Seriously, Why Are Young Men in the Middle East So Unhappy?

Young men in the prime of their lives in the Middle East are not happy. They are not inclined to go to the local pub for a beer on a friday night with their friends. They are not in art museums on first dates. They are not at university studying to be engineers. They are not getting married and having babies. Instead, across a large swathe of the region, young men are rip shit angry about something and to show their displeasure, they are willing to reduce every building and monument in their own countries to rubble. They are willing to mass murder one another. They are willing to die themselves.

What is wrong? Something is terribly wrong. Even if they are indoctrinated by extremist ideology what predisposes them to this option as opposed to other options? This is their own country, their own institutions, their own lands, their own people, their own selves. What would drive people – any human persons – to become so disenchanted with everything that they are willing to wage non-stop war against each other, and others as well.

Has anyone figured this out? What is at the root of this rage that is felt by young men in the Middle East and how can the global community help them to be less enraged? What is it that they want that the don’t have? What do they need? What is missing? What?

John Kerry’s Classy Rebuke of Benjamin Netanyahu: “Friends Don’t Put Friends in this Position”

His rebuke of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu was classy, necessary and overdue. John Kerry defended the United States right to love its friends while also staying true to its values. This is fundamental and non-negotiable – even if it means having to lose favor with a friend like Israel. And it seems that is exactly the result. Even president elect Trump is accusing Mr Kerry of “disdaining” and “disrespecting” Israel.

Putting aside the president elect’s penchant for siding with everybody else instead of his own country, the Kerry speech resonated and struck some dark chords:

Kerry painted a dark picture of what that future might look like: “millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights, separate legal, education, and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives them of the most basic freedoms.”

Using an emotionally charged phrase drawn from America’s history of segregation, Kerry condemned such conditions as “separate and unequal.” “Would an Israeli accept living that way? Would an American accept living that way? Will the world accept it?” he asked.

To think that any American president could support such policies and blindly profess “friendship” and loyalty in any and all circumstances is appalling. Hopefully the next president will reconsider his position.

Will Trump Allow Israel to Become His Albatross?

The current leadership in Israel seems bent on a far right agenda that could alienate support for the Zionist state around the world. Already, 15 UN Security members have voted against the illegal Jewish settlement and in January, up to 70 nations will convene in France to discuss next steps in this Israel-Palestine saga. Indeed the only person who is openly supporting Israel’s actions is US president elect Donald Trump.

Is he enough to fight the world on Israel’s behalf tout seule? Is America strong enough and resilient enough and popular enough and influential enough at this point in time to take on the entire rest of the world on behalf of Israel? Or will Israel become an albatross for the Trump administration? And does it have to be like that? Or could parties behave with more reasonableness?

It seems that even with the American/Israeli friendship, there has to be some limits. It cannot be utterly without parameters and conditions. If Mr Trump fails to understand that, then he could be biting off more than he can chew with Israel and could find himself in over his head when the whole thing, for lack of a better world, explodes.


John Kerry’s to Speak on UN Resolution 2334 Re Israel & Palestine and the Obama Administration’s Two-State Solution Foreign Policy

US Secretary of State John Kerry will address the United States and the world this Wednesday to articulate the vision of the Obama White House of a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine and “lay down a marker on a longstanding US and international approach to the Middle East Region.”

The Kerry speech at the State Department at 11am (4pm GMT) is expected to restate the Obama administration’s continued faith in a two-state solution to the chronic impasse. It is a parting shot after eight years in office, during which there has been a dearth of diplomatic progress. It is not expected to lead to any new initiative but rather lay down a marker on a longstanding US and international approach to the region before the US president-elect, whose commitment to such a solution is in doubt, assumes office.


Netanyahu to Diss Theresa May at the Forthcoming World Economic Forum in Davos?

Benjamin Netanyahu is on a foreign policy blitzkrieg after the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously (with the abstention of the United States which is tantamount to a “yes” vote) that Israel indeed is guilty of disturbing the peace by its insistence on settling disputed territory in Palestine and the West Bank. Further, the resolution declared that Israel indeed is in violation of International law.

Fourteen nations voted against Israel on this resolution. The sole voice in support of Israel on this specific issue is US president elect Donald Trump who tweeted shortly after the resolution was passed that the UN is nothing but a club for people who want to chat over coffee.

The diplomatic fallout from the vote was spectacular and continues to reverberate, after Israeli prime minister Netanyahu took a number of measures in reprisal for what he called a “gang up against Israel” at the UN. He even vowed to yank Israel’s participation in the UN and he also summoned several diplomats to Israel to discuss the consequences for their betrayal. Countries like Senegal were told they would get no more Israeli cash because of their vote and other countries like New Zealand were given verbal reprimands and told that a vote against Israel would be considered a “declaration of war.”

In Israel, Mr Netanyahu does not enjoy unanimous approval and support for his handling of this foreign policy setback. According to the Guardian, there has been a lot of backlash against the Israeli prime minister:

The latest planned reported moves also come amid evidence of a mounting backlash against Netanyahu’s handling of the situation. On Monday Yesh Atid, the party of one of Netanyahu’s biggest rivals on the right, Yair Lapid, urged the Knesset to summon Netanyahu to explain the “dangerous deterioration in Israel’s foreign relations” following the vote. Israeli columnists also continued to damn Netanyahu’s handling of the fallout with Ben Caspit, of the Maariv, describing his “campaign of chastisement” as the “most unwarranted and looniest in the world of diplomacy in modern history”.

But it does not appear to stop there. Now there is Rumor that Mr Netanyahu planned to diss British Prime Minister Theresa May in Davos where all the heads of state will be meeting for an annual forum. There have been denials from Netanyahu’s Tel Aviv office about this. But the rumors persist anyway because Mr Netanyahu is said to be “rip shit angry” about this stab in the back from the UN and its permanent members like UK who voted against Israel and its illegal settlements.

What If the US Supported Reinstating Bashar Al Assad in Syria? Is this Bad Precedent?

The current US position on Syria is “Bashar Al Assad Must Go.” This has been Barack Obama’s stated position and it would have been Hillary Clinton’s as well. The rationale for this position is understood and commendable. Had a “no fly zone” occurred in 2011, perhaps it would have even been achievable. But the world is a long way from 2011.

Even assuming the clock could be turned back at this point and there had been a no fly zone instituted, and Bashar al Assad had been toppled, there is no guarantee that there would be law and order in Syria today. The textbook case for this type of intervention is Libya. There was intervention in Libya in 2011. A no fly zone was instituted. The regime was toppled, Gaddafi is dead and there is total and complete bedlam in the country.

It is now 2016. Five years have passed. Bashar al Assad has held on to his power with the help of Vladimir Putin. What are the realistic alternatives now for the United States and its allies as far as a solution in Syria? Is there an opposition government that is strong and trustworthy waiting in the wings to take over – assuming this regime is toppled – so that there is not a repeat of what happened in Libya?

If the answer to this question is not a strong “yes” then it is folly to remove Bashar al Assad at this time. Prior to 2011, Syria was a functioning country. Life there was not perfect, bien sûr. People had their beefs, as they do everywhere in the world. But it was functioning, was it not? There was law and order. There was food. People went to work and to the mosque and to the movies. Is this not enough? To be able to eat and go to work and to the mosque and to the movies? What else does anyone need these days? None of us live in heaven no matter where we live whether that is France, America, Venezuela, Congo or Iran. Everywhere, there are problems. Everybody has to make do.

The problem is, that Western ego wants things to be how they want things to be and this has led to a lot of disastrous adventurism – especially in the Middle East. Why is it that Western governments cannot mind their collective business when it comes to the Middle East and their lives and their culture? So what if Bashar al Assad is an autocrat? So what if he has been ruling for a really long time and his father before him? This is their country. This is their culture and maybe this was fine with the Syrian people before all this meddling occurred! Where is it written in the Bible or Koran or any other book that a leader can only be president for 8 years? Where is it written that a leader should be changed after a certain number of years?

This is a Western notion! And that is fine for the West. But in the Middle East, it is their norm that a leader can lead till whenever. And if it is OK with them it ought to be OK with us in the West. Moreover, even if it becomes not OK with them, and they want a change, they have to achieve that in a certain way. Breaking the entire country down to rubble because you become disenchanted with the leader is not, necessarily, the smartest and most effective way. But if that is the way they chose, it is their country. What business is it of ours?

Yes, I know. People are dying. This, obviously, is not a good thing. It is a bad thing. But are we making it better by going in there and “meddling” in these people’s affairs?  I guess if we go in as third party arbitrators or third party good officers, it might be one thing. But we are going in there all wrong. We are going in there to throw our weight around. This is wrong. This is a mistake.

Look, West, let’s butt the hell out of Syria. Assad may be the devil but we know the devil we have. We do not know the one we are going to get. Plus, he is tough. He has staying power. He did not die. Let him have his country back. In a few years, maybe they can sort it out and have an election and move on with their lives.

If we get out of Syria and let them sort it out…we need to but the hell out of the Middle East! This, really, is the bottom line! We need to get the hell out! Completely!

The more I think about this the angrier it is starting to make me. What part of “get the hell out” do these Western leaders not understand? I think all of the parts because I just read that they are arming the opposition in Syria again and I just think this is madness.

Really, this is just madness.

Netanyahu, Behaving Like a Spoilt Petulant Child, Throws a Tantrum About UN Resolution 2334

It quite possibly would win the Pemmy (Political Emmy Award) for “The biggest tantrum by a political leader in 2016.” Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel is very displeased by a UN Security Council vote that has determined that Jewish settlements in the West Bank infringe on the rights of the people of Palestine. Boy, did this anger Mr Netanyahu. He launched a verbal assault on President Obama and then he did the following according to the Washington Post:

Following the U.N. vote, Netanyahu recalled Israel’s ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal and canceled scheduled trips to Israel by the Senegalese foreign minister and Ukraine’s prime minister. He also said that Israeli aid to Senegal will be canceled and that contributions Israel makes to five U.N. agencies will be halted. “I share my ministers’ feelings of anger and frustration vis-a-vis the unbalanced resolution,” Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday. He laid blame for the resolution squarely on the shoulders of President Obama.

It is noteworthy that while he blamed Obama for this situation, it was not Obama that proposed this resolution – Egypt did, until President Abdel Fattah el Sisi called it off, after a call from President elect Trump (but ultimately Egypt voted with the other members of the Council for the measure); and it certainly was not Obama who voted for it. Indeed, of the 15 members on the Security Council at this time, “Obama,” i.e. the United States, was the only country that abstained from the vote. One would have almost hoped that Obama would have had a little bit more symbolic courage and actually had voted with the other 14 members on the Council as his ultimate parting shot, his ultimate statement on this issue.

Regard, if you will, the countries that voted for UN Security Council Resolution 2334 – against the behavior of the State of Israel and its leaders with respect to Jewish settlements in the West Bank:

  • China
  • France
  • Russia
  • UK
  • Senegal
  • Venezuela
  • Ukraine
  • Uruguay
  • Spain
  • New Zealand
  • Malaysia
  • Japan
  • Angola
  • Egypt

Is it not significant that even the  permanent members on the Council which include Russia and China and France  and England voted for this resolution? Why did Mr Netanyahu not direct his “disrespect” to the leaders of these countries? Russia and China and France are hardly weak countries. They voted for the resolution. Why is he directing his anger towards the Obama White House alone? Does he “fear” the others?

Mr Netanyahu called the resolution a “gang up.” But the diversity of countries that voted for this resolution does not suggest any collusion. Russia has no obligations towards Angola and Malaysia for example. France does not need to curry favors from Ukraine and Uruguay. These all seem like independent actors and independent countries and independent voters. Maybe the world community is simply coming to its senses that if global peace is going to be even  remotely possible, US policies towards Israel and the Middle East needs a little bit of a tweak and certainly the rest of the world community can no longer remain silent if they feel that international law is being violated – whether we are talking about Netanyahu, Putin, Assad or anyone. Each has a responsibility to at least say “we disagree with your behavior.”

What is particularly troubling is how Mr Netanyahu seemed to single out Senegal to pull Israeli aid to the country. It almost sounds like blackmail, like a shake down. Is this appropriate? He completely ignores the strong countries who voted for the resolution and he picks on and bullies probably the weakest country and takes his aid away. This way, countries like Senegal will think twice about how they interpret what is “right” and what is “just” for fear they will lose money and financial assistance from bigger countries that are bullying them. This culture of  bullying others needs to stop.

Trump’s demand that Obama veto the resolution was also classic bullying. He has promised that everything will change at the United Nations after January 20th when he takes office.

That’s what he thinks. He may find that it is not as simple as it seems.


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On Obama’s Doctrine: “Don’t Do Stupid Shit”

President Barack Obama was correct in making “don’t do stupid shit” his fundamental guiding principle with respect to his foreign policy agenda – especially when it comes to skirmishes in the Middle East. And yes, he is right. Some traps were laid for him with that – especially with Syria and that red line he drew after his ally Cameron pulled out due to his parliament not authorizing him to go in and other variables such as Obama’s own CIA director telling him that going in would not be a “slam dunk” and that they would not be able to actually hit the targets – which were the gas tanks that Assad has allegedly used on his people.

That whole thing was a well laid trap. That was a landmine. He almost stepped on it. But he pulled back at the last minute and foiled the plot. Some people will never forgive him for wising up to them. They see it as weakness and blame that one decision for the escalation of the problem in Syria.

For others, job well done, Barack Obama. Good for you that you corrected course at the last minute, the last second, and refused to let your ego and hubris and need for “credibility” (as that word is defined by others with questionable intentions) to push you into doing more “stupid shit.” The day you took that detour is the day in fact that you liberated yourself as observed below in the excerpt from the interview with the Atlantic:

I have come to believe that, in Obama’s mind, August 30, 2013, was his liberation day, the day he defied not only the foreign-policy establishment and its cruise-missile playbook, but also the demands of America’s frustrating, high-maintenance allies in the Middle East—countries, he complains privately to friends and advisers, that seek to exploit American “muscle” for their own narrow and sectarian ends. By 2013, Obama’s resentments were well developed. He resented military leaders who believed they could fix any problem if the commander in chief would simply give them what they wanted, and he resented the foreign-policy think-tank complex. A widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as “Arab-occupied territory.”

“Obama’s Choice” is what is should be known as in history. He had many “choices” in Syria. But the one he selected was to walk away from his own red line and not do stupid shit. This is a huge and defining moment in history and it should be known as Obama’s Choice. Had he made a different choice would there be peace in Syria today? All citizens and governments in that country and in that region would be living harmoniously with each other? Or would there still be unrest of some sort, some new radical group that would have sprung up to avenge whatever other choice Obama would have taken?  There is almost no doubt that even had he made a different choice and followed through with the red line, and/or regime changed Assad, that there still would be unrest in this region and that many American lives would consequently be put at risk trying to out new fires.

The Middle East is definitely an expensive, high maintenance, resource draining, never satiated BFF. There does come a time when, as difficult as it is, one BFF has to tell the other BFF “enough is enough.” History will thank Obama for having enough self-control and humility and wisdom to walk away from his own red line. As an architect of history (at least a portion of it) he understood his power as president of the leader of the free world in a very crucial moment and thankfully, he drew his blueprints in pencil. When he realized he had an error, he easily was able to erase it. Thank God.  As a wise man once said “any man is liable to err, only a fool persists in error.” (Cicero)

Bien sûr, not everyone will see it that way:

History may record August 30, 2013, as the day Obama prevented the U.S. from entering yet another disastrous Muslim civil war, and the day he removed the threat of a chemical attack on Israel, Turkey, or Jordan. Or it could be remembered as the day he let the Middle East slip from America’s grasp, into the hands of Russia, Iran, and isis.

The problem with the latter viewpoint is this: the Middle East is not a petulant child who is being reared by responsible adults. This notion of Obama “letting the Middle East slip from America’s grasp” is insulting to the Middle East. The Middle East is not America’s responsibility; nor is it America’s property.  These are full blown adults with all their faculties and resources soundly in tact. They know what they want and they know what they are doing. It is beyond hubris to have believed in the first place that the Middle was ever in America’s grasp. This was probably the fundamental mistake that lead to all the erroneous policies in this region. The thinking of new American administrations with regard to the Middle East needs to change. These people are not in anybody’s grasp. Can’t everyone discern that by now? Indeed, in a lot of ways, it is America who is in their grasp. Think about it: In a certain way, given all the resources and capital that has been expended and dispersed by America and their allies in this region only to have things get incrementally worse, something is not adding up. It is time to step back and analyse: Who is in whose grasp in the Middle East?

Obama came to his senses and refused to step on that landmine:

“Having said that,” he continued, “I also believe that the world is a tough, complicated, messy, mean place, and full of hardship and tragedy. And in order to advance both our security interests and those ideals and values that we care about, we’ve got to be hardheaded at the same time as we’re bighearted, and pick and choose our spots, and recognize that there are going to be times where the best that we can do is to shine a spotlight on something that’s terrible, but not believe that we can automatically solve it. There are going to be times where our security interests conflict with our concerns about human rights. There are going to be times where we can do something about innocent people being killed, but there are going to be times where we can’t.”

Next up: Donald Trump. Will he let himself be tricked into doing “stupid shit”?

Was Obama’s Syria Strategy the Right One?

If Obama had put troops on the ground and, for example, “taken over Syria” would there be peace in Syria and more broadly the Middle East today? In 2011 when the Arab Spring sprung, things got crazy very quickly. Regimes such as the one in Libya and Egypt were toppled and it was like a house of cards caving in.

At the time of the Libyan “no fly zone” resolution in the UN, almost all the world’s leading powers had a different leader than the one they have today. In France, for example, the president was a guy named Nicolas Sarkozy. If one were to look at the records of how that whole situation unfolded, how the Libyan strongman came to his end, one will see that Obama was not the one who started that whole thing. American planes were not even the first to assert this “no fly zone.” On the contrary, Mr Sarkozy was one of the first world leaders to send in his planes to commence the actions that have led to where the world community currently is.

So what?

Well, Mr Sarkozy is long gone and Obama is still in office (soon to be gone) but he is the one who is widely seen as the heavy for the mess that followed that situation in Libya and the rest of the region. He is widely seen as the heavy. Not Sarkozy and not any other world leader.

The fact is that the American president (and the USA) is quickly blamed for casualties no matter which way they go with world affairs.  If one remembers at the time,  it was the people of these regions who called out for help and for a “no fly zone.” In many media reports at the time, America and the West were criticized for not helping.

And then?

Well, “help”arrived and then the finger-pointing began once the dust began to settle.

It is very much damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

In the case of Syria, Obama froze. He knew that no matter which way he went, it still would be his fault.  He had to pick a “do.” He picked “do nothing.” In so picking, he is blamed for the refugee crisis that has besieged Europe and for increased terrorism on the continent.

What he cannot be blamed for though is imposing his will on Syria and the Syrian people. The Syrian people have a responsibility to themselves and to the region in which they live. This includes the government of Syria. And the governments of the region in which they all reside. What is that responsibility? To live right. To do unto their brethren as they want done unto them.

No amount of guns and rockets and drones and bombs can fix a heart bent on doing the contrary. Neither would one million dead American soldiers change this trajectory.

The intervention into Middle East politics in 2011, in the manner that it occurred at that time, was a mistake. Compounding that mistake by continuing to interject Western will unto the people of this region would have compounded the mistake into an even bigger mistake.

Obama was right to “do nothing” as far as militarily in Syria.

What is the solution now? As far as these human beings whose lives have been utterly rearranged by so much wrongdoing? That is the question.

Remember When Trump Told Netanyahu “See You When I am President”?

Donald Trump is a very complicatedly simple guy. He hates with an intense passion and then he changes his mind. Sort of. One thing is for sure is that he has no problem with “sleeping with the enemy” if this would further one of his deals – metaphorically speaking.

He has made bedfellows of the most unlikely of sorts, including but not limited to Paul Ryan, Carly Fiorina, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and others. And conversely, he has kneed out of his posh 600-thread sheets the unlikeliest of sorts including but not limited to Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich.

It is very complicated and very simple all at the same time.

Enter Benjamin Netanyahu. Anyone who followed the 2016 elections will remember the time when Trump  was scheduled to fly to Israel to speak with the Israeli prime minister and at the last minute was unceremoniously dissed by the Israeli prime minister, who dropped candidate Trump like an inconsequential hair pin at the last minute with a rather lame excuse.


Trump’s 6’2 posture diminished by nearly 4 inches with that hit. But not before he threw Netanyahu a parting shot “I will see you when I am president.”

At the time, it seemed a pathetic comeback from a guy who was on tap to lose a presidential election by a margin of defeat that redefined the meaning of the word “landslide.”

Everybody was laughing at a red-faced Trump by this very epic diss on an international stage.

Now that Trump has stunningly ascended to the presidential throne, and is the president elect (soon to be president) however, Mr Netanyahu is jockeying to be his new BFF.  Will Trump snuggle? Or kick him out of the bed? Time will tell. But if his pick of an American ambassador to Israel is any indication, it looks like Trump intends to snuggle.

Don’t assume anything though.

This man, Donald Trump, is totally UNPREDICTABLE.

This trait, heavily criticized even on this blog over the course of the last two years, could turn out to be the thing that makes this president great, in the end.

Let’s see what he does.



President Barack Obama is Verbally Attacked by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu For Abstaining From a UN Vote About Jewish Settlements in the West Bank

The Obama White House is not in favor of additional Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Their position seems to be that it is too “gourmande” on the part of the Jewish State and it would jeopardize a meaningful chance at peace between the two populations as well as a two state solution that would allow the Palestinian people to have a country of their own.

Israeli Prime minister found this position unreasonable and untenable and disloyal and according to a recent article, Monsieur Netanyahu has accused President Obama of “collusion” with the Palestinians:

“The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the U.N., it colluded with it behind the scenes,” the Israeli leader said in a statement, according to Reuters. “Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with all our friends in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.”

It seems quite a weighty accusation, if not disrespectful, to level this charge of “collusion” against the sitting president of the United States in this circumstance. Indeed, the abstention was not a veto but it could have been a veto if enough members of the council had voted against it. Notably, this resolution was advanced by countries that included Malaysia, Senegal, Venezuela and New Zealand. It seems therefore that Mr Netanyahu ought to place his anger towards the leaders of these countries and perhaps try to persuade these countries to side with Israel.

At the same time, however, Mr Netanyahu ought to also consider whether perhaps indeed he is being a little bit too gourmande with respect to these lands that are being settled – lands that the Palestinians apparently expected to one day turn into a country of their own.

At some point in the madness that has become our world, every human person, every citizen of the world has an obligation to step back and ask ourselves “what is happening to our world and can we create a world that is more just for everyone?”

The fact that Israel is the ally of the United States is not in dispute. But even among friends, sometimes one is obliged to say “no.” And it does not make one a bad friend to have to say “no” sometimes to a friend.

The Palestinian people are human persons. The Jewish people are human persons. The French people are humans persons, as are the Senegalese, Venezuelans, Russians, Americans, Chinese, Chiliens, everybody. We are in this world together and we have to share. No person is more important and more deserving of the basic human rights to, for example, a place to be and to live, than the other.

This is the bottom line that should govern the thinking and the policies and the resolutions going forward – especially for the incoming Trump administration. Jewish lives matter. Palestinians lives matter.


Obama was right to abstain.

Kuwait Ambassador to the USA Strongly Denies Trump Hotel DC Personnel Enticed Him to Host Event There and Ditch Four Seasons

No, the Trump Organization did not entice the ambassador to the United States from Kuwait to ditch the Four Seasons Hotel and host instead his swanky annual Kuwaiti National Day Event at Trump’s new DC Hotel.

A report in had suggested some type of currying of favors had occurred between Trump Organization and the Kuwait envoy to America. This, if true, would have been an ethical violation at a minimum, if not an unconstitutional trespass.

But the ambassador from Kuwait, Salem Al-Sabah, denies that anybody enticed him to switch to Trump’s DC space. He claims he did this on his own because he felt the novelty of the venue would encourage more guests to attend the event and that he had heard rave reviews of the space.

David Friedman Attorney at Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman is Trump’s Pick for US Ambassador to Israel

David Friedman is a feared New York lawyer who also happens, it appears, to be a very conservative Jewish person. He was recently tapped by incoming president Donald Trump to be the ambassador to Israel. Many people are crying foul.

It appears that Mr Friedman is too much of a hardliner for many folks including some in the Jewish community. Mr Friedman is said to be in favor of Jewish settlements in areas traditionally Palestinian. He is in favor of moving the American embassy in Israel from Jerusaleum – the capital for both Arabs and Jews – to Tel Aviv, making it a clearly Jewish outpost. He has even advocated a Putin-esque annexation move whereby land on which the Palestinians hope to build a state of their own, he thinks Israel should take that too, and settle the West Bank for Jews to occupy. Experts on the region and on these issues say that annexing and settling the West Bank would be a death wish as far as any hope for peace in the region is concerned. David A Graham wrote the following for The Atlantic:

Going through with such a move would likely further inflame an already touchy situation, with little prospect of serious peace negotiations, much less a resolution. Friedman’s other statements suggest little inclination to change that. Longstanding U.S. policy has been to oppose Israeli settlements in the occupied territories of the West Bank, which the international community holds to be unlawful. But Friedman has repeatedly argued that the settlements are legal. Friedman has also said that despite longstanding U.S. policy that seeks a two-state solution, with a separate nation for the Palestinians, “a Trump administration will never pressure Israel into a two-state solution or any other solution that is against the will of the Israeli people.” He says Trump would support annexation of chunks of the West Bank and thinks a single-state solution would be workable, because he believes there are fewer Palestinians than commonly estimated.

This does not augur well for peace in the region if indeed these editorialists have pegged Mr Friedman correctly. Nations like Iran, as well as other in the Middle East, are watching and listening and forming ideas of how they will respond and it is unlikely to be in a peaceful manner if indeed Mr Friedman follows through on these hard-line ideas.

A recent editorial in the New York Times calls Mr Friedman a “dangerous choice for American ambassador to Israel:

In appointing David Friedman as the next ambassador to Israel, Donald Trump voiced a desire to “strive for peace in the Middle East.” Unfortunately, his chosen representative would be far more likely to provoke conflict in Israel and the occupied territories, heighten regional tensions and undermine American leadership.

A prominent liberal Jewish group, J Street, has been very vocal about their opposition to Mr Friedman’s nomination for American ambassador to Israel. Mr Friedman has very little regard for this group, however. Back in the summer he reportedly compared them to being “worse than kapos” a pejorative for Jews who assisted the nazis in the concentration camps in the 1940s. The Atlantic writes:

But Friedman has reserved some of his harshest statements for liberal American Jews. He has tangled with my colleague Peter Beinart, saying that reading his work would drive one to vote for Trump. Friedman was reacting in part to Beinart’s criticism that Friedman had compared J Street, a liberal, dovish American Jewish group, to kapos who collaborated with Nazis. That was wrong, Friedman wrote this summer:

They are far worse than kapos—Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps. The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one? But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas—it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.

The objections to Mr Friedman are not just a few. One prominent publication called the move by Mr Trump to nominate this gentleman “reckless” and called on the Congress to protect Mr Trump and the American people from this type of reckless indifference to peace in the region and the world more broadly, and block Mr Friedman’s nomination.

Mr Friedman, 71, is not a diplomat and has never held a diplomatic post before now. Indeed, as a practicing lawyer whose speciality is bankruptcy, he has been a partner in the New York law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman since 1993. According to their company profile, the law firm has represented big name clients including Enron, Worldcom, and Donald Trump over the years in various types of litigation including employment law, bankruptcy, products liability and libel. Mr Friedman personally has reportedly represented Mr Trump in one or more of his bankruptcy cases involving one or more of his casinos. As recently as last October, Mr Friedman’s law firm sent a letter to the New York Times threatening to sue the paper over libellous reporting about Mr Trump and two women who had accused the president elect of groping them.

Bashar al-Assad: “The Liberation of Aleppo Will Change Syria, the Region, and the World”

Syrian president Bashar Assad is winning thanks to Vladimir Putin. Aleppo has basically been turned into a parking lot. There is a ceasefire in place and the president sees this event as “historic.” In a Twitter video he, according to a Reuters report, equated the fall of Aleppo to the birth of Jesus and the fall of the Soviet Empire.