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Hagel Unchained: Departing Defense Secretary Fires Parting Shots in Interview Last Week

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel may have sealed his exit in this interview with Charlie Rose last week. Rose conducted the interview at the Pentagon.

In the interview, Hagel made two key points that serve as accusations that President Barack Obama is mismanaging the United States military and the ISIS threat.

Rose asked Hagel to elaborate on comments that he made in a speech at the Reagan Library last weekend. In that speech, Hagel said that America’s military capability, while still the best in the world, is being threatened.

Hagel re-iterated that to Rose, but also left viewers to wonder about the direction that President Obama is taking the military.

“I am worried about it, I am concerned about it, Chairman Dempsey is, the chiefs are, every leader of this institution,” Hagel said, including Pentagon leadership but leaving both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s names out of his list of officials who are worried about the U.S. military’s declining capability. Hagel said that the Congress and the American people need to know what while the U.S. military remains the strongest, best trained and most motivated in the world, its lead is being threatened because of policies being implemented now.

Hagel went on to note that a good leader prepares their institution for future success, saying that “The main responsibility of any leader is to prepare your institution for the future. If you don’t do that, you’ve failed. I don’t care how good you are, how smart you are, any part of your job. If you don’t prepare your institution, you’ve failed.”

In the past couple of years, Hagel has warned that defense budget cuts implemented under President Obama were hurting readiness and capability. The “how smart you are” line may be a veiled shot at President Obama, who basks in a media image that he is a cerebral, professorial president.

In the same interview, Hagel also commented on the rise of ISIS and how it must be fought. Hagel charged that Obama’s handling of the ISIS threat is now indirectly assisting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

While President Obama has downplayed the ISIS threat, even calling the group “jayvee” as it rose to power, Hagel warned last week that it is a threat unlike any other we have ever faced.

“We’ve never seen an organization like ISIL that is so well-organized, so well-trained, so well-funded, so strategic, so brutal, so completely ruthless,” Hagel said. “We have never seen anything quite like that in one institution.

“And then they blend in ideology — which will eventually lose, we get that — and social media. The sophistication of their social media program is something that we’ve never seen before. You blend all of that together, that is an incredibly powerful new threat.”

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Paul Unveils ‘Declaration of War’ Against Islamic State

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) today released a “declaration of war against the Islamic State” with the intention of introducing when Congress comes back into session after Thanksgiving.

The resolution would kill the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force and put a one-year expiration date on the 2001 Afghanistan AUMF. The administration has been leaning upon those war on terror statutes to conduct current operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

It notes that “the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State has declared war on the United States and its allies” and “presents a clear and present danger to United States diplomatic facilities in the region, including our embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.”

“The state of war between the United States and the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared pursuant to Article I, section 8, clause 11, of the United States Constitution,” the resolution states.

“The President is hereby authorized and directed to use the Armed Forces of the United States to protect the people and facilities of the United States in Iraq and Syria against the threats posed thereto by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”

It clarifies that it can’t be “construed as declaring war or authorizing force against any organization” except ISIS or direct affiliates.

It limit the use of ground forces except “as necessary for the protection or rescue of members of the United States Armed Forces or United States citizens from imminent danger posed by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); for limited operations against high value targets; or as necessary for advisory and intelligence gathering operations.”

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The Senate Must Pass This Vital Bipartisan National Security Bill Before the Session Ends

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The lame duck Senate, still under Democratic control, has at least one major national decision to make: confirming departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s successor. That is, if President Obama nominates Hagel’s successor before the session ends.

The Senate could and should take up an important national security bill before the 113th Congress’ clock runs out. That bill is S.2329, the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2014. The bill directs the president to designate Hezbollah,up to now viewed primarily as a terrorist group and national security threat, as a significant narcotics trafficker and a significant transnational criminal organization.

Hezbollah has American blood on its hands. The terrorist group bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon on October 23, 1983, killing 241 American personnel. The group was founded in 1982 and has been an officially designated terrorist group for nearly 20 years. But it has flourished, thanks to its Iranian patronage and to its extensive criminal activities. In addition to launching numerous attacks against Israel, Hezbollah has killed civilians in attacks all over the world.

S.2329 was introduced by Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in May 2013. There has been no Senate action on it since.

The House version passed unanimously on July 22, 2014. It has 321 co-sponsors in the House, including conservatives like Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) and liberals like Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL).

In the Senate, in addition to Shaheen and Rubio, the bill has 55 co-sponsors from both parties. Those co-sponsors include conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). It has support across the ideological divide, in both houses of Congress, and for good reason: It would enable the United States to bring new law enforcement firepower to bear against a major international terrorist group, in two key ways.

One, it would “prevent Hezbollah’s global logistics and financial network from operating in order to curtail funding of its domestic and international activities.” Two, it would “utilize diplomatic, legislative, and executive avenues to combat Hezbollah’s criminal activities in order to block that organization’s ability to fund its global terrorist activities.”

The bill would also go after Hezbollah’s broadcasting operations and its worldwide logistics network. By choking off its finances and its propaganda, the U.S. may eliminate Hezbollah as a threat both to our country and to our allies. Doing so would weaken Iran’s hand as the U.S. and our allies look to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

The U.S. has had some important successes in choking off Hezbollah’s criminal funding streams over the past few years, by prosecuting banks and individuals found to be assisting Hezbollah’s financial operations. But more tools are needed to fight Hezbollah.

The bill is needed, in short, because it would add Hezbollah’s criminal activities to its its ideological-terrorism activities as crimes which the U.S. government and our allies would vigorously fight worldwide. The fact is, while Hezbollah receives funding from Iran to conduct its operations primarily against Israel, it is also a major worldwide drug trafficking network and money laundering operation. Hezbollah is both an Islamic terrorist group and a violent drug cartel. Its cartel activities fund its mass murder attacks. But its criminal activities mostly take a back seat to its ideological activities, in terms of national security priorities and its overall treatment by the United States.

S.2329 would change that, and bring significant law enforcement tools to bear against Hezbollah. These tools will help close off the terrorist group’s finance streams all over the world, and put countries that host Hezbollah on notice that they are harboring a group that the United States now considers a major global criminal network as well as an ideological foe.

All the Senates needs to do is pass the bipartisan bill. Then it would go to President Obama’s desk for his signature, and the United States would significantly ramp up the fight against Hezbollah terrorism, all over the world.

 

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Christian Woman on Death Row in Pakistan: “Please Don’t Abandon Me”

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Nicholas Kristof devoted precious New York Times space to the pleadings of one Christian Pakistani family to save their wife and mother from a death sentence:

Note: Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman, was sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam in 2010. The year before, while picking fruit with Muslim women, she took a sip of water from the local well. She was immediately accused of making the water impure by ​the other workers, ​who told her that they could no longer use the well. A​ccording to her husband, Ashiq Masih, and others, men and women started beating her and accusing her of making derogatory remarks against the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a charge she denies. Asia is currently in prison waiting to be hanged after losing an appeal ​on ​Oct. 16. She has told her story in a memoir, Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death over a Cup of Water, written with French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet. 

Below is an open letter by Ashiq addressed to the world community. (Madam Mayor refers to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has offered her support to Asia.)

Her husband writes, in part:

I live in hiding with my five children as near as possible to Asia. She needs us very much to help keep her alive, to bring her medicine and good food when she is sick.

After my wife had spent four long years in prison in terrible conditions, we were hoping that the High Court of Lahore would free my wife. She did not commit blasphemy, never. Since the court confirmed the death sentence on the 16th of October, we do not understand why our country, our beloved Pakistan, is so against us. Our family has always lived here in peace, and we never had any disturbance. We are Christians but we respect Islam. Our neighbors are Muslims and we have always lived well with them in our little village. But for some years now the situation in Pakistan has changed because of just a few people, and we are afraid. Today many of our Muslim friends cannot understand why the Pakistani justice system is making our family suffer so much.

We are now trying our best to present the final case to the Supreme Court before the 4th of December. But we are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President Mammon Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water.

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SecDef Chuck Hagel Is Resigning

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Breaking news today: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is leaving the Obama administration. The NY Times reports that Hagel is the first casualty from the Democrats’ massive defeat on Nov. 4.

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and a beleaguered national security team that has struggled to stay ahead of an onslaught of global crises.

The president, who is expected to announce Mr. Hagel’s resignation in a Rose Garden appearance on Monday, made the decision to ask his defense secretary — the sole Republican on his national security team — to step down last Friday after a series of meetings over the past two weeks, senior administration officials said.

Hagel has “struggled to fit in” with Obama’s close circle of advisers, according to the Times, and initiated talks over his future in October.

Hagel’s departure will be announced in the White House Rose Garden this afternoon.

Hagel was the lone Republican left in Obama’s national security team. He got off to a disheartening start at Defense, in incoherent confirmation hearings. Hagel has presided over a sharp rise in the Islamic State threat, a threat that he and President Obama publicly saw very differently.

He raised the ire of the White House in August as the administration was ramping up its strategy to fight the Islamic State, directly contradicting the president, who months before had likened the Sunni militant group to a junior varsity basketball squad. Mr. Hagel, facing reporters in his now-familiar role next to General Dempsey, called the Islamic State an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” adding, “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” White House officials later said they viewed those comments as unhelpful, although the administration still appears to be struggling to define just how large is the threat posed by the Islamic State.

Possible replacements include former undersecretary of defense Michèle Flournoy, Democrat Sen. Jack Reed (RI), and former deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter, according to the Times.

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Graham: House Intelligence Committee Report Clearing Admin of Misleading on Benghazi is ‘Full of Crap’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blasted the House Intelligence Committee’s final report on Benghazi as “full of crap.”

The committee found no big intelligence failure in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a diplomatic facility that took four American lives, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

It also cleared the administration of wrongdoing in the time it took to launch a rescue operation for consulate staff. And it found that current National Security Adviser Susan Rice wasn’t being deliberately misleading when she made the rounds on the networks to deliver inaccurate talking points that, in part, pointed the finger of blame at anger over an anti-Muhammad video on YouTube.

“As the Committee’s bipartisan report makes clear, the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the Benghazi attacks focused on the Intelligence Community’s activities before, during, and after the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11-12, 2012,” Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said in a statement Saturday. “The bipartisan panel concluded that there was no stand down order issued by or to intelligence community personnel, and there was no denial of air support to intelligence community officers on the ground. The officers present testified to that effect.”

“The Committee did receive evidence about the activities of the Defense Department, State Department, and White House personnel, which are explained in both the report and the additional views,” he added. “But the Committee does not make final conclusions about other agencies to the extent they were not the focus of the Committee’s investigation.”

Rogers said all members of the committee “were given an opportunity to provide written comments on the Committee’s work and the report.” The retiring chairman “wrote additional views to provide further comments on the motivations and actions of some senior officials.”

“Similarly, the Minority Members provided additional comments. The Committee urges those commenting on the report to read both the report and the additional views.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-S.C.) Select Committee on Benghazi said it “received the Intelligence Committee’s report on the Benghazi terrorist attack months ago, and has reviewed it along with other Committee reports and materials as the investigation proceeds.”

“It will aid the Select Committee’s comprehensive investigation to determine the full facts of what happened in Benghazi, Libya before, during and after the attack and contribute toward our final, definitive accounting of the attack on behalf of Congress.”

Said Graham on CNN Sunday: “I think the report is full of crap.”

“To say that Mike Morell — well, the deputy director of the CIA, when I ask him, do you know who changed the talking points, and — with Senator Ayotte and McCain and Susan Rice sitting by his side, said the FBI changed the talking points when it came to references to al-Qaeda,” Graham said. “Only later did we find out through a lawsuit that Mike Morell was deeply involved in changing the talking points, the deputy director of the FBI. When he was sitting in front of a congressional panel and he was asked, does anybody here know who changed the talking points, he sat silent. So, no, the intel community through him lied.”

The House Intelligence Committee, the senator charged, “is doing a lousy job policing their own.”

“I’m saying that anybody who has followed Benghazi at all knows that the CIA deputy director did not come forward to tell Congress what role he played in changing the talking points. And the only way we knew he was involved is when he told a representative at the White House, I’m going to do a hard review of this, a hard rewrite,” he said.

“Three days after the attack, they did not give a damn about the intelligence. They wanted to create a political narrative to protect the president. And I’m not going to stop until someone is held accountable for allowing it to be a death trap, somebody be fired for not coming to the aid of these people for nine-and-a-half-hours. And somebody ought to be fired for lying to the American people. They were worried about the reelection, not telling the truth. And when Susan Rice said, ‘I have no regrets, I gave the American people the best evidence available,’ that’s a bald-faced lie.”

Graham added that when the House Intelligence Committee “says there is no manipulating of the American people, that is absolute garbage.”

“When they say there is no evidence that CIA personnel misled the Congress regarding changing the talking points, that is a lie, because I was on the receiving end of the lie.”

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told CNN that Graham’s reaction to the report was “right on target.”

“You know, when you look at this administration it seems like they very much wanted to say that there was no successful al-Qaeda out there,” Kirk said.

House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told the network that “calling it crap doesn’t change the fact that it was an exhaustive and objective review.”

“It reminds me of a lawyer’s maxim that, if the law is not on your side, emphasize the facts. If the facts aren’t on your side, bang on the table. I think we heard Lindsey banging on the table quite a bit this morning,” Schiff said.

“This was a two-year exhaustive investigation. It was released by the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee and had the support of all the Republicans and Democrats on the committee. It’s designed to be the definitive word on what happened from the intelligence community’s point of view… There were 21 intelligence assessments at the time that it began as a protest. Those turned out to be wrong, but there was no malice in getting it wrong.”

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More Defections of ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Rebels to ISIS

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media on the surrender and defections of U.S.-backed Syrian rebel troops to Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate), most notably the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, which the DC foreign policy establishment was hailing as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies,” and Harkat al-Hazm, the first group to receive heavy weaponry from the U.S. earlier this year.

Now Mona Mahmood of the Guardian reports that elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are defecting to ISIS:

US air strikes in Syria are encouraging anti-regime fighters to forge alliances with or even defect to Islamic State (Isis), according to a series of interviews conducted by the Guardian.

Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic military groups are joining forces with Isis, which has gained control of swaths of Syria and Iraq and has beheaded six western hostages in the past few months.

Some brigades have transferred their allegiance, while others are forming tactical alliances or truces. Support among civilians also appears to be growing in some areas as a result of resentment over US-led military action.

“Isis now is like a magnet that attracts large numbers of Muslims,” said Abu Talha, who defected from the FSA a few months ago and is now in negotiations with other fighters from groups such as the al-Nusra Front to follow suit.

As the article notes, rebels perceive the U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra as a “war on Islam”:

[FSA fighter Murad] and his fellow fighters were awaiting the arrival of Isis militants in Homs, he added. “The moment Isis fighters touch the soil of the Homs countryside, we will be the first to fight with them at the front. This [US-led] military coalition is not against Isis, it is against entire Islam.”

This sentiment is hardly aberrant among the so-called “vetted moderate” Syrian rebels. As I reported back in September, the U.S.-backed Harakat al-Hazm issued a statement at the outset of the U.S. anti-ISIS bombing campaign saying it was  ”an attack on the revolution.”

And I’ve also previously reported that many of these U.S.-backed and armed “vetted moderate” groups have shifting alliances that include fighting with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.

As far back as July there were reports that large groups of FSA units were defecting to al-Qaeda and ISIS, surrendering their U.S.-provided weapons along the way, and that other FSA units were forging peace deals and fighting alongside al-Qaeda and ISIS in some areas.

While most of the D.C. foreign policy establishment was promoting the arming of the so-called “vetted moderate” FSA, a few of us were openly skeptical of any effort to back so-called “moderate jihadists.” Whether by Republicans or Democrats, such efforts in the past have always ended in tears for the U.S. and led to increased threats to our national security.

This policy in Syria has been so disastrous the Obama administration has been openly distancing themselves from their “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel partners.

Remarkably, as I noted earlier this month, congressional Republican leadership jumped on board with Obama’s policies at the very moment he was abandoning them, voting to spend another $500 million to arm and train the “vetted moderates.” Meanwhile, some GOP figures who supported Obama’s policies of supporting and arming the FSA since 2011, namely John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have been unapologetic in the face of the collapse and defections of their “vetted moderate” friends.

It remains to be seen whether the new Congress that will be seated in January will follow the folly of the current Congress in providing training, money and weapons to the FSA. But expect these defections by the FSA and other U.S.-backed groups to ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra to continue.

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Mobile Billboard Campaign Urging Iran Sanctions Targets Congress

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A mobile billboard will began circling the seats of power in D.C. today to urge lawmakers to impose tougher sanctions on Iran.

The StandWithUs campaign is scheduled to run on two trucks though Nov. 24, the Obama administration’s deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran.

The roving messages to lawmakers, which are also designed to raise public awareness, will begin rolling each morning and take loops around the White House and Congress.

“This campaign raises awareness of the dangers of a nuclear Iran, gives the public action to take to help prevent it, and lets Congress know that the American public supports them legislating stricter sanctions,” said Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs. “Given the Middle East’s current instability, the rise of jihadist groups like ISIS, it is even more imperative that the American public and Congress do all they can to stop Iran from going nuclear.”

The billboards bear mushrooms clouds and phone numbers, with one saying, “Stop Iran from Going Nuclear: You can help. Call the White House, State Department, Foreign Relations Committee.” The one directed at Congress says, “Stop Iran from Going Nuclear: Impose Stronger Sanctions.”

The group said it fears the administration “may either make a weak agreement or extend the negotiations.”

“Since Iran insists that any agreement or extension include an easing or lifting of sanctions, the administration may use an executive order to accommodate its demands. Sanctions should not be eased, especially given the fact that the Iranian regime is deliberately obstructing international inspectors from learning about its installations and capabilities. If Iran secures an extension or the West negotiates a weak deal, Iran buys more time to pursue its nuclear ambitions,” the group said in a statement.

StandWithUs supports the Menendez-Kirk sanctions bill, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) kept from a vote at the insistence of the White House.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), whose legislation also includes strict guidance for the compliance necessary to ease sanctions, said in a joint statement last week that “a good deal will dismantle, not just stall, Iran’s illicit nuclear program and prevent Iran from ever becoming a threshold nuclear weapons state.”

“This will require stringent limits on nuclear-related research, development and procurement, coming clean on all possible military dimensions (PMD) issues and a robust inspection and verification regime for decades to prevent Iran from breaking-out or covertly sneaking-out,” Menendez and Kirk said.

“Gradual sanctions relaxation would only occur if Iran strictly complied with all parts of the agreement. If a potential deal does not achieve these goals, we will work with our colleagues in Congress to act decisively, as we have in the past.”

They have the veto-proof votes, in this Congress or the next.

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House Passes Resolution Condemning Iran’s Human Rights Violations; Some Balk at Timing

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The House delivered a bipartisan jab at Iran on Wednesday just days away from the Nov. 24 nuclear negotiations deadline imposed by the administration.

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced just last Friday a bill condemning the Islamic Republic on its human-rights record. It was fast-tracked onto the floor, where it passed by voice vote.

That means no roll call votes were recorded, but Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) spoke out against the timing of the resolution.

“The expansion of human rights for all Iranians is more likely to happen if current negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program are successful. Diplomacy with Iran empowers human rights leaders in Tehran because it weakens the claim that Iran is under constant threat which justifies the police state,” Ellison said. “Diplomacy empowers advocates to push for rights like freedom of speech and religion. If Congress wants to help improve human rights in Iran, we must engage and support the P5+1 nuclear talks.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said she hoped the resolution “is not used to undermine diplomatic efforts to reduce and provide for inspections of Iran’s nuclear program.”

The bill condemned myriad abuses, “in particular, the recent cruel execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian woman convicted of killing a man she said she stabbed in self-defense during a sexual assault.”

It “deplores the Government of Iran’s mistreatment of its religious minorities, including through the deprivation of life, liberty, and property” and notes “that the Administration has designated only one Iranian person for the commission of serious human rights abuses under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, as amended, since May 30, 2013.”

It also “condemns the undemocratic elections process that denies Iranians the ability to freely choose their own government.”

Engel said on the floor that any hopes that President Hassan Rouhani would be a moderate have evaporated. “In fact, on so many fronts, things have gotten worse.”

“The Supreme Leader, Khamenei, is the one who really makes all those decisions. So while we can hope for certain things, I think we have to deal with things, unfortunately, as they are, and not as we wish they were,” Engel said. “So for example, Iranian authorities have dramatically escalated the number of executions of Iranian citizens. This is from the so-called moderate Rouhani regime. According to the U.N., there were 852 executions between July 2013 and June 2014.”

“The United States has helped to shine a light to Iran’s human rights violations. We pushed the U.N. Human Rights Council to continue the work of the Special Rapporteur on Iran. Now, I have been one of the strongest critics of the Human Rights Council and its outrageous bias against Israel. But this Rapporteur has done important work to reveal the scale of human rights abuses in Iran.”

Even as negotiations continue, Engel stressed, “We cannot, must not turn a blind eye to the horrific abuses taking place in Iran every single day.”

“Under the reign of Cyrus the Great, the world’s first human rights document was issued with its tolerance for all cultures and religions,” Royce said.

“While Iran pursues its nuclear ambitions with relentless determination, it continues to repress millions of Iranians yearning for basic freedoms. Today’s resolution stands for the principle that U.S. foreign policy can and must pursue strategic objectives, like the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program, while promoting democracy and human rights.”

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Deaths by Terrorism Jumped 61 Percent in 2013

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A study released by Sydney think tank Institute for Economics and Peace found deaths from terrorism jumped 61 percent from 2012 to 2013.

The number of attacks around the globe in 2013 was nearly 10,000, a 44 percent jump from the previous year.

The 2013 death toll was nearly 18,000. Eighty-two percent of those deaths occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Iraq ranked as the least peaceful country suffering the greatest impact from terrorism, followed by Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.

India came in next. In September, al-Qaeda announced official expansion into South Asia with a new chapter.

After India on the list were Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines, Thailand, Russia, Kenya, Egypt, Lebanon and Libya.

The report found terrorism dominated by the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIS and al-Qaeda. These groups accounted for two-thirds of terrorism deaths.

It also noted that since 2000 only 5 percent of terrorist attacks have been suicide attacks.

The report defines terrorism as  “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation.”

“Religion as a driving ideology for terrorism has dramatically increased since 2000. Prior to 2000 nationalist separatist agendas were the biggest drivers of terrorist organizations,” the report states.

Countries singled out as being at increased risk of terrorism through this year and beyond include Israel, Mexico, Bangladesh and Ethiopia.

For 2013, the report ranked the United States as being slightly more impacted by terrorism than Israel on its index.

Countries ranked as “not impacted by terrorism” include Mongolia, New Zealand, Poland, Costa Rica, Togo and Qatar, which has recently come under fire for financing terrorists and harboring al-Qaeda money men.

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Israeli Ambassador Battles Those Tying Murders of Israelis to Peace Process

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. slammed the assertion that violence against the Israelis is somehow tied to whether or not there’s an ongoing peace process at the time.

Ron Dermer accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of “spreading this libel” that Israel is trying to invade the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Dermer then corrected the reporter who spoke on CNN before his Tuesday evening appearance.

“Is part of problem the breakdown of the peace process? … In the mid-1990s, we had buses blowing up. And people said at the time that was because the peace process was actually moving forward,” the ambassador said. “Now they’re saying that the reason why Jews are being massacred is because there is not a peace process. It has nothing to do with the peace process. It has to do with the fact that you have in Palestinian society people who want to murder Jews.”

“And they’re now in an environment where people are encouraging it. Hamas is celebrating in the streets of Gaza. Abbas is not condemning these types of acts. He is fueling the fire.”

Dermer said Abbas could start by ending his pact with Hamas. “President Abbas is sitting in the same government with the terrorists who are celebrating the savage murder of Jews in a synagogue,” he said. “The second thing that he might want to do is stop using the media that he controls, the schools that he controls, the mosques that he controls to incite against Jews, to incite to violence and terrorism, and spread a lie, as if we’re trying on destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is false. And he has to stop and the world has to hold him accountable.”

He said European governments are sending Abbas a clear message by recognizing a Palestinian state: “Do what you’re doing. Stay in bed with these terrorists. Continue to incite against Israel and we will give you everything you want. A different message has to be heard from the international community.”

Dermer confirmed that the FBI will be involved in the investigation of the synagogue attack since three American rabbis were killed. The other two casualties were a British rabbi and a Druze police officer.

“I don’t know if people know this, but Palestinian terrorists have killed more Americans over the last few months than ISIS has killed Americans,” he said.

“…The same people who are celebrating the murder of Jews in a synagogue were celebrating the murder of 3,000 Americans on 9/11. These are the same people. It’s the same type of fanaticism. And that’s why we have to stand together to fight it.”

Dermer called it a “joke” that Palestinian leaders justify the handing out of candy and celebration for the murders as a normal reaction to Israeli oppression.

“The Nazis had a lot of grievances. They were very upset about Versailles. They were very upset about World War I. They were very upset about their economy. No one cared, because people said nothing justifies Nazism. That’s the approach we have to have here as well,” the ambassador continued.

“Nothing justifies terrorism. It doesn’t really matter what their grievances are. You can’t have people go into a synagogue and kill people standing in prayer shawls, murder Jews in a savage way and have people dancing in the streets. This is a huge problem and the world has to stand together to confront it.”

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Why I Heart Israel and Salute the FIDF

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 - by Jennifer Hanin

Last week I had the honor of attending the FIDF (Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces) gala in San Francisco. My invite was completely unplanned yet still eye-opening. I happened to casually meet an FIDF officer’s wife who was displaying her handcrafted jewelry at a Greek festival, and after chatting with her for sometime her husband invited my spouse and I to be their guests at their $10,000 table. So we there you have it.

One word capped the evening best: Heartstrings. I was so moved by the evening that I needed a week of respite to digest the effect the powerful evening had on me. In fact, looking back the evening holds even more importance after news broke of the recent ISIS (ISIL) beheading of American Peter Kassig. Once again, proving how important our Middle East allies are and how we must treat them with the upmost respect.

Note to Obama: LIKE Israel, Respect Netanyahu

More beheadings brings home a renewed awareness of how critical our ties with Israel and Egypt are to the US. For starters, Israel is known as the “Little Satan” and of course the USA is considered the “Big Satan.” Egypt after all is the most open of the Middle East countries. It’s known for its great philosophers and for leading the pack. It was and still is the only Middle East country that signed a peace treaty with Israel. It holds an important key to the future of the Middle East. For those who don’t follow Middle East politics closely, Egypt is the game changer. Egypt must flourish with its great scholars and  liberalism to lead the rest of its neighbors. And just in case it went unnoticed, ISIS is doing its best to be the game changer. The well-funded, well-organized group of 8 million strong (supported by 40 million last year) is baiting the USA to send even more boots to fight them then the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This call marks a new phase in war where our mad-masked enemy is not only unafraid of us, they taunting us into ground bloody assaults. Their call signals a type of bravado that we have yet to witness by any other terrorist group. I guess they think the head-rolling hobby they have going on is all that. Guess again.

Hearting Israel Stateside

Back to the gala. I’m one of those unique pro-Israel advocates who has never stepped foot in the Jewish nation-state let alone the Middle East. Closest I’ve come to Israel is Tunisia. Yet to my credit I’m likely one of the best layman’s experts on the Jewish nation-state you’ll ever meet. How so? Let me explain.

I not only converted to Judaism in 2008, launched a blog on Israel and world politics in 2009 on my jenniferhanin.com, co-founded Act For Israel, coauthored Becoming Jewish: the Challenges, Rewards and Paths to Conversion (Rowman and Littlefield, 2011) with then senior rabbi of Kehlliat Israel aka ‘rabbi to the stars’, Steven Carr Reuben, PhD, I also and coordinated a media fellowship to Israel with the Israeli MFA in 2012. Unfortunately, months later I had to pass on the fellowship as the second edition of my first book was due the same week.

Other ties to Israel? I communicate with my cousins via marriage on Facebook, and I can always count on their smiles to put a permagrin on my face. And I’m not talking about zealots who are complaining about incoming missiles but about incredible people living extraordinary lives.

So what thoughts did walk away with from the FIDF gala? Too many to report here yet suffice to say it was a uplifting evening that delivered warm fuzzies to anyone in attendance. Good friend Israeli Consul General of the Pacific Northwest Dr. Andy David was the keynote. Radio host, political lecturer and coauthor John F. Rothman MC’d the gala. Most touching? The FIDF dedicated the evening to lone soldiers who leave their countries with great pride to enlist in the IDF.

This tribute came to an obvious pinnacle when an attractive, young female soldier shared her testimonial and poured her heart and soul to dressed up strangers occupying a myriad of tables. She lost her soulmate in combat when she least expected it. Her American boyfriend was none other than Nissim Sean Carmeli who hailed from South Padre Island, Texas.

About twenty minutes later it was hard to find a dry eye in the soldout sea of tables as she graciously exited her tear-stained microphone. Why? Terrorists unceremoniously ambushed both Carmel and fellow lone soldier Max Steinberg who hailed from San Fernando, California while patrolling Gaza.

Surprisingly, Carmel’s Israeli funeral drew 20,000 many of which most were complete strangers. Likewise, Steinberg’s Israeli funeral drew 30,000 including US Secretary of State and failed Middle East diplomat John Kerry. Carmel (like Steinberg and other lone soldiers) didn’t receive a draft. Nor was he paid to pay the ultimate price for another country. He certainly was coerced into winning the affection of the brave Middle Easterner who shared her fleeting moments with her beloved before so many. Carmeli like Steinberg and other lone soldiers make a monumental sacrifice, and a colossal impression on locals who understand what it means to sacrifice it all.

Obama: ‘Our bond with Israel is Unshakable”

So president Obama made good on a cornerstone of his promise to Israel. He was part of funding the air defense system, the Iron Dome. I’ll give him that. It’s a godsend and a rockstar yet with all its hype its still far from boss as it boast an impressive but imperfect accuracy of about 85 percent. And despite the efforts to find and confiscate every short and long-range Iranian missile, Israelis are a lot of things but short of being psychic.

So what can we do to assure Obama stops embarrassing our ally and starts putting ‘leaders’ like Syria’s Assad, Turkey’s Erdogan, and Iran’s ayatollah on the hot seat? Plenty. Criticize Obama. Take it online. Keep the pressure on him. But don’t stop there. Go to bat for Israelis. Support the FIDF or any one of the laundry list of Jewish organizations out there. Need a list? Follow America’s most influential Jew who I’m proud to call my friend William Daroff, Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) via @daroff on Twitter or Capital Hill friend Eli Gold, Vice President of the London Center for Public Policy, and you’ll soon learn the network.

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Obama: ‘No Justification’ for Synagogue Ax Attack That Killed Three Americans

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama condemned the Palestinian terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue today that left four dead, saying in a statement that “there is and can be no justification for such attacks against innocent civilians.”

Three of the victims — Aryeh Kupinsky, Cary William Levine, and Mosheh Twersky — were U.S. citizens with dual Israeli citizenship.

“The thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the victims and families of all those who were killed and injured in this horrific attack and in other recent violence,” Obama said. “At this sensitive moment in Jerusalem, it is all the more important for Israeli and Palestinian leaders and ordinary citizens to work cooperatively together to lower tensions, reject violence, and seek a path forward towards peace.”

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he told Secretary of State John Kerry “this horrendous terror attack in a house of worship is the direct result of President Abbas’s campaign of incitement.”

The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement saying, ”The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it.”

Kerry, meeting in London with his British counterpart, told reporters he was delayed by his call with Netanyahu.

“To have this kind of act, which is a pure result of incitement of calls for days of rage, of just an irresponsibility, is unacceptable,” Kerry said. “So the Palestinian leadership must condemn this and they must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people’s language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path.”

“Our hearts go out to all Israelis for the atrocity of this event and for all the reminders of history that come with it. This is — simply has no place in human behavior, and we need to hear from leaders who are going to lead their people to a different place.”

Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said two terrorists armed with knives and axes attacked worshippers at a synagogue in the Har nof neighborhood of Jerusalem. Police responded to the scene and shot both.

One police officer was in critical condition from a shootout with the terrorists, though, Rosenfeld said.

He said police units were providing security for this morning’s funeral for the four rabbis murdered in the attack. “Thousands of people attending,” Rosenfeld tweeted.

Seven were injured in the attack, he said.

Netanyahu held a security consultation with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Jerusalem officials today, his office said.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the demolition of the homes of the terrorists who perpetrated the recent attacks and directed that enforcement against those who incite toward terrorist attacks be significantly increased.”

In a tweet, the prime minister promised to respond “with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were met by reprehensible murderers.”

Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told CNN that Abbas “must decide which side of the divide he’s on.”

“On one side you’ve got ISIS, Hamas, al Qaeda, people responsible for the most brutal attacks, the most heinous atrocities against innocent civilians. On the other side you’ve got Israel and Egypt and Jordan and other moderate countries,” Regev said.

“When you have an atrocity like this, you can unfortunately, give a motivation to other like-minded people. So we’ve got to make sure there are no copycat attacks,” he said of the need to beef up security in the aftermath. “We also, to be frank, want to make sure that there’s no hothead on the Israeli side who decides he wants to take the law into his own hands and conduct a vigilante counterattack.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said the ”massacre in a house of worship while innocent people prayed is absolutely horrifying and unconscionable.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were killed and injured,” Gillibrand said. “Those responsible for these heinous and cold-blooded murders must be held accountable.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he was “deeply saddened and alarmed” by the attacks and vowed to stand with the Jewish state.

“These men of faith were cruelly murdered as they were worshiping in their synagogue in Har Nof,” Paul said. “I vow to stand with Israel and I will continue to do all I can to protect Americans at home and abroad. This is a horrific act of violence that should be universally condemned. We must demand that Palestinian leaders stop the incitement, which they have committed in word and in deed. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Israel.”

“The senseless targeting of innocent civilians has to be stopped; it is unacceptable under any circumstances,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Ma.), adding Israelis have “endured far too many of these brutal assaults.”

 

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Three Americans Among the Dead in Jerusalem Synagogue Attack

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Hamas has applauded the grisly terrorist attack in a Jerusalem synagogue that left four dead. Among the dead are four dual citizens. Three of them were dual American-Israeli citizens and one was a dual citizen of Israel and the UK.

The two assailants who launched their attack with meat cleavers and a gun during early morning prayers were then killed by police officers in the ensuing gun battle at the scene of the attack.

The deaths occurred as the two men – identified by family members as cousins Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal from the East Jerusalem district of Jabal Mukaber – burst into the Bnei Torah synagogue in Har Nof, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of West Jerusalem.

A man who identified himself only as Yossi and was in the synagogue at the time of the attack, told Channel 2: “The police arrived and surrounded the entrance and then the terrorist ran out and they shot him. There was wild gunfire. People ran out of the synagogue. It was hell.”

“I tried to escape. The man with the knife approached me. There was a chair and table between us … my prayer shawl got caught. I left it there and escaped.”

Yosef Posternak, who was also praying in the synagogue at the time of the attack, told Israel Radio that about 25 worshippers were inside when the attackers entered.

Three of the victims held dual US-Israeli citizenship, and one was a British-Israeli citizen – 68-year-old Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, who emigrated to Israel from the UK in 1993.

The three US citizens were 59-year-old Rabbi Moshe Twersky – the head of an English speaking religious college – Aryeh Kopinsky, 43, and Kalman Zeev Levine, 55. The grandson of one of the founders of the Modern Orthodox movement, Twersky lived close to the scene of the attack in Har Nof.

The two attackers were reportedly members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Police killed them as they attempted to escape. Hamas, the terrorist group that rules Gaza, has called for additional attacks on civilians. Palestinians in Gaza have reacted to the attack by celebrating, passing out candy and brandishing axes.

Israel Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu promises a “harsh response” to the attack.

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Israel’s Response to Terror: Relax Gun Laws

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Israel suffered yet another murderous terror attack today. The government has responded by electing to relax gun control laws.

Let that soak in for a minute.

America suffers a horrific school shooting and the gun control lobby is out in full force before the bodies are cold, screaming about stricter gun control laws. Israel suffers a bloody synagogue terror attack and

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch pledged to ease controls on carrying weapons for self-defense after a gruesome terrorist attack at a Jerusalem synagogue that left four dead Tuesday.

It was not clear exactly what new measures would be put in place, but it was reported that the move would apply to anyone licensed to carry a gun, such as private security guards and off-duty army officers.

Aharonovitch added that “we have instructed synagogues to place security guards at their entrances.”

Israel’s gun laws are strict and the Israeli attitude towards carrying firearms differs greatly from the almost comedic depictions of gun ownership in America. A 2012 article published after the Sandy Hook massacre detailed:

“There is an essential difference between the two. In America the right to bear arms is written in the law, here it’s the opposite… only those who have a license can bear arms and not everyone can get a license.”

Amit said gun licenses are only given out to those who have a reason because they work in security or law enforcement, or those who live in settlements “where the state has an interest in them being armed.”

He added that former IDF officers above a certain rank can get a license.

Anyone who fits the requirements, is over age 21 and an Israeli resident for more than three years, must go through a mental and physical health exam, Amit said, then pass shooting exams and courses at a licensed gun range, as well as background checks by the Public Security Ministry.

Once they order their firearm from a gun store, they are allowed to take it home with a one-time supply of 50 bullets, which Amit said they cannot renew.

The gun owner must retake his license exam and testing at the gun range every three years. As of January, Amit said, a new law will go into effect requiring gun owners to prove that they have a safe at home to keep their weapon in.

The relaxed restrictions may relate to regulations imposed after a 2013 shooting in Be’er Sheva:

One day after a Be’er Sheva man shot dead four people in a local bank before turning his gun on himself, the Public Security Ministry on Tuesday announced new rules to limit the number of guns in circulation. School security guards will have to turn in their weapons, which guarding firms will reissue at the start of the new school year. Licensed gun owners will have to store their weapon in a safe at home. Security companies must obtain special exemptions from being required to store a weapon when its bearer is off duty, only one gun license will be issued to any single individual and anyone applying to renew a gun license must show why they need a weapon.

What “relaxed” means is yet to be seen. But for Americans weary of gun control arguments that continue to be completely irrelevant to the situations at hand, Israel’s response to gun ownership in the face of terror is refreshing and worthy of further examination by our own government and pro-gun lobby.

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Kerry: ISIS Looking for ‘Pliable,’ Non-Devout Recruits Who are ‘Dummies’ About Tenets of Islam

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Declaring that ISIS “cannot live on hate alone,” Secretary of State John Kerry declared today that stopping the terror group includes choking off the fertile recruitment grounds of “people who are gullible enough to believe that terrorists enjoy a glamorous lifestyle and pliable enough to do whatever they are told.”

“Last year, two young men left Great Britain to join ISIL. Among the books that they ordered before departing was Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies,” Kerry said in keynote remarks today at the Transformational Trends Strategic Forum. “So, let’s be honest: Those recruiting for ISIL aren’t looking for people who are devout and knowledgeable about the tenets of Islam.”

“ISIL insists that its acts of murder, torture, slavery, rape and desecration are in response to the commands of God, a claim that is, to use an old Boston expression, garbage,” he said. “Much depends on the ability of respected figures from every branch of Islam to help potential recruits understand that ISIL is against everything that faith teaches and in favor of everything that it abhors.”

Kerry stressed at the beginning of his talk, though, that “every part of the globe merits our attention.”

“And I’m not exaggerating. I will assume chairmanship of the Arctic Council next April and we’re already planning a two-year stint of the priorities for the Arctic and that includes, I might add, priorities that extend to the Antarctic,” he said.

He called the Middle East and North Africa “the region that I know a lot of Americans wish was out of the headlines.”

“You all remember that great moment in A Few Good Men when Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup, besieged by tough questions, snaps, ‘You can’t handle the truth.’ Well, it might be heresy in today’s Washington of simple story lines and hyperbolic headlines, but I think the American people do want the truth. I think they demand it and I think they deserve it,” Kerry said.

“So, when it comes to the Middle East, this is my view of reality. A truth, if you want. We have to be deeply engaged — deeply engaged in this region because it is directly in the interest of our national security and our economy, and it is also in keeping with who we are.”

Kerry lamented that the Obama administration “has been faulted for not having the perfect answer to every question related to the coalition’s campaign” against ISIS.

“Fair enough. But as a student of history, I cannot recall the United States entering into any major confrontation with advanced knowledge of all the possibilities,” he said.

“ISIL’s leaders assumed that the world would be too intimidated to oppose them. Well, let us be clear — we are not intimidated. You are not intimidated. Our friends and partners are not intimidated. ISIL is very, very wrong.”

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State Dept. Considers Boko Haram Fight ‘Opportunity to Help Nigeria Achieve Success’

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The State Department today deflected questions about Nigeria’s incapacity to handle the Boko Haram threat by stressing the U.S. is still providing “multifaceted” support to a strictly “Nigerian-led effort.”

The U.S. sent crews to help locate more than 200 high school girls after their infamous kidnapping from a Chibok school in April. Terrorists say the girls have been sold off by this point.

Last week, Boko Haram returned to Chibok and took control of the town in Borno state. Villagers who fled reported that many had been killed.

State Department press office director Jeff Rathke told reporters today that Washington is “aware” of the reports.

“We condemn Boko Haram’s attacks on Chibok, a community that has suffered far too much already and we extend our condolences to the families of the victims,” Rathke said.

“Now, with respect to the fight against Boko Haram, the United States remains committed to helping the government of Nigeria address the threat that Boko Haram poses and to find and free those who have been abducted in Chibok and elsewhere,” he added. “So we continue to support Nigerian efforts to — to bring them — bring them home and we are providing assistance both through humanitarian programs, through sharing of intelligence, and advising on strategic communications and — and other issues.”

“We also continue to encourage Nigerian authorities to adopt a comprehensive approach to violent extremists.”

The U.S. government has criticized Nigeria for not respecting human rights when it’s gone after Boko Haram.

Asked “where does this thing stand” given the continued gains by the al-Qaeda affiliate, Rathke said the support for the Nigerian government covers “a range of aspects, including humanitarian programs including sharing of certain intelligence information.”

“We have also provided and approved sales of military equipment to the armed forces after careful scrutiny. So, we have a multifaceted approach to this Nigerian-led effort. And we — our hearts certainly go out to the — to the families of the victims and to the girls themselves, and all of those who have been abducted,” he said.

Last week, Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S. Ade Adefuye complained that the U.S. has been refusing to sell needed arms to the country.

Adefuye said that the administration “has up till today refused to grant Nigeria’s request to purchase lethal equipment that would have brought down the terrorists within a short time on the basis of the allegations that Nigeria’s defence forces have been violating human rights of Boko Haram suspects when captured or arrested.”

The Obama administration has long criticized the Nigerian government forces in the same breath as the al-Qaeda-allied terrorists, including Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield telling a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee a year ago that the U.S. government is “concerned by reports that some Nigerian security forces have committed gross human rights violations in response to Boko Haram.” At the same hearing, Nigerian activists testified that Boko Haram is beheading Christians with chainsaws.

Rathke said the U.S. commitment includes approximately $19 million in fiscal year 2014 for “vulnerable and conflicted — conflict-affected households in Nigeria.”

“Some of that goes through USAID, some of it through other — through other channels. But, you know, we have been providing, in addition to that, about $54 million in humanitarian assistance to neighboring countries, where that are significant refugee populations,” he said. “So this is something to which we remain committed, and we’ll continue that support.”

When pressed on why the U.S. has never been able to locate the large group of kidnapped schoolgirls, Rathke called it “an enormous challenge.”

“And we continue to support the Nigerian-led efforts, but it’s our view this has to be a Nigerian-led effort,” he said. “So we’ll continue to provide the support that I outlined because we consider — consider this an important opportunity to help Nigeria achieve success. But it’s a Nigerian-led operation.”

“…We have a longstanding and important relationship with Nigeria and we value that highly. We are standing with the government and the people of Nigeria in the face of the lethal and inhumane attacks that Boko Haram has unleashed. And we’re working closely with the Nigerian Government and with the governments of neighboring states to counter these threats… We’ve begun training a new army battalion. We’ve held numerous high-level discussions with Nigerian authorities on ways to meet the Boko Haram threat. So I think, you know, that record is clear.”

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American Muslim Group Wants U.S. Government Help to Get Off UAE Terror List

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Two American Muslim advocacy groups are protesting their inclusion on the United Arab Emirates’ list of terrorist organizations.

The blacklist followed the passage of Federal Law No. 7, which mandated circulation of the list to increase public awareness about extremist groups and threats.

“The law was issued by President Sheikh Khalifa and the Cabinet’s own resolution on the designation of terrorist organisations that allows the publication of such lists in the media for the purposes of transparency and to raise awareness about these organizations,” reported government-owned Abu Dhabi newspaper The National.

Groups on the list included the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, Daesh (ISIS), Al-Shabaab, AQAP, Boko Haram, Pakistan’s Haqqani network, Abu Sayyaf, al-Qaeda in Iran and the al-Nusra Front.

It also included several Islamic societies in Europe, including the Finnish Islamic Association, the Islamic Council Norway, Britain’s Cordoba Foundation, the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, Muslim Association of Britain, the Union of Islamic Organisations of France, the Islamic Society of Germany and the Islamic Society in Denmark.

Two American groups were on the list: the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society.

The Muslim American Society doubted the report in a statement issued before the list was published in a government newspaper.

“The Muslim American Society was shocked to read news reports claiming that the United Arab Emirates has listed the Muslim American Society, along with numerous other organizations, as a terrorist organization,” the group said. “The Muslim American Society is a religious community service organization that serves people in the United States. We have no dealings with the United Arab Emirates, and hence are perplexed by this news.”

MAS said they would wait for an “official response” from the UAE, but added they would “like to seek the help of our government to address this issue.”

CAIR issued a statement saying the group is “seeking clarification from the government of the United Arab Emirates about this shocking and bizarre report.”

“There is absolutely no factual basis for the inclusion CAIR and other American and European civil rights and advocacy groups on this list,” CAIR said.

“Like the rest of the mainstream institutions representing the American Muslim community, CAIR’s advocacy model is the antithesis of the narrative of violent extremists,” the statement continued.

“We call on the United Arab Emirates cabinet to review this list and remove organizations such as CAIR, the Muslim American Society and other civil society organizations that peacefully promote civil and democratic rights and that oppose terrorism whenever it occurs, wherever it occurs and whoever carries it out.”

Dubai ruler and UAE vice president Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum wrote in a September editorial in local papers that extremism needed to be rooted out by focusing not just on militant groups but on organizations propagating harmful ideology.

“Only one thing can stop a suicidal youth who is ready to die for ISIS: A stronger ideology that guides him onto the right path and convinces him that God created us to improve our world, not to destroy it,” he wrote.

Egypt cheered the terror listing of the Muslim Brotherhood and lauded “outstanding coordination and cooperation” between the two countries “in all fields, including in the fight against terrorism.”

“Egypt welcomes the UAE government’s decision to include a number of organisations on the list of terrorist organizations,” foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said today.

Islamic Relief Worldwide, which the UAE list noted was tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, protested their inclusion in a statement. Israel banned the group’s from conducting operations there this past summer because of Hamas ties.

“Islamic Relief is a purely humanitarian organisation and categorically denies links with terrorism,” IRW said. “We will be engaging with the UAE authorities to seek the removal of this wrongful designation.”

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Obama Says He’ll Send Ground Troops to Fight ISIS, But Only if They Get a Nuclear Weapon

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Any situation short of the Islamic State obtaining nuclear weapons, and the United States knowing about that, appears to mean that President Obama will not order American ground troops into battle to destroy the terrorist group.

Over the weekend, ISIS beheaded a third American, former Army Ranger turned aid worker Peter Kassig. But a day before that news broke, President Obama outlined an extreme scenario under which he would order troops to fight ISIS on the ground in Iraq and Syria. The president made his remarks at the G20 Summit in Australia Saturday.

Obama says that he would send ground troops into the fight, if ISIS gets its hands on a nuclear weapon.

Obama said, “There are always circumstances, in which the United States might need to deploy US ground troops. If we discovered that ISIL had gotten possession of a nuclear weapon, and we had to run an operation to get it out of their hands, then yes, you can anticipate that not only would Chairman Dempsey recommend me sending U.S. ground troops to get that weapon out of their hands, but I would order it.”

Obama chuckled as he spoke about ISIS obtaining nuclear weapons.

ISIS has beheaded three Americans and two Englishmen. It has murdered thousands of Iraqi and Syrian civilians and military. ISIS has sold women into sex slavery and has destroyed historical monuments and sites. ISIS has also threatened to attack Americans in the United States itself.

h/t NoMoreCocktails

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ISIS Claims It Has Beheaded American Peter Kassig

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Reuters reports that the Islamic State claims that it has beheaded American Peter Kassig. The terrorist group has published a video that does not show the act itself, but shows a man’s head. On the 15-minute video, a British-accented terrorist says that Kassig has been killed and will be buried in Dabiq, Syria.

“This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen,” the terrorist says in the video while standing over the severed head. “Here we are burying the first American crusader in Dabiq. Eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive.”

Kassig was a former Army Ranger and veteran of the war in Iraq. The 26-year-old from Indiana went to Syria as a medic and treated people who had been wounded in Syria’s civil war. He was reportedly captured by ISIS on October 1, 2013. Kassig is the third American beheaded by ISIS, following James Foley and Steven Sotloff. ISIS has also beheaded two British men, David Haines and Alan Henning.

Kassig reportedly converted to Islam while in captivity, and had adopted the name Abdul Rahman Kassig.

The video, which has not been authenticated by U.S. intelligence yet, also shows several beheadings of Syrians captured by ISIS. Those killings are carried out in mass-killing style and shown in the video.

The video included a direct ISIS threat to kill Americans in the United States:

“To Obama, the dog of Rome, today we are slaughtering the soldiers of Bashar and tomorrow we will be slaughtering your soldiers,” the terrorist says in the video.

“And with Allah’s permission … the Islamic State will soon … begin to slaughter your people in your streets.”

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Tenured University Professor Vows to Wage Jihad with ISIS

Friday, November 14th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

 

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In what seems to be an escalation of his previous public comments, tenured Kent State University professor Julio Pino is using his personal Facebook page not only to post anti-Semitic epithets and threats, but also to declare his solidarity with the terrorist group ISIS.

In August, we saw the incendiary, anti-Semitic Facebook posts by Pino, the Cuban-born associate history professor who converted to Islam in 2000. Dr. Pino’s posts supported Hamas, made vile, racist comments about Jews and Israelis, and even seemed to support ISIS. Pino, who has a long history of anti-Semitic behavior, also vowed that he wouldn’t work with fellow staff members who supported Israel:“Collaborate with no one who collaborates with Israel, and let her or him know why. I have started with the head of our ‘Religious Studies’ program, who sends student-dupes to Israel every year.” Pino remains employed by the taxpayer-supported university and it seems he has been emboldened by the cover Kent State is providing for him.

In a post this week, he declared, “We will wage jihad from al-Quds to Canada!” Pino posted this comment along with a video from Russia Today (the state-funded news outlet) showing allegedly “uncut” footage of the “bloody caliphate” in Iraq.

In another post with a link to a YouTube video warning of a possible Islamic State attack in New York City, Pino calls a Canadian jihadist his brother: “Canadian Brother from ISIS ‘We love being attacked! We seek martyrdom!’”

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On Friday, Pino posted a link to a BBC article warning that the Islamic State is setting its sights on Saudi Arabia, where the Muslim holy site of Mecca is located. “No Sleep Till Mecca!” Pino vowed.

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Back in October, Pino scoffed at reports that ISIS is a great military threat. “From the bourgeois media: ‘ISIS is the greatest military threat the U.S. has faced since 1945.’ You mean that whole Cold War, nuclear arms race, Korea, Viet Nam thing was for kids?” he asked.

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Last week Pino applauded the Ayatollah Khamenei, calling him his “favorite tweeter.”

Here’s the tweet that got Pino so excited:

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Obama’s Syria Plan: Calibrated and Reassessed? Try ‘Winging It.’

Friday, November 14th, 2014 - by Jennifer Hanin

So now we’re supposed to believe that president Obama just realized Syria’s president Bashar al Assad must be removed to take out ISIS (or in his words ISIL) as CNN reports and he’s calibrating and reassessing his strategy on Syria? One word:  idol. I can already hear proverbial headshakes and eyerolls occurring in unison around the Leviant and the rest of the world. Did someone just inform our commander in chief that Syria has been embroiled in first a civil uprising, which escalated to a civil war over nearly four years ago? According to the United Nations, Syria’s body count ranges roughly in the neighborhood of 191,000.

Newsweek to Uncover ISIS Money Trail

Does Obama subscribe to Newsweek? Maybe he should. Newsweek singlehandedly dedicated its November 14, 2014 cover to the terror juggernaut’s deep pockets. My analysis: ISIS is a more result of ‘watching and waiting and supplying arms to Gulf states funding terrorism’ who are bent on power, ethnic cleansing and challenging our Western ideology than anything else. ISIS didn’t just come onto the scene yesterday. Newsweek details the organization’s deep pockets that operate outside legitimate banking channels on page 26 – 41.

Fact remains, ISIS has successfully overtaken territory that equals the size of Austria. A small, broke band of bandits couldn’t pull this off.

Yet you know what they say about opinions and bungholes. Everyone has one. But what about Obama’s well-laid plan on Syria? Some would say this is yet another mirage, smokescreen or fictional tale spinning out of the White House at breakneck speed to prove Obama isn’t asleep behind the wheel.

Yet is he?

Many would agree Obama kicked the can on Syria for years. His Administration operates out of vacuum of “do nothing and see if it goes away” mentality. I don’t want to point fingers or claim war is the only solution, as we know it’s not. Diplomacy comes into play, really. But sticking one’s proverbial head in the sand to play the domestic race card instead of attending to national security concerns of securing our borders and helping the citizens of Syria when they are under genocide much the way the Jews of Europe were is about the same as the Pope acting like Hitler and Mussolini were two misunderstood protagonists. Neither is further from the truth.

Deep Pocket Parties: Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia

So exactly who is funding ISIS, ISIL or whatever you want to call this terrorist organization? Remember that inconsequential 11 billion arms deal our Administration signed recently with terrorist funding Qatar? Or how about the $60 billion arms deal in 2013 with Saudi Arabia? Or how about that paltry $5 billion arms deal with Kuwait who wanted 60 advanced Patriot Capability missiles with parts, equipment and training? Or how about the announcement of the  $123 billion arms deal to the Gulf States in 2010. Well, duh. Sound like we’re arming and greasing the enemy? Just a tad.

So the bright minds at Newsweek took on the daunting task of interviewing leaders from government officials in Iraq, Kurdistan, Europe, Syria, and the USA to find out how ISIS can survive, conquer and pay their bills when under aerial and land assault. Oddly enough, ISIS has mushroomed to support 8 million. It has received some $40 million or more in the last two years alone from oil rich countries that include private donors like Persian Gulf royalty, business consortiums and wealthy individuals or families. Newsweek credits criticism from former secretary of state and now 2016 POTUS contender Hillary Clinton and the international community as the reason Saudi Arabia passed 2013 legislation criminalizing anyone funding terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra and ISIS.

Yet other area actors didn’t budge. While Saudi Arabia declared ISIS their number one enemy, Gulf states like Qatar and Kuwait remained mum. So if counterterrorist funding is connected heavily to Qatar and Kuwait, why is the Obama Administration agreeing to arms deals with these out-of-control actors? Likely, because there is no plan minus the uh-oh-reactionary-fly-by-the-seat plan like Benghazi was just an outraged Islamic mob reaction to a video. Remember that whopper?

Funding Terrorists Under the Guise of Humanitarian Aid

Nothing like starving children and widows to get people to open their pocketbooks. But haven’t we learned anything from the Holy Land Foundation? One of the best tips in the Newsweek article is the part on mobile apps like What’s App and Kik. A professional colleague and former president of the Middle East at one of my former employer’s once recommended that I use What’s App. What’s App and Kik are used often used by terrorists to coordinate geographical drop-off points for payments. These apps use a GPS mapping tool that makes it simple for terrorists to communicate locations.

My advice? Read the Newsweek article in its entirety as it’s much too lengthy to detail its contents fairly here. Yet suffice to say it took a Brookings analysis to point out that:

“in asymmetric conflict, if insurgents survive 12 months of activity, the likelihood of opposition victory increases significantly, but should the conflict perpetuate for at least three years, the chance of insurgent victory begins to diminish and political agreements become more likely.”

Obama’s evolving Syria plan? Well, all I can say is race baiting and campaigning for 2016 is useless and hindsight sucks. Syria’s bloodbath started in 2011 and in a month’s time we are entering 2015.

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Obama National Security Adviser Cites Bogus Iranian Anti-Nuke Weapons Fatwa

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 - by Patrick Poole

With just days before the November 24th deadline to conclude negotiations to continue the freeze on Iran’s nuclear program, a senior Obama administration official, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, invoked a fake fatwa by Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Khamenei while speaking to the media yesterday.

CBS reporter Major Garrett tweeted earlier this morning:

Rhodes nuke fatwa

Rhodes is not the first to fall for the bogus Iranian fatwa, as President Obama has cited it on at least two different occasions, including his address to the UN General Assembly in 2013.

But at that time, a number of sources pointed out that there’s no proof that such a fatwa exists. As CNS News reported:

As the international community has tracked Iran’s steady progress in developing technologies used to manufacture nuclear weapons, some critics have called into question the religious or ideological significance of such a ruling – or whether it even exists. Iranian officials in referring to it have given at least three different years of issue – 2004, 2005 and 2012.

“While Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s nuclear fatwa has been the stuff of diplomatic gossip for years, no one citing it has ever actually seen it,” commented American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Rubin. “Khamenei lists all of his fatwas on his webpage, but the nuclear fatwa isn’t among them.”

“Such a fatwa was never issued by Supreme Leader Khamenei and does not exist,” the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) said on Sunday. “Neither the Iranian regime nor anybody else can present it.”

MEMRI has issued multiple reports about the fake fatwa, even noting that EU officials have been skeptical of its existence:

To date, the Europeans refuse to accept it. According to unofficial sources, the legal advisors of the EU3 made an official request to the Iranian regime in 2005 to provide a copy of the “fatwa,” but in vain.

MEMRI president Yigal Carmon told Fox News observed that Ayatollah Khamenei has been asked about it:

In July, the Iranian website Tasnimnews, which is linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, published an extensive list of 493 fatwas from Khamenei dating back to 2004. None forbade the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Carmon noted that Khamenei in 2012 was asked directly about the morality of pursuing nuclear weapons, and his answer was telling.

The question asked to Khamenei was, in light of a Koran teaching that orders Muslims to “prepare against [non-Muslims] whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah,” is it also “forbidden to obtain nuclear weapons, as per your ruling that their use is prohibited?”

Khamenei’s answer, according to MEMRI, was “your letter has no jurisprudential aspect. When it has a jurisprudent position, then it will be possible to answer it.”

Carmon said if a fatwa against the pursuit of nuclear weapons existed, Khamenei would have cited it.

“Wouldn’t you think he would say, ‘I given my fatwa, and it is this?’” Carmon said.

Former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has chided Obama for citing the fake fatwa:

In declaring that diplomacy could work, Obama referred to a “fatwa” by Iran’s supreme leader against nuclear weapons, but Bolton pointed out that no one in the West has ever seen this document.

“The President of the United States showed just how gullible and naive and inexperienced he is by saying ‘well, the Iranians say they don’t want nuclear weapons.’ Well, what could go wrong there?” Bolton asked.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also fell for the fake fatwa, according to CNS News:

In April 2012, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a visit to Tehran raised the fatwa issue with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton told reporters in Istanbul that she was “very interested” to hear that the Turks had been told “that the supreme leader viewed weapons of mass destruction as religiously prohibited, against Islam.”

“If the Iranians are truly committed to that statement of belief as conveyed to the prime minister and the foreign minister, then they should be open to reassuring the international community that it’s not an abstract belief but it is a government policy,” Clinton added.

Two days later Clinton again mentioned the fatwa, saying she had discussed it with “a number of experts and religious scholars.”

Tariq Alhomayed, editor-in-chief of the London-based, Saudi-owned daily Asharq Al-Awsat, in a column at the time said trusting Tehran on the basis of a religious ruling was “truly absurd.”

But not absurd enough for this administration, apparently.

UPDATE: A commenter on Twitter noted that Harvard’s Belfer Center has published a paper chronicling fatwas and statements by Islamic authorities for and against nuclear weapons. But the only apparent (from my quick read of the paper) reference to Ayatollah Khamenei was a reported 2003 statement (Correction: p. 61 also references statements made by Khomeini reported in this 2010 news article, but again, the actual fatwa is referred to but not produced). A statement or a news report, or even a claim that a fatwa exists, which as the MEMRI articles observe has been made several times by Iranian officials, is not an actual fatwa, which is specifically what Rhodes invoked according to Garrett.

As MEMRI has documented, Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwas are publicly cataloged on the Supreme Leader’s website, but no anti-nuclear weapons fatwa can be found. Or perhaps the fatwa is in occultation with the Shia’s Hidden Imam?

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Menendez, Kirk Vow to ‘Act Decisively’ If White House Forges Bad Deal with Iran

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his GOP co-sponsor of legislation to keep the heat on Iran vowed to “act decisively” against any administration deal that doesn’t kill the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), whose legislation includes strict guidance for the compliance necessary to ease sanctions, said in a joint statement today “a good deal will dismantle, not just stall, Iran’s illicit nuclear program and prevent Iran from ever becoming a threshold nuclear weapons state.”

Secretary of State John Kerry recently wrapped up the latest round of negotiations in Oman as the administration barrels toward a Nov. 24 deadline for a deal.

“This will require stringent limits on nuclear-related research, development and procurement, coming clean on all possible military dimensions (PMD) issues and a robust inspection and verification regime for decades to prevent Iran from breaking-out or covertly sneaking-out,” Menendez and Kirk said.

“Gradual sanctions relaxation would only occur if Iran strictly complied with all parts of the agreement. If a potential deal does not achieve these goals, we will work with our colleagues in Congress to act decisively, as we have in the past.”

They have the veto-proof votes, in this Congress or the next.

The White House feared this to the extent that a year ago Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who had vowed to bring a bill to the floor that would trigger additional sanctions on Iran if talks fell through, withheld the legislation at the administration’s request. The White House maintained that any action from Congress would spook Iran and derail talks.

Menendez received the biggest standing ovation at the March AIPAC conference in Washington when he declared, “When it comes to Iran, I have stood with you and have stood against so many in my own party.”

But he’s not the only powerful Senate Dem who’s unabashedly pro-Israel and highly skeptical of an Iran deal. That roster is led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

That month after the AIPAC conference, 83 senators banded together to demand that President Obama meet core principles, including clear consequences, in any final nuclear agreement with Iran.

“We believe that Congress has a continuing role to play to improve the prospects for success in the talks with Iran,” the senators wrote. “As these negotiations proceed, we will outline our views about the essential goals of a final agreement with Iran, continue oversight of the interim agreement and the existing sanctions regime, and signal the consequences that will follow if Iran rejects an agreement that brings to an end its nuclear weapons ambitions.”

Members have complained over the past several months that they’re not being given appropriate involvement in the negotiations process.

And at his press conference last Wednesday, Obama danced around a question on implementing an agreement with Iran without coming to Congress.

“Whether we can actually get a deal done, we’re going to have to find out over the next three to four weeks. We have presented to them a framework that would allow them to meet their peaceful energy needs,” he said.

Obama argued he could repeal “a series of different sanctions” unilaterally, including ones imposed unilaterally.

“But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. What I want to do is see if in fact, we have a deal,” the president said. “If we do have a deal that I have confidence will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and that we can convince the world and the public will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, then, you know, it’ll be time to engage in Congress.”

Key Democratic critics of the administration’s Iran policy in the House include Foreign Affairs Committee members Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).

Engel and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) sent a letter to Obama in July, signed by 344 members of the House, insisting that Congress play a role at the outset of any comprehensive agreement.

“I disagree with the Administration’s reported assertion that it does not need to come to Congress at this point during negotiations with Iran,” Engel said in October. “We don’t know if the negotiators will be able to reach a good deal.  In the meantime, we must ensure that the United States is in the best position to use our leverage at every point in the negotiation process, and the current sanctions regime represents our most powerful leverage against Iran.”

Over the weekend, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted about “how can Israel be eliminated.” On Monday, he tweeted why he supports the nuclear talks, including “repelling the evil of the Great Satan.”

“I’ve instructed my office to send a letter to the foreign ministers of the P5+1 countries,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau said in a Monday night statement. “In that letter I bring, verbatim, the words of Iran’s ruler Ayatollah Khamenei. The leader of this country that is depicted by some as moderate, the Islamic State of Iran, has said in the last 48 hours: one, that he calls for the annihilation of Israel – his words, not mine; two, he gives nine ways and reasons of how and why Israel should be annihilated – his words, not mine.”

“He’s publically calling for the annihilation of Israel as he is negotiating a nuclear deal with the P5+1 countries,” the prime minister continued. “There is no moderation in Iran. It is unrepentant, unreformed, it calls for Israel’s eradication, it promotes international terrorism, and as the IAEA report just said, it continues to deceive the international community about its nuclear weapons program.”

“This terrorist regime in Iran must not be allowed to become a nuclear threshold power. And I call on the P5+1 countries – don’t rush into a deal that would let Iran rush to the bomb.”

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN last night “there’s no question that those tweets link to an account associated with the supreme leader are reprehensible, they’re disgusting, and certainly we condemn that.”

“But let’s remember what’s at stake here. And that’s preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. That’s in Israel’s interest. I believe the prime minister referenced that. That’s in the United States’ interests, that’s in the global community’s interests,” Psaki said.

“What’s the alternative? If we are not going to continue to pursue a diplomatic path and try to achieve a comprehensive deal in the next 13 days?”

The Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday on emails obtained from the Truman National Security Project, vowing to assemble a “crack team of writers” to push the administration narrative about a final nuclear deal.

“Our community absolutely must step up and not cede the public narrative to neocon hawks that would send our country to war just to screw the president,” Graham F. West, Truman’s writing and communications associate, wrote. “…The core message is the same: a deal is the only way to prevent an Iranian bomb and keep the U.S. out of another war.”

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Dem Senator: If Obama Thinks AUMF Wouldn’t Pass, That’s Exactly Why Congress Should Vote

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the Obama administration’s fear of bringing an authorization for military force in Iraq and Syria before Congress is exactly why it should come before Congress.

Before lawmakers left for the campaign recess, the White House was busy assuring Capitol Hill that they were already covered for the strikes against ISIS by the 2001 and 2003 AUMFs.

Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate committee in mid-September that they determined they have authority because “good lawyers within the White House, within the State Department, who have examined this extremely closely, have come to the conclusion across the board that the 2001 AUMF, which says all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons responsible for 9/11, those who harbored such organizations or persons, to prevent future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such persons or organizations. It includes al-Qaeda… ISIL began as al-Qaeda.”

“I appreciate your ability as a former prosecutor and a gifted attorney to try to make the case,” Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) responded. “I will tell you that, at least from the chair’s perspective, you’re going to need a new AUMF.”

However, in his press conference the day after midterm elections, President Obama said he wanted Congress to pass a new AUMF — but not necessarily in the lame duck.

“I’m going to begin engaging Congress over a new Authorization to Use Military Force against ISIL. The world needs to know we are united behind this effort, and the men and women of our military deserve our clear and unified support,” Obama said.

“…And it will be a process of listening to members of Congress, as well as us presenting what we think needs to be the set of authorities that we have. And I’m confident we’re going to be able to get that done. And that may just be a process of us getting it started now. It may carry over into the next Congress.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote for The Daily Beast on Monday that “this war is now illegal.”

“It must be declared and made valid, or it must be ended,” Paul said. “Congress has a duty to act, one way or the other.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told MSNBC last night that “there’s a growing recognition on both sides of the aisle” that an AUMF debate “must happen.”

“In the lame duck session. Mainly for two reasons. One, it’s impossible at this point to ignore the constitutional imperative. The Constitution in Article I grants war-making power to the United States Congress and the United States Congress only. There is no existing authorization that permits this president to essentially deploy another several thousand troops to fight an enemy that has not been named yet by the United States Congress,” Murphy argued.

“And, so, we have a constitutional responsibility. But, second, Secretary Hagel referenced, it is incumbent upon us as a nation to make sure that we do not go into war, that we never go into war divided. We have a responsibility as Congress to debate this. And to authorize it so that we’re standing together.”

But, Murphy added, “if the executive is been holding off on bringing an authorization to Congress because it’s hard, because it might not pass, then actually that’s the reason why it must come before Congress.”

“Because the worst thing to have happen is for the president to authorize a major new deployment of troops without the support of the Congress, which is representing American people. I think we’re going to vote on this.”

Murphy said he expects the Foreign Relations Committee to take up the AUMF “this week.”

The panel meets this evening behind closed doors for a hearing to examine the ISIS fight.

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Raymond Ibrahim on ‘A Call to Rights’ — The Dangers of ISIS

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 - by Raymond Ibrahim

Raymond Ibrahim was recently interviewed on “A Call to Rights Radio Show,” with Steve Kates. To listen to the nearly one-hour long interview, click here (interview starts around the 9-minute mark)

From A Call to Rights website:

CRUCIFIED AGAIN

Exposing Islam’s New War On Christians

Forget what the history textbooks told you about martyrdom being a thing of the past. Christians are being persecuted and slaughtered today.

Raymond Ibrahim unveils the shocking truth about Christians in the Muslim world. Believers in Jesus Christ suffer oppression and are massacred at the hands of radicals for worshipping and spreading the gospel of the Lord.

Discover the true-life stories that the media won’t report in Ibrahim’s Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians.

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McCain on Obama’s ISIS Strategy: ‘This Gradual Escalation Reminds Me of the Vietnam Conflict’

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Onetime Vietnam War POW Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said President Obama’s “gradual escalation” of the war in Iraq reminds him of Vietnam.

“We need to have a strategy. There is not a strategy,” McCain told Fox this morning. “And frankly, this graduation escalation that we’re going through — remember, the president, for years, has said ‘tell everybody what we’re not going to do rather than what we’re going to do.’”

“And as this gradual escalation reminds me of the Vietnam conflict, we have to have a strategy. The Congress and American people need to know that,” he continued. “But it puts us in a difficult situation. Are we going to abandon this effort to defeat ISIS?”

McCain is poised to take the helm of the Senate Armed Services Committee in January as the new GOP majority moves in.

“We’re going to have hearings, and we’re going to have the secretary of Defense up and chairman of the Joint Chiefs and others explain to us what — how we’re going to achieve the president’s stated goal of degrading and ultimately defeating ISIS. Right now, they are not doing that,” he said.

The senator said Obama is leaning on “sort of incremental victories along the way.”

“We’re still fighting over Kobani, using the full weight of American air power,” he said. “Fact is we’re not using the full weight of American air power.”

“You can’t just defeat an enemy just by bombing them from the air. You have to have a ground component, but you also have to have forward air controllers who are identifying these targets, particularly when the combatants are in such close proximity to each other.”

McCain said he’d also add to the strategy weapons to the Kurds, a no-fly zone in Syria, and no separation of Syria and Iraq in planning. “They’re all ISIS,” he noted.

“Look, the reason why we’re separating Syria and Iraq is because of this incredibly misguided idea that if we get a nuclear agreement with Iran, which will be totally flawed, then therefore, the Iranians will cooperate with us,” he said. “So what’s happening is we’re bombing ISIS. Meanwhile, Bashar Assad is barrel-bombing the Free Syrian Army. That’s immoral.”

“We’ve got 3.5 million refugees and 200,000 dead, 150,000 in Bashar Assad’s prisons. I mean, this idea that somehow, the — having some kind of working relationship with Iran, who fund Hamas, who have brought Hezbollah into the fight, who have orchestrated terrorist attacks all over, including the latest destabilization of Yemen, is so delusional that it’s hard to imagine.”

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Jon Stewart Skewers Obama’s ‘No Boots On the Ground to Fight ISIS’ Promise

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Since President Obama promised that there would be “no boots on the ground” to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq, he has ordered two major increases in the number of boots on the ground in Iraq. American forces’ numbers jumped up to 3,000 so-called “advisers” shortly after the mid-term elections.

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart has noticed. In a monologue Monday night, he ripped Obama from the anti-war left and called the president’s promises “bullsh*t.”

In the segment, Stewart plays clips of Obama promising not to put “boots on the ground” to fight ISIS, and juxtaposes them with announcements that more troops are being sent into Iraq to serve as “advisers” to the Iraqi military. Stewart then skewers that.

“Oh, I’m sorry, that was my mistake,” Stewart mocked. “I’m sorry. So it’s not 3,000 troops, it’s 3,000 advisers. Okay. Well, you know, that’s a lot of advisers. (laughter) I feel like after the first 2,000 give their input, it’s mostly going to be like ‘I just want to reiterate what Tony said.’”

At one point, Stewart jokes that at the rate Obama keeps increasing the number of U.S. “advisers” in Iraq, “By 2016, everyone on earth will be in Iraq fighting ISIS!”

Stewart’s angry comedic riff helps explain why Obama delayed announcing the troop increase until after the elections. Had it come before the elections, the Democrats’ base would have been infuriated, and the nationwide bloodbath that saw Republicans re-capture the Senate may have been even worse for the Obama Democrats.

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Hizballah Claims that Israel Killed an Iranian Nuclear Scientist in Syria

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The Age reports that Hizballah has admitted that an ambush outside Damascus, Syria on Sunday has left five nuclear scientists dead. The five men were killed by machine gun fire while riding in a van on the outskirts of Damascus. The attack may have been carried out by Syrian rebels on Israel’s behalf.

One of the dead was reportedly Iranian. The nationalities of the other four have not been revealed.

In years past, Syrian is known to have accepted nuclear expertise from Iran and North Korea.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the deaths of the five scientists. That group is based in London but has operatives all over Syria, according to The Age.

The Syrian government has confirmed the deaths, and that one was Iranian.

Terrorist group Hizballah said that the “five scientific experts were martyred by terrorists as part of the ongoing plots of the Zionist entity,” Israel.

Israel launched a surprise raid on a previously unknown Syrian nuclear facility in 2007, and destroyed it.

The report of the killing of five nuclear scientists in Syria, and Hizballah’s public angry reaction to it, raises all kinds of questions about Syria’s ongoing nuclear ambitions and the terrorist group’s connections to that. Israel fears that should Iran develop a nuclear weapon, it could hand that off to the terrorist group for a devastating attack on Israel’s people.

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State Dept. Tells Israel to ‘De-escalate Tensions’ After Bloody Day of Terrorist Stabbings

Monday, November 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The State Department called upon Israel and the Palestinian Authority to “de-escalate tensions” after two Israelis were killed in separate stabbings by terrorists Monday.

Almog Shiloni, 20, served in the Israel Air Force and was attacked in the afternoon near the Haganah train station in south Tel Aviv. He died of his wounds at the hospital.

Nur a-Din Hashiya, from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus, was apprehended in the attack, Haaretz reported, adding he had entered the country illegally.

“It just can’t be like this,” the victim’s twin brother told media. “There are soldiers and people getting hurt, being stabbed in the streets. You can’t go out in this country alone, you can’t go out into this country quietly. This is our state, we fought for it, and my twin brother fought for his life.”

Hours after Shiloni was attacked, another knife-wielding terrorist struck again at a bus stop in the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut.

Dalia Lemkus, 26, was stabbed in the neck and killed. Two men, including one driving by who stopped to fight the terrorist, were injured. A security guard shot the attacker, Maher Hamdi al-Hashalmoun from Hebron, who survived. The Times of Israel reported that al-Hashalmoun, affiliated with Islamic Jihad, spent time in Israeli prison.

Lemkus had survived a stabbing eight years ago.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting of his security council after the attacks.

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki called the brutal stabbings “unfortunately a couple of events.”

“So let me just speak to all of them. We strongly condemn the stabbings – the stabbing today in the West Bank and we deeply regret the loss of life. Our condolences go out to the victim’s family. It is absolutely critical that parties take every possible measure to protect civilians and de-escalate tensions,” Psaki said.

“We are also seeking additional information surrounding the incident of the Israeli Arab who was shot with – who was shot as well with a live bullet. We’re looking for information surrounding this incident. We’re in touch – close touch with the Ministry of Justice. And of course, we urge all parties to exercise restraint. Obviously, these events happened over the course of the last 12 to 24 hours, so I don’t have more details than what’s been out there at this point.”

The shooting early Saturday came as Khayr al-Din al-Hamdan reportedly approached police wielding a knife. Netanyahu has stood by the officers even as some are disputing the officers’ account of firing a warning shot first.

Psaki said when she talks about “restraint,” she’s “talking about the Israelis, the Palestinians – any who are involved in these tension-raising, rhetoric-raising incidents.”

“If you’re standing at a bus stop or something and someone runs a car into you or comes up and stabs you, I don’t know how – I mean, those people aren’t – don’t need to exercise restraint, do they?” a reporter asked.

“I think I’m referring to the fact that we know that there have been – there’s been rising tensions in the region that has led to some of these incidents. I think we all are aware of that,” Psaki replied.

“…Obviously, there have been a range of issues and events that have led to the rising tensions in the region that both sides need to do more to fix.”

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Rand Paul Declares that Obama’s War Against ISIS is ‘Illegal’

Monday, November 10th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Writing in the Daily Beast, Sen. Rand Paul lands on a new position on the war against ISIS.

It’s the right war, but being done by Obama in the wrong way, rendering it illegal.

The Constitution, Paul correctly writes, puts the power to declare war not with presidents but with Congress.

Congress has not actually declared war on anyone since World War II. Since then US forces have been engaged in conflicts from Korea to Vietnam to the Middle East to Central America and Europe, but not once has it actually declared war. The closest that we have gotten to a full declaration of war is probably the Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Saddam Hussein.

Obama has engaged US forces in Libya and now Iraq without bothering to take it to Congress, before or after the limits imposed by the War Powers Act. That, plus Paul’s contention that the US is not under attack by ISIS, is where Paul says the problem is.

In a war with transnational terrorists on the other side, though, when are we under attack and when are we not? It’s not as cut and dried as a group of terrorists crossing the porous border and wreaking havoc. They’re not going to roll across the border in an armored column and they’re not going to launch sorties of bombers over our cities. That’s not how it works. ISIS has beheaded two Americans and has shown that it can recruit other Americans to its cause using social media. It is building a base from which it says it intends to strike us.

Paul writes:

If the Constitution were not enough, the War Powers Act reiterates the legislature’s prerogative. The War Powers Act does not allow for any military action to take place that is not authorized by Congress or to repel imminent attack. Period. The only exception is military action to repel an imminent attack. In that case, the president has 60 days to report to Congress. Obviously, it’s an exception that doesn’t apply to any of our current wars.

This administration has allowed, as Professor Michael J. Glennon writes, “nothing less than a collapse of the equilibrium of power, the balance expected to result from ambition set against ambition, the resistance to encroachment that was supposed to keep the three branches of the federal government in a state of equilibrium and to protect the people from the government.”

It’s time for conservatives to say enough is enough. Obama’s commandeering of Congress’s powers—from making war, to remaking our health-care system—has to stop. There needs to be an across-the-board, consistent defense of the constitutional separation of powers. Nothing less will win the day. That should include this current battle in the Middle East. Taking military action against ISIS is justified. The president acting without Congress is not.

On this question, Sen. Paul is probably right. He gets there in a strange way though, decrying the unlimited geographical scope and timeline of fighting terrorism.

That’s not the choice of any American leader. 9-11, London, Madrid, Fort Hood, Boston, beheading Americans in what used to be Syrian territory…how many times do terrorists have to attack us on our own soil and our allies’ soil and elsewhere before the likes of Rand Paul figure out that the enemy isn’t bound by any of our norms, notions or ideas about anything? We hold ourselves to the Geneva Conventions regarding how we treat terror masterminds while they kidnap schoolgirls, behead reporters and sell Christian women into sex slavery — and tweet images of themselves flying their flag right outside the White House.

It would be nice to put some geographical and time limits on this war. The enemy won’t abide by any limits, though.

This is Paul’s third or fourth position on what to do about ISIS. He mused that there may be no solution (May) has had mixed feelings while taking a dovish posture (August) and in September allowed that he was coming around to a more hawkish stance. At that time, he quoted Reagan and wrote that he would have acted “more decisively and strongly against ISIS” than Obama has.

Which wouldn’t be all that difficult. Obama has trickled troops in while signaling ISIS that while they have to duck US air power they will never have to face the true might of the American military on the ground. Obama isn’t even drawing fake red lines. The president is slow-rolling America into fighting ISIS in a way that is hauntingly similar to the way US forces were slow-rolled into the war in Vietnam.

Paul’s own stances don’t really bear out the claim that he would have been more decisive than Obama. He just probably would not have been any less decisive.

That’s not much to put on the resume for someone who wants to be commander-in-chief.

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Prager University: Raymond Ibrahim on Muslim Persecution of Christians

Monday, November 10th, 2014 - by Raymond Ibrahim

In the newest Prager University course, I discuss Muslim persecution of Christians. From the Prager University website: “The most persecuted and victimized people in the world today are Christians in the Middle East. The perpetrators of the widespread destruction of that region’s Christian community? Islamists. Middle East expert Raymond Ibrahim lays out the grim details.”

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Psaki Says Phantom Boko Haram Negotiations Might Continue After Latest School Massacre

Monday, November 10th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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State Department press secretary Jen Psaki today still raised the prospect of ceasefire talks with Boko Haram even as the terrorist group sent a suicide bomber into a school in Yobe state, Nigeria.

The attacker, dressed as a student, detonated his explosives as students gathered for the morning assembly at the Government Senior Science Secondary School, a boys’ boarding school in Potiskum, a city of more than 200,000.

Forty-seven people were killed and 79 injured, according to Nigeria’s Premium Times.

It came a day after the release of a new Boko Haram video showing the terrorists in an unidentified town under their control, doing donuts in a tank down a main street. Leader Abubakar Shekau preaches to the locals and notably lends his support to the Islamic State; Boko Haram declared the caliphate at the end of August in the ever-expanding territory it controls.

Shekau also, again, scoffed at Nigeria’s insistence over the past few weeks that it had either forged a truce with the terror group or was negotiating.

“There is no truce between me and Nigerian tyrants,” said Shekau, vowing to kill anyone posing as a Boko Haram negotiator.

Some reports have accused the president of Chad of leading Nigeria astray by claiming there was a ceasefire deal.

At today’s State Department briefing, Psaki was asked if there was any administration response on the Nigeria attack.

“You’re referring of course to the one on the students, I assume?” Psaki replied. “We condemn in the strongest terms the horrific attack on Nigerian students by a suicide bomber, which has reportedly killed dozens of students and wounded countless others at a school assembly in the Northeastern Nigerian town of Potiskum, as well as other attacks on defenseless civilians this past week in Nigeria. Our sympathies and thoughts are with the victims and their families of these latest egregious assault on innocent civilians by those bent on fomenting violent extremism and insecurity in Northeastern Nigeria and the region.”

“We urge the government of Nigeria to investigate these and other attacks to bring the perpetrators to justice,” she added.

When pressed about the phantom ceasefire that never was, Psaki insisted “there have been a range of reports over the course of time and certainly some ups and downs in these discussions.”

“As far as I heard earlier today, I think it’s fairly obvious where things stand at this point in time. It doesn’t mean that those negotiations and discussions won’t continue,” she added.

Pskai said she would check to see “if there’s more of an assessment about where things stand on that front.”

Boko Haram reportedly took another city today, Maiha in Adamawa State near the Cameroon border.

“A report from a Maiha resident alleged that militants attacked the area at 5:30pm local time, when security agents left for Belel district, about 48km away. The source also says that many soldiers and two civilians have died. Many are also reported to be badly wounded,” said Sahara Reporters. “Reports also suggest that many persons fleeing Maiha and nearby Belel are crossing the border to Cameroon.”

Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S. Ade Adefuye went off on Washington today, slamming the administration for letting the terror group grow.

“I am sad to inform you that the Nigerian leadership — military and political, and even the general populace — are not satisfied with the scope, nature and content of the United States’ support for us in our struggle against terrorists,” Adefuye told the Council on Foreign Relations.

“We find it difficult to understand how and why in spite of the U.S. presence in Nigeria with their sophisticated military technology, Boko Haram should be expanding and becoming more deadly.”

Adefuye said that the administration “has up till today refused to grant Nigeria’s request to purchase lethal equipment that would have brought down the terrorists within a short time on the basis of the allegations that Nigeria’s defence forces have been violating human rights of Boko Haram suspects when captured or arrested.”

The Obama administration has long criticized the Nigerian government forces in the same breath as the al-Qaeda-allied terrorists, including Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield telling a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee a year ago that the U.S. government is “concerned by reports that some Nigerian security forces have committed gross human rights violations in response to Boko Haram.” At the same hearing, Nigerian activists testified that Boko Haram is beheading Christians with chainsaws.

The ambassador said the reports of government abuses have been exaggerated, offering as example one claim that said the government destroyed 1,600 homes in a town with 600 houses.

“Nigeria has had reasons to complain about the style, nature and manner with which some United States’ policies are implemented with particular reference to terrorism in Nigeria,” Adefuye said.

Vanguard News in Nigeria reports that Boko Haram has already begun renaming cities in its part of the caliphate: Gwoza is now Darul Hikma, or House of Wisdom, and Mubi is now Madinatul Islam, or City of Islam.

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State Department Spokeswoman Picks Another Fight with Israel

Friday, November 7th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

According to Haaretz, Gen. Martin Dempsey, U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made some helpful and conciliatory comments toward Israel. The nation’s top military officer lauded Israel for going to “extraordinary lengths” to avoid civilian casualties during the latest round of fighting with the Palestinians.

Dempsey’s comments come after unknown figures within the Obama administration blasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “chickensh*t” and a coward. Relations between the U.S. and its ally, already shaky, were made shakier by those comments, and by the administration’s refusal to investigate who made the comments and reprimand them.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked to react to Dempsey’s diplomatic comments during today’s press conference, by the AP’s Matt Lee. Psaki had the choice of agreeing with Gen. Dempsey, refusing to offer an opinion, or disagreeing with him — the latter, carrying the possibility of opening up another argument with Israel.

Psaki chose the latter.

Lee asked Psaki to comment on whether the Obama administration believes that the Israelis lived up to their own “high standards” on civilian casualties.

Psaki undiplomatically replied, “It remains the broad view of this administration that they could’ve done more. And they shouldv’e taken feasible precautions to prevent more civilian casualties.”

Such as?

Psaki’s comment here sets the United States up for criticism on the question of civilian casualties should we get more deeply involved on the ground fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. She has also singled out Israel for criticism that is ultimately unfair and impossible to satisfy. One can always “do more” to avoid civilian casualties, but the Israelis are fighting Hamas, which goes out of its way to increase civilian casualties and use them for propaganda.

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Are We About to Increase Troops in Iraq to Fight ISIS? (Update: Yes, Double)

Friday, November 7th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Yahoo News/Reuters is running this cryptic little number on the Friday after pivotal mid-term elections.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military has drawn up plans to significantly increase the number of American forces in Iraq, which now total around 1,400, as Washington seeks to bolster Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State, U.S. officials told Reuters on Friday.

It’s an anonymously sourced report, making it tough to evaluate. Did it come from the Joint Chiefs of Staff or a lower-level planner, SecDef Hagel or someone else? The source matters quite a bit.

It’s also missing an awful lot of detail, such as, how many troops are we talking about — a few hundred, tens of thousands, what? Did Obama order this plan, or is it an ordinary contingency plan of the type that the Pentagon draws up for every possibility, or is this more of an action plan that is in some stage of deployment? The story just doesn’t go into any of that.

Its timing raises the possibility that the Obama administration did not want to go public with any possibility of escalating the war against ISIS until after the election, lest he further alienate the hard left Democrat base.

Update: NBC gets some more detail. Post-election, the Obama administration is looking to double the number of American troops in Iraq, but not in actual ground combat roles. They will be “advisers” to the Iraqis and the Kurds.

We’ve seen this war before. It’s not the last couple of Iraq wars, in which the U.S. went in big to win quickly, and succeeded.

It’s the slippery slope war that we lost in Southeast Asia.

Update: The cryptic story has turned into an authorization to double forces in Iraq, and a request for $5.6 billion more to fund the operation. That’s less than Obama requested to fight Ebola. It’s quite fascinating that this news is hitting on the Friday following the election. It has clearly been in the works for a while.

On Fox a few minutes ago, Chris Wallace said that this slow-drip approach has “the scent of Vietnam.” That seems to be the prevailing reaction today.

My opinion on all this is that fighting ISIS on the ground is inevitable. They are recruiting about 1,000 new fighters a month, and despite the airstrikes they are still hauling in buckets of money every day. Some of our allies on the ground in Syria have already switched sides to join ISIS. The Kurds continue to fight with amazing capability and bravery, but they are not enough to defeat ISIS. At this point, they are holding ISIS in place, which is good, but they’re not rolling ISIS back. Likewise, the less capable Iraqi security forces.

We can choose to fight ISIS hard now, and win, or we can continue with the current approach, which allows ISIS to strengthen to the point that they actually become entrenched and we may not be in a position to take them on (not with Russia menacing Europe, which may require our attentions through NATO). Obama continues to pursue the latter approach, which he admits will not defeat ISIS. That’s what he is saying when he holds up Yemen and Somalia as successful counter-terrorism.

 

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