Posts Tagged Middle East
PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU SHOULD CAUTION DONALD TRUMP NOT TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON HIS ABSURD PROMISES IN JERUSALEM!
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is a fragile patchwork of numerous small parties, many of which are hard-line conservatives, who are dedicated to preserving Israel as One Jewish State! That’s why Netanyahu never saw eye-to-eye with President Barack Obama, who believed that it was in the best interests of the American People to seek a Two-State Solution. And perhaps, it was best for all!
It is ironic that Mr. Donald Trump and the Republican Party have been trying to side with the Israeli Hard-Liners, as a means of currying favor with the American Jewish Community, which tends to vote Democratic. President Obama, on the other hand, seems to have been working toward a Two-State Solution, with the conviction that it would better provide for the human rights of all people—Arab and Jew!
Donald Trump, however, had pledged to Prime Minister Netanyahu, back in September, to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel had moved its capital to Jerusalem; but, only a handful of foreign embassies followed. By 1982, all but two—Costa Rica and El Salvador—had returned to Tel Aviv.
General John Mattis, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense suggested, in Senate Hearings, that the American Embassy should remain in Tel Avid, especially since many key Israeli government offices—such as Defense and the IDF—are located there. If Trump were a rational man, wouldn’t he re-consider moving the Embassy, while thinking about why no other nations had done so? And what the implications might be?
General Mattis further predicted that a One-State Solution would probably result in Israel becoming an Apartheid Nation. This coincides directly with the Analysis column in today’s Jerusalem Post, which suggested that the U. S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital, and the movement of the U. S. Embassy, would lead to a “New Intifada”.
Moderate Arab Leader, King Abdullah of Jordan, is quoted as having predicted such a war. That J-Post Analysis is linked, as follows: http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Analysis-If-the-US-Embassy-moves-to-Jerusalem-are-we-looking-at-a-new-intifada-478535.
If Trump does push forward with such a move, a dangerous situation would prevail for Israel and the Palestinians, and for the United States, regarding our diplomatic standing in the Middle East. America would also risk any hope of ever being considered an honest broker or negotiator, in the future, between Israel and the Palestinians. Lastly, considering the vital role that the U. S. plays, as a backstop to Israeli National Security, Prime Minister Netanyahu should also think long and hard, and perhaps discourage Donald Trump from taking the actions that he had promised!
NOTE: I would like to welcome my readers from Guam.
Much of the political rhetoric spewed against Islamic State currently seems mostly based on the racist anti-Muslim agenda of certain politicians. The strategic planners in our Defense Department place ISIS toward the bottom of our potential National Security risks. Russia and China, by far, are at the very top of the Pentagon’s List of Risks.
Surely, terrorism will always be a risk in any peaceful country. It always has been, and always will! An advantage that we, in America, have is that our anti-terrorism activities are coordinated through one governmental entity, the FBI, as compared to 30 national defense entities across Europe. Also, the Muslim Community here is somewhat better assimilated. Again, terrorist attacks, by groups such as ISIS, are at the bottom of our Defense Department list of priorities.
The planning for Future Wars is coordinated by Deputy Secretary of Defense, Bob Work. The so-called “Third Offset Strategy”, is fully-integrated with the knowledge and cooperation of our allies. The First Offset (or Advantage) Strategy was initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in the 1950s, and it used nuclear power to compensate for the Soviet Union’s manpower advantage. At the height of the Cold War (1970s and 80s), the Second Offset Strategy emphasized: long-range, precision-guided weapons: stealth aircraft; and new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
Currently, as our list of potential adversaries has increased, the Third Offset Strategy has classified our anticipated sources of danger as follows: Russia and China are the very highest priority; then Iran (an exporter of terrorism) and North Korea (only because Kim Jong-Un is unstable and has primitive nuclear weapons); and various rogue states and non-government organizations, such as ISIS, are at the bottom. Although they all pose dangers to America and our allies, it always are makes sense to prioritize risks.
Over the past fifteen years, as the U. S. military was distracted, fighting two wars, and depleting its Defense Budget, Russia and China were able to narrow the gap with our technological superiority. Both have grown their budgets substantially, increased their technology development programs, and they were able to observe both what our military did well, and notice its weaknesses. Also, their cyber-intel warriors were able to hack into our computers, and steal technology—saving themselves time and money.
The T-O Strategy will include more coordination with our NATO Allies, as well as encourage them to increase their own defense budgets to the agreed-upon two percent of their respective GDPs. In the future, research will be mostly carried-out in a combination of academic and commercial labs, rather than in government facilities. Future weapon development will be developed and funded similar to how Boeing and SpaceX have taken on the mission of re-supplying the International Space Station with the rocket systems, which they funded and developed.
Besides traditional battlefields, look for: greater use of miniature air, land and sea-based drones; continued stealth technology; ships with lower manpower requirements; advanced manufacturing, to include robotics and 3-D systems; and guided bomb and missile systems. Future wars will also make greater use of cyber-technology, not only in hacking to gain intelligence, but in jamming, providing false intelligence or even, planting viruses to incapacitate enemy systems. As in our daily lives, the advantages of digital technology can harm us when they become inoperable or malfunction.
Traditionally, the U. S. has had the unquestioned quickest and most comprehensive system of technology management, from development to useful application. That requires: a combination of government-funding, as necessary; a rational regulatory environment; and the coordination of academia and corporate management. It seems like Academia and Industry will be ready to go; but, the question is: Will Congress?
Donald J. Trump continually talks about how quickly, and how forcefully, he is going to eliminate ISIS. This is a theme, however, that he brought over from the Republican Primary Debates. But considering all of the various adversaries that the U. S., and our allies might face, Islamic State doesn’t pose one of the most serious threats!
Our Defense Leaders at the Pentagon are constantly preparing for Future Wars, which the Pentagon currently refers to as the “Third Offset Strategy”. Knowing your enemy is the first consideration in warfare planning. Russia and China are, far and away, at the top of that list followed, after a large gap, by Iran and North Korea (only due to the nuclear-armed lunatic, Kim Jong-Un), and toward the bottom are rogue states and non-government organizations, such as ISIS.
Islamic State, however, is in total disarray. The Jihadist fighters have been decimated, their weapons and equipment have been destroyed, its captured territory has diminished greatly, and the oil wells that financed the Caliphate are no longer functional. Also, with the arrival of Turkish forces, the Syrian border with Turkey has been sealed, thus ending the flow of Jihadi recruits and supplies to ISIS.
At present, ISIS remains a Caliphate in name only, and it can no longer claim any authority over the Islam that it had highjacked. Following the loss of its potency in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has been carrying-out its terrorist attacks beyond the Middle East, either by fighters sent back to their home countries, or by radicalized Muslims in their local areas. But, as any belief in the Caliphate fades, so too will the charade that it ever truly existed.
Rather than address the most dangerous threats to our security, Donald Trump choses to focus on ISIS, perhaps because it is much easier for him to sell to his followers. There are no wonky details, such as cyber-warfare and the Nuclear Triad, to deal with. Besides, his assumed danger-of-choice remains in play: Muslims and terrorists, as well as his racist tendencies. That means that Trump’s supporters are already prepared for his chosen War on Terror!
In my last post, I wrote that Donald Trump seems to have hijacked the discussion surrounding the coming Presidential Election, preferring that the focus be on Secretary Hillary Clinton’s State Department Email and the Clinton Foundation. Now, I will describe some of the Trumpian baggage that, I believe, Donald prefers to keep hidden.
Consider these examples of where Trump reaches for his labor: Among the 250 postings for seasonal employees, at his posh Mar-a-Lago Club, in Palm Beach, Florida, he only hired four locally, and the rest from Eastern Europe; his retail “brand” items—shirts, ties, etc.—are all made overseas, such as in Bangladesh, China, Turkey, etc; and the Trump Model Agency has allegedly hired mostly women on travel visas, who are not legally permitted to work in the U. S. Perhaps hiring models who cannot legally work might have been a common industry practice.
There have been some suggested discrepancies regarding the period that Melania Knauss (the Germanized version of Melanija Knavs) worked for the Trump Modeling Agency. Recently, the question of whether the Slovenian-born (now) Mrs. Melania Trump worked legally when she first arrived, or not, is a concern which continues on.
It is well-known that Donald Trump tried to remove Gonzalo Curiel, the Ohio-born Federal Judge, on the case against Trump University, since he was of Mexican heritage. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman brought the case, against Donald Trump, Trump University, et al, for Fraud, in Federal Court. Judge Curiel remains on the case. Also, since AG Schneiderman brought it on RICO charges, triple damages might be awarded.
Relatedly, Florida AG Pam Bondi considered joining in that same fraud case, since there had been a number of complaints against Trump University, in Florida, as well. The Donald J. Trump Foundation, however, made a $25,000 contribution, in 2013, to Bondi’s campaign fund. It is illegal for charitable foundations to contribute to political campaigns. But interestingly, AG Pam Bondi dropped any consideration of joining the case against Trump University.
OK, now we might get to the really important point: What is Donald Trump hiding by not releasing his past Tax Returns. Tax experts have already diffused his smoke screen that he is under audit, and the IRS has confirmed that there is no requirement that returns under IRS Audit not be released. Historically, every Presidential and Vice Presidential Nominee has provided a number of years (say eight to ten), going back to the early 1970s. Between Bill and Hillary Clinton, some 25 years of back joint returns have already been released. Senator Tim Kaine, her running mate, has also released his Tax Returns.
Donald Trump has done business in Russia, to include holding a recent Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. President Vladimir Putin had to cancel, but most of the Oligarchs (Putin’s cronies) did attend. Also, it’s common knowledge that Trump has wanted to build a Trump Tower in Moscow for years.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former Campaign Manager, had a lobbying firm in Kiev, and did personal business with Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian former President of Ukraine, who fled to Moscow when he was ousted. Trump has already raised eyebrows over some comments that he has made publicly to, and about, Putin. So, does he truly have a relationship with Russia, and where else might he also have connections?
It is assumed that Donald Trump does not intend to release his Tax Returns for any or several of the following reasons: he pays little or no taxes, which is common for real estate moguls; he is not worth anywhere near the $10 billion that he claims; he has questionable business dealings—both domestically and globally–and perhaps it will reveal how he has taken tens of millions of dollars from businesses, like the four bankrupt casinos in Atlantic City, as they descended into bankruptcy; or might they show that he is just not the business genius that he claims to be?
Lastly, while Trump claims that the Clinton Foundation should be closed-down immediately, what about his multi-tentacled Trump Organization, LLC? Is he ready to shut that down immediately, and for good, as well? Having his adult children, who seem to be mesmerized by him, run the Trump Empire would not provide the features of a Blind Trust, which the Presidency should require. That would be fallacious—especially with Trump’s past history of breaking the rules!
Yesterday’s “Attempted Coup D-Etat” in Turkey raises an important question: Does Article 5, of the NATO Charter call for the Mutual Defense—an attack against one member nation is an attack against all—response in the event of an Internal Coup, or Civil War? As yesterday’s events unfolded, I’m sure that that issue initiated considerable discussion in capitals around Europe. In addition, the U. S, and other Member Nations, currently have Military Forces stationed in Turkey.
Turkey’s role within NATO during Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Administration has, at best, been tenuous. Founded in 1923, Modern Turkey, had most always been a democratic secular state. Since Erdogan assumed power in 2003, however, first as Prime Minister, and then as President, he has been converting it to an Authoritarian Conservative Islamic Nation. He has drastically overturned much of Democracy, eradicated Human Rights, placed most media under strict Government control, and imprisoned many of his academic and political adversaries.
The question for NATO member nations—in particular France, Germany, the U. K. and the U. S–is: how to balance it’s guiding principles of “…democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law” (as cited in the Charter’s Preamble) with the value of including an Islamic nation, which is well-positioned geographically at the crossroads between Asia and Europe?
The potential powder keg, which never quite exploded yesterday, was totally an internal one. Unlike Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, two years ago, and (former Soviet) Georgia in 2008, neither Russia nor any other external power, seemed to have played a role or participated in the situation, which has been simmering from within. So, as far as I can determine, the situation in Turkey yesterday would not have justified invoking Article 5, or any other NATO Provision. Given what happened, will NATO modify its Charter now?
IS THE ISLAMIC STATE CHANGING ITS STRATEGY? AT THE SAME TIME, IS TURKEY FINALLY READY TO JOIN THE FIGHT AGAINST THE “CALIPHATE”?
By way of background in trying to understand Turkey, it is the only Muslim member of NATO and, until President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power–first as Prime Minister and now as President–it had always been a democratic secular nation. President Erdogan, however, has been seizing more and more authoritarian power, in order to convert it to his own brand of Conservative Islam. He has also eliminated many signs of democracy and human rights, along the way.
When President Barack Obama began forming a coalition, including countries both from NATO and the Arab League, Turkey decided not to join. President Erdogan disagreed with Obama’s priorities, suggesting that they should remove Syrian President Bashaar Asaad instead. At that time, Obama’s legal authorization was to fight ISIS only. Erdogan has permitted ISIS recruits to travel through Turkey to enlist in the Jihad, and even sell their captured oil, to finance itself, on the Istanbul black market.
President Erdogan has focused his military, however, primarily on instigating terrorist attacks by the domestic Kurds, who have merely been trying to protect their ancient tribal homeland. The Kurdish People have inhabited an area–including parts of southern Turkey, and northern areas in Syria, Iraq and Iran–for some 3,000 years, and perhaps even longer. In 2014, Erdogan had used his success in overpowering the Kurds, after a Constitutional change, to be elected President.
There have been a number of terrorist bombings in Turkey, in recent years, and it seems that Islamic State was always quiet afterward, never mentioning any involvement, if that was the case. Erdogan had always referred to the attacks in vague comments about “terrorist organizations, including the Kurds”. Even after the Istanbul bombing, last October, when most of the 103 killed were Kurds, he remained opaque.
After the recent suicide bombing attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, where 44 people were killed, Erdogan once again cast blame on unspecified “terrorist organizations”, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, however, tentatively blamed ISIS. The Ataturk bombing comes in the midst of a series of suicide attacks, which ISIS claims responsibility of; however, once again Islamic State was silent. Apparently, ISIS must think that the end of Ramadan has some religious significance. The Turkish Prime Minister, at least, realized that this time, they had to face ISIS involvement: the Whole World was watching.
This string of recent attacks, both within and outside of Muslim countries certainly fits a pattern, just as the more recent attack at a Bangladeshi restaurant, in Dacca, might have shown. I doubt that this string of attacks will necessarily end withy the holy month, on July 5; but maybe these recent attacks conveys the new ISIS.
Given ISIS’ recent series of suicide attacks, and Turkey’s possibly awakening to reality, two questions are in order:
First, the Islamic State has been losing tens of thousands of its Jihadists and its recruitment has dropped, much of its captured territory has been re-captured, and its main source of income—the captured oil wells—has been devastated. Will we now be seeing this new strategy—suicide bombings in civilian locations in all parts of the world–continue?
Second, Will Turkey, with its 315 man Army, well-equipped Air Force and Navy, join the fight against the Islamic State, rather than continue to enable it by maintaining a porous border and open oil sales on its black market?
The “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” is expected to reach the Senate Floor very soon. It has considerable bipartisan support, and was easily approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. President Barack Obama, however, has vowed to Veto it.
On September 11, 2001, of the 19 terrorists who flew airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the one that was brought down by passengers in a Pennsylvania field, fifteen were from Saudi Arabia. This legislation, commonly referred to as the “Saudi Bill”, would enable interested U. S. persons to sue nations that finance terrorism for restitution against those foreign governments.
It is important to note that, along somewhat similar lines, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that families of U. S. servicemen may make claims of nearly two billion dollars (cumulatively) from seized assets of the Government of Iran for the 241 servicemen who were killed in the Beirut Marine barracks, in 1983. Iran is a known financier of terrorism, and more specifically, provides backing to both Hamas and Hezbollah. How does the bombing in Beirut compare, or differ, from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and other targets on 9/11?
The Marine barracks bombing had been traced to Hezbollah and, indirectly to Iran, which backs it. Although Saudi Arabia, by embracing Wahhabism, perhaps the most ultra conservative movement within Sunni Islam, might have established the environment for terrorism, that doesn’t necessarily indicate that Saudi Arabia itself was directly complicit in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
President Obama warned that, by enabling U. S. citizens to sue foreign governments directly for offenses carried out by their citizens might, in turn, result in citizens of other countries suing the U. S. Government. These issues have been raised, time and again, after American forces and contractors have committed various atrocities, and even military actions that have caused death and destruction among civilians in countries our military was fighting in. Such a scenario might just cause any sort of foreign affairs dialogue to become meaningless.
As always, during a Presidential Election year, there is the possibility that the so-called Saudi Bill might lead to some form of political pandering; but, given the bipartisan support, that certainly does’t appear to be the case. The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, well-intentioned though it might be, fails to differentiate between nations that are known benefactors of terrorism, and those that are not. Under our Rule of Law, there is a big difference!