Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Abbas faces more fiascos after the UN rejects his unilateral path to a Palestinian state

DEBKAfile Special Report December 31, 2014, 9:24 AM (IDT)
Mahmoud Abbas loses his first UN round
Mahmoud Abbas loses his first UN round
The United Nations Security Council Tuesday night, Dec. 30, rejected a Palestinian resolution demanding that Israel withdraw from disputed territories within three years. The motion fell one short of the minimum nine "yes" votes in the Security Council, confirming debkafile’s reporting ahead of the vote. The US and Australia voted against; Russia, China, France, Argentina, Chad, Chile, Jordan and Luxembourg voted in favor and the UK, Lithuania Nigeria, South Korea and Rwanda abstained.
The document called for Israel to fully withdraw from all “occupied Palestinian territories” by the end of 2017 and for a comprehensive peace deal to be reached within a year. It also called for new negotiations to take place based on territorial lines that existed prior to the 1967 war in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip..

The resolution was submitted by Jordan after its endorsement by 22 Arab states and the Palestinian Authority.

After the vote, the Palestinian delegation claimed it had been surprised by Nigeria’s abstention. However, that was just a pretense. Nigeria had been persuaded some time ago by the US and Israel not to endorse the resolution. Indeed, shortly before the vote, the Israeli prime minister talked by phone to the rulers of Nigeria and Rwanda.

The vote was also a setback to the politicians running against Likud for the March 17 general election. They maintain tirelessly that Netanyahu has dragged Israel into international isolation and lost the ability even to raise an American veto against a hostile Security Council resolution.
His leading detractors on this score are the two Labor leaders Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni, the Future leader Yair Lapid and Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, although he serves as foreign minister in the Netanyahu government.

In fact, it turned out well before Tuesday night that the United States was perfectly ready to slap down its veto if the Abbas motion managed to gain nine votes. US Ambassador Samantha Power strongly rebuked the Palestinians for their action “because … peace must come from hard compromises that occur at the negotiating table,” she said.

The Palestinians may fare no better if they submit their motion again to the Security Council after Jan. 2015 in the hope of a more favorable reception by its new lineup. They may be in for a surprise from India. debkafile’s diplomatic sources report that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is considering abstaining or even opposing Abbas’ motion, seriously jolting the Palestinians who had always counted on India as a leading member of the nonaligned bloc of nations automatically acting as the backbone of their support in the world body.

India’s turnaround would represent another diplomatic feat for the Netanyahu government and demonstrate Israel’s real strength in Asia and the Middle East.

The French vote for the Palestinian motion was not unexpected. Paris is spearheading Europe’s anti-Israel stance in an attempt to boost its military ties with the Persian Gulf nations.

Straight after their fiasco in New York, the Palestinians announced their leaders would meet in Ramallah the next day and decide on their next step. Abbas proposes immediately applying to join the Rome Treaty to advance their bid for accredited statehood. One of his first actions would be to prosecute Israeli for war crimes at the International Court at the Hague.

American officials in Washington pointed out before the Council vote that the Palestinians are unlikely to get very far in their suit. The court’s standing is ambiguous: it is not recognized by the US, Israel, Russia, India or China and has held no more than 21 trials in decades. The court has so far evaded cases against national leaders responsible for the most heinous crimes and causing hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, like Syria’s Beshar Assad.

Even if the international court accepts the Palestinian case, they themselves will have opened the door to the prosecution of countless numbers of Palestinians responsible for decades of terrorism and other crimes against humanity.

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The Year To Come

Mostly, in thinking of the year to come, people's minds turn to celebration, the turning over of the old year into the new. Hope springs eternal, just as eternally spring returns from the sere chill of winter and new life begins to prove that nature has not forgotten her duty to prolonging existence. But there are other things that will also be prolonged, and they have far more to do with the nature of man than the nature of science and existence, though man's nature threatens existence.

The incoming new year brings thoughts of beginnings, of celebrating the end of the last, and the incoming new possibilities. It would indeed herald change and hope for the future if we could simply bundle up everything of consequence in the global community that threatens our existence, as though we were preparing the kitchen waste for regular municipal garbage collection, and be done with it all, but that is the stuff of wishful thinking, not reality.

There is so much insecurity and uncertainty, unpredictability and volatility in the world. From the environment and climate change with all the worrying symptoms of warming oceans, melting icecaps, furious weather systems, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, droughts and floods all representing nature's impact on our well-being that we can do little about, but attempt to cope with.

We can hardly cope, as it is, with the overwhelming stresses on society caused by humankind's inability to accept one another, with the resulting masses of forced human migration creating more refugees in the world than ever before, fleeing conflict, and the dread of terrorist slaughter. People seeking haven, traumatized by losing their homes to pillaging marauders, women gang-raped, children abused, wounded, tormented by the fear that their parents have left them orphans.

The Kremlin's veering off under Vladimir Putin into a restoration of its former rapacious territorial and ideological ambitions, laying waste to the aspirations of its neighbours to resume their sovereign independence, hoping for more inspiring futures for their populations. A hungry bear is an angry, destructive bear, and Russia is now hungry for capital, dipping into recession, having helped to destroy Ukraine's economic future.

The economies of Iran and Venezuela look none too healthy at the moment, and they too buzz their societies like hives of angry bees waiting to sting those who complain. Eastern Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, the Baltic States and Poland all waver in insecurity, never knowing whether the volatile Putin will chose to distract himself from concern over losing the economic advantage of high oil prices by selecting new geographies to inflate greater Russia with.

Turkey's government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan also entertains the world community with its lead into totalitarian Islamism while it and Qatar and Saudi Arabia proffer quiet assistance to Islamic State even while they deplore its excesses and assure NATO and the United States that this is no work of theirs and they swear to defeat the fanatics, as though they themselves are not fundamentalist fanatics of their pure version of Sunni Islam, equal to that of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Shiite version.

Radicalized Islam, to give it the more polite terminology than Islamofascism has broadened its appeal as a menace in a front across the Middle East, the Islamic Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa, as tribalism and Islamism shake metaphorical hands on a mutually beneficial sprint toward a universal caliphate. Boko Haram rampaging across Nigeria, and Al-Shabab terrorizing Somalis, see their proud counterpart in the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham.

Humanity and vestiges of civilization are melting into a maelstrom of violent assertion through mass rape, bloodshed and carnage generally of the atrocity-laden type that horrifies those not fond of massacres and children disabled by the mental disequilibrium of witnessing death and destruction wherever they cast their sad, soulful eyes before they die of disease and malnutrition.

The spectre of a nuclear-armed Iran to join Islamist Pakistan, the wasting of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, the swaggering domination of China whose predations have given due notice to its not-yet-cowering neighbours but forewarned of future disequilibrium; the flight of Christians from lands where that great religion was given birth and flourished on the world stage, all of this happened in 2014.

Just as well 2014 is almost behind us.

And that 2015 hovers before us, is that not an event to celebrate? Should we imagine that all the dreadful misery of the world will depart just as 2014 does, like a spirit exiting the body of the deceased?


Monday, December 29, 2014

Burying Their Volunteer Dead

"What I don't understand is what he died for. Why couldn't we let people in Ukraine sort things out for themselves?"
"I tried to persuade him [son Anton Tumanov, 20] not to go because of what was happening in Ukraine. But our president said that none of our soldiers would be sent there -- 'it's just Ukrainians fighting each other' -- and I believed that. So in the end I did not argue."
"[Anton said to his mother] 'Who wants to die?' That was their thinking. Nobody was attacking Russia; if they had been, Anton would have been first in the queue."
"Our children are nameless, like homeless tramps. If they sent our soldiers there, let them admit it. It's too late to bring Anton back but this is just inhuman."
Yelena Tumanova, 41, Kozmodemyansk, Russia

"Tomorrow they are sending us to Donetsk [the rebel capital]. We're going to help the militia."
"[Following day] We're handing in our documents and our phones. They've given us two grenades and 150 rounds of ammunition each."
Anton Tumanov
Anton Tumanov’s grave in his home town of Kozmodemyansk, 400 miles east of Moscow, Russia (Tom Parfitt/The Telegraph)
"On August 22 we were given an order to remove the identification plates from our military vehicles, change into camouflage suits and tie white rags on our arms and legs."
"At the border we received supplies of ammunition. On the 11th and 12th we crossed on to Ukrainian territory. On August 13 at lunchtime our column was hit by a rocket strike, during which Anton Tumanov died. At that moment we were in Ukraine, in Snezhnoye [town not far from Donetsk]."
Russian soldier whose handwritten description was given to Yelena Tumanova

In Kozmodemyansk, 17-year-old Nastya Chernova, Anton Tumanov's fiancee, recalls having been informed by him that he was being dispatched on short trips into Ukraine to guard deliveries of arms and military vehicles to the rebels. Her fiancee, she said, lent himself to the enterprise against his will. "The last time we spoke he told me he and some friends discussed running away but they were a long way from home, they didn't have food."

Anton Tumanov, 20, far right, stands with army comrades in a photograph probably taken a day or two before he died in a missile attack in Snizhne

Anton Tumanov, while attending school had enrolled as a conscript soldier. Later, after graduating school he decided to become a career soldier when employment otherwise eluded him. In June he was sent with his unit to Chechnya. Before the first ten days had elapsed in Chechnya he and other base personnel were asked if they would volunteer to go to Donbas, but Anton and his friends refused. When mid-July rolled around Anton's regular army unit was dispatched to a camp in the Rostov area, close to the border with Ukraine "for exercises".

The short trips Anton was tasked to take part in was the very time when the Ukrainian pro-Moscow militias were on the cusp of surrendering to government forces in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian military had almost surrounded Donetsk, and over the next month Russia responded by staging a major intervention, sending in tanks and troops across the border to aid the rebels to reclaim the territory they had gained and were now close to losing.

"Anton was not a volunteer. He didn't want to go to Ukraine to fight and kill people. He didn't have that aggression inside him. He joined up to defend his country", insists Ms. Chernova who posts poems about her fiancee on social media, remembering the time she woke abruptly from sleep with a premonition that he had died. 'Volunteers' on their own initiative, of course, is the offhand explanation that Vladimir Putin puts to charges that Russian military are aiding the rebels in Ukraine.

If Anton Tumanov had been answering "a call of the heart", he would have abandoned his post. Many Russian rights activists believe that hundreds of Russian soldiers have died in the conflict in Ukraine. Prosecutors refuse to investigate. Anton Tumanov, according to the official record, died "carrying out responsibilities of military service", at some "point of temporary deployment of military unit 27777", of the army's 18th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade permanently based in Kalinovskaya, Chechnya.

According to his death certificate he died of an "explosion injury" where he received "multiple shrapnel wounds to the lower limbs" resulting in "acute, massive blood loss". His mother, after receiving notice of his death awaited his delivery home. A sealed zinc coffin with her son's remains arrived. "There was a little window in the top so you could look at his face", she said. When she spoke to a major in Chechnya by telephone it was confirmed verbally that her son had died in Ukraine. No additional details were forthcoming.

Yelena Tumanova visits her son Anton’s grave in his home town of Kozmodemyansk, 400 miles east of Moscow, Russia.
Yelena Tumanova visits her son Anton’s grave in his home town of Kozmodemyansk, 400 miles east of Moscow, Russia. Photo: Tom Parfitt

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Taming The Pakistan Taliban

"[Saddam Jan] was responsible for facilitating the massacre at the Army Public School & College. He was the mastermind of several attacks carried out throughout the country. We had credible reports that he facilitated the Peshawar school attack."
"He was killed by security forces in Jamrud Tehsil late on Thursday night."
Shahab Ali Shah, Peshawar government official

"Saddam, a commander of the Darra Adam Khel chapter of the TTP [Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan alliance] was a significant man because he had been fighting the security forces at a time when most Taliban have gone into hibernation."
"Taliban are on the run and losing important commanders is a sign that they are getting weaker and weaker."
retired Brig. Mahmood Shah
The Pakistani Army has stepped up its efforts to eradicate the Taliban in the wake of what was one of the worst acts of terrorism in the country's modern history. Pictured is an army soldier standing guard
The Pakistani Army has stepped up its efforts to eradicate the Taliban in the wake of what was one of the worst acts of terrorism in the country's modern history. Pictured is an army soldier standing guard

A former head of security in the Pakistan tribal areas, Brig. Shah contends that the death of Saddam Jan represents a serious blow to the TTP, under onslaught of the Pakistani military. Islamist jihadis are like those horribly infamous beasts of Greek legend, the dragon that is slain and whose teeth fall out to each become transformed to a dread armoured warrior skilled in delivering death with weapons that outmatch those of ordinary mortals.

A many-headed monster which, when each head is cut off in an effort to destroy its devastating attacks on battlefields, simply transforms each severed head into yet another fearsome monster to continue destroying and wreaking carnage and death wherever it ventures. They are all metaphors for a religious fervor of anti-humanity, one that passionately believes that any human who will not worship Islam has no right to life.

The man now listed as having been killed by the Pakistan military was held to be one of the TTP's few remaining commanders mounting attacks on a regular basis against the government and its military. The December 16 massacre which resulted in the deaths of 132 schoolchildren, with an overall death toll of 148, horrified and invigorated the government to task its military with mounting a counter-offensive with teeth.

Again. As though such counter-offensives haven't before been mounted. And in the doing produced thousands of refugees fleeing the carnage that resulted from the territories under the control of the tribal militias in the ungoverned tribal areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Targeting children to produce an electrifying effect of revulsion among Pakistanis, on the other hand, might be held to be a formula for self-defeat.

Particularly since it has been reported that Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders denounced the attack by the seven Taliban gunmen slaughtering the innocents without hesitation or remorse, as "un-Islamic". Given the past exploits of both groups that sounds more than a tad sanctimonious. But it did spur the government of Pakistan to action. Six convicted terrorists have since been executed with the reinstatement of capital punishment.

A more telling solution to a never-ending problem, however, was the step to place curbs on madrassa seminaries, infamous for inciting students to reverence of jihad, and directing them to join such terrorist groups. Such Wahhabist madrassas underwritten courtesy of Saudi Arabia.  Umar Mansoor acting on behalf of the TTP's top leader, Maulana Fazlullah, is said to have ordered the Peshawar school massacre. While Saddam Jan is held to have planned the operation.

And to have spurred the attacks against health workers attempting to immunize children in the tribal areas against poliomyelitis, where 11 security personnel safeguarding workers were killed along with eight government paramilitary Scouts, several tribal elders, and health workers themselves. Saving Pakistani children from the dreadful health effects of a dread disease was an obvious Western plot to destroy Pakistani tradition.

One vital benchmark was passed, however, in the fight against the Taliban, when local people decided to no longer support the Taliban after the massacre of the schoolchildren in Peshawar. "The TTP's attack on the Army Public School has enraged and saddened the people due to which they do not want to provide sanctuaries to the TTP's men", ventured Talat Khan, a local security analyst.

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

"The revolution will be complete when the language is perfect."
George Orwell, 1984

The Ottoman language, written in Arabic script and heavily infused with Arabic loan words, was unintelligible to most lower-class Turks for hundreds of years.
Originally published under the title, "The Master Linguist(s)."
It is truly fascinating that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan keeps on lecturing on a language that he does not understand, speak, read or write. "We once had a language [Ottoman] perfectly suitable for science," Mr. Erdoğan lamented, "Then it disappeared overnight [referring to Atatürk's alphabet revolution]." How sad. In 1923, only 2.5 percent of Turks were literate, and only a fraction of them could speak Ottoman.

Mr. Erdoğan's passionate longing for a dead language is both ideological and Orwellian. He must be dreaming of the days when Ottoman will be a lingua franca, not only in Turkey, but also throughout the world.
In his most recent lecture, Mr. Erdoğan, the master linguist, who unfortunately does not speak a language other than his native Turkish, said that it was impossible to "do philosophy" with the Turkish vocabulary. Only Ottoman, English, German and French are suitable for philosophy, he argued.
The few people in the Ottoman bureaucracy who were fluent in Ottoman are not mentioned in the history of science for any notable achievement.
Ironically, the few people in the Ottoman bureaucracy who were fluent in Ottoman are not mentioned in the history of science for any notable achievement, although Mr. Erdoğan thinks "Ottoman is perfectly suitable to science." In his ideological blindness, Mr. Erdoğan in unable to see that scientific achievement is almost totally irrelevant to language and alphabets.
In the medieval times, Arab scientists were noted for their creative studies in a number of disciplines. They produced scientific works in Arabic, the same language that has not produced any notable scientific achievements in the last several centuries. Meanwhile, in the last century, countless Russian, Japanese, Israeli and Korean (and lately Chinese) scientists whose native languages are structured on non-Latin scripts have been universally acknowledged for their impressive work.
The Ottoman language was a bizarre blend of Arabic, Persian and (a few words of) Turkish, and was based on the Arabic script. If he so much adores the idea, Mr. Erdoğan can always learn the language and thus "do philosophy," although this columnist would bet the president will never fluently speak Ottoman in his life. It is perfectly understandable that Mr. Erdoğan has a passion for anything "Arabic."

The language of the holy book is no exception. The fact that "Turkish" names and vocabulary are overwhelmingly Arabic and Persian does not satisfy him. And he does not understand that if Turkey will have to undergo a language challenge in the near future it will not be about Ottoman, but Kurdish.

But there is an alternative language that Turks can adopt and augment their foreign policy victories. That language does not have a name yet, but Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has christened it "the language of the heart."

In a recent public speech, Mr. Davutoğlu narrated an anecdote. One day, he was speaking to a public audience in fraternal Bosnia. According to Mr. Davutoğlu's narrative, he spoke to a big crowd in Turkish, but noticed that the Bosnian audience understood him perfectly well without any need for interpretation into Bosnian. How did the miracle happen? Because, Mr. Davutoğlu claimed, he spoke to them in the language of the heart! Thundering applause, but curtains not down.

Introducing the language of the heart as the official language of the Turkish Republic can be a better idea than introducing Ottoman. Imagine; the Turks will not have to learn foreign languages when they travel abroad or host a foreign guest at home. They'd just speak the language of the heart and their Bolivian, Papua New Guinean, American, Arab, Persian, Chinese and other counterparts would understand them without the need for an interpreter! What else could be nicer?

The Ottomans failed to teach the Ottoman language to the residents of the lands they conquered. They even failed to teach the Ottoman language to their Turkish citizens. The New Ottomans have a chance to teach the language of the heart to the residents of the lands they spiritually wish to conquer.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Gatestone Institute

To prevent this Palestinian State that Europeans seem determined to push down our throats, many people are discussing a "Palestinian Spring" revolution. They simply do not know what else to do to protect ourselves from these "Goodists" of Europe.
Do they honestly think we will have better lives in a "Palestinian State"?
What we talk about is how the Europeans and their diplomats are paying our leaders to kill the Jews for them -- with their money but with our lives -- so that they can finish the job without getting their hands dirty and still keep on feeling good about themselves.
ISIS operatives are already in Egypt, ready to take over the Sinai Peninsula, and with their eyes set on Libya. Is this what the Europeans really want?
Listening, in both English and Arabic, to the latest speeches of Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas and his fellow Fatah Central Committee members, we get the uncomfortable feeling that the Palestinian State, now being promoted in Europe, will not only be a threat to the stability of the entire region, but to us who have to keep living here, as well to those countries in Europe who promote it.

As Palestinians discuss among themselves -- far from the diplomats in their five-star hotels -- rather than accept this "gift" that Europe seems determined to push down our throats, many people increasingly see no choice but to launch a "Palestinian Spring" revolution. It would not be, as you might think, to rid them of Israel but finally to rid us of our wretched leadership and corrupt system of government -- and to stop the European counties that are imposing this brutal system on us by financing it.

We have been fortunate enough to see from Israel how a democracy works. So although a Palestinian Spring revolution might cause chaos in the region and elsewhere for a while, its chances of success are far more assured than in the other places in the Middle East, where it has been tried but has not always succeeded.

We do not want to do this, of course, but if we are forced by Europe to have this corrupt dictatorship called Palestine, terrorist groups such as Hamas, Al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, and ISIS will flood the West Bank in less than week, and our lives will be even worse than what we have now. We simply do not know what else to do to defend ourselves from these "Goodists" of Europe.

The Palestinian leadership, which represses people rather than confers with them, would of course deny all this to the European diplomats. The Palestinian leaders just want to keep the funds coming and keep their jobs. And of course, the European diplomats do not talk to us, the man on the street, the frustrated rest of us. They only talk to each other, their "counterparts," as they call them, in their air-conditioned meeting rooms and hotels.
What we talk about is how the Europeans and their diplomats are paying our leaders to kill the Jews for them -- with their money but with our lives -- so that they can finish the job without getting their hands dirty and still keep on feeling good about themselves.

And they evidently think that we cannot see through this plan. And to thank us they will to trap us under another corrupt Arab dictatorship?

It is not the fault of the Israelis. In a weird way, the Israelis are just the other victims whom the Europeans -- in collusion with our leaders -- are manipulating us to hate. The Europeans pay our leaders to shape how we think. It is a brainwashing that never lets up.

The Europeans put their own people on trial for "hate speech" when they have said nothing but the truth; and yet they pour millions into non-stop propaganda and bloodthirsty hate-speech on our government-controlled TV -- the only kind we have here. They fund any baseless sewage our leaders can think up.

The usual claim is "occupation," but the Israelis are only "occupying" the West Bank because we -- in the form of Jordan -- occupied land promised to them, and then repeatedly attacked them.

A more recent claim is "settlements," but the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] was formed in 1964, before there were any "settlements," so what exactly was it planning to "liberate"? If you look at any Palestinian map to this day, it encompasses the entire country of Israel. To the Palestinian Authority and many Arabs and Muslims, all of Israel is one big "settlement." Last week, Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi said, "Haifa, Jaffa, Acre and Nazareth are Palestinian, despite the Americans and the Israelis." Next week it will be some other pretext.

What is becoming more and more clear is that just about everything going wrong here can be laid at the feet of Europe, at the feet of the leaders there who fund and cheer on the corruption and lawlessness which they would not tolerate in their own countries for a minute, but which they expect us to.

Palestine is here, exactly where it always was. It has been lived in for 4000 years, by Arabs, Christians, Jews and anyone else who showed up. The Roman Emperor Augustus called it Iudaea. Later, in 135 CE, the Romans renamed it Syria Palaestina in an attempt to sever all connection to it by the Jews.[1] It was part of the Ottoman Empire until its dissolution in 1918, then called Palestine again under the British Mandate. After Israel's war of Independence in 1948, it was and still is called Israel.

There never has been a Palestinian state. Ever. The West Bank was Jordanian, the Golan Heights were Syrian and the Gaza Strip was Egyptian.

The truth is that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been trying to turn the State of Israel into the State of Palestine. He has been trying to create confusion in Europe and at the UN -- evidently, unfortunately, with some success. He has been falsely accusing Israel of committing "genocide" in the Gaza Strip. Regardless of the fabricated numbers issued by Hamas, more than half of the 2,000 Gazans killed over the summer were Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist operatives, not "innocent civilians." It was Hamas that ordered its own people onto the roofs of apartment buildings in Gaza while Gazans were firing rockets, mortars and missiles into Israel. It was Hamas that used its own people as human shields to prevent Israel from being able to defend itself, or, when it did, so there would be more Palestinian "dead babies" to show to the intimidated television crews, to make Israelis look villainous.[2]

It is Hamas that expresses in both its charter and daily statements the intention of committing genocide on the Jews -- not the Israelis, the Jews.

Article 7 of the Hamas charter openly calls for the genocide of the Jews, an act "legitimized" by Islam, as part of the religious legacy of Muhammad's oral tradition (the hadiths).[3]
Abbas has also been calling for a "peaceful popular resistance" against the Israelis, by "using all available means" within "international law" -- courtesy of Europe. "The Palestinian resistance," evokes brave Frenchmen daring to attack Nazis, not Palestinian terrorists driving cars into people, emerging from tunnels to kill and kidnap kindergarteners, or slaughtering old men while they are praying.

The truth is that Mahmoud Abbas' appeals to world leaders are to help him circumvent the Israeli government, peace negotiations and legally binding peace agreements, all in order to achieve a Palestinian state unilaterally -- without having to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and without reaching a final status agreement with it.

If I were Israeli, I would understand that when Mahmoud Abbas says he wants a safe passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as full control of air and sea lanes, he means he wants to receive arms from Iran without interference.

So, are we actually accusing the Jews of "genocide" while it is we who are striving kill all of them and drive them "into the sea"? Are the Europeans actually buying this nonsense? We all ask ourselves: If Europeans like to feel so righteous about themselves, then why are they acting as the accomplices and accessories to criminals? Does that not make them criminals, too?

It is Abbas, who, instead of distancing himself from Hamas's ISIS-like dreams of establishing an Islamic Emirate on the ruins of Israel, has yoked himself to the same Islamist terrorist ideology. He and his close associates are not only trying to sidestep negotiations to which both sides committed themselves in the 1995 Oslo II Accords, but they daily keep whipping up violence. He also clearly seems to be to be hoping that European countries and the United Nations will recognize Palestine as a state even before it promises to end the daily violence, which now will be funded even more lavishly, thanks to the new Palestinian rapprochement with the major funders of terror, Qatar and Iran.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas (r) meets with the Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal in Qatar, July 20, 2014. (Image source: Handout from the Palestinian Authority President's Office/Thaer Ghanem)

It is clear that Abbas, despite constant tensions, instead of siding with Muslims who genuinely believe in peace, and who condemn terrorist organizations such as Hamas and ISIS, actually sides with Hamas. Hamas is his partner in the "Unity Government" between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Both Palestinian governments commit war crimes and distort the true meaning of Islam.

Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas continue to promote violence. The government-controlled PA TV calls for attacking Israelis, and daily honors terrorists and calls for funds to be given to their families.

Much of these funds are supplied by the European Union, with no transparency or accountability despite years of efforts to have the amounts of this funding made public, as is required by law in the EU's own mandate. Therefore, we have no choice but sadly to conclude that the EU is just as cynical and corrupt as the sclerotic dictatorship to which it is trying to consign us.

Mahmoud Abbas and his associates in the Fatah Central Committee have been continually escalating their anti-Israeli rhetoric -- the result of his surrender to the might of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Instead of trying to beat Hamas, which is clearly beyond his capabilities, he has joined Hamas -- the coward's way out ever since Hamas threw him out of the Gaza Strip in disgrace in 2007, when he barely escaped with his life.

Hamas has continued to try to kill Abbas, as he found out to his shock last summer. But apparently, Abbas keeps on hoping. As the proverb says: a Muslim doesn't let himself get bitten by the same snake twice.

Hamas follows the Muslim Brotherhood's murderous ideology, which seeks only to impose itself on the entire world, in direct contravention of the Qur'an, which states that people are not to be converted to Islam by compulsion (Qur'an 2:256). Even Jordan's King Abdullah II, in the United Nation on September 24, 2014, said that there was a civil war in the Islamic world between the terrorist extremists and genuine Muslims.

If European leaders really cared about us, instead of sending money to us to help rid them of the Jews, they would help us find a better leadership -- a leadership that would care about the daily lives and well-being of its people instead of just taking more and more free money from Europe. It is now a big business for the Palestinian leaders, and comes with no conditions; why should they stop? Even now, after the crushing defeat of Hamas, no one in Europe has even suggested that Hamas should be disarmed and the Gaza Strip demilitarized as a condition before funding its rebuilding.

Do European leaders honestly think we will have better lives in a "Palestinian State"? At least now we do not have Hamas occupying more land and exchanging the abuses we suffer now for religious fanatics' abuses that would be even worse.

If we are going to be honest with ourselves, as we here can see here every day on the ground, Israel has never called for the destruction of the Palestinians; and research strongly suggests that they have never tried to "destroy the Palestinians" or any other ethnic group -- not Christians, Muslims, Kurds, Yazidis or Copts.

Israel has never said or done anything that indicated any plan to destroy the Palestinian people. On the contrary, Israel, while protecting itself, has done its utmost not to harm Palestinian civilians, even though it could inflict untold damage if it wished. We laugh about how fortunate we are to have Israel as our "enemy;" that everyone should have an enemy like that. Can you imagine what a massacre of the Jews -- and Christians and others -- would be like if Iran or ISIS had the weapons Israel has?

On the contrary, it is we, the Palestinians, who for decades have been calling for the destruction of the "Zionist entity" and for driving the Jews into the sea. Some of us still act to achieve that aim.

The current leadership here, of course, has, as usual, been seeking to turn these feelings of rising anger and frustration against Israel. But increasingly the people here see through that and keep talking about the literally hundreds of millions of euros a year the Europeans are giving to the leadership and politicized so-called "human rights charities" to keep it that way.
Here, people are now saying that the real problem is not Israel and, certainly -- laughably -- not the lack of a peace accord, as much as the Americans, like Neville Chamberlain 1938, might like to have one to wave at gullible viewers.

Israel is tough, yes, but has largely been fair -- more than one can say for other countries in the region. Israel, so long as it is not provoked, has been a remarkably decent neighbor. Not everything is perfect by far -- there are problems and have been unspeakably savage revenge attacks by a few Israelis here and there. But those have always been exceptions, and have always been severely condemned and punished by the Israelis, not celebrated and glorified, as with the Palestinian leadership.

It is to this Palestinian leadership whom these European leaders would like to abandon us: a government that not one of them would want to live under for a day.
ISIS operatives are already in the Sinai Peninsula, planning how to take over Egypt, and with their eyes set on Libya.
Is this really what the Europeans want?
Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.

[1] H.H. Ben-Sasson, A History of the Jewish People, Harvard University Press, 1976, page 246. "When Archelaus was deposed from the ethnarchy in 6 CE, Judea proper, Samaria and Idumea were converted into a Roman province under the name Iudaea."
[2] Terror Tunnels: The Case for Hamas's Just War against Hamas by Alan M. Dershowitz. Rosetta Books, 2014.
[3] Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (saas) as saying " The last hour would not come unless the Muslims fight the Jews. The Jews. The Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say, 'Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.'" AbdallaSahih Muslim, Kitab al-Fitan wa Ashrat as-Sa'ah, Book 41, 6985.
Related Topics:  Bassam Tawil

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Hyperbolic Belligerence

"[Russia could use nuclear weapons should aggression] threaten  the very existence [of the Russian state]."
"...A buildup of NATO military potential and its empowerment with global functions implemented in violation of international law, the expansion of NATO's military infrastructure to the Russian borders [has been placed at the top of perceived military threats to Russia."
New 29-page Russian military doctrine
Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, heads the Security Council in Moscow's Kremlin on Friday.
Alexei Druzhinin / Presidential Press Service / RIA Novosti     Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, heads the Security Council in Moscow's Kremlin on Friday.
"Any steps taken by NATO to ensure the security of its members are clearly defensive in nature, proportionate and in compliance with international law."
"In fact, it is Russia's actions, including currently in Ukraine, which are breaking international law and undermining European security."
Oana Lungescu, NATO spokeswoman

Is this, then, truly the new Cold War? When not so very long ago the West sighed with relief that Cold War tensions had dissolved with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the world seemed to fall into the blissful relaxation that no longer would the globe be embroiled in large multi-nation wars for in this new era of post-Communist goodwill, who would want to pursue another large-scale conflict?

Well, how wrong we were. There will always be someone to come along whose  self-delusion and paranoia combine to wreak havoc on the scale of fomenting troubles of monumental proportions through their personal lens on the fitness of national ambition combined with a strong hold on power, supported by a population fed a nationalistic propaganda line held with great devotion to altered history.

The Yury Dolgoruky nuclear-powered submarine.(RIA Novosti / Pavel Kononov)
The Yury Dolgoruky nuclear-powered submarine.(RIA Novosti / Pavel Kononov)

Moscow convinced itself it still has historical entitlements. And under President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin decided that the Crimean Peninsula was wasted on Ukraine which had no heritage right to it in any event, despite its legal and territorial rights. And much has flowed from there, with Moscow's vituperative slanders on the world stage against Kyiv and the mercenary, illegal and threatening actions of the European Union and NATO, setting Ukraine against its natural mentoring neighbour.

The outcome of which, due to the fears of the Baltic States shuddering in the shadow of a newly-aggressive Russian nationalistic imperialism is the installation of a rapid response team of NATO members responding to the threats straight out of the bear's mouth about nuclear weapons. But though it has been Vladimir Putin who reminds his perceived enemies that Russia has nuclear weapons, it is his adversaries that he blames for threatening to use those weapons.

And while Vladimir Putin has signed a new protocol of self-defense, characterizing NATO as his nation's top military threat -- even while himself threatening he would not hesitate to use the expensive new hardware at his military disposal of conventional weapons, without ruling out the use of Russia's stockpile of nuclear weapons should the need arise -- it is NATO which represents the threat to world peace.

AFP Photo / Natalia Kolesnikova
AFP Photo / Natalia Kolesnikova

The new doctrine, while maintaining provisions of the previous edition of 2010, states that Russia could use nuclear weapons in retaliation to the use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction threatening Russia or its allies. Didn't mutually assured destruction that prevailed as a tacit understanding that the realization of what would result from a nuclear strike restrained the U.S. and the USSR from using those weapons in the past?

Resurrecting the heated passions of ideological challenges with threats to use all means at a military's disposal does not quite reflect a temperature of a country interested in living in peace with its neighbours. In early December, Russia airlifted its Iskander missiles to the Kaliningrad exclave bordering NATO members Poland and Lithuania for drills; a demonstration of readiness for crisis. Those missiles, capable of hitting targets up to 480 kilometres distant could be permanently stationed there, Russia threatens, to balance the U.S.-led NATO missile defence plans.

Russia's military test-fired the RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile from the Plesetsk launch pad in Northwestern Russia on Friday. Russia is playing hardball. And plenty of military drills, in case anyone fails to notice which way the wind is blustering. Where Western nations had cut back on their military spending, including now the belt-tightened United States, Russia, now teetering on the brink of bankruptcy has for years steadily built up its military might to reflect state-of-the-art technology.

And now that the stage is set with all the siege mentality military equipment in place to break out of a siege and prepare 'defensive' action against threats, the new doctrine states for the first time that Russia could make use of precision weapons "as part of strategic deterrent measures", without being any more specific, just leaving that vague and dissonant threat hanging on the air, as it were, of concerned neighbours.

Military modernization has emboldened Russia to its re-dedication of its vision of itself as a potent world power, one that will brook no nonsense, let alone interference from outside sources when it feels like throwing its regional weight around. And when foreign military forces appear on the territory of Russia's neighbours where the threat is clear enough: "political and military pressure" on Russia, that level of response is seen to be mandated.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

ISIS, Neatly Explained

"It’s difficult to uncover the truth without taking a risk, and I had needed authentic footage for a planned book about the ISIS. That’s something you only get by going there. In fact, I have done so for each of my books and thus traveled to areas of conflict many times. Moreover, I had received a security guarantee from the “caliphate”. There just was no way to know if it was genuine! Hence, all of my friends and family smelled a rat and tried to discourage me from taking the journey. But I always follow my gut feeling."
"The guarantee turned out to be genuine, and the ISIS stuck to their agreement during our visits to Mosul and Raqqa. Though, we were under surveillance by the secret service for most of the time and had to hand over our mobile phones and laptops. Also, all of our pictures and photos were inspected at the end of the journey. ISIS deleted 9 out of approximately 800 photos to protect relatives of foreign fighters. That’s what censorship is."
Jurgen Todenhofer, German journalist, writer
Jurgen and Frederic Todenhofer -- Among Islamic State jihadists

Mr. Todenhofer returned from his sojourn briefly embedded with the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham both in their Syrian capital of Raqqa, and visiting Mosul, in Iraq. He wanted to experience an inside, fly-on-the-wall view of what ISIS truly is prepared to go about doing, other than merely terrifying ethnic minorities and horrifying the world at large with its well-publicized in-house-produced propaganda demonstrating that the tender sensibilities of the West can easily be aroused with the vision of atrocities.

As a tool to assure Western onlookers, fascinated and repelled by the Islamic State's methods of easing journalists and would-be humanitarians out of the land of the living, using them as an example of jihad to strike fear in the hearts of those who do not and will not worship Islam in complete puritanical surrender, and to titillate and enthrall others in the world of the West who find their violently vicious exploits compelling and welcoming their propaganda has been effective. For the latter the slickly-produced and sickening videos act as an invitation they are swift to accept.

Mr. Todenhofer made his tentative but sincere proposal to the powers that be within Islamic State, and his desire to be among them for a short period of time was rewarded by an assent. His purpose was to personally obtain inside information for which only a personal, albeit dangerous exposure to their presence within the Islamic Caliphate of Caliph Ibrahim [Iraqi-born Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] would lend credence to the book he means to write, setting out their organization, aspirations, motivations, methodology and appeal to Sunni Muslims.

There is a great similarity between Islamic State, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda in their fervently dire interpretation of an Islam that hearks back to its 7th-Century beginnings as a scimitar-wielding horde of Bedouin, led by a proselytizing prophet whom Allah called upon to finally introduce the last chapter of the ineffable spirit of a monolithic god demanding strict obeisance to his sacred self.

Prophet Mohammad simply completed the journey that the Almighty began, first with Moses, then with Jesus, and in that last stage, Islam was meant to obliterate its predecessors, subsuming them into its divinely ordained orbit. So as far as ISIS and Caliph Ibrahim are concerned any who do not submit to Islam in the purifyingly fanatical manner they ascribe to Mohammad's vision, do not deserve to live, but they may live if they solemnly swear: "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is His messenger"; the Shahada.

Saudi Arabia, with the Kingdom's vast oil wealth, invested in the building of Wahhabist madrassas all over the world, from Somalia to Afghanistan, Norway to New York City. The alumni of those madrassas made up the present-day fighters of Islam, dedicated jihadists, prepared to use their lives as tools of terror and sacrifice themselves as martyrs to attain Islam's final destination, that of a universal caliphate dominating world affairs. Though they are nowhere near that journey's end, they do even now dominate world affairs in a sense with their dedication to jihad personified in terror attacks, and exemplified by Islamic State.

Purity is demanded of those living within the caliphate in Iraq and Syria, just as the reign of the Taliban which sheltered al-Qaeda and dominated Afghanistan, required women to wear full coverings and veils, and to remain out of the public sphere; venturing out of doors only in the company of male relatives; just a tad more straitened than what pertains in Saudi Arabia itself. Men are to wear beards, and girls must 'marry' Islamic State fighters, sometimes of their own romantic volition and occasionally forced to by their fathers in search of political and economic advantage.

Just as Saudi wealth funded al-Qaeda and the Taliban, it also funds Islamic State. But Islamic State also has broad support among fundamentalist Sunnis, including those Iraqi Sunnis who feel themselves to have been unjustly deprived of their due by the Shiite-dominated regimes in both Iraq and Syria. Throughout history, ironically enough, Shiites, the minority major division in Islam, were held to be more brutal in their attacks against minorities, both ethnic and religious, than the larger Sunni majority in mainstream Islam.

From his relatively brief but revealing sojourn with Islamic State, Mr. Todenhofer, who was given entree and the freedom to observe -- since Islamic State is nothing if not eager to be in the spotlight of world attention, and an informed book of their actions and intentions would represent yet another arrow in their quiver of propaganda -- came to seven significant conclusions, which he shared with the international press, and wrote of in his blog.


His first impression and warning to the West was its underestimation of the threat represented by ISIS, and the tendency to portray its jihadists as adventure-seeking opportunists. They are, he states, invested with enthusiasm for their role in Islamist history and fully confident that their goal will eventually prevail. The strength of their belief in their totalitarian ideology, aided by their brutal methods is their assurance that they can do anything and gain their objectives.

They enjoy the confidence of knowing that, thanks to their reputation and their drive to succeed they attract an ongoing succession of recruits from all over the world; not necessarily the impressionable youth that the West focuses on who are shiftless and uneducated, but young Muslims who have achieved a high degree of academic education with good, solid professional futures beckoning them in England, Sweden, Russia, France, Germany and the United States.

Mr. Todenhofer's ten days of observation left him with the indelible impression that the Islamic State caliphate functions very well in providing internal security and social welfare; an impression that many other informed sources will most certainly quibble with. He states that the support given ISIS by Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis illustrates they have no reason to resist their occupation, considering it preferable to the demeaning treatment they suffered under by Shiite regimes. In Mosul, he states, only Sunnis remain since the flight of the city's Christians, Shiites and Yazidis; therefore no opposition.

He also points out the Islamic State caliphate's longer, larger, more advanced agenda to indulge in a "religious cleansing" of a type never before encountered throughout world history. All non-believers and apostates are to be killed, their women and children enslaved. The targets for obliteration are Shiites, Yazidis, Hindus, Atheists and Polytheists, amounting to hundreds of millions of offcast human lives undeserving of life. Sparingly compassionate, however, with the 'religions of the book'; the so-called Abrahamic trinity of Islam, Judaism and Christianity who may exist, paying jizya.

The insider-inspector spoke of a version of Islam he holds is rejected by 99 percent of the world's ummah of 1.6-billion. This German journalist harbouring an intention to write the definitive book describing the Islamic State and its caliphate, echoes the sentiments of the forgivingly compassionate Western liberals who hold as he does that Islam is a religion of compassion, citing 113 of 114 suras with the opening of "In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful", apparently willing to overlook contradictory passages in perfect tune with ISIS' view of Islamist conquest.

Pointing out that a population of three million in Mosul is controlled by a mere five thousand ISIS jihadis, Mr. Todenhofer speaks to the ideological influence of Islamic State, shared and accepted by the residents of Mosul. Bombing Mosul to destroy the Islamic State jihadis would not destroy their hugely-accepted message and mission, so evidently shared by the greater numbers of Iraqi Sunnis. Mr. Todenhofer is convinced the presence of ISIS has a direct relation to Western conflict imposed on the Middle East; as though the West is the source of the conflict, not sectarian hatreds among Muslims and the belief in the superiority of Islam above all other religions.

He is right, when he points out that Islam must cure itself. But there is no sign as yet on the horizon that this is about to happen, much less than that the powers in the Middle East, Arab and Muslim, are prepared to take any meaningful action to remove both the Shiite Alawite murderous regime of Bashar al Assad in Syria, or the atrocity-loving Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham.

As for the fears in Europe and North America of the havoc that can or potentially will be caused by returning jihadists, he feels that the fear, though realistic is overblown. And that the right-wing as he puts it, reaction to Islam in Europe, and their fears of terrorism coming home to roost with the return of jihadis from the foreign fields of conflict are deliberately overstated to instill fear and loathing against Muslims settled far from their places of origin.

While he concedes that ISIS represents a threat to world peace on a global scale, he places the blame for their existence squarely on former President George W. Bush's ill-advised invasion of Iraq, conflating Saddam Hussein's tyrannical bloody regime with the assault by al-Qaeda on the United States on September 11, 2001. Very neatly relieving the world of Islam from responsibility, the typical fall-back to a liberal explanation of the faults of the West.

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The Christian Science Monitor

China losing patience with Pyongyang? Don't believe it until you see it happen.

Despite reports earlier this year that North Korea was 'on the verge of collapse,' the Kim regime has survived for another year and collapse seems unlikely. 

By , Decoder contributor

With world attention focused yet again on Pyongyang, thanks to US government claims that the modern-day Hermit Kingdom is behind the cyberattacks on Sony Pictures over the release of a move that depicts the assassination of Kim Jong-un, we’re once again seeing reports that the Kim regime’s sponsors and protectors in Beijing may be growing frustrated with it:
BEIJING – When a retired Chinese general with impeccable Communist Party credentials recently wrote a scathing account of North Korea as a recalcitrant ally headed for collapse and unworthy of support, he exposed a roiling debate in China about how to deal with the country’s young leader,Kim Jong-un.
For decades China has stood by North Korea, and though at times the relationship has soured, it has rarely reached such a low point, Chinese analysts say. The fact that the commentary by Lt. Gen. Wang Hongguang, a former deputy commander of an important military region, was published in a state-run newspaper this month and then posted on an official People’s Liberation Army website attested to how much the relationship had deteriorated, the analysts say.
“China has cleaned up the D.P.R.K.’s mess too many times,” General Wang wrote in The Global Times, using the initials of North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “But it doesn’t have to do that in the future.”
Of the government in North Korea, he said: “If an administration isn’t supported by the people, ‘collapse’ is just a matter of time.” Moreover, North Korea had violated the spirit of the mutual defense treaty with China, he said, by failing to consult China on its nuclear weapons program, which has created instability in Northeast Asia.
The significance of General Wang’s article was given greater weight because he wrote it in reply to another Global Times article by a Chinese expert on North Korea, Prof. Li Dunqiu, who took a more traditional approach, arguing that North Korea was a strategic asset that China should not abandon. Mr. Li is a former director of the Office of Korean Affairs at China’s State Council.
In a debate that unfolded among other commentators in the pages of Global Times, a state-run newspaper, after the duel between General Wang and Mr. Li, the general’s point of view – that North Korea represented a strategic liability – got considerable support. General Wang is known as a princeling general: His father, Wang Jianqing, led Mao Zedong’s troops in the fight against the Japanese in Nanjing at the end of World War II.
Efforts to reach General Wang through an intermediary were unsuccessful. The general’s secretary told the intermediary that the views in his article were his own and did not reflect those of the military.
How widespread his views have become within the military establishment is difficult to gauge, but a Chinese official who is closely involved in China’s diplomacy with North Korea said that General Wang’s disparaging attitude was more prevalent in the Chinese military today than in any previous period.
“General Wang’s views really reflect the views of many Chinese – and within the military views are varied,” said the official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. Relations between the North Korean and Chinese militaries have never been close even though they fought together during the Korean War, the official said. The two militaries do not conduct joint exercises and remain wary of each other, experts say.
l, the parlous state of the relationship between North Korea and China was on display again Wednesday when Pyongyang commemorated the third anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il, the father of the current leader, Kim Jong-un, and failed to invite a senior Chinese official.
The last time a Chinese leader visited North Korea was in July 2013 when Vice President Li Yuanchao tried to patch up relations, and pressed North Korea, after its third nuclear test in February 2013, to slow down its nuclear weapons program.
Mr. Li failed in that quest. The North Korean nuclear program “is continuing full speed ahead,” said Siegfried S. Hecker, a professor at Stanford University and former head of Los Alamos National Laboratory. North Korea had produced enough highly enriched uranium for six nuclear devices, and it may have enough for an additional four devices a year from now, an assessment the Chinese concurred with, Dr. Hecker said.
After the vice president’s visit, relations plummeted further, entering the icebox last December when China’s main conduit within the North Korean government, Jang Song-thaek, a senior official and the uncle of Kim Jong-un, was executed in a purge. In July, President Xi Jinping snubbed North Korea, visiting South Korea instead. Mr. Xi has yet to visit North Korea, and is said to have been infuriated by a third nuclear test by North Korea in February 2013, soon after Kim Jong-un came to power.
Though they have not met as presidents, Mr. Xi was vice president of China and met Mr. Kim when he accompanied his father to China, several Chinese analysts said.
What happened in that exchange is not known, but Mr. Xi, an experienced and prominent member of the Chinese political hierarchy, was unlikely to have been impressed with the young Mr. Kim, who at that stage was not long out of a Swiss boarding school, the analysts said.
“It’s very obvious that there is a very significant change in attitudes,” said Deng Yuwen, a former deputy editor of Study Times, the Central Party School journal, who was dismissed in early 2013 for writing a negative piece about North Korea.
In a sign of more public questioning about North Korea, Mr. Deng, who went to Britain after losing his job, is back in China and said he had no problem in organizing a debate two months ago about the problems with North Korea on Phoenix television, a satellite station based in Hong Kong that is shown on the mainland.
“North Korea will ultimately fail no matter how much you throw money at it, and it is in the process of collapse,” Mr. Deng said.
The heightened debate in China is spurred in part by fears that North Korea could collapse even though economic conditions in the agriculture sector seemed ready to improve, several Chinese analysts said. Indeed, one of the tricky balancing acts for China is how much to curtail fuel supplies and other financial support without provoking a collapse that could send refugees into China’s northeastern provinces, and result in a unified Korean Peninsula loyal to the United States.
If there’s anything that’s as difficult as reading the tea leaves out of Pyonyang, it is, of course, reading the tea leaves out of Bejing. Even in what is by all accounts a new, slightly more open era, the Chinese leadership is notoriously secretive about its intentions and its attitudes, albeit not nearly as closed as the Kim regime. One of the few places one can look for clues to the debates that are likely going on inside the Chinese leadership are the official newspapers that are published out of Beijing, in no small part because it’s unlikely that we’d see something that calls official policy into question unless it was authorized. That’s what makes the article by General Wang, which appears to have been drafted before the news of the hacking of Sony’s computers broke, so interesting. The possibility that the Chinese may be losing patience with the regime in Pyongyang, something that seems to have become more of a public issue since Kim Jong-un rose to power in the wake of his father’s death, raises some rather obvious questions about the future of the Kim regime itself. By all accounts, if the Chinese decide to start withdrawing their support, economic and otherwise, then the collapse of the Kim regime wouldn’t be far behind. This is why, as has been the case for some time now, the real key to controlling North Korean behavior lies not in further economic or other sanctions, which at this point would have only a limited impact on a nation that is likely cut off from the rest of the world, but through Beijing and persuading the Chinese to use their influence with the Kim regime to put tighter control on North Korean behavior.

All that being said, it is likely best to view reports of Chinese “frustration” with Pyongyang with a grain of salt, at the very least. For one thing, the reports noted above are all that different from reports that we’ve seen in the recent past. There were similar reports four years ago based on information contained in diplomatic cables disclosed by Wikileaks, for example, and then again in 2013 when the North Koreans began heating up tensions on the peninsula in advance of their eventual third nuclear test, a test which the Chinese condemned. Later, China was among those nations that pressured the Kim regime to return to the nuclear talks that had been abandoned some years earlier. Finally, just about a year ago, renewed reports about Chinese unease with the political situation in Pyongyang resurfaced in the wake of the news of the arrest and execution of Jang Song-Thaek, the uncle of Kim Jong-un who had long been seen as the second most powerful man in the country and was, by all accounts, China’s most reliable ally in the North Korean leadership. Despite reports earlier this year that North Korea was “on the verge of collapse,” though, and speculation during the late summer over the reasons behind Kim Jong-un’s prolonged disappearance from the official media in North Korea, the Kim regime has survived for another year and collapse seems unlikely in the near future.
Recommended: Kim 101: How well do you know North Korea's leaders? 
Kevin Drum correctly points out what seem to be the two major factors influencing Chinese policy toward Pyongyang:
North Korea’s very weakness is also its greatest strength: if it collapses, two things would probably happen. First, there would be a flood of refugees trying to cross the border into China. Second, the Korean peninsula would likely become unified and China would find itself with a US ally right smack on its border. Given the current state of Sino-American relations, that’s simply not something China is willing to risk.
Not yet, anyway. But who knows? There are worse things in the world than a refugee crisis, and relations with the US have the potential to warm up in the future. One of these days North Korea may simply become too large a liability for China to protect.
Perhaps, but if that day comes, then I suspect that it will come in one of two ways. Either some other force inside North Korea, most likely the military, will rise up against the Kim regime and pull off the coup d’etat that everyone in the Kim regime seems to be afraid of the most. In that case, we’d likely see some form of liberalization inside the DPRK from the bizarre despotism that the nation has lived under since the end of World War II, but we’d be unlikely to see reunification with the south any time soon, and the DPRK would remain a client state of China. The other alternative is that North Korea descends into chaos to such an extent that the Chinese send in the People’s Liberation Army to “restore order” and, of course, install a regime palatable to Beijing in the process. What China is unlikely to allow to happen, though, is an outcome that essentially extends the borders of the Republic of Korea, a close American ally of long standing, to the Yalu River. Either of these events could happen very quickly, seemingly overnight and without warning, but when they happen is likely to be largely within the discretion of the Chinese government and, for the moment, they seem willing to let the status quo continue.

Doug Mataconis appears on the Outside the Beltway blog at

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Originally published under the title "America's Palestine Refugee Policy Is Insane."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry surveys the West Bank last year.
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By any measurement, Western policy towards United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the internationally funded agency for Palestinian "refugees," meets that definition. One example is the newly released 2015 State Department Framework for Cooperation Between UNRWA and the U.S.

This exercise in repetition occurred in the wake of a war that again exposed UNRWA's unsavory and illegal activities, from being "shocked" that its schools were used to store Hamas' rockets and rote condemnations of Israel, to its employees cheering the murder of Israelis. The framework nevertheless represents the American commitment to prolong the existence of UNRWA, established almost exactly 65 years ago.

The bulk of the document deals with UNRWA management. For example, there are the "15 objectives of the Medium Term Strategy" and the "Development of Strategic Response Plans for each of UNRWA's five fields of operation through a consultative process." The document also speaks of the "Continued implementation of ongoing management reforms, particularly in the areas of results-based management, resource mobilization, human resources, transition to and management of a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) data management system, and internal communications."
This exercise in repetition occurred in the wake of a war that again exposed UNRWA's unsavory and illegal activities.
These reflect the professionalization of UNRWA from a temporary relief organization into a multifaceted international organization dealing with Palestinian "basic education, health, relief and social services, microcredit, camp improvement and infrastructure and other assistance," and "human development of Palestinian refugees by improving living conditions, economic potential, livelihoods, access, and human rights." In other words, all the things that a Palestinian state should be doing for its citizens at home and outside its borders.

They also take for granted that UNRWA will not only continue to exist through at least 2021 (the end of the next five year planning cycle,) but will also grow in both scope and size, then and beyond. There is no talk about limiting UNRWA's operations, or turning responsibilities over to the Palestinian Authority or to countries that host Palestinian "refugees." In fact, the only talk about an end to UNRWA is the boilerplate statement that "The goal of U.S. support to UNRWA is to ensure that Palestinian refugees live in dignity with an enhanced human development potential until a comprehensive and just solution is secured." Left unsaid is the fact that only the United Nations General Assembly can dissolve UNRWA, and that body's definition of a "comprehensive and just solution" to the Arab-Israeli conflict is unlikely to be realized anytime soon, if ever.

The Framework does make a sideways nod to the reality that the 2014 Gaza War generated some bad publicity for UNRWA, during the course of which American legislators demanded investigations into how Hamas weapons found their way into UNRWA schools. For the State Department the matter is pressing particularly given that Section 301(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (amended) states that "No contributions by the United States shall be made to (UNRWA) except on the condition that (UNRWA) take all possible measures to assure than no part of the United States contribution shall be used to furnish assistance to any refugee who is receiving military training as a member of the so-called Palestine Liberation Army or any other guerilla-type organization or who has engaged in any act of terrorism."

Thus the new Framework states:
The United States and UNRWA share concerns about the threat of terrorism, including within the context of the United Nation's firm commitment to counter terrorism and the conditions on U.S. contributions to UNRWA under section 301(c). To this end, UNRWA is committed to taking all possible measures to ensure that funding provided by the United States to support UNRWA is not used to provide assistance to, or otherwise support, terrorists or terrorist organizations.
The United States and UNRWA intend to continue to work together throughout 2015 to enhance collaboration and communication on issues related to conformance with conditions on U.S. contributions to UNRWA as detailed in section 301(c). The United States supports UNRWA's policy to take all possible measures to ensure that staff members understand and fulfill their obligations, under Agency Rules and Regulations, to refrain from prohibited outside activities.
This constitutes an UNRWA commitment to update its human resources manuals, nothing more. There is no mention of UNRWA's refusal to use U.S. or Israeli terror watch lists to ensure any commitment to combat terrorism.

Then-UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd, seen here presenting Saudi Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz with UNRWA's Distinguished Donor Award, told a U.S. congressional hearing in 2006 that running checks against terrorist watch lists would be too difficult because "Arab last names sound so familiar."
The unreality is compounded by the still more ludicrous statement that the U.S. "notes with appreciation efforts taken by UNRWA during the course of 2014 to strengthen the Agency's neutrality compliance, including but not limited to the development of social media guidelines for official UNRWA communications…"

Whether the UNRWA spokesman crying on camera while being interviewed constitutes "neutrality compliance" is unclear, as is the celebration of the recent Jerusalem murders of rabbis on the Facebook pages of UNRWA teachers. Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect UNRWA employees, the vast majority of whom are Palestinian, to express neutrality. But if that is the case, then the Framework's endorsement of "UNRWA's human rights, conflict resolution, and tolerance education program" may also be questioned, or at least its implementation.

But a deeper look at the document and the background of the American commitment to UNRWA suggests another vast disconnect. The framework states "All U.S. foreign assistance programs are required to demonstrate performance and accountability, and clearly link programming and funding directly to U.S. policy goals." How prolonging the Palestinian "refugee" issue through the permanent institutionalizing of UNRWA serves U.S. policy goals is mystifying.

Beyond that, UNRWA officials at the top continue to defend the Palestinian "right of return," in speeches as well as on official web pages, not to mention its pervasive promotion in UNRWA schools. How does promoting the Palestinian ideology that they are entitled to return to places once occupied by parents, grandparents and great-grandparents which are now in Israel, and in the process transform Israel into a Jewish minority state, serve U.S. policy, much less the cause of peace?
The new U.S.-UNRWA Framework is foreign policy by inertia. In 2013 that inertia cost $294,023,401, the amount of the U.S. contribution to UNRWA (in addition to $356,700,000 in aid to the Palestinian Authority). U.S. support to UNRWA kept Palestinians in stasis, promoted Palestinian rejectionism, and did not advance the cause of peace, or U.S. policy.
Asaf Romirowsky is an adjunct fellow at the Middle East Forum. Alexander Joffe is a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow of the Middle East Forum. They are co-authors of the book Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief.
Related Topics:  Palestinians, US policy  |  Asaf Romirowsky  |  Alexander H. Joffe

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