Archive for April 8, 2017

US Air Force to quit Incirlik, move to Syria base

April 8, 2017

US Air Force to quit Incirlik, move to Syria base, DEBKAfile, April 8, 2017

When the work is finished, the rising complex of air bases will enable America to deploy twice as many warplanes and helicopters in Syria as the Russians currently maintain.

The five US bases in Syria are part of Trump’s three-pronged strategy which aims at a) fighting Islamist terror; b) blocking Iran’s land and air access to Syria; and c) providing the enclaves of the Syrian Kurdish-PYD-YPG with a military shield against the Turkish army.

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Several US engineering teams are working round the clock to build a big new air base in northern Syria after completing the expansion of another four. They are all situated in the Syrian borderland with Iraq, DEBKAfile’s military forces report.

This was going on over the weekend as senators, news correspondents and commentators were outguessing each other over whether the US missile attack on the Syrian Shayrat air base Friday, in retaliation for the Assad regime’s chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, was a one-off or the start of a new series.

As the White House parried those questions, the Trump administration was going full steam ahead on the massive project of preparing to pull US air force units out of the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, in active American use since 2002. Those units were in the middle of a big moving job to the five new and expanded air bases in Syria. Their hub is to be Tabqa, which is just 110km west of the Islamic State’s Syrian capital, Raqqa. The other five are Hajar airport in the Rmelan region, two small air fields serving farm transport in Qamishli, which have been converted to military us; and a fifth in the Kurdish Kobani enclave north of Aleppo near the Syrian-Turkish border.

Tabqa is also becoming the main assembly-point for the joint US, Kurdish, tribal Arab force that is coming together in readiness for a major charge on Raqqa.

When the work is finished, the rising complex of air bases will enable America to deploy twice as many warplanes and helicopters in Syria as the Russians currently maintain.

The site of the Tabqa air field was captured as recently as late March by the Syrian Democratic Force (Kurdish-Arab fighters) which were flown in and dropped there by the US Air Force’s Air Mobility Command. It was quickly dubbed “Incirlik 2” or “Qayyarah-2” after the US command center running the Iraqi military offensive against ISIS in Mosul.

Tabqa is designed to accommodate the 2,500 US military personnel housed at Incirlik. Like the Americans, the German Bundeswehr is also on the point of quitting Incirlik and eying a number of new locations in Cyprus and Jordan. The Germans are pulling out over the crisis in their relations with Ankara. The Americans are quitting because President Donald Trump wants to chill US ties with Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan and cooperation with the Turkish army.

The five US bases in Syria are part of Trump’s three-pronged strategy which aims at a) fighting Islamist terror; b) blocking Iran’s land and air access to Syria; and c) providing the enclaves of the Syrian Kurdish-PYD-YPG with a military shield against the Turkish army.

The Latest From Stockholm [Updated]

April 8, 2017

The Latest From Stockholm [Updated], Power LineJohn Hinderaker, April 8, 2017

As usual, the earliest news reports on yesterday’s terrorist attack in Stockholm were partly right and partly wrong. This is what we think we know as of this morning:

* Four people were killed and 15 were injured, ten of whom are hospitalized.

* At least two people have been arrested so far. The first, believed to be the driver of the stolen truck that careened down a pedestrian street and crashed into a mall, is described as a 39-year-old from Uzbekistan. He was known to Swedish authorities as a possible terrorist, and had jihadi propaganda on his Facebook page. But Swedish authorities say that the information they had on him was “marginal,” and that they investigated and “found no connections to extremism.” The authorities won’t say whether the Uzbek was a legal resident or how long he had been in Sweden.

* Information on whether others were involved in the attack is contradictory. An early report that three men jumped out of the truck and started shooting into the crowd was apparently false. A man was arrested and led away from the scene shortly after the attack, but it is unclear what his connection to the incident was, if any. Reuters says that a second man (seemingly not the one who was apprehended at the scene, or the Uzbek) has been arrested in a northern Stockholm suburb. This second man “resembled the picture and description of a man that police went public with after the truck attack.”

I think they mean this picture, but it isn’t clear (to me, anyway) whether this is a photo of the Uzbek or the second person arrested in a northern suburb:

* Swedish police say that “a device which did not belong there,” presumably a home-made bomb or incendiary device of some sort, was found in the truck.

* Several videos of the attack have emerged. This one shows people fleeing on the pedestrian street, and the truck barreling past a store:

This one shows the aftermath of the attack, possibly including a fleeing terrorist as well as police:

This one mostly shows firefighters extinguishing a fire that broke out in the truck, either as a result of the crash or possibly due to an incendiary device:

Most likely there are other videos, too.

UPDATE: Reports from Sweden indicate that the Uzbek terrorist was denied asylum in January but lingered in Sweden anyway. He also is said to have a “double identity.” This is from Sweden, using an internet translation program:

According to a credible source the 39-year-old Uzbek citizen had a double identity, something that is typical of terrorists.

According to the source, the man having been rejected for asylum in January this year, but have thus been able to linger in the country as “paperless”.

He should be on Facebook have expressed sympathy for the Muslim terror group Islamic State.

Further, according to the source, paraphernalia found in the truck that is suspected to be a type of IED (from the English improvised explosive device). It is believed that it was the same man who also carried out the attack.

 

Should the Muslim Brotherhood Debate Include Another Rogue Islamist Party?

April 8, 2017

Should the Muslim Brotherhood Debate Include Another Rogue Islamist Party? Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abha Shankar, April 7, 2017

A leading Islamist party recently demanded punishment for bloggers who “insult” Islam and condemned the execution of the murderer of a prominent politician who spoke up against his country’s rigid blasphemy laws. The Islamist party also blamed the U.S.-led war on terror for the rise in global jihadism and the destruction of Islamic civilization.

For those of you wondering, the Islamist party in question is not the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, or Muslim Brotherhood (MB), whose designation as a terrorist organization is currently a hot topic of debate in Washington. Rather, it is the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a South Asian Sunni revivalist movement that has an active network in North America and the West.

The Islamist movement often defends terrorists and rationalizes attacks against Western targets, in addition to working to advance a rigid interpretation of Islam in the U.S. and other secularly-governed nations. The debate over political action against Islamist parties, therefore, does not stop with the Muslim Brotherhood.

JI’s recent blasphemy push provides an example of that thinking in action.

In a press release, Sirajul Haq, the leader of JI’s Pakistan affiliate, condemned the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, who had killed former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, a fierce opponent of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Haq also called on Pakistan’s political leadership “not to link terrorism with Islam…to please colonial powers,” and alleged “that the enemy was trying to destroy the Islamic civilization and values and to promote its obscener [sic] and nude culture.”

Haq had earlier described Qadri’s hanging as the “darkest moment in the country’s history” and said that by executing him, the Pakistani government “had proved itself a slave of US President Obama and not a slave of the Holy Prophet.” He added that “the government had executed one Mumtaz Qadri but now every youth and [sic] grown up in the country would turn into Mumtaz Qadri.”

JI’s Ideological Similarities with the MB

The JI was founded in 1941 in Lahore, Pakistan (then part of British India) by Islamist scholar Maulana Syed Abdul Ala Maududi. Maududi is a leading pioneer of Islamic revivalism in South Asia who was inspired by the Brotherhood ideology. Maududi also had a profound influence on Sayyid Qutb, a leading Muslim Brotherhood ideologue who has been described as the “father of modern Islamist fundamentalism.” Qutb is believed to have also inspired al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Soon after the Arab Spring protests led to the ouster of the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt, top Brotherhood and JI leaders met in Cairo to “strengthen the relations between the Islamic movements in different countries ” and “promote Islam.”

JI’s primary objective in Pakistan “is to implement Sharia” and “make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state” based on the “model of the state of Madina,” the multi-religious Islamic state established by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the 7th century.

Although the MB has a deeper foundation and wider network in North America, the front groups of the JI—Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and its charitable arm ICNA Relief—also have an active and long-term presence.

ICNA and ICNA Relief collaborate extensively with MB front groups in the U.S. and Canada. For example, ICNA annually partners with the Muslim American Society (MAS) to host its national conventions that feature radical speakers who advocate jihad and call for the elimination of Israel. MAS was created in 1993 as the Brotherhood’s arm in the U.S.

Both ICNA and ICNA Relief are listed as members of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), an umbrella group featuring several groups tied to the American Muslim Brotherhood. It was launched in March 2014 to lobby Congress to enforce an Islamist agenda on U.S. counterterrorism efforts, as well as on issues concerning American Muslims and the larger Muslim ummah (community).

ICNA’s educational programs feature staunch Islamist ideologues, and Maududi’s books have been promoted on the website of ICNA’s youth division, “Young Muslims.”

After trying him in absentia, a Bangladeshi war crimes tribunal sentenced to death ICNA’s former vice president and leader of its New York chapter Ashrafuzzman Khan on charges connected to the kidnapping and murder of several intellectuals during the country’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. The tribunal claimed Khan was the “chief executor” of the killing squad, Al-Badr, a militant offshoot of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Following accusations of alleged war crimes against Khan, ICNA scrubbed the names of executive board members, including Khan, from its web page.

Khan still is believed to be in New York. But others convicted by the tribunal have been executed, drawing criticism from ICNA as a “shameful act of judicial killing which is part of the ongoing brutal persecution of political opponents” in Bangladesh.

The Muslim Brotherhood also condemned the executions and called on the global community to “reject and condemn these unjust and unfair trials that violate all international norms and conventions….”

The Brotherhood’s website described JI leader Mir Quasem, who was executed in September after being convicted of running the lethal Al-Badr militia, as an “icon of freedom and resistance against tyranny.”

Quasem’s “martyrdom” was compared to that of MB ideologue Sayyid Qutb in 1966: “When the Egyptian regime executed Sayyid Qutb in 1966, they thought they killed his ideas and ideology; but—as tyrants do in every era and place—they unintentionally immortalized him, inadvertently spread his ideas, and unwittingly introduced the people to his call—his ideology.”

JI Leaders Featured As Speakers at ICNA Events

Yusuf Islahi, a leader of JI’s Indian affiliate (JI Hind), is scheduled to speak at the upcoming MAS-ICNA convention in Baltimore. Islahi, a chief patron of ICNA’s dawah or proselytizing project, WhyIslam, has spoken at past MAS-ICNA conferences. In a 2009 interview, Islahi criticized the Western interest-based economic system: “A society where interest is accepted and becomes widespread is disliked to such an extent that both Allah and His Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, are at war with them.”

At a 2001 JI Hind event hosted in the Indian city of Aligarh, Islahi reportedly blamed Jews for the 9/11 attacks, which he described as a fitting response to American arrogance: “[T]he September 11 event is a well-planned conspiracy to defame Islam. Muslims are being blamed for it without any evidence. Everyone knows who is the real culprit, Jews …. The United States has unjustly and arrogantly ruled the world for too long. Allah has destroyed that arrogance on September 11. God willing, this will also inaugurate the age of Islam the world over.”

ICNA’s invitations to JI leaders to speak at its events goes back a long way. Former JI leader Qazi Hussein Ahmed, for example, was a featured speaker at ICNA’s 1999 convention in Baltimore. In an interview the same year with ICNA’s newsmagazine Message International, Ahmad spoke about the role Islamist movements such as the JI and MB play in creating an Islamic state: “The Islamic movements through out [sic] the world under the guidance of Maulana Syed Abdul A’la Maudoodi (r) and Shaheed Hasan al-Banna (r) and many other prominent Muslim leaders and scholars and Mujahideen have adopted the same attitude and the same process which was evolved by the Prophet of Allah. Call the people towards Allah and to train and purify them, organize them into Jama’ah and work for the service of mankind. In this process we will create an Islamic society, an Islamic government and an Islamic state.”

The late Ghulam Azam, a former leader of JI’s Bangladesh chapter, also spoke at the 1999 convention. Azam was sentenced to 90 years in prison for committing war crimes during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence. Hamas leader Sheikh Muhammad Siyam also was part of the 1999 convention.

JI’s Support for Terror

JI affiliates in Bangladesh and Pakistan criticize the United States, openly voice support for terrorist groups and praise their leaders. For example, people like Osama bin Laden never die, former JI Pakistan leader Syed Munawar Hasan said in a 2014 video. They continue to live in the people’s hearts people and give voice to their people, he said. Hasan described Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud’s killing of in a U.S. drone strike as “martyrdom.” He called the U.S. an enemy of Pakistan: “America was our enemy yesterday, it is so today, and tomorrow too it will not refrain from enmity against us.”

The JI has provided an ideological platform and recruiting base for terrorist groups in South Asia. One example is the Hizb-ul Mujahideen (HuM), a Kashmiri jihadist group that emerged in 1989 as JI’s militant wing.

The U.S. designated HuM as a foreign terrorist organization in 2004. In a recent video, HuM commander Zakir Rashid Bhat noted that the Kashmiri people’s struggle for independence was “nationalistic” and was “haraam” (“not permissible”) in Islam. “Nationalism and democracy are not permissible in Islam,” he said. HuM has been behind several terrorist attacks in Kashmir. In 2013, HuM claimed responsibility for an attack on an Indian police camp in Kashmir that killed five security personnel.

JI’s former student wing in India, the Student Islamic Movement of India or SIMI has been implicated in some of the deadliest terror attacks in the country. The group has been banned in India and is alleged to have links to terrorist groups such as the Indian Mujahideen (IM) and the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Nurul Islam Marzan, one of the masterminds behind the July terror attack on a Dhaka café that killed 17 foreigners, helped lead a group with alleged ties to the banned Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and was active in JI’s student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS) at Chittagong University. Suspects in the 2013 murder of blogger and activist Ahmed Rajib Haider reportedly acted on orders from an ICS leader.

The Jamaat-e-Islami global network’s support for a totalitarian Islamist ideology provides an environment conducive to the radicalization of future terrorists. The Islamist movement’s active presence in the U.S. and the West, its defense of terrorists, condemnation of U.S. foreign policy, justification of terror attacks against the U.S. and its allies, and rejection of Western democratic values and ideals make it relevant in the debate about designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group. The Islamist threat is not isolated to one source.

Cartoons and video of the day

April 8, 2017

From the Sound of Music – not all of the videos I post here need to be funny. For those who may have forgotten, here’s the context:

When they learn that Austria has been annexed into the Third Reich in the Anschluss, the couple return to their home, where a telegram awaits informing the Captain that he must report to the German Naval Headquarters in Bremerhaven to accept a commission in the German Navy. Strongly opposed to the Nazis and the Anschluss, the Captain tells his family they must leave Austria immediately. That night, as the von Trapp family attempt to leave, they are stopped by a group of Brownshirts waiting outside the villa. When questioned by Gauleiter Hans Zeller, the Captain maintains they are headed to the Salzburg Festival to perform. Zeller insists on escorting them to the festival, after which his men will accompany the Captain to Bremerhaven.

Later that night at the festival, during their final number, the von Trapp family slip away and seek shelter at the nearby abbey, where Mother Abbess hides them in the cemetery crypt. Brownshirts soon arrive and search the abbey, but the family is able to escape using the caretaker’s car. When the soldiers attempt to pursue, they discover their cars will not start as two nuns have removed parts of their engines. The next morning, after driving to the border, the von Trapp family make their way on foot across the mountains into Switzerland to freedom.

 

H/t Power Line

 

 

 

 

via e-mail

 

H/t Freedom is Just Another Word

 

 

H/t Vermont Loon Watch

 

 

Did the Syria strike push China toward action on North Korea?

April 8, 2017

Did the Syria strike push China toward action on North Korea? Hot Air, Jazz Shaw, April 8, 2017

(Kim Jong-un has been deemed “crazy” because he is unpredictable. Trump is far from crazy, but can be unpredictable when he wants to be. China does not know what Trump might do about North Korean nukes and missiles, and that is a good thing. — DM)

So the fireworks in Syria have produced all sorts of interesting results on the international diplomacy front. World leaders in western nations who have seemed at least somewhat skeptical of President Trump (to put it mildly in some cases) were suddenly praising him. The Russians, who Democrats regularly assure us are pulling Trump’s strings, are getting nervous. But perhaps the biggest potential sea change came in an unexpected area. China’s position on North Korea and their diminutive dictator may be shifting quickly. This is probably a result of leaked information about the options Trump is being presented with and considering in terms of the Korean Peninsula. NBC News is reporting that the possible moves include not only assassinating Kim Jong-un, but moving nukes back into South Korea for the first time since the end of the cold war.

The National Security Council has presented President Trump with options to respond to North Korea’s nuclear program — including putting American nukes in South Korea or killing dictator Kim Jong-un, multiple top-ranking intelligence and military officials told NBC News.

Both scenarios are part of an accelerated review of North Korea policy prepared in advance of President Donald Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.

The White House hopes the Chinese will do more to influence Pyongyang through diplomacy and enhanced sanctions. But if that fails, and North Korea continues its development of nuclear weapons, there are other options on the table that would significantly alter U.S. policy.

Excuse me… did you say nukes? And assassinations? That got China’s attention, at least according to the Secretary of State. (Washington Examiner)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has agreed to boost cooperation with the U.S. on trying to persuade North Korea to abandon its pursuit of long-range nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday.

In an off-camera briefing with reporters on the second and final day of President Trump’s summit with his Chinese counterpart, Tillerson said the two leaders recognized the imminent threat North Korea poses and agreed to respond accordingly.

Clearly, the Chinese aren’t any more worried about Kim Jong-un today than they were a few weeks ago. The guy is just as crazy as ever and his missile program remains in the same state of clunky, but still worrisome progress that it has been. But the fact that all of this Syria business was rolling out just as Trump was having dinner with Xi Jinping probably has China’s leader more worried about… Trump. After eight years of Obama foreign policy which basically boiled down to speak softly and never even pick up the stick, the rest of the world is now keenly aware that the new administration isn’t all peace, love and unicorns.

In terms of China’s attitude, fold the two stories above together. That leak reported by NBC never should have happened, obviously, but now that it has the Chinese have clearly noticed. The options under discussion, even if they are nothing more than worst case scenarios, are the stuff of nightmares for Xi Jinping. Having the United States move some nukes into South Korea would be far more than a threat to Kim in the North. It would be incredibly provocative towards both China and Russia. Keep in mind that you could basically ride a bicycle from Seoul to the Chinese border in a single day (assuming you could find a road) and Vladivostok isn’t much further up the coast. An attempt to move nukes into the area could actually provoke a showdown similar to the Cuban missile crisis and nobody really wants that.

And assassinating Kim Jong-un? While appealing in a hypothetical sense it would no doubt provoke a response which may well include a very different sort of “nuclear option.” The Chinese have got to be wondering just what sort of tiger they have by the tail in the White House right now. Obama was reliable in terms of not doing anything seriously provocative, but now Xi Jinping has had a chance to see Trump fire off nearly five dozen cruise missiles right while they were bringing out the Crème brûlée in Mar-a-Lago. He’s got to be wondering if Trump isn’t the sort of guy who’s going to wake up in a bad mood one day next week and decide to go punch Kim Jong-un in the face just to see what happens.

So now the Chinese are looking like they’re going to take Kim out behind the woodshed for a chat. Was this part of Trump’s strategy all along or just a happy bit of collateral diplomatic debris? His most ardent supporters can use this as evidence to argue that he’s playing three dimensional chess on the international front after eight years of Obama playing checkers. His detractors will call it dumb luck. Personally, I’m guessing that he was already briefed on and anticipating some benefits from the missile strike in areas which are almost totally unrelated to Syria, but it’s not the sort of thing he wanted to predict publicly because China can be fairly tough to anticipate at times.

Middle East: A Shift from Revolution to Evolution

April 8, 2017

Middle East: A Shift from Revolution to Evolution, Gatestone InstituteNajat AlSaied, April 8, 2017

The lesson the Trump administration might learn from the disastrous mistakes of its predecessor is that the main sources of terrorism in the region are political Islam and all its related religious groups. All these radical groups, including ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Jabhat Al-Nusra and Hamas have been spawned by a political Islam driven by the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The fight, therefore, should not be against Islam, but against political Islam. Islam needs to be practiced the way other religions are, as a private personal faith that should be kept separate from public life and politics, and whose expression should be confined to worship only.

Mosques, whether in the Arab and Muslim world or in the West, should be places of worship only and must not transformed to centers for polarizing society or for recruitment by political religious groups.

After each Islamist terrorist attack in the West, the public is divided into two camps: one angry and one indifferent. The problem with defeating Islamist terrorism seems to be that either it is attacked by conservatives who call Islam an evil cult or it is forgiven entirely by liberal apologists. What, then, is the answer?

One of the main failures in Western analyses of the origins of terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa is that the West attributes them to a lack of democracy and a lack of respect for human rights. This is, indeed, part of the cause, but the root of the problem is a lack of development and modernity. U.S. President Donald Trump did not exaggerate when he said that the Obama administration’s foreign policy was disastrous. It was catastrophic mainly for two reasons. One was the knee-jerk support for the “Arab Spring” and for extremist Islamic political groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. The second was the alliances the Obama administration built with unreliable countries such as Qatar, which supports radical political groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, Obama made the mistake of continuing to try to appease Iran’s theocratic regime.

The Arab Spring’s uncalculated, hasty attempt to establish so-called democracy only generated more turmoil and chaos in the region. Certain radical political groups simply exploited the elections to serve their own political and sectarian agendas; that swoop for power only resulted in more authoritarian and dictatorial regimes, as have played out, for instance, in Egypt, where we have witnessed the murder of civilians and police officers by the Muslim Brotherhood. In other countries, the situation is even worse; attempts to install democracy have totally destroyed the state and facilitated the spread of terrorist militias, as in Libya.

It is ironic that Western countries and their advocates stress the need to apply democratic practices in Arab countries, but evidently do not recall that development and secularism preceded democracy in Western Europe. The United Kingdom, which has the oldest democratic system, did not become fully democratic until 1930. France became fully democratic only in 1945, 150 years after the French Revolution.

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, at the Arab Summit in Jordan on March 28, 2017 delivered a speech in which he indicated his continuous support for the Muslim Brotherhood:

“If we are serious about focusing our efforts on armed terrorist organizations, is it fair to consider any political party we disagree with as terrorist? Is our goal to increase the number of terrorists?”

Many Arab leaders were infuriated by his speech; at the forefront was President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, who left the Arab Summit Hall during the speech to meet King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Most Arab leaders and analysts, in fact, are enraged by Qatar’s continuous support for Islamist political groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, because these groups are a threat to their national security.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt speaks at the Arab Summit, on March 29. The previous day, Sisi walked out of a speech by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. Sisi was infuriated by Al-Thani’s declaration of support for the Muslim Brotherhood. (Image source: Ruptly video screenshot)

Another consequence of Obama’s foreign policy — in particular attempts to get close to Iran’s hostile regime — has been a fraying of relationships with old Arab allies of the United States. Some of Obama’s advisors thought that replacing Saudi Arabia with Iran was somehow “better” for the United States, if Iran “is beginning to evolve into a very civilized and historically important country” — an analysis that can be described as completely short-sighted.

The Saudi regime, with all its flaws, is a monarchy run by princes; the Iranian regime is a theocracy run by clerics. The Saudi regime is not a theocratic regime but a hybrid structure, which is neither wholly secular nor wholly religious. As such, the religious class functions under the authority of the ruling class. Princes are driven by self-interest; clerics are driven by ideology. In terms of extremism, the Iranian regime is pushing for hegemony, whilst Saudi Arabia has been taking only a defensive, rather than an expansionist, position.

The motivation of Saudi Arabia in exporting mosques world-wide and installing radical Saudi imams is defensive, not expansionist as in Iran. Saudi Arabia’s impetus is to confront Iran’s hegemony and the spread of its hostile ideology. It is this strategy, which Saudi Arabia has practiced since 1979 to balance Iran’s power and to combat its rebellious ideology, that must change.

That Iran’s Khomeini regime sought to embarrass Saudi Arabia — a country that is home to Islam’s two holiest mosques, in Mecca and Medina — by portraying it as not sufficiently Islamic, meant that the foundational Islamic Wahhabism of the Saudi Kingdom was aggressively reinforced. This emphasis resulted in even more constraints being put in place in Iran: especially on entertainment. Since the Khomeini revolution in 1979, all plays, fashion shows, international events, and cinemas have been banned. As for women, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has increasingly harassed them. As for minorities, especially Shia challenging the Iranian Shia regime and its support for Shia militias — particularly the dominant Revolutionary Guards — books were published attacking the Shia:

More books appeared, attacking the Shias and especially Khomeini’s views. These books – like the arguments of Khomeini’s followers – rejected modern thinking as an “intellectual invasion.” Saudi Arabia, considered the guardian of Sunni Islam, spent billions of dollars on challenging the Khomeini-backed Shiites.

This religious one-upmanship — a competition over which body can be the “most religious” — must stop. Saudi Arabia would do well to understand that in order to confront the hegemony of the Iranian theocratic regime, the answer is not to radicalize Saudi society but to return to the way it was before 1979.

The best way to defeat the rebel hostile regime in Iran might be through creating an inclusive and tolerant society in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia needs to change its approach towards Iran because the current strategy has not worked. The current strategy has done nothing except to strengthen the Iranian regime’s dominance; distort, globally, the image of Saudi Arabia and accelerate terrorism.

The lesson the Trump administration might learn from the disastrous mistakes of its predecessor is that the main source of terrorism in the region are political Islam and all its related religious groups. All these radical groups including ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Jabhat Al-Nusra and Hamas have been spawned by a political Islam driven by the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. Extremist jihadists such as Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam and Ayman al-Zawahiri were all taught by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Political Islam practiced by the Iranian theocratic regime has been comfortably generating Shia radical militias, including the terrorist group, Hezbollah. The fight, therefore, should not be against Islam, but against political Islam. Islam needs to be practiced the way other religions are, as a private personal faith that should be kept separate from public life and politics, and whose expression should be confined to worship only. Mosques, whether in the Arab and Muslim world or in the West, should be places of worship only and must not transformed to centers for polarizing society or for recruitment by political religious groups. Unfortunately, Western countries have turned a blind eye to the political activities inside these mosques.

The danger of these religious political groups is that they do not believe in democracy or human rights; they just use elections to grasp power in order to impose a system of “Islamic Caliphate” as their only form of government. Most of these groups use religion as an ideology to oppose governments other than their own, and when they are criticized or attacked, they play the role of the oppressed.

The Trump administration needs to take advantage of the fact that the majority of people in the Middle East and North Africa have lost faith in religious political groups, especially since the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia.

Before the Arab Spring, support for these groups was huge; now it stands at less than 10% of the population. This study was conducted in the Arab world, not including Turkey. The Muslims who support Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are the Muslim Brotherhood.

Most recent polls indicate that the majority of people in Arab and Muslim countries prefer religion to be kept separate from politics.

The country that is working the most systematically to fight these religious political groups in the region is the United Arab Emirates (UAE). There are several institutes and think tanks researching how to combat these groups. Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), has given a robust analysis of these groups and how to combat them in his book, The Mirage. In it, he cites a study on public opinion on political religious groups: A survey of the UAE population, on how these groups are able to influence the public by taking advantage of certain flaws in the system: 53.9% because of corruption; 47.9% because of poverty and 29.1% because of an absence of civil society groups that confront these opportunists.

The Middle East-North Africa region will undoubtedly have to go through several stages before it can successfully establish democracy. An evolutionary developmental approach will definitely be better than the failed revolutionary democratic one pursued by the Obama administration.

Secularization is also crucial in the fight against terrorism. Trying to build a democracy before going through the stages of secularism and political reformation — which includes rectifying existing flaws, such as corruption; modernization which means the liberation of the region from extremist totalitarian religious dogma and all other forms of backwardness in order to kick-start a renaissance; and scientific development — will not only be inadequate but will actually generate more terrorism by helping radicals to keep gaining power. It would be like a farmer who wants to plant roses in arid desert soil full of thorns.

Column One: Israel and Obama’s political war

April 8, 2017

Source: Column One: Israel and Obama’s political war – Opinion – Jerusalem Post

By
April 6, 2017 22:14

This week’s disclosures strengthen the sense that Trump’s failure owes primarily to the deliberate subversion of his administration by his predecessor
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu stands with President Barack Obama

Eli Lake from Bloomberg set off a firestorm in the US this week with his revelation on Monday that in the last six months of the Obama administration, Susan Rice, former president Barack Obama’s national security adviser, requested that the US intelligence community enable her to use foreign intelligence collection as a means of gathering information about Donald Trump’s advisers.

According to Lake’s story, during the course of the US presidential campaign, and with steadily rising intensity after President Donald Trump won the November 2016 election, Rice used her access to intercepted communications of foreign intelligence targets to gather information on Trump’s advisers. Some of those reports were then leaked, injuriously, to the media in violation of US criminal statute.

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Whereas in the normal course of events, the identities of American citizens whose conversations with foreigners are intercepted by the US intelligence community are shielded, in the final months of the Obama administration, Rice repeatedly – on “dozens of occasions” – asked that the identities of Americans who conversed with foreigners be exposed.

The Americans in question were Trump’s advisers.

Lake’s scoop both confirmed and expanded House Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’s charges from two weeks ago against the Obama White House. Nunes said that he had seen evidence that the Obama administration collected information on incoming Trump administration officials that had no intelligence value. In other words, Nunes alleged that the data gathering was not for national security purposes.

This week’s discovery that Rice played a central role in the intelligence collection regarding Trump’s advisers brings Nunes’s allegations that the outgoing Obama administration conducted surveillance of the Trump team to the highest reaches of the administration. Now that Rice has been exposed, it is impossible to claim that in the event such surveillance occurred, it did not reflect the Obama administration’s concerted policy.

With the exceptions of Obama and his top adviser and confidante Valerie Jarrett, Rice was the top official in the White House.

Lake’s story and subsequent stories have obvious implications for the public’s assessment of Trump’s March 4 allegation on Twitter that Obama spied on him. But the Rice story is equally, if not more, important for what it teaches us about Obama’s mode of governing.

The Rice story strengthens the assessment that for eight years, Obama and his associates weaponized the federal government to wage a political war against their domestic political opponents in a manner that is simply unprecedented.

On Wednesday, Lee Smith noted in Tablet online magazine that the Obama administration’s apparent exploitation of intelligence reports to harm the Trump team was not the first time that the Obama administration acted in this manner.

As Smith recalled, in December 2015 The Wall Street Journal reported that during the domestic political battle surrounding the nuclear deal the Obama administration struck with the Iranian regime, the administration used intelligence intercepts of conversations of Israeli officials to spy on its domestic opponents inside the pro-Israel community and on Capitol Hill.

In the latest iteration of the Obama White House’s abuse of intelligence data, administration officials collected and leaked information about members of the incoming Trump administration to undermine its ability to chart a new course in foreign affairs.

The Obama administration’s campaign against the incoming Trump administration was wildly successful.

Due to their efforts, Trump’s national security adviser Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Mike Flynn was forced to resign in a cloud of controversy just three weeks after Trump took office.

Revelations by Lake and others exposed that Flynn was targeted in the Obama White House’s abuse of intelligence. The administration used its intelligence intercepts and unmasking of Flynn to cultivate the sense – with no evidence – that Flynn was a Russian plant.

On January 12, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius published that Flynn had spoken numerous times to Russia’s US Ambassador Sergei Kislyak after Obama levied sanctions on Russia on December 26.

Ignatius reported that in their conversations the subject of those sanctions arose, but that Flynn made no policy determination regarding how the Trump administration would view the sanctions upon entering office.

In other words, Flynn did nothing wrong. He did his job.

But immediately after the story was published, Flynn was tarred and feathered as a Russian agent. He entered office with Trump on January 20, but was declared “controversial,” “embattled” and “compromised” from his first day in office.

The innuendos followed Flynn like a cloud until he was forced to resign, less than three weeks after entering the White House.

Regardless of whether or not Flynn did anything wrong – and no evidence has been proffered to suggest that he did anything wrong – his loss was a severe blow to the Trump administration. In one fell swoop, the Obama administration’s weaponization of foreign intelligence intercepts had brought down the national security adviser.

This brings us to 2015, and the fight in Washington and throughout the US about Obama’s nuclear deal with Tehran. In the 2015 operation, the White House allegedly used intercepted communications between US citizens and Israeli diplomats and between Israeli diplomats in Washington and Jerusalem to defame opponents of the nuclear deal. Lawmakers and private citizens were repeatedly subjected to condemnations in the media where unnamed administration sources questioned their loyalty, alleged that they were serving the interests of a foreign power against the US, and that in the case of lawmakers, they were bought and paid for by rich Jewish donors.

Speaking to Smith, a pro-Israel activist who had participated in the battle against the nuclear deal explained how the White House operation worked.

“At some point, the administration weaponized the NSA’s [National Security Agency’s] legitimate monitoring of communications of foreign officials to stay one step ahead of domestic political opponents….

“We began to notice that the White House was responding immediately, sometimes within 24 hours, to specific conversations we were having. At first, we thought it was a coincidence being amplified by our paranoia. After a while, it simply became our working assumption that we were being spied on.”

Weaponizing intelligence reports was only one way that the Obama administration abused its power to weaken, silence and criminalize its domestic opponents.

Weaponizing the IRS was another way.

And just as Obama’s IRS was used to hound conservative groups that opposed Obama’s domestic agenda, so it was used to discriminate against pro-Israel groups that opposed Obama’s Middle East policies.

The most well-known case of such abuse was the IRS’s failure to approve the request for nonprofit status submitted by Z Street, a pro-Israel educational organization.

After being told by the IRS that its application for nonprofit status was being subjected to “special scrutiny” due to its Israel-centric agenda, and the fact that it advocated views that “contradict those of the administration,” Z Street sued the IRS for viewpoint discrimination.

The IRS attempted to get the case dismissed, but a panel of three irate federal judges rejected its request.

After slow rolling its response to the lawsuit, ahead of Obama’s departure from office, the IRS suddenly approved Z Street’s request for nonprofit status, seven years after it was first requested.

At the same time, the IRS continued to refuse to provide Z Street with the documents that informed its decision to discriminate against it. And it refused to explain how its decision to discriminate against US citizens in its tax policies on the basis of their political opposition to the administration’s policies was legal.

There are several aspects of the story of Obama’s abuse of power, and the fact that Israel and its US allies were key targets of that abuse, that are important beyond the domestic discourse in the US.

First, the Obama administration’s abuse of foreign intelligence to wage political warfare against pro-Israel activists and lawmakers who support Israel during the Iran battle tells us that the Obama administration viewed supporters of a strong US-Israel alliance as its political enemies. This is remarkable.

Moreover, the fact that Z Street and other US nonprofit groups that espouse positions on Israel at odds to the Obama administration’s views were specifically targeted for discrimination by the IRS indicates that the Obama administration’s political war against US support for Israel was all-encompassing. It wasn’t limited to the realm of foreign policy. It related as well to the ability to Americans to educate their fellow citizens on the need for a robust partnership with a strong Israel.

The second thing that we learn from our deepening understanding of the Obama administration’s apparent weaponization of the federal bureaucracy as a means to defeat and undermine its political opponents is that apparently, Obama’s top aides deliberately acted to undermine Trump’s ability to govern. This is particularly apparent in everything related to foreign policy.

As Adam Kredo from The Washington Free Beacon has documented, in its last months, the Obama administration ensured that the National Security Council’s budget would be depleted, in order to deny the Trump administration the ability to hire new staffers. It hired political appointees into the civil service and then burrowed them in the National Security Council and other key government departments, to undermine and discredit the Trump administration from within.

For instance, in its waning days, the State Department extended Yael Lempert’s tenure at the National Security Council for two years. Lempert is a foreign service officer notorious for her rabid opposition to Israel.

In another example, last July, Obama moved Sahar Nowrouzzadeh from his National Security Council, where Nowrouzzadeh served as Iran director, to the State Department, where he is now in charge of policy planning on Iran and the Persian Gulf.

As professional foreign service officers, both Lempert and Nowrouzzadeh are essentially impossible to fire or move.

In an interview with PBS following Nunes’s revelations, Susan Rice falsely denied that the Obama White House had “unmasked” incoming Trump administration personnel whose conversations with foreigners were intercepted by the intelligence community.

After denying the charges, Rice was asked her view of Trump’s foreign policy so far. Rice responded derisively.

She noted that despite Trump’s criticism of the Obama administration’s lackadaisical and stalled campaign against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the policy the Trump administration is enacting against ISIS on the ground is essentially the same policy that the Obama administration implemented, “as it should be,” she added, with a smirk.

In reality, if indeed Trump is implementing Obama’s ISIS policy, his failure to enact a new policy there, and indeed, the perceived chaos and disarray of his foreign policy across the board, is not a function of Trump’s incompetence or of the inexperience of his advisers. To the extent that Trump has failed to date to enact a clear foreign policy, this week’s disclosures strengthen the sense that his failure owes primarily to the deliberate subversion of his administration by his predecessor.

www.CarolineGlick.com