Saturday, September 17, 2011

UN-nation; un-nation; non-nation; anti-nation


by Martin Sherman

I do not think there is a Palestinian nation. I think it’s a colonialist invention - Palestinian nation. When were there any Palestinians?

“Of all the Palestinian lies there is no lie greater or more crushing than that which calls for the establishment of a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank... Not since the time of Dr. Goebbels has there been a case in which continual repetition of a lie has borne such great fruits....”

– From “Palestinian Lies” in Haaretz, July 1976.

Nothing could better underscore just how emaciated Israeli foreign policy has become than the penetrating observation by former Meretz minister of education Prof. Amnon Rubinstein articulated above.

Nothing could better underscore just how detached from the reality the discourse on “Palestine” has become than the avowal of the timeless and unconditional rejection of Israel, articulated in ensuing excerpt.

The partition of Palestine, in 1947, and the establishment of Israel are illegal and null and void, regardless of the passage of time... The claims of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history or with true conception of what constitutes statehood.

– Articles 17 and 18 of the original Palestinian National Covenant (1964). (The same clauses appear almost verbatim as Clauses 19 and 20 in the current version. Both are posted at the website of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine at the UN.) This declaration, made long before any “occupation” or “settlements,” highlights that Arab enmity towards Israel is fueled by its being – not by its borders. It proves irrefutably that the establishment of a Palestinian state and the eradication of Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria will do nothing to attenuate the refusal to acknowledge the right of the Jews to a nation-state, whatever its frontiers – if any further proof was necessary after the 2005 Gaza debacle.

All of this should be borne in mind as September 23 approaches. For what we are about to witness at the UN is nothing less an endeavor at political alchemy – the conjuring up of a substantive political construct out of mere political myth; an attempt to produce a nation where the elements of nationhood do not exist; an effort to construct a state when the components of statehood are absent.

(Please note that in the ensuing essay, I will not refer to any Israeli sources. Those employed are exclusively Palestinian or Arab. Consequently the analysis – and the consequent conclusions – are exclusively derivative of these Palestinians/Arab sources.) While no real consensus exists among political scientists as to the exact definition of “nation” and “nationalism,” there is broad agreement as to what constitutes its sine qua non. Whatever other details one scholar or another might wish to add to his/her preferred definition, there would be almost no disagreement that: a “nation” is an identifiably differentiated segment of humanity that desires to exercise political sovereignty in a defined territory; and that “nationalism” is the pursuit, by identifiably differentiated segments of humanity, of the exercise of political sovereignty in a defined territory.

The most cursory analysis of historical events in this region will quickly reveal that in the case of the Palestinians, neither of these two elements exists: neither an identifiably differentiated people desiring exercise of political sovereignty, nor a defined territory in which that sovereignty is to be exercised.

One need only examine the declarations/documents of Palestinians themselves to verify this – and to discover that they do not conceive of themselves as a discernibly discrete people with a defined homeland.

Accordingly, little effort is required to demonstrate that the Palestinian “narrative” – the notional fuel driving the demands for statehood – is a motley mixture of myths, which although they overlap and interlock, are nevertheless easily identifiable and readily refutable.

The inescapable conclusion is that the entire edifice of Palestinian national aspirations is a political hoax, a massive sleight of political hand designed to serve a far more sinister – and thinly disguised – motive. So what are these myths; and why are they so easily identifiable?

The myth of Palestinian peoplehood

Senior Palestinian leaders have
admitted – openly, consistently and continually – that Palestinians are not a discrete people identifiably different from others in the Arab world.

For example, on March 14, 1977, Farouk Kadoumi, head of the PLO Political Department, told Newsweek: “Jordanians and Palestinians are considered by the PLO as one people.”

This statement parallels almost exactly the position expressed two weeks later by the former head of the PLO’s Military Department and Executive Council member Zuheir Muhsin, who declared: “There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation.”

It was Jordan’s King Hussein who underscored that the emergence of collective Palestinian identity was merely a ploy to counter Jewish claims to territory considered Arab.

At the Arab League meeting in Amman in November 1987, he said: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.”

This of course necessarily implies that the “Palestinian personality” is devoid of an independent existence, and is a fictional derivative, fabricated only to counteract Jewish territorial claims. Indeed, without Jewish claims there would be no Palestinian personality.

The myth of Palestinian nationhood

Not only do the Palestinians admit that they are not a discrete sociological entity, i.e., a people.

They also concede that as a political unit, i.e., a nation, their demands and aspirations as are neither genuine nor permanent.

Thus Muhsin candidly confessed: “It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity, because it is in the interest of the Arabs to encourage a separate Palestinian identity. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel [sic].”

Doesn’t get much more explicit than that! Indeed the Palestinians not only affirm that their national demands are bogus, but that they are only a temporary instrumental ruse.

In the current National Covenant they declare: “The Palestinian people are a part of the Arab Nation... [and] believe in Arab unity... however, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity.”

So how are we to avoid concluding that at a later stage there will be no need to preserve their identity or develop consciousness thereof? How are we to avoid concluding that Palestinian identity is merely a short-term ruse to achieve a political goal of annulling the “illegal 1947 partition of Palestine,” (i.e. Israel).

As King Hussein said: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.”

Nothing more.

The myth of a Palestinian homeland

Article 16 of the original version of the Palestinian National sets out the desire of the people of Palestine, “who look forward to... restoring the legitimate situation to Palestine, establishing peace and security in its territory, and enabling its people to exercise national sovereignty...”

However, since the Covenant was adopted in 1964, well before Israel “occupied” a square inch of the “West Bank” or Gaza, the question is precisely what is meant by “its territory” in which the Palestinians were “looking forward...

to exercise national sovereignty.” Indeed in Article 24, they state specifically what this territory did not include, and where they were not seeking to exercise “national sovereignty.”

In it they explicitly proclaim that they do not desire to “exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, [or] on the Gaza Strip.”

From this we learn two stunning facts. Not only did the Palestinians not claim the “West Bank” and Gaza as part of their homeland, but they specifically excluded them from it. Moreover, they explicitly acknowledged – and accepted –that the “West Bank” belonged to another sovereign entity, the Hashemite Kingdom.

There is thus not the slightest resemblance – indeed not even one square inch of overlap – between the territory claimed by the Palestinians as their “homeland” when they first formulated their national aspirations and the “homeland” allegedly envisaged/claimed today.

Indeed, the two visions of “homeland” territories are mutually exclusive.

Accordingly, it would seem that Jewish rule is far more central in defining the location of the Palestinian “homeland” than any “collective historical memory.”

For the Palestinians only incorporated the “West Bank” (and Gaza) in their territorial claims when they came under Israeli control – clearly vindicating the view that the concept of “Palestinian-ness” is a fabricated construct, conjured up to further the Arab quest to repudiate “Jewishness.”

The Palestinians as a non-nation

One could hardly find more resounding renunciation of Palestinian nationhood than the one provided by former Arab MK Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel to avoid investigation of alleged acts of treason during the 2006 Lebanon War. On a 1994 Channel 2 program, he astounded his Israeli co-participants with the following assertion: “Well, I don’t think there is a Palestinian nation at all. I think there is an Arab nation. I always thought so...

I do not think there is a Palestinian nation. I think it’s a colonialist invention – Palestinian nation. When were there any Palestinians? Where did it come from? Indeed when? Indeed where?” Not only do the Palestinian lack the fundamental elements to qualify them as a “nation,” they exhibit qualities that make them the antithesis of a “nation.” Their efforts as a collective are being channeled far less towards achieving national sovereignty for themselves, and far more towards annulling the national sovereignty of others.

In this regard the Palestinian can not only be dubbed a non-nation but an anti-nation.

The troubling afterthought

In light of all these readily available facts, the troubling question Israelis must ask themselves and their leaders is, why have they been totally ignored in the formulation of Israel’s foreign policy. Why has Israel been so inarticulate and so impotent in presenting it case and in rebuffing the diplomatic assault against it? This dereliction of duty has put the nation in mortal peril.

True, very recently there have been some welcome – but sorely belated – signs of stiffening resolve, but with the crucial session of the UN General Assembly ominously near, one can only hope this is not much too little, much too late.


Martin Sherman

Source: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=238146

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

Al-Qaeda Joins the Syrian Rebellion


by Frank Crimi

Al-Qaeda insurgents have now crossed into Syria in an effort to bring down the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. The armed presence of the terror group raises new concerns over what factions within the Syrian anti-government coalition will emerge triumphant if and when Assad falls.

Iraqi military officials have claimed hundreds of armed al-Qaeda insurgents from northern Iraq have recently crossed into Syria to join the fight against the security forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. According to Iraqi officials, as the terrorists attempted to gain entrance into Syria, “dozens” of al-Qaeda fighters were arrested and three buses and a truck filled with heavy and light weapons were seized.

The terrorists, reportedly based in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh and its western province of Anbar, have also used Jordan and Turkey as access points into Syria. One Iraqi official said that Nineveh and Anbar have become “land bridges for the transportation of weapons and ammunition from the huge arsenal built up over its years of existence in Iraq.” Funding for the al-Qaeda incursion into Syria is reportedly coming from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The troubling news comes as Bashar Assad continues his vicious crackdown on Syria’s anti-government protesters, an assault which has to date killed an estimated 3,000 people and wounded over 10,000. However, the Syrian regime now finds itself faced with a growing armed resistance in the guise of the Free Syria Army, a newly organized militia comprised of defectors from Syria’s armed forces.

Now, the entrance of al-Qaeda onto the scene threatens to push Syria toward outright civil war. Moreover, the presence of al-Qaeda inter-mixed with Syrian rebels bring to mind the scenario recently played out in Libya in which the armed opposition, trained and equipped by NATO, consisted of a motley and nefarious hodgepodge of Islamists, former regime supporters and al-Qaeda insurgents.

In fact, other similarities to the Libyan campaign come to mind with the increasing role that NATO is playing behind the scenes of the conflict. According to Israeli intelligence sources, NATO, in conjunction with Turkey’s Military High Command, is already drawing up plans to arm rebels with “large quantities of anti-tank and anti-air rockets, mortars and heavy machine guns.”

Moreover, these same sources say Syrian rebels, along with paramilitary brigades affiliated to al-Qaeda, are already being trained by Turkish military officers at “makeshift installations in Turkish bases near the Syrian border.”

That Syrian President Bashar Assad should now find himself and his regime at odds with al-Qaeda should surprise little, given the terror group’s announcement in July of its solidarity with Syria’s anti-regime protesters.

Their ringing endorsement came in a video message delivered by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri in which he claimed that Assad had betrayed the Arab world as “America’s partner in the war on Islam.” To that end, al-Zawahri urged the “free people of Syria and its mujahideen” to overthrow Assad, the “leader of criminal gangs.”

Nonetheless, al-Zawahri’s message of jihadist solidarity found little open support from Syrian protest leaders, most of whom publicly professed a preference for peaceful protests as well as a fear that al-Qaeda’s entrance into the fight would escalate into an even bloodier sectarian conflict.

Of course, al-Qaeda’s interest in the Syrian uprising is part of its overall effort to piggy back, however belatedly, onto the demonstration movements that have swept the Middle East in 2011. It’s a strategy designed to take advantage of the political instability that followed the fall of regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya.

For al-Qaeda, its enmity toward the Syrian government is quite understandable given the heretical view Sunni al-Qaeda holds toward Alawite-ruled Syria and its Shiite partners Hezbollah and Iran. However, it should be noted that Assad’s Syrian regime has had a long, if not complicated, working relationship with al-Qaeda.

During the Iraq war, the United States military repeatedly accused Syria of being an al- Qaeda safe haven. In fact, at the height of the fighting in the Iraq War during 2005 -2006, most terrorists and weapons entering Iraq came through Syria. Moreover, it was reported in 2006 that Syrian Ba’athist groups were subsumed into al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq in an effort to hide Syrian involvement in the conflict.

When the US troop surge began in 2007 and severely decimated al-Qaeda’s Iraq infrastructure, the terror group moved most of its basing into eastern Syria. By 2009 a senior American military official said, “A major concern is that eastern Syria will begin to look like northwestern Pakistan,” where al-Qaeda joined forces with the Taliban and coordinated direct attacks on US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Not surprisingly, Bashar Assad repeatedly denied any Syrian involvement with any such Islamist terrorist groups, declaring as far back as 2007, “If you stoke [terrorism], it will burn you. So if we have this chaos in Iraq, it will spill over to Syria.”

Yet, despite Assad’s denial, the Syrian support of al-Qaeda’s war in Iraq was strong and unequivocal. However, by 2010 the relationship had begun to cool. That frost may have come with the realization by Assad that the presence of a large number of Sunni terrorists on Syrian soil, such as al-Qaeda, was just as dangerous to a secular Muslim country like Syria as they were to non-Muslim countries.

So, while Syria’s patron Iran continued to fund, arm and train al-Qaeda to attack American and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Assad began a belated crackdown on the terror network. Unfortunately, to his great discomfort, the terror group has now returned with a vengeance.

The irony in all of this for Bashar Assad is that he has steadfastly maintained from the outset of the uprising against his regime in March that the rebellion was being led by a “bunch of terrorists.” For Assad, a man with no documented history of veracity, the recent entrance of al-Qaeda into the Syrian fray is the closest he may ever come to telling the truth.

Frank Crimi

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2011/09/16/al-qaeda-joins-the-syrian-rebellion-2/

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

The Palestinian Obsession


by Caroline Glick

Palestinian obsession.jpg
If nothing else, the Palestinians' UN statehood gambit goes a long way towards revealing the deep-seated European and US pathologies that enable and prolong the Palestinian conflict with Israel.

In a nutshell, the Palestinian Authority - or Fatah - or PLO initiative of asking the UN Security Council and the General Assembly to upgrade its status to that of a sovereign UN member state or a sovereign non-UN member state is an act of diplomatic aggression.

Eighteen years ago this week, on September 13, 1993, the PLO signed the Declaration of Principles with Israel on the White House lawn.

There, the terror group committed itself to a peace process in which all disputes between Israel and the PLO - including the issue of Palestinian statehood - would be settled in the framework of bilateral negotiations.

The PA was established on the basis of this accord. The territory, money, arms and international legitimacy it has been given was due entirely to the PLO pledge to resolve the Palestinian conflict with Israel through bilateral negotiations.

By abandoning negotiations with Israel two years ago, and opting instead to achieve its nationalist aims outside the framework of a peace treaty with Israel, the Palestinians are destroying the diplomatic edifice on which the entire concept of a peace process is based. They are announcing that they have no intention of living at peace with Israel. Rather they intend to move ahead at Israel's expense.

In truth, there is little new in the Palestinians' behavior. They have been using the UN to weaken Israel diplomatically since the early 1970s. Moreover, even if their bid does provide them with upgraded diplomatic status, it won't change the reality on the ground, nor are the Palestinians particularly interested in changing the situation on the ground.

As the PLO ambassador in Lebanon, Abdullah Abdullah, made clear in an interview Wednesday with Lebanon's Daily Star, in the event that the UN recognizes some form of Palestinian statehood at the UN, the new "State of Palestine" will still expect the UN to support the so-called Palestinian "refugees."

This is true, he said, even for the "refugees" who live in Gaza, Judea and Samaria. That is, the same UN that the Palestinians seek recognition of statehood from will be expected to provide relief to Palestinian "refugees" living inside "Palestine."

As he put it, "Even Palestinian refugees living in [refugee camps] inside the [Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be considered citizens."

So if nothing will change on the ground, why do the US and the EU care what the Palestinians do at the UN next week with their automatic General Assembly majority?

Why have the senior peace-processors of Washington and Europe descended on Jerusalem and Ramallah, begging and pleading with the Palestinians to cancel their plans?

Why have the Americans and the Europeans been pressuring Israel to make massive concessions to the Palestinians in order to convince them to put out the diplomatic fire there have set at the UN?

Why are the White House and the State Department telling the media that the US will consider it a major diplomatic embarrassment if the Palestinians go through with their threats? Why in short, do the Americans and the Europeans care about this?

THE PALESTINIANS have certainly never given either the Americans or the Europeans a good reason to support their cause. Just this week, the PLO representative in Washington told reporters that the future state of Palestine will ban Jews and homosexuals.

And yet, the Obama administration and the EU have made the establishment of a racist, homophobic Palestinian state the greatest aim of their policies in the Middle East.

Every single Palestinian leader from the supposedly moderate Fatah party has rejected Israel's right to exist and said that they will never set aside their demand that Israel accept millions of foreign-born Arabs - the so-called Palestinian "refugees" - as citizens. They say this with the full knowledge that this demand is nothing less than a demand for Israel's destruction.

And yet, both the US and the EU, which certainly do not support the destruction of Israel, insist that it is imperative to strengthen and support the supposedly moderate Fatah party which seeks the destruction of Israel.

Every year, the US and Europe transfer collectively approximately a billion dollars in various forms of aid to the Palestinian Authority and yet, the PA has failed to develop a market economy capable of supporting the Palestinians without foreign assistance. Instead, they have developed a welfare society where most economic activity stems from foreign handouts.

Rather than feel embarrassment at their failures, PA leaders use their economic corruption to continuously threaten their patrons. If aid is cut off, they say, the PA will disintegrate and the far more popular Hamas movement will take over, and then, woe of woes, the peace process will be destroyed.

Of course, Hamas is also sustained by Western aid money. Every month, the same PA that warns of the dangers of a rising Hamas transfers tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid to Hamas-controlled Gaza to pay salaries of Hamas "government" employees.

Yet despite its mafia economy, and its exploitation of their aid funds to support a terrorist organization, the US and EU insist on maintaining the PA's status as the largest per capita foreign aid recipient in human history. And they do so even as the Eurozone is on the brink of collapse and the US is descending rapidly into a new recession.

Finally, in the interest of maintaining the peace process, aside from periodic pro forma statements, the US and the EU have turned blind eyes to the PA's routine and institutional glorification of terrorist mass murderers and Nazi-style anti-Semitic indoctrination and incitement of Palestinian society.

Given their absolute commitment to the so-called peace process, it would be reasonable to expect the US and the EU to oppose the Palestinians' decision to move their conflict with Israel from the negotiating table to the UN.

After all, in acting as they are, the Palestinians are making clear that they are abandoning the sacrosanct peace process.

Alas, this is not the case.

The Obama administration is engaging in desperate eleventh hour diplomacy to convince the Palestinians to cancel their UN plan, because it does not wish to oppose it. Most EU member states are expected to support the Palestinian bid at both the Security Council and the General Assembly.

The fact that the US and the EU are reluctant to oppose the Palestinian UN initiative, despite the fact that it destroys the foundations of the peace process, tells us two things about the Americans and the Europeans. First, their support for the Palestinians has more in common with a psychological obsession than with a rational policy decision.

The Obama administration, the EU bureaucracy and most EU member states are obsessed with the Palestinians. There is nothing the Palestinians can say or do to convince them that the Palestinian case is anything other than wholly and completely just.

There are many possible explanations for how they arrived at this obsession. But the fact is that it is an obsession. Like all obsessions, their faith in the justice of the Palestinian cause is impermeable to contrary facts or rational interests.

The flip side of this obsession is, of course, a complementary obsession with blaming Israel for everything that goes wrong. For if the Palestinians are always in the right, and they are fighting Israel, then it naturally follows that Israel is always in the wrong.

This "Blame Israel First" mindset was exposed in all its madness in a New York Times editorial on Thursday.

Despite the Palestinians' refusal to negotiate with Israel, despite Fatah's unity-government deal with Hamas, and despite their rejection of Israel's right to exist, the Times argued that Israel is to blame for the current crisis in relations.

In the paper's view, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "has been the most intractable" party to the conflict. Netanyahu's crime? He has permitted Jews in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to exercise their property rights and build on land they own.

Of course, that is not how the Times put it. In the Times' words, Netanyahu has been "building settlements."

Intrinsic to the Times' claim, (and to the Obama administration's EU-supported demand that Israel disregard Jewish property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria), is an embrace of the Palestinians' bigoted position that Jews must be banned from the future Palestinian state.

That is, like the administration and the EU, the Times' support for the "just Palestinian cause" is so comprehensive that its editors never even question whether it is reasonable for them to be completely committed to the establishment of a racist state. It is this inability to consider the significance of their actions that removes Western support for the Palestinians from the realm of policy and into the sphere of neurosis.

The second lesson of the US and European unwillingness to oppose the Palestinians' UN statehood bid is that the Obama administration and the EU alike are obsessed with getting on the right side of inherently anti-Western international institutions.

Here, too, the reason that the position is an obsession rather than a considered policy is because no conceivable rational US or European interest is advanced by strengthening the UN and similar bodies.

Administration officials have repeatedly said that they do not wish to veto a Palestinian statehood resolution at the Security Council because they do not want to isolate the US at the UN. It is due to their aversion to isolation that the administration has worked so intensively in recent weeks to convince the Palestinians to cancel their UN plans, by pressuring Israel to give them massive concessions.

It never seems to have occurred to anyone at the White House that standing alone at the UN more often than not means standing up for US interests, and that standing with the crowd involves sacrificing US interests.

As for the EU, their automatic support of the UN is somewhat more reasonable. Although the UN majority systematically empowers states and forces that are hostile to Europe, many EU member states share the UN majority's anti-Israel and anti-American positions. So by voting with the majority, EU member states are able to act on their prejudices without having to own up to them. Moreover, many EU states have irredentist Islamic minorities. Joining the Israel-bashers at the UN is a low-cost way to appease them.

On Thursday, Netanyahu announced that he will address the UN General Assembly in New York next week and put the truth about the Palestinian cause on the table.

Perhaps someone will be moved by his words.

Perhaps not.

But whether he makes a difference or not, at least reason will have one defender at the UN next week.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

Caroline Glick

Source: http://www.carolineglick.com/e/2011/09/the-palestinian-obsession.php

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

Turkey No Economic Powerhouse, Erdogan’s Credit Bubble Will Soon Explode


by Guy Bechor

Some refer to him as “the Middle East’s new sultan in a neo-Ottoman empire” – yet the truth about Erdogan’s kingdom is utterly different. We are not facing an economic power, but rather, a state whose credit bubble will be bursting any moment now and bringing down its economy.

The budget deficit of the collapsing Greece compared to its GDP stands at some 10%, and the world is alarmed. At the same time, Turkey’s deficit is at 9.5%, yet some members of the financial media describe the Turkish economy as a success story (for comparison’s sake, Israel’s deficit stands at some 3% and is expected to decline to 2% this year.)

While Turkey’s economy grew by some 10% this year, this was merely the result of financial manipulation.

So how does the system work? The banks in Erdogan’s Turkey handed out loans and mortgages to any seeker in recent years, offering very low interest rates; this was in fact a gift. As the interest rate was so low, Turkish citizens used more and more credit, mostly for consumption.

And how did Turkey’s Central Bank finance this credit party? Via loans: Erdogan’s bank borrowed money in the world and handed it out to its citizens. However, Turkey’s deficit kept growing because of it, until it reached a scary 8% of GDP; by the end of the year the figure is expected to reach 10%.

Turkey’s external debt doubled itself in the past 18 months, which were election campaign months. Only a small part of the deficit (15%) was financed by foreign investment. The rest constitutes immense external debts.

Now it’s clear that Erdogan’s regime bought the voters in the recent elections. Most of the Turkish public elected him not because of Islamic sentiments, but rather, because he handed out low-interest loans to everyone. I will provide you with cheap money so you can become addicted to shopping, and you shall elect me.

The Israel diversion

This created Turkey’s credit bubble, which may explode any day now, because the date for returning the loans approaches. Will the Saudis help Erdogan as he hopes? This is highly doubtful. Nobody is willing to pay for attacks on Israel, and the West is annoyed by Erdogan’s thuggery. Why should they help him?

Moreover, Turkey’s unemployment rate is 13% and the local currency continues to plummet vis-à-vis the dollar – it reached its lowest levels since the 2009 global crisis. With a weak currency and with a stock exchange that lost some 40% of its value in dollars in the last six months, Erdogan wants to be the Middle East’s ruler?

Once the bubble explodes, the score with Erdogan will be settled, by the journalists his government ordered to arrest, by army officers charged with imaginary accusations, by the restrained scientists, the politicians, and mostly the general public, which shall be facing an economic disaster.

And this is where Israel comes into the picture. Why talk about the approaching economic catastrophe? Why talk about this disgrace, when it’s better to create an artificial crisis vis-à-vis Israel, a spin that the whole world will be talking about instead of talking about the sinking Turkey? After all, the Marmara raid happened more than a year ago, why did it emerge again now? Is it only because of the Palmer Report?

We shall wait a few more months, and then we shall see what really happens in the new sultan’s kingdom.

Guy Bechor

Source: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4122972,00.html

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

Egyptian Economy Under Revolutionary Stress


by Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli


Albert Camus, The Rebel (1951)

Introduction

Following eighteen days of demonstrations in Midan al-Tahrir (Liberation Square) in the center of Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, on February 11, 2011. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces assumed the president's powers and vowed to oversee a peaceful transition process leading to free and fair presidential elections, after five rounds of presidential referenda that had ensured the election of Mubarak, the incumbent, uncontested. As the Egyptian people grapple with their newfound freedom, the broader economic and social impact of the political turmoil in Egypt and, indeed, across the region, will fully unfold in the future.

Impact of Global Economic Slowdown on Egyptian Economy

Prior to the political upheaval that erupted in Egypt last January and has continued since then, the global economic slowdown had impacted the growth of Egypt's real gross domestic product (GDP), fiscal balances and poverty levels. Unemployment, according to contested official data, had risen to 9.4% (with underemployment even higher); capital inflows had declined (in particular foreign direct investments which had fallen by 39%, and fell even farther after January 25). The Egyptian government had implemented a crisis response plan featuring fiscal, monetary and direct support measures.[1]

The fiscal stimulus had come mainly in the form of additional spending, including higher subsidies and social benefits. As a result, economic growth had been recovering. Real GDP grew 5.3% in fiscal year (FY) 2010, up from 4.7% in FY2009 (but still below the 7% average of FY06 to FY08). There were signs of robust activities in sectors such as construction, tourism and communication. But the recovery was too slow to significantly affect the increase in unemployment rate and the living conditions for the average Egyptian remained poor, and perhaps as many as 40% of the 82 million Egyptian population live below the poverty line, meaning living on income of less than $1 a day.[2]

Over the past two decades, social conditions in Egypt were noticeably enhanced: infant mortality and malnutrition among children under five both decreased by half, and life expectancy rose from 64 to 71 years. The economy and the living standards of the vast majority of the population improved, although in an uneven manner. While 18% of the Egyptian population lived below the national poverty line, this figure goes up to 40% in rural Upper Egypt. The partial modernization of Egypt's economy has not succeeded in reaching a critical mass of its citizens. Some of the recent gains were reversed due to the 2008 food price crisis and fuel price shock and to the global crisis-related slowdown in economic activity.

The Nature of the Egyptian Revolution

Egyptians prefer to call the events that led to the removal of President Hosni Mubarak from power a revolution. But revolutions are meant to change a dominant paradigm – politically, economically and socially – not just rebel against them. It remains to be seen whether the Egyptian "revolution" qualifies as such or falls under what the French existential philosopher Albert Camus would have called a rebellion, a reaction to unjust activity that has been tolerated for too long.

The majority of the Egyptian people have no idea about the nature of democracy that would evolve from the turmoil and the shape of institutions that will govern Egypt. In fact, a recent survey of a random sample of Egyptians by the International Republican Institute found that 80% of those who brought down the regime had far greater concerns about their living standards and unemployment than about lack of democracy and political reform (19%). Not surprisingly, with the revolution in its initial honeymoon phase, 89% of the respondents felt that the country was heading in the right direction, and 95% felt that the revolution will impact Egypt for the better.[3]

The Transformation into Revolutionary Economic Environment

No sooner had the Egyptian economy started to show signs of recovery than it was hit by the political and social upheaval that broke out on January 25, 2011. Mal-distribution of income and inadequate human capital development alongside lack of political reforms were among the key factors behind the widespread political and social discontent. Above all, corruption in its many forms – bribery, tax evasion, theft, nepotism and extortion – may have cost the Egyptian economy as much as $57 billion in 2000-2008, or an annual average of $6.4 billion. According to a report issued by the Center for Safety of International Financial System, Egypt rated third in Africa in terms of capital flight.[4] The family of Mubarak and many of his close associates, including key ministers, are accused of accumulating enormous illicit personal wealth, and the Egyptian government is seeking the help of 120 foreign governments to identify the personal wealth of 150 members of the former ruling elite. [5]

The Macro-Economic Consequences of the Political Upheaval

Putting aside the philosophical argument about the nature of the Egyptian political turmoil, the events have had serious macroeconomic consequences. Former Egyptian finance minister Dr. Samir Radhwan (who was replaced in July by Dr. Hazem al-Biblawi) estimates that the gross domestic product in the first quarter of this year has contracted by 7%, for a loss of about $30 billion for the national economy following the events of January 25.[6] Inflation is projected to rise to 12%, while the rate of economic growth is projected by the IMF to decline to 1% in 2011 from an estimated rate of 6% before the political turmoil.[7]

The foreign currency reserves, which stood at $36.1 billion at the end of 2010, dropped by $9 billion to $27 billion by the end of May and have continued to decline.[8] Maj.-Gen. [liwaa] abu-Bakr al-Jundi, the head of the Institute for Mobilization and Statistics, pointed out that inadequate liquidity in the economy has forced the government to draw on its foreign currency reserves. [9] The foreign currency situation was further aggravated by the withdrawal from Egypt of about $16 billion of foreign capital in the first six months following the revolution.[10] As a result of all of this, the rating of Egypt's sovereign debt has been reduced to a "high risk" grade which sharply limits the government capacity to borrow on the international financial markets without a high premium on interest rates.[11]

Meeting Social Demands

Responding to the yearnings of the masses for a better-quality life, the Egyptian government, despite financial constraints and the loss of revenues particularly from the tourism industry, has approved the state budget for 2011/2012 sporting a deficit equal to 10.95% of the gross domestic product, reflecting a wide gap between revenues of 350 billion Egyptian pounds ($58.9 billion) and expenditures of 514 billion Egyptian pounds ($86.5 billion). Former finance minister Radhwan stressed that one of the significant features of the state budget would be an increase in the expenditure item for special workers' compensation from 95 billion pounds ($15.99 billion) to 116 billion pounds ($19.5 billion). The budget will provide 5.7 billion pounds $0.95 billion) to support minimum wages. Tax exemptions on salaries have been raised from 9,000 pounds ($1,515.15) to 12,000 pounds ($2.020).We assume the figures reflect annual salaries.

The budget also increased allocations for social security, from 101 billion pounds ($17.03 billion) to 207 billion ($34.8 billion). The increase in social security expenditures will allow the inclusion of 300,000 new families under the system, to reach 1.5 million. The recently appointed minister of finance Dr. Hazem al-Biblawi said the poor will be given a high priority in the 2012-2013 budgets. Indeed, he asserted that the social sector will be addressed even at the expense of economic growth.[12] This will be politically expedient but hardly an effective remedy toward placing the economy on a path of sustainable growth. Steffen Hertog wrote about "the perils of economic populism in the Middle East," and warned of the "first signs of a post-revolutionary hangover" being witnessed everywhere in the Arab world. [13]

On the revenue side, the budget includes a number of tax reforms to generate resources for additional social spending and enhance fairness through a moderate increase in the progressivity of the tax system. These reforms will be accompanied by efforts to strengthen tax administration and improve compliance.[14] The International Monetary Fund welcomed the draft budget with its "overarching goal aimed at promoting social justice."[15]

Sharp Decline of the Tourism Industry

Tourism, a labor-intensive, foreign currency-generating industry which provided employment to about four million Egyptians, has declined sharply, resulting in a loss of employment as well as revenues of about $1 billion a month. The loss of employment has been particularly painful as it added a new layer of unemployment to an already a high rate of unemployment estimated anywhere between 10% and 20%, depending on age group and the source of the data.[16] The almost total collapse of the tourism industry was accompanied by a decline of 56% in passenger traffic in the national carrier Egypt Air.

Other Factors Impacting the Economy

Strikes and turmoil have caused the economy to operate at 50% of its capacity and reduced export volume by 40%.[17] A preliminary study indicates that $1.2 billion will be required to restart 75 factories closed at the outbreak of the turmoil.[18] Strikes had taken place in many sectors of the economy, including the public sector, with strikers demanding higher wages and improved working conditions and social benefits which the government can ill afford. Recognizing the damaging effect of wild strikes, the ruling Supreme Military Command has issued an order outlawing industrial strikes. At one time after the start of the political and social upheaval the strikes brought the economy to a standstill. This led one union activist to query: "The question today is not who is on strike; the question is who is not on strike."[19] As a result, the daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported on a growing sense of pessimism among Egyptians regarding the economic situation in the country, while consumers' confidence declined by 7.5% in July compared with the month of June.[20]

Growing Threat of Violence

On the home front, Egypt has witnessed an escalation of violence, particularly the sectarian violence involving Salafist elements and the Christian Coptic minority. The appointment of a Christian as a governor of the province of Qana in southern Egypt drew widespread protests which forced the government to remove him.[21] It is part of what the Egyptian are calling infilat amni (security breakdown) reflected in street crimes, break-ins and looting by criminals referred to as baltagia (hoodlums or hooligans). The escape from prisons in the last two days of January of thousands of prisoners convicted for crimes has exacerbated the economic difficulties and security breakdown.[22] It is exactly the same phenomenon that characterized the situation in Iraq for years after the American invasion in 2003 that lead many Baghdadis to yearn for the days of Saddam Hussein when families were able to spend late summer nights in coffee shops and on the shores of the Tigris River unmolested.

Pledges of Foreign Aid

The Egyptian government plans to finance the budget deficit, estimated at $10 billion, through a combination of instruments, including foreign grants and loans from bilateral multilateral development partners, including the IMF, the World Bank, the EU, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and others, to provide a respite after tourists and investors fled in droves following the overthrow of the Mubarak regime. Here is what the multilateral and bilateral donors have pledged in the form of aid to Egypt.

Qatar, for example, held high-level discussions with the Egyptian government with a view of generating private Qatari investments of $10 billion for a package of joint projects.[23] The Egyptian minister of planning and international cooperation Faiza abu al-Naga announced that the Qataris have agreed to build one million housing units for low-income families in the next five years. They have also agreed to participate in the construction of the city for science and technology because time has come for Egypt "to become a country among producers of technology."[24]

Saudi Arabia has pledged $4 billion in aid to Egypt. The aid was supposed to be in the form of soft loans, bank deposits and grants.[25]

In financial distress itself, the United States has offered to forgive $1 billion from Egypt's outstanding loan of $3.6 billion. The amount of the forgiven loan would be placed in a special fund to provide support to the private sector and generate employment for youth. The U.S. has also agreed to extend debt guarantees for another $1 billion.[26] The use of U.S. aid will in keeping with the two key objectives of the next development plan of Egypt which will focus on social justice and the development of human capital.[27]

There were also discussions with the International Monetary Fund for a loan of $3 billion at a low interest rate and supposedly no conditions attached. However, the Higher Council of the Armed Forces, Egypt's de facto ruler, was not impressed that the IMF loan was without conditions, and General Sameh Saddeq, assistant to Field Marshall Tantawi for economic affairs, told the government to cancel the loan, which had "five conditions that totally went against the principles of national sovereignty," and which would "burden future generations."[28] The so-called "five conditions" were never publically enunciated.

Experience with foreign aid has shown, however, that there is invariably a big gap between pledges of aid and its delivery, and the billions of promised aid by some bilateral sources may only materialize in dribs and drabs over a long period of time.

Conclusion

Seven months after the removal of President Mubarak from power, Egypt finds itself in the midst of contracting economic activities caused by a sharp decline in tourism, absence of foreign direct investments, rising inflation and unemployment, breakdown of security and the absence of political clarity, mingled with fears and incertitude about the nature of the political system that will emerge on the ruins of the old regime.

The Egyptian economy has gone through a period of convulsion and contraction triggered by a challenging period of political transition. Political stability and internal security will be two preconditions for the economy to restore its health. For now, however, the government is facing a critical dilemma of putting the economy on a sustainable growth track, while at the same time it faces enormous pressures to meet heightened expectations of social benefits that it can hardly afford.

It is premature to speculate about the nature of the political democracy that will emerge from recent political convulsion. It is absolutely certain, however, that Egypt will need a long term of political stability and internal peace to bring back the tourists and the foreign investors and with them employment opportunities for millions of unemployed Egyptians.

The Egyptian people are known to be patient people but patience has its limits. If the masses who demonstrated in Midan al-Tahrir and other cities of Egypt get nothing in return for their efforts and sacrifices, it will not be far-fetched to see many of them falling prey to the Salafist slogan "Islam is the Solution."

Endnotes:

[1] This introduction draws heavily on World Bank’s Country Brief for Egypt (2011)
[2] www.bbc.co.uk/arabic.middleast/2011/02/110214_egypt_strike February 15, 2011
[3] International Republic Institute, "Egyptian Public Opinion Survey April 14 –April 27, 2011" (Washington, D.C. June 5, 2011)
[4] www.aljazeera.net February 11, 2011
[5] Al-Bayan, UAE, June 9, 2011
[6] www.shorouknews.com April 21,, 2011; www.alarabiya.net May 5, 2011
[7] www.alarabiya.org May 17, 2011
[8] www.almasryalyoum.com June 7, 2011
[9] www.youm7.com May 1, 2011
[10] This figure was provided by the International Finance Institute in Washington, D.C. and reported by Akhbar al-Khaleej (UAE), July 26, 2011
[11] Al-Ahram, May 17, 2011
[12] Al-Ahram, August 3, 2011
[13] Arabian Business, July 24, 2011
[14] Al-Sharq al-Awsat, June 2, 2011
[15] International Monetary Fund, Press Release No. 11/211 of June 2, 2011
[16] www.shrouknews.com April 21, 2011
[17] Figures provided by the Egyptian ministry of economy, www.alarabonline.org May 5, 2011
[18] Al-Sharq al-Awsat, July 12, 2011
[19] www.bbc.co.uk/arabic February 15, 2011
[20] Al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 3, 2011
[21] Al-Sharq al-Awsat, April 24, 2011
[22] 'Okaz, February 1, 2011
[23] Al-Ahram, May 23, 2011; www.menafn.com May 29, 2011
[24] www,daralhayat.com May 31, 2011
[25] Arab News, May 21, 2011
[26] Al-Ahram, May 20, 2011
[27] www.daralhayat,.com June 11, 2011
[28] Al-Ahram Weekly, July 7-13, 2011.s
Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is a senior analyst at MEMRI.

Source: http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5646.htm

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Report Documents Hamas Resurgence in West Bank


by IPT News

Israeli security forces have broken up 13 Hamas terrorist cells in the West Bank since May, according to a report released this week by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

The cells were in various stages of preparing for terrorist attacks and operated mostly in the cities of Hebron and Jerusalem. As a result of the exposures, dozens of Hamas operatives have been detained.

Israeli security officials arrested dozens of people just last week in connection with the murder of a British tourist and with an attempted suicide bombing.

"Interrogation of the detainees showed that their main objective was to kidnap Israeli citizens for bargaining," the report said. "Also planned were mass murder terrorist attacks, one of which was actually carried out [in March 2011]…Other operations planned by the cells were thwarted and the operatives were detained."

Interrogation of the detainees showed that the cells were directed and logistically supported by Hamas headquarters in Syria and the Gaza Strip. Saudi Arabia was the location for recruitment meetings and instructions from Hamas members there were transferred to operatives in Hebron.

"The exposure of these terrorist cells shows that Hamas headquarters are engaged in intensive efforts to rebuild the movement's military infrastructure in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] for the purpose of launching terrorist attacks against Israel," according to the report.

In a speech Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to seek full membership for a Palestinian state next week at the United Nations Security Council. U.S. officials have pledged to veto the move.

"It is possible that the motivation to carry out terrorist attacks has even increased (and may increase still) ahead of the PA's application to the UN," the report adds.

IPT News

Source: http://www.investigativeproject.org/3185/report-documents-hamas-resurgence-in-west-bank

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Op-Ed: Judenrein State, Part I: Western Hypocrisy


by Matthew M. Hausman

Nothing illustrates the hypocrisy better than a comparison of their demand that Israel accept an Arab “right of return” with their ambition for a state that would be ethnically cleansed of all Jews.

Part I: Western Hypocrisy

In seeking to impose a Palestinian state on Israel, the Obama Administration, European Union, and western media have displayed a cynical contempt for history that is astounding in its breadth and scope.

Pressure is brought to bear solely on Israel, who is expected to sacrifice sovereignty and security in the name of an ideal that is premised on a repudiation of the Jews’ right to self-determination in their ancient homeland. The Palestinians are expected to concede nothing – not even their oft-stated goal of the phased destruction of Israel.

Nothing illustrates the hypocrisy better than a comparison of their demand that Israel accept an Arab “right of return” with their ambition for a state that would be ethnically cleansed of all Jews. Like the Nazis with whom the Mufti and other Arab leaders were so closely allied during the Second World War, they seek to create a Judenrein state as a springboard for the elimination of a Jewish presence in the Mideast.

Ironically, western "progressives" are enabling the process, even though it entails human rights violations that would certainly be illegal in liberal democracies.

The continuing support for the Palestinian cause by the United States and European Union – and their contribution of billions of dollars that fund anti-Semitic propaganda masquerading as school curriculum, line the pockets of the corrupt Abbas regime or end up in the coffers of Hamas – would indicate an abdication of reason if the true goal were to achieve a lasting, substantive peace.

However, such behavior is not incongruous if the real purpose is political realignment with the Arab-Muslim world at the expense of Israel’s integrity as a democratic, Jewish nation. Although Obama and the EU claim only to support the rights of the Palestinians as an indigenous people, they have adopted the cause by uncritically promoting a revisionist narrative that is built on a denial of Jewish history.

However, the Jews’ rights as an indigenous people were recognized historically and under international law long before the term “Palestinian” was ever used to refer to an Arab population that accreted largely through immigration during the sunset years of the Ottoman Empire. The Jewish people originated in ancient Israel; the Palestinians did not.

The Arab-Muslim world’s true intentions regarding peace with Israel should be apparent from its centuries-long oppression and subjugation of Jews in Arab lands and its stated refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish nation. The two-state solution is proffered as a ruse for the destabilization of Israel, and western apologists are complicit in the charade by their refusal to insist on Arab recognition of Jewish historical rights, and by their failure to condemn the Palestinian goal of state building through ethnic cleansing.

Whereas any perceived attempt by Israel to transfer Arab populations would certainly inspire international condemnation, the Palestinians’ open and notorious aim of expelling Jews from historically Jewish lands – lands that were never part of any sovereign Arab nation – is met with conspicuous silence or tacit approval. Indeed,

President Obama’s demand last year for a building freeze in Jerusalem was a blatant attempt to coerce Israel to implement apartheid-like measures against her own citizens in order to limit the Jewish population of her capital.

Jewish habitation in Judea, Samaria, and Israel proper, including Jerusalem, was a fact from antiquity into modern times – until Jordan conquered the territories and dispossessed their Jewish inhabitants during Israel’s War of Independence.

When Jordan (then known as Transjordan) conquered Judea and Samaria in 1948, it expelled the Jews living there, collectively dubbed these territories the “West Bank,” and annexed them in violation of international law.

Israel’s subsequent acquisition of these lands in 1967 in truth effectuated their liberation from foreign occupation; and renewed Jewish habitation thereafter constituted nothing more than repatriation.

Israel’s liberation and administration of Judea and Samaria were perfectly legitimate under prevailing standards of international law, despite Palestinian claims to the contrary. In fact, it is Palestinian land-claims that are dubious, based as they are on Jordan’s transfer of its negotiating “rights” over these territories to the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo process. Because Jordan seized these lands illegally, however, it never possessed lawful title in the first place, and accordingly had no legitimate rights to convey to the PA.

In consideration of these facts, it is reasonable to question why Israel should even entertain the notion of a two-state solution, particularly as it requires her to discount the indigenous heritage of her own people and surrender ancestral lands to those who unapologetically call for her destruction.

One must also question the wisdom of negotiating with the PA, which could easily be displaced by Hamas through open revolt or by an Islamist-influenced election such as occurred in Gaza.

This is a particular concern in view of the political upheavals currently sweeping across the Arab world, where popular unrest has reinforced the legitimacy of military juntas and strengthened the political profile of Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Matthew M. Hausman is a trial attorney and writer who lives and works in Connecticut. A former journalist, Mr. Hausman continues to write on a variety of topics, including science, health and medicine, Jewish issues and foreign affairs, and has been a legal affairs columnist for a number of publications.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/10615#.TnPFfeyX7Fw

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Video: To Whom Do The 'Territories' Belong?


by Gavriel Queenann

The Yesha Council representing the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria has produced a short video making Israel's case for keeping the Jewish nation's 'disputed' ancestral heartland.





The video, just six minutes long, is nevertheless packed with clear, concise information on the history and legal realities pertaining to Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria.
Employing a live, personable presenter with illustrative, humorous animations, the film, despite its sublte, tongue-in-cheek tone effectively makes Israel's deadly-serious case.

Gavriel Queenann

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/145010#.TnNrneyX7Fw

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Al-Qaida in Iraq: Jihadists in Decline


by IPT News

Today, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) finds itself in a very difficult position. U.S. and Iraqi government forces have killed many of the group's top leaders. The American troop surge and the change in counterinsurgency strategy that began in early 2007 have made it more difficult for AQI to carry out attacks.

The terror group "took a big hit after the surge. Violence fell 90 percent," said Long War Journal Editor Bill Roggio. AQI controlled substantial amounts of Iraqi territory before the surge, but is no longer able to do so, he said. Today, the group is forced to operate through covert cells in Iraqi cities.

Though weakened, the group retains substantial capability to target Iraqi civilians. On August 15, insurgents launched a devastating series of attacks covering nearly every region of the country, killing 86 people and wounding more than 300.

"In all there were 37 attacks, more than double the daily average this year, nearing the level of violence at the height of the sectarian violence here in 2006 and 2007," the New York Times reported after the carnage. The terror spree included two suicide bombers, 11 car bombs, and 19 improvised explosive devices.

A few days later, an AQI affiliate called the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) vowed more terrorist attacks to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden and two previous ISI leaders.

On Aug. 28, a suicide bomber killed at least 28 people and wounded at least 41 others in an attack on a Sunni mosque in Baghdad.

But, Roggio said, the bombings don't change a fundamental reality: AQI is "a shell" of its former self, a point reflected in plummeting levels of violence since the surge began in early 2007.

Iraqi military and civilian fatalities in the war dropped from more than 3,000 per month during February 2007 to 184 during July 2011. Coalition military deaths fell from 85 to zero during the same period.

AQI has between 500 and 1,000 members, Roggio said, down substantially from an estimated 11,000 to 12,000 when the surge began. One-hundred fifty to 200 jihadists per month crossed into Iraq (nearly all of them from Syria) before the surge; today, the number is down to 20 to 30 per month, he told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

While AQI is "still dangerous," the group has become "an afterthought" when it comes to carrying out terrorist attacks, Roggio said, adding that Iranian-backed Shiite terror groups have eclipsed al-Qaida as the main jihadist threat to Iraq.

Abu Musab Zarqawi and AQI

Abu Musab Zarqawi, a native of Jordan, played a key role in establishing AQI in Iraq. In 2000, Zarqawi met with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and established his own terror network: al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Monotheism and Holy War). After 9/11, Zarqawi crossed into Iran, but was forced to relocate to Iraq in 2002 after German authorities arrested eight Tawhid members for plotting terror attacks against Jewish targets. He spent much of his time in Iraq with Ansar al-Islam, a jihadist group based in the northern part of the country.

According to the Jordanian government, Zarqawi was behind the October 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley, who was fatally shot outside his home in Amman. Jordanian agents said three men confessed that they had been armed, recruited and paid by Zarqawi, who was sentenced to death in absentia.

Zarqawi returned to Iran around the time of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, where he met with Osama bin Laden's military chief, who asked him to help coordinate the entry of al-Qaida operatives into Iraq. Zarqawi agreed, and by the fall of 2003 a steady stream of jihadists was crossing the border from Syria into Iraq to fight coalition forces.

U.S. officials have said Zarqawi's network was involved in a number of large-scale car-bomb attacks in late 2003. Those included the Aug. 19 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 23 people including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top UN envoy in Iraq. Ten days later, at least 85 people died in a bombing outside the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites. Among the dead was Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim, one of Iraq's top Shiite leaders. A November 2003 attack on Italy's paramilitary police in Nasiriya killed 30 people.

In 2004, the group carried out and videotaped the beheading murders of three Americans: Nicholas Berg (killed on May 11); Jack Hensley (Sept. 21); and Jack Armstrong (Sept. 22). In October 2004, Zarqawi's organization pledged allegiance to bin Laden and joined al-Qaida. Since then, it has carried out its attacks in the name of AQI. Zarqawi was given the title "Emir of al-Qa'ida in the Country of Two Rivers."

The group was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the State Department, and the U.S. government put a $25 million bounty on Zarqawi's head.

Zarqawi and AQI targeted Jordan as well. In November 2005, they bombed three Amman hotels, killing at least 54 people. Zarqawi was also linked to a failed 2004 plot to attack the U.S. embassy and other targets in Jordan with chemical weapons.

In January 2006, AQI created the Mujahideen Shura Council - an umbrella group that was intended to encompass all of the Sunni terror organizations in Iraq.

Zarqawi adopted a strategy of carrying out mass-casualty attacks targeting Shiites and their religious shrines. A three-day series of suicide bombings across Iraq in July 2005 killed 150 people and wounded 260 more. The most high-profile attack was the Feb. 22, 2006 bombing of the Askariya mosque 65 miles north of Baghdad. Within 24 hours, more than 20 Sunni mosques across Iraq were shot up, set afire or bombed killing at least 18 people.

Zarqawi was killed in June 2006 when two U.S. F-16 jets dropped several 500-pound bombs on a safe house located five miles west of Baquba. He was replaced by Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian jihadist who was a protégé of al-Qaida's then-second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri.

AQI claimed its attacks in the name of the council until November 2006, when jihadists declared the establishment of the "Islamic State of Iraq" – the first step towards al-Qaida's goal of establishing a caliphate over the region.

AQI's brutal tactics triggered a backlash from tribesman in Anbar province in western Iraq. Incensed over its encroachment into their territory, Sunni Muslim forces formed militias and in the summer of 2006 began a campaign of killing al-Qaida operatives and collaborators utilizing the same brutal intimidation tactics as AQI. Their movement soon became known as the Anbar Awakening.

Washington began courting these Sunni tribesmen, many of whom had joined al-Qaida in fighting the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq. The Sunnis eventually concluded that al-Qaida was a greater threat than the U.S. military and joined the fight against the jihadists. By the spring of 2009, 100,000 former insurgents were on the United States' payroll and fighting AQI.

In tandem with its efforts to court Awakening members, President Bush ordered an additional 20,000 soldiers to Iraq during the first six months of 2007. This "troop surge" – part of a new counterinsurgency strategy to protect Iraqi civilians from terrorists – to a heavy toll on AQI. By early 2008, al-Qaida, which had been estimated to have between 12,000 and 15,000 members, saw more than 11,000 of its members killed or captured. The reward for capturing AQI's leader had dropped from $5 million to $100,000.

Even with the reduction in the bounty, U.S. and Iraqi security forces successfully have targeted a number of Zarqawi's successors in the jihadist leadership. On April 18, 2010, for example, a U.S. airstrike killed Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq.

AQI has been hard hit by its inability to occupy territory following the surge, Roggio said. When the group held territory, it could extort substantial sums of money from oil-company truck drivers as they passed through. Now that it is operating out of covert cells, the group no longer has the ability to set up the checkpoints necessary to carry out effective shakedowns.

"Extortion plays much less of a role" in financing AQI operations compared to five years ago, he said.

In the wake of AQI's decline, Iranian-backed jihadist organizations have supplanted it as the number one terrorist threat to Iraqi security, Roggio said.

Yet AQI remains dangerous, particularly when it comes to attacks against "soft" civilian targets. On Oct. 31, 2010, it attacked a Baghdad church, triggering a hostage siege in which more than 50 people were killed. Several days later, the group launched coordinated attack in Baghdad, detonating more than 15 car bombs and killing more than 90 people. AQI's media production house, al-Furqan Media, continues to produce jihadist videos.

There are also reports that hundreds of Awakening members, driven by frustration with their treatment by the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, have rejoined al-Qaida, which has embarked on a campaign to persuade disaffected Sunnis to rejoin the jihad.

Roggio, who has made numerous trips to Iraq, expressed skepticism that AQI would achieve much success. Iraqis have seen the jihadists "for what they were, a violent, nihilistic group interested only in slaughter."

In recent interviews with al-Shorfa.com, a website operated by the U.S. military, Iraqis explained why they want nothing from jihadist elements like AQI.

"They are nothing but filthy groups who sold out their homeland and their conscience for a fistful of dinars," said Nawful Ali, 29, who works at a transportation firm in Baghdad.

A 31-year-old factory worker in Baghdad said Iraqis have decided to reject terrorists and could best serve their country by turning them over to security forces.

In the coming years, Roggio predicted, al-Qaida in Iraq will continue much as it is today: Watching its lethal power decline, but continuing to carry out large-scale attacks against soft civilian targets.

IPT News (The Investigative Project on Terrorism)

Source: http://www.investigativeproject.org/3180/al-qaida-in-iraq-jihadists-in-decline

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