Latest Analysis & Commentary

Iran Leads at Halftime; Game Over?

by Shoshana Bryen  •  October 31, 2014 at 5:00 am

The relevant UN Resolution, as well as the Congressional sanctions bill, says the acceptable level of enrichment is none at all. The administration is, in fact, negotiating a level. This track means the total erasure of all international sanctions.

All of the steps Iran took are reversible. Iran's "expressed desires" should not be the driver of U.S. policy.

The Coach-in Chief, President Obama, appears to believe the West and Iran are on the same team looking for a negotiated tie. The Iranians, however, are looking for nuclear weapons.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during talks in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2014. (Image source: U.S. State Department)

In the run up to November's P5+1 talks, Iran has already won the battles that count; remember, this is the bazaar. After last year's unsatisfactory interim agreement, this author wrote:

A deal that is not a capitulation requires two conditions: the parties must equally value the process; and there has to be a compatible endgame. The West invested the process with much more value than did Iran, providing the mullahs with instant leverage, but most important, there was no agreed-upon end game.

The P5+1 wanted to negotiate the terms of Iran's nuclear surrender; Iran was negotiating the conditions under which it will operate its nuclear program.

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Erdogan's Book of Defeat

by Burak Bekdil  •  October 31, 2014 at 4:00 am

In the entire Middle East, Turkey now has only two allies: Qatar, which looks more like a rich, family-owned gas station than a state; and Hamas, a terrorist organization.

Tunisia was the final chapter in Erdogan's book of defeat. Neo-Ottomanism was a childish dream. It is, now, a "sealed" childish dream.

'Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy...' Pictured above: Egypt's then President Mohamed Morsi (left) poses with Turkey's then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, before Morsi was overthrown and jailed.

Shortly after the Arab Spring rocked several capitals in the Middle East, the Turks devised a plan that would enable their country to emerge as the new Ottoman Empire. While deliberately and systematically antagonizing Israel, Ankara would: replace the Shia-controlled Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad with a Turkey-friendly Sunni ruler; support the Sunni in Iraq and Lebanon and boost their political influence; support Hamas in the Palestinian territories and provoke it to violence against Israel; and make sure that the Muslim Brotherhood or their various brethren rule Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Saudis were already "our Muslim brothers." Eventually, all former Ottoman lands would produce governments subservient to the emerging Turkish Empire.

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Normalization between Ankara and Jerusalem? Guess Again.

by Burak Bekdil  •  October 30, 2014 at 5:00 am

Until Jerusalem is the capital of a Palestinian state and Israel is pushed back to its pre-1967 borders, it will be "halal" for Erdogan to blame Israel for global warming, the Ebola virus, starvation in Africa and every other misfortune the world faces.

On the press freedoms index 2014 of Reporters without Borders, Turkey ranks an embarrassing 154th, a score worse than Burundi, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Libya, Uganda and Kyrgyzstan, among others. Once again, Erdogan corrupted facts and figures in order to bash Israel.

Holy struggle against Israel is a prerequisite for Erdogan's pro-Hamas Islamism, and the cold war and Erdogan's explosive rhetoric around it have yielded a treasure-trove of votes in a country that champions anti-Semitism.

Turkey's then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a 2009 a panel in Davos, Switzerland, tells Israel's then President Shimon Peres, "when it comes to killing, you know well how to kill."

"The Jewish lobby has lost much of its mythical power. Our prime minister's rhetoric and actions have largely caused this. The way he [Erdogan] walked out of the Davos meeting [in 2009] has substantially tarnished Israel's regional charisma. Despite all that, Israel has been unable to harm Turkey." This quote was from former senior diplomat and member of parliament Volkan Bozkir, of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP], in an interview with the daily Hurriyet on March 18, 2013. In Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's mini-cabinet reshuffle last month, Bozkir became Turkey's European Union Minister and chief negotiator with the club for Turkish membership.

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Iran's Nuclear Program: Chief Obstacle to Iranian Hegemony

by Malcolm Lowe  •  October 30, 2014 at 4:00 am

The depredations of the "Islamic State" have given Iranians the opportunity to restore a dominance that they enjoyed intermittently until the Arabs conquered them. Only the well-justified Western fear of Iranian nuclear missiles stands in their way.

The negotiating stance of the P5+1 should be that to grant Iran a leading role in Iraq and Syria is to do Iran a massive favor and must presuppose the total elimination of the centrifuges and missiles.

Any Iranian schoolchild knows that Cyrus the Great created -- in barely a decade -- a Persian Empire that encompassed most of the Middle East, including present-day Turkey. His son added Egypt and part of Libya. "What's more," the Iranian child will proudly add, "I'm still speaking the language of Cyrus!"

"Alexander at the Tomb of Cyrus the Great," oil on canvas (1796) by Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

For many months now, the so-called P5+1 countries have been negotiating with Iran over the latter's nuclear program. The endless futile negotiations over how many centrifuges and how fast they should spin and for how long – have lost their way. Maybe the P5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) should try a radically new approach.

Junk your entire nuclear program and hand over all your intercontinental missiles, they could tell Iran. Just get rid of the lot, like Assad who junked his chemical weapons. We were going to give him the Gaddafi treatment, but now he sits safely in power in Damascus. So just eliminate your foolish threat to ourselves and we shall gratefully watch from afar while you rebuild the empire of Cyrus.

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Palestinians: Stop the Children's Intifada!

by Khaled Abu Toameh  •  October 29, 2014 at 5:00 am

The exploitation of children in the fight against Israel has attracted little attention from the international community and the media. Human rights groups and the UN have chosen to turn a blind eye to this human rights abuse. Instead of condemning it, these groups are busy denouncing Israel for targeting minors.

This strategy works out well for Hamas and Fatah, who can always blame Israel for "deliberately targeting" Palestinian children — an allegation the media in the West often endorses without asking questions.

Even more worrying is that the Palestinian groups often reward the families, who then become less motivated to stop their children from risking their lives.

Adult activists who encourage and send children to take part in violence should be held accountable, not only by Israel but by their own people. If these adults want an intifada, they should be the first to go out and confront Israeli policemen and soldiers.

Masked Palestinian youths hurl rocks at a Jewish kindergarten near the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Sept. 2014.

Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian groups are using children from east Jerusalem and the West Bank in what appears to be a new intifada against Israel.

Nearly half of the Palestinians arrested by Jerusalem Police over the past few months are minors. Some of them are as young as nine.

These children are being sent to throw stones and firebombs, and launch fireworks at policemen and IDF soldiers, as well as at Israeli civilians and vehicles, including buses and the light rail in Jerusalem.

The exploitation of children in the fight against Israel has attracted little attention from the international community and media. Human rights groups and United Nations institutions have chosen to turn a blind eye to these human rights abuses.

Instead of condemning those who exploit the children and dispatch them to confront policemen and soldiers, these groups and institutions are busy denouncing Israel for targeting minors.

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Germany: Silencing the Critics of Munich's Mega-Mosque

by Soeren Kern  •  October 28, 2014 at 5:00 am

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter said that if the public referendum were permitted to proceed, it would give the anti-mosque campaign "a democratic veneer, which we want to avoid."

In late 2013, the proposed mosque was given a new name, the Munich Forum for Islam, apparently in an effort to dispel growing public unease about the mosque's broader ambitions.

Anti-mosque activists say that the enforcers of multiculturalism in Bavaria have determined that the mosque project will proceed, even if it requires bypassing the democratic process.

"By stopping the vote from going ahead, the City Council is preventing your opinion from being abused by the anti-democratic goals of extremists." — The Munich Forum for Islam.

Michael Stürzenberger, leader of Freedom Bavaria, at an anti-mega-mosque event in Munich.

A court in Bavaria, the largest state in Germany, has reaffirmed that it is lawful for the government to spy on citizens who are opposed to the construction of a controversial mega-mosque in Munich.

The ruling effectively quashes a lawsuit filed by anti-mosque activists who argue that state surveillance is an intimidation tactic aimed at silencing public opposition to the mosque.

The ruling comes just days after another court in Bavaria ordered a leading anti-mosque campaigner to pay a hefty fine for "defaming" Islam after he repeatedly warned that Islam is incompatible with democracy.

Meanwhile, Munich city officials have announced that a public referendum on the mosque—now known as the Munich Forum for Islam—will not be allowed to take place, even though anti-mosque activists have gathered twice the number of signatures needed to allow local citizens to determine if the mosque should be built.

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Netherlands: When the Questions Become the Crime

by Abigail R. Esman  •  October 27, 2014 at 5:00 am

More problematic is that it reaches a point where discussion or debate is impossible because the questions themselves become a crime.

Such laws not only run counter to the basic principles of democracy; they are, in many instances, representative of a duplicitous selective application of the law. Why are the prosecutors not going after Yasmina Haifi, who tweeted that ISIS is a Zionist plot? Is the criminalization of hate speech now dependent only on whom you hate?

The people are entitled to a country in which they can voice their frustration and be heard.

Geert Wilders during his March 2014 speech, which may result in criminal charges of "hate speech" against him. (Image source: video screenshot)

Last March, Geert Wilders, the controversial right-wing Dutch Parliamentarian best known for his stance against Muslims and Muslim immigration, stood before supporters at a campaign rally and asked a simple question: "Do you want more Moroccans, or fewer?"

He expected the question to raise enthusiasm among the crowd, and drive his party to greater Parliamentary success. It has also possibly landed him before the courts, to be tried for "hate speech" -- a crime in the Netherlands, which, despite its claims of "freedom of speech," still criminalizes speech that "offends" on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, or even personal convictions and ideology.

Wilders, however, didn't make a statement: he simply asked others what they wanted. It was the Dutch people themselves who, in response, cried out, "Fewer! Fewer!"

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The Arab Spring Comes to China

by Mohamed Chtatou  •  October 27, 2014 at 4:30 am

As in every dictatorship, the government's only fear is of its own people.

Today, China's authorities are going back on their promise of maintaining Hong Kong's special political status, inherited from Britain. Hong Kong, however, is moving the Arab way: it is choosing democracy.

Such movements do not die; they just take shelter to let the storm pass. The Arab Spring will arrive in these lands with the sweetness of democracy, equal opportunity, and the promise of freedom for everyone.

Tens of thousands of protesters throng Harcourt Road in Hong Kong, September 29, 2014. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons/Citobun)

In 2010, the tiny North African nation of Tunisia rejected patriarchy, nepotism and tribalism and opted for Arab democracy. Soon its call for overthrowing absolutism engulfed the Arab world and ushered in a new beginning -- only soon to find itself undermined and overwhelmed, like Egypt, by organized, well-funded autocracies.

The democrats' movement was often swamped by blood and atrocities, but still the hope for democracy and freedom is alive and waiting for the next wave of uprisings -- sooner rather than later; no one can resist the call for democracy, freedom and human rights.

The Arab Spring Tsunami Goes Global

For the first time ever, an Arab-born movement reverberated in democratic countries such as Spain, with the Outraged Movement 2011-2012 (Indignados or Moviemente 15-M). It kicked off on May 15, 2011 in Madrid and 58 other Spanish cities, and called for more democracy and more youths represented in politics.

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Turkey: No Longer a "Rock Star" on Arab Street

by Burak Bekdil  •  October 27, 2014 at 4:00 am

Erdogan's Turkey is no longer an attraction for the Muslim street. Instead, it is, overtly or covertly, on hostile terms with Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Iran -- all at the same time.

In this mind-set, "We're so superb that we cannot be wrong because what we think right is Allah-given." If things go wrong, it must be because of something else.

We're rock stars either way: In Turkish Islamist thinking, Turkey's election to the Security Council is acknowledgement of its success, but failure is the work of unprincipled nations who envy Turkey. Pictured above, then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the UN General Assembly in 2011. (Image source: UN)

Early in 2010, James Jeffrey, then U.S. ambassador to Turkey, sent a cable to Washington, DC in which he described Turkey as a country "[w]ith Rolls Royce ambitions but Rover resources". Time has proven him right.

Back in 2009-10, then Turkey's Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan was greeted like a rock star in every Arab capital. He was presumably the darling of the Arab Street, including Damascus, Beirut and Egypt -- all of which are today Turkey's regional nemeses. In 2011, an Egyptian columnist wrote a commentary in which he "begged the Turks to lend [them] their prime minister." To which this columnist replied: "By all means. Take him, and you need not return him."

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How Likely Is Deradicalization?

by Denis MacEoin  •  October 26, 2014 at 5:00 am

Will radical Muslims line up to be deprogrammed and end up teaching kindergarten or devising a twelve-step program for their younger siblings? Since the start of deradicalization programs, the number of radicalized Muslims has risen.

Why is there no Muslim Peace Movement campaigning for an end to violence in Muslim countries? Why do Muslims -- and others -- take to the streets to condemn democratic Israel, yet never march to protest Hamas's use of Palestinians as human shields, or the violence of al-Qaeda, Boko Haram or any other jihadi group? Why not be angry at the way violent Muslims drag the image of non-violent Muslims in the mud? Many Muslims, however, complain about "Islamophobia" while ignoring the primary causes of hostility to themselves.

Many Muslims are trapped, because the Qur'an and the ahadith, which make up the holy writ, all condone or command jihad and hatred for non-believers, and they do so abundantly. Yet commentators and politicians still wonder where the fighters of the Islamic State or the killers of Theo van Gogh get their inspiration. A young man who sees the world through such a lens will easily turn to this to justify his desire to wage jihad.

It is still risky for anyone one in any Muslim country to call for a new approach to the most sacred texts.

Will radical Muslims line up to be deprogrammed and end up teaching kindergarten or devising a twelve-step program for their younger siblings?

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced on September 1 that British jihadists returning to this country would be forced to enter deradicalization programs. Now, the Danish government has offered a similar program to returning jihadists, without prosecution.

A reasonable idea, one might think, and one that we may all hope is successful. But is this latest round in the battle against Islamic radicalism likely to be any more effective than its predecessors? Will radical Muslims -- call them Salafis, jihadis, Islamic State fighters or what you will -- line up to be deprogrammed and end up teaching kindergarten or devising a twelve-step program for their younger siblings now queuing to take their place on the front line between Islam and unbelief?

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The Kurds in Turkey and the Fight for Kobani

by Veli Sirin  •  October 26, 2014 at 4:45 am

A historical process is now threatened with failure: the reconciliation of the Turkish State with the Kurds living in Turkey.

Turkish guns point in every direction but that of Kobani, and the Turkish air force continues bombing the Kurdish PKK, not ISIS. Many Kurds believe that the Turkish state considers it acceptable for the "Islamic State" to murder Kurds, and would rather bomb the Kurds than help them against ISIS.

Turkish tanks near the border with Syria, October 2014.

The world has watched the town of Kobani on the Turkish-Syrian border, where the Wahhabi terrorists of the so-called "Islamic State" [IS], also known as ISIS, ISIL, and, in Arabic, the "Daesh," are fighting the Kurdish peshmerga, a word meaning "those facing death." The Turkish authorities, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Islamist Justice and Development Party [AKP], have stood among the ambivalent observers of the battle for Kobani.

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Turkey: The "Great Muslim Democracy"

by Burak Bekdil  •  October 25, 2014 at 5:00 am

Where Turkey stands today is a perfect example of how, when Islamists -- mild or otherwise -- rule a county, even the most basic liberties are systematically suppressed.

"A climate of fear has emerged in Turkey." — Hasam Kilic, President, Turkey's Constitutional Court.

The prosecutor demanded a heavier penalty for the victim than for her torturers.

The European Commission identified government interference in the judiciary and bans imposed on social media as the major sources of concern regarding Turkey's candidacy for full membership.

Mehmet Ali Sahin, Deputy Chairman of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, suggested that millions of peaceful protestors should be given life sentences.

"We have made the conservative, pious [Muslim] masses not just a part, but a major actor of the political system." Thus said Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, not even trying to hide his pride.

Where Turkey stands today is a perfect example of how, when Islamists -- mild or otherwise -- rule a country, even the most basic liberties are systematically suppressed. The seal of approval for the terrible failure of what U.S. President Barack Obama once called a "successful Muslim democracy" came from the country's top judge.

Hasim Kilic, President of Turkey's Constitutional Court, and himself a conservative, recently said that, "A climate of fear has emerged in Turkey;" and he called on the Turks "to resist [it], and not give up." It is not always easy to do so.

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Abbas's Responsibility for Murder

by Khaled Abu Toameh  •  October 24, 2014 at 5:00 am

To understand what drives a young Palestinian to carry out such a deadly attack, one needs to look at the statements of Palestinian Authority leaders during the past few weeks.

The anti-Israel campaign of incitement reached its peak with Abbas's speech at the UN a few weeks ago, when he accused Israel of waging a "war of genocide" in the Gaza Strip. Abbas made no reference to Hamas's crimes against both Israelis and Palestinians.

Whatever his motives, it is clear that the man who carried out the most recent attack, was influenced by the messages that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership have been sending their people.

A security camera recorded 3-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun being wheeled in her stroller by her parents, about 15 seconds before they were hit by the terrorist's vehicle.

While Hamas's rockets and suicide bombers have been killing Israelis over the past twenty-five years, the Palestinian Authority's rhetoric has not been less lethal.

In fact, it is this fiery rhetoric that has created the inviting atmosphere for launching terrorist attacks against Israel, such as the attack that took place in Jerusalem on Wednesday, October 22.

Chaya Zissel Braun, a three-month-old infant, was killed when a Palestinian man slammed his vehicle into a crowd of people at a light rail stop in the city. Nine people were injured, three seriously, in the attack.

The Palestinian who carried out the attack was identified as 20-year-old Abdel Rahman al-Shalodi of the Silwan neighborhood in east Jerusalem. He was shot on the scene and later died in hospital.

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority [PA] cannot avoid responsibility for killing the baby.

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Israel's Security and Unintended Consequences

by Richard Kemp  •  October 23, 2014 at 5:00 am

Would General Allen -- or any other general today -- recommend contracting out his country's defenses if it were his country at stake? Of course not.

The Iranian regime remains dedicated to undermining and ultimately destroying the State of Israel. The Islamic State also has Israel in its sights and would certainly use the West Bank as a point from which to attack, if it were open to them.

There can be no two-state solution and no sovereign Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan, however desirable those things might be. The stark military reality is that Israel cannot withdraw its forces from the West Bank.

Fatah leaders ally themselves with the terrorists of Hamas, and, like Hamas, they continue to reject the every existence of the State of Israel.

If Western leaders actually want to help, they should use all diplomatic and economic means to make it clear to the Palestinians that they will never achieve an independent and sovereign state while they remain set on the destruction of the State of Israel.

General Douglas MacArthur (left) strongly believed in forward defense. General John Allen (right) also believes in forward defense -- but for U.S. forces only, not for the Israel's military defending its borders.

When in 1942 American General Douglas MacArthur took command of the defense of Australia against imminent Japanese invasion, one of the plans he rejected was to withdraw and fight behind the Brisbane line, a move that would have given large swathes of territory to the Japanese.

Instead, he adopted a policy of forward defense: advancing northwards out of Australia to attack the Japanese on the island of New Guinea. MacArthur then went on to play a pivotal role in the defeat of the Japanese empire.

At the end of last year, during the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations involving U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, another extremely able and widely respected American General, John Allen, drew up a plan progressively to withdraw Israeli forces from the West Bank and hand over Israel's forward defense to a combination of Palestinian Arab forces, international monitors and technology.

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Palestinian Statehood?

by Louis René Beres  •  October 22, 2014 at 5:00 am

The Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], forerunner of today's Palestinian Authority, was founded in 1964, three years before Israel came into the unintended control of the West Bank and Gaza. What therefore was the PLO planning to "liberate"?

Why does no one expect the Palestinians to cease all deliberate and random violence against Israeli civilians before being considered for admission to statehood?

On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States endorsed a "Mandate for Palestine," confirming the right of Jews to settle anywhere they chose between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is the core American legacy of support for a Jewish State that President Obama now somehow fails to recall.

A sovereign state of Palestine, as identified by the Arabs -- a Muslim land occupied by "Palestinian" Arabs -- has never existed; not before 1948, and not before 1967. From the start, it was, and continues to be, the Arab states -- not Israel -- that became the core impediment to Palestinian sovereignty.

No, no and NO. From left to right: 1) King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, President Nasser of Egypt, President Sallal of Yemen, Sheikh Sabah of Kuwait and President Arif of Iraq at the1967 Arab League Summit in Khartoum; 2) Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas; 3) Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

When U.S. President Barack Obama announces in the United Nations that he wants a two-state solution for Israel and "Palestine," and when U.S. Secretary of State repeated it recently -- and when Sweden and the UK vote for a Palestinian State, and now possibly Spain and France -- they should be more careful what they wish for.

Although there is no lawful justification for offering statehood, but Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, on September 26, 2014, told the United Nations that "the hour of independence of the state of Palestine has arrived." Earlier, in 2012, the PA had already received elevated status from the UN General Assembly to that of a "nonmember observer state," but this elevation fell short of full sovereignty.

There can also be no justification -- ethical, legal, or geopolitical -- for waging war against the ISIS jihadis in Syria and Iraq, while simultaneously urging statehood for the Hamas/PA jihadis in West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and Gaza.

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