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Review Category : Israel

Remembering Who Our Friends Are

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.html

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EMET President Sarah Stern Debates with Frmr. NATO Ambassador Nick Burns

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.

This is a deeply unwise decision: Frmr. NATO ambassador on Jerusalem recognition from CNBC.

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EMET Commends the House Committee for Curbing anti-American, anti-Israel biases on College Campuses:

Education & Workforce Committee Reformed the Title VI International Education Programs 

(Washington, DC, January 2, 2017) Today, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) commends the House Committee on Education and the Workforce for including new language into Title VI of the ‘‘Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity 6 through Education Reform Act,’’ also known the ‘‘PROSPER Act,’’ H.R 4508.  The PROSPER Act, which passed the House Education & Workforce Committee December 13, 2017, is the new name for the Higher Education Act (HEA), last reauthorized in 2008.  EMET has long been working on the issue of International and Foreign Language Studies grants in Title VI of HEA, in an effort to reform this law that helps support many professors and programs on university campuses that espouse anti-American, anti-Israel, and at times, anti-Semitic viewpoints, in violation of federal law.

The Higher Education Act was originally signed into law on November 8th, 1965, to strengthen the educational resources of American universities and colleges and to provide financial assistance to students in postsecondary and Higher Education.  HEA was a later version of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), signed into law in 1958 by President Eisenhower.  The original intent of Title VI of the NDEA was to prepare our students to serve the national security needs of the United States by funding foreign language and area studies programs at universities, particularly with respect to combatting the Soviet threat at the time.  The area studies programs are known as National Resource Centers (NRCs).  In 1965, Title VI legislation was included into HEA, most recently reauthorized as the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) in 2008.

In October 2014, more than $3.3 million of federal grant money was awarded to Middle East NRCs under Title VI of HEA.  More than $13.4 million will be awarded to 19 Middle East NRCs for the entire 2014-2018 cycle.

Unfortunately, the original legislative intent of Title VI of HEA had been turned on its head.  Research shows that many Title VI-funded NRCs – currently at 100 institutions of higher education across the U.S. – are replete with an anti-American and anti-Israel biases.  Specifically, many Middle East NRCs, including at such prestigious institutions as Columbia University, Georgetown University, Princeton University, and Yale University, among others, are replete with Title VI-supported faculty and programs that advance the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; whitewash terrorism and radical Islam; and create a false narrative of U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East.

For example, Hatem Bazian, a champion of BDS and anti-Israel causes, is a senior lecturer at Title VI-funded Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.  Bazian co-founded the oftentimes anti-Semitic and pro-BDS student organization, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and is the chairman of the radical organization, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).  AMP was the topic of a Congressional hearing on BDS in April, 2016, which exposed the organization as one of the main funders of the BDS movement, as well as having ties to the terrorist organization Hamas.  AMP called the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration as a “sad date” in history, with Bazian stating, “Everything thing that has befallen Palestine – It’s partition, the settlements, random arrests and detentions, the Apartheid Wall, the siege on Gaza, and the millions of Palestinians living in exile and Diaspora – was made possible because of the Balfour Declaration.”

Also, problematic, under Title VI, NRCs are required to extend their activities by creating programs of “public outreach,” including workshops where K-12 teachers are trained.  Many of the workshops, and their lesson plans on the Middle East, are heavily influenced by Saudi money, reports show.  Some of the training materials include essays of Islamist radicals who advocate for terrorism; textbooks painting Israel and the West as colonial powers; and lesson plans that promote Islam and criticize the Jewish State.  As a result, Title VI-funded Middle East studies biases are trickling down to our most vulnerable youth.

In 2008, EMET was instrumental in amending Title VI of HEA to require the need for “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views,” within the U.S. taxpayer-funded Title VI programs.  Despite EMET’s exhaustive efforts in 2008, the U.S. Department of Education, which provides these grants to the universities, as well as the recipients of the grants themselves, have ignored their statutory requirements to provide “diverse perspectives.”  Since 2008, EMET has been the only organization on Capitol Hill regularly raising awareness about the abuses of, and calling for legislative changes to, Title VI, through one-on-one meetings with Congressional staffers and Members of Congress.

Thanks to EMET’s hard work educating congressional staff and Members of Congress on the House Education and Workforce Committee for several years on Title VI, these changes were finally made.  EMET was also instrumental in helping to draft and include amendments within the new PROSPER Act to strengthen the “diverse perspectives” requirement, and to create accountability for universities and Title VI-funded programs – including the NRCs – that fail to comply with the diverse perspectives requirement, among other amendments.  Specifically, the new bill states that the “Secretary shall use [the diverse perspectives] requirement…as part of the application evaluation, review, and approval process when determining grant recipients for initial funding and continuation of awards.”  And the bill further mandates that the Secretary annually “submit to the authorizing committees a report that identifies the efforts taken to ensure recipients’ compliance with the requirements under this title relating to the ‘diverse perspectives and a wide range of views’ requirement…”

Perhaps most notably, EMET’s work and diligence on Title VI biases prompted Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) to include an amendment to HEA which states: “Sec. 629 Compliance with Diverse Perspectives and a Wide Range of Views – When complying with the requirement of this title to offer a diverse perspective and a wide range of views, a recipient of a grant under this title shall not promote any biased views that are discriminatory toward any group, religion, or population of people.”

Sarah Stern, founder and president of EMET said, “I am thrilled by the new language included within Title VI of the PROSPER Act.  Congressman Wilson’s amendment is nothing short of historic; students previously discriminated under Title VI of HEA programming for their religious and political beliefs – including politically divergent views, Jewish student groups, and pro-Israel groups – will now be guaranteed protections under Title VI.  Furthermore, EMET has been calling for reforms to Title VI of HEA for years – and we are pleased that many of our recommendations have been included in the PROSPER Act, including an annual report by the Secretary of Education on ‘Compliance with Diverse Perspectives and a Wide Range of Views Requirement.’”

Ms. Stern added, “I applaud the entire House Education and Workforce Committee for taking the matter of Title VI of HEA seriously, and for taking the long overdue step to include language that will work to remedy the terrible anti-American and anti-Israel biases within the program.  EMET was also pleased to collaborate with other civil rights and pro-Israel organizations on the issue, and looks forward to working with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) to help ensure the legislation passes and is subsequently signed into law.”

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About The Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, EMET’s mission is to educate policymakers in Washington and the general public about the importance of Israel to the United States in their common struggle against radical Islam. For more information, please visit, http://www.emetonline.org. Follow EMET on Twitter and Facebook.

Media Contact: Jennifer Dekel
Endowment for Middle East Truth
202.601.7422
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Thank You, Nikki Haley

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/

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Trump delivers a sorely needed dose of reality therapy

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.

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Action Alert: Call the White House to Reinforce President Trump’s Wish to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Undivided Capital & Move the Embassy to Jerusalem

Action Alert: Call the White House to Reinforce President Trump’s Wish to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Undivided Capital & Move the Embassy to Jerusalem
President Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided Capital of Israel and possibly establish a process for moving the U.S Embassy to Jerusalem as soon as tomorrow, reports suggest.

However, there is a very intense lobbying campaign by Islamist and European countries and groups to try to convince the President not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or move the embassy.  Pro-Israel activists need to counter this campaign.

Please call the White House today to reinforce President Trump’s wish to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital and move the U.S. Embassy.  

The White House switchboard number is: 202-456-1414. 

In 1995 Congress passed a law titled The Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, which passed with great bipartisan support. The law called for Jerusalem to remain a united city and for the US embassy to be moved by 1999, a date long past due. Previous presidents have signed a waiver to the law every 6 months to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv.  We now have the opportunity to change the status quo, but we need your help. Call the White House today.

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Press Release: EMET Strongly Applauds Groundbreaking Taylor Force Act

EMET Strongly Applauds Groundbreaking Taylor Force Act
 Legislation Holds Accountable the Palestinian Authority for Paying Terrorists and their Families
December 4, 2017 (Washington, DC) Today, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) praised U.S. Representatives Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Tim Scott (R-SC), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Richard Burr (R-NC), John Thune (R-SD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and John Boozman (R-AR) for reintroducing the Taylor Force Act in February of this year, and leading the effort in Congress to pass this vital legislation.  The legislation will cut U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it stops paying the salaries of Palestinian terrorists who are imprisoned in Israeli jails, and financially rewarding their families.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the bill in August, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved it in November.  The bill will vote on the Taylor Force Act on Tuesday, December 5th.

The bill is named for former U.S. Army officer and Vanderbilt University graduate Taylor Force, an American citizen who served one tour of duty in Iraq and one tour of duty in Afghanistan and came home unscathed, only to be stabbed to death in Israel in March 2016 by a Palestinian terrorist.

The Act conditions aid to the PA until it stops the rewarding of acts of terrorism to Palestinians who have been incentivizing terrorism through their “martyrs’ fund” and “prisoners’ fund.” The Act also calls on the PA to takes steps to end acts of violence against the U.S. and Israeli citizens, including publicly condemning acts of terrorism, and helping to bring Palestinian terrorists to justice.

Congressman Doug Lamborn, the primary sponsor on the House side, has announced, “I am pleased to see the Taylor Force Act come to the House Floor for a vote on Tuesday, December 5.  It is critical that Congress pass this legislation to ensure that U.S. tax dollars do not go to supporting terrorism.”  He continued, “In Taylor’s memory, we must stop sending aid money to an entity that rewards his murderer’s family.  I urge my colleagues to vote ‘yes’ on this bill and hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for financing terrorism.”

Palestinian terrorists that are arrested and imprisoned by Israel are glorified by the PA as heroes and treated as employees of the PA government.  While in prison, these terrorists and their families are paid salaries and receive benefits as rewards for their service.  Since September 2015, 59 innocent people have been killed by Palestinian terrorists in Israel and Judea and Samaria, and more than 800 wounded.  They have been killed or harmed by car rammings, stabbings, shootings, and bombing attacks.  This includes many Americans, including U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force.

Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, 69 innocent Americans, plus two unborn children, have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists.  Yet since 1991, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has refused to prosecute Palestinian terrorists who have killed or wounded Americans in Israel and Judea and Samaria, even though U.S. law gives American prosecutors the necessary tools to seek justice.  For well over two decades, EMET has been fighting for justice for those Americans victims of Palestinian terrorism in Israel and the disputed territories.  EMET has focused on the unwillingness of the DOJ to indict, extradite, and prosecute a single Palestinian terrorist with American blood on his/her hands.

Since 2005, there has been an office within the DOJ – the Office of Justice of Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OVT) – to pressure the DOJ to prosecute.  EMET’s Sarah Stern was instrumental in the initial creation of the OVT.  This DOJ unit is meant to monitor acts of terrorism against Americans outside the U.S., to assist the living victims and their families, and, most importantly, to pressure the DOJ to bring to justice those terrorists who have harmed Americans anywhere in the world.  Unfortunately, since its establishment, the office has not helped produce a single DOJ prosecution of Palestinian terrorists who have harmed Americans in Israel or Judea or Samaria.  Neither the OVT, nor the DOJ, have ever adequately explained their unwillingness to prosecute these Palestinian terrorists.

In the years since 2005, EMET has doggedly been working to educate Congress about the DOJ and the OVT’s unwillingness to do their job and make sure that any Palestinian terrorist who harms an American is brought to justice.  EMET has held a staff briefing on Capitol Hill, bringing in American victims and family members.  EMET has also met with more than 100 offices to explain to them this issue.  EMET has worked with a bipartisan group of House members, and Senators, to produce numerous letters to the DOJ, demanding prosecutions of these terrorists, and also assisted in finding co-sponsors for these letters.  In 2015, thanks in large part to EMET’s tireless efforts, a Senate Subcommittee led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) held an oversight hearing, primarily focusing on Iranian funded Palestinian terrorism and civil lawsuits.  And in 2016, EMET prompted another hearing by Rep. Ron Desantis (R-FL), the Subcommittee Chairman for the National Security Subcommittee of Oversight and Government Reform, focusing on criminal prosecutions and the OVT.  EMET also assisted the Subcommittee in preparing for the hearing.  At the second hearing, for the first time ever, a DOJ representative, Brad Wiegmann, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, who supervises the OVT and these prosecutions, was called to account for the DOJ’s lack of prosecution.  He was also forced to agree to provide a report to the Subcommittee on DOJ/OVT progress.

For the past two Congresses, EMET also has arduously educated the Congress about the importance of the Taylor Force Act.

EMET Founder and President, Sarah Stern, said, “For far too long, the Palestinian Authority has glorified the virtues of terrorism.  That has been the very core of the problem for why there is no peace with Israel.  A culture of glorification of terrorism has been part of the zeitgeist of the areas under PA control. The more heinous the act of terrorism, the more innocent civilians who have been killed, the greater the salary that has been paid out by the PA to the families of the prisoners of the terrorists.  This is morally unconscionable.”

She continued, “The Palestinians need to understand that there are serious consequences for their moral, political, and material support of terrorism.  I strongly applaud Congressman Doug Lamborn and Senator Lindsey Graham, and all their Congressional allies, for reintroducing and passing the Taylor Force Act, which sends a very strong message to the PA and all would-be terrorists that America will not turn a blind eye towards Palestinian terrorism.  For far too long, people throughout the world have been fooled by the PA’s double message when it comes to terrorism, one to their own people in Arabic, and another in English to foreign diplomats and journalists. Fortunately, there are still Members of the United States Congress who are not willing to allow American tax payers’ dollars be a party to this culture of deification of terrorism.”

About The Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, EMET’s mission is to educate policymakers in Washington and the general public about the importance of Israel to the United States in their common struggle against radical Islam. For more information, please visit, http://www.emetonline.org. Follow EMET on Twitter and Facebook.

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Three-Dimensional Chess, Middle East Style

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

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