Saturday, November 19, 2011

Obama Administration Training Egyptian Islamists for Elections

by Ryan Mauro

If you want proof that U.S. policy towards the Arab Spring is fatally flawed, look no further than William Taylor, the State Department​’s Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions and long associate of Muslim Brotherhood apologists. Taylor officially took charge on September 16 and oversees U.S. aid to countries affected by the Arab Spring, specifically Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

Taylor’s office has been giving Egyptian Islamists training to prepare for the election contests that begin on November 28. He justified it by saying that the assistance is open to all parties and the U.S. wouldn’t pick sides. “Sometimes, Islamist parties show up, sometimes they don’t,” he said nonchalantly.

When asked how the U.S. would feel if the Muslim Brotherhood won Egypt’s elections, he said, “I think we will be satisfied, if it is a free and fair election. What we need to do is judge people and parties and movements on what they do, not what they’re called.” The answer seemed to infer that critics of the Brotherhood are needlessly alarmed by the name of the group.

It gets worse. Taylor compared the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to Tunisia’s Ennahda Party, as if that is a positive example to follow. “As long as parties, entities do not espouse or conduct violence, we’ll work with them.” He said there is undue fear of the Islamists. “This is something that we are used to, and should not be afraid of. We should deal with them.”

It is hard to imagine a statement more frightening and naïve coming from a senior official.

The Muslim Brotherhood​’s Palestinian affiliate is Hamas, which the Brotherhood still stands by and has never condemned. It says that Israel’s prisoner exchange deal that led to the release of Gilad Shalit proved that Hamas’ methods, which included kidnappings and targeting of civilians, were right. The senior Brotherhood theologian, Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, preaches the destruction of Israel, killing Jews and vocally supports terrorism, including suicide bombings. The leader of the Ennahda Party, Rachid Ghannouchi, likewise supports Hamas, terrorism and the killing of Israeli children. This certainly qualifies as espousing violence, to use the words of Taylor.

A look at Taylor’s background shows he is a long associate of individuals tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and apologists of the Islamist group. Before taking his State Department post, he was the vice president of the U.S. Institute for Peace (UIP). It has a close working relationship with John Esposito, arguably the most prominent non-Muslim apologist for the Muslim Brotherhood, foreign and domestic.

Esposito defends the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and Sami al-Arian. He served as an expert witness for the defense in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, which was found guilty of being a front for Hamas set up by the Brotherhood. He also upholds Sheikh al-Qaradawi as a moderate who promotes a “reformist interpretation of Islam and its relationship to democracy, pluralism and human rights.”

Esposito is the vice chair of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), the board of which has strong associations with the International Institute for Islamic Thought, another Brotherhood front. On April 28, 2010, Taylor’s UIP sponsored a CSID conference that the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report calls “perhaps the largest public gathering of global Muslim Brotherhood leaders and U.S. government officials to date.” Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the original founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, was there, as was Brotherhood members from Bahrain and Jordan. In May 2011, CSID held an event with a senior leader of Ennahda.

Taylor joins several other Obama administration officials who take a benign view of the Muslim Brotherhood​ or are linked to its American fronts. The best example is the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, who displayed a remarkable level of ignorance during testimony to Congress in February, saying that the “term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has described Al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”

There’s Rashad Hussain, the envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, who attended the aforementioned CSID event featuring Brotherhood leaders. Then there’s Dalia Mogahed, one of the members of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership. She is a close associate of John Esposito and is said to have been the “most influential person” advising President Obama on his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo.

Mogahed is also a defender of CAIR and ISNA. She accused the government of trying to oppress the Muslim community when the groups were labeled as “unindicted co-conspirators” in the Holy Land trial. She said “there is a concerted effort to silence, you know, institution-building among Muslims. And the way to do it is [to] malign these groups. And it’s kind of a witchhunt.”

The State Department​ has teamed up with CAIR to host an event with the Syrian opposition. In January 2010, members of ISNA, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and Muslim American Society, all tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, were given briefings by the Department of Homeland Security​ including Secretary Janet Napolitano. A member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council, Mohamed Elibiary, has Brotherhood associations and is a defender of the Holy Land Foundation. He is being accused of leaking sensitive information to the press to damage presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Obama’s chief terrorism advisor, John Brennan, speaks alongside the president of ISNA. Another senior advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett, was the keynote speaker at ISNA’s 2009 convention. It has been reported that the Justice Department even blocked the prosecutions of at least two Brotherhood figures tied to Hamas. Meanwhile, the administration blocked the nomination of Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim opponent of the Brotherhood, to an important State Department post.

Their influence on President Obama is clear. There appears to be no efforts to undermine the Brotherhood or its ideology. In an interview with Bill O’Reilly, the most Obama would concede is that there are “strains of their ideology that are anti-U.S.” Based on the stances of his advisors, Obama likely believes these “strains” are because of U.S. foreign policy errors, than because of the Islamist ideology itself.

It is simply shocking that the U.S. official overseeing the transition assistance in the Middle East doesn’t worry about the Muslim Brotherhood and even uses taxpayer money to help the Islamists. Members of Congress and presidential candidates should demand the immediate removal of William Taylor from his post.

Ryan Mauro


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

Facing the Truth About Islam

by Bruce Bawer

A few years back I was invited to give the keynote address at a one-day conference in Washington – or, actually, in Arlington – about the future of Europe. I am still baffled as to why I was invited. Pretty much all the other people there – the audience members as well as the conference speakers – were seasoned diplomats and sundry high-level government types, some of them Americans, the rest from various European countries. And all of them painted a rosy picture of Europe’s prospects. The European Union, most of them agreed, was just about the best thing ever to happen to the old continent – a guarantor of peace and prosperity for generations to come. The one or two passing mentions of Islam and immigration were also positive – thanks to the massive influx of “new Europeans” from the Muslim world, these experts assured us, Europe’s demographic decline wouldn’t really be much of a problem. Several participants expressed the desire that the tired, backward old USA could become more like the progressive, forward-looking EU.

Everybody was in good cheer and in almost total agreement. Then it came my turn to speak. My subject: the Islamization of Europe. Sharia enclaves. Subjugated women. Forced marriages. Honor killings. Jew-baiting. Gay-bashing. Spiraling rape statistics. Systematic welfare abuse. Police overlooking crimes, judges citing sharia law, journalists, writers, and artists practicing self-censorship for fear of giving offense to Muslim believers, and politicians pretending everything’s just fine.

My talk was a litany of horror stories drawn from newspapers all over Western Europe. And my audience’s reaction was one of pure outrage. Not over the horror stories themselves, but over my audacity. How dare I bring up such things! “These are all just…anecdotes!” one veteran diplomat angrily sputtered. “Mere anecdotes!”

Yes, mere anecdotes. Lots of them. And there were plenty more where those had come from. But these characters didn’t want to hear about what was actually happening on the ground. They were loftily dismissive about the whole business. They all inhabited the same lovely la-la-land of consular offices, embassy parties, ambassadorial residences, and conferences like this one – a cozy dream world into which the grim realities I had talked about hadn’t yet intruded and could still be comfortably denied. And a world, moreover, in which even the slightest hint of criticism of Islam was utterly verboten. Such talk just wasn’t diplomatic, you see.

Over the years I’ve given similar talks to audiences in several European countries. Not audiences of diplomats and the like, but audiences of real people who are living with the problems I talk about, who’ve watched things go steadily downhill for years, who know their continent is in trouble, and who are glad to hear somebody talking frankly about it all and to have a chance to get a few things off their own chests without being shouted down by their PC “betters.” You might have expected those folks in Washington – sorry, Arlington – to be better informed about these matters than anyone. That’s sort of their job, after all. But they preferred to remain in their bubble of denial – to cling to their glorious idea of Europe and to brush aside unpleasant accounts of the real Europe as “mere anecdotes.”

As it happened, I didn’t give a talk again in the Washington area until earlier this month – and the difference between the two events was like night and day. Sponsored by the Federalist Society and held on November 4 in connection with the publication of the new book Silenced: How Apostasy & Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide, by Paul Marshall and Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute, this conference brought together a group of people who were refreshingly, even stunningly, plainspoken about the reality of Islam in the world today – the very opposite of those see-no-evil, hear-no-evil diplomats in Arlington.

What was especially cheering was that this conference, entitled “Silenced: Are Global Trends to Ban Religious Defamation, Religious Insult, and Islamophobia a New Challenge to First Amendment Freedoms?”, took place in the heart of official Washington – in the Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building. At a time when it’s hard not to despair over the willingness of government officials at every level to avoid addressing such matters honestly, it was encouraging to hear so many home truths about Islam being spoken in such a setting – and to see them heeded with respect and concern by a sizable Capitol Hill audience.

There were “mere anecdotes” aplenty. Amjad Mahmood Khan told unsettling stories about the persecution of his fellow Ahmadiyya Muslims in the Islamic world. Marshall talked about the feminist Taslima Nasreen, who “had to flee Bangladesh for her life because her writings were accused of being ‘against Islam’”; about Nobel-winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz, who lives “under constant protection” in his native Egypt “after being stabbed by a young Islamist”; and about Ali Mohaqeq Nasab, “imprisoned by the Karzai government for publishing ‘un-Islamic’ articles that criticized stoning as a punishment for adultery.”

British barrister Paul Diamond discussed some of the high-profile cases in which he’s been involved – such as that of a Christian airline employee who was prohibited from wearing a cross on the job even though members of other faiths were allowed to wear religious symbols. And Mark Durie, a linguist, human rights activist, and Anglican vicar in Melbourne, provided a rivetingly detailed chronicle of the notorious trial in Australia of two pastors for vilifying Islam, at the end of which the pastors were ordered never to “express their views about Islam in public” again and forced “to take out prominent advertisements…reporting the findings against them, at an estimated cost of over $50,000.” (The pastors won on appeal, but while their Muslim accusers had been represented pro bono, the pastors ended up hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket.)

Can such conferences make a difference? The fact that the audience stayed for hours to listen attentively to paper after paper made it clear that they were interested in what they were hearing; their visible and audible reactions to many of the “mere anecdotes” indicated that these stories, which have been largely ignored by mainstream media, were new to them; and the questions they asked at the end of the day showed that they had taken it all very seriously, that they were shaken by much of what they had learned, and that they didn’t want it to end with just talk. What could be done about all this?

Well, one thing they could do is to use their own positions to draw attention to these matters and help bring the wall of PC silence and fearful self-censorship crashing down. On the way to and from the caucus room, I passed the office of the courageous Representative Pete King of New York, whose hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims have brought to the awareness of Congress, and in turn the American people, the extremism of supposedly mainstream U.S. Muslim organizations and mosques and the danger posed by creeping sharia to American freedom. Imagine a Congress with ten Pete Kings, a hundred Pete Kings – legislators who realize that taking seriously “mere anecdotes” about the consequences of the Islamization of the West means nothing more or less than taking seriously the lives of the people who pay your salary and whose constitutional liberties you’ve sworn to uphold.

One thing’s for sure: if we want to preserve freedom of speech in an age when celebrated writers and artists, military leaders and police chiefs, and once-great newspapers can be cowed by the fear of being called Islamophobes (or of having their homes or offices blown to bits), we need more anti-jihadist heroes like Pete King – and we need them, most desperately of all, in the corridors of government power. Unfortunately, as that fiasco in Arlington so vividly underscored, our high-level public servants have tended to be among the smoothest and most accomplished of Islam’s appeasers and whitewashers. Let’s hope that the “mere anecdotes” aired at the Cannon House Office Building on November 4 reached one or two influential people who can mount a real challenge to that disgraceful state of affairs.

Bruce Bawer


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Syria Tortures Children Infants Called "Terrorist Infiltrators"

by Anna Mahjar-Barducci

The Syrian regime is not even sparing the lives of innocent children. The Saudi-owned newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, reported in October that 186 children have been killed since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution on March 15. The youngest Syrian child killed by the Army was only two months old. The Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram reported in its English edition that "there are dozens of video footage of bodies of children from Deraa, Homs, Latakia and other Syrian areas showing severe signs of torture, pulled-out nails, gorged eyes and severed limbs."[sic] Despite international pressure, the Syrian regime does not hesitate to describe these young and innocent victims as "terrorist infiltrators.".

A Thirteen-Year Old Child Tortured and Killed

In May 2011, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, who was only 13 years old, was among the many Syrian children to have been killed by the Syrian security apparatus. After his death, he became the symbol of the Syrian regime's brutality. It was revealed that the young boy was killed after being tortured, "suffering numerous fractures and broken bones." The Globe and Mail wrote: "His jaw and both kneecaps had been smashed. His flesh was covered with cigarette burns. His penis had been cut off. Other injuries appeared to be consistent with the use of electroshock devices and being whipped with a cable." A video of his mutilated body circulated on the Internet, raising criticism from all over the world against the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

Asharq Al-Awsat reports that other Syrian children were subjected to torture prior to death, among them Tamer al-Shari, aged 15, Abdullah Jeha of Homs, aged 13, Malik al-Masri, aged 17, and Nasser al-Saba, aged 16. "Reports that the Syrian security forces have tortured and killed children in their custody would, if confirmed, mark a new low in their bloody repression of protests," said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program.

"The Flower of Syria's Martyrs"

Many other children have been victims of the regime's brutality. Some of them were shot in demonstrations or at home with their families, others died by suffocation from tear-gas, still others have been abducted. Al-Ahram reports that Moussa Al-Wadi, aged 12, was shot in the head, rendering him brain-dead. In August, in the capital Damascus, 25 members of security forces and death squads chased 15-year-old Ramy into a mosque. The Egyptian weekly writes that "soon afterwards protesters in a nearby street heard a single shot". Ramy's mother is still awaiting his return.

In May, Hajar Taysir al-Khatib, aged 10, was instead killed after being run over by a Syrian security forces vehicle. She was soon after named by the Syrian opposition as "the flower of Syria's martys." Hamza Balla, aged 10, was also killed after being hit by an Army's vehicle. Al Ahram reports that some infants died in hospitals after Syrian authorities deliberately cut off power there. "Activists said that more than 20 infants died in their incubators because of the power outage," the weekly states.

Asharq Al-Awsat also reports that a large number of Syrian children became prey of organ harvesting; some Syrian children were even abducted from hospitals prior to death. In July, Umar Hama-Kazo, aged 12, was killed by security forces and his dead body was kidnapped. Murshid Abu Zayed, aged 18, was killed after being abducted from the hospital and his body was found to be missing organs.

Children Protest

Despite their young age, Syrian children already have political awareness. Many have been left orphans by the regime. On YouTube, you can listen to their testimonies. A child says the Syrian Army arrested her father and her uncles, and added that the security forces did not spare anyone in her family. "They left nobody; they even took my cousin who is 15. This is so unfair…they even broke into our house and awoke me with a machine gun pointing at my head, I'm just a little girl…"

Syrian children, the future country's generation, are taking a stand. They have decided on their own to protest against the regime in order to fight for their rights. The French TV channel France 24 brings footage of young students joining the protests and chanting anti-regime slogans: "According to reports from cyber activists, a number of schools across the country have been deserted, as students strike in protest against the acts of violent repression which took place in the classrooms over the summer holidays when security forces used the [classrooms] as detention facilities. And it would appear there has been a proliferation of school children's protests since the start of the new school year. Their slogan [is]: 'No classes until the president is brought down."

On June 3, demonstrators called for a protest in support of the Syrian children. "Syrian people have decided to make today the day of Martyrs children, the Day of Freedom Children, and we are going to protest in all the squares and we will face their gunshots and snipers with our peaceful Morals and Olive branch, and we will never stop until justice taken," read a statement on Facebook.

Syria's Civil Society

As a consequence of the regime's brutality against children, some Syrian mothers who have not been shot while trying to defend their children -- as happened to Elham Dawdani and Shafiqa Hayan al-Faris, both killed alongside their children -- have instead died after suffering heart attacks or strokes upon receiving the news of the death of their children. A heartbroken Syrian mother was recorded on camera crying for her children; the video is posted on You Tube: "The dictator took our children! Where are our children? The army came and took all my kids and my husband and I have nothing left."

Members of Syria's civil society say they hoping that, in addition to the recent Arab League ban on Syria, these tragic accounts can somehow create pressure throughout the Arab and Western governments to take a clear stand against Assad by taking military measures to prevent the further murder of innocent children.

Anna Mahjar-Barducci


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

Protesting Hate by Promoting Anti-Semitism

by IPT News

"Iranophobia," an irrational fear of all things Iranian, has become the Islamic regime's catch-all excuse for international criticism. Groups like the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the representative body of the world's Muslim nations, are pushing for a United Nations resolution to ban denigration of Islam and other religions.

But hate towards Jews remains a key part of political speech and culture throughout Islamic countries, even those touched by the Arab Spring.

A "Million Man March against the Judaization of Jerusalem," organized by Egyptian-American Imam Salah Sultan, is planned for Monday in downtown Cairo. Sultan, a former Columbus, Ohio imam who is the rapporteur of Jerusalem Committee of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, said that his organization would soon issue a fatwa "permitting the blood of Zionists." He also stated that "there is no excuse for anyone to refrain from Jihad after God has removed the affliction, which obstructed us from jihad to liberate Palestine."

Attaching the epithet of "Jew" or "Zionist" to hated leaders has been common of late, such as former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It is mean[t] to portray repression as a Jewish theme. Old anti-Semitic libels and conspiracy theories are also combined with hate of Israel, to attempt to legitimize these attitudes.

Several recent examples from the Middle East Media Research Institute [MEMRI] highlight how this hate finds expression in popular political discourse. These examples serve as the tip of the iceberg, showing that even in countries without a significant Jewish population, anti-Semitism is rampant.

"Saturday Hunter," a virulently anti-Semitic film, is a recent hit in the conservative Islamic Republic of Iran. The story revolves around a boy who goes to live with his religious Jewish grandfather, who is a rabbi, after his Jewish mother marries a Christian.

The grotesque imagery of the film portrays religious Jews as murderers fighting a war against "infidels," as the rabbi tries to brainwash his grandson into participating in the killing. He urges to boy not "to betray the Jews" and to "never reveal your inner thoughts to anyone," as he tries to build a "war machine to take over the world."

Managing Director Mohsen Sadeqi argues that his film is simply anti-Zionist, and that it is wildly popular with Iranian audiences. "It is natural that the Zionists are angry about the film screening which make us more strong-willed," he told the Tehran Times. But in response to protest letters sent by Iran's Jewish community to the government, which went unanswered, Sadeqi responded by saying that "Judaism is a symbol of evil" and that "movies like these will continue and will be filmed in the future."

Syrian writer Osama al-Malouhi blends classic anti-Semitic lies with current events in an Oct. 26 article entitled "Syrian Blood for Matzas," specifically how the Jews love the oppression of the Arab Spring protests. The piece was posted to website, a popular network of Islamists opposed to the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

In his article, Al-Malouhi claims that 80 percent of Israelis support Assad, which is why the world will not stop his crackdown on civilian protests. He then repeats false claims that Jews "are taking pleasure in watching Syrian blood being spilled. Perhaps the murderer [Assad] will [even] bring it to them for [their] matza," he writes, in a reference to ancient blood libel that Jews bake human blood into their Passover food.

"Asking myself why Jewish support of Bashar increased [even] after they saw the rivers of Syrian blood this mass-murderer spilled in Syrian towns, an old image leapt to my mind, of Jews bleeding people and using their blood to prepare matzas," Al-Malhouhi adds. "Logic does not accept this, but the facts prove it."

The same hate is evident in an article for Kuwaiti daily al-Watan, written by journalist Abdullah Khallaf. Former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was actually a Jew, who was empowered as part of a Jewish conspiracy, Khallaf claims. Zionist agents contacted Gaddafi while he was studying in London and pushed to join a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world and to exploit Libya in particular.

"The violence with which he destroyed and killed tens of thousands, and the bombing of the [Libyan] people during his last revolution, indicate that he internalized the directives of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," Khallaf declared, trying to connect Gaddafi to a discredited anti-Semitic forgery. Gaddafi was also protected by "Jewesses," a reference to his multiethnic female guard, and "wasted funds" according to supposed "Zionist" directives.

Lebanese columnist Bushra Gharz Al-Din invokes the Protocols to argue the exact opposite for local daily Al-Diyar. The Arab Spring is actually a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world, Al-Din write, as prescribed in the Protocols.

"About 100 years ago, 300 of the most arrogant elders of Zion convened. [They were] members of 50 Jewish groups who held secret meetings at which they plotted how to enslave the world," Al-Din writes. "[They instigated] revolution after revolution, in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, and what is yet to come will be even worse… After all this, the only question left to ask is: How long will we continue to let them [the Jews] toy with us, like puppets on hidden strings?"

Adolph Hitler's anti-Semitic fantasies are also popularly cited. In September, Saudi columnist Khaled Al-Ghanami echoed accusations of Jewish conspiracies for a column in local daily Okaz, which has a circulation of several hundred thousand in the conservative kingdom. As proof for his conspiracy piece, "Liberalism – A Jewish Deception," Al-Ghanami cites Hitler's Mein Kampf.

"[Mein Kampf] contains many stories about the Jew who lurks in the shadows (according to Hitler), and whose calls for freedom and equality are nothing but diabolical plots aimed at weakening the state, causing anarchy, undermining security, and controlling the fate of the nations," al-Ghanami writes. "This is because the Jew believes he is superior to others, and he dislikes manual labor, preferring to make the people his slaves by [giving them] interest-bearing loans."

Even where journalists try to distinguish between Jews and Zionists, anti-Zionism is often tinged with hateful rhetoric.

In another MEMRI translated article from Qatar's Al-Arab, Egyptian journalist Sharif Abd al-Ghani laments the popular custom of cursing Jews during Friday sermons. Despite admonishing common anti-Jewish attitudes in religious education and the Arab world's mosques, Abd al-Ghani also states that local people believe they their curses have "fulfilled their role in the struggle against the Zionist enemy in the best way possible." Even his positive examples of Jewish scholarship and invention appear to come from a 2006 Pakistani article entitled "Why Are Jews So Powerful?"

Examples of anti-Semitism in Arab media, such as the few mentioned above, remain rich in their conspiracies and varied in their accusations. They also match extremely low levels of positive feelings towards Jews, as shown in Pew opinion polls. Ultimately, the common denominator is that increasing freedom hasn't killed anti-Semitism, and that the Arab world's trend of hate continues to find new ways to express itself.

IPT News


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

Syria, Turkey and the Kurds

by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

According to a report by the French daily Le Figaro, Bashar al-Assad is apparently aiming to destabilize Turkey, which has been supporting the predominantly Sunni Islamist leadership of opposition groups to the Syrian regime, by seeking to grant greater autonomy to the Kurdish population that primarily lives in the north and north-east of Syria.

As part of this initiative, Assad has reportedly encouraged the opening of Kurdish schools in the north, and has allowed for a Kurdish politician by the name of Muhammad Salih Muslim- a member of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that is suspected of being affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and is apparently organizing local elections in the Kurdish areas- to return to Syria from exile in Iraq.

What are the observations and conclusions to draw from this report if it is credible?

First, that Assad might wish to use the Kurds as proxies against Turkey in a way has precedent in Syrian policy.

Bashar's father Hafez had once provided a safe haven for the PKK to launch attacks on Turkish soil, and it was during those years that Turkey, sensing that there was a common terrorist threat in the region, had particularly good ties with Israel. However, in 1998, once Turkey threatened to invade Syria to take out the PKK, Hafez changed course, and the tensions between the two countries slowly began to cool down.

On the other hand, while Hafez was sympathetic to the PKK in so far as he could use the group as a proxy against Turkey, granting any form of autonomy was always out of the question. As Adib Abdulmajid points out, one of the key texts that has traditionally defined the Baathist government's discriminatory policies against Kurds in Syria is a book entitled 'A Political, Ethnic, and Social Study of Al-Jazeera Province,' written by a First Lieutenant in the Syrian Army, Muhammad Talab Hilal.

In his book, Hilal claimed that the Kurds 'had used the pure religion of Islam for their national goals,' and argued that they were orchestrating a sinister program of mass immigration into the Al-Jazeera region of the country's northeast in order to facilitate the creation of a greater Kurdistan. Hence he lambasted the Kurds, calling them 'rabid dogs' whose 'annoying barking' had to be stopped.

The Syrian regime therefore launched a campaign, after the publication of this book, to carry out a policy of Arabization in Al-Jazeera, similar to Saddam Hussein's policies in the north of Iraq. Among these Arabization measures included the loss of Syrian citizenship for 400,000 Kurds (a 1962 measure that predated the Assad dynasty by eight years), confiscation of lands for Arab settlers, and the imprisonment, torture and execution of Kurdish activists.

Coming back to the present day, it is plausible that Assad would make concessions to Kurdish demands in order to weaken the opposition, which certainly has some Kurds among its ranks. The Syrian Kurds in general, like those in Iraq, are undoubtedly more concerned with achieving autonomy at the minimum, rather than overthrowing the central government as an end in itself.

Even among Kurds hostile to Assad, there has been a degree of reluctance to work with the opposition coalition known as the Syrian National Council (SNC), which has set up a government-in-exile. This should not be surprising in light of the insistence among many members of the SNC that Syria retain its identity as an 'Arab Republic' ('Syrian Arab Republic' being the official name for Syria at present).

In addition, as Michael Weiss notes, the Kurds feel under-represented in the Secretariat of the SNC, having only four out of twenty-nine seats, and are concerned about Turkish involvement with the SNC. Thus, it should not come as shock if Assad is trying to exploit these tensions between the Kurds and the SNC.

Nonetheless, if Assad is trying to reach out to Kurds to maintain his hold on power, the initiative of granting greater autonomy could prove a double-edged sword for him. As disclosures from Wikileaks cables reveal, Christians in Al-Jazeera province have claimed that the Kurds have gradually altered the demographics of the area through immigration and high birthrates, such that an alleged 80-90% historic Christian majority is said to have now become a 35% minority.

Owing to these suspicions and fears of Kurdish aspirations in the area, Assad could well see significant numbers of the Christian minority in Syria- comprising around 10% of the population- turn against him should he be granting autonomy to the Kurds in Al-Jazeera province.

But perhaps Assad has decided on balance that the Christians will ultimately refrain from siding with the predominantly Sunni Arab protestors on account of fear of reprisals or discrimination at the hands of a Sunni Islamist regime that might come to power, should the Baathist regime fall.

More generally, the above observations demonstrate that the Kurds are increasingly a force that can no longer just be regarded as sitting on the sidelines.

Iraq is another case in point, where the Kurdish parties now form a key part of the ruling coalition in Baghdad.

Consequently, the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has often been forced to make concessions to the Kurds, such as allowing the Peshmerga (Kurdish militiamen) to move into the disputed territory of Khanaqin district in Diyala province to annex it on the pretext of security issues. When al-Maliki tried to bolster his nationalist credentials by ordering the Kurds in Khanaqin to lower Kurdish flags, demonstrations were staged in response and al-Maliki backed down.

It is noteworthy how the Kurds, deprived of a homeland in spite of being promised self-determination in the aftermath of World War One, are beginning to play the role of kingmakers in the two countries that have been ruled by Baathist governments (in Iraq this rule lasted from 1968 until the U.S.-led invasion in 2003).

Indeed, despite Baathism's claims to uphold pan-Arab nationalism, the ideology has been little more than a façade for minority despotism: Alawite in the case of Syria, Sunni Arab in the case of Iraq.

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and an intern at the Middle East Forum.


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Report: Arab Nations Pressing for Iran Strike

by Gavriel Queenann

Newly acquired intelligence reports indicate several Arab countries in the Middle East are lobbying the US to strike Iran this year, Israel's Channel 10 reported.

According to the report, which is said to be making its rounds in Britain's political circles, Saudi Arabia wants the Obama administration to attack Iran's nuclear facilities before the final withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

US president has vowed to close the door on American military involvement in Iraq by year’s end, but Riyadh is reportedly afraid Iran will use the American exit to take over the country.

Since 2008, officials in the Iraqi interim government have complained to Washington that both Iran and Saudi Arabia were, respectively, funding the Shiite and Sunni insurgencies that have plagued the country since the US-led invasion that toppled late dictator Sadam Hussein.

Security experts say Baghdad's security forces are unprepared to confront the rival insurgencies that hold Iraq in their grip - and that Obama's dogged drive to fulfill his campaign promise may have disastrous consequences both for the region and US interests.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies have been locked in a strategic battle with Iran for hegemony over the Persian Gulf - and have accused Tehran of seeking to destabilize the region through its ‘Shiite Diaspora.’

Gulf Arab leaders have sought to exert pressure on Iran and its regional allies - most notably Syrian president Bashar al-Assad - by allying themselves with Western powers opposed to Tehran's aggressive posture.

They have also joined western powers in targeting Iran's nuclear program, which they see as targeting them first and foremost - rather than Israel, who Iran has threatened repeatedly with destruction.

Suadia Arabia has also said, should Iran obtain nuclear weapons, Riyahd will seek them as well - raising the specter of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Analysts say this may be a lever to spur Obama to alter course from his current passive, sanctions-driven posture towards Iran.

Despite this, Arab powers have been reticent to publicly call for an Iran strike - which has been a high profile part of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's diplomatic agenda.

Instead, observers say, they have sought to work behind the scenes to avoid being seen as working in concert with Israel.

Gavriel Queenann


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Iran Training Palestinians with New Missiles

by IPT News

Israeli military officials believe Palestinian terrorists have traveled to Iran for training with sophisticated Russian-made antitank missiles, the Jerusalem Post reports. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have acquired hundreds of longer range missiles, which can travel more than four kilometers and penetrate many types of armored Israeli vehicles.

Hamas used the first advanced missiles in January 2009, but their use was limited due to a lack of training, the Post reports, citing a senior military source. Since then, Hamas has acquired additional supplies, including transfers of Syrian arms purchased directly from Russia and via black market smuggling, and its operatives have undergone Iranian training.

Israeli forces discovered the full force of the Hamas' new range earlier this year, when a rocket was fired at an Israeli school bus from nearly three kilometers away. The attack killed 16-year-old student Daniel Viflic and injured the bus driver, and showed Hamas ability to hit distant targets despite difficult firing conditions.

Hamas also is believed to have acquired large caches of Libyan weapons, particularly surface-to-air missiles, since the fall of Dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The weapons have been used to enhance Hamas' ability to strike Israeli helicopters and aircraft, one of Israel's primary means of eliminating terrorist firing mortars from Gaza into Israeli town.

IPT News


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Thursday, November 17, 2011

For Alawites, the Uprising in Syria is Existential

by Danny Brode

Alawites control nearly all aspects of the Syrian power network and have dominated the state for decades. Ethnically they are Arab; but religiously they are an obscure and unique sect. They have built their collective successes around the Assad regime and the Syrian military.

Once a downtrodden and peripheral mountain dwelling people, Alawites have managed, with French support, to become the premier political force in Syria. For them, their power will be difficult and dangerous to relinquish.

Furthermore, the Assad regime's collapse means more than a loss of privileges for the Alawite collective; it is a threat to their entire existence.

Unlike Mubarak and Ben-Ali, the Assads will not relinquish power easily. The Sunnis consider the Alawite religion heretical and this being so, they were formerly persecuted under Sunni rule.

The fragility of the Alawite identity in the Arab world means the Assads must not only consider their own family, but the collective future of the entire Alawite community.

In the Middle East, being a powerless minority, whether ethnic or religious is often a harsh reality. This fact only increases the will of a minority to remain dominant.

Trying to end the bloodshed, the Arab League's proposed peace plan fails to address the real sectarian concerns, which are at the heart of the conflict. Seeking concrete democratic reforms in Syria is a non-starter. To stay in power, Alawites know they must maintain control over Syria’s positions of influence.

If Bashar al-Assad were to grant greater Sunni representation at the governmental level, Alawite rule in Syria would soon collapse.

The debate over whether Bashar should step down is also irrelevant. The real authority within Syria is not Bashar, but rather his brother, Maher.

Maher is a ruthless military commander and leader. Allegedly, there is even video footage depicting Maher, flanked by supporters and dressed in civilian attire, firing a rifle upon a crowd of protestors. This video provides a vivid example of the ruthless measures Maher is willing to employ. With superior credentials, he commands the Syrian élite 4th Armored Division, which is an Alawite unit through and through. This unit is regarded as being so loyal; it is tasked with carrying out the "necessary" killings for the purpose of suppressing the Sunni uprising.

It is also widely believed that Bashar lacks both the will and determination to rule Syria. Thus, behind the scenes, Maher is a real force. Unless he or other senior Alawite commanders are removed, any change in leadership would be merely symbolic.

The Syrian regime is also finding itself ever more isolated in the international community. Today, Syria’s primary international supporters are China and Russia. However, as the fighting escalates to civil war, these ties are jeopardized.

In the Middle East, the regime is left with two strategic allies, Hizbullah and Iran. Therefore, the regime in Damascus has found itself cornered.

The question remains: how far will the Assad regime go to stay in power and to what avail?

It cannot be overstated how crucial the Syrian state is for Alawite identity. It could be argued, the Syrian state has become their identity. As long as the Assad regime seeks to safeguard Alawite dominance, few options are left other than to fight.

Popular protests and non-violence failed to topple Alawite rule. The opposition is increasingly turning to armed conflict, as the use of force remains the last effective option for dismantling the Assad regime. Syrians are aware of the dangers posed, as the memory of Hafez al-Assad’s crackdown in 1982 remains a collective memory.

Although brutal, the violence thus far pales in comparison to the 1982 Hama massacre, which resulted in tens of thousands dead in mere weeks. At present, no suitable option exists to thwart a recurrence. Thus, the current stalemate is a zero-sum game and a victory for one side will come at the expense of the other.

The overarching issue is the Alawite domination of Syria. The current conflict has more to do with sectarianism than democracy. Indeed, sectarian tensions were always present in Syria; however the breakdown of the regional balance of power structures has reignited historical animosities.

Until Alawites are removed from power, the conflict will only escalate to a fight for survival. With that being said, it remains to be seen if Bashar and Maher al-Assad are willing to employ the same level of force used by their father some thirty years earlier.

The Assads have left themselves with little choice…

Danny Brode


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Sweden's New Anti-Semites

by Soeren Kern

Police in Sweden's third-largest city, Malmö, are reporting a significant uptick in the number of reported anti-Semitic hate-crimes this year.

During just the first six months of 2011, Malmö police registered 21 anti-Semitic crimes, more than the total number (20) of such crimes reported in the city during all of 2010. According to police officials interviewed by the public broadcaster Sveriges Radio, the actual number of anti-Semitic incidents is far higher.

Recent statistics from Sweden's National Council on Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet) revealed that nationwide in 2010, there were 161 reported anti-Semitic hate crimes.

The data comes as the Swedish government on September 20 set aside 4 million kroner ($600,000) to help boost security around the country's synagogues, after accusations that Sweden has not done enough to protect its Jewish population.

The allocation will go to "increase security and reduce vulnerability for the Jewish minority," according to Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag. He said the one-time appropriation in the 2012 budget funding is primarily meant to pay for an increased police presence, but that the money could also be used to purchase security cameras if Jewish groups express the need for such equipment.

Sweden has been accused of complacency about the growing problem of anti-Semitism in the country. In December 2010, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center advised Jews to avoid traveling to southern Sweden after a series of anti-Semitic incidents there.

"We reluctantly are issuing this advisory because religious Jews and other members of the Jewish community there have been subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment. There have been dozens of incidents reported to the authorities but have not resulted in arrests or convictions for hate crimes," the center said in a statement.

The upswing in anti-Semitic violence in Sweden is mainly being attributed to two key factors: the exponential increase in the number of Muslim immigrants in the country, thanks to some of the most liberal immigration laws in Europe: as well as to leftwing politicians who never miss an opportunity to publicly demonize Israel.

Muslims are now estimated to comprise between 20% and 25% of Malmö's total population of around 300,000; much of the increase in anti-Jewish violence in recent years is being attributed to shiftless Muslim immigrant youth.

During a two week period in July 2011, for example, the only synagogue serving Malmö's 700-strong Jewish community was attacked three times. The synagogue, which has previously been set on fire and the target of bomb threats, now has guards stationed around it, and bullet-proof glass in the windows, while the Jewish kindergarten can only be reached through thick steel security doors.

Jewish cemeteries in Sweden also have repeatedly been desecrated; Jewish worshippers have been abused on their way home from prayer; and Jews have been taunted in the streets by masked men chanting phrases such as "Hitler, Hitler" and "Dirty Jew."

Some Jews in Sweden have stopped attending prayer services altogether out of fear for their safety.

Hatred for Jews is also being stirred up by Sweden's leftwing political establishment and its pathological obsession with Israel. The demonization of the Jewish state by Swedish politicians is so frequent and often so fierce that it regularly crosses the line into blatant anti-Semitism.

Consider Ilmar Reepalu, the leftwing mayor of Malmö. Reepalu, who has turned a blind eye to the growing problem of anti-Semitism in Malmö during the more than 15 years he has been mayor, says that Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism because of their support for Israeli policies in the Middle East.

In January 2010, for example, Reepalu marked Holocaust Memorial Day by declaring that Zionism is racism. In an interview with the daily newspaper Skånska Dagbladet, he also said: "I would wish for the Jewish community to denounce Israeli violations against the civilian population in Gaza. Instead it decides to hold a [pro-Israeli] demonstration in the Grand Square [of Malmö], which could send the wrong signals."

Reepalu was referring to an incident in January 2009, during Israel's brief war in Gaza, when a small demonstration in favor of Israel was attacked by a screaming mob of Muslims and Swedish leftists, who threw bottles and firecrackers as the police looked on.

In July 2011, after a Hollywood film production company cancelled plans to shoot a movie in Skåne in southern Sweden due to concerns over anti-Semitism in Malmö, Reepalu cast his rage on the Simon Wiesenthal Center for issuing the travel warning.

Reepalu, in an interview with the newspaper Sydsvenskan, said: "I have a feeling that the Simon Wiesenthal Center is not really looking for what is happening in Malmö but they want to hang the people who dare to criticize the state of Israel. Are they once again saying I should be silenced? I will never compromise my morals."

The disdain for Israel is not limited to local politicians in Malmö; it goes right up to the top of Swedish politics.

In September 2011, for instance, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, a well-known Pro-Palestinian activist, unilaterally recognized the Palestinian representative in Stockholm as ambassador. Bildt said the upgrade of the Palestinian representation follows "great advances made in the development of the Palestinian state."

In December 2009, while Sweden held the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, Bildt called for the creation of a "State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital." Israeli officials, angry over EU efforts to prejudge the outcome of issues reserved for permanent status negotiations, persuaded French diplomats to remove the offending text, as well as other references to a Palestinian state that would comprise "the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza."

In November 2011, Swedish Foreign Aid Minister Gunilla Carlsson disclosed that Swedish taxpayer money had been used to fund a "one-sided" report on the conflict in the Middle East entitled "Colonialism and Apartheid: Israel's Occupation of Palestine."

The Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden (PGS) received 700,000 kronor ($100,000) to produce a report on the Middle East conflict. The money was paid out by Forum Syd, a democracy and rights organization hired by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) to provide the agency with information on the issue.

In August 2009, Sweden's top-selling newspaper, Aftonbladet, published an anti-Semitic blood libel by alleging that Israeli soldiers routinely murdered Palestinian children and harvested their bodily organs for sale on the international black market.

The Swedish government responded with indifference: When the country's ambassador to Israel put up a note on the embassy's website distancing Sweden from the article, her enraged superiors in Stockholm ordered her to take it down.

Rabbi Shneur Kesselman, who leads the Jewish community in Malmö, blames the political leaders in Sweden for the rise in anti-Semitism in the country. He recently gave an interview with the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter (in English here) in which he describes Jewish life in contemporary Sweden.

Speaking to Svenska Dagbladet, Integration Minister Ullenhag said: "Jews are one of our national minorities, and the state has a responsibility to ensure that people can go to synagogue and engage in Jewish activities and feel they have the security they believe they need. That is a fundamental human right."

But in "progressive" Malmö, the future looks so bleak that around 30 Jewish families have already left for Stockholm, England or Israel -- and more are preparing to go.

Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group.


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Netherlands Sliding into the Abyss

by Bruce Bawer

In a new interview in the Dutch magazine Panorama, Geert Wilders talks about a variety of things, including his forthcoming book about Islam, which will be published in the U.S. in April. In it, he says, he’ll document the fact that “Islam is a dangerous ideology” and that “Muhammed really is one of the big bad guys” of history, whose negative influence continues to be felt today. Yes, Wilders acknowledges, there are genuinely moderate people who call themselves Muslims, and if they want to call themselves Muslims that’s fine with him – but there is no such thing as a moderate Islam.

What, asks the interviewer, is his great fear? Answer: that “if we don’t put an end to Islamization, it will slowly but surely insinuate itself into our society, at the cost of our freedom. And bit by bit things will go the wrong way. That’s why I’m extending this warning. Otherwise someday our children and grandchildren won’t have freedom any more.” To which the interviewer replies: “And if people say: come on, Geert, it’s not really so bad, is it?…What do you say then?” “I say: it’s worse than you think.”

It’s hard to believe that in the year 2011 there exist Dutchmen – outside of the perennially clueless cultural elite, that is – who are still able to believe that things aren’t “really so bad.” But, alas, there are. There are.

To be sure, thanks largely to pressure from Wilders and his Freedom Party, the last few years have seen reforms in Dutch immigration and integration policies. But has it been too little, too late? For the unfortunate fact is that one set of indicators after another continues to head south. Take a new report commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and produced by Risbo, a research institute at Erasmus University. It shows that of males in the Netherlands’ “Moroccan community” between the ages of 12 and 24, no fewer than 38.7 percent have come to the attention of the police at least once during the last five years in connection with some offense – mostly violent crimes and thefts.

The winner in this dubious sweepstakes is the historic city of Den Bosch, about fifty miles south of Amsterdam. In Den Bosch, just under half of young Moroccan males between 12 and 24 – 47.7 percent, to be exact – have police records. (That’s up from 45 percent last year.) In a long list of other cities – Zeist, Gouda, Veenendaal, Amersfoort, Maassluis, Oosterhout, Schiedam, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Ede, Leiden, and The Hague – the figure also topped 40 percent. In every municipality that was studied, incidentally, the scores for Moroccan youths far outstripped those for ethnic Dutch kids, among whom an average of 13 percent of boys in the same age cohort had come in for similar police attention during the same period.

One person who knows a good deal about the Dutch Moroccan youth milieu is filmmaker Roy Dames, who spent eight years – imagine! – working on Mocros, a documentary about young Moroccans in Rotterdam. (The film opened on November 10 in Amsterdam and Nijmegen, and will be aired on Dutch TV early next year.) In an interview with the Dutch edition of Metro, Dames, whose previous work includes documentaries about criminals, prostitutes, alcoholics, and homeless people, says that he “wanted to make a documentary about the Moroccan boys in the street, the street kids that you see everywhere. In 2002, when I started Mocros, Moroccan boys had a poor image. They still do. Many Moroccan boys are kicked out of school, cause trouble in the streets, and are in danger of leading a life of crime.”

The ones he’s been following around all these years with his camera now average about twenty-three years old. They’re on welfare and get “an occasional job.” One of them has spent some time in prison. It’s not easy to get them to open up, he says, because they “live in a culture of silence and shame” in which pressure from family, friends, and community “is enormous.”

Spending all these years in the company of these youths hasn’t exactly protected Dames from their not-so-chummy side. At one point he was filming a (shall we say) uncongenial encounter between thirty of his young subjects and some hapless “youth workers” when suddenly the boys “turned on me” aggressively. Dames jumped in his car and sped off just in time – and had to put the project on hold for six months. (Apparently it took that long for the kids to cool down.)

One gathers that while Dames has a certain degree of sympathy for at least some of these kids, he also doesn’t pull any punches, and shows things how they are – which is not pretty. (A snotty little review in De Telegraaf gripes that the film, intentionally or not, will confirm all the prejudices of ethnic Dutch viewers – and the reviewer ends with that line, as if to make it clear that the last thing he wants to do is to explore the disturbing implications of this observation.)

It seems significant that the profile of Dames appeared in the Dutch edition of Metro, of all places. Metro is a chain of urban newspapers that can be picked up for free in subway stations and other such places (the Dutch trains are always full of discarded copies), and over the years I’ve noticed that the Dutch and Swedish editions of Metro are – scandalously – often the only places you’ll find news stories that are too politically incorrect for those countries’ “real” media to touch. Apparently Dames’s documentary falls into that category. Mocros has received “little attention in the media,” he laments, because “the Dutch press is politically correct” and would prefer not to have a “real debate” about the issues raised by films like his.

Well, we knew that already – heaven knows Geert Wilders does. But after the murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, the hounding of Ayaan Hirsi Ali out of the country, and the prosecution of Wilders – all because they dared to express their opinions about Islam – and given the increasingly out-of-this-world statistics such as those included in the Risbo report, one wonders exactly what it would take to persuade the Dutch media that it’s time, at long last, to permit a truly wide-open, no-holds-barred discussion of Islam in the Netherlands. One fears that by the time some of the media moguls realize it’s time to let ‘er rip, it’ll already be much too late.

Bruce Bawer


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Juan Cole: Critic of Democracy, Apologist for Tyranny

by Alan Jacobs

[FrontPage Ed. note: published as "Juan Cole's Totalitarian Odyssey."]

Few professors in the controversial world of Middle East studies boast more about their own notoriety than Juan Cole, a man who believes the consistent criticism of his public positions to be a sign of distinction. Yale University's decision not to hire him for an endowed chair five years ago due to insufficient scholarship led him to publicly charge that George W. Bush and the CIA torpedoed his candidacy. When organizations such as Campus Watch publicize Cole's outlandish commentary, he cries "censorship" and labels them "McCarthyite."

His latest lecture at New York University—a collaboration with Sinan Antoon, an Iraqi-American assistant professor of Arab culture and politics at NYU—dealt with Iran's response to the "Arab Spring." In a packed room of over 100 mostly Iranian and Arab-American students, Cole analyzed the Islamic Republic of Iran from a "classical realist" perspective. If one didn't know any better, one would have departed the lecture believing that Iran justifiably protects its own interests; that America is a malignant and aggressive force and Israel its trigger-happy satellite; that Turkey's Islamist Freedom and Development Party (AKP) is headed by a practical and liberal Prime Minister Erdogan who promotes "Middle Eastern multiculturalism"; and that a moderate Islamist party in Tunisia called Ennahda does the same.

Cole's lecture bounced around the Middle East and North Africa, hardly sticking to one topic for more than a few minutes. His dispassionate professorial tone evinced few of the biases so clear in his intemperate blog Informed Comment. Yet his skewed view of the region was nevertheless obvious. He displayed a general tolerance for politically hostile sentiments toward America and Israel in the Arab world, spoke with astonishing credulity regarding Islamists and their goals, and argued that America and its allies are bullies and manipulators.

Amid an analysis loaded with sectarian distinctions between Sunni and Shiite, Cole pointed to an area of agreement between the two: support for Iran's aggressive stance toward Israel. It is no secret that religious divisions hardly dissuade run-of-the-mill Arab anti-Semites from supporting any entity which promises to "wipe the Zionist entity out of the pages of time"—an Ahmadinejad quote, which, incidentally, Cole falsely claims to be mistranslated and not in the least genocidal. But describing, as did Cole, the Iranian regime's bellicose threats merely as "a stand on the Palestine issue" speaks volumes.

Such apologetics are deeply troubling from a man who regularly uses terms such as "Zionofascism" in referring to Israel's right to exist. Whither the outrage in the following analysis, taken directly from his lecture:

The Islamic Revolution was an attempt to create a new paradigm for governance in the region, which was neither the traditional monarchy nor the officers' regimes or postcolonial one-party states that were so prominent in the Middle East. It combines in itself an elective branch of government with Montesquieu's spirit of laws, executive-legislative-judiciary, but at the same time incorporates into itself a set of institutions that are intended to be reflective of Iranian and Shiite sympathies.

The use of a principal figure of the French Enlightenment to bolster the legitimacy of the Islamic Revolution is typical of Cole's efforts to whitewash radical Islamists. This is a particularly egregious instance, in that Montesquieu is well known for advocating the separation of powers to prevent tyranny, which is precisely what exists in Iran.

Cole described America and Israel as imperialistic powers threatening the sovereignty of other countries. Israel, he claimed, will probably tone down its—ostensibly typical— aggressive behavior and refrain from attacking a nuclear Iran because of instability in Egypt:

You don't have a Hosni Mubarak or Omar Suleiman there to support the Israeli position. Now to look for trouble, to me, seems very unlikely, either from Israelis or Americans.

Similarly, discussing the new warming of Iranian-Egyptian relations, Cole noted that:

This is Washington and Tel Aviv's worst nightmare. I assume Egypt has gone from the column of supporters of the Washington and Israeli line, to . . . playing footsy with the Iranians. And the Iranians see this and they can see that one of the outcomes of the Arab Spring is that those countries that were close to the West before are now adopting a more independent foreign policy.

Leaving aside that Tel Aviv is not Israel's capital and that the Israeli government resides in Jerusalem, Cole consistently described America and Israel as powers demanding adherence to a party line, while Iran merely benefits from Egypt adopting a "more independent" stance. Throughout the lecture, such negative phrasing was always associated with an American interest and the positive with an Iranian one.

He later referred to Shiites who supported Musa Sadr—the Lebanese founder of the Amal party, a Shiite Islamist entity that laid the foundations for the development of Hezbollah—as "activist Shiites." (Cole has long been an apologist for Iranian former president Muhammad Khatami, who is married to Sadr's niece.) No one in his lexicon is an "extremist" unless they happen to be American conservatives, "Likudniks," or supporters of any military intervention he opposes.

Sinan Antoon chimed in toward the end of the lecture to express disagreement with Cole's known support for American intervention in Libya. He also seemed troubled by any Arab or Muslim nation that might approve of America's actions:

The Iranian regime are not fans of Qaddafi . . . but are really troubled, as are many leftists all over the world, by this cheering for the NATO intervention, which should be seen in its proper context as an intervention on the part of the counterrevolutionary forces of Saudi Arabia and the U.S. to contain the so-called Arab Spring and of course to ensure their own logistical interests on the ground. And I know I was surprised, too, that the Libyans are waving U.S. flags, but I think and hope that in the coming months—once all the documents come out and they realize that until the last second France and Britain and precisely the U.S. were firmly behind Qaddafi—these flags are going to disappear.

Antoon's anti-U.S. cheerleading was met with applause from the audience.

In the question and answer period following the lecture, the first questioner asked about Turkey's Islamist ruling party, the AKP, to which Cole responded with clichés about Islamist "multiculturalism." One wonders how many persecuted Turkish Kurds or Greeks the professor has spoken to about "multiculturalism" in Turkey. Noting that Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda party—the winner of recent elections—takes cues from Turkey's AKP in seeking a similar "moderate Islamist" model, Cole reassured the questioner, who correctly noted that Turkey has moved far from secularism, that:

They want to spread the Turkish model. They think this is the right mix of things; they think it should be a relatively secular constitution. They're not interested in promoting Sharia, and on the other hand, they think you should have a kind of Middle Eastern multiculturalism.

Yet Cole had earlier noted recent attempts by Erdogan's party to legislate criminal punishments for adultery.

He described Iran's government as modeled on Montesquieu; Israel as an aggressor willing, but unable, to strike; America as a cynical and domineering political actor; and Turkish and Tunisian Islamist parties as "relatively secular" and "multicultural." This is a remarkably inaccurate and ahistorical portrait of a region in which radical Islam is on the rise. But why should the author of a blog titled Informed Comment get hung up on facts?

Alan Jacobs is a student of Middle Eastern studies in New York.


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