Author Topic: Middle East Wars  (Read 2387 times)

Solon

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #30 on: October 17, 2017, 02:03:59 PM »
This map shows the current disposition of forces in the conflict with the Islamic State prior to yesterday's seizure of Kirkuk by the Iraqi government. Notice the long Turkish border adjacent to Syria and Iraq. The size of the area controlled by Kurds is immense. As the Islamic state diminishes, the fate of the Kurds will become a more prominent concern. A strategically-minded leadership among the Kurds and Sunni Arabs (most Kurds are Sunni) would strike a bargain to protect their interests against the Shiites of Iraq and the Alawites of Syria's dictator, Bashar al Assad. Both countries are client states of Shiite Iran. Iranian led militias and even Revolutionary Guard advisers are playing an important role in both Iraq and Syria. The mistreatment of Sunnis has led to two uprisings in post-invasion Iraq. Sunnis are the foundation of the Islamic State and other opposition militias in their rebellion against the Syrian government.

Sunnis and Shiites managed to live in relative peace for centuries. In the contemporary world, violence between the Islamic co-religionists have come to resemble the religious wars that plagued the West in the 17th century. Until WWII, the most devastating war in Central Europe was the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) that was as confusing in the motives of its participants as the current war in Syria, though it was initiated and perpetuated by religious conflicts between Protestants and Catholics. Pray to God that the current wars do not last so long or create such a legacy of bitterness and destruction. 

On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heartís desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
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Solon

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #31 on: October 18, 2017, 07:20:00 AM »
The iraqi Kurds have withdrawn to their 2014 boundaries, abandoning the territory taken from the Islamic State. According to the BBC, the oil fields of Kirkuk were vital to the survival of an independent Kurdistan. If that is true, the current president of the KRG, Barzani, has provoked a crisis for himself and the putative state he proclaimed after the recent independence referendum. The event itself was staged, according to some observers, as a political ploy to elevate Barzaini's popularity after he had held onto his power long after elections were supposed to be held in the KRG. If so, the effort backfired as many Kurds blame him for the loss of Kirkuk and surrounding areas.

Iraqi Prime Minister al Abadi called for discussions with the KRG on the basis of the existing constitution after the former Islamic State territory was retaken. It is clear that the Iraqi government seeks no further territorial gains and wants a political accommodation with the Kurds that would preserve the Iraqi state as it exists. The Kurds have yet to respond. Barzani has said that the independence referendum was not a vain activity. It is war or he will eat his words. I say he will eat his words. He may hope to preserve his power by postponing elections further, but his popularity has taken a heavy blow.   

Iraq takes disputed areas as Kurds 'withdraw to 2014 lines'
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-41663350
 
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Bill Wyatt

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #32 on: October 18, 2017, 08:15:44 AM »
Two questions:

1) Who controls the white areas?

2) Are any of the forces noted on the same side of anything or do they all fight everyone else?
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Solon

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #33 on: October 18, 2017, 05:18:43 PM »
Two questions:

1) Who controls the white areas?

2) Are any of the forces noted on the same side of anything or do they all fight everyone else?

1. Based on previous maps, the white areas appear to be those that have not been contested and have remained nominally under government control.

2. This is more complicated because the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. The Islamic State, for example, is fighting the Syrian government and the US-backed Kurdish/Arab forces which means that although some of the US-supported Kurdish-Syrian forces have fought the Syrian government, they are primarily focused on defeating the Islamic State. It seems more like a circular firing squad. The US has tried to avoid supporting attacks on the Syrian government in order to focus on the Islamic State, but that has not always been possible. The Obama administration initially supported militias opposed to Assad, but could find few "moderate" Arabs to train and, since the Russian intervention, seems to have turned its focus on defeating the Islamic State exclusively. Trump seems to have followed suit.

The Russians are not shown on the map but they are important players. They are primarily fighting/bombing the Syrian militias focused on overthrowing Assad. That includes some Syrians the US has supported in the past, but apparently has cut off or reduced assistance. The Russians have been known to bomb Kurdisn/Syrian Arab forces by "mistake".

The Turks have a Syrian border area presence designed to prevent the Kurds from unifying its two areas of control. They occasionally bomb Kurds who enter this contested area. They pay lip service to opposition to the Islamic State and have fitfully called for the overthrow of Assad, but seem to concentrate their current attention on the Syrian Kurds who they claim are affiliated with the PKK Kurdish rebels in Turkey. 

The Syrian government is fighting the Kurds/Arab forces supported by the US when they encounter them outside predominantly Kurdish areas. South of Raqqa we may see a full engagement between these two forces. Or, the Kurds may choose not to venture beyond their own territory and, not only avoid immediate war with Assad's forces, but cede the area south of Raqqa to the government. Raqqa is not a Kurdish region, so its disposition may result in a future conflict, or the Kurds may withdraw an leave it to the government. That remains to be seen.

Iran is sponsoring Hizbullah (Lebanese Palestinians opposed to Israel), and some of its own forces in support of the Syrian government. They are prepared to fight any group opposed to Assad.

As the Islamic State recedes, we could expect the Kurds and Sunni Arabs in alliance against the Iranian groups and the Assad government backed by the Russian air power. What will the US do then? Will we continue to back the Kurds and Sunni Arabs or will we let them face Assad and his allies alone?

This is the best I can do with what I have read. It is an oversimplification given the variety of groups in the fight. On the old forum I had a series of more detailed descriptions, but the situation is still fluid. Militias still continue to morph depending on the situation on the ground and tribal loyalties.

List of armed groups in the Syrian Civil War
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_armed_groups_in_the_Syrian_Civil_War

On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heartís desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
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Solon

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #34 on: October 20, 2017, 08:43:32 AM »
Iraqi Kurds are in some disarray since the withdrawal from Kirkuk. It appears there was an agreement by the leadership of the two main KRG political parties with Iraqi officials to withdraw the peshmerga from the city and outlying areas as Iraqi troops moved in to replace them. Apparently, the troops were not immediately told of it. Initially, they put up a resistance that unnecessarily cost the lives of soldiers with many others wounded.

There is another report today of the Iraqi army forces moving beyond Kirkuk and meeting fierce resistance from the Kurds. The Iraqi government troops have reached the edge of Kurdish territory. Any advance into the KRG itself will immediately unify the Kurds and lead to civil war. I expect the Iraqis to halt at the border. Negotiations are likely to take place with Kurds, Turkmen, and Arabs to set up a provincial government to administer the province and Kirkuk city itself along the ethnic and sectarian lines of the city and regional population. Iraqi PM al Abadi has shown himself to be a sensible leader, so it is unlikely he will invade the KRG proper to provoke a civil war 

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it appears that a deal had been made on Saturday that the Kurdish troops would withdraw and the Iraqi troops would take their place. This deal was agreed upon by Iraqi authorities and Kurdish politicians and it was apparently brokered by Iranian mediators. Representatives of both of Iraqi Kurdistanís largest political parties, who rule the semi-autonomous northern region, were there when the deal was done: That is, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK. The deal was done only a few hours before the aforementioned fighting started. The meeting was held under the supervision of senior Kurdish politician, Fuad Masum, who is also the president of federal Iraq.
However, both the KDP and the PUK wonít give any further details about any such deal or whether in fact the deal was done at all.
Meanwhile Kurdish soldiers are blaming the politicians. They are asking why they were sent to fight when this agreement was already in place, especially because the fighting led to the deaths and injuries of their colleagues-in-arms. Numbers are hard to get but there are apparently 32 dead Kurdish soldiers, 100 injured and 17 missing in action.

Kirkuk Kurds Anguished about Future of Province
https://www.juancole.com/2017/10/kirkuk-anguished-province.html

Kirkuk province: Iraqi and Kurdish forces in fierce fight
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-41693143
On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heartís desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
...H. L. Mencken

Solon

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #35 on: October 21, 2017, 02:07:05 PM »
From Axios: https://www.axios.com/axios-am-2499209535.html



This frame grab from drone video shows damaged buildings in Raqqa, Syria, two days after Syrian Democratic Forces said that military operations to oust the Islamic State have ended, and that their fighters have taken full control of the ancient city on the Euphrates River.

The devastation was "caused by weeks of fighting between Kurdish-led forces and the Islamic State group, and thousands of bombs dropped by the U.S.-led coalition," AP writes.

Why it matters: "Entire neighborhoods are seen turned to rubble, with little sign of civilian life. ... The U.N. and aid organizations estimate about 80 percent of the city is destroyed or uninhabitable."

Now, a humanitarian crisis is escalating.

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The international charity ďSave the Children ďsays there are some 270,000 people who have fled the Raqqa fighting and are in critical need of aid. It says that conditions in the overcrowded camps are miserable but it is not yet safe for people to go back, and many of their homes are now turned to rubble.
Syria: escalating humanitarian crisis in Raqqa
http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/10/19/syria_escalating_humanitarian_crisis_in_raqqa_/1344021

On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heartís desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
...H. L. Mencken

Solon

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #36 on: October 23, 2017, 08:24:44 AM »
Juan Cole reports that the last occupied area of Kirkuk province has been taken by the Iraqi government, forcing Kurds back into their ethnic lands. The rapid collapse of an independent Kurdistan is a product of several factors. First among them is a sharp division of Kurds between two major parties. The current president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masoud Barzani, has pursued a personal rule by delaying elections in the interest of holding power. This same tactic led him to a premature referendum on independence. it was opposed by every major government in the neighborhood, including its chief ally, the US. Second is the abandonment by US forces. The Kurds are resilient and resolute fighters, but they need air support and expertise the US has provided during their successful forays against the Islamic State. Third, the new Iraqi army is well-trained, battle-tested, and supported by the US and Iranian backed militias. It is a far cry from the corruption-riddled force of incompetents who fled in the face of Islamic State auxiliaries despite its superior numbers.

According Reuters, the loss of Kirkuk will render an independent Kurdistan impossible. Supposedly its revenue has been cut in half by the loss of oil wells in the Kirkuk region, making independence financially unsustainable.

The leading Shiite leader in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has called on Iraqi forces to protect Kurdish civilians after reports of their abuse by Shiite militias. He was joined in this call by the radical cleric  Muqtada al-Sadr. This kind of treatment contributed to Arab Sunni support for the Islamic State in the past. The unity of Iraq requires cooperation between Kurds, Shiites, and Arab Sunnis. Al Sistani has shown himself to be a peacemaker when the nation required it, but was a fierce advocate of war against the Islamic State. If his wisdom prevails, there is hope for some form of reconciliation between the ethnic groups that will allow Iraq to end its cycle of self-destruction and become a viable and successful nation.

The current Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al Abadi, has called for discussions over the governance of disputed regions, particularly, Kirkuk. Its control has been an issue of contention between Kurds and the central government since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. His moderation in victory could pave the way for the reunification of Iraq. With both Kurds and Sunnis suffering over the loss of territorial control, military defeat, and, particularly in Sunni areas, physical devastation of entire neighborhoods, reconciliation will require a moderate and supportive central government.

Shiite militias have been an important element in the successful assault on the Islamic State. They were called forth by al Sistani during the early successes of IS when it seemed possible that Baghdad itself might fall. Now, they are becoming a liability in reconciliation. How al Abadi deals with them will be crucial to the next steps. The US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, mistakenly told them to "go home." They are not Iranians. They are Iraqis, but supported and trained, in many cases, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The Trump administration would be well-advised to appoint someone with expertise in the area to manage US policy. I nominate former Gen. and CIA Director, David Petraeus. Tillerson is out of his depth and the State Department is undermanned at a time when expertise is critical to the advance of US interests in the region.

Last counties in Kirkuk fall to Iraqi Govít as Sistani calls for protection of Kurdish Citizens
https://www.juancole.com/2017/10/counties-protection-citizens.html

Iraqi forces complete Kirkuk province takeover after clashes with Kurds
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds-clash/iraqi-forces-complete-kirkuk-province-takeover-after-clashes-with-kurds-idUSKBN1CP0PT

Tillerson tells Iraqi Shiite Militias to ďgo home.Ē Sad.
https://www.juancole.com/2017/10/tillerson-shiite-militias.html
« Last Edit: October 23, 2017, 08:34:37 AM by Solon »
On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heartís desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
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Common Sense

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #37 on: October 23, 2017, 09:33:08 AM »
So, whats do you believe is our next move and what SHOULD be our next move?
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Solon

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #38 on: October 23, 2017, 11:46:24 AM »
So, whats do you believe is our next move and what SHOULD be our next move?

Tillerson's misstep on the Shiite militias is a big deal for the Iraqis. We need someone with a high profile in Washington to carry a consistent message back to the White House about policy requirements. Hence, my recommendation of David Petraeus. Odds are we will be stuck with Tillerson who is clearly uninformed. The US has an Ambassador in Iraq who is a hold over from the Obama administration, so you can imagine how much influence he has.

We appear to be encouraging al Abadi to be generous to the Sunnis and Kurds. That is probably the best we can do aside from maintaining our military support and training. We just need someone who speaks with authority to leaders in the Middle East.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2017, 07:10:44 PM by Solon »
On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heartís desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
...H. L. Mencken

Steven

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #39 on: October 23, 2017, 05:36:40 PM »
I agree. Petraeus is the man for the job

Solon

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #40 on: November 03, 2017, 07:14:54 AM »
The Syrian army announced the capture of Deir al-Zor today, the last Islamic State stronghold in Syria. The Caliphate has been destroyed in all of its major cities in Iraq and Syria and has lost most if not all of its oil revenue. The future of ISIS was on display in NY on Tuesday and in Niger last month. It will join al Qaeda as a furtive enterprise seeking out failed states in which to congregate and strategize, occasionally launching strikes against military or civilian targets around the world and recruiting disaffected Muslims online for individual acts of terror. Some members will filter back into Europe and Islamic countries in the effort to develop cells that can recreate the type of attacks France has experienced. ISIS is severely depleted, but still a deadly problem.

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The Syrian government declared victory over Islamic State in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor on Friday, a big blow to the jihadists as their last stronghold in Syria crumbles.

Deir al-Zor, on the west bank of the Euphrates River, is the largest and most important city in eastern Syria, and is the center of the countryís oil production.

Syria declares victory over Islamic State in Deir al-Zor
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-deiralzor/syria-declares-victory-over-islamic-state-in-deir-al-zor-idUSKBN1D30IE
On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heartís desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
...H. L. Mencken

Solon

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #41 on: November 11, 2017, 08:01:53 PM »
As the threat of ISIS recedes, the conflict between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran is growing more dangerous. Lebanon has suddenly become the locus of a new and potentially catastrophic war.

Friday, a week ago, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad al-Hariri, arrived in Saudi Arabia to visit the King. He has property in the country and visits it often. He had recently attended a meeting in Riyadh and thought he had convinced the Saudi government to support him in his ongoing effort to preserve peace in the country that balances the Shiites of Hizbullah with the Sunnis and Christian Arabs who make up the nation. Over the last 15 years it has taken in many refugees from its neighbors, first Iraq and then Syria. To everyone's shock, however, Hariri issued a statement resigning from his office and charging Hizbullah with a threat to assassinate him. (His father was PM when he was assassinated in 2005. At the time it was presumably at the behest of the Syrian government.) He has remained in Saudi Arabia since then responding to requests for an explanation by saying only that he is OK.

Now, it appears that the Saudis were not satisfied with his program of accommodation with Hizbullah, a close ally of Iran, and has been trying to impose a new, pro-Saudi government possibly led by his brother. This has mystified the Lebanese who have maintained a careful balance of political forces in an effort to avoid a civil war such as they experienced from 1975 to 1990. Most recently Israel invaded the country in 2006 and left a devastated infrastructure in a war against Hizbullah.

Now, the prospects of another catastrophic event appear almost inevitable as Saudi Arabia and Iran jockey for a position of control that Hizbullah could surely take unless the Saudis invade. The Middle East is already the scene of destructive wars and the prospect of another looms over the continuing drama of Hariri's detention in Riyadh.

Exclusive: How Saudi Arabia turned on Lebanon's Hariri
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-politics-hariri-exclusive/exclusive-how-saudi-arabia-turned-on-lebanons-hariri-idUSKBN1DB0QL

On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heartís desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
...H. L. Mencken

Solon

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #42 on: November 21, 2017, 10:45:54 AM »
Putin says the military conflict in Syria is coming to an end and the next step is the consolidation of Bashar al Assad's political power...or...at least that is what he meant.

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Military Operations in Syria Coming to End, Says Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that joint military operations by Russian and Syrian government forces to fight terrorism in the Middle Eastern country (Guardian) are "wrapping up" and that a political solution will be the next step.

Putin made the comments on Monday while hosting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Sochi (RFE/RL) ahead of a gathering with Turkish and Iranian leaders set for Wednesday. Assad's last visit to Russia was in 2015, when it began its military intervention (BBC) to back the Assad regime in Syria's civil war. The trip is believed to be only the second time Assad has left his country (Al Jazeera) since the war broke out in 2011.

ANALYSIS

"The Russians are attempting to transform their role from that of an aggressor, threatening the opposition's existence, to the main party capable of ensuring calm," Asaad Hanna writes for Chatham House.

"Assad's ally Russia now dominates the negotiating process, meaning there is little pressure on him to accept real electionsóor any election before his term ends in 2021. A political solution under his terms would be to incorporate opposition members into a national unity government under his leadership," Zeina Karam writes for the Associated Press.
CFR's Daily News Brief
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Putin has won, but what, exactly, remains to be seen. The US will not be funding the reconstruction of Syria and Putin can't afford it. The Syrians, even Assad supporters, are likely to wonder if the destruction of the country was worth it to keep the dictator in power. But that is a long term consequence. In the short term, it's victory toasts all around.
On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heartís desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
...H. L. Mencken

Solon

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Re: Middle East Wars
« Reply #43 on: November 21, 2017, 09:02:26 PM »
Trump was preparing a new initiative for Middle East peace according to recent reports, but the ineptitude of the administration just got in the way. These bozos have depleted the State Department of irreplaceable human assets and proposed to cut the budget by one third. Now, they are tripping over their own stupidity to no one's surprise who follows foreign policy issues.

Trump's embrace of Netanyahu and vice versa has undermined confidence the Palestinians have that the US can be counted on for fair treatment. Hence, they are prepared to take their case to the International Criminal Court.

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The Jerusalem Post reports: "Palestinians have frozen ties with the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and American officials visiting the West Bank ... If Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's senior adviser, or Jason Greenblatt, the administration's main peace envoy came to the West Bank, PA officials would not be able to meet with them."
Why it matters: A senior adviser to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said they're freezing communications because the State Department won't renew the certification of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's representative office in Washington, D.C. If the office is forced to close, it would almost certainly derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations being brokered by the Trump administration.

The details:

The PLO office is the de facto Palestinian embassy to the U.S. and was an important symbol for Palestinian diplomatic achievements.
The Palestinians say closing the office would be the equivalent to cutting diplomatic ties between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority, and would be a proof the Trump administration can't be an honest broker in future peace talks.

Between the lines: There's been speculation that the Trump administration's refusal to certify the Palestinian office was a tactic to gain leverage over the Palestinians in the peace talks. That's false. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had to sign a letter of decertification regarding the PLO office because the law obliged him to notify Congress if the Palestinians are encouraging the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes (which Palestinian President Abbas did in his UN speech in September).

Until now, the Palestinian actions and rhetoric regarding their relations with the U.S. had been mostly symbolic.

What we're hearing: Both sides are still talking to each other, and the office is still open ó for now. Relations are not suspended yet. State Department officials tell us they're still in contact with Palestinian officials about the status of the PLO office, as well as about the administration's larger efforts to advance a lasting and comprehensive peace.

The bottom line: The Trump administration is sorting through its political and legal options to navigate this tense ó and potentially disastrous ó situation.

A new obstacle to Mideast peace talks
https://www.axios.com/new-obstacle-to-mideast-peace-talks-2511459112.html
On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heartís desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.
...H. L. Mencken