Friday, 31 March 2017
Muslims protest with street prayer in Paris over closure of mosque

From AP via the Hindustan Times, the Daily Mail and le Parisien

Hemmed in and closely watched by police, hundreds of Muslims have unrolled rugs and mats and prayed outdoors in the busy streets of a Paris suburb to protest the closure of their prayer hall. The show of strength Friday...

Clichy City Hall wants to turn the rented prayer hall the worshippers were using into a multimedia library for the town’s 60,000 residents. City Hall refused to renew the three-year lease when it expired last June and, following a court battle, closed down the prayer hall last week with help from French police. It says Muslims can worship at a new Islamic cultural and prayer center, already used by hundreds of people, the town inaugurated last year.

However, the Muslim group that helped organize Friday's protest and which is calling for another demonstration Sunday says the new mosque is too small and remote.

The building is a disused former office block that City Hall "turned into a mosque by throwing down a few rugs," said Smail El-Baz, a spokesman for the group.

He warned that the closure of their prayer hall could drive worshippers underground and increase the risk of them becoming radicalized.

The group wants its prayer hall reopened until the end of Ramadan in July and space for the building of a new mosque.

Clichy, vendredi 31 mars 2017. Près de 800 personnes ont prié boulevard Jean-Jaurès ce vendredi pour contester la fermeture de la salle de prière rue Estienne d’Orves.



Posted on 03/31/2017 1:14 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 31 March 2017
Belgian King: “Let Us Dare to Be More Tender”

by Gary Fouse

On March 22, Belgium's King Philippe marked the one-year anniversary of the murderous terrorist attack in Brussels that killed 32 people at the Brussels airport and subway. In a monument to Europe's surrender to the forces of evil, here is what the King had to say:

"It's the responsibility of each and every one of us to make our society more humane, and more just. Let's learn to listen to each other again, to respect each other's weaknesses. “Above all, let us dare to be tender." 

At least the king wasn't holding an umbrella in one hand and waving a piece of paper in the other a'la Neville Chamberlain.

Where was the anger? Where was the vow to stand up to these barbarians who have entered his country and committed mass murder on his citizens? Was it Belgium's fault that they were not more humane, more just? Had Belgium not listened to the "grievances" of the bombers?

This is symptomatic of the attitude of almost every Western European country when it comes to confronting Islamic terror. They refuse to close their borders to waves of people that include so many criminals, shiftless people looking for welfare, hate-filled fanatics, rioters, and terrorists. How many Europeans have to die to show the world Europe's "openness"?

In addition to the March 22 bombings, it was Brussel's Molenbeek quarter, inhabited by an unassimilated Muslim community, that harbored one of the Paris terror attack ringleaders, Salah Abdeslam, for four months. The people in that district knew that he was hiding in plain view among them. He wasn't hiding in some attic. He was going to cafes and ordering pizzas. Yet nobody lifted a finger to notify the police.

Belgium has become one of the biggest havens for Islamic terrorists in the world. And here you have their king telling his grieving citizens, "Let us dare to be more tender," as if that were going to melt the hearts of the killers and lead them to the righteous path. Has Belgium not learned its lesson from World War II, when it was occupied by a murderous foreign force that was ready to kill their citizens at the drop of a hat - first and foremost its Jews?

The day may well come when Belgium's epitaph will read:

"Here lies Belgium. It dared to be more tender."

Posted on 03/31/2017 4:35 AM by Gary Fouse
Friday, 31 March 2017
The United States and Britain fight anti-Israeli Bias at the UN

by Michael Curtis

British Prime Minister Theresa May is making history from which there is no turning back in the effort to restore what she called “our national self-determination” after 44 years of British membership first of the EEC, the Common Market, and then of the European Union. On March 29, 2017 she officially invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty of December 2007 to start the Brexit process, withdrawal from the EU in accordance with the vote on the referendum on the issue on June 23, 2016, when 51.9% voted in favor of leaving the EU.  

The Lisbon Treaty provides for a member state to withdraw from the EU in accordance “with its own constitutional requirements.” In view of the increasingly British criticism of the bias against Israel in United Nations bodies, especially the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), perhaps Prime Minister May is considering invoking similar constitutional requirements to withdraw from them.

Certainly there are some indications of this possibility. The British government changed its vote on March 24, 2017 at the UNHRC meeting which issued a “perverse” resolution for allegedly mistreating Druze residents on the Golan Heights. May asserted that in the future Britain would oppose all UNHRC resolutions concerning Israel unless the bias of the organization stopped. Britain had in the past usually abstained in the resolutions condemning Israel introduced by the Syrian and Islamic states. Now Britain will vote, like the US, against them.

The British Ambassador to the UN, Julian Braithwaite, on March 24, 2017 spoke truth to the organization about its bias. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) had passed a series of four resolutions singling out, as usual, only Israel for violating human rights of Palestinians, and calling on Israel to return control of the Golan Heights to Syria. Ambassador Braithwaite asserted "Today we are putting the UNHRC on notice. If things do not change in the future, we will adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel's conduct in the occupied Syrian and Palestinian territories."

By tragic coincidence the UN bias was manifest that very week concerning the Islamist terror attack on Westminster Bridge and Parliament in London that  killed five people and injured more than 30. The silence of the UNHRC on this terrorist attack, as well as on the 25 terrorist attacks and incitements in which at least 30 Israelis were killed, was deafening.

The stronger British position on UN bias follows the straightforward and unusual remarks on December 28, 2016 by Prime Minister Theresa May who severely criticized the speech of then Secretary of State John Kerry. She rebuked Kerry who had blamed Israel for the stalled peace process, and had disrespectfully referred to the government of Israel as the most right wing government in Israel history. May regarded this as an unwarranted attack on the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally.

In similar spirit to the British pronouncements, the U.S. State Department Spokesman Mark Toner announced on March 20, 2017 that the US will boycott a session of UNHRC that will discuss once again alleged Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinians. For some time it has been a travesty of objectivity that Agenda Item Seven of UNHRC rules mandates that the organization must discuss alleged Israeli human rights abuses at every session of the Council.

The significance of this mandate is that Israel will be discussed regardless of what is happening in other countries in the Middle East of the rest of the world. Israel  is the only country in the world to which a  specific mandate applies. Alleged abuses of human rights in all other countries are discussed under Agenda Item Four. The US is opposed to the Agenda Item Seven mandate. So far President Trump has not made any formal statement on the issue, but the Administration is reconsidering its participation in UNHRC.

It is pertinent to the decision on this that President George W. Bush in 2006 refused to join UNHRC, but President Barack Obama in 2009 decided to join, and rejoin when its first term of three years ended.

The British diplomat Julian Braithwaite also opposed Agenda Item Seven, pointing out that Israel had been condemned for its occupation of Golan Heights formerly in the hands of Syria; by contrast Syria which has been murdering and butchering people on a daily basis, is not a permanent standing item on the Council’s agenda.

Even more forthright is Nikki Haley, former Governor of South Carolina and now US Ambassador to the UN. She declared to the UN, “You are not going to take our number one democratic friend in the Middle East and beat up on them.” Displaying herself as a new sheriff in town she warned the UN, the “days of Israel bashing are over.”

But not all nations feel as do the US and UK regarding the animosity towards Israel. In recent weeks this has been shown in the Netherlands and in Sweden.

In the Netherlands although Dutch Jewish leaders, fearing the event would incite antisemitism or pro-terrorist sentiment, and embolden terrorists, urged the Mayor of Rotterdam to cancel a conference of  pro-Hamas group, the Palestinian Return Center due to be held on April 15, he refused to do. His excuse was there was no proof that Hamas is involved and therefore he could not do anything.

More serious has been the little known activity of Sweden regarding Israel. Some of this has been revealed in a French report issued on March 29, 2017, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses de Banques Francaises avec la Colonisation Israelienne." The report makes recommendations to French banks, insurance and utility companies in relation to Israel settlements. The title indicates the thrust of the report which condemns the Israel colonization, the illegality of the Israeli “colonies” that restrict the Palestinian people and are an obstacle to the resolution of the conflict. It concentrates on the Israeli banking system that it regards as an essential tool of “colonization.”

Three things are pertinent about the report. One is that the settlements in the disputed area are always referred to as “colonisation.” The second is that it is based on UN Security Council Resolution  2334 of December 23, 2016 and calls on French institutions to respect it  and implement recommendations regarding Israeli settlements. 2334 was the resolution the Obama administration allowed to pass the Security Council because it abstained, refusing to veto the resolution.  

The third most important issue is the funding of the report. It was produced by a number of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian organizations, including  the Association France Palestine Solidarite, French League of Human Right s, founded in 2001, the c CGT (General Confederation of Labor, one close to the Communist Party),and Al Haq, based in Ramallah and whose director is alleged to have ties to the extreme PFLP (Front for the Liberation of Palestine). But it was funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, a government agency of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs based in Stockholm. The Agency has for some time development assistance for Palestinian economic and social development.

Perhaps the Trump administration will not be able to influence Sweden to change its anti-Israeli position, but, like the British May Government, it can and should stick by its threat to pull out of the UNHRC, and by inference other UN bodies, if they continue their anti-Israeli bias.

Posted on 03/31/2017 4:19 AM by Michael Curtis
Thursday, 30 March 2017
Guatemalan Politico Questions Disabilities Law, May Lose Congressional Immunity

Unusual Case Raises Specter of Muzzling the Opposition

by Fergus Hodgson

Complainant Rosa Ilda Aldana thanks US Ambassador Todd Robinson after a meeting at the embassy. (Chochi Aldana)

Guatemala’s most outspoken congressman against constitutional reforms and the agenda of US Ambassador Todd Robinson faces the loss of immunity from prosecution. The charges are that he has acted in a discriminatory manner towards the disabled community, but notable locals have been swift to point out ulterior motives in the case.

Fernando Linares, a list member of the Party for National Advancement, expressed his opinion regarding proposed legislation. The bill, if passed, will be the Law for the Protection of Disabled People, and the response has been to bring charges that would sideline him at this sensitive time.

Congressman Fernando Linares faces criminal charges for his comments on a bill that targets disabled individuals. (Sergio Osegueda)

“The disability law contains millions in expenses,” said Linares while in the National Congress, “and as congressmen we are obliged to defend all taxpayers, and not necessarily give money to minority groups that call for it.”

People with disabilities made the claim that Linares’s remarks portrayed disabled people as non-contributing members of society, and therefore unworthy of receiving help.

The subsequent criminal case, though, has drawn local concerns about an opportunistic attempt at muzzling. Linares has taken a public stand against a UN-appointed commissioner and the US ambassador, including a letter to the Impunity Observer that implied the need for Robinson’s removal from office.

Further, Robinson’s close ally Attorney General Thelma Aldana is the one who has authority over the legal proceedings. Her ministry, however, is responding to complaints from disabled members of the community and accusations of bigotry, while Linares has accused the attorney general of doing the bidding of foreign interests.

One complaint came from Rosa Idalia Aldana, president of the Small People of Guatemala, who said via social media that “[her] voice is the voice of all the disabled people and of all the people that have been discriminated against.”

The case challenges congressional immunity, which is there so that members of Congress can speak freely while discussing legislative matters. Hence, Linares has described the criminal proceeding as unconstitutional, and he has filed a counter complaint against Aldana and two of her allies in the Justice Ministry.

US Ambassador Todd Robinson recently sought to show support for disabled individuals with his participation in their event. (@usembassyguate)

The specific person making the complaint is also fanning speculation of a confrontation between Linares and those pushing constitutional reforms, in particular Ambassador Robinson. Rosa Aldana, who represents disabled people, expressed her public gratitude towards Robinson following an event that he attended. Over Facebook, she thanked him for “opening [his] door and [his] heart, generating inclusion and opportunities for disabled people.”

José Luis González, an attorney in private practice, states “It is evident that this is more than a criminal case, because there is no crime here.” The former professor of constitutional law at Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala City adds that “It is an action to threaten congressmen who stand in the way of the constitutional reforms.”

If the attorney general prevails in removing Linares’s congressional immunity, he could then face criminal charges of discrimination that he allegedly violated the rights of persons with disabilities.

Paz Gómez contributed to this article, which first appeared in the Antigua Report

Posted on 03/30/2017 2:42 PM by NER
Thursday, 30 March 2017
Does the arrest of a Turkish State Bank official in New York further complicate US Turkey Relations?

by Jerry Gordon

Mehmet Hakan Atilla (R), a deputy general manager of Halkbank, is shown in this court room sketch with his attorney Gerald J. DiChiara (C) as he appears before Judge James C. Francis IV in Manhattan federal court in New York, New York, U.S., March 28, 2017. REUTERSJane Rosenberg

The FBI arrested on Tuesday, March 28th, 2017, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Turkish state-owned Halkbank after he was taken into custody at JFK airport the day before. He was charged with a multi-year conspiracy evading US sanctions against gold bullion trading with Iran in a deal that the Obama Administration permitted under a loophole because it went through “private individuals.” That was back in 2013, when the US was in intense negotiations with Iran via the P5+1 JCPOA deal that gave Tehran a guaranteed pathway to a nuclear bomb.

The private individual in question, who facilitated the multi-billion dollar illicit gold trade, was 33 year old Iranian Turkish Azeri, Reza Zarrab, who was arrested last March while on a vacation in Florida.  He was arraigned in the New York Federal Southern District Court in October 2016.  Zarrab’s arrest probably enabled the FBI to complete its investigation as to the Halkbank involvement in the gold for gas sanctions evasion scheme with Iran.   Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz exposed the violation nearly four years ago in a May 2013, Foundation for Defense of Democracies report, “Iran’s Golden Loophole”. noted following  the arrest of the Halkbank deputy chief executive officer  the shares on the Turkish Istanbul stock exchange plummeted:

The shares of Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS, as the lender is formally known, fell as much as 19 percent in Istanbul, knocking 2.1 billion liras ($576 million) off its market value. Traders exchanged almost 153 million shares by 4:56 p.m., the most since the shares were listed, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the deputy chief executive officer now detained in the U.S., faces charges including conspiring to evade trade sanctions on Iran and banking fraud.

Investors have been on tenterhooks since Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader accused of running a scheme to help the Iranian government launder hundreds of millions of dollars, was arrested in the U.S. last March. Tapes released in a previous corruption investigation in Turkey (2013) showed Zarrab coordinating with Halkbank officials including Atilla.

Note who the previous investigation involved and how it ended from this Dutch Kom News report:

Reza Zarrab, the 33-year-old Iranian-Turkish dual citizen was arrested in Istanbul on  December  17, 2013 as part of a corruption investigation involving the sons of three ministers from Erdogan’s cabinet as well as Egemen Bagis, former minister for EU Affairs and Turkey’s chief negotiator in accession talks with the European Union. Zarrab was accused of bribing ministers (through their sons) with millions of dollars in cash and gifts to help facilitate trade in gold with Iran. A parliamentary investigation committee was formed to decide whether the ministers would be put on trial or not but members of Erdogan’s party, holding the majority in the committee voted against a criminal proceeding.

This arrest  occurred just prior to US Secretary of State Tillerson’s one day meeting with Turkey’s President Erdogan who doubtless winked at the gold trading by Zarrab, as someone in his family may also have benefitted from the illicit business. This February, Trump advisor former New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani and former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey journeyed to Ankara, Turkey to allegedly meet with President Erdogan regarding their law firm’s defense of Zarrab. 

Because of the timing of the latest development, it is likely that former US Attorney Preet Bharara and his staff were pursuing both cases against Zarrab and Atilla. Mukasey’s son Mark is being considered as a replacement for Bharara as US Attorney in the New York Southern District.

Note these details from the US Department of Justice press release on how the evasion was accomplished under the guise of humanitarian aid:

 Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim stated: “As alleged, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a Turkish banker, participated in a years-long scheme to violate American sanctions laws by helping Reza Zarrab, a major gold trader, use U.S. financial institutions to engage in prohibited financial transactions that illegally funneled millions of dollars to Iran. As alleged in the criminal complaint unsealed today, Atilla worked with Zarrab to create and use fraudulent documents to try to disguise prohibited Iranian financial transactions as food that would qualify under the humanitarian exception to the sanctions regime. United States sanctions are not mere requests or suggestions; they are the law. And those who use the American financial system to violate the sanctions laws, as Atilla is alleged to have done, will be investigated and prosecuted aggressively. I thank the FBI and the career prosecutors in my Office for their tireless work and dedication in this and other important investigations of alleged sanctions violators.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Iran continues to illustrate it will use whatever means necessary to evade sanctions and violate U.S. law. Our work in this case shows the unscrupulous behavior by exposing how the men charged allegedly moved massive amounts of money through U.S. banks disguised as humanitarian efforts to feed people in need. In this instance, they allegedly utilized a Turkish national and a financial institution that knowingly shielded the true nature of the transactions. The FBI and the U.S. Intelligence Community have dedicated investigators and analysts who won’t stop weeding out every action Iran takes to continue its alleged illegal activity.”

The Turkish Justice Minister suggested the timing of Atilla’s arrest was “political”. He was cited  in a Reuters report today on the arrival of Secretary Tillerson in Ankara:

The arrest in the United States of a top Turkish banker charged with participating in a multi-year scheme to violate sanctions against Iran is a "completely political" move, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Thursday.

The Halkbank (HALKB.IS: Quote) executive is accused of conspiring with Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, who is already on trial. Bozdag said there was no evidence incriminating Zarrab or Turkey.

The arrest escalates a case that has fuelled tension between the United States and Turkey. President Tayyip Erdogan has said he believed U.S. authorities had "ulterior motives" in prosecuting Zarrab, who was arrested in March 2016 in Miami.

"There is nothing legally sound there and Turkey is facing a completely political plot," Bozdag told broadcaster A Haber. "It aims to tarnish the Turkish state, government and president."

Despite the Turkish Justice Minister’s comments, we suspect there is more to come from the trials of both Zarrab and Atilla in New York. Stay tuned for developments.


Posted on 03/30/2017 2:06 PM by Jerry Gordon
Thursday, 30 March 2017
‘The Tyranny of Group Self-Righteousness’

The campus fascists who are now suppressing conservative views have been using those tactics against pro-Israel speakers for years

by Richard L. Cravatts, PhD

When Chester Evans Finn, Jr., a former United States Assistant Secretary of Education, observed in 1989 that university campuses had become “islands of repression in a sea of freedom,” he was anticipating a troubling and prevalent trend now poisoning academia, namely, the suppression of free speech. With alarming regularity, speakers are shouted down, booed, jeered, and barraged with vitriol, all at the hands of groups who give lip service to the notion of academic free speech, and who demand it when their speech is at issue, but have no interest in listening to, or letting others listen to, ideas that contradict their own world view.

This is the tragic and inevitable result of a decades of grievance-based victimism by self-designated groups who frame their rights and demands on identity politics and who have been successful in weaponizing this victim status to stifle debate. In the space of the past two months, for example, tendentious and morally self-righteous progressive students, and some faculty, have displayed a shocking disregard for the university’s cardinal virtue of free expression, deciding themselves who may say what about whom on their respective campuses—and purging from campuses those ideas they have deemed too hateful, too unsafe, too incendiary to tolerate or to allow to be heard.

At Middlebury College, in one of the most astonishing examples, Charles Murray, political scientist, libertarian, and author of the controversial 1994 book, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, was verbally assaulted by a crazed audience of students intent on shutting down his planned speech—a crowd that eventually physically surrounded Murray and a Middlebury professor, Allison Stanger, and shoved them with sufficient force that she was hospitalized.  

At NYU, Gavin McInnes, co-founder of Vice Media and the host of The Gavin McInnes Show on Compound Media, was showered with pepper spray by agitated and raucous protesters before his scheduled February 3rd speech.

Ezra Levant, conservative political activist, writer, and broadcaster, had to endure a similar experience at Canada’s Ryerson University in March when protesters set off alarms, pounded on doors, and continuously interrupted his speech while chanting, “no Islamophobia, no white supremacy.”

And at Berkeley on February 1st, some 1500 violent rioters lit fires, smashed windows, tossed smoke bombs, destroyed property, and pepper sprayed and beat pro-Trump bystanders and conservatives, all because of the purported extreme views of Milo Yiannopoulos, a speaker invited to campus by the Berkeley College Republicans.

Something is clearly amiss on North American campuses, and this recent spate of disrupted events has brought to the forefront a troubling phenomenon on campuses that supporters of Israel have been experiencing for more than a decade already. Anti-Israel campus activists have conducted an ongoing campaign to delegitimize and libel Israel, and their tactics include a concerted and blatant attempt to shut down dialogue and debate—anything that will help to “normalize” Zionism, permit pro-Israel views to be aired, or generate support for the Jewish state.

The marauding, virtue-signaling bullies who were successful in suppressing the speech of conservative speakers whose views they had predetermined could not even be uttered on campus share a common set of characteristics with the campus activists who have led the assault against Israel and Jewish students who support it: it is they, and they alone, who know what it acceptable speech, what ideas are appropriate and allowed, which groups are victims of oppression and should therefore receive special accommodation for their behavior and speech, which views are progressive (and therefore virtuous) and which views are regressive (and therefore hateful), which causes are worthy of support and which are, because of their perceived moral defects, worthy of opprobrium.

The notion that a vocal minority of self-important ideologues can determine what views may or may not be expressed on a particular campus is not only antithetical to the purpose of a university, but is vaguely fascistic by relinquishing power to a few to decide what can be said and what speech is allowed and what must be suppressed; it is what former Yale University president Bartlett Giamatti characterized as the “tyranny of group self-righteousness.”

The frequency and intensity of the disruption of pro-Israel events are shocking. The AMCHA Initiative, an organization that tracks instances of campus anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism, reported that in February 2017 alone, pro-Palestinian radicals attempted to disrupt and shut down the following events: a University of Georgia Dawgs for Israel event called “Beyond the Headlines: Israeli Soldiers Tour,” during which members of the toxic Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) tossed images of dead children around the room and then were escorted out of the room by an armed guard, chanting, “We will not allow justification of ethnic cleansing, occupation, and murder on UGA’s campus;” a University of Washington pro-Israel education display promoting peace that was set up by the Coalition of Husky Allies for Israel and was vigorously protested by Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER-UW) who complained repeatedly that the pro-Israel display was “too close to SUPER-UW’s display,” and, more preposterously, that the pro-Israel display was offensive and “triggers” them; a Florida State University Hillel-sponsored event where Israeli soldiers spoke. SJP members disrupted the event, unfurling a large Palestinian flag, standing up during the presentation, and shrieking, “Free, free Palestine;” and a Students Supporting Israel at Columbia University event with Danny Danon, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Protestors from the anti-Israel University Apartheid Divest chanted, “Stop your murder, stop your hate, Israel is an apartheid state!” and some protesters broke into the lecture hall, interrupting Danon seven times.

It was never the intended purpose of academic free speech to enable or permit students, for example, to scream out in protest in classrooms if they disagree with the instructor or merely wish to raise their displeasure with some issue, engage in speech and behavior that would normally be considered to be incitement or harassment or criminal, and, most relevant to this current issue, individuals cannot, under the protection of free speech, deprive another of his or her free speech rights—through disruptions, heckling, physical obstructions, or other tactics which have as their purpose to suppress and/or eliminate the speech of those with opposing views, including the threat of violence if certain controversial speakers are allowed air their views, the so-called “heckler’s veto.”

True intellectual diversity — the ideal that is often bandied about in academia but rarely achieved — must be dedicated to the protection of unfettered speech, representing opposing viewpoints, where the best ideas become clear through the utterance of weaker ones. “. . . The University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed,” a 2014 Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression by the University of Chicago suggested. “It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose.”


Richard L. Cravatts, PhD, President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.

Posted on 03/30/2017 11:56 AM by Richard L. Cravatts
Thursday, 30 March 2017
Italian police break up alleged jihadist cell that planned to attack Venice's Rialto Bridge

From the Telegraph

Italian police broke up an alleged jihadist cell in Venice that drew inspiration from last week’s terrorist attack in London and planned to blow up the city’s famous Rialto Bridge in the hope of killing hundreds of tourists.

In a series of overnight raids, anti-terrorism police arrested three suspects, all of them Kosovars who were living in Italy.  Fisnik Bekaj, 24, Dake Haziraj, 25, and Arian Babaj, 27, were allegedly admirers of Islamic State and were secretly recorded discussing how they were ready to die for the sake of jihad. A fourth person, an unnamed minor also originally from Kosovo, was detained.

In wire-tapped telephone conversations, the suspects were recorded appearing to celebrate last week’s attack in London, in which Muslim convert Khalid Masood, 52, drove a car into crowds walking across Westminster Bridge, killing three people, and then fatally stabbed a policeman, Keith Palmer, outside Parliament.

A phone intercept caught one of the men telling another: “You'll go straight to paradise because of all the infidels in Venice. Put a bomb on the Rialto." In another conversation, one of the men said: “I can’t wait to take an oath to Allah. If they let me take the oath, I’m ready to die.”

The suspects had embarked on a training programme, putting themselves through physical exercises and viewing videos of Islamic State extremists explaining how to carry out knife attacks, the prosecutor said...They found a number of pistols as well as evidence that the trio had downloaded information from extremist websites about how to make bombs and carry out attacks with knives.

The undercover operation began last year after one of the men came back from a trip to Syria. All had residency permits and were living in Italy legally. "There was a lot of talk about unconditional support to ISIS. It wasn't just theory and dogma," said Mr D'Ippolito. The suspects were close to moving towards "planning and projects",

Around 300 Kosovars have gone to fight with Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq, including Islamic State and al-Nusra Front.

Posted on 03/30/2017 10:23 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 30 March 2017
Ignore Him at Your Peril
Excellent cover story on Richard L. Rubenstein in UB Knightlines.
Posted on 03/30/2017 7:45 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 30 March 2017
Makers, Fakers, & Takers

by Richard Kostelanetz

Especially in the north of Israel the traveler can visually identify the border by land that is cultivated for agriculture. On the other side of the border, whether in Syria or Jordan, land with the same qualities is barren, simply because the people residing there can’t make it work. Farming isn’t expensive, as Nature does most of the work in turning seed into food; but exploiting its gifts does require considerable organization and attention, not to mention respect for organization and attention. For various cultural and historic reasons, some people can make and bake while others can’t. Along the same playing field at the Israeli border the traveler observes visibly unequal results.

Back in 1899, a young writer named Winston Churchill acutely observed that “wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live...the effects are improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property.” He continued: “Individual Muslims may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.” Whether forces other than religion contribute to this social backwardness I’ll let others decide.

Stepping back, taking an economic view, consider that some people are makers while others are takers. Some of the latter try to take from their neighboring takers, though it’s more profitable for them to take as much as they can from those who make wealth. This principle informs my understanding of the Middle East. The sad truth is that nearly all Muslim economies are disasters unless they have abundant natural resources. In that case a privileged class controlling the resources lords over most of their impoverished countrymen.

One difference recently is that the takers try to enlist outside forces to support their efforts at taking. Unable to attract sufficient charity from their wealthier Muslim neighbors or to conquer them, certain Arab peoples try to appeal to elements in the West, especially in the United Nations, in their efforts to appropriate Israeli wealth. Takers fake when their leaders try to blame poverty on external forces, rather than internal cultural insufficiencies. With the Israeli deannexation of Gaza the takers succeeded politically, only to squander their takings with mismanagement and wonton destruction, incidentally undermining the Western sentiment that outside forces can create preconditions for more equal social results. (By contrast, when Malaysia dumped Singapore, it became wealthier than its sometime master.) Should any reader doubt, consider visiting these Middle Eastern scenes and seeing for yourself.

These machinations aren’t new, as one recurring truth of Jewish history is that takers fake whenever they try “legally” to appropriate Jewish makings. Remember Spain in the late 15th Century, Russia in the late 19th Century, and Germany in the third and fourth decades of the 20th Century.

The truth is that the charity of outsiders seems doomed until benefactors insist that takers cease faking and are, instead, encouraged to be makers. Only then will the results from level playing fields begin to appear more equal.

Posted on 03/30/2017 6:57 AM by Richard Kostelanetz
Thursday, 30 March 2017
Hirsi Ali's Policy Recommendations for Trump Administration

Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes at the Hoover Insittute.

The recommendations made here to President Trump’s administration can be grouped under seven headings:

• The administration should acknowledge that combating political Islam by military means alone is not working.

• The administration should define the enemy more clearly: political Islam (Islamism) is not just a religion, but is also a political ideology.

• The administration should understand the significance of Islamist dawa, the subversive, indoctrinating precursor to jihad.

• The administration should ensure that key personnel in all relevant agencies understand the risk of Islamism, Islamist dawa activities, and militant jihad.

• The administration should choose its language carefully. Ideology is about persuasion. The administration must learn to persuade the leaders of the other branches of government,the American people, allied countries, and Muslims that Islamism is a hazard and poses risks to both national security and America’s constitutional order.

Government Outreach
• The administration should recognize the diversity of Muslim citizens and support Islamic reformers here and around the world.

• In reaching out to the Muslim American community, the administration should ally itself with genuine Muslim moderates and reformers, not with “nonviolent” Islamists. Nonviolent Islamists are engaged in subversion: they seek to replace the US Constitution and rule of law with sharia, even when they refrain for tactical reasons from using or advocating violence.

• The administration should understand that the average American Muslim does cooperate with law enforcement, but does so against the advice of organizations such as CAIR.

• The administration should require the FBI to scrutinize the ideological background and nature of the Islamic organizations it engages with and partners with to ensure that they are genuinely moderate, that is, not committed to the Islamist agenda.

• The administration should instruct all agencies not to partner with nonviolent Islamist groups such as these:

• The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

• The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)

• The Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) • The North American Islamic Trust (NAIT)

• The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) • The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT)

• The Islamic Society of Boston

• The current failing strategy known as “Countering Violent Extremism” is based on false premises and has empowered Islamists. It should be abandoned and replace with an effective strategy.

• The administration, through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), should subject immigrants and refugees to ideological scrutiny, as happened during the Cold War.160 Individuals requesting temporary entry to the United States, permanent residency, or citizenship must be asked about their commitment to Islamism and related concepts such as the death penalty for apostasy and support for sharia law and the subjugation of women. If individuals are found to have lied in their immigration or citizenship applications about their commitment to the US Constitution by engaging in subversive dawa activities after establishing residency, their residency or citizenship must be revoked.

• The DHS should deny entry to foreign individuals involved with or supportive of Islamism and related groups and refuse permanent residency and naturalization to such individuals.

• The administration should reinstate the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) and consult with experts to maximize its effectiveness.

• The administration should prioritize entry to the United States of immigrants who have shown loyalty to the United States in a war setting, such as interpreters who risked their families’ lives to support US troops.

Law and the Justice System
• The administration should heed the lessons of the successful conviction of the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, for seditious conspiracy in the first World Trade Center bombing case.

• The secretary of state should designate the Egyptian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization, just as Hamas has been outlawed in the United States for clear connections to terrorism.

• The administration should implement effective ideological screening of chaplains employed by the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Prisons, the Department of Defense (military chaplains), and the State Department. The Bureau of Prisons, the Department of State, various state correctional systems, and the Department of Defense must stop relying on the Islamic Leadership Council and the Islamic Society of North America for chaplain vetting.

• The administration should systematically map the infrastructure of subversive dawa activities around the world, in particular the connections of the global infrastructure to the United States: funds, individuals, institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and governmental support.

• The administration, with Congress, should grant the DHS and the FBI greater powers to gather exploratory intelligence on Islamist groups. Now they can act only when a conspiracy to commit violence arises or an actual violent act occurs.

• The administration should ensure reasonable surveillance of Islamic centers and mosques that are credibly suspected of engaging in subversive activities, such as the Islamic Society of Boston. In response to pressure by Islamic lobby groups, efforts to gather intelligence in New York mosques were shut down in 2015. Such programs should be relaunched as soon as possible.

• The administration, through the Internal Revenue Service, should revoke the tax-exempt status of organizations connected to subversive Islamist activities; the IRS division tasked with accrediting religious 501(c)3 groups should consider subversion of the US constitutional order as a disqualifying criterion in granting or extending tax-exempt status.

• The administration, with Congress, must require annual disclosure to the IRS of foreign contributions by tax-exempt religious associations.

• As a condition of US friendship, the administration should require foreign governments as well as Islamic NGOs to stop supporting and financing subversive Islamist activities in the United States. Of particular interest here are Qatari, Kuwaiti, and Saudi “philanthropic” foundations.This will require policy synchronization among the State Department, the Department of Defense, and the National Security Council—and a great deal of persistence. Given the sensitivity of this issue, private requests are advisable first; if private requests are ineffective or ignored (as they have been since 9/11), appropriate public pressure must follow.

• The administration should firmly push back against the efforts of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to limit free speech by outlawing criticism of Islam. Such efforts are directed at the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and other international organizations.

• The administration should use broadcast institutions overseas (e.g., Voice of America) to fight the war of ideas by disseminating a counter-dawa message, highlighting the work of Muslim reformers and non-Islamist Muslims.

• If a country or NGO cannot show verifiable progress in curbing its support for subversive dawa activities in the United States, the administration should punish that country or NGO in concrete terms, for example by trade sanctions or cuts in aid payments.

Military Operations
• The administration should continue conventional military operations against jihadist organizations in order to capture or kill Islamist terrorists, deny them safe havens, and bolster the efforts of our allies against them.

• However, the administration also should wage cyber war on organizations engaged in dawa as well as those engaged in jihad.

Posted on 03/30/2017 5:45 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
Armed police swoop on six addresses in Alum Rock - Counter Terrorism Police make two arrests

From the Birmingham Mail

Armed police are currently involved in an operation in Birmingham during today's afternoon rush hour. Officers have been pictured in Alum Rock Road this afternoon.

It is understood the operation could be linked to terror searches across the UK. 

Two people have been arrested on suspicion of terror offences . . . Alum Rock Road was sealed off as counter-terrorism officers arrested a 21-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman. The duo were arrested on suspicion of preparing for terrorist acts following the swoop at around 5.30pm...Police said the arrests were not related to last week’s terror attack in Westminster.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed in the last few minutes that a search is being carried out at a property in the Birmingham.

Posted on 03/29/2017 1:03 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
An Independent Kurdistan: Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Plan

by Hugh Fitzgerald

“Masoud Barzani: Independent Kurdistan is loyal response to Peshmerga sacrifices,” Rudaw, March 5, 2017:

Barzani [Masoud Barzani, President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region] said that too many massacres have occurred, leaving no room for reconciliation,’ with a divided Iraq along the sectarian lines of Sunnis and Shiites, as he commented on the prospect of an independent Kurdistan, saying that the Kurds had tried to reconcile with the rest of the country after the fall of Saddam in 2003, but it failed because of the sectarian war between the two sects that has been going on for 1400 years.

“The independence of Kurdistan would create an area of stability in this region. We have already seen too much blood and injustice,” Barzani said, noting that an independent Kurdistan will be “based on the rule of law, respect for democratic rules, coexistence between different identities, and a multiparty system.”

“In the Middle East we can help to reduce crises and conflicts. It is in everyone’s interest,” Barzani said talking about the impact of an independent Kurdistan on the Middle East.”

The largest ethnic group in the world without its own state, a people without a country of their own, are the Kurds. By the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, they were originally promised local autonomy in Anatolia, with the possibility of establishing, within a year of the Treaty’s signing, an independent Kurdish state. Section 3, Article 64 of the Sèvres treaty stated:

If within one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty the Kurdish peoples within the areas defined in Article 62 shall address themselves to the Council of the League of Nations in such a manner as to show that a majority of the population of these areas desires independence from Turkey, and if the Council then considers that these peoples are capable of such independence and recommends that it should be granted to them, Turkey hereby agrees to execute such a recommendation, and to renounce all rights and title over these areas.”

The detailed provisions for such renunciation will form the subject of a separate agreement between the Principal Allied Powers and Turkey.

If and when such renunciation takes place, no objection will be raised by the Principal Allied Powers to the voluntary adhesion to such an independent Kurdish State of the Kurds inhabiting that part of Kurdistan which has hitherto been included in the Mosul vilayet.

But that promise was never fulfilled; the treaty was annulled. After the Turks under Ataturk had managed to expel the last foreign troops from Anatolia, the Turkish government refused to recognize the commitments it had made in the Sèvres treaty, a refusal reflected in the Treaty of Lausanne, signed in 1923. The result was bitter: no autonomy for the Kurds, and certainly no independent Kurdish state. But the Kurds did not abandon their dream of an independent Kurdistan; though the Lausanne Treaty meant the postponement of the dream of Kurdish autonomy, or of a Kurdish state, it did not destroy it. Though the Kurds are still stateless, circumstances today in the Middle East may have brought their goal closer to being realized than at any time before.

The Kurdish people now number between 35 and 40 million. Most of them are to be found in four Muslim countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. They have been mistreated, to varying degrees, in all of these countries. In Turkey there are 10-15 million Kurds, about 20% of the population, living mostly in eastern and southeastern Anatolia. There has been a long-running simmering rebellion by these Anatolian Kurds against Turkish rule, involving several different groups of Kurdish rebels, the most important group being the PKK, or Kurdish Worker’s Party. Serious organizing for Kurdish rights began in 1974; an open insurgency started in 1984, and since then there have been varying levels of violence, intermittent truces, suppression by the Turkish army — but the aim of Kurdish autonomy or, for a growing number of Kurds, the further aim of outright independence, remains despite defeats. That desire is no doubt heightened in the Turkish Kurds by their having to endure that Lord of Misrule, the self-proclaimed Padishah, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and in the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, by their having proven their military mettle against the Islamic State.

About six million Kurds live in northern Iraq, the country where they have fared worst. The Arab army of Saddam Hussein killed 182,000 Kurds in Operation Anfal (a name taken from the eighth sura of the Qur’an, which is called Surat al-Anfal, or “the Spoils of War” chapter), and then moved Arabs into formerly Kurdish-populated villages, in a campaign of forced Arabization. After the Gulf War, the American military provided air cover for the Iraqi Kurds, beginning in 1991, which meant that none of Saddam’s planes dared enter the airspace over Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurds are keenly aware of how much the Americans have done for them. Since 2003, while Shi’a and Sunni Arabs have been locked in conflict, Iraqi Kurds have enjoyed a semi-autonomous existence in the north. This experience has whetted Iraqi Kurdish appetites for independence, and also turned them into the most pro-American ethnic group – save for Israeli Jews – in the Middle East. It is worth noting that since 2003, not a single American has been killed in Iraqi Kurdistan. Today a Kurd, Fuad Masum, is President of Iraq, but one shouldn’t make too much of this, for it’s a largely ceremonial position, and has not diminished the desire of many Kurds for full independence, and not just de facto autonomy, for Iraqi Kurdistan. When Masoud Barzani (see above) claims that now is the time for Kurdish independence in northern Iraq, he talks about how an independent Kurdistan could help bring “stability” to a region rocked by sectarian conflict. Shouldn’t he wish that sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shi’a Arabs to continue forever? Isn’t that what may make possible an independent Kurdish state in Iraq in the first place?

The Kurds in Syria, of whom there are two million in Rojava, since the civil war began a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria, have proven themselves to be the most effective fighters against the Islamic State, with their Peoples Protection Units, or YPG, doing the bulk of Kurdish fighting. These Kurdish forces have not only had to contend with the Islamic State, but they have been targeted by the Turkish Army, which is supposed to be in Syria only to fight the Islamic State. In its waning days, the Obama Administration was planning to send arms to the Kurds in Syria, but the Trump Administration appears to have dropped that plan, reportedly because it might offend Erdogan.

But why should Washington try to please Erdogan? Since so much of what the Americans do or don’t do infuriates Erdogan as, for example, Washington’s refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, and as other Westerners – the Dutch, the Germans – are repeatedly called “Nazis” by Erdogan because they had the gall to keep Erdogan’s men from campaigning among Turks in their countries, it is clear that he is mercurial, ill-tempered, bullying, often hysterical, a false friend who in many ways has become an enemy of the non-Muslim West. He went into a towering rage against Israel because of the Mavi Marmara episode, in which Israeli soldiers dared to defend themselves against attack. He has fomented antisemitism at every level, accusing “the Jews” of harming the Turkish economy, causing a mine disaster, spreading anti-Turkish stories through their supposed control of the world-wide -media, and so on and so predictably forth.

Officially our military ally (and member of NATO), Turkey did not allow the Americans in 2003 to invade Iraq from the north, considerably complicating their military task. Erdogan has now been making noises about denying the Americans the use of the Incirlik airbase they built and share with the Turks, in order to force them to provide air support for his troops in Syria. The Americans are reluctant because they fear that they might inadvertently harm our Kurdish allies in the area. Erdogan is angry that the Americans are becoming too close to the Kurds, whose successes against the Islamic State appear not to please but to alarm him. He has even told the Americans that his first priority is fighting the Kurds; the Islamic State comes second.  Finally, and most disturbing, Erdogan appears to take pleasure in his current prediction that a new “religious war” between Muslims and Christians — between “the cross and the crescent” — is brewing in Europe, leaving no doubt which side Turkey will be on. All this makes it harder and harder to justify treating Turkey as an ally or allowing it to remain in NATO.

In Iran there are six million Kurds, both Sunni and Shi’a, who since the First World War have demonstrated various levels of loyalty to the central government in Tehran. In 1946, Kurds in Iran established a “Republic of Mehabad” that only covered a minuscule territory along the border with Iraq and Turkey; it lasted less than a year. When the Islamic Republic was declared, many Kurds were at first enthusiastic, because the Shah had shown no patience with Kurdish nationalism, and they hoped for better treatment. They were soon disabused of that hope. As soon as Khomeini’s Islamic program became clear, the Kurds, always more secular than the Arabs (because their ethnic identity worked against, rather than reinforced, the hold of Islam) started a series of demonstrations that were suppressed far more brutally than they had been under the Shah. The Ayatollah Khomeini called for a Jihad against Kurdish separatists in August, 1979; mass executions of Kurds promptly followed.

All further attempts by Kurds to demonstrate against the Khomeini regime were crushed. The Iranian Kurds were on their own, for in Iraq the Kurds were held down by Saddam’s men after the 1986 Al-Anfal campaign of mass murder against them. And in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), two despots, Saddam and Khomeini, forced “their” Kurds to fight against those on the other side, instead of the Kurds in both countries being able to join forces to fight both the Arabs of Iraq and the Persians of Iran.

Now the future of the Kurds in Iran depends on what the Kurds in Iraq manage to accomplish. If they achieve independence, the route will be open for them to aid the Iranian Kurds militarily, perhaps even supplying them with arms that might be supplied by the Saudis, or the Israelis, for both Saudi Arabia and Israel have a stake in weakening Iran. (Geopolitics makes strange bedfellows.) The Saudis have recently announced their support for the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, knowing that it will cause trouble for Iranian interests in Iraq and, even more importantly, in Iran itself.

Why has the West been so hesitant to support an independent Kurdistan when there are so many reasons why it should be enthusiastic?

The main American worry is that of alienating Turkey. The American government treats Turkey as if it were still the Kemalist Turkey of 1980, or even of 1951, when Turkey was invited to join NATO as a payback for sending its troops to fight in Korea. Turkey was once a stout ally, but that was in the heyday of Kemalism, when the forces of secularism seemed unstoppable and Ataturk’s reforms appeared to be permanent. Erdogan has been systematically undoing Kemalism, that is, reintroducing signs of Islam everywhere Ataturk had managed to banish them – especially in the army, the civil service, and the universities. He has been busy re-islamizing the country; both he and his ministers extol Islam and denounce secularism. Physical attacks by mobs on secularists, including those who only tried to distribute leaflets denouncing the Islamic State, have become more frequent and go unpunished.

He has just ended the ban on the wearing of hijabs by female army officers; he had previously lifted the ban on hijabs in the universities, police, civil service and government. .

Erdogan has built 10,000 new mosques in Turkey since 2004. His Deputy Prime Minister and others in his government have called for turning Hagia Sophia, currently a museum, into a mosque, which would further efface the Christian history of Byzantium, and of Christian Constantinople, for half a millenium the largest and richest city in Christendom, from historic memory. He has waged war on his own officer corps, using the failed coup as his excuse for a massive purge of the secularists in the army, while accusing those officers of taking their orders from Fethullah Gulen, a mild-mannered Muslim cleric who, Erdogan claims, directed the coup from his Pennsylvania exile. That officer corps, which for nearly a century has been the ultimate guarantor of Kemalism, has now been weakened by Erdogan’s removal of hundreds of secularist officers, the same officers whom he accuses of being the agents of a Muslim cleric.

Turkey under Erdogan has, as noted above, been an inconstant ally of the West. It’s hard to believe that a leader of Turkey, a country that for decades has received military supplies and training and aid of all kinds from the Americans, a country that was originally allowed into NATO thanks to American sponsorship, has turned out to be so ungrateful for all those decades of support of every kind.

What the Kurds need is a clear sign that the West, and especially the American government, supports the goal of an independent Kurdistan, beginning with the Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. Suppose our politicians – for example, Representative Tulsi Gabbard — were to begin to make known their own support for such a state by speaking out in Congress?  Columnists might begin to write about why an independent Kurdistan would necessarily be a firm ally of the United States. David Brooks, E. J. Dionne, or any of the other grand panjandrums of the American commentariat could devote a few columns as to why an independent Kurdistan makes both geopolitical and moral sense. Just getting people to talk about the possibility, to examine it from every angle, would be helpful. For there are many reasons for thinking that this is a singularly propitious moment for the Kurds, having proved themselves militarily in both Syria and Iraq, to make a move for an independent Kurdish state.

If a state of Kurdistan were to be declared in northern Iraq with American political support, this will not stop the sectarian conflict among Iraq’s Arabs. And, pace Masoud Barzani, both we and the Kurds benefit from that conflict continuing. Neither the Shi’a nor the Sunni Arabs in Iraq now possess the wherewithal to suppress a Kurdish state, and neither will want to divert what military resources they now have to use against the Kurds. In many ways, Baghdad has already lost control of Iraqi Kurdistan over the last quarter-century, ever since the Americans started providing air cover in 1991. The Sunni Arabs might, in fact, begin thinking not about forcing the Kurds to remain within an Iraqi state, but rather, about the possibility of independence for themselves, since the Shi’a-run government in Baghdad, having undone the Sunni ascendancy under Saddam Hussein, now possesses the political and economic power (those oil revenues) that the Sunni Arabs once controlled. Those Sunni Arabs constitute about 20% of Iraq’s population, while the Shi’a Arabs make up more than 65% of Iraqis. That means there is no chance, in the new democratic polity that the Americans helped bring, that the Sunnis will ever again regain the power they once possessed. Instead, as a permanent minority, they are doomed to endure second-class status under the newly empowered Shi’a. But the Sunnis can continue to resist, and might attempt to create a Sunni state carved out of central Iraq, which could count on Saudi Arabia (and the smaller but very rich sheikdoms of the Gulf) to support them with money and weaponry, so that they might stand in the way of further Shi’a expansion. The main goal of the Saudis is to everywhere limit the influence and power of Shi’a Iran, which they regard, correctly, as Saudi Arabia’s mortal enemy. So this sectarian conflict can go on indefinitely, a proxy war between Iran-backed Shi’a and Saudi-backed Sunnis, and it is this war that gives the Kurds in Iraq their chance for independence.

Even more disturbed than Iraqi Arabs at the prospect of an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq will be those who run things in Tehran. For they will naturally fear the potentially galvanizing effect on the six million Kurds in Iran and, even more disturbing, the effect on other, non-Kurdish, minorities in Iran. The Iranians have reason to worry. After all, only 61% of the population of Iran consists of Iranians.

The remainder are Baluchis, in the east, next to Pakistan’s Baluchistan, who make up 2% of Iran’s population, Azeris to the north, next to Azerbaijan,who make up 16% of the population, Arabs in the south, in the oil-bearing region of Khuzistan, who number fewer than two million (there are 8 million Arabs in Iran, or 2% of the population, widely dispersed) and the Kurds, who make up 10% of the population, on the western border with Iraq – or what could now be Kurdistan. And then there are a dozen smaller peoples. If the nearly seven million Iranian Kurds were able to rise up and join Iraqi Kurds in the new state of Kurdistan, that would by itself weaken the Islamic Republic. And it would also encourage other minorities to try to break away from Iran. The Azeris in Iran have not heretofore shown great interest in joining their territory to Azerbaijan, and Khomeini’s ferocious 1979 declaration of Jihad against all separatists scared many, but the tug of Azeri nationalism might grow stronger pari passu with the prospect of its success.

Right now Iran is involved, directly or through proxies, in Syria and Lebanon, in Yemen and Iraq. If Tehran had to simultaneously deal with internal uprisings by Kurds, Baluchis, Azeris, and Arabs, it would likely have to pull back from its foreign adventurism, and perhaps have to choose which of its minorities, or the land they live on, it could least afford to lose. The 2.4 million Baluchis in eastern Iran, almost 30% of the total Baluchi population in the world, live in one of the poorest parts of Iran, ignored by Tehran except when some separatists set off a bomb. 70% of the world’s Baluchis live just across the Iranian border in Pakistan, where they have been carrying on a low-level rebellion for many years. The Baluchis have a strong sense of national identity, despite, or possibly because, they are spread between Iran and Pakistan and ill-treated in both countries. They are Sunnis, which is another reason why the Islamic Republic treats them badly. If the Iranian Kurds were to be successful in leaving Iran, the Baluchis in eastern Iran might be inspired to join their territory to that of the Baluchis in Pakistan. The Sunni government of Pakistan would be glad to receive territory subtracted from Shi’a Iran, and might then grant the Baluchis greater autonomy, in the hope of forestalling demands for Baluchistan’s independence. The Iranians are unlikely to want to fight Pakistan in order to wrest back control of an impoverished land and its impoverished, rebellious, and hostile people.

The Arabs of Khuzistan number fewer than two million, though there are another six million ethnic Arabs spread out in Iran. Khuzistan is next to Iraq, but Shi’a Arabs in southern Iraq are not likely to help the Arabs of Khuzistan, for they are grateful to Iran for having backed the Shi’a militias in Iraq to the hilt, with weapons, training, and even some soldiers, for their fight against Sunni Arabs. Kuwait, too, is a country that traditionally has fostered close ties with Iran, calling relations with the Islamic Republic “excellent and historical.” How much of this friendship is real, and how much dictated by considerations of Realpolitik, given that Iran is the most powerful country in the region, is unclear. But what is clear is that Saudi Arabia, the second power in the region, and a determined enemy of Iran, could support a Khuzistani independence movement all by itself, by paying both for military supplies and for Pakistani Sunni “volunteers” (like the Pakistani mercenaries who have been employed to keep down the Shi’a in Bahrain) who could fight against Iranian forces trying to hold onto Khuzistan. The Iranians do not want to lose Khuzistan’s oil, so they will never relinquish the territory. And the deep-pocketed Saudis, for their part, can keep the fight in Khuzistan going as long as they are willing to spend some of their spare billions, and to hire Pakistani mercenaries. The Iranian army cannot simultaneously suppress the Kurds, the Azeris, the Baluchis, and Arabs at home, and at the same time, deploy forces to back Shi’a militia in Iraq, and Assad in Iran, and keep its commitment to Hezbollah (especially if the Israelis keep bombing those supply routes from Syria to Lebanon with such deadly accuracy) in Lebanon.

Even the attempts at rebellion by Kurds, Azeris, Baluchis, and Arabs, whether or not any or none or some of them succeed, will keep the Islamic Republic off balance, occupied with holding Iran together, in the face of centripetal forces to the north, the south, the east and the west, and keep the mullahs out of mischief elsewhere. The regime in Tehran instead will be forever teeter-tottering, as it tries to extinguish separatist fires that can re-flame up at any time, on all four sides.

In Iraq, the Kurds, who are both Sunni and Shi’a, want to stay out of what they regard as a religious quarrel among Arabs, insisting that their sense of peoplehood transcends that sectarian fissure. They have enjoyed autonomy ever since 1991, and have the economic wherewithal, from oil and natural gas fields, to support a viable Kurdish state, even if Kurds elsewhere do not join them. Their bitter memories, of the nearly 200,000 Kurds murdered by Saddam, the forced Arabization of Kurdish lands, the appropriation of Kurdish oil and gas revenues by the Arabs in Baghdad, have been more than enough to keep their dream of an independent Kurdistan alive. Having become used to living with autonomy, they now want more, and as it turns out, in Iraq and elsewhere in the neighborhood, the conditions are more propitious than they have ever been for obtaining Kurdish independence.

In Iraq, where the Kurdish Peshmerga has demonstrated its mettle against the Islamic State, it would be unimaginable for the Sunni and Shi’a Arabs, at this point of maximum sectarian mistrust and conflict, to join forces against the Kurds, or that either sectarian group would expend its own forces to fight the Kurds alone, which would only help their sectarian Arab enemy.

In Syria, the Kurds have won the trust and support of the Americans because they have proven themselves to be the most effective of all the groups fighting the Islamic State. There are only two million of them, and they would not try for independence on their own, but if the Kurds in Iraq declare independence, those in Syria, who enjoy de facto autonomy in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) might quickly act to join them. There are several reasons why Assad would not dare, nor even care, to try to stop them. In the first place, he has been weakened militarily by the war, even if he now seems to be winning, and needs to husband his military resources for fighting those who still threaten to topple and murder him. These are the various rebel groups, as well as Al-Qaeda and, of course, the Islamic State, still holding on in Raqqa. The Syrian Kurds have no such desire to topple Assad. They don’t care which Arab rules in Damascus. What they want is be out of Syria altogether, and as far as they are concerned the Arabs can, as in Iraq, fight among themselves for as long as they want.The sliver of land – Rojava– that the Kurds inhabit will not be missed by Assad, who is more worried that he could lose his power, and his head. The Assad regime’s enemies are not just the fighters of the Islamic State and the various Syrian rebel groups. He has one more enemy in the neighborhood – Turkey. Erdogan entered Syria originally, as he put it, to end “the cruel regime of Assad.” He’s put aside that goal for now, but Assad will not have forgotten the threat. Assad, who has defied all the predictions of his demise, has much to gain from an independent Kurdistan. For that Kurdish state consisting of parts of Iraq and Syria will be a permanent threat to Turkey, and to the cohesion of the Turkish state. The loss of Syrian Kurds to this new state would be well worth it to Assad if, as a result, that independent Kurdistan attracts Turkish Kurds, prompts them to a rebellion in eastern Anatolia, and keeps the Turkish military busy trying to put down a large-scale Kurdish revolt, one which they will not easily be able to suppress given the military aid and volunteers from Kurds outside Turkey. Letting the Syrian Kurds join the Iraqi Kurds is the cleverest way for Assad to divert or curb Erdogan’s efforts against him. It’s akin to sacrificing a piece in order to trap, and checkmate, one’s opponent.

In Turkey, the conditions for Kurds rising up in southeastern Anatolia are more favorable than they have ever been. Why? Outside of Turkey, both the weakness — and cold calculation — of the Assad regime will keep it from suppressing two million Syrian Kurds who, while not formally his allies, are the most effective fighters against the greatest threat to him, that is the Islamic State. The Iraqi Kurds have similar battle experience, have heavy weapons from the Americans for the fight in Mosul, and have the declared support of the Saudis for an independent state in Iraqi Kurdistan (not out of love for the Kurds, but because they want to weaken an Iran-backed Shi’a-ruled Iraq). They have experienced de facto autonomy that whets their appetite for more. They are certainly aware that the Shi’a-Sunni conflict between Iraq’s Arabs prevents a united Arab front against the Iraqi Kurds. And there is now strong sentiment in Washington against Turkey, thanks to Erdogan. In Turkey, Erdogan’s despotic and erratic behavior has weakened the Turkish army, beginning with the officer corps that has been demoralized by Erdogan’s arrests, with some of the remaining officers, and certainly all of Turkey’s secularists, eager to see Erdogan come a cropper. He has damaged Turkey’s relations with America and Europe by trying to campaign for Turkish votes abroad, and calling the Dutch and Germans “Nazis” for attempting to stop his interference in their countries. He has damaged, above all, his relations with the Americans, whose military aid he would need to put down a Kurdish rebellion. His re-islamizing of Turkish society, his aggressive demands that the American government hand over Fethullah Gulen, and his repeated gleeful prediction that there would soon be a war in Europe between Christians and Muslims, have lost him many former friends in Washington.

By way of contrast, as we have seen, the Kurds have been solidly pro-American ever since American warplanes began patrolling over Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991 to keep Saddam’s warplanes out. Americans who served in Iraq have reported that the Kurds were the only locals in Iraq whom they fully trusted; they would take their R-and-R in Kurdistan.

To recapitulate all the reasons why the time may be ripe for an independent Kurdistan:

  • In Iraq, Sunni Arabs and Shi’a Arabs have their hands full fighting each other for power, and have nothing to spare for keeping determined Kurds in the north from declaring their independence.
  • In Syria, Assad has little to lose — two million Kurds and a sliver of resource-poor territory – and a lot to gain, by not trying to prevent Syrian Kurds from joining an independent Kurdish state. This enlarged Kurdistan can stir up rebellious sentiments among Turkish Kurds, and force Erdogan to concentrate his efforts on holding Turkey together rather than trying to unseat Assad, whom he detests.
  • In Turkey, the spectacle of an independent Kurdistan carved out of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria, quite capable of holding its own against potential enemies and enjoying the support of the Americans, Israelis, and Saudis, all of whom have their own reasons for supporting Kurdistan, will be watched excitedly by the Kurds of Anatolia. Some of them will no doubt want to join their fellow Kurds, and Erdogan’s attempt to suppress a Kurdish revolt will be less effective than it might once have been, for three main reasons. First, he has weakened his own military by summarily cashiering so many secular – or “Gulenist” – officers. Second, he has lost support from the West, for his undoing of Kemalism at home, and his hysterical outbursts directed at the Americans, the Europeans, the Israelis. Third, the Kurds have shown themselves to be steadfastly pro-American, even as Erdogan becomes more anti-American, and this has not gone unnoticed in the Pentagon or in Congress.
  • In Iran, finally, if Iranian Kurds are prompted to join the independent Kurdistan that will have first come into being in northern Iraq, the Islamic Republic will have to worry not only about how best to suppress the Kurds in Iran, who for the first time will have the possibility of receiving outside aid (from Iraqi Kurdistan), but also have to consider what effect too brutal a suppression of the Kurds will have on the Azeris, Baluchis, and Arabs. They may recoil from the Islamic Republic’s display of brutality, and be more determined than ever to promote their own separatist movements. Their success would spell the end of the Islamic Republic and leave a distressed and dimidiated Iran. And for the entire West, and especially America, that would be a good thing.

And should we care if Erdogan’s Turkey were to lose its Kurds – that is, one-fifth of its population and of its land area? Why? What has Turkey done for us lately? Remember that as the Kurdistan in northern Iraq would be strengthened by the addition of Syrian and Iranian Kurds, the position of the Turkish Kurds, who could not receive military aid, including heavy weapons, from that new state – the Turks can’t seal off their entire border with an independent Kurdistan – also would become stronger. The fight to keep the Turkish Kurds in Turkey would be much more difficult for Ankara, with its officer corps demoralized by Erdogan’s purges. The conflict would be different from Kurdish revolts of the past, because the Turkish Kurds would now have their own powerful ally in the neighborhood just to their south, that is, independent Kurdistan. It would not be easy for the Turks to suppress the Kurds in Anatolia, given the military supplies, and even Kurdish volunteers, that could now arrive from Kurdistan. One welcome result of this strengthening of the Kurdish movement would be that the Kurdish conflict will drag on in Anatolia, with the result uncertain. And Erdogan, the ruler who antagonized and threatened the West, would be revealed as not even being able to assure those over whom he ruled that Turkey would remain intact. Would not Erdogan’s regime then collapse? And if it did, wouldn’t the successor be an anti-Erdogan regime, secular, pro-Western regime, one that would return Turkey to its Kemalist past and that would cease to treat the West as an enemy?

The establishment of an independent Kurdistan would weaken Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, four Muslim countries whose regimes do not wish us well. An independent Kurdistan would be the fulfillment of a promise made by the Great Powers in the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, and breached by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. We have been helping the Kurds since 1991. Most recently, we have supplied heavy weapons to the Peshmerga to aid them in their fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. That battle experience, and those heavy weapons, make a Kurdish state more likely. An independent Kurdistan would be an unshakeable outpost of pro-American sentiment in an anti-American Muslim sea. No doubt there is something wrong with this vision of an independent Kurdistan. But I’m still trying to figure out what it might be.

First published in Jihad Watch.

Posted on 03/29/2017 7:51 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
Muslim Brotherhood FTO Designation Scuttled by State Department

Guy Taylor writes in the Washington Times.

President Trump has — for the time being — put on the back burner an executive order designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, according to U.S. officials close to a heated debate inside the administration over the status of the global Islamist movement.

While the White House has declined to comment publicly, officials speaking on condition of anonymity say the administration backed down from a plan to designate the Brotherhood last month after an internal State Department memo advised against it because of the movement’s loose-knit structure and far-flung political ties across the Middle East.

The memo “explained that there’s not one monolithic Muslim Brotherhood,” according to one of the officials, who told The Washington Times that while the movement may well be tied to such bona fide terrorist groups as Hamas, its more legitimate political activities would complicate the terrorist designation process.

The Brotherhood has prominent political factions engaged — at least perfunctorily — in democracy in Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and several other Muslim-majority nations, and the State Department memo coincided with high-level pressure placed on the Trump administration from at least one of them.

Senior diplomats from Jordan — a close U.S. ally — are believed to have weighed in heavily against the idea of adding the Brotherhood to the State Department’s foreign terrorist organizations list, said the official, because the movement’s political arm in Amman currently holds 16 Jordanian parliament seats.

But debate over the Brotherhood’s status remains biting in Washington, where hard-liners in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism say former President Barack Obama erred for years by failing to target the organization’s promotion of extremist ideology, and that President Trump is now badly fumbling a chance to rectify the situation...

Posted on 03/29/2017 7:16 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
One small step for personkind

All this gender-neutral language baloney is really getting under my skin. Children who are not taught the proper use of pronouns and tense will never learn to write well. They are not being taught to respect the English language, rather the opposite. They are actually being taught to desecrate their heritage.

It's everywhere now.

Posted on 03/29/2017 6:43 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
The Age of Rage

by Theodore Dalrymple

The object of political correctness is to make the obvious unsayable, or at least sayable only under the threat of a torrent of criticism or abuse. This does violence to the mind and spirit: those who refrain from objecting to the false pieties of political correctness (which are intoned within organizations as regularly as in public) come to despise themselves.

A female British judge, Lindsey Kushner, who was on the verge of retirement, has recently come under fire for remarks she made while sentencing a man to imprisonment for rape. The victim having been drunk and taken drugs at the time she was raped, the judge said:

I don’t think it’s wrong for a judge to beg women to take action to protect themselves. . . .  They are entitled to do what they like but please be aware there are men out there who gravitate towards a woman who might be more vulnerable than others.

For offering a comment that she believed she would be remiss not to offer in her final criminal trial, Judge Kushner was immediately accused of blaming the victim.

Now in Britain it is a matter of common observation that, over the last couple of decades, young women have made themselves incapably drunk in public. They do so regularly and with a considerable degree of pride. In point of fact, the judge’s saying that young women “are entitled to do what they want” was not right: to be drunk and incapable, or drunk and disorderly, is still against the law, regardless of what the inebriated person wants.

Unfortunately, so prevalent has public drunkenness become in Britain that such charges are rarely brought. A little while ago, for example, and a hundred yards from my front door, a scantily clad young woman had collapsed drunk on the pavement and a policeman had to render her assistance. She was not charged; indeed nothing further was from the policeman’s mind than to do so.

It is possible that if the laws against public drunkenness were properly enforced in the first place, the judge would not have believed it necessary to make her parting statement that ruffled so many feathers. Interestingly, in all the commentary that followed, no one mentioned the failure to enforce laws against drunkenness as being of any significance in the matter. The judge certainly did not. In other words, it is now implicitly accepted that public drunkenness is an inevitable feature of modern life in Britain, like rain, even though it would be relatively easy to suppress. The law has become a dead letter by a combination of cowardice, incompetence, laziness, and lack of confidence from above and mass licentiousness from below.

The commentary about Judge Kushner has been, as I said, mostly hostile. A woman’s group called Ending Violence Against Women said:

When judges basically blame victims for rape—suggesting how much alcohol a woman drinks or what she wears is part of what causes rape—we remove the responsibility from the man who did it.

The rapist in this case, however, was found guilty and sentenced to what is, by Britain’s absurdly lax standards, a long prison sentence, six years.

Prisoners, incidentally, automatically receive remission of half of their prison sentence, which makes a dishonest charade of the sentencing process since the public is by and large unaware of this. The judges and the media are complicit in this semi-deception.

There are, of course, reasons why young women should not be drunk in public besides that it renders them more vulnerable to rapists. No doubt I shall be accused of sexism if I say that I find the public drunkenness of young women even less pleasing than that of young men; but even if it were only precisely as displeasing as the drunkenness of young men, it would be enough to advise against it.

The judge did not in the slightest exonerate the rapist in this case. We “must not put responsibility on them [women] rather than the perpetrator,” she explicitly said. She merely made the sociological generalization that drunkenness made women more vulnerable to rapists (and no doubt other predators), and that they should therefore be cautious about being drunk in public.

If the judge had said that women who were drunk were more vulnerable to robbery, it’s hard to imagine her being accused of implying lesser culpability on the part of the robber. She would probably have been taken to mean that a drunk woman was less able than a sober one to defend herself, or run away from a threat to her safety—that being drunk rendered her more likely to be picked upon by a potential robber. That would have struck people as so obvious as to not need saying.

Everyone accepts that it is no excuse for a burglar that a house’s front door has been left open; moreover, a householder has a perfect right to leave his front door open if he so wishes. But equally no one would say that a householder who does not want to be burgled acts prudently if he insists upon exercising his perfect right (a much more perfect right than that to get drunk in public) to leave his front door open.

Why, then, did the judge’s remarks cause such outrage? I think it was largely because outrage is so enjoyable, and therefore people are particularly prepared to be outraged. They are actually looking for pretexts to indulge in their favorite emotion.

But why should outrage be such a pleasant emotion?

Not only does it assure him who feels it that he is a good person, but—so long as it lasts, which can be for a long time—it answers, or at least buries, the deep existential questions of what life is for, and how it should be lived.

Personally, whenever I come across outrage that is unjustified I am . . . outraged.

First published in the Library of Law and Liberty.
Posted on 03/29/2017 5:32 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
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