U.S. arms Latvia against Russia with 120 armored units

map of Baltic StatesRT reports, March 9, 2015, that the Latvian Ministry of Defense confirmed that more than 120 armored units, including M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2A3 Bradley armored vehicles, have been delivered by the US to Latvia via Riga Freeport after being offloaded from the carrier ship Liberty Promise.

Latvian Minister of Defense Raymond Vejonis said in a statement on Twitter,”The presence of our allies (US and NATO) in Latvia is a confirmation of solidarity and security in the region.”

US Army General John O’Conner who witnessed the tanks arriving on Latvian soil said, “Freedom must be fought for, freedom must be defended,” and that the tanks “demonstrate resolve to President Putin and Russia that collectively we can come together” and would stay “for as long as required to deter Russian aggression.”

Meanwhile, ZeroHedge reports that a day after the delivery of U.S. lethal aid to Latvia, on March 10, 2o15 U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told a Senate committee that the U.S. can “confirm” new Russian weapons delivery to Ukraine and “can tell” when Russia sends in new weapons, but Nuland offered no explanation of how the U.S. knows all this.

Victoria NulandNote: This is the same Victoria Nuland whose conversation with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was bugged and leaked on YouTube in February 2014. As pointed out by BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus, the conversation shows that, contrary to the Obama administration’s insistence that the U.S. is working with all sides in the Ukraine crisis to reach a peaceful solution and that “ultimately it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future,” Nuland’s conversation suggests that the US favors the Ukraine “opposition” and has very clear ideas about what the outcome should be and is striving to achieve these goals. (To read the transcript of the Nuland-Pyatt phone conversation, go to BBC.)

At the same Senate committee hearing, U.S. Deputy Under-Secretary of Defense Brian McKeon said the US is “actively considering more weapons for Ukraine,” which implies the U.S. had already sent weapons.

~StMA

Egyptian government shuts down 27,000 mosques

Having experienced what it’s like to be ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood in the tumultuous but brief one-year presidency of Mohamed Morsi that followed the so-called Arab Spring — an Arab Spring that had the full support of the Obama administration — Egypt’s secular government is now doing something that West European countries and the United States should well consider.

In an effort to stamp down extremist militant Islamists, Cairo closed down 27,000 small mosques across the country.

People perform Friday prayers led by Chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Egyptian Cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi at Al Azhar mosque in old CairoFriday prayer at the Al Azhar Mosque in the old part of Cairo, Nov. 16, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Rami Galal reports for Al-Monitor:

An Egyptian administrative court on Feb. 18 upheld the Ministry of Religious Endowments’ decision issued in September 2013 to close down neighborhood places of worship of less than 80 square meters (861 square feet), a move intended to protect young people from the militancy and extremism that can prevail in such places, which lack the legal standing to hold Friday prayers.

This move sets a precedent that raises many questions about the fate of mosques in many Egyptian villages, the grounds of which are usually less than 80 square meters. In reply, opponents of the decision such as the Salafist Nour Party claimed that closing down places of worship without providing a larger alternative serves to further bolster extremist ideology, considering that the larger existing mosques cannot accommodate Friday worshippers who line surrounding streets to pray. On the opposite end of the spectrum, supporters of the decision such as intellectuals and scholars say that those mosques are time bombs that threaten national security, as they fall outside the purview of the Ministry of Religious Endowments and are used to spread subversive ideologies.

Note: On most matters of doctrine, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) that now controls a third of Syria is closely identified with Salafism, a branch of Sunni Islam. See “Major U.S. magazine breaks with Obama admin by calling ISIS Islamic and apocalyptic

At the same time, the ministry has awarded 400 preaching permits to Salafist leaders without requiring oration tests, despite the ministry’s previous and constant accusations that they spread extremism.

Ahmed Karimeh, a professor of Sharia at Al-Azhar University, told Al-Monitor that legal teachings and conventions specify that Friday, Eid and main prayers must be conducted in a mosque, and not in a neighborhood place of worship. The five daily prayers can be held at these informal sites, but not the special celebration prayers. In that sense, the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments upheld a recognized religious law.

Karimeh explained that closing those neighborhood places of worship, located in apartment buildings, commercial buildings or factories, would help mitigate the influence of extremist religious orators such as those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist groups or Shiites, who use those places of worship to take advantage of religious gatherings. As such, the Ministry of Religious Endowments’ decision, while late, was the correct one.

But Karimeh warned that the move would be to no avail if the ministry allowed people without credentials to take to pulpits. Initially, in August 2013, the ministry allowed only Al-Azhar imams access to pulpits, a decision later reversed in February when, for political considerations, the ministry allowed Salafists to preach, a disastrous decision that turned mosques into time bombs under the control of violent, Salafist-born militant factions, according to Karimeh. Allowing Salafists to preach for political considerations as an Islamic alternative to face the Islamic State ideology, at a time when hundreds of Al-Azhar scholars applied for but were denied preaching permits, runs contrary to the ministry’s repeated statements that it would bar non-Al-Azhar imams from taking the pulpit.

Karimeh criticized the ministry’s examination policy and said that it solely tested the applicant’s memorization of the Quran, without evaluating his general culture. He added that closing down neighborhood places of worship would not be enough to confront extremism. Toward that end, attention must be paid to the preachers, who should be properly schooled and financially compensated, so as to allow them to better educate themselves, instead of having to work as taxi drivers or vegetable vendors to provide for their families.

Karimeh also denied claims that some villages lacked proper mosques. It should be noted that neighborhood places of worship and mosques with surface areas of less than 80 square meters numbered 27,000 in all of Egypt’s provinces and villages.

Before the Ministry of Religious Endowments made its decision, the Egyptian Dar al-Fatwa issued a September 2013 edict, endorsed by a majority of religious scholars, barring the multiplicity of mosques in villages and cities, unless when absolutely necessary, as a plethora of places of worship only serve to divide believers. It explained that group worship was required for all scripted prayers, as those were celebrated for the love of God, but Friday prayers were inherently different, in that they are a form of offering to God.

An estimated 400 permits were issued to Salafists, who pledged not to use Friday prayers for political purposes. A follow-up committee was formed by the ministry in February to oversee new imams during Friday prayers, cancel their permits and initiate legal proceedings against them if they failed to abide by their agreement with the ministry, as well as permanently bar them from taking the pulpit of any mosque in the country.

The Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments previously adopted numerous measures to combat extremism and control religious rhetoric, and continuously affirmed that imams not affiliated with Al-Azhar would never be allowed to preach, going as far as to close down 27,000 neighborhood places of worship. The sudden shift in position by the ministry was followed by it issuing preaching permits to 400 Salafist leadership figures that it considered extremist, a clear reflection of the state of confusion that prevails in Egypt today.

NY-Post-Frontpage-Obama-Islam-2-19-2015

Meanwhile, although ISIS/ISIL calls itself the Islamic State, President Barack Obama continues to refuse to identify the Islamic State as either Islamic or a state. Instead, in his speech of Sept. 10, 2014 and since, he calls the apocalyptic jihadists — who have been slaughtering Christians in Iraq, Syria, and most recently beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya — generic “terrorists.”

H/t Gateway Pundit

-StMA

Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli jets

Netenyahu and the POS

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is en route to Washington to an address to Congress on Tuesday aimed at derailing Obama’s bid for a diplomatic deal with Tehran, a Kuwaiti newspaper claims that last year President Barack Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli jets.

Congressional Republicans, specifically House Speaker John Boehner had invited Netanyahu, whose visit was coordinated without the Obama administration’s knowledge.

Mark Langfan reports for Israel National News, March 1, 2015 that Ma’an, a Bethlehem-based news agency, has cited a report by Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida yesterday that Obama thwarted an Israeli military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2014 by threatening to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran. Reportedly, Obama’s threat forced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to abort the attack.

According to Al-Jarida, the Netanyahu government took the decision to strike Iran some time in 2014 soon after Israel had discovered the United States and Iran had been involved in secret talks over Iran’s nuclear program and were about to sign an agreement in that regard behind Israel’s back.

The report claimed that an unnamed Israeli minister who has good ties with the US administration revealed the attack plan to Secretary of State John Kerry, and that Obama then threatened to shoot down the Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.

Al-Jarida quoted “well-placed” sources as saying that Netanyahu, along with Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon, and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, had decided to carry out airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear program after consultations with top security commanders. “Netanyahu and his commanders agreed after four nights of deliberations to task the Israeli army’s chief of staff, Benny Gantz, to prepare a qualitative operation against Iran’s nuclear program. In addition, Netanyahu and his ministers decided to do whatever they could do to thwart a possible agreement between Iran and the White House because such an agreement is, allegedly, a threat to Israel’s security.”

The sources added that Gantz and his commanders prepared the requested plan and that Israeli fighter jets trained for several weeks in order to make sure the plans would work successfully. Israeli fighter jets reportedly even carried out experimental flights in Iran’s airspace after they managed to break through radars.

Reportedly, former Carter Administration national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who enthusiastically campaigned for Obama in 2008, called on him to shoot down Israeli planes if they attack Iran. “They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch?,” Brzezinski said in an interview with the Daily Beast. “We have to be serious about denying them that right. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a ‘Liberty’ in reverse.’”

By “Liberty,” Brzezinski was referring to Israel’s mistaken attack on the American Liberty ship during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Reportedly, Brzezinski was a top candidate to become an official advisor to a President Obama, but he was downgraded for fears that Brzezinski’s anti-Israel attitude would damage Obama at the polls.

According to the AP, during the entire 6 plus years of the Obama presidency, he and Netanyahu have been on a collision course over how to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Netanyahu’s visit and the coming weeks will put the relationship between the two countries to one of its toughest tests.

~StMA

Turkish military enters Syria against ISIS

A reason why the US-led “coalition” against the Islamic State, which depends on air strikes, hasn’t seen much success in routing the fundamentalist apocalyptic jihadists, is the absence from the coalition of two major powers in the Middle East — Egypt and Turkey.

With the recent ISIS beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, the government of Egypt is now aroused. Now, Turkey too has entered the fray against ISIS, albeit to rescue besieged troops guarding a tomb.

Turkish tanks at an army parade

Turkish tanks at an army parade

Suzan Fraser reports from Ankara, Turkey, for the AP that yesterday, Feb. 21, 2015, hundreds of Turkish troops backed by tanks took part in an overnight operation into neighboring Syria to evacuate dozens of besieged soldiers stuck for months guarding the tomb of the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, as well as remove the remains from the tomb amid fears the shrine was threatened by Islamic State militants.

The mission was the first such major military incursion by Turkey since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

The tomb housed the remains of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire. The site along the Euphrates River is revered by Turkey, a strongly nationalist country whose rights there stem from a 1921 treaty with France, then the colonial power in Syria. The Ottoman Empire collapsed in the early 20th century after World War I.

Shah, a Turkic leader, is believed to have drowned in the Euphrates in the 13th century. His followers headed north into what is today Turkey, where they established the Ottoman Empire. Some historians question official accounts about Shah’s tomb, saying they might have been retrospectively concocted to enrich an imperial identity for Turks.

In the 1970s, Turkey moved Shah’s mausoleum to its last location because the old site at a castle further south in Syria was to be inundated by the waters of a new dam.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said nearly 600 Turkish soldiers on some 100 tanks and armored personnel carriers crossed into Syria near the border town of Kobani late Saturday, as drones and airplanes flew reconnaissance missions overhead.

One group traveled to the tomb, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Turkey on the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria’s embattled Aleppo province. Another group seized an area only 200 meters (yards) from the Turkish border in Syria’s Ashma region to be the new home for the tomb, according to a statement from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office.

Syria & TurkeyOne soldier was killed in an “accident” during the operation, Turkey’s military said.

Davutoglu said troops destroyed the complex once housing the tomb. Turkish media later showed nationalistic images of three Turkish soldiers raising the country’s flag at the new site.

The U.S.-led coalition forces were informed of the Turkish operation after its launch to prevent any casualties, Davutoglu said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, while in London, spoke by telephone Sunday with Turkey’s foreign minister and expressed condolences over the Turkish soldier killed during the operation. The State Department said the U.S. and Turkey were in close and continuing coordination on developments in Syria, including intelligence sharing.

In a statement carried by the state news agency, Syria’s Foreign Ministry denounced the Turkish operation, calling it a “flagrant aggression” and that the mission demonstrated “the depth of ties” between Turkey and the Islamic State group. Syria routinely accuses Turkey of supporting the extremist group.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara had notified Syria before the operation that it was vacating the tomb temporarily, and that it would return to the area when it is “ready” to do so. “We got permission from no one, we conducted it with our own initiative,” he said.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said there is no justification for Turkey’s military action. Tehran is a close ally of Syria.

Rumors had swirled for months that the soldiers stationed at the tomb had been besieged by militants from the Islamic State group, which hold a third of Syria and neighboring Iraq in their self-declared caliphate. Some 40 Turkish soldiers once guarded the tomb, making them a target for IS and other militant groups in Syria’s long-running civil war, though the overnight operation apparently saw no fighting.

Turkey has wanted Syrian President Bashar Assad overthrown and has backed some rebels fighting against him. Earlier this week, Turkey signed an agreement with the U.S. to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State group.

With its 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) border with Syria, Turkey could be a major player in the fight against the Islamic State group. But negotiations with the U.S. over what to do about the militants have been fraught with disagreement – with Turkey insisting that the coalition needs to also target the Assad government.

Turkey also has had concerns over some of the Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State group in Kobani. It views the Kurds fighting in Syria as an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, which has waged a 30-year insurgency against the Turkish government and is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. and NATO.

See also:

~StMA

Major U.S. magazine breaks with Obama admin by calling ISIS Islamic and apocalyptic

In his bestseller book, People of the Lie, the late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, M.D., wrote that just as physicians must first properly diagnose and name a disease in order to cure it, we must first name a problem in order to combat it.

NY-Post-Frontpage-Obama-Islam-2-19-2015Although ISIS/ISIL calls itself the Islamic State, President Barack Obama refuses to identify the group that now controls a third of Syria as either Islamic or a state. Instead, in his speech of Sept. 10, 2014 and since, he calls the Muslim jihadists — who have been slaughtering Christians in Iraq, Syria, and most recently beheading 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya — generic “terrorists.”

Incredibly, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf recently proclaimed that America can’t win against the Islamic State “by killing them” and ought instead to focus on addressing the root problem of their poor economy by helping the murderous jihadists get jobs.

Taking their cue from Obama, U.S. media like NBC News also call ISIS “terrorists,” absent any qualifying adjective. And although he denounced the beheading of the Coptic Christians and called them “martyrs,” Pope Francis similarly refuses to identify their killers as Islamic.

The tide is now beginning to turn against this refusal, prompted either by misplaced politically-correct politesse or willful blindness or just plain cowardice, on the part of world leaders to call a spade a spade.

Yesterday, Feb. 19, 2015, former CIA director James Woolsey effectively called Obama a coward when he told a CNN audience that the Commander In Chief of the most powerful military in the world “looks as if he’s afraid of using the adjective ‘Islamic’ to describe the terrorists from ISIS, al-Qaeda and other international terror groups bent on mass-murder and global destruction.”

Now, a major U.S. magazine is confronting the problem head-on.

The Atlantic, a magazine on foreign affairs, politics, the economy and cultural trends, was founded in 1857. Based in Washington, D.C., the magazine has a national reputation as a high-quality review with a moderate worldview, having won more National Magazine Awards than any other monthly magazine. It is primarily aimed at a target audience of serious readers and “thought leaders.”

The AtlanticIn the cover story by Graeme Wood for its March 2015 issue, “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic points a finger at the Obama administration — that its refusal to call ISIS “Islamic” reflects “confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors” in U.S. policy.

The author, Graeme Wood, speaks Russian and Arabic. He is a Canadian journalist and a contributing editor to The Atlantic who has written for The New Yorker, The American Scholar, The New Republic, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Wall Street Journal and the International Herald Tribune 

Below are excerpts from Wood’s article, which though long, is important and deserves your attention. The article consists of an introduction and the following five parts:

  1. Devotion
  2. Territory
  3. The Apocalypse
  4. The Fight
  5. Dissuasion

What ISIS Really Wants

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

Graeme Wood
March 2015

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

Islamic State's caliph: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Islamic State’s caliph: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)

We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. […] In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.

The most-articulate spokesmen for that position are the Islamic State’s officials and supporters themselves. They refer derisively to “moderns.” In conversation, they insist that they will not—cannot—waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. They often speak in codes and allusions that sound odd or old-fashioned to non-Muslims, but refer to specific traditions and texts of early Islam. […]

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to […] the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

I. Devotion

In November, the Islamic State released an infomercial-like video tracing its origins to bin Laden. […] Notably unmentioned: bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al Zawahiri, the owlish Egyptian eye surgeon who currently heads al‑Qaeda. Zawahiri has not pledged allegiance to Baghdadi […] But the split between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State has been long in the making, and begins to explain, at least in part, the outsize bloodlust of the latter.

Zawahiri’s companion in isolation is a Jordanian cleric named Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, 55, who has a fair claim to being al-Qaeda’s intellectual architect and the most important jihadist unknown to the average American newspaper reader. On most matters of doctrine, Maqdisi and the Islamic State agree. Both are closely identified with the jihadist wing of a branch of Sunnism called Salafism, after the Arabic al salaf al salih, the “pious forefathers.” These forefathers are the Prophet himself and his earliest adherents, whom Salafis honor and emulate as the models for all behavior, including warfare, couture, family life, even dentistry.

Maqdisi taught Zarqawi, who went to war in Iraq with the older man’s advice in mind. In time, though, Zarqawi surpassed his mentor in fanaticism, and eventually earned his rebuke. At issue was Zarqawi’s penchant for bloody spectacle—and, as a matter of doctrine, his hatred of other Muslims, to the point of excommunicating and killing them. […]

Denying the holiness of the Koran or the prophecies of Muhammad is straightforward apostasy. But Zarqawi and the state he spawned take the position that many other acts can remove a Muslim from Islam. These include, in certain cases, selling alcohol or drugs, wearing Western clothes or shaving one’s beard, voting in an election—even for a Muslim candidate—and being lax about calling other people apostates. Being a Shiite, as most Iraqi Arabs are, meets the standard as well, because the Islamic State regards Shiism as innovation, and to innovate on the Koran is to deny its initial perfection. […] That means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God.

Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.

Centuries have passed since the wars of religion ceased in Europe, and since men stopped dying in large numbers because of arcane theological disputes. Hence, perhaps, the incredulity and denial with which Westerners have greeted news of the theology and practices of the Islamic State. Many refuse to believe that this group is as devout as it claims to be, or as backward-looking or apocalyptic as its actions and statements suggest.

[…] the exclusion of ideology reflects another kind of Western bias: that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul. When a masked executioner says Allahu akbar while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing so for religious reasons.

Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. […] But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”

Every academic I asked about the Islamic State’s ideology sent me to Haykel. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States […] According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. […] He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. […]

In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

The Koran specifies crucifixion as one of the only punishments permitted for enemies of Islam. The tax on Christians finds clear endorsement in the Surah Al-Tawba, the Koran’s ninth chapter, which instructs Muslims to fight Christians and Jews “until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” The Prophet, whom all Muslims consider exemplary, imposed these rules and owned slaves.

Leaders of the Islamic State have taken emulation of Muhammad as strict duty, and have revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. “What’s striking about them is not just the literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts,” Haykel said. “There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness that Muslims don’t normally have.” […]

“We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”

II. Territory

Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are thought to have immigrated to the Islamic State. Recruits hail from France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Australia, Indonesia, the United States, and many other places. Many have come to fight, and many intend to die. […]

The caliphate […] is not just a political entity but also a vehicle for salvation. Islamic State propaganda regularly reports the pledges of baya’a (allegiance) rolling in from jihadist groups across the Muslim world. […]

To be the caliph, one must meet conditions outlined in Sunni law—being a Muslim adult man of Quraysh descent; exhibiting moral probity and physical and mental integrity; and having ’amr, or authority. This last criterion […] is the hardest to fulfill, and requires that the caliph have territory in which he can enforce Islamic law. Baghdadi’s Islamic State achieved that long before June 29 […] and as soon as it did, a Western convert within the group’s ranks …who was] “something of a leader”—began murmuring about the religious obligation to declare a caliphate […] further delay would be sinful. […]

After Baghdadi’s July sermon, a stream of jihadists began flowing daily into Syria with renewed motivation. Jürgen Todenhöfer, a German author and former politician who visited the Islamic State in December, reported the arrival of 100 fighters at one Turkish-border recruitment station in just two days. His report, among others, suggests a still-steady inflow of foreigners, ready to give up everything at home for a shot at paradise in the worst place on Earth. […]

The caliph is required to implement Sharia. Any deviation will compel those who have pledged allegiance to inform the caliph in private of his error and, in extreme cases, to excommunicate and replace him if he persists. […] In return, the caliph commands obedience—and those who persist in supporting non-Muslim governments, after being duly warned and educated about their sin, are considered apostates. […]

III. The Apocalypse

All Muslims acknowledge that God is the only one who knows the future. But they also agree that he has offered us a peek at it, in the Koran and in narrations of the Prophet. The Islamic State differs from nearly every other current jihadist movement in believing that it is written into God’s script as a central character. It is in this casting that the Islamic State is most boldly distinctive from its predecessors, and clearest in the religious nature of its mission.

In broad strokes, al-Qaeda acts like an underground political movement, with worldly goals in sight at all times—the expulsion of non-Muslims from the Arabian peninsula, the abolishment of the state of Israel, the end of support for dictatorships in Muslim lands. The Islamic State has its share of worldly concerns (including, in the places it controls, collecting garbage and keeping the water running), but the End of Days is a leitmotif of its propaganda. Bin Laden rarely mentioned the apocalypse, and when he did, he seemed to presume that he would be long dead when the glorious moment of divine comeuppance finally arrived. […]

During the last years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Islamic State’s immediate founding fathers, by contrast, saw signs of the end times everywhere. They were anticipating, within a year, the arrival of the Mahdi—a messianic figure destined to lead the Muslims to victory before the end of the world.  […]

[Beliefs] based on mainstream Sunni sources […] appear all over the Islamic State’s propaganda. These include the belief that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs, and Baghdadi is the eighth; that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest.

The Islamic State has attached great importance to the Syrian city of Dabiq, near Aleppo. It named its propaganda magazine after the town, and celebrated madly when (at great cost) it conquered Dabiq’s strategically unimportant plains. It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo or its Antietam. […]

Now that it has taken Dabiq, the Islamic State awaits the arrival of an enemy army there, whose defeat will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse. Western media frequently miss references to Dabiq in the Islamic State’s videos, and focus instead on lurid scenes of beheading. […] During fighting in Iraq in December, after mujahideen (perhaps inaccurately) reported having seen American soldiers in battle, Islamic State Twitter accounts erupted in spasms of pleasure […]

The Prophetic narration that foretells the Dabiq battle refers to the enemy as Rome. Who “Rome” is, now that the pope has no army, remains a matter of debate. But Cerantonio makes a case that Rome meant the Eastern Roman empire, which had its capital in what is now Istanbul. We should think of Rome as the Republic of Turkey—the same republic that ended the last self-identified caliphate, 90 years ago. Other Islamic State sources suggest that Rome might mean any infidel army, and the Americans will do nicely.

After its battle in Dabiq […] the caliphate will expand and sack Istanbul. Some believe it will then cover the entire Earth […] An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory. […]

IV. The Fight

The ideological purity of the Islamic State has one compensating virtue: it allows us to predict some of the group’s actions. Osama bin Laden was seldom predictable. […] By contrast, the Islamic State boasts openly about its plans—not all of them, but enough so that by listening carefully, we can deduce how it intends to govern and expand.

[…] detailed descriptions of how the Islamic State must conduct its foreign policy, now that it is a caliphate. It has already taken up what Islamic law refers to as “offensive jihad,” the forcible expansion into countries that are ruled by non-Muslims […]  the waging of war to expand the caliphate is an essential duty of the caliph. […] the state has an obligation to terrorize its enemies—a holy order to scare the shit out of them with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict.

[…] Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State’s propaganda videos. If the caliph consents to a longer-term peace or permanent border, he will be in error. Temporary peace treaties are renewable, but may not be applied to all enemies at once: the caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin. […]

The modern international system, born of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, relies on each state’s willingness to recognize borders, however grudgingly. For the Islamic State, that recognition is ideological suicide. Other Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, have succumbed to the blandishments of democracy and the potential for an invitation to the community of nations, complete with a UN seat. Negotiation and accommodation have worked, at times, for the Taliban as well. […] To the Islamic State these are not options, but acts of apostasy.

The United States and its allies have reacted to the Islamic State belatedly and in an apparent daze. The group’s ambitions and rough strategic blueprints were evident in its pronouncements and in social-media chatter as far back as 2011, when it was just one of many terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq and hadn’t yet committed mass atrocities. Adnani, the spokesman, told followers then that the group’s ambition was to “restore the Islamic caliphate,” and he evoked the apocalypse, saying, “There are but a few days left.” Baghdadi had already styled himself “commander of the faithful,” a title ordinarily reserved for caliphs, in 2011. […]

If we had identified the Islamic State’s intentions early, and realized that the vacuum in Syria and Iraq would give it ample space to carry them out, we might, at a minimum, have pushed Iraq to harden its border with Syria and preemptively make deals with its Sunnis. That would at least have avoided the electrifying propaganda effect created by the declaration of a caliphate just after the conquest of Iraq’s third-largest city. Yet, just over a year ago, Obama told The New Yorker that he considered ISIS to be al-Qaeda’s weaker partner. “If a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” the president said.

Our failure to appreciate the split between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and the essential differences between the two, has led to dangerous decisions. Last fall, to take one example, the U.S. government consented to a desperate plan to save Peter Kassig’s life. The plan facilitated—indeed, required—the interaction of some of the founding figures of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and could hardly have looked more hastily improvised.

It entailed the enlistment of Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, the Zarqawi mentor and al-Qaeda grandee, to approach Turki al-Binali, the Islamic State’s chief ideologue and a former student of Maqdisi’s, even though the two men had fallen out due to Maqdisi’s criticism of the Islamic State.[…] the decision to play matchmaker for America’s two main terrorist antagonists reveals astonishingly poor judgment.

Chastened by our earlier indifference, we are now meeting the Islamic State via Kurdish and Iraqi proxy on the battlefield, and with regular air assaults. Those strategies haven’t dislodged the Islamic State from any of its major territorial possessions, although they’ve kept it from directly assaulting Baghdad and Erbil and slaughtering Shia and Kurds there.

Some observers have called for escalation, including several predictable voices from the interventionist right (Max Boot, Frederick Kagan), who have urged the deployment of tens of thousands of American soldiers. These calls should not be dismissed too quickly: an avowedly genocidal organization is on its potential victims’ front lawn, and it is committing daily atrocities in the territory it already controls.

One way to un-cast the Islamic State’s spell over its adherents would be to overpower it militarily and occupy the parts of Syria and Iraq now under caliphate rule. Al‑Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding. Former pledges could of course continue to attack the West and behead their enemies, as freelancers. But the propaganda value of the caliphate would disappear, and with it the supposed religious duty to immigrate and serve it. If the United States were to invade, the Islamic State’s obsession with battle at Dabiq suggests that it might send vast resources there, as if in a conventional battle. If the state musters at Dabiq in full force, only to be routed, it might never recover.

And yet the risks of escalation are enormous. The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself. The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists worldwide: irrespective of whether they have given baya’a to the caliph, they all believe that the United States wants to embark on a modern-day Crusade and kill Muslims. Yet another invasion and occupation would confirm that suspicion, and bolster recruitment. Add the incompetence of our previous efforts as occupiers, and we have reason for reluctance. The rise of ISIS, after all, happened only because our previous occupation created space for Zarqawi and his followers. Who knows the consequences of another botched job?

Given everything we know about the Islamic State, continuing to slowly bleed it, through air strikes and proxy warfare, appears the best of bad military options. Neither the Kurds nor the Shia will ever subdue and control the whole Sunni heartland of Syria and Iraq—they are hated there, and have no appetite for such an adventure anyway. But they can keep the Islamic State from fulfilling its duty to expand. And with every month that it fails to expand, it resembles less the conquering state of the Prophet Muhammad than yet another Middle Eastern government failing to bring prosperity to its people.

The humanitarian cost of the Islamic State’s existence is high. But its threat to the United States is smaller than its all too frequent conflation with al-Qaeda would suggest. Al-Qaeda’s core is rare among jihadist groups for its focus on the “far enemy” (the West); most jihadist groups’ main concerns lie closer to home. That’s especially true of the Islamic State, precisely because of its ideology. It sees enemies everywhere around it, and while its leadership wishes ill on the United States, the application of Sharia in the caliphate and the expansion to contiguous lands are paramount. Baghdadi has said as much directly: in November he told his Saudi agents to “deal with the rafida [Shia] first … then al-Sulul [Sunni supporters of the Saudi monarchy] … before the crusaders and their bases.” […]

A few “lone wolf” supporters of the Islamic State have attacked Western targets, and more attacks will come. But most of the attackers have been frustrated amateurs, unable to immigrate to the caliphate because of confiscated passports or other problems. Even if the Islamic State cheers these attacks—and it does in its propaganda—it hasn’t yet planned and financed one. (The Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January was principally an al‑Qaeda operation.) […]

Properly contained, the Islamic State is likely to be its own undoing. No country is its ally, and its ideology ensures that this will remain the case. The land it controls, while expansive, is mostly uninhabited and poor. As it stagnates or slowly shrinks, its claim that it is the engine of God’s will and the agent of apocalypse will weaken, and fewer believers will arrive. And as more reports of misery within it leak out, radical Islamist movements elsewhere will be discredited: No one has tried harder to implement strict Sharia by violence. This is what it looks like.

Even so, the death of the Islamic State is unlikely to be quick, and things could still go badly wrong: if the Islamic State obtained the allegiance of al‑Qaeda—increasing, in one swoop, the unity of its base—it could wax into a worse foe than we’ve yet seen. The rift between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda has, if anything, grown in the past few months; the December issue of Dabiq featured a long account of an al‑Qaeda defector who described his old group as corrupt and ineffectual, and Zawahiri as a distant and unfit leader. But we should watch carefully for a rapprochement.

Without a catastrophe such as this, however, or perhaps the threat of the Islamic State’s storming Erbil, a vast ground invasion would certainly make the situation worse.

V. Dissuasion

It would be facile, even exculpatory, to call the problem of the Islamic State “a problem with Islam.” The religion allows many interpretations, and Islamic State supporters are morally on the hook for the one they choose. And yet simply denouncing the Islamic State as un-Islamic can be counterproductive, especially if those who hear the message have read the holy texts and seen the endorsement of many of the caliphate’s practices written plainly within them. […]

That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophecy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the Prophetic model. Ideological tools may convince some potential converts that the group’s message is false, and military tools can limit its horrors. But for an organization as impervious to persuasion as the Islamic State, few measures short of these will matter, and the war may be a long one, even if it doesn’t last until the end of time.

~StMA

US Air Force base in Arizona flies American flag with LGBT rainbow stripes

LGBT flag at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, in Tuscon, Arizona

LGBT flag at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, in Tuscon, Arizona

Former Senior Airman Brian Kolfage retired from the Air Force after being severely wounded during his second deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom. On Sept. 11, 2004, Kolfage was struck directly by a large artillery round (107mm rocket) which instantly severed his legs completely and his dominant right hand, making him a triple amputee. He received a Purple Heart medal for his actions in Iraq. Till this day, Kolfage is the most severely wounded U.S. Airman to survive any war. Kolfage is a 2014 graduate of the University of Arizona’s School of Architecture and is currently serving on Congressman Ron Barber’s (D-Ariz) veteran advisory committee.

Below is Brian Kolfage’s report for The Blaze, “Air Force Overlooks Disrespectful Display of the American Flag in Favor of Political Correctness,” Feb. 5, 2015.

I noticed something strange as I drove through Davis Monthan Air Force Base, in Tuscon, Arizona last week.

It was an American flag with rainbow stripes instead of the standard red and white stripes flying high on a two story house…on government property. […]

Everyone is free to express their sexual preferences in the Military in any way they want, but this flag flying on a military base is in violation of Title 4 of the U.S. Code.

More specifically Title 4 U.S. Code – Section 1:

Flag; stripes and stars on: The flag of the United States shall be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; and the union of the flag shall be fifty stars, white in a blue field.

The flag I saw is a parody of the American Flag with 50 white stars in the union, smeared with the rainbow colors as the stripes. The moment the flag took on the union stars is where it becomes a violation, with my understanding of the U.S. Code.

After posting the story on social media, I was contacted by hundreds of active duty Airmen thanking me for being their voice.

One of these servicemen who reached out to me is an Active Duty Air Force master sergeant, and for his own protection I have left out his name. What he sent me summed up the issues that our Airmen are facing:

I support that law and will continue to serve without distinction. First, however, I am an American. I have sworn to put Service, before self (and with that, any sexual preferences, color, religion, or ethnic background). I am saddened that leadership tiptoes over moral and ethical decision making in an effort to please the minority, or to not ruffle any feathers. Where is the line to be drawn?

I cannot fly a Christian flag. I cannot have a “Christmas” party at work. It has to be a “holiday” party. The point of this message isn’t anti-gay. It’s a fundamental shift of loyalty and allegiance. It is a political statement. I cannot publicly endorse a candidate for office while in uniform, but I can openly tell the world that I am LGBT. If they are proud of the leaps and bounds that the [Department of Defense]D has made with the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” then put up a rainbow flag and call it a day. But when you add the Union, it becomes a political statement. And that, my fellow Americans, is unacceptable.

This Air Force senior non commissioned officer perfectly sums up the hypocrisy and agenda-based and biased rules that our military leaders are using to enforce regulations.

It’s sad when someone who has gone to war and faced combat cannot display a Christian flag or even a Gadsden flag because it may be offensive. However, a flag that is in violation of the U.S. Code that mandates base regulations and policy is allowed?!

The following statement was the first of two that were sent to me by the 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office:

We are currently reviewing this issue and have taken no action at this time. We take seriously our responsibility to abide by federal law and defend the Constitutional rights of all citizens.

Then three days later I received the final ruling:

The installation commander carefully considered the opinions of legal professionals and the law. The display in question is not an altered U.S. flag; therefore, its display does not violate federal law. No action will be taken.

I can only imagine the legal conversations that went down to formulate this decision. Even a simple Google search reveals what we already knew. The flags are sold as “Gay Lesbian American Flags.” There you have it, let’s call a spade a spade and cut out the political correctness.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice the stars are perfectly laid out per the standard proportions for the U.S. Flag design guidelines. Furthermore, the stars are the same color with the same background. Are you really saying this is “not an altered U.S. flag?” You can’t be serious!

Without a doubt this is a perversion of Old Glory, and it’s flying on an Air Force base that won the 2012 Commander In Chief’s Best Installation in the Air Force. Should that tell us something?

What I would like to know is how it is not in violation of U.S. Code? Is it solely based on the rainbow not having enough colors? Are we really having this debate? Are today’s Air Force leaders really lacking this much common sense judgment on something so blatantly obvious? Or do they simply not have enough brass to man up and resist political correctness?

This opens a whole new can of worms after the 355th Fighter Wing has now set a precedence. I sure hope Airman around the globe read this, and bust out their flags whether they be a big Christian cross, Santa Claus, Gadsden, Medical Marijuana, Rebel, NASCAR, pink unicorns, or whatever they feel they represent. Even if you’re for straight marriage go ahead and fly that flag if it’s what you truly believe.

And when the Air Force instructs you to take it down, refer them to this article and then contact me. I’ll personally ensure your rights are not infringed upon.

If you’re proud of your sexuality, then please represent it, but do not do it at the sake of insulting our nation’s flag. Please have some respect and go buy a regular Lesbain Gay Bisexual and Transgender pride flag.

Most of us join the military because we love our nation, our citizens, our way of life and we protect our flag because it represents everything we fight for.

The colors of our flag symbolize the patriotic ideals and spiritual qualities of the citizens of our country

The red stripes proclaim the fearless courage and integrity of American men and sons and the self-sacrifice and devotion of American women and daughters.

The white stripes stand for liberty and equality for all.

The blue is the blue of heaven, loyalty, and faith.

The flag represent these eternal principles: liberty, justice, and humanity and embodies American freedom: freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the press, and the sanctity of the home.

I chose this flag above all because I’m an American. Which flag will you choose?

If you would like to contact the 355th Fighter Wing about the decision please use the information below:

355wgpa@us.af.mil
(520) 228-3398

See also “Obama admin actively recruits transgenders for the military,” June 27, 2014.

~StMA

Cuba issues list of demands for normalization with U.S.

Raul Castro83-year-old Raúl Castro, President of Cuba & brother of Fidel

From an editorial in Investor’s Business Daily, Jan. 29, 2015:

Soon after President Obama announced plans to normalize relations with Cuba, Sen. Marco Rubio called him the worst negotiator since Jimmy Carter. Cuban officials are now proving Rubio right.

As soon as Obama made his announcement, it became clear he’d pretty much given up the store and gotten nothing in return.

Cuba didn’t have to make any concessions on freedom of speech, democratic elections, a market economy. It didn’t have to turn over U.S. fugitives, including a convicted cop killer, whom it’s been protecting for years.

Indeed, as we noted in this space after Obama’s announcement, Raúl Castro was soon bragging about how he’d struck a deal with Obama “without a single sacrifice of our principles.”

Castro apparently feels no need to do so in the future, either. After the opening round of talks, Cuban diplomat Josefina Vidal told the AP that “changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable.”

Now, to add insult to injury, Castro has started issuing his own set of demands.

In a speech at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in Costa Rica on Wednesday, he said there’d be no normalization of relations unless the U.S. ends the trade embargo, closes the naval base at Guantanamo Bay and takes Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terror.

Oh, and he also wants the U.S. to stop allowing Cubans to stay in this country just because they manage to set foot on American soil. That’s been causing a brain drain from the island, you see.

Castro has even told Obama what to do, saying in his speech the president should “use with resolve his broad executive powers to substantially change the scope of the blockade, even without the Congress’ decision.”

Why shouldn’t Castro be so brazen? Obama has already shown his hand. So Castro knows he can keep upping the bid, assuming — most likely correctly — that Obama will do anything to keep the normalization process from folding.

If this were the only time Obama has miserably failed at the bargaining table, it would be bad enough. But it’s just the latest in an continuing and ominous pattern — from his dealings with Iran, his prisoner exchange with the Taliban, his phony “red line” in Syria, his “reset” with Russia, etc.

Come to think of it, saying Obama is the worst negotiator since Jimmy Carter is actually an insult to Carter.

Update (Feb. 2, 2015):

IBD inexplicably left out another demand: reparations.

The AP reports, Jan. 28, 2015, that Castro also demanded that the United States pay Cuba hundreds of millions of dollars in “just compensation to our people for the human and economic damage that they’ve suffered” caused by the decades-long embargo.

~StMA