Archive for the ‘Trump and Middle East’ category

The optimism of the ‘Obama victims’

January 16, 2017

The optimism of the ‘Obama victims’, Israel Hayom, Dr. Ronen Yitzhak, January 16, 2017

Outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama’s legacy in the Middle East is “one of near-total failure,” Professor Stephen Walt, a renowned Harvard University expert on international affairs, decreed in an interview to Al Jazeera last week. The collapse of the nation-states in the Middle East; the increase of terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Egypt; Israel and the Palestinians’ failure to hold talks; and a drop-off in the traditional friendship between the Persian Gulf states and Egypt and the U.S. are only a small part what the outgoing president is leaving behind.

Unlike the Arab public, which according to polls was wary of President-elect Donald Trump during the election, Arab leaders have not hidden their support for him. They were the first to congratulate him on his win, since they saw it as an opportunity to change U.S. Middle East policy. Indeed, the appointments in the new administration, which Trump recently announced, seem to indicate that the three most influential people in the new administration — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Gen. (ret.) James Mattis, and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn, along with Trump’s adviser on Middle East affairs Walid Phares — were all some of Obama’s staunchest critics and disagreed with his Middle East policy, especially with regard the Iran nuclear deal.

The Arab leaders of the Middle East have high expectations of Trump once he takes office. The declaration that was voiced in the Egyptian media after he was elected: “now Egypt has a chance to reassume its historic role in the Middle East” illustrates the change that Arab leaders are hoping for. The removal of American support for Islamist movements, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, which enjoyed the support of the Obama administration, will allow Arab regimes greater room to maneuver, vanquish the challenge of political Islamism, and cement their governments.

The Trump administration might also bring improved relations between the U.S. and the Gulf states, which deteriorated after Obama supported political changes in the Middle East during the Arab Spring, and more so after last year’s Iranian nuclear agreement. Even if Trump does not respond to their urging to cancel the deal, which was approved by the leading nations of the world, he will take care to see that all its stipulations are upheld and prevent the Iranians from cheating and misleading the public about the agreement. Closer U.S. cooperation with Russia could also check Iran’s freedom of activity.

This cooperation, which is expected to grow stronger once Tillerson, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, becomes secretary of state, could actually prove an obstacle to solving the Syrian conflict. In my opinion, Trump will prefer to give Russia a free hand there and not interfere, especially since the civil war has calmed down slightly and the cease-fire is still holding.

Finally, Trump’s support for the policies of the Israeli government and his refusal to foist a peace agreement on both sides bolster the assessment that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far from over. This is the only reason why the only Arab leaders to express dismay at Trump’s victory were the Palestinian leaders, who declared that his win was a distressing, not a hopeful, sign.

Straun Stevenson Blames President Obama for the Legacy of Death and Destruction in Middle East

January 8, 2017

Straun Stevenson Blames President Obama for the Legacy of Death and Destruction in Middle East, Iran News Update, January 8, 2017

(Please see also, In its Last Days, Obama Administration Clings to Hope of a Positive Role for Iran. — DM)

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Struan Stevenson, president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association, former member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14), writes in his January 6, 2017 article for UPI, that the legacy of President Barack Obama will be death and destruction in the Middle East. His vision cooperation between  the United States and Iran “has unlocked a Pandora’s box of conflict and sectarian strife across the zone.”

During the closing days of the Obama administration the controversial nuclear deal with Iran and his policies regarding that ruthless regime have allowed the mullahs to threaten the security of the Middle East, and perhaps, while Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Turkey have tried to prevent Iran’s aggressive expansionism in the region.

The U.S. and other countries is the West failed the Syrian opposition and allowed a civil war to continue into its seventh year, costing hundreds of thousands of lives, and setting off the huge migration crisis in Europe.

$150 billion of frozen assets were released to Iran by the U.S. as part of the nuclear deal, which the Tehran government was expected to use to shore up their economy, on the brink of collapse. Instead, the regime redouble its spending the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Quds Force, both of which are listed terrorist organizations in the West and are involved in many conflicts in the Middle East. Not only does Iran support Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, it funds and supplies Hezbollah in Lebanon and the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq.

The nuclear deal has been breached, which Stevenson says demonstrates Iran’s complete disdain for the West. Two Qadr-H missiles were fired last March, in defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution tied to the agreement. “Israel must be wiped out” was marked on the missiles, and the test firing took place on the day that the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel. Vladimir Putin sent the first shipment of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran last August.

President Obama attempted to make deals with the so-called “moderate” and “smiling” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, which he interpreted as having a green light for Tehran’s expansionist policy. Rouhani is in fact in charge of a government which has executed around 3,000 people since he took office in 2013, ten just this year. Mass hangings are now carried out in public, even in football stadiums. Many of the officials in his government were complicit in the 1988 massacre of some 30,000 political prisoners, most of whom were part of the opposition People’s Mojahedin of Iran. In fact, it was supervised by Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, who is Rouhani’s justice minister.

Obama began his administration by agreeing with Iran, and backing Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in Iraq. Stevenson writes, “Maliki was a puppet of the mullahs, doing their bidding by opening a direct route for Iranian troops and equipment heading to Syria to bolster the murderous Assad regime. Iran’s support for Maliki in Iraq and for Assad in Syria, two corrupt dictators who repressed and brutalized their own people, resulted in the rise of Daesh, also known as the Islamic State.Thanks to U.S. acquiescence over Tehran, Daesh grew and became a threat to the whole world.”  He continues, “Obama compounded this grievous mistake by providing American military support and air cover for the genocidal campaign being waged by pro-Iranian Shi’ia militias in Iraq. Once again Iran exploited its role in ousting Daesh as a means for implementing its ruthless policy of ethnic cleansing to annihilate the Sunnis in Iraq’s al-Anbar Province. Horrific sectarian atrocities were committed during the so-called “liberation” of the ancient cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. The Shi’ia militias, who formed the main part of the force fighting to recapture these cities from Daesh and are now engaged in the battle to recapture Mosul, are led by Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian terrorist Quds Force. Soleimani has also played a key role in Syria and the massacre in Aleppo.”

Tehran is gaining strength in Iraq. The Iraqi army is poorly trained, and the Iranian has Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s agreement to allowing Iranian-funded militias to take control of military operations. Political disarray in Baghdad, has paved the way for Iran to consolidate its hold in Iraq.

The unenviable task of trying to sort out the Middle East mess will be left to President-elect Donald Trump. Many people on his team believe that Iran is the main source of conflict in the Middle East and poses a greater threat to the West than North Korea or even Russia. It will be interesting to see how Trump will fare.

 

Why Trump and US intel clash over Russia

January 6, 2017

Why Trump and US intel clash over Russia, DEBKAfile, January 6, 2017

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The furious clamor keeping the alleged Russian hacking scandal on the boil is being orchestrated by the outgoing president and his intelligence chiefs to ramp up US-Russian friction to an eve-of-cold war pitch.

It is important to note that Trump and his advisers, including designated Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, don’t propose rushing into détente with Moscow or any sort of honeymoon. They are acting to restore relations to an even keel and end the disequilibrium of the past eight years, during which Obama just talked and Putin did what he wanted, especially in East Europe and the Middle East.

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America’s intelligence chiefs may have been singing their swan’s song Thursday and Friday (Jan. 5-6) when they hurled allegations of election-meddling “ordered at the highest Kremlin level” against Russia at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington. The committee’s chair John McCain picked up the ball and declared that Russian hacking was “an act of war,” after hearing grim testimony from the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the National Security Agency head Adm. Michael Rogers.

They disclosed that they had compiled a confidential intelligence report that demonstrated how President Vladimir Putin interfered in the US election campaign in favor of the winner, Donald Trump. They declined to divulge its contents but promised to release a shorter, censored version to the public next Monday, Jan. 9.

CIA chief John Brennan and Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson then proceeded to the White House to present the confidential report to President Barack Obama.

It will be put before President-elect Trump Friday.

The furious clamor keeping the alleged Russian hacking scandal on the boil is being orchestrated by the outgoing president and his intelligence chiefs to ramp up US-Russian friction to an eve-of-cold war pitch.

DEBKAfile’s Washington and intelligence sources find that the campaign is prompted by five motives:

1. The president-elect not only proposes to put relations with Moscow on a new and different footing, his transition teams are already at work with Putin’s advisers to chart areas of cooperation between the two powers, ready for the Trump administration to go forward when he moves into the White House on Jan. 20.

The most prominent area is the war on the Islamic State; another – the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. They are also exploring a joint US-Russian effort to resolve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

2. Obama, who has decided to retain a team for monitoring Trump’s policies, has plunged into a dogged fight against his successor’s decision to reset US-Russian ties.

Battling to salvage a part of his “legacy” is, Obama, exceptionally for departing American presidents, is determined to cast a long shadow over his successors’ actions and policies.

In the next four years, Barack Obama will keep hammering at the Russian hacking affair in order to keep the flames high against Trump’s “Russian steps.”

3. It is important to note that Trump and his advisers, including designated Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, don’t propose rushing into détente with Moscow or any sort of honeymoon. They are acting to restore relations to an even keel and end the disequilibrium of the past eight years, during which Obama just talked and Putin did what he wanted, especially in East Europe and the Middle East.

If the effort to restore balance to the relationship works, cooperation in common areas of concern might follow. But if not, the rivalry will continue, except that henceforth America will operate from a position of strength.

4. Working together in the war on Islamic terror will call for a large measure of cooperation between US intelligence agencies and the Russian secret services.

Sixteen years ago, after 9/11, Putin proposed this kind of cooperation to President George W. Bush in the fight against Al Qaeda.

In 2011, he stepped in again with an offer of assistance to Obama in the Libyan war.

Putin was rebuffed by both presidents rebuffed him. Donald Trump is the first US leader ready to seriously explore Putin’s intentions.

The US intelligence community is up on arms at this prospect, mainly because its clandestine branches were purpose-built to confront Russia, America’s historic Cold War enemy. It is hard for them to wrench the wheel round and head in the opposite direction at the bidding of the Trump administration.

5, Notwithstanding denials by administration officers, the president elect has every intention of overhauling the character and operational methods of America’s intelligence services. His overarching goal is to cut down the vast numbers off officers, analysts and computer operations, which turn out mountains of intelligence reports most of which he claims no one reads.

Trump plans to focus more on the product of secret agents in the field, and so save the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on desk staff and high-tech computer systems. His administration will prefer to rely more on human intelligence and less on technology-based input.

Trump encapsulated his approach to intelligence and computers in a remark to reporters on New Year’s day: “No computer is safe. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.”

The Obama mouse that roared

December 30, 2016

The Obama mouse that roared, Israel National News, Ron Jager, December 30, 2016

(Please see also, Egyptian Daily Close To Egyptian Intelligence Reveals Minutes Of Secret Palestinian Authority Meeting With John Kerry, Susan Rice; U.S.-Palestinian Coordination On UNSC 2334; Rice Says Trump Administration’s Policy Will Be ‘Dangerous’. — DM)

Obama has been perceived for the better part of the past 8 years by many of the world’s leadership as a spineless and weak leader, never feeling comfortable or really knowing how to implement the art of statesmanship. Obama caved in to Putin, the leader of Russia, caved into Assad, the embattled leader of Syria.

China, Iran, North Korea, Libya, have all exhibited nothing but contempt for Obama who always backed down, stood down, and generally did nothing more than wag his Presidential tail.

And then there was Israel.

The objective of the recent Obama-concocted Security Council resolution against the State of Israel is nothing less than a betrayal of the US- Israel alliance and a message to Trump. The Security Council adopted a resolution that brands the Jewish presence in any part of Judea and Samaria (‘West Bank’) or in parts of Jerusalem as illegal will also make the eight hundred thousand Jews in these areas international outlaws.

However, this betrayal of Israel is in actuality Obama’s lame duck way of signaling to the new Trump administration that he has no intention of letting President-elect Trump, the democratically elected President revoke the so-called “transformation’’ that Obama has set for America over the past 8 years. Obama’s action in the UN comes from his longtime distaste for Israel and from his newly found distaste for Trump and everything that Trump stands for. Obama has a lot of “unfinished business” and primal anger concerning Trump’s victory, exposing the Democratic Party and its leader for what they are, hated by Middle America and totally detached from the traditional values of so many Americans.

Obama’s last minute stab-in-the-back of Israel is intriguing considering that he did this with full knowledge that Trump would take an opposite position within weeks. Obama’s decision was based not on strategic thinking or any political pressures of any kind. To understand what motivated Obama, in the guise of condemning Israel, America’s only longtime democratic ally in the Middle East, we must understand his deep and powerful animus against the incoming Trump administration.

Trumps’ greatest sin other than actually winning the election has been that he has exposed the true legacy of Obama. Trump, the unapologetic, wealthy, champion of Middle America is everything that Obama is not. Trump embodies Obama’s worst nightmare and is an antithesis to how Obama envisions America. He is leaving the White House knowing full well that President Trump, in Obama’s own words. will “reverse progress” of the Obama’s Presidential period.

Trump has successfully shared with all Americans the true Obama domestic legacy: BlackLivesMatter, cop killings and violence in the streets, transgenderism,  the failure and bankruptcy of Obamacare,  unrestricted immigration, terror attacks on American soil, and a 10 trillion dollar increase in national debt.

Obama has generally corrupted all three branches of government through the use of Presidential directives ignoring the authority and constitutional mandate of Congress and the Senate,  and by empowering governmental agencies such as the IRS to selectively hound organizations that did not adopt Obama’s vision of America.

Internationally, Obama’s legacy has been even worse: allowing the Islamic terror genie out of the bottle,  half a million dead in Syria, the Muslim refugee invasion of Europe which could lead to the breakup of the EU, the rise of Iran as a conventional power that is devouring one Sunni country after another, the diminution of American power and prestige enabling Russia to invade and conquer neighboring countries, and finally, legitimizing the BDS movement and the criminalization of Israel by encouraging the Security Council of the UN to make Israel a pariah state.

This showdown between Obama and Trump has been unavoidable and in the making since day one of Trump’s declaration to be elected President. The Liberal elite and intelligentsia have failed in shoving down Middle America’s throat their vision of what America should be, Obama has not yet internalized that his 8 years of empty promises and the attempted transformation of America have come to an end, with very little to show for his efforts.

In the coming 3 weeks of what remains of the Obama Presidency, President-elect Trump and the State of Israel should prepare for the worst and expect Obama to take revenge against American voters who chose Trump. He can be expected to do the same against Israel for standing up to Obama for the past 8 years exposing his nothingness, his empty beliefs and his empty panaceas that have failed one by one. Obama will continue with his political carnage until his last day in office in a manner that is unbefitting to the office of the  President.

Obama is fond of quoting Martin Luther King Jr.’s line, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” The Republican Party controls all three branches of government, to the detriment of everything Obama has achieved in the past eight years. President Trump will build an American tent that will include all and be a beacon to the world. Israel will succeed in rescinding the Security Council decision sooner rather than later and continue to build coalitions with neighboring Sunni nations in the coming years and maintain expanding relations with most nations of the World.

Obama will fail in his last ditch efforts to forge his vision of a brave new world, leaving nothing more than a memory of a mouse that roared.

How Iran actually lost in Aleppo

December 26, 2016

How Iran actually lost in Aleppo, American ThinkerHeshmat Alavi, December 26, 2016

For 16 years America has failed to adopt a correct policy in the Middle East despite having huge opportunities to make significant changes. The 2003 war literally gift-wrapped Iraq to Iran, parallel to the highly flawed mentality of preferring Shiite fundamentalism to Sunni fundamentalism. This allowed Iran take full advantage of such failures and resulting voids.

Aleppo will be a short-lived success story for Iran. The tides are changing across the globe and Iran will no longer enjoy opportunities from West rapprochement. Understanding this very well, this is exactly why Tehran has resorted to such atrocities and sought to massacre all in Aleppo.

In contrast to how the U.S. handed Iraq in  a silver plate to Iran, Russia never entered the Syria mayhem to hand it over to Iran. The roots of Aleppo remain in the hearts of all Syrians. As world powers, especially the U.S. and Russia review their future objectives, Iran will be the first and ultimate party to suffer.

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Following a historic period of perseverance, Syrian rebels and their families were forced to evacuate eastern Aleppo after its liberation back in 2012. An unjust, intense war was launched upon Aleppo by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its proxy forces on the ground: Russia with its indiscriminate air strikes, and a lame-duck Syrian army of less than 20,000 deployable forces.

After more than 15 months continuous air raids and a long-lasting inhumane siege, Syrian rebels and civilians sealed an international agreement to depart Syria’s once economic and cultural hub.

In the past few weeks widespread bombing campaigns continued relentlessly on civilian areas. No Aleppo hospital was spared. The IRGC and its foot-soldiers, numbering at the tens of thousands, spearheaded the military of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in horrific mass executions of innocent people. The United Nations reported 82 individuals, including women and children, were murdered on the spot in the streets and in their homes. God knows how many more incidents have gone unreported.

The amazing perseverance shown by Aleppo locals for years now in the face of atrocious airstrikes and artillery shelling is unprecedented to say the least. Amidst all this, the silence and inaction seen from the West, especially the United States, will remain forever a source of shame.

Conflict of Interests

In the pro-Assad camp there are three decision-makers. First Russia, second Iran, and third the Syrian regime. The role played by Assad and his military in such scenes is next to nothing.

The West and Turkey became frantic for a ceasefire in Aleppo in the early days of the war due to the negative public opinion resulting from shocking crimes. They sought to have the rebels and remaining civilians transferred to other Syrian opposition controlled areas.

On December 13th, Washington and Moscow reached what can be described a ceasefire agreement. Intense negotiations between Turkey and Russia were started afterwards, resulting in an agreement between the Syrian opposition with Russia and Turkey to evacuate Aleppo. Practically, the parties involved in the talks were Aleppo representatives and Russia, hosted by Turkey. All necessary preparations were made to begin evacuating the city from the morning of Wednesday, December 14th.

However, Iran disrupted this agreement and the IRGC hindered the evacuation process. It was crystal clear Russia and Iran were pursuing different objectives and sets of interests. Iran sought not to have Aleppo evacuated but to exterminate all Syrian rebels and civilians.

Twenty-four hours later, pressure from the international community forced the implementation of the Russia-Syrian rebel agreement on December 15th. On the morning of that day the first convoy carrying the wounded exited Aleppo, only to face roadblocks imposed by Iran-backed forces and the Assad military.

Iran raised certain conditions for the evacuation. Russia later threatened to airstrike any party hindering the evacuation, an obvious warning to Iran. Tehran was forced to wind back under Moscow pressure.

As a result, the last phase of this war and the method chosen to evacuate Aleppo was a defeat for Iran and a victory for the Syrian opposition. Especially since the conflict of interest between Iran/Assad and Russia became crystal clear. Politically speaking, Iran has become a secondary party in Syria.

“For Putin, a political settlement now makes sense. Staying involved in an ongoing insurgency does not. But for that, he needs the opposition — which is fractured — to accept a political outcome, and there is little prospect of that so long as Assad remains in power,” as explained by Dennis Ross, who served as the Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under President George H. W. Bush, the special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and was a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia (which includes Iran) to the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Is this the end?

The turn of events does not spell the end of the Syrian opposition. The opposition controls large swathes of Syria, with areas over ten times larger than Aleppo and millions of residents. Idlib Province has at a three million strong population; the western coast of the Euphrates in the Turkish border, recently liberated by the Free Syrian Army from Daesh (ISIS/ISIL); large portions of Deraa Province neighboring Jordan; a strategically important section in the north in Latakia Province on the Turkish border; large portions of areas in the Damascus vicinity and large portions in the Aleppo vicinity.

In contrast to Western mainstream media reporting, the Syrian opposition enjoys the capability to rise once again.

Despite all its differences, a comparison made to the Iran-Iraq War may help. In 1986, Iran made significant advances taking control over the Faw peninsula in southern Iraq. Western media and think-tanks all forecasted further advances by Iran and a defeat for Iraq. In 1988 Iran was forced into a U.N.-brokered ceasefire agreement.

Deep divisions between the Syrian nation and the Assad regime have reached the point of no return. Nearly 500,000 have been killed and more than half of the Syrian population displaced. The Syrian nation will never accept the continuation of this regime. Despite sporadic military advances, Assad has no place in Syria’s future.

Where Iran stands in Syria

Iran will not be the final victor in Syria.

First — For Iran, it is vital to maintain Assad in power. His fall will mark the end of Iran’s crusades in Syria. Even if the Syrian opposition becomes weaker, the overall crisis will continue while Assad remains in power. Assad is no longer acceptable in the international stage with an international consensus over his resort to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Second — While Iran is financing and providing the ground forces, in this war, it no longer enjoys the first and final word. Russia calls the shots now with stark differences in interest, as seen in Aleppo.

Trump’s America

U.S. President Barack Obama’s weak foreign policy, especially the failed engagement with Iran, prolonged the Syrian crisis, allowed Tehran to take advantage, Russia to take the helm and America be sidelined.

Where will developments lead with Donald Trump in the White House? What will be the new U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis Syria, Iran and the Middle East? How can we define Washington’s relationship with Moscow, and what practical measures will Trump take against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL)? Time will tell.

Good relations between the U.S. and Russia will at least not have a negative impact on the region, and this is good news for the Syrian opposition. Russia has weighable interests in Syria. However, what will Trump do with Iran? Considering Trump’s harsh tone on Iran to this day, far more positive outcomes can be forecasted for the Syrian opposition.

Second, Trump and secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson have the potential of eventually convincing Russia to provide concessions. This is not in Iran’s interests, as Tehran remembers Russia ditching Libyan the dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

Lesson learned in Syria

For 16 years America has failed to adopt a correct policy in the Middle East despite having huge opportunities to make significant changes. The 2003 war literally gift-wrapped Iraq to Iran, parallel to the highly flawed mentality of preferring Shiite fundamentalism to Sunni fundamentalism. This allowed Iran take full advantage of such failures and resulting voids.

Aleppo will be a short-lived success story for Iran. The tides are changing across the globe and Iran will no longer enjoy opportunities from West rapprochement. Understanding this very well, this is exactly why Tehran has resorted to such atrocities and sought to massacre all in Aleppo.

In contrast to how the U.S. handed Iraq in a silver plate to Iran, Russia never entered the Syria mayhem to hand it over to Iran. The roots of Aleppo remain in the hearts of all Syrians. As world powers, especially the U.S. and Russia review their future objectives, Iran will be the first and ultimate party to suffer.