A secret Middle East alliance

Posted January 16, 2018 by danmillerinpanama
Categories: Egypt, Iron Dome, Israel and Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel

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A secret Middle East alliance, Washington Times, Herbert London, January 15, 2018

Illustration on an alliance between Irael and Saudi Arabia by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A Swiss newspaper, Basler Zeitung, reported recently that a secret alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia aimed at restraining Iran’s imperial desire for a land mass between Tehran and the Mediterranean was moving into a new phase. While there aren’t formal diplomatic ties between the two countries, military cooperation does exist. In fact, the Saudi government sent a military delegation to Jerusalem several months ago to discuss Iran’s role as a destabilizing force in the region.

Now it appears that officials in Saudi Arabia are considering the purchase of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, as well as the Trophy Active Protection System developed by Rafael and Israel Aerospace. Seen against a backdrop in which Riyadh rejects any official normalization with Israel, this development is quite remarkable. It also bespeaks a new-found respect for Israel and an emerging belief that in any Sunni defense condominium Israel will have a role to play.

It is instructive that neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt was actively hostile to the address change for the American Embassy in Jerusalem. They voted to repudiate the decision in the U.N. vote on the matter, but that was the end of it. The tide of alliance building is moving in a new and unpredictable direction in the Middle East.

The Saudi stance is ostensibly related to a Palestinian-Israeli deal on a two-state solution, but the reality is that Iran is the real threat that poses the greatest danger to Riyadh. An Israel with its advanced technology has become an ally of necessity, not necessarily an ally of long-term common interests, albeit history has a way of uniting unlikely bedfellows.

A recent missile fired from Yemen to Riyadh awakened the Saudi leadership to their vulnerability. Hence, the interest in the Iron Dome. The missile — identified as Houthi fired — had all the markings and signature of an Iranian weapon. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said this was an “Iranian act of war.” Saudi Arabia has resources, but despite the military training of the crown prince, the Saudis are not yet prepared to go to war against Iran. They will build and train and purchase advanced technology, but they will not revert to war, not yet anyway.

This explains why the Iron Dome is so critical as a strategic defense. It is impossible to know if the Houthis will launch again soon. But there is every indication that will be the case. The Houthis are a mere surrogate for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. They are armed, supported and directed from Iran.

The shakeout in the Middle East will have many turns and missteps. For now, it provides an interesting opportunity for Israel. From a U.N. vote establishing the state in 1948 to the present, Israel has been surrounded by hostile nations. That may change in the years ahead.

Imponderables fill the Middle East air. Will demonstrations against the Iranian government lead to its fall? Will the crown prince’s desire to modernize Saudi Arabia and seize control of military affairs work? Will the Egyptian war in the Sinai against ISIS and al Qaeda forces be successful? Will the United States continue to be an active participant in Middle East affairs? Is Russia prepared to make continued sacrifices to secure Bashar Assad’s position in Syria? These questions and a host of others dot the landscape.

If the Saudi-Israeli alliance yields some form of regional stability, many of the issues described above disappear. That is why the alliance is the harbinger of hope and the insurance policy for the moment.

• Herbert London is president of the London Center for Policy Research.

Bomb planted at West Bank holy site, is detonated safely

Posted January 16, 2018 by Louisiana Steve
Categories: Palestinian terrorists

Tags:

Today, 8:42 am The Times of Israel

Source: Bomb planted at West Bank holy site, is detonated safely

{It just never ends. – LS}

After controlled blast, some 1,000 Jewish worshipers visit Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, as residents riot and stone their buses.

Army sappers detonated a cellphone-operated explosive device that was apparently planted by Palestinians at the entrance to the Joseph’s Tomb holy site in the city of Nablus early Tuesday morning, ahead of a visit by approximately 1,000 Jewish worshipers, the army said.

There were no injuries or significant damage caused by the controlled blast, and the pilgrimage to the shrine continued as planned, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said.

The 1,000 or so worshipers were escorted to Joseph’s Tomb — believed to be the burial site of the biblical patriarch — by IDF soldiers, border guards and Israel Police officers, the army said.

According to the military, as the group was leaving the area, local residents began to throw rocks at the troops and the buses, causing no injuries, but some light damage to the vehicles.

One of the rioters was arrested, the army said.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, IDF troops arrested 10 Palestinian suspects in predawn raids. Two illegally owned guns were confiscated by Israeli soldiers in the town of Silwad, northeast of Ramallah, in the central West Bank.

Pilgrimages by Israeli or foreign civilians to the Joseph’s Tomb holy site are frequent catalysts for violence. In the past, Nablus residents have attacked the groups visiting the site with rocks, Molotov cocktails and rifle fire.

As a result, those interested in visiting the site require a military escort.

The left-wing B’Tselem rights group has condemned the routine practice, saying that “Israel has preferred the interest of Jewish worshipers over the rights of the Palestinian residents, their security, their safety and their daily routine.”

In August, two Palestinians were shot and wounded by Israeli troops who were providing protection to Jewish worshipers visiting Joseph’s Tomb.

In October 2015, Palestinian rioters set fire to the holy site. It was restored and reopened a few weeks later.

 

 

Fading Trump-Putin trust derails de-escalation zones on Syria’s borders with Israel, Jordan

Posted January 16, 2018 by josephwouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Fading Trump-Putin trust derails de-escalation zones on Syria’s borders with Israel, Jordan – DEBKAfile

Washington’s decision to keep US bases in northern Syria, secured by a new 30,000-strong local force, drew a strong threat from Moscow. Col. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, chairman of the Russian State Duma Defense Committee, said, “The practices of the United States, which is leading an international coalition allegedly against Daesh, contradict the Russian interests in Syria. Russia will work in cooperation with its partners to take necessary procedures to establish stability in Syria,” he was quoted as saying by Novosti news agency on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: “There is a fear that they are pursuing a policy to cut Syria into several pieces.” On the same day, a delegation of Syrian rebel chiefs arrived in Washington to try and persuade the Americans to restore aid. The US administration suspended that aid program seven months ago, immediately after Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin talked at the July 2017 G20 summit in Munich. It was then that they agreed to establish a series of de-escalations zones in Syria to wind down the warfare, with special focus on its border regions with Israel and Jordan.
However, when in recent weeks, Trump found the Russians opening the door for Iran to deepen its military presence in Syria, he lost faith in his deal with Putin. The Syrian rebels sensed an opportunity at hand to bid for the resumption of US arms and aid. A Free Syrian Army (FSA) delegation accordingly landed in Washington this week and openly solicited the CIA to go back to its former training and aid programs.

It may be assumed that FSA chiefs had received some sign from the Trump administration that their journey was worthwhile. They may also have understood that, if Washington was willing to set up a new army in northern Syria, dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia, it would be equally amenable to reconstituting the FSA for operating on other fronts, especially against the advancing Syrian government army and its Iranian and Hizballah allies.
In a word, the situation is a far cry from Putin’s assertion at the Russian Khmeimim air base near Latakia on Dec. 11, that the war was ending with a Russian victory.  Instead of being over, the war has switched to a new stage.
In further reference to the new US plans for northern Syria, Lavrov said on Monday: “What it would mean is that vast swaths of territory along the borders of Turkey and Iraq to the east of the Euphrates River would be isolated.” He complained: “There is nothing in the UN Security Council resolutions that have been pointing to that and neither is it in our previous agreements, so we are expecting some clarification from the US.”

But the Trump administration is now busy translating its decisions into actions on the ground in Syria and has no time for diplomatic wrangling. The de-escalation zones agreed by the two leaders seven months ago are dissipating, under the pressures of Russian-Iranian movements, US counter moves and Moscow’s threats. It is now up to Israel to adapt to the new reality that Syrian border zones are no longer secure.

U.S. moves ships, bombers toward Korea ahead of Winter Olympics

Posted January 15, 2018 by danmillerinpanama
Categories: North Korea - military options, North Korea - negotiations, North Korean missiles, North Korean nukes

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U.S. moves ships, bombers toward Korea ahead of Winter Olympics, CBS News, January 15, 2018

Aircraft carriers, virtually impervious to any attack the North could mount, are floating platforms for sustained air assaults, while the F-35 fighters could be a key part of any potential strike on Kim Jong Un himself.

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

TOKYO — The U.S. is beefing up its presence around the Korean Peninsula ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics by deploying stealth bombers, at least one extra aircraft carrier and a new amphibious assault ship to the region. Coming after Washington agreed to postpone massive annual military maneuvers with South Korea until after the Games, North Korea says the U.S. is trying to put a chill on its renewed talks with Seoul.

“Such moves are an unpardonable military provocation chilling the atmosphere for improved inter-Korean relations,” the North’s ruling party said in a commentary published over the weekend.

Representatives of both Koreas held a second round of talks Monday near the Demilitarized Zone to try to pave the way for a North Korean delegation to join the Pyeongchang Games.

The U.S. has officially welcomed the talks and the moves represent routine training and scheduled upgrades, according to U.S. military officials. Tensions remain high and the military deployments are significant.

(Video at the link. –DM)

CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reported that the meetings were a fairly stunning turn of events; the South has been trying to engage North Korea for months, but Kim Jong Un’s regime wasn’t interested in talking.

Last week, the Pacific Air Forces announced three B-2 “Spirit” stealth bombers with approximately 200 personnel have been deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to the Pacific island of Guam.

The statement said the deployment is intended to provide leaders with “deterrent options to maintain regional stability.”

But the Guam deployment hits an especially sore nerve and plays on a key vulnerability for Pyongyang, which is probably the message Washington had in mind as it seeks to make sure nothing happens during the Olympics and also let Pyongyang know its decision to postpone the exercises is not a sign of weakness.

Last year, flights by B-1B bombers from Guam to the airspace around Korea were a major flashpoint, prompting a warning from North Korea that it had drawn up a plan to target the waters around the island with a missile strike that it could carry out anytime Kim gave the order. The B-2 is more threatening.

It’s the most advanced bomber in the Air Force and, unlike the B-1B, can carry nuclear weapons. It’s also the only known aircraft that can drop the Air Force’s biggest bomb, the 14,000-kilogram, about 30,000-pound, FGBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

The “MOP,” capable of penetrating deep into the ground to destroy reinforced tunnels and bunkers, was explicitly designed with North Korea in mind.

(Video at the link — DM)

The B-2 deployment came just days after the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier departed for the western Pacific in what the Navy called a regularly scheduled deployment. South Korean media reports say the carrier and its strike group will reach waters near the Korean Peninsula ahead of the start of the Games on Feb. 9.

The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, whose home port is just south of Tokyo in Yokosuka, is also in the region, and North Korea has accused the U.S. of planning to send another carrier, the USS John Stennis from Bremerton, Washington.

The Marines announced on Sunday the arrival in southern Japan of the USS Wasp, an upgraded amphibious assault ship that can carry troops and launch the corps’ new F-35B stealth fighters. It can carry 30-plus aircraft, including the F-35s, which are designed for vertical takeoffs and landings.

The ships and bombers could figure largely in a U.S. response to any military emergencies during the Games. North Korea may view them as a greater and more imminent threat.

Aircraft carriers, virtually impervious to any attack the North could mount, are floating platforms for sustained air assaults, while the F-35 fighters could be a key part of any potential strike on Kim Jong Un himself.

Breitbart’s Aaron Klein: Barack Obama Treated Israel ‘Like a Shithole’ for Eight Years

Posted January 15, 2018 by danmillerinpanama
Categories: Obama and Israel, Obama and Netanyahu, Trump and nasty language

Tags: , ,

Breitbart’s Aaron Klein: Barack Obama Treated Israel ‘Like a Shithole’ for Eight Years, Breitbart,  January 15, 2018

AP/Charles Dharapak

While President Donald Trump has been accused of using a derogatory term to describe African countries, the news media remained largely silent while President Barack Obama treated Israel “like it was a shithole” for eight years, Breitbart Jerusalem Bureau Chief Aaron Klein charged.

Klein was speaking on his Sunday night talk radio program, Aaron

Klein pointed out that Trump has denied using the word “shithole” to describe African countries during a meeting last Thursday with a group of six senators to discuss immigration reform.

“Donald Trump is accused of using some bad language,” stated Klein. “I am broadcasting live right now from Tel Aviv, Israel. I watched for eight years as the news media was silent while Barack Obama for some strange reason took the one and only democracy in the Middle East and treated it like it was an s-hole.”

Continued Klein:

Now think about that for a few minutes. For eight years Barack Obama treated Israel like it was some s-hole. Meanwhile for some strange reason he coddled some of the most despotic regimes in the world. Remember the way he practically sided with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt under the regime there of Mohamed Morsi? What about how he opened up dialogue that eventually became the international nuclear agreement with Iran, the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world? How do we make sense of that when we compare it to the way that for eight years Barack Obama treated the place where I am broadcasting from right now, Israel, like it was some sort of s-hole.

Klein argued that Obama’s “anti-Israel presidency” was exemplified during a 2010 encounter when he “invited Bibi to the White House and then had him brought in through the back door like he was coming from some s-hole little country.”

“Remember how in that same meeting Barack Obama reportedly left the room, left Bibi Netanyahu in a White House meeting room for over an hour. In other words snubbed the Israeli Prime Minister while Obama went and had dinner with his family?”

Klein continued:

Barack Obama for eight years treated Israel not like the democracy that it is. Not like the anchor of stability in the Middle East that it is. Not like the one peace-loving country in the Middle East that it is. Not like the only country in the Middle East that treats Jews and Christians and Muslims equally. No, no, no, no, no. He treated Israel like it was a little s-hole.

Donald Trump is accused of saying a few words against some third world countries. Meanwhile Barack Obama for eight years treated Israel like an s-hole. Do I have to remind everybody what he did? Do I have to remind you the way Obama was caught on a live microphone blasting Netanyahu? What about how Obama pressured Israel into apologizing over the Turkish flotilla?

Do I have to remind you about the way that Obama’s administration had repeated leaks about Israel? Especially about Israeli operations to counter Iran’s nuclear program? …

Totally inexcusable. Remember the 2014 war against Hamas in Gaza? There could not have been a more clear cut black and white war. On the one side you have a democracy that wants to exist. On the other side you have an outright terrorist organization that had used territory that Israel gave up to the Palestinians with the goal of creating peace. And instead Hamas used that territory as a staging ground to launch rocket attacks on Israeli population centers.  [Yet Obama repeatedly urged Israeli restraint].

How many times did Obama generate total crises in the relationship between the United States and Israel over Jews building in eastern sections of Jerusalem?

Trump called the reports of his “shithole” comments “fake news.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the only Democrat at last week’s meeting, claimed that Trump’s remarks were reported accurately.

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who was present, yesterday said the “shithole” reports were a “gross misrepresentation” of what Trump had actually said.

“I am telling you that he did not use that word. And I’m telling you it’s a gross misrepresentation,” Perdue said on ABC’s This Week.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), who was also present, went on CBS’s “Face the Nation” to say he “didn’t hear” the curse word used “and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was.”

JW President Tom Fitton: The Clinton Gang Has Been ‘Looting and abusing’ Haiti for Decades

Posted January 15, 2018 by danmillerinpanama
Categories: Clinton corruption, Clinton Foundation, Clinton Foundation and Haiti, Judicial Watch

Tags: , , ,

JW President Tom Fitton: The Clinton Gang Has Been ‘Looting and abusing’ Haiti for Decades, Judicial Watch via YouTube, January 15, 2018

 

Did Abbas just give his valedictory speech, blaming everyone for his failures?

Posted January 15, 2018 by danmillerinpanama
Categories: Abbas, End of an error?, Fatah, Palestinian Authority

Tags: , , ,

Did Abbas just give his valedictory speech, blaming everyone for his failures? Times of IsraelAvi Issacharoff, January 15, 2018

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C-R) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Sunday’s address by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council sounded like the farewell of a leader at the end of his political path, and he admitted as much.

“This may be the last time that you see me here,” Abbas said in his speech in Ramallah.

In March, Abbas will celebrate his 83rd birthday, and he will be hard-pushed, in celebration, to point to a single significant achievement over the past few years. With no political solution on the horizon, the idea of a two-state solution becoming a sad joke, and the prospects of a unity deal with the Hamas terror group fading daily, it seems that even Abbas has thrown up his hands in despair.

Telling US President Donald Trump, “May God demolish your house,” could be attributed to the general “Trumpism” which has seized world leaders, but it also points to the deep despair of the Palestinian leadership.

In his first years as Palestinian leader, and especially after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, Abbas succeeding in doing what his predecessor, Yassar Arafat, had not attempted. He ended the chaos that ruled in the West Bank and established a degree of law and order. Together with the Palestinian security forces and with the help of Israel, Abbas managed to stabilize the West Bank and to remove the gunmen from the streets of Palestinian cities. That had previously appeared an impossible goal.

However, since the change of government in Israel, after the resignation of Ehud Olmert — who had offered Abbas the entire West Bank and never received an answer — together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2009 election victory, and especially since Trump entered the White House in 2017, the vision of two states realized through negotiations with Israel has evaporated into the thin air of history.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

The banner that Abbas waved time after time, as official and unofficial policy — establishing the State of Palestine along the 1967 borders — became an idea disconnected from reality. It is easy to blame Trump for this situation, but to be realistic, that has been the case since 2009.

The rule of Hamas in Gaza and Israeli settlement building showed clearly that the dream was one thing and the reality was another. Trump’s December 6 White House speech, in which he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, only made matters clearer for the Palestinians, as did the message sent from Saudi Arabia about the “deal of the century” being drawn up by the Trump administration.

The frustration of Abbas and his colleagues was palpable. Furthermore, on Sunday, he did what he is so good at doing — blaming the entire world for the situation of the Palestinians, from the US, to Israel, Hamas, and even the Europeans, for their role in sending the Jews to Israel.

Abbas also dedicated a large part of his address to his internal critics — not only Fatah activists who refused to participate in the conference, but also Hamas and the Islamic Jihad terror groups, who stayed away as well.

Israel, he further charged, destroyed the Oslo accords. “Israel is a colonialist project, which has nothing to do with the Jews,” he added.

Trump gave the Palestinians a slap in the face, he lamented. “The deal of the century became the slap of the century.”

Only a few in the Palestinian Authority and the top echelons of Fatah and the PLO were left off of his list of the culprits behind the failure.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

When one looks at the faces of those participating in the Sunday-Monday conference, it is clear how insistently the PLO and Fatah have refused to change or reform. The leaders today are much the same ones who led the PLO in the 1980s in Lebanon and the West Bank.

In this vein, over the last few years, Abbas has made sure that he has no heir, nor even a clear official process for choosing a successor. He ignored calls for reform and any kind of criticism. He made sure to isolate and weaken the most popular leader in the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti, imprisoned since 2002 and sentenced by a civilian Israeli court to five life terms for orchestrating a series of terrorist murders during the Second Intifada.

In what seemed like a valedictory address Sunday, Abbas promised that the Palestinians would not give up their rights, that payments to families of terrorists would not stop, and that he would not allow the Americans to mediate in the negotiations. These and many other “nos.”

“We do not take instructions from anyone, and say ‘No’ to anyone, if it is about our destiny, our cause, our country and our people… 1,000 times no,” he said.

Which left many Palestinians asking themselves a simple question — one that many people in Israel also ask their leaders: “So what is ‘yes?’”

It seems unlikely that the answer will be forthcoming during the Abbas-Trump-Netanyahu era.