Posted tagged ‘Trump and Israel’

Trump State Dept Unsure Why Palestinian Terrorists Kill Israelis

July 22, 2017

Trump State Dept Unsure Why Palestinian Terrorists Kill Israelis, Washington Free Beacon, , July 21, 2017

(Please see also, State Dept. Blames Israel for Terrorism, Claims Palestinians Rarely Incite Attacks and State Dept. Country Reports on Terrorism 2016. I seem to have messed up in my parenthetical comments there and in the earlier article, having have read and posted the wrong State Department publication. I apologize. My only excuse is that the correct State Department publication was not linked in the original article.  I renew my suggestion that Tillerson, and the Obama hold-overs with him, must go. — DM

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson / Getty Images)

The report singling out Israel is another clear example of the State Department pursuing policies that are well out of line with the White House’s stated agenda, which the sources said has been pro-Israel. One source who advises the White House Middle East policy described the State Department’s explanation to the Free Beacon as “spectacular bull—t.”

“The State Department report includes multiple findings that are both inaccurate and harmful to combating Palestinian terrorism,” Roskam wrote in a letter sent Thursday to the State Department. “This report wrongly insinuates Israeli security measures on the Temple Mount and a stalled peace process as key forces behind terrorism.”

Officials appointed by the Obama administration still work in key State Department positions, the source noted.

“The problem is that the Obama team spent eight years filling the State Department with career staffers who think exactly like they think, and those people are still running things,” the source said. “Some really good people have tried to clean house, but every time anything got going Tillerson went to the president personally to protect the Obama holdovers. So they feel safe producing this kind of mind-numbing nonsense and sending it to Congress.” (Italic emphasis added.)

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Officials in the Trump administration’s State Department are standing by a recent report criticized by Congress that blamed Israel for terror attacks and claimed Palestinians rarely incite violence, telling the Washington Free Beacon that it remains unclear why terrorists engage in violent acts.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, criticized the State Department Thursday for releasing a report portraying Israel as the culprit in terrorism and downplaying Palestinian incitement of violent acts against the Jewish state, the Free Beacon first reported.

Roskam demanded the State Department alter its report to bring it more in line with what he believes are the facts on the ground—that Palestinian leaders routinely incite violence against Israel, which has been forced to defend itself against a growing wave of terror attacks on Jewish citizens.

A State Department official, speaking on background, defended the report’s conclusions and said that it cannot precisely pinpoint the motivations behind Palestinian terror attacks on Israel.

“We recognize that in any community, a combination of risk factors can come together to create a higher risk of radicalization to violence,” the official said. “There is no one single pathway to violence—each individual’s path to terrorism is personalized, with certain commonalities. Therefore, it is difficult to pinpoint precisely what the sources of radicalization to violence are. What could drive someone to violence in one instance could vary significantly with someone else who is similarly situated.”

The State Department’s response prompted a fierce backlash among U.S. officials and Trump administration insiders, who said the State Department under the leadership of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has gone rogue and is out of line with the White House’s position on a range of sensitive diplomatic issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.

Sources pointed to the administration going into damage control mode last week after State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert stated during a press briefing that the U.S. was “upgrading” its diplomatic standing with the Palestinians, a declaration that came as a surprise to those in the White House.

The report singling out Israel is another clear example of the State Department pursuing policies that are well out of line with the White House’s stated agenda, which the sources said has been pro-Israel. One source who advises the White House Middle East policy described the State Department’s explanation to the Free Beacon as “spectacular bull—t.”

“The State Department report includes multiple findings that are both inaccurate and harmful to combating Palestinian terrorism,” Roskam wrote in a letter sent Thursday to the State Department. “This report wrongly insinuates Israeli security measures on the Temple Mount and a stalled peace process as key forces behind terrorism.”

The officials additionally maintained that Israel remains one of America’s “closest counterterrorism partners,” and that it continues to work closely with the Jewish state to combat threats from ISIS, al Qaeda, and the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah.

“Most egregiously,” Roskam wrote in his letter calling out the report, the State Department’s finding portray “the PA as innocent peacemakers far removed from being the source of terrorist activity.”

The State Department’s defense came just hours after three Israelis were killed and another severely wounded following a terror attack by a Palestinian terrorist that was described in the press as the “worst bloodshed” in years.

The official maintained that there is “no justification for any acts of terrorism,” but said the section of the report focusing on Israel is meant to help U.S. officials understand regional tensions.

“This section of the report—which is based on input from our embassies around the world—is intended to inform our efforts to counter radicalization to violence, and to better understand what might be assessed as motivations that could drive individuals towards violence,” the official said. “But this is not intended in any way to condone these acts or to justify them. As we said, there is no justification for any act of terrorism.”

The State Department would not specifically address Roskam’s concerns about the factual inaccuracies surrounding the report’s claims that Israel is to be blamed for terrorism, as well as its claim that Palestinian calls for violence against Israel are “rare” and not tolerated by Palestinian Authority leadership.

“Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and categorical denials by the [Palestinian Authority] of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it,” the original report stated.

Roskam called this characterization “demonstrably false,” citing multiple instances in which Palestinian officials and state-sanctioned media organs promote violence, terrorism, and attacks against Israel and Jews.

Multiple sources who spoke to the Free Beacon, including Trump administration insiders and senior Congressional officials, expressed shock at the State Department’s response to Roskam’s letter and cited it as proof that Tillerson department is dramatically departing from the White House’s own policy on these matters.

“Palestinians hate and kill Israelis because they’re taught from a very young age to hate and kill Jews,” one veteran Middle East expert who advises the White House on Israel policy said. “Of course the Obama administration never liked to admit that, but everyone around President Trump understands it.”

Officials appointed by the Obama administration still work in key State Department positions, the source noted.

“The problem is that the Obama team spent eight years filling the State Department with career staffers who think exactly like they think, and those people are still running things,” the source said. “Some really good people have tried to clean house, but every time anything got going Tillerson went to the president personally to protect the Obama holdovers. So they feel safe producing this kind of mind-numbing nonsense and sending it to Congress.”

One senior Congressional official who works on the Middle East situation expressed shock at the State Department’s defense of its report and subsequent claims about the unknown source of terror against Israel.

“Chalking up Palestinian terrorism to anything other than deep-seated anti-Semitism is not only disgraceful, but a reinvention of history,” the source said. “Palestinians are brainwashed by their governments from birth to hate Jews and celebrate suicide bombers. Countering terrorism against Israelis first and foremost requires clarity, which the State Department evidently lacks.”

The source slammed the State Department from departing from clear policy positions outlined by President Donald Trump and the White House.

“This is not what the American people voted for when they elected President Trump, and they deserve better,” the source said. “Members of Congress and the hardworking citizens they represent will not tolerate this nonsense.”

A second source, also a senior congressional official intimately involved in the issue, said the sources of Palestinian radicalization are well established.

“Money, fame, and education are the driving factors here, let’s not kid ourselves,” the source said. “We’re dealing with a community whose government openly lauds child murderers as national heroes and rewards terrorists with large sums of cash. Our State Department needs to focus on combating the PA’s heinous policies instead of praising terrorist-supporters and philosophizing incoherently about the sources of radicalization.”

King of Saudi Arabia Personally Intervenes in Temple Mount Crisis, Says Metal Detectors ‘Routine’ at Holy Places

July 18, 2017

King of Saudi Arabia Personally Intervenes in Temple Mount Crisis, Says Metal Detectors ‘Routine’ at Holy Places, The Jewish PressHana Levi Julian, July 18, 2017

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman of Saudi Arabia personally intervened in the Temple Mount crisis via the United States, according to a report posted Tuesday by the Arabic-language Elaph website, based in London.

The decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Israeli security officials late Saturday night to reopen the holy site to Muslim worshipers, visitors and tourists allegedly came after receiving a message from the Saudi monarch via the White House.

Moreover, the Saudi king expressed no reservations about Israel’s decision to upgrade security by installing metal detectors at the entrances to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in the wake of the terror attack last Friday that left two Israeli policemen dead and others wounded.

“The issue of metal detection machines, said the source, is a matter that has become routine in the holy places because of terrorism, which strikes without discrimination and in most places regardless of the sanctity of the different religions,” reported Elaph.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Hussein, warned followers that their prayers would not be accepted in Heaven if they pass through the metal detectors to enter the Temple Mount for prayers in Al Aqsa Mosque — the third holiest site in Islam.

Given that King Salman is the Custodian of the Two Mosques, Islam’s two holiest sites, one might consider his authority to overrule that of the Mufti in spiritual matters such as effect of metal detectors on the human body and its ability to convey prayer to heaven.

Israel’s prime minister also reportedly invited King Salman and Saudi officials to visit the Al Aqsa Mosque to see “the situation on the ground,” but “received no response.”

In addition, Netanyahu reiterated his pledge via the White House that Israel would maintain the status quo at the site, the report noted, adding Jordan was also involved in the communications. Israel’s prime minister, Elaph reported, told Jordan’s King Abdullah II he was not pleased about remarks by Jordan’s parliamentary speaker, Atef Tarawneh over Al Aqsa, which he considered “irresponsible.”

On Tuesday, Tarawneh added to the incitement, commenting from the podium of the Jordanian Parliament that the legislative body “is documenting all the racist laws of the Knesset that support the settlements and the occupation, and we will spread them to all the parliaments that are brothers and friends of Jordan around the world.”

A whole new ballgame

July 7, 2017

A whole new ballgame, Israel Hayom, Ruthie Blum, July 7, 2017

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman delivered a speech this week that made the ‎unbearably hot and humid weather feel like a breath of fresh air. At the annual Fourth of July ‎celebration, held Monday evening at his official residence in Herzliya, Friedman not only ‎reiterated his personal faith in Judaism and the Jewish people, but stressed America’s ‎‎”unbreakable bond” with the Jewish state.‎

The bond Friedman was referring to had become so fragile during former U.S. President Barack ‎Obama’s two terms in office that it became the punchline of a joke made in 2014 by comedian ‎Jay Leno. Obama, Leno quipped, knows just how unbreakable the U.S.-Israel bond is, “since ‎he’s been trying to break it for years.”‎

It was not only Friedman’s address that was crafted to convey the loud and clear message that ‎the new administration in Washington is going to behave differently — that it is and will continue ‎to be unequivocally and unflinchingly on Israel’s side. The fact that he was the first U.S. ‎ambassador to invite settler leaders to the event, and proudly pose for photographs with them, ‎already spoke volumes.‎

Friedman began by recounting that the first time he hosted a party in Israel was at the Western ‎Wall in Jerusalem, when he was 13. “As the son of a rabbi of modest means, I can assure you that ‎my bar mitzvah party bore absolutely no resemblance to the party that we are attending here ‎tonight,” he said. “But the spirit … is exactly the same. It is the spirit of patriotic Americans ‎committed to increasing the ties and enhancing the relationship between the United States and ‎the State of Israel. That’s what my family stood for 45 years ago, and that’s still who we are ‎today.” ‎

That right off the bat he boasted of his Jewish connection to the Western Wall in the context of ‎U.S.-Israel relations was highly significant. It signaled to those supporters of President Donald ‎Trump who became disillusioned by what appeared to be a backtracking of his vow to move the ‎U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem that this is not a case of yet another administration ‎reneging on its promises in an attempt to appease the Palestinians and impose a peace deal on ‎Israel. It also indicated to Israel’s enemies that America recognizes Israeli sovereignty over its ‎capital city. ‎

Friedman went on to say, “It was just two months ago that I had the honor … to be the master of ‎ceremonies at the very first party ever hosted by the White House to commemorate Israel’s ‎Independence Day, [where] I had the privilege to proclaim, ‘yom haatzmaut sameach l’medinat ‎yisrael’ — ‘Happy Independence Day to the State of Israel.’ Today, it is my great pleasure to return ‎the favor from 6,000 miles away. And so let me proclaim, ‘yom haatzmaut sameach l’artzot ‎habrit,’ ‘Happy Independence Day to the United States.'” ‎

And then he quoted, in Hebrew, a line from Psalm 118 — “This is a day that the Lord has made; ‎let us [be glad and] rejoice in it” — to make a point about Israel’s being “the source of many of the ‎Judeo-Christian values that spawned the American enterprise.” He invoked the famous Puritan Pilgrim John Winthrop, who in 1630 “implored his followers to be faithful to the teachings of ‎the Jewish prophet, Micah, to ‘do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with thy God,'” and told ‎new immigrants to America that if they did so, they would “find that the God of Israel is among ‎us.” ‎

He said that when Winthrop “referred to New England as a ‘city upon a hill with the eyes of all ‎people upon us,” he was also referring to Jerusalem. Indeed, Friedman added, “So much of who ‎we are derives from the teachings of ancient Israel. And, perhaps for that reason, it is no surprise ‎that the United States and Israel have the most special of special relationships.”‎

Here, again, Friedman purposely spoke of Jerusalem, emphasizing that the success and mutual ‎admiration that America and the Jewish state enjoy emanate from “ancient Israel.”‎

‎”We have, of course, common enemies that unite us,” he said — as well as military, trade, culture ‎and cybersecurity cooperation. “But our collective core, what fundamentally unites us, is that we ‎are the two shining cities on a hill, drawn together by a shared history, shared values and … a ‎shared destiny of continued greatness.”‎

This declaration was nothing short of momentous, particularly as it came on the heels of senior ‎Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s June 21 meeting in Ramallah with PA President ‎Mahmoud Abbas, whose henchmen described the encounter as “tense.” Apparently, being told ‎by a prominent member of the White House staff that the paying of terrorists’ salaries has got to ‎stop is not what Abbas had expected to hear — despite being yelled at by Trump himself in May ‎for having lied about the rampant incitement in the PA against Jews and Israelis.‎

Friedman’s next allusion to Jerusalem involved noting that he is the “first [U.S.] ambassador to ‎accompany [Trump] in visiting the kotel hamaaravi, the Western Wall.” From here, he segued ‎into his conclusion by talking about how, earlier in the day, he and Israeli Prime Minister ‎Benjamin Netanyahu had toured the aircraft carrier the USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of ‎Haifa. ‎

Peace through strength, he announced (quoting King David’s words in Psalm 29, which he said ‎his father used to recite every Shabbat morning) is “a foundational cornerstone of the Trump ‎administration” and a “guiding principle of the State of Israel.” ‎

Finally, Friedman said that American men and women in uniform, like their Israeli counterparts ‎in the IDF, “hope never to fire a shot,” preferring to keep the world safe through a demonstration ‎of strength and courage. However — he implied — they willingly sacrifice their lives in this ‎mission if left no other choice.‎

While the new U.S. ambassador to Israel wound down his remarks by wishing the United State a ‎happy 241st birthday, the audience revved up its cheering for the start of what Americans call “a ‎whole new ballgame.”‎

Trump’s productive Middle East failure

June 30, 2017

Trump’s productive Middle East failure, Israel Hayom, Jonathan S. Tobin, June 30, 2017

What the Palestinians fail to understand is that ending PA support for terror is itself a core ‎issue that must be addressed now, and it is not a distraction from the real diplomatic ‎agenda.‎

It’s hardly surprising that the Palestinians are having trouble adjusting to the ‎administration’s mindset. Since neither the Americans nor the Europeans have ‎been much interested in the Palestinians’ terror payments and incitement, they seem to view ‎Trump’s focus on those issues as an indication that he is in Israel’s pocket. Former President Barack Obama was obsessed with the idea that pressure on Israel was ‎the key to peace and was willing to give the Palestinians a pass on anything they ‎did. But Trump rightly understands that as long as the Palestinians are funding ‎terror — and doing so with money given them by the West — they can’t be ‎considered serious about peace.‎

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It didn’t take long for the bubble to burst. The chance of U.S. President Donald Trump achieving a breakthrough in Middle East peace that had eluded all his ‎predecessors was always slim. But reports about Palestinian Authority President ‎Mahmoud Abbas yelling at presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner during ‎their meeting last week may signal that the Trump initiative is over even ‎before it begins.‎

The president’s critics should acknowledge that even if the effort was ‎bound to end in failure, it nevertheless points toward the only way peace can be ‎achieved. By focusing on the Palestinians’ willingness to foment and subsidize ‎terror, the U.S. has exposed a key problem that the Obama administration ignored. ‎Rather than this obstructing peace, it is an important step without ‎which genuine progress toward ending the conflict will be impossible.‎

The meeting between Kushner and Abbas went badly. The Palestinians were ‎shocked that Kushner followed up on the key sticking point that had arisen ‎between Trump and the Palestinian leader during their two meetings in May. ‎Abbas claimed during their first encounter in the White House that the PA was not ‎engaging in incitement to hatred against Israelis and that it did not pay salaries or ‎pensions to terrorists and their families. By the time they met again, Trump had ‎learned that Abbas had lied to him about both issues and reportedly pounded the ‎table as he demanded that the Palestinian leader end these practices.‎

But when Kushner and chief U.S. peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt raised the issue ‎again with Abbas, the Palestinians were angry. As far as Abbas ‎was concerned, the Americans were merely relaying a list of demands from Israeli ‎Prime Minister Netanyahu, when Abbas had been expecting to hear about American ‎positions on “core issues of the conflict,” by which he meant strategies to stop ‎Israel from building in the West Bank and push it back to the 1967 ‎borders.‎

What the Palestinians fail to understand is that ending PA support for terror is itself a core ‎issue that must be addressed now, and it is not a distraction from the real diplomatic ‎agenda.‎

It’s hardly surprising that the Palestinians are having trouble adjusting to the ‎administration’s mindset. Since neither the Americans nor the Europeans have ‎been much interested in the Palestinians’ terror payments and incitement, they seem to view ‎Trump’s focus on those issues as an indication that he is in Israel’s pocket. Former President Barack Obama was obsessed with the idea that pressure on Israel was ‎the key to peace and was willing to give the Palestinians a pass on anything they ‎did. But Trump rightly understands that as long as the Palestinians are funding ‎terror — and doing so with money given them by the West — they can’t be ‎considered serious about peace.‎

The administration denies reports that it is considering backing away from the ‎push for negotiations. But the president may realize that his statement after his ‎first meeting with Abbas, in which he claimed that Middle East peace “is not as ‎difficult as most people thought,” was more than premature. ‎

While few thought his willingness to prioritize the peace process was likely to be ‎rewarded with success, his thinking that the time is ripe for a breakthrough was rational. With Sunni Arab states now looking at Israel as an ally against the ‎threat from Iran, it was reasonable to suppose that this confluence of ‎interests might result in an effort to pressure the Palestinians to settle their dispute ‎with Israel.

However, the theory that the Palestinians can be either pushed or ‎bribed by the Saudis into making peace is now being called into doubt.‎

As long as the Palestinians cling to the idea that their national identity is inextricably tied up with the ‎century-long war on Zionism, peace will remain a pipe dream. Neither Trump’s threats ‎nor the efforts of the Saudis are likely to persuade them to abandon a political ‎culture in which incitement and pensions for terrorists — on which they have ‎lavished more than $1.1 billion in just the last four years — are seen as laudable. ‎Trump is asking Abbas for something he cannot do and still ‎survive in power.‎

But with Congress looking to tie his hands by considering legislation that would ‎end U.S. aid unless the Palestinians stop the terror payments, Trump may not be ‎willing to let this issue drop. If so, his efforts won’t lead to the “ultimate deal” he ‎longs to broker, but it will lay the foundation for more realism about the peace ‎process. It will also put the Palestinians on ‎notice about what they must do if they genuinely want a two-state solution.‎

Jonathan S. Tobin is the opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributing writer for ‎National Review. 

Report: Trump May Exit Peace Talks After ‘Tense’ Kushner/Abbas Meeting

June 24, 2017

Report: Trump May Exit Peace Talks After ‘Tense’ Kushner/Abbas Meeting, Jerusalem Post, Asser Okbi/ Maariv Haskavua, Jpost.Com Staff, June 24, 2017

(“Abbas angrily accused Kushner and Trump’s lead international negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, of taking Israel’s side. . . ” After the Obama administration, he must be shocked. — DM)

Abbas and Kushner. (photo credit:REUTERS)

US President Donald Trump is reportedly weighing whether to pull out of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations following a “tense” meeting with White House senior staff and officials in Ramallah, according to London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat on Saturday.

The report claimed that Trump is to determine the future of reigniting Mideast peace talks in the near future, including  the possibility of withdrawing completely from the process.

The al-Hayat report came just days after a meeting between the administration’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which was described as “tense” by an Abbas advisor present at the talks.

Abbas was supposedly furious with the president’s son-in-law after Kushner relayed Israeli demands to the 81-year-old Palestinian leader which included the immediate halt of payments to terrorists and their families.

Abbas angrily accused Kushner and Trump’s lead international negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, of taking Israel’s side and refused to commit to the request.

The report claims that the Trump administration was equally upset with Abbas after he failed to denounce the latest stabbing attack in Jerusalem, leaving 23-year-old St.-Sgt. Maj. Hadas Malka brutally stabbed to death in a terror attack last week. Ties were further strained after Abbas reportedly refused to meet  American ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

The Palestinian official also told the paper that the Americans demanded Palestinian officials curb inflammatory statements regarding Israel.

“(Kushner) will submit his report to the president and, after it is submitted, Trump will decide if there’s a chance for negotiations or it might be preferable to pull out peace talks,” the official said.

Abbas claimed that Israel is using the issue of payments to terrorists and their families as a pretext to avoid entering peace-talks, saying that the payments are a part of the Palestinian government’s “social responsibility.”

U.S.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East

June 22, 2017

U.S.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East, Gatestone InstitutePeter Huessy, June 22, 2017

On relations with the Palestinian Authority, the administration has moved to improve matters but has not moved to advocate a two-state solution — for which there is no contemplated security framework sufficient to protect Israel.

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The new “test” of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of such a doctrine from their communities.

What still has to be considered is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as Iran’s push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.

The tectonic plates in the Middle East have shifted markedly with President Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and his announced new regional policy.

The trip represented the beginning of a major but necessary shift in US security policy.

For much of the last nearly half-century, American Middle East policy has been centered on the “peace process” and how to bring Israel and the Palestinians to agreement on a “two-state” solution for two peoples — a phrase that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to say.

First was shuttle diplomacy during 1973-74 in the Nixon administration; then second, in 1978, the Camp David agreement and the recognition of Israel by Egypt, made palatable by $7 billion in new annual US assistance to the two nations; third, the anti-Hizballah doctrine, recently accurately described by National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster, as Iran, since 1983, started spreading its terror to Lebanon and elsewhere in the region. This last effort was often excused by many American and European analysts as a result somehow, of supposed American bad faith. Fourth, came the birth, in 1992, of the “Oslo Accords” where some Israelis and Palestinians imagined that a two-state solution was just another round of negotiations away.

Ironically, during the decade after Oslo, little peace was achieved; instead, terror expanded dramatically. The Palestinians launched three wars, “Intifadas,” against Israel; Al Qaeda launched its terror attacks on U.S. Embassies in Africa; and Iran, Hizballah, and Al Qaeda together carried out the forerunner attacks against America of 9/11/2001.

Since 9/11, despite wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorism has not only failed to recede; on the contrary, it has expanded. Iran has become the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, and the Islamic State (ISIS) has tried to establish a transnational “Islamic caliphate.” Literally tens of thousands of terror attacks have been carried out since 9/11 by those claiming an Islamic duty to do so. These assaults on Western civilization have taken place on bridges, cafes, night clubs, offices, military recruitment centers, theaters, markets, and sporting events — not only across the West but also in countries where Muslims have often been the primary victims.

Particularly condemnable have been the improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, perpetrated to a great extent by Iran, according to U.S. military testimony before Congress.

All the while, we in the West keep trying to convince ourselves that, as a former American president thought, if there were a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, most of the terrorist attacks we see in Europe and the United States “would disappear.”

No matter how hard we may rhetorically push the “peace process”, there is no arc of history that bends naturally in that direction. Rather, nations such as the United States together with its allies must create those alliances best able to meet the challenges to peace and especially defeat the totalitarian elements at the core of Islamist ideology.

If anything, the so-called Middle East “peace process” has undercut chances of achieving a sound U.S. security policy. While the search for a solution to the Israel-Palestinian “problem” dominated American thinking about Middle East peace for so many decades, other far more serious threats materialized but were often ignored, not the least of which was the rise of Iran as the world’s most aggressive terrorist.

The United States has now moved in a markedly more promising and thoughtful direction.

The new American administration has put together an emerging coalition of nations led by the United States that seeks five objectives:

(1) the defeat of Islamic State;

(2) the formation of a coalition of the major Arab nations, especially Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to clean up in their own back yards financing terrorism and providing terrorists with sanctuary. As Elliott Abrams, an adviser to former U.S. President George W. Bush, cautions us, however, this will not be an easy effort: “Partnerships with repressive regimes may in some cases exacerbate rather than solve the problem for us” but, Abrams says, “gradual reform is exactly the right approach…”;

3) “driving out” sharia-inspired violence and human rights abuses from the region’s mosques and madrassas;

(4) a joint partnership with Israel as part of an emerging anti-Iran coalition — without letting relations with the Palestinian authority derail United States and Israeli security interests; and

(5) the adoption of a strategy directly to challenge Iran’s quest for regional and Islamic hegemony, while ending its role in terrorism.

Defeating Islamic State

Defeating ISIS began with an accelerated military campaign and a new American-led strategy to destroy the organization rather than to seek its containment. According to the new U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, “Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia. We’re going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis. (Dept. of Defense/Brigitte N. Brantley)

So far, the United States coalition has driven ISIS from 55,000 square kilometers of territory in Iraq and Syria.

A New Coalition

Apart from a strategy to counter ISIS, the Trump administration also called on our allies in the Middle East to put together a new joint multi-state effort to stop financing terrorism. Leading the multi-state effort will be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, which together will supposedly open a new center dedicated to the elimination of terrorist financing. Positive results are not guaranteed, but it is a step in the right direction.

According to Abdul Hadi Habtoor, the center will exchange information about financing networks, adopt means to cut off funding from terrorist groups, and hopefully blacklist Iran’s jihadist army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). These measures in turn will help eliminate the sanctuaries from which terrorists plot and plan.

This move also places emphasis on the responsibility of states to eliminate terrorism. As President Trump said, each country — where it is sovereign — has to “carry the weight of their own self-defense“, be “pro-active” and responsible for “eradicating terrorism”, and “to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil”.

This determination was underscored by many Arab countries breaking diplomatic relations with Qatar for its support of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Most of Qatar’s Arab neighbors, including the Saudis, Egypt, and the UAE did so, while the US, although denouncing Qatar’s support of terrorism, continues to maintain access to, and use of, its critical military base there.

In short, the U.S. is playing good-cop, bad-cop in the region, while U.S. allies are putting together what Josh Rogin of the Washington Post described as “a regional security architecture encompassing countries on the periphery of Iran.”

Such an approach is not without risk: Turkey, allied with Iran and Qatar, has already has pledged to help Qatar defy the Gulf States’ trade cut-off. If Turkey, for example, seeks to move its promised aid shipments to Qatar through the Suez Canal, the ships could possibly be blocked by Egypt or attacked on the high seas. Does the U.S. then come to the assistance of a NATO member — Turkey — against an ally in the strategic coalition?

Drive Hateful Ideology Out

A companion challenge by the new American President underscored this new security effort. President Trump said to the assembled nations of the Islamic conference that they have to expel the ugly Islamist ideology from the mosques and madrassas that recruit terrorists and justify their actions.

Trump said: “Drive them out of your places of worship”. Such words had never been spoken so clearly by an American president, especially to the collection of nearly all the Islamic-majority countries (minus the Shi’ite bloc) gathered together.

The president’s audience doubtless understood that he was speaking of the doctrine of sharia (Islamic law). The new “test” of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of the doctrine from their communities. It was a sharp but critical departure from the previous American administration’s message in Cairo in 2009, and placed the Islamic doctrine that seeks to establish the sharia throughout the world in a contained context.

New Israeli Partnership

With Israel, the administration has cemented the next part of its strategy. Here the Trump administration successfully improved our political and military relations with Israel. Markedly so. One part of that effort was enhanced missile-defense cooperation called for in the FY18 United States defense budget, specifically to deal with Iranian and Iranian-allied missile threats.

On relations with the Palestinian Authority, the administration has moved to improve matters but has not moved to advocate a two-state solution — for which there is no contemplated security framework sufficient to protect Israel.

Challenge and Roll Back Iran

The final part of the administration’s strategy starts with a thorough review of our Iran strategy and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or “nuclear deal”, with Iran. As Max Singer recently wrote, even if we discount what secretive nuclear capability Iran may now have, the Iranian regime will at the very least be much closer to producing nuclear weapons down the road than when the JCPOA was agreed to.

As Ambassador John Bolton has warned the nuclear deal with Iran did nothing to restrain Iranian harmful behavior: “Defiant missile launches… support for the genocidal Assad regime… backing of then Houthi insurgency in Yemen… worldwide support for terrorism… and commitment to the annihilation of Israel” continue.

In addition, uranium enrichment, heavy water production, the concealed military dimensions of warhead development and joint missile and nuclear work with North Korea all lend a critical urgency to countering Iran’s lethal efforts. The United States did not make these counter-efforts any easier by providing to Tehran $100 billion in escrowed Iranian funds, equivalent to nearly one quarter of the Islamic Republic’s annual GDP.

The United States’ and Europe’s easing of sanctions on Iran has helped reintegrate Iran into global markets via mechanisms such as the electronic payment system run by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT). That, in turn, has helped Iran expand dramatically its military modernization budget by 33%, including deals worth tens of billions of dollars in military hardware with China and Russia.

Added to that is Iranian financial- and weapons-support for foreign fighters in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Iran’s significant support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen includes weaponry, financing and logistical support, including advanced offensive missiles. The Houthis regularly attempt to carry out missile attacks against Saudi oil facilities.

Such Iran activity is described by the Commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, as “the most significant threat to the Central Region and to our national interests and the interest of our partners and allies”.

As such, it can only be challenged through exactly the kind of military, political, and economic coalition the Trump administration is seeking to band together, which would include the Gulf Arab nations, especially Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.

The administration’s five-step strategy has a chance to work. It creates a policy to destroy ISIS; oppose Islamic terrorism and specifically the imposition of sharia; adopt measures to go after the financing of such terrorism; implement improvements in Gulf allies’ military capabilities — including missile defenses — parallel with pushing NATO members to meet their military spending obligations; put back into place a sound and cooperative relationship with Israel; and specifically contain and roll back Iranian hegemonic ambitions and its terror-master ways.

What still has to be considered, however, is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of ISIS, as well as Iran’s push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.

If successful, some modicum of peace may be brought to the Middle East. And the arc of history will have finally been shaped toward America’s interests and those of its allies, rather than — however inadvertently — toward its mortal enemies.

Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, and was the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation for more than 20 years.

Naming Bin Salman Saudi heir impacts US, Israel

June 21, 2017

Naming Bin Salman Saudi heir impacts US, Israel, DEBKAfile, June 21, 2017

US President Trump is taking the lead role along with Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, another crown prince, Egypt’s President Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi, and Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

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The Saudi king’s decision to elevate his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, to crown prince and heir to the throne, in place of his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef – as part of a broad reshuffle, is not merely the internal affair of the royal hierarchy, but a game-changing international event.

DEBKAfile’s analysts see it as the outcome of a global and regional process initiated by Donald Trump soon after he settled in the White House in January. With his appointment as de facto ruler of the oil kingdom, the Saudi king’s son is ready to step into his allotted place in a new US-Arab-Israeli alliance that will seek to dominate Middle East affairs. Israel will be accepted in a regional lineup for the first time alongside the strongest Sunni Arab nations who all share similar objectives, especially the aim to stop Iran.

Trump’s trip to Riyadh and Jerusalem in early May laid the cornerstone for the new US-Sunni Arab bloc versus Iran’s Shiite grouping and also cemented Israel’s co-option.

This bloc is in its infancy and has yet to display staying power and prove the wisdom of its policies. But its contours have taken shape. US President Trump is taking the lead role along with Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, another crown prince, Egypt’s President Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi, and Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Three of those leaders already maintain strong direct – albeit discreet – ties with Israel’s prime minister, its security establishment, military and various intelligence agencies.

In a lecture on Tuesday, June 20, Israel’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott, spoke of the covert relations between the IDF and certain Arab nations, which he did not name. There is clearly a lot going on under the surface in various political, economic, financial, intelligence and military fields.

Recent events in the region already point to President Trump acting on important matters, such as the confrontation with Iran, the war on terror, the Syrian conflict and US intervention in the Yemen conflict, on the advice of the two Arab crown princes rather than Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

This was strikingly demonstrated when Trump overrode Tillerson’s recommendation to apply diplomacy for resolving the dispute that led to four Arab nations boycotting Qatar, with the Saudis in the lead, whereas the president then demanded strong action to stop Qatar’s funding of terrorists. He therefore opted for the aggressive Saudi and UAE stance against Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

These developments bear strongly on US-Russian relations. The two crown princes maintain active ties with President Vladimir Putin. They could, of course, act as go-betweens for smoothing relations between the White House and the Kremlin. But, on the other hand, their influence could be counter-productive and goad Trump into engaging the Russians in a limited confrontation in Syria. It is hard to see Washington and Moscow coming to terms in Syria at this point when the former is closely allied to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Moscow maintains its loyalty to Tehran.

The evolving bonds between the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Israel are the source of President Trump’s optimism about the prospects of pulling off an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, a vision which eluded all his predecessors in the White House, while knocking over the decades-old barriers between the moderate Arab nations and the Jewish State.

The first steps towards this goal are in the making. They will include exposing parts of their hidden interaction to the light of day, as well as such important symbolic actions, as opening Arab skies to the passage of Israeli commercial flights, or direct telephone links.

None of this is expected to transpire overnight but rather over years, especially since there is opposition to the process still to overcome in the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, and also in the United States. Critics lay into Mohammed bin Salman, who has made his mark as a visionary social and economic reformer at home, as too young, brash and impatient to rule the kingdom. His decision to entangle Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war, which many believe it cannot win, is held up as evidence of his reckless nature.

But the process switched on by Trump in Riyadh took a large stride forward on June 21, with the formalization by King Salman of his young son’s role as the top mover and shaker in the Saudi kingdom. King Salman obtained the support of 31 out of 34 members of Saudi Arabia’s Allegiance Council for confirming Prince Muhammad Bin Salman as crown prince as well as deputy prime minister and minister of defense.