Friday, August 10, 2012

Mordechai Kedar: Terror on the Border - Who is the True Victim?


by Mordechai Kedar

Thanks to the One Who dwells on High, Israeli Intelligence, Shabak (Israel's General Security Service) and the IDF, Israel was able to foil a massive attack last Sunday, when it attacked and destroyed a terrorist cell that had infiltrated from Sinai by way of the Kerem Shalom Crossing in an Egyptian personnel carrier, intending to enter an Israeli settlement and sow within it indescribable death and destruction . In the process of the attack, the terrorists killed 18 Egyptian security people who were manning the crossing. Since then all of the analysts of the event speak of Sinai as an area without law and order, where the Bedouin do whatever they please, where jihadists have found shelter and a base for their terrorist activity; and the terrorists of Gaza are involved in everything that goes on. Much has also been said of the intention of the terrorists to drive a wedge between Egypt and Israel by causing Israel to blame its neighbor for the responsibility for the attack, since it originated from within its sovereign territory. And if a few Egyptian soldiers were killed, this is not a bad thing at all in the eyes of the jihadists, because these soldiers cooperate with an infidel regime that does not implement the Islamic Shari'a as the law of the land.


However, the circumstances that were created after the murder of the Egyptian soldiers and the failure of the terror act against Israel proves the truth of the saying: "Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan." We can only imagine how great would be the cries of joy in Gaza if 18 Israeli soldiers had been killed, heaven forbid, instead of Egyptians. Unfortunately for the people of Gaza, all of the fatalities resulting from the attack were Egyptians.

Here we will turn for a moment to one of the main components of the culture of Middle Eastern discourse: the conspiracy theory. Five days before the attack, the staff of the Bureau of the Counter-terrorism branch of the Prime minister's office issued a severe and immediate travel warning, which called on all Israelis in Sinai to return immediately to Israel because of concrete intelligence regarding an imminent attack. This announcement - according to more than a few Arab spokesmen - proves that Israel had prior information about the action; information that focused on the Kerem Shalom Crossing, before its execution. From this, many Arabs concluded that it was Israel who organized the act, saying the fact that it knew about the act proves that it was partly responsible for it. The fact that no Israeli was injured is considered additional proof of Israeli involvement and the intention of the "Zionist Entity" to place responsibility on Hamas operatives in order to justify attacking them in the future and harm the improving relations between Hamas and the new Egyptian regime.

Despite the fact that many Arabs wish to believe this conspiracy theory, many of them know that it is not so, and this is the source of the great tragedy that has befallen Gaza, because there are many who accuse Hamas of creating the background for the attack, even if the organization was not directly involved in it. The Hamas movement has already used Egyptian territory to harm Israel, and spokesmen of the Palestinian Authority, principally Dr. Jamal Nasal and Muhammad Dahlan have this week clearly cast Hamas as the party responsible for the attack and have called on Hamas to cut the ties of money, training and guidance that bind it to the jihadists in Sinai. They claim that Hamas has been developing the terror infrastructure in Sinai for years, and now the Egyptians are reaping the stinking fruit of the activities of Hamas.

And herein lies the tragedy, because the people of Gaza know well that the Egyptian army knows well what the spokesmen of the Palestinian Authority say, and is already preparing a dual response: one part is vigorous action against the terror nests in the North of Sinai and perhaps in other parts of the peninsula as well, and the other part is to take revenge against Hamas and Gaza. There are reports that some of the members of the terror squad that carried out the attack on Sunday were members of the organization called "Jaish al-Islam", the armed militia of the Dua'mish tribe, which lives in the fortified compound in the Sabra neighborhood in Gaza. Another organization that was apparently involved in the attack is "al-Tawhid wa'al-jihad" which is present in Gaza as well as in Sinai. The people of Gaza are consumed by the sense that Gaza will be the victim of the failed terrorist action and they express this concern.

The situation in Gaza in recent months, especially since the Muslim Brotherhood won the parliamentary elections and the presidency in Egypt, has vastly improved compared to the past, because the Rafah Crossing is almost totally open, goods enter the area freely and people come and go into and out of Egypt almost without limitation. The blockade on the Gaza Strip - in which Egypt took an integral part - has been almost totally dismantled, and with it also the sense of distress that has burdened the people of Gaza ever since Hamas took over the Strip in June of 2007.

The Egyptian military holds the Hamas government responsible for the part that the people of Gaza took in the action, because in its view - Hamas is capable of imposing discipline upon those under its control and is obligated to do so. Therefore the people of Gaza fear that the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, and especially President Mursi, will have no choice but to surrender to the will of the Egyptian military which wants to renew the blockade on Gaza, whether as an act of self-defense on the part of Egypt and its soldiers, or in retaliation for Hamas's responsibility in the killing of Egyptian soldiers.

Dr. Mustafa Yusuf al-Lidawi expresses the fear of the Gazans in a most concrete way in his article entitled "Darkness encompasses the Gaza Strip",
with the following words (my comments are in parenthesis - M.K.).

"It was with great sadness and intense sorrow that the residents of Gaza received the news about the accursed attack on the Egyptian soldiers on the Egyptian-Israeli border (not the border of Gaza and Israel). They were struck speechless, their tongues adhered to their palates, their breath was stopped and on their Ramadan night (when they are supposed to rejoice) they were confounded ... whatever harmed the Egyptian people, its sons and the guardians of the homeland also harmed the entire Palestinian people (Hamas too) because the event is terrible, the damage is tremendous, the losses incalculable, the damage extensive and the results were far worse than could have been imagined. Sorrow has engulfed every home and worry consumes every heart... Everyone wonders who could have carried out such a terrible slaughter such as this; those who did this ignored the sanctity of Ramadan, and the holiness of Muslim blood, as the soldiers sat down to break the fast with an entreaty to the Master of the World to accept their prayer, guard the homeland and return them to their homes in peace.

Nothing can justify the attack. Its perpetrators are murderers, criminals, corrupt and defiling, conspirators and traitors, misguided and deceiving, enemies and hate-mongers, foolish and stupid, their only desire is to destroy, their goal is to corrupt and their aim is to harm the interests of the people (the Egyptians? the Palestinians?) and the nation (the Arab? the Islamic?). They are not Muslims and are not believers, they are not rebels for a noble cause and are not nationalists. They are also not Palestinians because he who kills his brothers is not Muslim, and he who attacks his own people is not a believer. Whoever causes distress to his people (by causing the closing of Rafah), who besieges his own family and acts to deny them light, food, medicine and all of the necessities of life is not Muslim, and whoever acts against the interests of his people, and serves the goals of its enemy and achieves that which the occupation has not succeeded in achieving, is not Palestinian...

Egypt today is grieving, wounded, weeping, bereaved and sighing, it has declared mourning on its faithful members and is determined to capture the murderers and do to them what they deserve... Palestine in general and Gaza in particular are no less downcast than Egypt, and not less shocked. Our warm tears flow continuously, our sighs are deep and our wounds are bleeding. We console the Egyptian people... and say to them: do not punish an entire people for what a small contemptible group has done, whether they are Palestinian or Egyptian, there is no difference. The group is not Palestinian even if some of the members are Palestinians, because they do not represent the Palestinians... do not allow the magnitude of the crime to cause you to punish the residents of the Gaza Strip, to close its only point of access to the world and to cut its arteries of life that come from Egypt. Do not prevent the people of Gaza to travel to the Haj in Mecca, and do not prevent the sons of Gaza from coming to Egypt, their homeland. Do not restrict entry of food to the people of Gaza (which arrives by way of Egyptian ports) because we are saddened just as you are, more angry than you and more determined than you are to take revenge on the murderers. We ask you to rise above the event, not to punish us collectively and not to deny from a whole people the sources of livelihood. Please open quickly the gates of the Strip and do not close them; prevent the return of the residents' suffering as it was in the past... because they love you and wish for you only the best, they do not accept any harm that may befall you and will not be silent about those who attacked you and harmed you. The sons of Gaza will pursue anyone who is proven to be guilty and will settle accounts with anyone whose crime is revealed. They will not cover up crime and will not support exploitation and aggression.

Allah, the prophet, the believers, the nation of Islam, the Egyptian people, the entire Palestinian people and especially the people of Gaza, all reject the criminal, aggressive, traitorous murderers, who carried out this terrible crime . We reject them ... and call out to Egypt to pursue them, and to punish them with the most severe punishment."

With this article the writer admits the responsibility of some residents of Gaza for the attack, and he expresses the fear that exists in the Gaza Strip that the Egyptians might close the Rafah Crossing and destroy tunnels, to prevent terrorists from getting into Sinai. He knows that the Egyptian military will do this without hesitation, because when this military becomes enraged it acts "without the constraint of a High Court and human rights organizations", with great determination and without pity. It may soon become clear that the actual victim of the action on Sunday is, oddly, the Gaza Strip.

Several conclusions can be drawn from this event:

  • Israel must retain its intelligence and military capabilities even in neighboring countries with which Israel has a peace agreement.
  • Countries that ignore terror will themselves become victims of terror.
  • Israel must immediately initiate an explanatory campaign that will show why the blockade on Gaza, whether justifiable or not, is not Israeli, but Egyptian.
  • The lack of control that reigns in Sinai may also take hold in Syria, where hundreds of armed groups are also active.
  • The State of Israel must be vigilant and attuned to all activities directed against the regime in the entire Negev, because when the laws of planning and building are not enforced it is the beginning of the decline of the rule of law, which may ultimately give way to a situation similar to that which exists in Sinai. No one can say "It can't happen here".

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

Dr. Kedar is available for lectures in the U.S. and Canada

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.

Police Suspect 'Wave of Nationalistic Arson Attacks'


by Yaakov Lappin

Dozens of firefighting crews, planes needed to control Kiryat Tivon blaze, homes burned, residents evacuated.
Israeli Fire and Rescue Service plane
Photo: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM

Police said Sunday that they suspect a spate of fires over the past two days is part of a "wave of nationalistically-motivated arson attacks."

It took some 30 firefighting crews, as well as firefighting aircraft, to gain control over a fire in Kiryat Tivon, south of Haifa on Thursday afternoon. The fire marked the second fire in the area in as many days.

Police evacuated several local residents from their homes. Five homes were damaged in the blaze, but no injuries were reported.

The local municipality opened a shelter for displaced people at the Narkisim school in Kiryat Tivon. An old age home was also evacuated.

Cmdr. Hagai Dotan, head of the Coastal Police said that the fires may be a form of nationalistic attack.

Police arrested four Palestinians from the West Bank that they found in the vicinity of a fire near Jerusalem on Wednesday, on suspicion of involvement in starting the blaze.

Dotan said that police and fire services were on high alert due to the threat of additional arson attacks.

Earlier on Thursday firefighters succeeded in gaining control of a fire just outside Jerusalem near Moshav Even Sapir.

Wednesday saw firefighters battle blazes in the same areas, as well as a fire in the eastern Carmel mountains. No injuries were reported in the fires.

Yaakov Lappin

Source: http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=280720

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

Israel Allows Egypt to Keep Attack Helicopters in Sinai


by Ron Friedman


An Israeli Apache helicopter fires missiles during a training exercise ( Illustrative photo:Ofer Zidon/Flash90)


The cabinet on Thursday approved a request by Egypt to temporarily station five attack helicopters in the Sinai Peninsula, a departure from the security limitation established in 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, Walla News reported.

The Egyptians made the request after two days of heavy fighting between the military and Jihadi terrorist cells in the Sinai, during which helicopter gunships were deployed.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak had given Egypt permission to temporarily introduce the helicopters after terrorists killed 16 Egyptian soldiers and entered Israeli territory driving stolen military vehicles on Sunday night, before being thwarted by the IDF.

On Wednesday Egyptian helicopters killed 20 terrorists in Tumah, the first time attack helicopters were used in the Sinai since 1973.

Ministers were asked to approve the measure over the phone because of the request’s urgency.

Ron Friedman

Source: http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-allows-egypt-to-keep-attack-helicopters-in-sinai/

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

Obama’s Silent Support for Steelworker Ad


by Alana Goodman

We’re several days into the controversy about the Priorities USA steelworker ad, and the Obama campaign has repeatedly declined to condemn it. Campaign staffers have said they don’t know enough about Joe Soptic’s story to comment (even though they organized a conference call for Soptic to share the same story with reporters in May). They’ve also argued that the ad is being run by a super PAC that’s unconnected to the campaign, and therefore Obama has no responsibility for it.

Would the Obama campaign have bought the same excuse from its opponents? Of course not — in fact, the campaign has previously demanded that its opponents denounce sleazy attacks from outside supporting groups.

Remember the outrage after the New York Times report that a conservative super PAC was considering an ad proposal that revived the Reverend Wright controversy? Here was the response from the Obama campaign:

“Stunning! Will Mitt stand up, as John McCain did? Or allow the purveyors of slime to operate on his behalf?” David Axelrod, a senior campaign adviser to Mr. Obama, wrote on Twitter early Thursday morning. …

“This morning’s story revealed the appalling lengths to which Republican operatives and Super PACs apparently are willing to go to tear down the president and elect Mitt Romney,” Mr. Messina wrote.

He added: “It also reflects how far the party has drifted in four short years since John McCain rejected these very tactics. Once again, Governor Romney has fallen short of the standard that John McCain set, reacting tepidly in a moment that required moral leadership in standing up to the very extreme wing of his own party.”

The Wright ad was never even in the works, it was simply one proposal out of many. And unlike Priorities USA, the super PAC in question wasn’t run by a former Romney staffer.

Unlike Priorities USA, the super PAC in question wasn’t run by a former Romney staffer. And yet the Obama campaign held Romney responsible for an ad campaign that never even made it past the proposal stage. Even when Romney quickly condemned the ad proposal, the Obama campaign blasted his response as too tepid and jeered that he wasn’t even willing to stand up to his conservative supporters.

Note also that Obama actually sat in Rev. Wright’s church for 20 years, so that ad would have been far more fair and accurate than the Priorities USA commercial.

At Fox News, Chris Stirewalt also flags a 2007 quote from Obama, calling on John Edwards to ask a supporting outside group to stop running an attack ad:

“If [then-Obama communications director] Robert Gibbs started running a [independent political expenditure group] and I called Robert Gibbs and said, ‘Stop running ads on my behalf,’ are you suggesting I would have no influence over Robert Gibbs?”

– Then Sen. Barack Obama, as quoted by Politico, in West Des Moines, Iowa in December of 2007 attacking opponent John Edwards for negative ads being run by an outside group run by a former Edwards aide.

Judging from past comments from both the president and his campaign, if Obama remains silent on the Priorities USA ad, it should be assumed he approves of it.

Alana Goodman

Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/08/09/obama-silent-support-for-steelworker-ad/

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

Obama: Destroyer of Non-Union Pensions


by Arnold Ahlert

Add another burgeoning Obama administration scandal to the pile of scandals afflicting this administration. The Daily Caller’s Matthew Boyle is reporting that they have obtained a series of emails showing the U.S. Treasury Department, with Timothy Geithner in the lead, “was the driving force” behind terminating the pensions of 20,000 salaried retirees at Delphi, one of the world’s largest auto parts manufacturing companies. The move was made during the Chrysler/GM auto bailout of 2009, and it appears the sole motivation behind it was crassly political: these particular Delphi retirees were not members of an organized labor union. Delphi’s unionized workers ”saw their pensions topped off and made whole.”

The Caller notes that the emails “contradict sworn testimony, in federal court and before Congress, given by several Obama administration figures,” and also “indicate that the administration misled lawmakers and the courts about the sequence of events surrounding the termination of those non-union pensions, and that administration figures violated federal law.”

In July, UAW negotiator Ron Bloom, former Treasury official and task force legal adviser Matthew Feldman and former task force member Harry Wilson, all of whom were appointed by President Obama to his Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry, appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs. Prior to that hearing they had refused to cooperate for over a year with a congressionally mandated investigation by Christy Romero, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The likely reason they did so: Romero had no subpoena power.

During the hearing they were asked–under oath–what role the task force played regarding pensions. All three men dodged many questions from the Committee, but eventually Bloom and Feldman insisted the task force was nothing more than a neutral “facilitator” of decisions made entirely by other entities. They did this despite the fact that the Committee had two emails written by Feldman, one saying he was convinced GM would “rubber stamp” the administration’s preferences on the deal–and the second saying he had discussed the deal with the White House.

Boyle corroborates White House involvement, having unearthed an email chain between Feldman and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) staffer Joseph House indicating the PBGC “believed it needed to clear decisions and action plans through senior administration officials,” despite the reality that PBGC’s charter calls for independent representation of private-sector pensioners. In fact, federal labor law makes PBGC ”the only government entity that is legally empowered to initiate termination of a pension or make any official movements toward doing so.”

Furthermore, an email sent by House to several fellow staffers, as well as David Burns, then a principal at the finance restructuring firm Greenhill & Co., and Bradley Robins, Greenhill’s head of Financing Advisory and Restructuring for North America, is particularly damning. In it he reveals that Feldman “reported that he has made progress discussing our proposal with a number of key folks in Treasury and at [the] White House, but he has not yet wrapped up his coordination. He indicated that there is an 8 am call tomorrow that he’ll use to close the communication-loop, and he’s confident he’ll have a fully-vetted Treasury view after that call.”

Feldman has not responded to Daily Caller requests for comment. But Treasury spokesman Matt Anderson insists that “termination of the Delphi salaried pension plan was made by the PBGC in accordance with its standard procedures and applicable laws–not by Treasury,” he wrote, responding to the Caller in an email. “Although the Delphi bankruptcy was very difficult for its employees and retirees, the actions Treasury took to support the American auto industry helped save more than a million American jobs during a period of economic crisis.”

Other emails contradict Anderson. An email dated Thursday, April 2, 2009, shows House discussing a meeting he and his PBGC staffers anticipated attending the next day with the entire auto bailout team. House emailed Karen Morris and Michael Rae, saying that the “agenda” for Friday’s meeting “is everything–lead off with Chrysler, then we’ll get into GM/Delphi.”

Ms. Morris also wrote an email earlier on Friday, indicating that the PBGC would “probably get invited to the Monday meeting at (Friday’s) meeting,” and that the Monday meeting would involve “talks” on the GM and Delphi portions of the bailout plan. Yet after Friday’s meeting, House emailed an update to Morris and another PBGC staffer named John Menke. “We’ve been disinvited,” he wrote. “It’s for the best.” Morris sent a reply asking, “who uninvited us?” “Treasury,” House responded.

Boyle notes that it is “unclear” if there were additional meetings during which the Delphi pension plan was discussed, and whether or not PBGC staff were invited to attend them. But if Treasury officials discussed that pension plan at the initial meeting without a PBGC representative in the room, that means it is likely the aforementioned federal law was violated.

The 20,000 Delphi workers who lost up to 70 percent of their pensions have filed their own lawsuit against the PBGC. As of June, more than 20 months after Federal U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow ordered that salaried retirees of auto parts maker Delphi Corp. were entitled to conduct discovery in their lawsuit, the PBGC finally released 62,000 pages of emails and documents. Dennis Black, chairman of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association, was hardly overjoyed. “Citizens shouldn’t have to hire lawyers to fight against taxpayer-paid lawyers just to find out how and why onerous government policy decisions were made,” he said. Black further noted that, having reviewed more than 100,000 pages of discovery from non-governmental parties involved in the matter, the retirees can prove the PBGC engaged in illegal activity in denying them their pensions–including how the Auto Task force schemed with union bosses over which pension obligations the “new” GM would decide to honor.

As for Tim Geithner’s role in these proceedings, the idea that he remained a neutral force defies credulity. In addition to his role as Treasury Secretary, Geithner co-chaired the Auto Task Force, and served as a board member of the PBGC. Last January Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH) called attention to this obvious conflict of interest, echoing the General Accounting Offices’s (GAO) concern with Geithner’s “multiple roles” in the process. Yet like much of what goes on with this administration, this was yet another story that saw little daylight in the mainstream media.

Whether that will change remains to be seen. Despite the death of Border Agent Brain Terry and a contempt of Congress charge levels against Eric Holder, the media’s calculated disinterest in the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal remains steady. Yesterday, Senior White House advisor Valerie Jarret ignored questions about the emails unearthed by the Daily Caller, even as the president continues to campaign on how his administration “saved” the auto industry, despite the reality that taxpayers are still on the hook for around $35 billion.

In an update to his piece, Boyle reveals something that many Americans have come to expect from this president: Barack Obama will say anything to get elected–and then do pretty much what he wants, even if he completely contradicts himself in the process. Boyle refers back to a statement made by the president during the 2008 election campaign. “Right now, bankruptcy laws are more focused on protecting banks than protecting pensions,” Obama said then. “And, I don’t think that’s fair. It’s not the America I believe in. It’s time to stop cutting back the safety net for working people while we protect golden parachutes for the well-off. If you’ve worked hard and played by the rules, then you’ve earned your pension. If a company goes bankrupt, then workers need to be our top priority, not an afterthought.”

The only “priority” for this administration are constituencies, like organized labor for example, willing to further Obama’s agenda, often by any means necessary. Everyone else, including the 20,000 non-union Delphi workers who had their pensions snatched out from under them, is an “afterthought.” Once again this administration is involved in something that reeks of scandal. And once again, it is likely that nothing will come of it prior to the election.

Arnold Ahlert

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/arnold-ahlert/obama-destroyer-of-non-union-pensions/

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

A Map to the Muslim Middle East


by Daniel Greenfield




The Muslim Middle East has three types of governments: Military, Tribal and Ideological. A military government is formed when senior officers take power. A tribal government is based around a group of prominent families. An ideological government is based around a party, whether secular or Islamist. All these governments are tyrannies; though they may occasionally hold elections, they never open up the system. The elections serve as a means for passing from one tyranny to the next.

While these types of governments are different in some ways, they are not exclusive. Most overlap in a number of ways.

Military and ideological governments will become tribal as a few officers, leaders or Ayatollahs use their control of the economy to enrich themselves and their families. That is what happened in Egypt and in Iran. The Muslim Brotherhood differs from Mubarak in any number of political ways, but, on a personal level its leaders share his goal of enriching their families.

Whether a new government starts out as Islamist, Fascist or Socialist; these facades inevitably revert to the tribal. That is the fate of all governments in the Muslim Middle East, which do not evolve, but devolve.

Every Muslim leader, beginning with Mohammed, borrowed ideas brought in from outside to form a new system that became identical with the old. Mohammed borrowed from Judaism and Christianity to create the religious structure for yet another tribal government, controlled by his father-in-law. In the 20th Century the Muslim Middle East borrowed from the British Empire, France, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, the USSR and the United States, to create hybrid systems that were either overthrown or which devolved into tribalism with an ideological facade. Like Mohammed, the bright new ideology ends up with a bunch of relatives in charge of the loot.

Muslim countries are forever at war with themselves. Military governments fear popular protests organized by ideological movements to seize power. And the ideological governments fear military coups. Tribal governments fear everyone and cripple their own military and bribe their own people to avoid being overthrown by officers or ideologues.

Every government is only a few bad months away from losing power, and so every government implements a regime of secret police and prisons. No sooner do the revolutionaries step out of prison to usher in a new era than the same thugs are rehired to torture enemies of the new regime.

The victors of the Arab Spring know that another few bad months could toss them out of power as easily as the bad months put them into power. Like every other regime in the Muslim Middle East, their main priority is staying in power by making it impossible for others to do to them what they did to their predecessors. That leads to a cycle of repression, broken by temporary liberalization as alliances with the opposition are explored and then abandoned, because the opposition cannot be trusted not to seize power for themselves.

Everyone in the region is playing rock-paper-scissors, all the time which leads to total regional paranoia and conspiracy theories. Everyone distrusts everyone else by necessity and keeps trying to guess how many fingers their rivals will put out while defending against their own weaknesses by preemptively attacking everyone else.

Military governments persecute ideologues. Ideologues imprison top officers. Tribals seek out military protectors– and then undermine them by backing their ideological enemies so as to stay in control of the relationship.

That is what happened to us and the Saudis, who, along with the other Gulfies, depend on our protection, but undermine us by supporting terrorism and Islamization to gain the upper hand. Paradoxically, the more that the Saudis need us, the more they undermine us, much as any feral population that is dependent on the charitable welfare of the majority lashes out against that majority to the exact degree that it is dependent on it.

The borders of Muslim nations are artificial and fluid. The Muslim Middle East is not purely nomadic, but it is nomadic enough that large families stretch out across different nations and their tribal allegiances stretch with them. The Palestinians are a fraud, but so are the Jordanians, and to a lesser degree, the Egyptians and the Syrians. Every nation is an artificial entity ruled over by powerful families or old soldiers who are keeping the whole thing together with guns and bribes, not to mention imported bread and circuses.

The British treated the region as a grab-bag of clans, and backed any powerful family willing to throw in with them. That is how the Hashemite kings and the Arab-Israeli wars came to be. Unlike the Brits, the United States was not interested in an empire, just in oil rights, which is how we got in bed with one of the most powerful families in the region, who became far more powerful thanks to their association with us. And who repaid us by trying to conquer us in their own way.

At some point we forgot that the Saudis, the King of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and most of our so-called allies are just powerful families with territorial claims based on that power. And even slightly more civilized countries such as Egypt aren’t really any better; the invaders who overran them just absorbed more culture and civilization from their conquests and their proximity to more civilized parts of the world.

The only place that the Muslim Middle East ever goes is backward. The great achievement of the Arab Spring was to hand over power in Egypt to Mohammed Morsi, a man who not only carries the same name as a 7th Century warlord, but whose party is based on restoring Egypt to the values of that 7th Century warlord as a cure for the damaging modernism of civilization. And those values are tribal power, ownership of women and repression of outsiders.

Since all Middle Eastern Muslim power structures devolve to the tribal, personal power is the only power that matters. And personal power is a zero-sum game. No one can trust anyone else, because the only rule that counts is that the one with the most toys wins. That instability has led to a great deal of tyranny and misery, but it has also made it difficult for Islamic power to extend itself all that far.

Personal power is limited to a single tyrant and his feudal underlings. A highly effective conqueror can push his borders outward, but the whole thing inevitably collapses into broken emirates and then into backwardness and decay. The conquest may impose Islam on a population, but that just dooms the people under the yoke of the Koran to be less competent, less innovative and more backward than their neighbors.

A Muslim conqueror may begin by raiding infidels for plunder and glory, but usually ends by turning on his rivals in a conflict that creates deep fractures and divisions, some of which like Sunni and Shiite, last to this day. Despite all the professions of faith, the Jihad devolves into tribal power, and Muslim kills Muslim for a chance at the golden throne.

In the desert, nothing really changes. One day turns into another. The footprints of the past are buried by the next sandstorm, and tomorrow’s traveler arrives to marvel that his feet were the first to mark a path that lies buried just beneath his feet.

Daniel Greenfield

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/daniel-greenfield/a-map-to-the-muslim-middle-east/

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

Iran’s Axis of Terror Draws Closer


by Joseph Klein

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is having a particularly bad week. His country’s Prime Minister Riad Hijab has just defected and appealed to other top officials to “abandon this murderous and terrorist regime.” He joined a swelling number of military defectors. The armed opposition continues to strike close to Assad’s seat of power, bombing the state television building.

However, Assad can still count on his most loyal ally Iran, whose self-described “axis” with the Syrian regime is alive and well. During his visit to Damascus this week to meet with Assad, Saeed Jalil, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and top nuclear negotiator, declared that”Iran will never allow the resistance axis – of which Syria is an essential pillar – to break.”

Assad assured his Iranian guest that he was not about to give in to the “terrorists” who were getting their weapons from “foreign powers.”

Jalil picked up Assad’s refrain of blaming foreigners for the fighting in Syria. “Iran does not support the solution which is imposed by foreigners,” he said. “One should not allow enemies take revenge on Syrian people about defeat from resistance movement (sic).”

Iran is not a foreign power, in the eyes of its leaders, but rather a supporting “pillar” of the “axis” in “protecting the Resistance front in Syria” against its enemies, as Jalil put it while in Damascus. Jalil had also visited Beirut just before arriving in Damascus to meet with the leaders of the third pillar of the “resistance axis” – its terrorist surrogate Hezbollah.

Iran has invested substantial resources to keep Assad in power. It is supplying the regime with money, arms and training by its elite Revolutionary Guards. However, its all-out support for Assad is now starting to catch up with the Iranian government as it faces its own hostage crisis.

On August 4th, an armed opposition group seized 48 Iranians traveling by bus near Damascus, who the rebels claimed were on a “reconnaissance mission” at the time they were captured. At least one of the 48 captives was said to be an officer of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. “We promise Iran and all those who support this regime … we will strike at all (Iranian) targets in Syria,” one of the rebels said in a video. “The fate of all Iranians who operate in Syria will be the same as those we have here, either captive or killed, God willing.”

Three of the hostages were killed as a result of government shelling, according to a spokesperson for the armed opposition group. The group warned that the rest of the hostages could be killed by their captors if the government’s attacks do not cease.

The Iranian government is incensed, claiming that the captives are merely innocent Shiite pilgrims visiting religious sites in Syria. “We strongly reject the claims of some media that the kidnapped pilgrims are members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards,” Amir Abdollahian, a deputy Foreign Minister for Arab affairs, said to Iran’s Al-Alam Arabic-language network. “All of them are pilgrims who wanted to go to religious sites.”

Predictably, Iranian leaders are blaming the United States for the plight of the hostages. While in Damascus to bolster Assad, Jalili is demanding the release of the hostages. Tehran will use “all potentials leading to release of the 48 innocent pilgrims kidnapped in Syria,” he warned.

Speaking to reporters upon arrival in the Syrian capital, Jalili said that “kidnapping innocent people is not acceptable anywhere in the world.” Apparently, it was acceptable to the thugs who came to power in Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution who held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Now the Iranian government has lodged a protest with the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which represents the U.S. interests in Iran since Tehran and Washington severed diplomatic relations in 1980. Reza Zabib, director general of the North America Bureau of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, told the Swiss envoy that Washington is responsible for the lives of the Iranian nationals kidnapped while on pilgrimage in Syria.

The conventional thinking is that the toppling of Assad would represent a major strategic setback for Iran. For example, Gareth Stansfield, from the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House said that “if Assad goes, he will [be] replaced by a government that is likely to be totally antipathetic to Iran’s wider interests.”

It is such thinking which animates the Obama administration’s latest example of leading from behind as it works with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, France, and the United Kingdom to support the armed opposition in bringing down Assad. The trouble with the conventional thinking is that it does not take account of al Qaeda’s increasing role in the armed opposition. It also assumes an orderly succession, when it is more likely there will be a vacuum resulting from the chaos following Assad’s downfall that will be opened to Islamist extremists in Syria to fill.

Lest anyone think that al Qaeda and Iran are mortal enemies, our own Treasury Department has said otherwise. In July 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department accused Iran of making a “secret deal” with a branch of al-Qaeda to channel funds and manpower through Iranian territory to facilitate the group’s activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The least bad choice among the undesirable alternatives at hand is to stay on the sidelines, unless Assad’s chemical weapons come into play or al Qaeda begins to gain the upper hand. Let the Syrian civil war and the wider proxy war being played out among Turkey, the Gulf states, and Iran drag on. The longer Iran remains bogged down in the Syrian civil war and alienates the Syrian people by supporting the increasingly isolated Assad, the more it has to lose.

Joseph Klein

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/joseph-klein/iran-doubles-down-on-the-resistance-axis/

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

Mitt's Cayman Island Gift


by Andrew Sumereau

Mitt Romney seems to have reflexively winced with embarrassment at the questions about his perfectly logical finance and tax decisions. Understandable. Of course, the subject of his wealth precedes not-so-veiled attacks coming from an unfriendly press corps and a vicious opponent who will use any means to paint him as a real-life Gordon Gekko.

But he is missing a fantastic opportunity.

"Yes, I have many offshore accounts. Yes, I take advantage of legal deductions and tax incentives in compliance with the tax code. I am a wealthy, successful man who didn't get that way by being a fool. Furthermore, one of the main reasons I am seeking the presidency is to change the disgraceful tax laws that force someone like me to go through the time, money, and effort to protect oneself from the arbitrary and bewildering maze of confiscatory taxation."

When people on the left decry the "unfairness" of federal tax laws, they are in the right -- but not in the way they intend. They mean that it is unfair in a vague way for the rich to have so much money. They want the rich to be punished. Facts about the rates and amounts of tax paid by the wealthy are of no interest to these people.

But the system is unfair. For what is fair about a system that confiscates your earnings at arbitrary and changing rates, giving privileges and breaks to people based on who they are, how much they earn, and what kind of behavior they exhibit? It is fundamentally unfair. And, to make things worse, with full force of law, the government requires its intimidated citizens to complete forms that a professor at MIT would find bewildering. The IRS itself says it takes the average taxpayer twenty-two hours of time and $290 in costs to complete a simple Form 1040. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson in her 2011 report to Congress found that the tax code had grown to 3.8 million words as of Feb. 1, 2010 and that using the IRS's own estimated numbers, she deduced that individuals and businesses spend 6.1 billion hours each year working to simply comply with the code.

Along with promoting his successful managerial experience as preparation for the presidency, Romney should also embrace his wealth as the fruits of that success. Instead, he mitigates his argument by deprecating his obvious wealth. Perhaps this is a sign of humility and good manners, but it is nonetheless a detriment to his campaign and therefore the future of the country.

Romney has the opportunity to use the momentum of the Obama campaign against his opponents by seizing tax fairness as his theme. Radical tax simplification ought to be sold as much fairer than the current scheme. All the effort put into getting him to release his tax records now works against the Democrats, as Mitt embraces his experience exploiting loopholes to argue that he knows how to make it simple and fairer. Pundits could note that Joseph P. Kennedy, founder of the Democrats' reigning dynasty, was appointed the inaugural chairman of the SEC and did a well-regarded job cleaning up Wall Street, based on his experience as a Wall Street manipulator in the 1920s. He knew how it was done.

Romney is in an ideal position to fight this continuing injustice and gain tremendous popularity for the effort. Every American is unhappy with federal tax laws. Nobody understands them. But all agree that the system is complex and riddled with loopholes and deductions cooked up by a corrupt Congress. There are millions of votes to be had by someone credible enough to promise to reform it. Romney can do that.

His supporters are asking Romney to get tough and engage the enemy. Here is his opportunity. When asked why he moves money offshore, the worst response is to apologize. Romney should speak plainly and loud and clear. The answer: "Because our ridiculous tax laws force me too!" And the perfect follow-up. "Elect me, and I will completely revamp the tax laws, simplify the code, eliminate political influence, and, finally, end offshore incentives so that I can bring all my millions back home to this great country where they belong."

Andrew Sumereau

Source: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/08/mitts_cayman_island_gift.html

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

The Left-Wing Money Machine


by Joseph Smith

Democrats and the media like to paint Republicans as the party of big money, calling out Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers, when in reality the progressive money machine vastly outweighs conservative sources of funds. The Democrat money advantage is so one-sided, in fact, that it is a wonder that Republicans and conservatives are able to win as many elections as they do.

We on the right hear much of George Soros and the Tides Foundation, but it is never quite clear just where all the money comes from to support the myriad left-wing pressure groups that agitate the public and shift the national debate farther and farther to the left.

From illegal immigration and socialized medicine to radical environmentalism and formidable government unions, there is a never-ending flow of funds and coercion toward left-wing causes, at the expense of traditional, conservative American values.

A recent book, The New Leviathan, subtitled How the Left-Wing Money Machine Shapes American Politics and Threatens America's Future, by David Horowitz and Jacob Laskin, examines the forces behind the dangerous and seemingly inexorable push to the left on so many issues of critical national import.

The authors focus on the numerous foundations that provide funding to such radical groups as the National Council of La Raza, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights League, and the Center for American Progress.

The central point of the book is that left-wing foundations outweigh conservative foundations by a factor of more than ten, in both total assets and the value of grants awarded. This is exactly the reverse of what the left-controlled media recites over and over again in its drive to promote the Democrats as the party of the little guy.

An exhaustive appendix of tables listing progressive and conservative foundations, their assets, and their annual grants and revenues shows progressive foundations with assets totaling $104.6 billion, compared with $10.3 billion for conservative foundations, and progressive grants awarded totaling $8.8 billion, compared with conservative grants awarded totaling just $0.8 billion1.

The result is that the resources available to progressive immigration groups, for example, are 22 times those available to conservative groups2, a fact reflected in the continual pressure from the left to open the border and decriminalize illegals.

The authors also find that there are 552 "progressive environmental groups that promote radical views that are anti-business," and just 32 "conservative environmental groups that promote market-friendly solutions," with similar massive funding advantages accruing to the environmental extremists3.

As the authors note, the aggressive environmental agenda of the Obama administration reflects the fact that "the financial muscle of these foundations brought the radicals out of the wilderness and into the mainstream of the nation's environmental politics"4.

A look at the Grants Database of the Ford Foundation, which is the second-largest foundation in total assets (to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), and which provided the seed money for both the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Fund5, shows hundreds of entities receiving grants, including the National Council of La Raza for $1.6 million this year, and the Center for American Progress for $1.7 million, as well as

the Tides Foundation for $250,000, the National Network of Abortion Funds for $300,000, and the National Health Law Program for $300,000, to name a few.

A few minutes perusing the Ford database is instructive as to the nature of the groups receiving grants from the Foundation. Note that the foundation's website states that the foundation gradually divested its Ford Motor Company stock by 1974 (lest you wonder if your new car purchase is funding leftist causes).

Compounding the left's big-money advantage are the public-sector and other unions, from the SEIU to the NEA, whose intimidating tactics and powerful financial influence promote the same radical agenda and were a major factor in the election of our current president.

As the authors point out, the inability of conservatives to influence the ObamaCare debate "illustrates the Left's institutional advantage in orchestrating social change - its financial dominance and its far more developed political coordination"6.

Horowitz and Laskin employ the example of the Woods Fund, whose board Barack Obama and Bill Ayers both served on, and observe that after the most active Woods family member died, "control of the previously traditional charity fell into the hands of leftist staffers, including veterans of the Midwest Academy, who hijacked its agenda and pushed the foundation aggressively to the left[.]" Further7:

The Woods fund trajectory - an apolitical, even conservative, foundation swerving dramatically to the left - was to repeat itself throughout the philanthropic culture.

The authors also detail the transformation of the now-progressive Pew Charitable Trusts, a group founded by "oil tycoon and Christian conservative J. Howard Pew in 1957 to educate Americans on the 'values of the free market' and the 'paralyzing effects of government controls on the lives and activities of the people'"8.

These were foundations created by good men who worked hard, amassed a fortune, and left it for what they hoped would be good in the world, only to have it hijacked by radicals seeking to transform and reorder the world.

The authors conclude by observing that the foundations of the New Leviathan do not answer to voters or to supporters and are accountable to no one for the agendas they advance to change the direction of America9:

The New Leviathan is self-sufficient and self-perpetuating. It is an aristocracy of wealth whose dimensions exceed any previous accumulations of financial power, whose influence already represents a massive disenfranchisement of the American people and whose agendas pose a disturbing prospect for the American future.

With the overwhelming financial advantage of the left-wing money machine, it is hard to take seriously a president who castigates Republicans as the party of the rich.


1The New Leviathan, Davis Horowitz and Jacob Laskin, Crown Forum, 2012, pp. 185-86

2Ibid, p. 197

3Ibid, p. 209

4Ibid, p. 131

5Ibid, p. 135

6Ibid, p. 126

7Ibid, p. 41

8Ibid, p. 42

9Ibid, p. 181

Joseph Smith

Source: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/08/the_left-wing_money_machine.html

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

Shut Down Iran's Embassy in Canada


by Christine Williams

The most influential Muslim immigrants are then hand-picked to infiltrate and influence the Canadian government's image of the Islamic regime, thereby affecting the political decision-making process and affecting policies.

As a tight network of Iranian terrorists expands as a "fifth column" In Canada, there have been calls to shut down the Iranian embassy there.

Iranian Canadian activists Shadi Paveh and Shabnam Assadollahi have translated an interview with Hamid Mohammadi, an Iranian official working as Cultural Counselor to the Embassy in Canada; as released by Fox News, this alarming article reveals that Iran has been using its embassy in Canada to mobilize loyalists of Islamic Republic to infiltrate the Canadian Government and, some terrorism experts worry, attack the United States.

The interview makes known Iran's call for all Iranian-Canadians to "resist being melted into the dominant Canadian culture," to aspire to "occupy high-level key positions…. be of service to our beloved Iran."

Mohammadi also acknowledged that the embassy's work in Canada has included "establishing and strengthening new centres for Iranian studies and Farsi language" — as well as a student exchange program between Canada and Iran. While Canada forbids Iran from opening consulates or cultural centres outside of Ottawa, this rule is not enforced: Macleans Magazine, for example, exposed the existence of an Iranian embassy front in Toronto in 2010.

David Harris, a security specialist and former head of operations for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, also issued a statement warning about the level of danger that Iran poses to Canadian and American security:

"Iran's Ottawa Embassy operates with aggressive purposes that appear to be well beyond the bounds of international law, civilized norms and, of course, the interests of Canadian -- and American -- national security.

"Through espionage and subversion, the Embassy projects Tehran's will, relying, in part, on Iranian newcomers from among Canada's vast immigrant inflows to intimidate loyal Canadians of Iranian background, penetrate government and infrastructural interests and generally contribute to Tehran's influence in Canadian life.

"Iranian Canadians with whom I have spoken estimate that between fifty and seventy percent of the 60,000 Iranians who settled in Canada during the past ten years, are loyal to the mullah regime. Especially at a time of Iran's continuing aggressive foreign operations and the risk of hostile Iranian action arising from any necessary Western strikes against Tehran's nuclear facilities, Canadians and their American neighbors have good reason to be concerned about the deteriorating North American security situation wrought by this penetration problem.

"It is an urgent matter of national security and public safety that the Canadian Government come to terms with the nature and extent of the expanding Iranian threat against, and within, Canada's territory.

"Government can begin -- but only begin -- to deal with the developing hazard by closing forthwith Iran's Embassy, and declaring a moratorium on immigration from Iran, save and except for bona fide refugees who have been determined to constitute no threat to Canada, the United States and other allies."

The translators, Shadi Paveh and Shabnam Assadollahi, sent out a letter to Canadian Members of Parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, warning them about the dangers of the Iranian embassy in Canada and -- to protect Canadian citizens, given the dubious activities of the embassy -- emphatically requesting its closure.

Paveh and Assadollahi attached an article to their letter; the article revealed how far the Iranian regime is willing to go in using its embassies to coerce and recruit Iranian citizens to execute its mission. In the article, Abolfazl Eslami, a former diplomat from Iran who worked as a counsellor at the Iranian embassy in Japan, while emphasizing Canada, warns about Iran propagating its agenda globally through its embassies.

Eslami became the first Iranian diplomat in Eastern Asia to resign from service to the Islamic regime. He points out the corruption and manipulations of Iranian Canadians by Iranian Intelligence Services; the brutal rape, torture and murder of Zahra Kazemi at Evin prison, and the subsequent sabotage of the case by the direct involvement of the prosecutor, the Judge and other Iranians living in Canada.

Eslami wrote a letter to his colleagues in the foreign affairs ministry asking them to join him in distancing themselves from the violence and oppression of Iran, then pleaded with the dignitaries to come to their senses.

It is no accident that Iran specifically used the cultural counselor in Ottawa to advance its agenda. Under the cultural domain, Hamid Mohammadi was allowed to work covertly through cultural events and activities in which many Iranians and Muslim immigrants participated, especially Islamic and mosque leaders, and those in political and educational ranks.

Eslami indicates that such tactics are not new; that Iran has been manipulating Iranians in Canada and other countries for years. He also reveals that detailed personal and job information of Iranians and Muslim immigrants, and the level of their political and economic influence in the host country, is collected over time and then confidentially recorded in computer software. The most influential ones are then hand-picked to infiltrate and influence the Canadian government's image of the Islamic regime, thereby affecting the political decision-making process and affecting policies.

Under multicultural Canada, the promotion of bridge-building and diversity are enshrined policies, advanced by freedom-loving and agenda-driven enemies of democracy alike. Left unchecked, these policies provide the fertile soil for Iranian mischief to grow. A chilling fact pointed out by Assadollahi is that Iran's cultural consulates working overseas are directly supervised by delegates from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's office, with the strict expectations of the embassies to find the weakness of that country and to increase its own supporters politically, economically and culturally. The coordinated efforts of the Ministry of Intelligence, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Ministry of Islamic Cultural Communications and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are also at work according to translator Assadollahi.

In a hopeful gesture, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews acknowledged that the Iranian embassy is actively recruiting its nationals. He went on to say that coercion of Canadians by the Iranian embassy -- and any such coercion -- must be stopped. That statement followed Paveh's and Assadollahi' whistle blowing about Iran's recruitment program in Canada, about which they said they they said they had privately warned officials weeks earlier.

The partnership between Canada and the U.S. is also emphasized by Iran, hence the call by the Iranian culture counsellor, Hamid Mohammadi, to infiltrate the Canadian government and attack the United States. In this strategy, the Islamic Republic states that as the Canadian government has always co-operated with the American government in political affairs and behaved negatively towards Iran, attention must be given to recruiting Iranians as well as Muslim immigrants from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and other Islamic countries; and that they must be trained to neutralize the negative behaviour of Canada against the Islamic Republic.

Iran's engineering of plots against Canada and other countries also involves University campuses and schools. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Iranian embassy in Canada works on Canadian campuses through Iranian student groups. Under its "education advisory," the Iranian Embassy in Canada was planning to sponsor, in mid-July, a three-day Iranian Students Convention in Cornwall, Ontario, but after pressure from Iranian-Canadian academics, it was postponed indefinitely.

We know what the Iranian regime is planning in Canada and other Western nations; these plans urgently demand coordinated action by Western authorities. But instead, as Iran continues its infiltrations and the build-up of its nuclear arsenals, the West remains inert while continuing endless talks about what it should do as this dangerous regime progresses. So long as we remain politically correct over the security of our nations and citizens, we remain vulnerable to an Iranian regime bent on conquering the West and destroying the nation of Israel.

Multiculturalism often seems just to give rise to the enemies of democracy, who use increasing Muslim immigration in the West to advance their own agenda. Many Iranian-Canadian activists, however, oppose the current Iranian regime and are calling for the closure of their own country-of-origin's embassies. The West should heed these warnings and immediately put in place strategies that support them.

Christine Williams

Source: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3261/iran-embassy-canada

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

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly About the Syrian Civil War


by Barry Rubin


An interview with Ammar Abdulhamid, one of the most knowledgeable analysts about the Syrian civil war in the world.

Question: It now seems that the tide in Syria’s civil war is turning toward the opposition. Why is that happening?

I wouldn’t say the tide is turning, I’d say that the armed opposition is getting more organized and bold, and its tenacity, growing popularity, coupled with President Bashar al-Assad’s cruelty, are inspiring more defections and despair inside the ranks of the regime.

Also, by continuing to play on sectarian sentiments, Assad continues to find success in ensuring the loyalty of the Alawites, the majority of whom keep seeing an existential threat in having regime change take place. However, by going down the route of ethnic cleansing in the coastal and central parts, Assad and his militias managed to create an existential threat for the Sunnis as well.

Of the two million Syrians who have been forcibly displaced inside Syria by Assad’s crackdown, the overwhelming majority is Sunni. These people are angry, bitter, and radicalized, and their very lot in life at this stage is inspiring anger and hate in the minds and souls of Sunnis with whom they come in contact.

Both sides now view the situation in sectarian and existential terms. So no one can back down.

Question: How do you assess the balance in the opposition between Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, professional military officers, and moderate democrats?

By having greater access to funds, hence weapons, the Salafists have managed to carry favor with the armed groups, and they are now a dominant force. But that does not necessarily translate into political support or sympathies. The political councils that are emerging to manage the day-to-day affairs of liberated towns and villages have not endorsed an Islamist agenda, or any of the traditional political groups, be they secular or Islamist. The revolutionary scene remains pretty much an open field as far as political ideology is concerned.

Question: With the Syrian National Council (SNC) being dominated by the Brotherhood, what are the key alternative leadership groups? Are you concerned that the United States and other countries might impose the SNC on the country?

By now, and considering the sacrifices that have been made and continue to be made by the revolutionaries, it is highly unlikely at this stage to expect that a group dominated by traditional opposition groups and expatriates can actually be considered legitimate enough to lead. Indeed, SNC’s credibility has long evaporated due to its inability to deliver, and, by association, the Brotherhood’s own credibility, shaky to begin with, was marred. It’s clear to all by now that SNC is not the answer for leading the challenges of governance during the transitional period.

It’s for this reason that some experts are postulating a role for the recent defector Brigadier General Manaf Tlas. But Manaf is too much of a regime insider to be popularly accepted as a legitimate leader, even for a transitional period. The best he could do is play a supporting role. The main actors have to be derived from the ranks of the revolutionary movement inside Syria. Only when such actors become in charge can the Syrian people be assured that their revolution has succeeded.

It’s good that the United States seems obsessed with ensuring post-Assad stability, but stability at the expense of liberty is a notion that the Syrian people have learned to reject. American and international officials should be mindful of that as they chart their policies.

Question: What is the Kurdish attitude toward the opposition and the regime?

It’s clear, considering recent developments, that Syria’s Kurds have decided to reject both: the regime and the traditional opposition. Both have only offered raw deals all through the years. Their attitude could change though the moment the Arab-dominated traditional opposition groups learn that Kurdish demands for autonomy are legitimate. and that the right thing to do at this stage is agree to the best formula for that within the context of a new decentralized Syria.

Question: What do you see emerging in a post-Assad Syria?

The activist in me wants to see a democratic decentralized entity emerge that is capable of responding to the developmental needs and aspirations of the people, irrespective of their religious, national, or political background, in each province, region, and district. The analyst in me has to grapple with the possibility of inheriting a failed state composed of warring fiefdoms, and of the need to find ways to put the pieces back together again, a process that would take years. It was from the beginning clear to me that the transformation of Syria will prove a much longer process than most of us have expected or wanted. But our dream for a democratic state will guide us through the thin and thick of it all.

Question: How can the opposition deal with an Alawite fortress region in the northwest where the regime would try to hold out?

No one has any plans to “invade” Alawite-majority areas. What is needed right now is to stop the ethnic cleaning and to ensure the safe return of displaced population to their homes. Peacekeepers could and should be introduced to ensure a separation of forces for a certain agreed period. Meanwhile, we should all begin a serious conversation on the future administrative structure of Syria.

Question: Are you pleased or concerned about Saudi, Qatari, and Turkish influence on the situation?

It was clear from the very beginning that all sorts of regional and international players have a stake in the outcome of the revolution in Syria, and that many will try to influence it. What concerns me is that the United States and the European Union are not doing nearly enough to exert their own moderating influence on the process, despite their repeated appeals to the Syrian people from the early days of the revolution. The absence of this influence is as telling and influential as any.

Question: We haven’t heard much about the attitudes and activities of the Druze minority. Can you discuss this point?

The Druze of Syria constitutes 2-3% of the population in the country, and that makes them risk averse. Developments in Lebanon after the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri and the changing positions of Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt had already exerted their toll on the Druze community of Syria long before the revolution and gave both Assad and Druze elders enough time to reconsider their relations.

In fact, and over the last few years, and away from public scrutiny, Druze elders and other agents of influence in the Druze community seems to have negotiated a form of communal autonomy for themselves, or at least a local power-sharing arrangement of sorts between local figures and regime-appointed figures. This gives them little reason to join a revolution that could jeopardize that.

Question: Clearly there is the threat of ethnic massacres and we have already seen some examples of this problem. Is there hope of minimizing or avoiding such bloodshed?

An active international involvement drawing on previous lessons from the Balkans, the failures and the few successes, can help us avoid these scenarios. But since prospects for such involvement remain dim, we could only put our faith in the hands of the on-the-ground activists and their ability to produce a miracle and keep ethnic massacres to a minimum.

This article was also published in PJ Media.

Barry Rubin

Source: http://www.gloria-center.org/2012/08/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-about-the-syrian-civil-war/

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

A Civics Lesson for Adar Cohen


by Salubrius

Adar Cohen currently superintendent of civics education in the Education Ministry was dismissed for promoting post-Zionist textbooks.

One book says that "The establishment of Israel in 1948 turned the Arabs in the territory of Palestine-Israel from a majority into a minority." It reportedly states elsewhere: "A relationship based on control could harm the freedom and equality of those who do not belong to the majority. This is especially true when the majority espouses a selective demographic policy, which entrenches its status over time." This passage is seen as critical of Israel's Law of Return.

So the questions arise "did the establishment of Israel in 1948 turn the Arabs from a majority into a minority, and if not, what did? Also, was it the Jewish majority who espoused the policy of the Law of Return that entrenches its status over time?

It appears that Mr. Cohen hasn't learned as much Israeli history as befits the superintendent of civics education. He overlooked facts that show it was the British who in 1917 thought it was desirable to turn the territory of Palestine from an Arab to a Jewish majority and why. And the entrenching the status of the Jews over time, is a political goal evaluated as fair and necessary by the British in 1917, by the Principal Allies of WWI in 1920, by the League of Nations in 1922, by a joint resolution of the US Congress in 1922, and in a Treaty of the UK and the US in 1924.

• The “Law of Return” is part of the plan conceived in 1917 to give World Jewry exclusive political rights over Palestine because of their historic attachment to Palestine. . A “National Home” was intended as Step 1 in a two step procedure ending up with the Jews exercising sovereignty in a reconstituted Jewish State. Giving the Jews immediate sovereignty after WWI was thought to be antidemocratic. That was not a bad view. That is because in 1917, although the Jews in Palestine had had a plurality in Jerusalem since 1845 and a majority since 1863, in all Palestine they were only about 60,000 out of 600,000. The French gave the Alawite minority sovereignty over Syria and look at the mess now. Hafez Assad, the father of Bashir Assad the current Syrian President also had to massacre other Syrians to keep control when he was President.

So, the question was how to give the Jews the exclusive political or national rights to Palestine without being antidemocratic? The answer was to give them the political rights in trust, not to vest until the Jews had a population majority. England and America were the possible trustees contemplated in a memorandum of the British Foreign Office dated September 19,1917. Giving them the political rights in trust meant that the trustee had a legal interest and could exercise sovereignty, while the Jews had only a beneficial interest — destined ultimately to vest when the tacit condition of population majority had been attained. That is why the mandate called for a National Home, step one in this two part process. That would give the Jews time to build up the country and attract though immigration from the diaspora, the majority needed for exercise of sovereignty just as any other modern European nation-state. What the British contemplated at the time was very much like the Arabs contemplate for their own state in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem. That would be step one, but the “Greater Goal” as referred to by Abbas Zaki, a member of the Central Committee of Fatah not long ago in an Al Jazeera program, would be to wipe out Israel within the Green Line too.

To facilitate the Greater Goal of the Balfour Declaration, the trustee or "mandatory power was forbidden to cede any of the political rights to “foreign powers” but it promptly did so, first temporarily suppressing close settlement on the land in Transjordan and then ceding it to Abdullah and his tribe, recently marched up from the Hejaz in the Arabian Peninsula. This was expressly prohibited by the trust document, the “mandate”. The trust document also required the trustee to facilitate Jewish immigration. So the “law of return”, favoring the immigration of Jews from the diaspora, simply carries out the original intent of the framers of the Balfour Declaration. It distinguishes between immigration of Arabs and immigration of Jews and favored the immigration of Jews to carry out the plan of granting exclusive political rights to the Jews, but in a way that would not be antidemocratic.
You can find a statement of this plan in a memorandum of Arnold Toynbee and Louis Namier of the British Foreign Office dated September 19, 1917, shortly before the Balfour policy was published. It agreed that immediate sovereignty of a minority of Jews was antidemocratic in concept, but when it was carried out by granting the rights in trust, not to be exercised until a population majority was achieved, the antidemocratic argument was “imaginary”.

This was predicted in 1917. Is there any question that it was not actually carried out? In the 1948 UNSCOP hearings, the Arabs complained that what was intended would deny the people of Palestine the rights of self government until the Jews constituted a majority of the population in Palestine and that an Arab delegation to London after WWII was told this by Winston Churchill. Again, in the Paris Peace Talks, David Lloyd-George said this was exactly what was intended — to give the Jews a chance to build up the country and the population so that they would end up with a reconstituted state.

The Plan conceived by those framing the Balfour policy was a reasonable way of attaining a grant of exclusive political rights to the Jews without being anti-democratic. The plan is operative only for a for a temporary period — until Jewish population in CisJordan, Palestine West of the Jordan, constitutes a majority of total population. In 1917 the British did not think it unfair. In 1920 the principal WWI Allies did not think it was unfair. In 1922, the League of Nations did not think it was unfair. In 1922, a joint resolution of the US Congress approved of it, and in 1924, the UK and the US entered into the Anglo-American Convention that conferred on it the status of domestic British and American law as well as International Law.

Through 1948 when the British abandoned their trusteeship, the Jews had only about one third of the population. But with the mass voluntary exodus of some 700,000 Arabs without ever seeing a single Jewish soldier, and with the influx from survivors of the Holocaust, and some 800,000 Sephardic Jews from the neighboring Arab state that had been driven out of their homes of many centuries before the Arab arrived there, by 1950 the Jews had attained a majority within the Armistice boundaries.

According to Ambassador Ettinger, it would continue to have a majority of 66%, down from 80% even after annexing Judea and Samaria. But the Law of Return is still needed so that eventually, Israel can annex Gaza too. When it does so, it will still have only 22% of the political or national rights originally intended.

Salubrius

Source: Middle East and Terrorism

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