Rand Paul’s Confused Effort to Interfere with Congressional Support for Israel

Dec. 10 2018

Currently Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, is holding up two bills that otherwise enjoy wide bipartisan backing. One authorizes $38 billion in security aid to Israel over the next ten years; the other simply expresses approval of state and local measures denying government contracts to businesses that boycott the Jewish state. The editors of the Weekly Standard dissect the senator’s position:

Rand Paul and other opponents of the [anti-boycott bill] say they’re worried it runs afoul of the First Amendment’s [guarantee of freedom of] speech. But the right to free speech does not entail a right to government contracts. . . .

As [for the other bill]: as usual, Paul is holding up critical legislation in order to make a confused political statement. His explanation for opposing the security-assistance bill was in effect a diatribe against foreign aid. He pointed repeatedly to the assistance given to “enemies of the U.S. and Israel” and named Pakistan and the Palestinian Authority (PA). “Why are we giving twice as much money to nations that surround Israel, which forces Israel to spend more on defense?” Aid to Israel, he said, “should be paid for by cutting aid to people who hate Israel and America.”

But the United States does not give aid to Israel’s chief enemies: Hamas, Hizballah, and Iran. These entities are classified as foreign terrorist organizations or, in Iran’s case, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. We also routinely veto [UN] aid to the Palestine Liberation Organization. As for the PA, the United States can both cut aid to it—which it has in any case done under the Trump administration—and increase assistance to Israel. There’s no reason not to do both.

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More about: BDS, Congress, Israel & Zionism, US-Israel relations

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey