Monday, February 26, 2018

Exposing the Deep Rot in the Deep State - Clarice Feldman

by Clarice Feldman

The corruption that led to the Parkland school shooting is only one example of the Deep State rot afflicting the entire country.

Once again, the president has pried behind the stucco of the Deep State's institutional edifice and shown that the pillars are termite-ridden. Over at Instapundit, law professor Glenn Reynolds said it most succinctly:
FL Shooting Survivor Colton Haab: CNN Told Me I Needed To "Stick To The Script"; Entire Town Hall Scripted.
Trump's luck is pretty amazing. The entire media sets up a week-long hatefest aimed at the NRA, culminating in that shameful fake "Town Hall," and then the very next day it comes out that there was a police officer there who was too cowardly to do anything, and Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who was shaming and lecturing gun owners the night before, must have known it while he was up there on stage.
Trump's superpower is his ability, just by existing, to bring out the deep and pervasive rot in America's institutions and the people who run them.
In fact, there were four armed deputies at the Parkland, Florida high school, none of whom entered to intervene when the shooting occurred. Heroes like the JROTC students and the coach gave up their lives to protect others, while four armed cops did nothing to end the carnage. At least one witness said he saw the first deputy (Scot Peterson), who has since resigned, hiding behind a stairwell in a separate building while talking on his phone during the four to six minutes the shootings occurred, and it is likely he was talking to his superiors at the time. It defies belief that four deputies at the scene did nothing and that their headquarters were not informed and fully aware that the men were not going in to help.

After Columbine, the FBI training and tactical advice to local law enforcement officials was not to wait for a SWAT or tactical team to show up, but to immediately engage and disarm the shooter. On Facebook, Philip Smith notes, citing various FBI planning guides:
Lessons learned from this tragedy included the need for all police officers to be properly trained, equipped and empowered to immediately intervene in an active shooter situation to stop the ongoing violence regardless of their assignment.
Modern day law enforcement training and tactics dictate that the primary objective of the first law enforcement officer(s) on the scene of an active shooter situation is to locate and stop the person or persons believed to be the shooter(s). As law enforcement active shooter training has evolved, there has been a move away from waiting for several officers to arrive and form a "team" prior to searching for the shooter.
Today, many agencies and trainers recommend a solo officer entry into an active shooter situation if it is believed the officer on scene can locate, isolate and/or stop the shooter prior to other arriving law enforcement officers. The solo officer entry can be a very dangerous response strategy. However, properly trained and equipped police officers acting alone without the benefit of backup have stopped ongoing active shooter situations, thereby saving lives.
So how is it that four armed cops remained outside the building and did nothing? For that, you have to go to Sundance on Conservative Treehouse, who, beginning with the Trayvon Martin case, has been keeping an eye on the Broward and Miami-Dade County Police Departments, filing FOIA requests and winkling out a major scandal. In sum, these actors, in order to obtain federal grants under Obama and Eric Holder, who conned governments into thinking that disparate outcomes – that is, more arrests and school expulsions of black kids than white kids – were the result of discrimination, did not discriminate regarding conduct issues. Local governments were rewarded with grants if they kept school arrests down, the cover being "let's stop the pipeline from schools to prisons." Without arrests, there was no record in background checks to keep violent people from having guns. It's that simple: no matter what steps you put into place to prevent such things, if the procedure is corrupted, it won't work. No matter how many armed deputies are at the site, if they are following orders not to intercede, or at least permitted to just stand idly by, they will be useless as protection. And yet the same people who are for disarming law-abiding citizens want to give the very people who are refusing to follow commonsense dictates for our protection more power and us less.

If journalism awards were handed out to those who actually are engaged in journalism, Sundance would be getting one. Here are some of the things he turned up in his hard years long slogging through Broward and Miami-Dade Counties' police practices and operations.

Broward and Miami-Dade Counties' law enforcement departments are deeply political. Scot Peterson was, until he resigned, a school resource officer (SRO). Backed by responses to repeated FOIA requests, Sundance concludes:
The roles of SRO's are political, not law enforcement.
Here's what people don't understand. When the county policy is intentionally constructed to ignore criminal behavior in schools, the Sheriff and School superintendent cannot rely on "law and order-minded" SROs to carry out the corrupt policy.
The SRO must carry a political hat and be able to intercept behavior, modify the action based on a specific policy, falsify documents, manipulate records etc, and engage in the system with an understanding of the unwritten goals. SROs are given political instructions, NOT, I repeat, NOT given instructions to uphold laws and regulations.
The School Officers are the primary foot soldiers carrying out political policy. Engaging an active shooter on campus is the furthest thing from their skill-set you could imagine.
Security of school students is just not their role. The Broward County SRO is in place to protect the School System "policy."
While the press is now reporting the many instances where neighbors and others phoned in warnings to the FBI about the shooter and the many visits (39) by the police to his home about disturbances there, Sundance argues, they didn't "miss warning signs"; they ignored them as part of school and police department policies.

Sundance details the many times tips about the shooter were given the department and deliberately ignored.

Even modern technology was jiggered to help the Broward officials carry out their continuing cover-up of student crimes.
Broward County law enforcement (Sheriff Israel), in conjunction with Broward County School Officials (Superintendent Runcie and School Board), have a standing policy to ignore any criminal engagement with High School students.
When the police are hiding current, actual and ongoing unlawful conduct as a matter of standard procedure on a regular basis, what do we expect the police would do with reports of potential unlawful conduct? Of course they would ignore them.
This is not a "mistake" on their part, the 'doing nothing' is part of the standard practice.
♦ Secondly, the 27-minute tape-delay in the CCTV system is not an "accident", "flaw" or "mistake". It is entirely by design.
As a standard Broward and Miami-Dade practice, when school law enforcement need to cover-up or hide behavior, they need time (when that behavior happens) to delete the evidence trail. As such, the school policy – as carried out in practice – is more efficient with a 30-minute tape delay affording the school officer enough time to deal with the situation, then erase the possibility of a recording of the unlawful activity surfacing.
Building in a 30-minute delay on the CCTV system was one of those pesky add-on items that happened a few years ago when the School and Law Enforcement officials established the policy of intentionally not arresting students.
With modern technology it's tough to hide criminal behavior, especially the violent stuff, when it is being recorded. Duh. Ergo the tape-delay was the best-practice workaround.
Why would they do such a thing? Sundance again documents it: money. State and federal funds were given to districts who improved their statistics, so Broward and Miami-Dade Counties hid the crimes, improved their statistics, and got the money. (They did this earlier as well when the "secret discipline and diversionary program" was in place allowing Trayvon Martin to avoid a criminal record.)
The primary problem was the policy conflicted with laws; and over time the policy began to create outcomes where illegal behavior by students was essentially unchecked by law enforcement. ...
Initially the police were excusing misdemeanor behaviors. However, it didn't take long until felonies, even violent felonies (armed robberies, assaults and worse) were being excused.
In time, the situation got so bad that to keep lowering their statistics, they were hiding evidence and failing to recover stolen merchandise because to return it would be to admit that the stuff was the fruit of criminal activity.

Criminal gangs soon realized that the way to avoid arrest was to recruit students to carry out their actions, and they also realized that when the quota for arrests near the end of the month was reached was the best time to get away with crimes.

The system had in a short time become totally corrupted, and the SROs were the "most corrupt." The local media cooperated in covering it all up, and the cops who wanted to do their jobs were demoralized and deprived of the benefits the corrupt ones got, including free housing close to the schools to which they were assigned.

Indeed, Broward County sheriff Scott Israel used the public funds he got by faking crime statistics and ignoring crimes to hire political supporters for his re-election campaign.

This is the story worth telling, not the scripted anti-gun pap CNN offered up or the ten-minute hate town hall designed to play on your emotions while ignoring the truth. But only one blogger, Sundance, did the work to expose it.

The rest of the MSM seem to be fine with jeopardizing students' lives, enabling criminals, and using public funds to advance the fortunes of Democrat candidates who allowed this tragedy to occur. As the press in South Florida stinks, do me a favor – pass this one to friends and relatives who live there and who have elected to Congress these avatars of a one-party system: Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson.

Clarice Feldman


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Starve terrorists of funding - Uri Heitner

by Uri Heitner

The bill is a step in the right direction, first and foremost from a moral perspective

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation last week approved legislation submitted by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to prevent the Palestinian Authority from paying terrorists and their relatives. Should the bill become law, Israel would deduct the salaries the PA pays terrorists and their families from the tax funds collected by Israel for the PA.

The bill is a step in the right direction, first and foremost from a moral perspective – in that it highlights the absurd reality in which Israel and the free world are helping the PA at the same time that it finances terrorists. The proposal also makes it clear we must hit them where it hurts: in their pockets.

The problem is that, from a practical perspective, the legislation does not provide a real solution to the problem. According to the wording of the bill, "The ministerial committee will have the authority to decide not to deduct the amount determined in the report, or decide on deducting a smaller amount as well as to cancel the past deduction of funds at any time … for special reasons of national security and foreign relations."

No government would want to tie its own hands, and rightly so. Nevertheless, in this instance, it seems the wording of the proposed legislation will prevent the implementation of the law, and the deduction will be symbolic, if at all.

Deducting the money the PA pays to support terrorists from the tax funds it transfers to Ramallah will not make the PA end its support for terrorism. If anything, the cuts will be felt in areas like welfare and health, and the Palestinian propaganda will present Israel as instigating a humanitarian crisis. We recently witnessed as much in the "humanitarian disaster" campaign in the Gaza Strip, when the United States announced it was contemplating ending its support for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which has responsibility for aid to Palestinian refugees. This propaganda campaign will result in major international pressure on Israel, which could bring the cabinet to fold.

Efforts to end the funding of terrorism, then, should be fought by other means. The "Starving Funds of Terror" campaign, headed by security expert Eitan Rilov, is working with the brightest of minds in the field in Israel and around the world. It offers a model that while relatively low-cost could prove very effective. According to the model, a "tsunami" of personal lawsuits would be filed for every one of the tens of thousands of terror victims in Israel. The lawsuits would be filed against every individual that played a role in these attacks, from planning to perpetration. An intelligence center would be established that would assist the victims by gathering evidence tying the terrorists and their supporters to the attacks. Legal and economic barriers to the lawsuits' success would be removed, including by the full government funding of plaintiff expenses.

One lawsuit filed this year, which relied heavily on the campaign's model, resulted in a ruling granting the plaintiff 62 million shekels ($18 million) in compensation from those responsible for the attack. If we act wisely and multiply the amount by the terror victims, it would be enough to bring about the collapse of the terror network. If an effective economic campaign is added to the military and diplomatic war, it would constitute a deathblow to terrorism.

Uri Heitner


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President Trump Empowers Americans to Stop School Shooters - Daniel Greenfield

by Daniel Greenfield

A voice of reason in the midst of the media hysteria.


There isn’t an hour that isn’t dominated by the controlled informational hysteria waged by the media.

The better things are, the more weaponized hysteria pours out of the press. Britain during the Blitz didn’t have the sense of crisis that viewers get from 5 minutes of CNN. The rising economy, consumer confidence, terror victories and international stature are met with bigger headlines of “Doom.”

That’s what the media is like on a good day. It’s even worse on a bad day.

Last Wednesday was a very bad day. It was a bad day for Parkland, Florida, and for America.
The hysterical news cycle is bad enough when the media doesn’t have anything to work with except its Russian conspiracy theories, leaks from Muellerville and outraged identity politics protests. When seventeen people were murdered by a deranged school shooter, it got much worse.

The media viciously dragged traumatized teens out of the classroom and forced them to become activists. It encouraged student walkouts from classrooms across the country. It told them to scream at elected officials trying to explain to them that the Bill of Rights couldn’t just be hated out of existence.

A week’s worth of the media’s weaponized hysteria traumatized viewers before trying to sell them exercise equipment or diet pills. It terrorized the victims and the rest of the country for political gain.

Nikolas Cruz pulled the trigger on Wednesday on the students of Stoneman Douglas High School. The media went on gleefully pulling it for another week on the entire country.

If you believe the media (and if you do, you’re a member of a tiny gullible minority whom CNN advertisers value the same way that Nigerian royalty scammers value those silly enough to reply to their emails) then it’s the sober and sensible voice of reason, while President Trump is dangerously irrational.

And yet this week, the country turned to President Trump for common sense and comfort while the media’s talking heads shrieked, incited, denounced and harangued the nation in tones that make nails on a blackboard seem like the dulcet harmonies of tropical songbirds. Trump has excelled at driving the media crazy. And while the media stayed crazy, President Trump emerged as the voice of reason.

The media could think of only one response to the tragedy in Parkland. “BAN GUNS.” That was the message that poured of the thousands of orifices of the mainstream media from dead tree papers rotting in street corner vending machines to the slickest sites on the web. “Ban guns or you have blood on your hands.” “Ban guns or you want children to die.” “Ban guns or you’re a child murderer.”

After all the ugliness and hate, President Trump’s listening session with survivors and parents was a fresh breath of sanity. He offered common sense policies like arming teachers. The mobs whipped up by the media howled for ‘solutions’. But gun control offers no solutions to an actual shooting. Gun-free zones don’t stop shooters, they attract them. The areas with the toughest gun control also have the highest rates of gun violence. European countries ban guns, but terrorists have no trouble getting them.

“A gun-free zone to a maniac, because they’re all cowards, a gun-free zone is, ‘Let’s go in and let’s attack, because bullets aren’t coming back at us,’” President Trump said. And the data backs him up.

Instead of disarming everyone except the shooters, he had a much better idea.

"These people are cowards. They're not going to walk into a school if 20% of the teachers have guns -- it may be 10% or may be 40%. And what I'd recommend doing is the people that do carry, we give them a bonus. We give them a little bit of a bonus," he suggested.

“If the coach had a firearm in his locker... He wouldn't have had to run. He would have shot and that would have been the end of it,” the President pointed out.

Gun controllers ridicule the idea of arming teachers. Only police officers can be trusted with firearms. But there was an armed school resource deputy on the scene. He stayed outside during the massacre.

From local police to the FBI to the armed officer on the scene, law enforcement failed miserably at every step in the process. That’s why law enforcement can never be the only option for stopping a killer. Controllers refuse to allow teachers and students to defend themselves, and they are the ones with blood on their hands. Even after the failure of law enforcement in Parkland, they continue to spitefully oppose President Trump’s proposals to empower teachers to save the lives of their students.

“History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly,” President Trump pointed out on Twitter.

“Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!” he tweeted. But the left wants us to lose our offensive and defensive options. When they say that we should be more like Europe, they don’t mean that gun control works in its failed socialist cities. What they really mean is that we should wait helplessly for the unarmed police to do nothing because faith in government demands a lack of faith in the individual.

It isn’t looking for “solutions” to gun violence, but to our individual autonomy and empowerment.

After a shooting, the controllers insist that the only ‘solution’ is banning guns. But President Trump offered a variety of solutions that, unlike gun bans, actually address the problem. He urged hardening schools and tackling mental health issues. He mentioned the role of popular culture and remained open to reasonable proposals, but unwilling to be swept along in the media’s weaponized hysteria.

“There is nothing more important than protecting our children. They deserve to be safe, and we will deliver,“ he tweeted.

The media has no interest in delivering anything except more hysteria. It has no answers for why these attacks are happening and its toxic habit of turning mass shooters into celebrities has already been shown to inspire more attacks. There’s another solution there that the media doesn’t want to discuss.

As another day ends and a new day begins, the media’s frenzied cable news cycle spins the same talking points. But its seemingly easy solution is no solution. That’s why the push for it is so irrational.

While the media screamed, screeched and ranted, President Trump rose above the fray. As he did at the State of the Union, he surprised the left by taking the high ground while leaving them in the swamp.

“I will always remember the time I spent today with courageous students, teachers and families. So much love in the midst of so much pain. We must not let them down. We must keep our children safe!” President Trump declared.

Unlike Obama, he actually has come in with solutions to keep Americans safe. Where his leftist predecessor had opened the border and implemented an illegal alien amnesty that may have led to hundreds of MS-13 murders, he has a plan to secure the border and build a wall. While Obama let Islamic terror migrants into America, he fought to implement a travel ban for Islamic terror states.

Government has a role in keeping us safe. But Americans are the ultimate defenders of our freedom.

President Trump reminded America of that at the listening session. The left believes that only government can stop the next mass shooter. The President believes that you can do it.

Obama’s, “Yes, we can” was never more than a hollow slogan. Trump is making it real.

Yes, we can stop the next mass shooter, the next terrorist and the next killer. And we can do it while preserving our rights and freedoms. Because we’re not helpless socialist lefties: we’re Americans.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.


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Who Will Reconstruct Syria? - Roie Yellinek

by Roie Yellinek

In the interests of the Syrian people as well as the West, including Israel, it is wise to support China in its efforts to lead the reconstruction.

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 750, February 25, 2018

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The fighting in Syria, which began in 2011, between President Bashar Assad and the opposition forces, seems to have reached its final stages. It is almost certain that Assad will remain in power. He will be the one to lead Syria in the coming years, and he will have to deal with the reconstruction of the ravaged country. In the interests of the Syrian people as well as the West, including Israel, it is wise to support China in its efforts to lead the reconstruction.

The fighting in Syria that began in 2011 between President Bashar Assad and the opposition forces seems to have reached its final stages. It is almost certain that the Syrian president will remain in power. Assad will be the one to lead Syria in the coming years, and he will have to deal with the reconstruction of the shattered country.

From a national building point of view, Assad will need to create a new dynamic among all the groups that fought among each other and are now required to return to living together. Physically, Syria needs an extensive reconstruction of its destroyed infrastructure. The UN estimates that $250 billion would be required to make Syria livable once again for its citizens. At present, the Western countries, as well as the Arab Gulf States, refuse to accept that Assad, who massacred his people, will remain in power. This means that the major countries will want to take part in the reconstruction are Iran, China, and Russia.

It is in the interests of the Syrian people and the West, including Israel, that China lead the reconstruction.

Diplomatic relations between China and Syria were established in 1956, but the first visit by a Syrian head of state was Assad’s on June 24, 2004, demonstrating Syria’s “Eastward Direction.” After this visit and until 2010, China became one of Syria’s five largest arms suppliers. Apparently, the flow of weapons continued during the years of fighting, without much publicity.

Beijing’s  interests include maintaining stability in Syria’s neighboring states and containing extremist elements within Syria. Also, the population and the secular Baath regime are a better match to China’s communist ideology than other Middle Eastern regimes, and the anti-western ethos in Syria is compatible with Chinese philosophy.

The Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province in northwest China, and an unknown number of its descendants (estimates range from a few hundred to five thousand and sometimes more) have joined the anti-Assad jihadists. Beijing’s interest that the Syrian regime will prevent the return to China of these trained and highly motivated fighters is another reason for Beijing to support Assad.

Of course, China’s desire to win large-scale rehabilitation contracts in Syria is a key interest no matter who wins. If many projects are funded by Chinese loans or grants to the Syrian regime, Beijing will gain a strong footing in Syria. This is valuable for the Chinese president’s main project, the Belt and Road Initiative. Furthermore, Beijing would gain an advantage over the US, whose intervention in Syria failed.

Of the three countries mentioned, China is the most balanced and was the least involved in the fighting. Russia and Iran, on the other hand, were deeply involved in fighting on behalf of the Assad regime, as well as for their own interests. If these countries lead the reconstruction of Syria, the Syrian opposition will continue to suffer from Assad’s oppression, as he is supported by Moscow and Tehran.

Iran’s interests in leading the reconstruction are the desire to gain a military foothold in Syria, first and foremost against Israel; to be closer to their Lebanese ally, thus strengthening the Shiite Crescent under its leadership; and to keep its ally, Assad, in power. Russia’s interests include its desire to keep the naval facility in Tartus and forestall Western regional aspirations, which include the removal of Assad.

In contrast, China’s interests are generally connected to economic development and maintaining stability. They are less personal. Therefore, if Beijing leads the reconstruction, all parties would be able to contribute to mutual economic growth. China’s policy of non-intervention in the countries it does business with can be a stabilizing factor that could bring together Syria’s factions. The Chinese also know how to conduct simultaneous relations with sworn enemies, which could be very helpful in this particular case.

Also, from Israel’s perspective, it would be much better to see a Chinese aid program and Chinese companies rebuilding the Syrian Golan Heights rather than Iranian ones. Of course, China’s economic capacity is superior to that of Russia or Iran, but since the other two have great influence over the Assad regime, they might tilt decisions in favor of a reconstruction program that would benefit them more than the Syrian people.

Chinese companies have already shown interest in the reconstruction. On January 24, 2017, the Syrian Minister of Transport discussed with a Chinese economic delegation ways to promote cooperation in the fields of air transport, ground transport, and railway construction.

It is hard to know what Assad and his allies really want, but their attitude towards China is quite positive. They will most likely be happy to adopt a reconstruction program that keeps them in power for years to come. The Chinese option seems able to provide this, whereas a plan led by Iran or Russia could lead to another round of fighting.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

Roie Yellinek is a doctoral student in the department of Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University, a fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum and the China-Med Project, and a freelance journalist.


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Iraq: An Election of Conflicting Interests - Amir Taheri

by Amir Taheri

Elections alone, even when free and fair, do not amount to democratization.

Almost 15 years after the war that ended Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq, the circumstances that led to it and the way it was conducted remain controversial. However, even the most ardent opponents of the war admit that the end of dictatorship in Baghdad gave Iraq an opportunity to seek a different, hopefully better, future which might include democratization.

While it is true that democracy cannot be imposed by force it is equally true that force could be used to remove barriers to democracy as was the case in Germany, Italy and Japan after the Second World War.

In that context the fact that since 2003 Iraq has held several free and fair elections and referendums is cited as proof that anti-democracy barriers erected by successive despotic regimes in Baghdad may have been removed.

However, elections alone, even when free and fair, do not amount to democratization.

The true guarantor of a democratic system is an understanding, often implicit, on a set of rules regarding the acquisition and exercise of political power.

I believe that over the past 15 years Iraq has shaped such a guarantee.

In its simplest expression, that guarantee consists of a consensus transcending sectarian, ethnic and partisan divisions, according to which power is acquired through elections and exercised through institutions.

To the blasé public in Western democracies this may not sound much. But to people who had always been treated as objects in their own history, it is quite a big deal.

Because Iraqi democracy is still young and fragile every election in that country must be handled with extra care.

The next general election requires even more careful consideration and preparation. And that may mean postponing it until the optimum conditions are established.

There are several reasons for this.

The first is that the consensus that marked all post-liberation elections has been shaken.

The abortive Kurdish independence referendum produced one fracture while the four-way split in Shi'ite ranks produced another.

The unanimity that marked previous elections as far as dates and modalities were concerned is no longer in place.

Secondly, the logistical and material conditions needed for free and fair elections may not be available in significant chunks of the country.

The four provinces that bore the brunt of the war against successive terrorist groups, the latest being ISIS, lack the infrastructure for proper campaigning not to mention establishing voter registers, setting up polling stations, and ensuring adequate supervision of voting.

According to the United Nations the fight against ISIS has produced some 2.8 million displaced persons whose electoral status cannot be determined before May 12, the date fixed by the Iraqi parliament last week.

There is also the problem of the so-called "disputed areas" contested by ethnic Kurds, Turkmans, Christians, Shi'ites and Sunni-Arab communities.

Another problem concerns the presence of numerous armed groups of different religions, sects and ethnic background in eight of the 18 provinces.

In some places, Mosul for example, unofficial control exercised by these groups in the absence of the regular army and government police could render campaigning, voting and the counting of votes problematic.

In some places, notably the nine provinces where Shi'ites form a majority, militias such as the Popular Mobilization Forces, believed to be controlled by Iran, operate as political parties. That, however, is against the Iraqi Election law which makes it clear that any member of the military wishing to contest an election must first quit his military position.

Finally, the most important argument in favor of postponement is the growing trend away from sectarian politics with the emphasis shifting away from ethnic and religious concepts to the all-inclusive concept of Uruqa (Iraqi-ness).

Encouraging moves in that direction are already under way, leading to hopes that a majority of Iraqi political parties and groups may be moving away from the sectarian system of sharing parliamentary seats introduced under Paul Bremmer, the American "Pasha", after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

However, such a process requires more time to produce lasting results.

While several prominent Shi'ite political leaders, among them former Premier Nuri al-Maliki, Ammar al-Hakim of the National Hikma (Wisdom) group and Muqtada Sadr, reject any postponement of the election, the buzz from Najaf is that the Marja'iyah (Shi'ite clerical leadership) would not oppose postponement in the context of a clear plan to ensure the elections are safe, fair and free.

Nuri al-Maliki (center), then Iraqi Prime minister, with other lawmakers on June 14, 2010, at the first parliament session after the 2010 election, in Baghdad, Iraq. (Photo by Muhannad Fala'ah /Getty Images)

I also have the feeling that postponement, if shaped through consensus in the context of fading out sectarian and ethnic divides, would win support from all the four Kurdish parties still shaken by the aftershocks of the abortive referendum.

What I find strange is that the Trump administration in Washington and the Khomeinist establishment in Tehran are dancing a pas-de-deux in support of May 12 as the date for election.

The US maintains some 6,000 troops in Iraq, stationed in eight bases in four provinces. The plan is to increase that number to 10,000 and enlarge two of the facilities into permanent bases complementing, and if necessary, replacing the Incirlik super-base in Turkey.

Building such a major strategic presence in the heart of the Middle East would require explicit support from an Iraqi government emerging from credible elections.

Contrary to what the Trump administration seems to think, US interests are not best served by hastily held elections the results of which may be contested by significant segments of Iraqi opinion.

For its part Iran is worried that, no longer dependent on sectarian electoral arithmetic, a future Baghdad government may seek to curtail Tehran's political and military presence in Iraq.

Managing relations with Iraq is of crucial importance for Iran under any regime.

A united and strong Iraq could emerge as a rival or even a threat to Iran. A democratic Iraq could become a tempting model for Iran where Shi'ites also form a majority. A weak Iraq could become fertile ground for Arab Sunni armed groups dedicated to sectarian "jihad."

Thus, what Tehran leaders want is a divided Iraq that is neither too strong nor too weak and thus obliged to depend on Iran. An election that does not make Iraq more united and thus stronger would suit Tehran's interest.

What Iraqis need to ask is what suits their own national interests.
This article first appeared in Asharq Al Awsat

Amir Taheri, formerly editor of Iran's premier newspaper, Kayhan, before the Iranian revolution of 1979, is a prominent author based on Europe. He is the Chairman of Gatestone Europe.


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Hamas: Full steam ahead to nowhere - Dr. Mordechai Kedar

by Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, was supposed to create an alternative religious nationalist ethos in contrast to the secular nationalism led by various Arab organizations. It failed abysmally to do so.

When the "Islamic Resistance Movement" – the full name of Hamas – took over Gaza in 2007, some pundits expressed the opinion, or more accurately the hope, that once Hamas has a state and is responsible for its drinking water, gasoline, electricity, employment and food, it will have no choice but to become more moderate. These commentators predicted Hamas would soon prefer governing to continued jihad, exchange terror for running a state, develop political tools instead of war, adopting a political stance instead of armed conflict. Every one of those pundits and observers were could not have been more wrong, because no Islamic terror organization abandons terror without being seen as an organization that has abandoned Islam as well.

In actual fact, what has happened is a peculiar process that could only occur in Islamic societies. It is a self-destructing or self-immolating process that can be traced to a specific trait of Islamic organizations. This process is a function of the collective belief shared by Islamic leaders that it is a religious obligation to stick to their political principles – and that any deviation from total allegiance to those principles will result in their falling victim to skewed, subjective criticism aimed at them personally by others whose religious image is more vivid, more faith-based and therefore more trustworthy.

On the other hand, Hamas also wants to seem like a political organization, so it ran in the legislative elections in 2006, winning a majority of the seats.  Now it is getting ready for presidential elections where it hopes to conquer the seat of the PA President. Hamas's problem is the inherent contradiction between two roles: Being a political organization that takes part in political life in  the PA  and which therefore must adopt suitable patterns of  behavior, headed by pragmatic flexibility and the ability to talk  to Israel about basic issues – and at the same time continuing to act according to the principle that forbids moving off the path dictated by Allah,  who only allows his earthly representatives  to talk to the Zionists about technical issues such as transferring food, water, gasoline, electricity, and medical services.

From the standpoint of Hamas, it is not so bad if the Gaza Muslims suffer, because that is considered  "bla'a",  one of  the tests Allah presents to believers in order to decide whether or not they deserve a passport to Paradise when the time comes. That explains why Hamas is so ready to sacrifice hundreds and even thousands of victims in every military encounter with us, and why the Arab world media present the situation as a victory for Hamas and a defeat for Israel, convincing the world that they are telling the truth, when actually, just the opposite is the case.  The price for this delusionary "victory" is paid by the man in the Gaza street, whose family members are dead or wounded,  and who has to live with a destroyed infrastructure. The man in the street is not in the Hamas camp on this issue, because he is much more pragmatic that those who have taken over his life – and death.

The religious conceptual framework prevents Hamas from giving in to the Jews or from doing anything that might be interpreted as giving in to them, including freeing prisoners or the bodies of fallen soldiers who have fallen into Hamas hands, and even from giving out information about them. Anyone with a connection to the issue knows full well that Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul  are, to our great sorrow, not among the living, but Hamas spokesmen continue  to throw sand in the  eyes of the Palestinian Arabs, saying that they will not divulge any details about the two, not even  whether they are alive or dead, as if there could be any chance they are still alive.

From a religious standpoint, Hamas is mired in a dark and dismal swamp. During the 1400 years since the dawn of Islamic history, there were Muslim regimes that treated strangers with respect, refrained from attacking countries more powerful than they, and cared about the economic conditions of those living under their rule. Hamas is light years away from this type of behavior, and  is not only uninterested in improving the health, education and  living standards of the people of Gaza, it takes step after step to create a picture of suffering and want in order to squeeze donations from the rest of  the world.

Another detail that might prevent Gaza from undergoing another violent bout of conflict with Israel – at the expense of the ordinary citizens' lives, of course, not those of the Hamas leaders whose underground bunkers will protect them – is Hamas readiness to carry out a prisoner exchange with Israel. Yihye Sinwar, the current Hamas leader freed in the Shalit deal, knows that Israel will not free over 1000 prisoners in exchange for corpses, but is pressured by the Hamas prisoners and their families and finds it almost impossible to reach a deal with the Israelis that results in less prisoners being freed than were when he was part of an exchange. 

Do you get it? Sinwar got himself freed from an Israeli prison, but would he do the same for others? Come on - that's too much to expect from him. Hamas, instead, is making use of all kinds of mantras to justify its obstinate policy: "We will not cowtow to the Zionist entity on anything!"  "We will not give the Zionists any free information!" "We will continue to struggle for a Palestine from the river to the sea." No one on the Gaza street believes these mantras anymore, nor do they put their faith in those who post them on the internet or satellite stations. 

Hamas does everything it can to publicize the "humanitarian catastrophe" in Gaza, but forgets to tell listeners that the situation there is primarily a result of the way Hamas has governed the region in the last decade.  The organization was given billions of dollars by Qatar and international organizations which do not follow up on what happens to their donations, are recipients of taxes taken off salaries – and what did they do with the money? Did they build schools? Hospitals?  Factories?  Infrastructure? None of the above.

Some of the money found its way into Hamas leaders' private, hidden bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, the Virgin Islands or other tax havens, some was used to purchase homes and apartments for those leaders – but the majority of the funds, by far, went to build underground tunnels, rockets and other weapons of destruction intended for use in the war to liberate Palestine. So far they have managed to liberate residents of Gaza from any chance they might lead a semblance of normal lives.

And since the Arab world has turned its back on Hamas, the organization is close to bankruptcy, a reason for its new, warm relationship with Iran. Hamas leaders are hoping to obtain money, arms and rockets from Iran – to break the stalemate with Israel. That is the reason they reconnected with Hezbollah and fell victim to its endless war. Now that this war is slowly dying, Hamas is ready to renew its ties to Iran.

Iran does not hide its leadership's joy at renewing ties with Hamas. The ayatollahs see Hamas as the long arm of the Iranian octopus extended towards southern Israel, intending to grasp it in a pincer between Hezbollah on the north and Hamas in the south. Will this move improve life in Gaza? Will Hamas succeed in convincing unemployed Gazans – 60% of the Strip's employable breadwinners – that it is doing this for their benefit?

And then there is the old-new fiasco of the relations with the PLO/PA and the reconciliation, unachievable since Hamas burst on to the Israeli and international scene in 1988 with the outbreak of the First Intifada. The rivalry, hostility, hatred and jealousy running rampant between the two organizations and the insults each hurls at the other express much more than a political divide. They are the living proof of the collective cultural differences between Judea and Samaria Arabs and those of Gaza. Even the  Arabic spoken in Judea and Samaria is not the same as that of  Gaza, and language – as every fledgling Middle East scholar knows – is the microcosm of culture. Gaza's culture is that of desert dwelling Bedouin, while the Arabic spoken by Judea and Samaria Arabs is that used by city and town dwellers. The conflict between the PLO and Hamas is all-embracing: it is over leadership positions, the treasury (the secure place for the corrupt and the breeding ground of corruption), the  police and most important: the armed forces. Notwithstanding all the joint papers both sides signed while smiling at international media photographers, the inspired speeches made by spokesmen on both sides lauding the concept of sacred reconciliation – and  despite the public demand to see both the PLO and Hamas working together for their shared goal of establishing a Palestinian Arab state on the ruins of  Israel, the two organizations have failed to rise above their conflicts and keep the promises that lie at the basis of these agreements. They continue to castigate, humiliate and mock one another while the public looks on.

On the other side of the cultural and political equation are the Salafist organizations on the lines of al Qaeda and ISIS . They have active delegations in Gaza, although most of their activists have moved to Sinai. Hamas is engaged in a fight to the death with the organizations engaged in doing to Hamas exactly what that terror organization did to the PLO:  Jihad in the name of Islam, all the while accusing Hamas of abandoning the real jihad and becoming Israel's 'Border Patrol'.  Hamas has killed scores of Salafist activists, including over 30 of them cut down by machine gun fire on a street in Rafiah after gas grenades succeeded in making them leave the Ibn Timia mosque.  

Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, was supposed to create an alternative religious nationalist ethos in contrast to the secular nationalism led by various Arab organizations. It failed in its attempt to present an Arab nationalist model of a democratic, modern state that protects its citizens and provides for their welfare, health and employment – an ordinary, functioning state that earns the loyalty of its citizens and their identification with it, taking over from the previous focus on the Middle East's traditional tribal, ethnic, religious and group identities. 

The Arab nationalist movements have sunk into the deep morass of despotism. Not one of them has managed to establish and maintain a democratic nation-state on the lines of Israel. The Zionist movement succeeded exactly where the Arab nationalist movements failed, and the Hamas movement was supposed to offer an alternative religious ethos that could unfurl its flag over all the tribal and religious groups living in "Falestin": Muslims, Christians, Cherkassim, Achmadim. The religious movement failed dismally, one of the reasons being its inability to abandon the principle of Jihad long enough to join up with the PLO and establish a Palestinian Arab state alongside Israel until the time is ripe to destroy the Jewish State. Hamas does not see a way to accept the Jewish states' existence, even on a temporary basis, and is obligated to maintain a constant state of war with Israel.  Let me emphasize: not an active war but a state of war. Waging a war would lead to the destruction of Gaza and topple the heads of the Hamas leaders, while a state of war gives them justification for the sad state the movement and the Gaza Strip have reached. The residents of Gaza are the albatross hanging on the neck of Hamas, weighing it down as it tries in vain to navigate a stormy sea.

The situation in Gaza provides another proof, for anyone who is still in need of one, of the inability of an Islamic movement to establish and maintain a modern state that can live in peace with its neighbors and tolerate ideologies that  differ from its own. 

The schism dividing the PLO and Hamas is a cultural divide expressed by means of political conflict. There is  no way to create unity or a true, long-lasting reconciliation between the two groups, so that anyone counting on one unified Palestinian Arab state had better align his expectations with bitter Middle East reality, widely different from what we have become accustomed to in  Europe, America and Australia.

The PLO failed because the secular nationalist ideology that does so well in Europe, cannot make a go of it in the Middle East. It has failed in every country that  tried to base its existence on  that  kind of ideology – Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan are the exemplars. The Hamas movement is a failure because fundamentalist Islam cannot maintain a modern state with European democratic standards based on human laws. Turkey, while returning to  Islam since the nineties, is also distancing itself more and more from the accepted Western model of a constitutional democracy.

The conclusion all this leads to is completely clear: There is neither a religious or secular basis for establishing a Palestinian Arab state. The only solution is the natural base of Middle Eastern society: The tribe. Only emirates in Judea and Samaria based on local families, - like those in the Gulf emirates – can operate legitimately in this region. 

Written for Arutz Sheva, translated from Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky, Senior Consultant and Op-ed editor of Arutz Sheva's English site.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. Thoroughly familiar with Arab media in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.


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Australia reverses itself on public break of ties with Israeli intelligence - Thomas Lifson

by Thomas Lifson

Australia should be embarrassed at the exposure of its hypocrisy.

Australia should be embarrassed at the exposure of its hypocrisy. The Daily Telegraph of Australia (behind a pay wall, but text available here) writes:
SEVEN years ago Australia expelled a Mossad agent and publicly cut ties with the intelligence agency as it admonished Israel for using forged Australian passports in its assassination plot of a Hamas military chief.
But in the murky world of intelligence, nothing is ever what it seems and yesterday the Australian Government hailed Israel’s intelligence network as heroes for making the initial tip off that led to the 11th hour thwarting of an alleged terror plot to bring down an Etihad flight from Sydney last year.
“I wish to thank the Israeli’s very much,” Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said.
“We did get intelligence advice from Israel and it meant that ASIO then reached out to other partners and with all of the information packaged together, it resulted in arrests.”
No doubt hundreds of lives were saved by that tip and what followed but the change of attitude toward Israeli intelligence was as much to do with those actions as it was the politics behind both the breakup and now the make-up.
The Telegraph goes on to write:
Australia has had a public love-hate relationship with Israel’s covert tactics particularly in this country but the spies of both nations including ASIO and ASIS and Mossad and the various Israeli military intelligence branches have remained very much cooperative and in synch and it was that unbroken relationship that prevented a mid-flight tragedy last year.
Our Australian correspondent John McMahon writes:
This supposed hate relationship is only endorsed and promulgated by the Leftist media and the Greens along with elements of the socialist Leftist Labor.
It is a very good thing for Australia (and the UAE) that this public condemnation and break of intelligence ties is phony, pure eyewash catering to the Jew haters and Islamophiles of the domestic Australian and global left. The airplane in question was an Airbus A 380, capable of carrying over 500 people. 

Israel is accustomed to hypocritical governments publicly condemning the Jewish state for actions that remain without criticism when other states engage in them. Fortunately for hundreds of innocents aboard that particular flight last year, Israel is generous toward hypocrites.

Of course, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, currently in crisis mode over allegations of corruption, was happy to take some credit for good news:
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton appeared unsure himself as he was prompted to respond on live radio to reports out of Israel where the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) made the public revelation that was quickly backed in a public speech to US Jewish leaders in Jerusalem by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (snip)
It was also a reminder that Israel’s intelligence network is second to none and has long been working outside its own borders to help its friends and allies in troubling times as long as its own interests are not crossed.
The IDF revealed its secretive Military Intelligence Unit 8200 played a crucial role in preventing the midair attack on an Etihad flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi on July 15 last year.
Israel’s meta-strategy is to make itself an indispensable nation for the great powers. Intelligence assistance is but one element. Another is the flourishing of Israeli high technology innovation, providing essential benefits to the most powerful companies in the world. So, too, the stream of medical innovations flowing from Israel. And the newest element is Israel’s development of offshore gas fields, providing energy to Europe and replacing or at least supplementing expensive Russian supplies of natural gas.

When faced with hatred and double standards, Israel excels and makes itself too valuable to “wipe from the map” as Iran’s mullahs repeatedly threaten to do.

Thomas Lifson


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Trump blames Russia, Iran for 'humanitarian disgrace' in Syria - News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

by News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

U.N. Security Council unanimously demands truce across Syria as warplanes continue to pummel eastern Ghouta, last rebel enclave near Damascus

Smoke billows following a regime airstrike on eastern 
Ghouta, Friday
Photo: AFP

The U.N. Security Council on Saturday demanded a 30-day cease-fire across Syria as rescuers in the country's eastern Ghouta region said bombing had not let up long enough for them to count bodies during one of the bloodiest air assaults of the seven-year war.

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump called out Russia and Iran, as well as the Syrian government for fostering a "humanitarian disgrace" in Syria.

"I will say what Russia, and what Iran and what Syria have done recently is a humanitarian disgrace. I will tell you that. We're there for one reason. We're there to get ISIS, and get rid of ISIS and go home. We're not there for any other reason. And we've largely accomplished our goal. But what those three countries have done to people over the last short period of time is a disgrace," he said during a White House news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Shortly after the unanimous vote by the 15-member council, warplanes struck a town in eastern Ghouta, the last rebel enclave near Syria's capital, an emergency service and a war monitoring group said. Warplanes have pounded the region for seven straight days while residents holed up in basements.

U.N. chief Antonio Guterres appealed on Wednesday for an immediate end to "war activities" in eastern Ghouta, where nearly 400,000 people have lived under government siege since 2013, without enough food or medicine.

While Syrian ally Russia supported the adoption of the U.N. resolution, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia cast doubt on its feasibility. Previous cease-fire deals on the ground have had a poor record of ending fighting in Syria, where President Bashar Assad's military has gained the upper hand.

"What is necessary is for the demands of the Security Council to be underpinned by concrete on the ground agreements," Nebenzia told the council after the vote. He later told reporters it was unrealistic to expect an immediate cease-fire and that the parties had to be encouraged to work for it.

After several days of delay and last-minute negotiations to win the support of Russia, the council adopted the resolution – drafted by Sweden and Kuwait – demanding hostilities cease for 30-days "without delay" to allow aid access and medical evacuations.

"We accept that it might take a number of hours before it can all be fully implemented … we just have to keep the pressure up, implementation is key now," Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told Reuters.

Russia did not want to specify when a truce would start, so a proposal for the truce to begin 72 hours after the adoption was watered-down to demand it start "without delay." Further talks on Saturday added a demand for all parties to "engage immediately to ensure full and comprehensive implementation."

"As they dragged out the negotiation, the bombs from Assad's fighter jets continued to fall. In the three days it took us to adopt this resolution, how many mothers lost their kids to the bombing and shelling?" U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council.

"We are deeply skeptical that the [Syrian] regime will comply," Haley said.

A surge of rocket fire, shelling and airstrikes has killed more than 500 people since Sunday night, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The dead included more than 120 children.

The monitor said raids hit Douma, Zamalka and other towns there on Saturday, killing 40 people.

After the U.N. vote, the two dominant rebel factions in Ghouta – Failaq al-Rahman and Jaish al-Islam – both committed to implement the truce and facilitate aid access but also reiterated their right to respond to any attacks on them.

Medical charities have decried attacks on a dozen hospitals. The Syrian government and Russia say they only target militants. Moscow and Damascus have said they seek to stop mortar attacks injuring dozens in the capital, and have accused insurgents in Ghouta of holding people as human shields.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian military.

"We're combating terrorism on our territories," Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari told the Security Council. "Our government will reserve the right to respond as it deems appropriate in case those terrorist arms groups are targeting civilians in any part of Syria with even one single missile."

Jaafari said his government interpreted the resolution as also applying to "Turkish forces in Afrin, and the operations of the anti-ISIL [Islamic State] coalition in Syria … Israeli forces in Syria, especially the occupied Syrian Golan."

The truce demanded by the Security Council does not cover militants from Islamic State, al-Qaida, and the Nusra Front.

First responders searched for survivors after strikes on Kafr Batna, Douma and Harasta, the Civil Defence in eastern Ghouta said on Saturday. The rescue service, which operates in rebel territory, said it had documented at least 350 deaths in four days earlier this week.

"Maybe there are many more," said Siraj Mahmoud, a civil defense spokesman in the suburbs. "We weren't able to count the martyrs yesterday because the warplanes are touring the skies."

As the bombs rain down, workers have struggled to pull people from the rubble, Mahmoud said. "But if we have to go out running on our legs and dig with our hands to rescue the people, we will still be here."

The local opposition council said it was setting up emergency volunteer teams in several districts to reinforce shelters with sandbags and try to link them through tunnels.

Several previous cease-fire attempts have quickly unraveled during the multi-sided conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands and forced 11 million people out of their homes.

Syrian state media said Ghouta factions fired mortars at districts of Damascus on Saturday, including near a school. Insurgent shelling wounded six people, it said, and the army heavily pounded militant targets in response.

The Ghouta pocket has become the war's latest flashpoint, after a string of rebel defeats and negotiated withdrawals. With Russian jets and Iran-backed militias, Assad's military has restored state rule over the main cities across western Syria.

Insurgents in eastern Ghouta have vowed not to accept such a fate, ruling out the kind of evacuation that ended the rebellion in Aleppo and Homs after bitter sieges.

Russia has blamed Nusra fighters, from al-Qaida's former Syria branch, for provoking the situation in Ghouta. The two main Islamist factions there, in turn, accuse their enemies of using the presence of a few hundred jihadist fighters as a pretext for attacks.

News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff


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