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Shady PR operatives, pro-Israel ties, anti-Castro money: Inside the Syrian opposition’s DC spin machine

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During the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria on September 3, Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator John McCain both cited a Wall Street Journal editorial by Elizabeth O’Bagy to support their assessment of the Syrian rebels as predominately “moderate,” and potentially Western-friendly.

“She works with the Institute of War,” Kerry said of O’Bagy. “She’s fluent in Arabic and spent an enormous amount of time studying the opposition and studying Syria. She just published this the other day. Very interesting [Wall Street Journal] article, which I commend to you.”

Kerry added, “I just don’t agree that a majority are al-Qaida and the bad guys.”

What Kerry and McCain neglected to mention was that O’Bagy had been recently hired as the political director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a little known outfit that functions as a lobbying arm of the Syrian opposition in Washington.

Until today, O’Bagy had failed to note her role as a paid Syrian opposition lobbyist in her Wall Street Journal byline and did not note the position in her official bio at the Institute for the Study of War. Only after a storm of criticism did the Wall Street Journal insert a note in O’Bagy’s recent op-ed disclosing her paid position at SETF. O’Bagy was also compelled to amend her bio with a lengthy clarification about her work at SETF.

But her work at the Institute for the Study of War should have been enough to set off alarm bells.

“Logrolling for war”

The Institute for the Study of War’s (ISW) board of directors is led by William Kristol. Kimberly Kagan, the group’s president, was on General Stanley McChrystal’s strategic review team in 2009, advocating for a dramatic expansion of the US presence in Afghanistan. Her husband is Frederick Kagan, the AEI fellow who is the uncle of fellow neocon Robert Kagan.

In its 2011 annual report [PDF], the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) detailed its close working relationship with Palantir Technologies, a private surveillance firm contracted by Bank of America in 2011 in an unsuccessful plot to dismantle Anonymous and sabotage Glenn Greenwald.

The report listed New York Times reporter Michael Gordon as “ISW’s journalist in residence.” Back in January 2013, Gordon published an article pushing claims that Syrian army forces had used sarin gas, thus crossing Obama’s “red line” and triggering a US intervention. Noting that the State Department could not confirm the information in Gordon’s report, former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Pat Lang accused Gordon of “logrolling for war in Syria.”

Despite his past affiliation with a think tank dedicated to pushing for US intervention in Syria, Gordon remains on the Times’ Syria beat.

Rebel marketing

When O’Bagy took to Twitter to boast about McCain’s “shout out” to her during the Senate hearing on Syria, the conservative writer Charles C. Johnson (who recently reported on O’Bagy’s lobbying) asked her if she was in fact employed by the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

“Yes I do humanitarian aid work through the organization,” O’Bagy told Johnson. “Can’t go to Syria frequently and not help the people.”

But O’Bagy’s work has less to do with tending to the needs of war-stricken refugees than it does with leveraging the media to agitate for US intervention. Indeed, she has been among the most prominent and widely cited commentators marketing the Syrian rebels as a bunch of America-friendly moderates.

As she said during an August 26 appearance on Fox News, “What I’ve tried to show through this research and by traveling around with many of these rebel groups is that there are actually a majority of the opposition that would be aligned with U.S. interests.”

The Cuban Connection

Last summer, I encountered an exceptionally talkative young Syrian man at a tweet-up of Middle East-oriented activists in Washington DC’s Woodley Park area. Having learned that I was a journalist, he struck up a conversation, telling me eagerly about his work on behalf of the Syrian opposition through something called the Syrian Emergency Task Force.

About thirty seconds into our chat, I could tell that the young man was not the most sophisticated operator. “We’re really trying to get in with the Jews,” he told me. “We feel like the Americans really listens to them the most, so we’re working with them all we can.”

“We prefer to be referred to as the yahood,“ I responded in a deadpan tone, prompting nervous laughter from a few friends who were listening in on the conversation.

Unfazed by the sarcastic aside, the activist told me about meetings at WINEP and entreaties to AIPAC. He mentioned Radwan Ziadeh, director of the Syrian Center for Political & Strategic Studies, as a key emissary between SETF and pro-Israel lobbyists.

Ziadeh appeared at the American Jewish Committee’s 2011 Global Forum to make the case for Western intervention in Syria. Ziadeh was among the self-proclaimed “foreign policy experts” who signed an August 27 open letter to Obama calling for military intervention in Syria. Other “experts” lending their names to the letter included Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams, Governor Tim Pawlenty, and veteran anti-abortion activist Gary Bauer.

As our conversation continued, the Syrian activist revealed to me a recent training session SETF had arranged between Syrian opposition figures and Cuban exiles in Coral Gables, Florida. Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott attended the seminar, he said with pride, greeting a who’s who of hardline anti-Castro activists who had spent decades pushing for the overthrow of Cuba’s socialist regime.

When I returned home, I searched for details of the meeting and discovered a single press release posted on the anti-Castro web portal Directorio. I could find no coverage of the seminar in any US media.

According to the press release, participants in the seminar pledged “To coordinate all of our political, diplomatic, logistic and humanitarian efforts in pursuit of the liberation of Cuba and Syria; hence constituting a United Front for Freedom and Democracy; Therefore, the Cuban Resistance and the Syrian Revolution jointly declare: The people want the overthrow of the dictatorial regimes of Assad and Castro.”

On its website, SETF cites as one of its landmark achievements securing $1 million in humanitarian aid “from the Cuban-American community.”

WINEP ties, pressing for regime change

At the helm of the SETF, which is registered as a 501 c-4 lobbying organization, is a previously unknown activist named Mouaz Moustafa. Back in May, Moustafa arranged a meeting between John McCain and a group of Free Syrian Army fighters. The photo-op quickly transformed into a public relations disaster when Lebanon’s The Daily Star reported that one of the man posing with McCain had kidnapped 11 Shiite pilgrims a year before.

Since emerging as SETF’s Executive Director, Moustafa has forged close ties with WINEP, the neocon-oriented think tank founded as an ancillary of AIPAC. Formerly listed as a WINEP “expert” – his page on the think tank’s site has disappeared – Moustafa spoke at WINEP’s Soref Symposium this year.

By Moustafa’s side at the conference was Louay Sakka, the founder of the Syrian Support Group, the only organization licensed by the US government to send financial and supposedly non-lethal support to the Free Syrian Army. In soliciting donations, the group notes, “We leave it up to the people on the ground to judge how financial assistance can best put to use.”

With Congress set to vote on a resolution authorizing the US to strike Syria, SETF has issued an action alert on its website urging supporters to light up congressional phone lines urging “yes” votes. In a call with the White House, SETF urged much broader action in Syria than the “limited strikes” Obama has asked Congress to authorize. The group is dedicated to regime change, and is pressing for any and all military measures to accomplish the mission — even, apparently, boots on the ground.

Max Blumenthal

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author.

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101 Responses

  1. Citizen on September 7, 2013, 7:07 am

    Everybody interested in pushing any political agenda in USA quickly learns if you can get the “pro-Israel” lobby on your side, many, many closed doors will magically open.

  2. Obsidian on September 7, 2013, 8:06 am

    Yet again, Max is off on another ‘Jew hunt’.


    • eGuard on September 7, 2013, 10:29 am

      Obsidian: Max is off on another ‘Jew hunt’.

      How did you find out? *You* checked his piece for ‘Jews’?

    • Cliff on September 7, 2013, 11:03 am

      Yet again, pudracist666 is trolling.


    • amigo on September 7, 2013, 12:07 pm

      “Yet again, Max is off on another ‘Jew hunt’. ” obsidious

      Yawn, Yawn.

    • Xpat on September 7, 2013, 1:42 pm

      I disagree, this is not boring at all. This time, Max Blumenthal’s Jew hunt is on the money. You see, we’re at the beginning of Jew hunting season. They tend to congregate in synagogues at this time of year. Sitting ducks for Friends of the IDF, Israel Bonds and other orgs that hunt for Jews. Rich pickings right now.

      And how did you find out that O’Bagy’s grandparents came over from the heim as Obagovitch?

      • marc b. on September 7, 2013, 2:34 pm

        actually, Elliot, it doesn’t seem like we know much about the prepubescent o’baby at all. how she came to be an ‘expert’ or the ‘director’ of anything seems like a bit of a mystery. is everyone with a master’s and some language skills an ‘expert’?

    • K Renner on September 7, 2013, 7:33 pm

      you’re not a serious account, are you?


    • Hostage on September 8, 2013, 1:14 am

      Yet again, Max is off on another ‘Jew hunt’.


      *Warning: Unresponsive hasbara script*
      “A hasbara script on this page may be busy, or it may have stopped responding. You can stop the script now, or you can continue to see if it will finish spamming the thread.” Cancel – OK

  3. eGuard on September 7, 2013, 8:29 am

    501 (c)(3) vs 501 (c)(4)

    This is what the WSJ added in their clarification: Ms. O’Bagy is affiliated with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit operating as a 501(c)(3) pending IRS approval that subcontracts with the U.S. and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition. So their 501 (c)(3) status is pending.

    This is what her long ISW biographic statement adds: The Syrian Emergency Task Force does have a registered 501 (c) 4 [status] and does engage in political advocacy.

    Note that the 501 (c)(4) is a SuperPAC (with options to hide donor names).

  4. gingershot on September 7, 2013, 8:54 am

    No more endless bites at the apple, misters Dershowitz and Netanyahu

    Israeli Apartheid and adventurism, supported by and even carried out by the Israeli Lobby/Neocons, such as ginning up False Flags (in Iraq with the Niger Yellowcake forgeries and all the other Neocon lies – and against Iran (phony ‘smoking Iranian laptop’ or Mossad posing as CIA, etc, etc) or Syria), will NEVER be effectively defeated until we manage to quit fighting on Israel’s terms and at times and places of her choosing. The momentum must be shifted where every Israeli loss weakens her ability to continue her shenanigins

    The fight must be taken to the Israelis and they must be taken on many fronts as once – they must be in the ICC unsuccessfully trying to fight anti-Apartheid cases (which even the IDF-legal teams say they will lose) WHILE the EU is strengthening anti-Apartheid boycotts on the ground and WHILE the US is diplomatically negotiating with Iran on the nuclear program.

    Israel getting sued for cases she cannot win at the ICC, intensifying EU and other BDS boycotts against her, and NO escape route out by touching off the next 10 year conflagration in the Middle East by bringing in America against Iran or Syria. That’s the Ticket

    Israel must be losing on many fronts at once – rather than having the endless bites at the apple which Sen Kerry and Indyk and all the rest of them are making possible for her.

    What happens when Israel gets to call the shots, deal with her problems one by one at a place and time of her chosing? – I put forward into evidence Mr Alan Dershowitz

    The instant Alan Dershowitz saw the US House vote count reach a majority of 217 he had an article up at Haaretz moving on to the next Israeli scam, a ‘Pre-Authorized US Attack on Iran’, such that any Israeli False Flag could be INSTANTLY responded to by Obama or other American President, without the danger of having the Israeli False Flag exposed by taking the days it takes to get a Senate or House Vote.

    This is AIPAC Pre-emptive Rubber-stamping of the next war for Israel and her Lobby – because False Flags tend to be perishable goods – one UN team examining the ground in Syria or Iran is enough to reveal the Israelis or her agents as liars and hoaxers

    Israel and Dershowitz must be overwhelmed and effectively continuously trounced – so they are merely REACTING and retreating rather than calling the shots. Israeli Apartheid and her Neocon supporters must be run to ground and defeated and Apartheid dismantled to end the continuous stream of destabilization originating from these groups as they desperately try to keep Apartheid’s nose above water. The Neocons have a sanctuary with Apartheid Israel and vice versa – Apartheid has sanctuary with the Neocons. BOTH need to be dismantled to stop the other.

    Give them another moment and they will find a way to mousetrap the US into a war with Iran, having been stymied in Syria for the moment.

    Dershowitz is already ON IT

    • Walid on September 7, 2013, 12:49 pm

      Inanna, don’t expect anything out of the ICC until the collaborators are gone and that can take forever. As to an attack on Iran, it couldn’t happen without having first taken out Syria. They tried it by the back door in 2006 in Lebanon and would have probably continued on to Syria had they succeeded to take out Hizbullah but failed and now they are trying to do it directly to Syria. I think if Israel continues being spooked by what could happen to it or on it, there’s a good chance nothing will happen on Syria.

      • Inanna on September 9, 2013, 1:32 am

        Thanks for your response Walid but I believe you were responding to gingershot.

      • Walid on September 9, 2013, 8:38 am

        Sorry for the ooops, Inanna and gingershot.

      • MahaneYehude1 on September 9, 2013, 7:08 am

        @Walid: I hope it will interest you: Today, the ME expert Dr. G. Bechor published a new article about Ma’alula and the ethnic cleansing of the Christians in Syria by the “rebels”. In general, the article is against Obama and Carry and the intervention of US in Syria.

        The article in Hebrew but I try to find English translation. The man on the front photo has tattoo. In the lower tattoo it is written in Hebrew letters “Ma’alula (They are Aramaic, hence using Hebrew letters).

      • Walid on September 9, 2013, 8:47 am

        I thought that Aramaic and Hebrew were not the same. I’ll take your word that the writing is Hebrew, but the guy must be an Israeli.

      • Shmuel on September 9, 2013, 9:06 am

        I thought that Aramaic and Hebrew were not the same.

        They’re not, but Aramaic can be written in Syriac or “Hebrew” (Assyrian) script.

        I don’t recognise the morphology of the tattoo that’s supposed to say “I love you” (looks like keraḥimlesh), but the root RḤM for “love” is the same as in Jewish Aramaic, in which it would be something like raḥamitekh or raḥamit yatekh. Definitely not Hebrew.

      • MahaneYehude1 on September 9, 2013, 9:38 am

        @Walid: No, they are not the same, but very resemble. Syrianic also use Hebrew letters. I don’t know the source of the photo but it seems strange to me that Israeli guy, although Christian Syrianic Aramaic, will write Ma’alula on the tattoo if he is not Syrian. But who knows?

        I enclose a song of Fairuz singing in Aramaic. Since I know little Aramaic (my origins is Kurdistan) and speak Hebrew, I can understand most of the song. beautiful:

      • Walid on September 9, 2013, 11:19 am

        The most of the Fairuz song you understood was probably the part in Arabic. The opening lines are in Syriac, the liturgical language of the Maronite Church. More enchanting sacred Maronite chants sprinkled with some Arabic from Lebanon’s singing nun, Sister Marie Keyrouz:

      • Walid on September 9, 2013, 11:26 am

        Hi Shmuel, I was looking for you last week for some help on an old discussion about Jews cutting down fruit trees. Talknic was a big help.

      • Shmuel on September 9, 2013, 11:41 am

        Hi, Walid. Glad you got the information you were looking for. I assume Deuteronomy 20:19 was brought up. I like the dual combined reading (literal/homiletic): “For is the tree of the field a human being?” and “For the tree of the field is [like] a human being!”

        Either way, the war that Israel continues to wage on the trees of Palestine is a moral outrage of monstrous proportions.

      • annie on September 9, 2013, 11:44 am

        it’s excellent as always having you around shmuel, missed you and glad you’re back.

      • Shmuel on September 9, 2013, 11:56 am

        Thanks, annie. Good to be back.

      • Walid on September 9, 2013, 12:21 pm

        Yes Shmuel, Deuteronomy 20:19 was brought up. Sad about the olive trees. In 2011, Oxfam reported that between 1967 and 2011, 800,000 olive trees were destroyed by Israel. That year, Oxfam director Jeremy Hobbs said “Over 100,000 Palestinian families depend on the money they earn during harvest season. Especially because this is a bad harvest, every olive counts” and “”Burning an olive tree is like burning a farmer’s bank account.”

      • bintbiba on September 10, 2013, 6:37 pm

        Hi Walid ,Shmuel, …. every time I read about the burning and uprooting of the olive trees in Palestine, it is as if a nerve is twisting in my heart. How can a people who claim to love the land treat it with such contempt . I try to buy the “Zeytoun” olive oil wherever I a can.

      • just on September 10, 2013, 8:32 pm

        It makes my heart heavy and I feel very, very old bintbiba. I think that anyone who would destroy such ancient, bountiful and nurtured trees not only are contemptuous of nature, but also of human lives not their own. Do you know that in Afghanistan and Iraq that we destroyed so many of the gorgeous antiquities and also orchards that produced so many pomegranates and much more? It’s strange that, as a child, I heard of but never saw those luscious ruby jewels until I traveled. Kind of ‘funny’ that they are omnipresent now.

        It is not only contempt, but extreme disrespect toward nature and those that revere the earth, sun, water and air.

      • just on September 10, 2013, 8:46 pm

        “By Janet Raloff

        Web edition: September 11, 2002 On Sept. 10, scientists in Kabul reported the loss of Afghanistan’s principal agricultural insurance policy: two stores of carefully collected seeds, materials selected to represent the genetic diversity of native crops.

        It was a looting of the worst kind�a theft of that agrarian country’s stockpiled agricultural heritage. In it were seeds to help that nation’s 22 million people rebuild the capacity to feed themselves.

        Ironically, the stores were not plundered for those plant materials; the seeds were dumped in disarray onto the floor of ransacked buildings in two cities. The looters merely ran off with the airtight plastic and glass jars in which the seeds had been kept.

        The now unlabeled mix of seeds is virtually worthless, says Geoffrey Hawtin, director general of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute in Rome. “It’s like having a library of books with no titles on them,” he says. “All of the [traits you prize] are there, but you no longer know where to look for them.”

        The repositories had been hidden within homes in the northern city of Ghazni and the eastern city of Jalalabad. No one knows when the looting occurred, though there is a suspicion that it was within the past several months.”

    • stevieb on September 9, 2013, 10:03 am

      Good comment

  5. lproyect on September 7, 2013, 10:02 am

    If you read this piece and nothing else about the pro-revolution movement in the USA, you would get the impression that it is a rightwing swamp. It is unfortunate that a lot of leftists in their zeal to oppose Obama’s war are on a cherry-picking expedition in order to bolster their political goals, which are certainly admirable. I imagine that I was one of the few leftists at a pro-revolution rally in Washington last year. If you base yourself solely on Max’s article, you’d think it would be something like a Nicaraguan contra rally from the 1980s. It turns out that the keynote speaker was Hatem Bazian. Here’s information on him from wikipedia:

    At San Francisco State University in the late 1980s, Bazian became the first Palestinian to be elected president of SFSU Associated Students and the Student Union Governing Board. He was the first student to win a second term as president in the history of SFSU. The election came as a result of a united front formed under the Progressive Coalition that brought together all the students of color organizations on a common platform and a joint political strategy.

    At the national conference United States Student Association (USSA) held at UC Berkeley in 1988, Bazian co-lead a major walk-out that culminated in the organization adopting a progressive board of directors structure granting by a 2/3 vote at least 50% of the Seats to Students of Color.

    Bazian was elected as a Chair of the National People of Color Student Coalition (NPCSC) and an executive board member of the USSA. In both, he took the lead on affirmative action, access to education, anti-apartheid efforts on college campuses, and the Central American Solidarity Movement. He authored resolutions, which were adopted by the USSA national conference in 1991 calling for cutting US aid to Israel and imposing sanctions for its sales of military equipment to apartheid South Africa.

    • annie on September 7, 2013, 12:56 pm

      If you read this piece and nothing else about the pro-revolution movement in the USA, you would get the impression that it is a rightwing swamp.

      what do you think of the title lproyect? and would you agree that “Inside the Syrian opposition” in the US (or “the pro-revolution movement “) there exists a “DC spin machine”?

      before iraq we had the iraqi national congress…which served as a hub for facilitating regime change via congress/legislation working with the INC funneling ‘humanitarian aid’.

      clearly there is a noble branch of the “pro-revolution movement in the USA” and i don’t think max or anyone at MW seeks to make the argument one doesn’t exist. but that’s different than making the argument the opposition in syria, the dominant forces in combat w/assad , is primarily composed of ‘moderates’. this is an argument kerry is making via o’bagy.

      and here’s o’bagy only last march:

      In discussing the merits of inclusion versus exclusion of more radical forces within the SMC, the importance of unity among all rebel groups should take precedence. President Assad is likely counting on collapsing the attempts at a unified rebel strategy through the brutality of his forces and the cost of battle. Once that happens, he likely expects rebel ranks to fragment and more radical elements, like Jabhat Nusra, to come to the fore. At that point he would be in a position to market himself as the sole guarantor against terrorism and chaos. Infighting among rebel units only benefits Assad’s strategy. Unity, regardless of ideological affiliation, will be important to defeating the regime and ensuring stability in a post-assad Syria

      in this article o’bagy posits there’s potential for the US to strengthen ‘moderates’ in syria. but ‘potential’ doesn’t mean ‘moderates’ are in charge of the opposition , because they are not.

      and here’s mcClatchy last march:

      United States has pledged $60 million, but analysts said the developments were one more sign that the Obama administration and its European allies had no workable Syria policy.

      The opposition coalition, already in its second incarnation, has proved to be as beset by factionalism as its predecessor, the Syrian National Council, exacerbated this time by the meddling of foreign donors, analysts said. But, the analysts added, the United States has no other entity to back in a war that pits the regime of President Bashar Assad against a jihadist-dominated rebel movement.

      “This is it. The U.S. can’t reboot it a third time. If they can’t make this work, they’ve got nothing,” said Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the author of the blog Syria Comment.

      both these articles i linked to here:

      so please tell me what has transpired that’s tipped the balance of the opposition to ‘moderates’ since last march? again, no one is denying there’s a noble valid pro revolution contingent, and they likely represent the vast majority of pro revolutionary syrians. but that’s different than the fighting forces whom many posit (including me, tho not speaking for max or MW) are dominated by ” jihadist-dominated rebel movement.”

      and as o’bagy argues just last march, “Unity, regardless of ideological affiliation, will be important to defeating the regime and ensuring stability in a post-assad Syria”………..she pro intervention and she acknowledges the danger

      Hannah Lucinda Smith ‏@hannahluci 3h

      @lizobagy dominant power – militarily and. increasingly, socially – in the rebel held north. It is dangerous to deny that fact.

      Elizabeth O’Bagy ‏@lizobagy

      @hannahluci Im not underemphasizing the threat posed by extremist groups in the north, agree its a very dangerous situation.

      but that’s different than arguing this war can be won by supporting ‘moderate’ rebels. they are not dominant in the opposition forces. and there is most definitely a rightwing swamp pushing US intervention in the pro-revolution movement, and it’s not code pink. that swamp has a lot of pull in congress and they stovepipe words and ideas into state department/presidential speeches. it’s very worrying.

      • lproyect on September 8, 2013, 9:28 am

        that’s different than making the argument the opposition in syria, the dominant forces in combat w/assad , is primarily composed of ‘moderates’.

        I certainly agree that there are no “moderates” in the Syrian opposition as understood by Kerry. In fact he is making this outlandish claim in order to line up votes for an American attack. If the SNC is supposedly the most obedient tool of American imperialism as opposed to the Local Coordinating Councils in Syria that have zero connection to American power or influence, what does one make of the statements of Ahmed Mouaz al-Khatib, the SNC leader who resigned a while back?

        Appearances may differ but the core is similar, and whether that core is French, British, Russian or American, the ultimate goal is the same; intervention, domination and supremacy and all in the name of human rights.

        The facts have proven beyond any doubt that the claws of international politics are tainted and that the world’s super powers are seeking, through the distribution of roles in the open and behind closed doors, to undermine the legitimate interests of the peoples of the world and trade in them by inciting sectarian sentiments, and the examples are plenty: from Syria and the Middle East, to Sudan and Rwanda, to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

        We should identify our own shortcomings and weaknesses that allowed Western powers to inject sectarian hatred in our societies in order to know why the talk about taking military action against Iran has become very normal.

        The bitterness in the hearts of Sunnis caused by the alleged Iranian-sponsored Shiite invasion of the Arab World is not a sufficient reason to be silent in the face of a possible military strike on Iran. If we suppose that we have 50% doctrinal differences and 20% juristical differences with Iran, we all know that we have 90% doctrinal differences with the wicked West.

        Iran’s possession of nuclear capabilities poses no threat to any Sunni but it will be a formidable deterrent to the evil powers that are rushing madly upon the Muslim World.

        The aggression against Iran is an upsurge of Western domination to snap at the riches of this region and deepen the cultural and social invasion of our Muslim World. In all honesty, it is genuinely logical and Islamic to refuse any action against Iran and to consider such action an aggression against the whole Muslim World.

      • Marco on September 8, 2013, 10:46 am

        This response helps reveal why Proyect supports the rebels. He’s convinced himself that there are radical (by leftist standards) elements in the Free Syria Army. And by the amoral calculus of Leon Trotsky in “Their Morals and Ours”, that settles the issue for him. That’s why there’s no grey area for Proyect on this issue. Like most other Marxists, once he’s settled on who the good guys and the bad guys are, or if you like, what the exploited class is what the exploiting class is, then the debate is over. Hence, it becomes very easy indeed to gloss over massacres and atrocities committed by the good guys.

        It’s this moral tunnel vision, or rather, the lack of any coherent morality and a blank dismissal of ethics as a bourgeois illusion which has contributed to Marxism’s historic barbarity.

        But, at the end of the day, I doubt very much if Proyect would be supporting the rebels if instead of murdering Syrian bishops like François Murad and other Syrian clergymen they were slaughtering rabbis, and if instead of committing pogroms against Christians they were doing it against Jews.

        But then this is clearly the same moral lapse and inconsistency we see in the media. The Western media would never, ever support this intervention if we were to replace Syrian Christians with Jews in the grotesque ethnic communal politics of Proyect’s so-called revolution.

    • annie on September 7, 2013, 1:11 pm

      a lot of leftists in their zeal to oppose Obama’s war are on a cherry-picking expedition

      i’m curious what you mean. do you mean max is ‘cherry picking’? iow, examinations of o’bagy affilitates and their agenda is unfair or given too much weight? what do you mean?

      • marc b. on September 7, 2013, 2:28 pm

        annie, it’s ‘l’ proyect, not iproyect, the ‘l’ standing for Louis. Louis is a Marxist, bless his soul. we could use more Marxist theorizing in my opinion. but you’re right on this point, and he’s not. unfortunately the US and regional actors are not going to allow any revolutionary democratic tendencies to flourish in Syria. that bloated pig kagan was being interviewed by the Charlie Rose last night, and from the sound of his dinner theatre world weary mumblings it appears that managed chaos has emerged as the preferred plan for Syria in his circles.

      • annie on September 7, 2013, 2:30 pm

        thanks marc, will fix.

  6. Hostage on September 7, 2013, 10:18 am

    “We’re really trying to get in with the Jews,” he told me. “We feel like the Americans really listens to them the most, so we’re working with them all we can.”

    “We prefer to be referred to as the yahood,“

    Really? I’ve always preferred “The Juice” myself;-)

    There was yet another article in Haaretz the other day bemoaning the fact that:

    It seems astonishing that a people that estimates its age at some 3,200 years is still arguing about its self-definition, as if thousands of years of history haven’t sufficed to reach agreement on the matter.

    I don’t personally believe that “the Jews” exist as a coherent entity myself, but you can’t avoid making constant references to that subject when discussing political Zionism. Even die-hards admit that nothing could be more indefinite than inclusion or acceptance as a member of this ill-defined group. So it’s grammatically misleading to employ the definite article in the first place.

    • Walid on September 7, 2013, 11:29 am

      “I don’t personally believe that “the Jews” exist as a coherent entity myself”

      I don’t either. I think it likewise about most Arabs, although they don’t expend as much energy debating among themselves who is authentic and who isn’t.

      • Taxi on September 7, 2013, 12:16 pm

        Are Arab jews confused about their jewish identity? Not the ones I know – they’re israeli citizens. They hardly debate their ‘jewishness’, but they sure do talk a lot about their Iraqi heritage and how difficult it still is to fit into israeli society, four generations down the line of time.

      • miriam6 on September 7, 2013, 7:09 pm

        Taxi ;

        Wow, – you not only claim to be the only person in the world who TRULY understands the Egyptian Arab mind, you now claim the same about Israeli Mizrahim!

        If you’re so concerned about the Mizrahim/Arab Jews , perhaps you’d like to consider donating money for the restoration of the Magen Avraham
        Synagogue in Beirut

        I am sure your imaginary Israeli Arab Jewish pals would applaud and clap loudly your support and putting- your -money- where- your mouth is altruism

        (After all , its not like you made your comment on this thread for the sole purpose of using the Mizrahim to bash Israel or anything so VULGAR)

        If only they had hands to clap you..

        Which they don’t of course , being imaginary

      • Taxi on September 9, 2013, 10:45 pm

        LOL miriam,

        You coulda guessed by now that I don’t care about jews, or christians, or moslems, or buddhists, or hindu, or pagans, or atheists . But I do care about people.

        And I also never touch your weird links – not even with a ten foot pole. And I never bother reading all of your posts – usually just the first coupla crackpot lines.

        Sayonara munchkin!

    • miriam6 on September 7, 2013, 2:37 pm

      I don’t personally believe that “the Jews” exist as a coherent entity myself

      said Hostage

      What a bizarre comment to make about a community that has survived for 2,500- 3,000 years

      • seanmcbride on September 7, 2013, 3:20 pm


        What a bizarre comment to make about a community that has survived for 2,500- 3,000 years

        What in your opinion are the most important characteristics that distinguish Jews from non-Jews?

      • Hostage on September 7, 2013, 3:45 pm

        What a bizarre comment to make about a community that has survived for 2,500- 3,000 years

        Correction: You must have meant “Jewish ethnic communities”, since there are a number of mutually exclusive and incompatible Jewish ones. Some of them have full-scale street riots in Israel whenever the Courts there try to desegregate their schools so the children can attend classes together with one another.

        The demand for separate schools is a hallmark of the existence of a separate legal community or entity. In the Greco-Bulgarian Communities (Opinion No. 17) and Minority Schools in Albania (Opinion A/B 64), the World Court said that a community is:

        ” … a group of persons living in a given country or locality, having a race, religion, language and traditions of their own and united by this identity of race, religion, language and traditions in a sentiment of solidarity, with a view to preserving their traditions, maintaining their form of worship, ensuring the instruction and upbringing of their children in accordance with the spirit and traditions of their race and rendering mutual assistance to each other.”

        Spitting, hurling soiled diapers, throwing stones at one another, and refusing to inter-marry are not signs of solidarity.

        It’s much more correct for scholars and historians to talk about various Jewish cultures, e.g. “Cultures of the Jews: A New History”, David Biale (Editor), Schocken/Random House, 2002, because there really is no overarching, single, inclusive Jewish culture.

      • Obsidian on September 7, 2013, 4:43 pm


        Soiled diapers aside, since I moved here one year ago, all the many Jews I’ve met here in Israel are getting along famously.

        Today, I was hiking a trail near Modi’in looking for archeology, when dirt bikers flew past me and one wished me L’Shana tovah.

        You should really come visit Israel someday.
        Life’s short. Do it while you still can.

      • talknic on September 8, 2013, 9:41 am

        Obsidian “I was hiking a trail near Modi’in looking for archeology, when dirt bikers flew past me and one wished me L’Shana tovah.

        You should really come visit Israel someday”

        Uh huh. When was the area of Modi’in legally incorporated into Israel? The Jewish state has never legally annexed any of the territory it has illegally acquired by war since being “proclaimed as an independent republic within frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947,”

      • just on September 8, 2013, 10:15 am

        Hiking for archeology, eh? Which archeology? Palestinian or Israeli?

        Dirt bikes must be good for the environment and the archeology.

        I’m happy that all of your friends are getting along so “famously”!

      • Hostage on September 8, 2013, 10:19 am

        Soiled diapers aside, since I moved here one year ago, all the many Jews I’ve met here in Israel are getting along famously.

        You and Miriam are both ignoring the fact that Ashkenazim parents defied the Supreme Court of Israel and went to jail in 2010 to protect their children from being exposed to the perceived evils of Sephardic Judaism. More than 100,000 angry Jews took to the streets in protests that caused the government to step in and effectively nullify the rulings of the secular courts.

        Throughout the +3,000 year long history there have always been adversarial Jewish communities who anathematize and ban members of other Jewish communities. These mutually exclusive groups perpetuate the argument over who is, and is not, a Jew:

        In response to the Neeman Commission on conversion, certain Orthodox leaders gave voice to their opinion on other forms of Judaism. Rabbi Andrew Sacks in the Jerusalem Post reports:

        Rabbi Yisrael Eichler, a spokesperson in the Haredi world, wrote that “Reform Rabbis are further from Judaism than Christians and Muslims and that they should be considered as filthy, lying, shekotzim who are criminals, who brought about the holocaust on the Jewish people.”

        Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said, “Reform Jews should be vomited up…and thrown out of the country.”

        Both Sacks and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs quote an advertisement signed by Orthodox leaders including Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, the leading halachic authority of the haredi community, and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas’ spiritual mentor:

        As darkness covers the earth, the Reform and Conservative sects that are the destroyers of the religion are trying to dig their nails into the Holy Land and receive recognition as though they were streams of Judaism, God forbid. We hereby pronounce da’at Torah [this Torah opinion] that it is inconceivable to grant them any recognition whatsoever, and it is forbidden to conduct any negotiations with the destroyers that counterfeit Torah…

      • Obsidian on September 8, 2013, 12:00 pm


        Most Jews in Israel are secular minded and the religious extreme is steadily losing political power.

        You are mistaken if you think that Israel is a society coming apart at the seams.

        It’s understandable that you think the way you do since you’ve never set foot here.

      • Obsidian on September 8, 2013, 12:02 pm
      • Obsidian on September 8, 2013, 12:11 pm

        Modi’in is inside the Armistice line. Modi’in Ilit is outside the line.

      • miriam6 on September 8, 2013, 6:08 pm

        [email protected];

        I wouldn’t deny that endless arguments over who is a Jew are a tedious on-going feature of Jewish life

        However , do take a look a other religions and cultures.

        Look at the Sunni/Shia divide for instance

        Or the fact that the care of Christian holy places in Jerusalem has for centuries now been over seen by the Muslim Nusseibeh family purely because the of Christian denominations constant bickering
        rendered the Christians unable to agree over their own religious sites

        Jews aren’t the only human family that are prone to bickering

        Nevertheless, your take on Judaism and Jewish life is so relentlessly negative it is positively misanthropic

        Your constant harping on the negative aspects of Judaism can only stem from alienation from Judaism and perhaps from the whole idea of shared/common ground and unity within communities generally, whether Jewish or not

        You are more interested in harping on what divides Jews than what unites them

        There’s nothing productive or progressive about being relentlessly negative
        about Judaism

        It just speaks of a profound alienation from Judaism

        If you are alienated from Judaism /Jewish life and it’s fine with you then so be it

        But please try to accept that others do not share your obvious feelings of alienation towards Judaism and your relentlessly negativity towards it

        Don’t pretend bickering and prejudice only exists within Jewish culture, and that bickering is somehow the sum total of every Jewish community

      • stevieb on September 9, 2013, 10:08 am

        True…but there is a Zionist one…

      • Hostage on September 9, 2013, 3:47 pm

        Nevertheless, your take on Judaism and Jewish life is so relentlessly negative it is positively misanthropic

        No it’s not. I just don’t believe that “the Jews” exist as a single coherent ethnic entity. I cited at least one scholarly work which supports that view. If that’s misanthropic, please tell us what you think about the ex officio opinions expressed by Ovadia Yosef and his colleagues on this same subject which claim that Reform Jews are another people and are not part of the people of Israel? Frankly speaking, I’ve never said anything nearly as misanthropic as the diatribes issued on a regular basis by the Chief Rabbis of Israel in their official capacities.

      • Hostage on September 9, 2013, 4:11 pm


        Most Jews in Israel are secular minded and the religious extreme is steadily losing political power.

        In fact, the ultra-Orthodox are the fastest growing segment of Israeli society and the majority of Israelis self-identify as religious, not secular.

        For example in 2010 it was 58% according to the Central Bureau of Statistics report, 8% of Israel’s Jews describe themselves as haredi, 12% as religious, 13% as “religious-traditional” and 25% as “traditional-not so religious.” versus 42% who self-identified as secular.

      • Hostage on September 9, 2013, 4:34 pm

        Obsidian: Polls bear me out.

        Those polls don’t indicate the people are secular or that little Ashkenazim and Sephardim children are suddenly attending classes together at the school that triggered the street demonstrations.

        In fact, the picture that accompanies the article you cited doesn’t portray Jews getting along famously at all. The poll simply says that people favor religious freedom and separation of state from religion in the area of civil marriages.

      • Walid on September 10, 2013, 1:19 am

        Jewish tombs. Arab grave robbers.” (Obsidian)

        Where does your article talk about Arab grave robbers? I’ve read about Israeli (IDF) grave robbers in 1982 that stole the name slabs on the graves of Jews that had been burried at the Saida Jewish cemetery to take back home as family souvenirs. That cemetery is unknown to most as it’s completely dilapidated and hidden by the overgrowth of weeds. Very few in Lebanon know of its existence or location.

      • Walid on September 10, 2013, 6:23 am

        Obsidian, 2 Palestinians trying to sell artifacts that they could have found or stolen doesn’t give validity to your statement about Arabs being grave robbers in the same manner a few Israelis trafficking in human organs doesn’t make all Israelis body snatchers.

  7. American on September 7, 2013, 12:41 pm

    Good report Max.

    There are also a lot more examples that could be cited . The I -Lobby has a world wide reputation of ‘being in control’ of the levers of US FP so it’s the ‘go to’ gang for every special FP interest fraction.

    ALL of this, the whole tangled web and lack of enforcement of existing laws against it and all the legal mechanisms that allow it, has to be wiped out completely.
    AIPAC would be the main starting point to make an example of , but it’s going to take some new US LAWS against these kinds of subversive operations to wipe them out.
    Given the choice between a turn in the US to a hard line “nationalism’ and letting this ‘perversion’ of democratic rights continue, I’ll take the hard line nationalism thank you very much. And I think eventually that a ‘nationalist policy’ is what the US public will be forced to demand as the last and only recourse they have against these foreign interest in US government..

    Because these foreign influence subversions are ‘eating’ the US bit by bit, economically,mitilitarily, diplomatically and host of other ways. This overview is entirely accurate:

    Diplomacy, Inc.
    The Influence of Lobbies on U.S. Foreign Policy
    May/June 2009
    John Newhouse


    The strongest lobbies promoting foreign interests are driven by cohesive ethnic population groups in the United States

    A lobbying group can identify with a domestic ethnic bloc even though it is paid by a foreign government.
    Ethnic politics can trump corporate interests and, more important, influence what agencies within the U.S. government may see as the national interest.
    The United States is a nation of immigrants — a strength that has also created vulnerabilities. Although ethnic population groups have at times offset isolationist tendencies in the United States, they also can find themselves conflicted on issues that could divide the motherland from the adopted country, the United States.

    In 1935, a report prepared by the House of Representatives
    warned of propaganda that aimed to “influence the internal and external policies of our country.” The report led to the passage in 1938 of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which was designed to monitor the activities of groups lobbying on behalf of foreign causes. The law covers anyone who engages in political activities or acts in a public relations capacity for a foreign principal. Such agents are required to report their activities to the Justice Department and to disclose whatever gifts and services they provide to elected or appointed
    officials. These criteria are far stricter than what is required of lobbyists who represent domestic interests. However, compliance with and enforcement of FARA regulations are notoriously lax, and they are often ignored entirely if enforcing them could be politically awkward for U.S. allies.

    The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC, is the model for other lobbying groups and for lobbying firms that aim to influence U.S. foreign policy. It shows how they must focus on the internal rivalries within congressional committees and on other groups that involve politicians with voices that carry. Lobbyists working for foreign clients play a game that one of them described as “five-dimensional chess,” which includes the White House, Congress, interagency conflicts, and the Republican and Democratic Parties

    Lobbying on behalf of foreign countries, many in Washington believe, can have an adverse affect on U.S. interests by challenging the sensible and balanced formation of foreign policy.
    Another poll, part of the Middle East Academic Survey Research and Exposition, conducted by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, showed that an overwhelming majority — roughly four-fifths — of those U.S. academics polled regarded the Israel lobby as “negative” to “extremely negative” to U.S. interests.
    A slightly greater majority of those polled said they believed that
    the lobby’s tactics expose the United States “to avoidable hostility in the Middle East

    The effects of the relentless increase in the privatization of U.S. foreign policy in recent years remain underexamined and minimally understood. Many foreign governments, friendly or allied or both, deplore the skewing of U.S. policy caused by the activities of Washington based foreign agents. Not so long ago, the foreign and defense ministries of these governments would swallow hard when they saw a U.S. policy being redirected by special interests. But there was also a confidence that the U.S. government would, in the end, set policy back on a sensible course.
    Over the past several years, however, these governments have lost that confidence. They have learned that the control of policy, once lost, may not be restored to capable, disinterested hands. Instead, they see a uniquely American habit of sustaining the democratic process with money; they see a broad and deepening pattern of corrupt and corruptible members of Congress making self-serving deals with lobbyists working for foreign entities.

    The lobbying process ignores — or, in some cases, promotes — instability in
    potentially volatile regions, such as South Asia and the Middle East, often backing
    questionable regimes by disguising their activities and the threats they pose. The activities of lobbies representing foreign interests have contributed to the gradual erosion of the United States’ credibility and influence in the world’

    Rwanda didn’t have a Lobby, that why they got a genocide instead of a US intervention.

    • Obsidian on September 10, 2013, 2:44 am


      ” More than 100,000 angry Jews took to the streets in protests that caused the government to step in and effectively nullify the rulings of the secular courts.”

      This is not my reading of the events.

      Half as many Haredim took to the streets to protest the treatment of the parents, who’d been jailed without due process.

      The final ruling was to permit a separate school for the Ashkanazi kids but without government funding.

      • Hostage on September 10, 2013, 9:25 am

        Half as many Haredim took to the streets to protest the treatment of the parents, who’d been jailed without due process.

        The parties appeared in the Supreme Court and it ordered the parents to return the girls to school or face jail time for contempt. That is the normal procedure in an appeals case and is considered an example of due process in civilized legal systems.

        The final ruling was to permit a separate school for the Ashkanazi kids but without government funding.

        Which puts the lie to your nonsense about all of these unrepentant bigots getting along just fine together.

      • Obsidian on September 10, 2013, 11:15 am


        You may want to read the link before calling anybody a bigot.

        The Ministry of Education in 2007, sent attorney Mordechai Bass to investigate the situation. His states, “The division was not ethnic, it was religious. I am convinced that there is no ethnic discrimination.”

        According to the Bass Report, 30% of the girls attending Beis Yaakov Chasidi are Sephardic, not including those of blended heritage. 20% of the students in the original Beis Yaakov are Ashkenazi, many have blended heritage.
        ‘The guiding principles of our community are its various philosophies, not heritage. The leaders of the Beis Yaakov Chasidi really did not know or care who was Sephardic, Ashkenazic, newly religious, religious for generations, until this issue hit the news and they had to answer this question.’

        The Court first jailed the fathers, than jailed the mothers
        AFTER the school term concluded, which sounds like ‘punishment’ to my legal ears.

      • Hostage on September 10, 2013, 11:45 am

        You may want to read the link before calling anybody a bigot.

        The Ministry of Education in 2007, sent attorney Mordechai Bass to investigate the situation. His states, “The division was not ethnic, it was religious. I am convinced that there is no ethnic discrimination.”

        Lol! Then you might want to read the conversation I’m having with Miriam over the lack of a coherent entity called “the Jews” and explain to us why these people won’t allow their children to study together for “religious” reasons? FYI, I did read the article and that argument, but the Supreme Court weighed the evidence and agreed with the petitioner.

      • Obsidian on September 10, 2013, 3:05 pm


        As per the Bass Report;

        “All parents wanting to sign up their daughters to the new school, and were ready to accept upon themselves the school’s conditions, were accepted (lit. “not refused”). Since there was no rejection (of any applicants), where is the discrimination?”

        If 27% of the New (Chasidi) School were Sephardic (putting aside the ‘blends’) and there was no rejection of applicants, than where is the discrimination?

      • Hostage on September 11, 2013, 7:05 am

        “All parents wanting to sign up their daughters to the new school, and were ready to accept upon themselves the school’s conditions, were accepted (lit. “not refused”).

        If “the new school’s conditions” were non-discriminatory, it would have been eligible for state funding, now wouldn’t it? Once again, there are at least two Judaisms here that the parents believe to be incompatible. That’s before we add-in Masorti and Reform Jews. You’re beating a dead horse if you are trying to suggest that “the Jews” are a coherent entity with an agreed upon or accepted common definition.

      • Obsidian on September 11, 2013, 7:35 am

        @ Hostage

        The Bass Report, adopted by Judge Levy, says, ‘not ethnic’.
        A mix of Sephardic and Ashkanazi before and after the New School lost it’s funding, and those irksome ‘blends’, tell me that the issue here was one of religious beliefs and not bigotry towards Sephardim, which you insinuated.

  8. Citizen on September 7, 2013, 1:15 pm

    Ms. O’Bagy was introduced as part of a three-member panel discussing Syria Strikes for the Atlantic Council, on SCPAN last Wednesday. Her paid position at SETF was not part of her introduction, only that she had a humanitarian connection there. She was described as a real expert on Syria. She’s very young.

    She spoke to American fear of retaliation (hence escalation) if US strikes. She says “most Syrians” want US to intervene. And rebel commanders want US to deliver more than just a slap on the wrist to Assad. Says her personal opinion is psychological impact of US strike to stop Assad is very important, and that alone justifies a US strike. Praises partnering of various rebel groups towards a national stance. Saudi-funded, US moved operations have increasingly marginalized Assad forces. She says “moderate forces” are those that over last two years have struggled to ensure minority rights, female rights, democratic rights, and says they make up the biggest proportion of rebels fighting on the front lines. She says the moderates are in the majority of rebels and would be good US allies against extreme Arab forces.

    • annie on September 7, 2013, 2:28 pm

      She says “most Syrians” want US to intervene.

      and this is what we were told about iraqis too, wrt sadam.

      She was described as a real expert on Syria. She’s very young.

      there are other experts on syria too, some very young. for me, it begs the question why she, with her particular analysis is in the position she is as a representative of kagan’s think tank. she is the public face of this intervention ptv.

      even COIN operative andrew Exum, in a tweet she RT’s wrote

      [email protected]’s timeline is instructive. She’s a first-class analyst, but she is also associated with a very specific policy preference. 1/2

      of course that is not unusual, i have a specific policy preference too. but was she chosen, was her analysis thrust into the mainstream because it supports the push for intervention? probably. we could have heard the same thing from kim kagan or jennifer rubin or any number of neocons. instead, we get o’bagy. but where’s the evidence since march, when the US was scambling to unify the ‘moderates’ who were completely scattered and not unified in the least..where’s the evidence they are now? where’s the evidence nusra is not ruling the roost wrt forces opposing assad? there is none!

      • marc b. on September 7, 2013, 3:19 pm

        well, she is young, fresh faced and photogenic and starry-eyed. her appeal isn’t her expertise, annie. (and with all due respect to bright, ambitious twenty-somethings, experience does count in this line of work). she’s kind of an antidote to the specter of the middle-aged, male neocon warmonger types that are so easily spotted. in other words, she’s more PR than analyst.

      • annie on September 7, 2013, 3:24 pm

        she’s more PR than analyst.

        yep, here’s o’bagy on fox news making the argument w/a little graph alleging the moderates are dominant.

        and she says right here on her bio

        I work with the Syrian Emergency Task Force in an advisory capacity on a number of humanitarian aid and governance building contracts. I am hired on a contractual basis in my role as the Political Director and Humanitarian Aid Coordinator, but do not receive a salary from the organization. In this role with the Task Force, I have worked on a number of contracts with the United States Department of State to provide an evaluation of the current aid and assistance programs inside Syria and provide guidance on how to better implement these programs.

        iow , it sounds like the st department provides the Syrian Emergency Task Force w/policy wonks to build their case for war.

        and i’d like people to look at that graph, with all those alleged moderate forces, and ask themselves who their leader is, and if this graph were correct (representative of reality) why the administration has allegedly been unable to find a ‘moderate’ opposition to support all this time.

  9. Walid on September 7, 2013, 1:42 pm

    “… the self-proclaimed “foreign policy experts” who signed an August 27 open letter to Obama calling for military intervention in Syria. Other “experts” lending their names to the letter included Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams, Governor Tim Pawlenty, and veteran anti-abortion activist Gary Bauer.” (Max)

    One of the 75 signatories of the August 27, 2013 open letter was shit-disturber par excellence, Israel-firster Bernard-Henri Lévy, the man who brags as having convinced Sarkozy to attack Libya and who went on to start a rumble on Syria.

    Lévy was probably instrumental in setting the Syria revolution wheels in motion when he convened a Paris meeting July 4, 2011 for the Syrian insurgency to replicate his success in Libya that brought together under the same roof, Israelis, Zionists, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Among the 200 attendees: Bernard Kouchner, André Glucksman, Axel Poniatowski , Frédéric Encel of Likud, former Knesset member Alex Goldfarb (that acted as the spokesman for the Syrian opposition), Amr Al-Azm, Ahed al-Hendi, Abdel Ilah Milhem, Ammar al-Qurabi , and other Brothers.

  10. Citizen on September 7, 2013, 1:47 pm

    Barry Pavel says US boots on the ground are needed to contain leakage of chemical weapons, To really deter Assad a week long strike is needed. Much more difficult now that Assad gets a week to move his stuff around.

    O’Bagy says US intervention needs more PR, to speak with one voice in favor of intervention, to reach out to American public, to rally US support for affirmative deference to Assad.

    Faysal Itani (Atlantic Council Middle East Fellow) says if US has humble objectives, perhaps Assad has already been deterred from using chemical weapons.

    Advisor to AIPAC in audience: Re Syrian retaliation: Israel took out Syrian nuke reactors and air force stuff with no problem, so why fear it?

    Frederic Hof, former state dept special advisor answers: I suspect at this point Putin probably knows the truth of what happened on Aug 21st & understand US has no choice but to strike hard, regardless of what he says in public, yet reaction of Russians must be taken seriously, so it’s an important consideration.

    Itani: Re
    “day after” scenario: Russia fears what would happen in areas where Assad regime was weakened seriously, and what about their alliance with Syria?

    Barry Pavel: Three audiences that r important. Those who R ok with limited strike, Russia’s allies, US Congress & American people–Obama has not convinced them & its’ 80-20 against strike; he’s a great communicator, so he needs to do that, especially to the military families. Naval & Air force are less stressed than US army. Israel strike in 07, reason Syria has not retaliated is Israel does not do pinprick but big retaliation. There’s a relative perception US is withdrawing from the region….

    O.Bagy: Need unified approach of US allies to strike Syria. This could be done with limited use of US resources.

  11. eGuard on September 7, 2013, 1:56 pm

    About Elisabeth O’Bagy.

    A tweet, from after this MW piece was published:

    I have never tried to hide that Ive worked closely with opposition & rebel commanders. Thats what allows me to travel more safely in Syria— Elizabeth O'Bagy (@lizobagy) September 7, 2013

    The point is, O’Brady, you did not see the conflict of interest you were in. Only now, afterwards, you try to clean & post-explain up your positions.

    Her twitter feed:

    All in all, I’d like to read a more detailed resume of her.

    • marc b. on September 8, 2013, 10:37 am

      yes, eguard, and we’d all like to ‘travel more safely in Syria’. I wonder what it would take you or I to travel at all in Syria right now. with Annie’s notes above, it sounds more and more like ms. o’baby works in some classified capacity for Uncle.

  12. Citizen on September 7, 2013, 2:01 pm

    O’Bagy: Growth of extremist groups in the area: She sees strong presence of Al Quaida. Started in early April last, & Assad was consolidating his forces. Rebels trying to embed themselves with locals, via charity etc. Civilian population is trying to push back, gain safe havens. If strike does not degrade Assad’s forces significantly, this will show Assad is strong and can provide safe havens. US attack must look at that.

    Hof: If Assad can take strong moves without an air force, or other military means, that’s a problem.

    Bsrry Pavel: Bush Jr’s Iraq was single most damaging activity reducing US image in the world, Obama has done a lot to reset this table to restore US influence in the world. This an budget cuts add up. World wants to know why US is withdrawing from the world. Obama has gone too far since he reset table in 09. But this is reversible, nobody should count the US out as US is one budget deal away from being back in force on world scene.

  13. Citizen on September 7, 2013, 2:09 pm

    Audience: what is perception of rebel groups, given we’ve not given them much except some mortars? What’s US game here in terms of rebel perceptions? Can Assad survive US strike? What will be impact on various groups in Syria?

    Credibility of Obama’s red line? Assuming strikes take place, what will happen to flow of refugees toward Jordan? What do rebels think we are up to? What are we really up to?

    O’Bagy: We prefer to keep Assad in power, it seems. She says she’s well received on the ground in Syria. We are at threshhold as chemical weapons have been used, and Syrian public expects us to respond. Psychological need. Not sure target should be Assad himself or to create negotiating environment. Rise of Iran/Hezbolla- backed militia groups…. we need to have comprehensive strategy to counter this.

  14. Citizen on September 7, 2013, 2:13 pm

    Barry Pavel: US must be careful of what it says it backs. Gadaffi case re Russia. Geopolitical states. Deterrence: Instill fear in our enemies that what they have can be taken away, but not wise to directly attack Assad.

    Itani: Jordan is in deep trouble economically and in terms of refugees there. US strike depends on what it would do, its caliber–security in southern Syria… Jordan may become bankrupt, then what?

    • Walid on September 8, 2013, 12:32 am

      “Itani: Jordan is in deep trouble economically and in terms of refugees there. US strike depends on what it would do, its caliber–security in southern Syria… Jordan may become bankrupt, then what?”

      The presence of so many refugees create new facts on the ground that could ultimately force the country to accept conditions that would be imposed on it as part of the “new Midle East” master plan and part of the solution to the Palestinian problem.

  15. Citizen on September 7, 2013, 2:15 pm

    Frederic Hog
    Obama will get his authorization to strike from Congress. But the right strategy is elusive. US operating alone is not a good sign.

  16. Kathleen on September 7, 2013, 2:51 pm

    Max connecting the dots. Many responding on this thread do not want Americans to connect those dots.

    Sharing how it works with great details. Thanks Max.

    Israel and the I lobby and interest in attacking Syria being mentioned many times on MSNBC today

    • Walid on September 8, 2013, 1:23 am

      “Many responding on this thread do not want Americans to connect those dots.” (Kathleen)

      There are many other dots not mentioned here, such as Israel having started oil exploration on the Golan and from where 33% of Israel’s drinking water is sourced. If Syria was to get it back one day and start repopulating it (there are now over 200,000 refugees from the Golan in Syria), the sewage and other contaminants would jeopardize that source, so says Jewish sources. The coalition of Syrian rebels have already declared their willingness to normalize their relations with Israel even without an end to the occupation and the occupation of course includes the Golan. What could happen to Syria after the bombing could force Syria and Lebanon to each absorb half a million Palestinian refuges and Jordan over a million.

      • Kathleen on September 8, 2013, 1:30 am


  17. Mondowise on September 7, 2013, 4:08 pm

    despite all the rhetoric, spin, and massive effort to rally support for a strike, there’s no definitive proof that assad was behind the alleged chemical attack in the first place, and that fact alone is way more than reason enough to say NO! to any attack on syria, not to mention it’s illegal, plus a whole host of other reasons. this is izrael’s war-mongering manipulation, supported by the US. i don’t care who’s said what, the intelligence is simply NOT THERE to support a strike, case closed….which is why we’ve been hearing from the start all kinds of war-mongering twists to garner more support to strike.

    • RoHa on September 7, 2013, 11:34 pm

      “the intelligence is simply NOT THERE to support a strike”

      C’mon, give them a little time to make it up find it. They’ll put it on Powerpoint then.

  18. eGuard on September 7, 2013, 4:30 pm
  19. DICKERSON3870 on September 7, 2013, 5:19 pm

    RE: With Congress set to vote on a resolution authorizing the US to strike Syria, SETF has issued an action alert on its website urging supporters to light up congressional phone lines urging “yes” votes.


    ● FROM Diplomacy and Aid for Syria, Not Military Strikes
    Send a letter to your members of Congress calling for peace not war on Syria! We plea with President Obama and Congress to seek an immediate ceasefire, begin regional peace talks and provide humanitarian aid to the over 2 million refugees fleeing the violence.
    LINK –

    Tell Congress: Don’t Attack Syria
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  20. bugmenot on September 8, 2013, 9:21 am

    Part I don’t get… eventually Assad is deposed, and who takes the country?

    Al Qaeda. Who then has a failed state from which to operate. On Israel’s doorstep. With real WMDs and the means to deliver them.

    Why would anyone supporting Israel want that?

    • Denis on September 8, 2013, 1:37 pm

      bugs, you’re thinkin’ waaay too far ahead here.

      All that matters for the moment is that the vacuum/chaos that follows Assad doesn’t have the wherewithal to contribute to the Shia retaliation that will come in response to the attack against Iran, which will happen a few weeks later Assad is taken down. IOW, taking out Assad will be equivalent to an Israeli walk-off homer in MLB terms — finish your beer and dog and go on home. Game’s over.

      This will all be over by Christmas Hanukkah, and Israel can then leisurely occupy Syria and Lebanon w/out Iran being a problem. Palestinians — or should I say the rest of the Palestinians left over from 1948 — will be relocated to Syria/Lebanon and the i-Jews will occupy the whole of Palestine, river to sea, and have most of the Levant under control. IOW they will have won the World Series.

      It is all written . . . somewhere. I think in that anti-BDS comic — Capt. Israel — that Oren’s front, Stand with US, publishes.

      Hostage, I know I’m going to regret asking, but what’s a Poskim? If it has anything to do with foreskins, I don’t want to know.

      • Hostage on September 9, 2013, 3:59 pm

        Hostage, I know I’m going to regret asking, but what’s a Poskim? If it has anything to do with foreskins, I don’t want to know.

        It’s the plural form of Posek “—a legal scholar who decides the Halakha in cases of law where previous authorities are inconclusive or in those situations where no halakhic precedent exists.”

      • Denis on September 10, 2013, 12:14 am

        Thanks, Hostage

        It is akin to a mullah interpreting Sharia, IOW.

        I am forever fascinated in the parallels between Judaism and Islam.

        The significance of hats, for instance. Women cover their heads in Islam, but men don’t. Men do in Judaism, but women don’t. Christian women traditionally wear hats on the holiest of holidays — Easter. Christian men, but not women, remove their hats when entering the place of worship anytime. These are rough generalities. But the diverging evolution of these traditions is interesting.

      • Hostage on September 10, 2013, 8:51 am

        The significance of hats, for instance. Women cover their heads in Islam, but men don’t. Men do in Judaism, but women don’t.

        No, there’s a bizarre cabalistic tradition whereby an Orthodox Jewish woman is supposed to cover her hair when she is menstruating. In order to avoid advertising that fact most simply cover their own hair by wearing wigs all of the time. I notice that most of the religious Israeli settler women wear scarves over their hair.

      • Shmuel on September 10, 2013, 9:14 am

        there’s a bizarre cabalistic tradition whereby an Orthodox Jewish woman is supposed to cover her hair when she is menstruating. In order to avoid advertising that fact most simply cover their own hair by wearing wigs all of the time.

        Sounds a bit odd as an explanation, considering the fact that there is a basic Halakhic obligation for women to cover their hair (at least in public) at all times, discussed in various places in the Talmud and codified as religious law (Shulhan Arukh, Maimonides, etc.). In some traditions this has been applied only to married women, while others have required that single women and girls cover their hair as well (Ovadiah Yosef famously said that he would have ruled that way, if not for fear of being ignored. He also expressed admiration for the “modesty” of Muslim women in such matters).

        Then there are the “wig wars”. It is a matter of debate among Halakhic authorities whether wigs are considered sufficient covering or not (some require a wig + a hat, others reject wigs altogether), and if you’ve ever been to Bnei Brak, the streets have been plastered for years with posters condemning the practise of wearing fashionable wigs that resemble real hair.

      • Hostage on September 10, 2013, 10:20 am

        Sounds a bit odd as an explanation

        Fair enough, but I had this NYT article in mind, and couldn’t find the link to it in time to include it. NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: EAST SIDE; For Orthodox Jewish Woman, A Wig That’s More Than a Wig

        The original author was using the term cabalistic in the sense of a mystical interpretation or esoteric doctrine. It could be applied in that sense to all of the traditions regarding other head coverings that you mentioned. I’ve always found the use of human hair wigs to be a bit odd.

        The bottom line, is that even when someone else notices that an Orthodox Jewish woman is wearing a wig, they probably don’t realize that might be considered a religious obligation.

  21. Hostage on September 8, 2013, 11:17 am

    Al Qaeda. Who then has a failed state from which to operate. On Israel’s doorstep. With real WMDs and the means to deliver them.

    Why would anyone supporting Israel want that?

    Prime Minister Sharret’s diary entry for 27 February 1954 (page 377) recorded the fact that Lavon, Dayan, and Ben Gurion argued that Israel’s entry into Syria was justified when the Shishakly regime fell.

    There are a couple of references in Genesis to Damascus. In one of them Abraham pursued four Kings as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. In another obscure passage Abraham appears to mention that one of his servants was born in his own household in Damascus. King David conquered portions of Syria. A portion of Syria was treated as part of Eretz Israel for at least some Halachic matters concerning tithes. You probably wouldn’t have much trouble finding Poskim today who could rationalize another permanent occupation/eternal negotiation/de facto annexation if the need arises.

  22. James Canning on September 8, 2013, 1:31 pm

    So, John Kerry “does not believe al-Qaeda is the majority of the bad guys”? Does he regard al-Qaeda as able to bring about endless civil war in Syria?

  23. gingershot on September 9, 2013, 12:04 am

    Imagine – Imagine if one month from now the entire story has been laid open and we find the Syrian Rebels backed by the Saudis and Israelis have done this – and the Israelis and Saudis have been trying to HOAX the US into a war from their own scheme?


    Now imagine you are Bibi Netanyahu tonight, frantically calling US members of Congress cajoling them, trying to pressure or even bribe them, desperately trying to get the attacks on Syria going to cover the crime, and literally ****ing your pants

    Now imagine the Israelis never planned on getting caught and have NO PLAN to deal with this catastrophe

    That’s a sweet thought I’m having tonight

  24. stevieb on September 9, 2013, 10:01 am

    Very good article, Mr.Blumenthal..

  25. Rusty Pipes on September 11, 2013, 9:24 pm

    Nice to see that you’ve gotten around to writing about Syria and the Israel Lobby in the past two weeks, Max. There’s nothing like jumping on a trend once it’s obvious it has caught fire among the left. While your articles have been well-written, much of the information has been available in the alternative and international press. The only original piece of investigative journalism comes from a lead from last summer which you let drop back then. Speaking of last summer, have you ever apologized to AlAkhbar for the way you maligned the publication and staff over its Syria coverage?

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