Al Jarida, a Kuwaiti newspaper which in recent years had broken exclusive stories from Israel, says Israel was ‘on the verge’ of assassinating Soleimani, but the U.S. warned Tehran and thwarted the operation.
Washington gave Israel a green light to assassinate Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran‘s Revolutionary Guard, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported on Monday.Al-Jarida, which in recent years had broken exclusive stories from Israel, quoted a source in Jerusalem as saying that “there is an American-Israeli agreement” that Soleimani is a “threat to the two countries’ interests in the region.” It is generally assumed in the Arab world that the paper is used as an Israeli platform for conveying messages to other countries in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
An Iranian oil tanker ablaze off the Chinese coast was at risk of exploding or sinking, authorities said Monday, as they reported there was no sign of survivors 36 hours after the vessel erupted in flames.
A huge fire was still raging around the stricken ship, which had been carrying 136,000 tons of light oil, with fierce heat and thick black smoke billowing from the vessel and the surrounding sea.
The body of one crew member was found aboard the tanker, an Iranian official said.
Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency that the body was sent to Shanghai for identification.
Rescuers were attempting to reach the other 29 Iranian and two Bangladeshi crew members but were being beaten back by toxic clouds, authorities said.
The Panamanian-flagged 274-meter tanker Sanchi is “in danger of exploding or sinking,” the ministry said.
The U.S. Navy sent a military aircraft to assist with the search, which spanned an area of about 12,350 square km but said in a statement it did not locate any of the tanker’s 32 missing crew members.
The Sanchi tanker, run by Iran’s top oil shipping operator, collided Saturday evening with the CF Crystal about 300 km off China’s coast near Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta.
Chinese state media showed pictures of the tanker ablaze and billowing plumes of thick dark smoke on Sunday. China sent four rescue ships and three cleaning boats to the site, while South Korea dispatched a ship and a helicopter.
The Panama-registered tanker was sailing from Iran to South Korea carrying 136,000 metric tons of condensate, an ultra light crude. That is equivalent to just under 1 million barrels, worth about $60 million, based on global crude oil prices.
The freighter, which was carrying U.S. grain, suffered limited damage and the 21 crew members, all Chinese nationals, were rescued.
The extent of the environmental harm and size of the spill were not yet known, but based on the tanker’s tonnage, it has the potential to be the worst since 1991 when 260,000 metric tons of oil leaked off the Angolan coast. Read the rest of this entry »
The people haven’t closed ranks behind the regime.
Sohrab Ahmari reports: So much for the New York Times theory that, thanks to Trumpian and Saudi bellicosity, the Iranian people have closed ranks behind their rulers. In November, the paper’s Tehran bureau chief, Thomas Erdbrink, devoted an extended feature to making this case, and it proved wildly popular with the pro-nuclear deal crowd in Washington.
“After years of cynicism, sneering or simply tuning out all things political,” wrote Erdbrink, “Iran’s urban middle classes have been swept up in a wave of nationalist fervor.” He went on: “Mr. Trump and the Saudis have helped the government achieve what years of repression could never accomplish: widespread public support for the hard-line view that the United States and Riyadh cannot be trusted.”
Erdbrink’s argument echoed rhetoric from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Responding to October’s announcement of new U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Zarif tweeted: “Today, Iranians–boys, girls, men, women–are ALL IRGC.”
Michael Obel reports: A Canadian sniper set what appears to be a record, picking off an ISIS fighter from some 2.2 miles away, and disrupting a potentially deadly operation by the terror group in Iraq.
Shooting experts say the fatal shot at a world-record distance of 11,316 feet underscores how stunningly sophisticated military snipers are becoming. The feat, pulled off by a special forces sniper from Canada’s Joint Task Force 2, smashed the previous distance record for successful sniper shots by some 3,280 feet, a record set by a British sniper.
“ … the true challenge here was being able to calculate the actual wind speed and direction all the way to the target.”
“The Canadian Special Operations Command can confirm that a member of the Joint Task Force 2 successfully hit a target from 3,540 metres [2.2 miles],” the Canadian military said in a statement.
While officials would not say where the shot took place, the statement noted the command “provides its expertise to Iraqi security force to detect, identify and defeat Daesh activities from well behind the Iraqi security force front line in Mosul.”
The new record was set using a McMillan TAC-50, a .50-caliber weapon and the largest shoulder-fired firearm in existence.
Ryan Cleckner, a former U.S. Army Ranger sniper who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and wrote the authoritative “Long Range Shooting Handbook,” called the feat an “incredible” accomplishment, one that owes as much if not more to the spotter’s expertise than the shooter’s skill.
“The spotter would have had to successfully calculate five factors: distance, wind, atmospheric conditions and the speed of the earth’s rotation at their latitude,” Cleckner told Fox News.
“Because wind speed and direction would vary over the two miles the bullet traveled, the true challenge here was being able to calculate the actual wind speed and direction all the way to the target.”
Atmospheric conditions also would have posed a huge challenge for the spotter.
“To get the atmospheric conditions just right, the spotter would have had to understand the temperature, humidity and barometric pressure of the air the round had to travel through. Read the rest of this entry »
The New York Times has crossed a moral line, writes James Taranto.
Jan. 11, 2011, James Taranto wrote: After the horrific shooting spree, the editorial board of New York Times offered a voice of reasoned circumspection: “In the aftermath of this unforgivable attack, it will be important to avoid drawing prejudicial conclusions . . .,” the paper counseled.
Here’s how the sentence continued: “. . . from the fact that Major Hasan is an American Muslim whose parents came from the Middle East.”
The Tucson Safeway massacre prompted exactly the opposite reaction. What was once known as the paper of record egged on its readers to draw invidious conclusions that are not only prejudicial but contrary to fact. In doing so, the Times has crossed a moral line.
It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.
That whirlwind has touched down most forcefully in Arizona, which Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described after the shooting as the capital of “the anger, the hatred and the bigotry that goes on in this country.” Anti-immigrant sentiment in the state, firmly opposed by Ms. Giffords, has reached the point where Latino studies programs that advocate ethnic solidarity have actually been made illegal. . . .
Now, having seen first hand the horror of political violence, Arizona should lead the nation in quieting the voices of intolerance, demanding an end to the temptations of bloodshed, and imposing sensible controls on its instruments.
Today is the 116th anniversary of the birth of F. A. Hayek, one of the greatest scholars of the 20th century.
David Boaz writes: Back in 2010, as the tea party movement was on the verge of delivering an electoral rebuke to President Obama’s big-government policies, the New York Times derided the movement for reviving “long-dormant ideas [found in] once-obscure texts by dead writers.” They meant Hayek especially. But a more astute journalist might not have regarded Hayek as obscure.
Who was Hayek? He was an economist born and educated in Vienna. After the Nazi conquest of Austria, he became a British citizen and taught there and at the University of Chicago for most of his career. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974. President Ronald Reagan called him one of the two or three people who had most influenced him, and so did some of the dissidents behind the Iron Curtain. President George H. W. Bush awarded him the Medal of Freedom. Margaret Thatcher banged his great book “The Constitution of Liberty” on the table at Conservative Party headquarters and declared “This is what we believe.” Milton Friedman described him as “the most important social thinker of the 20th century.”
But respect for Hayek extended far beyond libertarians and conservatives. Lawrence H. Summers, former president of Harvard and a top economic adviser to Presidents Clinton and Obama, called him the author of “the single most important thing to learn from an economics course today” — that markets mostly work without plans or direction. He is the hero of “The Commanding Heights,” the book and PBS series on the battle of economic ideas in the 20th century. His most popular book, “The Road to Serfdom,” has never gone out of print and saw its sales explode during the financial crisis and Wall Street bailouts. John Cassidy wrote in the New Yorker that “on the biggest issue of all, the vitality of capitalism, he was vindicated to such an extent that it is hardly an exaggeration to refer to the 20th century as the Hayek century.”
In much of his work Hayek explored how society can best make use of “the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.” Read the rest of this entry »
Ali Waked reports: According to group members, IS police officers beheaded the man in the town of Tasil in the Dara district in southern Syria.
In an accompanying statement, the terrorist organization said that the man was beheaded with a sword and had performed “magic and sorcery.”
In the photos, one member of IS can be seen reading the ruling of the Sharia court, noting the Islamic penalty for the alleged transgressions.
Those who carried out the punishment of beheading, according to IS, were members of the Khaled Bin Waleed militia – a jihadist militia affiliated with IS active in southern Syria in the triangular area between the borders of Syria, Jordan and Israel. Read the rest of this entry »
What’s holding the Arab world back? Why, by nearly every measure, are Muslim nations so far behind the West economically, culturally and scientifically? Bret Stephens, Global View columnist for the Wall Street Journal, explains, for PragerU.
In the judo competition of the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, an Israeli heavyweight judo fighter named Or Sasson defeated his Egyptian opponent, Islam El Shehaby, in a first-round match. The Egyptian then refused to shake the Israeli’s extended hand, earning boos from the crowd.
If you want the short answer for why the Arab world is sliding into the abyss, look no further than this little incident. It illustrates how hatred of Israel and Jews corrupts every element of Arab society.
You won’t find this explanation for the Arab world’s decline among journalists and academics. They reflexively blame the usual suspects: the legacy of colonialism, unemployed youth, the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide, and every other politically correct excuse they can think of. For them, hatred of Israel is treated like sand in Arabia — just part of the landscape.
Yet the fact remains that over the past 70 years the Arab world expelled virtually all of its Jews, some 900,000 people, while holding on to its hatred of them. Over time the result proved fatal: a combination of lost human capital, expensive wars against Israel, and an intellectual life perverted by conspiracy theories and a perpetual search for scapegoats. The Arab world’s problems are a problem of the Arab mindset, and the name of that problem is anti-Semitism.
As a historical phenomenon, this is not unique. Historian Paul Johnson has noted that wherever anti-Semitism took hold, social and political decline almost inevitably followed. Just a few examples:
Spain expelled its Jews in 1492. The effect, Johnson noted, “was to deprive Spain (and its colonies) of a class already notable for the astute handling of finance.”
In czarist Russia, the adoption of numerous anti-Semitic laws ultimately weakened and corrupted the entire Russian government. These laws also led to mass Jewish emigration, resulting in a breathtaking loss of intellectual and human capital. Read the rest of this entry »
WILLEMSTAD, Curaçao — Nicholas Case reports: The dark outlines of land had just come into view when the smuggler forced everyone into the sea.
Roymar Bello screamed. She was one of 17 passengers who had climbed onto the overloaded fishing boat with aging motors in July, hoping to escape Venezuela’s economic disaster for a new life on the Caribbean island of Curaçao.
Can you guess what word NYT’s Nicholas Casey failed to use even one time in his report on Venezuela’s economic crisis?
Afraid of the authorities, the smuggler refused to land. Ms. Bello said he gruffly ordered her and the others into the water, pointing toward the distant shore. In the panic, she was tossed overboard, tumbling into the predawn blackness.
But Ms. Bello could not swim.
As she began to sink under the waves, a fellow migrant grabbed her by the hair and towed her toward the island. They washed up on a rocky cliff battered by waves. Bruised and bleeding, they climbed, praying for a lifeline: jobs, money, something to eat.
“It was worth the risk,” said Ms. Bello, 30, adding that Venezuelans like her, “are going after one thing — food.”
Maria Piñero at an empty grocery store in La Vela, Venezuela. “I’m nervous,” she said. “I’m leaving with nothing. But I have to do this. Otherwise, we will just die here hungry.” Meridith Kohut for The New York Times
Venezuela was once one of Latin America’s richest countries, flush with oil wealth that attracted immigrants from places as varied as Europe and the Middle East.
But after President Hugo Chávez vowed to break the country’s economic elite and redistribute wealth to the poor, the rich and middle class fled to more welcoming countries in droves, creating what demographers describe as Venezuela’s first diaspora.
Now a second diaspora is underway — much less wealthy and not nearly as welcome.
Well over 150,000 Venezuelans have fled the country in the last year alone, the highest in more than a decade, according to scholars studying the exodus.
Hundreds of Venezuelans lined up at a grocery store in La Vela in September to see if food would be delivered.Meridith Kohut for The New York Times
“It’s hard to see a solution to this problem because hunger is involved. Venezuela doesn’t have enough food for its people, so some are coming here.”
“We have seen a great acceleration,” said Tomás Páez, a professor who studies immigration at the Central University of Venezuela. He says that as many as 200,000 Venezuelans have left in the last 18 months, driven by how much harder it is to get food, work and medicine — not to mention the crime that such scarcities have fueled.
“Parents will say: I would rather say goodbye to my son in the airport than in the cemetery,” he said.
Two would-be migrants waiting for the boat that will take them from Venezuela. Meridith Kohut for The New York Times
Desperate Venezuelans are streaming across the Amazon Basin by the tens of thousands to reach Brazil. They are concocting elaborate scams to sneak through airports in Caribbean nations that once accepted them freely. When Venezuela opened its border with Colombia for just two days in July, 120,000 people poured across, simply to buy food, officials said. An untold number stayed.
But perhaps most startling are the Venezuelans now fleeing by sea, an image so symbolic of the perilous journeys to escape Cuba or Haiti — but not oil-rich Venezuela.
Tens of thousands of people are being evacuated as wildfires rage through parts of the Israeli city of Haifa, the third largest in the country. On social media, the Arabic-language hashtag #Israel_on_fire began trending, with most tweets expressing pleasure over the outbreak.
Huge flames are being fanned by strong winds in residential areas in the north of the city of about 250,000.
“It’s likely that where it was arson, it goes in the direction of nationalistic. I don’t want to disturb the investigation.”
— Roni Alsheich
Fires are also threatening homes near Jerusalem and in the West Bank.
Israel’s police chief said arson was suspected in some cases and hinted that some of it could be politically motivated.
“It’s likely that where it was arson, it goes in the direction of nationalistic,” Roni Alsheich told reporters, adding: “I don’t want to disturb the investigation.”
“Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav said there were indications that one of the fires started when ‘someone tossed a cigarette in an area full of oil and flammable fluids’ in an industrial zone.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing religious Jewish Home party, said on Twitter in Hebrew: “Only those to whom the country does not belong are capable of burning it.”
On social media, the Arabic-language hashtag #Israel_on_fire began trending, with most tweets expressing pleasure over the outbreak.
Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav said there were indications that one of the fires started when “someone tossed a cigarette in an area full of oil and flammable fluids” in an industrial zone.
Four Palestinians have been arrested in connection with a fire near Jerusalem and are due to appear in court on suspicion of starting a bonfire negligently.
Months of dry weather have left the country vulnerable to fires – Reuters
“Four Palestinians have been arrested in connection with a fire near Jerusalem and are due to appear in court on suspicion of starting a bonfire negligently.”
The Palestinian Authority has offered to help Israel’s fire department, a senior Israeli security official told the BBC, but has not yet received a reply.
Suspects planned ‘synchronized’ attacks in Kosovo and Albania, police say; weapons, ammunition and a drone seized in sweep
PRISTINA, Kosovo — Times of Israel staff reports:Kosovo police on Wednesday said they had arrested 19 people they suspected of being involved in an Islamic State plot to carry out terror attacks in Kosovo and neighboring Albania, including an assault during a football match between Albania and Israel this past weekend.
Police said the arrests were made over the past 10 days and that the suspects had planned “synchronized terror attacks,” without going into further detail.
“They were planning to commit terrorist attacks in Kosovo and also [an attack] against [the] Israeli football team and their fans during the Albania-Israel match,” Kosovo police said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that weapons, explosives, ammunition and a drone were seized during the sweep.
Our nation faces many existential challenges that our politicians refuse to address.
Victor Davis Hanson writes: The Greek city-states in the fourth-century BC, fifth-century AD Rome, and the Western European democracies after World War I all knew they could not continue as usual with their fiscal, social, political, and economic behavior. But all these states and societies feared far more the self-imposed sacrifices that might have saved them.
“We seem to be reaching that point of stasis in postmodern America. Once simple and logical solutions to our fiscal and social problems are now seen as too radical even to discuss.”
Mid-fifteenth-century Byzantium was facing endemic corruption, a radically declining birthrate and shrinking population, and the end of civic militarism—all the last-gasp symptoms of an irreversible decline. Its affluent ruling and religious orders and expansive government services could no longer be supported by disappearing agrarians and the overtaxed mercantile middle class.
Returning to the values of the Emperor Justinian’s sixth-century empire that had once ensured a vibrant Byzantine culture of stability and prosperity throughout the old Roman east remained a nostalgic daydream. Given the hardship and sacrifice that would have been required to change the late Byzantine mindset, most residents of Constantinople plodded on to their rendezvous with oblivion in 1453.
We seem to be reaching that point of stasis in postmodern America. Once simple and logical solutions to our fiscal and social problems are now seen as too radical even to discuss. Consider the $20-trillion national debt. Most Americans accept that current annual $500 billion budget deficits are not sustainable—but they also see them as less extreme than the recently more normal $1 trillion in annual red ink.
“Race relations pose comparable paradoxes. Inner-city Chicago has turned into a war zone with over 500 murders so far this year alone.”
Americans also accept that the Obama administration doubled the national debt on the expectation of permanent near-zero interest rates, which cannot continue. When interest rates return to more normal historical levels of 4-5% per annum, the costs of servicing the debt—along with unsustainable Social Security and Medicare entitlement costs—will begin to undermine the entire budget.
“Illegal immigration, like the deficits, must cease, but stopping it would be too politically incorrect and painful even to ponder. The mess in Europe—millions of indigent and illegal immigrants who have fled their own failed states to become dependent on the largess of their generous adopted countries, but without any desire to embrace their hosts’ culture—is apparently America’s future.”
Count up current local, state and federal income taxes, payroll taxes, property and sales taxes, and new health care taxes, and it will be hard to find the necessary additional revenue from a strapped and overtaxed middle class, much less from the forty-seven percent of Americans who currently pay no federal income taxes.
The Obama administration has tried to reduce the budget by issuing defense cuts and tax hikes—but it has refused to touch entitlement spending, where the real gains could be made. The result is more debt, even as, paradoxically, our military was weakened, taxes rose, revenue increased, and economic growth remained anemic at well below 2% per annum.
“…there are few multiracial societies of the past that have avoided descending into destructive ethnic chauvinism and tribalism once assimilation and integration were replaced by salad-bowl identity politics. Common words and phrases such as ‘illegal alien’ or ‘deportation’ are now considered taboo, while ‘sanctuary city’ is a euphemism for a neo-Confederate nullification of federal immigration laws by renegade states and municipalities.”
Illegal immigration poses a similar dilemma. No nation can remain stable when 10-20 million foreign nationals have crashed through what has become an open border and reside unlawfully in the United States—any more than a homeowner can have neighbors traipsing through and camping in his unfenced yard. Read the rest of this entry »
Counterterrorism officials in Hungary believe ISIS set up a ‘logistics hub’ in the country in the Summer of 2015 at the peak of the migrant crisis, with jihadis taking advantage of Europe’s porous borders to slip into Western Europe.
The attackers were part of a group of 14 who plotted their way into Western Europe by riding the wave of the migrant crisis last year, according to Hungarian security officials.
By using fake Syrian passports, many of the attackers, already on European terror watch-lists, were able to slip back into Europe undetected, along with thousands of other refugees.
PETER DEJONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS
One hundred and thirty people were killed in November when a group of gunmen and suicide bombers launched a wave of attacks across Paris, targeting the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade De France and several restaurants and bars. Three hundred sixty-eight people were also injured in the attacks, almost 100 of them seriously.
Mohammad al-Adnani, the official spokesman of ISIS and one of its most senior members, has died in Syria, reportedly as a result of an online Facebook exchange.
“Brother al-Adani suffered a nervous breakdown after trying to recruit a couple of students from Portland, Oregon. Whilst promoting Jihad, his message was drowned out by the snotty little gamers who spend their days throwing a Frisbee, dressing like Superman and singing along to carpool Karaoke. After enduring six hours of whining about parents, bragging about new iPhones and arguments about energy drinks, our leader logged off, drove to the nearest cliff, and hung himself with an iPod charger,” ISIS said. Read the rest of this entry »
…One of the more frustrating and fruitless conversations in modern politics is with a Trump supporter who just insists that Trump can be trusted. But trusted to do what? If you want boots on the ground in the Middle East, Trump’s your guy. If you want America to stop sending its soldiers to die on foreign soil, Trump’s your guy. If you want higher taxes, Trump’s your guy. If you want lower taxes, Trump’s your guy. The list goes on…
The socialist utopias of Sanders’ dreams bear little resemblance to reality across the Atlantic.
In conventional political thought, Democrats are always trying to make America more European — Higher taxes! Free college! A smaller military! — while Republicans are a passel of cowboys who view Europe as a bunch of socialist libertines.
But, as with much of conventional political thought, this isn’t quite right. And if the Republicans really want to mess with Democrats’ minds, perhaps they should launch a new campaign to make America more like Europe.
A good place to start would be with the Scandinavian countries that Bernie Sandersoften uses as a model. Sanders’ problem is that the Scandinavia he has in mind is the Scandinavia of the 1970s. Scandinavians today have learned a few things since then, which Bernie seems to have missed.
As Swedish pundit Johan Norberg writes: “Sanders is right: America would benefit hugely from modeling her economic and social policies after her Scandinavian sisters. But Sanders should be careful what he wishes for. When he asks for ‘trade policies that work for the working families of our nation and not just the CEOs of large, multi-national corporations,’ Social Democrats in Sweden would take this to mean trade liberalization — which would have the benefit of exposing monopolist fat cats to competition — not the protectionism that Sanders favors. … Being more like modern Sweden actually means deregulation, free trade, a national school voucher system, partially privatized pensions, no property tax, no inheritance tax, and much lower corporate taxes. Sorry to burst your bubble, Bernie.”
Jonathan Sacks writes: have been in New York these past few days to give a talk at the 9/11 Museum that has been erected on the site where once the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood. It is a place of collective grief and remembrance, where the exhibits are fragments of twisted wreckage and the debris of destruction.
Most moving are the memorial fountains that occupy the footprint of the original buildings. Around the side, engraved in bronze, are the names of the almost 3,000 victims. Unlike most other fountains, though, here the water flows downward and in the centre disappears into a black hole, an abyss. The intention was to symbolise lives lost that can never be recovered. No matter how much water flows, the emptiness is never filled.
After the tragedies of the past few days and weeks, however, the memorial seems to have another message also. The violence never ends. Innocent blood continues to flow. Every few days there are more newly bereaved families and yet more tears.
A story is beginning to emerge that becomes clearer over time. Asad Shah, the 40-year-old shopkeeper in Glasgow, was a deeply-loved man who represented all that is good in religious faith. His crime was to wish his Christian friends and customers a happy Easter. He wanted to express gratitude to a Christian nation that had given him and his family a home where he could practise his faith without fear. He was an Amaddiya, member of an Islamic sect regarded by some Muslims as heretical. He was murdered, it seems, not just to silence him but to intimidate others who might have followed him on the path to religious tolerance. One must not forget that of the hundreds of Muslims dying daily, the majority are at the hands of fellow Muslims.
The suicide bombings in Lahore are part of a pattern in which Christians have been terrorised across an ever widening swathe of countries across the world. To be sure, the attack was not on a Christian site but a park open to people of all faiths. But the bombers chose to attack at Easter, knowing that many victims would be Christians on their way to or from prayer.
Christians are being persecuted in some 50 countries, among them North Korea, Syria, Somalia and Sudan. In 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq; today a few thousand. In Mosul, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, Christians were forced to flee by Islamic State (Isil) in the summer of 2014. In Afghanistan the last church was burned to the ground in 2010. In Gaza in 2007, after the rise of Hamas, the last Christian bookshop was destroyed and its owner murdered. In Yemen, on Good Friday, Father Tom Uzhunnallil, an Indian Catholic priest, was crucified by Isil. The ethnic cleansing of Christians throughout the Middle East is one of the crimes against humanity of our time, and I am appalled that there has been little serious international protest.
But the real target is not Christianity but freedom. Nor is this a war. Wars are fought between nations, by armies, and the intended victims are combatants. Terrorists wear no uniforms, and their intended victims are innocent civilians. I for one will never forget the episode two weeks ago on the Ivory Coast where terrorists gunned down a five-year-old child begging for his life.
There have been ages of terror before, but never on this scale, and never with the kind of technology that has given the jihadists the ability to radicalise individuals throughout the world, some acting as lone wolves, others, like the attackers in Paris and Brussels, working in small groups, often involving family members. Read the rest of this entry »
The persistent problem of how to deal with American-allied strongmen has long tripped up an inflexible president who boasts of his preference for ‘pragmatic solutions’ over moral purity but has been unable to find much of either in the Middle East.
Michael Crowley writes: On a late July day this past summer, a roar filled the sky over Cairo. It was the sound of Barack Obama’s capitulation to a dictator.
Eight new American fighter jets, freshly delivered from Washington, swooped low over the city, F-16s flying in formation. As they banked hard over the city’s center, they trailed plumes of red, white and black smoke—the colors of the Egyptian flag.
“The rhetoric got way ahead of the policymaking. It … raised expectations that everything was going to change.”
— Michael Posner, who served as Obama’s top State Department official for human rights and democracy in his first term
For Egypt’s brutally repressive president, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the spectacle was a triumph, symbolizing not only his militaristic power at home, but also his victory over an American president who had tried to punish him before surrendering to the cold realities of geopolitics.
“He’s never quite melded his rhetoric with his policies.”
— Dennis Ross, who served as Obama’s top Middle East aide in his first term
Just two years earlier, Sisi had seized power in a military coup, toppling Mohamed Morsi, the democratically elected successor to Hosni Mubarak, himself a strongman of 30 years pushed out in early 2011 by mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. In the summer of 2013, Sisi followed his coup with a brutal crackdown that would have done Saddam Hussein proud. His security forces arrested thousands of people, including much of his political opposition, and in one bloody day that summer, they gunned down some 1,000 pro-Morsi protesters (or more) who were staging peaceful sit-ins. The massacre was shocking even by the standards of Egypt’s long-dismal human rights record.
“It seems like we are swinging back to the idea that we must make a choice between supporting dictators or being safe.”
— Robert Ford, who was Obama’s ambassador to Syria before resigning in frustration over the president’s policy there
Obama was appalled. “We can’t return to business as usual,” he declared after the slaughter. “We have to be very careful about being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think run contrary to our values and ideals.”
Several weeks later, Obama halted the planned delivery of U.S. military hardware to Cairo, including attack helicopters, Harpoon missiles and several F-16 fighter jets, as well as $260 million in cash transfers. He also cast doubt on the future of America’s $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt—a subsidy on which Cairo depends heavily, and much more than the United States sends to any country in the world aside from Israel.
But a fierce internal debate soon broke out over whether and how to sanction Egypt further, a fight that many officials told me was one of the most agonizing of the Obama administration’s seven years, as the president’s most powerful advisers spent months engaged in what one called “trench warfare” against each other. It was an excruciating test of how to balance American values with its cold-blooded security interests in an age of terrorism. Some of Obama’s top White House aides, including his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, and the celebrated human rights champion Samantha Power, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, urged the president to link further military aid to clear progress by Sisi on human rights and democracy. But Secretary of State John Kerry, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Hagel’s successor, Ash Carter, argued for restoring the aid. Trying to punish Sisi would have little effect on his behavior, they said, while alienating a bulwark against Islamic radicalism in an imploding Middle East. “Egypt was one of the most significant policy divides between the White House and the State Department and the Department of Defense,” says Matthew Spence, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy. Read the rest of this entry »
Pegida spokesperson says mass sexual assaults at Cologne train station vindicates her group’s call for a freeze on immigrants entering Germany.
The German anti-Muslim group Pegida will hold a rally outside the Cologne train station where dozens of women were sexually assaulted by a group of men on New Year’s Eve.
“Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers said speculation that the attackers were refugees was ‘absolutely inadmissible’”.
Witnesses and police said that the men involved were of Arab or North African appearance. Pegida are looking to capitalize on anti-immigrant fears in the wake of the attacks, and announced on its Facebook page that it will hold a rally on Saturday outside the train station.
“We don’t currently have any suspects, so we don’t know who the perpetrators were,” he said. “All we know is that the police at the scene perceived that it was mostly young men aged 18 to 35 from the Arab or North African region.”
— Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers
Pegida spokesperson Tatjana Festerling said that the attacks vindicated her group’s call for a freeze on immigrants entering Germany.
“They are exactly what we have been warning for over a year,” she told Russia Today.
Pegida supporters rally outside Cologne cathedral in January 2015
“In Germany, this so-called ‘welcome culture’ is like a religion, and everybody who criticizes uncontrolled flooding with mostly Muslim young men is called a Nazi and has to shut up.”
— Pegida spokesperson Tatjana Festerlin
She claimed that the assaults would rightfully boost anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, as “one cannot blame people that they have become more radical facing this attack on our liberal order”, she said.
“In Germany, this so-called ‘welcome culture’ is like a religion, and everybody who criticizes uncontrolled flooding with mostly Muslim young men is called a Nazi and has to shut up,” she said.
On 31 December, a crowd of around 1,000 men, many of whom were drunk and aggressive, had gathered in the square outside the station and started letting off fireworks. Police eventually evacuated the area because of the risk of injury from the fireworks.
However, gangs of young men soon returned and carried out dozens of attacks and robberies over a number of hours, with little apparent response from the local authorities until well after midnight.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed outrage over the “disgusting attacks” and interior minister Thomas de Maiziere has criticized the police for their handling of the attack.
On 5 January, over 300 people took part in a demonstration against sexual violence outside Cologne station.
“Mrs Merkel, where are you? What do you say? This is scary,” read a sign held by one demonstrator.
Cologne authorities have warned that it is too early to blame immigrants for the attacks, with nobody having yet been arrested or charged in connection with the incident. Read the rest of this entry »
Federal prosecutors say Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion.
An indictment in Detroit accuses Muthanna Al-Hanooti of arranging for three members of Congress to travel to Iraq in October 2002 at the behest of Saddam’s regime. Prosecutors say Iraqi intelligence officials paid for the trip through an intermediary.
As the Truman was transiting the strait, which connects the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, Iranian Revolutionary Guards conducted a live-fire exercise right near the U.S. carrier Saturday, officials said.
Meanwhile, in Hawaii
A U.S. military official said an Iranian navy fast and short attack craft began conducting a live-fire exercise at the same time the carrier was nearing the end of the strait, firing off several unguided rockets. A French frigate, the U.S. destroyer USS Buckley and other commercial traffic were also in the area.
The official said the U.S. ships were in the “internationally recognized maritime traffic lane” at the time, not in any territorial waters, when the Iranian navy announced over maritime radio that it was about to conduct a live-fire exercise and asked other vessels to remain clear. Read the rest of this entry »
U.S. government data showed that over 10,500 unaccompanied immigrant children crossed the southern border with Mexico.
Morgan Chalfont reports: A massive appropriations bill expected to be approved by Congress would provide more than $1.6 billion to resettle illegal immigrants arriving at the U.S. border through 2018.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services has begun a process to expand its temporary capacity to house unaccompanied children.”
— Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement
Congress would award the massive check to the government just as the U.S. is experiencing a surge in arrivals of immigrant children at the southern border. Last week, federal agencies said they were opening two temporary shelters with 1,000 beds in South Texas to cope with the surge. A 400-bed shelter is also to be opened in Southern California.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services has begun a process to expand its temporary capacity to house unaccompanied children,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement last Monday. Read the rest of this entry »
Benghazi questions yet unanswered ahead of Clinton testimony.
As the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was unfolding, a high-ranking Pentagon official urgently messaged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top deputies to offer military help, according to an email obtained by Judicial Watch.
The revelation appears to contradict testimony Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave lawmakers in 2013, when he said there was no time to get forces to the scene in Libya, where four Americans were killed, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
“I just tried you on the phone but you were all in with S [apparent reference to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton],” reads the email, from Panetta’s chief of staff Jeremy Bash. “After consulting with General Dempsey, General Ham and the Joint Staff, we have identified the forces that could move to Benghazi. They are spinning up as we speak.”
” … we have identified the forces that could move to Benghazi. They are spinning up as we speak.”
– Jeremy Bash, Pentagon chief of staff
The email was sent out at 7:19 p.m. ET on Sept. 11, 2012, in the early stages of the eight-hour siege that also claimed the lives of Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith and two former Navy SEALs, Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, private CIA contractors who raced to the aid of embattled State Department workers.
Although the email came after the first wave of the attack at the consulate, it occurred before a mortar strike on the CIA annex killed Woods and Doherty.
“This leaves no doubt military assets were offered and ready to go, and awaiting State Department signoff, which did not come,” Judicial Watch, a nonprofit government watchdog said in a statement. Read the rest of this entry »
Bradford Richardson reports: The hacker collective Anonymous says the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is planning to launch attacks in the U.S., Paris, Indonesia, Italy and Lebanon on Sunday.
“All proof was submitted to official authorities all around the globe days ago. They have it and it is their responsibility to do something with it. But because they have not done anything with it yet and it’s almost the 22nd, we have matters into our own hands.”
OpParisIntel, the name of Anonymous’ mission against ISIS, released a statement Saturday saying it had uncovered information regarding new terror plots “on Paris and the world” scheduled for Nov. 22.
“The goal is to make sure the whole world, or at least the people going to these events, know that there have been threats and that there is possibility of an attack to happen.”
“All proof was submitted to official authorities all around the globe days ago,” the statement said, as first reported by the International Business Times. “They have it and it is their responsibility to do something with it. But because they have not done anything with it yet and it’s almost the 22nd, we have matters into our own hands.”
“We only take the responsibility of warning civilians (incase the authorities do not act well enough),” the statement added. Read the rest of this entry »
He could have acknowledged people’s qualms as legitimate and argued at greater length…But that would have meant not taking cheap shots against the political opposition at home — the people who really make him angry.
Michael Barone writes: Three days after the Islamic State terrorist attacks in Paris, Americans were primed to hear their president express heartfelt anger, which he did in his press conference in Antalya, Turkey, at the end of the G-20 Conference. And they did hear him describe the Islamic State as “this barbaric terrorist organization” and acknowledge that “the terrible events in Paris were a terrible and sickening setback.”
“What really got him angry, as the transcript and videotape make clear, were reporters’ repeated questions about the minimal success of his strategy against the Islamic State and Republicans’ proposals for more active engagement in Syria and Iraq.”
But what really got him angry, as the transcript and videotape make clear, were reporters’ repeated questions about the minimal success of his strategy against the Islamic State and Republicans’ proposals for more active engagement in Syria and Iraq. As well as critics of his decision to allow 10,000 Syrians into the United States.
“The reporters did not seem this time to be absorbing his patient instruction.”
The reporters did not seem this time to be absorbing his patient instruction. The Islamic State “controls less territory than it did before,” he stated — but not much less, and is still holding Iraq’s second largest city and a huge swath of Iraqi and Syrian desert. Our bombs did pulverize the British-born Islamic State beheader. “We’ve been coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities.
“Most Americans want people who behead Americans destroyed considerably sooner than that. They wonder why the world’s greatest military can’t do that.”
Our military could dislodge them, he admitted, but explained that then we’d have to occupy and administer the places we capture. In other words, we’d be facing the kind of messy situations we faced, until the surge strategy he opposed, in Iraq.
But in his self-described goal, “to degrade and ultimately destroy,” the word “ultimately” looms uncomfortable large. Most Americans want people who behead Americans destroyed considerably sooner than that. They wonder why the world’s greatest military can’t do that.
Such action, Obama suggested, might be bad public relations. The Islamic State has “a twisted ideology,” and we play into its “narrative” by treating it as a state and using “routine military tactics.” Read the rest of this entry »