Sudan joins UAE and Bahrain in normalizing relations with Israel

The Trump administration’s successes in the Middle East continue: Sudan is apparently about to join the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain as the first Arab countries in decades to normalize its relations with Israel.

Moreover, there are rumors than another five more Arab countries are about to join in. They are probably holding back to see what happens on November 3rd. Expect a swarm of new agreements should Trump win.

This deal, along with the one with the UAE and Bahrain, are the direct result of Trump’s hard-nosed policies against the terrorist organizations running the Palestinian territories adjacent to Israel. Unlike past presidents from both parties since the first Bush, Trump has made no effort to pander to either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. Instead, he has cut off their funding. He has also recognized the real strategic landscape in the Middle East, divided between Iran and its terrorist surrogates in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and every other Arab nation, and used that divide to gain allies.

During the 2016 campaign, he promised to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, just as practically every presidential candidate had promised since the mid-1990s. Unlike all those other liars, Trump kept that promise. He however also reshaped U.S. Middle East policy in fundamental ways, as described above, and thus has achieved real progress. Voters must remember this when they vote.

Another Arab country normalizes relations with Israel

In a second major victory for the Trump administration, Bahrain has agreed to normalize its relations with Israel, including recognizing the Jewish state.

According to a formal statement issued by the three countries, they agreed to “the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

“This is a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East. Opening direct dialogue and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security, and prosperity in the region,” the statement said.

The statement said that Israel had also affirmed that all Muslims may visit and pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque, and Jerusalem’s other holy sites will remain open for peaceful worshippers of all faiths.

This follows the opening of full diplomatic relations with the UAE, as well as the rejection by the Arab League of a Palestinian Authority resolution condemning that UAE agreement. In addition, there have been a slew of other countries in the past few weeks agreeing to move their embassies to Jerusalem.

All in all, a kind of peace is breaking out in the Middle East, rejecting the hate-mongers in the Palestinian territories who only wish to kill all Jews and have thus refused all reasonable offers of neighborly relations. It now appears that many Arabs are finally realizing that their alliance with the Palestinians has brought them nothing but problems, and it will be better to align with Israel.

Stay tuned. There have been rumors that Saudi Arabia will soon recognize Israel as well. If that happens, it will not only signal a true end to the violence in the Middle East, but the failure of the so-called “peace process” since the 1990s. It accomplished nothing while helping to escalate the worst sorts in both the Palestinian territories as well as in the Arab states, leading to Islamic terrorism worldwide. These new deals, engineered by the Trump administration, will hopefully help to put an end to that terrorism.

At a minimum it will help isolate those bad actors, making it far more difficult for them to instigate violence and murder.

UAE to establish full diplomatic ties to Israel

Big news: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has agreed to recognize Israel and establish full diplomatic relations, in exchange for Israel’s promise it will not annex portions of the West Bank that the Oslo Accords reserved for Israel, as it has been considering doing.

The UAE is the first Gulf nation to recognize Israel, and the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan. This agreement signals publicly the growing secret ties and alliances within the Arab world with Israel that have developed in the past decade, most especially since Trump became president.

It also signals the growing weariness in the Arab world of Palestinian intransigence to any real negotiations. No matter what deal is offered them, no matter how good, their fundamental position remains the same: Israel must be destroyed (including all the Jews living there).

The deal also illustrates a fundamental split in the Islamic Middle East, between the allies of Iran (where chants of “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” are encouraged by the government) and those more aligned with the U.S. The former apparently like the idea of war and genocide, while the latter are working to avoid both.

Midnight repost: A visitor’s look at Israel

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: Almost my entire family now lives in Israel, or more precisely, in a variety of settlements in the West Bank. I thus periodically go there to visit, and when I do, I have almost always written one or more essays giving my perspective of the situation there in the West Bank, as seen up close and free from the distorted narratives of our bankrupt media.

The following links will take you to all these essays. I strongly recommend that you read them in order, especially because the first five came from my 2013 visit, and form as a group a deeper analysis. The last three, from 2014, 2017, and 2018, provide some more recent perspectives.

I am sure my readers will find themselves very surprised by what I have learned.

Palestinians threaten to end West Bank agreements with Israel

The head of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, threatened yesterday to scrap all cooperative agreements with Israel that are used by both to run the differently controlled sections of West Bank if Israel goes ahead with declaring sovereignty over its settlements in that West Bank, as outlined in the Trump-offered peace deal.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas has said he is ending “all agreements” with Israel and the United States in response to Israeli plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. Israel would now have to “bear all responsibilities… as an occupying power”, Mr Abbas said.

Similar warnings in the past have ultimately not been followed through.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to apply Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley. The move would be in line with US President Donald Trump’s “vision for peace” between Israel and the Palestinians, which was unveiled in January. Mr Trump’s plan also envisages a Palestinian state in about 70% of the West Bank, all of Gaza, and with its capital on the fringes of East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians – who claim all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – have dismissed the plan as biased towards Israel and a denial of their rights.

If Abbas goes through with this threat, it will mean that the Palestinians will no longer cooperate with the Israelis on security matters. In that case do not expect the Israelis to stand by meekly when there is an almost guaranteed subsequent rise in Palestinian terrorist attacks. Like all actions by the Palestinian leadership since 1948, such a course by Abbas would end up shooting the Palestinians in the foot. Israel would be forced to move in and take power again, throwing Abbas and his corrupt PA out. There might be some initial objections by the Palestinian population, but since their lot has suffered since rule in their areas was shifted from Israel to the PA after the Oslo Accords, I suspect the protests will be superficial and short-lived.

Stalemate continues in Israel

With 99% of the votes counted from this week’s election Israel, it appears that the stalemate between the right and left party coalitions (that has forced three elections in the past year) will continue, with neither obtaining sufficient seats in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to form a majority.

The stalemate this past year has forced some consolidation in the number of parties, but not enough. Netanyahu’s conservative block remains the largest at 58 seats, but it needs 61 to form a government.

The problem remains the small party Yisrael Beytenu, which was once part of the conservative block but pulled out last year. Their leader, Avigdor Liberman, has repeatedly demanded the formation of a unity government, comprised of Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party with the liberal Blue-and-White party, thereby cutting out the smaller religious parties that form the rest of Netanyahu’s block.

Though this position appears to have caused Yisrael Beytenu to lose one seat in the most recent election, its base, made up mostly of Russian immigrants, has remained firm. These votes, while tending to be conservative, seem also hostile to religion, thus explaining Liberman’s demands.

U.S. kills leader of Iranian Quds Force

In response to Iran’s attack against the U.S. embassy several days ago, the U.S. today killed several key leaders in Iran’s Quds Force, central to that nation’s terrorist attack network.

Hajj Qasem, the “shadow commander,” Israel’s “most dangerous enemy,” has been killed in Iraq alongside his key disciple Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. An airstrike near or at Baghdad International Airport targeted a motorcade with the men in it just days after their followers stormed the US Embassy compound and scrawled “Soleimani is our leader” on its walls. US President Donald Trump approved the airstrike. The Pentagon confirmed the US killed the Iranian Quds Force leader. The US said Iran was responsible for killing 608 US troops during the Iraq war.

…Reports emerged after four in the morning, Iraqi time. A mysterious airstrike near the airport had led to rumors of its closure hours earlier. Two flights were inbound at the time. A Pegasus and Iraq airways flight. Three or four rockets impacted near the airport. US helicopters were reported buzzing in the distance.

It appears a cryptic tweet from US Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the US policy to begin pre-emptive strikes against Iranian adversaries or their proxies. “To Iran and its proxy militias: We will not accept the continued attacks against our personnel and forces in the region. Attacks against us will be met with responses in the time, manner and place of our choosing. We urge the Iranian regime to end malign activities.”

The article at the link provides a lot of good information about who these men were and what they have done for the past few decades to initiate violence and terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East.

Here’s the deal: We are still struggling with these bad guys because George Bush Jr. was a disaster as president. Had he been in charge after Pearl Harbor in 1941 he would have invaded France, but then stopped at the German border and declared victory, allowing Hitler and the Nazis to remain in power.

The simple fact is that unless you intend total victory you will lose every war you fight, and Bush demonstrated this fact starkly.

He was then followed by Barack Obama, who’s loyalties were aligned more with Iran and the Islamic terrorists than with the United States and its allies.

I have no idea if Trump understands this. I doubt it. However, it does appear that he is willing to meet violence with violence in the Middle East, the only negotiating tactic these thugs understand.

U.S. embassy in Iraq attacked

Militia linked to Iran today attacked the U.S. embassy in Bagdad, breaking into the compound while chanting “Down, Down USA!” and “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.

Iraqi security forces made no effort to stop the protesters as they marched to the heavily-fortified Green Zone after a funeral held for those killed in the U.S. airstrikes, letting them pass through a security checkpoint leading to the area.

The mob of marchers, many of them in militia uniforms, shouted “Down, Down USA!” and “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” outside the compound, hurling water and stones over its walls. The mob set fire to three trailers used by security guards along the wall. AP journalists saw some try to scale the walls.

Others then smashed the gates used by cars to enter and dozens pushed into the compound. The protesters stopped in a corridor after about 5 meters (16 feet), and were only about 200 meters away from the main building. Half a dozen U.S. soldiers were seen on the roof of the main building, their guns were pointed at the protesters. Smoke from the tear gas rose in the area. [emphasis mine]

The protests were apparently in response to the Sunday U.S. airstrikes against Iran-backed militia in Iraq, launched in retaliation for the killing of an American contractor by those same Iranian militia.

That Iraq security allowed the protesters through their security checkpoints is a very bad thing. It suggests that Iraq, caught between the U.S. and Iran, is shifting its alliance toward Iran.

Landslide primary win for Netanyahu

In a primary election today for the leadership of the conservative Israeli Likud Party, in advance of another general election on March 2nd, Benjamin Netanyahu won a landslide victory over his party challenger.

The primary election saw 49% of all Likud party members show up to vote in spite of the stormy weather, a slight increase over the last time a primary election was held by the Likud. Of the nearly 60 thousand people that cast a ballot, 72.5% did so for the incumbent Netanyahu and 27.5% for his challenger Gideon Sa’ar.

Netanyahu’s win was expected, but the landslide proportions of it were not and thus the primary challenge itself had most assuredly worked to Netanyahu’s advantage. It reaffirmed his complete hold over the Likud party and gave him a reason to re-energize his base ahead of the March 2nd general election.

While the article touts the election victory as an indication that Likud’s position is strong in the coming election, I would not be so sure. This is the third general election in Israel in less than a year, all because the voters have refused to chose a clear leader. Though they have favored the conservative parties, those parties have not been able to form a government because one party refuses to join a coalition that includes the orthodox religious parties.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu faces a court fight, as he is under indictment and there is the possibility that the high court in Israel will rule that under those conditions he cannot form a government.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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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