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11/21/2011
SYRIA LURCHES TOWARD CIVIL WAR

It is not looking good for peace in Syria at the moment. Not only is Assad ignoring the Arab League’s overtures for peace, but a sectarian war has broken out in Homs between the Alawites and Sunnis. And the military defectors based in Turkey - the “Free Syrian Army” is beginning to flex its muscles with an attack on Baath party headquarters in Damascus on Saturday.

My FPM article from this morning:

This has been the nightmare of the secularists in the opposition since the uprising began; that the boiling kettle of differing sects and religions in Syria might overflow and turn into a conflict - not to get rid of Assad, but to kill their religious enemies. This is evident in the city of Homs where the small Alawite community has been carrying out tit-for-tat murders of Sunnis who have been returning the favor.

The violence is close to being out of control as many residents of both Islamic sects fear for their lives if they venture outdoors. One resident told the New York Times that “There are shabeeha on both sides now” - referring to the black clad militia that is the spearhead of Assad’s crackdown on civilians. The Times describes a harrowing situation, with “beheadings, rival gangs carrying out tit-for-tat kidnappings, minorities fleeing for their native villages, and taxi drivers too fearful of drive-by shootings to ply the streets.” Both sides blame the government for encouraging the sectarian violence, but the bitter rivals hardly need a push from anyone to kill each other.

This is what a real civil war in Syria could look like: minorities like the Christians, the Druze, the Shias, and the small but dominant Alawite sect, fearing a Sunni takeover (Sunnis make up 75% of the population), would largely look to Assad’s regime to protect them, while some of those minorities and the Sunnis would seek to overthrow the regime. The conflict would quickly degenerate into a bloodbath similar to what was witnessed in Iraq during the violence after Saddam’s overthrow.

This scenario is becoming more likely because of the inability of the Syrian National Council to agree on an agenda that would lead to Assad’s departure. The more the opposition dithers and is unable to unite the various factions, including the groups of young people who have been on the front lines of the revolt, the less likely it is that sectarian tensions can be kept under wraps.

There is also the question of maintaining a peaceful character to the revolution. Most of the younger activists don’t want anything to do with the Free Syrian Army while the SNC wants to maintain an arms length relationship with the defectors. The SNC argues that embracing the FSA will make it harder for other soldiers to defect. “[T]he others [soldiers] in the army are our sons too,” said one SNC member.

The Arab League, the international community, and Syria’s neighbors are scrambling to come up with a formula that will force Bashar Assad from office and avoid an even larger bloodbath than the carnage being visited upon the Syrian people by the military forces of the Syrian president. With tens of thousands of prisoners being held without charge, and at least 3,500 dead, time appears to be running out for a happy ending to the human rights tragedy currently unfolding in Syria.

By: Rick Moran at 11:04 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

11/14/2011
ARAB LEAGUE TURNS ON SYRIA

As far as international, multi-lateral organizations go, the Arab League has always been something of a joke — and that’s saying a lot considering their competition.

But give the clowns their due; they finally bestirred themselves after 8 months of slaughter in Syria and suspended the Assad regime and recalled their ambassadors. For the past several months, they have done their best to avoid addressing the violence in Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain while making pious pronouncements about “democracy” and pluralism.

Considering no Arab League states come close to practicing those beliefs in reality, their calls to end the violence were more hollow and ridiculous than usual. But little Qatar and the Saudis see the prospect of regional instability if Syria were to descend into civil war — a likely prospect now that there are thousands of armed army deserters who are taking sides against the regime — and they prodded the League to vote Syria’s suspension.

My FPM article today addresses the Syrian response to the League’s actions:

“You Arab leaders are the tails of Obama,” read a banner unfurled during the Damascus protest. Indeed, that has been the government line since the suspension was announced late last week. The Al-Thawra (revolution) newspaper was quoted as saying that the suspension and withdrawal of ambassadors was “almost identical to and a copy of U.S. instructions.” Al-Watan referred to the Arab League as the “Hebrew League” while the official news agency SANA quoted a prominent politician who said the suspension was tantamount to “declaring war” against Syria.

It is widely believed that Assad has called for the emergency Arab summit to stall for time - a luxury he no longer has. The only three member states to vote against Syria’s suspension were Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon, all for varying reasons. Iraq fears a Sunni enemy on its borders if Assad is overthrown or otherwise departs. Yemen, suffering through its own version of the “Arab Spring,” fears similar action by the Arab League against President Saleh who, despite promising four times to leave office, hangs on to power while his country falls into civil war. And Lebanon has become a puppet of Syria since Hezbollah took over the government last spring.

But what must worry Assad the most is the loss of his good friend and ally, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey. Turkey has been slow off the mark in punishing Assad for the brutal crackdown but Erdogan has finally come to the conclusion that Assad has to go. Erdogan had promised sanctions last month but events intervened to prevent their announcement - including an attack on Kurdish terrorists in Iraq and a devastating earthquake that demanded his attention.

But the Wall Street Journal reports that even though Erdogan has been cautious in moving toward full opposition to the Assad regime, Turkey now sees Assad as an impediment to its hegemonistic designs in the Middle East. The newspaper quotes Ilter Turan, a professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, who said, “As long as Assad is there, the road for Iran to extend its influence through the Middle East and the Mediterranean is open.” With both nations vying for power and influence in the region, knocking his former friend off his throne would mean that any new regime in Syria would almost certainly be less friendly to Tehran.

Three quarters of the Syrian population is Sunni Muslim and it is thought that even a pluralistic, secular government as a successor to Assad would pull back from aligning itself too closely with Shia Iran. The chances of that kind of government emerging from post-Assad Syria are exceedingly slim, however. Nowhere else in the Arab world has the “Arab Spring” led to any government except an Islamist one. And just recently, the Syrian opposition hosted Muslim Brotherhood cleric Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi in Qatar. Allowing the resurrection of the Muslim Brotherhood - nearly destroyed by Assad’s father Hafez in a series of brutal massacres during the 1980s - is a dangerous sign for the mostly idealistic secularists on the Syrian National Council.

By: Rick Moran at 11:51 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

11/11/2011
THE IAEA REPORT: WHAT NOW?

Short answer: nothing. No sanctions, no bombing, no conceivable action that can stop the Iranians if they choose — and the report clearly shows that they have - to construct the ultimate guarantee against mocking the prophet.

My FPM article examines the question:

The major difference between reports generated under ElBaradei and today is the tough, no nonsense Japanese diplomat who now heads the IAEA. Yukiya Amano has tried — within the limited sphere of his authority — to hold Iran accountable for its secrecy and refusal to answer questions about the extent of its nuclear research and development programs. Far more than ElBaradei, who at times seemed to be Iran’s primary nuclear enabler, Amano has fought his own board to toughen reports on the Iranian program, resisting efforts to soften language and obfuscate conclusions.

In this case, it may not be a slam dunk — there is no “smoking gun” that reveals Iranian intentions with any certainty — but, as Amano notes, there is “a thousand pages of documents” that showed “research, development and testing activities” that strongly suggest a military aspect to the Iranian’s proclaimed “peaceful” nuclear program.

Why release such a strongly worded and detailed report now? Amano, suggested one diplomat, may have reached the limit of his patience with Iranian evasions and might be trying to use the IAEA as a spur to get Iran back to the negotiating table. “Amano thinks that the best role the IAEA can play is as a technical agency that is forthcoming about the information that it has,” the diplomat said. Contrary to belief in some quarters in the West, the sanctions against Tehran have hurt far more than the regime has let on. While they haven’t materially affected the Iranian nuclear program, shortages of basics, inflation, and a lack of spare parts have deeply impacted ordinary people and caused much anger at the government. Another round of sanctions targeting the Iranian petrol industry would bite even harder, although both Russia and China oppose any more sanctions at all at this time. Amano realizes this and believes if the choice is between tougher sanctions or a military strike, Moscow and Beijing may reluctantly come on board for another round of Security Council actions against Tehran. It’s an admitted long shot, but looking at the alternative, it’s a diplomat’s hope to resolve the crisis peacefully.

In fact, the IAEA report has now brought the Iranian problem to a crisis level. CNN quotes one expert, Geneive Abdo, Iran analyst with The Century Foundation, who believes that a “dangerous turning point” has been reached:

“I think the only move is to have some sort of dialogue with Iran. Whether over Afghanistan or over its nuclear program, the parties have to come back to the negotiating table,” she said. “Because the silence is very dangerous. Also, the Iranians, I believe, really believe that there could be an attack now, and they feel completely under siege.”

“Historically, the way Iran reacts to pressure is more aggression,” and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made clear he reacts that way as well, Abdo said.

The US would lead the effort for an additional round of sanctions at the UN, but most diplomats hold out little hope that they would alter Iran’s path. Instead, the Obama administration may go it alone or engage its friends and allies in imposing their own, tougher sanctions on Iran. But the same problems present themselves in such a multi-lateral effort; Russia and China would ignore the restrictions and continue to trade with Tehran. One possible target might be the Iranian central bank that deals with other international banks around the world. Restricting Iran’s access to foreign capital would cause the regime some difficulty in the import-export sector.

Despite clear evidence that sanctions won’t stop Tehran from developing a weapon, they will be tried because the alternative — military action — would only delay Iran’s drive for a bomb for three years at most. That’s been a consistent assessment from the Pentagon and CIA for three years now. And an invasion coupled with regime change would have very little support in the US, as well as giving no guarantee that the next Iranian regime wouldn’t pursue nuclear weapons as well. Also, the sites that would be targeted are spread out all over the country and many are underground and hidden.

The Israeli air force would have a difficult mission if it were tasked with bombing Iranian nuclear sites. Difficult – but not impossible. The flights would necessarily be long, with some of the flight path over the territory of states not likely to grant overflight permission. Would the US assist the Israelis by taking out Iranian air defenses, or perhaps even join in a strike on the nuclear sites? If the Israelis is going to go ahead and bomb Iran, there are some who believe we may as well assist them because Iran is going to blame us anyway. More likely, any US administration will do all in its power to dissuade the Israelis from striking. The consequences from skyrocketing oil prices, to probable proxy attacks on our troops and bases in the region would not be worth the small gain in time — if any time is to be gained at this point — in delaying the Iranian quest for a bomb.

The options are all unacceptable — but so is Iran getting the bomb.

I half jokingly suggested to Jazz Shaw on The RINO Hour of Power show that we give the Saudis and any other Gulf nation who wants one, a couple of nukes to establish a balance of power. It’s an option that The Kingdom appears to be seriously contemplating, but even with western help they are a decade away.

No one knows just how genuinely crazy and fanatical the Iranian mullahs truly are. I’m inclined to think they are more unbalanced than is desired for the world to be safe from their using nukes in war, but not likely to fire a missile at Israel on a whim. Nor do I think it likely that they would spend all that money, time and effort only to hand a nuke to Hezballah or some other terrorist outfit. In 5 years, they will have a missile with a long enough range to hit most US cities so it would seem improbable that they would allow another government or terrorist group to decide when to use a nuke against us.

The world is about to enter a most unsettling and dangerous period.

By: Rick Moran at 2:28 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

11/7/2011
New Greek Government, Same Greek Woes

They’re calling it a “government of national salvation” and we can only hope so. Late word has it that world renowned economist Lucas Papademos will take the reins of government from outgoing prime minister George Papandreou. A technocrat, not a party man, Papdemos will have his hands full trying to implement the draconian austerity measures demanded by the EU in exchange for a $178 billion bailout.

I wrote about the changeover for FPM:

Papandreou almost blew the entire deal last Monday when, unexpectedly, he called for a nationwide referendum on the budget package. It proved to be a gigantic miscalculation and his eventual undoing. Not only was the plan for a vote on the austerity measures met with almost universal scorn in Greece and panic on European stock exchanges, it enraged German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy who had labored long and hard to seal the bailout deal with all parties involved. A “no” vote on the referendum would have led to Greece being denied the bailout funds, which would have resulted in an uncontrolled default and Greece leaving the euro for the drachma. Many analysts believe that a Greek default would start the dominoes falling of other nations experiencing debt crisis, including Portugal and Ireland. And it would threaten Italy, whose costs to borrow money has skyrocketed this past week with the political crisis in Greece.

By Thursday, with Papandreou facing a revolt of his own socialist deputies over the plan for a referendum, the prime minister withdrew it. After surviving the confidence vote on Friday and calls for his resignation coming from all quarters, Papandreou determined it was time to go. However, his ploy achieved something he may not have intended. In the end, it forced the opposition - including the New Democracy party - to also take responsibility for the austerity measures and see them through.

Now that Mr. Samaras’s party has bought in, the political pain will be shared across the board. Where before the previous bailout package and accompanying austerity measures became easy targets for the opposition to criticize Papandreou and PASOK, now his political opponents will actually be charged with helping to run the government, and will be forced to act more responsibly.

Samaras acknowledged as much, saying, “I can sense the agony of the Greek people,” adding, “Everybody has to act responsibly now and send a message of stability abroad to the people of Europe and the people of our country too.”

To describe the set of austerity measures that Greece is to implement as “draconian” is not an exaggeration. A few examples:

  • Monthly pensions above 1,000 euros to be cut by 20 percent; monthly pensions at the same level for existing retirees under 55 to be cut by 40 percent.
  • Health spending to be cut by 310 million euros ($432.2 million Cdn) in 2011 and a further 1.8 billion euros between 2012 and 2015.
  • Education spending to be trimmed through merging or closing of 1,976 schools.
  • The tax-free income threshold to be lowered from 12,000 to 5,000 euros.
  • In an effort to raise money for the growing number of unemployed, the country is to introduce a “solidarity levy” of between one and five percent per household, which will be raised twice in 2012.
  • Taxes on gas, cigarettes and alcohol to increase by one third; luxury taxes to be levied on items like pools and yachts.

Also, the government is to sell off and privatize several state concerns including telecommunications giant Hellenic Telecom and sell stakes in various banks, utilities, ports, airports and land holdings in 2011/2012.

One prominent European think tank, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says the bailout and austerity measures will work as long as they are fully implemented. But initially, there is little doubt that there will be real pain and more contraction in the Greek economy, which has shrunk by an astonishing 15% since 2008. The budget cuts and layoffs will only lead to a more severe recession in the short run, which will add to Greece’s budget deficit. The question facing European leaders is: will the bailout be enough to cauterize the wounded euro and get Greece back on its feet before the money runs out?

Good question, but I tend to think not. What the Greek government is trying to do is have a bloodless revolution, totally overturning not just the economy but Greek society and many cherished values and beliefs held by its citizens. This is not a recipe for success. It is a near guarantee of disaster.

By: Rick Moran at 12:05 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

10/18/2011
But Cain He?

I have another article up at FPM this morning and its about the rise of Herman Cain and what he has to do to maintain his position as frontrunner.

A sample:

Cain’s rise is tied to the fall of Rick Perry, with his increase in support matching the decline in Perry’s numbers. Clearly, conservatives have found a new favorite, and it will be up to Cain to maintain the momentum as he moves forward.

But can he? This surge in support has come even as the candidate has little in the way of organization on the ground in key states like Iowa and New Hampshire — and precious little time to build one. His fundraising will no doubt pick up considerably, but there, too, he lacks infrastructure. Karl Rove said on Greta Van Sustern’s show, “If you’re running uphill, you better seize the opportunities that are given to you, and this is an opportunity which wandering around western Tennessee on a bus is not exploiting.” Rove was talking about Cain’s trips to Texas and Tennessee last week — states that don’t vote until March — while eschewing campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early primary states.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Cain is responding to the challenge. He plans on doubling his staff by the end of the month and open more offices in early campaign states. And as far as fundraising goes, his campaign pulled in $2 million the first two weeks of October, compared to $2.8 million the entire last quarter.

Beyond that, he is drawing huge crowds at his appearances. There were nearly 15,000 at six stops in Tennessee, including an overflow crowd of 2,000 that showed up in a barn in the tiny hamlet of Waverly. If professional politicos are concerned about Cain’s ability to reach out and touch ordinary voters, they need look no farther than this.

Worries aside, Cain’s rise is based on solid, political reasons that suggest he has the staying power to compete with former GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney all the way through the torturous primary process.

There really isn’t a secret to Cain’s success. At bottom, he is likable, charismatic, witty, charming, and bordering on brilliant. Those are characteristics any politician would sell his soul to possess and Cain has them in abundance. His debate performances have been outstanding, handling questions with surefooted aplomb. He articulates a conservative vision of government that speaks to the base of the Republican party in a way no other candidate can match. And for many, his lack of Washington experience is actually a plus, suggesting a campaign unsullied by the kind of “politics as usual” that most of the Tea Party wing of the GOP wishes to avoid.

But there are doubters and naysayers who view a Cain victory with a critical eye. Even the candidate admits he is not up to speed on many foreign policy issues. And opposition among some conservatives is building to his “9-9-9 plan” due to its lack of specificity and regressive characteristics.


By: Rick Moran at 10:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

10/17/2011
Khamenei, Ahmadinejad Rift Deepens

My latest is up at FPM and I look at the fascinating power struggle going on in Iran between the president and Supreme Leader.

A sample:

The feud may have burst into the open relatively recently, but the tension between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad has been simmering for months. Ahmadinejad and his loyalists wish to reduce the tremendous influence of the clerical establishment on his decision making as president, making Iran more nationalistic and authoritarian, while giving a bigger role to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Khamenei, as the Supreme Leader, is the nominal head of the clerical establishment, although he is not respected as an expert on the Koran or Islamic law. However, to guard their prerogatives, the clerics are supporting him in the feud down the line. This includes the extreme conservative Ayatollah Yazdi who has been Ahmadinejad’s biggest booster among the clerics in the past, but who has sided with Khamenei in the dispute.

As Supreme Leader, Khamenei commands the Guard, but Ahmadinejad is the first president with an independent power center within the IRGC. The Iranian president was a senior commander of the Qods Force, the extra-territorial arm of the IRGC, and has given numerous economic opportunities to key members of the Guard during his terms as president. There are many in the Guard who share Ahmadinejad’s ideology and believe in his confrontational approach in dealing with Israel and the the US. Khamenei, on the other hand, has not let his hatred of Israel and the West affect his more secretive attitude in foreign affairs.

The real challenge to Khamenei’s authority came last April when Ahmadinejad dismissed a crony of the Supreme Leader’s, Heydar Moslehi, who was serving as intelligence minister. Within hours of the announcement of Moslehi’s resignation, Khamenei reinstated him — despite the fact that the Iranian constitution gives the president the power to hire and fire ministers. This infuriated Ahmadinejad who went to Khamenei and threatened to resign unless Moslehi was sacked. Khamenei called Ahmadinejad’s bluff, telling him, in effect, to go ahead, but Moslehi was going to stay.

In protest, the Iranian president absented himself from cabinet meetings for two weeks and when he came back, refused to allow Moslehi to attend cabinet meetings. Finally, after the Iranian Majlis threatened to impeach him, he relented and gave in to Khamenei’s demands. As a result of his opposition, 29 of his confidantes were arrested. Suitably chastened, Ahmadinejad explained his actions in the context of wanting what was best for Iran. “I am convinced that a strong and powerful president would lead to dignity of the Leadership and especially the nation. A strong president can stand firm as a defensive shield, advance affairs of the state, and bring dignity upon it,” he said in a statement upon his return.

In this particular dust up, and in other conflicts between the president and the Supreme Leader, Khamenei holds most of the cards. He is seen as Allah’s representative on earth and going against him as Ahmadinejad did was considered a shocking transgression. Ayatollah Yazdi remarked that disobeying Khamenei was akin to “apostasy from God” — a sentiment echoed by senior leaders of the IRGC.

What is behind Ahmadinejad’s “apostasy” is nothing less than a struggle for the future of the revolutionary Islamic Republic. In the past, Ahmadinejad has chafed at ministers who have been imposed on him by not only Khamenei, but also former president Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the cagey parliamentarian, Speaker of the Majlis Ali Larijani. In response, Ahmadinejad has fired a record 11 ministers during his term of office, replacing them largely with cronies and loyalists who may not have been the best qualified applicants to manage the ministries for which they were chosen to run.

The president and his supporters in the IRGC have been advancing the idea in recent months of running Iran with minimal clerical influence and based more on nationalism than revolutionary Islam. This is a direct threat to members of the clerical establishment, who have grown fat and fabulously wealthy in the current system, receiving kickbacks and payments from various companies and ministries. Giving some of those plums to IRGC commanders has increased Ahmadinejad’s independence — a threat not only to Khamenei’s rule but to the concept of the Islamic Republic itself. What’s worse, Ahmadinejad’s preferred successor, his close confidant and former chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, has made it plain that he believes in an Iran without a Supreme Leader. This has caused Khamenei loyalists to refer to Mashaei as a “deviant current” in Ahmadinejad’s inner circle — a warning that Ahmadinejad should distance himself from his friend and advisor.

By: Rick Moran at 12:13 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

10/11/2011
CHRISTIANS UNDER SIEGE IN EGYPT

My latest is up at FPM and it’s about the discomfiting reality facing Christians in Egypt and the Middle East at large.

With the advent of the “Arab Spring,” radical Muslims have been unleashed from decades of their own oppression and allowed to rampage through Christian communities burning churches, murdering, and destroying Christian homes.

In Egypt, the Copts have watched as a systematic effort to destroy their churches and terrorize their communities has been underway since the fall of Mubarak. A riot on Sunday killed nearly 20 and wounded 400. And the hell of it is, the authorities are ignoring the persecution, currying favor with the radicals.

A sample:

On September 30, “some three thousand Muslims rampaged the church, torched it, and demolished the dome; flames from the wreckage burned nearby Coptic homes, which were further ransacked by rioting Muslims.” Predictably, the Governor of Aswan blamed the Christians for the violence, pointing out that the Copts were building the roof of the church 3 meters too high. “Copts made a mistake and had to be punished, and Muslims did nothing but set things right, end of story,” said the governor.

Coptic Christians were second class citizens under the Mubarak regime, but their churches were protected and radical Islamists were reined in. But since the “Arab Spring,” the authorities have turned a blind eye as Muslims have run wild, burning churches, murdering Christians, and rampaging through Christian communities.

According to the Associated Press, here’s a partial list of attacks on Copts since the beginning of 2011:

  • A New Year church attack left 23 dead.
  • On February 23, a Coptic priest was found murdered. The assailants reportedly shouted “Allahu-Akbar” upon leaving the dead priest’s house.
  • In March, a Muslim-Christian love affair led to the burning of a church south of Cairo. When Copts protested the church attack, a mob of Muslims wielding knives and clubs attacked killing 13 and injuring 140.
  • In April, thousands of Muslims in Qena protested the appointment of a Coptic governor. The authorities caved in and appointed a Muslim.
  • In May, another church was burned, this time in Cairo, by a mob angered over another Christian-Muslim love affair. Twelve were killed.

There have been no prosecutions relating to any of these attacks. In fact, as Ibrahim reports, “Even if sometimes the most rabid church-destroying Muslims get ‘detained,’ it is usually for show, as they are released in days, hailed back home as heroes.”

These scenes of destruction and murder have been repeated all over the Middle East. Whatever one can say about tyrants like Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak, they feared the Islamists and kept them from causing the kind of mayhem that is afflicting Christian populations across the region. And the destruction of churches and murders of Christians are not isolated incidents. There has been a systematic targeting of Christians in Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Iran, as well as Egypt. The attacks are inspired by extremist clerics, and condoned to one degree or another by authorities.

Despite Christians living and worshiping in the Middle East for 2,000 years, those communities are now in danger of disappearing. A report by the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights reveals that 100,000 Christians have fled Egypt since March, with 250,000 expected to leave before the end of 2011. In Iraq, it’s even worse. A State Department report last year on religious freedom around the world showed that 50% of Iraqi Christians had left the country since the US invasion. And in Sudan, tens of thousands of Christians in the Nuba Mountains are being bombed daily by Sudanese military forces and suffer house to house raids at the hands of President Bashir’s forces.

One is forced to confront an uncomfortable reality: if any other minority group — racial, ethnic, or tribal — was suffering from government-condoned persecution carried out by out of control mobs, the outrage in the Western press and from Western governments would be loud and sustained. So why don’t Christians in the Middle East rate that kind of concern?

By: Rick Moran at 12:04 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

10/7/2011
US MEETS WITH MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

I have another piece up at FPM - this one is on the recent news reports that top US officials met with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. I also look at the coming parliamentary elections in Egypt.

A sample:

Why would high ranking officials of the US government sit down with an organization that created a terrorist group like Hamas? Was it simply a matter of real politik – a realization that since the MB was going to come out on top in the coming elections anyway that it was better to have contact with them than give them the diplomatic cold shoulder?

That could be one reason. But there may be another, simpler reason; the administration of President Barack Obama doesn’t believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is a threat to anyone and that their disavowal of terrorism can be trusted.

Recall the testimony of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last February when, appearing before House Intelligence Committee he startled onlookers and Members of Congress by saying the the MB was “largely secular” and that they had pursued “social ends,” and “a betterment of the political order in Egypt.”

“In other countries, there are also chapters or franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally,” he told the committee.

Flash forward to a mass rally in Tahrir Square held at the end of July where tens of thousands of Salafists demonstrated, including masses of Brotherhood members, chanting Islamist slogans calling for the implementation of Sharia law, and warning that the constitution that will be written must be based on Koranic law.

Even in the clarification Clapper’s media office released a few hours after those shocking statements, he made it clear that he didn’t think there was much to worry about when it came to the Muslim Brotherhood. “To clarify Director Clapper’s point – in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood makes efforts to work through a political system that has been, under Mubarak’s rule, one that is largely secular in its orientation,” the statement said. Mubarak’s regime literally arrested MB members on sight. How that translates into working “through a political system” Clapper didn’t elaborate on.

What could have possessed the DNI — a man with the most sophisticated intelligence analyses at his fingertips — to make such a ridiculous statement? It is apparent that the administration has made a decision to treat the Brotherhood as a political party rather than an Islamist organization hell bent on the destruction of Israel, and the establishment of a Sharia-compliant Egyptian government.

In an interview with Egypt’s Al-Hayat TV last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it plain exactly how the administration will be dealing with the Islamists in Egypt:

We will be willing to and open to working with a government that has representatives who are committed to non-violence, who are committed to human rights, who are committed to the democracy that I think was hoped for in Tahrir Square.

ince the MB and their Islamist allies will almost certainly come out on top in the elections next month, it seems clear that Clinton believes that the Muslim Brotherhood is “committed to non-violence,” and “democracy.”

This also appeared to be the attitude of our diplomats who met with the FJP. They included Prem G. Kumar, the National Security Council Director for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs and Amy Destefano, the First Secretary of the US Embassy in Cairo. Their host was Dr. Mohamed Saad Katatni, the Secretary General of the FJP. Katatni apparently lectured our diplomats on the new state of affairs in Egypt, reportedly telling them,“If America wants to build balanced relations with the countries of the region after the Arab Spring, it should re-read the new scenario in accordance to the will of the peoples of the region.”

No doubt this sentiment went over well with the diplomats as Kumar told Katatni that the US “is seeking dialogue with all the political forces in Egypt, especially after the changes post-revolution.”

Barry Rubin suggests that we employ a program similar to one conducted by the CIA after World War II in France and Italy to forestall a Communist takeover in those countries. We funneled money and expertise to the more moderate, right wing, and conservative parties, helping them build coalitions to defeat the Marxists.

Could such a plan work in Egypt? The one unifying factor of the opposition to MB taking over the government is the belief that religion should have a small or non existent role in the new government and constitution. That may be a basis to forge alliances among the secularists and moderates who have been frozen out of negotiations between the military and the MB.

It’s too late for this sort of thing to work for the parliamentary elections scheduled for next month. But it might be worth a try for the presidential elections now put off until 2013.


By: Rick Moran at 9:57 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

10/6/2011
Another Assassination Attempt to Kill Karzai Foiled

My latest is up at FPM and I look at the assassination attempt against Hamid Karzai and the security pact signed between Afghanistan and India.

A sample:

This is the third serious assassination plot against President Karzai. In 2002, another presidential bodyguard opened fire on Karzai but missed him, killing two others and wounding an American special operations member who was guarding the president. And a 2008 attack by Haqqani during a military parade Karzai was attending came close to succeeding when several bystanders near the president were killed.

The revelations regarding the plot come on the heels of charges made by the governments of Afghanistan and the United States that the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has close ties to Haqqani, as well as other charges made by Afghanistan tying the Haqqani network specifically to the assassination of the government’s peace envoy to the Taliban, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Several other high profile assassination attempts in Afghanistan have succeeded recently, all tied to either the Taliban or Haqqani. In addition to the death of Rabbani, which has resulted in the suspension of peace talks with the Taliban, the president’s half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was killed by his own bodyguard in July. Less than a week later, Jan Mohammad Khan, a senior aide to the president, was killed in an attack on his home in Kabul. The Taliban is suspected of having a hand in both assassinations, with the possible knowledge of the ISI.

And as if the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan couldn’t get any rockier, President Karzai’s surprise trip to India on Wednesday to sign a security pact with New Delhi, will no doubt roil the already tense relationship with Islamabad. According to the Washington Post, the pact will “step up cooperation in counterterrorism operations, training of security forces and trade.” The pact will also increase cultural and political exchanges as well as offer assistance to Afghanistan in stabilizing the country.

The security pact will no doubt anger the civilian government of President Zardari in Pakistan, and cause great concern in Pakistan’s military and intelligence services. Any move to draw closer to India by Afghanistan is likely to be seen as a betrayal in Islamabad. It is also the realization of the Pakistani military’s worst nightmare; a more independent Afghanistan with close ties to their mortal enemy India.

“[A]ny military or intelligence role for India will not be tolerable for Pakistan,” said former ambassador Maleeha Lodi in an interview last summer. While no active role is seen for India in peace talks, Karzai’s move to engage with New Delhi on security matters will worry Pakistan, who wishes a weak, compliant vassal state after America pulls out in 2014. In effect, Karzai is showing Islamabad that he has some diplomatic and military cards to play as well. If Pakistan continues its attempts to destabilize Afghanistan through the use of their proxy terrorists in Haqqani and the Taliban, the Afghan government won’t hesitate to expand their ties with India.

By: Rick Moran at 10:44 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

9/29/2011
Pakistan’s Terror Treachery on Trial

My latest is up at FPM and I take a look at Admiral Mullen’s comments about Pakistan’s involvement in terror attacks on US citizens and where the relationship might go from here.

A sample:

Admiral Mullen made some other interesting comments at that senate hearing as well. He said, “With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted that truck bomb attack” on September 10 that killed 5 and wounded 77 coalition soldiers. Mullen added, “We also have credible evidence that they were behind the June 28th attack against the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations.”

The State Department leaked to the Washington Post: “Adm. Mike Mullen’s assertion last week that an anti-American insurgent group in Afghanistan is a ‘veritable arm’ of Pakistan’s spy service was overstated and contributed to overheated reactions in Pakistan and misperceptions in Washington.”

What “misperceptions” could there be? An arm of the Pakistani government is colluding with terrorists to kill Americans. To most, that would seem a straightforward problem with which our government should be dealing. David Goldman (aka “Spengler”), writing on his blog at PJ Media, quotes another unnamed diplomat saying, “The administration has long sought to pressure Pakistan, but to do so in a nuanced way that does not sever the U.S. relationship with a country that American officials see as crucial to winning the war in Afghanistan and maintaining long-term stability in the region.”

Goldman adds:

The Pakistanis, in short, continue to murder Americans with impunity by threatening us with their own failure. It’s the geopolitical equivalent of the scene in Blazing Saddles in which the black sheriff intimidates a lynch mob by holding a gun to his own head and threatening to shoot himself.

The Pakistani military’s response to Mullen’s comments and the support he received from the Congress and notable pundits for his accusations has been sharp and without precedent. Not only has the Pakistani military angrily dismissed the charges made by Mullen, the it has flatly refused an American request to go after the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, while cozying up to China at the same time.

The civilian government, racked by corruption and seemingly powerless to control the military, was less direct in its criticism. It is trying to turn the issue into a question of nationalism and sovereignty, appealing to the people’s anti-Americanism and patriotism. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said at the UN that “Pakistan’s dignity must not be compromised.” And thousands of protesters poured into the streets across the country on Tuesday chanting anti-American slogans and burning American flags. A speaker at one of the protests said, “We warn US not to indulge in any misadventure with us, or the whole nation will stand united to defend our country.”

To tap into this sentiment and build support, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will chair an all-party conference on Thursday to come up with a position on fighting terror and the course of future relations with the US. This will give an opportunity for the politicians to posture against America while fanning the flames of patriotism and nationalism. How that will quiet the situation remains to be seen.

By: Rick Moran at 11:38 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)