Saturday, May 2, 2015

Watch: Netanyahu Tells Washington 'No to Iran Nuclear Umbrella' - Ari Yashar

by Ari Yashar

In video message for Washington Institute anniversary, PM warns that the nuclear deal fails the 'foremost challenge of our generation.'

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday sent a video message to the influential Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) congratulating them on their 30 year anniversary, and taking the opportunity to warn against the Iran nuclear deal being formed ahead of a June 30 deadline.

His message to the Washington DC-based think tank, which is tasked with formulating American policy in the Middle East and runs under director Robert Satloff, was timed after the 30th anniversary symposium of WINEP which took place last Wednesday to Friday.
"Over the last 30 years the Institute has provided decision makers with scholarly analysis of the Middle East, analysis that is designed to promote realistic policy when it comes to addressing the many challenges facing our region, and of these none is more important than the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program," opened the prime minister.

Outlining his concerns regarding the Islamic republic, he continued, "the Iranian regime proudly proclaims its hatred for the United States and Israel. It repeatedly threatens to annihilate Israel. This month Iran’s so–called moderate president presided over a military parade punctuated by cries of 'death to Israel,' 'death to America.' Iran is hosting yet another international competition of cartoons denying the Holocaust."

"But Iran doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk. It builds up terrorist bases across three of Israel’s borders in Lebanon and Gaza and now on the Syrian Golan. It arms terrorists with thousands of rockets and missiles to be fired at our citizens. Israel simply cannot afford to allow Iran to have the capability to follow through on its genocidal designs."
"The international community cannot let Iran’s aggression in the region - in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen and elsewhere - to continue under the protection of an Iranian nuclear umbrella," he warned. "And the international community cannot afford to let the planet’s foremost sponsor of terrorism have nuclear capabilities with which to terrorize the entire world."
Netanyahu described the efforts to block Iran from nuclear weapons as "the foremost challenge of our generation," warning that the framework deal announced in early April "fails to meet this challenge and if it will be realized it would make the world would a much more dangerous place."
"But it’s not too late. Countries around the world must have the courage and the resolve to hold out for a better deal, one that will actually do the job of blocking Iran’s path to the bomb," he stressed.
The prime minister warned that the framework deal "will endanger Israel - big time. But it’s not just Israel that will be in danger: the Middle East and the entire world will be threatened."
"A better deal is necessary. A better deal is possible. A better deal must and can be achieved. But if not, no deal is better than this bad deal," he concluded.

Ari Yashar


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

As Saudi-Turkish-Qatari Relations Improve, Possibility Of 'Decisive Storm'-Type Operation In Syria Emerges - N. Mozes and E. Ezrahi

by N. Mozes and E. Ezrahi

Operation "Decisive Storm" in Yemen, and the reports of warming Saudi-Turkish relations that preceded it, sparked hopes among opponents of the Assad regime in Syria that a similar operation could be carried out in that country. These hopes were in line with reports in Western and Arab media about the possibility of such a joint Saudi-Turkish-Qatari operation against the regime in Syria. However, others consider these hopes to be in vain, both because the Yemen operation did not accomplish its goals and because Egypt is opposed to such a move.
At the same time, the various opposition factions in the Idlib area in northwest Syria have won a series of strategic victories in the past month, most notably taking over the city of Jisr Al-Shughour and the Al-Qarmid army base. The main player in these triumphs, which followed a long period of difficulties and defeat, is Jaish Al-Fatah ("The Army of Conquest") – a coalition of opposition factions formed in March 2015 comprising Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN) and other factions, both Islamist and moderate. These victories have led both regime and opposition elements to believe that the Syrian version of Operation Decisive Storm is already being carried out by Syrian opposition forces which receive aid from Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
The opposition's victories in northern Syria and the reports of a potential joint Saudi-Turkish operation in the country are of great concern to the Assad regime, which dispatched its defense minister to Iran to discuss "steps towards strategic cooperation between the two armies, in order to deal with regional threats."[1] Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem accused Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar of being behind the military escalation of "armed terrorist groups" in most of the regions, but particularly in Idlib.[2] In a statement to the UN Security Council, the Syrian Foreign Ministry called for a halt to Turkey's direct aggression against Syria and for punishing its perpetrators and supporters.[3]

It is possible that the reports of a joint Saudi-Turkish-Qatari military operation in Syria, and the opposition forces' recent intensive efforts on the ground, are aimed at pushing the Syrian regime towards accepting terms that are more favorable to the opposition and its supporters in the political process that is currently being drawn up under the sponsorship of UN Special Envoy for Syria Steffan de Mistura. 

This paper will review the reports indicating a possible future Saudi-Turkish-Qatari military operation in Syria, as well as the possibility that the recent rebel victories were the result of covert aid by these countries:
 Efforts To Form Sunni Alliance Against Assad Regime
Even before the death of Saudi King 'Abdallah, the kingdom began efforts to form a Sunni alliance whose members would rise above their disagreements to operate against their common enemy, Iran. Following the king's death, his successor, King Salman, continued these efforts with Qatar, Turkey, and Egypt; their most noticeable outcome so far has been the Arab coalition that launched Operation Decisive Storm against the Houthis in Yemen, aimed at letting Iran know in no uncertain terms that it must cease its meddling in the Arab world.[4]

It was reported on April 12, 2015 that Saudi Arabia and Turkey were, with Qatari mediation, discussing the establishment of a military alliance to topple the Assad regime, which would include Turkish ground troops and the Saudi Air Force. The report also assessed that this operation would be launched only after the May 13, 2015 Camp David summit between President Obama and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders. It added that these talks were preceded by an agreement between the countries for increased aid to the Syrian opposition, and for expanded collaboration on security issues; also, that Turkey and Qatar had signed a security agreement on intelligence and military collaboration and on possibly stationing Turkish troops on Qatari soil and vice versa.[5]

The following day, leading Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, formerly editor of the official daily Al-Watan, confirmed this report, tweeting that Turkey and Saudi Arabia had agreed to carry out a joint military operation in Syria, but adding: "In principle, th[is] report is true, but the details are not accurate. The plan is [still] in the process of formulation..."[6]

Prominent Saudi cleric Salman Al-'Odeh also assessed that an operation in Syria was forthcoming. On April 26, 2015, he tweeted: "Wait for a quality operation related to Syria in the coming days!"[7]

However, several hours later he clarified that the operation was to be a humanitarian mission.

The official Saudi daily Al-Watan stated, "The Iranian occupation of Syria will not continue. Even if the equation based on sectarian war and on dragging all the terrorist organizations into [Syria]... has lasted all these years, it will soon change... It is true that the political options for the near future are not encouraging... but the Syrians will surely rid themselves of all forms of terrorism, sectarianism, and militias."[8]

National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces president Khaled Khoja said that the improved Saudi-Turkish relations would impact events in Syria, and expressed hope for the emergence of a new regional axis for fighting the Syrian regime. He said: "The Saudi-Turkish rapprochement increases the new acceleration in the revolution, giving us greater confidence that a new axis is being formed."[9]

The Al-Shara' journal, which belongs to the forces of Syrian regime opponent and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, stated that a Decisive Storm-like operation against the Assad regime was already underway. It reported that the April 24, 2015 bombing of Hizbullah positions in Al-Qalamoun, Lebanon – where, he said, there were long-range missiles that threatened Arab countries – was carried out as part of this operation.[10]
Syrian Regime-Affiliated Daily: Decisive Storm Already A Reality In Northern Syria, As Manifest In Bitter Battles Between Rebels, Regime

Some believe that the recent Saudi-Turkish rapprochement and understandings are concerned with aiding the armed Syrian opposition forces, and not necessarily with a joint Saudi-Turkish military operation. For example, on April 20, 2015, Jamal Khashoggi tweeted that Jaish Al-Islam[11] commander Zahran 'Alloush's visit to Turkey "has removed the final obstacle to Saudi-Turkish-Qatari collaboration in Syria."[12]

On April 27, 2015, following rebel victories in Syria, Khashoggi tweeted: "A great crisis will soon rock Lebanon. Tens of thousands of Alawites will flee towards Lebanon, which will be forced to close its borders. Hizbullah will apply pressure for the borders to be opened, while other forces will oppose this."

The following day, Khashoggi tweeted a photo of what he called "the beginning of the great escape [from Syria]."[13]


Others also maintain that the Saudi-Turkish understandings are already being actualized on the ground in Syria, in the form of the opposition's strategic military victories in recent months, particularly in Idlib in northern Syria. Thus, the daily Al-Safir, which is close to the Syrian regime, stated that the operation in Jisr Al-Shughour in Idlib province was a manifestation of "an established Qatari-Turkish-Saudi alliance in northern Syria... There is no need to ask whether Decisive Storm and the Saudi attack on Yemen would lead to similar action in Syria or not, because Decisive Storm is already a reality in northern Syria." The paper added that the formulation of the plan for the attack on northern Syria began in March 2015, and that the details were finalized when Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Naif visited Turkey on April 6, 2015.[14]

There are those in the National Coalition who likewise see the opposition forces' achievements in northern Syria as a manifestation of the Saudi-Turkish understandings. Thus, Syrian oppositionists told the liberal website Elaph about high-level Saudi-Turkish coordination in all domains, and said that the two sides were working towards a negotiated solution in Syria, which can only be achieved through military pressure on the regime. In their opinion, the recent opposition victories were one of the fruits of the Saudi-Turkish rapprochement, and Syrians would reap the benefits of this within six months.[15]

Decisive Storm also sparked hopes among the fighting forces on the ground. A high-ranking Free Syrian Army (FSA) officer told the London-based Qatari daily Al-Arabi Al-Jadid that the fighting factions were preparing for a widespread military operation in Dera'a, southern Syria, after receiving promises that there would be Arab aerial support, or that at the very least the FSA would be equipped with anti-aircraft missiles.[16]

Syrian Regime Concerned 

These reports and signs that a Decisive Storm-type operation is currently underway, or will soon be, have caused great concern in the Syrian regime, especially in light of recent strategic opposition victories and in light of the fact that Saudi Arabia did not merely issue threats on the Yemen issue, but followed through on them. A video published by the Saudi Al-Arabiya TV channel shows high-ranking military commander Suheil Al-Hassan, known as "the Tiger," speaking on the phone with President Assad and asking him to dispatch weapons to 800 of his troops so they can return to their posts, from which they had retreated.[17] Another expression of te regime's concern was Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Jassem Al-Freij's "unannounced" visit to Tehran on April 28, 2015. The Syrian daily Al-Watan, which is close to the regime, wrote, "The visit is taking place in the shadow of increasing Saudi hints at an attack on Syria similar to Decisive Storm."[18] At a Tehran press conference, Al-Freij said that Damascus and Tehran had agreed on "future steps in the war against the terrorists."[19] At a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Dehghan, the two ministers stressed that "Syria, Iran, and the resistance axis will not allow the enemies to attain their goals in the region and harm Syria and its steadfastness." He added that Iran would continue its unlimited support for and strategic relations with Syria and "will not allow anyone to harm the security, stability, and unity of the Syrian state."[20]

Al-Freij meeting in Tehran with Ali Shamkhani (Source: SANA News Agency, Syria, April 29, 2015)

In fact, the Syrian regime explicitly holds Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar responsible for the oppositionist military operation in northern Syria, as manifested in its recent diplomatic attack on them. An announcement by the Syrian Foreign Ministry to the UN Security Council stated: "Attacks by armed groups on areas in Idlib and other cities, with the support of the Turkish military, constitute a direct attack on Syria by Turkey." The regime demanded that the Security Council halt the attack, punish its perpetrators and supporters, and take steps against the Turkish government.[21] During a Syrian government meeting, Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem said that "Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey are responsible for the military escalation by armed terrorist organizations in most areas, especially Idlib, via the support they provide, that has Zionist-American sponsorship."[22]

Difficulties Of Yemen Operation, Egypt's Objections Reduce Chances Of Overt Decisive Storm-Type Operation In Syria

Some think that there is no basis for the assessments that Saudi Arabia and Turkey would carry out an overt Decisive Storm-type operation in Syria, because of the difficulties Saudi Arabia encountered in Yemen, and also because Egypt objects to such a move. This is not the first time that Al-Sisi's Egypt has taken a stance on the Syrian crisis that diverges from that of its Saudi ally. Egypt also opposed the international coalition airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. Unlike the Saudis, Egypt has not defined Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as illegitimate, and has stressed that it supports neither side. In fact, in recent months, there have been increasing signs that Egypt is working to promote a solution to the crisis that will include the Assad regime, as indicated by Mundhir Khaddam, an official in the oppositionist Syrian National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, who said: "Egypt cannot agree to a Decisive Storm against Syria... The Egyptian regime has told us and others that no solution in Syria can be possible without the [Assad] regime's involvement."[23]  

* N. Mozes and E. Ezrahi are research fellows at MEMRI.


[1] Al-Watan (Syria), April 29, 2015.
[2], April 28, 2015.
[3], April 28, 2015.
[5], April 12, 2015.
[6], April 13, 2015.
[7], April 26, 2015.
[8] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), April 28, 2015.
[9] Al-Hayat (London), April 28, 2015.
[10] Al-Shara' (Lebanon), April 28, 2015.
[11] A Salafi group and member of the Islamic Front, which mainly operates in the Damascus area and is considered one of the largest Islamist organizations combating the Assad regime.
[12], April 20, 2015.
[13], April 28, 2015.
[14] Al-Safir (Lebanon), April 27, 2015.
[15], April 27, 2015.
[16] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), April 28, 2015.
[17], April 30, 2015.
[18] Al-Watan (Syria), April 29, 2015.
[19], April 29, 2015.
[20] Al-Watan (Syria), April 29, 2015.
[21], April 28, 2015.
[22], April 28, 2015.
[23] Al-Watan (Syria), April 27, 2015.

N. Mozes and E. Ezrahi are research fellows at MEMRI.


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

In the IDF officers' training course, diversity in uniform - Danielle Roth

by Danielle Roth

Ali Hujirat, a Muslim, prefers his Jewish comrades to his neighbors who don't serve in the IDF • Settler Yehonatan Yekutiel says the key is to be decent • Meet the most culturally diverse, yet unified, team in the IDF officers' training course.

Michel Dot Com
Photo credit: Team 12 of the Gefen Battalion

Danielle Roth


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

Shocker! Iran is cheating on sanctions! - Rick Moran

by Rick Moran

Iran's secretive efforts to acquire technology to upgrade their centrifuges is explicitly forbidden in the agreement they signed in November 2013 that got the nuclear talks underway.

Great Britain has informed the U.N. panel responsible for monitoring compliance with Iran sanctions that they have discovered "an active Iranian nuclear procurement network" associated with their centrifuge program.  Iran's secretive efforts to acquire technology to upgrade their centrifuges is explicitly forbidden in the agreement they signed in November 2013 that got the nuclear talks underway.

"The UK government informed the Panel on 20 April 2015 that it 'is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network which has been associated with Iran's Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) and Kalay Electric Company (KEC)'," the Panel of Experts said in its annual report. The panel monitors Iran's compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime.
KEC is under U.N. Security Council sanctions while TESA is under U.S. and European Union sanctions due to their suspected links to banned Iranian nuclear activities.
Iran, which is has been under sanctions for years, has a long history of illicit nuclear procurement using front companies and other methods of skirting sanctions.
That has enabled it to develop a substantial atomic program in spite of aggressive international efforts to curtail it, U.N. diplomats say. But analysts and Western intelligence officials say sanctions have slowed the development of Tehran’s nuclear program.
The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency have repeatedly said that Tehran has so far complied with the terms of a limited agreement struck in November 2013 between Iran and the six powers involving some reductions in its nuclear activities, including enrichment.
The panel's 41-page document did not contain further details on the British report.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf played down the report's significance. She acknowledged that Iranian sanctions violations have continued, and noted that Washington has repeatedly blacklisted Iranian entities due to illicit procurement while negotiations with Tehran were underway.
The report could add to skepticism in the U.S. Congress over the wisdom of engaging Iran, as senators vote on a bill subjecting the agreement to congressional review. Some Republicans are seeking to inject amendments that would toughen the demands on Iran.
Incredibly, the panel's report admits that other member-states have evidence of Iranian efforts to circumvent the sanctions but are keeping their mouths shut so that a deal can be struck.  This makes those countries complicit in threatening genocide, as the Iranians have made no secret of their desire to wipe Israel off the map.

The sad fact is, no one cares what Iran does to build up its nuclear program.  The sanctions have been little more than an inconvenience for Iran, as they play their shell games with cash in order to purchase nuclear technology and hardware on the sly.  Everyone knows that Iran is violating the sanctions and violating their agreement signed two years ago – the one that President Obama told us would be a test to see if Iran was serious about negotiations.
Instead, it turned out to be a test for the West regarding Iranian intentions.  We have failed that test miserably.

Rick Moran


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How Democracies Decay - Burak Bekdil

by Burak Bekdil

  • Turkey's stealth Islamism and authoritarian practices are no longer stealth.
  • It is a powerful analogy showing how theoretically "democratic" Turkey is moving in the same direction as Germany's Weimar Republic did after 1933, in passing unconstitutional legislation.
"That [Turkey] sounds to me like the late Weimar Republic. So I would have no difficulty at all in agreeing that the logics of certain possibilities are being put together in ways that seem very reminiscent to the broader context of right-wing thought in Weimar Republic, especially after 1930." Thus commented Geoff Eley, a British-born historian whose early work focused on the radical nationalism in Imperial Germany, and, in Italy, fascism.

It is a powerful analogy showing how theoretically "democratic" Turkey is moving in the same direction as Germany's Weimar Republic did after 1933.

Historians often refer to Germany's federal republic and semi-presidential representative democracy, which in 1919 replaced imperial rule, as the Weimar Republic.

After a period of relatively liberal democracy, President Paul von Hindenburg in 1930 assumed dictatorial emergency powers to back the administrations of three German chancellors, and finally Hitler.

The year 1933 would mark the ascent to power of the Nazi Party; its immediate measures would include unconstitutional legislation. This would be the beginning of the Third Reich.

Turkey's own 1933 was the year 2011 when then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan won his third consecutive parliamentary election victory since 2002, with a landslide 49.5% of the national vote. Eley's Turkish-German analogy is not unfounded.

Shortly before the parliamentary elections in 2011, a prominent opposition deputy visited Sakarya, a province not far from Istanbul. Muharrem Ince, from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), got on a minibus and made a speech to locals for about 15 minutes. Later, Ince would learn that a prosecutor had charged him with "blocking the city traffic by speaking on a minibus and attempting to wear down the government."

The prosecutor asked parliament to remove Ince's immunity so that he could stand trial. Ince was probably the first MP in the world accused by the judicial authorities of trying to wear down the government. Later that year, in a speech in parliament, Ince said: "In fact I am not trying to wear down the government. I am trying to topple the government!"

An indictment was later sent to parliament to put Ince on trial for his "offense," but he has not stood trial, thanks to his parliamentary immunity.

Nearly four years later, Turkey's stealth Islamism and authoritarian practices are no longer stealth.

Recently, the country's television and radio regulator, RTUK, fined a private television station 311,000 Turkish liras (nearly $180,000) because a character in one of the soap operas it broadcasts was shown drinking a bottle of beer, with the beer's logo visible on the screen. RTUK cited competition laws for the fine, but the same competition rules are not applied for products not banned in Islam. Turkish TV stations, fearing heavy fines, usually blur alcoholic beverages if, for example, a scene shows James Bond drinking his favorite pink champagne.

But it is not only about beverages that violate Islamic rules. The Islamist Weimar Republic would ban anything it would deem "inappropriate." The members of the Turkish rock band, Grup Yorum, a popular leftist and anti-government group, were appalled when they went to a concert hall to prepare for their planned April 12 concert in Istanbul. They had gotten all the necessary permits from the government. But fans were told the concert had been cancelled, so they went to the concert to protest the cancellation. Then the riot police arrived with water cannon trucks to disperse the band members in case they refused to follow orders. They would learn from the police that the permission for their concert had been cancelled on grounds that "at a time when the country goes through a [politically] tense period their concert might cause undesired incidents."

Not typical of pre-concert scenes in any sane country, on April 12, Istanbul police used water cannons and rubber bullets against Grup Yorum's fans, and detained several of them. The fans were there to protest the denial of permission for the concert. Several hours before the fans gathered, the police had blocked the roads leading to the square where the band would have performed. The protesters fled into side streets in the area as police pursued them. Police helicopters flew over the area. Such were the scenes from a concert Turkey's Islamist Weimar rulers did not want take place. It did not.

Istanbul riot police rough up fans of the band Grup Yorum who protested the government's cancellation of the band's concert, April 12, 2015. The police stated that permission for the concert was revoked because it could have led to "undesired incidents" in the current "tense period."

Turkey seems to have no limits in undemocratic absurdity. Last month, the Turkish state-owned broadcaster, TRT, banned the CHP opposition party's election campaign advertisement "because it directly targets the government." Opposition MPs angrily accused TRT of "abusing public office." The state-owned company has so far refused to comment on how a paid election advertisement could be banned in a democracy. CHP's deputy leader, Bulent Tezcan, said, "By taking the decision not to broadcast the advertisement, TRT has created a new scandal. The main purpose of state-funded television in all democratic countries is fairness of broadcasting."

Worse days may be ahead of CHP -- and any other opposition party. In 2011, a party official was indicted for making propaganda against the government. Today, its TV ad is banned for "directly targeting the government." By 2019, the opposition party itself may be banned for snatching millions of votes from the government.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Biden: 'Path has already been paved' for Iran to get the bomb - Rick Moran

by Rick Moran

Iran believes that the framework nuclear deal allows them to install the next generation of centrifuges which enrich uranium at 16 times the speed of their current set up. If that would occur, Iran could pull out of the deal and have nukes within weeks.

Vice President Joe Biden told a policy group in Washington that the "path has already been paved' for Iran to reduce it's breakout time to get a nuclear weapon to 3 months.

Biden is trying to argue that with a deal, that time period would be extended.

Washington Examiner:
ran would have enough enriched uranium within three months to be able to make up to eight nuclear weapons if negotiations with the international community blow up, Vice President Joe Biden said late Thursday, noting that "the path has already been paved" for that outcome.
Biden's remarks at a dinner for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy played off concerns by critics, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that the Obama administration is negotiating an agreement that paves the path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.
"Let's get something straight so we don't kid each other," Biden said. "They already have paved a path to a bomb's worth of material. Iran could get there now if they walked away in two to three months without a deal."
President Obama and other administration officials have insisted that any agreement stemming from the framework announced April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland, would put Iran at least a year away from obtaining a nuclear weapon for at least 10 years, though Obama has admitted Iran could develop one more quickly after the deal expires.
Critics have noted that this is an apparent backing down from Obama's stated position that he would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, but Biden said that policy still stands.
"President Obama, decided for the first time — people forget this — to make it an explicit, declared policy of the United States of America, no such policy existed before President Obama uttered it — that all instruments of American power to prevent — not contain, not contain — to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran would be used to prevent that from happening," Biden said.
Biden, nor any other American, can say with any confidence just how close Iran is to being able to make a bomb.Iran believes that the framework nuclear deal allows them to install the next generation of centrifuges which enrich uranium at 16 times the speed of their current set up. If that would occur, Iran could pull out of the deal and have nukes within weeks. That hardly fulfills the president's promise that the deal would keep Iran a year away from being able to build a bomb.

The president has already backed off much of the deal he outlined in his "Fact Sheet," which puts few limits on Iran's ability to enrich uranium or develop missile technology to marry the bomb with an ICBM. With Biden continuing to present the fantasy that we've got Iran in some kind of box, the final deal is likely to be even weaker than the framework agreement negotiated early last month.. 

Rick Moran


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Counter-Extremism and the 2015 British Elections - Samuel Westrop

by Samuel Westrop

  • The [Conservative] Government has drafted legislation designed to give the Charity Commission greater powers to shut down charities linked to terrorism. Some critics argue, however, that many of the government's promises are largely bluster.
  • If Labour wins the upcoming elections, the next government will include a number of Ministers with strong Islamist ties.
  • The UKIP's foreign policy, however, seems tolerant of the Russian-Iranian axis.
  • "We have been impressed by the warm and welcoming attitude of the SNP." — Azzam Tamami, Hamas's "special envoy" to the UK.
On May 7, the British electorate will go to the polls in the 2015 general election. Voters will elect their local members of parliament. It seems voters may not, however, be able to choose their next government.

As in 2010, current polling data suggests a hung parliament, in which no political party can achieve an outright majority. Governance requires the confidence of the House of Commons. Of the 650 parliamentary seats, then, a ruling coalition requires the backing of at least 326 MPs.

For the past five years, Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party has retained the confidence of the House through a reasonably successful and stable coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

This time around, however, things are not so simple. For the first time, special interest and minor parties look set to have a powerful influence over the next government. If, as looks likely, neither the Conservatives nor the Labour Party is able to achieve an outright majority, coalitions with smaller parties will become a necessity.

The Liberal Democrats, the UK Independence Party, the Green Party, the Scottish National Party, Wales's Plaid Cymru and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party are all possible members of the next coalition government of Labour or the Conservatives.

The political future is uncertain. Amid the anticipated negotiations of coalition-building, promised policies may be quickly abandoned by those political parties desperate to compromise for the sake of power.

For those monitoring counter-extremism issues, the influence of smaller parties is cause for concern.

What approach do the prospective members of the next government take towards the question of Islamic extremism?


Since 2010, the Conservative Party has repeatedly stressed its overhaul of the previous government's counter-extremism programs. In 2011, the government published its review of the PREVENT counter-extremism program, in which Home Secretary Theresa May wrote:
"The Prevent programme we inherited from the last Government was flawed. It confused the delivery of Government policy to promote integration with Government policy to prevent terrorism. It failed to confront the extremist ideology at the heart of the threat we face; and in trying to reach those at risk of radicalisation, funding sometimes even reached the very extremist organisations that Prevent should have been confronting."
Also in 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron gave a much-discussed speech in Munich, in which he acknowledged the flaws of multiculturalism policy and previous counter-extremism efforts:
"Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream. ... We've even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values."
"As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by what some have called 'non-violent extremists', and they then took those radical beliefs to the next level by embracing violence. ... Some organisations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism. As others have observed, this is like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement."
On the face of it, the Conservative-led government has responded forcefully to extremist influence in the public sphere.

After British newspapers revealed the extent of Islamist influence within state-funded schools – a scandal that has since become known as the Trojan Horse plot – the government immediately established an inquiry and toughened up the monitoring procedures of Ofsted, the schools watchdog. Dozens of schools are being investigated, and up to 100 teachers accused of Islamist links could be banned from working in schools.

In addition, the government has drafted legislation designed to give the Charity Commission greater powers to shut down charities linked to terrorism. Further anticipated legislation will target sharia courts, fight "extremist entryism" in schools and local government, and tackle "hate preachers" in universities.

Some critics argue, however, that many of the government's promises are largely bluster. The government's "review" of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, has still not published its report – a full year after David Cameron announced an inquiry.

After the Prime Minister and Home Secretary's promises of reform, some extremist organizations have continued to receive taxpayers' money from the Conservative-led government. Between 2011 and 2014, for instance, the government granted £1.5 million of taxpayers' money to Islamic Relief, the flagship charity of the Muslim Brotherhood network in Britain.

In Gaza, Islamic Relief funds Hamas-run institutions such as the Al-Falah Benevolent Society. Islamic Relief fundraising events have featured preachers such as Haitham Al-Haddad, who describes Jews as "pigs and apes;" and Abdurraheem Green, who advocates beating women in order to "bring them to goodness."

Similarly, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies has continued to enjoy the support of senior civil servants, despite Home Secretary Theresa May's condemnation of the group for its failure to "fully challenge terrorist and extremist ideology."

Mosques that promote anti-Jewish, anti-Western and pro-terror preachers have also continued to receive public funds. In 2014, the East London Mosque, one of the most prolific centers in Europe for extremist preachers, was granted £154,358 of public money, drawn from local government, school and healthcare funds.

Also in 2014, the Finsbury Park Mosque, run by fugitive Hamas commander Muhammad Sawalha, received £20,000 from local government sources.

Even after David Cameron acknowledged that state multiculturalism had "encouraged... segregated communities," the government nevertheless continued to support the Islamist grip over British Muslims. Although the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), for example, was officially cut off from government in 2009 – after one of its officials became a signatory to the pro-terror and anti-Jewish Istanbul Declaration – the Conservative-led government continued to work with the MCB through other channels.

The Ministry of Defence still uses the MCB to accredit Muslim chaplains serving in Britain's armed forces. The MCB also still provides chaplains for public hospitals and prisons, and the Department for Communities and Local Government continues to fund interfaith groups of which the MCB is a leading member. Yet, according to a 2007 survey, 94% of British Muslims believe the MCB does not represent their views.

There is also a strong concern that Conservative ministers are willing to implement measures that threaten free speech. Home Secretary Theresa May has called for a ban on extremists being interviewed on television, speaking at public meetings or using the Internet.

May has also encouraged further use of "Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures," which restrict suspects' movements without the need for prosecution. Those under these controls are not allowed to challenge the restrictions or even know why they are subject to such measures.

A law proposed by UK Home Secretary Theresa May (left) would target terror suspects by measures such as confiscating passports, denying use of the internet and telephones, restricting domestic travel, and forcible relocation. (Image source: UK Home Office)

The Conservative's manifesto promises a Conservative government would:
  • Outlaw extremist groups using new "Banning Orders."
  • Establish "Extremism Disruption Orders" to ban designated "extremists" from "using the internet or communicating via social media."
  • "Tackle the infiltration of extremists into our schools and public services."
  • Take "tough measures...against [television] channels that broadcast extremist content."
  • Allow employers to "check whether an individual is an extremist and bar them from working with children."
  • "Ensure colleges and universities do not give a platform to extremist speakers."


The decade after the September 11 attacks was financially and politically rewarding for British Islamism. The then-Labour government, under Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, poured enormous amounts of taxpayers' money into the wallets of radical Islamic groups.

The Labour government did so under the assumption that "nonviolent" extremists would act as a check on the influence of violent extremists.

The government's counter-extremism program, PREVENT, funded Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami groups such as the MCB and the Cordoba Foundation. At the time, the MCB periodically boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day, expressed support for Hamas terrorists and blamed Islamic terrorism on British foreign policy and media-driven Islamophobia.

Prominent Labour ministers spoke at Muslim Brotherhood events such as the Global Peace and Unity conference, alongside preachers such as Zakir Naik, who advocates suicide bombings and claims Jews are the enemies of Muslims.

Not everyone in the Labour government, however, was so enamoured of Muslim Brotherhood groups. Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly and her successor, Hazel Blears, eventually realized that the MCB's Islam was not so different from that of the jihadists.

In 2006, Kelly decided to cut funding for the MCB and any other organization that does not "stand up for our shared values." In 2009, Hazel Blears severed relations with the MCB completely after its deputy secretary general, Daud Abdullah, signed a Muslim Brotherhood statement "supporting violence against troops and Jewish communities."

Fast-forward to 2015, and Ed Miliband's Labour Party appears to have forgotten – or perhaps is deliberately ignoring – the lessons learnt from the PREVENT fiasco.

The Labour manifesto explains:
"The Prevent programme was set up under the last Labour Government to stop young people becoming radicalised. But this [Conservative] Government has cut the funding and narrowed its focus. Much of the work to engage Muslim communities has been lost.
We will overhaul the programme to involve communities in countering extremist propaganda, stopping young people being groomed, and also building resilient institutions for social integration."
Labour's manifesto offers nothing more on the issue of extremism. It seems that a future Labour government is likely to welcome Islamist groups such as the MCB back into the fold.

Recent Labour Party events, in fact, have featured MCB stalwarts such as Iqbal Sacranie as well as Muhammad Ali Harrath, a convicted terrorist, former leader of the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood and founder of the extremist Global Peace and Unity conferences.

After 2010, the Labour shadow cabinet included MPs such as John Denham, who, in the last days of the Labour government, sought to restore ties with the MCB.

The Muslim News has reported that, in a recent interview, Labour leader Ed Miliband promised to criminalize "Islamophobia". Miliband reportedly said, "We are going to make it an aggravated crime. We are going to make sure it is marked on people's records with the police to make sure they root out Islamophobia as a hate crime."

If Labour wins the upcoming elections, the next government will include a number of ministers with strong Islamist ties:

Andy Slaughter, the shadow Justice Minister. Slaughter has frequently spoken at events run by Islamist groups aligned with the terrorist group Hamas, such as the Palestinian Forum of Britain and the Arab Organisation for Human Rights. In 2010, Slaughter met with senior representatives of Hamas.

Slaughter has also expressed praise for the Al-Muntada Trust, a Salafist charity that has given platforms to financiers of the Islamic State and is reported to be funding the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram. In 2013, Slaughter hosted an event for the Al-Muntada Trust in the House of Commons.

Sadiq Khan, the shadow Justice Secretary. In 2013, Khan, along with Andy Slaughter, was listed as a speaker at the Muslim Brotherhood's Global Peace and Unity conference. Other speakers included Yasir Qadhi, who claims the Holocaust is a hoax; Jamal Badawi, a Muslim Brotherhood activist who describes suicide bombers as "freedom fighters;" and Yusuf Estes, who advises husbands to beat their wives.

Khan is a prominent supporter and "friend" of Babar Ahmad, a British Islamist convicted on terrorism charges by a U.S. court in 2014.

Shabana Mahmood, a shadow Treasury Minister. Mahmood is a vocal supporter of MEND, an Islamist lobby group described by the Daily Telegraph as a "front group of Islamic extremists."

In 2014, Mahmood spoke at a MEND event alongside Abdul Qudues Zafar, a MEND official who has circulated music videos in support of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and has posted videos claiming that the "New World Order" is run by a "Zionist Antichrist."

Mahmood advocates a boycott of Israeli goods and encourages anti-Israel activists to take "direct action" against British firms that do business in Israel.

Liberal Democrats

In 2011, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the government would reform its approach to extremism. Immediately afterwards, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the Conservatives' coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, gave a very different speech in the British city of Luton.

In contrast to David Cameron, Clegg argued that "engagement" was important, even with non-violent extremists:
"To take one example, the Global Peace and Unity conference attracts around fifty thousand British Muslims each year and is an important opportunity to engage in argument -- and so Andrew Stunell, the Government's Communities Minister did this year. Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader, also spoke at the event.
Now there may well have been a small minority of organisations and individuals at that event with deeply unpalatable, illiberal views.
But you don't win a fight by leaving the ring. You get in and win."
At the conference Clegg cited, the Daily Telegraph reported that, "Items glorifying terrorism were on open sale... Also available were 'shahada headbands' as worn by many Palestinian suicide bombers... The headbands contain the personal testimony of the suicide bombers."

Furthermore, Global Peace and Unity conference does not merely include a "small minority" of "illiberal" organizations; it was established and run, as mentioned before, by extremist Muslim Brotherhood operatives. And as the Gatestone Institute has previously noted, the clear majority of speakers at the Global Peace and Unity conferences have been pro-terror, anti-gay and anti-Jewish Islamist preachers.

The marked divide between Cameron and Clegg has constrained counter-extremism policy over the last five years. Most recently, the Liberal Democrats blocked Conservative proposals to ban extremist speakers who "preach death" or incite terrorism, on the grounds that such measures erode free speech.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto offers little on the subject of the extremism. It simply states:
"We will work with religious and community leaders, civil society groups and social media sites to counter the narratives put forward by extremists, and create the space for the expression of contrary viewpoints and religious interpretations."

UK Independence Party (UKIP)

The UKIP manifesto mentions extremism and terrorism just once – in conjunction with an isolationist foreign policy:
"UKIP acknowledges there are real, existential threats around the world. The rise of Islamic extremism is at the forefront of this and, indeed, is possibly the most important battle of our generation. But the fight with and against this ideology is not best fought on a battlefield 3,000 miles away, but at home, where we have significant problems of radicalisation and incitement to terrorism."
The UKIP is frequently described as a "right-wing populist party," and leader Nigel Farage has previously claimed that British mosques have been infiltrated by Islamist hate preachers, and that state multiculturalism policy had created a "fifth column" of Islamic extremists.

The UKIP's foreign policy, however, appears tolerant of the Russian-Iranian axis. The UKIP manifesto claims that, "European Union expansionism is putting us increasingly, unnecessarily, at loggerheads with Russia." Farage has argued that the West should not oppose Russian aggression in the Ukraine, because President Putin is "on our side" in the fight against Islamic extremism.

By "Islamic extremism," Farage refers to the threat posed by the Islamic State and other Sunni Islamist terror. Of the Shi'ite Islamist regime in Tehran, however, Farage told a Jewish audience in London that he would not support an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities: "I do not support acts of aggression, even from countries that feel their existence is threatened. I'd go for a non-intervention policy."

In addition, Farage has expressed opposition to sanctions against the Islamist Iranian regime:
"The approach we have taken with sanctions has been a mistake. By putting sanctions on Iran we have helped foster the view that all the West is against it and Israel's mates have forced Iranians into poverty. A more intelligent approach would have been to love-bomb Iran and give everyone free access to the internet. We can be cleverer about how we deal with issues like Iran."

Green Party

If the UKIP is regarded as the "right wing populist" party that siphons votes from the Conservatives, then the Green Party is considered the left-wing equivalent. The Labour Party has, in fact, identified 22 parliamentary seats in which the Greens pose a threat to the Labour majority.

Although the Greens mostly focus, unsurprisingly, on environmental issues, critics also charge the party with an overly friendly attitude towards Islamist causes and anti-Semitism.

In a recent article for the Forward, Liam Hoare writes of Green Party members circulating articles by "white supremacists," issuing calls to "smash the Zionists," and deeming Green Party members with Jewish surnames to be "Nazi infiltrators" and "agents of Israel."

These reports only skim the surface of the problem. Pippa Bartolotti, leader of the Welsh Greens, has been photographed while posing with the swastika flag of the Syrian neo-Nazi group, the SSNP. The Atlantic has noted that the SSNP pays frequent homage to 1930s European Nazism – members greet their leaders with a "Hitlerian salute."

Bartolotti has objected to the appointment of Jewish ambassadors: "I questioned the wisdom of having a Jewish Zionist ambassador in Israel and stated that their loyalty was a matter for the FCO to investigate. ... From the university of life I have learned that Jews often have a conflict of interest in matters relating to Palestine."

In 2010, Bartolotti travelled to Gaza to meet with senior Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al-Zahar. Al-Zahar has called for the killing of Jewish children across the world.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has expressed support for a complete economic and cultural boycott against Israel – including artists, musicians and academics. In January, Bennett argued that membership of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda should not be a criminal offence.

Deputy Green Party leader Shahrar Ali was recently filmed speaking of Jews: "Just because you observe the niceties of Holocaust Memorial Day it does not mean you have learned the lessons of history." Ali added: "If you tolerate this, your children will be next."

At the last general election, the Green Party and George Galloway's Islamist Respect Party backed each other's candidates in some constituencies. In addition, senior Green Party members have signed up to Muslim Brotherhood campaigns and have regularly shared platforms with prominent British Islamist operatives.

As with the UKIP, the Green Party's manifesto only mentions extremism once. The Party claims that Islamist extremism is a consequence of "ill-advised military interventions," and proposes, without further explanation, "effective programmes to prevent radicalisation."

Scottish National Party (SNP)

The SNP advocates an independent Scotland. After losing a recent referendum on the issue, the SNP has now it turned its attention towards the national parliament in Westminster, where, as a possible coalition partner, it can further Scottish interests and possibly force a second referendum.

Polls suggest the SNP will win a great number of seats in Scotland. A Labour-led coalition is unlikely without SNP support.

Muslim Brotherhood groups have also long enjoyed a friendly relationship with the SNP. In 2005, Hamas's "special envoy" to the UK, Azzam Tamimi, stated, "We have been impressed by the warm and welcoming attitude of the SNP."

Scotland's former First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond has shared platforms with prominent Islamist leaders, including Iqbal Sacranie, a leading British Islamist who said of Salman Rushdie that, "Death, perhaps, is a bit too easy for him."

In 2010, the SNP handed £400,000 to the Scottish Islamic Foundation. Counter-extremism experts have stated that the Scottish Islamic Foundation "promotes religious separatism and a range of Muslim Brotherhood-style policies."

At the time, the Scottish Islamic Foundation was managed by SNP candidate Osama Saeed, who has expressed support for the late Al Qaeda leader, Anwar Al-Awlaki. In addition, the Scottish Islamic Foundation arranged in 2008 for Hamas commander Mohammed Sawalha and other prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders to meet with the SNP culture minister, Linda Fabiani.

In 2013, the SNP Scottish government granted £398,000 to Islamic Relief Worldwide, a leading Muslim Brotherhood charity. Former directors of Islamic Relief Worldwide include Essam El-Haddad, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who is presently on trial in Egypt.

The SNP manifesto offers little on the question of Islamist extremism. It simply states: "We will support targeted, and properly overseen, measures to identify suspected extremists and, if necessary, examine their online activity and communications."

Given the company senior SNP officials have kept, it seems unlikely that these "extremists" would include the SNP's erstwhile Muslim Brotherhood allies. Follow Samuel Westrop on Twitter

Samuel Westrop


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