Saturday, January 11, 2020

Watch: Iranians protest after IRGC admits shooting down Ukraine Airlines plane - Arutz Sheva Staff

by Arutz Sheva Staff

Iranians demand Ali Khamenei resign, shout 'death to the Islamic Republic,' after Revolutionary Guards admits to shooting civilian plane.

Iranians on Saturday gathered in the streets of Tehran to demand Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei step down after the military shot down a civilian plane belonging to Ukraine International Airlines shortly after it took off from Tehran's airport.

The move killed all 176 people aboard the plane - at least 130 of them Iranian citizens.

Among other slogans, protesters shouted "death to liars," "death to the Islamic Republic," and "Khamenei is a killer." They also shouted "We want freedom," and "down with the lying regime."

Videos posted on Twitter showed hundreds of people demonstrating in front Tehran's Amir Kabir University, shouting, "Commander-in-chief [Khamenei] resign, resign."

Earlier on Saturday, Iranians held vigils around Tehran, mourning the victims of the crash.

Iran initially denied having anything to do with the crash, but US officials said early on that the plane had been shot down by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

On Saturday, however, Iran finally admitted that it had made a mistake and shot the plane after it flew too close to a sensitive military site and failed to respond to signals.

Arutz Sheva Staff


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Treasury’s Role in Financing Iranian Terror - John A. Cassara

by John A. Cassara

Donald Trump should make it a priority to find out exactly what Obama's Treasury Department did to give billions to Iran

There are reports that some of the $1.7 billion that Obama gave to Iran as part of the Iran deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been traced to Iran-backed terror groups, including Qassem Soleimani’s Quds Force, Iran’s principal foreign intelligence and covert action arm and part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. What is not discussed is that the money could not have been funneled to Iran without active support from actors within the Treasury Department.

As a former Treasury Special Agent, the suspect actions of some of my ex-colleagues saddens and dismays me. Their actions also hypocritically counter both our anti-money laundering/counter-terrorist finance programs and the international financial systems and safeguards that Treasury worked hard to implement and protect.

Since 1979 Iran has conducted virtual acts of war and terror against the United States and our allies. The State Department designated Iran as the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. Iran is also one of the most corrupt regimes in the world.

So why did some Treasury officials move to obfuscate, if not launder, the money that Obama wanted delivered to the mullahs in Iran? Why did Treasury participate in a quid pro quo or act of bribery? Why would they engage in subsequent deception and cover-up?

he short answer is Treasury willfully became blind and politicized. It wasn’t just the Department of Justice and John Brennan’s CIA that were sullied during the Obama administration.

In 2018, columnist Mark Theissen discussed some of Treasury’s suspicious activities in his article, “Obama took Lying to New Heights with the Iran Deal.”
  • Obama failed to disclose to Congress secret side deals on inspections when he transmitted the nuclear accord to Capitol Hill.
  • Treasury secretly tried to help Iran use U.S. banks to convert $5.7 billion in Iranian assets, after promising Congress that Iran would not get access to the U.S. financial system. Treasury officials then apparently lied to Congress about what the administration had done.
  • Senate investigators found that the Treasury Department “granted a specific license that authorized a conversion of Iranian assets worth billions of U.S. dollars using the U.S. financial system” including unlimited future Iranian deposits at Bank Muscat in Oman until the license expired.
  • After issuing the license, Treasury explicitly denied to Congress that it had done so.
  • Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) "encouraged two U.S. correspondent banks to convert the funds." Senate investigators found "both banks declined to complete the transaction due to compliance, reputational, and legal risks associated with doing business with Iran."
  • In response to Congressional inquiries, Treasury officials declared "The U.S. Department of Treasury is not working on behalf of Iran to enable Iranian access to U.S. dollars elsewhere in the international financial system, nor are we assisting Iran in gaining access to dollar payment systems outside the U.S. financial system. The Administration has not been and is not planning to grant Iran access to the U.S. financial system." The facts contradict Treasury’s statement.
  • Treasury participated in approximately 200 international "roadshows" where it encouraged foreign financial institutions to do business with Iran "as long as the rest of the world left the United States out of it."
The Obama administration also signed a secret document lifting sanctions on two Iranian state banks that were previously blacklisted for their involvement in financing Iran's ballistic missile program. This occurred the same day Tehran released four American prisoners. In prior years, Treasury was vehemently opposed to the same banks for their alleged role in financially backing Iran's missile program. 

President Obama had the right to conduct and implement his foreign policy. Certainly, politically attuned attorneys in Treasury and elsewhere provided rulings and legal cover for the JCPOA. President Trump exercised the same right to rescind the JCPOA, an agreement he called “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” 

There is conflicting information about the specifics of the $1.7 billion sent to Iran. There has never been a full and transparent accounting showing how Treasury effected payment (e.g., manner of wire transfers, use of foreign banks, foreign currencies, flights of pallets of cash to Iran?). The U.S. military and intelligence community has been able to follow some of the money as it was routed to Iranian-backed terror groups but we lack details. How did they track it? Were the money transfers hidden, disguised or laundered? Were additional parties or conduits involved? Were waivers or exemptions granted to skirt sanctions? Was the U.S. government subsequently able to follow the money trail to corrupt Iranian officials? The money has certainly not been used to better the lives of the Iranian people. 

There are also charges and counter-charges about Iran’s right to compensation. 

Before the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran’s government put $400 million for military equipment into the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) account. In 1981, Iran filed a claim at The Hague to have that money returned. 

The Obama administration contended that the $1.7 billion sent to Iran represented the $400 million plus $1.3 billion in interest and that the money legally belonged to Iran. That’s simplistic and doesn’t tell the whole story. In 1981, the US filed an $817 million counterclaim alleging that Iran violated its obligations under the FMS program. Some observers feel that it is Iran that owes the U.S., as the list of sponsored attacks, victims, and damages against Americans is long, bloody, and costly. 

In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed a law stipulating that Iran’s FMS account could not be refunded until court judgments against Iran for damages from terrorist acts against American citizens were resolved to America’s satisfaction. Obama ignored the law. To date, U.S. courts have ruled Iran owes nearly $55.6 billion to American victims of its terror. 

There are also still questions about the JCPOA agreement’s promises to lift sanctions on Iran’s economy in exchange of Iran scaling back its nuclear program. It is estimated the JCPOA resulted in the release of between $50 - $150 billion in frozen Iranian assets in the international financial system. Commentator Mark Levin looked at the numbers and said, “Obama is the biggest funder of terrorism the world has ever seen.” 

Treasury is justifiably proud of innovative tools such as sanctions and designations it developed to fight the War on Terror. It is sad and ironic that the same Department of Treasure facilitated some of Iran’s terror. 

The Treasury’s Office of Inspector General should conduct an internal review of Obama’s Treasury regarding the above. Judicial Watch, a nonprofit group promoting government transparency, could get involved. 

The best course of action would be for President Trump -- while his impeachment plays out for his alleged “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress” -- to order the Departments of Treasury, Justice, and State, the National Security Council, and elsewhere to release all documents, including emails, touching upon the Obama administration’s deliberations on paying Iran’s claim, any linkage to the JCPOA, and possible side deals. President Trump should also order a full accounting of the form and method of the $1.7 billion payment to Iran. 

Americans deserve full transparency and accountability about the Obama Treasury Department’s role in providing money to the Iranian terror regime.  

John A. Cassara is a former U.S. intelligence officer and Treasury special agent, author, and consultant. He has written numerous books and articles on money laundering and terror finance. Additional information is available at
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US sanctions Iran following attack on troops in Iraq - Elad Benari

by Elad Benari

US sanctions eight Iranian officials involved in ballistic missile attack on US troops in Iraq this week.

The United States announced on Friday it is imposing additional sanctions on Iran following its attack on US troops in Iraq this week.

“We are announcing additional sanctions against the Iranian regime,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a news conference in the White House with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo and Mnuchin said the new sanctions will target eight senior Iranian officials as well as companies in the steel and other sectors.

“They’ve carried out terrorist plots and destabilizing campaigns across the Middle East and around the world,” Pompeo said.

“The goal of our campaign is to deny the regime the resources to conduct destructive foreign policy. We want Iran to simply behave like a normal nation,” he added.

Iran on Tuesday night launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against US military and coalition forces in Iraq, in retaliation for the US drone strike that killed Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.

Friday’s sanctions are aimed at eight individuals allegedly involved in Tuesday night’s ballistic missile strike, including general Gholamreza Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Basij militias.

Some 17 individual steel manufacturers are were added to the Treasury blacklist.

"As a result of these actions, we will cut off billions of dollars of support to the Iranian regime," Mnuchin said.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the new sanctions, saying he “congratulates President Trump on his decision to apply additional sanctions on the terror regime in Iran that oppresses the Iranian people and threatens world peace.”

Elad Benari


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The Hatred Whose Name We Dare Not Speak - Daniel Mandel

by Daniel Mandel

Why the self-censorship when anti-Semitic violence is perpetrated by blacks?

Week after week come new headlines of attacks upon Jews walking the streets of ordinary, traditionally Jewish New York neighborhoods.

Since the beginning of December, there have been eight attacks upon Jews, starting with the shooting assault on a Jersey City Jewish supermarket which left three innocents dead.

Quite simply, even a mere year or two ago, this was not a problem one would have expected to see in the post-Second World War United States. A new menace to Jewish life, a reawakened anti-Semitism, reminiscent of the 1930s, with its Nazi and fascist infection, when Jews were last victimized in American streets, is now with us and a high proportion of this anti-Semitic violence is being perpetrated by African-Americans.

The problem is also large when viewed in the total context of hate crimes in the US: in the third quarter of 2019, anti-Jewish incidents comprised roughly half of all hate crimes recorded by New York City police.

After the Jersey City attacks, some local blacks despicably blamed Jews for living in the neighborhood and thus supposedly causing the attack.

Astonishingly, a local black official, Jersey City School Board member Joan Terrell-Paige, asked “Where was all this faith and hope when Black homeowners were threatened, intimidated, and harassed by I WANT TO BUY YOUR HOUSE brutes of the jewish [sic] community?” whom she accused of having “waved bags of money”  in front of black homeowners.

In one of the five assaults in New York City during Chanukah, a Jewish man, walking in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, was confronted by a gang of black youths screaming anti-Semitic obscenities at him, one of whom threw his drink at him.

In another assault, also in Crown Heights, a Jewish man was accosted by a group of eight black teenagers and knocked to the ground.

More serious still, this past weekend, a machete-wielding African-American man, Grafton Thomas, attempted to murder several Jews after entering a rabbi’s home in the orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Monsey in upstate New York. Thomas stabbed five people, one of whom was seriously injured.

More than a century ago, Lord Alfred Douglas, the lover of Irish playwright and wit, Oscar Wilde, devised a euphemism for the-then illegal activity of homosexual sex, ‘The love that dare not speak its name.’ Today, as though it were illegal or grossly offensive to identify anti-Semitic acts committed by anyone other than whites, officialdom substitutes the vocabulary of the mealy-mouthed. It would appear that attacks on Jews are viewed as serious and deserving of scrutiny and action only when committed by credentialed haters like white supremacists.

Thus, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed in the midst of December’s anti-Jewish attacks that “‘most’ of the ‘violent and anti-Semitic attacks around this country’ are ‘fermented systematically and in an organized fashion by right-wing forces’” and that President Trump was also largely responsible for this.

Similarly, Representative Rashida Tlaib (D–MI) asserted that the Jersey City attack was a case of “white supremacy.” Still others opt for silence.

Where are the African-American community leaders, local and national, decrying this anti-Jewish violence perpetrated by members of their community? Where are the New York City Democratic representatives? Senator Charles Schumer has condemned the attacks as “pure evil” and called for a federal investigation into the attack, but why have we heard nothing, for example, from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Only last October, Representative Ocasio-Cortez could be found absurdly accusing President Donald Trump of anti-Semitism. Now, when confronted by actual anti-Semitic assaults in the streets of her own city, not a word was to be heard from her.

Mayor de Blasio, it is true, was not silent, observing that “It’s not enough to condemn anti-Semitism — we have to confront it … The NYPD … will bring the perpetrators to justice.”

However, as the Orthodox Jewish newspaper, Vos Iz Neias, notes, “Mayor De Blasio’s policy has proved to be consistent: send out a tweet (only sometimes). Arrest the perpetrators. Release them a few hours later back onto the streets … The mayor cannot claim to be serious about eliminating anti-Semitic attacks in the city, while at the same time refusing to keep the perpetrators of these very crimes off the streets.”

New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has been forthright and active, describing the Monsey attack as a case of “domestic terrorism” and issuing instructions to state police to increase patrols in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods across the state, but the silence from many other Democrats and African-African-American leaders remains alarming and symptomatic of the problerm.

The systematic ignoring and misidentification of black anti-Semitic assaults is an unsustainable and unserious approach to a profoundly serious problem. Regrettably, at this moment, we have no reason to expect progress because the reluctance to confront black anti-Semitism is not mysterious: it stems from a general reluctance to condemn anti-Semitism committed by anyone other than white racists because doing so would call attention to the widespread nature of the problem and beg the question of its durability and resurgence.

Any searching examination would soon reveal that anti-Semitism is not simply another bigotry, but rather an intellectual and spiritual disease which invests Jews with virtually supernatural capacity to harm humankind as the essential first step in mobilizing the masses to persecute and even murder them.

Those who wish to rid the world of the Judeo-Christian moral and intellectual legacy can do no better than targeting its Jewish progenitors. This is why anti-Semitism has been rife across time and place, operates without the normal stimulants of ethnic animosity or competition for territory or resources, and even appears in societies devoid of Jews.

The African-American community must confront the problem of anti-Semitic sentiment and violence within and this can only start with the African-American leadership recognizing the problem, taking the lead, forthrightly condemning the assaults, and visibly engaging in acts of solidarity with Jews.

Progress also cannot occur when leaders like Mayor De Blasio and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders embrace radical Muslim activists like Linda Sarsour.

In short, positive words without positive action, or worse, coupled with negative action, has not and will not suffice.

This is a moment of truth for Democrats and for African-Americans, to be counted in substantive opposition to the haters within their ranks with a view to marginalizing them, or to quietly acquiesce in this alarming state of affairs, to the detriment of American Jews and society in general in the years to come. Their decision will shape the country the United States will become.

Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the Zionist Organization of America’ s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt & the Establisment of Israel (Routledge, London, 2004).


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Eye-popping video exposes brazen junk science by federal climate assessment program - John Edison

by John Edison

Fact versus climate fiction exposed

Is the federal government a disinterested player in the debate on climate science? Not based on an impressive video that outlines some of the shenanigans of government agencies, which supposedly watch the matter. 

Composed of 13 federal agencies that conduct research on global changes that impact society, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is a federal project that issues periodic reports about the climate in the United States. In 1989, the year it was established, USGCRP was mandated by Congress to coordinate federal research related to the human and natural forces that affect the global environment. Billed as the leading federal authority on global warming science, USGCRP and its affiliate agencies are tasked with educating a trusting public about Earth's ever changing climate. 

The program's periodic reports are referred to as national climate assessments, which are eagerly parroted in Western media as part of an ongoing conspiracy to frighten uninformed voters into supporting massive carbon energy taxes that would radically alter the lifestyle of all but the wealthiest Americans. Since its inception, USGCRP's climate assessments have been, to the best of my knowledge, overwhelmingly pessimistic. The National Climate Assessment released in November 2018 is typically dire: "The impacts of climate change, including powerful storms, droughts and wildfires, are worsening in the United States." Most Americans would be shocked to know that USGCRP's climate assessments are little more than brazen environmental propaganda, and what follows is convincing proof of that contention.

Tony Heller, who runs the website, exposes malicious data manipulation by USGCRP and other government entities. A lifelong environmentalist who has used a bicycle for all of his local travel over the last 40 years, Heller holds a B.S. in geology (Arizona State University) and a Master's in electrical engineering (Rice University). As part of his efforts to put the glare of bright light on junk climate science, Heller produced an absolutely devastating video that lays bare the fraudulent presentation of climate data by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. How so? To produce its frightening assessments, USGCRP cherry-picks the starting point of climate graphs to give the false impression that hot days, wildfires, sea level rise and other climate indicators are undergoing cataclysmic negative changes, when just the opposite is true, as Heller's video clearly shows.

To most everyone except the scientists who create them, climate graphs can cause the human brain to spasm. Heller's video has several such graphs, so follow his presentation closely, and if necessary, watch it more than once. I guarantee it will be the best thing you're likely to see in understanding how the American public is being played for fools by USGCRP's national climate assessments and the corrupt Western media that breathlessly report them as gospel. You can help expose the federal government's role in disseminating climate propaganda by sharing Heller's video far and wide.

As happened to opponents of every totalitarian movement in history, Heller, who goes by the pseudonym "Steven Goddard," is routinely vilified by the climate crisis cabal. Exposing junk science is expensive and time-consuming. To support Heller's full-time efforts in that regard, click here.

An electrical engineering graduate of Georgia Tech and now retired, John Eidson is a freelance writer in Atlanta.

Image credit: YouTube screen shot.

John Edison


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France, The "Budding Islamic Republic" - Giulio Meotti

by Giulio Meotti

"Five years after the killings at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher, France has learned to live with the Islamist threat," wrote Yves Thréard

  • In a country that used to stand for freedom of expression, self-censorship is soaring.
  • "For the past five years, I've been going to the police station every month or so to file a complaint about death threats, not insults, death threats". — Marika Bret, a journalist at Charlie Hebdo today, January 8, 2020.
  • "Nobody dares to publish caricatures of Mohammed anymore. Self-censorship prevails.... Hate is directed against those who resist obscuring information rather than against those who obscure it. Not to mention the psychiatrization of terrorism in order better to exonerate Islam. If we had been told in the early 2000s that in 2020, around 20 French cartoonists and intellectuals would be under police protection, no one would have believed it." — Pascal Bruckner, author.
  • A Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, was tortured and murdered in her Paris apartment by her neighbor, Kobili Traoré, who was yelling "Allahu Akbar." A court of appeals recently ruled that Traoré, because he had smoked cannabis, was "not criminally responsible" for his actions. As France's Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia said, it is a "license to kill Jews".

In France, a country that used to stand for freedom of expression, self-censorship is soaring five years after the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. On January 7, 2015, the jihadists Chérif and Saïd Kouachi murdered 12 people and wounded 11 more when they attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Pictured: A bullet-riddled police car at the site of the attack, January 7, 2015. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

"Five years after the killings at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher, France has learned to live with the Islamist threat," wrote Yves Thréard, deputy editor at the daily newspaper Le Figaro.
"Not a month goes by... without a murderous attack with the cry of 'Allahu Akbar' taking place on our soil.... But what is the point of fighting the effects of Islamism if we do not tackle the origins of this ideology of death? On that front, however, denial continues to compete with naiveté. Nothing has changed in the last five years. On the contrary.
"In the name of diversity, non-discrimination and human rights, France has accepted a number of blows to its culture and history... Islamists are a hot-button issue. They continue the fight which, even without weapons, has all the allure of a war of civilizations. Is the famous 'Charlie spirit', which some people thought was blowing after the January 2015 attacks, just an illusion?"
France has been marking the fifth anniversary of the deadly jihadist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which took place on January 7, 2015. Last month, French Senator Nathalie Goulet warned that more attacks were likely. "In France we have a serious problem and we need to do more to prevent extremists from acting. As it stands, there will be more attacks," said Goulet said.

There are believed to be 12,000 radical Islamists on France's terror watch-list, "however only a dozen are thought to be under 24-hour surveillance."

This week was marked by yet a new string of Islamist terror attacks: police injured a knife-wielding man on a street in the northeastern city of Metz, two days after a suspected Islamist radical in the Paris suburb of Villejuif stabbed a man to death, an act that prosecutors are treating as a terror attack. In both incidents, the assailants shouted "Allahu Akbar." This type of attack was dubbed "ordinary jihad" in a Le Figaro editorial this week.

On January 7, 2015, the cartoonists and journalists Cabu, Charb, Honoré, Tignous and Wolinski, the psychoanalyst Elsa Cayat, the economist Bernard Maris and the policeman Franck Brinsolaro fell under the bullets of the jihadist brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi. Charlie Hebdo's 2020 anniversary issue commemorated the massacre and slammed the "new gurus of monolithic thinking" who are trying to impose politically correct censorship.

The outburst of indignation of the French people, gathered in Paris for a massive demonstration on January 11, 2015, was not enough to awaken the spirit of resistance of the French leaders and elites against Islamism and its collaborators. "The seriousness of the Islamist political fact in France is strongly underestimated", says the lawyer Thibault de Montbrial, president France's Center for Internal Security Studies.

In a country that used to stand for freedom of expression, self-censorship is soaring. "For the humorists in France, it's always easy to make fun of the Pope and the Catholics, it's always easy to make fun of Jews, it's always easy to make fun of Protestants," confesses a long-time Charlie Hebdo columnist, Patrick Pelloux. For Islam, it is not easy. "We feel that this religion is scary. The word Islam is scary, and on that, the terrorists have won." Submission is winning.

While French prisons have become a breeding ground for jihadists, the Islamization of the cities' suburbs, the banlieues, is proceeding full tilt. The weekly Le Point recently devoted a cover story to the "territories conquered by the Islamists." In many of these areas, violence rages; 1,500 cars were torched there on New Year's Eve. In recently published book, "Les territoires conquis de l'islamisme" ("The Territories Conquered by Islamism"), by Bernard Rougier, a professor at the University Sorbonne-Nouvelle and director of the Center for Arab and Oriental Studies, he explains that Islamism is an "hegemonic project", splintering working-class neighborhoods. These "ecosystems", he states, work on a "logic of rupture" of the French society, its values and institutions, and are built on mosques, bookstores, sport clubs and halal restaurants.

Hugo Micheron, a researcher at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, suggested that jihadists are comfortable in "territorial and community isolation". "Today," said the president of the Ministry of Education's Conseil supérieur des programmes, Souâd Ayada, "the visibility of Islam in France is saturated by the veil and the jihad".

While Islamist preachers and recruiters are out on the streets, seeking out the weak minds that will form the first line of their holy war, political Islam also forms electoral lists in France's suburbs. French President Emmanuel Macron opposed banning these political groups. "France is a budding Islamic republic," noted the Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal. In those "territories", he said, live many of the terrorists who attack France, from the Kouachi brothers of Charlie Hebdo to the jihadists who murdered scores of people at the Bataclan Theater.

Two populations who live "side by side" would soon find themselves "face to face", said Gérard Collomb, a former Minister of the Interior. He was right. Islamists are also housed inside public institutions.

Islamists have, in addition, recruited dozens of French soldiers and ex-servicemen who have converted to Islam. Many have come from commando units with expertise in handling weapons and explosives. France is turning into a "society of vigilance" in its fight against the "Hydra" of Islamist militancy, as Macron said.

In the five years since the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, which targeted freedom of expression, Islamists have been able to commit atrocities against targets such as a priest in a Catholic Church in Rouen; a national secular holiday (the Bastille Day attack in Nice); Jewish communities (from Paris to Toulouse), and ordinary people. Last October, an Islamist struck in one of France's most secure buildings: the monumental Paris Police headquarters near Notre Dame cathedral, where he murdered four of his colleagues. "This is a major turning point in Islamist terrorism", said Gilles Kepel, an expert on Middle East and jihadism.
"It is hard to believe that the police on which we rely to protect us and which is supposed to be our last rampart against terrorism, can itself be the victim of terrorism, with throats slit in the holy of holies of the Police Prefecture".
In the wake of the attack, seven police officers, "suspected of radicalization," had their guns confiscated.

"I have the impression that our immune defenses have collapsed and that Islamism is winning", says the French writer Pascal Bruckner.
"Its main demands have been met: nobody dares to publish caricatures of Mohammed anymore. Self-censorship prevails.... Hate is directed against those who resist obscuring information rather than against those who obscure it. Not to mention the psychiatrization of terrorism, in order better to exonerate Islam. If we had been told in the early 2000s that in 2020, around 20 French cartoonists and intellectuals would be under police protection, no one would have believed it. The threshold of servitude has increased."
Five years after the terrorist murders at Charlie Hebdo, free speech is less free in France. "No one today would publish the cartoons of Muhammad", said Philippe Val, the former editor of Charlie Hebdo, recently.

"For the past five years, I've been going to the police station every month or so to file a complaint about death threats, not insults, death threats", says Marika Bret, a journalist at Charlie Hebdo today.

In Paris, five years after the murders at Charlie Hebdo, there was a big march to protest not terrorism, but "Islamophobia". "Voltaire fades before Muhammad, and the Enlightenment before the Submission", wrote the author Éric Zemmour. And Qatar still freely finances the construction of French mosques.

In 2017, two years after Jews were murdered in a terrorist attack at a kosher supermarket in Paris, a Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, was tortured and murdered in her Paris apartment by her neighbor, Kobili Traoré, who was yelling "Allahu Akbar." A court of appeals recently ruled that Traoré, because he had smoked cannabis, was "not criminally responsible" for his actions. As France's Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia said, it is a "license to kill Jews".

"Anti-Semitism today is so blatant that it would be difficult to hide it without falling into ridicule," said the historian Georges Bensoussan. "What is taboo is the anti-Semites" -- meaning that today, in France, it is taboo to say that Islamism is the most important source of anti-Semitism.

One week after the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo, in which nine of its staff members were killed and another four wounded, the magazine published a cover depicting the Prophet of Islam with a tear on his cheek, and saying: "Tout est Pardonné" ("All is forgiven") . Five years later, all actually does seem to have been forgiven. Then, many proudly said, "I am Charlie". Most proved they were not.

Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.


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Within 48 hours of taking over Virginia legislature Democrats pass first gun ban of 2020 - M. Catharine Evans

by M. Catharine Evans

Dems pass a total ban on guns at the state capitol and legislative office buildings, falsely claiming it is at the request of Capitol Police

Virginia Democrats have full control of the state government and they are making the most of it. Less than two days after Virginia opened the 2020 legislative session, newly empowered lawmakers voted to pass a total ban on guns at the state capitol and legislative office buildings. Previously, those with a valid, concealed handgun permit were allowed to bring a gun into the Capitol. Weapons were only banned in the Senate gallery and the governor's office. "Our focus is to keep everybody safe," said Democratic House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. "These are policies and rules that should have passed a long, long time ago." 
Democratic House Majority Leader Charneile Herring claimed the sudden policy decision by the Joint Rules Committee, just a handful of people, was at the request of the Capitol Police. "I think there are times when we sort of have to trust what our law enforcement officers are telling us," she said. When asked by reporters, after the rushed and less than transparent committee meeting, Capitol Police Col. Anthony Pike said he had made no recommendations on whether guns should be banned, only how to implement the ban. GOP Del. Kirk Cox called Herring's attempt to put the onus on the Capitol Police "a deliberate misrepresentation, there's just no way around that, " he said.
Virginia State Capitol (photo credit: Ron Cogswell)

House Republican Leader Del. Todd Gilbert put out the following statement:
With less than 24 hours notice House and Senate Democrats overturned more than a decade of policy and voted to ban all firearms from the Capitol and office buildings. This measure includes the general public, concealed carry permit holders, and General Assembly members. Law abiding citizens with valid concealed handgun permits have always been allowed to bring their lawful firearms into these facilities.

Not only did the vote take place with little notice and no public distribution of the policy ahead of time it was done in a meeting that was not broadcast to the public like other committee meetings...Furthermore, hiding behind our Capitol police is cowardly.
Garren Shipley works for the House GOP Caucus and was in the committee room when the vote took place. Shipley's tweets indicate Republican members were blindsided by the Democrats' action on Friday. "What just happened, Dems pushed through complete Capitol gun ban, said Capitol police asked for it, Capitol police told members, press they did not...Gun policy given to members at the table, members told they were on the committee less than a day before the meeting. "
With 118 Second Amendment sanctuaries now resolved to protect law-abiding Virginians' constitutional right to bear arms, state officials have been voicing their concerns regarding upcoming rallies at the Capitol and surrounding areas. The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) expects huge crowds of gun rights advocates on January 20. Because of the upcoming rallies and the new gun policy, many people are asking whether the gun ban applies to the square around the Capitol. The inquiries prompted the Governor's office to respond:
The issue of the open space that constitutes Capitol Square is more complicated from a legal perspective. That being said, the Governor is reviewing options in coordination with state and local law enforcement and in light of incoming intelligence. His top priority is keeping Virginia safe.

The policy, set to go into effect Friday at midnight, has some Republicans like Del. Gilbert throwing up a white flag.
That is not a good way to govern and doesn't speak well of transparency, I think it’s a sign of what’s to come for gun owners,” he said.

On the other hand, we have Senator Amanda Chase here in Chesterfield County. Chase has always been and remains a fierce advocate for our Second Amendment rights, The common sense Senator reminded the Democrats that forcing law-abiding citizens to leave their guns in cars parked on the streets of downtown Richmond provides an opportunity for criminals to steal them. Chase also told reporters, “This isn’t Republican vs. Democrat, this is American vs. un-American.” 

M. Catharine Evans


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The Iraq Uprising: Where Does It Go From Here? - Ofra Bengio

by Ofra Bengio

Thirty years after the war, Iran has changed from a sworn enemy to the force exerting the greatest control over Iraq.

Demonstration in Baghdad, October 1, 2019, photo via Wikipedia

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,398, January 10, 2019

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The killing of Qassem Soleimani could prove to be a turning point in the history of the Middle East as a whole, but first and foremost in Iraq. That country has been contending for months with a popular uprising that has produced chaos and turned it into an arena for a titanic battle between Iran and the US. 

The Iraqi uprising erupted on October 1, 2019. Several months earlier, an Iraqi journalist published a scathing article under the headline, “Is Iraq Now a Leaf Blowing in the Wind?”

To answer that question, we need to look into the roots of the problems in post-Saddam Iraq, the cycles in which the country has been trapped since its establishment, and the possible impact of the uprising on Iraq’s future.

The 2003 US-led invasion created high expectations of societal rehabilitation, democratization, economic wellbeing, and political stability. In reality, the result was a radical crackup the likes of which Iraq had not known since its creation in 1920. The war precipitated a sharp transition from centuries-long Sunni domination to Shiite rule. The reins of power thus passed into the hands of inexperienced Shiites, while the Sunnis, stripped of their historical status, became fixated on turning the clock back in whatever way possible.

Iraq also underwent another sudden, sharp transition: from an untrammeled dictatorship to a democracy imposed from above. The population that was supposed to manage this democracy was completely unprepared for such a transition.

There were yet further major changes. Another was the shift from centralized to decentralized rule. Baghdad, the capital, had trouble properly administering the peripheral parts of the country. Rule transitioned from a single party, the Baath, to a welter of parties and factions fighting among themselves for power and influence.

The anarchy was intensified still further by the dismantling of Saddam Hussein’s army, which numbered about a million soldiers in its heyday. It was replaced by an improvised army, the extreme weakness of which enabled the rise of the Shiite militias known as al-Hashd al-Shaabi. The great majority of these militias are under Iran’s authority.

Another deep-seated problem afflicting Iraq is the endless cycle of violence, which continues to leave deep scars on the society. Under the Baath regime, the population suffered three of the most deadly wars in its history: the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), the Gulf War (1991), and the 2003 war. But even after the last of those conflicts ended, peace did not return to Iraq. A civil war erupted that lasted until 2008. That war fostered the rise of the Sunni terror organizations al-Qaeda and ISIS, which sowed destruction and bedlam in the country (and beyond).

The latest cycle, now at its zenith, is the Iraq uprising, which has been raging for about three months and has no end in sight.

The uprising has several unique features. First, the struggle is within the “Shiite house”: Shiites are battling Shiites while the Kurds and the Sunnis watch from the sidelines. Another feature is the struggle between those who consider themselves Iraqi patriots and those who see themselves as pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiites. There is also a more camouflaged confrontation between the pro-Iranian and pro-American camps. Overall, the popular uprising is directed at the state institutions, which are viewed as corrupt and rotten to the core.

The insurrectionists are demanding no less than a fundamental change in the system of government, including the annulment of the 2005 constitution, which distributed power among the different ethnic groups. The insurrectionists have not hesitated to strike hard at symbols of authority and the militias and security forces have hit back with great violence, killing over 500 people. Meanwhile, battles are being waged in many domains of national and religious identity over control of the economy, the military, governmental institutions, and the orientation of the country.

At present, the “mediating” force between the insurrectionists and governmental institutions is Iraq’s most senior Shiite leader, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who emphatically backs the insurrectionists’ demands. Also taking a prominent role and building up their power amid the prevailing anarchy are tribal leaders. They are trying to fill the governmental vacuum that opened with the resignation of PM Abdel Mahdi, the paralysis afflicting the parliament, and the inability to reach agreement on ways to solve the country’s deep-seated ailments.

Complicating these structural problems even further is the fact that Iraq is caught between two hugely powerful external forces that it can neither control nor choose between. On one side is the US, which opened a Pandora’s Box in 2003. Until recently, the Trump administration simply wanted to get out of Iraq with minimal damage to the US and the Middle East. Things have not gone as it wished. Iran, meanwhile, wants to continue to expand its power and influence as much as possible. Indeed, Tehran is essentially continuing the Iran-Iraq War by different means, taking over its western neighbor through “soft power.” Thirty years after the war, Iran has changed from a sworn enemy to the force exerting the greatest control over Iraq.

The US-Iranian struggle for control over Iraq recently escalated to a frontal clash between Washington and Iran’s proxy militias in Iraq.

After one of these militias attacked a US base, killing an American contractor and wounding American soldiers, the US hit back. On December 29, 2019, at a base of the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah group, the US conducted a strike that killed 25 of the group’s fighters.

A short time later, the Tehran-controlled al-Hashd al-Shaabi militias besieged the US embassy in Baghdad and sowed destruction in its vicinity. The Iraqi army did not lift a finger to intervene.
Although the militias withdrew from the embassy compound after one day, the Trump administration had a fierce response, and it was not long in coming. On January 3, 2020, a US drone airstrike killed Qassem Soleimani, who was commander of the Quds Force and in charge of the activity of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps outside Iran. Killed along with him were nine other people, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of al-Hashd al-Shaabi.

The popular uprising manifests the rise of strong anti-Iranian Iraqi-Shiite patriotism—and at the same time, an upsurge in anti-American sentiment that demands a US military withdrawal. The big question is which of these trends will prevail. At the moment, it appears doubtful that the anti-Iranian camp is capable of ousting Tehran from all the power centers it has built up around the country. It is also hard to imagine Iran giving up the political, economic, and strategic clout it has painstakingly accrued over the years. On the other hand, it is difficult to envision the Trump administration, with all its desire to exit Iraq, folding now that Tehran and its supporters have challenged it so starkly.

As long as the Iranian-US struggle continues to rage on Iraqi soil, the country will be unstable, especially as the insurrectionists offer no clear alternative to the country’s structural problems.
In a recent article, the Shiite commentator Sajjad Taki Quttam claimed that “the crisis in Iraq does not stem from the fact that it is a united country that some are trying to divide, but from the fact that it is a divided country that some are trying to unite by force.” His advice is that each of the three parts of Iraq go its own way, which seems to be happening in any case. Arab-Shiite Iraq is in the throes of an unprecedented crisis, but the Sunni region is quite calm, and the Kurdish enclave is flourishing.

In view of this situation, perhaps an Iraqi federation would provide a solution. But after recent events, any solution to Iraq’s problems appears very distant indeed.

Prof. Ofra Bengio is a senior researcher at the Moshe Dayan Center of Tel Aviv University and a lecturer at the Shalem Academic Center. She has published many studies on the Kurdish issue, the most recent of which is the forthcoming Kurdistan’s Moment in the Middle East. Email:


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Alexandria's restored synagogue heralds new chapter for Egypt's Jews - AFP

by AFP

Egypt completes restoration of ancient Alexandria synagogue, allowing it to reopen.

Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt
Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt                                                                                          Uri Lenz/Flash 90

Egypt unveiled Friday a newly renovated 14th century synagogue in Alexandria as part of a push to market the country's rich cultural heritage

The Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue, boasting green and violet stained glass windows and towering marble columns, was built in its current form in 1850 by an Italian architect on top of the original edifice dating back to 1354.

The synagogue was bombed during Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Egypt in 1798.

In cooperation with the military, Egypt's antiquities ministry oversaw the 64-billion-pound ($4-million) renovation which lasted over three years after the roof and staircase collapsed in 2016.

Sitting in the back wooden rows, Yolande Mizrahi, a septuagenarian Jew born and raised in Alexandria, was delighted with the conservation.

"If it wasn't for (President Abdel Fattah) al-Sisi, this would have never been done. A lot of things have changed since he's taken over," she told AFP.

In 2018, Sisi singled out preservation of places of worship for Egyptian Jews and Coptic Christians as a priority for his government.

The Mediterranean city of Alexandria was once home to around 40,000 Jews, but Egypt is now home to only a handful of Jewish citizens.

The Arab country's Jewish community fled or were expelled during the 1950s and after the 1948 creation of Israel.

For Mizrahi, she fondly recounted how the synagogue which she used to attend as a youngster was a communal gathering space for the Jewish minority in Alexandria.

She hoped Friday's opening of the temple to the public would spur other Jews abroad to visit the temple.

"I have relatives who left to France, Italy and Israel and they would like to visit the synagogue now," she added.

The synagogue was closed in 2012 for security reasons following the 2011 revolution that unseated long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt has since sought to promote its cultural heritage to revive the vital tourism sector, badly hit by political insecurity and attacks.

Magda Haroun, one of the leaders of the dwindling Egyptian Jewish community in Cairo, choked back tears after the ceremony.

"This is recognition of Egypt's Jews who were neglected for over sixty years," she told AFP.
"It is recognition that we have always been here and that we have contributed to a lot of things just like any other Egyptian " Haroun said.



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