Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Israel Batters Hamas —- Kerry to the Rescue

by P. David Hornik

As of Sunday evening, on Day 13 of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas was still fighting on against Israel, although its prospects didn’t look good.

With Hamas’s rocket fire on Israel intensifying two weeks ago, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, with Iran’s nuclear program the main thing on his plate, kept ordering only small-scale retaliatory strikes from the air, hoping to avoid a larger conflict. But Hamas kept firing—more and more. So Israel launched Operation Protective Edge—but still tried to keep it limited, without boots on the ground in Gaza.

On Wednesday morning Netanyahu made an adroit move, publicly accepting an Egyptian ceasefire proposal. Hamas turned it down flat. Netanyahu, who told the Israeli public in a televised address on Sunday evening that he has been in constant contact with the leaders of the U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, France, and other countries, undoubtedly drove that point home to them.

With Israel’s diplomatic position strengthened, and with Arab media growing harshly critical of Hamas, Hamas responded by…escalating the war. On Thursday at dawn the Israeli army spotted and repelled a group of 13 Hamas terrorists who had infiltrated into Israel through a tunnel from Gaza, on their way to perpetrate a massacre at nearby Kibbutz Sufa. The near-catastrophe was a pivotal moment that put an end to Israel’s boots-on-the-ground debate.

On Thursday night Israeli infantry, tank, and engineering units entered Gaza. The stated goal was to find the tunnels along the border—in which Hamas has invested vast sums and years of work—and destroy them, removing an intolerable danger of murderous attacks and kidnappings from residents of southern Israel.

In his speech Sunday evening Netanyahu spoke of somewhat broader aims—“an extended period of calm and security” and “inflicting serious damage” on Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza. While the IDF has indeed been finding and destroying tunnels, Sunday also found it locked in heavy fighting in the Shejaia neighborhood of Gaza City, a Hamas stronghold.

Which brings one to the issue of casualties.

People who complain of “asymmetry” and “disproportion”—meaning that something has to be wrong because Israelis aren’t dying—could feel somewhat better on Sunday evening, as the IDF officially announced that the total of soldiers killed since Israel invaded Gaza on Thursday night now stood at 18, 13 of them in the previous 24 hours. As for the Palestinian side, the death toll since the war started reportedly came to over 400, including 65 in the fighting in Shejaia on Sunday.

On the Israeli side, sensitivity to casualties is particularly high, and Netanyahu devoted a good part of his speech to the issue on Sunday evening. But with most of Israel under constant rocket fire for almost two weeks, and ongoing infiltration attempts from Gaza, Israelis will tolerate the casualties because they know the alternative is an Israel that is no longer viable.

Palestinian casualties are, of course, a different matter—the cause célèbre not only of Israel-bashers but also of Western governments that typically start pressuring Israel for a ceasefire as soon as it starts seriously fighting Palestinian terror.

The reasons for the “asymmetry” between Israeli and Palestinian casualties should be clear by now to anyone who is informed and has a conscience. Israel invests vast sums to protect its citizens, particularly with the Iron Dome missile-defense system; Hamas positions weapons stockpiles and command centers in and under mosques, schools, and hospitals. Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to warn Gazans of impending strikes, and encourages them to leave conflict zones; Hamas orders them to stay where they are.

It gets down to the moral difference between a democratic state with a Jewish ethos and a terror organization with a jihadist ethos. But it’s a distinction to which the world seems particularly resistant.

There were already signs of trouble on Sunday when U.S. secretary of state John Kerry—who has publicly made statements supportive of Israel and critical of Hamas—was caught in an open-mike moment bitterly criticizing Israel for Palestinian casualties and implying that he needed to come to the rescue.

A short time later President Obama chimed in with a call in a similar spirit to Netanyahu—in which he announced that Kerry was on his way.

Hamas is isolated, despised by most of the Arab world, caught in a vise between Israel and the fiercely anti-Hamas regime of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt, inconsequentially supported by Turkey and Qatar, and in serious danger of sustaining a major, lasting blow.

A decisive Israeli win in this war will bolster Israel’s deterrence, discourage its jihadist foe Hizballah to the north, and demonstrate to the region that ideological jihad is a losing proposition and no match for Western military prowess. Obama’s “concern” and Kerry’s impending arrival are, then, very worrying.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the book Choosing Life in Israel.

Source: http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/davidhornik/israel-batters-hamas-kerry-to-the-rescue/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

A Syrian-Style Deal for the Islamic Republic?

by Majid Rafizadeh

In July, the brutal Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad was forced to sail away its last declared chemical weapons stockpile from a Danish ship to a US-government container ship, the Cape Ray, which is located at the Italian port of Gioia Tauro.

This serves as an example for an assertive stance in US foreign policy. Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu lobbied for a Syria-type deal for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Netanyahu pointed out to Sky News, “A good deal is the one that was done in Syria… The chemicals and the means to make the weapons were dismantled and removed. What Iran is seeking is to keep the materials and the means to make nuclear weapons, and just allow inspections… Keep and inspect, rather than dismantle and remove – that’s the bad deal.”

The Obama administration was coerced into finally taking a strong position after Al Assad and his Armed Forces crossed the “red line” set by the US government multiple times. American credibility was significantly under question and the government had no other option rather than to carry out the policies that it promised to originally fulfill in case Assad crossed the “red line.”

This reveals that when the United States takes a firm position, it can make progressive changes, raise its credibility on the global stage, and prevent dictators and Islamists from growing.

The chemical case in Syria ought to be set as an example for how the United States should address the theocratic regime of Iran.

The Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and the senior cadre of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards did not suddenly change their intentions to be benevolent actors. Although the Islamic Republic spreads propaganda claiming that political and economic sanctions benefit the Islamic Republic due to the notion that sanctions have made Iran self-sufficient in military, defense, and manufacturing rockets and drones, years of political and economic isolation have endangered their hold on power.

As a result, they changed their tactics to gain back their economy and power. At this moment, the Islamic Republic is on its knees, there is a need for formidable leadership on the other side of the equation.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration is not seizing the opportunity and is looking for a partial final nuclear deal. The administration is compromising more and more, emboldening the ruling leaders of the Islamic Republic. In Geneva, it is the technocratic elite of the Iranian regime who are setting the rules.

The Supreme Leader recently changed his position, observing America’s weak stance, pointing out that the Islamic Republic of Iran would want 19,000 centrifuges in a few years for the uranium enrichment machines. He stated, “Their aim is that we accept a capacity of 10,000 separative work units, which is equivalent to 10,000 centrifuges of the older type that we already have. Our officials say we need 190,000. Perhaps not today, but in two to five years that is the country’s absolute need.” A seperative work unit or SWU is a measurement which shows how much work is needed in order to separate isotopes of uranium. On the other hand, this number of centrifuges is almost nine times more than what the international community has asked.

The number of centrifuges is critical due to the fact that with approximately 9,000 first-generation centrifuges spinning at Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant, and with the current enrichment level, the Islamic Republic can produce adequate weapons-grade uranium in order to create and fuel a nuclear warhead in a couple of months, according to nuclear experts.

When it comes to the Islamic Republic, Khamenei and the senior cadre of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps will have the final say. Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and his technocrat nuclear team are only setting the tone on the international arena.

Previously, Netanyahu stated on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that a partial nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran will not work and the complete dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons should be used as an outline.

In addition, Netanyahu recently said,
I think we have to be clear that it would cross a line of history that would transcend anything else that we’re seeing in the Middle East… If one of these warring tribes, in this case the militant Shi’ites backed by Iran, get their hands on nuclear weapons, the world will be forever changed… Iran is run by an unforgiving sect- it puts forward front men and smiling people like Rouhani, but it’s governed with an iron hand and an iron heart by this man, [Ayatollah] Ali Khameini.
It is time for the Obama administration to use the Syrian case, of coercing the regime into fully giving up their chemical weapons as an example.

The following ought to be the rules that the Obama administration should set for Iran (no more, no less).

1.       The Islamic Republic of Iran should completely dismantle its nuclear program. A partial and compromised nuclear deal that allows Iran to enrich uranium and keep all its nuclear infrastructure, will allow the Islamic Republic to develop a nuclear bomb.

2.        The Islamic Republic of Iran should respect human rights. This includes that all kinds of political repression; lack of freedom of speech, press, assembly, women rights, and minorities rights should be addressed.

3.         The Islamic Republic of Iran should halt supporting proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas and cease providing these groups with funds and military and advisory assistance.

4.          Iranian leaders should stop supporting the Assad regime and interfering in Iraq and other regional countries.

5.          Iranian leaders should recognize Israel as a legitimate Jewish state.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a senior fellow at the Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington, DC and is a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. He can be reached at rafizadeh@fas.harvard.edu. Follow Dr. Rafizadeh at @majidrafizadeh.

Source: http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/majid-rafizadeh/a-syrian-style-deal-for-the-islamic-republic/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

To the Last Drop of the Blood of Others

by Dan Gordon

The International Red Cross asked for a cease-fire in the Gaza conflict so the dead and wounded could be tended to, bodies removed, injured taken to hospital.

Israel said yes to the cease-fire, and Hamas immediately violated it.

Israel had hit the Saja’iyah neighborhood of Gaza and hit it hard. Scores dead. Women and children amongst them. Survivors, justifiably crying out, “What did we do to deserve this?!” And the horrible answer is: 

Nothing. You did nothing to deserve it. Hamas used you as human shields. It fired a hundred and sixty rockets from your neighborhood at Israel’s heartland. It riddled your neighborhood with tunnels, some of them, by all reports, terrorist tunnels, leading under Israel’s border, built to murder and kidnap Israeli civilians; people just like you who only want to live in peace. You did nothing to deserve this. You’ve been betrayed and used by your own leaders in the most cynical way imaginable. And you didn’t even ask for these leaders. They seized power in a bloody coup by lining up your fellow Palestinians against walls and machine gunning them to death, by blindfolding and binding and pushing them off three story buildings..= If you dare to dissent they begin the interrogation by shooting your knee caps off. You didn’t deserve this. And neither did we.”

This is a war. It is not a war of Israel’s choosing. In the days leading up to the aerial campaign which Israel initiated in response to constant and escalating rocket attacks from Gaza on its civilian centers of population, Israel has said repeatedly that it did not want an escalation let alone a war, and that “calm would be answered with calm.”  In other words, “don’t shoot at us and we won’t shoot at you.” That seems like a pretty straightforward enough request, and an easy one to implement if one’s interest is in saving lives instead of taking them.

Hamas’s answer was more rockets.

And still Israel’s answer was “calm will be met with calm”.

But there wasn’t any calm. Instead there were more rockets, and more rockets still.

And so Israel answered with aerial attacks…on deserted training camps!

Let me say that one again. The government of Israel responded to Hamas rocket attacks, that had millions of Israelis racing for bomb shelters, with aerial strikes on empty tents!

That was not because of faulty intelligence or near sighted pilots. It was to demonstrate to Hamas what Israel could do unless Hamas ceased its rocket attacks.

Hamas’s response? More rocket attacks, in greater numbers and over wider areas, until it was no longer just the southern border towns under attack but Israel’s equivalent of New York City and L.A. rolled into one. The rockets began falling in the greater Tel Aviv area.

Unlike past campaigns, in the face of similar provocations in 2009 and 2012, Israel did not immediately respond with a massive aerial attack on Gaza. There was no shock and awe. Instead there was a very, very slowly ratcheted up, less than proportional, response, in the hopes that by offering Hamas a way out of the escalating situation, it would take it.

It didn’t.

Israel responded now with aerial strikes that were far less than all out war.

Egypt proposed a cease-fire.

The Arab League endorsed it.

Israel accepted it

Hamas gave their answer in the form of a new massive rocket assault and by sending in thirteen terrorists via an underground tunnel that went beneath the border with Israel and came up within a few hundred meters of an Israeli civilian farming community.

This was to be their shock and awe; to kill, maim and kidnap dozens of Israeli civilians.

Finally with no other recourse Israel launched a ground campaign.

Now we are at war.

And Hamas, like the boy who murders his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he is an orphan, is crying foul.

Hamas had long since turned the Saja’iyah neighborhood into a fortified center of terrorist attacks, armament workshops, and now we know, terrorist tunnels.

Prior to its attack, for days running, and referenced fully in earlier articles I have written, the IDF warned the residents of this neighborhood of its intent to attack and urged them, for the safety of themselves and their families, to evacuate. It dropped leaflets to that effect. It followed up the leaflets with SMS and text messages, by actually calling the residents’ cell phones and through Arabic media, up until the very last moment urging people to flee for their lives

And Hamas’s response to those warnings? In the street and from the mosques, through every means of mass communication at their disposal, they told their people not to evacuate, to stay put.

Hamas has committed one of the vilest of all war crimes against its own people. It has used them as unwilling human shields.

So here was Israel’s choice. Attack a neighborhood used for attacking its own civilians, or permit its own civilians to be attacked.

An army, any army’s, first responsibility is to protect its own people. Israel has fulfilled, albeit reluctantly, that first commandment.

Hamas has done the opposite. They have sacrificed their own people on the alter of their own lust for political power.

An Egyptian newspaper today, not an Israeli one, accused Hamas leaders of being liars, who live pampered lives, staying in five star hotels and driving expensive luxury cars while they sacrifice their own peoples’ lives

And what did the Hamas spokesman say today? “ We will fight to the last drop of the blood of Gaza.”

Of course he meant to say “To the last drop of the blood of others."

Dan Gordon

Source: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2014/07/to_the_last_drop_of_the_blood_of_others.html

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Palestinians: The Arabs Betrayed Us - Again

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Since 1948, the Arab countries and government have been paying mostly lip service to the Palestinians.
"They have money and oil, but don't care about the Palestinians, even though we are Arabs and Muslims like them. What a Saudi or Qatari sheikh spends in one night in London, Paris or Las Vegas could solve the problem of tens of thousands of Palestinians." — Abdel Bari Atwan, Palestinian editor.
"Some Arabs were hoping that Israel would rid them of Hamas." — Ashraf Salameh, Gaza City.
"Some of the Arab regimes are interested in getting rid of the resistance in order to remove the burden of the Palestinian cause, which threatens the stability of their regimes." — Mustafa al-Sawwaf, Palestinian political analyst.
"Most Arabs are busy these days with bloody battles waged by their leaders, who are struggling to survive. These battles are raging in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian Authority." — Mohammed al-Musafer, columnist.
"The Arab leaders don't know what they want from the Gaza Strip. They don't even know what they want from Israel." — Yusef Rizka, Hamas official.

Every now and then, the Palestinians are reminded of the fact that most Arabs don't care about them and their problems.

Arab "indifference" and "silence" toward the current war between Israel and Hamas has once again reminded Palestinians of the "betrayal" by their Arab brethren.

It is not that Palestinians were expecting the Arab countries to send their armies to fight Israel and prevent an IDF ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Moreover, Palestinians say they were not even expecting the Arab governments to send money and medicine to thousands of families inside the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians in general and Hamas in particular feel that the Arab world simply does not care about them and does not even want to hear from them.

Some Palestinians argue that the Arab world was perhaps too busy with the 2014 Mondial [Soccer World Cup] or Ramadan feasts to pay enough attention to the war in the Gaza Strip. But the Mondial has ended and most Arabs still don't seem to be interested in what is going on between Palestinians and Israel.

True, there have been some marches in a number of Arab countries in solidarity with the Palestinians and in protest against the war in the Gaza Strip. Still, Palestinians say they are still disappointed at the small number of participants. They are also disappointed that the Arab governments had moved quickly to suppress any show of support for Palestinians.

"The Arab regimes hate us and this is not new," said Palestinian political analyst Ali Hableh. "It took Saudi Arabia seven days to issue a statement condemning the current Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have always known that they could never rely on their Arab brothers who have turned their backs on us."

For Hableh and many Palestinians, the Arab "betrayal" dates back to 1948, when the state of Israel was created. They are convinced that Arab "collusion" and "treason" contributed to the defeat of the Arab armies and the subsequent creation of Israel.

Since then, the Arab countries and governments have been mostly paying lip service to the Palestinians.

And this is what is exactly happening these days, Palestinians point out.

Almost every Palestinian is today talking about the sense of betrayal by the Arab world. It is a feeling that has increased Palestinians' hostility and mistrust toward their Arab brethren.

Palestinian cartoonist Umaya Juha expressed Palestinian feelings toward the Arab "betrayal" in a drawing that shows an Arab and Islamic arm stabbing a Palestinian woman from the back – while she had also been stabbed in the chest by Israel.

Prominent Palestinian editor Abdel Bari Atwan said it was "shameful" for the Arabs that the UN Security Council convened to discuss the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip before Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo.

The Palestinians, he said, have given up on the Arab leaders and governments a long time ago. He also accused the Arab governments of starving the Palestinians and participating in the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

"The Palestinian people's problem with their Arab brothers is much bigger than their problem with the Israelis," Atwan explained. "The Palestinians can resist Israel and fire rockets at it, but they don't want to do the same against their Arab executioners because they continue to regard them as brothers."

A Palestinian human rights activist in the West Bank also talked about the "historic" betrayal of the Arabs.

"We never expected anything good from the Arabs," he said. "They have money and oil, but don't care about the Palestinians even though we are Arabs and Muslims like them. What a Saudi or Qatari sheikh spends in one night in London, Paris and Las Vegas could solve the problem of tens of thousands of Palestinians. Only an idiot would have expected the Arab world to rise against Israel for attacking the Gaza Strip. We saw more protests in Europe against the war than in the Arab countries."

The sense of being betrayed has driven some Palestinians to openly accuse Arab governments of being part of the "Zionist aggression" on the Gaza Strip.

Sheikh Ekremah Sabri, the former mufti of Jerusalem who currently serves as a leading preacher of Al-Aqsa Mosque, claimed that the three wars waged by Israel against Hamas have been "coordinated" with the Arab countries.

Sheikh Sabri went on to claim that some Arabs have even covered the expenses of the Israeli military operations.

Voicing widespread resentment and disappointment among Palestinians over Arab "silence," the top Islamic official stated: "The Arabs work for Israel."

It now remains to be seen whether Sheikh Sabri will be permitted to set foot in any Arab country that feels itself targeted by his fiery rhetoric.

Sheikh Ekremah Sabri, the former mufti of Jerusalem and a leading preacher of Al-Aqsa Mosque, claims that the three wars waged by Israel against Hamas have been "coordinated" with the Arab countries.

As he was speaking abut Arab "betrayal," the Palestine Scholar's Council issued a strongly-worded statement in which it lashed out at the Arab world for failing to take action to save the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

"When will the Arabs wake up? Why aren't the Arabs providing the Gaza Strip with any assistance?" the statement wondered.

"The absence of an Arab response to the aggression is frustrating," Ashraf Salameh, of Gaza City, said. "The aggression has shown that some Arabs were hoping that Israel would rid them of Hamas."

Another Gaza Strip resident, Mohammed Aref, was quoted as saying that Palestinians are very disappointed with the stance of the Arabs and Muslims toward the war in the Gaza Strip. "We didn't expect this silence," he said.

Hamas official Yusef Rizka also denounced the Arab world for failing to help the Palestinians. "Gaza is facing the aggression alone," he complained. "This is the bitter truth. The Arab leaders don't know what they want from the Gaza Strip. They don't even know what they want from Israel."

Jordanian columnist Tamara al-Darawsheh said that the war in the Gaza Strip has seriously embarrassed the Arabs. "As the war continues, we see some marches here and there (in the Arab countries)," she wrote.

"As usual, these marches were suppressed. We didn't hear anything new from the Arabs other than sheepish condemnations. Gaza has embarrassed us, because we have been busy with the Mondial and Ramadan feasts and TV dramas."

Another columnist, Mohammed al-Musafer said that Israel has nothing to worry about as it attacks the Gaza Strip.

"Israel knows that (President Abdel Fattah) Sisi's Egypt is not opposed to the destruction of the spirit of resistance in the Gaza Strip and silencing it for ever," he remarked. "Most Arabs are busy these days with bloody battles waged by their leaders, who are struggling to survive. These battles are raging in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian Authority."

Hamas and many Palestinians are now convinced more than ever that they could never rely on their Arab brothers for any kind of assistance. In fact, a growing number of Palestinians are beginning to place some Arab regimes on the side of Israel.

According to noted Palestinian political analyst Mustafa al-Sawwaf: "Some of the Arab regimes are interested in getting rid of the resistance in order to remove the burden of the Palestinian cause, which threatens the stability of their regimes."

Another analyst, Adnan Abu Amer, expressed fear that the Arab "silence" has already reached the level of "collusion" with Israel.

He pointed out the failure of the Arab heads of state to hold a summit to discuss the war in the Gaza Strip while many international organizations have been holding meetings to voice solidarity with the Palestinians.

"Some Arab countries don't want to exert pressure on Israel because they want to give it time to achieve its mission and destroy the Gaza Strip," Abu Amer said. "The Arab people are too busy with their own problems and don't have time to put pressure on their regimes. This encourages the Arab governments to remain silent."

Khaled Abu Toameh

Source: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4463/palestinians-arabs-betrayed-us

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Kurds unite around independence as Iraq falls apart

by Dalshad Abdullah

Kurdish independence referendum exacerbates fears that all of Iraq could break apart
Iraqi Kurdish protesters wave the flag of their autonomous Kurdistan region during a demonstration for independence on July 3, 2014, outside the Kurdistan parliament building in Erbil</br>(AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED)
Iraqi Kurdish protesters wave the flag of their autonomous Kurdistan region during a demonstration for independence on July 3, 2014, outside the Kurdistan parliament building in Erbil. (AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED)

Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—An independent state is not a new dream for the Kurds. In Iraq, they accepted autonomy after the fall of Saddam, largely due to pressure from Turkey and the United States—but still, independence was never far from their minds.

Now, after the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) swept across northern and western Iraq in June, complete independence may once again be on the table. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has declared it will hold a public referendum on the issue, to the support of Iraq’s anti-government Sunnis and consternation of supporters of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and other Shi’ite factions.

Far more than politics, however, the territorial integrity of Iraq and the possible borders of an independent Kurdistan are at stake. In early June, as ISIS rapidly took control of town after town, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces were able to secure a number of key regions while Iraqi government forces fled. Among the areas newly controlled by the Peshmerga is oil-rich Kirkuk, known as the ‘Kurd’s Jerusalem.’

The ISIS crisis, coupled with an effusion of Sunni discontent and the deep political stalemate caused by Maliki’s single-minded fight to secure a controversial and widely condemned third term in the premiership, had already provoked fears that all of Iraq could split apart. The results of the Kurds’ referendum could very well bring the issue to a fore. 

The Sunnis, who are mainly critical of the central government for what they see as overtly sectarian, anti-Sunni policies, are certainly supportive of the Kurds’ new push for independence. 

A spokesman for a Sunni tribe, Faiz Al-Shawoosh, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We support any decision by the Kurdish people and leadership in terms of self-determination. The Kurds have the right to gain independence and establish their own state over all the territories they control, including the territories the Peshmerga forces took over after the events in Mosul.”

The Iraqi Tribal Rebels—an influential group of Sunni militias fighting government forces in cooperation with Islamist fighters—have also announced their full support of KRG President Massoud Barzani’s declaration his government will hold a public referendum on autonomy.

“We are in a democratic country. If the Kurdish people decide to secede, it will be their own decision. We would support them, because it is a majority decision,” said Saad Abu Risha, a member of the Tribal Rebels’ political council. 

But even these Sunni groups, dissatisfied with the political status quo in Iraq, do not appear too ready to seek the partition of Iraq.

“Because they are an ethnicity, Kurds have the right” to establish an independent state, Shawoosh said.

But, because the Sunnis are a religious group, not an ethnic one—most of Iraqi Kurdistan’s residents are Sunnis, for example— Shawoosh explained Iraq’s Sunnis did not want their own autonomous region or state.

“Maliki wants to divide Iraq into Sunni and Shi’ite statelets. We reject religion-based states,” he said. “Countries should be based on ethnicities, not religions.”

But the opposition to the possible independence of Kurdistan from the Shi’ite sect, to which the prime minister belongs, seems to belie the idea that Maliki is planning to divide Iraq.

Ali Al-Shibr, a senior member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a key Shi’ite political bloc that has been trying to negotiate an end to the political crisis with Maliki through their Iraqi National Alliance, said he opposes the idea of Kurdish independence.

“The status quo does not allow this move towards partition, and Kurds should respect the unity of Iraq. All current MPs have taken an oath to defend the unity of Iraqi territory. What is the point of that oath if there are those who seek to divide and fragment Iraq?” said Shibr.

Shibr called Kurds to “head to dialogue in order to address problems,” indicating that “the presence of failures in the political process does not mean going ahead with the partition of Iraq.”

In Kurdistan, though, it is clear most political factions want the referendum and, eventually, independence. 

The head of foreign relations for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Hemin Hawrami, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the subjective and objective circumstances in Kurdistan have changed. Subjectively speaking, Kurds no longer have territory-related problems, and there is a broad domestic unity among all Kurdish sides.

“Over the past 22 years [since autonomy was secured], Kurdistan has managed to set up its own state institutions in a proper manner and lay an economic basis for the state. Objectively speaking, equations in the Middle East have altered and dictatorships have collapsed and we can also see a shift in the balance of power has taken place after the Arab Spring revolutions.” 

A senior figure in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Adnan Mufti, added that the decision to hold the referendum had not been rushed following the Kurds’ taking control of Kirkuk and other territories. He maintained that “the issue has been discussed for months among all sides in Kurdistan and the president of the region.”

With growing international support for the referendum and little reason to stay after months of political and financial tensions with Baghdad, Kurdistan seems increasingly unlikely to concern itself with Iraq’s many troubles.

Falah Mustafa, the Head of the KRG’s Department of Foreign Relations, said: “We have tried much to help Iraq, but unfortunately the other side has shown no will to accept a true partnership and coexistence.

“Practicing their right to self-determination does not make Kurds responsible for the fragmentation of Iraq.”

Dalshad Abdullah

Source: http://www.aawsat.net/2014/07/article55334432

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

EU Leaders Deeply Divided Over Russia

by Soeren Kern

European elites, who take pride in viewing the EU as a "postmodern" superpower, have long argued that military hard-power is illegitimate in the 21st century. Unfortunately for Europe, Russia (along with China and Iran) has not embraced the EU's fantastical soft-power worldview, in which "climate change" is now said to pose the greatest threat to European security.
For its part, the European Commission, the EU's administrative branch, which never misses an opportunity to boycott institutions in Israel, has issued only a standard statement on the shooting down of MH17 in Ukraine, which reads: "The European Union will continue to follow this issue very closely."
The EU has made only half-hearted attempts to develop alternatives to its dependency on Russian oil and gas.

European divisions over relations with Russia are being laid bare by the shooting down of a passenger plane over Ukraine.

The missile attack on Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 claimed the lives of 298 passengers, including 230 Europeans, making it the single most deadly act of terror in modern European history.

But despite a growing body of evidence that MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine, the European Union's 28 member states have still been unable to agree on even a basic unified response to the attack.

A battery of the Russian-made Buk (SA-11) anti-aircraft missile system, which is the type of system used to shoot down flight MH17.

Western European countries, including Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands—all of which enjoy strong trade relations with Russia—have long been reluctant to antagonize Moscow, based largely on economic and energy supply considerations.

By contrast, eastern European countries such as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states, all of which experienced decades of misery under Soviet military domination, favor a far more aggressive EU policy regarding the Kremlin, which they view as posing a potentially existential threat.

Few Europeans have had the courage to follow the lead of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was the first Western leader directly to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin over the MH17 disaster.

Abbot has warned Putin that his attendance at the G20 summit in Brisbane in November will be contingent on how much co-operation Australia and other countries receive from Russia in securing an independent international investigation into the plane crash.

By contrast, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, evidently fearful of angering Putin, has been walking on eggshells. "If I bang my fist against the table now... then I reduce the chances of the Netherlands and all those who support us getting the facts on the table," he told a news conference in The Hague.

Rutte has also played down expectations that the Netherlands would support tougher EU economic sanctions against Russia or the Ukrainian separatists.

In an interview with the New York Times, one of the main opposition leaders in the Netherlands, Alexander Pechtold, said: "We are a small country, dependent on our exports, and unlike the United States, we cannot always react from our moral high grounds. Still, if it is proven that the Russians have their fingerprints on this horrible event, we cannot look in the other direction."

Russia is the third-largest destination for Dutch exports outside Europe after the US and China. The Netherlands is also a key tax shelter for Russia's billionaires.

Amid reports that some of the bodies were being looted or removed from the crash site, Rutte has stepped up his rhetoric. On his Twitter feed, he wrote: "Shocked by images of totally disrespectful behavior, downright disgusting. Absolutely urgent now is the rapid repatriation of victims."

Arguably the most befuddled European response to the downing of MH17 has come from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who seemed oblivious to the scale of the disaster when she told a group of 1,000 guests gathered in Berlin just hours after the attack to celebrate her 60th birthday: "We are living in happy times." According to those in attendance, Merkel's words "fell flat."

After Merkel was criticized for downplaying the crime, Merkel begrudgingly acknowledged that, "it is especially Russia's responsibility for what is going on in Ukraine right now." She added that the EU's response so far has been more than "adequate."

Merkel has urged Putin to use his influence with the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine to facilitate an international investigation into what German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called an "incident."

Steinmeier later tweeted that the killing of hundreds of innocents as a "crime beyond any imagination." But he then employed rambling phraseology in an apparent effort not to be seen as pinning blame on Russia: "Those responsible would lose any right to claim their interests in the name of humanity."

Observers say Merkel, who was recently named "the most powerful woman in the world," is afraid of Putin, who provides Germany with more than one third of its gas imports.

Another key individual involved in shaping Europe's response to Russia is Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency. Renzi has been keen to avoid alienating Russia, Italy's biggest supplier of natural gas.

Renzi is also energetically pushing for his foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, to replace Catherine Ashton as the EU's new foreign policy chief. Mogherini, who has almost no foreign policy experience, is unabashedly pro-Russian. Her candidacy is being opposed by Poland and the Baltic countries, which believe Mogherini would be too accommodating toward the Kremlin.

For its part, the European Commission, the EU's administrative branch, which never misses an opportunity to boycott institutions in Israel, has issued only a standard statement which reads: "The European Union will continue to follow this issue very closely."

In France, President François Hollande is loath to antagonize Putin ahead of the delivery of two highly sophisticated Mistral-class amphibious assault warships in a contract worth €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion). The first warship is to be delivered in October, and the French navy is currently training Russian sailors how to use it at the port of Saint-Nazaire.

After the Russian invasion of Crimea in March 2014, the United States and several EU states criticized the deal. But others, including Germany, have defended France's decision to go ahead with the sale.

In the wake of the MH17 disaster, however, a senior European diplomat told the EU Observer that France risks "international ridicule" if it goes ahead with the deal. "Putin has pursued a policy of dividing the U.S. and the European Union, as well as the EU internally. This incident [the air disaster] is going to make it harder for him [Hollande] to do this."

For now, France appears keen to keep talk of the air disaster separate from the arms deal. "The most important priority right now is to shed light on what happened in this catastrophe," a French government official said. "We should not turn away from this subject in order to discuss some hypothetical consequences, or to talk about subjects which are not really connected."

In a rebuke of Merkel and other European leaders for their reluctance to confront Russia, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Europe must now "respond robustly."

In a blistering article published by the Sunday Times on July 20, Cameron called the attack on MH17 a "direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them."

Cameron added: "For too long, there has been a reluctance on the part of too many European countries to face up to the implications of what is happening in eastern Ukraine.... It is time to make our power, influence and resources count. Our economies are strong and growing in strength. And yet we sometimes behave as if we need Russia more than Russia needs us."

It remains to be seen whether the MH17 disaster will serve as a moment of moral and strategic clarity and cajole European leaders into confronting Russia's increasingly increasing bellicosity.

More than 50% of the EU's total energy consumption in 2012 was imported from outside the EU, according to the most recent data compiled by Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency. A large percentage of that imported energy originates in Russia. In 2012, some 33.7% of the EU-28's imports of crude oil were from Russia, as were 32% of the bloc's imports of natural gas.

The EU has made only half-hearted attempts to develop alternatives to its dependency on Russian oil and gas. The Nabucco pipeline, for example, was a plan to push gas from the Caspian Sea region into central Europe by bypassing Russia and Ukraine. The project was shelved in June 2013, after Moscow pressured southern European countries into supporting the rival South Stream pipeline, run by Gazprom, which is majority owned by the Russian government.

More recently, Israel decided to ship much of its natural gas to Egypt, further confounding efforts to lessen EU dependence on Russian sources. Energy analysts say the failures point to a lack of a common EU energy policy, which means that Russia is likely to remain Europe's chief natural gas supplier well beyond 2020.

Even if the EU were to achieve complete energy independence, however, it would hardly change the crux of Europe's security problem, which is its over-reliance on diplomatic and economic "soft-power" at the expense of military "hard power."

European elites, who take pride in viewing the EU as a "post-modern" superpower, have long argued that military hard power is illegitimate in the 21st century.

Unfortunately for Europe, Russia (along with China and Iran) has not embraced the EU's fantastical soft-power worldview, in which "climate change" is now said to pose the greatest threat to European security.

The EU's lack of a hard power deterrent has emboldened Putin to the point where he has been able to run roughshod in Crimea and Ukraine with impunity, and evidently there is not much Europe's soft power can do about it.

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.
Source: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4464/eu-russia

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

VIDEO: 10 Terrorists Killed Attempting to Infiltrate Israel through Tunnel

by Yaakov Lappin, JPost.com Staff

All terrorists shot dead by Israeli forces; two squads attempt to infiltrate Kibbutz Nir Am through two tunnels; IDF received alert from Shin Bet hours before attack.


They were identified by IDF lookouts, and an aircraft was dispatched to intercept them. The first cell was struck from the air, and ten of its members were killed.

The second cell fired an anti-tank missile at a military vehicle. 
The Shin Bet sent an alert to the IDF hours before the attack, warning of intentions of terrorists in northern Gaza to infiltrate the country. 
The Shin Bet said a serious and complex terror attack has been thwarted "due to the readiness of the IDF on the ground, following the pinpoint alert that was sent." Police closed roads in Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council near the Gaza border due to the security incident.
Roads closed included Route 4 and Route 34. Residents of Erez, Nir Am, Ra'im, Ein Hashlosha were instructed to stay in their houses.
Earlier in the week, 13 Hamas terrorists were killed trying to infiltrate Kibbutz Sufa. The army said it “neutralized the threat” in that incident with an air strike on the cell.

Yaakov Lappin, JPost.com Staff  

Source: http://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Hamas-terrorists-caught-killed-attempting-to-infiltrate-Kibbutz-Nir-Am-through-tunnel-364148  

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