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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 A divorce complaint filed by his mother in 2009 and then withdrawn, said the parents were from “the State of Palestine.”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.

Obama: Opening the Pandora’s Box of Nuclear Proliferation?

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, former Ambassador to the U.S., was a target of a failed bombing plot by the Iran’s Quds force at a Washington restaurant. He was at the State Department yesterday in preparation for a meeting with President Obama today regarding the Kingdom’s concerns about the announced nuclear pact with Iran.

The White House committed a faux pas on announcement of the Iran nuclear deal when it first suggested that the Quds force commander, General Qassem Suleymani, was not on a list of 700 Iranians whose travel bans and asset restrictions were lifted. General Suleymani had been deemed responsible for hundreds of U.S. Service personnel casualties during the Iraq War and now is involved with advising Iraqi Shiite militias fighting ISIS.  The Iran FARS news agency and ABC News both confirmed that the legendary head of the Quds Force was indeed on the list. We trust that President Obama will apologize when he meets with Foreign Minister al-Jubeir today. A Wall Street Journal report set the stage for today’s meeting:

Saudi Arabia is the largest of the Arab states that have been deeply skeptical of Mr. Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Iran.

The Saudis have been deeply worried about the Iran agreement; both because of fears it won’t stop the Iranian nuclear program and because of broader concerns that it will allow Iran to grow as a regional power when it receives the financial windfall from the end of sanctions under the accord.

The Sunni Saudi government already is locked in a proxy battle with Iranian allies in neighboring Yemen. The Iran-backed Houthi rebels overran Yemen’s capital earlier this year and were targeted by a Saudi airstrike campaign backed by the U.S. In addition, Shiite-led Iran is the most important backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; Saudi Arabia is committed to his removal.

However, there is the overarching issue of Saudi Arabia and other Middle East Sunni countries opting to secure their own nuclear infrastructure and weapons.  A  WSJ  op ed in today’s edition  by Karen Elliot House, former publisher and Pulitzer Prize winner for her coverage of the Middle East, addressed what many observers belief is a potential nuclear Pandora’s Box, “Obama Pours Gas on the Mideast Fire”:

The short subdued statement this week by Riyadh’s embassy in Washington again calling for “strict sustainable” inspections speaks volumes about the kingdom’s precarious position and the lack of good options.

[…]

A final option open to the Saudis: Get a nuclear weapon as soon as possible. Prince Turki al Faisal, the kingdom’s former head of intelligence vowed in the spring that “whatever the Iranians have, we will have.”

[…]

The nuclear deal with Iran will stoke more Sunni-Shiite violence, and the Saudis may go shopping for nukes.

On Tuesday, July 14, 2015, a Middle East Roundtable discussion was convened by Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio 1330 AM WEBY’s co-hosts  of “Your Turn,” Mike Bates and this writer. Our panelists were Omri Ceren, Managing Director for Press and Strategy of The Israel Project (TIP) and Shoshana Bryen, Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center.  Bryen was calling in from Washington, D.C.  Ceren was calling in from Vienna, Austria where he had spent 19 days working with journalists covering the final deliberations of the nuclear pact with Iran. Ceren had also been in Lausanne, Switzerland covering the April 2nd announcement of a framework for a final JPOA.  The following is an excerpt from a forthcoming August 2015 New English Review article on the Iran nuclear agreement based on the radio panel discussion. This excerpt reveals the dangers that could result should nuclear proliferation spread in the Middle East, beginning with Saudi Arabia. The arguments presented here are the opinions of Ceren and not necessarily those of TIP.

Omri Ceren(1)

Omri Ceren, Managing Director at the Israel Project.

Jerry Gordon:   What is the risk in this region that non-proliferation ends and the opposite occurs?  Is this the opening of a Pandora’s Box?

Omri Ceren:  Not just the obvious, but the well nigh undeniable. We talked earlier of what a lot is dangerous about this Administration’s communications with American lawmakers and the American public is that they just don’t tell the truth.  They make excuses for Iranian cheating. But another aspect that has been widely remarked upon is they say insulting things in order to defend their policies. One great example is their answers to the potential that Saudi Arabia will respond to a bad deal by going nuclear.  Let’s be clear, Saudi Arabia will respond to a bad deal by going nuclear. They have not been bashful and have told us in as many words that they will not wait to gain their own nuclear capabilities till the Iranians get a nuclear bomb. They’ve said that they will respond with their own infrastructure when they believe that it is now inevitable that they will get a nuclear bomb.  And they have said that this deal makes it inevitable that Iran gets its nuclear bomb, which is correct. You then have these very clear declarations from a traditional American ally that sits in the center of the world’s energy markets that they intend to go nuclear in response to this deal. If they go nuclear then the entire deal is trashed because there is no chance that the Iranian military will permit the Sunnis to get a bomb without their having a nuclear bomb.  They will respond by backing out of the deal. Now obviously this is a worst case scenario for the White House.  Yesterday, you were in a world where you had no deal and no Iranian bomb. Now you have a deal and you may have an Iranian bomb. What have been their responses? I don’t want to overemphasize this but it is difficult not notice that we have a scenario that will trash everything that the Administration has hoped to create, all costs and no benefits.  What is their answer? They say two things about the Saudis. One is that the Saudis lack the resources  to go nuclear which is insane given the example of North Korea and given what we know about Saudi Arabia’s GDP and how they allocate their resources. The second is what one of the top hands at the NSC wrote in a pamphlet was that the Saudis will never go nuclear because they are afraid of an international oil embargo. I’m sorry but that is not a sophisticated argument. The entire success of the deal and the potential that the deal will fail could leave an entire nuclear Middle East in its wake.

RELATED ARTICLE: UN Set to Adopt Iran Nuke Deal Monday in Obama Blitzkrieg

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

Best Arguments for an Iran Deal? No, not really!

Bret Stephens in his Global View column in today’s Wall Street Journal presents prolepsis arguments as to why the P5+1 deal with a nuclear Iran is a dangerous folly perpetrated by Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama on America, Israel and the World. It is a preview of the arguments that President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry and their spokespersons will use to seal this deal in Press Conferences in Vienna and on Capitol Hill in Washington later this morning when the President meets with Democratic members of Congress.

Congress, under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, will now have  the daunting task of reviewing the 100 page agreement that emerged from feckless deliberations in Vienna.  That  despite the blandishments to be offered by President Obama to fellow Democrats on Capital Hill today  will likely be a very bad deal with the apocalyptic Mahdist regime in Tehran.  An Islamo fascist regime and state sponsor of terrorism  seeking the destruction of Israel , America and faltering Middle East allies.

Read Stephens’ cogent rebuttal of the misguided hopes and  faulty logic of what passed for diplomatic appeasement of Iran successfully retaining the capability to be come a nuclear threshold state under the terms of this final Joint Plan of Action.

The Wall Street Journal

The Best Arguments for an Iran Deal

The heroic assumptions, and false premises, of our diplomacy.

By BRET STEPHENS

In formal rhetoric, prolepsis means the anticipation of possible objections to an argument for the sake of answering them. So let’s be proleptic about the Iranian nuclear deal, whose apologists are already trotting out excuses for this historic diplomatic debacle.

The heroic case.Sure, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is an irascible and violent revolutionary bent on imposing a dark ideology on his people and his neighborhood. Much the same could be said of Mao Zedong when Henry Kissinger paid him a visit in 1971—a diplomatic gamble that paid spectacular dividends as China became a de facto U.S. ally in the Cold War and opened up to the world under Deng Xiaoping.

But the hope that Iran is the new China fails a few tests. Mao faced an overwhelming external threat from the Soviet Union. Iran faces no such threat and is winning most of its foreign proxy wars. Beijing ratcheted down tensions with Washington with friendly table-tennis matches. Tehran ratchets them up by locking up American citizens and seizing cargo ships in the Strait of Hormuz. Deng Xiaoping believed that to get rich is glorious. Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, a supposed reformer, spent last Friday marching prominently in the regime’s yearly “Death to America, Death to Israel” parade.

If there is evidence of an Iranian trend toward moderation it behooves proponents of a deal to show it.

The transactional case. OK, so Iran hasn’t really moderated its belligerent behavior, much less its antediluvian worldview. And a deal won’t mean we won’t still have to oppose Iran on other battlefields, whether it’s Yemen or Syria or Gaza. But that doesn’t matter, because a nuclear deal is nothing more than a calculated swap. Iran puts its nuclear ambitions into cold storage for a decade. In exchange, it comes in from the cold economically and diplomatically. Within circumscribed parameters, everyone can be a winner.

But a transaction requires some degree of trust. Since we can’t trust Iran we need an airtight system of monitoring and verification. Will the nuclear deal provide that? John Kerry will swear that it will, but as recently as January Czech officials blocked a covert $61 million purchase by Iran of “dual-use” nuclear technologies. A month before that, the U.S. found evidence that Iran had gone on an illicit “shopping spree” for its plutonium plant in Arak. That’s what we know. What do we not know?

Also, how does a nuclear deal not wind up being Iran’s ultimate hostage in dictating terms for America’s broader Mideast policy? Will the administration risk its precious nuclear deal if Iran threatens to break it every time the two countries are at loggerheads over regional crises in Yemen or Syria? The North Koreans already mastered the art of selling their nuclear compliance for one concession after another—and they still got the bomb.

The defeatist case. All right: So the Iran deal is full of holes. Maybe it won’t work. Got any better ideas? Sanctions weren’t about to stop a determined regime, and we couldn’t have enforced them for much longer. Nobody wants to go to war to stop an Iranian bomb, not the American public and not even the Israelis. And conservatives, of all people, should know that foreign policy often amounts to a choice between evils. The best case for a nuclear deal is that it is the lesser evil.

Then again, serious sanctions were only imposed on Iran in November 2011. They cut the country’s oil exports by half, shut off its banking system from the rest of the world, sent the rial into free fall and caused the inflation rate to soar to 60%. By October 2013 Iran was six months away from a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to estimates by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. And that was only the first turn of the economic screw: Iran’s permitted oil exports could have been cut further; additional sanctions could have been imposed on the “charitable” foundations controlled by Iran’s political, military and clerical elite. Instead of turning the screw, Mr. Obama relieved the pressure the next month by signing on to the interim agreement now in force.

It’s true that nobody wants war. But a deal that gives Iran the right to enrich unlimited quantities of uranium after a decade or so would leave a future president no option other than war to stop Iran from building dozens of bombs. And a deal that does nothing to stop Iran’s development of ballistic missiles would allow them to put one of those bombs atop one of those missiles.

Good luck. Americans are a lucky people—lucky in our geography, our founders and the immigrants we attract to our shores. So lucky that Bismarck supposedly once said “there is a special providence for drunkards, fools, and the United States of America.”

Maybe we’ll get lucky again. Maybe Iran will change for the better after Mr. Khamenei passes from the scene. Maybe international monitors will succeed with Iran where they failed with North Korea. Maybe John Kerry is the world’s best negotiator, and this deal was the best we could do.

Or maybe we won’t be lucky. Maybe there’s no special providence for nations drunk on hope, led by fools.

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

Obama, J Street and the American Jewish Divide

Former Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren is a native of West Orange, New Jersey best exemplifies the special relations between the two allies, Israel and the U.S. Ally-book cover jpgWith the publication of his memoir, Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide (2015), he has another best seller. Previous ones were Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2003) and Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present (2007)Having read Ally, I concur with praise from two pundits: Bret Stephens, the Tuesday Wall Street  Journal columnist of note, and Vic Rosenthal, a former resident of Fresno, California, now a Jerusalem resident whose Abu Yehuda blog  posts are a must read about an American  living in Israel.

Bret Stephens’ opening stanza in his June 29, 2015 WSJ column “The President Against the Historianexplains why Oren’s memoir is a must read:

Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, has written the smartest and juiciest diplomatic memoir that I’ve read in years, and I’ve read my share. The book, called “Ally,” has the added virtues of being politically relevant and historically important. This has the Obama administration—which doesn’t come out looking too good in Mr. Oren’s account—in an epic snit.

Vic Rosenthal in his July 2, 2015, Abu Yehuda blog post, Michael Oren is tired of American Jews, and so am I, addresses  the yawning  divide between Israel and American Jews, another of Oren’s themes in Ally:

Rabbi Eric Yoffie is offended by Michael Oren, on behalf of (non-Orthodox) American Jews. These Jews, like America’s “first Jewish president,” turn out to be very easy to offend: just suggest that Israelis are more qualified than they are to decide the future of their country.

Oren’s new book has offended both Yoffie and the Obama Administration, which has launched an all-out media blitz against him (as far as I know, Obama spokespeople haven’t called him a ‘chickenshit’ yet, but give them time).

Yesterday morning, I dialed into an Israel Project  (TIP)sponsored presentation by Oren. He told the listeners ,unlike the daylight between Obama and Netanyahu over the Iranian nuclear nightmare threat, that there is no daylight across the political divide in the  obsessive democratic cockpit of the Knesset. As Oren tells it, whether Likud, Zionist Union and even Arab parties, all Israel is united that Iran achieving nuclear breakout is “a very bad deal”. Further, he said while some  in the media, the Obama claque of  “senior officials’ and former aides have excoriated him for the early publication  of his memoir, he was heartened that they haven’t addressed the facts of what the Administration has perpetrated. Listen to this recorded  TIP presentation by Oren and the following Q&A.

Oren’s memoir has a lot to say about President Obama and his Administration acolytes isolating Israel over Iran and  Netanyahu’s vigorous defense of Israel  sovereign right of Israel to warn America and the untrusting world about Iran’s nuclear  threat and the very bad P5+1  deal. Perhaps  a  deal about to be announced in Vienna in a few days. Or if not simply kicked down the road.  All while Iran’s  Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei  and Mahdist acolytes of terrorism perfect the means of taking out the “little Satan”, Israel ,with one bomb and the “big Satan”, the  US, with a nuclear tipped ICBM.

Oren clearly takes pride that his well honed skills as a Columbia and Princeton educated historian who earned his PhD in Middle East Studies with the venerable Bernard Lewis.   Not bad for a pudgy dyslexic , pigeon toed 15 year old who shook the hand of the late Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin, when the latter was  Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the US.  He exclaimed on that memorable occasion that some day he would be Israel’s Ambassador.  A late bloomer in high school Oren fulfilled his quest, slimed down hardened through rowing .  Equipped with his backpack he made aliyah to Israel to go through  grueling  paratrooper training  earn his coveted red beret along with an oath taken  to defend Israel on Masada with his IDF comrades.  He ends up in combat and later as a reserve officer during the Second Lebanon War as a military spokesperson to the foreign press.  Along the way he  meets his  American wife Sally Edelstein, a  Jersey girl, dancer and former San Francisco hippy groupie when she makes Aliyah to Israel and they ultimately form their Israeli family.

Ally  depicts what it was like for an American-Israeli to fulfill his dream as his adopted country’s Ambassador in Washington  Israel’s  interests in the byzantine politics of the Obama era from 2009 to 2013. After leaving Washington, Oren turns home to Tel Aviv to lecture, teach at Harvard and Yale and write his memoir.   Oren is now a member of the Kulanu party headed by former  Likud Communications Commissioner and economic reformer Moshe Kahlon.  Oren is a thinking liberal and  both he and the family are members of a Reform synagogue.  His memoir culminates on a dramatic note when he  and Sally attend  a  Bar Mitzvah celebration for 13 year olds at  Kibbutz Na’an, with one of his former Washington Embassy aides, Lee Moser, mother of  one of the bar mitzvah candidates when a red alert sounds, sirens wail and they scurry for shelter. He writes:

I held Sally’s hand and glanced over my shoulder over my shoulder just as two Hamas rockets roared in. Then with twin booms that rattled the tin overhang  and shook the ground below, the missiles exploded. Iron Dome interceptors, developed by Israel and funded by the United States, scored perfect hits. For moment afterward, as we emerged into the uncertain night, the glow of those bursts hovered over us, beaming like kindred stars.

All  of which brings  us to why he has frosted the J Street  fawning rabbinic leadership of the Reform Movement in America and  earned  both Vic Rosenthal’s and my admiration. This came on the cusp of having orchestrated a  recent viewing and panel discussion of the Americans for Peace and Tolerance documentary, J Street Challenge with Pensacola pro-Israel colleagues; Rabbi Eric Tokajer of Brit Ahm synagogue, Mike Bates, 1330amWEBY general manger of “Your Turn host and Florida State Representative Mike Hill, a U.S. Air Force Academy grad.

Vic Rosenthal notes a similar experience in his Fresno in his Abu Yehuda column:

We tried to bring the local Jewish community – the organizations, the synagogues and individual Jews – along with us. With a few exceptions, mostly people like us who had lived in Israel or had relatives there, we had to drag them kicking and screaming. Most of our pro-Israel events drew the same few supporters.

The local Reform temple was probably the most frustrating. A film critical of J Street, followed by a discussion? Absolutely not, it would be ‘divisive’! The Jewish Federation and Hadassah were better, but it was always easier to organize an event about Jewish culture than Israel.

Is Oren right that American Jews are more interested in helping others than their own? Certainly they were far more upset about terrorism in Charleston than Jerusalem, and far more ready to criticize our Prime Minister than their own Administration. The Reform rabbi threw himself into activities to help the poor and homeless. He is seen on TV on panels with the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center. He is an outspoken advocate of liberal causes, but he did not give a sermon in favor of PM Netanyahu’s speech about Iran before the Congress.

In preparation for the recent J Street Challenge  Pensacola event, we culled excerpts from Oren’s Ally about his views on J Street  and its defenders inside the Obama Administration, illustrative of what  concerns Vic Rosenthal.

On J Street’s inclusion in Major American Jewish organizations meeting with Obama in 2009 p. 78

He promised to be more evenhanded in asking all parties, not just Israelis, to make sacrifices for peace. Yet the meeting would be remembered as a turning point in the administration’s approach toward the Jewish State.

Included for the first time with the mainstream Jewish leaders were the heads of Americans for Peace Now and the newly founded J Street, both organizations stridently critical of Israel and its traditional American supporters.  Their presence rattled the other participants, many of whom had been personally slighted by these parvenus.

The President concluded, “When there is no daylight, Israel just sits on the sidelines and that erodes our credibility with the Arabs”.

Commenting on the discussion, J Street founder Jeremy Ben Ami cited Obama’s ability to connect with the Muslim World and his immense standing in America and the World. “He was very clear that this is a moment that has to be seized and he intends to seize it.  By contrast the other American Jewish leaders emerged from the meeting concerned about Obama’s departure from the long standing principle of “no daylight” in U.S. –Israel relations.

On J Street’s promotion of the Goldstone Report that Maligned Israel in Operation Cast Lead in 2008 – 2009 p. 102

Though J Street refrained from formally endorsing the [Goldstone Report], activists in the organization escorted Goldstone to Congress for meetings with progressive members.  Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner told the UNHRC of America’s disappointment with the document’s double standards. But he also cited Goldstone’s ‘distinguished record of public service” and called on Palestinians to investigate Hamas abuses. This, for Israelis, was tantamount to asking al-Qaeda to investigate 9/11.

On the contretemps between the Israeli Embassy and J Street P. 107

Irksome was the embassy’s continued imbroglio with J Street. Unlike my predecessor, Sallai Meridor, who had shunned the lobby, I initially engaged it in a dialogue.  I had no illusions about the group, which received funds from anti-Israel contributors, supported every legislator critical of Israel, and stridently attacked mainstream American Jewish leaders. Though J Street defined itself as “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace”, its logo bore no connection to Israel whatsoever, not even the color blue, and portrayed other pro-Israel organizations as anti-Israel. Before becoming Ambassador, I chanced to meet one J Street board member and asked him why he had joined. “I’m uncomfortable with the special relationship,” he told me. “I want to normalize U.S.-Israel ties.”

Outrageously, J Street members hosted Goldstone in Congress and lobbied  against sanctions on Iran. These actions were deeply deleterious to Israel’s security – “they endangered seven million Israelis,” I said –and made interacting with J Street virtually impossible. Both the Prime Minister [Netanyahu] and the foreign minister [Avigdor Liberman] vetoed my participation in its annual conference.

On the Obama White House relations with J Street p. 108

J Street… fashioned itself as the Administration’s wing in the American Jewish Community. Obama acknowledged that fact by sending his National Security Advisor [former Marine General] Jim Jones, one of Washington’s most powerful officials to greet the organization. “I’m honored to represent President Obama at the first national J Street conference.  And you can be sure that this administration will be represented at all other J Street conferences…” Obama’s newly appointed advisor on anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, an early J Street supporter, issued her first denunciation not of anti-Semites, but rather of me for boycotting the summit.

Michael Oren’s Ally might be considered a 21st Century version of Emile Zola’s J’accuse.  Oren , like Zola in the fin de siècle Dreyfus affair,  addresses the calumnies of President  Obama, nurtured  in Muslim Indonesia, creating daylight isolating Israeli PM Netanyahu over nuclear Iran and recognition of a Faux Palestinian State.  Daylight promised  to Obama’s  Chicago anti-Israel confreres, Rashid Khalidi, holder of the Edward Said Endowed Chair on Modern Arab Studies  at Columbia and Ali Abunimah , editor of The Electronic Intifada blog, that he wouldn’t forget them. Oren chronicles how Obama delivered on that promise.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of President Obama and former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, July 2009. Source: White House Photo

Is Kurdistan Rising?

In the Wall Street Journal Weekend edition, June 20-21, 2015, Yaroslav Trofimov writes of the possible rise of an independent Kurdistan, “The State of The Kurds”. An independent Kurdistan was promised by the WWI Allies in the Treaty of Sevres that ended the Ottoman Empire in 1920. That commitment was dashed by the rise of Turkish Republic under the secularist Kemal Atatürk confirmed in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne denying an independent Kurdistan in what is now Eastern Turkey. Combined a future Kurdistan encompassing eastern Turkey, Northern Syria, northwest Iran and northern Iraq might comprise a landlocked republic of 30 million with significant energy and agricultural resources. The rise of Kurdistan is reflected in these comments in the Trofimov WSJ review article:

Selahattin Demirtas, Chairman of the HDP party in Turkey:

The Kurds’ existence was not recognized; they were hidden behind a veil. But now, after being invisible for a century, they are taking their place on the international stage. Today, international powers can no longer resolve any issue in the Middle East without taking into account the interests of the Kurds.

Tahir Elçi, a prominent Kurdish lawyer and chairman of the bar in Diyarbakir, Turkey:

In the past, when the Kurds sought self-rule, the Turks, the Persians and the Arabs were all united against it. Today that’s not true anymore—it’s not possible for the Shiite government in Iraq and Shiite Iran to work together against the Kurds with the Sunni Turkey and the Sunni ISIS. In this environment, the Kurds have become a political and a military power in the Middle East.

Elçi, amplifies a concern that Sherkoh Abbas, leader of the Kurdish National Syria Assembly (KURDNAS) has expressed in several NER interviews an articles with him:

The PKK has made important steps to adopt more democratic ways. But you cannot find the same climate of political diversity in [Kurdish] Syria as you find in [northern Iraq], and this is because of PKK’s authoritarian and Marxist background. This is a big problem.

As effective as the KRG government and peshmerga have been in pushing back at ISIS forces threatening the capital of Erbil, the real problem is the divisiveness in the political leadership. That is reflected in the comment of  Erbil province’s governor, Nawaf Hadi cited by Trofimov:

For 80 years, the Arab Sunni people led Iraq—and they destroyed Kurdistan. Now we’ve been for 10 years with the Shiite people [dominant in Baghdad], and they’ve cut the funding and the salaries—how can we count on them as our partner in Iraq?” All the facts on the ground encourage the Kurds to be independent.

That renewed prospect reflects the constellation of  events in Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

The fall of the AKP government in the Turkish Election of June 7, 2015

There was  the  stunning  defeat of the 13 year reign of  the Islamist AKP headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by the trio of secular, nationalist and upstart Kurdish parties, the CHP, HNP and HDP that might form a minority ruling coalition 45 days from the June 7, 2014 parliamentary elections. These minority parties garnered a plurality of 299 seats in the Ankara Parliament.  That is if these parties can coalesce. If not Islamist figurehead President Erdogan seek new elections if they can’t put together a new ruling government.  A Washington, D.C. forum on what the results of the Turkish  election convened by the Foundation for Defense  of Democracies (FDD) forum presented nuanced views. Watch this C-Span video of the FDD forum.

FDD Senior Counselor John Hannah moderated the discussion with former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and FDD Senior Advisor  former US Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman and FDD Non-Resident Fellow and former member of Turkish parliament Ayman Erdemir.

John Hannah

June 7 in my opinion was an inspiring performance, a much needed triumph of the spirit of liberal democracy in a Middle East landscape currently inundated with way too much bad news.

For those of us who have watched over the past decade with great dismay the slow drip of Turkey’s democracy being drained away by Erdogan’s creeping Islamism and authoritarianism, we frankly weren’t sure anymore if the Turkish people had this kind of an election in them.

Aykan Erdemir

My take-home message would be that we should not read these elections too much with a progressive, liberal-democratic interpretation. But we should not underemphasize the importance of it either, because ultimately June 7 proved to us that there could be a return from competitive authoritarianism, where an incumbent with huge advantages nevertheless can suffer a relative defeat in the ballot box.

I have always argued that Erdogan’s policies and politics cannot be interpreted within the nation-state borders. Erdogan’s policies right from the start have been transnational; it has always been a Muslim Brotherhood-oriented policy, whether in Syria, Jordan, or Egypt. He is a visionary transnationalist politician.”

Ambassador Edelman

Turkey is a deeply polarized society, and the bad news there is that the AKP is the only party that is competitive across the nation.

Erdogan will not see this vote in any way as inhibiting him in creating an executive presidency. …My suspicion is that Erdogan does not want to see a government formed within the 45-day period set by the constitution and would like to see the country go back to elections. He thinks that if he could apply the ‘keep voting until I get the right answer’ standard, there is a chance he will do better in a second election, get at least a governing majority if not the super-majority.

Dr. Harold Rhode, former Turkish and Islamic Affairs expert in the Office of the Secretary of Defense held a more optimistic view cited in a JNS.org article on the Turkish Elections, “noting that he personally knows pro-American and pro-Israel officials “within the senior leadership of all three of the [non-AKP] parties.”

Syrian YPG Fighters capture Tal Abyad  Reuters

Syrian YPG fighters capture Tal-Abyad from ISIS, June 2015. Source: Reuters.

Syrian Kurdish YPG victory at strategic border town of  Tal-Abyad

The second development was the victory by Syrian Kurdish PYG fighters , Christian Assyrian and secular  FSA militias  wresting the strategic border gateway of Tal-Abyad  from  ISIS with support from  US coalition air strikes. This followed the  January 2015 victory in  the siege at the border  city of Kobani. The Syrian PYG, affiliated with the Turkish PKK, a  terrorist group designated by  Turkey, EU and the US, whose leader Abdullah Ocalan is under house arrest in Turkey,  has been assisted  by fighting units of the Iraqi Peshmerga from the adjacent Kurdish Regional Government  (KRG)in northern Iraq.  The third development was the KRG Peshmerga wresting   control  of Kirkuk and its vast  oil field. Kirkuk, as Trofimov noted  is considered  the “Kurdish Jerusalem” .  Not to be outdone by Kurdish compatriots in Syria and Iraq, in mid-May 2015, Iranian Kurdish  Party of Free Life in Kurdistan ( PJAK)  forces in northwestern Iran’s Zagros mountain  fought  Iranian security forces in Mahabad.  Mahabad  was the capital of the short-lived State of Republic  Kurdistan established with Soviet Russian support in  Iran in 1945- 1946.

KRG Delegation meets with resident Obama VO Biden and National Security Council May 2015

Kurdish President Barzani and KRG delegation meet President Obama and VP Biden May 2015.

KRG Meets with President to Free up Arms Deliveries

The KRG quest for independence has been stymied by the Baghdad government of PM Haidar al-Abadi.  The Baghdad  government has not lived up to its agreement reached in December 2014 to provide regular payments to the KRG amounting  to nearly $5.7 billion in exchange for selling 550,000 barrels of oil. The result has been that KRG government  and the 160,000 Peshmerga force have not been paid in months.  More troubling has been the current agreements between the Obama Administration  and  the al-Abadi government for allocation and deliveries of heavy weapons that have not found their way to the highly effective Peshmerga fighting force. This is especially galling given the thousands of Humvees, mobile artillery, anti-tank, main battle tanks and MRAP vehicles abandoned by fleeing Iraqi national security forces in the conquest of Mosul in June 2014 and Ramadi in late May.

A  meeting occurred in Washington in early May 2015 with  KRG President Barzani and senior officials with President Obama, Vice President Biden and members of the National  Security Staff seeking resolution of this impasse.   Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near Policy wrote about this in a May 15, 2015 Al Jazeera, article, “A big win for Kurds at the White House”:

From May 3-8, 2015, Washington D.C. hosted a high-powered delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). KRG President Massoud Barzani was flanked by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, National Security Chancellor Masrour Barzani and Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Mustapha Sayyid Qadr, among other KRG ministers and officials.  [The delegation was originally scheduled for a five minute meeting with President Obama, instead the session lasted an hour].

In particular, the Kurds complained that Washington has allocated too small a proportion of its $1.6bn Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) assistance to Kurdistan.

Slow and indirect delivery of US weapons systems is a connected concern. Washington has chosen to funnel most weapons shipments via the federal Iraqi Ministry of Defense, the only entity entitled by US law to sign end-user certificates (EUCs) for the weapons.

[…]In reaction to these views, the House Armed Services Committee of the US Congress introduced clauses into the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Pentagon’s budget, in an attempt to protect the Kurds’ fair share of US weapons.

The draft NDAA for Fiscal Year 2016 was amended by congress to include a clause (Section 1223) that named the Peshmerga as one of a number of security forces collectively entitled to “not less than 25 percent” of the annual $715m of US support.

Most controversially the amendment would allow the KRG “as a country” to “directly receive assistance from the United States” if Baghdad failed to meet the aforementioned condition, a clause that sparked security threats from Shia militia leaders against US trainers in Iraq.

Baghdad protested the language, and US Vice President Joe Biden signaled one day before the Kurdish delegation landed that “all US military assistance in the fight against [ISIL] comes at the request of the Government of Iraq and must be coordinated through the Government of Iraq”.

[…]

Instead of trying to force the White House to do Kurdistan’s bidding through pressure politics, Barzani seems to have adopted a longer-term view in his dealings with the US on defense.

Section 1223 did not give the Kurds a great deal – sharing a quarter of US material collectively with Sunni Arab paramilitary recipients – but it would have soured relations with the Obama administration at a critical time.

Israeli Support for an Independent Kurdistan

One  Middle East nation that  supports an independent Kurdistan  is Israel . As exemplified by comments from  Israeli Prime Minister  Netanyahu, Israel supports the creation of an independent Kurdistan in  Iraq.  There is a long connection between the Kurds and the Jewish nation. There is  an estimated 150,000 Kurdish Jewish  population in Israel that has fostered  cultural –linguistic exchanges with Iraqi Kurdistan.  Iraqi and Iranian kurds smuggled Iraqi Jews to freedom via Iran, during the days of the late Shah, to Israel and the West.  Iranian Kurds continued that effort despite  the Islamic republic facilitating the departure of Iranian Jews  via Turkey to reach  Israel.  From the 1950’s to the mid-70’s Israel provided covert military training and  equipment  to Iraqi Kurds  against the Ba’athist regime of the late Saddam Hussein.  That ended with a treaty between the late Shah of Iran and Hussein orchestrated by Henry Kissinger in 1975.  During the 1980’s Hussein took his revenge on Iraqi kurds during the  Iran-Iraq War  in a series of genocidal revenge campaigns including a massive gas attack that killed thousands decimating Kurdish villages.   Israel currently hosts the huge U.S. War Reserve Stock for use in Middle East conflicts. Perhaps, the Obama Administration might relent on the current agreements with the Baghdad government and permit transfers from the US War Reserve Stock   in Israel of much needed weapons, equipment and munitions to the Peshmerga in Iraq and the Syrian Kurdish militias fighting ISIS.  Israel is less than several hundred miles from Erbil.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of supporters cheering Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, in Istanbul, Turkey, in May, 2015. Source: Emrah Gurel/AP.

Alleged Israeli Cyber Spying on Iran Talks?

Outgoing Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey made his last visit to Tel Aviv to meet with IDF counterparts. Ostensibly this trip by outgoing JCS chief Dempsey was to assure the IDF that the U.S. would live up to its pledge to maintain the Qualitative Military Edge superiority of the IDF in the Middle East.  This was about Israeli concerns raised over advanced weapons systems like the F-35 being offered to Gulf Cooperation Council, notably Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is caught between Iran’s hegemony over four Arab capitals, the threats of ISIS infiltrating the Kingdom perpetrating suicide bombings and the current conflict against Iranian trained Houthi rebels in Yemen. Somehow we are lent the impression that he may have been there to  promote  the benefits of a  looming  P5+1 deal against a nuclear Iran, trusting that any deal with Islamist Iran threatening to wipe Israel off the map of the word  wouldn’t interfere with the long coveted exchange of intelligence  and cyber-security information between the two allies.

Kaspersky labs Reuters-Serhgei Karpukhirt

Kaspersky Labs Moscow-based cyber security firm. Source: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

That impression was dispelled by news from Moscow-based Kaspersky Laboratories, a premier cyber security firm detecting a new malware, called Duqu Bet, named after the second alphabet in the Hebrew alphabet alleging possible Israeli development of a powerful cyber spy software system.  A Wall Street Journal report suggested that Duqu Bet was allegedly targeting posh hotels used for private U.S. Iranian negotiations in Switzerland and Austria. In a February 2015 Iconoclast post we noted Duqu 1.0 as a key component in the Equation group discovered by cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs based in Russia:

The Equation Group according to Kaspersky has a powerful and  geographically distributed network  covering more than 300 web domains  involving over 100 servers located in the U.S., UK, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Panama, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Colombia and the Czech Republic.  Since 2001, it has infected tens of thousands of “high profile victims” in over 30 countries. Examples include: “Government and diplomatic institutions, Telecommunications, Aerospace, Energy, Nuclear research, Oil and Gas, Military, Nanotechnology, Islamic activists and scholars, Mass media, Transportation, Financial institutions and companies developing encryption technologies.”

 Business Insider noted the hypocrisy of Kaspersky disclosing this latest alleged Israeli Malware:

“The use of Duqu by Israel against Iran is not the question we should be asking,” Jeff Bardin, chief intelligence officer of Treadstone 71, told Business Insider. “The question should be why Kaspersky only finds code of this type by nation-states it does not consider friendly to Russia or those aligned to the West.” Is it because there is no code of this type [Duqu] coming out of Russia?” Bardin asks, “Or is it because disclosing code of this type that is Russian made and in use against target nation-states would place Eugene Kaspersky at risk of countering his country’s cyber espionage efforts and, at risk of incurring the wrath of Putin?”

The firm’s billionaire founder and CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, used to work for the KGB and reportedly maintains relationships with former and current Russian intelligence officials.

“Kaspersky releases this information as a political tool,” Bardin said. “The absence of any photos of Kaspersky with Putin on the internet is itself evidence of direct alignment. Can you be a billionaire in Russia today without the direct scrutiny of Vladimir Putin?”

Bloomberg analysis of Kaspersky’s work generally supports Bardin’s suspicions: “While Kaspersky Lab has published a series of reports that examined alleged electronic espionage by the U.S., Israel, and the U.K., the company hasn’t pursued alleged Russian operations with the same vigor

Gav-Yam Technology Center source WSJDoubtless the Israeli military and national security echelons harrumphed about U.S. cyber security expertise given Chinese and Russian hacking of U.S. government and White House files. The Wall Street Journal reported Israel building a $5.9 billion cyber communication security complex near Beersheba in the Negev to house military high tech echelons including the fabled Unit 8200. That has attracted U.S. high tech and defense firms like EMC, Oracle and Lockheed Martin to build facilities in the planned development.

 The Pentagon recently announced “restocking” of supplies of tens of thousands of rockets, missiles, and quantities of ammunition held back at White House request during last summer’s Operation Defense Edge.  That may not include so-called  bunker busters or the Boeing developed CHAMP non-nuclear EMP cruise missile capable of   destroying computers  and communication nets  of Iran’s nuclear  program  without loss of life.  The Pentagon promoted this latest offering as an increase of weapons under the $1.8 billion military grant.

However, Dempsey’s leave taking and his successor, Marine General Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. arrival under  Pentagon civilian chief, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter may have a different agenda.  With 18 months left in the President’s second term and a possible diplomatic deal with Iran over its nuclear program releasing tens of billions of funds, Israel is clearly concerned. Concerned that Iran may already have achieved a nuclear threshold and been given funds to support state terrorism enabling delivery of more weapons to proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.  Hezbollah’s Sheik Nasrallah threatened  “displacement of Millions of Israelis” in any future conflict with Israel raining down hundreds of thousands of Iranian supplied rockets and missiles on the Jewish nation.

Meanwhile, the alleged solid intelligence and security alliance between the U.S. and Israel appears tattered, awaiting a successor to President Obama in January 2017 who may return the previously productive relationship to solid footing.

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

Coming to America: Asylum Seekers from Cuba, Africa and South Asia

Our June NER article, Trojan Horse Federal Refugee Program Brings Jihadi Threat to America: An Interview with Ann Corcoran noted the increasing numbers of illegal migrants making global treks by air and water to Latin America and the trek north to the U.S. border for asylum. They sought this difficult passage for a variety of reasons; but really one, “to seek a better life”.  Although there may be some among the 3,400 who have undertaken this dangerous long distance passage who may have other reasons in mind. Coincidentally, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Weekend Edition had a front page article, focusing on the passage through the Darien jungle of Panama, “Panama’s Perilous Jungle Is a New Route for Migrants”.  There are  also costly water passages by human traffickers that avoid the Darien jungle equivalent to those we have written about in the Mediterranean.  However, ike the experience of illegal migrants fleeing Syria, Sub Sahara Africa endeavoring to reach the EU via Libya and other crossing points they may be robbed and murdered by ‘coyotes,’ human traffickers.

 Among those interviewed in the WSJ article were illegal migrants from Guinea, Somalia, Pakistan and Cuba.  Note that common thread is escape from Jihadis, Sharia arranged marriages or tyranny, as in the case of Cuban refugees in this group.  What is also not lost is that all  illegal migrants have prior knowledge, that if they survive the trek north and illegally cross the U.S. southern border, they can present themselves as asylum seekers.  Because of U.S. asylum privileges for Cuban border crossers, they will likely not be detained but released to possible relatives. In other cases, as we have seen, they will  be transported to a DHS Immigration Customs Enforcement Detention Center, to await  a hearing before a Justice Department, Executive Office for Immigration Review,  immigration judge. Before him they will invoke the important words, ‘fear of physical or political threats’ before a quick decision is gaveled down admitting them as a refugee. They will then obtain benefits under the Refugee Act of 1980, including community placement, unless they can claim relatives here in the U.S.  The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program then takes over providing a smorgasbord of welfare, Medicaid, housing assistance and a pathway to ultimate citizenship. All without any reasonable means of screening asylees as documentation may be absent or virtually unavailable from their country of origin.

Watch this WSJ video:

Note these WSJ article excerpts.

A Somali:

Ahmed Hassan staggered through dense Panamanian jungle, crazy with thirst, his rubber sandals sliding in the mud, fearing he would die thousands of miles from his homeland in Somalia.

“I told my family I would go to the U.S., that was the plan,” said the 26-year-old truck driver, who said he fled late last year when al-Shabaab militants took his village. He flew to Brazil and made a cross-continental bus trip to Colombia.

In March came his biggest test: crossing the Darien Gap that connects South America with Panama and Mr. Hassan’s ultimate goal, the U.S.

“There was no water. There were snakes,” he said in a small holding center in Metetí, north of the jungle, gashes and bites covering his legs under his traditional sarong. “I thought I might die in that jungle.”

A Guinean:

There is still the journey through Central America and Mexico, but migrants say the Darien is the hardest. “I want to get to the U.S.,” said Hawa Bah, 20, who fled Guinea in West Africa. She spoke as she lay weak on a cot in a Panamanian holding center after getting lost in the Darien for more than 10 days.

“I was being forced into marriage, and I was worried about Ebola,” she said. “I’d rather have died in the jungle than go back.”

A Cuban Couple:

Yamil Gonzales, a Cuban, staggered up an incline above the beach, wheezing. “Agua,” murmured Mr. Gonzales, 45, collapsing against a tree as companions frantically dug through black garbage bags for water.

Soon, he was plowing through underbrush littered with bottles and broken sandals left by prior processions.

“It’s been hard, really hard,” said his wife, Yalile Alfonso, 47. “But in Cuba, there’s nothing. We had to come this way.” The couple was well-prepared, with passports, detailed plans to take buses to the U.S. border and knowledge of U.S. asylum laws.

A Pakistani:

But unlike the jungle route, this approach is close to Colombia, so border authorities can easily deport migrants without passports. That was Mohammed Khan’s fate. A father of four from Swat, a Pakistani area plagued by Taliban violence, he had landed with Mr. Gonzales. Months before, people of his village had pitched in $7,000 for his trip, he said.

A small pack on his back, Mr. Khan, 38, looked elated as he scrambled down the slope toward the tiny town of La Miel. People had told him Panama police would be hospitable.

But he had dumped his passport much earlier. The border authorities shook their heads as he pleaded: “Please, please, help me.” They marched him back up the mountain to Colombia.

Early this month, Mr. Khan texted that he re-entered Panama via the jungle, where he had seen “a lot dead.” He was in Guatemala, waiting to head north.

“Go USA,” he texted. “Plz pray.”

Note the open pathway to the U.S. once access to Panama is obtained:

Critics like Otto Reich, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, have said Ecuador’s open-door stance may result in a threat to the U.S. And Panamanian officials “know they are coming to the U.S. and then once here they will no longer be Panama’s problem,” said Mr. Reich, who heads a government-relations and trade-consulting firm.

Javier Carillo, director of Panama’s National Migration Service, says it is unfair to blame Panama for the problem, since migrants arrive illegally and pass through some nine other countries on their way to the U.S. A spokesman for Colombia’s immigration authority said it combats human smuggling and offers migrants the opportunity to apply for asylum or safe-conduct papers.

Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “is not aware of this human trafficking route.” Officials at Ecuador’s immigration authority didn’t respond to requests for comment. Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry has said the country doesn’t support criminal activity.

Cubans, who say crossing the Florida Straits has become too tough, are the biggest group flowing across and around the isthmus. Others from far-off countries are also arriving in growing numbers: Panama processed 210 Somalis crossing the Darien this year through March, up from 60 in the year-earlier period.

Where have we heard about the Darien Gap in what is now Panama?  Think of the brief Scottish colony of “Caledonia” established in the 1690 in the Gulf of Darien, that was supposed to conduct trade in both the Atlantic and Pacific. The so-called “Darien Scheme” failed for a host of reasons including poor planning, provisions and being ravaged by epidemics until the colony was overrun by Spanish military in 1700. Because it was backed by upwards of 50 percent of currency in circulation in Scotland, its failure ultimately forced the merger that created the United Kingdom in 1707.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

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.

Dissected: President Obama’s Anti-Israelism

This past Memorial Day Weekend Jews observed  the Festival of  Shavuot (spring harvest festival) celebrating the giving of the law by Moses (Moshe rabbenu “Moses our teacher”) to the assembly of ancient Hebrews and others in the exodus multitude gathered under the mountain. Just prior to Shavuot President Obama gave his ‘drash’ (commentary) on relationships with Israel its existential enemies and the Jewish people in two pre-holiday events. The first was his interview with Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg on Israel, ISIS and Iran while the second was his appearance last Friday morning at Washington Conservative synagogue, Adas Israel  Congregation ,where  he spoke to a  gathering 1,200 progressive Jews, including Goldberg. He suggested in his synagogue remarks that some in the progressive American Jewish community consider him perhaps the first “Jewish President”. That would likely support the opinion of Obama by redoubtable NER colleague, Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein, noted theologian, scholar and author of Jihad and Genocide and other  noted  post Holocaust works. Rubenstein took the measure of Obama early on in our June 2010 NER interview posted on YouTube calling Obama, “the most radical President ever”. Watch it here.

Both Vic Rosenthal’s Abu Yehuda  blog post, “For Obama it’s a Moral Crusade” and Brett Stephens’ Tuesday Wall Street Journal column, “The Rational Ayatollah Hypothesis” suggest that the President’s comments sinuously convey anti-Israelism.

Rosenthal gives the following evidence:

Some of the reasons I and others find Obama anti-Israel are these:

  1. His stubborn attempts to force Israel into a suicidal agreement with the Palestinians.
  2. His acceptance (regardless of his words) of a nuclear-armed Iran, and his efforts to stop Israel from acting against it.
  3. His open contempt for our Prime Minister.
  4. His taking the Turkish president’s side in the Mavi Marmara affair, and forcing PM Netanyahu to apologize to the Turks.
  5. His acceptance of Hamas claims that the IDF acted ‘disproportionally’ in Gaza (as shown by his demand for an immediate cease-fire and imposition of an arms embargo during the recent war).
  6. The aforementioned leaks about Israeli actions in Syria and elsewhere.
  7. His acceptance of the anti-Israel narrative that Israel’s right to exist rests on the Holocaust and that it must be balanced against the rights of the ‘deserving’ Palestinians (as expressed in his 2009 Cairo speech).
  8. His attempts to interfere in Israeli politics, including trying to defeat Netanyahu at the polls. It’s ironic that American money was used to help get out the presumably anti-Netanyahu Arab vote — and then Obama bitterly criticized Netanyahu for telling his supporters that they should get out and vote because the Arabs were!
  9. The double standard he displays: compare his condemnation of the PM for his election-day remark with his lack of response to the daily barrage of Israel-hatred and veneration of terrorists coming from the official Palestinian media. Or look at his expressed concern for Palestinians suffering the indignities of checkpoints against his failure to mention the almost daily Jewish victims of Palestinian terrorism.

I could go on, but this should be enough to show that the belief that Obama is anti-Israel is substantive, not simply a political reflex as he suggests.

Stephens provides additional evidence:

Can there be a rational, negotiable, relatively reasonable bigot? Barack Obama thinks so.

So we learn from the president’s interview last week with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg—the same interview in which Mr. Obama called Islamic State’s capture of Ramadi a “tactical setback.” Mr. Goldberg asked the president to reconcile his view of an Iranian regime steeped in “venomous anti-Semitism” with his claims that the same regime “is practical, and is responsive to incentive, and shows signs of rationality.”

The president didn’t miss a beat. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s strategic objectives, he said, were not dictated by prejudice alone. Sure, the Iranians could make irrational decisions “with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool.” They might also pursue hate-based policies “where the costs are low.” But the regime has larger goals: “maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their country,” and getting “out of the deep economic rut that we’ve put them in.”

Also, Mr. Obama reminded Mr. Goldberg, “there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country,” to say nothing of Europe. If the president can forgive us our trespasses, he can forgive the aAatollah’s, too.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a man with an undergraduate’s enthusiasm for moral equivalency (Islamic State now, the Crusades and Inquisition then) would have sophomoric ideas about the nature and history of anti-Semitism. So let’s recall some basic facts.

Iran has no border, and no territorial dispute, with Israel. The two countries have a common enemy in Islamic State and other radical Sunni groups. Historically and religiously, Jews have always felt a special debt to Persia. Tehran and Jerusalem were de facto allies until 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and 100,000 Jews still lived in Iran. Today, no more than 10,000 Jews are left.

So on the basis of what self-interest does Iran arm and subsidize Hamas, probably devoting more than $1 billion of (scarce) dollars to the effort? What’s the economic rationale for hosting conferences of Holocaust deniers in Tehran, thereby gratuitously damaging ties to otherwise eager economic partners such as Germany and France? What was the political logic to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls to wipe Israel off the map, which made it so much easier for the U.S. and Europe to impose sanctions? How does the regime shore up its domestic legitimacy by preaching a state ideology that makes the country a global pariah?

Rosenthal concluded his column:

Obama does not actually love Israel. Possibly he loves some kind of idealized version of Israel, in which Israelis behave like good Christians, turning the other cheek at terrorism and “taking risks” to the point of sainthood. Of course, such an Israel wouldn’t last two weeks in this Middle East.

What he does seem to believe is that the Palestinian Arabs, like American blacks, are denied civil rights. He believes that this is due to the racism of the Israeli government and Prime Minister; that this is a special case of Western colonialism a la Edward Said; and that Barack Obama ought to use his power to right this ‘wrong’.

For Obama, like Said, the Palestinian Cause is a moral crusade.

Stephens ended his column:

Whether the Ayatollah Khamenei gets to act on his wishes, as Eichmann did, is another question. Mr. Obama thinks he won’t, because the ayatollah only pursues his Jew-hating hobby “at the margins,” as he told Mr. Goldberg, where it isn’t at the expense of his “self-interest.” Does it occur to Mr. Obama that Mr. Khamenei might operate according to a different set of principles than political or economic self-interest? What if Mr. Khamenei believes that some things in life are, in fact, worth fighting for, the elimination of Zionism above all?

In November 2013 the president said at a fundraising event that he was “not a particularly ideological person.” Maybe Mr. Obama doesn’t understand the compelling power of ideology. Or maybe he doesn’t know himself. Either way, the tissue of assumptions on which his Iran diplomacy rests looks thinner all the time.

We will more to say about this in a forthcoming review in the NER of Manfred Gerstenfeld’s latest book on the subject of anti-Israelism as political warfare, A War of a Million Cuts.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of President Barack Obama and Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in Oval Office.

Obama Apologizes for Drone Strike in Pakistan that Killed U.S. and Italian Hostages

The Wall Street Journal reported the disclosure of a classified drone attack on an Al Qaeda compound in January that mistakenly killed an American hostage, Dr. Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker, Giovanni Lo Porto.  An Al Qaeda senior operative, Ahmed Farouq who held dual U.S. and Pakistan citizenship was the target of the attack in the controversial CIA covert operation. Dr. Weinstein had been held since 2011.  The WSJ noted the reactions of the President, Italian Premier Renzi and Weinstein’s widow:

The intelligence that underpinned the drone strike turned out to have been tragically incomplete, U.S. officials and lawmakers said Thursday.

The deaths prompted President Barack Obama, who has expanded and redefined the use of U.S. drones, to take full responsibility.

“I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the United States government I offer our deepest apologies to their families,” he said at the White House.

But Mr. Weinstein’s family expressed disillusionment at the U.S. and Pakistani approach to his capture and imprisonment by al Qaeda.

“We were so hopeful that those in the U.S. and Pakistani governments with the power to take action and secure his release would have done everything possible to do so, and there are no words to do justice to the disappointment and heartbreak we are going through,” said Elaine Weinstein, the American hostage’s widow.

Mr. Obama said he spoke with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Mr. Weinstein’s family.

Mr. Obama knew about the deaths of the hostages when he met with Mr. Renzi in Washington last Friday but Mr. Obama didn’t tell him, a senior administration official said. Mr. Obama wanted to first develop a plan for sharing the news with the families and the public, the official said.

Mr. Renzi on Thursday expressed “deepest condolences” to the Lo Porto family, as well to the family of Mr. Weinstein. The Italian foreign ministry’s crisis unit immediately contacted Mr. Lo Porto’s family after Mr. Obama’s call.

However, the CIA drone strike that mistakenly killed the two hostages met the rules of engagement:

It was the first known instance in which the Central Intelligence Agency killed hostages in a drone strike. The deaths were a major blow to the spy agency, which conducts the attacks largely behind a cloak of secrecy.

The CIA used rules of engagement that allow drone strikes against suspected militants even if the agency isn’t sure who they are.

The White House has launched a review of the strike to see if changes are needed to the program to avoid similar mistakes in the future. Officials said the program hasn’t been curtailed so far in response.

But Mr. Obama said the initial U.S. assessment of the strike shows it was fully consistent with the guidelines under which his administration conducts such counterterrorism operations.

The CIA launched the strike that killed the hostages under the broad authorities given to the agency to target suspected al Qaeda targets in Pakistan, senior Obama administration officials said. Mr. Obama didn’t directly sign off on the strike beforehand, they said.

JM Berger, author of Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the name of Islam writes about the demise of three American Al Qaeda operatives:  Adam Gadahn, Jewish convert to Salafist Islam who headed AQ Central Media operation, Samir Kahn who fled North Carolina to join American born AQAP leader, Anwar al Awlaki in Yemen to edit Inspire Magazine  and Omar Hammami, a Daphne, Alabama native, born of a Baptist mother and Syrian Muslim engineer father,  who became an Al Shabaab media star and commander.

The title of Berger’s Politico Magazine article, “Al Qaeda’s American Dream Ends”   is both a chronicle of the trio’s exploits and circumstances about their demise.  As we learned today, Gadahn was killed in a separate drone attack by the CIA covert program. Kahn was also killed in a drone strike in Yemen, as was American-born AQAP leader, Sheik Anwar al-Awlaki.  The two hostages, American development expert Dr. Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto were killed in a US Drone strike under murky circumstances in January 2015 along with AQ leader Ahmed Farouq who had dual US and Pakistani citizenship.  Farouq was allegedly head of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS)

President Obama apologized and took responsibility as Commander in Chief for the failure of the mission to secure the freedom of the hostages, although the decision was delegated to others in the clandestine drone program. The error is reflective of the lack of intelligence assets, a product of reliance on drones to attack AQ leaders under approved rules of engagement.

Hammami was killed in an ambush by Al Shabaab in 2013 because he became increasingly critical of the leadership. Both Gadahn and Khan, as Berger points out, provided a template for the slick graphic/ video production and social media campaigns run by ISIS. The title of Berger’s piece is somewhat misleading. While Gadahn, Kahn and Hammami were prominent American Jihadis, others, especially in the Muslim émigré communities in the US are taking their place as recruits for ISIS.  For AQ the American Dream may have ended. For ISIS it is only just beginning with few prospects for counterterrorism echelons in our government to create effective de-radicalization programs aimed at preventing these Americans from joining the thongs of tens of thousands from around the Muslim ummah to fight and die for the pure Islamic State. That is because the President refuses to recognize the attraction of Salafist Jihadist Islam at the core of Muslim terrorism.

Today’s revelations illustrate why the U.S. has lost credibility in relying only on drone strikes to degrade AQ leadership rather than coordinating it with verifiable intelligence from assets in the field.

We understand completely the grief and frustration of the Weinstein and Lo Porto families who criticized both the US and Pakistani governments for not securing the freedom of their late loved ones languishing for years as AQ hostages.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Dr. Warren Weinstein U.S. Development expert and Giovanni Lo Porto Italian aid worker killed in January 2015 by a U.S. drone attack. Source: AP and Facebook Page.

Minneapolis and San Diego: Six Somali Muslims arrested and indicted for Material Support of ISIS

When we reviewed Erick Stakelbeck’s latest book, ISIS Exposed we wrote:

Tens of thousands of young Muslims across the ummah from Minneapolis in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and even China have been drawn like bees to the holy beehive of the self-declared Caliphate which espouses Islamic purification through ethnic and religious cleansing.

Stakelbeck addressed an important question about why the large unassimilated Somali émigré community in Minneapolis has become the US hub for Al Qaeda and now ISIS recruitment. The shift of Somali émigré young men from traveling to Somali to join Al Shabaab to join ISIS occurred in the last two years facilitated by the ease of travel to Turkey to enter Syria and the attraction of building a Caliphate based on pure Islam.

Yesterday, six Somali émigré young men in their late teens and early 20’s  were arrested  and indicted by the U.S. Attorney in Minneapolis for material support for the Islamic State or ISIS. According to the WSJ report:

All six charged Monday had been arrested Sunday. Four appeared in federal court in St. Paul, Minn.—Adnan Farah, Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, Hanad Mustafe Musse and Guled Ali Omar—where the court appointed lawyers. Two others appeared in a San Diego court—Mr. Daud and Mohamed Abdihamid Farah—where they were arrested after driving from Minneapolis. They were ordered held pending a detention hearing this week.

 A seventh Abdi Nur is being separately charged as a recruiter as he successfully traveled to Syria to join and fight for ISIS. It is believed that  email exchanges and calls with the seventh  Somali  émigré young man from  Minneapolis Abdi Nur who successfully traveled  last May to Syria may have provided the evidence for the charges in the indictment of  material support for terrorism.  The FBI was able to connect Nur and two others indicted yesterday,  Daud and Yusuf, because of a police report of an accident involving the vehicle driven by Yusuf.

US Attorney for Minnesota Lugar at Press Conference Source Minneapolis Star Trubune

U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Andrew Luger announcing indictments of Somali émigrés. Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune

Last week we wrote about  Somali émigré Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud from the second largest Somali community in the U.S., Columbus, Ohio who was indicted on federal terrorist  charges following his return from Al Qaeda training in Syria..  Yesterday’s indictments announced by the US Attorney for Minneapolis capped a 10 month investigation.  The Wall Street Journal report on this latest development, illustrated the resourcefulness of those indicted.  Some used student loans to purchase airline tickets to travel to Turkey to enter Syria and join ISIS. The two detained in San Diego were caught trying to enter Mexico from which they intended to travel to Turkey and hence to Syria. Two had traveled by bus from Minneapolis only to be arrested at New York’s JFK Airport.

The WSJ reported the dynamics in this latest terror indictment involving Somali  émigré young men:

“The person radicalizing your son, your brother, your friend may not be a stranger. It may be their best friend right here in town,” Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said, calling the case an example of “peer to peer” terrorist recruiting.

The men, in their late teens and early 20s, faced barriers thrown up by authorities, their parents and others. They were finally ensnared in a security net that included an informant who turned on his former friends, a suspicious passport specialist and a car accident that helped investigators make a crucial link between the men.

The charges highlight what Mr. Luger called “a terror recruiting problem” in Minnesota. The state’s large Somali population has long been a focus of federal investigators targeting Islamic extremism and would-be foreign fighters in the U.S.

“It’s not a Somali problem, it’s not an immigrant problem. It is our problem. It is a Minnesota problem,” he said.

Three other alleged associates of the men, all of Somali descent, had been charged previously.

Watch this WSJ video interviewing one of the reporters, Andrew Goodman, discussing  the latest Somali Émigré ISIS –related indictments involving the Minneapolis community:

Stakelbeck posted these observations on these latest indictments of Somali émigré young men attempting to join ISIS :

Another day, another American arrested for attempting to join ISIS.

Make that six Americans–all young men of Somali descent in their late teens and early 20’s, and all hailing from Minneapolis–arrested by federal agents over the weekend for allegedly planning to travel to Syria and become soldiers in the Islamic State’s sadistic terror army.

This is just the latest in a disturbing series of foiled plots involving U.S. citizens looking to travel overseas to join ISIS, or stay at home and wage jihad on its behalf here on American soil.

Last week, I posted here about an Ohio man, also a Somali Muslim, who had trained in Syria with Islamic terrorists and then returned to the United States, reportedly with orders to carry out attacks on the homeland. His arrest followed similar recent terror-related busts in New YorkPhiladelphiaIllinois and Kansas. Now we have the Minnesota case.

Is anyone else noticing a pattern here? A few quick things to keep in mind:

  • The Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul are now officially Jihad Central in the United States. As I recount in my latest book “ISIS Exposed” dozens of Somali-Americans have left the Twin Cities in recent years to travel overseas and join terror groups like ISIS and the Al Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab–and some have even carried out suicide bombings. The jihad pipeline from Minnesota to hotspots like Syria and Somalia shows no signs of slowing down.
  • It may shock you to learn that up to 100,000 Somalis live in frosty Minnesota, a state which boasts the largest Somali population in North America. There are also significant Somali populations in Nashville, San Diego, Boston, Columbus, Ohio, Portland, Oregon and (of all places) Lewiston, Maine, thanks in large part to a taxpayer-funded refugee resettlement program run by the U.S. State Department (as explained in detail in Chapter Three of my 2011 book, “The Terrorist Next Door”).
  • I’ve spent a good amount of time on the ground in the Twin Cities’ Somali communities over the past few years reporting for CBN News on the growing jihadi recruitment problem there (watch my most recent reports here and here). My concern is that what we see developing among the Somalis of Minneapolis-St. Paul is similar to what has transpired in Western Europe, where unassimilated, self-segregating Muslim communities have become breeding grounds for Islamic radicalism.
  • Over the past year-and-a-half, the Somali terror group Al-Shabaab has carried out horrific attacks against a shopping mall and a university in Kenya (in both attacks, Christians were specifically targeted). Chillingly, Al-Shabaab has also called for attacks against the Mall of America outside Minneapolis–the largest shopping mall in the United States and a stone’s throw from the city’s Somali-Muslim communities.

Here’s a thought. Suppose the six Somali men who were arrested this weekend decided that, rather than travel to Syria, they’d simply stay put and wage jihad on U.S. soil, acting as what ISIS calls “City Wolves.”

Remember the chaos and carnage just ten men caused when they fanned out across Mumbai, India (the second largest city in the world) armed with assault rifles and bombs in November 2008?

Next Tuesday, April 28th, Stakelbeck will be interviewed by Mike Bates of 1330 AM WEBY Northwest Florida Talk Radio and this writer  on “Your Turn” about  his book, ISIS Exposed and these latest developments  arising from “Jihad Central” in Minneapolis.

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

Who Profits from the Deadly Illegal Migrant Trafficking Trade Across the Mediterranean?

Smugglers Net for Illegal Migrant Trade

For a larger view click on the map.

Yesterday, we drew attention to the massive surge in the deadly illegal migrant trade across the Mediterranean that figured in an emergency meeting of EU Foreign ministers in Luxembourg. The loss of over 1,000 in two separate trafficking ship disasters last week  spurred on deliberations requested by Italian President Renzi and Maltese PM Muscat. Today charges were brought in Italian courts against the 27-year old Tunisian captain and 25-year old Syrian mate of the 66 foot fishing boat that capsized off Libya with a loss of upwards of 900 crammed into the flimsy vessel.  NBC news reported:

The Tunisian captain of the boat — 27-year-old Mohammed Ali Malek — was arrested along with a Syrian crew member, 25-year-old Mahmud Bikhit.

Sicilian prosecutors said Tuesday that Malek has been charged with culpable shipwreck, manslaughter and aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Bikhit has been charged with aiding and abetting illegal immigration, the statement from Catania’s prosecutors said.

The question is who benefits from this deadly smuggling business?

The answer is the jihadists in Libya who  have profited from the turmoil in the  region. A Wall Street Journal report revealed how profitable the business of  trafficking  illegal migrants  is worth taking the risks involved as deadly as the results have been to their customers seeking refuge in the EU,. The bottom line of the  WSJ report: “Brazen, multi-million-dollar people-smuggling enterprise run by Libyan militias and tribesmen proves hard to combat.”

The WSJ wrote:

Various armed groups in Libya are aggressively advertising their services to would-be migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and Syrians fleeing conflict in their country, presenting the collapse of order in Libya as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure safe passage to Europe, says Arezo Malakooti, the director of migration research for Paris-based Altai Consulting, a consultancy that works with the International Organization for Migration and other migration-related groups.

“The profits from human trafficking have consolidated a new balance of power in the Sahel and Libya,” says Tuesday Reitano, head of the Geneva-based Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

How a Saharan tribe profits:

The Saharan Tebu tribe, for instance, is now making “a killing,” according to Ms. Reitano, who estimates the tribe pockets some $60,000 a week by charging West African migrants for a seat on four-wheel-drive cars that take them to Agadez, a major city in Niger. From there, they ferry the migrants to the central Libyan city of Sabha and then proceed to northern Libya ahead of their sea journey to Italy and Malta.

The profits are such that tribes normally at war cooperate at times in getting migrants from one place to the next.

[…]

Mustapha Orghan, an activist who has worked with aid groups to track  smuggler operations said:

Tebu and Tuaregs used to smuggle goods. The new alternative is human trafficking…and now both Tuaregs and Tebu are trying to get their share of the cake.”

Mr. Orghan said Ghat, a southern Libyan town near the Algerian border where he lives, is the first entry point from Algeria for Africans. There, he said, “African migrants get sold from one smuggler to another.”

He said the trafficking business has become increasingly lucrative since chaos in Libya sharply reduced traditional sources of income in the region: heavily subsidized oil, food and other goods from Algeria.

“Farming” migrants to make profits:

In Sabha, African men typically spend months working as laborers, and women as housemaids, to earn the roughly $1,000 to pay for the crossing from Libya’s northern coast. If there is no demand for their services in Sabha, smugglers farm them out to cities further north and west for approximately 700 Libyan dinar, or about $500.

Discrimination among “customers” leads to  deadly trips:

Ismail, an African migrant who declined to give his full name and nationality, tried to cross three times in recent weeks but was thwarted by overcrowding and breakdowns of the cheap plastic boat of the sort usually provided for Africans. Syrians, who can often pay more and aren’t discriminated against by the overwhelmingly Arab smugglers, typically make the crossing in sturdier wooden boats.

The EU  according Frontex agency has arrested 10,000 involved in the illegal migrant trade, mainly truck drivers and many migrants involved in navigating the flimsy crafts.  Italian authorities have arrested `1,000 smugglers since 2014. However of these, less than 100 have been convicted. They simply lack the resources in contending with the mushrooming human trafficking business as Libya devolves into a failed state.

Watch this WSJ video dramatizing the journey of an Eritrean illegal migrant across Africa to Libya and his perilous transit via smugglers to his ultimate destination in the Italian island of Lampedusa:

Yesterday’s EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg may have surfaced calls for safe and secure channels to reduce the deadly toll of illegal migrants, but going after the lucrative smuggling trafficking business at its source means contending with warring militias and the criminal activities of tribal groups in Libya.  Note this ironic comment from the UN Human Rights Commission head:

“Europe is turning its back on some of the most vulnerable migrants in the world, and risk turning the Mediterranean into a vast cemetery,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein Monday. “Migrant smugglers are the symptom, not the cause of this wretched situation.”

Jihad conflicts in the Middle East and Africa are driving hundreds of thousands annually in desperation to pay top dollar for  a deadly ride on those rickety boats whose owners cop big time profits. Nature abhors a vacuum when chaos creates rich opportunities to rake in enormous wealth from trafficking  illegal migrants. As we saw yesterday, the successful smugglers even alert EU officials that they are bringing another shipload of hapless migrants to fatten their margins from this deadly trade. How the EU and the Union for the Mediterranean deal with problem of illegal mass immigration will surely be daunting costing billions of Euros. In the meantime, Italian and other EU coast guards continue to provide  a picket line of vessels  daily monitoring these dangerous trips in  flimsy craft across the Mediterranean from the failed state of Libya.

Stay tuned for developments.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of the Captain and first mate of capsized illegal migrant vessel Mohammed Ali Malek, left, and Mahmud Bikhit. Source: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

Ohio Somali Muslim Émigré indicted on Terrorist Charges

Various news stories reported the transfer into federal custody  in Columbus, Ohio yesterday of 23 year old Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud indicted for allegedly traveling to receive Al Qaeda training in Syria, returning to plan a possible attack on a military installation in Texas. Eric Stakelbeck, whose latest book ISIS Exposed targeted the Somali émigré community of over 100,000 in the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis–St. Paul as the hub for Al Qaeda and now ISIS recruitment. Columbus, Ohio is the second largest Somali émigré community in America with over 40,000 to upwards of 80,000.

Noted Counter terrorism analyst, Patrick Poole has monitored radical elements in the Columbus Somali émigré community for nearly a decade including alleged recruitment for Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab.  This indictment of Mohamud  is reflective of deep problems arising from a virtually UN controlled U.S. Refugee Program subsidizing the growth of a population in this country that reject American values and laws and are  prone to recruitment as Jihadis by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The Wall Street Journal reported:

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, 23 years old, allegedly trained with extremists in Syria last year as part of that country’s civil war before receiving instructions to attack police officers or military targets in the U.S., according to an indictment released Thursday. No such attack appears to have taken place.

The case stands out among recent charges against Americans accused of trying to join Islamic State or other extremist groups because the Justice Department says Mr. Mohamud actually got to Syria and received training in explosives, weapons and hand-to-hand combat.

Defendants in nearly all the other cases were arrested at U.S. airports as they attempted to leave the country. In many of them, the terrorist recruiter they thought they were working with was an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent.

In February of last year, Mr. Mohamud, who is a native of Somalia, obtained his U.S. citizenship, the indictment says. A week later, he sent in an application for a passport. Then, in April of 2014, Mr. Mohamud bought a one-way plane ticket to Athens, with a layover in Istanbul. But, according to the indictment, he never got on the flight to Greece. Instead, he allegedly met up with men who took him to Syria.

Mr. Mohamud was arrested in February of this year on state terrorism charges and held by Ohio authorities. Before he was indicted on federal charges, he tried to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors, but those talks fell apart, said people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Mohamud was being transferred to federal custody Thursday. He faces one charge of providing material support to terrorists, another of providing material support to the al Qaeda affiliate known as Nusra Front, and a third of lying to federal agents. Each charge carries up to 15 years in prison.

The WSJ noted the family terrorist tradition:

The man who helped Mr. Mohamud get to Syria was allegedly an actual fighter—his brother, Abdifatah Aden Mohamud, according to the indictment. In late 2013 and early 2014, Abdirahman allegedly exchanged messages with his brother in which he said he was proud of him and they plotted about how Abdirahman could join him in Syria. In one message, Abdirahman told his brother that firing a rifle brought one closer to heaven.

Mr. Mohamud also posted messages on Facebook before he allegedly left the U.S. In one, according to the indictment, he said, “We will never lose to these pagan Alawites,” an apparent reference to the Alawite sect of Islam to which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad belongs. In another, he posted an image of a soldier with the Islamic State logo and the words, “Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah.”

The indictment quotes from online conversations between the two men who transported Mr. Mohamud to Syria from Turkey. One said that Mr. Mohamud had gone to the al Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front, but had wanted to join Islamic State.

How social media entrapped Mohamud:

Once in Syria, Mr. Mohamud appears to have sent videos to a contact in the U.S., the indictment says. One showed him carrying a gun on his hip and saying he was in Syria. In a video allegedly sent to another contact, Mr. Mohamud held an AK-47 rifle.

That June, according to the indictment, his brother appears to have been killed in battle in Syria. Just before he was to begin fighting in Syria, a cleric allegedly told Mr. Mohamud he should instead go home and launch an attack. Mr. Mohamud returned to the U.S. He allegedly told someone—identified in the indictment only as Unnamed Person #1—that he had gone to Syria and received combat training.

Mr. Mohamud allegedly said he wanted to attack military or police targets. He told a second person he wanted to do “something big” in the U.S., like going to a military base in Texas and executing a few American soldiers, the indictment said.

This February an FBI agent interviewed Mr. Mohamud. He denied.

How Mohamud was arrested upon his return to the U.S.:

Mr. Mohamud attended high school in Columbus, after which he worked at warehouse jobs in the area and had “virtually no contact with the criminal justice system,’’ his lawyer said.

But last December, after Mr. Mohamud returned from his trip overseas, he was arrested after walking out on a restaurant check without paying and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, according to a lawyer who represented him in that case. He was scheduled to be sentenced in February, but didn’t show up in court. A few days later he was arrested on state terrorism charges.

Hassan Omar, head of the Somali Association of Ohio is cited by the WSJ saying:

This is very unfortunate news. It is not something we had been expecting from this community. There is not a single Somali youth who left here to join Al Shabaab or any terrorist groups. We are law-abiding and not violent.”

“Nobody expected a young man educated in the U.S. to do this.

Really, both Mr. Mohamud indictment and his late brother recruited him and later died fighting in Syria put the lie to that statement.  It begs the question of how radical elements within the Columbus Somali émigré community

Note this comment from Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) of the House Homeland Security Committee about this Ohio indictment:

The indictment Thursday “highlights the grave threat we face from returning American jihadists. “Terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda are luring Americans to the combat zone in Syria and Iraq, and radicalized individuals are now clearly returning with the training and motivation to bring terror to our shores.”

In a  March 22, 2015 Iconoclast post, we reported a  New York Times front page story on the chronicle of a pair Somali émigré youths in the Twin Cities,  one of whom successfully traveled to Syria to join ISIS, while his friend was stopped before he could board a flight  to join his fellow mujahideen.    The conclusion to our post can also be applied to the indictment of Columbus Somali émigré Mohamud.

This is the latest story of how the U.S. humanitarian refugee program, controlled by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, flooded this major Midwestern community with in excess of 40,000 plus East Africa Muslims. Many of them failed to assimilate into American culture with radical Mosques  possibly recruiting dozens of native born jihadists to fight and die for first al Shabaab in Somalia and now for ISIS in Syria. We have written about this repeatedly since 2008. The Wall Street Journal  article didn’t delve into how the Somali refugees came to the Twin cities with the assistance of voluntary agencies paid by the State Department and Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement to process them, provide cash assistance, Medicaid and receive a green card to  eventually citizens. All while many of these Muslim émigrés rejected American values, instead seeking to impose their Sharia law on the host non-Muslim community.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, left, speaks with his attorney, Sam Shamansky, during a hearing in Columbus, Ohio, in February. Photo: Andrew Welsh-Huggins/Associated Press.

Administration Fails to Recognize the Threat of Global Jihad?

As a Former Army Intelligence officer, we were trained to evaluate the credibility of sources and then delve into the Intel they were providing. We were also trained that if you didn’t identify the threat doctrine of your enemies then you couldn’t formulate a winning strategy, let alone protect your forces. The Obama Administration has been evading the capabilities of military intelligence echelons to assist it  in fashioning a winning strategy in the war against Global Jihad. One would have thought that when the members of Seal Team Six killed  the late Osama Bin Laden and scooped up disk drives and documents that the West Wing would have considered it a treasure trove. The vital raw intelligence would have determined the aims and global strategy of so-called “core Al Qaeda” and its burgeoning affiliates across the Muslim Ummah and the West. (Groups like AQAP, AQIM, al Nusrah, Al Shabaab and Boko Haram.)  Unfortunately, as this Weekly Standard article by Fox News ‘Special Report’ panelist, Stephen F. Hayes illustrates, President Obama  may have evaded  his oath of office as Commander in Chief, Former Defense Intel Chief Blasts Obama.

Former DIA head Gen. Flynn’s cautionary tale.

Gen Michael Flynn

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (ret.) former DIA Head.

Hayes uses a speech by former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) chief, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to fellow intelligence professionals to illustrate why the Administration cannot be trusted.  Flynn retired after being brushed off by the National Security team in the West Wing and the politicized CIA. He was seeking to deploy his resources at the DIA to evaluate and derive meaningful intelligence on Al Qaeda its aims and strategies from the treasure trove of Obama bin laden computer files captured during the Seal Team Six assault. This would have enabled the Commander in Chief and his national security team to articulate the threat of global radical Islam and fashion a strategy that would protect our forces engaged in a war against Islamic Jihad. Instead the Administration myopically evaded its responsibilities opting to promote the meaningless and opaque threat as “violent extremism.” Instead Flynn and his team of military intelligence analysts were brushed off after having unearthed the goals of “core Al Qaeda” and its network of empowered affiliates

Here are excerpts from the Hayes Weekly Standard article that illustrates these points:

Lt. General Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, [said], “The dangers to the U.S. do not arise from the arrogance of American power, but from unpreparedness or an excessive unwillingness to fight when fighting is necessary.” The Obama Administration doesn’t understand the threat, Flynn said, noting that the Administration refuses to use “Islamic militants” to describe the enemy.

“You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists,” he said.

The administration, he continued, wants “us to think that our challenge is dealing with an undefined set of violent extremists or merely lone-wolf actors with no ideology or network. But that’s just not the straight truth.”

[…]

The failure to exploit the captured Bin Laden file.

The CIA was responsible for the first scrub of the collection of more than 1 million documents and retained “executive authority” over the cache when it was completed. But the CIA stopped analyzing or “exploiting” the documents after that first quick and incomplete assessment and the Agency made no attempt to systematically examine and codify all of the intelligence included in the intelligence haul.

Flynn assembled a team at the DIA to do exactly that, but the CIA initially refused to share the documents. After a lengthy bureaucratic battle, DIA analysts were given limited access to the bin Laden documents and undertook an exhaustive exploitation. The documents provided the U.S. government with its best look at al Qaeda and its operations and challenges—from the inside. There were letters between Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders, plans for future attacks, details about fundraising successes and failures, descriptions of relationships between al Qaeda and governments in the region. The documents remain unexploited to this day.

Derek Harvey, a senior DIA official and former director of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Center of Excellence at CENTCOM, led the DIA team that exploited the documents. He recently told TWS that the U.S. government hasn’t “done anything close to a full exploitation.”

And what was Flynn’s overall assessment?

In classified analyses based heavily on the documents, the DIA directly challenged the Obama administration’s claims that the threat from al Qaeda was diminished or fading. Flynn hinted at this in an interview he gave to James Kitfield of Breaking Defense shortly after he left government. “When asked if the terrorists were on the run, we couldn’t respond with any answer but ‘no.’ When asked if the terrorists were defeated, we had to say ‘no.’ Anyone who answers ‘yes’ to either of those questions either doesn’t know what they are talking about, they are misinformed, or they are flat-out lying,” Flynn said.

Enter former CENTCOM Commander Marine General Zinni on the lack of a Strategy.

Gen Anthony Zinni

Gen. Anthony Zinni, former CENTCOMM commander. Source: Pensacola News Journal.

Recently, we heard former CENTCOMM Commander, Four Star Marine Gen. (ret.) Anthony Zinni talk about the lack of a meaningful Obama Strategy in the war against the Islamic state.  See; Pensacola News Journal article, “General discusses ‘Situation in the Middle East.

Among those gathered to hear him were former colleagues at CENTCOMM. He was introduced by Marine Lt. Gen. Duane Thiesen, president and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. Zinni shared his insights gained from long experience serving in the Middle East and his engagement in strategic defense studies about terrorism and stability or the lack thereof in the Arab World. He opened up his speech with an anecdote about a conversation with two Arab leaders in the UAE on the day when the US-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003. His two interlocutors said this was a disaster, because” it would unleash the Persian threat and ignite a religious war between Sunni and Shia.” Zinni had disagreed with the Bush strategy that without overwhelming force to seal the borders of  Iraq, that sectarian fissures and conflicts would arise and that victory would not be achieved. In his remarks referring to the current situation he said, “Obviously, it’s the rise of the extremists – their ability to recruit now and reach out globally having bases from which they can operate.” He was dismissive of regional and bi-lateral initiatives saying that “the nation’s leaders need to take a strategic look at the world. “This globalization is connected by a network” A network according to Zinni including space, cyberspace, sea, air, land communications and trade resulting in global impact.

Before his talk I chatted with him briefly and gave him my question for the Q+A:

We are now several months into Operation Inherent Resolve – a US led coalition “to degrade and destroy”, the Islamic State, formerly ISIS. What is your current assessment of the conduct of this Operation and what in your view could be done to achieve the ultimate objective?

He smiled and said,  “The short answer is we should not be afraid to put boots on the ground.”

When the question was posed to him by the Tiger Bay moderator, Zinni differentiated between, a strategy for Iraq versus one for Syria. He suggested that perhaps two US brigades, coupled with Kurdish Peshmerga and both Iraqi Special Forces and Sunni militias with meaningful air support would enable the recovery of Mosul and Anbar province. He cautioned that the US now finds itself in the odd situation where Iran’s Quds Force is on the same side in Iraq. He noted this is part of a strategy by the Islamic Regime in Tehran to surround the Arabian Peninsula.That is illustrated by the US failure in Yemen, with the Houthi Shia rebels toppling the central government, the Shia majority in Bahrain, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Assad clinging to control in Syria. A Shia crescent cutting across the Gulf stretching as far as the Mediterranean coast. It is a hegemonic strategy that includes state sponsored terrorism and achievement of nuclear breakout, further destabilizing the region and threatening the Saudi Kingdom. As regards the Houthi uprising in Yemen, despite the death of King Abdullah and succession of King Salman, Zinni contended that the Saudis might move troops into Yemen. He suggested that US drone campaign against Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula  would not aid in saving the failed state. He was dismissive of direct involvement in Syria as there are too many disparate sectarian forces both within the Sunni majority and among the minority Alawites, Christians, Druze and Kurds. As illustrated by the US coalition strategy in the four months struggle that succeeded in freeing  the embattled city of Kobani on the Turkish border, the Kurdish YPG and Peshmerga Forces were the”boots on the ground.” His assessment  is reflected in a recent Wall Street Journal article depicting the failure of CIA training of opposition Sunni militias in Syria. He believes that the map of the modern Middle East, created in the wake of the fall of the Ottoman Empire and by the WWI Sykes Picot Agreement, may not survive.

Both Gens. Flynn and Zinni decry the failure of strategic thinking by the Administration frozen in the headlights of an oncoming Global Jihad that it refuses to acknowledge as a threat to the West.

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

Watch “Night Will Fall” about Nazi Atrocities During the Holocaust

Children who Survived  Auschwitz  Source AP

Jewish Children liberated at Auschwitz, February 1945. Source : Archives of the US National Holocaust Memorial.

On January 27, 1945 forward units of the 100th Rifle Division of the 1st Ukrainian Front entered the Auschwitz Birkenau death camp precinct liberating several thousand remaining survivors. More than 1.1 million were murdered there by the Nazi SS, 1 million of them Jews. Among the first groups they encountered in the remaining barracks were children, twins, victims of the ‘angel of death, Dr. Josef Mengele’s sadistic medical experiments. The Russian troopers in their white camouflage coats hugged and gave them chocolate. These Jewish children hadn’t felt any humane treatment during their enforced incarceration in Auschwitz.

Earlier in January 1945 the SS blew up the remaining crematoria. An earlier one was destroyed in the lone heroic resistance effort by Jews inside the camp in October 1944 with dynamite secured by Jewish women inmates.  The SS guards assembled more than 60,000 camp inmates  in January 1945 who  sent on a forced death march from which only 12,000 survived.  One of the survivors of that death march was the Nobel Laureate Eli Wiesel who as a youth of 16 was eventually liberated by the US Army at Buchenwald in April 1945. Another Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor was Italian Jewish resistance fighter, chemist and author Primo Levi who received his Nobel award for Literature, posthumously in 2002. Levi fell to his death in his family home in Turin in 1987, some say depressed by the atrocities  he had witnessed. Wiesel’s biographic works about his experience at Auschwitz the forced march and liberation were memorialized in his trilogy Night, Dawn and Day. Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz: if this is a Man was testimony to the Nazi dehumanization and perseverance to survive and return home.

Israelis at Auschwitz-Birkenau Source AP

Israelis at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Source:  AP.

Another 5 million Jews didn’t survive.  They were murdered in unspeakable ways in the einstazgruppen slaughter in Russia, death camps in Germany and occupied Europe.  Their fate in the Final Solution was ratified by the SS at the Wansee Conference in Berlin on January 20, 1942. The objective of the SS Conference was to make Europe judenrein. Among the Six Million European Jews murdered were 1.5 million children. The Jewish children those Russian troops encountered at Auschwitz on January 27, 1945 were among the lucky survivors.

Palestinian leads 2015 UN International Holocaust Memorial at Auschwitz Birkenau

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 is the 10th annual UN International Holocaust Memorial Day. Ynet.com  drew attention that this year’s  annual commemoration with be headed by a Palestinian UN official.  Maher Nasser will host the event,  Palestinian to host UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day to be held at the site of the death camps at Auschwitz- Birkenau in Poland.  Nasser was  born in Albrieh, a village near Ramallah. The 25 year UN bureaucrat   held posts in Gaza and  Jerusalem. eHeh HH He  now holds a management position in the UN Department of Public Information.  Ironic  in that the Haj Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, fled to Berlin from Baghdad  following the Farhud, the Nazi-Arab massacre of Jews  in 1941.  The  was welcomed as  Hitler’s house guest during WWII. He  promoted  the genocide of Six Million European Jewish men, women and Children and sponsoring the recruitment of Muslim Waffen SS units in the Balkans.

UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon will attend.   Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin will lead an Israeli delegation.  Rivlin will speak about the rise of Global Anti-Semitism and the threat of Islamic Jihadism. More than 100 Holocaust and Russian veterans will also attend the ceremonies at Auschwitz. In the Israeli delegation will be former Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom  in 2005 proposed the UN commemoration of the Holocaust  to “honor of the six million Jews, 1 million Gypsies, 250,000 disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.”

The Auschwitz-Birkenau UN commemoration of the Holocaust may not be televised. However, on the eve of International Holocaust Memorial Day, January 26th,  at 9:00 PM EST, HBO  will show a documentary on  Nazi atrocities, Night Will Fall.   It is based  on archival footage taken by British military photographers and cinematographers following the liberation of Nazi concentration camp, Bergen –Belsen in April 1945.  Famed Hollywood film director Alfred Hitchcock was briefly involved with the original British documentary in 1945.

Marlow Stern in his Daily Beast review of Night Will FallInside Alfred Hitchcock’s Lost Holocaust Documentary,” noted how the original project and Hitchock’s involvement came about:

Back in 1945, Sidney Bernstein, the chief of the Psychological Warfare Film Section of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, was commissioned to create the definitive documentary chronicling the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. Bernstein’s aim was, in his words, to “prove one day that this had actually happened” and have it serve as “a lesson to all mankind as well as to the Germans.”

He eventually roped in his good pal, Alfred Hitchcock, to serve as the film’s supervising director. But the horrifying and heartbreaking footage of numerous concentration camps, shot by British, American, and Russian World War II soldiers as they were being liberated, became tangled up in a complicated web of politics and artistic rows. A magnificent new HBO documentary pulls back the veil on the making of German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey.

The eye-opening film-on-a-film, Night Will Fall, will premiere January 26 on HBO. It is narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, produced by Stephen Frears and Brett Ratner, and directed by Andre Singer, who serves as president of The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain.  Singer executive producer  of  the documentaries The Act of Killing and Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss. It was done in concert with London’s Imperial War Museum, and took 18 months of poring over thousands of feet of film to trace the making of the unmade epic.

[…]

The British soldiers found tens of thousands of emaciated prisoners inside the camp, many of whom were on the brink of death by starvation. The camera lingers on piles of naked, skeletal corpses stacked several bodies high, as well as line after line of dead children. A total of 30,000 corpses were witnessed by Allied troops, according to the film. Singer managed to track down several British soldiers who were there, and some break down in tears recalling the horrors.

“It’s very difficult to describe,” recalls survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who was 19 when Bergen-Belsen was liberated. “You’ve spent years preparing yourself to die, and you’re still here. Every British soldier looked like a God to us.”

night will fall poster 2Alissa Simon in her August 2014 Variety  review of Night Will fall, reported that,  “rather than wait, the impatient American government commissioned [Hollywood director]  Billy Wilder to use their footage [from German Concentration Camps Factual Survey] . Singer includes an excerpt of Wilder’s short film, Death Mills, intended for German and Austrian audiences, and clips from an interview with Wilder.”

Dorothy Rabinowitz in her Wall Street Journal review of Night Will Fall: Nazi Crimes on Film  explains why the original footage of the British film languished in the vaults of the Imperial War Museum (IWM) after excerpts were shown in the Nuremberg Trial of Nazi leaders:

Still, despite the stellar talents and authority of its creators, the film would be stored, rather than seen. Though its footage would provide some of the most damning testimony presented at the Nuremberg war crimes [trials].  It would be housed, from 1952 on, in the archives of the Imperial War Museum. Then four years ago the IWM undertook the enormous task of restoring and digitizing the documentary, along with the long-missing sixth reel. “Night Will Fall,” a new documentary about the historic film, leaves no question as to the reason it was withheld. Its commentators note that the British government then, whose policy was to bar any flow of European Jews to Palestine, was not eager to present a film that would create a great deal of sympathy for these survivors, as such a film surely would.

These graphic revelations of the Nazi final solution atrocities against millions of Jews and others should be a warning of the primary objective of the Global Jihad movement:  the annihilation of Jews, Christians and minority religions sought by Muslim extremists, following the way of Allah.

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