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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New York Times piles on the 8200 scandal

It's been a wild day at work and I'm going back to work momentarily....

You will recall that last weekend, I reported on the letter written by 43 (hopefully former) members of Unit 8200 in which they decried their unit's 'harming innocent Palestinians.'

Wednesday's New York Times has an op-ed from James Bamford, who spent a considerable amount of time this summer interviewing Edward Snowden for Wired Magazine. Bamford claims that Snowden told him that information about 'Palestinian Americans' was routinely shared with the IDF's Unit 8200.
Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.
Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.
Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”
Bamford goes on to tie Snowden's 'revelations' into the 8200 scandal.
It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society.
The veterans of Unit 8200 declared that they had a “moral duty” to no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians.” An Israeli military spokesman disputed the letter’s overall drift but said the charges would be examined.
The data was transferred pursuant to an agreement between the NSA and the government of Israel.

Read the whole thing

I'm not in favor of - and I don't believe that the information was used - just to harass people. On the other hand, if it's used to fight terrorism, I don't really have a problem with allies sharing information that way. Obviously, it's not admissible in court. But it can be used to stop terror attacks before they happen.

When you don't share information, the result is that people like the Tsarnaev brothers, about whom the governments of Russia and Saudi Arabia both claimed to have 'warned' the United States, but about whom no one had any solid evidence until after the Boston Marathon terror attack.

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Gaza 'closer than ever' to splitting from 'Palestinian Authority'

In a Tuesday speech, PLO Secretary General Yasser Abed-Rabbo whined that Gaza is 'closer than ever' to splitting from the 'Palestinian Authority' and of course he blamed Israel.
Referring to the ongoing dispute between Fatah and Hamas, PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo said that the “danger of the split between the Gaza Strip and West Bank has increased in light of failure to end the dispute.”

Speaking at a seminar in Ramallah organized by the Palestinian Peace Coalition group, Abed Rabbo claimed that Israel has for many years been seeking to separate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip “by sowing seeds of division” among Palestinians.

“Israel is today close to achieving its goal,” Abed Rabbo said.
And I thought they split in 2007 when Hamas kicked Fatah and the 'Palestinian Authority' out of Gaza.... Silly me....

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It may have been a rocket - will the IDF respond?

It is now being reported that what was fired from Gaza on Israel around 6:30 this evening was a rocket and not a mortar.
There have been mixed reports on the precise nature of the projectile fired, with Channel 10 saying the attack was a mortar shell as opposed to a rocket; likewise, IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner labeled it a mortar shell on the IDF's official Twitter feed. However, nearly all other major Israeli media sources have identified it as a rocket attack.
As is usually the case outside of an official operation, Hamas is claiming that it did not do it.
The Hamas terrorist organization claimed Tuesday night that it had nothing to do with the rocket attack, saying it remains committed to the ceasefire. Hamas breached numerous ceasefires during Operation Protective Edge, as well as over the course of recent years.
"The Palestinian factions are committed to the truce," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. "We want it to continue."
He questioned whether the attack as reported by Israel had in fact taken place. "There is no evidence that there was mortar fire from the Gaza Strip," he said.
Yeah, right....

Politicians on the right say Israel must respond in order to avoid a deterioration in the situation.
MK Danny Danon (Likud) spoke out after the attack, saying "we must not compromise with terror, we should have subdued Hamas during Operation Protective Edge because terror doesn't change its face."
"Now we must respond with strength in response to the fire for the sake of deterrence and for the sake of the faith residents of the south gave to the leadership which said there will be quiet for a long time," stated Danon.
The former deputy defense minister, who has been critical of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over his management of the operation, added "only 21 days have past and we're returning to the trickle of terror from the Gaza Belt. Self-restraint now signals acceptance of the situation."
The attack came hours after Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon predicted that Hamas would not renew its terror attacks on Israel on September 25 if an agreement - which appears unlikely - is not in place. Hmmm.

In the meantime, Yaalon is being slammed by MK's from the Jewish Home party for dismissing an IDF officer - alleged to be former IDF chief rabbi Avichai Ronsky -  for leaking information to Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett.
"Hamas fired a multi-rocket salvo in honor of the agreement to reconstruct Gaza. But the defense minister is busy hazing (former IDF Chief) Rabbi (Avichai) Ronski and slandering Minister Bennett," wrote [Jewish Home party MK Orit] Struk, noting a dispute over information Bennett reportedly used to attack top IDF brass in Security Cabinet meetings.
While Ronski was identified in reports as being the suspected source of the leaks who was later dismissed, he told Arutz Sheva on Tuesday that he did not pass any materials to Bennett, has not heard anything of the dismissal - and indeed still is scheduled to perform reserve duty next month.
Not responding to this rocket fire from Gaza would be a terrible mistake and would invite a creeping escalation of the rocket fire from Gaza - as has happened after the end of every other operation. Will the government authorize the IDF to respond? I would guess that we will know the answer to that question before the sun is up in Israel on Wednesday morning - about seven hours from now.

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It's come to this: Hamas may have no choice but to negotiate with the 'occupation'

Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk tells Hamas' al-Aqsa television that Hamas may have no choice but to negotiate with the 'occupation'... because the people of Gaza insist on it.

Let's go to the videotape.

If we'd taken Hamas out altogether, maybe the people of Gaza would actually approve. Who says there's no military solution to terrorism?

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Breaking: Mortar round shot from Gaza UPDATED

Just received an email from someone in Israel telling me that Channel 1 television has confirmed that terrorists have shot a mortar round from Gaza at Israel. That's the first breach of the cease fire since it went into effect a few weeks ago.



JPost has more details
A Palestinian shell fired from Gaza landed in Israeli territory, near the southern border on Tuesday evening. There were no injuries or damages in the attack, which occurred in the region between Eshkol and Sdot Negev.

It was the first mortar or rocket attack from the Gaza Strip since August 26, when a truce went into effect between Hamas and Israel after 50 days of conflict.
Here's hoping we retaliate harshly.  Otherwise, we will creep back to the situation we were in before Operation Protective Edge.

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Report: Israel and 'Palestinians' reach deal over Gaza construction materials

United Nations envoy Robert Serry says that Israel and the 'Palestinians' have reached a deal over the passage of construction materials into Gaza (Hat Tip: Gershon D).
Serry told the U.N. Security Council that the United Nations had brokered the deal "to enable work at the scale required in the strip, involving the private sector in Gaza and giving a lead role to the Palestinian Authority in the reconstruction effort, while providing security assurances through U.N. monitoring that these materials will not be diverted from their entirely civilian purpose."
Defense Minister Yaalon has warned that if the materials are used for building terror tunnels, the transfers will stop immediately.
"Building materials and reconstruction equipment will enter the Gaza Strip through a mechanism that Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai is building, together the with UN envoy Robert Serry and the Palestinian Authority," Ya'alon added.
But the defense minister warned that "if those materials are transferred to building tunnels - the transfer will stop immediately."
Of course, the terror tunnels were built from materials that Israel allowed in after the last two Gaza operations (Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense) in 2006 and 2008-09, respectively, and either the IDF didn't pick up on it or decided that they could not stop the materials from being diverted. Why will this time be different? What could go wrong? 

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Bill Clinton bashes Netanyahu on camera, says he has to be forced to make peace

Good morning from Boston.

Something tells me that Bill Clinton isn't too crazy about the idea of his wife Hillary becoming President. On Sunday, he based Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on camera, straying from his wife's false pro-Israel line.

It came at the end of a three-hour fifteen-minute C-Span coverage of Clinton's attendance at Sunday's Iowa steak fry with Senator Tom Harkin (D).

If we don’t force him to have peace, we won’t have peace … Netanyahu is not the guy,” a pro-'Palestinian' activist told the ex-president. I agree with that,” Clinton clearly replied, apparently unaware his remarks were being recorded. Then he bragged about getting Ehud Barak to give Arafat everything he wanted, including Jerusalem.

Let's go to the videotape (Hat Tip: Jack W).

Much more from Yid with Lid (including a transcript if you, like me could not get the sound to work) here.

I have reported in the past that Hillary Clinton is an anti-Semite. I guess she has now won Bill over.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

And yes, I am on my way to Boston again....

Should be there by mid-afternoon Boston time.

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'Palestinians' seethe: The world is ignoring them because of Islamic State

The 'Palestinians' are seething because the world is ignoring them in favor of the Islamic State terror organization.
The Palestinian Authority has expressed concern that the international coalition against Islamic State would divert attention from the Palestinian issue.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas chaired a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah over the weekend to discuss the US efforts to form a coalition to fight Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

Following the meeting, the Palestinian leaders said the “international campaign against terrorism was currently lacking a political dimension that would address the issues of the region.”

They also warned that the campaign did not deal with the “core and central issue, which is the Palestinian cause, so that it would be able to dry up the sources that feed terrorism and extremism.”

The Palestinian leaders called on Arab, regional and international parties to insist on linking their anti-terrorism campaign to a political dimension and not to focus solely on military and security aspects.
I know that much of the 'international community' mouths the platitude that the 'Palestinian problem' is central to anything and everything that goes on in the world. But does anyone actually believe it? Does anyone really think that if there were a 'Palestinian state,' Islamic State would go away?

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Reid breaks with Obama, says Hamas and Islamic State are the same

Greetings from Madrid Barajas Airport.

Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) has broken with President Hussein Obama, calling out the 'stunning hypocrisy' of condemning Islamic State (formerly ISIS) and not Hamas.
Reid’s speech to the Senate was made last Thursday but excerpts were published Sunday by JNS.
According to the report, Reid affirmed U.S. support for Israel, calling the failure to condemn Hamas as one would condemn the Islamic State group "stunning hypocrisy."
"Hamas and IS are both vicious, corrupt, hateful, evil groups. And both are extreme. Yet, for some reason, Hamas' brutality doesn’t elicit the same horror from the international community as ISIS. How can that be?" Reid wondered as he addressed the Senate.
He added that one of the few differences between Islamic State and Hamas is the latter's narrow focus on one single objective -- the destruction of Israel.
"Consider its actions over the past several months: Hamas raided its own limited supplies for housing and general infrastructure, intended to repair the destruction that occurred during the last conflict they initiated. But Hamas instead used the stolen materials to build tunnels to hide and infiltrate Israel -- infiltrating to kill, maim, kidnap and murder the innocent. These depraved agitators launched thousands of rockets into Israel, hoping to inflict death and destruction. Their rockets had no aiming capabilities -- they fired indiscriminately, not caring whether they hit a child, a family or anyone," he said.
During Operation Protective Edge, Reid's party's leaders - President Hussein Obama and Secretary of State Kerry - sought to replace Egypt with Qatar and Turkey as 'mediators' with Israel because the latter two are closely connected to Hamas. 

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Today is a travel day....

Today is a travel day - my flight boards in a few minutes. The airport is much more crowded than the picture above.

More when and if I am able to access the internet.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Join the Get Well Mandy thunderclap!


The most amazing TEDTalk you have ever heard

If you’re raised on dogma and hate, can you choose a different path? Zak Ebrahim was just seven years old when his father helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. His story is shocking, powerful, and ultimately, inspiring.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design -- plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more.
Find closed captions and translated subtitles in many languages at http://www.ted.com/translate

Let's go to the videotape.

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When the shoe was on William Schabas' other foot

William Schabas has been asked to recuse himself from chairing the United Nations 'human rights council's 'commission of inquiry' into Operation Protective Edge because of comments that show he has prejudged the outcome.

Schabas has mocked attempts to unseat him as commission chair, telling an Arab newspaper that “even if Spider-Man were appointed to head the commission they would attack him.

UN Watch reports that when Schabas was in the dock himself - as the President of the militant Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) back in 1974 at the University of Toronto, he had a far different viewpoint
What is particularly ironic, however, is that, according to a decision of the Ontario Divisional Court (Re Schabas et al. and Caput of the University of Toronto et al.), Schabas tried to disqualify the entire panel hearing his case by arguing that they were biased.
The court rejected Schabas’ claims, finding “no evidence whatsoever to support a reasonable apprehension” of bias.
Yes, of course, Schabas was only a doctoral student, and no one should be held to account for all their university indiscretions.
But there is simply no justification for Schabas to continue to refuse to give a legal response to the very genuine allegations of bias, or the reasonable apprehension thereof, on his part.
 I'm shocked at his hypocrisy. Just totally shocked..... (NOT!).

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PA finance minister paid thousands to designated terrorist while working at Arab Bank

Under cross-examination in the Arab Bank terror financing trial in New York, 'Palestinian Authority Finance Minister' Shukri Bishara, the former chief executive officer of the Arab Bank, has admitted that he knowingly paid thousands of dollars to designated Hamas terrorist Osama Hamdan while employed by the bank.
Under cross examination by counsel for the plaintiffs Mark Werbner, Bishara’s tone changed from gregarious to acrimonious. A heated exchange took place when Werbner asserted that Bishara had released funds from a bank account belonging to senior Hamas leader Osama Hamdan.

“You gave this terrorist $8,000, the man who moves weapons and explosives,” Werbner stated. “You had no other choice than to give this terrorist $8,000?” “My concern was to get rid of the account,” Bishara explained, having admitted he knew Hamdan was on the US terrorist blacklist at the time. “There was simply no way” to close the account without a court order or Hamdan being designated a terrorist by Lebanon, he said.

Defense lawyers say the so-called “Beirut account” was first brought to the bank’s attention in 2004 by this lawsuit. After waiting five or six months to find another solution, Bishara said, the Arab Bank ultimately cut a check to Hamdan and closed the account.

This fund transfer has burdened the bank’s main defense, which was that most transfers were made to those who were not on any US watch list at the time.
Of course there was 'another solution.' They could have gotten the court order. Or they could have held the money.

Here's hoping that Arab Bank is barred from using the US banking system. Other countries' banks have been threatened for far less harmful actions.

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Israel to US: 'If ISIS reaches Jordan, we will act'

President Hussein Obama may not know what to do with ISIS, but Channel 2 reports that Israel has told him in no uncertain terms that if ISIS reaches Jordan, Israel will act.
The TV report did not specify what actions Israel might take if Islamic State started impacting upon Jordan, but Israel is wary of its eastern neighbor being challenged by the brutal terror group, and would seek to guard against further inroads that would directly threaten Israel.
Israel has provided the US with intelligence and satellite images on Islamic State positions, as well as information on Westerners joining its ranks, to assist Washington in its ongoing operation against the Islamic State, reports earlier this week indicated.
Waiting for Obama to try to stop us in 4... 3... 2... 1....

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What a surprise! ISIS outflanks Obama

Jennifer Dyer has an important and lengthy post on how President Obama's 'strategy' for stopping ISIS crumbled between his White House speech on Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. Some excerpts....
ISIS is busy neutralizing the Syrian factions that might make common cause with the United States.  On Thursday, Breitbart London reported that several dozen leaders of Syrian rebel factions opposed to ISIS, who were gathered at a meeting in northwestern Syria, were killed in a massive explosion on Wednesday.
Huffington Post on Friday evening summarized reports that ISIS has signed a non-aggression deal with a separate group of rebel factions in Syria, nominally so that all of the factions can continue to fight the Assad regime.
According to the Dubai-based Arabic news site Orient News, one of the signatories to the agreement is the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF), a group that has received U.S. support and has been touted as a likely partner for a U.S. strategy to oppose ISIS in Syria.
The SRF has been losing ground in recent weeks, suffering a major blow when one of its top commanders was killed at the end of August.  At the same time, the SRF was reported to be fighting alongside al-Qaeda-affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra in southern Syria, including the battle for the crossing point with Israel in the Golan over which the rebel factions claimed control on 27 August.
Now it appears that the non-aggression pact with ISIS was brokered by Jabhat al-Nusra.  None of this comes as a surprise to those who’ve been following along with Patrick Poole at PJ Media.  On 3 September, Poole outlined the continuing cooperation of factions in the Free Syrian Army with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra – cooperation that has resulted in a flow of U.S.-supplied weaponry to the latter two armies.  On 9 September, he expounded on a report from the Los Angeles Times that one of the “vetted moderate” groups, Harakat Hazm, is quite open about fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra.
The U.S. has already given this group anti-tank missiles.  Appended to Poole’s analysis is the tweeted text of an alliance agreement concluded by “vetted moderate” faction Harakat Hazm and other similar groups with Jabhat al-Nusra.  The text was tweeted on 8 July.
It’s not just credible, it’s highly bloody likely that some of the rebel factions – including U.S. client SRF – have indeed made a pact with ISIS.  The fact that it won’t be worth a bucket of warm spit ought to serve not as an encouragement to U.S. delusions of a meaningful alliance in Syria, but as a warning.
In fact, ISIS hasn’t sat still.  Once Obama made his speech on Wednesday, the option of mounting coordinated attacks on ISIS’s strategic rear in Syria immediately became a major threat posed by the U.S.  If we could do it effectively, we could force ISIS to defend its rear: shift resources away from the campaign in Iraq, and perhaps even rework its overall strategy.
So ISIS promptly took out nearly 50 opposition rebel leaders and signed its non-aggression agreement with America’s potential partners in Syria.
Remember that ISIS doesn’t have to show good faith over time with any of those Syrian factions.  It just has to preempt their cooperation with the United States.  The mechanism for that is straightforward.  We’re an easy read – ponderous making decisions, easily spooked, committed to at least perfunctory public transparency – and our president is a slow learner.
If ISIS can prevent anyone in Syria from cooperating with the U.S., ISIS can concentrate its effort in Iraq, where our forces on the ground will be: small, scattered, un-concentrated, embedded with local groups which may not all be fighting for the same objectives.  Remember this also: Obama is determined not to overlay an obtrusively coherent U.S. framework on this operation.  Kurds fighting in northern Iraq and Sunnis fighting along the Euphrates in Anbar – each with a separate ill-defined connection to the struggling Shia-majority government in Baghdad – will have the lead.
Even in Vietnam and Somalia, I don’t think we’ve ever backed into anything with our hindquarters flapping quite so egregiously in the breeze.  Military success doesn’t just happen.  It’s as much a matter of political will, and a coherent strategy and operational plan, as it is of training, expertise, and weapons superiority at the tactical level.  Assuming we do go ahead with the plan-deficient, few-boots non-war the Obama administration has been proclaiming for the last 72 hours, I am very concerned that American troops could find themselves vulnerable under fire and fighting for their lives within weeks.
I would actually feel better at this point if we weren’t enlarging our footprint in Irbil at all, but instead planned to just keeping flying strike-fighters from Kuwait and Qatar.  There are sound operational reasons to be gravely concerned about Obama’s decision to dismiss the advice of his military leaders and go with a toxic brew of half-measure objectives and exposed deployment situations.
The rapid, cynical, homicidal initiative shown by ISIS in seeking to neutralize Obama’s Syria option is a pretty good indicator of what we’ll be up against.  Pundits and officials who are vocally criticizing the president are not just showing partisan sour grapes.  This is real, and it’s bad.

Read the whole thing.

That last link is particularly important. Obama is playing electoral politics again.
In his war speech last night, President Obama was at strikingly adamant about what the US mission to "degrade and destroy" ISIS would not entail: American ground troops in a combat role.  The 475 additional personnel being deployed to the region are only authorized assist with "training, intelligence and equipment."  Direct American intervention will be limited to a protracted campaign of airstrikes, in Iraq and -- for the first time -- Syria.  The Washington Post reports today that when the president tasked military leaders with devising the best strategy to defeat ISIS, the Pentagon presented a plan that involved a limited number of combat "boots on the ground."  They were rebuffed, in favor of a more politically-palatable light footprint approach:

Such a mission was not the U.S. military’s preferred option. Responding to a White House request for options to confront the Islamic State, Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said that his best military advice was to send a modest contingent of American troops, principally Special Operations forces, to advise and assist Iraqi army units in fighting the militants, according to two U.S. military officials. The recommendation, conveyed to the White House by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was cast aside in favor of options that did not involve U.S. ground forces in a front-line role, a step adamantly opposed by the White House...Recommitting ground combat forces to Iraq would have been highly controversial, and most likely would have been opposed by a substantial majority of Americans. But Austin’s predecessor, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, said the decision not to send ground troops poses serious risks to the mission. “The American people will once again see us in a war that doesn’t seem to be making progress,” Mattis said. “You’re giving the enemy the initiative for a longer period.”
This turn of events was inevitable, given the instincts and priorities of the Oval Office's current occupant.  According to the New York Times' bureau chief in Baghdad, the Obama administration has serially misled the American people about on-the-ground realities in Iraq in order to protect a politicized "receding tide of war" illusion.  The president shrunk from his own red line in Syria last year due, at least in part, to heavy domestic pressures, ultimately resorting to a fake "solution" that has since collapsed
Having ignored and dismissed ISIS for years, the president has finally been pressed to play catch-up with events.  Public opinion has turned sharply in favor of intervention, likely spurred by grisly images of beheaded American journalists broadcast around the world, but most are still wary of ground troops.  Obama -- once again leading from behind with no discernible strategy beyond 'win the current news cycle' -- is giving the public what it wants at the moment.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Following that "best military advice" would have required the president to forcefully make the case that a limited American ground force was vital to victory. He clearly had no appetite to do so, as it would have entailed further eroding his anti-war cred and infuriating his core base ahead of an election.
Read it all

I've seen a lot of commentary on this, but the bottom line is that the military is horrified at Obama's 'strategy,' and the guy who is supposed to advocate for the military in the White House - Chuck Hagel - has been predictably silent.

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The average American's reaction to President Obama's ISIS speech


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Saturday, September 13, 2014

How to anger just about everyone in Israel

43 IDF reservists from 'Unit 8200,' Israel's showcase intelligence unit from which much of the country's high tech has been spawned, have sent a 'letter of insubordination' to the IDF and the media. The letter says that they refuse to 'harm innocents' as part of their IDF service.
The soldiers, who include extremist leftist activists, complained that their service to Israel's security "harms innocents."
"There is an idea that serving in the intelligence corps does not include moral dilemmas, and only contributes to the lessening of violence and harm to innocents," wrote the insubordinate soldiers in their letter. "But during our military service we learned that the intelligence corps is an inseparable part of the military control of the territories (Judea and Samaria - ed.)."
According to the soldiers, the Arab residents of the region are "completely exposed" to Israeli spying and surveillance, adding "as opposed to Israeli citizens of citizens of other countries, there's no oversight on methods of (intel) gathering, surveillance and use of information in regards to Palestinians, whether they're involved in violence or not."
"The intelligence (corps) allows continued control over millions of people, a deep and penetrating supervision and invasion of (privacy in) most aspects of life. All of this does not allow a normal life, fuels more violence, and distances the end of the conflict," claimed the signatories.
The IDF responded before the Sabbath started. Most of the other responses have come this evening.
In response to the letter, the IDF Spokesperson Unit noted "Unit 8200 has worked from the day of its formation to gather intel, which allows the IDF and security sources to fulfill their missions, and on a daily basis aids in the protection of citizens of the state of Israel."
"The Unit acts through a variety of means and on many fronts, while using methods and rules aimed solely at the necessities of intelligence," added the statement, responding to the claims of invading privacy in numerous aspects of daily life.
The statement added "those serving in the Unit are certified after a strict identification process, in training that has no equal in the intelligence community in Israel and abroad, during which contents learned with a special emphasis on ethics, values and work regulations are imprinted."
"These are implemented effectively through the military service of the soldiers and captains in the Unit, and are overseen through constant inspection by commanders of different rankings," said the statement.
In a particularly low blow, the letter was sent to the media before it was sent to the soldiers' IDF commanders.

After the Sabbath started, Walla reported that a counter letter from current and past members of 8200 was published.
"We are veterans of Unit 8200, soldiers and reserve soldiers, past and present, who wish to express shock, disgust and total renouncement of the letter written by our fellow soldiers, who chose political refusal over our unit," the opposing text said.
"This political refusal has no place in the army in general and in Unit 8200 in particular," it continued. "In the hour that reserve soldiers are called to serve their country, we put aside our preferences and political opinions and go to serve our country."
"We regret that our friends make cynical use of politics in their legal and moral duty to serve in the reserve unit, which in our eyes constitutes the highest honor, and seek [instead] to undermine the activities and achievements in the unit's defense of the country and its people." 
The veterans also rejected the initial letter's outrageous claims that the IDF was using information on Palestinian Arabs to "stalk" them and "harass innocent people" instead of defending Israeli civilians. 
"As those familiar with the unit for many years, we cannot accept the allegations of lack of ethical and moral principles of intelligence work in the unit," it said. "From our first days in the unit, we learned the importance of monitoring and collecting data in accordance with high professional standards and regulations."
"Both in regular and reserve services, we have witnessed many cases where the operation of the unit's intelligence capabilities resulted in the preservation of human life on both sides," it continued. "Even when ethical dilemmas arise on the job, and during the war, witnesses [of crimes] were and still dealt with in a mature and responsible manner, in line with the principles of international law and the code of ethics and morals of the army."
Over 150 people have expressed support for the counter-letter so far, and the initiators are attempting to collect as many signatures as possible before mailing a physical copy of the document to the leftist opponents in the next several days.
Tonight, opposition leader Yitzchak Herzog - a Major in 8200 - came out against the letter.
"Proper disclosure, I am a major in Unit 8200 and have accompanied it for decades,” wrote Herzog on Facebook. "I love the unit, its soldiers and commanders. Its contribution to the security of Israel and its citizens, and even beyond that, is immense. Thousands upon thousands of Israeli citizens owe it their lives. Fighting terror is meticulous and complex work that requires the best minds.”
"I oppose refusal to serve and am wholly disgusted by it,” he added. “This unit and its operations are vital not only for wartime but especially and mostly for peace.”
"When one speaks of a diplomatic arrangement and the setting of borders, one is speaking about advance warning stations and intelligence abilities, in order to locate and block the extremist forces that will do everything to sabotage peace.”
"I am not saying that there are no mistakes. Certainly, these are possible, and Israel's military history is full of them, but there are ways to complain and bring the complaints to an inquiry and discussion. I also think that there are ways of effecting change, certainly when there is a feeling that injustice was done somewhere. But not by encouraging and calling for refusal to serve, or through damaging global publicity whose price we – the citizens of Israel – will pay.”
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon also slammed the reservists
"I have been familiar with Unit 8200 and is activities for decades, and certainly since I was appointed head of the Intelligence Corps and became aware of the enormous contribution of the men of this unit to the security of the citizens of Israel," Ya'alon said.
Praising he soldiers of the unit for performing "amazingly well" under difficult circumstances, he added that "Unit 8200 preserves the existence of the State of Israel."
"The attempt to harm the unit and its operations via a call for insubordination, based on allegations which do not represent the actions of the unit or the values of its personnel is a foolish and obscene attempt to support the international false delegitimization campaign against the State of Israel and the soldiers of the IDF."
"The soldiers of Unit 8200 are moral and ethical" he insisted, and called on people to support "them and their actions which are so important to the security of the State of Israel and the security of its citizens."
This ought to do wonders for morale - which was of course the goal of the letter writers. But the bigger problem is that it plays into the hands of Israel haters everywhere. The soldiers will likely be dishonorably discharged - and that cannot happen a moment too soon. 

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BDS vote at CUNY postponed

On Friday, I reported that a vote on boycotting Israel was scheduled for 6:00 pm Friday night at the City University of New York. After a lengthy debate, that vote was postponed.
After a lengthy heated debate on Friday evening, that included additional time for both sides to present the arguments, a motion was eventually passed to table the resolution for a future date.
Despite the vote's difficult timing for observant Jews, a number of pro-Israel groups also turned out to support CUNY students and faculty who opposed the resolution.
 “It is a routine tactic of the BDS movement to hold votes on or around Jewish holidays in order to shut out pro-Israel voices,” Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition – who attended the Friday evening vote – told JNS.org. “When the facts are known, BDS fails.”
The proposed resolution, which is titled “The Endorsement of Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions”, called on the CUNY system to endorse a “boycott of Israeli academic institutions and the divestment from Israeli companies” as well as ending academic partnerships with Israeli institutions such as the one between Baruch College and Israel’s College of Management and Academic Studies.
The resolution also expresses support for “Palestinian students and academics in their struggle against the Zionist policies of the Israeli state and its restrictions.”
Baime added that he is proud of the CUNY students and faculty for their strong showing despite having little time to prepare.
We're not out of the woods on this one yet. But it's promising. 

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Not a US ally anymore?

Shavua tov, a good week to everyone.

Turkey - led by President Hussein Obama's best friend forever - is refusing to collaborate with the United States against the Islamic State terror organization (Hat Tip: Joshua I). But Obama is loyal to Recep Tayyip Erdogan - unlike his attitude toward the United States' real allies. Instead of punishing Turkey for its obstinence, within 24 hours of Turkey's refusal to join, US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Ankara meeting with Erdogan.
After a two-and-a-half hour meeting, the pair emerged to announce that they had decided to cooperate “against all terrorist movements in the region,” rather than just against IS.
The announcement, which was brief and contained almost no details, was a signal that Turkey and America will not permit an open rift over Turkey’s reluctance to join the US-led coalition. Instead, Turkey and the US will continue to help the Syrian opposition and to share intelligence. Neither of these developments should come as a surprise.
The compromise is considerably less than the US had hoped for at the beginning of the week.
Thursday’s conference of Arab nations and the United States in Jeddah marked the point when it became clear that Turkey - even though it is the only NATO member in the region - would not be a full member of the coalition. For some observers the realization brought home claims made earlier this week by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen that Turkey and Qatar were neither definite friends nor enemies, but ‘frenemies’.
The Turkish delegation seems to have had the package of US military measures unveiled to them in Jeddah. But when Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, phoned home for further instructions, he was told not to sign.
Sabah, a newspaper close to the Erdogan government outlined what it says is the “partial support” that Turkey will give the US-led coalition; humanitarian assistance, intelligence, and border security.
On the face of it, this package adds little or nothing particularly new. Work is already well underway in all three areas. Turkey is a refuge for around one million Syrian refugees and it now recognises that it needs to prepare its borders against possible incursions from IS-occupied areas. Turkish forces are also doing what they can to make the highly porous frontier between Syria and Turkey and between Turkey and Iraq more secure, although with a border stretching more than 820 km with Syria and 350-km border with Iraq this is an extremely difficult task.
Quite apart from a sense of comradery with Sunni activists in Syria and Iraq, Turkey’s hands are also tied by another issue that hung over the talks.
As long as 49 Turkish hostages, diplomats, family and staff from the consulate-general, are being held in Mosul by IS, Turkey cannot take strong moves against the militants without endangering the lives of the captives.
While this consideration was not been openly stated, it was brought up immediately by Turkish officials, who began discussing the problem immediately after their country failed to sign the Jeddah communiqué on Thursday.
It is possible that Turkey is clandestinely providing more support to the anti-IS alliance than it openly admits. Indeed, there are claims that US drones from Incirlik air-base are taking part in strikes on Iraq, but there has so far been no confirmation of this and if Kerry has extracted assistance of this sort, there was no hint of it today. Instead, for the time being, the US and Turkey seem mainly to have agreed to paper over the cracks in a difficult relationship.
In a Saturday editorial, the Wall Street Journal said that Turkey is not a US ally and that the US ought to move its airbase out of Incirlik. Incirlik is less than 100 miles from Turkey's border with Syria. 
US daily The Wall Street Journal has claimed in its editorial on Saturday that it is the "unavoidable conclusion" that the US needs to find a better regional ally to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIL) than Turkey, suggesting that the air base Turkey is currently hosting should be moved somewhere else.
Recalling Turkey's reluctance in joining the anti-ISIL coalition, the editorial said not only will Ankara take no military action, it will also forbid the US from using the US air base in İncirlik—located fewer than 100 miles from the Syrian border—to conduct air strikes against the terrorists.
"That will complicate the Pentagon's logistical and reconnaissance challenges, especially for a campaign that's supposed to take years," it added.
The newspaper said the US military will no doubt find work-arounds for its air campaign, just as it did in 2003 when Turkey also refused requests to let the US launch attacks on Iraq from its soil in order to depose Saddam Hussein. It said Turkey shares a 910-km border with Syria and Iraq, meaning it could have made a more-than-symbolic contribution to a campaign against ISIL.
The daily described it as a "reality" that the Turkish government, a member of NATO, long ago stopped acting like an ally of the US or a friend of the West. The editorial quoted former US Ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, who said this week that the Turkish government "frankly worked" with the al-Nusrah Front—the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria—along with other terrorist groups. It claimed that Ankara also looked the other way as foreign radical groups used Turkey as a transit point on their way to Syria and Iraq.
The WSJ noted that İncirlik air base has been a home for US forces for nearly 60 years, but perhaps it's time to consider replacing it with a new US air base in Kurdish territory in northern Iraq.
Don't expect Obama to listen to that advice. What could go wrong?

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