Latest Analysis & Commentary

Why Many Arabs and Muslims Do Not Trust Obama

by Khaled Abu Toameh  •  September 15, 2014 at 5:00 am

Many Arabs and Muslims identify with the terrorists' anti-Western objectives ideology; they are afraid of being dubbed traitors and U.S. agents for joining non-Muslims in a war that would result in the death of many Muslims, and they are afraid their people would rise up against them.

Many Arab and Muslim leaders view the Islamic State as a by-product of failed U.S. policies, especially the current U.S. Administration's weak-kneed support for Iraq's Nuri al-Maliki. Some of these leaders, such as Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, consider the U.S. to be a major ally of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi and his regime will never forgive Obama for his support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Also, they do not seem to have much confidence in the Obama Administration, which is perceived as weak and incompetent when it comes to combating Islamists.

Will Sisi ever forgive the Obama Administration for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood? Above, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry chats with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on July 22, 2014. (Image source: U.S. State Department)

"This is not our war and we should not be taking part in it."

That is how many Arabs and Muslims reacted to US President Barack Obama's plan to form an international coalition to fight the Islamic State [IS] terrorist organization, which is operating in Iraq and Syria and threatening to invade more Arab countries.

Islamic State terrorists have killed and wounded tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, mostly over the past few months. By contrast, Islamic State has targeted only a few Westerners, three of whom were beheaded in recent weeks.

Islamic State terrorists are also responsible for the displacement of millions of Iraqis and Syrians, and for the murder of many others.

Still, the atrocities committed by Islamic State against Arabs and Muslims, in addition to the immediate threat it poses to many of their countries, do not seem to be sufficient reason for them to declare war on the group.

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Will Scottish Independence Give Putin Pretext to Annex Eastern Ukraine?

by Peter Martino  •  September 15, 2014 at 4:00 am

Scottish independence would be a disaster for NATO, putting the UK nuclear deterrent in jeopardy. It would also put into question national borders all over Europe, including Catalonia, Belgium, France's Brittany and Corsica, Italy's South Tyrol -- and Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned in 2008 that Kosovo's independence "would be the beginning of the end for Europe."

Crimea's recent secession from Ukraine was justified with a reference to "the Kosovo precedent," which Putin pointed out, "our Western partners created with their own hands."

The United Kingdom flag, flag of Scotland, and European Union flag flying outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons/Calum Hutchinson)

This Thursday, Scotland will be holding a referendum on independence. Polls predict that it may go either way; a narrow victory for those who want Scotland to become an independent nation or for those who want it to remain a part of the United Kingdom. While in most European capitals, governments are hoping that the 'No' side will win the day, Russian president Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin has several reasons to cheer if the Scots decide to go their own way.

Scottish independence would be a disaster for NATO. The Scottish nationalists have made it very clear that they want all British nuclear weapons to be removed from Scottish soil. This will put the UK nuclear deterrent in jeopardy. But Scottish independence is also likely to bring national borders into question all over Europe, including the fragile boundaries of the Ukraine.

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Portugal's Jihadists

by Soeren Kern  •  September 14, 2014 at 5:00 am

Portugal, like Spain, also figures prominently in a map produced by the jihadist group Islamic State [IS] that outlines a five-year plan for expanding its Islamic Caliphate into Europe.

"Holy War is the only solution for humanity." — Abdu, Portuguese jihadist.

"Every time these jihadists groups mention the recovery of al-Andalus, they are also referring to Portugal. Jihadists do not believe in national divisions, but in the existence of a single Muslim community that embraces the entire Iberian Peninsula." — Miguel Torres Soriano, Spanish terrorism expert.

Celso Rodrigues da Costa, the Portuguese jihadist known as Abu Isa al-Andalus, appears in an Islamic State recruitment video. (Image source: MEMRI)

At least a dozen Portuguese nationals have joined jihadist groups fighting in Iraq and Syria, according to new estimates by Portuguese counter-terrorism officials.

All of the Portuguese jihadists (ten men and two women) are under the age of 30 and most of them are children of immigrants, but so far none of the individuals is known to have returned to live in Portugal.

Portuguese authorities are—for now—downplaying the threat these individuals may pose to Portugal upon their return home from the battlefields.

Security analysts from Spain, however, are warning the Portuguese government against complacency. They argue that although the number of Portuguese jihadists may be small compared to other European countries, radical Muslims are becoming increasingly strident in their vows to reconquer Al-Andalus—of which Portugal is a key component—for Islam.

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Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel's Just War Against Hamas - Chapter 1

by Alan M. Dershowitz  •  September 13, 2014 at 5:00 am

President George W. Bush's announcement in 2001 to support the creation of a Palestinian state offered a unique opportunity to Palestinians to end the violence and begin building a new future. Hamas's response came a few weeks later, when it fired the first Qassam rocket into the Israeli town of Sderot, population approximately 20,000.

It was only after Hamas's coup in June 2007, and the heavy rocket attacks that followed, that Israel imposed more extensive sanctions on Gaza. Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli civilians were not a response to Gaza's increasing isolation, but the cause.

The sanctions imposed on Gaza -- not only by Israel, but the world -- were the direct result of Hamas's refusal to meet the international community's basic, reasonable demands: stop terror, recognize Israel, and respect previous agreements. Hamas and its fellow terrorist organizations deny the right to live in peace.

The Goldstone Report not only falsified the past; it had a negative influence by encouraging Hamas to repeat its own double war crimes: firing rockets at Israeli civilians from behind Palestinian human shields -- and killing and kidnapping Israeli civilians and soldiers through its terrorist tunnels.

Operation Protective Edge—The Historical Context

"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This truism, by philosopher George Santayana, well describes the current situation in the Middle East in general and Gaza in particular. Israelis and Palestinians have been condemned to repeat the tragedies of the past because history is neglected or misunderstood. That is why it is necessary to place the recent events in Gaza into a brief historical context.
 On October 2, 2001, only three weeks after the terror attacks of September 11, President George W. Bush announced that the United States supported the creation of a Palestinian state. It was a major milestone for the Palestinian cause, since no previous American administration had officially acknowledged a Palestinian state as an explicit goal of US foreign policy. The announcement was all the more remarkable given that the US was still reeling in the wake of 9/11, and that Palestinian extremists were still using terror against Israelis to achieve their goals. The American announcement came just months after Yasser Arafat had rejected an offer of statehood by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton.[1]

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Turkey's Frankenstein Monster

by Burak Bekdil  •  September 13, 2014 at 4:00 am

Last June, Turkey's own Frankenstein, who went by the name of ISIS, attacked the Turkish consulate compound in Mosul, and took 49 Turks, including the consul general, hostage.

The hostages are still in captivity. So is Turkey.

For each [Islamic] sect, the other is "not even Muslim."

The wreckage of the Shrine of Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, which was destroyed by insurgents of the Islamic State in July 2014.

It all began when Turkey's leaders thought they could build a Sunni belt under Turkish hegemony, and resting geographically under the Crescent and Star. For that to actually happen, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq had to be ruled by Sunni -- preferably Muslim Brotherhood-type -- leaderships subservient to Ankara.

This Turkish gambit came at a time when the turbulent Middle East was even more turbulent than it always is: the Arab Spring had unmasked a 14-century-long hatred between Islam's two main sects, a schism started by rival clans in the Prophet Muhammad's tribe, the Quraysh. This is a feud that would survive beyond even their imagination.

Syria, with which Turkey shares a 500-mile border, was sadly being ruled by a Nusayri (Syrian Alawite), an offshoot of the Shia faith. Bashar al-Assad soon became, as the Sicilians say, "a stone in (then Prime Minister, now President) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's shoe."

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Pistorius Judge was Wrong
What if there were armed intruders in the bathroom?

by Alan M. Dershowitz  •  September 12, 2014 at 11:20 am

Oscar Pistorius sits in court.

The compromise verdict reached by judge Thokozile Masipa in the Oscar Pistorius case is wrong. It should be reversed on appeal.

The judge found reasonable doubt that Pistorius intended to kill his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, and concluded that the evidence supports his belief that armed intruders may have broken into his home through the bathroom window. If that is the case then he had a perfect right to defend himself, his girlfriend and his home from a home invasion by armed intruders. There would be nothing criminally culpable about a disabled man shooting through the bathroom door if he honestly believed his life was in danger.

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Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel's Just War Against Hamas
Introduction

by Alan M. Dershowitz  •  September 12, 2014 at 5:00 am

Hamas quickly produces photographs of dead babies to be shown around the world, while at the same time preventing the media from showing its rocket launchers in densely populated areas.

Unless Hamas's "dead baby strategy" is denounced and stopped -- by the international community, the media, the academy and all good people -- it will be coming soon "to a theater near you".

If Hamas's dead baby strategy works, why not repeat it every few years? And why shouldn't other terrorist groups, like ISIS and Boko Haram, adapt this strategy to their nefarious goals as Hezbollah has already done?

On June 13, 2014, the commander of the Gaza Division of the Israel Defense Forces took me into a Hamas tunnel that had recently been discovered by a Bedouin tracker who serves in the IDF. The tunnel was a concrete bunker that extended several miles from its entrance in the Gaza Strip to its exit near an Israeli kibbutz kindergarten.

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Will The New European Commission Be Less Biased Against Israel?

by Peter Martino  •  September 12, 2014 at 4:00 am

Barely two years ago, in 2012, Mogherini showed her pro-Palestinian sympathies by posting on her blog a picture of her visit to Yasser Arafat in 2002. The picture has meanwhile been removed form the blog but can still be found on the internet.

During the next five years, the EU's policies and attitudes toward Israel are not likely to change.

Catherine Ashton, the current EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security (left), and Frederica Mogherini, who is planned to be Ashton's successor.

A new European Commission will be installed on November 1 as the European Union's executive body for the next five years. The previous Commission, headed by the Portuguese politician José Manuel Barroso, will be replaced by one led by Jean-Claude Juncker, former Prime Minister of Luxemburg. Unfortunately, there is no indication that the new Commission will be less biased in its attitudes against Israel than the old one.

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Evaluating Mahmoud Abbas - And How to Relate to Him

by Malcolm Lowe  •  September 11, 2014 at 5:00 am

Everything has now gone wrong for Abbas. The destruction in Gaza matches the destruction of the Second Intifada, precisely what Abbas deplored in respect of Arafat. Hamas exploited the formation of the unity government for a scheme to overthrow Abbas in the West Bank. Haniyeh is projected to defeat him by 61% to 32% in the upcoming election for the Palestinian presidency.

Israeli politicians who propose to renew peace negotiations, with Abbas or whomever, are advised to make two basic stipulations. First, that Israel will negotiate only with a Palestinian government that officially recognizes its obligation to demilitarize Gaza. Second, that no agreements can be signed until the Palestinians hold the projected elections for their parliament and presidency -- and the outcome is known.

Best Frenemies? Mahmoud Abbas (r) meets with the Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal in Qatar, July 20, 2014. (Image source: Handout from the Palestinian Authority President's Office/Thaer Ghanem)

The recent hostilities between Hamas and Israel have prompted various Israeli figures, in the governing coalition as well as in the opposition, to advocate an enhanced role for Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority [PA], in an eventual solution for Gaza. The implausibility of this idea has been pointed out elsewhere. What both the proponents and the critics of this idea have not asked, however, is a more fundamental question: To what extent was Abbas complicit in the aggression of Hamas?

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Confusion over "Jihad"

by Burak Bekdil  •  September 11, 2014 at 4:00 am

Shortly after he founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, Hassan al-Banna made very clear what jihad was about: "It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations and to extend its power to the entire world."

No idea how an inner struggle can be achieved with stones and missiles.

The "Turkish jihadist" is a part-time jihadist, playing the jihadist at home for domestic consumption and the blessed peacemaker in front of major world powers.

Who is the authority on the meaning of "jihad" -- Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna (left), its current spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi (middle), or Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu?

Although it is a common male name in Turkish (Cihat), the Turks, and apparently many others too, have a confused mind about the Arabic word "jihad." Most Turks have felt contempt for "the jihadist terrorists" of al-Qaeda. They feel the same for the "jihadist/Salafist" Islamic State that captured large swathes of Syrian and Iraqi territory this summer, and took hostage 49 Turks, including the consul general, at their consulate compound in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on June 11. At the same time, thousands of Turks identified themselves as "jihadists," just like the IS's men, when they took to the streets to protest Palestinian casualties and attack Israeli diplomatic missions in July and August.

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Undermining Justice: Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire Breaches International Law

by Louis René Beres  •  September 10, 2014 at 5:00 am

No authoritative system of law can allow or encourage accommodation between a proper national government and an unambiguously criminal organization. By definition, under pertinent rules, Hamas is an illegal organization.

Even if an insurgent group claims the legal right to wage violent conflict for "self-determination" -- Hamas's argument -- the group does not have the right to use force against the innocent.

In no circumstances, under international law, are states permitted to characterize terrorists as "freedom fighters."

Original document of the first Geneva Convention, 1864. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Once again, Israel and Hamas have agreed upon a so-called "cease fire." Once again, as Hamas regards all of Israel as "Occupied Palestine," the agreement will inevitably fail. And once again, for Israel and the wider "international community," there will be significantly dark consequences for international justice.

In specifically jurisprudential terms, the immediate effect of this latest cease-fire will be wrongfully to bestow upon the leading Palestinian terror organization (1) a generally enhanced position under international law; and (2) a status of formal legal equivalence with Israel, its beleaguered terror target.

The longer-term effect will be seriously to undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of international law itself.

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Britain's Hamas Appeal
Who is Raising this Money and Where is it Going?

by Samuel Westrop  •  September 10, 2014 at 4:30 am

Although the Disasters Emergency Committee claims that its member bodies only work with "carefully vetted" local partners, it does not oversee these partnerships, and could not even provide a list of those "local partners" that will benefit from the money raised and transferred through Islamic Relief.

One of the "partners" in Gaza used by Islamic Relief's branches appears to be the Al-Falah Benevolent Society, which, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, is one of "Hamas's charitable societies."

Al-Falah is run by Ramadan Tamboura, whom the Ha'aretz newspaper describes as a "well-known Hamas figure".

British celebrity Martin Freeman appears on a BBC broadcast of the DEC's "Gaza Crisis Appeal". (Image source: DEC YouTube video screenshot)

In early August, most of Britain's broadsheet newspapers published a full-page advertisement for a "Gaza crisis" appeal launched by the Disasters Emergency Committee [DEC], a British charity that serves as a fundraising body for its 13-member bodies, each one itself a prominent British charity.

Broadcast versions were also aired on major television channels, including the taxpayer-funded BBC television and radio stations. On August 15th, DEC announced the appeal had raised over £9 million.

Although DEC claims to use the appeal's funds "to reach hundreds of thousands of people with urgently needed food and safe drinking water," DEC does not provide these charitable services itself; it simply raises the funds. The money is then handed over to its 13 member-bodies, which are tasked with actually providing the humanitarian help.

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Turkey's New Government: Old Wine in a New Bottle

by Burak Bekdil  •  September 10, 2014 at 4:00 am

After the Islamic State took 49 Turks hostage, Davutoglu's deputy minister said that, "they were not being kept hostage" but "were merely interned." How nice! Perhaps the Turks are now playing backgammon with the Islamic State backgammon heavyweights.

Do the Turks think that the Islamic State is a charity organization?

The ever-optimistic Ahmet Davutoglu, now Turkey's Prime Minister, is pictured during his tenure as foreign minister, flanked by the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. (Image source: Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

In 2011, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party [AKP] won a landslide election victory, garnering almost half of the national vote. Customarily, he read out his government's program in parliament:

"One of the most important prerequisites for stability in the [Middle East] region is a humanitarian and peaceful solution to the Palestinian dispute....The key to peace is a two-state solution that should come under UN resolutions and [parties that can live in] peace with each other. Turkey will keep on actively supporting any reconciliation to revive peace talks... It is out of the question that our ties with Israel normalize unless Israel apologizes for this unlawful incident [Israel's raid on the Mavi Marmara flotilla], pays compensation for our citizens who lost their lives and removes the embargo on Gaza."

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The Conditions of Victory and Peace

by Shoshana Bryen  •  September 9, 2014 at 5:00 am

How do you defeat an armed ideological movement with a territorial base if you are unwilling to fight in that base?

Neither Israelis nor Americans are prepared to control enemy territory as a means to determine the ultimate outcome. But that means there will be no destruction, no elimination of the enemy; no "victory."

Control of territory and the ability to subject one's enemies to enforceable rules are the only known mechanisms for ending, rather than managing, a war.

The U.S. has been in South Korea since the 1953 Armistice, allowing a democratic, technologically advanced society to emerge. The withdrawal of American forces from South Vietnam allowed North Vietnam to capture the territory.

Neither Israelis nor Americans are prepared to control enemy territory as a means to victory against, respectively, Hamas and the Islamic State. (Image source: The White House)

The Israeli public is in a notably bad mood.

The Hamas rockets have, for the time being, stopped; the current cease-fire is holding. The tunnel threat, a strategic one most Israelis had not understood until several days into the war, has been alleviated; many Hamas rocket manufacturing facilities have been destroyed; a substantial percentage of the Hamas arsenal has been used up; and Hamas achieved none of its strategic goals -- not large-scale Israeli casualties or physical destruction, an airport, a seaport, or the opening of border crossings. Israeli children have returned to school and, after a brief dip, the Israeli economy is expected to grow for the year.

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Turkish President Erdoğan's Expansive Ambitions

by Veli Sirin  •  September 9, 2014 at 4:00 am

Erdoğan is apparently determined to impose a new political system on Turkey, replacing the parliamentary order with a state under a powerful president.

The constitution authorizes the president to call a cabinet meeting under certain circumstances. Otherwise, the president has no executive authority.

"[T]housands of children whose parents preferred secular institutions have been allocated places at Islamic schools." — Daniel Dombey, Financial Times.

Abuses of power will likely continue in Erdoğan's Turkey.

Abdullah Gül (right), the presidential predecessor to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (2nd from left), along with their wives, in a happy moment. (Image source: YouTube video screenshot)

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected Turkey's first directly elected President on August 10, representing the Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials as AKP). He had served the Islamist AKP as Turkey's Prime Minister continuously since 2003. He was sworn in as President on August 28.

As pointed out by Daniel Dombey reporting from Istanbul in London's Financial Times and published the day the Erdoğan presidency began, "Mr. Erdoğan remained prime minister right up until taking the office of president: both offices provide their holder with immunity from prosecution. Turkey's official register also held off publishing the results of his election as president -- which according to some of his opponents would have necessitated his resignation as prime minister -- until the day of his inauguration."

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