Tag Archives: Middle East

Comparing Trump vs Obama against ISIS

This very interesting article does a nice job of reviewing the history of ISIS since 2010, the year that the Obama administration released just killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, using multiple news sources and stories.

Here is a rough timeline:

Obama presidency:
2008: ISIS forces estimated to be about 700 fighters, holding practically no ground.
2010: al-Baghdadi is released.
2011: al-Baghdadi takes over ISIS.
2014: Obama refers to ISIS as a “JV team.”
2015: ISIS forces estimated to be between 20,000 to 31,000 fighters.
2015: ISIS establishes global terrorism network resulting in terrorist attacks worldwide.
2016: ISIS occupies 17,500 square miles, with 35,000 fighters.

Trump presidency:
2017: (July): ISIS pushed out of Mosul.
2017 (October) ISIS in full retreat to U.S. backed forces, loses its capital Raqqa.
2017 (December): ISIS forces now estimated to be 1,000 fighters, holding 1,900 square miles.
2019: al-Baghadi is killed.

At this moment ISIS remains a threat, but a significantly reduced one from its peak in 2016.

Like Trump or hate him, an objective look at how he has handled this issue versus Obama’s handling once again puts the victory mark in Trump’s column. Obama’s policy made things worse in the Arab Middle East. Trump has so far improved things.

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Netanyahu fails to form government

It appears that Benjamin Netanyahu’s present reign as Israeli prime minister, begun in 2008, is about to end. He has given up trying to form a coalition led by his Likud Party, and according to Israeli law, the second largest party, Blue and White, led by Bernie Gantz, will try next.

Whether Gantz can form his own coalition, based on the present break down of Israeli factions, is quite questionable. It would appear that he either can form a government with Likud and Netanyahu, something his party opposes, or he must include the Arab Joint List, something that almost all the other parties oppose.

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Israel election produces uncertainty again

Yesterday’s election in Israel, called because the leading block led by Benjamin Natanyahu could not form a majority coalition after the last election in May, has apparently resulted in a similar result.

I am still researching what I think might be the causes behind this on-going situation in Israeli politics. The article at the link describes some of the negotiations between the various factions that might produce a new Natanyahu government, or not.

My sense is that this situation all begins with the special exemptions to military service that still remain for the orthodox, or haredi community. The reason Natanyahu could not form a coalition in May was that one of his expected partners, a generally conservative but secular party dubbed Yisrael Beytenu, wanted a commitment to remove those remaining exemptions, and Natanyahu couldn’t get the various religious parties to go along.

As result, it appears that the religious parties lost some support in yesterday’s election, making it even harder for Natanyahu to make a deal.

I have asked some of my relatives in Israel if my analysis here makes sense, and am waiting a response.

Either way, it appears that no one is going to have an easy time putting together a government in Israel.

Update: This story from Israel tonight provides some clarity about the position of Yisrael Beytenu, stated by its chairman, Avigdor Liberman. In it he outlines his party’s demands, which do not just involve the special military exemptions for the haredi but also the power the orthodox have held in Israel over other issues.

“We will not concede on the passing of the Draft Law, as it was originally written, we will not concede on repealing the Supermarket Law, we will not concede on public transportation on Shabbat, we will not concede on civil marriages, and the introduction of core studies into haredi education. These are the conditions, and until we hear things in that spirit – there’s nothing to talk about.”

All of these cited issues involve the effort by the religious parties to exert more control. For example, the Supermarket Law, passed in 2018, gave the national government power to determine whether local businesses could be open on Shabbat (Saturday, the day of rest), instead of local bylaws. Similarly, issues of marriage and education all involved a conflict between the secular and orthodox communities.

Either way, Liberman will only join a coalition of all the secular parties, excluding both the Jewish religious parties and the Arab parties (dubbed the Joint List). To do this would require the two largest parties, the conservative Likud, led by Natanyahu, and the more liberal Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz to partner. Everything I have read suggests this will not be possible, as long as Natanyahu leads Likud.

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India sides with Israel in UN for the first time

On June 6 the Indian government for the first time voted in support of Israel and its motion against a Palestinian non-governmental organization linked to jihadi terrorist groups.

The vote took place on June 6, just weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his allies won a two-thirds majority in the Indian general elections. Since Modi took office in May 2014, India has mostly abstained from voting on UN resolutions targeting the Jewish state but has shied away from siding with Israel at the international body.

…By backing Israel at the UN, Prime Minister Modi has finally broken away from the country’s historical voting pattern of siding with the Arab and Muslim countries.

Modi’s landslide election victory probably helped bring about this change of position. I also suspect that Trump’s decision to cut off funds from Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations, while moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, also made it easier for Modi to make this change. Trump has essentially said that the Palestinian emperor has no clothes (ie they are not interested in peace, only killing Jews), and this has allowed many others to chime in as well.

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U.S. recognizes Israeli sovereignty of Golan Heights

The United States today officially recognized the Israeli claim of sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

President Trump on Monday formally recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a much-needed boost as he raced home to respond to a rocket attack that struck near Tel Aviv, wounding seven.

Mr. Trump’s proclamation reversed about a half-century of U.S. policy, which viewed the Golan Heights as Syrian territory occupied by Israel. “This was a long time in the making, it should have taken place many decades ago,” Mr. Trump said as he signed the papers inside the White House.

The rocket attack came from Gaza, causing Netanyahu to cut short his U.S. trip to deal with it.

Remember Gaza? That was the territory that Israel once controlled, and unilaterally left in order to give the Palestinians their own sovereign state. They have since used that sovereignty to elect terrorists as their leaders, and to lob bombs at innocent Israelis.

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Recent events in the Mideast

Link here. The article is written from a pro-Israeli perspective, but then, we do (or should) support the only democracy and free nation in the Middle East. The final paragraph summaries the events of the past week quite well:

This was a good week for Israel both militarily and politically. Israel continues to charter inroads on the African continent while at the same time, its military stands ready to check aggression emanating from nefarious elements to the north, south and east.

It appears that increasingly, moderate Muslim nations in the Middle East and Africa are realizing that it is in their interest to abandon their blind support of the Palestinian leadership, who has no interest in peace or even allowing any Jew to live. For these nations, the rational choice is Israel, who has steadfastly supported the idea that different peoples can live together in peace, and has demonstrated that position repeatedly. (I need only refer to Israel’s unilateral exit from Gaza to prove this statement, but if necessary I could also reference their peace treaty with Egypt, their exit from the Sinai peninsula, their willingness to supply electricity and other services to Gaza, etc).

I provide this information as a service to my readers, considering that every other mainstream media source seems too busy reading and sending out snarky slanders on Twitter about things that really have little significance.

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Trump’s decision to leave Syria

Link here. A less favorable analysis can be read here.

It is very clear, as the first article notes, that Trump was making the same decision as Reagan did back in the earlier 1980s in Lebanon. You either fight a war hard, without hesitation, aiming for complete victory, or you get out. Anything in between wastes lives, money, and only makes a bad situation worse. Reagan in Lebanon chose the latter. I suspect Trump today in Syria was doing the same.

The bad part of this is that our political leadership since 1945 had routinely chosen the middle, wishy-washy route, which has failed time after time and left us where we are today. This Babylon Bee satire article, “Trump Criticized For Breaking With Longstanding American Tradition Of Remaining In Middle Eastern Countries Indefinitely”, captures perfectly the insane approach to foreign policy by our elitist culture that they have followed for decades. It is not that they don’t want to make positive changes and help America’s strategic position globally, it is that they have no desire to make the real and possibly very violent commitments necessary to accomplish their goals. They instead do the insane thing, doing the same indecisive thing over and over, even though doing that thing is guaranteed to fail, every single time.

Trump at least made a firm decision, that in the short run will likely save American lives and money. In the long run, however, we continue to put our heads in the sand. We do not want to deal with the violent evil in the world, both at home and abroad, that is gaining power and dominance. This weakness is eventually going to bite us, badly.

Hat tip to Kirk Hilliard for prodding me to report on this story. I admit to being lax about reporting it. Since the election, my desire to read hard news has waned somewhat, though it is probably still far more extensive than most people. I see very bad things coming, and have found little in the news to reassure me that I am wrong. And I hate reporting bad and depressing news. I saw this story in a number of news outlets but just didn’t have the urge to read and report it.

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Netanyahu visits Oman, which calls for acceptance of Israel

Some good news on a bad day: After Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu completed a secret visit to the Muslim country of Oman this week, its leaders called for the Arab region to accept Israel as a nation.

In a speech he delivered at the IISS Manama Dialogue security summit in Bahrain, Omani Foreign Minister Yousuf bin Alawi said, “Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this. The world is also aware of this and maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same [as other states] and to also bear the same obligations.”

Netanyahu traveled to Oman at the invitation of the country’s leader, Sultan Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said, so that the two could discuss regional issues. The visit, which was kept secret until after Netanyahu’s return to Israel on Friday, came just two days after a Palestinian delegation led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was in Oman. Abbas also met with Sultan Qaboos.

Oman is offering ideas to help Israel and the Palestinians to come together but is not acting as mediator, Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the sultanate’s minister responsible for foreign affairs, told the IISS Manama Dialogue security summit in Bahrain. “We are not saying that the road is now easy and paved with flowers, but our priority is to put an end to the conflict and move to a new world,” bin Alawi told the summit.

It appears, based on details in the article, that the diplomacy of the Trump administration is helping to make this possible.

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Trump administration to shutter PLO office in DC

As part of its hard-nosed approach to PLO intransigence, the Trump administration has decided to shut down the Palestinian offices in DC.

National security adviser John Bolton is expected to announced Monday that the U.S. will shutter the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) office in Washington, D.C., The Wall Street Journal reported. “The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” Bolton is expected to say, according to a draft of his speech reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

This is on top of cutting off all U.S. funding to the PLO.

Though I like this decision, as it ends U.S. support for these terrorist organizations, I doubt it will do anything to change PLO policy. The petty dictators who are in charge of Palestinian affairs, the PLO and Hamas, require the selling of hatred of Jews and Israel to survive. Everything else they have done has bankrupted the lives of the people living in the West Bank and Gaza. The second they change their tune, the people there might suddenly realize how bad their leadership is, and could very well string them up, much as the Italians did to Mussolini at the end of World War II.

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Why Google blurs surface images of Israel, and why that blurring could end

Link here. A 1997 U.S. law requires that all satellite imagery of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank be blurred. The law also sets the resolution standard based on the best images produced by other commercial companies outside the U.S.

NOAA is now reviewing the law, since high resolution European commercial images have been available since 2012. If it decides this is the new standard, high resolution views of this very politically hot region could become publicly available for free.

The article focuses on the wonderfully good things in science and research this change would bring. It completely ignores the use that terrorist organizations, set on killing as many Israelis as possible, could put to such images.

In general, I prefer freedom and the wide distribution of information. In this case I am torn.

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The Middle East following Trump’s rejection of Iran deal

Many pundits had predicted that Donald Trump as president would lead to war with North Korea.

They were wrong. Completely, utterly, and foolishly. Instead, Trump’s hardline approach finally forced North Korea’s allies to force that nation to come to the negotiating table. For the first time in decades it appears we are going to see some substantive and positive changes in North Korea’s relations with the world.

This same pundit class, all operatives of the Democratic Party, have for the last few days been screaming that Trump’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal would also lead to war. Will these predictions be right this time? At this moment it is hard to say. Almost immediately after Trump’s announcement Iran and Israel exchanged missile fire. Overall, however, that exchange has turned out badly for Iran, the world’s biggest financier of terrorism and the instigator of most of the problems that presently exist in the Middle East.

First, it appears that militarily Iran did badly in the missile exchange, with Israel doing their capabilities in Syria serious harm. Second, Iran apparently did not tell anyone in Syria it was going to do use that country as a military launch site, and this is already causing them problems with their allies. For example, Russia announced today that it will not deliver new missiles to Syria, despite an earlier promise to do so.

Finally, a host of Arab Middle East countries have not only celebrated Trump’s actions, it has prompted some to reveal support for Israel, something that would have seemed impossible only two years ago.

It remains unclear if Trump’s actions will have the same positive effect on Iran as his actions did on North Korea. The two situations are not identical. Iran’s leaders have more flexibility and options that North Korea’s. Still, what Trump has accomplished is to get some important Arab nations to move to our side against Iran, and in doing so to increasingly ally themselves with Israel as well. This cannot be a bad thing.

Meanwhile, the anti-Semitic leader of Hamas announced yesterday that the protests next week in Gaza will be “decisive” and that many will die. Whether this really happens, it is apparent that such protests are not garnering Hamas the same worldwide support they once did. The same Middle East countries that have celebrated Trump’s actions have also made it clear they no longer support the terrorist tactics of the leaders in both the West Bank and Gaza. These Arab nations have quietly made it clear that they actually back Israel now.

Trump’s actions in the Middle East appear to have shifted the balance of power, and that shift has been in favor of Israel, the only democratically-elected nation in the area. This cannot be a bad thing.

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A detailed analysis of the recent seemingly pro-Israel remarks by the Saudi leader

Link here. The analysis takes a close look at what Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman really said about Israel’s right to exist, and found that, while much of what he said was hopeful, it was couched in enough vagueness that no one should celebrate too wildly.

In short, Muhammad said nothing revolutionary. He bore no glad tidings of a strategic shift in the Saudi Islam or in the manner that the Saudis relate to the world, including the Jews.

Which brings us back to the main question. What did we learn from this interview? The most significant thing that came out of the interview is that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is very keen to cooperate with the US and with Israel in everything related to defeating what he refers to as the “triangle of evil.”

The three sides of his triangle are Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the terrorist groups the Muslim Brotherhood has spawned, including al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

Saudi Arabia is still an Islamic country run by the corrupt and violent Arabian culture. As noted elsewhere in the article,

The problem is that Muhammad’s regime is built on shaky foundations. Muhammad instigated a blood feud with powerful forces within his family when he carried out a string of arrests last year. Among those arrested were several prominent princes.

Rhode [a Middle East expert] explains that the Saudi ruling clan divvied up the organs of government among branches of the family. For instance, one branch controls the Defense Ministry, another controls the Education Ministry, and so on down the line.

“In the Islamic world, humiliation is worse than death,” Rhode notes. “When Muhammad arrested the other princes, he humiliated them,” Rhode says. “And they will never forgive him. They will wait for the day they can exact revenge for their humiliation even if it only comes when their great-grandchildren have succeeded them.”

We cannot trust them very much, but we can take advantage of their internal conflicts to push them in a more reasonable direction.

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Tiny crowded Israel

Journeying through northern Israel

Much of the world’s political troubles are centered on the question of Israel in the middle of the Middle East. In both the Arab world as well as in some western intellectual circles, there are whole campaigns to make it go away (some peaceful, some genocidal). Politicians, pundits, and intellectuals argue incessantly about the rights of the Palestinians and the Jews, the best solution of achieving peace, and even the question of whether the Jews who have immigrated there have a right to stay.

I have just returned from spending two weeks in Israel, a trip I do somewhat regularly to see family. Each of these visits has given me an on-the-ground close-up look at the situation there, something that is difficult to get from the typically shallow media coverage of the region. And from each of these visits comes at least one essay, something I think is required because of Israel’s significance in much of the world’s political turmoil.

This year, we took a three day sightseeing trip to northern Israel, to visit some Roman ruins, the Sea of Galilee, and an incredible nature preserve that is the springtime home for thousands upon thousands of migrating birds. This excursion thus made this particular Israel visit far different from my half dozen or so previous trips, in that it was the first time I spent a considerable time in Israel proper. All my previous trips visiting family had me spend almost all my time going from one West Bank settlement to another. (That experience resulted in a series of essays on what those settlements are really like, which not surprisingly has no resemblance to their portrayal in the western press. My previous essay, A look at some Israeli West Bank settlements, provides a good summary, but it also provides links to all the previous essays, which are definitely worth the time to read if you want to find out what it is really like in the West Bank. I will give you one clue that might shock you: Hitchhiking is one of the most popular ways to get around.)

Anyway, this three-day trip allowed me to get my first look at Israel itself. The map above shows our route, as indicated by the dotted red line. The numbered Xs were our stops, of which I will discuss below.
» Read more

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The dying Palestinians in Syria

Link here. If you want to really understand the corrupt and evil nature of the Palestinian leadership, you need only read this one article.

A Palestinian refugee camp has been under siege for more than 1,660 days. Hundreds of the camp residents have been killed, while tens of thousands have been forced to flee from their homes.

Those who have remained in the camp — mostly the elderly, women and children — live in unspeakable sanitary conditions and drink polluted water. More than 200 Palestinians from the camp, which has been under siege since 2013, have died as a result of lack of food or medicine. The conditions in the refugee camp, by any standard, are horrific.

Why have most of us not heard about the hair-raising “living” conditions that characterize this camp? Because it is not located in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. The name of the camp is Yarmouk, and it is located about five miles from the Syrian capital of Damascus.

More than 100,000 Palestinians used to live in the 2.11 square-kilometer Yarmouk camp before the civil war erupted in Syria in 2011. By the end of 2014, the number of the camp residents had plummeted to 13,000.

And what has Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas done about this?

While his people are being killed, starved, displaced and denied medical treatment in Syria, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appears to be more concerned about US President Donald Trump’s recent announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Picking a fight with the US administration has become a daily national sport for Abbas and his top officials in Ramallah. Hardly a day passes without another Palestinian Authority statement strongly denouncing Trump and his administration’s policies toward the Palestinians. But when it comes to the suffering of Palestinians in Syria, Ramallah is mute.

Palestinian leaders who hold regular meetings in Ramallah simply ignore the atrocities their people face in the Arab countries, especially Syria. Instead, the leaders devote most of their time to issuing condemnations of Israeli settlements and the Trump administration, as if Palestinians are not being killed by the thousands in an Arab country.

The 82-year-old Abbas, meanwhile, has made clear where his priorities stand. Instead of searching for ways to help his people in Syria and the Gaza Strip, where hospitals are facing a deathly shortage of fuel and medicine, Abbas has just spent $50 million to purchase a “presidential plane.” [emphasis mine]

Remember the last detail highlighted above the next time Trump announces that he is cutting funds to the Palestinian Authority. It is clear that any money given to them is not going where it should, and should therefore be cut off.

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Palestinian condemnation, from a Saudi Arabian

Link here. The story is about a Saudi Arabian video blogger who posted a two minute rant condemning the Palestinians as forcefully as can be imagined.

“You are the ugliest page in our history – like a bad memory that we’d like to forget. We want to tear this page out of [our history] and get rid of it completely, now and forever.

We’ve had to sacrifice having ties with Israel – the most advanced country in the Middle East because of you and your problems and your use of our religion, language, and the fact that you’re Arabs. [emphasis mine]

This quote is only a small part of the rant. I highlight it specifically because it reveals a recognition in Saudi Arabia of the reality that Israel is a far better ally for the Saudis than the Palestinians. For an Arab to say kind words about Israel in a public forum is quite astonishing, considering the history of the past sixty years. Furthermore, this blogger would not be saying it if he did not know that his government approves. There is no free speech in Saudi Arabia.

This is one more indication that a major shift is about to occur in the Middle East, with certain countries possibly abandoning the Palestinians as their leadership is presently constituted, two corrupt terrorist organizations with no interest in living in peace with their neighbors.

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Is Iran on the edge of collapse?

Link here. This short essay outlines a range of financial, economic, and fundamental problems facing Iran’s government that might lead to that country’s entire collapse.

Before we wax too eloquent about the democratic aspirations of the great Iranian people, we should keep in the mind that the most probable scenario for Iran under any likely regime is a sickening spiral into poverty and depopulation. Iran has the fastest-aging population of any country in the world, indeed, the fast-aging population of any country in history. It has the highest rate of venereal disease infection and the highest rate of infertility of any country in the world. It has a youth unemployment rate of 35% (adjusted for warehousing young people in state-run diploma mills). And worst of all, it has run out of water.

We might be observing the birth of Iranian democracy in the protests of the past few weeks, but it is more likely that we are watching the slow-motion train wreck of a once-great nation in all its gory detail. As I noted in an Asia Times analysis this morning, the most violent protests, e.g. the burning of a police station near Isfahan captured on this video, happened in the boondocks where water has run out. The river that runs through Isfahan, a legendary city of gardens in the desert, literally has run dry. Some Iranian officials warn that tens of millions of Iranians will have to leave their homes for lack of water. The country has used up 70% of its groundwater and its literally drying up major rivers to maintain consumption. It’s the worst ecological disaster in modern history.

If this analysis is even close to correct, things are going to get deadly interesting in the coming years. And it might not be just Iranians who face death. Iran will be like a cornered animal. The world, the Middle East, and especially Israel, will be in great danger because this particular cornered animal will have nothing to lose by doing very evil and violent things.

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An educated perspective on on the Iran protests

Link here. The author is a writer who has lived in Iran and seems very knowledgeable about the country and the specific cities where the protests are occurring. His comments about the city where the protests began, Mashad, are very revealing. They suggest that the Islamic mullahs that have been controlling Iran for the past few decades might have forgotten their base, and thus their base is now revolting.

He also notes this detail:

Now, there’s rioting in Qom. Qom is THE religious center for Shia Islam. Rioters burned a SEMINARY. Anti-mullah riots in Qom is a VERY BAD SIGN. That’s comparable to anti-Catholic riots in Vatican City. If you’re burning pictures of Khomeini and Khameini (two different people) in the religious center of Shia Islam… The Mullahs have lost their base and not just on the subject of payments.

So, this is, yeah, a very serious revolt. Not just some minor anti-government protests or some people arguing for better pay-offs. Posters weren’t being burned in Qom in the Green Revolution. (Which was very much centered on the middle class and students.) ‘Blue-collar’ protesters are chanting in favor of Reza Pahlavi, the guy who reestablished the Peacock Throne.

He also concludes by saying that if the mullahs do not stamp this revolt out soon this could very well end up to be a fight to the death.

Hat tip from reader Geoffrey Carman.

Update: More information here, including some details about why our mainstream press seems incapable of reporting on these protests with any knowledge or depth.

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How the Purge in Saudi Arabia might link to the Democratic computers in Congress

This essay is going to outline some interesting associations that appear to exist between a number of very unconnected news stories in the past few months, links that might help explain how recent events in Saudi Arabia might have something to do with the U.S. Congress and car dealerships in the U.S. and Africa.

First of all I want to emphasize that I really have no idea if the associations I am going to note even exist. I am no expert on foreign policy, other than being a very well-read follower of the news. However, my skills as a historian have often allowed me to spot connections between disparate events that further research very frequently confirms as true. In this regard I think it very worthwhile to reveal what I have noticed, and let the chips fall where they may.

This trail must first begin with President Trump’s first foreign policy trip in May as President, going first to Saudi Arabia followed by visits to Israel and Europe.
» Read more

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Trump declares Jerusalem Israel’s capital, delays moving embassy

President Trump today declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, though the move of the U.S. embassy to that city will be delayed for several more years.

Since the 1990s, when Congress passed a law that said the embassy should move but allowed presidents to waive that move repeatedly, every president issued a waiver because it was thought such a move would hurt the so-called peace process. Trump’s comments addressed this.

The President repeatedly addressed concerns about a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians being hindered as a result of the recognition. He argued failing to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as verified by law and Congress through the Jerusalem Embassy Act, has done nothing to move the region closer to a peace deal. “We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past. Old challenges demand new approaches,” Trump said. “The record is in, after two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a peace agreement.” [emphasis mine]

Trump is correct. We are no closer to Middle East peace now than we were in the 1990s. And I think the reason is illustrated by how the Palestinians (and their enablers) have responded to today’s announcement, with their usual grace and good will:

Gee, doesn’t the Palestinian response now kind of remind you of the gentle response of the Islamic community to some cartoons that were critical of Mohammad?

As I have written repeatedly, you can’t negotiate with someone who wants to kill you. When the Palestinians finally accept the fact that an Israeli state exists and will continue to exist, we will finally have peace. Not before, no matter how many deals get brokered by politicians.

I should also add that this announcement today does not fulfill Trump’s promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. It only makes believe that it does. Only when that embassy actually moves will Trump have done what he (and every previous Republican president or candidate since the 1990s) has promised.

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Saudi Arabia has launched a military strike against Yemen

Saudi Arabia has launched a military strike against Yemen’s defense ministry.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the attacks were air or missile strikes, but they came following reports that Iran had manufactured the ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Shiite rebels toward the Saudi capital a week ago.

Remnants of the missile bore “Iranian markings,” the top US Air Force official in the Mideast said Friday, backing the kingdom’s earlier allegations.

This isn’t that much of a surprise, considering the recent purge in Saudi Arabia as well as the recent reports of both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait warning their citizens to leave Lebanon. The military strike today in Yemen appears to therefore merely be a precursor of a more significant escalation.

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A review of the Saudi purge taking place this week

Link here. The analysis here is the best I’ve seen, and suggests once again that we might be seeing a significant shift taking place within the Arab Middle East.

It is in the context of Saudi Arabia’s reassessment of its interests and realignment of strategic posture in recent years that the dramatic events of the past few days in the kingdom must be seen.

Saturday’s sudden announcement that a new anti-corruption panel headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the near simultaneous announcement of the arrest of more than two dozen royal family members, cabinet ministers and prominent businessmen is predominantly being presented as a power seizure by the crown prince. Amid widespread rumors that King Salman will soon abdicate the throne to his son, it is reasonable for the 32-year-old crown prince to work to neutralize all power centers that could threaten his ascension to the throne.

But there is clearly also something strategically more significant going on. While many of the officials arrested over the weekend threaten Mohammed’s power, they aren’t the only ones that he has purged. In September Mohammed arrested some 30 senior Wahhabist clerics and intellectuals. And Saturday’s arrest of the princes, cabinet ministers and business leaders was followed up by further arrests of senior Wahhabist clerics.

At the same time, Mohammed has been promoting clerics who espouse tolerance for other religions, including Judaism and Christianity. He has removed the Saudi religious police’s power to conduct arrests and he has taken seemingly credible steps to finally lift the kingdom-wide prohibition on women driving.

There’s a lot more, including details about how the Obama administration was dishonestly aiding the wrong side. Read it all

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ISIS capital Raqqa falls to U.S. backed forces

Raqqa, the last major urban stronghold held by ISIS, has fallen today to U.S. backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

There remain a lot of mopping up to do, but this victory signals the end of at least one brutal Islamic regime. Meanwhile, the Syrian civil war continues, and the conflict between the Kurds and all of its surrounding neighbors (Turkey, Syria, and Iraq) simmers.

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Iraq moves to take control of Kurdish area

The old world rolls on: With the defeat of ISIS almost complete in Iraq, Iraqi forces have now moved into Kirkuk, aiming to retake control of that region from Kurdish forces.

The overnight advance was the most decisive step Baghdad has taken yet to block the independence bid of the Kurds, who have governed an autonomous tract of northern Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and voted three weeks ago to secede.

Kirkuk, one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse cities in Iraq, is located just outside the autonomous Kurdish zone. Kurds consider it the heart of their homeland; they say it was cleansed of Kurds and settled with Arabs under Saddam to secure control of the oil that was the source of Iraq’s wealth.

As is usual in these typical old world waves of ethnic conflict, there are now thousands of Kurdish refugees fleeing Kirkuk.

The problem here is the desire of the Kurds to create a country based solely on ethnicity. Such a nation by definition, in the end, must be bigoted and must oppress everyone of the wrong ethnicity. Nor are the Iraqis innocent, as there is ample evidence that they have responded in the past in kind, trying to wipe out the Kurdish population because of its ethnicity. Thus, the Kurdish refugees now.

Once again, the real solution is to not define people by their race, ethnicity, gender, or religion, but by what each person does individually. Build a nation where each person can live and follow his or her dreams, irrelevant of these issues, and you will have justice, freedom, and prosperity. Build a nation based on these racist issues, and you will instead have war, bigotry, and hate. History has shown this repeatedly. It is tragic that we imperfect humans have trouble seeing it.

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Hamas agrees to hand Gaza to Palestinian Authority

Don’t count those chickens just yet: Hamas today agreed to a deal with the Palestinian Authority to hand over control of Gaza to their West Bank rivals.

Nothing is really agreed to yet. They now will form committees to determine exactly how control will be transferred.

A major sticking point has been the Hamas military wing and its arsenal. Abbas has said he would only return to Gaza if Hamas hands over power, while Hamas has said the military wing is not up for discussion. Hamas officials have assured the Fatah negotiators that the military wing would maintain a low profile as part of any deal.

I can’t imagine any deal here. The leaders of both groups come from terrorist organizations. The Hamas leadership would consider it literal suicide to give up control over its military force. Similarly, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority would consider it literal suicide to allow an independent military force to operate within it.

The link notes two key aspects to this deal. First, it was partly prompted by the Arab boycott of Qatar, which had been supporting Hamas. Second, it has been brokered by the Egyptian government led by al-Sisi.

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Egyptian leader demands Palestinians accept Israel in UN speech

While the main buzz in the American press has been President Trump’s UN speech this week, no one has noticed that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in his own UN speech called for the Palestinians to accept the existence of Israel and to co-exist with it.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Tuesday urged Palestinian Arabs to overcome their differences and be ready to co-exist with each other and with Israelis in safety and security. “I tell the Palestinian people it’s extremely important … to overcome the differences and not to lose opportunities and to be ready to accept co-existence with the other, with Israelis in safety and security,” Sisi said in a speech before the UN General Assembly, as quoted by Reuters.

Sisi also had his first pubic meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu this week. Furthermore, earlier in the week the king of Bahrain endorsed an event at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles by sending his prince as a representative, while simultaneously calling for an end to the Arab boycott of Israel.

[Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center,] told The Times of Israel in a phone interview Monday that he was in Dubai on a mission for his organization when the king personally invited him to visit his palace. While the meeting took place in February, Hier said that he was ready now to discuss its contents after receiving “a clear signal” from the king that the royal meant business. In this case, the signal was that Bahraini Prince Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa attended a large event for the Weisenthal Center on Thursday, and also visited the unabashedly pro-Israeli Museum of Tolerance, also located in Los Angeles.

There have been other indications recently that the covert cooperation that has existed in recent years between Israel and some Arab nations against Iran and Islamic terrorism is about to become more public. If so, we might be on the cusp of some real positive change in the Middle East. (I realize I am being absurdly optimistic with this statement, but one can always hope.)

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Hamas has made Gaza unliveable, according to the UN

A UN study has found that in the ten years since Hamas took control of Gaza the place has become unliveable for its residents.

A decade after the Islamist group Hamas seized Gaza, the Palestinian enclave is effectively unliveable for its 2 million people, with declining incomes, healthcare, education, electricity and fresh water, the United Nations said.

In a report examining humanitarian conditions in the territory, which Hamas took over in June 2007 after a brief conflict with forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations concludes the situation in Gaza is deteriorating “further and faster” than was forecast only a few years ago. “Across the board we’re watching de-development in slow motion,” Robert Piper, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. “Every indicator, from energy to water to healthcare to employment to poverty to food insecurity, every indicator is declining. Gazans have been going through this slow motion de-development now for a decade.”

The article tries to lay the blame on everyone, including Israel, while somehow ignoring the corruption and terrorist roots of Hamas itself. Still, the real blame might belong to the people in Gaza themselves. After Israel unilaterally pulled out in an effort to exchange “land for peace,” the people of Gaza voted for their own leadership, and choose Hamas, a terrorist organization whose reason for existing is to kill Jews and destroy Israel. After making a poor decision like that, no one should be surprised it their circumstances immediately began to decline. We all get the government we deserve.

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Qatar blockade threatens worldwide helium supply

The recent blockade imposed against Qatar by other Middle East countries, supposedly because of its support of terrorism, threatens the world’s supply of helium.

Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of helium and its second-largest producer, accounting for 25% of global demand (see ‘Helium supplies’). So the blockade will inevitably cause shortfalls over the next few months, says Phil Kornbluth, a consultant based in Bridgewater, New Jersey, who specializes in the helium industry.

Countries likely to be most affected are those closest to Qatar. But Asian countries such as India, China, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore are also at risk. “But none of us are immune,” adds William Halperin, a researcher in low-temperature physics at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of helium, producing about twice as much as Qatar. That production is for our local markets, while Qatar exports it worldwide.

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Iraq recaptures Mosul mosque from ISIS

Iraqi troops have recaptured the Mosul mosque where ISIS declared its caliphate three years ago.

After eight months of grinding urban warfare, Iraqi government troops on Thursday captured the ruined mosque at the heart of Islamic State’s de facto capital Mosul, and the prime minister declared the group’s self-styled caliphate at an end. Iraqi authorities expect the long battle for Mosul to end in coming days as remaining Islamic State fighters are bottled up in just a handful of neighborhoods of the Old City.

The seizure of the nearly 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque — from where Islamic State proclaimed the caliphate nearly three years ago to the day — is a huge symbolic victory. “The return of al-Nuri Mosque and al-Hadba minaret to the fold of the nation marks the end of the Daesh state of falsehood,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement, referring to the hardline Sunni Mulsim group by an Arabic acronym.

The fall of Mosul would in effect mark the end of the Iraqi half of the IS caliphate, although the group still controls territory west and south of the city, ruling over hundreds of thousands of people.

Its stronghold in Syria, Raqqa, is also close to falling.

This defeat of ISIS by Iraqi government forces has been building for months as they have been pushing steadily but slowly forward in heavy street fighting in Mosul. The victory is even more significant in that it has been achieved by Iraq, not American forces, though they have been happily allied with us, and have gladly taken our aid.

Will this victory lessen Islamic radicalism worldwide? No, not likely. The last eight years of bad foreign policy has allowed this evil to fester. It will take a lot more than just the fall of ISIS to cleanse the wound. We still have the Iran government and numerous terrorists organizations running governments throughout the Middle East that are their allies. They are not going away, and their goal of destroying the infidel remains.

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White House decision on embassy move only after Trump’s Middle East trip

The White House has denied reports that they have decided not to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and have instead said that the decision on whether to move the embassy will only be made after Trump’s Middle East trip.

Since neither story identified the White House official making the claims, either for or against the move, I suppose we should file this whole thing under fake news. These are unsubstantiated leaks, and should not be taken seriously.

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Palestinian Authority stops shipping medicine to Gaza

They’re such nice people! Because of the political battle between Hamas, running Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority, running the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has stopped its quarterly shipments of medicine to Gaza.

Palestine Today quotes Dr. Munir Bursh, the pharmacy director at the Ministry of Health in Gaza, saying that the Palestinian Authority has stopped supplying medicines and baby formula to Gaza altogether. “90% of the treatment of cancer patients in the Gaza Strip has stopped due to the lack of the supply of drugs,” he said. Bursh added, “This is reprehensible and very strange, threatening a major health disaster up to the collapse of the health situation in Gaza, because the Ramallah government has been responsible for supplying medicine to Gaza, despite the deficit in the previous years.”

“Whoever made this decision is killing the entire people, and punishing the entire people.” He said that the PA supplies the Gaza Strip with medicines every two months, but it did not send any medicines for three months now.

Hospitals in Gaza are also worried about the closure of the Gaza power plant due to the spat between Hamas and Fatah, saying that they cannot desalinate the water needed for every day purposes.

The last line refers to the decision by the Palestinian Authority to stop paying its Gaza electrical bill, forcing Israel to stop supplying Gaza with electricity.

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