To: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, LISTEN UP… “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN!” regards President Trump

President Donald Trump responded to a threat from Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, issued on Sunday, vowing to make the country suffer consequences if threats continue.

“NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,”

President Trump wrote in all-caps on Twitter.

“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”

Rouhani delivered his threat during a speech to Iranian diplomats. “Mr. Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret,” he said, warning that “war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” Rouhani made his remarks in response to reports that the Trump administration was trying to disrupt the current government in Iran.

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Video & Transcript: President Trump gives first speech to UN General Assembly



No. 01: Strong Sovereign Nation


No. 02: We the People.
No. 03: A Friend to the World.



The president minced no words when it came to his feelings on the dealIRAN NUCLEAR DEAL


“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.”

President Trump

“The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos.”

President Trump

Here is the speech in full, as prepared for delivery.1)source of text http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/donald-trumps-full-speech-to-the-un-general-assembly/news-story/db79d1934727c5ad520c8d287a3c0d38


Mr Secretary General, Mr President, world leaders, and distinguished delegates: Welcome to New York. It is a profound honour to stand here in my home city, as a representative of the American people, to address the people of the world.

As millions of our citizens continue to suffer the effects of the devastating hurricanes that have struck our country, I want to begin by expressing my appreciation to every leader in this room who has offered assistance and aid. The American people are strong and resilient, and they will emerge from these hardships more determined than ever before.

Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th. The stock market is at an all-time high — a record. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever before. Companies are moving back, creating job growth the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time. And it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defence.

Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been. For more than 70 years, in times of war and peace, the leaders of nations, movements, and religions have stood before this assembly. Like them, I intend to address some of the very serious threats before us today but also the enormous potential waiting to be unleashed.

We live in a time of extraordinary opportunity. Breakthroughs in science, technology, and medicine are curing illnesses and solving problems that prior generations thought impossible to solve.

But each day also brings news of growing dangers that threaten everything we cherish and value. Terrorists and extremists have gathered strength and spread to every region of the planet. Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.

Authority and authoritarian powers seek to collapse the values, the systems, and alliances that prevented conflict and tilted the world toward freedom since World War II.

International criminal networks traffic drugs, weapons, people; force dislocation and mass migration; threaten our borders; and new forms of aggression exploit technology to menace our citizens.

To put it simply, we meet at a time of both of immense promise and great peril. It is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights, or let it fall into a valley of disrepair.

We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realise their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred, and fear.

This institution was founded in the aftermath of two world wars to help shape this better future. It was based on the vision that diverse nations could co-operate to protect their sovereignty, preserve their security, and promote their prosperity.

It was in the same period, exactly 70 years ago, that the United States developed the Marshall Plan to help restore Europe. Those three beautiful pillars — they’re pillars of peace, sovereignty, security, and prosperity.

The Marshall Plan was built on the noble idea that the whole world is safer when nations are strong, independent, and free. As President Truman said in his message to Congress at that time, “Our support of European recovery is in full accord with our support of the United Nations. The success of the United Nations depends upon the independent strength of its members.”

To overcome the perils of the present and to achieve the promise of the future, we must begin with the wisdom of the past. Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world.

We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation. This is the beautiful vision of this institution, and this is foundation for co-operation and success.

Strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side-by-side on the basis of mutual respect.

Strong, sovereign nations let their people take ownership of the future and control their own destiny. And strong, sovereign nations allow individuals to flourish in the fullness of the life intended by God.

In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch. This week gives our country a special reason to take pride in that example. We are celebrating the 230th anniversary of our beloved Constitution — the oldest constitution still in use in the world today.

This timeless document has been the foundation of peace, prosperity, and freedom for the Americans and for countless millions around the globe whose own countries have found inspiration in its respect for human nature, human dignity, and the rule of law.

The greatest in the United States Constitution is its first three beautiful words. They are: “We the people.”

Generations of Americans have sacrificed to maintain the promise of those words, the promise of our country, and of our great history. In America, the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign. I was elected not to take power, but to give power to the American people, where it belongs.

In foreign affairs, we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty. Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens — to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values.

As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.

All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens, and the nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition.

But making a better life for our people also requires us to work together in close harmony and unity to create a more safe and peaceful future for all people.

The United States will forever be a great friend to the world, and especially to its allies. But we can no longer be taken advantage of, or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return. As long as I hold this office, I will defend America’s interests above all else.

But in fulfilling our obligations to our own nations, we also realise that it’s in everyone’s interest to seek a future where all nations can be sovereign, prosperous, and secure.

America does more than speak for the values expressed in the United Nations Charter. Our citizens have paid the ultimate price to defend our freedom and the freedom of many nations represented in this great hall. America’s devotion is measured on the battlefields where our young men and women have fought and sacrificed alongside of our allies, from the beaches of Europe to the deserts of the Middle East to the jungles of Asia.

It is an eternal credit to the American character that even after we and our allies emerged victorious from the bloodiest war in history, we did not seek territorial expansion, or attempt to oppose and impose our way of life on others. Instead, we helped build institutions such as this one to defend the sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.

For the diverse nations of the world, this is our hope. We want harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife. We are guided by outcomes, not ideology. We have a policy of principled realism, rooted in shared goals, interests, and values.

That realism forces us to confront a question facing every leader and nation in this room. It is a question we cannot escape or avoid. We will slide down the path of complacency, numb to the challenges, threats, and even wars that we face. Or do we have enough strength and pride to confront those dangers today, so that our citizens can enjoy peace and prosperity tomorrow?

If we desire to lift up our citizens, if we aspire to the approval of history, then we must fulfil our sovereign duties to the people we faithfully represent. We must protect our nations, their interests, and their futures. We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea. We must uphold respect for law, respect for borders, and respect for culture, and the peaceful engagement these allow. And just as the founders of this body intended, we must work together and confront together those who threaten us with chaos, turmoil, and terror.

The scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based. They respect neither their own citizens nor the sovereign rights of their countries.

If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph. When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength.

No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the wellbeing of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea. It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans, and for the imprisonment, torture, killing, and oppression of countless more.

We were all witness to the regime’s deadly abuse when an innocent American college student, Otto Warmbier, was returned to America only to die a few days later. We saw it in the assassination of the dictator’s brother using banned nerve agents in an international airport. We know it kidnapped a sweet 13-year-old Japanese girl from a beach in her own country to enslave her as a language tutor for North Korea’s spies.

If this is not twisted enough, now North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life.

It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict. No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles.

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.

It is time for North Korea to realise that the denuclearisation is its only acceptable future. The United Nations Security Council recently held two unanimous 15-0 votes adopting hard-hitting resolutions against North Korea, and I want to thank China and Russia for joining the vote to impose sanctions, along with all of the other members of the Security Council. Thank you to all involved.

But we must do much more. It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behaviour.

We face this decision not only in North Korea. It is far past time for the nations of the world to confront another reckless regime — one that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. The longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are, in fact, its own people.

Rather than use its resources to improve Iranian lives, its oil profits go to fund Hezbollah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbours. This wealth, which rightly belongs to Iran’s people, also goes to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, fuel Yemen’s civil war, and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East.

We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilising activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. (Applause.) The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.

It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction. It is time for the regime to free all Americans and citizens of other nations that they have unjustly detained. And above all, Iran’s government must stop supporting terrorists, begin serving its own people, and respect the sovereign rights of its neighbours.

The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most. This is what causes the regime to restrict Internet access, tear down satellite dishes, shoot unarmed student protesters, and imprison political reformers.

Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. Will they continue down the path of poverty, bloodshed, and terror? Or will the Iranian people return to the nation’s proud roots as a centre of civilisation, culture, and wealth where their people can be happy and prosperous once again?

The Iranian regime’s support for terror is in stark contrast to the recent commitments of many of its neighbours to fight terrorism and halt its financing.

In Saudi Arabia early last year, I was greatly honoured to address the leaders of more than 50 Arab and Muslim nations. We agreed that all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and the Islamist extremism that inspires them.

We will stop radical Islamic terrorism because we cannot allow it to tear up our nation, and indeed to tear up the entire world.

We must deny the terrorists safe haven, transit, funding, and any form of support for their vile and sinister ideology. We must drive them out of our nations. It is time to expose and hold responsible those countries who support and finance terror groups like al Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Taliban and others that slaughter innocent people.

The United States and our allies are working together throughout the Middle East to crush the loser terrorists and stop the re-emergence of safe havens they use to launch attacks on all of our people.

Last month, I announced a new strategy for victory in the fight against this evil in Afghanistan. From now on, our security interests will dictate the length and scope of military operations, not arbitrary benchmarks and timetables set up by politicians.

I have also totally changed the rules of engagement in our fight against the Taliban and other terrorist groups. In Syria and Iraq, we have made big gains toward lasting defeat of ISIS. In fact, our country has achieved more against ISIS in the last eight months than it has in many, many years combined.

We seek the de-escalation of the Syrian conflict, and a political solution that honours the will of the Syrian people. The actions of the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad, including the use of chemical weapons against his own citizens — even innocent children — shock the conscience of every decent person. No society can be safe if banned chemical weapons are allowed to spread. That is why the United States carried out a missile strike on the air base that launched the attack.

We appreciate the efforts of United Nations agencies that are providing vital humanitarian assistance in areas liberated from ISIS, and we especially thank Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for their role in hosting refugees from the Syrian conflict.

The United States is a compassionate nation and has spent billions and billions of dollars in helping to support this effort. We seek an approach to refugee resettlement that is designed to help these horribly treated people, and which enables their eventual return to their home countries, to be part of the rebuilding process.

For the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we can assist more than 10 in their home region. Out of the goodness of our hearts, we offer financial assistance to hosting countries in the region, and we support recent agreements of the G20 nations that will seek to host refugees as close to their home countries as possible. This is the safe, responsible, and humanitarian approach.

For decades, the United States has dealt with migration challenges here in the Western Hemisphere. We have learned that, over the long term, uncontrolled migration is deeply unfair to both the sending and the receiving countries.

For the sending countries, it reduces domestic pressure to pursue needed political and economic reform, and drains them of the human capital necessary to motivate and implement those reforms.

For the receiving countries, the substantial costs of uncontrolled migration are borne overwhelmingly by low-income citizens whose concerns are often ignored by both media and government.

I want to salute the work of the United Nations in seeking to address the problems that cause people to flee from their homes. The United Nations and African Union led peacekeeping missions to have invaluable contributions in stabilising conflicts in Africa. The United States continues to lead the world in humanitarian assistance, including famine prevention and relief in South Sudan, Somalia, and northern Nigeria and Yemen.

We have invested in better health and opportunity all over the world through programs like PEPFAR, which funds AIDS relief; the President’s Malaria Initiative; the Global Health Security Agenda; the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery; and the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, part of our commitment to empowering women all across the globe.

We also thank the Secretary General for recognising that the United Nations must reform if it is to be an effective partner in confronting threats to sovereignty, security, and prosperity. Too often the focus of this organisation has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process.

In some cases, states that seek to subvert this institution’s noble aims have hijacked the very systems that are supposed to advance them. For example, it is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The United States is one out of 193 countries in the United Nations, and yet we pay 22 per cent of the entire budget and more. In fact, we pay far more than anybody realises. The United States bears an unfair cost burden, but, to be fair, if it could actually accomplish all of its stated goals, especially the goal of peace, this investment would easily be well worth it.

Major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell. But the powerful people in this room, under the guidance and auspices of the United Nations, can solve many of these vicious and complex problems.

The American people hope that one day soon the United Nations can be a much more accountable and effective advocate for human dignity and freedom around the world. In the meantime, we believe that no nation should have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, militarily or financially. Nations of the world must take a greater role in promoting secure and prosperous societies in their own regions.

That is why in the Western Hemisphere, the United States has stood against the corrupt and destabilising regime in Cuba and embraced the enduring dream of the Cuban people to live in freedom. My administration recently announced that we will not lift sanctions on the Cuban government until it makes fundamental reforms.

We have also imposed tough, calibrated sanctions on the socialist Maduro regime in Venezuela, which has brought a once thriving nation to the brink of total collapse.

The socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country. This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried. To make matters worse, Maduro has defied his own people, stealing power from their elected representatives to preserve his disastrous rule.

The Venezuelan people are starving and their country is collapsing. Their democratic institutions are being destroyed. This situation is completely unacceptable and we cannot stand by and watch.

As a responsible neighbour and friend, we and all others have a goal. That goal is to help them regain their freedom, recover their country, and restore their democracy. I would like to thank leaders in this room for condemning the regime and providing vital support to the Venezuelan people.

The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable. We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.

We are fortunate to have incredibly strong and healthy trade relationships with many of the Latin American countries gathered here today. Our economic bond forms a critical foundation for advancing peace and prosperity for all of our people and all of our neighbours.

I ask every country represented here today to be prepared to do more to address this very real crisis. We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela.

The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.

America stands with every person living under a brutal regime. Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests, and their wellbeing, including their prosperity.

In America, we seek stronger ties of business and trade with all nations of good will, but this trade must be fair and it must be reciprocal.

For too long, the American people were told that mammoth multinational trade deals, unaccountable international tribunals, and powerful global bureaucracies were the best way to promote their success. But as those promises flowed, millions of jobs vanished and thousands of factories disappeared. Others gamed the system and broke the rules. And our great middle class, once the bedrock of American prosperity, was forgotten and left behind, but they are forgotten no more and they will never be forgotten again.

While America will pursue co-operation and commerce with other nations, we are renewing our commitment to the first duty of every government: the duty of our citizens. This bond is the source of America’s strength and that of every responsible nation represented here today.

If this organisation is to have any hope of successfully confronting the challenges before us, it will depend, as President Truman said some 70 years ago, on the “independent strength of its members.” If we are to embrace the opportunities of the future and overcome the present dangers together, there can be no substitute for strong, sovereign, and independent nations — nations that are rooted in their histories and invested in their destinies; nations that seek allies to befriend, not enemies to conquer; and most important of all, nations that are home to patriots, to men and women who are willing to sacrifice for their countries, their fellow citizens, and for all that is best in the human spirit.

In remembering the great victory that led to this body’s founding, we must never forget that those heroes who fought against evil also fought for the nations that they loved.

Patriotism led the Poles to die to save Poland, the French to fight for a free France, and the Brits to stand strong for Britain.

Today, if we do not invest ourselves, our hearts, and our minds in our nations, if we will not build strong families, safe communities, and healthy societies for ourselves, no one can do it for us.

We cannot wait for someone else, for faraway countries or far-off bureaucrats — we can’t do it. We must solve our problems, to build our prosperity, to secure our futures, or we will be vulnerable to decay, domination, and defeat.

The true question for the United Nations today, for people all over the world who hope for better lives for themselves and their children, is a basic one: Are we still patriots?

Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and to take ownership of their futures? Do we revere them enough to defend their interests, preserve their cultures, and ensure a peaceful world for their citizens?

One of the greatest American patriots, John Adams, wrote that the American Revolution was “effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.”

That was the moment when America awoke, when we looked around and understood that we were a nation. We realised who we were, what we valued, and what we would give our lives to defend. From its very first moments, the American story is the story of what is possible when people take ownership of their future.

The United States of America has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world, and the greatest defenders of sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.

Now we are calling for a great reawakening of nations, for the revival of their spirits, their pride, their people, and their patriotism.

History is asking us whether we are up to the task. Our answer will be a renewal of will, a rediscovery of resolve, and a rebirth of devotion. We need to defeat the enemies of humanity and unlock the potential of life itself.

Our hope is a word and world of proud, independent nations that embrace their duties, seek friendship, respect others, and make common cause in the greatest shared interest of all: a future of dignity and peace for the people of this wonderful Earth.

This is the true vision of the United Nations, the ancient wish of every people, and the deepest yearning that lives inside every sacred soul.

So let this be our mission, and let this be our message to the world: We will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity, and for the almighty God who made us all.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless the nations of the world. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

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References   [ + ]

1. source of text http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/donald-trumps-full-speech-to-the-un-general-assembly/news-story/db79d1934727c5ad520c8d287a3c0d38

Islamic One-Way Street

♦ Extremist Muslims’ understanding of freedom is a one-way street: Freedoms, such as religious rights, are “good” and must be defended if they are intended for Muslims — often where Muslims are in minority. But they can simply be ignored if they are intended for non-Muslims — often in lands where Muslims make up the majority.

♦ Many Muslim countries, apparently, already have travel bans against other Muslims, in addition to banning Israelis.

♦ Look at Saudi Arabia. Deportation and a lifetime ban is the minimum penalty for non-Muslims trying to enter the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

♦ Given the state of non-Muslim religious and human rights, and the sheer lack of religious pluralism in most Muslim countries, why do Muslim nations suddenly become human rights champions in the face of a ban on travel to the U.S.?

♦ Meanwhile, Muslims will keep on loving the “infidels” who support Muslim rights in non-Muslim lands, while keeping up intimidation of the same “infidels” in their own lands.

President Donald Trump’s executive order of January 27, 2017, temporarily limiting entry from seven majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for 90 days, until vetting procedures can be put in place — has caused international controversy, sparking protests both in the Western and Islamic worlds, including in increasingly Islamist Turkey.

HYPOCRISY

This article does not intend to discuss whether Trump’s ban is a racist, illegal order, or a perfectly justified action in light of threatened American interests. The ban, right or wrong, has once again unveiled the hypocrisy of extremist Muslims on civil liberties and on what is and what is NOT racist. Extremist Muslims’ understanding of freedom is a one-way street: Freedoms, such as religious rights, are “good” and must be defended if they are intended for Muslims — often where Muslims are in minority. But they can simply be ignored if they are intended for non-Muslims — often in lands where Muslims make up the majority.

Muslims have been in a rage across the world. Iran’s swift and sharp answer came in a Tweet from Foreign Minister Javad Zarif who said that the ban was “a great gift to extremists.” A government statement in Tehran said that the U.S. travel restrictions were an insult to the Muslim world, and threatened U.S. citizens with “reciprocal measures.” Many Muslim countries, apparently, already have travel bans against other Muslims, in addition to banning Israelis.

SUDAN

Sudan, host and supporter of various extremist Muslim terror groups including al-Qaeda, said the ban was “very unfortunate.” In Iraq, a coalition of paramilitary groups called on the government to ban U.S. nationals from entering the country and to expel those currently on Iraqi soil.

TURKEY

In Turkey where the extremist Islamic government is unusually soft on Trump’s ban — in order not to antagonize the new president — a senior government official called the order “a discriminative decision.” Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said:

“Unfortunately, I am of the opinion that rising Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-immigrant feelings have a great weight on this decision. Taking such a decision in a country such as America, where different ethnic and religious groups are able to co-exist, is very offensive.”

The ruling party’s deputy chairman, Yasin Aktay, called the ban “racist,” and said: “This is totally against human rights, a big violation of human rights.” Aktay also said that he had started to “worry about the future of the U.S.”

Turkey’s top Muslim cleric, Mehmet Gormez, praised the Americans who rushed to the airports to protest the ban. “[This] is very important. It gives us hope,” he said — presumably meaning that non-Muslim protestors will continue to advocate for Muslim rights in non-Muslim lands.

Turkish government bigwigs and the top Islamic authority seem not to have heard of their own country’s dismal human rights record when it comes to non-Muslim minorities. Most recently, Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches noted in a report that hate speech against the country’s Christians increased in both the traditional media and social media. It said that hate speech against Protestants persisted throughout 2016, in addition to physical attacks on Protestant individuals and their churches.

GLOBAL

Nevertheless, the Islamist’s one-way sympathy for human rights (for Muslims) and his one-way affection for discrimination (against non-Muslims) is not just Turkish, but global. What is the treatment of non-Muslim (or sometimes even non-extremist Muslim) visitors to some of the Muslim cities and sites in the countries that decry Trump’s “racist,” and “discriminative” ban that “violates human rights?”

In a 2016 visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the Muslim custodians of the site did not allow entry to this author, despite the Turkish passport submitted to them, saying “you do not look Muslim enough.” And Muslims now complain of “discrimination?” Incidentally, Al Aqsa Mosque is, theoretically at least, open to visits from non-Muslims, except on Fridays.

Look at Saudi Arabia. Deportation and a lifetime ban is the minimum penalty for non-Muslims trying to enter the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In 2013, the Saudi Minister of Justice, Mohamed el-Eissi, insisted that “the cradle of the Muslim sanctities will not allow the establishment of any other places of worship.”

The Saudi ban on other religious houses of worship comes from a Salafi tradition that prohibits the existence of two religions in the Arabian Peninsula. In the Saudi kingdom, the law requires that all citizens must be Muslims; the government does not provide legal protection for freedom of religion; and the public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited.

In Iran, where even non-Muslim female visitors must wear the Islamic headscarf, the government continues to imprison, harass, intimidate and discriminate against people based on religious beliefs. A 2014 U.S. State Department annual report noted that non-Muslims faced “substantial societal discrimination, aided by official support.” At the release of the report, then Secretary of State John Kerry said: “Sadly, the pages of this report that are being released today are filled with accounts of minorities being denied rights in countries like Burma, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, many others”.

In Iran, marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are not recognized unless the husband produces proof that he has converted to Islam. The mullahs’ government does not ensure the right of citizens to change or renounce their religious faith. Apostasy, specifically conversion from Islam, can be punishable by death. In 2013, 79 people from religious minorities were sentenced to a total of 3,620 months in prison, 200 months of probation, 75 lashes and 41 billion rials in fines [approximately $1.3 million].

QUESTIONS

That being the state of non-Muslim religious and human rights, and the sheer lack of religious pluralism in most Muslim countries, why do Muslim nations suddenly become human rights champions in the face of a ban on travel to the U.S.? Why, for instance, does Turkey never criticizes the extreme shortcomings of freedoms in the Muslim world but calls the U.S. ban “racist?”

Why does the Iranian government think that Trump’s ban is a “gift to the [Muslim] extremists?” In claiming that travel bans would supposedly fuel extremism, how come Iran does not think that its own persecution of religious minorities is a “gift” to non-Muslims?

Such questions will probably remain unanswered in the Muslim world.

Meanwhile, Muslims will keep on loving the “infidels” who support Muslim rights in non-Muslim lands, while keeping up intimidation of the same “infidels” in their own lands.

Extremist Muslims'
by Burak Bekdil
February 24, 2017 at 5:00 am https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9935/extremist-muslims
Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was just fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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Veiling Women: Islamists’ Most Powerful Weapon

• The first victim of the Islamist war in Algeria was a girl who refused the veil, Katia Bengana, who defended her choice even as the executioners pointed a gun at her head. In 1994, Algiers literally awoke to walls plastered with posters announcing the execution of unveiled women.

• In April 1947, Princess Lalla Aisha gave a speech in Tangiers and people listened astonished to that unveiled girl. In a few weeks, women throughout the country refused the scarf. Today Morocco is one of the freest countries in the Arab world.

• In the mid-1980s, sharia law was implemented in many countries, women in the Middle East were placed in a portable prison and in Europe they resumed the veil to reclaim their “identity,” which meant the refusal of assimilation to Western values and the Islamization of many European cities.

• First veils were imposed on women, then Islamists began their jihad against the West.

Laurence Rossignol, France’s Minister for the Family, Children and Women’s Rights, sparked a furor about the Islamic veil proliferating in her country, when she compared headscarved women to “American negroes who accepted slavery.” In addition, Elisabeth Badinter, one of France’s most famous feminists, even called for boycotting Europe’s fashion companies, such as Uniqlo and Dolce & Gabbana, which are developing Islamically correct clothes (in 2013, Muslims spent $266 billion dollars on clothing, and the figure could reach $484 billion by 2019).

A new trend is also emerging in Western popular culture, which was almost invisible in the media a decade ago: headscarved women are now also present in television programs such as MasterChef.

The mainstream culture now considers veiling women “normal.” Air France recently called on its female employees to wear veils while in Iran. The government of Italy recently veiled nude sculptures at Rome’s Capitoline Museum during a visit by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, out of “respect” for his sensibilities.

In the Arab-Islamic world, however, for a long time covered women were the exception.

It is hard to believe that, until the early 1990s, the majority of women in Algeria were not veiled. On May 13, 1958 at Place du Gouvernement in Algiers, dozens of women tore off their veils. Miniskirts invaded the streets.

Iran’s Revolution reversed this trend: the first scarf appeared at the beginning of the 1980s with the rise of the Islamic movements in Algeria’s universities and poor neighborhoods. The hijab was distributed by the Iranian Embassy in Algiers.

In 1990, Algeria was on the edge of a long season of death and fear: a civil war, with the specter of Islamist breakthrough (100,000 dead). People knew that something terrible was going to happen by counting the number of veils in the streets.

The first victim of the Islamist war in Algeria was a girl who refused the veil, Katia Bengana. She defended her choice even as the executioners pointed a gun at her head. In 1994, Algiers literally awoke to walls plastered with Islamist posters announcing the execution of unveiled women. Today, very few women dare to leave their house without a hijab or chador.

Look at the photographs of Kabul in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and you will see many unveiled women. Then came the Taliban and covered them. The emancipation in Morocco was sparked by Princess Lalla Aisha, the daughter of Sultan Mohamed Ben Youssef, who took the title of king when the country proclaimed independence. In April 1947, Lalla gave a speech in Tangiers and people listened astonished to that unveiled girl. In a few weeks, women throughout the country refused the scarf. Today Morocco is one of the freest countries in the Arab world.

Look at the photographs of Kabul in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and you will see many unveiled women. Then came the Taliban and covered them.

In Egypt, back in the 1950s, President Gamal Abdel Nasser took to television to mock the Muslim Brotherhood’s request to veil the women. His wife, Tahia, did not wear a scarf, even in official photographs. Today, according to the scholar Mona Abaza, 80% of Egyptian women are veiled. It was only in the 1990s that the strict Wahhabi version of Islam arrived in Egypt, through millions of Egyptians who went to work in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. Meanwhile, Islamist political movements gained ground. Then Egyptian women began sporting the veil.

In Iran, the traditional black veil covering Iranian women from head to ankles, invaded the country under Ayatollah Khomeini. He asserted that the chador is the “banner of the revolution” and imposed it on all the women.

Fifty years earlier, in 1926, Reza Shah had provided police protection to women who had chosen to refuse the veil. On January 7, 1936, the Shah ordered all the teachers, the wives of ministers and government officials “to appear in European clothes.” The Shah asked his wife and daughters to go unveiled in public. These and other Western reforms were supported by Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, who succeeded his father in September 1941, and instituted the ban on veiled women in public.

In Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk harangued female crowds, pushing them to set an example: taking off the veil meant hastening the necessary rapprochement between Turkey and Western civilization. For fifty years, Turkey refused the veil — until 1997, when the government headed by the Islamist Necmettin Erbakan abolished the ban on the veil in public places.

Turkey’s Erdogan used the veil to encourage the rampant Islamization of the society.

In contrast, Tunisia’s President, Habib Bourguiba, issued a circular banning the wearing of hijab in schools and public offices. He called the veil “odious rag,” and promoted his country as one of the most enlightened Arab nations.

It was not only the Muslim world that for a long time refused this symbol. Before the spread of radical Islam, the miniskirt, a symbol of Western culture, could also be seen all over the Middle East. There are many photographs to remind us of that long period: the unveiled stewardesses in skirts of the Afghan airline (what an irony that Air France today wants to veil them); the beauty contest that King Hussein of Jordan organized at Hotel Philadelphia; the Iraqi female football team; the Syrian female athlete Silvana Shaheen; the unveiled Libyan women marching in the streets; the female students at the Palestinian Birzeit University and the Egyptian girls on the beach (at that time, a burkini would have been rejected as a cage).

Then, in the mid-1980s, everything suddenly changed: Sharia law was implemented in many countries, women in the Middle East were placed in a portable prison, and in Europe they resumed the veil to reclaim their “identity,” which meant the refusal of assimilation to Western values and the Islamization of many European cities.

First veils were imposed on women, then Islamists began their jihad against the West.

First we betrayed these women by accepting their slavery as a “liberation,” then Air France started veiling women while in Iran as a form of “respect.” It is also revealing of the hypocrisy of most of Western feminists, who are always ready to denounce the “homophobic” Christians and “sexism” in the U.S., but keep silent about the sexual crimes of radical Islam. In the words of the feminist Rebecca Brink Vipond, “I won’t take the bait of a patronizing call for feminists to set aside their goals in America to address problems in Muslim theocracies.” These are the same feminists who abandoned Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the brave Dutch-Somali dissident from Islam, to her own defenses even after she found refuge in the U.S.: they prevented her from speaking at Brandeis University.

For how long we will maintain our ban on female genital mutilation (FGM)?

A study just published in the U.S. suggests that allowing some “milder” forms of female mutilation, which affect 200 million women in the world, is more “culturally sensitive” than a ban on the practice, and that a ritual “nick” of girls’ vaginas could prevent a more radical disfiguring practice. The proposal didn’t come from Tariq Ramadan or an Islamic court in Sudan, but from two American gynecologists, Kavita Shah Arora and Allan J. Jacobs, who published the study in one of the most important scientific journals, the Journal of Medical Ethics.

It is a testament to the depths that can be reached in what the French “new philosopher,” Pascal Bruckner, called “the tears of White men” with their masochism, cowardice and cynical relativism. Why not also justify the Islamic stoning of women who are said to commit adultery? It is as if we cannot capitulate quickly enough.

April 20, 2016 at 5:30 am | by Giulio Meotti | http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7834/islam-veiled-women
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Iran’s Cash for Murder: Why is the UK Silent?

• The Iranian distribution of cash to families of terrorists is an open incitement to an ongoing campaign of murder. It should by now have not only been condemned by the whole world, but have caused a colossal rethink among the P5+1 nations that signed the ill-judged accord with Iran.

• It is worth considering another recent Iranian development: the decision — allegedly by a conglomeration of media outlets, but hardly able to be separated from the government in a country whose press is more “government” than “free” — to increase the cash-bounty on the head of the British novelist Salman Rushdie.

• The British government has been strangely mute on the matter. The “normalised” relations with Iran were meant to lead to business opportunities for Britain and an increase in decent behavior from Tehran. Instead, the first major test of Iranian-British relations in several decades turns out to be precisely the same test that the late Ayatollah Khomeini drew up in 1989.

Last year, when America, Britain and four other countries (the P5+1) signed their joint plan of action with Iran there was no shortage of people who warned of the consequences. They warned that the deal would merely delay rather than prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed power. They warned of the increased grip the mullahs would have on the country they purport to govern. And in particular, those not caught up in the P5+1 jubilation warned of what Iran would do with the tens of billions of dollars’ cash bonanza it would receive once the deal was done. Would Iran use this windfall solely to improve the lives of its people? Or might it spend at least a portion of this cash doing what it has been doing for nearly four decades: that is, spreading terror?

There have already been some signs that the ill-judged deal is embedding Iran’s worst behaviour rather than elevating the regime to any higher behavioral level.

In recent days we have learned that Iran is already planning to use its windfall to encourage Palestinian terror against the State of Israel. Speaking at the end of last month, the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon used a press conference with a number of Palestinian factions to announce a new bounty-scheme to be sponsored by Iran. This scheme promises to reward financially those who carry out terror against Israel. The reward includes — according to the Iranian ambassador — a payment of $7,000 to the families of suicide bombers and other terrorists who die in the process of attacking any Israeli. And it also includes a promised payment of $30,000 to any terrorists’ families whose homes are destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces. The demolition of the home of a terrorist’s family house is one of the only disincentives that Israel or any other country could think of to dissuade people intent on suicide attacks. Now the Iranian government is trying to re-incentivise anyone who might wish to commit such an attack.

Speaking in Beirut, Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad Mathali, said, “Continuing Iran’s support for the oppressed Palestinian people, Iran announces the provision of financial aid to families of Palestinian martyrs who were killed in the ‘Jerusalem Intifada.'” He is apparently referring to the lone-wolf knife-attack type of terrorism that has killed and wounded dozens of Israelis in recent months. As such, the Iranian distribution of cash is an open incitement to an ongoing campaign of murder. It should by now have not only been condemned by the whole world, but have caused a colossal rethink among the P5+1 nations that signed the ill-judged accord with Iran. But of course, Israel is always put in a different league in the stakes of international terror. Target Israelis and the “justifications” fly, and explanations deceitfully fill the air of why terrorism against Israelis is not quite the same as other terrorism.

So it is worth considering another Iranian development of recent days. Which is the decision — allegedly by a conglomeration of media outlets, but hardly able to be separated from the government in a country whose press is more “government” than “free” — to increase the cash bounty on the head of British novelist Salman Rushdie. The announcement was that an additional $600,000 had been added to the existing cash reward for whoever kills the author of a novel, The Satanic Verses. It is a cash-incentive to murder that was first issued twenty-seven years ago by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Iran's then Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini put a cash bounty on the head of British novelist Salman Rushdie 27 years ago. Last month, a group of Iranian media outlets added $600,000 to the cash reward.

The additional bounty has been condemned by human rights activists and free speech defenders in the West such as Richard Dawkins and PEN.

But the British government has been strangely mute on the matter. It is strange because last summer when, against absolutely no public or political push-back in the UK, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond signed Britain up to the P5+1 agreement, there was only official rejoicing over what our signature would do. Such “normalised” relations with Iran were meant to lead to business opportunities for Britain and an increase in decent behavior from Tehran. Instead, the first major test of Iranian-British relations in several decades turns out to be precisely the same test that the late Ayatollah Khomeini drew up in 1989. Certainly there are politicians of the right and left, including those who have themselves been “incentivised” by Iran, who have predicted a new dawn in relations between the two countries. But does it really it look as though, on the matter of whether or not a British novelist can be sentenced to death by a cleric in Iran, we are going to have to pretend to agree to disagree?

Britain’s silence on this matter is a shameful position for the government of any civilised country to find itself in, just as the silence on the terror being spread against Israel is a shameful position for the civilised world to find itself in. But in these twin events we can already see the Iran deal’s early results. The deal has done nothing to civilise a barbarian regime. All it has done is to spread that regime’s barbarism around what used to be the civilised world.

March 10, 2016 | by Douglas Murray | Source: gatestoneinstitute.org "Iran's Cash for Murder: Why is the UK Silent?"
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Iran Infiltrates the West Bank

“The Patient Ones,” Al-Sabireen, are seeking Palestinians as a group to become an Iranian proxy in the region, and redoubling efforts to eliminate the “Zionist entity” and replace it with an Islamist empire.

Loosed from its sanction-based constrictions, Iran is now free to underwrite terror throughout the region. This is precisely what is happening in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Iran’s infiltration of the West Bank should serve as a red flag not only for Israel, but also for the U.S. and other Western powers. An Israeli pullout, leading to a Hamas takeover of the West Bank, has been a subject of concern. Now, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians are wondering if such a vacuum will provide an opening for Iran.

Emboldened by its nuclear deal with the world powers, Iran is already seeking to enfold in its embracing wings the Arab and Islamic region.

Iran’s capacity for intrusions having been starved by years of sanctions. Now, with the lifting of sanctions, Tehran’s appetite for encroachment has been newly whetted — and its bull’s-eye is the West Bank.

Iran has, in fact, been meddling for many years in the internal affairs of the greater region. It has been party to the civil wars in Yemen and Syria, and, through the Shiite Muslims living there, continues actively to undermine the stability of many Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The lives of both the Lebanese and the Palestinians are also subject to the ambitions of Iran, which fills the coffers of groups such as Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

Until recently, Iran held pride of place as Hamas’s primary patron in the Gaza Strip. It was thanks to Iran’s support that Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, held hostage nearly two million Palestinians living in the Strip. Moreover, this backing enabled Hamas to smuggle all manner of weapons into the Gaza Strip, including rockets and missiles that were aimed and fired at Israel.

But the honeymoon between Iran and Hamas ended a few years ago, when Hamas refused to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad — Tehran’s major ally in the Middle East — against the Syrian opposition. Since then, the Iranians, who have lost confidence in their erstwhile Hamas allies, have been searching among the Palestinians for more loyal friends. And they seem to have found them: Al-Sabireen (“the Patient Ones”).

Al-Sabireen, Iran’s new ally, first popped up in the Gaza Strip, where they recruited hundreds of Palestinians, many of them former members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Palestinian sources report that Al-Sabireen has also succeeded in enlisting many disgruntled Fatah activists who feel betrayed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its president, Mahmoud Abbas. This sense of betrayal is the fruit of the PA’s failure to pay salaries to its former loyalists. In addition, anti-Israel incitement and indoctrination in mosques, social media and public rhetoric has radicalized Fatah members and driven them into the open arms of Islamist groups.

The Iranian-backed Al-Sabireen is already a headache for Hamas. The two terror groups share a radical ideology and both seek to destroy Israel. Nonetheless, Al-Sabireen considers Hamas “soft” on Israel because it does not wage daily terror attacks against its citizens. The “Patient Ones” are seeking Palestinians as a group to become an Iranian proxy in the region.

Al-Sabireen's Gaza commander, Ahmed Sharif Al-Sarhi (left), was responsible for a series of shooting attacks on Israel before he was fatally shot in October 2015 by IDF snipers along the border with the Gaza Strip. The Iranians are also believed to have supplied their new terrorist group in the Gaza Strip with Grad and Fajr missiles (right) that are capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

Buoyed by the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions against Tehran, Al-Sabireen members are feeling optimistic. The group recently described these developments as a “victory” for all Muslims and proof of their “pride and strength.” Muslims should now unite, they said, in order to stand up to the “world’s arrogance and remove the Zionist entity from the land of Palestine.”

Indeed, Al-Sabireen appears to be redoubling its efforts to eliminate the “Zionist entity” and replace it with an Islamist empire. Toward that goal, the group is now seeking to extend its control beyond the Gaza Strip. The lifting of the sanctions against Iran coincided with reports that Al-Sabireen has infiltrated the West Bank, where it is working to establish terror cells to launch attacks against Israel.

According to Palestinian Authority security sources, Al-Sabireen has already located some West Bank Palestinians who were more than happy to join the group’s jihad against Jews and Israel.

PA security forces recently uncovered a terror cell belonging to Al-Sabireen in Bethlehem and arrested its five members. The suspects received money from the group’s members in the Gaza Strip in order to purchase weapons to attack Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank.

Al-Sabireen is not the only Iranian proxy whose eye is on the West Bank. Last month, in the West Bank city of Tulkarm, Israeli security forces uncovered and broke up a terrorist cell commanded by Hezbollah, which was planning suicide bombings and shooting attacks. The Palestinian members of the cell had been taught by Jawed Nasrallah, the son of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, how to carry out suicide bombings, assemble bomb vests, gather intelligence, and set up training camps.

All of this sounds eerily familiar. As it has spread its wings over Al-Sabireen and Hezbollah, Iran has done much the same with its other proxies such as the Houthis in Yemen and members of the Shiite communities in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, all the while fomenting instability and gaining bases of local power.

Loosed from its sanction-based constrictions, Iran is now free to underwrite terror throughout the region. This is precisely what is happening in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Iran’s infiltration of the West Bank should serve as a red flag not only for Israel, but also for the U.S. and other Western powers. At the moment, there is little to be done to combat Iran’s presence in the Gaza Strip. But Iran on Israel’s West Bank doorstep is a flag of a different color.

An Israeli pullout, leading to a Hamas takeover of the West Bank, has been a subject of concern. Now, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians are wondering if such a vacuum will provide an opening for Iran.

The future of the Middle East and Europe would be shockingly different if any Palestinian state were to fall into the hands of Iran’s Islamic extremists and their allies.

The Palestinians and all interested parties might remember that Al-Sabireen is — if nothing else — patient.

February 8, 2016 | by Khaled Abu Toameh | Source: gatestoneinstitute.org "Iran Infiltrates the West Bank"
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Syria: Checkered Past, Uncertain Future

World War Three WWIII feature

• Because almost every religious and/or ethnic community in Syria is divided, some siding with Assad and others fighting against him, it is difficult to establish clear sectarian demarcation lines. Syria today is a patchwork of emirates.

• The Islamic Republic of Iran needed Syria to complete the “Shiite Crescent” which it saw as its glacis and point of access to the Mediterranean. Iran is estimated to have spent something like $12 billion on its Syrian venture. By the time of this writing, Iran had also lost 143 ranking officers, captain and above, in combat in Syrian battlefields.

• Turkey’s “soft” Islamic leadership, the main source of support for anti-Assad forces, has always had ties to the global movement of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is likely that Turkey’s leaders see the Syrian imbroglio as an opportunity for them to “solve” the problem of Kurdish-Turkish secessionists based in Syrian territory since the 1980s.

• Turkey has become host to more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, posing a long-term humanitarian and security challenge. Ankara’s decision to goad large numbers of refugees into the European Union was an attempt at forcing the richer nations of the continent to share some of Turkey’s burden.

• The country most dramatically, and perhaps permanently, affected by the Syrian conflict is Lebanon. More than 1.8 million Syrian refugees have arrived, altering the country’s delicate demographic balance. If the new arrivals stay permanently, Lebanon would become another Arab Sunni majority state.

Next March will mark the fifth anniversary of what started as another chapter in the so-called “Arab Spring” morphed into a civil war, degenerated into a humanitarian catastrophe and, finally, led to the systemic collapse of Syria as a nation-state.

That sequence of events has had a profound impact on virtually the whole of the region known as the Greater Middle East, affecting many aspects of its component nations ranging from demography, ethno-sectarian composition and security. Since the purpose of this presentation is not to offer an historic account of the events, a brief reminder of some key aspects would suffice.

Five years ago, when the first demonstration took place in Deraa, in southern Syria, much of the so-called “Arab World” was in a state of high expectations in the wake of uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya that seemed to have ended decades of despotic rule by military-security organs of the state. Despite important differences, the Syrian state at the time fitted the description of the typical model of the Arab state as developed after the Second World War.

It was, therefore, not fanciful to think that it might respond to the first signs of popular discontent in the same ways as similar states had done elsewhere in the Arab World. One important difference was that at the time the uprising started, the Syrian state, arguably the most repressive in the modern Arab World, apart from Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, had embarked on a program of timid reform and liberalization. The new dictator, Bashar al-Assad, had tried to portray himself as a Western-educated reformer attracted to aspects of pluralism and a market economy. He had allowed the emergence of the first privately owned banks and privatized a number of state-owned companies. He had also allowed the private sector to take the lead in a number of new sectors, notably mobile phones and the Internet. To be sure, the new banks, the privatized companies and the new technology companies were almost all owned by members of the Assad clan and associates with the military-security apparatus keeping a close watch on all activities. Nevertheless, there was some consensus among Syria-watchers in the West that the young Assad was taking the first steps necessary towards reform. This impression was reinforced by the fact that the regime allowed the emergence of a number of Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) active on a range of issues, including human rights, albeit with security services keeping a close watch.

The Western powers tried to encourage what they saw as a slow-moving process of reform by offering Assad economic aid, largely though the European Union, and deference at the diplomatic level. Assad was invited to high-profile state visits, including to Britain and France, where he was given a front seat at the traditional 14thof July military parade in Paris.

At the time marchers were gathering in Deraa, the Obama administration was preparing the ground for Assad’s visit to Washington, with a number of high profile Democrats penning op-eds in praise of the Syrian leader as a reformer and moderate.

The then head of the Foreign Relations Committee in the US Senate, Senator John Kerry, had forged a personal friendship with Assad, whom he had met in a number of visits to Damascus, where their respective wives also developed a bond of sympathy.

Not long before the war in Syria began, Bashar Assad was hailed as a reformer and invited to high-profile state visits in the West. Above, Bashar Assad relaxing with Turkey's then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left), and with then Senator John Kerry (right).

The fact that Assad’s relations with the Bush administration had been stormy, to say the least, also helped Assad’s image with the Obama administration, which was building a foreign policy based on anti-Bush sentiments. (Bush had forced Assad to end Syria’s occupation of Lebanon; Assad had retaliated by allowing Islamist terrorists to pass through Syria to kill Americans in Iraq.) For three decades, Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad had been the only Arab leader to have had tête-à-tête meetings with all US Presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton. President George W. Bush had broken that tradition by not bestowing the same distinction on Bashar al-Assad.

In the end, the Assad regime repeated the experience of virtually all authoritarian regimes that have tried the recipe for “guided reform.”

An authoritarian regime is never more in danger than when it attempts liberalization. Also, the fact is that not all authoritarian regimes have efficient mechanisms for reform. In some cases, the choice is between crushing popular demands for reform and the risk of regime change. As Latin Americans know well, while dictablanda (light dictatorship) could be reformed, dictadura(hard dictatorship) has to be overthrown.

After a brief period in which, Hamlet-like, he wondered whether to kill or not to kill, Assad opted for the latter, sending his tanks to crush Deraa. The recipe had been tried in 1982 under his father, General Hafez al-Assad, in Hama and had worked, ensuring almost three decades of stability for the regime.

Like other Arab authoritarian regimes facing popular revolts, the Assad regime was, at least in part, a victim of its own relative success.

The decades of stability after Hama and Syria’s effective, though not formal, end of the state of war with Israel, had allowed the formation of a new urban middle class, an impressive quantitative growth of educational facilities, and the revival of traditional sectors of the economy, notably agriculture and handicraft industries, that escaped central government control.

Assad’s record in such domains as literacy, improved health services that helped raise life expectancy levels, and access to higher education, was significantly better than the average for the 22 members of the Arab League. A new urban middle class with Western-style political aspirations had emerged only to find itself constrained by a Third World-style political system. The problem was that this new middle class, politically inexperienced not to say immature, could not go beyond expressing its aspirations in a haphazard way. It had no political structure and leadership to translate those aspirations into a strategy for a radical re-shaping of Syrian society.

Thus, like other nations experiencing the Arab Spring, not to mention the European Revolutions of 1848, the Syrian uprising faced the prospect of defeat by the authoritarian state it wished to reform. The failure of the uprising to develop a coherent strategy created a vacuum that other forces soon tried to fill.

The first of those forces was the Muslim Brotherhood, the longest-standing adversary of the Assad regime and its Arab Socialist Baath (“Resurgence”) Party machine. Having remained as mere spectator in the early phases of uprising, the Brotherhood, its leadership then based in exile in Germany, reactivated its dormant cells and started promoting sectarian themes: Sunni Muslims against the Alawite minority to which Assad belongs.

Paradoxically, the regime indirectly encouraged the ascent of the Brotherhood for two reasons. First, it hoped that a dose of sectarianism would unify the Alawite minority, 10 per cent of the population, around the regime, while persuading other minorities, notably Christians, some 8 per cent of the population, and Ismailis and Druze, another two per cent, that they would have a better chance with a secular authoritarian regime rather than a militant Sunni Islamist one. To drive that point home, the regime started releasing large numbers of militant Sunni Islamists, among them many future leaders of the Islamic Sate Caliphate (or ISIS). Assad also worked on Kurds, around 10 per cent of the population, many of whom had had their Syrian nationality withdrawn in the 1960s. In a presidential decree, he promised to restore their nationality while hinting at major concessions on the issue of internal autonomy for ethnic minorities.

By encouraging the sectarian aspects of the conflict, Assad also hoped to win sympathy and support from Western democracies that, then as now, were concerned about the rise of militant Islam as a threat to their own security.

By playing the sectarian card, Assad also won greater support from the Shiite regime in the Islamic Republic in Tehran. Shiism does not recognize Alawites, better known in clerical circles as Nusayris, as Muslims, let alone Shiites.

Nevertheless, Tehran knew that while the Nusayri-dominated regime in Damascus posed no ideological-theological threat to it, the Muslim Brotherhood and its doctrine of pan-Islamism did. Tehran needed a friendly regime in Damascus to ensure continued access to neighboring Lebanon, where the Islamic Republic was the major foreign influence, thanks to its sponsorship of the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah.

Already enjoying a major presence in Iraq, the Islamic Republic needed Syria to complete the “Shiite Crescent” which it saw as its glacis and point of access to the Mediterranean.

Even then, the struggle for Syria did not become, and even today is not, a sectarian war, although, within it we have a war of the sectarians. Other forces are present in this complex conflict. Among them are dissidents of the Ba’ath, especially members of its leftist tendencies who had been suppressed under Assad senior. The remnants of Syria’s various Communist parties are also active, as are small but experienced Arab nationalist (Nasserist) groups.

Because almost every religious and/or ethnic community is divided, some siding with Assad and others fighting against him, it is difficult to establish clear sectarian demarcation lines. Even the Kurds are deeply divided among themselves with the PKK, the Turkish Kurdish party, present in Syria as exiles for decades, holding the balance of power.

A further complication is due to the involvement of a growing number of foreign powers, the latest being Russia.

We have already mentioned Iran’s involvement in trying to protect a regime with which it never succeeded in forging a genuine friendship. This was an alliance of necessity, not of choice, from the start, because Tehran needed Damascus to split the Arab World during the eight-year long Iran-Iraq war against a background of rivalry between Assad senior and Saddam Hussein for the leadership of the pan-Arab Baath.

Assad senior visited Tehran only once, for a few hours, and took extra care to impose strict limits on Iranian presence in Syria, while profiting from Iranian largesse in the form of cut-price oil, cash handouts and delivery of weapons. It was only under Bashar that Syria allowed Iran to open consulates outside Damascus and, eventually, set up 14 “Cultural Centers” to promote Shiite Islam. It was also under Bashar that Tehran and Damascus concluded a relatively limited “Defense Cooperation Agreement” that included joint staff conversations and exchanges of military intelligence.

Although more than a million Iranians visited Syria each year on a pilgrimage to the Tomb of Lady Zeynab near Damascus, almost no Syrians visited Iran, while trade between the two allies remained insignificant. In an interview given shortly before his death in combat near Aleppo, Iranian General Hussein Hamadani, recalled how senior Syrian army officers were “extremely unwilling” to let the Iranian military have a say in planning, let alone conducting, operations against anti-Assad rebels. The Syrian generals had a secular upbringing, loved their drinks, and regarded the Iranians as medieval fanatics clinging to anachronistic dreams.

By 2015, however, Iran was the principal supporter of the Assad regime. Iran is estimated to have spent something like $12 billion on its Syrian venture, including the payment of the salaries of government employees in areas still under Assad’s control. By the time of this writing, Iran had also lost 143 ranking officers, captain and above, in combat in Syrian battlefields. Sent to fight in Syria on orders from Tehran, the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah has played a crucial role in limiting Assad’s territorial losses, especially in the south close to the border with Lebanon and the mountains west of Damascus. Conservative estimates put the number of Hezbollah’s losses in 2014 and 2015 at over 800, a third higher than its losses in the war with Israel in 2006.

Iran’s “Supreme Guide,” Ali Khamenei; has gone on record as saying he would not allow regime change in Damascus; he is the only foreign leader to do so.

While Iran is the major force backing Assad, Turkey has emerged as the main source of support for anti-Assad forces. In the first decade of the new century, Turkey, its economy experiencing sustained growth, invested more than $20 billion in Syria, thus turning Aleppo and adjacent provinces into part of the Turkish industrial hinterland. While Turkey’s critics accuse it of harboring neo-Ottoman dreams of domination in the Middle East, it is more likely that Ankara leaders see the Syrian imbroglio as an opportunity for them to “solve” the problem of Kurdish-Turkish secessionists based in Syrian territory since the 1980s.

Turkey’s “soft” Islamic leadership has always had ties to the global movement of the Muslim Brotherhood and is determined to see its Syrian allies end up with a big say in the future of that country.

Turkey has paid more for its Syrian involvement than has Iran for its meddling. Unlike Iran, which has not admitted a single Syrian refugee, Turkey has become host to more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, posing a long-term humanitarian and security challenge at a time Ankara is grappling with economic recession and rising social tension.

Ankara’s decision to goad large numbers of refugees into the European Union was an attempt at forcing the richer nations of the continent to share some of Turkey’s burden. After four years of lobbying, Turkey has not succeeded in persuading its US ally to endorse the establishment of a “safe haven” and no-fly zone in Syria to persuade at least some Syrians to remain in their own homeland rather than become refugees in Turkey and other neighboring states.

However, the Iranian assumption that whatever happens in Syria will have no bearing on Iran’s own national security, while Turkey is in direct danger, may be misguided. The Islamic State Caliphate (ISIS) has already reached a tacit agreement not to go beyond a 40-kilometer line from Iran’s borders with Iraq, thereby indicating its desire to avoid a direct clash with Tehran at this point.

There is no guarantee that such self-restraint will remain in place in the context of failed states in Syria and parts of Iraq. Iranian authorities have publicly stated that some 80 Islamic State armed groups are present in Afghanistan and Pakistan close to Iranian borders. Iran’s security could also be threatened by a deeper involvement of various Kurdish communities, Syrian, Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian exiles in those countries, in a broader regional conflict. Iran’s total support for Assad may also land the Islamic Republic on the side of losers, when, and if, the remnant of the regime in Damascus collapses.

Russia, which has also entered the fray in support of Assad, may already be rethinking its rash decision to become involved in a conflict it does not quite understand and in a country where, a quarter of a century after the fall of the USSR, it has few reliable contacts.

Three events seem to have persuaded President Putin to soft-pedal his initial gang-ho posture. The first was the downing of the Russian passenger airliner by ISIS, a reminder of the vulnerability that Russia shares with all other states in the face of global terrorism. The second was the shooting down of a Russian fighter plane by Turkey, a reminder that in a situation as messy as the one in Syria, there is no way to guarantee that everything will remain under control all the time. The third event was the attack organized by a pro-Caliphate crowd on a Russian military base in Tajikistan, ostensibly to avenge the murder of a local girl by a Russian soldier.

Russia is home to an estimated 20 million Muslims, practicing or not, mostly of Sunni persuasion and at least theoretically sympathetic to the Syrian Sunni majority fighting Assad. Russia’s firm backing for Assad could provoke a terrorist response not only against Russian tourists, as we saw in Sharm al-Sheikh, but inside the federation itself.

The country most dramatically, and perhaps permanently, affected by the Syrian conflict is Lebanon. More than 1.8 million Syrian refugees have arrived, altering the country’s delicate demographic balance.

The current Lebanese caretaker government, with the Sunni Muslim Prime Minister holding immense executive powers, is keen to grant the new arrivals citizenship as fast as possible. If the new arrivals do stay permanently, Lebanon would become another Arab Sunni majority state with Christians, Shiites and Druze together accounting for no more than 45 per cent of the population.

Neighboring Jordan is also affected in a major way, this time in favor of the dominant Hashemite elite. The absorption of some 1.2 million Syrian refugees, most of them Sunni Muslims, and a further half a million Iraqi Sunni refugees would dilute the demographic mix in favor of non-Palestinian communities, notably Bedouin Arabs, Circassians, Druze, Turkic and Christian minorities, which account for no more than 35 per cent of the population.

The country most directly affected so far is Iraq, which has lost a good chunk of its territory, notably its third most populous city, Mosul, to the Islamic State caliphate centered at Raqqah in Syria. Baghdad’s leaders are concerned by the thought that Western powers may end up accepting a new partition of the Middle East that would include the emergence of a new Sunni-majority state composed of four Iraqi and five Syrian provinces.

The idea of talking to ISIS has already been raised in Britain by the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, with the suggestion that second-track channels be opened with the Caliphate to probe the possibility of peace talks and a compromise. Such a move would amount to a first step towards recognition of a separate new Sunni state.

Iraq is also concerned about the future of Kurdish areas taken back from the ISIS Caliphate by Kurdish fighters from Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Will the Kurds give back those lands to Baghdad once calm returns?

The idea of a new Sunni state on the Euphrates has promoted another idea, that of a state for minorities such as Alawites, Christians, Ismailis and Druze on the Mediterranean, extending from parts of Lebanon to the Syrian coastline along the mountains west of Damascus. That would roughly cover the portion of Syria that during their Mandate the French called “la Syrie utile” (useful Syria).

Russia, another state that has recently become involved in Syria, could secure the aeronaval facilities it seeks in the Mediterranean in the territory of that new state.

Needless to say, the Kurds, divided in communities present in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia and (former Soviet) Azerbaijan, are already affected by the Syrian conflict. The idea of a united Kurdish state has never been more present in the imagination of Kurds across the region. However, its realization has never seemed as remote as it is today. Various Kurdish communities and parties are engaged in a bitter struggle over control of the Kurdish narrative and agenda, at times even coming close to armed conflict. Conscious of the dangers involved, the Iraqi Kurdish leader Masood Barzani has been forced to hastily shelve his declared plan for declaring Kurdish independence in the three Iraqi provinces he controls in coalition with a number of other parties.

United in their fight against ISIS in their own neck of the woods, Kurds are deeply divided about what to do next; the danger of them using their guns — many supplied by the US — against each other cannot be ruled out.

Conflict in Syria also affects other Arab and Muslim countries, partly because of the magnet for jihadism created by the Caliphate and other Islamist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra (Victory Front). By the time of this writing, groups claiming some links with Syrian jihadists have carried out or attempted acts of terror in 21 Muslim-majority countries from Indonesia to Burkina Faso, passing by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and Libya. Such groups were also responsible for attacks or attempted attacks in France, Belgium, Germany, Britain and the United States.

The oil-rich Arab states of the Persian Gulf have been active in support of various anti-Assad groups. But they, too, are in danger of repeating their disastrous experience in Afghanistan when they helped jihadis fight the local Communists and their Soviet sponsors only to end up with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

In fact, for more than half a century, various jihadi leaders have dreamt of seizing control of at least one oil-rich Arab state capable of ensuring financial resources for their strategy of global conquest.

Later this month, a new international conference on Syria will open in Geneva. On the agenda is a plan for power-sharing, a new constitution and general elections under UN supervision within two years. Originally, the plan was developed by a New York-based think-tank in 2012 and conveyed to Assad through two prominent Lebanese political figures. Assad gave it a cautious welcome. The plan also enjoyed some support from the NSC in the Obama Administration. However, almost at the last minute, President Obama vetoed it, publicly stating that Assad must go.

If the plan had a slim chance in 2012, it has virtually none today. The reason is that no one is quite in charge of his own camp in Syria, assuming that one may discover easily recognizable camps capable of acting as distinct entities.

Syria had never been a distinct state entity until the French mandate, experimenting with at least five different versions of statehood, turned it into one after the First World War.

By 2011, when Deraa triggered the national uprising, Syria had become a proper nation-state with a sense of Syrianhood (in Arabic: Saryana) that had never before existed. This Saryanawas evident in the nation’s literature, cinema, television, journalism and, more importantly, the version of Arabic people spoke from one end of the country to another.

With the collapse of the Syrian state, now in tenuous control of some 40 per cent of the national territory, and the intensification of the conflict with all its inevitable sectarian undertones, that sense of “Saryana” has come under strong pressure, and, in areas under the control of the ISIS Caliphate, singled out as enemy number-one. Syria today is a patchwork of emirates, large and small, coexisting and/or fighting in the context of a war economy and emphasis on local, ethnic, and religious particularism. Many of these emirates have developed a system of coexistence that allows them to run the communities under their control and guide them in different directions. In most cases, the direction in question is towards what is marketed as “pure Muhammadan Islam” in many different forms. But in a few cases, much to the surprise of many, timid experiments with pluralism and democracy are also under way.

The challenge today is not to rescue, through diplomatic gimmicks, a Syria that has largely ceased to exist but to help create a new Syria. That, however, is a challenge that no one today appears willing, let alone able, to face.

February 10, 2016 | by Amir Taheri | http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7408/syria-past-future "Syria: Checkered Past, Uncertain Future
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Russia’s Trap: Luring Sunnis into War

World War Three WWIII feature

• Washington should think more than twice about allowing Turkey and Saudi Arabia, its Sunni allies, militarily to engage their Shiite enemies in Syria. Allowing Sunni supremacists into a deeper sectarian war is not a rational way to block Russian expansion in the eastern Mediterranean. And it certainly will not serve America’s interests.

• Turkey and Saudi Arabia are too weak militarily to damage Russia’s interests. It is a Russian trap — and precisely what the Russians are hoping their enemies will fall into.

After Russia’s increasingly bold military engagement in war-torn Syria in favor of President Bashar al-Assad and the Shiite bloc, the regional Sunni powers — Turkey and its ally, Saudi Arabia — have felt nervous and incapable of influencing the civil war in favor of the many Islamist groups fighting Assad’s forces.

Most recently, the Turks and Saudis, after weeks of negotiations, decided to flex their muscles and join forces to engage a higher-intensity war in the Syrian theater. This is dangerous for the West. It risks provoking further Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria, and sparking a NATO-Russia confrontation.

After Turkey, citing violation of its airspace, shot down a Russian Su-24 military jet on Nov. 24, Russia has used the incident as a pretext to reinforce its military deployments in Syria and bomb the “moderate Islamists.” Those are the Islamists who fight Assad’s forces and are supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Russian move included installing the advanced S-400 long-range air and anti-missile defense systems.

Fearing that the new player in the game could vitally damage their plans to install a Sunni regime in Damascus, Turkey and Saudi Arabia now say they are ready to challenge the bloc consisting of Assad’s forces, Russia, and Shiite militants from Iran and Lebanon.

As always, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke in a way that forcefully reminded Turkey-watchers of the well-known phrase: Turkey’s bark is worse than its bite. “No one,” he said on Feb. 9, “should forget how the Soviet forces, which were a mighty, super force during the Cold War and entered Afghanistan, then left Afghanistan in a servile situation. Those who entered Syria today will also leave Syria in a servile way.” In other words, Davutoglu was telling the Russians: Get out of Syria; we are coming in. The Russians did not even reply. They just kept on bombing.

Will direct military involvement in Syria by Turkey and Saudi Arabia spark a NATO-Russia confrontation? Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (then prime minister), meeting in Istanbul on December 3, 2012. Image source:kremlin.ru

Turkey keeps threatening to increase its military role in Syria. Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan pledged that Turkey will no longer be in a “defensive position” over maintaining its national security interests amid developments in Syria. “Can any team,” he said, “play defensively at all times but still win a match? … You can win nothing by playing defensively and you can lose whatever you have. There is a very dynamic situation in the region and one has to read this situation properly. One should end up withdrawn because of concerns and fears.”

Is NATO member Turkey going to war in order to fulfill its Sunni sectarian objectives? And are its Saudi allies joining in? If the Sunni allies are not bluffing, they are already giving signals of what may eventually turn into a new bloody chapter in the sectarian proxy war in Syria.

First, Saudi Arabia announced that it was sending fighter jets to the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, where U.S. and other allied aircraft have been hitting Islamic State strongholds inside Syria. Saudi military officials said that their warplanes would intensify aerial operations in Syria.

Second, and more worryingly, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey and Saudi Arabia could engage in ground operations inside Syria. He also said that the two countries had long been weighing a cross-border operation into Syria — with the pretext of fighting Islamic State, but in fact hoping to bolster the Sunni groups fighting against the Shiite bloc — but they have not yet made a decision.

In contrast, Saudi officials look more certain about a military intervention. A Saudi brigadier-general said that a joint Turkish-Saudi ground operation in Syria was being planned. He even said that Turkish and Saudi military experts would meet in the coming days to finalize “the details, the task force and the role to be played by each country.”

In Damascus, the Syrian regime said that any ground operation inside Syria’s sovereign borders would “amount to aggression that must be resisted.”

It should be alarming for the West if Turkey and Saudi Arabia, two important U.S. allies, have decided to fight a strange cocktail of enemies on Syrian territory, including Syrian forces, radical jihadists, various Shiite forces and, most critically, Russia — all in order to support “moderate” Islamists. That may be the opening of a worse disaster in Syria, possibly spanning over the next 10 to 15 years.

The new Sunni adventurism will likely force Iran to augment its military engagement in Syria. It will create new tensions between Turkey-Saudi Arabia and Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government. It may also spread and destabilize other Middle Eastern theaters, where the Sunni bloc, consisting of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, may have to engage in new proxy wars with the Shiite bloc plus Russia.

Washington should think more than twice about allowing its Sunni allies militarily to engage their Shiite enemies. This may be a war with no winners but plenty of casualties and collateral damage. Allowing Sunni supremacists into a deeper sectarian war is not a rational way to block Russian expansion in the eastern Mediterranean. And it certainly will not serve America’s interests.

Turkey with Saudi Arabia are too weak militarily to damage Russia’s interests. It is a Russian trap — and precisely what the Russians are hoping their enemies will fall into.

February 16, 2016 | by Burak Bekdil | gatestoneinstitute.org "Russia's Trap: Luring Sunnis into War"
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