Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

The Last Survivors of Auschwitz (& ‘I Have a Message for You’)

January 21, 2020

THE LAST SURVIVORS OF AUSCHWITZ

[Note by Tom Gross]

On Thursday, dozens of world leaders including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Britain’s Prince Charles, the King of Spain, most European heads of state, and Nancy Pelosi (representing the US Congress), will gather at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem to mark the beginning of the commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz, the world’s biggest murder, torture and human experimentation site, was liberated by Soviet forces on Saturday, January 27, 1945. They found 7,000 prisoners still alive. We now know that on the direct orders of US president Franklin Roosevelt, the American airforce avoided bombing the railways lines to Auschwitz as they flew overhead on multiple occasions, and hundreds of thousands of Hungarian and other Jews were taken by railway to be murdered there following FDR’s decision.

(From May to July 1944, over 55,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz every week. More than 5,000 were gassed each day. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had already said that what was happening to the Jews was “the most horrible crime in the whole history of the world.” Jewish leaders pleaded with FDR to bomb the railroad tracks yet he decided not to. Meanwhile US planes did choose to bomb an I.G. Farben factory nearby in order to hurt German economic production.)

Below are photos of some of the few remaining Auschwitz survivors still alive.

All photos (apart from the last two) were taken by Menachem Kahana, for the French news agency Agence France-Presse.

(There is a personal note at the end of this dispatch.)

 

 

Holocaust survivor Menahem Haberman, 92, Auschwitz tattoo number A10011, pictured above with his daughter Rachel at his home in Jerusalem on December 12, 2019. Born in Czechoslovakia in 1927, Menahem is the sole survivor of eight children who made it through the ghetto, Auschwitz, and finally the “Death March” to Buchenwald where he contracting tuberculosis.

 

 

Holocaust survivor Saul Oren, aged 90, shows his arm with his Auschwitz tattoo number 125421, at his home in Jerusalem, December 2, 2019. Born in Poland in 1929, he is a survivor of Nazi medical experimentation. He was starving at the end of the war and doctors say it is a miracle he lived. Oren’s mother was murdered at Auschwitz and he has no photo of her, but tries to include her image in the paintings he still does at home.

 

 

Malka Zaken, 91, Auschwitz tattoo number 76979, with dolls, reminders of ones given to her by her mother who was murdered by the Nazis. This photo was taken at her home in Tel Aviv on December 16, 2019. Born in Greece in 1928, Malka was 12 when she was sent to Auschwitz, where she was assigned to collect the clothes of Jews stripped naked before being killed in the gas chambers.

“When I was little in Greece, my mother bought my and my six siblings lots of dolls,” said Zaken. “But she was burned by the Nazis. When I’m with the dolls, I remember her, it’s like when I was a child at home. I think about her and my six brothers and sisters all the time,” she said.

 

 

Holocaust survivor Shmuel Blumenfeld, aged 94, Auschwitz tattoo number 108 006, carries a bag containing earth from locations where his relatives were killed by Nazis, at his home in the city of Bat Yam south of Tel Aviv. Born in Poland in 1925, he collected the earth during visits to Poland in recent years, and keeps them in a small yellowing bag, which he has asked his children to bury with him.

 

 

Holocaust survivor Batsheva Dagan, aged 95, whose entire family was killed, with books she has written, at her home in the Israeli town of Holon, on December 25, 2019. Born Izabella Batszewa Rubinsztajn in Łódź, Poland, in 1925, she became a pioneer in the field of Holocaust education, and has dedicated her life to teaching about the genocide.

At Auschwitz-Birkenau, she was forced to collect shoes and other prisoners’ belongings as she was beaten and starved. “I spent 20 months there, 600 days and nights,” she said Dagan. “Every second I was scared of dying. Each moment contained the threat that that moment is your last.”

More about her books here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat-Sheva_Dagan

 

 

Szmul Icek, 92, at his home in Jerusalem with a picture of his parents who were murdered by the Nazis along with both his sisters. Szmul was born in Poland in 1927. In contrast to some survivors, he never returned to visit the camps and avoids reading books on the subject. For many years, Icek, number 117 568, kept his imprisonment at Auschwitz secret from his wife and couldn’t speak about it.

 

 

Above: Auschwitz survivor Isaac Mizan, from Greece, urges people to remember. He was captured on March 24 1944, in Arta, Greece together with his parents, three sisters, and their children. Only he and one sister survived.

Kurt Waldheim the notorious Austrian Nazi who oversaw the murders of Isaac’s family and tens of thousands of other Greek Jews, was later appointed UN Secretary-General from 1972 to 1981, and then was elected to be President of Austria from 1986 to 1992.

In 1994, Pope John Paul II awarded Waldheim a knighthood in the Order of Pius IX. He died on 14 June 2007, at the age of 88. His funeral was held at St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, and he was buried at the Presidential Vault in Vienna’s prestigious Zentralfriedhof (central cemetery).

In his speech at the Cathedral, Austrian President Heinz Fischer called Waldheim “a great Austrian”. Only two countries, Japan and Syria, sent representatives to lay wreaths on his grave.

 

‘I HAVE A MESSAGE FOR YOU’

As a young girl on a speeding train in Belgium, Klara Prowisor (now aged 94) had to make a quick and heartbreaking decision in order to survive the Holocaust, leaving her father behind. Decades later, in Tel Aviv, she received a message from him.

Klara spoke to filmmaker Matan Rochlitz in Tel Aviv in 2017.

This film, only 12 minutes long, is very moving in its simplicity and you may want to make time to watch it.

(This film was not made by the New York Times but it is one of the websites it is hosted on.)



 

Further reading:

Extraordinary newly colourised images of Auschwitz 75 years ago reveal full horror of the Nazis' most notorious concentration camp (London Daily Mail, January 21, 2020)

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7909371/Horror-vivid-new-light-Pictured-colour-time-Auschwitz-75-years-ago.html

 



 



This dispatch is dedicated to my grandmother Vera’s parents and other relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust.

No photos of Vera’s parents, who were deported to Theresienstadt (Terezin, north of Prague) and later to Treblinka in Poland where they were killed, survive the war.

Above is a photo of my grandfather Kurt’s mother, my great-grandmother Johanna, who did manage to escape (to mandate Palestine) without her siblings in 1939. The photo shows Johanna with her five sisters and her sister-in-law in the mid-1930s in Germany.

Johanna was the only one of the sisters left alive in this photo at the end of the war.

Her nieces Anna and Isle Mohrenwitz, pictured at the front of the photo, also managed to escape (to Australia) but their mother Bettina and the other siblings did not.

-- Tom Gross

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Iran admits it shot down Ukrainian jet; Trump wants NATO-ME; Syrians felt on top of the world

January 11, 2020

Aziz Asmar, a Syrian painter in Binnish, in Idlib province, stands by his mural marking the death of Iranian overlord Qassem Soleimani. This is one of dozens of such murals appearing all over Syria and Iraq. Sweets were also handed out in camps for Syrian refugees in Jordan and elsewhere to celebrate Soleimani’s death.

 

IRAN FORCED TO ADMIT IT SHOT DOWN PASSENGER JET

[Note by Tom Gross]

After days of emphatic denials despite irrefutable western satellite evidence, in the last hour Iranian officials have done an about turn and suddenly admitted Iran shot down a Ukraine International Airlines passenger jet, killing all 176 people onboard. Iran claims it was an accident and has apologized.

 

Also this morning: Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Arab world’s longest serving ruler, has died at the age of 79. He had been in power since 1970 when he ousted his father in a bloodless coup. He had no children and will be succeeded by his cousin.

The sultan played an important diplomatic role behind the scenes, involving Israel, Iran and others.

Unlike other senior Gulf figures who have privately met Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he did so publically. Photos here.

 

“SIX U.S. ADMINISTRATIONS WERE COMPLICIT IN TURNING IRAN INTO A REGIONAL POWER”

I attach three articles below:

The first in particular is worth reading.

As Lee Smith writes:

“In making Iran accountable, Trump has knocked Iran down to its natural size – and likely made Americans safer from Iranian aggression than they have in fact been at any point in the last 40 years, during which Iranian proxies have repeatedly killed large numbers of Americans.

“Six U.S. administrations were complicit in turning Iran into a regional power. Washington wouldn’t hold the clerical regime accountable for the violent proxies that it funded, armed, trained, and directed.

“In that context, the Obama administration’s decision to flood Iranian war chests with cash and recognize its right to build a nuclear bomb was the logical culmination of the rot eating away at the Beltway for four decades. It was perhaps to be expected that an outsider who often doesn’t know when to keep quiet, and can’t stay off Twitter, would be the one to sing out like the boy in the fairy tale. It’s true, the emperor has no clothes.”

 

CALLING IN PUTIN TO HELP

In the third article below, Haaretz points out that to back up his ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing and murder on the ground in Syria, in 2015, Soleimani personally traveled to Moscow to convince President Vladimir Putin to directly intervene in the war and help Iranian controlled forces from the air.

 

ARTICLES

IRAN AND AMERICA ARE SUDDENLY BOTH NAKED

Iran and America Are Suddenly Both Naked
By taking decisive action against Soleimani, Trump showed that Iran’s power is an illusion generated by D.C.’s willingness to look the other way
By Lee Smith
Tablet
January 8, 2020

It’s no coincidence that in the wake of the targeted killing of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most important military proxy has begun taking credit for terror attacks committed nearly four decades ago. For example, Hezbollah-affiliated media and activists are laying public claim to the organization’s responsibility for bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in October 1983, which killed 241 Marines. So why now?

The answer is, to scare Americans now that Donald Trump has thrown the regime in Tehran off balance by changing the 40-year-old rules of the game. The United States always knew that Hezbollah was responsible for the Marine barracks attack and that the Lebanese militia was armed, trained, funded and directed by Iran. President Reagan’s decision not to respond directly to the attack was part of a tacit agreement that America and the Islamic Republic entered into during the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran. It mirrored similar arrangements with the Soviet Union in which neither superpower held the other directly accountable for the actions of proxies in order to reduce the likelihood of a nuclear cataclysm.

Yet, unlike the Soviet Union, the Islamic Republic was hardly a globe-spanning nuclear superpower. It was merely a hostile local power that threatened the American regional security order through terror attacks. Washington’s response was to look away, under the theory that it was beneficial to the larger order to pretend, in public, that rules still existed. In turn, Iran was happy to play make-believe and accumulate prestige and leverage.

The terms of this weird deal held fast for the next four decades, through the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the First and Second Gulf Wars, Bush’s occupation of Iraq, Obama’s Iran deal, and other local and global milestones. Washington wouldn’t hold the clerical regime accountable for the violent proxies that it funded, armed, trained, and directed. In exchange, Iran and its partners would refrain from embarrassing the Americans by boasting about the murders they committed. The founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, famously said that America couldn’t do a damn thing. It is more accurate to say our elected officials wouldn’t do a damn thing.

Donald Trump put an end to that arrangement by commingling the dust of Soleimani together with that of one of his chief Arab lieutenants, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, head of one of Iran’s Iraqi terror proxies. Now that Trump is holding Iran accountable for the actions its proxies take in its name, the leverage gained by helping America play make-believe is gone. Iran and its allies now feel liberated to bathe publicly in the blood of Americans and warn that more violence is coming their way.

The problem for Iran is that it isn’t actually all that powerful. For all the concern over retaliation, Trump’s trashing of the old rulebook has stripped Iran of the most important instrument in its arsenal – ”plausible deniability.”

Iran’s ability to respond to the U.S. was already limited by the fact that its conventional military forces are old and rusting away. Yes, IRGC speedboats can harass, and target, the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf. But it can’t move large land forces into Iraq, never mind drop them into Florida or Alaska.

A good measure of Iran’s military weakness is that Qassem Soleimani was commander not of its regular army but rather the Quds Force, the expeditionary unit of Iran’s parallel military structure, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The Quds Force is relatively small, with estimates ranging from 3,000 to 15,000 fighters–i.e., a force the size of Hezbollah. For protracted campaigns like the Syria war, the Quds Force relies on what Israeli analyst Shimon Shapira calls the Shiite International – paid militias drawn from Middle East and Central Asian countries with Shiite populations, like Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

The threat that Iran poses to a superpower America is “asymmetric” – kidnappings, embassy attacks, hijackings, bombings, etc., typically conducted by Iranian proxies. The military experts and political scientists who coined the term usually fail to note that the ability to wage “asymmetric” warfare is wholly dependent on an adversary’s willed blindness. If Iran’s targets decide to unsubscribe to the fiction that the Islamic Republic is not directly responsible for the actions of its proxies, Iran is rendered virtually powerless–with terror attacks being met with direct military hits on Iranian bases, airfields, ports, power plants, dams, and other infrastructure.

It is only because Americans and other Western powers have declined to call out Iran and have instead appeased it, that an obscurantist regime whose major exports are energy, pistachios – and terror, of course – appears like a formidable adversary.

In making Iran accountable, Trump has knocked Iran down to its natural size – and likely made Americans safer from Iranian aggression than they have in fact been at any point in the last 40 years, during which Iranian proxies have repeatedly killed large numbers of Americans. Killing Soleimani is a much more important operation than those targeting ISIS leader al-Baghdadi and even bin Laden, since it will likely shape the future actions of a state, not the leadership rotation of terror groups.

Iranian-backed terror isn’t a stubborn, unchanging fact of the international landscape, except to the degree that we made it so. The policy of appeasement that began in 1979, with the embassy takeover, culminated in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) when the Obama administration flooded Soleimani’s war chests with hundreds of billions of dollars and legitimized Iran’s “right” to a large-scale nuclear weapons program. In line with the decadeslong U.S. policy of augmenting the Iranian threat in order to avoid taking action against it, Obama said the only alternative to giving Iran the bomb was war.

Donald Trump was vilified when he exited the Iran deal in May. But in the eyes of the foreign policy establishment, he committed an even graver sin by exposing the 40-year-old lie that U.S. policymakers, right and left, had cultivated to rationalize their collective unwillingness to protect Americans from Iranian terror.

* * *

So why did U.S. officials treat Iran differently than any other country, even at the expense of thousands of American lives? There is the U.S. investment in maintaining the appearance of a rules-based order led by America, of course. On a deeper, less strategic level, there was the guilt and self-pity of America’s ruling elites, and the habits of magical thinking that resulted.

Power makes people vain. When it is handed down to them, it often makes them resentful, too. In 1979, when Iranian students took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the Western intelligentsia saw it as the righteous revenge of the wretched of the earth – and confirmation of their own political exertions spent on college campuses from Berkeley to Paris the previous decade. The Iranian revolution was evidence to our ruling class of how much their fathers had gotten wrong – and thus proof of their own virtue.

It required no national security acumen or regional expertise to see that the “students” were a ruse. Khomeini was clearly in charge – he was, after all, the supreme leader. No one seized the U.S. Embassy, kidnapped 52 Americans in the center of Tehran, and held them for over a year, without his approval.

The hostage crisis showed the regime in Tehran that so long as it didn’t pierce the veil and take direct, unmistakable, on-the-record responsibility for its actions, Washington would stick with the cover story. And even though the hostage crisis crippled Jimmy Carter, it was his successor, Ronald Reagan, who not only failed to retaliate after the hostages were freed, but then also granted the Iranians impunity when under cover of Hezbollah, they bombed the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon in April 1983. Six months later, they bombed the Marine barracks. In December of that year, the Iranians employed Lebanese and Iraqi proxies to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. Muhandis, killed last week with Soleimani, is believed to have planned the attack.

To free the Iranian proxies apprehended by Kuwaiti authorities, Hezbollah embarked on an almost decadelong campaign of assassinations and kidnappings, taking dozens of Americans hostage in Beirut, including the president of the American University in Beirut, David Dodge, who was transferred for a time to Tehran’s infamous Evin prison. Hezbollah then assassinated Dodge’s AUB colleague Malcolm Kerr.

U.S. officials even had scholarly support to rationalize their failure to hold Iran accountable. During the 1990s, Middle East experts promoted a thesis holding that the clerical regime in fact had little to do with Hezbollah. According to the “Lebanonization” thesis, Hezbollah was a homegrown resistance movement that came into being as a local response to Israel’s 1982 occupation of Lebanon. In fact, as Tablet colleague Tony Badran has written, Hezbollah was seeded in Lebanon in the mid-’70s by “Iranian revolutionary factions opposed to the shah.” U.S. policymakers preferred the fiction that Hezbollah was a homegrown product because it supported both their emotional needs and their policy goals: The West had earned the righteous anger of the natives, and there was nothing to be done except atone by way of offering human sacrifices.

In 1996, Iran’s proxy in Saudi Arabia, Hezbollah al-Hijaz, bombed the Khobar Towers, killing 19 U.S. Air Force personnel. The Clinton administration’s hopes for rapprochement with Tehran under the leadership of so-called reformist President Mohammad Khatami required the U.S. to pretend Iran was not responsible.

Between 2003 and 2011, according to a State Department assessment, Iran and its Shiite allies were responsible for killing more than 600 U.S. servicemen in Iraq. The body count doesn’t include the U.S. servicemen killed by the Sunni fighters ushered from Damascus international airport to the Iraqi border by Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, Iran’s chief Arab ally. Yet George W. Bush reportedly passed up opportunities to kill Soleimani, deciding against opening a third front against Iranian terrorists that might endanger his doomed “Freedom Agenda.”

There was even less of a chance Obama would kill Soleimani, though his administration reportedly had him in the crosshairs, too. Soleimani was the key to the JCPOA, Obama’s crowning foreign policy achievement. He admired Soleimani, a hard man who got things done. Rather than stop the Quds Force commander, Obama told Arab allies that “they need to take a page out of the playbook of the Quds Force.”

The former president’s conviction was simply the result of what American officials had been saying since 1979. Therefore, Obama counted on Soleimani’s ability to control the ground in Syria and help America stabilize the region. Yet only weeks after Obama diplomats and Iran agreed to the JCPOA in July 2015, Soleimani was in Moscow petitioning Vladimir Putin for assistance in Syria. In spite of the billions of dollars in sanctions relief that Obama had granted Iran, and the $1.7 billion in cash the U.S. shipped directly to the IRGC, the Quds Force and the Shiite international were on the verge of losing the war to rebels in pick-up trucks.

Six U.S. administrations were complicit in turning Iran into a regional power. In that context, the Obama administration’s decision to flood Iranian war chests with cash and recognize its right to build a nuclear bomb was the logical culmination of the rot eating away at the Beltway for four decades. It was perhaps to be expected that an outsider who often doesn’t know when to keep quiet, and can’t stay off Twitter, would be the one to sing out like the boy in the fairy tale. It’s true, the emperor has no clothes. The rules have changed but that doesn’t mean the Iranians won’t be looking for revenge.

 

TRUMP WANTS TO ADD MIDEAST COUNTRIES TO NATO AND CALL IT NATO-ME

Trump Wants to Add Mideast Countries to NATO and Call It NATO-ME
‘I think what the president is looking for is more of our allies working with us in Iraq,’ says U.S. Ambassador to NATO
By Reuters
January 10, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said he supported expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to include Middle Eastern nations, as the United States seeks to limit its troop footprint globally.

“I think that NATO should be expanded and we should include the Middle East, absolutely,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

Trump proposed increased NATO involvement in the Middle East on Wednesday, when he addressed the Iranian strikes against U.S. troops in Iraq, carried out in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian military commander. The military leader, Qassem Soleimani, played a major role in the fight against Islamic State militants in the region.

Trump said Islamic State presented an international problem that other countries should help address. “We can come home, largely come home and use NATO,” Trump said. “We caught ISIS, we did Europe a big favor.”

Trump has been a critic of NATO, demanding that Europe pay more for its collective defense and make concessions to U.S. interests on trade.

Trump joked that the organization could be called NATO-ME, or NATO plus the Middle East. He said he floated the possible name to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a call on Wednesday.

NATO was created in 1949 as a mutual defense bulwark against the Soviet Union to promote the security of the North Atlantic area. The group, based in Brussels, has grown to 29 member nations, from 12 initially.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke on Thursday with Stoltenberg to discuss the Iranian strikes and reiterated Trump’s call for NATO to become more involved in the Middle East, the State Department said.

A State Department statement said “the two agreed NATO could contribute more to regional security and the fight against international terrorism.”

It added that Pompeo and Stoltenberg condemned Iran’s “destabilizing violence” and remained “committed to countering international terrorism, including through NATO’s participation in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and training missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The White House said that in his call, Trump “emphasized the value of NATO increasing its role in preventing conflict and preserving peace in the Middle East.”

The U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said on Thursday the fight against Islamic State is important to both the United States and its NATO allies.

“I think what the president is looking for is more of our allies working with us in Iraq,” she told CNBC. “And that is something that our NATO Council will have to discuss and decide that we would do more.”

 

‘I FELT ON TOP OF THE WORLD’: THE SYRIANS CELEBRATING SOLEIMANI’S DEATH

‘I Felt on Top of the World’: The Syrians Celebrating Soleimani’s Death
After surviving shelling, siege and displacement at the hands of pro-Iranian militias, these Syrians felt only joy after hearing of the Iranian commander’s assassination
By Elizabeth Tsurkov
Haaretz
January 10, 2020

The U.S. drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani on Friday inflamed both his vehicle and much debate concerning the legality and benefits of the attack. There has been one voice missing from the discussion, though: Those directly affected by the Iranian commander’s work – civilians in countries where he assiduously worked to expand Tehran’s influence.

Conversations with Syrians who survived shelling, siege, starvation and displacement at the hands of pro-Iranian militias guided by the Quds Force leader show that while U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate Soleimani was not made with them in mind, it surely earned their resounding support.

“It’s true they killed him for the Americans and not for the crimes he carried out against us or the Iraqi people. Still, may God give Trump health. He rid us of a piece of garbage, a criminal and a bloody murderer,” says Zaher, a Syrian journalist who survived the siege of Aleppo. (Zaher asked that his full name not be used for this article.)

EXTREME LEVELS OF VIOLENCE

Syria is arguably the country most affected by Iran’s regional ambitions. Iranian intervention in the country began in 2011 following the outbreak of peaceful protests there, and gradually increased as the country slipped into civil war. As Syrian regime forces suffered from a severe manpower shortage, the Quds Force – the foreign ops arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards – stepped up to fill the void by dispatching tens of thousands of foreign fighters to Syria from Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Those forces, more ideologically committed and disciplined than the Syrian Army and Syrian pro-regime militias, took key roles in besieging, bombing and crushing rebellious communities across Syria.

In 2015, Soleimani personally traveled to Moscow to convince President Vladimir Putin to directly intervene in the war. Starting in September 2015, this intervention by the Russian air force, coupled with additional reinforcement by foreign Shi’ite militias, decisively shifted the tide in favor of the Assad regime and his allies. The willingness of the regime (and its allies) to exercise extreme levels of violence met with international indifference, and lackluster support for the divided opposition ensured the regime’s victory.

The victims of these policies were millions of civilians residing in rebel-held areas, many of them besieged by pro-Iranian militias. One after another, Syrian regime forces and pro-Iranian foreign militias cut off supply routes to these neighborhoods and towns, bombing and starving populations into submission.

Those who refused to surrender to the regime were displaced to the rebel-held northwest. Following the reconquest of these former rebel-held towns, oftentimes the regime and pro-Iranian militias prevented locals from returning home. Pro-Iranian militias, led by the Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim organization Hezbollah, have prevented the return of most Sunni civilians to several former rebel-held towns along the Lebanese border, demographically altering the makeup of these areas. In other areas – such as Daraya, near Damascus, and the Deir Ezzor countryside in eastern Syria, where pro-Iranian militias operate – most civilians were blocked from returning, with widespread confiscation of property by the Syrian regime and pro-Iranian militias.

Madaya and Zabadani, two picturesque Syrian towns near the Lebanese border, were the scene of the best-known siege involving pro-Iranian militias. The siege gained international attention after images of starving children and babies emerged when Hezbollah tightened its grip on the towns. Hezbollah and Syrian regime forces cut the supply routes into town in 2015, preventing the entry of food and medical supplies. As a result, according to local activists, 85 civilians starved to death in Madaya alone or died due to lack of medical care. Another 235 died in Madaya due to airstrikes, shelling or by stepping on mines placed around the town to prevent locals from escaping or smuggling basic necessities in.

“Qassem Soleimani is truly the person responsible for the siege of my town, Madaya, and the death of tens of civilians there,” says Amjad al-Maleh, an independent media activist now living in forced displacement in Idlib. Upon learning of Soleimani’s death, he says he “remembered the dozens of civilians starved to death – children, women and the elderly.”

Hezbollah’s role in the siege was particularly decisive. Initially, the townspeople had been able to bribe corrupt Syrian servicemen to let food and medicine through. But when in late 2015 Hezbollah took over the checkpoints surrounding the town and its snipers were deployed to kill those trying to escape, bribing became nearly impossible and the civilians started dying, one by one.

Despite experiencing these horrors, Maleh says he did not want bloody revenge against the Quds Force leader. “I hoped to see him behind bars after a fair trial in an international court,” he tells Haaretz. “Such a trial would have allayed the pain of those who were displaced, suffered and lost loved ones because of Soleimani, Iran, Russian and all the forces that intervened in Syria.”

‘WE DANCED AND SANG’

The Baqir Brigade, the Fatemiyoun Brigade (made up of Afghan refugees living in Iran, some of them minors, cajoled or coerced into fighting for Iran under the threat of deportation to war-torn Afghanistan), the Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigade (established by the Quds Force and Syrian regime forces, and made up of Iraqi fighters), as well as Syrian Shi’ite militias supplied and trained by Iran, were among the pro-Iranian militias leading the ground assault in the 2016 battle for Aleppo – one of the bloodiest operations in the entire war.

Backed by the Russian air force, they advanced against the rebels and cut off Castelo Road, the last supply route into the eastern part of the city, which had slipped from regime control in mid-2012. At least 110,000 residents were trapped in the siege of the northwestern city.

Majd al-Deen al-Hassoun, who lived through the siege and nearly died during a chlorine gas attack in November 2016 – which he endured while recovering from a shrapnel wound to his stomach – tells Haaretz the pro-Iranian forces “would massacre anyone trying to use the Castelo Road, whether civilian or armed, trying to escape the airstrikes and destruction” as Russia bombed from the air and the regime deployed incendiary weapons, chemical weapons and cluster munition. “It’s impossible to describe their evilness – they played a crucial role in the fall of Aleppo,” in December 2016, Hassoun says. Some 34,000 residents of eastern Aleppo who refused to surrender to the regime were displaced to rebel-held northern Syria.

Following the fall of the city, Soleimani triumphantly visited eastern Aleppo. A photo of that visit, taken in the al-Shaar neighborhood, was widely shared on social media. When Hassoun first saw the photo while displaced in the northern Aleppo countryside, he says he “felt horrible. You see your neighborhood that was free … [and] see the Iranian occupier there … defiling it. I wished I had died that moment.”

Three years on, Hassoun says he rejoiced upon hearing the news of Soleimani’s demise. “I felt on top of the world,” he says, recounting how he rushed from his village to the nearest town so he could “participate in the wonderful celebrations. Owners of candy stores were distributing sweets for free. We danced and sang.”

Today, eastern Aleppo remains under the dominance of pro-Iranian militias, who man checkpoints around the city, recruit locals into their ranks, monopolize economic sectors such as transportation, and attempt to spread Shi’ite Islam among the Sunni population – largely unsuccessfully, according to local researchers. Shi’ite militias also control checkpoints connecting the area of Afrin (now under the control of Turkish-backed factions), collecting exorbitant “taxes” from traders and ordinary civilians wishing to travel to regime-held Aleppo.

Hassoun describes how a friend from eastern Aleppo, who fled to the regime-held western side earlier in the war, tried to return to her home in 2017. Shi’ite militiamen detained her, accusing her of supporting terrorism, and her family had to pay them an exorbitant bribe to secure her release. Conversations with Aleppo locals indicate that such occurrences are commonplace.

TOO WEAK TO RUN

“The world is a safer place now that Soleimani is dead,” says Mohammad, who asked that his full name be withheld because some of his relatives continue to reside under Syrian regime control. He lived through four years of siege in the southern Damascus town of Yalda – a siege maintained by Syrian regime forces and pro-Iranian militias, and ended in 2018 with the forcible displacement of the population to rebel-held northern Syria.

“We suffered greatly because of Soleimani. The militants answering to Soleimani are monsters. Mercy or humanity are absent in their vocabulary,” Mohammad says.

Several individuals who lived under sieges maintained by Shi’ite militias describe multiple instances of starving civilians attempting to flee. One such incident, on January 5, 2014, led to “the Ali al-Wahsh massacre” perpetrated by the Abu Fadl al-Abbas militia. Rumors spread among civilians that the Ali al-Wahsh crossing between besieged southern Damascus and regime-held areas would allow civilians to flee, causing thousands of starving locals to rush to the crossing. About 40 were immediately killed by gunfire, while a further 1,500 were arrested – 656 of them identified by name by local activists. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

The pro-Iranian militias “did not let us have even a sack of rice to cook or any kind of bread,” says Mohammad. He and the others lost weight and were forced to eat grass, leaves and spoiled food to survive. He became weak. “You cannot run or do anything that requires energy. Even when the rockets were falling on our heads and we should have run, we could not,” he recalls.

Mohammad volunteered as a medic in Yalda and describes having to treat patients while enduring a severe shortage of medicines and equipment, which the regime and pro-Iranian militias banned from the town. “Even if someone was lucky to survive the rockets, they could die due to lack of medicine, medical tools and specific [saline and other] solutions required for surgical procedures,” he says.

One key area where Iran continues to play an ongoing role is on the western bank of the Euphrates River. This area has become a central hub of Shi’ite militia activity, after these forces led the campaign against ISIS in the region. The area is linked to the sphere of operation of pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias on the Iraqi side of the border.

Pro-Iranian forces took over homes, established checkpoints and are working to recruit locals into their militias. They also opened a cultural center and husseyniyat (Shi’ite religious centers). In the area around Abu Kamal (the center of Iran’s presence in the region), civilians must receive permission from pro-Iranian forces to return to their homes after years of displacement. Certain villages and neighborhoods in Abu Kamal are entirely off-limits, turned into bases for the pro-Iranian militias.

Mohammad Hassan, a researcher and journalist from the town of al-Khreita – an area under the dominance of pro-Iranian militias – believes that killing Soleimani was an important step for undermining Iranian influence, “but it must be followed by additional steps to limit Iranian expansionism in the region.”

He tells Haaretz that Syria needs “a national solution that entails reaching an understanding on relations between sects on the basis of shared citizenship, democracy and freedom.” He believes this is the only way to counter Iran, as oppression and sectarian regimes will allow Iranian influence to grow.

Following Soleimani’s death, the rush of joy felt by Syrians who had lost their loved ones, homes and towns to militias created and supported by the Quds Force was expressed widely, both online and off-line. Syrians posted photos of themselves eating sweets, shared jokes and stayed awake the night following the assassination – based on incorrect rumors that additional strikes were incoming.

Displaced individuals, seeped in trauma, spent several days posting jokes and celebrating, trying to escape their painful reality. Soleimani may be gone, but his project in Syria lives on.

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Qassem Soleimani was not Peppa Pig (& Peace now more likely than before he died)

January 08, 2020

 

[Note by Tom Gross]

(This is a follow-up to my previous dispatches on the death of Qassem Soleimani.)

***

Cartoon above: “For the Murderer Soleimani, the Bell Tolls.” This cartoon is by exiled Iranian artist Mana Neyestani. Soleimani many times tried to assassinate writers and cartoonists who criticized the Islamic regime.

 

IRAN CLAIMS 80 AMERICAN TROOPS KILLED IN MISSILE BARRAGE; US SAYS NO CASUALTIES

The Iranian regime’s Mehr News reported today that over 80 American troops were killed as a result of Iran’s missile strikes on bases in western Iraq last night and that the troops “were immediately transferred out of the airbase by helicopters” so that there would be no evidence of Iran’s successes.

As is so often the case, the Iranian regime is not telling the truth.

No Americans or Iraqis were hurt in the assault, in contrast to the Iraqis killed regulalry on Soleimani’s orders in recent months and years.

Mehr is owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization, whose head is appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

***

Update:

Iranian state TV also now says 80 “American terrorists” were killed in Iran missile strikes:

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-iraq-security-iran-casualties/iranian-state-tv-says-80-american-terrorists-killed-in-iran-missile-strikes-idUKKBN1Z70LU

Tom Gross adds: Of course Iran will still continue its hostile actions as long as the Islamic regime remains in power, but without Soleimani’s master strategy, these will likely decrease not increase.

Iran’s minimal response last night (Iran reportedly gave the US advance warning so as to ensure there were no casualties) shows that after four decades of attacking Americans with near impunity, with Trump in the White House they may now finally be frightened. This from an Iranian regime that had no qualms murdering 1500 of its own citizens a few weeks ago as they conducted pro-democracy demonstrations.

***

Later this morning, President Trump is due to make a statement on last night’s Iranian attack.


 



Above: A pro-Soleimani leaflet distributed in London by the Corbyn-supporting Communist Party of Great Britain.

Whereas western Marxists (including Corbyn himself) often admire Islamist terrorists, their communist brethren who have actually lived under them, have a very different take.

Here is a statement on Soleimani’s death by the Communist party of Iran, which correctly calls him “one of the most vicious terrorists”.

 

SOLEIMANI WAS NOT PEPPA PIG

A friend in London writes:

“Watching Channel 4 News would make anyone think that Trump had just ordered the killing of Peppa Pig, not a bloodthirsty Islamofascist who facilitated the use of chemical weapons on Syrian children, and ordered the murder of Jews in Bulgaria, Thailand, Argentina and elsewhere. These journalists seem to be almost willing Iran’s revenge. Sickening.”

 

GERMANY’S BESTSELLING PAPER: SOLEIMANI WAS A MONSTER WHO WANTED ATOMIC CLOUD OVER TEL AVIV

Bucking the trend of several left-wing journalists in the US and Europe, who in some cases have uncritically repeated Iranian regime propaganda, Germany’s bestselling paper Bild titles its editorial “Trump has freed the world from a monster.”

Julian Reichelt, the editor-in-chief of Bild, writes:

“The Iranian terror godfather Soleimani stood for a world that no peace-loving person can want… a world in which entire cities are wiped out – like Aleppo. In which bloodthirsty militia go from door to door and execute civilians... in which Israel is under threat of extinction every day.”

“Soleimani, the world’s most repellant and bloodthirsty terrorist, who brought suffering and harm to humanity, was an enemy of our civilization. He represented the unbearable thought that murderers will live more safely and be more untouchable the more people they kill.

“His violent and overdue end will not stop global terrorism, but the image of his burnt-out car still sends out a powerful message. US President Donald Trump has made it clear that the worst figures in the world, however big-mouthed and ruthless they may be, cannot hide from America’s strength.”

 

SOLEIMANI’S POPULARITY IS LIMITED – ACROSS SUNNI WORLD, ONLY ONE SMALL PROTEST IN PAKISTAN

Iran expert Patrick Clawson (of the Washington Institute) writes:

Given the reports about huge crowds turning out in Iranian cities for funeral events honoring former Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani, one might get the impression that he was popular across the region. Nothing could be further from the truth. In most Middle Eastern countries, there has been exactly zero popular reaction to his death; the same is true in Muslim-majority countries elsewhere, apart from one small protest in Pakistan.”

[Tom Gross adds: there was some small pro- Soleimani vigil among a few Muslims in London.]

Most striking is how little reaction has been seen from Shia Muslims outside Iran. Consider Iraq. For months, residents of Baghdad have poured into the streets night after night to protest various problems with their government—but not now, not for Soleimani. Over the same span, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have held demonstrations several times after Friday prayers. Last Friday, however, press and social media reports indicate that only a handful of mosques saw popular protests against the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani just hours earlier, along with leading Iraqi politician Jamal Jaafar Muhammad Ali al-Ibrahimi (aka Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, head of the militia Kataib Hezbollah).

Baghdad has at least seven million Shia residents, or as many as eight million by some accounts. Yet a very small proportion of them—reportedly 2 percent at most, and perhaps less than 1 percent—showed up at Soleimani’s January 4 funeral. Although that might seem large when translated into raw numbers or seen in video news blurbs of the event, it pales in comparison to the estimated one-third of all Iraqi Shia who participate in the annual Arbain pilgrimage, even in years when marchers are subject to repeated terrorist attacks. Such numbers say much about Soleimani and Iran’s current popularity in Iraq.

Consider also that the funeral procession in Baghdad passed right by the International Zone with no attempt to storm into it or attack the U.S. embassy. That says much about how virulent the reaction to Soleimani’s death might truly be. Many experts had worried that the event might be used for a mass attack on the embassy, leading to mass casualties if the U.S. Marines onsite responded. That did not happen, whether because the U.S. military moved in additional forces to defend the embassy, or because the funeral marchers were simply not incensed enough to go that far, or both.

This relatively muted reaction is particularly telling because it occurred in Baghdad, which has seen less overt anti-Iranian protest than southern Iraqi cities such as Najaf and Basra. There, Iranian consulates have been burned to the ground—not a symbolic scorching of a reception hall (as happened at the U.S. embassy last week, prior to Soleimani’s death), but total destruction by a spontaneous mob, reflecting uncontrollable popular anger. In contrast, the crowds that rioted near the U.S. embassy on December 31 were largely composed of militia members carrying out a highly disciplined and organized operation.

These same militias are widely believed to be responsible for killing hundreds of Iraqi protestors on Soleimani’s orders in recent months, greatly diminishing the popular support they gained during the war against the Islamic State. Such abuses continued this week; in Nasariyah, for example, militia members killed a protestor who declined to join the local mourning procession for Soleimani and Muhandis on January 5. In response, an enraged crowd burned down the headquarters of the militia in question. In other cases, southern protestors have shown their anger toward Iran and its proxies by attacking funeral processions for Soleimani.

 

FEMALE AFGHAN MP: SOLEIMANI WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THOUSANDS OF AFGHAN DEATHS

Middle East expert and former US ambassador Alberto Fernandez notes that it is worth remembering that while Qassem Soleimani’s policies “led to the deaths of countless thousands of Arabs, he was also responsible for many Afghan deaths”.

Soleimani’s strategy was to create proxy militias in Syria not just using Lebanese, Iraqi and Syrian Shia but also Pakistani and Afghan youth, some as young as 12. As I have explained previously in these dispatches and in TV interviews, they were drafted from Afghanistan and from among the large and destitute Afghan migrant Shia population inside Iran and sent to fight and die in Syria.

More here from Female Afghan MP Belquis Roshan:

https://www.memri.org/tv/afghan-mp-belquis-roshan-soleimani-responsible-death-thousands-afghan-youh

 

SOLEIMANI’S DEATH IS A HUGE BLOW TO IRAN’S PLANS FOR REGIONAL DOMINATION

Middle East expert Hassan Hassan writes in The Observer (the Sunday edition of the left-wing British daily The Guardian):

The killing of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani could prove to be the most consequential US slaying of an enemy operative in recent memory. It will eclipse in its significance the killing of Osama bin Laden almost a decade ago or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October. Not because it might spark another Middle East war, as many have warned, or merely because Suleimani was irreplaceable. Rather, his killing came at a time when the project he had led – to create an Iranian hegemony in the region – is facing unprecedented challenges in Iraq and Lebanon, through cross-sectarian and grassroots protests, while in Syria the project is still in its infancy...

In the short term, doomsday scenarios seem far-fetched. Neither side is interested in an outright war… In the long term, Suleimani’s killing will likely mark the end of an era for Iran’s attempts to further expand its influence in the region.

Full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/05/soleimani-death-huge-blow-to-iran-plans-for-regional-domination

 

ARAB WORLD, PALESTINIANS CONDEMNS HAMAS LEADER’S PARTICIPATION IN SOLEIMANI’S FUNERAL

There has been widespread criticism across the Arab world (including inside Gaza) of Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh after he flew to Tehran to attend the funeral of Soleimani.

As one Egyptian government official said, “Shame on Haniyeh! Soleimani is responsible for the murder of thousands of Sunni Muslims, including many Palestinians.”

 

HAMAS CHIEF MEETS SOLEIMANI'S SUCCESSOR IN TEHRAN

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and other senior Hamas officials met in Tehran on Monday with Esmail Ghaani, Soleimani’s replacement as commander of Iran's Quds Force, responsible for Tehran's military and terrorist campaigns abroad. Iran significantly supports Hamas with weapons and training.

 

SOLEIMANI’S DEATH MAY MAKE IT EASIER FOR HAMAS TO AGREE TRUCE WITH ISRAEL

Tom Gross adds: In my view, Hamas will see the death of Qassem Soleimani as having some advantages. They might now feel freer to pursue a more independent policy, more in line with Palestinian interests and less under the dictats of Iran.

They may be able to come to an accommodation (long term truce) with Israel and concentrate on economic improvements within Gaza and less on rocket firing / ‘the resistance’.

 

“SOLEIMANI IS NO ANTI-IMPERIALIST HERO”

Malak Chabkoun writes for Al Jazeera:

(Extracts)

It is inexcusable to ignore the crimes of Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and those whom they served. Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis and other Arabs posted celebratory comments on the assassinations of two commanders they perceive as war criminals, while self-identified “anti-war” activists [in America] once again downplayed the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the region. For them, the only civilian deaths that can be acknowledged are those caused by the military intervention of the U.S. or Israel.

It is hardly surprising that Syrians who have gone through the trauma of losing friends and family in the siege of Aleppo and the insult of seeing images of Soleimani marching through their city (which they may never be able to return to) are celebrating his demise.

It is also hardly surprising that Iraqi protesters, who have had to drag the bodies of friends shot during attacks by Iranian-backed militias on their demonstrations, would now be cheering the demise of al-Muhandis who had been directing the crackdown.

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/soleimani-anti-imperialist-hero-200105211451136.html

 

SOLEIMANI’S DEATH PRESENTS PUTIN WITH PROBLEMS

While Russian officials have officially criticized the US airstrike, many believe that President Vladimir Putin is happy with the weakening of Iran following Qassem Soleimani’s death.

Russian journalist Arkady Dubnov wrote that Putin privately welcomed the killing of Soleimani with a mixture of “satisfaction, envy, and admiration” -- satisfaction because his removal will greatly weaken Iran’s position in the region and thus elevate Russia’s; envy because the US demonstrated it is still the most important power in the world; and admiration because the operation was “efficient, targeted, and lightning fast.”

Russia and Iran have increasingly been competing against one another in Syria. For example, Moscow has monopolized Syria’s phosphate industry and pushed Iran out of that market.

But as leading Washington-based Russia analyst Anna Borshchevskaya points out:

“Whatever the complexities of their bilateral relationship, Russia and Iran’s common geostrategic goal of reducing American influence has kept them together and will likely continue to do so in the future, despite their tactical differences and periodic friction.

“Soleimani’s killing will present challenges to Putin given his reliance on Iran’s help in propping up Bashar al-Assad. If Iran is weakened, Moscow risks getting bogged down in Syria in the type of costly quagmire it has worked hard to avoid. All in all, Soleimani’s killing leaves Putin with more problems than opportunities.”

 

WAS AMERICA TO BLAME FOR SOLEIMANI’S WORLDVIEW?

Answer: No.

I attach this article in The Times of London yesterday by the former British foreign secretary (foreign minister) as an example of the often muddled thinking on Iran by many west European diplomats and policy makers.

Was America to blame for Soleimani’s worldview?
By Jack Straw
The Times (of London)
January 7, 2020

General Qassem Soleimani’s worldview was forged as “a direct result of US involvement in the Iran-Iraq War”. That’s the judgement of US General Stan McCrystal, a former commander of US forces in Iraq.

The significance of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War on the psyche not just of Soleimani but on the whole of the Iranian regime cannot be overstated. Most of the senior figures in Tehran, from Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Rouhani downwards, had searing experiences in that war.

The conflict began as an unprovoked adventure by Saddam Hussein. The Iranians found themselves completely isolated. The Soviet Union and France piled in to support Saddam, quickly followed by the US, the UK, and virtually every other world power.

There was just one, extraordinary, exception – Israel. It became the only reliable western supplier of arms to Iran – an estimated $2 billion worth. China, North Korea and Libya also sold arms to Iran but their kit was principally Soviet-made. Since most of Iran’s arms were of US (and UK) origin Iran’s greatest need was for US-compatible spare parts and for an endless supply of missiles.

Israel took this position because it judged it had much more to fear from Saddam than it did from the nascent Islamic Republic of Iran. But part of its deal with Supreme Leader Khomeini was that any Iranian Jew who wished to emigrate to Israel could do so without hindrance. Around 50,000 of the estimated 75,000 Jews in Iran left in this way. One consequence of this influx has been to give the Israelis an unrivalled capacity for intelligence on Iran.

Soleimani was the second-best protected person in Iran after the Supreme Leader (who has not set foot outside Iran since he assumed that role in 1989). The Iranians did not advertise Soleimani’s movements since they knew he was a potential target. It is almost certain that the intelligence on him came from the Israelis.

But “intelligence” has two meanings. One is secret information; the other is the wise application of knowledge and skills. The Israelis have both in their dealings with Iran. Soleimani had been in their sights for many years. They, and presidents Bush and Obama, refused to kill him, not out of misplaced sentimentality but because they judged that the costs of doing so far outweighed any benefits.

They were right. Aside from any deaths of American, Israeli, or other westerners in reprisal for Soleimani’s killing, there will be wider consequences adverse to the United States’ and Israel’s interests, and beneficial to Iran, in two linked ways.

Trump’s actions over the past two years, from pulling out of the nuclear deal to today, have played into the hands of the hardliners in Iran, weakening the power of reformists. The regime is using Soleimani’s death further to strengthen its hold on an otherwise alienated population. Beyond Iran’s borders, it is highly probable that US and other western forces may have to leave Iraq. Hezbollah in Lebanon, itself facing a loss of popular legitimacy, is also using this opportunity to shore up its support. The net result will be an increase in Iranian (and Russian) influence in this benighted part of the Middle East, and a loss of traction for the US and the West. Whether it all helps President Trump’s re-election remains to be seen. But if so, what a price to pay.

 

APPEASEMENT OR WAR? TRUMP PROVES THE IRAN ‘EXPERTS’ WRONG AGAIN

Appeasement or war? Trump proves the Iran ‘experts’ wrong again
By Jonathan Tobin
The New York Post
January 7, 2020

In 2015, as the debate over President Barack Obama’s proposed­nuclear accord with the Iranian regime roiled the nation, mainstream reporters insisted there were only two choices: the deal or war.

It was understandable. Left-of-center media (that is, most outlets) so adored Obama that one of his aides called them his “echo chamber.” Following the White House line was the dutiful, echo-chamber thing to do –even if it meant ignoring rational alternatives to Obama’s appeasement of Tehran that didn’t entail waging war.

Today, liberals are regurgitating the same claims about the consequences of President Trump’s decision to take out Iranian arch-terrorist Qassem Soleimani. Iran’s threats of retaliation and the statement that it is abandoning restrictions on its nuclear program are evidence, they say, that Team Trump is sleepwalking to war. The only option, in this line of thinking, is returning to the deal.

According to Obama administration alumni and other voices on the left, the deal was keeping Iran’s nuclear ambitions in check, and it was only Trump’s decision to pull out and reimpose economic sanctions that caused the current trouble.

But these are barefaced lies. Obama’s deal didn’t solve the nuclear problem. And Soleimani and his Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps began to make trouble for America long before Trump’s pullout from the deal.

Obama’s deal, for starters, made it certain that Iran would eventually gain a weapon. It included generous sunset clauses, permitted the regime to inspect its own military facilities and never required Tehran to come clean on its past weaponization activities. As bad, the deal ignored Iran’s use of state-sponsored terrorism, run by Soleimani’s outfit, even as it enriched the regime’s coffers.

Sooner or later, the West was going to have to junk the deal and start pressing Iran to abandon both Soleimani’s terror operation and its nuclear quest. Trump chose not to wait. His withdrawal from the deal and reimposition of sanctions hit Iran and Soleimani’s terrorists hard. The despotic regime is tottering, and Iran’s­people again took to the streets to protest, only to be gunned down by IRGC gunmen led by, yes, Soleimani.

Rather than seize Obama’s invitation to “get right with the world,” the ayatollahs and Soleimani stepped up their terrorism. They shot down a US drone. They attacked our embassy in Iraq. They tested long-range missiles.

Trump chose to deal with reality as it is. Rather than starting a war, he merely recognized that the ayatollahs have already been waging one against Washington for years. The regime counted on Trump to follow the conventional lie that the only choices are abject appeasement or apocalyptic war.

Trump is no foreign-policy guru, but his instinctive distrust of these so-called experts has served him well. The experts vastly overestimate the regime’s strength in suggesting that the Iranians would try to break out to a nuclear weapon — or that they could inflict more pain on the United States than Washington is prepared to dish out. Just as was the case when Obama folded in the nuclear talks, the West’s hand is far stronger than the pundits who are abusing Trump imagine.

The Soleimani operation makes it clear to Iran’s leaders that the costs of their crimes are now going to be borne by them and not only by their foes or the population that groans under their despotic rule.

Trump understands that playing by the old rules previous administrations respected served the interests of a rogue regime.

That is what endangered American lives and made Iran stronger. Despite the bluster from Tehran, it’s likely that the ayatollahs know that they can’t afford a widening conflict in which they will have far more to lose than does the global superpower.

Trump’s political foes need to stop pretending that the president is the one who created this crisis — or that the only choices were appeasement or all-out war. It was high time that someone had the nerve to break the wheel that perpetuated Iran’s power and violence. Whatever happens next, Trump’s resolve to defend American interests is the first step toward undoing the damage that Obama and his media cheerleaders did to American power and prestige.

 

“IN THE PAST, THE KILLING OF MAJOR TERROR CHIEFTAINS HAS CALLED FORTH BIPARTISAN APPLAUSE”

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes (Monday, January 6, 2020)

(Extracts only)

… But with Friday’s US drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani — the leader of Iran’s murderous Quds Force, a monster with the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands — came something new: vehement partisan denunciation of a president for a successful military action.

In the past, the killing of major terror chieftains has called forth bipartisan applause.

When SEAL Team Six, carrying out President Obama’s orders, killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, Americans across the spectrum rejoiced, conservatives and Obama critics (such as yours truly) very much included. A few years earlier, when the US Air Force targeted and killed the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), a New York Times editorial cheered: “It is good news for Washington, and even better news for Iraq, that the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was finally killed on Wednesday by an American air strike.”

The operation last October that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terror organization, was welcomed by both Republicans and Democrats; pretty much the only thing about that operation that evoked criticism was President Trump’s bombastic mockery as he announced Baghdadi’s death (“He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.”)

But the death of Soleimani — a more deadly enemy than Bin Laden, Zarqawi, or Baghdadi — set off a paroxysm of recrimination and outrage from many on the left. Some claimed that Trump exceeded his authority in ordering a drone strike without first clearing it through Congress. Others accused him of violating the US policy against assassinations.

“But that long-time ban has never applied to terrorists, which Soleimani clearly was,” the Wall Street Journal noted on Saturday.

He ran Iran’s Quds Force, which the Bush Administration designated as a terror group in 2007. He was also a general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which Trump designated as a terror group last year. If Trump’s drone strike was illegal, then so were Barack Obama’s raid on Osama bin Laden and his hundreds of drone strikes over eight years as president.

Actually, it was thousands of drone strikes over Obama’s eight years as president. In April 2015, the Washington Times reported that “US forces have now surpassed 2,800 strikes against targets in Iraq and Syria under President Obama’s war against the Islamic State, all as part of a conflict Congress has yet to specifically authorize.” Feeling pressure from Congress, the New York Times story added, the Obama White House had “finally submitted a draft authorization for the use of military force against the Islamic State,” but it languished on Capitol Hill, neither approved nor rejected by Congress. Meanwhile, the Times reported,

“The US military has been conducting strikes in Iraq for 10 months, and began striking directly at targets in Syria last September as part of Obama’s announced campaign to degrade the capabilities of the Islamic State.

“This past weekend’s attacks brought the total to 1,458 strikes in Iraq and 1,343 in Syria by US forces. Coalition forces allied with the US have conducted another 655 attacks on Iraqi targets and 95 in Syria.

Obama has justified the attacks under his commander-in-chief powers and under the 2001 resolution authorizing force against al Qaeda, and the 2002 resolution authorizing the ouster of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.”

 

EMILY LANDAU

I would like to note with sadness the death yesterday of Dr. Emily Landau, one of the world’s foremost experts on the Iranian nuclear program. She died aged 59, after a long illness, though she was able to continue working until the end, and indeed was answering journalists’ questions on Soleimani’s death the day before she died. (She was also a subscriber to this email list.)

She was a scholar in residence at the Israel Institute for National Security Studies, a center-left think tank in Tel Aviv.

Like most Iran experts, she thought Barack Obama and John Kerry’s JCPOA nuclear deal was a very bad idea which all but guaranteed the Islamic republic would get a nuclear bomb in a few years from now, a deal she predicted (correctly) would also embolden Qassem Soleimani to carry out his murderous rampage across the Middle East.

 

MOST SIGNIFICANT ASSASSINATION BY THE WEST SINCE HEYDRICH?

The Soleimani-Heydrich comparison made in my dispatch last Friday a few hours after Soleimani died, has now been taken up by many subscribers to this list, including by Professor Niall Fergusson in the (London) Sunday Times and Boston Globe on Sunday, by Israeli Middle East expert Ehud Yaari on Israeli TV on Saturday evening, and in the Washington Post on Monday by Iranian feminist dissident Masih Alinejad.

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Further reactions to the death of Soleimani: “52% of us humbly apologize”

January 03, 2020

(This is short follow-up to my dispatch last night on the death of Qassem Soleimani -- Tom Gross)

 

An American actress writes...

 

The Supreme Leader writes...

 

Sent to me by a Syrian friend from Aleppo.

 

From yesterday’s Times (of London): “20 faces who could shape the world in 2020”


 

Tom Gross adds:

In all my life, I have never seen such agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, Arabs and Kurds, and many Iranians, all ecstatic about the death of Soleimani.

Some other journalists are also saying this, for example, Kim Ghatas, who was until recently a senior BBC foreign correspondent.

She writes in The Atlantic:

“In much of the Middle East, and even in Iran, the military commander was feared, and his death has been greeted with elation.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/01/qassem-soleimani-death-missed/604396/

From The NY Times:

“The world to which we wake up today, rid of its most accomplished and deadly terrorist, is a better place. Nowhere is this insight more evident than throughout the Middle East, where individuals are posting joyous videos to social media, celebrating the death of the author of so much of their misery. We should all — even those among us who don’t particularly care for Mr. Trump — join them in their good cheer, and continue to repeal Mr. Suleimani’s murderous anti-American legacy."

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/03/opinion/trump-iran-suleimani-assassination-baghdad.htm

VIDEOS

These kind of videos from throughout the Middle East are being shared on social media:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=emb_logo&v=TzJLKBvTfH8

HEYDRICH

An academic friend in Israel wrote that Soleimani’s assassination is the “most important and positive assassination for the Jewish people, since that of Heydrich in 1942”. (I don’t know if I agree with him but it is certainly true that Soleimani has circled Israel with rockets, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Gaza.)

OBAMA

Other western media make it sound like Trump is uniquely militarist but never seem to mention that Obama used to have a drone kill list every Tuesday morning in the White House. They called it ‘Terror Tuesday’. He signed off many himself:

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/terror-tuesdays-kill-list_b_1606371

A RISK

I am not suggesting that Soleimani’s assassination is not a risky strategy by Trump. It is. But western media should not fail to report (as many have today) that in the Middle East, Soleimani’s assassination is extremely popular. It is wrong of western correspondents to suggest otherwise.

 

There is a follow-up to dispatch here:

* Qassem Soleimani was not Peppa Pig (& Peace now more likely than before he died)

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Breaking: Iran’s terror overlord killed in Trump’s most significant foreign policy act

 

[A quick 3 am note by Tom Gross]

Breaking news: Iran’s most senior terrorist overlord, Qassem Soleimani, who is responsible for tens of thousands of civilian deaths in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Israel, Lebanon and Gaza as well as ordering terror attacks on civilians in Europe and elsewhere, is reportedly one of those killed in a targeted US airstrike in Baghdad. Soleimani also has American blood on his hands. If so, this is Donald Trump’s most significant foreign policy act.

CNN ALL BUT IGNORES

While Fox and others are leading with non-stop coverage, it is mind-boggling that other American broadcast media including CNN International are at the current time instead still talking about Ukraine.

Among the other three terrorists killed in the American airstrike in Baghdad is reportedly Abdul Mahdi Muhandis, the veteran Iraqi/Iranian terrorist who bombed the US Embassy in Kuwait in 1983 and who headed Iraq’s death squads known as the PMU.

The news of Soleimani’s death is in many ways strategically more significant than the killing of ISIS “caliph” Baghdadi last year.

My Arab, Iranian and Kurdish friends on Facebook are ecstatically happy at the news of Solemani’s death, but from CNN, nothing.

TRUMP’S WARNING

Soleimani’s death may mark a major escalation in the “low-level” conflict between the US and Iran that most recently led to the Iranian-orchestrated storming of the US embassy in Baghdad. It may also help spur further the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Iran.

On Tuesday, Trump threatened Iran with strong action over the embassy attack.

“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities,” he said on Twitter.

“They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat,” wrote Trump.

On Tuesday night Trump vowed that the situation “will not be a Benghazi” -- a reference to the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya during the presidency of Barack Obama, in which U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and other Americans were killed. Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.

 

Update (7 am)

Now confirmed by the Pentagon:

https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2049534/statement-by-the-department-of-defense

 

Update (8 am)

My Arab, Iranian and Kurdish friends have been posting videos all night of the celebrations at Soleimani’s death. But if you watch the BBC and certain American media, you would think that the Middle East is in mourning.



 

Update (5 pm)

There is a follow-up to dispatch here:

* Further reactions to the death of Qassem Suleimani: “52% of us humbly apologize”


Also here:

* Qassem Soleimani was not Peppa Pig (& Peace now more likely than before he died)

 

Among past recent dispatches mentioning Soleimani:

* Iranian protests are about freedom, not fruit (& Russia eyes Libya) (December 3, 2019)

* Iranian regime shuts downs internet in Iraq as it continues to shoot protestors (November 5, 2019)

 

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