Friday, February 1, 2019

Report: Hezbollah terror group in midst of deep economic crisis - Neta Bar

by Neta Bar

Sky News Arabia reports Hezbollah putting off payments to members, with some in organization receiving only 60% of their salaries

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah|
Photo: AP 

Are U.S. sanctions beginning to have an impact on Hezbollah? Sky News Arabia has reported that the Shiite terrorist organization has postponed a number of payments, including to Hezbollah members as a result of financial difficulties.

According to the report, which appeared on Sky News Arabia's website, Wednesday, employees of Hezbollah's media, education, medical and even military systems have complained of deep pay cuts of late, with some reportedly receiving only 60% of their salaries last month.

Despite their increasing frustration at the situation, Lebanese media outlets and workers whose salaries have been cut have refrained from publicly criticizing Hezbollah out of concern doing so would damage the organization's standing.

According to Sky News Arabia's sources, Hezbollah is concerned by increasing U.S. sanctions as well as growing EU efforts against the organization.

Sanctions imposed on Iran have also put a dent in Hezbollah's cash flow.

According to Israel's Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon, Iran provides Hezbollah with an annual budget of $1 billion. With Iran in the midst of a financial crisis, Hezbollah may not be able to count on Tehran investing all of that money in the organization in the future.

At a ceremony marking 40 years to the Islamic Revolution at Tehran's Shah Mosque earlier that day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani admitted his country was in the throes of the worst financial crisis it had faced in 40 years. He blamed economic pressure from the U.S. for Iran's monetary troubles.

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Iran in recent months following U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal in response to Iran's military activities across the Middle East, ballistic missile program and concerns it would renew its nuclear weapons program later down the road.

Neta Bar


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The stone around Iran's neck - Menashe Amir

by Menashe Amir

While it is still hard to predict if and when the ayatollah regime in Iran will fall, it is safe to say the mullahs in the Shiite country are on shaky ground.

As the Islamist regime in Iran marks 40 years to its establishment, local leaders there will admit there is not much reason to celebrate. They talk openly of their fears of an uprising and threaten that attempts to riot will be met with an iron fist.

In the streets of Tehran and other major cities throughout the country, protesters call to "leave Syria alone, deal with us!" and demand Iran end its financial support for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian organizations.

The country's coffers are quickly growing empty, its oil exports increasingly on the decline. While the U.S. may not meet its stated goal of bringing Iranian oil sales to zero, Iran is not being paid for the oil it does manage to sell in U.S. dollars. China, India and Turkey are willing to pay for Iran's oil in either local currency or goods, but these goods cannot provide for all of Iran's needs. While Europe was very much interested in continuing to engage in trade with Iran, almost all of the continent's large companies have already cut ties to the country.

Iran's leaders are now openly talking about the dire straits the country is in. In cabinet meetings, President Hassan Rouhani has spoken about the increasing problem of poverty in the country and the growing impact it is having on the public, including the middle class. Noting he was born into a poor family, Rouhani has noted he is well aware of the pains of poverty. Even radical religious figures have spoken out about the issue, although they attribute it to the inefficacy of Rouhani and his advisers.

The Rouhani government has been busy in recent weeks working on a budget proposal for the coming year, and in light of Iran's financial woes, budget cuts across all fields and sectors would seem the natural way to go. But Iran's institutions of influence are trying to squeeze everything they can out of the government, going so far as to demand increases to their budgets. Religious figures are leading the struggle on this end at a time when media outlets are reporting that education, health and welfare in the country are already suffering as a result of a lack of funding.

It is still hard to predict if and when the regime will fall, but it is safe to say the ayatollahs are on shaky ground. In the past two years, protests in Iran have seen demonstrators shout, "Death to the dictator!" While the regime has so far succeeded in keeping the protests under control, the next time their anger boils over, it could lead to the collapse of the regime. It is not only the United States but also Arab states that are working toward this end. According to foreign reports, Israel is involved as well.

Menashe Amir is an expert on Iranian affairs and former head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority's Persian language division.


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Prager U Video: What Do People Know About the Holocaust? - Prager University

by Prager University

Remembering the truth and terror on Holocaust Memorial Day

What do Americans know about the Holocaust? Will Witt hit the streets to find out.  Some replies are shocking. In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, we must never forget the 6 million Jews who lost their lives in Nazi Germany.

Prager University


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Belgium Welcomes Multiculturalism - Judith Bergman

by Judith Bergman

Belgium, in its well-intended welcome of newcomers from the Middle East, is now facing a persistent terrorist threat and a "wave of jihadism"

  • The report notes that the texts used call for gays to be stoned to death or thrown off buildings, and described Jews as "corrupt, evil and treacherous people".... The writings, the report continued...called for "war" on all people who do not follow Sunni Islam — From a recent report by the Belgian State Security Service.
  • "[T]he most important principle of jihad is to fight unbelievers and aggressors... Armed jihad becomes an individual duty for every Muslim." — From a teaching manual used in Belgian mosques, according to a leaked intelligence report.
  • Such manuals, noted the report, are widely available "thanks to the unlimited financial and technological means of the proselytizing apparatus of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states." The manuals, the report added, were found not only in Belgium but also in neighboring countries.

In May, Benjamin Herman, a criminal who converted to Islam in prison, murdered three people (including two police officers) in Liège, Belgium while out on a 48-hour leave. He then shot and wounded four more police officers while shouting "Allahu Akbar." Pictured: The city center of Liège. (Image source: iStock)

Belgium, in its well-intended welcome of newcomers from the Middle East, is now facing a persistent terrorist threat and a "wave of jihadism", according to a new report published by the Belgian State Security Service (VSSE) on November 30. The main reason for these recent acquisitions, notes the report, is the ongoing Islamic radicalization of inmates in Belgian prisons and the risk of terrorist convicts engaging in terrorist acts once they have served their sentences and are back out on the street.

"In the coming years," states the report, "the VSSE will be brought to pay particular attention to monitoring detainees convicted of acts of terrorism [after they are] released into freedom". The authors of the report do not reveal how many radicalized prisoners there are in Belgium; only that in September 2018, there were 130 inmates sentenced for terrorism or "in preventive detention in the context of a terrorism record".

"Taking into account the persistent recidivist tendency among former terrorism detainees, never mind radicalized common criminals, Belgium will continue to face a latent terror threat for some time to come," the report lets drop.

The Belgian intelligence services do not appear to consider Islam a factor in generating Islamic terrorism. Instead, the report offers up other explanations why Islamic terrorism is committed internationally: "... Real or perceived discrimination, political instability, poor economic conditions, unemployment, level of development."

Benjamin Herman, for example, was a criminal who converted to Islam in prison; then -- despite being on a state security list as a suspected radical -- last May, while out on a 48-hour leave from prison in the Belgian city of Liège, he murdered three people, including two police officers. He spared one woman, apparently because she was Muslim. Herman then shot and wounded four more police officers while shouting "Allahu Akbar." Interior Minister Jan Jambon said at the time of Herman's possible motives:
"There are signs that allow us to speak of radicalization in prison. But it can also be because he had no prospects anymore in our society, as he also committed a murder the night before."
In 2017, a leaked confidential report remarked that there were 51 organizations in Molenbeek -- an area in Brussels that has been called the "Jihadi capital of Europe", and that has fostered or harbored various jihadists, including several who were behind the 2015 Paris attacks.

Brussels itself was the site of an attack in March 2016, when Muslim terrorists killed 31 people and wounded around 300 people in the bombings of Brussels Airport and the Maalbeek metro station.

There also seems to be an ongoing process of Islamization currently taking place in Belgium.
Another area in which radicalization has been increasing, according to a separate confidential intelligence report leaked in May to the media, is apparently from mosques where jihad is preached. A number of them, including the Saudi-financed Great Mosque in Brussels, seem to have been training imams to promote armed jihad, Jew-hatred, and persecuting members of the LGBT community. The report notes that the texts used call for gays to be stoned to death or thrown off buildings, and described Jews as "corrupt, evil and treacherous people". The writings, the report continued, were "inspired mainly by classical Islamic law from the Middle Ages", and called for "war" on all people who do not follow Sunni Islam. "The most important principle of jihad," one teaching manual said, "is to fight unbelievers and aggressors... Armed jihad becomes an individual duty for every Muslim."

Such manuals, noted the report, are widely available "thanks to the unlimited financial and technological means of the proselytizing apparatus of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states." The manuals, the report added, were found not only in Belgium but also in neighboring countries, both in hard copy and online.

Another way that Islamization is spreading in Belgium is the removal of Christian traditions, for fear of "causing offense". In Bruges, the organizers of the Christmas market changed its name to "Winter Market" in order "not to offend other beliefs", the Belgian news outlet HLN disclosed.

Christmas lights will now be replaced by "winter lights". According to Pieter Vanderyse, the organizer of Bruges' Winter Market, "If we use the word Christmas, it will be associated with a religion, but we want to be more neutral. We have no idea where the commotion comes from, this is the second year the name has changed".

Also according to HLN, other Belgian cities, such as Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Hasselt, have also changed their Christmas Markets to "Winter Markets", "Winter Lands" or "Winter Fun".

One might speculate, however, that, in addition to being afraid of "causing offense", the organizers were also afraid of jihad. Christmas markets in Europe have become repeated targets of jihad. In 2016, a terrorist, Anis Amri, killed 12 people at a Christmas market in Berlin after pledging allegiance to ISIS. More recently, on December 2, 2018, a man wielding a hatchet and shouting "Allahu Akbar" ["Allah is the greatest"] visited a Christmas market in the German city of Witzenhausen, where he threatened several Christmas shoppers.

The growing desire to appease newcomers from the Middle East is not limited to commercial establishments, such as Christmas markets. The Catholic Church has also weighed in. At the funeral service in Liège for the two police officers that Benjamin Herman murdered, the Bishop of Liège, Jean-Pierre Delville, apparently innocent of Islam's tenets, said:
"We know that, if Islam has been invoked as the reason to kill, it is because it has been manipulated and held hostage by terrorists and violent people. So, we must help Islam get rid of such manipulative and perverted interpretations, by promoting dialogue and friendship all the time."
Belgium has its own Islamic party, named ISLAM ("Integrité, Solidarité, Liberté, Authenticité, Moralité"), which has, as its goal, creating an Islamic State, including the separation of men and women in buses. In the 2012 municipal elections, the party won two seats, one of them in Molenbeek. In the 2018 municipal elections, the party lost its seat in Molenbeek, winning less than 2% of the vote, so perhaps its appeal may be declining.

Belgium has also seen the growth of a possibly largely imported anti-Semitism. The Chief Rabbi of Brussels has not worn a skullcap in public since 2001, when he was attacked by a group of young Arab men. When a Belgian public broadcaster asked to film the Chief Rabbi and other members of the Jewish community walking on the street while wearing their skullcaps, they declined, saying that they feared for their safety. In 2014, a Muslim terrorist killed four people at the Brussels Jewish museum.

Half of all Muslim teens in Belgium hold anti-Semitic views, according to a 2013 study conducted for the Flemish government among almost 4,000 high school students in Antwerp and Ghent. Among Muslims, 50.9% of respondents agreed with the statement "Jews foment war and blame others for it," compared to 7.1% among non-Muslims. The statement "Jews seek to control everything" received a 45.1% approval rating among Muslims, compared to a 10.8% approval among non-Muslims. Approximately 35% of Muslims agreed with the statement that "Jews have too much clout in Belgium," compared to 11.8% of non-Muslims

According to the main Belgian anti-Semitism watchdog, the Belgian League Against Antisemitism, Belgian Jews live "in a permanent stage of siege".

"The presence of military on the street in front of Jewish sites is somewhat reassuring," said the president of the Belgian League Against Antisemitism, Joël Rubinfeld, last May. Over "the last two or three years," he said, his organization had dealt with a dozen cases of Jewish school students subjected to anti-Semitic bullying, as well as a broader trend of Jewish parents unwilling to risk sending their children to public schools.
"This is what they call a double punishment: on the one hand, they are victims of these antisemitic acts, of bullying, or even sometimes of physical violence, and on the other hand, it is they, and not the aggressors, who have to leave their school."
Rubinfeld also said that it has been difficult to convince Belgian politicians that the country has a serious problem with antisemitism. "Already in 2008-2009, I told them: 'If you do not do it for my children, do it for your children.'" He added that it has been difficult to convince Belgian politicians that the country has a serious problem.

Is it possible that Belgium has a few of them?

Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.


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Democrats going 'state's rights' on abortion - Silvio Canto, Jr.

by Silvio Canto, Jr.

Are the new laws in New York or the ones contemplated in New Hampshire or Virginia in violation of Roe v Wade?

For years, I've argued that states, or voters, should decide abortion. In other words, my problem with Roe v Wade was that it took the decision away from voters! 

In recent weeks, we've seen a surge of "blue states," such as New York, rushing to pass their own abortion laws,.

The latest is Rhode Island, according to news reports:
Like her fellow nominally Catholic governor Andrew Cuomo, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, who is also nominally Catholic, supports legislation making abortions legal up until the moment of birth.
The legislation, titled “The Reproductive Health Care Act, “ states that the state shall not “restrict an individual person from terminating that individual's pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to preserve the health or life of that individual…”
The legislation asserts, “For purposes of this section, ‘fetal viability’ means that stage of gestation where the attending physician, taking into account the particular facts of the case, has determined that there is a reasonable likelihood of the fetus' sustained survival outside of the womb with or without artificial support.”
The legislation repeals language in the state’s general laws saying that human life begins at conception.
Virginia is lining up, as we hear.

Where do we go from here? As I recall, Roe v Wade was about abortion in the first 12 weeks or so said the front page story on The New York Times back in 1973.

Are the new laws in New York or the ones contemplated in New Hampshire or Virginia in violation of Roe v Wade? Did anyone ever say that a woman has the right to an abortion at any time of her pregnancy? Did Roe say that?

Furthermore, does Texas, or another state, now have the right to pass a law that restricts abortion after 12 weeks?

It's a moral and legal mess. Maybe it's time for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and let the states figure it out. It appears that some are already doing that!

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Silvio Canto, Jr.


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The World Council of Churches and Jew-Hate - Joseph Puder

by Joseph Puder

WCC's telling policy on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

A Jerusalem Post headline on January 14, 2019 declared “World Council of Churches (WCC) use anti-Semitic rhetoric and advocate Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)” against Israel.  Research by NGO Monitor found that, “The WCC project – Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) has sent 1,800 Ecumenical Accompaniers from around the world to serve as observers in the West Bank and Jerusalem over the past 15 years, and aim to have 25 to 30 of these unofficial observers on the ground at all times. This is the only program of its kind run by the WCC.”

The stated goal of the EAPPI observers, according to the WCC, is to “offer protective presence and witness…monitoring and reporting human right abuses…standing with local peace and human rights groups…and advocacy (for Arab-Palestinians).” Naturally, this is a one-sided enterprise and pseudo “human rights” effort. It looks the other way on Arab-Palestinian terror, gross violations of human rights, hate propaganda, and anti-Semitism taught in Arab-Palestinian schools and mosques by the official Hamas and Palestinian Authority school systems.

According to the WCC website, the group represents 350 member churches in 110 countries, and half a billion Christians throughout the world. WCC member churches can be found in all regions of the world and include most of the Orthodox churches (Eastern and Oriental, i.e. Arab), as well as African Instituted, Anglican, Assyrian, Baptist, Evangelical, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Moravian, Old Catholic, Pentecostal, Reform, United/Uniting and Free /Independent churches, Disciples of Christ, and Friends (Quakers). The Roman Catholic Church is not a part of the WCC.

Significantly, many of these U.S. churches belong to the National Council of Churches. These liberal, left-leaning churches (also known as mainline Protestant churches) have participated in BDS campaigns.  Their policies are driven to a large extent by the missionaries of the churches in the Arab world, who upon returning from the Middle East, occupy key policy positions in their churches.

In its Executive Summary, NGO Monitor pointed out that, the World Council of Churches EAPPI program, “Despite marketing itself as a human rights and protection program, EAPPI places a significant emphasis on political advocacy before, during, and after the trip (its 1,800 volunteers take to the West Bank). When volunteers return to their home countries and churches, they engage in anti-Israel advocacy, such as BDS (Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions targeting Israel alone) campaigns, and comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.”

Participants in the EAPPI program are selected by country-specific non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) known as “National Coordinators.” The National Coordinators are active in BDS and other de-legitimization campaigns against Israel. EAPPI contributes to a United Nations (UN) “Working Group” consisting of a number of UN agencies and NGO’s that collaborate on and coordinate politicized anti-Israel campaigns in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).  In this capacity, EAPPI does a lot of administrative work, which is fed into the UN systems.

EAPPI, according to NGO Monitor, partners with a number of political NGO’s in the region, including groups that support BDS campaigns against Israel and/or accuse Israel of “war crimes.” The problem with the EAPPI program, as laid out by NGO Monitor, is that much of the EAPPI activities, and the direction it is receiving from its parent body - the WCC, amounts to efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state. Using Nathan Sharansky’s widely accepted (adopted by the U.S. State Department in 2010) definition of anti-Semitism, the 3-D’s test (Delegitimization, Demonization, and Double Standards used against Israel), which distinguishes legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism, the WCC efforts through the EAPPI add up to anti-Semitism. 

In response to the NGO Monitor report, the WCC offered the following response: “The WCC was established in 1948. WCC is a fellowship of Christian churches around the world representing half a billion Christians, and is committed to the cause of Christian unity and, in that spirit, to ‘breaking down barriers between people, seeking justice and peace, and upholding the integrity of creation.’ As G-d stands by the oppressed and marginalized, the WCC seeks, with its member churches, to stand by such people, wherever they are or whatever their faith tradition might be.”  Nothing in the above statement contradicts NGO Monitor’s assertion of WCC promoting anti-Semitism.

One must also remember that Arab Middle Eastern churches are part of the WCC. Arab clergy in these churches have been clearly and absolutely dhimmified, meaning that they have been intimidated into submission, and to serve regimes that seek to undermine the Jewish state and promote the Palestinian cause. Not that Arab regimes are particularly enamored with the Palestinians, but rather because their powerful and majority Islamist populations demand it. By joining the anti-Israel bandwagon, Christian leaders in the Arab world receive acceptance from their Muslim overlords. The WCC looks the other way when it comes to Palestinian racism and anti-Semitism, terrorism, and hate education. The WCC has made no efforts to bring Palestinians to the peace table, or expressed sympathy for about a million Jewish refugees from the Muslim world, uprooted from their homes after more than 2,000 years of living in states such as Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Libya, etc.

The one-sided advocacy by the WCC-EAPPI is reflected in the following report by an Ecumenical Accompaniment (EA) representative: “If you live in East Jerusalem outside the wall, or in Ramallah for example, and you work in Jerusalem, you need to be at the checkpoint early if you want to get to work on time. Getting through the checkpoint can take anywhere between one and several hours.” If you did not know better, this statement alone would elicit sympathy for the “poor” Palestinians. Nowhere, however, do EA representatives mention the fact that the checkpoints are in place because of Palestinian terrorism. Whether it is individual knifers out to murder innocent Israeli civilians, children, or the elderly, it does not matter, as long as the target is a Jew. If it is not an Arab-Palestinian knife-wielding terrorist, it might be a car-ramming terrorist bent on killing as many Israeli Jews as possible.  This is not a hypothetical point, it is a daily reality that Israel must defend itself by erecting a wall, and having checkpoints. Additionally, the biased EA (WCC) representatives do not mention the Palestinian Authority incitement to violence, and remittances to Palestinian murderers in Israeli prisons. One can only wonder what will happen to an Israeli-Jew who took a wrong turn and entered Ramallah. My guess is that they would not come out alive. That, however, doesn’t concern WCC representatives.

WCC Policy on Palestine and Israel 1948-2016 is a clear case of bias and ignorance. “Christian communities” are not “threatened by Israeli policies,” but rather by Palestinian intolerance of non-Muslims. In fact, in Israel alone, the Christian community has steadily grown and flourished. In the Palestinian territories, and the Arab and Muslim world, Christians have suffered persecution and death.  There is no such thing as Occupied Palestinian Territories. There was never a state of Palestine, only territories occupied by Jordan in 1948, and Palestinian rejection of the UN Partition Plan, which would have given them a state. Palestinians chose to destroy the nascent Jewish state rather than exercise their self-determination. They considered themselves Arabs, while the Jews were labeled Palestinians in 1948. Finally, the WCC policy which advocates Palestinian refugees “right of return,” is a code-word for the destruction of the Jewish state. It reaffirms the prejudice, and anti-Semitic stance of the WCC.

Joseph Puder


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Venezuela: Strike While the Iron is Hot - Matthew Hamilton

by Matthew Hamilton

In Venezuela, the Trump administration has an opportunity to score a huge foreign relations win and avert a humanitarian crisis simultaneously.

The Trump administration has decided that now is the opportune moment to depose the leftist Maduro dictatorship of Venezuela and is breaking out all of America’s tools to make sure he doesn’t stay in power.

Failure to successfully remove the Maduro regime will result in a continued and exacerbated humanitarian crisis which has already led to an exodus of over three million Venezuelans. Resolving the political crisis in Venezuela and restoring order and economic security won’t just avert a humanitarian crisis, it's an opportunity for the U.S. to flip Venezuela from being an adversary to an ally. That could be a significant blow to Cuba, Russia, Iran, and China, who have close relationships with the Venezuelan dictatorship. Golden opportunities for a diplomatic coup like this are rare.

The U.S. has a righteous cause in supporting the challenger to the Maduro regime, Juan Guaido. Guaido was recently made interim president by Venezuela’s National Assembly in the wake of months of protests which followed Nicolas Maduro’s victory in national elections last May. There are widespread suspicions that Maduro rigged those elections. Effectively, there are now two parallel governments in Venezuela. However, Maduro holds the high card with control of the military. As Mao Zedong astutely observed, “Political power comes from the barrel of a gun.”

Steps Already Taken
So far, the Trump administration has taken all the right steps to give Guaido the best possible chance of wresting control of Venezuela away from Maduro.

The Trump administration is throwing all its diplomatic power behind Guaido. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made Venezuela a litmus test for the rest of the world, "Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you're in league with Mr. Maduro and his mayhem," he told the United Nations Security Council. So far, almost the whole Western Hemisphere, have declared support for Guaido and most of Europe has announced plans to support his claim to the presidency if Maduro does not announce new elections within a few days.

The U.S. is also trying to put the squeeze on Maduro economically. On Monday the Trump administration announced sanctions against Venezuela’s state-run petroleum company, PdVSA, effective immediately. The U.S. also successfully convinced the U.K. to cut off Maduro from his government’s $1.2 billion worth of gold in the Bank of England.

Ostensibly, the plan is to remove Maduro’s control over the Venezuelan military by preventing him from being able to continue paying their meager salaries. This strategy could be undermined if one of Maduro’s benefactors offer him loans; however, it could successfully weaken loyalty to Maduro’s government amongst members of Venezuela’s armed forces and even lead to mass defections.

If Maduro hasn’t yet realized that he is in a tight spot, he will soon. And once he does, an exit plan will begin looking very appealing. Guaido has already offered him one, promising amnesty to Maduro for his past crimes.

What Happens Next?
Anything can happen next. Maduro could decide next week that he doesn’t have the best cards, take Guaido up on his offer for amnesty, and go live the rest of his life in lavish exile in some sympathetic state. Or he could decide that he’s not going anywhere and attempt to crush his opposition by force.

The Trump administration may be hoping for the best, but they are prudently preparing for the worst. National Security Advisor John Bolton told the press that, “[Trump] has made it clear, all options are on the table.” It also didn’t require sharp eyes to spot the line, “5,000 troops to Columbia,” on Bolton’s notepad.

But the Trump administration must tread a fine line if it wants Gauido to be successful. Anti-American sentiments run high in that part of the world and too much overt intervention by the U.S. -- even if successful -- could undermine the legitimacy of any government that follows. That’s not a good solution at all.

The solution (if past experience is any indication) which the Trump administration is currently pursuing, will be to encourage regional states to take ownership of the situation. The U.S. has two allies who border Venezuela and who have an immediate interest in preventing a civil war or humanitarian disaster which will lead to millions of additional refugees. Brazil and Columbia both prefer a stable neighbor to a dystopian socialist apocalypse. They are the natural choices for leadership of a South American coalition.

A regional coalition prepared to deal with any contingencies that might arise should Maduro refuse to step down isn’t just a prudent precaution, it would also dramatically alter Maduro’s calculations of his chances of holding onto power. Not only will he have to figure out how to combat domestic opposition but possibly foreign militaries as well. That beach house in Cuba will begin to look mighty tempting.

If Maduro doesn’t decide to step down and things devolve to a point where intervention is warranted, a regional coalition crucially provides the international opposition to Maduro the face of concerned neighboring states. South Americans solving South American problems.

U.S. intervention wouldn’t be precluded by the creation of a regional coalition -- the U.S. would still have options to use its intelligence and military assets either directly or in support of allied forces. But by working under the umbrella of a South American coalition, both the U.S. and the Guaido government would have political cover. The U.S. couldn’t be so easily attacked as imperialists and Guaido couldn’t be so easily attacked as an American puppet. It would also provide more legitimacy to Venezuelan elections and a new government if/when that point is reached.

The Trump administration has an opportunity to score a huge foreign relations win and avert a humanitarian crisis simultaneously. Hopefully, they can successfully form a South American coalition without there being any need for it. 

Matthew Hamilton


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The Mayors of the Worst Cities in America are Running for President - Daniel Greenfield

by Daniel Greenfield

Does anyone really want America to be more like Tallahassee, South Bend or Newark?

Newark is the most dangerous city in New Jersey, Tallahassee is the most dangerous city in Florida, and South Bend is the most dangerous city in Indiana. But instead of fixing their failed cities, the current mayor of South Bend, and the former mayors of Newark and Tallahassee want to run for president.

Mayor Peter Buttigieg has announced that he’s forming an exploratory committee for a 2020 run. Media reports have focused on the possibility that he might become America’s first gay millennial president, instead of on the fact that he’s headed a city since 2011 which has double the national and statewide violent crime rates. And a city where Hispanic poverty rates are 10% higher than the national average, African-American households have double the poverty rate, and Asian-American incomes are halved.

South Bend was recently rated one of the “worst cities” to live in. The unemployment rates are higher than average, the property values are lower, and even the water quality is below average.

Gushing media reports about the gay millennial mayor, a Harvard grad and a Rhodes scholar, overlook South Bend’s poverty rate of 24.7% and that 45% of households are living near the poverty level.

South Bend has a little over 100,000 residents, but there were over 100 criminal shootings in 2017 in the failed city which hosts murderous gangs such as the Latin Kings and Gangster Disciples.

In January 2019, just as Buttigieg was prepping his presidential run, three shootings in one week killed two teens and left a woman paralyzed from the waist down. In one summer week, the casualties included a 12 and a 13-year-old. In March, 6 people were hurt in one shooting spree.

 “It is a season for boldness and it is time to focus on the future,” Mayor Buttigieg declared in his presidential debut video. “Are you ready to walk away from the politics of the past?”

Buttigieg’s past is a poverty-stricken murder capital so it’s understandable that he would want to walk away from its blighted streets, wrecked industry and general misery to focus on his political future.

And he’s not alone.

Andrew Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor, coming off a humiliating defeat in the Florida gubernatorial race and still struggling with an ethics complaint tangled in an FBI investigation, also wants to throw his tattered hat into the 2020 ring.

Tallahassee’s murder rate tops bigger cities in Florida. And Leon County’s murder rate rose 83% in 2017.

“Tallahassee had the highest number of murders in history last year and we top the state for the highest crime rate,” his former chief of staff warned in his own campaign.

The poverty rate in Tallahassee is at 28.4%. That’s even worse than South Bend. One single zip code in Tallahassee has the highest concentration of poverty in Florida. 1 in 5 adults in Leon County have trouble reading. And even Florida State University had more violent crimes on campus than any other state school.  

That’s another reason why the Florida city was also ranked as one of the worst places to live in America.

There’s no conceivable reason why running South Bend or Tallahassee would qualify you for higher office, lower office or even any office at all. But Cory Booker exploited his tenure running the worst city in New Jersey to represent the entire state in the United States Senate. Booker has also joined the dozens of candidates vying for the opportunity to be the Democrat nominee for the White House.

Booker first became a national figure as Newark’s mayor. The charismatic politician got famous by promising to turn the troubled city around using a Twitter account and viral stunts that got him national headlines, but did nothing for the city he was running into the ground. And then, as Buttigieg is trying to do, he got out of there as soon as he could, using his new celebrity as a springboard to higher office.

Like Tallahassee and South Bend, Newark is one of the country’s murder capitals. And it’s been listed as the most violent city in its respective state. It’s also one of the worst cities in the country to live in.

That’s why the majority of people who work in Newark actually live away from the troubled city.

Like South Bend and Tallahassee, around 1 in 4 Newark residents live in poverty. A report this year listed Newark as the 3rd neediest city in America. A year after Booker jumped ship to become a senator, a report found that 18% of children in Newark were living in “extreme poverty”.  

The adult literacy rate in Newark is 52% making it the city with the fifth highest illiteracy rate in America.

How does the mayor of a city with the 5th highest illiteracy rate and the 3rd neediest residents actually aspire to higher office with that miserable track record of failure and human wreckage?

Mayor Booker based his claim of having turned Newark around on all the outside money he brought in. Where all that money went is an intriguing question that will gain urgency if he becomes the nominee.

In a typical viral stunt, Booker had appeared with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and Governor Chris Christie on Oprah where the dot com billionaire announced that he was donating $100 million to Newark’s public schools. That gift was supposed to be matched by another $200 million in donations.

Where did all that money go?

Millions were spent on $1,000 a day consultants. Union fat cats got fatter. The Foundation for Newark's Future squandered the money. And Booker was one of the five trustees of the Foundation.

In the summer of 2016, Booker positioned himself for a presidential run with a rousing DNC speech. But a few months earlier, the water in half of Newark public schools was found to be contaminated with dangerous levels of lead.

Newark already had more children suffering from dangerous levels than Flint. But, unlike Flint, the media refused to hold Booker, his predecessor or his radical successor, accountable for the horror.

South Bend, Tallahassee and Newark are tragic case studies of how the media’s appetite for charismatic minority politicians playing savior to troubled cities ignores the suffering of the people living there.

It is hard to see how anyone can look at Newark, South Bend or Tallahassee as success stories. And it’s even more unimaginable that the politicians tasked with turning them around should actually claim that walking away from cities with some of the highest poverty, murder and illiteracy rates in the country should qualify them to run the entire nation. They failed to turn around broken cities with populations between 100,000 and 250,000 people. Now they want to be in charge of a nation of over 300 million.

The mayors of the worst cities in America want to run America. Their cities have been rated as the worst places to live. Do Americans really want the country to be more like Tallahassee, South Bend or Newark?

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.


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Gantz presents: Hubris and slogans - Gideon Allon

by Gideon Allon

Benny Gantz's 1,662-word speech was replete with hollow statements such as "we are one people, we all share the same flag, anthem and military." He said nothing about his goals or why he is running.

Israel Resilience Party leader Benny Gantz's first political speech on Tuesday was replete with hubris. Perched up in his 6-foot-5-inch height, he looked down at us and announced, "On April 9, I shall form a government that is above the political fray."

Polls show his party is projected to win only about 20 seats. Thus, it is unlikely that he will get the presidential nod to form a government.

During his speech, he mentioned how he would govern seven times. "A government without masters or servants, without illicit gifts or cronies that act like clowns," he said at one point.

In another part of the speech he said his government will "project force against enemies and connect Israelis."

He also attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for being modern-day Louis XIV, accusing Netanyahu of harboring the same belief that "l'état, c'est moi." But that didn't stop Gantz from talking about himself, using "I" or "me" about 30 times.

His 1,662-word speech was replete with hollow statements such as "we are one people, we all share the same flag, anthem and military," "I am proud of our country" and "it is time for leadership that brings people together."

His criticism of Netanyahu was reserved, uttering his name only twice. But even this showed hubris, by saying, "Thank you for your 10 years of service – we can take it from here."

With all due respect, Mr. Gantz, the people haven't spoken yet. Why is Gantz already claiming to know what the future holds for  Netanyahu before the votes have even been cast?

The speech had no specifics, and the former chief of general staff did not rule out joining a Netanyahu government so long as he has not been officially indicted for corruption. Gantz said that "the mere fact that a prime minister could continue to serve while being on trial is ridiculous."

A final decision on whether to indict Netanyahu could take another two years. How will Gantz act until then? Will he refuse to join a Likud-led coalition for the time being?

Gantz said that "my government will be above the political fray, and will pursue peace, and not pass up on any opportunity to effect regional change, but if it turns out that peace is not within reach, we will create a new reality." That statement said nothing about Gantz's goals and why he is running.

I was not impressed by the threats he leveled at Israel's enemies, from Iran to Hamas, which carried the overall message of "don't test me."

By making reference to the former Hamas military wing commander Ahmad Jabari, he wanted to remind people that he, as the Israel Defense Forces chief seven years ago, presided over his assassination. This was his way of telling current terrorist leaders that they could expect a miserable life if he becomes prime minister.

Israel is doing much better than Gantz would like us to believe. Such general statements on how it is "unacceptable to have an entire generation grow up without hope" or that "we are going to once again become a society that allows its children to get a worthy education" underscore shallowness and a disconnect.

Gideon Allon


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Turkey's Sweeping "Educational" Penetration into the Balkans - Uzay Bulut

by Uzay Bulut

What is your jihad in the lands where you reside?

  • Erdogan repeatedly has said that his government aims to raise "devout generations" in Turkey. To this end, he has Islamized Turkey's education system. Now he is working on exporting Islamized curricula to Europe.
  • "Turkey's experience in religious education is very important to us, as it has advanced in a remarkable way. If we also use the imam hatip school method in our countries, in ten years we could also have a president [such as Erdogan] raised in an imam hatip school." — Participants in a conference of school administrators from Europe and the Balkans, 2017, according to the Maarif Foundation.
  • "...[J]ihad is obligatory until judgment day... in some places, jihad is done with the pen; in others it is done with the tongue. And in some other places, it is carried out with guns. What is your jihad in the lands where you reside? If Muslims are persecuted somewhere, it is because there is no caliphate where they live." — Nureddin Yıldız, one of the first members of the World Union of Scholars from Turkey and also the founding member of the Union of Scholars in Turkey, in a fatwa on his website.

The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is building a huge mosque in Tirana, Albania, to add to the kindergarden, primary-, middle- and high-schools, and university it runs in the city. Pictured: Tirana, Albania. (Image source: Bjørn Andersen/Wikimedia Commons)

As part of its expansionist neo-Ottoman agenda, the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been building mosques and setting up Islamic educational institutions around the world. The mosque that Ankara is currently constructing in Tirana, Albania, will reportedly be the largest of the dozens of its mosques in the Balkans.

Through the Maarif Foundation -- established in 2016 by means of a law enacted by the Turkish parliament, which gave it the authority to open schools abroad -- a kindergarden, primary-, middle- and high-schools were built in Tirana. In October 2018, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was the keynote speaker at the inauguration in Albania of the Maarif-run University of New York Tirana.

According to the 2016 Maarif law, the foundation aims to "give and develop services of formal and informal education abroad." Some of its activities include "giving scholarships to students, opening schools, educational institutions and dormitories and training educators who will work at these institutions."

Maarif ("education" in Arabic) is a well-funded institution whose income comes from the Turkish government as well as from private donors, among other sources. Four members of its board of trustees are appointed by Turkey's president and three by the Council of Ministers. Its seven permanent members are also government employees.

According to its official website, Maarif runs 257 schools in 58 of the 95 countries it has approached. Turkish media reported in December that Maarif completed the process of turning 145 schools in the world linked to Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen -- whom the Turkish government accuses of organizing the 2016 failed coup -- into Maarif-run institutions.

On January 15, Maarif signed a cooperation agreement with the Diyanet, the Turkish government-funded Directorate of Religious Affairs -- which has built dozens of mosques worldwide -- to work together on educational and cultural matters.

The Turkish government appears to attach special importance to the Balkan states of southeastern Europe, a region that the Ottoman Turks conquered and ruled from the 14th to the early 20th centuries. Thus far, the Maarif Foundation is active in Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). It is also slated to open schools in Romania this year.

In early May 2017, Maarif organized a meeting of the administrators of its schools in the Balkans and other European countries. Participants from Germany, Belgium, Austria, Bosnia, Denmark, Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, Kosovo, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Albania delivered speeches at the gathering. These participants, according to Maarif, said that "Turkey's experience in religious education is very important to us, as it has advanced in a remarkable way. If we also use the imam hatip school method in our countries, in ten years we could also have a president [such as Erdogan] raised in an imam hatip school."

Erdogan repeatedly has said that his government aims to raise "devout generations" in Turkey. To this end, he has Islamized Turkey's education system. Now he is working on exporting Islamized curricula to Europe.

At a July 2017 event, the president of the Maarif Foundation, Birol Akgün, said that the aim of his organization is to raise a generation with "maturity in the Islamic sense."

The vice president of the Maarif Foundation, Osman Nuri Kabaktepe, is particularly notable. Kabaktepe is the former head of the youth branches of the Islamist Felicity (Saadet) Party, once led by Necmettin Erbakan, the late Turkish prime minister known for his fierce Jew-hatred and hostility to Israel and Europe. Erbakan, who championed a pan-Islamic union among Muslim peoples, has been described by Erdogan as "a teacher and a leader."

Kabaktepe also serves as vice president of the Istanbul-based, pro-Hamas Cihannüma Association for Solidarity and Cooperation Platform. At a Cihannüma-sponsored event last April, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal delivered a speech in which he thanked Turkey for "making a significant contribution to reintegrating Palestinian territories into Palestine again." The event was organized jointly with the Istanbul-based Association of Jerusalem and our History" (KUTAD). KUTAD is headed by Jihad Ya'amur, a Hamas terrorist who was involved in the 1994 abduction and murder of Israeli soldier Nahshon Waxman.

Kabaktepe previously sat on the board of Turkey's IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, a pro-government Islamist organization that has been accused of smuggling arms and dispatching jihadists to places such as Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan and of financing Hamas, under the guise of charity for Gaza.

Kabaktepe is also a senior consultant -- along with Erdogan's son, Bilal -- for the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), an Islamist group that aims to "support and educate Turkish and other Muslim youth" in and beyond Turkey. Kabaktepe frequently lectures university students at TÜGVA's "academic camps" on issues related to political Islam.

In a 2015 lecture at the Social Fabric Foundation -- led by the pro-jihad cleric Nureddin Yıldız -- Kabaktepe referred to Erbakan's having called Western civilization "filthy," and claiming that the West owes its technological achievements to early Muslim inventions. Kabaktepe added:
"Islam is the most superior. Muslims are the most superior. That is what the [Koran] says."
Yıldız, with whom Kabaktepe has an ongoing cooperative relationship, issued the following fatwa [Islamic opinion] on his website:
"...[J]ihad is obligatory until judgment day... in some places, jihad is done with the pen; in others it is done with the tongue. And in some other places, it is carried out with guns. What is your jihad in the lands where you reside? If Muslims are persecuted somewhere, it is because there is no caliphate where they live."
The Maarif Foundation, it seems, is using education as one form of jihad.
As the journalist Tom Ellis recently warned:
"[Turkey's] continued penetration in the Balkans -- using religion as a way in... should be of particular concern to Western powers."

Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. She is currently based in Washington D.C.


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