Posted tagged ‘Obama and Middle East’

U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Allies With Terror Group That State Dept. Designated LAST WEEK

September 29, 2016

U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Allies With Terror Group That State Dept. Designated LAST WEEK, PJ MediaPatrick Poole, September 29, 2016

(Please see also, White House: We can’t tell you our Syria strategy and Column One: The New Middle East. — DM)

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U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups are coordinating with al-Qaeda fronts in defending Aleppo, and other FSA groups — armed with CIA-provided TOW anti-tank missiles — are working together with a terror group designated by the State Department just last week.

That’s from a report filed today by Reuters about the rapidly changing situation in Syria:

In Aleppo, rebels in the Free Syrian Army are sharing operational planning with Jaish al-Fatah, an alliance of Islamist groups that includes the former Syrian wing of al-Qaeda.Meanwhile, in nearby Hama province, FSA groups armed with U.S.-made anti-tank missiles are taking part in a major offensive with the al-Qaeda-inspired Jund al-Aqsa group.

The FSA rebels have deep ideological differences with the jihadists, and have even fought them at times, but say survival is the main consideration.

“At a time when we are dying, it is not logical to first check if a group is classified as terrorist or not before cooperating with it,” said a senior official in one of the Aleppo-based rebel factions. “The only option you have is to go in this direction.”

A top jihadist leader killed in an airstrike on a Jaish al-Fatah meeting earlier this month was Abu Omar Saraqib, who played an active role in al-Qaeda in Iraq’s campaign against the U.S. in Iraq. Presumably, U.S.-backed FSA leaders were also present at the Jaish al-Fatah meeting.

The alliance between the FSA and Jund al-Aqsa in Hama is particularly noteworthy, since the State Department designated Jund al-Aqsa a terrorist organization just last week.

In its September 20 designation, the State Department identified Jund al-Aqsa as a direct threat to U.S. national security:

The Department of State has designated Jund al-Aqsa (JAA) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which imposes sanctions on foreign persons determined to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.As a result of this designation, all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which JAA has any interest is blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with JAA.Jund al-Aqsa is a terrorist group in Northern Syria that primarily operates in Idlib and Hama provinces. Formed in 2012 as a subunit of al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusrah Front (ANF) – a State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group – JAA has since split and now carries out operations independently. However, despite the split it is still openly aligned with ANF. In March 2015, JAA launched two suicide bombings at checkpoints on the outskirts of Idlib. JAA also carried out the February 2014 massacre in the village of Maan in central Hama province, killing 40 civilians.

Two weeks ago I reported here at PJ Media about FSA units threatening to kill U.S. Special Forces operating in northern Syria, eventually chasing them out of the town of Al-Rai near Aleppo.

Interestingly, President Obama said — at least sixteen times — that there would be no U.S. boots on the ground in Syria.

What exactly is the point of supporting “vetted moderates” if they have no problem working with al-Qaeda — or even, in some cases, the Islamic State — whenever they feel its in their interest to do so?

We provide these “vetted moderate” FSA groups with U.S. heavy weaponry when FSA units themselves are threatening to use those weapons against American troops.

Now there is a very real possibility of those weapons being shared with designated terror groups.

For more than two years I’ve been reporting here at PJ Media on the escalating catastrophe of the Obama administration’s Syria policy:

July 7, 2014: U.S. ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Brigades Surrender Weapons, Pledge Allegiance to Islamic StateSept. 3, 2014: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Operating Openly with ISIS, Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra

Sept. 9, 2014: Fighter With ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Tells L.A. Times They Fight Alongside Al-Qaeda

Sept. 10, 2014: ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Commander Admits Alliance with ISIS, Confirms PJ Media Reporting

Sept. 13, 2014: Yet Another U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Makes Peace with ISIS

Sept. 24, 2014: U.S.-Backed Syrian Group Harakat al-Hazm Condemns U.S. Strikes on ISIS as ‘Attack on the Revolution’

Nov. 2, 2014: U.S.-Armed ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Groups Surrender, Defect to Al-Qaeda

Nov. 3, 2014: How Obama Walked Boehner and GOP Leadership Off the Syrian Rebel Cliff

Nov. 24, 2014: More Defections of ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Rebels to ISIS

Dec. 2, 2014: US-Backed Syrian Rebels Ally with al-Qaeda in South, Surrender CIA-Supplied Weapons in the North

Dec. 14, 2014: Report: Al-Qaeda Using CIA-Supplied TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Northern Syria

Dec. 28, 2014: NY Times Admits: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Under Effective al-Qaeda Control

March 3, 2015: U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Collapses, U.S.-Supplied Weapons End Up in Al-Qaeda Hands

March 24, 2015: Video Shows Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra Using U.S.-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Syria

April 16, 2015: U.S. Analyst Admits ‘Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Have Been Working with Al-Qaeda All Along

May 8, 2015: CIA-Backed, “Vetted Moderate” Rebels Now Working Openly With Al-Qaeda

June 27, 2015: ISIS Using U.S. TOW Antitank Missiles In Latest Syrian Offensive

July 9, 2015: Report: ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Fighting Alongside Al-Qaeda, Islamic State Against Assad Regime

July 23, 2015: U.S.-Funded Free Syrian Army Unit Shows Off Its Kidnapping Skills in New Training Video

July 27, 2015: #BringBackOurRebels: Obama’s 50-Man ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Army Vanishes After Training in Turkey

July 29, 2015: #BringBackOurRebels Part 2: Al-Qaeda Arrests 18 U.S.-Trained Rebels On Their First Day in Syria

July 30, 2015: #BringBackOurRebels: Despite Pentagon Denial, Reports Confirm That U.S.-Trained Syrian Rebels Were Kidnapped By Al-Qaeda Almost Immediately

July 31, 2015: Report: Al-Qaeda Kills Five Members of Obama’s 54-Man Syrian Rebel Army

July 31, 2015: Chechen Terrorists In Syria Have Obtained U.S.-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missiles

Sept. 22, 2015: Report: U.S.-Trained, ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Leader Defects to Al-Qaeda, Turns Weapons Over to Terror Group

Oct. 27, 2016: New Video Shows Al-Qaeda Using Weapons U.S. Gave to ‘Vetted Moderates’

Nov. 24, 2015: U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebels Destroy Russian Helicopter with CIA-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missile

July 20, 2016: CIA-Vetted, “Moderate” Syrian Rebels Behead Child Soldier

Sept. 3, 2016: British Journo: Syrian Kidnapper Who Shot Me Twice is Now a CIA-vetted ‘Moderate’

Sept. 6, 2016: New ISIS Commander Was Trained by State Department as Recently as 2014

Sept. 16, 2016: SHOCK VIDEO: U.S.-Backed, “Moderate” Free Syrian Army Threatens to Kill U.S. Special Forces

The ability to affect any positive change in Syria is compromised by the fact that we have no reliable partner in the country — notwithstanding the so-called “vetted moderates” — and a growing likelihood that American troops may be killed without any national strategic purpose.

Column One: The New Middle East

September 29, 2016

Column One: The New Middle East, Jerusalem PostCaroline B. Glick, September 29, 2016

aleppo-messA RED CRESCENT aid worker inspects scattered medical supplies after an air strike on a medical depot in Aleppo on Saturday.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

So Obama let Syria burn. He let Iran and Hezbollah transform the country into their colony. And he let Putin transform the Mediterranean into a Russian lake.

A new Syria is emerging. And with it, a new Middle East and world are presenting themselves. Our new world is not a peaceful or stable one. It is a harsh place.

The new Syria is being born in the rubble of Aleppo.

The eastern side of the city, which has been under the control of US-supported rebel groups since 2012, is being bombed into the Stone Age by Russian and Syrian aircraft.

All avenues of escape have been blocked. A UN aid convoy was bombed in violation of a fantasy cease-fire.

Medical facilities and personnel are being targeted by Russia and Syrian missiles and barrel bombs to make survival impossible.

It is hard to assess how long the siege of eastern Aleppo by Russia, its Iranian and Hezbollah partners and its Syrian regime puppet will last. But what is an all but foregone conclusion now is that eastern Aleppo will fall. And with its fall, the Russian-Iranian-Hezbollah-Assad axis will consolidate its control over all of western Syria.

For four years, the Iranians, Hezbollah and Bashar Assad played a cat and mouse game with the rebel militias.

Fighting a guerrilla war with the help of the Sunni population, the anti-regime militias were able to fight from and hide from within the civilian population. Consequently, they were all but impossible to defeat.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to join the fight, he and his generals soon recognized that this manner of fighting ensured perpetual war. So they changed tactics. The new strategy involves speeding up the depopulation and ethnic cleansing of rebel-held areas. The massive refugee flows from Syria over the past year are a testament to the success of the barbaric war plan. The idea is to defeat the rebel forces by to destroying the sheltering civilian populations.

Since the Syrian war began some five years ago, half of the pre-war population of 23 million has been displaced.

Sunnis, who before the war comprised 75% of the population, are being targeted for death and exile. More than 4 million predominantly Sunni Syrians are living in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. More than a million have entered Europe. Millions more have been internally displaced. Assad has made clear that they will never be coming home.

At the same time, the regime and its Iranian and Hezbollah masters have been importing Shi’ites from Iran, Iraq and beyond. The process actually began before the war started. In the lead-up to the war some half million Shi’ites reportedly relocated to Syria from surrounding countries.

This means that at least as far as western Syria is concerned, once Aleppo is destroyed, and the 250,000 civilians trapped in the eastern part of what was once Syria’s commercial capital are forced from their homes and property, the Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah and their Syrian fig leaf Assad will enjoy relative peace in their areas of control.

By adopting a strategy of total war, Putin has ensured that far from becoming the quagmire that President Barack Obama warned him Syria would become, the war in Syria has instead become a means to transform Russia into the dominant superpower in the Mediterranean, at the US’s expense.

In exchange for saving Assad’s neck and enabling Iran and Hezbollah to control Syria, Russia has received the capacity to successfully challenge US power. Last month Putin brought an agreement with Assad before the Duma for ratification. The agreement permits – indeed invites – Russia to set up a permanent air base in Khmeimim, outside the civilian airport in Latakia.

Russian politicians, media and security experts have boasted that the base will be able to check the power of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet and challenge NATO’s southern flank in the Mediterranean basin for the first time. The Russians have also decided to turn their naval station at Tartus into something approaching a fullscale naval base.

With Russia’s recent rapprochement with Turkish President Recip Erdogan, NATO’s future ability to check Russian power through the Incirlik air base is in question.

Even Israel’s ability to permit the US access to its air bases is no longer assured. Russia has deployed air assets to Syria that have canceled Israel’s regional air superiority.

Under these circumstances, in a hypothetical Russian-US confrontation, Israel may be unwilling to risk Russian retaliation for a decision to permit the US to use its air bases against Russia.

America’s loss of control over the eastern Mediterranean is a self-induced disaster.

For four years, as Putin stood on the sidelines and hedged his bets, Obama did nothing. As Iran and Hezbollah devoted massive financial and military assets to maintaining their puppet Assad in power, the Obama administration squandered chance after chance to bring down the regime and stem Iran’s regional imperial advance.

For his refusal to take action when such action could have easily been taken, Obama shares the responsibility for what Syria has become. This state of affairs is all the more infuriating because the hard truth is that it wouldn’t have been hard for the US to defeat the Iranian- Hezbollah axis. The fact that even without US help the anti-regime forces managed to hold on for four years shows how weak the challenge posed by Iran and Hezbollah actually was.

Russia only went into Syria when Putin was absolutely convinced that Obama would do nothing to stop him from dislodging America as the premier global power in the region.

As Michael Ledeen recalled earlier this week, Obama chose to stand on the sidelines in Syria because he wanted to make friends with Iran. Obama began his secret courtship of the mullahs even before he officially took office eight years ago.

After the war broke out in Syria, midway through his first term and in the following years, the Russians and the Iranians told the obsessed American president that if he took action against Assad, as strategic rationality dictated, he would get no nuclear deal, and no rapprochement with Tehran.

So Obama let Syria burn. He let Iran and Hezbollah transform the country into their colony. And he let Putin transform the Mediterranean into a Russian lake. Obama enabled the ethnic cleansing of Syria’s Sunni majority, and in turn facilitated the refugee crisis that is changing the face not only of the Middle East but of Europe as well.

And as it turns out, the deal with Iran that Obama willingly sacrificed US control of the Mediterranean to achieve has not ushered in a new era of regional moderation and stability through appeasement as Obama foresaw. It has weakened US credibility with its spurned Sunni allies. It has undermined the strategic position of Israel, the US’s only stable and reliable regional ally. It has financially and strategically fueled Iran’s hegemonic rise throughout the region. And it has facilitated Iran’s development of a nuclear arsenal.

Far from causing the Iranian to become more moderate, the nuclear deal has radicalized the regime still further.

On Wednesday Ray Takeyh wrote in The Washington Post that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is now grooming Ibrahim Raisi, a fanatic who makes Khamenei look moderate, to succeed him in power.

On Monday night, for the first time, Israel Air Force jets flying over Syria were shot at by Syrian anti-aircraft ordnance.

Air force sources told the media that the aircraft were never in danger and the munitions were only shot off after the aircraft had returned to Israel and were in the process off landing.

The fact that no one was hurt is of course reassuring.

But the fact that Russia targeted the planes makes clear that Putin has decided to send Israel a very clear and menacing message.

He is now the protector of the Iranian-Hezbollah colony on our northern border. If Israel decides to preemptively attack targets belong to that colony, Russia will not stand by and watch. And with the US no longer well-positioned to challenge Russian power in the region, Israel will have to deal with Russia on its own.

To face this challenge, Israel needs to look beyond its traditional reliance on air power.

There are two parts of the challenge. The first part is Iran.

As far as Israel is concerned, the problem with the Russian- Iranian takeover of Syria is not Putin.

Putin is not inherently hostile to Israel, as his Soviet predecessors were. He is an opportunist. Obama gave him the opportunity to partner with Iran in asserting Russian dominance in the Middle East and he took it. Israel is threatened by the alliance because it is threatened by Iran, not by Putin. To neutralize the alliance’s threat to its own security, Israel then needs to degrade Iran’s power, and it needs to emphasize its own.

To accomplish these goals, Israel needs to operate in two completely separate arenas. To weaken Iran, Israel should take its cue from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and from its own past successful military ties to the Kurds of Iraq in the 1960s and 1970s.

Israel needs to deploy military trainers beyond its borders to work with other anti-Iranian forces. The goal of that cooperation must be to destabilize the regime, with the goal of overthrowing it. This may take time. But it must be done. The only way to neutralize the threat emanating from the new Syria is to change the nature of the Iranian regime that controls it.

As for Russia, Israel needs to demonstrate that it is a power that Putin can respect in its own right, and not a downgraded Washington’s sock puppet.

To this end, Israel should embark on a rapid expansion of its civilian presence along its eastern border with Syria and with Jordan. As Russia’s air base in Syria undermines Israel’s air superiority and reliance on air power, Israel needs to show that it will not be dislodged or allow its own territory to be threatened in any way. By doubling the Israeli population on the Golan Heights within five years, and vastly expanding its population in the Jordan Valley, Israel will accomplish two goals at once. It will demonstrate its independence from the US without harming US strategic interests. And it will reinforce its eastern border against expanded strategic threats from both the Golan Heights and the new Jordan with its bursting population of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

It is ironic that the new Middle East is coming into focus as Shimon Peres, the failed visionary of a fantasy- based new Middle East, is being laid to rest. But to survive in the real new Middle East, Israel must bury Peres’s belief that peace is built by appeasing enemies along with him. The world in which we live has a place for dreamers.

But dreams, unhinged from reality, lead to Aleppo, not to peace.

Putin-Erdogan deal for Syria is ME exit for Obama

September 9, 2016

Putin-Erdogan deal for Syria is ME exit for Obama, DEBKAfile, September 9, 2016

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The fledgling “initiatives” reverberating this week in Washington, Moscow, Ankara, Jerusalem and the G20 summit were nothing but distractions from the quiet deals struck by two lead players, Russia and Turkey to seize control of the region’s affairs. Recep Tayyip Erdogan knew nothing would come of his offer on the G20 sidelines to US President Barack Obama to team up for a joint operation to evict ISIS from Raqqa. And, although Moscow was keen on hosting the first handshake in almost a decade between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), neither were known to be ready for the last step toward a meeting.

But the game-changing events to watch out for took place in Hangzhou without fanfare – namely, the Obama-Putin talks and the far more fruitful encounter between Putin and Erdogan.

According to DEBKAfile’s intelligence and Mid East sources, Putin virtually shut the door on further cooperation with the United States in Syria. He highhandedly informed Obama that he now holds all the high cards for controlling the Syrian conflict, whereas Washington was just about out of the game.

Putin picked up the last cards, our sources disclose, in a secret deal with Erdogan for Russian-Turkish collaboration in charting the next steps in the Middle East.

The G20 therefore, instead of promoting new US-Russian understanding, gave the impetus to a new Russian-Turkish partnership.

Erdogan raked in instant winnings: Before he left China, he had pocketed Putin’s nod to grab a nice, 4,000-sq.km slice of northern Syria, as a “security zone” under the control of the Turkish army and air force, with Russian non-interference guaranteed.

This Turkish zone would include the Syrian towns of Jarablus, Manjib, Azaz and Al-Bab.

Ankara would reciprocate by withdrawing its support from the pro-US and pro-Saudi rebel groups fighting the Assad army and its allies in the area north of Aleppo.

Turkey’s concession gave Putin a selling-point to buy the Syrian ruler assent to Erdogan’s project. Ankara’s selling-point to the West was that the planned security zone would provide a safe haven for Syrian refugees and draw off some of the outflow perturbing Europe.

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It now turns out that, just as the Americans sold the Syrian Kurds down the river to Turkey (when Vice President Joe Biden last month ordered them to withdraw from their lands to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River or lose US support), so too are the Turks now dropping the Syrian rebels they supported in the mud by re-branding them as “terrorists.”

The head of this NATO nation has moreover gone behind America’s back for a deal with the Russian ruler on how to proceed with the next steps of the Syrian conflict.

Therefore, when US Secretary of State John Kerry met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva Thursday and Friday, Sept. 8-9, for their sixth and seventh abortive sit-downs on the Syrian issue, there was not much left for them to discuss, aside from continuing to coordinate their air traffic over Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

Washington and Moscow are alike fearful of an accidental collision in the sky in the current inflammable state of relations between the two powers.

As a gesture of warning, a Russian SU-25 fighter jet Tuesday, Sept 6, intercepted a US Navy P8 plane flying on an international route over the Black Sea. When the Russian jet came as close as 12 feet, the US pilots sent out emergency signals – in vain, because the Russian plane’s transponder was switched off. The American plane ended up changing course.

Amid these anomalies, Moscow pressed ahead with preparations to set up a meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as the Russian Foreign Ministry announced Thursday.

Putin is keen to succeed where the Obama administration failed. John Kerry abandoned his last effort at peacemaking as a flop two years ago.  But it is hard to see Netanyahu or Abu Mazen rushing to play along with the Russian leader’s plan to demean the US president in the last months of his tenure – especially when no one can tell who will win the November 8 presidential election – Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump – or what policies either will pursue.

All the region’s actors will no doubt be watching closely to see how Turkey’s “Russian track” plays out and how long the inveterate opportunists can hang together.

Trump Promises American Greatness

July 22, 2016

Trump Promises American Greatness, Front Page MagazineMatthew Vadum, July 22, 2016

(Please see also, FULL SPEECH: Donald Trump Accepts Republican Nomination for President. — DM)

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CLEVELAND — Republican presidential candidate Donald John Trump gave a masterful acceptance speech last night as he savaged Hillary Clinton for her seemingly congenital corruption, assailed Barack Obama’s failed policies and the civil unrest he has fomented, and optimistically laid out an ambitious roadmap to the future.

Trump did an admirable job staying on-message.

“Together, we will lead our party back to the White House, and we will lead our country back to safety, prosperity, and peace,” he said. “We will be a country of generosity and warmth. But we will also be a country of law and order.”

America is being overrun by “violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities,” he said. “Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement.”

The number of police officers killed in the line of duty is up nearly 50 percent compared to this point last year, he said. Although 180,000 illegal aliens with criminal records have been ordered deported, they “are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens.”

Border crossings by illegals are out of control and these aliens “are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources.”

Some of these illegals have been murdering Americans and that’s fine with Hillary Clinton, he implied. Clinton supports lawless sanctuary cities and favors open borders, he said.

“I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end. Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored. The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.”

He said he would be “the law and order candidate.”

Americans need a straightforward assessment of the state of the nation, he said. “I will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.”

Black unemployment rates are sky-high and Latino poverty rates are higher than when President Obama took the oath of office in 2009, he said, adding that “another 14 million people have left the workforce entirely.”

Household incomes have fallen and bad trade policies are hurting Americans, he said.

“President Obama has doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion and growing. Yet, what do we have to show for it? Our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in Third World conditions, and 43 million Americans are on food stamps.”

America is humiliated abroad all the time, he said. “We all remember the images of our sailors being forced to their knees by their Iranian captors at gunpoint.”

And the nuclear nonproliferation pact with Iran gave the mullahs $150 billion “and gave us nothing.” The agreement “will go down in history as one of the worst deals ever negotiated.”

When Trump referenced the Muslim terrorist attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, the crowd went wild. “America is far less safe — and the world is far less stable — than when Obama made the decision to put Hillary Clinton in charge of America’s foreign policy.”

As the crowd chanted “lock her up,” Trump responded, “let’s defeat her in November.”

Clinton set the Arab world on fire, he said. “This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism, and weakness.”

Trump said he will “defeat the barbarians of ISIS and we’re going to defeat them fast.” He mourned the victims of Islamic terrorism in the U.S., saying the people murdered by a jihadist at a gay club in Orlando, Fla., were “49 wonderful Americans.” The terrorist targeted the “LGBTQ community … and we’re going to stop it.”

Trump said he would “protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” and delegates applauded him. He then said, “as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.”

America should not be importing refugees from Syria who cannot be properly screened, he said. “I only want to admit individuals into our country who will support our values and love our people.”

Clinton, Trump said, refuses to put America first. But if he becomes president “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo.” Those politicians who will not put America first ensure “that other nations will not treat America with respect, the respect that we deserve.”

Powerful special interests have rigged the system, he said. Clinton is the “puppet” of big business, elite media, and major donors, he said.

Clinton doesn’t want change, he said. “My message is that things have to change — and they have to change right now.”

Trump said he is determined to make life better for those who “have been ignored, neglected, and abandoned.” Laid-off factory workers hurt by bad trade deals “are the forgotten men and women of our country,” but “they’re not going to be forgotten long.”

“I am your voice,” Trump said to loud applause.

“When innocent people suffer because our political system lacks the will, or the courage, or the basic decency to enforce our laws — or still worse, has sold out to some corporate lobbyist for cash — I am not able to look the other way.”

When Clinton illegally operates private Internet servers, lies about it over and over again, and destroys 33,000 emails “so the authorities can’t see her crime,” and she gets away with it, “I know that corruption has reached a level like never ever before in our country.”

Trump modified his signature line, promising to make America “strong again,” “proud again,” “safe again,” and “great again.”

He ended his oration with “God bless you! I love you!”

Trump’s 76-minute speech was followed by the traditional dropping of thousands of balloons from the ceiling to the tune of “Alright Now” by the British band Free.

Before that Ivanka Trump introduced her father to delegates in a powerful speech. Her eloquence, intelligence, and charisma were impossible to ignore.

She said her father is the kind of leader who can transcend politics. He is “a political outsider” and “a fighter,” she said, adding “I have seen him fight for his employees. Now, I am seeing him fight for his country.”

“For more than a year Donald Trump has been the people’s champion,” she said. The fact he’s not a career politician is a great strength, she said. “Real change is only going to come from outside of the system.”

Trump is “famous but not well-known,” she said. The “hard-working men and women of this country identify with my father.”

He has spent his whole life doing what others have said could not be done, she said. “When my father says he will make America great again, he will deliver … he is incapable of thinking small.”

Other speakers earlier in the evening pumped up the crowd.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who is worth about $3 billion, said America needs a businessman like Trump. In his view, the country no longer leads the world in technology.

“Our nuclear bases still use floppy disks. Our newest fighter jets can’t even fly in the rain. And it would be kind to say the government’s software works poorly, because much of the time it doesn’t even work at all. That is a staggering decline for the country that completed the Manhattan Project. We don’t accept such incompetence in Silicon Valley and we must not accept it from our government.”

Thiel attacked the financial sector. “Wall Street bankers inflate bubbles in everything from government bonds to Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees,” he said caustically.

He criticized current foreign policy.

“Instead of going to Mars, we have invaded the Middle East. We don’t need to see Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails: her incompetence is in plain sight. She pushed for a war in Libya and today it’s a training ground for ISIS. On this most important issue, Donald Trump is right. It’s time to end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country.”

Thiel then made history on the convention stage. “I am proud to be gay,” Thiel said to delegates who applauded him. Some even gave him a standing ovation, something unimaginable at a GOP convention 20 or even 10 years ago.

“I am proud to be a Republican,” he continued. “But most of all I am proud to be an American.”

“I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform,” he said. “But fake culture wars only distract us from economic decline, and nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump.”

Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio railed against current immigration policies.

“We are the only country in the world whose immigration system puts the needs of other nations ahead of ours,” he said. “We are more concerned about the rights of illegal aliens and criminals than we are with protecting our own country. That must change.”

Arpaio said the long-delayed wall along the Mexican border has to be constructed to secure America’s borders. “Donald Trump will build the wall,” he said to applause and chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and “build that wall!”

NFL great Fran Tarkenton, who said he has known the nominee for years, said “Donald Trump knows how to get the best out of people.”

Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Reince Priebus assailed Hillary Clinton saying that during the investigation into her illegal, hacker-friendly email servers “she lied over and over and over.” Clinton “reads ethics rules as carefully as Americans read their junk mail.”

She used her post as secretary of state and her family foundation for her own enrichment, he said. For Clinton, the Oval Office is just another “cash cow.” Americans, he said, “have had enough.”

Also speaking were Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., televangelist Mark Burns, paralysis survivor Brock Mealer, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Colony Capital chairman Tom Barrack, and Korean Americans for Trump founder optometrist Lisa Shin, and actor Jon Voight appeared as narrator in a video about Trump’s business accomplishments that featured commentator Larry Kudlow, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Looking back over the four days of the convention, it was calmer outside the Quicken Loans Arena than many had expected.

The riots and massive protests expected at the convention never materialized. There were relatively few arrests. At most demonstrations near the convention site the angry masses could be measured in hundreds, if that. The massive police presence, drawn from law enforcement agencies across the country, may have deterred some of the would-be troublemakers.

Well-armed bystanders may have also helped to scare the bad guys away.

Throughout the convention there were plenty of citizens with rifles wandering around Public Square and elsewhere in downtown Cleveland, exercising the open-carry rights people enjoy in the Buckeye State. Most, but not all, were pro-Trump. Some showed up to show their support for the nation’s embattled police officers. Firearms were not allowed in the relatively small security zone around the convention site, which was controlled by the U.S. Secret Service.

On Tuesday there was a shouting match and some pushing and shoving between anti-Trump demonstrators and radical libertarian radio host Alex Jones of Infowars.

Police broke up clashes between various activist groups. Members of Black Lives Matter, Ku Klux Klan, and Westboro Baptist Church reportedly threw urine at each other.

The anti-American so-called peace group Code Pink tried to swarm Sheriff Arpaio at one point and chanted “shame.” The Revolutionary Communist Party was also on-site.

On Wednesday a protester inadvertently set himself and others on fire while trying to burn an American flag. Firefighters promptly extinguished the flames. There were no serious injuries, according to Cleveland Police.

Leftist groups built a fake wall to protest Trump’s plans to enforce immigration laws and secure the border. Among the organizations participating in the “Wall Off Trump” action were the Ruckus Society, Mijente, Iraq Veterans Against the War, The Other 98 Percent, and the ACORN-affiliated Working Families Party, according to Democracy Now.

The New Black Panther Party and other radical groups took part in demonstrations.

Meanwhile, presumptive Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton has reportedly selected Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) as her running mate. Kaine is a Harvard-educated lawyer. He previously served as governor and lieutenant governor of Virginia and as mayor of Richmond. He is also a previous Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman.

Also rans reportedly included Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

The four-day Democratic National Convention gets underway Monday in Philadelphia.

Trump said in his speech that some people really ought to attend the Democrats’ confab.

“If you want to hear the corporate spin, the carefully-crafted lies, and the media myths the Democrats are holding their convention next week.”

“Go there,” Trump said.

U.S. still gets it wrong on Islamic State

July 1, 2016

U.S. still gets it wrong on Islamic State, Japan Today, Peter Van Buren, July 1, 2016

(An interesting and rather perceptive analysis, quite contrary to Kerry’s position that the suicide attack at the Turkish airport was a sign of desperation. — DM

WASHINGTON — Tuesday’s attacks at Istanbul’s main airport, which appear at this time to be the work of Islamic State, are the latest reminder that the United States should not downplay the group’s rudimentary – yet effective – tactics.

Since the wave of Islamic State suicide bombings in May – killing 522 people inside Baghdad, and 148 people inside Syria – American officials have downplayed the strategy as defensive. Brett McGurk, the Special Presidential Envoy in the fight against Islamic State, said the group “returned to suicide bombing” as the area under its control shrank. The American strategy of focusing primarily on the “big picture” recapture of territory seems to push the suicide bombings to the side. “It’s their last card,” stated an Iraqi spokesperson in response to the attacks.

The reality is just the opposite.

A day after the June 26 liberation of Fallujah, car bombs exploded in eastern and southern Baghdad. Two other suicide bombers were killed outside the city. An improvised explosive device exploded in southwest Baghdad a day earlier.

Washington should know better than to underestimate the power of small weapons to shape large events. After Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld labeled Iraqi insurgents as “dead enders” in 2003, they began taking a deadly toll of American forces via suicide bombs. It was the 2006 bombing of the Shi’ite al-Askari Golden Mosque that kicked the Iraqi civil war into high gear. It was improvised explosive devices and car bombs that kept American forces on the defensive through 2011.

To believe suicide bombings represent a weakening of Islamic State is a near-total misunderstanding of the hybrid nature of the group; Islamic State melds elements of a conventional army and an insurgency. To “win,” one must defeat both versions.

Islamic State differs from a traditional insurgency in that it seeks to hold territory. This separates it from al-Qaida, and most other radical groups, and falsely leads the United States to believe that retaking strategic cities like Fallujah from Islamic State is akin to “defeating” it, as if it is World War Two again and we are watching blue arrows move across the map toward Berlin. Envoy McGurk, following Fallujah, even held a press conference announcing Islamic State has now lost 47 percent of its territory.

However, simultaneously with holding and losing territory, Islamic State uses terror and violence to achieve political ends.

Islamic State has no aircraft and no significant long-range weapons, making it a very weak conventional army when facing down the combined forces of the United States, Iran and Iraq in set piece battles. It can, however, use suicide bombs to strike into the very heart of Shiite Baghdad (and Syria, Jordan, Yemen, and Turkey – as Tuesday’s bombing reminds us), acting as a strong transnational insurgency.

Why does such strength matter in the face of large-scale losses such as Fallujah?

Violence in the heart of Iraqi Shiite neighborhoods empowers hardliners to seek revenge. Core Sunni support for Islamic State grows out of the need for protection from a Shi’ite dominated military, which seeks to marginalize if not destroy the Sunnis. Reports of Shi’ite atrocities leaking out of the ruins of Sunni Fallujah are thus significant. Fallujah was largely destroyed in order to “save” it, generating some 85,000 displaced persons, mirroring what happened in Ramadi. Those actions remind many Sunnis of why they supported Islamic State (and al-Qaida before them) in the first place.

Suicide strikes reduce the confidence of the people in their government’s ability to protect them. In Iraq, that sends Shiite militias into the streets, and raises questions about the value of civil institutions like the Iraqi National Police. Victories such as the retaking of Ramadi and Fallujah, and a promised assault on Mosul, mean little to people living at risk inside the nation’s capital.

American commanders have already had to talk the Iraqi government out of pulling troops from the field to defend Baghdad, even as roughly half of all Iraqi security forces are already deployed there. This almost guarantees more American soldiers will be needed to take up the slack.

Anything that pulls more American troops into Iraq fits well with the anti-American Islamic State narrative. Few Iraqis are left who imagine the United States can be an honest broker in their country. A State Department report found that one-third of all Iraqis believe the Americans are actually supporting Islamic State, while 40 percent are convinced that the United States is trying to destabilize Iraq for its own purposes.

In a country like Turkey, suicide bombings play out in a more complex political environment. Turkey has effectively supported Islamic State with porous borders for transit in and out of Syria, and has facilitated the flow of oil out of Syria and Iraq that ultimately benefits the group. At the same time, however, Turkey opened its territory to American aircraft conducting bombing runs against Islamic State. Attacks in Turkey may be in response to pressure on the nation to shift its strategy more in line with Western demands. Russia (no friend of Islamic State) and Turkey have also recently improved relations; the attack in Istanbul may have been a warning shot reminding Turkey not to get too close.

The suicide bombings – in Turkey and elsewhere – are not desperate or defensive moves. They are not inconsequential, even if their actual numbers decline. They are careful strategy, the well-thought out application of violence by Islamic State. The United States downplays them at great risk.

Libya disaster: Have Western leaders learned anything?

February 20, 2016

Libya disaster: Have Western leaders learned anything? Investigative Project on Terrorism via Fox News, Pete Hoekstra, February 19, 2016

(Please see also, Exclusive: Obama Refuses to Hit ISIS’s Libyan Capital. — DM)

That the U.S. has launched airstrikes against ISIS in Libya should demonstrate once and for all the total disaster of the NATO-led adventure to overthrow Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011.

Libya devolved into a failed state when NATO assisted Qaddafi’s radical jihadist opponents in killing him and then promptly abandoned the country. Left in the wake were two rival governments competing for power, which created space for Islamists to turn Libya into a cesspool of extremism.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to call the debacle American “smart power at its best.” Other presidential candidates still argue that it was the right thing to do.

How will the West ever learn anything if it can’t identify its most obvious failures?

Libya has no central functioning government that can provide security for its citizens. ISIS fights to expand its caliphate along the Mediterranean to points as close as 200 miles from Europe’s vulnerable southern border. It controls Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte. It has imposed Shariah law in the areas under its control. It exploits Libya as a base to export weapons, jihadists and ideology to Europe, other African countries and the Middle East.

Benghazi and Derna, which have long been hotbeds of radicalism, provided more fighters per capita to Afghanistan and Iraq than nearly any other area in the world. The difference between then and now is that Qaddafi kept the lid on the garbage can long before 2002-2003, when he became a reliable U.S. ally against radical Islam. He changed his behavior, gave up his nuclear weapons program, paid reparations to the victims of his atrocities and provided invaluable intelligence that disrupted numerous Islamist terror plots.

It represented a massive foreign policy success, and the U.S. thanked him by facilitating his murder.

Similarly, the West embraced former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in his struggles against Islamist forces, and then it threw him under the bus. Both Qaddafi and Mubarak did everything asked of them, but they ended up dead or in jail.

Any leader would really need to ask why he should trust NATO or the West. Is there any question why Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad does not negotiate an end to his country’s civil war and clings to Iran and Russia to keep him in power?

Iran cheated on its nuclear program for years. As a result, the U.S. gifted it with more than $100 billion – including $1.7 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars – and it hasn’t changed its behavior in the slightest. In addition to its military ambitions, Iran will most assuredly spend the money on supporting Assad and its terrorist proxies throughout the Middle East, Africa and, yes, Europe.

I’m amazed by some of the statements now coming from the coalition. The French defense minister is concerned about ISIS fighters blending in with refugees crossing the Mediterranean. Talk about restating the obvious. The British want troops to identify friendly militias in order to avoid targeting them in future airstrikes. Has something changed where we have improved the vetting of “moderate” militia groups?

NATO failed miserably in Libya and in Syria the first time around. What’s different now?

The only official who seems to make any sense is U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who said recently, “The Libyans don’t welcome outsiders intruding on their territory.” He was referring to ISIS, but he might as well have been talking about the West. Libyans have not forgotten that NATO all but vanished once Qaddafi was killed.

Western foreign policy is in disarray. The scariest part is that supposed leaders don’t even know it, and therefore they can’t admit to previous mistakes. Allies that brought stability to the region are gone. Former and current antagonists benefited from Western incompetence.

Who would have predicted six years ago that those rulers battling Islamist terror would be deposed and that those committing it would become the West’s new friends?

NATO snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Libya. Refugees flood Europe. Terrorist attacks continue to spread geographically and in lethality. The Syrian civil war rages on. Iran lavishes its newfound wealth on its nuclear program and campaign of global terror.

Is it any wonder that citizens in Western countries are frustrated and angry with those in positions of authority?