The US President Donald Trump has announced that an ally of the United States, Turkey, may attack and invade another ally, the Kurds, who fought with the US against ISIS.
Kurds warn Turkish offensive will bring ‘chaos once again’
Several of Donald Trump’s most loyal Republican allies have turned on him over his decision to pull US troops out of north-eastern Syria. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the withdrawal would benefit Russia and Iran, while Senator Lindsey Graham – usually an outspoken defender of the president – warned that abandoning the Kurds in the region to allow a Turkish military offensive would be “a stain on America’s honor.”
War zone — Turkish forces are already massing near the border with north-eastern Syria as US troops withdraw. A spokesperson for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the area would soon “turn into a war zone.”
Civilian suffering — Trump’s rash decision opens the way for a vicious struggle between the Kurds and Turkey’s military, says Simon Tisdall, who warns of war crimes and fresh civilian suffering ahead. (The Guardian, 10/8)
PARIS POLICE KILLED BY ISLAMIST
The knife attacker who killed four of his colleagues at Paris police headquarters this week showed signs of radicalization and appears to have planned his assault, French authorities said on Saturday. France’s anti-terror prosecutor said several witnesses had said the attacker — a 45-year-old IT professional who had been working at the Intelligence Directorate of the Paris Police Headquarters since 2003 — had adhered to “a radical vision of Islam.” He had converted to the religion about 10 years ago. On Thursday he killed four of his colleagues in an attack that lasted less than 10 minutes in the centre of Paris near Notre-Dame cathedral before being shot dead by an armed officer.
The anti-terror prosecutor took over the investigation on Friday after police examined the attacker’s mobile phone and questioned his associates, including his wife. On the morning of the attack, said the prosecutor at a press conference, the perpetrator had exchanged 33 text messages with his wife and all of a religious nature, ending with the phrase “Allahu akbar [God is great]”. He sent the messages 30 minutes before he bought the knives used in the attack.
The prosecutor said that the attacker had probably had contacts with members of the Salafist movement, a radical form of Islam, adding that the investigations had revealed his “approval for certain atrocities committed in the name of that religion,” including the deadly assault in 2015 against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and that he had changed his manner of dress over the past few months.
According to French media the attacker’s wife has described how he had begun hearing voices the night before the attack. Over the past four years Paris has been hit by numerous large-scale and deadly attacks, including at the Bataclan theatre in November 2015 when extremists killed 130 people in the deadliest Islamist terror attack to strike France. (Paris police attacker showed signs of radicalization, David Keohane, Financial Times, 10/5).
Israel and Gulf states working on ‘historic pact’ to end conflict between them (Times of Israel * 5 Oct 2019)
Israel is reportedly negotiating with several Gulf states on a “non-aggression pact” between them as they face off against an increasingly emboldened Iran. The deal, which Channel 12 news described as potentially “historic,” aims to put an end to the state of conflict between the Gulf states and Israel, and reportedly provides for friendly relations, cooperation in a variety of fields, and no war or incitement against each other.
Advancing the Israeli initiative, Foreign Minister Israel Katz met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month with several foreign ministers from Arab Gulf states, Channel 12 news reported Saturday night. There was no immediate comment from the Foreign Ministry.. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-and-gulf-states-said-working-on-non-aggression-pact-as-they-face-iran/)
Former MidEast envoy: ‘anti-Iran alliance crumbling’
Times of Israel * 5 Oct 2019
Sensing US reluctance to respond forcefully to Iranian aggression in the region, and following the devastating September attack on its oil facilities blamed on Tehran, Saudi Arabia is quietly moving toward possible rapprochement with the Islamic Republic, according to multiple media reports. The New York Times reported Friday that the Trump administration’s failure to react militarily to the September 14 missile and drone attack on Saudi oil facilities, which jolted global oil prices and temporarily knocked out nearly 6 percent of the world’s daily crude production, had led Riyadh to recalculate.
“The worst outcome for the Saudis is to move to a confrontation with Iran expecting the US to support them and find out they won’t,” Philip Gordon, a former White House Middle East coordinator, told the Times. “This administration has shown it’s not really ready to take on Iran.” . . . Saudi Arabia gave a “positive” response Friday to a truce offer from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and called for its implementation. Saeed Shariati, a political analyst in Tehran, told the New York Times: “We have reached the peak of Saudi-Iran tensions and both sides have concluded this balance of fear is detrimental to their interests.” (https://www.timesofisrael.com/saudis-said-moving-toward-detente-with-iran-amid-us-reluctance-to-act-militarily/)
CHINESE LOANS TO FINANCE NEW ZIMBABWE CAPITAL IN POVERTY STRICKEN NATION
China has sunk her dragon claws deeper into Zimbabwe’s social, political and economic bone marrow by reportedly acquiring vast tracks of land in Mount Hampden, the new capital city of the country, thus effectively buying and owning it for a song, well before construction is even completed, Spotlight Zimbabwe, has been told.
Diplomatic and high level government sources at the ministry of lands, agriculture, and rural resettlement this week said Beijing had also struck a deal to provide the more than US$20 billion needed by government to develop the city, which is expected to house a new reserve bank, parliament building, international airport, government departments, presidential palace, shopping malls, five new opulent residential suburbs, and industrial sites.
Other features of the new city include a university, technology centre, schools, churches, hospitals, and official residences for the speaker of parliament and senate president. (Cynthia Goba, Zimbabwe News, 10/4)
ISRAELI MAJORITY WANT MORE SECULAR STATE
A new survey by Hiddush, an Israeli organization that supports religious pluralism, shows that 57 percent of the Jewish Israeli electorate does not want the incoming governing coalition to include or depend on parties that are Charedi Orthodox, commonly referred to as ultra-Orthodox in the United States. That 57 percent majority also wants the coalition to support religious freedom in Israel.
Thirty-four percent of Israeli Jews disagree: They want the Orthodox parties in the coalition and are happy with current government policy, which gives Orthodox Judaism significant influence over Israeli law. Charedi parties have been part of the Israeli government since 2015 and have sat in a series of coalitions throughout Israel’s history.
The survey’s finding is significant because some of the harshest rhetoric ahead of the election centered on religious issues. Secular parties accused Orthodox parties of wanting to establish a theocracy in Israel. Orthodox parties claimed that secular parties wanted to deprive Israel of its religious character. The only reason for the election last week — Israel’s second in a year — was an intractable conflict between Orthodox and secular parties after the previous election in April.
Nearly all of those who voted for Blue and White, the centrist party led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid opposing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, want a secular governing coalition. Most voters for Netanyahu’s Likud Party (56 percent) support a coalition with Orthodox parties, while 44 percent favor a secular coalition. (https://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/israelis-want-a-more-secular-ruling-coalition/)
IRAN MOVES NEARER TO ISRAEL
Israel is fighting off Iranian expansion across the Middle East, but danger for the Jewish state lurks near its own borders. Painstaking work by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and their loyal proxies has succeeded in laying the groundwork for a second Iranian front with Israel in the Golan Heights.
The first front is to Israel’s north in South Lebanon. The Golan, which Israel won from Syria in 1967, lies further east. Though Israel rules the skies, the Syrian land adjoining Israel’s border appears increasingly to belong to Iran. (Jonathan Spyer, Wall Street Journal, 10/2)
THREE MUSLIM LEADERS TO START TV NEWS CHANNEL
A leader of a country that has the death penalty for “blasphemy,” a leader who says he is a proud antisemite and a leader who threatens to invade foreign countries have united to push for a TV channel that will “fight Islamophobia.” Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan met to propose a “BBC type English language TV Channel” that will “highlight Muslim issues,” Imran Khan said.
Khan tweeted that he met with his two counterparts on September 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The three decided to “jointly start an English language channel dedicated to confronting the challenges posed by Islamophobia and setting the record strait on our great religion.” It’s unclear when he says “our” great religion if he means including other Muslim groups, such as Shi’ites or Ahmadis, both of which are routinely the victims of attacks in Pakistan. Khan again tweeted about his meeting on September 30, claiming that this channel would be a “BBC type.” (Seth Frantzmann, MEF, 10/1)
Israeli Security Cabinet to meet for first time in months, amid warnings of Iran threat. Security cabinet to convene Sunday as Liberman urges PM, Gantz to agree on unity, citing ‘national emergency’ and evoking Yom Kippur War; Islamic Jihad holds Gaza rally (Times of Israel * 5 Oct 2019)
Members of the top forum will meet at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem in the afternoon. In recent days Hebrew media has on several occasions quoted unnamed security officials as warning of the rising threat of an attack orchestrated by Iran. The Blue and White party’s Gabi Ashkenazi, newly appointed head of the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, also spoke Thursday of “many challenges in the security realm, some known to all and some that are only discussed behind closed doors.” Liberman noted in a Facebook post that the country on Sunday will mark 46 years since the Yom Kippur War, the most traumatic conflict in the nation’s history and one in which the country was caught off guard by its enemies, and said it was imperative to remember its legacy “of leadership and love of country.”
Meanwhile, the Islamic Jihad terror group on Saturday marked 32 years since its establishment, holding a rally in the Gaza Strip in which it showed off what it said was a new type of rocket. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/security-cabinet-to-meet-for-first-time-in-months-amid-warnings-of-iran-threat/)
CATHOLIC CHURCH TO ORDAIN MARIED PRIESTS?
VATICAN CITY— Pope Francis formally opened a meeting of bishops that will debate whether the Catholic Church should loosen its 1,000-year-old requirement of celibacy for priests.
The potentially momentous debate pits those who say ordaining married men could relieve the church’s clergy shortage against those who warn that doing so would undermine the distinctive character of the priesthood.
In his homily on Sunday, at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope didn’t refer specifically to the celibacy debate, but called generally for innovation in the church’s ministry: “If everything continues as it was, if we spend our days content that ‘this is the way things have always been done,’ then the gift vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo.” (“Pope opens debate on celibacy requirement for Catholic priests,” Francis X. Rocca, Wall Street Journal, 10/6)
SCANDINAVIAN CRIME BOOSTED BY IMMIGRANTS
- “Most immigrants are not criminals, but when the immigrant population is overrepresented in almost every crime category, then there is a problem that we must dare to talk about.” — Jon Helgheim, immigration policy spokesman for the Norwegian party Fremskrittspartiet (FrP).
- “In the more than thirty years that the surveys cover, one tendency is clearer than all others, namely that the proportion of the total amount of crimes committed by persons with a foreign background is steadily increasing….” — Det Goda Samhället (“The Good Society”), Invandring och brottslighet – ett trettioårsperspektiv (“Immigration and crime – a thirty-year perspective”). All statistics for the report were supplied by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.
- Unless Scandinavian political leaders begin actively to engage with the facts that these statistics describe, the problems are only going to become more intractable — to the point where they may be entirely unsolvable. (Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 10/4)
Why some Albertans want to separate from Canada by Robin Levinson-King, BBC News, Calgary, Alberta, 4 Oct 2019
Today, Albertans’ common concerns can be summarized with three words: representation, equalization and oil. Peter Downing, “a right-wing political muckraker” is hoping to spin this feeling of economic betrayal into a viable political movement, with the creation of Wexit Alberta.
The group is campaigning for the western province to separate from Canada and form its own nation (possibly alongside another western province). It’s an old idea that has gained momentum as relations between Alberta and the rest of the country have deteriorated.
Many Albertans blame Mr. Trudeau’s policies for this turn of events, and Mr. Cooper, the Albertan political scientist who is also a separatist, says he is certain that if Mr. Trudeau is re-elected, Albertan separation will soon follow. (Extracts from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49899113)
TO THE POINT
- “The China of Xi Jinping boasts land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers that provide a strategic deterrent against the United States. Beijing’s conventional forces on land, sea, and in air and space rival any on earth.” (Pat Buchanan, 10/4)
- Nasr Al-Din Mufreh, Sudan’s Minister of Religious Affairs, said in a September 7, 2019 interview on Al-Arabiya Network (Saudi Arabia) that Sudan is pluralistic in its views, values, cultures, ideologies, Islamic schools of thought, and religions, and he called upon Jewish minorities that may have left Sudan to reclaim their Sudanese citizenship and return to the country, which he pointed out is now ruled by secular law. On a same-day interview on Sudania 24 TV, Sudanese writer Haidar Al-Mukashafi said that the Jewish presence in Sudan dates back over a century, and he said that this may be evidenced by a rumor in the Sudanese city of Merow that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was born and raised in Sudan. Al-Mukashafi said that Jews and other minorities may return to Sudan if reforms take place and if there are incentives to do so. (MEMRI, 9/19)
- Fatemeh Azad, a 58-year-old Muslim woman who had converted to Christianity against her Muslim husband’s will and fled to Germany, was denied asylum there and deported back to Iran. There she was immediately arrested by authorities waiting for her plane to land . . . “When Fatemeh made her asylum appeal, her lawyers argued that apostasy (conversion away from Islam) is punishable by the death penalty in Iran.” This, however, was insufficient for Germany . . . — Persecution.org; July 25, 2019. (Gatestone 9/22)
- Prince Harry’s decision to take British newspapers to court may backfire on him. The British Royal family has always maintained a policy of “no comment” on newspaper articles about them. After all, if you deny some, you are, effectively, admitting that others are true. At the same time, royals have a symbiotic relationship with the press – they can’t live without all the publicity and the press can’t live without the royals, who provide lots of news that people are interested in. Suing the papers may end that relationship. If the papers back away from the royals, that could mean no publicity, life-blood of the monarchy.
- SWEDISH KING KICKS GRANDCHILDREN OUT OF ROYAL HOUSE . . . AND CHARLES WANTS THE SAME (headline in Daily Express, 10/7). “The five children lose the status of royal highness and are not expected to perform official duties.” (BBC)
- The death of a 19-year-old British man, killed on his motorbike by a lady driving on the wrong side of the road, is clear cut. It was an accident, but some appropriate punishment must be found. However, the motorist, a 42-year-old mother, fled to the US to avoid a court case. This was made possible by the fact that she has diplomatic immunity. We understand that there must be laws on diplomatic immunity, but for traffic accidents like this? She will hardly face the death penalty if she goes back for a trial. And the family needs some sort of closure after losing a son to an American lady who got confused and drove on the right (wrong) side of the road! (Diplomatic immunity even helps diplomats avoid traffic fines and cost the UK taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds per year.)
- The deaths of six elephants in Thailand was a tragic accident. A baby in the herd fell down a waterfall. The other five died trying to rescue her. This kind of behavior is typical of elephants who are very caring of each other.
- I will not be posting a blog next week.