By The Hill•
Lebanon is facing a dangerous combination of accelerating crises — economic, political and societal. Although Lebanon is a small country, important issues for U.S. national interest and geo-strategy are at stake. Yet, currently, American Middle East foreign policy is devoted to the single obsession of the Iran negotiations, leaving little oxygen for other matters. This is a mistake. The Biden administration should develop a more nuanced engagement with the region and especially a robust response to Lebanon’s pending collapse.
The Lebanese currency has lost close to 90 percent of its value, pushing much of the country below the poverty line, with many families relying on remittances from relatives abroad. Yet even those lifelines cannot make up for the shortages in commodities: gasoline, medications and food are all in short supply. Add to this a crumbling infrastructure that can supply electricity for only a few hours every day.
Meanwhile, a political stalemate blocks the formation of an effective government that could institute reforms that might alleviate some of the problems. Instead, the political class, largely viewed as incorrigibly corrupt, is making no effort to meet the needs of the public. One bright light is the emergence of vibrant oppositional forces. But they remain fragmented, and elections will not take place until next year.
Leadership change may therefore be too far in the future to rescue the crumbling institutions that once enjoyed a strong international reputation, especially Lebanese universities and hospitals. Now the talented personnel on which those institutions depend are trying to leave for better paying jobs abroad. After the troubled decades of civil war and occupations, after the devastation of COVID-19 and the massive destruction of the explosion in the port of Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, this already fragile country faces even greater disorder.
Given the extent of the suffering, there is every reason to provide humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, as the United States is already doing. The U.S. also provides important training support to the Lebanese armed forces, although the scope of that mission has been shrinking. Otherwise, American engagement is quite limited. Washington should do more and put Lebanon higher on the list of foreign policy priorities for four reasons
1) Grand Strategy: Lebanon presents a clear case of the deleterious consequences of a pivot away from the region, given the reality of great power competition. If the U.S. does not provide leadership, it opens the door for other powers, notably Russia. Its naval repair facility in Tartus, Syria, is less than a 40-mile drive from the Lebanese port of Tripoli, which could be ripe for Moscow’s taking. Lebanon could become one more stepping-stone for Russia’s advance in the Middle East, unless the U.S. reasserts its role there.
2) Terrorism: The discrepancy between the degradation of living conditions in Lebanon and the immobility of the political class can lead to social unrest, a breeding ground for the sort of Islamist terrorism that has plagued the larger region. One should not discount the possibility of a resurgence of ISIS or intentional spillover effects from the Syrian civil war, which led to bombings in Beirut and Tripoli only eight years ago. The more such violence proliferates, the greater the chance that terror incubated in the region can spread beyond it, including to the U.S.
3) Refugees: Unless the Lebanese crises are addressed, the resulting social disorder is likely to produce a new wave of refugees, fleeing the ravages of a collapsed economy or, in a worst-case scenario, the resurgence of sectarian conflict. The Assad regime in Syria is not above provoking violence in Lebanon in order to achieve the sort of demographic reengineering it has undertaken at home, where it has forced targeted populations to flee, a cynical form of ethnic cleansing. The U.S. should be concerned about the destabilizing effects of renewed refugee flows into allies such as Jordan and Turkey, already hosting large refugee populations, or into the European Union, where the 2015 refugee wave continues to have disruptive political repercussions.
4) Iran: A collapse of the Lebanese state can only benefit Iran and its most anti-American political forces. Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, might see an opportunity to seize power directly or, more strategically, it might prefer to consolidate its control in its strongholds and let the rest of the country dissipate, precisely in order to demonstrate the weakness of western democracy. In either case, Tehran would win, unless the U.S. engages in strategic ways to address Lebanon’s dilemmas.
Arguments that it is in the U.S. national interest to engage more strongly in Lebanon run counter to current foreign policy predispositions in Washington. A prevailing orientation deprioritizes the Middle East in general in order to shift attention to the Indo-Pacific. But that viewpoint does not need to lead to a full-scale abandoning of the Middle East that hands the region over to America’s great power adversaries.
In addition, the Biden administration views the region primarily in terms of Iran and a renewed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Many Lebanese understand this and correctly fear that Hezbollah will benefit from a windfall when the U.S. lifts sanctions on Iran. There is no indication that the U.S. negotiation team is seriously demanding a termination of Iran’s regional destabilization campaigns, including its support for Hezbollah. Yet getting to a new deal with Tehran without such a constraint basically means appeasing Iran by trading away Lebanese sovereignty.
American national interest, including American values, requires a different path: Instead of misusing Lebanon as an accommodation to Tehran, the U.S. should make a stand in Lebanon, with policies designed to renew its democracy (and purge its corruption) and to protect its sovereignty by diminishing Hezbollah, as first steps toward pushing back against Iran’s broader expansionist ambitions.
Lebanon is a small country, but the current crisis has outsized geo-strategic implications for the U.S.
Dozens of alleged refugees have entered Germany on fake Syrian passports, which were produced using technology similar to that used to forge documents for some of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks, the German Bild newspaper reported Tuesday, citing government sources.
Last week, two French citizens posing as refugees were arrested in Austria on suspicion of having links to the November 13 Paris terror attacks. The suspects, of Algerian and Pakistani descent, were allegedly using fake Syrian passports and are believed to have entered Austria with some of the Paris attackers in October. Individuals posing as refugees entered Germany using passports made by the same means as those found on the suspects arrested in Austria.
“They contain the same features of forgery,” one of the sources told the German media outlet.
Stolen genuine documents were so intricately altered by counterfeiters that the forgery was not detected immediately, meaning those who entered the country on fake passports have not yet been found, according to the newspaper. Continue reading
By Nayla Rush • Center for Immigration Studies
I attended USCIS’s Asylum Division Quarterly Stakeholder Meeting last week. It was led by John Lafferty, chief of the Asylum Division. Those present were, for the most part, USCIS staff and immigration lawyers in charge of representing asylum seekers and refugees.
Here are a few things I learned:
The Asylum Division suffers from a high staff turnover. Loss of trained staff means recruiting and training others to do the job. It is also understaffed. Officers have a hard time meeting quotas set by the president.
In 2000, there were only 5,000 asylum cases and no backlog. There are now 120,000 cases, hence the backlog. Continue reading
The refugee crisis exists because America has indulged foolish foreign policies. To get out of this mess will require wisdom, not more of the same.
by Luma Simms • The Federalist
I was neither born nor bred in this country. I don’t have Ivy League credentials. Unlike elitists and pundits informed as much by cocktail parties as they are by polls and studies, I’m informed by blood, kin, and culture.
I was born in Baghdad to Christian parents who emigrated the old-fashioned way—legally—and for an old-fashioned reason: The treatment of Christians, like my family, by Muslims in the surrounding culture.
I cry at the “Star Spangled Banner,” and I cry when my naturalized home wages war against my birth home. I am an American. I am also Iraqi, and a Moslawii down to my dialect and my cooking. Continue reading
By Patrick Goodenough • CNSNews.com
Since the Paris terror attacks on November 13, the State Department has admitted 132 Syrian refugees into the United States, and all 132 are Sunni Muslims.
No Christian, Druze, Shi’ite, Alawite, or member of any other religious minority in Syria has been admitted over that period, according to data from the State Department Refugee Processing Center.
The majority of the 132 Syrian refugees permitted to resettle in the U.S. since November 13 (72) are male, the minority female (60). Of the 132 total, 39 (29.5 percent) have been men between the ages of 14 and 50. Continue reading
by Mac Thornberry • RealClearPolitics
The ISIS attack on Paris has been a wake-up call for the world. A network of terrorists exploited weaknesses in Western intelligence networks, border controls, and law enforcement to savagely attack soft targets and inflict devastating casualties. To protect America, Congress has rightly acted on one of these weaknesses and strengthened the screening of Syrian refugees. Paris has more lessons to teach. Increased vetting of refugees is a good first step, but to stop an attack in the United States there are other lessons we must learn, and learn quickly.
First, there are many avenues by which ISIS operatives can come from their training grounds across the globe, including Iraq and Syria, to carry out attacks against the West. Approximately, 30,000 individuals have traveled from other countries to join ISIS, with as many as 5,000 of them from Europe and the United States. Those from Europe do not need a visa to enter the United States, and our northern and southern borders may be a route fighters use to enter the United States. Continue reading
by Matt Barber • Townhall
What was President Obama’s immediate and instinctive response to this month’s Islamic terror attacks in Paris? Did he offer prayers for the families of the slaughtered and vow to wipe out the global cancer that is Islamic Jihad? Did he pledge to come alongside France and work with our wounded European ally until every last Islamic State barbarian is wiped from the face of the earth?
No, America’s eunuch-in-chief preened like a petty peacock, mocking and berating the very Americans he’s sworn to protect and serve. He stated – vomiting the word “Christians” with sanctimonious disgust – that there will be no “religious litmus test” on Syrian refugees, while hypocritically employing a religious litmus test of his own that favors Muslims over Christians by a rate of 97 to 3 percent. Continue reading
An operative working for Islamic State has revealed the terror group has successfully smuggled thousands of covert jihadists into Europe.
By Aaron Brown • Express
“Just wait,” he smiled.
The Islamic State operative spoke exclusively to BuzzFeed on the condition of anonymity and is believed to be the first to confirm plans to infiltrate western countries.
Islamic State, also referred to as IS and ISIS, is believed to be actively smuggling deadly gunmen across the sparsely-guarded 565-mile Turkish border and on to richer European nations, he revealed. Continue reading
by Tim Kane • National Review
Understand that the debate about Syrian refugees in the United States is a political sideshow. It has nothing to do with ending the crisis in Syria itself, nothing to do with helping France and Lebanon fight Jihadi terror, and nothing to do with xenophobia. Should the United States offer refuge to Syrians fleeing the war? Absolutely. But let’s get some perspective.
First, the terror attacks in Paris (and Beirut) represent a global war on Western civilization, not on all humanity. Second, one study found that 13 percent of Syrian refugees have a positive view of ISIS. That fact should chill you. Third, there should be no doubt that ISIS is using the refugee crisis to infiltrate the West (including our allies, France, Germany, and Turkey). That explains fact number four: 53 percent of Americans are opposed to accepting any Syrian refugees here. This is a commonsense response, even if you and I believe it is incorrect. It is shameful for politicians to call this a racist reaction, which is the lowest, commonest trick in the Left’s political playbook. Continue reading
Although the Obama administration currently refuses to temporarily pause its Syrian refugee resettlement program in the United States, the State Department in 2011 stopped processing Iraq refugee requests for six months after the Federal Bureau of Investigation uncovered evidence that several dozen terrorists from Iraq had infiltrated the United States via the refugee program.
After two terrorists were discovered in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 2009, the FBI began reviewing reams of evidence taken from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that had been used against American troops in Iraq. Federal investigators then tried to match fingerprints from those bombs to the fingerprints of individuals who had recently entered the United States as refugees: Continue reading
But now he says it would be “un-American.”
by Hannity.com Staff
President Obama has offered some heated rhetoric in response to suggestions that the U.S. might want to reconsider it’s policy as it concerns accepting refugees from Syria. The president has called Republican plans to put a hold on accepting Syrian refugees a “potent recruitment tool” for ISIS and “un-American.”
Just today, the President tweeted out:
Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That’s not who we are. And it’s not what we’re going to do.
by Ian Hanchett • Breitbart
Representative Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) argued “we need to temporarily suspend this visa waiver program” between the US and Europe because “it could just be a matter of hours, before someone travels through these different borders, someone who’s become a foreign fighter, who’s been fighting in Syria, and ends up here on the United States soil” on Monday’s broadcast of CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
Gabbard said, “I think as we watch this manhunt going on across Europe, I’m reminded of a vulnerability and a weakness that must be addressed. We’ve got a visa waiver program that really does not address the vulnerability of the open and porous borders between Syria and Turkey, and that — we’ve seen already how many foreign fighters from across Europe are able to travel through those borders, and are not being tracked and are not being — they’re not able to be addressed going through that. So, we need to temporarily suspend this visa waiver program until the intelligence community gets a handle on this, and exactly how large it is, and what’s going on.” Continue reading
Even Nancy Pelosi isn’t pressuring House Democrats to fall in lock-step with her precious Barack.
According to this, Democrats from the House of Representatives met with the Department of Homeland Security to discuss how DHS was planning to screen Syrian refugees who are coming into the United States. This was in preparation for a vote over a bill introduced in the House that would limit the number of refugees the U.S. takes in and even possibly pause the refugee program for a time. To make a long story short, it didn’t go so well – Continue reading
How nearly seventy ISIS operatives have been arrested in America in the last 18 months — including refugees who had been given safe haven, but ‘turned to terror’
• Federal and local law enforcement agencies have made dozens of arrests of men and women suspected of ISIS involvement
• Analysis shows that they include refugees who entered the United States as refugees
• Increasing pressure from Republicans not to accept refugees from Syria on scale demanded by White House
• Ted Cruz plans to introduce legislation forbidding refugee status to Syrian Muslims and moves also under way to defund settling refugees
By Ben Ashford • Dailymail.com
The terror group has set its sights on Washington, D.C. as it vows to further infiltrate the West and ramp up its blood-soaked offensive.
President Obama insists that ‘slamming the door’ on Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS would be a betrayal of American values. Continue reading
By Noe Leiva • Yahoo
Honduran authorities have arrested five Syrians intending to make it to the United States with stolen Greek passports, triggering alarm Wednesday in the wake of the Paris attacks launched by Syria-linked jihadists.
The Syrians were arrested on Tuesday as they flew into Toncontin airport serving the Honduran capital and failed to make it past airport security checks, a police spokesman, Anibal Baca, told reporters.
“Five Syrian citizens have been detained and will be taken to our offices to be investigated because it is suspected they are carrying false documents, passports stolen in Greece,” Baca said. Continue reading