Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Arab Sunni world: Complete and utter chaos - Dr. Mordechai Kedar

by Dr. Mordechai Kedar

The only conclusion Israel must reach from the sad state of affairs in the Arab Sunni world is as clear as the sunshine in an arid desert.

Behavioral science recognizes two types of responses to tense or threatening situations facing loosely-connected groups. The first is characterized by the group uniting under a charismatic leader who radiates power, wisdom, organizational acumen and the ability to protect his followers, after which the group forms a united front and prepares for a struggle against the looming threat. The opposite occurs when there is no leader to be found. In the resulting mayhem, members betray one another,  and attempt to escape and go over to the other side in order to save themselves.  In that case, they could not care less if the rest of the group goes to hell.

The second of the two possible scenarios is an exact description of the current situation in the Arab world where Iran has become a major threat. After years of trying to extend the scope of its control over the Arab nations, it is moving towards exerting hegemony over the entire Islamic world. This entails reestablishing Shiite rule over Islam's holy sites – starting with Mecca and Medina – eliminating the opposition – starting with the Saudi royal family – destroying Israel and becoming a permanent threat to the Christian West, the latter seen by the Ayatollahs as merely the servant of Shiite believers.

When the two major world powers joined forces to empower the Ayatollah's regime, the Iranian threat grew by leaps and bounds. Under Obama,  US actions strengthened Iran, allowed it to develop nuclear weapons (that is the real meaning of the 2015 Agreement), ignored its ballistic rocket development program, handed it money and allowed it to sign lucrative contracts – all the while ignoring Iran's involvement in local wars and its support for world terror.

Russia has been a partner of the Iranians for years through a complex array of agreements and joint initiatives: it supplied nuclear power stations for electricity production, thereby granting the Iranians the ability to acquire knowledge and experience in nuclear science, handed over its rocket technology, worked with Iran to regulate  the world natural gas market (Russia, Iran and Qatar are the three largest gas suppliers in  the world) and joined forces with Iran in the horrific war taking place on Syrian land in an attempt to save the Butcher of Damascus' regime.

The European Union joined the US and Russia, encouraging its members to enter the lucrative Iranian contract-signing queue. Truthfully, a good number of European countries already had a history of  ignoring the economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the West, so that the change was not that discernable. US Intelligence knew exactly what was going on, but said nothing – or to be more accurate, was silenced by the Obama government.

Other economic giants took part in the Iran festival: China never quite understood why it should limit is economic ties to Iran, nor did India find it a problem to maintain wide ranging business interests in the country.

The Arab world, from Iraq in the East to Morocco in the West, Syria in the north and Yemen in the south, has been noting the growing Shiite advance with undisguised apprehension. Sunni Muslim nations such as Turkey and Pakistan – and in fact, all the Sunni Muslims– are just as anxious, but are reacting to the situation by collapsing and falling apart instead of unifying and working together.

This collapse is internal and external, in each and every country, resulting in endless arguments about how each nation must react to the current state of emergency. The question is whether it is better to act against Iran in some way – economically, politically, militarily- or put an end to the problem by yielding to Iran and saving lives.

Qatar threw in the towel years ago. Iran and Qatar share a gigantic gas field where the produce the gas in partnership and share the similarly gigantic profits. Qatar's behavior infuriates the Saudis beyond description, because Qatar is Arab, Sunni and Wahabee, as is the Saudi royal family, but it has stabbed the Saudis in the back. Saudi furor at Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood and for the shenanigans of al Jazeera are nothing compared to its anger over Qatari cooperation with Iran.

Iraq, once it was freed in 2003 by the US and the West from the dictatorship of its Sunni minority under Saddam Hussein, saw its government handed over to the Shiite majority on a silver platter (made in the West and covered with the blood of US and Western soldiers). It was then caught in the Iranian net, betraying the Sunni Arab world. Iran controls politicians, parties, army officers, militias and industries in Iraq. It thus reestablished the hegemony it had in eastern Mesopotamia before the Arabs defeated the Sassanian Persian Empire's forces at Alkadasia, a city in southern Iraq in 636, between November 13th and 16th, exactly 1381 years ago.

The Persians never forgave the Arabs for this defeat and the Ayatollahs see Iran's takeover of Iraq as an act of historic justice and long-awaited revenge on the Arabs, whom they continue to consider primitive illiterates.

Syria, another Arab state, became an Iranian stooge after being totally destroyed by a blood-soaked civil war that led to the deaths of over half a million mainly Sunni men, women and  children, who killed each other so that Shia Islam could annex their land  as well. The Iranians owe a debt of gratitude to the Russian and  Christian unbelievers who did the dirty work of eliminating the opposition, down to its women and children.

Lebanon, another Arab country with a large Shiite population, possibly the majority by now, due to its own demographics and the flight of Sunni Muslim, Christians, Druze and Allawites from its borders, has an armed-to-the-teeth militia – Hezbollah – whose fighting strength is greater than that of the Lebanese army. Iran has controlled Lebanon for thirty five years, while the world knew, watched and remained silent.

Yemen, another Arab state with a large Shiite population, was  never really united. It was always divided by the different  tribal, ethnic and ideological loyalties of its population. That allowed Iran to establish a state within a state with a well-equipped army that took over the capital, exiling the country's president and his government to Saudi Arabia. Iran now threatens international navigation in the Red Sea and the Al Mandeb Straits, essential passages connecting Europe, the Persian Gulf – with its oil and gas – and Eastern Asia, with its merchandise and raw products.

Iran has even infiltrated the Palestinian Authority by supporting the Islamic Jihad and Hamas terror organizations. Erdogan's Turkey, too, has joined the list of countries that do Iran's bidding and try to find favor in its eyes.

Iran has managed to gain control over the entire Muslim east, country by country, this despite the period of tough sanctions imposed by the West, and causing much tension in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Emirates, Israel and other Mediterranean countries. This tension has a negative effect on the internal workings of  these countries, and what we saw happening in Saudi Arabia over the past two weeks is one of the outcomes of that tension.

An acrimonious debate is raging within the Saudi royal family on the way in which the monarchy responded to the Iranian threat in general and on the Iranian takeover of Yemen, a development which poses an immediate threat to the Saudis who have had rockets launched at them before the recent ones. The war in Yemen, like the support for the defeated Syrian rebels, cost the Saudi treasury billions of dollars which if continued, would have left the country on the verge of bankruptcy. The controversy over succession is going on at the same time. Crown prince, Muhammad, son of the reigning monarch Salman, born in 1985, is 32 years old and has no administrative, political or military expertise. There is a slew of much older cousins who have much more experience than he does in theeconomic, administrative and political spheres.  In a traditional tribal society, age, experience, maturity and a suitable personality are what turn someone into an accepted and legitimate leader. Muhammad ibn Salman is not acceptable or legitimate in the eyes of many of his cousins. It is quite possible that a putsch is in the making.  He, however, won the first round before it began by arresting some and eliminating several others.

There is no doubt that the Iranian pressure on the Saudis leads to instability in the monarchy. That is what is happening in Lebanon, where the airing of the government's  internal problems led Al Hariri to resign. The situation in Iraq is also far from tranquil and there are angry arguments raging about continued Iranian interference in the running of the country.

In response to the state of internal and inter-Arab mayhem, the Saudis have called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers, to take place this coming Sunday, November 19th. It is clear to everyone that the Arab League is powerless. This paralytic organization was unable to save a single Syrian, Iraqi, Yemenite, Libyan, Algerian or Sudanese Arab, in all the years of blood soaked civil strife that  went on in every one of those countries.

One of the Arab tackbackers wrote sarcastically: "Ho, Persians. Watch out for the flood your enemies, who lay siege on one another and fight constantly among themselves, are going to rain on you. This is the political ignorance that has weakened the Umma." It seems likely that the writer is a Qatari, disparaging the siege the Saudis declared on Qatar several months ago, an act that symbolizes the division among the Sunni nations.

Many Israelis have been encouraging the government to enter into a "Moderate Sunni Nations" accord, because "Israel is not the problem, it is the solution." This call is based on a deep lack of understanding of the Arab way of doing things and complete ignorance about what is really going on in the countries surrounding Israel.

The only conclusion Israel must reach from this sad state of affairs is as clear as the sunshine in an arid desert: There is no one to rely on in the fragmented, splintered Sunni Arab world which is incapable of uniting against the Iranian threat. The Arabs betray one another and some are tied to Iran with every fibre of their beings. Are they really going to be loyal to whatever agreement they make with the Jews? They may ask the Israelis to save them from the clutches of the Iranian monster, but after Israel does  that at a high cost in its own sons and daughters, citizens, infrastructure and cities, that "Moderate Sunni Axis"  will act towards us, exactly – and  I mean exactly – as they did to the Iraqi Kurds after they shed the blood of over a thousand male and female fighters in order to rescue t he Arabs from ISIS. Remember – they threw them and their aspirations for independence straight into the dustbin of petty politics, interests, cynicism and treachery.

Israel's fate will be exactly the same once the Iranian threat has been routed from what is left of the destroyed, bankrupt, lost and divided Arab world. Israel must not pay a plugged nickel in the quest for peace with a world as fragmented as the Arab world. Not one square centimeter of land for a worthless piece of paper containing the word peace. Israel must ask the Arabs one single question: What are you giving us for our agreeing to making peace with you?

The answer is clear: Apart from poverty, hatred, treachery, neglect, cynicism and hypocrisy, the  Arab world has nothing to offer Israel, because these are the only commodities it has. Sad, but true. These are Israel's neighbors, and when we Israelis, from our prime minister down to the last of our citizens, begin to understand this, we will be capable of dealing with our neighbors the way we should.

 Written for Arutz Sheva, translated by Rochel Sylvetsky 

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


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Saudi Arabia, Israel and Realpolitik - Ari Lieberman

by Ari Lieberman

How Obama's appeasement policies have prompted a fundamental realignment in Mideast alliances.

The Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, revealed this week that Israel was prepared to share intelligence with Saudi Arabia in an effort to combat Iran’s expansionist agenda and malign regional influence. The unprecedented statement was made during the course of an interview with the London-based, Saudi online publication, Elaph.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have historically been bitter enemies. In 1967, just prior to the Six-Day War, King Faisal added his voice to the endless chorus of Arab leaders calling for Israel’s destruction. When asked by a British interviewer what sequence of events he’d like to see happen in connection with regional developments, he answered bluntly: “The first thing is the extermination of Israel.” 

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Saudi Arabia used oil in an effort to blackmail countries from engaging with Israel, causing long lines at the pumps and sending fuel prices skyrocketing. And over the years since, the Kingdom has pumped an untold fortune of petro dollars into the coffers of Israel’s genocidal enemies. 

But the changing times have made for strange bedfellows. Saudi Arabia no longer sees Israel as its enemy. Indeed, the Saudis now grudgingly view the Israelis with favor. The threat to the Kingdom now emerges from the east in the form of the malignancy known as the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Shia Iran has been waging a relentless proxy war with Sunni Saudi Arabia on several fronts and appears to be succeeding. The Islamic Republic has succeeded in creating a land bridge extending from Teheran through Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut and out to the eastern Mediterranean. 

They’ve also been fomenting unrest on the Arabian Peninsula by deploying proxy militias and agitators in Bahrein and Yemen, prompting Saudi Arabia to intervene militarily on behalf of those countries. Particularly troublesome is the situation in Yemen where the Iranians are backing the Shia Houthi rebels against the internationally-recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. 

Thus far, the Iranian inspired Houthi insurgency has claimed 10,000 lives and over 40,000 injured. An Iranian success there could give the Islamic Republic control over the Mandeb Strait, a major maritime choke point. Iranian control over the Strait of Hormuz and the Mandeb Strait would have instant negative global ramifications. Much of the world’s maritime traffic would be held hostage to the whims of the mullahs. Oil prices would skyrocket while stock markets would crash.

The Yemen civil war has been a major headache for the Saudis.  On January 30, a suicide boat packed with explosives, and piloted by Houthis, plowed into a Saudi frigate on patrol near the Mandab Strait, killing 2 sailors and injuring 3. Houthis have also fired missiles – which were either intercepted or fell short of their target – at U.S. warships.     

In a marked escalation, on November 4, Houthi rebels fired a missile, possibly a Scud, at Riyadh. The missile was supplied by Iran and the Iranians provided their proxies with the technical knowhow on how to operate it. Saudi air defense units intercepted the missile with a Patriot anti-missile system destroying it near Riyadh’s King Khaled international airport. 

On the very day that Iran’s proxies were firing missiles at Riyadh, Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon’s Sunni prime minister, resigned and fled to Saudi Arabia. Hariri, whose father was assassinated by Hezbollah agents in 2005, cited credible intelligence of an assassination plot on his life.

Lebanon’s constitution calls for a Sunni prime minister, a Christian president and a Shia speaker of parliament reflecting the fractious ethnic mosaic of Lebanon. Hariri’s departure dealt another deathblow to Lebanese sovereignty. The Hezbollah terrorist group, which is the dominant military force in Lebanon, has steadily transformed the tiny dysfunctional nation into an Iranian outpost on the Mediterranean. 

Hezbollah has completely absorbed Lebanon’s state institutions. Lebanon’s Christian president, Michel Aoun, was hand-picked by Iran and is almost certainly on the mullah’s payroll. The Lebanese military has increasingly acted as an auxiliary force for Hezbollah operations, and according to some reports, has allowed Hezbollah to pilfer its arms depots. Hezbollah and Iranian operatives have free rein at Beirut International Airport, which serves as a conduit for drugs, cash and arms destined for Hezbollah.

But most troubling for the Saudis and Israelis is Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which despite the Iran deal, remains a national priority for the mullahs. According to German intelligence, the Iranians, using front companies, have continued to make concerted efforts to obtain nuclear technology related to their militarized program. In addition, twice since the JCPOA went into effect, Iran exceeded its 130 metric ton limit for heavy water, which is used to cool reactors that produce plutonium. Clearly, the Iranians are testing the Iran deal’s elasticity. Thus far, there have been no negative ramifications for Iran’s transgressions.

Most troubling however, for both Israel and Saudi Arabia is the JCPOA’s sun set clause. After 8 to 10 years, most of the key restrictions on Iranian uranium enrichment taper off, providing the mullahs with a legal pathway for acquiring nuclear weapons. 

Saudi Arabia knows that despite Iran’s saber rattling and nefarious regional activities, Israel is by far the most formidable force in the Mideast. U.S. appeasement policies pursued by the Obama administration and its deleterious retreat from the Mideast forced the Kingdom re-think its long-held hostile views vis-à-vis the Jewish State, prompting a fundamental and historic realignment of regional alliances. Perhaps some good emerged from the Obama administration after all.

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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FBI Informant Has Video Of Russian Agents With Briefcases Of Bribe Money In Clinton-Uranium Scandal - Tyler Durden

by Tyler Durden

Hat tip: Dr. Jean-Charles Bensoussan

The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns".
Submitted by
An undercover FBI informant in the Russian nuclear industry who was made to sign an “illegal NDA” by former AG Loretta Lynch, claims to have video evidence showing Russian agents with briefcases full of bribe money related to the controversial Uranium One deal – according to The Hill investigative journalist John Solomon and Circa‘s Sara Carter.

The informant, whose identity was revealed by Reuters as William D. Campbell, will testify before congress next week after the NDA which carried the threat of prison time was lifted. Campbell, originally misidentifed by Reuters as a lobbyist is actually a nuclear industry consultant who is currently battling cancer.

As previously reported, Campbell was deeply embedded in the Russian nuclear industry where he gathered extensive evidence of a racketeering scheme involving bribes and kickbacks.

The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns. And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions,” a person who worked on the case told The Hill, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by U.S. or Russian officials. –The Hill

Campbell’s attorney, former Regan Justice Department official Victoria Toensing, previously told Fox Business host Lou Dobbs “He can tell what all the Russians were talking about during the time that all these bribery payments were made.”

Sara Carter and John Solomon sat down with Fox News host Sean Hannity to discuss:
Sarah Carter: He’s very sick and he’s been battling cancer and going chemo. He is in a battle for not only his life, but in a battle against what he perceives as people within the US government that don’t want this story to come out.  But there’s so much information that he is willing to share with the public to set the record straight, and believe me we’re gonna get it out there. He is going to have his say. His voice will be heard.

Hannity: He knew about the bribery, kickbacks, extortion of Putin’s agents in the US? 

Sara Carter: Yes, and he will be able to lay that all out for everyone, and he will do that for Congress. John and I have been working on this for months and months and months. He came to the [Obama] DOJ with this information.

John Solomon: He is going to be an extraordinary fact witness because he gathered so much information. There are videotapes where the Russians are opening up briefcases full of cash. These are the people we then gave uranium to, that we then gave nuclear fuel contracts to.

Hannity: This is happening before they sign off on Uranium One? They knew about bribery extortion kickbacks money laundering before? They knew this was Putin and they did it anyway!

John Solomon: Yes. The Russians really thought they had played America on this one.

Tyler Durden


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Report: Students for Justice in Palestine Threatens Free Speech on Campus - Rachel Frommer

by Rachel Frommer

A chilling in-depth look at the campus hate group and its activities.

Reprinted from the Washington Free Beacon.

The anti-Israel national campus organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is a terror-affiliated, anti-free speech organization endangering American campuses, according to a new report from a Jerusalem research institute.

Co-authored by Dan Diker and Jamie Berk of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, "SJP Unmasked" claims SJP "operates under mysterious auspices and receives monetary and material support from organizations and individuals connected to Palestinian terror groups and associates."

"Students for Justice in Palestine is a byproduct of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), an organization whose leaders were former members and supporters of Palestinian and Islamist terror organization," according to the report. AMP was formed after several U.S.-based Muslim organizations dissolved between 2001 and 2011 following a federal case that found the groups had funneled money to Hamas, write Diker and Berk.

This reflects congressional testimony last year from Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who said the Hamas-linked AMP bankrolled the anti-Israel activism movement.

One AMP board member, Saleh Sarsour, served jail time in Israel for his Hamas activities, according to Schanzer. Sarsour used his Milwaukee, Wis., furniture store "to pass money to Adel Awadallah, the leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' armed wing," explains the JCPA report.

SJP activists have applauded terrorists and their methods, inviting terrorists to speak and lauding Palestinian murderers as "martyrs" on social media.

SJP at American University in Washington, D.C., organized a talk via Skype from Khader Adnan Mohammed Musa, a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, a U.S. designated terrorist organization, notes the report. Additionally, activists at "Bowdoin College, Tufts University, Union Theological Seminary, Ryerson University, and Columbia University have expressed solidarity with Adnan on social media."

Before her deportation to Jordan, Rasmea Odeh was a popular figure on the campus circuit, finding strong supporters in SJP during her bid to fight the immigration fraud charges levied against her.

SJP activists have also reportedly engaged in violence and physical intimidation.

At Temple University in 2014, a man tabling for SJP "punched a student in the face and called him a ‘kike' and ‘baby-killer' for asking to discuss Israel," states the report. Jewish students have reported being assaulted, harassed and spat on by their SJP peers at Cornell, Loyola University in Chicago, and Stanford.

Diker told the Washington Free Beacon that it is not his intention with the report to attack individual characters, alluding to a tactic taken up by some pro-Israel activists in recent years to publicly name faculty and students who have made statements seen as anti-Semitic.

Instead, he said he worried that SJP's behavior constituted a threat to the character and safety of the American campus.

"SJP is engaging in intellectual tyranny, a terrorism of the mind," said Diker. "They threaten the principles of democracy in this country."

Khaled Abu Toameh, a Palestinian journalist on the West Bank and Gaza, said he used to speak on campuses, until repeated protests by SJP activists made him feel too unsafe to continue.

Abu Toameh described SJP activists as "divorced and disconnected from the realities on the ground."

"They want to be pro-Palestinian? What about opposing the arrests of journalists by both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas? What about justice for Palestinians facing the persecution of corrupt leaders?" said Abu Toameh. "Try to help Palestinians, instead of just hating Israel. Stop blaming Israel for all my peoples' miseries."

In the report, Diker applauded Fordham University, where administrators last year denied students' application to create an official SJP club, citing concerns for student safety based on the behavior of existing SJP chapters. An ongoing suit brought by the students claims this constituted an infringement on their free speech rights.

Sarah McLaughlin, who wrote a letter in January for the libertarian Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) condemning the decision as inappropriately penalizing SJP because administrators disagreed with its "purpose and goals," told the Washington Free Beacon, "Students should not be punished based on the subjective offensiveness of their speech. There are very limited categories of speech, like true threats or defamation, that are rightfully not protected by the First Amendment."

Diker said his research has raised significant concerns about SJP's methods, but that he would welcome a genuine pro-Palestinian human rights organization.

"This is not an issue of taking away the free speech for SJP, but for taking back the free speech of others that SJP has kidnapped," said Diker.

The national arm of SJP did not respond to request for comment.

Rachel Frommer


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Bill Clinton, the Media, and Sexual Harassment Armageddon - Stephen McGhee

by Stephen McGhee

By absolving itself of Clinton-era sins, the press is setting the stage for something much more important: an all-out attack against President Trump.

The allegations against Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein, and now Al Franken, each more damning by the hour, have awakened the conscience of the media. As if on cue, thoughtful voices in the press have been reflecting on their own past sins. Our willingness to believe Moore’s accusers, the pundits say, stands in stark contrast to our treatment of the women who once accused Bill Clinton.

Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times says: “I believe Juanita Broaddrick.”

Chris Hayes of MSNBC: “As gross and cynical and hypocritical as the right's "what about Bill Clinton" stuff is, it's also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper: “The accusers of Bill Clinton… were never given the credence and treated with the same respect that these women are being treated…”

Matt Yglesias, writing in Vox: “What (Bill Clinton) did to Monica Lewinsky was wrong, and he should have paid the price.”

The list could go on. Finally, after all these years, the mainstream media is confronting the damage it did to the victims of sexual misconduct, to its own credibility, and to the country.

As usual, the press is playing us for fools.

An examination of these media confessions brings up two questions. First, is it likely that writers, pundits and anchors from every major media outlet chose essentially the same moment to confess to sins from 20 years ago? No. The reason these pundits are all saying the same thing is that they’re reading from the same script.

Second, is it credible for some in the media to claim that sexual harassment was viewed differently in the 1990s and was therefore misunderstood and neglected back then? Again, no. Bill Clinton was elected president only one year after the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas inferno (during which, we should note, Clarence Thomas was not accused of touching anybody). 

The media’s confession is phony. But it is also brilliant. By finally condemning Bill Clinton for his mistreatment of women, the press is gently, but firmly, escorting him from the public stage. The American left wants to face forward, and there’s no place in its future for the Clintons. Seen in this light, the media’s re-evaluation of Bill is of a piece with Donna Brazile’s takedown of Hillary. It is time for the Clintons to retire. And since they no longer control the levers that might extend their tenure and punish their enemies, the Clintons are finding that their friends are of the fair weather variety.

But the Clintons’ forced retirement is only half of the media’s confession strategy. By absolving itself of Clinton-era sins, the press is setting the stage for something much more important: an all-out attack against President Trump on the basis of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

At some point in the near future, we can look forward to a long line of Trump accusers, all of whom will approach the podium in the span of a few short days. It’s difficult to predict exactly when these accusers will take the stage, but it’s easy to predict that they will. They may appear as Congress is examining the Mueller findings. They may make their announcements during Trump’s impeachment by a Democrat-controlled House in 2019. Or these accusers may have to cool their heels until the fall of 2020. Whenever it comes, we will be overwhelmed by the accusations and by the credibility (real or perceived) of the women accusing Donald Trump.

Trump must be destroyed. At least that’s the plan. And sexual harassment will have to be the means by which this is accomplished. It’s becoming clear the Mueller findings, whatever they turn out to be, will not be enough to unseat the president. The Uranium One/Fusion GPS scandals may not go anywhere in Jeff Sessions’ DOJ, but they are enough to cast doubt on Mueller’s credibility and on the Trump-Russia collusion story.

Without collusion, and without corruption, the media will need a new tool and sexual harassment neatly fits the bill. The NBC tape released last year featuring Trump’s “locker room talk” was a near-miss; Trump escaped that noose by deflecting attention to the Clintons and their own harassment issues. The media has made sure that can’t happen again. Trump will need a new strategy if he is to make it to a second term, or survive his first.

To be clear, the issue of sexual assault is a real one, and it should be taken seriously. (If the media’s confession were genuine, particularly in regard to the credible allegations of assault by the former president, it would be welcome.)

But demeaning the issue by transforming it into a game of political “gotcha,” as was done in the Clarence Thomas hearings, is dangerous to our republic and ultimately corrupts the process by which we choose our government. If at some point we find ourselves selecting the candidate who wasn’t accused of making a woman feel uncomfortable at a cocktail party in 2003, we will have ceased to be responsible voters. Here’s hoping against hope that the president is prepared and that the truth (whatever it may be) wins out in the battle sure to come.

Stephen McGhee


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'Israel's actual enemy is Russia' - Erez Linn

by Erez Linn

Middle East Media Research Institute founder Yigal Carmon is disappointed with the U.S. for joining Russia in support of Iran's regional expansion

"Iran won't stand by and allow Saudi Arabia to take a bite out 
of its growing regional power," says Yigal Carmon
Photo: AP

"Wherever there is a clash between peoples, cultures, states, religions or perceptions, the best way to understand the resulting conflict and to resolve it is to go back to the primary texts," says Yigal Carmon, the president and founder of MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, which translates media broadcasts and articles from Arabic, Turkish, Farsi and other languages into English with the aim of giving the West a real-time glimpse into the Arab and Muslim world's attitudes.   

Contrary to what many may think, MEMRI is not in the business of clearing a path for any particular leader, nor does it take any ideological stance – though Carmon himself has very clear views on current affairs.

"MEMRI is a concept, an idea," he says. "We study the media to understand the present, and we study textbooks to understand the future. ... Hundreds of universities make use of our services, because without knowing the language, they lose out on a primary source material that is critical for academic work."

Carmon recalls how Bernard Lewis, considered one of the world's leading Middle East scholars, fruitlessly tried to warn the CIA that Iran's shah was about to be overthrown by the ayatollahs in 1979. 

"He got his hands on a book written by the Ayatollah Khomeini shortly before the latter returned to Iran," Carmon says. "He [Lewis] realized that this was a prelude to the revolution and presented the contents of the book to them, but the intelligence agency just said, 'Who is this guy [Khomeini] in Paris? Total nonsense.' Not too long after that, there was a revolution."

Carmon takes pride in the fact that he studies the Arab and Muslim world from "Marrakesh to Bangladesh." The institute has received many accolades over the years, and Lewis himself has called it the most important development in the study of the Middle East in a long time. Others have said that if an institute like MEMRI had existed before World War II, and Hitler's plans had been translated in real time, the threat he posed might have been realized earlier and the war, and the Holocaust, could have been prevented.

These days, Carmon is chiefly troubled by Iran, but not just because of what is happening in Tehran. He is also concerned about the secret agreements being struck in Washington and in Moscow, which he says are helping the ayatollahs' regime (the "Shiite ISIS" as he refers to it) to corner Israel.

"We are being sold out completely," he warns, referring to reports that the two superpowers have reached understandings about Syria that completely disregard Israel's demand to keep Iran away from its borders. "[U.S. President Donald] Trump made a deal with the Russians that makes Iran's presence legitimate in all of Syria, even very close to our border. That's even more critical than the nuclear agreement [with Iran]." 

Carmon says that "the Russian-Iranian alliance poses an existential threat to Israel. Russia has made itself a true enemy of Israel and we need to wake up and understand that. They may have nothing against us, but they are allied with Iran and they use it as a proxy against the U.S. since they are painfully inferior to America, militarily and in every other way. The U.S. is their [Russia's] rival; the harm suffered by Israel means nothing to them."

But he says the U.S., which could have set boundaries, opted instead to cooperate with Russia. 

"Israel is facing a historical challenge. The president of the United States has just joined the Russian-Iranian alliance, and by striking an agreement with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, he has essentially greenlighted an Iranian military deployment along Israel's border, despite knowing Iran's express intentions to annihilate Israel. This is an existential threat for Israel that outweighs the nuclear threat, which has yet to reach the practical stage," he said.

In this context, he notes that after Russia assumed an active role in the civil war in Syria, MEMRI started studying the Russian media as well, for the first time since the institute was founded in 1998.

Q: How do you respond to the claims that what you choose to highlight is biased and selective?
"The claim that we post only the negative things from the Arab world is completely false. We have made the voices of hundreds of [Arab and Muslim] reformists and liberals heard in the entire world, and particularly in the West where they weren't well known. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and considering what is currently happening in the Arab world, obviously the difficult aspects we've exposed reflected reality. Reality exploded.

"Unlike many other research institutes in the world, we avoid making recommendations. We present the reality as it is, we don't make suggestions."

Q: Was there a document you translated that actually changed the reality?
"We are helping Western countries defend themselves from terrorist attacks. One of many examples is when we reported a young man who was viciously inciting online to the Belgian authorities. He was consequently arrested, and in his home they found chainsaws that he and his friends were planning to use in an attack at a supermarket.

"We inform governments and legislatures about the reality of the Arab and Muslim world so as to improve their decision-making. However, we are well aware that quite often in history, political and military decisions aren't based on an objective analysis of reality; there are always leaders' values and judgment calls in play, for better or worse." 

Carmon stresses that his organization's purpose is not to shape policy ("Research institutes tend to serve a political stance, and that's a tragedy," he says), but exclaims that he does not intend to stand idly by in the face of the mistakes he feels are being made on the Iran issue. 

Q: I get the feeling that you do not support the nuclear agreement with Iran.
"The nuclear agreement fails to serve the purpose for which it was drafted, and that is a fact. The nuclear agreement was meant to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. For example, under the terms of the deal, 8.5 tons of enriched uranium were transferred to Russia. Where is the uranium today? It has disappeared. Former President [Barack] Obama's appointee Stephen Mull testified as much to Congress. The International Atomic Energy Agency also has no idea where it is. 

Theoretically, since no one can say where it is, it is possible that it is back in Iran."

According to Carmon, as Trump himself has said, Iran is violating not only the spirit of the agreement but also its stipulations. Even the IAEA has noted that since the nuclear agreement was reached, Iran has twice exceeded the amount of heavy water it is permitted to possess. After it was found out, the water was transferred to Oman, which, according to Carmon, is not capable of storing it independently. 

"Oman is a satellite of Iran. It has no military capability. It is completely at the mercy of Iran. Storing Iran's heavy water there, as though it had been removed from Iran, is fundamentally ridiculous. It clearly demonstrates what kind of agreement this is. They could have transferred it to the Netherlands or to Canada or to Brazil. Storing it in Oman is no different than keeping it in Iran itself."

Q: Are you claiming that Iran's Revolutionary Guards are in Oman?
"They wouldn't leave something like this unattended. And if they are watching it, then it violates the very foundation of the agreement because Iran is essentially still holding on to it."

Carmon lists a host of special procedural clauses that basically comprise a very comfortable agreement for Iran, unprecedented in its flexibility, ultimately allowing Iran to press ahead with its nuclear program by way of special protocols that only have the appearance of restrictions. 

"The supposed oversight mechanism meant to be monitoring Iran's activity is a complete system of deception. The only thing that mattered was pushing the deal through."

He says there is no proof that Iran complied with the deal's stipulation that it decommission the nuclear facility in Arak. 

"They poured concrete into the pipes leading to the core of the reactor. The IAEA came out with a declaration that they had sealed the core, but the Iranians claim that they didn't pour concrete into the core."

Q: What about the monitoring mechanisms included in the agreement?
"They pulled a shocking ruse. Ostensibly, there is a stringent monitoring regiment in place, with cameras and everything. But only in sites that Iran itself declared as nuclear facilities. There are six or seven of them. Everywhere else, particularly military sites where the IAEA knows they developed military nuclear devices in the past, is not under any kind of supervision."

Q: But if Iran refuses to allow inspectors to visit suspicious sites, the powers' special committee can declare Iran in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which adopted the agreement, and the sanctions will be automatically reimposed.
"Some people argue that, yes. But keep in mind that in the joint committee, anyone making a complaint must present their case and reveal their sources. Say America, or Israel, have secret sources, which lead them to file a complaint. Under the deal, they have to reveal the source to the Iranians. Does that seem reasonable? To expose them? And even after the exposure, Iran is given weeks [time for the inspectors to actually arrive at the site] to prepare. This is a mechanism that was designed to protect Iran. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano is working in the service of Iran, Russia and China. It is a role he was forced into by the Obama administration and its efforts to make sure this deal was passed, at any cost. Amano is lying when he says he can monitor any site. The Iranians openly forbid it and he doesn't even try." 

So fearing Iran and feeling disappointed in the American position, Carmon actually pins his long-term hopes on the moderate Arab world, which he believes will ultimately wake up, after resolving its war with ISIS and its internal conflicts, and stop Iran from becoming a hegemon in the region. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's recent bold actions, enacting internal reforms as well as coming out against Hezbollah in Lebanon, is an encouraging sign. The Arab Spring, too, despite its many failures, has yet to make its final appearance, Carmon forecasts. 

But when asked whether Iran, like Russia, can be viewed as a stabilizing force in the region, at least for now, he rejects the assertion out of hand.

"That was Obama's thinking. He stood by the 10% of Muslims who are Shiite, instead of the 90% who are Sunni. He told the Saudis that they need to share their power with Iran. A realistic leader would never put his money on the 10% against the 90%. I am extremely worried that President Trump's administration is now following in Obama's disastrous footsteps."

Q: The fact is that in Syria, Iran and Russia did manage to stabilize the situation.
"But is that the end of the story? Let's take things one step at a time. Sometimes, when a minority clearly deserves help in comparison with the majority, there is room for moral considerations and not just pure realism. But that is not the case here. In the Sunni camp, we are seeing important shifts. Mohammed bin Salman is coming out against the religious traditions that have made the region violent. Iran, on the other hand, is a Shiite Islamic country – there is no difference between Iran and ISIS other than that Iran is Shiite. Iran is also extremely ambitious, seeking to impose its rule on others. The number of people that the Iranian regime has murdered during its reign, including the murder of intellectuals, is very high. In 2009, they murdered people on the streets as they protested against election fraud. This regime is actively engaged in exporting and spreading the revolution." 

Q: Do you think there is still hope for the Arab Spring?
"It's a matter of hundreds of years and it will develop very slowly, as in Europe, because it involves value shifts that generally take generations. There is always hope that human beings will advance from carnage to culture, but it can't happen in less time than it took Europe. Look at how Europe was at constant war until the middle of the last century, World War II. I am most encouraged by the fact that the first course of action by the Saudi heir to the throne was to arrest thousands of inciting religious figures. He went against what has been the foundation of Saudi legitimacy since the country's inception, and then he went on to advance women's rights, something that had been unheard of in the kingdom's history. He went against anyone who threatens his rule, and now he is openly confronting Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon. "There's a phrase in spoken Arabic that says, 'He carries the ladder sideways' – when you walk like that, you amass more and more enemies. He believes in his power and he has the makings of a leader, like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk [the founder of modern Turkey] had, of a man who is willing to stand up to the religious fanatics, who have destroyed the Islamic world everywhere." 

Alongside his optimism at the hints of Saudi reform, Carmon fears that Iran will not just sit by and allow the Saudi kingdom take a bite out of its growing regional power.

"Here is a possible scenario for the next war: The Iranians, unable to come to terms with losing the civil war in Yemen [where they support the Shiite Houthi rebels], will draw out the Shiites in Bahrain and Lebanon. There is certainly a threat that Hezbollah will spark a provocation in Lebanon. Like in 2006, when Iran needed a flare up to divert attention from its nuclear file that was about be taken over by the Security Council, so they used Hezbollah to generate a provocation on our northern border.

"Strategically speaking, this war – even  if Israel is dragged into it by way of Hezbollah and Syrian provocations – will actually be a clash between Iran and Saudi Arabia, reflecting a historic, religious, geopolitical and ethnic confrontation between the two. But of course Iran will make every effort to bring us into the mix to generate an international effect." 

Carmon has no qualms about criticizing the platforms he uses to access the Arab world – social media and, generally speaking, the internet as a whole. According to him, the puppet masters behind the internet platforms are far more concerned with profits than with combating incitement. 

"The global jihad has developed in unimaginable terms since the introduction of the internet. The internet is responsible for making individuals and small groups into a global movement that is not tied together by any organization but rather by common ideology. The ones who gave rise to this terrible thing that changed our lives are the internet giants, particularly the social networks. Alongside their innumerable advantages, they are also destroying the world. It is comparable to developing an atom bomb without neutralizing the dangers it poses. And it is all done out of greed. I think their influence is nothing short of criminal. Mark Zuckerberg [founder of Facebook] said that when someone posts about wanting to commit suicide, the network takes action to find them. But what about when someone wants to kill not himself but you? That doesn't interest the network nearly as much." 

Q: It is said that journalists write the first draft of history. Is MEMRI formulating the first draft of analysis of history?
"We are very popular in Arab countries. Countless spokespeople mention our work, be it liberals who mention us positively or Muslim radicals who suffer from our exposure. North African religious scholar of the 13th century Bahyey Ibn Pekuda once said that a little light can repel much of the darkness and a little truth can drive away a lot of falsehood. Sometimes, I feel that he was talking about the kind of work that MEMRI does."

Erez Linn


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The Desperate Saudi Bid to Prepare the State for All-Out War - Prof. Hillel Frisch

by Prof. Hillel Frisch

As was recently demonstrated when Houthi forces in Yemen launched a ballistic missile at the state’s largest airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is fighting an all-out war for survival.

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 644, November 17, 2017

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman knows he has to transform the state into a war machine if the kingdom is to survive the Iranian onslaught. To do that, he has to amass power by removing the system of checks and balances of rival princely factions and tribal affiliations as well as a security system that is weakened by both. The question is whether he will be able to avoid the fate of the Shah, who transformed Iran into a regional power but fell victim to wall-to-wall opposition bred by his concentration of power.

Even in the US, a nation that enshrines its system of checks and balances, which limits executive power and mitigates the risk of tyranny, there has always been broad recognition that in times of imminent and vast external danger, a War Powers Act must be passed to allow the executive great powers to face the challenge. A well-known legal classic on the theme was aptly entitled “Constitutional Dictatorship.”

Saudi Arabia is facing just such an external threat. In response, young Muhammad Bin Salman (also known as MBS), the Crown Prince and Minister of Defense, is determined to transform the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s system of checks and balances is based on rival camps composed of hundreds if not thousands of princes and rival tribal affiliations. Its security establishment is riven by competitive strife between an army belonging to one part of the royal family, a National Guard belonging to another, and a religious establishment with its own policing arm. Muhammad’s aim is to reshape this agglomeration into a concentrated, centralized war machine.

Why is this necessary? Because as was recently demonstrated when Houthi forces in Yemen launched a ballistic missile at the state’s largest airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is fighting an all-out war for survival.

Few states have been so beset by geostrategic misfortune as Saudi Arabia over the past two decades. Mainstays of the Saudi security environment that had allowed that unique and archaic state to thrive simply evaporated into thin air one after another as Iran, its formidable nemesis, went on the ascendant.

One of those mainstays was the US. The Saudis no longer consider the US to be a reliable policeman who can be relied upon to stave off external threats and maintain the sovereignty of states, as it did in 1991 when it amassed a coalition of half a million (mostly American) troops to roll back Iraqi forces from occupied Kuwait.

During Obama’s term in office, the Saudis could console themselves to an extent that his belief in “engaging” enemies to the point of signing an agreement with Iran over its military nuclear capabilities was a temporary aberration. But the gap between Trump’s bark and his bite suggests that American disengagement might be more deep-seated and historic. Trump knows many of his supporters prefer guns in their closets to American arms abroad. They certainly don’t favor using American weaponry and personnel to protect the Saudi state, which produced most of the terrorists of 9/11.

Regionally, the Saudis have had to face the realization that though there are plenty of Sunni Arab states in the area, it is the only such entity with the potential power to meet the Iranian challenge. This solitary position stems from the sharp decline of Egyptian power in the region. A half century ago, Egypt was in a position to menace Riyadh by threatening to wage a war to destroy the Yemeni dynasty and replace it with a military regime of its own making. Today, Egyptian security forces are only barely succeeding in containing ISIS, which operates in no more than 1,000 square kilometers in Sinai between Al-Arish and Rafah. Given this performance, the Egyptian military scarcely has the ability to come to the aid of the Saudis beyond its borders.

To the east, the Saudis could once rely on Iraq to be a buffer between themselves and Iranian imperial ambitions – though they loathed both the Hashemites who ruled it when it was a kingdom and the Baathists who came in their wake. This is why Riyadh financed Saddam Hussein, a man it intensely detested, in his long, grueling war with Iran during the 1980s.

That buffer has not only ceased to exist, but Iraq has come under Shiite rule. Its prime minister and political elite, at least from the Saudi vantage point, have become Iranian puppets. Militarily, the Shiite militias – which display a clear loyalty to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – might be even more powerful today than the official Federal Army.

To add insult to injury, the US, which destroyed this buffer by invading Iraq in 2003, has committed itself to the strengthening of the Iraqi army, which recently routed the Kurds in Kirkuk. The predominantly Sunni Kurds were the last more or less reliable ally of the Saudis in the region after the setbacks suffered by their proxies in Syria.

Worse still has been the failure of Saudi financial soft power to promote proxies to wage war against the Iranians on the kingdom’s behalf. Financing proxies was the central mainstay of the Saudi security architecture for decades, but especially since the so-called Arab Spring. The comeback of the Assad regime with the re-conquest of Homs and Aleppo, and the linking of Syrian forces and Alawite and Shiite militias with their Iraqi counterparts along Syria’s southeast border to recreate the Iranian-Shiite crescent, has come at the expense of the Sunni rebels financed by Riyadh. This not only represents a major strategic loss for the kingdom in terms of its balance of power with Tehran, but also reflects the inadequacy of a basic tool of Saudi power.

Muhammad bin Salman understands that Saudi Arabia has no choice but to wage this war directly. This is why he has hit at the finely tuned checks and balances of the Saudi system. They might have preserved internal stability, but they severely limit the transformation of Saudi Arabia into an effective war machine equipped to take on the Iranian threat.

Can Muhammad galvanize Saudi youth to meet the danger? Equally pressing, will he be able to centralize power and become the leading regional power in the manner of the Shah, yet avoid the Shah’s fate? Making bold moves like entering the air war in Yemen or jailing a dozen or so political celebrities in Saudi Arabia might be a promising beginning, but they in no way indicate how successful Muhammad will be in meeting the challenges ahead.

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

Prof. Hillel Frisch is a professor of political studies and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.


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