Tag Archives: President Trump

Bahrain says Trump better understands Iran and the region

Bahrain’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump understood the region and the threats posed by their common adversary Iran better than Barack Obama.

Speaking in an interview with Reuters at his office in the capital Manama, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said the staunch US Gulf ally was confident the new administration would soon clarify its stances on foreign policy.

The Sunni-ruled kingdom accuses Iran, a Shia theocracy across the Gulf, of radicalizing and arming some members of its Shia Muslim majority population, and Gulf monarchies say Obama did not do enough to tackle perceived meddling by Iran in Bahrain and in wars raging throughout the region.

Tehran denies any meddling in the island kingdom.

Trump has pledged to deal forcefully with the Islamic Republic and criticized a landmark international deal to curb its nuclear program inked under Obama in 2015 as a concession to a state the United States considers a sponsor of terrorism.

“We see … a much clearer understanding from the White House of the threats we are facing here in the region and especially the ones that are coming from the Islamic Republic,” Sheikh Khaled said.

“The last few years, there was a policy that we think it was better for them to correct, and we advised them it should be corrected.”

Sheikh Khaled last month met US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has spoken by telephone with senior US officials, including Trump after his election in November.

Sitting astride one of the world’s key oil shipping lanes, Bahrain is a key ally of Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Neither country were among the ban Trump is seeking to impose on travelers from Iran and five other Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East and Africa.

Some critics of the Trump administration fear it is prioritizing the fight against militancy and Iran over promoting human rights among American allies, but the foreign minister said the US shift acknowledged the region’s harsh realities.

“CLARITY IS COMING”

Sheikh Khaled said his country welcomed a decision by the White House to pursue a $5 billion sale to Bahrain of 19 Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft and related equipment which was held up last year by concerns about human rights.

He said Trump’s style may have distracted some from the merits of his views, but all administrations had growing pains.

“They’ll get in order … every new administration will always start in a way that will seem unclear, but clarity is coming,” he said, speaking in his green and wood-panelled office adorned with pictures of past and present Bahraini monarchs.

“Maybe when you see the difference in the personality of the president, maybe that’s kind of giving an overwhelming picture of the situation. Things are working in America.”

Since 2011 Arab Spring protests led by Bahrain’s Shi’ites were crushed with the help from some Gulf Arab states, Bahrain says Iran has stepped up a campaign to undermine security there and bring about the downfall of the ruling al-Khalifa family, of which Sheikh Khaled is a member.

“It’s a whole project we are facing and it will not stop until this regime changes its course from the way it is now – hegemonic, theocratic, theo-fascist – to a regime that would answer the aspirations of its own people.”

“Until that moment we will have to defend ourselves.”

Human rights organizations have criticized an escalating government crackdown since the main Shi’ite opposition bloc was shuttered last year, several prominent activist were arrested and the top Shi’ite spiritual leader had his citizenship revoked on corruption charges.

Bahrain says it has acted to reform its security services and that it genuinely seeks dialogue with the opposition in a way that is rare in the mostly closed and authoritarian region.

“We feel like we are being pressured and punished for no reason, just for sticking our neck out and addressing issues that every country has,” Sheikh Khaled said.

President Trump Should Reject The Failed Peace Process

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

President Trump has made a lot of bold moves in his first few weeks in office. Judged by the mainstream media’s lies, fake news, distortions, and hysteria, his executive actions on immigration, oil pipelines, rolling back federal regulations, and firing an insubordinate acting Attorney General are on the money. But a few of his foreign policy moves are questionable.

Most troubling is the statement on Israel’s announcement about new settlements. “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

This Delphic announcement has provoked differing interpretations. On the one hand, it correctly rejects the false global consensus that peace would break out in the region if only Israelis stopped building “illegal settlements” on “occupied territory.” On the other, the White House repeats the hoary cliché that settlement construction isn’t “helpful in achieving” peace, implying that settlement developed should be slowed or halted. The statement may just be diplomatic triangulation, an attempt to assure both Israelis and their enemies while the president determines a new approach. But Trump’s repeated statements about forging “peace” between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs suggest he may be trapped by long-exploded assumptions about the crisis, at a time when what we need are blunt truth and decisive action instead of more failed diplomacy.

Take the incoherence of the statement. If “settlements” are not an “impediment” to peace, then how exactly can they “not be helpful”? Because they anger the Arabs and Israel’s other enemies? To think this is to validate the Arabs’ duplicitous pretexts for violence, and to appease their irrational passions––approaches that have distorted our policies in the region for seven decades. And it takes at face value the false assumptions that all the Palestinian Arabs want is their own nation and self-determination, and that their violence and murder are understandable reactions to Israeli intransigence.

But the Palestinian Arabs have rejected multiple opportunities to achieve their own state, starting in 1947-48 when they answered the offer of a nation with a war on Israel that killed 20,000 Israelis. They answered the Oslo Accords of 1993, a framework for creating a Palestinian state, with continued PA corruption and terrorist violence that killed 269 Israeli civilians and soldiers in seven years. In 2000, Arafat rejected Bill Clinton’s plan, and followed up with terrorist attacks that by 2013 had killed 1,227 Israelis. In 2008 Ehud Olmert offered “moderate” Palestinian honcho Mahmoud Abbas another state comprising 97% of the disputed territories, and once again Israel was rebuffed and subject to even more terrorist murder. And for all that time the PA has continued to incite violence against Jews, reward the families of murderers, and brainwash children with virulent Jew-hatred.

The historical pattern is clear: when offered a state, the Arabs respond by killing Jews. To paraphrase Einstein, repeating the same failed policies over and over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of foreign policy insanity.

Clinging to the “two states living side by side in peace” wishful thinking obscures other clear evidence that the Palestinian Arabs prefer killing Jews to building a viable state.  Why, after billions in foreign aid––eleven times more per capita than eight other poorer countries that receive foreign aid––have the Palestinian Arabs not used that bounty to build economic and government institutions? Could it be because in its 2016 budget, the Palestinian Authority paid more than 500 full-time government functionaries to oversee stipends for the families of dead terrorists, spending $315 million, one-eighth of its GDP, to reward murder? Why does this imagined Palestinian state have to be ethnically cleansed of all Jews, when 1.4 million Arabs live as citizens of Israel? How come the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount, has to remain under the control of the descendants of conquerors and occupiers? Why should Jerusalem, for 3000 years the center of Jewish history and faith, be shared with these same scions of imperialists and colonists?

And don’t forget, Israel has already gone down the road of “land for peace.” In 2005 it evacuated 8,500 Israelis from Gaza and turned it over to the terrorist Hamas regime. Instead of building a functioning state, Hamas has spent its money on building tunnels for infiltrating Israel to commit terrorist attacks and kidnap Israelis, and on buying rockets and mortars, 15,000 of which it has rained down indiscriminately on Israeli civilians. Why would Israelis even think about giving Judea and Samaria to an enemy whose missiles and rockets could reach every square foot of Israel? No nation in the world would make such a suicidal concession.

The dominant narrative of “land for peace” and “two-state solution” is dead, kept on life-support by the endless kabuki theater of “diplomatic engagement” intended to avoid meaningful action, or to undermine a vibrant democracy that is ruled by law and recognizes human rights. So what should Trump do?

Announce that the old “peace process” is dead. No more complaints about “settlements,” no more “shuttle diplomacy,” no more “special envoys,” no more “summits” or “conferences” that bestow international prestige on corrupt thugs and inciters of terror. Tell the Palestinian gangster regime it will not receive one more dime of U.S. taxpayer money, whether through direct payments––$5 billion since the mid-nineties––or through international agencies like the corrupt United Nations Relief Works Agency, to which the U.S. contributed more than $350 million in 2015. Tell the U.N. that the U.S. will withdraw completely and withhold funds from the anti-Semitic U.N. Human Rights Council. Make it clear that an attack on Israel will be considered an attack on the U.S., to be met with the full force of American military power. And back it all up with military deeds the next time Hamas or Hezbollah starts firing rockets or mortars into Israel.

Of course the State Department will squeal, the Europeans will fret over lost business deals and their own volatile Muslim immigrants, and the Arab world will issue condemnations filled with blustering vocatives. Chin-tugging foreign-policy clerks will recycle received wisdom, false assumptions, and tired clichés. They should all be ignored. For the simple fact is, there will be no peace for Israel, no “two-state solution,” because Israel’s enemies want to destroy it, not live side-by-side with it. And they want to destroy it because its existence is an affront to Allah and the faithful, whose prophet beheaded 600-900 Jews after the Battle of the Trench in 627, and whose Koran calls Jews apes and pigs.

The so-called “international community,” and too often the U.S. as well, has enabled this faith-based revanchism for seven decades. Rather than continuing the failed policies that reward the murders of our allies and harm our national interests, it’s time to face reality with bold words and bolder deeds.

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The Kurds and President Trump, Its time for #Kurdistan

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What is the largest ethnic group that wants but does not have a nation-state of its own?  No, it’s not the “Palestinian people,” but rather the Kurds, who number between 30 and 35 million.  Living in areas of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Armenia, they constitute the fourth largest ethnic group.  They constitute 18% of the Turkish population, 10% in Iran, 17% in Iraq, and 10% in Syria.

In all the four countries, they have suffered persecution, discrimination, and marginalization, though they were protected to some extent in Syria by the French mandate.  In Turkey, the repression of Kurds has been constant and the Kurdish language forbidden for a time.  In Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini declared “holy war” against them, and 10,000 Kurds were killed.  Saddam Hussein in Iraq removed thousands of them in his “Arabization” program.  At best, there has been an uneven relationship between Kurds and government authorities, who may see Kurds as a security problem.

Calls for Kurdish autonomy began in the late 19th century under the Ottoman Empire.  Organizations to that end were formed after World War I and again after World War II in the four countries in which Kurds lived.

The Kurds have played a role in history, especially when the Kurdish Saladin the Magnificent took power in the 12th century.  Saladin, renowned as a liberator and good ruler, is regarded as a symbol of courage and resistance, as a unifier of the Middle East and the conqueror of Jerusalem, not only by Kurds, but also by Arabs.

Throughout history, the Kurds have maintained their ethnic identity in spite of divisions and conflicts among them, which has made their situation complex.

They have become more important in the context of international politics since they have been playing a prominent courageous role in the fighting in Syria and Iraq, particularly in the struggle against ISIS.  The Kurds, with support of U.S.-led coalition airpower, have been responsible for a number of victories against ISIS in northern Syria and control territory along the Turkish border.  They have driven ISIS out of a number of towns.  There is a virtual partnership between the Kurds and the U.S. in the war against radical Islam.

This indigenous people are a distinct people because of common race, culture, and language, though they differ religiously.  The question is, why do they not have a state of their own?  With the end of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the Western Allies by the Treaty of Sevres of August 10, 1920 suggested both local autonomy and a Kurdish independent state.

But there were acute international and Kurdish differences on this, and the proposals were put aside in the Treaty of Lausanne of July 24, 1923, which set the boundaries of Turkey and left the Kurds in minority status in the various four countries.  The argument can be made that the Kurds were the great losers in the international machinations to establish political entities after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Since then, Kurdish groups, both legal parties and organizations, and those calling for armed struggle and guerrilla tactics, have struggled for a state of their own, or for some autonomous status.  These groups developed in a number of countries, starting in 1927 with the Khoybun in Syria and Lebanon, and then in Iran in 1946 with the PDK (Democratic  Party of Kurdistan) in which Mustafa Barzani was a central figure.  Their cause has not been helped by the tensions among the Kurdish groups, which at one point led to civil war.

That struggle has been particularly acute in Turkey, where Kurds constitute almost 18% of the population.  After a number of Kurdish uprisings, Turkey imposed brutal treatment on its Kurdish citizens.  Among other things, Kurds were removed from their areas, the Kurdish language was restricted, and Kurdish names and costumes were banned.  Kurdish ethnic identity was denied.

In response, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), a leftist Marxist and militant group, was formed by Abdullah Ocalan in 1978 , calling for an independent state in Turkey, and soon, in 1984, Ocalan began an armed struggle in which 40,000 were killed and thousands were displaced.  The PKK withdrew the demand for an independent state.  Instead, it called for greater cultural and political autonomy, though fighting continued.

A temporary ceasefire was ended in July 2015 with clashes in southeastern Turkey and air strikes on PKK camps in Iraq.  However, the PKK, whose leader, Ocalan, has been imprisoned since 1999, operates a number of camps in northern Iraq.  It is a sign of his political blindness that Turkish president Erdoğan declared in 2015 that Turkey does not have a Kurdish problem.

Further violence resulted from a suicide bomb attack in Ankara in February 2016 that Turkey blamed on the Syrian Kurdish YPG (Popular Protection Units), aligned to the  PYD (Democratic Unity Party)  that Turkey labels terrorist organizations.  Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the PKK.  In fact, the PKK, though not the YPG,  is officially regarded as a terrorist group by the U.S. and the EU.

Kurds make up about 10 % of the population of Syria and an estimated 15-20% of Iraq.  In Iraq, the Kurds have created the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government), which has the Peshmerga as its armed forces and the Iraqi Kurdish Party led by Massoud Barzani.  The Peshmerga force of 150,000 has been a significant part of the forces in the war against ISIS in Iraq, especially in Mosul.  It has suffered severe losses, and more than 1,000 have been killed by ISIS.

In  Syria the basic rights of Kurds have been suppressed.  Many have been denied citizenship while Kurdish land has been taken and given to Arabs.  All demands for greater autonomy have been suppressed.

In January 2014, the Syrian PYD and other groups declared the creation of an autonomous government with three branches.  This was not an independent state, but a democratic administration within a federal framework.

The PYD leader, Salih Muslim, has declared that a political settlement to end the conflict in Syria must recognize Kurdish autonomy.   The PYD has fought against rebel groups though not allied to Assad, who it believes should not be in power.

After a Kurdish revolt against British rule failed, the KDP was formed by Mustafa Barzani in 1946 to struggle for autonomy in Iraq, but  this proposal for self-rule  was rejected by the central government, and  KDP launched an armed struggle in 1961.  In 1975, divisions in the KDP led to Jalal Talabani leaving and forming  the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan).

The Kurds took the side of Iran in the war with Iraq.  As a result, Saddam Hussein  in 1988 attacked the Kurdsm including  a poison gas attack on Halabja.  A Kurdish rebellion was brutally suppressed.  Some 1.5 million Iraqi Kurds fled into Iran and Turkey after the 1991 rebellion was crushed.

The Iraqi Kurds cooperated in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that ended the rule of Saddam Hussein.  In 2005 the Iraqi constitution recognized the autonomy of Kurdistan.  The KRG ( Kurdistani Regional Govermnent) was created to administer three  provinces in the country.  It controls an area of about 16,000 square miles, one tenth of Iraq, and has oil reserves of 4 billion barrels.  In February 2016, Massoud Barzani, president of Kurdistan since 2005, called for a referendum on independence.

It is unclear what will be the boundaries of an independent state, beyond the three provinces, especially with claims to the oil-rich Kirkuk area.  Yet irrespective of the boundaries, it is incumbent on the Trump administration to support such an outcome. There has been no overall U.S. policy concerning the Kurds, though it has included secret relationships and humanitarian aid.

Now there is collaboration in the fight against Islamic terrorism.  Though increased U.S. support for the Kurds may involve problems with Middle East countries, especially Turkey, the Kurds have proved they are the most effective fighters in the war against ISIS.  The Trump administration must persuade Turkey that the Kurds are not a threat to its national security , and that the Turks would benefit from an established Kurdistan.