Saturday, August 11, 2012

US accuses Hezb'allah of being deeply involved in Syrian civil war

by Rick Moran

Most of the evidence of Hezb'allah involvement in the Syrian civil war has been anecdotal, or from the opposition.

But the US government claims it has evidence the terrorist group's deep involvement in the war.

New York Times:

The United States accused the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on Friday of a deep involvement in the Syria government's violent campaign to crush the uprising there, asserting that Hezbollah has trained and advised government forces inside Syria and helped to expel opposition fighters from areas of the country.

The American accusations, which were contained in coordinated announcements by the Treasury and State Departments announcing new sanctions on Syria, also accused Hezbollah of helping operatives of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Quds Force in training Syrian forces inside Syria. A Treasury statement said Hezbollah's secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, had overseen these activities, which it called part of the Syria government's "increasingly ruthless efforts to fight against the opposition."

The accusations went beyond previous American claims about Hezbollah support for Syria's government. They seemed designed to counter Obama Administration critics who say the White House is not doing enough to back the Syrian opposition. They were also part of an effort to further draw attention to the alliance of Hezbollah and Iran, which American and Israeli intelligence officials have sought to portray as a subversive collaboration that has not only destabilized the Middle East but has been implicated in terrorist violence elsewhere, including a deadly bus bombing of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last month.

Nasrallah is caught between a need to stay neutral in Lebanon where pro and anti Syrian factions clash regularly, and helping his second biggest ally in the region survive. Hezb'allah's assistance was described this way by an American official:

The group's deep familiarity with the Syrian landscape makes it a nimble and effective military partner," the official said. "Even though at current levels its assistance probably won't change the outcome of the conflict, it's prolonging the fight and contributing to the deaths of innocent civilians."

Some FSA soldiers have described Hezb'allah fighters acting as snipers, picking off civilians in the street, but that apparently hasn't been confirmed. Still, any help they give Assad makes it that much harder to dislodge the Syrian president.

Rick Moran


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


by John Podhoretz

In the May 2012 issue, James Pethokoukis offered a rich and illuminating portrait of Paul Ryan, the policy wonk.

It’s probably safe to assume that no elected official in America understands the ins and outs of the labyrinthine U.S. budget the way Paul Ryan does. The 42-year-old Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee has dreams of completing the small-government Reagan Revolution so that America might avoid repeating the “managed decline” of Old Europe. Ryan knows the numbers and projections and models backward and forward. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of his own arguments about reforming the Entitlement State and of those espoused by his opponents across the aisle and inside the Obama White House. He knows how the legislative process can breathe life into ambitious budget plans or, far more often, suffocate them in the cradle.

Ryan knows it all to a fine granularity. And that is not all he knows. As a veteran of the conservative movement who started out writing speeches for Jack Kemp and William J. Bennett at their joint think tank, Empower America, Ryan knows how three decades of off-and-on conservative governance in Washington have given credence to the notion that, in domestic affairs, Republicans understand how to cut taxes—and not much else. This has certainly been the case when it comes to fixing America’s social-insurance entitlements. Creating a financially sustainable safety net that does not sap America’s economic dynamism has been a political and policy puzzle, and repeated attempts to solve it have ended in economic or political disaster, or both.

Consider this: In 1983, President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill struck a deal to save Social Security through a combination of benefit cuts and tax increases. The agreement continues to be highlighted by Democrats as a model for bipartisan reform. Yet not only was Social Security not saved—the program almost immediately veered back into long-term insolvency—but several decades of surpluses in the Social Security “lockbox” were used cynically to make federal budget deficits look smaller than they were. For instance, if you don’t count “borrowings” from the Social Security trust fund, the four-year, $559 billion surplus in the late 1990s was really a two-year, $88 billion surplus.

In 1995, Newt Gingrich proposed $270 billion in cuts in future Medicare spending growth to help balance the budget. Clinton accused Republicans of wanting to use the program as a piggy bank to fund tax cuts for the rich and declared the cuts would hurl a half million seniors into poverty. Eventually, the cuts were halved and the tax cuts dumped. Two years later, the Balanced Budget Act created a new Medicare payment system for doctors that was meant to lower Medicare cost growth. But the “sustainable growth rate” formula has been consistently ignored by Congress—indeed, it has been violated year in and year out with the so-called doc fix that changes the formula in the direction of medical providers. And costs have continued to soar.

In 2004, right after the November elections, the newly reelected George W. Bush said he wanted to spend “political capital” on reforming Social Security. But just a half year later, the effort had imploded. Bush never proposed a specific plan or created a viable legislative strategy with congressional Republicans. Today the once hot idea of letting Americans divert a chunk of their payroll taxes into personal investment accounts is moribund, even in conservative policymaking circles—a victim not only of the fear of dealing with Social Security politically but also of the vertigo-inducing stock market gyrations between 2008 and the present.

This is the history of failure after conservative policymaking failure, helped along by plenty of liberal and Democratic demagoguery. By the end of the Bush years, free-market reformers seemed out of energy, out of ideas, and out of luck. The financial crisis gave Barack Obama a near landslide victory in 2008. With supposedly unfettered capitalism getting most of the blame for the meltdown, it seemed more probable that 21st-century America was on the verge of assuming a New New Deal or an Even Greater Society program than it was of undergoing a conservative transformation of the social-insurance Leviathan.

But three years into Obama’s presidency, his economic point man, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, was reduced to telling Ryan the following at a recent House Budget Committee session: “We’re not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to that long-term [entitlement] problem. What we do know is, we don’t like yours.” Geithner’s favorite aphorism is “plan beats no plan.” Yet here he was admitting that the administration had no plan to avoid a future debt crisis by reforming entitlements, even though the sooner you begin dealing with the problem, the cheaper and easier it is to correct.

The plan Ryan has, the one Geithner doesn’t like, is his “Path to Prosperity” budget blueprint. It would fundamentally revamp Medicare, the single biggest driver of America’s long-term debt, by transforming the system from an open-ended, defined-benefit plan into a limited, defined-contribution plan. Seniors could use Medicare dollars to choose among various plans, both public and private. A combination of competition and consumer choice would push insurers to be innovative and boost productivity, resulting in massive cost savings with no sacrifice in quality.

But for entitlement reform to work, the politics have to work as well as the policy prescription. And Democrats in the past successfully skewered plans far less ambitious than Ryan’s. Their “Mediscare” tactics soundly defeated the Gingrich Republicans, and they were cutting only hundreds of billions from future Medicare growth. Ryan wants to cut trillions while also completely restructuring the entitlement, so popular with seniors, in such a way that Democrats can easily accuse him of surreptitiously trying to privatize it. And, of course, they have been doing exactly that.

But Ryan is a new kind of combatant. He does not panic. He adjusts. And he takes the long view. He released the first version of his entitlement plan in January 2010, and Democrats jumped all over it. They believed Ryan had unwittingly given them a powerful weapon against the Tea Party Republicans who were trying to win back Congress. But the GOP took back the House anyway and narrowed the Democrats’ edge in the Senate.

In March 2012, for the second year in a row, the GOP-controlled House passed Ryan’s budget plan. Republicans knew they would again be attacked by Democrats for wanting to “privatize Medicare” and to “end Medicare as we know it”—and they were—but they voted for it anyway in overwhelming numbers. Only 10 of 242 Republicans rejected the Ryan budget, with the defectors mostly arguing that the Ryan plan didn’t go far enough fast enough.

The dynamics of the GOP presidential primary contest show that although Republicans can argue for change even more radical than Ryan’s proposal, making the case that Ryan goes too far is out of the party mainstream. When Gingrich called it “right-wing social engineering” in May 2011, he hindered his own claim to be the candidate who represented innovative conservative policymaking. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s plan for reforming Medicare is a transition into a “premium support system, meaning that existing spending is repackaged as a fixed-amount benefit to each senior that he or she can use to purchase an insurance plan.” That is specific, bold, sweeping—and it is all Ryan. Now compare that position with what John McCain was offering in 2008. At the second presidential debate with Obama, McCain was asked how he would fix Medicare. His reply: “What we have to do with Medicare is have the smartest people in America come together, come up with recommendations, and then, like the base-closing commission idea we had, then we should have Congress vote up or down.”

The change from McCain to Romney, from 2008 to 2012, indicates the way in which the policy ground on Medicare reform has shifted. Ryan deserves a large amount of the credit for that. That the GOP and conservative intellectuals have embraced Ryan’s approach to fixing Medicare is every bit as significant as the party’s embrace of tax cuts as a core principle in the 1980s when Reagan took office. Not long before that, good Republicans would vote against tax cuts that weren’t paid for through offsetting spending cuts. Barry Goldwater voted against the across-the-board tax cuts of 1963 proposed by John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. And Reagan’s main opponent in 1980 for the nomination, Ambassador George Bush, derided his tax-cut plan as “voodoo economics.” But just as the supply-side approach to tax cuts has become the default GOP policy position, the same goes for Ryan’s Medicare plan.

Ryan has had an easier time making his case thanks to the rapid and alarming deterioration in America’s fiscal position during the Obama years. In 2008, publicly held debt as a share of GDP was 41 percent. The Congressional Budget Office’s best guess is that it will be 73 percent this year and 94 percent by 2022—with annual budget deficits averaging $1.1 trillion for the next decade. And it is in 2022 that Medicare really starts to contribute to our fiscal instability, as the single devastating chart at the heart of Ryan’s entire political project, illustrated below, indicates.

Washington budgeteers like to joke that the U.S. government is really just a giant insurance company with an army. Not true, at least not yet. But the day is coming. And when it does, even the Army might need to get cut from the equation. Last year, Washington spending amounted to 24.1 percent of GDP—the second highest level since World War II and its immediate aftermath.

Separating out interest payments on the $11 trillion national debt leaves 22.6 percent of GDP spent on what most Americans consider federal programs. And of that amount, nearly half (10.4 percent) was spent on the three safety-net entitlements: Social Security (4.8 percent), Medicare (3.7 percent), and Medicaid (1.9 percent). By 2035, the Congressional Budget Office says, 16.5 percent will be spent on those social insurance programs. Add back 8.9 percent for interest payments, and you will have already spent 25.4 percent of GDP without yet ponying up a nickel for whatever else Americans think worthy of taxpayer funds over those 23 years: not only the military and infrastructure and the like, but nuclear-fusion pilot projects, space-traffic controllers for orbital tourist cruisers, brigades of drone marines. (Oh, and sugar subsidies.) Beyond that, Medicare in particular will continue to gobble up a larger and larger share of the pie. And this all assumes that a debt crisis doesn’t bring the economy down by then.

So it helps that Americans are now far more aware than they ever have been that Washington, like the profligate nations of old Europe, is on the wrong fiscal track and headed for a nasty confrontation with global bond markets. But to take advantage of that opportunity, Ryan needed a plan where both the numbers and values worked—one that could absorb the punishment Democrats would surely inflict when they once again reopened the Mediscare playbook.

To achieve that, Ryan hasn’t been afraid to tweak his plan along the way. He learned from the invective that greeted the 2011 version. Obama described the plan this way: “Instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance that’s available in the open marketplace, well, tough luck. You’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.” An infamous ad showed a Ryan dopplegänger pushing an old woman in a wheelchair off a cliff. Wildly unfair, but the charges had just enough factual basis to make Republicans, such as Gingrich, nervous about selling it to the nation. First, the 2011 Ryan Plan did eliminate fee-for-service Medicare as an option for future seniors. Second, the government’s premium support—what Obama mischaracterized as a voucher—would only have risen at the rate of inflation, under the theory that competition among plans would lower costs. But, partly driven by Medicare, health-care inflation in America has consistently grown nearly twice as fast as inflation in the overall economy.

Ryan’s 2011 plan proved far too ambitious for former Clinton White House Budget Chief Alice Rivlin. Ryan and Rivlin had together created a premium-support plan that annually increased Medicare dollars at the rate of GDP growth plus 1 percent. When Rivlin heard about Ryan’s proposal, she balked, stripping it of any bipartisan veneer: “I don’t support the version of Medicare premium support in the Ryan plan. It’s both because the growth rate is much, much too low, and because it doesn’t preserve fee-for-service Medicare as the default option.” Even many conservative policy analysts thought that increasing premium support only by inflation was too risky—not to mention that the entire idea of government arbitrarily deciding how fast Medicare spending could grow sounded like some price-control idea right out of command-and-control ObamaCare.

So for 2012, Ryan adjusted the plan, improving it in the process. He added Medicare as an option within the premium-support system, thus achieving the assent of Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, to sign on. And instead of Washington bureaucrats picking the rate at which the premium support would increase, private plans would bid against each other to supply a Medicare-like benefits package at a low price, thus injecting market forces and competition into the system. Seniors who wanted plans with more benefits would have to pay more. Those who wanted a skimpier benefit package could pocket the difference. This was an important improvement because the main thing driving health-care costs in this country is the disconnect between the people buying health-care services (you and me) and those who pay for it (government and employers). Now seniors would have some skin in the game.

These changes certainly made it harder for the liberal media to attack the 2012 version of the Ryan plan for ending Medicare because it explicitly doesn’t end Medicare. In Ryan’s less ambitious design, moreover, Medicare spending as a share of output would still rise to 4.75 percent by 2050 versus 3.25 percent today. That’s far less than if it continued on its current path (7.5 percent), but it’s still a concession, so much so that the conservative group Club for Growth declared its opposition to Ryan 2012, which it called “disappointing.”

Even Ezra Klein, the Washington Post’s liberal blogger, was forced to admit the Ryan plan had a lot going for it. “Competitive bidding has certainly shown some savings success,” he wrote. “Could [it] slow the cost of Medicare to hit Republican budget targets? There’s some evidence it would.” Some evidence? There’s all the evidence one could wish for in the program called Medicare Part B, which uses a competitive bidding process. The technique has helped spending on the program come in about 40 percent below the projections at the time of enactment back in 2003.

Now none of this has stopped the attacks from the Mediscare playbook. After Ryan presented the Path to Prosperity 2.0, Obama described the plan as “thinly veiled social Darwinism.” Vice President Joseph Biden quickly and perfunctorily recycled the argument that RyanCare would “end Medicare as we know it.” That sort of claim is much less powerful than claiming Ryan would end Medicare, full stop. And besides, “Medicare as we know it” simply cannot be saved in its current form. Even ObamaCare acknowledges that reality by creating all sorts of pilot projects to experiment with ways of restructuring the program. The most notorious is the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a small panel of bureaucrats directed to cut spending to Medicare providers—which will probably push more and more of them to stop accepting Medicare payments. (This is what Sarah Palin dubbed a “death panel.”)

Obama will surely be reminded of these reality checks by Mitt Romney this fall since, to a significant degree, the Romney and Ryan policy agendas have merged. And should Romney win, he will be able to argue that he possesses a mandate for the biggest changes in the U.S. welfare state since the 1960s. Should Romney lose, the inarguable justification for the Ryan budget—that chart showing Medicare swallowing up the federal government in relatively short order—will be no different the day after the election from what it was the day before.

John Podhoretz


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

RyanThe Ryan Rollout

Richard Baehr

Ryan is the only fresh face of the 4 on the national ticket, so he will get lots of attention. He has a very attractive family, and an appealing life story. Lots of energy. He is not boring. He will get all the attention Palin did and more, and it will help our side. No skeletons, no closet, and he is a great talker and an idea guy.

He may help cut Obama's margin among young voters, if he can skillfully discuss the dangers for their generation of the present course, and the rewards of a different one.

The attack will come on Medicare and it will be fierce, to dislodge seniors, the GOP's strongest group. One missed opportunity today: to specifically identify that Ron Wyden is a cosponsor of Ryan's Medicare plan.

Rove had some good numbers: 500 billion spent on Medicare this year, 850 billion in ten years under Ryan plan. Does that sound like a cut? It slightly slows the rate of growth compared to present unsustainable course, and does not change anything for anyone over age 55 who likes current plan.

Romney mentioned that Obamacare cuts 700 billion from Medicare. This needs to be brought up over and over again. So too, the Obama website identifies $1.5 trillion in new tax revenues over next ten years. This is in addition to about $600 billion in new taxes from obamacare. Over 2 trillion in new taxes, a killing blow to entrepreneurs. Is that how you restart the economy?

One of my readers came up with a new slogan: America needs some R and R.

This is very important: Ryan gets under Obama's skin. He is smarter and better informed than the President. Already, the GOP is beginning to go after Obama's likability as a result of the outrageous cancer ad they won't condemn, lied about, and of course teed up. Romney talked of the nasty campaign today. They will try to set up a comparative message of a vision for growth versus the gutter, which is pretty accurate at this point. Already some evidence of backlash against cancer ad in tracking polls this week. I think Ryan will sell better than negative Bain ads at this point.

As for electoral politics, Wisconsin is now in play and winnable. That means GOP ceiling without any real upsets (Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan) is 301 electoral college votes -- Bush's 286 in 2004 plus 6 more due to 2010 redistricting, minus 5 for New Mexico, plus 4 for New Hampshire, and 10 for Wisconsin. That means Romney could lose Ohio's 18 (uphill at the moment) and still win. Ryan pick is a pitch for the Midwest. May help a bit in Ohio, though less than Portman would. Maybe he can bring Michigan or Minnesota into play. Pennsylvania may depend on a judge's ruling on new voter ID law. if GOP wins, Romney has a better chance there, though still an underdog.

Romney is doing very badly with Hispanics. Ryan is Catholic and that may help a bit. So will his appeal to small business people. Colorado is winnable, Nevada will be very tough.

Ryan may have appeal to independents, as Obama did in 2008.

Richard Baehr


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Attacks on Christians Sharpen with Government Collusion

by Khaled Abu Toameh

If Muslim fanatics cannot tolerate moderate and secular Muslims, why should they be expected to accept those who belong to other faiths?

As all eyes were turned this week toward Sinai, where Muslim fundamentalists killed 16 Egyptian border guards while they were having the Ramadan fast-breaking meal, Christian families were being forced out of their homes in the village of Dahshur, 40 kilometers south of Giza.

Hundreds of Christians fled their homes after being attacked by their Muslim neighbors, who also targeted a church and Christian-owned businesses in the village.

The anti-Christian violence was described as the worst since Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was elected as president in June.

But Morsi did not find time this week to visit Dahshur to see for himself how hundreds of helpless Christians were being forced out of their homes.

Instead, he and his security and military commanders rushed to Sinai as soon as they heard about the massacre that was perpetrated against the border guards.

The Egyptian authorities did not even hesitate to use heavy weapons against the Muslim terrorists in Sinai. For the first time since the signing of the peace treaty with Israel, Egypt sent military helicopters and armored vehicles to attack the terrorists in Sinai.

But when it comes to dealing with Muslim terrorists who have been targeting Christians in a number of villages and cities throughout Egypt over the past few months, the Egyptian authorities have endorsed a lenient approach. In fact, the authorities, according to human rights activists, have chosen to turn a blind eye to the plight of the 14-million strong Christian community.

Even worse, the Egyptian government seems to be completely out of touch with reality concerning the dangers facing the Christians. Morsi, for example, has denied that the violence was sectarian, claiming it was an "isolated incident that was blown out of proportion."

This, by the way, is the same argument the Egyptian authorities used each time Israel warned that Sinai was falling into the hands of Muslim terror groups.

One week before the border guards were killed, the Egyptian government dismissed Israeli warnings to Israeli tourists against visiting Sinai. The Egyptians claimed that the Israeli warnings were "exaggerated and unjustified" and accused Israel of seeking to damage Egypt's tourism industry.

In the past two years, tens of thousands of Christians have fled Egypt, mainly due to the rise of Muslim fundamentalists to power. Recurring attacks on Christian families and property and failure of the Egyptian authorities to employ a tougher policy against the fundamentalists have led many Christians to reach the conclusion that they have no future not only in Egypt, but in other Arab countries where radical Muslims are rising to power.

Christian fears are not unjustified. Muslim fanatics will continue to target Christians because they consider all non-Muslims "infidels." If the fanatics cannot tolerate moderate and secular Muslims, why should they be expected to accept those who belong to other faiths?

While the number of Christians in the Arab world continues to decline, Israel remains the only country in the Middle East where they feel safe and comfortable. That explains why Christians living in Israel have been appealing to Israel to open its borders to absorb their brothers who are fleeing from the Gaza Strip, Bethlehem, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Sudan.

Khaled Abu Toameh


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Should the U.S. De-Alert Its Nuclear Missiles?

by Peter Huessy

Taking our missiles off alert actually makes our remaining forces into even more inviting targets for possible attacks. Today's stability would be undermined significantly.

Supporters of doing away with nuclear weapons are pushing for the de-alerting of our nuclear missiles. This could mean, for example, separating the warheads from the missiles and storing them in a remote area.

These critics worry that in a crisis, an American President would feel hurried in making a decision on whether to use our sea- or land-based missiles before the other side shoots first. One recent editorial warned that in a crisis:

"The decision to launch would have to be made in 13 minutes or less. The theory of deterrence…mean[s] being prepared to shoot fast."

Now it is true that our submarines in port and not at sea could be targeted by an enemy's missiles, and some of our land–based missiles could be taken out if an adversary could effectively launch its own missiles at our hardened, dispersed silos on thousands of square miles covering parts of five states. But neither makes any sense.

Such concerns did have some validity during the height of the Cold War, when, by 1980, the Soviets had over 10,000 missile warheads aimed largely at the US. Those concerns were heightened during the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations as the Soviets dramatically expanded their deployed nuclear arsenal from the fewer-than-2000 warheads allowed under the SALT I treaty.

The fear then was that Moscow could launch thousands of warheads at America's land-based missile silos, at our submarines in port and our bombers at their bases, and eliminate a large percentage of our strategic nuclear arsenal while still being able to retain many thousands of warheads with which to coerce the US to surrender. In short, our President worried during the Cold War that in a crisis the other side might shoot first and, in a sudden attack, wipe out most of our deterrent in under 30 minutes.

The correlation of forces, as the Soviets termed the geostrategic balance between Washington and Moscow, was deemed to be moving smartly in Moscow's direction at the time of the 1980 election between then President Jimmy Carter and the Republican challenger, Ronald Reagan. A "window of vulnerability," as Reagan termed it, was opening up between the US and the Soviets. Moscow, having expanded its empire by some 18 nations in the era of "detente," was emboldened.

When Reagan became President, nuclear freeze advocates wanted to halt all US modernization plans, including the Trident submarine and its C-4 and D-5 missiles; the modernized Peacekeeper and Small ICBM and Minuteman sustainment program; the acquisition of the new B-1 and B-2 bombers and sustainment of the B-52s.

But, with his landslide 1984 victory over Walter Mondale and the subsequent unfreezing of Peacekeeper acquisition-funds in the spring of 1985, Regan defeated the freeze. This set the stage for the US to move to a far lower, but modernized nuclear force, under CFE, START and Moscow arms reduction treaties, which dropped US deployed warheads to just over 2000, down from 12,000.

The US thus engaged in two parallel efforts which dealt with the concern about the alert status of our nuclear forces. First, the US kept a fully modernized nuclear Triad -- air, sea and land -- which continued to neutralize any attack against the three legs of the US nuclear Triad—bombers, submarines and land-based missiles. Second, through arms control -- dramatic reductions in warheads -- the number of warheads on each missile was reduced but strategic stability was enhanced. Our land-based missiles, Minuteman, were reduced to one warhead per missile, and widely dispersed across thousands of square miles, making them thoroughly unattractive targets.

These streamlinings not only transformed our land-based missiles from attractive targets during the Cold War to unattractive targets in the post-Cold War era, but also from destabilizing elements to extremely stabilizing ones. Any pre-emptive strike now by Moscow against any one element of the US Triad during a crisis is therefore only the most remote possibility. An adversary could hit some of our land-based missiles, or submarines in port, or bombers not airborne, but hitting all three simultaneously would be so fraught with risk as to be a remote worry. Some elements of each leg would survive, particularly our submarines on patrol at sea, so Moscow could only consider an attack a miserable idea.

The conclusion, therefore, that in a crisis our President would have only 13 minutes in which to decide to launch our missiles is nothing but bunk. To claim that an American President would have no choice in a crisis but recklessly to launch our weapons significantly undermines stability: it might even induce our adversaries to decide that in a crisis it would be better for them if they shot first.

There is, in fact, no requirement now to launch "fast:" The widespread force of Minuteman missiles spread over five US states makes any kind of effective attack against the missiles both impossible and irrational. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Minuteman missiles are totally survivable and thus no US President is under any compulsion to "launch fast."

As leading experts on nuclear matters -- such as former General Larry Welch, Ambassador Linton Brooks, Frank Miller, former General Frank Klotz, former Strategic Command head General Chilton, among many others -- have concluded, taking our missiles off alert actually makes our remaining nuclear forces into even more inviting targets for possible attack. Today's stability would be undermined significantly: it could merely make the "other guy shoot fast."

Worse, the Minuteman and the Trident would not even be useable if de-alerted. If the other side decided surreptitiously to re-alert its forces, there might be a "secret race to re-arm," but it would be one-sided in the other side's favor. Our Triad force elements would be totally vulnerable: What threat would there be in our launching a rocket with no warhead on it?

This problem could especially damaging if the US were to collect all missile warheads and store them elsewhere -- an act that would produce the most attractive target ever: a few storage facilities, each with hundreds of nuclear warheads. We would be inviting -- not deterring -- an attack. Even supporters of de-alerting acknowledge this failing.

In short, attacking any or all of our 420-450 Minuteman silos makes absolutely no sense. Each would require an adversary to use two incoming, or attacking, warheads to ensure the silos were destroyed. But even then, there is a high likelihood that many of our land-based missiles would survive — estimates are as high as 30-40%. So there is no vulnerability problem that is begging for a de-alerting solution. There is no requirement or compulsion to "prompt launch," and thus no need to change the alert status of our missiles.

The fear that an American President would be prompted to launch our missiles in port or in silos before they were attacked completely misses the reality of today's deterrent. No rational adversary could believe they would eliminate our deterrent force with an initial attack. Why? Because the US has a survivable and second-strike capability: submarines at sea, ICBMs that survive, and bombers that could be returned to alert and launched for survivability during a crisis.

The US thus has hundreds of warheads that would survive and are capable of deterring any current or foreseeable adversary---but only if we maintain, sustain and modernize our nuclear deterrent forces. We should preserve the stabilizing Triad and continue to maintain a very high ratio of our missiles and submarines and bombers (now over 500) against the array of adversary warheads.

As noted, supporters of de-alerting admit that its benefits cannot be verified, and that in a crisis there would still be a rush to put forces back on alert. But like a three year-old banging his spoon on his high chair demanding the world feed him what he wants, they demand that, whatever the reality may be, we nevertheless have to figure out a way to do what is foolhardy, unnecessary and dangerous.

Underlying the push for de-alerting, though usually unstated, is the assumption that once de-alerted, these forces can safely be eliminated. After all, some have argued, if the forces are de-alerted and war does not break out, they apparently are not needed.

At the moment, therefore, de-alerting is a senseless posture in search of a problem. It is also a backdoor means of reducing US nuclear forces -- a policy that, regardless of its dubious wisdom, its pacifist supporters, insistent on "first the numbers, then the strategy," apparently think must be pursued despite the risks to US national security in inviting adventurism.

In reality, an adversary would have nothing to gain by attacking Minuteman silos in a crisis. Thus, the panic over the deployed US missiles on three Minutemen bases or at two US submarine bases is both misplaced and irrational -- in itself dangerous.

It is misplaced in that the robust US Triad makes a successful adversarial attack impossible. It is irrational in that such de-alerting would in actuality make the geostrategic situation more unstable. And it is dangerous in that it makes the use of nuclear weapons in a crisis more likely than ever, thus creating the very problem it purports to solve.

The US deterrent Triad has kept the peace for well over half a century. As former USAF Chief of Staff and SAC Commander General Larry Welch said: The US nuclear deterrent has worked perfectly. And for nearly seven decades. It is time to drop such errant proposals as de-alerting, and get on with the important job of preserving and updating a deterrent that, as the Constitution requires, so successfully "provides for the common defense."

Peter Huessy


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Indian Shia and Sunni Unite in Hating Israel

by Mohshin Habib

Although Shia and Sunnis do not pray together, as both sects have the same goal – hostility to Israel – the Shia cleric, to set a precedent, recently asked the Sunni Imam to lead a prayer service attended by both congregations.

A group of Indian Shia clerics, led by a prominent Shia Islamic leader, Kalbe Jawwad, has demanded breaking ties with Israel. In May Kalbe Jawwad, a cleric and member of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, alleged that there has been a "flood of terror attacks in India" ever since Israel established an embassy there, and accused the Congress Party-led government of India of defaming the Muslim community as a whole.

The clerics accuse Israel and the United States of being the "biggest sponsors" of international terrorism, and are recommending that India focus on improving relations with Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority.

Maulana Jawwad, the most influential Wakf leader in India, has been organizing Muslims to demonstrate to pressure the central government of India to be more responsive to their demands. Wakf, an Arabic word, means "an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law, donating building, land and cash for Muslims' charitable purposes."

Jawwad is also celebrated for holding the largest ever anti-U.S.-Israel-Denmark demonstration in Lucknow, the capital city of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Jawwad has invited a leader of the Sunni sect of India -- the Imam-E-Jummah, or Imam of the Friday prayer -- of the highly regarded Shahi Asafi Masque of Lucknow, Mawlana Khalid, to join his campaign.

Although Shiites and Sunnis do not pray together, as both sects have the same goal -- hostility to Israel -- the Shia cleric, to set a precedent, recently requested the Sunni Imam to lead a prayer service attended by both Shia and Sunni congregations.

On 30 March 2012, after the Friday prayer in Lucknow, thousands of Muslims held an anti-Israel protest led by Sunni Maulana Khalid Rasheed, demanding the "liberation" of Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque.

The Shia cleric, Maulana Jawwad, has taken charge of rescuing Karbala Motamadud-Daula, a building occupied by the Freemason Temple since 1879. Maulana Jawwad started a protest movement last year to seek the ouster of illegal occupants from it; and the Shia Central Wakf Board formed a 21-member committee headed by Jawwad.

At the same time, Indian Muslims are concerned about increasing ties between India and Israel, especially after the recent decision to establish an Israeli consulate in Bangalore, cooperation in boosting trade from $5 billion to $15 billion, and initiating an extradition treaty between the two. The Muslims of India, not only Uttar Pradesh, have unbroken relations with the Pakistani Muslims, who migrated from India during the partition of the sub-continent in 1947. Moreover, most of the Indian Muslims, whether Shia or Sunni, do not approve of India's policy on Afghanistan.

There are about 180 million Muslims in India, with approximately 25% of them Shia. In Uttar Pradesh, Jawwad's state, although less than 20% of the population are Muslims, they nevertheless have a strong influence on the society and in politics. The sitting government of Uttar Pradesh has also been supportive of Muslims.

Although the Shia and Sunni have long been mutually hostile, in recent years, as they found a common platform over which to instigate violence -- Israel, Jews and Wakf property -- their antagonism toward one another has significantly decreased.

Mohshin Habib


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Israeli Leftist Repents Land-for-Peace Folly

by P. David Hornik

I recently went up north for Shabbat. I spent hours just looking at the mountains of the Golan Heights as they reddened toward evening. But slowly the pure pleasure I was getting out of their amazing beauty was replaced by a deep discomfort.

So wrote left-of-center Israeli columnist Ari Shavit on Thursday in Haaretz (full text available by scrolling down here). He knew well, of course, that beyond the tranquil scene he was witnessing lay Syria, a zone of turmoil and brutality.

Indeed, Shavit

couldn’t help but think what would be happening today if the ideological position I had long held—peace in return for the Golan—had been accepted…. I have to admit that if the worldview I had championed had been applied, battalions of global jihadis would be camping near Ein Gev [beside the Sea of Galilee] and there would be Al-Qaida bases on the shores of [the lake]. Northern Israel and the country’s water sources would be bordering this summer on an armed, extremist Islamic entity that could not be controlled.

Shavit and most of the Israeli left had, of course—until the chaos erupted in Syria last year, when they fell silent—long advocated restoring the Golan Heights to the tender mercies of the Assad regime. In 2000 then-prime minister Ehud Barak tried in earnest to hand the Golan over to Hafez al-Assad, father of the current embattled president. Assad responded by posing conditions that even the “peace”-hungry Barak could not meet—inducing relief among realistic Israelis and frustration among the left.

Shavit now sees, though, that even in the hypothetical scenario of the Assads accepting the Golan offer and then keeping the peace, they always headed a despised, minority regime in a region marked by severe volatility. He envisions global-jihad forces on the shores of the lake because, of course, such forces are now running rampant in Syria and threatening to fill its leadership vacuum once Bashar Assad falls—though, if so, it will fortunately be with the formidable Golan Heights between them and Israel.

Indeed, Shavit’s Shabbat idyll continued to be disturbed by visions:

If we’d had peace in the 2000s, then today we’d already have bloodshed. If we had gone to bed with Assad a decade ago, today we’d be waking up with jihad…. Strange substances would be flowing into the Jordan River tributaries….

The Syrian Golan would be turned into a black hole far more dangerous than the black hole of the Sinai desert…. Sooner or later, Israel would have been forced to once again ascend [the Golan]. But this time such an operation would bring ballistic missile barrages on Tel Aviv. The peace I had believed in and fought for would have turned into an enormous war in which it’s possible thousands would have been killed.

How significant is Shavit’s mea culpa? First, it should be noted that Shavit has long been somewhat of an anomaly on the Israeli left, occasionally able to listen to right-wingers and not just vilify them. While criticizing Binyamin Netanyahu, Shavit portrays him as a complex human being and has given him lengthy, respectful interviews. In the late 1990s Shavit made waves with an article castigating his fellow leftists for mindlessly demonizing Netanyahu during his first stint as prime minister.

Yet, for all that, Shavit has been a card-carrying “land for peace” acolyte, and the confession he published on Thursday is symptomatic. No doubt his colleagues on the left—and especially his home paper Haaretz—keep robotically charging Netanyahu with failing to “make peace” with the Palestinians and with “rushing into war” with Iran. Unlike in the 1990s, though, the left no longer even tries to organize demonstrations for “peace.” Nor, this summer, has it been able to revive last year’s brief but widespread “social justice” rallies, instead mustering at most a few thousand radicals and malcontents to bellow inane slogans in the streets of Tel Aviv.

The reason is that Israel is in a different, sober mood now, as the upheavals in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere have revealed levels of instability and primitive hatred that have surprised even some of the realists. The Israeli left still has strongholds in the media, universities, and justice system and still makes noise, but no longer stands a chance electorally. With Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad having told a gathering of Muslim ambassadors in Tehran last week that “Any freedom lover and justice seeker in the world must do its best for the annihilation of the Zionist regime”—and with even the civilized world reacting with bored silence—Israelis no longer want to hear that Netanyahu is the obstacle to peace.

P. David Hornik


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Israel Policy Forum: The Network of Intrigue

by Moshe Dann

A recent letter to PM Netanyahu opposing the Levy Report organized by the Israel Policy Forum (IPF) and signed by 40 critics of Jewish communities built in Judea and Samaria (“settlements”) received wide media attention. With perhaps a few exceptions, those who signed the letter did not read the report, since it was only in Hebrew at that time. This was a typical hit-job by a marginal, tiny elite organization that promotes the “two-state solution,” a second or third Arab Palestinian state and evacuating Jews from the area.

Touted as “American Jewish leaders,” the individuals who signed, except for those associated with the Reform Movement, Eric Yoffee and David Saperstein, represent no organizations or constituencies. They are mega-bucks “philanthropists,” very wealthy businessmen like Charles Bronfman, Lester Crown, Marvin Lender, owner of Lender’s Bagels, and Richard Pearlstone, financier and real estate mogul, who bought their way into Jewish communal organizations, Susi Gelman (heiress to the Levi Strauss fortune), Edith Everett who runs a family foundation, some corporate lawyers, a few academics, a former Clinton advisor, and two former US ambassadors to Israel.

IPF was founded in 1993 with PM Rabin’s blessing to support the Oslo Accords and counter AIPAC – and to carry out propaganda campaigns as part of a network of American organizations with a similar purpose, like Americans for Peace Now, and New Israel Fund, and left-wing Israeli NGOs like ACRI, B’Tselem, etc, think tanks like INSS and the Peres Center for Peace.

IPS’ first president was Jack Bendheim, a wealthy businessman (Phibro and PAHC holdings) and philanthropist living in Riverdale, NY with a home and social and business contacts in Israel. Jonathan A. Jacoby, IPF’s founding executive VP, worked for Credit Suisse and UBS and is currently Policy and Campaigns Manager at Oxfam America. NGO-Monitor’s research documents that Oxfam is an anti-Israel organization that supports BDS campaigns.

According to Prof Ofira Seliktar (Divided We Stand) in 1996 the IPF, led by Bendheim, along with billionaire S.Daniel Abraham (SlimFast), and Sara Ehrman (Americans for Peace Now) played a major role in convincing then-President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright to apply more pressure on PM Netanyahu for further withdrawals, halting settlement activity and concessions to Arafat as part of the Wye Agreements.

In 2010 IPF collapsed and was absorbed into the Center for American Progress, a controversial organization that has been accused of being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

CAP was started in 2003 by Herb and Marian Sandler, California mortgage/banking tycoons who are generous funders of the anti-Israel NGO Human Rights Watch. CAP also receives funding from George Soros and his Open Society Institute (OSI). Mort Halperin is on the board of CAP and IPF also heads OSI. Daniel Halperin is the program director at IPF.

MJ Rosenberg, a severe critic of Israel, was IPF’s policy director until 2009, when he moved to Media Matters (until fired after referring to Israel supporters as “Israel firsters,” a term widely regarded as anti-Semitic) and was a frequent columnist for the Jerusalem Post during David Horovitz’s tenure as senior editor.

The current president of IPF, Peter A. Joseph, runs Palladium Equity Partners and JLL, large private investment firms. Joseph is on the Board of Governors of the Reform Movement’s Hebrew Union College and local civic organizations.

Chairing IPF is Larry Zicklin, retired chief of Neuberger Berman, the largest asset management company in the world (over $200 billion) and former president of the NY Federation. Although lacking wide support, with access to enormous wealth, Joseph and Zicklin and friends try to wield political influence.

For example, IPF holds an annual Leadership Event to support their agenda, inviting former President Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, former PMs Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, and assorted failing left-wing Israeli politicians like Haim Ramon and Isaac Herzog.

The IPF helped convince newly-elected President Obama to adopt its Middle East Roadmap, basically the Saudi Initiative (Israel’s return to the 1949 Armistice lines, evacuation of all settlements, and the incorporation of Arab refugees and their descendents into Israel – in return for “normal relations”).

Peter Joseph funds Israel-basher Peter Beinart through the New America Foundation, one of George Soros’ beneficiaries. The head of the NAF’s Middle East Task Force is Daniel Levy, who also directs the Prospects for Peace Initiative at The Century Foundation. He was one of the key people in the Geneva Initiative, which proposes broad Israeli withdrawal and concessions, and is on the advisory board of J Street. Levy was close to Gideon Meir, an opponent of Israeli settlements who ran Israel’s embassy in London and Levy worked for Peres confidents Yossi Beilin and Haim Ramon (architects of the Oslo Agreements) and DM Ehud Barak.

Daniel’s father, Sir Michael Levy, one of Portland Trust’s senior officers, is a major fundraiser for the British Labor Party, has extensive business and political connections in Israel, like Pres. Shimon Peres, and is a staunch opponent of settlements.

The Portland Trust, one of the largest private equity groups in the world, is run by Sir Ronald Cohen, a close friend of Shimon Peres; it sponsors projects intended to advance another Arab Palestinian state, in addition to Jordan.

Cohen supported Ariel Sharon’s policy of retreat from Gaza and Northern Shomron, as the beginning of a more extensive withdrawal. Shimon Peres, who was Foreign Minister at the time, was their direct link to policy makers. Cohen & friends did little or nothing to help the Jews who were expelled, however, as they were more interested in investing in building casinos and resorts in Gaza, and helping the Arab sector. They were assisted by James Wolfenshonn, then head of the World Bank who arranged massive loans to the PA. The Portland Fund’s CEO, Brig.Gen (ret) Eival Giladi, a close Sharon advisor, along with Dov Weisglass, and Gen (ret) Dan Halutz, former COS, organized and carried out Israel’s retreat from Gaza and Northern Shomron – and were handsomely rewarded.

Working with Shimon Peres and the PCP, the Portland Trust, with EU assistance, helps Arab and Israeli businessmen and NGOs advance a Palestinian state. They organized the “Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce” to finance Arab building and business projects in the West Bank. In addition, Cohen runs Apax, a large private investment firm with projects in Israel, which supports the British Labor Party and former heads Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and thus, wields influence in the British government.

These organizations and individuals were enthusiastic supporters of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon (which gave Hezbollah its base) and the Gaza Strip (which became Hamastan) and they continue to support Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.

This connection may help explain why then-PM Ehud Barak in 2000 granted the PA oil and gas rights off the Gaza coast, in which British Gas (BG) – represented by Tony Blair — was awarded sole exploration and recovery rights. This strange and mysterious deal – which was never approved by the government — was never examined or investigated.

IPF supported a vicious anti- Israel critic, Charles Freeman to head the US National Intelligence Council.

Nick Bunzl, Executive Director of IPF has held a range of leadership positions in the Jewish community, most notably for the JCC in Manhattan from 1997-2006, including interim executive director and president; he continues to sit on their Board of Directors. Bunzl worked in investment management and international trading, and was Chairman and Managing Director of BTH Ltd, a London-based international group of companies – connected to Sir Michael Levy.

The Manhattan JCC has been criticized for promoting BDS campaigns against Israel.

Other IPF funders include David Avital, who runs MTP investment Group and supports Seeds of Peace (a pro-Palestinian group), J Street, and local civic groups; Marvin Lender runs a half-billion-dollar bagel company and his family foundation; David W Sussman, VP of NBC Universal: Neil Barsky, who ran Alson Capital Partners until he cashed in and now advises the Columbia Journalism Review; James E. Walker III; Marcia Ricklis, heiress to her father Mushullam Ricklis’ fortune. IPF also receives funds from the Alan B Slifka Foundation and the Tides Foundation, which also fund pro-Palestinian anti-settlement groups in Israel.

David Elcott, who replaced Jonathan Jacoby as IPF director in 2006 has supported dialogue with and recognition of Hamas and is opposed to settlements. His like-minded brother, Shalom Elcott, heads the Orange County Federation.

Prof Deborah Lipstadt holds the Dorot Chair in Holocaust Studies at Emory University. Dorot Foundation funds many left-wing causes like NIF and J Street (whose assets are managed by Neuberger Berman).

Other IPF funders are LA billionaire entertainment moguls Norman Lear, David Geffen and Michael Medavoy – all ardent Obama supporters.

In July of this year, Abigail Disney, heiress of the family fortune, announced her participation in a boycott of Israeli products “from the occupied territories” via one of the companies in which she holds shares, Shamrock. Her financial advisor is LA businessman Stanley Gold, who advises Shamrock, is prominent in the LA Jewish Federation and IPF, and supports left-wing causes in Israel, like Hiddush, a Reform Movement front group that promotes “freedom of religion” as a platform for attacking the Orthodox religious establishment.

IPF also works with the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace (JAJP), (Brit Tzedek v’Shalom), founded in 2002 and merged with J Street in 2009, whichcalls for evacuating all Israeli settlements and withdrawing Israeli military forces from Judea and Samaria.

JAJP’s petition, signed by Eric Alterman, Gordon Fellman, Ed Asner, Morton Halperin, Stanley Hoffman , Michael Lerner, Eli Pariser, and Gloria Steinem, calls for $3 billion in cash incentives as a payoff for moving inside Israel’s pre-1967 lines. They also support BDS campaigns against products produced by Jews in Judea and Samaria.

JAJP’s President is Marcia Freedman, a former member of the Israeli Knesset (Meretz) and a member of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace and Women in Blacklives in San Francisco where she is active in anti-Israel groups, like Jewish Voice for Peace and is on J Street’s Advisory Board. JAJP has received funding from the Ford Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Shefa Fund, the Samuel Rubin Foundation, the Tides Foundation, and The Funding Exchange.

Only the tip of the iceberg, this explains key elements of the juggernaut against Israel.

Add hundreds of millions of Euros that European countries pour into anti-Israel, anti-settlement and pro-Palestinian causes and NGOs, in addition to the UN and its various organs, like UNHRC, UNESCO and UNRWA, heavily funded by US taxpayers.

Add the free anti-settlement services provided by Israeli judicial institutions, like High Court justices, State Prosecutor, State Attorney and Civil Administration – in addition to politicians like DM Ehud Barak. And then add a gaggle of leftist Israeli academics and columnists.

And, to fill the cup of hatred to the top, add the world’s major media which attack Israel and especially settlements every day.

Many of the people mentioned above would probably resent being called anti-Israel. “We are not against the state,” they might say, “only against settlements.” But where does that place them in view of the clear and present danger of a second or third Arab Palestinian state west of the Jordan River? By supporting only Palestinian interests and narratives, they have exposed Israeli Jews to harm and therefore have become essentially anti-Israeli.

Ignoring the threat of Arab terrorism might pass in the fashion shops of LA and skyscrapers of NYC, but here, on the ground, risking someone else’s life – and perhaps Israel’s existence — for political beliefs is immoral.

If the IPF were just another “non-partisan think tank,” one might be tempted to overlook its vast network of connections in the financial, social, business and political worlds. Although small, it is part of a powerfully leveraged system that seeks to bring Israel to its knees.

Moshe Dann


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Jihadists Vie for Supremacy in Syria

by Rick Moran

Things are going from bad to worse in Syria. The counterattack by President Bashar Assad’s forces on Aleppo is turning the once thriving city of 2 million souls into a charnel house. Bombings, strafings, artillery and tank fire are reducing entire neighborhoods to rubble while people flee by the hundreds of thousands.

But, as the Guardian reports, hundreds of foreign jihadists have infiltrated into Syria over the last few months in order to fight Assad’s forces in the name of Allah. Many have attached themselves to units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Others have sought out domestic Syrian jihadist groups, independent of the FSA, who are just now starting to organize themselves into a fighting force. If they are successful, the Islamist fighters could challenge the FSA for supremacy and replace them as the main group of fighters battling the Syrian army.

Already there are signs that the jihadists are receiving plenty of money with which to purchase arms and equipment from wealthy donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And while the US, the West, the Gulf States, and Turkey are all refusing to supply the FSA with tanks, artillery, and other heavy weapons out of fear that they would eventually fall into the hands of extremists, the FSA is in danger of eventually being absorbed into an Islamist army that would be in an excellent position to dominate a post-Assad Syria.

But there is a catch to this rosy scenario for the jihadists: nobody trusts them. In fact, some of the major jihadist groups in Syria are widely believed to be tools of President Assad’s government. The FSA looks with a jaundiced eye on any Islamist group that has taken up arms, and a poll taken last year shows that the Syrian people themselves appear to be dead set against a religious dominated government (although we were assured by all the “experts” of the secular nature of the Egyptian rebellion as well).

Who are the jihadists in Syria? There’s al-Qaeda, of course. They may be small in number but they’re strength is rising as law and order breaks down and they can operate more freely. Most of the al-Qaeda fighters are veterans of fighting the US in Iraq and are adept at setting roadside bombs. They have carried out at least two dozen attacks, according to an expert at Rand Corporation.

Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Al-Nusra Front is a domestic Syrian terrorist group that has welcomed some foreign fighters into its ranks in recent months. They have carried out more than 120 attacks since they were formed early in the year, including many car bombs that have killed dozens of civilians.

But Al-Nusra has a credibility problem. They are widely seen to be acting on the behalf of the Syrian government. Tyler Golson of The New Republic reports:

The majority of Syrians—according to anecdotal evidence from Syrian social media sites—believe that all of JN’s claimed operations were in fact perpetrated by the regime’s thugs. This, despite the fact that JN’s statements are carried over official Al-Qaeda internet channels, and despite assertions by Western intelligence agencies that JN is an Al-Qaeda affiliate bent on bringing down the Syrian regime.

Another jihadist who set himself up as an Emir in the “Islamic Emerite of Homs” may, in fact, have been acting under the orders of the Syrian government. Walid al-Boustani showed up in the city of Homs with a few fighters claiming to be with the Syrian opposition. But after several kidnappings and murders to enforce his will, the people turned on him and an FSA unit moved in to depose him. It turns out, the Lebanese-born Boustani was a member of Fatah al-Islam — a Lebanese al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group thought to be a tool of Syrian intelligence.

So, it is not so farfetched to think that some of the jihadists groups may be more interested in serving Assad’s government rather than overthrowing him. Many of the fighters are veterans of the Iraqi jihad against America. Their entry into Iraq was facilitated by the same Syrian government they now say they want to bring down.

The Faroukh Battalion is by far the largest jihadist group in Syria, boasting about 5,000 fighters. They are considered Salafists and are also the largest fighting force in the opposition. They proved themselves in the fight for Homs where it is estimated they lost 30% of their force. They have a large contingent of Syrian army defectors, but they refuse to join the FSA, preferring to remain independent.

There is also believed to be a brigade of Libyan jihadists, and a loosely organized group of Palestinians, Libyans, and Syrians known as the Tawid Brigade. The foreign fighters come from most Arab states, as well as the caucuses, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. There are even fighters from Great Britain, as a British reporter discovered when he was captured by two jihadists trying to sneak into Syria:

“I ended up running for my life, barefoot and handcuffed, while British jihadists — young men with south London accents — shot to kill,” Cantlie wrote of the pair’s attempted escape early in their captivity.

“They were aiming their Kalashnikov at a British journalist, Londoner against Londoner in a rocky landscape that looked like the Scottish Highlands,” he wrote.

Recently, there was an effort to unite the jihadists into a single organization. A group calling itself the “Syrian Revolutionaries Front” has been trying to get off the ground without much luck. But as the jihadists get organized and better armed, a natural alliance among like-minded Islamists may emerge to challenge the FSA for supremacy. This may be facilitated by a change in the flow of arms to Syrian rebels. Currently, most of the arms come in through Turkish conduits made possible by US intelligence and communications. But some of the arms distributors are unhappy about restrictions placed on who gets the weapons and may seek to set up their own distribution network that would include jihadists.

That would be a disastrous turn of events and would not bode well for the post-Assad political environment. The jihadists have already established their hatred of Alawites, Christians, Druze, and other Syrian minorities. Sectarian massacres and the mass flight of refugees would be a consequence if the extremists managed to get their hands on sophisticated weapons and sought to impose their will.

This is why the FSA says they will fight the Islamists after Assad is gone to prevent the revolution from degenerating into chaos. A high ranking FSA officer told the BBC that the FSA sees the jihadists as “a real threat after the Assad regime falls,” adding, “The jihadists’ ideology contradicts with what the FSA is fighting for.”

That may be true. But in a worrying sign of what might be coming, a commander in Saraqib told the New York Times that after inviting some jihadists into the local military council, they rejected all names for the expanded group that included any references to Syria. “They consider the entire world the Muslim homeland, so they refused any national, Syrian name,” he said.

A video surfaced of the fight in Aleppo with a song playing in the background: “The Koran in our hands, we defy our enemy, we sacrifice with our blood for religion” were some of the lyrics.

And an member of the Local Coordinating Committee complained in an interview:

“[T]he Islamic current has broken into the heart of this revolution.” When a Muslim Brotherhood member joined his group in Idlib, he said, inside of a week the man demanded that the slogans that they shouted all included, “There is no god but God.”

“Now there are more religious chants than secular ones,” Adel groused.

Ammar Abdulhamid, one of the most knowledgeable observers of the Syrian civil war, told Prof. Barry Rubin that whoever is running the military opposition to Assad will have a leg up on the political front when the war ends. “The main actors have to be derived from the ranks of the revolutionary movement inside Syria. Only when such actors become in charge can the Syrian people be assured that their revolution has succeeded.”

If those “main actors” are jihadists, it will make things difficult for Syria, for the region, and for US interests in the future.

Rick Moran


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mordechai Kedar: Terror on the Border - Who is the True Victim?

by Mordechai Kedar

Thanks to the One Who dwells on High, Israeli Intelligence, Shabak (Israel's General Security Service) and the IDF, Israel was able to foil a massive attack last Sunday, when it attacked and destroyed a terrorist cell that had infiltrated from Sinai by way of the Kerem Shalom Crossing in an Egyptian personnel carrier, intending to enter an Israeli settlement and sow within it indescribable death and destruction . In the process of the attack, the terrorists killed 18 Egyptian security people who were manning the crossing. Since then all of the analysts of the event speak of Sinai as an area without law and order, where the Bedouin do whatever they please, where jihadists have found shelter and a base for their terrorist activity; and the terrorists of Gaza are involved in everything that goes on. Much has also been said of the intention of the terrorists to drive a wedge between Egypt and Israel by causing Israel to blame its neighbor for the responsibility for the attack, since it originated from within its sovereign territory. And if a few Egyptian soldiers were killed, this is not a bad thing at all in the eyes of the jihadists, because these soldiers cooperate with an infidel regime that does not implement the Islamic Shari'a as the law of the land.

However, the circumstances that were created after the murder of the Egyptian soldiers and the failure of the terror act against Israel proves the truth of the saying: "Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan." We can only imagine how great would be the cries of joy in Gaza if 18 Israeli soldiers had been killed, heaven forbid, instead of Egyptians. Unfortunately for the people of Gaza, all of the fatalities resulting from the attack were Egyptians.

Here we will turn for a moment to one of the main components of the culture of Middle Eastern discourse: the conspiracy theory. Five days before the attack, the staff of the Bureau of the Counter-terrorism branch of the Prime minister's office issued a severe and immediate travel warning, which called on all Israelis in Sinai to return immediately to Israel because of concrete intelligence regarding an imminent attack. This announcement - according to more than a few Arab spokesmen - proves that Israel had prior information about the action; information that focused on the Kerem Shalom Crossing, before its execution. From this, many Arabs concluded that it was Israel who organized the act, saying the fact that it knew about the act proves that it was partly responsible for it. The fact that no Israeli was injured is considered additional proof of Israeli involvement and the intention of the "Zionist Entity" to place responsibility on Hamas operatives in order to justify attacking them in the future and harm the improving relations between Hamas and the new Egyptian regime.

Despite the fact that many Arabs wish to believe this conspiracy theory, many of them know that it is not so, and this is the source of the great tragedy that has befallen Gaza, because there are many who accuse Hamas of creating the background for the attack, even if the organization was not directly involved in it. The Hamas movement has already used Egyptian territory to harm Israel, and spokesmen of the Palestinian Authority, principally Dr. Jamal Nasal and Muhammad Dahlan have this week clearly cast Hamas as the party responsible for the attack and have called on Hamas to cut the ties of money, training and guidance that bind it to the jihadists in Sinai. They claim that Hamas has been developing the terror infrastructure in Sinai for years, and now the Egyptians are reaping the stinking fruit of the activities of Hamas.

And herein lies the tragedy, because the people of Gaza know well that the Egyptian army knows well what the spokesmen of the Palestinian Authority say, and is already preparing a dual response: one part is vigorous action against the terror nests in the North of Sinai and perhaps in other parts of the peninsula as well, and the other part is to take revenge against Hamas and Gaza. There are reports that some of the members of the terror squad that carried out the attack on Sunday were members of the organization called "Jaish al-Islam", the armed militia of the Dua'mish tribe, which lives in the fortified compound in the Sabra neighborhood in Gaza. Another organization that was apparently involved in the attack is "al-Tawhid wa'al-jihad" which is present in Gaza as well as in Sinai. The people of Gaza are consumed by the sense that Gaza will be the victim of the failed terrorist action and they express this concern.

The situation in Gaza in recent months, especially since the Muslim Brotherhood won the parliamentary elections and the presidency in Egypt, has vastly improved compared to the past, because the Rafah Crossing is almost totally open, goods enter the area freely and people come and go into and out of Egypt almost without limitation. The blockade on the Gaza Strip - in which Egypt took an integral part - has been almost totally dismantled, and with it also the sense of distress that has burdened the people of Gaza ever since Hamas took over the Strip in June of 2007.

The Egyptian military holds the Hamas government responsible for the part that the people of Gaza took in the action, because in its view - Hamas is capable of imposing discipline upon those under its control and is obligated to do so. Therefore the people of Gaza fear that the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, and especially President Mursi, will have no choice but to surrender to the will of the Egyptian military which wants to renew the blockade on Gaza, whether as an act of self-defense on the part of Egypt and its soldiers, or in retaliation for Hamas's responsibility in the killing of Egyptian soldiers.

Dr. Mustafa Yusuf al-Lidawi expresses the fear of the Gazans in a most concrete way in his article entitled "Darkness encompasses the Gaza Strip",
with the following words (my comments are in parenthesis - M.K.).

"It was with great sadness and intense sorrow that the residents of Gaza received the news about the accursed attack on the Egyptian soldiers on the Egyptian-Israeli border (not the border of Gaza and Israel). They were struck speechless, their tongues adhered to their palates, their breath was stopped and on their Ramadan night (when they are supposed to rejoice) they were confounded ... whatever harmed the Egyptian people, its sons and the guardians of the homeland also harmed the entire Palestinian people (Hamas too) because the event is terrible, the damage is tremendous, the losses incalculable, the damage extensive and the results were far worse than could have been imagined. Sorrow has engulfed every home and worry consumes every heart... Everyone wonders who could have carried out such a terrible slaughter such as this; those who did this ignored the sanctity of Ramadan, and the holiness of Muslim blood, as the soldiers sat down to break the fast with an entreaty to the Master of the World to accept their prayer, guard the homeland and return them to their homes in peace.

Nothing can justify the attack. Its perpetrators are murderers, criminals, corrupt and defiling, conspirators and traitors, misguided and deceiving, enemies and hate-mongers, foolish and stupid, their only desire is to destroy, their goal is to corrupt and their aim is to harm the interests of the people (the Egyptians? the Palestinians?) and the nation (the Arab? the Islamic?). They are not Muslims and are not believers, they are not rebels for a noble cause and are not nationalists. They are also not Palestinians because he who kills his brothers is not Muslim, and he who attacks his own people is not a believer. Whoever causes distress to his people (by causing the closing of Rafah), who besieges his own family and acts to deny them light, food, medicine and all of the necessities of life is not Muslim, and whoever acts against the interests of his people, and serves the goals of its enemy and achieves that which the occupation has not succeeded in achieving, is not Palestinian...

Egypt today is grieving, wounded, weeping, bereaved and sighing, it has declared mourning on its faithful members and is determined to capture the murderers and do to them what they deserve... Palestine in general and Gaza in particular are no less downcast than Egypt, and not less shocked. Our warm tears flow continuously, our sighs are deep and our wounds are bleeding. We console the Egyptian people... and say to them: do not punish an entire people for what a small contemptible group has done, whether they are Palestinian or Egyptian, there is no difference. The group is not Palestinian even if some of the members are Palestinians, because they do not represent the Palestinians... do not allow the magnitude of the crime to cause you to punish the residents of the Gaza Strip, to close its only point of access to the world and to cut its arteries of life that come from Egypt. Do not prevent the people of Gaza to travel to the Haj in Mecca, and do not prevent the sons of Gaza from coming to Egypt, their homeland. Do not restrict entry of food to the people of Gaza (which arrives by way of Egyptian ports) because we are saddened just as you are, more angry than you and more determined than you are to take revenge on the murderers. We ask you to rise above the event, not to punish us collectively and not to deny from a whole people the sources of livelihood. Please open quickly the gates of the Strip and do not close them; prevent the return of the residents' suffering as it was in the past... because they love you and wish for you only the best, they do not accept any harm that may befall you and will not be silent about those who attacked you and harmed you. The sons of Gaza will pursue anyone who is proven to be guilty and will settle accounts with anyone whose crime is revealed. They will not cover up crime and will not support exploitation and aggression.

Allah, the prophet, the believers, the nation of Islam, the Egyptian people, the entire Palestinian people and especially the people of Gaza, all reject the criminal, aggressive, traitorous murderers, who carried out this terrible crime . We reject them ... and call out to Egypt to pursue them, and to punish them with the most severe punishment."

With this article the writer admits the responsibility of some residents of Gaza for the attack, and he expresses the fear that exists in the Gaza Strip that the Egyptians might close the Rafah Crossing and destroy tunnels, to prevent terrorists from getting into Sinai. He knows that the Egyptian military will do this without hesitation, because when this military becomes enraged it acts "without the constraint of a High Court and human rights organizations", with great determination and without pity. It may soon become clear that the actual victim of the action on Sunday is, oddly, the Gaza Strip.

Several conclusions can be drawn from this event:

  • Israel must retain its intelligence and military capabilities even in neighboring countries with which Israel has a peace agreement.
  • Countries that ignore terror will themselves become victims of terror.
  • Israel must immediately initiate an explanatory campaign that will show why the blockade on Gaza, whether justifiable or not, is not Israeli, but Egyptian.
  • The lack of control that reigns in Sinai may also take hold in Syria, where hundreds of armed groups are also active.
  • The State of Israel must be vigilant and attuned to all activities directed against the regime in the entire Negev, because when the laws of planning and building are not enforced it is the beginning of the decline of the rule of law, which may ultimately give way to a situation similar to that which exists in Sinai. No one can say "It can't happen here".


Dr. Kedar is available for lectures in the U.S. and Canada

Dr. Mordechai Kedar ( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav.

Links to Dr. Kedar's recent articles on this blog:

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.