Wednesday, February 7, 2018 – From our event on The Hill with panelist speakers Asaf Romirowsky, Daniel Pipes, and Amb. Richard Schifter.Read More →
In what has ironically been designated “Operation Olive Branch,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been trying to put the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin into a stranglehold. Turkey is now in its second week of bombardment over Afrin from the air and heavy tanks are now carrying out a ground offensive into the Kurdish region.
Erdogan is a brute and a thug, who has made a habit of trampling on the human rights of his own people. He used the failed military coup of July, 2016 to arbitrarily arrest and imprison anyone whom he considers to be his opposition, including dissidents, parliamentarians, journalists, and academicians. Many have been languishing in prison since the failed military coup, without right of habeas corpus, and in 2017, Erdogan further strengthened his ironclad grip on the country of Turkey by winning a referendum, so there is no longer a free and independent judiciary or a free and independent legislative branch. A former member of the opposition party in the Turkish Parliament recently told me, “Every Saturday night, my friends and colleagues gather to read the newspaper to see if they are on the list of people to be purged in the coming week.”
The late Soviet dissident, Andre Sakharov, once said, “One can always tell a nation’s foreign policy by the way they treat their internal dissident population.”
Erdogan is sensing that America is in a period of withdrawal and isolation, and his eyes are set in taking over the Afrin region of Syria. But it will not end there.
Erdogan has threatened to go into Manbij, which is an American outpost, and he is just reckless enough to try to take out American lives.
Bullies like Erdogan carefully take America’s temperature, and measure whether or not we have an appetite for further engagement. In periods such as now, when America is exhausted and war weary after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, all the world’s bullies and moral cockroaches come out of the woodwork.
Syria is the perfect battleground for many of those moral cockroaches. The Iranians want to create an uninterrupted land-bridge from Tehran through Bagdad stretching through to Beirut, and a Kurdish region would be an obstruction the road. Erdogan is pounding his chest with war chants, of course Putin, seeing a wide-open playing field, is trying to flex his muscles there, as well.
Syrian Kurds fought valiantly for us against ISIS, and they have never asked anyone to shed a drop of blood for them.
In Iraq, Kurdish forces fought alongside U.S. forces in Kirkuk, and then when America withdrew, where they allowed the Shiite Militia to control the area, and Kurdish flags are being torn down. They have been subjugated to Dhimmi laws and treated like second-class citizens there.
The Syrian Kurds therefore do have every right to remain skeptical of America’s friendship.
Russia controlled the airspace over Afrin, and Putin has given the green light to Erdogan to control the skies there. As I write this, Erdogan is battling to take over a strategic hill, and the Kurdish forces are courageously holding their own, but their losses are great.
How much longer can the Afrini Kurds hold out before being overrun when they are being attacked by tanks on the ground and bombarded from the skies? Some policy experts have told me that they might be able to hold out for only a week to 10 days.
If Afrin falls to Erdogan it would be tragic. This Kurdish region has offered a safe have to over 400,000 internally displaced persons from the brutal Syrian civil war that has been raging since 2011. These include Sunni Arabs, Assyrian Christians, Yazidis, Armenians, and Kurds from Iblib, and Aleppo and other parts of Syria who have fled to the north.
Earlier this week, all five members of one Sunni Arab family were killed. They now estimate the fatality rate to be around 100 civilians.
What is so refreshing about the Kurds is, with the sole exception of the state of Israel, this is the only region of the Middle East that offers a democratic, pluralistic paradigm for the troubled Middle East. People have actually converted to Christianity there. (Could you imagine what would happen to these people if ISIS were able to get a hold of them?)
Turkey, being a member of NATO, has a powerful military is presenting a formidable force for the Afrini Kurds. However, NATO was created to protect small countries against Russia in the days of the former Soviet Union.
Iran sees theses valiant Kurdish enclaves as obstacles to their hegemonic designs.
It is critically important that we develop some mechanism to dismiss countries from NATO when they have crossed red lines, and Turkey is the paramount example.
In the meantime, we need to send critically needed support to our friends in Afrin, or we will be empowering Erdogan and his Muslim Brotherhood friends, Russia’s Putin, and the mullahs of Iran.
I would like to believe that America is the moral compass of the world. That America is, in the words of John Winthrop “That shining city on the Hill.”
But it begins by remembering who our friends are.
Originally published at: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2018/02/remembering_who_our_friends_are.htmlRead More →
Nick Burns, Harvard Kennedy School professor & former under secretary of State for political affairs, and Sarah Stern, Endowment for Middle East Truth president, discuss President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital.Read More →
The United Nations was founded on lofty principles in the wake of the atrocities of World War II. Sadly, with two votes last week – the first in the Security Council on Monday and the second in an emergency session of the General Assembly – we witnessed just how far the institution has fallen.
The U.S. is a sovereign, democratic nation that lives by the rule of law. One of those laws, the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, was passed in 1995, by a solid, bipartisan majority of 93 to 5 in the Senate and 374 to 37 in the House. A sovereign nation has the right to choose where to place its embassies. And yet, on Dec. 6, when U.S. President Donald Trump called for the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the call was met with such hysteria in this venerable institution that one might think he had called for genocide.
These two U.N. votes, condemning Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, contradict the very foundations on which the U.N. was established. Article 2 (7) of the United Nations Charter specifically states that “nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.” This, however, did not prevent the frenzy against the U.S. for supporting its one democratic ally in the Middle East.
Before Thursday’s vote in the General Assembly, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley valiantly said: “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in this assembly. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the U.N., and when other member nations ask Washington to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”
There is nothing in the U.N. Charter that obligates the U.S. to be so generous with its taxpayer dollars. Nothing obligates one country out of 193 member nations to pay 22% of the U.N. budget – billions of dollars more than any other nation.
Judging from the reaction of the international community, one could mistake the world’s nations for a bunch of babies. The largest tantrum came from the paragon of democracy, Turkey, whose president, Recep Tayipp Erdogan, expressed hope that “the United States will be taught a lesson.”
“Mr. Trump, You cannot buy Turkey’s democratic will with dollars. Our decision is clear. I call upon the whole world: Don’t you dare sell your democratic struggle and your will for petty dollars,” Erdogan added.
Erdogan has a very loose definition of the word “democracy.” The Turkish president is a thug, who arbitrarily arrests opposition politicians, journalists, academics and anyone perceived as a threat to his iron rule. He has displaced approximately 400,000 Kurds from their homes. He has accepted billions of euros from the European Union to house Syrian refugees, but none of that money has reached actual refugees. Instead, it is lining his pockets and those of his cronies as he threatens to unleash these refugees and flood the EU with them.
Seeing as 20 of the 26 General Assembly votes in 2016 were directed against Israel – a full 77% – with only three on Syria, and one each on Iran, North Korea and Crimea, it came as no surprise that on Thursday, the General Assembly rejected Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by an overwhelming majority of 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions and 21 no-shows.
The reason for this is the presence within the U.N. of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – the largest body inside the U.N. and a powerful force against Israel. It is beyond ironic that nations with the glorious human rights records of Syria, Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia are lecturing the United States on democracy.
Thank you, Nikki Haley for finally putting an end to the notion that nations can continue to insult the U.S. and its single democratic ally in the Middle East and then expect a free ride at the American taxpayers’ expense.
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a pro-Israel American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.
Originally Published at: http://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/thank-you-nikki-haley/Read More →
Dec. 6, 2017, will be forever remembered as a day when a historic wrong had been righted. When President Donald Trump made his long-anticipated announcement that the U.S. not only recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but that he will take steps towards moving the American embassy there, he accomplished something remarkable—he brought some sorely needed reality therapy to the Palestinians. …Read More →
Congress will soon re-authorize Title VI of the Higher Educational Opportunities Act, a bill that was first introduced as the National Defense Education Act of 1958. The original legislative intent was to cultivate a consortium of university graduates who were best equipped to deal with the Soviet threat during the Cold War. …Read More →
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri recently shocked the international community by announcing his resignation. Hariri, a Sunni political leader, made this announcement from Saudi Arabia, where some speculate that he is being held under house arrest, while others believe he is there on his own accord because he fears for his very life. These fears are not unfounded. In 2005, his father, Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, was assassinated by a car bomb that is believed to have been planted by Hezbollah.
The Middle East is a mysterious region where suspicion hangs heavily in the air—under normal conditions. But the entire region, as of late, is mired in extraordinary circumstances. Since the Iranian nuclear deal of 2015, Iran has been vastly emboldened, empowered and enriched. The Iranians have been on the march throughout the region, sowing acts of aggression in Sana’a, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut. They are attempting to establish a Shi’a crescent stretching from Tehran throughout the Middle East.
Lebanon has become a puppet state of Iran, and the Lebanese Armed Forces has now become dominated by Hezbollah. An important fact that many people do not know is that we still have a line item in the U.S. Defense Appropriations budget for $100 million towards Lebanon’s military.
There is no doubt that under today’s circumstances, that earmark falls, whether directly or indirectly, into the hands of Hezbollah. Unless and until Lebanon could rid itself of the presence of Hezbollah, American taxpayers’ dollars will be going into the hands of an organization that has been listed by our own State Department as a terrorist group.
Saad Harari knows how to read the tea leaves. The same week of his surprise announcement, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen launched a missile that had been aimed to land at King Khalid National Airport near the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The missile was intercepted by Saudi-owned U.S. Patriot batteries.
Nov. 4, meanwhile, marked the most aggressive Saudi shakedown in recent memory. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, 32, purged the government of 11 members of the Saudi royal family and other business elites—in what he described as a “corruption crackdown,” but which may well be a rouse to consolidate his power and quash his political rivals, many of whom are in his own family. As Reuters reported, the Riyadh Ritz Carlton has been turned into a temporary—albeit luxurious—prison.
Adding to the intrigue, a day after the crown prince announced his palace purge, a helicopter carrying Prince Mansour bin Muqrin mysteriously crashed, killing a potential rival to the crown prince’s power.
The aggressive and ambitious young Saudi prince is not taking Iranian aggression in the region lightly. Saudi Arabia has urged its citizens to leave Lebanon. This sends a somewhat ominous message. In fact, on Nov. 6, Saudi Arabia’s minister of Gulf affairs wrote that Lebanon “has declared war on Riyadh.”
Some feel that this might be an indicator of a new war emerging between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims—the latest chapter in a 14-century-old dispute as to who will carry the mantle of Islam. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are experts at fighting proxy wars on someone else’s soil. As a joke that is making its rounds around Beirut goes, “The Saudis are willing to fight the Iranians, down to the very last Lebanese.”
In the meantime, there are at least 100,000 missiles staring down Israel from the Jewish state’s north. On Nov. 11, the Israeli Air Force intercepted a drone that fell on the demilitarized zone just north of the Golan Heights. A day earlier, the BBC reported that Iran has established a new military base just south of Damascus.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated unequivocally last Saturday, “We will not allow the establishment of a Shi’ite axis in Syria as an operating base.”
Watch this space. In the Middle East, one cannot play checkers or chess. The game is three-dimensional chess, where the loss of a pawn on one board affects the positioning of the knights, queens and kings on two other boards.
Originally published at JNS.org.
Photo credit: State Department