Friday, January 17, 2014

Mordechai Kedar: The Afflictions of the Wealthy

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in the original עברית
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)

Read the article en Español (translated by Shula Hamilton)
The bottom line of all of these Internet efforts is that members of the royal Saudi family are described by their foes as non-Muslims and as traitors to Islam and its sacred affairs, such as having surrendered Palestine

One of the characteristics that define Middle Eastern culture is the importance with which people relate to history and how historical matters - even those from distant history - significantly influence the way affairs, and especially conflicts, are conducted in the modern Middle East.

For comparison's sake, everyone knows what occurred in the Second World War, but despite this, today - only seventy years later - Germany has reasonable relations with Israel - the state of the Jewish People, as well as with France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, Britain and the United States, despite the history. The reason for this is that people of Western culture have the capability, the desire and the necessary skills to close this problematic chapter and turn over a new, clean leaf in the relations among them.
 The ruling family of Saudi Arabia - members of the Saud family - "take fire" from several directions

To a certain extent Israel is different from Western culture: for thousands of years we prayed to return to Zion, and now we have returned to it and to the sovereignty that we had in ancient days. For us, history is alive and kicking, and if necessary, killing as well. Also, the story with Germany is more complicated for us as Jews.

In the Middle East, history has a decisive influence on daily matters, and today Saudi Arabia is cruelly attacked in the media as a result of this. The ruling family of Saudi Arabia - members of the Saud family - "take fire" from several directions: 

From Saudis who are not part of the ruling family (such as the family of bin Laden) and are full of rage because of the Saud family's wealth, which is not shared with other  citizens; from Shi'ites - those who are Saudis and those who are not – that hate the Wahhabis who view Shi'a as a type of heresy; from those who object to western culture and look with disfavor on the Saudi's many years of collaboration with the United States and Europe, especially in the area of energy and defense; from Islamic Purists, who know very well how many members of the royal family behave in matters related to sexuality, especially regarding "foreign workers" who come from Europe.

All of these factors join together to constitute a cruel and harsh media attack with the goal of undermining the legitimacy of the royal Saudi family.

These days, the Internet serves as the main arena for anti-Saudi propaganda, with intensive use of information connected to Islamic history.

Things are worse in Saudi Arabia. The members of the Saud family are accused of really being descendants of the Jews by the name Khaybar, who lived in the desert oasis near al-Medina until 623 CE

One of the main things that anger the royal House of Saud's opposition is the fact that King bin Saud named himself as "Keeper of the Holy Places" despite the fact that he is not originally from the area of the Hijaz, the western part of the peninsula, but from the elevated area of Najd, which is in the center of the peninsula. Everyone knows that he took the title to bestow on himself the legitimacy to rule, and to justify the removal of Sharif Hussein and his sons, Abdullah and Faisal, whom the British found jobs for during the "rich years", one as the prince of the Emirate on the other side of the Jordan and the second as ruler of the Kingdom of Iraq. The king of Jordan's foes still ask, even now, "where did he come from and who brought him here?" as a way to undermine his rule.

Things are worse in Saudi Arabia. The members of the Saud family are accused of really being descendants of the Jews by the name Khaybar, who lived in the desert oasis near al-Medina until 623 CE. They refused to convert to Islam and tricked Muhammad, so he slaughtered them. The Jewish forefather of the Sauds - according to this claim - was named Mordechai. The Sauds, being Jews, forged their lineage, pretended to be Muslims and now act unceasingly against Islam and its holy places.

One of the activists in the area of "exposing" the crimes of the Saud family uses the name Khaled al-Abdali. Khaled means "eternal", and Abdali means "the son of Abdullah". The concatenation means Muhammad - the prophet of Islam - himself, because the character is eternal and his father's name is Abdullah.

Khaled al-Abdali wrote an article entitled "The Criminal Case of the Sons of Mordechai, the Sons of Saud: the Destruction of the Holy Places and the Falsification of the Family Lineage". In this article, which is travels freely around the Internet, he writes (my comments in parentheses, M.K.): "The sons of Saud destroyed the house where the prophet Muhammad was born; the house of his wife (Khadija the daughter of Khuwaylid, the first wife who believed in him and his mission to humanity, M.K.); the house of Abu Bakr (the first man that believed in Muhammad and the first Caliph, M.K.); the house where Fatima (Muhammad's only daughter, mother of the Shi'ite leader, M.K.) was born; the house of Hamza ibn Abd al-Muttalib (the prophet's uncle and the first martyr in Islam, M.K.); the house that Ali (the founder of Shi'a, M.K.) and the sons of Hasan and Hussein were born in; the house of al-Arqam, the house where Muhammad would meet secretly with his friends-believers, where Amar (the second Caliph, M.K.) accepted Islam, and where the first call to prayer was heard; and the cemeteries of the prophet’s family and his close friends who were killed in jihad. The Saud family stole the gold that was inside the Green Dome and turned it into daggers, swords and buckles to tie their wives belts and to hide their privates, to slippers, shoes, rings, bracelets and chains, all of it from looted gold".

I, Sultan abd al-Aziz bin abd al-Rahman bin Saud, express my full agreement to Mr. Percy Cox, the representative of Great Britain, to grant Palestine to the unfortunate Jews or to others, as Great Britain sees fit, and that I accept that decision forever and ever."

The writer accuses the Saud family of intending to erase the history of the Arabs by ruining their historic buildings, so that only the name of Saud will remain forever in the Arabian Peninsula. To this end they have invested great efforts and money in order to forge a family tree as "proof" that they are descendants of the prophet. The forgery of the family tree proves - in the writer's opinion - the fact that they in fact are Jews.

This matter relates to the claim that the founder of the kingdom, ibn Saud, surrendered Palestine to the Jews. The newspaper al-Shab, which speaks in the name of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, presented a hand-written note last August that reads: "in the name of Allah the merciful and compassionate. I, Sultan abd al-Aziz bin abd al-Rahman bin Saud, express my full agreement to Mr. Percy Cox, the representative of Great Britain, to grant Palestine to the unfortunate Jews or to others, as Great Britain sees fit, and that I accept that decision forever and ever."

The matter resonated widely this year, after Abd al-Fatakh al-Sisi, the Egyptian minister of defense, removed president Muhammad Mursi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, from power in the beginning of July. Afterward, Sisi declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be illegal, defined the organization as a terror organization and stood its leaders to trial. Saudi Arabia openly supports Sisi and the steps that he takes against the Brotherhood, which is why the newspaper al-Shab, which expresses the Brotherhood's stance, accuses the founder of the Saudi kingdom of supporting the establishment of the State of Israel.

There are writers who accuse the royal house of naming Saudi Arabia for the father of the family, as if the kingdom belongs to the family and not to its people.
Using image editing software like Photoshop, people upload illustrations of King Abdullah to the Internet as a dog, monkey or pig.
Graphic arts are also enlisted in the Internet to undermine ibn Saud's legitimacy. People upload photographs of King Abdullah, even from the time when he was crown prince, where he is hugging western leaders, especially George W. Bush. In some of them - perhaps by using image editing software - Abdullah is shown with a goblet in his hand, and the impression is created that Abdullah was drinking alcoholic beverages with Bush, which is forbidden according to Islam.

Using image editing software like Photoshop, people upload illustrations of King Abdullah to the Internet as a dog, monkey or pig. This connects to the claim that the members of the Saud family are descendants of Jews, who are described in Islamic tradition as the "sons of monkeys and pigs". In other areas a Star of David is combined with a photograph of King Abdullah, in order to emphasize his supposed Jewishness.

There are writers on the Internet who emphasize the non-traditional aspect of the royal Saudi family, especially their alleged trend to hire European women in their palaces. There are those who upload photographs of the palaces of the royal family to the Internet in order to show their ostentatious wealth.
Seventy years of the rule of a tyrant is preferable to one night of anarchy
 The bottom line of all of these Internet efforts  - and only a small part is presented here - is that members of the royal Saudi family are described by their foes as non-Muslims and as traitors to Islam and its sacred affairs, such as having surrendered Palestine.

The Saudi regime does not remain silent.  Religious figures who work under its auspices incessantly issue religious rulings that validate the regime of ibn Saud, and accuse their opposition of inciting terror and slandering Islam. They enlist Islamic sources such as the saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad: "Seventy years of the rule of a tyrant is preferable to one night of anarchy". The anarchy in Iraq and Syria - in which the Saudis have a significant part in creating - proves the justice of their claim. According to this approach, even though the Saudi regime is not perfect, it is still preferable to the bloodbath that would occur in the country if the House of Saud falls.

It doesn't seem to me that the de-legitimization campaign presents a threat to the Saudi regime in the foreseeable future, because it maintains itself well and takes care of its enemies and its opposition without being hampered by the courts or human rights organizations. Nevertheless, apparently this campaign will have implications if and when the kingdom experiences turbulence, especially with the disappearance of bin Abd al-Aziz's generation and the transfer of the kingdom's rule to the next generation. 


Dr. Kedar is available for lectures

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

Translated from Hebrew by SallyZahav with permission from the author.

Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

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

Will Israel Risk Sharon's Counter-terrorism Achievements for Peace Deal?

by Yaakov Lappin

Days after burying former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel now must return its attention to the dilemma of whether to relinquish control of strategic West Bank territories that Sharon himself ordered the IDF to seize over a decade ago.
In March 2002, a Palestinian suicide bomber walked into a hotel in Netanya and blew up a dining hall hosting a Passover holiday celebration, in an attack that murdered 30 civilians. It became known as the Passover Massacre.

The horrific bombing represented the peak of a Palestinian campaign of indiscriminate violence that ultimately claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis, most of them civilians. It was Sharon, prime minister of Israel at the time, who successfully quashed the Palestinian killing spree.

Two days after the Passover Massacre, Sharon consulted army brass, called up 30,000 reserves, and ordered the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to enter deep into West Bank cities (vacated by Israel in the 1990s as part of the Oslo peace process).

The army was instructed to destroy the hornet's nests of terrorist activities that developed in inner city regions of Nablus, Jenin, Tul Karem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Hebron. Twenty nine Israeli soldiers were killed in the house-to-house urban warfare that ensued, and hundreds were wounded, but the operation dealt a major blow to Palestinian terrorism.

After seizing control of West Bank cities, Sharon ordered the construction of the security fence, while Israel's domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet, strengthened its grip on Palestinian territories. These combined measures meant that in 2005, three years after the operation, Israel suffered 57 casualties from Palestinian violence, compared with 452 in 2002, according to Shin Bet figures.

Ten years on, in 2012, not a single Israeli lost his or her life in attacks in the West Bank, or attacks that stemmed from it, a first since 1973. In 2013, a limited resurgence in terrorism saw five Israelis killed – in Israel and the West Bank – by attackers who came from these territories.

Today, Secretary of State John Kerry is putting the full force of his weight behind a peace initiative which has seen Israel and the Palestinian Authority engaged in negotiations behind closed doors, aimed at the establishment of a Palestinian state and ensuring vital Israeli security needs.

According to some reports, Kerry's plans include provisions for Israeli drones and other surveillance means to monitor the West Bank remotely, and for a fence to be built along the Jordan Valley.

While many doubts linger over whether the talks will lead anywhere, Israel would be expected to take a significant risk in order for any breakthrough to occur, gradually relinquishing its access to the same Palestinian areas that sent forth suicide bombers to the heart of Israel in the last decade. The traumatic memory of those bloody days remains seared in the Israeli collective psyche.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, behind many of those deadly attacks, are based in Gaza, where they are constructing a rocket base that threatens southern and central Israel, while the Palestinian Authority governs over 95% of the Palestinian population in the West Bank.

The IDF is no longer positioned in the center of Palestinian Authority cities, but does launch regular counter-terrorism raids in them, to take out developing terrorist cells that, and make arrest suspects. That freedom of operation would be curtailed in a potential agreement.

What might happen should Israel leave these territories? First, Hamas may grow powerful in the West Bank, to the point that it would threaten to topple the Fatah government and overrun Fatah security positions, just as it did in Gaza in 2007.

Just this week, Israeli security officials announced that they had broken up a plot by Hamas operatives already in prison to recruit West Bank residents to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

Secondly, Palestinian cities could become rocket manufacturing and launch sites. Hamas and Islamic Jihads cells would be able to strike Israel's coastal plain, where the majority of the Israeli population resides, paralyzing national strategic sites like Ben Gurion Airport, and terrorizing the lives of millions of residents of greater Tel Aviv.

Iran could be expected to do its utmost to assist its Palestinian proxy, Islamic Jihad, to realize this scenario.

Such a development would undoubtedly trigger a new Israeli Operation Defensive Shield – the post-Passover Massacre offensive – and likely signal the collapse of any peace deal.

And yet, some in Israel argue that remaining in the West Bank is equally, if not more dangerous, since it threatens the idea of a Jewish majority state in clearly defined borders, and could ultimately create a de-facto binational state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken of his desire not to turn millions of Palestinians into Israeli subjects, and stressed his commitment to a two-state solution, repeatedly mentioning his wish to avoid the binational threat.

There are indications that Sharon was, in 2005, contemplating a decision to leave two thirds of the West Bank, having already vacated Israeli communities in the northern West Bank during his exit from Gaza in 2005.

Sharon spoke of "painful compromises," while calling on the Palestinian Authority to quash terrorism.

What would it take to convince the current Israeli leadership that the time has arrived to take this risk for peace? According to statements made recently by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, the cessation of Palestinian incitement to hatred and violence would be just such a sign – and there is no reason to expect this sign to appear any time soon.

Ya'alon was frank about the fact that he has already rejected Kerry's proposals. "When I'm told about the security answer in Judea and Samaria, and when they talk about satellites, drones, and technologies, I say, 'Guys, you're wrong.' The principal problem is education. If in Nablus and Jenin they continue to educate the young generation as it is being educated today, to idolize terrorism and jihad, and that the Jewish people have no right to this land, if this is how they're educated, then technology stops nothing. If the education does not change, we'll have the same pressure from the inside. And then there will be a Hamastan in Judea and Samaria, like in Gaza. It'll hurt us, it'll hurt Jordan, and it'll hurt other interests in the area."

Ya'alon also stated in recent weeks that he believes Israel has no viable peace partner.

"There is no one on the other side, there hasn't been, since the dawn of Zionism, a leadership that is prepared to recognize our right to exist as a nation-state for the Jewish nation and to recognize an agreement as the end of the conflict and the end to demands. We won't talk about an inch, about a millimeter of territory, if we don't see that we have a partner who talks about recognition, about the end of the conflict and about giving up the right of return," Ya'alon vowed in December.

Referring to the PLO's plan, formulated in 1974, to destroy Israel gradually, he added: "We will not implement the doctrine of stages."

Under the current conditions, then, the government of Israel assesses that the time for such risks has not yet arrived. It nevertheless feels compels to take part in the talk, due to U.S. pressure.

Underpinning this assessment is the fact that the vast majority of Palestinians live under a PA government, deal with Palestinian security forces on a daily basis, and have a Palestinian parliament and president. In essence, a Palestinian political entity already exists in the West Bank, albeit one which continues to pose a threat to Israeli security.

This reality would appear to preclude an Israeli withdrawal at this time. A change of conditions on the ground that shows Palestinians can prevent terrorists from proliferating in the West Bank would likely prompt Israel's leadership to seek a withdrawal, clearing the path for a two-state solution.

Yaakov Lappin is the Jerusalem Post's military and national security affairs correspondent, and author of The Virtual Caliphate (Potomac Books), which proposes that jihadis on the internet have established a virtual Islamist state.


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

The Dangerously Irrational Iranian Regime

by Ben Shapiro


On Tuesday, the Iranian government announced that it had reached a secret agreement with the West on its nuclear development. The details of the agreement were not released, but suffice it to say that the Iranians could not contain their glee. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani celebrated the deal with an English-language tweet claiming that the “world powers surrendered to Iranian nation’s will”; Iranian Army Commander Maj. Gen. Ayatollah Salehi said the diplomatic breakthrough resulted from American military “weakness”; and the Iranian foreign minister laid a wreath at the tomb of the Beirut Marine barracks bomber.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama urged the United States Congress to “give peace a chance.” After weeks of sending out his pacifist minions, including faux pro-Israel group J Street, to tell Americans that support for sanctions meant support for war, Obama himself echoed that message. “My preference is for peace and diplomacy,” the apparent flower-child-in-chief stated. “And this is one of the reasons why I’ve sent the message to Congress that now is not the time for us to impose new sanctions. Now is the time for us to allow the diplomats and technical experts to do their work.” He said that a rational, reasonable Iran would be “willing to walk through the door of opportunity that’s presented to them.”

Only Iran is not rational or reasonable. It is delusionally anti-Western and anti-Semitic, which means that America is now in negotiations not just with a terror-supporting state but radicals with more than a hint of insanity.

To prove this point, on Sunday, the Iranian semiofficial news agency FARS, which bills itself as independent but is effectively regime-run, ran a news article explaining that since the end of World War II, America had been run by a shadow government of Nazi space aliens. Seriously.

Basing its report on documents supposedly culled from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, FARS reported that there was no “incontrovertible proof” that the American foreign policy agenda was driven by an “alien/extraterrestrial intelligence agenda.”

Not “alien” as in foreigner. “Alien” as in little green men from Mars. FARS quotes Snowden as stating that there “were actually two governments in the U.S., one that was elected, and the other, secret regime, governing in the dark.” This shadow regime had been run by space aliens — also known as “Tall Whites” — who were operating their regime from Nevada after emigrating from Nazi Germany after World War II. These space aliens, FARS stated, built the Nazi war machine’s submarines.

This would be hilarious were it not part of a piece. Large swaths of the Islamic world also buy the myth that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children in both their Passover matza and Purim hamentashen. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” remains a best-seller throughout the Islamic world. Iranian television routinely broadcasts Holocaust denial, while Iranian press outlets proclaim that the Zionist regime is producing another Hitler.

Assume for a moment that the Iranian regime actually believes the propaganda it spouts. Why, then, would it negotiate in good faith with space alien Nazis who drink Muslim blood?

Many pacifists in the West, including Obama, apparently assume that no one rational would continue to develop nuclear weapons in the face of world opposition, especially when offered a way out. What Obama fails to recognize is that Iran is far from rational — and, more importantly, Obama’s own assumptions about Iranian intentions put America and the West in a position of weakness. This weakness will be on display for all the world to see when Iran goes nuclear.

Ben Shapiro


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

Should America Realign with Iran?

by William R. Hawkins

On Sunday it was announced that a deal had been reached to implement the interim agreement with Iran on suspending its nuclear program. Since the agreement was negotiated late last year, the ground has been laid in the media for the acceptance of the lifting of sanctions on the Tehran regime. The aim has been to reduce the public perception of Iran as a threat and perhaps even promote it as an ally. The most open espousal of such a realignment of American policy in the Middle East was presented on the front page of the New York Times on January 7, written by Thomas Erdbrink and datelined Tehran. Titled, "U.S. and Iran Face Common Enemies in Mideast Strife" the theme was to shift attention from Iran as a state-supporter of terrorism in the region to al-Qaeda as the main enemy of U.S. interests. 

As Erdbrink put it, "While the two governments quietly continue to pursue their often conflicting interests, they are being drawn together by their mutual opposition to an international movement of young Sunni fighters, who with their pickup trucks and Kalashnikovs are raising the black flag of Al Qaeda along sectarian fault lines in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen." Clearly, the Shiite regime in Iran is concerned with the surge in Sunni insurgencies in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq against its sectarian allies, but why is this a "common" concern for the United States? The U.S. alliance system in the Middle East is based on the Sunni states, from Turkey to Egypt and Jordan and Kuwait to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates. Turkey is on the front line of the Syrian civil war where the Saudis and Gulf states are funding the Sunni rebels. 

Iran, with its large population, oil wealth, expansionist ambitions, support for Hizb'allah, and an active nuclear weapons program, poses a threat to the region far beyond what al-Qaeda can muster. Al-Qaeda is one of several factions fighting for the Sunni cause against the Shia. Washington should enjoy the irony that al-Qaeda is shedding blood fighting in alignment with American allies against the common Iranian foe. Like the eight-year Iran-Iraq War during the Reagan administration, which foreshadowed today's larger sectarian conflict, keeping enemy forces engaged elsewhere lessens their ability to take action against the U.S. 

Iran also poses the greatest threat to Israel. A nuclear-armed Tehran regime is an existential danger of the first order. Even if that potential risk is avoided, the presence of Hizb'allah on Israel's border is a constant menace. The Sunni-Shia confrontation has, however, provided a basis for security cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

The spread of the conflict into Iraq is being used to shift American public opinion in favor of Iran and is allies. Erdbrink reported that "Iran offered to join the United States in sending military aid to the Shiite government in Baghdad, which is embroiled in street-to-street fighting with radical Sunni militants in Anbar Province, a Sunni stronghold." From Fox News to The New Republic, stories have appeared from American veterans who fought against Sunni insurgents in Anbar in the wake of news that an al-Qaeda linked group has seized control of parts of city of Fallujah. For the left, this is proof that the Iraq War was not worth the effort. The truth is more complex, but it is hard not to conclude that both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations lost their focus on the strategic object in Iraq, which was regime change from a hostile leader to a friendly one.

The U.S. sent an army to Baghdad in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein who had gone mad after his invasion of Kuwait had been repulsed by a U.S.-led coalition in 1991. Getting rid of Saddam, however, was not enough. The regime had to be changed to one with which Washington could work as an ally. Yet, even with 150,000 soldiers in Iraq, the U.S. allowed a new leader to take power who was hostile to American strategic interests. That man was Nouri al-Maliki who became prime minister in 2006.

While in exile, Maliki lived first in Syria then moved to Iran in 1982 where he stayed until 1990 when he moved back to Syria. Maliki is a Shiite who won his current position with the support of pro-Iranian radicals in parliament, including the bloc led by Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army often fought against U.S. forces. Maliki, following the demands of Tehran, refused to allow U.S. forces a residual presence after Obama fulfilled his campaign pledge to remove all American combat units from Iraq. As soon as the last U.S. troops were gone, Maliki purged Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who fled first to the Kurdistan province of Iraq and then to Turkey. On September 9, 2012, Hashemi was sentenced in absentia to death by hanging.

It was Maliki who opened the domestic offensive against the Sunni community, reopening the sectarian conflict that the U.S. had worked so hard to end during the military "surge" and the "awakening" political movement. Washington had persuaded Sunni leaders to turn on the "foreign" al-Qaeda by promising that they would get a fair deal in a democratic Iraq. Maliki broke that promise. The Sunni are now fighting for their survival against a Shiite autocracy backed by Iran. Al-Qaeda has taken the opportunity to rebuild its presence in Iraq as it has done in the Syrian civil war. Indeed, the Sunni-Shia battle line now cuts across both countries. The United States has no theological dog in the Sunni-Shia fight, but it does have interests to protect. These favor the Sunni faction in the current strategic situation in the Middle East.

An agreement with Iran which would lead to the lifting of economic sanctions would give the Tehran regime the boost it needs in the Syrian and Iraq battles. The sanctions have started to bite, stirring up dissent at home as well as weakening the resources Iran can devote to foreign adventures. When Erdbrink wrote that "With Iran as an island of stability in a region plagued by violent protests, sectarian clashes and suicide bombers, there are not that many options left for Washington, experts here say" he was talking through his hat. Iran is not an island of stability, as shown by the protests following the stolen 2009 elections which had to be quelled by mass executions.

The United States still holds the balance of power in support of the stronger regional alliance system. It is Iran that is under pressure and isolated on the ground in the region, even if it has Russian and Chinese diplomatic support in the nuclear talks. Washington has the money, expertise, and weapons to build groups that can fight for influence in Syria and Iraq against both Iran's puppets and al-Qaeda if it has the will to do so. The U.S. also has the military capability to disrupt Iran's nuclear program. Yet, the Obama administration has wavered in its efforts and Congress is drifting into an isolationist stance as shown by its indifference to events in Syria.

A deal with Iran would give cover to further withdrawal from the area, which is why U.S. allies from Israel to Saudi Arabia are opposed to the Iranian negotiations. Dictatorships are adept at exploiting "war weary" democracies. The mullahs in Tehran will never slacken in their plans to dominate the region nor waver in their hatred of the "Great Satan" America. U.S. policy must remain committed to blocking Iran's ambitions as its top priority in the region.

William R. Hawkins


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

Kerry's Peace Process Double Standards

by Khaled Abu Toameh

It is interesting how one comment from an Israeli minister has managed to strain relations between the U.S. Administration and Israel, while fiery rhetoric and street demonstrations against Kerry and Obama in the Palestinian territories and Arab capitals are completely ignored by Washington.

The U.S. Administration has reacted quickly and strongly to statements attributed to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. Ya'alon was quoted by the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot as describing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as "messianic and obsessive."

In response, the U.S. condemned Ya'alon's comments as "offensive and inappropriate."

Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon greets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Israel, May 2013. (Image source: U.S. State Department)

But while the U.S. Administration has been quick in issuing a response to the Israeli minister's statements, it continues to ignore remarks and demonstrations against Kerry made by Palestinians and other Arabs.

Palestinian officials representing various organizations, including the Palestinian Authority, have been denouncing Kerry almost on a daily basis over the past few weeks. But these condemnations do not seem to bother the State Department.

Among the officials who have been extremely critical of Kerry's role in the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is Yasser Abed Rabbo, the PLO's Secretary-General and one of the closest advisors to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Just last month, Abed Rabbo launched a scathing attack on Kerry, denouncing his latest proposals as unacceptable. "Kerry does not have the right to decide where our borders will be," the top PLO official said. "If the U.S. wants, it can give parts of California or Washington to Israel. Kerry's framework agreement is very dangerous."

Abed Rabbo has also accused Kerry of seeking to "appease Israel by fulfilling its expansionist demands in the Jordan Valley under the pretext of security. He wants to buy Israeli silence over the Iran deal (with the six big powers)."

Palestinian officials have also been leaking details about Kerry's latest proposals for reaching an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Some have gone as far as accusing Kerry of being biased in favor of Israel, working toward "liquidating" the Palestinian cause and trying to extort the Palestinians.

Tayseer Khaled, member of the PLO Executive Committee, was recently quoted as accusing Kerry of trying to extort the Palestinians politically. Khaled's allegations have since been repeated by other Palestinians.

In addition, anti-Kerry demonstrations have become a common phenomenon in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At some of these protests, Kerry is often condemned as a pawn in the hands of Israel.

At another protest in Ramallah, Palestinians chanted, "Oh Kerry, you coward, you have no room in Palestine."

In Bethlehem several weeks ago, Palestinians took to the streets to protest against Kerry's visit to the city. And when President Barack Obama visited Bethlehem last year, Palestinians hurled shoes at his portrait and chanted, and set fire to his photograph.

Anti-Kerry protests have also taken place in Egypt and Jordan, where protesters also torched his portrait and declared him persona non grata.

Why, then, Kerry is not just as offended by the Arab condemnations?

It is interesting to see how one comment from an Israeli minister has managed to strain relations between the U.S. Administration and Israel, while fiery rhetoric and street demonstrations against Kerry and Obama in the Palestinian territories and Arab capitals are completely ignored by Washington. If Kerry really cares about the peace process, he also needs to ask the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments to lower the tone and stop inciting against him and the U.S. Unless, of course, those statements and protests do not offend him.

Khaled Abu Toameh


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

Egypt: It's Not a Democracy, but It's Not Nothing, Either

by Shoshana Bryen

Warning: The following isn't nice.

The liberal moaning and wailing has begun.  The circumstances of the referendum on Egypt's new constitution, the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, and what appears to be the impending crackdown on Hamas have produced calls for "inclusion" and "democratic norms," and the denunciation of the military-backed government.  TIME Magazine intones, "Egyptians are Voting Away their Freedom."  The Washington Post called for a suspension of U.S. military aid to Egypt over its "bogus democracy." 

That's a rather high hand.  What if Egypt doesn't have a "bogus democracy," but an insurgency that needs redress?  What if, to Egyptians, the Muslim Brotherhood resembles the Taliban more than it does the Democratic Party of the United States?  Remember, the Taliban wasn't entirely unwelcome in Afghanistan in the chaos of the Russian withdrawal.  What if Egyptians are driven by the specter of Libyan militias, Iraqi dissolution, Syrian civil war, and the wreckage produced by a single year of Muslim Brotherhood rule?  What if Egyptians value perceived security over what they understand about democracy?

If they're wrong or benighted, at a minimum it helps to see their context, rather than arrogantly trying and failing to replace it with our own.  This is why "nation-building" fails.

The magic word "democracy" falls out of the mouths of pundits.  AEI's Danielle Pletka simply dismissed the referendum as the end of Egypt's democratic experiment.  Michelle Dunne, Senior Associate of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment, plowed through the laundry list:

There is a real danger that international players will lend legitimacy to a flawed and undemocratic process. They risk playing into the Egyptian transitional government's efforts to focus attention on the technicalities of the post-coup political road map while diverting notice from a deeply troubling context -- widespread unrest, the recent declaration of the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt's largest political group) as a terrorist organization, escalating repression of secular dissidents, a draft constitution that gives the military broad powers, a drafting process that largely excluded Islamists, effectively no freedom for those who would campaign against passage of the referendum. And the likelihood of ongoing protests during the referendum, as well as of violent attacks against government targets, is high.

Her colleague, Shadi Hamid in Doha, pointed to more than 25 conversations between Gen. Sissi in Cairo and Defense Secretary Hagel:

The U.S. government has provided 15 official readouts over six months, each with a similar set of messages to Sissi: Try to be less repressive and more inclusive... With each passing month, the readouts become more surreal, with Hagel asking what has become one of the region's more brutal, repressive regimes to be "democratic." Although there are certainly competitors -- Syria and Israel-Palestine come to mind -- it is difficult to think of another case where U.S. policy is so completely divorced from realities on the ground.

It is unclear how "inclusive" anyone should be of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization whose credo is "Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and dying in the way of Allah is the highest of our aspirations."

Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood, is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.  The Brotherhood is stoking riots, blowing things up, and expecting/hoping to bring a heavy Egyptian police response down on its people in the streets -- remember that part about jihad and dying.  This is a favorite tactic of Hamas.  They fire rockets into Israeli towns, aiming at houses, schools, and buses.  When retaliation finally ensues, Hamas (and much of the rest of the world) blames Israel.

This is not the debt ceiling debate; it is politics as a blood sport, with emphasis on blood.  What we call "partisan rancor" can get you killed, and in that context, a "democratic election" cannot take place.  A winner-take-all referendum is the likely outcome, and everyone understands what losing means.  The disastrous 2006 Hamas/Fatah election in Gaza led directly to the short and brutal Palestinian civil war.  No election has taken place in Gaza or on the West Bank, because both sides fear the result.

Now consider Hamid's throwaway mention of "Israel-Palestine" as a competitor to Egypt as a "brutal repressive regime."

There is no such place as "Israel-Palestine."  Israel is a free and democratic country.  It has a free press, an aggressively independent judiciary, multiple political parties, a track record of elections on time and with changes in parties at the helm, open internet access, property rights, civil rights, and personal rights including gay marriage.  The Palestinian Authority, after 20-plus years of governing, has no such attributes.  The government is years late on both legislative and presidential elections.  Multiple security forces are controlled by political parties or individuals.  There is no independent judiciary, no financial transparency (even the EU was shocked recently when it discovered in an audit the extent of the theft of European aid money by the PA), no rule of law, no civil rights, and no free press.

This is why there is no Israeli-Palestinian "peace."  One side is bound by its people; the other is not.  A democracy would consider itself further bound by norms that a thuggish kleptocracy would not.  A treaty between them would not command equal allegiance, hence Israel keeps looking for additional mechanisms that would keep it self-reliant rather than relying on either the Palestinians or the "international community."  The Palestinian Authority keeps looking for ways to avoid a deal that will result in another Palestinian civil war.

Policy wonks, enamored as they are of their own democratic norms, want everyone to play by the same rules that have worked so well for us.  But when they look at Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and the Palestinian Authority, none has the prerequisites for a democratic system, and none is out of the "you kill me, or I'll kill you" stage of political discourse.  There is, most importantly, no concept of "the loyal opposition," and the assurance of multiple elections so that if you lose this time you might win later. 

It isn't nice to say so, but our norms don't apply.  They won't be democratic, and we can't make them.  So between stability produced by the heavy hand of a secular government and the chaos that has attended the demise of such governments elsewhere, it won't be surprising if Egyptians vote for the constitution and support the al Sissi government.  The best the U.S. can do in that case is help ensure that Egyptians continue to get chances to register their views periodically while working to tame the baser instincts of their leadership. 

It's not much, but for Egypt, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere, it beats what they've got.

Shoshana Bryen


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