Posted tagged ‘Trump and Middle East’

US is back

March 19, 2017

US is back, Israel Hayom, Prof. Eyal Zisser, March 19, 2017

(Please see, for example, A new foundation for Saudi-US relations. — DM

The Trump administration is not even 100 days old, but the Middle East is already feeling the change. The United States is once again taking an active role in the region, and more importantly, Washington is once again standing by the allies and friends it had abandoned. It is now abundantly clear that America can differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys in the region, and that it plans to act for the former and against the latter.

It is an open secret that the election of President Donald Trump, despite being portrayed as an enemy of Islam who gobbles up Muslims, was greeted with a sigh of relief in the region, and in some cases with overt jubilation. America’s allies were fed up with former President Barack Obama and his administration, which turned its back on them during tough times and did not hesitate to criticize them and even question their legitimacy.

The Obama administration was obviously biased in favor of pro-Islamic elements in the region, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It also courted Iran and tried to appease it, in the hope of dissuading it from pursuing its nuclear ambitions and maybe scaling back its destabilizing activities in the region. This all created an unbridgeable gulf between Washington and its old friends, who came to conclusion that even the minimal understanding Washington had of the region’s complexities was no longer there, and that perhaps the Obama administration had lost touch with reality.

Trump is not committed to the former administration’s value system, which was used to pass judgment and essentially sacrifice his allies and friends. For all of Obama’s high-minded values, he essentially let Syria falter and allowed its fate to be decided by the impulses of President Bashar Assad and his friends in Moscow and Teheran.

Many have assumed that Trump would prefer to wait before taking action in the Middle East, a region with which he is not familiar and which does not require immediate American intervention, especially since Obama left him almost no wiggle room. But, surprisingly, the American efforts in the region under his leadership have been the most intense in recent memory.

Last week, Trump hosted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s interior minister, whose associates were quick to declare that the meeting was a historic turning point in the countries’ bilateral relations, because the two leaders saw eye-to-eye on the Iranian threat and on the need to counter its efforts to destabilize the region. Similar voices have been heard in Cairo and in Ankara.

Trump is also sending additional forces to Syria to strengthen the American hold on its eastern part. This is designed to help deal a crushing blow to Islamic State and provide a counterweight to the Russian presence, and even more importantly, to the Iranian presence there. Trump has also tried to have the Israelis and the Palestinians resume direct talks without accepting the prerequisites set by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Trump’s actions regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are part of a more comprehensive effort to advance regional cooperation in the region, an effort Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has been pushing for months. Trump hopes this effort will usher in new arrangements between Israel and its Arab neighbor and the Palestinian Authority.

Trump may not have a deep understanding of the region, but he has the instincts of a businessman who wants to win. He may very well prove that one does not have to be impartial to reach a deal, as President Vladimir Putin has proved in Syria. Trump may be able to make Israel and the Palestinian reach certain understandings even while showing his support for Israel. Most importantly, the deal that Trump promotes will not be bound by the value system of Obama or the Europeans, nor will Trump say amen to every request made by the Palestinians. Trump will only make sure the deal advances both sides’ interests.

Only time will tell whether Trump can effect the change he desires in the region.

A new approach to U.S. Middle East strategy

February 16, 2017

A new approach to U.S. Middle East strategy, Center for Security Policy, Adm. James “Ace” Lyons (Ret.) and Clare M. Lopez, February 15, 2017

puzzlepalace

The Trump administration has a unique opportunity to implement a new strategic policy to bring some semblance of stability to the current Middle East chaos. Under the pledge of putting “America first,” our core national security interest in the region should include the following:

  • Eliminating the Islamic State as an identifiable entity.
  • Preventing Iran from achieving a deliverable nuclear weapon capability.
  • Preventing Iran from achieving regional hegemony.
  • Supporting Iranians in their efforts to remove the corrupt Iranian theocracy.
  • Keeping open vital sea lanes and strategic choke points.
  • Defending U.S. bases and facilities.

• Re-emphasizing our support for our friends and allies while assisting threatened minorities (Christians, Assyrians/Chaldeans, Kurds and Yazidis).

Our strategy in the past has been reactive, but now must be driven by our vital core objectives. In that sense, it is not in the U.S. interest to become involved in a 1,300-year-old, intra-Islamic sectarian fight between Shiites and Sunnis. From a Western perspective, there is no good side in this conflict. Both want to kill us.

It also must be recognized that much of the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement nation-state system formed in the Middle East after World War I is coming asunder. Syria and Iraq are fractured states and a readjustment of a regional balance of power between Shiite and Sunni will evolve out of the current crisis with or without U.S. involvement. Our invasion of Iraq and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni army removed the main blocking force to the expansion of Iran’s Shiite Crescent and ensured the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) out of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq.

A Sunni entity that clearly is not ISIS should be assisted to coalesce in what used to be Iraq. Such an entity could involve Anbar Province and the Nineveh Plain, where Assyrians/Turkman/Yazidis are unifying in an effort at preservation and stabilization.

In areas outside of Alawite and Kurdish control and areas liberated from ISIS in the former Syria, Syrian Free Army (SFA) commanders believe that with U.S. and other Western support, they could pry off significant forces from jihadi militias to create a force to defeat Jabhat al-Nusra, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and ISIS. This approach should be explored. In implementing a new strategy, we must proceed in a manner that gains cooperation from those whose involvement is essential. This includes Russia, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and Turkey. The Gulf states must be persuaded to end support for Sunni jihadis, which can only happen if they are assured that they will not be threatened or surrounded by Iran’s Shiite Crescent.

The Trump administration’s recent declaration putting Iran “on notice” is a step in the right direction, as were U.S. Treasury sanctions on 12 entities for supporting Iran’s illicit ballistic missile program. Further, President Trump’s call for establishing safe zones in Syria, e.g., one in the northern Kurdish area, one along the Turkish border, and one on the Jordanian border, could help relieve economic pressure on Jordan and Turkey, which are providing support to millions of refugees. In return, we should expect Turkey and Jordan’s support for our new regional strategy.

President Obama’s policy that deliberately empowered Iran to advance its geostrategic ambitions and move toward a deliverable nuclear weapons capability is over. Our so-called nuclear agreement with Iran must also be terminated and Iran’s joint venture relationship, using North Korea as its off-site laboratory to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, must end. Holding Iran accountable to the agreement is a pipe dream. There is no agreement. Further, a clear, unambiguous declaration from the Trump administration with appropriate follow-on action will go a long way to gain Saudi and GCC cooperation.

With regard to Syria, Bashar Assad must go. It appears Russia may support such action as it reportedly proposed Alawite Gen. Manas Tlass (formerly with the Hafez Assad regime) as his replacement at the Astana talks. SFA commanders may accept this as long as the Assad clan is out of power and in exile. Under such an arrangement, the Alawites would keep control of Damascus and their coastal strip heartland, but lose the rest of former Syria. This is the de facto current situation on the ground today.

Russia may find such an arrangement acceptable, provided it keeps its bases in Latakia and Tartus. While these are major concessions, issues involving Ukraine/Crimea must also be part of the discussion, as well as Libya. The bottom line in the trade-offs must be Russia’s commitment to help in getting Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite militias out of what formerly was Syria.

Turkey also may be helpful in the overall realignment but must be managed carefully, as Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party) is moving toward an authoritarian neo-Ottoman jihad state. Clearly, the No. 1 Turkish concern is the Kurds. One option may be to not allow the Kurdish northern-Syria enclave “Rojava” to extend to the Turkish border. There would instead be a safe zone there, guaranteed jointly by Russia and Turkey. Gas and oil pipelines also are major factors that must be included in discussions with both Russia and Turkey.

Since we have no vital objectives in Afghanistan, we should stop wasting our national treasure to support a corrupt tribal society.

If this new strategic approach is followed, our vital core strategic objectives will most likely stand a better chance of being achieved while gradually bringing the current chaos under control.

Trump’s game in Saudi Arabia

February 13, 2017

Trump’s game in Saudi Arabia, American ThinkerJames Lewis, February 13, 2017

Mike Pompeo, the new CIA head, just flew to Riyadh to give a medal to the reigning son of the king (who is said to suffer from dementia).  While some conservatives regard this as a travesty (e.g., a “Not the Onion” commentary from Zero Hedge), I think this is meant to be an open signal to support the House of Saud, whose help is needed against the Iranians anyway and who support President El-Sisi against Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

saudiaward

It’s not clear what the Saudis did in exchange, but they have been under the gun, fearing that Western media would expose their role in support of violent jihad.  So this looks as though the Saudis have done a lot to settle those debts.  It’s not the kind of public gesture the CIA does a lot.

The Saudis can shut down ISIS/AQ/Al Nusra, or whatever the worst gang of maniacs calls itself today.  They also have no problem with selected assassinations.  SecDef Mattis has a long record of talking about morality and immorality in warfare, and he does not like sadistic monsters.  I think the moral dimension of defensive war has been missing during the Obama years.

These moves may signal both domestic and foreign agreements to calm things down.  The Saudis know that their control of OPEC is waning, since Trump is aggressively opening up domestic traditional and shale energy production (again, something Obama never would do).  But the Saudis need to make a “soft landing,” which is not going to be easy.  So they have been talking peace with Israel, on the assumption that Israel can communicate with the U.S. – at least under Trump.

These are all calming moves in a very agitated international situation. I believe that Trump is going to move aggressively against Muslim Brotherhood infiltration, probably with Saudi backing.  The Saudis are ideologically aligned with ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the M.B.s, but tactically, they could abandon them.  Violent jihad arose with OPEC, and now that OPEC is declining, it would be smart to convince the Saudis that the jig is up.

We can see if there is a marked decrease in jihadist violence.  If not, then the hypothesis is wrong.

The possibility of public exposure of their role in 9/11 is still very real and can be used to ensure their good behavior.

This is Kremlinology, but it’s falsifiable.  There are many dangerous enemies in the world, including George Soros domestically, and the intelligence agencies can torpedo a lot of stuff.  It is smart for Trump to calm things down and focus on the hard parts first.

 

Beautiful Friendship

February 10, 2017

Beautiful Friendship, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, February 10, 2017

flags-1

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

On Sunday, Trump restated his desire to develop ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu must present Trump with a viable plan to reconstitute US-Russian ties in exchange for Russian abandonment of its alliance with Tehran and its cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

Next week can be the beginning of a new era in Israel’s relations with the US. But to make the most of this unprecedented opportunity, Israel needs to recognize its role as America’s ally. It must take the necessary steps to perform that role, and it must free the administration from the shackles of the PLO while securing its long-term interests in Judea and Samaria unilaterally, and quietly.

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

Less than a week after he was inaugurated into office, President Donald Trump announced that he had repaired the US’s fractured ties with Israel. “It got repaired as soon as I took the oath of office,” he said.

Not only does Israel now enjoy warm relations with the White House. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in the US capital next week, he will be greeted by the most supportive political climate Israel has ever seen in Washington.

It is true that dangers to Israel’s ties with America lurk in the background. The radical Left is taking control of the Democratic Party.

But the forces now hijacking the party on a whole host of issues have yet to transform their hatred of Israel into the position of most Democratic lawmakers in Congress.

Democrats in both houses of Congress joined with their Republican counterparts in condemning UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that criminalized Israel. A significant number of Democratic lawmakers support Trump’s decision to slap new sanctions on Iran.

Similarly, radical Jewish groups have been unsuccessful in rallying the more moderate leftist Jewish leadership to their cause. Case in point is the widespread support Trump’s appointment of David Friedman to serve as his ambassador to Israel is receiving from the community.

Whereas J Street and T’ruah are circulating a petition calling for people to oppose his Senate confirmation, sources close to the issue in Washington say that AIPAC supports it.

Given this political climate, Netanyahu must use his meeting with Trump to develop a working alliance to secure Israel’s long-term strategic interests both on issues of joint concern and on issues that concern Israel alone.

The first issue on the agenda must be Iran.

Since taking office, Trump has signaled that unlike his predecessors, he is willing to lead a campaign against Iran. Trump has placed Iran on notice that its continued aggression will not go unanswered and he has harshly criticized Obama’s nuclear deal with the mullahs.

In the lead-up to his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu has said that he will present the new president with five options for scaling back Tehran’s nuclear program. No time can be wasted in addressing this problem.

Iran continues spinning its advanced centrifuges.

The mullahs are still on schedule to field the means to deploy nuclear warheads at will within a decade. Netanyahu’s task is to work with Trump to significantly set back Iran’s nuclear program as quickly as possible.

Then there is Syria. And Russia.

On Sunday, Trump restated his desire to develop ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu must present Trump with a viable plan to reconstitute US-Russian ties in exchange for Russian abandonment of its alliance with Tehran and its cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

Here, too, time is of the essence.

According to news reports this week, President Bashar Assad is redeploying his forces to the Syrian border with Israel. Almost since the outset of the war in Syria six years ago, Assad’s forces have been under Iranian and Hezbollah control. If Syrian forces deploy to the border, then Iran and Hezbollah will control the border.

Israel cannot permit such a development. It’s not just that such a deployment greatly expands the risk of war. As long as Russia is acting in strategic alliance with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, the deployment of Iranian-controlled forces to the border raises the real possibility that Israel will find itself at war with Russia in Syria.

Then there are the Sunnis. For the past six years, Netanyahu successfully withstood Obama’s pressure by developing an informal alliance with Sunni regimes that share its opposition to Iran and to the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to sources aware of the Trump administration’s strategic plans, the administration wishes to integrate Israel more strongly into Washington’s alliance structure with Sunni regimes. Israel, of course, has good reason to support this plan, particularly if it involves extending the US military’s Central Command to include Israel.

There are, however, significant limitations on the potential of Israel’s ties to Sunni regimes. First, there is the fact that all of these regimes are threatened by Islamist forces operating in their territory and on their borders.

As Israel Air Force commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel warned this week, Israel is concerned that in the event any of these regimes is overthrown, the advanced US weapons it fields will fall under the control of Islamist forces.

Then there is the fact that in exchange for taking their relations with Israel out of the proverbial closet, the Arabs will demand that Israel make concessions to the PLO.

This then brings us to the only subject the media is discussing in relation to Netanyahu’s upcoming meeting with Trump: Will Trump push Israel to make concessions to the PLO or won’t he? The short answer is that it doesn’t appear that Trump has the slightest intention of doing so.

Over the past week, the administration has made three statements about the Palestinians.

First, of course, was the White House’s statement about the so-called Israeli settlements that came out last Thursday.

Although nearly all media reports on the statement claimed it aligned Trump with his predecessors in opposition to Israel’s civilian presence in Judea and Samaria, the fact is that the statement was the most supportive statement any US administration has ever made about those communities.

Obama, of course rejected Israel’s right to any civilian presence beyond the 1949 armistice lines, including in Jerusalem. In his final weeks in office, Obama joined the international mob in falsely castigating Israeli communities in these areas as illegal.

George W. Bush for his part, made a distinction between the so-called settlement blocs and the more isolated Israeli villages in Judea and Samaria. He gave grudging and limited support for Israel’s right to respect the property rights of Jews in the former. He rejected Jewish property rights in the latter.

Trump repudiated both of these positions.

In its statement on Thursday, the administration made no distinction between Jewish property rights in any of the areas. Moreover, the statement did not even reject the construction of new Israeli communities.

According to the text of the statement, “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving” the goal of peace.

But, then again, they may be helpful. And then again, they may have no impact whatsoever on the chance of achieving peace.

Not only did the administration’s statement not reject Israel’s right to build new communities, it rejected completely the position of Trump’s predecessors that Israeli communities are an obstacle to peace.

In the administration’s words, “We don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace.”

After renouncing the positions of its predecessors on Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, the administration then refused to say whether its vision for peace includes a Palestinian state.

In line with the Republican Party’s platform that makes no mention of support for Palestinian statehood, the Trump administration continues to question the rationale for supporting a policy that has failed for the past 95 years.

Finally, the administration said it had no comment on the regulations law this week regarding Jewish construction rights in Judea and Samaria.

All White House spokesman Sean Spicer would say was that it would be discussed in Trump’s meeting with Netanyahu.

This brings us back to that meeting, and how Netanyahu should broach the Palestinian issue.

Both from statements by administration sources since the election and from the administration’s refusal to speak with Palestinian Authority officials since Trump’s electoral victory, Trump and his top advisers have made clear that they see no upside to US support for the PLO.

They do not want to support the PLO and they do not want to be dragged into fruitless discussions between Israel and the PLO. For the past 24 years, US mediation of those discussions has weakened America’s position in the region, has weakened Israel and has empowered the PLO and anti-American forces worldwide.

According to sources with knowledge of the administration’s position, Trump views the Israeli- Palestinian conflict as an internal Israeli issue.

He expects Israel to deal with it and do so in a way that stabilizes the region and keeps the Palestinians out of the headlines, to the extent possible.

In this vein, sources with knowledge of administration considerations claim that last Thursday’s White House statement on Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria was in part the result of exasperation with Israel’s inability to keep quiet on the issue. Had Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman not announced that they were issuing permits for thousands of building starts in Judea and Samaria, the White House wouldn’t have felt compelled to issue a statement on the matter.

The administration’s desire to disengage from the PLO is well aligned with Israel’s strategic interests. No good has ever come to Israel from US support for the PLO. Moreover, Israel has achieved its greatest strategic successes in relation to determining its borders when it has kept its moves as low key as possible.

For instance, in 1981, when then-prime minister Menachem Begin applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights, he did so with no fanfare. Rather than loudly announcing Israel’s right to sovereignty over the area, Begin insisted that the move was done to satisfy administrative imperatives and that Israel would be willing to consider border corrections in the event that Syria became serious about peace at some later date.

Begin’s example should inform Netanyahu’s preparations for his meeting with Trump.

Unfortunately, Netanyahu does not seem to realize the implications of Trump’s lack of interest in following in his predecessors’ footsteps in relation to the PLO.

Over the past few weeks, Netanyahu has insisted that he wishes to coordinate his positions on the Palestinians with the administration. While he should take any concerns Trump voices to him on the issue into consideration, he should also make clear that the administration’s belief that no good has come to the US from its support for the PLO is well-founded. He should also explain Israel’s need to control Area C in perpetuity, and the problem with maintaining military administration of the area. Finally, he should assure Trump that Israel intends to secure its interests in Judea and Samaria in a way than does not impinge on US priorities.

Next week can be the beginning of a new era in Israel’s relations with the US. But to make the most of this unprecedented opportunity, Israel needs to recognize its role as America’s ally. It must take the necessary steps to perform that role, and it must free the administration from the shackles of the PLO while securing its long-term interests in Judea and Samaria unilaterally, and quietly.

Separating fact from sickening media fiction on Trump’s immigration executive order

January 29, 2017

Separating fact from sickening media fiction on Trump’s immigration executive order, Conservative Review,  Daniel Horowitz, Chris Pandolfo, January 29, 2017

myths-vs-facts-chalkboard

“Any alien coming to this country must or ought to know, that this being an independent nation, it has all the rights concerning the removal of aliens which belong by the law of nations to any other; that while he remains in the country in the character of an alien, he can claim no other privilege than such as an alien is entitled to, and consequently, whatever risque he may incur in that capacity is incurred voluntarily, with the hope that in due time by his unexceptionable conduct, he may become a citizen of the United States.” ~Justice James Iredell, 1799

There is a lot of confusion swirling around the events that transpired this weekend as a result of Trump’s executive order on immigration. Make no mistake: every word of Trump’s executive order is in accordance with statute.

It’s important not to conflate political arguments with legal arguments, as many liberals and far too many “conservatives” on social media are doing.  While the timing and coordination of implementing this order might have been poorly planned, we shouldn’t allow that to undermine the broader need to defend our sovereignty.  For courts to violate years’ worth of precedent and steal our sovereignty should concern everyone.

What the order actually does

Among other things, the key provisions at the center of the existing controversy are as follows:

It shuts off the issuance of all new immigrant and non-immigrant visas for 30 days from the following seven volatile countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Any non-citizen from those seven countries (not “all” Muslim countries) is excluded from entering the country during this time-period (which usually means they won’t be able to board a direct flight to America).  After 90 days, the secretary of state and secretary of homeland security must submit a report to completely revamp the vetting process going forward.

Within 60 days, countries will have to submit any information that the administration determines necessary, pursuant to the findings of this report, in order to adjudicate a visa application and ensure they are properly vetted. Any country that fails to submit this information will not be able to send foreign nationals to our country. All the while, the ban can be extended and expanded at any time.

In addition, the entire refugee resettlement program is suspended for four months pending a complete investigation of the program and a plan to restructure it and prioritize those who are truly in danger of religious persecution. After 120 days, the program may resume, but only for those countries Secretaries Kelly and Tillerson determine do not pose a threat. The program from Syria is completely suspended until the president personally gives the green light.

[T]his was actually a judicious and cautious approach from Trump.

With regards to refugees and those who seek to enter from the seven countries temporarily excluded, the order gave discretion to the State Department and DHS to admit individuals on a case-by-case basis for important reasons, even during the temporary moratorium.

Statement of principles on the right of a country to exclude non-citizens

Those who want to immigrate: There is no affirmative right, constitutional or otherwise, to visit or settle in the United States. Period.

Based on the social contract, social compact, sovereignty, long-standing law of nation-states, governance by the consent of the governed, the plenary power of Congress over immigration, and 200 years of case law, our political branches of government have the power to exclude or invite any individual or classes people for any reason on a temporary or even permanent basis – without any involvement from the courts.[1] Congress has already delegated its authority to the president to shut off any form of immigration at will at any time.

Immigrants already here: Those already admitted to this country with the consent of the citizenry have unalienable rights. They cannot be indefinitely detained. However, they can be deported for any reason if they are not citizens. In Fong Yue Ting v. United States (1893), which is still settled law, the court ruled that Congress has the same plenary power to deport aliens for any reason as it does to exclude them and that the statutory procedures and conditions for doing so are due process.[2] Congress has established the process for deportation of those already here.  However, as long as a legal permanent resident leaves the country he has no affirmative right to re-enter.[3] Either way, they have absolutely no right to judicial review other than to ensure that statutes are properly followed.

But can Trump prevent those with green cards from re-entering the country?

The statute is clear as day. The Immigration and Nationality Act (§ 212(f)) gives the president plenary power to “by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants.” Clearly, the president has the authority to block any non-citizen – including refugees, green card holders, and foreign students – from entering the country.  Also, for purposes of deportation, there is no difference between a green card holder or a holder of a non-immigrant visa.  No foreign national who has not yet obtained citizenship has an affirmative right to re-enter the country.

Is this a ban on Muslim immigration?

No, it’s a moratorium on immigration or re-entries from seven individual countries and a temporary moratorium on refugees from all countries, subject to case-by-case exceptions.

Why didn’t Trump place restrictions on immigration/visas from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries?

That’s probably a good idea.  But this was actually a judicious and cautious approach from Trump to start with low-hanging fruit.  These seven countries are failed states or enemies of the U.S. (in the case of Iran).  As such, there is absolutely no way to share data with the host countries and properly vet them.  Somalia has been one of the biggest trouble spots.  The other countries are marred in Islamic civil wars.  Moreover, these are the countries that existing law targets for travel restrictions, and that Obama’s own DHS listed last year.

Why would Trump include green card holders in the ban on re-entry?

Both liberals and conservatives expressed concern over hundreds of individuals going over to fight for ISIS.  We are already limited in how we can combat this growing threat among U.S. citizens.  Given that it is completely legal to exclude non-citizens upon re-entry, Trump extended the ban to legal permanent residents as well.

If a Somali refugee is travelling back to Somalia (so much for credible fear of persecution!), government officials should have the ability to prevent that person from coming back when necessary. Obviously, there are some individuals from these seven countries who already have green cards and we might not want to exclude. That is why the order grants discretion to the State Department to issue case-by-case exemptions for “religious persecution, “or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship.”  A CBP agent is always stationed at any international airport from which these individuals would board a direct flight to the United States (Paris and Dubai, for example). That individual would not allow anyone covered by this ban onto a U.S.-bound flight unless he grants them a hardship exemption.

Indeed, it appears that green card holders returning yesterday from those seven countries were all granted entry.

What’s with the chaos at the airports and the courts?

Henceforth, CBP agents will not allow individual aliens from those seven countries to board a flight to the U.S. So the chaos will end.

The problem arose from the 100 or so individuals that were already in transit when the order took effect. When they arrived at American airports, they were detained at customs. Standing at this point is not tantamount to being on American soil.[4]  However, a federal judge in New York issued a stay and prevented the feds from sending two individuals back on a flight. Other judges have prevented officials from even detaining such persons. It’s unclear if federal agents might have made a mistake and released some of these individuals before ordering them to leave the country. Once they are released onto American soil, any effort to remove them is treated as a deportation, not an exclusion, and is subject to the due process afforded them by congressional statutes (not the Constitution).

Thus, it’s unclear if the stay even applied to any element of the order or whether it applied to anomalous circumstances or particular actions taken by federal officials that overstepped the order.

It’s also confusing because many contemporary judges have no respect for our sovereignty and have been gradually chipping away at the plenary power of Congress (or the president, pursuant to statute) to exclude aliens re-entering the country, despite years of settled law. If courts are indeed violating our sovereignty, this is the very grave danger I warned about in Stolen Sovereignty.  Either way, it should not affect the ability of the administration to enforce the order against those who want to prospectively board flights to return.

The factors of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem

January 18, 2017

The factors of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Center for Security PolicyJacub Gorski, January 17, 2017

President-elect Trump’s recently announced plans to have the incoming U.S. ambassador to Israel live in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 already recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and instructs the executive branch to move the embassy or file a national security waiver. With the U.S ambassador to Israel living in Jerusalem what would be the implications for the region if the U.S. moved its embassy to the city as well?

Critics warn that moving the embassy to Jerusalem will spark international protests and cause more instability in the region. Secretary John Kerry warned that “you would have an explosion, an absolute explosion” in the Middle East. The head of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas in a letter to Trump wrote that moving the embassy will “have destructive consequences on the peace process, the two state solution and the safety and security of the region.”

By “explosion” Secretary Kerry probably means an increase in the frequency and strength of Islamic terrorist attacks on the Israelis, Arab states cutting off relations with the U.S. and Israel, or Israel’s neighbors declaring war on the country.

Israel suffered Hamas rocket attacks in the past and is currently undergoing a wave of terror perpetrated by Palestinians. It is the stated goal of the Palestinian terrorists to attack Israel. In its charter Hamas promises to wage jihad against the country and the Israeli Defense Minister suspects that the organization is trying to develop new offensive capabilities in order to do so. So Israel will probably continue to see a spike in terrorist attacks regardless of whether the U.S. moves its embassy to Jerusalem.

Arab states will likely issue condemnations if the U.S. moves its embassy, but they would not cut off ties with America or Israel. Middle Eastern regimes need U.S. help in fighting ISIS and finance their own military operations. Given Arab dependence on U.S. aid it is unlikely they would want to jeopardize their relations with Washington over an embassy.

There is no fear of Arab economic boycotts because Israel’s neighbors have maintainedsanctions on the country for decades.

Also, given Israel’s success in the Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars and the subsequent military strength the Arab states are unlikely to ever declare war on the country.

Israel’s neighbors need its help in countering the growing Iranian influence in the region. With Iran and Hezbollah giving military aid to the Assad regime, Israel’s Sunni neighbors might want to consider possible cooperation with Tel-Aviv. In a move that might signal cooperation, the former intelligence chiefs of Saudi Arabia and Israel held a public meeting. If the Arabs want Israeli help then they are unlikely to jeopardize their already fragile relations over the U.S. embassy.

Despite Abbas’ warnings, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem could make the peace process easier. It would send a clear message to the PA that the U.S. considers Jerusalem to be part of Israel. Instead of having our embassy located in Jerusalem U.S. issue waivers that have delayed the move. To the PA this probably looks like America wavering in its support to Israel because the U.S. is failing to keep up its promise. Moving the embassy will send a message that Washington keeps its promises and does not waiver in support of its allies.

The optimism of the ‘Obama victims’

January 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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