President Obama's Middle East policy has been an ever-worsening train wreck because it lacks credibility and strategy, as Egypt, Libya, and particularly Syria, have shown. And the region is about to get much worse, unless Obama exercises resolute leadership on the most important global security issue of this generation: Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
In a commerce-critical region where "might makes right" and only the strong survive, Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons could have catastrophic consequences for the Middle East and beyond. The resulting dangers potentially include: (i) nuclear proliferation, as other Mideast countries feel threatened into pursuing their own nuclear programs; (ii) the transfer of nuclear materials from Iran – the world's chief sponsor of terrorism – to terrorist organizations and/or rogue states; (iii) bolder attacks by Iranian terror proxies (Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, etc.) protected by Iran's nuclear umbrella; and (iv) an even more belligerent Iran that flexes its nuclear arsenal to: export its radical Islamic ideology, acquire disputed territories and resources from neighboring countries, and/or undertake actions like blocking the Strait of Hormuz to increase the price of oil.
As Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, recently told CBS News's Face the Nation, the Islamic Republic is now dangerously close to a nuclear capability. Because Iran has stockpiled about 190 pounds of 20 percent enriched uranium, Iran is just 60 kilograms – potentially just weeks – short of crossing the nuclear "red line" that Netanyahu set in his speech before the UN last September. more >>
Archaeologists in Israel are allowing the general public to help uncover the remains of what they believe was once Libnah, an ancient city that overlooked biblical giant Goliath's hometown of Gath.
The Tel Burna Excavation Project is honed in on the Shephelah region of Israel, an area that once served as a border between the kingdoms of Judah and Philistia, according to the project's website. One of the long-term goals of the project is to gain a greater understanding of how ancient borders worked and how the communities near them functioned.
Archaeologists from Bar-Ilan University have completed several seasons of excavating in Tel Burna, uncovering some artifacts that date as far back as the 13th Century B.C., though there is likely much more to uncover. Itzhaq Shai, program director for the project, hopes even people who aren't archaeologists will develop an interest and help with the dig. more >>
In part, because he and other liberals think that the Arab and Iranian (and now Turkish?) war on Israel boils down to an Israel-Palestinian conflict and therefore they over-emphasize this dimension; in part, too, because he subscribes to the liberal illusion that Israel-related issues constitute the "epicenter" of the region (as James L. Jones, then Obama's national security adviser, once put it), so their resolution must precede dealing with other Middle Eastern problems.
But there's another possible reason for Kerry's enthusiasm: he took the measure of Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and found him indeed serious about reaching an accord with the Palestinians, and not just pretending enthusiasm to please Washington. more >>
Dani Dayan is an Israeli envoy that visited Washington recently. He came as a representative of the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.
Dani Dayan wants to open up a dialog with Americans, both at the official level and at the grassroots level. He says Israel's settlers are "here to stay." Most Americans have not been to Judea and Samaria and are therefore not familiar with its geography, resources, and topography. The Judean hills are crucial for strategic reasons.
If Judea and Samaria should ever be given up to the Arabs by any imposed Mideast peace settlement, Jerusalem the capital and the Coastal Plain would be in jeopardy. This includes the modern Israeli city of Tel Aviv. more >>
June 20 was World Refugee Day, dedicated to nearly 60 million people worldwide who were forcibly displaced by conflict or persecution. One group of refugees rarely acknowledged is the Jews who were indigenous to Muslim lands but compelled to flee around the time when the State of Israel was established.
A Google search for "1948 refugees" produces about 6 million results. All but a few (at least through page six) are about the Palestinian Arab refugees, as if they were the only refugees of 1948. But it is estimated that from the beginning of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War through the early 1970s, up to 1,000,000 Jews fled or were expelled from their ancestral homes in Muslim countries. 260,000 of those refugees reached Israel between 1948 and 1951 and comprised 56% of all immigration to the fledgling state. By 1972, their numbers had reached 600,000.
In 1948, Middle East and North African countries had considerable Jewish populations: Morocco (250,000), Algeria (140,000), Iraq (140,000), Iran (120,000), Egypt (75,000), Tunisia (50,000), Yemen (50,000), Libya (35,000), and Syria (20,000). Today, the indigenous Jews of those countries are virtually extinct (although Morocco and Iran each still has under 10,000 Jews). In most cases, the Jewish population had lived there for millennia. more >>
Last August, President Obama declared that the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons was a "red line." About four months later, Aljazeera released unconfirmed reports that a gas attack killed seven civilians in a rebel-held neighborhood of Homs. Last April, the UK, France, and Israel each claimed that there was evidence that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in Aleppo, Homs, and/or Damascus. By April 25th, the U.S intelligence assessment was that the Assad regime had likely used sarin gas, but President Obama dodged his red line by announcing that a thorough investigation was still needed (as if the Syrian government would ever allow one). Meanwhile, reports from foreign intelligence agencies and journalists continued to corroborate the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. So why did Obama's requirement of a thorough investigation to confirm the crossing of his red line suddenly vanish last Friday?
Viewed through the lens of domestic politics, Obama's Syria epiphany looks conveniently timed to deflect attention from an ever-swelling wave of scandals: Benghazi-gate, IRS-gate, AP/Fox-gate, and now NSA-gate and State Department prostitution-gate. As the film "Wag The Dog" highlights, international crises are great at diverting attention from domestic scandals.
But from the perspective of the Syrian rebels, the timing and nature of U.S. military assistance may be viewed as either too little, too late, or a cynical attempt to ensure a perpetual stalemate. After all, the outgunned rebels have needed lethal weapons from the U.S. for over two years. Chemical weapons use by the Assad regime is old news. So what has changed? The Syrian regime recently defeated rebel forces at the crucial battle in Qusayr, a town providing a strategic supply conduit for rebel forces in Homs. After the military gains enabled by the robust battlefield support of Iran-backed Hezbollah, the Syrian regime is now preparing for a major offensive to retake Aleppo. With another crushing blow to a key rebel stronghold, the regime could ultimately prevail in the conflict, unless the U.S. provides just enough rebel support to restore the pre-Qusayr stalemate. more >>