Monday, April 30, 2012

MEF Wire: Gambill on "U.S. Policy Options in Syria"

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U.S. Policy Options in Syria

A briefing by Gary C. Gambill
February 27, 2012
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Gary Gambill holds a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, an M.A. in Arab studies from Georgetown University, and is A.B.D. from N.Y.U. He is a former editor of the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin and the Middle East Monitor, a former employee of the Middle East Forum, and is now an independent editor. Gambill has been a country editor on Syria and Lebanon for Freedom House and has written extensively on Syria and Lebanon. On February 27, 2012, he briefed the Middle East Forum via conference call about US policy options in Syria.
Bashar Assad "can't win," Gambill argued, because he now lacks the power to pacify his opposition—something he had in abundance until last year. His position is made ever more tenuous by his Alawite origin, viewed as heretical by Syria's majority Sunni population.
Gambill attributed the Assad regime's ability to seize and hold power for forty-one years to several primary strengths. First, it has established a brutal police state that slaughtered dissidents by the thousands, notably in Hama in 1982 by Bashar's father, Hafez, and Homs today. Second, it has been highly effective at penetrating all walks of Syrian society. Third, its embrace of a virulently anti-Zionist and anti-American foreign policy succeeded in both splitting the opposition and lending it an aura of legitimacy. Fourth, both the West and the predominantly Sunni Arab world have appeased Assad's regime and ignored the abuses of his rule. Lastly, Assad's ability to retain the support not just of Alawites but also of other non-Sunni minorities, mainly the Christians, has proved crucial. Most of these factors no longer apply, not least since the "barrier of fear" has been crossed.
Should the U.S. seek to stop the bloodletting and accelerate Assad's fall through direct military intervention? Gambill's answer is a resounding no.
The status quo is untenable because the other Arab countries, including those that have urged Washington to confront Iran, and even Turkey, will not allow continued instability and bloodshed on their borders. Any confrontation between Tehran and the Arab states should be allowed to run its course. If Assad is fated for defeat, and his fall would remove Iran from "Syria's orbit," there is no rationale for U.S. intervention.
Nor should Israel be unduly alarmed by Assad's demise, though the likely Islamist domination of the successor regime. Bashar's diversionary anti-Zionist foreign policy and rhetoric was just that—a diversion from his Alawite origin—and an unnecessarily radical stance for any Sunni-dominated government to assume.
Assad's willingness to murder his own people is an albatross for both his regime and his Iranian allies. If America can do nothing to decisively improve the situation, it is in our best interests to stand by and watch Iran struggle with the very same dilemma.
Summary account by Alex Berman.
Related Topics:  Syria, US policy  |  Gary C. Gambill This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

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Watering down FBI materials

April 30, 2012
Watering Down FBI
Training Materials


See below for an op-ed by Brigitte Gabriel that appeared last week in The Blaze.

We only have a few more days to gather names for our very important open letter to Congress opposing watering down FBI counterterrorism training materials. Congressional hearings will be taking place very soon.

The more names we get, the better chance we have of getting the letter inserted in the congressional record.

So if you haven’t yet added your name, please do so today!

World Watering Down FBI Counterterrorism Training Materials Endangers America

        Posted on April 25, 2012 at 4:25pm

A decade after the United States was viciously attacked, a new attempt by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) to water down the FBI’s counterterrorism training materials of valuable information regarding radical Islam has alarmed Members of Congress concerned with our national security. In a March 27, 2012 letter to Director Mueller, Senator Durbin badgers him again for not caving to his politically correct notions, demanding the removal of language and information essential to fighting terrorism.

ACT! for America, the largest national security grassroots organization in the country, as well as Members of Congress are concerned with Senator Durbin’s approach, and rightly so. The ongoing purge of counterterrorism training materials used by the FBI as well as state and local law enforcement is a danger to our nation. These actions are a continuation of dangerous steps to manipulate, if not altogether eliminate, a clear definition of the threat that radical Islam poses to our nation.

In the most recent case concerning the FBI, who exactly are these “experts in the field” to whom Senator Durbin would like to assign the duty of “reviewing and approving” the counterterrorism training materials used by the men and women who serve our nation in the Federal Bureau of Investigation? Who is allowed to vet those “experts?” We have seen on an ongoing basis dubious “experts,” such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), advising our nation’s decision-makers about radical Islam, including the Administration, Congress and state and local elected leaders. CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing trial in our history and was identified by the Justice Department as connected to Hamas, yet it continues to attempt to influence counterterrorism policies with an obvious conflict of interest.

While ongoing reviews of counterterrorism materials are always wise, deliberate manipulation and whitewashing of terms that accurately define the threat is not. This is especially true if such revisions are made in the name of “political correctness” or by “experts” who, in reality, are more interested in undermining the ability of our law enforcement community to thwart acts of terrorism. Law enforcement officials are our front line of the counterterrorism issue, and it is critically important that they have accurate training materials to help them to do their job right. Such training materials should not be modified at the whim of one or two Members of Congress, or outside “consultants” whose identities are kept secret from congressional oversight.

In an open letter to members of the U.S. Congress who have jurisdiction over the FBI, we note the whitewashing of references to radical Islam in the FBI’s training materials as the latest in a series of actions by the Obama administration that amount to an informal implementation of U.N. Resolution 16/18 (the “The Istanbul Process”). U.N. Resolution 16/18 includes language that seeks to bypass the U.S. Constitution by laying the groundwork for criminalizing any action or speech against a religion, using protection against “incitement to violence” as the rationale. The U.S. Department of State is a complicit participant in this process, something that we find alarming as such criminalization of speech is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

This becomes even more clear when you compare the 9/11 Commission’s Report to today’s national security lexicon, as well as in the report on the killings at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan. In the case of the 9/11 Commission Report, the Commission clearly defined radical Islam as a threat to our nation. However, words that were included hundreds of times in that bi-partisan report, such as “Islam,” “Jihad,” and “Muslim,” were removed entirely from the Obama Administration’s 2009 strategic threat assessment. In the U.S. military’s 86 page report on the Ft. Hood incident, not one mention is made about Major Hasan’s Muslim faith and how he viewed it as motivating his actions. In fact, Major Hasan himself is not even mentioned – even though his is the sole suspect in the case.

These actions are extremely dangerous. Political correctness must not trump constitutional rights, nor hamper our country’s ability to protect itself by muzzling law enforcement or hoodwinking its citizens.

The good news is the American public is becoming more educated about the threats posed to our nation by radical Islam. The American people are appropriately looking to their elected officials to enact sound policies that will protect them from this threat — and they are prepared to remove those elected officials from office if they fall short of that task.

Brigitte Gabriel is an international terrorism analyst and a two times New York Times best-selling author of Because They Hate and They Must Be Stopped. She is the President of ACT for, the largest national security grassroots movement in the U.S.


ACT for America
P.O. Box 12765
Pensacola, FL 32591

ACT for America is an issues advocacy organization dedicated to effectively organizing and mobilizing the most powerful grassroots citizen action network in America, a grassroots network committed to informed and coordinated civic action that will lead to public policies that promote America’s national security and the defense of American democratic values against the assault of radical Islam. We are only as strong as our supporters, and your volunteer and financial support is essential to our success. Thank you for helping us make America safer and more secure.

The news items, blogs, educational materials and other information in our emails and on our website are only intended to provide information, news and commentary on events and issues related to the threat of radical Islam. Much of this information is based upon media sources, such as the AP wire services, newspapers, magazines, books, online news blog and news services, and radio and television, which we deem to be reliable. However, we have undertaken no independent investigation to verify the accuracy of the information reported by these media sources. We therefore disclaim all liability for false or inaccurate information from these media sources. We also disclaim all liability for the third-party information that may be accessed through the material referenced in our emails or posted on our website.

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Eye on Iran: Iran Skeptical but Open to U.S. Overture on Nuclear Program

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Top Stories

LA Times: "Iranian officials expressed skepticism Saturday about possible Obama administration support for allowing the country to continue enriching some uranium but said it could be a good start for further negotiations on its disputed nuclear program. Senior U.S. officials have said they might agree to let Iran enrich uranium up to 5% purity if its government agreed to the unrestricted inspections, strict oversight and numerous safeguards that the United Nations has long demanded. If the deal was offered by all six nations negotiating with Iran and the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, 'it would be a good start,' said one official in Iran's Foreign Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ... 'One thing I can tell you for sure is that Iran will never, ever close down the Fordow nuclear site,' the official said, referring to the enrichment plant. 'But other issues such as 20% enrichment is open to negotiation. I can say Obama's proposal is good provided it is unanimously echoed.'"

Reuters: "China is considering sovereign guarantees for its ships to enable the world's second-biggest oil consumer to continue importing Iranian crude after new EU sanctions come into effect in July, the head of China's shipowners' association said. Tough new European Union sanctions aimed at stopping Iran's oil exports to Europe also ban EU insurers and reinsurers from covering tankers carrying Iranian crude anywhere in the world. Around 90 percent of the world's tanker insurance is based in the West, so the measures threaten shipments to Iran's top Asian buyers China, India, Japan and South Korea. Global crude oil prices have risen nearly 20 percent since October, partly on fears over supply disruptions from Iran.'(Ship) operators are worried that if the insurance issue cannot be resolved, they will not be able to take orders for shipping Iranian oil any longer,' Zhang Shouguo, secretary general of China Shipowners' Association, told Reuters in a rare interview with foreign media.'We have put forward our concern and related government departments are studying the issue.'"

NYT: "After a winter of alarm over the possibility that a military conflict over the Iranian nuclear program might be imminent, American officials and outside analysts now believe that the chances of war in the near future have significantly decreased. They cite a series of factors that, for now, argue against a conflict. The threat of tighter economic sanctions has prompted the Iranians to try more flexible tactics in their dealings with the United States and other powers, while the revival of direct negotiations has tempered the most inflammatory talk on all sides. A growing divide in Israel between political leaders and military and intelligence officials over the wisdom of attacking Iran has begun to surface. And the White House appears determined to prevent any confrontation that could disrupt world oil markets in an election year. 'I do think the temperature has cooled,' an Obama administration official said this week."
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Nuclear Program 

Reuters: "The United Nations nuclear watchdog confirmed on Saturday it will resume talks with Iran in mid-May, more than two months after the last meeting over concerns about the Islamic state's atomic activities ended in failure. Gill Tudor, spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the meeting would take place on May 14-15 at the Iranian diplomatic mission in Vienna.'The purpose is to continue the negotiations started early this year,' Tudor said in an email."

NYT: "The recently retired chief of Israel's internal security agency accused the government of 'misleading the public' about the likely effectiveness of an aerial strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, ratcheting up the criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak from the country's security establishment. Yuval Diskin, who retired last year as the director of Shin Bet, the Israeli equivalent of the F.B.I., said at a public forum on Friday night that he had 'no faith' in the ability of the current leadership to handle the Iranian nuclear threat. 'I don't believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings,' he told a gathering in Kfar Saba, a central Israeli city of 80,000. 'I have observed them from up close,' he added, broadening his critique to include the handling of the Palestinian conflict as well. 'I fear very much that these are not the people I'd want at the wheel.'"

JPost: "Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan on Sunday gave his support to former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin, who said Friday that he has no confidence in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak abilities to conduct a war. Speaking on the sidelines of The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, Dagan said Diskin was speaking his 'internal truth' and called him a good friend and a serious person."


Times of Israel:
"Earlier this month, New York City unveiled its 'Taxi of Tomorrow,' a new Nissan cab specially designed for the unique challenges of Manhattan streets. That $1 billion contract, however, is now in jeopardy thanks in large part to New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who has been sounding the alarm about Nissan's business in Iran. ... One of his office's current initiatives is called the Iran Watch List - a partnership with two local groups, Iran 180 and United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), who support strong sanctions against the Islamic Republc. The campaign aims to create a grassroots social media campaign that pressures 13 major carmakers to stop doing business in Iran. Already, Porsche and Hyundai have pulled out of the Iranian market. Others still selling vehicles to Tehran include Toyota, Volvo, Mitsubishi, Fiat, Mazda, and Nissan. With the billion dollar Nissan-New York City contract pending, de Blasio has the Japanese carmaker in his crosshairs. The Times of Israel asked the New York City Public Advocate to explain more about this campaign."

WSJ: "Prospects have dimmed that major oil consumers in Europe, the U.S. and Asia will drive down prices this summer by collectively making a large injection into the market from emergency oil stockpiles. Such action, coordinated by the International Energy Agency, looked to be gathering momentum just a month ago following comments from the U.S., U.K. and French government officials. But it has lost some of its political traction and much of its justification, given that supply is up and prices are down without any moves by western governments. Analysts at the IEA are more confident of adequate oil supply later this year after months of high crude production from Saudi Arabia that will offset any cut in Iranian exports because of the sanctions."


"Iran's National Petrochemical Co. plans to borrow from local banks some of the $50 billion it needs to develop 60 projects by the end of 2015, the Oil Ministry's news website Shana reported. The state-run company seeks to broaden its output to 85 products from the current 25 and wants to build production hubs in the northeastern city of Sarakhs, the port of Chabahar, and the Persian Gulf islands of Lavan, Qeshm and Kish, Managing Director Abdolhossein Bayat said in the report today. Iran is trying to expand petrochemicals-making capacity to 51 million metric tons a year in 2015. State media last year said output was about 4 million tons. Iran, the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, faces economic sanctions over its nuclear program."

Bloomberg: "South Africa imported 3.37 billion rand ($435 million) of crude oil from Iran in March, nearly doubling its purchases from the Middle Eastern nation in the same period last year, according to the country's tax authority. South African crude imports totaled 11 billion rand in March, with 30% of shipments coming from Iran, the Pretoria- based South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement today. Nigeria was the biggest supplier in the month with 40 percent. Saudi Arabia accounted for 22 percent and the rest came from Angola. South Africa imported no crude from Iran in January, and imports totaled 2.8 billion rand in February. Imports amounted to 1.73 billion rand in March last year. U.S. President Barack Obama signed a law on Dec. 31 that denies foreign banks that do business with the Central Bank of Iran access to that country's financial system. The U.S. may impose penalties should a country not make 'significant' reductions in Iranian crude oil purchases in the first half of this year."

Bloomberg: "Iran discovered 'one of the biggest natural gas fields in the Middle East,' with reserves comparable to those of the South Pars field, Mehr reported, citing an industry official. The gas was found in southwestern Khuzestan province at a deposit already known to contain crude oil, said National Iranian Oil Co. Director for Exploration Mahmoud Mohaddes, according to the state-run news agency. A 5000-meter (16,400- foot) well will be drilled 'soon' to collect further information, he said."

Foreign Affairs

"Wary of Iran and regional protest movements, Gulf Arab states are pushing ahead with plans for a political union that would involve joint foreign and defense policies, the Saudi foreign minister said in a speech at the weekend. ... Shi'ite-led unrest is resurging in Bahrain a year after the ruling Al Khalifa family brought in Saudi and United Arab Emirates troops to help suppress an uprising seen by Gulf rulers as sectarian in nature and driven by Shi'ite giant Iran. A visit this month by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the island of Abu Musa, also claimed by the United Arab Emirates as its own, has stoked the concern of conservative Gulf Arabs about Iranian influence in the oil-exporting region."

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: "Iran has denounced the April 28 burning of copies of the Koran by U.S. pastor Terry Jones in the state of Florida. A statement issued by Iran's Foreign Ministry on April 29 called the act 'insulting and provocative' and urged the United States to apologize to the Muslim World. Jones burned the Korans and a depiction of the Prophet Mohammed to protest the imprisonment in Iran of Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani."

AP: "A prominent Iranian lawmaker says the reported basing of America's most sophisticated stealth jet fighters in the United Arab Emirates is a U.S.-Israel plot to create regional instability. Kazem Jalali was reacting to media reports of the recent deployment of F-22 Raptors at the UAE's Al Dafra Air Base, which has long hosted U.S. warplanes. The deployment was first reported in the journal Aviation Week, but U.S. and UAE officials have not publicly commented."

Opinion & Analysis

John Bolton in WSJ:
"Mr. Obama's real failure is not reliance on the cumbersome, ineffective U.N., but his unwillingness to confront Iran, which is determined to maintain Assad in office. Tehran has long treated Syria as a satellite, part of its regional arc of influence that includes terrorist Hezbollah, now politically and militarily dominant in Lebanon. It is prepared to shed considerable Syrian blood to save Assad. The Islamic Republic has supplied arms and financial assistance to the Assad regime, and Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers are on the ground in Syria aiding government forces. Mr. Obama knows that if he confronts Iran directly in Syria, any chance will disappear for a negotiated settlement to Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. While he should have long ago understood that diplomacy will never persuade Iran to renounce its objective of becoming a nuclear power, he has not. So despite Iran's obvious role (backed by Russia and China) in defending Assad's brutality, the president cannot bring himself to admit his Iran policy's futility. And Mr. Obama is entirely unwilling to risk foreign adventures that might imperil his re-election."

James Fallows in The Atlantic: "A month ago my Atlantic colleague Jeffrey Goldberg joined me for two rounds of Q-and-A about the heated military rhetoric between Israel and Iran. My main question was whether Prime Minister Netanyahu could really be serious in his threats to bomb Iranian facilities if he thought that Iranian progress toward nuclear-weapon capability has passed a 'point of no return' -- and that the United States wasn't going to attack on its own. I phrased it that way -- could he really be serious? -- because the judgments I had heard from US and international military figures for nearly a decade had so consistently indicated that this was not a plausible plan. A spasm, yes; something that made either tactical or strategic sense, no. (I am aware of the main counterargument: the claim from strike advocates that, even if bombing Iran is a bad idea, Israel would have no choice about averting an 'existential' threat.) Therefore I thought that at some level this had to be bluff -- to force the U.S. toward a harder-line policy, to ramp up international pressure, generally to move the options and terms of argument in the direction Netanyahu preferred. You can read the previous rounds, and Jeff Goldberg's explanation of why he thinks Netanyahu has been in complete earnest, here: first, second, and third. A lot has happened in this past month, and Jeff Goldberg has agreed that it's time to continue the discussion. So here goes."

Stanley Weiss in The Huffington Post: "This is a country that has a middle class larger than the entire population of the United States -- and yet, despite ongoing controversy over India's poverty numbers, at least 350 million Indians live on about 50 cents a day. Its population includes roughly 160 million Muslims -- and yet, it is the world's largest importer of Israeli weapons. And while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last year that the relationship between the U.S. and India will shape the 21st century -- this 'true friend' of the U.S. imports more oil from America's sworn enemy, Iran, than any other nation. It is the issue of oil that has put India's unique friendship with the U.S., Iran and Israel under an intense spotlight. Under a new U.S. law designed to use oil to pressure Iran into ending a nuclear program that Israel and the West believe is dangerous, countries that do not significantly reduce their imports of Iranian oil by June 28 can be denied access to the U.S. financial system. India, which imports roughly 10 percent of its oil from Iran, denounced the strong-armed tactics and announced that it would not abide by the sanctions. Since then, Delhi has devised creative new financing vehicles independent of Western banks to help Indian refineries continue to engage Tehran. 'The mood in the U.S. is turning into: you are either for us or against us,' the Indian Foreign Secretary, H.E. Ranjan Mathai, told me in his office. 'The problem is that the U.S. has made rules which complicate normal life. Some people have to do their own calculations and we have to do ours.'"

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.