Friday, May 18, 2012

Was Ambassador’s Iran Threat Credible?


by Jonathan S. Tobin

America’s ambassador to Israel sounded a reassuring note today to Israelis and others wondering whether the direction of the West’s negotiations with Iran was leading inevitably to appeasement of Tehran. Ambassador Dan Shapiro seemed to be echoing the tough talk uttered by President Obama when he spoke to the AIPAC conference in March when, according to the AP, he made the following comments:

Shapiro told the Israel Bar Association the U.S. hopes it will not have to resort to military force.

“But that doesn’t mean that option is not fully available. Not just available, but it’s ready,” he said. “The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready” …

“We do believe there is time. Some time, not an unlimited amount of time,” Shapiro said. “But at a certain point, we may have to make a judgment that the diplomacy will not work.”

Though it would certainly be to the advantage of the West were Iran to believe it is in genuine peril of an attack if they refuse to abandon their nuclear ambitions, given the fact that it is EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton who is running the P5+1 talks, and not someone like Shapiro, Iran’s obvious confidence that it will prevail in the negotiations is hardly unfounded.

No one, not even the most sanguine leaders of the Iranian regime, doubt there are contingency plans in place for an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Unlike the difficulties that the Israeli Air Force would face in mounting such an operation, American forces in the Persian Gulf regime are more than adequate to accomplish the task. But to say there are plans is one thing. To believe President Obama would order the use of force if Iran refuses to give ground in the talks is quite another.

Indeed, far from the Iranians doing the retreating, it has been the West that has, as the Iranians haven’t failed to note. Every red line set by the West on Iran’s nuclear program has been transgressed. From the putting of reactors on line to the construction of heavy water facilities and now to the refining uranium at a rate that is needed to produce a nuclear weapon, the Iranians acted and then waited for the West to eventually concede the point. That is why they are heading to Baghdad for the next round of talks so confident that the West will allow them to keep their nuclear toys that they are actually demanding the crippling international sanctions that were belatedly imposed on the regime be lifted.

We hope the Iranians are mistaken about President Obama’s resolve but nothing he has done — as opposed to the many things he has said about the topic — has led them to believe they can’t get away with building up their capability to the point where converting it to military uses will be quite simple. And because, as the International Atomic Energy Agency has noted, devices for testing military uses of nuclear power are already in place in Iran, they have every expectation that sooner or later they will be able to confront the world with a nuclear fact.

Like much of what the administration has said and done in recent months, Ambassador Shapiro’s comments seem to be geared more toward convincing Israel to refrain from its own strike on Iran — for which the IAF has proclaimed its readiness — than a genuine demonstration of an American will to act to forestall the threat.

But rather than judge the administration on its words, it is far wiser to judge them on what happens in the coming negotiations. If, as the Iranians expect, the EU, Russia and China, with President Obama, as always, leading from behind, make “progress” in the coming weeks toward a deal that will leave Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in place, we will know the ambassador’s statement was merely an empty threat.

Jonathan S. Tobin

Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/05/17/was-ambassador-iran-threat-dan-shapiro-nuclear-force/#more-794008

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

Uncovering Early Islam


by Daniel Pipes

The year 1880 saw the publication of a book that ranks as the single most important study of Islam ever. Written in German by a young Jewish Hungarian scholar, Ignaz Goldziher, and bearing the nondescript title Muslim Studies (Muhammedanische Studien), it argued that the hadith, the vast body of sayings and actions attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, lacked historical validity. Rather than provide reliable details about Muhammad's life, Goldziher established, the hadith emerged from debates two or three centuries later about the nature of Islam.

(That is like today's Americans debating the Constitution's much-disputed Second Amendment, concerning the right to bear arms, by claiming newly discovered oral transmissions going back to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Obviously, their quotations would inform us not what was said 225 years ago but about current views.)

Portrait of Ignaz Goldziher.

Since Goldziher's day, scholars have been actively pursuing his approach, deepening and developing it into an full-scale account of early Islamic history, one which disputes nearly every detail of Muhammad's life as conventionally understood - born in 570 A.D., first revelation in 610, flight to Medina in 622, death in 632. But this revisionist history has remained a virtual secret among specialists. For example, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, authors of the synoptic Hagarism (Cambridge University Press, 1977), deliberately wrote obliquely, thereby hiding their message.

Cover of Hagarism.

Now, however, two scholars have separately ended this secrecy: Tom Holland with In the Shadow of the Sword (Doubleday) and Robert Spencer with Did Muhammad Exist? (ISI). As their titles suggest, Spencer is the bolder author and so my focus here.

In a well-written, sober, and clear account, he begins by demonstrating the inconsistencies and mysteries in the conventional account concerning Muhammad's life, the Koran, and early Islam. For example, whereas the Koran insists that Muhammad did not perform miracles, the hadith ascribe him thaumaturgic powers - multiplying food, healing the injured, drawing water from the ground and sky, and even sending lightening from his pickax. Which is it? Hadith claim Mecca was a great trading city but, strangely, the historical record reveals it as no such thing.

The Christian quality of early Islam is no less strange, specifically "traces of a Christian text underlying the Qur'an." Properly understood, these traces elucidate otherwise incomprehensible passages. Conventionally read, verse 19:24 has Mary nonsensically hearing, as she gives birth to Jesus, "Do not be sad, your Lord has placed a rivulet beneath you." Revisionists transform this into the sensible (and piously Christian), "Do not be sad, your Lord has made your delivery legitimate." Puzzling verses about the "Night of Power" commemorating Muhammad's first revelation make sense when understood as describing Christmas. Chapter 96 of the Koran, astonishingly, invites readers to a Eucharist.

Cover of Did Muhammad Exist.

Building on this Christian base, revisionists postulate a radically new account of early Islam. Noting that coins and inscriptions from the seventh century mention neither Muhammad, the Koran, nor Islam, they conclude that the new religion did not appear until about 70 years after Muhammad's supposed death. Spencer finds that "the first decades of the Arab conquest show the conquerors holding not to Islam as we know it but to a vague creed [Hagarism, focused on Abraham and Ishmael] with ties to some form of Christianity and Judaism." In very brief: "the Muhammad of Islamic tradition did not exist, or if he did, he was substantially different from how that tradition portrays him" – namely an Anti-Trinitarian Christian rebel leader in Arabia.

Only about 700 A.D., when the rulers of a now-vast Arabian empire felt the need for a unifying political theology, did they cobble together the Islamic religion. The key figure in this enterprise appears to have been the brutal governor of Iraq, Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. No wonder, writes Spencer, that Islam is "such a profoundly political religion" with uniquely prominent martial and imperial qualities. No wonder it conflicts with modern mores.

The revisionist account is no idle academic exercise but, as when Judaism and Christianity encountered the Higher Criticism 150 years ago, a deep, unsettling challenge to faith. It will likely leave Islam a less literal and doctrinaire religion with particularly beneficial implications in the case of Islam, still mired in doctrines of supremacism and misogyny. Applause, then for plans to translate Did Muhammad Exist? into major Muslim languages and to make it available gratis on the Internet. May the revolution begin.

Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. © 2012 All rights reserved by Daniel Pipes.

Source: http://www.danielpipes.org/11280/uncovering-early-islam

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

Article in London-Based Saudi Daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: Confront Iran on Its Home Turf


by MEMRI

In a May 7, 2012 article in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat [The Middle East], Yemeni publicist and poet Mohammed Jumeh called on the Arabs formulate a strategy for a political, cultural and financial confrontation with Iran, in coordination with Turkey. This would be accomplished by intervening in Iran's internal affairs and supporting the non-Persian minorities there in their struggle to restore their rights. According to Jumeh, Iran conducts wars on other countries' soil in order to distance danger from itself and prevent an internal conflagration within its own borders; he therefore recommends to give it a taste of its own medicine.

Following are excerpts from the article:[1]

Iran's Method Is "to Intervene in Struggles within Rival Countries, and Thus Distance the Flames [from Itself]"

"Iran employs a clear strategy of exporting not just its Khomeinist revolution, but also its internal problems. Its method is to intervene in struggles within rival countries and thus distance the flames from its own [internal] conflicts, so that the embers do not grow and erupt... Iran understands that its internal situation is not good, and that the smallest spark could cause these internal conflicts to burst into flame. Therefore, it desperately [attempts] to establish battle fronts beyond its borders, in order to distract its enemies and decrease the pressure exerted upon it. It does not care about the death-toll caused by its external campaigns, or about the fissures that its policy creates between peoples and among peoples in the region. Nor does it care about the flames that still burn in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Syria...

"Iran's wars beyond its borders have an additional benefit, which is to make it appear like a united country whose social fabric cannot be broken. Therefore, Iran does not want its rivals to imitate its game, since they, too, can achieve the results it obtains by conducting wars beyond its borders.

"That is why the Arabs must now play this same game against Iran. In Iran there are Sunnis and Shi'ites, and we must involve ourselves in the matter the severe discrimination... that afflicts most of the Iranian Sunnis, who don't have a single mosque in the capital... [Then there are] the people of Iran's Ahvaz [region], who are fellow Arabs and fellow Muslims, and their land is Arab land. They have their [own] history and political entities, which Iran can never erase. We must support the Ahvazi Arab people in order to restore its cultural and economic rights, and in order to lift some of the pressure from the Arabs in Syria, Yemen, and the Gulf. Merely hinting that we support the legitimate demands of the Ahvazi Arab people will cause Iranian policymakers to understand that they live in a glass house. Iran also has Kurds that suffer racial discrimination and conduct armed resistance to restore their rights, which they have found in Iraq but not in Iran. It also has Sunni Baluchi and Azerbaijanis, who are persecuted, and with whom Arabs must make contact so that Iran realizes that it is not the only one who can have a finger in every pie."

"In Their Relations with Iran, the Arabs Should Assume... a Policy of 'What Goes Around Comes Around'"

"In their relations with Iran, the Arabs should assume a position of equal power, based on a policy of 'what goes around comes around.' The Arabs will have more power and resources if they adopt a unified policy regarding Iran's greedy [coveting] of the resources of the peoples in the region. We lack nothing but a clear strategy of confrontation – and I do not mean a military confrontation, but rather a diplomatic, cultural and economic confrontation with Iran, including a confrontation [conducted] from inside its own territory.

"When you look at Iran from a distance, its [social] fabric seems very homogenous. But a closer look reveals the [internal] conflicts within this mosaic, and the Arabs must understand Iran's weakness at this time.

"Here we must also address the role of the Arab media directed at the Iranian peoples. If Iran funds close to 40 Arabic-language satellite channels that spread resentment, religious hatred, and sectarian strife [in the Arab world], and are rife with anti-Arab Shu'ubiyya,[2] then at the very least we must set up several Farsi-language satellite channels, to make Iran understand that its own social fragility is greater than it realizes, and also greater than the Arabs realize.

"Iran's current methods are reminiscent of the old European colonialists, who meddled in our countries under the pretext of protecting Christian Arab minorities, until they completely took over most Arab lands. Iran is doing the same thing today when it meddles in Arab affairs under the pretext of protecting Shi'ite Arab minorities... Just as the Christian minorities were not the real reason that prompted the European colonialists to enter our countries, the Shi'ite Arab minorities are not the real reason for Iran's mad dash to meddle in our affairs. The [Iranian] goal is clear: to take over resources in the region, break the will of its peoples, and enforce a regional [Iranian] hegemony. If defense of Shi'ite Arabs was Iran's [real] motive, then it would have granted [the non-Persian] Shi'ites in Iran their full rights, instead of forcing them to speak Farsi and forbidding them to preserve their cultural heritage."

The Arabs Should Coordinate with the Turks in Dealing with Iran

"Arabs today have no choice but to put aside [their] disagreements and unite around an Arab plan – a plan whose outlines began to emerge as the peoples of the region [began to express] their passion for freedom and justice [in the Arab Spring]. Let us note that, in this matter, the Arabs can play the regional-balance card in coordination with the Turks, in order to curb Iran's rash [policies]. Turkey is growing close to the Arabs in order to anger Europe, so why shouldn't we grow close to them in order to anger Iran? Not to mention that the Turks are apparently engaged in a secular cultural enterprise, and their conduct is more mature and relevant to the pace of modern times than [that of] the Mullah regime, which continues to believe that the hidden Mahdi controls the foundations of [human] existence as he pleases..."


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 7, 2012.

[2] The Shu'ubiyya was a spiritual movement in the early Abbasid period, which operated among peoples conquered by the Arabs. The movement rebelled against Arab supremacy and championed equality among all Muslims.


MEMRI

Source: https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&shva=1#inbox/1375b3ad78f7f1b0

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

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Turkey’s Middle East Policy of Seeking To Gobble, Gobble Up the Middle East Makes Enemies of Everyone


by Barry Rubin

“Countries may vary, but civilization is one, and for a nation to progress, it must take part in this one civilization. The decline of the Ottomans began when, proud of their triumphs over the West, they cut their ties with the European nations. This was a mistake which we will not repeat.” — Kemal Ataturk, 1924

Spinning in his grave, indeed, for now his successors not only think they can revive a Turkish-ruled imperium, but have made the very mistake of turning their backs on the West, which the republic’s founder rightly saw as the downfall of that earlier incarnation of his country. I’d change Ataturk’s wording slightly: the Ottomans turned their backs on the modern world then being developed in the West while still forming alliances with European powers.

Once upon a time there was a country named Turkey whose republic was created by Kemal Ataturk, who famously said: “Peace at home; peace abroad.”

He and the Turkish people had seen their Ottoman Empire collapse after failing to modernize, engaging in chauvinistic nationalism (under the Young Turks), and entering an unnecessary war that led to 20 percent of its population dead and the country prostrate.

And so Ataturk and his colleagues saved the country based on two basic principles: at home, joining Western civilization through modernization and secularization; abroad, avoiding foreign ambitions and conflicts. Whatever their faults, they did a remarkable job. Turkey made steady progress far in excess of what happened in Iran or the Arabic-speaking world.

But then came the regime of the Justice and Development Party. Pretending to be moderate and democratic, it was actually a radical Islamist party seeking to — if I may coin a phrase — fundamentally transform Turkey. This regime was not moderate but merely patient in achieving its radical goals.

It insisted that under its rule Turkey would be everyone’s friend and no one’s enemy. And President Barack Obama thought this would be a great model for the Middle East. In fact, though, the regime didn’t see everyone as an equal friend. It preferred the company of Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah.

Soon, as events developed in the region, the veneer of modesty boiled away and the aggressive ambition was revealed. And that ambition was expressed most clearly by the devious Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to parliament in late April:

We will manage the wave of change in the Middle East. Just as the ideal we have in our minds about Turkey, we have an ideal of a new Middle East. We will be the leader and the spokesperson of a new peaceful order, no matter what they say.

Wow. Off with the “everyone’s buddy” image and out comes the raving would-be dictator over the Middle East. But the problem is that there are these people called “Arabs” who don’t want to be bossed around by a Turk, even if they both are Sunni Muslims. In addition, those Arabs have their own ambitions. So when they hear stuff like this they become even more angry and suspicious.

“No matter what they say,” intones Davutoğlu, a man who has gone even further in addressing his party’s convention in a closed meeting, where he said that somebody ought to run the Middle East so why not him and his colleagues. Since his speech was reported in a U.S. embassy message, it was available to the White House. Yet it has been Obama’s naiveté about Turkey that has even further puffed up the arrogance of such people.

Sounding like another man who wanted to become the dictator of the Middle East — Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who once said that those who didn’t like him running things could “go drink the Nile” — Davutoğlu says:

I’d like to advise those who are criticizing us: Go to Cairo. Go to Tripoli. Go to the streets of Beirut, Tunisia, Jerusalem, and ask about Turkey’s policy on Syria. They will hug you and express their appreciation for Turkey’s honorable policy.

Yes, this regime has supported the overthrow of its former close ally in Syria in order to install an Islamist regime friendly to Ankara. It has even obtained full support from Obama for creating an anti-American government in Damascus.

After the foreign minister spoke, an opposition leader, Osman Korutürk, explained that he was just back from Cairo for a regional conference of parliamentarians and did not find such a love and worship of Turkey there. On the contrary, they were not thrilled with the idea of Turkey dominating Syria, or anything else in the area for that matter.

The increasingly power-drunk behavior of Turkish leaders may go unnoticed by a worshipful Obama, who touts the “Turkish model,” but the Arabs have been alienated by such attitudes. Having also threatened Israel, Greece, and Cyprus, while partly antagonizing Iran — though the Ankara regime continues to break trade sanctions with Tehran, sabotage totally accepted by the pliant Obama administration — the Turkish leaders have destroyed their own foreign policy. While this regime began with a realistic chance of being everyone’s friend, it has now made itself everyone’s enemy.

Regarding domestic governance, the power-drunk arrogance is also increasingly contradicting democratic practice. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan once said that democracy was like a trolley. You ride it until you get to your destination and then get off. Presumably that’s at the point where you have consolidated power to the point you can do whatever you want and have turned Turkey into an Islamist state.

Speaking in Adana and threatening retaliation to Kurdish PKK terrorist attacks, he abandoned the pose of moderation and pluralism to threaten:

We have four fundamental principles. And these principles are:

1. One people
2. One flag
3. One religion
4. One government.

While there are echoes here of traditional Turkish centralization under the old republic established by Ataturk, the third principle shows not only the abandonment of Turkish secularism but its replacement by Islamic rule. Where Erdogan is willing to compromise is that he left off the demand for one language, accepting some use of the Kurdish language.

Thus, Turkey, which had done so well for decades under pragmatists, has now fallen under the sway of megalomaniacal ideologues who believe that they can impose Islam on Turkey and Turkey on the region.

Meanwhile the regime is arresting scores of former high-ranking officers — here and here — destroying the army that used to protect secularism. The time will come when it appoints Islamists or opportunists who act as if they were Islamists to the top commands.

And the U.S. government has finally given some tiny indication of dissatisfaction with Turkey’s hostile policy toward Israel. Obama and the top officials have done nothing while the Islamist regime has behaved as if Israel is its worst enemy in the world and sided with radical terrorist groups that seek Israel’s extinction. Of course, this statement of mild dissatisfaction was dragged out of a junior official by critical members of Congress and was narrowly limited. In other words, for all practical purposes the Obama administration has done zero after two years of the Turkish regime’s bashing of Israel.

Barry Rubin

Source: http://www.gloria-center.org/2012/05/turkey%E2%80%99s-middle-east-policy-of-seeking-to-gobble-gobble-up-the-middle-east-makes-enemies-of-everyone/

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

President's Budget Fails to get a Single Vote in Congress


by Rick Moran

Not even Democrats are standing behind their presumptive party leader and the key to their electoral success in 2012.

Washington Times:

President Obama's budget suffered a second embarrassing defeat Wednesday, when senators voted 99-0 to reject it.

Coupled with the House's rejection in March, 414-0, that means Mr. Obama's budget has failed to win a single vote in support this year.

Republicans forced the vote by offering the president's plan on the Senate floor.

Democrats disputed that it was actually the president's plan, arguing that the slim amendment didn't actually match Mr. Obama's budget document, which ran thousands of pages. But Republicans said they used all of the president's numbers in the proposal, so it faithfully represented his plan.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, even challenged Democrats to point out any errors in the numbers and he would correct them - a challenge no Democrats took up.

"A stunning development for the president of the United States in his fourth year in office," Mr. Sessions said of the unanimous opposition.

The White House has held its proposal out as a "balanced approach" to beginning to rein in deficits. It calls for tax increases to begin to offset higher spending, and would begin to level off debt as a percentage of the economy by 2022. It would produce $6.4 trillion in new deficits over that time.

By contrast the chief Republican alternative from the House GOP would notch just $3.1 trillion in deficits, and three Senate Republican alternatives would all come in below $2 trillion.

John Hinderaker of Powerline:

This means that the presidents FY 2013 budget has now been rejected by the House and Senate by a combined vote of 513-0. Earlier today, as Paul noted in a post a little while ago, Obama demanded a "serious bipartisan approach" to the nation's budgetary crisis. Bipartisan? He can't even get a single Democrat to support his radically irresponsible proposals.

Four different Republican budgets were taken up by the Senate. The House budget (commonly referred to as the Ryan budget) was voted down 41-58. The vote on Pat Toomey's budget was 42-47; the vote on Rand Paul's budget was 16-83; and the vote on Mike Lee's budget was 17-82. The common denominator was that no Democrat had the courage to vote for any of them.

Not even Democrats are stupid enough to vote for a tax increase in an election year. But beyond the political, there is the notion that the president's numbers don't add up, that his pie in the sky assumptions about the economy and belief that congress would cut everything he asked made his plan "dead on arrival" when it got to Capitol Hill.

The president's game playing with the nation's future has been exposed for the dangerous political ploy it is. And not even members of his own party want to participate.

Rick Moran

Source: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2012/05/presidents_budget_fails_to_get_a_single_vote_in_congress.html

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

Could Europe Decide our Election?


by Rick Moran

The fate of President Obama's re-election is probably in the hands of a few European leaders who will decide in the coming months how far they are willing to go to save the euro.

The coming "Grexit," or Greek exit from the euro could be far more damaging than previously realized. Spain's banking sector is under enormous pressure and hints that Greece might leave the euro have Spanish depositors fleeing their own banks for safe havens in sturdier corporations in Germany and elsewhere. Just last week, the Spanish government took over the 4th largest bank and number one mortgage lender Bankia. This caused a $1 billion run on the bank's deposits.

There are also concerns about Italy's tottering banks and weakness in the French banking sector as well. No one knows what will happen to these banks if Greece were to return to the drachma. What is clear, is that any such move will cost hundreds of billions of dollars - most of it underwritten by an increasingly reluctant Germany through the European Central Bank.

And the uncertainty might also affect European imports from America - imports from companies in swing states that Obama must win in order to get re-elected.

Reuters:

Manufacturing growth, surging exports: These are central promises of Obama's reelection bid, especially in blue-collar industrial states that could determine the election.

Mindful of the Indiana surprise of 2008, when a spike in unemployment helped Obama win the reliably Republican state, the White House has every reason to fear payback in states like Ohio, this time from any deepening of Europe's financial crisis.

Already there are warning signs. One in four of Miller Weldmaster's machines is sold in Europe, and sales are down 5 percent so far this year. A further drop could force the company to consider layoffs.

"We've taken a sigh of relief - we've been over the crunch," says Jeff Sponseller, the company's vice president of sales and marketing. "The chance that this could happen again brings a lot of anxiety."

Other Ohio manufacturers share that concern. Royal Phillips Electronics, which exports X-ray machines from a 1,200-employee facility near Cleveland, warned in April that budget cuts and other austerity measures in Europe could hurt demand for its products. Glassmaker Owens-Illinois Inc, based in Perrysburg, said Europe's volatility could hit its earnings as well.

The U.S. Commerce Department estimates that more than a quarter of all manufacturing workers in Ohio depend on exports for their jobs.

Against this backdrop, the Obama administration has been involved in intense, behind-the-scenes maneuvering to steer Europe away from the financial brink.

For the past two years, Treasury officials, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have crisscrossed the Atlantic in pursuit of solutions to Europe's problems. The president has also been actively involved, speaking to European leaders by phone at key moments in the region's crisis.

For now, the technical details of a Grexit are still being worked out. But Greece may have one shot at staying in the euro zone. There is talk by the two major parties that the election next month should be a referendum on staying in the euro zone. The radical socialist Alexis Tsipras can talk all he wants to about his refusal to back the austerity measures negotiated last March in return for 120 billion euro bailout not costing Greece its place in the euro zone. But the facts aren't on his side; the EU/IMF/ECB troika have made it very clear that if Greece reneges on the deal, bail out money will stop.

When presented with the choice, it is believed that most Greek voters will return to their old loyalties and back the two establishment parties who were pummeled in the elections on May 6. That's the theory, anyway. The austerity measures are so unpopular that the major parties believed it better not to give the Greek voter such a stark choice last time around.

This time, with their backs against the wall, they may not have any leeway to do otherwise.

As for a Grexit sabatoging the Obama campaign, this is a real possibility if a Grexit causes a bank meltdown similar to the one that led to the Great Recession back in 2008. That worst case scenario is uppermost in the minds of Obama's campaign team as events unfold in Europe that will decide the fate of the continent for decades to come.

Rick Moran

Source: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2012/05/could_europe_decide_our_election.html

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

Muslim Voters Change Europe


by Soeren Kern

Muslims cast the deciding voted that thrust Hollande into the Elysée Palace. He also pledged to change French electoral laws so that Muslim residents without French citizenship would be allowed to vote in municipal elections as of 2014, enabling the Socialist Party to tighten its grip on political power.

An analysis of the voting patterns that barrelled François Hollande to victory on May 6 as the first Socialist president of France since 1995 shows that this overthrow was due in large measure to Muslims, who voted for him in overwhelming numbers.

The French vote marks the first time that Muslims have determined the outcome of a presidential election in a major western European country; it is a preview of things to come.

As the politically active Muslim population in France continues to swell, and as most Muslims vote for Socialist and leftwing parties, conservative parties will find it increasingly difficult to win future elections in France.

According to a survey of 10,000 French voters conducted by the polling firm OpinionWay for the Paris-based newspaper Le Figaro, an extaordinary 93% of French Muslims voted for Hollande on May 6. By contrast, the poll shows that only 7% of French Muslims voted for the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy.

An estimated 2 million Muslims participated in the 2012 election, meaning that roughly 1.7 million Muslim votes went to Hollande rather than to Sarkozy. In the election as a whole, however, Hollande won over Sarkozy by only 1.1 million votes. This figure implies that Muslims cast the deciding votes that thrust Hollande into the Élysée Palace.

France, home to between five and six million Muslims, already has the largest Muslim population in the European Union, and those numbers are expected to increase exponentially in coming years. According to conservative estimates, the Muslim population is projected to exceed 10% of the overall French population within the next decade-and-a-half.

During the campaign, Hollande offered an amnesty to all of the estimated 400,000 illegal Muslim immigrants currently in France. He also pledged to change French electoral laws so that Muslim residents without French citizenship would be allowed to vote in municipal elections as of 2014. These measures, if implemented, would enable the Socialist Party tighten its grip on political power, both at the regional and national levels.

Muslims in France -- and across Europe as a whole -- tend to support the Socialists for a variety of demographic, socio-economic and ideological reasons.

Most Muslims in Europe live in lower-income households and experience higher levels of unemployment. As a result, Socialists and Muslims are locked into a politically advantageous power-dependence relationship, between the givers of social welfare benefits and the givers of votes. Not surprisingly, Socialists favor increased Muslim immigration, which in turn produces more voters for Socialist parties.

In the ideological sphere, Socialists and Muslims generally share a mutual antipathy for traditional Judeo-Christian values. Although many Muslims oppose the secular agenda of the Socialists, most Muslims wholeheartedly support Socialist multicultural dogma, which they are leveraging to promote the Islamization of Europe.

In foreign policymaking, Socialists and Muslims share a mutual disdain for the United States and Israel. Leftwing parties across Europe have turned anti-Zionism into a politically correct form of anti-Semitism. The increasingly hysterical anti-Israel rhetoric emanating from Socialist circles has contributed to a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes across the continent; many of these crimes against Jews are being perpetrated by Muslims.

Although Hollande has not articulated his views on Israel -- he has said he wants to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories this summer -- many observers fear that Hollande will surround himself with a coterie of leftwing advisors who will push him to distance France from the pro-Jewish, pro-Israel course established by Sarkozy.

Hollande has also said he is opposed to Israeli or American military action against Iranian nuclear facilities and many analysts believe the new French government will seek to weaken international sanctions against Iran.

The political changes in France have many Jews concerned about their future. On the day that French voters elected Hollande as their new president, more than 5,000 French Jews participated in an Aliyah (immigration of Jews to Israel) fair in Paris. The annual event, organized and run by the Jewish Agency, usually attracts about 2,000 visitors.

To be sure, France is not the only country in which Muslims are changing the political dynamic.

In Denmark, Socialist Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt won the parliamentary election in September 2011 by a margin of just 8,500 votes. According to an opinion survey, 89.1% of Muslims said they would vote for Socialist or leftwing parties. There are an estimated 200,000 Muslims in Denmark, 100,000 of whom are eligible to vote.

In Britain, a new research report entitled, "Degrees of Separation: Ethnic minority voters and the Conservative Party," shows that 47% of Muslims say they have affinity for the Labour Party, while on 5% say they identify with the Conservatives. During the 2010 elections, Muslim voters were the deciding factor in 82 constituencies.

In the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Muslim voters elected the Bangladeshi-born Lutfur Rahman as their mayor. He is linked to the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), an Islamist group dedicated to changing the "very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed ... from ignorance to Islam." Since taking office, Rahman has stocked the public libraries in Tower Hamlets with books and DVDs containing the extremist sermons of banned Islamist preachers.

Also in Britain, Labour Party MP Jim Fitzpatrick recently warned that his party has been infiltrated by radical Muslims who want to create an "Islamic social and political order" there. Muslims, he said, are "placing people within the political parties, recruiting members to those political parties, trying to get individuals selected and elected so they can exercise political influence and power, whether it's at local government level or national level." He added: "They are completely at odds with Labour's program, with our support for secularism."

In Belgium, Muslims now make up one-quarter of the population of Brussels. In real terms, the number of Muslims in Brussels -- where half of all Muslims in Belgium currently live --- has reached 300,000, meaning that the self-styled "Capital of Europe" is now the most Islamic city in Europe.

In practical terms, Islam mobilizes more people in Brussels than does the Roman Catholic Church, and demographers expect that Muslims will comprise the majority of the population of Brussels by 2030.

In Belgium as a whole, new research from the Itinera Institute forecasts that by 2060, 60% of the Belgian population will be foreign born, which will have clear implications for Belgian politics.

In Norway, new statistics show that immigrants will make up almost half of Oslo's population by 2040. The study, the first ever projection of immigration trends to be published in Norway, shows that the largest cities will also see the biggest upsurge in immigrant numbers. In the country as a whole, the immigrant population is expected to jump from 12% to 24%, or from 600,000 people today to 1.5 million in 2040.

In Spain, the Socialist Party recently attempted to pass a law in parliament that would have enabled more than 500,000 Moroccans residing in Spain to vote in Spanish municipal elections. If enacted, the measure would have ensured permanent Socialist control over all Spanish towns and cities with significant Muslim minorities. The measure was derailed in November 2011, when, in the general election, the Socialists were ousted from power.

Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.

Source: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3064/muslim-voters-europe

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

Religious Left Opposes Pressure Against Iranian Nukes


by Mark D. Tooley

Bipartisan resolutions proposed in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, equally backed by Republicans and Democrats, are urging the “President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”

So naturally the Religious Left is opposing these mostly symbolic statements, because largely pacifist prelates do not believe any situation, no matter how dire, ever merits even the implied contemplation of force. They also are more concerned about military force from the U.S. or Israel than they are about nuclear weapons in the hands of apocalyptic Iranian mullahs.

Complaining that the congressional resolutions would “undermine diplomatic efforts,” the leftist churchmen warn the statements would set a “dangerously low threshold for war” by “ruling out containment,” possibly even, by some interpretations endorsing “military force against Iran now.”

The ecumenical complaint to members of Congress was organized by the Presbyterian Church (USA) chief Capitol Hill lobbyist. It was signed by Quaker and Mennonite officials, a left-wing Catholic order, and the lobby offices of the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church.

Noting that Iran’s theocracy since at least the late 1980s has “engaged in a sustained and well-documented pattern of illicit and deceptive activities to acquire nuclear capability,” the congressional resolutions cite Iran as the “most active state sponsor of terrorism,” according to the U.S. State Department. They also recalled the U.S. Treasury Department’s finding last year that Iran had a “secret deal” to help al Qaeda. Of course they mentioned Iran’s genocidal threats against Israel. And they pointed at the Islamic Republic’s “serious human rights abuses,” according to the United Nations, including “torture, cruel and degrading treatment in detention, the targeting of human rights defenders, violence against women, and ‘the systematic and serious restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly’ as well as severe restrictions on the rights to ‘freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.’”

The Congressional resolutions, noting Iran’s continued failure to comply with international non-proliferation standards, urge continued diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran until it ends its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. It also commends the “universal rights and democratic aspirations of the Iranian people.”

Leftist prelates in the U.S. of course are not particularly interested in disarming or democratizing Iran. Instead, they complain the congressional resolutions are “undercutting” diplomacy, which “heightens the potential war.” They quote various critics claiming the resolutions resemble pre-2003 justifications for the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein Iraq. They insist Iran has not yet decided for nuclear weapons. And they reiterate: “Direct, sustained diplomacy remains the single most effective way to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and avert war. And they implore: “We urge you to support diplomacy, not war, with Iran, and to oppose” the congressional resolutions.

The Religious Left statement never mentions human rights in Iran. And it does not propose alternatives in case diplomacy continues to fail. Of course, it does not admit that potential threats of military force may strengthen diplomacy against Iranian mullahs not typically impressed by anything other than force.

Next month, the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly will consider a resolution opposing any even implied threats against Iran’s mullahs. It would place the 2 million member denomination on record opposing “preemptive military action by any nation against Iran.” And it calls for “direct, unconditional negotiations between the United States and Iran with the goal of… implementing a peaceful resolution.” The proposed resolution, coming from Atlanta area Presbyterians, declares the church is “not confident, judging from past experience, that the U.S.A. has given sufficient thought… to the consequences of such an attack in Iran itself and across the Middle East.”

The Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons composed his own Iran policy, telling President Obama earlier this year, according to Presbyterian News Service: “The Christian tradition we share urges us to seek limits to violence and, therefore, requires us to oppose any rush to initiate another war in the Middle East.” Parsons cited the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as reasons to be wary. And he opined: “Negotiations do work. Look at the North Korean decision to suspend their nuclear program.” Parsons also claimed that Just War teaching argues against any force against Iran. The largely pacifist Religious Left’s understanding of the Just War tradition is that absolutely no situation would ever meet its impossibly exacting standards.

None of these churchmen discussed how a nuclear armed Iran might affect the Middle East and the world. Nor did they even really express that much distress about Iranian nukes. In typical fashion, purported over reactions by the U.S. and Israel are the chief concerns.

The Religious Left does not have a very admirable history regarding Iran’s theocratic dictatorship. Although often recalling the reputed U.S. role in restoring the Shah to power in 1953 as one of the century’s supposed great crimes, religious leftists almost never comment on the far more murderously tyrannical regime that replaced the Shah. Even during the 1979-1980 hostage crisis, the U.S. National Council of Churches chastised the U.S. by praying America would “resume a more open views towards the needs and concerns of the Iranian people.”

The United Methodist Council of Bishops, at about the same time, confessed: “We have committed grave sins against the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” One bishop even visited Ayatollah Khomeini and afterwards pronounced that the “Islamic system is a democratic system founded on popular consensus.” An official from the church’s lobby office, called the Board of Church and Society, which has backed the recent letter against pressuring Iran, in 1980 even bailed out from jail and tried to provide bus transportation for pro-Khomeini Iranian student demonstrators in Washington, D.C. “I know there are individuals in the Iranian power structure who do trust The United Methodist church,” one bishop boasted in 1981. No doubt.

Churches are right to hope and pray for a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear situation. But the Religious Left once again demonstrates it has no moral authority when it villainizes the U.S. and Israel, while ignoring the Iranian theocracy’s over 3 decades of monstrous crimes, not to mention the nightmarish scenario of Iranian nukes. Members of Congress of both parties who live in the real world will rightly ignore the Religious Left’s foolish stance.

Mark D. Tooley

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/05/16/religious-left-opposes-pressure-against-iranian-nukes/

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

'Tehran is Undermining the Stability in the Region'


by Boaz Bismuth

Bahraini ambassador to Belgium calls on "entire international community, including Israel, to stand by its side through its current confrontation with Iran" • Six Gulf countries look to forge political alliance against Iran.

Boaz Bismuth, Israel Hayom correspondent in Brussels

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=4363

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

'Khamenei Told Me that Israel Must be Burned to the Ground'


by Shlomo Cesana and Reuters

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar tells crowd in Jerusalem that during meeting with Iran's supreme leader in 2000, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, "War against the United States and Israel is inevitable."

Israel has, for years, cautioned against Iran's intentions and the dangers of its nuclear ambitions, but on Wednesday former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar gave the world yet another reason to heed those warnings. Aznar, speaking to a crowd in Jerusalem, recalled a meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in which he expressed his intention to destroy Israel.

"In a private discussion we held in Tehran in October of 2000, Ali Khamenei told me that Israel must be burned to the ground and made to disappear from the face of the Earth," Aznar told the audience. The former Spanish prime minister went on to say that Iran's spiritual leader also said that "Iran's war against the United States and Israel is inevitable."

Aznar was in Israel as a guest of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, currently headed by former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dr. Dore Gold.

Gold asked him, "When Khamenei was talking about wiping Israel off the map, was he referring to a gradual historical process involving the collapse of the Zionist state, or rather its physical-military termination?"

Aznar answered, "He meant physical termination through military force." The former Spanish leader also told the crowd that Khamenei described Israel as "an historical cancer, an anomaly," and said that he was "working toward Iran defeating the United States and Israel in an inevitable war against them."

Aznar also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday and discussed the matter with him.

Meanwhile, a classified report submitted by a panel of experts in the U.N. and leaked to Reuters concludes that sanctions against Iran are working, but that the Islamic Republic has been simultaneously continuing its nuclear enrichment efforts.

Western diplomats say Iran is installing more centrifuges in an underground plant but does not yet appear to be using them to expand higher-grade uranium enrichment that could take it closer to producing atom bomb material.

They say Iran's production of uranium refined to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, which it started two years ago, seems to have remained steady in recent months after a major escalation of the work in late 2011 and early this year.

Progress in Iran's controversial nuclear program is closely watched by the West and Israel as it could determine the time the Islamic Republic would need to build nuclear bombs, should it decide to do so.

Getting Iran to stop the higher-level enrichment is expected to be a priority for world powers when they meet with Iran in Baghdad next week in an attempt to start resolving the decade-old dispute over Tehran's atomic ambitions.

"It is still going strong. I hear it is unchanged," one diplomat accredited to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, which regularly inspects Iran's declared atomic sites, said about the country's most sensitive nuclear activity. "But with installation work going on, at some point there will be an increase," the official said.

Tehran took a big step toward the capability of making nuclear weapons material after a previous attempt at diplomacy failed when, spurning U.N. demands to halt all enrichment, it instead ramped up uranium processing to 20 percent purity.

That provoked the West to impose crushing sanctions on its banks and oil exports.

A U.N. nuclear report published in February showed Iran trebling output of 20 percent uranium since late 2011 after starting up production at the Fordo underground plant near the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom and later increasing it.

Another envoy said he did not expect to see a "significant expansion" of this work in the next quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran's nuclear program due later this month.

Shlomo Cesana and Reuters

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=4359

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

Mordechai Kedar: The Syrian Crisis Spills Over into Lebanon


by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in the original עברית
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Angelo Pezzana)

As a result of the bloody events in Syria beginning in March 2011, Lebanon has become a place of refuge for Syrians who live near the border between the two countries. This open border, through which for years, Hizbullah has been transferring from Syria anything it desired, has now become an escape route for those Syrians who oppose the regime and seek shelter in Lebanon, even if only temporarily, from the cruelty of the "Shabikha", the murderous gangs of the Asad regime. The Syrian army, despite the fact that it feels "at home" in Lebanon, usually refrains from pursuing Syrians who have found sanctuary there, so as not to offend the European countries, especially France, which see Lebanon as their "back yard". Only in a very few cases did a military force cross the border into Lebanon in order to apprehend refugees who oppose the regime, and in a few cases have even shot Syrian canons into Lebanese villages where some Syrians had found shelter and sanctuary.


The society in Lebanon is polarized regarding the events in Syria: the Shi'ite Hizbollah, the main power in the state, actively supports Asad, and has sent more than a few of its soldiers, mainly snipers, to fight those citizens of Syria who are rebelling against the regime. Those who are opposed to Hizbollah, the "March 14 Coalition", headed by Sa'ad al-Hariri, hold clear anti-Syrian positions. In the background there is always the possibility that the Syrian regime will collapse. If this occurs, the fear is that Hizbollah will quickly take over Lebanon and prevent the opposition from taking advantage of the weakness that may follow the loss of Syrian support. Nasrallah, of course, totally denies that he has any such intentions. As long as the internal argument was conducted verbally, the words did not represent an immediate threat to the stability of the state.

However, lately an internal confrontation has developed, regarding the active support of the Sunni Muslim insurgents in Syria. For a long time rumors have been circulating about ships that arrive in the middle of moonless nights to locations near the recesses of the Lebanese coast; and boats with people in black clothing and covered faces who race from the shore towards the ships. The people clothed in black unload wooden crates full of "all good things", and then the boats disappear back into the darkness from which they emerged. The crates are brought into Syria, where their contents - weapons and ammunition - serve the Free Syrian Army. The rumors about the boats were not substantiated until this month. In the beginning of May, in Lebanese territorial waters, the Lebanese army apprehended a ship with the name "Lotef Allah 2", which had departed from Libya and moored in Alexandria on its way to Lebanon. On this ship, a number of containers with light weapons were seized, but there were also a few French rocket launchers that had been sent last year to the insurgents in Libya. There were also explosives, and the whole shipment was sent by a Syrian company. The loading document, of course, did not reveal the actual contents of the shipment. Twenty one employees of the ship were arrested, but it is not clear what they knew about their deadly cargo.

The Lebanese army must certainly have known about the ship and its cargo and it is safe to assume that they got their information from an intelligence organization acting in cooperation with the Syrian regime, Iran or Russia, who were quick to register a complaint with the Security Council of the UN about the smuggling of weapons into Syria from the neighboring countries. Russia and Iran are very concerned about the increasing strength of the Free Syrian Army, which, thanks to the great number of weapons that flow to it, is recently more successful in fighting back and killing many Syrian soldiers. The seizure of the weapons in the port of Tripoli immediately raised the question in Lebanon: who was supposed to receive the weapons and transfer them to the Syrian insurgents?

The question was answered when on Shabbat, May 12, a twenty five year old man was arrested in Tripoli by the name of Shadi al-Mawlawi, along with five of his friends. The young man, a Lebanese Sunni and a member of a Salafi group, known as an activist working for the Syrian insurgents, was arrested when he returned from Syria on suspicion of assisting the insurgents and planning with them to transfer to them the weapons that had arrived by ship. From the moment that he was arrested, Tripoli has been in turmoil: The Al-Manar channel, mouthpiece of the spokesman for the Hizbollah Shi'ites, claims that the ship belongs to Al-Qaeda, and served as the connection between global jihad organizations and the Syrian insurgents, while al-Mawlawi's Sunni friends claim emphatically that he is simply a good young man, who - like many others - gave humanitarian support to Syrian refugees who managed to escape to Tripoli. The circumstances of his incarceration are interesting: according to some versions he was apprehended in the office of the Lebanese minister of the Treasury, Mahmud al-Safdi, in Tripoli, which brings up the possibility that al-Mawlawi might also have supported the Syrian insurgents monetarily, and that he was an emissary sent by members of the political establishment in Lebanon who are engaged in plotting against the Asad regime.

It's important to note that the body that carried out the arrest - the General Security agency - is an arm of the Lebanese regime, but every Lebanese citizen is aware that this organization takes instructions from Hizbollah, that is, from Hassan Nasrallah, who is doing everything is his power to support his good friend and avid admirer, Bashar al-Asad. It could even be that the demand to arrest Al-Mawlawi came straight from Damascus. The fact that al-Mawlawi is identified with a Salafi Bedouin group works against him, since the Salafis are perceived as a threat to the whole social and political order of the Arab and Islamic world, because they recognize no ruler but Allah, and believe that no legal framework that was determined by man can compete with the perfection that is Islamic Shari'a law.

The Barrel of Gunpowder

The arrest of Al-Mawlawi was enough to ignite one of the most sensitive areas in Lebanon, the arena of Tripoli. This city, the second largest in Lebanon, comprises several quarters, each of which hosts a distinct group: Muslims, Christians or Alawites. In the north of the city are two adjacent neighborhoods: Bab al-Tibbaneh, populated by Sunni Muslims, and above it Jabal Mohsen, an Alawite area The tension between these two sectors has existed for dozens of years, and the constant agitating factor is the way that each group relates to the Syrian regime: the Alawites support it heart and soul, while the Sunnis would do anything to get rid of it. And this political argument must be considered in the context of the religious background: The Alawites are perceived as non-Muslims. In fact, Ibn Taymiyya, the Muslim sage of the 14th century, wrote of them that they "akhfar min el-Yehud wal-nasara" ("are worse infidels than the Jews and the Christians"). He described precisely their treachery and the damage that they have caused to Islam, principally as a result of their cooperation with the Christian crusaders.

The negative perception of the Alawites has caused hundreds of years of persecution and oppression by the Muslims, especially during the period of the Ottoman Empire; therefore they traditionally live in the mountains, which affords them refuge and shelter from their Muslim enemies. In Western Syria they populate the Ansariyya Mountains, and their neighborhood in Tripoli is also built on a mountain, (Jabal Mohsen). The men are armed to the teeth and their houses are fortified. Despite the fact that they are a small minority of the residents of Tripoli, only 5 percent, their absolute number - 30 thousand - gives them a feeling of power, especially because the area is only 18 kilometers from the Syrian border.

After many years of conflicts between Muslims and Alawites in Tripoli, the "mitaq sharaf" (Covenant of Honor) was signed in 2008 between all of the groups in the city. According to the covenant, all disagreements must be solved peacefully. However in Lebanon, an agreement is honored just as long as it is in the interests of its parties to honor it, and the moment that one party stops being interested in it, the agreement becomes nothing more than a piece of paper. Ever since the bloody events broke out in Syria 14 months ago, a number of conflicts have erupted between the Muslims and the Alawites in Tripoli, because each community supports an opposite side of the Syrian equation. Each time conflicts erupt, they are stopped after a few days of street battles, some fatalities, a few dozen wounded, burned-out cars and ruined businesses. It could be that the current conflict will end in the same way, but it could also be that things may get out of control, because in Tripoli, there are those who are willing to gamble on the imminent collapse of the Alawite regime in Syria. Such a collapse will also cause the collapse of the support for the Alawite community in Tripoli and perhaps the time will come to "convince" them to flee to the North, to the Mountains of Ansariyya, the mountains where they came from long ago. They are aware of the miserable situation of the Alawite regime in Syria, so they defend themselves with violent acts, out of the Middle Eastern instinct to survive: "the best defense is a good offense".

In the current round of street battles in Tripoli, RPG launchers and machine guns have been used in addition to personal weapons. Snipers paralyzed the traffic in the streets in the north of the city, and the main route that leads northward to Syria was blocked. The Lebanese army was streaming armored personnel carriers and soldiers into the area, but the Sunni residents of Tripoli fear that the army, like the other branches of the regime, was acting in accordance with the dictates that come down from Damascus. The arrest of a group of Sunnis is perceived as crossing a red line, because the Sunni community is in a very precarious position, since the Shi'ite Hizbollah has become the strongest organization in Lebanon, stronger even than the official army of the state.

By Monday evening the conflicts had resulted in eight fatalities and about fifty wounded. In the quieter parts of the city the Sunnis organized a demonstration in support of Al-Mawlawi and his friends who had been arrested. They burned tires, blocked streets and set up protest tents, in keeping with the tradition of the "Arab Spring" of last year. The government, headed by Najib al-Mikati and President Michel Suleiman are exerting great efforts to calm the situation without causing more fatalities among the population, because Tripoli of today resembles a barrel of gunpowder waiting to explode - and that might ignite all of Lebanon.

The Writing on the Wall

The fragile situation in Lebanon is no surprise, and anyone who understands the internal situation in this country knows that it is living on borrowed time. The state comprises five groups: Christians, Druze, Alawites and Muslims, who are divided into Shi'ites and Sunnis. The constitution, which is supposed to have organized the division of powers between the various groups was written by the French, who established Lebanon as a state for the Christians, principally the Catholic Maronite tribe. Lebanon is a "human experiment", in which five Middle Eastern groups of humanity were divided up, a constitution was engineered for them that is contrary to their culture and it was hoped that the experiment will work. And indeed the arrangement worked for some years, with internal battles every few years, but the demography was stronger than all of the good intentions of the French: Instead of a state for the Maronites, Lebanon became a state for the Shi'ites.

The demographic story is simple: for hundreds of years, even while there was still feudalism in Lebanon, the Shi'ites were marginalized, socially, economically and politically. Because they were generally uneducated, they worked in vocations that were considered lowly, while the Christian elite formed the center of society, the economy and therefore also the political arena. And as in all other places in the world, the groups that are marginalized have many children, and the elite sectors have fewer, because of the different priorities of the young women, who prefer a career over marriage, and a shapely figure more than children. This is true all over the world, from Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo, from London to Istanbul. Israel is a bit different in this regard, but in Lebanon it applies well: among the Shi'ites, who engage in polygamy, marriage at a young age and the prohibition of "family planning", they fulfill the biblical passage "They were exceedingly fruitful and the Earth was filled with them", while the Christians froze their demographic growth because of monogamy, marrying – if at all - later in life and "family planning".

Because of their European education with the French touch, Christians tended to emigrate, while the Shi'ites, whose educational level is traditionally lower, tended to remain in the land of their birth while developing extensive contacts with Shiite concentrations of southern Iraq and Iran. Since the Islamic revolution of 1980 in Iran, Lebanon was the first place where the "export of the revolution" was implemented: propagandists came from Iraq and Iran to preach to those Shi'ites who had strayed from religion and adopted a secular way of life. Funds poured in to build schools and religious community centers and to support needy families, but the most important things were weapons, military training and the feeling that this created among the Shi'ites of "Yes, we can!" - that the period of oppression was over for good, and that the future belongs to them. In their view, their militia, Hizbollah ("Party of Allah"), emerged as the winner of the long conflicts with Israel, and their jihad justified leaving Hizbollah in possession of its weapons, despite the fact that all of the other Lebanese militias were disbanded after the Ta'if Accord of 1989. Today the Shi'ites use their military success as leverage in the political arena, where they have become the strongest body in Lebanon.

The Lebanese political arena is divided into two parts: the supporters of Hizbollah and its opponents; those who gambled on their success and joined them, against those who are trying to save themselves from the Shia-Iranian-Syrian hegemony. The disturbances in Tripoli are the direct result of this rivalry: the Alawites are an inseparable part of the Hizbollah coalition, while the Sunnis are not interested in being under the wings of the Nasrallah-Khamenei-Asad hegemony.

The support that Iran gives to Hizbollah and its friends is not the only instance of external involvement in Lebanon, because the weapons and the ammunition that the Sunnis in Syria and in Lebanon get, by way of boats like "Lotf Allah 2", are paid for with funds from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Emirates in the Gulf. The conflicts in Tripoli, even if they will be forgotten as they were in the past, will break out again as long as the situation in Lebanon between Hizbollah and its opponents is as it is today, and as long as Iran and Saudia Arabia do battle with each other until the last drop of blood of the last Lebanese person.

From the tragedy of Tripoli and Lebanon we can draw several conclusions: in the Middle East it is not possible to establish a state with an Arab society and Western political characteristics; Iranian involvement - even the economic and cultural – will ultimately undermine Western cultural and political influence in the Middle East; and whoever legitimizes jihad against Israel receives terror in his own streets in return.

The question that remains unanswered is whether the West will continue to abandon its Sunni friends in Lebanon and Syria, and leave them to the tender mercies of the unholy trinity - Iran-Syria-Hizbollah - to subordinate them, or perhaps the West will wake up and understand that failure in Damascus and Tripoli could bring the Iranians to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, whose waves will carry them from the port of Tripoli straight to Europe.

===============

Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Mordechai.Kedar@biu.ac.il) is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav.

Links to Dr. Kedar's recent articles on this blog:

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

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

Obama’s Iranian Rubicon


by Jonathan S. Tobin

As we noted yesterday, the celebratory tone of a senior Iranian figure about all his country has achieved in the negotiations with the West should scare those Americans who have been speaking with confidence about the Obama administration’s determination to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Despite the brave talk from the president, the Iranians are right to think they’ve got him on the run. Since the Iranians have crossed every red line intended to halt their progress, they can’t be blamed for thinking that the next round of talks or the ones that follow as the process drags out over the summer will ultimately lead to Western recognition of not only the legitimacy of their nuclear program but also their right to refine uranium. Indeed, with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in charge of the talks and with France no longer led by a president who is committed to a strong policy on Iran, it is difficult to imagine any other outcome at this point.

All of which puts the public concerns expressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the negotiating process that provoked the scorn of President Obama and much of the chattering classes in both the United States and Israel and in a very different light. Though the consensus in the foreign policy establishment is that much more time must be given to let diplomacy work, if this is the direction in which the talks are heading, Netanyahu is to be forgiven for thinking the Iranians have played the West for suckers.

President Obama took umbrage when Netanyahu said that it appeared that the first round of the P5+1 talks resulted in negotiators giving away “freebies” to Tehran’s envoys. But with Iran virtually declaring victory even before the next scheduled gathering in Baghdad later this month, that may turn out to be a generous evaluation.

This also lends credence to those who believe President Obama never had any attention of taking action on the nuclear threat but was merely talking tough for the benefit of pro-Israel voters while the diplomatic process enabled him to stall until he is re-elected and thereby have the “flexibility” to accept a policy of containment. This thesis holds that the only purpose of the talks was to prevent Israel from attacking Iran on its own.

However, if we accept the premise that the president is sincere in his desire to forestall an Iranian bomb (the point of view championed by Jewish Democrats and other Obama admirers), the coming talks present a peculiar challenge for the administration.

President Obama has taken great pride in having assembled an international coalition to oppose Iran, but now that this group is involved in talks with Iran, he is also its prisoner. The United States may have no intention of acquiescing to Iran’s demands about refinement or stepping back from the harsh sanctions that were belatedly placed on Tehran. But if the EU, Russia and China are all prepared to accept a deal that will enable Iran to continue its nuclear program, the president is going to be faced with a difficult choice. He will either have to repudiate the deal that Ashton and the other parties want to cut with Iran (and thereby embrace the sort of American unilateralism that he sought to replace when he succeed President Bush) or go along with something that he knows will present a grave threat to U.S. security. And, contrary to both the hopes of his friends and the fears of his detractors, he may not be able to put off crossing his Iranian Rubicon until after the election.

The only way to avoid such a choice is to do something that the president is equally uncomfortable with: exercising international leadership. Allowing Ashton it run the show in Baghdad is very much in keeping with the president’s predilection for “leading from behind.” But unless he gets directly involved in this process, he is going to be stuck with an indefensible deal that will give the lie to every statement he’s ever made on Iran. The coming weeks will tell us a lot about whether the president meant what he said about Iran or if he is able or willing to derail a negotiation that is heading inexorably toward an Iranian triumph.

Jonathan S. Tobin

Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/05/16/obama-nuclear-iran-rubicon/

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

The Rise of Hamas-Gaza


by Jonathan Spyer

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip, recently held internal elections. The polls were for the Gaza Political Bureau and Shura Council, often described as the movement’s parliament. Hamas holds its votes in secret, and tries to prevent the outside world from gaining knowledge of the movement’s internal political processes. However, it has become clear that the elections represented a significant victory for Hamas’s Gaza leadership. This came at the expense of the formerly Damascus-based external leadership group of Khaled Meshaal, which is now scattered across the region.

Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is now the head of the Gaza Political Bureau. This is the top movement position in the Strip. He is the first to hold this title since Abd al-Aziz Rantisi was killed by Israel in 2004.

The latest victory of the Gaza leaders may be a step on the road to their capture of the overall leadership of Hamas. This advance, in turn, may be traced back to two key elements.

First, the Gaza leaders possess power, a key element that their rivals lack. They hold real political and administrative power and control over the lives of the 1.7 million inhabitants of Gaza and of the 365 square kilometers in which they live. Second: the upheavals in the Arab world — and specifically the civil war in Syria — have served to severely weaken the formerly Damascus-based external leadership, depleting the value of the assets they held in the competition with the internal Gaza leaders.

The nature of the regime created by Hamas in Gaza, and its strength and durability, has received insufficient attention in the West. This may have a political root: Western governments feel the need to keep alive the fiction of the long-dead peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. One of the necessary components of this is pretending that the historic split between nationalists and Islamists among the Palestinians has not really happened, or that it is a temporary glitch that will soon be reconciled. This fiction is necessary for peace process believers, because it enables them to continue to treat the West Bank Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas as the sole representative of the Palestinians.

But fiction it is. An Islamist one-party quasi-state has been built in Gaza over the last half-decade. The prospects for this enclave and its importance in the period ahead have been immeasurably strengthened by the advances made by Hamas’ fellow Muslim Brotherhood branches in Egypt and elsewhere in the region.

Hamas has created a unique, Sunni Islamist form of authoritarian government in the Gaza Strip. It has successfully crushed all political opposition. It has created a security system in which a movement militia, the Qassam Brigades, exists alongside supposedly non-political security forces which are themselves answerable to Hamas-controlled ministries. It has imposed the will of the Hamas government on the formerly PA-controlled judiciary, and has simultaneously created a parallel system of Islamic courts.

The result of all this is that there is today no serious challenge to Hamas control of Gaza.

Against this center of real-world power, the external Hamas leadership faced the prospect of growing irrelevance in recent years. It was saved from this irrelevance because it controlled the foreign contacts — most importantly with Iran — that brought the donations vital to the survival of the Gaza enclave. This money in turn underwrote the existence of the Qassam Brigades, and hence made any challenge from Gaza to the external leadership unfeasible.
Then the “Arab Spring” came to Syria, home base of the external leadership. Hamas, a Muslim Brotherhood franchise, faced a dilemma. The Iran-led regional alliance of which it was a part was crushing an uprising at least partially led by its fellow Muslim Brothers in Syria.

Hamas made its choice — in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood. As a result, Iranian donations have rapidly depleted. The external leadership has scattered in a number of directions from Damascus: Meshaal is in Qatar; Mousa Abu Marzook is in Cairo; Imad Alami has returned to Gaza. There are members as far afield as Istanbul and Khartoum.

The internal leadership, meanwhile, has increased revenues from the smuggling tunnels between Sinai and Gaza since the fall of Mubarak in Egypt. This is helping to make up for the decline in Iranian support.

Reports suggest that control of the movement’s budget and of the Qassam Brigades has now been removed from Meshaal, though he retains his formal position as the movement’s overall leader. The internal leadership also headed off an attempt by Meshaal to cobble together a “reconciliation” deal with the West Bank PA in February. Such a deal would have required Hamas to dismantle the structures of its government in Gaza.

Palestinian nationalism has traditionally favored words and gestures over concrete deeds. This is one of the sources for its historical failure to produce anything much tangible of note. Palestinian Islamism has a different approach: in line with the traditional strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood, it understands the importance of concrete, patient building on the ground.

This does not mean that Hamas in Gaza has lost sight or will lose sight of the maximalist ideological goals of the movement. It does mean, however, that the split in the Palestinian national movement should now finally be internalized as a long-term development. The more formidable, serious element of that movement is in control of Gaza. The Islamist one-party statelet in Gaza, in turn, is allied with the trend that is proving the major beneficiary of the Arab upheavals of 2011 — namely, Sunni Islamism.

If the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power in Egypt, Hamas-controlled Gaza may yet become a point of strategic importance as a friction point with Israel, which could lead to broader tensions.

Jonathan Spyer

Source: http://www.gloria-center.org/2012/05/the-rise-of-hamas-gaza/

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

Did a WikiLeaks Document Doom Iranian ‘Mossad Agent’?


by Sam Ser

Leaked diplomatic cable apparently pointed to Majid Fashi, who was hanged in Tehran on Tuesday for allegedly killing a nuclear scientist

WikiLeaks may have been responsible for exposing Majid Jamali Fashi, the 24-year-old kickboxer who was hanged in Tehran on Tuesday morning after “confessing” to assassinating a nuclear scientist on behalf of Israel, a British media report said.

The Times of London reported Wednesday that a document from the US Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, seemingly drew attention to Fashi. The September 2009 US diplomatic document — identified by the code 09BAKU687 — quotes an Iranian source who was a licensed martial arts coach and trainer as describing to his American contacts pressure from the Iranian regime to train soldiers and militiamen in martial arts.

Fashi was reportedly in Baku for an international martial arts competition only days before the US Embassy document was written.

The suggestion is that the Iranian authorities identified Fashi as someone who was in illicit contact with the West on the basis of the document. He was arrested days after the publication of the document by WikiLeaks in December of 2010 and charged with carrying out the January 2010 assassination of nuclear scientist Masoud Ali-Mohammadi on behalf of the Mossad.

The British report Wednesday quotes a UK academic, Birmingham University professor Scott Lucas, speculating that the diplomatic cable may have been a critical piece of evidence or simply a pretext on which to arrest Fashi. “It could have been used as a pretext against him; to set him up as a person who could take the fall for the assassination,” Lucas said.

There is nothing in the US document pertaining to Israel.

Iranian authorities claimed that Fashi admitted to travelling to Tel Aviv for training from the Mossad and funding for the killing of Ali-Mohamaddi.

Tehran has complained to Baku about its close ties to Israel, saying it suspected that Azerbaijan was allowing the Mossad to operate against Iran from its territory.

Sam Ser

Source: http://www.timesofisrael.com/wikileaks-report-may-have-doomed-iranian-mossad-agent/

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The US Military Option for Iran Is ‘Ready,’ American Ambassador to Israel Says


by Michal Shmulovich and Greg Tepper

The United States has completed its planning for a military strike on Iran, the US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said in remarks at a closed conference in Tel Aviv that were broadcast on Israel TV on Wednesday night.

“It would be preferable to resolve this diplomatically, and through the use of pressure, than to use military force,” Shapiro said in comments that were reportedly recorded Tuesday and were broadcast Wednesday. “But that does not mean that option isn’t available. Not just available, it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready.”

Shapiro, the Channel 2 TV report said, was speaking at a closed forum in Tel Aviv and the comments were recorded by a newspaper reporter. The TV reporter added that the envoy had apparently not intended for his remarks to be publicly aired.

The broadcast of the Shapiro comments came a day after Israel TV reported that the Israel Air Force is soon to take part in joint military exercises in the US. The IAF has not trained in the US for several years.

The exercises, to be held in the coming months, will strengthen the relationship between the IAF and the US Air Force as they practice carrying out joint operations, according to the report.

Israeli and US air defense forces are also to take part in a major joint drill later this summer in Israel to simulate a massive attack. Thousands of US soldiers are expected to arrive in Israel for the drills.

The various reports come amid ongoing concern in Israel and the US over Iran’s drive toward a nuclear weapons capability. Israel’s leaders have said Iran must not be allowed to go nuclear, and indicated that they are contemplating military intervention if all other efforts to thwart Iran fail. US President Barack Obama has said Iran must not get the bomb, and ruled out the notion of containment, but has urged patience to give economic sanctions and other pressure more time to work while stressing that the military option is “on the table.”

In Israel on Tuesday, American National Guard and Israeli Home Front Command forces conducted search and rescue drills. The operations would be applicable in the case of either an earthquake or a missile barrage, officials said. If there were a major aerial missile attack or a large enough earthquake in Israel, US forces might assist in search and rescue operations.

Michal Shmulovich and Greg Tepper

Source: http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-us-military-option-for-iran-is-ready-american-ambassador-says/

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

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