are free to continue this work.
  4. Inspections: The US says that Iran has agreed to surprise inspections, while the Iranians say that such consent is only temporary.
  5. Stockpile of already enriched uranium: Contrary to the US account, Iran is making clear that its stockpile of already enriched uranium — “enough for seven bombs” if sufficiently enriched, Ya’ari said — will not be shipped out of the country, although it may be converted.
  6. PMD: The issue of the Possible Military Dimensions of the Iranian program, central to the effort to thwart Iran, has not been resolved, Ya’ari said.

The U.S. parameters make two references to PMD. They state, first: “Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.”

They subsequently add: “All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordo, Arak, PMD, and transparency).” The Iranian fact sheet does not address PMD.

The differences between the sides became apparent almost as soon as the framework agreement was presented in Lausanne on Thursday night. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued a series of tweets late Thursday, for instance, that protested the U.S. State Department’s assertion that the nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers would only see sanctions on the Islamic Republic removed “in phases.”

If this weekend is an example, the controversy about the framework “parameters” await the details from the final agreement targeted for June 30th. Problem is those negotiations may extend well beyond the current deadline, perhaps may spark further negotiations and may be incapable of resolution unless the Administration caves into all of Iran’s demands. In the meantime Swiss and French trade delegations are in Tehran discussing possible deals, the Germans have already held theirs, and, of course, Russia and China, have already conducted business with the Islamic Republic. Despite Turkey’s Erdogan expressing pique at Iran’s hegemony in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, he will soon hold trade talks again in Tehran on more gas deals.

Thursday’s announcement sent the Tehran Stock Exchange skyrocketing Friday. Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif are smirking over their victory contemplating keeping all of its nuclear, missile and military applications under wraps. Besides they also have four bargaining chips; three imprisoned Americans and a fourth missing for eight years.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of the P5+1 plus Iran and EU Foreign Relations Commissioner in Lausanne, Switzerland 4-2-15.

Bibigate – The Contretemps over Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Last Saturday night a retired U.S. Navy officer said “I’ll bet you even money that Bibi will withdraw from the proposed speech before a joint session of Congress”. I joshed him and said “I wouldn’t count on it.”

Sunday, I received suggestions that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should have a Plan B given the rising contretemps in the media over US House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to talk about Iran before a Joint Session of Congress. There  was a welter of criticism from the White House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and mainstream media talking heads  included David Brooks of the New York Times and  Chris Wallace and Shepherd Smith of  FoxNews.  They were admonishing Speaker Boehner and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer with terms like “dicey, wicked more for photo op” and “partisan politics” and “unwise for Israel.”  It was ostensibly about the lack of courtesy shown the President by not giving prior notice to the White House of the invitation extended to Netanyahu.  There was pique by certain unnamed senior officials in the White House over what some might call Bibigate.

However, let us remember there was increasing  bi-partisan support for new Iran nuclear sanctions legislation despite  the President’s warning that he would veto it if it was passed. New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez was particularly incensed at the President for his questioning his motivations.  Menendez said: “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran. And it feeds to the Iranian narrative of victimization, when they are the ones with the original sin.”  Lest, we forget, the President had threatened a veto if increased Iran legislation passed.  It was abundantly clear in the January 16th Joint Press Conference at the White House when the President Obama agreed with UK PM David Cameron’s remarks, urging Senators on Capitol Hill not to take up new sanctions legislation at a “sensitive time”. Thus, one could speculate that Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu on January 21st to speak to a Joint Session of Congress in early March was a rebuttal to the President.

The rancor over Bibigate was visible in the final week of January into February.  Wednesday, January 28thCNN released a clip of Fareed Zakaria’s February 1st GPS interview with President Obama.  Obama suggested that a visit with Netanyahu was “inappropriate,” as it was too close to the upcoming March Knesset elections.  The President said, “I’m declining to meet with him simply because our general policy is, we don’t meet with any world leader two weeks before their election, [I] think that’s inappropriate. And that’s true with some of our closest allies.”  Those comments engendered another rebuttal that the White House may have been giving tacit support to the involvement of Presidential Campaign aide Jim Byrd in advising the Labor-Hanuat opposition to Netanyahu in the Knesset general elections.

Friday, January 30th, Jeffrey Goldberg published an interview in The Atlantic with Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, a former US Republican strategist and member of the Netanyahu’s inner circle.   Dermer discussed the background for Boehner’s issuance of the invitation to Netanyahu to speak to Congress on Iran. Dermer suggested that while the Prime Minister “meant no disrespect towards President Obama … Netanyahu must speak up while there is still time to speak up”.

That led Cornell Law Professor William Jacobson on the blog Legal Insurrection to opine that Obama’s not offended; he just wants Bibi out of office.

The Hill round up on the Sunday Talk shows had comments from Rep. Paul Ryan on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Arizona Senator John McCain on CNN’s “State of The Union.”  Over the issue of Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu Ryan said,” The Invitation to Israeli prime minister was ‘absolutely’ appropriate. I don’t know if I would say it’s antagonizing”.  McCain drew attention to the new low in U.S. – Israel relations under Obama saying, “It’s the worst that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”

Virtually out of nowhere, Sunday, February 1st, commentary from an “Insight” blog post of the Israeli Institute for National Security Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University shed light on a bizarre theory of what was behind Bibigate.  The author of the INSS post, Zaki Shalom, suggested:

The backdrop for the Administration’s expressed dissatisfaction with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s intention to present his position on negotiations with Iran to Congress, creating a rather transparent linkage between Israel’s positions on negotiations with Iran and sanctions, and U.S. willingness to assist in combating the Palestinian attempt to exert international legal and diplomatic pressure on Israel.

On Thursday, January 30, 2015, the Senate Banking Committee voted out a ‘softer’ version of the Kirk –Menendez Sanctions legislation by a vote of 18 to 4, including six Democrats.  As reported by The Hill, the legislation:

… Would impose sanctions on Iran if a comprehensive agreement to roll back its nuclear program is not reached by June 30 and would allow the president to waive sanctions indefinitely for 30 days at a time.

However, the bill would be shelved until March 24th for a possible floor vote.  Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said, “All of us understand it’s not going to be voted on before March 24”. While the measure may portend a possible override vote should President Obama veto it that still requires Senator Menendez to keep the group of 17 Democratic Senators who support this version of sanctions legislation in the bi-partisan alliance.

Israeli concern over a weak final agreement by March 24th  is reflected  in a Times of Israel report published  Sunday, February 1st,” US sources deride Israeli ‘nonsense’ on Obama giving in to Iran.”  Israeli  sources contend that Iran is likely to get 80 % of what it is seeking- the ability to continue enrichment with  upwards of 9,000 centrifuges, especially the advanced IR-2s. The Israelis believe that would give Iran nuclear breakout within weeks.  Add to that mix Iran flaunting pictures in a ToA  report of a Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) capable of covering all of Europe. That is to be followed in 2015 to 2016 by one cap ICBM range. Of course there a number of us who believe that Iran may already have purchased nuclear weapons from rogue regimes, but may lack nuclear warheads, which are likely to be supplied by North Korea to be mounted on those ICBMs.

Especially as the President observed, there is less than a 50/50 chance of reaching an agreement. Then assuming the current polls are correct and Bibi retains the ability to form a new Knesset coalition after the March 17th election, he may speak with both authority and strength.

As a usual astute observer of Israel from Europe, Imre Herzog, opined when I wrote him on my side bet “you might win the bet”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Washington Times File Photo  5-24-2011.

Turks Renege on Air Base, ISIS beheads Hundreds in Kobani while Surrounding Baghdad

Yesterday, National  Security Adviser Susan E. Rice went on NBC’s “Meet the Press “and glibly announced that Turkey had given permission for use of the Incirlik air base  by the U.S.-led  coalition assaulting ISIS from the air. She  triumphantly  commented, “That’s a new commitment and one that we very much welcome”.

Today, The Washington Post  reported  a senior Turkish official  denied such a claim, saying that talks were still underway, perhaps awaiting a Pentagon military planning team this week in Ankara. Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Erdogan has made it abundantly clear that he wants his priority demand  opening up a front against the Assad Regime. Erdogan’s negotiations tactics lend credence that he is tacitly supporting ISIS’ destruction of the Kurdish YPG fighters in Kobani.

It looks like the same stall tactics his AKP government used back in 2003, when the U.S. Army First Infantry  Division was prevented from off loading in the Mediterranean  port of Iskenderun to  transit of  Turkey and enter Northern Iraq. What is the expression, dog bites man first time, dog’s fault;  dog bites man second time, man’s fault.  Following in the wake of Ms. Rice’s gaffe on Benghazi on Meet the Press October 15, 2012 and now with this episode, she has lost credibility.

But then the Obama policies in the region have failed. 

Whether it is red lines in Syria, supporting a One Iraq policy in the face of disintegration of the Baghdad central government, and his ISIS strategy with a U.S. air assault but no boots on the ground.

Turkey’s stalling on permission  for  the US-led coalition  air contingents use the Incirlik air base less than 100 kilometers from the Turkish – Syrian border has complicated  air operations.  We have argued  that should have been the first orders of business by the Administration. Now US Navy squadrons on board the USS George H. W. Bush in the Red Sea, USAF  squadrons based temporarily at the Al Udeid air base in Qatar carrier and RAF squadrons based in Cyprus have to fly 1,100 mile round trip sorties  making it virtually impossible to engage in round the clock air operations.

We offer the following   suggestions about what to do with a recalcitrant Erdogan in Turkey,. One suggested by Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, is that Turkey be temporarily suspended  from the NATO alliance until it agrees to lend meaningful support to the US-led coalition.  The Administration might impose an embargo on sales of US military equipment and spare parts to Turkey, akin to what was done following Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974, lifted in 1978. The State Department might delist the Turkish Workers Party (PKK) from its designated terrorist list. There is the precedent of the delisting of the Iranian opposition group, the Mojahedin-e-Khalq  (MEK). That act outraged the Iranian Islamic regime. A similar action by the U.S. State Department might cause a diplomatic furor between Washington and Ankara further emboldening Kurdish protests in Turkey and elsewhere.

We have grisly reports from The Daily Mail, today, that hundreds of trapped Kurds in Kobani have been beheaded by ISIS jihadists to the cries of “allahu Akbar”. Rumor has it that a contingent of 200 Kurdish fighters with more modern weapons may be on their way to Kobani. But that may be too little too late to save  the encircled YPG fighters in Kobani.

 Meanwhile a  large column of 10,000 ISIS troops ,equipped with stolen US tanks, artillery and Humvees,  have virtually taken all of Anbar province encircling  Baghdad and threatening  the International airport. The UN reported today that more than 30,000 families, 180,000 persons  fled after the town of Hit was taken.

We had this exchange with a veteran U.S. security contractor in Baghdad.

Gordon:  Thank you for your comment on my Iconoclast post.  Suffice to say all of us pray for the safety of you and all your American colleagues in Iraq. The flight of the Iraqi forces before Mosul in June empowered ISIS with billions in US supplied arms, weapons, tanks and Humvees. ISIS military commanders are former Saddam Ba’athist commanders and quite capable in conducting operations against a corrupt Iraqi national army. ISIS has a friend in Turkey’s Erdogan, allied with the Muslim Brotherhood in the region. Despite the change in government and removal of former Premier Al-Maliki, Iraq remains a satrap of Iran for all intents and purposes. ISIS’ Jihad Qur’anic imperative, to borrow a phrase of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, is “Cry Havoc and let slip the dogs of war” to the cry of “allahu Akbar”.  I trust that you and your colleagues can make it out to Kuwait and home before the Baghdad airport falls into ISIS hands.

Tim:  I agree with what you say. I have been able to see all this happen first hand. I have been over here for a total of five years. I believe that some plan has been made for our evacuation but nothing has been shared. We will see.

Yesterday,  Lisa Benson asked  us to join her, Dr. Sherkoh Abbas, President of the Kurdish National Assembly of Syria (KURDNAS) and the Hon. Karwan Zebari,the Kurdish Regional Government Ambassador in Washington.  Benson, has drawn  attention to the barbaric onslaught of ISIS against the YPG fighters in Kobani, and  the efforts of the KRG Peshmerga forces in Iraq. Benson has also reached out to activists to solicit relief assistance to Kurds, Yazidis and Christians in the KRG. She has told graphically of the escape of Yazidi women and girls from Raqaa who were sold into sex slavery by their ISIS captors and the price they had paid to reach safety and freedom in the KRG. Benson has mounted several twitter rally campaigns with hashtags #ArmPeshmerga and #SaveKobani.

In the discussion on this latest Lisa Benson Radio Show broadcast, we addressed revelations by Senior Iranian officials in contact with the Administration. They suggested  that Israel will be threatened by ISIS if the Assad regime is attacked.  Dr. Abbas, confirmed Iran’s double game strategy facilitating the rampage that emboldened ISIS’ conquest of large swaths of Syria and Iraq virtually destroying the map of the Levant. A map that began with the  British-French Sykes Picot secret agreement of 1916 that led to the French and British Mandates of the League of Nations at the San Remo Conference in 1920. This was followed by  the creation of the Kemalist Republic of Turkey in 1923 with the Treaty of Lausanne.

The big losers  in the Versailles conference in 1919 were the Kurds. They were promised a nation in their ancient homeland in what became modern Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq.

Ambassador Zebari  articulated  the failure of the so-called One Iraq policy propounded by the US Administration  as the basis for the strategy to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State.  ISIS has become enormously wealthy from looting banks, extortion, and taxation of conquered people and sales of smuggled oil from fields in both Syria and Iraq.  The flood of ISIS fighters from 70 countries have travelled the jihadist highway allowed  by the Islamist regime of President Erdogan’s AKP government in Ankara.  Dozens have been  killed in  riots in Turkey’s predominately  Kurdish  southeast.

Benson fielded a call from a Kurdish American organizer of a hunger strike in support of Kurds in Kobani that will be launched across from the White House this Friday.  Another call, asked the probing question of Dr. Abbas and Ambassador Zebari, “ What could be done to arouse the Administration to alleviate this looming disaster?”  Ambassador Zebari suggested that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have recognized the failure of the One Iraq policy and the necessity of supporting the Kurds.

Both Dr. Abbas raised the question of why Jewish advocacy groups in the US don’t support this, as they have been noticeably silent?   Benson contrasted the questionable appropriation  of more than $500 million by Congress in response to the President’s request to provide training and arms for  so-called moderate Syrian opposition forces, most of who appear to Islamist. The consensus of the discussions on Sunday’s program was the One Iraq strategy has failed and that the Kurds deserve a nation-state of their own.  Dr. Abbas and Ambassador Zebari  opposed  Secretary of State Kerry continued espousal of the failed One Iraq policy.

Dr. Abbas drew attention to  the US donation of  $212 million announced at the Cairo  Donor conference organized by Norway for reconstruction in Gaza. Over $2.7 billion was raised in pledges from EU and Middle East Muslim nations. There was nary a word about dismantling and verifying Hamas’s terror command and tunnels. Kerry also pushed for renewal of Palestinian – Israeli peace discussions. All while PA President Abbas pushes his campaign for a UN Security Council resolution recognizing a Palestinian State claiming he has 7 of 9 votes in favor.

Ambassador Zebari pointed out that  Israel and the Kurds are objects of scorn and hate by the Muslim Brotherhood, Shia and Sunni, Salafist and Wahhabist Jihadists  in the Middle East.

This should, in his opinion, arouse Americans  during the upcoming Mid-Term November elections to vote for Congressional candidates who support Kurdish nationalism and provide the arms  to fight against ISIS   Meanwhile, we had reports  from Jerusalem today that Israeli police closed down Palestinian rioters  at the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount. These rioters were  seeking to rain havoc with rocks and Molotov cocktails on Jews at the Kotel below celebrating the Festival of Tabernacles, Sukkoth.

The UN considered such Israeli actions, “provocative”.

RELATED ARTICLE: US “ally” Turkey bombs Kurds opposed to the Islamic State

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