Archive for July 19, 2017

Can Trump Lead the Way to Regime Change in Iran?

July 19, 2017

Can Trump Lead the Way to Regime Change in Iran? Gatestone InstituteHassan Mahmoudi, July 19, 2017

(Vocal support for regime change would be good. Declaring that Iran has violated the JCOPA, now that Iran has received all of the financial benefits from America that it will get, would be merely a symbolic gesture. — DM)

What is needed now is a push for regime change, a watering of the seeds of popular resistance that are again budding — after Obama abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, when they took to the streets to protest the stranglehold of the ayatollahs.

American leadership expert John C. Maxwell defines a leader as “one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” During his two terms in the highest office in the world, former U.S. President Barack Obama failed at all three, with disastrous consequences.

There is no realm in which Obama’s lack of leadership was more glaring than that of foreign policy, particularly in relation to the Middle East. His combination of action and inaction — pushing through the nuclear deal with Iran at all costs, while simultaneously adopting a stance of “patience” with and indifference to Tehran’s sponsorship of global terrorism and foothold in Syria — served no purpose other than to destabilize the region and weaken America’s position.

While hotly pursuing the nuclear accord — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Iran and U.S.-led world powers in July 2015 — Obama enabled the regime in Tehran to assist Syrian President Bashar Assad in starving and slaughtering his people (with chemical weapons, among others) into submission. Meanwhile, thanks to Obama’s passivity, and the $1.7 billion his administration transferred to Tehran upon the inking of the JCPOA, the Islamic Republic was able to dispatch its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to recruit and train Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and Syria, as well as militias in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan.

Today, two years after the signing of the JCPOA, and six months into the presidency of Donald Trump, there is a growing rift between America and Europe over implementation of the deal, which officially went into effect in January 2016. Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has been wavering on whether to remain committed to the deal, which his administration and members of Congress claim has been violated repeatedly by Iran. The U.S. also has maintained certain sanctions, over Iran’s ballistic-missile tests, human-rights abuses and sponsorship of global terrorism.

European countries, however, have taken a very different approach, pointing to International Atomic Energy Organization reports confirming Iran’s compliance, and rushing to do business in and with Tehran.

At a ceremony on July 14, 2017 to mark the anniversary of the deal, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the JCPOA a “success for multilateral diplomacy that has proven to work and deliver,” adding, “This deal belongs to the international community, having been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, that expects all sides to keep the commitments they took two years ago”

Meanwhile, when reports emerged about Trump being “likely” to confirm on July 17 that Iran has been complying with the deal — and because the law requires that both the president and secretary of state re-certify the deal every three months — four Republican senators sent a letterto Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, with a copy to Trump, urging him not to do so.

The letter reads, in part:

“…In April, you certified Iran’s compliance for the first 90-day period of the Trump administration. That certification was understandable, given the need to grant time for the interagency review of the JCPOA that you described in the certification letter you sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“But now … U.S. interests would be best served by a sober accounting of Iran’s JCPOA violations … of regional aggression, sponsor international terrorism, develop ballistic missile technology, and oppress the Iranian people. Iran’s aggression directly targets the United States…a continuation of current policy would be tantamount to rewarding Iran’s belligerence… German intelligence agencies in 2015 and 2016 reported that Iran continued illicit attempts to procure nuclear and missile technology outside of JCPOA-approved channels.

“… Perhaps most concerning is Iran’s refusal to grant international inspectors access to nuclear-research and military facilities. International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”) inspectors are entitled to visit any location in Iran to verify compliance with the JCPOA’s ban on nuclear weapons development. However, Iran’s refusal to grant inspectors physical access and other forms of access makes it possible-if not highly probable, given Iran’s history of duplicity-that it is concealing additional violations of the JCPOA.

“…it is highly questionable whether the United States can under current arrangements ever gain high confidence that Iran’s nuclear-weapons development has indeed ceased. …”

The senators are correct. Iran never had, nor has to this day, any intention of forfeiting its bid for regional and global hegemony.

Nevertheless, Trump decided, after all, to re-certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA. Ahead of his doing so, however, the administration issued a series of reassurances — in the form of talking points — that the Treasury Department would impose sanctions on Iranian government entities and individuals, to punish the regime for its nefarious activities. According to BuzzFeed, these include ballistic-missile development, support for terrorism and the Assad regime, cyber-attacks against U.S. targets, the unjust arrest and imprisonment of American citizens and others.

A few months into the current administration in Washington, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps strategist Hassan Abbasi boasted that Iran would lead “global guerilla organizations” against American military and vulnerable targets:

“If only 11 people carried out 9/11, do you realize that the possibility exists for us to do what we want? We don’t need nuclear weapons. … It won’t even be an Iranian-only guerrilla movement, but from all Islamic countries. You can deport all the Muslims, but we are involving and working on Mexicans as well, and Argentinians too. We will organize anyone who has problems with the United States.”

It was Obama’s refusal to recognize, let alone acknowledge, this Iranian ambition that led to his utter appeasement of Tehran and subsequent signing of the JCPOA. It is up to Trump to do more than merely keep the nuclear accord at bay by leaving certain sanctions in place — or even canceling it.

Hassan Abbasi, a strategist for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, recently boasted that Iran would lead “global guerilla organizations” against American targets: “If only 11 people carried out 9/11, do you realize that the possibility exists for us to do what we want? We don’t need nuclear weapons…” (Tasnim News Agency/Wikimedia Commons)

What is needed now is a push for regime change, a watering of the seeds of popular resistance that are again budding — after Obama abandoned the Iranian people in 2009, when they took to the streets to protest the stranglehold of the ayatollahs.

At the annual “Free Iran” rally, held in Paris on July 1, 2017, an estimated 100,000 Iranian dissidents and hundreds of politicians and other world dignitaries gathered to call for a renewed effort to topple the regime in Tehran. Members of the U.S. delegation to the event — among them former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman and former U.S. Army Chief of Staff and Commander of the Multi-National Forces in Iraq General George Casey — issued a joint statement saying, in part:

“We believe that change is within reach, not only because the regime is becoming engulfed in crisis, but also because there is a large and growing movement organizing for positive change. A viable organization capable of ending the nightmare of religious dictatorship by establishing freedom and democracy, tolerance, and gender equality has steadily gained visibility, popular support and international recognition.”

Let us hope that Trump takes heed and turns out to be the leader who “knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Middle East. @hassan_mahmou1

Today’s Historic Moment in Budapest

July 19, 2017

Source: Today’s Historic Moment in Budapest | Gates of Vienna

Today’s Historic Moment in Budapest


Five prime ministers, left to right: Bohuslav Sobotka (Czechia), Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel), Viktor Orbán (Hungary), Beata Szydło (Poland), Robert Fico (Slovakia) — Click to enlarge

An historic meeting was held in Budapest today, July 19, 2017. It was the culmination of a two-day state visit to Hungary by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the first such visit by a sitting Israeli prime minister.

The prime ministers for the Visegrad Four group of Central European nations (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic) were also present. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán currently holds the rotating presidency for that group, and he was authorized to act on behalf of the other three in his discussions and negotiations with the Israeli prime minister. The results may be seen in the two videos below.

This summit represents a sea change in relations between Israel and the European Union. The V4 countries are breaking away from customary the anti-Israel politics as usually practiced by Brussels. The V4 and Israel have interests in common. Unlike their neighbors to the west of the Iron Curtain, they have no intention of allowing mass Muslim immigration to destroy their countries, which is what has happened to Britain, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

This is a vote of no-confidence in NATO by both Israel and the V4. The Central Europeans have learned the hard lesson that they can trust neither the EU nor NATO (e.g. see Kosovo, 1999). Mr. Orbán is looking for new security arrangements to avoid having to cut a deal with the Russians — which nobody really wants to do, except from a very strong negotiating position. Which is what the V4 will gain from an alliance with Israel: the Russians know that Israel is not a trivial power.

If President Trump is smart (and I think he is), he’ll take this as a heads-up about the coming shift in power relations between Europe and Israel.

Many thanks to CrossWare for translating the Hungarian in the first video, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling and the uploading:

Yesterday’s remarks by Benjamin Netanyahu:

Prime Minister Netanyahu on Twitter:

Following my meeting with the Visegrad Group, I met with Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka, Polish PM Beata Szydlo & Slovak PM Robert Fico

Video transcript for Viktor Orbán:

0:04 Good day, respected ladies and gentlemen, respected Mrs. Prime Minister [Israeli PM’s wife],
0:08 Prime Ministers! Today something
0:12 happened in Budapest that has never before occurred.
0:16 For the first time ever, we had a meeting
0:20 between the prime minister of Israel and the prime ministers of the V4 [Visegrad Four] countries .
0:24 My task is now to sum up briefly
0:28 the results of the summit.
0:32 Before we met the Prime Minister of Israel
0:36 we had a separate discussion,
0:40 I must say about three short sentences:
0:44 We sent a letter to the prime minister of Italy; this is already published,
0:48 so you can all read it. We agreed
0:52 that of the agencies moving away from London,
0:56 at least one of them should be placed in the V4 countries
1:00 — the new center should be placed into one of the V4 countries —
1:04 so we support each other and work together on this issue. Finally,
1:08 the prime ministers of the V4 recorded a negotiating mandate
1:12 for me, which concerns our negotiations with the French government.
1:16 This will be the basis of the discussions with them,
1:20 and about its mission directive. That is about that.
1:24 After this let me to return to the discussions with the prime minister of the State of Israel,
1:28 their Prime Minister and the V4 prime ministers’ summit, in a nutshell.
1:32 The prime minister — Mr. Netanyahu —
1:36 suggested that we setup a working group
1:40 — a shared work group — to combat terrorism.
1:44 We accepted this. The prime minister had another suggestion,
1:48 to setup another working group
1:52 to facilitate technological cooperation, in the interest of this…
1:56 we will work out the details. Thirdly, the prime minister invited us
2:00 to Israel. We thought it over; we considered it a great honor,
2:04 and accepted it. I would like to remind everyone…
2:08
2:12 … of the point of view of the state of Israel: the defense of the external borders of every state
2:16 has key importance for the safety of that nation.
2:20 That is a thought that we V4 countries share.
2:24 We had a long discussion about the importance of the defense of external borders.
2:28 We also had a long discussion about how the free flow of people,
2:32 without any control and checks, increases the risk of terror.
2:36 We talked about the relationship between
2:40 the European Union and Israel, too.
2:44 The Hungarian point of view in this matter was:
2:48 The European Union should value
2:52 those efforts that the State of Israel
2:56 makes for the stability of the region, which
3:00 is not only in Israel’s interests but in Europe’s, too, because it protects us
3:04 from newer and newer waves of migrant invasion.
3:08 We appreciate these efforts and we recommend that the European Union,
3:12 should also appreciate them. Similarly,
3:16 by reviewing the relationship between the EU and Israel,
3:20 we noted that it is not reasonable.
3:24 It requires improvement. We would like relations between the EU and Israel
3:28 to be characterized by rationality and logic.
3:32 And instead of criticizing Israel, they should cooperate with it.
3:36 We should open the doors for that [cooperation] and make opportunities available.
3:40 Hungary will represent such a political direction in
3:44 its dealings within the EU. That, in a nutshell,
3:48 was the essence of the discussions. I represented the Hungarian point of view for you;
3:52 now I pass the word to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel.
3:56 Here you go…

Video transcript of yesterday’s remarks by Benjamin Netanyahu, as posted on the PM’s Facebook page:

Thank you, Prime Minister Orbán, for this very warm welcome. I am honored to be the first Israeli sitting prime minister to have an official visit to Hungary. It’s quite astounding that it didn’t happen before. It’s about time. And it’s wonderful to be here on this first time.

When I come to Hungary, the first thing I think about, before anything else, is that Hungary was the, in many ways, the birth of modern Zionism, the movement that led to the establishment of the modern Jewish state because in Hungary was born our modern Moses, Theodore Herzl. And I intend to visit on this visit the site of his home. It is probably inconceivable to think of the Jewish state, the State of Israel today, if it weren’t for that man born here in 1860, who envisioned the rebirth of the Jewish state and who saw in his mind’s-eye also the great challenges that would be posed anti-Semitism. He thought that this ultimately was the best solution for the Jewish people.

Now, since that time, obviously, the Jewish people have suffered great tragedy. We’ve overcome it. You’ve alluded to it. And also, the people of Hungary faced great struggles, and you’ve overcome it. You have, we have both built modern, vibrant states. We recognize the past as we seize the future. The future I think belongs to those countries who innovate. Israel is an innovation nation. Hungary is a country with great, great talents. And we believe that this partnership, along the lines that Prime Minister Orbán discussed, I think these are the ways to proceed.

Tomorrow, there is going to be a meeting here of CEOs from both countries. They’ll meet to discuss economic and business terms. Prime Minister Orbán and I also discussed cooperating on areas such as cyber and areas of security, which are important for both countries. And of course this will… I am sure that this will get a practical boost from this visit. Of course we are going to instruct our — and we have — our respective people to make sure that this happens. But the idea is not to stay where we are, but to move forward. I think there is a great future for both of us. I know that technology by itself, Prime Minister, my experience, is not enough. It’s a requisite, but it’s not sufficient. What you need to make economies grow is reforms, market reforms. We discussed this many years ago. You called me and you said, “We’d like to learn from your experience.” And I actually sent somebody there to tell you at least what we were doing. I have since followed what you have been doing. And obviously there has been a growth of both of our economies, and I think together we can do even more. And this is, I think, the result of this visit.

We’re also going to deepen cultural ties to bring our peoples closer. Many Israelis come here. I invite Hungarians to come to Israel. You have a beautiful country. We have a beautiful country. I think we should visit each other.

I discussed with Prime Minister Orbán the concerns that I heard raised from the Jewish community. He reassured me in unequivocal terms, just as he did now, publicly. I appreciate that. These are important words.

And I also want to thank you, Prime Minister, for standing up for Israel in international forums. You’ve done that time and again. We appreciate this stance, not only because it’s standing with Israel, but it’s also standing with the truth. And I believe that Emanuel Macron, whom I visited with yesterday, two days ago, said something very important. He said there’s a new anti-Semitism that is expressed in anti-Zionism, that is, in delegitimizing the one and only Jewish state. In many ways, Hungary is at the forefront of the states that are opposed to this anti-Jewish policy, and I welcome it. I express the appreciation of my government and the people, many people in Israel, for this.

Equally, I want to say that I look forward to the opportunity tomorrow to meet with the Visegrad Group. Thank you for inviting me. Thank you for hosting this group, to invite me to speak to this group, because I believe that we have many, many common interests. So for all these reasons, I want to say thank you for this invitation and I look forward to our discussions.

NAACP Lawsuit Against Trump Voter Commission Centers Around Alleged Racism

July 19, 2017

NAACP Lawsuit Against Trump Voter Commission Centers Around Alleged Racism, Washington Free Beacon, July 19, 2017

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

A lawsuit filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund against President Donald Trump and his newly launched voter fraud commission in part centers around the argument that the commission is racist.

The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, argues that Trump has neither the constitutional nor statutory authority to create a new “executive organ for the purpose of launching an investigation that targets individuals or groups of people” and adds that it is an “unauthorized Presidential action.”

Trump, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, the voter commission, Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the commission, and Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas and the vice-chair of the commission, are listed as defendants on the suit.

“Both before and since his election, President Trump has made repeated statements alleging that there is widespread voter fraud throughout the United States, including the false claim that he lost the popular vote because of 3 to 5 million ‘illegal’ votes for former Secretary Hillary Clinton,” the suit states.

“The President and his surrogates have also repeatedly described voter fraud in language suggesting that voters of color are more likely to commit voter fraud than white voters, using racially-coded language linking voter fraud to predominantly-minority urban communities and to ‘illegals,'” according to the suit.

The suit claims that Trump’s choice of Kobach to serve as vice-chair shows that motivations for the commission in part from stem from “racial discrimination.”

They expand upon this by stating that the election integrity group headed by J. Christian Adams, another appointee to the commission, “supports restrictive voting laws” and that its literature is filled with “virulently racist rhetoric, equating non-citizens to nonhumans and trafficking heavily in the rhetoric of ‘invasion.”

The Legal Defense Fund is referring to a report titled “Alien Invasion” that was released by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), the group led by Adams. The study found that thousands of illegal voters were on the rolls in Virginia. It has led to legislation in the state that was ultimately vetoed by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Adams has also fought back against attacks on voter identification laws that were backed by millions in funding from liberal billionaire George Soros. Marc Elias, an attorney at the D.C.-based law firm Perkins Coie, who was the top lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and is also a lawyer for Gov. McAuliffe, led the efforts against the voter ID laws in a number of states including Virginia.

In Ohio, Elias initially filed a lawsuit against the state’s voter ID laws on behalf of a liberal activist group called the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. The group was replaced on the suit and later investigated for fraudulent voter registrations. A canvasser for the group pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months in prison for falsifying voter registrations that included registering dead people to vote.

PILF has additionally filed lawsuits against multiple cities whose voter rolls contain more registered than eligible voters. These efforts were countered by Demos, an organization that is also funded by Soros and chaired by the daughter of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.).

“These groups are so threatened by this Commission it’s humorous. This is about more than covering up for fraud and exploitable weaknesses in our election systems,” Logan Churchwell, communications director for PILF, told the Washington Free Beacon. “The NAACP’s donors expect the organization to be in the room where it happens, regardless of who’s in elected office at the time. Their radical positions have foreclosed that opportunity–so now they’re reduced to these antics.”

“The NAACP has removed itself so far from the mainstream on civil rights that it has become utterly unrecognizable today,” Churchwell continued. “When a group finds common cause with bigots who attack voter ID laws because ‘less sophisticated’ black voters can’t follow them or considers the concept of voter registration to be ‘voter suppression’, you’re predictably going to be left in the cold.”

A federal judge recently denied an injunction against the panel to open its Wednesday meeting to the public and to require the group to disclose additional records about its work, Politico reported.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s communications department was unavailable for comment on the lawsuit.

Canadian Islamist Groups Lose Charity Status Over Potential Militant Financing

July 19, 2017

Canadian Islamist Groups Lose Charity Status Over Potential Militant Financing, Investigative Project on Terrorism, July 19, 2017

(Please see also, U.S. Group Connected to Terrorists in Kashmir. — DM)

Canadian authorities have stripped two former affiliates of the Islamic Society of North America’s Canada chapter (ISNA-Canada) of their charitable status after discovering financial ties between the Islamic organizations and a Pakistani militant group.

ISNA Islamic Services of Canada and the Canadian Islamic Trust Foundation lost their charity status for “non-compliance” following a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) audit, according to records acquired by Canada’s Global News.

The CRA discovered several issues during the audit, including evidence that ISNA Islamic Services facilitated donations that may have ended up in the hands of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), a Kashmir-based militant group. According to the CRA report, the Toronto-based Jami Mosque raised and transferred funds to the ISNA Development Foundation “for remit” to the Relief Organization of Kashmiri Muslims (ROKM), a “charitable arm” associated with HM.

“Given the identified commonalities in directorship between ROKM and Jamaat-e-Islami and the Hizbul Mujahideen executive committee, concerns exist that the funds collected and disbursed as part of this relief fund may have been used to support the political efforts of Jamaat-e-Islami and/or its armed wing Hizbul Mujahideen,” the CRA said.

HM is designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union and India. In June, the State Department put HM’s leader, Syed Salahuddin, on its terrorist designations list, citing his threats to train suicide bombers in Kashmir and HM’s responsibility for several deadly terrorist attacks.

This development comes four years after Canadian authorities revoked ISNA Development Foundation’s charity status for similarly raising funds that may have reached militants in Kashmir. In July 2013, the Toronto Star reported that ISNA-Canada may have funneled $280,000 to ROKM.

The 2013 CRA audit found numerous issues within the ISNA Development Foundation, including missing documentation, misleading financial reports, and sending donations abroad to unapproved groups. The ISNA affiliated organization engaged in these activities despite a stated purpose of serving the poor and needy in Canada.

A 2010 CRA audit found that ISNA-Canada itself misused more than $600,000 in donor funds.

A “very small portion … is distributed to the poor and needy and the major portion is spent on the administration of the centre,” concluded the 2010 audit. “Spending for personal expenses out of the charity’s funds is unethical,” the auditor wrote, saying it is “tantamount to misappropriation of funds.”

Fmr. U.N. Amb. Power Emerges As Central Figure In Obama Unmasking Investigation

July 19, 2017

Fmr. U.N. Amb. Power Emerges As Central Figure In Obama Unmasking Investigation, Washington Free Beacon, July 19, 2017

Samantha Power / Getty Images

Former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power’s involvement in the unmasking by former Obama administration officials of sensitive national security information is raising red flags over what insiders view was an attempt by the former administration to undermine President Donald Trump and key figures on his team, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the situation.

Power appears to be central to efforts by top Obama administration officials to identify individuals named in classified intelligence community reports related to Trump and his presidential transition team, according to multiple sources.

The names of Trump allies in the raw intelligence reports were leaked to the press in what many in Congress and the current administration claim is an attempt by Obama allies and former officials to damage the White House.

The House Intelligence Committee, which is spearheading the investigation into these efforts, has issued subpoenas for Power and other top Obama administration figures, including former national security adviser Susan Rice, as part of congressional efforts to determine the source of these leaks.

Power’s role in this unmasking effort is believed to be particularly questionable given her position as a the U.N. ambassador, a post that does not typically require such sensitive unmasking activities, according to former U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the matter.

“Unmasking is not a regular occurrence—absolutely not a weekly habit. It is rare, even at the National Security Council, and ought to be rarer still for a U.N. ambassador,” according to one former senior U.S. official who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

“It might be defended when the communication in question relates directly to U.N. business, for example an important Security Council vote,” explained the former official, who would only discuss the matter on background. “Sometimes it might be done out of other motives than national security, such as sheer curiosity or to defend a bureaucratic position. Or just plain politics.”

The Intelligence Committee’s focus of Power and other key Obama officials is a prime example of the Obama administration’s efforts to spy on those close to Trump, according to sources familiar with the ongoing investigation.

“The subpoena for Power suggests just how pervasive the Obama administration’s spying on Americans actually was,” said one veteran GOP political operative who has been briefed on the matter by senior Congressional intelligence officials. “The U.N. ambassador has absolutely no business calling for the quantity and quality of the intelligence that Power seems to have been asking for.”

The source questioned why Power would need to uncover such classified intelligence information in her role at the U.N.

“That’s just not the sort of thing that she should have been concerned about, unless she was playing the role of political operative with the help of the intelligence community,” the source said. “It gives away what was actually going on: the Obama administration was operating in a pervasive culture of impunity and using the intelligence community against their political opponents.”

Rice was scheduled to speak to House Intelligence Committee this week, but the meeting was reportedly postponed. Some sources speculated this could be a delaying tactic by Rice aimed at pushing the testimony back until after Congress’s summer recess.

Leading members of Congress have begun pushing for the Intelligence Committee and other oversight bodies to investigate former Obama administration officials who they believe are responsible for the leaks.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a member of the House Oversight Committee and chair of its National Security Subcommittee, told the Free Beacon last week that these leaks appear to have come from former senior officials, potentially including Ben Rhodes, the Obama national security adviser responsible for creating what he described as an in-house “echo chamber” meant to mislead the public and Congress about the landmark Iran nuclear deal.

“I think Congress and some members on the Intelligence Committee can call Ben Rhodes to testify,” DeSantis said. “He may be able to invoke executive privilege from when Obama was president, but he definitely can’t do that in any interactions he’s had since then.”

DeSantis identified Rhodes and other senior Obama administration officials as being “involved with feeding journalists some of these [leaks]. I believe he’s in touch with people on the National Security Council. It would be absolutely legitimate as part of leak investigation to bring him in and put him under oath, and I would absolutely support doing that.”

Senior Trump administration officials also have decried the leaks, which have expanded to operational information and are now impeding U.S. national security operations.

The anonymous sources for these articles “are obviously the same Obama holdovers who constantly leak classified information” to various newspapers, one senior administration official told the Free Beacon earlier this month.

Russia vies with Israel over aid for Quneitra

July 19, 2017

Russia vies with Israel over aid for Quneitra, DEBKAfile, July 19, 2017

(Please see also, Operation Good Neighbor: Israel’s part in Syria.– DM)

On their arrival in Quneitra, the Russians found a population that was better fed and cared for than Syrian civilians on any other of the country’s warfronts. They are nonetheless challenging Israel for the locals’ hearts and minds.

******************************

As Russian troops began moving into the Quneitra ceasefire sector opposite Israel’s Golan border on Wednesday, July 19, they found they were in hot competition with Israel over … humanitarian aid for the sector’s rebel-held villages.

Since Israel is adamantly opposed to the Russian presence in the Quneitra demilitarized zone – although it was endorsed by the Trump administration, as DEBKAfile reported exclusively on Tuesday, July 18 – Moscow decided to take it slowly and meanwhile try and win over the Syrian rebel groups whom Israel has succored for years. The Kremlin figured that if these anti-Assad groups could be weaned away from Israel, they might be persuaded to cooperate with the Russian troops in setting up the Quneitra ceasefire zone, and the Russians would not need Israel’s compliance.

On Tuesday, therefore, a Russian military convoy drove into Jabah, a village northeast of Qunetra town and 4km from Israel’s Golan border. Officers described as belonging to the “Russian Defense Ministry’s reconciliation center” alit from the trucks and began handing out food packages to the villagers.

The civilians received necessities and were treated by Russian doctors, a Syrian officer announced. Russian and Syrian officers promised that more humanitarian aid would be delivered to “settlements across the Quneitra province” and Russian doctors would visit all the villages in the ceasefire zone.

Israel, who has been sending aid across these Syrian villages which were cut off by the civil war from basic necessities, has mostly kept its humanitarian program under wraps, except when witnesses reported what they saw to the media. On Wednesday, the IDF officers running the program asked sardonically: “Where were the Russians all these years when Israel alone helped the beleaguered villages across its border?”

After watching the Russian troops hand out packages to the people of Quneitra, the Israeli government and military chiefs decided to challenge the Russian belated propaganda move.

Up until now, Israel has supplied regular humanitarian aid to some 200,000 Syrian villagers living in 80 non-ISIS rebel-controlled villages 15km deep inside the Syrian Golan. Last year alone, Israel sent over half a million liters of heavy fuel, 360 tonnes of foodstuffs, 77 tonnes of clothing and shoes, tens of generators and water system, as well as providing them with medical treatment, including hospital care for sick and injured Syrians and a field hospital on the border.

Wednesday, Israel formalized its assistance program under the title “The Good Neighbor” and disclosed it had been administered since 2016 by a special unit of the Bashan Division which is in charge of the Golan sector.

The IDF released footage of trucks ferrying across the border supplies of medical equipment, medicines, foodstuffs and fuel, as well as pictures documenting IDF medics lifting Injured Syrians off the battlefield for treatment in Israeli hospitals.

According to IDF statistics, at least 3,000 Syrians crossed the border in the past four years for medical treatment. And Israel sent over as needed incubators, respirators and ambulances. In the same period, the IDF conducted 150 assistance operations on Syrian soil.

On their arrival in Quneitra, the Russians found a population that was better fed and cared for than Syrian civilians on any other of the country’s warfronts. They are nonetheless challenging Israel for the locals’ hearts and minds.

Red Lines in Syria

July 19, 2017

Red Lines in Syria, Front Page MagazineKenneth R. Timmerman, July 19, 2017

Suleymania, Iraq – With Saturday’s bombing of Afrin, a town controlled by America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, Turkey appears to have crossed a line.

Turkish artillery pounded the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood near the city center as well as surrounding villages. Reports from the region said the Turkish attack killed five civilians, including an entire family that was buried alive in their own home, and damaged dozens of homes.

“This is considered the first targeting of the city since the start of Turkish preparations” to expand military operations in Northwest Syria last month, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Turkish attacks were not directed against ISIS or against any other Islamist group. The Turks targeted Afrin because it has become a key political hub for the Democratic Union Party of Syria, the YPD, which Turkey accuses of being part of the PKK.

I spoke with Asya Abdallah Osman, the co-president of the YPD, on the sidelines of a conference both of us were attending in Iraqi Kurdistan. She was visibly shaken when she called home and learned details about the civilian casualties in Afrin.

“We have been fighting [ISIS] because we as women do not want to be subjected to their inhumanity. But we need your help,” she said, meaning the United States. “We need no other. This is war and people are dying. It won’t be resolved by politics, only by hard power.”

She swept aside the Turkish allegations that the regional government of the YPD, and its associated militia, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), were controlled by the PKK, or that the PKK was using YPD territory to launch attacks into Turkey.

“We are an independent political party that belongs to Syria and to the Kurds. If the PKK has come to Syria, it’s because Turkey has forced them to come,” she said.

Turkey has long accused the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, or fighting a terrorist war against it, but also has been willing to negotiate with PKK leaders when it felt it could reach a deal to curtail the violence.

After Turkey violated a 2013 truce negotiated in Oslo that called for the PKK to remove its fighters from Turkey into northern Iraq, the PKK relocated remaining fighters into the Kurdish areas in Syria, known as Rojava.

Like most Kurds, Ms. Osman believes Turkey and its allies in the region do not want to see a successful democratic self-governing region in northern Syria, because it would encourage their own Kurds to seek greater autonomy.

“They accuse us of not being democratic, but we have allowed all political and ethnic groups to have representatives in the regional government. Our project is for all of Syria, not just Kurds,” she told me.

Ms. Osman traveled to Northern Iraq in a group of 65 Syrian Kurdish activists, representing nearly twenty political groups.

Normally, they would have entered Iraq via a pontoon bridge over the Tigris River at Semalka, in an area that has escaped the current fighting.

But the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq closed the border recently, forcing the Syrian pro-democracy delegates to make a dangerous 16-hour trek by foot across the only other border crossing into Iraq near Mount Sinjar, which is controlled by Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

“There is no Kurdish Regional Government,” Ms. Osman said dismissively. “There is only the KDP,” the Kurdish Democratic Party, dominated by President Massoud Barzani and his family.

She and other Kurdish activists at the weekend conference believe that Turkey pressured the Barzanis to close the Semalka border crossing in order to further isolate them. “Semulka is our only gate to the outside world,” she said. “When it is shut, we are closed off.”

She attributed claims that the YPD and its militia were controlled by the PKK to Turkish propaganda. “Of course, we have dialogue with other Kurdish parties, including the PKK. So do most Kurdish groups in the region. But we run our party and our administration ourselves. We elect our own officials and they take orders from no one.”

Indeed, I only learned after the conference that a member of the PKK central committee had attended the weekend event, sponsored by the Kurdistan National Congress, where three hundred delegates from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey strategized over a future Kurdish state or confederation.

There were few references to the PKK by the speakers, and the PKK central committeeman himself never spoke. The final declaration of the conference makes no mention of the PKK.

Both President Trump and Secretary of Defense Mattis have warned Turkey not to attack America’s Kurdish allies in Syria. Turkey has blithely ignored those admonishments until now.

Less than a month after President Trump at the White House personally rejected Erdogan’s demand that the U.S. drop support for the Syrian Kurds, Turkey began moving troops to encircle Afrin, the political capital of the Syrian Kurdish region, and other Kurdish controlled areas.

After Turkey started to attack YPG positions in late June, Secretary of Defense James Mattis upped the ante by declaring that the United States might allow the Kurdish group to keep U.S. supplied weapons after the battle for Raqqa to smash ISIS was over.

Some of Erdogan’s erstwhile political allies believe he Erdogan is playing a dangerous game.

Even before the Turkish attacks on civilians over the weekend, former Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, who helped found Erdogan’s ruling AKP party, counseled against attacking the Syrian Kurds.

“The best course would be to negotiate a deal with the Syrian Kurds, persuade them not to attempt to change the ethnic composition of the region, and establish – preferably in cooperation with the Syrian government – a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional democratic administration,” Yakis wrote in a column for Arab News.

That is precisely the project Ms. Osman and the YPD have been proposing.

Erdogan showed his arrogance in Washington when he calmly observed his bodyguards cross a Capitol Police barrier in May to viciously bludgeon opposition protestors with truncheons.

But by putting his forces in a position where they could potentially clash with U.S. military units assisting the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces, Erdogan has shown a reckless side as well.

Turkey has been warned twice. Will Afrin prove to be the third strike for Erdogan in Syria?