Beyond the Cusp

June 14, 2014

ISIS, Iraq, Jordan, Kurdistan, Palestine, Israel, and the Middle East

The Middle East has once again exploded into a flaming cauldron of turbulent sectarian and terrorist violence leaving a scorched earth of death and destruction in their wake. ISIS, an al-Qaeda offshoot which was denounced and expelled from official al-Qaeda support by Ayman al-Zawahiri over their overt and inhuman violence of innocents, has taken the battle against Bashir al-Assad out from Syria and into another Iranian allied nation of Iraq. After having held Fallujah for the past several months, ISIS is striking at the central heart capturing Mosul, Tikrit and briefly held Kirkuk until the only apparent forces well enough trained and willing to engage ISIS on the field of battle, the Kurdish militias, liberated the town. Kurdish spokespersons have stated that they will provide protection and address the needs of the thousands of refugees who had fled northwards into Kurdish protected areas rather than southward into areas guarded by the unreliable Iraqi military. Perhaps it would be nice, even if a little out of character, to place some good news here at the start of what will be a dark summation and predictions of the reality unfolding. The Kurdish Autonomous Area has thus far been spared any assaults by ISIS who have initiated their takeover of Iraq in the Sunni provinces in the central regions of Iraq and are working their way southwards away from the well-armed and capable Kurdish ruled areas towards Baghdad and the Shiite south of Iraq. This may finally and at long last promote the formation of Kurdistan. Such an eventuality will be a welcome event despite it requiring the rest of Iraq to either fall into the hands of the ISIS terrorists or be held solely by the force of arms dispatched by neighboring Iran who has mobilized and deployed Quds Forces units, the elite units of the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), to defend Baghdad and then turn the tide of battle and possibly liberate the ISIS held areas and expel the terrorist forces. This crisis can be viewed as simply as the terrorists who are fighting to force Bashir al-Assad from the leadership of Syria having expanded their interests into taking the Sunni and Shiite areas of Iraq and thus threatening Jordan where there have been threats made in the name of ISIS to execute Jordanian King Hussein for his supposed crimes against Islam.

 

There have been the usual mixed and confused messages out or Washington DC as on Thursday President Obama implied there may have been an urgent need requiring the deployment of American military might for a brief period to stabilize Iraq and push ISIS back out of Iraq. By Friday, President Obama was announcing that no American boots would be placed on the ground in Iraq but that he was also monitoring the situation closely and all options remained on the table. Perhaps there is an upside here as now all those options regarding preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons that President Obama has emphasized many times remain on the table now have another full set that runs the gamut of option now joining them on the table. It must be a very large and sturdy table set aside for holding only options. Apparently, in the stead of American power being deployed to address this emergency situation we will have the new hegemonic power in the Middle East, Iran, taking the central position and coming to the aid of Iraq. In many ways this is exactly how it should be and President Obama may have taken the high road of principle and realized that there were few if any and no really vital American interests being threatened. The only problem which might be expressed as a failing would be the advancing influence and hegemonic positioning of Iran though one must recall that Iraq had turned to Iran and semi-officially entered into Iranian orbit after the United States withdrew. This was mostly an Iraqi choice to circle Iran placing their future and their security to the Iranians rather than the United States despite the American efforts which had removed the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and then performed massive, expansive and expensive nation building efforts and assisted in establishing stable democratically elected governance. Not sure where to place any responsibility for losing the American influence with Iraq though all things considered, hindsight could easily conclude it was a monumental mistake to have ever even entered Iraq in the first place.

 

The threat is that once ISIS has, if they are able, taken command over the southern three-fifths of Iraq, they would then have their own nation state in which to train, raise funds, do weapons research including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction research and manufacture. Should this become evident, then there very well could be a Western interest in preventing such a situation from continuing. This would present the conundrum of how to best attack such an eventuality. Many would say that if the United States were to intervene in such an instance, that such an intervention should be limited to the destruction and removal of ISIS and other terrorist interests operating within the Iraqi borders largely depending on air-power and minimal ground troops and then once that mission had been accomplished, leave and allow the Iraqis to put everything back together. This is only an option because along with requests for assistance from a nervous Jordan, the Iraqi leader al-Maliki also expressed a desire for American assistance. It is doubtful that there will be any deployment of American ground forces though should ISIS turn its attentions towards Jordan, there is a definitive probability that they will find Jordanian troops backed by Israeli air power much as occurred during the brief adventurisms by Syria into northern Jordan. ISIS cannot be permitted to own sufficient lands to make them the equivalent of a nation state such as what currently exists with Hezballah being the coalition leader in the governance of Lebanon or as similar to the terrorism sponsors in Iran through the IRGC and the Quds Force, Basenji Militias, and other more secretive units.

 

But panicked Jordanian Monarch and leadership, terrified Iraqi leaders, especially those who are Shiites, a full blown civil war in Syria and spreading rapidly across Iraq causing threats to arise from Iran and Turkey who all are demanding ISIS stop their horrific, blood-soaked path of slaughter slicing through Iran from its center downwards towards the capital of Baghdad gathering spoils along the way which include heavy weaponry and armored units from the American armed Iraqi military which fled offering minimal if any resistance and from bank vaults where they have stolen millions of dollars’ worth of currency as well as gold bars of unknown quantities and worth. This has rearmed and introduced whole new options for the military-like strikes that ISIS will now possess as well as sufficient wealth in stolen monies and precious metals to make ISIS simply as wealthy as numerous nations. The frightening possibility that ISIS will establish their own nation state, even if it only encompasses a large swath of central Iraq, will pose challenges and threats beyond imagination, or at least taxing imagination, some of us have very astute or wide-eyed paranoid imaginations. This must not be permitted as three or four terrorist or drug cartel run nations is more than sufficient a threat already, why allow another?

 

Meanwhile, there is the situation in Israel where it appears that three teens returning from services at a Samaria located Synagogue disappeared and are feared kidnapped. Their disappearance comes subsequent to a call by Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, otherwise now known as the Palestinian Authority governance, had all demanded that their terrorists and their supporters within the Palestinian populace take to any extreme in order to kidnap Israelis, preferably IDF but any Israelis would suffice. Palestinian Authority chairman Abbas issued a statement that the Palestinian enforcement personnel would assist in any way necessary to aid in finding the lost teens. This statement has been issued previously as has the denouncement made once again by Palestinian spokespersons that the Palestinians had absolutely nothing to do with the kidnapping if such had actually occurred. The IDF, Border Patrol and other Israeli law enforcement units are combing the areas around where the youths disappeared and are expanding their search as necessary. The United States State Department also expressed their being “very concerned” over the facts around the missing teens. It is so nice that there have been so many expressing their concern yet these teens are still missing and were unlikely to go much astray from a small area which has been thoroughly searched and is still be searched repeatedly. We all hope these young men are found in good health and some innocent reason comes forth for their disappearance. The misfortune is past experiences with youth disappearances, especially when such youths were expected to be somewhere by a particular time, has not been one which ends happily. There have been cases where some youths, usually two, three or four at most, have disappeared and their remains not discovered by the searchers and only are retrieved when some hiker or jogger comes across their remains purely by happenstance. Should these young men have been kidnapped and offered in exchange for another thousand terrorist prisoner releases, this should signal the end of any relations between the Palestinian leadership and Israel. Israel should simply go forward as if there existed no such entity as the Palestinian Authority and the only leadership are the terror masters leading Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and all of the other plethora of terrorist and clan entities which have been regularly attacking Israel. There cannot be any silence or forgiveness going forward as majority of the world, even to include supposed friends such as the United States, have displayed their colors as they rushed to be the first to announce recognition and willingness to continue to work with, fund, support, negotiate, and take as fact any claim they make against Israel of the unity governance over the Palestinians which includes Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and whoever else has applied and been included. This total disregard for Israel’s safety and the rejection of terrorist entities in any negotiations or other recognized political dealings leaves Israel with the realization that her views, needs, requirements and citizens’ safety are worth nothing in the machinations in much of the rest of the world and if Israelis are to be protected, then Israel is going to have to go it alone. The sooner Israel takes her own future into her hands and acts selfishly rather than selflessly as Israel has given and given repeatedly for absolutely nothing in return but continued terrorist attacks, rioting, rocks hurled through windshields, firebombs and numerous other offences including the now likely kidnapping of three teenage boys who were simply walking home from religious services. May they have G0d’s protection and be returned to us healthy and unharmed.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

May 23, 2014

Pope’s Trip Agenda Proves to be Anti-Israel

Ever since Palestinian Chairman made a trip to the Vatican in October 2013, and was received by the Pope Francis who presented Abbas with a gift, a very fancy pen, Abbas immediately commented that, “I hope to sign the peace agreement with Israel with this pen.” Pope Francis’s response was reportedly to comment that he held hope that the agreement would be reached “soon, soon.” Ever since I read about the discussion between Pope Francis and Chairman Abbas and the further discussions between Abbas and party with other Vatican officials I have dreaded that the need would arise to have to address the potential inferences and political potentials from the exchange of pleasantries. That day has come as Pope Francis is due to visit the Middle East including Jordan, the Palestinian West Bank semi-autonomous areas and finally Israel and in that order. The Vatican has released some announced intentions and itinerary for Pope Francis’s coming visit and much of it will pose adversarial positions against Israel on virtually every front. There are potentials in both the more obvious political front of the peace process but also on religious subject over whose claims take precedence over a building which contains an extremely holy Jewish site as well as a potentially holy Christian site.

 

Before having to comment, perhaps simply quoting the announcements which have been issued by the Vatican in reference to Pope Francis’s visit scheduled for the coming Sunday and Monday would be the safest place to begin. The Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, a position roughly equivalent to a Prime Minister, announced that Pope Francis plans to talk at length about, “Palestinian people’s right to have a homeland, sovereign and independent.” Cardinal Pietro Parolin added his personal feelings stating “I really hope that the fruit will be to help politicians and all people of good will take courageous decisions on the path to peace.” When pressed to be more informative and specific, the Cardinal continued explaining that Pope Francis would talk about “the Palestinian people’s right to have a homeland, sovereign and independent, the right to move around freely, the right to live in dignity.” These quotes from Vatican City lay to waste any belief that the previous claims from Pope Francis who had stated that he would be making a visit which would be purely “religious not political.” This claim had been dented by the released itinerary when provided stated the decision was to begin his trip from Jordan and fly directly by helicopter to the Palestinian Authority controlled city of Bethlehem before making his way to Jerusalem and Israel. Of course these announcements could not be said to be completely unexpected as the Vatican had recognized the “State of Palestine” during the votes in 2012 at the United Nations, a definite precursor for the coming events.

 

That pretty much presents the political, now for the religious potential for confrontation. The Vatican has confirmed that they have no intentions to claim or demand ownership of the Cenacle, the room alleged to be the site of the Last Supper which is located one floor above King David’s Tomb, a revered Jewish holy site. A report in the Salt Lake Tribune claimed that reports coming from the Vatican official Monsignor William Shomali, the auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, stated, “All the Vatican wishes is to hold two hours of prayer every day in the early morning before visitors start to visit it.” The Monsignor further quantified pointing out that Christians have prayed at the Cenacle for ten centuries “because it is said to be the place where Jesus had the Last Supper and where he washed the feet of his 12 disciples. For Christians it is a major holy place.” And further, in the spirit of “interreligious dialogue, it would be nice to have one holy place where many events are commemorated, and where people of different religions can come to pray.” Unfortunately, should such a situation be established, it would present some major complications and consequences to any Jewish practices within the entirety of the building. Should the site be made into a place where regular, daily services were held, it would be defined as being a Church which would prevent Jewish prayers from being held within the entire building under strict rules of Jewish law (Halacha), this defeating the whole idea of a place where multiple religions could all pray.

 

The probability that behind the smiles which will still most certainly be on display for the photographers, there will be some tight lipped and stern faces behind the scenes in private where honest discourse may be somewhat less pleasant than if the Pope’s visit had taken a less challenging message presenting challenges to the Jewish State on so many levels. Personally, I would have preferred the Pope coming to the Holy Land should be a time of coming together and building bridges and bringing Jews and Catholics closer together. Unfortunately, Pope Francis has chosen not to take such an approach and instead appears determined to set Israeli-Vatican relations back possibly more than a century to a time when the two religions were more confrontational than allied. I appreciate that the Pope plans on laying a wreath at the grave of Theodor Herzl, the great Zionist leader, a symbolic gesture apologizing for when in 1904, Zionist leader Theodor Herzl visited the Vatican to ask Pope Pius the Tenth to help establish a modern Jewish state in Israel, the historic homeland of the Jewish nation and Pope Pius rejected the request outright. This was unsurprising in hindsight as the Vatican was still espousing replacement theological approach which was heavily steeped in the Jews remaining homeless and in the Diaspora as strangers and outsiders wherever they lived and often treated as outcasts being blamed for ever ill that befell any society. This gesture is much appreciated and, some might claim, way overdue. Perhaps it may be best to take good cheer from the wreath laying, hope that whatever compromise that can be reached concerning King David’s Tomb, if any, continues to allow for Halachic Jewish prayers and services to continue and some allowance, though not likely daily, for Christian prayer is found. As far as Pope Francis finding the magic solution that establishes a Palestinian state without the complete destruction of Israel, that is really not at all likely as the Palestinians, all of them including Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), People for the Liberation of Palestine, and especially Mahmoud Abbas in near countless speeches and interviews in Arabic, are united in the one cause, the eradication of the Jewish state and its replacement by an Arab and Islamic state completely eliminating any Jewish presence within the Palestinian entity. The Pope is going to find that the soft and flowing sweet words spoken with him by Mahmoud Abbas were the same honey coated lies camouflaging the bile and hatred he holds for Israel and the Jews as well as his contempt for the Christians, including Catholics, which has been proven by the Islamization of Bethlehem since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. But it does appear that Abbas is capable of charming and deceiving virtually everybody and apparently Pope Francis is among the deceived.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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