Isi Leibler: Deterrence against Hamas is evaporating
Since the launching of the very first primitive rockets that our leaders dismissed as insignificant, our citizens in the southern area have suffered considerably and been transformed into refugees in their own country. After successive wars that temporarily created a deterrent effect, the situation has now eroded to the point where Hamas disregards our empty threats and bombings of empty buildings.
We have not learned from the past. We are again acting with restraint as the terrorists gauge our response and resolve. After the events of the past few weeks, we should demand that our government display leadership and strength and adjust its policy of restraint instead of accepting a situation where Hamas tactical considerations determine the quality of life for citizens in the south.
Appeasement only emboldens our enemies, who harbor genocidal ambitions against us as their goal. And the absence of deterrence will inevitably, as in the past, lead to war.
All Israelis are willing to make great sacrifices to achieve peace. They would dearly love to live side by side with Palestinians. But the road to peace is not paved with illusions.
We should inform our allies and warn our adversaries that we will no longer engage in restraint and limit our response. We will act like any other nation and employ the full might at our disposal to bring an immediate end to such assaults against our citizens.
We have one of the most powerful armies in the world. If Hamas will not unilaterally cease its terror activities, notwithstanding the difficulties and complications referred to above, we will have no choice but to destroy it.
Failure to act now virtually guarantees a full-scale conflict at a later stage when Hamas will probably be in a better position to inflict greater casualties upon us.
The Trump administration is supposedly considering declassifying a State Department report that tallies up the true number of Palestinian refugees.
If Trump does this, the repercussions could go a long way to settling the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, or UNRWA, classifies refugees unlike any other organization in the world, and in a way that contradicts common sense. Whereas the number of refugees from the original 1948 Arab/Israeli war would likely number in the tens of thousands, the UNRWA also counts people generations removed from the conflict, many of whom are citizens of new countries, in addition to everyone living in their internationally recognized homes of Gaza and the West Bank.
This politically motivated definition raises the number of “refugees” to an estimated 5.3 million. And that number is used by Palestinians to claim a “right of return” to Israel for a number greater than half of Israel’s entire population.
Until today, there has been no official acknowledgment of the true number of refugees. Governments and international organizations around the world instead pay lip service to UNRWA’s fiction that the number of refugees has expanded many times over since the 1948 war.
This will change if the Trump administration releases the classified report.
After their failed efforts last year to get Israel booted from FIFA, the world soccer body, the Palestinians have now reportedly set their sights on an even bigger prize: kicking Israel out of the United Nations.
According to a brief report Sunday in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Palestinian leaders are planning to argue that Israel is in violation of several UN Security Council resolutions and the UN charter. Ramallah will further argue, the report stated, that Israel’s recently passed nation-state law, which declares national rights to be exclusive to Jews, proved Israel is an apartheid state and must therefore be sanctioned.
Palestinian officials did not respond to several requests for comment by The Times of Israel.
Israeli officials were quick to denounce the ostensible plan, even though the chances that Israel would actually be expelled or suspended from the UN are close to zero.
The apartheid accusation, long leveled at Israel by its critics, is particularly noteworthy, because in 1974 South Africa — one of the UN’s 51 founding members in 1945 — was suspended from the UN General Assembly over its racist governing system.
After attempts to kick out South Africa failed due to vetoes by France, Britain and the US, the General Assembly voted to suspend the country, 91-22 with 19 abstentions. South Africa did not lose its seat at the GA but could not make speeches or participate in votes.
The US, the UK, Israel and other Western countries opposed the move, not defending apartheid but saying depriving the country of its seat at the General Assembly was illegal “and could set a dangerous precedent for the future,” The New York Times reported at the time.
Bret Stephens: The Jewish State’s Nation-State Bill Non-Scandal [NYTs $]
Nor, for that matter, is it anywhere remotely as noxious as what is happening in other Western democracies wrestling with competing claims between national identity, civil liberties and cultural pluralism. In Denmark, The Times reported last month, “starting at the age of 1, ‘ghetto children’ must be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap time, for mandatory instruction in ‘Danish values,’ including the traditions of Christmas and Easter, and the Danish language.’”
Whatever else you think of Israel’s nation-state bill, this is undoubtedly worse. So where are the calls to boycott, divest and sanction Denmark?
Which raises a deeper question concerning the nation-state bill: Why the over-the-top reaction? In an interview with Haaretz, British philanthropist Vivien Duffield, who has given hundreds of millions of dollars to Israeli causes over the years, declared “I hate Israel” after the bill’s passage, then reached for the apartheid analogy.
Shoddy reporting about the bill from some of the usual suspects furnishes at least part of the answer. Ordinary liberal distaste for a conservative Israeli government furnishes another part.
And there are plenty of good reasons even for Israel’s friends to dislike the bill as unnecessary, provocative, divisive and a transparent bid by Netanyahu to shore up his popularity in the face of corruption allegations and a military quagmire in the Gaza Strip.
But if liberal Americans haven’t (yet) given up on the United States in the age of Donald Trump, liberal Jews shouldn’t be giving up on Israel on account of an overhyped, underwhelming law whose effects would be mostly invisible if they hadn’t been so loudly debated. Countries we love will inevitably do things we don’t like or fail to understand. The same goes for people.
However else you feel about the nation-state bill, reserve your serious outrage for the things that deserve it. An estimated 542 Syrian civilians were tortured to death last month by the Syrian regime, according to the Syrian Network For Human Rights. Did you know that?
World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder on Monday excoriated the Israeli government, saying that recent policies and legislation pose a threat to the future of the Jewish people.
In an op-ed published by the New York Times, the cosmetics billionaire and Jewish advocate listed the cancellation of the agreement for an egalitarian prayer plaza at the Western Wall, strict conversion laws, the recent passing of surrogacy legislation which excludes gay men, the nation-state bill, the arrest of a rabbi for performing weddings outside the rabbinate and a tightening of rules surrounding the closing of convenience stores on Shabbat in some Israeli municipalities, as “creating the impression that the democratic and egalitarian dimensions of the Jewish democratic state are being tested.”
The op-ed is the second time this year that Lauder, a former confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a prominent and deep-pocketed supporter of Israel, has published strident criticism of the government, reflecting a growing rift between Diaspora Jewry and the Jewish state.
Going into greater detail on the controversial nation-state legislation, Lauder noted that it “correctly reaffirms that Israel is a Jewish state, but also damages the sense of equality and belonging of Israel’s Druze, Christian and Muslim citizens.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi held a secret summit in Egypt on May 22nd to launch efforts toward a Gaza stabilization deal, U.S. officials told me.
Why it matters: This meeting was pivotal in the Egyptian-led efforts over the last three months to reach a deal between Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority on stabilizing Gaza. The Egyptians updated the Trump administration about their efforts and got the backing of the White House.
Netanyahu traveled to Egypt on May 22nd with a very small group of advisers and security guards. He stayed in Egypt for a few hours and went back to Israel after midnight. Netanyahu’s trip stayed secret and most of the members of his security cabinet were kept out of the loop.
According to U.S. officials, Netanyahu and Sisi discussed a deal that included a long-term ceasefire in Gaza as well as…
– Easing the Israeli and Egyptian siege on Gaza.
– The return of the Palestinian Authority to the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip.
– The reconstruction of critical infrastructure in Gaza.
– Solving the issue of Israeli soldiers and civilians held by Hamas.
During the meeting, the Egyptian president told Netanyahu that any solution in Gaza must include the return of the Palestinian Authority to the strip in order to gradually retake control from Hamas.
– Sisi stressed in the meeting that the full demilitarization of Gaza shouldn’t be a precondition to the initiative.
– Sisi’s message to Netanyahu was that Israel, the Sunni Arab countries and the international community must put pressure on Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to go back to administrating Gaza, regardless of his reluctance to do it.
Members of the top-level security cabinet have spoken out against a reported proposal for the Gaza Strip that was said to have been discussed during secret talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said Tuesday that key elements of the arrangement, which called for restoring Palestinian Authority control over Gaza in place of the current Hamas regime, would be a threat to Israel’s security.
On Monday, Channel 10 television news reported that Netanyahu secretly traveled to Egypt in May to meet with Sissi. Quoting unnamed American officials, the report said the focus of the trip was to discuss an arrangement in the Gaza Strip that would see the return of the PA to power there, a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terror group that currently rules the Strip, the easing of the Israeli and Egyptian blockades on the Strip, and steps to advance humanitarian projects.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 from the West Bank-based PA, which is led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party. The two rival groups been at loggerheads ever since.
“Any attempt to return Abbas to Gaza and to connect between Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria by way of a ‘secure passage’ which crosses Israel, will be a direct threat and a serious impact to Israel’s security and the demographic balance between Israel and the Palestinians,” Katz told the Israel Hayom daily, using the biblical names for the West Bank regions.
Meir Indor: Israel should use its military edge in Gaza
No one can accuse me of being soft on terrorism, but there is no point in launching a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, at least as long as Israel wants to avoid direct military rule over the area.
Another “round of hostilities” inside the Gaza Strip to enable the Palestinian Authority to take over, as many have suggested, is just not worth it. Israeli troops should not serve as PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ mercenaries.
The left-wing punditocracy has found its hawkish voice and has been blasting the government over its restraint.
But the government should not take the bait. As soon as Israel becomes bogged down in a large ground war that claims lives, those same left-wing pundits will lambaste the government again.
This is what happened when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the prisoner swap that brought back captive Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in 2011. As soon as the deal was announced, the very people who had pressured the government to make the deal began to criticize the government for buckling under the pressure.
The military alternative is to use our relative edge: our air force, tanks and artillery. The government must do away with the puritanism that has taken hold among some in the top brass. It should instead adopt a policy that exacts a heavy price for every barrage from the Gaza Strip. Israel must carry out massive bombing campaigns that resemble the systematic leveling of the Hezbollah-controlled neighborhood near Beirut, the Dahiya, during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
On Saturday, the Intercept published an exposé of new evidence in the IDF’s internal case file regarding the July 16, 2014, incident in which the IDF killed four unarmed Palestinian minors at Gaza Beach.
War was already raging between Israel and Hamas when the incident occurred in view of a throng of journalists who copiously recorded the event and whose photos went viral online.
How will the International Criminal Court, which is reviewing alleged war crimes allegations against the IDF for its 2014 Gaza war conduct, view the new evidence?
In June 2015, the IDF announced it was closing its criminal investigation into the incident, essentially saying the killings were a tragic mistake in the fog of war.
That conclusion already got serious push back shortly after through a report by former US judge Mary McGowan-Davis on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council.
Where the IDF saw mistaken intelligence with no intent to kill civilians, the UNHRC saw a deliberate attack or a dangerous willful indifference to the weakness of the available intelligence.
The IDF viewed the beach area where the incident occurred as a combat zone where Hamas naval commandos had met and which it had struck just the day before.
Berlin police said threatening letters containing a white powder were sent to both the American and Israeli embassies in the German capital.
Police spokeswoman Kerstin Ismer told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Israeli embassy received a letter July 24 and the US embassy on July 26.
Ismer said police have opened two investigations on suspicion of disturbing the peace by threatening a crime.
She said both contained a powder but would not comment on whether it had been determined to be dangerous or other details due to the ongoing investigation.
She would also not say whether the two letters were thought to be connected or whether there were any suspects yet.
British police arrested a man on suspicion of terrorism offenses on Tuesday after he drove a car through a group of cyclists and into security barriers outside parliament, injuring three people.
London’s Metropolitan Police said the incident, which appeared to be the second attack on parliament in just under 18 months, was being treated as a terrorism incident.
Police said a silver Ford Fiesta collided with a number of cyclists and pedestrians before crashing into barriers outside the Houses of Parliament at 0637 GMT.
“The driver of the car, a man in his late 20s, was arrested at the scene by armed officers,” police said in a statement. “He was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offenses. There was nobody else in the vehicle, which remains at the scene and is being searched. No weapons have been recovered at this stage.”
In March 2017, Khalid Masood, 52, killed four people on nearby Westminster Bridge before he stabbed to death an unarmed police officer in the grounds of parliament. He was shot dead at the scene. It was the first of five attacks on Britain last year which police blamed on terrorism.
London’s Ambulance Service said it had treated two people at the scene on Tuesday and they had been taken to hospital. Their injuries were not believed to be serious. A third person with minor injuries was assessed at the scene.
US President Donald Trump commented Tuesday on a suspected terror attack in London, urging tough action against the “crazy animals responsible.
A motorist in his 20s slammed into pedestrians and cyclists near Britain’s Houses of Parliament, and was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offenses after the silver Ford Fiesta he was driving hit rush-hour commuters before slamming into a barrier.
“Another terrorist attack in London,” Trump responded on Twitter. “These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!”
British Prime Minister Theresa May, currently on holiday in Switzerland, tweeted that her “thoughts are with those injured in the incident in Westminster.”
Government officials were to hold a meeting of the COBRA emergency committee at 2:00 p.m. (local time).
“At this stage, we are treating this as a terrorist incident,” Scotland Yard said after the attack, adding that none of the injuries were believed to be life-threatening.
When I touched down in St. Thomas last month, I became the first Israeli representative to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands, and therefore the first emissary of the Third Jewish Commonwealth to meet the island’s four-century-old Jewish community. More than making history, the three days there have helped me reflect on these past two years in New York, and about my position at the crossroads of Israeli and Diaspora Jewish life.
Professionally, wherever I travel my goal is to build local connections to strengthen Israel’s relationship with every segment of the U.S., showing Americans that Israel is their friend and ally first, foremost, and above party lines. We came to St. Thomas looking to do precisely that, delivering aid to a preschool devastated by hurricanes, discussing mutual economic opportunities with government officials, and even featuring on the front page of The Virgin Islands Daily News.
Personally, however, it always comes back to Jews, and my most thrilling encounter in St. Thomas was the opportunity to delve further into my lifelong hobby of exploring old and unique Jewish communities, searching for inspiration in synagogues and cemeteries.
On previous travels I have especially sought out connections to my own past. Driving solo for days and nourished mainly by Yiddish music albums, I found breadcrumbs of my past all over Ukraine, from the remains of my family’s shtetl Zhashkov to the gravesite of the Baal Shem Tov, where I was surprised to find a namesake resting alongside one of Judaism’s great mystics.
Falling in love with the tragic romance of shtetl life, I travelled on to the Diaspora’s last remaining exclusively Jewish enclaves—Qırmızı Qəsəbə (Krasnaya Sloboda) in Azerbaijan, and the Hasidic enclaves in New York State, to which I also have a personal connection. One of my ancestors was a close confidant of the then Skverer Rebbe in Ukraine, whose sect have recreated their prewar community in the new world. Today, the current rebbe and I have rebuilt that connection between our families, another blessing from my time in New York, and I receive invitations to semachot in New Square on a regular basis.
Israeli troops arrested 21 Palestinian suspects and shuttered an illegal weapons manufacturing workshop in a series of raids across the West Bank on Monday night and early Tuesday morning, the military said.
Riots broke out in two Palestinian villages as a result of the raids, with residents throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails and explosives at IDF troops, who retaliated with less-lethal weapons and gunshots fired into the air, the army said.
No Israeli injuries were reported.
Troops also began preparations to demolish the family home of Islam Yousef Abu Hamid, a Palestinian man suspected of killing IDF soldier Ronen Lubarsky earlier this year by dropping a stone slab on his head, the IDF said.
Abu Hamid, who was arrested in June, lived in the el-Amari refugee camp in Ramallah.
The army said troops mapped out the family’s house to ready it for razing, confirming a report in official Palestinian news outlet Wafa.
In the town of Yatta, near Hebron, in the southern West Bank, the military raided what it said was a workshop used to illegally manufacture Carlo-style submachine guns, a cheap variety of locally produced firearm that has been used in a number of terror attacks and is prevalent in the West Bank.
Israeli troops arrested three Palestinian suspects armed with pipe bombs outside a settlement in the northern West Bank on Tuesday, the army said.
In a separate case, on the other side of the West Bank, two pipe bombs were thrown at the Rachel’s Tomb holy site in Bethlehem. The explosives failed to detonate and “did not endanger anyone and caused no injuries,” police said.
According to the military, three suspects were spotted by a soldier who was monitoring surveillance cameras in the area between the Palestinian village of Deir al-Hatab and the Israeli settlement of Elon Moreh, near Nablus.
Soldiers were called to the area, who arrested the three Palestinians.
“After a search, four pipe bombs were found in their possession,” the military said.
The suspects were handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning.
Over that past month, members of the US House Middle East Subcommittee raised concerns that humanitarian aid does not reach the Palestinian population, especially in Gaza.
The Center for Near East Policy Research (CFNEPR), contacted 44 nations who donate humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population in Gaza through UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency operating in Gaza, to determine if any donor nation had cut back on its donations to the Palestinians in Gaza. 75% of the Gaza population dwells in UNRWA facilities.
With the exception of the US, which has cut back on 20% of its donations to UNRWA, every single diplomatic legation that donates to UNRWA responded emphatically that they are not cutting back one penny from aid to UNRWA.
After tabulating the responses from the diplomatic community, CFNEPR calculates that the 1.2 billion dollar UNRWA budget should be flowing like water from the donor to the five million people who benefit from UNRWA health, education and welfare programs – in Gaza, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
However, despite assurances of continued cash flow, UNRWA still proclaims to the media that it is bereft of resources to provide basic services. UNRWA Media Adviser Adnan Abu Hasna declared that UNRWA lacks basic food products and that the people of Gaza “have nothing to lose,” adding that “we don’t know yet whether school will open in the coming year…We’re talking about 300,000 students who need to go to school.”(1)
Interviewed by Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV channel, Sheikh Omar Nofal, a judge in Gaza’s shari’a appeals court extolled the six virtues of martyrdom, asking: “How can anyone cling to this world after hearing all of these great rewards?” Nofal said that Jihad is “an individual duty incumbent upon the entire nation.” The interview aired on July 22.
“The Martyr Gets Six Rewards… All His Sins Are Absolved… He Is Married To 72 Virgins… [He] Can Vouch For 70 Of His Relatives”
Sheikh Omar Nofal: “The martyr gets six rewards. First, he is absolved with the first drop of his blood. The moment the martyr’s blood is shed, all his sins are absolved by Allah.
“When he is martyred, he sees his seat in Paradise, and he is dressed in the clothes of faith. He is a unique and special person, different from the rest of the people, by the grace of Allah. In addition, he is married to 72 virgins of Paradise. This means that he is granted, in Paradise, some of the things he wished for in life, but they are magnified to a degree that the human mind cannot comprehend. In addition, he is crowned with the crown of honor. The beads, or the links, in the crown of honor, are better than the whole world and all that is in it.
“The martyr can vouch for 70 of his relatives. The martyr can intercede on behalf of his entire family. When he hears about…”
Khaled Abu Toameh: PA again vows to continue paying prisoners, families of ‘martyrs’
The Palestinian Authority vowed again on Monday to continue payments to Palestinian security prisoners and the families of Palestinians killed in terror attacks on Israel.
The latest pledge was made by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, during a meeting in his office in Ramallah with a delegation from the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees.
Headed by Kadri Abu al-Rub, the commission’s task is to provide various forms of aid to Palestinian security prisoners and their families.
During the meeting, Hamdallah renewed the PA leadership’s commitment to continue payments to the prisoners and families of Palestinian “martyrs,” said a statement published by the PA prime minister’s office.
Hamdallah, the statement said, also affirmed the PA leadership’s firm position regarding the payments, “despite Israel’s decision to deduct the funds paid to the prisoners and the families of the martyrs from tax revenues collected by the Israeli government on behalf of the PA.”
The Syrian civil war is now in its closing stages. The largest area of Syria now outside of regime control is the 30% of the country under the control of the U.S.-supported, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SPD). If the U.S. chooses to quit eastern Syria, the SDF will have little choice but to negotiate their surrender with Damascus.
In July I traveled to the SDF enclave, which strikes a visitor as relatively peaceful and orderly. I visited all parts of Syria during the war (except for ISIS areas). Rebel areas were always characterized by chaos.
There are 2,000 declared U.S. Special Forces personnel in the SDF-controlled area. The real number is probably twice that. Yet SDF leaders remain skeptical regarding U.S. long-term plans.
Israel’s interest in the maintenance of the eastern Syria enclave and the U.S. base at al-Tanf is clear. It represents a substantial physical obstacle to the Iranian hope for a contiguous “corridor.” It would also prevent an overall Iranian triumph in the war and give the West a place at the table in any substantive political negotiation over Syria’s future.
As the strategic contest between Iran and its allies and the U.S. and its allies moves into high gear, it is essential that the West maintain its alliances and investments, and behaves and is seen to behave as a credible and loyal patron and ally.
The Russian military said its forces in Syria would help UN peacekeepers fully restore their patrols along the frontier between Syria and the Israeli Golan Heights.
Lt. Gen. Sergei Kuralenko told reporters Tuesday that Russian military police have set up four checkpoints in the area and plan to bring their number to eight.
He said the Russian military would secure the area and help clear mines left by jihadists to allow the peacekeepers to resume their operations.
The UN peacekeeping force known as UNDOF first deployed along the frontier in 1974 to separate Syrian and Israeli forces after Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War, but was halted on the Syrian side of the border in 2014 amid the violence in the country’s civil war.
Last month, Syrian government forces reached the Israeli border area after capturing territory from rebels and Islamic State fighters. It was the first time regime forces had taken up positions along the frontier since the uprising against President Bashar Assad swept through the country in 2011, becoming a seven-year civil war.
A new book claims that in August 2013, when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly released sarin gas near Damascus, killing more than 1,000 adults and children, British Prime Minister David Cameron, on holiday in Cornwall, called former President Barack Obama to initiate an immediate response to the attack.
It allegedly took three days to get an answer.
Matters got worse from there, the book reports.
The series of events started with the sarin attack, which occurred on August 21. But it wasn’t until August 24 that contact was made, according to the new book “Ten Days in August,” authored by Anthony Seldon. Seldon posits that although Obama had already declared a “red line” for the U.S. would be crossed if Assad used chemical weapons, Obama proposed to Cameron a cruise missile attack, said it would have to be executed by August 26, but would not commit to such an action yet.
The next day, August 25, Cameron left Cornwall and gathered his advisors in Chequers. On August 26, Cameron called Russian President Vladimir Putin for support. Still no answer from Obama.
Seth J. Frantzman: Analysis: Congress’s NDAA gave Trump a green light to confront Iran
The National Defense Authorization Act that US President Donald Trump signed on Monday contained an unprecedented focus on Iran as a threat to both the Middle East and US national security.
This dovetails with the Trump administration’s stated goal of confronting Iran in the region, initially through leaving the Iran deal and putting sanctions back in place. The NDAA goes further than the White House’s actions, proposing a strategy on how to best confront Iran’s activities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.
The NDAA, which blended various adjustments from the US House of Representatives and the Senate, is a compromise bill that sought to include concerns about Iran’s behavior in the region. Iraq was a likewise major area of concern because the US is helping to train and equip the Iraqi security forces, as well as assist them in fighting remnants of Islamic State. But in May, US officials warned “Iranian support to certain Shia [Popular Mobilization Forces] militias posed the greatest threat to the safety of US personnel in Iraq.”
“Shia militia groups and terrorists infiltrate and undermine the Iraqi security forces and jeopardize Iraq’s sovereignty,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his May speech announcing the US’s withdrawal from the Iran deal.
The NDAA tried to address this by mandating that the US be made aware of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s involvement in the Iraqi security forces. Congress was concerned that the IRGC was even receiving US equipment and training.
US President Donald Trump has restricted the delivery of 100 F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, exacerbating the strain between the two NATO allies over Ankara’s continued detention of an American pastor.
Trump on Monday signed a defense authorization act that prohibits the delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey if it buys Russia’s S-400 air defense system.
The law requires a review of US-Turkey relations, including the US military’s use of Incirlik Air Base, and a risk assessment associated with delivering the stealth fighter jets.
Turkey has been a partner in the international consortium that financed the F-35 since 2002, and plans to purchase 100 of the stealth fighter jets from the US at a reported $1.2 billion.
Ties between the US and Turkey were already fraught over Washington’s support for Syrian Kurdish forces, but have been further strained by the trial of American pastor Andrew Brunson on terror-related charges linked to a failed coup attempt in the country two years ago.
Brunson has been held in Turkey since October 2016, and could face a jail term of 35 years if convicted. Trump has described his detention as a “total disgrace” and urged Ankara to free him immediately.
The Saudi kingdom’s grinding proxy war against Iran and its allies in Yemen, its long-delayed decision to grant women the right to drive, and most recently its bizarre feud with Canada over arrested Saudi dissidents have all captured international attention and propelled much heated discussion about the country’s internal affairs. But despite its place in the spotlight, there is much about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia one doesn’t often hear about. Last month, I was invited to participate in a conference concerning the future of Syria hosted by a new, unofficial research institute in Riyadh. During my visit, I was able to get a glimpse into the Saudi social landscape and found that Saudi society is not only more diverse than it may seem on the outside, but also much less culturally conservative than it once was.
Nonetheless, it should be noted that this transformation is social rather than political. In other words, while the Saudi monarchy is allowing, and even promoting, the expansion of some personal freedoms in the kingdom, political freedom remains absent. When I first visited the country twenty-five years ago, the government’s slogan (believe it or not) was “Saudi Arabia: Progress without Change.” Nowadays, an apt slogan might be “Saudi Arabia: Liberalization without Democracy.” The nature of this liberalization in selected spheres of life, still uncertain in its total trajectory, is illustrated in some vignettes from my visit below.
For many years, Saudi leadership toiled to present an image of the kingdom as a religious and ideological monolith. However, my conversations indicate that this is no longer the case. “We’re not all Wahabis,” joked my host, a young scholar at the small, serious new think-tank specializing in social and political research and dialogue. We were discussing an initiative to integrate Saudi Shiites—who mostly reside in the country’s eastern province—into mainstream Saudi society.
Canadian sources have expressed jealousy, regarding Israel’s comparatively positive relationship with Saudi Arabia, in the wake of the latter’s fierce backlash to the Canadian government’s critique of the Gulf Arab state’s human rights record.
“Like, we were only saying what everyone else was thinking about their shitty human rights situation”, one Canadian government official said. “But, the Saudis get all touchy and before you know it, we’re left out in the cold. And we Canadians know all about cold. But the worst thing about all of this is that those damned Israelis are so unbelievably smug that the Saudis actually seem to hate us so much more than they hate them. They keep on boasting about their semi-secret bromance and how they’re teaming up on Iran together. It’s just too much to cope with to be honest and it’s just totally unreasonable to be so full of yourself.”
Another Canadian government source, however, admitted that “the Israelis kinda have a point” in the sense that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “really must have f%#ked up big time if mild-mannered and easy-to-forget Canada is higher up on the Saudi hate list than a Jewish country bang in the middle of Arab lands.”
Former Kuwaiti Information Minister Sami Abdullatif Al-Nesf: Our Arab Societies Suffer from a Chronic Disease of Lies and Falsification pic.twitter.com/4mThYdODy4
— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) August 14, 2018
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