Tag Archives: Middle East

Trump appoints the right team to regain the Middle East

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The Trump administration is dedicated to undoing the harm done by the Obama administration in the Iran Deal. To succeed, it needs the right team.

Relatively few people have heard of the Center for Security Policy. That’s about to change because it is playing a prominent, if not dominant role, in the Trump transition team in matters relating to Iran, Russia, China and Islam. Gone from the corridors of power is the Brookings Institution, who have a satellite office in Doha, Qatar along with their Vice President and Director for Foreign Policy, Martin Indyk.  Soon, President Obama, the golfer, Secretary Kerry, the bicyclist and Secretary Clinton, the failure, will also be gone.

The CSP is a think tank created and led by Frank Gaffney, Jr. He formerly acted as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy during the Reagan Administration, following four years of service as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy. Previously, he was a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee under the chairmanship of the late Senator John Tower, and a national security legislative aide to the late Senator Henry M. Jackson.

The background of other staff members may be found here. Of particular note are Fred Fleitz and Clare Lopez.

Mr. Fleitz served in U.S. national security positions for 25 years at the CIA, DIA, Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee staff.  During the administration of President George W. Bush, Mr. Fleitz was chief of staff to John Bolton, then Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.  During his tenure with the House Intelligence Committee, he was the staff expert on the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs and briefed key National Intelligence Estimates on these issues to committee members.

Ms. Lopez, among other credits, is the author of an acclaimed paper for the Center, The Rise of the Iran Lobby, and co-author/editor of the Center’s Team B II study, Shariah: The Threat to America, as well as The Tiger Team’s The Secure Freedom Strategy: A Plan for Victory Over the Global Jihad Movement.  She co-authored Gulen and the Gulenist Movement with CSP’s Vice President for Outreach, Christopher Holton, and See No Shariah: ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ and the Disarming of America’s First Line of Defense with Frank Gaffney.

Finally, Alex VanNess is the Director of the Middle East Peace and Security Policy at the Center for Security Policy.  He writes extensively on issues relating to U.S. defense spending, the U.S./Israel strategic relationship, and the existential threats posed by Islamic fundamentalism.

Closely associated with them is the newly appointed National Security AdviserGen Michael T Flynn. He had been Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency until Pres Obama forced him to resign because of his vocal opposition to the Iran Deal and his belief that the Islamists were stronger than ever. He recently wroteField of Flight in which he forcefully argues that the Islamist ideology must be defeated in order to defeat the Islamists.

All of them have positions of influence due to their recognition that the Islamist ideology embodied in Sharia and Jihad must be defeated.

Israel

During the Bush administration and before, AIPAC was a powerful force in Washington. With the Election of President Obama and the creation of J Street, it began to lose considerable power. It no longer was the sole voice for American Jewry. In addition, the Democratic Party, which was its power base, was moving to the left and away from supporting Israel.
With the election of Donald J Trump, it lost even more influence due to the fact that a big majority of American Jews voted for Clinton and were anti-Trump. In addition, its public policies are to the left of Trump, leaving them in an awkward position. They would have to support settlements and be flexible on the Two-State solution to be of any value to Israel. I don’t see that happening.

On the other hand, the Zionist Organization of America, which had been shunned by Obama, is replacing AIPAC as the leading Jewish voice. Its policies are totally aligned with those of the Trump administration in the making. And, of course, so are the views of the soon to be appointed US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, an Orthodox Jew who supports the settlement enterprise and annexation of all or part of the West Bank. Also, Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner an orthodox Jew is slated to be one of his key advisers on Israel and he too is supportive of the settlement enterprise.

On Dec 15/16, at an elegant gala in New York City, the Center for Security Policy conferred awards on Rom Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the United States and Mort Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America. Judge Jeanine Pirro, a stalwart supporter of Trump and Israel, introduced them.  Video messages from Caroline Glick and David Horowitz were viewed. And many other people who are in the frontlines of fighting Islamists were in attendance.

The first priority for the Trump administration is to neuter the Iran Deal. DEBKAreported that the Trump team is drawing up a deal more to its liking, which will probably remove any possibility of Iran getting a bomb in 10 years and require them to abandon terror and terror groups. To get them to agree, the US has to have leverage. Russia is the key to this. But why should Russia agree?  She obviously has to be induced.

It is in the interests of the US and Israel that Russia and Iran not get full control of Syria and Iraq unless an enforceable agreement can be reached akin to a peace agreement. It’s either that or force must be mustered to stop them. As part of that agreement Israel would get to keep the Golan and Syria would agree to create a large buffer where no military activities would be allowed. That buffer would also extend to the land adjacent to Jordan.

In any scenario, the US must fully embrace Israel as a partner. The US has no military presence in the Middle East outside of a few aircraft carriers.  Thus, the presence of the Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) on the front lines greatly strengthens the US’s ability to project power immediately. This will add to her leverage.

It is also in the interests or the US to strengthen Israel by supporting a solution to the Palestinian problem in which Israel gets to annex all of Judea and Samaria (West Bank). The Palestinians would get autonomy only. Plus, the US must get the UN and the EU off Israel’s back. This will normalize Israel and enable her to play a larger regional role to the benefit of the US.

Furthermore, as ISIS is brought to heel in Syria and Iraq, it will foster terror cells all over the world. Gen. Flynn is tasked with not only defeating ISIS but defeating the Islamic ideology that fuels it. Israel, who has the most experience in fighting terrorism and the best intelligence, will be of great help and a willing partner. All the more reason, she must be normalized.

Finally, strengthening cyber security has become a national imperative. Once again Israel is one of the leading experts.

With these challenges in mind, President-Elect Trump has surrounded himself with the right people.

First there is the team at CSP who are dedicated to defeating the radical Islamic ideology who will support Gen Michael T. Flynn in this endeavor. This is of particular importance if the State Department is not cooperative. It will lessen dependence on it.

He has embraced strong Zionists, including ZOA, Friedman and Kushner who can help and direct him in how best to normalize Israel.

Finally he has nominated Rex Tillerson to be his Secretary of State.   Who better to find a way to bring Russia on board?

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A Disaster called Obama’s Middle East Policy

Obama Foreign Policy Disaster in Syria and Middle East

With each passing day, it gets more and more difficult to ignore the monumental disaster that Obama’s foreign policy actually is. Nowhere is its utter failure more glaringly evident than in the Syrian Civil War.

But first, let us not underestimate the pathologies of the Middle East that have led to the present disaster in Syria, but Obama administration’s policies have created perils that we would be dealing with, in decades to come.

The geopolitical vacuum created by President Obama’s push to shrink America’s footprint in the Middle East has quickly been filled by Comrade Putin’s soviet-style jackboots. And President Obama-backed Nuclear Deal has single-handedly contributed billions of dollars to Islamic Republic of Iran’s war chest geared at funding global terrorism and regional adventures.

Five years into the conflict, Syrian Dictator Assad is only hanging on to his power thanks to the massive military and political backing from Moscow and Tehran. With the help of Russian military support, Assad is now redrawing the frontline to his own advantage. As Assad lays sigh of rebel stronghold Aleppo, the “moderate” rebels now look to be on their last legs. So far, Assad has been more inclined squeeze the “moderate” rebels, whom he considers as soft targets, than to go after the evil of Islamic State.

By betting on his stooge Assad, Russia’s Putin is looking more and more like a winner. Putin’s gains comes at a cost to the U.S. and its Western allies. The debacle is so great that even the mainstream media cannot afford to ignore it any longer.

In a recent article, London-based Financial Times attacked Obama administration of a “bungling mix of action and inaction” that “opened a vacuum into which Russia opportunistically leapt.” Financial Times writes:

After Russian president Vladimir Putin sent his air force into Syria in September, the tide of war turned in favour of Bashar al-Assad, whose regime had started succumbing to Sunni rebels over the summer. It was plain from the outset that Russia was targeting this threat — not the jihadis of Isis. What is abundantly clear now is that Moscow is eliminating any alternative between the regime and Isis, razing the liberated areas of Syria that might nurture one, and driving out a new surge of refugees who have run out of places to hide. Mr Putin is going about this systematically.

For five years Syrians have suffered as the Assad regime bombarded hospitals, schools and bakeries, attacked water and power supplies, and obliterated rebel-controlled civilian enclaves. But much of this barrel-bombing and shelling was indiscriminate. Russia is discriminating carefully in its targeting of civilian infrastructure. For Mr Putin, evidently, Aleppo is no different to Grozny.

Some Arab leaders, with bitter resignation, point out that the Russian president is nonetheless heading for a Pyrrhic victory. If he and his allies — mainly Iran-trained and led militias — succeed in encircling Aleppo, he will have salvaged for his Assad clients a rump state in western Syria. The rest of the country will be a wasteland dominated by Isis, on which the Russians and the regime have barely laid a glove. Neither legitimacy nor stability will follow. The Assads will still head a minority regime; and although the population will have diminished sharply, it will still be overwhelmingly Sunni. The chronic manpower shortage of the government’s forces, made up for now by Hizbollah paramilitaries, Iranian revolutionary guards and other Tehran-aligned fighters drawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, will not change.

The article also debunks President Obama supporters’ claim that the administration was justified in staying out of the Syrian conflict, saying “[President Obama in fact] did get involved,” reminding the readers of the “red line” U.S. President had set for Assad in August 2012, if the dictator was were to used chemical or biological weapons.

All the tough talk from the U.S. President came to nothing when Assad actually went ahead and used the deadly nerve gas against his people, killing more than a thousand people in an attack back in August 2013 – exactly one year after President Obama drew the now-infamous “red line.”

As Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told a Senate committee last week; Assad had not parted with his chemical stockpile, and continues to use them on the battlefield in blatant violation of the international agreement reached in the aftermath of Assad’s deadly chemical attack.

Syrian Dictator knows that as long as President Obama is in the White House, he can get away with anything. The tragedy and the farce of it all is that even a third-world dictator is now able to call Obama administration’s bluff.

Israel and the Four Powers

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JNS.org The rulers of the Arab Gulf states are, it seems, increasingly attentive to what Israel has to say about the balance of power in the region. As a rising Shi’a Iran faces off against a Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia, the core shared interest between Israel’s democracy and these conservative theocracies — countering Iran’s bid to become the dominant power and influence in the Islamic world — has rarely been as apparent.

Hence the interview given by a senior IDF officer to a Saudi weekly, Elaph, which laid out how Israel analyzes the present wretched state of the Middle East. In the Israeli view, there are, the officer said, four powers that have coalesced in the region. The first power centers on Iran and its allies and proxies, such as the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship in Syria, Shi’a rebels in Yemen and Iraq, and most pertinently for Israel, Hezbollah in Lebanon. The second power contains what the officer called “moderate” states with whom Israel has “a common language” — Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf countries. The third power, one that is obviously waning, is represented in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood, now vanquished in its Egyptian heartland but still reigning in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Finally, the fourth power is another non-state actor, the combined forces of jihadi barbarism like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

Israel’s goal in this situation is a modest one. As the IDF officer put it, “There is a danger that the strife will reach us as well if the instability in the region continues for a long time. Therefore, we need to take advantage of the opportunity and work together with the moderate states to renew quiet in the region.”

The key phrase here, it seems to me, is “renew quiet.” Foremost for the Israelis, that means counteracting Iran and especially its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, and then minimizing the potential for jihadi terrorists to operate on or near Israeli-controlled territory. A broader strategic vision can also be detected here: Ultimately, both Israel and the conservative Arab states share the common interests of neutralizing Iran and eliminating the jihadi groups.

The partnership between Israel and these states is already in operation, at the levels of intelligence sharing and — not for the first time — cautious exploration of trade relations. That there is a strong military dimension as well to all this is entirely conceivable. And for the time being, it seems that neither side wants to expand or contract on their public ties with each other; Israel has long had embassies in Cairo and Amman, but that doesn’t mean there’ll be an Israeli ambassador in Riyadh anytime soon, much less a film festival or trade expo.

There’s another factor that has accelerated the formation of this undeclared, look-the-other-way alliance: the shift in American Middle East policy under President Barack Obama. Some readers will remember that back in 1991, the first Bush administration pointedly left Israel out of the coalition to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, so as not to antagonize the Gulf states. Now, frustration with Obama has compelled these very same states to recognize that they have an existential interest in cooperating with Israel.

You might say that the president deserves credit for bringing about a situation, in the wake of the nuclear deal with Iran, which has compelled the Gulf states to grasp the reality and permanence of Israel as never before. Still, the visions and prophecies of a Middle Eastern equivalent of the European Union, much indulged during the Oslo Accords years in the late 1990s, are not now in evidence, and that’s welcome. For their own reasons, neither Israel nor the Arab states feel obliged to articulate a sense of what their region should look like in the event that the Iranian threat is overcome.

Indeed, there’s a case that doing so would be counterproductive — it would impose political pressures upon a discreet yet strategically vital relationship that above all requires, in the parlance of the IDF officer, the “moderate” states to remain as moderate states. With the reorientation of American policy towards a rapprochement with Tehran, along with Russia’s active involvement in the Tehran-Damascus axis, Israel is the nearest reliable, not to say formidable, power that these countries can turn to.

In the present Middle Eastern context, then, the realism and discretion which has always underwritten Israeli foreign policy continues to prevail. That realism presumably extends to recognizing that regimes like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might eventually succumb to their internal instabilities, already exacerbated by the further collapse of the price of oil.

When you consider the alternatives, the region’s architecture could be much worse for Israel than it is currently. Long an anomaly as the only open society in the region, the target of Arab military and economic warfare throughout the latter half of the last century, Israel in this century is now a partner in a regional bloc. To be sure, this is a bloc based upon interests, not common values, and is therefore necessarily limited in scope. But in the present storm, and amidst the appalling human suffering generated by the clash of these rival interests in Syria, it’s the closest thing we have to progress.

Ben Cohen, senior editor of TheTower.org & The Tower Magazine, writes a weekly column for JNS.org on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He is the author of “Some of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014).

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