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Reported US-Iran Talks Explain Saudi Sitting Out Red Sea Operations

People gather near burning Israeli and US flags, as supporters of the Houthis rally to denounce air strikes launched by the US and Britain on Houthi targets, in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 12, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Wafic Safa, a top Hezbollah official, is on an unprecedented visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country that classifies the Iran-backed Lebanese militia as a terrorist organization.

The visit came less than a week after The Financial Times reported that Bret McGurk, a senior Biden official, had held secret talks with Iranian counterparts in Oman about attacks in the Red Sea.

In December, America invited Saudi Arabia and the UAE to participate in Operation Guardian Prosperity, which was designed to defend international shipping lanes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden against Houthi attacks originating from Yemen.

Under the Biden administration’s strategy of “regional integration,” America’s Arab allies — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt — are members of Combined Task Force (CTF) 153, whose mission is to guarantee the security of the Red and the Arabian seas. Yet when Yemen’s Houthi forces started targeting ships, these Arab countries passed on Washington’s invitation. Some believe this was because Riyadh and Abu Dhabi correctly calculated that Biden might change course midway and quit, leaving them facing renewed animosity from Tehran and the Houthis.

With McGurk’s reported meeting to ask the Iranians to rein in the Houthis, the Saudis and the Emiratis were proven right. They likely see this as evidence that Biden is an unreliable ally, and that if he thinks that diplomacy is the way forward, Saudi Arabia and the UAE can reach out to Iran, and its proxies, on their own.

Consistency is key to successful foreign policy. The Biden administration has not shown this.

In February 2021, the administration took Yemen’s Houthi militia off the US State Department’s List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO), despite objections from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In January, the administration reversed its position, re-listing the Houthis, not as an FTO, but as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” group, whatever that means, attesting to the administration’s obsession with word acrobatics at the expense of substantive policy.

Inconsistency has also marred the way Biden has dealt with Israel’s reaction to Hamas’ October 7 massacre of 1,200 Israelis. A week after the massacre, Biden said that Hamas must be eliminated. Less than six months later, as Israel prepared for a sweep of Rafah designed to deal the Palestinian group the final blow, Biden warned Israel against invading Gaza’s southern town, saying that Rafah was a “red line” if the Israeli action there didn’t meet his specifications.

Biden’s position on Saudi Arabia has also been confused. Originally, candidate Biden had promised to turn Saudi Arabia into a pariah state. As president, Biden visited Riyadh and asked the Saudis for favors, mainly to pump more oil to lower global prices, and foreign policy help. When Biden is not applying pressure on Riyadh to raise its production levels, he and some in the Democratic Party spend their time bashing Gulf countries for their energy production, and blaming them for global warming, even though America has been leading the world in global crude oil production, while China leads the planet, by a mile, in carbon emissions.

Then there is the erratic policy of arms sales to allies. Hardware contracts are long-term and require servicing, maintenance, recalls, and upgrades. It is almost impossible to integrate systems from different countries together. This means that countries that buy US arms, and therefore help boost the American economy and create jobs, have to stick to American arms.

But Biden — and the Democrats in general — politicize arms sales and supply, whether to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel, or other clients. No army wants to find itself begging for resupplies mid war. That’s exactly what America did to the Arab coalition that was fighting the Houthis in Yemen: Washington prohibited the sale of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Gulf countries eventually decided to coexist with the rogue Houthi militia on their borders, only for America to come begging the Saudis and the Emiratis to join the coalition to protect the Gulf of Eden and the Mandib Strait.

All of a sudden, the Biden administration declared that it was planning to lift the ban on sales of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh said thanks, but no thanks, your war with the Houthis is not ours, just like our war with them was not yours. For Riyadh, it was payback time. Anyone who knows the Arab society knows the importance it places on loyalty, between individuals as well as between nations. With Biden and the Democrats, the Saudis and the UAE have been having a hard time in this department.

America went to war on the Houthis alone. Only the UK effectively participated.

In Iraq, America responded to attacks of pro-Iran militias on Iraqi bases housing US troops by killing half a dozen senior militia leaders. Tehran and its Iraq loyalists got the message: America was not playing games and was serious in inflicting harm on the militias. The attacks on Americans in Iraq stopped, for now.

In Yemen, however, Houthi leaders enjoyed safety despite American strikes. Had America taken out a few senior leaders, it would have raised the cost of war for the militia significantly, forcing it to change its calculus.

Washington, instead, has reportedly decided to reason with the same Iran regime that has proven, time and again, that it is not interested in deals with America, only in defeating it, its allies, and ejecting it from the Middle East.

Military regional integration is a great idea, but if not backed up with a clear political vision, will, and strategy, it accounts for little. Gulf states were right to stay away from Biden’s confused policy on Yemen. Now they are reaching out to Iran and its militias, on their own. Soon, America could be out of the Middle East, both militarily and diplomatically. Washington should be careful what it wishes for.

Hussain Abdul-Hussain is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy. X: @hahussain

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Iran’s ‘Supreme Leader’ Welcomes Anti-Israel Campus Protesters to ‘Resistance Front’

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Official Khamenei Website/Handout via REUTERS

Iran’s so-called “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, applauded the anti-Israel protesters who have thrown university campuses across the US into chaos over the past several weeks, declaring them part of a new “branch of the Resistance Front” against the Jewish state.

“Dear university students in the United States of America, this message is an expression of our empathy and solidarity with you,” Khamenei wrote in an open letter published on Thursday. “As the page of history is turning, you are standing on the right side of it.”

Rehashing antisemitic conspiracies of Jewish control, he derided “the global Zionist elite” for speaking against the campus demonstrations.

“The global Zionist elite — who owns most US and European media corporations or influences them through funding and bribery — has labeled this courageous, humane resistance movement as ‘terrorism,’” Khamenei wrote. “You have now formed a branch of the Resistance Front and have begun an honorable struggle in the face of your government’s ruthless pressure — a government which openly supports the usurper and brutal Zionist regime.”

Khamenei also praised students in other countries who have launched anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses, noting the leading role that faculty have played in fostering and supporting the unrest.

“Besides you students from dozens of American universities, there have also been uprisings in others countries among academics and the general public,” he wrote. “The support and solidarity of your professors is a significant and consequential development. This can offer some measure of comfort in the face of your government’s police brutality and the pressures it is exerting on you. I too am among those who empathize with you young people, and value your perseverance.”

Khamenei’s letter came amid an outpouring of praise for the anti-Zionist students by Islamist terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

“While we support the assassination of the infidel Zionists and the beheading of them, we also appreciate and value the movement of Western demonstrators and sit-in students from Western universities, who through their sit-ins and protests expressed their rejection of the genocide taking place in Gaza,” al-Qaeda leadership wrote in a recent communique

Hamas and Hezbollah, both backed by Iran, have also cheered the protests.

“Today’s students are the leaders of the future, and their suppression today means an expensive electoral bill that the Biden administration will pay sooner or later,” Hamas official Izzat Al-Risheq said in a statement last month.

Naim Qassem, the deputy head of Hezbollah, also praised the protesters during an interview with Al-Manar TV earlier this month.

“We appreciate and value this very much. Perhaps in the future, there will be cooperation among the youth of the world — in America, France, Britain, Germany, and all the activists,” he said. “The [campus protests] are important, especially because they will have an impact on US elections. They will have an impact on the American position.”

Earlier this month, when some universities suspended students who had occupied sections of campus and refused to leave unless school officials agreed to condemn and boycott Israel, the Iran-backed Houthi militia, a terrorist organization that has repeatedly violated freedom of the seas by attacking international shipping vessels passing through the Red Sea, offered to admit the disciplined students as transfers to Sanaa University, an institution it administers.

Some anti-Zionist student groups have reciprocated the admiration.

Last week, Columbia University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) endorsed Hamas, the latest sign of its growing extremism and willingness to embrace Islamic extremism and antisemitism.

“The Palestinian resistance is the only force materially fighting back against isr*el [sic],” the group said in a series of posts shared by Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus, a social media account which exposes antisemitism on college campuses. “There is no way to eliminate the resistance without ending the occupation. When you see a video of a young palestinian [sic] boy traumatized in a hospital talking about how iof [the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF] shot his pregnant mother in cold blood in front of his own eyes, do not question how he chooses to resist years later.”

Campus Reform, a higher education watchdog which first reported Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus’ posts, noted that Columbia SJP has added an “inverted red triangle” to its social media biography, further indicating its support for Hamas. The Palestinian terrorist group has used an inverted red triangle in its propaganda videos to indicate an Israeli target about to be attacked, and anti-Israel protesters on university campuses have been using the symbol in their demonstrations.

Columbia SJP, a group that has re-formed under multiple names since being suspended by school administrators during the fall semester, was central in staging a slew of riotous demonstrations in which anti-Zionist activists verbally assaulted Jewish students with antisemitic epithets, clamorously expressed support for terrorism and Hamas, and caused thousands of dollars in damages to school property.

The anti-Zionist student movement’s support for terrorism and anti-American ideologies has been expressed before.

Footage of the protests which erupted on college campuses at the end of spring semester showed demonstrators chanting in support of Hamas and calling for the destruction of Israel. In many cases, they lambasted the US and Western civilization more broadly.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas at Columbia University, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Advocacy Group Attempts to Shore Up Support for Israel Among US Democrats

US President Joe Biden addresses rising levels of antisemitism, during a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony, at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, US, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

A pro-Israel advocacy group is attempting to quell fears among US Democratic politicians that expressing support for the Jewish state amid the ongoing war in Gaza will lead to electoral defeat in November. 

Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a group that advocates for pro-Israel policies within the Democratic Party, circulated a memo this week explaining that the war in Gaza is simply not a top priority for most of the electorate. The memo, first acquired by Axios news website, asserts that “it just isn’t true” that Democratic support for Israel will come at an electoral cost. 

The group argues that a series of misleading polls has caused Democratic elected officials to become more tepid in their support for the Jewish state. 

To bolster its claims, DMFI points to a poll conducted by the New York Times in May which revealed that only 2 percent of voters cite Israel, Palestinians, Hamas, or Gaza as their most important issue. Nonetheless, the Times tried to exaggerate the extent to which voters care about the Israel-Hamas war by highlighting the 5 percent of voters who cite foreign policy as their biggest issue, according to DMFI. However, these 5 percent of voters did not identify if the war in Gaza is their major foreign policy concern.

The group also points out a Harvard-Harris poll from April which showed that Americans overwhelmingly side with Israel in its ongoing war effort. Eighty percent of Americans support Israel and only 20 percent back Hamas, the poll revealed.

DMFI also suggests that Israel’s ongoing military offensive against Hamas has not had a noticeable impact on President Joe Biden’s national standing. According to polling data aggregated by FiveThirtyEight, the president’s approval rating on Oct. 7of last year stood at 39.6 percent, and on April 23 last month, his approval stood at 40 percent. The same poll reveals that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s lead over Joe Biden did not grow over the same time period. 

DMFI president Mark Mellman told Axios that anti-Israel activists represent a small fringe of the American electorate. 

“People sometimes mistake volume for percentage, and the fact that some people are very loud doesn’t make them the majority. … It doesn’t even make them a substantial minority,” Mellman said.

The group’s efforts to reach out to Democrats come on the heels of a high-pressure effort by left-wing groups to force the Democratic establishment to stop supporting Israel. Anti-Israel organizations have organized efforts to encourage voters in Democratic primaries to vote “uncommitted” in lieu of voting for Biden. Moreover, nearly every appearance by Biden in recent months has been marked by the presence of scores of angry anti-Israel protesters

The relationship between Democratic politicians and the Jewish state has significantly soured in the months following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people in southern Israel. High-profile Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) have suggested that Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinian civilians.

Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) signed onto a letter urging Biden to pause weapons shipments to Israel. Biden vowed to stop arms deliveries to Israel if the Israeli army attempts to dismantle the remaining Hamas battalions within the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, expressing concern about the prospect of civilian casualties during such an offensive.

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Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander

Antisemitic hate crimes continue to account for more than any other category of reported hate crimes in Toronto, according to the head of Toronto police intelligence. Superintendent Katherine Stephenson of Toronto Police Service (TPS) confirmed the ongoing spike in hate occurrences during a presentation at Holy Blossom Temple on May 29, where she addressed 350 […]

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