Friday, July 15, 2011

Hassan Nasrallah Exposed

by Jonathan Spyer

Despite its unrivaled ability to impose its will on the country, Hezbollah’s legitimacy in the eyes of non-Shi’ite Arabs in Lebanon and beyond has significantly diminished in recent years. The issuing of indictments against four Hezbollah members for the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri will only serve to accelerate and compound this process.

Once, Hezbollah presented itself and was seen as an Arab force concerned above all with making war against Israel. The movement’s ability to avoid humiliating defeat by the Jewish state thrilled Arab publics.

The Arab Sunni distrust of Iran and the Shi’ites was briefly trumped.

But this moment did not last. A series of events in the past three years has served to increasingly recast Hezbollah in its original colors – as a sectarian, Shi’ite creation and ally of Iran.

The pivotal moment in this transformation of the movement’s image came when it turned its guns on its domestic Sunni opponents in May 2008. This move was made to protect the boundaries of Hezbollah’s independent military and security infrastructure.

The immediate goal was achieved. But Hezbollah had maintained that its weaponry was for use against Israel alone. Its legitimacy suffered a heavy blow.

This discrepancy between Hezbollah’s matchless ability to impose its will in Lebanon and its declining legitimacy has since increased.

In recent months, the movement’s support for the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria, even as it brutally crushed an uprising by the Sunni majority, has further served to tarnish Hezbollah’s reputation. There is widespread fury and disgust among Lebanon’s Sunnis at the reports of possible Hezbollah involvement, alongside Iranian personnel, in crushing the protests.

Once again, the movement’s Achilles’ heel has been the irresolvable contradiction between its pan-Arab pretensions and its practical loyalties to the narrow, mainly Shi’ite, Iran-led bloc.

This contradiction has now been laid bare in its most blatant form.

Hezbollah members, whose guns were proclaimed as serving a notional Arab and Islamic “general will” against Israel, now stand accused of the murder of an iconic Sunni Arab politician from the very heart of the Arab mainstream.

So what is likely to happen? First of all, it is worth remembering that Hezbollah and its allies deliberately brought down the government of Saad Hariri in January in anticipation of precisely this turn of events. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah dismissed the UN tribunal investigating the Hariri killing as a mere tool of American interests. But Hariri’s government was committed to it.

So Hezbollah and its allies toppled the government, and after a period of horse-trading, replaced it with a narrower cabinet consisting only of themselves.

But there are already clear indications of disagreement even within this narrower framework.

The drafting committee tasked with preparing the new government’s founding political statement found it hard to reach a consensus on the matter of its attitude toward the Hariri tribunal.

Hezbollah, according to reports, wanted the new government to cut all ties with the tribunal and declare itself in open opposition to what it describes as a “US-Zionist plan.” Newly minted pro-Syrian Prime Minister Najib Mikati evidently baulked at such an unambiguous stance.

The ministerial statement finally approved on Thursday preserves ambiguity. It declares the new government’s commitment to “the implementation of international resolutions, the Palestinian right of return and knowing the truth behind former PM Rafik Hariri’s assassination,” thus avoiding any concrete response on the matter of the indictments.

This solves little. Hezbollah has options, but none of them is particularly good.

At the moment, the accused men – Moustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hasan Ainessi and Asad Sabra – remain at liberty. The Lebanese authorities have 30 days to arrest them. If they do not do so, the tribunal will then make the details of the indictment public and order the suspects to appear before the court.

Hezbollah has the hard power simply to refuse to cooperate with the tribunal, and to prevent by force any attempt to apprehend its members.

Such an action, however, would take the movement yet further down the slippery slope of loss of any legitimacy or consent to its domination of Lebanon, outside of its narrow Shi’ite core. This would leave it dangerously exposed in a changing Arab world.

It could, on the other hand, choose to sacrifice some or all of the accused men. But in this regard, it is worth recalling that the accused are not anonymous, outlying members of Hezbollah. Moustafa Badreddine is a brother-in-law of the slain military leader Imad Mughniyeh. And sacrificing movement members would in any case look like surrender and humiliation to a body that Hezbollah has specifically designated as an enemy.

Whichever path Hezbollah adopts, it is now confronting the contradiction at the heart of its project. The movement has sought to both serve a narrow Shi’ite, pro-Iranian and Syrian interest, and simultaneously to pose as the sword of all the Arabs and Muslims.

It will have the option in the months ahead of holding its domination of Lebanon by force, in the face of the indictments. But if it does so, the broader project for which it was brought into being will be very severely tarnished. Hezbollah’s hard power will yet more clearly be revealed as in the sole service of the Shi’ites and Iran – and directed against the Sunni regional majority.

The expected furious denunciations of the tribunal as an American- Zionist plot will not serve to disguise this reality.

Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya.


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Turkey Reiterates Conditions to Mend Israel Ties

by AK Group

Turkey still demands a formal apology and redress over the killing of its citizens by Israeli commandos aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship in May of last year, a Turkish official has said.

"About the flotilla attack, Turkey has never turned down a request from the other side to talk. However, our stance on this issue is clear cut: We still demand a formal apology and redress. And we believe that this issue needs to be left behind as soon as possible," Selcuk Unal, a spokesman with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, told a weekly press briefing on Tuesday.

The Gaza-bound aid flotilla was raided on May 31, 2010, by Israeli Special Forces while on high seas. Nine Turks were killed in the attack on convoy's lead ship, Mavi Marmara.

The incident sent relations between the two countries -- two close allies in the region -- to an historic low.

A United Nations panel has been investigating the attack for nearly a year now, and it is expected to present its final report by July 27.

AK Group


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Swiss Minaret Ban Survives Legal Challenge

by Soeren Kern

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected two cases brought by Muslims against Switzerland's constitutional ban on building minarets, the tower-like structures on mosques from which Muslims are often called to prayer.

A seven-judge panel at the Strasbourg-based court said on July 8 that it would not consider the cases as the plaintiffs failed to show how the ban harmed their human rights and they therefore "cannot claim to be 'victims' of a violation" of the European Convention on Human Rights, which the court enforces.

One of the cases was brought by a former spokesman for the mosque of Geneva and the other by a number of Swiss Muslim associations. It is now widely expected that the court will throw out three other similar cases on the minaret ban that are still pending.

Switzerland held a referendum in November 2009 in which citizens approved an initiative to insert a new sentence in the Swiss constitution stipulating that "the construction of minarets is forbidden."

The initiative was approved 57.5% to 42.5% by some 2.67 million voters. Only four of Switzerland's 26 cantons or states opposed the initiative, thereby granting the double approval that now makes the minaret ban part of the Swiss constitution.

The minaret ban represented a turning point in the debate about Islam in Switzerland.

The initiative was sponsored by the Swiss People's Party (SVP), which says the minarets symbolize the growing self-confidence and intolerance of Switzerland's Muslim community.

The SVP has described the minaret is a "symbol of a religious-political claim to power and dominance which threatens -- in the name of alleged freedom of religion -- the constitutional rights of others."

The SVP backs its claim by citing a remark by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has implied that the construction of mosques and minarets is part of a strategy for the Islamization of Europe. The pro-Islamist Erdogan has bragged: "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers." Erdogan has also told Muslim immigrants in Europe that "assimilation is a crime against humanity."

In recent years the number of mosques in Switzerland has mushroomed; there now are some 200 mosques and up to 1,000 prayer rooms dotted across the country. Critics fear the mosques are facilitating the establishment of a parallel Muslim society, one that is especially welcoming to Islamic fundamentalists.

Even some voices on the political left, which has viewed the construction of mosques as symbols of Europe's post-Christian sophistication and open-mindedness, are beginning to voice concerns that their proliferation is a sign of failing integration.

The Muslim population in Switzerland has more than quintupled since 1980, and now numbers about 400,000, or roughly 5 percent of the population. Most Muslims living in Switzerland are of Turkish or Balkan origin, with a smaller minority from the Arab world. Many of them are second and third generation immigrants who are now firmly establishing themselves in Switzerland.

The new Muslim demographic reality is raising tensions across large parts of Swiss society, especially as Muslims become more assertive in their demands for greater recognition of their faith. The ensuing controversies are fuelling a debate over the role of Islam in Swiss society and how to reconcile Western values with a growing immigrant population determined to avoid assimilation.

In one case, for example, Muslim parents recently won a lawsuit demanding that they be allowed to dress their children in full-body bathing suits dubbed 'burkinis' during co-ed swimming lessons. In another case, a group of Swiss supermarkets created a stir by banning Muslim employees from wearing headscarves.

In August 2009, the Swiss basketball association told a Muslim player she could not wear a headscarf during league games. In August 2010, five Muslim families in Basel were fined CHF 350 ($420) each for refusing to send their daughters to mixed-sex swimming lessons.

In September 2010, the secretary of the Muslim Community of Basel was acquitted of publicly inciting crime and violence. The charges were pressed after the 33-year-old made comments in a Swiss television documentary saying that Islamic Sharia law should be introduced in Switzerland and that unruly wives should be beaten. The judge said the defendant was protected by freedom of expression.

In November 2010, Swiss voters approved tough new regulations on the deportation of non-Swiss convicted of serious crimes. The measure calls for the automatic expulsion of non-Swiss offenders convicted of crimes ranging from murder to breaking and entry and social security fraud.

Also in November, Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said the approval or extension of residency permits should be closely linked to the efforts immigrants make to integrate themselves. "Compulsory schooling must be respected. Children should attend all courses and exceptions made on religious or other grounds, for example in swimming classes, should no longer be possible," Sommaruga said.

In December 2010, the Federal Commission on Women's Issues called for Islamic burqas and niqabs to be banned in government offices and in public schools. The government-appointed committee said the move would prevent gender discrimination.

In January 2011, a Turkish woman living in Bern was sentenced to three years and six months in prison for encouraging the father and brothers of her daughter-in-law to carry out an "honor" crime against her for her "risqué lifestyle."

In May 2011, voters in canton Ticino, in Switzerland's Italian-speaking region, collected enough signatures to be able to launch a referendum that would ban burqas, niqabs and other Islamic head dresses. If the referendum goes ahead, it will be the first time in Switzerland that citizens have been asked to express an opinion on burqas.

Also in May, Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer said increasing numbers of Swiss Muslims are training in Islamic militant camps in countries like Somalia and Yemen. In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung newspaper, Maurer also said that under current Swiss laws it is difficult to prevent Islamists from raising funds.

Meanwhile, an administrative court in Bern is expected to rule on the fate of a minaret in the town of Langenthal. Muslims in Langenthal, a town with a population of about 15,000, had been given permission to build a minaret five months before the constitutional ban on minarets took effect in November 2009, but opponents of the project say the earlier approval is now null and void. The case is still working its way through the Swiss legal system and will not be affected by the decision of the court in Strasbourg.

Soeren Kern


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NATO’s Surrender?

by Stephen Brown

In a major shift in its position on the war in Libya, France has announced it wants the rebels to begin direct negotiations with representatives of Muammar Gaddafi . NATO has been trying for more than three months to depose the Libyan leader in an air campaign, led by France, which has cost tens of millions of dollars and caused fractures in the alliance.

In a strong indication of mounting frustration over NATO’s lack of success from the air and the rebels’ slow progress on the ground, France’s defence minister, Gerard Longuet , said last Sunday on French television that NATO had “stopped the hand that was striking” against the insurgents and “now was the time to sit down at the negotiating table.

“We have asked them to speak to each other,” said Longuet, whose government was the most ardent supporter of military action three months ago and was the first to launch air strikes.

But the biggest surprise in Longuet’s television appearance came when he said the bombs would stop falling as soon as negotiations begin, indicating NATO will cease all military operations. Which means that Gaddafi, against all expectations, will survive. Forcing Gaddafi to leave had always been a main goal of the military campaign Great Britain and France have been spearheading.

“We will stop the bombing as soon as the Libyans start talking to one another and the military on both sides go back to their bases,” said Longuet. “They can talk to each other because we’ve shown there is no solution through force.”

Up until now, the rebels have refused to negotiate with the Libyan government until Gaddafi stepped down. France says it still wants Gaddafi out but obviously now believes NATO’s bombing campaign will not achieve this goal and is too expensive to maintain, so a diplomatic solution is now necessary. The war is costing France about one and a half million dollars a day.

On Tuesday, the French government voted to continue its military involvement in Libya for another four months, adding another $150 million to its war debt. Before the vote, France’s prime minister, Alain Juppe , said “A political solution is more indispensable than ever…” but depends on “an authentic and verifiable” ceasefire and “the departure of Col. Gaddafi from power.” As for Gaddafi, Longuet said he could “remain in Libya ‘in another room of the palace, with another title’.”

The United States and other NATO countries have never opposed the rebels’ position that Gaddafi must relinquish power before negotiations can begin. France’s two main NATO allies, Great Britain and America, were both quick to respond to Longuet’s announcement, indicating their displeasure as well as a possible breach opening up in the alliance. While one British official said there was “no daylight” between France’s and his country’s position, the State Department said in a release that “…we stand firm in our belief that Gaddafi cannot remain in power.”

The rebels were also “defiant.” After all, they rose in rebellion to destroy permanently Gaddafi’s hold on their country. Besides, they know they would never be safe if Gaddafi, his secret police and armed thugs were still around. The Libyan civilians NATO says it is bombing Libya to protect would be in danger with Gaddafi still at large.

“The only political solution is that Gaddafi and his family leave power,” said one rebel commander.

Longuet’s surprising comments apparently did not appear out of thin air. Last Monday, in an interview with an Algerian newspaper, Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam claimed that his father’s regime had been conducting negotiations the French government. The French foreign ministry immediately denied that direct talks were being held with Tripoli but admitted messages were sent through the rebel council and allies. So most likely an advanced agreement on negotiations had been reached between France and the Gaddafi regime before Longuet announced the U-turn in France’s Libya policy.

NATO’s failure to crack Gaddafi’s regime and its willingness to now end the war through negotiations will eventually have much greater consequences than the current splits appearing in the alliance. First and foremost, a failure to drive Gaddafi from power by military means will serve as a dangerous revelation and encouragement to other dictators that NATO is turning into a morally weak, willpower-lacking paper tiger that will turn tail and run when a conflict becomes too expensive or exceeds a certain time limit. As a result, NATO can expect more challenges thrown its way from thug regimes in the future.

The Libyan war has already shown the world how militarily weak the NATO alliance is. One retired British admiral found it disgraceful that NATO couldn’t get rid of Gaddafi in such a “tin-pot” operation, blaming military cutbacks for his own country’s navy’s poor contribution of only four ships. The fact that a sparsely populated country of only six million people, of whom many have risen in rebellion, and with an army of only 30,000 can withstand the military might of Europe speaks volumes about Europe’s strength.

But perhaps the worst feature the Libyan war has uncovered in NATO is that the military alliances’ governments are so caught up in their own human rights rhetoric and respect for United Nations (UN) rulings that they have actually tied their own hands behind their backs when it comes to dealing with criminals like Gaddafi. While the Libyan opposition was appealing to the world for help, President Obama and other Western leaders rushed off to the UN to get a mandate for action. During this three-week wait, however, the Gaddafi regime got over the shock of the uprising and captured the rebel-held areas of Eastern Libya, after which it sent in its secret police to hunt down rebel supporters. The resulting death toll is unknown.

What was worse, the UN mandate for action NATO finally did receive was actually a mandate for partial action. NATO was not allowed to send in ground forces, the one and only effective means of bringing the war to a quick and more humane end with limited casualties. Such quick, decisive and forceful action that ended in a deposed Gaddafi would also have shown other brutal dictators that NATO is a military and moral force to be reckoned with.

Like all half-measures, the action the UN did mandate arguably worsened the situation. Ironically, NATO bombing caused the current stalemate, from which France is currently trying to find an exit. When Gaddafi’s forces were about to capture Benghazi, the rebel stronghold, and practically end the war, NATO warplanes began their bombing campaign, which drove the government forces back to Tripoli. That was about ten thousand dead and hundreds of air strikes ago.

In the future, one can bet other hideous dictators will use the West’s respect for human rights and the UN to tie up NATO’s willingness to act against them, if NATO governments don’t do it to themselves first. They have already learned to use human shields to thwart military action, and one can probably some day expect whole populations to be held hostage.

Like NATO’s military effort, France’s current search for a diplomatic solution will neither sideline Gaddafi nor bring peace to Libya. It would be the height of naivite to expect Gaddafi to remain in his palace room. And with his prestige enhanced by NATO’s pullback, the Libyan tribes sitting on the fence in the conflict will probably now rush to support him to avoid revenge attacks. So in the end, France’s playing for the stalemate in Libya will only lead to more turmoil there and elsewhere.

Stephen Brown


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Exploiting the 9/11 Tenth Anniversary

by Joseph Klein

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the Islamists and their supporters are busy preparing a disinformation campaign to whitewash Sharia law and Islamic ideology under the banner of an operation they call “Prepare New York.” The intent is to use a front of “interfaith” alliances with progressive groups to marginalize those who are trying to expose the truth about the Islamist agenda and to exploit the 9/11 anniversary for propaganda purposes.

Prepare New York is following the blueprint laid out by the Muslim Brotherhood in its 1982 manifesto entitled Toward a Worldwide Strategy for Islamic Policy, a 12-point strategy to “establish an Islamic Power on the earth.” To do this, the Muslim Brotherhood set out to “channel thought, education and action” to “influence centers of power both local and worldwide to the service of Islam,” and to “work within various influential institutions and use them in the service of Islam.”

In a document entitled the Explanatory Memorandum On the General Strategic Goal for the Group In North America, written in 1987 and published in 1991, authored by the Muslim Brotherhood operative Mohamed Akram, the work of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates in America was described as “a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

The method for “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within” would include developing “a mastery of the art of ‘coalitions,’ the art of ‘absorption’ and the principles of ‘cooperation.’”

One of the first steps for Islamists upon arriving in a non-Muslim country to live is to declare the common bonds between Islam and the more prevalent religions in the host country through bridge-building and interfaith sessions. As they gain more of a foothold, the Islamists become more vocal about the host country’s need to accommodate the special demands of Islamic law, which they couch in human rights terms of free expression of religion, anti-racism and anti-discrimination. They find willing partners among progressive religious groups and opinion leaders to help carry this phony message of tolerance and anti-bigotry.

Prepare New York is a leading example. It describes itself as “a coalition of New York based interfaith organizations who have joined together to help create a city-wide climate that promotes healing and reconciliation in anticipation of the tenth anniversary of 9/11.” Their website mentions such “Steering Committee Partners” as the Interfaith Center of New York, Intersections International, Odyssey Networks, and the Tanenbaum Center.

Prepare New York was formed, its website says, “in part as a response to the national and international headlines surrounding last summer’s proposed Muslim Community Center in lower Manhattan. The purpose of the coalition is to shift the discussion from one of fear and mistrust targeting any belief or group to one that celebrates New York’s extraordinary diversity of religious freedom and expression.”

With such lofty goals and with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and an array of prominent progressive Christian and Jewish groups supporting the mission of Prepare New York, how can anyone criticize it? It all sounds so warm and fuzzy until you look behind the facade and examine common threads amongst at least some of the coalition partners and you discover how they are really all about preparing to “channel thought, education and action” and to “work within various influential institutions and use them in the service of Islam.”

Let’s start with the fact that one of Prepare New York‘s “Action Partners” is the unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist financing case, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Council for American Islamic Relations.

Then there are the connections of various Steering Committee Partners of Prepare New York to the Cordoba Initiative, or the “Ground Zero Mosque,” and to its founder, Imam Feisal Rauf . Rauf was the imam behind the Ground Zero Mosque project and a co-founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, an organization receiving funding from a number of leftist organizations and from foreign nations that are members of the Organization of Islamic Conference and whose objective is to promote a positive image of Islam to the American public.

Rauf, who withdrew from direct involvement with the Ground Zero Mosque after a number of his controversial statements came to light, has praised Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a prominent Muslim scholar and spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who supports the killing of Jews, the death penalty for apostasy and homosexuality, and the right under Sharia law for Muslim husbands to beat their wives, as “a very, very well known Islamic jurist, highly regarded all over the Muslim world.”

Rauf’s book, What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America, was originally published in 2004 in Malaysia, under a different title: A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11. What’s Right with Islam was an edition of the book published for an American audience and was produced after the original, with Feisal’s cooperation, by the unindicted co-conspirator and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islamic Society of North America.

Intersections International, one of Prepare New York’s steering committee partners, lists Rauf as one of its “partners.” Intersections International receives funding from Odyssey Networks, another steering committee member, which is also a direct funder of Prepare New York.

Odyssey Networks includes as one of its members the American Society for Muslim Advancement and lists as one of its “personalities” none other than Feisal Rauf. Odyssey Networks features on its site a video in which “Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf shares his insights on immigrant rights in the USA in the context of Islam and other religions.” It is listed as one of the Cordoba Initiative’s supporting partners. Odyssey Networks’ blog also published scathing criticisms of Congressman Peter King’s congressional hearings into the radicalization of American Muslims.

The Interfaith Center of New York, another Prepare New York Steering Committee member which boasts the word “interfaith” in its title, lists Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf as one of its vice chairs and a donor. It too is listed as a supporting partner of the Cordoba Initiative.

One of the key “advisory committee partners” of the Prepare New York coalition is the Abraham Path Initiative. Contributors to the Abraham Path Initiative include the Saudi Arabian Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation. On the board of directors of the Abraham Initiative is Amir Mohammed Mahallati, former UN ambassador from Iran who is said to have been one of the early moving forces behind the idea of another downtown mosque in New York. Mahallati also happened to have served on the board of directors of the Interfaith Center of New York where, as already noted, Rauf is one of the vice chairs.

The United Nations’ Alliance of Civilizations, which had its roots in the Iranian-driven “Dialogue Among Civilizations,” conceived by former Iranian President Hojjatoleslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, is a partner in the Abraham Path Initiative. It is also a funder of Intersections International, one of the Prepare New York steering committee partners with ties to Imam Rauf’s Cordoba Initiative. And the UN Alliance of Civilizations has partnered with the Cordoba Initiative on a conference organized by Imam Rauf’s American Society for Muslim Advancement.

So far, we have only looked at the common thread amongst many of the key players behind the Prepare New York initiative being planned around the tenth anniversary of 9/11. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Recall that part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s grand strategy, in its own words, is to “channel thought, education and action” and to “work within various influential institutions and use them in the service of Islam.” This would include working with progressive organizations to the extent they serve the Islamists’ purposes, such as George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and One Nation, both of which are helping to fund Prepare New York.

One Nation is not only helping to fund Prepare New York. It is putting out a totally whitewashed version of Islamic law on its website regarding such core issues as the treatment of women and religious tolerance.

The One Nation website falsely claims that “the Islamic faith has historically upheld beliefs that respect women and their role in society, although these teachings have often been misrepresented and misinterpreted by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. When Islam first developed on the Arabian Peninsula 14 centuries ago, women and girls faced oppression in many forms. Women were denied basic human rights… With the introduction of Islam, women in the region gained many rights.”

As usual, the propagandists who try to make Sharia law look benign rarely if ever deal with what Sharia law actually says, as embodied in the Koran and the recorded sayings and deeds of Mohammed (the Sunna, consisting of the Hadith and the Sira) on which Sharia law is based. The classic Sharia law text, certified as accurate by the greatest Islamic scholars of today, is the Reliance of the Traveller, which contains the Koran and Sunna passages quoted in this article. Whatever One Nation or other Islamist propagandists claim about Islamic law that is inconsistent with these texts is evidence of their blatant deception.

As to women, the Koran 4:34 says: “Allah has made men superior to women because men spend their wealth to support them. As for women whom you fear will rebel, admonish them first, and then send them to a separate bed, and then beat them.”

Hadith, Abu Dawud 11:2139-2142 says: “The Prophet ( peace be upon him ) said: ‘A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.’”

But aren’t these texts so ancient that the respected Muslim scholars of today do not interpret them literally? Since Imam Rauf has claimed that Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a Muslim scholar and spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, is “a very, very well known Islamic jurist, highly regarded all over the Muslim world,” why don’t we see what he has to say about women’s role under Sharia law?

This Islamic scholar said: “Because of his natural ability and his responsibility for providing for his family, the man is the head of the house and of the family. He is entitled to the obedience and cooperation of his wife, and accordingly it is not permissible for her to rebel against his authority, causing disruption.”

If the wife will not obey after the husband has tried to persuade her to end her rebelliousness, said Qaradawi,”It is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands.”

Qaradawi does believe in equal rights for women in one sense – to participate in suicide bombings.

The One Nation website is also deceiving its readers about religious tolerance under Islamic law. It falsely claims that a “central principle of the Islamic faith is respect for all religions, based on the belief that humankind universally worships the same God.”

Again, the actual text of the Koran and the Sunna, which make up Sharia law, contradicts this lie.

For example, the Koran 8:12 says: “Then your Lord spoke to His angels and said, ‘I will be with you. Give strength to the believers. I will send terror into the Kafirs’ [unbelievers] hearts, cut off their heads and even the tips of their fingers.’”

Koran 9:29 says: “Make war on those who have received the Scriptures [Jews and Christians] but do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day.”

Koran 33:60 says: “They [Kafirs] will be cursed, and wherever they are found, they will be seized and murdered.”

According to Sahih Muslim, Book 1, number 31001, Mohammed said: “I have been ordered to wage war against mankind until they accept that there is no god but Allah and they believe I am His prophet and accept all revelations spoken through me.”

Apostasy is punishable by death. From Bukhari 84:57, which like the Koran is part of Sharia law because it reflects the sayings and deeds of Mohammed: “[In the words of] Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.’”

Again, these are not simply ancient texts that should be taken no more literally than the Old Testament’s requirement that Jews stone disobedient sons to death, an example cited by the Center for American Progress (which, like One Nation, is spinning for the Islamists). There aren’t any mainstream Jewish scholars who are advocating death to disobedient Jewish sons today. However, the eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has stated his understanding of Islamic law that an apostate is “a traitor to his religion and his people and thus deserves killing.”

Harvard University’s Muslim chaplain agreed with Al-Qaradawi. He advised students asking about the punishment for apostasy in Islam that the “preponderant position in all of the 4 sunni madhahib (and apparently others of the remaining eight according to one contemporary `alim) is that the verdict is capital punishment.” He also told them that “debating about religious matter is impermissible, in general.”

Prepare New York is yet another example of stealth jihad. Its backers, with connections to Imam Rauf and the Cordoba Initiative, are trying to exploit the 9/11 tenth anniversary for their own use “in the service of Islam.” They must be exposed as the hypocrites and deceivers they truly are.

Joseph Klein is the author of a recent book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam.


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Jihad in Mumbai Again

by Robert Spencer

Coordinated bombings in Mumbai, India murdered twenty-one people and wounded well over 100 Wednesday; Indian authorities suspect that Islamic jihadists have struck Mumbai once again. “We infer that this was a coordinated attack by terrorists,” said Indian home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, and other Indian officials reportedly believe that the Indian Mujahideen, which has close ties to the Pakistani jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, was responsible.

The Stratfor Global Intelligence service agreed:

This marks the first major attack in India since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. Though the magnitude of these explosions has yet to be determined, this attack does not appear to be as sophisticated as the 2008 attacks, which involved an assault team consisting of a number of militants that coordinated 10 shooting and bombing attacks across the city. The July 13 attack, by contrast, appears to have not involved suicide attackers but consisted of explosives placed in a taxi, a meter box and locations where they could be remotely detonated. This tactic is much more in line with those used by more amateurish groups, such the Indian Mujahideen, who have targeted crowded urban areas before.

Some speculate that the synchronized explosions were a birthday gift for Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the only surviving jihad mass-murderer from the November 2008 attack in Mumbai. In any case, there is no doubt that they were planted in busy areas so as to ensure the maximum number of casualties. That in itself may have been Lashkar-e-Taiba’s handiwork: since the Indian Mujahideen’s expert bomb makers are all in prison, authorities are investigating the possibility that the Pakistani jihad group helped construct the bombs used in Wednesday’s attacks. The first explosion went off at 6:54PM at the Jhaveri Bazaar, Mumbai’s famous jewelry market. The second hit at 6:55PM in the Opera House district, Mumbai’s business center, in a building that houses many jewelry firms. Ten minutes later, yet another bomb went off in Dadar, a populous area in central Mumbai.

Mumbai is India’s financial center, which is undoubtedly why it keeps on being the target of jihad attacks. Just as with the attacks on the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001 , jihadists want to strike at the financial might of Infidel states, ultimately weakening them enough that societal upheaval ensues, and Sharia becomes that much easier to impose.

Gujarat’s chief minister Narendra Modi warned that Wednesday’s bombings may prove to be the prelude to another large-scale attack like that of November 2008, and said that “by triggering these blasts, nefarious elements want to prove that the present Central government is not capable of containing them and they have the strength to destroy the country.”

If they do have that strength, it is because of active help from Pakistan. Pakistan’s intelligence service was accused of involvement in the planning of the November 2008 jihad massacres in Mumbai, and so this time around the Pakistani government moved quickly to head off speculation that it may have been involved in these attacks also. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani quickly condemned the attacks Wednesday, offering condolences to the Indian government and people.

Nonetheless, legitimate suspicion remains. How unequivocal can the Pakistani government be in its condemnation of these attacks when it has aided and abetted jihad activity in Afghanistan, funneled American taxpayer money that it was supposed to be using to fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban to those very groups, and has proven to be so unreliable an ally that it was not notified about the mission to kill Osama bin Laden for fear that he would be tipped off?

Islamic apologist Reza Aslan wrote in the Huffington Post Sunday that the U.S. was wrong to hold up aid to Pakistan, and that the “Pakistanis desperately need American support to ensure that their country does not become a haven” for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban – as if it weren’t a haven for them already, as the sheltering of Osama bin Laden abundantly illustrates, as well as for other jihad terror groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Aslan, of course, is a clownish and deceptive pseudo-moderate; unfortunately, however, many analysts of far greater intelligence and influence share this perspective. In reality, the Mumbai bombings Wednesday show that both India and the United States should be regarding Pakistan with the utmost suspicion, and certainly not as an ally. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is at this point in its history a nuclear-armed rogue state that has little, if any, interest in reining in those who hold to the doctrine of violent jihad within its borders. If Zardari and Gilani really deplore and reject jihad terrorism in India, why is the Pakistani government behaving so positively toward it in Pakistan – to the extent that the U.S. authorities warned American personnel several years ago that the Pakistani spy service, the ISI, was untrustworthy and tied to al-Qaeda?

If the involvement of Pakistani jihadists in the Mumbai jihad attacks Wednesday is definitively established, the international community should censure and quarantine Pakistan for having turned a blind eye to the growth and activity of jihad groups within that country for years – and for often even encouraging that activity. But the United Nations, of course, wouldn’t ever dream of doing such a thing: it would take too much time away from the drafting of its latest condemnation of Israel.

Robert Spencer


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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Obama's Foreign Policy: Dithering or Stealth Postnationalist?

by Richard Butrick

Does President Obama have a foreign policy vision? According to Charles Krauthammer, writing for WaPo (4/11), there are "no discernible [ideas] that make sense of Obama foreign policy."

To be precise, leading from behind is a style, not a doctrine. Doctrines involve ideas, but since there are no discernible ones that make sense of Obama foreign policy - Lizza's painstaking two-year chronicle shows it to be as ad hoc, erratic and confused as it appears - this will have to do.

And it surely is an accurate description, from President Obama's shocking passivity during Iran's 2009 Green Revolution to his dithering on Libya, acting at the very last moment, then handing off to a bickering coalition, yielding the current bloody stalemate. It's been a foreign policy of hesitation, delay and indecision, marked by plaintive appeals to the (fictional) "international community" to do what only America can.

But that is not the way Stanley Kurtz , the political analyst for National Review, sees it. He argues (5/11) that what seems to be vacillating indecisiveness is actually totally consonant with the precepts of what he calls "redistributive transnational governance."

Writing on the same theme in a lead article for Commentary (7/11), Douglas Feith and Joseph Cropsey call Obama's foreign policy, "selfconstrainment." Both versions are a form of Postnationalism and draw heavily on the writings of Obama's inner circle of foreign policy advisors. The common gist runs somewhat as follows:

The bullying, go-it-alone policy followed by previous administrations has only served to injure the US and the countries it has presumed to help. The US has become reviled throughout the world. The first step to initiating the new foreign policy is for the US to apologize big time. Further, the US must subordinate its naïve concept of self-interest to the interests of international institutions. In fact such enlightened self-interest will redress US reputation abroad and effect the desirable consequence of expanding democracy and stability worldwide and actually enhance US power. The US can, somewhat paradoxically, achieve its goals of democracy and stability precisely by giving up its naïve concept self-interest and adopting a policy of intelligent self-interest which must involve, to a certain degree, subordinating itself to world and regional institutions from the UN to UNSC to NATO to the Arab League.

It is not the purpose here, however, to asses or get into the details of the Obama postnationalist agenda but, for reference, these matters are deftly explained and summarized in a recent AT article by Marcia Sielaff.

What is of interest here is the point that if Obama is following some sort of a postnationalist agenda, he is not being upfront about it. This is pointed out especially in the Kurtz article:

Both Obama and Power are skilled at placing their ultimate ideological goals just out of sight, behind a screen of practical problem-solving. [snip]

Yet without fully articulating it (and that reticence is intentional), Obama and Power are attempting to accustom us to a whole new way of thinking about war, and about America's place in the world.

It seems we have two rather damning interpretations of Obama's foreign policy or lack thereof. Either Obama is vacillating and clueless or a stealth follower of some form of postnationalism. If the latter is the case then our president is a sneak. The mindset that justifies following a stealth foreign policy is the typical Progressive mindset that the public is too witless to understand the enlightened and morally superior policies of progressives. Such policies must then be instituted by stealth, subterfuge, and Orwellian language. The condescension is palpable.

Obama: dithering, clueless, and vacillating or a condescending sneak with a superiority complex? Nice choice. But wait! There is a third choice. Writing for WaPo, Fareed Zakaria ("Stop Searching for an Obama Doctrine," 7/6/11) asserts that the time for grand doctrines is over:

In all these cases, what marks administration policy is a careful calculation of costs and benefits. The great temptation of modern American foreign policy, from Versailles to Vietnam to Iraq, has been to make grand declarations - enunciate doctrines - that then produce huge commitments and costs. We are coming off a decade of such rhetoric and interventions and are still paying the price: more than $2 trillion, not to mention the massive cost in human lives. In that context, a foreign policy that emphasizes strategic restraint is appropriate and wise.

Notice that Zakaria, while eschewing "grand declarations" or doctrines, is still maintaining that Obama has a foreign policy of "strategic restraint." Does this sound familiar? The "selfconstrainment" of Feith and Cropsey? The "redistributive transnational governance" of Kurtz? As Michael Green points out, writing for Foreign Policy:

There is a difference between doctrine and strategy. Doctrines articulate aspirations for strategy and are therefore arguably expendable. Strategy is not. Small powers can go without grand strategies. Great powers cannot. Either the United States seeks to shape the direction of key regions like the Middle East and Asia, or it perpetually reacts to the initiative of revisionist powers and forces within those regions until friends and allies lose confidence and American preeminence is undermined. If there is a doctrine we don't need right now, it is the faux realism and abdication of international leadership represented in "strategic restraint."

It seems we are back to two alternatives.

Richard Butrick


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Muslim Fundamentalist Group Challenges Nigerian Government

by Amiel Ungar

Nigeria has pretensions to be the leading state in Africa and if the continent gets a permanent seat at the UN Security Council, Nigeria will be competing with South Africa for that honor.

However, three months after an election that presumably gave a mandate to President Goodluck Jonathan, the country is facing security problems from a fundamentalist Islamic group popularly known as Boko Haram. The group traces its descent to Muslim opposition to British colonial rule at the turn of the 20th century and a yearning to restore authentic Muslim rule.

The group is best known for its opposition to secular education and any affinity with Western social behavior even extending sometimes to the wearing of shirts and trousers and of course the ultimate sin - a secular education. Its main goal is to restore rule in the country to the true believers, ruling out Christians and even the moderate Moslems who have intermittently ruled Nigeria.

In July, the group staged bombings of churches and government facilities. In Maduguri, the security situation has deteriorated to the point that the university was closed. This is a university with 25,000 students and which contains, inter alia, a college of medicine. The city has over 1,200,000 inhabitants and is a trading hub of Northeast Nigeria. It can in no way be regarded as a hick town.

It has known communal violence before, but the current outbreak is the most menacing. Residents have packed up their belongings to flee the violence. The security forces banned all motorbikes so as to prevent Boko Haram gunmen from assassinating security officers and politicians via drive-by shootings. Many innocent people rely on motorbikes for their transportation so that this is a real hardship.

This is classic guerrilla strategy: get the security forces to overreact and thus win over public opinion.

The Army has already been charged with firing indiscriminately and killing civilians. Boko Haram attempted to portray itself as a fighting organization that knows how to make distinctions and challenged the Army to remove wives and children and retire to its barracks. If they did so, the guerrilla organization said it would fight the Army exclusively and very soon:

"We want to tell the Chief of Army Staff General Ihejerika that cowards don't engage a military in a duel as we did in your barracks and on the streets of Maiduguri. But cowards are those who attack women, children in their sleep and who burn the innocent's property".

Nigerians as well as foreign observers have been exasperated by the seeming nonchalance of the Nigerian central government, still in the process of forming a bloated cabinet of 40 ministers.

Good luck Jonathan is making frequent trips abroad rather than tackling the security crisis. While Jonathan was sending Nigerian peacekeepers to Somalia at the behest of President Barack Obama, perhaps they were needed closer to home.

The most bizarre reaction came from the governor of the state of Nassarawa who actually blamed the Americans and called for an investigation of links between Boko Haram and the United States. The United States, he said, was seeking Nigeria's disintegration and was using the guerrilla movement to advance these purposes.

Amiel Ungar


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Syrian Thuggery vs. US Lecturing

by Adam Daifallah

On July 3, a young Syrian finished work and was on his way home. Two days later, he was found dead, his throat slit in his bed. Brahim Kashush, who was active in anti-Assad protests, became popular in gatherings by singing loudly in a megaphone that the dictator at Damascus needed to "take off" and "get lost". He was a normal citizen using civil disobedience as a means towards achieving reform in the country he loved – and he died for it.

Syrian protestors have quickly elevated Kashush to martyr status as the latest symbol of the backlash against Assad. Although the perpetrator will likely never be brought to justice, it is widely assumed was killed by security forces loyal to the regime.

This new incident is but a tiny drop of the blood that dirties Bashar Assad's hands. Indeed, it seems each time Assad offers a new concession to reformers, it is coupled with some sort of new crackdown resulting in innocent people being killed by pro-government thugs.

America's response to the Syrian people's clamouring for changing has so far been rather mute. With countries like Eygpt, Tunisia and especially Libya top of mind, the American approach has been to gently admonish the Assad regime while being careful not to offend it too much. In fact, that's been the U.S. strategy for years, long before the so-called "Arab Spring" got underway.

It's a strategy that has failed for years, yet no one is pushing for alternatives to the status quo. Bashar Assad and his late father have ruled Syria unchallenged for more than 40 years. Their Baath Party is constitutionally designed as "the leading party of society and state," meaning no other party can hold power. Assad's regime is, along with Iran, the funder and enabler of Hamas and the prime supporter of Hezbollah in Lebanon, a country it occupied until 2006.

Some sort of outside intervention by America and its allies is now looking more likely, but the future of the Syrian freedom movement now rests almost entirely on the situation in Libya. The Syrian situation is now starting to look like a repeat performance of the Libyan one. If the Libyan mission fails to oust Gaddafi, Syrians will be left to their own devices. But if NATO succeeds, the political will might be there to help liberate the Syrian people as well.

On Monday, it was reported that hundreds of Assad supporters attacked the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, smashing windows and spray-painting walls with obscenities and graffiti that called the American ambassador a "dog." The French embassy was also attacked, leading Secretary of State Clinton to claim Assad had "lost legitimacy."

That's it? Now is the time for bolder action and more concrete support for dissidents. America now has excuse to do so given the attack on the embassy. The situation is worsening all the time; nowhere is safe. Even the Internet, the main communication device of Syrian protestors, is being attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army, a special government unit which posts pro-Assad comments on websites, works with Syrian diplomats to blackmail Syrian-born foreigners, hacks into email accounts and tattle-tales on the activities of dissenters.

It is estimated that security forces have killed more than 1,300 civilians and arrested at least 12,000 since protests began in mid-March.

NATO must succeed in Libya. If they do, the Syrian people will call for external assistance like the Libyans did, thus making any potential outside intervention much easier.

The next few weeks will be critical in showing that the Libyan operation is working – particularly for the Syrian people. The National Transitional Council must continue to gain legitimacy worldwide to boost confidence in the operation. If it does, the prospects for more assertive action in Syria will increase.

Assad will never change. He will continue his hypocritical game of appearing open to change in public while swiftly and violently silencing any opponents that get in his way. How many more Brahim Kashush's must die before we act?

Adam Daifallah


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Turkey: Erdogan's New "Ottoman Region"

by Harold Rhode

Erdogan's recent electoral victory speech puts his true intentions regarding Turkey's foreign policy goals in perspective. He said that this victory is as important in Ankara as it is in the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo, under Ottoman times, an important Ottoman city; that his party's victory was as important in a large Turkish city, Izmir, on the Western Anatolian coast, as it is in Damascus, and as important in Istanbul as it is in Jerusalem.

What does all this mean? At the very least, this victory speech signals a wish for Ottoman cultural colonialism and imperialism. The places Erdogan names were all part of by the Ottoman Empire; the territory of the modern Turkish Republic is what remained after World War I and Turkey's War of Independence from the occupying Allied forces. Turkey forms only the central part, and relatively small fraction, of what had been the Ottoman Empire, which at its height extended deep into southern Europe, and included most of today's Arab world and even beyond.

In saying that this victory is as important in all of these former Ottoman cities, Erdogan apparently sees himself as trying to reclaim Turkey's full Ottoman past. In religious terms, the entire reason for being of the Ottoman Empire was to spread the Sunni form of Islam prevalent there. Sunnis, who make up about 85% of the Muslim world, believe that when Mohammed died, the leadership of Islam was passed down through what amounted to the Meccan artistocracy, and not through Mohammed's family -- which is what the Shi'ites believe. The cities Erdogan mentioned are almost all Sunni, with a few non-Sunni ones thrown in.

The Ottomans had two major rivals: the non-Muslim Europeans to the northwest, and the Shi'ite Persian Empire to the east. Although the Ottomans saw each enemy as presenting a different set of problems, they saw their own role in traditional Sunni Muslim terms: Continuing the Jihad, namely the conquest of the non-Muslim world. This requires expanding Sunni rule wherever possible; it also requires forcing non-Muslims to surrender to Sunni Islamic rule. In adopting this policy, the Ottomans were merely following the instructions of virtually every classical Muslim jurist: unending political and military conflict until the entire world submits to Islamic rule.

Shi'ites, as opposed to non-Muslims, have always been seen by Sunnis as an existential threat to Sunnism. Shi'ites, who make up about 12-15% of the Muslim world, believe that the only true rulers of Islam are Mohammed's direct descendants, not merely local "aristocracy," as the Sunnis believe; these rulers they call Imams. For Sunnis, "Imam" is often used just to mean "a preacher at a mosque."

Most Shiites believe that the definitive ruler of Islam was a direct descendant of Mohammed; is known as "The Twelfth Imam," or "The Mahdi" who disappeared in 873 A.D. -- a Messianic figure, whom they believe will return one day to rule the Muslims, just as many Christians believe in the Second Coming of Jesus.

When the Ayatollah Khomeini began ruling Iran in 1979, many Iranians began calling him "Imam' – denoting both "Ruler of the Muslims," and also that they thought he was possibly "The Twelfth Imam," re-emerged, for whom they had been waiting.

Shi'ites are engaged in an unending battle -- very often violent -- to convert others to the "true form of Islam" – theirs. The rulers of the Persian Empire in the 1500s consequently converted to Shi'ism, becoming the mortal Islamic enemy of the Sunni Ottomans; their basic reason for existing was to convert others to the "true form of Islam" – theirs.

While choosing to become Shiites, the rulers of the Persian Empire knew that they had a natural ally within the Ottoman Empire: a group called Alevis, who then lived in Eastern Anatolia in what is now Turkey . The Alevi religion consists of a mixture of Central Asian and Turkish pre-Islamic customs; but most importantly to revere the First Imam of the Shiites, Ali, a central figure in Shiite Islam. The Alevis in Eastern Anatolia therefore came to be seen as a natural ally of the mortal enemies of the Ottomans, the Shiites; and as a "fifth column" in the Sunni Ottoman Empire. From that time on, until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the Ottomans had to worry about the security of their eastern border area.

When the Persians converted to Shi'ism, the Ottomans evidently felt they had no alternative other than to send their military out to the east to fight them and address what they saw as a mortal threat to the existence of the Ottoman Empire, which was Sunni to its core.

The scars of this early 1500s battle between the Sunni Ottomans and the Persian Shiites has influenced the Turkish Sunni psyche so deeply that today's Turkish Sunnis -- and most importantly among them, Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan -- still recite age-old pejorative Turkish proverbs about both the Shiites and the Alevis. These proverbs include references to the Alevis and Shiites as untrustworthy brigands who also engage in indecent acts.

In spite of the historical animosity between Turkish Sunnis and the non-Sunni rulers of the neighboring countries –- such as the Shiites in Iran and Iraq, and the Alawis ruling Syria -- Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria tried to forge a loose political and economic alliance, which lasted until the beginning of what the Arabs called the "Arab Facebook Revolution," and which we in the West call "The Arab Spring." But Erdogan's Sunni inclinations seem to have overcome his political ambitions with his neighbors as the Sunni-non-Sunni basic differences re-emerged, as well as for political and economic reasons.

At the moment Erdogan is threatened by other problems that Iran is bringing to his doorstep. These include Iran's attempt to make itself the major energy transport country in the area, bypassing Turkey. Turkey's major geographic significance now is that it is a transporter of energy, bringing gas and oil from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and oil from northern Iraq to the world market. If Iran takes Turkey's place in the energy market, especially in transporting energy to India, China, and the region, Turkey will suffer an immense economic and strategic loss.

Further, Erdogan must be terrified of what he sees happening in Syria. Assad and his ruling clique are not Sunnis. They are Alawis -- not exactly the same as Turkey's Alevis, but similar in that they also revere Ali as a deity, much as the Christians revere Jesus. As a result of the continuing upheaval in Syria, the ruling party of Turkey might see itself as surrounded by various active religious threats from the east and from Syria, along Turkey's southern border.

Syria's tyrant, Bashar Assad, and his late father, Hafiz Assad, both Alawis, had come to an understanding with Syria's Sunni business elite, enabling these entrepreneurs to make money in exchange for acquiescing to Assad's Alawi rule. As long as these tacit agreements were in place, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan could feel comfortable dealing with Assad. Erdogan's and Assad's families even vacationed together, and Erdogan publicly called Assad his close friend -- an alliance all the more curious as the Syrian Sunnis view the Alawis with utter disdain, stemming from the Alawi worship of Ali as a deity, rather than as just the Twelfth Imam.

When the Syrian Sunnis started abandoning their ruler, Bashar Assad a few weeks ago, Erdogan took his cue from them and allowed Syrian Sunnis to host several Syrian opposition conferences in Turkey -- including one conference paid for by a wealthy Syrian Sunni businessman who until recently had been a supporter of Assad; and another conference, in Istanbul, of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Although both conferences had slightly different approaches to solving Syria's political problems, what united them was that at both, Syria's Sunnis -- Erdogan's natural allies -- were the dominant actors.

Erdogan may well now feel himself under threat from both Syria and Iran, until recently two of his allies. The policy of of "Zero problems with all neighbors" of Erdogan's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has proven to be an abject failure.

Despite Erdogan's attempts to paper over some of his differences with the other countries in his region, Erdogan -- a devote Sunni Muslim –- could not make more than a temporary alliance with the Iranian Shiites, the Sunnis' tradition enemy. To be sure, he could have entered into a temporary alliance with them, as he could with Israel or the United States, but only in order to accomplish other, temporary, expedient goals.

Erdogan undoubtedly sees that he now has an opportunity to advance his Ottoman-centric Sunni policy in Syria and beyond. If Assad's Alawi regime falls, and is replaced by a Sunni-dominated one, Syria -- approximately 70% Sunni -- would be a natural ally for Turkey. Syria's Sunni business- and upper classes have had centuries-old connections with their counterparts in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey. Many marriages have taken place between upper class Syrian Sunnis and Turkish Sunnis. Moreover, Aleppo, the second largest city in Syria, close to the Turkish border, has had a strong Ottoman character, and could again become the major trading city it was until the Turkish-Syrian border was drawn after World War I.

In all, Erdogan's bottom line appears to be advancing a reconstitution of the Ottoman Empire, which he and his fellow Turkish Sunni fundamentalists now call " The Ottoman Region." In the long run, all non-Sunnis -- such as Iran, Israel, Syria (if it remains under Alawi rule after things eventually quiet down in Syria), and a Shiite-ruled Iraq -- remain outsiders. Erdogan might make temporary alliances with any of them, but, psychologically, that will be all he is prepared to do.

Turkey's attempted apparent rapprochement with Israel -- at least for the time being -- reflects his tactical thinking: Turkey does not want more trouble in its area right now. Erdogan is likely alarmed by the consequences of what might happen in Syria if Assad continues killing Syrians: those being killed are largely Sunni. Turkey's alliances with Iran, Iraq and Syria have all failed. It is hard to imagine why Turkey thought such alliances could succeed, based as they were on too many tenuous connections -- a Shi'ite Iran, an Alawi-ruled Syria and a Shiite-dominated Iraq. Not one of these is a natural ally for the Sunni Turks.

As for Erdogan and Davutoglu, in the depths of their souls, they are fundamentalist Sunni Muslims and see themselves as such. The Turkish-Iranian-Iraqi-Syrian alliance, which Erdogan worked so hard to build, has failed. Erdogan's and Davutoglu's long-term, Sunni goals, and those of the non-Sunnis in the area, have been, and will always be, vastly different. Turkey might conclude temporary alliances with non-Sunnis as needed, to address immediate concerns, but we cannot expect much more than this. Given Iran's regional bid to replace Turkey as "energy-central," and the apparent attempt of the Shi'ite Iranian-Syrian-Alawi alliance to try to put down the Sunni-dominated Syrian insurrection, Turkey needs to make sure it does not have additional problems.

It is in this context that we should understand Turkey's renewed interest in the U.S. and Israel. As such, both the U.S. and Israel should be extremely wary of Erdogan and his associates. Erdogan's Turkey does not see long-term interests with either. Given economic developments in Iran, Alawite oppression in Syria, and Shiite-dominance in Iraq, Erdogan understands that he must take a temporary hiatus from his goal of reasserting what appears to be his real goal -- the Turkish Sunni domination of the entire Middle East.

Harold Rhode


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by Alan W. Dowd

Perhaps the most amazing attribute of the United Nations is its boundless capacity to discredit itself. Whether through inaction or action, it never ceases to show the world what a farce looks like. The latest example is North Korea’s accession to the presidency of the UN Conference on Disarmament. This is the same North Korea that has been caught shipping illicit weaponry overseas, testing long-range missilery and detonating nukes—all in violation of UN resolutions. As The Wall Street Journal reports, “The jokes are flying all around the world over this”—and rightly so. The UN is a joke. Here are some of the more recent punch lines.

Given that the disarmament panel focuses on “cessation of the nuclear arms race…nuclear disarmament…and prevention of an arms race in outer space,” it’s ironic but typical of the UN that joining North Korea on the disarmament panel are China, Pakistan and Iran.

China, it pays to recall, has singlehandedly restarted the arms race in space. Its unannounced test of anti-satellite weapons in 2007 and 2010 set other space-faring nations on edge and obliged the United States to refocus on the U.S. military’s role in space. Pakistan helped both North Korea and Iran with their outlaw nuclear programs. North Korea has tested nukes during the Bush and Obama administrations, and is intent on deploying long-range rockets. And Iran is enriching uranium, building underground missile silos and racing to join the nuclear-weapons club.

“It gets even better,” as French president Nicolas Sarkozy sarcastically observed during a blistering critique of the UN’s record in North Korea and Iran.

For example, the UN Human Rights Council, charged with “promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all,” includes China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The People’s Republic of China simply does not believe its subjects have any human rights. What else could be said of a place where religious activity is dictated by government bureaus, the state determines how many children a family can have, freedom of speech and assembly are nonexistent, and people are sentenced to slave labor for their political or religious views?

Likewise, in Cuba, there is no freedom of speech. The state imprisons individuals for their political views. And there is no economic freedom.

The Russian government silences dissent and smothers the press with intimidation, ginned-up mobs and “random” gangland-style killings. It targets non-Russian ethnic groups with harassment campaigns and worse.

As for Saudi Arabia, it allows virtually no freedom to half its citizens—women. Religious freedom does not exist. And freedom of the press and freedom of speech are severely circumscribed.

Yet these regimes sit on a body that sits in judgment of the human-rights records of every country on earth.

This is the bizzaro world of the UN, where those pursuing the noble if naive goal of disarmament sit alongside the world’s most notorious weapons proliferators, where the worst abusers of human rights are chosen to protect and promote human rights, where North Korea’s deadly attack on a South Korean ship is condemned but the attacker is not, where it takes eight weeks to agree on a resolution requiring Iraq to comply with existing resolutions, where those who vote for such resolutions refuse to enforce them, where Srebrenica can be called a “safe haven,” where Rwanda and Bosnia turn for help and receive only Pilate-like excuses.

This is not an argument for the U.S. to withdraw from the UN, though it’s difficult to see what harm it would do. After all, Taiwan and Kosovo aren’t members, and they seem to be getting by. The U.S. and Israel, on the other hand, are members, and as a reward they are routinely kicked in the teeth and double-crossed. But it is an argument for ending the charade that President Obama and too many other policymakers play. The UN does not, to use Obama’s words, have the “capability to keep the peace, resolve disputes, monitor disarmament and support good governance around the world.” And it never will.

At its best, the UN is a place where the U.S. and its closest allies can go to get international cover for genuine efforts to keep the peace—not approval or legitimacy, but cover. At its worst, it’s a joke, “a sham…a frothing of words,” to borrow a phrase from Churchill, who feared in 1946 that the UN would become what it is today.

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security issues.


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