Monday, December 31, 2018

Pitfalls of the Visa Waiver Program - Michael Cutler

by Michael Cutler

A serious threat to U.S. national security and public safety.

Immigration is a major factor in ever so many of the issues confronting America and Americans, but all too frequently the media neglects to identify or acknowledge the nexus between those issues and immigration. Consequently, many folks fail to recognize just how significant and pervasive the immigration issue is in their lives and why failures of the immigration system have the potential to profoundly impact them and our nation.

On December 23, 2018 the CBS News program, 60 Minutes aired a report, Inside The Corruption Allegations Plaguing Malta.

At first glance, it would be hard to imagine that Malta’s alleged corruption could have relevance to the immigration issue or that Americans should be concerned about the alleged corruption in Malta.  Malta is a small, indeed, tiny nation located on an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast with a population of fewer than a half-million citizens (460,297 in 2017 according to Eurostat).

However, diminutive as it might be, Malta presents a serious threat to U.S. national security and public safety because of an ill-conceived program known as the Visa Waiver Program that was first implemented as a pilot program by the Reagan administration.

Over the years this program became a permanent program and the number of countries that participate in this program, which enables the citizens of participating countries to enter the United States as tourists for up to 90 days.  Malta is one of those countries that participates in the Visa Waiver Program.

Here is the relevant excerpt from the 60 Minutes report:

Perhaps in that same entrepreneurial spirit, the government (of Malta) has launched a program, some call it a scheme, to sell passports to the world's super-rich. Have a spare million? You too could buy Maltese citizenship, and as this promotional video shows, the European Union passport that comes with it.
Promotional Video: As citizens of Malta, successful applicants can enjoy visa-free access to approximately 170 countries.
Jon Wertheim: Who's buying these passports?
Manuel Delia: Russian tycoons, Chinese tycoons, Saudi tycoons, Nigerian tycoons.
For Manuel Delia, an online journalist and longtime critic of the current government, the program, estimated to have brought in almost a billion dollars, is essentially a Trojan horse, allowing those with dubious aims to breach Europe's borders.
Jon Wertheim: Why would they want a Maltese passport?
Manuel Delia: Because they want to go in the rest of the world, hiding where they're really from. Maltese passports give them not only free movement for themselves through European airports, but it gives their money, their capital free movement throughout Europe.
And free movement to the United States.
Jon Wertheim: American airport, you've got that Maltese passport validated by the EU, you go right through passport control?
Manuel Delia: Visa-free. Absolutely. So, that's a big reason to have it.
Applicants to the "golden passport program," as it's come to be known, are supposed to show that they've established residence in Malta for at least a year, but when we checked the listed address for a Russian tycoon it led us here. To a modest suburb and rundown basement apartment that had been divided in two.
Jon Wertheim: let's just call this what it is. This-- this is a fraud.
It is important to note that on September 11, 2001 citizens of the 26 countries that participated in the Visa Waiver Program were able to enter the United States without first applying for and receiving visas. 

During the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama the number of participating Countries climbed to 38 participating countries, in large measures spurred by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Discover America Partnership that blithely ignored that the first paragraph of the preface of the official report known as 9/11 and  Terrorist Travel that was prepared by the federal agents and attorneys assigned to the 9/11 Commission stated:

It is perhaps obvious to state that terrorists cannot plan and carry out attacks in the United States if they are unable to enter the country. Yet prior to September 11, while there were efforts to enhance border security, no agency of the U.S. government thought of border security as a tool in the counterterrorism arsenal. Indeed, even after 19 hijackers demonstrated the relative ease of obtaining a U.S. visa and gaining admission into the United States, border security still is not considered a cornerstone of national security policy. We believe, for reasons we discuss in the following pages, that it must be made one.
In 2015, I wrote an article, Inviting Catastrophe Through Our Ports Of Entry, that focused on the deadly threats to the homeland posed by the legal immigration system, including the Visa Waiver Program.  My article included the six major ways that a properly administered visa program could help enhance national security, public safety and even airline safety that are all lost to the Visa Waiver Program:

1.  The Visa adjudications process screens airline passengers flying to the United States, enhancing aviation safety.
2.  The inspections process conducted at ports of entry by CBP is supposed to be conducted in one minute or less. The visa requirement requires aliens to be vetted overseas helping to provide  more integrity to this process.
3. The application for a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa contains roughly 40 questions and biometric identifiers that could provide invaluable information to law enforcement officials should that alien become the target of a criminal or terrorist investigation. The information could provide intelligence as well as investigative leads. 
4. False statements on the application for a visa constitute "visa fraud." The maximum penalty for visa fraud starts out at 10 years in jail and go to a maximum of 25 years in prison when the visa fraud is done to support terrorism.
5. The charge of visa fraud can enable law enforcement authorities to take a “bad guy” off the street without tipping their hand to the other members of a criminal conspiracy or terrorism conspiracy that the individual arrested was being arrested for his involvement in terrorism. 
6.  Even when an application for a visa is denied, the application and the biometric identifiers provided in conjunction with that application remain available for law enforcement and intelligence personnel to review to seek to glean intelligence from that application.
My article went on to discuss additional materials contained in that staff report, specifically Chapter 3, Terrorist Entry and Embedding Tactics, 1993 to 2001 which included this excerpt:

The relative ease with which the hijackers obtained visas and entered the United States underscores the importance of travel to their terrorist operations. In this section we explore the evolution of terrorist travel tactics and organization. We begin with terrorist plots in the 1990s and conclude with the 9/11 attack.
3.1 The Redbook
Since the early 1970s numerous terrorist organizations have provided their operatives with a wide variety of spurious documents. After showing their spurious passports and papers at border control, these terrorist operatives have proceeded to hijack airplanes, plant bombs, and carry out assassinations. These terrorist acts, however, can be stopped. . . .
If we all screen travelers and check their passports, as past experience proves, terrorist will lose their ability to travel undetected, and international terrorism will come one step closer to being stopped!
—The Redbook (1992)
By definition, transnational terrorist groups need to travel to commit terrorist acts. Indeed, without freedom of movement terrorists cannot plan, conduct surveillance, hold meetings, train for their mission, or execute an attack. Terrorists rely on forged passports and fake visas to move around the world unimpeded and undetected. This has been known for more than three decades. It is difficult today to judge with certainty what else was known about terrorist travel methods in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the existence of a CIA training video and manual is evidence of an understanding that terrorists relied on certain tactics when they traveled and that they could be stopped by alert individuals who recognized the use of those tactics.
Finally, consider these paragraphs:

The Redbook focused on five types of travel document fraud committed by terrorists: forgeries of some 35 national passports and the travel cachets of at least 45 countries; forged documents terrorists purchased from commercial vendors; stolen blank passports, which terrorists could fill in with biographical data of their choosing; information on genuine altered passports that had been photo-substituted or given an extended validity date (discussed in greater detail in the Passport Examination Manual, a companion to the Redbook); and genuine, unaltered passports, most likely procured with the knowledge of the issuing country or through a corrupt government official.
Thus, abuse of the immigration system and a lack of interior immigration enforcement were unwittingly working together to support terrorist activity. It would remain largely unknown, since no agency of the United States government analyzed terrorist travel patterns until after 9/11. This lack of attention meant that critical opportunities to disrupt terrorist travel and, therefore, deadly terrorist operations were missed.
Nevertheless, the Visa Waiver Program continues and Malta remains a member of this supposedly elite “club” of countries that participates in the Visa Waiver Program while sanctuary cities harbor and shield illegal aliens from detection, and the Democrats call for open borders and an end to interior enforcement of our immigration laws.

In the 1976 thriller Marathon Man Dustin Hoffman’s character is tortured and repeatedly asked

“Is it safe?”

That is the question we should be asking our “leaders” where the current state of border security and immigration law enforcement are concerned.

Those leaders betray their oaths of office and their obligations to bow to the special interest groups who see in America’s borders an impediment to their wealth and not the first and last line of defense of our nation and our citizens that they truly are.

Of course, the answer to that question is clearly self-evident.

Michael Cutler


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Intersectionality at the Crossroads - Clarice Feldman

by Clarice Feldman

As the facts behind the Women's Marches become more widely known, their organizers and the press are covered in shame and deservedly losing traction

It’s been known for a long time that revolutions eat their own, and it appears that the preposterously cobbled together coalition of leftist groups that tag their movement “intersectionality” is no exception. As the facts behind the Women’s Marches become more widely known, their organizers and the press, which covered for them, are covered in shame and deservedly losing traction.

In 2017 women (or is it womxn?) marched under a broad banner in opposition of President Trump. The hodgepodge banner under which they marched included women’s rights, immigration and healthcare reform, reproductive rights, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights. Apparently, the marchers were under the mistaken belief that all these issues had a common denominator and the boogeyman was Trump.

In fact, to take one example alone, low-skilled and semi-skilled workers had every reason to support the President’s view on the border. Indeed, the increase in support for the President among Hispanic and black voters is to my mind an indication they understand this better than do well-off women marching in pink pussy hats because Hillary lost.
Hispanics, by definition, are primarily a working-class demographic, as we on average own only a tenth of the household wealth of white families. Thankfully, President Trump’s policies of tax cuts and regulatory relief point to a brighter economic future for all wage earners, including Hispanics. For example, an incredible 2 million Americans have dropped off food stamps since Trump was elected. In the most recent government jobs report, wages for non-managerial workers rose at a 2.7 percent annual clip, the highest in a decade. The jobless rate for non-college graduates just hit the lowest level since 2001. These gains are highly beneficial to hard-working Hispanics, as Trump’s policies continue to lift the economic underdogs.
Moreover, in contrast to the assumptions of the leftist identity-politics hucksters, Hispanics are far from uniform on immigration issues, and actually take a very moderate and pragmatic approach to the border and enforcement. In fact, per Zogby Analytics exit polling from 2016, twice as many Hispanics believe immigration enforcement is too lax versus too stringent. Regarding the recent border issues, an Economist/YouGov poll found that only 20 percent of Hispanics support the previous policies of “catch and release” where families entering the country illegally are not detained but summoned to report back for a later hearing -- at which many never show up. Instead, 64 percent of Hispanics support either detaining the whole family together, or detaining parents and children separately. This will disappoint the Democrats, to be sure, but legal Hispanics hardly support open borders.
But the inconsistency between the views and associations of the march leaders and the useful idiots who followed their call was highlighted in recent weeks when the media were compelled to finally report what had been known for a long time but kept hidden from credulous consumers of their pap: the Women’s March leaders were linked inextricably to Louis Farrakhan, an anti-Semite, anti-homosexual, anti-white propagandist who spreads lies about slavery -- ignoring the most significant role of Moslems in it even to this day. 

And the press hid the fact that women like Linda Sarsour were all in for Sharia, the religious-legal system that more than any other punishes women, gays, and blacks. Sharia creates the submission culture that keeps the poor at the bottom with little chance of upward mobility and society at such a low level of productivity that environmental protection and proper healthcare are unaffordable, and legitimizes slavery, which continues in places like North Africa. Indeed, her anti-American point of view was known months before the march in 2017 but barely, if at all, covered by the mainstream media.

Linda Sarsour, a national co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington -- whose stated mission is “to send a bold message… that women’s rights are human rights” -- is also an outspoken advocate of Islamic Sharia Law that restricts the rights of women, claiming Sharia is “reasonable” and has simply been “misunderstood.”[snip]
Sarsour, a Palestinian Muslim American, who has said she believes that America is a nation built on the values of genocide and slavery and that“nothing is creepier than Zionism,” spoke at the Women’s March last Saturday.
“I will respect the presidency,” she said. “But I will not respect this President of the United States of America. I will not respect an administration that won an election on the backs of Muslims and black people and undocumented people and Mexicans, and people with disabilities, and on the backs of women.”
Sarsour has openly supported Sharia law, a legal system that treats women much differently than men and punishes lawbreakers with flogging, amputation, and stoning.
Any claims by her that she wants participation by all, including gays, is probably true because it makes her movement seem more vast than it is. But her larger objectives are clear, given her long, documented history as a propagandist for the worst elements of the Nation of Islam and the Islamists. She wants to use them now to crush these useful idiots later if she succeeds.

When it finally became too obvious what was up, the organizers of the march this year in Chicago cancelled it

It appears the march in Seattle has also been cancelled and instead workshops are scheduled around MLK events.

In Eureka, California, the march was cancelled because they couldn’t get enough minorities to participate in this nonsensical event:

"Up to this point, the participants have been overwhelmingly white, lacking representation from several perspectives in our community," the press release went on to say. "Instead of pushing forward with crucial voices absent, the organizing team will take time for more outreach. Our goal is that planning will continue and we will be successful in creating an event that will build power and community engagement through connection between women that seek to improve the lives of all in our community."
Other one-time marchers may be slower on the uptake than minorities, but then it’s been established that over the past decade IQs have been falling.

Of course, Democratic leaders once did understand the deleterious effect of open borders. At Instapundit, Ed Driscoll documents their opposition to such policies, until Trump tried to make the opposition concrete:

What Changed?! Chuck Schumer 2009 kicks Chuck Schumer 2018 right in his badoobies on illegal immigration (video).
Twitchy, today.
● “Trump took to Twitter on Thursday to remind Democrats that even former President Barack Obama spoke out against illegal immigration. Trump dug up a 2011 tweet from former President Obama which said: ‘I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration.’ ‘I totally agree!’ Trump wrote, retweeting the former president.”
—The Daily Caller, yesterday.
Harry Reid in 1993: It’s insane to reward illegal immigrants by giving their children birthright citizenship.
Hot Air, October 30th.
Bill Clinton warns of “the large number of illegal aliens” coming into America, and explains his crackdown at his 1995 State of the Union address.
Instapundit, January 31st, 2017.
And while I’ve emphasized Linda Sarsour, it’s clear that she is far from the only anti-Semite, anti-white leader of the Women’s March charade. 

Organizer Tamika Mallory argues that the very creation of Israel was a human rights violation and objected to the ADL being part of a group tagged to help Starbucks anti-bias work. And then there’s Carmen Perez:

Carmen Perez’s Jew-hatred became an issue this weekend when Jewish co-founder of Women’s March movement said she was forced out because by Perez and Mallory because of her Jewish Heritage.
Vanessa Wruble, a Brooklyn-based activist, said she told the group that her Jewish heritage inspired her to try to help repair the world. But she said the conversation took a turn when Tamika Mallory, a black gun control activist, and Carmen Perez, a Latina criminal justice reform activist, replied that Jews needed to confront their own role in racism. [snip]
After that first march, the hatred continued
At a meeting days after the march, an argument broke out between Ms. Wruble and the other leaders.
Ms. Mallory and Ms. Perez began berating Ms. Wruble, according to Evvie Harmon, a white woman who helped organize the march, and who attended the meeting at Ms. Mallory’s apartment complex.
“They were talking about, ‘You people this,’ and ‘You people that’ and the kicker was, ‘You people hold all the wealth.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God, they are talking about her being Jewish,’” said Ms. Harmon, whose account was first published by Tablet. “The greatest regret of my life was not standing up and saying ‘This is wrong.’”
Another Women’s March founder Rasmea Yousef Odeh is no longer in America, she was deported in October 2017 for concealing her murder/conviction of two Israeli college students.[snip]
So if you really oppose hatred put your pink pussy hats (and pink pussy yarmulkes) away and find an inclusive group to support.
The media, which did such a great job for so long burying the sentiments and objectives of the organizers of the women’s march, continues on, this time, serving as a mouthpiece of open borders, Qatar, and Iran.

The comment section of the Washington Post inormally is a place I avoid, filled as it is with low-information true believers, so I share the surprise of Ann Althouse that even they are not buying the sob story about immigrants and the virtue of open borders.

Reading these comments, I believe the American culture has changed radically since the fall of 2016, when Trump was painted as a racist for saying the situation at the border had to change. I think, for all the press resistance to Trump's fight against illegal immigration, minds have changed. It seems that Democrats are no longer using the idea that it's racist and hateful to want to control immigration. I feel there's been much less talk about the suffering of the children, but when a child dies, like this poor boy, it will be reported, and it gives us an opportunity to see how Americans are reacting to a sad story about a child. I'm amazed at the reaction in The Washington Post. It's so Trumpian!
Actually, given the quotes of leading Democrats by Driscoll, I assume that the culture has “not changed radically since the fall of 2016,” it’s just that in the fall of 2016 Democrats shifted gears in a misguided effort to get needed Hispanic and low-information voters’ support, and, frankly, I believe that they picked the wrong hill to die on. With this shutdown they continue to follow the same stupid strategy. 

It’s not only burying facts which would make the left look bad that distinguishes today’s media, the Washington Post abandoned journalistic ethics to propagandize for Qatar and Iranian interests and the rest of media fell in line with them. Don Surber documents the Khashoggi fiasco:

A Saudi paper, Arab News, reported, "Washington Post subtly admits Khashoggi columns were ‘shaped’ by Qatar."
The Post wrote, "Text messages between Khashoggi and an executive at Qatar Foundation International show that the executive, Maggie Mitchell Salem, at times shaped the columns he submitted to the Washington Post, proposing topics, drafting material and prodding him to take a harder line against the Saudi government. Khashoggi also appears to have relied on a researcher and translator affiliated with the organization, which promotes Arabic-language education in the United States."
Published. The word is published.
This admission vindicated President Trump's reluctance to break relations with an 80-year ally. [snip] Khashoggi's death has been illuminating. The press blindly took up his cause, elevating him to the status of Time Magazine Thing Of The Year.
David Reaboi, a security expert, wrote five days ago, "Once President Trump released a robust statement supporting the US-Saudi alliance, intense political pressure was felt from anti-Trump forces in the American media, which pushed Democrats toward Qatar and Iran, and away from Saudi Arabia. Suddenly, the alliance had become a partisan issue; prominent Democrats in Congress began calling for a reevaluation of American policy toward the country. The intensity with which the Kingdom’s critics have attacked the US-Saudi relationship specifically points to more than just a target of opportunity. These critics could be placed into (at least) one of the following categories: (a) a pro-Iran position; (b) a pro-Islamist/Muslim Brotherhood position; and (c) anti-Trump. Often -- as with the case of the Washington Post -- it is a combination of all three.
So as the year winds to an end, we have still nothing to sustain the left’s claim that the Russians colluded with Trump. Instead we are seeing more evidence that the press is colluding with America’s enemies -- the anti-American, anti-white, anti-Semite, anti-women, pro-Islamists. No wonder they covered up what they knew about the Women’s March organizers.

Happy New Year.

Clarice Feldman


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Let Kurdish fighters in Syria keep US weapons, US commanders say - Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff

by Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff

Such a move would likely anger NATO ally Turkey, which views Kurds as main enemy

U.S. commanders preparing for the withdrawal of American troops from Syria are recommending that Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State group be allowed to keep U.S.-supplied weapons, even though such a move would likely anger NATO ally Turkey, according to four U.S. officials.

Three of the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the recommendations were part of discussions on a draft plan by the U.S. military.

However, discussions are still at an early stage inside the Pentagon and no decision has been made, the officials said.

It is unclear what the Pentagon will ultimately recommend to the White House.

The plan will be presented to the White House in the coming days, with President Donald Trump making the final decision.

The Pentagon said it would be "inappropriate" and premature to comment on what will happen with the weapons.

"Planning is ongoing, and focused on executing a deliberate and controlled withdrawal of forces while taking all measures possible to ensure our troops' safety," said Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson. The White House did not comment.

Trump last week abruptly ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria, drawing widespread criticism and prompting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' resignation.

The officials said Trump's announcement upset U.S. commanders, who view it as a betrayal of the Kurdish YPG militia, which has led the fight to eradicate Islamic State from northeastern Syria.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of a Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey, and has threatened to launch an offensive against the YPG, raising fears of a surge in violence that could harm hundreds of thousands of civilians.

One of the officials said the U.S. had told the YPG the U.S. would continue to arm it until the fight against Islamic State is completed.

"The fight isn't over. We can't simply start asking for the weapons back," the official said.

The proposal to leave U.S.-supplied weapons with the YPG, which could include anti-tank missiles, armored vehicles and mortars, would reassure the Kurdish allies that they are not being abandoned.

But Turkey wants the United States to take the weapons back, so leaving them could complicate Trump's plan to allow Turkey to finish off the fight against Islamic State inside Syria.

The Pentagon keeps records of the weapons it has supplied to the YPG and its chain of custody. But the U.S. officials said it would be nearly impossible to locate all the equipment.

"How are we going to get them back and who is going to take them back?" one official said.

The debate over whether to leave weapons with the YPG coincides with Trump's national security adviser John Bolton's visit to Turkey and Israel next week for talks on Syria.

The U.S. told Turkey it would take back the weapons after the defeat of Islamic State, which has lost all but a few slivers of territory in northeastern Syria.

"The idea that we'd be able to recover them is asinine. So we leave them where they are," an official said.

A person familiar with the discussions on the U.S. withdrawal plan, who asked not to be identified, said the White House and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would oppose the proposal to allow the YPG to keep its U.S.-supplied weapons.

The recommendation "is a rejection of Trump's policy to withdraw from Syria," the source said.

Turkey said weapons supplied to the YPG in the past have ended up in the hands of its Kurdish separatists, and described any weapon given to the insurgents as a threat to Turkey's security.

A phone call between Trump and Erdogan two weeks ago led to the decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria.

During the call, Trump had been expected to deliver a standard warning over Erdogan's plan to launch a cross-border attack targeting U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, U.S. officials said.

Instead, Trump reshaped U.S. policy in the Middle East, abandoning a quarter of Syrian territory and handing Turkey the job of finishing off Islamic State in Syria.

However, in the first public indication of any modification in Trump's plan, Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Florida) said on Friday that the U.S. withdrawal from Syria has been delayed.

"We have been able [to get] the pace of the retreat or withdrawal slowed," Rubio told a press conference in his home state, emphasizing that this was "important."

Rubio remains highly critical of any U.S. withdrawal from Syria now.

"We are outsourcing the fight against ISIS to the Turks," Rubio said, even though the Turks' "priority is to wipe out the Kurds, whom they view as a threat ... [because the Kurds] want to establish their own independent nation in northeast Syria and southern Turkey."

He said that for the past two years, the Kurds "have fought as the ground force against ISIS" and they and their families "could be slaughtered."

Rubio said the U.S. abandonment of the Kurds is "morally wrong" and could lead an entire generation of young Kurds to "grow up hating this country."

He also said that U.S. forces have a small force, "largely an anti-Hezbollah presence," in southern Syria at al-Tanf, near the Iraqi border. The U.S. presence there also protects some 50,000 Syrians, who have taken refuge from the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Al-Tanf straddles the main highway between Damascus and Baghdad, and the U.S. base blocks a key route that Iran could use to ship weapons to Hezbollah if its ally, the Syrian regime, gains control of the area.

Rubio also noted the damage to the U.S. reputation in the region that will ensue, asking, "Who is going to partner with us in the future?"

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., South Carolina) has also been a strong critic of Trump's surprise decision to withdraw from Syria.

Following reports on Friday that the YPG had turned to Syria to block any Turkish attack, Graham described that as a "major disaster in the making."

Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff


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The American Exodus from Syria - Dr. Mordechai Kedar

by Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Israel would, of course, much prefer that the American forces remain in Syria, but their pullout is far from a tragedy and even provides a window of opportunity.

United States President Donald Trump decided, without prior warning, to bring home the American military forces deployed in eastern Syria since 2014, originally sent there to fight ISIS.

According to the media, the decision was taken during a telephone conversation with President Recip Erdogan of Turkey, in which Erdogan asked his American colleague to ensure that US army soldiers are not in the line of fire of Turkish fighters when they attack the Syrian Kurdish region. Trump soothed Erdogan's ruffled feathers, saying that the American soldeirs were in Syria to fight ISIS, not Turkey, to which Erdogan responded that the Turkish army can take care of ISIS by itself. Trump jumped at the suggestion and decided to bring the soldiers home now that ISIS is weakened, leaving the terror organization to the devoted ministrations of Turkey.

This event takes us back two years, to the last US presidential election campaign. Trump, who understands the American public extremely well, knows that 99% of US citizens don't even know where Syria is on the map, or why American soldiers are there. They have no desire to see American soldiers killed and wounded in wars that have no direct influence on US security. That's the reason that Trump, who is familiar with the mood of the man-in-the-US-street, promised voters that he would get the American soldiers out of Syria. In contrast to most politicians, Trump makes every effort to fulfill his election promises. The word for that is "trustworthiness," a basic principle of business management, but one that is often ignored by the ordinary politician.

The problem is that as time stretched on, ISIS was almost completely destroyed and American forces in Syria accepted responsibility for three other vital issues: 1. Guarding the region between the Euphrates and the Syrian-Iraqi border from Iran's schemes for a takeover and thwarting its plans for an Iranian highway stretching from Teheran to the Mediterranean Sea, both issues crucial to Israel and Saudi Arabia. 2. Guarding Syrian oil fields from Russian takeovers 3. Aiding the autonomouus Kurdish enclave in northeastern Syria by offering advice, supplying weapons and intelligence and protecting the Kurds from the Turkish Army.

This, then, is the  real significance of the American pullout: Iran will take over large swathes of Syrian territory, Russia will gain control of the oil fields in the eastern part of the country, east of the Euphrates, and the Kurds will be left at the mercy of the Turks. 

Trump's announcement of the American Exodus from Syria came as a shock to Israelis, who anxiously asked themselves who would stop the Iranians once the US troops are gone. The Kurds, by comparison, literally trapped in their small enclave, reacted even more anxiously, because the Turkish Army, as opposed to the IDF, does not limit its operations to the dictates of an Attorney General (if there is one in Turkey, in the first place) and its officers have not yet heard  the term "human rights" applied to Kurds. The Kurds see the American pullout as nothing less than a betrayal and a knife in the back, especially since the blood of thousands of Kurdish fighters was spilled in the war against ISIS in 2014-2016 - a fact no one seems to remember anymore, nor does anyone appreciate the central part they played in ISIS' defeat.

I suggest to the Kurds to make the best of a bad situation: Sit down with Assad, and try to see to it that several Russians and Turks are present at the meeting. Try to reach the best settlement you can with him, one that includes the recognition of the Kurds' collective rights to cultural autonomy, recognition of your language as a legal one in your area and the recognition of your right to representation in Syria's governmental institutions. Insist on obtaining Syrian citizenship (taken away from you in 1962) so that each and every one of you has civil rights in a Syrian state. True, this is not what you hoped for, it is not an independent state, but remember that your Iraqi brothers relinquished their hopes for an independent state forming a small enclave between three hostile states, with no air route to the outside world. You, too, do not want a state subject to the mercies of the Turks, Syrians and Iraqis in order to import medication, for example, fom the outside world.

Will life at the mercy of Syria be ideal? Absolutely not, and you have learned this the hard way, but the alternative is definitely worse. Politics is the art of the possible, so go for what you can get now and if the future provides you with an opening to the sea, you can always recalculate.

And to my Israeli brothers, let me say this:

1. We - Israel and the Jewish people - have faced much worse situations than the US pullout from Syria, and we have survived.

2. Stop pressing the panic button, and that means both in the media and the general public. Panic does not add anything to the balanced, sage thinking so necessary at this time.

3. Despite the coming elections, I am sure that those responsible for Israel's security, from the Prime Minister downwards, are talking to their American colleagues in order the plan the way Israel is to operate so as to protect its own interests and those of the US in Syria. Most surely they are planning how israel is to deal with the encouragement Iran is going to glean from the American withdrawal from Syria. My heart tells me that the US security echelons will be more willing to accede to Israeli requests for arms and the types of weapons the US did not agree to provide for Israel in the past - or grudgingly agreed to provide in limited amounts.

4. My heart tells me in addition, that the US will be more open to supplying Israel with intelligence info on Iranian incursions into Syrian territory.

5. This means that the US will give Israel a clearer green light than it has in the past to deal more decisively with Iranian targets.

No less important:

6. The US will give Israel political support, mainly in the UN Security Council, when Israel's acitivities to restrain Iranian expansion in Syria find themselves on the agendas of international bodies.

If all the six points above come to pass, Israel will not do too badly in the wake of the American pullout. It is important that Israelis remember that America has too many people - in politics, media and the halls of academia - who can be described as "Israel-haters" and who never miss an opportunity to bash Israel, with and mostly without any reason to do so. Bodies of American soldiers brought from Syria - G-d forbid - to America for burial - will grant those anti-Semites the chance to claim that American soldiers are being sacrificed to protect Israel. The fact that this accusation is totally detached from reality does not prevent it, if made, from significantly causing harm to Israel, and the freedom of speech that exists in America does not allow for its suppression. It is in Israel's interest to prevent situations that can grant these claims any legitimacy, and taking US soldiers out of Syria serves that purpose.

One other issue must be kept in mind: The presence of both Russian and American troops in Syria can lead to a clash of world powers dangerously close to Israel. In February 2018, ten months ago, close tp 150 armed Russians, members of some militia, were killed. In a battle with the American forces that are about to pull out of Syria, a Russian takeover attempt aimed at a Syrian oil installation was abandoned, and Putin swallowed the bitter pill so as not to complicate his relationship with Trump.  Those killed were not regular Russian soldiers, but is it not possible that something similar could happen again?

The bottom line is that Israel would, of course, much prefer that the American forces remain in Syria, but their pullout is far from a tragedy and even provides an opportunity that Israel can use to its advantage. There is no question that Israeli decision makers will know how to present suitable requests to the US and make the right decisions in the new situation created in our far-from-stable region. However, we have overcome more serious situations, so that there is no real reason for the depressing atmosphere some of the media pundits are trying to create.

We must remember that Trump is first and foremost President of the United States, not of Israel, and that  American interests direct his steps.

Written for Arutz Sheva, translated from the Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky, English site Op-ed and Judaism Editor.

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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Brit trade minister warns ’50-50 chance’ Brexit won’t happen if PM May’s terrible deal is voted down in Parliament - Thomas Lifson

by Thomas Lifson

2019 is not shaping up as a placid year. We are cursed to live in interesting times, as the ancient Chinese proverb has it.

Politicians don’t seem to heed the multiple warnings in multiple nations that the populist revolt against elites imposing their preferences is real, and fueled by genuine anger. The spectacle across the English Channel of (mostly provincial) French citizens rampaging through their capital city, burning expensive cars and smashing fancy shop windows doesn’t seem to have made a sufficient impression on the British cabinet. Consider this, via the BBC:
Senior Brexiteer minister Liam Fox says there is a 50-50 chance the UK will not leave the EU on 29 March if MPs reject Theresa May's Brexit deal next month.
The international trade secretary told the Sunday Times it would only be "100% certain" if MPs back the deal.
He said if the deal is rejected, that "would shatter the bond of trust between the electorate and Parliament".
MPs are due to vote on the withdrawal agreement in January, with the UK scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March.
The agreement negotiated by Mrs May with the EU - which sets the terms of the UK's exit and a declaration on future relations - will only come into force with a majority backing in Parliament.
The Commons vote was due to be held on 11 December but the PM postponed it once it became clear it would be defeated by a large margin.
I take that Mr. Fox is actually warning against the turmoil that might follow the demise of an initiative that the British public outside the London metropolitan area voted in. London, like Paris, seems to have a very different character from the rest of its country. Those capital cities (like our own Washington, DC) are full of prosperous elites who are mostly untroubled by the downsides of globalism, warmism, and the other utopian fixations of progressive elites. They look down on the uncultured, un-educated peasants citizens that resist what they regard as the “arc of history” purportedly “bending toward” what they think of as enlightened policies.

Should parliament fail the ratify the deal May conceded negotiated with the EU, and if the government says in essence, “Never mind,” I expect that Paris won’t be the only capital invaded by angry mobs.

2019 is not shaping up as a placid year. We are cursed to live in interesting times, as the ancient Chinese proverb has it.

Graphic credit: Rievente

Hat tip: John McMahon

Thomas Lifson


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The US Withdrawal from Syria: A Blessing in Disguise? - Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen

by Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen

However misconceived, President Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria might have a silver lining for Israel. It forces Jerusalem to reevaluate the basic assumptions of the “peace process” with the Palestinians that has been actively and coercively led in recent decades by successive US administrations.

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,051, December 30, 2018

The Oslo process took place under unique global circumstances. The Soviet Union had just collapsed and the Cold War had come to an abrupt end with the West’s clear victory. The US became “the only remaining superpower” and the “End of History” loomed over the horizon.

Since then, far-reaching changes have taken place. Russia has reemerged as a major global force and has reassumed its great-power status through direct military interventions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria. The US, by contrast, has substantially reduced its global involvement over the past decade and has lost its hegemonic position in the Middle East. In this respect, President Trump’s recent decision to withdraw US troops from Syria is but the continuation of the disengagement policy begun by his immediate predecessor.

It is arguable, of course, that the withdrawal casts serious doubt on the credibility of the US as a strategic ally. Yet for all its attendant flaws, this step gives Israel a chance to reconsider its longstanding belief in seemingly unshakable US backing.

For quite some time, the Jewish state has found itself in a strategic quandary. On the one hand, the more omnipotent the American image, the stronger Israel’s reputation as a major military and political player. On the other hand, the widespread belief in Washington’s ostensible ability to guarantee any Arab-Israeli peace agreement has placed Jerusalem under constant pressure to take the risks associated with withdrawal from areas vital to its national security. Thus, for example, by way of paving the way for the IDF’s total withdrawal from the West Bank as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, the Obama administration proposed a complex security package that substituted the deployment of US forces in the Jordan Valley for Israel’s longstanding demand for defensible borders (accepted by Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967).

But to what extent can foreign military forces operating in a wholly alien environment provide an adequate substitute for the IDF in enforcing the West Bank’s demilitarization? Judging by the experience of international forces in the Middle East in recent decades, the answer is far from satisfactory. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), deployed along the Israeli-Lebanese border since 1978, for example, has miserably failed to prevent the transformation of the area under its jurisdiction into an unreconstructed terrorist entity – first by the PLO (until 1982), then by successive Shiite terrorist organizations. As starkly demonstrated by the recent exposure of Hezbollah’s attack tunnels penetrating Israel’s territory, UNIFIL has totally failed to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 11, 2006, at the end of the Second Lebanon War, which stipulated the disbanding of all armed militias in Lebanon and prohibited arms supplies to any group without government authorization, as well as the presence of armed forces south of the Litani River. Nor does the West’s experience in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decades inspire much confidence in the ability of external powers to cope effectively with sustained subversive, terrorist, and jihadist insurgencies.

These operational constraints notwithstanding, the idea of international supervision suffers from an inherent political-constitutional flaw, namely its total dependence on the consent of the host government, which can demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces from its territory (as happened with the removal of UN forces from Egypt in May 1967). To this must be added the numerous instances where international supervisory and/or intervention forces were withdrawn from countries they were supposed to protect as a result of unilateral decisions by the sending governments: from the evacuation of the American-French-British-Italian force from Lebanon following Hezbollah’s bombing of its Beirut headquarters in October 1983, to the hasty withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in 2011 with the attendant rise of ISIS and its takeover of large swaths of Iraq and Syria, to President Trump’s latest decision.

According to Israeli security experts, the US withdrawal has left Israel alone in the battle against Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. True enough, but this setback can potentially entail an important silver lining. For the sooner Israel recognizes the precariousness of a regional “Pax Americana,” the sooner it will grasp the futility of “painful territorial concessions” in the West Bank, let alone on the Golan Heights.

What Israel needs most from the US at the present time is political and diplomatic backing in support of its vital national interests, primarily 1) support for its continued hold of the Golan as a vital condition for its defense; and 2) cessation of pressure for further territorial withdrawals in the West Bank. With luck, Trump’s Syria turnaround might catalyze a shift in US regional strategy in this direction.

A shorter version of this article was published in Israel Hayom on December 28.
BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen is a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served in the IDF for forty-two years. He commanded troops in battles with Egypt and Syria. He was formerly a corps commander and commander of the IDF Military Colleges.


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Woman finds 1,700-year-old stone busts while taking walk - Arutz Sheva Staff

by Arutz Sheva Staff

2 Roman busts discovered after resident of northern Israeli city of Beit She'an spots the top of one sticking out of the ground.

The busts that were discovered
Eitan Klein, Israel Antiquities Authority                                   The busts that were discovered

Two impressive Roman busts were found in early December near Beit She’an – thanks to the alertness of a local resident, who spotted the top of one of the busts’ heads sticking out of the ground as she was taking a walk north of the old city.

The woman and her husband called the Israel Antiquities Authority Theft Prevention Unit, and inspectors were quickly sent to the site. Together, they unearthed the first bust and as they worked, they found another one right next to it.

The busts, which date to the Late Roman period (3rd–4th centuries CE), were taken to the Israel Antiquities Authority laboratories to protect them from theft and to study and preserve them.

According to Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Theft Prevention Unit: “These busts were made of local limestone and they show unique facial features, details of clothing and hairstyles. It seems that at least one of them depicts a bearded man. Busts like these were usually placed near or in a burial cave, and they may have represented the image of the deceased along general lines. Similar busts have been found in the past in the Beit She’an area and in northern Jordan. But not one resembles another, and that’s the importance of these finds. These busts are in the Oriental style, which shows that at the end of the Roman period the use of Classical art had subsided, and local trends came into vogue.”

According to Nir Distelfeld, Israel Antiquities Authority Theft Prevention Unit inspector: “It seems that the busts were exposed following the recent heavy rainfall in the area. These are very important finds, which tell us a great deal about the inhabitants of the Beit She’an area in antiquity. We thank the Beit She’an resident for her alertness and good citizenship and she will receive a certificate of appreciation."

"The discovery of the busts fills in another piece of the puzzle in our understanding of the material culture of the people of this land in the past. These finds belong to everyone in the country, and now we can all enjoy them and understand their historical context. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if these finds had gotten into the wrong hands. It’s important to note that heavy winter rains can bring other finds to the surface and we call on people to report them to us.”

Arutz Sheva Staff


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