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May 30, 2015 / 12 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Tunisia’

Cheat Sheet on Who’s Doing What to Whom in the Middle East

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan (and a few quiet others) have been urging U.S. President Barack Obama to climb down from his tree and listen to Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. There’s a reason for that.

A new radical Islamic axis is forming, one that is cuddling up to the Muslim Brotherhood. The once-scattered Iranian-backed terror groups dedicated to annihilating the State of Israel are coalescing into a second axis while threatening to form an alliance with Daesh, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria also known as ISIS, as well as Al Qaeda and other global jihad organizations.

Because part-time pundits don’t have time to study the fine details of where things are happening on the political chessboard of the Middle East, here’s a cheat sheet to help you keep score on the latest realities in the region.

For a lot of Western political analysts, the Arab Spring was confusing and a real pain in the neck — but that was a walk in the park compared to the nightmare now facing foreign affairs policy makers trying to stay abreast on current terrorist ties and the tangled web they are spinning in the ‘hood.

U.S. President Barack Obama is looking for a way to nurse his salty wounds over having to spend his final tenure swallowing bile while chatting civilly, if not with good manners, during phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

But here’s what’s happening right now — and what the leader of the greatest country on earth has to grapple with — while he continues to search for ways to pick a fight with Israel’s most popular leader since the Israel was founded by its first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion.

In Africa:
Two terror organizations in Nigeria and Somalia, Boko Haram and Al Shaba’ab respectively, have both pledged allegiance to Daesh, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. Both groups have slaughtered thousands and wounded more, committed numerous atrocities and are continuing to carry out murderous terror attacks to prove their mettle as “jihadists,” or holy warriors for Islam.

The moderate Arab nation of Tunisia suffered its first public terrorist attack by ISIS this weekend in a massacre that left 20 dead and dozens of others wounded in the iconic Bardo museum in Tunis, including many foreign tourists. At least 3,000 Tunisians have flown to Syria to join the ISIS terror organization; it’s no surprise those chickens are beginning to come home to roost in North Africa.

Tunisia is one of the few Arab nations left that can claim to be home to one of the most ancient Jewish communities in Africa, and which has enjoyed a healthy international tourism trade. It now faces severe damage to its tourist industry, which was just beginning to recover from the ravages of the Arab Spring. Ominously, the threat level facing Tunisia’s Jewish community on the country’s island of Djerba is also not clear.

Libya, which borders Tunisia — and where an American Ambassador and three U.S. diplomats were murdered in an Al Qaeda attack in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 — has been entirely swallowed by Al Qaeda and allied terrorist groups. ISIS has also joined the party, spreading cells throughout the country as well. Earlier this month, ISIS made its “debut” appearance in the oil-rich nation with a public seaside beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian laborers taken captive by the terror organization.

In the Middle East:
Egypt is facing one of the toughest fights of its life in the Sinai Peninsula as it battles a budding invasion by ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Iranian proxy groups. Homegrown terror cells and disgruntled Bedouin tribes are aiding and abetting this effort, having always looked for greener pastures and a better deal regardless of who’s in power in Cairo.

Gaza has been controlled since 2007 by Iran‘s proxies who include Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and in a consultant position, Hezbollah. All maintain contentious but cooperative relationships with the Salafi, global jihad Army of Islam terror group which is linked to Al Qaeda. ISIS is also now represented in the region as well.

Jordan is facing an existential threat on its borders with Iraq and Syria due to ISIS having captured border crossings on both, and the presence of Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards along the border with Syria. So far, its only remaining friendly borders are with Israel, and with Egypt. In addition, the Palestinian citizens within Jordan are not as friendly to the Hashemite regime as one might believe; moreover, they are wont to align with the Muslim Brotherhood which also operates within the kingdom and which can be seen as a fifth column.

Lebanon has been swallowed by ISIS, Palestinian Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades linked to Fatah, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, all of whom vie for power in the nation. Hezbollah holds the lion’s share of the political clout in the government since the terrorist group long ago expanded to include parliament members and actual ministers in the government cabinet as well.

Iraq was the first to fall to ISIS; its border crossings with Syria and Jordan were easy prey for the terror group. Iran easily persuaded the government that its was better off allowing its Islamic neighbor to “help” it fight off the Sunni threat than to place its trust in the American administration that had abandoned its ally when it was still to weak to fend off terrorist and tribal challenges to the power of the central government. So now Iran has now entered the picture there as well, to “assist” Iraqi forces in fighting ISIS, which Iran perceives as a threat to its own interests, for the time being at least.

It is likely that when the power struggle ends, one way or the other, Iran will be the force to divide the spoils and cut a deal with ISIS in order to ultimately divide up the region between the two emerging empires. However, Iran will ultimately be the one to rule because ISIS does not have the self-discipline, nor the structural underpinnings necessary to create and maintain an administration to rule an empire. This is quite separate and apart from Iran’s booming weapons production industry, not to mention its galloping race to develop nuclear arms.

Watch it happen – you read it here first on Jewish Press.com.

Syria was the little ticking time bomb that appeared to have set off this entire conflagration – but if one looks closely, it is clear that ISIS does not attack the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. Nor does Assad bother much with the ISIS terrorists. Both have bigger fish to fry.

Assad is an Alawite — a sect that is linked to Shia, hence his close ties with Shiite Iran and that nation’s support of his struggle. Iran sent Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps units and Hezbollah guerrillas to fight alongside his troops. Russia also supplemented Assad for quite some time — right up to the point that Assad began to lose and Russian citizens were endangered. Then Russian “consultants” were evacuated, funding slowed down to a crawl but weapons shipments continued to arrive.

ISIS meanwhile wants to expand its reach throughout the entire Middle East — and that’s just for starters. Its ultimate stated goal is simply to establish a worldwide caliphate — an “Islamic State” — and nothing less. Think ‘Hitler’ with a 21st century media team and you’re headed in the right direction.

In any case, Syria is no longer really Syria; it is now divided up into cantons, each of which is governed separately by various emirs and such. Many report to ISIS already. Some report to Al Qaeda. Others still are loyal to the “moderate” Syrian National Council and its Free Syrian Army. A few are hanging on to Syria’s government, or what’s left of it – mostly around Damascus.

And now there’s Yemen, bits of it left currently on the chopping block and most already nearly to the mop-up stage by Al Qaeda, ISIS and their Houthi opponents, soon probably to be allies as well. Of course, Al Qaeda had laid the groundwork for the takeover of the country to a great extent, having infiltrated and permeated the territory over the past several years. Al Qaeda promotes the image of being at odds with ISIS, although the latter began as a freak offshoot of the terror mothership, but it is more likely all a bluff. We will yet see the day the two will re-unite as one, or return as allies.

In the meantime, Saudi Arabia is starting to move its military forces towards the border with Yemen. The last time Saudi Arabia did that was in March 2011, when it “helped” its neighbor Bahrain fend off a surreptitious move by Iran to foment unrest in the Sunni-ruled country (which has a Shia majority) under cover of the Arab Spring.  It took one day for 1,000 Saudi troops and 500 troops from United Arab Emirates to clear protesters from around the iconic Pearl Roundabout in Manama, and then to destroy the statue on what became known locally as “Bloody Thursday.”

The U.S. Embassy in Yemen has been closed due to the escalating attacks. Embassy staff and families of diplomats were evacuated from the country, just in time. The last group of 100 American special forces who were there to consult and help the Yemen military fight off the takeover in the first place were evacuated from the country last weekend due to the ‘rising danger.’

Houthi rebels seized the airport and control of the entire city of Taiz as well as the surrounding province over the weekend as well – about 240 miles south of the Yemeni capital of Sana’a — according to Taiz provincial government officials who spoke with international media.

As early as January, Yemen’s president and his cabinet resigned after the Houthis surrounded the presidential palace, and in fact the entire capital city of Sana’a was captured by the Houthi rebels. Last week ISIS suicide terrorists arrived in Sana’a and bombed two mosques, killing 137 Yemenis and wounding hundreds more, making it clear that supremacy over the city is still up for grabs.

The United Nations Security Council met Sunday (March 22, 2015) to discuss Yemen’s deteriorating situation, with its UN envoy to Yemen reporting the country is “at the edge of civil war.” Meanwhile, Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi remains in exile in the southern port city of Aden, maintaining that he is still the nation’s leader. Last week, the Houthi war against Hadi pursued him all the way south to Aden, with an air strike aimed at the palace where he is housed. That day, Houthi rebels on the ground battled Hadi loyalists in Aden leaving 13 dead.

Finally, there is Turkey.

It’s odd how few actually discuss what’s happening in Turkey, a NATO member who has provided free passage to literally every single terrorist group that has requested safe passage through its country, even into Syria to reach the ISIS capital of Raqqa. If you travel through Istanbul airport on an average day, it becomes amazingly clear that whoever wishes to, can travel through Istanbul from Iran, Russia, or anywhere else.

Turkey is the ultimate Casablanca of today’s Middle East.

Muslim Brotherhood officials are warmly greeted by their supporters there. Hamas has a new international headquarters in the country, Fatah and other Palestinian officials are always welcome, and ISIS operatives move across the border to bring imports (brides and other ‘items’) to Raqqa with no trouble at all. Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps members – you name it, and you can make that meeting happen in Turkey, if you know the right buttons to push. Even United States officials are welcome.

Just be wary if you’re Jewish, or Israeli, of course.

Only a U.S. reject deported back home via Cairo to make a good showing to the Americans was turned back. Turkish authorities didn’t bother with that performance when it came to ignoring three young Muslim school girls from the UK whose frantic parents begged the Ankara government to block them from crossing the border into ISIS Land.

One wonders how Turkey is able to square its relationship with NATO with all that going on.

But managing delicate, intricate relationships are a peerless skill practiced by Turks since ancient times. There are few who can match a Turkish diplomat in anything, let alone the multi-lateral negotiations involving events so complex that one would need a nuclear microscope just to see past the surface, let alone begin to address it.

No wonder President Obama feels so disgruntled, so out of sorts, so … over his head.

This is not his neighborhood. He doesn’t know the language, diplomatically, behaviorally, gramatically or culturally. Nor has he yet learned the basic regional sport of bargaining in the souk. Worse, he probably would never enjoy it. You have to really love it to survive it.

But if you don’t live in the neighborhood, or you never come to visit, how on earth can you work out a two-state “solution” — let alone PEACE? More to the point, if you really dislike it so much why bother?

Mr. President, at least relax a little before you really hurt someone, and let those who actually like the region deal with it and with the Israelis too.

By the way – just as for your information — you may not realize it, but in Israel the appliance stores are still doing a really brisk business selling those terrific home appliances that are made in Turkey. Now, how do you suppose that could be, given all that hostile anti-Israel ranting from Ankara?

US President Barack Obama Calls to Congratulate Netanyahu

Friday, March 20th, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama finally called Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to congratulate him — on the Likud party’s success at the polls.

According to a statement issued by the White House, the President “emphasized the importance the United States places on our close military, intelligence and security cooperation with Israel, which reflects the deep and abiding partnership between both countries.

“The President and the Prime Minister agreed to continue consultations on a range of regional issues, including the difficult path forward to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the statement continued.

“The President reaffirmed the United States’ long-standing commitment to a two-state solution that results in a secure Israel alongside a sovereign and viable Palestine.

“On Iran, the President reiterated that the United States is focused on reaching a comprehensive deal with Iran that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and verifiably assures the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program.”

Obama was preceded by Secretary of State John Kerry, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, and numerous others in congratulating Netanyahu on the historic re-election for a fourth term – the only prime minister to be so chosen since Israel’s founding father, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion.

The issue of Israel’s security is growing exponentially more serious as the days pass, with terror groups backed by Iran and global jihad organizations surrounding the Jewish State.

Aside from the clear and present danger posed by the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel’s existence, the Daesh global jihad terror group is becoming an increasing concern as well.

This past Wednesday, the European Union formally blamed the group, known also as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terrorist organization, and as ISIS, for a bloody attack at Tunisia’s iconic Bardo Museum in that nation’s capital. At least 19 people were killed, including 17 foreign tourists, and 20 others were wounded.

“With the attack that has struck Tunis, the Daesh terrorist organization is once again targeting the countries and peoples of the Mediterranean region,” EU foreign policy chief Mogherini said in a statement late Wednesday.

“This strengthens our determination to cooperate more closely with our partners to confront the terrorist threat.”

Israeli security personnel have been closely tracking the progress and growth of Daesh terror cells in the region, particularly in northern Israel, Gaza, Judea, Samaria and other areas within pre-1967 Israel.

A number of Arabs who have become involved with the terror group have been identified and arrested by Israeli security forces. Others who left the country and traveled abroad to fight with Daesh are being tracked.

It is for this reason — among others — that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been adamant about ending assumptions of well-meaning nations who believe they can simply force Israel back to the negotiating table with the PA to sign on to any two-state solution.

Tunisians Voting for Legislators in First Nationwide Vote

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

For the first time ever, Tunisians are going to the polls today (October 26) to select the members of their country’s legislature.

Some 13,000 candidates representing more than 90 political parties ran for the 217 available seats in the legislature.

Voting began at 7 am and was set to wrap up at 6 pm local time, with results to be tallied shortly thereafter.

Elections for Tunisia’s president are scheduled to take place on November 23.

The polls follow the democratic reforms that enforced the country’s first free election of a constitutional council in 2011. By 2014, Tunisia had completed a new constitution. It has since been governed by a group of independent leaders headed by Mehdi Joma’a.

More than five million residents are eligible to vote in the nation that brought the upheaval of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution and the subsequent region-wide Arab Spring to the Middle East.

Tunisia Leader Facing Flack Over Jewish Pilgrimage to El Ghriba

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Just one day after Tunisia’s leader urged officials not to make a fuss over normalization of ties with Israel, the country’s parliament voted to “interview” its tourism minister for deciding to allow Israelis to participate in the annual Lag B’Omer pilgrimage to El Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba.

The elected National Constituent Assembly (NCA) has announced it will question Tourism Minister Amel Karboul over the decision to allow Israelis to enter Tunisia.  Also to be “interviewed” will be Security Minister Sefar Ridha, according to international media reports.

“Our problem is not with our Jewish brothers who come for the pilgrimage but with the Zionist entity that occupies Palestinian territories,” said leftist Democratic Alliance head Mohammed Hamdi.

Since the country’s Jasmine Revolution in January 2011, Tunisia has struggled with a massive economic crisis.  Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa warned the parliament Tuesday it was in Tunisia’s best interest to “make the tourist season a success, because tourism is one of the activities that brings immediate cash to the country.”

Of those activities, Jomaa noted, tourism professionals have determined “the pilgrimage to Ghriba must be successful for the tourist season to be successful.” He added, “This is a tradition known to us – the pilgrimage has been taking place for years.”

The tourism industry in Tunisia employs some 400,000 people and accounts for seven percent of the GDP.  Jomaa’s decision to create a policy of tourism “transparency” means that Israelis can for the first time use their official passports to enter the country for the pilgrimage, rather than a specific Tunisian embassy-issued document.

Tunisia had “offices of interest” in Tel Aviv in 1996, and Israel had one in Tunis as well. Those ties were established just two years after the closure of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headquarters which had existed in Tunisia for the twelve years prior.  But the fragile ties established between Tunisia and Israel were torn apart in October 2000 when the PLO succeeded in launching the second intifada in Israel – prompting Tunis to freeze ties in a protest against Israel’s efforts to quell the violence.

For years Jews have gone to Tunisia for the pilgrimage, with or without formal Israeli-Tunisian diplomatic ties. But an Al Qaeda terror attack on the synagogue in 2002 left 21 people dead, and killed the tourist event for the next decade. The Jasmine Revolution and the Arab Spring did the rest.

Tunisian Jew Stabbed in Djerba

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Hours before the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover, the Festival of Freedom, a local Jewish merchant was stabbed Monday on the island of Djerba.

The victim, Morris Bachiri, is a resident of El Hara El Kabiri. He was allegedly attacked with a sharp object by 38-year-old Lasaad Tounis, according to the Tunisian Interior Ministry, which reported the incident in a terse statement on its Facebook page. News of the report was carried in a post on Tuesday by the French-language website African Manager.

The attack was described as a “simple assault, nothing more and nothing less,” and Bachiri’s Jewish identity was not mentioned in the report.

The ministry added that Bachiri was released from a hospital shortly following the attack, which took place barely a month after a group of Israelis were stopped from disembarking  with other tourists at a Tunisian port.

Last month the government allocated $6,300 for renovation of the synagogue in what critics called an attempt at damage control in the wake of the Israeli tourist debacle. The Norwegian Cruise Line on which the Israelis were traveling has since scrapped Tunisia from its list of destinations to protest the country’s refusal to allow Israelis to disembark at port.

The annual Jewish pilgrimage for the Hilula of Ghriba, which involves a festive procession to the ancient Synagogue of El Ghriba on the island of Djerba, is meanwhile expected to take place next month – on the holiday of Lag B’Omer.

For decades thousands Jews from around the world used to gather in Djerba to participate in the procession to El Ghriba, considered the oldest existing synagogue in Africa. But the numbers have dwindled to barely 500 attending the event last year. In 2002 the Al Qaeda terrorist organization bombed the synagogue during the pilgrimage, killing 21 and wounding many more.

More than a year ago, Israeli officials expressed serious concern for the safety of the Jewish community in Tunisia, warning that any political instability in the country could negatively affect Tunisian Jews.

Since that time, the Islamist Ennahda government ended its tenure in January with the approval of a new constitution by the country’s national assembly.  A caretaker cabinet was also appointed to rule until new elections are held later this year. The arrangement was made in order to end a crisis between Ennahda and its secular opposition – but it is unclear how the current arrangement has affected the political status of the country’s Jewish community.

Ennahda was the more moderate of the Islamist parties.  Salafi Muslim extremists have for years been expressing their strong support for the Hamas terrorist organization; in January 2012 they welcomed Gaza-based de facto Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to their shores with open arms.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Drops Tunisia over Anti-Israeli Bias

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Norwegian Cruise Lines dropped Tunisia from its itineraries after the country refused to allow Israeli citizens to disembark in the Port of Tunis.

About 20 Israelis were quietly told before disembarking from the Norwegian Jade over the weekend that they were not welcome per the Tunisian government.

The cruise line’s decision to drop Tunisia was first reported by Cruise Critic, an online cruise information site.

“We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests,” Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO, said in a statement Tuesday.

The Norwegian Jade had been stopping in Tunisia every three weeks during the winter, according to Cruise Critic.

Tunisia Bars Jews on Cruise Ship

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Tunisia has barred Jews on a Norwegian cruise ship from leaving their cruise voyage and stepping foot in the country after theirboat docked in Tunis, according to B’nai Brith Canada.

“The cruise line has a responsibility to its passengers to advise them of this discriminatory policy in advance. Better still the cruise line should avoid ports that have such policies,” said Frank Dimant, B’nai Brith Canada’s chief executive.

Jewish passengers held on the ship said other passengers were enraged after they disembarked and only later learned that the Jews were not allowed to visit Tunisia.

National security forces have increasingly harassed and assaulted Jews, and one Muslim cleric has publicly called for “divine genocide” of Jews.

Tunisian Jews once enjoyed a compostable and safe life. Approximately 2,000 Jews still live on the Tunisian island of Djerba, home of the El Ghriba synagogue that dates back nearly 2,600 years.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/tunisia-bars-jews-on-cruise-ship/2014/03/10/

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