Saturday, March 9, 2013

Palestinians Plan "Warm" Welcome for Obama

by Khaled Abu Toameh

There is no reason why Obama should not take all these threats seriously.
US President Barack Obama is coming to the Middle East later this month to explore the possibility of resuming peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

But while Obama is thinking of ways to revive the stalled peace talks, Palestinian activists say they are planning a "warm" welcome for him when he visits Ramallah or any other Palestinian city in the West Bank.

One plan being discussed among Palestinian activists includes staging anti-US demonstrations in Palestinian cities, particularly outside the place Obama is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Activists in Ramallah said they would try to block the roads leading to the location of the Obama-Abbas meeting to protest against US "bias in favor of Israel."

Some activists have even prepared American flags and portraits of Obama that would be set on fire in front of TV crews covering the visit.

Palestinian activists say they are also hoping to humiliate Obama when and if he decides to visit the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Many Palestinians have already called on Obama to refrain from visiting the holy site, especially if he would be escorted by Israeli policemen and security officials.

Leaders of various Palestinian and Israeli Arab groups this week appealed to Obama to stay away from the Aqsa Mosque during his planned visit.

Members of Hizb al-Tahrir, a radical Islamist group, said this week that they would throw shoes at Obama and his entourage if they arrived at the Aqsa Mosque.

There is no reason why Obama should not take all these threats seriously.

Earlier this week, the British Consul-General to Jerusalem, Sir Vincent Fean, had to flee Bir Zeit University near Ramallah after angry Palestinian students attacked his car.

The top British diplomat had arrived at the campus to deliver a lecture explaining his country's position regarding the Palestinian issue. His presence on campus triggered protests from students, who shouted slogans denouncing the Balfour Declaration and Britain's alleged bias in favor of Israel.

Palestinians are disappointed with Obama because of what they perceive as his unwavering support for Israel. They are particularly upset with Obama for failing to force Israel to accept their demands, including a full cessation of settlement construction, the release of Palestinians from Israeli jails, and a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

Palestinian activists said they were also disappointed with Obama because they believe that Iran, and not the Palestinian issue, is now at the top of his list of priorities.

By planning protests against Obama, Palestinians are hoping to bring their issue back to the top of the US Administration's list of priorities. But they are also hoping to humiliate Obama and the US for not being supportive enough of the Palestinians.

Palestinians are also angry with Obama because of his refusal to support Abbas's statehood bid at the UN late last year.

Some Palestinians admitted that plans to disrupt Obama's visit to the Aqsa Mosque are also aimed at embarrassing Israel and drawing the world's attention to what they claim, without evidence, is an Israeli plot to "destroy" the mosque and replace it with the Third Temple.

So while Obama is seeking to revive the peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis, many Palestinians are thinking of ways to humiliate him and the US. When and if Obama visits the West Bank or the Aqsa Mosque, he will be reminded of the fact that many Palestinians continue to regard the US as an enemy, not a friend.

Khaled Abu Toameh


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The Current Limits of U.S.-Israel Security Cooperation

by Shoshana Bryen

This patronizing attitude is reflected in the President's assertion that Israel's democratically elected leaders "don't know what's in their own self-interest." While missile defense cooperation continues, the administration has taken overt steps to tell the Arab and Muslim world that the U.S. is severable from Israel.
Shared values and democratic systems count for a lot in the political world -- and they can advance military cooperation -- but national security interests can evolve without them. No one would mistake Saudi Arabia or Bahrain for a country that shares American values, yet the U.S. Central Command works closely and cooperatively with both.

Israel shares American values in many ways, but a shared security outlook is something else, hinging on threat perceptions that may no longer be coincident.

Vice President Biden took to the stage at AIPAC this week to promote U.S.-Israel security relations. His emphasis on American support for Israel's missile defense program is the coin of the realm – first because it is true and second because Israel's enemies have missiles.

But security relations have undergone a subtle, negative change in the past four years.

The Obama administration has been willing to be Israel's protector, patron to a client, or parent to a child. This patronizing attitude is reflected in the President's assertion that Israel's democratically elected leaders "don't know what's in their own best interest" and Vice President Biden's comment that President Obama wants to hear from "regular Israelis" on his upcoming trip, suggesting that what he hears from Prime Minister Netanyahu would be disputed by Israel's citizenry. The administration is less willing to be Israel's partner in addressing common threats, including terrorism and the rise of radical Islam. And there has been a limit to consultation and cooperation on Iran. On occasion, the U.S. adds to Israel's problems by allowing Israel to bear the brunt of the world's disapprobation at the UN.

The History

Israel's first strategic allies were France and Great Britain. The U.S. was sympathetic to Israel's plight as small and vulnerable to threats from combinations of Arab states, but except for a desire not to have socialist Israel in the pro-Soviet camp and the 1956 Eisenhower outburst, the U.S. was uninvolved in Israeli security. President Johnson declined to be of assistance to Israel in the Six Day War.

Presidents Nixon and Reagan saw Israel in the Cold War context. Nixon stood with Israel as a defensive measure against the Soviet Union in 1973. Reagan opened "strategic cooperation" as a forward step in a plan to defeat the USSR. His idea of ballistic missile defenses was matched by Israeli innovation in the field; the result was tremendous 
advancement and in-depth cooperation.

At the end of the Cold War, President Clinton called for "capabilities based" defense to cover contingencies rather than specific enemies. Israel was well placed to continue to work with the United States and provide technological capabilities and test beds. Israel established warm relations with some of the newest NATO members, Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as with Bulgaria and Romania.

After 9-11, President Bush's formulation of a "war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them" resonated fully with Israel, and there was increased closeness and cooperation on perceived regional threats. But congruity of interests is never total. When American and Israeli positions on Iran diverged (about 2007), President Bush refused Israel weapons that could be used against Iran.

The Present

When the Obama Administration redefined the wars in which the United States is engaged, the words "Islamic" or "Muslim" terrorism and radical Islam were shelved in favor of more neutral appellations. In his Cairo address, President Obama sought to establish "mutual respect" between the West and the "Muslim world," and he accepted the view that policies of the West were partly responsible for the antagonism of Muslims toward the United States. He called Israel's independence a response to the Holocaust -- a charge that fed into the Arab complaint that Israel was foisted on the region by guilty Europeans rather than by being a legitimate and permanent part of the region.

Without commenting on the approach itself, it should be noted that the independence of and continuing support for Israel is, by the definition of its enemies, part of what the West did and does that creates antagonism in the "Muslim world." And for those who believe, as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has said, that terrorists are created as a reaction to Western provocation, support for Israel is precisely such a provocation.

In terms of military cooperation, then, the President's formulation reduced the ability of Israel to have equal stature with the United States in a regional mission.

The United States in the United Nations

At the outset, the Obama administration made it clear that the United Nations would be its preferred venue for diplomacy. In contrast to the Bush administration, the U.S. rejoined the UN Human Rights Commission and the UN Alliance of Civilizations, an openly anti-Israel body which claimed in 2006 that global tensions were driven primarily by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and referred to the September 11th attacks as resulting from "a perception among Muslim societies of unjust aggression stemming from the West."

It was in the Alliance of Civilizations that Turkey's Prime Minister last week lumped Zionism with "Islamophobia" and anti-Semitism as racist doctrines and "war crimes."

In the UN Security Council, the U.S. declined to support Canada's traditional, once-a-decade bid for a seat. Canada, an outspoken supporter of Israel, lost to Portugal, a stalwart representative of EU ambivalence. The U.S. voted against the infamous "Goldstone Report," but declined to use its influence to encourage others to do the same. The administration demanded a "total settlement freeze" from Israel and allowed Israeli policies to be denounced in the fiercest terms in the Security Council before exercising its veto. The U.S. brokered a Security Council "compromise" that allowed Israel to be criticized along with Syria.

The administration accepted the 2010 UN Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty Review that singled out Israel for condemnation – despite public statements that it would never do that.

Bilateral Cooperation while Preserving Distance

There has been an increase in Ballistic Missile Defense cooperation, which is good for Israel: its enemies have missiles. But it represents a completely defensive option. The administration is comfortable with the idea of defending Israel, but by putting Israel in the position of the "defense client" it was until 1980, rather than by enhancing its status as a "partner" in mutual defense -- this is not a step forward.

Further, defense is irrelevant until after an attack. Any thought Israel has about protecting its citizens through pre-emptive measures is not covered. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress, "I don't want to be complicit if they [Israelis] choose to do it [attack Iran's nuclear program]." That remark must have greatly comforted Iran.

Austere Challenge, a once-cancelled U.S.-Israel missile defense exercise, did go forward at the end of 2012, but in a scaled back mode, most likely to reassure Iran that it was not cover for any offensive activity. In case this dodge was not clear, Gen. Craig Franklin, Commander of U.S. Third Air Force, repeated that point several times in a single interview before the exercise: "It's purely to provide defensive capabilities with Israel. ... This exercise doesn't look at any particular threat, it looks at a threat scenario that is notional. ... This is a military exercise not tied to any particular recent world event, it's just a notional exercise. ... As I mentioned, this is not related to any particular recent world event."

While missile defense cooperation continues, the Obama administration has taken overt steps to tell the Arab and Muslim world that the U.S. is severable from Israel. The NATO-related air rescue operation Anatolian Eagle was canceled because Turkey would not let Israel participate. Last May, the Administration held Eager Lion 2012, a Special Operations exercise with 19 Arab and Muslim countries, including Egypt, Lebanon and Pakistan.

The tactics and training of Special Operations is an important component of Israel's "qualitative military edge." How much of what the U.S. and Israel developed over the years was shared with countries overtly hostile to Israel? Israel was not invited to the May 2012 NATO confab, although 13 NATO "partner nations" were invited to discuss terrorism. Two other US-organized and -led multilateral counterterrorism confabs excluded Israel as well.

When Turkey objected to the sharing of intelligence information with Israel, Secretary of Defense Panetta said no NATO radar intelligence would be shared "outside of NATO." Secretary Hagel is unlikely to share what Secretary Panetta would not.

Cooperation for the Future

The U.S. and Israel continue to share values across the board, share capabilities in certain areas and to acknowledge common threats. President Obama's visit to Israel later in the month would be an opportune time to think about how to end the current patron-client relationship and restore Israel's position as a parallel security partner to the United States.

Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center.

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Syria’s Christians Fear Iraq Scenario

by Asharq al-Awsat

Concerns over their future prompting Christians to side with the Assad regime

In this Sunday, April 15, 2012 file photo, Syrian Orthodox Christians attend Easter mass in Damascus, Syria. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi, File)
In this Sunday, April 15, 2012 file photo, Syrian Orthodox Christians attend Easter mass in Damascus, Syria. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi, File)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Former President Hafez Al-Assad did not rule in the name of minorities, but in the name of the secular Ba’ath party. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of members of his security and political services were not Alawites. In fact, according to the most optimistic estimates, the Alawi sect constitutes around 20 percent of the Syrian population, whereas the majority Sunni sect constitutes 65 percent. 

These days, and ever since the start of the Syrian uprising two years ago, Syria’s Christians have grown increasingly concerned about their very existence. Their fears have been compounded by reports of the forcible evacuation of Christian villages, and the abduction of Christian clerics. Furthermore, the Syrian opposition’s stated stance—to treat the Syrian people as one united bloc—has failed to resonate among the Christian community.

Hafez Assad never publicized his Alawi roots. On the contrary, he used to worship in Sunni mosques and his son Bashar followed in his footsteps. However, the Assad regime did seek to strengthen the role of the Alawi sect in the Syrian administration and in the Ba’ath party, in order to ensure the loyalty of the army and intelligence services, which ruled Syria with an iron fist. Hafez Assad (later followed by Bashar) realized the importance of a minority coalition in Syria. He began to consolidate his ties with the Christians (who constitute about 7.5 percent of the population), the Druze (2.75 percent), the Shi’ites (about 3 percent), and the Isma’ilis (1 percent). 

When the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, the regime was determined to highlight the Islamist face of the uprising, even before the Islamists had actually infiltrated Syria. It was a deliberate attempt to intimidate the Christians, Alawites, and other minorities. The regime was assisted in this endeavor by the sectarian problems being encountered in post-revolutionary Egypt. 

It seems that the fears and concerns of Syria’s minorities are playing a major role in the crisis. These fears prompted Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi to visit Syria, having boycotted the country ever since Lebanon gained its independence. The same fears also drove the Orthodox Church to re-elect a patriarch of Syrian origin. Meanwhile, the Druze acted against the calls of Lebanese leader Walid Jumblatt and opted to fight alongside the Assad regime.

Suleiman Al-Yusuf, a Christian-Assyrian writer and researcher, argues that the fears and concerns of the Syrian Christians are justified, particularly in the country’s east. He points out that the abduction of Christians and the seizure of their land and property by Arab tribes has forced a large number of families to leave the country. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yusuf proclaimed: “The Christians are afraid for the future. Now that abductions and acts of looting are taking place under the eyes of the current regime, what is going to happen if the regime falls?” 

He added: “The case of Iraq is prominent in the Christian mindset. Forced evictions and the bombing of churches could happen at any moment after the fall of the regime, exactly like what happened in Iraq. There is also concern about the spread of radical groups, like the Jabhat Al-Nusra, who consider Christians to be infidels”. 

Yusuf went on to say, “The Christians of Iraq paid the price for the sectarian agendas of the warring sides there, and this may happen in Syria. For instance, in the east, an Arab-Kurdish struggle is raging and both sides are mobilizing militarily. It is obvious that the side that will ultimately pay the price is the Christians”. 

Open Doors USA, an American Christian organization, reports that Syria has now become one of the most dangerous countries for Christians. The organization published its annual ‘World Watch List’ of countries that persecute Christians worldwide, and Syria was ranked 11th this year; having been ranked 36th in the previous survey. 

Despite the Assad regime’s insistence on portraying itself as the “protector of minorities,” Christians have not enjoyed many political privileges. They lack any form of influential role in Syria’s internal and external policy-making process. 

Just as Syria’s Christians are afraid, so are the Druze and the Shi’ites. This has driven these minorities to a primal state of “defending their existence”, having been convinced (rightly or wrongly) that they will be annihilated if the opposition comes to power. As a result, many are ready to defend the regime until the last breath. 

According to Yusuf, “The lesson of Iraq, the eviction of its Christians, and the bombing of their churches is still very much alive in the memory”. Thus the Christians are clinging on to the current regime in order to avoid further instability and chaos. Although some prominent Christians have joined the ranks of the Syrian revolution, they are something of an anomaly. The majority of Christians have remained neutral while others have openly proclaimed their support for the Assad regime. 

According to some opposition members, there have recently been a number of attacks against Christians in Syria. The latest incident saw the abduction of three Christian clerics from the town of Al-Suqaylabiyah: Armenian Catholic priest Michel Kayyal, and Greek Orthodox clerics Father Mahir Mahfuz and Father Louis Sakkaf. According to activists, “The clerics were kidnapped in February by an unknown group that is yet to announce its identity or motives.” Some activists believe that “the abductions took place in the rural surroundings of the city of Hama, which is home to the Christian villages of Mahradah and Al-Suqaylabiyah.” 

Ghazi Al-Hamawi, a member of the Hama Revolutionary Council, revealed that the regime’s forces are deploying vehicles and military units to these towns to give the impression that they are defending the Christian residents there. 

In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Hamawi said: “When conducting operations in rural Hama, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is careful to distance Christians from the conflict and prevent the regime from creating sedition among the region’s different residents.” Press reports say that the village of Qastal Al-Burj—a small farm close to Al-Suqaylabiyah, also with a Christian majority—was attacked by gunmen last May, in order to evict its residents and transform their homes into military centers. Commenting on this, Hamawi said that “the forced eviction of this village is still somewhat vague. However, it is certain that the military groups that occupied it do not belong to the FSA.” 

Hamawi denied that “the Christians in Syria are allies of the Syrian regime,” adding that “large numbers of Christians participated in the peaceful demonstrations. They also opened their doors to welcome refugees from devastated areas”.

Among all the Syrian towns and cities, Homs has witnessed the largest exodus of Christians as a result of the military clashes that erupted there a short period ago. Prior to this, around 200,000 Christians lived in Homs and the city housed 16 churches. According to church sources, “The Christians of Homs left their homes to escape the hell of the daily shelling. They headed to the area of Wadi Al-Nasara (Valley of the Christians), which is a principal stronghold for Syrian Christians in rural Homs.” 

An opposition source told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Christian villages are not usually embroiled in the country’s current conflict. But the Shabiha forces loyal to the Syrian regime are seeking to involve these villages in the battles in order to make political gains. We have seen this with the Christian village of Rablah, located halfway on the road between Al-Qusayr and the Lebanese border. Rablah is home to about 12,000 residents, with a Roman Catholic majority. The Assad army and Shabiha loyalists confronted Syrian revolutionaries there and tried to cut off their supply lines by planting mines and setting ambushes. This prompted the FSA brigades to abduct 200 farmers from the village, calling on the residents to expel all agents of the regime. The residents replied that they were powerless against the Assad army and its militias, and following some give and take, the revolutionaries released the 200 abductees. Nevertheless, these villages and nearby towns had been thrust into the front line of conflict.”

As for the capital, Damascus, the conditions for Christians there are no better. Their districts, particularly Al-Qassaa and Bab Tuma, have been the scene of powerful explosions that have killed many. Moreover, the parish priest of the town of Qatana, a Damascus suburb, was recently killed a few days after being abducted by an unidentified group.

Asharq al-Awsat


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US Reduces Cut to Israel's Aid Package

by Zeev Klein

Cut is $150 million instead of $250 million, but Finance Ministry is still recommending that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trim Israel's defense budget by 4.5 billion shekels ($1.2 billion), starting with 1.5 billion shekels (about $403 million) in 2013.

The budget for Israel's Iron Dome missile interceptor will not be effected in the budget cuts.
Photo credit: Dudu Grunshpan

Zeev Klein


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Israel Warns of Lebanon Pain in next War with Hezbollah

by Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff

We want the other side to know that ... they will pay dearly," says senior IDF officer • "I don't in any way expect the casualty ratio to be similar. I want things to be as bad as possible for the other side and as good as possible for us."

IDF soldiers returning from Lebanon, in Aug. 2006. [Archive]
Photo credit: Reuters

Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff


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The Kidnapping of Coptic Girls

by Frank Crimi


When a rumor circulated last week that a Muslim woman in the southern Egyptian city of Kom Ombo had been forcibly converted to Christianity, a mob of Muslims felt compelled to riot, attacking and firebombing the city’s local Coptic Christian church.

The rioting in Kom Ombo had begun when local Muslim residents believed a missing 36-year-old Muslim woman had been forced to convert to Christianity and was being held against her will in the Church of Mar Girgis, Kom Ombo’s largest Coptic Church.

That transgression was apparently egregious enough to induce hundreds of local Muslims to surround the church for three days hurling Molotov Cocktails and rocks, a melee that caused injury to over two dozen Christians and Egyptian police.

Of course, it should be noted that Copts, who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s populace, are used to being on the receiving end of Muslim ire, having seen over the past several years scores of their churches routinely attacked and burned.

In fact, Muslim rage at Coptic churches and their parishioners extends beyond Egyptian borders, fury evidenced by the recent attack by gunmen of an Egyptian Coptic church in the Libyan city of Benghazi that injured two priests.

That assault had been preceded by the arrest of nearly 50 Egyptian Christians in Benghazi on suspicion of proselytizing, detention which included the Christians reportedly being tortured by, among other things, having their tattooed crosses burned off with acid.

Nevertheless, the mob fury in Kom Ombo began to dissipate somewhat when the missing woman reappeared to her family, where according to an Egyptian police official, it was found that she was not the victim of a forced conversion but rather had disappeared for “family and social reasons.”

Yet, while the rumor of the forced conversion was revealed to be a fake, what is all too real is the ongoing and escalating abduction and forced conversion to Islam of Coptic Christian women and girls by Egyptian Muslims.

While this distressing practice has been plaguing Egypt’s Coptic community for decades, the number of these abduction cases, perhaps not surprisingly, has dramatically grown since the January 2011 ouster of Egyptian President Hosnai Mubarak.

In a 2012 report commissioned by Christian Solidarity International titled Tell My Mother I Miss Her and written by George Washington University professor Michele Clark and Coptic human rights activist Nadia Ghaly, 500 cases were reported of Coptic females having been kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam.

For those young women and girls fortunate enough to escape their captors, their horrors were chillingly expressed by one of the authors of the CSI report before a US congressional committee in July 2012:
Many who return home indicate that they were raped and told they could not go home because their families would never accept them back. Many are beaten; others are forced into domestic servitude. They are not allowed to leave where they are held without a member of their captor’s family keeping watch. They eventually are brainwashed into thinking the only way to be safe is to convert. Their families, who have been searching frantically for their daughters, sisters and wives — without any help from the police — often never discover their fate.
Equally disturbing is that while the number of abduction cases has dramatically grown, the age of its victims has dramatically shrunk, with the typical age of abductees, according to an official with a Christian NGO, to now be 13-14 years of age.

One of those young girls is Sarah Ishaq Abdelmalek, a 14-year-old Coptic girl who disappeared in September 2012 after stopping at a bookstore on her way to school.

Sarah’s kidnapper was believed to be the 27-year-old Muslim bookstore owner, Mahmoud Abu Zied Abdel Gawwad, a married man and father who reportedly smuggled Sarah across the border into Libya. Despite an Egyptian prosecutor ordering Gawwad’s arrest in October 2012, the police have yet to arrest him.

Yet, that governmental inaction should come as little surprise to those who believe Sarah and girls like her to be the victims of a well-orchestrated plan to kidnap Coptic females, an operation run by Egyptian Salafist groups, Muslim businessmen and Egypt’s governing authorities.

Elements of that plan were detailed in a May 2008 report by the Egyptian newspaper, Al Fagr, which told of Muslim businessmen funding an operation “carried out with the collusion of State Security and Mosque sheikhs” to buy Christian females for conversion to Islam, prices which depended on the “girls’ ages, looks and social standing.”

Moreover, according to Ebram Louis of the Association of Victims of Abduction and Enforced Disappearance, a Christian NGO, “In every Egyptian province there is a Salafist association which handles the kidnapping of Christian girls. They have homes everywhere where they keep them.”

Still, even if a girl’s location is reported to Egyptian authorities, Louis said those officials will simply “inform the Salafists, who then move her away to another home and then we lose all trace of her.”

The sad reality, however, is that the abduction and forced conversion of Christian women and girls has not only found fertile soil in Egypt but in Muslim countries scattered throughout Africa, the Mideast and Asia.

In Pakistan, for example, it is estimated that every year over 700 Christian girls are kidnapped, forced to marry their Muslim abductors and convert to Islam.

In many instances, these forced marriages and conversions are carried out by powerful and influential Muslim families who threaten and severely beat the young girls into verifying their compliance if questioned by local authorities.

However, as in Egypt, these abductors have little need to take the added step of forcing compliance from their victims, given Pakistan’s legal entities either have no moral qualms about the practice or are themselves bribed to turn a blind eye to the situation.

In Egypt, one of those blind eyes belongs to Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi who has publicly denied that the practice of forced Islamization of Coptic women and girls even exists in his country.

While Morsi may be willfully ignorant, others see the situation all too clearly, such as Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II. He has called the kidnapping and forced conversion of Christian girls a “disgrace for the whole of Egypt,” while also asking, “Can any family accept the kidnapping of their daughter and her forced conversion?”

Unfortunately, while many Christian families may not be accepting of this horrendous practice, it may be safe to assume that the Obama administration is, given its recent decision to send over $200 million to Egypt in financial assistance.

That money, which is part of more than $1 billion in US financial aid promised to Egypt by President Obama in 2012, was reportedly contingent upon the Egyptian government’s promises of economic and political reforms, a benchmark that the Obama administration apparently believes has been met.

While many may disagree with that assessment, perhaps some of that US-taxpayer funded money can be earmarked to help save the Coptic women and girls of Egypt from their Muslim abductors.

Frank Crimi


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American Foreign Policy and the Tyranny of Old Ideas

by Bruce Thornton


The French call it “professional deformation,”  the way institutions filter and shape information and events to fit institutional orthodoxy, interests, and ideology. Professional knowledge then becomes a stencil applied to reality, hiding information that doesn’t fit the institution’s received wisdom, and leaving a neat pattern that is then taken for the whole of reality. In foreign policy, this bad habit abets the failure of imagination that leads to disaster.

Our decades-long bungling in the Middle East is a good example of this phenomenon. For years our foreign-policy establishment has looked on disorder and conflict in this region through a Western paradigm that has downplayed or ignored other motives and beliefs, and failed to imagine worldviews radically alien from our own. Thus this paradigm is based on questionable assumptions, such as economic development, anti-colonialism, and nationalist self-determination as the prime movers of social and political unrest. Western colonial empires and then post-colonial interference, so the story goes, had brutally suppressed nationalist aspirations for autonomy and freedom. Economic development had likewise been thwarted to serve the colonizers’ own interests, leading to poverty and lack of opportunity that feed despair and drive the oppressed to violence. Get the neo-imperialists out, create democratic institutions, aid economic development, and all will be well. Peace, prosperity, international cooperation, and global order will follow.

The failure to properly understand the 1979 Iranian revolution reflected this institutional bias through which events were filtered. For many in the foreign policy establishment, hatred of the Shah was the consequence of his brutal repression of the people’s liberal aspirations. The Shah was a neo-imperialist, neo-colonialist puppet who subordinated the good of the people to his own power and privilege, and to the geopolitical and economic interests of the United States. The revolution thus was an understandable attempt at liberation from an alien oppressor and its stooge, and the establishment of a consensual government that recognized nationalist self-determination promoted a more just economic development and protected human rights.

What the foreign policy stencil missed was the potent role of Islamic religious belief in toppling the Shah. The faithful hated the Shah not because he stifled liberal and nationalist aspirations, but because his modernization and secularization policies threatened Islam. The issue wasn’t that brutality and autocracy were wrong on principle, but that they were in the hands of the wrong person. After all, the mullahs killed more in one year than the Shah had in 25. This discontent of the religious class hungry for power, however, was rationalized or ignored by many in the West in favor of the presumed interests of Westernized intellectuals, secularists, and technical elites. The sermons and books of the real prime mover of the revolution, the Ayatollah Khomeini, were brushed aside, his calls for jihad and shari’a ignored. Instead, Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski counseled that relations with Muslim countries should be based on “shared interests,” and that “our support for a world of diversity, and our commitment to social justice” would “deepen our dialogue” with Muslims. But Western shibboleths like “social justice” and “diversity” were meaningless to an Islamic worldview in which Muslims are the “best of nations,” infidels are to be converted or destroyed rather than tolerated, and “social justice” means an illiberal and intolerant shari’a law. Nor did economics or nationalism cut any ice with Khomeini, who explicitly said the revolution was not about lowering “the price of melons,” and that he was willing to “let Iran burn” in order to “export our revolution to the whole world.”

Fast-forward 35 years later, and the same paradigm is determining our response to the upheavals in the Middle East. Iran has murdered our citizens for decades and is progressing towards developing nuclear weapons, and we still think economic sanctions and “engagement” alone will stop them. Thus even more negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program are conducted, most recently in Kazakhstan, with little or nothing to show except more incendiary rhetoric from “supreme leader” Khamenei. Meanwhile the centrifuges keep spinning as Iranian negotiators play for time. Just as with Carter’s solicitous “outreach” during the 1979 embassy hostage crisis, concessions and outreach to Iran lead nowhere, for the simple reason that the Iranian leadership has goals and beliefs alien to our own.
Yet despite that object lesson in the dangers of delusional paradigms, we are repeating the same mistake in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is advancing towards an Islamist regime inherently anti-American, anti-Semitic, illiberal, and thus contrary to all our national interests and those of our most important regional ally, Israel. Yet the Secretary of State has just promised $250 million in aid, with $1 billion more to come once Egypt accepts a $4.8 billion loan from the IMF. And don’t forget the $213 million worth of F-16 fighter jets the Muslim Brotherhood is slated to receive.

This largesse is being bestowed on a regime founded on Islamic supremacism and hatred of the infidel West, one that incorporates illiberal shari’a law in its constitution. It is a regime that persecutes Egyptian Copts, supports the genocidal terrorist outfit Hamas, denies us access to a suspect in the murder of our ambassador in Benghazi, and indulges Koranic anti-Semitism and eliminationist rhetoric. So why do we do it? Because of the old delusion that such “engagement” will help Egypt “strengthen its economy and build political unity and justice,” as Kerry said on his trip, and that in turn will make the Muslim Brotherhood like us and serve our interests. After all, the revolution was really about removing a brutal dictator, eliminating corruption, creating opportunity, and improving the economy. The Islamist and jihadist aims and principles that have defined the Muslim Brotherhood for 8 decades are just rhetoric. Odd, though, that the minority of true liberals in Egypt didn’t get that memo, which is why they protested Kerry’s visit and the promised aid, and plan to boycott the April elections.

Such is the power of received ideas and unexamined assumptions when they become institutionalized. The point is not that there aren’t throughout the world millions of Muslims who want to accommodate their faith to the modern world or reconcile Islam with liberalism. But no one can provide evidence that they are the majority of Muslims, while evidence abounds that the jihadists and Islamic supremacists are better organized and more passionately motivated than all those alleged liberals and moderates who are, with some few brave exceptions, conspicuous by their absence.

Until our foreign policy establishment is liberated from the tyranny of old ideas and the deformations of institutional orthodoxy, we will continue to repeat the same mistakes until some game-changing development––a nuclear-armed Iran that sparks proliferation throughout the region––reveals the dangerous wages of our failure of imagination.

Bruce Thornton


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Dangerous Times: Is Italy Teetering?

by James Lewis and Justine Aristea

Italy is the strategic center of the Mediterranean.  The U.S. Sixth Fleet is headquartered in Naples, and with Muslim radicals taking over the southern and eastern shores of the Med, Italy is once again Europe's defensive line against chaos and instability.

Which is why Europe is panicking about Italy's unprecedented political chaos, triggered by comedian and mass agitator Beppe Grillo.  (See our previous columns.)

Two weeks ago, Grillo led  his mass personality cult -- "The Five Star Party" -- to a shocking 24% of the Italian vote, the biggest party vote since Mussolini received 25% in 1922.  Now the polls show an additional 3% for Grillo.  New elections are slated for June, and a huge political brawl is exploding to expose Grillo for the remarkable nutcase he really is.  The Euromedia completely failed to report on Grillo before the election, and now they are trying to make up for lost time.

In response, Grillo is threatening "violence in the streets" unless he gets what he wants. What does he want?  "We want 100% of the Parliament, not  20% or 25% or 30%. When the movement reaches 100%, when the citizens become the State, the movement will no longer need to exist. "

Which sounds too much like the horrific past, and all of Europe is finally paying attention. It might be too late.  We will know in June, with the next elections.  The new campaign is therefore in full swing, with many Italians feeling panicked. Rumors of terrorist attacks and street riots are rife.  Other Europeans are looking on, like passing gawkers at a car wreck.

Grillo is one scary guy.

Yes, Beppe Grillo is not Benito Mussolini, as we are told over and over again.  For one thing, he's a lot fatter.  Duce was a grandiose, swaggering narcissist.  Beppe Grillo is the same.  Duce's followers were a delusional mass movement.  Grillo's followers look the same.  Duce used the mass technologies of the 1920s, the radio and telephone.  Grillo uses Twitter and YouTube.  Duce thrived on scapegoating imaginary enemies.  Grillo does the same.

Beppe Grillo isn't exactly Mussolini, but then 2013 isn't exactly 1922, either.

But Grillo is a certifiable nut, and the evidence is all over the web in spite of his efforts to scrub it.  Grillo's private internet partner, his "guru" Casaleggio, owns a large web business and is said to run Grillo's Five Star Movement.

Grillo and his Guru started fourteen years ago, when Beppe published his "Message to Humanity" (yes, check it out).  They have used the last fourteen years to recruit a mass cult through the internet, with the usual mix of grandiose and Armageddon fantasies.

According to Grillo, AIDS doesn't exist, vaccines will kill you, and the Holocaust never happened.

Big Pharma is out to get you with chemotherapy, and natural treatments (like bloodletting) are better than that awful scientific medicine.  The world is run by Jewish bankers like the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds, and those blessed Islamic banks give out free money.  Not like the usurious Jews, who want to kill off all their customers.

The latest story is all about "moon cups," designed to eliminate tampons from feminine hygiene forever.  Yes, you can now watch a YouTube video promoting a new tribute to mother Gaia.

Something of a public breakthrough happened when a businessman named Henry Sassoon resigned from Casaleggio Associates.  Sassoon wrote a letter of explanation to a major newspaper, Corriere della Sera.  He felt that he had been defamed by bloggers, but he failed to say that his partner Casaleggio is deeply involved in driving those paranoid blogs.

In fact, Casaleggio's business website contains a page with Armageddon fantasies from Philip K. Dick, the science fiction writer.  Apparently the guru believes that Philip Dick had the power of prophecy, complete with near decimation of the human species.

All of which would be just news from the loony bin except for the hard fact that Grillo's cult received 24% in the election.  Like it or not, Beppe Grillo is now a permanent fixture on the Italian political scene.

As we reported before, Grillo's Iranian wife has high-level connections in Tehran, where making trouble in Italy is high on the priority list.  Grillo has said that "everything I know about the Middle East I learned from my father-in-law," the Iranian bigshot.  (Nasratollah Tajik just died in Tehran at the age of 83.)

Oil money is buying influence all over Europe, just as it has in the United States. How the Jews could be responsible for trillion-dollar Arab oil regimes run by Islamist fanatics is not explained by the Grillini.  But then logic is not their strong suit.

Today, Europe is still reeling in shock.  The Europeans are rubbing their collective eyes, trying to figure out what happened.  The Telegraph and the Wall Street Journal have seen deep flaws in the euro currency for years, but the delusional left is having a hard time realizing the mess they have made. Again.

Naturally, they are blaming saner folks -- a habit we have seen over here, too.

In the June election, Grillo could shrink to the usual size of movements like his, to a big sigh of relief from all of Europe -- or he could increase his support from more frustrated voters.
Nobody knows for sure what will happen.

Italy may be teetering on the edge.

Southern and eastern  Europe is in distress, and amazingly similar fascist movements are arising for the first time in sixty years.  The other shores of the Med are afire -- North Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt.  Outside powers like Iran and the Gulf Arabs are financing Islamist militancy in Europe and Africa.  Islamist reactionaries are winning in Egypt, Syria, Libya, and the rest.

America has kept the balance for sixty years, and today there is a vacuum.  But the fate of the world still comes down to an alliance of civilized nations.  If America fails, some other center of civilized power will have to take over.

Are there any takers? 

James Lewis and Justine Aristea


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Fear and Trembling on the Scimitar's Edge

by Glenn Fairman

Given the history of mankind, few generations escape the threat of civilizational darkness in one form or another, and the Free West has had perhaps more than its share of challenges. If blessed or fortunate, these forces of destruction are met when a people are in their ascendency or vigor and able to command their virtues as a counter to subjugation or annihilation. In contrast, societies which have forgotten their martial fortitude and love of self-determination, a trait that all healthy higher cultures manifest, telegraph unmistakably that they are exhausted and ripe for concessions. Having waxed luxurious and insensate, such peoples grow to believe that the world was forged on the day they were born and will end when they have passed through the ether. In obliterating the past, the future is reduced to a fool's dream that is as unworthy of concern as the beating of a butterfly's wings in the Sudan. I believe that we find ourselves in this latter age.

And who can doubt that America is quickly becoming such a people? Although possessing a military-technical prowess that has been the envy of the earth, the prerogatives and prudential will to utilize that power has been diminished by the preoccupations of self-doubt and the insane crippling fetish for equalization that invariably accompanies the debilitated spirit. To be sure, nothing exemplifies such moral enervation as the schizophrenic Obama foreign policy of "leading from behind." Indeed, this passive-aggressive policy funnels money and arms to our sworn enemies while it disengages into the persona of a sideline spectator -- creating a power vacuum that is enthusiastically filled by foreign seats of power that revel in our enfeeblement and contemplate our impending humiliation with gusto.
In our world of nation states, there is no more dangerous regime than the Iranian theocracy. While they lack the industrial and technical base of Russia or China, they have proven to be wholly hostile to America and defiantly view us as their greatest obstacle blocking their ascendency as a major player on the world's stage. While segments of the population may retain the residue of fond memories acquired before the 1979 Revolution, the regime itself despises the West with that same fanatical religious ardor that coalesces in their mission of jihad. Having manifested in their political-theological doctrines that divine destiny of territorial expansion with the ideological purity of an emergent Islam, they have divided the world into the Dar al-Islam and the Dar al-Harb: the House of Submission and the House of War. Their worldview leaves no room for any other option but sharia law's subjugation of infidels and the eradication of heretics. Viewed in black and white terms, the earth must inexorably submit or face destruction and Muslim hellfire. 

Indeed, the peculiar Shia sect known as "Twelvers" are reputed to comprise over eighty percent of all Iranians and are a formidable presence in the government and Council of Mullahs. Ahmadinejad himself is a Twelver and his ultra-orthodox dogma informs true believers that the missing Twelfth Imam, or Mahdi, will soon return after a millennium of concealment to herald in the Universal World Caliphate -- the fulfillment of Mohammad's "Great Commission" from Allah. Implicit within the Shia's doctrinal eschatology is a final terrible battle that will result in Islam subduing the earth before the Great Judgment at the End of Days.

This End Times teaching is perhaps the key to understanding the Iranian motivation directed towards: destabilizing the Middle East, their investment in the Palestinian Question, their fomenting of bloodshed and terror through proxy groups, and the maniacal obsession towards weaponizing their nuclear technology. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been complicit in establishing hegemony through its client groups Hezbollah and Hamas -- providing arms, personnel, and exporting the rudiments of terror to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza. 

While the West is infatuated with disarming itself through some psychological utopian necessity, the Devil's Hands have been exceedingly busy in assassination, wresting and consolidating local control from opponents, and in propping up their puppets. Having its fingers in a multiplicity of falafels, Iran has assumed the mantle of Terror Incorporated -- all for the purpose of warring down the hated Sunni convergence or in plotting the extermination of the loathsome Jew and his allies. But this is merely ancient knowledge now to all but the most deluded and credulous.

Questions then arise as to what can be done with a regime that has gone on record in affirming its desire to affect martyrdom on its population. Those in high positions of power have unblinkingly proclaimed that Iran would willingly sacrifice its teeming millions in order to destroy the "Zionist Entity" so that other Muslims could unify Palestine and eventually the planet under the Crescent Star. Indeed, the theology that informs the Twelver sect believes that only a near cataclysm will usher in the Mahdi's return -- and the regime seems hell bent on providing just that. Given all the rational Western assumptions that undergird the preventative doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, how does a life affirming civilization conduct diplomacy with the nation state equivalent of a suicide bomber writ large? How does the West contend with a blighted worldview that has elevated a torrid romance with death to the status of a grim necrophilia?

Apparently, it will be with talk. On the surface, our State Department and the West's strategy are supported by the slimmest of reeds -- holding that rationality and good English commonsense will eventually induce the demon to unball his fist. Such inexplicable optimism is the Achilles Heel of not only the Progressives, but of peace-loving peoples in general. However, this laudable propensity becomes an iron bar across the nose when misapplied to goblins and orcs. And so, we will talk, talk, talk while the centrifuges spin, spin, spin and the Iranians bake the world a tantalizing yellow cake of woe. How many historical lessons of appeasement's folly must America and the West endure before we can apply those credits towards a post-doctoral degree in prudent statecraft? 

Iran will not be deterred and will precipitate a war whose sufferings will dwarf any of the concerted efforts that the allies might have taken early on to stop the impending carnage. Surely economic sanctions have ravaged their country bitterly, but the regime simply does not care -- totalitarian regimes never care about their slaves by definition. And like any scared rabbit we will hold out for "Peace in Our Time:" all the while Iran continues propping up a Syrian revolution that has claimed seventy thousand dead. Meanwhile, having slapped the hand and spat on the shoes of our only true friend in that god-forsaken Crescent of Pain, this administration continues searching for a diplomatic alchemy -- but has only succeeded in transmogrifying lead into feces. And to top it all off, the Obama brain trust has decided that a near bankrupt nation should somehow offer a quarter of a billion dollars and fighter jets so that an Egyptian pharaoh can cement his Sharia slaveholdings. This folly is incomprehensible -- if not predictable.

It is said that a fool can accomplish the impossible by always making a horrid state of affairs even worse. Progressives seemingly have perfected the congenital art of transmuting authoritarian regimes into the totalitarian variety with the same ease that Nobel Peace Prizes are handed out. Criminally ignorant of human nature, they sanctimoniously unleash crazed pit bulls at one another and call it liberation as a smug afterthought during fawning press conferences. Atomic clocks are ticking down and red lines are converging in a region where the only unforgiveable sin is to be caught slack-jawed and flat-footed. It remains to be seen if the West will prove the Tolkien wisdom that "A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it." 

Glenn Fairman writes from Southern California and blogs as The Eloquent Professor at and can be contacted at


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