Tag Archives: Biden

Should the US consider Iran’s ‘deniable’ attacks a significant threat?

Source: Getty

Published in The Hill.

For years, Iranian-directed proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Syria have attacked the Islamic Republic’s enemies. The West has willfully ignored the overwhelming evidence and allowed Iran to continue its violence with impunity.

Today, the Biden administration and the G-5 + 1 fear upsetting Iran’s leaders, hoping to appease them through willful ignorance, and cajole them into rejoining the Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This one-sided “agreement” was never sent for Senate approval as a treaty, and it outsourced American security interests to international actors.

Read the rest from The Hill.

The Taliban Takeover

Published in The Jerusalem Report on September 13, 2021.

US General Austin Miller (left) shakes hand with Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi at a ceremony in Kabul on July 12, relinquishing his command during the final phase of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan

Score one for Sunni Jihadism. Twenty years after 9/11 and two years after America’s victory over ISIS, another Islamist caliphate has returned to the scene, this time in Afghanistan, where scores of Muslim terror organizations will reconstitute under the umbrella of the new Islamic emirate.

Shi’ite jihadism in the Islamic Republic of Iran is also in ascendancy with the withdrawal of America from the Middle East. There is likely to be a lull in any overseas terror operations with a patient Taliban and al Qaeda, but what about the future?

Will Americans forgive their leadership, if terror strikes the homeland or if the US is forced to return to the Middle East as it did after the Iraq withdrawal to confront ISIS? ISIS and the Taliban are two sides of the same coin.

Was the withdrawal a wise and courageous decision, as US President Joe Biden’s defenders claim, or was it foreign policy malpractice? The administration is trying to make the case that the choice was a renewed war with many more troops on the ground or a complete withdrawal.

This was and is a straw-man argument to cover a blunder that will undermine US and allied security interests for years to come. More mistakes are on the horizon as Biden is an enthusiastic supporter of returning to the ill-conceived Iran nuclear deal, another foreign policy catastrophe he would add to his repertoire.

Just days before the chaos at the Kabul airport with Afghanis storming the airport in total panic, Biden said, “The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan.”

Yes, the Taliban are not the North Vietnamese. They are more akin to ISIS and al Qaeda, jihadists who use religion to rationalize taking young women as sex slaves, living in the dark ages.

Let us remember who the Taliban are. They are one of the world’s great drug dealers, ruining countless people’s lives. According to an article in Foreign Policy by the Bureau Chief for AFP and AP from 2009-2017, the Taliban were first the opium kings, but recently their insurgency runs on the sale of billions of dollars in methamphetamine made from the ephedra plant, a cheaper and more profitable business.

Its product ends up on the shores of the US, just as their jihadist cousin Hezbollah sends its additive drugs from South America to poison young Americans, both fueling an opioid epidemic while bankrolling terror. Who said Sunni and Shi’ite jihadists didn’t have anything in common?

You know that something is amiss when CNN, a reliably pro-Biden media outlet, has wall-to-wall coverage eviscerating the president’s judgment on Afghanistan. Showing videos of streets without women who are too afraid to leave their homes, chaos at the Kabul airport with desperate people falling from the sky as they cling onto the fuselage of American planes as they departed Afghanistan, the public relations nightmare makes Joe Biden look like Jimmy Carter during the Iran hostage crisis. No one can say that Biden was not warned of what could occur.

In an NBC News interview, the head of US forces in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie said, “What we’re here for is to prevent al Qaeda and ISIS from being able to reconstitute in the ungoverned spaces, generally of eastern Afghanistan, and be able to plot attacks against our homeland… That threat is still here today.”

McKenzie said US counterterrorism forces had made it impossible for al Qaeda to regenerate and carry out its plans against the West. “If that pressure comes off, I believe they’re going to regenerate… and I think it’s only a matter of time before we see them assert themselves and begin to plan attacks against our homeland.”

Axios reported that chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley told senators on the day Kabul fell that terrorists will reconstitute in Afghanistan sooner than expected. Ryan Crocker, Obama’s ambassador to Afghanistan, said I think it is damning for him (Biden) to have created this situation…It’s an unforced error.”

Biden should have learned how a premature withdrawal can go profoundly wrong after he witnessed this firsthand as Obama’s VP, Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 that created the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State, only to have America pulled back into another war under much worse circumstances. As politics, not American security interests, obscure an honest debate of what went wrong in Afghanistan, it is worth pausing and remembering America’s original goal for Afghanistan.

Our original goal was not nation-building but to take the fight to the terrorists, giving them no safe haven, so there would be no more attacks on the American homeland. There has not been an attack on American soil from Sunni terrorists given safe harbor in Afghanistan for twenty years. That mission was accomplished and could have continued with a small American footprint, but Biden thought he knew better.

A Wall Street Journal editorial pulled no punches, hitting the nail on the head. “President Biden’s statement (during the fall of Kabul) washing his hands of Afghanistan deserves to go down as one of the most shameful in history by a Commander in Chief at such a moment of American retreat.” Biden refused to listen to his advisors or the Afghanistan Study Group. “Mr. Biden, as always too assured of his own foreign-policy acumen, refused to listen.”

The US’s small presence gave it disproportionate leverage to keep the status quo. Biden was untruthful when he said the 3,500 US troops were doing the brunt of the fighting for the Afghani soldiers. The mission could have continued if Biden hadn’t removed the very small contingent of soldiers. America has not lost a single soldier in Afghanistan in the last 18 months. Although the nation-building experiment was at best a mixed result, there is no question that millions of women’s lives in Afghanistan changed for the better, and yes, the US did have that objective in mind while it was there.

Kimberley Motley, a human rights attorney who worked in Afghanistan for 13 years, called the current situation a “human rights nightmare.” The administration may still try to put lipstick on this generational foreign policy humiliation, but it still will stink like ten-dayold fish.

As chaos reigned in Kabul, Biden “warned the Taliban that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan that puts US personnel or its mission at risk there will be met with a swift and strong US military response.” Who was he kidding?

Biden was disingenuous when he said he inherited Trump’s deal with the Taliban and couldn’t have done anything about it. Just as Trump reversed Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, and Biden is trying to re-enter that same agreement, Biden could have easily bypassed the Trump agreement with the Taliban mainly because the Taliban had already reneged on its obligations. Trump was wrong on Afghanistan as he was about the Kurds, but Biden uses him as a fall guy for his own incompetence. It’s even unfair to Trump to presume to know what he would have done, as circumstances evolved; he changed course on many things in his tenure; that’s for sure.

During the August weekend of the fall of Kabul, the Democratic leadership paraded Jake Auchincloss, a progressive Massachusetts Congressman who was an Afghan war veteran, on all of the Sunday talk shows. He said, “This president inherited a decision that was wrenching – it was not status quo or withdraw, it was to ramp up American forces in Afghanistan to hold the Taliban at bay… or it was to end a failed forever war finally.” Or was it?

With many more Congressional war veterans excoriating the Biden administration for gross negligence and mismanagement, Mr. Auchincloss was sent out as a sacrificial lamb against the tide of evidence showing America as an unreliable ally, a paper tiger, bungling its withdrawal, looking more like the Keystone Cops than the world’s superpower.

Revealingly, the congressman misspoke when he said that if we stayed for 20 years, “we would keep the wolves at bay.” That is precisely the point. The US could have kept Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist nation for years to come with a minimal American commitment. We just needed to maintain the status quo and control the Bagram airbase to back up an Afghani army that could hold off those wolves enough for years to come.

So who are the winners and losers? In the region, American allies are the big losers. Israel, Jordan, what is left of pro-America Iraq, Egypt, and the Gulf states now realize that America can make profound decisions undermining their interests at a moment’s notice, leaving them to bear the consequences alone. Iran and Israel’s jihadist neighbors in Gaza and Lebanon have been filled with more self-confidence.

The Taliban can thank Pakistan for refuge and support. But will the Pakistani Taliban rise and try to establish a caliphate in Islamabad? Qatar may be prescient, knowing that the US has foreign policy ADHD, attention deficit disorder. Qatar for years hosted Sunni Islamist extremists like Hamas, the Taliban, and the Muslim Brotherhood, as an insurance policy against American impatience with the region.

It is a two-way street for the Taliban’s superpower neighbors. On the one hand, the hated Americans are humiliated. On the other, there is a concern in Russia and China that the Islamist victory will inspire their repressed Muslim populations to agitate for change. Russia has terrible memories of Afghanistan; its invasion was in part responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union.

As Victor Davis Hansen says, “China, Russia, and Iran surely interpret this shambolic performance as a sign of exploitable weakness and poor judgment. From the peaks of Pakistan to the sands of the Sahel, fanatical jihadists discouraged by the failure of ISIS sense a fresh and favorable turn of events with the arrival of their greatest victory since 9/11.” Russia will realize that it can take more risks in Ukraine and with its former satellites.

As for the Far East nations, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, etc, will they trust America to keep its word and help them defend themselves from a predatory China? At the very least, it will be a more challenging lift for the US to convince them.

As Noah Rothman writes in Commentary, “It is unnervingly obvious what we’ve lost: national prestige, vast sums of political capital, credibility on the world stage and, most tangibly, our security. The world is much more dangerous today.”

No amount of political spin can change that.

Withdrawal can’t sweep away terrorists or their ambitions

MEMBERS OF TALIBAN forces sit at a checkpoint in Kabul earlier this month.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Published in the Jerusalem Post on August 26, 2021.

by Eric R. Mandel

The 24/7 coverage of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has neglected to focus on four key points that will have lasting consequences and need to be addressed.

The first is the arsenal of weapons left behind for the Taliban and other jihadist organizations by America’s hasty exit and the disintegration of the Afghan armed forces.

The second is the underreported danger from releasing five thousand “high-value” al-Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban terrorists into the hands of the Taliban from Bagram prison.

The third is America’s mistaken notion that American itself can decide to end its forever wars on terror simply by leaving Afghanistan. They should ask the Israelis how well unilateral disengagements worked for them in Gaza and Lebanon.

Finally, is the need to recognize how compromised American intelligence will be going forward to prevent another major terror attack. There will be no human intelligence or any ally left in Afghanistan going forward.

Not only have we given the terrorists another failed state to plan regional and international attacks, but we have armed them too. According to an article in Forbes magazine, the US left behind a massive treasure trove of weapons that could sustain not just a terrorist force but even a real army for a decade.

“America left behind 75,000 war vehicles… Humvees, mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles and armored personnel carriers… 1,000 mine-resistant vehicles cost up to $767,000 each – 208 airplanes and helicopters, including 20 A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft. The A-29’s cost $21.3 million each. Black Hawk helicopters… costing up to $21m. Six hundred thousand rifles, machine guns…25,000 grenade launchers and 2,500 howitzers – the modern-day canon.”

The war on terror is not over just because President Biden says it is. According to Matthew Continetti, writing in the National Review, “Afghanistan is just one front in a global conflict that the United States did not initiate and cannot wish away… When participants in the worldwide Salafist-jihadist movement look at the developments of the last week, they don’t see reasons to quit their mayhem. They see the chaos, panic, violence, disorder and American retreat as a vindication of their ideology and a spur to further action.”

With the American withdrawal, American intelligence is blind, lacking HUMINT, human intelligence, a key component of effective prevention against terrorist attacks. The newly created Afghan terror sanctuary will challenge our analysts to get ahead of any new terror threats emanating from the region.

Unless you are an isolationist, American security interests extend worldwide. Our careful surveillance has prevented attacks on our friends and homeland for the last 20 years, something underappreciated, as preventing attacks receives much less news coverage than successful terror attacks.

Today’s al-Qaeda, Islamic State and every jihadist non-state terror variant are all transnational groups who have mastered social media for recruitment and planning. They will move wherever states fail, to plot their next attack. All these Islamist groups hate the US and want to bring medieval Islamic rule in one form or another everywhere.

International terrorist organizations will continue to probe and poke at the lion to see just how far they can go. The terrorists are counting on the lack of America reacting to attacks on regional allies like India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Israel is the only player in the region that acts effectively and repeatedly against jihadists, whether in Syria, Iran or Lebanon. When Israel strikes Islamists, whether Sunni or Shi’ite, Hamas or Hezbollah, the moderate Sunni states quietly cheer.

The administration needs to learn quickly that jihadists are now empowered to act against what they perceive to be a weak American President who talks but won’t act against terrorism. His choice not to respond to Iran’s recent confirmed terror attacks in international waters has only reinforced their case.

In his press conferences, Joe Biden has doubled down that America has no national security interest in remaining in Afghanistan. But Islamists, whether of the Sunni or Shi’ite variety, will have the last say. They have been reenergized and given a significant morale boost knowing America is in retreat and won’t act in response. Terrorism is alive and well throughout the Middle East.

Is President Biden up to the task? 

Tevi Troy points out in a Wall Street Journal article, that President Biden seems to have surrounded himself with yes men. If Troy is correct, his remedy is for Biden to act like JFK after the Bay of Pigs disaster to create a mechanism within his policy teams that encourages dissenting opinions. 

Biden needs to listen, because his instincts on foreign policy have been more wrong than right despite decades on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Even back in 1992, according to The New York Times, Senator Joe Biden wanted to outsource American security to the United Nations. The United States should pursue “the next big advance in civilization… collective power through the United Nations.” You can imagine how that would have worked out.

It is challenging for any president to realize that there have been profound mistakes. The great ones like Abraham Lincoln had humility and were open to new ideas, even if they were not popular. That is what a President is supposed to do. His predecessor was rightly criticized for not listening to his advisers or contrary opinions. Will Biden continue to make the same mistake?

The flight of the human-rights warriors from Afghanistan and Iran

Published by JNS.

Malala Yousafzai message on Afghanistan

The leading proponents of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan were liberals and progressives, including supposed interventionists like Joe Biden.

Eric R. Mandel(August 23, 2021 / JNS)
<iu.jpeg> credit:  theplanettoday.com

I had already started writing this article when I stumbled upon an article in The Atlantic, “The Week the Left Stopped Caring About Human Rights. It’s remarkable how quickly liberals abandoned the women of Afghanistan.” The initial impetus was U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks earlier this year when he said the “administration will stand against human-rights abuses wherever they occur, regardless of whether the perpetrators are adversaries or partners.”

It needs to be pointed out that The Atlantic is not some right-wing outlet but is a leading light for the Democrat Party. So kudos to them for publishing this article.

Get the hell out has … been the liberal position for two decades, until about 72 hours ago, when Democrats suddenly became so concerned about the fate of Afghanistan. … You can call for American troop withdrawal for 20 years. … But you need to be ready to take it on the chin when you get what you ask for, and the inevitable happens: girls being forced into child marriage and forbidden to go to school or to leave the house without a male relative. Is your conscience prickling. … It’s remarkable how quickly the left took up the cold calculus of realpolitik. How quickly it forgot its love for Malala, the young Pakistani girl who survived a Taliban bullet to the head, her only crime getting an education and trying to help other girls get one too. The White House must have known she’d give Biden a bad news cycle or two, and indeed, she appealed to the president to take ‘a bold step’ to stave off disaster.”

Anyone who has paid attention to Afghanistan over the last 20 years knows that the Taliban are horrific abusers of women, minorities and anyone else who stands in their way. They also knew that millions of those people’s lives were profoundly changed for the better after the Taliban were supposedly defeated by the United States 20 years ago.

Yet the leading proponents of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan were liberals and progressives, including supposed interventionists like Joe Biden.

Republican isolationists like Rand Paul also represent a minority viewpoint to end all American entanglements, caring little for the well-being of anyone beyond American borders. I wish my fellow ophthalmologist had a bit of compassion for the other and realized that history proves more times than not that American withdrawals lead to harmful consequences at home as well as abroad. America’s retreat after World War I was one of the reasons for World War II and the rise of fascism.

But liberal Democrats, unlike many non-isolationist Republicans, have championed the complete American withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan while paying lip service condemning human-rights abuses. They didn’t want to have any more skin in the game but still wanted to virtue signal their fight against misogyny and genocide.

Biden’s old boss also talked the talk on human rights but often didn’t walk the walk. One example was when his Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power revealed in her 2019 memoir that she defied his orders and blocked Russia from joining the U.N. human rights council. Power, who made a name for herself with her book on genocide, couldn’t stomach voting for a regime that directly helped Syria’s genocidal dictator Bashar Assad.

So let’s be honest: Biden helped cause a human-rights disaster in Afghanistan, weakened America’s ability to prevent the next 9/11 and feels little regret about the move. As a candidate in 2020, when asked whether the United States had a responsibility to Afghan women and girls in light of a possible Taliban takeover, he said: “No, I don’t!” So much for his trumpeted empathy. The emperor has no clothes and makes no bones about it.

As Peter Baker of The New York Times wrote: “The president who won the White House on a promise of competence and compassion has had trouble demonstrating much of either … seemingly more intent on washing his hands of Afghanistan than expressing concern over the humanitarian tragedy unfolding on the ground.”

This brings us to Biden’s next Middle East foreign-policy decision, involving human rights and realpolitik. The decision to appease Iranian misogynists, terrorists and human-rights abuses with enough cash so they will want to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal.

Biden is still gung-ho and happy to engage the revolutionary anti-Western despots in Iran, despite ignoring that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has nominated former Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi to become Iran’s next interior minister. Vahidi has an outstanding warrant for his arrest by Interpol for his role in bombing the AMIA Jewish Center in Argentina in 1994. Not a peep of condemnation from the administration, yet they rightly condemned former President Donald Trump for engaging with the Taliban two years ago in its negotiations in Doha.

The Iranian apologists from pro-peace organizations remain mute on calling out the actual war crimes committed by Iranians. There has been no public censure from the administration about Iran’s new president—a man responsible for the deaths of thousands. Not even a call to demand that a killer president elected in a rigged election be denied a visa to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Raisi’s previous position was as the head of Iran’s judiciary; it’s not every day that do you see a war criminal as a nation’s chief justice.

Yet Biden was willing to meet with Raisi, which would have offered a form of legitimization. Raisi saved Biden when he refused to meet with him. According to White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, “The president’s view … is that the decision leader is the Supreme Leader.” Memo to the White House: Khamenei oversees the apparatus that tortures, imprisons and kills gays, journalists, minorities and opposition members.

As for Afghanistan, Michael O’Hanlon, writing for the Brookings Institute, said: “The decision to leave when we had a reasonably stable if indefinite presence of only 3,000 or so U.S. troops was a poor strategic calculation. … The uncertain status of so many friends of the United States who are still stuck in Afghanistan brings a poignant human-rights dimension to the miscalculation as well.”

America cannot intervene in every humanitarian crisis, but this was one of our making, and we should be ashamed of how we left.

America needs a stable Israeli government

Source: Getty Images

An earthquake has hit the Israeli political scene. Its longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, now leads the opposition after 12 years. For an America that counts on a strong and stable Israel as part of its core security interests, this profound change in Israeli politics is a moment of both potential and vulnerability.

Read the full article from The Hill.

How the Saudis can fast-track a nuclear-weapons program

If I were them—and with Iran in mind—I would conclude that all the misbehavior that the Biden administration wants to punish me for would evaporate if I only had a nuclear-weapons program that I could use as leverage to extract whatever concessions I wish.

Previously published by JNS.

While the Biden administration offers sanctions relief to Tehran in exchange for temporarily limiting uranium enrichment to less than 20 percent, it is fulfilling another promise, to “recalibrate”—i.e., punish—longtime American ally Saudi Arabia. As the Saudis sustain Iranian-directed missile and drone attacks from Yemen and Iraq, the Biden administration chose to remove Patriot missile batteries from Saudi Arabia, as well as redeploy an aircraft carrier and surveillance systems away from the region. The clear message to Iran is: We will abandon our ally Saudi Arabia, your arch-enemy, if you will only rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal.

If I were the Saudis, I would conclude that all the misbehavior that the Biden administration wants to punish me for would evaporate if I only had a nuclear-weapons program that I could use as leverage to extract whatever concessions I wish from the Americans. I could do like the Iranians—threaten, intimidate and take over neighboring states—and be absolved if I would just slow down my nuclear-development program.

The Saudis might open their Rolodex and call Pakistan. According to the BBC, in 2013, “a senior NATO decision-maker … had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.” This is the logical conclusion. The way we are headed, the Biden administration is about to start a nuclear arms race in the region with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, among others learning the lessons of the Iranian nuclear agreement. The formula is to develop a secret nuclear program, lie about it, engage in disruptive behavior and then trade some of that for a nuclear deal in your favor or foreign aid.

Saudi Arabia is no angel. The stain of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the country’s exporting radical Sunni Islamist ideology in the late 20th century has ramifications that we live with to this day. ISIS was the worst permutation yet of radical Sunni ideology. But after 9/11, the Saudis turned a page and began to align more closely with American interests. In the 21st century, they have been a moderating and stabilizing force in Sunni Islam.

Their support of the Abraham Accords, which allowed the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco to recognize Israel with diplomatic relations, is groundbreaking. Previous administrations did not even contemplate its possibility. If nurtured for regional stability, it is a path to suppress the Saudi need for a nuclear-weapons program. It also ended the fiction that the Israeli-Arab conflict needs to wait until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ends. That is excellent news for those who believe Palestinian intransigence has been the roadblock to peace.

Instead of building on the game-changing Abraham Accords and pulling Saudi Arabia to the finish line by recognizing Israel, the Biden administration has chosen to make the Saudis a pariah, while begging the Iranian revolutionary regime to return to a deal that was created in their favor. As a reminder, it was created to give Iran international legitimacy for an industrial-size nuclear program within the decade. Stipulated within the nuclear agreement is Iran’s ability to buy an unlimited number of conventional weapons right now. No wonder that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei allowed his minions to sign it.

Like the Obama team, the Biden administration still believes that you can appease Iran by acquiescing in their nuclear blackmail. Obama’s policy was to distance the United States from its Gulf state allies and Israel while ingratiating his administration with the Iranians, who have never ceased undermining U.S. security interests worldwide. The only good to come out of this mistaken policy is the increased willingness of the Saudis and others in the region to be friendlier to Israel as the only nation willing to take on the Iranians. This has been especially evident as Israel continues to impede Iran’s progress towards a nuclear weapon, most recently with its alleged attack this week on the Natanz enrichment facility.

Kowtowing to a third-rate military that supports terror sends a poor message to American allies around the world. The administration seems intent on settling for merely slowing down Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons while ignoring and, in effect, funding with sanctions relief the Islamic Republic’s decades-long worldwide campaign of terrorism. The false hope offered to the American people that the administration will be able to negotiate a new agreement dealing with Tehran’s malign activities after the resumption of a deal would be laughable if it were not so dangerous.

Hopefully, the administration will reflect on the potential consequences of its actions and change course to avoid turning the Middle East into a nuclear Wild West. The Saudis and the rest of the Sunni Muslim world are watching.

Biden needs to uphold US law on pay-for-slay

The Biden administration claims it can restore funding to the PA without violating the Taylor Force Act.

Published in the Jerusalem Post.

In 2017, Congress passed the bipartisan Taylor Force Act (TFA) to put an end to the Palestinian Authority (PA) practice of using US taxpayers’ dollars to finance “Pay for Slay,” a policy rewarding terrorists and family members of imprisoned and deceased terrorists. The legislation’s clearly expressed goal is to deny the PA funding until it stops their program of incentivizing and paying for the murder of civilians. 

The bill was named after an American Army veteran who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was killed by a Palestinian terrorist while visiting Israel. The PA media called his killer a “martyr,” and he was venerated throughout the Palestinian territories.

The Taylor Force Act requires the Biden State Department to issue a report to Congress for Acts of Terrorism. Despite the report’s conclusion that the PA “has not terminated payments for acts of terrorism to any individual (and) has also not taken proactive steps to counter incitement to violence against Israel,” the administration’s report states that the “Biden-Harris Administration has made clear its intent to restart assistance to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” 

Which is to say, they intend to ignore the continued support of terrorism and resume supplying the money. 

WORKERS CLOSE the aid distribution centers of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in Rafah in February, protesting against the reduction in food aid.
(photo credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)

The Biden administration claims it can restore funding to the PA without violating the TFA. It claims its goal is to provide humanitarian assistance, rebuild trust with the Palestinians that was undermined by the Trump administration, economically stabilize the government while advancing the moribund peace process with Israel.

The Trump administration cut off funding to the PA and UNWRA, the UN agency that financially supports descendants of Palestinian refugees. The Biden administration is also planning as a goodwill gesture to reverse Trump’s decision to close the PLO / PA office in Washington, which was done to give more consequence to their continuing to incite and pay for terrorism. 

The State Department report is clear enough; it says the “PA expressed its intention to expend approximately $151.6 million in payments to convicted prisoners, administrative detainees, and former prisoners (and) expressed its intention to expend approximately $191 million in support of families of deceased Palestinians referred to as ‘martyrs’ by the PA.” In November 2020, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said they would “remain loyal to the souls of martyrs, the blood of injured, and the sufferings of prisoners… we will not abandon them.” 

The perverse incentive used by the PA is that the more gruesome and worse the attack, the more money the imprisoned “martyr” and his family receive through the PA’s Martyr’s Fund. The PA spends nearly $350 million per year on Pay for Slay, but just $220 million for its other welfare programs for the rest of its citizens. 

In Washington today, everything is seen through a political lens. In 2017, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said, “Abbas has to stop making payments to terrorists and their families, and all elected officials should call them out.” Will Schumer, now majority leader, challenge the president of his party to keep the pressure on the Abbas and enforce the law? Or will he go along with spinning some words to fashion a legal loophole to allow money to flow to the PA? The PA would like to create a legal fiction by distributing the money through the PLO, Abbas being both the president of the PA and head of the PLO. 

For the first time in 16 years, the Palestinian people will be voting for a new president and parliament. The list of potential candidates is not promising if you are looking for moderation. The leading candidates try to outdo one another with their non-conciliatory rhetoric and incitement of violence. 

The Biden administration should learn from prior administrations’ failures. America giving the PA carrots without reciprocal concessions has never been fruitful. As surely as the sun rises in the east, giving up leverage for nothing gets you nowhere with the PA/PLO. 

The administration needs to uphold the Taylor Force Act. 

Does the Biden administration believe Iran is behind most Shia militias?

by Dr. Eric R. Mandel

{Previously published in JNS}

A controversy that occurred during a recent question-and-answer session for reporters by Pentagon press secretary John Kirby may have revealed a troubling insight into the Biden administration’s approach in rebranding Iran’s problematic image. He claimed that Shia militias that are causing so much trouble in the Middle East are not Iranian-controlled. After criticism made its way into the public arena, Kirby partially walked back his statement in a subsequent press conference, agreeing that some Shia militias are Iranian-backed. Was this a Freudian slip, a trial balloon or a real insight into administration thinking?

There is a well-documented history of the Obama-Biden administration misleading the public about the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Therefore, it is prudent to ask if Kirby’s first answer to a softball question that should not have flustered an experienced spokesperson was an accurate representation of the administration’s thinking. It’s all part of a strategy to create the illusion that the Islamic Republic is not responsible for supporting the majority of Shia militias throughout the Middle East in the hopes that in preparing the ground to rejoin JCPOA, Iran will be more palatable to the U.S. public.

So a primer on Iranian-controlled Shi’ite militias and what the administration is doing is in order.

What Kirby may have been attempting to do is frame the situation as an internal ethnic conflict between Shi’ite groups who are independent of Iranian influence. However, the overwhelming evidence is that Iran’s strategy is to create Iranian-controlled militias in the region’s crumbling nations to exert control and undermine U.S. interests while threatening American allies.

Statements like Kirby’s intensify Israel’s well-founded fears that America wants to pretend it doesn’t see Iran’s malign activity. Instead, the administration chooses to put all of its eggs in the JCPOA basket, focusing on the nuclear issue while ignoring Islamic imperialism. Almost no serious military or intelligence analyst believes the Islamic Republic of Iran does not control Shia militias, such as the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq or Syria (local militias). Iran’s hegemonic ambitions carried out through its proxy network are a threat to be taken seriously.

A not-so-subtle warning for Israel not to attack Iran was posted by the White House in its Interim National Security Guidelines. The administration stated, “We do not believe that military force is the answer. … We will not give our partners in the Middle East a blank check to pursue policies at odds with American interests.” Is that a warning not to attack Iran in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon?

As in Lebanon, Iran is slowly swallowing Syria and Iraq. Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah is the dominant military force while effectively controlling its parliament. Iranian symbols appear everywhere, as though you were walking in Tehran. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) martyr Gen. Qassem Soleimani was commemorated this year throughout the country with a massive statue placed in the center of the Lebanese capital Beirut. At rallies, Lebanese citizens under Hezbollah’s thumb wave the Iranian flag, not the Lebanese one.

What is groundbreaking in Syria is that Iran not only sent its IRGC troops with its Hezbollah proxy but has now recruited former Syrian rebels of local Sunni militias to create a permanent Iranian presence. The blueprint is the Hezbollah model in Lebanon. Iran’s goal is to surround Israel with its militias, proxies and allies, including Sunnis who are easily bought for money, bread or ammunition. Just think of the Sunni Arab Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip working with Persian Shi’ite Iran.

Alma, Israel’s best source for independent research on its northern border, has documented Iran’s support and control of Hezbollah, Shia militias, and now Iranian-controlled former rebel Sunni militias. This is groundbreaking information. The militias receive orders and salaries from Iran in conjunction with a well-thought-out civilian investment to support a long-term Iranian military entrenchment. In this way, Iran effectively takes control of weak nation-states like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon. For example, Iran is heavily involved in Syria’s post-war reconstruction, buying agricultural land, establishing community and educational centers to promote the Islamic Revolution’s values among the local Sunni population.

One should bear in mind that the IRGC’s Quds force’s raison d’être since the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s is to spread the Iranian revolution throughout the Middle East while backing almost every terrorist Shia militia to further its goal. Thousands of IRCG soldiers and commanders operate beyond Iran’s borders, leading and strategizing on how to get the United States out of the Middle East and put Israel out of existence.

This is based on the concept of velayat-e faqih, or “guardianship of the jurist,” which gives absolute religious authority to the Iranian Supreme Leader, who is in charge of the world’s Shi’ites. Shias are thereby obligated to support the Islamic revolution everywhere in the world. The Biden administration should be cautious replacing radical Sunnis like ISIS and Al-Qaeda with extremist Iranian Shi’ism.

More than half of the pieces are in place to surround Israel. Next on the target list is the West Bank and Jordan to surround Israel with the threat of missiles and militias under Iranian control. All in preparation for a day when Islamist Iran unleashes its proxies to devastate Israeli civilians and destroy Israel’s infrastructure, with the hope that Israelis will abandon the Zionist experiment.

Going forward, U.S President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin should make clear the obvious. Iran is responsible for Shia militias’ creation and actions that threaten Middle East stability and American soldiers’ lives, and that rejoining the JCPOA should not obscure that fact.

Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network. He regularly briefs members of the U.S. Senate, House and their foreign-policy advisers. He is a columnist for “The Jerusalem Post” and a contributor to i24TV, “The Hill,” JTA and “The Forward.”

Republicans Should Insist Biden Submit the JCPOA as a Treaty to the Senate

{Previously published by the JNS}

The Obama-Biden administration claimed in 2015 that the Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA—was a non-binding agreement requiring only executive action. Critics claimed that it was consequential enough that the U.S. Constitution required that it be submitted to the U.S Senate as a treaty. A CNN politics article at the time asked, “If it looks like a treaty, walks like a treaty, and talks like a treaty, is it a treaty? According to the White House, only if the president of the United States says it is.” The late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was blunter: “This is clearly a treaty. They can call it a banana, but it’s a treaty.”

So does it still matter that political sleight of hand was needed because the Obama-Biden White House was more than 20 Senate votes short of being able to pass it as a treaty in 2015? The answer is yes. Joe Biden, now U.S. president, intends to fast-track rejoining the JCPOA as one of his major foreign-policy priorities, only requiring Iran to return to compliance with the agreement, acting under the same executive prerogative that former President Barack Obama used.

What is not reported but must not be forgotten is that if Iran re-enters the JCPOA in 2021, it will have no limitations on uranium centrifuge use in just five years’ time (2026). It will have the ability to enrich uranium to 90 percent weapons-grade with international approval in just 10 years’ time (2031). And the pièce de résistance for the Supreme Leader is not a single U.N. nuclear inspector will be allowed at an Iranian undeclared nuclear site in just nine years’ time (2030).

That’s a far cry from the Obama-Biden administration’s promise when they said repeatedly, emphatically, they would not sign a deal that would allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Let’s leave aside the elephant in the room: that the Obama team chose not to address development of nuclear-capable missiles—one of the three pillars of a nuclear-weapons program.

Just because Republicans don’t have a majority in the Senate in 2021 and failed to stop Obama from implementing the 2015 deal by executive action doesn’t mean they should be mute. They need to follow their constitutional responsibility and point out to an uninformed American public that constitutional issues were sidestepped six years ago and are even more relevant today for our nation’s security, as we are that much closer to the dates the agreement permits the Iranian regime to become a nuclear-armed bully, immune to attack.

Republicans should ask Biden to follow the Constitution’s intent and finally submit the JCPOA for Senate ratification as a treaty. It should not outsource American security interests to the United Nations as was done in 2015, when the Obama White House used a U.N. Security Council Resolution (2231) to bind America to the agreement, which the legislative branch of the American people had not been given its proper opportunity to consider. It may not make a difference, but it will make an important point.

This is not about politics; it is about the rule of law. According to the U.S. Senate website, “the Constitution provides that the president “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur” (Article II, section 2). The Constitution’s framers gave the Senate a share of the treaty power in order to give the president the benefit of the Senate’s advice and counsel, check presidential power, safeguard the sovereignty of the states by giving each state an equal vote in the treaty-making process,” ensuring that the arguments pro and con would be made openly.

Two wrongs never make a right. Like Obama, Biden is subverting the intent of the Constitution by not submitting the most critical American international agreement of the 21st century to the Senate as required.

So why did Obama not submit the JCPOA to the Senate? According to former Secretary of State John Kerry, answering a congressional question under oath, said that the administration did not do so because, “I spent quite a few years ago trying to get a lot of treaties through the United States Senate. … And frankly, it’s become physically impossible. That’s why. … So we thought that the easiest way to get something that … could achieve our goal was through a political agreement.”

According to Kerry, “We’ve been clear from the beginning. We’re not negotiating a ‘legally binding plan.’ ” This was outrageous then, and it still has relevance today as the Biden administration has said it will return to the same JCPOA without any plans to amend the profound flaws that have become self-evident in the past several years. Republicans should take the constitutional high road and again demand the president submit the JCPOA to the Senate. There should be no political loophole for something so crucial to American national security.

In 2021, much like as in 2015, the mainstream news media has not done their job, educating the public about the constitutional implications of the approach both administrations have chosen. Instead, they have obscured the constitutional argument because of their political sympathy for the merits of the nuclear deal.

As David Rivkin, a constitutional law expert who worked for former President George H.W. Bush, said: “Any international agreement requiring major undertakings on the part of the United States, such as the proposed Iran deal, must be sent to the Senate for advice and consent. …The Constitution is quite clear.”

In 2015, the administration outplayed the Senate leadership in not demanding a treaty vote, turning the “legislation treaty ratification process under the Constitution upside-down. Instead of 67 Senate votes to ratify a treaty, the bill would require 67 votes to block Obama from carrying out any agreement.”

That’s impressive on a political level, but at the very least, constitutionally challenged. Presidents of both parties over the years have on occasion been autocratic on foreign affairs, asking Congress to give a rubber stamp to the executive branch. However, when something as important and controversial as a nuclear agreement with a leading state sponsor of terror comes to the fore, the correct choice then and the correct choice now is submitting it to the Senate as a treaty, even if the chance to convince Biden is remote.

Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network. He regularly briefs members of the U.S. Senate, House and their foreign-policy advisers. He is a columnist for “The Jerusalem Post” and a contributor to i24TV, “The Hill,” JTA and “The Forward.”

Biden vs. Trump on Israel and anti-Semitism

{Previously published by the JNS}

A pro-Israel friend of mine told me that he wished AIPAC would publish an unbiased list comparing the policy differences between former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. President Donald Trump in regard to Israel. It was refreshing to hear in our current political climate someone who wanted to objectively analyze past actions and future policy positions of the candidates, as well as looking at their current foreign-policy advisers and associates.

In the minefield of American politics, trying to look at the facts in context and draw conclusions is almost impossible, as ad hominem attacks rule the day—unfortunately, many of them justified.

Trump haters see a president who is a narcissistic and racial divider, lacking intellectual depth and with a willful aversion to the truth. To others, Biden represents a person who has lost his cognitive abilities and is completely under the sway of the anti-Israel progressive wing of his party. Those progressives want to tear down America and create a Socialist republic that redistributes wealth; they call for reparations; and promote a victimhood mentality that allows Palestinians to remain as perpetual victims, while viewing Israel as a colonialist enterprise that should be sent to the scrapheap of racist regimes.

Now that I have your attention and have raised your blood pressure, let’s try, without contempt or bile, to compare what Trump and Biden have said and done concerning Israel and American Jews. The list is not exhaustive, but it should stimulate your intellectual curiosity and motivate you to Google for more answers. Bottom of Form

Critics of Trump claim that he is the icon of white supremacists who hate Jews, dog-whistling anti-Semitic tropes that only they can hear. Biden will often cite Trump’s divisive words in at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., that exhibited anti-Jewish vitriol as the best example. Some claim that those words were taken out of context.

Supporters of Trump will claim that he is the most pro-Israel President in history, sanctioning the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, cutting off funds to UNWRA for perpetuating a false narrative that descendants of Palestinian refugees are entitled to go into Israel, penalizing the Palestinian Authority for incentivizing terrorism, and acknowledging that Israel has international legal rights over the 1967 line, allowing it to extend sovereignty into the West Bank.

For clarity, Israel truly annexed the Golan Heights because it had a previous legitimate stakeholder, Syria, whereas Israel cannot technically annex anything in the West Bank because the last legal entity, the Ottoman Empire, does not exist anymore. Article 80 of the U.N. Charter memorializes Israel’s rights in the West Bank, so the proper term would be extending sovereignty, rather than annexation. The wisdom of exercising those rights is subject to a legitimate debate between Trump and Biden supporters.

Critics of Trump claim that his one-sided actions against the Palestinians have made a two states for two people’s resolution of the conflict almost impossible. An icon of J Street and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Peter Beinart, went so far as to write a New York Times opinion piece titled “I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State.” Critics claim that Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” Mideast plan grants Israel land in the West Bank, and would turn Israel into an apartheid and undemocratic state undeserving of American support. There is a new Democrat House letter demanding the end of funding for Israel in response to its “annexation.”

Trump supporters claim that Biden, despite Iranian transgressions of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, intends to rejoin that fatally flawed agreement, which endangers both U.S. and Israeli national security interests. Made under the Obama administration, it willfully ignored Iran’s increased human-rights abuses against its citizens, its missile development and its support of global terrorism (particularly against the Jewish state), while enriching the Islamic Republic with billions in sanctions relief.

Biden supporters claim that the JCPOA was a good, if imperfect, agreement that ended the ability of Iran to ever have a nuclear weapon. Critics claim that the deal is actually a pathway to an Iranian nuclear weapon, legitimizing their possession to a terrorist regime that has called time and again for the annihilation of America and Israel, as they have to wait only a few years for the deal’s nuclear prohibitions to expire.

Biden supporters acclaim the Obama passage of UNSC Resolution 2334, which stated that Israel would be in flagrant violation of international law if it keeps possession of any land over the 67 Line, as advancing peace and a two-state solution because it forces Israel to negotiate based on the 1967 line, which is the Palestinian position. Critics claim this hurts Israel’s security by undermining UNSC Resolution 242, which recognized Israel’s 1967 defensive line as unacceptably vulnerable to its neighbors who have repeatedly launched wars against them, acknowledging that Israel can never go back to that indefensible position.

Biden supporters claim that he and President Barack Obama were very pro-Israel, as evidenced by the largest financial-aid package ever given to Israel, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) worth more than $30 billion during the course of 10 years. They also say that Biden was supportive of additional aid to help Israel with its anti-missile system. Critics say that the amount of the MOU was actually reduced as punishment for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu going to Congress against Obama’s wishes to fight against the Iran deal—the Obama administration’s prized foreign-policy legacy. Advocates of military aid to Israel point out that almost all the money given to Israel for defense spending goes to American contractors, thereby helping the U.S. economy, and that this is a two-way street, as Israeli soldiers are arguably doing our work for us, being our only reliable ally in a region of fickle dictatorships.

Trump supporters say that if you want to look at where Biden is going on Israel, you only have to look at the head of his foreign-policy transition team, Avril Haines. She signed a J Street letter critical of Israel advocating for a more “balanced” position in the Democratic Convention Platform, treating Israel and Palestinians equally, and would not be “silent on the rights of Palestinians, on Israeli actions that undermine those rights and the prospects for a two-state solution.”

Biden supporters say that if you want to know who Joe is, just look at his statements at AIPAC conventions over the last 30 years, and the pro-Israel letters and legislation that he has signed onto. In 2016, he said, “Israel will always exist strong and capable as the ultimate guarantor of security for Jewish people around the world. That is the abiding moral obligation we have.” Biden supporters claim that Trump crossed the line when he claimed that Jews who vote Democratic are disloyal. Biden responded, “Mr. President, these comments are insulting and inexcusable … . It may not be beneath you, but it is beneath the office you hold.”

Trump supporters claim that the charge that he is anti-Semitic is ludicrous, as his grandchildren and daughter are Orthodox Jews. His executive action protecting Jewish students on college campuses from harassment and intimidation for expressing their pro-Israeli advocacy is now protected under the Civil Rights Act and applauded by pro-Israel supporters, but condemned as a violation of free speech by progressives who support Biden. According to AMCHA—an organization that battles campus anti-Semitism—the Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition equating anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism has seen a 300 percent increase in challenging that definition, something that has been incorporated into the Trump strategy to fight anti-Semitism.

In America today, getting anyone to appreciate or respect different policies and opinions is a lost cause. The visceral reaction to Trump is palpable, and his rhetoric does him no favors. For others, Biden is no different from the progressive anti-Israel “Squad” in Congress, and his articulation problems do him no favors. Biden’s much-anticipated choice of a vice-presidential candidate will be venerated on the left and excoriated on the right.

American Jews vote overwhelmingly Democrat, and for many, Trump’s divisive actions have made this an easy choice. For a minority of American Jews, Biden may be a good man, but has lost his way on Israel and would be a dangerous choice for its long-term security. His stated policy to rejoin the Iran deal poses a serious threat to Israel, and his views on the Palestinians and international law are naive at best, and dangerous at worst.

America will survive Trump or Biden. But for the minority of American Jews who have Israel as one of their top-five policy issues in voting for a president, would  Biden or Trump be a better choice to enhance U.S.-Israeli relations? Or would one of them actually endanger Israel by his policy decisions?

Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network. He regularly briefs members of the U.S. Senate, House and their foreign-policy advisers. He is a columnist for “The Jerusalem Post” and a contributor to i24TV, “The Hill,” JTA and “The Forward.”