India to Order Israeli “Spike” anti-tank missiles

Reports are surfacing that the plan for India to buy anti-Tank “Spike” missiles from Israel is back on. This is despite an earlier decision to terminate the deal in the hopes the Indian Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) would develop a home-grown version.

Both the India Times and Bloomberg News are reporting unnamed sources that the purchase proposal is now at a very advanced stage, but is awaiting Indian government approval.  No other details were given.

Given the urgent needs of the Indian Defense Establishment, the “Spike” Missiles are needed as a stop-gap purchase due to the home-grown version being at least three years away. The initial deal which was terminated in January assumed the DRDO would be able to develop their own version within the year.  The DRDO later backtracked opening the door for Raphael and Israel to resume the sale of “Spike” missiles.



Since 1974 Turkey has occupied 40% of Cyprus, constituting in what the international community holds is an illegal occupation. In that time Turkey has driven out the Greek Cypriots from the Turkish enclave in the northern part of the island, where the ethnic Greeks had made up more than 80% of the populace.

As Turkey has swung further and further towards an Islamist style republic, with an increasingly autocratic president in Erdogan, Israel and Cyprus along with Greece have begun to form various economic alliances as a buffer to Turkey’s expansion. While Cypriot animosity to their Turkish occupiers cannot be overstated, Israel’s increasingly strong economic position and regional leadership capabilities in the technology and military arenas is both attractive and reassuring.

Greece, Cyprus, and Israel have jointly developed an East Med gas pipeline that will take their gas to Europe.  This has given them the need to also create a joint task force in dealing with threats from Iran, Hezbollah, and Turkey to both Cyprus’ and Israel’s gas and oil fields.

With Turkey trying to establish itself as the leader of the Islamic world, it has grown more and more antagonistic to Israel. Yet, behoind its stated infuriation over Israel’s self-defense from a potential Gaza stampede, the real thing bothering Erdogan is Israel’s alignment with Greece and Cyprus.

With positive relationships having been developed over the years in tourism between the three countries and now with a combination of economic, technological, and energy cooperation, Israel has become the stable anchor and friend both Cyprus and its big brother Greece have sought.

Turkey has grown very cool to the idea of energy collaboration between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel. In a recent visit to London Turkey’s Erdogan said that the “Eastern Mediterranean faces a security threat should Cyprus continue its unilateral operations of offshore oil and gas exploration in the region.”

Earlier this year, Turkish Navy vessels threatened to sink a drilling ship hired by Eni to explore for oil and gas off Cyprus’s shore.  Weeks before that, Turkey’s Navy had blocked the drilling vessel that Eni had hired.

Turkey claims that the drilling operations are ‘unilateral’ and claims that part of the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus is under Turkish jurisdiction.

These sorts of events and declarations have pushed Greece, Cyprus, and Israel closer together.  With the latest row between Turkey and Israel heightening tensions between the two, the frontlines of any potential conflict between the two may end up being Cyprus who has begun to rely on Israel for help with maritime security training.

With tensions mounting between Turkey and the three East Mediterranean allies,  Jonathan Cohen, US State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs said the following in hopes of calming the situation: “If confirmed, I will continue to support longstanding US policy recognizing the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources in its EEZ. The island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities on the island in the context of an overall settlement.”

Cohen backed by the US government appears to be placating both the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government along with Turkey’s assertion that it deserves some of the access to Cyrus’ resources.  The problem with this approach is it rewards Turkey for it malevolent behavior at a time when it is actively engaged in wrecking havoc in several geographic areas in the region.

With the continued cooperation between Israel, Cyprus, and Greece in the offing, expect tensions to only increase with Turkey. Will there be war in the eastern Mediterranean? Perhaps not tomorrow, but with a falling Lira and an expansionist leader in Ankara, the threat is only increasing.

ISRAEL-INDIA ALLIANCE: Israeli Defense Contracts to India Continue to Soar

Despite India’s publicly cool reception over Washington’s embassy move to Jerusalem, the Modi government continues to build on its alliance with Israel by becoming the top Israeli arms and defense importer for 2017.

In general, there has been a very large increase of Israeli defense contracts to the Asia-Pacific region.  The Asia-Pacific region holds 58 percent of Israeli defense deals making it by far the largest region for Israeli defense contracts.  Israel’s top three customers, all from the region, include India, Vietnam, and Azerbaijan.

India leads with US$715 million worth of purchase, then Vietnam at US$142 million and Azerbaijan at US$137 million follows next.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s military exports rose by 41 percent in 2017, the third consecutive year of increased defense exports, which brought in nearly US$9.2 billion in contracts.

Last month, India ended its ban it had placed on Aerospace Industries and the Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd both of Israel, which remained blacklisted since 2006 due to allegations of bribery.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a lawsuit demanding the closure of the criminal investigation against the two companies, which led to US$2 billion deal between India and Israel’s Aerospace Industries. The lawsuit closure led to an agreement between the two nations under which the Israeli company would supply India with Barak 8 surface-to-air missiles.

India’s Concern About China and Pakistan Has Strengthened the Military Cooperation With Israel

Most India-Israel observers have always noted the warm cultural relations between the two ancient countries.  Yet, in today’s geopolitical upheavels along with Chinese economic expansion westward by way of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Chinese military alliance with Pakistan, India’s military cooperation with Israel has taken a front seat to the growing trade and cultural ties.

With Pakistan arming itself with Chinese weapons and excacerbating tensions in Kashmir, India and Israel have now grown even closer.

While India may have skipped the US embassy dedication, it barely uttered a peep over Israel’s border defense against Hamas terrorists who posed as civilians.  Perhaps this is because, India too has begn to face a militant Pakistan prepared to utilize similar tactics against the only Hindu majority country in the world.

Netanyahu Attends Victory Day Celebration in Russia, But Iran is the Real Focus

It may appear strange that Prime Minister Netanyahu would spend time at a Victory Day celebration in Russia less than a day after President Donald Trump took the United States out of the JCPOA otherwise known as the Iranian nuclear deal. With the Israel’s northern border on high alert for Iranian reprisals after the IAF destroyed a cache of weapons last night, Netanyahu could of skipped the Victory Day celebration, even if he was the honored guest.

Yet, in the fast-moving events of the Middle East, attending the celebration is of utmost importance. “I am now leaving for an important meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Prime Minister said. “The meetings between us are always important and this one is especially so. In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued coordination between the Russian military.”

Coordination is the key.  With war on the horizon, Israel must ensure that any flare up does not unintentionally kill Russian soldiers on the ground in Syria.  If that happens then Putin will take a far different approach to Israel.

Does Putin Want Iran Pushed Back?

Although it appears Putin is an ally of Iran, historically this has not been so.  With the Mullahs taking advantage of the Syrian chaos to take up forward positions opposite Israel, the Iranian regime has complicated Putin’s strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean.  While not enthused by Trump’s bravado against Iran, Putin has grown impatient with the Shiite movements in the region.  Iran and Russia have diverging interests when it comes to Syria.

Putin’s Syria entanglement has been merely to ensure  he holds onto two key Russian bases in northwestern Syria along with creating a blocking strategy. In the early stage of Russian involvement he needed foot soldiers to consolidate Assad’s regime.  The Iranians and Hezbollah happily volunteered.

Netanyahu’s mission in Russia is twofold.  He must ensure Putin that Israel’s increased attacks on Iranian positions in Syria are meant to push Iran out, not harm Moscow’s interests and second Netanyahu is acting as a sort of intermediary between Presidents Trump and Putin.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said the following to President Putin before their meeting: “I very much appreciate the opportunity to discuss regional problems with you, the attempts as you put it, to resolve the crises, to lift the threats in a prudent and responsible manner.”

The events of the next few weeks will flow from actions undertaken by Israel and the USA in the next few days as well as the agreements or the lack there of between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin.


IS ISRAEL ARMING CRIMINALS: Myanmar’s War Against the Rohingya is Not What the World Thinks

Rohingya Israel Myanmar

Fierce cries from many corners in Israel are demanding a stop to arm sales to Myanmar due to the insistence that its army is busy carrying out large-scale ethnic cleansing against the “defenseless” Rohingya Muslim minority. These cries stem from similar protests against Myanmar carried out around the world using the slogan “Real Face of Buddhist Terror.”

The Left in Israel has used the Myanmar issue to slam the current government, but if one takes a closer look at the situation there, it is not clear which side really is in the right.  Haaretz likes to insist that Israel habitually arms dictatorships.

In response to a question from the floor by lawmaker Tamar Zandberg of Meretz about arms exports to Myanmar, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “Generally speaking we subordinate ourselves to the entire enlightened world.”

Lieberman is lying. This is not the first time that Israel has taken such a course of action. It lied when it supported war crimes in Argentina, ignoring the American embargo, and it lied when it armed the Bosnian forces that perpetrated massacres, ignoring a UN embargo. It armed the military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina and the Contras in Nicaragua, and it is arming the forces of evil in South Sudan.

While each of these past “offenses” seems problematic, they are by no means monolithic.  In fact, each one has its own set of circumstances that should be investigated carefully.

Back to Myanmar and the Rohingya.  The reason why the Left in Israel are chastising the government is because the Israeli Left buys into the equivalent narrative when it comes to Israel. If one substitutes the claims against Mynamar with the word Israel, the claims sound all too familiar. “Ethnic cleansing,” “War Crimes,” and so on and so forth. Just like there are those who demand the US boycott Israel, similar voices have successfully petitioned the world community against Myanmar.  The stories are frightfully parallel.

The Rohingya are actually not indigenous to Myanmar.  They are as admitted, a Bangladeshi group of Muslims that are fighting an insurgency against Myanmar.  This insurgency is actually being funded by Bangaladesh against its Buddhist neighbor. The government in Bangladesh is responsible for the upsurge in violence due to their use of women and children as human shields.


The tactic of using a trojan horse by flooding a neighboring country with “defenseless” refugees is not new.  In fact Muslim countries have done this many times.  We see this in Israel when it comes to the “Palestinians” who are also not indigenous to the Land.

A post a few weeks ago in the India based SwarajyaMag said the following:

A violent Islamist group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) is forcing all Rohingya males – even very young boys – to attack Rakhine Buddhists and other civilians and to provoke the Myanmar army into violence. This group has been getting its funding and weapons from Islamic countries like Pakistan and Malaysia and its training from al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan.

Just yesterday a mass grave of hindus was found, said to be killed by Rohingya militants.

“Security members found and dug up 28 dead bodies of Hindus who were cruelly violently and killed by ARSA extremist Bengali terrorists in Rakhine State,” a statement posted on the army chief’s website said.

No one should suggest that nothing is happening between the Myanmar army and the Rohingya.  That would be foolish.  Yet, the UN Human Rights council (UNHRC) in the same way it has attacked Israel has created an appearance of a one-sided conflict.  This is the same UNHRC that is fully controlled by Islamic countries.

Given the above, it is hard to understand why the voices in Israel, claiming to stand for justice quiet down and look at the conflict in Myanmar as what it is, an Islamic fueled and funded rebellion being supported by Islamist countries both financially and in the UN.

With all of the challenges Israel has around it, the Left in Israel should give the government the benefit of the doubt when it comes to arm sales.  Israel has a need to arm those countries, despite flimsy human rights records that are not Islamist in order to push back on the spread of an ideology that has no qualms in using terror, innocents, and violence to achieve its goals.

If there was one suggestion the Left in Israel should make is that it could ask the government to make the arm sales to Myanmar contingent on their government allowing Israel to train their troops to better differentiate between ARSA supported rebels and innocent civilians.  After all, Israel is an expert in doing this.


What is Behind Bahrain’s Outreach to Israel?

The news has been abuzz since yesterday when Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah called for the end of the Arab boycott of Israel and even said he allowed his citizens to travel there. This surprise announcement came within a meeting held in Bahrain with Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, who head the Wiesenthal Center. The King has announced his desire to establish a Museum of Religious Tolerance in Bahrain’s capital before 2018.

The announcement maybe a shock to the word outside the Middle East, but King Hamad is considered to be one of the more tolerant rulers in the Middle East.  Bahrain boasts a multi religious society where religious tolerance is seen as a virtue. There are Mosques, Churches, Hindu and Buddhist Temples and yes a Synagogue.

Last year, the King made waves by his hosting a public Chanukkah lighting ceremony.

Jews who have lived in Bahrain since Talmudic times, numbered 1,500 in Bahrain until 1947 when pro-Palestinian outsiders came and rioted, forcing many Jews to flee the island nation. Most observers support the assertion that the local Bahraini Arabs actually protected their Jewish neighbors from the outsiders.  When the same thing occurred in 1967, most of the remaining Jews fled to Israel or England. There are presently 30 to 50 Jews remaining in the Kingdom, with one Jew Houda Nonoo, a woman having served in its 40 person parliament as its ambassador to the USA.

So what is behind this announcement and why now?

With the Saudi Crown Prince moving to take over from his ailing father in the coming months in conjunction with the Sunni bloc’s desire to hold back the formation of Russian backed Shiite crescent connecting the Mediterranean with Tehran, leaders in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain see Israel as an anchor to which they can hold the region’s future to.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman cannot make a public overture with his future leadership still in question, but King Hamad can.  His overture is not a policy shift in a defined sense, but a preparation for the coming overt alliance, that has been hinted at in Jerusalem and Washington.

Palestinian Issue Has Peaked

The Sunni Arab bloc, understanding that the Palestinian national movement had been a useful tool since 1967 have drawn a conclusion that the trojan horse not only has failed, but has spawned the very terrorism in strategy and tactics tha threatens their own regime. It cannot be folded up in a day, but the understanding that Israel is not going anywhere and given the impossibility of a “Palestinian” State, the Gulf Arabs have clearly decided that a deal with Israel is more important than keeping the false narrative of the “Palestinian People” going.

The deal that has more than probably been reached behind the scenes is an acceptance of the status quo by all sides. In effect it is a permanent Oslo Accords until something better comes along. For the Arabs, they can make due with saying disputed territories as opposed to occupied and the Israelis can finally gain a measure of regional integration and leadership.

King Hamad’s announcement is the first key indication that the Sunni Arab bloc is ready to publicly accept Israel. What follows after maybe a far bigger vision for the Middle East than previously thought.


Why Israel Should be Concerned about Saudi Arabia’s Internal Politics

Reports from Saudi Arabia are saying that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is fast consolidating his power ahead of becoming King either after his father dies or abdicates.

“Over the last week, 16 people were held, their friends, relatives and associates said in interviews. They include prominent Islamic clerics, academics, a poet, an economist, the head of a youth organization, at least two women and one prince, a son of a former king,” reports the Times of India.

This move to push away dissent from within the regime, is a short term play to ensure the transition to kingship is without protest, but the more the future king consolidates power, the more the protests grow. If a fissure should occur within the kingdom, it could have cataclysmic results for Saudi Arabia.

At a time when oil is dropping and Iran is banging on their door steps, the Saudi royal family can ill afford to have a serious push against it from within.  Iran could easily exploit a serious dispute in the Kingdom by stoking revolt among the Shiites in the oil rich areas in the Southern area of the Kingdom.

Israel Needs to be Careful in Placing Trust in Mohammed bin Salman

It is clear Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has a real interest in building a serious relationship with Israel.  Yet, Israel cannot rely on him.  Any open softening of the Kingdom’s stance towards Israel will weakken the monarchy in the eyes of the street. If there is a real attempted pusch against the potential king, then Bin Salman will be forced to go negative against Israel to ensure his reputation with the Saudi street.

As Mohammed bin Salman moves to take over the Kingdom, there will be more an more resistance. His challenge is balancing his reaction in such a way that it does not spark an actual uprising. The stabity if the entire kingdom depends on it.


Can Israel Save the Saudi Royal Family From Itself?

Rumors have been swirling over the past few days about what appears to be a secret visit by the Saudi Crown Prince to Israel.

“A prince from the Royal Court visited the country in secret over the past few days and discussed the idea of pushing regional peace forward with a number of senior Israeli officials,” the IBC reported, citing the Russian Sputnik media outlet.

This rumor was further strengthened by both Arab media and Israeli media claims.  While it is highly doubtful that the Saudi Crown Prince actually made a secret visit to Israel, the idea that the Saudis are busy trying to find a way to strengthen ties with Israel is not beyond the pale of reason.

The Saudi Royal Family is in the middle of a serious transition away from their terrorist backing past. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is a far more worldly personality than his predecessors and sees his role as steering the Kingdom away from the wahhabism it has been associated with.

Despite his growing power there are many leaders within the Saudi Kingdom who are opposed to the many changes that the Crown Prince is trying to bring to the Kingdom.  Although the traditional leadership has allowed to back channel covert relations with Israel, these have been for the sole purpose of pushing back on Iran. The Crown Prince seems to be pushing for a far more open relationship.

Trump: Saudi Arabia has a “very positive” feeling toward Israel 

President Donald Trump made history in his foreign trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel, by forcing the Saudis to allow Air Force 1 to fly directly from Riyadh to Israel. The meetings in Riyadh left the President with the impression that the Saudis are now willing to open to the point where he made the now famous line: “Saudi Arabia has a ‘very positive’ feeling toward Israel.”

So the question remains why is the Crown Prince so bullish (at least behind the scenes still) on forging a relationship that goes beyond defense with Israel?

The answer the lies in his realization that not only is Israel not going anyway, but it is the key for the Sunni Arab states to connect in a far more broad way to the wider world.  While the Sunni block has been busy fomenting jihadism and selling oil, Israel has been developed into a global leader in innovation that has growing connections to India, China, Africa, and other developing regions.  Not to mention its reputation as a leader in military technologies.

With jihadism becoming dangerous to its own masters and oil running out, the Crown Prince knows he must pivot and change in order to survive. While peace between Israel and the “Palestinians” remains elusive, peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel may very well reshape the Middle East in a way that can change the nature of Israel’s relationship to the Sunni world.



Why it may weaken US adversaries and strengthen our allies.

If the leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan aren’t intimidated into standing down, on September 25, the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will go to the polls to vote on a referendum for independence.

The Kurds have been hoping to hold the referendum since 2013.

Whereas Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu restated his support for Kurdish independence earlier this month in a meeting with a delegation of visiting Republican congressmen, the Trump administration has urged Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and his colleagues to postpone the referendum indefinitely. US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who visited with Barzani in the Kurdish capital of Erbil two weeks ago, said that the referendum would harm the campaign against Islamic State.

In his words, “Our point right now is to stay focused like a laser beam on the defeat of ISIS and to let nothing distract us.”

Another line of argument against the Kurdish referendum was advanced several weeks ago by The New York Times editorial board. The Times argued the Kurds aren’t ready for independence. Their government suffers from corruption, their economy is weak, their democratic institutions are weak and their human rights record is far from perfect.

While the Times’ claims have truth to them, the relevant question is compared to what? Compared to their neighbors, not to mention to the Times’ favored group the Palestinians, the Kurds, who have been self-governing since 1991, are paragons of good governance. Not only have they given refuge to tens of thousands of Iraqis fleeing ISIS, Iraqi Kurdistan has been an island of relative peace in a war-torn country since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Its Peshmerga forces have not only secured Kurdistan, they have been the most competent force fighting ISIS since its territorial conquests in 2014.

The same is the case of the Kurdish YPG militia in Syrian Kurdistan.

As for Mattis’s argument that the referendum, and any subsequent moves to secede from Iraq, would harm the campaign against ISIS, the first question is whether he is right.

If Mattis is concerned that the referendum will diminish Iranian and Turkish support for the campaign, then his concern is difficult to defend.

Turkey has never been a significant player in the anti-ISIS campaign. Indeed, until recently, Turkey served as ISIS’s logistical base.

As for Iran, this week Iranian-controlled Hezbollah and Lebanese military forces struck a deal to permit ISIS fighters they defeated along the Lebanese-Syrian border to safely transit Syria to ISIS-held areas along the Syrian border with Iraq. In other words, far from cooperating with the US and its allies against ISIS, Iran and its underlings are fighting a separate war to take ISIS out of their areas of influence while enabling ISIS to fight the US and its allies in other areas.

This then brings us to the real question that the US should be asking itself in relation to the Kurdish referendum. That question is whether an independent Kurdistan would advance or harm US strategic interests in the region.

Since the US and Russia concluded their cease-fire deal for Syria on July 7, Netanyahu has used every opportunity to warn that the cease-fire is a disaster.

In the interest of keeping Mattis’s “laser focus” on fighting ISIS, the US surrendered its far greater strategic interest of preventing Iran and its proxies from taking over the areas that ISIS controlled – such as the Syrian-Lebanese border and the tri-border area between Iraq, Syria and Jordan. As Netanyahu warns at every opportunity, Iran and its proxies are moving into all the areas being liberated from ISIS.

And Iran isn’t the only concern from either an Israeli or an American perspective. Turkey is also a looming threat, which will only grow if it isn’t contained.

Turkey’s rapidly accelerating anti-American trajectory is now unmistakable.

Last week during Mattis’s visit to Ankara, Turkish- supported militias in northern Syria opened fire on US forces. Not only did Turkey fail to apologize, Turkey condemned the US for retaliating against the attackers.

Moreover, last week, Turkish authorities announced they are charging US pastor Andrew Brunson with espionage, membership in a terrorist organization and attempting to destroy Turkey’s constitutional order and overthrow its parliament.

Brunson was arrested last October.

Whereas until last year’s failed military coup against the regime of President Recep Erdogan, Turkey demonstrated a firm interest in remaining a member of NATO and a strategic ally of the US, since the failed coup, Turkey has signaled that it at best, it is considering its options. US generals say that since the failed coup, they have almost no one to talk to in the Turkish military. Their interlocutors are either under arrest or too afraid to speak to them.

The regime and its supporters express both neo-Ottoman and neo-colonial aspirations, both of which place Turkey on a collision course with the US.

For instance, Melih Ecertas, the head of Erdogan AK Party’s youth wing, proclaimed that Erdogan is not merely the president of Turkey, rather he is “president of all the world’s Muslims.

So, too, Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi called Erdogan “the hope of all Muslims and of Islam.”

Qaradawi, who lives in Qatar and is Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite channel’s superstar preacher, has good reason to love Erdogan.

In June, Erdogan decided to make a strategic move to protect the pro-Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Iranian Qatari regime from its angry neighbors, led by Saudi Arabia. Turkey’s deployment of forces to Doha stalled the Saudi-led campaign against the Qatari regime.

If the regime survives, and if world oil prices continue to drop and so weaken Saudi economic power, Turkey’s decision to deploy its forces to Qatar could be the first step toward realizing its neo-Ottoman ambitions.

As for neo-imperialism, last October Foreign Policy reported that Turkish television now uses a map from 1918 to define Turkey’s current borders. From 1918 through 1920, Turkish territory included large portions of Iraq, among them Kurdistan and Mosul, as well as large swaths of Syria, including Aleppo.

Foreign Policy reported that use of the map indicates that as the post-World War I map of the Middle East becomes obsolete, Erdogan sees an opportunity to expand Turkish territory.

Then there are Erdogan’s moves to build strategic ties with Russia and Iran.

Last November the NATO member announced it is negotiating the purchase of an S-400 air defense system from Russia.

As for Iran, last week Maj.-Gen, Mohammad Hossein Baghari, Iran’s chief of General Staff, paid the first official visit by an Iranian army chief to Turkey since the 1979 revolution. Baghari met not only by his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, but with Erdogan as well.

Erdogan said after the meeting that he and Baghari discussed possible joint military action against the Kurds in northern Iraq, Syria and Iran.

In his words, “Joint action against terrorist groups that have become a threat is always on the agenda.This issue has been discussed between the two military chiefs, and I discussed more broadly how this should be carried out.”

Baghari was more explicit. He effectively announced that Iran and Turkey will respond with force to the Kurdish referendum.


“Both sides stressed that if the [Kurdish] referendum would be held, it will be the basis for the start of a series of tensions and conflicts inside Iraq, the consequences of which will affect neighboring countries.”

Baghari continued, “Holding the referendum will get Iraq, but also Iran and Turkey involved and that’s why the authorities of the two countries emphasize that it is not possible and should not be done.”


This then brings us back to Israel and the US and why Netanyahu is right to support Kurdish independence and the Trump administration is wrong to oppose it.

So long as there is no significant change in the nature of the Iranian and Turkish regimes, their empowerment will come at the expense of the US, Israel and the Arab Sunni states.

The Kurds, with their powerful and experienced military forces in Iraq and Syria alike, constitute a significant check on both Iranian and Turkish power.

Several commentators argue that the Turks will respond to the Kurdish referendum by waging a war of annihilation against the Kurds in Iraq and beyond. Iran, they warn, will assist in Turkish efforts.

As far as Iran is concerned, in the near future, its central effort will remain in Syria. As for Turkey, whereas Erdogan and his followers may wish to undertake such a campaign, today it hard to imagine them succeeding.

A year after the failed coup, the Turkish military is astounding observers with its incompetent performance in Syria. Despite the fact that Turkish forces are fighting in Syria in areas adjacent to their border, they are unable to competently project their force.

Turkey’s underperformance in Syria makes clear that the Turkish armed forces, which Erdogan gutted in his purges of the officer and NCO corps in the wake of the failed coup, have not rebuilt their strength.

According to an analysis by Al-Monitor published last September, the first four rounds of purges in the immediate aftermath of the failed coup reduced the number of general officers by nearly 40%. The ratio of pilots to aircraft in the Turkish Air Force was reduced from more than three pilots per plane to less than one pilot per plane.

While Al-Monitor assessed last year that it would take up to two years for the Turkish Air Force to rebuild its pilot corps, last week it appeared that two years was a gross underestimation of the time required.

Last week the US rejected a Turkish request to have Pakistani pilots fly Turkish F-16s. The request owed to the critical shortage of pilots in the Turkish Air Force.

And Erdogan continues to purge his generals. In early August he sacked the commanders of Turkish land forces and the Turkish Navy.

Given the current state of Turkish forces on the one hand, and the battlefield competence of Kurdish forces, it is clear that the balance of the two forces has never been better for the Kurds.

If Kurdistan becomes independent with US and Israeli backing and survives, the implications for the longevity of the Erdogan regime, given the rapidly expanding size of the Kurdish minority in Turkey, are significant.

Likewise for Iran, an independent Kurdistan in Iraq will serve to contain Iranian power in Syria and potentially destabilize the Iranian regime at home.

In summary then, opponents of Kurdish independence are correct. An independent Kurdistan will destabilize the region. But contrary to their claims, this is a good thing. For the first time since 2009, destabilization will benefit the US and Israel and weaken Iran and Turkey.

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

Netanyahu’s empathy for Trump

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was attacked by the media for not jumping on the bandwagon and condemning US President Donald Trump for his response to the far-right and far-left rioters in Charlottesville earlier this month. It may be that he held his tongue because he saw nothing to gain from attacking a friendly president. But it is also reasonable to assume that Netanyahu held his tongue because he empathizes with Trump. More than any leader in the world, Netanyahu understands what Trump is going through. He’s been there himself – and in many ways, is still there. Netanyahu has never enjoyed a day in office when Israel’s unelected elites weren’t at war with him.

From a comparative perspective, Netanyahu’s experiences in his first term in office, from 1996 until 1999, are most similar to Trump’s current position. His 1996 victory over incumbent prime minister Shimon Peres shocked the political class no less than the American political class was stunned by Trump’s victory. And this makes sense. The historical context of Israel’s 1996 election and the US elections last year were strikingly similar.

In 1992, Israel’s elites, the doves who controlled all aspects of the governing apparatuses, including the security services, universities, government bureaucracies, state prosecution, Supreme Court, media and entertainment industry, were seized with collective euphoria when the Labor Party under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres won Israel’s Left its first clear-cut political victory since 1974. Rabin and Peres proceeded to form the most dovish governing coalition in Israel’s history.

Then in 1993, after secret negotiations in Oslo, they shocked the public with the announcement that they had decided to cut a deal with Israel’s arch enemy, the PLO, a terrorist organization pledged to Israel’s destruction.

The elites, who fancied themselves the guardians of Israel’s democracy, had no problem with the fact that the most radical policy ever adopted by any government, one fraught with dangers for the nation and the state, was embarked upon with no public debate or deliberation.

To the contrary, they spent the next three years dancing around their campfire celebrating the imminent realization of their greatest dream. Israel would no longer live by its sword. It would be able to join a new, post-national world. In exchange for Jerusalem and a few other things that no one cared about, other than some fanatical religious people, Israel could join the Arab League or the European Union or both.

From 1993 through 1996, and particularly in the aftermath of Rabin’s assassination in November 1995, the media, the courts and every other aspect of Israel’s elite treated the fellow Israelis who reject- ed their positions as the moral and qualitative equivalent of terrorists. Like the murderers of innocents, these law-abiding Israelis were “enemies of peace.”

As for terrorism, the Oslo process ushered in not an era of peace, but an era of unprecedented violence. The first time Israelis were beset by suicide bombers in their midst was in April 1994, when the euphoria over the coming peace was at its height.

The 1996 election was the first opportunity the public had to vote on the Oslo process. Then, in spite of Rabin’s assassination and the beautiful ceremonies on the White House lawns with balloons and children holding flowers, the people of Israel said no thank you. We are Zionists, not post-Zionists. We don’t like to get blown to smithereens on buses, and we don’t appreciate being told that victims of terrorism are victims of peace.

Trump likewise replaced the most radical president the US has ever known. Throughout Barack Obama’s eight years in office, despite his failure to restore America’s economic prosperity or secure its interests abroad, Obama enjoyed the sycophantic support of the media, whose leading lights worshiped him and made no bones about it.

In one memorable exchange after Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo, where he presented the US as the moral equivalent of its enemies, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas told MSNBC host Chris Mitchell that Obama was “kind of God.”

Obama’s job, Thomas explained, was not merely to lead the US as his predecessor Ronald Reagan had done. Obama was above “provincial nationalism.” His job was to teach morality to humanity.

In Thomas’s words, “He’s going to bring all different sides together… He’s all about ‘let us reason together’… He’s the teacher. He is going to say, ‘Now, children, stop fighting and quarreling with each other.’ And he has a kind of a moral authority that he – he can – he can do that.”

The American Left’s adoration of Obama was so all-encompassing, and its control of the mainstream US media so extensive, that it never occurred to its members that the public disagreed with them. They were certain that Hillary Clinton, Obama’s chosen successor, would win.

In 1996, the Israeli elite greeted Netanyahu’s victory with shock and grief. The “good, enlightened” Israel they thought would rule forever had just been defeated by the unwashed mob. Peres summed up the results by telling reporters that “the Israelis” voted for him. And “the Jews” voted for Netanyahu. His followers shook their heads in mildly antisemitic disgust.

Their mourning quickly was replaced by a spasm of hatred for Netanyahu and his supporters that hasn’t disappeared even now, 21 years later.

The media’s war against Netanyahu began immediately. It was unrelenting and more often than not unhinged. So it was that two weeks after his victory, Jerusalem’s Kol Ha’ir weekly published a cover story titled, “Who are you, John Jay Sullivan?” The report alleged that Netanyahu was a CIA spy who went by the alias “John Jay Sullivan.” It took all of five minutes to take the air out of that preposterous balloon, but the media didn’t care – and it was all downhill from there.

Netanyahu, the media insisted, was a crook. He incited Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. He may even have been the assassin. His wife, Sara, was mean to nannies. She was a bad mother. She was ill-mannered in general and probably crazy.

Any prominent politician or luminary who entered Netanyahu’s orbit was demonized and libeled. Authors who dared to have dinner with him, journalists who dared to write anything half- way supportive of him, were effectively excommunicated from their professional cliques.

His advisers and cabinet ministers found them- selves under criminal investigation over nothing, and so did Netanyahu and his wife.

Every action his government took that could in any way be interpreted as a step toward weakening the elite’s control of the country brought bombastic headlines day after day, accusing Netanyahu of seeking to undermine the rule of law.

Every disgruntled cabinet minister, every slight- ed aide who publicly criticized Netanyahu, was given instant celebrity and star-for-a-news-cycle status.

The dovish commanders of the IDF and the Shin Bet were openly disloyal to Netanyahu in every – thing relating to the peace process with the PLO. Every attempt Netanyahu made to abandon his predecessors’ blind and misplaced faith in PLO chief Yasser Arafat was immediately leaked to the media. “Security sources” blamed Netanyahu for terrorist attacks.

When the Mossad bungled the assassination of Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal in Amman, it was Netanyahu’s fault. When Arafat used Netanyahu’s authorization of the opening of a new entrance to the Western Wall tunnels to unleash a terrorist offensive against Israel that left 15 Israelis dead in a week, then-Shin Bet director Ami Ayalon blamed Netanyahu at a live press conference.

The purpose of the leaks and the misdirection was to box Netanyahu in with no option other than to continue his predecessors’ failed policy of appeasing and empowering Palestinian terrorists.

Just as the notion that Netanyahu – the man who rejected their post-Zionist euphoria and insisted that there would be no new Middle East – had beat- en their savior Peres blew the Israeli elites’ minds to bits, so the US elite has still refused to come to terms with the fact that Donald Trump, the man they view as nothing more than a nouveau riche vulgarian, beat the anointed successor of their idol Obama.

So they hate him and cannot stop demonizing him. Whether it’s Obama’s director of national intelligence James Clapper, who insisted that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “largely secular organization,” saying that Trump is insane, or Bob Costa from CNN calling him a white supremacist and antisemite, there is no lunatic depth the American Left will not plumb to attack, demonize and dehumanize Trump and his supporters.

So how is a leader to respond to this sort of onslaught? Netanyahu for his part gave up fighting at some point in his first term. Faced with the implacable animosity of an empowered elite that boxed him in at every turn, Netanyahu decided to try to give them what they wanted in the hope of surviving in office.

He made a deal with Arafat and Bill Clinton at Wye Plantation. He handed Hebron over to PLO control. He surrendered government control over selection of the attorney-general to a committee controlled by the elites and so sank Israeli democracy into the hole it is still in.

Since 1997, unelected lawyers unaccountable to elected officials have the power to dismantle democratically elected governments, essentially at will.

Netanyahu got nothing for his efforts. The media, prosecution, state bureaucracy and security services continued to wage political war against him until, with the help of the Clinton administration, they overthrew his government in 1999 and brought Ehud Barak to power. Barak presided over a government so radical that the Rabin-Peres government looked hawkish in comparison.

Before Israel could move past its elites, the fruits of their radical policies first had to be ingested. In the event, the fruits of those policies were 1,500 Israelis killed in the Palestinian terrorist war and the emergence of strategic threats and repeated wars from post-withdrawal Gaza and Lebanon.

Today it is clear that Trump is wrestling with how to proceed in governing, as the American elites openly seek his political and even personal destruction. One day he tacks to the establishment in the hopes of appeasing those who hate him, and the next day he embraces his supporters and repeats his campaign pledges to “drain the swamp.”

The lessons of Netanyahu’s first term – and to a degree, his subsequent terms in office as well – are clear enough and Trump would do well to apply them.

You cannot appease people who want to destroy you. And you cannot succeed by embracing the failed policies of your predecessors that you were elected to roll back. The elites who reject you will never embrace you. The only way to govern successfully when you are under relentless assault is to empower your supporters and keep faith with them.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.