JED BABBIN: IRAQ BREAKS APART

Iraq is an area, not a nation. History and geography condemn it to be without the sort of nationalism that arises from a common ethnicity or religion that binds a country together for longer than any strongman can rule with an iron fist.

A Washington Post article last week said that the collapse of the Iraqi army “marked a stark failure for the U.S. military that trained it and for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, which has struggled to address leadership and morale problems that now threaten the force’s ability to defend the country.” That sort of faculty lounge-level reasoning overlooks the fact that no matter how well an army is trained, its soldiers have to be willing to fight for something. And fighting for the Maliki regime, which stands for its constituency — the Shiites of Iraq — and for its Iranian allies is something that tens of thousands of Iraqi military and police forces have chosen not to do.

Seven or eight years ago, I appeared on Alhurra, the State Department-sponsored television network that broadcasts to the Middle East in Arabic. I debated a member of Iraq’s parliament on the point of Iraq’s future and predicted that Iraq would split apart into religious-ethnic principalities when American forces left. He scoffed, saying “As long as the sky is blue and the grass is green, there will be an Iraq.” Apparently not.

The revived al-Qaida in Iraq — ISIS, as they call themselves now, the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” — have captured the city of Mosul and are apparently on their way to Baghdad. According to some reports, they may have been stopped by pro-Shiite militias that answered a call to jihad last week by Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. (Sistani, we should recall, refused to meet with American commanders in Iraq for the entire time we occupied Iraq.)

The breaking apart of Iraq into three pseudo-states is, predictably, in the following form. Iraq is bordered — clockwise — by Syria in the northwest, Turkey in the north, Iran in the east and Saudi Arabia in the south. In northwestern Iraq, and to Iraq’s center in Baghdad, is the area dominated now by ISIS forces. It encompasses more than what we used to call the “Sunni triangle,” where much of the bloodiest fighting took place in the years following the 2003 invasion. Bordering Turkey in the northeast is Kurdish territory where a large part of Iraq’s oil reserves lie. Southeastern Iraq is Shiite territory, Maliki’s government closely allied with — in fact, a puppet of — Iran.

NOT WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED: DEBBIE YOUNG

A paper recently published by Stephen T. Parente and Michael Ramlet of the Medical Industry Leadership Institute shows how the Affordable Care Act’s structural problems are going to take years to fully come to light. In the WSJ, Mr. Parente writes, “WSJ Industry experts say consumers should once again brace for significantly higher premiums.” Furthermore, by Mr. Parente and Ms. Frogner’s estimate, there will be more than 40 million uninsured by 2024—10% more than there are today.

First will be the Affordable Care Act’s “essential benefits” requirements. All plans—including those currently exempted for hardship and old plans extended for various reasons—must provide all of the law’s mandated benefits from Jan. 1, 2017. On average roughly 15% of plans offered in 2013 will not qualify for sale on the insurance exchanges once all extensions are completed. Depending on the state, as many as 60% of the plans sold in 2013 would not be permitted for sale.
The law’s “reinsurance” program will also expire in 2017. Health insurers will no longer be able to bill the government for 80% of a patient’s health-care costs when they make more than $45,000 in annual claims. The multibillion-dollar risk corridors for insurance companies will also sunset in 2017—ending the taxpayer bailouts that kick in when insurance companies providing ACA plans lose money. Insurance companies will have neither option by 2017, leaving consumers to pick up the tab through premium payments. Federal subsidies will be unable to keep up with such dramatic rate spikes.

Confronted with this cost crisis, consumers will react the only way they know how: by looking for cheaper options such as the remaining high-deductible health plans offered by private companies and the exchanges as well as plans with very limited physician and hospital networks geared to achieve maximum efficiency for the average patient. These plans are likely to provide no or limited access to specialized facilities and physicians. Rising premiums will create a cyclical exodus from insurance plans, with each wave of departures fueling premium spikes that cause even more departures.

How the West Facilitates Hamas’s Mission by Khaled Abu Toameh

On the basis of Abbas’s assurances that the unity government would “renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist,” the Obama Administration and several EU governments rushed to announce that they would work with the new government, even as Hamas continued to deny Abbas’s claims.

Abbas may now finally have realized that Hamas’s real intention is to get rid of him, yet it is the U.S. and Europe that have emboldened and legitimized the Islamist movement, thus facilitating Hamas’s mission to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis and take over the West Bank.

The reconciliation agreement that was signed between rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas in April, and the subsequent formation of a unity government, was supposed to put an end to their dispute, which erupted after Hamas won the January 2006 parliamentary election.

But the kidnapping of three Israeli youths in the West Bank last week has shown that the gap between Fatah and the Islamist movement Hamas remains as wide as ever, and that the two parties continue to treat each other with suspicion.

The Public/Private Imperative to Protect the Grid: Charles Brooks

Last week, three high-powered flares erupted from the Sun in a single 24-hour period, emitting electro-magnetic energy particle toward Earth and throughout the Solar System. The flares were categorized as X-class flares, capable of inflicting damage to the electrical grid.

Also last week, a power station in Nogales, Arizona, was targeted for attack by a bomb and an incendiary device planted on a 50,000 gallon diesel tank. Thankfully, the attempt failed.

And last month, The Department of Homeland Security announced that a public utility in the US that was the target of a cyber-attack that compromised its control system network. Power companies use Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) networks to control their industrial systems and many of these SCADA networks need to be updated and hardened to meet growing cybersecurity threats.

In all three cases the electric grid was spared consequences that could have been devastating and disrupted power on a grand scale. The underlying reality that our electric grid infrastructure in extremely vulnerable, to physical, cyber, and forces of nature incidents. Public/Private collaboration is essential to preventing a next incident to the grid and a national catastrophe.

Protecting our grid is certainly a topic that keeps DHS, DOD and intelligence community planners up at night. The threats can be from Electronic Magnetic Pulse (EMP) generated from a geomagnetic solar flare or from a terrorist short range missile, cybersecurity attacks, or from a physical assault on utilities or power plants.

Because of recent incidents and the growing interdependence of our economy to the electrical grid, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies held bi-partisan hearings addressing the threats and implications.

Testimony at the Hearings from Dr. Peter Prye, a member of the Congressional EMP Commission and executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, put the threats in frightening perspective: “Natural EMP from a geomagnetic super storm, like the 1859 Carrington Event or 1921 Railroad Storm, and nuclear EMP attack from terrorists or rogue states, as practiced by North Korea during the nuclear crisis of 2013, are both existential threats that could kill 9 of 10 Americans through starvation, disease and societal collapse.”

SETH LIPSKY: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN AMERICAN ALLY?

http://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/.premium-1.599074?trailingPath=2.169%2C2.223%2C

For Iraq, as for Vietnam, what does it mean to be an American ally?
As ISIS advances towards Baghdad, President Obama’s dilemma – just as was the case in Vietnam – is not about saving U.S. combat fatalities, but about saving a Free Iraq.

For those who are worried about whether America is going to stick with Iraq — could this be a marker for other allies? — I like to recommend paying attention to the abandonment of Free Vietnam. I’ve been thinking of it again this week as the world waits to see what, if anything, America is going to do in the face of the advance against Iraq by the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Vietnam, for many of us, is the defining war of our generation. I covered Vietnam as an enlisted man in the American Army assigned to the GI daily, Pacific Stars and Stripes. I was in Hong Kong for the Wall Street Journal when, in the spring of 1975, Congress voted to cut off support for the South Vietnamese. Like other correspondents, I raced to Saigon. We all knew what was about to happen.

It was like watching history unfold on wide-screen cinema. Congress, overriding a veto by President Gerald Ford and pleadings by Secretary of State Kissinger, voted to end all support for the government of the South Vietnamese Republic. South Vietnam’s doughty president, Nguyen Van Thieu, had little choice but to bring his divisions out of the Central Highlands and fall back toward the capital.

The communists completed their conquest in a matter of days. When they came out of the jungles they weren’t carrying pitchforks and spears, contra the Left, which had it that these were the weapons used to defeat our helicopters and tanks. They emerged in tanks and hauled surface to air missiles that had to be towed by heavy trucks. That’s how the communists completed their conquest, dooming millions to die in re-education camps or perish on the high seas or in the killing fields of Cambodia.

What stays with me over the years is the absence of ruth on the part of the Congress. It was no longer a question of saving our GIs. There were no American combat troops — zero — left in Vietnam by the time Congress betrayed Vietnam. This was an abandonment of an ally, a country for whose right of self-determination America had sacrificed more than 58,000 of its own GIs. And with which America was a signatory of the Paris Accords.

The Problem Isn’t Inequality, It’s Subsidized Equality: Daniel Greenfield

On Monday, two millionaires showed off their latest inequality talking points as Obama used Elizabeth Warren’s student loan bill to bash congressional Republicans.

“If you’re a big oil company, they’ll go to bat for you,” Obama sneered. “If you’re a student, good luck.”

Good luck indeed. Warren’s bill cynically piggybacks on a lower interest rate plan from last year that the House passed 392 to 31. The Republicans, who only care about oil companies, unlike Obama who doled out billions in Green Energy loans to the companies of his donors, voted for it almost en masse.

Unlike it, Warren’s bill isn’t really about student loans and isn’t meant to pass. Like her Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act, it’s political theater by a lifelong fraud who began her career as a fake Indian, was a fake Republican and is now a fake Socialist. It would be easier to find a garden spot on Mars than a single honest moment in the long career of Elizabeth Ann Herring.

Warren’s bill is cynical manufactured outrage trying to link two unconnected things, supposed tax breaks for the rich to student loans, so that her equally corrupt colleagues can hold on to their fiefdom in the Senate by dragging out the overexploited youth vote for the midterm elections.

Elizabeth Warren, a tenured celebrity professor who jumped into politics, and Barack Obama, an untenured law school instructor, who made it big in politics, know exactly why student loan debt is so high and why their measures do nothing to address its real causes.

Harvard Law paid Warren $350,000 to teach a single course. When Scott Brown brought it up during a debate about student loans, she protested. “I want to talk about the issues. Senator Brown wants to launch attacks.”

But Warren’s outrageous compensation is the issue. Harvard pays the adjuncts who teach many of its undergraduate classes an average of $11,037. Elizabeth Warren, who likes comparing the salary of a company’s employees to its CEO’s, isn’t comparing the $429,981 that Harvard paid her before she ran for office to an adjunct’s salary. And unlike a CEO, all Warren did was show up for a little bit and then go back to her real business as a lawyer and government consultant.

The untenured Obama was making a more modest $69,287 for teaching three courses. He was politically connected, but had yet to become a celebrity. After leaving the White House, he can expect to easily pull down a small fortune for showing up to teach a brief seminar at any college.

ELECTIONS ARE COMING IN IOWA…..SENATOR HARKIN (D) IS RETIRING….PRIMARY IS OVER ERNST(R) VS BRALEY (D)

Joni Ernst (R) Challenger ****
http://www.joniforiowa.com/

HEALTHCARE
Repeal and Replace Obamacare
Joni is staunchly opposed to the Obamacare law. Joni supports immediate action to defund Obamacare, repeal it, and replace it with free-market alternatives that put patients first, and healthcare decisions back in the hands of doctors rather than bureaucrats.
SCRAP THE TAX CODE
The IRS is a disaster. The greatest nation on earth should not have one of the most predatory, bureaucratic, out of control tax agencies on the planet. Our system is backwards. Joni believes real, fundamental tax reform will require more than tweaks to the tax code. It’s time to scrap it and start over, to make our tax system fairer, flatter, simpler and more certain.

UNITED STATES/ISRAEL PARTNERSHIP
http://www.joniforiowa.com/u-s-israeli-partnership/
Since recognizing Israel’s official founding on May 14, 1948, the bond between the United States and the Jewish State has steadily grown stronger through many historic and turbulent moments, to include the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Six-Day War, and Gulf War to presently underway efforts to downgrade, and ultimately eliminate, the offensive capabilities of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and to eliminate the regional threat posed by a potentially nuclear Iran. As history has proven time and time again, America has no better friend or more loyal ally than she does with Israel.
Today this strategic alliance has grown well beyond these essential military and intelligence ties to other vital areas such as rapid expansion of trade, cultural exchanges and shared interest in the sciences. What has nourished this growth is the fact that these two powerful nations share the values of democracy, appreciation of free market principles, strict adherence to the rule of law, and culture of innovation.
While over the last few years there has been an unfortunate slight uptick in misguided rhetoric coming from Washington concerning matters related to Israel and her self-interest and security, Joni Ernst believes the United States must remain committed to growing and nurturing this relationship in a host of ways, including the continuation of aid programs, sharing of intelligence, close coordination on foreign policy relating to strategic international and regional importance, and extension of a mutually-beneficial and growing trade relationship.
As a soldier who has commanded an Army unit in the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and current Lt. Colonel in the Iowa National Guard, Joni Ernst looks at the U.S.-Israeli relationship not only through the standard foreign policy and national security prism, but also from an on-the-ground, military readiness and capabilities standpoint. And as the next United States Senator from Iowa, she will enthusiastically fight to expand the bond that exists between these two partners while prioritizing efforts aimed at strengthening the only democracy in the Middle East with a recognition that doing so will preserve the safety and security of both America and Israel for generations to come.

Bruce Braley (D) Challenger Is the Congressman in Iowa District 1
http://www.brucebraley.com/
http://braley.house.gov/
http://www.ontheissues.org/house/Bruce_Braley.htm **

GETS A 2+ FROM THE ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR HIS PRO PALARAB RECORD

ENERGY
Ending our dependence on foreign oil and promoting Iowa renewable energy is critical to our national security and economic growth.
I’m working on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to shift the United States’ energy focus from the Middle East to the Midwest — so we can invest more in renewable energy like wind and biofuels and create the good-paying jobs of the future.

“Keystone XL has attracted rare bipartisan support because of the enormous economic benefits it will provide. It should move forward quickly once it’s approved.” – Bruce Braley
Braley reinforced his strong support during the House Energy and Commerce Committee markup, voting for the Keystone Pipeline bill. (H.R. 3, Ordered reported favorably to the full House 30-18: R 26-0; D 4-18, 4/17/13, Braley Voted Yea)
One month later, Braley voted against approval for the Keystone Pipeline – the exact same bill he voted for just a month earlier. (H.R. 3, CQ Vote #179: Passed 241-175: R 222-0; D 19-175, 5/22/13, Braley Voted Nay)
HEALTHCARE

Providing affordable, accessible and quality health care to all Americans is one of my top priorities. I was proud to help pass the Affordable Care Act, which will decrease health insurance costs, expand access to quality, affordable health care, improve reimbursements for Iowa medical providers and allow Americans to maintain their choice of health insurance. This bill will provide much-needed relief for thousands of businesses in Iowa’s First District and will reduce our deficit by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years and over $1 trillion in the 10 years after that.

We are already seeing the positive impact of the Affordable Care Act. Medicare reimbursements to Iowa providers increased by 5% in 2010 and 10% in 2011, as a result of my work on this bill. This means more Iowa providers will accept Medicare patients, providing greater access to care for Iowa seniors.
In Iowa, the Affordable Care Act is already working.
DEFENSE
Feb 24, 2014 Braley to Defense Secretary: ‘Don’t Gut Iowa’s National Guard’
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlining his opposition to possible cuts to Iowa’s National Guard forces after reports that the Pentagon could seek to significantly reduce spending on the National Guard.
“With weapons systems that are tens of billions of dollars over budget and additional billions being spent on projects halfway around the world in Afghanistan, there are far better areas to look for savings at the Pentagon than in gutting Iowa’s National Guard,” Braley said. “The last thirteen years have illustrated the National Guard’s critical value to our national security—as hundreds of thousands of these soldiers have bravely served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world.

DAVID GOLDMAN: AMERICA WANTS THE IMPOSSIBLE ****

The United States has misunderstood everyone in the world outside its borders and mismanaged everything. It has done so with a bipartisan consensus so broad and deep that it has no opposition except simple-minded isolationism. America gets unwanted results — most recently in Iraq – because it wants the wrong things in the first place. And there seems to be no way to persuade Americans otherwise. The crumbling of the Iraqi state will provide yet another pretext for mutual recriminations among political parties. The trouble is that both parties wanted the wrong thing to begin with.

It is impossible to recruit clever young people out of American universities to the dour, depressing mission of managing the decline of other civilizations. Americans are missionaries, not imperial mandarins. America cannot ignore the Middle East because it has critical interests in the region, including the free flow of hydrocarbons, but it cannot fix it.

It tried to fix Libya, and traded the nasty regime of Muammar Gaddafi for a Petrie Dish of jihadist militias; it tried to fix Egypt, and traded the miserable regime of Hosni Mubarak for the Muslim Brotherhood, and the inevitable return of military rule in the face of the twin threats of terror and starvation; it did not even try to fix Syria, which has collapsed into sectarian division. It spent US$1 trillion, 5,000 dead, 50,000 wounded, and several million disrupted American lives trying to fix Iraq and Afghanistan.

From the Pillars of Hercules to the Hindu Kush, America confronts a belt of countries unable to feed themselves, let alone to invest their capital in profitable businesses or educate their young people. Without hydrocarbons their economies would resemble the worst of sub-Saharan Africa. The only four that have conquered illiteracy – Iran, Turkey, Tunisia and Algeria – have suffered a sudden collapse in fertility, from pre-modern to post-modern levels, in a single generation.

What should America have done?
i: Invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein was a reasonable alternative after 9/11. I supported the invasion at the time because America needed to make a horrible example out of one hostile Muslim government in order to persuade the others to cooperate in suppressing terrorists. But America should have installed a strongman and left, with the option of returning to install yet another strongman, as Daniel Pipes proposed at the time.
ii) The Sunni-Shi’ite conflict was inevitable, but the US could have reduced it to a low boil by neutralizing Iran – bombing the nuclear weapons facilities, decapitating the Revolutionary Guard, and financing the opposition. That would have cost a few hundred million dollars all in.
iii) With Iran neutralized, the Assad family’s lifeline in Syria would have been severed. As Erik Prince once suggested, Washington could have struck a deal with Moscow on succession: allow Moscow to choose Assad’s successor.
iv) Israel should have been encouraged to reduce Hezbollah in Lebanon with the West’s blessing, rather than handcuffed under the 2006 American plan to end the Israel-Lebanon War. Then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice forced the Israelis to withdraw with the promise that the Iranian-controlled militia would be disarmed. With Iran unable to help, Hezbollah would have been easy to destroy.
v) With Iran out of the picture, America would have been able to demand that the Saudis and Turks stop supporting the sort of militant jihadists who are now rampaging through Syria and Iraq. Absent the Iranian threat, the Saudis would have agreed.
vi) America should have ignored Libya and continued to support a military government in Egypt. The aging Mubarak had to leave, but an orderly transition plan still would have been possible.

GIDEON KING: HAS ANYONE THOUGHT DEEPLY ABOUT GITMO LATELY?

http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/detail/has-anyone-thought-deeply-about-gitmo-lately?f=puball

Has anyone thought deeply about Gitmo lately? The leader of our nation is taking action that may very well endanger our lives, and more importantly the lives of our children.

On March 7th, 2011 it was established that Executive Order 13567 would be carried out under the framework of section 1023 of the National Defense Authorization Act. A Periodic Review Board process was established wherein government-appointed officials examine whether or not Guantanamo detainees continue to pose a threat to our country. Each detainee is appointed a personal representative and witnesses may provide testimony at the behest of any relevant party.

Once a recommendation is made, a review committee will determine whether it is warranted to keep a detainee in “law of war detention.” The review committee is made up of the Secretary Of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The very first review was completed on or about January 9, 2014; it was determined that Mahmud Abd Al Aziz Al Mujahid was no longer a threat to our country. He is known as a member of the “Dirty Thirty” which included 30 UBL bodyguards. He is a committed jihadist, originally recruited by Yemeni Shaykhs.

He has familial ties to UBL. He was trained at the al-Qaida al-Faruq training camp. He was present in fights against the U.S. in Tora Bora and is reported to have had knowledge of planned terrorist attacks. A hearty congratulations to the team that is letting this demonstrably militant enemy of our state go
free (I couldn’t think of another way to express my sense of desperate sarcasm).

Wait, more congratulations are in order.

JANET LEVY: FROM RUSSIA FIRST TO MUSLIMS FIRST ****

http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/detail/from-russia-first-to-muslims-first?f=puball

“As Diana West posed in her previous book, The Death of the Grown-up, our inability to discern right from wrong, good from evil, and our belief in our exceptionalism – the superiority of our constitutional republic and Judeo-Christian value system – has led us down a path of moral relativism, politically correct multiculturalism, and perpetual adolescent indecisiveness that obfuscates the truth and thwarts actions critical for our survival. Coupled with our denial of the truth – the refusal to even examine available evidence or air it in plain view – we are worse than betrayed. We are truly lost and have become unwitting instruments in our own demise.”

On September 25, 2012, two weeks after the brutal attack by Islamic terrorists that killed four Americans at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi which Obama falsely attributed to a video on Islam, the president addressed the U.N. General Assembly with a statement that defies and besmirches the First Amendment guarantee of free speech and expression. The putative leader of the Free World stood before the intergovernmental body, created at the close of World War II to preserve world peace, and intoned, “The future must not belong to those who would slander the prophet of Islam.”

This was not the first time at the U.N. that blasphemy against Islam trumped free speech. In November 2011, the Istanbul Process or Resolution 16/18, supported by Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, won passage. In effect, it makes criticizing Islam an international crime.

How did it come to this – U.S. leaders supporting limitations on our constitutional freedoms and advocating for protection of one religion, actions that contradict the very foundation of America? How did it become acceptable to put “Muslims first” before the values of our more than 200-year-old pluralistic, constitutional republic?

In her latest book, American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character, nationally- syndicated columnist Diana West posits that our capitulation to Islam and shariah began in the early 1930s with denial and obfuscation of the truth when we ignored the pervasive Communist infiltration and occupation of our government. At the time, anti-Communists – a virtual parade of courageous American patriots – were ridiculed and marginalized as “red baiters,” just as those who speak out today against the threat of shariah or Islamic doctrine are tagged “Islamophobes.”