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EXCLUSIVE: Former Trump appointee explains an ‘America First Strategy’ in the ME

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Photo: Israeli Government

The author interviewed Ellie Cohanim, one of the authors of the new book: “An America First Approach to US National Security.” Ellie is the former U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism under the Trump administration. She is currently a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum focusing on Iran, Israel, and global antisemitism, and is a national security contributor for the Christian Broadcasting Network. In 2021, Ellie launched and hosted for Jewish News Syndicate 30 plus episodes of the show “Global Perspectives with Ellie Cohanim.” Ellie spent 15 years in media and NGO management before serving in the public sector. How would you define an “America First” strategy in the Middle East?

Cohanim: An America First strategy in the Middle East would seek to advance American national security interests in that region, while maintaining our status as THE global superpower. To do that, the US would ensure that our principal allies in the region, countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel, are economically and militarily strong, and that our adversaries in the region are deterred.

Postal: How has the United States’ standing in the Middle East differed between the Trump and Biden administrations?

Cohanim: Under President Trump, for four years we had peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Under President Biden, in just three tumultuous years there has been war in the region, which holds the potential for becoming a regional conflict and even a nuclear confrontation. Meanwhile, the US’ status in the region and the world has diminished due to Biden’s disastrous mishandling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, his emboldening of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his weak response to Iranian attacks on our personnel and assets in the region. 

 

Postal: Do you think the United States and Israel are/were in a stronger position to deter Iran’s nuclear and territorial ambitions in Biden or Trump’s administration?

Cohanim: America’s position of strength has not changed under either administration vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran. What has changed is our Iran policy. Under President Trump’s administration, the US contained and constrained Tehran. Trump applied a “Maximum Pressure” sanctions campaign which left the Iranian Regime with only $4 billion in accessible foreign currency reserves by the end of his term, giving the Iranians less cash and less ability to fund their terror proxies and their nuclear program, and Trump eliminated Qassem Soleimani. While all President Biden needed to do was to continue implementing such successful policies, his administration instead did the exact opposite.  Under the Biden administration, Israel, our leading ally in the region, was attacked for the first time directly from Iranian soil. This was an unprecedented escalatory attack by the Iranian regime, and could only happen under the Biden administration.

Postal: In your chapter of the book, you discuss the weakening of US relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia under the Biden administration. How has the Biden administration affected the likelihood of future normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and deals between Israel and other Muslim countries (i.e., new Abraham Accords)?

Cohanim: The good news is that the Abraham Accords have withstood the test of multiple Hamas provocations against Israel, and now the current war. Despite numerous claims from the Biden administration regarding “successful” efforts to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, I do not think that the Biden administration will be able to clinch such a deal. In the Middle East, people have a long memory. Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has not forgotten President Biden’s snub when he first came into office, and Biden’s incredibly poorly advised behavior towards the Crown Prince when he made his first visit to the Kingdom as president. The last thing the Crown Prince wants is to hand Biden his first foreign policy success with a Rose Garden peace deal ceremony. So, I do not believe President Biden can broker Saudi/Israeli normalization.

However, I am also convinced that it is a matter of “when” and not “if” such a peace deal will happen between those two countries, as it serves both of their interests to make such a deal. The Saudis understand better than anyone that it is the Islamic Republic of Iran that threatens the Kingdom’s security and stability, not Israel.

Postal: What do you think of the Biden administration’s latest statements withholding arms to Israel?

Cohanim: President Biden will go down in history for his abject moral failure in not standing by Israel while she fights a five-front war. Biden has shown his despicable personality for trying to keep his anti-Israel arms embargo concealed until he could first deliver a speech on the Holocaust. Biden’s behavior is despicable on so many levels.

Ultimately, Biden is betraying the American people. He came into office presenting himself as a “centrist Democrat,” but has proven repeatedly to be beholden to the radical, extremist, pro-Hamas wing of his party.

Postal: How does the Biden administration’s support of a Palestinian state differ from the Trump administration’s support of a Palestinian state under its Peace to Prosperity framework?

Cohanim: The Biden administration stated that they will “unilaterally recognize” a Palestinian state. What the borders of that state are and who would lead it, nobody knows. 

The Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” was a detailed plan that was premised on the realities on the ground in Israel. The plan required that the Palestinians reach benchmarks proving a real desire to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors. It included over $50 billion in investment in the region, which would have been a road to prosperity for all. Perhaps most significantly, the Palestinian state envisioned under the Trump plan would have been demilitarized, the wisdom of which could not be more clear following the October 7 massacre and attack.

The author would like to thank Ellie Cohanim for participating in this interview.

 

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Guatemala is investigating U.S. NGOs for child trafficking, seeks Texas AG collaboration

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Guatemala’s Attorney General is investigating ongoing criminal claims that a number of American tax payer funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating both inside and outside the United States are complicit  in the ongoing trafficking, abuse and disappearance of children from its nation, according to an official Guatemalan letter obtained by this investigative columnist.

The Guatemalan government is seeking full cooperation from the State of Texas, where the accusations of abuse have been reported, government officials told SaraACarter.com.

A letter from Guatemalan Attorney General María Consuelo Porras was sent to Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday. Porras asked Paxton for immediate assistance with investigations into recent criminal reports filed with Guatemala’s Public Ministry alleging that unaccompanied minor children and adolescents being trafficked into the U.S. from Guatemala have allegedly suffered sexual and physical abuse at facilities operated by U.S. tax payer funded NGOs.

The Biden Administration has granted tens of billions of dollars in U.S. tax payer money in the form of grants to NGOs working to house, feed, educate and provide resources to illegal migrants entering the country. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank in Washington D.C. documented the astonishing cost of an open border to American taxpayers.

Guatemalan Secretary General Angel Pineda with the Public Ministry spoke with  SaraACarter.com Sunday night. He said he is seeking collaboration from Paxton and the state of Texas in this ongoing criminal investigation.

“As a Prosecutor’s Office, Ministerio Publico of Guatemala, have received a criminal complaint that states some criminal actions, which we see with great concern,” Pineda told this investigative columnist.  “Due to the situation that is happening in Texas, regarding different forms of abuses of some Guatemalan children and adolescents, when the institution received that criminal complaint, the institution has started investigations, so it is necessary to work on this matter in an integral way.”

He added “that is why, I have been authorized to ask for the collaboration of prosecutor Paxton so we can work together and protect Guatemalan children, and have sent a letter in that matter. “

Texas Attorney General Paxton could not be reached immediately for comment.

According to sources, the allegations of abuse are currently under investigation and are focused on facilities contracted by NGOs that have been poorly managed, and or have allowed for the sexual assault and physical abuse of children from Guatemala. In other cases, the Guatemalan government is investigating NGOs, some of which are operating in Central America, that are aiding and abetting the child trafficking organizations by supplying the necessary resources to move the unaccompanied children to the United States border without guardians or parental supervision.

“These Guatemalan children have reportedly been placed in shelters and organizations throughout Texas under the guise of providing them with a family environment,” Porras states in the letter. “Disturbingly, there have been reports and documented situations of sexual abuse in these shelters, which is a huge violation of the rights and dignity of these children.”

“The State of Texas bears much of the responsibility for these lost children, who have been transferred to the border and processed migratory (through migration procedures)  in Texas apparently fully aware of this situation,”  the translated letter from Spanish to English states.

In her letter to Paxton, Porras goes on to say, “you know, deficiencies in security and diplomacy related to the border between the United States and Mexico have resulted in a significant increase in drug trafficking, but also a devastating emergence of human trafficking. In relation to the new complaint that has been filed with this institution, a horrifying pattern of the disappearance of children from Guatemala has been brought to our attention, and it has been reported to the Public Ministry that a complex network involving Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating within Guatemala, who collaborate with specific entities in the State of Texas, are implicated in the abuse of Guatemalan children when they are away from their parents and do not have someone to protect them.”

This isn’t the first time NGOs have come in the crosshairs of lawmakers for failing to abide by the law or for failing to protect those being trafficked. In February, Paxton announced that his office was suing the Annunciation House — a Catholic NGO that operates “several houses of hospitality” for migrants and refugees in El Paso, Texas; and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The NGO is an “entry point” for illegal immigrants being trafficked to the United States.

Paxton stated in February, “the chaos at the southern border has created an environment where NGOs, funded with taxpayer money from the Biden Administration, facilitate astonishing horrors including human smuggling. While the federal government perpetuates the lawlessness destroying this country, my office works day in and day out to hold these organizations responsible for worsening illegal immigration.”

In fact, this year the Office of Inspector General (OIG) began raising concerns about the Department of Health and Human Services placement and safety protocols regarding unaccompanied alien children (UACs).

Lawmakers in the United States highlighted the issues with the UAC program that is administered through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Within those reports, along with testimony from whistleblowers, numerous allegations of sexual abuse of children and misplaced children by HHS/ORR have surfaced.

Allegations of abuse often occur at contracted facilities according to those sources who testified before Congress. In fact,  even after lawmakers became aware that ORR lost the location of more than 85,000 children in the United States that had been placed into sponsors homes the situation still remains dire, according to sources.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics, suggest that the number of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who arrived at the border has swelled from 33,239 in fiscal year 2020 to more than 146,000 in fiscal year 2021 and more than 152,000 in fiscal year 2022. That is roughly a 500 percent increase in the trafficking of unaccompanied children.

In February 2023, The New York Times published an expose on migrant children working brutal jobs across the country, many of which violate child labor laws. At the time the story was written, over 130,000 unaccompanied minors had entered the nation that fiscal year.

In April, 2023 the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security and Enforcement interviewed HHS whistleblower Tara Lee Rodas. At the time she was detailed with HHS at an Emergency Intake Site in Pomona, California, and told the committee “I thought I was going to help place children in loving homes.”

“Instead, I discovered that children are being trafficked through a sophisticated network that begins with recruiting in their home country, smuggled to the U.S. border, and ends when [Office of Refugee Resettlement] delivers a child to a sponsor — some sponsors are criminals and traffickers and members of Transnational Criminal Organizations,” she said. “Some sponsors view children as commodities and assets to be used for earning income — this is why we are witnessing an explosion of labor trafficking.”

In 2019, I interviewed Guatemalan Attorney General Porras in Guatemala. Her focus then was the ongoing crisis of child trafficking in the region and in her nation. She reiterated that the government of Guatemala’s first priority was its children.

And the increase in the flow of unaccompanied children is shocking. On one particular visit to Guatemala in 2018, with Chris Farrell from Judicial Watch, an investigative nonprofit in Washington D.C., we were briefed on the rescue of seven unaccompanied children under the age of 10 that were to be trafficked into the U.S. for nefarious purposes.  These children were rescued by the Guatemalan government from a trafficking organization operating within a large caravan of people that were were monitoring along the Guatemalan border.

“Our nation’s children are the main priority and many of these children are living in poverty and from regions where they have no resources to protect themselves from these predators,” Porras told me during an interview in Guatemala City.

She reiterated those same sentiments in her letter to Paxton, who is also opening his own investigations into the NGOs operating in the state of Texas.

The criminal complaints addressed in the letter allege that the “non-governmental organizations operating in Guatemala and the State of Texas that may be involved in child trafficking operations are “Save the Children,” “Changing the Way We Care,” the World Childhood Foundation, Arise, and La Unión del Pueblo Entero is concerning. What could be particularly alarming about these organizations is that some of them receive federal funds from American taxpayers. I have been informed that other non-governmental organizations operating in Guatemala and Texas could be accomplices to child trafficking, possibly supporting this trafficking and other issues with unaccompanied children and adolescents traveling, but they have proven unsuccessful in protecting children in Guatemala.”

The NGOs in this letter could not be reached immediately for comment with regard to the ongoing investigations. This column will be updated when and if they respond.

As for Guatemalan officials now investigating these claims, they told this reporter they will utilize all resources to target the traffickers and any NGOs aiding in the trafficking of children.

The letter to Paxton states that the investigation is to “protect the human rights and interests of the inhabitants of the Republic of Guatemala, will spare no effort and exhaust all necessary efforts to locate and criminally prosecute those responsible for this enormous tragedy. Be assured that the Attorney General and Chief of the Public Ministry of the Republic of Guatemala will zealously execute her legal mandate to eradicate this epidemic of child trafficking and to hold those who commit these crimes against humanity accountable.”

Porras asked that Paxton’s office contact Guatemalan officials to coordinate in the investigation.

You can follow Sara A Carter on X @SaraCarterDC and on Truth @SaraCarterOfficial

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