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Pompeo: Qatar diplomatic crisis ‘has dragged on too long’

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Pompeo Qatar diplomatic crisis has dragged on too long

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday an ongoing boycott of Qatar by four of America’s allies in the Middle East “has dragged on too long,” though he gave no sign of any coming breakthrough in the dispute.

Stopping off in the small, energy-rich nation as part of a Mideast tour, America’s top diplomat made a repeated point to say that “great things” were happening between Qatar and the United States.

“We’re all more powerful when we’re working together,” Pompeo said at a news conference. “Disputes between countries that have a shared objective are never helpful.”

Pompeo said he signed a memorandum of understanding with Qatar regarding the expansion and renovation of al-Udeid Air Base, which hosts the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command and some 10,000 American troops.

However, comments by Pompeo and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani gave no sense of any movement in the ongoing diplomatic crisis with Doha.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates began a boycott of Qatar in June 2017, alleging Qatar funds extremist groups and has too-cozy ties to Iran. Qatar has long denied funding extremists, but Doha shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran that gives its citizens the highest per-capita income in the world. It restored diplomatic relations with Iran after the crisis erupted, marking a setback for Saudi Arabia, which views the Shiite power Iran as its main regional rival.

A similar dispute involving Qatar erupted in 2014. But this time positions have hardened against Qatar, whose support for Islamist opposition groups has angered the Arab nations now boycotting it.

Earlier this month, Gen. Anthony Zinni, a former commander of U.S. Central Command who retired from the Marine Corps in 2000, resigned as special American envoy to resolve the dispute. Regional analysts suggested it may be in part to intransigence of those involved in the crisis.

“The departure of Mr. Zinni in no way reflects any change in America’s Middle East efforts, our strategy or our ongoing commitment to the region,” Pompeo said. “It was a time for change. He made this decision to move on, but America’s commitment remains unchanged.”

From Qatar, Pompeo travels to Saudi Arabia on his Mideast tour. The relationship between Riyadh and Washington remains tense following the October assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Members of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s entourage have been implicated in the killing and U.S. lawmakers have demanded America pull back its support of the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

“We will continue to have a conversation with the crown prince and the Saudis about ensuring that the accountability is full and complete with respect to the unacceptable murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Pompeo said.

“We’ll continue to talk about that and make sure we have all the facts so that they are held accountable certainly by the Saudis, but by the United States as well, where appropriate,” he added.

___

Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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Foreign Affairs

Is Israel on the brink of war?

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Is Israel on the brink of war

Israel and Iran continue to trade threats and missile attacks over Syria as the latest round targeted Iranian Quds forces near Damascus. The IDF, which has confirmed attacks recently, went so far as to announce the attacks on Twitter.

This attack was in response to a missile launched from Syria by Iranian Quds Forces into the Golan Heights. The missile was intercepted by the Iron Dome, which was captured on camera by skiers on Mt. Hermon.

The overnight attacks on Syria resulted in many missiles and guided bombs being shot down, but enough made it through to damage Quds training grounds, weapons depots, and kill at least 11 people. There are no reports of how many of Iran’s elite forces were killed, though British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said only two of the dead were Syrians.

Israel, in rare move, announces attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, delivers warning

https://www.foxnews.com/world/israel-attacks-iran-forces-in-syria-military-confirmsIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently confirmed that Israel had struck hundreds of targets in Syria linked to Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group, including a weapons facility two weeks ago.

Iran and Hezbollah are allied with the Syrian government in the civil war.

Iran has begun its loudest saber-rattling in some time as they send clear threats of war and the destruction of Israel through state television.

“The young people in the air force are fully ready and impatient to confront the Zionist regime and eliminate it from the Earth,” IRIAF Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh said following the strike.

Iran says ready for war with Israel that will ‘lead to its destruction’

https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Iran-We-are-ready-for-a-war-that-will-lead-to-the-destruction-of-Israel-578108The commander of the Iranian Air Force warned on Monday that Iran was prepared for a decisive war with Israel, “which will bring an end to the IDF’s attacks on Syria.” “Our armed forces are prepared for a war that will bring the crushing destruction of Israel,” he said, according to media reports.

“We are ready for the day when we will see the end of Israel.”

My Take

Americans are often unaware of the importance of Syria to Iran. For years, it’s been assumed the only reason Iran hasn’t attacked Israel, especially when they were at the height of their power during the latter years of President Obama’s administration, is they have no clear path to reach Israel. Iraq, Syria, and Jordan are between Iran and the tiny Jewish state, making it nearly impossible for them to have any real reach into the heart of Israel.

This is why they are so intent on having an embedded military presence in Syria. It’s why Israel is doing everything in its power to prevent them from getting a serious foothold there.

Iran’s military is strong and somewhat sophisticated, but it’s still no match for Israel. However, Iran could take advantage of Israel’s small size if they can get enough missiles and launchers into Syria. Doing so would allow them to use Syrians as cover, a strategy currently in use by anti-Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

As long as Iran continues to pursue entrenchment in Syria, war is on the near horizon. Israeli strikes may be a catalyst for war, but they’re necessary if they have any hopes of preventing Iran from taking over their Syrian neighbors wholesale.


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Foreign Affairs

NY Times invokes Martin Luther King Jr. to attack Israel

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NY Times invokes Martin Luther King Jr to attack Israel

When a nation the size of New Jersey is surrounded by enemies and is the subject of incessant condemnation from the United Nations, it’s natural to assume thoughtful people will take a complete look at its circumstances before deciding which side of a contentious debate to support. This is why many Americans still choose to support the nation of Israel despite mainstream media’s efforts to frame it as evil.

Unfortunately, the debate is so complex, most Americans form their perspectives based on very limited data. Passions are so strong on both sides that it often comes down to which side’s message is loudest in the ears of those deciding who to support. The Israel-Palestine debate has been ongoing since the tiny nation was first formed and ramped up greatly following the attacks on Israel in 1967 that resulted in necessary expansion.

Today, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights are all considered “occupied” territories by a majority around the world, at least among those who are paying attention. Despite clear evidence that the very existence of Israel would be threatened if these lands were “returned” to the Palestinians, most of the world calls for the two-state solution as the path to peace.

On top of the disputed lands, the way that Israel maintains peace within its own lands is labeled as oppression against Palestinians living there. The core of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement’s message is that the Palestinian people are being persecuted. To support this premise, an activist at the NY Times is invoking Martin Luther King Jr and his opposition to the Vietnam War as the roadmap by which BDS activists should muster their own courage and build more support to fight the nation of Israel.

Time to Break the Silence on Palestine

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/19/opinion/sunday/martin-luther-king-palestine-israel.htmlReading King’s speech at Riverside more than 50 years later, I am left with little doubt that his teachings and message require us to speak out passionately against the human rights crisis in Israel-Palestine, despite the risks and despite the complexity of the issues. King argued, when speaking of Vietnam, that even “when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict,” we must not be mesmerized by uncertainty. “We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”

To be clear, King was opposed to a war that resulted in the deaths of 1,350,000 people, which is nearly the same amount of Arabs living in Israel currently. King was opposed to a war in which no Americans were attacked prior to us getting involved. Israel is attacked regularly from multiple groups in and out of the nation who support the Palestinian movement. King was opposed to a war that took focus and resources away from his cause.

As he said, “We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”

To be fair, the author of the NY Times article, Michelle Alexander, was using his anti-war speech to demonstrate the courage King displayed as inspiration for the courage she feels BDS supporters need today. Had she left it there, then there wouldn’t be much of a need to respond. However, she continued in the article to speculate King may not have been happy with Israel back then. Worse, she implied that he could have been a supporter of the BDS movement today.

This opinion is beyond questionable. King’s motivations for not wanting to outwardly support Israel’s actions following the Six Day War were for the sake of his movement, not based on personal feelings on the matter. It made sense to not take a side in a debate in which many of his supporters of African or Middle Eastern descent may have objected.

It is becoming increasing common in the BDS movement to point solely towards the actions of the Israeli government while ignoring the reasons for these actions. They often talk about homes being bulldozed, but they ignore the fact that punitive demolitions are a result of terrorist attacks. I am not in favor of these demolitions, but I would never hide the facts to support my claims. The BDS movement realizes calling out Israel for bulldozing Palestinian homes is most effective if the reasons are never mentioned.

As pro-BDS articles go, this one was strikingly coherent. This is a bigger problem than the unhinged hate articles we often see from BDS supporters. It’s easy to see how this one-sided portrayal in a publication as strong as the NY Times that invokes an icon like Martin Luther King Jr can garner support for the movement from those who would otherwise never consider it. The article is very careful to cut off cries of antisemitism and is written for rational thinkers rather than emotional feelers.

But therein lies the problem. It invokes King and his famous speech knowing full well few will actually read it. If they take the time to read or hear it, they’ll wonder what any of that has to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The NY Times is betting on the easy odds that nobody’s going to take the time.

None of the seven reasons King gives for opposing the Vietnam War could be applied to Israel. Invoking the speech and insinuating he would have been a BDS supporter is a disingenuous attempt to equate his righteous activism to the BDS movement itself.


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Culture and Religion

Rep. Ilhan Omar’s excuses attacking Israel by saying she attacks Saudi Arabia, too

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Rep Ilhan Omars excuses attacking Israel by saying she attacks Saudi Arabia too

New Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has been outspoken against the Israeli government for years. Some of her public condemnations including calling Israel evil and claiming they’ve “hypnotized the world.” But Israel is an ally to the United States and her role in the House of Representatives will put her position to affect change on our relationship.

Her excuse for attacking Israel is that she also attacks Saudi Arabia.

“I say the same things if not worse when it comes to the Saudi government,” she said. “I’ve called for boycotts of hajj, and boycotts of Saudi Arabia, because to me it is important when you see oppression taking place – when you see regression – when you see our values being attacked as humans, you must stand up, and it doesn’t matter who the inhabiters of that particular region might be.”

My Take

It wasn’t just Omar that is concerning. The narrative being formed by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour was equally discouraging. How she framed the relationship between AIPAC and the U.S. government was thinly veiled spite towards the Jewish group.

“There’s generally sort of a rite of passage for politicians in the United States, and that is to sort of profess sort of fealty or at least pay homage to AIPAC, the pro-Israel PAC that is very, very prominent,” she said.

I won’t even try to deconstruct that silly statement.

As our EIC pointed out, Omar’s perspectives are a real concern on the foreign relations front:

There is no room for bigotry of any kind in the House of Representatives. We need to watch closely as she toes the line between calling out the nation of Israel for what she perceives as offenses and actual antisemitism, which often follows.


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