Category Archives: Syria

The Obama Legacy


Historians will debate the importance of the Obama Administration and its role in American history for decades to come, of course. The legacy which presidents leave behind them is always a concern of our chief executives, and it has been of even more importance to Barack Obama. As he marked a milestone in his tour of duty. leaving on a foreign tour, with a successor he opposed now chosen, he publicly drew his own optimistic record. He carefully picked, of course, in a press conference, what he considered the best interpretation of events over the last eight years. But at least for the time being, when his policies and their repercussions are still relatively fresh, it is hard to draw a balance sheet which is less than disastrous.
Obama, of course, perhaps more than any other recent president, is an ideologue – and he insisted in his political campaigns that he aimed at a “transformation” of American society. His framework for events is a combination of his studies of history but overlaid by the socialist and pro-Communist views of the little social-political group around the University of Chicago who launched his career.
There is no doubt that he has effected changes, whether they are indeed transformations, and whether any have been beneficiary, only time will tell.
But any honest examination of the effects of his strategies is a record of miscalculation and failures. Perhaps the most dramatic ones have been in foreign policy. His campaign to withdraw American power and decision-making from the international scene has demonstrated what had always been apparent to serious students of foreign affairs: the enormous power of the U.S., economic, political and military, has a role in any international confrontation even when Washington chooses to remain neutral or withdraw its influence. A world order without U.S. participation is not only unimaginable to our allies but something our adversaries always question as a possibility.
The Middle East is the most dramatic example of the failure of Obama’s effort to remove American leadership and power in the interelated conflicts there. First, his effort to weaken the U.S.-Israel alliance encouraged the Moslem terrorists in the area. Then, Sec. Hillary Clinton’s courted the brief Moslem Brotherhood regime in Egypt – overthrown by the military through popular demand. Obama and Hillary attempted to boycott the new military rulers thus providing an opportunity for Russian arms sales and influence where it had been expelled a half century ago by pro-Western Egtptians. In Syria, Obama’s initial declaration of opposition to the Basher al Assad regime was followed by withdrawal. Washington’s retreat assured the descent into a bloody, irresolute civil war sending a flood of millions of refugees into neighboring countries and Europe. The threat of force followed by its withdrawal has returned Moscow to a base in the eastern Mediterranean and helped extend Tehran mullahs’ state terrorisn excesses across the Fertile Crescent, even into Latin America. A treaty to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapons, never submitted to the Senate as the Constitution fdemands, is rapidly disintegrating
In East and South Asia, Obama’s ambivalent policies toward Chinese aggression have encouraged Beijing to aggressive territorial claims against its neighbors, discouraged unity among the Southeast Asians against Chinese Communist threats. Again Hillary’s much publicized pivot to the Western Pacific has failed to materialize. Slowly, the rape of the American economy by the Chinese through export subsides and currency manipulation – begun in the Bush Administrations — has become so clear that the Trump Administration qill have no option but a dangerous crackdown.
Obama’s role as the first American Afro-American president was, whether admitted in public discussion, seen as an important opportunity to continue to heal the historic American race problem. But whether in part because his own exotic background linked him neither to the rising black middle class nor the poor of the ghetto, he either took nondefensible positions on individual race incidents or neglected completely the mayhem of his own Chicago hometown. One has to assume that the American black leadership can only see these past eight years as a failure by a president, whatever his color, to contribute to solution of the race problem which appears to most observers to be in an even worse condition than at his entry into office.
Obama’s claim for his Affordable Care solution to long-term U.S. medical care is nearing collapse with skyrocketing costs and failure of the insurance framework which was to support it. His steady stream of executive directives for additional regulation and environmental restraints has contributed toward the slowest and most erratic economic recovery since World War II.
Despite his rhetorical skills and personal popularity as the first black president, Obama’s legacy will be a negative one. As the anti-Obama vote for Donald Trump has demonstrated, it will also cast a shadow on many of the techniques and political forms his very talented political team gave the nation.
sws-11-14-16

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Mr. Kerry in Wonderland


There is a disputed old argument that extensive air travel causes pgysical injury and distorts cognitive thinking. [Stewardesses did remark that during the changeover in mid-20th century from internal combustion and jet-prop engines interrupted their menstrual cycle.]
Perhaps that is the explanationof a recent responses by Secretary of State John Kerry to a group of University of Chicago political science students. Kerry, like his predecessor Sec. Jillary Clinton, is in constant motion, most of it to foreign parts.
Kerry was presenting his case for the success of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.
Syria, he said, had actually proved that Pres. Obama’s famous red line had been drawn and was a success. He said it had ushered in a program of the export of chemical weapons of the Assad regime. The fact is, of course, that statement would depend on your definition of chemicals since it is certain Assad and his Russian and Iranian and Hezbollah allies continue to use tear gas in abundance. Nor can the Russian delibe air attacks on civilian air targets including medical facilities – nothing as barbaric seen since the 1930s—be ignored.
Obama’s “deal” with Iran to postpone their introduction of nuclear weapons, however, effective it may be, is another of Kerry’s victories. Again he ignores that within weeks Tehran had boasted of developments in intercontinental ballistics missiles tests – their only utility, of course, would be to transport weapons of mass destruction including nuclear. Nor is their any elucidation if the accusation, quietly confirmed by Washington, that billions in payments to Iran at the same time as the release of American citizens would go to fund the world’s number one state terroruist campaign.
Kerry skirts completely the March 2009 highly staged gift of a badge marked “reset” in English and Russian to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in n March 2009 U.S. The red button Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had the English word “reset”. But the Cyrillic transliteration was “peregruzka”, Russian for “overload”, perhaps a significant mistake!What the Obama Administration believed was to be the beginning of a new cooperative era turned into Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea, his sponsorship of of the Russian-speaking minority toward the destruction of Ukraine, and hints at similar operations in the Baltic states. That was after Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved the transfer of 20% of America’s uranium holdings to Russia [while nine investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation]. This was supposed to be another clever maneuver to halt Moscow’s expanding its own production of uranium as a fuel for nuclear weapons.
Kerry claimed the U.S. had preserved freedom of the seas by what must be described by others as a tepid response to China’s claims in the South China Sea. Beijing, despite a fimr denunciation of its sovereignty claims by the Permanent Coiu of Arbigration in the Hague, has moved now from an unsubstantiated claim to negotiations with Washington on how its claims are to be compromised.
Perhaps most egregious of Kerry’s maneuvers has been his courtship of the Vietnamese Communist regime. Ignoring its persecution of Cthe religious and other political prisoners, the argument that a stronger Vietnam in tacit alliance with the U.S. against China’s encroachments in Southeast Asia might be sustained. But the elaborate courtship of the chairman of Hanoi’s Communist Party rather than its government figures reminds us of Kerry’s past. He was, after all, a flamboyant supporter of the cutoff of military aid to a South Vietnam army which had performed well after the American withdrawal. He and his friends assured us there would be no human castrophe. Tell that to the families of a million South Vietnamese who went into fetid political pisons, tens of thousands never to exit, the thousands who lost their lives trying to flee by sea from the new regime and the murder of prominent anti-Communist leaders without trial.
The Mad Hatter told Alice that the truthfulness of his statements was of his own choosing. Kerry obviously has taken that advice.
sws-10-28-16

Obama’s Syrian legacy


It would be hard to exaggerate the mess in the Middle East that Pres. Barack Obama is leaving his successor.
While the five-year Syrian civil war continues unabated, pitting a number of different armed groups against each other with their foreign sponsors, Washington is caught in its own contradictions. In August American special forces assistance and bombing was given a Turkish incursion into northern Syria even though Ankara’s target was the American Kurdish Syrian ethnic ally most effective in the contest, and Washington’s target the Islamicist rebels now involved in the anti-regime movement.
Ankara fears Syrian Kurdish ethnics are attempting to set up a ministate, perhaps aiming to link up with its own Kurdish armed guerillas it has been fighting for three decades, often with Soviet assistance. The Turks fear America’s autonomous ally, the Syrian Kurds, the Kurdish region in Iraq, and ultimately, Iranian ethnic Kurds may try to form a new secessionist state with their own huge Turkish Kurdish minority.
Meanwhile, Turkey accuses Americans of having been involved in the recent failed coup against an elected Turkish government, one that under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is steadily headed toward an authoritarian Islamicist regime. Erdogan blames Fethullah Gulen. Muslim cleric and politician, once his closest infiltrating the state judicial and security system, for leading the coup and has formally asked for his extradition from the U.S.
Turkish airmen at the NATO-Turkish-U.S. base at Incirlik air base near the Syrian border were accused by Erdogan of implication in the failed coup, and U.S. operations there aimed at the Daesh [ISIS or ISIL Islamic terrorists] were halted temporarily. Not a comforting thought for Washington planners with nuclear weapons deployed there.
Erdogan’s leaky southern border has seen Islamicist support move south from Ankara and hundreds of thousands of migrants — some refugees from violence, others economic immigrants – moving on to Europe. His effort to blackmail German Chancellor Angela Merkel for additional aid and free movement of Turks inside the European Union in exchange for blockin the migrants has collapsed. Germany is hiccupping violently from the more than a million “refugees” it admitted last year with Merkel’s welcome.
Meanwhile, Obama courts Tehran’s mullahs. He signed what many believe was a no enforceable pact to halt Iran’s nuclear weapon, even though within weeks they publicly bragged of their firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile for carrying such a weapon. The American president went through secret contortions to pay $400 million – originally part of earlier arms purchases by the government of Reza Shah Palevi which Washington helped unseat – to free hostages. Billions more apparentlyis on its way.
The mystery is, of course, what Obama [and supporters of his Persian policy] think they are buying: Iran is already the world’s leasing sponsor of state terrorism and has lined up Mediterranean satellites in Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Both, of course, threaten Israel. One of the troubled aspects between Jerusalem and Ankara, once close military allies, is Turkish support of Hamas, a common enemy now of Egypt and the Israelis.
Obama didn’t create the bitter and explosive Mideast animosities, of course. But he has built on that inheritance, antagonizing America’s tradition Sunni and Israeli allies in the region. In Syria, the crux of the conflict, Turkey is ostensibly an ally of the U.S. is seeking to oust the Damascus regime under Basher al Assad, supported in turn by the Russians as well as the Persians. Moscow, despite its still a crippled relic of Soviet power, is creating naval and air bases in Syria – culpable in mass bombing of civilian populations – aiming at the old Soviet influence.
Whether Obama’s original threat to intervene in Syria, then withdrawn, would have made the difference in controlling the Mideast chaos, is an unanswerable question. But there is no doubt that his policies have helped create the current chaotic situation, increasingly involving the major powers, that could be the beginning of a regional conflict spreading beyond its current confines.
sws-08-30-16

Aleppo’s appeal


An epic continuing battle continues for control of Syria’ largest city, historically one of the most famous centers of urban civilization in the world. Before its demise in the post-World War I Franco-British partition of the Levant it ranked with Cairo and Istanbul [Constantinople] as a major cosmopolis, the Western end of the famous Silk Road from China to the West.
A call by 15 physicians in a letter personally directed to Pres. Barack Obama has dramatized the dilemma facing Washington. Obama’s history of “drawing red lines” in the Syrian conflict only to be forfeited has confused foreign participants in the struggle and the American people. His statements led finally only to America abandoning Syria to the tender mercies of the ruthless Basher al Assad regime which allied with the Russians wages war on an unprecedented scale on its civilian population, matched by the incredible brutality of Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] and its terrorist allies in the opposition.
Government and rebels in the past few days have clashed in southern Aleppo, voiding a truce promised by the Russians to enter the city. Moscow had earlier promised “humanitarian windows” to permit humanitarian convoys of food and medicines to transit. Mosocw now refuses to comment on the current situation including the use of Russian planes against the rebels and civilian populations. Human Rights Watch listed six deliberate strikes in the past two weeks by al Assad regime or Russian warplanes on health facilities in the north that killed 17 people.
Obama’s determination not to involve the U.S. in another irresolute Mideast war is certainly understood by a war-weary American public and justifiable to many of his supporters among the foreign policy experts. But now that has to be balanced with the possibility of another one of those catastrophic destructions of human life which the U.S. and the world have promised “never again”.
The doctors point out that hospitals and medical facilities have become not accidentally but deliberate targets in the warfare. This small group of health providers remaining in the city is dealing with an impossible situation as their letter dramatizes, including a shortage of medicines and supplies which often culminates in triage among wounded children. Furthermore, the rebels accuse government forces of carrying out an attack Wednesday using chlorine gas on rebel-held residential neighborhoods.
It seems unlikely that Obama can openly reverse his Mideast and particularl Syrian policy in the last few months of his administration, He has made American withdrawal the essence of his foreign policy and with serious and obvious U.S. failures on all fronts, its ideological goal is about all that is left of his tattered effort for “transformation” of U.S. foreign policy. Whether he has the courage to do so with a good deal of obscurantist rhetoric remains to be seen.
But we believe it is incumbent on the Congress immediately to take the lead in this human crisis. The physicians have pointed out that Americans earlier had promised to set up “corridors” into the embattled areas. These would carry drugs and foodstuffs to the estimated more than 1.2 million living in the government-held zone as well as some 250,000 now in the rebel-held areas of the city.
Also additional public pressure must be placed on the al Assad regime through Moscow and its allies in Tehran to end what have been reported as recent chemical warfare attacks on the rebels by government forces, apparently with the tacit cooperation of Russian air. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Thursday he was “concerned by reports of a new chemical attack… that is said to have claimed four lives people and left dozens injured.”
A United Nations framework is in place to handle humanitarian aid to both those in the rebel and government areas. It is incumbent now that the U.S. tale the lead in utilizing it to prevent a monumental human disaster.
sws-08-11-16

Stumbling into war


Despite Pres. Barack Obama’s continued insistence that he has pulled the U.S. out of endless – and unsuccessful – wars in the Mideast, American military involvement continues there.

Witness to the continued engagement, and in fact what appears to be an escalation of that commitment, is in the official news within the last 24 hours of another as yet unnamed Navy Seal killed. He appears to have been an adviser in what is a growing offensive to retake Mosul. A city normally of about two and a half million people in northern Iraq, Mosul has been occupied since June 2014 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and become one its crown jewels..

This is the third death announced since last fall in the more recent American engagement in the region. Theoretically, Americans are only acting as noncombatant but in the fog of war that distinction may fall away quickly The news was blanketed in the extended government and general media publicity given the fifth anniversary of the purtsuit and killing of Osama Ben Ladin, The elimination of Ben Ladin, as well as the continued drone strikes by U.S. forces of known and wanted terrorists, is offered as proof that the Obama Administration has been effectively pursuing a campaign and in eliminating enemies in the continuing struggle against Islamic terrorism.

With what we know of the U.S. commitment there these latest casualties are Special Forces or Seals encadred in local forces to give spine to Iraq government military efforts. It is part of what Obama ordered “to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL” That is the way Obama has characterized the renewed effort of the U.S to end the base of the new terror threat in a September 2014 speech to the nation.

But the refusal by the Obama Administration to acknowledge that the enemy is Islamic terrorism, with its ties however obscure and rejected by other Moslems, is hampering the prosecution of any effective effort against Daesh [ISIS or ISIL]. It is no secret that a larger part of the worldwide 1.3 billion Moslem community is neutered by fear of the minority pusuing jihad, or indeed has a substantial minority sympathetic to the Moslem theis of tradional conquest or conversion of non-Moslems. So long as Daesh is victorious – that is, able to lay a claim that it is a new rising Moslem caliphate or worldwide regime – it will be gathering adherents in the Moslem world. As always, the military and hits supporters wants a maximum effort as soon as possible to destroy the enemy.

Nor is the Obama Administration yet willing to acknowledge that contrary to the advice of the U.S. military, immediately on entering office he removed any American military presence in Iraq. He claimed, although denouncing the two Bush Administrations’ intervention to pull down the dictator Sadam Hussein and his Baath Party, that he was leaving a stable and peaceful country behind. That immediately turned out not to be the case, and his critics have argued that unlike our continued occupations after World War II of Germany and South Korea, it was predictable that we were leaving imminent chaos. That is in part why there have been 260 deaths added during the Obama Administration to the 4497 deaths since the Iraq wars began.

Now a new danger has arisen. By feeding American forces incrementally into the current effort to destroy Daesh, Obama risks that Daesh as long as it exists will take on new and effective strategies to counter the U.S. and Iraqi anti-terrorist forces. Furthermore, it is clear that with its very sophisticated propaganda and successful financial manipulation, Daesh is gaining ground with the various Islamic terrorist movements in Libya, West , North and Central Africa and Indonesia as well as in Syria and Iraq.. And through its influence in the Moslem Brotherhood, nominally Islamicist forces seeking to gain power through the ballot – and hang on to it – Daesh is putting pressure on Turkey and other Moslem-majority countries such as Pakistan with their own jihdist threats.

Washington is in fact groping into a new full-fledged conflict in the Middle East without proper planning and preparation. The kind of incrementalism that the current Obama strategy indicates is to a considerable extent the cause of our stalemate in Korea and our ultimate defeat in Vietnam. It is not a path we should be pursuing.

sws-05-09-16

Obama, you are there, nicht wahr?


Angela Merkel, Germany’s long-lifed chancellor, is noted for her Teutonic precision in public statements. So one cannot ignore her remarks after meeting Pres. Barack Obama on his present loop around the Europe. Over and over, she repeated the importance of the U.S. participation in Alliance strategies. The meaning might have been charged off to the ordinary polemics, except that the tone had a new quality. Merkel seemed to be ending each such assertion with an unspoken “that’s right, isn’t it?”
The German chancellor perhaps was hoping against hope that Obama assertion of American withdrawal from old leadership commitments to postwar Europe wasn’t true. If so, she was not only disappointed. For in an unusual public display of disagreement over policy, the two outlined their basic disagreement over Syria with its inundation of migrants and refugees for Europe.
Merkel, increasingly exposed to bitter opposition after continuing difficulties getting the rest of Europe to bear its share of the burden, is facing a crisis over the inflow. More than a million migrants invaded Germany last year, not only Syrians but other Mideasterners and Africans anxious to taste the fruits of the European welfare state.
Merkel has been trying to close the door she so righteously opened to all and sundry – a policy seen as a reflection in part of the guilt for the Nazis’ race policies. The business community at first welcomed the new labor recruits with a general German consensus. But as the numbers have increased, with the prospect of a continued flow, and the difficulties and cost of settling the newcomers, more and more Germans are questioning the policy.
But Merkel’s implied question was for a much larger question. In effect, she was asking how far Obama’s withdrawal of American leadership will go, and inferentially, whether another president in 2017 will continue that strategy. That Obama contradicted his own policy was probably irrelevant. He had, for example, taken a heavy hand in Britain arguing against Brexit, the U.K. pulling out of the European Union. But he offered nothing to amend his own erosion of Britain’s historic “special relationship” with the Americans. [British politicians, too, were quietly shaking their heads over the former university lecturer’s confusing the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with that of the European Union.]
Through smiles and reaffirmation of agreement, the division of Germany and the U.S. over Syria was laid out unusually forthrightly. Merkel has repeatedly called, and she did so again in this meeting, for the establishment of “safe zones” in Syria. The theory is that Syrian “moderates” would herd refugees into areas protected through military intervention, if necessary, by the Western powers. Obama has continually and emphatically rejected this strategy, even when it was proposed by American critics of his Mideast policy. That’s despite he was simultaneously announcing another increment in the renewed U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Instead, Obama put the emphasis on Sec. of State John Kerry’s conference for a negotiated political settlement. That, of course, runs up against the hard reality that the civil war in Syria centers on the continuance in office of Basher al-Assad and his bloody regime. One of Obama’s “red lines” once called for Assad’s immediate departure, but like his other “red lines, it has now been eroded into a compromise for Assad to remain through a transition period. Most observers give Kerry’s conference little hope of success. And Merkel and her supporters argue that until the moderates can claim a bit of territory, they have no real voice. And, of course, there is the problem of the continuing flow to an overwhelmed Germany and Europe. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is blackmailing Berlin with the threat that he will renege on his pact to curb illegal migration to Europe if Brussels blocks his request for visa-free EU entry for his 78 million Turks.
All of this to say that Obama’s planned retreat from what he saw as overextended American commitments to leadership abroad is leaving no end of doubts and chaos in its wake.
sws-04-24-16

Dancing with Putin


There is a wild Russian folkdance, like so many Russian cultural artifacts linked to the Tartar Occupation, called the kasatka [ka-zatch-ka]. In one of its many forms, it tests the dancer’s calisthenics by having him crouch but fling out each leg and foot alternately, testing his balance and the nerves of those aroumd him.

Vladimir Putin, old secret service operator that he is with some inherited talents of the Soviet regime but steeped in Russian folkways, has been dancing a katsatka around Pres. Barack Obama. And the effect is as usual unnerving to the encircled and annihilates whatever more formal and customary dance routine the imprisoned spectator might have pursued.

When Obama first suggested an aggressive American role in Syria, but then quickly reneged, Putin saw his chance. After his aggression in George, Crimea and Ukraine, and continuing threats elsewhere, he had unnerved the European Union and the U.S. It was to the point that they, however reluctantly, threatened formal resistance. And they did go as far as sanctions against the Russian leading lights around Putin.

But Putin has enough sense of history to know that bluff can often be successful, especially if like lies – as Hitler’s propagandist Josef Goebbels said – they are ambitious enough. So Putin plunged into Syria, set up the beginning of bases on the coast, and backed his would-be host, the collapsing regime of Basher Al Assad. The effort had great psychological and propaganda value, for Syria had once been the Soviet Union’s Mediterranean anchor, and a return there hinted at a return of Moscow to world leadership.

So the kasatka began. Putin’s oncoming disaster at home with the West’s sanctions and the collapsing oil price for Russia’s only export certainly left Putin in a precarious crouching position. But he flung his military, however much its technological stars and nuclear armory, still the decrepit carcass of the once grand Soviet war machine, far overcommitted into the Syrian row. His aircraft indiscriminately committing atrocities against a highly vulnerable civilian population, and his highly trained special forces encadred al Assad’s old professional French-styled Syrian army, were able to turn the tide against the multi-head opposition. That was especially true since neither Washington nor its allies could pull together demoralized Syrian democrats, and all were trying to keep their distance from al Assad’s main jidhadist opposition.

But then with a new kasatka thrust, Putin grabbed Obama’s gallivanting Secretary of State’s effort to set up an armistice and peace conference. The armistice gave Putin some respite from his overtaxed kasatka thrusts. His dance had so wearied Kerry & Co. that the conferees agreed to gather in Vienna, even though they clearly had totally opposite positions: Washington was demanding that al Assad go, the Kremlin had staked its successful dance on his remaining in office. With the long and ugly history of such conferences throughout the post-World War II history, between the West and the Communists, it was clear Putin’s kasatka meant he would whittle down the American/EU position. With successful negotiations always Washington’s primary target, negotiating with an opponent who does not give ground, ultimately always means the U.S. makes the concessions.

So Putin’s kasatka continues. The latest fling of the limbs is to “order” the Russian military out of Syria. Crouched as he is, he dearly needs to end his commitment before it collapses. But his kasatka presents this as great concession of a noble and enlightened opponent, and, of course, he has made no firm commitment on date nor which and what he will withdraw. In fact, as so often happened with Soviet promises of cooperation, the withdrawal might not take place at all, were he not in an overextended position that he needs to withdraw.

The kasatka never quite ends with any final tour de force. Usually the dancer is so exhausted he just leaves off. That may well be the case with Putin’s dance around the bemused Obama, trying desperately to make something of historical moment of the few months of his last tenure in the presidency. After all, the kasatka has achieved its purpose – it’s rescued Putin from economic collapse, at least for the moment, and has bolstered his flagging domestic support by a feint at the old Soviet international glory.

sws-03-14-16

 

Calling it Christian genocide


 

Among the many anomalies of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, none appear so anachronistic as its refusal to label the persecution and annihilation of Christians in the Middle East as genocide.

Granted that the term has been too often thrown around carelessly, used incorrectly as a synonym for prejudice and persecution of minorities. It does of course have a specific meaning. In the 1948 United Nations Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide it was defined as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group,” including by the means of “killing members of the group.” 

The stubborn refusal of the Obama White House and State Department to apply it to current events in the Mideast is therefore something of a mystery. Hundreds of thousands of Christians, Azidis and other religious minorities have been driven from their ancestral homes in Iraq and Syria or have been slaughtered during the rise of Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].

Iraq’s Christian population 10 years ago was about 1.5 million, but now is estimated at only 500,000. In Syria, of the 1.1 million Christians, about 600,000 have fled or died. Christians have been tortured, raped and even crucified. Mosul, Iraq, which was home to 35,000 is now empty of Christians after an ISIS ultimatum that they either convert to Islam or be executed. In Syria, Gregorios III Laham, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of the Church of Antioch, reported “entire villages” have been “cleared of their Christian inhabitants.”

American human rights activists – Jews as well as Christians – have called on the Obama Administration to admit Christian refugees to the U.S. under special quotas In an ironic twist, American policy now discriminates against Mideast Christian entry. The State Department accepts refugees from lists prepared by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees which oversees large refugee camps in the Mideast. However, endangered Christians do not dare enter these camps where they have been attacked by fellow Moslem refugees.

Christian groups and human rights and religious freedom advocates have been calling on the Obama administration to label the situation as a “genocide” — arguing that the terminology would help to bring a global community response to the crisis. But Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress last week that he is having an “additional evaluation” to help him determine whether the systematic murder of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East should be declared “genocide.” Earlier White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest conceded that the Obama administration’s hesitation to label the Islamic State’s persecution of Christians and other religious minorities as “genocide” is because of the legal ramifications. Kerry was responding to Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R.-Neb.), sponsor of a resolution that would declare on behalf of Congress that the slaughter of Christians is in fact genocide.

The Administration’s hesitation appears to be part of its general effort to find common ground with Moslem regimes in the Middle East, many of whom have long placed restrictions on Christian religious practice or looked the other way when violence occurred. This is after all an Administration which refuses use the words “Islamic radical” or “Islamic terror”and coming to the defense of the Christians in the region would clearly not fit into their strategy.

But U.S. Christian groups are demanding that the label genocide be invoked and that the Administration come up with a program to end it. Co-sponsored by an organization called In Defense of Christians and the Knights of Columbus, a petition is being promoted with a new nationwide TV ad. The ad includes quotes by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio endorsing a genocide declaration, a position supported by 55 percent of Americans, according to a 2015 K of C-Marist poll. The signers “implore” Secretary Kerry “to speak up on behalf of these brutalized minority populations and urge him “to declare that Christians, along with Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, are targets of ongoing genocide.”

sws-03-09-16

 

 

The Shale Revolution [Cont.]


The  Shale Revolution continues to wreak havoc as revolutions are wont to do.

The abundance of U.S. natural gas, in many ways a more satisfactory fossil fuel than either coal or oil because of its lesser emissions, has dynamited the whole worldwide energy market. Whether or not the Obama Administration wants it, the export of oil and gas is going to be a function of the new energy picture with the growing economic pressure to sell off our low priced gas to a world market which hasn’t yet taken advantage of the new mining technologies.

Along with the flagging economies of Europe, and now China, and subsequent lower demand, energy prices are under attack everywhere. The stock markets, long dependent on high energy costs and their very profitable producers, are lurching under the torpedoing of the old price structures. Fuel economies, sometimes at the insistence of government fiat as in the American automobile industry, are also finally having their effect and slowing growing energy demand.

In the long run, there is every reason to hope and believe that lower energy prices will be an enormous fillip for the U.S. and the world economies. But, as Maynard Milord Keyes once quipped, in the long run, we will all be dead. Projections of energy demand and supply have in the past been notoriously wrong. And they may be again. But for the moment, what looks likely for several years if a continuing low price for energy. The U.S. which has always prospered on low energy costs, as compared with Europe, is likely to benefit from this new situation.

Geopolitical developments overseas, for the moment at least, seem to be bolstering this new abundance of energy. Iraq’s fabulous oil and gas reserves are coming back onstream after so many years of war and destruction. Pres. Obama’s “deal” with Iran is likely to see sanctions against its sales of oil lifted with new entries to the market.

Most important has been the effort of our friends the Saudis to regain their role as the marginal producer and dictator of the international market pricing. They have opened all the valves and are producing and marketing at record levels. The intent, without doubt, was to hammer the American shale gas and oil producers with their higher costs than those on the Persian Gulf. But while there have been some difficulties and cutbacks for the U.S. producers, the shale oil entrepreneurs have been adept at coming up with new technological fixes which have in the main maintained their role in this new struggle for prices and markets.

Meanwhile, much propaganda and pure and simple idiocy dominates much of the talk about energy and its application. Electric cars, for example, may eventually become a reality because of new battery developments. But recharging the electric car off their baseboard plug – if that becomes the reality – is going to demand that more electricity be produced somewhere and by someone with some fuel. Coal which has until recently dominated the electrical generating plants, about 60% of the total energy consumption, is fading as more and more quick fix gas generators go into service and environmental constraints demand cutbacks in coal emissions. The pain in the old and often poverty-stricken coal mining areas is something the rest of the country is going to have to be attended [and be paid for].

But, returning to our original point, progress is rarely achieved without considerable pain – for some part or other of our society. And it is clear that is going to be case as the Shale Revolution with almost daily announcements of increased reserves is no exception. Government subsidies for wind and solar will continue to feed the trendy enviromentalists’ pressure on more innocent lawmakers. That, too, is a burden which the taxpayer appears inevitably going to bear.

sws-01-26-26

 

 

Refugees or Mubarizun


When we read Camp of the Saints in English translation sometime in the 1980s, we didn’t enjoy it much. It had been foisted on us by a friend, an old veteran of the political wars on The Hill. She saw it as a prediction of the future. But novels, after all, whether in the contemporary world, past golden eras, or in the future, have to have some verisimilitude. And this one didn’t seem to be in any way credible in its general thesis however well written and logical once you accepted one or two of its major assumptions.

Were we ever wrong!

If you have read the novel, you can’t be but comparing the current international geopolitical situation with its hypothesis. Said simply, it posits a takeover of Western civilization by hordes of migrants from what was then called “the underdeveloped world” as a result of a general misapprehension of guilt and innocence in relationships between Europe and the world of poverty in Afro-Asia [again a term that has disappeared].

Europe’s generous welcoming of what have been termed refugees from the destruction of the Syrian civil war was notable and praiseworthy. It is no secret that German Chancellor Angela Merkel laid out the welcome mat in another effort to wipe out the memory of the Nazi holocaust leading to World War II. But as the numbers kept escalating and other European countries were more reluctant to take large numbers of the migrants, the problem is turning into a serious strategic miscalculation –and could even threaten Merkel’s tight hold on the German prime ministry.

Not only have the numbers continued to grow – but their character has changed from genuine “refugees” seeking asylum for families driven from their homes to an increasingly overwhelming cadre of young men, many from further east of Syria. The UN Refugee Agency, a forceful advocate for the migrants, counts one million arrivals in Europe in 2015. Furthermore, three nationalities are represented: Syrian [49%], Afghani [21%] and Iraqi [8%]. The most ominous admission by the agency, however, is that most were adult men [58%]. However sympathetic Europeans and Americans are to the strife of genuine refugees, dramatized by at least 3,800 lost at sea in their desperate attempt to reach Western Europe, a different crisis is developing.

The Erupeans have splintered over how to meet the growing crisis. The sudden and huge influx has led to temporary border controls to limit the flow. Turkey is demanding more after receiving a $3.3 billion Euro bribe to stem the flow. But for both Turkey and the Europeans, the problem is further complicated by some countries of origin, Pakistan, for example, which refuses to take back their migrants when they are halted in their flight to Europe..

Organized sexual attacks by bands of these migrant men on New Year’s Eve on women in Cologne and other German cities, and in Scandinavia have been suppressed by the mainstream media and government in an effort to prevent a backlash to refugees. But these events only dramatize the fact that integration of these young men will not come about easily. In fact, there is evidence of an organized effort to infiltrate the West by Moslem terrorist organizations – a terrible harking back to repeated attempts by mubarizun, the traditional Mohammedan warrior whose conquest of the Middle East and North Africa resulted in the spread of Islam and was beaten back in earlier times at crises moments by Christian Europe.

Charges of “Islamaphobia” notwithstanding, there are predictions that the flow will grow in the months ahead from the chaotic Middle East, North Africa, and burgeoning populations in Iran and Pakistan. Charging racism to those who publicly call for a change in strategy to meet the growing threat are not a proper response. And ultimately, as with every European crisis in recent history, American policymakers are going to be called on to lend a hand.

sws-01-25-16

 

The American Iran disaster


It is hard to exaggerate the strategic disaster that has befallen American relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

At a time of increasing acts of terror – unfortunately now “lone wolf” murders that have no central command – the Obama Administration in a series of encounters has emboldened one wing of Islamic terrorism. It may be ironic but hardly laudatory that the U.S. and its allies are now more dependent for their ultimate defense on the conflict between the two wings of Islam, Sunni and Shia, and their terrorist offspring.

The Obama Administration early on lost its strategic bearings in dealing with a fanatical regime in Tehran aiming to become the hegemonic power in the Mideast. That defeat is at every level – strategic and military, economically, and in propaganda. It is true, of course, that much of the difficulties of dealing with the mullahs predates Obama’s seven years in the White House. One might even, at the risk of offending those who quite rightly worship at the shrine of Ronald Reagan, recall his failure to cope with Tehran. It was, after all, Reagan who did not retaliate after calling the suicide bombings which killed 299 American and French Marines in October 1983 in Beirut a “despicable act”. There was circumstantial evidence of Iranian complicity. Contradictorily, Reagan withdrew from the Lebanese peacekeeping force.

When a grass roots movement against the mullahs took to the streets following the stolen president elections of 2009 calling for American assistance, the Obama Administration turned its back on them. For all the talk about moderates and radicals in the Tehran regime, there is little hope that its leaders would modify their regional aggression and worldwide terrorist activity so long as it is successful in increasing Iranian influence. That is very much the case now with full-fledged allies on the Mediterranean: Hezbollah in Lebanon, the reeling but still functioning al Assad regime in Syria, and even the Sunni Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

Instead, Obama has sought to make some sort of pact with the mullahs, apparently believing American concessions would satisfy their hunger for international aggrandizement. It is only likely to feed it. The lengthy negotiations to limit Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction have turned into a farce. When Tehran objected to inspection of their military installations as part of the enforcement arrangements, the issue was simply dropped by Washington. At the very moment the success of the agreement was being heralded in Washington, Iran launched tests of new intercontinental ballistics missiles in defiance of UN Resolutions which could one day strike the U.S..

It may be a long time before we know why a group of American sailors were captured and then publicly humiliated by Tehran to prove U.S. impotence in the region. We may not know soon whether it was indeed a navigation accident and engine problems which called for a quick and nonconfrontational return, or perhaps even more threatening, Iranian technical capacity to interfere with the ship’s GPS. But the spectacle will highlight the reputation of the U.S. in the region for a very long time, and undermine any American strategy. Again, as in the swaps with the Taliban, Washington has given back a disproportionate number of proven terrorists – including some involved in bombings against Jewish installations in Argentina, and at the very moment a new administration in Buenos Aires has again promised to take up investigations of the incidents. It seems not only possible but likely, that like the released Guantánamo prisoners, most soon will be back at their trade.

The removal of sanctions and return of blocked funds probably exceeding $150 billion will be significant in helping the mullahs through their current economic crisis brought on by heavy military expenditures – including maintaining Iran Revolutionary Guard forces in Syria. Renewed oil and gas sales in the price-gutted world market will help only marginally. But there is little hope for regime change without substantial assistance from abroad. That, obviously, will not come from this American administration, leading from behind to enhance rather than diminish the major threat to peace and stability posed by the Tehran fanatics.

sws-01-18-16

 

Dangerous Mideast Reality


The volatility of Middle East events notwithstanding, a new picture is emerging of alliances very different from those preceding the outbreak of the Arab Spring and the now five-year-old Syrian civil war.
That new reality is obscured by the Obama Administration, suspended in contradictory strategies of removing the American military option from the table while incrementally increasing U.S. special forces and bombing, adamantly calling for the ouster of Basher al Asaad in Damascus but negotiating for his participation in a “settlement”, and most of all, insisting on talking up an Israeli-Palestinian negotiation which has died.
There are growing signs that the relatively artificial national-states created by Britain and France in the Ottoman Empire breakup after World War II may be crashing.
Central to the new picture emerging is Saudi Arabia’s position. Western pressure and internal reformists are moving against the most egregious aspects of the regime, e.g., its long time allegiance to Wahhabism – an Islamic fundamentalism at the root of much of the current terrorism. Although the Saudis are flooding the world oil markets in an attempt to criiple their competitors, the Shale Revolution in the U.S. has deflated its once pivotal energy role. Saudi movement is occasioned by some internal reform elements, but more importantly the Obama Administration’s flirtation with Riyadh’s chief rival Iran. [Thet have just announced women will be permitted to vote, a revolution in a country which does not permit them to drive.] The Saudis themselves have been forced into direct talks with Tehran in an effort to short circuit Washington-Tehran deals. But at the same time, the Saudis are rallying Sunni allies in Syria against the growing influence – including direct military participation – of Iran. The nomination of a pro-Syrian president in Lebanon and the growing domination of the Iranian ally, the Shia Hezbollah, is a defeat for the Saudis.
Whether traditional family domination and loyalties can withstand this turmoil remains to be seen.
The Israeli-Arab conflict which has dominated Mideast politics may be dissolving in the face of the greater fear of an aggrandizing Iran. The recent announcement that Israel is opening a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi, although enmeshed in a number of subterfuges, is the most dramatic recent evidence of the growing new tacit alliances. Jerusalem and Cairo are in a tight security and military alliance against Hamas in Gaza, supported by Iran, and the remnants of the Moslem Brotherhood fighting a guerrilla movement against the al Ssisi regime. But virtual disintegration of the Palestinian Liberation Organization under aging Pres. Mohammed Abbas – under bitter attack from Hamas– means there is no negotiating party on the Palestinian side. The current wave of Palestinian violence –“lone wolf” episodes unorchestrated by any Palestinian organization if encouraged by Hamas – is being met stoically by an Israeli public. It has not slowed a growing French Jewish in-immigration occasioned by violent anti-Semitic episodes in France, Despite American and EU opposition [the latter in a trade offensive], Israel is consolidating its enclaves [”settlements”] in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
The Obama Administration’s response to these dramatic reversals in the region is an attempt to find a negotiated settlement to the Syrian Civil War. While Russia’s Pres. Vladimir Putin has nominally joined the effort, he has bid up his hand in the Syrian conflict in support of the al Basher regime which Washington still insists must go. How long Putin, with a collapsing economy facing Western sanctions over the Ukraine issue and a tumbling international oil price for its only export, can maintain the Syrian thrust remains to be seen. But the use of sea-born missiles this week was a dangerous escalation, not the least because some Russian missiles fired earlier from the Caspian earlier had fallen short in Iran
While references to World War III [by none other than Pope Francis himself] are exaggerated, the volatility of events suggests the possibility of miscalculations at any moment with even more escalating violence.
sws-12-11-15

The new old sick man of Europe


For a century European politics was dogged with “the sick man of Europe”: the collapsing Ottoman Empire and its implications for the major powers. That’s not the case now, of course. Multi-ethnic empires are a thing of the past, their death rattle came with the Soviet Union’s implosion. But policies of the Ottomans’ successors, the Turkish Republic, are sucking the Europeans further into the Middle East’s swamp.

The recent downing of a Russian aircraft darting in and out of Turkish territory has dramatized a situation everyone knew but few – most of all the Obama Administration – wanted to face. After a spectacular leap forward with liberalization of its economy, Turkey now faces both external and internal threats including economic stagnation. Ankara’s woes pose additional problems for the European Union, wrestling with obstacles in what was thought to be the inevitable economic and hence political continental integration.

From its outset the Obama Administration had courted Turkish Pres.Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, believing him the model for a modernizing Muslim world. As a popular mayor of cosmopolitan Istambul, he supposedly represented “moderate Islam”. Obama had reached out, apologizing for what he perceived as a history of American foreign misadventure, making him one of his principle foreign contacts.

But oncein national leadership Erdoğan has moved toward authoritarianism, flirted with Islamicists, and in lost control of his southeast border with chaotic Syria. He has looked away as body traffickers have used Turkey as a base for flooding Greece and Europe with destitute migrants, alternately moving recruits to Daesh and other Islamic terrorists, and fed them by permitting black market oil trafficking, some of it apparently close to his family.

With his hold on majority parliamentary power in jeopardy, Erdoğan deliberately created an atmosphere of insecurity. He abandoned peace efforts with his huge Kurdish minority, further complicating the the U.S. and the Persian Gulf Arabs’ efforts to use the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds as their most effective local force against Daesh [ISIS or ISUIL]. The Europeans have just forked over $3.2 billion to finance Turkish refugee camps. But neither party believes this will staunch the migrant flow, much less as promised, be a new beginning for negotiations for Turkey’s European Union membership. The latter seems now increasingly unlikely, not the least with concern growing over Muslim minorities in Europe growing.

Erdoğan has restarted the Turks’ centuries-old feud with Moscow, ignoring a growing and extremely profitable bilateral commerce. As the plane incident proved, the Russian presence in Syria — supporting Erdoğan’s one-time friend but now bitter enemy Damascus’ Basher al-Assad – adds to the threat to peace.

Obama, meanwhile, has new promises that Turkey will close its Syrian border with the help of American forces. That commitment, too, seems less than realistic with Washington only reluctantly dribbling ground forces into the region to support an anemic bombing campaign. If Erdoğan uses his victory in the November 1 election to continue to pursue recent policies, it will add to the deteriorating Mideast situation.

It’s incumbent now for the Obama Administration using Turkey’s NATO alliance membership – seen as it ultimate defense against Russia – to pull up its socks. Ankara’s fulfillment of promises to police its Syrian border are essential to any American effort which Sec. John Kerry has been leading in Vienna talks to find a political solution to the Syrian catastrophe. Cooling the Syrian confrontation, in turn, is essential in avoiding a general breakdown and an even more general war. We can only hope that the Obama Administration will move more quickly out of its posture of “leading from behind” to get a handle on the situation.

sws-12-03-15  

 

 

France leads the Free World


The United Nations Security Council has voted, a week after the brutal massacres in Paris, unanimously to authorize countries to “take all necessary measures” to fight Islamic terrorism.

The resolution, drafted and introduced by France, calls on all UN member states to “redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist attacks” committed by Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] and other extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda. The Council had been stymied over Syria’s bloody civil war now nearing five years largely due to the deep division of its members over the role Damascus bloody dictator Basher al Assad would play. The Western allies including a red line drawn by Pres. Obama insist he must play go while Moscow – with the support of Iran – are in fact supporting his continuing attempt at rule in Damascus.

It’s fitting that Paris took the lead in the latest. But, of course, as with so many UN actions, we are not sure how much it adds to the very necessary international solidarity to fight this plague. If proof were needed that the world faces a new kind of barbarity, it came only hours after the vote when Islamist gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Central African Mali’s capital Bamako ending after  nine hours later with at least 27 dead.

French diplomats argued that the UN resolution, which provided no further legal basis for the campaign against the terrorists, would nevertheless reinforce the effort to mobilize international opinion and action. French diplomacy beat back a competing Russian resolution whose intent was to continue support for Syria’s dictator Basher al Assad, whose unprecedented war against his own people has precipitated the Mideast chaos.

In Paris itself, the French launched a campaign to remind themselves and the rest of the civilized world how much it has come to symbolize Western culture through the centuries. Paris’ celebration of life in all its aspects compares with the cult of death of the Islamicists.

Parisians were buying copies of Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”, placing them in shrines with candles and flowers where the victims were struck down. It was in response to a TV interview with one of those unique Parisiennes in her 70s, known only as Danielle, who had quoted one of Hemingway’s famous passages: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

“Reacting to barbarity through books is a very French thing,” writer and journalist Pierre Assouline, one of the judges of country’s most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, commented. The publisher of the Hemingway’s book – in French, “”Paris est une fête”, Paris is a party – was going into print to meet the demand.

But as much as these gestures please us, and remind us of the unique place Paris holds in our cultural traditions, we hope we will also remember that they have to be defended with force of arms. France is going full blast, given its relative military inferiority to the U.S. or even Britain, to annihilate Daesh. It will boost triple its bombing with the arrival of its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle within striking distance, especially now that the American carriers are being refitted. France will shortly be joined by Britain where Prime Minister David Cameron will call on Parliament for airstrikes in Syria.

One might well ask where the Obama Administration is in all this. Professions of support for our oldest ally, France, are less than convincing with the growing evidence that even the bombing campaign against Daesh has been half-hearted. Ironic as that may seem, at the moment it is France which is leading the charge to defend the West against the Islamicist barbarians.

Shades of Charles Martel and the Battle of Tours 1238 years ago last month when France turned back the Moslem conquest of the West!

sws-11-21-15

Refugees, Terrorists and Morality


Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, America’s leaders are presented with a vexing problem of statecraft which poses realism versus idealism.

Millions of refugees are pouring out of Syria, victims of the more than four year bloody Civil War. Many choose a perilous path on to Europe; some certainly pursuing lifelong dreams for a better life in European countries with their elaborate safety nets and dwindling labor pool. More, even, are not Syrians at all, but Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and even Central Asians, seizing this opportunity for new lives in the West.

To the consternation of many of her fellow conservative party colleagues, German Chancellor Angela Merkel initially welcomed any and all of these migrants. Although of another generation, and in fact, reared under the Communist East German tyranny herself, she has said that given Germany’s onerous Nazi history, her country could do no less. The German welcome, since its social welfare benefits lead the field, has made it the destination of most of the migrants — what will be 850,000 or more this year. Berlin is now pleading with its fellow European Union members to take more. Some, like Poland and Hungary, however, are adamant that they cannot absorb these new non-Europeans, for economic and cultural reasons.

The flow shows little sign of abatement what with the Syrian chaos enhanced by the emergence of a barbaric, self-appointed Islamic “caliphate”, Daesh [or ISIS or ISIL. While Europe wrestles with the problem, the U.S. now explores its traditional role of welcoming “your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. Pres. Barak Obama has called for the admission of at least 10,000 of these migrants immediately, another 200,000 for the next two years.

The House of Representatives has just passed legislation calling for a pause in admission of the migrants. This comes after FBI Director. James B. Comey, among others competent to judge, have insisted that currently the federal government does not have the capacity to vet these newcomers, weeding out possible covert terrorists. Those defending the President’s initiative have called the opposition everything from racist to calling up the refusal of the U.S. to admit Jews during Nazi persecution and destruction of six million during the 1930s and 40s. While that blot on America’s moral record lives on, it is hardly relevant; although some of us greybeards remember arguments with some of the few German Jewish arrivals about the Versailles Treaty and Hitler, there were no suspicions any were German agents.

Nor is the argument that suggestions only Christians be s prejudicial as it sounds at first glance. The laws under which refugees are given special entry to the U.S. are couched in terms of rewarding specific groups who are the target of a foreign tyranny. That is certainly the case with Christians and other minority groups like the Yazidi and even non-Sunni Moslems who have been the victims of Daesh’s unspeakable barbarity.

Perhaps some of the President’s supporters are correct that opposition to his proposal is based on ulterior motives, for example, an appeal to old-fashioned xenophobia. But the strength of an argument for a “pause” to reconsider who we are admitting and under what conditions is a necessity. The growing evidence that the Paris terrorist acts – as others before them in Europe and the U.S. – were committed not by illegal immigrants but by visaed newcomers or even native-born Moslem ethnics, is evidence of a source of concern. Certainly the growing skill and increasing reach of Daesh indicates they would have every incentive and techniques for infiltrating the migrants.

The U.S. has committed $4.5 billion since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 to aid Syrian refugees and the neighboring countries housing them, more than any other country. This might be a good time to up that ante if it is possible for it to be absorbed by the mechanisms now in place. But it makes all the sense in the world that for the moment we reexamine our vetting processes as a measure of national security for those additional refugees we intend to admit as permanent residents.

sws-11-20-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limping alliance


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under siege on several fronts.
At this critical moment, the traditional close collaboration of the U.S.-Israeli alliance is troubled, not least by Obama Administration’s pettiness. That’s been characterized by vulgar leaks from the White House and the recent staged absence of senior American officials for Netanyahu’s UN speech. Such designated protocol lapses are bound to have an impact on the kind of intimate relations the alliance has always had.
On the home front, there has been the outbreak of what appears to be “lone wolf” violence by Palestinians against Israeli individual civilian and military targets. [In one recent case there was interception of a badly prepared car bombing in Jerusalem that would have cost large casualties.]
The knife-wielding attacks are often perpetrated by young suicidal fanatics reared in United Nations-supported refugee schools where hatred and violence against Jews is indoctrinated. Unlike the two earlier intifadas [Arabic for shakeup, uprising], there appears to be no central direction. But the Moslem terrorists Hamas, Islamic Jihad and once Soviet-supported Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, have publicly acclaimed the attacks.
Given their nature, the defense often results in the death of the Arab attackers, leading to new accusations in the Western media and among Palestinian sympathizers of Israeli “overreaction”. At the same time, Israeli authorities find defense difficult given the spontaneity of the terrorists in civilian settings, including for example, using an automobile to run down groups waiting at bus stops. Some attacks inside the so-called “green line” [Israel before the 1967 conquest of East Jerusalem and the West Bank] suggest support may be coming from Israeli Arabs as well as those living in Occupied areas.
With 60% of Israelis telling pollsters they fear for their personal safety, the government is being pushed toward more stringent controls. And the outbreak has found an echo among Jewish fanatics, sometimes in attacks on innocent Arabs.
In a sense, the attacks, while encouraged by statements of Arab “moderates”, are an evidence of the disintegration of the secular Palestinian leadership and the growing influence of Islamicists. That will inevitably lead to more linkage to the Islamic terrorists ravaging the whole region, particularly in neighboring Syria. There, its growing professionalism with heavier armament supplied by Iran, the Lebanese Hezbollah, an important ally of the al Assad regime, is a growing menace on Israel’s northern border. That is coupled with renewed missile shelling from Gaza and border incidents by Hamas-organized protesters crossing into Israel.
When Netanyahu flew to Moscow Sept. 20 for a one day meeting with Putin, he apparently wanted to eliminate any possibility Israeli aircraft intercepting arms transfers Hezbollah would engage the growing Soviet presence. It seems clear he foresaw the growing Moscow effort to prop up the al Assad regime, tighten its de facto alliance there with Iran. [The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani had made two Russian visits himself shortly before].
The Israeli prime minister’s highly advertised concern highlights the equally publicized Obama Administration surprise at the sudden Russian Syrian buildup. That suggests Netanyahu’s bitter and public opposition to Pres. Barack Obama’s “deal” on Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and Washington’s response may be eroding intelligence liaison. That’s despite the Obama Administration insistence new military aid and cooperation with Israel would be order of the day after the successful completion of the pact with Iran.
With the Obama Administration admitting that its nuclear arms deal with lifting of sanctions, whatever else it has done, will provide new financing for Tehran’s worldwide terrorist activities, the situation can only get worse. It’s time the Obama Administration, as the senior partner in the alliance, and particularly Susan Rice, national security adviser, ends her childish antics and tightens the alliance and its intelligence liaison in the face of a growing regional crisis, now involving the Russians as well as the bevy of Arab antagonists.
sws-10-11-15

Turkey: another “Syria”?


Turkey is rapidly catching the Syrian disease – that is, a Mideastern country not only torn apart by internal factions but a playground for contending international forces.
But as an important member of the NATO alliance, Turkey plays a much more critical role in relations between the European Union, the U.S. and Vladimir Putin’s increasingly aggressive Russia.
The analogies with Syria grow stronger even as the outcome is still as murky as the outcome appears there.
In Turkey, too, the “original sin” appears that from his once overwhelmingly popularity, Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan developed egomania.
As the very successful mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan once allegedly said “Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.” His stop seems to be creating an authoritarian state. But his streetcar’s trolley has jumped the wire with the loss of his parliamentary majority in June 2015 elections. And polls indicate he won’t get new majority in elections he has now called for November. With increasing domestic violence, it has become problematical whether they can even be held.
Like Syria’s Basher al Assad, Erdogan has refused to meet his considerable opposition with compromises. The economic boom is staggering. He has virtually abandoned an attempt to join the European Union after his potential Western partners dragged their heels earlier with doubts about whether Turkey met the requirements of free governments.
Meanwhile, Erdogan’s foreign policy which was to have only friends in all directions has turned into the exact reverse: he has growing disputes with all his neighbors and the major powers, including the U.S. That’s despite the fact that Pres. Barack Obama once called Erdogan one of a handful of leaders with whom he was on intimate terms.
Proof of the U.S. rift came with the announcement Washington [along with Germany] is withdrawing its Patriot missiles which Erdogan requested when his once highly advertised relations with Syria’s al Assad fell apart. The Pentagon’s official explanation is they need modification. But given Obama’s policies, there is a suggestion it is because Obama didn’t want to be dragged into Turkey’s increasing difficulties on its Syrian border, despite NATO assurances of support.
Washington’s relations with Ankara are also trapped in the Kurdish problem. Erdogan abandoned his efforts to bring the decades-old bloody Kurdish PKK insurgency to an end, in part because of the success of a Kurdish-led party. [The Kurds are at least 20%, maybe a third of Turkey’s 75 million]. But the Kurds inside Syria, whom Erdogan says are linked to his own internal enemies, are Washington’s only effective internal force against Daesh [the purported ISIS or ISIL caliphate]..
When Russian aircraft penetrated Turkey’s space in support of Assad [whose own airforce earlier had wandered in too], Erdogan threatened to cancel a growing economic exchange with Moscow including a giant nuclear power plant and cooperation to transmit Russian gas to Europe through a new pipeline across the Black Sea [which would eliminate Ukraine].
Erdogan abandoned his very profitable military alliance with Israel in a flurry of insults to Israel leaders and sponsorship of Hamas in Gaza whom the rest of the world calls terrorists. His strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood put him at odds with Egypt whose President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is trying to root out after overthrowing a Brotherhood regime.
Heavily dependent on Iran for gas, Erdogan has tiptoed around his growing differences with Tehran. But while he has lined up against the mullahs’ ally in Damascus, there are accusations – that certainly have alarmed Washington and the EU – of less than maximum efforts to cut off aid and recruits flow to Daesh,.
The question now is whether Erdogan will make a radical turn toward reconciliation. If not, there’s growing concern among Turkey’s friends that the country is moving toward growing chaos. A murderous bomb explosion this past week in the capital Ankara could signal that new level internal violence.
sws-10-10-15

Testing China’s aggression


Apparently Pres. Obama has learned a lesson from his lack of strategy in Syria: The Financial Times reports he has finally acceded to Sec. of Defense Ashton Carter’s pleas to assert freedom of the seas in Southeast Asia.
Within the next two weeks, senior American officials say, U.S. naval vessels will challenge Beijing’s claim to incorporate vast stretches of the South China Sea into its territorial waters.
The vessels will enter the 12-mile limit which Beijing has drawn along “the nine dot line”, its only claim to a group of coral shoals where it has been building at breakneck speed. During the past two years, the Chinese have scooped up enough mud and gravel to build thousands of acres on the several islands replete with military airstrips.
The new bases permit China to advance beyond the so-called first-island chain which has restricted its naval activities to occasional feints across the Strait to threaten the Taiwanese, and contest islands long claimed and occupied by Japan in the East China Sea.
These new bases, hundreds of miles from their Mainland ports and justified only with ancient maps showing vague Chinese claims could become important for projection of strategic power, already menacing nearby Philippines and Vietnam.
The White House has been reluctant to permit the Navy to exercise time-honored rights of passage in one of the world’s most important naval commercial waterways, whether recently because of the state visit just concluded of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, or a part of Obama’s general withdrawal of American power around the world. That lack of resolve has put into question former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s “pivot to Asia” which the Obama Administration has made part of its worldwide strategy.
It has been clear, however, that although there were glowingly optimistic statements anticipating the Xi visit, Obama got nowhere in negotiating any of the major issues which now confront the two countries. These include, of course, recent Chinese hacking of U.S. cybernetworks, violation of intellectual properties of American and other foreign companies, or other trade issues such as the manipulation of its currency [which Washington has refused to formally recognize, a flagrant example exercised on the eve of the visit with a Chinese devaluation.].
But no issue between the two countries has carried such dangerous longterm implications and possibilities of confrontation as Beijing’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. The move could be even more important – and fraught – than any of the red lines which Obama has drawn, and then violated, in Syria and the Mideast. Or as important as the growing aggressive behavior of Russia’s Valdimir Putin in Ukraine, and now, in Syria.
A successful test of traditional right of peaceful passage through international waters, in this case those which Beijing has unilaterally claimed as its own territory, is seen by most traditional naval scholars as something long overdue.
Today China’s elaborate and rapid efforts to create a “blue water” navy are still in their infancy. American spokesmen, including the highest echelons of the U.S. Navy, have in the past recognized that China has the right and as an emerging great power, would, build a modern naval fleet. At one point, an American admiral, noting the difficulties of building and maintaining aircraft carriers – China has rebuilt one bought from Ukraine and has another building – was something the U.S. might assist in for a “peacefully emerging China”.
But increasing signs of aggressive behavior by the Chinese have vitiated, at least for the time being, that kind of open military collaboration. And, in fact, Beijing has generally rejected the most routine military to military communication which has become normal and practical among the major powers in their effort to avoid untoward incidents.
Insisting , along with traditional U.S. allies in the region, that peaceful passage through international waters must be preserved and the valid claims of neighboring states honored, is, however much a risk now, one to be preferred than at a later time when Beijing’s resources will be greater and when dangerous precedents would be established.
sws-10-08-15

Refugees, migrants, infiltrators


Refugees, migrants, infiltrators
Germany’s Angela Merkel appears about to make another 180-degree turn in her policy toward Mideast population flows to Europe. Initially, despite Germany’s troubled history of ethnic relations, she rejected accepting refugees from Syria’s bloody civil war which has already taken more than a quarter of a million lives. Then she switched to a welcome mat that had her being called “Mama Merkel” among the desperate survivors of growing inhospitable refugee camps in Syria’s neighbors.
Now, once again, with more than 550,000 new arrivals in Europe this year – and a threat of a million if present levels continue — Berlin appears to be closing the door. It has been unable to convince all its European Union partners they should take in some of the flow, and worried that one of the EU’s most important achievements – a common labor market – might be threatened. The German states are complaining they have reached their capacity, and there have been outbreaks of violence among migrants.
Through the cloudy glass of unprecedented movements and propaganda surrounding them, it is hard to know exactly what is happening. Certainly large numbers among the arrivals are not even Syrian, much less those escaping violence in that increasingly desperate country. Many are from further east – Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and Eritrea. There is now an increasing flow across the Mediterranean from includes Black Africans escaping the horrors of the Boko Haram Islamic terrorists in West Africa.
But it is also clear that many of the arrivals are not, in a real sense, refugees from persecution and death but “economic migrants” looking for a better life. And what better way to begin one, giving them the benefit of the doubt, than at least temporarily taking advantage of the generous social welfare benefits of the EU states, but particularly Germany. Of course, there is the rapidly declining German birth rate and its need for immigrants for its labor pool. But as with the Turkish gastarbeiter in Germany in the 1960s – and even more France with its North African immigrant no-go ghettoes –fitting these people into the European society may not be that easy.
Many of the Moslem migrants carrying their culture in their suitcases; they do not want to accept European traditions. Then there are those photos of young men of military age and the possibility they have among their ranks followers of the plethora of Moslem terrorist groups now tearing the regions apart.
Without pushing the analogy too far – given America’s successful tradition of accepting and absorbing European for 200 years – are there lessons for the U.S. here? For some Americans there is still the guilt associated with the refusal in the 1930s to take in European refugees, particularly Jews, and indirectly contributing to that catastrophe for all Western civilization.
But over the last four decades American legal immigration has quadrupled. The U.S. is annually now admitting one million new permanent residents — half a million foreign students, 70,000 asylees and refugees, 700,000 foreign workers, and 200,000 relatives of foreign workers. Many more stay —whether originally as temporary visitors, lifetime immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, foreign students, or recipients of our “visa waiver program”.
The U.S. government cannot effectively track these legal foreign visitors, much less the illegals – those who overstay their visas or the flow over our poorly guarded borders and airports. The U.S. has already authorized 10,000 new Syrian refugees and Pres. Obama has proposed to make that 100,000. That is despite the fact that the Administration does not, as many of its critics here and in Europe, accept the allegation that American Mideast policy – especially in Iraq and with the new “deal with Iran – may have contributed to the chaos. But the question and a debate must proceed even with the risk that some arguments may drop into racism or prejudice, over whether, indeed, if is not taking on too much of an additional burden for the taxpayer and the economy.
sws-10-07-15

Putin wins a round


Putin wins a round
When Pres. Barack Obama meets Vladimir Putin Monday at the UN in New York, it will be a minor victory for the Russian president, even if as the White House suggests, it was Moscow who asked for the date.
Putin, with his back to the wall, is trying to maneuver his way out of a deep crisis. The combination of the collapse of oil and gas prices, Russia’s economic mainstay, the Western sanctions placed on some members of Putin’s coterie because of his aggression in Ukraine, and his upcoming elections, all test what has become a Sovietized regime.
Although the Russians had made some progress toward reequipping their military, putting an expeditionary force into Syria was an enormous gamble on Putin’s part. He hopes to maintain a role in what many see as the approaching climax in the gruesome four-year Syrian civil war. The al Assad regime may be on its last legs, even though its opponents are divided among Islamic terrorists clawing as much at each other as at the Damascus regime. Putin may, in fact, simply be setting up a Mediterranean enclave for Al Assad’s minority Allawite sect which has dominated his government, if the country finally disintegrates.
The traditional love affair between German business and the Russians is not faring well now that Europe has other cheaper options for its energy imports. But the avalanche of Syrian refugees [and a host of other economic migrants masquerading as Syrians] is putting pressure on the Europeans to come to terms with some sort of Syrian settlement in which Putin hopes to play a role.
Putin’s tacit alliance with Iran to support the al Assad regime, however, makes him a player in the Syrian debacle while the Obama Administration is now totally bereft of influence there. Furthermore, despite public pronouncements to the contrary, Washington’s traditional allies in the region – Israel, Egypt, the Saudis and the other Gulf states – are all making their own deals where they can. They all share the common fear of an increasingly powerful Iran, now that an agreement with the U.S. has made them a threshold nuclear power.
It was a terrible indictment of Obama’s policies that Israeli Prime Minister Benajamin Netanyahu had to go to Moscow last week with officials of his Israel Defense Forces to try to sort out any possibility of conflict with the new Russian forces in Syria. Jerusalem has to continue its efforts to halt further strengthening of Hezbollah, the Iranian ally in support al Assad, which presumably would be sicked on Israel if sought to unilaterally end Tehran’s nuclear threat. Whether Netanyahu actually achieved that goal remains to be seen but its American ally was not a player there either.
In recent speeches, Putin has put out proposals for an accomodation with the Americans, restoring the old image of Moscow as a superpower. But by stepping up his support of al Assad, he is crossing one of Obama’s famous red lines, that is, that the beginning of any settlement in Syria had to be the exit of the Syrian president. It was, after all, al Assad’s refusal to make any concessions to what began as peaceful demonstrations against the regime’s dictatorial policies which degenerated into the bloody contest. And al Assad more than anyone else is responsible for the estimated 250,000 casualties of the conflict and the millions of refugees who have fled the country.
Putin has said publicly that his protégé al Assad is ready to consider a coalition with leaders of the Syrian opposition – although Tehran, a more important backer of the regime – has yet to be heard from. But such negotiations could take months to achieve even a modicum of success, leaving one more mess for the next American president to try to wipe up.
sws-09-15-15