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Russia Tries to Bring the Taliban into Its Anti-U.S. Alliance

Russia, after years of claiming that the West must not interfere with the Assad regime since it is fighting Islamic State (IS), is now attempting to apply the same logic to the Taliban. At a recent gathering in Moscow, Russian, Chinese, and Pakistani officials called on other countries to develop “flexible” policies toward the radical group, pushing it as the less “extremist” alternative. Russia’s real goal, writes Thomas Joscelyn, is to advance its fight against America and NATO:

[Contrary to Russian claims], the Taliban isn’t interested in “peace and security.” The jihadist group wants to win the Afghan war and it is using negotiations with regional and international powers to improve its standing. The Taliban has long manipulated “peace” negotiations with the U.S. and Western powers as a pretext for undoing international sanctions that limit the ability of its senior figures to travel abroad for lucrative fundraising and other purposes, even while offering no serious gestures toward peace. . . .

Russia is now enabling the Taliban’s disingenuous diplomacy by pretending that IS is the more worrisome threat. It’s a game the Russians have been playing for more than a year.
Zamir Kabulov, who serves as Vladimir Putin’s special representative for Afghanistan, . . . even conceded that Russia and the Taliban have “channels for exchanging information.”

The American commanders leading the fight in Afghanistan don’t buy Russia’s argument—at all. During a press briefing on December 2, General John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, [declared that the] “public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but it is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO effort and bolster the belligerents.” While Nicholson was careful not read too much into Russia’s motivation for backing the Taliban, he noted [that] “certainly there’s a competition with NATO.”

Read more at Daily Beast

More about: Afghanistan, ISIS, NATO, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy

Putting Aside the Pious Lies about the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Jan. 23 2018

In light of recent developments, including Mahmoud Abbas’s unusually frank speech to the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s leadership, Moshe Arens advocates jettisoning some frequently mouthed but clearly false assumptions about Israel’s situation, beginning with the idea that the U.S. should act as a neutral party in negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah. (Free registration may be required.)

The United States cannot be, and has never been, neutral in mediating the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is the leader of the world’s democratic community of nations and cannot assume a neutral position between democratic Israel and the Palestinians, whether represented by an autocratic leadership that glorifies acts of terror or by Islamic fundamentalists who carry out acts of terror. . . .

In recent years the tectonic shifts in the Arab world, the lower price of oil, and the decreased importance attached to the Palestinian issue in much of the region, have essentially removed the main incentive the United States had in past years to stay involved in the conflict. . . .

Despite the conventional wisdom that the core issues—such as Jerusalem or the fate of Israeli settlements beyond the 1949 armistice lines—are the major stumbling blocks to an agreement, the issue for which there seems to be no solution in sight at the moment is making sure that any Israeli military withdrawal will not result in rockets being launched against Israel’s population centers from areas that are turned over to the Palestinians. . . .

Does that mean that Israel is left with a choice between a state with a Palestinian majority or an apartheid state, as claimed by Israel’s left? This imaginary dilemma is based on a deterministic theory of history, which disregards all other possible alternatives in the years to come, and on questionable demographic predictions. What the left is really saying is this: better rockets on Tel Aviv than a continuation of Israeli military control over Judea and Samaria. There is little support in Israel for that view.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, US-Israel relations