Category Archives: Middle East

Egyptian Christians Fearing Terror Flee

Notice who is protesting??
Feb. 26, 2017 AP

ISMAILIA, Egypt—Egyptian Christians fearing attacks by Islamic State militants fled the volatile northern part of the Sinai Peninsula for a fourth day on Sunday, after a string of sectarian killings there sent hundreds packing and raised accusations the government is failing to protect the minority.

More than 100 families from the town of el-Arish and nearby have come to the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Cairo, since Friday, Nabil Shukrallah of the city’s Evangelical Church said.

Families arrive scared and in need of supplies, which are being stockpiled at the church via donations from several parishes, he said. They are then transported to be housed in and around the city, in private homes and now also accommodation provided by the government.

“They’re exhausted, with urgent needs for food and children’s clothing,” he said, as one father carried off a sick infant to be evacuated by ambulance. “They’re terrified of the violence and brutality of the terrorists.”

Northern Sinai has for years been the epicenter of an insurgency by Islamic militants, and the area’s few Christians have slowly been trickling out. But departures rose in earnest after suspected militants gunned down a Christian plumber at home in front of his family on Thursday in el-Arish. It was the seventh such killing in recent weeks and stoked panic among Christians.

Egyptian Christians fearing attacks by Islamic State militants are fleeing the volatile northern part of the Sinai Peninsula for a fourth day.
Egyptian Christians fearing attacks by Islamic State militants are fleeing the volatile northern part of the Sinai Peninsula for a fourth day. PHOTO: FAYED EL-GEZIRY/ZUMA PRESS
No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack. But Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate, which is based in north Sinai and which in December carried out a devastating suicide bombing against a Cairo church, vowed in a video earlier this week to step up attacks against Egypt’s embattled Coptic Christian minority. It described them as “infidels” empowering the West against Muslims.

The Cairo church bombing and the recent killings point to a shift in Islamic State’s tactics in Egypt, with the group now also attacking Christian targets that are less protected than military installations, in an attempt to isolate them and embarrass the government.

Before Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising, some 5,000 Christians lived in northern Sinai, but the number has since dwindled to fewer than 1,000, priests and residents say. Egypt doesn’t keep official statistics on the number of Christians in cities or across the country.

Many rights activists say the displacement is a clear sign the government has failed to provide a minimum of security for the embattled minority in the volatile region, where they have faced public threats before.

The government only agreed to put up the fleeing Christians in government housing in Ismailia after pressure on social media, which they underline as another disturbing sign.


Where’s the Pope on Syria?

I really wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but this probably ends that hope forever.
WSJ 12/27/2016

If you are like this columnist, you may have missed the recent prayer vigil in front of St. Peter’s, which featured Pope Francis leading tens of thousands of the faithful in protest of the sickening Russian military strikes in Aleppo that have targeted hospitals, aid convoys and innocent civilians.

Surely there must have been such a vigil, right? And at least as prominent as the one in September 2013? Back then Pope Francis led a muchpublicized vigil aimed at dissuading President Obama from launching airstrikes on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military assets after the strongman had gassed more than a thousand people in the suburbs of Damascus, including hundreds of children.

Remember those heady days? The tweets from the Holy Father himself: “War never again! Never again war!” Or his letter to Vladimir Putin during the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg, in which Pope Francis implored leaders there (read: Uncle Sam) “to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution.”

Not to mention Mr. Putin’s own use of Pope Francis in an op-ed that appeared shortly after in the pages of the New York Times. There Mr. Putin put it this way: “The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders.”

So surely if the Holy Father was outraged in 2013 by what Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized would be an “unbelievably small strike,” he must be even more indignant over the cynical way Mr. Putin has used the entree the pope helped give him in Syria to use Russian air power to launch his own deadly strikes.

But somehow there are no Pope Francis vigils over the war crimes committed by Mr. Putin’s war planes.

Then again, we didn’t see the vigil candles come out at St. Peter’s when Mr. Putin invaded Crimea. Nor when Russian-backed separatists shot down a Malaysia Airlines jetliner over Ukraine.

To the contrary, as Russian forces declare victory in Aleppo, the pope has been reduced to telling the world not to forget Aleppo and entreating Mr. Assad to play nice.

Now, at the time President Obama was proposing his military strike, even some hawks opposed it on the grounds it was only a gesture meant for show. This was a solid and reasonable objection.

But this was not the objection of Pope Francis. True, both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had urged against American military action, the former with regard to Iraq and the latter with Libya.

But this pope’s objections have been coupled with a softness toward Moscow hard to imagine coming from either of his two predecessors. And the argument that Mr. Putin’s use of force is welcome because it is protecting the Christians of Aleppo—who feel safer under Assad than under ISIS—does not work for Pope Francis: He’s insisted all along there are no military solutions, even as Mr. Putin has now imposed one.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church” holds that the “use of arms must not produce evils and disorders greater than the evil to be eliminated.”

A sound principle. But what about the evils produced when those who have the arms won’t use them to protect those who have no defense? In short, there’s a reason that when Thomas Aquinas discusses just war, he does so in his chapter on charity. To put it all in biblical terms, what would have been the obligation on the Good Samaritan if he had come across his victim as the man was being beaten rather than afterward?

Aleppo is not Pope Francis’ fault. It is the fault of those who have willfully chosen atrocity to advance their larger goals, whether this be the ISIS forces who hope to impose their brand of extremism on Syria, or Mr. Assad, who has reduced Aleppo to rubble to eliminate any opposition to his brutal regime. Not to mention outsiders such as Mr. Putin and the Sunni supporters of ISIS who have enabled these evils.

At the time Pope Francis took his stand against U.S. intervention in Syria, an article in the National Catholic Register framed it this way: “The Pope has positioned himself as the foremost champion of finding peaceful solutions to the conflict, and Putin has demonstrated in recent days that he has the capability to deliver diplomatic alternatives to the punishing military strikes favored by Obama over Syria’s chemical weapons.”

Let’s hope what has followed in Aleppo might occasion some papal modesty, and perhaps a more ecumenical outlook when it comes to regarding the use of force by global powers. For the essence of civilization is this: The strong protect the weak. When the use of force is taken off the table, the strong prey on the weak.

In September, the pope thundered that those bombing civilians in Aleppo will one day have to “account to God.” Until then, the moral undermining of American intervention has guaranteed they will account to no one.


Obama’s Anti-Israel Tantrum

Totally despicable.
WSJ 12/24/2016

The decision by the United States to abstain from a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel over its settlements on the West Bank is one of the most significant, defining moments of the Obama Presidency.

It defines this President’s extraordinary ability to transform matters of public policy into personal pique at adversaries. And it defines the reality of the international left’s implacable opposition to the Israeli state.

Earlier in the week, Egypt withdrew the Security Council resolution under pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. President-elect Donald Trump also intervened, speaking with Egypt’s government and, via Twitter, urging Mr. Obama to block the resolution, as have past U.S. Administrations and Mr. Obama himself in 2011.

As was widely reported Friday after the U.N. vote, the White House decided to abstain— thereby allowing the pro-Palestinian resolution to pass—in retaliation against the intervention by Messrs. Netanyahu and Trump.

Mr. Obama’s animus toward Prime Minister Netanyahu is well known. Apparently Mr. Obama took it as an affront that the Presidentelect would express an opinion about this week’s U.N. resolution.

It is important, though, to see this U.S. abstention as more significant than merely Mr. Obama’s petulance. What it reveals clearly is the Obama Administration’s animus against the state of Israel itself. No longer needing Jewish votes, Mr. Obama was free, finally, to punish the Jewish state in a way no previous President has done. No effort to rescind the resolution, which calls the settlements a violation of “international law,” will succeed because of Russia’s and China’s vetoes.

Instead, the resolution will live on as Barack Obama’s cat’s paw, offering support in every European capital, international institution and U.S. university campus to bully Israel with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer implored the Administration to veto the resolution, noting rightly that it represents nothing more than the “Zionism is racism” bias at the U.N. Let Senator Schumer note the true nature of his party’s left wing.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called the Administration’s action “shameful.” Senator Lindsey Graham said he will form a bipartisan coalition to suspend or reduce U.S. financial support for the U.N. That should proceed.

For Donald Trump, meet your State Department. This is what State’s permanent bureaucrats believe, this is what they want, and Barack Obama delivered it to them.

Tweets won’t change this now-inbred hostility to America’s oldest democratic ally in the Middle East. Mr. Obama’s pique, however, has made it crystal clear to the new Administration where the lines in the sand are drawn.


Where Are the Visas for the Afghans Who Helped American GIs?

If something pains me, this is high on the list.
WSJ 11/13/2016
By Juliana Goldrosen And Ari Hoffman

Qismat, a young Afghan who bravely served as an interpreter alongside American troops in the hills of Tora Bora, spent Veterans Day as a target of ISIS, in mortal danger due to his service to the U.S.

Also on Veterans Day, members of Congress honored the men and women who nobly served our country. What you may not hear in their speeches and news releases, however, is an acknowledgment that, unless Congress acts, it will abandon to their fate more than 10,000 Afghans who worked alongside these veterans, including Qismat.

The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program, traditionally a popular and bipartisan measure, provides a path for Afghans who worked as interpreters or in other critical positions for U.S. military forces and diplomats to seek refuge in the U.S. Because of their service to our country, these Afghans face extreme persecution and constant danger.

Until this year, Congress has reauthorized the SIV program with little controversy. Yet the current version of the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the usual vehicle for SIV allocation, would authorize no additional visas. That means that once the remaining 2,500 visas are allocated, the 10,000-plus Afghans awaiting visas will be stranded.

Judging by some reports, a handful of legislators opposed an SIV provision in the Defense Authorization bill, stating that they had procedural objections or that they did not want to allocate visas while then-unused visas remained. Yet since these Afghans were screened before their employment on behalf of the U.S., and would undergo another rigorous, months long screening process before qualifying for a visa, there is no excuse, security or otherwise, for blocking this provision.

At the Stanford Law chapter of the International Refugee Assistance Project, we are proud of our many veteran members and classmates, and we stand with them in their efforts to assist their former interpreters immigrate to the U.S. through the SIV program.

Stanford Law student Matt Ball is a former Army Ranger who served during 2010-11 in the Tora Bora region in Eastern Afghanistan, conducting counterinsurgency operations. His unit sustained a disproportionate number of casualties— and one of the wounded was the then-20-year-old Qismat, who served as the unit’s interpreter and main conduit to the Afghan people.

Due to his service to the U.S., he has not been able to return to his hometown for more than six years—especially since ISIS members came looking for him last year. With Mr. Ball’s help, Qismat applied for a visa through the SIV program in 2013, but his application is in limbo due to the program’s extensive backlog.

Another law student, Joe Reed, is a former Marine infantry officer who deployed twice to Helmand province. On his first deployment in 2011, an Afghan interpreter nicknamed Rocky quickly became an integral part of the unit. Rocky lived in primitive conditions with the platoon, made possible all communication between the Marines and local Afghans, and often went on multiple combat patrols a day in proximity to improvised explosive devices and exposed to enemy fire. When Mr. Reed last heard from him, Rocky was still waiting for a visa.

Stanford Graduate School of Business student John Powell also deployed as a Marine infantry officer to Helmand province. His platoon’s interpreter quickly turned into their most important asset. They worked on a grueling schedule, often patrolling five times a day. While Mr. Powell rotated his squads to spread the burden, his interpreter insisted on accompanying every patrol that left the compound.

When Mr. Powell’s platoon went back home, the interpreter (who is not named here for safety reasons) stayed on to work for the next two follow-on Marine units. After the interpreter applied for an SIV, he and his family received death threats from a newly resurgent Taliban in the area. His visa application has been on hold for two years, and he and his family had to flee their home province to escape retribution. Mr. Powell keeps in touch with him, and his pleas for help have become more desperate in the past months.

We call on our leaders in Congress to reauthorize and increase the visa allocation for this critical program. On the line are the lives of Qismat and many other Afghan interpreters and their families.

Ms. Goldrosen and Mr. Hoffman are students at Stanford Law School and members of the Stanford chapter of the International Refugee Assistance Project.