Saturday, February 22, 2014

Obama’s News Police

by Matthew Vadum


The Obama administration is planning to send what critics characterize as government spies into the newsrooms of the nation’s media outlets.

This unprecedented assault on Americans’ First Amendment freedoms is part of the Community Organizer-in-Chief’s political war against the few pockets of media resistance he has encountered at Fox News and in the world of talk radio. Sending federal bureaucrats to meddle in newsroom affairs by conducting an alleged “study” will chill news coverage and make government-licensed broadcast media think twice about airing stories that place the Obama administration in a bad light.

To this end the Federal Communications Commission is moving forward with its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN. Although the FCC is a regulatory body, not a research organization, it plans to send researchers to question reporters, editors, and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. In the spring a field test is set for Columbia, S.C.

The FCC intends to discover “the process by which stories are selected,” how often stations cover “critical information needs,” the media outlets’ “perceived station bias,” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.” The phrase “underserved populations” is politically correct neo-Marxist jargon and a screaming red flag that some kind of quota system may be on its way.

Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee attacked the study idea, saying it was a step towards a “Fairness Doctrine 2.0.”

“Given the widespread calls for the Commission to respect the First Amendment and stay out of the editorial decisions of reporters and broadcasters, we were shocked to see that the FCC is putting itself back in the business of attempting to control the political speech of journalists,” all Republicans on the committee wrote in a letter to new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. 

“It is wrong, it is unconstitutional, and we urge you to put a stop to this most recent attempt to engage the FCC as the ‘news police.’”

In an interview with Fox’s Megyn Kelly, news editor Katie Pavlich eviscerated the proposed study:
I don’t understand why the Obama administration hasn’t understood this idea that when the Department of Justice monitored the phone lines of journalists, and their parents by the way, that wasn’t enough to them. Now they want to send investigators into newsrooms all over the country whether it’s broadcast or print. They have no business sending those people into our newsrooms. How we gather news is none of the government’s business. And this isn’t about the FCC getting people the information that they, quote, need, as they claim. This is about controlling what people say and this is about intimidating the news through these –whatever you want to call them– navigators.
Pavlich, author of the New York Times bestselling book, Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-Up, continued:
I just think it’s such an asinine concept that the government, government bureaucrats are now going to be appointed to come in and monitor professionals, editors, reporters, and decide the best way for them to gather news as if they don’t know what they’re doing and then to try and shift the focus from certain stories to others.
The leftist radicals at Obama’s FCC know they won’t be able to nationalize media outlets outright. They would love nothing more than to force the nation’s free media institutions to take race, class, and sex into account in future reporting.

Mark Lloyd, appointed by Obama as FCC diversity czar from 2009 to 2012, gave away the game, explaining years ago one of the ways the left planned to mau-mau its perceived opponents in the media. In short, the left wants to harass media outlets into docility in order to allow the fundamental transformation of America to proceed.

Lloyd is a huge fan of the late communist dictator Hugo Chavez and a disciple of Rules for Radicals author Saul Alinsky, Seton Motley explained during Lloyd’s tenure.
In his 2006 book entitled Prologue to a Farce: Communication and Democracy in America, [Lloyd] calls for an all-out ‘confrontational movement’ against private media.  He wants leftist activists – through incessant political pressure – and the government – through the creation of a totally untenable operating environment of fees, fines and regulations – to work together to force the commercial broadcasters out, to be replaced by public broadcasters.
Summoning the spirit of “Repressive Tolerance” essayist Herbert Marcuse, Lloyd argues that privately owned media outlets work against the public interest. Freedom of speech or the press “is all too often an exaggeration,” he wrote. “[T]he purpose of free speech is warped to protect global corporations and block rules that would promote democratic governance.”

Obama’s attacks on freedom of the press have not gone unnoticed by media watchdogs.

Thanks to Obama’s heavy-handed treatment of the media, the U.S. is ranked an embarrassing 46th on the 2014 World Press Freedom Index, falling between Romania (45th) and Haiti (47th) out of 180 countries scored. The U.S. scores worse than Botswana (41st), United Kingdom (33rd), Ghana (27th), Canada (18th), New Zealand (9th), and Finland (1st).

Just last year the U.S. was ranked 33rd. The 13-place drop by the U.S., one of the biggest national declines over last year, was blamed ”on increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks.” The U.S. ranking has plunged from 20th since 2009 when President Obama was inaugurated.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is preparing to reward its allies in the world of community organizing and give the left a big boost on the conservative-dominated radio airwaves.

The FCC is awarding broadcast radio frequencies made available by new technology that could lead to the creation of 1,000 left-wing radio stations as Steven J. Allen previously reported. Successor groups for the ACORN organizing network, which had operated several radio stations, and other Saul Alinsky-inspired community organizing groups could be awarded the lion’s share of the available licenses.

As the leftists at “Democracy Now!” cheered during the application period in the fall: “This means nonprofits, labor unions and community groups have a one-time-only chance this year to own a bit of the broadcast airwaves. It is being heralded as the largest expansion of community radio in United States history.”

The licenses to be issued by the FCC cover LPFM (Low Power FM) stations that will each cover a radius of around three or four miles. But many of the licenses will cover major cities, which means that a single station could reach 100,000 listeners, excluding people listening over the Internet.

As former Occupy Philadelphia spokesman Jeff Rousset gushed last year while applications were being accepted, “The work that we do over the next four months will really help shape the course of this country’s media landscape for the next 40 years.”

It is a fair bet that the radio stations that Rousset helps to establish won’t have anything to fear from Obama’s FCC.

Matthew Vadum


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

American Silence on Abbas' Insolence

by David M. Weinberg

The world judges Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his government by truly meek standards. How else can you explain the rot that the Palestinians get away with, while supposedly engaged in a peace process with Israel?

Abbas' minions can savage U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, cast ugly aspersions on his motivations, organize demonstrations against him, brutally mock his proposals, intransigently reject any moves towards Israel, threaten renewed warfare against Israel, cozy up to Iranian officials in preparation for such future battle, and glorify terrorism against Israel -- yet the Obama administration and European leaders remain mum.

The State Department doesn't get offended when Yasser Abed Rabbo, the PLO's secretary-general and one of the closest advisors to Abbas, accuses Kerry of seeking to "appease Israel." No apologies were demanded by the State Department when Jamal Muhaissen, a senior Fatah official, called for Kerry to be indicted in the International Criminal Court (for supposedly spelling out to Abbas, in private of course, the implications of diplomatic failure). 

The State Department doesn't loudly denounce as unacceptable the protests in Ramallah and Bethlehem where Palestinians cry, "Oh Kerry, you coward, you have no room in Palestine," and carry placards accusing Kerry of working toward "liquidating" the Palestinian cause and trying to extort the Palestinians.

Nor does it seem to bother Kerry's State Department when senior representatives of Abbas's ruling Fatah faction, such as Jibril Rajoub and Tawfik Tirawi, both former commanders of Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and close allies of Abbas, issue a string of increasingly strident statements in support of "armed resistance" against Israel. Or when they fly to Iran to seek the support of Ayatollahs Mohammad Khatami and Hassan Rouhani.

In fact, the State Department has had nothing to say at all about a series of recent stories that detail a Palestinian political culture that remains violent, anti-democratic, and wedded to historical lies.

The stories and statements ignored by Washington include Abbas' venal assertion that Jesus was a Palestinian persecuted by the Zionists. They include chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat's accusation that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants Abbas assassinated, and Erekat's outrageous claim to be an indigenous descendant of the biblical Canaanites. (Erekat excreted that "Joshua Bin Nun burned my hometown Jericho"). They include Abbas' classic double-talk: Swearing commitment to peace when speaking to Israeli students, while glorifying the murder of Israeli students by Palestinian terrorists, when speaking in Arabic to his home base.

More American silence has resounded in response to a well-documented new report detailing the hate that is routinely broadcast on Palestinian television, published in Palestinian newspapers, and taught in PA schools -- demonizing Jews and inculcating the notion that the evil Jews and Zionists have no rights to any part of the country. 

Next is complete American disregard of new reports that detail gross human rights abuses in the PA -- including arbitrary detentions, torture and cruel punishment, restriction of freedom of the press, denial of religious and minority rights, and more.

Utter disregard has been the reaction of the international community to the PA's large cash payouts to terrorists released from Israeli jails as part of Kerry's peace process. The terrorists are getting PA grants of up to $50,000 each and monthly stipends ranging from $1,000 to $4,000; sums that are about four times the average monthly salary in the PA. 

The PA also makes large monthly payments to Palestinians and Israeli Arabs still in jail, as long as they were imprisoned for terrorism against Israel. This included prisoners serving multiple life sentences for murder. Their families receive the stipends. Arabs from Jerusalem and Israeli Arabs imprisoned for terror offenses get additional supplements, in honor of their "exceptional heroism."

In short, the more heinous the act of terrorism and the longer the prison sentence, the higher the salary. And note: The PA is an equal opportunity terrorist employer. Its salaries for terrorists are granted to members of Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad alike. 

It is estimated that at least six percent of the Palestinian budget is diverted to directly paying terrorist salaries. All this money comes from donor countries like the U.S., U.K., Norway, and Denmark. I've scratched my head again and again wondering why. Shouldn't abjuring terror, refraining from glorifying terror, and stopping to pay for terror, be a central international demand of the Palestinians in the current peace talks?

Over the past two years, the Shin Bet security agency has identified and pre-empted more than 80 plans for attacks in the West Bank, plans that originated with individuals released by Israel as part of the Gilad Schalit deal. Hamas headquarters in Gaza transmits detailed instructions as well as funds for these attacks to the West Bank Palestinian terrorists; and Abbas' PA has been mainly inactive and ineffective in doing anything about this Hamas infiltration.

Despite all this, Kerry and his State Department seem religiously wedded to the cheery fiction that a Palestinian state would be a stabilizing force for peace. All evidence to the contrary mysteriously escapes them. 

They are tremendously exorcised about the urgency of establishing a Palestinian state, but much less worried about the character of that state and what it portends for that state's relationship with Israel down the road.

Then there is Abbas' diplomatic intransigence. By all accounts, Abbas is not prepared to make any significant concessions on the key issues of recognition, refugees, security, settlements and Jerusalem. Abbas says he will "never" recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people, "never" forgo the so-called right of return to Israel of Palestinian refugees, "never" accept Israeli security control of Jordan Valley and other key air and ground security assets, "never" allow Jews to live in Judea, and "never" accept Israeli sovereignty in any part of Jerusalem's Old City. In short, "never" will there be a peace agreement.

Yet I haven't heard Kerry publicly strong-arming Abbas, as he has notoriously done with Netanyahu. I haven't heard Kerry warn Abbas of PA diplomatic isolation or economic collapse if progress isn't made.

In fact, Kerry has failed to even hint that Palestinian intransigence could be a possible cause of failure. Kerry has signaled that failure would be/could be Israel's fault, but not the PA's fault. 

The American ear also seems deaf to the broader context in which the current talks are taking place. Netanyahu is under great pressure from within his own coalition government and beyond to make enormous concessions to the Palestinians. Abbas is under no such domestic or regional pressure at all. In fact, nobody in the Fatah leadership (never mind Hamas or the Saudis) is pushing Abbas to cut Kerry some slack or show some flexibility in order to obtain a peace deal with Israel. 

After all, the Palestinians feel no urgent need for an agreement. They don't really crave the "statelet" along the 1967 lines that Israel might be offering, and they think that have a better route (through the international courts and international boycotts) to cut Israel down to size.

So why on earth is Kerry publicly pressuring Netanyahu but not Abbas? As we painfully know only too well, every Israeli official who speaks out of line with regard to the terrific Kerry process is pummeled by the Obama administration. Any Israeli statement that questions the wisdom or direction of the diplomatic process led by Kerry becomes an international scandal; and Washington responds to the wayward official with fury. 

Just ask Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon or Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett. For doubting Kerry's effort, the Obama administration has gone after them like a hotly provoked bull in a bullfight. Their criticisms of Kerry have been called offensive and unacceptable by Washington, and apologies have been loudly demanded.

Yet Abbas and his insolent, defiant Palestinian Authority apparently are international angels. The toughest criticism Abbas ever has faced from the U.S. is "disappointment and concern" over anti-Israel rhetoric. This gentle comment came yesterday in a background briefing, noticed by few, of the State Department deputy spokesman. "Personal attacks are unhelpful," murmured the tender spokesman almost apologetically. Kerry himself has said nothing critical of Abbas. 

And so you know for sure: No matter what happens, no matter how recalcitrant and contemptuous Abbas is, no matter how militant and hard-line the PA proves -- no failure of the peace process will ever be pinned on the Palestinians.

David M. Weinberg


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

Palestinians: Eight Million Refugees Must Return to Israel

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Many Palestinians said that Abbas was not authorized to make any concessions or speak on behalf of the refugees.
"Our refugees will not accept any alternative to their right to return to their homeland and we do not care what Abbas's position is." — Ali Huwaidi, expert on Palestinian affairs.
The reactions to Abbas's statements concerning the issue of refugees show that any agreement that Abbas reaches with Israel under U.S. pressure will not signal the end of the conflict.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is facing criticism from Palestinian refugees for saying that he does not want to "flood" Israel with millions of refugees.

Abbas made his statement during a meeting in his Ramallah office earlier this week with dozens of Israeli students – the first direct encounter of its kind between the Palestinian Authority president and Israeli youths.

Abbas has also come under criticism for breaking a ban by Palestinian activists on meetings with Israelis. The ban has been imposed over the past few years by "anti-normalization" activists who oppose such meetings between Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (at podium, left) listens to a question posed by an Israeli audience member at his recent address in Ramallah. (Image source: JN1 YouTube video screenshot)

Abbas's controversial remarks about the "right of return" highlight the difficulties facing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in his efforts to achieve a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinian reactions to Abbas's remarks show that the issue of the refugees remains a sensitive and explosive one that could torpedo any agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Abbas told the Israeli students that the claim that he was seeking to "flood" Israel with five million refugees was nonsense.

"There is propaganda saying that Abu Mazen [Abbas] wants the return of five million refugees to destroy the state of Israel," he said. "This is not true at all. All what we said was: Let's place the issue of the refugees on the table because it's a sensitive case which needs to be solved in order to end the conflict and so that the refugees would be satisfied with a peace agreement. But we are not seeking to drown Israel with millions in order to change its demography. This is nonsense."

Representatives of Palestinian refugees rushed to issue condemnations of Abbas, accusing him of relinquishing the "right of return" of millions of Palestinians to their former villages and towns inside Israel.

In Lebanon, where some 450,000 Palestinians live in several refugee camps and are exposed to Apartheid Laws that deny them access to many jobs and economic, health and educations services, Abbas's comments were received with deep resentment. During an emergency meeting in one of the refugee camps in Lebanon, Abbas was accused of "abandoning the right of return and harming Palestinian rights."

The refugees said they were particularly enraged over the fact that protest letters they sent to the Palestinian Authority embassy in Beirut were totally ignored.

Dr. Esam Udwan, an expert on refugee affairs, was quoted as saying that "Abbas's statements have caused damage to Palestinian rights." Accusing Abbas of providing Israel with concessions in return for nothing, Udwan said, "These remarks reflect Abbas's conviction that the issue of the refugees is ineffective and they have no right to return because this would mean drowning Israel. This is completely unacceptable. Who said that there are only five million refugees? The real number is eight million. Abbas mentioned the five million who are registered with UNRWA and benefit from its services. But there are millions of others who do not receive services from UNRWA and are not registered with it. This does not mean that they should be denied the right of return."

Ali Huwaidi, another expert on refugee affairs, also lashed out at Abbas: "Regardless of Abbas's statements, the right of return is guaranteed, individually and collectively, through UN resolutions. The refugees will not give up their right no matter where they are living today. Abbas is worried about flooding Israel with five million refugees while Israel has brought one million people from the former Soviet Union and no one complained about this. Our refugees will not accept any alternative to their right to return to their homeland and we do not care what Abbas's position is."

Many Palestinians said that Abbas was not authorized to make any concessions or speak on behalf of the refugees.

This was not the first time that Abbas had come under attack on the issue of the refugees. Last year, Abbas told an Israeli TV station that he personally does not want to return to his former hometown of Safed in northern Israel. That comment too was seen by his critics as a sign that he was wiling to "surrender" the "right of return" for millions of refugees.

Referring to Abbas's stance on the refugees, the Palestinian online newspaper Rai al Youm wrote, "President Abbas has given up his personal right to return to his hometown of Safed. He said he does not want to return to his home and will live in Ramallah. This concession, in our view, is a big sin because President Abbas should set an example for his people and not make concessions on their rights. We call upon President Abbas to stop speaking about the issue of the refugees because they haven't authorized him to make any concessions on their right of return."

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also joined the chorus of Abbas critics. The group said in a statement that Abbas's comment about the refugees was a "dangerous concession" which reflected only his personal position. "The Palestinians are not bound by these statements," the PFLP said.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups have also strongly condemned Abbas's statements as "dangerous," adding that he does not have the authority to speak on behalf of all refugees. The groups also attacked Abbas for holding "warm" meetings with the Israeli "enemy."

The reactions to Abbas's statements concerning the issue of the refugees show that any agreement that Abbas reaches with Israel under U.S. pressure will not signal the end of the conflict with Israel. They also show that millions of Palestinians continue to believe that one day they will be allowed to move to Israel, regardless of whether a Palestinian state is established in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem or not.

Khaled Abu Toameh


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

Hamas Tests Anti-Aircraft Missiles Against Israel

by IPT News

While Israel and the Palestinian Authority engage in peace negotiations, Hamas continues to bolster its military capabilities for the next round of fighting with Israel. Al-Monitor is reporting that Palestinian terrorists had conducted a field test, firing an anti-aircraft missile at an Israeli airplane circling above Gaza's eastern border last month.

The missile missed its intended target and was briefly reported by pro-Hamas media; however, the incident went unreported by Israeli newspapers. Israel lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations after rockets fired following former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's funeral, but Gaza sources claim that it was an anti-aircraft missile test, Al-Monitor reports. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, have bragged in the past that their anti-aircraft capabilities have changed the balance of power with Israel. The terrorist organization claims that they have damaged an Israeli helicopter and downed an armed surveillance drone.

Even if these reports are fabricated, it is clear that Hamas is desperately attempting to bolster their military capabilities. In September, the al-Qassam Brigades revealed that their fighters possessed SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles. Israeli military sources were aware of this significant development, blaming the collapse of the Gadhafi regime in Libya for the proliferation of such advanced weapons into Gaza.

The SA-7 missiles were displayed at a military parade along with light machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket propelled grenades and heavy weapons fixed on four-wheel-drive vehicles.

In addition, Al-Monitor reviewed a military document from the "Air Defense Unit" of one of Gaza's factions, which claims the primary objective of acquiring anti-aircraft weapons is to neutralize the Israeli air force. But the flow of such weapons has been slowed since Egypt destroyed summing tunnels along its border with Gaza.

Earlier this week, the Times of Israel reported that Hamas used an intermediary to tell Jerusalem it "has no interest in furthering its conflict with Israel and seeking restraint on Israel's part." For now. All other signs show Hamas remains more committed to preparing for the next confrontation with Israel than it is to improving life for Palestinians in Gaza.

IPT News


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Muslims Demand "Right of Return" to Spain

by Soeren Kern

Observers say that by granting citizenship to all descendants of expelled Muslims, Spain, virtually overnight, would end up with the largest Muslim population in the European Union.
"Is Spain aware of what might be assumed when it makes peace with some but not with others? Is Spain aware of what this decision [not to include Muslims in the return] could cost?... Does Spain have alternatives to the foreign investment from Muslims?" — Ahmed Bensalh, Morisco-Moroccan journalist.
"Persecution of Jews was just that, while what happened with the Arabs was part of a conflict. There is no basis for comparison." — Jose Ribeiro e Castro, Portuguese lawmaker who drafted Portuguese law of return.

Muslim groups are demanding Spanish citizenship for potentially millions of descendants of Muslims who were expelled from Spain during the Middle Ages.

The growing clamor for "historical justice" comes after the recent approval of a law that would grant Spanish citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in 1492.

Muslim supporters say they are entitled to the same rights and privileges as Jews because both groups were expelled from Spain under similar historical circumstances.

But historians point out that the Jewish presence in Spain predates the arrival of Christianity in the country and that their expulsion was a matter of bigotry. By contrast, the Muslims in Spain were colonial occupiers who called the territory Al-Andalus and imposed Arabic as the official language. Historians say their expulsion was a matter of decolonization.

"Expulsion of the Moriscos at the port of Dénia", by Vincente Mostre.

In any event, the descendants of Muslims expelled from Spain are believed to number in the millions—possibly tens of millions—and most of them now live in North Africa. Observers say that by granting citizenship to all of them, Spain, virtually overnight, would end up with the largest Muslim population in the European Union.

Much of the Iberian Peninsula was occupied by Muslim conquerors known as the Moors from 711 until 1492, when the Moorish Kingdom of Granada surrendered to the Catholic Monarchs of Spain (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon), in what is known as the Christian Reconquest.

But the final Muslim expulsion from Granada did not take place until over a century later, beginning in 1609, when King Philip III decreed the expulsion of the Moriscos.

The Moriscos—Moors who decided to convert to Catholicism after the Reconquest rather than leave Spain—were suspected of being nominal Catholics who continued to practice Islam in secret. From 1609 through 1614, the Spanish monarchy forced an estimated 350,000 Moriscos to leave Spain for Muslim North Africa.

Today, up to five million descendants of the Moriscos are living in Morocco alone; there are millions more living in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Tunisia and Turkey.

In a recent essay published by the Morocco-based newspaper Correo Diplomático, the Morisco-Moroccan journalist Ahmed Bensalh wrote that the "decision to grant Spanish citizenship to the grandchildren of the Hebrews in Spain in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, while ignoring the Moriscos, the grandsons of the Muslims, is without doubt, flagrant segregation and unquestionable discrimination, as both communities suffered equally in Spain at that time. The decision could also be considered by the international community to be an historic act of absolute immorality and injustice...This decision is absolutely disgraceful and dishonorable."

Bensalh then went on to threaten Spain: "Is Spain aware of what might be assumed when it makes peace with some and not with others? Is Spain aware of what this decision could cost? Has Spain considered that it could jeopardize the massive investments that Muslims have made on its territory? Does Spain have alternatives to the foreign investment from Muslims if they ever decide to move that capital to other destinations due to the discrimination against Muslims?"

Bensalh is one of many Muslim journalists, historians and academics who are demanding that Spain treat Moriscos the same way it treats Sephardic Jews.

Consider Jamal Bin Ammar al-Ahmar, an "Andalus-Algerian" university professor at the Ferhat Abbas University in Sétif in northeastern Algeria. Al-Ahmar has been engaged in a six-year campaign to persuade Spanish King Juan Carlos to identify and condemn those who expelled the Muslims from Al-Andalus in the fifteenth century. Al-Ahmar is also demanding that millions of descendants of the Moriscos expelled from Spain be allowed to return there.

In a letter addressed to the Spanish monarch, Al-Ahmar calls for a "full legal and historical investigation of the war crimes that were perpetrated on the Muslim population of Andalusia by the French, English, European and papal crusaders, whose victims were our poor miserable people, after the collapse of Islamic rule in Andalusia."

The letter speaks of "the injustice inflicted on the Muslim population of Andalusia who are still suffering in the diaspora in exile since 1492."

Al-Ahmar wants the Spanish monarch to apologize "on behalf of his ancestors" and to assume "responsibility for the consequences" this would entail. He says it is necessary "to identify criminals, to convict retroactively, while at the same time to identify and compensate victims for their calamities and restore their titles." This process would culminate with "a decree that allows immigrants to return to their homes in Andalusia, and grant them full citizenship rights and restoration of all their properties."

The Moroccan historian Hasan Aourid believes Spain has a policy of "double standards" vis-à-vis the Moriscos. Aourid—who recently wrote a novel, entitled "The Moriscos," to "remember the tragedy of those expelled from Al-Andalus"—told an audience at the Casablanca International Book Fair that Spain cannot become "reconciled with itself without recognizing its Moorish dimension" and asked if "the suffering was lower for Muslims than for Jews."

The Association for the Historical Legacy of Al-Andalus, a group dedicated to reviving the memory of the Muslim presence in Spain, says the Spanish government should treat Muslims and Jews the same way. By failing to offer Spanish citizenship to both groups, Muslims would become victims of "selective racism," said the president of the association, Bayib Loubaris.

Spain is unlikely to concede to these demands anytime soon. While few deny there are potentially millions of descendants of Moriscos living in North Africa today, the challenge lies in reconstructing reliable genealogies to determine legitimate heirs.

The issue of who is a Morisco and who is not will be a topic for discussion at a major international conference—"The Descendants of the Andalusian Moriscos in Morocco, Spain and Portugal"—to be held in Tangier from April 4-6, 2014.

But even if such genealogies could be compiled, calls to naturalize the descendants of expelled Muslims are sure to be opposed for another reason: the fact that the expulsion of the Muslims was part of a war to end the occupation of Spain by North African invaders.

Jose Ribeiro e Castro, a Portuguese lawmaker who drafted Portugal's law of return for Sephardic Jews, puts it this way: "Persecution of Jews was just that, while what happened with the Arabs was part of a conflict. There is no basis for comparison."

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Prestidigitation and the Mideast Peace Process

by Caren Besner

Walk the streets of many American cities and you might find a true artiste plying his trade.  The game is called Three Card Monte; and as most experienced police offers will tell you, it is a scam perpetrated by an individual highly skilled in the art of prestidigitation.  The object of the game is to pick the "ace of spades" from a set of three cards deftly placed in front of the unsuspecting victim.  Let us for a moment liken that elusive "ace of spades" to the Mideast peace process: a goal many people in theory aspire to; but in reality, no one has the ability or wisdom to obtain. 

One of the great misconceptions that has arisen out of the Arab-Israeli conflict is that the Palestinian problem is the major source of most of the problems of the Middle East.  This idea has been given credence by a number of intellectuals and academicians and has been accepted as fact by the current U.S. administration and several previous ones as well.  This explanation is overly simplistic; reality is far more convoluted and complex.  If peace with Israel were to be declared tomorrow, would that improve the quality of life for the average Arab?  Would Egypt suddenly experience full employment?  Would the Syrian civil war abruptly end?  Would Shiite and Sunni stop slaughtering one another in Iraq?  Would the militias in Libya suddenly lay down their arms and submit to the authority of the central government?  Would terrorist cells in Yemen stop plotting attacks against the West and would Iran cease its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons? 

The unvarnished truth is that of all the Arab states, only Jordan made any attempt to alleviate the plight of the Palestinians.  Egypt kept them confined to the Gaza Strip.  Lebanon and Syria had them living in squalor in fetid refugee camps.  Even the Arab League instructed its member states to deny citizenship to Palestinian refugees and their descendants on the pretext that they wanted to "avoid a dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return."  They deliberately keep the Palestinian problem festering, because it serves as a rallying cry for the cause of Pan-Arab unity; for the Arab world is anything but unified.  Successive generations of Arab leaders from Gamal Abdul Nasser to Hafez Assad and Saddam Hussein understood this, and played on this theme, using it to enhance their own stature in the Arab world. 

This brings us back to the beginning of this article; trying to pick the elusive "ace of peace" from an array of cards that is clearly stacked in the dealer's favor.  As of this writing, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are still engaged in negotiations, but if news reports are to be believed, the P.A.'s latest set of demands leave little room for hope.  They demand Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, the recognition of East Jerusalem as their capital and the right of the Palestinian refugees (unto the generations) to return to Israel proper.  In return, Abbas promises no peace treaty and no recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. 

Why should the P.A. agree to a settlement when they are convinced that world opinion would blame Israel for the failure of the talks?  They believe time is ultimately on their side, as evinced by the growth of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the growing anti-Israel stance of the European Union, the continuing isolation of Israel from the world community of nations, and with the specter of another Palestinian intifada looming on the horizon.  Even among American Jewry, unconditional support for Israel is waning, as manifested by the growth of organizations such as J Street, which gives legitimacy to the Palestinian cause. 

The current administration in Washington has made a series of unending mistakes when it comes to Middle East policy.  It supported the Arab Spring movement with the expectation that this would lead to genuine democratic reform.  With the possible exception of Tunisia, we see how badly this has played out.  It assumed that it could work with Islamic fundamentalists, who although they share the same dogma and set of beliefs as Al-Qaeda, were not directly affiliated with that organization.  We saw the result of this policy come to fruition in Benghazi.  It has diminished U.S. power and prestige in the Middle East, alienated traditional allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, emboldened Iran's nuclear ambitions, and created a power vacuum which Russia seems only too happy to fill.  Now the U.S. government insists on pursuing a "Chamberlainesque" policy of "peace in our time" at almost any price, at the expense of Israel.  Can it be that this administration really believes that it can actually pick out the "ace of spades" in the bunco artist's array?

Israel has made concession after concession in the name of peace; only to see them reciprocated by acts of war.  It unilaterally evacuated Gaza and Southern Lebanon, only to see thousands of rockets fly across their borders.  It turned over most of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, only to see a flurry of terrorist attacks directed against Israel and launched from that area.  Only when Israel built the much maligned security wall, did the bombings abate.  On at least three prior occasions it offered the Palestinians a state of their own giving them virtually everything that they were, in theory, asking for; only to have their offers rebuffed. 

Clearly, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Hezb'allah, and the puppet masters who pull their strings do not want peace.  They are not prepared to accept the existence of a Jewish state; even within the confines of the 1967 borders on land they view as rightfully their own.  This is the crux of the dilemma.  The late Golda Meir once said, "We will have peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us."  Unfortunately, that day has not arrived.  Until such time as it does, is anyone interested in a game of Three Card Monte?

Caren Besner


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Senators Accuse Hillary Clinton’s CIA Ally of Lying About Benghazi Under Oath

by Daniel Greenfield


This has been brewing for a while. CIA Deputy Director Morell had been fingered as the man who altered the Benghazi talking points.
Morell produced what became essentially the final version of the talking points, removing references to known terrorist groups and identifying a non-existing demonstration as the cause. Outrageously, the official talking points contradicted the known facts.
Morell’s transition from the CIA to a firm connected to Hillary Clinton didn’t help matters any.
Some speculate Morell may have higher political ambitions considering his employment at Beacon Global Strategies, a government relations firm founded by close Hillary Clinton confidante Philippe I. Reines.
Reines was Hillary’s image man, senior advisor and spokesman and very much involved in covering up what happened in Benghazi. Reines became infamous when he cursed out a BuzzFeed correspondent who was asking questions about Ambassador Stevens’ diary.

Beacon is all Hillaried up. Its other co-founder and managing director, Andrew Shapiro, was Hillary’s Senior Advisor.

Now Senators are accusing Morell of having lied to them over and over again.
The allegations of misconduct are serious. In the “additional views” portion of the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report, six Republican members  accuse Morell of lying in sworn testimony to Congress. Several Republican senators tell The Weekly Standard that Morell misled them in one-on-one or small-group meetings about the talking points. Morell—now counselor to Beacon Global Strategies, a consultancy close to Hillary Clinton—did not respond to a request for comment.
Three aspects of the controversy are drawing particular interest: (1) Morell’s obfuscation of his central role in rewriting the talking points, (2) Morell’s contention that the FBI rewrote the talking points, and (3) Morell’s false claim that the talking points were provided to the White House merely as a heads-up and not for coordination.
In private meetings with lawmakers, on Capitol Hill and at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, Morell denied that he had played any significant role in writing or revising the talking points.
The first question of the meeting was simple: “Who changed the talking points?” Morell responded, telling the senators that the FBI had made the revisions. “He told us that the FBI made the changes because they were the ones on the ground talking to people, and they didn’t want to jeopardize their investigation.”
Perhaps the most serious charge against Morell comes in the “Additional Views” section of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Benghazi. The authors, six Republican senators who sit on that panel, report for the first time that in his testimony on November 15, 2012, Morell “emphatically stated” that the talking points were provided to the White House “for their awareness, not for their coordination.”
That is not true, according to the 100 pages of emails between administration and intelligence officials released last May. In fact, in one of the emails that began the flurry of communication among top officials, a CIA spokesman tells a White House spokesman that the talking points are being provided to the White House “for coordination.” That email, sent on September 14 from the chief of media relations at the CIA to the White House’s National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, reads: “You should be seeing some ‘White Paper’ talking points from us this afternoon for coordination.” Ben Rhodes, a top foreign policy and national security adviser to President Obama, was copied on the email. So from the very beginning, top White House officials were involved in coordinating the discussion of what would go into the talking points, with heavy input from senior officials at the State Department and the intelligence community.
In June, Morell resigned. Soon he joined the consulting firm Beacon Global Strategies, cofounded by four men: Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff to Leon Panetta, who was secretary of defense during the Benghazi attacks; Michael Allen, former staff director of the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence, which helped investigate Benghazi; Andrew Shapiro, former assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs; and Philippe Reines, recently described by New York magazine as Hillary Clinton’s “most visible spokesman and the guardian of her public persona.”
Senator Chambliss notes that before leaving government, Morell “ultimately did own up to the fact that he made the changes. But,” he adds, “if he’d have said that early on, it would have solved a lot of problems and answered a lot of questions.”
“I went back and reviewed some of his testimony the other day and he’s gotten himself in a real box,” says Senator Saxby Chambliss, the highest-ranking Republican on the committee. “It’s really strange. I’ve always thought Mike was a straight-up guy, gave us good briefings—factual, straightforward. I mean, this has really been strange the last few weeks—all this now being uncovered.”
But as Morell’s real boss likes to say, “What difference does it make anyway?”

Daniel Greenfield


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Does Barack Obama Love America?

by Howard McCrum

Friday, 21 Feb 2014, Bill O'Reilly said he would never criticize or question the patriotism of a president, not Obama, not Bush, not any of them, not without proof.  Thus, Bill can claim fairness and balance in his views on other issues.  Besides, presidential patriotism is also a very safe bet in most cases.  For example, one can see the honorable intentions in Jimmy Carter's decisions, even if they lacked competence. 

However, unquestioned presidential patriotism might be one of those concepts in need of reconsideration.  Maybe we conservatives should loosen up and, like Justice Kagan's family dinner table, hold nothing sacrosanct.  So let's take a crack at this.

O'Reilly demands proof of Barack Obama's anti-American leanings, but what could serve as proof?  It's not likely that Obama would ever allow himself to be caught on a live microphone complaining about typical Americans as bitter clingers to the 2nd Amendment and their religious beliefs.  And he would certainly never be caught on a live microphone conspiring with a Russian dictator's envoy to exercise flexibility as soon as his election was over and he had a better opportunity to take unpopular steps.  Besides, such hypothetical unguarded moments could be misspoken notions, just thinking-out-loud moments that were never intended to be the firm basis for action. 

Proof must come in the form of official acts, policies, and statements.  Remember his first year in the Oval Office, for example.  First, he talked about fundamentally transforming the country.  Whereas, as a senator he called Bush's deficit spending "unpatriotic," as president he started us down a path of failed stimulus spending sending us into debt unheard of before on the planet, and used the money to subsidize his supporters and cronies.  He traveled the world, telling our worst critics that bad things they believed about us were true.  When asked about American exceptionalism, he said he believed in American exceptionalism just as Brits believe in British exceptionalism and Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.  Or how about in 2012 when Obama apologized to Afghans who murdered Americans in response to reports that the US military had destroyed Korans which had been defiled by Gitmo prisoners? 

Do these form an unpatriotic pattern?  On the one hand, his policies have been destructive and his statements are "derisive, even dismissive" of America.  On the other hand, President Obama can be a smothering paternalistic figure.  (He appears willing to use Obamacare to protect us to death.) 

That word, 'paternalistic' reminds me of a story about another father figure.  Pretend you're a domestic abuse hotline operator.  How would you answer this call?  "Hello, I need some help.  My kids and I hooked up with a guy who said he loved me.  But right after the ceremony he turned to me and said I would have to change.  Fundamentally.  I didn't think you could love someone and want to change them fundamentally.  Then he grabbed my credit card and ran up massive bills even my grandchildren won't live to pay off.  He said he did that to fix my finances.  Yeah, my ex left me with some big debts, and my current partner says the only way to fix my financial problems is to drive me into debt even farther and faster.  Then I found out most of the money he's spending is going to his pals.  I've been a good and responsible neighbor long before he came along, but he's told everyone in the neighborhood that they've been right to hate and resent me for my bad behavior.  So I'm undecided and I have a question:  do you think he loves me?  Or should I scrape him and his pals off the first chance I get?  No, no, I'm just sure he loves me.  What do you think?" 

I guess some women stick with guys that are just no good for them.  Whew!  We can certainly be glad we're not in her shoes! 

But I digress. 

I'm undecided and I still have a question: Is Bill O'Reilly correct?  Does Barack Obama love America?  Or should we scrape Obama and his pals off the first chance we get?  No, no, I'm just sure he loves us.  What do you think?

Howard McCrum


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Anti-Zionists Must Not Be Allowed to Hijack the Jewish Community

by Jonathan S. Tobin

This week the Jewish world is discussing two incidents in which large community institutions were forced to account for invitations to prominent writers who are virulent foes of Israel. In one case New York’s Jewish Museum was under fire for inviting academic Judith Butler. In another, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, also in New York, canceled an appearance by New Republic editor John Judis. What both these figures had in common was their bitter opposition to Israel. In Butler’s case, she is a prominent supporter of the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement that seeks to wage economic war on the state of Israel. Judis is the author of a book that questions the legitimacy of Israel’s creation in a revisionist history of President Harry Truman’s role in the creation of the Jewish state, as historian Ron Radosh pointed out in the Jerusalem Post.

Taken together, along with other incidents in the last year involving other BDS supporters being invited to Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y, the decision by the two museums to let outraged members and donors derail the events is seen as a sign of a wave of repression in the American Jewish community. Sounding a theme that has become a constant refrain on the left, supporters of Israel are being accused of cracking down on dissent. But the issue here isn’t free speech or even whether Israel’s policies should be debated. It’s whether an extremist anti-Zionist minority will be able to hijack Jewish institutions.

The accusation about free speech is a canard. Butler, Judis, and other BDS supporters, such as rocker Roger Waters and writer Alice Walker (who were both invited to the 92nd Street Y last year), do not lack forums to promote their anti-Israel views. Judis admitted as much in an article in the Forward about the controversy. He noted that far from being repressed, Israel’s critics were finding it easier than ever to find forums where they are heard. As is the case with Hillel branches at college campuses around the country that are declaring their willingness to host BDS backers or sponsor programs with anti-Israel groups, anti-Zionists aren’t being silenced. Moreover, the talk about suppression of dissent against Israel rarely takes into account the fact that the mainstream liberal media gives these anti-Zionists equal time on their op-ed pages as well as occasional puffy features where they are portrayed as valiant dissenters even as they are being lionized by newspapers like the New York Times.

 The Times can publish what it likes but institutions that are supported and funded by a broad consensus of the Jewish community are accountable to their donors and the Jewish public. The notion that they should give platforms to individuals who are part of a campaign to delegitimize Zionism and the state of Israel is one that strikes most of those donors as indefensible. They believe their funds should not be used to subsidize programs or promote individuals or produce plays whose purpose is to lend weight to the voices seeking Israel’s destruction.

Those who claim that BDS and anti-Zionism are just another legitimate point of view that deserves a public airing and debate are hypocrites. The BDS cause is one based in a prejudiced view that holds that the Jews are the one people on the planet that are neither entitled to their own homeland or to defend it. Such bias if applied to other groups would be seen as racist. In the case of Jews, the term for such behavior is called anti-Semitism. When combined, as it is by anti-Zionists, with conspiratorial theories about Jewish manipulation of the media or Congress (the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” canard), there is little doubt about the prejudicial nature of the effort.

Judith Butler, John Judis, Roger Waters, and Alice Walker can say whatever they want about Israel in a thousand other, often more prominent, forums thanthose in the Jewish community. But they are not entitled to have Jewish institutions honor or fund their anti-Israel hate. Upholding that principle isn’t repression. It’s just common sense.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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A Good Deal for the Ukrainian Opposition

by Max Boot

The agreement reached between President Viktor Yanukovych and Ukrainian opposition leaders is about as good as the anti-government forces can possibly hope to get.

It calls, inter alia, for a power-sharing arrangement with the opposition to be followed by a new presidential election no later than December. It also commits the government not to impose a state of emergency–meaning martial law–and to allow outside monitors from Europe and the opposition to monitor all investigations “into recent acts of violence.”

A sign of just how favorable this agreement is to the opposition: while it was signed by the foreign ministers of Poland, France, and Germany, all of whom are in Kiev, the Russian delegate pointedly refused to sign it.

Yet, many protesters in the streets are not prepared to accept what is largely a victory. Many of them refuse to disperse from Independence Square until Yanukovych resigns. Their position is understandable but misguided. As Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski reportedly told demonstrators: “If you don’t support this [deal] you’ll have martial law, you’ll have the army. You will all be dead.”

Sikorski should know what he is talking about, having spent a good part of his life as a refugee from Poland, which saw the imposition of martial law in 1981.

It remains an open question, however, whether many of the people on the streets of Kiev will heed Sikorski’s wisdom and that of their own leaders. They should, because all too many revolutions have gone off the rails when the revolutionaries pushed for an absolutist agenda and refused to accept a compromise that would have given them 75 percent of what they wanted. The classic example is, of course, the French Revolution, which started off as a moderate, liberal movement in 1789 and soon thereafter was drenched in blood from one round of “terror” after another.

The most successful and revered revolutionaries are those, like Michael Collins and Nelson Mandela, who are willing to accept a negotiated outcome to avoid an all-out war. That is an example the people of Ukraine would be wise to heed.

Max Boot


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Friday, February 21, 2014

Cold War Rematch in Kiev

by Joseph Klein

APTOPIX Ukraine Protests 

In a striking example of Cold War redux, the Ukraine has emerged as the latest geopolitical flashpoint between Russia and the United States, with Western Europe playing a secondary role. Ukrainians are caught in a tug of war, with Ukrainians in the eastern portion of Ukraine more aligned with Russia, and Ukrainians in the western portion of the country wanting to move closer to the democratic model of Western Europe and the United States. Protesters against the repressive government of Ukraine’s President Viktor F. Yanukovych are fighting for more freedoms within the structure of a pluralistic democracy, including checks on presidential powers. With the likely tacit blessing of autocratic Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is no stranger to using force to put down dissent, Yanukovych’s government has pushed back with increasingly repressive measures. These measures now include empowering the military to search, detain and shoot protesting Ukrainian freedom fighters as part of what the government is calling a nationwide anti-terrorism operation.

Protests in Ukraine began last November when Ukraine’s President Viktor F. Yanukovych decided to reject offers of a closer relationship and trade deal with the European Union, tilting towards Russia instead. Russia offered Ukraine an economic lifeline in the form of $15 billion dollars’ worth of credit, and put pressure on Yanukovych to rebuff Western Europe’s offers. After suspending its credit line briefly after the resignation under pressure of pro-Russian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in January, Russia has now resumed its extension of credit with the purchase of $2 billion in Ukrainian government bonds. Russia took this action shortly after Yanukovych had met with Putin in Sochi on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics opening ceremonies, and just one day before this week’s bloodiest clashes yet broke out in the capital city of Kiev.

In the worst outbreak of violence so far in the stand-off between protesters and Ukraine President Yanukovych’s government, at least two dozen people have been reported killed and hundreds injured during clashes that began on Tuesday February 18th. Fires set by protesters raged in Kiev as the protesters tried to stave off police assaults, which had begun when police officers in two armored personnel carriers attempted to ram through barriers set up by the protesters. The protesters pushed back, resulting in the vehicles bursting into flames. Riot police then came out in force, prompting protesters to burn tires and whatever else they could to create a fiery barricade around their principal encampment on Independence Square. The police continued their assaults into the morning hours of February 19th. The protesters, though badly battered, are not giving up just yet. Lawmakers in one region declared independence from Yanukovych’s government, in support of the protesters.

Only a few days ago, there was optimism that peace would be restored as a result of an agreement by representatives of the opposition to have protesters abandon their occupation of government buildings in return for amnesty from prosecution. Putin’s response to this prospect of more concessions by Yanukovych, and to a meeting this past Monday of protest leaders with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to request assistance, was his decision to resume providing credit to Ukraine. The pro-Moscow government supporters in Ukraine’s Parliament followed up Putin’s action with actions of their own favorable to Russia’s interests. They blocked attempts by opposition leaders to reform Ukraine’s constitution towards a more Western style model with reduced presidential powers. That is when all hell broke loose. The result was the “pyre of violent chaos,” as the New York Times described this week’s bloody clashes.

The New York Times front page article on February 19th linked Yanukovych’s meeting with Putin in Sochi with Yanukovych’s apparent reversal of his earlier pledges not to use force to disband the protesters. After all, Putin’s own hold on power is a clear demonstration of how force and repression are more reliable tools in the hands of an autocrat than giving in to the demands of freedom fighters.

Russia wasted no time accusing the United States of interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbor and fomenting discord. Washington is trying to tell “the authorities of a sovereign state what they should do next and how they should do it,” declared a Russian state-owned news agency. The Foreign Ministry in Moscow blamed the escalation of violence on Western politicians’ “policy of connivance.” Only a few days ago, before the latest outbreak, a leading Russian Foreign Ministry official had said that the United States was displaying an attitude of “puppeteering” by trying to impose a “Western vector of development” on Ukraine.

These charges took on extra urgency in Russian circles as a result of the leak (most likely by Russia itself, obtained from its surveillance) of the infamous audio recording of a phone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. While Nuland’s expletive denunciation of the European Union revealed the Obama administration’s impatience with the European Union’s failure to deal adequately with the crisis in Ukraine brewing in Western Europe’s own backyard, the recording also revealed discussions between Nuland and Pyatt regarding whom should and should not serve in a new government. Russia has used this conversation as proof that its suspicions of U.S. meddling in the internal affairs of Ukraine are well-founded.

Russia has a significant stake in what happens to Ukraine. It shares a border with Ukraine, which heightens Russia’s national security concerns if Ukraine were to integrate economically and militarily with the West rather than turn towards Russia for support. Ukraine is also of commercial significance to Russia, both in terms of providing pipeline transit for energy Russia sells to Europe and providing access to the sea for its maritime export trade.

During several centuries up to the dismantling of the Soviet Union, Russia has been able to exercise control at various times over at least some portions of Ukraine. Putin, who admires Stalin as a leader, is trying to re-build a mini version of Russia’s former empire at least in what has been called the “near abroad” of former neighboring Soviet satellites. This would bring Ukraine back squarely into Russia’s sphere of influence.

Western European countries have expressed support for the opposition in Ukraine, while calling for restraint. They have also threatened sanctions against government officials responsible for the crackdown, but have not followed through, at least up until now. A concrete financial aid package for Ukraine outbidding Russia’s extension of credit has also not yet been forthcoming. Some of this might change as a result of the latest bloody clashes and Yanukovych’s evident determination to suppress the protests with a major display of force. However, as the recorded conversation of Assistant Secretary of State Nuland with Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt made clear, the Obama administration is not willing to let the European Union take the lead even though Germany in particular has more energy and economic interests at stake than the United States does.

The United States’ interest in Ukraine has little to do with energy or trade, in my opinion. Concern for the human rights of protesters fighting for greater freedoms may be part of what is driving some members of the Obama administration to seek greater involvement in the crisis. However, there may well be a more realpolitik strategy at work as well.

The Obama administration may be trying to resurrect a Cold War strategy to counter the Soviet Union championed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor whom has served as a senior adviser to President Obama on matters of national security and foreign policy. Brzezinski believed in exploiting the soft underbelly of the Soviet Union in the lead-up to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the Carter years, by which he meant at the time to stir up opposition within and nearby the Soviet Union among the Muslim population to weaken the Soviet state through implosion.  In Afghanistan, which had a pro-Soviet government at the time, Brzezinski’s idea was to funnel U.S. aid to the Muslim opposition in order to suck the Soviet Union into a costly war in Afghanistan that he believed would help demoralize the Soviet Union and lead to its break-up.

The following is an exchange between Brzezinski and an interviewer for Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998, as published by the Information Clearing House:

“Question:  The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs [From the Shadows], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Question: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

Brzezinski: It isn’t quite that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.”

Fast forward to today, when Vladimir Putin is flexing his muscles in areas of strategic concern to the United States, such as the Middle East. He outflanked Obama on dealing with the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons stockpiles, buying more time for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power. Putin is also making sure that Assad is armed with sophisticated weapons, prompting Secretary of State John Kerry this week to lamely complain that Russia is “enabling Assad to double down, which is creating an enormous problem.”

Putin is also being courted by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, the Palestinians and Iran, who sense the diminishing of U.S. influence in the region and are looking to go with a winner.

A mini Cold War is returning under Obama’s watch as Russian autocrat Putin seeks to widen Russia’s sphere of influence in a bid to return to at least a modest version of the Soviet Union’s glory days.

The one card that the Obama administration may be playing is to dust off a modified version of Brzezinski’s underbelly strategy and put Russia on defense. The purpose would not be to induce a Russian invasion this time, which would unhinge Western Europe and potentially set off other unintended consequences. Rather, the Obama administration may be hoping to divert Putin’s attention away from the Middle East and cause him to redirect money and resources closer to home, in order to prop up Russia’s allies in Ukraine and prevent it from being pried away by the West from Russia’s sphere of influence. Covert support to the protesters may be part of this strategy. So far, however, Putin appears to be winning with little cost and no discernible effect on his involvement in the Middle East or power at home.

The fate of the freedom fighters protesting the Putin-style model of repression in Ukraine remains to be seen.

Joseph Klein


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