Saturday, August 10, 2013
by Noah Beck
The current peace process is predicated on the conventional wisdom that if Israel just relinquishes enough territory to its enemies, peace will arrive. But on most of Israel’s borders, history has revealed the naïve folly behind an idea that could just as aptly be called “land-for-war.”
Consider Syria. From 1948 to 1967, the Syrians regularly fired artillery shells from their dominant positions on the Golan Heights down at Israeli border communities and Fatah used the territory to launch terrorist raids into Israel, until Israel captured it in 1967. But since the US-brokered talks between Israel and Syria began in 1999, peaceniks have posited that a full withdrawal by Israel from the strategic plateau in exchange for peace with Syria involved a risk worth taking. Their rationale was that – in an era dominated more by aerial threats (jets and missiles) than terrestrial ones (soldiers and tanks) – the territory was no longer vital to Israeli security and could be traded for a double boon: peace with Syria and elimination of Iran’s greatest strategic ally.
Current events reveal the deeply flawed assumptions underpinning the land-for-peace-with-Syria paradigm. No Israeli territorial concession is needed for Iran to lose its only Arab ally; the Syrian civil war will ultimately accomplish that. Basher Assad’s regime will eventually fall because the daily slaughter of one’s own people (with over 100,000 dead) is unsustainable when each atrocity can be instantly uploaded to the Internet. Whoever replaces Assad will be no friend to those who armed, funded, and prolonged his massacres: Iran and Russia. Iran and its proxy Hezbollah have also been substantially involved in fighting the rebels on the ground, and thus will be distanced from post-war Syria far more than any Israeli-Syrian peace could have separated Iran and Syria.
More importantly, the land-for-peace formula with Syria would have transferred the strategic territory from Israel to an Alawite-led regime reviled by the mostly Sunni rebels who will eventually overthrow it and likely disavow its commitments – including any peace deal with Israel. Indeed, the Syrian rebels already control much of the 200 square miles comprising the Syrian side of the Golan Heights (where they recently kidnapped 21 UN peacekeepers stationed there) and have openly threatened to attack Israel next. Israel comprises about 8,000 square miles. If those same rebels were on the 500 square miles constituting the Israeli-side of the plateau thanks to an earlier “peace deal,” Israel would be that much closer to the errant projectiles of Syria’s civil war, and that much more exposed to whatever terrorist attacks on Israel the Syrian jihadist fighters plan after finishing Assad. Hence, Israel’s tangible security asset (earned with the blood of over 2,100 IDF soldiers who died in Israel’s 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria) would have been traded for “peace” with Assad, but land-for-war with Syrian Islamists is what Israel may have received just a few years later.
Indeed, “land-for-war” has a compelling record. In 2000, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon and in 2006 was attacked from there by Hezbollah. It was only the force of Israel’s military response in the war that followed – rather than any territorial concession – that prevented any subsequent cross-border attacks by Hezbollah, although the terrorist group still pursues murderous plots abroad, including in Europe (which still cowers from labeling Hezbollah a terrorist organization).
Since Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005, Palestinian terrorists have launched about 10,000 rockets from there at Israeli civilians (including during Obama’s only visit to Israel as president, violating yet another cease-fire agreement). Since the 1993 Oslo Peace Accord requiring Israel to hand over parts of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terrorist attacks have killed over 1,000 Israelis.
The 1994 Jordan-Israel peace involved very little land (and heavily depends on survival of the Hashemite Kingdom), so the best precedent supporting the land-for-peace model is Egypt, which agreed to peace with Israel for return of the Sinai Peninsula. That cold peace has held since 1979 mostly thanks to over $60 billion of US aid to Egypt and an unpopular, secular autocrat (Hosni Mubarak). With all of the chaos plaguing Egypt now, particularly in the Sinai (from which a single, high-casualty attack on Israel could provoke an Israeli response), the future of the Egypt-Israel peace is hardly certain.
The spoils of war normally go to the victor. In 1848, the US captured much of its western territory (including California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah) from Mexico in the Mexican-American war. Sometimes – as with Southern Lebanon, Gaza, or the 1938 Munich Agreement transferring the Sudetenland to the Nazis – land-for-peace turns out to be an illusory promise that only encourages military aggression.
Given the many more urgent (and far bloodier) problems in the Middle East that have nothing to do with Israel, why has Obama invested so much more in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process than in any other Mideast issue? And, more importantly, why is Obama so convinced that, if Israelis withdraw from the West Bank (thanks to the current peace process underway), this time they will get land-for-peace instead of land-for-war?
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.
Posted by Sally Zahav at 7:18 PM
by Khaled Abu Toameh
The activists do not care about the Palestinians' suffering as much as they are interested in advancing their anti-Israel agenda. They rarely have anything good to offer the Palestinians.Hamas has finally admitted that it is the Egyptians, and not Israel, who have turned the Gaza Strip into a "big prison."
Ghazi Hamad, a senior official with the Hamas-controlled foreign ministry, was quoted this week as saying that the Gaza Strip has been turned into a "big prison as a result of the continued closure of the Rafah border crossing by the Egyptian authorities since June 30."
Hamad said that since then, the number of Palestinian travelers at the Rafah terminal has dropped from 1,200 to 200 per day.
The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, January 2009. (Source: International Transport Workers' Federation)
But this is a story that has not found its way to the pages of mainstream newspapers in the West because it does not in any way "implicate" Israel.
To make matters worse, the Egyptian authorities announced that the Rafah terminal would be completely closed during the four-day Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, which began on August 8.
Until recently, the charge that the Gaza Strip has been turned into a "big prison" had been made only against Israel, capturing the attention of the mainstream media and human rights organizations around the world.
But now that the charge is being made against Egypt, most international journalists, human rights organizations and even "pro-Palestine" groups, especially at university campuses in the US, Canada and Australia, have chosen to look the other way.
Residents of the Gaza Strip are asking these days: Where are all the foreign solidarity missions that used to visit the Gaza Strip to show support for Hamas and the Palestinian population? Where are all the press, human rights groups, activists?
In July, only two foreign delegations visited the Gaza Strip. By contrast, between January and June this year, about 180 delegations entered the Gaza Strip .
The "pro-Palestine" activists say they are unable to enter the Gaza Strip because of the strict security measures and travel restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities.
But why haven't these activists tried to organize another flotilla aid convoy to the Gaza Strip to break the Egyptian blockade?
Why haven't the "pro-Palestine" activists been sent to the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing to voice solidarity with the residents of the "big prison"?
The answer is obvious: First, the activists' main goal is to condemn Israel and hold it solely responsible for the miseries of Palestinians.
The activists do not care about the Palestinians' suffering as much as they are interested in advancing their anti-Israel agenda. They devote most of their energies and efforts to inciting against Israel and rarely have anything good to offer the Palestinians.
Second, the "pro-Palestine" activists know that it would be foolish of them to mess around with the Egyptian army and security forces. The last time foreign nationals tried to stage a peaceful protest on the Egyptian side of the Rafah terminal, the Egyptian authorities did not hesitate to assault and deport many of them from the country.
Similarly, there is a problem with the way the international media is handling the current crisis in the Gaza Strip.
While the Egyptian authorities are tightening the blockade on the Gaza Strip, dozens of trucks loaded with goods and construction material continue to enter the area through the Erez Terminal from Israel.
Just this week, more than 500 truckloads containing a variety of goods and 86 tons of cooking gas were delivered from to the residents of the Gaza Strip through the Erez Terminal.
In the last week of July, 1,378 trucks carrying 37,306 tons of goods entered the Gaza Strip from Israel and a total of 2,203 people crossed through the Erez Terminal.
Since the beginning of the year, nearly 34,000 trucks carrying more than 950,000 tons of goods entered the Gaza Strip through Israel.
The Egyptians, like most Arabs, do not care about the Palestinians. They want the Palestinians to be Israel's problem and to continue relying on handouts from Western countries.
The Arabs do not care if the residents of the Gaza Strip starve to death as long as Israel will be blamed.
So why should any Arab country care at all if the international community and media continue to adopt an ostrich-like attitude toward Egypt's responsibility for the aggravating humanitarian and economic crisis in the Gaza Strip?
Khaled Abu Toameh
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.
Posted by Sally Zahav at 7:17 PM
by Caroline Glick
Originally published in the Jerusalem Post.
This week, after a three-and-a-half-year delay, US Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was finally placed on trial for massacring 13 and wounding 32 at Ft. Hood, Texas, on November 5, 2009.
Hasan was a self-identified jihadist. His paper and electronic trail provided mountains of evidence that he committed the massacre to advance the cause of Islamic supremacy. Islamic supremacists like Hasan, and his early mentor al-Qaida operations chief Anwar al-Awlaki, view as enemies all people who oppose totalitarian Islam’s quest for global domination.
Before, during and following his assault, Hasan made his jihadist motives obvious to the point of caricature in his statements about the US, the US military and the duties of pious Muslims. But rather than believe Hasan, and so do justice to his victims, the Obama administration, with the active collusion of senior US military commanders went to great lengths to cover up Hasan’s ideological motivations and hence the nature of his crime.
On the day of the attack, Lt.-Gen. Robert Cone, then commander of III Corps at Ft. Hood, said preliminary evidence didn’t suggest that the shooting was terrorism. Cone said this even though it was immediately known that before he began shooting Hasan called out “Allahu akhbar.” He called himself a “Soldier of Islam” on his business cards.
In an interview with CNN three days after the attack, US Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said, “Our diversity, not only in our army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”
The intensity of the Obama administration’s participation in this cover-up became clear in May 2012. At that time, Congress had placed a clause inside the Defense Appropriations Act requiring the Pentagon to award Purple Hearts to Ft. Hood’s victims. Rather than accept this eminently reasonable demand, which simply required the administration to acknowledge reality, Obama’s emissaries announced he would veto the appropriations bill and so leave the Pentagon without a budget unless the clause was removed.
Rather than define Hasan’s attack as an enemy attack or a terrorist act, the administration has defined it as a case of “workplace violence.” Following this determination, those wounded in the attack, as well as the families of the murdered, are denied the support conferred on soldiers killed or wounded by enemy fire.
At the first day of Hasan’s trial this week, he admitted that he perpetrated the murderous attack because he is a jihadist who “switched sides” in the war. That is, he told the court that he conducted the attack as an act of war against the United States to advance the goals of the global jihad.
Hasan’s statement made clear, once again, that in its efforts to describe his actions as “workplace violence,” the administration is engaging in a cover-up. Its purpose is to deny the American people the truth about the nature of the jihadist threat to their country.
THE SAME is the case with regards to the September 11, 2012, attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi. Already on the day of the attack, it was apparent that the US mission and the CIA annex had been targeted in a premeditated, preplanned attack. Footage of the attack broadcast in real time showed armed men attacking the consulate with rocket-propelled grenades. It was not an act of savage mob violence. Mobs do not carry RPGs or act in a coordinated manner. That is, already at the time of the attack it was apparent that it was not a spontaneous protest in response to an anti-Islamic video on YouTube.
And yet, from the outset, the administration covered up what happened. And the media colluded. Fox News was the only major network that pursued the story. A US ambassador was raped and murdered on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks. US personnel were under multi-pronged attack for hours. Their desperate pleas for assistance were denied by the administration. And the US media went along with the fiction that the attack was a spontaneous outburst of rage over a YouTube video no one had ever seen.
The media’s collusion was so great that CNN anchor Candy Crowley threw a US presidential debate when she defended Barack Obama’s handling of the attack by inserting false information in the middle of the debate that she was moderating.
The Benghazi story keeps getting more and more outrageous. Last week we learned that some two dozen CIA personnel were on the ground during the attack. The administration has reportedly scattered these operatives throughout the US and forced them to adopt new identities. They have reportedly been prohibited from speaking to the media or congressional investigators, and subjected to monthly polygraph tests.
US personnel wounded in the attack have been hidden from investigators since the attack took place.
This behavior is scandalous, and unprecedented. Yet, outside of the “usual suspects” in the conservative media and the Republican Party, there is no outrage. The media coverage of this shocking revelation is nearly nonexistent, and where it exists, the reportage is laconic, indifferent.
Here, too, the administration feels comfortable perpetuating its cover-up. As in the case of Ft. Hood, why come clean if there is no price to pay for lying and covering up?
Speaking of the frequent US failures in understanding events in faraway lands, Winston Churchill famously quipped, “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”
But what if the other possibilities are never exhausted? The media’s collusion with the Obama administration’s false portrayal of jihadist attacks on US targets gives foreign leaders concerned about the US’s lackadaisical attitude toward jihadist threats no reason for confidence. In the absence of public pressure, the Obama administration has no reason to change course when its policies fail.
IN ISRAEL’S case, the first place where the lesson of this state of affairs needs to be internalized is in regards to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Since taking office, Obama has repeatedly claimed that he will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. But in practice, his actions have enabled Iran to vastly expand its nuclear weapons program. Due to his malfeasance, today Iran has arrived at the cusp of a nuclear arsenal. More than his words, Obama’s actions have made clear that he has no intention whatsoever of conducting military strikes against Iran’s nuclear installations to prevent the regime from developing nuclear weapons.
Obama’s latest ploy for running the clock down is his embrace of the fiction that Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, is a moderate interested, (and perforce empowered), to cut a nuclear deal with the US that would see Iran voluntarily and credibly end its uranium enrichment activities.
Speaking of Rouhani this week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu referred to him as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and warned US and European officials not to be taken in by his act. Netanyahu also noted that Iran has expanded its nuclear activities since Rouhani was elected two months ago.
But he might as well save his breath.
Rouhani’s act – like that of his supposedly moderate predecessors Mohammad Khatami and Ahkbar Hashemi Rafsanjani – is so thin that it can only work on people who will be taken in by anyone. And indeed, the Obama administration was taken in by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. For five years Obama insisted on conducting self-evidently futile negotiations with Iran while Ahmadinejad – the anti-moderate – was serving as president.
The US and Europe are not taken in by Iran because Iran is good at hiding its true intentions. They are taken in by Iran because they want to be taken in. They want to believe that they don’t have to attack Iran and overthrow the regime to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power. They want to believe they can appease Iran by pretending it isn’t a danger, just as they believe they can end the threat of terror by jihadists in the US military and Benghazi by pretending they don’t exist.
They want to believe these threats can be ignored, or appeased away. And just as Obama and his followers are willing to pretend away Hasan’s actions to protect “diversity,” and to pretend away the September 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi to protect the myth of the Arab Spring, so they are willing to permit Iran to go nuclear to protect the sanctity of appeasement.
The only thing they are willing to put their foot down about is the prospect of an Israeli strike. And they have put their foot down on this issue for the past decade. It isn’t that the US is deliberately enabling Iran to acquire a nuclear arsenal. It is just that the US elite in government and the media care more about protecting their faith in diversity and appeasement than they do about preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
They have convinced themselves that the prospect of appeasing Iran will evaporate if Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear installations. And so we have seen a parade of senior US defense officials descending on Israel every time it appears that Israel is planning to attack Iran. We have seen a parade of former Israeli military and security chiefs with close ties to the US defense establishment declaring before every available microphone that Israel must not strike Iran and that we can count on Obama to protect us.
But we mustn’t believe their assurances or succumb to their pressure. Obama will not change course. He doesn’t have to. So long as he maintains faith with the god of appeasement, the US media will protect him. And so long as they protect him, he will pay no price for his failures. So he will repeat them.
Israel cannot countenance a nuclear Iran. So Israel needs to attack Iran’s nuclear installations.
No more needs to be said.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.
Posted by Sally Zahav at 7:16 PM
by Dan Margalit
Everyone hears the sounds of Iran's centrifuges spinning down the path toward forbidden nuclear weapons, but the West is pretending not to notice.
Europe knows the magnitude of the danger, yet is not responding. While America is hoping that new winds are blowing in Tehran, the opposite may be true. New Iranian President Hasan Rouhani speaks sweetly, lulling the world's democracies to sleep. So what will stop Iran?
Let's do a quantitative comparison. How much time and energy has Europe invested in preventing the Islamic Republic of Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons? There are almost no indicators of such an investment. The same is true even in the U.S., where the level of fundamental concern about Iran is higher than in Europe. On the other hand, how much exhaustive effort has Europe invested in settling accounts with Israel (which soon will not be able to export goods from Judea and Samaria to the old continent)? This is truly Sisyphean harassment of Israel by Europe.
Israel differs from the European Union's view that it must separate from territories across the Green Line to receive European funding for science. And even those who accept European pressure on Israel find it hard to understand why it is being applied now, at a time when Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have restarted and efforts are being made to build trust between the two sides. Is Europe knowingly and intentionally sabotaging the talks?
If Israeli representatives are not able to dissuade European governments from boycotting settlement goods, there will be no choice but to come to terms with the EU's one-sided conduct. But why is the EU doing this now, as peace talks have gotten underway, and why isn't the EU making a distinction between the main settlement blocs (which will remain part of Israel in any case) and remote settlements and outposts? And, most importantly, how is this in line with the over-arching strategic need to thwart Iran's nuclear intentions (which threaten the future of humanity)? Israel is not asking these questions loudly. But Europe (and America) aren't answering with the type of language that is customary among friends.
Israel did develop a military option against the Iranian nuclear program. Meir Dagan (then-Mossad chief), Yuval Diskin (then-Shin Bet chief) and, to a certain extent, Gabi Ashkenazi (then-Israel Defense Forces chief) banded together to thwart that option from being implemented. Did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak truly intend to send Israel Air Force planes to bomb Iran's nuclear sites? In my opinion, Netanyahu and Barak conducted successful diplomatic brinkmanship to get the West to implement painful economic sanctions on Iran, which are still burdening it today.
But memories of that old Israeli threat have passed. Netanyahu is trying to revive the threat by reminding the world of the military option he has at his disposal for use against Iran's nuclear program. International, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Thursday that the Iranian nuclear program could be destroyed with "a few hours of airstrikes." I know there are others who have different opinions on that, but there is no reason that Israel should not use Steinitz's words to reunite the free world behind imposing deeper sanctions on Iran and threatening Iran's nuclear facilities with military action.
Perhaps this will succeed, but Israel is reheating latkes that were frozen a year or two ago.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.
by Fiamma Nirenstein
Even if some of the children might be fortunate enough to find loving homes, turning these children into gifts, treated as objects -- slaves -- is just as dehumanizing as the terrible alternatives from which they are supposedly being protected. It is not a problem that is being fixed.In Pakistan, a country beset by problems of violence, poverty and illiteracy, a famous anchorman, Aamir Liaquat Hussain, a religious Muslim as well as a local sex symbol, hosts a "The Price is Right" type of show, call "Gift from God". During Ramadan, it is aired seven hours a day, and the grand prize is a newborn baby.
A special prize for special days. Win and take home a small child. Hussain explains that, in any event, they are "abandoned children that are condemned to grow up in the street, only to be enlisted by terrorists and to end their days as suicide bombers. We offer them an alternative. What is wrong with that?"
Aamir Liaquat Hussain holds the prize -- a baby -- in the Pakistani television show "Gift from God".
He adds that the newborns are often found in the trash, and already gnawed on by dogs. All true. There are 250 million street children in the world, 61% in Asia, 32% in Africa. As early as the age of six, many end up as soldiers, prostitutes, victims of pedophilia, theft and terrorism.
The problem is that Hussain, far from providing an alternative to this situation, uses it to his advantage: he hands the children as if they are objects, prostituting them for the audience, and placing them in the arms of unknown customers. More broadly, the society to which he belongs tosses 1,200,000 children into the streets. You see them wander around searching for leftovers in the heaps of trash; come across them as they work, pushing overloaded carts by hand 15 hours a day; prostituting themselves, or when they try sell contraband goods. You see them with their eyes eaten by flies or brought to the ground by AIDS and they tell you that for years they have not known where their mother is.
The people to whom he gives them, might, for all we know, have answered a quiz on television, to the sound of drums; but could, in turn, exploit them just as horrendously as others might. Turning these children into gifts, treated as objects -- slaves, really -- is just as dehumanizing as the terrible alternatives from which they are supposedly being rescued.
The enormous disaster to which he has become an accomplice is not Hussain's fault; he may well have good intentions, and some babies might even be fortunate enough to find loving homes. But treating children as abandoned trash on Pakistani television is revealing of the Third World landscape.
Several days ago the letter of a Taliban leader, whose group had assaulted then-15-year-old Malala Yousefzai simply because she wanted to go to school, dared to explain why he had decided, knowingly and with regret, to shoot her in the head and burn down the school -- a gesture similar in misguided compassion to Hussain's for the children he gives away.
Meanwhile, the Americans have decided to negotiate with the Taliban. A letter of this kind should end that thought. Although Hussain is not a member of the Taliban, his talk show, in so casually discarding and possibly harming helpless children, nevertheless profits from a dreadful situation that apparently no one is even thinking about fixing. American moral equivocation only reinforces unacceptable behavior.
The Europeans might ask the Pakistani government if it would like to remain a friend; then ask for a clarification of its policy on child exploitation -- and then hold them to it.
Fiamma Nirenstein, journalist and author, former Vice-President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale; English copyright, Gatestone Institute.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.
by James Lewis
The Muslim world is always ready to fragment, following the traditional Bedouin saying, "I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers". This is the war logic of the desert, and it appears everywhere in Muslim history. In Libya, NATO and the United States foolishly knocked over Gadaffi's tribal federation that ruled that country for decades, so that Libya today is back to civil war between tribes, families, terrorist gangs, and brothers. Most Muslim nations still preserve the primacy of brothers and cousins, because in case of trouble -- and there is always trouble -- brothers and cousins keep people alive.
When Obama pushed Hosni Mubarak out of power in Egypt in 2011 and promoted the Muslim Brotherhood instead, he imagined that there would be an "organic revolution," whatever that means. For Obama, who as an ideologue is always surprised by reality, "organic" means something like "authentic." Obama supports Muslims, as he has clearly said, because they are more "authentic" than the Egyptian Army, the basis for the 30-year Egypt-Israeli peace treaty. Mentally fixated leftists cannot imagine that the army can be an authentic institution. But General Anwar Sadat was the hero of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, and was assassinated for it. General Hosni Mubarak kept the treaty going for three decades. General Al Sisi in Egypt today stands for modernism against the throwbacks of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ones Obama is still in love with.
In fact, in the Muslim world, armies have been the biggest modernizing force in Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, and Syria. A rational policy for the Muslim world would therefore strengthen armies, educate them, encourage modern thinking in science and technology, and turn them into centers for genuine progress, including political progress.
This is not so unusual. General de Gaulle in France stabilized the mad gyrations of French civilian governments in the 1960s. Chile's much-abused General Pinochet, for all his sins, also instituted the most successful free-market reforms in Latin America, turning Chile into a model of economic progress that Obama would do well to emulate. South Korea has a similar history, as do the Phillipines, Spain, and Indonesia. Armies encourage national identity, not local, family, tribal, and religious sectarianism.
Obama's ignorance and neglect of these elementary points have now caused the Muslim world to fissure along the oldest and most destructive lines: Religion, ethnic identity, tribalism, theological heresies.
The biggest split is between Sunnis and Shi'ites, people whose deadly warfare goes back 13 centuries.
The second emerging split is between theocracy and modernism.
For example, Syria and Iraq are breaking down along religious lines.
Analyst Clare Lopez writes:
"News reports out of Syria are airing graphic footage of extensive interior damage to the historic Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque in Homs. Syrian government troops, backed by Hizballah fighters, captured the mosque from Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces on July 27, 2013 ... the mosque assault ... was intended to incite intra-Islamic sectarian rage from the Sunni rebels.Iran is the most militant Shi'ite power in centuries. Sunni nations like Saudi Arabia and Egypt are seeing their American defense umbrella crumbling, so that they are preparing to face, not tiny Israel, but the fast-growing threat of the Shi'ite Crescent.
(This) is reminiscent of the February 22, 2006 bombing of the great golden-domed Shi'ite Askaria Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, by al-Qa'eda elements, under the command of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. That carefully-calculated outrage is credited with igniting a savage multi-year civil war in Iraq, which, tragically, appears to be breaking out anew..."
In Turkey, the cautiously reactionary regime of Erdogan is promoting something called "neo-Ottomanism," a word that sends shivers up the backs of Balkan and Mediterranean nations that remember the sadistic and murderous reign of the Ottoman Turks.
The great divisions are between religious sects that have hated each other for 13 centuries. Liberals can't imagine that, because they think religion is dead. But Europe's political parties are still split by ancient religious differences going back to the Reformation. Just because liberal atheists cannot imagine religious war, religious warriors can still imagine atheists. Atheists deserve death by Shari'ah law, while Christians and Jews only deserve misery and oppression.
Equally important is the deep Muslim split between modernists and medieval reactionaries. Westerners may not see that, because modernist Muslims everywhere feel intimidated. They can be killed for expressing their beliefs. But think back to the Green Revolution in Iran which Obama ignored several years ago, and you may remember bare-armed young people on the streets of Iran, heroically demonstrating against the cruel and barbaric regime. Their bare arms in the heat of Tehran symbolized their rejection of the throwback regime of Khomeiniism.
In Egypt, Obama backed the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood, only to trigger a rebellion of modernist forces. Television presenters in Cairo burst into tears and angry rants when Morsi was overthrown. Their well-being and modern lifestyles depend upon knocking down the Muslim Brotherhood that Obama admires so much. They are right; they have seen the worst of Islamic reactionaries, and they do not want them.
Modernism comes up for every Muslim who can turn on the television or surf the web. It is spreading because science and technology are spreading, and secretly, it is undermining the Dark Ages of the Muslim priesthood. People named Mohammed are being indoctrinated in ancient madrassahs against the modern world, but they are also beginning to do first-rate science, and those two belief systems are not compatible. The modern world is now invading even the most medieval minds.
Because of the suicidal stupidity of Western liberals, reactionary Muslims who oppress and kill women have been raised to power in Europe, America, and the Middle East. This is ignorant and suicidal, and ordinary people are finally beginning to understand the malignant perversity of their corrupt political elites.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.
by Raymond Stock
On their current trip to Cairo, Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), two of President Barack Obama's most persistent critics on everything in foreign policy from Syria to Benghazi, have found common cause with him at last.
All three fear that the anti-American (and generally anti-human) Muslim Brotherhood (MB), whom they mistakenly see as "moderate," will disappear from the halls of power in Egypt, our most important Arab ally. They also evidently worry that the MB's leading figures, such as now-deposed (and arrested) President Mohamed Morsi—who had awarded himself powers greater than any previous ruler in Egypt's history—will not be free to plot a return to power in an ancient nation that he had nearly destroyed in only one year.
Echoing earlier White House warnings, the two senior senators suggested that we may cut off our $1.6 billion in annual (mainly military) aid, the very tie that binds our countries together, as it has for more than thirty preciously peaceful years. Not to comply with their demands, McCain and Graham said August 6, would be—as Graham put it--a "huge mistake."
The White House, McCain and Graham have warned that the aid may be cut if the MB's leaders are not freed from detention—they have been under arrest since President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown July 3 by the military in response to the historically huge popular demonstrations at the end of June. (Morsi has since been charged for having been part of a 2011 prison break alleged to have been carried out by Hamas.)
They further demand that the MB be brought into the new transitional government of technocrats appointed by the quietly charismatic (and mysteriously Islamist, but apparently independent) strongman minister of defense, General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi--who had himself been appointed by Morsi. That new government, headed by Adly Mansour (a Supreme Constitutional Court justice) as interim president and respected economist Dr. Hazem Beblawi as prime minister, claims it has reached out to the MB, which refuses to respond to its overtures. Meanwhile, the Islamists are gathered in two major squares in Cairo, waiting for the security forces to clear them away—and for the chance to be martyred when they do.
In response to McCain and Graham's warnings, Mansour denounced what he called "unacceptable interference in internal politics." In this, even a nation infamous for its political xenophobia can be forgiven for seeing a not-so hidden hand attempting to steer the ship of state.
But by blundering this way, Obama, McCain and Graham are joining the departing U.S. ambassador in Cairo, Anne Patterson—widely mocked (with gross inaccuracy) as a hayzaboon, or old crone, for reportedly hectoring Egyptians not to rise up against the elected government (which had turned itself into an Islamist dictatorship)—on a list of new Ugly Americans. She unfortunately gave this advice shortly before the largest demonstrations ever seen in human memory were directed against her suspected client, Morsi. (Reflecting heightened paranoia, her possible successor, Ambassador Robert Ford—who had previously served in Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq and Syria—is under considerable Twitter fire in Egypt, bizarrely accused of having caused the strife that has recently plagued those countries.)
And by going this route, Obama, McCain and Graham are risking one of America's most crucial alliances. They would do so for a not-so-beautiful friendship with a far from benign band of brothers that actually wants to conquer and rule the world (not just the Middle East) in a revived Islamic caliphate. (It is the same risk that Obama took when, after brief vacillation, he abruptly dumped our country's long-term "friend," Hosni Mubarak, in 2011, knowing that Islamists like the MB would likely be the only force capable of winning many votes in the new "democracy.")
The Brother's goals are hardly secret, despite eight decades of adroit, religiously-sanctioned lying, or taqiyya about their intentions. But they were elected, and so, it is said, we ought to support them. Then again, the U.S. cut off aid when Hamas, the MB's Palestinian branch, won parliamentary elections in 2006--because they refused to renounce terrorism, recognize the State of Israel, and accept agreements that the previous government had signed.
The MB undoubtedly believes that to get what it wants in the short-term—to halt the flow of American cash and equipment to its enemies in the military--is to continue to boycott the bogus "reconciliation" process. (Already, Obama has suspended the scheduled shipment of four F-16s last month, in a move that angered millions of Egyptians.)
If an aid stoppage should last, that could lead to the collapse of the transitional government and Morsi's reinstatement as president—the MB's irreducible demand. Hence they have resisted the senators' calls to dialogue with the new regime. There is no obvious reason for the Brotherhood to change this strategy.
The estimated eight-to-twelve billion dollars quickly coughed up by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to cover emergency imports of diesel fuel and wheat and to rebuild depleted hard-currency reserves are surely crucial for now. But if the military—Egypt's most prestigious institution and itself a pillar of the economy—should have nowhere else to go, Russia and China are always waiting in the wings, and would love to have a presence on both the Nile and Suez.
Refusing to recognize that popular will can mean more than just elections, America's "huge mistake" begins. Given that the ratio of MB opponents to supporters is now perhaps seven-to-one, added to the resentment that most Egyptians feel against any effort to tie vital aid to the tyrannical MB, and the wildly-popular al-Sisi's own fury at the Brotherhood for pushing him (and most Egyptians) into such a place, it is likely Morsi's side that will fail.
And with it, our own.
Raymond Stock, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a former Assistant Professor of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Drew University, spent twenty years in Egypt, and was deported by the Mubarak regime in 2010.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.
by Jim Yardley
There is widespread acceptance of the proposition that the mainstream media is fully in the tank for Barack Obama, and all his vague but pleasant-sounding initiatives.
Even when you discount the fact that the president generally makes himself unavailable to take questions from the media in the first place, and carefully pre-selects those few from whom he actually does take questions, this sycophancy is not completely understandable.
For many journalists (both broadcast and the more primitive paper-and-ink types) who were inspired to get into that business by the dogged determination of Woodward and Bernstein, a simple acceptance of presidential platitudes and soaring phrases that illuminate complete nonsense seems impossible.
Or maybe it's not impossible.
The spate of "phony" scandals swirling around Washington right now must raise a few eyebrows, even among the apparently jaded members of the journalist class. What began as an attack on the Tea Parties and other right-of-center (and occasionally far-right-of-center) organizations by the IRS has spread to allegations of involvement by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for the same purpose, and there are now rumblings of some involvement in the same "phony" scandal by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). And that's only one of this administration's "phony" scandals. Ultimately, each of these organizations reports to the president, either directly or indirectly.
One has to wonder, though: just how many government agencies, departments, commissions, administrations, boards, bureaus, offices, or whatever does it take before a "phony" scandal becomes a "real" scandal? Is it three or more? Or do scandals move along a sliding scale? Might a scandal progress from a "phony" scandal to a "faux" scandal, to an "ersatz" scandal, to an "artificial" scandal before it finally becomes a "real" scandal?
Then there is the "phony" Department of Justice (DoJ) scandal that involves the wiretapping (or meta-data collection or whatever this invasion of privacy should most accurately be called) of the Associated Press and FOX News reporter James Rosen and Rosen's parents.
To get a judge to issue a warrant approving this activity, the DoJ even went so far as to swear to a judge that Mr. Rosen was effectively an unindicted co-conspirator under the 1917 Espionage Act. These invalid assertions were made by the DoJ and the main investigative arm of the DoJ, the FBI. Again, each of these organizations report to the president, either directly or indirectly.
Of course, there is the ever-popular "phony" Fast and Furious scandal, with the DoJ playing a central role once again, but apparently co-starring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Coincidentally, both the DoJ and DHS report directly to the president.
The deaths of four brave Americans during the embarrassing fiasco in Benghazi have the fingerprints of the Department of State, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Department of Defense. It is apparently kismet that all three of these government agencies report directly to the president.
So what do these scandals, "phony" or otherwise, have to do with the softball questions that leave the president almost completely unexamined by the media? Well, there is one other agency that the president indirectly controls -- the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). That control is exercised by selecting commissioners for the FCC, including such people as Mark Lloyd. Mr. Lloyd is the chief diversity officer for the FCC. The FCC has significant impact on the licensing of radio and television stations. Mr. Lloyd, as a proponent of diversity, can have a disproportionate impact on who is allowed to broadcast, encouraging women and other minority groups to challenge existing firms who are current license holders over racial and gender diversity, as well as content.
Mr. Lloyd, as the head of the Leadership Council for Civil Rights, participated in a panel discussion and said (emphasis supplied):
In Venezuela, with Chavez, is really an incredible revolution - a democratic revolution. To begin to put in place things that are going to have an impact on the people of Venezuela. The property owners and the folks who then controlled the media in Venezuela rebelled - worked, frankly, with folks here in the U.S. government - worked to oust him. But he came back with another revolution, and then Chavez began to take very seriously the media in his country.
Wikipedia, not often accused of right-wing extremism, offers this initial paragraph in its examination of Hugo Chávez's relationship with the media in his nation:
Although the freedom of the press was mentioned by two key clauses in the 1999 Constitution of Venezuela, in 2008, Human Rights Watch criticized Chávez for engaging in "often discriminatory policies that have undercut journalists' freedom of expression." Freedom House listed Venezuela's press as being "Not Free" in its 2011 Map of Press Freedom, noting that "[t]he gradual erosion of press freedom in Venezuela continued in 2010." Reporters Without Borders criticized the Chávez administration for "steadily silencing its critics". In the group's 2009 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders noted that "Venezuela is now among the region's worst press freedom offenders."
So the FCC has an officer who apparently admires the man who tightly clamped down on journalistic freedom as having led "an incredible revolution." Why would anyone in his position, in a nation whose Constitution dictates in the First Amendment that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," claim that such a man is admirable unless he also admired, and desired to emulate, the control that Chávez had over the media?
American media executives, and American journalists, might have political positions with which we cannot agree, and they might not even appear sensible, but for the most part, they are still intelligent people. And they remember a lot of what they hear or read.
They see how this administration has approached dealing with those it might view as "enemies." They have heard how a president's choice for the FCC views control of the media. They actually know James Rosen, and they know he was under the potential for indictment under the 1917 Espionage Act. And the media, of all political stripes, are, in the end, for-profit enterprises. Any governmental interference, or excessive "investigation" in the style of the IRS scandal, would be of potentially lethal in terms of profit.
Knowing this and seeing how the administration has intimidated and damaged the goals of organizations such as the Tea Parties, would any rational person not see the potential for harm to himself and his own organization? The message has been delivered. Oppose this administration at your own risk. This is commonly known as intimidation.
With 80,000 pages of federal laws, rules, and regulations, there is an endless array of charges that can be brought against anyone. Even frivolous charges, even with charges of prosecutorial misconduct being leveled for bringing a case in the first place, the defendants would be forced to spend enormous amounts of money to defend themselves, plus having to know that part of their taxes are being used to prosecute them in the first place.
So perhaps we should view these media "softball" questions as a pre-emptive defense position. That would be the most charitable view we could take. Otherwise, we would have to conclude that the mainstream media are acting in collusion with the administration to undermine the Constitution of the United States of America.
In one view, they're showing themselves to be weaklings. The other, treasonous. But no heroes can be seen, no matter what the answer might be.
Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller and a two-tour Vietnam veteran. He writes frequently about political idiocy, business and economic idiocy, and American cultural idiocy. Jim also blogs at http://jimyardley.wordpress.com and can be contacted directly at email@example.com.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.
by Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi
In 1645, after failing in his efforts to locate Malta, the Kapudan Pasha, who commanded the Turkish armada that was about to annihilate the Knights Hospitaller group that ruled the island, reported back to his boss, the Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim the Mad. "Malta yok," he said. Translated from the Turkish, it means Malta is no longer in existence.
Despite the fact that the American superpower enjoys limitless advantages in technological capabilities that were simply unavailable to the Turkish fleet in the 17th century, one gets the impression that the Obama administration is still having trouble identifying clear and present challenges in the international arena.
The most glaring example of such repeated failings was on display this week, when word came that the U.S. was shuttering its embassies throughout the Middle East and North Africa following an intelligence tip indicating that al-Qaida was preparing attacks in the region.
The wholesale closure and immediate evacuations, which were carried out quite dramatically and with great media fanfare, particularly of American nationals in Yemen, resurrected the issue of the global war on terrorism which President George W. Bush made a top priority following the attacks of Sept. 11.
Bush's successor in the White House, Barack Obama, sought to disentangle himself from this agenda to the greatest extent possible. The liberal Obama, who made it a priority to forge a rapprochement with the Islamic world that would serve as a key pivot point in his foreign policy, preferred to minimize and downplay the threat posed by radical Islamist extremists that were liable to thwart and frustrate his conciliatory vision.
In light of these hopes and expectations, which were enunciated quite eloquently in his Cairo speech of June 4, 2009, it was hardly astonishing to learn that Obama's first decision as commander-in-chief was to shut down the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The threat of terrorism was pushed to the margins, and Obama naturally deported a number of terror suspects to various U.S. allies.
The fact that Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize during the first year of his presidency further steeled his determination to justify the credit that was extended to him. He sought to put American foreign policy on a path of reconciliation, characterized by a willingness to extend an outstretched hand even to those who provoke and threaten (like Iran).
This deeply ingrained tendency of seeking the widest possible common denominator with Islam out of a willingness to ignore its very foundations and radically violent underpinnings gained further momentum after May 2, 2011, the day on which Osama bin Laden was assassinated.
The death of the man who symbolized unbridled hatred for the West, its culture and traditions, should have spelled the end of any possibility that al-Qaida would undergo a metamorphosis and relocate its center of gravity from Pakistan and Afghanistan to the deserts of Yemen, the Horn of Africa, and the Maghreb. As such, it boosted the president's confidence that "al-Qaida yok," and that he finally had license to turn his back completely on the Bush years, the era in which the American people became "a democracy on the defensive," namely a country that was willing to infringe on individual rights in order to ensure the safety and security of many.
This state of affairs closely reflected Obama's fundamental worldview, yet it was also sustained in large part by the president's acute sensitivity to political correctness. As such, federal authorities no longer had carte blanche to dig into the personal matters of an American citizen and to turn him or her into a target for interrogation based solely on ethnic background or religious affiliation.
As a direct result, the FBI put off investigating Nidal Malik Hasan, the son of Palestinian immigrants from El-Bira who, on Nov. 5, 2009, went on a shooting rampage that killed 14 soldiers on an army base in Fort Hood, Texas (Hasan's trial is ongoing). The authorities ignored Hasan despite the evident radicalization in his religious views as well as the supposedly incriminating correspondence that he began to maintain with the radical Yemen-based imam Anwar al-Awlaki. In their exchanges, Hasan requested that his spiritual teacher give him a "green light" to commit his act of murder (al-Awlaki, whose fanatic sermons provided inspiration to three of the Sept. 11 hijackers, was killed in Yemen on Sept. 30, 2011).
A chain of near-attacks
Another manifestation of the Obama administration's strict adherence to the view that al-Qaida-manufactured terrorism was a threat that had vanished for good could be found in the manner in which the president interpreted the bloody events that unfolded in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012. The White House's desire (which was partially motivated by electoral considerations) to see reality as dovetailing with its preconceived notions led to a situation in which Obama initially characterized the events as a spontaneous outburst by an incited mob still smarting over the screening of a provocative anti-Islam Internet video.
It was only after an exhaustive congressional investigation that it became clear that this was a well-planned and executed attack carried out by a local al-Qaida cell.
Despite the Libya attack (which claimed the lives of four American diplomats, among them the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens), the gap between the utopian dreams harbored by the man occupying the Oval Office and the harsh, cold and hard reality has yet to be closed. Even the chain of near-attacks that was thwarted at the last minute did not prompt any change in thinking on Obama's part, particularly when it came to his initial belief that he could just do a complete U-turn on American strategy.
Despite Obama's ideological bent, some of the American intelligence community (particularly the National Security Agency) began to gather information on attacks-in-the-making. The revelations exposed by leaker Edward Snowden shed light on the vast system of information monitoring and gathering. Nonetheless, even with the latest intelligence tip indicating that the order had been handed down for a mega-attack by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to the Yemenite commander of al-Qaida (and which was intercepted by American intelligence), there is still a gap between wishes and reality in the mind and conduct of President Obama.
The NSA continues with its invasive, extensive activities that are designed to frustrate terrorist activities (NSA officials say that 50 such attacks have been thwarted), yet this operational vigilance has yet to seep down to the White House. Even if we can understand the reasons for the decision to close the embassies (indeed, recognizing the severity of terrorism was liable to bring Obama closer ideologically to his predecessor), this cannot justify it. Alongside the White House's wish to steer America on a course of reconciliation and peace, in spirit with the doctrine championed by President Jimmy Carter, the challenges and dangers continues to bubble in the American strategic environment.
Blind support for Morsi
It is still premature to determine whether the recent spate of embassy closures will serve as a wake-up call that will bring Obama back to reality and sober him up. Nonetheless, a glance at Washington's Egypt policy highlights the challenge in implementing a realist approach.
When it comes to the Egyptian front, we can see that the administration remains tethered to the democratic vision that it sought to see applied in the Land of the Nile. Not only did Obama swiftly abandon his long-time ally, President Hosni Mubarak, after he was convinced that the "Egyptian Spring" would usher in an era of a free civic society and a pluralistic approach in lockstep with Western democracy, but he also continued to provide support and backing to the autocratic, oppressive regime led by Mohammed Morsi, all the way up to the waning minutes of his rule. Obama did so despite Morsi's religious roots, which were planted by the Muslim Brotherhood and which are inherently hostile to Western values as well as the political, cultural, and liberal traditions espoused by Obama himself.
The fact that Morsi was elected in a free vote (procedural democracy) is what tipped the scales in his favor in Washington's eyes. His sharp deviations from the most fundamental principles of democracy, which were laid bare during his lone year in power, prompted "all of the president's men" to reevaluate policy toward Cairo. Even after the military coup was carried out and the Morsi-Muslim Brotherhood era was brought to its premature end, the administration continued to contemplate its next move for a full month before finally expressing its support for the newly installed regime.
All of these difficulties and contradictions appeared despite the fact that it was clear from the outset that General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his partners in the Egyptian transitional government were committed to a demonstrably pro-Western regime that will yield numerous strategic benefits for the American hegemon in the Middle East.
Similar to its desperate attempt to suppress the threat of terrorism and deny its acuteness, on the Egyptian front the American approach remains on neutral, frozen as a result of its adherence to formal and legal technicalities.
In keeping in line with his approach, the legitimacy granted to Morsi following his election was a sort of indefinite green light that kept flashing even as the Egyptian leader was initiating oppressive and aggressive policies against his rivals. Obama was too loyal to this approach, even after it was proven bankrupt and that Morsi's style of rule was light-years away from any kind of democratic model.
This adherence led Obama to initiate a "cold-shoulder" policy toward Cairo at the exact, critical time that the new el-Sissi-led government was making its first steps and desperately needed international support. First, there was criticism over the fact that el-Sissi used violence against the demonstrators and that he did not work toward the desired goal of "national reconciliation" and the formulation of a road map that would eventually lead to democratic elections. Then came more punishment when Obama ordered the suspension of F-16 fighter jet shipments to Egypt as a sign of Washington's dissatisfaction with the violence in the public squares.
It is worth noting that Obama refrained from burning all his bridges with the Egyptian military regime by purposely doing all he can to avoid calling the Egyptian military's overthrow of Morsi a "coup." Labeling it such would have legally obligated the president to immediately halt all U.S. aid to Egypt (which annually comes to total $1.5 billion).
The cool chill that emanated from Washington this past July stood in stark contrast to American core interests not just in Egypt but in the entire region. These interests required Washington to embrace the new leadership in Egypt, even if it wasn't brought to power in entirely free elections.
Indeed, when el-Sissi takes a determined stand against religious fundamentalist radicals in Egypt, and when the U.S. is suddenly presented with a window of opportunity to once again turn Egypt into a central cog in the Sunni regional alignment in a part of the world with so many serious challenges and threats, this is where he could have demonstrated good will rather than sternness that came with sanctions.
One can only hope that the legitimacy granted to the el-Sissi regime this past weekend by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will mark a turning point toward a more realistic approach. This step will also benefit Egypt's neighbor, Israel.
The process of getting up to speed with the latest developments requires Obama to face facts, one of them being that democracy is not a concept that can be applied universally and immediately in countries that have yet to develop the institutional, moral, and social infrastructure that are so necessary for it to work. This is how a new dilemma came to spring up before the president's eyes, a dilemma that is derived from a delusion that has crashed down to reality.
What is clear now is that the parade of presidential delusions from which Obama suffers as it relates to the Middle East has yet to conclude. Despite the fact that his Egyptian adventure was finally stopped in its tracks, Obama continues to pursue the diplomatic track as it relates to Iran and the nuclear program. He does so in the hope that dialogue with newly elected president Hasan Rouhani -- who announced that he was open to negotiations with the West -- would yield the desired breakthrough.
One can only hope that awakening from these American delusions does not come too late, after a new page -- one more dangerous and risky -- is opened in the Middle East.
Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.