North Korea: The Military Option

North Korea’s detonations of two underground atomic weapons over the weekend, along with last week’s intercontinental ballistic missile launches (ICBM), have escalated tensions, increasing the possibility of a pre-emptive military response to eliminate Kim Jong-un’s regime and its nuclear weapons program despite continued calls for a diplomatic solution. Sunday’s nuclear test had an estimated strength of 50 kilotons, three times the payload of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

Just hours later Seoul reported that Pyongyang was preparing to launch at least one more ICBM.

Decisions which could be made in coming days may be dependent one variable: whether Pyongyang has developed the technology to link the two systems – a nuclear warhead and an ICBM.

The Ongoing Call for a Diplomatic Solution

As late as this morning there have been calls for diplomacy. NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, stated today that “The regime must immediately cease all existing nuclear and ballistic missile activities in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner, and re-engage in dialogue with the international community.”  NATO’s concern, which is receiving no European media attention, is that if North Korea attacks American soil then, under Article Five of the Washington Treaty, all NATO members are obligated to come to the defense of the United States.

Former National Director of Intelligence Brigadier General James L. Clapper, who has been on the ground in South Korea, has also called for more diplomatic efforts.  Mr. Clapper has not issued a public comments since this weekend’s nuclear weapons tests thus it is uncertain if his position has changed.

A diplomatic solution would involve scaling back on sanctions and offering North Korea financial and trade concessions.  No one seems to be moving in that direction as over the weekend there was another emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, and this morning South Korea’s military conducted practice ballistic missile strikes on the North Korean nuclear test site at Punggye-ri, a departure from its position that it would not consider a military solution.

Statements issued by Defense Secretary General James Mattis and National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster have been more aggressive than those issued during the Obama administration. Retired CIA and NSA Director General Michael Hayden believes Washington’s more aggressive foreign policy was adopted to obtain greater cooperation from China, especially if a military action is the only option left on the table, and not to anger Pyongyang.

If Washington’s policy toward North Korea or China has shifted, President Donald Trump’s highly inflammatory tweets directed to North Korea and China have garnered criticism from both Mr. Clapper and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Mr. Trump’s statements about discontinuing trade with any country doing business with North Korea, which includes China, is only going to aggravate the situation while damaging the United States economy, which is experiencing downward growth. His statement about renegotiating the United States’ trade agreement with South Korea defies all logic.

Mr. Hayden speculated that the Chinese government would likely to react more strongly to this morning’s testing of atomic weapons than it has to the testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles. This was not the case. At the ongoing BRICS conference Chinese President Li Jinping, without referencing the atomic testing, referred to preserving a decade of peace through the use of diplomacy. Meanwhile, Chinese controlled state media issued the same genre of condemnation statements seen in the past. It is questionable whether Beijing has the level of control over Pyongyang as previously speculated.

China’s position is that China that if the United States launches a pre-emptive strike that the United States would no longer have its support. But, if North Korea attacked the United States then China would remain neutral.

The Military Response

Today Mr. Mattis stated that “Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, will be met with a massive military response. Mr. Mattis did not define what constitutes a threat or whether the red line of acceptable risk has been crossed.

What is certain is that the United States will not risk and will respond to a strike on either American soil or that of its allies.  That response is likely to come United States Special Operations Forces, in cooperation with its counterparts in Seoul and Tokyo, which have devised a plan for a preemptive strike on Pyongyang and identified nuclear weapons sites. Beyond this, the United States is unlikely to send ground troops to North Korea. This article analyzes various outcomes.

Great Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stated that there is “no easy military solution” to prevent North Korea from its increased nuclear aggression but, consistent with the United States, said all options were still on the table. Mr. Johnson cited the potential carnage to Seoul which is not only a mere 24 kilometers away from the demilitarized zone.  North Korea has embanked missiles pointed directly at Seoul.  Whether the locations are known has not been publicly reported as publicizing such information could jeopardize whatever defenses Seoul and its allies have planned.

Collapsing the Regime and Regional Stabilization

If the regime was collapsed there is no secondary North Korean leadership and its military has been conditioned, almost like Stockholm Syndrome, to believe they are at war with Americans.  The magnitude of the situation was made manifest in the 2015 documentary:

The Propaganda Game

This makes deploying American ground troops counterintuitive to stabilizing a situation that would be nothing less than absolute chaos. The same is true of Japanese troops as North Koreans have not forgotten Japanese occupation.

The countries which could physically stabilize North Korean in the event of a collapsed regime are South Korea, China and Russia acting in a cooperative manner. Japan, the United States and their allies could offer tactical and financial support. There have been no reports of any talks but there is always back door diplomacy to which the public is simply not privy.

The most humane solution would be a unified Korean Peninsula. But, despite China’s statement that if the United States responded to an attack that it would remain neutral there are facts evidencing that both China and Russia, which are expansionist and lacking North Korea’s rich natural resource, may attempt to assert territorial control.  Both countries have militarized their North Korean borders.

China has repeatedly contended that if military action was taken to collapse Kim Jong-un’s regime that millions of North Koreans would attempt to cross into China along the 880 mile border it shares with North Korea. Russia, which shares an 11 mile long border with North Korea along the lower Tumen River which is 17 kilometers (11 mi) long, has raised similar concerns.

Based on this articulated reason, in April Chinese state-run media reported that 150,000 troops have been deployed to the North Korea. Other steps include building civilian bunkers in the event of a nuclear or chemical attack and 24-hour aerial drone surveillance. At the same time there have been regional unconfirmed reports of trainloads of heavy military equipment and Tor surface to air missile systems headed for the border. More recently, Russian military vehicles and helicopters have been spotted near the North Korean border.

China and Russia’s interest in militarizing their North Korean borders likely has more to do with gaining territory control for the pecuniary reasons rather than a fear of a refugee exodus.

Reunification

Based on cultural identification with South Korea and population demographics if the regime collapsed a large scale exodus to China and Russia defies all logic. As for Russia, the demographic map shows few North Koreans living in that region. While the southern North Korean-Chinese border is heavily populated, the North-South Korean border, is not only in close proximity but is also heavily populated.

It only seems logical that, given the option, North Koreans would flee toward South Korea seeking reunification with long lost loved ones and a culture they believe to be similar. When the Berlin Wall fell, the East Germans did not flee into neighboring Poland or the Czech Republic it became a unified Germany. And, despite the fact that Korea was last unified in 1953 there is phenomenal emotion on both sides. Intense emotions have characterized the sporadic family reunions hosted by North Korea. South Koreans, many of whom are second and third generation, tie colorful prayer ribbons on the DMZ fence, praying for the safety of their loved ones and reflecting hope that they will one day be reunited.

Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye said one of her 2014 objectives was to promote reunification. Arguing that a merger of the countries could present vast economic opportunities, Ms. Park said that a united Korea would be a “jackpot” for South Korea. One projection noted that a reunified Korea could become the world’s eighth-largest economy by 2050.

Current South Korean President Moon Jae-in has not commented on whether his administration would welcome a reunified Korea as any such statement would be viewed further provocation by both North Korea and China.

In the event of reunification South Korea would be saddled with a massive humanitarian crisis as North Koreans are both impoverished and have been isolated from modern society. South Korean reports of assimilating the few North Koreans who have defected illustrates the degree of difficulty that would be incurred in acculturation.

For all of these reasons, the cost to South Korea would be staggering. Projections estimate the cost would be in the trillions, offset by North Korea’s valuable resources. Reunification also increases the probability that South Korea would become a nuclear power, something the international community has prohibited.  By comparison, the cost of reunifying Germany is mind boggling. According to Peer Steinbrück, “Over a period of 20 years, German reunification has cost 2 trillion euros, or an average of 100 billion euros a year.”

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague and a contributing editor to Tuck Magazine, E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and the International Policy Digest. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.

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North Korea: Separating the Rhetoric from the Truth

NK Missile TestSince Donald Trump was sworn in as President, he has impulsively sent tweet after tweet, and made regular statements about the United States willingness to engage in armed conflict with North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Mr. Trump’s torrent increased following North Korea’s July 28th intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test. While the ICBM relied upon height rather than distance the test was internationally interpreted as North Korea having developed the technology to launch an ICBM. ICBMs have a range of 6,000-plus miles and travel approximately 15,000 mph. Unlike conventional missiles, an ICBM travels a suborbital trajectory just above the Earth’s atmosphere, giving it its intercontinental capabilities. What remains untested is whether North Korea’s ICBM technology has been refined to prevent destruction upon re-entry into the atmosphere.

Despite landing in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under the Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Japan refrained from a military response choosing to issue another warning to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson followed suit, firmly stating, “We are not your enemy, we are not your threat. We do not seek a regime change, we do not seek a collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th Parallel.”

Mr. Tillerson’s remark played to Mr. Jong-un’s personality profile. The United States intelligence community has psychologically profiled Kim Jong-un determining that his need for personal survival and the continuation of his regime outweighs his willingness to engage in direct military conflict with the United States, according to Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor.

“The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people,” stated U.S. Defense Secretary General James Mattis.

Sanctions

On August 4th Mr. Trump signed into law additional sanctions against North Korea, including sanctions on people or entities that maintain correspondent accounts with North Korean financial institutions, who purchase or acquire significant amounts of certain metals and minerals form North Korea, who sell or transfer to North Korea significant amounts of rocket, aviation or jet fuel, crude oil, petroleum or natural gas, with some exceptions for humanitarian purposes; and who engage in online commercial activities of the North Korean government.

The following day the United Nations Security Council unanimously imposed the harshest sanctions to date against North Korea, which, if properly enforced, would reduce North Korea’s export level by $1 bn.; a full third.

China’s United Nations Ambassador, Liu Jieyi, urged the North Korean authorities to “cease taking actions that might further escalate tensions,” while calling upon the United States to dismantle the missile defense system in South Korean.

Mr. Liu simultaneously called upon the United States to dismantle the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) missile defense system it had begun installing in South Korea. Based on China’s objections South Korea has not authorized full mobilization of the THAAD.

Thereafter, Mr. Trump and Mr. Jong-un have engaged in an ever-escalating exchange of threats. Mr. Trump’s inflammatory comments and tweets caused concern among our allies, invoked fear among Americans and further agitated North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Sadly, the media is partially to blame having sensationalized Mr. Trump and Mr. Jong-un’s hyperbole rather than presenting a level analysis of the actual risks and probability.

North Korea’s Response

North Korea’s response was that it would be launching four conventional missiles to within 30 to 40 miles off the coast of the American territory of Guam, part of the United States’ EEZ, on Monday, August 14th.

If North Korea launches conventional missiles entering into our territory, including our EEZ, such as the waters off the coast of Guam, Ms. Rice stated that, “We can safely rely on deterrence to prevent a catastrophic event” while clarifying that any such response would be proportional and not a full-out military engagement.

The United States missile defense systems they are the most sophisticated in the world. Understanding that deterrence is the best protection from armed conflict with any state or non-state actor, refining this technology is a military priority. Joining the Patriot and Aegis systems is the state-of-the-art Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD). THAAD can destroy intermediate and long range missiles but not an ICBM. In the event of multiple missile being fired simultaneously, the THAAD system may be capable of destroying up to 10 missiles. For security reasons, more accurate information is unavailable.

THAAD, in place on Guam, as well as through-out the United States and elsewhere abroad, has been successfully tested.

The United States Missile Defense Agency and Japan are now perfecting the Standard Missile-3 (SM-#) Block IIA. The SM-#, operable from either land or sea, is designed to intercept medium and intermediate range missiles. This system, as well as the Patriot and THAAD systems, protect our Pacific allies, such as Japan and South Korea, from North Korean medium and intermediate range missiles.

Over the last year both Russia and China have advocated for restraint and diplomacy but a Chinese state-run newspaper stated on August 11 that, “If North Korea launches an attack that threatens the United States then China should stay neutral, but if the United States attacks first and tries to overthrow North Korea’s government China will stop them.”

The Actual Risk of an ICBM Striking on the American Mainland

Fortunately, past and current presidential security, intelligence and military advisors have issued consistent statements that an ICBM strike against the United States highly unlikely but in the event that the United States was forced into such a scenario North Korea would be annihilated, precisely what Mr. Jong-un is attempting to prevent by stockpiling a nuclear arsenal.

The U.S. Trident D-5 submarine missiles are currently the best defense at destroying an ICBM, presuming that such a missile can perform intercontinentally.

In the meantime, former National Director of Intelligence Brigadier General James L. Clapper stated that the United States needs to continue perfecting missile defense systems designed to intercept and destroy missiles outside or just outside of the atmosphere. If a missile is carrying a nuclear warhead, that warhead would not detonated by its destruction the conditions for detonation would not be met. Thus, there is no reason to fear the dispersal of radioactive material into the environment.

United States Cyber Technology

An anonymous source with the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency has alluded that the United States possesses the cyber technology to cause missile failures. North Korea’s missile launchers are older models retrofitted to accommodate its increasingly diverse missile arsenal. Whenever two computer controlled systems are retrofitted, the door opens to cyberattacks. This is the most plausible explanation as to why 88% of North Korea’s missiles launched over the last three years have failed.

Given Mr. Jong-un’s psychological profile it is not foreseeable that he would credit a missile failure to the United States. Thus, it is a relatively innocuous way of impeding the North Korean nuclear weapons programme. Conversely, the United States would be unable to study developments in North Korea’s weapons program if it precipitated a failure every time a missile was launched.

Additional classified information about North Korea’s weapons program includes intercepted signals and imagery from high altitude surveillance aircraft, drones and satellites, as well as cyber warfare.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague and a contributing editor to Tuck Magazine, E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and the International Policy Digest. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.

Erdoğan: Self-Proclaimed Caliphate?

erdogan-quran

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s slim success in April 16, 2017 referendum election enhanced his power consistent with Mr. Erdoğan’s statements going back to 2014 that he aspired to become the next Caliphate. The term Caliphate has significant meaning in the Muslim world. A Caliph is a prophet sent by God to provide just governance over all of Islam. This is on the level of miracles. The Caliphate was abolished by the secularization of Turkey 99 years ago.

What is a Caliphate?

In about 570 AD, the Prophet Muhammad, “peace be upon you”, was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the ancestral home of the Levant. The Prophet Muhammad believed he had been instructed by the Angel Gabriele to serve as God’s prophet whose purpose was to act as a messenger who should teach.

The Prophet Muhammad institutionalized the “doctrine of “One Ruler, One Authority, One Mosque””, whereby a Caliphate is appointed by God’s to lead of all of Islam under a just system of Sharia governance.

Erdoğan’s Grand Plan

Mr. Erdogan belongs to Naqshbandi Tariqah, a major Sunni spiritual order of Sufism whose history traces back to the Prophet Muhammed, the origin of the Caliphate, and the Levantine.

In late October 2014 Mr. Erdoğan stated it was his “grand design to recreate the Ottoman caliphate with the help of the Sunni jihadist army.”

“Erdoğan used the image of the caliphate and traditional Islamic values to gain popularity in the Middle East, expecting to gain it all over the world,” observed Ali Vyacheslav Polosin, Deputy Director of the Fund for Support of Islamic Culture, Science and Education.

Mr. Polosin explained:

After Erdoğan became president he started positioning himself in image ads not only as the president of the Turkish Republic, but as a reader of the Quran, as though he radiates some nur, light. It is more an image of a caliph, a ruler of true believers, than the president of a republic, especially considering that Turkey has very great experience in this aspect. So the claims are not that groundless.

In 2015 Abdurrahman Dilipak, a deep operative for the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), posing as a writer, stated in speech given to AKP members in Toronto, that by switching to an executive presidency from a parliamentary democracy, Mr. Erdoğan would assume the title of caliph.

At 94, Kadir Mısıroğlu, who has worked with Erdoğan since the 1980s, has been staunchly anti-secularist – his opinions dating back to the founder and first President of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Atatürk – claiming that Turkey’s incursions into Syria and Iraq will empower Mr. Erdoğan to resurrect the Ottoman Empire and declare the caliphate.

“In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, other countries, the persona of Erdoğan is popular among Muslims and even ruling elites. That is why Turkey has its own game here,” opined Mujtaba Rahman, Europe practice head at Eurasia Group, and Julian Emanuel, in a Eurasia Risk 2015 analysis.  A 2006 Gallup survey of Muslims living in Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia and Pakistan, two-thirds of respondents said they supported the goal of “unifying all Islamic countries” into a new caliphate.”

But, most telling is the number of recruits IS gained when reputedly assassinated leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself Caliphate. Regardless of ideology, individuals from around the world who felt repressed by their own governments, most of which were unable to guaranty their personal safety or sustainable infrastructures, rushed to join his army. The bottom line is that the concept of a Caliphate is not a hard sale whether in an authoritative state, in under-developed Muslim countries or in developed countries where Muslims are more often than not stigmatized.

Conversely, Mr. Erdoğan’s campaign against the Turkish Kurds in Turkey and Syria does not bespeak of a prophet providing just governance. The Kurds are a Middle Eastern ethnic group, numbering 40 million worldwide; a majority of whom inhabit a contiguous area including parts of Iran, Southeastern Turkey and Northern Syria. While Kurds are overwhelmingly Muslim with the majority of Sunni descent, they are not of Levant descent but, so closely related to Iranian culture and linguistics that they refer to themselves Iranian.

The Failed Coup Bolsters Mr. Erdoğan’s Plan

On July 15, 2016 Mr. Erdogan claimed victory over a failed coup d’état.  Mr. Erdoğan was alerted to the coup by Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, not his own intelligence service or military, NATO’s Communications and Information Agency, or even the United States Intelligence Community.

The rapid response had all of the trappings of staged scene. Black ops forces appeared at the hotel in where Mr. Erdoğan was located, dropping down the side of the building on rope-lines. Fighter jets broke the sound barrier as they flew over Istanbul and Ankara, and tanks immediately took to the streets. Several broadcast text messages were even sent from Mr. Erdoğan to Turkish cellphone users, calling them to the streets to defend their nation. Three hundred Turks lost their lives that night.

Mr. Erdoğan immediately blamed the coup on Fethullah Gulen, a Sunni Muslim spiritual leader with a worldwide following who is a Pennsylvanian resident. The United States refused requests to extradite Mr. Gulen weakening historical ties between Washington and Ankara.  According to an anonymous source in the Intelligence Community, if Mr. Gulen had been involved the NSA would have picked up on chatter on an impending coup. Given the United States’ interest in a stable, democratized Turkey, it would have warned Mr. Erdoğan.

What really happened that night remains open to question but the truth remains that Mr. Erdoğan has capitalized upon the coup widening the diplomatic gap with its Western allies and commitments.

Following the July 15, 2016 unsuccessful coup, Mr. Erdoğan called a state of emergency him the power to rule by decree, largely bypassing the legislative and rendering what remains of the judiciary fearful of making unbiased rulings.

The failed coup also ended the era of the co-existence with the parallel states. The main component of the parallel structures has traditionally performed the Turkish army, which was constitutionally apolitical but, in reality, was determining Turkish political life. This privilege was given to the army during the Ottoman conquest and retained its purpose during the formation of the Turkish Republic.

Over 140,000 people have been arrested, dismissed or suspended, press restrictions imposed, despite the government control over 90 percent of the Turkish media, journalists were imprisoned, and private property confiscated. There have been allegations of prisoners being tortured and even raped.  Mr. Erdoğan cancelled three million Turkish passports to prevent citizens from exiting the country.

The April 16, 2016 Constitutional Referendum Election

On 10 December 2016, a constitutional referendum election with 18 amendments was called.

In every campaign Mr. Erdoğan has unabashedly articulated that his political aspirations extend beyond Turkey to all Muslims much as Mr. Putin has stated over and over again that his role is to protect all individuals of Russian ethnicity or from former U.S.S.R. satellite states.  Mr. Erdoğan complained about the post-World War One downsizing of the Ottoman Empire from 20 million square kilometers to its current 780,000 square kilometers. Three years later, during the last years of Ottoman Empire, Sharia law and “the caliphate—the supreme politico-religious office of Islam, and symbol of the sultan’s claim to world leadership of all Muslims—was abolished,” and a secularized state formed.

Mr. Erdoğan instructed to European Muslims, “Go live in better neighbourhoods. Drive the best cars. Live in the best houses. Make not three, but five children. Because you are the future of Europe. That will be the best response to the injustices against you”.

Even though less than 52% of Turkish voters approved the referendum, with the largest losses in Turkey’s major cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, the referendum bestowed unparalleled powers on Mr. Erdoğan’s Presidency:  the elimination of a prime minister, the ability to dissolve the Turkish parliament, appoint five out of thirteen Supreme Court justices, and issue public decrees without parliamentary approval.

The election further bestowed upon Mr. Erdoğan the possibility of remaining in office until 2029, or even longer, due to a loophole included in constitutional amendments.  This places Mr. Erdoğan one step closer to realizing his aspirations to be the next Caliph governing under Islamic law, a possible break Shia Muslim states, the European Union and, ultimately even, NATO.

Immediately following his victory Erdoğan visited the tomb of Mohammed’s companion Eyyub Al-Ansari Mehmet and the burial shrine of Ottoman Sultan Selim I.  Selim I was the Ottoman Sultan who in 1517 defeated the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt and thus became the caliph of the entire Muslim world.

It was reported that Mr. Erdoğan was overheard singing Koranic verse from the First Surah known as al-Fātiḥah or “the Opener”. It is a prayer at the very beginning of the Quran, which acts as a preface of the Quran and implies that the book is for a person who is a seeker of truth—a reader who is asking a deity who is the only one worthy of all praise to guide him to a straight path. It is said to “encapsulate all of the metaphysical and eschatological realities of which human beings must remain conscious.”

European election monitors said the referendum did not meet international standards.

No doubt Mr. Erdoğan’s apparent claim as the next Caliphate has further angered the Wahhabis, an Elite Saudi Sunni group which advocates that “One Ruler, One Authority, One Mosque” — the three pillars – refer only to the Saudi king.

Geopolitical Security Implications

     The Divided Shiite and Sunni Countries

The Sunni-Shia conflict is 1,400 years in the making, dating back to the years immediately after the Prophet Mohammed’s death in 632 when the two sides clashed over naming a successor. In the Middle East Sunnis outnumber Shiites five to one.

Only lran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain have a Shia majority, although there are also significant Shia populations in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria and Qatar. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his family members are Shia Muslims while IS opposition Sunni dominated.  While Yemen has been controlled by Sunni, in the ongoing proxy war Iran is backing Shia rebels while the Saudis are attempted to regain Sunni control.

Qatar represents the most recent proxy. A Saudi led Sunni contingency, including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, imposed a comprehensive embargo and blockade of land, sea, and air routes against Qatar. The dispute arose from allegations that Qatar financed terrorism, including the Muslim Brotherhood favored by Mr. Erdoğan. While oil rich, Qatar lacks the other natural resources to provide sustenance and even employment; as 12 percent of Qatari rely on foreign employment. To fill grocery store shelves with food Turkey and Iran have sent 100s of planeloads of food and supplies to provide for the Qatari. Now, on June 20, 2016, the group has imposed a list of 13 nonnegotiable condition that, that Qatar must comply with within 10 days, including expelling Turkey from its air force base in Qatar.

Mr. Erdoğan has denounced the embargo as “inhumane and against Muslim values.”

      NATO, the European Union, and United States

A NATO member nation, Turkey has sought European Union membership since 2005. The early reasons for exclusion were no more or less than ‘Turkey was too big, too poor and, above all, too Muslim to qualify.’ The refugee crisis began tilting toward, minimally, more favorable terms but, post-coup, when Mr. Erdoğan abandoned a constitutional democracy in favor of an authoritarian government, such as that of Mr. Putin, he basically has abandoned any aspirations of Western acceptance. The last signs that Mr. Erdoğan has given up on the EU is in his push to reinstate the death penalty; viewed as a human rights violation by the EU, and increasing tensions with NATO, whose regional peacekeeping operations are dependent upon Turkey’s central location.

     The Balkans

According to an unconfirmed report, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, Russia and Turkey have agreed in principal that Russia would gain dominance in Orthodox countries in the Balkans, and Turkey would control Muslim dominated countries of Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Bosnia.

“Turkey will have the opportunity of managing the new relations with the various Turkmen and Ottoman communities, while Russia (and Iran) will have the possibility of creating a large Asian economic community, which is designed to replace the symbiotic relationship between Europe and the United States,” opined foreign policy analyst Elia Valori Gioncarlo.

The European Commission on Foreign Relations has also raised this issue but with some skepticism.

Ankara and Moscow have engaged in warming relations. Russia has lifted the 2015 ban on imports of Turkish food, and the ban on Turkish workers in the construction sector, in tourism and in hotel businesses. This translates into a hefty amount of income for Ankara as prior to the ban, Turkish food exports food to Russia worth more than €1bn annually. But, this is nothing compared to the symbiotic oil relationship between the two countries. Moscow is looking for an alternative to Ukraine to run a Gazprom pipeline to the Black Sea.

Journalist Fareed Zakaria observed that Putinism consists of five fundamentals: religion, nationalism, social conservatism, state capitalism and government media control. “Returning to the values of religion” — in particular Orthodox Christianity — is a powerful theme in Putin’s agenda, with a global vision of “protecting persecuted Christians all over the world.”  Replace “Christian” with “Muslim,” and one has Turkey’s ruling ideology.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague and a contributing editor to Tuck Magazine, E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and the International Policy Digest. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking through her unique style of telling entire stories. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.

Sources

Akyol, Mustafa, “Does Erdogan want his own Islamic state?” AL-Monitor, April 29, 2016, as found on the www at http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/turkey-does-erdogan-aim-islamic-state.html#ixzz4lBPhLjKn.

Aydıntaşbaş, Asli, “Trouble on the tracks: Averting the Turkey-EU ‘train wreck’”, European Commission on Foreign Relations, as found on the www at http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/trouble_on_the_tracks_averting_the_turkey_eu_train_wreck7190.

Başkan Erdoğan, Yavuz Sultan Selim Han’ın türbesinde”, via YouTube as found on the www at  https://youtu.be/VzEL2vkrCP4.

“Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan Fatih Sultan Mehmet’in türbesinde Kur’an okudu”, via YouTube as found on the www at https://youtu.be/YX8W1MSSo40.

Detmer, Jamie, “Critics, Even Supporters Say: Erdoğan is the Man Who Would Be Caliph”, October 27, 2015, Voice of America, as found on the www at https://www.google.nl/amp/www.voanews.com/amp/3024375.html.

Elia Valori, Giancarlo, “The new great Middle East game between Russia and Turkey,” April 5, 2016, Modern Diplomacy, as found on the www at http://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1725:the-new-great-middle-east-game-between-russia-and-turkey&Itemid=139.

Lane, Gary, “Turkey’s Erdoğan: Islam’s New Caliph?” April 19, 2017, CBN News, as found on the www at http://www1.cbn.com/globallane/archive/2017/04/19/turkey-rsquo-s-Erdoğan-islam-rsquo-s-new-caliph.

Lumbard, Joseph E. B., “Introduction toSūrat al-Fātiḥah,” The Study Quran, p. 4 (San Francisco: Harper One, 2015).

Kavkaza, V., “How Erdoğan uses idea of caliphate,” December 9, 2014, Vestnik, as found on the www at http://vestnikkavkaza.net/articles/kl;politics/63155.html.

Maloof, F., “Turkish President Gathers Power to Fulfill Islamic ‘Caliphate’ Vision: Angling for constitutional change to maintain authority,” October 29, 2014, Wind, as found on the www at http://mobile.wnd.com/2014/10/turkish-president-gathers-power-to-fulfill-islamic-caliphate-vision/#58S3yxsjy4AtHvHu.9.

“Turkey-EU Politics”, January 6, 2015, Bloomberg, as found on the www at http://www.bloomberg.com/video/turkey-eu-politics-top-eurasia-groups-2015-risks-list-WUSV3U6eSRC9ZCu0y~pU3g.html.

“Turkey says goodbye to a parallel state”, July 18, 2016, Contact, as found on the www at http://www.contact.az/docs/2016/Analytics/071700162376en.htm#.V5m7Vrh9600.

“What’s the appeal of a caliphate?” October 24, 2014, BBC News Magazine, as found on the www at http://m.bbc.com/news/magazine-29761018.

Act or be Hacked: A Leading Expert’s Proactive Strategies to Prevent Cyberattacks

Cyber Security is always too much – too much money and too much time – until it just isn’t enough. Consider today’s news where a ransomware infection infiltrated organizations in 99 countries, including China and Russia. This should be enough to garner everyone’s attention about implementing simple rules for managing personal and professional privacy.

Photo Courtesy of BBC News and Webroot

I had the opportunity to interview an internationally-recognized cybersecurity expert who, for security purposes spoke only on the condition of anonymity, about preventive measures to thwart cyberattacks that employers should mandate and that individuals should voluntarily follow.

Is it true that anything transmitting information via the internet is capable of being hacked?

“Anything transmitted can be intercepted. Thus liable to hacking,”

Are there any limitations?

“There are no limitations.”

Where are the greatest vulnerabilities?

“There’re vulnerabilities everywhere.”

Whether you are an individual, a corporation, critical infrastructure or a government entity, isn’t the biggest vulnerability email accounts which are subject to spear phishing, i.e. sending emails that appear to be from an individual or business that you know?

“Email are valuable information for attackers. But there’re more. Targeting email through spear phishing emails is the primary method for hacking into a computer system. Spear phishing is very used nowadays, simply because it’s simple to implement. But no method can be defined as primary or the best. Each attack requires specific study and approach.”

Does the email need to include an attachment? If so, does the recipient need to open the attachment?

“Usually yes, but – again – it depends of the attack type.”

Are older systems more vulnerable to spear phishing?

“It’s not a rule. Each system comes with specific vulnerabilities. Something perfect doesn’t exist – since their made by humans.”

An email can include malware, viruses, spyware, adware, worms, or Trojans. How are these hacker tools different?

“Different names specify slightly different behaviours about functionalities and the way the backdoor works, e.g. auto-replication, data collected or not, data erased or not, etc.”

This is important information to consider when opening attachments as a report from the Anti-Phishing Working Group found that 2016 was the worst year in history for spear phishing scams – a 65% increase over 2015.

Let me give you a hypothetical. If a hacker interested in a public utility, they could visit the local coffee shop or restaurant patronized by its employees who mindlessly drop their business card in a fishbowl to win a free cup of coffee and swipe those cards. From there they could go through and identify persons of interest and engage in spear phishing, right?

“Absolutely right. This is just one good example of Social Engineering; that is – nowadays – the most dangerous attack.”

Does hacking a computer or even a smart phone gives the hacker access to more than just the initial device targeted?  For instance, if my computer was hacked and I send an email to another computer do I infect that system?

“It depends. If the worm has auto-replication capabilities YES.”

I read that Target, Sony Pictures, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) were attacked because they relied on passwords alone for authentication. How important is the complexity, duplicity and age of passwords?

“It’s very important. But keep in mind that even a very strong password can be hacked using specific attack types – like brute force or dictionary attacks.”

Is it true that even eight character passwords can be hacked in under a second?

“Yes, even less.”

What is a dictionary password hack?

“A dictionary-based attack uses a pre-filled file that contains thousands or hundreds of thousands, or more words. Each word is used as password tentative.”

Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report found that “63 percent of confirmed data breaches involve using weak, default or stolen passwords.” What is your advice about passwords?

“Use at least a 16 characters password. And change it every week.”

Can you offer an example and explanation of a good password?

“%-xGaY%p2Rv@Pcx_! A password should be 16 characters minimum and include symbols, numbers, lowercase and uppercase characters.”

This means that you are inviting unwanted intruders into your business or home when you use the pre-installed default passwords, such as “admin” or “1234”, or when a single password is used for multiple accounts.

What is a multi-factor authentication (MFA) solution?

“It means that one password is no more enough to be authenticated.”

Can you give me an example?

“A 2 factor authentication, for example, requires, first, a password and then, second, a randomly-generated code that changes every X seconds.”

Is MFA an effective strategy?

“Better than only one password, for sure. Online banks, for example, nowadays use this mechanism by default.”

Would you agree that protecting one’s email addresses is almost or as important as protecting one’s passwords?

“On password-based systems, password protection should always been considered at first place, from user perspective. Possible systems vulnerabilities can be managed only by ISP itself (not the user).”

How about another hypothetical. An employee uses their personal email address on LinkedIn. If a hacker wanted to hack into the company they worked for they could spear phish their home computer, which is likely used to login to work. Under what circumstances would that give a hacker access to the company’s system?

“Accessing a company network is in general less simple than accessing a home computer. Even if you already attacked/infected a company device, you have to consider that the company has in place network barriers (like firewalls, IDS, etc.) that may prevent to access easily from external network to internal network. That way, usually, modern backdoors prefer communications only “moving” FROM attacked device (internal network) TO remote server (external network). The IN-to-OUT transmission is always better than OUT-to-IN.”

This is where I am confused.  Once hacked, access to the internet signal is obtained. Does this impact hacking other systems?  Does it matter if an individual has separate devices and computers for personal and professional use?

“When a system is hacked, it means that something is “going to happen”. Connecting to Internet in order to transfer something is most probably something that will happen, but it’s not mandatory (you may just want to duplicate data and keep them on the disk, for a later physical retrieval, or you may want to delete/alter something, or just opening a communication port for an OUT-to-INT communication, etc.). During an attack, the attacker wants to minimise the impact of suspects around 0%, so the idea that other systems may be impacted or “considered” during the attack… it’s something bad. An attack is usually studied, tested and then implemented SPECIFICALLY for the target device. No other systems should be even touched to accomplish this. Of course, large scale attacks require multiple systems to be compromised.”

Photo Courtesy of the National Security Administration

Do you have any thoughts on using Wi-Fi at home or in public?

“If you want to have a “safe” network (at home or at work)… do not use WiFi. If I was a hacker couldn’t I login into a public Wi-Fi and intercept signals from all devices logged onto the internet connection? If you connect as attacker to a public WiFi, you can actually retrieve almost everything (visited websites, user, password, PINS) that users think “it’s safe”.

What is your general advice about using Wi-Fi?

“If available, the use of a Wi-Fi network is probably one of the first attempts to try an attack.”

Restraint on the use of Wi-Fi is statistically supported. According to a report published by the Chertoff Group:

  • Mobile web adoption is growing 8 times faster than web adoption did in the 1990s and early 2000s.
  • By the end of 2017, over two billion mobile phone or tablet users will make some form of mobile commerce transaction.
  • By 2018, 25% of corporate data traffic will bypass the corporate network and flow direct from mobile device to the cloud.
  • 84% of people have experienced difficulty completing a mobile transaction.
  • 62% of “checkout abandonments” in mobile commerce happen due to friction in the login process.

I have another hypothetical for you. A personal smartphone has been hacked. If the hackers have installed keyloggers or other malware doesn’t this mean they can see every keystroke made, including password and messages believed to be encrypted, whether by specialized software or common apps such as WhatsApp?

“Yes. A malware running directly on the device doesn’t care about encryption: it is installed ON the system, so it’s capable to read everything BEFORE encryption (or after decryption).”

What is your advice on selecting a search engine? Does Google, Yahoo and Bing create a greater vulnerability than TOR?

“Everything is traced and monitored. Search engines and the TOR network, as well.”

A lot of critical infrastructure relies heavily on legacy or outdated software that was never intended to be used with more modern technology to control their product. A lot of legacy software lacks the ability to manually override a cyberattack. This is a major issue in the United States and in some parts of the European Union where public power and transportation are controlled by thousands of companies many of which lack the resources to address vulnerabilities. Many companies have failed to make capital investments in its computer systems preferring to link legacy software to newer technology thereby is opening the floodgates for cyberattacks. The U.S. Department of Energy published a report saying that the nation’s electrical grid “faces imminent danger” from cyber-attacks. The report concluded that grid modernizations would require a total investment ranging from $350 to $500 bn.

What are the drawbacks to linking newer technology to older Linux or legacy systems? Where is the greatest vulnerability when two systems are linked together?

“When a system is “connected” it automatically becomes vulnerable. It’s not a matter of old or new technology, it’s a matter of how the system is “exposed”. But EVERY system is exposed in some way, or it cannot serve anything.”

The Cloud is not less secure than an internal system. The vulnerability is in the internet or intranet connection. Systems managers should focus on securing cloud workloads and not the Cloud. The cloud does not make a system less secure, it’s when the internet or intranet connection has a vulnerability that opens the Cloud to attacks.

Are there any signs the people should watch for that are indicative of hacking?

“A well performed attack, leaves no trace. If we speak about people, 99% of them are vulnerable and not capable to understand that they’ve been hacked. Speaking about companies, the percentage changes, but not so much.”

As it’s been in the news later, one last question how are other things like the television, thermostat and garage door opener hacked?

“Again, if something is “connected”… it becomes vulnerable. The IOT – Internet of Things – will be one of the most catastrophic phases of this era, from hacking, information theft and safety point of view. It has been already proved that it’s possible to completely take control of a modern car, hacking it from thousands of miles of distance. And this is only the beginning.”

Another area in which companies can be proactive is by employing multiple-level redundancy. This means you have created multiple back-up copies of your data to prevent loss in the case of a single disk or server failure and that the data is stored across multiple geographic locations.

When considering whether to make organizational or personal internet safety changes, along with today’s immense ransomware attack consider these statistics:

  • 70% of U.S. critical infrastructure suffered a cyberattacks in 2016.
  • The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre revealed that Britain was threatened by 188 high-level cyber-attacks in just three months.
  • The average attack on a financial institute costs $20.8 mm even though the response time has been shortened to an average of 17.5 hours.
  • Ransomware attacks rose by 50% in 2016 with 61% of victims now being companies with less than 1,000 employees.
  • Up to 286 mm viruses are detected annually by Symantec.

For more information visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s webpage on cyber security at https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/cyber and the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, which provides a policy framework on computer security guidance to assist private sector organizations in assessing and improving their ability to prevent, detect, and respond to cyber-attacks at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/01/25/2017-01599/proposed-update-to-the-framework-for-improving-critical-infrastructure-cybersecurity.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague and a contributing editor to Tuck Magazine, E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and the International Policy Digest. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.

Sources

Chertoff, Michael, “8 Ways Governments Can Improve Their Cybersecurity”, April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review, as found on the www at https://hbr.org/2017/04/8-ways-governments-can-improve-their-cybersecurity.

Knake, Robert, “A Cyberattack on the U.S. Power Grid”, Contingency Planning Memorandum 31, April 2017, Council on Foreign Relations, as found on the www at http://www.cfr.org/cybersecurity/cyberattack-us-power-grid/p38941?cid=nlc-public-the_world_this_week–link24-20170407&sp_mid=53802168&sp_rid=Y3ludGhpYW1sYXJkbmVyQGdtYWlsLmNvbQS2.

The Amorphous Israeli-Palestinian Two-State Solution

 

 

The frozen Israeli-Palestinian conflict has raged on almost since the day Israel achieved independence in 1948. Despite the Oslo Accords, which were intended to bring peace and political stability to both sides, the degraded situation heightens the level of destabilization in the Middle East and North African region. Beyond the Israelis and the Palestinians the biggest impediment to the peace process is now the Trump administration.

Israel, despite violating international law, continues to receive ongoing and unprecedented diplomatic, military and financial support from the paradoxically Anti-Semitic United States Congress. The Trump administration’s position has incrementally distanced U.S. foreign policy on this issue from that of the MENA countries and the European Union (EU) where there is an unequivocal push for a two-state solution.

Without decisive action by the entire international community, including the withdrawal of U.S. financial aid to both sides and military aid to Israel, as well as the broader imposition of economic sanctions, there will never be a détente, let alone a two-state solution.

Israel’s Hardline Stance

In June 2009 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a landmark speech, reflecting a trend that had been growing ever since the Oslo Accords were signed. Mr. Netanyahu articulate untenable conditions for ‘two-state solution’ advocated by predecessor leaders and consistent with the Oslo Accords were no longer subject to negotiation. Mr. Netanyahu stated Israel endorsed Palestine existing as a neighboring but, demilitarized state. Under his ‘proposal’, freedom of movement would be remain constricted, with displaced Palestinians forever barred from returning to their ancestral homelands. Ignoring the naturally occurring Palestinian population growth, an expansion of the limited lands beyond that which they had been relegated to since 1967 would not be considered. Jerusalem, which under the original United Nations (U.N.) plan, was to be internationally governed, would remain under Israel’s sole governance. Most significantly, the Palestinians had to formally recognize Israel as the ‘Jewish’ national state; a proverbial slab in the face.

Paradoxically, eight years later, in 2017, Mr. Netanyahu’s position has only hardened as he has stated that Israel will only negotiate with the Palestinians only if they come to the table with no preconditions.

Palestinian’s de facto, octogenarian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was last elected in 2006 and whose power is limited to the West Bank, where his party, the Fatah is based, is being pressured by the European Union and the Arab Quartet – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE – to reconcile competing Palestinian factions and to name a successor. The other faction is Hamas which is the internationally unrecognized Gaza Strip governing body. Listed as a terrorist organization by the EU and the U.S., Hamas is issuing a new charter reflecting a sharp ideological shift.

“Israel has chosen not to choose, hoping the conflict will resolve itself, or that the Arabs will disappear in some kind of cosmic miracle,” stated former Mossad director Tamir Pardo, when the reality is that the internal situation is a “ticking time bomb”.

“The time has come to admit that Israel is a sick society, with an illness that demands treatment,” stated Israeli President Rivlin in October 2014.

The Netanyahu’s Stronghold

Israel has a parliamentary government – the 120 member Knesset – which elects a Prime Minister as its chief executive, making the office holder the country’s most powerful political.  The Presidency is an honorific position.  Parliamentary elections are scheduled every four years, but unstable coalitions or a no-confidence vote by the Knesset can dissolve a government earlier. This has been the modus operandi with elections having been held on the average every 2.8 years.

Mr. Netanyahu, a member of the right-wing party, the Likud, is currently Israel’s three-time Prime Minister. The Likud holds 30 parliamentary seats. In 2016 Mr. Netanyahu’s approval ratings plummeted to 33 percent signaling that Israel may be ready for change. In April Mr. Netanyahu had a falling out with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, a key coalition partner, which appears to be resolved.  Mr. Netanyahu now faces possible criminal charges in two cases. By calling for an early election, Mr. Netanyahu may not only avoid criminal charges, as levelling charges during an election campaign could be seen as election interference, but it would also allow him to maintain his grip on power and continue hindering the peace process.

Until recently, the strongest opposition party has been disorganized Zionist or Labor party, which holds 19 Knesset seats. The Labor Party is headed by Yitzhak “Isaac” Herzog, who immediately after being elected party leader on November 22, 2013, met with Mr. Abbas pledging his support for the two-state solution. Mr. Herzog’s view that, “I believe that the internal reality of this [the Likud] coalition is in the midst of a crisis. The tensions are enormous and there is a basic lack of confidence in the Prime Minister. I believe that in the coming year we will go to elections,” are unsupported by recent polls and the sheer tenacity of Mr. Netanyahu. Mr. Herzog seems oblivious to the fact that, like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Netanyahu is an ultimate political survivor.

Biased Polling

An April poll showed that if elections were held today Mr. Netanyahu’s party continue controlling the Knesset, that the previously third-ranking Yair Lapid’s centrist Yest Atid party would move into second place, and that Mr. Herzog’s Zionist Union party would be ranked third.

“According to the survey, if elections were to be held in the near future, some 70% of Jews would want either a right-wing or a center-right government to take office, while 57% of Arab Israelis would prefer to see a center-left or left-wing government. Almost 80% of the respondents as a whole thought that either a center-right or right-wing government had a greater chance of taking office if elections were held soon,” according to the Midgam Research Institute poll. The numbers reflect a lack of public support for parties favoring a two-state solution.

The longevity of the conflict has sadly led to a poor internal perception of a peaceful solution as was made manifest in an April 2017 poll in which 51% of Israeli Jews, 48% of Israeli Arabs, and 68% of Palestinians agreed with the statement that, “Nothing can be done that’s good for both sides; whatever is good for one side is bad for the other side.”

These results are entirely inconsistent with another recent poll, commissioned by J Street, a U.S. firm which advocates on behalf of the Palestinians and was carried out by Smith Consulting, of a representative sample of 500 Jewish and Arabic Israelis. This poll allegedly found that 68% Israelis support a two-state solution. Even more surprising was the result that 58% of Israelis said they would vote for a referendum for a permanent solution based on the following principles: returning to Israel’s 1967 borders with some land swaps, declaring Jerusalem the shared capital of both the Jewish and Palestinian states, and addressing the grievances of Palestinian refugees mainly through compensation payments.

New Settlements

Recently Mr. Netanyahu was harshly criticized by the U.N., the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and the European Union (EU) for his push to build the first new settlements in over two decades in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including in East Jerusalem. The UNSC responded on December 23, 2016 by passing Resolution 2334 addressing Israeli settlements in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”. The resolution states that Israel’s settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity”.  It demanded that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

It was the first Israeli UNSC resolution in recent time not to be vetoed by the United States, which abstained.

As President-elect Mr. Trump had urged the Obama administration to veto the resolution, stating, “…as the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations”. However, at a February 15, 2017 joint press conference Mr. Trump told Mr. Netanyahu that, “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that the U.N. “…condemns all unilateral actions that, like the present one, threaten peace and undermine the two-state solution.”

“This policy [of new settlements] will create the status quo of one state. Policies of the occupying power will not bring about peace in our region. Peace and stability can only be reached through the relations of good neighbors. This is precisely what we are ready to do, to be good neighbors,” averred Palestinian leader Mr. Abbas.

A one state solution is incapable of melding the divergent laws, religion and customs of the Palestinian and Israeli population.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and Jordan’s King Abdullah issued a statement that “…a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not based on a two-state solution will have dangerous consequences for the region.”

In an about face, Mr. Guterres, under pressure by the United States and Israel, unsuccessfully demanded that the U.N. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967,Michael Lynk” labeled Israel an “apartheid regime” be removed from the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).   The Special Rapporteur’s findings were damning despite Israel having denied him access to Gaza.  That report is still available on-line. Thereafter, in defiance of the truth, the Trump administration stated it was boycotting the U.N. Human Rights Council for the reason that it is biased against Israel.

Problems on the Palestinian Side

“[P]olitical pluralism in both Gaza and the West Bank has all but disappeared. For instance, Fatah consolidated its hold over the Palestinian Authority shortly after the Oslo agreements and continues to use it as a mechanism for patronage and self-enrichment. More bewildering is that the international community knowingly abets this situation by taking humanitarian responsibility for the situation in Gaza and yet refusing to engage with Hamas – while sustaining a dismally performing and unpopular Palestinian Authority,” explained Erwin Van Veen, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute.

Led by Mr. Abbas, the Fatah party, formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, is a Palestinian nationalist political party representing the largest faction of the multi-party Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO was established by the Oslo Accords as the sole governing Palestinian body.

Mr. Abbas was last elected President in 2006, making this is the 12th year of his illegitimate fourth term. While there have been municipal elections since that time, they have been limited to the West Bank where Mr. Abbas makes his home. No elections have transpired in Gaza, which has been under Hamas’ control. The reason is transparent: in 2006 Hamas prevailed over the Fatah party in legislative elections. Today, Gaza’s population is 1.816 mm compared to the West Bank’s population is only 1.715 mm but Hamas has become increasingly unpopular in Gaza there is no future guarantee of success if new elections were held.

Mr. Abbas has been increasingly pressured by Egypt to introduce reforms to end internal division and create the cohesiveness necessary to resuming the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. In April 2014 the Beach Refugee Camp Agreement between the Fatah and Hamas called for a Temporary Leadership Framework for the PLO within five weeks of the signing of the agreement. Under Mr. Abbas’ leadership the agreement was never implemented ostensibly because the United and Israel coerced compliance with Israel’s having once withheld Palestinian tax dollars it collects on the PA’s behalf, or by the U.S. threatening to cut off aid to the PA.

Dissatisfied, Cairo is using its leverage to bypass Mr. Abbas to prepare for the rise of a new Palestinian leader who can ultimately break the Palestinian-Israeli deadlock.  Mahmoud Al-Aloul, Mr. Abbas’ only deputy, accepts a one-state solution but only ‘under our conditions’ and is, therefore, an unacceptable replacement.

This has precipitated the Quartet insisting on the return of Mohammed Dahlan, the former head of the Palestinian Authority’s security services in Gaza, who has been living in exile in the United Arab Emirates since 2012, to Palestine. Mr. Abbas’ sentiments toward Mr. Dahlan are reflected in his recent dismissal of the PLO’s Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo over links to Mr. Dahlan.

Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization. Since 2007 it has governed the Gaza Strip under the leadership of Mousa Abu Marzouq and Khaled Mashal. As the PLO is the only internationally recognized governing body Hamas’ leadership is not recognized.

Hamas leader Yahya Moussa stated that Hamas has yet to join the PLO as “…the key to the organization is in the hands of Abbas, who does not want to include us in it because we are a major force. He wants to maintain his monopoly over the small powers inside the organization so he can have the last say. This explains why Abbas refuses to call for the establishment of the PLO’s Temporary Leadership Framework.”

The UNRWA has declared conditions in Gaza as unfit for human habitation. “The closure of Gaza suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts. It is a collective punishment for which there must be accountability,” stated former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Violence has been the predictable outcome, in part, leading to Hamas being categorized as a terrorist organization. Even the threat of Palestinian violence can be – and is – used by Israel to maintain Gaza and, to a lesser degree, the West Bank’s, marginalisation and isolation.

Recently Hamas has wisely chosen to change its image and has warmed up to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

Hamas is reputedly replacing its 30 year old anti-Semitic charter with a comprehensively revised document modifying its more extreme positions.  The proposed charter allegedly contains the following language:

“The Palestinian cause is at its core an issue of an occupied land and displaced people.”

“Palestinian refugees’ right to return to the homes from which they were evacuated, whether in areas occupied in 1948 or 1967 (in all of Palestine) is a natural right, individual and collective, affirmed by all divine laws and the basic principles of human rights and international law.”

“Hamas rejects oppressing human beings or taking away their rights based on ethnicity or religion.”

“Anti-Semitism and oppressing Jews is a phenomenon linked to European history and is not found in Arabs’ and Muslims’ history and heritage.”

The document also allegedly states that Hamas is not at war with Jews but the group is waging a battle against the “occupation and the Zionist project”.

Most importantly, the documents states that Hamas would accept a sovereign Palestinian state across the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, without recognising Israel.

Hamas’ goal is obvious – it is seeking the international legitimacy – most notably that of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

As if to challenge Hamas, the last week of March Mazen Fuqaha, a Hamas commander, was found having been shot four times in the head from close range. While having all the trappings of Mossad assassination, questions have been raised as to whether the Fatah was responsible. Both Israel and the Fatah would benefit from retaliatory action which, to date, has not transpired.

International Support for a Two-State Solution

A two state solution is necessary to create the normalcy contemplated by existing treaties. According to the CIA:

“Israel and Palestinian officials on 13 September 1993 signed a Declaration of Principles (also known as the “Oslo Accords”), enshrining the idea of a two-state solution to their conflict and guiding an interim period of Palestinian self-rule. The parties achieved six additional significant interim agreements between 1994 and 1999 aimed at creating the conditions for a two-state solution, but most were never fully realized. Progress toward a final status agreement with the Palestinians was undermined by Israeli-Palestinian violence…”

Under a series of agreements known as the Oslo accords signed between 1994 and 1999, Israel transferred to the newly-created Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for many Palestinian-populated areas of the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank. Negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip stalled in 2001, after which the area witnessed a violent intifada or uprising.”

Palestine has been denied statehood status several times by the UNSC precluding from enforcing international law in the U.N., including redress for the Israeli’s longstanding practice of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The sole exception is one time-limited case pending before the International Criminal Court.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, issued a March 27th statement that new settlement threatens “to further undermine prospects for a two state solution, which remains the only realistic way to fulfill the aspirations on both sides. The European Union considers settlements to be illegal under international law and this also has not changed in our policy.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, acknowledging that the two-state solution as the “only sensible alternative,” warned Israel that new settlements would jeopardize Israel’s future in the international community.

The Saudi-brokered 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, endorsed by the Arab League’s 22 members at its summit that year, outlined comprehensive steps to ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, consistent with the EU’s position. The Arab leaders offered Israel recognition, something Hamas is unwilling to do, and a normalisation of diplomatic ties in exchange for its complete withdrawal from Arab lands captured since 1967. The Arab Peace Initiative is based on UN resolutions 242 and 338 which called for Israeli withdrawal in exchange for peaceful ties with its Arab neighbours and the “respect for the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries”. Given the reality of settler expansions, there would need to be land swaps or some other creative solution to complement the Arab Peace Initiative.

The 28th Arab League Summit held in March continued endorsing the two-state solution, reiterating that the Arab world would reconcile with Israel if it withdrew from the land it conquered in the 1967 war. The closing statement reads, “We affirm that we will continue to work to relaunch serious Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations… that take place within a set period of time based on the two-state solution.”

“This framework for negotiations needs to be replaced with a real peace process, one which doesn’t reject the applicability of international law and isn’t fundamentally prejudiced against the rights of those who are living under an oppressive occupation regime—in which the oppressed aren’t forced to “negotiate” with their occupiers over the extent to which they can retain their own land,” opined political commentator Jeremy Hammond.

“On 60 percent of our territory we cannot move freely. We can’t even move a stone or plant a tree on these grounds,” stated Mr. Abbas.

The United States: An Impediment to Peace

In the press conference with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Trump sounded like a teenager trying to mediate two siblings who are indecisive on choosing only one kind of candy when he stated, “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.”

There is an upcoming meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Abbas and traditional Principals Committee has been restored, but it is unlikely to elicit a stronger response by Mr. Trump, consistent his foreign counterparts, given comments hurled with whip-like precision by Mr. Trump’s U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in March.

In her February 16th U.N. speech Ms. Haley stated, “I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. I’m here to emphasize the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias. We will never repeat the terrible mistake of Resolution 2334 and allow one-sided Security Council resolutions to condemn Israel.”

Speaking at March conference, Ms. Haley boasted, ““What I can tell you is everyone at the United Nations is scared to talk to me about Resolution 2334, and I wanted them to know that, look, that happened, but it will never happen again.”

Optimism must be further tempered by the commanding presence of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, both of whom are Orthodox Jews, at the highest echelons of the Trump administration. The Kushner family, as well as Mr. Trump, have donated to Israeli educational funds both in the United States and Israel.

Even stranger is the presence of The Trump Foundation, not to be confused with the Donald J. Trump Foundation, in Israel, www.trump.org.il/. Founded in 2011, two years after the Kushners married, The Trump Foundation also focuses its efforts on education in Israel. Eli Hurwitz, director of The Trump Foundation, did not respond to an inquiry to confirm or deny that the president’s family was connected to this trust. What is most glaringly apparent is that Trump is neither a Jewish name nor a name common in Israel.

Last, given all the anti-Muslim comments and the twice-failed attempt at a travel ban, it is unreasonable for Mr. Trump to advocate for fair solution.

If it wanted, the U.S. has the means to push both sides into engaging in a meaningful peace process.  According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, “Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.”

This is nothing compared to the 10-year military-assistance pact signed between Israel and the U.S. in September.  Representing the single largest pledge of its kind in American history, the pact, laid out in a Memorandum of Understanding, will be worth $38 billion over the course of a decade; a 27 percent increase from the 2007 agreement.

By comparison, since 1994 USAID’s assistance to Palestine has totaled a mere $5.2 billion.

Here is the perfect opportunity for the State Department to reduce its budget while conditioning future aid on peace being achieved. Money can melt the hearts of man, including that of Mr. Netanyahu.

Conclusion

Following the end of 1967 “Six-Day War”, fought by both Jews and Palestinians against Jordanian rule, at a reunification ceremony Israel’s now-deceased Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan reiterated Israel’s intention to preserve religious freedom for people of all faiths, “To our Arab neighbors we extend, especially at this hour, the hand of peace. To members of the other religions, Christians and Muslims, I hereby promise faithfully that their full freedom and all their religious rights will be preserved. We did not come to Jerusalem to conquer the Holy Places of others.”

This vision is encapsulated in the Oslo Accords, the governing law in this frozen conflict. Until such time, Israel is contributing to regional destabilization, as well as violating the Fourth Geneva Conventions and international criminal law as to genocide and ethnic cleansing, and the U.S. is complicit.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague and a contributing editor to Tuck Magazine, E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and the International Policy Digest. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.

Sources

Bertadono, Isabel, “Ex-Mossad chief says lack of two-state solution is only existential threat to Israel”, March 22, 2017, The JC News, as found on the www at https://www.thejc.com/news/israel/ex-mossad-chief-says-lack-of-two-state-solution-is-only-existential-threat-to-israel-1.434773.

Brenner, Björn, “Opinion The Enemy Just Blinked: Why Hamas’s New Charter Is a Big Deal”, March 22, 2017, as found on the www at http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.778870?v=B7D5DB4B270445AD366CBADB4E35B4E0.

Hammond, Jeremy, “The No-State Solution to the Israel-Palestine Conflict”, July 9, 2017, Foreign Policy Journal, as found on the www at https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2016/07/09/the-no-state-solution-to-the-israel-palestine-conflict/.

“International Court of Justice finds Israeli barrier in Palestinian territory is illegal”, July 9, 2004, UNDoc, as found on the www at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=11292#.WONiYvmGO01.

Israel, World Fact Book, Central Intelligence Agency, as found on the www at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/print_is.html.

Maltz, Judy, Two-thirds of Israelis Still Back Two-state Solution, J Street Poll Finds”, January 15, 2017, as found on the www at http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.765146.

“Most Israelis see no reason for new elections,” April 4, 2017, Times of Israel, as found on the www at http://www.timesofisrael.com/most-israelis-dont-see-any-justification-for-new-elections/.

“Palestinian support for two-state solution drops, poll finds”, February 16, 2017, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, as found on the www at http://www.jta.org/2017/02/16/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/palestinian-support-for-two-state-solution-drops-poll-finds.

“Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967,Michael Lynk”, March 16, 2016, United Nations Human Rights Council, UNDoc., as found on the www at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/PS/A_HRC_34_70_AUV.pdf.

Sharp, Jeremy M., ”The Congressional Research Service’s report “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” December 22, 2016, Congressional Research Service, as found on the www at https://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Military-Aid-to-Israel.pdf.

van Veen, Erwin, “From Ramallah to Paris: The Middle East’s forgotten conflict”, January 18, 2017, Clingendael Institute, as found on the www https://www.clingendael.nl/publication/ramallah-paris-middle-east%E2%80%99s-forgotten-conflict.

Appendix

Understanding of the issues in the frozen Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires an understanding of the various treaties and agreements between the Israel and Palestine.

The 1947 United Nations Plan

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 recommending the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem.

The West Bank and Gaza

At the time Israel was founded in 1948 the West Bank and Gaza were occupied by Jordan and Egypt, respectively. After the Six-Day War of 1967, the territories captured by Israel beyond the Green Line came to be designated as East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and Sinai Peninsula; with the Sinai Peninsula being returned to Egypt following a 1979 peace treaty. The remaining territories are what are now known as the Israeli occupied territories.

The nonbinding preamble to the 1967 United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions 242 references the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every State in the area can live in security.” In 1972 the UNSC adopted Resolution 338 calling for a ceasefire of the Yom Kippur War after which “…negotiations start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.”

The Green Line is often referred to as the “pre-1967 borders” or the “1967 borders” by many international bodies and national leaders, including the U.N. in informal texts, and in the text of U.N. General Assembly Resolutions.

In 1980, Israel absorbed East Jerusalem proclaiming the whole of Jerusalem as its capital.   The inclusion was an illegal annexation as East Jerusalem was part of the West Bank and, thus, a part of the Palestinian territories. United Nations Security Council Resolution 478, adopted on 20 August 1980, is one of seven UNSC resolutions condemning Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.

The Oslo Accord

The 1993 Oslo Accord was precipitated by a landmark speech delivered by Mr. Arafat in which he declared to the U.N. that all people could peacefully live together.

On September 9, 1993 the Oslo Accord, also known as the “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements” (DOPOISGA or DOP), was signed by the State of Palestine and the Israeli government. Under the Oslo Accord PLO governance over parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was recognized.

The PLO recognized the State of Israel and the Israel recognized the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinian people, with the authority to for self-governance and to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians.

The Oslo Accords marked the start of the Oslo peace process. Most importantly, the Oslo Accords documented the parties’ commitment to negotiate a two-state solution. Other issues were and are the borders of Israel and Palestine, the Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem, the question of Israel’s military presence in and control over the remaining territories after the recognition of the Palestinian autonomy by Israel, and the Palestinian right of return.

The Subsequent Agreements

“The parties achieved six additional significant interim agreements between 1994 and 1999 aimed at creating the conditions for a two-state solution, but most were never fully realized. Progress toward a final status agreement with the Palestinians was undermined by Israeli-Palestinian violence…,” according to the CIA.

The May 1994 Gaza–Jericho Agreement or Cairo Agreement as part of a five-year transitional period called for partial Israeli withdrawal within three weeks from Gaza Strip and Jericho area. It also established and transferred limited administrative power to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is legally distinct from PLO. This technicality enabled the PA to allay, or attempt to allay, the international community’s concern that foreign aid money was subsidizing terrorism.

Part of the Agreement was the Protocol on Economic Relations or Paris Protocol, regulating the economic relationship between Israel and the PA by integrating the Palestinian economy into the Israeli’s.

That agreement was largely superseded by the 1994 and 1995 Oslo I and II Accords, with one exception being the Paris Protocol. The intention was to bring about “opportunities for a new development toward fraternity in the Middle East.”

The Oslo II Accord divided the West Bank into three administrative divisions: the Areas A, B and C. The distinct areas were given a different status, according to their governance pending a final status accord:

Area A includes eight Palestinian cities, including Bethlehem, and their surrounding areas. It is exclusively administered by the PA. Entry into this area is forbidden to all Israeli citizens.

Area B, is comprised about 22% of the West Bank, which includes 440 Palestinian villages and their surrounding lands, and no Israeli settlements. Area B is jointly administered by the PA and Israel.  As of 2013, Area B formally. Area B is under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control.

Area C are those West Bank areas outside Areas A and B.  Commencing at the end of 1999 Area C was to be gradually transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction. As of 2013, Area C comprised about 63% of the West Bank, contains Israeli settlements, and is still administered by Israel. What little progress was made was reversed during Operation Defensive Shield when Israel reoccupied all of Area C.

All but 1% of Area C is excluded from Palestinian use. Area C contains most of the West Bank’s natural resources and open spaces. According to the World Bank, Palestinian access to Area C would enable Palestine to halve its budget deficit and expand its economy by a third.

The Oslo Accords prohibited the establishment of any PA in Jerusalem, which was to be an international zone under the original U.N. plan.

Oslo II allowed for the safe passage between West Bank and Gaza. Oslo II called for the Election of a Palestinian Legislative Council to replace the PA upon its inauguration.  While a PLC was elected, divisions amongst two Palestinian factions, that led by the Abbas and the Fatah parties, have resulted in no elections being held since 2006. The PA was never dissolved.

The Oslo peace process never created a Palestinian state.

Most importantly, negotiations on a final settlement of remaining issues, were to be concluded before May 4, 1999. Those negotiations never took place. But there have been many international attempts to broker peace. After many decades the conflict remains frozen.

Occupied Palestinian Territories

“Palestinian territories” and “occupied Palestinian territories” (OPT or oPt) are used to describe the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Western Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip, which are occupied or otherwise under the Israeli control. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank were never part of Israel but are occupied by Israel.  Israel views East Jerusalem as its sovereign territory, as well as part of its capital.

The term “Palestinian Territory, Occupied” was used by the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations between 1998 to 2013 in order to refer to areas controlled by the Palestinian National Authority. In December 2012, UN Secretariat communications replaced this with the term State of Palestine. Despite the change, the UNSC has continued to deny Palestine U.N. member nation status,

Renewed negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip stalled in 2001, after the 2000 start of the Second Intifada. At that time the Israeli government constructed a 708 km Israeli West Bank wall of which approximately 13% of the barrier was constructed on the Green Line or in Israel, and the remaining 87% inside the West Bank. Israel contends it a security barrier against terrorism, while Palestinians call it a racial segregation or apartheid wall.

Yediot Aharonot map showing the Green Line drawn after the ’67 war and Israeli incursions since then.

In December 2003 the UNGA, during an emergency special session on the occupied Palestinian territories, adopted a resolution asking the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to urgently render an opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of a barrier. A 14-1 advisory opinion issued on July 9, 2004 by the ICJ:

“….found that the barrier’s construction breaches international law, saying it violated principles outlined in the UN Charter and long-standing global conventions that prohibit the threat or use of force and the acquisition of territory that way, as well as principles upholding the right of peoples to self-determination.

Observing that 80 per cent of Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory now live between the barrier and the so-called Green Line marking the 1949 boundary of Israel, the Court said the structure’s route could “prejudge the future frontier between Israel and Palestine.””

Israel asserts that since the disengagement of Israel from Gaza in 2005, Israel no longer occupies the Gaza Strip. As Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and coastline, it is designated as an occupying power by the UNSC, the UNGA, the EU and many other countries and human rights organizations.

According to a 2013 EU report, Israeli policies have undermined the Palestinian presence in Area C, with a deterioration in basic services such as water supplies, education and shelter. Nearly 70% of the Palestinian villages are not connected to water and lack enough clean water to meet their basic daily needs.

Sources

“International Court of Justice finds Israeli barrier in Palestinian territory is illegal”, July 9, 2004, UNDoc, as found on the www at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=11292#.WONiYvmGO01.

Israel, World Fact Book, Central Intelligence Agency, as found on the www at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/print_is.html.

The Alleged Leaked Intelligence: A Classic Russian Playbook Move

trump.putin

“The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” testified FBI Director James Comey before the House Intelligence Committee (HIC) hearing held on Monday.

Mr. Comey prefaced his comments with the statement that, “As you know, our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations, especially those investigations that involve classified matters, but in unusual circumstances where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so as Justice Department policies recognize. This is one of those circumstances.”

During the HIC hearing several Representatives focused their questions on the identity of the sources for two news articles that appeared in February in the Washington Post and the New York Times.  Those articles were allegedly based upon disclosure of classified information by anonymous sources in the intelligence community about individuals allegedly under investigation.  This includes information about conversations, text messages and meetings with the Russian Federation’s Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak and other Russian officials and hackers, including Guccifer 2.0, with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, former National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and former Trump adviser and long-term friend Roger Stone.

Mr. Comey and National Security Administration Director Admiral Michael Rogers would neither confirm nor deny the scope of the ongoing investigation or identify which individuals were under investigation despite being asked the same questions over and over again.

Given the integrity of the United States intelligence community it is not likely that the source of the leaks came from the intelligence community.  What is most likely is that leaks came from the Kremlin.

The Russian Playbook

One HIC member had the wherewithal to ask Mr. Rogers and Mr. Comey whether the Russian government released the information to the media about individuals involved in the Trump administration or the Trump campaign who had connections to the Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish governments.

On its face this theory may seem illogical given that in January the former National Director of Intelligence Brigadier General James L. Clapper not only offered extensive testimony before the Senate Armed Forces Committee but authorized the released a redacted report to the public indicating that the Russian government had interfered with the presidential election to benefit then presidential candidate Donald Trump. The Russian government employed third parties, confirmed by the intelligence community to be connected to the Russian government, to hack into the Democratic National Committee, Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Chairman John Podesta and other sources.  This information was released over a period of months but, according to Mr. Rogers, beginning in July 2016 the leaks accelerated when it appeared that Mrs. Clinton was going to win the election.

The Kremlin’s motivation is quite opaque.  It is directly out of the Russian playbook.

According to a Council for Foreign Affairs report, the Russian playbook “…resembles a network-flow model—or “unvirtuous circle”—which the Kremlin can use to influence (if not control) critical state institutions, bodies, and economies, as well as shape national policies and decisions that serve its interests while actively discrediting the Western liberal democratic system.   These Russian networks constitute a vital element of a vital element of Russia’s New Generation Warfare, which “is primarily a strategy of influence and not brute force” and its primary goal is “break[ing] the coherence of the enemy system – and not about its integral annihilation.”

In response to questioning Mr. Rogers testified in elections abroad the Kremlin had favored businessman over politicians believing them easier with whom to negotiate.  But, he also testified that, under the playbook, the Russian government will do everything possible to undermine democratic processes in the United States and Europe.

Discrediting the Trump administration and destabilizing American democracy is well within the scope of the Russian playbook.  Consider the geopolitical impact thus far.

First and foremost, it goes without saying that the 2016 was the most divisive political election in history.   As Mr. Trump played to people’s hatreds, prejudices and their fear of terrorism, the U.S. witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of hate crimes against Jews and Muslims, and protests were and are a near daily occurrence.  Mr. Trump’s attempt at a travel ban, also referred to as a Muslim ban, has resulted in untoward tweets directed towards the judiciary; which plays a crucial role in our democratic system of checks and balances.   It is bad that friends and families suffered and still suffer bitter arguments over Mr. Trump whose approval rating is a measly 37%; unprecedented for a newly-elected president.

Second, issues such as Brexit, NATO, Crimea, Ukraine, the Balkans, the Baltic States, the foreign relationship with the Chinese, the South China Sea dispute, North Korea’s accelerating nuclear weapons program, and even the presidential elections in France and Germany are all in a state of flux or have been negatively impacted by Trump administration’s inconsistencies, emphasized by Mr. Trump’s onslaught of baseless tweets, all of which is now overshadowed by the ‘Russian scandal’.  Oddly, out of all the governments whose leaders have or are planning to meet with Mr. Trump or members of his administration, Russia has not been mentioned.

Third and most obvious is that the Kremlin is well aware with whom its ambassador interacts, and the propaganda value of the information it obtained via hacking.  In other words, everything that appeared in the two news articles the HIC focused on could have come directly from the Kremlin.

Therefore, the more plausible explanation is that leaks, including the two news articles attributed to the intelligence community, were actually based propaganda and leaks by Russian surrogates who represented themselves as being members of the American intelligence community.

The 35 Diplomats and the Less Plausible Theory

In December, in response to Russian hacking and interference with United States election process, former President Barack Obama ordered 35 Russian diplomats based at Washington D.C. Russian Embassy to leave the country.  Mr. Obama’s decision would have been based upon specific information provided by the intelligence community.

That information was most likely collected by the CIA pursuant to a FISA warrant for the Russian embassy or Mr. Kislyak, a reputed former KGB agent and a trusted confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Assuming, arguendo, that this was the case any and all communications between Mr. Kislyak and individuals tied to Mr. Trump would have been intercepted.

The only other way these individuals could have come under scrutiny of the intelligence community is via routine surveillance of information by the NSA.  Vast amounts of Information are collected by the NSA and filtered through the use of artificial intelligence which runs by an algorithm designed to pick up on information warranting further scrutiny to determine whether the individual is a person of interest.

In either case, Mr. Rogers explained that before any person of interest can then be placed under NSA surveillance, the NSA is required to comply with federal law and obtain a FISA Court warrant.  Once a FISA warrant is obtained the individual’s identify is masked for security purposes.  Mr. Rogers testified that there are only 20 high ranking NSA personnel officials having the authority to unmask the citizen’s identity, which is only shared with other agencies or officials on a strictly “need to know basis” on issues involving national security.

Given the stringent statutory requirements for conducting surveillance on U.S. citizens and the integrity of the United States intelligence community, even though there is a confirmed investigation underway, it is not likely that information came from an internal leak but that it came from the Kremlin.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague and a contributing editor to Tuck Magazine, E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and the International Policy Digest. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries.  As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking.  Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.

Sources

“The Kremlin Playbook”, April 2016, Council for Foreign Relations, as found on the www at https://www.csis.org/analysis/kremlin-playbook.

Hashtags

#Kremlin #Putin #RussianPlaybook #MichaelRogers #NSA #JamesComey #FBI #CIA #Intelligence #Leaks #unmasked #Trump #2016Election #FISA #investigation #TrumpAdministration #JaredKushner #Kushner #Guccifer #DemocraticNationalCommittee, #HillaryClinton #Podesta #MichaelFlynn #Kislyak #HouseIntelligenceCommittee #FalseNews #PaulManafort #RogerStone #JeffSessions #propaganda #hacking #leaks #Democracy

NAFTA, the State Department and USAID: What the Trump Administration Needs to Learn about Soft Power

AmericaFirst

The Trump administration is working to dismantle or diminish existing trade agreements and foreign aid programs to the detriment of United States foreign policy. Among the targeted programs are the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the office of the Secretary of State. The stated rationale for renegotiating NAFTA is that the Trump administration does not see the merit in multi-lateral trade agreements but, given the many tweets and comments made by President Donald Trump about Mexico’s “bad hombres”, the need for a wall and the crack-down on immigration, the actual motivation is skewed. As for USAID and the Secretary of State the rationale is that the monies currently budgeted could be better spent on building up the United States military.

While Mr. Trump’s America’s First Foreign Policy states that, “…in pursuing a foreign policy based on American interests, we will embrace diplomacy. The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends, and when old friends become allies,” the truth is that the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts reflect a lack of understanding of the importance of soft power.

Soft power is anything short of military force or hard power to achieve an objective beneficial to the United States. Fortunately, there are seasoned military personnel, Congressional lawmakers, a few Executive Branch members, and diplomatic corps standing ready to offer assistance to prevent the United States from being further degraded internationally by the misuse or disuse of soft power.

The State of the State Department

The fiscal year 2017 State Department and USAID budget request is approximately $50 billion, part of a broader $58.8 billion “international affairs budget,” but a pittance when compared to the $3 trillion-plus federal budget. The highly secretive Trump administration wants the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to cut their budgets by at least 37 percent. Secretary of Defense General James Mattis, accustomed to speaking his mind, having been the Commander of the United States Central Command and as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, told Congress in 2013, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.”   There has been no indication that General Mattis position has shifted.

Secretary of Defense General Mike Mattis

On February 27th 120 retired three and four star flag and general officers from all branches of the armed services, including two former CIA directors, General Michael V. Hayden and General David H. Petraeus, signed a letter directed to Senators Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, the House and Senate majority and minority leaders, urging them to safeguard the State Department and USAID budgets.

Quoting General Mattis, the letter further stated, “The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way… The military will lead the fight against terrorism on the battlefield, but it needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism– lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness.”

“It’s dead on arrival, it’s not going to happen, it would be a disaster. This budget destroys soft power, it puts our diplomats at risk and it’s going nowhere,” commented Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for the State Department and Foreign Operations.

The budget cuts are expected to encounter bipartisan resistance.

Less out-spoken is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who in Washington these days, is like finding Waldo. In a leaked State Department memo, it is stated that Mr. Tillerson “…is deeply concerned about the timing and the size of the reductions and he will appeal to rationalize and reduce our size and structure in a matter that makes us leaner and more efficient. We intend to make the strongest argument possible in our appeal that the Department needs this additional funding to ensure the United States remains active, engaged and influential throughout the world and that any changes to our mission or way or doing business occur in the context of the National Security Strategy.”

Mr. Tillerson is said to have agreed in principle to departmental budget cut but that wants the reductions spread over three years, with only a 20 percent cut the first year, as opposed to one annual reduction.

The United States Agency for International Development

According to the USAID website, the “USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works in 13 wide-ranging sectors to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.” USAID’s activities are conducted by 14 separate bureaus and 11 independent offices engaging in wide array of activities spread among at least 107 countries – more than one half of the United Nations members states.

USAID was designed to first and foremost support good governance. Yet the 2016 USAID budget was a whopping $22.3 billion; of which only $2.4 billion was spent on state-building and good governance. The rest was dedicated to poverty alleviation, global health, biodiversity, women’s empowerment, education, sanitation, and economic and agriculture development.

Without sustainable governance all other initiatives fail to be sustainable. Before there can be governance, there often needs to be security sector reform; which is training local law enforcement and military personnel to maintain the peaceful environment necessary for self-governance. Security sector reform is an integral part of peacekeeping and peacebuilding. In the vast majority of recipients security conditions have deteriorated. Security sector reform is a function traditionally carried out by militaries or United Nations peacekeeping forces justifying organizational change.

Lessons Learned from Afghanistan

The U.S.’s presence Afghanistan has thus far cost taxpayers $686 million. The 2016 USAID budget for all programs in Afghanistan was $1,024,314,523; a significant reduction from the 2015 budgeted amount of $3,072,502,384. This amount augments the amounts being expended by the State Department United States military, the United Nations and the European Union.

In August 2003 NATO took over for the U.S. in the United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan that ran until December 2014. A second NATO-led mission, Operation Resolute Support, supported by 6,000 troops, was launched in January 2015 to train, advise, and assist the Afghan security forces.

The U.S. is running a coordinated mission – Operation Freedom’s Sentinel – involving an additional 8,400 troops, of which 2,150 troops are counterterrorism specialists. Over the past 14 years, the U.S. Congress has appropriated more than $68 million to train, equip, and pay the salaries of up to 352,000 soldiers, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, and 30,000 members of the Afghan Local Police.

In addition, on October 5th, 70 international donors, including the European Union, pledged $15.2 billion or £12.3 Euros to support Afghanistan’s development until 2020. Funding for the Afghan military was an additional $5 billion annually. This contribution was made with the hope that Afghan refugees in Europe and the MENA region would have a secure home to which to return.

Despite all of these efforts there is not a stable Afghan government. The process of security sector reform was and remains far from complete making all other programs dysfunctional as their sustainability is contingent upon a reliable and stable government with law enforcement and military personnel who are effective and able to rise above pervasive corruption. Part of the problem, in a country having regional, tribal and even Sharia law, was that religious, cultural and ethnic beliefs were not studied beforehand leading to incorrect assumptions as to how engage in building a nation or nation-building that is premised on Rule of Law.

Thus while the 2004 Constitution created the Supreme Court of Afghanistan in Kabul, which applies both new civil laws and Islamic law, depending on the case, the outlying regions, lacked and understanding of new processes, as well as trained judges and attorneys.

Only the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul offers a legal program where concepts related to Rule of Law and civil law are taught. The Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP), founded in 2007 as a student-driven initiative under Stanford Law School’s Rule of Law Program, has already published six textbooks about Afghan law for Afghan audiences. In 2012 the U.S. Department of State, awarded the ALEP a $7.24 million grant to expand the textbook program and to establish a Bachelor of Arts and Law program at the American University of Afghanistan.

Even in Kabul, security is not guaranteed. On February 7th a suicide bomber targeted judicial personnel leaving the Kabul Supreme Court on a bus at the end of the work day killing twenty people and injuring 41 others. This was not the first Taliban attack on the court and court personnel.

USAID’s website indicates that it is financing a wide variety of Afghani programs yet there seems to be nothing tying them together, least of all, a secure government.  The same holds true in other countries where USAID is active.

Afghanistan is costly lesson learned.

Changing the Organizational Structure

According to a 2016 Foreign Policy article, USAID is allegedly “…training security forces that can exercise a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, supporting courts that can dispense a semblance of justice, staffing a professional civil service that is not compromised by rampant corruption, and constructing financial mechanisms that can allow the state to raise and spend revenue with some degree of transparency. USAID does not, at the moment, have the necessary competency in any of these fields.”

Competence requires staffing by individuals having sufficient field experience in a particular country. USAID has been criticized for hiring individuals fresh out of school with only their Master’s degree in hand. It has been wisely suggested that the USAID hire highly trained former Army personnel.

Prior to the 2016 election it was argued that the USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corp., another government development assistance agency, along with smaller agencies like the Peace Corps, the Inter-American Foundation, the African Development Foundation, the Overseas Private Investment Corp., and the Trade and Development Agency, should be consolidated within the State Department.

Under normal circumstances the State Department is involved in soft power determinations, including aid and nation-building, with that budget exceeding $8 million dollars. However, since the Mr. Trump came into office things are far from normal.

Questions have been raised as to what power if any Mr. Tillerson wields within his own department and what level of communication exists between the Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Trump and his closest advisors. Based on sources close to Exxon who wish to remain undisclosed, Mr. Tillerson is well-suited for the customarily high profile role of Secretary of State.

The situation overall has deteriorated to the point that Mr. Tillerson was not even made aware that the Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray was meeting with Mr. Trump, and his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, National Economic Council Directory Gary Cohn and National Security Adviser HR McMaster. The accepted protocol is that Mr. Videgaray should have not only have been greeted by Mr. Tillerson but, Mr. Tillerson should have been in attendance at all meetings.

The State Department is presently under-staffed with many key personnel having been fired or having left on their own accord. Mr. Tillerson has been unable to have his senior level personnel choices approved by the Trump administration.

Even under optimal conditions, the State Department, like USAID, is not the logical government entity to engage in nation-building, which involves peacekeeping and security sector reform. Those functions should fall under the purview of the Secretary of Defense. General Mattis has the experience to develop and implement essential and tailored nation-building and security sector programs.

The other components of soft power or aid that arise concurrently with the establishment of a sustainable government can be facilitated by the State Department. To this end, this author agrees the myriad of remaining programs be consolidated into the either the Secretary of Defense or the State Department.

Changing the Focus

In addition to changing the organization structure, there needs to be a structured review of the countries presently receiving aid. It is not difficult to make the argument that Egypt, no longer the ally it once was, or Pakistan, whose corrupt military and intelligence agency run the country with no benefit to the U.S., ought to be cut from U.S. aid programs. Conversely, it is easy to offer aid to Jordan and Lebanon, which are not only pursuing good governance, but have taken in a disproportionate number of refugees. Other countries where the expenditure of aid would be beneficial include Ukraine, Romania, and Poland, which while being protected from Russian aggressions by NATO and the U.S. are all suffering internal governance issues requiring support from the international community.

More difficult questions occur when considering Burma, the Philippines, and Israel. In the case of Burma, we are dealing with a fragile democracy that is engaged in ethnic cleansing and even the genocide of its minority Muslim Rohingya population. There now exists the potentiality that a jihadist terrorist cell could evolve jeopardizing the region. Aid in 2016 was close to $65 million. Going forward aid should be conditional.

A similar situation exists with the Philippines, which is strategically position in the South China Sea and a long-term U.S. ally. But, the extrajudicial killings ordered by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte offend not only sensibilities but are human rights violations at the very least. In 2016 the U.S. gave the Philippines $76.9 million in aid, with $4.72 million specifically earmarked for “Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance”.

Israel presents an interesting situation. We all remember Mr. Trump’s promises to broker peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  But, when the time came all Mr. Trump had to say at the February 15th joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.” Looking at that statement, the only solution both countries could like is a two-state solution as the Palestinians have no other option. While both Palestine and Israel receive U.S. the amount paid to the Israeli government is mind-boggling.

According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, “Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.”

Here is the perfect opportunity to reduce the budget while conditioning future aid on peace being achieved in the Israeli-Palestinian frozen conflict. Money can melt the hearts of man, including that of Mr. Netanyahu.

NAFTA

America’s First Foreign Policy states that, “President Trump is committed to renegotiating NAFTA. If our partners refuse a renegotiation that gives American workers a fair deal, then the President will give notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw from NAFTA.”

On March 10th U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that he intends to launch fast-tracked formal talks to renegotiate NAFTA. “Fast track” or a 90 day negotiating period was granted to the president by Congress to streamline the approval of trade partners with Congress having the final vote.

Since the NAFTA treaty took effect in 1994 trade in goods between the United States, Canada and Mexico had quadrupled to $1.1 trillion by 2016. While technically a trade treaty, NAFTA has served as a form of soft power with Mexican authorities. For instance, the arrest and extradition of notorious drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo, could not have occurred without the assistance of Mexican authorities. There have been many other arrests of individuals in Mexico affiliated with drug cartels.

The Trump campaign was staunchly against migrants. The truth is Illegal migration along the US-Mexico border is at its lowest level since 1972. To reach the United States, Central American migrants were crossing Mexico’s 750-mile border between it and Guatemala and Belize. The Mexican government accepted help from the U.S. to devise a systematized border patrol system. A year later, between October 2014 and April 2015, deportations and detentions on Mexico’s southern border drastically increased with Mexico apprehending 92,889 Central American migrants; double the 49,893 apprehended during the same period the year prior.

Mexico’s willingness to engage in these important initiatives would certainly decline or disappear should NAFTA be renegotiated in a manner placing it at a financial disadvantage. For this reason, NAFTA, as to Mexico, was be conceptualized as a necessary use of soft power.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague and a contributing editor to Tuck Magazine, E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and the International Policy Digest. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.

Sources

Adams, Gordon, and Sololsky, Richard, “Savaging State and USAID Budgets Could Do Wonders for Results”, March 9, 2017, Foreign Policy, as found on the www at http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/09/savaging-state-and-usaid-budgets-could-do-wonders-for-results-tillerson-development-diplomacy-cuts/.

“Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP)”, Stanford University Law School, as found on the www at https://law.stanford.edu/alep/#slsnav-publications.

America’s First Foreign Policy, White House, as found on the www at https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-foreign-policy.

Boot, Max, and Miklaucic, Michael, “USAID Should Become the Department of Nation-Building,” June 22, 2016, Foreign Policy, as found on the www at http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/06/22/usaid-should-become-the-department-of-nation-building/.

Letter to Congressional Leaders, February 27, 2017, as found on the www at http://www.usglc.org/downloads/2017/02/FY18_International_Affairs_Budget_House_Senate.pdf.

Rogin, Josh, “Tillerson pushes back on White House’s proposed cuts to State Department and USAID”, March 3, 2017, Washington Post, as found on the www at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2017/03/03/tillerson-pushes-back-on-white-houses-proposed-cuts-to-state-department-and-usaid/?utm_term=.d05100153568.

SHARED PROGRESS, SHARED FUTURE, Financial Report 2016, USAID, as found on the www at https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1868/USAIDFY2016_AFR_508.pdf. See e.g.  “USAID launches $70 million program to strengthen early grade reading skills in Afghanistan”, March 5, 2017, USAID, as found on the www at https://www.usaid.gov/afghanistan/newsroom/press-releases.

Sharp, Jeremy M., ”The Congressional Research Service’s report “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” December 22, 2016, Congressional Research Service, as found on the www at https://journalistsresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Military-Aid-to-Israel.pdf.