Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Mullahs' War on America's Financial System - Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Why the U.S. must act before it's too late.

Left-wing politicians keep making the argument that the US is becoming a friend in the eyes of Iranian leaders, particularly after the nuclear deal and the lifting of United Nations economic sanctions, thanks to the Obama administration.  But the reality on the ground is totally different from this wishful thinking.

The ruling mullahs of the Islamic Republic are complementing their physical attacks against America by increasing, at an unprecedented level, their targeting of major banking and financial systems of the United States. They are emboldened and fear no repercussions.

Nevertheless, Iran’s rapid advancement and investment in its cyber welfare capabilities does not seem to raise any concern in the administration.

The speedy advancement of Iran’s cyber program is crucial, as it only began a few years ago. The Islamic Republic began heavily investing in its social media, Internet and cyber welfare capabilities after the protests that erupted in the 2009 contested election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iranian leaders became cognizant of the significance of social media in galvanizing people and advancing political interests.

Outlets such as Halal Internet, national Internet, mehr (used instead of Youtube), and surveillance programs were increased. Reportedly, Iran obtained advanced surveillance software to monitor the population, mainly from China. The Islamic Republic invested more than $1 billion in cyber infrastructure and technology, as well as recruiting more than 100,000 personnel.

Soon after, in 2012, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered the establishment of the Supreme Council on Cyberspace in order to form cyber policies. This council became an indispensable pillar of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s foreign and domestic policies.

From the outset, Iran’s cyber program was designed to be offensive and proactive in nature.

Iranian leaders are aware that they would not be successful when it comes to military confrontation with some powerful regional and international nation-states, such as Israel and the US.  The alternative to a physical war is a virtual one where it can inflict significant damages on the foreign citizens, and in which it is almost impossible to hold Iranian leaders accountable. As Abdollah Araqi, deputy commander of ground forces in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), pointed out, according to the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA), "We have armed ourselves with new tools, because a cyber war is more dangerous than a physical war."

A few years after initiation, Iran possessed the world’s fourth biggest cyber army, according to an official of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Even major Israeli think tanks acknowledged Iran as a major cyber power and warned about its prospects. The Israeli-based Institute for National Security Studies stated, “IRGC clearly makes the country one of the best and most advanced nation when it comes to cyberwarfare. In a case of escalation between Iran and the West, Iran will likely aim to launch a cyber attack against critical infrastructures in the United States and its allies, including energy infrastructure, financial institutions, transportation systems, and other."

In 2013, the US banking systems were attacked on an unprecedented level. The online banking sites of institutions such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup were affected. US intelligence officials stated that the level of sophistication pointed to the Iranian government.

In addition, the US intelligence pointed out that the Islamic Republic was behind the “Shamoon” virus, which targeted computers of the Aramco oil corporation.

And more recently, last week, after pressure from many companies, the Justice Department indicted seven Iranian citizens for distributed denial of service (“DDoS”) attacks against 46 companies, mainly in the banking and financial sector.

Iran also began exporting its cyber capabilities to its extremist proxies and allies such as Bashar Al Assad in order to suppress the opposition and popular uprising.

Iran’s cyber warfare capabilities are advancing at a pace that needs to be addressed adequately by regional and global powers.

From Khamenei’s perspective, the future of Iran’s cyber program is a matter of protecting and advancing Sharia law, as well as being a matter of national security. The ayatollah can accomplish several objectives by advancing Iran's cyber welfare capabilities.

First of all, domestically speaking, IRGC leaders can more easily control the opposition and dissidents. Secondly, as an offensive tool, Iran can advance its ideological, geopolitical, and strategic ambitions by sending a strong message to other nations about their vulnerabilities vis-a-vis Iran. Tehran can also inflict physical and financial damage on other major state institutions and infrastructures. Finally, Iran needs the advanced cyber program in order to protect its nuclear sites.

The US needs to take Iran’s cyber attacks against American banking and financial systems seriously before it is too late. The Islamic Republic is advancing it cyber attacks in order to complement its IRGC military prowess and in order to achieve its regional, hegemonic, Islamists and ideological ambitions.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh


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Pat Leahy’s Israel Obsession - Ari Lieberman

by Ari Lieberman

The Vermont senator’s fixation with the Jewish State turns ugly.

Vermont, the state that gave us unrepentant socialist, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is home to another radical liberal breed named Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Along with Sanders, Sen. Leahy represents the left flank of the Democratic Party and often finds himself at loggerheads with its more centrist members.

Not unsurprising, Leahy is also a visceral critic of Israel, the Mideast’s only democracy and stalwart U.S. ally. In 2011, citing alleged human rights violations, he proposed a bill that would have cut funding to three elite Israeli units that conduct counter-terror operations in Judea/Samaria and Gaza, prompting intervention by Israel’s then defense minister, Ehud Barak.

In 2012, Leahy employed veiled anti-Semitic rhetoric to oppose an amendment proposed by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) that called for the State Department to provide a more accurate accounting of which actual Palestinian refugees were being serviced by U.S. tax dollars. In opposing Kirk, Leahy implied that those who favored the amendment had other interests and not those of the U.S. in mind thereby invoking the blatantly anti-Semitic “Israel firster” canard, which implies divided Jewish loyalties. 

Leahy now seems to have set his sights on obtaining “justice” for Arab terrorists neutralized by Israel while conducting terror attacks against Israelis. He recently sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking the State Department to investigate “gross violations of human rights” alleged to have been committed by Israel’s security forces. The letter, which also names Egypt as an offender, claims that Israel may have engaged in extrajudicial killings and torture. 

Leahy has chosen to initiate his assault on Israel at a difficult time when the Jewish State is experiencing a wave of Islamist inspired terrorism, spurred on by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. In addition, Leahy has chosen to lump Israel, the only democracy in a sea of depravity, with Egypt, a nation ruled by a military strongman with no democratic institutions. The letter of course is devoid of any reference to Palestinian terrorism and genocidal attacks against Israel.

Finally, Leahy’s letter cites four Palestinian Arabs who were allegedly killed in extrajudicial fashion and a further two who were allegedly tortured. But what Leahy fails to note in his letter is that all of those listed were involved in especially heinous terror attacks against Israelis. 

Fadi Alloun for example, tried to murder a 15-year old Israeli boy in Jerusalem with a knife. After stabbing and moderately injuring the youngster, Alloun ran wildly through the streets of Jerusalem with a large knife in hand trying to stab and slash at anyone who came across his path of destruction. He was eventually cornered and killed by quick-reacting security forces after refusing to comply with instructions to drop his weapon. 
On his Facebook page he wrote, “Either martyrdom or victory” making his nefarious intentions quite obvious. Alloun wasn’t a victim. He was an Islamist terrorist who fell victim to circumstances of his own making.

Leahy’s letter also cites the case of Ahmed Manasra. On October 12, 2015 Manasra and his cousin set out armed with knives to kill Jews in Jerusalem. They first attacked a young man who succeeded in escaping with severe lacerations. They then pounced on 13-yearold boy on a bicycle, stabbing him in the neck before being chased off. 

The stabbing spree was finally halted after police officers killed Manasra’s accomplice and a civilian rammed Manasra with his car. Manasra was taken to an Israeli hospital where Israeli doctors provided the terrorist with life-saving treatment. This of course did not prevent Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority from accusing Israel of “executing” him.

Leahy’s letter drew a quick and biting reaction from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu reminded the senator that Israeli security forces maintain the highest moral standards while defending Israel’s citizens against “bloodthirsty terrorists who come to murder them.” He suggested that Leahy direct his concerns “to those who incite youngsters to commit cruel acts of terrorism,” an obvious reference to Abbas’ Palestinian Authority.

Israeli opposition members, who rarely agree with Netanyahu, weighed in as well. Opposition member Yair Lapid wrote to Harry Reid (D-NV) and characterized Leahy’s letter as “outlandish” and asked Reid to issue a statement stating that Leahy’s views do not reflect those of the Democratic Party. 

Hamas of course was elated with Leahy’s letter. A spokesman for the terror group stated, “The request…to open an investigation into the Israeli occupation reflects the global perception of Israeli racism and the ugliness of the crimes committed against the Palestinian people.”

Patrick Leahy serves as a continuous reminder that there are those in the West who function as nothing more than useful idiots for Palestinian terrorism. Their repeated and exclusive criticism of Israel, the Mideast’s only democracy, merely serves to increase Palestinian intransigence and violence thereby reducing any prospect of peaceful settlement. 

Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.


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Bir Zeit Prof: Columbus Colonized America, Israel to Blame - Mara Schiffren

by Mara Schiffren

Editor: Fasten your seat belts - and maybe it is advisable to put on a helmet as well. This article is going to propel you into an Orwellian world of distorted language and concepts.

[Algemeiner's title: "Columbia University Gives Platform to Anti-Israel Blasphemy"]

Abdul Rahim al-Shaikh
When protesters at a pro-Israel event at UC Davis unfurled a banner reading "1948=1492," thereby drawing a connection between Israel's founding in 1948 and Christopher Columbus's discovery of America in 1492, it was "intersectionality" in action. Anti-Israel activists have appropriated this academic theory, which holds that oppressive social structures reinforce each other at every level, resulting in heightened oppression.

Illustrating this trend, the Center for Palestine Studies (CPS) at Columbia University recently held a lecture titled, "Palestine Re-Covered: Reading a Settler Colonial Landscape," by Abdul Rahim al-Shaikh. Al-Shaikh is an associate professor of philosophy and cultural studies at Bir Zeit University, and a Fulbright Visiting Senior Scholar at CPS. The audience of approximately sixty people continued to trickle into one of the smaller semi-circular lecture halls in Jerome Greene Hall, even as al-Shaikh began. He opened with the aforementioned "intersection" between 1492 and the Zionist return to the land of Israel in the mid-nineteenth century:
The moment of 1492 is an intersection between the conquest of America and the conquest of Palestine. . . . 1492 is occupied by the threshold of the longstanding amalgam between the neo-American colonial enterprise and Zionism. Since then, the idea of America and the idea of Israel managed to form the power that realized the Zionist myth.
By employing the magic of intersectionality, al-Shaikh blamed Israel for an event that took place 350 years before its rebirth. Evoking "the myths of history being the West, and the West being history," he claimed that Columbus's colonization of the Indies both prefigured and predetermined the linguistic conquest of Palestine, later resulting in "geographic amnesia" among Palestinians towards their own land.

Al-Shaikh declared that Columbus's baptizing of native people in the Indies was the equivalent of the program by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, to revitalize the Hebrew language in Israel by renaming "hills, valleys, streams, and bridges" throughout the land:
Long before social and cultural engineering was employed in modern nation states, Columbus . . . gave personal baptized names . . . to the Indians. By the same token . . . in 1952, Ben Gurion was also in charge of determining Hebrew alternative words for foreign words.
During the question-and-answer period, Nadia Abu El-Haj, CPS assistant director and a Barnard College anthropology professor, pointed out the incomparability of these events. By denying that the Indians possessed language, she maintained, Columbus was effectively denying them personhood, whereas Ben-Gurion was merely implying that the Arabs were non-indigenous. Al-Shaikh, however, doubled down, insisting that the word Ben-Gurion used for the inhabitants was "zar," which "means alien, literally alien, who is not an earthly being."

Mohammed Assaf
In fact, the primary meaning of "zar," a biblical word with a long history of common usage, is "stranger" or "immigrant alien." Al-Shaikh's contention was at best, incorrect, and at worst,disinformation for a presumably non-Hebrew speaking audience.

Throughout his talk, al-Shaikh was extremely sensitive to how the use of language shapes consciousness, which in his case meant the employment of propaganda. To that end, he used the term "war criminal" repeatedly when referring to Israeli politicians Shimon Peres and Ariel Sharon, frequently called Rehavam Ze'evi "the fascist" minister of tourism, and asserted often that Palestinians whose families were uprooted during the War of Independence were "ethnically cleansed." Such examples exemplify the active fashioning of perception through the use of language as part of his stated project of "counter cultural engineering."

To illustrate "a Palestinian audio-visual response to the Zionist project," al-Shaikh showed the audience a late 2015 music video by Palestinian heartthrob Mohammed Assaf, winner of the second season of "Arab Idol." Assaf, whom al-Shaikh described simply as "a simple young man," sang passionately of the murderous campaign of knife attacks in Israel as mobs of young Palestinian men hurtled rocks at Israeli targets and engaged IDF soldiers. The lyrics were unabashedly violent:
Oh motherland, these are your sons. They rose to fight the occupiers . . . The resistance will win. And victory will come and Al-Aqsa will be free . . . Some were martyred, some were injured, their blood blossomed. And our precious blood is still spilling; [it] will draw the map of independence in our soil.
Mesmerized by the video, an audible "wow" arose from the audience. During the Q&A, several people personally thanked him for showing it, thereby demonstrating their appreciation for the incitement of Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians and others, such as the American tourist killed recently in Jaffa.

In closing, al-Shaikh stated blithely, "It is my serene hope that I have managed to strike a balance." Yet his bigoted argument reflected a simplistic Manichaean view of good versus bad far more than any rigorous, informed reading of the past. In this, it drew more on antisemitic fervor than on a scholarly search for the truth.

Mara Schiffren who has a Ph.D. from Harvard University in the Study of Religion, is currently working on a book about historical Israel. This essay was commissioned by Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.


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Arab Gulf States Close Doors to Syrian Refugees - Raheem Kassam

by Raheem Kassam

But while the United Nations lumps the responsibility onto the West, you might ask why countries like Saudi Arabia, which claims to have absorbed around half a million Syrians, do not provide any data to support their statements.

Originally published under the title "Gulf Countries Have 'Closed The Doors' To Syria's Real Refugees – So Now UN Chief Ban Ki Moon Is Lecturing Britain And America."

In this cartoon from the Saudi daily Makkah, a man in Arab Gulf attire points a refugee to a door with an EU flag, shouting, "Why don't you let them in, you discourteous people?!"
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has surfaced, once again to lecture the Anglosphere and the Western world about its "duties" to hurriedly absorb nearly half a million more Syrian migrants. The war-torn country's surrounding nations, he argues, have done the heavy lifting already. Now the U.N. chief wants you and your communities to do more.

There is a misconception that all Syria's neighbours have shrugged their shoulders towards their Muslim brethren, scorning the Ummah out of rugged self interest. It's not strictly true. 

But the dichotomy presented – that it is us or them – is a false one, and one that European and American leaders should not be afraid to reject outright.

The New York Times reports that the Sec. General opened a conference in Geneva today, demanding "an exponential increase in global solidarity", insisting that "Neighboring countries have done far more than their share" and imploring "Others [to] now step up." And, of course, the stress was on European Union member states and the United States of America to do more.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon wants the West to absorb nearly half a million more Syrian migrants.
The news follows quickly on the heels of Oxfam – one of the world's most political charities – demanding that France, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, and Denmark all take in more "refugees" and faster.

Of course, of the nearly 5 million fleeing Syria, most remain in the Middle East, with countries like Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan inundated by refugees. In part, this is what has spurred Turkey on to shipping their problems off into Europe – especially the Kurdish one.

It is noteworthy too, that Oxfam and Ban Ki Moon's criticisms were levelled at Western nations not because we have the infrastructure or capability to deal with the influx (we don't) – but because we are, apparently, "rich". (We'll just casually ignore our gargantuan debt crisis for the moment, shall we?)

But while the United Nations lumps the responsibility onto the West, you might ask why countries like Saudi Arabia, which claims to have absorbed around half a million Syrians, do not provide any data to support their statements. Indeed, in 2013, net migration of those deemed to be Syrian nationals stood at around just 20,000, with criticism aimed at the country for only accepting Syrians who already have families in the Kingdom.

In fact countries that could take more, and haven't remain free of criticism, presumably because they aren't signatories to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. This isn't a sign that we are better. It's a sign that we are dumber. We as Western nations afford moral and political equivalence for almost all other countries around the world nowadays (most recently, Cuba and Iran) but we don't make the same demands of these countries as we place upon ourselves.

What about Malaysia? Why can't they take more migrants and refugees?

Indonesia? India? China? Argentina?

Has Ban Ki Moon lobbied his home nation, South Korea?

It's almost as if there's a whole world out there.

But the onus is, apparently, on Britain, France, and America. We are destined to follow Germany's lead, a country now inundated with migrants not just from Syria, because Mrs. Merkel stupidly threw her doors open and declared, "Come one, come all!"

Perhaps we should look to the words of Batal, a Syrian refugee who spoke to Bloomberg, for why the pressure is being placed on Western countries and the Anglosphere: "In Europe, I can get treatment for my polio, educate my children, have shelter and live an honorable life... Gulf countries have closed their doors in the face of Syrians."

Raheem Kassam is a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum and editor-in-chief of Breitbart London.


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Are Trump delegates having second thoughts? - Rick Moran

by Rick Moran

The fact is, Trump may be winning more votes than Cruz at the ballot box, but the incompetence of his campaign aides in turning those votes into loyal delegates is painfully obvious.

This story in Politico about Trump delegates willing to bolt from the candidate on the second ballot of a contested convention will be dismissed by many Trump partisans as anti-Trump propaganda. 

Indeed, it may be.  But if we've seen any weakness from Trump in the past two weeks, it is the lack of political acumen from his team when it comes to the real nuts and bolts of politics – such as choosing delegates who are rock-solid supporters.  The controversies in Louisiana, South Carolina, and North Dakota are just the tip of the iceberg.  The fact is, Trump may be winning more votes than Cruz at the ballot box, but the incompetence of his campaign aides in turning those votes into loyal delegates is painfully obvious.

If Trump heads into the convention without the magic number of 1,237, already more than a hundred delegates are poised to break with him on a second ballot, according to interviews with dozens of delegates, delegate candidates, operatives and party leaders.

In one of the starkest examples of Trump’s lack of support, out of the 168 Republican National Committee members — each of whom doubles as a convention delegate — only one publicly supports Trump, and she knows of only a handful of others who support him privately.

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz has been whipping Trump in the quiet, early race to elect his own loyalists to become delegates to the convention, meaning that the Texas senator could triumph through delegates who are freed to vote their own preferences on a second ballot, regardless of who won their state.

“As far as the stealing of the Trump nomination, that’s a big concern for everybody,” said Diana Orrock, the RNC committeewoman from Nevada and the only one of 112 committeemen and women who openly supports Trump. None of the nation’s 56 state and territory GOP chairmen, also convention delegates, have endorsed Trump either. They are subjected to a mix of state-based rules as far as their obligation to back Trump on the first vote.

The risk of a routing at a contested convention is becoming more acute because of Trump’s uncertain standing going into Wisconsin’s primary on Tuesday. Two polls this week showed Cruz 10 points ahead of Trump in the state.

A loss in Wisconsin would hardly be devastating, but it would surely embolden the anti-Trump forces in other states, making his efforts to win the 60 percent of the yet-to-be-awarded delegates to reach the 1,237 figure needed to clinch the nomination outright that much more difficult, according to a POLITICO analysis.

“They’ve got to get their s--- together in Wisconsin,” said a top Trump ally in the South. “If he doesn’t have 1,237, I'd be very concerned with what happens in Cleveland.”Trump is still dominating national polls over Cruz by double digits, so it's not like his support is collapsing.  But as his odds become longer to clinch the nomination before the convention, the anti-Trump forces in the GOP are bringing out their long knives and are ready to spill blood to prevent him from winning.

Cruz would be the logical second choice of convention delegates.  But Cruz runs even worse against Clinton and Sanders than Trump, so it's not clear that a majority of Trump supporters would sub out one loser for another.

So Kasich is the beneficiary of a second ballot meltdown by Trump?  That seems highly improbable.  Kasich is Bush lite, and few would accept the moderate Ohio governor as the GOP nominee.

If there are two ballots at the convention without a winner, there's a pretty good chance that there are going to be ten ballots.  If that's the case, anyone could emerge to win the nomination.  And a fractured, angry party will limp into November ripe for an overwhelming disaster.

Rick Moran


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Palestinians: Presidents for Life, No Elections - Khaled Abu Toameh

by Khaled Abu Toameh

We hear often that Mahmoud Abbas is keen on having Palestinians vote in a democratic election. Yet Abbas turned 81 last week and appears ready to remain at the helm until his last day -- free elections for Palestinians be damned. That makes sense: Hamas could easily best Abbas in such an election.

  • Hamas and Abbas's Fatah are still far from achieving any form of reconciliation. This, despite all the talk about "progress" that has been reportedly achieved in talks between the two parties taking place in Doha, Qatar.
  • Hamas is also cracking down on journalists, academics, unionists and even lawyers in the Gaza Strip.
  • Yet Abbas's West Bank rivals Hamas in Gaza, in terms of a lack of human rights and freedom of speech. The idea of free and democratic elections there is a joke. Abbas will leave a legacy of chaos.

Best birthday wishes to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, who turned 81 last week. The octogenarian appears ready to remain at the helm until his last day -- free elections for Palestinians be damned.

Abbas has inherited a tradition of tyranny. His predecessor, Yasser Arafat, was also president for life. Both have plenty of company, joining a long list of African presidents who earned the notorious title of "President for Life" - in Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Chad, Eritrea and Gambia. And let us not forget the Arab dictators in these ranks.

One might hope for at least a deputy -- someone to fill the impending and inevitable power vacuum in the PA. Not likely.

Abbas has fiercely resisted demands from leaders of his ruling Fatah faction to name a deputy president or a successor. His reasoning: the time is not "appropriate" for such a move. Palestinians should instead concentrate their energies on rallying international support for a Palestinian state.

The PA president acquired his "private fiefdom," as it is called by his detractors, in a January 2005 election, when Abbas was given a four-year mandate.

Such mandate seems to have been rewritten by the standing president. January 2016 marked the beginning of the eleventh year of Abbas's four-year term in office. But it is business as usual in Ramallah.

We hear on a monthly basis that Abbas is keen on having Palestinians cast their ballots in a free and democratic vote. Yet we have seen no evidence to this effect. That make sense: Hamas could easily best Abbas in such an election. Despite his advancing age, Abbas still has clear memories of January 2006, when Hamas was permitted to run in the parliamentary election and won.

Abbas is also acutely aware that Hamas, which holds hostage nearly two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, would never allow a free vote there -- especially for Abbas loyalists who have been seeking to undermine its rule.

Just a few days ago, a Hamas "military" court in the Gaza Strip sentenced two senior Palestinian Authority security officers, Sami Nisman and Naim Abu Ful, to 15 and 12 years in prison respectively, on charges of spying for the Palestinian Authority and plotting terror attacks against Hamas targets.

The verdicts are yet another sign that Hamas and Abbas's Fatah are still far from achieving any form of reconciliation. This, despite all the talk about "progress" that has been reportedly achieved in talks between the two parties. Unconfirmed reports earlier this week leaked details of sticking points between Hamas and Fatah negotiators, have been meeting in Doha, Qatar, under the auspices of the Gulf state, towards forming a new unity government and holding new presidential and parliamentary elections. Qatar is the largest source of funds for the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot, Hamas.

Abbas's fear of holding elections in the Gaza Strip is not without justification. In addition to the crackdown on his loyalists and security officers there, Hamas is also cracking down on journalists, academics, unionists and even lawyers.

Last week, Hamas security forces raided the offices of the Palestinian Bar Association in Gaza City and confiscated computers. The raid came as a result of the controversy surrounding the Bar Association not submitting lawyers' financial and administrative records, in addition to complaints filed by some lawyers against the Bar Association, according to a statement released by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR). The raid, some Palestinians claim, is in the context of Hamas's effort to crack down on lawyers who are affiliated with the rival Fatah faction.

Yet Abbas's West Bank rivals Hamas in Gaza, in terms of a lack of human rights and freedom of speech. The president's security forces are in the midst of a massive and ongoing crackdown on political opponents of all stripes, making the idea of free and democratic elections there a joke. Abbas cannot tolerate the idea of having a deputy: how would he consider the establishment of a new party or the emergence of a potential candidate for the presidency.

Senior figures who have dared to challenge Abbas's autocratic rule have already found themselves targeted by the president and his men. Ask former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who had his organization's bank accounts seized by Abbas, or Mohamed Dahlan, the former Fatah commander and minister who was forced to flee the Palestinian territories after falling out with Abbas and his sons. Perhaps deposed PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo, who overnight was stripped of his powers and thrown to the dogs for speaking out against the president, would have a word to say. In Ramallah, they call them the "Abbas victims."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left), who turned 81 last week, has fiercely resisted demands from leaders of his ruling Fatah faction to name a deputy president or a successor. Senior figures who have dared to challenge Abbas's autocratic rule have been targeted by the president -- such as Mohamed Dahlan (right), the former Fatah commander and minister who was forced to flee the Palestinian territories after falling out with Abbas and his sons. (Image sources: U.S. State Dept., M. Dahlan Office)

We would need a crystal ball to know what will happen the day after Abbas disappears from the scene. Perhaps, say some, we shall witness a scene reminiscent of the old days of the Soviet Union "Politburo," with the next president chosen by a group of Fatah and PLO leaders who will meet in Ramallah. This seems the most likely scenario, in the absence of any chance of free and democratic elections, and in light of the continued split between the two Palestinian entities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

We do not need a crystal ball, however, to know that Abbas will leave a legacy of chaos. His adamant refusal to name a deputy or even discuss the issue of succession in public has already created tensions among the top brass of the PLO and Fatah. The Palestinian public, for its part, has precious little confidence in its leaders.

The behind-the-scenes power struggle that has been quietly raging in Ramallah for the past few months is likely to lead to a state of paralysis in the Palestinian arena and leave the Palestinians without an acceptable leader. Or, as senior Fatah official Tawfik Tirawi put it, Abbas will be the last president for the Palestinians.

Palestinians are plagued with leaders who desire one thing: personal power. The Palestinians are marching away from achieving a state, partly because they seem incapable of the fundamental political principle of free and democratic elections. The day after does not look promising.

  • Follow Khaled Abu Toameh on Twitter

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.


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Tribalism Drives Middle East Violence - Philip Carl Salzman

by Philip Carl Salzman

The Arab Middle East is missing the cultural tools for building inclusive, unified states.

Originally published under the title "He Say's There's One Thing That Drives Violence In The Middle East. But It's Not Islam..."

The tribes of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Take a look at recent news reports from around the Arab world and you'll notice an unusual commonality. Egypt's government "struggles to rally Sinai tribes," reads one Reuters headline, while the title of a Gulf News article recounts that former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh "fears tribes will shift allegiance" to his successor, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The Oxford Research reports on the "local, tribal and fragmented" nature of militia power in Libya. CNN covers a U.S. special forces mission to "accompany tribal, Arab and Kurdish forces" in Syria. From the BBC, "Iraqi tribes clash with jihadists in IS stronghold of Falluja." The UAE daily The National proudly notes the "tribal and military influences" in local designer Huda Al Nuaimi's spring/summer 2016 collection.
Ok, you get the idea – tribalism is big in the Arab world. And while it has grown more noticeable with the collapse and weakening of Arab governments in recent years, the trend is not new. The same north Arabian Bedouin tribes that accepted Islam and spread it by the sword also infused the region with a deeply tribal culture, impacting everything from family relations to governance and conflict.

The Arab world's deeply tribal culture impacts everything from family relations to governance and conflict.
Tribal affiliation is based on descent from a common male ancestor; all descendants are deemed to share common interests and to have obligations of solidarity with one another. Descendants of other ancestors are deemed to have different interests and are seen to be opponents, sometimes enemies.

The main principle of tribal life is absolute loyalty to one's lineage group vis-à-vis other groups of the same order and scope: clan vs. clan, tribe vs. tribe, confederation vs. confederation, sect vs. sect, Muslims vs. infidels. Middle Easterners believe that they can count only on their own group to protect their interests. They understand well the motto, "all for one, and one for all." This principle is so basic to tribal thinking that, for most people, it is an assumption about life that goes without saying.

Tribesmen are accorded honour based on fulfilling their obligations to the tribe. These tribal characteristics shape the basic assumptions and attitudes of Middle Easterners who inherited their cultural foundation from Bedouin. Islam, arising through the adoption by Bedouin, reflects the structures of tribal life, especially in the opposition between Muslims and infidels.

Middle Easterners looking at their increasingly chaotic world and deciding how they must respond think immediately of their kin group upon which they depend for all things, and other descent groups which are by their structural nature opponents and potential enemies, and from which they can expect nothing good. Opposition, rivalry, and conflict are thus seen to be in the nature of social life. Success, power, wealth, and, above all, honour derives from triumphing over opposition groups. Failure to triumph means the loss of power, wealth, and, above all, honour.

The Arab Middle East is missing the cultural tools for building inclusive, unified states.
The pervasive and continuous conflict in the Middle East–between clans, tribes, sects, and religions–is a manifestation of this culture. Middle Eastern history is largely a record of tribal conflicts and displacements, expansions and conquests, and invasions and dynastic replacements. "The Arabs are not in a wretched state – they are in a tribal state, and they are doing what they have been doing since time immemorial: conquering each other, demanding allegiance, and living in a state of perpetual war," writes analyst Hussain Abdul-Hussain. "The only difference now is that the Arabs are feuding in cities, and on TV and social media instead of in the desert."

The Arab Middle East is missing the cultural tools for building inclusive, unified states. The West saw violent upheaval for millennia before it began stabilizing with acceptance of modern organizing principles, such as constitutionalism and rule of law, in the past few hundred years. Unfortunately, there are few signs that the Middle East will follow suit anytime soon.

Philip Carl Salzman is a professor of anthropology at McGill University and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.


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Will Obama Protect Hillary from Prosecution? - Joseph Klein

by Joseph Klein

FBI investigation of Clinton’s e-mail scandal comes to a critical turning point.

Hillary Clinton was fond of saying during her presidential campaign, “No individual too big to jail.” That is, until she realized her catchy phrase could be applied to her own travails with the FBI. Hillary then substituted the word “executive” for “individual,” seemingly ruling out in her mind jail time for such lofty public figures as herself. 

We shall soon see whether Hillary is too big to be brought to account for her reckless handling of classified information on her private e-mail system. “Lesser” mortals such as Gen. David Petraeus have been criminally prosecuted for offenses far less serious than Hillary’s continuing abuse of her position during her tenure as Secretary of State. 

The FBI is reportedly nearing the final stages of its investigation, after having finished their examination of Hillary’s private e-mail server. IT specialist Bryan Pagliano, who helped set up Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail system, was granted immunity by the Department of Justice in return for his cooperation. He has reportedly provided valuable information on the details of the system. "Bryan Pagliano is a devastating witness and, as the webmaster, knows exactly who had access to [Clinton's] computer and devices at specific times. His importance to this case cannot be over-emphasized," an intelligence source close to the case told Fox News.

Armed with this information, the FBI and Department of Justice prosecutors are said to be preparing to set up interviews with Hillary Clinton’s top aides and Hillary herself in the near future.

Clinton rejects out of hand the possibility that she could be indicted. "Oh for goodness—that is not going to happen,'' Clinton responded to a question posed by a correspondent from Univision during her March 9th debate with Senator Bernie Sanders. 

"I'm not even answering that question,'' she added to applause from the partisan audience. Hillary may have to answer to federal prosecutors, however, if the FBI recommends a criminal referral, unless of course the Obama administration runs interference for her.

Hillary has been relying on essentially four rather shaky defenses to wiggle out of trouble.

First, while admitting what she did was a mistake, she contends that she broke no rules. This contention is false. Hillary evaded rules governing federal records management by using her private e-mail server system exclusively, according to Daniel Metcalfe, former director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy. "Using a personal email account exclusively is a potent prescription for flouting the Federal Records Act and circumventing the Freedom of Information Act," Metcalfe said. "And there can be little doubt that Clinton knew this full well." 

Second, Hillary has frequently used the defense that everybody did what she did. "My predecessors did the same thing,'' she said during the March 9th debate. This contention is at best misleading. Former Secretaries of State such as Colin Powell did use their personal e-mail accounts for government-related business from time to time. However, they did not do so exclusively, and they did not use their own home server to receive and store the e-mails. 

Third, Hillary argues that she never sent or received e-mails that were marked “classified” at the time they were sent or received. She has accused the federal agencies that make the classification determinations of going overboard in retroactively changing the classification of many documents to “classified.” With her training and federal government experience, however, Hillary surely knew that some e-mails or other documents are “born” classified because of the inherently sensitive nature of their contents. It turns out that a number of e-mails were found to contain “top secret” information, which a senior government official in her position should have known was the case when she received them. Moreover, whether or not a document was marked originally as classified or not is beside the point. Hillary was on direct notice of this fact when she signed the State Department’s Classified Information Disclosure Agreement in 2009, which read in part: “As used in this Agreement, classified information is marked or unmarked classified information, including oral communications…”

Fourth, Hillary and her team argue that she did not knowingly mishandle any classified information in breach of any relevant national security laws. In other words, even if she were sloppy, such carelessness does not rise to the level of wrongful intent that is required to establish criminal liability. This defense is related to the contention that there were no classified markings on the e-mails when they were sent or received.

This defense should not work for Hillary either. As previously discussed, whether or not the e-mails were originally marked classified is irrelevant, at least with respect to the top secret information that is “born” classified whether marked or not. Moreover, Hillary’s knowledge that what she was doing would end run security requirements in potential violation of certain national security laws can be inferred from her actions. For example, she directed an aide to remove markings from a talking points document, which the aide had informed her was supposed to be sent via a secure fax, and to send the document instead “nonsecure.”  

Also, Hillary Clinton’s knowledge of the risks involved to national security from use of personal e-mail accounts to conduct government business can be inferred from an internal cable her office sent bearing her electronic signature to State Department employees. She is presumed responsible for the contents of a cable that is over her signature. The cable advised the employees not to use their personal accounts for government business for security reasons, focusing on “sensitive but unclassified” information. Hillary knowingly did not practice what she preached, regardless even of whether sensitive classified information would pass through her private system or not. 

Hillary’s wrongful intent defense has an even more fundamental problem. One statute, Section 793(f) of Title 18 USC, requires only a finding of gross negligence:

“Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed…Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

The facts made public so far point at minimum to Hillary Clinton’s recklessness in setting up and continuing to use a private server to handle e-mails relating to government business while she was Secretary of State. She caused the e-mails to be removed from their proper place of custody within secure government facilities and caused copies to be delivered to her personal attorney who did not apparently have the requisite security clearances. In addition to facing potential charges under the gross negligence statute, Hillary could face obstruction of justice charges if she lies to the FBI when she is interviewed or if she caused e-mails on her private server relating to government business to be destroyed.

Will the Obama administration provide Hillary protection from prosecution, or will she be treated equally under the law like us lesser mortals? It will more likely be the former, but we should soon find out.

Joseph Klein is a Harvard-trained lawyer and the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom and Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations & Radical Islam.


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Spain: Courses on Islam in Public Schools - Soeren Kern

by Soeren Kern

The guidelines for teaching Islam in public schools — drafted by the Islamic Commission of Spain and approved by the Ministry of Education — are aimed at stirring religious fervor and promoting Islamic identity among young Muslims in Spain.

  • The guidelines, which envision the teaching of every aspect of Islamic doctrine, culture and history, are interspersed with "politically correct" terminology... but the overall objective is clear: to inculcate young people with an Islamic worldview.
  • According to the guidelines, preschoolers (ages 3- 6) are to learn the Islamic profession of faith, the Shahada, which asserts that "there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger." The Shahada is the gateway into Islam: one becomes a Muslim by repeating the Shahada three times in front of a witness. They are also encouraged to "emulate, through different forms of expression, the values observed by Mohammed."
  • In primary school (ages 6-12), the guidelines call for children to "recognize Mohammed as the final prophet sent by Allah and accept him as the most important."

The Spanish government has published new guidelines for teaching Islam in public preschools and primary and secondary schools.

The guidelines are being touted as a way to prevent Muslim children and young people from being drawn into terrorism by exposing them to a "moderate" interpretation of Islam.

On closer inspection, however, the guidelines — drafted by the Islamic Commission of Spain and approved by the Ministry of Education — are aimed at stirring religious fervor and promoting Islamic identity among young Muslims in Spain.

The new plan, which is the most ambitious in all of Europe, amounts to a government-approved program to establish a full-fledged Islamic studies curriculum at public schools nationwide, at a time when Christian religious symbols are being systematically removed from Spanish public schools by official enforcers of secularism.

Although Spanish taxpayers are being expected to pay for the religious education of up to 300,000 Muslim students between the ages of 3 and 18, it remains unclear whether Spanish authorities will have any oversight of the teaching of Islam in public schools. The government has agreed to allow local Muslim organizations to draft the course syllabi, choose the textbooks, and even determine who will teach the classes.

Spain's Ministry of Education quietly published the guidelines in the official state gazette (Boletín Oficial del Estado) on March 18. The curriculum for teaching Islam in Spanish public preschools can be found here; in public primary schools here; and in public secondary schools here.

The guidelines, which envision the teaching of every aspect of Islamic doctrine, culture and history, are interspersed with "politically correct" terminology — the documents are rife with buzzwords such as coexistence, diversity, equality, human rights, inclusion, integration, intercultural education, interreligious dialogue, moderation, pluralism, religious liberty, respect and tolerance — but the overall objective is clear: to inculcate young people with an Islamic worldview.

According to the guidelines, preschoolers (ages 3- 6) are to learn the Islamic profession of faith, the Shahada, which asserts that "there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger." The Shahada is the gateway into Islam: one becomes a Muslim by repeating the Shahada three times in front of a witness.

Block 6 is aimed at instilling "interest for Islamic religious and cultural texts," stirring "curiosity for the Koran in oral and written language," and learning "Islamic recitations, narrations and descriptions."

Children should develop an "attitude of listening to Koranic and prophetic texts" and memorize "short Hadiths [reports about the words, actions or habits of Mohammed] and Koranic stories." They are also encouraged to "emulate, through different forms of expression, the values observed by Mohammed."

In primary school (ages 6-12), the guidelines call for children to "recognize Mohammed as the final prophet sent by Allah and accept him as the most important." Students are to "recite the Shahada in perfect Arabic and Spanish," and "recognize that the Koran is a guide for all of humanity." Children are to "know certain Arabisms in the Spanish language and appreciate the linguistic contributions of Islam to the history of Spain, using verbal language to communicate emotions and sentiments."

Primary school students are to "know examples of Mohammed's coexistence with non-Muslims," although there is no indication that Muslim pupils will be taught about the 900 Jews of the Banu Qurayza tribe in Medina that Mohammed ordered to be beheaded in 627AD.

Students are also to "understand that Islam is a religion of peace — spiritual or internal peace and social or communitarian peace. The prophet teaches us to live in peace. Islam promotes solutions to resolve conflicts and social inequality."

Moreover, the guidelines call for primary students to "comprehend and explain the existence of other monotheistic revelations of Allah: Judaism and Christianity." But it remains unclear whether students will learn about the three instances in the Koran (Suras 2:65, 5:60 and 7:166) in which Allah turns Jews into apes and/or pigs.

In secondary school (ages 12-18), the guidelines call for students to "know, analyze and explain the affective-emotional attitudes of Mohammed when confronting personal offenses, valuing conflict resolution." It remains unclear whether students will learn about Suras 5:33 and 33:57-61, which call for curses against those who "annoy Allah and His Messenger."

Block 4 calls on students to evaluate the "transversality present in the Koran and the Hadiths regarding social relations." It does not, however, mention whether students will be taught that the Koran and the Hadiths require non-Muslim subjects (dhimmis) residing in Muslim lands to pay a protection tax known as the jizya.

In a section on the "Islamic model for economics and jurisprudence," students are asked to identify Islamic solutions to world problems. They are also asked to "analyze and explain the benefits of interest-free loans [aka Sharia finance]."

In Block 8, students are asked to "analyze the stages of the establishment and flourishing of Islamic jurisprudence [Sharia law] during the splendor of al-Andalus."

Al-Andalus is the Arabic name given to those parts of Spain, Portugal and France that were occupied by Muslim conquerors (also known as the Moors) from 711 to 1492. The Islamic State (ISIS) has repeatedly vowed to "liberate" al-Andalus from non-Muslims and make it part of their new Islamic Caliphate.

The guidelines also encourage students to use the internet to learn more about Islam, even though the internet is playing an increasingly important role in the radicalization of young Muslims.

The legal basis for teaching Islam in Spanish public schools can be found in Article 27.3 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, which establishes that although Spain is non-confessional (meaning that it does not recognize an official state religion), "the State guarantees parents the right for their children to obtain a religious and moral education which conforms to their own convictions." Muslims (and Roman Catholics) have long understood this to mean that children are entitled to religious education in public schools.

On November 10, 1992, the Socialist government of Felipe González — seeking to end the monopoly of the Roman Catholic Church over Spanish education — negotiated a "Cooperation Agreement between the Government of Spain and the Islamic Commission of Spain" (Comisión Islámica de España, CIE). That agreement, codified in Law 26/1992, recognized Islam as a minority religion in Spain and guaranteed that "Muslim students ... receive Islamic religious education in public schools."

(Also on November 10, 1992, the Spanish government approved the "Cooperation Agreement between the Government of Spain and the Federation of Evangelical Christian Entities in Spain." That agreement was codified in Law 24/1992. In June 1993, the Spanish government published guidelines for the teaching of evangelical Christianity in public schools.)

In recent years, Muslim leaders in Spain have complained that the Spanish government has failed to implement the 1992 agreement. According to the CIE, 90% of Muslims students in Spain lack access to Islamic studies in public schools. The new guidelines appear to signal the current government's commitment to follow through on the promises of past governments.

The guidelines were drafted by CIE president Riaÿ Tatary, a Syrian who has lived in Spain for more than 45 years. Tatary, a medical doctor who is also the imam of the Abu-Bakr Mosque, the second-largest mosque in Madrid, is often portrayed as the epitome of Muslim integration and moderation.

Tatary is the chief interlocutor between Spain's Muslim community and the Spanish government and has received a civilian merit award from the Ministry of Justice for his work on Spain's law on religious liberty.

But Spanish counterterrorism analysts (here and here) have long suspected that Tatary is closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is highly critical of Western concepts of justice and democracy. The Brotherhood's motto is: "Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Koran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope."

The Spanish government's curriculum guidelines for public school Islamic studies were drafted by Riaÿ Tatary, imam of the Abu-Bakr Mosque. Spanish counterterrorism analysts have long suspected that Tatary is closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Tatary denies the charges, although members of his mosque have, in fact, been tied to al-Qaeda.

Ahead of municipal elections in May 2015, Tatary admonished Muslims in Spain not to vote for any candidate who "hinders or impedes the establishment of mosques for our faithful, and cemeteries for our dead." He also said that Muslim voters should not vote for anyone who "hinders or prevents the children of Muslim citizens from receiving Islamic religion courses in public or private schools."

Spanish political analysts said Tatary's attempt to enforce the Spanish Muslim vote was alarming:
"At first glance, it does not seem objectionable that a group, whatever its nature, defends the rights of its members. However, when it comes to an entity that appeals to religion to impose a massive discipline of the faithful in the political arena, we cannot but be alarmed. Especially when that religion is engaged in relentless war within itself and with the rest of the civilized world."
It seems unlikely, however, that parents and imams will accept many of Tatary's politically correct non-literal interpretations of the Koran, which apparently are aimed at securing the government's approval of the guidelines. The challenge of reform-minded Muslims is to convince the majority of Muslims that the Koran and the Hadiths do not actually mean what they say.

In the end, the new guidelines may end up achieving a completely undesired objective: serving as gateway to radical Islam for tens of thousands of young Muslims in Spain.
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. His first book, Global Fire, will be out in 2016.


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