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‘Are You Afraid of Turkey?’: Harf Gets Owned on Armenian Genocide Questions

Friday, April 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Reporters tried to get the G-word out of the administration today on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, but both the White House and State Department went through every verbal dance possible to not anger Turkey.

President Obama edited the word Ankara hates out of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, issuing a lengthy statement marking “Armenian Remembrance Day.” He promised as a presidential candidate in 2008 to recognize the Armenian Genocide once in the Oval Office, but has never done so.

“This centennial is a solemn moment. It calls on us to reflect on the importance of historical remembrance, and the difficult but necessary work of reckoning with the past. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests,” Obama said.

“Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past. We welcome the expression of views by Pope Francis, Turkish and Armenian historians, and the many others who have sought to shed light on this dark chapter of history.”

Asked today what is preventing Obama from keeping his promise, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president “has spoken very clearly and directly in the context of this specific statement so I’d refer you to those comments.”

“I’d also point out that United States Treasury Secretary Jack Lew led a U.S. delegation to the Armenian remembrance services and activities in Armenia,” Earnest said. “And again, I think that’s an indication of the president’s commitment to ensuring that we not allow even these very tragic incidents from going unnoticed. And that acknowledging what had happened in history is important.”

At the State Department today, Marie Harf got exasperated with questions about the Armenian Genocide.

“You’ve asked the same question everyday this week, and I gave the same answer,” she snapped at Matt Lee of the Associated Press.

“The president put out a very powerful statement speaking to the historical events that happened. It was a very lengthy statement. I know you’ve all read it,” Harf told reporters. “We understand that some people want to hear different language used. We believe this is the right course. But all you have to do is read the president’s statement to see how seriously he feels about these historical issues.”

She told Lee that he’s “certainly happy to have your own opinion about whether you like my answer or not.”

“Compared to what he usually does — it’s five paragraphs. Most presidential statements are not this long, OK? Speaking very forcefully to this issue and how he sees these historical events,” Harf said.

“Are you afraid of Turkey?” Lee asked.

“I’m not even sure how to answer that question,” Harf replied.

“What can Turkey do to a country as big and powerful as the United States?” he continued.

“As I said, we believe this is the right course to take, and I’m not going to have much more for you on this issue than that,” she answered.

Harf was presented with Obama’s statement that “amid horrific violence that so suffering on all sides, 1.5 million Armenians perished,” and asked if the administration would speak of “suffering on all sides” on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“We’re just not going to compare any two historical events,” she said.

“Do you understand why people are making — why people are asking these questions?” Lee asked.

“We understand that some people would like to hear different language,” Harf replied.

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Earn College Credit for Bashing Jews!

Friday, April 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Shalom Life reports:

Outraged students and pro-Israel groups are up in arms over a new course being taught at the University of California Riverside. The class, called “Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid,” labels Jewish citizens of Israel as “occupiers,” and tries to discredit their claims to their homeland.

The class is being taught by Tina Matar, an undergrad student at the school. Matar is also part of the university’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter, and has (along with other members of the SJP) voiced her support of Hamas and other terrorist groups committing genocide against the Jewish peoples. Matar, along with the SJP, have also tried to get the school to boycott Israel, and partake in the BDS movement at campuses around the globe.

The campus is an active participant in the BDS movement. Matar, still a student herself, is being sponsored by a pro-BDS professor, David Lloyd. And here’s the real kicker: Janet Napolitano is a university administrator.

In his letter protesting the one-credit class, Christians United for Israel head David Brog commented, “I’m not sure what’s worse, having a college course taught by an undergraduate student or having a course syllabus that reads like the Facebook page of a skinhead teenager.”

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Obama Literally Edits Out the Genocide, Marks ‘Armenian Remembrance Day’

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House moments ago issued President Obama’s annual statement to mark Friday’s Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, and as promised there is no genocide to be found.

In fact, the White House press release just called it “Armenian Remembrance Day.”

“This year we mark the centennial of the Meds Yeghern, the first mass atrocity of the 20th Century.  Beginning in 1915, the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths.  Their culture and heritage in their ancient homeland were erased. Amid horrific violence that saw suffering on all sides, one and a half million Armenians perished,” Obama said.

Sounds genocidal.

“As the horrors of 1915 unfolded, U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. sounded the alarm inside the U.S. government and confronted Ottoman leaders.  Because of efforts like his, the truth of the Meds Yeghern emerged and came to influence the later work of human rights champions like Raphael Lemkin, who helped bring about the first United Nations human rights treaty,” he continued.

Armenian activists argue that the truth has not emerged from Obama’s lips: He promised on the campaign trail in 2008 that, as president, he would recognize the Armenian Genocide.

“Against this backdrop of terrible carnage, the American and Armenian peoples came together in a bond of common humanity,” Obama’s statement continues. “Ordinary American citizens raised millions of dollars to support suffering Armenian children, and the U.S. Congress chartered the Near East Relief organization, a pioneer in the field of international humanitarian relief. Thousands of Armenian refugees began new lives in the United States, where they formed a strong and vibrant community and became pillars of American society. Rising to great distinction as businesspeople, doctors, scholars, artists, and athletes, they made immeasurable contributions to their new home.”

“This centennial is a solemn moment. It calls on us to reflect on the importance of historical remembrance, and the difficult but necessary work of reckoning with the past. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests. Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past. We welcome the expression of views by Pope Francis, Turkish and Armenian historians, and the many others who have sought to shed light on this dark chapter of history.”

The pope’s condemnation of the genocide — using the word — led an angry Turkey to pull its ambassador from Vatican City.

“On this solemn centennial, we stand with the Armenian people in remembering that which was lost. We pledge that those who suffered will not be forgotten,” Obama said. “And we commit ourselves to learn from this painful legacy, so that future generations may not repeat it.”

Earlier this week, White House officials told Armenian leaders that Obama would, again, not be recognizing the genocide as genocide.

Turkey has paid D.C. lobbyists handsomely over the years to work against the Armenian Genocide resolutions that surface each Congress. Turkey has recalled its ambassador in a huff whenever the bill has made it out of committee. A large Turkey caucus in Congress — the Caucus on U.S.-Turkey Relations & Turkish Americans — also helps derail genocide legislation.

Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Chairman Ken Hachikian argued in testimony to the Helsinki Commission this week that “we must elevate America’s and all the world’s response to genocide from a political calculation to a moral imperative.”

“Very simply, Armenia cannot be safe as long as it is bordered by an over-armed and unrepentant perpetrator of genocide,” Hachikian said.

He noted that Ottoman Turkey’s “campaign of genocide against its Armenian and other Christian subjects, in addition to murdering over 2,000,000 Christians and exiling of hundreds of thousands of others from their homelands of thousands of years, also involved the systematic destruction of churches and religious sites, illegal expropriation of properties, discriminatory policies, restrictions on worship, and other efforts to suppress and ultimately erase the Christian heritage of these lands.”

“As a result of these crimes – and Ankara’s continued obstruction of justice – only a small fraction of the historic Christian presence in Anatolia remains today in modern Turkey,” Hachikian said. “Estimates are that of the well over 2,000 Armenian churches, which existed in the early 1900s, far fewer than 50 are functioning today. Perhaps as few as 200 even remain standing today. The rest have been ground into dust with the properties illegally confiscated by the government. And, only a small fraction of the historic Christian population that once populated Anatolia remains today in modern Turkey to care for their cultural heritage.”

“…Ending Turkey’s denials can contribute to the reversal of this destruction, the return of churches, the restoration of Christian heritage, and the re-emergence of the Christian faithful upon these sacred lands. It is time for the United States and the rest of the world to stand up to Turkey’s shameless blackmail and demand justice not just for the Armenians, but for all of civilized mankind.”

Many lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, gathered last night on Capitol Hill to mark the Armenian Genocide Centennial.

“As the world’s greatest advocate for freedom, the United States has an obligation to fully acknowledge one of humanity’s most horrific crimes,” Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) said.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who represents a district with a large Armenian constituency, spent an hour on the House floor Wednesday reading 1,000 names of Armenian Genocide victims.

“To read all of the names of the more than 1.5 million people murdered at the time, would take many weeks, and I hope that the recitation of the victims will help call attention to the magnitude of the crime,” Schiff said. “A name, unlike a number, is no abstraction – each was a son or daughter, a mother or father, a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle; each was a precious life.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said he’s “disappointed” that Obama “will not give the Armenian Genocide appropriate recognition as a sitting president, as he did while serving in the Senate.”

“Genocide denial is the last act of a genocide and the first step in the next genocide – just as the Armenian Genocide, in part, prepared the world for the Holocaust,” Sherman said. “When Adolf Hitler sought the destruction of the Jewish people, those around him wondered how he could get away with it. Hitler pointed out that the Ottoman Empire had gotten away with it because no one remembered the genocide of the Armenians. That is why I have repeatedly asked my colleagues in the House and Senate to formally recognize the genocide – we cannot afford to wait another century.”

Turkey lashed out at Austria on Wednesday after the country’s parliament recognized the Armenian Genocide, calling the measure a “massacre of law.”

“It seems that Austria, with whom we fought on the same side during World War I, and which should be in the best position to recognize that this great tragedy cannot be defined as ‘genocide’, has also fallen prey to the efforts of some circles bent on manipulating perceptions, in complete insistence in ignoring the humanitarian and concrete initiatives of Turkey,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The fact that the joint declaration does not even care to mention the Muslims who lost their lives during that same period all the while sharing the suffering of all Christian groups, is a sad and clear indication of discrimination on religious grounds by the very persons who claim to base their actions on humanitarian foundations.”

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Rand Paul: I’m the One Who’s Standing Up to Obama on Foreign Policy — Not His ‘Lapdogs’ McCain and Graham (Video)

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 - by Debra Heine

Oh suh-nap! Senator Rand Paul hit back hard at Senators McCain and Graham Monday after they criticized his foreign policy chops, calling them “lapdogs” for the president’s foreign policy agenda.

In an interview on Fox News, Bill Hemmer quoted the two highly critical comments made by the Republican senators, asking the Kentucky senator for his response.

Graham had said that, “generally speaking,” Paul has done “more wrong than right,” and McCain had said that he “does not understand” and has “displayed his naivete since he came to the Senate.”

Senator Paul replied, “This comes from a group of people who have been wrong about every foreign policy issue over the last two decades.”

“If there’s anyone who is the most opposed to President Obama’s foreign policy, it’s me,” Rand continued. “And these people who call loudest to criticize me are great proponents of President Obama’s foreign policy. They just want to do it 10 times over. But I’m the only one actually standing up and saying, ‘The war in Libya was a mistake. The bombing of Assad would make ISIS stronger. The arms to the Islamic rebels would make ISIS stronger.’”

“I’m really the one standing up to President Obama. And these people are essentially the lapdogs for President Obama and I think they’re sensitive about that,” Paul said.

Hemmer asked Paul if he considers himself to be an interventionist or an isolationist — a question, he noted, the Kentucky senator should expect to get repeatedly throughout the campaign. Paul answered that he considered himself to be a “Reagan Republican.”

“I believe in a strong national defense and I believe in peace through strength,” Paul stated. But he added that “intervention is not always the answer,” citing the example of “Hillary’s war in Libya,” which he rightly noted has made Libya less stable, more chaotic, and has allowed the rise of radical Islam. He argued that “we are less safe as a result of that war. It was a mistake for it to occur.”

“Realize that these people who criticize me were for giving arms to [Mommar] Gadhafi last year or the year before, they were for toppling Gadhafi. So they’re on both sides of so many wars. Some of these critics are for bombing both sides of the Syrian war. Their foreign policy is so disjointed, confusing and chaotic that really people need to re-examine those who want to be involved in every war,” Paul said.

“I say we get involved when there’s American interest. I think we do have to militarily stop ISIS,” he added. “But I am sad that ISIS got a lot of the weapons from interventionists in my party and the president who gave them the weapons indirectly.”

Rand concluded that he was willing to play nice if his Republican critics play nice, “but if they’re going to trot around the country criticizing me, I’m going to make sure the American public knows that they are precisely the people who support the president’s foreign aid, Libyan war, and the Syrian war — and they need to explain themselves.”

The pertinent portion of the clip begins at 3:42 minutes in. In the first few minutes, Rand was asked to respond to the latest revelations about the Clinton Foundation — which he found to be “alarming.”

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U.S. Analyst Admits: ‘Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Have Been Working With Al-Qaeda All Along

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

One of the most closely guarded secrets in Washington, D.C. about U.S. involvement in the Syrian war is that the “moderate” rebels whom the Obama administration (and many Republicans) backed were closely aligned with al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra. They were also, at times, aligned with the Islamic State.

For regular PJ Media readers, this will come as no surprise. I’ve repeatedly documented the ties between the State Department’s “vetted moderate” rebel groups and designated terrorist groups based on snippets of reporting that challenged the administration’s official narrative.

But now the “moderate” rebels are on their heels and in retreat from internecine pressure from Jabhat al-Nusra. Brookings Institute-Doha Syria analyst Charles Lister — who has probably had as much direct contact with “rebel” leaders as any other U.S. analyst — has finally admitted to the long-time cooperation between “moderates” and “extremists.”

In an article published last month on the Brookings website, Lister states:

This latter alliance with Jabhat al-Nusra has been a consistent facet of insurgent dynamics in Syria, but not only in terms of conservative Salafist groups like Ahrar al-Sham. In fact, while rarely acknowledged explicitly in public, the vast majority of the Syrian insurgency has coordinated closely with Al-Qaeda since mid-2012 – and to great effect on the battlefield. But while this pragmatic management of relationships may have secured opposition military victories against the regime, it has also come at an extraordinary cost. The assimilation of Al-Qaeda into the broader insurgency has discouraged the U.S. and its European allies from more definitively backing the ‘moderate’ opposition. That, by extension, has encouraged the intractability of the conflict we see today and the rise of jihadist factions like Jabhat al-Nusra, IS, and many others.

A year-and-a-half ago, uttering this outside of the polite company of the D.C. foreign policy “smart set” would have gotten you branded a heretic.

The official narrative of the administration and the McCain/Graham “war at any cost” wing of the GOP was that the vast majority of rebels were moderate, as expressed in John Kerry’s testimony before McCain’s committee in September 2013. Such deep and complex truths were unworthy of the unwashed American masses at a time when many in D.C. were openly calling for more heavy weapons to be sent to the “vetted moderate” rebels.

But with the sudden surge of ISIS last June and the announcement of the re-establishment of the Islamic State, the narrative was getting harder to publicly maintain — even as the Obama administration did in fact begin sending heavy weaponry to the “vetted moderate” rebels.

The “smart set” then began to drop hints that the “vetted moderate” rebels were not so moderate after all, but certainly nothing so candid to give the whole game away. Lister notes that the rebel cooperation with Jabhat al-Nusra going back to mid-2012 (Nusra announced its formation in January 2012) was “rarely acknowledged explicitly in public.”

Now with things going very badly in Syria and Iraq, the “smart set” is divided between walking back their support for the rebels, or doubling-down on their support by saying the U.S. needs to begin backing “moderate al-Qaeda”.

The media has been more forthcoming about our “vetted moderate” allies since American reporters began losing their heads under Islamic State knives.

In late October, American journalist Theo Padnos — who was captured by the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and then given over to Jabhat al-Nusra — told the story of his two-year captivity in the New York Times Magazine. At one point, Padnos says he escaped from his Al-Qaeda captors and found himself back in the hands of the FSA, who then, again, promptly turned him back over to the terror group.

Padnos also relates this exchange with some U.S.-trained FSA fighters that exposes the glaring weaknesses of the CIA’s vetting system:

I returned to the FSA troops. One told me that his unit had recently traveled to Jordan to receive training from American forces in fighting groups like the Nusra Front.

“Really?” I said. “The Americans? I hope it was good training.”

“Certainly, very,” he replied.

The fighters stared at me. I stared at them.

After a few moments, I asked, “About this business of fighting Jebhat al Nusra?”

“Oh, that,” one said. “We lied to the Americans about that.”

The treatment of Padnos by the FSA is important to recall in light of the revelations yesterday and today that that an NBC News crew taken captive in Syria in December 2012, and who later repeatedly claimed they had been held by an Assad regime militia, now admit – following a New York Times investigation – that they were in fact held by an FSA criminal network.

Also, there is evidence that NBC News executives knew from the time of the crew’s capture that they were held by U.S. allies, but allowed the blame to fall on Assad since that didn’t conflict with the Obama administration’s position at the time.

An example of this newfound openness on the part of the establishment media was an Associated Press report in late November that noted the close cooperation of U.S.-backed rebels with al-Qaeda in southern Syria:

The gains are a contrast to northern Syria, where U.S.-backed rebels are collapsing in the face of an assault by Islamic militants. Notably, in the south, the rebels are working together with fighters from al-Qaeda’s Syria branch, whose battle-hardened militants have helped them gain the momentum against government forces. The cooperation points to the difficulty in American efforts to build up “moderate” factions while isolating extremists.

Over the past year I’ve reported at PJ Media on the slow cracks emerging in the official “vetted moderate rebel” narrative:

July 7: US ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Brigades Surrender Weapons, Pledge Allegiance to Islamic State

Sept 3: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Operating Openly with ISIS, Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra

Sept 9: Fighter With ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Tells L.A. Times They Fight Alongside Al-Qaeda

Sept 10: ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Commander Admits Alliance with ISIS, Confirms PJ Media Reporting

Sept 24: U.S.-Backed Syrian Group Harakat al-Hazm Condemns U.S. Strikes on ISIS as ‘Attack on the Revolution’

Nov 2: U.S.-Armed ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Groups Surrender, Defect to Al-Qaeda

Nov 3:  How Obama Walked Boehner and GOP Leadership Off the Syrian Rebel Cliff

Nov 24: More Defections of ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Rebels to ISIS

Dec 2: US-Backed Syrian Rebels Ally with Al-Qaeda in South, Surrender CIA-Supplied Weapons in the North

Dec 14: Report: Al-Qaeda Using CIA-Supplied TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Northern Syria

Dec 28: NY Times Admits: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Under Effective Al-Qaeda Control

March 3: U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Collapses, U.S.-Supplied Weapons End Up in Al-Qaeda Hands

March 24: Video Shows Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra Using U.S.-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Syria

It’s refreshing to see the D.C. “smart set” and the establishment media finally ‘fessing up to what has been going on in Syria, “rarely acknowledged explicitly in public.” But the damage done by the Obama administration’s policy, (backed up by the McCain/Graham GOP chorus), such as the hundreds of thousands dead, is irreversible.

Who in D.C. or the media will be held to account for this failure?

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BOMBSHELL: Afghan Colonel Was Paid $250,000 to Kill U.S. Air Force Personnel, Pentagon Cover-Up Ensued

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

A bombshell revelation has emerged about the incident responsible for the greatest U.S. Air Force loss of life during the War on Terror, the deadliest “green-on-blue” attack during U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

On April 27, 2011, Afghan Air Force Colonel Ahmad Gul gunned down eight U.S. Air Force personnel and a civilian contractor inside the Afghan Air Force headquarters, including investigators who had just arrived in the country to examine rampant corruption in the Afghan military.

Multiple Air Force and CENTCOM investigations claimed to find no motive for the attack, leaving the families of those killed with no answers.

Now, a senior U.S. official has gone on the record claiming that a United Nations team tracked substantial payments to the killer and his family made days just prior to the incident.

These revelations appear in the season finale of For The Record, which airs tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET on The Blaze TV.

For the past year, I have worked as a consultant with the For The Record documentary investigative team looking into the Kabul airport massacre and the Pentagon’s handling of the matter. Last November, I appeared on an episode of the program noting that the Pentagon’s multiple explanations for the attack didn’t match their own forensics. Here’s a trailer for that For The Record episode, “Insider Attack”:

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A follow-up report on the Pentagon’s handling of the spike in “green-on-blue” incidents appeared in January, after the killing of U.S. Army Major General Harold Greene in August last year. He is the highest-ranking U.S. official killed during the War on Terror. The report noted that U.S. personnel who warned of a potential escalation of insider attacks were punished by their superiors:

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Tonight’s For The Record episode includes an interview with one of the top U.S. officials charged with combating illicit financing in Afghanistan. He reveals the payoffs made to Col. Ahmad Gul:

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Sara Carter, senior investigative reporter for The Blaze, reported today on the stunning revelation that this official’s team tracked $250,000 in payments to the killer:

A final investigation by U.S. Central Command did find circumstantial evidence that Gul may have been involved in a criminal network, but that evidence was not pursued and a large portion of the investigation still remains classified, according to CENTCOM.

But a six-month investigation by For the Record suggests that Gul murdered the airmen at the behest of someone or a criminal network, according to numerous sources and military documents.

For the Record learned that a joint investigation conducted by then-U.S. Task Force 2010, charged at the time with tracing terror financing in Afghanistan and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, found that Gul had received a large deposit in a family bank account and that all of his debts were wiped clean just one week before the killings.

Thomas Creal, who served as the lead expert for Task Force 2010, investigated the killer’s finances and found evidence he says overwhelmingly points to Gul’s connection to criminal networks.

This report has never been made public.

“There was extensive corruption inside the Afghan military and investigations were cut short, hampered by ranking personnel at the State Department and military,” Creal said. “The insider killings don’t need to continue. We can take steps to mitigate these suicidal hits but we can’t do it if evidence is ignored.”

The Pentagon cover-up began almost immediately after the massacre, most likely to avoid embarrassing revelations of rampant corruption by our Afghan “allies.” The initial report had to be followed up by a second and third report after the lies in the first began to be challenged — including the first report’s claim that Gul had committed suicide after the attack, but was later found to have died from gunshot wounds to the chest from two different weapons.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the effect found in their own reports, the Pentagon claimed to find no conclusive evidence of Taliban involvement — even though the terror group immediately claimed credit for the attack.

This resulted in bizarre reporting on the Pentagon’s findings, such as an Air Force Times article entitled “Motive in Kabul shooting deaths remains elusive” that reported:

Witnesses told investigators that Gul became increasingly radical in his religious views in the years leading up to the shooting and was deeply angry at the U.S. invasion of his home country — even saying on more than one occasion that he “wanted to kill Americans”

The Afghan shooter who smeared “God is one” in blood on the walls of the Afghan Air Force headquarters during the rampage a was a distinctly different man from several decades earlier.

According to testimony from those who knew Gul, in the late ‘80s, the Afghan native drank, liked to party and wasn’t terribly religious. But just a few years later, in about 1995, that changed when Gul started to follow the teachings of the Taliban.

He attended mosque for every prayer time and grew a beard. He also “developed an authoritarian approach when seeing other individuals that did not practice Islam to his liking,” according to one person who knew Gul at the time…

In 2006, Gul decided to move to Pakistan and started attending a local mosque, where he met an “unknown prominent figure” who is believed to have radicalized him. There were also rumors that Gul wanted to be a suicide bomber.

When Gul decided to move back to Afghanistan in 2008, people asked him why he would go back.

“[Gul] responded he ‘wanted to kill Americans,’” investigators said.

But the Pentagon concluded that his possible motive remained elusive.

More explosive details from this investigation will be revealed during tonight’s For The Record’s season finale episode, “Insider Attack: The Kabul Massacre,” at 8 p.m. ET on TheBlaze TV.

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Daniel Pipes Explains the ‘Obama Doctrine’ in One Sentence

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

obama-cell-phone-facebook

Actually, this interview is more than 18 minutes long, but that once sentence is easy to remember:

“Snarl at your friends, smile at your enemies.”

Dr. Pipes tells TheRebel.media’s Ezra Levant (who he was pretty impressed with…) that “doctrine” is a slight exaggeration since much of what’s been happening around the world can be explained by sheer incompetence on the president’s part.

He adds, however, that a lot of these foreign policy “blunders” are intentional.

They’re the direct result of Obama’s anti-American ideology — and even his personal psychology.

This thought-provoking, in-depth interview covers a lot of ground: the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and much more.

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Egyptian TV Host Begs Netanyahu to Bomb Iran

Monday, April 13th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Via IMRA:

“Our dear friend Netanyahu. Please – Iran faces you and the Bushehr reactor faces you. Put your trust in God and bomb it. We are with you. And if you need fuel for the jets we will give it to you.”

Those were the words of Egyptian television presenter Tawfik Okasha, owner of the private television station Al-Faraeen. Okasha notedly despises both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. He openly advocates Arab tourism to Israel on his television station. Okasha is not the only Egyptian television host to speak out in support of Netanyahu.

Yet, Okasha’s support for Israel may be convoluted at best. A “staunch supporter” of Egypt’s ruling military council, Okasha has also accused the Obama administration of rigging previous Egyptian elections in favor of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi, “as part of a plot to seize Egyptian oil fields and turn them over to Israel.” His conspiracy theory-esque logic has earned him the dubious title of Egypt’s “Glenn Beck.”

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Putin Delivers Missile Air Defense Systems to Iran Days After ‘Historic’ Negotiations

Monday, April 13th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Days after the infamous nuclear agreement with Iran, Vladimir Putin has elected to lift the ban on delivering S-300 missile air defense systems to Iran:

The Russian president has repealed the ban prohibiting the delivery of S-300 missile air defense systems to Iran, according to the Kremlin’s press service. The ban was introduced by former President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010.

“[The presidential] decree lifts the ban on transit through Russian territory, including airlift, and the export from the Russian Federation to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also the transfer to the Islamic Republic of Iran outside the territory of the Russian Federation, both by sea and by air, of air defense missile systems S-300,” says the information note accompanying the document, RIA Novosti reported.

The decree enters into force upon the president’s signature.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

Israel has monitored this transaction for years with Netanyahu coming out strongly against Putin’s rumored sale of the S-300 systems to Syria nearly two years ago. Russia has been seen as Tehran’s strongest ally throughout the recent negotiations, prompting one analyst to warn:

Russia’s warming relationship with Iran and its wider policies toward the Middle East pose significant challenges to U.S. security interests, and Washington should tailor its approach to dealmaking and Russia diplomacy accordingly.

…Both countries also oppose any attempts to support democratic movements in the Middle East. Most notably, they continue to back the Assad regime in Syria and hold similar views on the Taliban in Afghanistan.

 

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Rand Paul for Prez Ad Conveniently Leaves Out Important Anti-Israel Fact

Monday, April 13th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

A little reminder for those still intent on believing Rand is nothing like his anti-Semitic daddy:

Back in 2011, when Paul was just settling into the Senate, he proposed a budget that was more fiscally conservative than the proposals offered by his Republican contemporaries. In a bid to cut $500 billion from the federal budget, Paul proposed a spending outline that would have eliminated foreign aid entirely.

Paul’s cuts weren’t targeted at Israel specifically, which gets about $3 billion a year from the United States, mostly in military assistance. But by cutting all aid to foreign countries, Paul’s proposal would have zeroed out Israel’s aid.

The younger Paul echoed his 2011 statements on his 2013 visit to Israel, a trip viewed as his attempt to distance himself from his father’s anti-Semitic character ahead of an anticipated 2016 presidential bid:

He said the U.S. should first target unfriendly countries for cuts, and only after that should Israel be subject to cuts. And he pointed out that Mr. Netanyahu told Congress in 1996 that “ultimately he would like to see Israel independent of foreign aid as well.”

Despite his support for the Iron Dome and presentation of an act that would end funding to the Palestinian Authority, Paul remains an isolationist. His views are reminiscent of the populists who ran amok in the decade before World War 2. One is left wondering if Paul’s hands-off approach to foreign intervention, financially or otherwise, wouldn’t just wind up being the Republican version of Obama’s head-in-the-sands of the golf course mentality.

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New Islamic State Video Calls for Attacks on the American Homeland, Promises Another 9/11

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

The Islamic State has released a new 11-minute video called “We Will Burn America” that calls for supporters to attack the American homeland and promises another 9/11.

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Here’s the full video — WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT:

At this juncture I would note the New York Times’ front page article on December 29 that described how America’s top war fighters, namely Special Operations Command, freely admit that they don’t understand the ideology driving ISIS and other Islamic terror groups:

WASHINGTON — Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of American Special Operations forces in the Middle East, sought help this summer in solving an urgent problem for the American military: What makes the Islamic State so dangerous?

Trying to decipher this complex enemy — a hybrid terrorist organization and a conventional army — is such a conundrum that General Nagata assembled an unofficial brain trust outside the traditional realms of expertise within the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies, in search of fresh ideas and inspiration. Business professors, for example, are examining the Islamic State’s marketing and branding strategies.

“We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it,” he said, according to the confidential minutes of a conference call he held with the experts. “We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.”

General Nagata’s frustration is shared by other American officials. Even as President Obama and his top civilian and military aides express growing confidence that Iraqi troops backed by allied airstrikes have blunted the Islamic State’s momentum on the ground in Iraq and undermined its base of support in Syria, other officials acknowledge they have barely made a dent in the larger, longer-term campaign to kill the ideology that animates the terrorist movement.

You can call in all the marketing executives and Harvard academics all you like, but when the Obama administration — meaning the entire U.S. government – as a matter of established policy refuses to acknowledge the ideology and intentions that our enemy publishes IN ENGLISH in the form of videos, audio recordings and magazines, and actively prohibits anyone in a government department or agency from discussing or speaking about said ideology, you really are beyond hope. And so is America.

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India Saves 1,000 Non-Indians from 41 Countries in Yemen Evacuations

Friday, April 10th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

India is winding down its evacuations from war-torn Yemen, and the numbers are impressive.

After the airports closed and many foreigners, including Americans, were left stranded with no way to leave the country, the Indian government began using military transport and special Air India flights to evacuate people from Sana’a to Djibouti. The State Department advised Americans there to contact Indian diplomats for exit out of the country.

About 4,600 Indian citizens were rescued. And nearly 1,000 people from 41 other countries were saved, as well, including three Pakistanis. Pakistan also rescued 11 Indians, according to The Times of India.

India’s minister of external affairs, retired Gen. Vijay Kumar Singh, led the charge, accompanying many of the flights personally and tweeting about the operations. Singh used to be chief of staff for the Indian Army.

Upon arriving in Delhi today, Singh told reporters “there was trouble in evacuating them, yet we did our task.”

India now plans to close its embassy in Sana’a. The U.S. closed its embassy in early February, and weeks later citizens were told to evacuate yet airports were closed and a suggested evacuation ship couldn’t dock.

Jamal al-Labani of Hayward, Calif., was killed last week by shrapnel from a mortar round in Aden. His family told CNN that he was trying to get out of the country, as directed by the State Department, but didn’t know how. He’d talked about crossing the border by land into Oman and then flying to Egypt, but was killed before he could put that plan into action.

The Obama administration maintains that, despite the fall of the country and stranded Americans, its Yemen policy remains successful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Defense Secretary: Asia Rebalance Means Best Military Equipment Goes There

Friday, April 10th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told U.S. troops in South Korea that President Obama’s Asia rebalance will mean the newest, best equipment will go to the region.

Carter said at the Osan Air Base event that the rebalance “means is that a lot of our newer capabilities, the ones that we’re making investments in, are going to be flowing into this theater because of the importance we attach to it.”

“So you probably know we’re building new stealth fighters, a new stealth bomber, several new ship classes, a number of new Army equipment sets of all kinds, ranging from vehicles to command and control and so forth,” he said.

“And because this is a very demanding theater, and because, as I said, half of the world’s population and half of the world’s wealth resides in this theater, it makes sense that we have — and some of the most demanding kinds of situations, potential military situation, also are out here, we need to do that.”

The Defense secretary stressed “that’s what the whole rebalance is about.”

“Let’s focus our newer capabilities out here. So you’ll see a lot of the new stuff showing up here first. And that’s deliberate and that’s appropriate because this is a demanding theater and that’s what rebalance is all about,” Carter said.

“God forbid anything happens out here, it’s big trouble and it hasn’t happened because you’re ready, as we say, to fight tonight. We don’t take that for granted. And the other thing I don’t take for granted is that you have families. You have futures that you want to make sure are secure. And that — and we need people who are as talented and dedicated as you are. We’re incredibly lucky as a military to have people like you.”

The Pentagon needs “to work at attracting and retaining good people,” he admitted.

“It’s not automatic and I’m really committed to doing that. I know that you do what you do because you love the country and you love the mission. And that’s great. But, you know, you also have to take care of your families. You have to take care of your future and so forth, so you have other concerns,” Carter said. “And we can’t ask you to do what you do just without paying adequate attention to your situation as human beings, as well as your situation as soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. So I try to keep that in mind.”

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Administration Will Not Say It Got Yemen Wrong

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who used to be President Obama’s deputy national security advisor, said the administration will not concede it got Yemen wrong.

“No. In fact, for a number of years Yemen was moving forward,” Blinken told CNN International when asked if policy there missed the mark. “The threat to the United States was posed principally by the presence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. And our number one interest was stopping them from pursuing attacks on the United States, on our partners and our interests.”

“And indeed working with the Yemeni government and Yemeni forces, we’ve rolled back AQAP, as it’s called, it — we thwarted attacks. And for a number of years, that effort was quite successful.”

The head of the supposedly “rolled back” AQAP, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, is now also general manager of al-Qaeda, the No. 2 position with the ability to order attacks in the global terrorist organization.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Wednesday on a visit to Japan that “of course AQAP is a group that we’re very concerned with as the United States because in addition to having other regional ambitions and ambitions within Yemen, we all know that AQAP has the ambition to strike Western targets, including the United States.”

“And that’s why we’ve long conducted counterterrorism operations against AQAP in Yemen,” Carter said. “…The terrorism threat to the West, including the United States, from AQAP is a longstanding and serious one.”

Blinken made clear that the White House still wants a “political process” to bring peace to Yemen instead of the Saudi-led coalition war against the Iran-backed Houthis.

“We were supporting a political process in Yemen to try to bring the country together politically and to build it up economically. And that process, too, was moving forward until it was interrupted by the use of force by the Houthis. And that’s what we need to get back to now,” Blinken said. “The Houthis have to be part of the process. And we’ve made that clear from the beginning.”

And those U.S. citizens trapped in Yemen, after the embassy told them to evacuate yet airports were closed and a suggested evacuation ship couldn’t dock?

India is rescuing them.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a — which is now closed — sent this message to U.S. citizens in the country: “The Indian government may operate an additional flight from Sana’a on April 9. U.S. citizens may be able to board Indian planes leaving from Sana’a to Djibouti.  Contact First Secretary Raj Kopal at the Indian Embassy in Sana’a to make arrangements.”

Today, the embassy message: “The U.S. government has been informed that an Indian naval vessel is currently in Hodeidah and will be departing tonight for Djibouti. Additionally, there is another Indian naval leaving Djibouti tonight bound for Aden. We do not have any contact for these vessels but have been told that U.S. citizen families, including Yemeni family members, will be allowed to board. Travelers must have a valid U.S. or Yemeni passport.”

State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke didn’t have a number of citizens left in the country to provide to reporters today.

“We are aware of some American citizens who remain in Yemen,” Rathke said. “We remain in contact through a variety of means to advise American citizens in Yemen about the opportunities that present themselves for people to leave, if they choose to.”

Jamal al-Labani of Hayward, Calif., was killed by shrapnel from a mortar round in Aden. His family told CNN that he was trying to get out of the country, as directed by the State Department, but didn’t know how. He’d talked about crossing the border by land into Oman and then flying to Egypt, but was killed before he could put that plan into action.

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Today in History: 150th Anniversary of the Surrender at Appomattox

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

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At
TheRebel.media, historian John Robson observes:

The series of 150th anniversaries of key Civil War events has received surprisingly little attention especially, it seems, from the White House, curious given the importance of a black president in ending the long racial nightmare. But it deserves our attention, both for what was achieved through forgiveness after Appomattox and what tragically was not.

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When Jews Flee, Christians Become the Target

Saturday, April 4th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Israel National News reports on Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor’s latest speech to the United Nations Security Council regarding the grotesque mistreatment of Christians in the Islamic world:

Amb. Prosor began by explaining that these days, as the Jewish Passover approaches, there is a terrible new “exodus” that is plaguing the Middle East, one “driven by a plague of [Islamic] persecution aimed at Christians, Kurds, Yazidi, Bahai, and of course, the Jews.”

He related that after the Muslim countries murdered thousands of Jews and forced hundreds of thousands to leave the host Muslim countries, the Muslims had no one left to persecute. So, the “extremists have turned on the Christians.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Christians comprised 26% of the Middle East’s population. Today, that figure is less than 10%.” In ISIS-plagued Iraq, “Christians were given the grim choice of converting to Islam or face death by beheading, stoning or crucifixion. Fearing for their lives, tens of thousands of Christians have fled to northern Iraq and taken refuge in Kurdistan.”

Amb. Prosor stated on behalf of the Israel government that “The Kurds are the leading force in the fight against ISIS. They have shown tremendous courage and fortitude. The Kurds need the support of the international community and they deserve political independence.”

Prosor’s speech is a timely reminder that as both Jews and Christians sit down this weekend to celebrate freedom and tune into The Ten Commandments, redemption, like slavery, is as much a physical act as it is a spiritual one. Not only does it require a good, hard look at reality, it also demands the willingness to unify in order to cross the great divide.

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Michele Bachmann Owes an Apology to Deranged Germanwings Pilots

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Michele Bachmann may have retired from Congress last year. But that hasn’t kept her from making headlines. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Bachmann is comparing President Obama to the mentally unstable co-pilot who authorities believe intentionally crashed his German airliner last week in the French Alps and killed everyone onboard.

In a posting Tuesday on her Facebook page she wrote, “With his Iran deal, Barack Obama is for the 300 million souls of the United States what Andreas Lubitz was for the 150 souls on the German Wings (sic) flight — a deranged pilot flying his entire nation into the rocks. After the fact, among the smoldering remains of American cities, the shocked survivors will ask, why did he do it?”

The paper goes on to note Bachmann’s reputation for “edgy public comments.” They make no attempt to address her underlying point: ignoring a hostile state’s defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons is like ignoring a rapidly sinking altimeter.

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United Arab Army Forms in Wake of Obama’s Iranian Negotiations

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The New York Times reports:

The Arab states said on Sunday that they had agreed to form a combined military force to counter both Iranian influence and Islamist extremism, a gesture many analysts attributed in large part to their drive for more independence from Washington.

The agreement came as American and other Western diplomats in Lausanne, Switzerland, were racing to beat a self-imposed deadline of Tuesday to reach a deal with Iran that would restrict its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions. In response, Saudi Arabia and other American allies in the region have made clear that they are seeking to bolster independent regional security measures because they see the proposed accord as a betrayal of Washington’s commitment to their security.

In other words, not only does Congress not trust Barry. Not only does Netanyahu not trust Barry. Now nearly the entirety of the Arab world doesn’t trust Barry to the point that they’re uniting and forming their own military force?

Could it be that they feel Obama has declared a War on Muslims?

This wouldn’t be the first iteration of an Arab League coalition force. First formed in 1945, the force quickly disbanded after attacking and losing to the nascent Israeli Army in 1948.

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J Street Speaker Advocates Arab Palestine, Jewish Dhimmitude

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Should it come as any surprise that a J Street speaker would be applauded for proclaiming the myth that the Jews “took” the land of Israel from the Palestinians and are now “imposing” on it? No. Should it come as any surprise that said speaker advocates for the idea of Jews living as a “protected minority” in an Arab Palestine, or any other nation for that matter? No. But it is sadly ridiculous, nonetheless.

Check out commentary at the Algemeiner:

The moderator didn’t challenge her, and as far as I could tell neither did any other panelists.

Isn’t it interesting that at a conference that claims to be “pro-Israel, pro-peace” and that hammers away at how it wants a two state solution, there is no objection to this one-state solution where Jews are “protected” by people who want to kill them?J-Street refuses to let Alan Dershowitz, an advocate of a two-state solution since the 1970s, speak. But this crazy lady who thinks that Israel treats Arab citizens worse than Arabs would treat Jews is given a platform, without a single dissenting voice that I could find, either at the session or on Twitter afterwards, from J-Street members or attendees.

Marcia Freedman is a former Knesset member and a member of J Street’s advisory council. Perhaps it is time for J Street to remove “Pro-Israel” from their logo, since it is obvious that, for their membership at least, any state will do.

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This Week’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ Articles on Middle East, War on Terror

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

Want to know what’s happened this week in the Middle East and the War on Terror? Here are some articles to keep you up to date:

Well, I couldn’t keep it to a dozen this week, so here’s a few more:

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GOP Senators: Obama’s ‘Obsession’ with ‘Placating’ Iran Led to ‘Mideast on Fire’

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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Decrying that President Obama’s policies have pushed the Middle East to a “tipping point,” Republican senators accused the commander in chief of not acting against Iran’s aggression in Yemen and other places because of his “obsession” with placating the Islamic Republic during nuclear talks.

“Operation Decisive Storm,” launched at midnight Saudi Arabia time, bombarded Yemen’s Houthi rebels with the power of 100 Saudi fighters jets, 150,000 soldiers and naval units in the operation. The United Arab Emirates pitched in 30 fighter jets, Bahrain contributed 15, Qatar sent 10, Kuwait deployed 15 and Jordan contributed six. Even North Africa got into the game, with Sudan sending three fighter jets, Egypt supplying four warships and air support, and Morocco sending six fighter jets. Pakistan also provided naval and aerial support in the attack on the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The White House said the U.S. provided “logistical and intelligence” support.

But it was revealed today that Pentagon officials were told about the coalition operation just a few hours before the Saudis struck. The Saudi ambassador to Washington announced the attack at their embassy in D.C. shortly after the military found out.

“The reality is that countries in the region no longer have confidence in or are willing to work with the United States of America,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) somberly noted at a press conference on the Hill moments ago.

“Look at where we have come from — our closest allies in the region no longer trust us that they wait to tell us a few hours before they begin a major military operation,” McCain said. “I understand why these countries did not notify us or seek our coordination. That’s because they believe we are siding with Iran.”

The Saudis launched the operation as the U.S. sat down with Iran in Switzerland for the latest round of negotiations. The Associated Press published an exclusive today revealing that Washington “is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) told reporters that the administration is making a huge mistake by keeping Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and spread of influence through backing Shiite rebels in key countries off the negotiating table.

“You cannot divorce the two of them,” Ayotte said, stressing that “Iran’s backing of the Houthis has caused this situation to devolve where we had to evacuate from Yemen.”

She noted that another Iran target is home of America’s Fifth Fleet, Bahrain. “They are backing Shia groups that are trying to undermine the government in Bahrain,” the senator said. “This will continue to spread further.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stressed that Obama’s “leading from behind” policy left the region poised for a “bloodletting between Sunnis and Shia that we haven’t seen in 1,000 years.”

“We’re on the verge of a full-scale proxy war in Yemen between Iran and Arab states” that threatens to spill over into the entire region, Graham said. “The Mideast is on fire and it’s every person for himself.”

All three senators made clear that they support the Saudi-led offensive — “the Saudis did the right thing,” McCain said — but, in the words of Graham, “categorically reject President Obama’s foreign policy that we believe has substantially contributed to this mess.”

Graham backed an international operation that would take out the Houthis and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula at the same time. “We’re not in the Sunni-Shia debate here,” he said.

“I think it’s fine that they did it themselves; the question is, what’s the reason for that?” McCain asked, adding it’s “unacceptable that we’re negotiating a bad nuclear deal and at same time turning a blind eye to Iranian aggression.”

McCain said he does not believe that the Saudis launched the offensive to derail the P5+1 talks.

“The saddest things about this whole series of events that have taken place over the past several years is we predicted every single thing that would happen,” he said, ranging from the effects of an Iraq pullout to a refusal to assist the Free Syrian Army in the early days of the war to the non-enforcement of the red line drawn by Obama when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his people.

Graham saw the red line as a “defining moment” as Obama “failed to act in a way the region saw as meaningful.”

“ISIS will never be destroyed on his watch,” Graham predicted. “…He’s afraid to disrupt negotiations by taking on [Iran's] puppet Assad.”

He further predicted that the Arab coalition “will probably not stop in Yemen and Iran will probably push back — God help us all.”

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The ISIS Tax: Budget Amendment Would ‘Temporarily’ Hike Taxes to Fight Islamic State

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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The Senate is plowing through a slew of amendments today expected to last until midnight, dubbed the “vote-a-rama” that precedes the budget vote.

One of those amendments would create an ISIS tax.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), backed by Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), proposed a “temporary surtax” to help cover the cost of military operations against ISIS.

That would be discontinued, his office said without offering more details, “once relevant military operations have concluded” against the Islamic State.

According to yesterday’s congressional record, the amount collected would be $8,800,000,000.

“As our nation’s Armed Forces continue their critical mission to degrade and destroy ISIS, which is already months underway, we need to consider another part of our strategy–paying for the war. This is not a new concept. Our nation has a long history of paying for our military missions. In fact, every war since the Revolutionary War, to the first Gulf War, was paid for,” Coons said on the Senate floor last night.

“Through each of our nation’s armed conflicts, new revenue streams not only provided the resources our military needed, they reminded the American people that our country was at war and we all needed to contribute to the effort. But after 14 years and 2 wars that have cost our nation trillions of dollars, I fear we have forgotten this important lesson from our history,” he continued. “We cannot write another blank check for a war. Paying for a war against ISIS is the right thing to do. It is fiscally, morally, and militarily responsible. As we continue to debate this war authorization in Congress, we need to be honest with the American people and each other about what it will cost our nation. That is why, as we debate the budget this week, I have offered an amendment that requires us to raise the revenue to pay for the fight against ISIS. The American people deserve no less.”

“I urge my colleagues to join me on this amendment to pay for a critically important war against ISIS and ensure we fight this battle together as one country.”

Sanders said the GOP “has to end their hypocrisy with regard to deficits and the national debt.”

“They are going to have to be honest with the American people. Wars are enormously expensive, not only in terms of human life and suffering, but in terms of the budget,” Sanders said. “If the Republicans want another war in the Mideast, they are going to have to tell the American people how much it will cost them and how it will be paid for.”

UPDATE: The amendment failed this evening, but not by a lot — 46-54.

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Graham: ‘No Military Member…Should Expect Our Country to Release Hardened Terrorists to Secure Their Release’

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is a colonel in the Air Forces Reserves focusing on military law, was opposed to the trade of five high-ranking members of the Taliban for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the moment it happened last May.

But he’s also opposed to the administration reasoning that, after Bergdahl’s five years in captivity, they had no choice because they couldn’t leave a man behind.

“No military member, up to and including a Medal of Honor recipient, should expect our country to release hardened terrorists to secure their release,” Graham said in a statement Wednesday after the Army announced Bergdahl would face charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. “There is a general understanding that the mission and national interest come ahead of any individual.  This is particularly true while hostilities are still raging as they are today in Afghanistan.”

Graham, who is considering a run for the White House in 2016, called the swap “a politically motived maneuver designed to help achieve the Obama administration’s goal of emptying the Guantanamo jail of some very dangerous terrorists.”

“My concerns about the swap were never related to the quality of Sergeant Bergdahl’s service, but to the nature of the transfer and how it undermined the war effort,” the senator said. “President Obama’s ill-conceived decision to release the ‘Taliban 5’ put our men and women in uniform at increased risk. I have no doubt that in the future the ‘Taliban 5’ will return to the fight against the United States.”

Graham told CNN he has “nothing but disgust” for the deal.

“This undermined the war effort. These people are going to go back to the fight. And what do you tell a family member that may be killed by one of these guys down the road?”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a Air Force pilot who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, told Fox that he was told in survival training “your country will never leave you behind, and we take a lot of heart in that.”

“But it’s a two-way street. Your country will not leave you behind but you can never leave your country behind either. A lot of people, probably even in Bowe Bergdahl’s unit, that looked at the mountains and truly wanted to leave base and go out and explore but, at the end of the day, they knew they had a bigger obligation,” Kinzinger said. “…Look, if we had had sent a Special Forces team in to rescue him or something like that, that’s one thing. But trading five of among the biggest enemies of the United States. And by the way, we are getting reports that at least three of them are starting their kind of pre-confinement activities again.”

The White House, however, stands by the swap despite the desertion charges.

“The commander in chief will not allow a member of the United States armed forces to be left behind,” press secretary Josh Earnest told CNN.

“It was an important message for this president to deliver to the American people, but also to people all around the world, that the United States and their commander in chief stands squarely behind our men and women in uniform and with the commitment we have made to not leave them behind,” Earnest said.

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Leaked Report Reveals EU’s 40-Point Plan to Force Israel’s Hand

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Israeli newspaper Yediot got their hands on the European Union’s 40-point plan to “pressure Israel into negotiations” in the wake of Netanyahu’s re-election.

An EU diplomatic source told Ynet that there was a definite chance that the recommendations in the report, which the member states have yet to approve, were more likely to be implemented following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement during his election campaign that a Palestinian state would not be created under his rule.

“We are on a collision course,” said the European diplomat. “It’s clear to everyone in Brussels that there must be a response to these statements.”

…”If Israel continues its policy beyond the Green Line, it will affect the relationship between European nations and Israel,” he warned.

Headings of the 40-point plan include, “Preserving the viability of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states” and “Strengthening the role, visibility and policy of the European Union.” The full report has been scanned and is linked via the Ynet story.

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Issa on Yemen: Obama ‘Must Acknowledge’ Any ‘Real Settlement with Iran is Impossible’

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The “Operation Decisive Storm” coalition that bombarded Yemen overnight now has full control of the country’s airspace, said Saudi officials, who unleashed 100 fighters jets, 150,000 soldiers and naval units in the operation.

The only regional country that stayed out of the fight was Yemen’s neighbor Oman. The United Arab Emirates pitched in 30 fighter jets, Bahrain contributed 15, Qatar sent 10, Kuwait deployed 15 and Jordan contributed six. Even North Africa got into the game, with Sudan sending three fighter jets, Egypt supplying four warships and air support, and Morocco sending six fighter jets. Pakistan also provided naval and aerial support in the attack on the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told MSNBC this morning that the Saudis decided “on their own” to launch the attack, “and the reason is simply that Saudi Arabia and Yemen share a long border.”

“And they have enlisted the support of other partners and allies of theirs in region, and they have asked the United States for some intelligence support that we can provide. And the president has agreed to that request and we are providing them support,” he said. “But the Saudis are in the lead in this military action they are taking to protect the interest they have along their border with Yemen.”

The White House has been urging a UN-backed diplomatic solution to the Houthi overthrow in Yemen.

But Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) made clear that it was the administration’s policies that allowed this mess in the first place.

“The takeover of large swaths of Yemen by Iranian-backed Shia militants has forced our Saudi allies to take military action. Months of fairy tale negotiations and appeasement by this administration have led Iran to believe that it can act with impunity on an international scale,” Issa said in a late-night statement as the Saudis bombarded targets.

“Now, more than ever, it is clear that any real settlement with Iran is impossible, and the president must acknowledge this fact,” he said. “The continued easement or outright removal of sanctions against this rogue state will only further embolden Iran and facilitate its belligerent behavior. We must make it clear that we will support our allies and punish our enemies through steadfast resolve and decisive action.”

Earnest said this morning that the Iran-fomented instability and Saudi reaction shouldn’t affect nuclear negotiations in Switzerland. “There’s no doubt that we believe that it’s in the best interest of the United States, our allies in Israel, and our partners in the region, including Saudi Arabia, for us to try to find a diplomatic resolution to the concerns that the world has about Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” he said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), though, stressed to Fox that “this is about Iran, again, the source of instability in the region and many parts of the world.”

“These are Shia militias and Shia rebels making advances there. They are equipped, protected and supported by Iran. It’s part of their strategy to become the dominant regional power. It’s part of encircling Saudi Arabia, Sunni country. So you see their presence in Yemen. They basically invaded Iraq. Obviously, their influence they have in Lebanon. They control Assad in Syria. So, slowly but surely they are carrying out their master plan of regional dominance and Yemen is the latest piece of that puzzle,” Rubio said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said “clearly, the Saudis and their gulf partners have determined the situation in Yemen presents further danger to regional stability and their own territorial integrity.”

“I hope their intervention helps to restore some sense of security, but I fear Yemen may be too far gone to prevent an all-out civil war,” Burr said.

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Saudis Unleash Strikes on Yemen After White House Promotes UN-Led Negotiations

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes into Yemen a short time ago, with the Saudi ambassador in Washington telling reporters that the aim is to “to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a takeover by the Houthis.”

“The Gulf Cooperation Council countries tried to facilitate a peaceful transition of government in Yemen, but the Houthis have continuously undercut the process by occupying territory and seizing weapons belonging to the government,” Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said in a statement. “…The Houthis have reneged on every single agreement they have made and continue their quest to take over the country by violent means.”

“Based on the appeal from President Hadi, and based on the Kingdom’s responsibility to Yemen and its people, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with its allies within the GCC and outside the GCC, launched military operations in support of the people of Yemen and their legitimate government.”

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates said in a joint statement that President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government had asked for help in battling the Iran-backed Houthis.

Reports Al-Arabiya:

Warplanes of the Royal Saudi Air Force bombed the positions of Yemen’s Houthi militia, destroying an airbase in Sanaa and most of the militia’s air defenses, Al Arabiya News Channel reported early on Thursday, citing Saudi sources.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered the airstrikes on the Iran-backed Houthi militia on Thursday at 12 am Riyadh time, the news channel reported, adding that the kingdom’s air force was “fully in control of the Yemeni airspace.”

Shortly afterwards Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir announced that the kingdom had launched a military operation involving air strikes in Yemen against Houthi fighters who have tightened their grip on the southern city of Aden where the country’s president had taken refuge.

Al-Jubeir told reporters that a 10-country coalition had joined in the military campaign in a bid “to protect and defend the legitimate government” of Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

“We will do whatever it takes in order to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling,” Jubeir said.

Al-Arabiya also reported a cyberwar component, saying that several Houthi websites had crashed.

Yesterday, while appearing in Riyadh with the British foreign secretary, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal hit at Iran and the Houthis.

The prince stressed that “it is not possible to grant Iran an undeserved deal” in the P5+1 nuclear negotiations.

On Yemen, he said, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s “aim is to provide the vehicle for the president to return peacefully to Yemen and provide the leadership as required to bring this country back.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the “takeover of southern Yemen by the Iranian-supported Houthis has led to chaos, threatening the national security interests of our regional partners and the United States.”

“Regional states, led by Saudi Arabia at President Hadi’s request, are taking action from the air,” Royce said. “The United States should support our Saudi and Gulf partners with appropriate logistical and intelligence support to combat this threat.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement late Wednesday that President Obama “has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC-led military operations.”

“While U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen in support of this effort, we are establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate U.S. military and intelligence support,” Meehan said. “At the same time, the United States continues to closely monitor terrorist threats posed by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and will continue to take action as necessary to disrupt continuing, imminent threats to the United States and our citizens.”

“We strongly urge the Houthis to halt immediately their destabilizing military actions and return to negotiations as part of the political dialogue. The international community has spoken clearly through the UN Security Council and in other fora that the violent takeover of Yemen by an armed faction is unacceptable and that a legitimate political transition – long sought by the Yemeni people – can be accomplished only through political negotiations and a consensus agreement among all of the parties.”

The strikes came as the Obama administration resumed talks with Iran, which backs the Houthis, in Switzerland.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was pressed at the briefing earlier today on whether they still consider Yemen a model for counterterrorism success.

“What the United States considers to be our strategy when confronting the effort to try to mitigate the threat that is posed by extremists, is to prevent them from establishing a safe haven. And certainly in a chaotic, dangerous situation like in Yemen, what the United States will do and has done is worked to try to support the central government, to build up the capacity of local fighters, and use our own technological and military capabilities to apply pressure on the extremists there,” Earnest replied.

“There’s no doubt that we would like to see a functioning central government in Yemen. We don’t see that right now. And that is why we’re supportive of the U.N.-led process to try to put an end to the violence and instability; to bring the sides, you know, all sides together to the table to try to resolve their differences; to build up the capacity of the central government; to build up the capacity of local forces; and to continue to apply pressure to extremists.”

But, Earnest maintained, “We do continue to enjoy the benefits of a sustained counterterrorism security relationship with the security infrastructure that remains in Yemen.”

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged earlier today that Saudis “have legitimate concerns about the possible impact of current events in Yemen to their security, given their proximity.”

On Yemen as a success, she said “we have had success working on counterterrorism operations, and we expect and hope that will continue.”

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Bergdahl Charged with Desertion, Misbehavior Before the Enemy

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could face life behind bars for walking away from his unit and into the hands of the Taliban, the Army announced today.

Bergdahl, who has been pulling desk duty at Fort Sam Houston since last summer, was charged with counts of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Taken in 2009, Bergdahl was the only American POW held by the Taliban. They received five high-level Guantanamo prisoners in exchange for his return.

Bergdahl will now face an Article 32 proceeding similar to a grand jury where the charges will be weighed. There was no word on whether Bergdahl’s defense team would try to work out a deal.

“This case has been made more difficult by the administration’s failure to follow the law surrounding the release of the Taliban 5,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a statement. “But, Sgt. Bergdahl’s conduct should be considered under the Uniform Code of Military Justice as would any other service member’s, and I trust it will be.”

Qatar agreed to keep the Taliban 5 for a year, which will be up in a couple of months.

“I don’t have anything to discuss about it at this point in time. As you mentioned, it’s a couple of months from now. Obviously, we’ll continue consultations, as will many in the United States government, but I don’t know,” State Department press secretary Jen Psaki said today when quizzed about that looming date.

“As you know, the incidents of recidivism have dropped dramatically over the last couple of years,” she added. “We work closely with the government of Qatar on these issues. But I don’t have any predictions for you on what will happen several months from now.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked whether the administration knew the charges would come today, when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addressed a joint session of Congress.

“I’m not aware of any plans for them to do that, but this is a process that’s being run by the United States Army, so I’d direct you to the Pentagon for an answer,” Earnest said.

President Obama threw a White House Rose Garden ceremony last May with Bergdahl’s parents to laud the sergeant’s release. Members of Congress, though, fumed that they weren’t notified of the trade. The administration said they had to move forward without notification as required by law because they feared Bergdahl’s life was in danger.

A week later, National Security Advisor Susan Rice defended the swap, as well as her defense of Bergdahl. “I realize there has been lots of discussion and controversy around this,” Rice said. “But what I was referring to was the fact that this was a young man who volunteered to serve his country in uniform at a time of war. That, in and of itself, is a very honorable thing.”

In January, the White House said the Bergdahl swap didn’t qualify as negotiating with terrorist groups.

“The Taliban is an armed insurgency. ISIL is a terrorist group. So we don’t make concessions to terrorist groups,” spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters.

“As you know, this was highly discussed at the time, and prisoner swaps are a traditional end of conflict interaction that happens,” the spokesman said. “As the war in Afghanistan wound down, we felt like it was the appropriate thing to do. The president’s bedrock commitment as commander in chief is to leave no man or woman behind. That’s the principle he was operating under.”

Then, he said the Taliban — hosts of al-Qaeda camps, suicide bombers, throwers of acid on schoolgirls — didn’t qualify as terrorists.

“The Taliban is an armed insurgency. This was the winding down of the war in Afghanistan. And that’s why this arrangement was dealt,” Schultz continued. “Our view is, as the president said at the time, which is, as the commander in chief, when he sends men and women into armed combat, he doesn’t want to leave anyone behind. That was the commitment he was following through on this.”

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Ghani Tells Congress Afghanistan Seeks Self-Reliance, Not to be ‘Lazy Uncle Joe’

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

In a warmly received address to a joint session of Congress today, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reassured lawmakers that his country wants nothing more than to be safe and self-reliant, and will not “be the lazy Uncle Joe” who won’t get a job.

“We owe a profound debt to the 2,350 servicemen and -women killed and the more than 20,000 who have been wounded in service to your country and ours… I want to thank the American taxpayer and you, their representatives, for supporting us,” Ghani said, reiterating remarks he made Monday to servicemen and women at the Pentagon.

“Veterans will always be welcome in Afghanistan. Our deepest hope is that the time will come when Americans visiting our country see the cultural heritage and natural riches… Not as soldiers, but as parents showing their children the beautiful country where they served in the war that defeated terror,” he said. “On behalf of my entire country, when that day comes, you will be our most welcome and honored guests.”

Ghani reflected on how he was in his office at the World Bank when planes leveled the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The Columbia University graduate — along with his Christian Lebanese wife, Rula — recalled fondly eating “corned beef at Katz’s, New York’s greatest, meatiest, pickle-lined melting pot.” That was one of many lines that drew applause from the chamber; Afghan media counted 20 standing ovations.

“Close friends were working near the Trade Center. My children were born in New York, and my daughter was living in New York when the Twin Towers fell. I visited Ground Zero that very week. Seeing firsthand the tragedy and devastation drove home the realization that after 9/11, the world would never be the same. I went home knowing that America would seek justice, and I began to write the plan for our national reconstruction,” the president continued.

Ghani stressed that despite “thankfully rare, but nonetheless tragic” green-on-blue attacks, “the overwhelming majority of Afghans continue to see the partnership with the United States as foundational to our future.”

“We have made great sacrifices, we Afghans, but then, it’s our patriotic to do so. You, on the other hand, had a choice. And when it came to a fork in the road, chose to do the right thing. Thank you.”

While the Taliban banned girls from attending school, today more than 3 million are in class, Ghani said. “Their parents thank you.”

“In 2002, when the allies built their first clinics, the average life-span of the ordinary Afghan was 44 years. Today, it’s over 60. Their children thank you.”

Afghanistan, he said, “contrary to wide perception, is well-suited to democracy.”

“Like Americans, Afghans are individuals. None of us defers to anyone else. We have neither had caste nor class, so persuading each other is an art form,” Ghani said. “Our key characteristics are our openness and hospitality. We believe in equality. Even in the most traditional parts of the country, our leadership must earn rather than inherit their position. There’s a strong public conscience. People are expected to act for the common good. We love debate.”

Ghani acknowledged ISIS as “another, darker cloud that is making its way towards our country.”

“The promise of the Arab Spring gave way to the emergence of Daesh terror and collapse of states. But the changed ecology of terror could have not formed without some states tolerating, financing, providing sanctuary and using violent, nonstate actors as instruments of shortsighted policies,” he said. “…From the West, the Daesh is already sending advance guards to southern and western Afghanistan to push our vulnerabilities. To the south, Pakistan’s counterinsurgency operations in which more than 40,000 people have already died are pushing the Taliban from South Waziristan towards Afghanistan’s border regions.”

Afghanistan, he stressed, “is carrying forward everyone’s fight by containing this threat.”

“Properly supported, Afghanistan is uniquely positioned to block the spread of extremism. We have none of the historical inferiority complexes that choose resentment across Western domination. After all, we defeated most of the empires,” he said. “…Ordinary is what has escaped us, and we’d really like to be leading ordinary lives, to go to school and to come back. To shop without being blown up. To play volleyball without being attacked.”

Ghani spent a substantial portion of his speech outlining plans to advance women’s rights, and to highlight gains already made.

“No country in the modern world can be self-reliant with half of its population locked away, uneducated and unable to contribute its energy, creativity and drive to national development… educating women is not solely a matter of rights, important though they are. It is a matter of national necessity,” he said, stressing “a mental and cultural revolution must take place over treatment of women in and by our society. There is no point talking about how much we respect woman’s honor if we let rape go unpunished or allow harassment in our streets.”

The president said he is “meeting frequently women who are entertaining the idea, seriously, the idea of becoming the first woman president of Afghanistan, and we will support them.” Four women have been appointed to his cabinet for a 20 percent share — “still too low, but at least fulfillment of our promise.”

Vowing Afghanistan “will be the graveyard of al-Qaeda and their foreign terrorist associates,” Ghani said that “although we may be poor, we’re very proud.”

“Our goal of self-reliance is no pipe dream… we want your know-how, the business skills of your corporations, the innovation of your startups and the commitment of your NGOs,” he said. “But we don’t want your charity. We have no more interest in perpetuating a childish dependence than you have in being saddled with a poor family member who lacks the energy and drive to get out and find a job. We are not going to be the lazy Uncle Joe.” Lawmakers laughed; Vice President Joe Biden was sitting behind Ghani as he spoke.

“Together, our two countries will finish the job that began on that clear, terrible September morning almost 14 years ago. We have the way, and we have the commitment that will anchor our country into a community of peaceful, democratic nations.”

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Surprise! Taliban Opposed to U.S. Troops Remaining in Afghanistan

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Stephen Kruiser

Wonder why.

A Taliban spokesman says the U.S. decision to delay the reduction of troops in Afghanistan will badly undermine the chances for peace.

Meeting with Aghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House on March 24, President Barack Obama said the United States would leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan though the end of 2015 instead of cutting the number to 5,500, and would decide on plans for 2016 later this year.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on March 25 that Obama’s announcement “damages all prospects for peace.”

Mujahid said the U.S. decision “means the war will go on until they are all defeated.”

It really doesn’t take a hyperactive imagination to draw a mental picture of what a peace negotiation on the part of the Taliban looks like when they are not held in check militarily. There are people who can remember fifteen years ago, after all.

If the bad guys are in a hurry for you to get out of town, it generally isn’t because they just want to relax in your absence. The Unites States shouldn’t be there forever, obviously, but troops may need to be there longer than what is necessary for President Obama’s legacy-building plan.

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Canadian PM Harper Vows to Fight ISIS ‘as Long as It Is There’

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Stephen Kruiser

Well that’s different.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday that Canada intends to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham for as long as the militant group poses a threat.

The government introduced a motion to extend the current six-month mission in Iraq for up to a year, ending in March 2016. But the expiry date is apparently flexible.

In one of their terse exchanges in question period, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair asked the prime minister if the military campaign had an exit strategy. Mr. Harper did not provide one.

What’s that? A leader not telling the enemy when he will stop fighting? What kind of madness is this?!?

This guy has obviously not read Obama’s “Cut and Run” playbook:

“Our goal here is to deal with the threat to [Canada],” Mr. Harper said, “and we will deal with it for as long as it is there and we will not stop dealing with it before that.”

Some may say that I am making an apples and oranges comparison here, but it’s the differences in focus between Obama and Harper that are interesting. Obama is in it for as long as he deems necessary, and Harper realizes that things like this have a messiness and fluidity about them.

In other words, he’s a grown-up. One who has perhaps read a history book or two, rather than gobble up the words of Alinsky and Bill Ayers.

They’ve got good beer up there…road trip, maybe?

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Video Shows Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra Using U.S.-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Syria

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media that U.S.-backed Syrian rebel group Harakat al-Hazm had disbanded, and their U.S.-provided TOW anti-tank missiles had ended up in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria.

Today a video posted on YouTube by al-Nusra shows their operatives using the U.S. TOW missiles to attack Syrian army positions in Idlib. They also posted a statement to that effect on Twitter:

Here’s the video, with a TOW missile making its appearance ~ 0:43:

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When I reported on the collapse of Hazm earlier in the month, I noted that pictures had appeared of al-Nusra fighters posing with U.S.-provided weapons, including the TOW missiles.

Some D.C. analysts claimed that the TOW tubes in the pictures were empty, but it is apparent now that al-Nusra did get their hands on live rounds and acquired personnel trained in firing the TOW system.

This, undoubtedly, is one reason why former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, once one of the loudest cheerleaders for arming the Syrian rebels, has done a complete turn-around and is now openly critical of the Syrian opposition:

Robert Ford was always one of the Syrian rebels’ loudest cheerleaders in Washington, agitating from within a reluctant administration to arm vetted moderates to fight Bashar Assad’s brutal regime.

In recent weeks, however, Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria who made news when he left government service a year ago with an angry critique of Obama administration policy, has dropped his call to provide weapons to the rebels. Instead, he’s become increasingly critical of them as disjointed and untrustworthy because they collaborate with jihadists.

The about-face, which is drawing murmurs among foreign policy analysts and Syrian opposition figures in Washington, is another sign that the so-called moderate rebel option is gone and the choices in Syria have narrowed to regime vs. extremists in a war that’s killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions.

Of course, some had argued, including myself, that this is where things were headed all along with the Obama administration’s policy of supporting, arming and training the so-called “vetted moderates.” And now Ford is admitting that the “vetted moderates” supported by the U.S. are collaborating with jihadist groups.

More smart diplomacy in action.

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Israeli Official Spills: We Knew Obama Wanted ‘Revenge’

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Times of Israel got it straight from an anonymous “senior Jerusalem official”: Obama wanted “revenge” in the wake of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Times of Israel that “it’s no secret” that the Obama administration had attempted to influence the outcome of the election…

…“The White House is driven by three main motives,” the senior official said. “The first is revenge [over the Congress speech]. The second is frustration: It’s no secret that they were involved in an attempt to bring down the Netanyahu government – something that we have clear knowledge of – and failed. The third [motive] is the administration’s attempt to divert attention from the negotiations with Iran to the Palestinian issue.”

Not only do Israeli policymakers have a full understanding of Obama’s involvement in Israeli elections, they have also already reasoned their way around Obama’s potential politicking at the UN:

…The White House will attempt to “punish” Israel at the UN or the Security Council, the senior Israeli official said Tuesday, alluding to intimations by US officials to the effect that Washington could change its policy of vetoing anti-Israel measures and even pursue a unilateral Palestinian statehood initiative.

“Congress is currently our only means of preventing a series of harmful initiatives, on both the Iranian and the Palestinian front,” the official said. “If the US government will permit the recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN, then Congress will brandish its knives and defund the UN.” On Sunday, Republic Senator John McCain threatened to do just that.

And are at ease portraying Obama as the hypocrite who is busy covering his tracks:

…“They come and accuse us of torpedoing negotiations even though they know that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas himself said no [to a deal], twice — once to then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton in 2011, and once to Secretary of State John Kerry last year.”

The plans of the White House and shame of American Jewish Left aren’t bothering members of an Israeli administration who have higher priorities than being #1 on Obama’s popularity list.

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Iran’s Chief Nuclear Negotiator: Lift All Sanctions First, No Concessions

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator has stressed yet again that there is no deal with the P5+1 unless all sanctions on the Islamic Republic are lifted first.

In fact, there are “no concessions” on Iran’s part forthcoming, he said.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi said early this month that Tehran’s “principle position is that all sanctions are lifted at once.”

Last week, 260 lawmakers in the 290-seat Islamic Consultative Assembly wrote a letter demanding that all sanctions be removed as a prerequisite for signing a nuclear deal.

“As a guarantee for implementation, in case of any violation of obligations by the opposite side, the agreement will be declared null and void and enrichment will be resumed at any required level,” the lawmakers wrote.

And over the weekend, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will ultimately sign off on or reject any nuclear deal, tweeted his agreement. “We reject US fraudulent offer of reaching a deal w first then lifting sanctions. Lifting sanctions is a part of deal not its outcome,” Khamenei tweeted.

Now today, with more than two weeks of negotiations having passed since his original comments, Araqchi is reiterating that “Tehran’s confidence-building measures and removal of sanctions by the powers are the objectives of the ongoing nuclear talks between the two sides,” according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Fars reported that Araqchi stressed “Iran is not to give away any concessions”:

He described the present phase of the talks as “sensitive”, and said it was natural for certain people to make some remarks to influence the process of the negotiations.

However, Araqchi said, Iran is not to grant any concessions.

Commenting on the recent remarks of the US President Barack Obama who said Iran has not provided enough concessions yet, he said the American president is making the remarks to affect the negotiations.

He said none of the parties is expected to offer concessions, specially Iran.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said today at the Council on Foreign Relations and on the Senate floor that the Obama administration trying to repeal Iran sanctions at the UN and not coming to Congress would be met with a bipartisan “violent response.”

“The Iranians are going to demand immediate sanction relief, and I hope we’ll say no. Until the IAEA verifies what they’ve been doing in the past, I think it would be ill-advised to relieve the sanctions,” Graham said at the CFR event. “They’re going to ask for a research-and-development capability. That scares the hell out of me, and I hope we’ll say no. If they demand immediate sanctions relief, the deal probably falls. Then we’ll be in no-man’s territory. Just, we don’t know what will happen next.”

“And that’s the most dangerous time, because that’s when they’re most likely to break out. Whether they believe that Obama would use force to stop their breakout, after drawing the red line with Assad, I doubt it. Whether they believe that P5+1 would do it as a group, I doubt it after the way we’ve handled Russia and the Ukraine.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that they “have made pretty clear… that this deal will be predicated on serious commitments from the Iranians about resolving the international community’s concerns with their nuclear program and a commitment that they will comply with intrusive inspections.”

“And those are the kinds of commitments that we’re going to insist on before we even contemplate any sort of sanctions relief,” Earnest said. “And what we would envision is a demonstrated commitment to the — to compliance with the agreement before phasing the sanctions relief.”

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These Syrian Townspeople Brilliantly Called Out Kerry and Power

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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The Obama administration frequently notes that it made Syrian President Bashar al-Assad get rid of his chemical weapons, a deal struck with the help of Assad ally Russia after the ghastly 2013 attack on Ghouta.

That attack crossed the red line established by President Obama to take action to help the Syrian people, and once he struck the weapons disposal deal he considered it a most welcome line through an unpleasant confrontation on his to-do list.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough held the deal up during his speech to J Street today as a “political arrangement” where congressional approval is not needed, such as what they’re trying to achieve with Iran. “It’s how we—peacefully—removed Syria’s entire declared stockpile of chemical weapons,” McDonough said.

Despite the ambiguity of “declared” in a country where the majority is a strict no-go zone for weapons inspectors, Assad has continued his chemical weapons attacks with chlorine gas.

Last week, the towns of Sarmin and Qmenas were hit with chlorine bombs by Assad forces, video reviewed and confirmed by human rights groups. The Syrian Coalition said six were killed, including three children, and about 70 were injured, 13 seriously.

“Once again the Assad regime has used the chlorine gas against civilians in flagrant violations of the UN Security Council Resolution No. 2209 which bans use of chlorine gas in Syria,” Syrian Coalition Vice President Hisham Marwa said. “The UN Security Council must take all necessary measures that ensures the enforcement of the resolution No. 2209, which rules that chlorine gas is toxic and a chemical weapon, and that using it militarily represents a gross violation of international law and a flagrant violation of Resolution 2118.”

Secretary of State John Kerry put out a statement Thursday saying the administration was “deeply disturbed” that Assad used chlorine gas weapons “again.”

“What is clear is that the Assad regime continues to flout international standards and norms, including, if these latest allegations are verified, the Chemical Weapons Convention. The international community cannot turn a blind eye to such barbarism. As has been well documented, the Assad regime continues to terrorize the people of Syria through indiscriminate airstrikes, barrel bombings, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, murder, and starvation. The Assad regime must be held accountable for such atrocious behavior,” Kerry said.

“…The Assad regime’s horrifying pattern of using chlorine as a chemical weapon against the Syrian people underscores the importance of investigating this allegation as quickly as possible, holding those who perpetrated such abhorrent acts in violation of international law accountable, and continuing to support the complete elimination chemical weapons in this volatile region.”

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki didn’t have “any predictions” on what holding Assad accountable might entail.

“Reports and video out of #Syria utterly horrific. Civilians, including kids, victims of an apparent chlorine gas attack,” UN Ambassador Samantha Power tweeted that day. “This is why #UNSC passed res affirming the weaponization of chlorine as viol of CWC&UN res. Long past time for attribution&consequences. Asad regime is only power with helos. Reports again are that gas attack came from the air. If it flies like a duck…”

That was enough for Syrians who have been bearing the brunt of these attacks.

 

 

The northwestern Syrian fig-and-olive-producing town of Kafranbel huddled together fairly early in the war and decided the best way to get their message to the outside world would be to pen signs in English, then spread them through the Internet and social media. Their signs have included see Obama as Pinocchio and a genocide enabler.

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Afghan President Thanks Troops at Pentagon: ‘We Die, But We Will Never Be Defeated’

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

In an extraordinary moment more than 13 years in the making, the second elected Afghan president since the fall of the Taliban stood in the hub of America’s military community and thanked the troops’ sacrifice to liberate and build his country.

More than 850,000 U.S. troops and civilians, along with thousands of contractors, have served in Afghanistan since the war began in October 2001, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter reminded all at the beginning of the ceremony in the Pentagon courtyard. “We remember the 2,215 Americans and their spouses, parents, sons, and daughters who paid the ultimate price during the course of the conflict,” Carter said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had warm words for those “who have sacrificed continually since 9/11 to bring us freedom and hope.”

“Each one of you has left a legacy but I also understand Afghanistan has marked you,” he said, noting “sometimes you wake up at night not sure whether you’re there or here” and realize “I’ve left a piece of my heart in Afghanistan.”

“Thank you,” Ghani said.

“Each one of you also has left a memory in the heart of every Afghan that you’ve touched and encountered,” the president continued, adding that U.S. forces were “not there just to fight” but “you built schools, you built roads” while bringing “an attitude of caring and sacrifice.”

The Afghan National Security Forces, which includes military and police, now “emulate the best of your example.”

While thanking the troops and their families, Ghani stressed thanks “mostly to the American taxpayer — the men and women who have had made your hard-earned dollars available for Afghanistan.”

The partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan now enters a different “phase,” he said, focusing on “building resources,” trade with Europe through the supply road left by coalition forces, and ensuring that Afghanistan can meet the growing security challenges.

Ghani has admitted ISIS is now inside Afghanistan, telling NBC News “we have sufficient evidence that they were targeting us because to their narrative, to their storyline, Afghanistan is central.” That’s the Khorasan region touted by the Islamic State.

“We are not going to be a burden,” Ghani vowed to the Pentagon community, giving a nod to JFK when he added Afghanistan wants to focus on what it can do for the world instead of what the world can do for Afghanistan. “We are going to get our house in order.”

On terrorism, not just ISIS but the more persistent and deadly Taliban threat, “We are a front-line state. We die on a daily basis.”

“We die, but we will never be defeated,” Ghani added. “…We the people of Afghanistan are willing to speak truth to terror… we are going to overcome.”

The current partnership with the United States, the president said, “is foundational because we will be the first line of defense globally.”

Ghani said his “fondest hope to veterans is we hope to welcome you in Afghanistan as tourists,” where “millions of us will be able to thank you personally, shake your hand, welcome you into our homes.”

To the sounds of the Washington Post March, Ghani shook hands and greeted troops and family members on the lawn.

Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah meet with President Obama on Tuesday for a “working lunch” at the White House.

Abdullah and Ghani wrote in a joint Washington Post op-ed Friday that “while the opportunities to build peace and stability have never been greater, a new ecology of terror threatens to block not just our prosperity but yours as well.”

“Properly supported, Afghanistan is uniquely positioned to block the spread of extremism,” the leaders wrote. “With the bitter exception of the Taliban regime, Islam in Afghanistan has traditionally been inclusive and reflective, not violent and angry. And after 36 years of conflict, our people have become immunized against ideologically based conflict.”

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