Posted tagged ‘Iraq’

Miss Iraq’s Family Flees Country After Posing w/Miss Israel

December 14, 2017

Miss Iraq’s Family Flees Country After Posing w/Miss Israel, The Point (FrontPage Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, December 14, 2017

#Coexist

Apologists for Islam insist vehemently that if it wasn’t for Israel, Muslims and Jews would get along. But the sad reality is that Islamic racism and supremacism makes it impossible. Not Israel.

Anti-semitism remains ubiquitous in Muslim countries. Long before this incident and the various wars, most Jews were forced to flee Iraq. And Iraq is demanding stolen Jewish religious items from the United States because its leaders are bizarrely convinced that if they don’t get them back, the Vast Jewish Conspiracy will lay claim to the Tower of Babel. Or something equally crazy.

Coexistence really isn’t working.

The family of Iraq’s contestant in the Miss Universe Pageant have left the country due to threats to their lives over her modeling in a bikini and posting on social media photos taken with Miss Israel.

Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, lives in the United States and the rest of her family has now fled the country, Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, told Hadashot news. Gandelsman said she has been in touch with Idan since the pageant and that the two women have a special relationship.

During the competition in Tokyo in November, Miss Israel, Gandelsman and Idan posed for photos on their respective Instagram accounts. Idan’s caption read: “Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel.”

Gandelsman told Hadashot news that Idan said she does not regret posting the photos.

“She did it to so that people can understand that it’s possible to live together,” Gandelsman said. “In order for people to see that we can connect, in the end we are both human beings.”

Sarah, based on her name, is probably Christian. She worked with the US military when she was 18 and is a model. None of these things would endear her to many Iraqis. She also lives in Los Angeles

Quite a few Iraqi Christians have already left Iraq. Sarah Idan’s family, like quite a few Christians, have decided that there’s no future or safety in the region.

Coexistence is a dream. But it’s not remotely a reality.

Qassem Soleimani sends minion on odyssey from Iraq to the Lebanese-Israeli border

December 12, 2017

Qassem Soleimani sends minion on odyssey from Iraq to the Lebanese-Israeli border, DEBKAfile, December 12, 2017

It took Soleimani’s Iraqi minion and his heavily armed convoy a couple of days to cover 300km from Iraq to Beirut. This is exactly the distance Iranian and Hizballah forces cover on their way from Iraq to the Mediterranean. The tour that wound up Khazali’s trip took place on the south Lebanese road parallel to Israel’s northern border. That road is just 65km long. At several points on his itinerary from Iraq, he must have been sighted. It is hard to understand why no American force in Syria and no eyes along the Israeli-Lebanese border missed sighting his armored convoy and failed to take him out – and so cut short Tehran’s deadly, well-advanced conspiracy to unleash thousands of ferocious Iraqi Shiite militiamen against Israel.

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By reaching the Lebanese-Israeli border on Dec. 2, Iraqi Shiite militia chief Qais al-Khazali embodied the consummation of Iran’s open land bridge to the Mediterranean.

The mission that Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods chief, Gen. Qassem Soleini entrusted to  Khazali and his militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (the League of Believers), embodies Iran’s success in gaining its great ambition of an overland corridor under its control through Iraq up to the Mediterranean coast. In line with that mission, the militia chief was guided along the Lebanese-Israeli border on Dec. 2, for a sight at close hand Israel’s border towns from Admit in the west to Metullah in the east. He needed this information in order to mark out the military positions he would assign to his Khalazi network at Tehran’s behest.

This event most of all highlighted American and Israeli inertia in letting Iran consummate its prime strategic goal of opening up new fronts against Israel from Lebanon and the Syrian Golan. They are to be manned not just by Hizballah, but by many thousands of battle-hardened Iraqi militiamen devoted to Tehran, as the Khazali odyssey has revealed.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources tracked his itinerary from the crossing into Syria from Iraq on Thursday, Nov. 30. His first stop was at Soleimani’s headquarters east of Abu Kamal. There, he conferred with the Al Qods chief and his operational staff, as well as with officers of his own militia who were fighting in Syria. They discussed ways and means of transferring 15,000 militiamen from Iraq to Lebanon via Syria for taking up deployment in southern Lebanon along the Israeli border.

On Dec. 1, when these matters were settled, Khazali set out for Damascus, escorted now by Hizballah in a heavily-armored convoy. There, he reported to the new headquarters set up by his militia in partnership with the Iraqi Kata’ib Hezbollah, the backbone of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU). It is commanded by Soleimani’s deputy, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Our sources report that this headquarters was recently established in Damascus to coordinate the Syrian- based Shiite militias, including those imported from Pakistan and Afghanistan, for a concerted campaign against Israel.

Khazali’s convoy then drove west, crossed the Syrian border into Lebanon and drove on to Beirut for a meeting with Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah. The two terror chiefs ironed out all the details pertaining to the disposition of the Assaib Ahl al-Haq militia in southern Lebanon across from northern Israel’s Galilee. Our military sources report that that the militia chief was then taken on his tour by Hizballah for surveillance of Israeli military formations on the other side of the border, so as to arrange the positioning of his forces accordingly when they arrived in Lebanon.

The tour began at the Hizballah position facing Israel’s Admit, continued to Houla, west of which Hizballah has planted a position opposite Israel’s Manara ridge and the IDF post located there. His next stop was Kafr Kela, just one and a half kilometers from the northernmost Israeli town of Metula. From a nearby Hizballah position, he was able to view the Golan and Hermon slopes. The voice of a Hizballah officer could be heard on a video clip released in Iraq on the militia chief’s tour. He was saying: “This is Golan. It is nearly 10 kilometers from here.” Khazali then proceeded on foot with his escorts to the Fatima Gate on the Lebanese-Israeli border outside Metula.

It took Soleimani’s Iraqi minion and his heavily armed convoy a couple of days to cover 300km from Iraq to Beirut. This is exactly the distance Iranian and Hizballah forces cover on their way from Iraq to the Mediterranean. The tour that wound up Khazali’s trip took place on the south Lebanese road parallel to Israel’s northern border. That road is just 65km long. At several points on his itinerary from Iraq, he must have been sighted. It is hard to understand why no American force in Syria and no eyes along the Israeli-Lebanese border missed sighting his armored convoy and failed to take him out – and so cut short Tehran’s deadly, well-advanced conspiracy to unleash thousands of ferocious Iraqi Shiite militiamen against Israel.

Trump Directs State, USAID to Bypass United Nations, Deliver U.S. Aid More Directly to Christians, Yazidis In Iraq

October 26, 2017

Trump Directs State, USAID to Bypass United Nations, Deliver U.S. Aid More Directly to Christians, Yazidis In Iraq, Washington Free Beacon, October 26, 2017

Yazidi refugees carry their belongings / Getty

“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.”

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

That policy, the two U.S. agencies have argued, is “needs-based” and does not give priority to Christians and Yazidis and other religious minorities in Iraq, even though both the Obama and the Trump administrations have publicly declared that both groups, as well as Shiite Muslims and others, have suffered genocide at the hand of ISIS.

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President Trump has issued a White House directive forcing the State Department and USAID to bypass the United Nations and stop its “ineffective” relief efforts aimed at helping Iraqi Christians, Yazidis, and other persecuted religious minorities, and instead to provide the assistance either directly or through “faith-based groups.”

Vice President Mike Pence, in a speech at the In Defense of Christians annual Solidarity Dinner highlighting the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere, announced the directive and lambasted the United Nations, arguing the international body has “often failed to help the most vulnerable communities, especially religious minorities.”

“We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups,” Pence said.

.@POTUS ordered @StateDept to stop funding ineffective relief efforts at @UN & will support persecuted communities thru USAID 

“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.”

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

That policy, the two U.S. agencies have argued, is “needs-based” and does not give priority to Christians and Yazidis and other religious minorities in Iraq, even though both the Obama and the Trump administrations have publicly declared that both groups, as well as Shiite Muslims and others, have suffered genocide at the hand of ISIS.

Pence said the United Nations has repeatedly denied funding requests from faith-based groups “with proven track records” working most directly with Christians in Iraq to help provide basic necessities.

“Those days are over,” he said. “Our fellow Christians and all who are persecuted in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly.”

Pence said the plight of Christians in Iraq and the Middle East more broadly is dire, and that they are on the verge of extinction in northern Iraq, an area where Christian communities have thrived for thousands of years.

ISIS murders and kidnappings have decimated the Christian population in Iraq, which numbered between 800,000 and 1.4 million in 2002 and is below 250,000 now, according to human rights groups.

Pence also repeatedly referred to ISIS and other extremist Muslim terrorist groups as “radical Islamic terrorism” and held them responsible for the genocide against Christians and other religious minorities.

“Let me assure you tonight, President Trump and I see these crimes for what they are: vile acts of persecution animated by hatred for Christians and the gospel of Christ,” he said. “And so too does this president know who and what has perpetrated these crimes, and he calls them by name: radical Islamic terrorists.”

Catholic charities and activists who have spent years urging the Obama administration and now Trump administration to better assist Christians, Yazidis, and other minority communities in Iraq cheered the move and Pence’s strong words.

“A year ago the United States used the right word to describe what was happening to Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. That word was genocide. Tonight, those words were put into action,” said Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus.

“For almost two years, the K of C has warned that Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East have been falling through the cracks in the aid system, and has been urging the United States government to provide aid directly to genocide-targeted communities. We are pleased that tonight, the administration has promised to do just that.”

Anderson added that the “real impact” the new Trump policy would have to help Christians in the Middle East and the survival of minority communities “cannot be underestimated.”

Other activists who helped chronicle the genocide against religious minority communities in Iraq also applauded the move.

Activists who have spent years chronicling the mass slaughter of Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in Iraq cheered the move and Pence’s strong words.

“This is good news and we want to thank President Trump, Vice President Pence, and all those who have been working diligently on this issue,” said former representative Frank Wolf, (R., Va.), who spent decades as a human rights champion in Congress and is now serving as a senior fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.

“This should impact humanitarian aid for those living as internally displaced persons and refugees and stabilization assistance for the Christians and Yazidis returning to areas seized from them by ISIS.”

Wolf recently returned from Iraq and testified earlier this month before both the House and Senate about the dire situation facing Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in Iraq.

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.

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, without running water, power or any 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, recently sent a letter to USAID Administrator Mark Green last week arguing that these communities now face “dire conditions where they desperately need assistance if they are to survive.”

“USAID has an immediate opportunity to partner with entities committee to the appropriate reconstruction of damaged homes and public buildings in several key towns in the Nineveh Plain of Iraq,” they wrote in the letter dated Oct. 12.

“Timely action would address provisions outlined in the genocide declarations and mirror the current administration’s desire to help the survivors,” they argued.

The State Department and USAID repeatedly stood by their religion-blind policy of dispensing aid without giving any priority to Christians, Yazidis, and other U.S.-genocide designated religious minorities in Iraq.

Late last week, a U.S. official told the Free Beacon that State Department and USAID plan to continue their policy of dispensing aid “based on need” and did not address criticism about U.N. corruption or the funds not appearing to help Christians, Yazidis and others on the ground.

“As the world’s humanitarian leader, the United States is committed to providing life-saving assistance to those in need,” the U.S. official said. “When providing the assistance, the United States does not discriminate based on race, religion or creed—we provide the assistance based on need.”

As ISIS is driven from Iraq, the lawmakers and activists argue that it is also critical to U.S. national security that that these indigenous communities are supported to prevent Iran from gaining influence in the region.

“Repatriation has a strategic advantage of heading off potential conflict between the KRG and Baghdad while barring an Iranian land bridge to the Mediterranean, which presently threats to fill the vacuum in the Nineveh Plain created by the removal of ISIS,” the lawmakers wrote. “This land bridge will be occupied by forces loyal to Tehran if security and rebuilding fails to come from other quarters.”

Thousands of Christians in the town of Teleskof who had successfully returned home and were trying to rebuild their community after the area was freed from Islamic forces were forced to flee Tuesdayafter Kurdish forces swarmed the town and engaged in a standoff with the Iraqi army.

Sources in touch with the community said late Wednesday the situation in Teleskof was improving as a direct result of U.S. intervention.

Over the last year, Congress has taken several steps to try to provide direct assistance to the minority populations in Iraq. Earlier this year, Congress allocated more than $1.4 billion in funds for refugee assistance and included specific language to ensure that part of the money would be used to assist Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in Iraq.

The House passed legislation, cosponsored by Smith and Eshoo, that would explicitly authorize the State Department and USAID to direct aid to faith-based entities, such as the Archdiocese of Erbil following congressional delegations to the region.

More recently, the House and Senate have held hearings about the need for the Trump administration to act quickly to get the funds where they are needed.

“We implore you to review proposals from credible organizations on the ground in the region who are committed to these goals, and if deemed worthy, to move swiftly to empower the through available resources to rebuild the region,” they lawmakers wrote.

Update 9:29 a.m.: This post has been updated with comment from the Knights of Columbus.

Reps Push Trump Admin to Bypass U.N. and Help Iraqi Christians, Yazidis Directly

October 18, 2017

Reps Push Trump Admin to Bypass U.N. and Help Iraqi Christians, Yazidis Directly, Washington Free Beacon , October 18, 2017

Church of Mart Shmoni in Erbil / Getty Images

Four House members are pressing the top official of the U.S. Agency for International Development to bypass the United Nations and channel funds intended to help Christians and Yazidis in Iraq directly to Catholic charities and others helping them on the ground.

The urgent push comes amid dire warnings from lawmakers and human rights activists that Christians and Yazidis, already victims of genocide at the hands of the Islamic State, are on the verge of extinction in Northern Iraq, their home for thousands of years.

The lawmakers also point to new evidence of corruption in the United Nations’ process for stabilization projects in Iraq.

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

“Returning Christians, Yazidis, and others to their rightful place will reknit the once rich tapestry of pluralism and diversity that existed in the region—an effort that is essential to any hope of durable stability in Iraq and the region,” they wrote in a letter dated Oct. 12.

USAID did not immediately return an inquiry about the letter.

Fortenberry, Aderholt, and Smith are longtime human rights champions. Eshoo has a personal interest in the mission. She is a Chaldean Catholic and first-generation American. Her mother is Armenian and her father is an Assyrian Christian from Iraq.

The letter is the latest effort by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate, along with human rights activists and Catholic groups, to persuade the State Department and USAID to change the Obama-era policy of directing most of its money to Iraq through the United Nations.

The lawmakers argue that Catholic charities most connected to the communities on the ground are the only groups that have a track record of helping persecuted minorities survive for the last several years and are best positioned to help them return and rebuild. The United Nations, they argue, has little to show for its assistance to these communities.

As the Washington Free Beacon reported earlier this month, photos of the few United Nations Development Program projects in Ninevah show the work being done is mostly cosmetic in nature. This contradicts claims for the United Nations, which has suggested far more substantial work has been done.

Steve Rasche, an attorney for the Catholic archdiocese of Northern Iraq testified before a House hearing that so-called “completed” school-rehabilitation projects in the towns of Teleskov and Batnaya “take the form of one think coat of painting of the exterior surface walls, with freshly stenciled UNICEF logos every 30 feet.”

Inside, he said, the rooms remain untouched and unusable.

U.S. agencies have a responsibility to intervene more directly and effectively, the lawmakers argue, especially after both the Obama and Trump administrations have declared that Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in Iraq are the victims of ISIS genocide.

“USAID has an immediate opportunity to partner with entities committee to the appropriate reconstruction of damaged homes and public buildings in several key towns in the Ninevah Plan of Iraq,” they wrote.

“Timely action would address provisions outlined in the genocide declarations and mirror the current administration’s desire to help the survivors,” they argued.

As ISIS is driven from Iraq, it is also critical to U.S. national security that that these indigenous communities are supported to prevent Iran from gaining influence in the region.

“Repatriation has a strategic advantage of heading off potential conflict between the KRG and Baghdad while barring an Iranian land bridge to the Mediterranean, which presently threats to fill the vacuum in the Ninevah Plain created by the removal of ISIS,” the lawmakers wrote. “This land bridge will be occupied by forces loyal to Tehran if security and rebuilding fails to come from other quarters.”

Congress has taken a number of steps to try to provide direct assistance to the minority populations in Iraq. Earlier this year, Congress allocated more than $1.4 billion in funds for refugee assistance and included specific language to ensure that part of the money would be used to assist Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in Iraq.

The House passed legislation, cosponsored by Smith and Eshoo, that would explicitly authorize the State Department and USAID to direct aid to faith-based entities, such as the Archdiocese of Erbil following congressional delegations to the region.

More recently, the House and Senate have held hearings about the need for the Trump administration to act quickly to get the funds where they are needed.

“We implore you to review proposals from credible organizations on the ground in the region who are committed to these goals, and if deemed worthy, to move swiftly to empower the through available resources to rebuild the region,” they lawmakers wrote.

Hypocrisy: A state for the Palestinians but not for the Kurds or Catalonia

October 2, 2017

Hypocrisy: A state for the Palestinians but not for the Kurds or Catalonia |Anne’s Opinions, 2nd October 2017

 

The Kurds are a nation scattered across the Middle East while their national territory was divided up by the ruling powers of a century ago and split amongst several nations, all in a manner similar to the fate of the Jews and Israel:

For decades, Kurdish politics have hinged on dreams of an independent Kurdish state. When colonial powers drew the map of the Middle East after World War I, the Kurds, who now number around 30 million, were divided among Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq.

Kurdish inhabited areas of the Middle East, crossing international borders

Since the Arab “spring” with its multiple civil wars broke out, the Kurds are the one nation that have managed to remain united and hold on tot their territory, retaking control and a semblance of independence after decades of repression by the Arab countries who previously controlled their territory. They have been amongst the prime fighters against ISIS and have stayed out of the Israeli-Arab conflict altogether.In fact Israel is very popular with the Kurds and as I have previously written, the Israeli flag is a common sight at Kurdish rallies.

The Israeli flag is flown at a rally for Kurdish independence held in Geneva, Switzerland

Last week the Kurds held a referendum amongst its people asking if they wanted independence. The answer of course was a resounding yes. However the answer from almost the entire world (the UN, the US, Iran, Iraq, Turkey) was a resounding “no”, or a hostile neutral silence. The only country that lent its solid support to the Kurdish nation was Israel.

Iraq threatened the Kurds with a flight ban if they do not hand over their airports to the Iraqi authorities:

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued his ultimatum a day after the landmark vote, which he said was a “historic and strategic mistake by the Kurdish leadership.”

“I will not give up on the unity of Iraq, that is my national and constitutional duty,” he said, adding that any ban would still allow for humanitarian and other “urgent” flights.

That’s rich coming from the leader of a country which is so fractured that it barely exists any more.

Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish regional president who spearheaded the referendum, called for “dialogue” with Baghdad. “Negotiations are the right path to solve the problems, not threats or the language of force,” he said in a televised address.

The US remained cool to downright cold, refusing to recognize “illegitimate referendum“:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to the recent referendum on the independence of Kurdistan as “unilateral,” saying the vote held on September 25 lacks legitimacy.

US Secretary of State Reg Tillerson

“The United States does not recognize the Kurdistan Regional Government’s unilateral referendum held on Monday,” Tillerson said in a written statement on Friday (September 29).

Tillerson said his country supports a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq.

He expressed concern over the possible “negative consequences” of the Kurdish referendum, adding the vote may hinder efforts to promote stability and prosperity for the people of the Kurdistan Region.

Tillerson said the U.S. asks all parties, including Iraq’s neighbors, to reject unilateral actions and the use of force.

“We urge calm and an end to vocal recriminations and threats of reciprocal actions. We urge Iraqi Kurdish authorities to respect the constitutionally-mandated role of the central government and we call upon the central government to reject threats or even allusion to possible use of force.”

But an interesting article in the New York Times of all places praised Israel’s endorsement of the Kurds’ bid for independence:

JERUSALEM — With a two-sentence statement supporting the Iraqi Kurds’ plan to hold a referendum on independence this Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put Israel at odds with nearly every other major player in the Middle East.

Mr. Netanyahu, who endorsed not only the referendum but also the establishment of a Kurdish state, had ample strategic reason: A breakaway Kurdistan could prove valuable to Israel against Iran, which has oppressed its own Kurdish population.

But given the interwoven history and shared emotion underlying his statement, present-day geopolitics can seem almost beside the point.

The Kurds and the Jews, it turns out, go way back.

Back past the Babylonian Captivity, in fact: The first Jews in Kurdistan, tradition holds, were among the last tribes of Israel, taken from their land in the eighth century B.C. They liked it there so much that when Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered the Babylonians and let the Jews go back home, many chose instead to stick around.

Sixteen centuries later, Saladin, a Kurd, treated the Jews humanely after he conquered Jerusalem, and notably hired a Jewish doctor, Maimonides, as his physician.

In the modern era, Kurdish Jews departed en masse for Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948, leaving Kurdish civil society so bereft that some recall its leaders still lamenting the Jewish exodus decades later.

Ties between the two have only grown warmer and more vital since the 1960s, as Israel and the Kurds — both minorities in an inhospitable region and ever in need of international allies — have repeatedly come to each other’s aid. The Kurds have long patterned their lobbying efforts in Washington on those of Israel’s supporters.

Israeli flags often appear at Kurdish rallies, like this one in Erbil, Iraq

And while Kurdish leaders have not publicly embraced Israel in the run-up to the referendum, for fear of antagonizing the Arab world, the Israeli flag can routinely be seen at Kurdish rallies in Erbil and across Europe.

The Kurds in turn have friends and supporters all across Israel, including some 200,000 Kurdish Jews. But 83-year-old Tzuri Sagi, a retired brigadier general, has more reason than most Israelis to root for Kurdish independence.

Read the rest of that fascinating article about the ties between Israel and the Kurds.

A Jerusalem Post article also agrees with the Israeli position of supporting the Kurds bid for independence:

In the wake of Iranian aggression across the Middle East, the most effective strategy Israel can adopt is to recognize an independent Kurdistan and fully support it.

Across the Middle East Israel faces a variety of security threats, from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Assad’s regime in Syria to Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Islamic State (ISIS) in the Sinai Peninsula. These already existing threats are exasperated by Iran seeking to establish a Shi’ite Crescent from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

To prop up Assad’s regime and Hezbollah, Iran needs territorial contiguity from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This way, it can import supplies with ease to its proxies via land routes, for Israel has already demonstrated that it can infiltrate and stop Iranian sea or air shipments more easily. However, an independent Kurdistan in Syria and Iraq would territorially break up the Shi’ite Crescent, thus making it more difficult for Iran to carry out its terrorist activities across the Middle East. The Kurdistan region of Iraq led by President Masoud Barzani’s government will not permit Iranian shipments to terrorist groups to pass through its territory.

If Kurdistan becomes a full-fledged independent state in Northern Iraq and parts of Syria, the logistical obstacles for Iran will greatly increase.

It is not only for the purely practical geopolitical advantages that Israel should support the Kurds, but because it is morally right:

It is critical to note that Israel should support an independent Kurdistan because it is the moral thing to do. The Kurds were promised a country in the Treaty of Sevres but this promise was reneged on in the Treaty of Lausanne, leaving the Kurds as the largest nation on earth without a country, a reality that affects 40 million people. The Kurds have their own unique culture, history and language, which are distinct from those of their Turkish, Persian and Arab neighbors. Furthermore, in the past the Kurds had strong leaders who befriended the Jewish People, such as Saladin.

In addition, the Kurds ruled themselves in the past, under the Ayyubid dynasty and the Bohtan Emirate, to name a few. In fact, they were only absorbed by the Ottoman Empire in 1908. For this reason, the Kurds have a strong sense of nationalism.

The Kurds passionately believe that their culture, language and historic destiny can be best realized by granting them the same rights that other nations possess.

Israel’s former Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor also praises the Kurds’ readiness for statehood (unlike, say, the Palestinians):

An independent Kurdish state would be a victory for democratic values, national self-determination and the rights of women and minorities. Is there a more iconic image of the fight against the Islamic State than that of female Kurdish peshmerga fighters doing battle on the front lines against jihadists who demand the subjugation of women? An independent Kurdish state would empower these warriors in a part of the world where women and girls are typically second-class citizens.

Kurdish Peshmerga women fighters

In addition to its commitment to gender equality, Kurdistan has also shown its commitment to minority rights. Over the past three years, Kurdistan, which is about the size of Maryland, has taken in nearly two million refugees, including Assyrians, Yazidis, Turkmen, Shabaks and Christians fleeing the Islamic State and sectarian violence in other parts of Iraq and in Syria.

Even without a formal state, the Kurds have built a society that meets many of the criteria of statehood. They are economically viable, with a well-developed energy industry. They have functioning institutions, including elections for Parliament and a relatively free media. And they’ve proved capable of defending themselves against the Islamic State without attacking others.

Kurdistan is already, in values and governance, a democratic nation in waiting. Is it a perfect Jeffersonian democracy? No. Does it have a long way to go? Yes. But in a region where tyranny is the norm, it’s on the right track.

We should all pray that Kurds are successful in their bid for independence and that there will be a peaceful solution to this brewing crisis. Israel should certainly give it as much support as it can. And shame on the world for denying this brave, big-hearted people their rightful claim to their own territory and self-determination.

Meanwhile over in Spain, Catalonians held a referendum today asking their people if they wanted independence. The answer was not clear. Nevertheless the Spanish rejected the referendum, calling it illegal, and sent in the riot police which violently repressed the independence rallies, injuring almost 500 people:

Nearly 500 people were injured Sunday as Spanish security forces attempted to shut down a referendum vote on the future of the northeastern Spanish province of Spain.

Spanish police break into a Catalonian voting booth

Catalonia, a semi-autonomous province with its own official language, held the controversial vote Sunday on whether to remain a part of the Kingdom of Spain, or to seek independence.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who supports a Catalan separation from Spain, said earlier that if the referendum saw a majority of “yes” votes, he would declare an independent Catalonia within 48 hours.

While polls show some 60% of locals oppose independence from Spain, a wide majority back the plebiscite.

Girls stroll through the center of Figueras with the Spanish and a pro-independence ‘Estelada’ Catalan flag

The Spanish government, however, has declared the referendum illegal and ordered security forces to bar voters from entering polling stations.

“There has not been a referendum or anything remotely similar,” Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said.

In polling places across Catalonia, including the local capital, Barcelona, police clashed with crowds of voters as they attempted to enter voting stations.

During the clashes, officers opened fire with rubber bullets, hitting dozens of protesters.

According to The Independent, local firefighters formed human shields around voters to protect voters from police.

Catalan officials say police managed to shut down 319 voting stations across Catalonia.

“What the police are doing is a real scandal, a savagery,” said Catalan spokesperson Jordi Turull.

“The Spanish state is in a very difficult situation before the world… What the police is doing is truly an international embarrassment.”

Yet it seems that what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander. Or maybe that statement should be reversed. The very independence that is rejected by the world for their own minorities is enthusiastically advanced for the Palestinians. The Kurds do not seek to replace anyone or to kill them. They simply want their own indigenous territory back in their hands and under their control. But the world rejects their bid.

The Catalonians want to run their own affairs outside of Spanish jurisdiction. Here too their bid for self-determination is rejected by the world.

But somehow, the Palestinians, who already have independence from Israel, and who run their own affairs, are considered perfectly legitimate when they demand not only independence, but an end to the State of Israel. They demand this loudly and clearly and can be heard in demonstrations across the world: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”. This is no less than an Arabic “final solution” for the Jews. In case you haven’t looked at a map lately, the space between the river (Jordan) to the (Mediterranean) Sea is occupied, for want of a better word, by Israel with over 6 million Jews as well as another 2 million Muslims, Christians and other minorities.

“From the river to the sea Palestine will be free” – of Jews and of Israel. This is an Arab Final Solution

The inherent hypocrisy in this stance was called out today by Eli Dahan, Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister:

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Jewish Home) blasted the Spanish government’s crackdown against a regional referendum in the province of Catalonia Sunday, which left nearly 500 people injured, most of them pro-independence demonstrators.

Deputy Minister Ben-Dahan slammed Madrid’s crackdown on the referendum, noting Spain’s decades-long support for Palestinian statehood.

“For many years, Spain lectured us about how we need to give [national] rights to the Palestinian Arabs,” wrote Ben-Dahan on Twitter. “Today we see their hypocrisy, as [Spain] doesn’t even allow the Catalans to hold a referendum on independence.”

I found this Facebook post by Tsuriel Rashi, a lecturer at Bar Ilan University, to be particularly apt:

 

He writes:

Two states for two people
Spain and Catalonia
Kurdistan and Turkey
“They are there and we are here”.
Or is this a solution limited to a particular region?

Indeed Dr. Rashi has pointed out the world’s hypocrisy in one short pithy paragraph. “Do as I say, not do as I do” is what the world tells Israel.

It’s about time Israel told the world where to get off.

Critics: State Department Delaying Aid Congress Provided to Yazidis, Christians in Iraq

September 25, 2017

Critics: State Department Delaying Aid Congress Provided to Yazidis, Christians in Iraq, Washington Free Beacon , September 25, 2017

Iraqis Yazidis dance during a ceremony celebrating the Yazidi New Year north east of Mosul / Getty Images

Human rights activists and Catholic groups are questioning why the State Department still appears reluctant to direct money Congress appropriated to assist Christians, Yazidis, and other persecuted religious minorities in Iraq but this week quickly dispatched $32 million to help a majority Muslim group fleeing violence in Burma.

The State Department on Thursday announced it would provide a humanitarian aid package worth nearly $32 million to the Rohingya, a persecuted minority group in Burma. More than 400,000 Rohingya have fled Burma, a majority Buddhist nation, for Bangladesh over the past month to escape wide-scale violence that the United Nations’ top human rights official has labeled ethnic cleansing.

The aid package came the day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Burma, and urged the Burmese government and military to “address deeply troubling allegations of human rights abuses and violations.”

Tillerson’s quick efforts to help the Rohingya demonstrated the State Department’s ability to quickly direct humanitarian aid to a threatened minority group. However, critics say the swift action stands in sharp contrast to State’s foot-dragging when it comes to directing funds to Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities facing genocide in Iraq.

Earlier this year, Congress allocated more than $1.4 billion in funds for refugee assistance and included specific language to ensure that part of the money would be used to assist Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims—all groups the State Department deemed victims of genocide in 2016. Over the summer, Tillerson affirmed his belief that these religious minority groups in Iraq are the victims of Islamic-State genocide.

Lawmakers who passed the bills providing the funds, as well as human rights activists and Catholic charities, were encouraged by Tillerson’s affirmation of the genocide declaration, but they say his statements have done nothing to change the situation on the ground. The Yazidis and Christians are still not getting the necessary money to help them rebuild their lives and communities in the Northern Iraq’s Ninevah province, where they have thrived for thousands of years.

The Knights of Columbus, a global Catholic charity that has spent years on the ground housing and feeding thousands of Yazidis and Christians ground, said a much larger rebuilding plan is needed to save them extinction from Iraq. Congress has already responded by allocating funds, but the State Department is preventing them from getting directly to the communities in Iraq, according to GOP lawmakers and human rights activists.

ISIS murders and kidnappings, as well as efforts to flee this persecution, have radically reduced the Yazidi and Christian population in Iraq. Christians, which numbered between 800,000 to 1.4 million in 2002, number fewer than 250,000 now. Without action, these lawmakers and activists warn, Christians could soon disappear completely from Iraq.

The Yazidi population also has plummeted, although estimates of how far the population has fallen vary wildly, ranging from the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands since ISIS launched its attack in the Sinjar region of Iraq in 2014.

Despite the congressional commitment, lawmakers and human rights activists say most of the U.S. taxpayer money going to help people in Iraq is channeled through the United Nations, which has a “religion-blind” policy of distributing most of the money to refugee camps that Yazidis and Christians avoid out of fear of further violence and persecution.

“It is always good when people who are in danger are helped. But why is there a terrible disparity between our government’s treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma and the absolute lack of help for Yazidis and Christians in Iraq, whom Secretary Tillerson declared last month to be victims of genocide?” asked Nina Shea, an international human rights lawyer who directs the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

“In Iraq, we should be helping people who are victims of genocide, but our government is not,” she said. “We should be caring for religious minorities. But our government is not. We should be concerned about religious freedom. But our government is not.”

Shea, who spent 12 years as a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the dearth of U.S. taxpayer resources getting to these communities is incredibly frustrating, considering the direct national security interests of rebuilding those communities. Displaced Christians specifically could help play a stabilizing role in the Ninevah Plain area of Iraq if they have enough infrastructure and support to rebuild their homes and communities, she said.

If they had the resources, they also could combat Iran’s colonization of northern Iraq, where pro-Iranian militias are illegally buying up Christian-owned property in the area to try to broaden their influence, she said.

“Right now, Iran is using the Ninevah province as a land bridge to Syria and the Mediterranean and that is a threat to our interests and Israel’s interests,” she said.

The State Department’s inaction continues despite President Trump’s promise to do everything in his power to defend and protect “historic Christian communities of the Middle East.” Trump made the pledge after meeting with Pope Francis and again in the wake of the ISIS attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt in late May.

A State Department official did not respond directly to questions about why the money is not getting to Yazidis and Christians despite the genocide declaration. Instead, the officials stressed that the U.S. government is the largest single donor to the Iraq and Syria humanitarian crises, having contributed $1.7 billion since fiscal year 2014.

“The United States closely monitors the needs of all vulnerable, displaced and conflict-affected populations, including members of religious and ethnic minorities and has taken extraordinary measures to aid imperiled civilians,” the official said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.

“Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief is fundamental to the United States and who we are. The United States remains committed to ensuring the protection of religious freedoms for all,” the official added.

Congressional aides dispute any suggestion that the United States is committed to ensuring that Yazidis and Christians communities remain in Iraq.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill and human rights activists are tracking the list of U.N. development projects in Iraq closely and said there are only very minor projects in Christian towns and communities, such as one that would repair a canopy on a municipal building and no major infrastructure or road projects that would help Christian communities return and provide interim jobs for those returning.

The Iranians, in contrast, just opened a new elementary school, mosque, and library in the Ninevah region, she said.

The continued push to get the funds to Yazidis and Christians on the ground comes the same week that the U.N. Security Council created an investigative team aiming to hold ISIS accountable for war crimes and genocide in Iraq.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the resolution creating the team a “landmark” development. “It is a major step towards addressing the death, suffering, and injury of the victims of crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq—crimes that include genocide. These victims have been Yazidis, Christians, Shia and Sunni Muslims, and many, many more.”

Shea and other activists consider the resolution a good first step but argue it is critically important that Yazidi and Christian leaders are appointed to help lead the investigative team aiming to hold ISIS accountable for war crimes and genocide in Iraq.

According to a Security Council resolution calling on the U.N. secretary-general to create the investigative team, its mission would be to collect, preserve and store evidence of ISIS war crimes and genocide.

Stupidity or malice? The US plans to return stolen Jewish artifacts to Iraq

September 12, 2017

Stupidity or malice? The US plans to return stolen Jewish artifacts to Iraq | Anne’s Opinions, 12th September 2017

Looted Jewish artifacts from Iraq

When the news hit the headlines this week that the US plans to return Jewish artifacts to Iraq – artifacts, it should be noted, that were stolen from the Iraqi Jewish community by the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and rescued by US forces – I thought the story sounded familiar. A quick search on my blog revealed that this decision had already been discussed 4 years ago! To be honest, I thought that this absurd decision to return the artifacts to their unlawful owners had been shelved once Donald Trump became President. Sadly this is not the case.

The JTA reports:

NEW YORK (JTA) — The United States will return to Iraq next year a trove of Iraqi Jewish artifacts that lawmakers and Jewish groups have lobbied to keep in this country, a State Department official said.

A four-year extension to keep the Iraqi Jewish Archive in the U.S. is set to expire in September 2018, as is funding for maintaining and transporting the items. The materials will then be sent back to Iraq, spokesman Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement sent to JTA on Thursday.

Rodriguez said the State Department “is keenly aware of the interest in the status” of the archive.

“Maintaining the archive outside of Iraq is possible,” he said, “but would require a new agreement between the Government of Iraq and a temporary host institution or government.”

Detail of Tik (Torah case) and Glass Panel from Baghdad, 19th-20th centuries, part of the Iraqi Jewish Archive. (National Archives)

The archive was brought to America in 2003 after being salvaged by U.S. troops. It contains tens of thousands of items including books, religious texts, photographs and personal documents. Under an agreement with the government of Iraq, the archive was to be sent back there, but in 2014 the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. said its stay had been extended. He did not say when the archive was to return.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers and Jewish groups have lobbied to renegotiate the deal, arguing that the documents should be kept in the U.S. or elsewhere where they are accessible to Iraqi Jews and their descendants. JTA reached out to lawmakers who have sponsored resolutions urging a renegotiation of the archive’s return but did not hear back in time for publication.

Iraq and proponents of returning the archive say it can serve as an educational tool for Iraqis about the history of Jews there and that it is part of the country’s patrimony.

Addressing the points that I highlighted above in bold, Caroline Glick scathingly attacks the “State Department’s strange obsession” while also answering the question in my headline:

The law of Occam’s Razor, refined to common parlance, is that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

If we apply Occam’s Razor to recently reported positions of the US State Department, then we can conclude that the people making decisions at Foggy Bottom have “issues” with Jews and with Israel.

The books and documents were looted from the Iraqi Jewish community by successive Iraqi regimes. They were restored by the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Before Treatment: Passover Haggadah, 1902. One of very few Hebrew manuscripts recovered from the Mukhabarat, this Haggadah was hand-lettered and decorated by an Iraqi youth.

The Iraqi Jewish community was one of the oldest exilic Jewish communities.

It began with the Babylonian exile following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem 2,600 years ago. Until the early 20th century, it was one of the most accomplished Jewish communities in the world. Some of the most important yeshivas in Jewish history were in present-day Iraq. The Babylonian Talmud was written in Iraq. The Jewish community in Iraq predated the current people of Iraq by nearly a thousand years.

It was a huge community. In 1948, Jews were the largest minority in Baghdad.

Jews comprised a third of the population of Basra. The status of the community was imperiled during World War II, when the pro-Nazi junta of generals that seized control of the government in 1940 instigated the Farhud, a weeklong pogrom. 900 Jews were murdered.

Thousands of Jewish homes, schools and businesses were burned to the ground.

With Israel’s establishment, and later with the Baathist seizure of power in Iraq in the 1960s, the once great Jewish community was systematically destroyed.

Between 1948 and 1951, 130,000 Iraqi Jews, three quarters of the community, were forced to flee the country. Those who remained faced massive persecution, imprisonment, torture, execution and expulsion in the succeeding decades.

When US forces overthrew the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, only a dozen or so remained in the country.

Today, there are none left.

As for the current Iraqi government that the State Department wishes to support by implementing its 2014 agreement, it is an Iranian satrapy. Its leadership and military receive operational orders from Iran.

The Iraqi Jewish archive was not created by the Iraqi government. It is comprised of property looted from persecuted and fleeing Jews. In light of this, it ought to be clear to the State Department that the Iraqi government’s claim to ownership is no stronger than the German government’s claim to ownership of looted Jewish property seized by the Nazis would be.

On the other hand, members of the former Jewish community and their descendants have an incontrovertible claim to them. And they have made this claim, repeatedly.

To no avail. As far as the State Department is concerned, they have no claim to sacred books and documents illegally seized from them.

When asked how the US could guarantee that the archive would be properly cared for in Iraq, all State Department spokesman Pablo Rodriguez said was, “When the IJA [Iraqi Jewish archive] is returned, the State Department will urge the Iraqi government to take the proper steps necessary to preserve the archive, and make it available to members of the public to enjoy.”

It is hard not to be taken aback by the callousness of Rodriguez’s statement.

Again, the “members of the public” who wish to “enjoy” the archive are not living in Iraq. They are not living in Iraq because they were forced to run for their lives – after surrendering their communal archives to their persecutors. And still today, as Jews, they will be unable to visit the archives in Iraq without risking their lives because today, at a minimum, the Iraqi regime kowtows to forces that openly seek the annihilation of the Jewish People.

And the State Department knows this.

The question then arises, surely this new American administration under President Donald Trump would be more sympathetic to Jewish concerns, and would overturn this surreal decision made by the Obama administration?

Apparently it’s not so clear-cut. It appears that Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly has been blocking most conservative news sites from reaching Trump, thus limiting his awareness of what is happening outside of his immediate circle (h/t Dan Miller in Panama).

Daniel Greenfield reiterates his call to the President – which he made in 2013 to Barack Obama (and which I quoted in my blog post at the time) – and demands that Trump should block Obama’s move to return these stolen artifacts to Iraq: (emphases are added):

… The archive doesn’t belong to the Iraqi government, but to the Jewish population that was ethnically cleansed from Iraq.

The United States recovered the archive and should have turned it over to the Jewish community. Instead we had a bizarre Kafkaesque process in which the archive was restored to be turned over to the thieves who stole it.

Jewish political leaders have invested a lot of energy into looted art in Europe. And that’s a worthwhile cause. Yet this is a far more compelling issue. The archive contains the history of a Jewish community. It matters far more than a Klimt painting. Sadly, the priorities are those of a secular Ashkenazi leadership that is uninterested in the Iraqi Jewish archive because it’s Sephardi and religious.

“This is Jewish communal property. Iraq stole it and kept it hidden away in a basement. Now that we’ve managed to reclaim it, it would be like returning stolen goods back to the thief,” Urman told JTA on Friday.

It’s exactly like it. Meanwhile here’s the bizarre anti-Semitic justification on the Iraqi side for wanting the archive. Here’s Al Arabiya’s explanation

Experts add that Israel is keen on obtaining the manuscripts in order to prove their claim that the Jews had built the Tower of Babel as part of its attempt to distort the history of the Middle East for its own interests.

Wonderful.

Harold Rhode, who discovered the trove while working as a Defense Department policy analyst assigned to Iraq’s transitional government, said he is “horrified” to think the material would be returned when it had been “stolen by the government of Iraq from the Jewish community.”

“It would be comparable to the U.S. returning to the German government Jewish property that had been looted by the Nazis,” he told The Jewish Week.

It’s exactly like it.

I don’t expect Tillerson to care. Between McMaster at the NSC, Mattis on Defense and Tillerson, foreign policy is under the control of the usual Islam Firsters who are very concerned with Muslim feelings, particularly in the oil states, and very little else. And so the old Obama plan to turn over stolen Jewish religious items to a hostile Islamic regime is moving forward.

But President Trump can and should block the move. It’s the right thing to do. And Jewish activists should make that case.

If at the end the State Department’s decision cannot be overcome by President Trump’s executive veto (or whatever it is called in American politics), we can safely say that this decision is motivated more by malice than stupidity.

As before in 2013, there is a petition (possibly still the same one) which you should all sign, demanding that the artifacts do not return to Iraq.

Please sign and share the petition.