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Syria Tag

You probably never heard of Madaya. It's a town in Syria near the Lebanese border that has been under rebel control, and now is under seige by Hezbollah and the Syrian regime. And the people are starving to death. That mass starvation has received very little media coverage in the U.S. until the past couple of days. ABC News (Australian Broadcast Company) reports:
Doctors inside the besieged Syrian town of Madaya say five more people died of starvation on Sunday, including a nine-year-old boy. The town of up to 40,000 people, near the capital Damascus, has been under siege by government forces and Hezbollah militants since July.

One of the things that I find amusing about the Democrats' war on the Koch brothers is the fact that it seems to be based more in projection than in fact.  George Soros is notoriously behind and/or involved in a slew of progressive initiatives, websites, and assorted pot stirrings. It's usually a good idea to know what the opposition is thinking, so it's worth taking a look at the article he penned for The Guardian entitled "The terrorists and demagogues want us to be scared. We mustn't give in."   In it, Soros claims that terrorists have discovered that western, "open" societies have a key weakness that can be exploited:  a fear of death. Note how he singles out France's response to the Paris attacks as being particularly "irrational" (as we'll see, he's quite happy with America's president's non-response to terrorism.):
Open societies are always endangered. This is especially true of America and Europe today, as a result of the terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere, and the way that America and Europe, particularly France, have reacted to them.

WAJ Intro: Mirit Hadar is our friend in Ithaca. She is Israeli, and is traveling to Greece over winter break as a volunteer with IsraAID. Mirit will post about her journey, at Legal Insurrection and her own website. This is her second post. Part 1 is here. ---------------------------------- Volunteering was mostly about meeting people, seeing new places, and learning from the experience of others who are already here. I must say I felt a little bit misplaced myself, not sure what to do, how I can contribute here and what is my role in all of this. Some people come for few days, some people are here for months and some came to bring supplies for the refugees. People come here to volunteer for different reasons although what unifies them when asked is that they all tell me they feel there was no question in their mind that they must help these refugees. The medical team here is amazing and go out of their way to help people in need. [caption id="attachment_155300" align="alignnone" width="600"]http://mirithadarisraaid.blogspot.gr/2015/12/28-hours-of-intensity-and-susan-sarandon.html [Mirit Hadar with members of IsraAID Medical team, Greece][/caption]

Hillary Clinton flat-out lied when she claimed during the Democratic Debate on December 19, 2015, that ISIS was showing videos of Donald Trump's immigration comments as a recruiting tool. Despite the lack of any proof of the video claim, Team Hillary is refusing to apologize, and instead has fallen back on the more general claim that Trump still is ISIS's best recruiting tool:
“He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter,” she said. “They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.”… When asked if Mrs. Clinton would apologize, Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said, “Hell no. Hillary Clinton will not be apologizing to Donald Trump for correctly pointing out how his hateful rhetoric only helps ISIS recruit more terrorists.”
Really? One can disagree with Trump's comments AND acknowledge that Hillary lied and Team Clinton is distracting from Clinton's own failures as Secretary of State.

Iran and its allies have taken a beating in Syria according to recent reports. Perhaps the most spectacular was the airstrike overnight that killed the notorious child killer, Samir Kuntar and eight other terrorists in a Damascus suburb. Prof. Jacobson rightly called Kuntar "among the most notorious and vicious terrorists," for shooting Danny Haran to death in front of his four year old daughter, Einat, and then killed her by smashing her head against a rock with his rifle butt. Needless to say Kuntar was treated as a hero by Hezbollah, who traded the bodies of IDF soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, to free Kuntar in 2008. He also received the Syrian Order of Merit from Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad shortly after his release. But Kuntar's killing is just a symptom of the recently reported problems plaguing Iran and its allies who are backing Assad.

Chuck Hagel was Obama's third Defense Secretary--the other two: Robert Gates and Leon Panetta--to leave his position under difficult circumstances. As late as November 19, 2014, Hagel told Charlie Rose that he didn't wake up in the morning worried about his job, and in less than a week, on the 24th of November, news broke that Hagel had "stepped down."  Despite the rumors addressed by Rose, people were surprised by the news, and Joe Biden is reported to have been "ticked off" by the move. At the time, The New York Times reported that Hagel had stepped down "under pressure" from the White House.
Aides said Mr. Obama made the decision to remove his defense secretary on Friday after weeks of rising tension over a variety of issues, including what administration officials said were Mr. Hagel’s delays in transferring detainees from the military prison in Guantánamo Bay and a dispute with Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, over Syria policy.

Samir Kuntar was among the most notorious and vicious terrorists. A Druze, he was part of a group that landed in Israel in 1979, took a family hostage, and smashed a 4-year old child's head against a rock with his rifle butt:
On April 22, 1979, Quntar, commanding a small unit of four armed men, piloted a small dinghy from Lebanon to the northern Israeli town of Nahariya. Undetected by the Israeli Navy, the terrorists struck at midnight and wasted little time: spotting a police car, they opened fire and killed one officer, Eliyahu Shahar. Then, they proceeded into the town, forcing their way into the nearby home of the Haran family. Danny Haran, 31, and his daughter Einat, 4, were taken hostage. Smadar, Danny’s wife, managed to grab her infant daughter Yael, 2, and hide in the apartment’s narrow attic. Terrified, and anxious to keep the child from crying, Smadar accidentally choked her baby to death. Quntar and his men, meanwhile, took Danny and Einat to the beach, where they were met by Israeli soldiers and police officers. A short firefight ensued, but Quntar had other targets in mind. He shot Danny in the back at close range, murdering him in front of his small daughter. Then, he took Einat and smashed her skull against a rock with the butt of his rifle.

Russia's policy of bloody deterrence and intimidation is reaping battlefield victories, and exposing US fecklessness in Syria.  President Obama has decided the risk of alienating the Syrian population and providing propaganda fodder for ISIS and other anti-Western organizations outweighs the benefits of a substantive military intervention, but Russian President Vladimir Putin's s opposite strategy moots the theory.  Syrians afflicted by foreign military intervention and Islamists capitalizing on it are unlikely to parse their anger according to which foreign power actually caused their losses. Particularly since ISIS bombed a MetroJet airliner on October 31, 2015, killing 224 people, including 219 Russians, the Russian and American campaigns in Syria could not be more different.  Russia now operates four forward operating bases in Syria and claims to have flown more than 4,000 sorties and hit 8,000 targets since September 30, 2015 and to have conducted fifty-nine sorties on December 15 alone, hitting 212 targets, killing 321 ISIS fighters and destroying 100 oil facilities. After the MetroJet bombing, Russia also deployed ground forces to Syria for the first time.  According to Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.):
Comparable to our own elite fighters of Delta Force, Russian special forces have an operational edge ours do not. While battlefield actions by U.S. forces will, appropriately, always be defined by the laws of land warfare, Russian special forces historically have tossed their moral compass aside. By doing so, they convey a clear message—in blood—to adversaries.

The number of Syrian Christian refugees the United States has taken in is extremely small. And yet this is a group that ought logically to be first in line because members face the most obvious danger and persecution---not only in Syria, but in several Arab or Muslim countries to which they might have fled. Syrian Christians would also have little chance of being terrorists. We already have seen how little Obama has said or done about the plight of Christians in the Middle East today, both rhetorically and in terms of action. So it's no stretch to imagine that the lack of Syrian Christian refugees may be the result of a deliberate policy of this administration. However, at least some of the lack of Christians among the Middle Eastern refugees to the US is a reflection of the way the system works vis-a-vis the UN, which usually does the initial vetting for us---a system that, by the way, desperately needs changing:

What would you do if your old truck adorned with your business name and phone number became part of a viral photo? Assumed to be a "terrorist sympathizer" by many viewing the photo, this Texan plumber sued the dealership.

Earlier this week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a complaint seeking to block resettlement of six Syrian refugees. Sarah Rumpf reported:
The lawsuit names as defendants various federal entities such as the Department of State, Secretary of State John Kerry, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, as well as International Rescue Committee, Inc., a nonprofit organization involved in refugee resettlement. According to the the complaint, the Refugee Act of 1980 (8 U.S.C. § 1522) “establishes a framework for collaboration and cooperation” between the federal government, state and local governments, and volunteer nonprofit organizations, and also requires that the federal government and these private groups “shall consult regularly” and work “in close cooperation and advance consultation” with the states about “the sponsorship process and the intended distribution of refugees among the States and localities before their placement in those States and localities.” The Texas HHSC was told during a phone call with International Rescue Committee that the group intended to resettle two families of Syrian refugees — a total of six people — in Dallas, Texas this week, possibly as early as Thursday, December 3. However, as the complaint alleges, neither this nonprofit group nor the federal government have met their obligations under the Refugee Act of 1980 to consult with Texas about these refugees. Therefore, Texas is demanding that the court order the federal government and International Rescue Committee to comply with the law by consulting with Texas and providing the requested information, and to block the resettlement of these Syrian refugees until that occurs.
Friday, Paxton withdrew the complaint:

On Wednesday afternoon, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, on behalf of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (Texas HHSC), filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas seeking to block the resettlement of six Syrian refugees in Texas. The lawsuit names as defendants various federal entities such as the Department of State, Secretary of State John Kerry, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, as well as International Rescue Committee, Inc., a nonprofit organization involved in refugee resettlement. According to the the complaint, the Refugee Act of 1980 (8 U.S.C. § 1522) "establishes a framework for collaboration and cooperation" between the federal government, state and local governments, and volunteer nonprofit organizations, and also requires that the federal government and these private groups "shall consult regularly" and work "in close cooperation and advance consultation" with the states about "the sponsorship process and the intended distribution of refugees among the States and localities before their placement in those States and localities.”

Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree imposing sanctions against Turkey in retaliation over last week's downing of a Russian jet that crossed into Turkish airspace near the Syrian border. The decree went into effect immediately, and places a stranglehold both on Turkish businesses operating in Russia and on Russians who planned on traveling to or doing business with Turkey. Via Reuters:
The decree, posted on the Kremlin's website, spoke of the need to protect Russia's national security and Russian citizens "from criminal and other illegal activities". In it, Putin ordered the government to prepare a list of goods, firms and jobs that would be affected. Some of the measures announced have already been informally introduced.

Amidst growing concerns of his lack of knowledge of foreign policy, Dr. Ben Carson headed on Friday to Jordan to visit a refugee camp in Jordan. From ABC News
"Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has traveled to a refugee camp in Jordan on a "fact finding and information gathering mission."
Is this a smart move by the campaign? Carson is viewing the trip as an opportunity to see up close the complexities surrounding the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis:
“I find when you have firsthand knowledge of things as opposed to secondhand, it makes a much stronger impression.”
Carson's itinerary includes not just a visit to the United Nations-run refugee camp, but to a clinic and hospital as well. The famed neurosurgeon is looking to become a student of these experiences.

Today U.S. officials confirmed that the Turkish military fired upon a Russian jet when it repeatedly violated Turkish airspace near the Turkey-Syria border. The jet crash landed in the Jabal Turkmen area of the coastal Syrian province of Latakia, and it is now believed that both pilots have died under fire from rebel Turkmen forces. More via Fox News:
U.S. defense official said that two Turkish F-16s fired heat-seeking air-to-air missiles at the Russian aircraft. “This will get complicated,” the official said. Tuesday's incident is the first time since the 1950s that a Russian or Soviet military aircraft has been publicly acknowledged to have been shot down by a NATO country, according to Reuters. Russia's main stock index dropped more than 2 percent after the incident, while Turkish stocks fell 1.3 percent amid fears of an escalation between the two countries. Russia said the Su-24 was downed by artillery fire, but Turkey claimed that its F-16s fired on the Russian plane after it ignored the warnings.
Fox has posted amateur video claiming to show the crash:

Canada joins the liberal leaders of the US and much of Europe and plans to go ahead with the admission of many thousands of Syrian refugees:
Canada plans to fly in 900 Syrian refugees a day as of next month, according to media reports, as the defense minister said showing compassion for these people sends a message to Islamic State extremists. Canadian officials said details of a plan to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by year's end would be announced Tuesday. The Canadian media reports come amid fears that IS jihadists could slip into the country posing as refugees, in the wake of last week's attacks in Paris that killed at least 130 people.
The bill is projected to be 1.2 billion Canadian dollars. Canada has come up with a stupendous rationale for what they're doing. The liberal Canadian Minister of Defence (who is a Sikh, by the way, with what appears to be a pretty strong resume) has made some statements that are similar to the reasoning of liberals in this country as well:
This crisis is not just about a humanitarian project," he said in his opening remarks to military commanders and defense ministers from around the world. "This also sends a great message to ISIS that you might create this environment for us, but we will not let you take advantage of this," he said, using an alternate acronym for the IS group. "By doing our part for this, we are actually hitting ISIS in a different way as well."

I suppose this is one way to look at things, but it's certainly not the slightest bit accurate. Sunday, President Obama accused Republicans of helping ISIS (though he always uses 'ISIL') by attacking Syrian refugees. Unsurprisingly, not one Republican has attacked any Syrian refugee. What Republicans have done is vocalize the same concerns articulated by U.S. intelligence agencies on the refugee vetting process. Namely, that because our intelligence ground game in Syria has been so weak, we have no data with which to vet an influx of refugee status seekers properly, at least not for the time being. However, that little factoid didn't stop President Obama from continuing his verbal assault on Republicans and a bevy of Democrats who've vowed to halt the president's refugee plan. Politico reported:
ISIL’s still not the varsity team, President Barack Obama said Sunday, but if Republicans running for president and in Congress continue to respond to attacks by playing off fears, they’re doing the terrorists’ work for them.
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