Archive for January 13, 2018

Trump names David Schenker new Middle East head at State Department

January 13, 2018

Trump names David Schenker new Middle East head at State Department, DEBKAfile, January 12, 2018

Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have been conducting a quiet revolution in the department to replace the professional diplomats who led former administration policies for appeasing Iran, promoting certain Arab and Muslim circles and antagonizing Israel.

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David Schenker, a director at the prestigious Washington Institute for Near East policy, is to be assigned the top Middle East post at the State Department, as part of the ongoing shakeup ordered by President Donald Trump. DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that Schenker, a friend of Israel and expert on Syria, Lebanon, Hizballah, Jordan and Islamist terror, is a former senior adviser to Donald Rumsfeld, when he served as defense secretary in the George W. Bush administration. He is the second non-diplomat to receive a high State Department appointment since Trump entered the White House. As assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, he will follow Andrew Peek, a former military intelligence officer, who was named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran.

Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have been conducting a quiet revolution in the department to replace the professional diplomats who led former administration policies for appeasing Iran, promoting certain Arab and Muslim circles and antagonizing Israel.

UMass Amherst Sued by Student Group for Limiting Free Speech to One Hour Per Day

January 13, 2018

UMass Amherst Sued by Student Group for Limiting Free Speech to One Hour Per Day, BreitbartTom Ciccotta,  January 12, 2018

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Caleb Dalton blasted the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in a statement, condemning the administration for restricting the student’s speech rights. “A public university is hardly the marketplace of ideas that it’s supposed to be when the marketplace is less than one percent of campus and only open for one hour a day — and then only if university officials approve of your presence there,” (Italics added – DM)

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The Young Americans for Liberty group at the public University of Massachusetts-Amherst is suing the university over an unusual restriction on their First Amendment rights.

The Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst have filed a lawsuit against the university to challenge a rule that restricts students in their ability to hold rallies and speeches on campus. The group released a press released on Monday, detailing their suit against the university.

“The policy restricts all ‘speeches and rallies’ to one hour a day between noon and 1 p.m. on less than one percent of campus,” the report reads. “Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing YAL contend that the policies create a chilling effect on speech, deterring students from engaging in their First Amendment rights.”

The suit seeks a correction to a section of UMass-Amherst’s land use policy which states that students are only free to use campus grounds for “speeches and rallies” from noon to 1 PM and at the discretion of the administration. The policy also restricts such events to a certain area of campus.

“It is truly inspiring to see students stand up for the ideas of liberty and for the First Amendment on campus,” YAL Director of Free Speech Alexander Staudt said in a comment.  “It’s about time that the hard work of the YAL chapter at UMass Amherst gets noticed and achieve real results that affect all 28,000+ students on campus.”

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Caleb Dalton blasted the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in a statement, condemning the administration for restricting the student’s speech rights. “A public university is hardly the marketplace of ideas that it’s supposed to be when the marketplace is less than one percent of campus and only open for one hour a day — and then only if university officials approve of your presence there,” Dalton said. “UMass-Amherst’s speech policy contains provisions similar to those that courts have repeatedly struck down as unconstitutional at other schools. If the university wishes to demonstrate its dedication to the free exchange of ideas, it can do so by fixing its policy so that it’s consistent with the First Amendment.”

 

Professor Claims Anti-Semitism and ‘Islamophobia’ Are Equal Threats

January 13, 2018

Professor Claims Anti-Semitism and ‘Islamophobia’ Are Equal Threats, Jihad Watch

Are “Islamophobia” and anti-Semitism comparable? Reza Zia-Ebrahimi, senior lecturer in history at King’s College London, maintains that the answer is yes. Zia-Ebrahimi recently made this argument with a talk co-sponsored by Harvard University’s Saudi-funded Alwaleed Islamic Studies Program and titled, “When the Elders of Zion Relocated to Eurabia: Conspiratorial Racialisation in Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”

Speaking to a largely middle-aged crowd of about twenty, Zia-Ebrahimi contended that both The Protocols of the Elders of Zion—a Czarist forgery published circa 1903 alleging that Jews were plotting world domination—and Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis—a 2005 book by Bat Ye’or declaring the demographic and political transformation of Europe into “Eurabia”—employ conspiracy-theories that incite hatred for Jews and Muslims, respectively.

In his introduction, Zia-Ebrahimi credited the late Columbia University professor Edward Said with having originated this link by comparing Orientalism to anti-Semitism. Acknowledging that the “Israel-Palestine conflict” has “cast a long shadow on these discussions,” Zia-Ebrahimi advocated viewing anti-Semitism and “Islamophobia” as “manifestations of racism” in order to transcend these “divisions.” He described one camp as having “a tendency to be friendly to the state of Israel” and a “problem with Islamophobia,” while the other considers “Israel a colonial state” and believes in “Islamophobia.” The way to overcome these differences, he reasoned, is “to show that Jews and Muslims have been racialized.”

Zia-Ebrahimi further asserted that the two groups have suffered from conspiratorial bigotry, with the “world Jewish conspiracy” on one hand and its “Islamophobic corollary, ‘Islamicization,’” on the other. While conspiracists see Jews as seeking financial control, they see Muslims as “bent on our destruction” through “demographics,” he claimed.

While acknowledging that Eurabia and the Protocols “are two very different texts,” Zia-Ebrahimi maintained that they share certain qualities: representing “Jews and Muslims as a monolithic pack,” “supernatural reimagination” whereby the “most vulnerable sectors of society are perceived as almighty,” and claiming that “both Jews and Muslims benefit from a “European fifth column,” such as socialism or internationalism.

Zia-Ebrahimi focused the bulk of his talk on Eurabia, ostensibly because the Protocols have “been extensively studied.” Yet his hostility for Bat Ye’or and her book drove – and distorted – his presentation. Referring gratuitously to Egyptian-born Ye’or’s “European Jewish heritage,” he correlated her critique of Islam with “Lebanese Christian militias” and “Serbian ultranationalists.”

Zia-Ebrahimi excoriated Ye’or for associating Islam with “jihad,” “genital mutilation,” and “stoning,” and implying that its “principal urge is to subjugate Jews and Christians.” Eurabia, he proclaimed, “assumes all Muslims agree on sharia and want to impose it on everyone else” and above all, portrays a “diabolical Islamic civilization actively scheming destruction of Europe.”

Never once did Zia-Ebrahimi address the reality of such practices within Islam, nor the fact that Islamists advocate Islamic supremacism and are implacably hostile to Europe – seen as Christendom. In his eagerness to whitewash all things Islamist, Zia-Ebrahimi ignored the multiple terrorist attacks throughout Europe and the often-contorted Western reaction to Islamist aggression.

True to his biases, Zia-Ebrahimi lambasted a “coterie of counter-jihadi authors” such as Robert Spencer, Melanie Phillips, and Mark Steyn, and academics like Bernard Lewis, Niall Ferguson, Martin Gilbert, and Robert Wistrich for supporting and legitimizing Ye’or’s work. He savaged Ibn Warraq, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and “others referred to as ‘Muslim dissenters’” for adopting the “same discourse” in order to “be salvaged” from their “Muslimness.” Falsely conflating valid criticism and introspection with hatred and violence, Zia-Ebrahimi described the 2011 Anders Behring Breivik killings in Norway as the natural outcome of this line of thought.

While Zia-Ebrahimi’s premise seemed at first intriguing, if flawed, his mention of the Protocols and alleged concern for anti-Semitism were in the end little more than a pretext for attacking Bat Ye’or, Eurabia, and critics of Europe’s lenient—some might say culturally suicidal—policies toward its growing Muslim population. In denying any legitimacy to these widespread concerns, and in failing to support his argument with hard evidence, Zia-Ebrahimi exposed as disingenuous his contention that anti-Semitism and “Islamophobia” are twin evils of equal force.

That Harvard would host an Islamist apologist masquerading as a champion of virtue exposes the intellectual weakness, duplicity, and true intents of scholars who charge their opponents with “Islamophobia.” Coined not to spur debate but to silence it, the efficacy of “Islamophobia’s” peddlers rests far more on the prestige of their platforms rather than the rigor of their thought. Their intellectual and moral comeuppance is long overdue.

Cinnamon Stillwell is the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at stillwell@meforum.org. This article was originally written for Campus Watch and posted at the Algemeiner.

Iran vows to pursue ballistic missile development, slams ‘irrational’ Trump 

January 13, 2018

Source: Iran vows to pursue ballistic missile development, slams ‘irrational’ Trump | The Times of Israel

Amid US president’s push to incorporate Tehran’s ballistic capabilities into nuke accord, Iranian official says program ‘the only deterrent against enemy threats’

Iranians gather next to a replica of a medium-range ballistic missile during a demonstration outside the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 4, 2017, marking the anniversary of its storming by student protesters that triggered a hostage crisis in 1979. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

An Iranian government official on Saturday said that Iran would pursue its ballistic missile program despite US pressure, and slammed US President Donald Trump for his “irrational behavior,” calling him the “most hated president in American history.”

In an interview on Saturday with the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), an operation partly funded by the Iranian government, the chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said Iran makes decisions based on national interests and that its ballistic capabilities served as a deterrent.

“Ballistic capability is the only deterrent against enemy threats,” Boroujerdi was quoted by ISNA as saying, “after Iran has agreed to have no nuclear weapons and to use no weapons of mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons, because it is totally against the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

The remark comes on the heels of Trump’s decision on Friday to sign a waiver on Iranian sanctions, suspending punitive measures for another 120 days and keeping the Iran nuclear deal alive. The US president warned that this would be the last time he does so unless Congress and European countries fix the nuclear deal’s “terrible flaws,” and heed his call to strengthen it, including incorporating Iran’s missile program into the accord.

In this January 9, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The US president has to sign sanctions waivers every four months, while the American intelligence services monitor the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the nuclear deal, signed in 2015, which rolled back crippling sanctions against Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

In a statement following the signing of the waivers, Trump laid out four conditions that must be met, including increased inspections, ensuring “Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon,” and that there be no expiry date to the nuke deal. The current one expires after a decade.

His last condition required Capitol Hill lawmakers to pass a bill unilaterally incorporating Iran’s missile program into the nuclear deal.

“The legislation must explicitly state in United States law — for the first time — that long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs are inseparable, and that Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions,” the president’s written statement said.

Iran has repeatedly said that the nuclear accord could not be renegotiated, including earlier Saturday when the Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Tehran would “accept no changes” to the deal and will not allow the accord to be linked to any non-nuclear issue.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran stresses clearly that it will take no measures beyond its commitments under the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — the deal’s official name] and will accept no changes to this agreement now or in the future, and will not allow that the JCPOA be linked to any other issue [than the nuclear issue],” said Iran’s Foreign Ministry.

The ministry added that, “The internal solidity of and international support for the agreement have blocked attempts by Mr. Trump, the Zionist regime and the ominous alliance of hard-line warmongers to terminate this agreement or make changes to it.”

In the interview with ISNA Saturday, Boroujerdi said that “while many European countries and the signatories of the nuclear deal have repeatedly protested [against] the irrational behavior of Trump, he is still considered as a serious violator of JCPOA.”

But “Trump was forced once again to extend Iran’s nuclear sanctions waiver despite all the boasts,” he added.

Boroujerdi said Trump was “the most hated president [in] the American history, whose hatred has crossed US geological boundaries and [has] become a global phenomenon.”

Agencies and Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

Devin Nunes accuses FBI, DOJ of demonstrating ‘abuse’ of government surveillance programs

January 13, 2018

Devin Nunes accuses FBI, DOJ of demonstrating ‘abuse’ of government surveillance programs, Washington ExaminerDiana Stancy Correll, January 12, 2018

House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told fellow Republicans he has witnessed evidence demonstrating a clear “abuse” of government surveillance programs by FBI and Justice Department officials, according to a new report.

Nunes’ comments were made as he was attempting to garner votes for a bill to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Section 702 permits the intelligence community to oversee foreign communications, but does not authorize the government to oversee Americans. The bill was passed by the House on Thursday.

Ahead of the vote, Nunes said he has not seen evidence to suggest Section 702 was abused to look at foreigners, but that other sections of the law had been misused by the government to oversee Americans, Fox News reported.

Nunes informed other lawmakers he would “read all 435 members of Congress into major abuses with other areas of FISA and will read members in ASAP” on those issues.

No further details were given given concerning the abuses Nunes brought up during the closed-door meetings this week. A report from the Washington Examiner this week said that representatives from congressional panels, including the House Intelligence Committee, viewed Obama-era FISA documents at the Justice Department earlier this month.

That meeting occurred after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray released the documents to lawmakers. Nunes had issued a letter to Rosenstein in December slamming the agencies for their “failure to fully produce” documents concerning the so-called “Trump dossier,” noting “at this point it seems the DOJ and FBI need to be investigating themselves.”

The Washington Examiner previously reported that the committees had the chance to view the documents that pertain to whether the FBI used unverified information from the dossier as a reason to spy on Americans.

Nunes said he will try to allow every member of the House to view the documents and come up with their own conclusions, though some Republicans already believe the dossier played a major role in leading to the authorization of surveillance of Trump officials.

Some aspects of the dossier — like communications between foreign nationals noted in the dossier — have been confirmed by officials. However, the majority of the scandalous allegations included in the document have not been verified.

The dossier came to light publicly after it was published in full by BuzzFeed in January 2017.

Iran: US sanctions against Ayatollah Larijani crossed red lines

January 13, 2018

Iran: US sanctions against Ayatollah Larijani crossed red lines, DEBKAfile, January 13, 2018

The Iranian Foreign Ministry warned Saturday that Tehran’s response to the Trump administration’s “hostile and illegal act” against chief justice Ayatollah Sadiq Larijani would be “severe.” Its sanctions list “has gone way beyond internationally accepted behavior and red lines,” the ministry said. “All consequences of this hostile act will be the responsibility of the United States.”

DEBKAfile: The sanctions list targeted Larijani – not only because he is one of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s closest associates, but as a deterrent. The chief justice is responsible for determining the fate of the nearly 4,000 demonstrators detained in the anti-government protests in the new year, amid reports of abuses and even deaths. It is hoped in Washington that Larijani will consider the tough penalties he faces if he hands out harsh punishments to the protesters.

USAID Shifts on Aid to Christians, Yazidis in Iraq

January 13, 2018

USAID Shifts on Aid to Christians, Yazidis in Iraq, Washington Free Beacon , January 12, 2018

Iraqi Christians attend a mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the predominantly Christian Iraqi town of Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), some 30 kilometres from Mosul / Getty Images

USAID, responding to pressure late last year from Vice President Mike Pence, announced today that it is altering its policies in order to ensure that millions of dollars in U.S. aid appropriated by Congress reaches Iraqi religious minorities.

Pence, during an October speech at a dinner highlighting the plight of persecuted Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere, promised that the Trump administration would stop the State Department’s “ineffective” relief efforts that directed all the funds to United Nations, which has a religious-blind policy of disbursing the funds to all refugees in Iraq.

“The United States will work hand in hand from this day forward with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith,” he said. “This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need.”

Two months later, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) agreed to increase assistance to religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq, to enable them to return to their homes in areas liberated by ISIS.

“Following Vice President Pence’s remarks in October of last year, USAID renegotiated the terms of its agreement with the UNDP Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) so that $55 million of a $75 million payment will address the needs of vulnerable religious and ethnic minority communities in Ninewa Province [also called Nineveh], especially those who have been victims of atrocities by ISIS,” USAID announced.

USAID said the modified agreement ensures that the U.S. contribution to the fund will help the populations in liberated areas in Nineveh province resume normal lives by restoring services such as water, electricity, sewage, health and education.

The $75 million is the first installment of the UNDP FFS fund. The rest of the pledge will depend on the UNDP’s success in “putting in place additional accountability, transparency, and due-diligence measures,” USAID said.

USAID also announced that it is soliciting “innovative” ideas agency-wide to support the resettlement of ethnic and religious minorities in their ancestral homes in Iraq and that the results of that competition will be announced in early Spring.

The USAID announcement is eight months in the making and comes after lawmakers and human rights activists repeatedly argued their case to top officials at the State Department and USAID, which had resisted any change to their “religion-blind” policy of channeling most of the aid money to the United Nations.

That prior policy was “needs-based” and did not give priority to Christian and other religious minorities in Iraq, even though both the Obama and the Trump administrations have declared that both groups, as well as Shiite Muslims and others, have suffered genocide at the hand of ISIS.

ISIS’s campaign of murder, kidnapping, and enslavement decimated the Christian population in Iraq, which numbered between 1.4 million in 2002 and is now below 250,000, according to human rights groups who worked to chronicle the ISIS genocide in Iraq.

Catholic charities and activists who have spent years urging the Obama administration and now Trump administration to better assist minority religious communities in Iraq applauded USAID’s policy change and the United Nation’s commitment to help these communities with the funds.

The Knights of Columbus, one of the largest Catholic charities, and Aid to the Church in Need, another global Catholic charity, have sent millions of dollars in donations to the Catholic archdiocese in Northern Iraq, one of the few groups on the ground working to house and feed displaced Christians and Yazidis and help rebuild their homes.

“Vice President Pence deserves great credit for turning the ship of state in order to help save Iraq’s besieged religious minorities,” said Nina Shea, an international human rights attorney who directs the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

Shea said the policy change now requires USAID to undertake the difficult task of ensuring that the troubled UNDP, which she said “has long marginalized these Christians and Yazidis, finally applies some of our funding to assist them in a meaningful way.”

“All of us committed to seeing their communities survive the cradle of Christianity will be monitoring the implementation in the months ahead,” she said.

Stephen Rasche, an attorney for the Catholic archdiocese in Erbil and the director of internal displaced people resettlement programs, in early October accused the U.N. of squandering U.S. taxpayer aid for reconstruction projects.

The aid programs are so mismanaged that some U.S. dollars are going to benefit Iraqis who took over areas that persecuted Christians fled even though the United Nations says the project is aimed at helping Christians, Rasche testified before a House Foreign Affairs panel Oct. 4.

The Washington Free Beacon obtained photos of United Nations Development Program projects in Christian and Yazidi towns in northern Iraq, showing “completed” school-rehabilitation projects that amounted to a thin coat of paint on exterior walls with freshly stenciled UNICEF logos every 30 feet.

Inside the building, the rooms remained untouched and unusable, lacking running water, power, and furniture, Rasche testified.

Several lawmakers and human rights activists for months have argued that U.S. agencies have a responsibility to intervene more directly and effectively.

Republican Reps. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Robert Aderholt of Alabama, and Chris Smith of New Jersey, along with Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, last fall sent a letter to USAID Administrator Mark Green arguing that these communities now face “dire conditions where they desperately need assistance if they are to survive.”

The concern prompted USAID counselor Thomas Staal, one of the agency’s top officials, to visit Iraq in early December to see how the U.S. and Iraqi government could improve its support for minority communities following the defeat of ISIS.

Staal met with government officials in Baghdad and United Nations officials who are implementing U.S.-funded stabilization programs in Anbar, Nineveh, and Salah ad Din provinces. He also sat down with leaders of outside groups and representatives from Christian, Yazidi, Sabean-Mandea, Kakai, Baha’I, Zoroastrian, and Jewish communities to hear their concerns and needs in the post-ISIS rebuilding.

During visits to Erbil and Kirkuk, Staal met with the archbishops of the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church, and the Chaldean Church to discuss the aid the United States is providing. During a visit to Teleskof, he attended the rededication of the St. Gorgis Chaldean Church, a powerful symbol that survived ISIS attempts to eradicate Christian monuments and artifacts throughout Iraq.

Three and a half years ago, ISIS looted and burned the church and beheaded members of the congregation on its altar, Staal recalled in a blog post after his visit.

“I spoke to the congregation, and assured them that the United States stands with them. Americans stand with them in their hour of need, and we are committed to helping persecuted Iraqis continue to rebuild as they seek out that bright future,” he wrote.