Archive for November 6, 2017

Western Powers Must Protect Kurds, Urges Iraqi Jew Who Was Escorted to Freedom by Masoud Barzani

November 6, 2017

Western Powers Must Protect Kurds, Urges Iraqi Jew Who Was Escorted to Freedom by Masoud Barzani, AlgemeinerBen Cohen, November 6, 2017

(Israel has been the only nation to support Kurdish independence. Please see also, Hypocrisy: A state for the Palestinians but not for the Kurds or Catalonia. America, which has armed and relied upon Kurdish fighters in opposing the Islamic State and other Islamic terror groups in Iraq and elsewhere, has not. America’s failure to do so is among the very few matters on which I disagree with President Trump’s foreign policy. –DM)

A young Masoud Barzani fighting with the Kurdish peshmerga. Photo: File.

For the last forty-seven years, Jamil “Jimmy” Ezra has marked a special, deeply private anniversary on September 1 with a ray of hope in his heart. For it was on that day in 1970 that Ezra – accompanied by his brother and sister – drove in a jeep to the Iraqi border with Iran with Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani and his assistant at the wheel.

Ezra and his siblings were among more than 2,000 Iraqi Jews who were helped by Kurdish Peshmerga to escape from the Ba’athist regime during the 1970s. These were dark days in Iraq, where the remnant of a Jewish community that had only recently numbered 150,000 was convulsed with fear following the public hanging in Baghdad in 1969 of 14 people, nine of them Jews, on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel. Ezra remembers the time with the same deep emotion that grounds his present fears about what the future now holds for his Kurdish rescuers.

“My heart breaks for the 30 million Kurds, divided between Iraq and Turkey, Syria and Iran, and abused and suffering,” Ezra told The Algemeiner on Monday.

Ezra will be speaking about his experiences with Masoud Barzani – son of the legendary Mullah Mustafa Barzani and, until last week, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) – at downtown Manhattan’s prestigious Center for Jewish History on Tuesday night, during a special two-part series on the Kurds sponsored by the American Sephardi Federation. It is a story that began when Ezra was a boy of 17 in Baghdad, living with his aunt and uncle, and still grieving from the sudden death of his father from a heart attack on the very same day in July 1968 that Saddam Hussein and his Ba’athist comrades seized power.

“One day in 1970, my brother Farid was walking in the street when he was stopped for an ID check,” Ezra recalled. “He had a permit exempting him from serving in the army, and on every page it was written in red, yahudi, yahudi, yahudi (Jew).”

Farid was arrested and imprisoned on a spying charge. His voice breaking, Ezra recalled how his brother was beaten and tortured by his jailers until he suffered a nervous breakdown. Farid was then transferred to a prison for the criminally insane.

“In the hot summer, the prisoners would all run outside to drink the unfiltered river water that was brought in by a truck in the morning — they would fight over the dirty water,” Ezra said. “My aunt would send me with food and clean water for my brother, and he would beg me to take him away.”

At this point, Ezra said, he and his sister Gilda decided that it was time to leave Iraq. He ventured north to Iraqi Kurdistan, then enjoying a measure of autonomy under an agreement with Baghdad that was soon reneged upon by Saddam Hussein. Arriving in the Kurdish town of Haj Omran on the Iranian border, he came across an Iraqi Jewish family he knew who were taken across the border into Iran that same night. Ezra, meanwhile, was given a mattress in a room where he bedded down with ten Kurds. “I told them about how the Jews were suffering,” he said.  “They promised to take me to Mustafa Barzani the following day.”

The next morning, Barzani’s aides hatched a plan that involved Ezra and another Jewish family returning to Baghdad to collect their relatives, after which they would travel to a meeting point back in northern Iraq. “That was on Monday; on the Thursday, back in Baghdad, I woke up my brother Farid, who was suffering badly from his trauma in prison, and I told him, ‘Come on, you and me and Gilda are going on a short vacation,’” he said.

Had they been stopped and discovered at one of the many security checkpoints along the way, certain imprisonment in a Ba’athist jail would have awaited — and, indeed, the family was pulled over by a soldier. “Luckily, the guy was an idiot,” Ezra remembered. “He couldn’t understand why my brother had an exemption permit from the army, so our driver kept explaining, ‘He’s not well, he’s well.’ Eventually, the soldier said, ‘Ok, ok, you can go.’”

Arriving at the meeting point agreed with Barzani’s advisers, Ezra remembered that a high-level Kurdish intelligence official “came out and started briefing us.”

To maintain secrecy around Kurdish assistance to escaping Iraqi Jews, the official instructed Ezra and those with him to personally approach Masoud Barzani, who would be sitting in a cafe at an agreed time, and pretend they had a brother imprisoned by Kurdish forces. “We had to act,” Ezra said. “We had to beg and plead in front of Masoud.”

Following this ruse, the Ezra siblings got into a jeep alongside  Masoud. At the border with Iran, Masoud got out and bade his farewells. “We had a gift for Masoud and his adviser,” Ezra said. “It was a Parker 21 pen, that was a big deal back then. We wanted them to take it, but they refused and refused. They said, ‘We are doing this because we care and we want to help you.’”

“They never took any money, any gifts, unlike the smugglers who would rob the Iraqi Jews they were supposed to be helping,” Ezra continued.

After crossing into Iran on September 1, the Ezras survived a long and arduous journey to Tehran, where they stayed at the aptly-named Hotel Sinai — then full of escaped Iraqi Jews in transit with the Jewish Agency’s assistance. “On October 2, we arrived in America,” Ezra said. “We came to New York.” Many other Iraqi Jews who escaped around the same time went to Israel, as well as the UK, Canada and other countries.

Ezra’s thoughts over the last month have been dominated by the fate of the Kurds, whose 93 percent vote in favor of independence in the September 25 referendum resulted in an Iranian-backed onslaught involving Iraqi government forces and the Shia Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary group. More than 50 percent of the territory liberated from ISIS by the Kurds has been lost, including the historic city of Kirkuk, while Kurdish political leaders have been painted into a corner as they try to maintain as much autonomy from Baghdad as feasible.

“I follow the news of the Kurds, I pray for them,” Ezra said. “I know their history, how they were divided between four countries after World War One. America has betrayed them, Britain and France have betrayed them. Israel tried to help, but they were limited by the Americans dictating to them how much they could do.”

Ezra wants American Jews to urge their legislators to protect the Kurds, a long-standing American ally. “What happened to the Jews could still happen to them,” Ezra said, casting an eye on Saddam Hussein’s infamous attempts to obliterate the Kurds with chemical weapons attacks in the late 1980s.

“Measures need to be taken to prevent that,” he said. “This should be an emergency for the UN Security Council. The issue of the Kurds has to be kept alive every day of the year.”

Turkey’s Nuclear Ambitions

November 6, 2017

Turkey’s Nuclear Ambitions, Gatestone Institute, Debalina Ghoshal, November 6, 2017

(Wouldn’t it be easier to buy nukes and missiles from North Korea? — DM)

Russia’s ROSATOM already has nuclear cooperation deals with Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, among others. Turkey is just the latest to benefit — possibly along with Iran and North Korea, both of which have been openly threatening to destroy America — from Moscow’s play for power in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

The West would also do well not to feel secure in the knowledge that Turkey is a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Nuclear reactors in the hands of a repressive Islamist authoritarian such as Erdogan could be turned into weapons factories with little effort.

Turkey’s announcement over the summer that it had signed a deal with Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) — of Hillary Clinton’s Uranium One stardom — to begin building three nuclear power plants in the near future is cause for concern. The $20 billion deal, which has been in the works since 2010, involves the construction in Mersin of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant — Turkey’s first-ever such plant — will be operational in 2023.

ROSATOM already has nuclear cooperation deals with Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, among others. Turkey is just the latest to benefit — possibly along with Iran and North Korea, both of which have been openly threatening to destroy America — from Moscow’s play for power in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. It is also a source of desperately-needed revenue for Russia, hurt by sanctions imposed on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (then Prime Minister) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 18, 2012. Their meeting focused on nuclear cooperation, among other things. (Image source:

Like Iran, Turkey claims that its budding nuclear program is for civilian purposes only. Ankara’s interest in nuclear energy dates back to the 1960s, when it conducted a study on the feasibility of building a 300-400 megawatt nuclear power plant, three decades before the rise of President (formerly Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP party.

Although it is true is that Ankara is currently incapable of meeting the country’s electricity demands, and relies heavily on imported natural gas even to manage that, it would be wishful thinking to assume this is Turkey’s only goal. Even though its state-controlled conventional power plants are dilapidated, since 2001, no public companies in Turkey have been allowed to invest in them.

Before international sanctions were imposed on Iran — prior to the 2015 neversigned Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — Tehran and Moscow were Turkey’s main suppliers of fossil fuels for the operation of the conventional plants. Ironically, it was the hindrance to commerce with Iran that led Turkey to consider nuclear energy a viable option to supplement the natural gas imports on which it relies heavily.

Russia is not the only country to strive to profit from Turkey’s nuclear energy ambitions. China, too, evidently wants a share. Last year, Beijing ratified the nuclear agreement it reached with Turkey in 2012. In 2015, China’s arch-rival, Japan, also signed a deal with Turkey: $20 billion for the construction of four nuclear power plants at Sinop, along the Black Sea.

In 2008, Turkey reached an “Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation” with the United States. Two years later, it signed a memorandum of understanding on nuclear cooperation with South Korea.

Let us not be lulled by Ankara’s touting of the need to accommodate what it claims is the “highest rate of growing energy demand among OECD countries over the last 15 years.” The West would also do well not to feel secure in the knowledge that Turkey is a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The ever-radicalizing Erdogan regime, which exploited the opportunity created by the failed coup in 2016 to imprison thousands of judges, journalists, academic, generals and anyone else suspected of being critical of the ruling party and its policies, has made no secret of its hegemonic ambitions in an already volatile and war-torn region. Nuclear reactors in the hands of a repressive Islamist authoritarian such as Erdogan could be turned into weapons factories with little effort. This potential for disaster must be taken into account and monitored.

Debalina Ghoshal, based in India, is an independent consultant specializing in nuclear and missile and missile defense related issues.

Kim Jong-nam murder: North Korea suspects named in court

November 6, 2017

Kim Jong-nam murder: North Korea suspects named in court, BBC News, November 6, 2017

(Please see also, Trial begins in assassination of DPRK leader’s half-brother. — DM)

An investigator named four North Korean men in court in connection with the murder. REUTERS/ROYAL MALAYSIA POLICE/AFP

A senior police officer has told a trial in Malaysia that four North Korean men were involved in killing the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Two women, from Indonesia and Vietnam, are standing trial for the murder of Kim Jong-nam.

He died in February at Kuala Lumpur airport after highly toxic VX nerve agent was rubbed on his face.

The women have pleaded not guilty and say they were tricked.

They say they thought they were taking part in a TV prank. They face death by hanging if convicted.

An investigating officer named four North Korean men in court on Monday, saying they had fled Malaysia after the murder. It is the first time they have been named in court, although their names had previously been known in connection with the investigation.

They were known to the two women on trial, he said, but only by pseudonyms:

  • Hong Song Hac, 34, was known as Mr Chang
  • Ri Ji Hyon, 33, was known as Mr Y
  • Ri Jae Nam, 57, was called Hanamori
  • O Jong Gil was known as James

CCTV footage of the men seen around the airport after the incident on the day of the murder was shown in court. They were seen changing their clothes before departing.

They had entered Malaysia between late January and early February and three of the men left Kuala Lumpur for Jakarta, according to the main investigating officer, Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz, but he added he could not recall the destination of the fourth.

More CCTV footage showed some of the North Korean suspects meeting a North Korean embassy official and an official from the national airline Air Koryo at the airport’s main terminal shortly after the attack.

Saudi Arabia freezes accounts of detained corruption suspects

November 6, 2017

Saudi Arabia freezes accounts of detained corruption suspects, Al Arabiya, November 6, 2017

Sums of money that appear to be linked to corruption cases will be reimbursed to the Saudi state’s General Treasury. (Shutterstock)

Saudi authorities have announced that they will be freezing the bank accounts of suspects detained in the kingdom on corruption charges.

Officials said that there is “no preferential treatment” in the handling of their cases.

The Saudi Center for International Communication, an initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Information, said that sums of money that appear to be linked to corruption cases will be reimbursed to the Saudi state’s General Treasury.

The Saudi anti-corruption committee, which was set up on Saturday by King Salman’s royal decree and chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had arrested a number of princes and ministers.

Tariq Ramadan’s Fans Insist He’s Not A Rapist: It’s The Women’s Fault. And the Jews’

November 6, 2017

Tariq Ramadan’s Fans Insist He’s Not A Rapist: It’s The Women’s Fault. And the Jews’, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abigail R. Esman, November 6, 2017

Tariq Ramadan’s many fans – more than 600,000 people follow him on Twitter and he has more than 2 million Facebook followers – have had plenty to say. He is innocent, they are certain. In their comments on both social media sites, they assure him that Allah will protect him. The women are liars, or part of a conspiracy: against Muslims, against the Muslim leader himself, against Islam – all the insidious, but entirely predictable, work of the world’s Jews.


From the moment news broke of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual aggressions, men and women alike rushed to express their disgust and disappointment. As the number of accusers mounted, so, too, did the number of those who condemned him. From actors to producers, film festivals to the Oscars and dozens of politicians, the once-celebrated movie mogul has been disparaged and denounced.

Compare that to the response to women who accuse Islamic scholar and guru Tariq Ramadan of similar, even more violent behavior – four at last count, with more rumored to be preparing to step up. In France, where Ramadan faces charges of sexual assault; in Switzerland, his birthplace; and in England, where he lives and teaches at the University of Oxford, his fellow Muslim leaders, as well as Muslim and civil rights groups, have yet to say a word against him. Even the Ligue France des Femmes Musulman – the French League of Muslim Women – has failed to speak out, although three of Ramadan’s alleged victims, including French writer and activist Henda Ayari, are French Muslim women. (The fourth is Belgian.)

Even the French authorities, it turns out, have kept quiet. “That he had many mistresses, that he consulted sites, that girls were brought to the hotel at the end of his lectures, that he invited them to undress, that some resisted and that he could become violent and aggressive, yes, but I never heard of rapes,” Bernard Godard, who worked in the French Ministry of the Interior from 1997 to 2014, told the French magazine L’Obs. It is hard to understand how Mr. Godard knew that girls “resisted” and that Ramadan became violent, and did not somehow understand that there might be rape involved, or that violence against young girls might be worth reporting. And so he said nothing.

New allegations continue to emerge, including from four Swiss women who say he came on to them when they were teenagers.

On the other hand, Tariq Ramadan’s many fans – more than 600,000 people follow him on Twitter and he has more than 2 million Facebook followers – have had plenty to say. He is innocent, they are certain. In their comments on both social media sites, they assure him that Allah will protect him. The women are liars, or part of a conspiracy: against Muslims, against the Muslim leader himself, against Islam – all the insidious, but entirely predictable, work of the world’s Jews.

Of course that’s somewhat to be expected. Ramadan is vehemently anti-Israel, so it comes as no surprise that his fans and followers would be, too. Besides, the charges against him describe such heinous behavior – dragging a woman by her hair through a hotel room, repeated beatings and sexual assaults, sexual abuse of a disabled woman and more – that only the Zionists, the Jews, could have come up with them.

Which is why one fan posted on Ramadan’s Facebook page (translated from Arabic) “One of the ways of the Zionists is to use women as a sexual commodity to pressure their enemies and threaten to expose them to become their servants.” Another added, “The Muslim asses are waking up and can see clearly why these accusations are launched against Muslims and especially one who is a proponent of the Palestinian cause.” And yet another wrote from Canada: “[the episode stands in the center] of the whole Emirati war on Qatar, and the war of the Zionist and secular lobby in France.”

Even after the revelations of another rape came to light, Ramadan’s minions remained unmoved. While one admitted that “I don’t believe and I won’t believe what they invent about you even if it happens in front of my eyes, I will lie and believe you,” another posted: “The Zionist lobby realized that the first complaint was not enough to smear Mr. Ramadan’s reputation and integrity, so they fomented another story with a more violent accusation in order to shock the public…. We know Mr. Ramadan and we know as well the Zionist lobby and its Zionist dogs (media and politics) who struggle since long ago to smear Tariq Ramadan’s reputation and academic work… in vain. Mr. Ramadan, we will NEVER let you down, no matter how loud the Zionist dogs’ barking is.”

Others have pointed to the “immodesty” of his accusers: what were they doing going to his hotel room? (He invited them when they requested spiritual guidance.) And why did they not wear hijabs? After all, as Ramadan has taught, women should always remain covered, as protection against the unbridled lust and weakness of men. On Twitter, one follower posted: “France is the capital of vice and prostitution where hookers are cheaper than a cup of coffee. Its [sic] probably lies to sell her book.” And in a diatribe defending Ramadan on Facebook, Mohamad H. Elmasry, an Egyptian-American activist and political analyst, criticized Ayari’s opposition to the hijab, of which she has written, “It is not for women to hide because of sexual and perverted frustration that is unable to control themselves [sic] by the beauty of a woman!”

And yet, covered women are also raped, both in the Middle East and in the West, where Shaista Gohir, the chair of a UK-based helpline for Muslim women, told the Independent, some “have been fully dressed. Some have been wearing the headscarf, [full robe], and even the face veil. The offenders have included family friends, family members, and also respected religious leaders in the community.” As Claudia Landsberger, a former colleague of the late Islam critic and filmmaker Theo van Gogh, wrote in an e-mail, such incidents demonstrate “how the whole issue of modesty, or chastity, in order not to make men go wild, does not make any difference in the heads of these men. So first they imprison these women in their hijabs, burqas, or whatever, making them even believe it is for their own benefit – and double-betray them.” Van Gogh, the producer of “Submission,” a film that criticized the treatment of women in Islam, was murdered by a Dutch Muslim extremist in 2004.

For his part, Ramadan has filed a countersuit for slander against Ayari, who claims that he attacked her in a hotel room in 2012. “He choked me so hard that I thought I was going to die,” Ayari told a French newspaper Oct. 30. Ramadan had tried to convince her to be his sex slave, she said. When she refused, he threatened to harm her children. It was this threat, she claims, that kept her from speaking out earlier. Only in the aftermath of the Weinstein scandal, as women around the world joined the social media “#MeToo” campaign, did she find the courage to come forward.

Her example, in turn, gave courage to his three other accusers. It is not clear whether Ramadan plans to sue them as well. For now, he has said on Facebook, his attorneys have advised him to keep silent on the case.

But what all this shows is that in the court of Muslim public opinion – even among so-called civil rights groups that act in the name of Islam – Tariq Ramadan is not just innocent until proven guilty. He is innocent, and the others guilty: the Jews, the Zionists, the secularists, the unveiled women.

This is not a new refrain: we’ve heard similar chorales legitimize terrorist attacks like the Charlie Hebdo shootings, or the attempted murders of others who have dared to lampoon Mohammed. They echoed, too, in the response of many Dutch Muslims to the slaughter of Theo van Gogh. Ramadan could, of course, intervene. He could say that no, this has nothing at all to do with Jews. No, rape is not the fault of women. Instead, he is silent. This, his silence, is his assault. And of this, he alone is guilty.

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.

Saudi Arabia warns Iran it won’t tolerate ‘any infringement’ of security

November 6, 2017

Saudi FM decries Iran’s regional ‘interventions’ as threat to ‘international peace and security,’ says ‘kingdom reserves the right to respond’

Today, 5:15 pm

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Monday warned Tehran the kingdom would not tolerate “any infringement” on its national security, following a weekend missile attack on Riyadh by Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.

“Iranian interventions in the region are detrimental to the security of neighboring countries and affect international peace and security. We will not allow any infringement on our national security,” Jubeir tweeted.

“The kingdom reserves the right to respond in a timely manner to the hostile actions of the Iranian regime,” he added, echoing earlier warnings by a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia said the unprecedented missile attack, intercepted near Riyadh international airport on Saturday, “may amount to an act of war.”

The coalition on Monday sealed off air, sea and land borders in Yemen, where it has been battling rebels in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government since 2015.

Iran dismissed the Saudi accusations, calling the missile attack “an independent action” by the Shiite Houthi rebels in response to Saudi aggression.

Houthi Shiite fighters wearing army uniforms ride on a pickup truck as they guard a street during a demonstration in Sanaa, Yemen, January 23, 2015. Their sign reads ‘death to Israel, cursed be the Jews’ (photo credit: AP/Hani Mohammed)

Iranian foreign ministry statement spokesman Bahram Ghassemi rejected the accusations as “unjust, irresponsible, destructive and provocative.”

He called on Riyadh to halt attacks on “defenseless and innocent people as soon as possible and to pave the way for inter-Yemeni dialogue to bring peace to the country.”

Critics have accused the coalition of not doing enough to prevent civilian deaths in its air war in Yemen, where more than 8,650 people have been killed since the start of the intervention.

Repeated attempts to bring about a negotiated settlement to the conflict have failed, including a series of UN-backed peace talks.

Saudi King, Crown Prince, Summon Palestinian Authority Leader to Riyadh

November 6, 2017

Photo Credit: Flash 90

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads Fatah and the PLO

King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed, unexpectedly summoned Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas on Monday to a meeting in Riyadh.

Abbas was in Cairo to meet with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi when he got the call. His Palestinian Authority’s leading Fatah faction, which he also heads, is in the midst of reconciling with Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization in order to form a unity government. But Hamas has also been strengthening its ties with Iran, and as recently as last week sent senior officials to Tehran.

Hamas politburo deputy chief Saleh Al-Arouri said in an interview on Iranian Al-Aram TV, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) that, “We and our brothers in Iran share solid ground on which we can always build and develop our relationship.”

Saudi Arabia has promised its ally, the United States, it will fight Iran’s attempts to create chaos in the region, which seems to be escalating daily.

On Saturday, then-Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, appeared on Saudi Arabia’s official Al Arabiya satellite television network to announce his resignation, blaming Iran for the decision. Hariri said his escape came in response to a foiled assassination attempt, and warnings of another plot to kill him. He accused Iran of sowing chaos and destruction in the region.

Also this weekend, the Saudi heir to the throne carried out a massive purge just hours after being appointed to head an anti-corruption committee established by royal decree. Eleven princes, four sitting ministers and dozens of former government officials were arrested in the sweep, including one of the wealthiest men in the world, the head of the nation’s Navy and the head of the Coast Guard.

The sweep sent shockwaves across the kingdom as the Crown Prince continues to consolidate his power, with the support of King Salman.

Also on Sunday, senior Saudi Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, the deputy governor of Asir province, and seven other officials were killed in a helicopter crash near the country’s border with Yemen, around Abha, while returning from an inspection tour.

Prince Mansour was the son of former intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, who served as crown prince from January to April 2015. King Salman displaced him from that position.

The Saudi Interior Ministry has not given a cause for the crash; however, on Saturday night an Iranian ballistic missile fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen was intercepted over Riyadh airport.

The Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemeni government forces has accused Iran of supplying the missile and said the Houthi attack may constitute an Iranian act of war, according to the BBC.