Saturday, June 28, 2014

Israel's Weak Link

by Dror Eydar

1. The man destined to become the biggest hero of ancient Greece was just a newborn when his mother, Thetis, baptized him in the River Styx. The water covered the baby's body and made him invulnerable -- except for his heel, by which his mother held him. Indeed, Achilles became a great hero, defeating the legendary Troy. But just before Troy was vanquished, Paris fired a poisoned arrow into Achilles' vulnerable heel, killing him. Since then, the term Achilles' heel has come to mean a point of weakness in any body, whatever it may be. 

The Israel Defense Forces are big and strong. That is a well-known fact. But terrorism cannot be combated with conventional army warfare. Terrorism aims to sow fear and make people afraid of everyday tasks. The abduction of three boys while they make their way home from school is not "battle," as serious an incident as it may be. It is a strategic attack that has put an entire country on edge. It was the abduction of only two Israelis that sparked the Second Lebanon War. 

It seems that as the years went by, the terror organizations managed to hone in on Israel's Achilles' heel: abductions. More than bombings. A bombing happens, then it is over. An abduction is an ongoing attack. Using psychological warfare and with the help of radical groups and useful idiots they ensure that the wound continues to bleed until the final objective is achieved: surrender and release of murderers. The same murderers who will mastermind the next attack, and, of course, the next abduction. 

A successful abduction is the final link in a well-known chain. But the preceding links are not automatically associated with efforts to defeat Israel. Here's how this phenomenon may work: 

2. The checkpoints set up in Judea and Samaria are there to catch wanted terrorists, to force terror operatives to take alternate routes and thus limit their freedom to travel from one place to another or to move weapons from one place to another. In other words, checkpoints are there to save Israeli lives. Contrary to the false "apartheid" propaganda, it is the Jews who are forbidden from traveling on certain roads, while the Palestinians are free to use any road they please. In certain places there are checkpoints, but most of them have been removed due to massive pressure applied by Machsom Watch and other leftist groups. The authorities called it a "calculated risk." One of the checkpoints that was removed used to be located on an inner Gush Etzion road linking the Jewish communities. It was from this road that the three boys were kidnapped two weeks ago. 

The fewer the checkpoints, the greater the risks. When terrorists attack, a curfew is imposed on a specific area. Immediately the leftist groups cry out against what they describe as collective punishment of innocent people. It won't help to argue that the curfew (or blockade) is actually meant to apprehend the culprits and protect the population from unnecessary harm. After the horrific murder of the Fogel family in Itamar in March, 2011, Raya Yaron of Machsom Watch was filmed helping a woman in the village of Awarta in the northern West Bank. She was there with other left-wing activists to support the residents of the village as they faced IDF operations. The only thing was that the Palestinian woman turned out to be the mother of Hakim Awad, one of the Fogel family murderers. 

Next, the Israeli soldiers locate a terrorist in one of the houses, either on his way to, or coming back from a terror attack. They can storm in, risking setting off booby traps, or they can ask a neighbor, who is also a relative, to go into the house and get the suspect to turn himself in. In all the times that this was done (save one) the residents of the house refrained from harming their relatives. But no. Much to the benefit of the terrorist, Israel's High Court of Justice has outlawed what has come to be known as "neighbor protocol", following a petition submitted by Adalah -- the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel -- and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. So what ends up happening? Our soldiers risk their lives, and some lose their lives. 

If Israel apprehends a suspect who possesses vital information that could save a life (a ticking time bomb), he will be taken in for questioning, where he will enjoy another courtesy: it is forbidden to shake him in efforts to extract the information. Another High Court decision resulting from a petition submitted by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, the Center for the Defense of the Individual and ACRI.

So, if you can't shake, what can you do? The bomb is ticking, isn't it? The answer is (almost) nothing. At least can we hold the terrorist for a month, two months, until he agrees to talk? Administrative detention? No way, the leftist groups will yell, and petition the court. 

In the event that we do manage to collect some information from a suspect, or even a confession, crafty lawyers from this or that organization will come along and secure a plea agreement that sweetens the terrorist's punishment. And where can one find a prosecutor who will refuse a plea agreement and stick to the letter of the law?

3. Finally, the terrorist ends up going to prison. He is then immediately offered the assistance of the Palestinian Ministry for Prisoner Affairs, funded directly by the Palestinian Authority (in other words, partially funded by the American taxpayer). The terrorist's family is financially supported by the PA, as is the prisoner himself. Meanwhile, you know who embark on a mission to ensure improved conditions for the poor terrorist while he is in prison.

In an interview last week, former head of the Israel Prisons Service, Shlomo Toizer, confessed that the Palestinian security prisoners enjoy better conditions than Israeli criminals in Israel's jails. 

So once the terrorist is cozy in his prison cell, the efforts to shorten the sentence, or even secure a pardon, begin. A senior Justice Ministry official remarked that every prisoner needs a "projected release." Thus, the pressure on the Justice Ministry and on the president mounts. The Israeli Arab MKs also make their voices heard. 

Then, if the pardon efforts fail, the abduction comes. It is the age-old dilemma of which came first, the chicken or the egg: Sometimes the abduction happens because we couldn't get the vital information out of the ticking time bomb, thanks to you know who. And now there is an Israeli captive in the hands of a terrorist organization. 

As we all know, it doesn't end there. Once the Israeli civilian, or soldier, is abducted, the leftist mechanisms launch another campaign aimed at ending the abduction ordeal not by vanquishing terror, but by surrendering to it. 

When Gilad Schalit was abducted in 2006, a petition was signed by some 100 habitual petition signatories, calling for the release of the kidnapped soldier. Most of the signatories belonged to the radical Left, which, prior to the kidnapping, fought against the soldier to prevent him from using the "neighbor protocol" or from shaking suspects. Now the soldier was suddenly their brother, and it wasn't long before Schalit became a "son to us all." Then there were marches, and calls for securing his release "at any cost." We mustn't abandon him, they said. Don't worry, the IDF is big and strong, it will know how to handle the wave of freed terrorists, they said. Then came high schoolers' petitions, and (false) rumors of a dramatic decline in enlistment to the IDF. It was pandemonium. 

Anyone who thinks that the prime minister, as powerful as he may be, can withstand such a massive empire built over the course of so many years, is sadly mistaken. A prime minister is the sum average of all the different vectors of the state. We can stop this campaign against Israel's security and our righteous path only if we, as a society, support our government, refuse to yield and erect an iron wall of morality and values to ward off this group before they tear us apart. We must fight against this chain, whose links I presented above.

Incidentally, you will not be surprised to learn that all the leftist organizations mentioned above, along with other radical left-wing groups, are funded by the New Israel Fund. Check the latest NGO Monitor report for proof. 

One last comment: As I write this, I learn that a legal precursor of a High Court petition has been filed against the state's plan to demolish the home of Ziad Awad, a terrorist who killed senior Israeli police officer Baruch Mizrahi on Passover eve. Who submitted the petition? The Center for the Defense of the individual. Over the last two years, the center has received $200,000 from you know who. It is their method.

Dror Eydar


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

Caroline Glick: The Names of the Victims

by Caroline Glick


Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

Three families in Israel are in agony. On June 12, when their sons Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gil-Ad Shaer were kidnapped by Islamic savages, the Fraenkels, Yifrahs and Shaers entered a new world where every breath they take is filled with devastating guilt – that they breathe free while their sons suffer unknown miseries.

Every moment that passes is filled with crushed hope that they will get word that their sons are free, and then the word doesn’t come. And it doesn’t come the next moment, or the next.
And so they will live, in agony, until this ordeal has ended.

Our hearts go out to these families. Our prayers are continuously directed towards them. And in a profound sense that is uniquely Israeli, the people of Israel share their pain. And with this pain comes a sincere and overpowering desire to do something to bring the captive teenagers home.

What can be done? There are only two ways for Israel to free hostages.

The government can devote all necessary resources to gathering actionable intelligence that will lead IDF troops to the boys.

Or the government can surrender to the terrorists by freeing thousands of Palestinian terrorist murderers from Israeli prisons.

So far, the government is concentrating on Option 1.

But Option 2 is lurking around the corner. And we need to confront it now – head on – before it takes center stage.

Over the past 30 years, Israel has released thousands of terrorists from its prisons in exchange for hostages. Thousands more have been freed as so-called “confidence building measures,” to appease our supposedly moderate Palestinian negotiating partners into sharing a table with their Israeli counterparts.

In every instance, these terrorist releases have led to the murder and abduction of other Israelis.

The clock started ticking down to Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal’s abduction on October 19, 2011 when Israel released 1,027 Palestinian terrorists in exchange for IDF Sgt. Gilad Schalit who had been held hostage by Hamas for more than five years.

The countdown also began that day for the murder of Baruch Mizrahi, the police officer who was killed in a roadside shooting in April as he drove to a Passover Seder with his wife and children. Mizrahi’s killer was one of the terrorists released for Schalit.

Some politicians are trying to take steps to prevent these swaps in the future. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told the media he will prohibit all members of his Yisrael Beytenu party from voting in favor of a hostages-for-terrorists swap if one is on offer in the future.

The day before Fraenkel, Shaer and Yifrah were kidnapped, the Knesset passed a preliminary reading of a bill sponsored by MK Ayelet Shaked from Bayit Yehudi to constrain the president’s power to commute the sentences of some convicted murderers. The idea is that by passing the law, the Knesset will make it impossible for the government to agree to swap murderers for hostages. But then, to avoid the law, all governments will have to do is release prisoners who weren’t sentenced to life without possibility of parole.

The problem with statements like Liberman’s and bills like Shaked’s is that they miss the point. The problem isn’t the law. The problem isn’t that in past swaps MKs were given the freedom to vote as they pleased.

The problem is our media-compliant leadership refuses to act responsibly.

The only way to prevent more Israelis from being abducted in the future is to deter the Palestinians from abducting them.

Deterrence cannot be achieved by cheap political pronouncements or insufficient legislation.
Deterrence can only be built up over time, by behaving consistently in a manner that convinces the other side that it is not in its interest to do something that you don’t want it to do.

Since May 1985, when then-prime minister Shimon Peres freed 1,150 terrorists for three IDF soldiers held hostage by Palestinian terror master Ahmed Jibril, Israel’s behavior has consistently encouraged our enemies to take hostages.

Through their willingness to release murderers for hostages – and even for hostage bodies – our leaders have told our enemies that they should feel free to steal our children. Their payoff is guaranteed.

Through their willingness to free murderers, our leaders have shown our enemies that they should feel free to murder as many Israelis as they can. They know that once their comrades take another Israeli hostage, (or three), they will go free.

And of course, our politicians are not the only ones at fault. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his colleagues and predecessors swim in an acrid stream, where this sort of behavior is required.

To their disgrace, our media consistently behave as advocates and lobbyists for hostage-takers and imprisoned murderers against Israeli society.

For instance, in the case of Schalit, the media worked hand-in-glove with the Schalit family and its public relations firm to convince the public that we should think of a soldier as a child, and not as any child, but as our child.

In more than a thousand media reports, profiles, tear-jerker interviews with Schalit’s kindergarten teachers and siblings, we were told that if we are good and moral people, we must prefer Schalit’s freedom to the continued imprisonment of terrorists who constitute a mortal threat to every other child – and parent – in the country.

Public relations agent Tami Shenkman led the campaign for the terrorists’ release. She was the one who put together the sales strategy for convincing us that capitulating to Palestinian extortion is an act of moral courage.

For her efforts the media lavished her with fawning, heroic profiles
And for the media’s efforts, three teenagers are now hostages.

True, while our cowardly, irresponsible leaders and demented media encouraged the Palestinians to abduct the three youths, it was the Palestinians that did it.

And this also ought to teach us a thing or two about deterrence.

Our media and our politicians have effusively praised Palestinian Authority President and Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas for saying a few lines in favor of releasing Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali. But with all due respect, Abbas is responsible for their abduction.

Abbas’s statement calling for the boys to be released was the rhetorical equivalent of trying to put an already exploded bomb back in its shell. Indeed, it is even worse than that. It was Abbas pretending to put a detonated bomb back in its casing after Abbas built the bomb, prepared the fuse and gave the bombers a matchbook.

For 20 years, Abbas and his colleagues in the PA have indoctrinated the Palestinians to view Jews as human scum and seek our annihilation. This message is communicated in all venues. From nursery through the universities, in the mosques, in summer camps, on television, radio and the Internet, Palestinians of all ages are taught that Jews have no right to live. They are encouraged to murder us and view contributing to our destruction as their highest goal in life.

Hostage taking – a war crime – is presented as one of the highest achievements possible. This is why the overwhelming majority of Palestinians applauds and celebrates the kidnap of the three teens.

For 20 years, the PA has indoctrinated its society in a culture of hatred and violence against Israel and the Jewish People. And the results were as predictable as the tides. Nearly 2,000 Israelis have been murdered in Palestinian terror attacks since the PA was established.

Israel can take action to punish the Palestinians for their unlawful behavior. We can arrest their imams for soliciting murder. We can close their schools and shutter their television stations for the same reason.

But we have done none of these things.

All Israel has done in the face of this poison is complain to the Americans.

Even worse than doing nothing, we actively facilitate the PA’s wholesale indoctrination of the Palestinians in genocidal Jew hatred.

Israel funds the PA.

We support the US policy of training and organizing a Palestinian army manned by people who have been subjected to this indoctrination for two decades.

Our leaders proclaim Abbas is a moderate. And still today we say he’s a good guy. The problem, Netanyahu says, is Abbas has formed a unity government with Hamas. But if he quits that, then we will have no beef with him.

The people of Israel want the families’ agony to end.

We want the boys’ terror to end. But the only body that can responsibly accomplish that mission is the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). We cannot find them ourselves.

What we can and must do, however, is protect society as a whole from the next kidnapping. To this end, we need to shame – name by name – the media personalities from Avi Tzvi, the CEO of Reshet, Israel’s largest television franchise, to radio hosts and pop stars like Keren Neubach and Aviv Gefen who demanded the government free 1,027 terrorists from prison.

As for our government ministers, and our prime minister, you need to fix the damage you caused.

You knew when you signed the Schalit deal that the ink was the blood of the victims to come. We didn’t know their identities then. But now we do: Baruch Mizrahi, Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gilad Shaer.

It’s time you understand that after what you did, the only way to change the enemies’ cost-benefit analysis of abductions and other atrocities is for you to change your way of doing business.

This means you have to stop appeasing terrorists and start punishing them. And the punishment needs to be consistent, and painful. Among other things, this means no more money, no more guns and no more legitimacy, not only to Hamas, but to the PA. If you want to do it gradually, you can do it gradually.

It means that every time the Palestinian media broadcasts anti-Jewish bile, they lose something of value.

True, taking such action will likely make it more difficult for elected leaders and military commanders to vacation in Europe. But no one forced you to take your jobs. You asked for the responsibility of providing for the collective defense. And you can’t fulfill your duty by being nice to terrorists or to outsiders who side with them.

Schalit’s media flacks were right. He is a son of all of Israel.

And so are Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal who are now captive because of the deal we signed for Gilad.

As we pray for their speedy and safe return home, we must take action remove the targets from the backs of every citizen of Israel. Those targets were placed there by our treacherous media, and by successive governments who preferred the cheap perfume scent of appeasement over the blood, sweat and tears required to secure our freedom and security.

Caroline Glick is the Director of the David Horowitz Freedom Center's Israel Security Project and the Senior Contributing Editor of The Jerusalem Post. For more information on Ms. Glick's work, visit


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

Mordechai Kedar: Will ISIL (Da'ash) Target Jordan Next?

by Mordechai Kedar

Translated from Hebrew by Arutz 7

Ma'an  is a Bedouin village in the southern part of Jordan that has always been a headache for the country's rulers. The population is strongly fundamentalist and includes a significant number of Salafists. 

Street demonstrations that ended violently have been held there in the past, once brought on by food prices, once by the price of fuel, and once because the monarchy did not treat village leaders with enough respect. In time, Ma'an became Jordan's baromemter, an indicator of underlying currents of opinion in the country.

On the 2th of June, in the middle of a Friday afternoon, Ma'an was the scene of a pro-ISIL ("The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant", known as ISIS, but more accurately translated ISIL) demonstration where black flags waved and the signs had an unmistakable message (my additions in parentheses, M.K.).

"Today is Support an Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham Day", "Ma'an is Jordan's Fallujah", "We support an Islamic State", "We congratulate the Islamic people for the conquests of Omar (Be Akhattab, the second Caliph, conqueror of al-Sham) that Allah chose to form an Islamic state in Iraq and al-Sham" were some of them.

Loud and hysterical shouts of "Allah akbar", "To Jihad", "there is none save Allah and the Shiites are his foes", "He who fights for Jihad is loved by Allah", "The Sunnis are Allah's beloved", "Allah is our god and not theirs (the Shiites')", "The Shiite god is Satan", "Death is better than humiliation", "With blood and spirit will we redeem you, Islam", "Jihad is our way", "Jihad state forever", "O Shiite rulers, we are coming for you", were heard at the demonstration and to serve as proof of its serious intentions, shots were fired in the air.

The most important aspect of the protest was that almost all those present did not hide their faces, meaning that they have no fear of the Jordanian government, its police or its secret service. The demonstrators were well aware that they were being photographed by various people and that the photos could be used to identify and apprehend them and they didn't care. And when there fear of the state is no more, anything can happen.

ISIL has never concealed its intentions regarding Jordan, created, as were Iraq and Syria, by European colonialism, and therefore deserving to be eliminated. The name of the organization expresses is goals, because "al-Sham" is the Levant, and that area includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.

In order to make its plans for Jordan obvious, the organization expanded its control in Iraq westward, up to the border between Iraq and Jordan, also conquering the border town of Turayvil. Its successes in Iraq and Syria awaken the "Jihadist adrenaline" in the marginal populations of Jordan and the demonstration in Ma'an expresses what is well-known: ISIS success draws the masses, especially those on the fringes of society, those who want to belong to something successful at last.  And if this successful thing brings an end to a suppressive regime, it is an even more worthy group to join.

The Leader and the Controversy

The man  who is seen as the leader of the Salafist Jihad movement in Jordan is  Assem Barqawi, better known as Abu Mohammad al-Maqdesi,(the Jerusalemite). He was born in the villaeof Burqa near Shechem on July 3, 1959 (next week is his birthday!) and studied Islam in Mosul and Medina. He published a book in which he claimed that the Saudi regime had no legal basis. He is the spiritual mentor of  Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, who founded "al-Qaeda in the Land of the Rivers" in 2004. The latter is the organization that turned into ISIL ("The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant"). Barqawi spent periods of his life in Pakistan and Afghanistan, met the heads and leaders of al-Qaeda there. The Jordanian government sentenced him to a long prison term and his followers receive their orders from his cell.

There are those in the Jihadist Salafist movement in Jordan that claim that al-Makdesi supports an "Islamic state"  takeover of Iraq, but does not want to expand the organization's efforts to Jordan. Another prominent activist, Mohammad Shalabi, aka Abu Sayyaf ("owner of the swords"), who criticized the Ma'an protest and claimed that it "is suspicious (i.e. a governmental conspiracy to destroy the Jihadist movement)" and that only about twenty or thirty people, including five youth (therefore irresponsible) whose "heads were turned by someone"  participated in it - and that "it does not represent the Salafist stresm nor does it serve its goals."

Abu Sayyaf, however, does not hide his support for ISIL and the massacre of Shiites that the organization is carrying out in Iraq, mainly on government soldiers. Regarding Jordan, the situation is different, as – according to him – some of the Salafist Jihad people in Jordan support ISIL and some "Jibhat Al-nasura" and as is known, the two Salafist organizations are fighting Assad in Syria but also one another.

The arguments in Jordan will disappear, however, when ISIS begins its armed struggle against that country.  This will begin when the group of fighters whose language is the Jordanian desert dialect infiltrates from Iraq into Jordan, appears before the cameras with masked faces and proclaims the "Biya" – the oath of fealty – to the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and then begins to attack Jordanian army patrols, military roadblocks, small army outposts and civilian cars.

Methods of Action

The organizations methods are well known: its forces get their strength from a few dozen 4x4 fast moving vehicles, upon which are mounted heavy machine guns. Some of the fighters have RPG's and some light weapons, usually Saar AK-47 rifles ("Kalashnikovs").  Of late, their arms have been enriched with a significant amount of deadly and state-of-the-art American weapons, straight from the Iraqi army arsenals and taken in battle. This large and destructive armed force attacks an outpost, roadblock or patrol by surprise, creating a situation in which it has the tactical advantage because of the number of its fighters, its mobility and the element of surprise.

The organization takes the trouble to video and photograph its battles and their outcomes, especially the mass murder of soldiers and civilians it captures, this in order to spread panic among its opponents.  Its militants' faces are generally covered with keffiyahs, so that no one will be able to identify them in the future and see to it that they pay for their acts. The frightening photos that the organization disseminated are a main reason the Iraqi armed forces, meant to defend the city, fled Mosul and left the city to the mercies of ISIL.

In Jordan, ISIL is being watched, and more than a few people are waiting impatiently for the west (Iraqi) and northern (Syrian) strong-blowing winds of Jihad, to sweep the Jordanian desert, still under the rule of the Hashemite family brought there by the British ninety years ago, who created the "Transjordanian Emirate" for them. This eventually beame the Jordanian Kingdom, despite the fact that "the kingdom belongs only to Allah and he has no co-rulers (Koran Chap. 2, verse 25)".

Even if there is opposition to ISIL in Jordan today, it is probable that when the organization begins to move its activities to the country, this opposition will disappear – especially if the anti-Jordanian Jihad has some successes. These successes will "convince" local tribes and individuals to join the organization, exactly as occurred in Syria and Iraq, some out of fear and some out of the desire to be part of the victory.

It is clear to all that Jordan is not going to be the final destination for ISIL, but will serve as a jumping off point for the continuation of Jihad against additional illegitimate creations of Western colonialism and the Sykes-Picot agreement, namely Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Israel's Option

A clear and razor-sharp choice will then  face Israel and the West, in all its gravity: on the one hand, there will be those who say that the Jordanian business is not ours and that if the Hashemites are destined to fall, we have no way of saving them, certainly not at the price of IDF soldiers' blood – and so we must wait until the Jihadists reach Israel's borders and finish them off properly. In addition, if a new country takes the place of Jordan, we can claim that it is a Palestinian State and that there is no need for another in Judea and Samaria, since there already is one in Gaza as well.

On the other hand, it is quite possible that the world – and the USA in particular – will come to the aid of the Hashemite Kingdom, so that it too does not fall into Jihadist hands. In that case the Man in the White House will expect Israel to take part in the operation, because afer all, for Israel, the Jordanian regime still serves as a kind of  shield against Jihadist east winds that arise in Iraq - and possibly in Iran at a future date.  Can Israel remain with its arms folded if and when its friends in the USA, and maybe Europe, come to the aid of the Hashemite Kingdom?

Another thing is clear as day during these hot summer months – in Jordan as well as on our side of the river – there is going to be a battlefield between the IDF and the Jihad coming from the east, unless it is stopped east of the Jordan Valley. If anyone thinks that a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria will protect Israel from attack, it falls upon him to prove that before he tells Israel to leave the Jordan Valley.  Will the Palestinian forces, armed and trained by the Americans ("Dayton's Forces") be stronger and more motivated than the Iraqi army that was also armed and trained by the USA?

What is happening today in Syria and Iraq - and that may spill over into Jordan - proves to Israel once again the truth of the Arabic saying:" Your back can be scratched only by your own fingernail."

In Hebrew that thought is found in a well known saying of our Talmudic sages in Ethics of the Fathers: "If I am not for myself, who is for me". I rest my case.

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 attuned to Arab media and politics in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.


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

Sadly, There's Nothing the U.S. Can Do to Save Iraq

by Gary C. Gambill

Since the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) earlier this month, an idea that almost no one in his right mind was publicly advocating a few short weeks ago is steadily gaining currency among American politicians and pundits — that the United States should, in some capacity or another, go to war in Iraq. A few words of advice to those who are jumping on the bandwagon:

First, understand that the United States didn't start this fire and can't put it out. The sectarian conflict now raging between Muslims in the heart of the Arab world was primed to erupt by decades of brutal minoritarian rule in both Syria (Alawites over majority Sunnis) and Iraq (Sunnis over majority Shiites), and by over a millennium of religious antagonism before that. The 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq overturned an applecart that was bound to falter during the 2011 Arab Spring revolts anyway. The Bush and Obama administrations both could have done more to ensure that the quasi-democratic system they left behind was capable of weathering the storm, but their errors are academic now. Like the Syrians, the Iraqis will have to fight it out.

Second, don't believe the hype about ISIS taking Baghdad. The group has managed to gain control of most areas where Iraq's 15-20% Sunni Arab minority predominates because locals acquiesced in its advance and garrisoned soldiers had little stomach for fighting in such a hostile environment. While the confessionally mixed Iraqi capital may be plagued by jihadist terrorism in the months ahead, the number of combatants Iraq's Shiite majority can throw into the city's defence dwarfs the number that ISIS can field, even if large numbers of Iraqi Sunnis unite under its banner and a steady stream of foreign jihadis continues to join its ranks. Do the math. Baghdad won't fall.

Third, recognize that the Iranians will be delighted if the U.S. Air Force starts pounding ISIS, a problem they created by encouraging the excesses of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and propping up the embattled regime of President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria (ISIS, as its name suggests, is a two-headed monster). Prospective American intervention will be less about defending Baghdad than about helping Iranian-backed government forces and Shiite militias seize back the Sunni heartland of northwest Iraq. It's going to be a long, bloody campaign, certain to involve massive civilian casualties. The Iranians would love for the Obama administration to share the costs and take some of the heat for the horrific measures that will be necessary to cleanse Iraq of ISIS.

Fourth, consider also that U.S. intervention could be a blessing for Al-Qaeda senior leaders in Pakistan, who have always been more interested in killing Westerners than Shiites or Alawites (one reason why they have been eclipsed in the Syria-Iraq theatre). Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri would have preferred that the many hundreds of European Muslims now fighting in Syria and Iraq had stayed home and plotted attacks in their countries of origin. A U.S.-led air campaign against ISIS would weaken Al-Qaeda's main competitor for the loyalties of Sunni jihadists in the region, while giving Zawahiri exactly the narrative twist he needs to refocus Sunni angst on the West.

Is that thumb still up? Don't get me wrong. I understand the temptation to jump in and kill terrorists when the opportunity presents itself. With Iran and various rival Sunni states financing and equipping opposing Islamists to do their dirty work (you don't bring a knife to a gunfight), the Syria-Iraq theatre is an extraordinarily target-rich environment. But as long as they're busy killing each other, the United States should leave bad enough alone.

Gary C. Gambill is a Shilman-Ginsburg fellow at the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum.

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

No Islamic City upon a Hill

by Andrew E. Harrod


“Islamic democracy and Muslim democrats” are emerging as a “viable alternative to dictatorship,” Abdul Mawgoud Dardery from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) stated on June 12 in Washington, DC. Yet Dardery and fellow panelists at the conference “The Struggle for Democracy in Turbulent Times: Practical Solutions for U.S. Policy” failed to prove this optimistic proposition.

The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy hosted the daylong conference at the Renaissance Hotel. Academics, lobbyists, and policymakers from the United States and abroad analyzed the Arab Spring’s aftermath in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Tunisia.

“Crystallizing authoritarian rule” according to political scientist Dahlia Fahmy, though, preoccupied Dardery’s fellow panelists discussing Egypt following the 2013 coup against President Mohammad Morsi. Even pre-Arab Spring “formal trappings of democracy” had disappeared under Egypt’s new strongman, former general Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. Sisi had imprisoned thousands of Islamists and increased control over mosques. Article 74 in Egypt’s new post-coup constitution banned religious parties like the MB-based Freedom and Justice Party of the deposed Morsi and parliamentarian Dardery. Nonetheless, Amnesty International actually judges the 2014 constitution an “improvement over the 2012 version” passed under Morsi with its various Islamist rights restrictions.

“Egyptians that want stability” supported Sisi’s military-installed regime, Fahmy conceded. “Egyptian society is divided and highly polarized” and “desperate to find any kind of normalcy,” fellow academics Emad Shahin and Yasser El-Shimmy respectively concurred. Advocating an Egyptian “non-ideological state,” Shahin called for “comprehensive national reconciliation” as “no side can win” among Egypt’s contending factions and “exterminate the other.”
By contrast, Dardery attributed much of Egypt’s divisions to “colonial…divide and rule” practices of the Sisi regime in contrast to an “Egypt for all” theme of diverse Egyptians currently discussing a free future. Yet Dardery’s past statements on matters such as supporting sharia as a legal guide remain reminders of the MB’s dangerous divisiveness and cast in doubt Dardery’s role as a conciliator. Similarly ominous, Dardery sported the black-yellow R4BIA lapel pin commemorating hundreds of MB supporters killed in August 2013 by Egyptian security forces clearing two Cairo city squares. Previously worn by Dardery at a January 2014 Georgetown University conference, the R4BIA websitecelebrates MB ideology such as the “end of Zionists.”

The Libya panel, meanwhile, dealt with an unstable “stateless country,” as described by Libyan-American doctor Esam Omeish, notable for his fiery pro-jihad rhetoric and corresponding 2007 removal from Virginia’s Commission of Immigration. “We are now on number six, I think,” World Bank adviser Hafed Al-Ghwell estimated in counting successive Libyan governments following the Arab Spring regime change. While “not a failed state” with functioning municipal governments, Libya answered to a “confederation of militias” according to Middle East specialist William Lawrence. “Most of the militias are not shooting at each other most of the time” despite regularly reported fears of civil war.

Al-Ghwell worried about Libya descending into chaos absent short-term solutions to pressing problems. He noted one million Libyan exiles, about a fifth of Libya’s population, who had fled what he described as a civil war, not a revolution, overthrowing Gaddafi. American diplomat Jonathan Weiner, meanwhile, discussed assassinations and kidnappings of foreigners as indications of an unsafe environment ruling out an American presence in eastern Libya.

Any future Libyan government would reflect that Libya’s “conservative society…heavily leans” towards a “large role” for Islam and sharia, Omeish predicted. Likewise “no Tunisian route” emulating the passage of a constitution without sharia in Libya’s neighbor appeared to Lawrence given opinion polls. What sharia would entail in Libya, though, remained undetermined.

The Syria panel, meanwhile, focused on crisis management efforts such as ceasefires rather than democracy. A “game changer” would be portable antiaircraft missiles for Syria’s anti-Bashar Assad rebels, Mohammad Ghanem from the Syrian American Council (SAC) argued. With Assad’s key air supremacy neutralized, rebels could then not only overthrow Assad, but also strike at the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in a two-front offensive with the Iraqi government.

SAC’s radical associations as well as the predominance of jihadist elements amidst shifting and loose anti-Assad coalitions, though, raise grave concerns about military aid. Prized possessions for terrorists, antiaircraft missiles in particular can shoot down both military and civilian aircraft such as jetliners. Far from cooperating with Syrian rebels, meanwhile, Iraq’s government has allowed Iranian aid and Iraqi Shiite fighters to support Assad from Iraq in what has become a regional Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict.

Rather than Syria, American policy supporting “dictatorship and apartheid” in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region concerned George Mason University Professor Bassam Haddad’s rant. Haddad did not explain what a “more balanced and just foreign policy” in Syria would be upon questioning or where Middle East apartheid existed. Haddad’s online writings, though, quickly reveal that his “apartheid regime” is indeed Israel. An “arguably legitimate reverence for the Syrian regime’s support of the resistance—principally through Hezbollah—to US and Israeli imperialism” might cause some in Haddad’s view to support Assad.

The one “fragile success” for the conference according to Lawrence is Tunisia. A “bright light” for Arab democracy, CSID President Radwan Masmoudi’s native Tunisia literally took center stage at lunch as American and Tunisian flags flanked the speakers. (The Tunisian ambassador’s residence hosted a sumptuous post-conference dinner as well.) The new Tunisian constitution, “one of the most progressive in the Arab world,” ratified on January 26, 2014, received the praise of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State William Roebuck.

Opposition forced Tunisia’s Islamist party Ennahda, holder of 40% of the Constituent Assembly’s seats, to abandon calls to introduce sharia into the constitution. The text’s preamble opens with the traditional Islamic invocation of “In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,” though. Therein the Tunisian people possess an “Islamic-Arab identity” and a “commitment to the principles of Islam.” Article 1 that “cannot be amended” retains a previous constitutional stipulation that Tunisia’s “religion is Islam.”
Article 6 contains “serious legal contradictions,” according to Amna Guellali from Human Rights Watch online. Both obligations to “freedom of belief” and to “protect the sacred” exist in this “complicated and wordy” article. Attempted hereby is the “impossible task of reconciling…two irreconcilable visions” of “hyper-religious” and those supporting “freedom of religious choice,” with disturbing implications for free speech.

Tunisia’s “Arabic exception” resulted from competing parties being “open to each other” in order to “avoid all the extremism,” Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, leader of Tunisia’s Democratic Progressive Party stated. Tunisian leaders “learned a lesson” from democracy’s breakdown in Egypt amidst confrontation between secular and religious forces. The “experience of Tunisia,” Chebbi warned, “could not be exported.”

Not the secular Chebbi, however, but Ennahda received at lunch CSID’s self-selecting Muslim Democrat of the Year Award. Ennahda Constituent Assembly member Sahbi Atig, attending the conference along with another Ennahda member, former Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, accepted the award. “[W]hoever kills the will of the people will be killed in the streets of Tunisia,” Atig had said at a July 13, 2013, Tunis rally in support of the recently deposed Morsi. Seen by many Tunisians as incitement, Atig’s statement reminds of Ennahda’s troubling Muslim militancy. “It is fair to be suspicious of Ennahda,” Hassan Mneimneh from the German Marshall Fund later observed on the Tunisia panel, despite Atig’s claim of Ennahda’s “middle, modest Islam.”

Mneimneh’s skepticism of Islamic ideology and its compatibility with free societies, though, remained largely absent from the conference. Masmoudi deemed problems in MENA the “direct result of oppression.” “When democracy loses, terrorism wins,” Fahmy had proclaimed. Egyptian security cooperation with the United States and peace with Israel appeared to her as part of a given Egyptian national interest, irrespective of ruling ideology.

The radical background of audience member Ahmed Bedier, one of Representative Keith Ellison’s “real tight friends,” appeared likewise not to bother Ellison. “Orientalist, racist ideas about Arabs not being able to govern themselves” instead concerned him along with colleagues who “erroneously conflated” the MB’s “democratic Islamists” with Al Qaeda. Muslim parties that “renounce violence and agree to the rules of the game” should participate in democracy, Obama Administration adviser Philip Gordon stated. Whether such parties might radically change rules received no mention.

Yet Lorne Craner, a former George W. Bush Administration official, noted that “people started to lose their ardor” for MENA democracy after 2006 Palestinian elections brought Hamas jihad terrorists to power. The bitter fruits of costly American attempts to establish Iraqi Muslim democracy, meanwhile, remained largely unmentioned by the conference. Tunisia’s significant Western, non-Islamic influences also received little praise as a reason for that country’s success and ability to check forces like Ennahda. Alternatively, Haddad condemned the region’s one stable free society, Israel, indicating precisely the threats American power could unwittingly enable. Lawrence’s “democratically enthused populations” in MENA will have to do more to demonstrate that Islamic belief can sustain democratic behavior.

Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. You may follow Harrod on twitter at @AEHarrod.


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British Jihadists and the UK Surveillance State

by Soeren Kern

"The whole area of intercept needs to be looked at. We have got a real debate, and it is a genuine debate in a democracy, between the libertarians who say the state must not get too powerful and pretty much the rest of us who say the state must protect itself." — Liam Fox, Former British Secretary of Defense
In his testimony, Farr defends the practice because Britain has for "many years faced a serious threat from terrorism," especially the threat derived from "militant Islamist terrorists." He says the practice has prevented terrorist attacks and saved lives.

A recent spike in the number of British jihadists fighting with Sunni militant groups in Syria and Iraq is fueling a heated debate over how much government surveillance is necessary to keep the United Kingdom safe from domestic terrorism.

The British government is asking for additional surveillance powers to monitor British jihadists who might be planning attacks in the UK after their return from the fighting in the Middle East.

But privacy groups counter that the British state has already amassed massive surveillance powers, and that what the government really wants is a free rein to monitor all of the communications of every man, woman and child in Britain.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that the greatest threat to national security is from British citizens and other Europeans fighting with the Sunni militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS]. At a press conference on June 17, he said:
"No-one should be in any doubt that what we see in Syria and now in Iraq in terms of ISIS is the most serious threat to Britain's security that there is today. The number of foreign fighters in that area, the number of foreign fighters including those from the UK who could try to return to the UK is a real threat to our country."
Cameron's view has been echoed by dozens of recent articles warning about the jihadist threat to Britain. Some titles include: "Are the British Jihadists Going to Turn Their Guns on Us?," "Get Ready for an ISIS Backlash in the UK," "The West Will Pay for Losing Its Backbone," "The Threat to Britain that Cannot be Ignored," "British Jihadists are the Most Bloodthirsty in Syria," and "UK Police: British Jihadists Provoked by Syria, Iraq War Images."

An ISIS recruitment video released in June 2014, titled "There is no life without Jihad", features British and Australian Muslims fighting in Syria and Iraq.

The British government now believes that some 500 British jihadists have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq, according to Britain's top counter-terrorism officer, Cressida Dick.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend on June 22, Dick warned that European jihadists represent a "long-term" terrorist threat that will persist for "many years." She said:
"We are really alert to the fact that people may come back and they may have military training. They may seek—although it's very difficult—to smuggle weaponry here and they may seek to cause violence or to encourage others to cause violence.
"So a huge part of our effort is about trying to work out who is coming back and intercept them at the port, and of course if we discover that there are plots being planned either from abroad, for example from Syria, or within the UK, we will do everything we can to disrupt that plot."
Some British jihadists have faked their deaths on the battlefield in order to sneak back into Britain undetected, the Sunday Times reported on June 22. In one instance, the martyrdom of a fighter in Syria was announced by his colleagues on social media, only for police to arrest the "dead" individual at Dover.

In an interview with the Independent on June 22, the former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, Richard Barrett, said that as many as 300 radicalized young men had already returned to the UK, and that the scale of the threat is placing an impossible burden on British intelligence. He added:
"If you imagine what it would cost to really look at 300 people in depth, clearly it would be completely impossible to do that, probably impossible even at a third of that number.
"With this whole business in Syria, although there is no linear projection from foreign fighters to domestic terrorists, it's inevitable that a number will fall into this category."
Barrett has also authored a new report entitled "Foreign Fighters in Syria," in which he predicts that the Syrian war "is likely to be an incubator for a new generation of terrorists." He estimates that more than 12,000 foreign fighters have gone to Syria since the war began in March 2011. This is more than the estimated 10,000 foreign fighters who went to Afghanistan during the decade-long jihad against Russian occupation.

According to Barrett, around 2,500 jihadists are from Western countries, including most members of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

There are also several hundred from Russia. Many are young, often teenagers, and a "fair percentage" of those arriving from non-Muslim majority countries are converts to Islam. Barrett adds:
"The progression from foreign fighter to terrorist is not a linear one, nor is it inevitable, and the majority of people who return from the fighting in Syria may pose no terrorist threat. But the difficulty remains how to distinguish those who will from those who won't."
Barrett told the Independent that he estimates that one in nine foreign fighters could become domestic terrorists. If this ratio is applied to the current estimates of fighters in Syria, the conflict there will have already spawned more than 1,300 terrorists, dozens of whom are British.

In an interview with BBC1's Andrew Marr Show on June 22, former British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said that the UK is facing an "ideological battle" with Muslim extremists and it is a "problem that is going to be with us for a very long time."

Given the increased threat to national security, Fox said, the British state should be given more power to intercept the communications of Islamic extremists.
"The whole area of intercept needs to be looked at. We have got a real debate, and it is a genuine debate in a democracy, between the libertarians who say the state must not get too powerful and pretty much the rest of us who say the state must protect itself."
Speaking at the annual Lord Mayor's Defense and Security Lecture in London on June 24, Home Secretary Theresa May called for a change to British law that would hand the security services more powers to scrutinize online communication, a bid that has previously been blocked by the Liberal Democrats. She said:
"The terrorist threats to this country and our interests are changing faster than at any time since 9/11. This is quite simply a question of life and death, a matter of national security. We must keep on making the case until we get the changes we need."
Defending the government's use of surveillance powers, May said:
"There is no program of mass surveillance and there is no surveillance state. The real problem is not that we have built an over-mighty state but that the state is finding it harder to fulfil its most basic duty, which is to protect the public."
May is behind the so-called Communications Data Bill (also known as the Snooper's Charter), draft legislation that would require Internet service providers and mobile phone companies to maintain records (but not the content) of each user's Internet browsing activity (including social media), email correspondence, voice calls, Internet gaming, and mobile phone messaging services and store those records for 12 months.

The bill, which some say represents a radical expansion of state power, has been stalled since April 2013, when Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg withdrew his support for the law. Some believe May is now seeking to revive the bill by leveraging the threat posed by British jihadists.

In any event, May's claim that there is no such thing as a British surveillance state has been contradicted, privacy advocates say, by a senior official from her very own office.

A London-based group called Privacy International on June 17 published a 50-page document in which Charles Farr, the Director General of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (a directorate within the Home Office which leads work on counter-terrorism in the UK), explains how the British government justifies mass surveillance of UK residents.

The document involves Farr's testimony in a lawsuit filed by several British and American privacy-advocacy groups, which argue that the mass spying described by former US National Security Agency [NSA] contractor Edward Snowden is illegal.

In his testimony, Farr was obliged to reveal a secret government policy justifying mass surveillance. He details how the Government Communications Headquarters [GCHQ], a British intelligence agency that works closely with the NSA, justifies the indiscriminate intercepting all online searches and electronic communications over Internet services such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Farr makes the distinction between two different types of communication, internal and external, each of which has different legal criteria for surveillance.

Internal communication is classified as any electronic communication between two British residents inside the UK. The GCHQ is legally required to obtain a warrant that names a specific person or place as a target in order to monitor internal communications.

External communication involves any electronic communication sent or received outside the UK, including those that pass through the UK during transit. Although surveillance of external communications also requires a warrant, the evidence bar is far lower because such a warrant does not have to name a specific person or place as a target.

According to Farr, the GCHQ considers the communications of British residents via "platforms" such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to be external, not internal. GCQH justifies this based on the argument that such platforms are based outside the UK. When someone in the UK performs a Google search, it is an external communication because he or she communicates with a server that is based in the United States or another European country.

Under current law, external communications can be searched, read and listened to indiscriminately, regardless of whether there are grounds to suspect wrongdoing.

Privacy International explains the significance of the distinction between "internal" and "external" communication this way:
"Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which regulates the surveillance powers of public bodies, 'internal' communications may only be intercepted under a warrant which relates to a specific individual or address. These warrants should only be granted where there is some suspicion of unlawful activity. However, an individual's 'external' communications may be intercepted indiscriminately, even where there are no grounds to suspect any wrongdoing."
In his testimony, Farr defends the practice because Britain has for "many years faced a serious threat from terrorism," especially the threat derived from "militant Islamist terrorists." He says the practice has prevented terrorist attacks and saved lives.

The Deputy Director of Privacy International, Eric King, counters: "Intelligence agencies cannot be considered accountable to Parliament and to the public they serve when their actions are obfuscated through secret interpretations of byzantine laws."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg agrees. He believes that the oversight structure of the intelligence agencies needs to be overhauled because the current legal framework, enshrined in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, was written before the Internet revolution took hold.

Clegg says he is not in principle opposed to the state's gathering of bulk data, but he argues that surveillance activities must be governed by the principle that the government should intrude as little as possible into private affairs.

But Clegg has been unable to persuade his coalition partner, David Cameron, of the need for reform. Cameron has repeatedly stated that his job is to do "everything that is necessary" to keep the country safe.

Clegg has as a result opted for an independent review, which he formally commissioned in March. The review will assess the legality, effectiveness and privacy implications of UK surveillance programs, examine potential reforms to current surveillance practices, and propose how law-enforcement and intelligence capabilities can be maintained in the Internet era, while respecting principles of proportionality, necessity and privacy.

The review will be led by the Royal United Services Institute [RUSI], a military and intelligence think tank, and the review panel will consist of around twelve experts representing the security agencies, government, civil-liberties interests and the communications industry. The report will be presented after the 2015 general elections.

"I would like the next government to draw on an independent assessment of the issues at stake," Clegg said. "I hope that as it progresses, the review that RUSI will lead will be able to garner support across the political spectrum."

Meanwhile, the Intelligence and Security Committee [ISC] of the British parliament is conducting its own review into how British intelligence gathering can reconcile security and privacy.

The ISC chairman, the former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, recently delivered a lecture entitled "Intelligence Agencies in the Internet Age: Public Servants or Public Threat?" in which he deftly lays out both sides of the argument. He concludes:
"We all live in a world in which there are occasional paradoxes. When a terrorist atrocity occurs, the majority of the public tends to ask why the Agencies knew so little about those who were responsible. When, however the surveillance activities of the Agencies are revealed, a smaller but vocal minority tends to ask why they need to know so much. We need to do a better job of recognizing the competing demands we place upon the Agencies, and do more to establish a consensus as to how these demands can be reconciled."

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.


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