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Five Options Trump Should Consider to Counter Iran

Iranian President Rouhani has invited countries in the Middle East to join what he called the security coalition of HOPE — a rough acronym for the Hormuz Peace Endeavor.  Rouhani has described this as a coalition that “will secure freedom of navigation, flow of energy and the regional stability in the Persian Gulf.”  He has also suggested that Iran should serve as one of the leaders of this coalition because “Iran during the last four decades fought against terrorism unequivocally…Iran is a country that has brought peace in the region.”

Coming from Iran, this proposal is rich in irony. 

(October 10, 2019 / Newsmax)

Iran, of course, is the main terror sponsoring nation that is interrupting the freedom of navigation, the flow of energy and regional stability, in the Persian Gulf and in the Bab el Mandab.  In the latest attack, the Iranians used drones and missiles to knock out about half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.  Iran’s attack on Saudi oil facilities took 5.7 million barrels per day of production offline and pushed oil prices (briefly) 18% higher.  Although Iran’s Yemeni proxy, the Houthis, claimed credit for the attack on Saudi Arabia, the evidence was so strong that Iran was behind it that even the Western European leaders of France, Germany, and the UK, all of whom who continue to be part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, were forced to acknowledge Iran’s complicity.

What this means is that if Iran seriously wanted to promote freedom of navigation, the flow of energy and regional stability, it doesn’t need to form a coalition.  It just needs to stop its aggression and promotion of terrorism through the Middle East (and worldwide). 

Unfortunately, we know the Iranian regime is never going to do that.  But, recognizing that the U.S. does have a national interest in keeping the oil and natural gas lanes in the Middle East flowing to the U.S. and the rest of the world – to prevent a major economic downturn – the question then becomes, what should the U.S. do to disincentivize future Iranian aggression, which may be imminent?

So far, President Trump has responded by expanding the list of sanctions the U.S. has put on Iran, all part of the “maximum pressure” campaign, which has pushed the Iranian economy into a recession.  Further, the U.S. plans to bar senior Iranian officials and their immediate family from entering the United States as immigrants or non-immigrants.  The President has also sent U.S. troops to protect Saudi Arabia, and has been promoting the idea of an Arab NATO, or a U.S. led multinational maritime effort, originally called Operation Sentinel, to ensure freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf region, the Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Oman.  

All of these are good ideas.  But more actions may be necessary.  Here are five other options for the U.S.

First, the U.S. could diplomatically engage the Iranian regime. 

Second, the U.S. could act to sabotage the Iranian regime.  For example, it could unleash another cyberattack, along the lines of Stuxnet, or, more recently, its’ alleged cyberattack against a spy group tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.  Or, the CIA, or other U.S. forces, might support and/or train Iranian dissident groups.

Third, the U.S. could invade Iran and oust the Iranian regime, a la the 2001 Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, or Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Fourth, the U.S. could conduct some sort of lesser military action against the Iranian regime.  A good example of this was Operation Praying Mantis in 1988, which dissuaded Iran from challenging the U.S. Navy or from targeting oil shipping for many years.  In retaliation for Iran’s earlier mining of the Persian Gulf, which resulted in a U.S. ship being damaged and many of its crew being injured, the U.S. Navy destroyed two Iranian surveillance platforms, sank two of their ships, and severely damaged another.  In addition to going after the Iranian navy, other possibilities suggested include the U.S. specifically targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or the Kharg Island terminal, through which more than 90% of Iranian oil exports go.  The U.S. could conduct these attacks in the open, or with official deniability, i.e., in the “gray zone”, as does Iran.

Fifth, the U.S. could attack some of the Iranian proxies throughout the Middle East.  For example, Lebanese Hezbollah, Iranian backed forces in Syria, or Iranian backed forces in Iraq.  Israel frequently conducts these kinds of attacks as well.  In each case, Israel does so to enforce its red lines.  For example, in Syria, the Israeli red line is that Assad and his Iranian-backed allies must honor a decades-old agreement that sets out a demilitarized zone along the frontier and limits the number of forces each side can deploy within 25 kilometers (15 miles) of the zone.  Once again, the U.S. could do this openly or in the gray zone.

In my view, several of these actions may already be eliminated.  Diplomacy seems counterproductive at this juncture, as “Iranians negotiate only after defeating their enemies… Signaling a desire to talk before being victorious is, in Iranian eyes, a sign of weakness or lack of will to win.”  Also, a full scale invasion of Iran makes little sense, as we have seen in Iraq how expensive, in both blood and treasure, it can be.  And a more limited U.S. attack against Iranian proxies also seems pointless, as it is well known that “Iran is willing to sacrifice Arab Shiites but not Persian Shiites.” 

This leaves just two viable options.  The U.S. could sabotage the Iranian regime, and/or the U.S. could conduct a limited strike against the Iranian regime.  In that order, I would recommend them to President Trump.

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In Regard to Iran, the West Hasn’t Learned the Lesson of the Dane-Geld

During the post-U.S. removal from the Iran deal, the Iranian regime has behaved abysmally, even by its already low standards.

(September 18, 2019 / Newsmax)

While Iranian President Rouhani was touring Europe, demanding that the Europeans provide funding to Iran, his regime was planning a terror attack in Europe, which might have led to hundreds of European and American casualties.

The Iranian Islamic Republican Guard Corps and their allies have grabbed, harassed, or bombed international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz or in the Bab al Mandab. They have also shot down a U.S. drone, and even grabbed hostages.

The Iranian leadership has continued its ballistic missile testing, which goes hand and hand with nuclear weapons development. The Iranian leadership has refused to cooperate with the IAEA, barring them from inspecting some nuclear weapons development sites that were recently exposed by Israel. The Iranian regime, which is the leading state sponsor of terrorism, has been expanding its support to militia/terror groups in GazaSyriaLebanon, and Yemen to menace Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other U.S. allies. And the Iranian regime has been smuggling oil through the U.S. or European sanctions (on Syria).

The Iranian leadership has “partially withdrawn” from the Iran deal, by violating key parts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), most recently by using advanced centrifuges in uranium enrichment. Not that this makes any sense — there is no such thing as a partial withdrawal. A nation may only withdraw, or not withdraw, from a deal. Nevertheless, to cease its partial withdrawal, Tehran has demanded that the U.S. lift the sanctions and return to a 5+1 format involving the nuclear deal parties, and that the Europeans must “either buy oil or give us credit,” within a certain time.

And most recently, Iran was behind the attacks on major Saudi oil facilities that cut global oil supplies by 5%.

So, what is Europe’s response to all this bad behavior? Nothing but more appeasement.

The European Union has promoted the idea of an Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) whose purpose is to facilitate “legitimate trade” with Iran for any EU member and non-EU members as well. INSTEX is a barter system created by the Western Europeans, where, in any trade, money gets paid into the home country’s account, and it doesn’t cross the border in or out of Iran.

Britain has caved on enforcing EU sanctions that barred any oil sales to Syria. Originally, the British seized an Iranian ship that was illegally transporting oil to Syria. The Iranians then grabbed a British ship in retaliation. The British released the Iranian ship, after Iran gave a written promise that the ship would not deliver the oil to Syria. But the promise was insincere, as the Iranian ship eventually dropped off its oil in Syria, thereby breaking the sanctions, and earning themselves $130 million (or giving their puppet Assad a huge gift of oil). Meanwhile, Iran has only released some of the crew from the British ship.

France has offered $15 billion in credit to Tehran for it to end its partial withdrawal and to return to the JCPOA. The entire official budget of Iran is roughly $45 billion, so that would be a huge lifeline for the Iranian regime.

Unfortunately, this European financial appeasement of rogue and dangerous actors is not unique. It is actually steeped in ancient European history. As I once wrote, “(o)ver a thousand years ago, the (then) violent Danes would promise to stop their pillaging and plundering, supposedly permanently, but in practice temporarily, if their prey paid them off… (but) if the victim paid the geld, the Danes were generally not true to their word, and would return to the plundering and pillaging ….” This concept was immortalized by poet Rudyard Kipling in his poem, “Dane-geld,” whose final line was the lesson to be learned: “That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld, You never get rid of the Dane.”

The concept of Dane-geld is directly applicable to European attempts to pay off the Iranian regime today. It won’t work any better this time than it did with the Danes.

In 2015, the Iranians received more than $115 billion from the U.S. and other nations, to agree to the JCPOA. The hope, as President Obama articulated, was “ideally, we would see a situation in which Iran, seeing sanctions reduced, would start focusing on its economy, on training its people, on reentering the world community, to lessening its provocative activities in the region… it is possible that if we sign this nuclear deal, we strengthen the hand of those more moderate forces inside of Iran.”

Despite all this money, none of these hopes were realized under the JCPOA. What resulted was just more Iranian sponsored aggression, terrorism, and other bad behavior.

It’s been a thousand years since the Danish Vikings were marauders demanding and receiving the Dane-geld. It has been a hundred years since the Rudyard Kipling poem first articulated the lesson of the Dane-geld. And it has been four years since the JCPOA demonstrated the truth of that saying, as it relates to the Iranian regime.

It would be nice if Europe finally learned its lesson.

Originally Published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/iran-dane-geld-france-europe/2019/09/18/id/933303/

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9/3/19 – Capitol Hill Policy Phone Seminar Series

LISTEN: “Iran’s Proxy War on Israel’s Northern Border” featuring Brigadier General Michael Herzog

This past weekend was a particularly hot one for Israel. Yesterday,  September 1st, the Iranian proxy, Hezbollah launched anti-tank missiles across Israel’s northern  border, directly aiming at an IDF base. Thank G-d no-one sustained injuries. However, in a decoy move, Israel staged an evacuation of soldiers with bandages and fake blood to Rambam Hospital.

Israel responded by attacking Lebanese targets and the outlying borders of Lebanese communities along the Syrian-Lebanese border There are no known casualties.

This was the first time since the Lebanese War of 2006 that there has been a significant military exchange between Hezbollah and Israel. It is felt that this skirmish might have been contained for now. However, the situation is extremely tense. And what makes it even more tense is that we all know that this is a shadow war, and the Islamic Regime is actually the puppet-master  pulling the strings of Hezbollah  and other Shiite militia groups, throughout Ira, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen , as they simultaneously  put on a gentle face to the world about the true intentions of their nuclear program.

Brigadier General Michael Herzog

Biography

Michael Herzog, a retired brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), is the Israel-based Milton Fine International Fellow of The Washington Institute. Over the last decade General Herzog has held senior positions in the office of Israel’s minister of defense under ministers Ehud Barak, Amir Peretz, Shaul Mofaz, and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. From September 2006 to October 2009, General Herzog served as chief of staff to Israel’s minister of defense. From November 2001 to July 2004, he served as senior military aide (“military secretary”) to the Israeli minister of defense. In that capacity, he acted as the liaison between the defense minister and the IDF, prime minister’s office, intelligence community, and Israeli defense establishment.

General Herzog was a visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute in 2004-2006. His published work at the Institute included the study, Iranian Public Opinion on the Nuclear Program: A Potential Asset for the International Community, and the influential Foreign Affairs article, “Can Hamas Be Tamed?“.

Since 1993, General Herzog has played a key role in the Arab-Israeli peace process, participating in most of Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians, Jordanians, and Syrians, including the Wye Plantation summit, Camp David summit, the Taba negotiations, and the Annapolis summit and subsequent negotiations. From June 2009 to March 2010, he served as special emissary to Israel’s prime minister and minister of defense in the efforts to relaunch the peace process. The general’s career has included service as head of the Strategic Planning Division (1998-2001), deputy head of the Strategic Planning Division (1995-1998), member of the Intelligence Corps (1974-1994), and infantry soldier (1973 war).

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Saudi Arabia must win in Yemen, not Iran

“The Senate on Monday did not override President Trump’s vetoes of three measures to block arms deals benefiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, an expected but nonetheless serious setback for those who had hoped Congress would punish Saudi leaders for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” The Washington Post reported on July 29, 2019.

(August 6, 2019 / Newsmax)

Contrary to the tone of The Washington Post article, this is a good thing.

There is no question that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a “bad” nation. They have done what they have been accused of. The Saudis have invaded Yemen, admittedly to support its’ legitimate president and government, and sometimes indiscriminately bomb its’ cities. And the Saudi leadership almost undoubtedly had Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, killed in a particularly brutal manner.

There is also no question that the Saudis are deplorable in other ways as well.

They have a horrendous human rights record at home. In Saudi Arabia, it is illegal for non-Muslims to be citizens, women have few rights, and the Shia Muslim minority is discriminated against religiously, in the areas of education, the administration of justice, and employment. Saudi clerics have sometimes even sanctioned the killing of Shia Saudi citizens. Saudi Arabia has the third highest rate of executions in the world behind China and Iran, according to Amnesty International. The death penalty is even used for non-crimes, such as practicing witchcraft. Children can be put to death; a boy was beheaded for simply protesting the government. Other protestors have been killed by crucifixion or by having their head impaled on a spike. Stoning remains a punishment for women accused of adultery.

And Saudi Arabia has been a malignant force throughout the world when it comes to spreading Wahhabism, or radical Sunni Islam. Wahhabism’s explosive growth began in the 1970s when Saudi charities started funding Wahhabi schools and mosques worldwide. Among those educated by Saudi propaganda was Osama Bin Laden. Granted, the Saudis have gotten a little better, recently. But they still spend millions, if not hundreds of millions, to educate people in a dangerous and anti-U.S., anti-Israel, and anti-West ideology.

But with all this said, President Trump is quite right to continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia. Because it is not all about Saudi Arabia; any national interest calculus by the U.S. must also address the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The fact is the Saudis are only in Yemen because of Iran. The Shia Islamist Iranian regime has been sending advanced weapons and military advisers to supply and train Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement. The Houthis control about half of the population of that nation, and a large chunk of that land, including the former capitol of Sana’a. Under Iranian tutelage — and sometimes under direct orders — the Houthis have attacked plenty of Saudi targets, and more concerning for the U.S., oil shipping in the area through the Bab al-Mandab strait and in the Red Sea. An estimated 4.8 million b/d of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed through this waterway in 2016. The Houthis have even gone so far as to attack a U.S. ship.

What is worse, the Iranian regime is also in Yemen in the hopes that it can threaten Saudi Arabia, a huge world producer of oil. Yemen has always been the soft underbelly of Saudi Arabia. In the 60’s, Egypt’s then-dictator Gamal Abdul Nasser invaded Yemen, threatening the Saudis, and prompting them to support the Yemeni forces arrayed against Egypt. Eventually, Egyptian forces were forced out. Today, Iran hopes to succeed where Egypt failed. In particular, it hopes to inspire and support the Shia Muslim majority population in the Eastern Province of the Saudi kingdom to rise up against the Saudi King. This area of Saudi Arabia is especially valuable, as it has most of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s oil, and is directly adjacent to the Persian Gulf.

Needless to say, although the U.S. no longer relies on oil from the Middle East, the U.S. still has a national interest in preventing the Iranian regime from disrupting the oil flow throughout the world and creating economic chaos.

And that is not all.

Iran is at war with the U.S. Over the years, the Iranian regime has seized hostages from our Embassy in Tehran, sponsored and directed the attacks that murdered and maimed hundreds of Americans by foreign designated terror group Hezbollah, and supplied and trained Iraqi rebel terror groups who killed over 600 U.S. soldiers in Iraq. For that matter, the Houthis are no friends to the U.S. Not only have the Houthis fired on a U.S. ship, but they are also known for their chant, “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam!”

And although the Saudis can be a dangerous sponsor of terrorism, the Iranian regime is the premier state sponsor of terrorism, worldwide. It has long been a menace to its neighbors in the Middle East, including the U.S.’s strongest ally, Israel, and also to the European nations, including those that continue to support the Iran deal. Recently, while the Iranian president was touring Europe to drum up support for more European aid to Iran, his regime was plotting to bomb an anti-Iranian regime rally near Paris, which would have killed and wounded probably hundreds of innocent Europeans (and some Americans). Like Saudi Arabia, the Iranian regime also promotes radical Islam; the only difference is that Iran promotes radical Shia Islam instead of the Sunni version.

Finally, the U.S. also has an interest in selling weapons and supplies to Saudi Arabia to boost the U.S. economy.

Even the moral argument is basically a wash. The Houthis and the Iranians have human rights records that are similar, if not worse, than the Saudis. In Iran, gays are hung on cranes, Baha’is are eradicated, and political prisoners are tortured and killed by the regime. The Houthis are no better. They have the distinction of having recruited more than 30,000 child soldiers since war broke out, far more than the Saudis. And, like the Saudis, they are also quite willing to bomb and starve their own people.

As Winston Churchill once memorably said, “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.” The same sentiment applies here. Saudi Arabia is not a “good” nation, but it is much better for the U.S. national interest that the Saudis win in Yemen, rather than the Iranians. The U.S. should act accordingly.

Originally published: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/saudi-arabia-yemen-iran-united-states/2019/08/06/id/927503/

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Just Taking “No” for an Answer

Photo: BILAL HUSSEIN AP PHOTO

The late Israeli diplomat, Abba Eban, is famously quoted with saying, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Of course, at the time he said this, after the 1967 War, there was no such entity as the Palestinian people, but this adage is particularly germane to the Palestinians today.

This week, the “Peace to Prosperity Workshop” convened in Bahrain. The Trump administration’s long-awaited peace plan for the Palestinians was rolled out this week. Ahead of the conference, the Trump administration released a 40-page document describing a 50 billion dollar investment plan in the region, more than half going directly to the Palestinians, and the other half going to Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.

Senior White House advisor, Jared Kushner, opened up the conference by calling the plan “the deal of the century” that the Palestinians should take advantage of, “What we have developed” he said, “is the most comprehensive economic plan ever created specifically for the Palestinians and the broader Middle East. We can turn this region from a victim of past conflicts into a model for commerce and advancement throughout the world.”

Unfortunately, once again, the Palestinian leadership chose victimhood, rather than prosperity for their people. Rather than taking responsibility for their own fate, they continue to play the “victim card.”

This has been the response of the Palestinians ever since the Peel Commission Plan of 1937, then of the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947, the Rogers Plan of 1969, the exceedingly generous Clinton plan presented at Camp David in August of 2000, and the even more generous Ehud Olmert Peace offer of 2008.

The most recent plan put forward by Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinian leader Ehud Barak 98% of the land they wanted, (with land swaps around the Jerusalem corridor for the Negev), a division of Jerusalem and a “right of return” of approximately 150,000 refugees into Israel.

How did Mahmoud Abbas react to this? By initiating a renewed intifada.

The Trump administration had decided to “think outside the box” and rather than go back to that same, tired old refrain of “land or peace” they focused on trying a different route, the economic route, of “peace through prosperity”. However, I am sorry to say that their understanding of the Palestinian leadership is profoundly flawed. The premise underlying the Trump plan is that peace can be bought through economic prosperity.

However, as John F. Kennedy had said, “Peace does not depend on signed documents and charters alone, but in the hearts and minds of the People.” As long as the hearts and minds of the Palestinians have been so inebriated with a culture of hatred, they will prefer for their people to starve, rather than accepting living a peaceful life alongside Israel.

The response from the Palestinian leader has been an indignant one. “We Palestinians cannot be bought off.” The leadership of the Palestinian Authority refused to show up at the conference. And as I write this, there are hordes of Palestinians in the streets of Gaza and Judea and Samaria burning pictures of President Trump in effigy.

There comes a time when we in the West will have to realize that we have got to take “no” for an answer.

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Radio Interview: How Syrian Kurdistan Benefits US and Israel Security

Diliman Abdulkader, Director of the Kurdistan Project conducted a radio interview on Beyond the Matrix discussing Kurds, Syria, US Troop withdrawal.

Originally published at Israel News Talk Radio.

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EMET Praises Legislation Encouraging U.S. Recognition of Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

(Washington, DC, December 18, 2018) – Today, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) praised U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) for introducing a resolution encouraging the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The Golan Heights is an area of approximately 500 square miles that was captured by Israel in its defensive war of 1967, and was successfully retained in its defensive war of 1973 from attacking Syrian forces.  It has served as the demarcation line between the chaotic, feuding forces of radical Islam and the liberal, Western-oriented State of Israel.  The Golan creates the definitive dividing line between authoritarian rule and a vibrant, thriving democracy.  Since 1974, when a Separation of Forces Agreement was negotiated between Israel and Syria, the Golan Heights has remained relatively peaceful, until now.

Because of the seven-year brutal Syrian civil war, the Islamic Republic of Iran has taken advantage of the chaos of the situation, and Iranian-backed forces – including the IRGC and Hezbollah – have penetrated as far south as the Syrian town of Quneitra, making this region a potential line of confrontation.  Iran has attacked Israel from Syria this past year both in February and May, and is determined to build a land bridge stretching from Teheran all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights creates an important roadblock in the land bridge that Iran is determined to make. The Golan affords Israel a unique topographical vantage point, providing critical defensive and intelligence strategy to Israel and the United States. And it affords the population of Israel a unique defensive shield, to protect itself from attacks by Iran and its proxies.

The Israeli government voted to extend Israeli civil law to the Golan Heights in 1981.  Furthermore, President Gerald Ford offered Israel assurances in 1975 that a peace agreement with Syria “must be predicated on Israel remaining on the Golan Heights,” and Secretary of State James Baker, in 1991, reaffirmed that the U.S. stands behind these assurances.  More recently, the United States, for the first time ever, voted against the annual United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Israel’s “occupation” of the Golan Heights.

EMET has diligently been working on educating congressional offices on the critical need for the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. EMET has also worked on a letter with Rep. Doug Lamborn’s (R-CO) office, calling for such recognition.  The letter will be sent to Secretary of State Pompeo.

“I applaud U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton for taking the bold and very necessary step to introduce a resolution encouraging the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, at this critical time,” Sarah Stern, the founder and president of EMET said.

“Israel’s presence on the border of the Golan offers the United States valuable eyes and ears into Iranian troops and its terrorist proxies in Syria. The Golan has been a force of stability in the region for 45 years and offers a protective shield for all of us in the West. Many of the same forces that hate Israel also vehemently despise the United States.  As long as the Golan Heights is perceived as being ‘in play’ as part of the ‘occupied territories,’ the illusion that it might someday be captured by Syrian or Iranian forces is perpetuated.  The simplest way to put an end to this dangerous illusion and to Iran’s voracious appetite is for the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. That would send a strong, clear, unequivocal message to America’s foes in the region without putting a single boot on the ground,” Stern added.

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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.

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