The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) Invites You to a Seminar on Capitol Hill:

“The Jamal Khashoggi Affair as a Backdrop to the Regional Power Play in the Middle East

U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center
Room: SVC 203-02
Washington, D.C.

Lunch to be provided. All dietary laws observed.
For those of you who are unable to attend, please watch LIVE on EMET’s Facebook page!

RSVP
The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has drawn renewed attention to the systemic human rights abuses that pervade Saudi Arabia and the region. Notwithstanding Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reputation as a reformer, he continues to preside over a repressive regime that denies fundamental rights to its people. At the same time, Saudi rivals like Turkey and Iran brutally suppress dissent even as they criticize Riyadh for engaging in similar conduct.
 
Indeed, the murder of Khashoggi has provided Turkey’s strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the world’s top jailer of journalists, an opportunity to revamp his tarnished image by presenting himself as a champion of press freedoms and human rights. The Turkish president has also exploited the crisis by trying to extract concessions not only from Saudi Arabia, but also from the U.S. In the meantime, Erdogan’s crackdown on dissidents and egregious violations of human rights and freedoms continue full speed.
 
Meanwhile, Iranian citizens continue to protest against the Islamist regime for its human rights violations, foreign adventurism, and economic and environmental mismanagement. These demonstrations come as the Trump administration reimposes sanctions on Iran pursuant to its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. These developments have placed Tehran in an increasingly precarious position, and gives the Trump administration an opportunity to increase pressure on Iran by imposing new human rights sanctions on the regime.
 
To further discuss the ongoing human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran and their repercussions for the region, EMET is pleased to welcome a noted panel of experts on the Middle East: Dr. Aykan Erdemir, Dr. Harold Rhode, and Tzvi Kahn.
About Dr. Aykan Erdemir 
Dr. Aykan Erdemir is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Dr. Aykan Erdemir is a former member of the Turkish Parliament (2011-2015) who served in the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, EU Harmonization Committee, and the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on the IT Sector and the Internet. As an outspoken defender of pluralism, minority rights, and religious freedoms in the Middle East, Dr. Erdemir has been at the forefront of the struggle against religious persecution, hate crimes, and hate speech in Turkey. He is a founding member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and a drafter of and signatory to the Oslo Charter for Freedom of Religion or Belief (2014) as well as a signatory legislator to the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism.
About Dr. Harold Rhode
Dr. Harold Rhode is one of the few experts we have in the West who really understands the mentality of the Middle East. Dr. Rhode had spent more than 28 years in the office of U.S. Secretary of Defense as an advisor on U.S. Islamic Affairs. After getting his PhD in Islamic history at Columbia University under the esteemed Bernard Lewis, Dr. Rhode studied and traveled extensively throughout the Islamic world. He speaks fluent Turkish. Dr. Rhode served with the United States armed forces in Iraq, both during the recent war in Iraq and during the Gulf War. Dr. Rhode is also famous for being the person responsible for finding and rescuing sacred Jewish manuscripts from Iraq during the Iraq war.
About Tzvi Kahn
Tzvi Kahn is a senior Iran analyst at FDD. He previously worked as a senior policy analyst at the Foreign Policy Initiative, where he published extensively on Iran’s nuclear program and regional ambitions. Tzvi also served as assistant director for policy and government affairs at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). From 2013 to 2014, he was an FDD national security fellow.  Tzvi’s work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, National Review, The American Interest, World Affairs, The Hill, Politico, U.S. News & World Report, The New York Post, The Forward, and Middle East Quarterly, among other outlets. Tzvi holds an MA in Middle East Studies from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and a BA in English and in Classical Languages from Yeshiva University.
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Rayburn House Office Building

Room 2044
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
12:00 p.m. – 100 p.m.

                                RSVP
Lunch to be served. All dietary laws observed.
Featuring:
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
 

Dr. Kedar will discuss recent developments in the Middle East since the horrific use of chemical weapons by the brutal dictator, Bashar al Assad of Syria, which killed at least 48 innocent people and injured some 500 more. The United States responded with its allies the United Kingdom and France, with precision targets aimed at destroying the nuclear weapons facilities and research labs. Syria’s seven-year long civil war has diminished smaller non-state actors and has cleared the way for larger states and their proxies to grab a piece of the shattered state. Turkey with its FSA and Al Qaeda supporters attacked our allies the Kurds in Afrin Canton, and Iran and its Hezbollah proxies have set up bases across Syria and are well under way in completing a land bridge towards Israel’s northern border. Meanwhile, Russia has continued to undermine US strategy, protect Assad’s horrific crimes and is now intending on selling the dictator S-300 missiles which will ultimately threaten Israel’s sovereignty and security. Please join us as Dr. Kedar will analyze and assess the potential for a direct conflict between Russia and the United States in Syria

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The United States under President Trump is contemplating whether to strike the Assad regime after its usage of chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb Douma this past week.

The first and obvious option for the president is to follow up on the promise he made when he tweeted “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” on April 11th.

The United States has the backing of a strong and willing coalition to push forward a military option which includes France, the United Kingdom and even Saudi Arabia. Other leaders, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated, “Germany will not take part in military action, but we see and support that everything is done to send a signal that his use of chemical weapons is not acceptable.” Germany’s participation in a possible strike may come in other means. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated “we are not looking to be present in Syria.” Turkey’s response is a contradictory one: Prime Minister Binali Yildirim responded to the US-Russian spat as “street fighting” and continued on to say “They are fighting like street bullies. But who is paying the price? It’s civilians.” Turkey has very little credibility when it comes to protecting civilians, especially in Syria. The Turkish state just completed its illegal and aggressive air and ground campaign in northwest Syria in the predominately Kurdish canton of Afrin, which to date has a consequence of nothing short of a humanitarian crisis, Turkification process and ethnic cleansing.

From the time the President publicized his intentions to strike Syria, Assad forces vacated possible areas of targets such as airports, military air bases and outposts. Iranian proxies under the IRGC mainly Hezbollah have also dispersed critical zones that the US may see as fair game. Russian reactions to the president’s tweet were clear, “smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not towards the lawful government.” However, the West does not see the Assad regime as the lawful or legitimate government.

The second option President Trump has at his disposal is the diplomatic leverage the US can use towards Russia due to the pressure of a possible military strike- Russia’s commitment in Syria is deeply rooted in its military presence along the Mediterranean, not with the Assad regime. The United States can guarantee to Russia it can maintain its bases without US interference, and in return the Trump administration can demand the full ousting of the Assad regime and the removal of all Iranian proxies inside Syria including IRGC and Hezbollah.

A full-blown US strike on Syria can devastate the Assad regime, especially as he is close enough to declare victory in the seven-year civil war. A banishment of the regime from Syria is a swap Russia can tolerate because it simply does not have the appetite to be driven into a whole new war against the United States. The removal of Iranian proxies and their military bases will prove to the extent Russia truly controls Syria, if at all. With Assad and its Iranian allies out of the picture, Israel too will feel more secure and less reluctant to convince President Trump to strike.

Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Originally Published: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/US-options-on-Syria-to-strike-or-not-549742

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The government of Syrian President Bashir Assad launched a chemical attack on Saturday on the rebel-held town of Douma, Syria, killing at least 42 people and injuring some 500 more. Once again, our computer screens were replete with helpless children, some lifeless and limp, some foaming at the mouth and flinching, some with oxygen masks strapped across their tiny faces.

This attack was the final blow for the last remaining rebels in this Damascus suburb.

This came within a week of President Trump’s pronouncement that “we’re knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’ll be coming out of Syria, like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.”

This brings us to the first lesson: Whether or not America wants to enter into a period of isolationism, when we withdraw from the picture the world becomes an infinitely more dangerous place. Nature abhors a vacuum, and when America retreats, all of the moral cockroaches—like Tehran’s mullahs, Syria’s Assad, Russia’s Putin and Turkey’s Erdoğan—immediately swoop in to fill the void.

Akin to the period between the two world wars, the American people might say they have no appetite for further military engagement, yet there is something in America’s moral fabric that simply cannot allow atrocities like these to go unanswered. As Winston Churchill once said: “America always does the right thing. After it has exhausted all other possibilities.”

Over the last seven years of the protracted Syrian civil war, the country has been on a slow and steady path towards total implosion. Initially, an alphabet soup of terrorist groups have used this empty playing field, including, but not limited to, Jabat Al Nusra, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Ahrar al Sham, the IRGC, the Al Quds Force and Hezbollah—many of them proxies for bigger regional players.

Now the big boys are entering the scene, and Syria promises to be the theater in which America and the West might quite soon form a coalition against the regional forces of oppression and their Russian enablers.

The next lesson, therefore, is: If we do not engage ourselves in smaller wars, America might well find itself dragged into a much larger war.

The second major event was the attack on the T-4 air base early Monday morning. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied their involvement, as is characteristic, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made his red lines very clear.

On Feb. 10, when Israel shot down an Iranian drone launched from the identical Syrian air base and flown over Israeli territory, he said: “Our policy is very clear. Israel will defend itself against any attack and any attempt to harm our sovereignty.” He then added that “Iran seeks to use Syrian territory with the expressed goal of destroying Israel.”

Since the singing of the nuclear-trade deal, Iran has used its vastly enriched coffers to empower, embolden and enable its terrorist proxies within the widening Shiite crescent, and has used Syria as part of its ever-widening land bridge stretching from Tehran to Beirut.

This has been enabled by Russia military support. Russia under Putin wants to re-emerge as a world power and has just asked Iran permission to use its air bases in Iran as refueling stations. They have also just vetoed the U.N. Security Council resolution to investigate the Syrian chemical attack in Douma.

Which brings us to the final lesson of these recent Syrian events: In 1992, Francis Fukuyama, famously wrote a book titled, The End of History and the Last Man. In it, he argues that with the end of the Cold War, we are passing through a period of post-war history, and that we have reached the height of the ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the apex and final form of government.

Democracy might be the best form of government devised, but Russia, though the use of its proxies, has shown that it might want to regress to a period of Cold War alliances. And unfortunately, because sometimes the only way to eradicate pure evil—such as was on display this weekend in Douma—is through the use of military force, we are quite far from a post-war epoch.

Photo: SANA/Handout via Reuters

Originally Published: https://www.jns.org/opinion/syria-gets-us-farther-from-a-post-war-epoch/

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A version is this was first published in the Washington Jewish Week on April 11, 2018, but it has been updated to reflect more current realities on the ground.

On March 30th, coinciding with the start of Passover, the former and current Hamas Prime Ministers, Ismael Haniya, Yahya Sinwar organized what they called “The March of Return”. Since then, every Friday, there has been a demonstration at the Gaza border. Each week, the demonstrators are getting closer and closer to the actual border with Israel, and each week there are few and fewer demonstrators —the first week they had approximately 30,000 and this week, approximately 3, 000–but they are growing increasingly more violent.

As Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman put it, “We are fighting an uncompromising battle here, and the other side must understand there is a determined army here”, adding, “Every week there are fewer people, but much more terror activity.”

Although this had been dubbed  by many news outlets throughout the world as a peaceful demonstration,  these two Hamas leaders told their followers to  quote “infiltrate the border”,  and that this will “ mark  the beginning of the liberation of all of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” –which encompasses all of Israel

This was not intended therefore, as many media outlets had described it, “ to eliminate the economic suffering in the Gaza Strip”,  but rather,  to eliminate the sheer existence of the Jewish state.

These protestors, many known terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Qassam Brigades, among others came to Israel’s  with the explicit instructions to penetrate through that border into Israel, which would create a security and demographic nightmare for the Jewish state.

Most significantly: They brought wire cutters with them.

The objective was also stated that they would remain there until May 15th, Israeli Independence Day, which the Palestinians and many in the Arab World dub “Nakba Day”, “the Day of the Catastrophe”. May 15this also, (not coincidentally), the day that President Trump and his team have designated for the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem. They came with tents, erected to remain there until the 15th.

This “march” was not a peaceful demonstration reminiscent of  the sit ins of Selma Alabama. The protestors sought to storm the border with lethal intent, hurling firebombs, rocks and burning tires at Israeli soldiers. In at least two cases, they fired bullets directly at  Israeli soldiers.

And unfortunately, it has resulted in a number of Palestinian fatalities, who have constantly  been manipulated by  their leaders to despise the state of Israel.

However, considering the inflammatory potential of the situation, the IDF has got to be commended for training their young men and women to act with such amazing discipline and restraint.

It is also important to remember that Gaza is not under Israeli occupation.

In 2005, in a heart-wrenching, politically divisive move, the Israeli government decided to uproot any remnant of a Jewish presence in Gaza and withdrew to the pre-1967 lines, giving the Palestinian people there total independence. Jewish philanthropists actually bought the greenhouses to give to this “nascent Palestinian state.” Some rabbis wanted to leave the synagogues in Gaza, arguing “After all, we all pray to the same God.”

Many of my friends who were for the Gaza withdrawal explained to me, “This will finally prove to the world just how far Israel is willing to go for peace.”

Do you think the world remembers any of this today?

As soon as the blue and white flag was lowered, and the IDF closed the gate, those greenhouses and synagogues, and any other vestige of Jewish life, were all destroyed in a heightened display of hate-infested anarchy and mayhem.

And then in 2007, after a bitter internecine war between Fatah and Hamas, Hamas, an organization that is totally created for the imminent destruction of the state of Israel, took over the Gaza strip.

The result of this magnanimous gesture of the Gaza withdrawal was that over 10,000 missiles have rained down on Israel, provoking Israel to have to fight three wars: Cast Lead in 2008, Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014, with each successive war the range of the rockets was extended.

By now, the Palestinians in Gaza have missiles that can reach all of Israel’s main population centers. And just in case the missiles do not do the trick, the Gazans have been assiduously digging underground tunnels.

Yet there are many powerful voices in Washington, DC, that have not learned the lessons of the Gaza withdrawal. They want a precipitance withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, or the West bank, and try to delude themselves into thinking that that will solve the problem. They are looking at today’s difficulties with the impasse with the Palestinians, and as difficult as this situation is, many want to seize upon a solution, any solution, not realizing the lessons of the Gaza withdrawal.  These people chose to willfully blind themselves to what their leaders say to their own people in Arabic, and prefer not to entertain the notion that in today’s volatile Middle East, power changes hands very quickly. And assuming that the PA was a peaceful entity, which it most definitely is not-that does not mean that tomorrow Hamas will not be at the helm.

 

 

Photo: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Originally Published: http://washingtonjewishweek.com/45435/march-of-return-nothing-more-than-terrorists-plaything/editorial-opinion/voices/

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For a quarter of a century, the Palestinian Authority has cynically wrapped itself inside a fig leaf dubbed as the “Peace Process.” The naked truth, however, is that it has been using every means available to incite for, incentivize and reward terrorism. With Friday’s passage of the Taylor Force Act, which aims to deduct payments to Palestinian prisoners and martyrs, fissures are finally emerging in its iron wall of deception.

The phrase “Peace Process” served as an ingenious linguistic sedative, lulling the international community into the dream of a peaceful P.A. The harsh reality is that the objective of the P.A. has never been peace, but the gradual, staged elimination of the State of Israel. The P.A. has been consistently teaching their children that Jews and Israelis are odious, detestable creatures, and their final elimination would be of huge benefit to the Palestinian people, the Arab world and all of humanity.

The Palestinian National Covenant was adopted on May 28, 1963, in which most of the 33 articles invoke an “armed struggle” until “the Zionist entity is totally wiped out and Palestine is liberated.”

Note that this happened four years before the 1967 Six-Day War, so it had nothing to do with the disputed territories that followed that war, and everything to do with the 1948 War of Independence and the sheer existence of Israel.

In April 1996, amid the euphoria of the signing of the Oslo Accords and under much political pressure from the Clinton administration, the Palestinian National Council had a well-publicized vote to discuss whether to “revoke the covenant.” Despite the fanfare, they voted simply to extend the period of time to decide on what to do.

P.A. spokesperson Marwan Kanfani emerged from the meeting, saying: “This is not an amendment. It is a license to start a new, to found a new resolution, a new charter. This is really a vote to form a committee to look into it.”

The committee never was formed; the members never appointed; no meetings were subsequently announced.

Yet the international media was ablaze with headlines of how the P.A. had renounced the charter. Peter Jennings, the anchor of “World News Tonight” began his broadcast with: “They said it couldn’t be done. The P.A. has revoked its charter calling for the destruction of Israel.”

The PNC didn’t convene until 2009, in which Fatah spokesman Nabil Shaath said that “the covenant cannot be changed.” Azaam al Ahmed, another P.A. spokesman said “it [the covenant] will remain as is. It won’t be subject to change. We have the right to practice all forms of national struggle.”

Nevertheless, for decades the world convinced themselves that the P.A. was actually a peaceful entity, the moderate alternative to Hamas.

The P.A. has been playing a dubious game. It had used all means available to systematically indoctrinate  their people to despise and murder Israelis and Jews, using textbooks, children’s  television shows, sporting and cultural events to demonize Jews, to praise the shahid, (“martyr”) and to encourage their youth to follow in this “glorious path.”

As Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch writes, “P.A. libels claim that Israel conspires to infect Palestinians with AIDS, spread drug addiction, conspired and successfully murdered Arafat, and more. The P.A.’s goal has been to inculcate hatred to the degree that fighting and murdering Jews and Israelis will be glorified as heroic self-defense.”

After so many years of this systematic indoctrination, it’s no wonder that murdering Jews and Israelis is seen as a heroic act in the eyes of many Palestinians, and a regnant value of the P.A. In 2015, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said: “We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood.”

In defiance of the United States, the P.A. just announced that it will now directly pay the prisoners and the families of “martyrs” to the tune of $355 million a year.

Does this not constitute material support for terrorism?

At least, however, so far as the U.S. Congress is concerned, the gig is finally up.

Photo Credit: Flash90

Originally Published: https://www.jns.org/opinion/the-end-of-the-era-of-palestinian-deception/

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Photo Credit: U.N. Photo/Shareef Sarhan.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made headlines on Jan. 2 by saying that President Donald Trump has decided to stop funding UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, until the Palestinians agree to come to the negotiating table. On Jan. 16, the president—on the advice of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—agreed to transfer $60 million for now, as opposed to slashing all of the funding overnight. But the other $65 million of this usual installment has been held in reserve. The total amount of money paid to UNRWA by American taxpayers is approximately $370 million per year.

UNRWA was established in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 to handle the Palestinian refugee problem, set up to deal with the immediate crisis resulting from the Israeli War of Independence. It has camps in Judea and Samaria, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

The other refugees from World War II were taken under the U.N. High Commission of Refugees, whose mandate calls for immediate resettlement in their host nations. The Arab League, however, rejected that for the Palestinian refugees because they wanted them to be a constant thorn in the side of the newly established Jewish state.

This is the only refugee agency in the world whose mission is not for refugees to be resettled, integrated and re-entered into the workforce of their host countries, but whose mission is to instill in the minds of their population that they will one day return to their grandfathers’—or rather, great-grandfathers’—orchards and vineyards in Haifa and elsewhere.

In the absence of a solution to the refugee problem, UNRWA continues to redefine the word “refugee” to mean anyone who is a descendant of the 1948 war. Thus, from the original 700,000 refugees, UNRWA now claims to service approximately 5 million Palestinian refugees.

This agency’s conduct, although dressed in the benevolent clothing of a welfare agency, borders on the immoral because it implants within this population an unrealistic expectation that only serves to keeps the conflict alive. Not only does it perpetuate a psychology of victimhood, it entraps those being served into a perpetual state of poverty. Rather than getting on with their lives, they are trapped into perpetually reliving a conflict that happened 70 years ago.

A study of the new UNRWA textbooks, recently published by the Center for Near East Policy Research, found that for decades now, UNRWA has used textbooks that delegitimize and demonize the state of Israel and the presence of Jews there, and advocate for violent struggle as opposed to peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state.

In fact, inside UNRWA schools are pictures of Israel depicted as “Palestine,” posters praising the “brave shahids” (martyrs) who have killed civilians and an educational curriculum consisting of constant brainwashing for a violent jihad to despise and even murder Jews, and to liberate all of “Palestine.”

Pageants involve children as young as 4 years old, dressed in military garb, with rifles in hand. These children are being systematically programed to die for “Al Quds” (Arabic for Jerusalem) or any other part of “Palestine.” They are brainwashing an army of jihadists who keenly await the first opportunity to kill innocent civilians.

This is the worst sort of child abuse and exploitation imaginable. They are condemning these children—and any unfortunate civilian who might cross their paths—an early grave.

This comes in total conflict with the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 54/263’s own “Convention on the Rights of the Child: Optional Protocol on the Prohibition of Children in Armed Conflict,” barring the use of children under the age of 15 in combat.

Yet when it comes to this egregious practice, the United Nations chooses to look the other way.

This directly conflicts with an institution whose very charter speaks about practicing tolerance and living together with one another as good neighbors; reaffirming faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of every human person, and of all nations, great and small; establishing conditions for justice and respect for international treaties; and employing international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.

How these UNRWA camps and their hate-infested educational system can be an agency of the United Nations, with its lofty founding principles, continues to baffle me.

Given the deeply entrenched institutional biases of the United Nations against Israel, we can expect that UNRWA will soon find other donors. But that doesn’t mean that the United States, which had by far been the largest donor nation, has to continuously foot the bill.

The American taxpayer has other priorities than continuing to fund this corrupt and hypocritical agency.

Originally published at: https://www.jns.org/opinion/the-reasons-why-america-needs-to-stop-supporting-unrwa/

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Photo by: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

“Operation Olive Branch” is an ironic name for the aggressive military campaign carried out by Turkey against the Kurds in Afrin, Syria.

Situated in northwest Syria, Afrin has survived both the Syrian civil war and attacks from the Islamic State (IS); but when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vows to remove the “terrorists” from the region, he is referring to the Kurds — the same Kurds who have heroically fought IS and who have been allies with the U.S. in Syria; the same Kurds who have protected ethnic and religious minorities inside the war-torn country.

Afrin is home to nearly 400,000 internally displaced peoples (IDPs) who have fled the nearby provinces of Idlib and Aleppo to escape from both the Assad regime and from IS. The air and ground invasion by Turkey has also created 5,000 new IDPs since the advance began on the Jan. 20.

Erdogan has had his sights set on Afrin for quite some time, due to it being an isolated region separate from the rest of the Kurdish-held territories, and due to the lack of an American presence. Afrin is surrounded not only by Turkey, but also by the so-called Free Syrian Army, Al Qaeda affiliate terrorist groups, and the Syrian regime. Erdogan wishes to ethnically cleanse the safe enclave and either replace them with Turks or flood the territory with Arab Syrian refugees from inside Turkey. Furthermore, Erdogan has vowed to advance beyond Afrin into Kurdish-held regions east of the Euphrates River where there are American forces positioned. If Erdogan follows through on his promise, this could harm U.S. soldiers and jeopardize his ties with the U.S., and also be an act of war against a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partner.

To make matters worse, the outcome of Turkey’s aggression into Syria will give birth to new Islamic State-like groups, extending the almost seven-year-long civil war and ending any possible peace solution available to the war-torn country.

Instead of calling for an end to the ongoing Turkish aggression into Afrin, the international community has turned a blind eye. Seeing and capitalizing on this display of weakness, Erdogan has bolstered his position by threatening anyone who gets in his way, including American and European powers.

The Kurds have vowed to resist Erdogan’s destructive campaign, but are at a disadvantage due to Turkey’s air power. The Kurdish forces fighting under the People’s Protection Units (YPG) also have limited resources and light ammunition, while the Turks have unlimited means and heavy weaponry including German-made Leopard tanks. Kurds are known to be great fighters, but it is hard to determine how much longer they can hold off Turkish aggression, which has failed to penetrate deep into Afrin so far.

Erdogan’s aim is to destabilize a prosperous and stable Kurdish region. Despite the beating war drums surrounding Afrin, the Kurds have been able to put forth an inclusive and pluralistic safe haven in which both men and women are represented, ethnic and religious minorities are given a voice, and two successful rounds of elections have been implemented.

The Kurds are not asking their partners, including the U.S., to put soldiers’ lives on the line, nor are they asking for money or weaponry. The Kurds of Afrin are simply asking for an end to the unprovoked Turkish offensive into a historically Kurdish territory. Responding too late will give the world yet another humanitarian crisis it cannot afford.

Originally published at: http://www.kolhabirah.com/index.php/israel-global/op-ed/1176-turkey-is-coming-for-the-kurds

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Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Recently, President Trump again waived key sanctions on Iran, keeping to the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

In his statement on his decision, Trump vowed that, “Today, I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal. I will not do so again. This is a last chance.”

I hope this happens. As I have argued before, not only is the JCPOA itself not in the national interests of the United States, but, keeping to it despite Iranian cheating and aggression makes the U.S. look weak throughout the world stage. And this weakness invites more belligerence from enemy nations.

But until another four months pass, we have no idea what the president will do.

However, I can say with complete confidence that nothing that happens over the next four months will prompt the former Obama administration foreign policy experts, and “the blob” they fooled, especially the European elites, to reconsider their support for the Iran deal. We know this because of the past two years since the deal was implemented. Time after time, the Iranian regime had violated the JCPOA, or acted in an extremely dangerous and aggressive manner in the Middle East, only to have the foreign policy establishment rush to the barricades to caution against any move that would punish Iran by nixing the JCPOA.

The 2017-2018 demonstrations against the Iranian regime are just the most recent example. Iranian civilians took to the streets, originally to protest their lack of demonstrable economic benefits coming from the JCPOA, but eventually objecting to the brutal Islamist theocracy that governed them as well. So far, at least 25 Iranians are dead; thousands more have been arrested, and hundreds of them may be experiencing torture in the notorious Evin prison.

None of this seems to have prompted any reevaluation of the Iran deal by the foreign policy elites in any nation: “Reviving sanctions on Iran’s main export would allow Tehran to argue that the United States is ultimately the cause of Iran’s economic problems, said Richard Nephew, who worked on sanctions policy at the White House under President Barack Obama,” Reuters reported.

Of course, open Iranian violations of the JCPOA also were excused away. At least twice, the Iranian regime was caught producing excess heavy water at Arak. This breech of the agreement was simply “solved” by allowing Iran to sell this excess heavy water for extra cash currency, which undoubtedly helps to fund more Iranian aggression throughout the Middle East by the IRGC or terror proxies.

So too, it was excused when Iran refused to allow international inspectors to inspect Iranian military sites, despite language to the contrary in the deal. Obviously, the likeliest place for any illegal Iranian nuclear testing to be occurring would be in a military site. But we will never know, since rather than demand access, the international inspectors simply chose not to ask for entry to those facilities.

When it was discovered that Iran is likely violating Section T of the Iran deal, which explicitly bans Iran from “activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” this too was pushed under the rug; even though these violations are directly related to nuclear weapons development. For example, Iran is likely using computer models to simulate a nuclear bomb, and/or designing multi-point, explosive detonation systems.

When Iran was caught sending missiles and weapons to fighters in Syria and Yemen, and some of the missiles sent to Yemen were fired at U.S. ships, in what was possibly an act of war, and clearly a violation of UN Resolution 2231 — which bans Iran from shipping weapons throughout the Middle East — the Iranians were once again given a pass. This was done despite the fact that UN resolution 2231 incorporates the Iran deal.

When Iran uses is monies from the JCPOA, including the sanctions relief that is still given to them each month, for nefarious purposes, this is immaterial to deal defenders. Some of this is being used to fund the Iranian controlled Shia militias in Iraq, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, which “dominate” Iraq, and whose membership includes terrorists with American blood on their hands.

When Iran went all in to protect its client regime, the vicious Assad government in Syria, to the tune of an estimated $15 billion a year, and waged an ethnic cleansing campaign against Sunni Arabs in Syria, once again funding all of this thanks to the JCPOA, this too was ignored by the elite.

Perhaps most prominently, when the Iranians threatened American Naval ships in the Persian Gulf, and even physically grabbed American sailors, who were intimidated and made to “apologize” to their captors — which the Navy deemed a violation of international law — this was also no big deal. The incident was quickly forgotten, even after Iran bragged that it (illegallyextracted information from the sailors’ confiscated phones and laptops, and made and took humiliating films and pictures of the prisoners.

As we can see, to the foreign policy establishment, the Iran deal is untouchable, no matter what Iran does. And when the facts don’t matter in evaluating a foreign agreement, this means that its proponents believe in it as an article of faith. Faith is most appropriate in shaping one’s religious views; it is not so appropriate when it determines one’s foreign policies.

Originally published at: https://www.newsmax.com/adamturner/iran-trump-jcpoa-nuclear/2018/01/31/id/840588/#ixzz56FTdmLcF

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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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