|4:40 PM, Aug 1, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Ninety minutes into the 72-hour unconditional ceasefire announced this morning, Hamas launched a suicide attack in which two IDF soldiers were killed and another was kidnapped. Word on the ground in Israel is that Palestinian Islamic Jihad, rather than Hamas, may be responsible for the operation. If those rumors prove accurate, some analysts speculate, it would mean that Iran, PIJ’s longtime patron, is behind the operation and is responsible for scuttling the ceasefire.
The reality is that regardless of PIJ’s involvement, it is virtually certain that Iran played a large role in this morning’s operation. Mounting evidence points to the fact that Hamas’s nearly month-long campaign, now bracketed by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli civilians and the killing and the kidnapping of IDF soldiers, was an Iranian project from the beginning.
As Iran analyst Ali Alfoneh noted yesterday, “Arm Hamas . . . was the main message of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s speech on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, the feast marking the end of the month of Ramadan.” Support for Hamas marked a shift in Khamenei’s rhetoric, as Alfoneh explains. Relations between Hamas and Tehran have been chilly ever since the two parties came down on different sides of the Syrian conflict, with Iran fully backing its client Bashar al-Assad and Hamas wary of supporting a brutal suppression of their Sunni co-religionists.
But both sides have been trying to mend relations for some time. Hamas needs Iranian money and arms, and with Hezbollah spread increasingly thin fighting in Syria as well as Iraq, the clerical regime needs to shore up its deterrence against Israel. Hamas’s campaign over the last month was effectively a tryout to rejoin Team Iran.
As Tony Badran, a research fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explains in an important column for NOW Lebanon today, Iran and Hamas have been clearly signaling each other during the conflict.
“After the war broke out,” Badran writes, “senior Iranian officials, including Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, expressed strong support for the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah also phoned the head of Hamas’s politburo, Khaled Meshaal, and Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Shallah. Iran's relationship with Hamas has been strained for the past couple of years, so these statements mark a reinvigoration of the ‘Resistance Alliance.’ The rebirth of the Iranian-led axis provides the essential ingredient for a new explanation of Hamas's decision to go to war with Israel.”
2:40 PM, Aug 1, 2014 • By ELLEN BORK
On July 30, Chinese communist authorities indicted Ilham Tohti, a Uighur intellectual, on charges of separatism, a charge that could carry the death penalty. Tohti was detained in mid-January, and the timing of the indictment seems related to an attack the Chinese authorities claim was carried out by knife-wielding militants in the Uighur homeland, which China calls Xinjiang, near Kashgar. An overseas Uighur group says the violence took place around a protest against Chinese restrictions on the observance of Ramadan.
It is impossible to know what really happened. China allows no independent monitoring and little access to Xinjiang, a large but remote area that is home to China’s Turkic Muslim Uighurs.
Tohti, however, is an open book. He is an academic economist who focuses on China’s policies toward its minorities. He is known for rejecting violence and seeking improved conditions for Uighurs under Chinese rule, including by telling the Party how their policies backfire. Tohti’s daughter Jewher, now a student in the U.S., testified before a congressional commission about her father in April.
He is, she said,
exactly the sort of person a rational Chinese political structure would seek to engage with in order to address the conditions of the Uyghur people. Instead, by arresting my father and threatening him with charges that carry the severest of penalties it has driven many Uighurs to a point at which they can’t even imagine that their wholly justified grievances can get any sort of a hearing under Chinese rule.
Tragically, for Tohti and other citizens of China, the Party is not rational when it comes to those who question their rule.
Worse, Beijing’s propaganda about the Uighurs frequently goes unchallenged. It would be a full time job to bat down each and every pernicious Chinese Communist Party statement about the Uighurs. But not to do so puts the U.S. in the position of appearing to accept Beijing’s policies. On July 16, the Obama administration hosted Chinese officials in Washington for a “Counterterrorism Dialogue.” According to a terse official announcement from the State Department, “the two sides noted their opposition to terrorism in all forms.” In light of China’s depiction of Uighurs’ cause as “terrorist,” the Obama administration should clarify the U.S. definition of terrorism publicly—explicitly excluding non-violent, peaceful speech and association—and refuse cooperation with China so long as it peddles nonsense, and arrests and tries people like Tohti.
Tohti should be released. His treatment will be a test of how far the Chinese Communist Party will go to conflate non-violent, intellectual opposition with crimes that carry long prison terms and even the death penalty. It is also a test of how far the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration will go to speak up for Tohti who is, in his daughter’s words, “an honest, outspoken dissident.”
Hosted by Michael Graham.1:40 PM, Aug 1, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with William Kristol on the pro-amnesty, anti-Israel media and why the gap between the liberal media and the American public has never been greater.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
1:31 PM, Aug 1, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The Emergency Committee for Israel released the following statement Friday regarding the Obama administration's response to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza:
President Obama and Secretary Kerry must do more than denounce Hamas's terrorist acts. Obama and Kerry must change course. They must stop pressuring Israel to stop fighting a just and necessary war. They must stop demanding Israeli concessions to Hamas. And they must start supporting an Israeli victory over terror that could free Gaza from Hamas and bring a real and lasting peace.
A negotiated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ended shortly after it began Friday morning after a Hamas suicide attack killed two Israeli soldiers and kidnapped a third, who is currently being held hostage.
12:58 PM, Aug 1, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Some Democrats and members of the media are pointing to Texas senator Ted Cruz as the person who convinced enough GOP congressman to sink the House GOP's original border crisis legislation on Thursday. But the honor (or blame, depending on your point of view) really belongs to Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that Sessions' statement opposing the bill on Tuesday swung the votes of "a half dozen or so" members of Congress from leaning "yes" to whipping "no" on the bill. "He was able to illuminate flaws in the legislation that nobody knew," said Brooks. If the bill was indeed just four votes shy of a majority, as Rep. Kay Granger of Texas claimed, then Sessions' opposition was decisive.
Ted Cruz (like Sessions) has met with House members to discuss immigration legislation, and he also crafted a bill that intends to prevent the president from unilaterally granting amnesty to more illegal immigrants. But there doesn't seem to be any indication that Cruz actually persuaded undecided members to oppose the GOP's original border bill.
"I've never heard Ted Cruz ask anyone to oppose the bill," said Brooks, who met with House members and Cruz on Wednesday night to discuss immigration legislation. "Jim Bridenstine said yesterday that Ted Cruz asked him to vote for the bill."
After delaying a vote on their border bill Thursday, House Republicans are now planning to hold a vote on two separate bills. The first bill would tweak language amending the 2008 anti-trafficking law that has been used to grant special treatment to minors arriving illegally from Central America (the new language, according to Congressman Brooks, is H.R. 5143). The second bill would attempt to deny the president funds to legalize the status of illegal immigrant minors, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA.
"The current plan is to have a rule that would allow us to skip the normal 72-hour notice process, vote on it today, and you would have a border bill--about half of which is new--followed by a vote on a DACA bill, that is the Cruz bill with some modifications that need to be scrutinized," Brooks said. "I don't know if they have the votes to pass the DACA bill or not."
12:32 PM, Aug 1, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
An increase in non-farm payrolls of 209,000. Less than the expected 230,000 but breaking 200,000 allows for the glass-half-full brigade to call it a good report. Six straight months of better than 200,000 new jobs.
Unemployment, by the way, ticked up from 6.1 percent to 6.2 percent. Improved labor force participation.
The administration and its media supporters will, doubtless, use the report to push the case that its economic policies are “working.”
And it is, certainly, better for them to be talking jobs and the economy than foreign policy.
10:29 AM, Aug 1, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Matthew Continetti, writing at the Washington Free Beacon, offers a solution to the cycle of violence in the Gaza Strip. Here's an excerpt:
Prime Minister Netanyahu says the war won’t end until the tunnels Hamas uses to attack Israel are destroyed. After that, one presumes, the Israelis will withdraw. And then? We know the answer. Hamas will rebuild. Hamas will rearm. Hamas will dig. Hamas will kill.
This isn’t speculation. Inciting, arming, digging, and killing are what Hamas does. Theft, murder, terror, hatred, paranoia, propaganda—these are not affects of Hamas. These are not learned behaviors. They are the elements of its DNA.
Want to end the war? I am not asking if you want to end Operation Protective Edge. I am asking if you want to end Hamas’ war on Israel. And if that is what you want, then the answer is simple: Free Gaza from Hamas.
Read the whole thing here.
9:51 AM, Aug 1, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ended after it had barely begun Friday morning when the terrorist organization committed a suicide attack that killed two Israeli soldiers and kidnapped a third. In a fact sheet sent to journalists, Omri Ceren of the Israel Project explains where the broken ceasefire leaves Israel and the region:
The kidnapping will trigger a cascade of diplomatic and geopolitical consequences. The Qataris were reportedly central to crafting the ceasefire, and may have promised to "deliver" Hamas in one sense or another. Their credibility will take a hit. The Egyptians were the official brokers of the ceasefire. They will be seething at Hamas, and diplomatic retribution is almost inevitable. And then there are the analysts who went all-in on Hamas being an actor who can be dealt with, some of whom were implying last night that Israel could have stopped the fighting sooner. They'll be called on to reevaluate.
But the immediate consequence is that the war is now set to go on for a long time. Gershon Baskin, who has been Israel's top negotiator on Hamas matters and was a key figure in the talks over kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, tweeted a few minutes ago that "Al Qassam just signed the death sentenced of many Hamas leaders. There will not be another Schalit deal."
The coverage over the next few days is likely to be straightfoward. The Israelis said very openly "we're really worried about ceasefires, because Hamas has used every single one of them to regroup and attack." The international community responded "continued fighting is unacceptable, and so there must be a ceasefire." The Israelis accepted a 72-hour truce. And here we are.
9:02 AM, Aug 1, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Online editor Daniel Halper appeared Friday on MSNBC's Morning Joe to talk about his New York Times bestselling book, Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine. Halper discussed how the Hillary Clinton rebuilt her brand with Republicans after her husband Bill left the White House and has since revived herself in Democratic circles after joining the Obama administration.
Watch the video below:
Buy your copy of Halper's book here.
7:59 AM, Aug 1, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The Kaiser Family Foundation's latest poll on public opinion of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, has found the law is more unpopular with Americans than ever before. Kaiser found in its July survey that 53 percent of Americans say they have an unfavorable opinion of the law, with just 37 percent saying they have a favorable opinion. That's among the lowest favorability rating Obamacare has ever received, and it's the highest unfavorability rating since Kaiser first began its monthly poll of Obamacare in April 2010.
The Washington Post has more:
As the foundation notes, more people seemingly made up their minds about the law last month. The rate of those without an opinion on the Affordable Care Act dropped from 16 percent in June to 11 percent in July.
Historically, public opinion on the ACA hasn't changed much since it was enacted, despite some notable monthly swings. Kaiser pollsters said it's not clear what drove the change in opinion this month.
"Normally, when negatives go up, you can tie it to an event," said foundation chief executive Drew Altman in an interview. Events like a broken enrollment Web site, or people losing their health plans.
That doesn't seem to be case here, though.
6:00 AM, Aug 1, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
A key figure in the security failures surrounding the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya is fighting alongside members of Ansar al Sharia, which is one of the terrorist groups responsible for the assault on the U.S. mission and annex that night.
Wissam Bin Hamid’s name has surfaced time and again in the investigation into the Benghazi attack. He admittedly met with American officials in Benghazi just days before the assault to discuss security, and he reportedly refused to provide assistance once the attack was underway. The post-revolution Libyan government also worked with Bin Hamid and his Libya Shield militia, which was supposedly one of the strongest “security” forces inside Benghazi.
But in recent days Bin Hamid has been pictured with Ansar al Sharia’s leader in Benghazi, as well as the group’s fighters. The pictures show Bin Hamid and Ansar al Sharia overrunning a Libyan special forces base and capturing a large amount of weaponry.
One of the pictures was posted by Ansar al Sharia on its official Twitter feed on July 22. The accompanying text reads, “The mujahid Sheikh Mohammed al Zahawi accompanied by the battlefield commander Wissam Bin Hamid - May Allah protect them both - during the course of their leadership of the invasion.” Mohammed al Zahawi is the head of Ansar al Sharia.
The pictures can be seen at the end of this article.
A declassified State Department cable dated September 11, 2012 recounts a meeting between Bin Hamid and American officials that took place just two days prior, on September 9. The cable was released by the House Oversight Committee. Bin Hamid’s name is spelled “bin Ahmed” in the cable.
The cable says that Bin Hamid and one of his fellow militiamen “discussed the very fluid relationships and blurry lines they say define membership in Benghazi-based brigades,” as they were both “members of multiple brigades.” The pair claimed to “control” the chief of staff of Libya’s armed forces, Yousef Mangoush, adding that he “often provides the brigades direct stocks of weapons and ammunition.”
In their September 9 meeting with the Americans, Bin Hamid and his colleague portrayed themselves as indispensable when it came to providing security in eastern Libya. The duo also said that they supported the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party candidate for prime minister, and they “criticized” the U.S. for supporting National Forces Alliance (NFA) leader Mahmoud Jibril. Bin Hamid and his counterpart argued that their brigades would receive significant positions in the Libyan government should the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate win, giving them “tacit control of the armed forces.” But if Jibril won the prime minister’s seat, “they would not continue to guarantee security in Benghazi, a critical function they asserted they were currently providing.”
8:58 PM, Jul 31, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Lacking the votes necessary to pass their border crisis legislation, House GOP leadership pulled the bill from the floor Thursday. But Rep. Steve King of Iowa, one of the two dozen or so Republicans who (along with all Democrats) opposed the bill, told Greta Van Susteren this evening that he's "optimistic we're going to reach an agreement."
"I've just come from the negotiating meeting now," King said. "I think if the amendments that we agreed to as I got up from the table are written and drafted in the fashion that I understand, I think I will be able to stand up and publicly say, I will support the amendments that are offered and I will support the final passage of the bill."
Senate majority leader Harry Reid had said he wouldn't take the original House bill up for consideration, and President Obama had threatened to veto the bill if it somehow made it past the Senate.
7:59 PM, Jul 31, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
MSNBC's Alex Seitz-Wald reports:
Ten hours before the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, Bill Clinton allegedly told a group of businessmen in Australia that he had a chance to kill Osama bin Laden, but passed because it would have meant killing hundreds of innocent civilians. That’s according to never-before-released audio of remarks made public by Australian media on Wednesday. [...]
“And I’m just saying, you know, if I were Osama bin Laden — he’s very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him — and I nearly got him once,” Clinton is heard saying. “I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”
A spokesperson for the former president did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to The Washington Post, Clinton was paid $150,000 to speak to J.T. Campbell & Co. Pty. Ltd. in Melbourne that day.
The environmental cost of Michelle Obama’s campaign to make Americans drink more water.
3:36 PM, Jul 31, 2014 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
It’s been nearly a year since Michelle Obama began her bizarre, medically discredited campaign to get Americans to drink more water. The campaign, dubbed Drink Up, began last September with a pro-water speech in Watertown, Wisconsin (we were meant to find the location clever), and has since morphed into a full-bore advertising campaign, replete with YouTube movies and an active social media presence.
Apparently, it’s worked. As Paul Bedard reports at the Washington Examiner, sales of bottled water are increasing - a development for which the first lady has been keen to take credit.
“When the Drink Up campaign was launched last year, it had one simple goal – to get kids and families excited about drinking water,” she said in a statement. “And today, less than a year later, we know that water sales jumped nearly three percent among people who saw Drink Up ads.”
But environmentalists were less pleased at the news, given that bottled water ranks somewhere alongside rolling coal and burning leaves on the green no-no list. After all, as the advocacy group Ban The Bottle points out,
· -Making bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year. And that’s not even including the oil used for transportation.
· - The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes
· - Last year, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38.
Environmental activists on the streets of Washington expressed dismay at the sales uptick. "Oh, bottled water is terrible. I think [Michelle Obama] should say, 'Please, please be more earth-friendly,"' Greenpeace officer Janice Poirier told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. "She should say, 'Please don't buy bottled water.' I think she should definitely mention that. We like to think of Obama as a friend of the environment, but there are toxins in [plastic bottles] and people need to be made aware of that."
Evan Brune contributed reporting to this blog post.
Hosted by Michael Graham.2:00 PM, Jul 31, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with online editor Daniel Halper on his New York Times best selling book, Clinton, Inc. The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine. Buy it today!
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
&amp;lt;A HREF="http://ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?rt=ss_ssw&amp;amp;ServiceVersion=20070822&amp;amp;MarketPlace=US&amp;amp;ID=V20070822%2FUS%2Ftheweesta-20%2F8003%2Fb5c9830a-173f-4050-82c2-5afc42c4bff7&amp;amp;Operation=NoScript" rel="nofollow"&amp;gt;Amazon.com Widgets&amp;lt;/A&amp;gt;
Browse 15 Years of the Weekly Standard