The ancient theatre of Palmyra
This is from GOPUSA:
The historic city of Palmyra has fallen almost entirely under the control of Islamic State, after forces loyal to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, collapsed under a seven-day siege that has left the magnificent ruins there exposed to near-certain destruction by the terror group.
Not so much a “terror group” – terrifyingly savage though it is – as an Islamic army on the warpath for conquest, subjugation, destruction and loot.
The ancient city, once a Silk Road hub and one of the cultural centres of the ancient world that occupies mythological status in Syria, is home to some of the most beautiful and well-preserved ruins of antiquity, including the Temple of Bel, built in the first century.
Isis considers the preservation of such historical ruins a form of idolatry and has destroyed temples and historic artefacts, as well as ancient Assyrian sites in Nineveh in Iraq, after conquering the province in a lightning offensive last year.
The group has profited from looting historic treasures, in addition to scoring propaganda victories by the wanton destruction of archaeological sites, and Palmyra is likely to face a similar fate now. …
Experts say the group benefits from its destruction of cultural heritage because it shows the militants can act with impunity and exposes the impotence of the international community in the face of the provocations.
Valley of the Tombs: The Royal Necropolis of Ancient Thebes was located south-west of Palmyra in an area called the Valley of the Tombs. This image shows an underground burial chamber for three wealthy brothers
The Obama-Jarrett gang in the White House have not been able to stop the US Army from charging Bowe Bergdahl with desertion and misbehaving before the enemy.
Bergdahl could be sentenced to life in prison.
Mark Steyn writes:
Bowe Bergdahl is to be charged with desertion. This is not exactly a surprising development. As I said when he was released, Bergdahl is “a deserter at best and at worst enemy collaborator”. I incline to the latter view myself, but, be that as it may, there are innumerable instances throughout human history of soldiers who abandon their comrades and attempt to aid the enemy.
What makes this case unique is the behavior of Bergdahl’s commander-in-chief. …
Barack Obama decided to honor this man in the Rose Garden, and to embrace his parents. In front of the President and the world, Bergdahl’s father sent greetings to his son in Arabic and Pashto, and began with the words, “In the name of Allah the most gracious and most merciful …” …
When others objected, the White House dispatched the National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, to tell the American people that Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction”. She surely knew, as did the President, that that was a lie.
Given the background checks an ordinary law-abiding citizen requires these days merely to be permitted to be in the presence of the President, the White House must also have known that the man Obama embraced in the Rose Garden that day – Bergdahl’s father – was a Taliban sympathizer. …
The fact is Bowe Bergdahl walked out and he left America behind … and he did it, by the way, on the advice of his father. He wrote to his father saying, ‘I hate America, it’s a horror, I want to renounce my citizenship.’ And his father emails back, ‘Follow your conscience …’
I don’t think this point has been emphasized enough. … What’s the father’s excuse? He gets communications from his son indicating he’s about to crack. He knows that out there, beyond their vulnerable encampment, is a primitive tribal society where pretty much everyone would either ransom his boy or cut to the chase and saw his head off to make a blockbuster jihadist snuff video for the bazaars of Jalalabad. Surely any responsible parent would say, “Look, I know it can’t be easy for you out there. But there are people who wish to do you harm beyond the fence. Stick with it, talk to your platoon leader … You’re serving honorably in a worthy cause …” You don’t encourage him to take a one-way ticket into the badlands of Afghanistan.
And just to underline that: the justification for Bergdahl Snr’s wacky behavior – the Taliban beard, the invocations of Allah, the Arabic and Pushtu, the pledge that the death of every Afghan child will be avenged – the justification for all this is that, well, he’s also been under a lot of strain. He hasn’t seen his kid for half-a-decade. That could unhinge anyone. Give the guy a break …
But the point is he was pulling this strange stuff before his son was kidnapped.
Which makes that Rose Garden ceremony even more bizarre in its weird optics – the President of the United States embracing a Taliban sympathizer at the White House. There was no need to hold such an intimate photo-op. Yet Obama chose to do it. Why?
That’s still the most important question of l’affaire Bergdahl. Obama didn’t just trade five high-value Taliban leaders-cum-war criminals for one American deserter, but he chose to honor that deserter as an American hero. And, in so honoring him, dishonored all the comrades he deserted.
As for those five Taliban A-listers, as of June 1st they’ll be out of their nominal emirate-probation in Qatar and free to roam the world killing infidels once more. …
That’s the point to remember about this debacle: There is no deal. None. Washington gave away five war criminals who are already pledging to get back to killing – and the superpower got nothing in return. The deserter and his kooky dad are merely the cover for the fact that the United States entered into an end-of-war prisoner exchange without ending the war. …
Here’s the history of America’s longest war in two anti-American losers, John Walker Lindh and Bowe Bergdahl, confused young men with a gaping hole at the heart of where their sense of identity should be, stumbling through the Hindu Kush trying to “find themselves”.
In the fall of 2001, the first confused anti-American loser trying to find himself, John Walker Lindh was on the enemy’s side – and was tried, convicted and jailed for 20 years.
By the spring of 2014, the last confused anti-American loser of the Afghan war, Bowe Bergdahl, was on our side – and was honored by the President with a family photo-op in the Rose Garden and declared by the laughably misnamed “National Security Advisor” to have “served the United States with honor and distinction”.
To reprise my current line on “the leader of the free world”:
If he were working for the other side, what exactly would he be doing differently?
We cannot find any precedent in history for the leader of a nation betraying his country to its enemy.
The Independent reports:
At least 12 people have been killed in a shooting incident at the Paris office of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, police have said.
Witnesses and police officials said that two or three gunmen were involved, and that they were seen armed with AK47s and pump action shotguns. According to France’s AFP news agency, the men were also armed with at least one rocket launcher.
Four of France’s best-known satirical cartoonists, including the magazine’s editor, were among the dead. A further 12 people were injured, some gravely, in what is the worst terrorist incident in France for 40 years. …
As the gunmen left in a black car, they met with a police car which was part of the permanent protection given to the magazine after it was firebombed in 2011. The attackers got out of their vehicle and opened fire, killing two officers.
Paris has raised its terror alert to the highest setting in the aftermath of the attack, while the gunmen themselves are still reported to be on the run.
Video footage posted to social media showed armed gunmen running through the streets of Paris, shooting with automatic weapons and shouting “Allahu Akbar”. According to an eye-witness, one of the gunmen shouted: “The Prophet is avenged.”
Police confirmed to French media that the dead included the magazine’s editor and chief cartoonist, Stéphane Charbonnier, known as “Charb” and Jean Cabut or “Cabu”, a veteran of several French newspapers and reportedly the highest paid cartoonist in the world.
Charb had previously defended a controversial series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in 2012, saying: “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me. I don’t blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. I live under French law. I don’t live under Koranic law.”
A year earlier, the magazine’s offices were firebombed after a spoof issue featured a caricature of Mohammed on its cover. The edition “invited” Mohammed to be its guest editor.
According to one report, journalists were discussing a new Islam-themed edition on Wednesday when the gunmen burst in.
The latest post sent by the Charlie Hebdo Twitter account was a picture of the Isis militant group leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Our question is – how did they get away with it for so long?
On September 19, 2012, we posted this, under the heading Freedom tested in France:
A French magazine ridiculed the Prophet Mohammad on Wednesday by portraying him naked in cartoons, threatening to fuel the anger of Muslims around the world who are already incensed by a film depiction of him as a lecherous fool.
A video film made by a Californian Coptic Christian which mocks Muhammad and which the Obama administration is absurdly blaming for the Islamic world going up in flames and al-Qaeda murdering a US ambassador in Libya.
The drawings in satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo risked exacerbating a crisis that has seen the storming of U.S. and other Western embassies, the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and a deadly suicide bombing in Afghanistan.
Riot police were deployed to protect the magazine’s Paris offices after it hit the news stands with a cover showing an Orthodox Jew pushing the turbaned figure of Mohammad in a wheelchair.
On the inside pages, several caricatures of the Prophet showed him naked. One, entitled “Mohammad: a star is born”, depicted a bearded figure crouching over to display his buttocks and genitals.
The French government … had urged the weekly not to print the cartoons …
“We have the impression that it’s officially allowed for Charlie Hebdo to attack the Catholic far-right but we cannot poke fun at fundamental Islamists,” said editor Stephane Charbonnier, who drew the front-page cartoon.
“It shows the climate – everyone is driven by fear, and that is exactly what this small handful of extremists who do not represent anyone want – to make everyone afraid, to shut us all in a cave,” he told Reuters.
We like what Charlie Hebdo have done (though we don’t think the cartoons are great). We applaud their courage. But – only a “small handful of extremists”? Are most of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world serenely tolerant of criticism?
One cartoon, in reference to the scandal over a French magazine’s decision to publish topless photos of the wife of Britain’s Prince William, showed a topless, bearded character with the caption: “Riots in Arab countries after photos of Mrs. Mohammad are published.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius criticized the magazine’s move as a provocation.
So much for the Liberté part of the French national motto, Liberté, égalité, fraternité!
“We saw what happened last week in Libya and in other countries such as Afghanistan,” Fabius told a regular government news conference. “We have to call on all to behave responsibly.”
Except Muslims. They can behave as irresponsibly as they like. Because the French government is afraid of them.
Charlie Hebdo has a long reputation for being provocative. Its Paris offices were firebombed last November after it published a mocking caricature of Mohammad, and Charbonnier has been under police guard ever since. …
The French Muslim Council, the main body representing Muslims in France, accused Charlie Hebdo of firing up anti-Muslim sentiment at a sensitive time.
“The CFCM is profoundly worried by this irresponsible act, which in such a fraught climate risks further exacerbating tensions and sparking damaging reactions,” it said.
It is the expression of opinion that must be stopped, you see, not the “damaging reactions”.
Well, that may not be entirely fair:
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the authorities had rejected a request to hold a march against the Mohammad film in Paris.
We wait to see what will happen to the Charlie Hebdo offices, and to Stephane Charbonnier. We hope for his safety. But the savage war of Islam against the rest of us will go on until the West uses all its weapons, of law, argument, wealth, political and military power, and mockery to crush the murderous Muslim hordes storming out of the Dark Ages.
We were foolish to hope for the safety of anyone in Europe who dares to defy Islam. We know better now.
From our Facebook page:
When the President of the United States, the Attorney General, and the Mayor of New York all line up with the criminals of Ferguson and New York against the police, what should we expect but the murder of policemen?
In Brooklyn, an “anti-police activist” walked up to a police car and shot two policemen who were sitting inside it. One was pronounced dead at the scene while the second died shortly after at a hospital. The gunman ran to a nearby subway station, pursued by other policemen, where he shot himself. Many, many liberals celebrated on Twitter. The murderer has been identified as Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, a Muslim, and a gang member from Baltimore. On Instagram, he announced his intention to murder two policemen in retaliation for the death of Eric Garner. Many of the anti-police demonstrations have explicitly called for policemen to be murdered. Marchers in New York last week chanted, “What do we want? Dead cops!” Today they got them.
(Note: We took most of our information from a PowerLine post found here. In our one-paragraph Facebook summaries of articles, we use mostly, but not entirely, the original wording.)
A “slave market” in London
[A great idea, well executed. Only, contrary to a statement that appears at the opening of the video, ISIS does represent Islam more than any other entity in the world at present.]
This story, by Damien Sharkov, comes from Newsweek:
Kurdish protesters took to the streets of London to draw attention to the slave-trade tactics of Islamic State, a group more commonly known as ISIS, in a mock auction of captured women from territories in Iraq and Syria yesterday evening.
The protest led a group of chained veiled women and encouraged passers by to bid for them in front of the Houses of Parliament, Leicester Square and Downing Street.
“This is what Shariah means,” the speaker for the mock ISIS group belted from a megaphone at the first of three protests.
“This happens every day in Iraq and Syria. We are bringing it to you,” he yelled while leading a group of four chained and veiled women in front of Westminster Square, followed by 20 protesters chanting “ISIS, ISIS, terrorists!”
Once the group reached the entrance to Westminster Hall the leader proceeded in encouraging passersby to bid on the captured women “to serve them, for their pleasure.”
The speaker for the “ISIS” auctioneers boasted he had “Christian women, Muslim women, women from Kobane, from Raqqah, from Mosul,” before beginning the bidding with 14-year-old Yasmin whom bidders were assured was “pure” and “a virgin.”
Each of the women was “sold” for several hundred dollars before the protesters cleared and went home.
One of the protest’s organizers … [said that] the stunt was intended to provoke an “aggravated reaction,” highlighting the “crimes ISIS are committing in Iraq and Syria.”
“What we wanted to show is that this could take place in London,” he said.
“This is not a myth. This [ISIS-type terrorism] is already happening on our streets,” he added, alluding to the murder of Lee Rigby on a London street last year at the hands of Islamist militants. …
“The unfortunate truth is ISIS are already implementing their terror among us. We were trying to wake up the British public to the danger ISIS pose on humanity.”
How did “Londonistan” react?
The protesters encountered some hostility on the way with one of the three mock auctions being interrupted by a complaint that the protest “had put people off their drinks.”
Police had to stop some passersby from confronting protesters. …
Having suspicious minds, and being quite well-informed, we suspect the passersby who would have liked to object were mainly Muslim.
No arrests were made, and there was no violence on the streets.
But elsewhere in Europe and in Turkey, Kurds and ISIS-supporting Muslims battled fiercely. The Middle East war is spreading.
This is from the Independent:
Dozens were injured in Germany after clashes erupted between Kurdish protesters and hard-line Islamists [namely, Salafist Muslims] overnight. Police say 14 were injured and 22 arrested in violent scuffles in the northern city of Hamburg after hundreds of Kurds staged a demonstration against ISIS, also known as the Islamic State. Similar protests were held across Europe yesterday by Kurds attempting to draw attention to ISIS’s siege of the Kurdish town of Kobani in northern Syria.
These pictures of the violent clashes in Turkey are from the MailOnline:
And this picture is from Hamburg:
For many more dramatic pictures of Kurdish-Muslim violence in Turkey and Hamburg go here.
There were also demonstrations by Kurds in Belgium, France, Switzerland and Denmark. In France – in Marseilles – the Kurdish protestors were violent, hurling Molotov cocktails at the Turkish consulate.
Despite all President Obama’s efforts to prevent it, the US is winning the oil game. Because no human force is stronger than the market.
The knuckleheads of the Left love to hurl the accusation in the faces of conservatives that the presidents Bush “only went to war against Iraq because of oil”. (As if they themselves would never think of driving a gas-fueled car – or would be perfectly content not to.)
The accusation is not true. But perhaps the US should have gone to war against one or more Middle Eastern powers “because of oil”.
Oil is a very good reason to go to war. Would have been, when the Saudis had OPEC hyping the oil price in 1973. The results for the US and Western Europe were dire.
This is from Wikipedia:
In October 1973, OPEC declared an oil embargo in response to the United States’ and Western Europe’s support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The result was a rise in oil prices from $3 per barrel to $12 and the commencement of gas rationing. Other factors in the rise in gasoline prices included a market and consumer panic reaction, the peak of oil production in the United States around 1970 and the devaluation of the U.S. dollar. U.S. gas stations put a limit on the amount of gasoline that could be dispensed, closed on Sundays, and limited the days gasoline could be purchased based on license plates.
Even after the embargo concluded, prices continued to rise. The Oil Embargo of 1973 had a lasting effect on the United States. The Federal government got involved first with President Richard Nixon recommending citizens reduce their speed for the sake of conservation, and later Congress issuing a 55 mph limit at the end of 1973. Daylight savings time was extended year round to reduce electrical use in the American home. Smaller, more fuel efficient cars were manufactured. Nixon also formed the Energy Department as a cabinet office. People were asked to decrease their thermostats to 65 degrees and factories changed their main energy supply to coal.
One of the most lasting effects of the 1973 oil embargo was a global economic recession. Unemployment rose to the highest percentage on record while inflation also spiked. Consumer interest in large gas guzzling vehicles fell and production dropped. Although the embargo only lasted a year, during that time oil prices had quadrupled and OPEC nations discovered that their oil could be used as both a political and economic weapon against other nations.
War then would have been a far better answer to the Saudis than meek acceptance buttered with sycophancy.
War and drilling. Drilling wherever there was oil in America and off-shore. Including Alaska. Ignoring the Environmentalists with their philosophy of impoverishment.
Now all is changing. The US is becoming the biggest oil producer in the world. The Saudis and the other Middle Eastern tyrannies have no resource other than the oil discovered under their ground and developed into riches for them, by the infidel. And now they are losing it.
They, and all the evil powers that have wielded oil as a weapon, are taking desperate measures. Which will fail.
This is from Investor’s Business Daily:
With Saudi Arabia ramping up oil production, prices are tumbling, and the world’s petrotyrants — Iran, Russia and Venezuela — are taking a hit. Seems the old high-price, low-production tactic isn’t foolproof.
The Saudis don’t seem to be interested in budging. As prices fell to $83 a barrel for November-delivery crude, they’ve ramped up production even as others call on them to stop.
The first call came from fiscal shambles Venezuela, for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC] for a production hike. They were coldly rebuffed.
And on Tuesday, Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal — a Saudi entrepreneur with a lot of non-oil money who sometimes plays gadfly to the regime — warned that the kingdom would fail to balance its own budget if oil prices went below $80. But he, too, was rebuffed.
It all may be because Saudi Arabia has a strategic need to check Iran over its nuclear program and financing of Islamic State terror and to discipline Russia for its support for the Assad regime in Syria.
It’s also almost certainly a response to the great shale revolution in the U.S., which has slashed U.S. dependency on oil exports to 20% from 60% a decade ago.
A Chilean-based entrepreneur told IBD last year that the greatest fear of Saudi Arabia’s king was America’s shale revolution, which was cutting into Saudi’s role as the world’s swing producer of oil.
However it spills out, the Saudi move to raise production may be the most dramatic move to shake events since President Reagan forced the bankruptcy of the Soviet empire by … asking the Saudis to raise production, which they did.
With this most recent move, the petrotyranny model of using oil as a weapon against smaller neighbors and the U.S. is effectively dead. Over the past decade, all of the states that have staked their futures on the power of oil have effectively burned their bridges to other models for building their economies.
When Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez took over in 1998, he scrapped that nation’s high-production, low-price, high-market-share strategy. In its place came a “model” based on high prices for consumers, low output and the expropriation of state oil company profits to pay for bigger government and an expansive welfare state, leaving the company without investment.
Foreign oil properties were also expropriated, including Exxon Mobil’s in 2007. It provided a short-term boost but left the country one of the most unattractive in the world for foreign investment and capital.
Russia, meanwhile, adopted a somewhat similar strategy after its 1998 crash. It focused on becoming a petropower, much to the detriment of the rest of the economy.
Today, more than three-quarters of Russia’s economy is oil-based, leaving it dependent on high oil prices with no balance from other sectors and wasting its most valuable asset: a well-educated workforce.
Instead of diversifying, Russia used energy as a weapon, repeatedly cutting off Ukraine’s natural gas supplies since 2009 in a bid to force its neighbor to toe the Moscow line, as well as to “Finlandize” its eastern and central European neighbors into fearing more energy cutoffs.
Then there’s Iran, whose illegal nuclear program has enjoyed soggy indifference in Europe based on the region’s dependence on Iranian oil.
These three troublemakers share one thing in common: a strategy of high oil prices and low production, plus a willingness to interfere with markets to make them into power games.
But as it turns out, that strategy was another kind of dependency. And the Saudis, egged on by the shale revolution, have just ended it.
Market manipulation is peculiar. In 1998, the Saudis tried to cut output to keep crude prices from falling further. It didn’t work. From that, they learned a valuable right lesson: Nothing is bigger than market forces.
Now, the world’s remaining petrotyrants are about to be schooled as well.
Time for a little quiet celebration. And it doesn’t have to be only a little or very quiet.
Let us crow.
Secretary of State Kerry says 40 countries will be in coalition with the US in its war with IS/ISIS/ISIL.
Which states would those be?
According to CNN:
On Sunday, Kerry said countries in the Middle East are willing to help with strikes against ISIS, but … “it’s not appropriate to start announcing which nations will participate and what each will do.”
Because you see, fact is, apart from the US, nobody’s doin’ nothin’ nohow – except make a few promises with their fingers crossed.
Australia says it will send up to eight combat aircraft, one airborne early warning and control aircraft, and one multirole tanker and transport aircraft. In case somebody over there knows how to use them. No troops.
Great Britain says it would seriously consider helping to arm Kurdish forces if Kurdish forces were to fight ISIS beyond their own borders.
Canada says it already sent sent some ammunition to somebody and will maybe send some advisers to somewhere in Iraq.
France declares that it has contributed 18,000 rounds of .50-caliber ammunition. And, what is more, it has performed one or two humanitarian aid drops to refugees somewhere in the region. And more still – it promises to do some bombing perhaps at some time. Somewhere.
The Netherlands says it will definitely try to stop would-be fighters leaving to go and help ISIS.
Turkey says, word of honor, it will cut the flow of money to ISIS and… and … has already begun to think about how to stop foreigners crossing its territory to join ISIS.
Jordan says it will provide intelligence.
Saudi Arabia says it will train fighters against ISIS if any present themselves for such training. Also, along with Qatar and Egypt, it will spread anti-ISIS messages and encourage imams to say really nasty things against the group.
Iran has said it will do absolutely nothing to help the US which, it says, is only fighting ISIS because it wants to dominate the region. (At present Iran is dominating much of the region.)
Iraqi Kurdistan is willing to send their Peshmerga forces to fight beyond their borders if and when there’s a comprehensive international strategy put in place – which there is not.
The remaining 30 – unnamed – participating countries are keeping information about their contributions each to itself. They’re not even telling Kerry. Why be so nosy? They deserve a little privacy, don’t they? It’s every state’s right.
Is Putin testing Obama’s “flexibility“?
In Obamaspeak, “flexible” doesn’t mean compromising a little, bending to some extent; it means being willing to act in an unprincipled way, even perhaps to the extent of acting against one’s country’s interests.
Fox News reports:
An F-22 fighter jet
Two U.S. F-22 fighter jets intercepted six Russian military airplanes that were flying near Alaska, military officials said Friday.
Lt. Col. Michael Jazdyk, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, said the jets intercepted the planes about 55 nautical miles from the Alaskan coast at about 7 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday.
Tensions are high between the United States and Russia as the two countries are increasingly at odds over Ukraine, where Russian-backed insurgents have been fighting for control of parts of the country.
The Russian planes were identified as two IL-78 refueling tankers, two Mig-31 fighter jets and two Bear long-range bombers. They looped south and returned to their base in Russia after the U.S. jets were scrambled.
At about 1:30 a.m. Thursday, two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets intercepted two of the long-range Russian Bear bombers about 40 nautical miles off the Canadian coastline in the Beaufort Sea.
In both cases, the Russian planes entered the Air Defense Identification Zone, which extends about 200 miles from the coastline. They did not enter sovereign airspace of the United States or Canada.
Jazdyk said the fighter jets were scrambled “basically to let those aircraft know that we see them, and in case of a threat, to let them know we are there to protect our sovereign airspace.”
In the past five years, jets under NORAD’s command have intercepted more than 50 Russian bombers approaching North American airspace.
NORAD is a binational American and Canadian command responsible for air defense in North America.
What is Putin’s intention? Why does he think he can do this?
We found answers to those question in this article by J. E. Dyer at Liberty Unyielding. Commander Jennifer Dyer is a retired US Naval intelligence officer who served for 21 years. Her articles deal with important military issues and are invariably well-informed and interesting.
Russian bombers proliferate today in the air space off North America and Europe, operating at an activity level not seen since the very height of the Cold War. This isn’t something to shrug off.
Although it’s certainly attributable to Vladimir Putin’s current, proximate geopolitical intentions – to defy NATO, press his aggression against Ukraine, and intimidate the Baltic Republics – it’s also an expression of strategic posture harking back to the conventions of the Cold War.
Bringing out the Bears is a strategic signal. In Europe, the Russians could use Tu-160 Blackjacks and Tu-22M Backfire bombers to fly aggressive routes around the northern perimeter. The Blackjacks (sometimes called the “B-1-ski”) are understood to have a strategic role; the shorter-range Backfires, as dedicated bombers rather than multi-role aircraft, send a similarly aggressive signal.
But the Tu-95 Bear H bombers have for decades been the backbone of the airborne leg of Russia’s strategic “triad”: ICBMs, ballistic-missile submarines, and nuclear-armed bombers. When Russia deploys Bear Hs, the strategic signal is unmistakable.
Americans watching the drama unfold have a visceral sense of this, in part because the media routinely refer to the Bear Hs as “nuclear bombers.” The Bear Hs are more properly called long-range bombers or strategic bombers; they may or may not be carrying missiles with nuclear warheads. The aircraft are capable of carrying AS-15 “Kent” long-range cruise missiles, which were designed to be fitted with nuclear warheads, but they won’t necessarily have them mounted on a given flight. …
The post-Cold War status quo involved three fundamental features: a mutual (U.S. and Russia) stand-down of constantly-ready nuclear forces, which occurred in the early 1990s… ; verifiable adherence by both sides to the basic elements of our arms control agreements; and continuity in the strategic postures of both parties.
The last feature was the first one to be decisively breached … Through a series of actions from 2009 to 2013, the Obama administration overturned the premise on which, for the preceding 25 years, the U.S. had negotiated for arms control and proposed to guarantee global stability.
In 1983, Reagan established missile defense, and not mutual assured destruction, as the basis for U.S. security and global stability. … Although Obama has not publicly repudiated the U.S. missile defense posture, he has dismantled it with a series of policy actions. All but a few thousand Americans, at most, are unaware of this arcane reality – but Russian decision-makers perceive it quite clearly. …
The Russians for their own reasons have long disputed America’s missile defense-based policy. Obama’s unilateral decision to give it up has cut the whole strategic stability situation adrift, and the Russians in 2014 are happy to take advantage of that.
Regarding the other two features of the post-Cold War status quo, Russia has been engaging in violations of both START and the INF treaty for some time now; the Bush and Clinton administrations made an issue of that, but the Obama administration has not given it importance, and violations by Moscow have become more egregious.
The US and Russia signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in 1910. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed by the US and the Soviet Union way back in 1987.
The weak performance of this one feature would be more tolerable if the other two were in line. But in addition to the slow, bureaucratic collapse of the U.S. posture under Obama, Russia has since 2010 opened the door to breaching the third feature: the stand-down of ready nuclear forces. In 2010, Russia modified her national security strategy to permit preemptive use of nuclear weapons – a change to a policy that had stood since before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
Then, about three weeks ago, Russia publicly floated a threat through the common method of quoting a retired general in the state-run media. This general, Yuri Yakubov (formerly the commander of Russia’s Far Eastern military district and a senior staffer in the ministry of defense), had an ominous message. Interfax quotes Retired Army General Yuri Yakubov as saying:
[The national military strategy] for the country should in the first place clearly identify the potential enemy of Russia, which is not in the military doctrine of 2010. In my view, our main enemy is the United States and the North Atlantic bloc [NATO].
In particular, in my opinion, you need to carefully consider the forms and methods of the operation of Aerospace Defence, in close cooperation with strategic nuclear deterrence forces, the Strategic Missile Forces, strategic aviation and the Navy. Thus it is necessary to study the conditions under which Russia could use the Russian strategic nuclear forces (SNF) pre-emptively.
The preemptive use of nuclear weapons implies readiness to employ them quickly, against preselected targets. …
Russia would feel much more constrained about nuclear tough talk if the United States were setting and enforcing boundaries. But we’re not. It’s essential to understand this.
Putin has his current, proximate reasons for wanting to convey threats to the U.S. and NATO – reasons having to do with perceived Russian interests in South Asia, the Far East, and the Eastern Mediterranean as much as with Eastern Europe. But Russia wouldn’t be going high order with the overt strategic signals – the aggressive Bear flights – if Putin thought he was going to get real pushback from Washington …
Putin is pulling a really big weapon, with the accelerating implications that he feels free to break away from the post-Cold War strategic status quo. This pattern, if nothing else, should be a clue to his seriousness.
But there are other gathering clues, such as the reports in just the last couple of weeks about frankly threatening comments he has made to European leaders. …
Putin made [the following] statement during a conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko, who in turn, relayed his words to European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso, during the latter’s visit to Kyiv last Friday (12 September), in which Poroshenko briefed the EU chief on threats.
If I want, Russian troops in two days could not only be in Kyiv, but also Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Bucharest.
Putin is burning bridges by doing this. He is clearly not trying to hold out hope of a restored status quo.
And that in turn means that the “push” has started: the push from a former stakeholder that will cause the status quo to fully collapse.
An F-22 from the 302d Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf AFB, AK intercepts a Russian Tu-95MS Bear H. (USAF image)
President Sisi of Egypt has offered to cede half of Sinai to be joined with Gaza to create an independent state of Palestine. The importance of this development cannot be overestimated.
Caroline Glick reports and comments:
Something extraordinary has happened.
On August 31, PLO chief and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told an audience of Fatah members that Egypt had offered to give the PA some 1,600 kilometers of land in Sinai adjacent to Gaza, thus quintupling the size of the Gaza Strip. Egypt even offered to allow all the so-called “Palestinian refugees” to settle in the expanded Gaza Strip.
Then Abbas told his Fatah followers that he rejected the Egyptian offer.
On Monday Army Radio substantiated Abbas’s claim.
According to Army Radio, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi proposed that the Palestinians establish their state in the expanded Gaza Strip and accept limited autonomy over parts of Judea and Samaria.
In exchange for this state, the Palestinians would give up their demand that Israel shrink into the indefensible 1949 armistice lines, surrendering Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Sisi argued that the land Egypt is offering in Sinai would more than compensate for the territory that Abbas would concede.
In his speech to Fatah members, Abbas said, “They [the Egyptians] are prepared to receive all the refugees, [and are saying] ‘Let’s end the refugee story’.” “But,” he insisted, “It’s illogical for the problem to be solved at Egypt’s expense. We won’t have it.”
In other words, Sisi offered Abbas a way to end the Palestinians’ suffering and grant them political independence. And Abbas said, “No, forget statehood. Let them suffer.”
Generations of Israeli leaders and strategists have insisted that Israel does not have the ability to satisfy the Palestinian demands by itself without signing its own death warrant. To satisfy the Palestinian demand for statehood, Israel’s neighbors in Egypt and Jordan would have to get involved.
Until Sisi made his proposal, no Arab leader ever seriously considered actually doing what must be done. …
“What must be done” being an Arab solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
Very recently there have been huge shifts in the relations of Middle Eastern states with each other and with Israel. The amazing thing, that could not have been predicted or even imagined two years ago, is that some Arab states now see Israel as an essential ally.
So what is driving Sisi? How do we account for this dramatic shift? In offering the Palestinians a large swathe of the Sinai, Sisi is not acting out of altruism. He is acting out of necessity. From his perspective, and from the perspective of his non-jihadist Sunni allies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinian campaign against Israel is dangerous.
Facing the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, and the rise of jihadist forces from al-Qaida to the Islamic State to the Muslim Brotherhood, the non-jihadist Sunnis no longer believe that the prolongation of the Palestinian jihad against Israel is in their interest.
Egypt and Jordan have already experienced the spillover of the Palestinian jihad. Hamas has carried out attacks in Egypt. The Palestinian jihad nearly destroyed Lebanon and Jordan. Egypt and Saudi Arabia now view Israel as a vital ally in their war against the Sunni jihadists and their struggle against Iran and its hegemonic ambitions. They recognize that Israeli action against Sunni and Shi’ite jihadists in Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran serves the interests of non-jihadi Sunnis. And, especially after the recent conflict in Gaza, they realize that the incessant Palestinian campaign against Israel ultimately strengthens the jihadist enemies of Egypt and Saudi Arabia like Hamas.
Apparently, Sisi’s offer to Abbas is an attempt to help the Palestinian people and take the Palestinian issue out of the hands of Palestinian jihadists.
Unfortunately for Sisi and his fellow non-jihadist Sunnis, Abbas is having none of this.
In rejecting Sisi’s offer Abbas stood true to his own record, to the legacies of every Palestinian leader since Nazi agent [the “Grand Mufti”] Haj Amin el-Husseini, and to the declared strategic goal of his own Fatah party and his coalition partners in Hamas.
Since Husseini invented the Palestinians in the late 1920s, their leaders’ primary goals have never been the establishment of a Palestinian state or improving the lives of Palestinians. Their singular goal has always been the destruction of the Jewish state, (or state-in-themaking before 1948).
Sisi offered to end Palestinian suffering and provide the Palestinians with the land they require to establish a demilitarized state. Abbas rejected it because he is only interested hurting Israel. If Israel is not weakened by their good fortune, then the Palestinians should continue to suffer.
For Israel, Sisi’s proposal is a windfall.
First of all, it indicates that the Egyptian-Saudi- UAE decision to back Israel against Hamas in Operation Protective Edge was not a fluke. It was part of an epic shift in their strategic assessments.
And if their regimes survive, their assessments are unlikely to change so long as Iran and the Sunni jihadists continue to threaten them.
This means that for the first time since Israel allied with Britain and France against Egypt in 1956, Israel can make strategic plans as part of a coalition.
Second, Sisi’s plan is good for Israel on its merits.
The only way to stabilize the situation in Gaza and comprehensively defeat Hamas and the rest of the terrorist armies there is by expanding Gaza. …
Sisi’s plan is a boon for Israel as well because it calls Abbas’s bluff.
Abbas is genuflected to by the US and the EU who insist that he is a moderate. The Israeli Left insists that he is the only thing that stands between Israel and destruction.
Yet here we see him openly acknowledging that from a strategic perspective, he is no different from the last of the jihadists. He prefers to see his people … without a state to call their own, than to see Israel benefit in any way.
Abbas’s rejection of Sisi’s offer demonstrates yet again that he and his Fatah comrades are the problem, not the solution.Continued faith in the PLO as a partner in peace and moderation is foolish and dangerous. He would rather see Hamas and Iran flourish than share a peaceful future with Israel.
The only reason that Abbas is able to continuously reject all offers of statehood and an end to Palestinian suffering, while expanding his diplomatic war against Israel and supporting his coalition partner’s terror war, is because the US and Europe continue to blindly support him.
The final way that Sisi’s offer helps Israel is by showing the futility of the West’s strategy of supporting Abbas.
According to Army Radio’s report, both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Obama administration have been briefed on the Egyptian plan. The Americans reportedly support it. …
Obama supports Sisi’s plan? What has he said about it? We wait to see how the media reports Sisi’s offer, Abbas’s rejection of it, and Obama’s reaction to it.
Sisi’s offer is a challenge to the US and Europe.
Sisi’s offer shows Washington and Brussels that to solve the Palestinian conflict with Israel, they need to stand with Israel, even if this means abandoning Abbas.
If they do so, they can take credit for achieving their beloved two-state solution. If they fail to do so, they will signal that their primary goal is not peace, but something far less constructive.
The admirable Douglas Murray is interviewed intelligently on Canadian TV about the pro-Hamas anti-Israel protests erupting in the capitals of Europe.