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‘Report card’ on Syria, Iraq and the Islamic State

Rescue of victim of Assad regime bombing, Aleppo, Syria, April 11, 2016

Rescue of victim of Assad regime bombing, Aleppo, Syria, April 11, 2016. Source: yahoo.com.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria spoke at the Pensacola Tiger Bay Club Friday, April 15, 2016. The author and Florida State Rep. Mike Hill, a good friend of Israel, were among the attentive audience while he gave his ‘report card’ on the sectarian impasse in the civil war in Syria with an estimated 300,000 deaths and the failed reconciliation in Iraq among majority Shia, minority Sunni and Kurds. A Pensacola News Journal report of his Syria-Iraq ‘report card’ covered the major points of his presentation, “9 Things to know about Syria and Iraq.”

Not included in this PNJ report were his responses to questions that we posed on whether he supported the alleged covert CIA plan to overthrow Assad in 2012 as depicted in the new book, Left Boom by ex CIA operative Doug Laux. See our Iconoclast April 5, 2016 post on this issue. The other question from an audience member was directed at whether the Obama failure to implement the 2012 red line over alleged chemical weapons release that killed hundreds in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta was a lost opportunity.

As regards the question about the covert plan to overthrow Assad, Ford demurred answering that directly. However, it was evident in his response that the US had lost credibility by not undertaking pinpoint operations as push back against the Assad regime. A regime who he suggested helped to foster the rise of the Islamic State by attacks on major Sunni centers in Syria and release of fundamentalists. He did allow that the al Maliki regime torpedoed the Sunni Awakening, at the core of the Surge Plan by not continuing payments to Sunni workers and targeting leaders of the Sunni Awakening with reprisals. That he suggested drove them into the ranks of the Islamic State. Meanwhile Shia Militias fomented sectarian razzias against Sunni centers under current Iraqi PM Haidar al- Abadi. The sectarian impasse was graphically portrayed in pictures this week of fights inside the Baghdad parliament among the Shia, Kurdish and Sunni members. The drop in world oil prices hasn’t helped the situation.

LiveLeak-dot-com-a80_1460114240-3_1460114328

Liveleak.com screen grab of Kurdish PYD-YPG victim of Jaysh al-Islam chemical attack on April 7, 2016 in Sheikh Maqsud district of Aleppo, Syria.

On the matter of Obama’s failure to follow through with his 2012 red line threat against Assad he noted that Obama was not concerned about the complete removal of prohibited chemical weapons indicating less concern about chlorine and more about Sarin gas. The irony of the President’s response is reflected in confirmation from multiple sources of the use of Chlorine gas mortars by the Jaysh al-Islam militia in the April 7, 2016 attacks against Kurdish PYD-YPG forces in the Kurdish enclave of Sheik Maqsud district of Aleppo province. Ambassador Ford tends to rely on reports from both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch attesting to Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces pushing tens of thousands of Sunnis fleeing not to the North but South into the Islamic State.

Watch this LiveLeak report on the Jaysh al-Islam chemical mortar attack on the Kurdish enclave of Sheikh Maqsud district in Aleppo Province.

A Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report indicated that Jaysh al-Islam has claimed responsibility for the use of alleged Chlorine gas and investigating the field commander’s use of “unauthorized weapons.” We note that Jaysh, a Salafist rebel force backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, is a terrorist organization designated by Russia, Iran and Egypt had a representative at Friday’s Syrian peace talks, while the PYD-YPG was barred from attending.

His former Iraqi period colleague, Bret McGurk, Obama’s special envoy on the war against ISIS would probably disagree as he has made common cause with the PYD-YPG as the only effective boots on the ground in Syria fighting the Islamic State.

He also expressed the view that Israel’s government is speaking increasingly of the necessity of removing Assad via some political deal.

With fighting raging in Syria’s north between rebel forces, the regime, and ISIS forces, Syrian refugees caught on the frontier with Turkey are being prevented from sanctuary there.

On the matter of Syrian refugees, Ambassador Ford was not able to respond to that publicly, although we understand that he views US admissions of Syrian Refugees as a humanitarian gesture with those brought in, largely women and children.

Here were the key points in Ambassador Ford’s Syria-Iraq report card:”And it has a way of looking at things which is very frightening,” he said.

  1. ISIS started as al-Qaida in Iraq. Eventually, its leader cut off ties to the main al-Qaida organization and declared a caliphate in spring 2014.
  2. ISIS has a literalist interpretation of early Islamic jurisprudence dating back to the 7th Century, along with a large bureaucracy. Ford showed photos of tax receipts, as Christians must pay a tax if they choose to continue to follow Christianity.
  3. ISIS controls oil wells that fund its activities. Before some were recaptured, the group was estimated to earn up to $70 million per month on the black market. The loss of those assets has caused it to cut in half the salary it pays its soldiers.
  4. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, is a group of Syrian Kurds the U.S. has supported to fight ISIS. The PYD, however, is allied with Turkish Kurds who commit acts of terrorism in Turkey. “The Turks are saying, ‘Why are you helping one group of terrorists against another group of terrorists?'” Ford said.
  5. When the Kurds have taken back land from ISIS, Ford said, they have committed war crimes against Syrian Arabs in the area. ISIS is then able to recruit displaced people who flee.
  6. There is a vacuum left after the conquest of an ISIS-controlled area and there has not been a good nonmilitary follow-up. “If we don’t have people to take this over and make sure the electricity is running, get the hospitals going and make sure the schools are running,” Ford said. “If there is a vacuum, you know the extremists will fill it.”
  7. The Syrian military will lay siege to cities to starve out the population, cut off water, electricity and medical supplies and personnel. As a result of one such siege, a famous Syrian goalie joined ISIS. Ford said this would be the equivalent of a major league baseball star joining a terrorist organization. “What I want you to understand is, the Syrian Civil War is driving people, even prominent people, into the Islamic State,” he said.
  8. Shia militias in Iraq who fight ISIS will go door-to-door, pull people out of their homes and shoot them. In the city of Diyala, ISIS detonated three car bombs in January. Militias responded by killing between 50 and 100 people and bombing seven Sunni mosques.
    Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime would facilitate the flow of jihadists across Syria to attack U.S. troops fighting al-Qaida in Iraq. “The people who want us to support Assad don’t understand what kind of a snake he is,” Ford said.
  9. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime would facilitate the flow of jihadists across Syria to attack U.S. troops fighting al-Qaida in Iraq. “The people who want us to support Assad don’t understand what kind of a snake he is,” Ford said.

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

Another Grim Year with Obama

The fifth year in the political marriage between Barack Obama and the rest of America has the look of a divorce in which a lot of Americans are wondering how we can rid ourselves of the worst President in the history of the nation. That’s not just my opinion.

As 2013 comes to a close it is abundantly clear that even the starry-eyed journalists and political pundits who thought Obama was as close to the Second Coming as American politics had ever known were having, not just doubts, but serious regrets. The White House press corps is now in a state of rebellion.

As the year began, Victor David Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and respected conservative commentator, took a look back at George W. Bush, the predecessor that Obama blamed for everything so often it became a joke.

“George W. Bush left office in January 2009 with one of the lowest job-approval ratings for a president (34%) since Gallup started compiling them—as compared to Harry Truman’s low of 32%, Richard Nixon’s of 24%, and Jimmy Carter’s of 34%–and to the general derision of the media,” wrote Hanson. Obama is likely to achieve a rating less than these predecessors.

Bush has distinguished himself by never publicly commenting on Obama while he has held office. When his presidential library was opened in April, Bush’s approval rating was 47%, but it is worth noting that Bush was in office when 9/11 occurred, followed by combat action in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Just before Bush left office, a financial crisis struck the nation.

The signs of dissatisfaction with Obama and his policies were evident as 2013 began. A January Gallup poll found that American opinion of the country’s state of affairs was at its lowest point since 1979. Fewer than four-in-ten Americans (39%) rated the U.S. in a positive manner. By February, the national debt during Obama’s presidency had increased $5.9 trillion, more than it had increased under all presidents from George Washington to Bill Clinton combined.

By April the New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, was continuing to put distance between Obama and herself. “Unfortunately, he still has not learned how to govern” wrote Dowd, adding “No one on Capitol Hill is scared of him.” Obama had devoted so much time to fundraising and non-stop campaigning, that governing was obviously not a priority, but that is exactly why Presidents are elected.

By May, Politico.com reporters, Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei noted that Republicans in the House had one-third of its committees investigating scandals and wrong-doing by the Obama administration. “Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this President to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.”

By July, a Washington Times editorial, “Obama’s Feats of Weakness” observed that “Since Mr. Obama took office, the opinion of the United States generally has declined in every country surveyed by the Pew Global Attitudes Project…Despite the vaunted White House effort to reach out to Muslim-majority countries, U.S. favorability ratings in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Pakistan are below where they were in 2008 when George W. Bush was at the helm.”

As 2013 comes to a close, longtime former allies such as Saudi Arabia are openly berating Obama for the secret deal negotiated with Iran. Egypt, a former ally, feels betrayed by Obama for his support of the Muslim Brotherhood and, Israel was being visited by Secretary John Kerry to express his opposition to new housing in Jerusalem, but he has put Israel at great risk of annihilation by Iranian nuclear weapon. The Washington Times opined that “There’s a reason Mr. Obama has not been a strong leader internationally. He never set out to be one because he has never believed in the exceptional mission of the United States.”

During the October government shutdown, Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, noted that Obama “[W]on’t negotiate with Republicans, though the fate of Obamacare, funding of the government, and the future of the economic recovery are at stake.” A veteran observer of the White House, Barnes said, “His approach—dealing with a deadlock by not dealing with it—is unprecedented. He has gone where no president has gone before.”

Earlier, in June, Barnes said “the Obama administration is in an unexpected and sharp state of decline. Mr. Obama has little influence on Congress. His presidency has no theme. He pivots nervously from issue to issue.”

When the Obamacare website debuted on October 1st, it was such a disaster that it was a perfect reflection of a horrendous piece of legislation that is causing widespread dismay and disruption affecting millions of Americans.

When you add in the residue from first term scandals such as Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and the use of the IRS to harass conservative groups seeking non-profit tax status, it was obvious to all but mindless Obama devotees that we face three years of further decline at home and internationally.

There is still massive unemployment. There are still massive numbers on government welfare programs and the nation’s health care system and insurance industry is being massively disrupted. The economy is improving incrementally, almost despite the administration’s policies.

To say that 2013 has been a bad year for Obama is also to say it has been a bad year for over three hundred million Americans. As Obamacare kicks in, 2014 will be a year its hidden taxes take effect. In November, voters will have the midterm elections to begin ending the a record of failed domestic and foreign affairs.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

Heritage Alliance Grades FL Republican Primary Candidates

Heritage Alliance has graded all the candidates with opposition in the Republican primary in Florida. Below are the grades for those contested primary races. At the bottom of the list are the criteria for the Heritage Alliances’ grades.

U.S. Senator – Republican

Long, Deon (R) Grade: C
Mack, Connie (R) Grade: B
McCalister, Michael (R) Grade: B
Stuart, Marielena (R) Grade: B
Weldon, Dave (R) Grade: A+

U.S. Rep., Dist. 3 – Republican

Jett, James (R) Grade: B
Oelrich, Steve (R) Grade: A
Stearns, Cliff (R) Grade: B+
Yoho, Theodore (R) Grade: B

U.S. Rep., Dist. 4 – Republican

Black, Bob (R) Grade: C
Crenshaw, Ander (R) Grade: B
Pueschel, Deborah (R) Grade: C

U.S. Rep., Dist. 6 – Republican

Clark, Richard (R) Grade: C
Costello, Fredrick W. “Fred” (R) Grade: A+
DeSantis, Ronald D. “Ron” (R) Grade: B
Kogut, William (R) Grade: D
Miller, Craig (R) Grade: A
Pueschel, Alec (R) Grade: B
Slough, Bev (R) Grade: B

U.S. Rep., Dist. 7 – Republican

Adams, Sandy (R) Grade: A+
Mica, John (R) Grade: C

U.S. Rep., Dist. 9 – Republican

Long, Todd (R) Grade: C
Melendez, Julius (R) Grade: C
Oxner, Mark (R) Grade: B
Quinones, John (R) Grade: D

U.S. Rep., Dist. 13 – Republican

Ayres, Darren (R) Grade: B
Vance, Madeline (R) Grade: B
Young, C.W. Bill (R) Grade: B

U.S. Rep., Dist. 14 – Republican

Adams Jr., Eddie (R) Grade: D
Otero, Evelio (R) Grade: C

U.S. Rep., Dist. 17 – Republican

Arnold, Joe (R) Grade: C
Rooney, Tom (R) Grade: B

U.S. Rep., Dist. 18 – Republican

Crowder, Robert L. “Bob” (R) Grade: D
West, Allen (R) Grade: B+

U.S. Rep., Dist. 19 – Republican

Aubuchon, Gary (R) Grade: B
Davidow, Joseph (R) Grade: C
Donalds, Byron (R) Grade: B
Goss, Chauncey (R) Grade: C
Kreegel, Paige (R) Grade: B
Radel, Trey (R) Grade: C

U.S. Rep., Dist. 23 – Republican

Bresso, Gineen (R) Grade: D
DeFario, Osvaldo (Ozzie) (R) Grade: C
Garcia, Juan Eliel (R) Grade: C
Harrington, Karen (R) Grade: B
Kaufman, Joe (R) Grade: B

About iVoterGuide.com

Volunteer Panelists

Panelists were selected after a Leadership Survey and a check of references that demonstrated conservative credentials and belief in limited constitutional government, free enterprise, strong national defense, and traditional Judeo-Christian values, such as the sanctity of life and marriage. Panelists include men and women from all walks of life who are committed to electing conservatives to public office.

Grading

After evaluating the data, panelists assigned a grade indicating what kind of voting record that candidate, if elected, would likely receive from a multi-issue conservative organization that grades on economic and social issues. Unless a candidate already has a legislative voting record, this is purely subjective. That is why the source data is provided so voters can more easily make their own evaluation.

A = 90% B = 80% C = 70% D = 60% F = below 60%
I = Insufficient information available for evaluation

A low grade does not mean panelists necessarily considered the candidate to be liberal. Rather, it may mean sufficient information was not available from public sources or from the candidate to give panelists the confidence that the candidate would govern conservatively if elected.  Sources of information considered the most important measure of conservative principles in governance are listed in descending order:

  • Legislative voting records if the candidate has recently held office
  • Financial contributions by the candidate to legislators with voting records
  • Record vote ratings for legislators to whom donors to the candidate have also contributed
  • Endorsements by conservative and liberal groups
  • Candidate Survey – less important because it represents promises rather than demonstrated action. However, no candidate can receive an A without answering the survey.
  • Statements on the candidates’ websites