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U.S. Congress Unanimously passing Sanctions won’t stop North Korea from building Nuclear ICBMs

What a week it has been. No, we are not talking about the New Hampshire primary results or Saturday’s South Carolina debate, but rogue North Korea stealing the oxygen out of the international media’s lungs. It started with the second successful satellite launch since 2012 on Sunday, February 7, 2016 nearly over shadowing the Broncos victory in the 50th Super Bowl.  As we wrote in an NER Iconoclast post on February 8, 2016, this game changer demonstrating the rogue regime’s ICBM technology and America’s inadequate ballistic missile defense, especially on our vulnerable heartland coast on the Gulf of Mexico:

Launched in a southerly direction, the 200 kg observational satellite is in polar orbit. That means it passes over the US every 95 minutes, perhaps providing imagery and GPS coordinates for possible later use. Yesterday, it missed the window of opportunity, by an hour, to pass over the stadium for 50th Super Bowl Championship game with tens of thousands of fans intent on watching the Denver Broncos beat the North Carolina Panthers for the title

“it’s great that the US has THAAD and ship borne X band radar floating in the Pacific and both ship and shore based Aegis installations in Eastern Europe (Romania) protecting us from missiles fired towards the East Coast. However, we have nothing in place to provide missile defense our vulnerable Gulf of Mexico coast.”  Ambassador Hank Cooper, the Reagan era SDI chief, warned about the absence of Aegis missile defense installations on our Gulf coast in November 2015 and most recently in a Feb.2, 2016 High Frontier alert.

He argues that that our ballistic missile defense shield  on the Gulf coast lacks the means to combat the threat of a possible North Korean bomb in a satellite (Fractal Orbital Bomb) or missiles launched from either ships in the Gulf or those silos that allegedly Iran has been building in the Paraguana Peninsula in Venezuela. Ex-CIA director R. James Woolsey and Dr. Peter Pry discussed in a July 2015 article the threat from FOBS that could trigger an Electronic Magnetic Pulse (EMP) effect over the US sending us back to the dark ages of the 19th Century before the advent of electricity.

north korean missile distance chartOn Friday, February 12, 2015 CNN reported the rotund Kim Jong Un played another round of the Pyongyang version of the Games of Thrones with the dramatic execution of another high military officer, General Ri Yong-gil for, “factionalism, misuse of authority and corruption.”  The young Kim family successor may yet set the record for summary execution of North Korean military officials surpassing that of his father and grandfather.   The same day in Washington, the US Senate and House overwhelmingly passed a new round of North Korean sanctions. Reuters reported:

Lawmakers said they wanted to make Washington’s resolve clear to Pyongyang, but also to the United Nations and other governments, especially China, North Korea’s lone major ally and main business partner.

The package includes sanctions targeting North Korea and “secondary sanctions” against those who do business with it.

The vote was 408-2 in the House, following a 96-0 vote in the Senate on Wednesday.

Impatient with what they see as Obama’s failure to respond to North Korean provocations, many of his fellow Democrats as well as the Republicans who control Congress have been clamoring for a clampdown since Pyongyang tested a nuclear device in January.

Pressure for congressional action further intensified after last weekend’s satellite launch by North Korea.

Obama is not expected to veto the bill, given its huge support in Congress.

Earlier Fox News reported Gordon Chang expressing skepticism that more sanctions would not achieve the end of punishing North Korea for violating UN and US sanctions against missile development. We wrote:

Chang holds that sanctions don’t work with North Korea. Instead He suggested that we might control the aid to North Korea endeavoring to separate the people from the autocratic ruling Kim family. He also suggested that South Korea move 143 companies out of the Kaesong industrial shared with North Korea.  He noted that after the January 6, 2016 nuclear test, no further sanctions were proposed at the UN because China would effectively block them. China he pointed out does a fair amount of banking with North Korea.

North Korea must have paid attention to Chang’s comments, as they seized jointly owned companies in the Kaesong industrial park.  Deutsche Welle reported South Korea cutting off the power to the Kaesong complex on Friday, February 12, 2015.  Effectively it was shutting the cross border industrial park down in retaliation for the North’s nuclear and missile tests in January and February 2016.  South Korean News agency, Yonhap, reported on Sunday, February 14, 2014 the South Korean Unification Minister accusing the Hermit State of using funds to develop weapons systems:

In a television appearance, Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said “70 percent” of the money that flowed into the Kaesong Industrial Complex has been used by the ruling Workers’ Party to bankroll weapons development.

“Workers at Kaesong are paid in cash (U.S. dollars), but the money doesn’t go directly to these workers. It goes to the North Korean government instead,” Hong said.

“Any foreign currency earned in North Korea is transferred to the Workers’ Party, where the money is used to develop nuclear weapons or missiles, or to purchase luxury goods.”

Last week, South Korea shut down the industrial park in response to the North’s recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch. Opened in 2004, the complex had long been a big cash cow for North Korea.

North Korea, in turn, expelled all South Korean nationals on Thursday from the complex and froze factory assets by South Korean firms, further driving the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation to the brink.

For the last two weeks, the National Security Task Force of America (NSTFA) of the Lisa Benson Show has been running twitter rallies directed at the media and Republican Presidential hopefuls on one issue: our vulnerable Ballistic Missile Defense. The NSTFA sent out tweets and retweets at the rate of 400 to 600 an hour.   The first NSTFA twitter rally, occurred before the New Hampshire primary debates, caught the attention of a South Carolina supporter of Texas Senator Ted Cruz who relayed the information to his campaign staff.  Those NSTFA tweets focused on the most vulnerable area of the US exposed to a possible North Korean ICBM launch, the lack of any missile defense on our Gulf of Mexico.  The result was that Cruz raised the issue during the debates.  The second NSTFA twitter rally occurred Thursday, February 11th producing more than 6,000 twitter impressions.  One of those Republican hopefuls targeted by the NSTFA twitter rally was Florida Republican Senator Rubio. Rubio’s platform statement on rebuilding and modernizing our military noted his missile defense proposals:

  • Expand missile defense by speeding up deployment of interceptors in Europe, deploying a third site in the United States, and ensuring that advanced programs are adequately funded.
  • Work interoperably with allies on missile defense – we should encourage the spread of missile defense technology as a solution to the spread of ballistic and cruise missiles.
  • Increase the Missile Defense Agency’s Research & Development budget and create a rapid-fielding office to focus on fielding directed energy weapons, railguns, UAV-enabled defenses, and other means to defeat a threat missile across its entire flight trajectory.

The  Wall Street Journal  (WSJ) lead editorial in the  Presidents Weekend edition on February 13-14, 2016, “The Rogue-State Nuclear Missile Threat,“ resonated some of the Rubio and others concerns about the US vulnerability to North Korean  and possible Iranian missile strikes.   The WSJ editorial noted, “North Korea can now threatens most of the continental US:”

Americans have been focused on New Hampshire, Iowa [and South Carolina}, but spare a thought for Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago. Those are among the cities within range of the intercontinental ballistic missile tested Sunday by North Korea. Toledo and Pittsburgh are still slightly out of range, but at least 120 million Americans with the wrong zip codes could soon be targets of Kim Jong Un.

The WSJ editorial went on to contrast the Bush versus the Obama Administration actions on missile defense:

You can thank the George W. Bush Administration for the defenses that exist, including long-range missile interceptors in Alaska and California, Aegis systems aboard U.S. Navy warships and a diverse network of radar and satellite sensors. The U.S. was due to place interceptors in Poland and X-Band radar in the Czech Republic, but in 2009 President Obama and Hillary Clinton scrapped those plans as a “reset” gift to Vladimir Putin.

Team Obama also cut 14 of the 44 interceptors planned for Alaska and Hawaii, ceased development of the Multiple Kill Vehicle (an interceptor with multiple warheads) and defunded the two systems focused on destroying missiles in their early “boost” phase, when they are slowest and easier to hit. By 2013 even Mr. Obama partially realized his error, so the Administration expanded radar and short-range interceptors in Asia and recommitted to the 14 interceptors for the U.S. West Coast. It now appears poised to install sophisticated THAAD antimissile batteries in South Korea.

Yet the Administration has failed to support a third East Coast site (to protect against Iranian and Russian threats) and provide adequate funding. Budgets are down about 25% from the Bush Administration’s roughly $10 billion a year. Mr. Obama’s final budget proposal released Tuesday would cut another $800 million from the Missile Defense Agency, nearly 10% from last year’s total.

The WSJ editorial concluded:

The overarching lesson of North Korea is the folly of arms control, starting with the 1994 Agreed Framework that first tried to buy off Pyongyang with energy and food aid. The U.S. would be safer today if it had moved to topple the Kim regime before it got the bomb. But having failed to act when the costs were lower, it is now necessary to buttress defenses in East Asia and the U.S. in what is fast becoming a new age of nuclear and missile proliferation.

From last Sunday’s Super Bowl game in Denver to Valentine’s Day, the evidence is piling up that Chang presciently opined; unanimous sanctions passed by Congress this past week will not deter North Korea from building nuclear ICBMs.  Rather, it is the ironical proposal for a preemptive strike against North Korean missile launches by present Obama Pentagon chief Ashton Carter and former Clinton Era Secretary of Defense William Perry in a 2006 Time Magazine article.

The conclusion in our February 8, 2016 NER/Iconoclast post appears equally prescient:

The North Korean satellite launch coupled with the January 6, 2016 nuclear test exposes the vulnerability of the US to possible missile attack by rogue regimes like North Korea and ally Iran. The lack of a Ballistic Missile Defense demonstrated by this latest successful North Korean satellite launch now vaults the issue to the top of national security issues along with Islamic terrorism for serious discussion in the 2016 Presidential campaign.

RELATED ARTICLE: North Korea Set to Deploy KN08 Ballistic Missile

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

Is the North Korean Satellite Launch a Game Changer?

FoxNews reported these developments following the success of North Korea’s satellite launching confirmed by the Pentagon:

We’ve been able to determine that they were able to put a satellite or some space device into orbit,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.

He said the Pentagon will, in light of this, begin “formal consultations” with South Korea over improvements to their own missile defense systems.

“We’d like to see this move as quickly as possible, but we’re beginning the consultations now in the coming days with the South Koreans and we expect that this will move in an expeditious fashion,” Cook said.

The U.S. and other world powers have condemned the launch of a long-range rocket, describing it as a banned test of ballistic missile technology.

At an emergency meeting Sunday of the U.N. Security Council which includes the U.S., all 15 council members approved a statement condemning the launch and pledging to “expeditiously” adopt a new resolution with “significant” new sanctions.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said a new U.N. resolution targeting North Korea over its rocket launch and recent nuclear test must be adopted very quickly and include “unprecedented measures” that its leader, Kim Jong Un, doesn’t expect.

The United States and China have been trying to agree on a new sanctions resolution since North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Jan. 6.

Gordon Chang in a Fox News interview said the North Korean satellite launch is something to worry about. Chang is a veteran North Korea and China analyst, Forbes columnist  author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World.  He said the Hermit State “demonstrated the mastery of missile technology.” He was referring to the three stage Unha-3 space vehicle launcher (SLV) that successfully placed a satellite in orbit. Chang further commented that the North Koreans demonstrated they have the means to successfully develop a true ICBM. An ICBM  , as we wrote in an NER/Iconoclast post, yesterday, that  both North Korea and its ready customer Iran could use at attack both coasts of this country. Where yesterday, we posted the news of the North Korean satellite launch with the question“is this a game changer?”  Chang’s comments and the reaction from the Obama White House suggest maybe it is.  US UN Ambassador Samantha Power, called it a missile launch because the SVL and a true ICBM she shared the same technology. That meant in the Administration’s view the successful satellite launch violated UN sanctions against missile testing. However, given the track record will the UN Security Council do anything about this latest North Korean action?

Chang holds that sanctions don’t work with North Korea. Instead He suggested that we might control the aid to North Korea endeavoring to separate the people from the autocratic ruling Kim family. He also suggested that South Korea move 143 companies out of the Kaesong industrial shared with North Korea.  He noted that after the January 6, 2016 nuclear test, no further sanctions were proposed at the UN because China would effectively block them. China he pointed out does a fair amount of banking with North Korea.

The success of the North Korean orbit prompted GOP hopeful Texas Senator Cruz at Saturday night’s to raise the question of whether we should pre-emptive attack North Korea’s missile launches.  Ironic, as this proposal was suggested by the current Administration Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and former Clinton Pentagon Chief William Perry, a decade ago.

DS-north-korea-13000-km-769x1024

The Administration is scrambling now that the Pentagon confirmed that the North Koreans successfully launched a satellite. Launched in a southerly direction, the 200kg.observational satellite is in polar orbit. That means it passes over the US every 95 minutes, perhaps providing imagery and GPS coordinates for possible later use. Yesterday, it missed the window of opportunity, by an hour, to pass over the stadium for 50th Super Bowl Championship game with tens of thousands of fans intent on watching the Denver Broncos beat the North Carolina Panthers for the title.

The Pentagon is talking about providing South Korea with Theater High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system to complete the shorter range missile defense umbrella that the Republic of Korea has in place.

As we said on the Sunday Lisa Benson Show yesterday “it’s great that the U.S. has THAAD and ship borne X band radar floating in the Pacific and both ship and shore based Aegis installations in Eastern Europe (Romania) protecting us from missiles fired towards the East Coast. However, we have nothing in place to provide missile defense our vulnerable Gulf of Mexico coast.”  Ambassador Hank Cooper, the Reagan era SDI chief, warned about the absence of Aegis missile defense installations on our Gulf coast in November 2015 and most recently in a Feb.2, 2016 High Frontier alert. He argues that that our ballistic missile defense shield  on the Gulf coast lacks  the means  to combat the threat of a possible North Korean bomb in a satellite (Fractal Orbital Bomb) or missiles launched from either ships in the Gulf or those silos that allegedly Iran has been building in the Paraguana Peninsula in Venezuela. Ex- CIA director R. James Woolsey and Dr. Peter Pry discussed  in a July 2015 article the threat from FOBS that could trigger an Electronic Magnetic Pulse (EMP) effect over the US sending us back to the dark ages of the 19th Century before the advent of electricity.

This issue came up in the ABC GOP New Hampshire debates, Saturday night. Sen. Cruz raised the matter of a preemptive attack against a future North Korean ICBM launch during those debates. We may have had a hand in prompting it. A twitter rally was held last week by the Nation Security Task Force of America (NSTFA) of the Lisa Benson Show on the missile defense issue. The twitter rally sent out messages at the rate of 400 an hour, one of which caught the attention of a South Carolinian with a close connection to the Senator’s campaign staff. Another NSTFA twitter rally is on deck this Thursday night on the same issue.

The irony is the preemptive attack proposal originated a decade ago in 2006 in a Time Magazine article co authored by then Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, now Pentagon Chief and former Clinton Pentagon chief William Perry. Four nuclear and several space launches and missile tests later, we have a President whose response is to hold more UN sanctions talks with China at the UN that North Korea continually violates.

Meanwhile the North Korean satellite launch coupled with the January 6, 2016 nuclear test exposes the vulnerability of the US to possible missile attack by rogue regimes like North Korea and ally Iran. The lack of a Ballistic Missile Defense demonstrated by this latest successful North Korean satellite launch now vaults the issue to the top of national security issues along with Islamic terrorism for serious discussion in the 2016 Presidential campaign.

Watch, the Fox News report with the Chang interview:

RELATED ARTICLE: In One Graphic, What Countries North Korea’s New Missile Could Hit

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

Sweden would defend any county ‘except Israel’

When the Social Democrats swept into power in Sweden in 2014 led by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, a prominent member of his cabinet was a self-styled ‘feminist’ Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom. Both Lofven and King Carl Gustav XVI got more than they bargained for the new Foreign Minister.

Socialminister Margot Wallström (s)

Social minister Margot Wallström (s)

Wallstrom’s controversial comments about Saudi Arabia’s misogyny required a tet e tet between the Swedish and Saudi monarchs to preserve the country’s status as the 12th leading exporter of arms.  Sweden has more than 700,000 Muslims amongst the Nordic country’s population of 12 million. The Muslim presence in Sweden has given rise to reports of gang rape of Swedish women and a spike in anti-Semitism, especially given the Muslim majority in the country’s third largest city, Malmo. With Sweden admitting thousands more Muslim migrants and asylees from the conflicts in Syria, North and sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia, it has become even more problematic.

However, major contretemps were occasioned by the Lofven government’s recognition of the corrupt, undemocratic Palestinian Authority as a state, when it doesn’t meet the internationally recognized definition of the 1933 Montevideo Convention. That set Israel’s Foreign Ministry on edge, given that Sweden was buying into the victimhood mantra and hate- filled incitement  of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Wallstrom is currently the center of approbation given her controversial accusations that Israel has engaged in “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinians and Israel Arabs in response to the daily toll of knifings, car rammings and shootings.  According to a Reuters report on the Wallstrom Israel controversy, the toll since October “includes 24 Israelis and a U.S. citizen. Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 143 Palestinians, 91 of whom authorities have described as assailants.” Wallstrom said in Swedish parliamentary debates on January 12th, “It is vital that there is a thorough, credible investigation into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability.” Reuters noted that Wallstrom “earlier described the Palestinians’ plight as a factor leading to Islamist radicalization – comments seen in Israel as linking it to the November gun and bomb rampage in Paris.”

These latest comments by Wallstrom triggered actions by Israel’s Foreign Ministry capped by remarks, January 14th by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in an Arutz Sheva article calling her accusations, “scandalous”, “immoral” and “foolish ”.   Sweden Ambassador to Israel Carl Magnus Nesser was called in by Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General Aviva Shir-On for a reprimand.  According to a Jerusalem Post, report:

 Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said Wallstrom would not be welcome to visit Israel. His comments served as a clarification to remarks made earlier in the day by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely who said Israel was closing its door to visits from Swedish officials in the wake of Wallstrom’s words. Israel was sending in the clearest manner possible a very sharp message to Sweden saying that it is backing terrorism and giving a tail wind to the Islamic State to act throughout Europe.

Wallstrom’s comments were a “bad combination of folly and diplomatic stupidity, and Israel will close its door to official visits from Sweden.”

Wallstrom was essentially deemed persona non grata and Swedish officials would be barred from any future deliberations in Israel regarding the Palestinian conflict.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the new CEO  and national  executive director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, was prompted to send a letter to Swedish Prime Minister Lofven. According to a report in The Algemeiner, Greenberg wrote:

We urge you to ensure that official Swedish statements demonstrate respect for, and knowledge of, Israel’s proven commitment to the rule of law, support for its security challenges, even as it faces armed threats on a scale which Sweden is fortunate not to know.

Sweden is joining the worst Palestinian incitement suggesting Israel is randomly shooting innocent Palestinians in the streets and planting knives in their hands to frame them.

Kent Ekeroth, Sweden Democrat Jewish deputy

Kent Ekeroth, Sweden Democrat Jewish deputy,

None of this controversy surprises the opposition in the Swedish parliament, especially, Kent Ekeroth, the Jewish deputy in the right wing, Sweden Democrat party. An Algemeiner report on  December 9, 2015 had these  comments by Ekeroth about Wallstrom made during an Israeli Channel 2 interview following a debate with her in Sweden’s Parliament:

Sweden has always had misconceptions about Israel, but it has become more extreme. Our government, and especially [Foreign] Minister [Margot] Wallstrom have different standards when it comes to anything related to Israel.

Sweden would defend any other country, but “because we’re talking about Israel,” Sweden “attacks.”

“Either [Wallstrom] doesn’t know that [the Palestinians] support terrorists or she’s just lying,” said Ekeroth. “The foreign minister is carrying out false propaganda and accuses Israel of everything. It’s amazing she doesn’t understand the logic that Israel is defending itself from terrorists. She’s anti-Israel and tries to defend terrorists.”

Ingrid Carlqvist in a Gatestone Institute article, “Sweden’s Walking Diplomatic Disaster”, published, January 14th  presented extensive background on the swirl of controversies surrounding Wallstrom.   She cited this assessment of the Social Democrat Lofven government  from former Israeli Ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel:

Zvi Mazel, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden from 2002-2004, wrote for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on December 14, that,

“The Swedish Social Democratic Party is not known for its sympathy toward Israel. Its current duo of leaders, however, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, have gone overboard and are waging a systematic campaign against Israel. Although the recognition of a Palestinian state was a continuation of the Swedish left’s hostile policy toward Israel, it was also aimed at the country’s large Muslim minority — comprising about 700,000 people — with the aim of attracting Muslim voters to the party in the next elections. During my diplomatic tenure in Sweden in the early 2000s, all my efforts to conduct a dialogue with that party fell on deaf ears. … the two countries’ relations have turned into a cycle of altercations.”

In  Carlqvist’s  Gatestone Institute  article was this  excerpt from a parliamentary debate between her and Ekeroth:

In early December, two members of Parliament, Mathias Sundin of the Liberals and Kent Ekeroth of the Sweden Democrats, had demanded that Wallström explain why she had not condemned the rampant Palestinian knife attacks against civilian Israelis with so much as a syllable. The ensuing debate ended with Wallström saying that she trusts Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas implicitly, because he told her he wants peace, and she believes him. She also leveled new accusations against Israel, which, according to Wallström, is engaged in “extrajudicial executions.”

Kent Ekeroth wondered how Wallström views President Abbas and his Fatah party. The Foreign Minister replied:

“The government supports moderate forces in Palestine, the government supports the Palestinian Authority and others who recognize Israel’s right to exist and seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict, enabling Israel and Palestine to live side by side with peace and security. I find that President Abbas has made it his life’s goal to replace the way of violence with a diplomatic struggle to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. I also note that President Abbas, apart from his denunciation of terrorism, has also spoken against cries for violent resistance against the Israeli occupying force.”

Ekeroth retorted:

“Wallström portrays Abbas as a pacifist who has denounced terrorism. He might condemn terrorism when it is French citizens who are killed, but when it is Israelis being killed there are no problems. He has not condemned a single one of the murders of 20 Israelis during the last few months. On the contrary, many of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah leaders have glorified the killers. A member of the Fatah Central Council told Palestinian TV in October that he congratulates all those who have carried out the attacks. He is proud of them, and thought that knife attacks should be taught in Palestinian schools. Your own ‘golden boy’ Mahmoud Abbas said in September, regarding the violence against Israelis, that ‘We bless every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem’, and we know that every Palestinian assassin apprehended by Israel is rewarded by the Palestinian Authority. So how can Wallström claim that he denounces terrorism, when he is actually rewarding it with money from the Swedish taxpayers?

“Wallström is either ignorant about Abbas’ celebrations of and rewards to murderers, or she is lying. Neither alternative is very flattering. I would therefore like to ask two questions: Is Wallström aware of the praising of terrorism? Is Wallström aware of the rewards paid to terrorists? Yes or no?”

Wallström replied that she certainly condemns “all acts of violence, regardless if they are carried out by Palestinians or Israelis, and I have emphasized the importance of bringing those responsible to justice and not engaging in extrajudicial executions.”

Wallström further thought that one should not attempt to interpret or translate what Abbas says, because there are so many different ways to do this. “I do not think we should do that, the important thing is that we condemn violence and I myself have heard Abbas do this, so I know he renounces violence.”

Ekeroth shot back: “One does not reward terrorists with recognition, and one does not pay them using Swedish taxpayers’ money.” He then proceeded to show a number of printouts of Fatah’s official Facebook page, where murdered Israelis are displayed and the killings celebrated. “You need to understand that Abbas speaks two languages — one to gullible [Western] politicians, where he says he wants peace, and another to Palestinians, where he promotes, glorifies and rewards terror. Wallström needs to stop listening to what Abbas tells her and instead start listening to what he tells his own people.”

WATCH  this sub-titled video of the Wallstrom Ekeroth debate on December 4, 2015:

RELATED ARTICLE: Swedish Woman Murdered by Muslim Refugees that she Supported!

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

Iran: ‘Humiliating the United States, with no consequences’

american sailors captured by IranYesterday, when we posted on the IRGC hostage taking of U.S. Navy sailors and their riverine patrol boats to Farsi Island, we wrote of the prior incidents of Iran’s hostage taking in the Persian Gulf.

Shoshana Bryen of the Jewish Policy Center and I commiserated about the seizure of six British Royal Marines in June 2004 by the IRGC naval contingent. The Royal Marines were taken to land, blinded and demanded to apologize for entering Iranian waters. They were then taken out onto the desert and blindfolded while weapons were chambered in a mock execution. They were released three days later in what was billed as a “misunderstanding.”  The Royal Marines were operating in Iraqi waters when seized by Iran.

As noted in a Reuter’s report on today’s seizure of U.S. patrol boats and arrest of U.S. Navy personnel, there was another seizure of British naval and marine personnel by Iranian Revolutionary guards that created a diplomatic crisis in 2007:

In March 2007, Iranian forces seized 15 British servicemen – eight Royal Navy sailors and seven marines – in the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway that separates Iran and Iraq, triggering a diplomatic crisis at a time of heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. They were held for 13 days.

Look at Iran’s track record over the last several months since the JCOPA was endorsed by the UN Security Council. Iran fired off two ballistic missile tests in October and November 2015 in violation of UN Res. 1929. Last week, IRGC missile boats hailed the USS Harry Truman giving it and an accompanying destroyer, the USS Bulkley and a nearby French frigate a 23 minute warning before firing rockets in a live fire exercise 1,500 yards away. The Administration has been humiliated time and again by the Ayatollah and will continue to be held in contempt for being weak, even after the, Administration releases $100 billion in sequestered funds in foreign banks, perhaps as early as this week.

Meanwhile the spin at the White House was that the crews of the two patrol boats may be released by daylight to return to their base in Bahrain. Think, also, of those other American hostages held by the Islamic Regime in Tehran, an ex-FBI agent, a former Marine, a Christian Pastor, two American Iranian Businessmen and a convicted Washington Post reporter.

15 hours after the 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their boats were returned, but not before they were put through a humiliating process of being forced to kneel at gun point and ultimately forced to apologize for how the boats found their way into Iranian waters. That awaits a U.S. Navy investigation  into what occurred and possible Iranian violations of the Geneva Convention over treatment of the detained U.S. Sailors and use for propaganda purposes. Both they and their boats returned to the Fifth Fleet base in Bahrain. What the IRGC learned of any technology on board the riverine patrol boats is another matter.

Nonetheless, this was the latest episode of U.S. humiliation by the Ayatollah Khamenei and the IRGC of President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif and President Obama, bound and determined to close the nuclear deal with Iran by releasing $100 billion of sequestered funds early next week on compliance day to this state sponsor of terrorism.

WATCH this Wall Street Journal video of the detention and apology by a possible U.S. Navy riverine boat commander:

us sailors captured by iran

Photo montage by the UK Daily Mail.

The Jerusalem Post published commentary by  Harold  Rhode, former Islamic and Turkish Affairs expert with the Pentagon Office of Net Assessment,  Tony Badran  and Ali Afoneh of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute  on this latest humiliating episode perpetrated by the IRGC navy, Former Pentagon official to ‘Post’: ‘Iran humiliating US with no consequences.’

See our December 2014 New English Review interview with Dr. Rhode, “China’s Islamist Threat”  and March 2014 interview with Dr. Michael Rubin, The Peril of Engaging Rogue States.

The Jerusalem Post opinion article noted:

Iran’s capture and release of 10 US sailors demonstrated that “moderates” such as President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have no real weight, while the real power continues to be wielded by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his hard line allies, such as the Revolutionary Guard, several commentators said Wednesday.

Propaganda videos of the soldiers blindfolded and kneeling released by Iranian media humiliated the world’s superpower and shows that Iran can continue its aggressive behavior with no consequences.

The Obama administration will not allow anything to get in the way of the nuclear deal’s implementation and the lifting of sanctions on Iran, they said.

“Test fire ballistic missiles. Check. Fire missiles near US ships. Check. Torch US ally’s missions. Check. Seize US sailors. Check. Get paid,” tweeted Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Iran’s continued aggressive behavior since the nuclear deal was agreed upon last summer gives it, and other rogue actors, the impression that it can act with a rather free hand.

Such a message must be terrifying to Israel and other US-Arab allies in the region.

Besides the question of whether there was a US apology to Iran, which administration officials deny, it remains unknown whether there was a secret deal or promise that facilitated the release of the sailors.

“Detainment of the US sailors was short, but the IRGC achieved its goal: The IRGC communicated the message to the domestic and the international audience that it calls the shots in Tehran, and humiliated the US,” Ali Alfoneh, an Iran expert and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington- based think tank, told The Jerusalem Post.

Harold Rhode, a distinguished senior fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute and a former adviser at the Pentagon, told the Postthat much of the equipment on the US boats was probably previously unavailable to Iran.

“Did Iran take US equipment? Will it share what it learns with North Korea, Russia and China?” “There is no concept of good will in the Middle East,” said the former Pentagon official.

The fact that until to now the US has not reacted on numerous issues – such as Iran’s testing of a ballistic missile in October in violation of a UN Security Council resolution and the firing of rockets near US naval ships – “demonstrates America’s weakness to Middle Easterners,” Rhode said.

“This is another case of America demonstrating that it is an unreliable ally and a harmless enemy,” he added.

“In the Middle East, when people smell weakness, they pounce,” said Rhode.

“Most amazingly from the Iranian point of view,” he continued, “is that they captured these sailors right before Obama’s State of the Union speech, and the president didn’t even mention it.”

“Did the Iranians do that on purpose to further humiliate Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry? From an Iranian cultural point of view, the answer is yes!” exclaimed Rhode.

This is a huge win-win situation for Iran, he continued, as Iran gets US advanced technology, it humiliates America, and it gives the US administration – so desperate to implement the unsigned Iran-US nuclear agreement – the excuse to say that Iran is cooperating with the US as a result of the agreement.

“A grand-slam for Iran, and a huge defeat for the US. Now Iran can continue advancing its ultimate goal of gaining nuclear weapons,” said Rhode.

Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official, told the Post the incident benefited the IRGC and other hardliners.

“They humiliated the United States. They received a groveling apology. They broadcast photos of the captured Americans.”

Rubin recalled a similar incident involving the UK in 2007, and how the photos and footage of the detained sailors made their way into the campaign commercials of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“To credit diplomacy for their release is like giving a slap on the back to an arsonist who started a fire and then wants credit for putting it out,” said Rubin.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Iran: Boat seizure “should be a lesson to troublemakers in the U.S. Congress”

Biden: Iran saw US boats in distress, acted “like ordinary nations would do”

After hours of interrogation, Iran says 10 captured U.S. sailors “released in international waters after they apologized”

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

Iran Seizes Two U.S. Patrol Boats – Holds 10 Sailors Hostage

Two U.S. Navy riverine torpedo boats were on a training mission between Kuwait and Bahrain when one of the vessels became disabled ‘drifting’ into Iranian waters.  The boats were promptly detained by Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval units on Farsi Island in Persian Gulf.  Ten U.S. sailors  (9 men and 1 woman) aboard the two boats were arrested Secretary Kerry called his opposite number in Tehran, Foreign Minister Zarif seeking the release of both the boats and crew. The response was that their release “might come with hours”. Don’t count on it.

US Navy Riverine Command Boat 802

U.S. Navy Riverine Command Boat 802. Source: US Navy

Note the comments in this NBC news report from retired Army Gen . Barry McCaffrey, GOP Presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio:

Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, an NBC News military analyst, said the seizure of American boats is “very bad news” and highlights how the Navy may have failed to have surveillance on its vessels.

“We simply can’t allow ground, air or naval units to be seized by a foreign hostile power,” McCaffrey said on MSNBC. “I hope they’re back real quickly. This is an affront to our military presence in the Gulf and will unsettle our allies in the region.”

GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush was among the first to attack Obama for appearing weak in front of Iran, which has been at odds with the U.S. over a nuclear deal that was finally reached last year.

“No more bargaining. Obama’s humiliatingly weak Iran policy is exposed again,” Bush tweeted.

GOP rival Marco Rubio during an interview on Fox News called for Iran to release the sailors immediately, saying the nation is “testing the boundaries of our resolve.”

With less than 270 vessels in our Navy, we cannot project power in any of the world trouble spots, be it the volatile Persian Gulf with much of the world oil trade traffic flows or the South China Sea.

Last April 2015, the Iranian fired warning shot across a Marshall Islands flagged vessel, the Maersk Tigris forcing the container ship with 34 Eastern European and South Asian sailors aboard to anchor off the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. See our  NER/Iconoclast  Post, “What’s Behind Iran’s Piracy in the Persian Gulf over an Unresolved Cargo Claim?” Allegedly the seizure of the container ship was for alleged unpaid claims. The US did not provide naval intervention as required under a treaty with the Marshall Islands. When the alleged unpaid claims were paid, the vessel returned to its original voyage dropping off cargo in the UAE. Obviously the Administration didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of their Iranian nuclear deal  interlocutors.

In discussions this afternoon with Shoshana Bryen of the Jewish Policy Center we commiserated about the seizure of six  British Royal Marines in June 2004 by the IRGC naval contingent. The Royal Marines were taken to land, blinded and demanded to apologize for entering Iranian waters. They were then taken out onto the desert and blindfolded while weapons were chambered in a mock execution. They were released three days later in what was billed as a “misunderstanding.”  The Royal Marines were operating in Iraqi waters when seized by Iran.

As noted in a Reuters report on today’s seizure of US patrol boats and arrest of US Navy personnel, , there was another seizure of  British naval  and marine personnel by Iranian Revolutionary guards  that created a diplomatic crisis in 2007:

In March 2007, Iranian forces seized 15 British servicemen – eight Royal Navy sailors and seven marines – in the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway that separates Iran and Iraq, triggering a diplomatic crisis at a time of heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. They were held for 13 days.

Look at Iran’s track record over the last several months since the JCOPA was endorsed by the UN Security Council. Iran fired off two ballistic missile tests in October and November 2015 in violation of UN Res. 1929. Last week. the IRGC  missile boats  hailed the USS Harry Truman giving it and an accompanying destroyer, the USS Bulkley and a nearby French frigate  a 23 minute warning before firing rockets in a live fire exercise 1,500 yards away. The Administration has been humiliated time and again by the Ayatollah and will continue to be held in contempt for being weak, even  after the, Administration releases $100 billion in sequestered funds in foreign banks , perhaps as early as this week.

The President is giving his last SOTUS tonight. Perhaps members of Congress might show their contempt for this latest action of Iran seizing our vessels arresting 10 sailors by not applauding him, or better yet, not showing up.  Meanwhile the spin at the White House is that the crews of the two patrol boats may be released by daylight to return to their base in Bahrain. Think, also,  of those other American hostages held by the Islamic Regime in Tehran, an ex-FBI agent, a former Marine, a Christian Pastor, two American Iranian Businessmen and a convicted Washington Post reporter.  We’ll believe the release of our sailors when that occurs and the patrol boats are also returned. The patrol boats are used to monitor freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf.

The fate of the American civilian prisoners held by the Ayatollah and his IRGC henchman are uncertain at best.

RELATED ARTICLE: Humiliated in Front of the Entire World

RELATED VIDEO: White House spokesman: Iran’s seizure of Navy boats “precisely” why Obama made the nuke deal:

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

Are we witnessing the end of Syria?

French Mandate of SyriaReuters has a report on how Quds Force Commander Gen. Soliemani mapped out Russian involvement to save beleaguered Syrian President Bashar Assad, “How Iranian general plotted out Syrian assault in Moscow.”  The strategy unraveling now is a joint air and ground assault to carve out an Alawite bastion in Western and Northwestern Syria ejecting CIA and Coalition-trained opposition, Al Qaeda Al Nusrah Front and Free Syrian Army forces. The air assault to date has focused on attacking these units in a strategic line north out of Damascus. The ground component is composed of fresh Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah units. The Russian air assault contingent based in Latakia province is being bolstered by Russian “volunteers” a page out of Putin’s playbook for seizure of the Crimea and invasion of Eastern Ukraine. In the absence of significant US trained Sunni opposition contingents in this scenario; it would appear that Syria may devolve into a series of sectarian cantons akin to the  French Mandate for Syria granted by the League of Nations in the early 1920’s.

The objective of Iran is to build a virtual Shia crescent from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean coast including bringing in Shia extremist Imams and resettling  Shia refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan in Syrian areas depopulated of Sunnis and Christians. The Alawites, who are secular, are troubled by this development and many have fled abroad. The Kurds have their de facto canton in Northeastern Syria abutting the Kurdish Regional Government in neighboring Iraq.

Turkey is clearly upset with the Russian presence in Syria, as is NATO, while the US is clearly dithering on what to do. Once again Obama has been outfoxed by Soliemani and Putin. That leaves allies like Israel, the Saudis and the Emirates seeking alternatives for their own sovereign protection. The Saudis and Emirates are talking about a jihad akin to that they funded in Afghanistan with CIA and Pakistan’s ISI in a secret war in the 1980’s that led to the rout of the Soviet 40th Army and gave rise to Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda.

A Der Spiegel article, “The Iranian Project: Why Assad Has Turned to Moscow for Helpportrays  President Bashar al-Assad as caught in a dilemma; “fear of friends”, meaning Iran versus “fear of opposition.”That former fear stems from reliance on Iran Revolutionary Guards, Shia auxiliaries from Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Sadr Brigade in Iraq and Shia fighters from Afghanistan and  Pakistan. They are under the command of Quds Force Commander Soliemani and make up for the decimation and desertions of draftees from the Syrian National Defense Forces. Iran’s intention is to build an Islamic Revolutionary State within  the areas along the Mediterranean coast and Mountains of Northwest Syria. To that end Iran has sent in radical Imams to create Shia religious centers directed at conversion of secular Alawites and Sunnis causing them to flee the country.  Thus, Assad has welcomed the Russia military assistance as Putin has allegedly no such interests in the current campaign, excepting protecting Russian interests in naval and military bases, as well as offshore gas developments.

Note these excerpts:

“Assad and those around him are afraid of the Iranians,” the Russian says. Anger over the arrogance of the Iranians, who treat Syria like a colony, is also part of it, the Russian continues. Most of all, though, the Syrians “mistrust Tehran’s goals, for which Assad’s position of power may no longer be decisive. That is why the Syrians absolutely want us in the country.”

Tehran’s goals go far beyond merely reestablishing the status quo in Syria. In early 2013, Hojatoleslam Mehdi Taeb, one of the planners behind Iran’s engagement in Syria, said: “Syria is the 35th province of Iran and it is a strategic province for us.” For several decades, the alliance between the Assads and Iran was a profitable one, particularly in opposition to the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, which long had the upper hand in the region. But today, Assad depends on Iran to remain in power, and Tehran is taking advantage of the situation.

It is, however, primarily in the civilian sector where significant changes are afoot. Just as in Damascus, Latakia and Jabla, increasing numbers of hosseiniehs — Shiite religious teaching centers — are opening. The centers are aimed at converting Sunnis, and even the Alawites, the denomination to which the Assads belong, to “correct” Shiite Islam by way of sermons and stipends. In addition, the government decreed one year ago that state-run religion schools were to teach Shiite material.

All of this is taking place to the consternation of the Alawites, who have begun to voice their displeasure. “They are throwing us back a thousand years. We don’t even wear headscarves and we aren’t Shiites,” Alawites complained on the Jableh News Facebook page. There were also grumblings when a Shiite mosque opened in Latakia and an imam there announced: “We don’t need you. We need your children and grandchildren.”

Talib Ibrahim, an Alawite communist from Masyaf who fled to the Netherlands many years ago, summarizes the mood as follows: “Assad wants the Iranians as fighters, but increasingly they are interfering ideologically with domestic affairs. The Russians don’t do that.”

Putin may have been prompted by Quds Force Commander Soliemani to aid mutual client Assad because he saw an opportunity to make a power play against the US in the region.  However, the secular Ba’athist Syrian tradition has been virtually suborned by the influx of Iranian Revolutionary Guards ‘and Shia proxies’ with the objective of creating a Khomeinist Revolutionary state. The confluence of those opposing interests, secular and religious, may ultimate end the decades’ long rule of the Assad family. That might lead to an ultimate apocalyptic conflict in Syria between nuclear equipped Shia Iran and the Sunni Salafist Islamic State.

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

Reuters: Trump and Carson are fueling “Islamophobia”

One would think that if there is any genuine “Islamophobia” — that is, unjust suspicion of innocent Muslims — that it is fueled by Islamic jihad attacks and plots, by the perpetrators of those plots justifying their actions and making recruits among peaceful Muslims by pointing to Islamic texts and teachings, by the Islamic State proclaiming itself to be the true embodiment of Islam and justifying its bloodlust and depravity by reference to the Qur’an and Muhammad, by the failure of Muslim communities in the U.S. and the West to do anything beyond pro forma condemnations to stop Western Muslims from joining the Islamic State and plotting jihad attacks in the U.S. and Europe on its behalf, etc.

But no: for Reuters, and the rest of the mainstream media, it’s all the fault of Ben Carson and Donald Trump.

Carson and Trump

“American Muslims fear a new wave of Islamophobia,” by Tim Reid, Reuters, September 21, 2015:

Muslim Americans responded with a mix of frustration, exasperation and anger to what many see as a growing wave of Islamophobia fueled by two of the Republican Party’s most popular presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

At the Islamic Institute of Orange County, which houses a mosque and a school in Anaheim, in southern California, tensions were already mounting since a group of white men screamed at mothers and children arriving at the center on this year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, calling them cowards who did not belong in America.

Many of the country’s 2.8 million Muslims say such tensions could become uglier during a presidential race that they fear is already tapping a vein of anger and bigotry.

“It’s pretty troubling that someone running for president would make those claims,” Zuhair Shaath, Palestinian-American, said of Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who on Sunday said Muslims were unfit for the presidency of the United States.

Carson’s campaign defended his comments on Monday, saying he was not suggesting a Muslim should be barred from running for president. But his campaign said he would not advocate for that person becoming a leader and would not support it.

Later on Monday, Carson said he “absolutely” stood by his comments but would be open to a moderate Muslim candidate who denounced radical Islamists.

The remarks by Carson, who is near the top of opinion polls for the crowded field of Republican candidates for the 2016 election, followed billionaire Trump’s failure to challenge comments made on Friday by a supporter who labeled U.S. President Barack Obama a Muslim.

Trump later clarified his silence, saying he was not obligated to correct an audience member and that “the bigger issue is that Obama is waging a war against Christians in this country. Christians need support in this country. Their religious liberties are at stake.”

Some Muslims say they fear that the remarks could strengthen the appeal of Carson and Trump, who have cast themselves as non-politicians in a race in which blunt comments laced with misogyny and xenophobia have done little to derail the popularity of Trump, who is leading in opinion polls of likely Republican voters.

The comments also come after a 14-year-old Muslim boy from Texas was taken away in handcuffs last week for bringing to his Dallas-area school a homemade clock that staff mistook for a bomb. Ahmed Mohamed’s arrest sparked allegations of racial profiling and turned his school into an object of online outrage that culminated with Obama inviting Mohamed to the White House.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called on Carson to “withdraw from the presidential race because he is unfit to lead, because his views are inconsistent with the United States Constitution.”

In an Anaheim neighborhood known as “Little Arabia”, Abdallah Soueidan said the comments will inevitably cause trouble. “They are stirring things up,” said Soueidan, 57, who moved from Lebanon 37 years ago.

His 18-year-old son, Radwan – a college volleyball player in jeans and T-shirt – said he reads hate-filled anti-Muslim screeds online all the time. But, referring to Carson, he said: “I don’t know how a presidential candidate could say a thing like that. It doesn’t sound American at all.”

“WE ARE ALSO VOTERS”

While the U.S. Constitution forbids religious tests for those seeking public office, religion and presidential politics have long been a combustible mix.

In 2007, as Republican Mitt Romney campaigned for his party’s nomination, he faced fears among Evangelical Christians over his Mormon faith. In 1960, John F. Kennedy stressed the separation of church and state while campaigning to become the country’s first Roman Catholic president.

Aicha Fokar, 20, said Carson’s comments perpetuated “a really sick stereotype that’s been kind of embedding itself in the American culture.”

“It discourages young Muslims from standing up for their rights or for being proud about their faith,” said the student n Lubbock, Texas. “Everyone’s just trying to say things to get as many votes. I don’t think they understand what happens to us.

They don’t understand that we are also voters.”

In Dearborn, a Detroit suburb home to the country’s largest Muslim population, Marshal Shameri said Trump should have done more to dispel misconceptions of Islam. But he did not view the comments as an attack on his faith….

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France to Turkey: Strike the Islamic State not the Kurds

The revelations about the Moroccan Jihadi, who brave Americans, Brit and French took down on the Thayles fast train last Friday, clearly indicated Ayoub El-Kanazzi’s travels to Turkey, were to confer with alleged French ISIS fighters. Following the glowing tributes and medals bestowed at the Elysee Palace to Americans, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler and Brit Chris Norman, French President turned his political attention to Turkey’s President Erdogan.  He issued a statement today suggesting that Erdogan concentrate hitting ISIS targets instead of Kurdish PKK forces in both Syria and Iraq. Reuters reported these developments in an article, “France’s Hollande: Turkey Needs to Ramp up Islamic State Fight:”

French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday Turkey must do more to tackle Islamic State in Syria and urged it to restore dialogue with Kurdish groups after launching strikes against them more than a month ago.

Hollande delivered his annual foreign policy speech to French ambassadors a day after the Turkish foreign minister told Reuters that Turkey and the United States would launch air operations to push Islamic State from a border area in northern Syria, something that could help prevent the militants bringing in fighters and arms in.

“All the players need to be part of the solution. I’m thinking of Gulf Arab states and Iran. I’m thinking of Turkey that needs to be involved in the fight against Islamic State and needs to relaunch dialogue with the Kurds.” Hollande said.

Turkey’s critics say it has used its role in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State as a cover to attack Kurdish PKK fighters and stem Kurdish political and territorial ambitions. Ankara says it is conducting a “synchronized war on terror”

[…]

Hollande also said the deal reached with Iran over its nuclear program opened a window of opportunity to include it in resolving regional crises such as Syria, where it is Assad’s primary backer.

“We must ask Iran to associate itself with the resolution of crises that are devastating the region,” Hollande said. “Iran must be a constructive player.”

Hollande is putting on brave face following the close call last Friday with a heavily armed Moroccan Jihadist on the Thalys train taken down by U.S., Brit and French heroes. He’s requesting that Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan go after ISIS instead of the PKK and Kurdish resistance forces in both Iraq and Syria. Add to that hoping that Iran, an accomplice in the Axis of Evil including Russia, Syria and North Korea, would aid in removal of Bashar Assad is truly whistling past the graveyard. But then Hollande acquiesced to approval of the Iran nuclear pact given glowing economic opportunities for French companies like Total and Peugeot.

Erdogan is caught in a trap of his own making. He snookered his admirer Obama by relenting on the use of the Incirlik air base, while sending his F-16s to attack PKK bastions on the Quandil Mountain in northern Iraq, leaving the USAF to attack ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. Then he rounded up the usual PKK suspects in southeastern Turkey and found both he and his security forces in an internal revolt by Kurds in Southeastern Turkey.

Because the minority Kurdish party in the Ankara parliament, the HDP, won eighty seats, by attacking the Kurds inside Turkey, that will ensure another political fiasco now that he’s called for a new snap election in October. So-called Conservative Kurds who fell for his sinuous Islamist appeal are bailing, which translates to the HDP increasing its stake of possible seats in this coming election. Add to that the swooning Turkish economy. So, the neo Ottoman Sultan in Ankara may find himself in a stalemate quagmire of his own making and the elusive executive authoritarian Presidency beyond his reach.

Having said all that Hollande unlike Obama is correct that Turkey has to shut down the cross border flood of ISIS wannabees into Syria. But then Erdogan wouldn’t make illicit profits from the sale of antiquities and smuggled oil from the Islamic State. Moreover, his ally, the IHH Muslim charity, involved with the Mavi Marmara incident off Gaza in 2010, wouldn’t be able to ship cash and weapons for the Sunni supremacists in Raqaa, Syria. Further, his seeking that 60 mile buffer zone in northwest Syria abutting the Turkish frontier may not become a reality. The U.S. and others suggest that a no-fly zone based on the model from the 1990’s in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq may be the best solution. Besides the buffer zone was supposed to solve two problems: a means of sending back Syrian refugees and blunt a Kurdish push to seal the frontier perhaps all the way to the Mediterranean. So, thank you President Hollande for the honors you bestowed on our heroic boys and for the clarity of your message to Islamist recalcitrant, Turkish President Erdogan, an alleged NATO ally.

On Iran, M. Hollande, you bought into the nuclear pact because of glittering economic prizes to French companies.  You may have inadvertently have let loose the dogs of war against Israel via proxy Hezbollah.

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

Will The Trash Crisis In Lebanon Bring Hezbollah to Power?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You stink cartoon Daily Star

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

Worsening problems emerge in the trash crisis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mordechai Nisan

Dr. Mordechai Nisan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel Approves Leviathan Off Shore Gas Deal

Reuters reported that Israel has reached a deal to develop the important Leviathan offshore gas field after difficult negotiations with development partners, Houston-based Noble Energy, Inc.and Israeli Partenr, Delek Group:

Aug 13 Israel’s government said on Thursday it reached a deal that will pave the way for the development of Leviathan and two other offshore natural gas wells.

“The outline will bring Israel hundreds of billions of shekels in the coming years,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a news conference, saying he will present the agreement to the cabinet on Sunday for a vote.

The controversial deal initially revealed in June will allow Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group to keep ownership of the largest offshore field, Leviathan. They are required to sell off other assets, including stakes in another large deposit called Tamar.

Critics say the agreement still leaves Noble and Delek with too much power since they would control most of Israel’s gas reserves.

Netanyahu, who has struggled to muster enough support for an agreement, earlier this week won crucial backing from the central bank.

What a difference a day makes. Noble Energy had threatened to walk after the narishkeit of Dr. Gilo and his Socialist minions reneged on a compromise deal last December. Now, as we have written, Israel and trilateral alliance of Cyprus and Greece can develop a major source of energy in their respective Exclusive Economic Zones in the Eastern Mediterranean and Levant Basins. good to see the spikes in trading for both Houston-based Noble Energy in early trading on the NYSE and Delek Group on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchanges.

Sometimes, as the expression goes, Ha Shem works in mysterious, yet positive ways. Kudos to patient Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Energy Minister Steinitz and Bank of Israel Governor, Dr. Karnit Flug.

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

Iran: We Defied UN Travel Ban, sent Quds Force Commander to Moscow

Qassem's Reach for quds Force NY Post(1)We posted yesterday on Fox News reporting the visit of Iran’s Special Forces Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani to Moscow in defiance of UN travel bans to visit Russian President Putin.  We also noted that he also visited with senior Defense Ministry officials. FoxNews today cited an Iranian news agency confirmation of  Gen Soleimani’s visit in defiance of UN travel bans,  the new Fox report  also confirmed  that he visited with Russian Defense Minister, Gen. Sergei Shogui regarding delivery of the advanced S300/S400 air defense system, Iran confirms trip by Quds Force Commander to Moscow to discuss arms shipments”:

Iranian officials confirmed Friday that General Qassem Soleimani, the heavily sanctioned Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander, traveled to Russia last month and was conducting weapons deals, including discussion of the S-300 missile system, according to Reuters.

[…]

According to two separate Western intelligence sources, Soleimani arrived in Moscow on Iran Air flight 5130 from Tehran on July 24, ten days after the nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers was announced that included a provision to lift the arms embargo on Iran.

Three days later, Secretary of State John Kerry testified about the Iran nuclear deal before the Senate Armed Services Committee, assuring Congress pressure would remain on Iran’s shadowy general.

“Under the United States’ initiative, Qassem Soleimani will never be relieved of any sanctions,” Kerry told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In Moscow, Soleimani met with President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s defense minister.

In June, Russia announced it would send S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran by next year according to officials.

Watch this latest Fox News report on Quds Force General Soleimani:

In January 2015 we noted in an NER/Iconoclast post the visit of Russian Defense Minister Shogui to Tehran to meet Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Dehghan to sign a mutual defense treaty and the delivery of the updated S300 system objected to by the US and Israel in 2010 and subsequently banned under UN Security Resolution 1929 on conventional arms and ballistic missile technology.  Gen. Shogui is an intimate member of President Putin’s inner circle and some observers indicate could be a possible successor.  TAAS reported the US studying the announced Russian –Iranian military agreement, but specifically objecting to possible shipment of the S-300/400 air defense system. Russia might finally ship Iran the advanced S-300 air defense system that both the US and Israeli successfully lobbied former Russian President Medvedev in 2010 to cancel.  Immediate payment by Iran of $800 million for the S-300 system may have cemented the deal.

Administration scrambles to explain Iran’s sanctions violation.

Fox News noted the comments of Administration officials about this breach of UN sanctions:

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said Friday the U.S. is very concerned about the development.

“Qassem Soleimani is subject to a UN travel ban and this travel ban requires all states to prohibit Qassem Soleimani from traveling to their nation and the only exception to that is if the Iran sanctions committee grants an exemption,” she said at UN headquarters in New York.

The White House did not specifically blame the Russians for hosting the Iranian general.

“I can’t confirm these specific reports but it is an indication of our ongoing concerns with Iran and their behavior,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Friday at the daily press briefing.

Reactions from former House Republican Intelligence Committee and Presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX):

Mike Rogers, former chairman of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, weighed in late Friday afternoon.

“We should not underestimate what this means to our national security,” he said. “A leading general in Iran just told the world that the United States of America is irrelevant and Russia welcomed him with open arms. Not only do Russia and Iran not fear us, they do not respect us. And that is dangerous.”

Soleimani’s Moscow visit elicited a reference during the Republican debate Thursday night.

“He’s directly responsible for the murder of over 500 American servicemen in Iraq and part of this Iranian deal was lifting international sanctions on Gen. S – the day Gen. S flew back from Moscow to Iran was the day we believe Russia used cyber warfare against the joint chiefs,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

While the Administration and media tries to portray this latest episode as evidence of hard liners in Iran trying to upend the JCPOA, we are not buying any of these explanations.  It illustrates how incompetent the Administration has been in conducting its diplomatic initiatives with two geo-political autocrats, Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei and Russia’s President Putin.  The import of the Russian commitment to deliver the S300 air defense system is not lost on Israeli PM Netanyahu and Sunni US allies in the Middle East as it calls into question the credibility of any conventional military option for dealing with Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  This episode should be another clear  demonstration  to wavering Democrat  US Senators and Representatives that Iran will cheat on its agreements under the JCPOA to further its ambitions become a nuclear threshold and state supporter of  global terrorism.  The Iran nuclear pact announced in Vienna on July 14th was virtually shredded ten days later on July 24th with Gen. Soleimani’s arrival in Moscow. His visit to finalize arrangements for Russian weapons deliveries was in defiance of not only his travel bans but also UNSC Resolution 1929 banning purchase of conventional weapons and missile technology five years ahead of its sunset under the Iran nuclear pact.

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

Death Toll Rises in Chattanooga Islamic Terror Attack

Saturday brought more somber news of a fifth victim of the Islamic terror massacre perpetrated by 24 year old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. He was killed by Chattanooga police in the rampage at a Naval/Marine Recruiting Center on Thursday, July 17, 2015.  The Wall Street Journal reported:

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith was a reservist serving on active duty in Chattanooga. Officials said he died early Saturday morning. Mr. Smith, 26 years old, joined the Navy because he was inspired by the service of his late grandfather, said his step-grandmother, Darlene Proxmire. Mr. Smith was a married father of three girls and grew up in Paulding, Ohio, she said.

The other victims were four Marines:

Along with Mr. Smith, four Marines were killed in the attacks. U.S. official and family members on Friday confirmed the identities of the deceased Marines: Thomas Sullivan, of Springfield, Mass.; Skip Wells, from Marietta, Ga.; David Wyatt, of Hixson, Tenn.; and Carson Holmquist, of Grantsburg, Wis.

More emerges on the shooter-Abdulazeez and his family

The shooter, Abdulazeez, was a Kuwait-born naturalized U.S. citizen. He was a 2012 graduate the University of Tennessee –Chattanooga with a degree in electrical engineering who lived with his parents in nearby Hixson, Tennessee. He had just started a position with a local cable and wire firm.  The parents may have been among several hundred thousand Palestinians expelled from Kuwait following the First Gulf War in 1991, many of whom fled to Jordan. These Palestinians, unlike those who fled Israel during the 1948-1949 War, were not covered by the UNWAR refugee program. Rather they were eligible for refugee and asylum status under the UNHCR program.  The New York Times reported:

Born in Kuwait in 1990, Mr. Abdulazeez became an American citizen in 2003 through the naturalization of his mother, federal officials said; his father was also naturalized. Because he was a minor, he did not have to apply separately for citizenship. A divorce complaint filed by his mother in 2009 and then withdrawn, said the parents were from “the State of Palestine.”

Counterterrorism officials had not been investigating Mr. Abdulazeez before Thursday’s shootings. His father had been investigated about seven years ago for giving money to an organization that apparently had ties to Hamas. … The investigation did not result in charges. But the father was placed on a watch list for a while. A similar investigation was conducted in the 1990s and it, too, did not lead to charges.

Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said the watch list had for a time prevented the elder Mr. Abdulazeez from flying. “I believe there was a preliminary investigation, but there was no derogatory information, and he was taken off the list,” he said.

The shooter appears to have been heavily armed in the rampage, equipped with an assault weapon and two other long guns. It is reported that he purchased on-line some of the weapons for the rampage including an AK-47, AR 15, Saiga 12. He had also purchased two 7mm and 22 caliber side arms. He had a history of interest in guns, trained in using them at a local range and firing BBs at targets in the backyard of family’s home in Hixson. He also had a history of alcohol and drug related problems.  Following his graduation from UT-Chattanooga he received an offer of employment at a nuclear plant operated by Cleveland-based First Energy. Abdulazeez had been an intern at a TVA nuclear facility during his undergraduate career. A mandatory First Energy employment drug test in 2013 resulted in the loss of his job.  Notwithstanding, Islamic prohibitions against alcohol and drugs, Abdulazeez sought counseling for the problem in 2012 and 2013. Nevertheless the problem persisted as attested by his being arrest   in April 2015 on a DUI charge by Chattanooga police. A New York Times article noted the circumstances:

The only run-in Mr. Abdulazeez had with the law in the Chattanooga area appears to have been an April 20 arrest on a charge of driving while intoxicated; he posted a $2,000 bond.

According to a police affidavit, officers spotted him weaving through downtown Chattanooga after 2 a.m., in a gray 2001 Toyota Camry, and when they pulled him over, they smelled alcohol and marijuana, and he failed a sobriety test. They said his eyes were bloodshot, his speech was slurred, he was “unsteady on his feet,” and he had “irritated nostrils” and white powder under his nose, which Mr. Abdulazeez said came from snorting, crushed caffeine pills. He was scheduled to appear in court on July 30.

Those trips to Jordan

Abdulazeez, who held a US passport, made several trips to Jordan beginning in 2003 to visit a maternal uncle and family. He also made a side trip to Kuwait during a 2008 trip to Jordan. His father accompanied him on a trip in 2010 to Jordan after his no fly status had been lifted.  He made a 2013 trip to Jordan that returned home via Canada.   In April 2014, he purchased a one way ticket to Jordan, finally returning home via Doha, Qatar. What he did and where he went on that trip has yet to be determined, by law enforcement, FBI and foreign intelligence sources.  At issue is whether he made contact with the Al Nusra front or Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, the Islamic Action Front, or possibly ISIS via social media and whether he made a possible trip to either Iraq or Syria.  A WSJ report commented on the final trip to Jordan by Abdulazeez:

Mr. Abdulazeez wasn’t a familiar figure among jihadists in Jordan, according to Mohammad Shaabi, known as Abu Sayyaf, who sympathizes with the al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. He said it is still possible Mr. Abdulazeez could have contacted extremists through means such as social media.

A few ISIS sympathizers on Twitter referred to Mr. Abdulazeez after the shooting as “a soldier of the Islamic State” and “an individual lion.”

Evidence of Family Problems – Bankruptcy and a Divorce Filing

The Abdulazeez family went through a spate of difficulties.  The father Youssuf filed for bankruptcy in 2002 which was completed by 2005. More troubling was a divorce filing by his wife Rasmieh I. Abdulazeez in 2009.  The Times reported:

Mrs. Abdulazeez said that her husband, Youssef S. Abdulazeez, had “repeatedly beaten” her and had “on occasion” abused the children by “striking and berating them without provocation or justification.”

The complaint also accused Mr. Abdulazeez of sexual and verbal abuse, and of declaring his intentions “to take a second wife, as permitted under certain circumstances under [Sharia] Islamic law.”

Evidence of Anti-Israel, US Animus and Salafism in final text message

Abdulazeez had evidenced concerns about IDF actions during the 2014 summer rocket war by Hamas.  According to a Reuters report, friends noted that following the 2014 trip he became increasingly concerned about Middle East conflicts. It was after the final trip that he went on-line and purchased weapons and went to practice using them at a gun range.  Friends said:

Abdulazeez’s friends, who asked not to be identified for fear of a backlash, said he was upset about the 2014 Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza and the civil war in Syria.

“He felt Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia were not doing enough to help, and that they were heavily influenced by the United States,” said the friend who received the text message.

Another friend said, “He had always talked about it, but I’d say his level of understanding and awareness really rose after he came back.”

A text message containing a Hadith sent the night before the attack may have indicated his adoption of fundamentalist Islam:

“Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of mine, and then I have declared war against him”.

An Islamic expert explained:

For jihadists and ultraconservative Salafist Sunni Muslims, the Hadith “is usually understood within the context of al-wala wa-l-bara (or) love for Islam and hatred for its enemies,” said David Cook, an associate professor who specializes in Islam in the department of religion at Rice University in Texas.

Pew Trust Islamic Extremism chart

Conclusion

The nationwide outpouring of mourning and grief at the wanton killing of five US service personnel in this Islamic inspired jihad at the Chattanooga Naval/Marine Recruiting Center was palpable.   The immediate national reaction to the tragic attack by troubled Abdullazeez was reflected in an offer by Governor Rick Scott in Florida to provide security by moving military recruitment centers in Florida to local National Guard armories.  There were also calls for lifting state laws barring US military uniformed personnel from carrying side arms.

There was still the conundrum of how federal and state law enforcement and homeland security agencies can prevent another Islamic inspired homeland jihad and acknowledge the threat.  Ultimately, it will require a new more responsive and clear eyed Administration. An Administration that appreciates what a recent Pew Trust poll has found: a surge to 53% of Americans concerned over domestic Islamic extremism.  Concern over ISIS is even higher at 73% of those polled by the Pew Trust.

The Chattanooga Recruitment Center massacre has another poignant side effect. It took six years for the Pentagon to award Purple Hearts to the service victims of both the  June 2009 Little Rock Army Recruitment Center attack and the November 2009 Fort Hood Massacre perpetrated by domestic Jihadis. We hope that Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and incoming Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford, Jr. will waste no time in making suitable posthumous awards to the grieving families and loved ones recognizing these valiant service personnel who died in combat against domestic Islamic terrorism in our midst.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is courtesy of the Miami-Herald.

Israel’s Contribution towards Defeating the Islamic State

Manfred Gerstenfeld, author of The War of a Million Cuts reviewed in the June 2015 New English Review, published a prescient essay mid-June in the Jerusalem Post. Gerstenfeld is the former Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that sponsored a symposium on his new book on June 22, 2015. It was on the difficulty of “defeating”, let alone “degrading” the resilient Islamic State-the self declared Caliphate, “Will defeating Islamic State take more than a generation? “ While addressing the myriad of threats in the Middle East and potentially in the West from Islamic State Jihadis, Gerstenfeld draws attention to the contributions from Israel’s experience fighting asymmetrical wars against Islamic extremists seeking its destruction.

Tunisian Jihadi gunman Seifddine Rezgui

Tunisian Jihadi gunman Seifddine Rezgui. Photo by Rami Al Lolah

There was a trio of bloody spectacles inspired by the Islamic State on the first Friday in Ramadan. In France there was the beheading of an American owned chemical company executive by a Muslim employee. In Tunisia there was a massacre at a beach resort killing and injuring among others dozens of British, Belgian, Irish and German tourists by a Kalishnikov-toting attacker. In Kuwait there was  the bombing of a Shia Mosque where several dozen  at prayers were killed or injured .

In January there were the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Casher Market attacks by Al Qaeda and ISIS inspired émigré Muslims that killed seventeen, including four French  Jews and a Tunisian Jew.  Last fall, we saw attacks in Sydney, Ottawa and Quebec. There were an ax attack injuring  New York police officers and a beheading of food service employee at a company in Oklahoma City both perpetrated by converts to Islam. Last month we had the attack by two Jihadis from Phoenix  who were killed  in an attempted attack a Mohammed Cartoon event in Garland, Texas. One of the speakers at the event  was Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) who is under 24/7 protection of the Royal Dutch Protective service because of threats against his life for his anti-Islam  views in the Netherlands and the EU.

Reuters reported Islamic State spokesman Muhammad al-Adnani urging brothers in the Muslim ummah in honor of the observances of Ramadan to undertake attacks on kaffirs, unbelievers,   whether Christians, Shiites or Sunnis opposing the self-declared Islamic State. He declared in an audio message, Jihadists should turn the holy month of Ramadan, which began last week, into a time of “calamity for the infidels … Shi’ites and apostate Muslims.”  Not lost on many is that June 29th marks the first anniversary  of the Islamic State  self declaration of a Caliphate by  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Gerstenfield’s op-ed was triggered by comments from US General James Allen, commander of the US-led coalition combating the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, suggesting that it might take a generation to defeat IS.  Gerstenfeld wrote:

General Allen’s remarks, whether realistic or not, can serve for more detailed reflection on what it would mean if IS -controlled territory of a substantial size in say 20 years from now. This would indeed have a major impact on the world order, or better said world disorder. It would also have particular consequences for the Muslim world, the West, Russia and many other countries. Israel and the Jews, though minor players, would be affected by the global impact and by possible targeted attacks by IS.

As far as the Muslim world is concerned, the Arab Spring has already added Libya, Yemen and Syria to the roster of failed countries. The continued existence of IS may cause Iraq and possibly other countries to be added to that list. As the Islamic State is an extremist Sunni movement, it is directly opposed to Shi’ite Muslims, with no inclination to compromise. The longer the Islamic State lasts, the greater the threat to the Shi’ites.

That would mean that eventually the Islamic State would likely confront Iran, the leading Shi’ite country. Iran has been an international troublemaker and hardly any external forces have reacted to it militarily in the current century. The more powerful the Islamic State becomes, the more it will have to challenge Iran.  As the Islamic State also opposes the Sunni countries presently ruled by various royal families, the instability in these countries would increase substantially as well. The same is true concerning Egypt.

[…]

The Islamic State calls for murder may bring with it a shift back toward terrorist attacks perpetrated by foreign jihadists. There have been threats and rumors of having them brought into Europe amongst the boat refugees arriving from Libya, or smuggled through the Balkans. … Yet if we speak about decades of sizable continued Islamic State activity, it is likely that there will be attacks from terrorists disguised as refugees.

[…]

Substantial Jihadi-caused terrorism in the West will lead to further stereotyping of all Muslims.

The previous massive influx of Muslims and its ensuing social problems, including the lack of successful integration, has already led to the rise and/or growth of anti-Islam nationalistic parties in various countries.

These include Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, the Swedish Democrats, and above all, France’s Front National. Substantial Muslim terrorism is not only likely to increase the popularity of these parties but will influence the positions of other parties, who will have to compete for the votes of those with harder positions regarding Islam.

What would all this mean for Jews living abroad? Not much good. Attacks on others are often followed by attacks on Jews.

Gerstenfeld notes the ability of Israel to contend with extremist Salafist jihadi Islamic groups. Groups equipped with advanced weaponry supplied by Iran or Russian and U.S. weapons stocks abandoned by Assad forces in Syria or Iraqi National Forces:

No other country has accumulated as much experience in effectively fighting Muslim terrorists of various kinds as Israel. Israeli know-how in this field is already in demand and that is only likely to increase.

This fact is not well-publicized, but in future it should be, to improve Israel’s image with the Western mainstream populations.

A second opportunity may lie in Israel using the anti- Islamic State (IS)  sentiment in the West to highlight that the majority Palestinian faction, Hamas, is not very different from IS. Israel hasn’t done much about this until now, but at the same time, the grounds for response from the West have been far less fertile than they may become in the future.

A third opportunity for Israel could be the possible change in political alliances in the Middle East. Some Arab states might consider that whatever hatred they promote of Israel to be less beneficial than allying them with Israel against IS, which has become a real threat to many Arab states. A recent poll showed that Saudis consider Iran to be their largest threat, followed by IS, and that Israel ranks third.

There has already been alleged secret meeting between Saudi military and Israeli security counterparts. Doubtless drawn together by the threat of a Shiite Mahdist Iran on the verge of becoming a nuclear threshold state destabilizing the Middle East. That is reflected in the Saudi undeclared war against the Houthi insurgency in the failed State of Yemen. An insurgency equipped and backed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image of Islamic State fighters is courtesy of PamelaGeller.com.

Is the U.S. State Department Taking Reports of North Korea-Iranian Nuclear Cooperation Seriously?

At today’s State Department Daily Press Briefing, spokesperson Jeff Rathke was asked by Matt Lee, AP White House correspondent about reports by the Paris-based Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) about alleged North Korean meetings in Iran alleging discussions over nuclear program cooperation an ICBM developments.  Reuters reported the NCRI group allegation that:

Citing information from sources inside Iran, including within Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Paris-based NCRI said a seven-person North Korean Defense Ministry team was in Iran during the last week of April. This was the third time in 2015 that North Koreans had been to Iran and a nine-person delegation was due to return in June, it said.

“The delegates included nuclear experts, nuclear warhead experts and experts in various elements of ballistic missiles including guidance systems,” the NCRI said.

In response to AP’s Lee question Rathke said, “We are taking these allegations very seriously” citing various UN Security Council Resolutions sanctioning the proliferation behavior of the DPRK. That led Lee and other correspondents to inquire whether this would impact the current P5+1 negotiations in Vienna seeking to conclude a comprehensive Joint Plan of Action by June 30th.  We posted  yesterday that France’s Foreign Minister demanding that Iran agree to  UN IAEA inspectors be  given  full access to military facilities for verification of prior developments.

Watch this C-SPAN video clip on the exchanges between State Department Jeff Rathke and AP’s Lee and other reporters at today’s Press Briefing:

Satellite Image of the Sohae Launch Facility, North Korea

North Korean Sohae Missile Launch site, November 2012. Source: Space.com

The Reuters report gave indications of previous unverified reports about such cooperation between the DPRK and Iran:

The NCRI said the North Korean delegation was taken secretly to the Imam Khomenei complex, a site east of Tehran controlled by the Defense Ministry. It gave detailed accounts of locations and who the officials met.

It said the delegation dealt with the Center for Research and Design of New Aerospace Technology, a unit of nuclear weaponization research, and a planning center called the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, which is under U.S. sanctions.

Reuters could not independently verify the allegations.

“Tehran has shown no interest in giving up its drive to nuclear weapons. The weaponization program is continuing and they have not slowed down the process,” NCRI spokesman Shahin Gobadi said.

U.N. watchdog the IAEA, which for years has investigated alleged nuclear arms research by Tehran, declined to comment. North Korean officials were not available for comment.

Several Western officials said they were not aware of a North Korean delegation traveling to Iran recently.

A Western diplomat said there had been proven military cooperation between Iran and North Korea in the past.

North Korean and Iranian officials meet in the course of general diplomacy. On April 23, Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s ceremonial head of state and Iran’s president held a rare meeting on the sidelines of the Asian-African summit in Jakarta.

My colleague Ilana Freedman and this writer have reported on Iranian and DPRK on both nuclear and ICBM developments and nuclear tests in NER and Iconoclast posts.  In a March 2014, NER, article, “Has Iran Developed Nuclear Weapons in North Korea”, we cited Freedman reporting:

According to my sources, Iran began moving its bomb manufacturing operations from Iran to North Korea in December 2012. Two facilities near Nyongbyon in North Pyongan province, some 50 miles north of Pyongyang, have become a new center for Iran’s nuclear arms program.

Over the last year, Iran has been secretly supplying raw materials to the reactor at Nyongbyon for the production of plutonium. At a second facility, located about fifteen miles north and with a code name that translates to ‘Thunder God Mountain’, nuclear warheads are being assembled and integrated with MIRV platforms. MIRVs are offensive ballistic missile systems that can support multiple warheads, each of which can be aimed at an independent target, but are all launched by a single booster rocket. Approximately 250-300 Iranian scientists are now reported to be in North Korea, along with a small cadre of IRGC personnel to provide for their security.

According to the reports, the Iranian-North Korean collaboration has already produced the first batch of fourteen nuclear warheads. A dedicated fleet of Iranian cargo aircraft, a combination of 747′s and Antonov heavy-lifters, which has been ferrying personnel and materials back and forth between Iran and North Korea, is in place to bring the assembled warheads back to Iran.

In a June 2014, Iconoclast post, “Does Iran/ North Korean Nuclear & ICBM Development Preclude A P5+1 Agreement?” we cited a Wall Street Journal report by  Claudia Rosett, journalist in residence at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Iran Could Outsource Its Nuclear –Weapons Program to North Korea. Rosett commented:

The pieces have long been in place for nuclear collaboration between the two countries. North Korea and Iran are close allies, drawn together by decades of weapons deals and mutual hatred of America and its freedoms. Weapons-hungry Iran has oil; oil-hungry North Korea makes weapons. North Korea has been supplying increasingly sophisticated missiles and missile technology to Iran since the 1980s, when North Korea hosted visits by Hasan Rouhani (now Iran’s president) and Ali Khamenei (Iran’s supreme leader since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989).

Rosett in the WSJ oped lays out the case for what the NER article demonstrated was a plausible means of evading sanctions. The evidence for that we noted was North Korean/ Iranian cooperation with Assad’s Syria creating a plutonium reactor on the Euphrates at Al Kibar destroyed by Israel’s Air Force in September 2007. We drew attention to Iranian/ North Korean joint development of large rocket boosters sufficient to loft nuclear MIRV warheads and the likelihood that Iran might have that capability within a few years. In June 2014, The Algemeiner reported an Iranian official announcing that it possessed a 5,000 kilometer (approximately 3,125 miles) range missile that could hit the strategic base of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean:

“In the event of a mistake on the part of the United States, their bases in Bahrain and (Diego) Garcia will not be safe from Iranian missiles,” said an Iranian Revolutionary Guard adviser to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Majatba Dhualnuri.

In an April 15, 2015, Iconoclast post, “Obama Administration Knew of Illegal North Korea Missile Technology Transfers to Iran During Talks” we reported:

Bill Gertz has a blockbuster expose in today’s Washington Free Beacon of something we have been hammering away for years: the technology transfer of missile and nuclear technology between North Korea and the Iran, “North Korea Transfers Missile Goods to Iran During Nuclear Talks.”  The stunning disclosure was that U.S. intelligence has known about the illegal transfer in violation of UN arms sanctions, as apparently did the Obama Administration. You recall the statement that Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman made before a Senate hearing in early 2014. Sherman said, “that if Iran can’t get the bomb then its ballistic missiles would be irrelevant.”

Gertz went on to report:

Since September more than two shipments of missile parts have been monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies as they transited from North Korea to Iran, said officials familiar with intelligence reports who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Details of the arms shipments were included in President Obama’s daily intelligence briefings and officials suggested information about the transfers was kept secret from the United Nations, which is in charge of monitoring sanctions violations.

While the CIA declined to comment on these allegations claiming classified information, others, Gertz queried said that “such transfers were covered by the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary agreement among 34 nations that limits transfers of missiles and components of systems with ranges of greater than 186 miles.”

One official said the transfers between North Korea and Iran included large diameter engines, which could be used for a future Iranian long-range missile system.

The compilation of these reports and today’s exchange at the State Department Press Briefing clearly raises the ante as to why in one reporter’s query, ‘our negotiators” haven’t simply asked  Foreign Minister Zarif in Vienna  is there such cooperation going on, backed up by the intelligence reports cited by Gertz and others?  Our suspicion is that French Foreign Minister Fabius has better feed on Iranian nuclear and ICBM developments than our CIA.  Or more likely is the Obama West Wing suggesting not to believe those lying reports in the President’s  Daily Intelligence Briefing? After all, President Obama, Secretary Kerry and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman want nothing to stand in the way of an agreement with Iran, even it means evading the truth. Stay tuned for developments.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is from the official site of the President of The Islamic Republic of Iran.

Christian students slaughtered in Kenya by Islamists

Early Thursday  morning Al Shabaab jihadis swarmed into the grounds of Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya with over  815 students stealthily knowing at 5:30 AM that Muslim students would be at morning prayers leaving vulnerable Christian students in their dormitories. The toll during the several hour siege was 147 killed, dozens of others injured and many students unaccounted for. USA Today reported “the White House strongly condemned the attack and said the United States was providing assistance to the Kenyan government. We extend our deep condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed in this heinous attack, which reportedly included the targeting of Christian students,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.”

Watch this AP Report on the Garissa, College siege:

 Fox News provided details on the Garassi College attack and siege:

Hours after the assault began, Kenyan security forces cornered the gunmen in a dormitory at the school, and President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a speech to the nation that the attackers were holding hostages.

“There are many dead bodies of Christians inside the building,” Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Sky News. “We are also holding many Christians alive. Fighting still goes on inside the college.”

Collins Wetangula, the vice chairman of the student union, said when the gunmen arrived at his dormitory he could hear them opening doors and asking if the people who had hidden inside whether they were Muslims or Christians.

“If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot,” he said. “With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die.”

A spokesman for the terror group told the BBC that it attacked the school because “it’s on Muslim land colonized by non-Muslims.” The spokesman also said the gunmen had separated non-Muslims from Muslims and had freed 15 of the latter group.

The interior ministry said around 500 of 815 students has been accounted for, but hundreds remain missing. The students at Garissa are predominantly non-Muslim, a source told Fox News.

Police identified a possible mastermind of the attack as Mohammed Mohamud, who is alleged to lead Al-Shabaab’s cross-border raids into Kenya, and they posted a $220,000 bounty for him. Also known by the names Dulyadin and Gamadhere, he was a teacher at an Islamic religious school, or madrassa, and claimed responsibility for a bus attack in Makka, Kenya, in November that killed 28 people.

312 people have been killed in Al-Shabaab attacks in Kenya from 2012 to 2014. Thirty-eight people were killed and 149 wounded in Garissa in the same period, according to police statistics.

Bursting into their residences, these Al Shabaab killers used the same terrifying method perfected in September 2013 to kill innocent non-Muslims at the Westgate Mall massacre.  They asked whether they were Christians or if Muslim asked them to recite verses from the Koran or the Shahada-the profession of faith. If they responded as Christian they were summarily shot. Most of those Kenyan students at Garissa  College murdered by the al Shabaab attackers were Christians.  As Christian victims of this Jihad massacre they became like Jesus, the literal agnus die, lambs of G-d referring to the Passover sacrifice.  All of this occurred at the beginning of the conjunction of the Easter–Passover holy days in the Judeo-Christian calendar. Maundy Thursday that occurs three days before Easter commemorates the last supper between Jesus and his apostles believed to have been a Passover Seder.

The slaughter of these Christians in Kenya on Maundy Thursday is believed to be the worst terrorist event since the 1998 East African Embassies attacks by Al Qaeda in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  It is alleged that Al Shabaab was reported by intelligence to be planning  a retaliation against soft targets inside Kenya for the US drone attack on March 18, 2015 that reportedly took the life of Adan Garar the  planner of the September 2013 Westgate Mall Attack in Nairobi. Al Shabaab had engaged in several spectacular recent attacks on hotels and offices in the capital of Mogadishu killing dozens.

The irony is that President Obama considered Somalia, like Yemen, “counterterrorism “successes, despite both being failed states. Yemen is being pounded daily by Saudi air strikes against Houthi rebels who have succeeded in taking the Presidential Palace in Aden. Somalia has been a perennial failed state since the eruption of civil war in 1990. It became the haven for Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab, “the foot soldiers of Islam’ who have conducted an unrelenting campaign against fellow Somali Muslims and across the frontier in indiscriminate attacks on targets of opportunity in Kenya. A Kenya which holds one of the largest Somali refugee camps administered by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from which residents have been sent for asylum in the United States. The irony that the children of those refugee émigrés in the US have been recruited to fight and die for Al Shabaab , and now  the Islamic State in Syria.  Many of those émigrés have been drawn from the twin cities of Minneapolis –St. Paul. They have become a US hub for ISIS and Al Shabaab recruitment aided by extremist Mosque leaders in those Middle West communities.

UN report released today estimated  that  more than 25,000 foreign Muslims  streamed to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra  from more than 100 Countries across the globe to be trained in “finishing schools” in Iraq and Syria, to return home as dangerous jihadis. The report noted that   besides 22,000 foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, there were also 6,500 in Afghanistan and hundreds more in Yemen, Libya, Pakistan and Somalia.”According to Reuters, the UN panel report estimated that growth of these foreign Muslim jihad recruits rose by more than 70%. It likened the Islamic State as equivalent to Afghanistan in the 1990’s with the growth of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. President Obama met last September with the 15 nation Security Council to develop a strategy for contending with the threat of extremist Islamic terror threats like ISIS, Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Boko Haram in Nigeria that resulted in this report.

This Easter weekend, Christians around the world should grieve for the 147 slaughtered by Al Shabaab jihadis at Garassi College on Maundy Thursday, 2015.

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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured photo is courtesy of DPA.