Saturday, July 7, 2018

Mueller Expands The Witch Hunt - Joseph Klein

by Joseph Klein

Time to put up or shut up -- and shut down.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is planning to expand his witch hunt. According to a Bloomberg News report, he is “tapping additional Justice Department resources for help with new legal battles as his year-old investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 election continues to expand.” He already has 17 prosecutors on his staff, many of whom have clear anti-Trump biases. From the investigation’s start in May 2017 through March of this year, Mr. Mueller’s own office has spent $7.7 million, on top of the $9 million spent by permanent Department of Justice units involved in the investigation.  Mr. Mueller evidently wants to absorb some of the career prosecutors from the offices of U.S. attorneys and from Justice Department headquarters into his own operation or to outsource some of his work to them. Either way, instead of finishing his investigation “the hell up because this country is being torn apart,” as Republican Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina told Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a June 28 hearing, Mr. Mueller is busy growing his empire. The Justice Department has “reportedly budgeted $10 million for Mueller’s team to spend in the next fiscal year, which begins in October,” Time Magazine reported.

The Mueller probe is over a year old. The Special Counsel's office has shown nothing to the taxpayers funding its operation that it has made any real progress in fulfilling its original mandate to uncover evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The most significant indictment to date, the one against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is a ridiculous sideshow involving accusations that have nothing to do with the Trump campaign. While Judge T.S. Ellis III, of the Eastern District of Virginia, denied Mr. Manafort’s motion to dismiss an indictment against him on the grounds that Special Counsel Mueller had exceeded his authority, the judge questioned the objectivity of the whole Mueller enterprise. Judge Ellis expressed concern about “the danger unleashed when political disagreements are transformed into partisan prosecutions." The judge further warned, “To provide a special counsel with a large budget and to tell him or her to find crimes allows a special counsel to pursue his or her targets without the usual time and budget constraints facing ordinary prosecutors, encouraging substantial elements of the public to conclude that the special counsel is being deployed as a political weapon.”

Mr. Mueller and his merry band of Trump-haters are preparing the groundwork for, at minimum, a highly critical report that will be used as “a political weapon” by Democrats and the anti-Trump media to try and bring the president down. They are salivating at the prospect of impeachment proceedings, particularly if Democrats regain the majority in the House of Representatives.  It is a distinct possibility that the Mueller team is planning an “October surprise” shortly before the November midterm elections by issuing a highly critical report that could provide enough additional impetus for tipping the balance of power in the House, and possibly even the Senate, in the Democrats’ favor. If so, Mr. Mueller would be following in the footsteps of Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh. After investigating the Iran-Contra scandal for several years, Mr. Walsh waited until October 30, 1992, just days before the presidential election, to indict former Reagan defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger on one count of making false statements. Bob Dole called the indictment “the straw that broke the camel’s back” of George H.W. Bush’s re-election hopes against Bill Clinton. Bob Dole added that Mr. Walsh’s operation consisted of a “hotbed of Democratic activist lawyers.” Sounds just like the Mueller team today.

Indeed, the Mueller investigation has been contaminated from the start by political bias that took root even before Mr. Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz’s 500 plus-page report, released last month, criticized the conduct of Special FBI agent Peter Stzrok and Lisa Page, an attorney who has since left the FBI. They had exchanged text messages sharply critical of Mr. Trump before and after the election. Strzok played a major role in the FBI investigation and exoneration of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for government e-mails while she served as Secretary of State, as well as in the initiation of the FBI investigation of allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The smoking gun uncovered by Inspector General Horowitz was the following text message on August 8, 2016, in which Strzok reassured Page that she need not worry about Donald Trump becoming president. Trump is “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page texted Strzok.  “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded. Mr. Horowitz wrote that this exchange was “not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.

Strzok operationalized his anti-Trump animus by prioritizing the Russia collusion investigation while helping to deep-six the Hillary Clinton investigation. Moreover, we know that leaders near the top of the Department of Justice and FBI hierarchies misused their authority for political reasons to obtain a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court order to spy on at least one former Trump campaign official, Carter Page. They failed to disclose to the FISA court that the unsubstantiated dossier compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, used as a justification for the warrant order, had been paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The Mueller team is feeding off the fruits of a poisoned tree.

The Mueller team, largely consisting of Democratic partisans, also appears to have engaged in some shady practices of its own. For example, it withheld potentially exculpatory evidence from the defense related to former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s case in which he pleaded guilty, until ordered to do so by a federal judge. 

In sum, Robert Mueller is seeking to perpetuate his tainted investigation in search of crime – any crime, whether or not having any relationship to the allegation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – that would justify its expanding budget and staffing. For the sake of the country, it is time for Mr. Mueller to either put up or shut up and move to shut down his operation immediately.

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


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BDS and the New Anti-Semitism - Michael Curtis

by Michael Curtis

False charges against Jews continue in a variety of ways with increased emphasis since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948

In celebrations of July 4 throughout the country, it was appropriate and meaningful to welcome the song "God Bless America," now almost a second U.S. national anthem, written by a Russian-born Jew who came to the U.S. at the age of five. For its composer, Irving Berlin, originally Israel Beilin, it was the homage of an immigrant raised in poverty to his adopted county, his home, sweet home.

Berlin's song illustrates the difference between his experience as an immigrant Jew who succeeded and the fate of Jews in Europe over the last two centuries. We are reminded of this once again by the publication in recent months of two books that narrate in detail outbursts of slaughter of Jews. One is The Anatomy of a Genocide by Brown historian Omer Bartov, which addresses the massacre of the vast majority of the Jewish population in the Polish (now Ukrainian) town of Buczacz. The other is Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History by Stanford historian Steven J. Zipperstein, telling the story of the massacre in the city of Kishinev in Bessarabia on Easter in 1903 – three days of murder (49), rape (600), and other forms of cruelty such as the 1,500 Jewish-owned houses and stores ransacked and destroyed by violent mobs and local nationalists.

These hideous slaughters of Jews were influenced by anti-Semitism, hatred of Jews based on false allegations of "blood libel" and Jewish conspiracies to control societies. Future events, above all the Holocaust, exemplify the way in which the hatred and false charges led to monstrous acts and to killing of Jews.

False charges against Jews continue in a variety of ways, with increased emphasis since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. The most insidious now, since it uses the righteous language of human rights and justice for false and destructive purposes, is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a widespread effort at political warfare against Israel misusing appeals to human rights, false accusations of war crimes, and comparisons to apartheid South Africa. 

Briefly, BDS calls for boycotts of goods and cultural, theatrical, and academic exchanges with Israel and even for prejudiced treatment of Israeli personnel in cultural festivals such as those at Stratford-on-Avon and Edinburgh. Bigots issue warnings or threats to prospective performers not to perform at venues in Israel. Divestment is meant to prevent economic relations with businesses in or associated with Israel. Sanctions and arms embargoes are proposed, not against Iran, Russia, or North Korea, but against Israel, based on false charges of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and a system of apartheid. 

The originators of the BDS movement called for the end of the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands. On this issue there are legitimate differences of opinion, and many non-Palestinians who support BDS may believe this. But only forthright commentators acknowledge that the purpose of BDS goes beyond causing economic and political problems for Israel, and that its real purpose is the elimination of the State of Israel.

Ideologically, BDS is the outcome of the August 31-September 8, 2001 Durban, South Africa conference, purportedly a "World Conference against Racism" but whose outcome was preparing the ground, as was shown in a draft resolution, to equate "Zionism" with racism. Colin Powell, then U.S. secretary of state, withdrew the U.S. delegation from the conference because of its hateful language; the planned equation of Israel with racism; the false allegation of apartheid; and the singling out of only one country, Israel, for censure and abuse.

In July 2005, the BDS movement was officially started by more than 170 Palestinian organizations. For unprejudiced observers, the real intentions were clear. Omar Barghouti, echoing the Nazi "Final Solution," spoke of the "final chapter of the Zionist project ... the rapid demise of Zionism and nothing can be done to save it." In 2012, As'ad abu Khalil, Lebanese-American professor of political science in California, commented that justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the State of Israel. Ahmed Moor, a BDS activist born in Gaza, stated that BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state: "There should be no equivocation on the subject, it is not another step on the way to the final showdown; BDS is The Final Showdown."

BDS advocates always carefully deny they are anti-Semites while in effect implicitly, if not explicitly, calling for the end of the State of Israel.

This has always been a major problem at organizations of the U.N., above all the misnamed organization, the U.N. Human Rights Council, the UNHRC, from which the U.S. withdrew on June 19, 2008. Its anti-Israeli bias was once again displayed on July 2, 2018 at its annual debate on Agenda Item 7, the opportunity to introduce condemnation of Israel. The U.S. withdrawal may have had some influence in the outcome since "only" 43 nations, out of the 193 total, took the floor to denounce Israel.

It was routine for the Palestinian representative, seemingly unaware on the day he spoke that Hamas was firing rockets on Israel, to speak of "the illegal practices of Israel, and its refusal to comply with international humanitarian law." It was more unusual that the Hungarian representative spoke against the UNHRC anti-Semitic atmosphere, which contributes to a "hostile climate feeding on extremism, terrorism, criminality" against Israel.

Once again, George Galloway, Labor Party politician and former mayor of London, referred to Israel as "industrialized lying, self-deluding, falsification of history." Galloway thought the closest comparison of the Israeli "settler state" was Boer ethno-fascists in apartheid South Africa. The anti-Israeli argument, if not necessarily the anti-Semitic virus, has spread to New York City with the victory of the 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on June 26, 2018 in the N.Y. 14th Congressional District. She confesses to be a supporter of BDS.

More pronounced have been two international events. One is the call, initiated by Palestinian groups of journalists and cultural bodies, to boycott Eurovison 2019, planned in Israel. They may have been particularly annoyed that the Israeli singer Netta representing her country won the Grand Final at the Eurovision 2018 contest with her song "Toy." The Ireland Palestinian Solidarity Campaign organized a petition, signed by more than 4,200 people, including Nobel Peace Prize-winner Mairead Kilgallen, the mayor of Dublin, the Irish Musicians Union, and Irish Equity, to boycott the event in Israel.

The other event is controversy over the Ruhrtriennale arts festival, to be held August-September 2018. Some groups planning to appear pulled out of the festival on the excuse it was sponsored by the Israeli Embassy, which was listed as a partner – mountains out of molehills with the entrance of the obviously grandiose Israeli international conspiracy. The embassy plans to give 500 euros, less than $600, to help cover the traveling expenses of the Israeli performers there. The organizers of the festival decided to drop a group, the hip-hop trio The Young Fathers, from the line-up because of their declared support of the group for BDS. 

As a result of international opposition to the decision, including accusations of McCarthyism, the festival reversed its decision, reinvited The Young Fathers, and even encouraged them to explain while on stage their support for BDS. As a result of Palestinian pressure, the festival was thus providing a platform for advocacy of BDS by the trio, one of whom was born in Liberia and a second born in Edinburgh to Nigerian parents.

Even more appalling was the letter published in the British Guardian on June 26, 2018 written by 75 cultural personalities and artists, who criticized attempts to impose political conditions on artists supporting Palestinian human rights. They held that Ruhrtriennale's first decision was a "particularly alarming form of censorship, blacklisting, and repression." In what others might see as contradictory and hypocritical, the alarmed, usually hard-nosed group considered BDS a lawful exercise of freedom of expression. For them, boycotts that are "anchored in universal human rights and aimed at achieving justice for marginalized and oppressed communities" are a legitimate nonviolent tactic.

The list of the "alarmed" includes a number of the usual suspects, whose concern for "universal human rights" has always seemed to be limited for action against Israel, which has caused them such pain. Included are Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky, Desmond Tutu, and Alice Walter. Theater and film personalities appear front stage: Julie Christie, Viggo Mortensen, James Schamus, Ken Loach, Danny Glover, and Mike Leigh – individuals previously occupied as performers with their starring roles.

If any real pain is suffered, it results not from the absurd accusations that Palestinians have been denied their right to peaceful protest, but by performers who are pressured by BDS activists, as in the case of the New Zealand Grammy-award singer professionally known as Lorde, who was forced to cancel an engagement in Tel Aviv. One wonders about the mentality, let alone the honesty, of those BDS advocates who declare that a 21-year-old woman performing the hit song "Royals" in Tel Aviv will be seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government.

Michael Curtis


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Double-edged sword in Syria - Yoav Limor

by Yoav Limor

Barring an unexpected twist, the Syrian army is only days away from winning the civil war that has been ravaging the country for seven years

Barring an unexpected twist, the Syrian army is days away ‎from victory in the civil war that has been ravaging the country ‎for over seven years. Once the rebels hunkered down in Syria's ‎south are defeated, Syrian President Bashar Assad will have ‎regained control of almost the entire country, including the Golan ‎Heights border with Israel.‎

This scenario, which only a few years ago seemed utterly ‎imaginary, has many advantages, but also significant ‎disadvantages. ‎

On the upside, Israel will again be dealing with one clear leader ‎after years during which it had to contend with a host of ‎elements, from the Syrian army through the Druze minority to ‎various insurgent groups, including the local proxies of Islamic ‎State and al-Qaida. This posed a serious headache for Israel that ‎required complex maneuvers to ensure that the fires raging north ‎of the border would not turn against us.‎

In that respect, Assad will again be the sovereign leader and as ‎such will be held solely responsible for anything that ‎transpires in Syria and affects Israel. ‎

While Israel maintained this policy throughout the Syrian civil war ‎‎– retaliating against the Syrian army whenever the fighting hit ‎Israeli territory – the new reality means any Israeli retaliation will ‎now be dramatically more effective. ‎

The Syrian Golan Heights became something of a lawless no ‎man's land during the war, and now it will revert to the familiar ‎reality that has prevailed since the 1974 cease-fire agreement ‎between Israel and Syria – that of two militaries, each controlling ‎their side of the border and each fully responsible for whatever ‎happens in their territory.‎

This familiar state of affairs, which resulted in four decades of ‎peace and quiet on the Israel-Syria border, got lost in the fray of ‎the past seven years.

But one must remember that until mid-‎‎2011, the Syrian border was Israel's calmest and safest frontier. ‎So much so, that much of it comprised only a dated security fence ‎routinely patrolled by reservists – a testament to the low risk defense officials attributed to the sector. ‎

That assessment changed on June 5, 2011, when hundreds of ‎Syrian-Palestinians marking Naksa Day, the ‎Arab defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War, amassed near and then ‎rushed the Golan Heights border. The breach, compounded ‎by growing concerns that the civil war in Syria would bring ‎thousands of refugees, including terrorists, to the ‎border, led to a dramatic change in the Israeli perception of the ‎sector. ‎

A new, 7-meter (23-foot) fence was erected, similar to the state-of-the-art security fence on the Israel-Egypt border, and the ‎troops patrolling it were substantially reinforced. Regular forces ‎replaced the reservists, including elite IDF units that now operate ‎across the sector regularly to deter and foil threats. ‎

Things are unlikely to change in the near future, at least until the ‎dust settles on the Syrian Golan Heights. On the one hand, the ‎Syrian army's renewed presence there will likely spell stability ‎and a significant decrease in threats. On the other hand, it may ‎be clouded by the introduction of Iranian forces into the area.‎

Israel's nightmare scenario is the consolidation of Shiite militias ‎and Hezbollah forces along the border with Syria, where they are ‎sure to set up operational infrastructure similar to the one in ‎southern Lebanon, which comprises military combat zones in the ‎villages, no doubt in preparation for future fighting against ‎Israel. ‎

Such a scenario is not necessarily a predetermined decree. First, ‎Israel has learned from its mistake in Lebanon and will not ‎allow it to be replicated in Syria without a fight. Second, ‎Hezbollah's grip on southern Lebanon is based on the support it ‎received from Shiite villages, while most of the Syrian Golan's ‎residents are Sunnis, who will not easily sway their sympathies ‎toward Iran, certainly not after years during which the only ‎entity that provided them with aid – food, medicine and at times, ‎according to foreign media report, weapons – was Israel.‎

Russian utilitarianism

In their efforts to curb this pessimistic scenario, senior Israeli ‎officials have been jetting around the world, especially between ‎Washington and Moscow. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi ‎Eizenkot visited the United States last week and met with  Joint Chiefs of Staff ‎Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford to ‎discuss Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet ‎with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week and it is likely ‎that he will reiterate what he has said before: Israel will not allow ‎an Iranian presence on the Golan Heights. ‎

Unlike in the past, Israel's assertions do not fall on deaf ears, as ‎Russia has been growing increasingly displeased with Iran's ‎activities in Syria. The fact that Iranian attempts to transfer ‎weapons to Hezbollah trigger an Israeli strike on Syrian airports ‎irks Moscow, but mostly because Russian forces in Syria also use ‎this infrastructure, which will also be used in the country's future ‎rehabilitation efforts. ‎

Israel's policy has prompted Iran to ground its arms shipment ‎routes. It no longer tries to deliver weapons to its regional proxy ‎in Lebanon and militias in Syria via the air, but rather in convoys ‎making their way from Iran to Syria via Iraq. ‎

One of these convoys was destroyed two weeks ago in a strike ‎attributed to Israel and the incident reflected four things: That ‎Iran is in distress and is willing to let its convoys risk the three-‎day land journey; that despite the complex domestic situation ‎and the growing criticism of the regime, Quds Force activities, ‎including ongoing weapon shipments to Lebanon and Syria, ‎continue as usual; that Israeli intelligence-gathering efforts reach ‎far beyond its borders; and that the IDF is willing to take ‎considerable risks to enforce the red lines Israel has set.‎

It seems, however, that this already complicated reality is about ‎to get even more complex. The Israeli position is clear – no to ‎Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and the Iranian position is ‎equally clear – efforts will continue to establish a new front ‎against Israel. The Russians are currently favoring Israel's ‎position, but this has nothing to do with sympathy for Zionism ‎and everything to do with pure utilitarianism: the Russians want ‎to rehabilitate Syria in order to preserve their regional interests ‎and they understand that nothing can get done until stability is ‎reintroduced. ‎

Better the devil you know?‎

The main question is, what will Syria do? There is no doubt that ‎Assad is not looking for a war with Israel. The IDF's recent ‎reinforcement on the Golan Heights is intended to generate ‎deterrence and convey a clear message that, while Israel is not ‎interested in intervening in what is going on north of its border, ‎it will not allow any violation of the 1974 cease-fire. ‎

Tactically speaking, this means that unless the Syrians try to ‎infringe on the demilitarized zone, Israel will not take any action ‎or aid the rebels. From a strategic standpoint, this means that ‎Israel is prepared for the Iranian tail that is expected to ‎follow the Syrian army's return to the country's south.‎

It is unclear to what extent Assad can control Iranian activities on ‎his soil. Iran propped up his regime through years of savage ‎fighting, sending its own troops as well as Hezbollah to his aid – ‎the Shiite terrorist group still has 6,000 operatives in Syria – and ‎he is indebted to both.‎

The fact that Assad will begin rebuilding Syria from Damascus ‎outward and will focus his attention on the country's center for ‎the next few years will leave the Golan Heights relatively ‎vulnerable, certainly in terms of its civilian infrastructure. ‎

Israel has invested considerable resources in this infrastructure ‎over the past few years, and if seven years ago every resident of ‎the Syrian Golan Heights thought of Israel as the devil, most have had a change of heart as most of them were kept ‎alive thanks to Israeli humanitarian aid or aid delivered through ‎Israel. ‎

Currently, Israel is trying to formulate a plan that will allow ‎continued assistance. Talks with U.N. officials are designed to ‎establish a humanitarian aid mechanism that will ensure support ‎for the civilian population in the coming years. This plan is good ‎for Syria, as the regime will be unable to meet the demand; it is ‎good for the Syrians living on the border, who will be able to ‎rehabilitate their communities, and it is good for Israel, which will ‎be able to maintain a sympathetic base across the border. ‎

There are likely to be factors that try to sabotage this process ‎and certainly try to compete with it, especially Iranian money ‎that will be surely poured into the Syrian Golan in favor of the ‎military infrastructure and to pacify the residents. Israel will fight ‎it in every way possible – militarily, politically, financially and ‎humanitarianly. Its success depends on quite a few variables, ‎especially in its determination to persevere, but it also depends ‎on Assad's understanding of the price he may pay for giving the ‎Iranians free rein in southern Syria.‎

There is nothing to suggest that Iran plans to change course and ‎roll back its presence in Syria, but this is true for right now. The ‎domestic situation in Iran is complicated: economic unrest is ‎growing and it is inspiring phenomena that we have not seen in ‎the past, mainly the growing defiance of the religious ‎establishment, including by women.‎

Western experts are divided over the question of how vulnerable ‎Iran is at the moment and whether this is an opportune moment ‎to overthrow the ayatollahs' regime, or at least to make it agree ‎to far-reaching concessions through an upgraded nuclear ‎agreement that will also include significant restrictions on Iranian ‎military activity in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. ‎

Assad will regain control the border with Israel before these ‎questions are answered. The Syrian army is expected to easily ‎overrun the rebels in the area, especially after the massive ‎bombardments on Daraa, near the Jordanian border, which was ‎one of the first cities he lost seven years ago. ‎

From there, the Syrian army will continue towards the Golan ‎Heights, operating from south to north and eventually reaching ‎the area near Mount Hermon. It is doubtful that the Syrian ‎army's 90th and 61st divisions, deployed in the Golan Heights, ‎will encounter any significant resistance, if any. The rebels have ‎no real chance of winning and the civilian infrastructure they rely ‎upon is depleted.‎

These signs of despair can also be seen along the Golan border. ‎Refugee camps housing those who have fled the fighting riddle ‎the area and as of last weekend, about 10,000 refugees who fled ‎the fighting have sought refuge near the border, understanding ‎that proximity to Israel guarantees their safety. This influx is only ‎expected to grow. ‎

Israel is giving them humanitarian assistance but it has made it ‎clear it will not take in any Syrian refugee. Once the fighting is ‎over, most will choose to return to their destroyed villages and ‎try to rebuild their lives, hoping for a peaceful future – just as ‎Israel does. ‎

Yoav Limor


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US-Iran tensions rise over oil route as EU tries to save nuclear deal - Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff

by Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff 

As Iran's Revolutionary Guards threaten to close off the Strait of Hormuz to all oil shipments, U.S. Navy says it stands ready to ensure the free flow of commerce

Tensions between Iran and the United States over oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz rose Thursday, with Iran saying that if it is blocked from shipping oil through the strait it will block all others from doing so too, and the U.S. responding that the U.S. Navy stands ready to ensure free navigation and the flow of commerce through the strategic waterway.

The European Union has proposed a plan for salvaging the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran in the wake of the U.S. pullout in May and the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that the package does not go far enough.

Rouhani and some senior military commanders have threatened in recent days to disrupt oil shipments from Persian Gulf countries if the U.S. tries to strangle Iranian exports.

Foreign ministers from the U.K., China, France, Germany and Russia met with the Iranian foreign minister in Vienna this week for the first time since the U.S. left the pact, but diplomats see limited scope for salvaging it.

"The objective is to save the deal," a senior European diplomat said. "We've made some progress, including on safeguarding some crude sales, but it's unlikely to meet Iranian expectations. It's also not just about what the Europeans can do, but also how the Chinese, Russians, Indians, others can contribute."

The pillars of the EU strategy are European Investment Bank lending, a special measure to shield EU companies from U.S. secondary sanctions, and a European Commission proposal that EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran's central bank to avoid U.S. penalties.

"The Iranians expect the others to say what we are going to do to keep the deal alive. We will have to see if it is going to be good enough for them," an EU source said.

According to Iranian state media and his own website, Rouhani spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone, and told them he was disappointed with their package, which did not go far enough.

Rouhani has warned that Iran could reduce its cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and has threatened U.S. President Donald Trump of the "consequences" of fresh sanctions against Iranian oil sales.

The parties were expected to meet again on Friday for what Iranian officials described as an "important" meeting. The officials said that the key for them is to ensure measures that guarantee that oil exports can continue and that Iran will still have access to the SWIFT international bank payments messaging system.

"SWIFT is the key, but Iran has to stay in [the nuclear deal] at least until the end of the year to maintain divisions between the EU and U.S., keep some credibility and try and survive amidst forthcoming sanctions," said Sanam Vakil, an associate fellow at the London-based think tank Chatham House.

While talks are expected to focus on the nuclear deal, they come amid increasing rhetoric from the Trump administration, which says Iran poses a serious security threat.

An Iranian diplomat based in Austria was among four people arrested on suspicion of plotting an attack on an Iranian opposition group in France last week.

The issue could be a distraction in the Vienna talks.

Iran has said it had nothing to do with the plot and has demanded the official be released without delay.

But any confirmation that Iranian authorities were behind the plot could make it politically difficult for European leaders to continue to back the nuclear deal.

Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Thursday that if Iran cannot sell its oil due to U.S. pressure, then no other Gulf country will be allowed to do so either.

"We are hopeful that this plan expressed by our president will be implemented if needed," he said. "We will make the enemy understand that either all can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one."

In response, U.S. Central Command spokesman Navy Captain Bill Urban said, "The U.S. and its partners provide and promote security and stability in the region."

Asked what would be the U.S. naval reaction if Iran blocks the strait, he said, "Together, we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows."

The Revolutionary Guards' naval arm lacks a strong conventional fleet. However, it has many speedboats and portable anti-ship missile launchers and can lay mines.

A senior U.S. military leader said in 2012 that the Guards have the ability to block the strait "for a period of time," but the U.S. would take action to reopen it in such an event.

Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff


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Leftist Malice - Rabbi Aryeh Spero

by Rabbi Aryeh Spero

And lack of ethics.

There is a never ending blitzkrieg from the media to topple President Trump. Based on what we’ve observed during the last two years, there’s no doubt that the “Separation of Families” barrage that began a couple of weeks ago was an effort orchestrated by the media. It brought together the Four Horsemen for a Trump Apocalypse: the Democrat Party; the Deep State; the Never-Trumpers; and leftwing organizations, especially those purporting to speak in the name of religion.

One: Nancy Pelosi, the face of the Democrat party, accused Jeff Sessions and other conservatives of being “religious hypocrites” for not allowing open borders and easy and swift entry for all families and children wishing to reside in America. I have no doubt that Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump do care about families. Indeed, as conservatives they are far less inclined than liberals to take children from parents and place them in the custody of the “enlightened” state, as those on the Left often propose.

What about families? Even Nancy Pelosi should know that government’s first duty is to protect and defend America’s existing families. And today that means seriously checking, at the borders, all who may possibly be a member of MS-13, a jihadi terrorist, a criminal or drug dealer, or carrier of infectious diseases, all of which have already threatened American families. We rely on the government to do this for us. Mr. Trump and Sessions are not “religious hypocrites”, but men living up to their oath and doing their duty of keeping Americans safe. They are acting as those who take their responsibility seriously.

In contrast to the prevailing liberal ideology, American families indeed count. That’s all part of what we mean when we proclaim: America First. Compassion is not only for those outside but those within, for those regular, law abiding millions not part of any momentary preference group.

Last week, Maxine Waters, the new face of the Democrat Party, claimed God was on her side as she encouraged Americans to close-face harass, verbally assault, and forbid conservatives from participating in routine American public activities .Waters wants conservatives who disagree with her to sit in the back of the bus, be evicted from the lunch counters, and refused service. Civil rights are for her, not the hundreds of millions of regular Americans. People working for the President, she says, should be hounded at their home. Unleash the Brown Shirts! Waters, claiming to be concerned about the feelings of children of illegals, appears happy with Republican children being frightened in their beds due to bullhorns and liberal activists shouting outside their homes and bedrooms.

Instead of trying to find a workable solution to a national emergency inherently fraught with necessary but difficult procedures, Pelosi , ala Rahm Emanuel, has exploited this crisis for her own personal ambition, namely, to regain the Speaker’s Gavel. Worse, she overlooks the safety of our American families in her quest to import, on a grand scale, a new Democrat voting constituency. Pelosi knows that these protocols began long before Mr. Trump’s presidency and that the incendiary picture seen around the world was from the Obama era, not on Trump’s watch. But, as we have seen many times before with the Palestinian/media alliance, pictures and photographs are manipulated that are absolutely false or misappropriated. All of this is highly unethical.

Two: The Deep State was represented by former NSA and CIA Director, Michael Hayden. He compared the temporary separation of children from parents at our southern border to the Nazi Holocaust. It is an abhorrent comparison. It is knowingly wrong; it minimizes the Holocaust and it unfairly maligns our country. It is an unethical assertion, done by a “Deeper” who loathes the President so much as to put politics above truth.

The Nazis separated families as part of a first phase of forced labor and murder of Jews, an entire race. We, in contrast, are taking care of these children---probably better than they’re normally taken care of--during the days of necessary investigation. No animus is intended on our part, or on the part of President Trump, AG sessions, or the Dept. of Homeland Security. Mr. Hayden’s offense was not simply against Holocaust survivors but America itself. It’s unethical to make accusations that are absolutely false and purposely defaming. Why was such a man CIA Director?

Three: The Never-Trump neo-cons, who for the first time since 1980 find themselves out of the loop, also gleefully pounced this weekend on the President and Attorney General. They’ve been unable to accept that they’re no longer setting the agenda within the Republican Party. Nor should they be. The neo-cons loathe everything we love. The majority of the Party’s constituency believes in nationalism, fair trade and placing America first. They don’t. Most of the Party is no longer enamored by foreign nation-building, globalism, and sacrificing American jobs on the altar of international social engineering. The neo-cons are.

Most neo-cons are former Democrats from the East Coast and will forever feel more comfortable around academics and theoreticians than around blue collar, hands -on, regular Joes.  They latch onto and advance anything that will smear and bring down the President in the hopes of restoring their big-shot status, as well as the perks, relevance, and power that go with it. Jennifer Rubin, a neo-Con and blogger for the Washington Post, wrote approvingly for “shunning” and publicly refusing service to those supportive of President Trump. Why was she ever considered a Republican?

Four: Some left wing organizations calling themselves religious, but who are more so socialist, condemned the President for not “welcoming the stranger”. In fact, years back Barack Obama quoted the Scripture “Thou shall not Afflict the Stranger” as justification for shooting down anyone who disagreed with his borders-as-sieve policy and granting a full basket of entitlements to all who come here, even illegally. But, welcoming the stranger refers to individuals, not an invasion of millions…certainly not a calculated importation of millions to swell the voting ranks of the liberal party. It’s about treating decently a stranger temporarily in the land; not about making it easy for would-be terrorists, gangs, and criminals to blithely enter; nor is it about forgetting that newcomers can’t come to feed and live off the sweat of others. It is not “affliction” to require standards.

Welcoming the stranger was not intended by the Bible to be a national suicide program. The Bible itself speaks of the blessing of impenetrable borders. Welcoming the stranger is a directive for not being cruel to people, harassing or torturing them, as was the practice in many ancient societies and still practiced today toward “infidels”. Democrats could take a lesson in decency… and stop harassing Republicans.

In my own Jewish backyard, I witnessed a host of liberal Jewish organizations almost two weeks ago eagerly sign on to a letter condemning the President and Attorney General. They felt so good about themselves for doing so. They kept piling on, not taking the time to find out the facts. Forget the truth: it was a chance to show their greater “nobility” and, once again, demonize Trump. This frequently happens in today’s Jewish organizational community. The vast majority of the non-Orthodox Jewish organizations in America are loudly anti-Trump, actually in the vanguard against him, pining for the return of Barack Obama. Their automatic assumption is that the average conservative and American is indifferent to the plight of children, the needy, strangers, or non-Americans. Self-righteousness, when used to dismiss the goodness in others, is unethical. 

None of the hysteria and condemnation that has gone on these past two weeks was necessary. If there was goodwill and respect from the Left, they would have realized we all want what is proper, yet responsible. Sit down with DHS and find solutions or improvements. That’s the American way. Instead, they deliberately chose to demonize in the hopes of bringing down everything. But you don’t measure morality by hysteria. Their hysteria does not reflect a higher morality, rather their ongoing project of malice and low ethics.

Rabbi Aryeh Spero, a theologian and former pulpit rabbi, is author of Push Back (Evergreen) and president of Caucus for America.


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EPA’s Scott Pruitt, Fallen American Hero - Matthew Vadum

by Matthew Vadum

How Soros and Van Jones character-assassinated a grave threat to the Left.

Radical environmentalists claimed a Trump cabinet member’s scalp yesterday as they forced out a great American patriot, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, under a cloud of largely invented ethics scandals.

Nothing Pruitt did in office was unforgivable. Nothing he did was even particularly bad.

Pruitt, previously attorney general of Oklahoma from January 2011 to February 2017, was the victim of a sustained, well-funded leftist assault aimed at crippling him and removing him from office. It succeeded. The Left, emboldened by its success, will now use this blueprint again and again against Trump administration officials. Pruitt’s expected successor, EPA’s second-in-command, former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, will feel the Left’s wrath soon enough.

President Trump had reportedly grown weary of the unending stream of bad publicity Pruitt brought with him.

“I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency[,]” the president tweeted perfunctorily Thursday at 3:37 p.m. “Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this.”

The official line is that Pruitt didn’t want to be a distraction. This may be true but it doesn’t excuse the lack of resources put into defending him.

Consistently the voice of reason, Fox News contributor and Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemingway, said the massively funded “Boot Pruitt” campaign by green groups was “very effective.”

Hemingway is right.

Boot Pruitt was apparently created by admitted communist and 9/11 truther Van Jones, a so-called social entrepreneur who is extremely adept at generating the illusion of grassroots activity in furtherance of his radical goals. The campaign was slick leftist astroturf manufactured by pressure groups beholden to George Soros and Tom Steyer.

But Soros seems particularly heavily involved. A cursory examination of Boot Pruitt’s “Our Partners” page shows several groups (or their sister organizations) that are funded by Soros through his philanthropies.

Among those nonprofit organizations to receive funding from Soros’s Open Society Institute and/or the Foundation to Promote Open Society are: Center for American Progress Action Fund (Center for American Progress) ($10,541,376); UnidosUS Action Fund (National Council of La Raza) ($5,737,331); Natural Resources Defense Council ($3,962,907); Van Jones-founded Green for All ($350,000); Earthjustice ($305,000); Hip Hop Caucus Education Fund ($300,000); and Friends of the Earth ($50,000).

Latino Victory Fund also appears on the list. Soros has donated $500,000 out of his own personal funds in the 2018 election cycle to Latino Victory PAC.

One of Pruitt’s more psychotic media assassins, Jennifer Rubin, the phony conservative columnist the Washington Post hired to make all conservatives look affective and scatter-brained, was dancing on Pruitt’s political grave within hours of his resignation.

Rubin, who assailed Pruitt for spending taxpayer money to protect himself and his family, had the audacity to write, “The extent to which he ripped off taxpayers must be determined, and anyone who assisted in his escapades must be fired.”

Rubin herself has gleefully embraced the terrorism of the Left – she is one of the reasons Pruitt and other Trump officials have to spend extra money on security.

After deranged restaurant co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson threw White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family out of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Va., and chased them around town because Sanders works for President Trump, Rubin cheered Wilkinson on.

Sanders deserves a “life sentence” of public shaming, Rubin pontificated.

Sanders has “no right” to “live a life of no fuss” for “lying” to and “inciting” against the media, Rubin said. “These people should be made uncomfortable and I think that’s a life sentence, frankly.”

In an environment in which Democrats, cheered on by the media, have been free to nearly assassinate House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), and violent attacks on other GOP office-holders and Trump supporters are becoming commonplace, Pruitt, whom the Secret Service said received the most threats of anyone in the cabinet, can’t be faulted for demanding extra security no matter how expensive.

In the end, history will be kind to Pruitt. To describe his work at EPA as outstanding would be ridiculous understatement.

Pruitt’s three-point “back-to-basics agenda” centered on returning EPA to its proper role. They were “[r]efocusing the Agency back to its core mission”[;] “[r]estoring power to the states through cooperative federalism”[;] and “[a]dhering to the rule of law and improving Agency processes[.]”

Under Pruitt’s leadership, Obama-era Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that would have forced passenger car and truck manufacturers to maintain a fleet-wide average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 (up from 35.5 miles in 2016) were scrapped. This could save – no exaggeration – millions of Americans from death and dismemberment in the future. That’s because car makers typically comply with such fuel-efficiency rules by reducing the weight and size of the vehicles they produce. Generally speaking, the lighter and smaller a vehicle is, the less safe it is in a collision.

Under Pruitt, the Trump administration exited the awful Paris Agreement dealing with the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, and slashed economy-killing regulations such as those related to the Clean Power Plan, which was President Obama’s declaration of war on power plants and coal country.

Pruitt restored the rule of law by rescinding the insane Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, a truly grotesque Obama-era power grab that literally gave EPA the power to regulate land containing puddles unconnected to larger bodies of water.

Pruitt ended the corrupt "sue and settle" practices allowed during the Obama administration by which special interest groups conspired with collaborators within the EPA to create priorities and rules outside of the usual rulemaking process. According to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce summary, “[t]hese settlement agreements are negotiated behind closed doors with no participation from the public or affected parties. As an example, between 2009 and 2012, EPA chose not to defend itself in over 60 lawsuits from special interest advocacy groups. These cases resulted in settlement agreements and EPA publishing more than 100 new regulations - including the Clean Power Plan.”

Generations of Americans will be healthier and wealthier because Pruitt acted boldly at EPA. Some who would have perished in car crashes will get to live.

Posterity’s verdict on the fallen Environmental Protection Agency chief will be that he was thrown under the bus by people who should have known better. Congressional Republicans, and elements of Conservatism Inc. allowed his ouster to happen.

The knives were out for Pruitt from the moment he was nominated. Leftists saw the damage he could do to their bureaucratic fiefdom at EPA and enlisted help from their allies in the media, as well as from squish Republican office-holders.

Pruitt could have easily weathered these storms if he enjoyed institutional support. Evidently he felt he didn’t have it so he quit.

Cowardice begets cowardice.

Feeding conservatives to the crocodiles only guarantees that crocodiles will enjoy a steady diet of conservatives in the future.

Let Scott Pruitt, a great conservative who went down fighting, be Exhibit “A” for this proposition.

Matthew Vadum, senior vice president at the investigative think tank Capital Research Center, is an award-winning investigative reporter and author of the book, "Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts Are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers."


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Amid Palestinian protests, court suspends demolition of Bedouin village - Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff

by Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff 

Residents of Khan al-Ahmar, 6 miles east of Jerusalem, say they have been unfairly denied building permits by Israel, which has long sought to relocate the village

The Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar
Photo: Reuters

Israel's top court on Thursday suspended the planned demolition of a Bedouin village in the West Bank that has become a focus of Palestinian protests and international concern, a lawyer for the residents said.

The High Court of Justice issued its injunction a day after Israeli security forces sparked scuffles by moving in bulldozers into Khan al-Ahmar. It gave the state until July 11 to respond to the residents' contention that they had been unfairly denied building permits, lawyer Alaa Mahajna told Reuters.

Around 180 Bedouin, raising sheep and goats, live in tin and wood shacks in Khan al-Ahmar, 10 kilometers (6 miles) east of Jerusalem between the Israeli communities of Maale Adumim and Kfar Adumim.

The Palestinians claim that Israeli building permits have been impossible to get for Khan al-Ahmar. Israel has long sought to clear Bedouin from the area between the two communities, and the High Court approved the demolition in May.

Human rights groups say that removing the Bedouin village would create a bigger Israeli settlement pocket near Jerusalem and make it more difficult for Palestinians to achieve territorial contiguity in the West Bank, where they seek a future state.

Israel said it plans to relocate the residents to an area about 12 kilometers (7 miles) away, near the Palestinian village of Abu Dis.

The new site is adjacent to a landfill and rights advocates say that a forcible transfer of the residents would violate international law on occupied territory. The United Nations and European Union have come out against the plan as well.

Interviewed before the court's ruling on Thursday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan signaled that the Khan al-Ahmar demolition might not be imminent.

Noting the level of international opposition to the move, he said, "I hope this decision will be implemented in the coming weeks."

Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff


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The Abuse of Egypt's Coptic Christians - Salim Mansur

by Salim Mansur

When there are attacks against Yazidis in the Fertile Crescent, the Baha'is in Iran and Christians and Ahmadis in Pakistan, we ask how Muslims can affirm these crimes against humanity perpetrated under the banner of Islam.

  • The violence, and incitement to violence, directed by Egyptian Muslims against the Copts -- especially those organized sectarian campaigns by the Muslim Brotherhood and related groups -- are crimes against humanity and should be treated as such by the international community.
  • We know that a few drops of lemon will curdle an entire bowl of milk. Egypt's Muslims, as many Muslims elsewhere, have poured the entire Nile River -- made toxic by their bigotry and violence -- into their faith-tradition. We, Muslims, have degraded our culture by authoritarianism and the obstinate tendency to blame others for our own failings. We have thus perverted the very Islam that we believe is the final revelation.
  • Muslims in Egypt and elsewhere know from experience the extent to which Western powers have betrayed in practice what they pronounce in theory when it comes to support for people subjected to authoritarian regimes.
  • What is long overdue from the West is a robust policy to defend and secure human rights for everyone, especially minorities, in Muslim-majority countries... [as in] the Helsinki Agreement of 1975.
We have seen and recoiled from the horrific footage of Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS in 2015 in Libya and the repeated bombings over the past two decades of Coptic churches in Egypt. We read about the Maspero massacre in 2011, when Egyptian military tanks, deployed to protect peaceful Christian demonstrators, instead rolled over them, crushing many to death. And we continue to receive reports of Coptic girls abducted, compelled to convert to Islam and forced into marriages with Muslims.

Each time there is news of another act of hate-filled violence against the Copts, or other religious minorities, we shudder. When there are attacks against Yazidis in the Fertile Crescent, the Baha'is in Iran and Christians and Ahmadis in Pakistan, we ask how Muslims can affirm these crimes against humanity perpetrated under the banner of Islam.

Apart from condemning the visible/demonstrable bigotry and violence -- and from appealing to Western governments for assistance -- Muslims opposed to Islamist extremism are at a loss about what needs to be done to hold the governments of Egypt and other Muslim-majority states accountable for their failure to protect their religious minorities from the sectarian violence that is regularly directed at them.

Here, regarding the Copts in Egypt, are a few preliminary observations that might serve as a proposal for how Muslims and non-Muslims, working together, might find a way out of this terrible situation and ensure their mutual survival and peaceful co-existence:
  • Egyptian Muslims are primarily, and fundamentally, responsible for the worsening situation of the Coptic Christians in Egypt. As Egypt's overwhelming majority population, Muslims have the responsibility to secure the rights of the Copts as a religious minority.
  • The violence, and incitement to violence, directed by Egyptian Muslims against the Copts -- especially those organized sectarian campaigns by the Muslim Brotherhood and related groups -- are crimes against humanity and should be treated as such by the international community
  • As part of their religious obligation, Egyptian Muslims bear an even heavier responsibility to secure the well-being and protect the rights and dignity of Coptic Christians. In persecuting the Copts, Egypt's Muslims are shredding the directives of the Quran on respecting and protecting Jews and Christians as the "People of the Book." According to the Quran, each one of us will be held accountable for our deeds on the Day of Reckoning. It is not for God to forgive the wrong an individual does to another unless the wrongdoer has sought and received forgiveness from the victim. In accordance with their own beliefs, then, Egypt's Muslims are undeniably guilty for the wrongs they have done to the Copts and will most certainly be held accountable on the Day of Reckoning.
  • The tragedy of the Copts is hugely amplified when we take into account their unique status in the history of Islam: due to the very special and intimate relationship that the leader of the Coptic Church was instrumental in arranging between his people and the Prophet Muhammad. According to the official history of the Coptic Church:
    "For the four centuries that followed the Arab's conquest of Egypt, the Coptic Church generally flourished and Egypt remained basically Christian. This is due to a large extent to the fortunate position that the Copts enjoyed, for Mohammed -- the Prophet of Islam -- who had an Egyptian wife named 'Coptic Maria' (mother of Ibrahim his son), preached especial kindness towards Copts: 'When you conquer Egypt, be kind to the Copts for they are your protégés and kith and kin."'
  • We know that a few drops of lemon will curdle an entire bowl of milk. Egypt's Muslims, as many Muslims elsewhere, have poured the entire Nile River -- made toxic by their bigotry and violence -- into their faith-tradition. We, Muslims, have degraded our culture by authoritarianism and the obstinate tendency to blame others for our own failings. We have thus perverted the very Islam that we believe is the final revelation.
  • Egyptian history has been shaped greatly by the cycle of invasions, conquests, exploitation by non-Egyptians, sectarian disputes and religious conflicts, long before the coming of the Arabs in the seventh century of the Common Era, and long after the Arabs had lost their supremacy in the region to non-Arabs and non-Muslims. The negative effects of such a long and enduring history also find expression in the violence that makes the Copts victims of Muslim bigotry and violence in recent history.
  • Muslims in general, including those of Egypt, are a "third world" people. As a result, they are both victims and victimizers in the complicated history of the modern world. As a "third world" people, they are confronted with the immense challenge of modernization, made even more difficult with the deep involvement of, and intervention by, outside powers in their situation. For the past century, Egypt has borne the full imprint of this complicated history, particularly since the failed 1882 proto-nationalist uprising in the Nile valley, led by Ahmed Arabi. That failure led directly to the occupation of Egypt by Britain, and in the subsequent struggle of the Egyptian people to achieve both independence and development. It was a failure that greatly confounded the inherent patience and nobility of the Egyptian people, for whom wars and their devastating consequences became a heavy burden.
  • It may not be difficult to be magnanimous in victory, as the Prophet Muhammad demonstrated, following his conquest of Mecca in 630; but it is certainly easy to become embittered, resentful and vengeful in defeat, as has been the history of Arabs and Muslims over the past century. This situation is when enlightened leadership becomes essential, but such leadership has been sorely missing in Egypt and in the wider Muslim world.
So what is to be done given the situation of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and religious minorities across the Muslim ummah (community)?

Whatever specific policy initiative is taken to deal with their plight, there is one indispensable requirement going forward. In the words of the German Catholic theologian, Hans Küng: "No survival without a world ethic. No world peace without peace between religions. No peace between the religions without dialogue between the religions."

Muslims in the public arena have one simple yet formidable task on hand: to speak the truth about the way in which Muslims across the world have been perverting God's Word into a political ideology and their religion into an unending inquisition.

During a December 2014 address to religious scholars and clerics at Cairo's Al-Azhar University -- the most renowned Sunni Muslim institution of learning in the Islamic world -- Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared unambiguously:
"Honorable Imam [the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar], you bear responsibility before Allah. The world in its entirety awaits your words, because the Islamic nation is being torn apart, destroyed, and is heading to perdition. We ourselves are bringing it to perdition... We must take a long, hard look at the current situation we are in. It is inconceivable that the ideology we sanctify, should make our entire nation a source of concern, danger, killing, and destruction all over the world. It is inconceivable that this ideology... I am referring not to 'religion,' but to 'ideology' -- the body of ideas and texts that we have sanctified in the course of centuries, to the point that challenging them has become very difficult."

Egypt's President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, delivered a historic speech to top Islamic scholars and clergy at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, December 28, 2014. (Image source: MEMRI)

For the political leader of present-day Egypt to understand that Muslim religious scholars and clerics "bear responsibility" for perverting Islam by turning it into a fierce political ideology is extraordinary. The question, however, is whether those scholars and clerics grasped what he was saying. More importantly, do they have the integrity to rise to al-Sisi's challenge? And what about the West's responsibility in this matter?

Western powers, if they are to maintain credibility regarding leadership based on human rights, cannot turn a blind eye to what is going on in the Muslim world. Muslims in Egypt and elsewhere know from experience the extent to which Western powers have betrayed in practice what they pronounce in theory when it comes to support for people subjected to authoritarian regimes.

Egypt's Muslims have a long record of struggling to modernize their society. The lack of success of religious reformers, such as Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) and Ali Abd al-Raziq (1888-1966), and secular intellectuals, such as Taha Hussein (1889-1973), Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd (1943-2010) and Hasan Hanafi (b.1935), in bringing Egypt out of its "third world" cultural backwardness was compounded by the complicated history of the country and people caught in the grips of colonial interests, anti-colonial struggles, inter-Arab rivalries, wars against Israel, and the Cold War contest in the Middle East.

What is long overdue from the West is a robust policy to defend and secure human rights for everyone, especially minorities, in Muslim-majority countries. Ironically, it already has on hand well-tested policies of both defending and successfully advancing respect for human rights within totalitarian states in the form of the Helsinki Agreement of 1975, which in retrospect contributed to the undoing of communism in the Soviet Union and its satellites in Eastern Europe.

A policy modelled on the Helsinki Agreement and tailored to the specific situation within the Muslim world, as in Egypt, by the Western powers led by the United States should be presented as the sine qua non to the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) if they wish to maintain a relationship of mutual respect and assistance with, for instance, the G7 nations. As signatories of the UN-adopted Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the OIC member states, including Egypt, must be told in no uncertain terms that their complicity in or failure to prevent human-rights abuses will have serious consequences.

The Western powers should also make it known categorically that the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, which was adopted by the OIC, is unacceptable, because Article 24 of the document states: "All the rights and liberties stated in this Declaration are in accordance with the precepts of the Islamic Law." In other words, the Cairo Declaration makes Shariah law the basis for rights and freedoms within Muslim-majority countries. This should be totally unacceptable to Western powers, particularly the United States, as the principal founding member of the United Nations -- just as it is unacceptable to Muslims who understand the incompatibility of Shariah with the requirements of the modern world.

Shariah is an obsolete product of the minds of men belonging to the early Middle Ages. The Copts, as other religious minorities among the member states of the OIC, and many Muslims, are victimized daily on the basis of Shariah in Egypt. There can be no reprieve for them as long as the government continues to impose Shariah-directed rules and regulations in the country as a whole, and as long as Egyptian society complies.

An incessant demand must be made of the United States to lead the G7 to adopt a Helsinki-type of agreement in their dealings with the member states of the OIC. Such an accord eventually would have a similar effect on the Muslim world -- in terms of human rights, protection of religious minorities, equal status for women and freedom of speech as essential for advancing democracy -- as the Helsinki Agreement had in liberating the people under communism in the former Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe.

The treatment of the Copts in Egypt is a moral outrage for any Muslim aware of the religious tradition bequeathed to him by his prophet. This tradition includes Muhammad's affection for the Copts through his marriage to Maria, a daughter of the Copts, who bore him the son, Ibrahim (died in infancy), he so earnestly desired. As a result of this providentially blessed relationship, the Copts as a people became Muhammad's extended family, his kith and kin. When Egyptian Muslims seek God's mercy, they need reminding that it begins with atoning for wrongdoing against the Copts, and seeking forgiveness from them. The leadership of Al-Azhar University in Cairo could make a beginning by following President al-Sisi's example when he said recently, in welcoming the Copts with open arms as members of Egypt's family:

"We too love you. You are our family, you are from us, we are one and no one will divide us."

Salim Mansur is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. He teaches in the department of political science at Western University in London, Ontario, and is the author of "The Qur'an Problem and Islamism"; "Islam's Predicament: Perspectives of a Dissident Muslim"; and "Delectable Lie: A Liberal Repudiation of Multiculturalism."
This article is based on remarks the author delivered at the 9th annual convention of Coptic Solidarity, held in Washington, D.C. on June 21-22.


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