Beyond the Cusp

March 25, 2017

Return of Permanent Limbo in Israel

 

The Trump opportunity has passed at least for the summer. There was the opportunity for a change in Israel and the standoff with the Arab world. The Israeli hesitation over moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, specifically the warnings of potential violence which, according to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, was something Israel was not prepared to face at the time forced President Trump to hesitate and at best postpone any actions on the embassy or possibly totally abandoned, time will tell. President Trump was elected President with a Republican platform which had refused to continue with the two state solution as part of its Middle East policy, a first for United States policy since the Oslo Accords were signed in September of 1993. The Republicans managed to do something which apparently far too many Israeli politicians are unprepared to do, reject the paradigm of the two state solution and accept something entirely separate. President Trump has stated even since taking office that he is ready to accept whatever decision is presentable to the individuals, which guarantees that he is open to almost any solution providing it is a workable solution. Between President Trump’s statements, the appointments made concerning Israel and the Republican platform, anything is potentially acceptable once one takes all of these particulars together and weighs all of the possibilities. Unfortunately it appears that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is not prepared to take any alternative before other issues including but not limited to Iran, Hezballah, Islamic State and the stability of the areas surrounding Israel are more secured and balanced. Netanyahu also is most concerned with the Iranian race to produce nuclear weapons and properly fears their finally becoming nuclear weapons capable, or worse, having tested and produced a nuclear weapons arsenal which would permit them to project power and terrorism throughout the entirety of the Middle East and across North Africa threatening Europe and possibly beyond to include the United States, China and even Russia. None of the current main nuclear weapons powers should consider their position secure as the potential for Iran to commit nuclear terrorism must not be considered as impossible or out of the question as such will be a definitive and dangerous possibility once Iran has produced miniaturized nuclear weaponry, something they are predicted to have the capability to produce within the next decade.

 

Another threat which Israel is facing has ties to Iran as well. Syria is allied with Iran and Hezballah which controls Lebanon under Iranian direction to the point that Hezballah commands the Military of Lebanon using their strength in the war in Syria against the Sunni rebels including the Islamic State. This conflagration which has destroyed much if not almost all of Syrian infrastructure outside of a thin strip along the Mediterranean Sea, particularly Latakia where the Russians have their active port facilities in the Mediterranean Sea. The losses being taken by Iran and Hezballah in the Syrian catastrophic civil hostilities have produced much consternation within their respective publics which is demanding good and understandable reasoning as to why they should continue to support such bloodshed. Thusfar they have not been rewarded with results which show that their involvement is of any worth as Syria is beginning to appear as a killing field where they are being asked to sacrifice for no good reason. There is a building demand that Assad be replaced allowing for an end to a seemingly endless and pointless waste of resources. The one means for making the Syrian war to appear to have an acceptable reason, at least in Lebanon as well as much of Iran and vast numbers of the IRGC and Hezballah soldiers and their families would be an expansion of the war to include a full on war with Israel. Such a war against the Zionist entity would make the efforts in Syria appear to have a payoff which would be understood and well received thus rejuvenating the support for the forces which are fighting in Syria and an excuse for the losses. Such a decision requires for Iran, as it is the Iranian leadership, the Mullahs and the Supreme Leader who decide, to decide to take such a move as they will be the ones providing the majority of the military resources should such a war be initiated. The cost of such a war for Syria would be inconsequential as much of the nation is already in ruins and most of the military supplies would be provided by Iran. On the other hand, for Hezballah such a war would be a double sided sword cutting both ways as Lebanon has not been near as torn asunder as has Syria. Any war with Israel which included Hezballah would also endanger much of the infrastructure south of the Litani River and the length of the Bekaa Valley as well as parts of Beirut as well as potentially the Beirut International Airport should it be utilized by Iran to fly in provisions for Hezballah using the airstrips of this airport.

 

Where losing men and munitions fighting in Syria is growing less and less popular, a war with Israel if it should bring destruction raining down within Lebanon itself could backfire. While it is possible to have Hezballah troops only attack Israel from areas such as across the Golan Heights, this would not guarantee that Israeli responses would only be targeting Hezballah forces in Syria and not their rocket stores and command and control headquarters within Syria. This would be a definite possibility as Hezballah has sufficient stores of rockets and missiles provided by Iran and placed under the noses of UNIFIL forces assigned by the United Nations to prevent exactly that buildup, they failed completely. These rockets pose an existential threat to Israel and should Hezballah forces be fighting Israel, even if just across the Golan Heights, Israel could not permit Hezballah to have the opportunity to choose the point at which to introduce these assets into such a conflict. In any conflict with Hezballah, Israel correctly feels that their first and most important targets are the stores of rockets and missiles, their launching facilities and the command and control nexuses in order to remove this threat from their civilians, their infrastructure and the Israeli Defense Forces. Even with the Arrow systems, the Iron Dome and David’s Sling, the well over one-hundred-thousand rockets and missiles held by Hezballah could be launched in such a manner as to overwhelm the Israeli defenses and thus inflict unacceptable damage. Where Israel has exceptional interception capabilities, no such system is one-hundred percent successful and with the numbers of weapons Hezballah alone has, not even counting the potential from Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian stores, Israel would be hard pressed to rely on interception thus only destruction of these threats before they can be utilized is the only answer.

 

There is another set of reasons which might cause Iran to seek a war with Israel, and these include Russia and the United States. The Iranians would probably desire testing President Trump as well as pressing him to take a stand one way or the other concerning supporting Israel. If Iran can show that President Trump supports Israel against them, they could attempt to portray themselves as leading the fight against the Zionists and use any United States support as proof that President Trump was fighting a war against Islam. They would use all the claims by the left and the United States liberal media who claimed that the immigration restraint against seven terror prone nations which were so labeled by the Obama Administration and simply that classification was used by President Trump for his imposing an immigration hold until proper vetting could be arranged for these nations but Iran could use the media claims of that being President Trump starting a war against Islam. This would be blown into a full-fledged campaign by President Trump and the United States in supporting Israel as simply the next step in Trump’s war on Islam which Iran would claim they and Hezballah were fighting for the entire Muslim world and in the name of the Prophet Mohammad. The Iranians could attempt to persuade some, if not all, the Gulf States to join them in this noble war against the evil Zionist entity and then attempt to pull Turkey’s Erdogan into the war using popular pressure to drag him into a war thus using his own program of using anti-Semitism to raise his own support levels. How much success Iran might have in turning the Islamic world against Israel and the United States could be debated but results would need to wait to be seen. Further, Iran could use such a war with Israel as a means of forcing Russia to take sides thus driving a wedge between Russia and the United States or driving a wedge between the United States and Israel as Trump would have to choose which side to inflame should Russia be forced to support Iran against Israel. This could lead to a whole new proxy war in the Middle East pitting the two powers, Russia and the United States on opposing sides and once again drag much, if not all, of the Arab world into the Russian sphere of influence and heighten the risk of embroiling the entire Middle East in a war even broader in scope than the 1948 War where the Arab League attempted to wipe Israel from the map. Now the idea of wiping Israel from the map is a wholly, or is it holy, Iranian concept. Iran has threatened to open a front against Israel as a means of leading the rest of the Islamic world into a general war with Israel and granting themselves with the title of the great leaders of the new Caliphate which is what they would use as their alliance’s title so as to give it an Islamic rallying cry. Iran has already made some inroads with some of the Gulf States much to the chagrin of the Saudi Royals who used to have an iron grip on these states.

 

Iranian Crescent Resulting from an Iranian Surge Retaking Syria for Bashir al-Assad Connecting Iran to Mediterranean via Iraq, Syria and Lebanon

Iranian Crescent Resulting from an Iranian Surge
Retaking Syria for Bashir al-Assad Connecting
Iran to Mediterranean via Iraq, Syria and Lebanon

 

Further reasoning behind Iran taking the lead in a charge to try and bring down Israel is to bring themselves to the fore of the Islamic world and to attempt to sell their brand of Shia Islam as the real bold, brave and action center for all Islam and thus start to turn the Islamic world from Sunni to Shiite. Iran has had this dream to form a crescent of Shia states across the heart of the Middle East, their Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon crescent which was looking good until Syria disintegrated. What Iran needs now is some means by which to force much of the Syrian resistance to come across to their side and thus reestablish their hold on most if not all of Syria. Iran might even try to win the Kurdish to their side by sacrificing a small section of northwestern Iran and northern Iraq along with some of northeastern Syria forming a Kurdish nation state if they will ally and take up Shia Islam. This would sandwich the Sunnis in central Iraq placing them in a very precarious position which just might force many to accept Shia Islam in exchange for protection from Islamic State. This would leave Iran with a smaller set of opponents to their taking the lead as the great power in Islam allowing their reestablishment of the power which once was Persia. With such a success and Russian backing, the Iranians might even be able to really crack the back of Sunni Islam and convert the Muslim Brotherhood over to Shia Islam if Iran would work with them to remove President Sisi in Egypt and place the Muslim Brotherhood back into power in Egypt which could be assisted with pressure from the south using their friendly relations with the Sudan as their wedge. From this they could then take control of the Horn of Africa and complete their vanquishing of their opposition in Yemen and now have Saudi Arabia surrounded. All of this is speculation and highly unlikely but this is also seen by the Mullahs as potentially plausible if only they could gain an upper hand along the Gulf States and win over many in the Islamic world through a war with Israel. The one catch there is that any war with Israel promises to be as short as Israel can possibly make it which would very possibly not turn out so well for Hezballah or Lebanon. The only thing that Iran would not be risking is the infrastructure of Syria. Also, getting Russia to work against Israel is iffy at best as Russia and Israel have already been working in cooperation sharing intelligence and Israel warning the Russians before striking at targets in Syria or near the Syrian Lebanese border in the Bekaa Valley. Add to that the news that the missile shot from the sky by an Israeli Arrow System was a Russian made SA-5 missile proving that the Israeli military technology is everything it is cracked up to be and this should make Putin wary of any plans to go against Israel. Iran would be treading dangerously trying to force such a conflict and may find they could lose Russian assistance in Syria and that Russia might just take Western Syrian coastal cities as their own just as they did the Crimea with one difference, Israel would welcome Russia as their new friend in the region and that would leave Iran weaker for their efforts.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

March 24, 2017

London Terror and the Message it Sends

 

Imagine the horror felt by the people stuck in the gondolas of the London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel, the supersized Ferris wheel along the Thames River near Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Palace of Westminster, Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament as well as overlooking the entirety of the terror attack (see map below). Basically held captive while a 4X4 Enterprise rental vehicle plowed through pedestrians below on the Westminster Bridge as well as the shooting attacks which followed after the attack vehicle had slammed into the iron fence protecting the House of Commons, their ordeal had just started. After the area had been secured, authorities slowly disembarked those civilians from the gondolas one by one taking statements and debriefing each person before moving on to the next gondola. We were unable to ascertain how much time this procedure required before the final groups of people were free to leave. These poor people had paid to take a leisurely ride on the famed London Eye and instead of a fun frolic they were live, front row witnesses to a mass terror attack followed by a torturously slow and measured taking of their statements which for some the ride lasted it must have been hours of tedium. Hopefully some at least made new friends as they certainly had time for conversing while waiting to have their one on one with the police. As of this writing it has been reported that eight people arrested at six addresses, including in Birmingham and London, the death count revised to four, with at least 40 injured, seven critically, and it was released that the murdered police officer was named as PC Keith Palmer.

 

Map of London with Terror Attack Locations

Map of London with Terror Attack Locations

 

London Mayor Sadiq Aman Khan is a Muslim which simply shows that the terrorists are not as concerned with whether a nation or city has accepted members of the Islamic faith as equals or even elected them as the mayor of the city; their aim is high visibility attacks which immortalize those who plan and commit these atrocities. They cannot be appeased or accommodated, only hunted down and removed from being capable of inflicting harm on people, any people. It has been noted that the Islamic State in its various forms since its inception has murdered more Muslims than any other religion. One could make an argument that their first and foremost desire is to purify Islam allowing only those who accept their leadership and views on the teachings of their faith. This leads to a problem as there are other groups with similar goals but diametrically different views. It could easily be stated as truth that Hezballah has opposing views to the Islamic State as Islamic State is Sunni while Hezballah is Shiite, two incompatible views if one is being excessively strict as these two terror groups have proven. Hezballah has also murdered more members of the faith of Islam than other religions despite some intense efforts against Israel. One would not be far off than to expect that should Islamic State take control over an area where Hezballah has already purified the city to Shia Islam that when Islamic State left there would be no one left alive as they would purify the city in the name of Sunni Islam. An identical result could be expected should the order of occupation and pacification be reversed. Islamic State has also been at war with numerous other groups which also claim to believe in Sunni Islam which begs the question of where these groups are found deficient in their faith by the Islamic State and why these other Sunni groups fight against the Islamic State. Sometimes trying to wrap our heads around these realities makes our heads hurt badly.

 

Sometimes the problem appears to be not so much the form of Islam but the historic tribe or groups one’s origins are derived. This is made excessively evident when it comes to the Kurds. They are apparently hated by Sunni and Shiites alike and seem to have no friends with which to ally. Their manner of observing Islam is apparently different than most of the others as they took great risks in rescuing the Yazidi as best as they were able when the Islamic State stood poised to slaughter the entirety of these people. While the rest of the world stood paralyzed unable to formulate any plan for saving these people, the Kurds simply went to where the Yazidi were holed up on Mount Sinjar and rescued as many as they were able and provided them with protection. The Yazidi practice a religion which is based purely on their Oral traditions which include a blending, a syncretic religion, influenced by pre-Islamic Assyrian traditions, Sufi and Shiite Islam, Nestorian Christianity, and Zoroastrianism. This blending of religions has left the Yazidi basically with no allies as almost all look upon them as those things which make them different and not the fact that they have anything in common with their neighbors, which is why they remained together as a tight tribal groups heavily dependent on each other for protection. Against the Islamic State the Yazidi had neither the manpower nor the weapons to defend themselves. Their one link is that they are a Kurdish speaking minority which is probably the familial identity they shared with their rescuers.

 

This brings us back to the London terror attack which Islamic State, or ISIS, claimed responsibility and took great pride in their destruction. The attacker who they claim was one of their “soldiers” and he was, according to Prime Minister May, “What I can confirm is that the man was British-born and that some years ago he was once investigated by MI5 in relation to concerns about violent extremism. He was a peripheral figure. The case is historic. He was not part of the current intelligence picture. There was no prior intelligence of his intent or of the plot.” Another victim of this horror was Spanish teacher and department head Aysha Frade, 43, worked at DLD College, London and was married with two daughters. She was believed to have been crossing Westminster Bridge to pick up her children aged eight and 11 from school when she lost her life in the attack. One of the more moving of the stories of the tragic events was that of Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood who was among those who rushed to help PC Keith Palmer. Mr. Ellwood, who lost his brother in the Bali bombing, was seen pumping the officer’s chest then standing above him, his hands and face smeared with blood as was reported live from the scene by numerous reports. His bravery and efforts as well as those of all involved, police, emergency medical teams, ambulance crews and those other civilians who lent a hand in assisting the many wounded and giving comfort to those around them most in need from the shocking scenes all witnessed and the order which was kept and especially to those people who waited patiently, or not so patiently, in the gondolas and then gave full accountings to the authorities after, what for some must have been insufferable, long waits to finally disembark and end their ordeal. The fact that most remained and assisted as best they were able is a testament to British comradery and pulling together and showing their best in a difficult and horrific situation.

 

Terror Victims PC Keith Palmer and Aysha Frade

Terror Victims PC Keith Palmer and Aysha Frade

 

We can hope that this will be the final time we need to review the heroism, bravery and other stand-out performances by regular people, law enforcement and emergency crews, people from all walks and from diffuse backgrounds all assisting people they likely never met before but giving them somebody to lean on for support, working to save a life, preventing further harm, stopping an attacker or other general acts of bravery or relief in the immediate and tumultuous aftermath of a terror attack like those we have seen far too many times. Paris, London, New York, Jerusalem, Istanbul and Cairo are all amongst cities struck by these horrors while there is apparently nowhere on Earth perhaps other than Antarctica is safe from such violence. The world sometimes appears to be awakening to the threats yet all too often after attacks such as what we saw in London we all jerk ourselves and scream in our minds that this must be fought with more than words and within a few days, hours for some and moments for others, we fall back into our nominal state of dealing with those daily tasks and requirements of our jobs, families, friends and getting the car repaired, paying bills, food shopping, kids science project, you name the distraction, it takes our minds back to the everyday. That complacency needs to be shaken up and dispelled such that we take the needful steps to end these attacks by whatever means are required. We owe it to those whose lives we have already lost, their families and friends, their coworkers and people they simply may have once given a smile making their day and we owe it to those who have not yet been the tragic target and their friends, families, coworkers, people they attend religious services with or those who will not get that needed smile because we did not take the steps immediately such that they never face the horror of being caught in such a nightmare. These are the prices we have paid and we need to prevent those costs from rising any further than unavoidable and that will take remembering those we lost and taking the needful steps to demand that those who are in our governments and have the responsibility to prevent these events do so. That is what we need demand and stop with the petty day-to-day bickering between parties and unite and do what is right finally and for a change, please.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

March 23, 2017

Was Andrew Napolitano Correct?

 

Was Andrew Napolitano Correct when on “Fox & Friends” he claimed that British intelligence officials had helped former President Barack Obama spy on Donald Trump? We know one thing, he was definitely wrong to have said so without having run the idea past Fox News’s law department, the “Fox & Friends” show’s writers, any managers related to both the “Fox & Friends” show and those responsible for Judge Napolitano and perhaps anyone else he could have found even to include the people behind each of the three cameras shooting the show and perhaps the microphone grip just for good measure. Apparently he also needed to include our friends, the British, into the mix of the Trump accusation his phones in Trump Tower were tapped by the Obama Administration. Of course any allegation which includes the Russians with the election victory by Donald Trump is perfectly within bounds as with the Russian allegations the target is President Trump and with Judge Napolitano’s British accusation the target is President Obama. The difference is more than obvious, it is also very revealing. In American media, even the presumed conservative darling Fox News, any accusation against President Trump can spread guilt to any target and still be acceptable while accusations against President Obama may not apply guilt to other targets because expressing potential for guilt of President Obama is what was not permissible and thus also the British. But perhaps delving deeper might be an interesting exercise and be quite revealing.

 

Judge Andrew Napolitano

Judge Andrew Napolitano

 

We need to go back to the era of PRISM or before that Echelon as well as whatever the code name was back to the mid-1950’s which was finally revealed to the public in the mid-2000’s and was simply the latest data gathering system used by the National Security Agency (NSA) in coordination with the data collection abilities of the other Anglo-nations, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand with the United States in order to be capable of collecting, through coordination, the maximized capabilities of their systems. Their coordinating their systems meant that they could prevent duplicating each other’s efforts. In order to guarantee that each nation would still have access to whatever data they needed there was an agreement. The initial agreement was called the UKUSA Agreement, or the United Kingdom – United States of America Agreement. The actual agreement upon full ratification included all the Anglo-nations mentioned above. This agreement also permitted each nation to have total access to the information of the other nations. Now as it was easiest for each member nation to collect complete and total accumulation and compilation of their own population’s data, each nation was assigned with the collection of all electronic communication including phones of all varieties, internet, wireless and any other variety of communication which lent to interception. Obviously ground mail was still safe from this collection processes though e-mail was not and was also collected along with all else.

 

The fact that each nation in the group, the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada all have laws which do not permit spying on their own citizens without first having a judge issue a warrant; this made it such a tedious and limiting requirement that each country desired some means of getting around this nasty limitation. Unsurprisingly, leaks revealed that they found just the means by which to collect what was their hearts, and snooping, desires without the needless waste of finding some judge to issue a warrant, even after the The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) and the accompanying FISA Courts where warrants could be granted in complete and total secrecy. But what if your target was somebody who you did not believe that even a FISA Court would issue a warrant? Well, one could always resort to the “old school” method for such situations. The five nations which finally entered the UKUSA Agreement agreed that when any one deemed they required intercepting, read bugging, anyone of their own citizens, something universally illegal under several laws, they would simply request a surveillance report covering the individuals phone numbers, their internet e-mail address and internet entrance and other electronic identifiers using all the direct alpha-numeric identifiers such that no names were ever exchanged. The nation receiving the request would then query all five nations’ data collection systems and compile their report simply listing all communications by the target accounts and thus the individual of interest. This report was then presented to the nation unable to actually collect such information themselves legally without making legal requests at some level. This was the method, as we pointed out, back in the day. Now, all those out there who believe that this method of data acquisition has fallen by the wayside and is no longer accessible, raise your hands. Let’s see, OK George, put your hand down, not funny. So, we all believe that if somebody from the political, law enforcement, foreign intelligence collection group or domestic intelligence group desired to gain such information, they could simply contact somebody they could trust from one of the other nations and have all the information they might desire and all without anybody being all the wiser.

 

So, what is the most important concept behind all of this spy vs. spy scenario? Well, it has to be the part that nobody would be any the wiser. Would it be possible for somebody in the government, say the President, or more likely a subordinate, a trusted subordinate with contacts across a border in say New Zealand or perhaps Canada to gather a compiled report which includes all the communications, or simply phone conversations, from a specific set of alphanumerics representing a person of interest even daily? The obvious answer is an obvious “Yes” and all without anybody in either government actually believing anything untoward had taken place. Are such requests made currently? Probably, though nowhere near in the numbers which were likely back twenty or so years ago. Still, this polite gentlemen’s agreement was put in place for just the reason that listening to then candidate Trump’s phone calls was made to produce. Did President Obama actually order or just request such a report from the British? The truth is it is unlikely but did he actually mention that he was wondering what Trump was up to, very likely. Might an overeager subordinate have then issued such a request hoping to have something interesting he or she could then report to the President? You tell me and if you have a name and proof, that would be appreciated as well. We promise not to use such information, well, not without giving you the credit if you desire such as we would not desire taking the heat alone. What is obvious is that the scenario is not beyond possibility.

 

What must be added to this entire scenario is that the new NSA data collection systems currently are capable of collecting every single last piece of electronic data from the United States plus probably Europe and a select dozen additional nations just for fun without taxing their systems which are tied into world-wide communications networks at their sources. Further, when gathering data using the numerical address the actual target remains unidentified in almost every situation as numerical identifiers can be used which disguise the actual target from those collecting the data. Thus, simply using such identifiers one can draw up all the information from any identifier for any period simply by entering a query into the huge data storage complex outside Reno, Nevada. This could even be done directly out of virtually any office of a Congressperson and nothing untoward would ever be suspected. From the White House, well, that might raise some suspicions, but from any agency which is assigned to gather information, nobody would ever suspect anything. Even those who are responsible for guarding that all data acquisition is done all legal and above boards have so much to review that it is very possible that many requests get through never being reviewed as review is probably reserved for such demands made by courts and other persons having a purpose to request such reviews. This means that even had Trump had his file accessed, nobody is likely to have been the wiser and it is entirely possible that the old UKUSA Agreement system of scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours could have been used to make tracing all the more difficult. Whatever the actual situation, Judge Napolitano was hired to give commentary, his best assessments and legal advice. His commentary if presented as fact might have been a bit overly pretentious, but was not entirely out of line. If he presented it as theory, then it was within the assigned duties of a commentator. Whatever the situation proves forth, should the Judge need a part-time, non-paying position, we can always use another commentator here at BTC whose views might be appreciated by our readers and who would add to our broad views of what is, what may be and what we wish would be.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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