Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Arab Miracle

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir arrives at the Arab League Foreign Ministers meeting in Cairo, Egypt, November 19, 2017. (photo credit:REUTERS/AMR ABDALLAH DALSH)

Arab League Condemns Iran, Calls Hizbullah a Terrorist Group 
- Zaid Sabah and Lin Noueihed

The Arab League accused Iran of destabilizing the region and condemned Iranian-backed Hizbullah as a terrorist organization at a foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo. "Iran is aiming to control many of the Arab capitals," said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit. 
(Bloomberg)
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Saudi Miracles


Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh shocked listeners with a pro-Jewish statement


Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, responding to a question on television, said that fighting against Israel was inappropriate and that Hamas was a "terror organization."
  
Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara wrote on his official Twitter account: "We congratulate Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the head of Ulema (Islamic scholars), for his fatwa forbidding the fight against the Jews and forbidding to kill them. I invite the mufti to visit Israel; he will be welcomed with a high level of respect."  
(Anadolu-Turkey)



Israel for the first time co-sponsored a Saudi resolution at the UN Human Rights Council against the Assad regime in Syria, alongside the U.S., France and Germany. 

The measure passed 108 to 17 with 58 abstentions. The Syrian ambassador congratulated his Saudi counterpart for the fact Israel had joined the list of co-sponsors, saying it was a demonstration of the secret alliance between the two countries.
(Ynet News)
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UPDATES

On Recent Saudi Reforms: Interview with Dr. Daniel Pipes 

All signs point to Mohammad bin Salman, the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia, being very serious about basic changes. So, I see this as a real reform

I expect [Mohammad bin Salman] wants to abandon Islamism altogether. I can imagine Saudi Arabia becoming a center of moderate Islam; stranger things have occurred.

The country's future is open, for the first time since the 1920s. I simply do not know enough to predict its course with confidence.
[International Policy Digest]
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Former Saudi Minister: Violence Against Israel is "Un-Islamic"

Former Saudi Justice Minister Muhammad Bin abdel-Kareem Aleissa said, "Any act of violence or terrorism that tries to hide behind religion has no justification whatsoever, not even in Israel," the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported. 

Aleissa was appointed last year as the secretary-general of the Muslim World League, and is reportedly close to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. 
(Al-Araby Al-Jadeed-UK)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Palestinian Delusional Syndrome

Lt. Hiroo Onoda, sword in hand, walks out of the jungle on Lubang Island on March 11, 1974, almost 29 years after the Japanese surrender.

Why Palestinian Delusions Persist - Daniel Pipes, PhD 

In 1974, Second Lt. Hiroo Onoda of the Imperial Japanese Army was still fighting for his emperor, hiding in a Philippine jungle. He had rejected many attempts to inform him of Japan's surrender 29 years earlier. During those long years, he senselessly murdered about one Filipino and injured three others per year. Only a concerted effort by his former commander finally convinced Onoda that the emperor had accepted defeat in 1945 and therefore he too must lay down arms.
The Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza are Onoda writ large. They formally acknowledged defeat by Israel 24 years ago, when Yasir Arafat stood on the White House lawn and recognized "the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security." Trouble was, Arafat himself did not sincerely offer this act of surrender and most Palestinians rejected it.

Accordingly, the war continues, with Palestinians emulating that grizzled, vicious Japanese soldier: they too battle on for a failed cause, murder senselessly, and ignore repeated calls to surrender. Just as Onoda insisted on believing in a divine emperor, Palestinians inhabit a fantasy world in which, for example, Jesus was a Palestinian, Jerusalem was always exclusively Islamic, and Israel is the new Crusader state on the verge of collapse.

How do Palestinians ignore reality and persist in these illusions? Due to three main factors: Islamic doctrine, international succor, and the wariness of the Israeli security services. (The Israeli Left was once a major factor but it barely counts anymore.)
Israel's security services, which usually have the last word on policy, resist any steps that could possibly provoke Palestinian violence. "Things now are about as good as possible," they imply, "so please stay away with any hare-brained ideas about our getting tougher."
This reluctance explains why Jerusalem tolerates massive illegal housing, releases murderers from prison, provides water and electricity to Palestinians at advantageous terms, and urges international donors not just to subsidize the Palestinian Authority but to fund mega-projects of Israeli devising (such as an artificial island off Gaza). Contrarily, Israel's wizened security types nix any initiative that deprives the Palestinians of funds, punishes them more severely, or infringes on their existing prerogatives (such as control of the Temple Mount).

Palestinian delusion results, then, from a toxic mix of Islamic doctrine, international succor, and Israeli timidity.
[Israel Hayom]
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Monday, November 06, 2017

Three Dimensional Chess: Iran, Lebanon & Saudi Arabia Dance

Saad Hariri resigns during visit to Saudi Arabia

Lebanese Prime Minister Resigns Citing Iranian Meddling

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation on Saturday and implicitly blamed Iran and its ally, Hizbullah, for his decision.

He said he suspected there were covert plans to target his life. Hariri said Iran planted "disorder and destruction" in the country and meddled in the internal issues of Lebanon as well as other Arab countries. Referring to Hizbullah, Hariri said, "Iran's arm...has managed to impose a fait accompli on Lebanon through the power of its weapons....They have built a state within a state." 
(Al Jazeera


Yemen's Houthis Fire Missile at Saudi Capital Riyadh - Tim Lister 
   

Yemeni rebels on Saturday targeted an airport in Saudi Arabia's capital with a ballistic missile, Yemen's Houthi-controlled Defense Ministry claimed.
 

But the missile was intercepted by a Patriot missile over Riyadh, the Saudi Ministry of Defense said.

President Trump accused Iran of being responsible for the missile attack intercepted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday.
(The Week)



A cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, fought with proxies, is sharply escalating as the two powers jockey to shape a Middle East regional order devoid of Islamic State.
(Wall Street Journal)
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UPDATE

- Dov Zakheim

It is said of Donald Trump that he has undermined America’s credibility with its allies. That may be the case in Europe, and perhaps in parts of Asia, though not in Japan or India. But it is certainly not the case in the Middle East

Relations with Israel are better than they have been since the day former President Barack Obama took office. The same can be said of U.S. relations with both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates or, for that matter, Bahrain and Morocco. The force that unites them all is Iran, whose support for instability throughout the region received a financial fillip from the Iran nuclear deal.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may or may not be a true reformer. His record on that score is not unequivocal. But he is determined to halt the expansion of Iranian influence, which now really does manifest itself as the Shiite crescent...

[T]here is little doubt that he has authorized ever closer relations with the Israelis, who view the Iranian threat exactly as he does. And the crown prince is not the only one Jared Kushner has been speaking to: Trump has given his son-in-law overall leadership on the peace process between Israel and the Arabs, and he is reportedly a welcome guest in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

[H]ow far will Washington, or more precisely, the White House, go to back up the Saudis if their confrontation with Iran gets hot? With this president, this crown prince, and the current prime minister of Israel, anything is possible.
[Foreign Policy]
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Is the Saudi Throne Shaking? - Col. Dr. Jacques Neriah 

It remains to be seen whether Mohammed Bin Salman will succeed in his quest to remodel Saudi Arabia, or will inexperience and hasty decisions destabilize Saudi Arabia.
The writer, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center, was Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. 

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Muslim Zionist: A Growing Breed


This short video highlights a growing trend of moderate Muslims embracing Zionism

Friday, November 03, 2017

Islamists Losing Support

Is this man leading the real Arab Spring? 
Prince Salman

Secularism Surges in the Arab World
    
According to pollster Arab Barometer, voters who backed Islamists after the Arab spring in 2011 have grown disillusioned and changed their minds.
    

In Egypt, support for imposing sharia (Islamic law) fell from 84% in 2011 to 34% in 2016.
    

In Lebanon and Morocco, only half as many Muslims listen to recitals of the Koran today, compared with 2011.
    

The most remarkable, albeit nascent, transformation is in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, where Muhammad bin Salman [pictured], the young crown prince, has curbed the religious police, sacked thousands of imams, and launched a new Center for Moderation to censor "fake and extremist texts."
    

At the same time, in places such as Algeria, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, polls show that support for sharia and sympathy for Islamist movements is high and growing
(Economist-UK)
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UPDATES:


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is curbing the power of Saudi Arabia's religious establishment as part of his drive to impose his control on the kingdom and press for a more open brand of Islam. Dozens of hard-line clerics have been detained, while others were designated to speak publicly about respect for other religions.
  
If the changes take hold, they could mean a historic reordering of the Saudi state by diminishing the role of hard-line clerics in shaping policy. "Most of the Wahhabi clerics are not happy with what is happening, but preserving the alliance with the monarchy is what matters most. They have much more to lose by protesting," said Stephane Lacroix, a scholar of political Islam at Sciences Po, the Paris Institute of Political Studies.
(New York Times)





Saudi Arabia's heir to the throne is overseeing an unprecedented wave of arrests of dozens of the country's most powerful princes, military officers, influential businessmen and government ministers - some potential rivals or critics of the crown prince now consolidating his power. Among those taken into custody overnight Saturday in an anti-corruption sweep were billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world's richest men, as well as two of the late King Abdullah's sons.
(AP-New York Times)



The "purge" by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of numerous members of the royal family, as well as current and former ministers and prominent businessmen, on charges of corruption is not about removing political rivals who threatened his position, but rather about sending a message to political and economic elites that their entitlement to extreme wealth and privilege, and their impunity, is coming to an end. With the exception of Minister of the National Guard Prince Mutaib bin Abdallah, the detainee list is made up entirely of individuals who had no capacity to challenge MBS' succession. Nor did Prince Mutaib, despite leading the national guard, pose a political threat to the Crown Prince.

Given the relatively young age of the new Crown Prince, his appointment last June naturally alienated many of MBS' older cousins, and even some uncles, who suddenly found themselves politically marginalized. But alienation does not mean that these princes possess the power to threaten the throne or to determine the succession. No royal maintains an independent constituency among the population at large that they can galvanize against the monarchy.

King Salman and MBS have chosen to go the populist route by appealing to the Saudi public, and specifically to the youth, rather than seeking to placate the many "losers" by lavishing them with money (a tactic widely used in the past that was highly unpopular with the Saudi public and that has become increasingly unaffordable). Now there will be no paying-off of discontented princes in exchange for their loyalty and acquiescence. 
(Arabia Foundation)
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The Iranian danger alone likely won't be enough to openly bring Saudi Arabia and Israel closer together. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is working on fortifying his inheritance, and it's unlikely that he wants to expose himself to Arab criticism, especially Iranian, over his "betrayal of the Palestinian people." 

A positive Israeli response to the American initiative, once it is formed, might convince him to take the risk.
Dr. Oded Eran, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), served as head of Israel's negotiations team with the Palestinians in 1999-2000. 
(Ynet News)

The Birthplace of Car Ramming Attacks: IGNORED

Israel has served as the jihad's research and development site

New York City

Ramming Attacks Were Pioneered by Palestinians - Liel Leibovitz 

The sort of ramming attack we witnessed in Manhattan on Tuesday was first used against Israelis by Palestinian terrorists.
  
The first such attack occurred on Feb. 18, 1987, against an IDF force in the West Bank, wounding two soldiers. [Then on] Nov. 30, 1989, a car driven by a Palestinian terrorist killed Avigdor Dahari, who operated a food stand just outside of Gaza.

[Another attack in] 2001 left eight Israelis dead and 21 wounded, and another in 2008 killed three and wounded 36.

In January 2017, a Palestinian truck driver rammed his vehicle into a crowd of Israeli soldiers at a popular Jerusalem tourist spot, killing four people and wounding 17.

(Tablet-Fox News)


ISIS Murders Have Their Genesis in Yasser Arafat - Philippe Assouline 

After doing so with suicide bombings in the '90s, Palestinian Jihadists invented, tested and made ever more lethal truck terrorism, stabbing rampages and mass shootings of Israelis. 
  
Palestinians saw that those indiscriminate and savage murders didn’t backfire politically or trigger any meaningful Western outrage.
   
If terrorism is rewarded or even explained away when it targets Israeli innocents, the same terrorism will then spread to Europe, Canada, India, and the U.S.
  
It has to become taboo to target any civilians, for any professed cause, at any time. 
(Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
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Friday, October 27, 2017

The Roots of Jewish Confidence

Arthur Balfour


- Caroline B. Glick 
  • One hundred years ago, on November 2, 1917, Arthur Balfour, foreign secretary of Great Britain, issued the Balfour Declaration, announcing that the British Empire supported an end to the Jewish people's 1,800-year exile and its return as a free nation to its homeland - the Land of Israel. "His Majesty's government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object."
  • The Palestine Arab leadership at the time rejected his statement. Shortly thereafter, the Arabs initiated a terrorist onslaught against the Jewish community in the Land of Israel that has continued, more or less without interruption, ever since. Indeed, the Palestinians have not moved an inch in a hundred years. PLO chief and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas now demands that Britain officially renounce the Balfour Declaration and apologize for having issued it.
  • The Balfour Declaration did not change the way the world viewed the Jews, but it changed how the Jews viewed themselves. After 1,800 years of dispersion and hopelessness, here was the British Empire saying that the time had come for the Jews to reconstitute themselves as a free nation in their land.
  • Until Great Britain announced it supported Zionism, the vast majority of Jews thought the national liberation movement was doomed to fail just like all of its messianic predecessors. Now, under the League of Nations Mandate, Jews were given an international charter for the reconstitution of their national homeland.
  • Just as important, the Balfour Declaration ignited the imaginations and passions of Jews throughout the world. For the first time, Jews, dispersed throughout the nations, dared to believe that the reconstitution of Israel could happen in their lifetimes.
(Jerusalem Post)
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Monday, October 16, 2017

Iran Deal on Life Support: Trump Gets It Right


 
 Trump delivers an almost picture perfect Iran policy speech
Full text
  
-BEN LYNFIELD
 
Saudi Arabia’s reaction to US President Donald Trump’s more confrontational posture toward Tehran was strikingly similar to Israel’s, highlighting the two countries’ common desire for a more determined American effort to counter Iranian influence in the region.

King Salman telephoned Trump to voice support for his “firm strategy” against “Iranian aggression and its [Iran’s] support for terrorism in the region,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

“The king praised the Trump administration, which recognizes the magnitude of these challenges and threats and the need for concerted efforts on terrorism and extremism and its primary sponsor, Iran.”

That followed an announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Friday that praised Trump for the same reasons and said the US president “has created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism.”

Since Trump’s election, the Saudis have been hoping for a tougher American posture toward Tehran, which they view as the great and growing threat to their interests.

In May, they gathered Islamic leaders for a summit with Trump in Riyadh that highlighted Iran as the epicenter of subversion and terrorism in the region. Trump’s decertification of the nuclear deal, his sanctioning of the Revolutionary Guards and his vow to stand up against Iran’s fueling of “conflict, terror and turmoil” are seen by the Saudis as initial crystallization of the more assertive, some would say, aggressive, approach they had hoped for.

The Trump speech was music to the ears of Abdulrahman al-Rashed, former editorin- chief of the London-based, Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He echoed Netanyahu’s choice of the word “courageous” to describe Trump’s approach.
[Jerusalem Post]
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By decertifying the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the president is, in fact, signaling his intent to strengthen it, with the help of Congress, so that the deal advances U.S. national security interests. Right now, the Iranians are hindering inspection of military sites, working feverishly on their ballistic missile program, and banking on the nuclear deal's sunset clauses, which all but guarantee Tehran an advanced nuclear program in roughly a decade.
   
In response to decertification, Iran's leadership will undoubtedly threaten to walk away from the table. But it's not that simple. There are benefits the Iranians have yet to reap from the deal - beyond the more than $100 billion in released oil funds - ranging from increased foreign investment to greater integration with the global economy after years of economic isolation. In other words, Iran can still cash in considerably, but not if it balks at Trump's calls to fix the deal. 
The writer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury, is senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
(Atlantic)
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Hate Trump, Love His Stance on Iran - Jonathan Tobin

Given Trump’s intemperate nature, his lack of detailed policy knowledge on most subjects and his contempt for diplomacy, the assumption - on the part of most people outside of his loyal base of supporters - is that he’s as wrong about his desire to end the nuclear deal with Iran as he was about violent racist marchers in Charlottesville.
 
But in this instance it is Trump's detractors who are divorced from reality.
 
Trump’s position is not irrational. As the deal’s critics feared all along, Western silence about Iran’s willingness to push the envelope on illegal purchases of nuclear equipment also raises questions about whether these governments are too committed to the deal’s preservation to effectively respond to violations.
 
Rather than taking advantage of what Obama termed an opportunity to "get right with the world," Iran has continued to behave like a rogue nation. It remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and its military adventures in the region and continued political intrigues have enabled it to create a functional land bridge via Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, where its Hezbollah auxiliaries rule. Its renewed alliance with Hamas also should raise suspicions.
 
It is dereliction of duty on the part of Western leaders to simply sit back and rest on Obama’s faux laurels while Iran not only gets closer to a nuclear option but works toward its goal of regional hegemony. Yet that is exactly what the supposedly wiser heads - attacking Trump for stirring up a hornet’s nest on Iran - have been doing.
 
Should it be necessary, the U.S. can declare that no entity that does business with Iran can legally interact with the American financial system, and it can therefore drag the Europeans and even the Russians and Chinese back to a position in which Iran will again be effectively isolated.
 
Trump is right that the West must start thinking about how to restrain an Iranian regime that was both enriched and empowered by the JCPOA. Hard as it may be for non-Trumpists to admit, his speech should push the international community to undertake a discussion that is long overdue.
[Ha'aretz]
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UPDATES:

Trump's Iran Initiative - Caroline Glick

Trump’s address has the potential to serve as the foundation of a major, positive shift in US policy toward Iran. Such a shift could potentially facilitate the achievement of Trump’s goals of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, containing its regional aggression and empowerment and defeating its terrorist proxies.

Unfortunately, it is also likely, indeed, it is more likely, that his words will not be translated into policies to achieve these critical aims.


Trump’s decision to transfer immediate responsibility to Congress for holding Iran accountable for its hostile actions on the military and other fronts is a risky move. He has a lot of enemies, and the nuclear deal has a lot of supporters on Capitol Hill.

Obama would have never been able to implement his nuclear deal if Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, hadn’t agreed to cast the Constitution aside and ignore Obama’s constitutional duty to present the nuclear deal to the Senate for ratification as a treaty. Over the past week, Trump and Corker have been involved in an ugly public fight precipitated by Corker’s announcement that he will not be seeking reelection next year.

Today Corker has nothing to restrain him from scuttling Trump’s agenda. If he wishes, out of spite, Corker can block effective sanctions from being passed. And he may do so even though the implications for his Senate colleagues would be dire and even though doing so would render him an unofficial protector of Iran’s nuclear program.

What is true for Corker is doubly true for the Democrats.
Trump created the possibility for such a strategy. It is up to members of Congress, and US allies like Israel and the Sunni Arab states to help Trump conceive and implement it. If they fail, the possibility Trump created will be lost, perhaps irrevocably.
[Jerusalem Post]
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Joe Lieberman: Trump Did The Right Thing - David Rosenberg

Former Connecticut Senator and 2000 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman praised President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would not recertify Iranian compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

“I totally agreed with the president’s decision,” Lieberman said.
[Israel National News]
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- Jonathan Easley

According to a Harvard-Harris survey conducted Oct. 14-18, 70% of Americans said the 2015 Iran deal should be renegotiated and verified by Congress, including 85% of Republicans, 71% of independents and 57% of Democrats. 60% said the deal is a bad one for the U.S., with 2/3 saying Iran has not complied with the terms of the agreement.
   
"Americans see Iran as a bad actor on all fronts and substantial majorities believe this agreement is being violated and never should have gone into effect without a Senate vote," said Harvard-Harris co-director Mark Penn.
(The Hill)
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