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Friday, July 31, 2015

Pat Buchanan Talks Turkey

The Turks have been playing a double game with us.   They permitted ISIS to attack the Assad regime and they are now attacking the Kurdish PKK, which has been the most successful fighting element against ISIS. 

This good column by Pat Buchanan lays it all out.   We shouldn't let our allies--the Turks--tell us who are enemies are.   Focus on ISIS, forget about the PKK.

Now the Turks Are All In

By Patrick J. Buchanan
All through the Cold War, the Turks were among America’s most reliable allies.
After World War II, when Stalin encroached upon Turkey and Greece, Harry Truman came to the rescue. Turkey reciprocated by sending thousands of troops to fight alongside our GIs in Korea.
Turkey joined NATO and let the U.S. station Jupiter missiles in their country. When JFK secretly traded away the Jupiters for removal of the Soviet missiles in Cuba, the Turks went along.
Early this century, under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey seemed to be emerging as a major power, a land bridge between Europe and the Islamic world, a friend to its neighbors, and future member of the EU.
But, recently, a U.S. diplomat blurted, “The Turks are out of their lane!”
And that describes the situation succinctly and well.
When rebels rose up to overthrow Bashar Assad in Syria, and Assad elected to fight not quit, Erdogan turned on him and began to permit jihadists to enter Syria.
When ISIS terrorists seized Raqqa in Syria, and Mosul and Anbar in Iraq, Erdogan refused to let U.S. planes based at Incirlik bomb them.
When America supported Syrian Kurds with air power, enabling them to hold off an ISIS attack on Kobani on the Syria-Turkish border, Erdogan denounced the Kurds as the greater threat.
But 10 days ago came an ISIS atrocity in Suruc, Turkey, just north of Kobani. Thirty-two young Turkish Kurds who were planning to help rebuild Kobani were massacred, and a hundred wounded.
Instantly, Erdogan permitted U.S. planes at Incirlik to attack ISIS targets in Syria and launched air strikes himself. It appeared that, at long last, the U.S. and Turkey were again on the same page, seeing ISIS as the primary enemy, and acting jointly against it.
But the Turkish attacks on ISIS proved to be pinpricks. And the Turks began a major air assault on Kurdish forces in exile in Iraq, the PKK, who had fled Turkey after the recent civil war.
Where does this leave Turkey today?
Erdogan demands that Assad be overthrown. He has declared war on ISIS. He has broken off peace talks with the PKK in Turkey. He is attacking the exiled Kurds in the mountains of Iraq, enraging Baghdad, and his own Kurdish minority of 14 million.
He has been vilifying his former Israeli friends since the Mavi Marmara incident, where eight Turkish aid workers on a relief ship headed for Gaza were killed by Israeli commandos in 2010.
The Washington Times reports that Egypt is charging Turkey with sending agents to work with Islamic State on the Sinai Peninsula, which has been killing Egyptian soldiers and firing rockets into Israel.
There has been bad blood between Cairo and Ankara since Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, was overthrown by the army of Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in 2013. Gen. el-Sissi is now President el-Sissi and President Morsi is now on death row.
What is Erdogan up to? With his attacks on the Kurds and ISIS both, he is inviting blowback in the form of terrorist reprisals from ISIS and the PKK inside his own country, as happened at Suruc.
The speculation is that Erdogan is going to war for political reasons. When a Kurdish Party captured 13 percent of the vote in the June 7 elections, it broke Erdogan’s parliamentary majority, blocking his path to the presidential republic of his dreams and designs.
Critics believe he is provoking conflict with the Kurds before new elections, so he can cast himself as a fearless warrior against Arab terrorists and Kurdish traitors, discredit the small Kurdish party, and capture a sufficient majority to create his all-powerful presidency.
Turkey’s actions demonstrate, as do those of other allies in the region, that their enemies are not always our enemies, and that, as they single-mindedly pursue their national goals, so should we.
The Iraqi Kurds have been friends of the United States since Desert Storm. The Syrian Kurds, the YPG, have provided fighting troops whom we have supported with air power against ISIS. Both are de facto allies, no matter what the Turks say.
As for the PKK, we may have designated them a terrorist organization at the urging of the Turks, but if they are not attacking us, we ought not to be attacking them.
We must stop allowing our friends to choose our enemies in the Middle East. We are fully capable of doing that ourselves, without their assistance.
All our allies in that most war-torn of regions would like us to come fight their battles for them. We should let them fight their wars themselves, for the prospect of peace any time soon in that blood-soaked region is more than remote.
Our enemies are al-Qaida, which slaughtered 3,000 of our people, and its progeny. Our enemies are ISIS, which has beheaded Americans, and threatens us, our allies and friends.
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pollard Gets His Freedom; a Nation Yawns

Jonathan Jay Pollard, the notorious convicted spy, will be freed in November after nearly 30 years in the big house.  (Always with the three names, just like John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald.    But you can call him Jay, or you can call him Johnny, or you can call him JJ...)  Instead of this being a political decision, the U.S. Parole Board made the call that he should be released. 

I'm satisfied he's being released.   Thirty years seems like enough.  He was initially given a life sentence.  Thirty years is a long time.  Ain't that right, Edward Snowden?   (No middle name?) 

Pollard offered to spy for Israel when he was working for the Office of Naval Intelligence.  He had previously attempted to establish a relationship with the South African service, a little tidbit which has always made his claims of Israeli patriotism a bit suspect.

Pollard should never have been in the intel community in the first place.   He was a drug user in the 1970s and couldn't get into the CIA because of it.  His superiors at ONI wanted to fire him before the mess got started.   All the warning signs were there.

High officials in the American intelligence community (IC) of always resisted--sometimes violently--the idea that Pollard should be released because he spied for an ally.  I believe George Tenet threatened to resign as DCI when Clinton contemplated it. 

But now the IC seems rather quiet.  Maybe because recent spy controversies have gotten more serious over the years?

Here's a column by Noah Feldman summing up the conflict a lot of American Jews have had with the Pollard case:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

No, Iran is not Nazi Germany...

...and the nuclear inspection agreement is not "Munich."  Please give us a break,  Dennis Prager.  See his piece here:  Iran Deal a 1938 Repeat 

Prager's piece is ridiculous on many levels, but it is worth pointing to as an example of the reductio ad Hitlerum argument that many "opinion leaders" often use. 

I would hope even my ten year old would spot the differences:  Britain was forced by Germany to the table; the US forced Iran to the table.   Chamberlain negotiated from a position of weakness;  Hitler from strength.   Obama is negotiating from strength, the Iranian regime from weakness.

As for the possible consequences?  We know what happened when Germany reneged.  Britain did nothing.  If Iran reneges, we have a host of escalation options, and we can use them too.

Does Iran want to dominate the Middle East like Hitler wanted to dominate (really, conquer) Europe?  Maybe.  But it better get cracking, because after 36 years of revolution, it hasn't made much progress.  Sure it influences Baghdad (thanks to us) and Syria (thanks to Israel and us), but otherwise, its foreign policy is small beer.  It looks pretty clear that Iran tries to support Shia or Shia-like minorities wherever it can.   In some places, like Bahrain and Yemen, they might not even be the bad guys.

Does Iran have American blood on its hands?  You bet.  Tehran has supported Shia militias that killed some of our troops in Iraq, to say nothing of terrorism over the years.  I agree, they are dirty bastards and I have nothing good to say about that regime.

But to credit the Iranians with obvious Al Qaeda attacks?  Get real,  Prager.  The evidence just isn't there.   We already know the Iranians do some nasty things; we don't have to make up stuff.

But negotiating with a regime you don't like doesn't mean embracing it.  This is elemental to diplomacy.

How many Americans did the PLA kill in Korea?   Yet we negotiated with Beijing 20 years later.   It was in our interest,  just as this is.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Iran Deal and the Obama Legacy

Love it or hate it, the deal with Iran to end international sanctions in exchange for more oversight of its nuclear program is happening.  This is truly a legacy issue for the Obama administration.

Mighty Whig has nothing good to say about Obama's domestic agenda and its dubious accomplishments.  But on foreign policy, dare we say that this administration has actually, uh, led?  We could have sanctioned Iran forever with no change in the status quo.  Instead Obama and Kerry took a bold gamble.

All great foreign policy ventures entail risk.

When I read over the details, the risk was worth taking.  Full compliance will take years, and international oversight has increased.  If Iran cheats, it loses.  Both sides stand to gain something important--better security, more respect.

This deal could close a chapter in our four-decade-long mutual hate society with Iran.   It goes back to the 1979-1980 hostage crisis, which Carter and his foreign policy team turned into a 444-day national drama.  The next steps should be reestablishing full diplomatic relations.

Obama's foreign policy is shaping up rather well as his presidency comes to an end.  No more US open-ended commitments in peripheral wars like Afghanistan and Iraq, a flexible, pragmatic Middle East policy, reinforcing our Asian allies, and opening up to Cuba. 

Here's Stratfor's take on the agreement.  It's sensible:

First, let's get the timeline straight. There is a very strategic line in the introduction of the deal that states that the agreement "will produce the comprehensive lifting of all UNSC (U.N. Security Council) sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program."
The U.S. Congress will have 60 days to review the deal. If the legislature rejects it, the president will veto the congressional decision, and there probably will not be enough votes in Congress to override the veto. Meanwhile, in the coming days, the United Nations will pass a resolution endorsing the agreement. Ninety days from that point, the agreement can be formally adopted. Before the deal is formally implemented, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will submit a report due by Dec. 15 that verifies Iran has come clean on outstanding issues related to its nuclear program. The IAEA will also have to verify that Iran has implemented the nuclear-related measures of the agreement.
From that point, Iran will enter the eight-year implementation period during which the IAEA will closely monitor its limited nuclear activity for civilian purposes and any suspected nuclear sites. When the deal is officially implemented, the United Nations will pass a resolution terminating nuclear-related sanctions on Iran (including an arms embargo), and the European Union will terminate its nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.  
Unable to get Congress to budge on lifting sanctions anytime soon, the U.S. president will terminate executive orders related to Iran's nuclear program and will stop enforcing sanctions codified in U.S. law. Only when the IAEA concludes that Iran's nuclear program remains peaceful — which could come after eight years of testing Iran's compliance — will the U.S. administration seek legislation to formally terminate sanctions. Even then, it will be up to Congress to comply.
What this means is implementation of the deal could be delayed until early 2016, and only then will the world see a tangible impact from the roughly 40 million to 50 million barrels of oil Iran has in storage and the roughly 300,000 barrels per day in additional exports Iran could add to current stockpiles within a few months of implementation....
For the United States, the Iranian nuclear deal is a step toward a much more agile foreign policy for the Middle East — one in which it leans on native powers to manage regional burdens rather than being at the center of every conflict that arises.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Get "Shorty," Part Deux: The Escape of Chapo Guzman

Police on Sunday searched a house where Mr. Guzmán allegedly emerged from the end of a tunnel.Que verguenza!   Joaquin El Chapo Guzman (chapo means shorty), the most notorious and successful drug trafficker in Mexican history, escapes from prison, again.  The Mighty Whig posted on his capture early last year.   At the time, it was a big success story.   But it did seem a bit unusual that the Mexican authorities (with significant US government help) were able to capture Chapo without him putting up a fight.  Did he know something we didn't? 

Chapo escaped from prison back in 2001, to the immense embarrassment of the Fox administration.  (He left in a laundry cart, I kid you not.) At the time, it was seen as an example of opposition incompetence; the PAN had only been in power about a year.  Now the Pena Nieto administration (PRI) is the one with egg on its face. 

The sensational Shawshank-like jail break last month in New York state involved the corruption of one prison employee.  This Mexican jailbreak, however, is corruption on an institutional-scale.   See the article below, which Mighty Whig has posted in full.   As you will notice, the tunnel has its own rails and a modified motorcycle.  Priceless.

What will be the fallout?   Can't help bilateral relations.  But maybe the Mexicans will be more inclined to turn over criminals like Chapo to the US for prosecution.  It says something about our penal system that Mexican criminals do not want to get sent there.   That is why most of the drug violence occurs south of the border.

Mexican Drug Lord ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Escapes From Prison

Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán had evaded authorities before

Mexican drug lord Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán was found missing from his prison cell Saturday night. This is the second time in 15 years he has escaped. Photo: AP




Updated July 12, 2015 6:45 p.m. ET

MEXICO CITY—For the second time in nearly 15 years, Mexico’s most infamous drug lord escaped from a maximum-security prison, dealing a humiliating blow to President Enrique Peña Nieto and raising new concerns about corruption in Mexican law enforcement.

Army soldiers and federal police on Sunday set up roadblocks for hundreds of miles surrounding the prison near the central city of Toluca following the escape of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman, the alleged leader of the Sinaloa cartel.

Mr. Guzmán, 58 years old, fled the Altiplano prison on Saturday night through a tunnel network that connected his cell to a house under construction almost a mile away, officials said. He slipped through a small opening in his cell’s shower area, climbed down a 30-foot ladder and traveled through a five-foot-tall tunnel equipped with lighting and ventilation, they said.

The escape was certain to add to the legend of Mr. Guzmán, who in 2001 hid in a laundry cart and was wheeled out of another maximum-security prison with the help of corrupt prison guards who were later convicted.

The drug lord went on to become a narco folk hero and the country’s most powerful kingpin, running a business empire that accounts for an estimated one quarter of the illegal narcotics shipped to the U.S., according to American and Mexican government estimates. He also earned a place on Forbes magazine’s billionaires list.

After Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011, Mr. Guzmán was widely seen as the world’s most-wanted man, and had a joint U.S.-Mexican bounty of $7 million on his head when Mr. Peña Nieto’s government recaptured him in 2014.

The escape hurts the reputation of Mr. Peña Nieto, who brought Mexico’s former ruling party back to power in 2012 with a promise to run a more efficient government and to better fight criminal gangs. It is also likely to create tensions with the U.S., which helped capture Mr. Guzman twice only to see him escape—twice.


2009 WSJ story profiled Joaquín Guzmán, who was the informal CEO of one of the world’s biggest drug-trafficking organizations, the so-called Sinaloa cartel.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the American government shared Mexico’s concern for Mr. Guzmán’s escape and was ready to “provide any assistance that may help support his swift recapture.”

After his capture 17 months ago, Mexican officials declined to extradite him to the U.S., saying there was no way he would escape again. In an interview with Univision TV last year, Mr. Peña Nieto said another escape “would be more than regrettable; it would be unforgivable for the government to not take the precautions to ensure that what happened last time would not be repeated.”

Those words were being widely cited by Mexicans on Sunday.

The government’s disclosure of the escape emerged as Mr. Peña Nieto arrived in Paris on Sunday for a state visit, accompanied by more than 400 officials and business leaders. In a brief statement, the president said the escape was “an affront” to Mexico and that officials would spare no resource trying to recapture the drug lord.

Many Mexicans also wondered aloud about how many officials Mr. Guzman must have bought off to ensure an escape.

“This obviously required a great deal of logistics from both inside and outside the prison,” said Raúl Benítez Manaut, a Mexican national-security expert. “Plans probably were being made from the moment he entered the prison.”

Mexico's Attorney General, Arely Gomez crouches to look at the alleged end of the tunnel through which Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman could have escaped from the Altiplano prison, at a house in Almoloya de Juarez, Mexico.ENLARGE

Mexico's Attorney General, Arely Gomez crouches to look at the alleged end of the tunnel through which Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman could have escaped from the Altiplano prison, at a house in Almoloya de Juarez, Mexico. PHOTO: --/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Mr. Guzmán, whose nickname “El Chapo” means “Shorty,” must have had help escaping, including getting hold of the plans to the penitentiary, said Alejandro Schtulmann, an analyst at Empra, a Mexican political consultancy. “This is a complete embarrassment for Mr. Peña Nieto and leaves Mexico looking bad before the U.S. and the world,” he said.

Authorities brought 18 prison staff members to Mexico City for questioning, said Monte Alejandro Rubido, Mexico’s national security commissioner.

If the drug lord is not caught within a few days, he will likely evade capture for a very long time, said Mike Vigil, a retired chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s international operations, who spent much of his career pursuing Mr. Guzman and other Mexican traffickers.

Mr. Vigil said former colleagues in the DEA and other U.S. agencies “are very disillusioned” over Mexico’s refusal to extradite Mr. Guzman to the U.S. to try him there, which “would have removed him from his criminal infrastructure.”

A Federal Police officer stands guard Sunday outside the house at the alleged end of the tunnel through which Mexican drug lord Joaquin ’El Chapo’ Guzman is said to have escaped from the Altiplano prison.ENLARGE

A Federal Police officer stands guard Sunday outside the house at the alleged end of the tunnel through which Mexican drug lord Joaquin ’El Chapo’ Guzman is said to have escaped from the Altiplano prison. PHOTO: YURI CORTEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Under Mr. Peña Nieto, Mexico has all but eliminated the extradition of crime bosses that was an anchor of his predecessor, President Felipe Calderón. Mr. Guzmán’s second great escape now throws those policies into disarray, analysts say.

“The government has to change its attitude,” Mr. Benítez said. “They have to give up this idea of judicial patriotism.”

U.S. law enforcement agencies were also dismayed when a Mexican judge in 2013 released another convicted drug lord, Rafael Caro Quintero, seemingly taking Mexican officials by surprise. Mr. Caro Quintero, who grew up not far from Mr. Guzman in Sinaloa, is wanted in the U.S. in connection for the 1985 torture-murder of U.S. DEA agent Enrique Camarena.

Days after his release, the Mexican government issued a new arrest warrant for Mr. Caro Quintero, but he remains a fugitive.

Mr. Guzmán’s escape will likely strengthen the Sinaloa Cartel. Their former main rivals, the violent Zeta gang, has been crushed by the capture or killing of most of its top leaders, spawning new gangs racing to secure areas along Mexico’s Gulf coast.

Meanwhile, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel is challenging the Sinaloa group in its own backyard, along the Pacific coast, experts say.

“Chapo isn’t expected to retire, he will fight to reposition his Sinaloa cartel as Mexico´s leading drug-trafficking organization,” said Guillermo Valdés, Mexico’s former intelligence director.

Mr. Guzmán was last seen on Saturday at about 8 p.m. local time when he was given regular medications. He then apparently went for a shower, where there are no security cameras, Mr. Rubido said. When he didn’t reappear, officials raised the alarm, only to find a 20-inch-wide tunnel from the shower area leading underground.

A bumpy lane through the corn fields and pastures leads to the nondescript cinder-block house where authorities say Mr. Guzman emerged from his escape tunnel. Soldiers and police stood guard at the house throughout Sunday as investigators gathered evidence inside. But officials said a sweep of the adjoining fields turned up nothing of the escaped crime boss

Neighbors said a cattle farmer and his family lived in the house and drew little notice until unusual activity began there in recent months.

“We have seen in the last months a lot of pick-ups and luxury vehicles coming to that house,” said Maria Ortiz, a woman who lives nearby. “But we never suspected anything.”

It seemed fitting that Mr. Guzmán used a tunnel to escape. He is widely credited with pioneering the use of tunnels to smuggle drugs across the Mexican-U.S. border. Many of these tunnels, like the one used in his escape, had electricity and even rail tracks to ferry drugs. Mexicans joked on Twitter that the tunnels are likely the best infrastructure built in recent years under the Mexican government.

“His engineers are geniuses,” Mr. Benítez said.


Police on Sunday searched a house where Mr. Guzmán allegedly emerged from the end of a tunnel. PHOTO:AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Mr. Guzmán grew up poor in the rugged mountains of Sinaloa state, an area known for its opium-poppy and marijuana plantations and the cradle of many of Mexico’s most-notorious drug lords. Mr. Guzmán’s wiles and willingness to employ violence had made him a top lieutenant in the Sinlaoa cartel by the time he was first arrested in 1993, captured in Guatemala and later sentenced to 20 years for conspiracy, bribery and drug trafficking.

Over the next eight years, Mr. Guzman continued to help run the cartel from behind bars, according to former Mexican government officials who investigated his 2001 escape. His cell had a television, and he sometimes chose his meals from a menu rather than be served with the rest of the inmates, these people said.

Over the next 13 years at large, Mr. Guzmán enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as an escape artist, often aided by warnings provided by informants within Mexico’s security forces.

He narrowly evaded capture in the resort Los Cabos in early 2012, fleeing a luxury house moments before it was stormed by federal police and troops. In the weeks leading up to his capture in Mazatlan, he had escaped raids on various safehouses in Culiacán, the Sinaloa capital, scurrying down tunnels and through the city’s sewer system, Mexican officials said.

At the same time, he repeatedly attacking other cartels’ turf and igniting tit-for-tat homicides that turned parts of the country into a war zone. More than 100,000 Mexicans have died in gangland violence since 2006.

People who have met Mr. Guzmán, who has a third-grade education, say he comes across as down-to-earth and intelligent. He described himself as a simple farmer when arrested by Mexican police early in his career, but admitted he had a penchant for Russian-made AK-47s.

—Juan Montes in Almoloya de Juárez, Mexico, Santiago Pérez in Mexico City and Elizabeth Williamson in Washington contributed to this article.