Saturday, December 22, 2018

Pros and Cons of the US pullout from Syria - Caroline Glick

by Caroline Glick

One of the consequences of the U.S. pullout from Syria is that Trump will finally abandon Obama’s pro-Iranian policy in Syria.

President Donald Trump’s sudden announcement Wednesday that he is removing U.S. forces from Syria shocked many. But it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, because the move is consistent with key aspects of Trump’s military and foreign policy.

Trump promised to bring the 2,000 U.S. Special Forces home from Syria in April. When his announcement sparked opposition from the Pentagon and from key allies, Trump said that he would give the Pentagon six months to complete its mission to defeat so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) forces in Syria.

Seven months later, he announced the troops will be coming home.

Trump’s decision will have negative consequences. But it will also have positive consequences. Only time will tell if the positive implications of the move will outweigh the negative ones. But it is important to set out both to consider the wisdom of his decision.

On the negative side, the most immediate casualties of Trump’s decision are the Kurdish-dominated People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia. The YPG has been America’s partner and its ground force in the U.S.-led campaign against IS in Syria. YPG forces are the only forces on the ground in Syria that are loyal to the U.S.

At the same time, the U.S. partnership with the YPG has raised the prospect of a war between the U.S. and Turkey. Turkish dictator Recip Erdogan. Erdogan threatened last week to launch an offensive against the YPG forces. He spoke to Trump on Monday. Trump reportedly decided to announce the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria on Tuesday.

Also during the course of their discussion, Erdogan reportedly agreed to cancel his order of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system and to purchase a package of U.S. Patriot missile systems valued at $3.5 billion instead.

Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400 caused a rift between NATO member Turkey and NATO. The S-400 is not interoperational with NATO systems. Turkish use of the system could endanger the American F-35’s stealth systems.

In announcing the departure of U.S. forces, Trump essentially told the Kurds that they are on their own. Unless the U.S. agrees to arm and supply YPG forces, and unless the U.S. intends to use other means to deter Erdogan from attacking them, Syria’s Kurds will face the unenviable choice between facing the Turks alone or throwing their hats in with the Russians and Iranians in the hopes of receiving some sort of protection from the Turks.

Despite their relatively small numbers, the U.S. forces in Syria have had a massive strategic impact on the power balance in the country. Deployed along the border triangle joining Syria, Iraq and Jordan, the U.S. forces in Syria have blocked Iran taking over the Iraqi-Syria border and so forging a land bridge linking Iran to the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

U.S. forces at the border have also prevented Iranian-controlled forces from attacking Jordan.

Then there is Russia. Last January, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad concluded a deal that gave Russia control over Syria’s oil and gas. The following month, Russian mercenaries attempted to cross the Euphrates River to seize the Conoco oil field. The area is under YPG control. Forty U.S. forces blocked the Russian offensive. Hundreds of Russian mercenaries were killed.

Last month, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned an Iranian-Russia network that sent millions of barrels of Iranian oil to Syria and hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas and Hezbollah. The purpose of the network was to permit Iran to bypass the U.S. sanctions by passing its oil off as Syrian oil.

Apparently in response to America’s move, Russia’s largest oil company Rosneft cancelleda $30 billion deal to develop oil and gas projects in Iran. And so on the face of it, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria gives Russia and Iran an open road to bypass U.S. sanctions.

But with the EU still embargoing Syrian oil, Russia and Iran have limited options for selling their supplies. Moreover, according to Oil Price, Syria’s oilfields and infrastructure were destroyed during the war. To bring the fields back to pre-war production levels, Russia will need to invest $35-40 billion. With oil selling for $46 per barrel, it isn’t clear whether Russia has the funds to rebuild Syria’s oil industry. At a minimum, it will be difficult for Russia to cash in on its investment in Syria even after the U.S. forces leave. The fact that most of Syria’s fields are in territory under Kurdish control gives the YPG a significant bargaining chip in its dealings with the Russians. Russia does not want those fields to fall to Turkish control.

From Israel’s perspective, the U.S. presence in Syria has served as a key deterrent against Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah aggression. The thought that U.S. forces in Syria will fight with Israel if Israel finds itself at war against Iran and its aligned forces in Syria and Lebanon has been a deterrent to Iranian aggression. It has arguably also been a rationale for Russia limiting the scope of its strategic partnership with Iran in Syria.

Trump’s announcement that he is removing U.S. forces from Syria, consequently, increases the likelihood of war just as Iran’s pending seizure of the Syrian-Iraqi border increases the likelihood of war.

That means it increases the likelihood that Israel will find itself under attack and at war with Iran and its proxies in both Lebanon and Syria.

But that, then, brings us to the positive implications of Trump’s move.

From a U.S. perspective, it is fairly clear that if a full-blown war erupts between Israel and Iran-Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, the 2,000 U.S. forces in Syria will not be sufficient to make a significant contribution to their defeat. Instead the forces are liable to serve as a tripwire which could place pressure on Trump to deploy a much larger force to Syria.

Presuming that Trump has no interest in being sucked into a war that would place the U.S. in direct conflict with Russia, keeping the forces on the ground is problematic.

U.S. forces were first deployed to Syria in 2014 to wage a campaign to defeat Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. As Middle East expert Lee Smith noted in an article in Tablet magazine in April, Obama’s decision to deploy U.S. forces to Syria was of a piece with his larger strategic realignment of the U.S away from Israel and its traditional Sunni Arab allies and towards Iran.

Since ISIS is a Sunni terror group, it was largely assumed that Iran and ISIS were enemies. This despite the fact that Iran and ISIS had a live-and-let-live relationship in Iraq and Syria. Moreover, Iran has a documented record of supporting ISIS’s progenitor, al-Qaeda in Iraq.

All the same, in deploying U.S. forces to Syria to fight IS, Obama believed he was advancing his strategic realignment in two ways. First, he strengthened Iran’s position in Syria by weakening a rival for power. In so doing, he advanced his goal of convincing the Iranian regime to conclude the nuclear deal with his administration. As Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes told a group of activists in 2014, Obama viewed his realignment towards Iran as the most important policy of his second term in office.

The second goal Obama sought to achieve through the deployment to Syria was one directed towards domestic opinion. Obama sought to use the deployment in Syria and Iraq against ISIS – in coordination and cooperation with Iran – to convince the American public that Iran was no longer their enemy.

When Trump came into office, he continued to implement Obama’s policy. He did not ask for an expanded mandate for U.S. forces in Syria. This despite the fact that National Security Advisor John Bolton told Breitbart News in August that the writ of U.S. forces in Syria had been expanded to containing Iran and blocking Iran from seizing control over the Syrian-Iraqi border. The Pentagon, for its part, insisted on maintaining the Obama administration’s pro-Iran policy and rejected attempts to abandon it in favor of an anti-Iran policy in Syria.

The same has held in Lebanon. Despite voluminous evidence that Hezbollah controls both the Lebanese government and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), the Pentagon has resisted any attempt to end U.S. support for the LAF and the Lebanese government. And so, for the past two years, the Trump administration has continued to fund and train the LAF and to support the Lebanese government. In a sign of just how intertwined Hezbollah and LAF forces have become, Israel’s Hadashot news channel reported Wednesday that LAF and Hezbollah forces conduct joint patrols along the Lebanese border with Israel.

One of the consequences of the U.S. pullout from Syria is that Trump will finally abandon Obama’s pro-Iranian policy in Syria. True, he isn’t replacing it with an anti-Iranian policy in Syria. But all the same, by abandoning a pro-Iranian policy in Syria, the move will lend some coherence to the U.S.’s overall strategy for countering Iran’s growing power and influence in the region and worldwide.

Israel’s Hadashot news channel reported on Wednesday that along with Trump’s decision to remove U.S. forces from Syria, U.S. officials told Israel that if Hezbollah gains a more powerful position in the next Lebanese government, the U.S. will end its support for the LAF and agree to Israel’s request that it place an economic embargo on the Lebanese government.

Hezbollah announced its intention to take control over Lebanon’s health ministry shortly after the elections in May. The ministry has one of the largest budgets and plenty of disposable cash. The U.S. had already warned Lebanese President Michel Aoun that it would end its support for Lebanon if Hezbollah receives the health ministry.

On Thursday, it was reported that Hezbollah loyalist Jamil Jabak will serve as Lebanese health minister in the next government. If the U.S. follows through on its promise to end its support for Lebanon as a result, then the Trump administration will entirely abandon Obama’s pro-Iranian policy in the Middle East.

From Israel’s perspective, continued U.S. support for the Hezbollah-controlled Lebanese government and military has been a major concern. In 2006, due the Bush administration’s support for the Lebanese government, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prohibited Israel from targeting Lebanese infrastructures and other resources critical to Hezbollah’s war effort. If the U.S. is true to its word and aligns its policy towards Lebanon with Israel, the move will vastly expand Israel’s ability to decisively defeat Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy army in Lebanon, in the next war.

Commenting Thursday morning about Trump’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We will continue to act in Syria to prevent Iran’s effort to militarily entrench itself against us. We are not reducing our efforts, we will increase our efforts.”

Netanyahu added, “I know that we do so with the full support and backing of the U.S.”

Time will tell whether Trump’s decision to remove U.S. forces from Syria was a prelude to disaster for U.S. allies and a boon for America’s enemies, or whether the opposite is the case. But what is clear enough is that move is not entirely negative.

Originally published at 

Caroline Glick


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Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia join forces against Iran in Syria - Daniel Siryoti, Yoni Hersch, Ariel Kahana, Eldad Beck, Erez Linn and Israel Hayom Staff

by Daniel Siryoti, Yoni Hersch, Ariel Kahana, Eldad Beck, Erez Linn and Israel Hayom Staff

Secret talks reach understandings with Russia that will enable Israel to retain freedom to attack Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria

The Russian forces currently in Syria will take action to restrain Hezbollah and Iranian activity there, according to understandings reached by Israel, the United States, Jordan and Saudi Arabia with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a Jordanian official confirmed to Israel Hayom.

The understandings are the product of behind-the-scenes diplomatic talks that were underway prior to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision this week to withdraw American forces from Syria.

According to the terms of the understanding, Russia will continue to give Israel the freedom to strike Hezbollah and Iranian targets and weaponry that threaten the "balance of power" in Syria. According to the Jordanian official, it was these understandings between Trump and Putin that paved the way for the U.S. decision to pull its forces from Syria.

Other high-ranking Jordanian officials have confirmed that Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia are working together to contain the threat posed by Iran and Hezbollah's presence in Syria. Several of them emphasized that U.S. officials had made it clear that U.S. intelligence agencies would increase cooperation with Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, particularly on sharing intelligence, in a joint attempt to counter Iran's attempt to create a contiguous Shiite corridor from Tehran to Beirut.

Senior Egyptian intelligence officials say that, unlike Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Egypt was not advised ahead of time that the U.S. was pulling out of Syria.

On Thursday, in a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsiras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in Beersheba, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried the "Iranian web of aggression in the Middle East, which also terrorizes Europe and the entire world."

"Israel launched a campaign to expose and neutralize cross-border terror tunnels on our northern border with Lebanon. These tunnels were built by Hezbollah with direct support and funding from Iran. … Israel will continue to act in Syria to prevent Iran's effort to militarily entrench itself against us. We are not going to reduce our efforts; we're going to increase our efforts," Netanyahu said.

Behind closed doors, Israeli officials were critical of Trump's decision. One senior minister called it a "horrifying moral and a bad diplomatic step."

"The move does not serve Israel's interests, harms the Kurds, strengthens [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, and will give Iran additional routes through which to send weapons to Syria," the minister said.

Cabinet ministers and diplomatic officials have also confirmed to Israel Hayom that while Netanyahu said earlier this week that Trump had advised him on Monday that he was pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, and that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had discussed the matter with him on Tuesday, the information was never shared with Israel's National Security Council or the cabinet.

One minister told Israel Hayom that he thought Netanyahu might have been worried that cabinet officials would vocally criticize the American move. Netanyahu's office declined to comment.

Daniel Siryoti, Yoni Hersch, Ariel Kahana, Eldad Beck, Erez Linn and Israel Hayom Staff


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The Absolute State of Britbongland - Paul Joseph Watson

by Paul Joseph Watson

How leftism utopianism is annihilating a civilization.

In this new video, Paul Joseph Watson unveils The Absolute State of Britbongland, exposing how leftism utopianism is annihilating a civilization. Don't miss it!

Paul Joseph Watson


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Lawless Judge Strikes Down Trump’s Asylum Policy - Matthew Vadum

by Matthew Vadum

A Democrat-appointed judge ignores what the actual law says.

As President Trump made significant progress in his bid to win congressional funding for a border wall with Mexico, a swamp-dwelling federal judge in Washington struck down Trump administration policies that made it more difficult for foreigners who claim to be victims of domestic or gang violence to seek asylum.

Trump has vowed to use the military to build the wall and in recent days sent out mixed messages about whether he would veto a stopgap spending bill needed to avert a partial government shutdown at Friday midnight. After a fierce backlash from conservatives like Ann Coulter apparently prompted Trump to return to his hardline stance insisting on getting border wall funding now before Democrats take over the House of Representatives in two weeks, Republican congressional leaders met with the president at the White House midday Thursday. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) emerged from the meeting to announce Trump would veto any spending measure that lacked funding for the wall, the president’s signature issue on the 2016 campaign trail.

Later Thursday the House voted 217 to 185 to approve a temporary spending bill after adding $5.7 billion in appropriations for the wall. Democrats have said they will oppose the measure when it reaches the Senate where under current rules it requires a supermajority of 60 votes for passage. Presently there are 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats in the Senate. As of January 3, there will be 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats. During a White House meeting with incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) last week Trump said he would be happy to shut down the government to gain funding for the wall.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck,” Trump said.

That shutdown now seems certain.

But before the eleventh-hour conversion of House Republicans into wall supporters happened, grandstanding Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a ruling Dec. 19 throwing a wrench into Trump’s revised asylum policy, even ordering the government to bring deportees back to the United States.

Sullivan has been a judge in the swamp for a long time. Appointed to his current post by President Bill Clinton in 1994, before that he was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in 1991. Before that, President Ronald Reagan appointed Sullivan to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in 1984.

Earlier this week Sullivan lashed out at former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn, suggesting the defendant was guilty of treason as he postponed the scheduled sentencing for lying to the FBI for at least three months.

The asylum policies created by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions were “arbitrary, capricious and in violation of the immigration laws,” Sullivan wrote in a 107-page decision. Because “it is the will of Congress — not the whims of the Executive—that determines the standard for expedited removal, the Court finds that those policies are unlawful.”

Sullivan enjoined the administration “from continuing to apply those policies and from removing plaintiffs who are currently in the United States without first providing credible fear determinations consistent with the immigration laws,” and directed federal officials “to return to the United States the plaintiffs who were unlawfully deported and to provide them with new credible fear determinations consistent with the immigration laws.”

Sullivan doesn’t seem to understand the fundamentals of asylum law.

The judge got angry at a previous hearing and lashed out at the administration for deporting a mother and daughter to El Salvador. The mother, Sullivan said, experienced "horrific" sexual abuse by her husband, and death threats from a local gang. Sullivan ordered the government to return her to the U.S. and not to deport any other would-be asylees involved in the legal proceeding.

Federal law gives the government authority “to grant asylum if an alien is unable or unwilling to return to her country of origin because she has suffered past persecution or has a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of ‘race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.’”

Being a victim of crime by itself isn’t a valid ground for asylum, no matter how badly abused the claimant may have been in his or her home country. The government in that country must be behind the persecution or be unwilling or unable to protect the person if that individual is a victim of non-state-directed persecution related to the specified grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in June correctly that fear of domestic abuse or gang violence does not legally justify asylum.

"The asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune," Sessions wrote. "The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime cannot itself establish an asylum claim."

Predictably, the left-wingers at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had fought the administration’s "expedited removal" policies in court, rejoiced at the pro-open borders court decision

“This ruling is a defeat for the Trump administration’s all-out assault on the rights of asylum seekers. The government’s attempt to obliterate asylum protections is unlawful and inconsistent with our country’s longstanding commitment to provide protection to immigrants fleeing for their lives,” whined Jennifer Chang Newell of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case in court.

The White House was unmoved, responding to the ruling by saying: "Under the law, asylum is a discretionary benefit for aliens who have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group."

Sullivan’s decision Wednesday undermines U.S. law and will "encourage more illegal immigration to the United States."

Despite the loss in Sullivan’s court, the Trump administration scored a major political victory Thursday, quite apart from getting wall funding inserted into a temporary spending bill.

The Department of Homeland Security announced that asylum seekers at the southern border will have to wait in Mexico to have their claims processed.

Such asylum applicants will now be initially processed by U.S. immigration agents and then promptly returned to Mexico for the completion of process.

“Let me be clear: We will undertake these steps consistent with all domestic and international legal obligations, including our humanitarian commitments,” Kirstjen Nielsen told lawmakers, according to USA Today. “All affected migrants will receive humanitarian visas to stay on Mexican soil, they will be given the ability to apply for work and other protections while they await a legal U.S. determination.”

The Immigration and Nationality Act allows the government to order the return of asylum seekers arriving at a land port to the country from which they attempted to enter.

Matthew Vadum, formerly 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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Trump is Right to Withdraw from Syria - Robert Spencer

by Robert Spencer

But James Mattis and other failed analysts are still pushing their failed policies and demanding we stay there.

President Trump has ordered a rapid withdrawal of the 2,000 remaining U.S. troops in Syria, prompting the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis and arousing the ire of CNN – both excellent indications that the President is on the right track.

CNN, the 24/7 Hate Trump Network, headlined its story on the withdrawal “Trump orders rapid withdrawal from Syria in apparent reversal,” giving the impression that an erratic Trump was changing course, only to admit in the article itself that the President “has long signaled his desire to get out of Syria.”

Meanwhile, in his self-righteous and condescending resignation letter, which is being heralded by all the usual establishment suspects today as a positively Confucian outpouring of wisdom, even Mattis admits that he agrees with Trump on the salient issue at play in Syria: “Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world.”

That’s why it’s time to bring the troops home from Syria, and why Trump is right to do so. Trump explained it himself: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

Yes. In Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State (ISIS) has been defeated, although it still has forces there and could experience a resurgence — in which case the situation would have to be reevaluated. Still, on January 19, 2017, the last day of the disastrous presidency of Barack Obama, it looked as if the Islamic State was going to be occupying a large portion of Syria for decades, if not generations, to come. Turkey was buying its oil. The Islamic State was beginning to follow the path of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, making the transformation from terrorist group to a respected member of the family of nations.

Now the caliphate dream is over, at least for the time being. When Trump became President, he set out to break the Islamic State, and he did. It lost its last city in Syria a couple of weeks ago. Many of those whom it terrorized have begun to return to their homes.

But CNN is worried: “Even though the US will continue to maintain troops in Iraq with the capability of launching strikes into Syria, a US withdrawal of ground forces would fulfill a major goal of Syria, Iran and Russia and risks diminishing US influence in the region.”

Ah yes, it’s all part of the vast Russian conspiracy. Back in the real world, however, the idea that influence can only be had by means of having troops on the ground is ridiculous on its face. The U.S. troops in Iraq will still be able to strike in Syria if the Islamic State does achieve a resurgence, but that doesn’t matter to the CNN analysts. They are so mad to destroy Trump and have chosen Russia as their all-purpose bogeyman, so if they can portray the withdrawal from Syria as a capitulation to Russia, they will twist the truth in any way possible in order to do so.

But the real issue is this: it is foolish in the extreme, and ultimately self-defeating, to keep troops anywhere indefinitely, with no end point, no plan for victory, no clear goal — that just saps the nation’s resources and produces no good result. Anytime we leave Syria or anywhere else, anti-American elements will do their best to capitalize on our absence. But if the answer to this is to keep troops everywhere, then they will never come home, and we will need to send them into many more countries than those they’re currently in.

That way lies madness. And destruction. What is needed instead is a massive reevaluation of the basic assumptions of U.S. foreign policy, so that our energies, and our armed forces, are directed much more efficiently than they are now to blunting the force of the global jihad. We can hope that with the departure of Mattis, an exponent of the multiply-failed idea that U.S. troops in Muslim countries can build American alliances and establish Western-style secular republics in the Middle East, that reevaluation is on the horizon.

Robert Spencer


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Germany: New Law Banning Child Marriage Declared Unconstitutional - Soeren Kern

by Soeren Kern

German courts are — wittingly or unwittingly — promoting the establishment of a parallel Islamic legal system in the country.

  • The ruling, which effectively opens the door to legalizing Sharia-based child marriages in Germany, is one of a growing number of instances in which German courts are — wittingly or unwittingly — promoting the establishment of a parallel Islamic legal system in the country.
  • "Germany cannot, on the one hand, be against child marriages internationally, and on the other hand, be for such marriages in our own country. The best interests of the child cannot be compromised in this case. (...) This is about the constitutionally established protection of children and minors!" — Winfried Bausback, Bavarian lawmaker who helped draft the law against child marriage.
  • "We should consider one more thing: judgments are made 'in the name of the people.' This people has clearly expressed through its representatives in the Bundestag that it no longer wants to recognize child marriage." — Commentator Andreas von Delhaes-Guenther.

The Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof), Germany's highest court, has ruled that a new law that bans child marriage is unconstitutional because all marriages, including Sharia-based child marriages, are protected by Germany's Basic Law. Pictured: The Bundesgerichtshof building in Karlsruhe, Germany. (Image source: Andreas Praefcke/Wikimedia Commons)

The Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH), Germany's highest court of civil and criminal jurisdiction, has ruled that a new law that bans child marriage is unconstitutional because all marriages, including Sharia-based child marriages, are protected by Germany's Basic Law (Grundgesetz).

The ruling, which effectively opens the door to legalizing Sharia-based child marriages in Germany, is one of a growing number of instances in which German courts are — wittingly or unwittingly — promoting the establishment of a parallel Islamic legal system in the country.

The case involves a Syrian couple — a 14-year-old Syrian girl married to her 21-year-old cousin — who arrived in Germany at the height of the migrant crisis in August 2015. The Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) refused to recognize their marriage and separated the girl from her husband. When the husband filed a lawsuit, a family court in Aschaffenburg ruled in favor of the Youth Welfare Office, which claimed to be the girl's legal guardian.

In May 2016, an appeals court in Bamberg overturned the decision. The court ruled that the marriage was valid because it was contracted in Syria, where, according to Sharia law, child marriages are allowed. The ruling effectively legalized Sharia child marriages in Germany.

The ruling — described as a "crash course in Syrian Islamic marriage law" — ignited a firestorm of criticism. Some accused the Bamberg court of applying Sharia law over German law to legalize a practice banned in Germany.

"Religious or cultural justifications obscure the simple fact that older, perverse men are abusing young girls," said Rainer Wendt, head of the German police union.

Monika Michell of Terre des Femmes, a women's rights group that campaigns against child marriage, added: "A husband cannot be the legal guardian of a child bride because he is involved in a sexual relationship with her — a very obvious conflict of interest."

The Justice Minister of Hesse, Eva Kühne-Hörmann, asked: "If underage persons — quite rightly — are not allowed to buy a beer, why should the lawmakers allow children to make such profound decisions related to marriage?"

Others said the ruling would open the floodgates of cultural conflict in Germany, as Muslims would view it as a precedent to push for the legalization of other Islamic practices, including polygamy, in the country.

In September 2016, the German Interior Ministry, responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, revealed that 1,475 married children — including 361 children under the age of 14 — were known to be living in Germany as of July 31, 2016.

In a bid to protect girls who were married abroad but sought asylum in Germany, the German parliament on June 1, 2017 had passed legislation banning child marriages. The so-called Law to Fight Child Marriage (Gesetz zur Bekämpfung von Kinderehen) set the minimum age of consent for marriage in Germany at 18 years and nullified all existing marriages, including those contracted abroad, where a participant was under the age of 16 at the time of the ceremony.

Germany's Federal Court of Justice, in its ruling, published on December 14, 2018, stated that the new law was unconstitutional because it violated Articles 1 (human dignity), 2 (free development of personality), 3 (equal protection) and 6 (protection of marriage and family) of the Basic Law, which serves as the German constitution.

The court also ruled that the new law cannot be applied retroactively, and therefore cannot apply to the Syrian couple, who were married in February 2015.

Finally, the Federal Court of Justice asked the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) to examine the legality of Germany's blanket-ban on child marriage and to determine whether German authorities should heretofore assess the validity of child marriages on a case-by-case basis.

The ruling ignores Article 6 of the Introductory Act to the German Civil Code (Einführungsgesetz zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuche, EGBGB), which states:
"A legal standard of another State shall not be applied where its application results in an outcome which is manifestly incompatible with the essential principles of German law. In particular, it is not applicable if the application is incompatible with fundamental rights."
By shielding the Syrian couple from German law, the court has not only legitimized the use of Sharia law to determine the outcome of legal cases in Germany, it has also established a precedent that will almost certainly be used in the future by defenders of child marriage and other foreign laws.

Moreover, by insisting that the legitimacy of child marriages be examined on a case-by-case basis, the court has opened the door to so-called cultural exceptions, namely those enshrined in Sharia law, which does not set any age limit to marriage.

Winfried Bausback, a Bavarian lawmaker who helped draft the law against child marriage, was outraged by the court's decision:
"Because of our Constitution and for the benefit of the child, in the present case, there should be only one answer: This marriage must be null and void right from the beginning.
"Germany cannot on the one hand be against child marriages internationally, and on the other hand be for such marriages in our own country. The best interests of the child cannot be compromised in this case. (...) This is about the constitutionally established protection of children and minors!"
Commentator Andreas von Delhaes-Guenther wrote:
"In the end, it is a question of principle to what extent Germany wants to accept foreign law, which is completely contrary to our law on important issues. It took centuries to remove the Middle Ages from our law; we must not now bring it back for reasons of alleged tolerance or 'individual case consideration.' Rather, we must say that in Germany, German law applies to all, especially in important legal interests such as life, health — or just the welfare of the child, with an immutable age limit for marriages.
"We should consider one more thing: judgments are made 'in the name of the people.' This people has clearly expressed through its representatives in the Bundestag that it no longer wants to recognize child marriage."

German Courts and Sharia Law

German courts are increasingly deferring to Islamic law because either the plaintiffs or the defendants are Muslim. Critics say the cases — especially those in which German law has taken a back seat to Sharia law — reflect a dangerous encroachment of Islamic law into the German legal system.

In November 2016, for instance, a court in Wuppertal ruled that seven Islamists who formed a vigilante patrol to enforce Sharia law on city streets did not break German law and were simply exercising their right to free speech.

The self-appointed "Sharia Police" had sparked public outrage in September 2014, when they distributed yellow leaflets that established a "Sharia-controlled zone" in the Elberfeld district of Wuppertal. The men urged both Muslim and non-Muslim passersby to attend mosques and to refrain from alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, music, pornography and prostitution.

Wuppertal's public prosecutor, Wolf-Tilman Baumert, argued that the men, who wore orange vests emblazoned with the words "SHARIAH POLICE," had violated a law that bans wearing uniforms at public rallies. The law, which especially prohibits uniforms that express political views, was originally designed to prevent neo-Nazi groups from parading in public. According to Baumert, the vests were illegal because they had a "deliberate, intimidating and militant" effect.

The Wuppertal District Court, however, ruled that the vests technically were not uniforms, and in any event did not pose a threat. The court said that witnesses and passersby could not possibly have felt intimidated by the men, and that prosecuting them would infringe on their freedom of expression. The "politically correct" decision, which was successfully appealed, effectively authorized the Sharia Police to continue enforcing Islamic law in Wuppertal.

On January 11, 2018, however, the Federal Court of Justice overturned the Wuppertal court's decision and ordered the seven individuals to be retried. The Federal Court stated that they had indeed violated the law that bans the wearing of uniforms.

Sharia law has been encroaching into the German justice system virtually unchecked for nearly two decades. Some examples include:
  • In August 2000, a court in Kassel ordered a widow to split her late Moroccan husband's pension with another woman to whom the man was simultaneously married. Although polygamy is illegal in Germany, the judge ruled that the two wives must share the pension, in accordance with Moroccan law.
  • In March 2004, a court in Koblenz granted the second wife of an Iraqi living in Germany the right to remain permanently in the country. The court ruled that after five years in a polygamous marriage in Germany, it would be unfair to expect her to return to Iraq.
  • In March 2007, a judge in Frankfurt cited the Koran in a divorce case involving a German-Moroccan woman who had been repeatedly beaten by her Moroccan husband. Although police ordered the man to stay away from his estranged wife, he continued to abuse her and at one point threatened to kill her. Judge Christa Datz-Winter refused to grant the divorce. She quoted Sura 4, Verse 34 of the Koran, which justifies "both the husband's right to use corporal punishment against a disobedient wife and the establishment of the husband's superiority over the wife." The judge was eventually removed from the case.
  • In December 2008, a court in Düsseldorf ordered a Turkish man to pay a €30,000 ($32,000) dower to his former daughter-in-law, in accordance with Sharia law.
  • In October 2010, a court in Cologne ruled that an Iranian man must pay his ex-wife a dower of €162,000 euros ($171,000), the current equivalent value of 600 gold coins, in accordance with the original Sharia marriage contract.
  • In December 2010, a court in Munich ruled that a German widow was entitled to only one-quarter of the estate left by her late husband, who was born in Iran. The court awarded the other three-quarters of the inheritance to the man's relatives in Tehran in accordance with Sharia law.
  • In November 2011, a court in Siegburg allowed an Iranian couple to be divorced twice, first by a German judge according to German law, and then by an Iranian cleric according to Sharia law. The director of the Siegburg District Court, Birgit Niepmann, said the Sharia ceremony "was a service of the court."
  • In July 2012, a court in Hamm ordered an Iranian man to pay his estranged wife a dower as part of a divorce settlement. The case involved a couple who married according to Sharia law in Iran, migrated to Germany and later separated. As part of the original marriage agreement, the husband promised to pay his wife a dower of 800 gold coins payable upon demand. The court ordered the husband to pay the woman €213,000 ($225,000), the current equivalent value of the coins.
  • In June 2013, a court in Hamm ruled that anyone who contracts marriage according to Islamic law in a Muslim country and later seeks a divorce in Germany must abide by the original terms established by Sharia law. The landmark ruling effectively legalized the Sharia practice of "triple-talaq," obtaining a divorce by reciting the phrase "I divorce you" three times.
  • In July 2016, a court in Hamm ordered a Lebanese man to pay his estranged wife a dower as part of a divorce settlement. The case involved a couple who married according to Sharia law in Lebanon, migrated to Germany and later separated. As part of the original marriage agreement, the husband promised to pay his wife a dower of $15,000. The German court ordered him to pay her the equivalent amount in euros.
In an interview with Spiegel Online, Islam expert Mathias Rohe defended the existence of parallel legal structures in Germany as an "expression of globalization." He added: "We apply Islamic law just as we do French law."

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.


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Darkness Falls in Windsor, Ontario - Lloyd Billingsley

by Lloyd Billingsley

Habibullah Ahmadi now charged with murder of Anne Widholm.

“Sara Anne Widholm, 76, died at Windsor Regional Hospital on Saturday, Dec. 15,” the Windsor Star reports, but this was not a mere obituary. On October 8, 2017, while out for a walk on the Ganatchio Trail in Windsor, Widholm was the victim of a “vicious” and “unprovoked” attack by Habibullah Ahmadi, 21.

He was originally charged with assault, later upgraded to attempted murder and now second-degree murder with the death of his victim. Little has emerged about Habibullah Ahmadi and his motive in the attack, which was “not just another assault,” according to neurosurgeon Dr. Balraj Jhawar.

“The worst skull fractures I’ve seen in my 12 years here in Windsor,” Jhawar told reporters. “This is among the most brutal things I’ve seen in my career.” The victim’s multiple brain hemorrhages and fractured skull and vertebrae required eight hours of surgery. Hospital officials did not indicate whether Widholm emerged from a coma before she finally passed away.

Attacker Habibullah Ahmadi was 21, a full adult, but police never released his booking photo. News reports described him as a “Windsor man,” who goes by the name “Daniel.”  Local and national news stories contained no statements from Habibullah Ahmadi, nor any indication that he had declined an interview. Likewise, news reports contained no quotes from Habibullah Ahmadi’s family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or fellow students in Windsor.

Habibullah Ahmadi, a male of 21, attacked a defenseless woman, 75, but local and national feminists did not cite the attack as an example of violence against women or toxic masculinity. Likewise, no statement against violence emerged after the attack finally claimed Widholm’s life.

Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens tweeted that Widholm “exemplified the can-do Windsor spirit and my most sincere condolences go out to her family for their loss.” It was as though she had died of natural causes, and no mention of the violent attack.

Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn, a crusader against bullying, never offered a statement on the case. Current Premier Doug Ford of the Progressive Conservative Party did not issue a  comment. News reports turn up no proclamations on the attack from Lisa Gretzky, a New Democratic Party MPP for Windsor, or from the NDP provincial leader Andrea Horwath. The Prime Minister was another story.

Last January, an 11-year-old Toronto girl charged that a man had twice cut her hijab. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the attack, which turned out to be a hoax. The son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had nothing to say about the attack on Anne Widholm, which was not a hoax.

Habibullah means “friend of Allah,” but nobody from the Windsor Mosque made any public statement about the accused murderer. His victim Anne Widholm was an outgoing Christian, and Ahmadi attacked her on a Sunday, but no public official raised the possibility that Islam might have played any role in the attack, or whether it might have been a hate crime. It certainly wasn’t robbery and Habibullah Ahmadi wasn’t somebody out looking for a fight.

Dr. Jhawar found “absolutely unacceptable” the notion that the attack was random. “For all of us who live here in Windsor, we can’t tolerate this,” he told reporters. “This is not just another assault. This is maybe representing a new, dark side of Windsor that we can’t let propagate.”

Somebody let this propagate, and darkness has now fallen for Anne Widolm, whose husband Alfred died in November, 2017. The one-year anniversary of the attack passed without notice in local and national media. Police and court authorities weren’t exactly keep[ing] the public posted about the case.
Last July, CTV news said AM800 News, CKLW, has learned that a date for Habibullah’s trial would be set sometime in January 2019, though no official court or police document was cited. The CTV piece came headlined, “Windsor man going to trial for alleged Ganatchio Trail attack,” and the story cited “an alleged vicious attack of an elderly woman.”  From the start, there was nothing “alleged” about it, and the report offered no insight on the attacker.

Locals could be forgiven for wondering if “Windsor man” Habibullah Ahmadi might be an unvetted refugee who had been booted out of the USA. That was the case with Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, the Somalian who mounted vehicle and knife attacks targeting Edmonton police officer Mike Chernyk. It was also possible that Habibullah Ahmadi was following the 2014 order of ISIS boss Abu Muhamad al-Adnani:

“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European,” Adnani’s order stated, “especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”

The murder trial of Habibullah Ahmadi may render some answers. No trial date has been set and as the Windsor Star explains, “the case remains under active investigation by the Major Crimes Branch.” Justice delayed is not yet justice denied.

Photo: CTV Windsor

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation, recently updated, and Hollywood Party: Stalinist Adventures in the American Movie IndustryBill of Writes: Dispatches from the Political Correctness Battlefield, is a collection of his journalism.


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Event supporting Hebron settlement beats Left to the punch - Yehuda Shlezinger and Israel Hayom Staff

by Yehuda Shlezinger and Israel Hayom Staff

Unable to prevent Knesset conference calling to evict Jewish settlement from Hebron, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and fellow MKs Yoav Kisch and Bezalel Smotrich plan counter-event the previous day to support Jewish settlement in Hebron.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein
Photo: Oren Ben Hakoon 

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein is planning to pre-empt a conference scheduled to take place in the Knesset this Tuesday that will call for the eviction of the Jewish settlement in Hebron, by holding a counter-event the previous day in support of Jewish settlement in Hebron.

The anti-settlement event, organized by MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) and Joint Arab List Chairman Ayman Odeh and MK Dov Khenin, was originally scheduled to take place on Nov. 26. The original invitation referred to "a destructive reality of violence" caused by a "cruel segregation regime" to accommodate a "handful of settlers."

As speaker, Edelstein authorizes all conferences held at the Knesset, and postponed the event because Czech President Milos Zeman was visiting Israel and was due to address the Knesset plenum the same day.

But he was unable to prevent the event from being held entirely. Associates of Edelstein's said MKs from the Meretz and Joint Arab List parties had tried to trick Knesset authorities into allowing them to hold an event in which representatives of leftist organizations B'Tselem and Breaking the Silence, the activities of which the government vigorously opposes, were invited to participate. Other organizations invited to the event include Peace Now and Yesh Din.

In deciding to hold a counter-event, Edelstein said, "It's bizarre to me that certain Knesset members would dare to question the right of the Jewish people to settle in the land of their forefathers."

MKs Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) are helping Edelstein with the event to promote strengthening settlement in Hebron.

Yehuda Shlezinger and Israel Hayom Staff


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A predictable move in Syria - Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi

by Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi

The key to minimizing the damage from America's exit from Syria can be found in both Washington and Moscow.

Contrary to popular belief, U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to end America's military presence in Syria in the near future was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. The opposite is true. This is the implementation of a plan that has been formulated for some time, one that was anchored in Trump's original position to disengage from the centers of conflict, war and crisis that he does not believe to present an immediate and tangible threat to American security.

Ever since his election campaign, Trump's view has been that U.S. involvement in Syria, initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama's White House in 2015, embodies the dangerous potential in getting involved in a bloody conflict. It is true that as long as the Islamic State group constituted a central terrorist threat in Syria, the president accepted America's continued presence in the arena, provided it remained limited to the northeastern region, with the Kurdish enclave at its center. Now, with the murderous organization in significant decline, the decision to disengage is a natural move for Trump, who has made his desire to reduce the scope of America's overall commitment and involvement overseas abundantly clear.

The president has repeatedly reiterated his intention to leave Syria and he did not set any preconditions, such as achieving a comprehensive diplomatic resolution in Syria, for the exit of foreign forces from the territory.

In other words, in Trump's minimalist view of the array of U.S. interests, Syria does not meet the requirement for necessary direct military intervention. Against this background, the apocalyptic warning that the disengagement from Syria will cause massive damage to the U.S.'s overall standing appears to be without basis.

Was the minimal presence of 2,000 American military advisers, counselors and security officials in a narrow strip in Syria's northeast enough to project power and dramatically influence what transpires not only in Syria but throughout the region? Moreover, will the withdrawal be enough to undermine the prestige of the American superpower on a front defined by Washington as marginal from the outset and a time in which the White House has yet to delineate the Kremlin a sworn global enemy? It is for this reason that, although one cannot dismiss the price the Kurdish minority may be forced to pay as a result, the U.S. troop withdrawal is not expected to result in any tectonic fractures in the general Syrian court.

And as for Israel, America's disengagement was predictable and could provide Iran with greater room to maneuver and engage in threatening actions. The key to minimizing the damage from America's exit from Syria can be found in both Washington and Moscow. We cannot rule out the possibility that the U.S. administration will decide on taking a conciliatory and trust-building diplomatic step, such as throwing its support behind the initiative now being forged in the Senate to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. As for the Kremlin, the U.S. troop withdrawal could lead to Russia expanding and deepening its strategic coordination with Israel in Syria's skies, not necessarily out of a sense of affinity or excessive sensitivity to Israel's security concerns but rather to ensure the system of checks and balances aimed at preventing Iran's excessive empowerment in the Syrian sphere is preserved.

Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi


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