Tag: Islamists

SYRIAN CRISIS & HEZBOLLAH: AS ASSAD “DISARMS”, AND OPPOSITION, UNAIDED BY U.S., SPLINTERS, IS IT A REPLAY OF SPANISH CIVIL WAR?

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

 

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A US official and the American representative to the United Nations suggested on Tuesday that Syria may be trying to hide some of its chemical weapons, raising more fears among US allies in the region that the U.S. is not standing up strongly enough for them. U.S. allies – such as Israel and the Gulf states – that oppose the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis are further worried what kind of precedent this situation will set for a possible deal with Iran. The Russian-brokered deal to which the US and Syria agreed called for the complete dismantlement of the latter regime’s chemical weapons. If it turns out that some weapons were secretly retained, it would be a blow to US credibility in the region and likely affect its handling of the Iran nuclear file.— Jerusalem Post, Nov. 7, 2013

 

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Assad’s Ploy: Max Boot, Commentary, Nov. 6, 2013 — So far the news from Syria on the chemical-disarmament front has been mostly positive, even as the news in general has been glum, with fighting as heavy as ever and civilians suffering as much as ever.

Hezbollah Shows Strain of Syria War: Ian Black, The Guardian, Nov. 1, 2013— Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah, sounds more troubled than defiant when he talks about the war in Syria these days.

Netanyahu, Syria and the Spanish Civil War: Emanuele Ottolenghi, Standpoint, November, 2013— While waiting to hear Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's much anticipated UN speech in September, I read a brilliant essay, "Islamists Assemble", by Michael Weiss on the news website Now Lebanon. His subject was the splintering of Syria's fractious opposition and the coming internecine battle between Bashar al-Assad's enemies, amid fading hopes that President Obama's promise of red lines and hints that "Assad must go" meant anything much. Weakens

 

On Topic Links

 

A Syrian Stalemate Does Not Benefit the West: Hassan Mneimeh, Real Clear World, Nov. 7, 2013

When “Do No Harm” Hurts: David Keen, New York Times, Nov. 7, 2013                   

Mother Agnes: Assad’s Useful Idiot: Michael Weiss, Real Clear World, Nov. 4, 2013

Book Review: Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God by Matthew Levitt:

Joshua Sinai, Washington Times, Sept. 12, 2013

 

 

                                                                                                

                                                      ASSAD’S PLOY

                                                            Max Boot

                                                  Commentary, Nov. 6, 2013

 

So far the news from Syria on the chemical-disarmament front has been mostly positive, even as the news in general has been glum, with fighting as heavy as ever and civilians suffering as much as ever. The Nobel-winning UN inspectors recently touted their success in rendering “inoperable” all of Bashar Assad’s chemical production facilities and in visiting 21 out of 23 declared chemical-weapons sites. But there is good cause to wonder whether Assad has declared all of his sites.

 

CNN’s Barbara Starr reports: “The United States is looking at new classified intelligence indicating the Syrian government may not fully declare its chemical weapons stockpile, CNN has learned. That would mean it will still have a secret cache of chemical weapons even after the current agreed-upon destruction effort is carried out.” Whether Assad has fully complied or not with his disarmament obligations remains to be seen, but there is real cause for concern that the Obama administration has such a major stake in the success of this accord–and no clear alternative, because Congress made clear it will not authorize military action–that it is in effect locked in a partnership with Assad and dare not accuse him too loudly of noncompliance.

 

Assad certainly seems to have gotten that message, because he is trying to leverage the chemical-weapons accord for all it is worth to enhance his own authority. Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch reports: “President Bashar al-Assad’s government has presented the United Nation’s chemical weapons watchdog with a detailed plan for the transfer of chemical materials abroad for destruction. And according to a confidential account of the plan reviewed by Foreign Policy, it includes 120 Syrian security forces, dozens of heavy, armored trucks, and an advanced communications network linking Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea.”

 

Assad’s ploy is transparent–to get the West to give him more military materiel to aid the supposed process of chemical disarmament so that he can then turn around and used this enhanced capacity against the rebels. Beyond the actual war-making capacity such equipment will give Assad, the moral effect is even more important, because, if granted, his request would represent another example of the West supporting this Iranian-backed tyrant who makes war on his own people.

                                                      

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                      HEZBOLLAH SHOWS STRAIN OF SYRIA WAR

                                                 Ian Black

                                       The Guardian, Nov. 1, 2013

 

Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah, sounds more troubled than defiant when he talks about the war in Syria these days. This week he publicly lambasted Saudi Arabia – backing the rebels who are fighting Bashar al-Assad – for blocking a political solution to the crisis at the proposed Geneva II peace conference. But Hezbollah's decision to throw its full military weight behind the Syrian president has also been a highly significant factor in the conflict, peaking with decisive fighting at Qusair in the spring. Thousands of its men have been deployed in Damascus, Deraa, Homs and Aleppo. Casualty figures are estimated at around 200 killed. The organization is described as "fatigued and over-stretched." Earlier this month some 1200 Shia fighters are said to have been withdrawn. Blowback has come to Lebanon too, with car bombs in Beirut's Shia southern suburbs. Hezbollah needs to avoid clashes provoked by Lebanese Sunnis which would force it to pull back from Syria and fight at home.

 

Now there has been another setback, with Israeli planes reportedly targeting Russian-made missiles intended for Hezbollah in the Syrian port of Latakia – the sixth raid in the last few months. The lesson is that the war in Syria, now in its third bloody year, makes it much easier for the Israelis to strike at Hezbollah without provoking a response. Nasrallah and Assad already have quite enough on their plates. Politically, Hezbollah probably had little choice but to rally to defend the much-vaunted "axis of resistance" it forms along with Iran and Syria. The cost, though, is proving painfully high for an organisation whose raison d'etre was always fighting Israel but which is now busy killing fellow Arabs in a neighbouring country – and in a viciously sectarian atmosphere to boot.

 

Nasrallah's language about a political solution in Syria echoes the current line from Damascus and Tehran. Hopes may be growing for some kind of rapprochement between Iran, the US and the west, focused on the ever-contentious nuclear issue – to the chagrin of the Saudis and their conservative Arab allies. But there is still no sign that Iran's support for Assad – probably far more significant than assistance to the rebels from the Gulf states – is fading. Recent remarkable film footage broadcast by the BBC showed Iranian Revolutionary Guards not only training Assad's men but fighting on the ground in Syria – in the face of repeated denials from Tehran. Nor does Iran's intimate relationship with Hezbollah show any sign of changing. The group was by a Lebanese writer as "Iran's most successful strategic investment outside its borders." It had "defended Iran's security in the Arab-Israeli conflict and secured its position on the shore of the Mediterranean and within the Levant." Israel says Iran has ensured Hezbollah has been re-supplied with missiles since the 2006 Lebanon war. Hezbollah's patrons are the Islamic Republic's hard line supreme leader and the Revolutionary Guards, not the emollient President Hassan Rouhani.

 

It is also a very long-standing relationship. In a new book on Hezbollah's "global footprint," the US terrorism expert and former Treasury official Matthew Levitt traces links dating back to the devastating bombing of the US marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983. According to court testimony, a few weeks earlier the US had intercepted a message from the Iranian intelligence ministry in Tehran. It instructed Iran's ambassador in Damascus, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, to contact Hussein al-Musawi, the leader of Islamic Amal (a precursor to Hezbollah) and to direct him to "take spectacular action" against the Americans. The warning did not prevent the attack, which killed 241 US and 58 French personnel. Thirty years is an age in international politics and much has changed in the Middle East since then. But as Syria's crisis rages on with no end in sight, Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah are still very much on the same page – and on the same side.

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                             NETANYAHU, SYRIA AND THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR

                                             Emanuel Ottolenghi 

                                       Standpoint, November, 2013

While waiting to hear Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's much anticipated UN speech in September, I read a brilliant essay, "Islamists Assemble", by Michael Weiss on the news website Now Lebanon. His subject was the splintering of Syria's fractious opposition and the coming internecine battle between Bashar al-Assad's enemies, amid fading hopes that President Obama's promise of red lines and hints that "Assad must go" meant anything much. Much has been made of the fractious nature of the Syrian rebels — the bewildering number of names and groups fighting on different fronts; the atrocities some of them have committed; the reported acts of ethnic cleansing; the public beheading of pro-regime fighters and soldiers. Weiss drew a vivid picture of the galaxy of Islamist groups vying for supremacy as they fight the regime, fight Christians, Kurds and Alawites, and fight among themselves.

Suddenly, I was reminded of Camillo Berneri, a youthful obsession of my university days. Berneri was an Italian anarchist and intellectual who lived a tumultuous life in the interwar period and mixed with the leading Italian anti-Fascist thinkers of his generation-Piero Gobetti, the Rosselli brothers and Ernesto Rossi. His writing style was terse and clear. His knowledge was encyclopaedic. He had studied with Gaetano Salvemini, the great Italian historian who eventually migrated to the United States to escape fascism and taught at Harvard. Berneri lived in exile, mostly in Paris, though he was periodically arrested and expelled for agitating and plotting with other anarchists. He was an undesirable, yet a towering figure among exiled intellectuals and anti-fascist activists. And like so many of his generation, he was gripped by the ideological fervour — and fractiousness — of socialism and its many splinters.

 

What Berneri had to do with Syria becomes evident when one looks at his untimely death. Like so many other young European leftists of his time, Berneri rallied to the cause of Republican Spain in the aftermath of General Franco's uprising against the Popular Front government. And like many of his comrades, he was felled by the bullets of an opponent from his own ideological galaxy. Berneri died in Barcelona, in 1937, shot by the local Stalinist police, not killed by the fascists. Others would meet a similar fate. That was the part of Spain's Civil War history that resonated with Weiss's piece on Syria. The Popular Front splintered. The glue of anti-fascism was not strong enough to overcome the animosity that divided Proudhon, Marx, Bakunin and their successors. They turned against one another. Democracies looked on. Fascism won. Could that be Syria's fate? As the Syrian rebels splinter, unable to overcome their differences to achieve the common goal of toppling Assad, democracies have assumed the role of bystanders. Fearful of an al-Qaeda victory, they may let Assad win, come what may.

 

Earlier this year, in the pages of Standpoint, I addressed the analogies between the Syria conundrum and the Spanish Civil War. But they deserve more scrutiny because of the sudden turn of events in Syria in September, and the likely rapprochement between the US and Iran after Rouhani's visit to New York. Less than a year into the Spanish Civil War, German and Italian warplanes bombed the town of Guernica in the Basque region. The wanton slaughter of civilians was a harbinger of the Nazi total war that would engulf Europe two years later. The suffering of Guernica was immortalized by Picasso's homonymous painting, which toured the world shortly after its completion drawing public attention to the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. The painting, now in the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid, is a symbol of all anti-war causes. And like many other such testimonials, it failed to move the world's conscience to act. If anything, it scared Western audiences into appeasement — for as long as they could sacrifice someone else's future to Hitler's appetites, diplomacy was preferable to conflict. Look at Guernica then, but think of Assad's ruthless chemical weapons assault on his own citizens in August in Damascus's eastern suburbs. Assad is still there — his crime will go unpunished and his patrons have now been dignified with an indispensable role in finding a negotiated solution to the Syrian conflict.

 

Speaking of analogies, Berneri's writings on Nazism and fascism show a moral clarity of judgment that today appears like a foregone conclusion but that was by no means obvious back in his time, even among sincere democrats. For say what you want about the Spanish Civil War and the brutality on both sides of its ideological divide, the fact is that the Western democracies stood aside, believing that, distasteful as it was that Franco enjoyed the backing of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, the possibility of a Communist takeover was infinitely worse. And what for? In the end, even those who viewed Spanish Republicans as Stalin's proxies and thus unworthy of support had to align themselves with Stalin after June 1941 to fight a bigger threat. Not that Communism was harmless — it was not — but the red scare blinded many to the fact that fascism was no less evil until it was too late. Picking a side was no doubt distasteful — but being a bystander in the face of multiple evils is never a good choice either. Letting two opposite evils determine the course of events guarantees a terrible outcome.

 

Today Syria is turning into a similar struggle between Sunni radicalism and Iran's proxies. Historical analogies should never be pushed too far-neither side fits neatly the paradigm of Franco and the Popular Front. But there are important lessons to be learned from the Spanish Civil War. One is that Nazi Germany and fascist Italy read Western indifference as defeatism. The absence of consequences for their brazen actions helped to set the stage for the much larger conflagration that followed only a few months after Franco's victory in 1939. Western indifference to human suffering and the impunity with which they were allowed to commit widespread atrocities also convinced the Nazi and fascist regimes that they could murder on a grand scale and get away with it. It is hard to believe that Assad and his Iranian patrons are drawing any other conclusion from the cowardly pretexts Western leaders are invoking to avoid any kind of interference in the Syrian arena.

 

There is another element that harks back to the Spanish conflict which offers a sobering lesson for Israel, as the world warms to Iran even as it sends thousands of trained fighters to Syria to support a dictator who has gassed his own people. Two remarkable essays by Berneri come to mind — a 1934 essay entitled "Against the Racist Delirium" and a 1935 booklet entitled "The anti-Semitic Jew". Both works are sketchy — they were written in exile, without the benefit of a proper library to consult. Thus they read more like drafts of a more substantial project, especially the latter, which delves into the question of why some Jews turn against their own people, helping in the process to foment anti-Semitism. But the essays are insightful — and morally uncompromising. At a time when Nazi anti-Semitism was being met across Europe with only mild disapproval at best, Berneri described it for what it was — a vile and violent delirium. As for the Jewish turncoats whom he studied in his 1935 essay, suffice to mention Berneri's opening remark: "The death of an anti-Semite is one of those things that uplifts my heart."

 

At the time, anti-Semitism, so central to Nazi ideology, was summarily dismissed, played down, or at most considered a mere embarrassment —as long as it threatened Jews alone. Although Berneri  was by no means alone in sounding the alarm against Nazi anti-Semitism early on, he was swimming against the current and pointing an accusing finger at that very aspect of Nazism that people found least distasteful because of their own prejudices. His words  thus fell on deaf ears. But they were prescient nonetheless. Eventually, he was proved right. Stopping Nazism early on would have spared Europe tens of millions of victims and widespread destruction. Rushing to the rescue of Spain's beleaguered Republican government in 1936, nipping fascist aggression in the bud, might have yielded different results. For example, it might have tamed Hitler's expansionism. But Hitler's brutality in Spain only fuelled the appetite for appeasement in Europe, and when he demanded the Sudetenland for Germany, the two great Western powers of the day — France and Great Britain — sold the young and fragile republic of Czechoslovakia down the river. Not invited to the Munich conference that sealed their fate, the Czechoslovaks were told that, were they to reject the deal, they would be left to fend off Nazi Germany by themselves.   

 

As Western powers sit with Russia and China in Geneva to negotiate with Iran, is it so hard to see history repeating itself? I was thinking all this as Rouhani stood at the UN podium in New York and in the days that followed, until Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke from the same platform. The parallels with Spain are clear. The virulent hatred of Tehran's rulers against the Jewish state is being played down. Witness how Rouhani's elusive answers about Holocaust denial were greeted with enthusiasm by a swooning media all too eager to put the Ahmadinejad years behind them. It is as if everything else that Iran does could somehow be made acceptable by a sudden reduction of its anti-Semitic rhetoric. 

 

Yet it is hard for Netanyahu to get his facts past his audiences — nobody among Western pundits and policymakers has much sympathy for him. They find him distasteful on account of his country's existence, or its policies, or its refusal to make concessions that could jeopardise its security. The New York Times called him "shrill". His denunciations of Iran elicited yawns. His demand for zero-enrichment — which, by the way, is nothing more than what six Chapter VII UN Security Council resolutions demand of Iran's regime — is being dismissed across the board as "unrealistic". Netanyahu is a party pooper. And his warnings will not be heeded. Negotiations, which recommenced in Geneva on October 15, will probably be the prelude to broader Iranian-American engagement addressing other regional problems, where Iran's "legitimate demands" will be taken into account. While Iran will be invited to the table for negotiations on Syria, Afghanistan, the Gulf, WMDs and regional security, Israel will be kept at bay, with America's reassurance that the Jewish state's interests will never be compromised as the only guarantee Israel can rely on.

 

If Netanyahu knows about one thing, it is history. He is keenly aware that, despite all the shortcomings of historical analogies, a fate similar to the one of Czechoslovakia in 1938 is a distinct possibility. America, after all, promised it would never tolerate Assad's use of chemical weapons — and failed to live up to its promise. America intimated that Assad had to go — but America walked away from its warnings when Assad hunkered down and rode out the storm. Why would America's guarantees to Israel be anything more than "covenants without a sword", which, in Thomas Hobbes's immortal phrase, "are nothing but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all"? Some 120,000 people have died in 30 months of civil war in Syria. Almost half the country's people have been turned into refugees. The entire region could implode. Western intervention is not on the cards. A cruel regime is backed by stronger and more rapacious patrons who aspire to rule the region. America, its European allies and the international community will not confront them. They will sit down with them and negotiate — and because Netanyahu is not that good in their eyes, he has been made the enemy of the perfect deal, which, like Munich in 1938, will only delay war, not prevent it. There is one difference. Netanyahu, unlike Milan Hodza, the Czechoslovak Prime Minister in 1938 who was told to accept Munich or face Nazi Germany alone, has prepared for the eventuality of being sold down the river. Speaking at the UN, Netanyahu said: "If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone." Unlike Czechoslovakia in 1938, Israel has the capability to act alone — and its threats have never been empty. Maybe diplomacy will stop Iran's march towards nuclear weapons. Maybe Iran, after all, is a sheep in wolf's clothing. Maybe Rouhani's charm is not just an offensive. Maybe Assad is better than al-Qaeda. But none of this means that acquiescing in a dictator who has gassed his own people will bring good into the world. Or that just because warnings are being issued by Israel's prime minister — whose motives are self-serving after all, since he wishes to save his country from possible annihilation — we should discount them.  

Berneri's era offers a lesson for the present. In 1936, the West abandoned Spain's Popular Front and left it to fend for itself because its friends and backers were a distasteful bunch. The lack of resolve over Spain cemented the appeasement mood and emboldened Nazi Germany. The rest, as they say, is history. We should try to learn. But I doubt anyone ever will. After all, in his April 2012 speech at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., President Obama very compellingly said: "We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen — because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent." He went on to list all that his administration would do with respect to Syria "so that those who stick with Assad know that they are making a losing bet". But as the U.S. prepares to sit down and negotiate with the new Iranian president, it seems that those words, like so many solemn promises to stand up to evil before, have been forgotten. After all, the U.S. too succumbed to the urge to be a bystander when people were gassed to death in Syria. Those who stuck with Assad, it turns out, made a winning bet after all. That is why Netanyahu is left to stand alone — his isolation a sign that the urge to avert our gaze from evil always prevails. And ultimately that, rather than a genuine desire to turn the page, is why Rouhani is smiling.

 

Contents

 

A Syrian Stalemate Does Not Benefit the West: Hassan Mneimeh, Real Clear World, Nov. 7, 2013Despite a flurry of diplomatic engagement, Syria appears no closer to a negotiated political settlement. In fact, the prospects for a "Geneva II" meeting proposed by the United States and Russia appear grim, with a delay now announced.

When “Do No Harm” Hurts: David Keen, New York Times, Nov. 7, 2013It’s increasingly clear that humanitarian assistance to rebel-held areas of Syria is being impeded by a fear — shared by the United States, the European Commission and many nongovernmental organizations — that food, medicine and other supplies might fall into the hands of terrorists.

Mother Agnes: Assad’s Useful Idiot: Michael Weiss, Real Clear World, Nov. 4, 2013 It's amazing what holy orders can do for fascism. Mother Superior Agnes Mariam de la Croix, a 61-year-old Lebanese-born nun, is not so much working with the Assad regime in Syria as working for it. She is now embarked on a week-long "speaking tour" of the United States, beginning in Tucson, Arizona and continuing into several cities of California before she hops it to Canada. This tour has been organized by something called the Syrian Solidarity Movement, which would more accurately be presented as the Assad Propaganda Lobby.

Book Review: Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God by Matthew Levitt: Joshua Sinai, Washington Times, Sept. 12, 2013 With its enormously unpopular involvement on the side of President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war against the regime’s primarily Sunni opposition, the Shiite-based Lebanese Hezbollah now finds itself facing the most severe existential crisis since its creation in the early 1980s.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

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EGYPTIAN ‘FALL’: U.S. PULLS AID TO CAIRO: RELATIONS DETERIORATE— SISI, CONSIDERING PRESIDENCY, CRACKS DOWN ON ISLAMISTS

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

 

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Global Ramifications of the Anti-Muslim Brotherhood Campaign in Egypt: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Nov. 1, 2013 — Since General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew Mohamed Morsi on July 3, the military-led government has been engaged in a ferocious crackdown of the Muslim Brotherhood and more broadly of Islamists (though some, like the Salafis of the Nour party, playing their hand carefully, have generally avoided trouble so far).

America’s Aid and Egypt’s Indifference: Dina Khayat, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 16, 2013— In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, no country stood by the U.S. more staunchly in its fight against al Qaeda than Egypt. Having been through its own war against terror in the 1990s, Egypt was able to provide valuable information and logistical support. Now the war is back on Egyptian territory, in the Sinai and other Egyptian provinces

Egyptian military’s pact with Islamists: Amir Taheri, New York Post,  Oct. 17, 2013— Sometime next week, Egypt’s military-run government will publish the “first draft” of a new constitution to replace the one worked out by the government of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

Sisi Fever: Will the General be the Next President of Egypt?: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Nov. 1, 2013— General Abd el Fattah el-Sisi, the man who led the overthrow of President Morsi on July 3, 2013, holds the combined titles of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, first Deputy of the Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense and Military Production. Unlike his predecessors, Sisi is waging a merciless campaign against jihadi fighters in Sinai Peninsula in order to restore Egypt’s sovereignty there while drastically reducing Hamas’ power in Gaza.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

Egypt, U.S. Aid and Israel: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 9, 2013

Mr. Kerry Fumbles in Egypt:Editorial Board, New York Times, Nov. 4, 2013

Three Reasons for the Egypt-Russia Rapprochement: Nervana Mahmoud, Al-Monitor, Nov. 4, 2013

After Warraq: Sectarianism, Warts and All: Tom Rollins, Egypt Independent, Oct. 29, 2013

 

 

                        GLOBAL RAMIFICATIONS OF THE ANTI-MUSLIM                                          BROTHERHOOD CAMPAIGN IN EGYPT

                                                    Daniel Pipes
                                        National Review, Nov. 1, 2013

 

Since General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew Mohamed Morsi on July 3, the military-led government has been engaged in a ferocious crackdown of the Muslim Brotherhood and more broadly of Islamists (though some, like the Salafis of the Nour party, playing their hand carefully, have generally avoided trouble so far). Not only has this assault been violent, with hundreds of deaths, and legal, with the Brotherhood banned and its top leadership jailed, but it has also been broadly cultural, economic, and religious. Even the mildest approbation of the Muslim Brotherhood can get one in trouble, with one’s neighbors if not with the state. A very large swath of the population supports the crackdown and pushes for it.

 

A few of the many, many examples: Mohammed Youssef, the Egyptian kung fu champion, found his gold medal taken away and himself banned from competitions after he expressed support for Mohammed Morsi by wearing a T-shirt with the pro-Morsi symbol of an open palm and four fingers. Gen. Mohamed Farid el-Tohamy, Mubarak’s anti-Islamist honcho, is back after 2½ years of disgrace and investigation. He is now reputed to be the main advocate and implementor of the attempt to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood. “He was the most hard-line, the most absolutely unreformed,” says one Western diplomat on background. “He talked as if the revolution of 2011 had never even happened.” The secular activist Ahmed Belal, with support from the Rebellion movement, called for a boycott of Muslim Brotherhood-owned business, causing them major financial losses. Some Salafi-owned business have it even worse, being not only boycotted but set on fire. After parents complained that the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated school principals and teachers were inciting violence against the police and military, the Ministry of Education fired 95 of them.

 

How this effort fares has vast importance not just for Egypt but far beyond. Should the crackdown succeed in isolating, weakening, and destroying the Islamists, then others will replicate it elsewhere. But should it fail, the campaign will be discredited and will not be repeated. Therefore, all of us who want to see the barbaric Islamist movement destroyed must support the Sisi crackdown, even if we distance ourselves from some of its tactics.                                                   

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                AMERICA’S AID AND EGYPT’S INDIFFERENCE                      Dina Khayat

Wall Street Journal, Oct. 16, 2013

 

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, no country stood by the U.S. more staunchly in its fight against al Qaeda than Egypt. Having been through its own war against terror in the 1990s, Egypt was able to provide valuable information and logistical support. Now the war is back on Egyptian territory, in the Sinai and other Egyptian provinces. A direct link between the Muslim Brotherhood and its jihadist allies was established by the Brotherhood itself in July, shortly after President Morsi's ouster, when Mohamed Beltagui, a senior Muslim Brother, said on television that the violence in the Sinai and elsewhere would cease the moment Mr. Morsi was reinstated as president.

 

Yet rather than condemn the terrorist attacks that have since increased and spread across the country, the Obama Administration decided last week to send a different message. The State Department released a statement on Oct. 9 saying that it would be "recalibrating" its assistance provided to Egypt. It also said it would continue working with the interim Egyptian government to help it move toward democracy and inclusiveness. The statement came just two days after three deadly terrorist attacks in Cairo and Sinai: a drive-by shooting near the Suez Canal that killed six soldiers, a car bomb that killed three police officers and wounded dozens near a Red Sea resort area, and a rocket-propelled grenade attack that damaged a government satellite transmitter in southern Cairo.

 

Which forms of aid would be cut, and whether these were permanent cuts or just suspensions, were left unspecified in the State Department's statement. As was the total reduction in the amount of aid, which at $1.3 billion yearly pales, in any event, next to the $12 billion quietly advanced by Egypt's Arab neighbors in the past three months. This was a baffling message to Egypt's interim government and the vast majority of Egyptians, millions of whom who came out to protest Mr. Morsi's rule on June 30. What they heard was that the Obama Administration stands firmly behind the Muslim Brotherhood, even if it means damaging the two countries' strategic relationship.

 

To call the curtailing of U.S. aid a prod to the Egyptian government toward democracy is disingenuous. There was neither outrage nor threats from Washington last November, when Mr. Morsi issued a constitutional declaration that effectively put him and his diktats above the law. Or during the ensuing demonstrations in December, when dozens died just behind Mr. Morsi's palace walls at the hands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. When Gen. Sisi appeared on television on July 3, the day Mr. Morsi was ousted, he was flanked by the Sheikh al Azhar, the Coptic Pope, women, youth, politicians left and right, and representatives of Salafist groups. Only the Muslim Brotherhood, which had turned down an invitation, was missing. That picture contrasts starkly with the one presented by Mr. Morsi, who, during his brief tenure, surrounded himself solely with members of his organization and appointed them to executive positions. Copts, secularists and even Salafists were conspicuously absent. Calls by the Obama administration for inclusiveness should have begun then; today they ring hollow.

 

When millions of Egyptians took to the streets on June 30, they took the only path possible to changing their government. There was no prospect of impeaching Mr. Morsi. The army intervened solely to prevent the chaos that would surely have occurred had Egyptians been left to fight one another. Now, three months into the new interim government and with a constitution being written by 50 representatives of society—again, all but the Muslim Brotherhood—there is no turning back. The draft constitution is almost complete, and dates and plans for parliamentary and presidential elections are set.

 

The challenge remains the economy, but it is hard to rebuild when so many resources are diverted to fighting weekly violence, as Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators, often armed, take to the streets. The Brotherhood has chosen to exclude itself from the governing process, preferring instead to bully their way into negotiating the best possible deal for themselves, which includes the reinstatement of Mr. Morsi as president. Brotherhood supporters who are not implicated in the present violence will eventually be included in a new government—but only when the organization changes its mind and decides to operate within the context of a state.

 

Egyptians are yearning to get it right this time. They are determined to build a democratic state and avoid the mistakes of the past. What will eventually emerge is a country much more sensitive to human and religious rights. It will not be a repetition of the Mubarak years. We would have liked America with us at this time, and its support would have sent a strong message to the Egyptian people.

 

Instead, upon hearing the news of the U.S. aid cuts, there was a collective shrug in Egypt, and a general sense of relief at being rid of any shackles that had tied the government's hands in fighting terrorism. Such is the popular anger against the Brotherhood and their daily annoyances that there are even calls for martial law to be applied—or at least for demonstrations by any faction to be outlawed by force for a period.

 

The Egypt-U.S. relationship is decades-old, built on mutual strategic interests. It has withstood many challenges. Even in the midst of the June 30 demonstrations, and at the height of anger against U.S. policies, banners in the streets proclaimed Egyptians' love for Americans. To throw all that to the wind for unfathomable benefits and spurious justifications in the name of democracy and inclusiveness is a pity.

 

Contents

 

EGYPTIAN MILITARY’S PACT WITH ISLAMISTS

Amir Taheri

New York Post, Oct. 17, 2013

 

Sometime next week (Oct. 18-25), Egypt’s military-run government will publish the “first draft” of a new constitution to replace the one worked out by the government of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi. The coup that returned the military to power after a year-long interval was presented as an attempt to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from imposing an Islamist dictatorship with a constitutional facade. Highlighted were two articles in the Morsi constitution that identified the Islamic sharia as the source of legislation in Egypt and gave Al-Azhar, the official seminary, a virtual veto on certain issues.

 

The crowds that for weeks filled Tahrir Square called on the army to intervene to save the nation from a burgeoning sharia-based ­dictatorship. Well, when the new draft constitution — written by a 50-man committee appointed by the military — is published, the Tahrir Square crowds are likely to be disappointed. The two controversial articles will still be there, albeit under different numbers and with slight changes in terminology. “Egyptians want to retain their Islamic identity,” says Kamal Halbawi, a former Brotherhood member who co-chaired the army-appointed drafting committee with Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister during the earlier military governments. Thus Islamists, including the Salafist Nour ( Light) Party sponsored by Saudi Arabia will have no reason to be unhappy with the proposed draft. The difference this time is that the new constitution also gives the military what the text drafted by Morsi denied it. The armed forces will get recognition for their “special status” and given a virtual veto on key aspects of security, foreign and even economic policies.

 

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the junta formed after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, will be recognized as a constitutionally sanctioned state organ with “special responsibilities and prerogatives,” including the appointment of the defense minister and the supervision of the military budget, which will be spared public submission to the parliament. Put brutally, the proposed draft constitution is a pact between a section of the military led by Gen. Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi and a section of the Islamic movement spearheaded by Salafists. The faction led by Sisi represents a segment of the officers’ corps reluctant to abandon a system under which the army acted as a state within the state and seized control of perhaps 20 percent of the national economy. As always during the past 100 years, the military is using a pseudo-nationalistic discourse full of xenophobic shibboleths.

 

The Salafist faction hopes to seize the opportunity of its collaboration with the military to build its position within the Islamist constituency. With the Muslim Brotherhood banned and most of its leaders under arrest, the Salafists hope to seduce some of their followers, especially with the help of a deluge of Saudi money.

However, even when they add their respective bases of support, the Sisi faction of the military and the Salafist faction do not represent more than a third of the Egyptian electorate. The two factions can dominate the organs of the state and exercise power only if they stick together. They hope to do so with the proposed constitution, which is a rehashed version of an old recipe for despotism.

 

This is the recipe the interim government has followed in a series of incremental moves that include reimposing the 50-year-old state of emergency, enacting new laws on public gatherings and reviving special tribunals acting as star chambers outside the normal legal systems. It all makes for a diabolical feast in which the likely losers will be the freedom-loving demonstrators who filled Tahrir Square. If so it will mean history repeating itself, given the similar fate their grandfathers suffered in the 1950s when the military and the Muslim Brotherhood also built a tacit alliance against Egypt’s democratic aspirations.

                                                                                                               

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SISI FEVER: WILL THE GENERAL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF EGYPT?

                                   Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah

                      Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Oct. 22, 2013

 

General Abd el Fattah el-Sisi, the man who led the overthrow of President Morsi on July 3, 2013, holds the combined titles of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, first Deputy of the Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense and Military Production. Unlike his predecessors, Sisi is waging a merciless campaign against jihadi fighters in Sinai Peninsula in order to restore Egypt’s sovereignty there while drastically reducing Hamas’ power in Gaza. Sisi may be “called to the flag” as a savior in order to salvage Egypt from its enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood. Talk shows and newspaper columns have been advocating the idea of the general running for president in order to fight the terrorist threat they say the country is facing. Most of the other potential candidates have declared that if Sisi would run for president, they would retract their candidacies.

 

There is a concentrated effort to picture Sisi as the political heir of the iconic President Gamal Abd el Nasser. Sisi himself participated in the 43rd memorial ceremony of Nasser’s death. There were posters with his picture adjacent to Nasser’s. Egyptians see Nasser as the Egyptian leader who fought the Muslim Brotherhood domestically and led Egypt to the leadership of the Arab World and the non-aligned community. In fact, Sisi was presenting his legitimacy as the rightful leader of Egypt not only to his Egyptian compatriots but also toward the U.S. administration, which is questioning his legitimacy and presenting him as the leader of a coup and a usurper of power. This creates an opening for a possible Russian comeback in Egypt and through it to a reinforced Russian position in the region.

 

By deciding to cut its financial aid to Egypt and postpone the delivery of weapon systems already ordered, the U.S. has overturned the longstanding correlation between financial assistance and Egypt’s honoring of the peace treaty with Israel. The $14 billion that Saudi Arabia and the UAE transferred to Egypt immediately after Sisi’s takeover, and the $40 billion promised in economic aid, are a reminder that Egypt may not be in need of such conditional financial assistance. Observers of the Egyptian scene are repeatedly stressing the change in the mood of the Egyptians towards the United States, from friendship and admiration to open hostility. In fact, the crisis with the Obama Administration and Sisi’s reaction to it has helped build up his leadership credentials as a daring Egyptian nationalist who does not retreat before a superpower – particularly one that so openly supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.

 

Since the ousting of President Morsi on July 3, 2013, the issue of who will be the next elected President of Egypt has been at the center of attention in Egypt and abroad. Morsi’s presidency has proven the extent to which an Egyptian president can influence the course of the country and shape its domestic and foreign policy. Because of this, one can easily understand the amount of energy devoted by analysts of the Egyptian scene in order to try and decipher the intentions of General Abd el Fattah el-Sisi, the actual strongman of Egypt. Sisi holds the combined titles of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, first Deputy of the Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense and Military Production. He is the man who led the overthrow of President Morsi. Since August 14, he has conducted a ferocious crackdown (only parallel to the crackdown performed by Gamal Abd el Nasser in 1954 against the Brotherhood) aimed at eliminating the political power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. And unlike his predecessors, Sisi is waging a merciless campaign against jihadi fighters in the Sinai Peninsula in order to restore Egypt’s sovereignty in the desert while drastically reducing Hamas’ power in the Gaza Strip.

 

Sisi has been very murky about his future plans, denying through the army spokesman any intention of running for the presidency in early 2014. However, events on the ground seem to show that the general is preparing himself for the presidency because this is the only viable choice for him and the military establishment. In theory, Sisi could decide to stay in his position under a newly elected president and enjoy his powers as he is doing today, but he could also suffer the fate of his predecessor, Field Marshal Tantawi, who had his career terminated with the stroke of a pen. Sisi does not want to alienate his opponents by eying the presidency too early and creating a situation in which he would have to justify himself. The course of events in Egypt seems to lead to a situation in which Sisi will be “called to the flag” as a savior in order to salvage Egypt from its enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood, and lead the country not only as an Egyptian nationalist but as an Arab hero. In fact, if Egypt’s mainstream media and political power circles could have voted by now, then Sisi would be president with almost no challengers.

[To read the full article, please click on the following link—ed.]     

Contents

 

 

Egypt, U.S. Aid and Israel: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 9, 2013— In mid-August, US President Barack Obama interrupted a golfing trip at Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts to condemn the military junta in Egypt for its violent attack on the Muslim Brotherhood government leaders.

Mr. Kerry Fumbles in Egypt:Editorial Board, New York Times, Nov. 4, 2013— Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to Egypt, included in his Middle East itinerary at the last minute, served only to add to the confusion over the Obama administration’s policy toward this critically important Arab nation.

Three Reasons for the Egypt-Russia Rapprochement: Nervana Mahmoud, Al-Monitor, Nov. 4, 2013— In May 1958, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser started an 18-day state visit to Russia, a visit that officially marked a recalibration of Egyptian foreign policy away from the Western sphere, and toward the Soviet camp. Fifty-five years later, an Egyptian popular diplomatic delegation headed to Moscow in a visit that was described as fruitful and positive.

After Warraq: Sectarianism, Warts and All: Tom Rollins, Egypt Independent, Oct. 29, 2013— About this time last week, the bodies were being ferried into the Virgin Mary Church where they had been shot barely 24 hours before, a grim liminal irony that – as some pointed out – turned a wedding into a funeral in the space of two days.

 

On Topic Links

 

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AS ARAB SPRING TURNS TO FALL, ALGERIA WARILY WATCHES TUNISIA AND LIBYA, WHILE MONARCHY KEEPS PEACE IN MOROCCO

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Tunisia on the Brink: Michael J. Totten, World Affairs,  July 29, 2013—Last week an assassin took out left-wing opposition leader Mohammed Brahmi with a 9mm pistol. Ballistics reports indicate the killer used the exact same weapon to murder another opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, last winter. And this week Al Qaeda-linked terrorists dug in on Mount Chambi killed at least eight Tunisian soldiers.

 

A Critical Time for Algeria: Emily Boulter, Real Clear World,  July 17, 2013—Over a two-month period Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika vanished from the country's political scene. He was reported to have suffered a mild stroke and travelled to France in order to receive medical care.

 

The Monarchy Model: Shadi Hamid, Slate, July 1, 2011—The lesson Arab autocrats seemed to learn from Egypt and Tunisia was almost the exact opposite of what democracy advocates were hoping for. Instead of using less force, leaders across the region have been using more of it, reaching unusual levels of brutality.

 

Tunisia's Jews: The road to Djerba: The Economist, May 1, 2013—For centuries, the tiny Tunisian island of Djerba played host to thousands of Jews on an annual pilgrimage to the Ghriba synagogue in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba'omer. Muslims, eager to share the festivities, joined in too.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Arab Spring Was a Cry for Capitalism: Hernando de Soto, The Spectator, July 13, 2013

Tunisia's Dark Turn: Joshua Muravchik, Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2013

Is Morocco the Model for Arab Democracy?: Michael J. Totten, The Tower, Aug. 2013

 

 

TUNISIA ON THE BRINK

Michael J. Totten

World Affairs,  July 29, 2013

 

Last week an assassin took out left-wing opposition leader Mohammed Brahmi with a 9mm pistol. Ballistics reports indicate the killer used the exact same weapon to murder another opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, last winter. And this week Al Qaeda-linked terrorists dug in on Mount Chambi killed at least eight Tunisian soldiers.

 

Ennahda, the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, is taking the heat. While they aren’t being fingered as directly responsible, they’re being blamed all the same because they dominate the government and they’ve gone easy on the extremists this past year and have sometimes even colluded with them. Thousands of furious demonstrators converged on parliament this week, yelling, “the people want the fall of the assassins.” Police officers repelled them with tear gas. Prime Minister Ali Larayedh refuses to step down and is blasting the demonstrators as “anarchists.”

 

Unlike in Egypt, the Islamists won less than half the vote in the election. Tunisians are stuck with them anyway, though, because secularists split their votes among dozens of parties and the Islamists walked away with a plurality. And though they were forced into a coalition with liberal and secular parties, they still got to choose the prime minister.

 

Ennahda is described as “moderate” in almost every single article published by wire agency hacks, but the only reason it’s relatively moderate is because it’s forced to share power. Tunisia’s Islamists conceded to building a civil state instead of an Islamic state because they face massive resistance and they don’t have enough seats in the parliament to do anything else. Since the police and the army are loyal to the country and not the party, that’s that. If Ennahda had won a majority and had the strength to muscle everything through, we would be looking at a different Tunisia—an Egypt in the Maghreb.

 

But Tunisia is much more liberal, secular, prosperous, and politically developed than Egypt. Both countries have problems that look similar on the surface, but the difference between the two is enormous. Tunis looks and feels more like France than like Cairo. The northern part of the country, where most people live, is more culturally similar to Europe than anywhere else in the Arab world outside of Beirut, which is almost half Christian.

 

In Egypt’s parliamentary election in winter of 2011, the Salafists—the ideological brethren of Osama bin Laden—won a shocking 28 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, the Salafist party is still banned in Tunisia, even with Ennahda in the government. It’s a marginal movement that scares the hell out of just about everyone, not just on ideological grounds, but also because it’s responsible for a spree of violent incidents since the Ben Ali government fell, including setting fire to an American school and threatening to kill all the Jews.

 

Algerian Salafists killed tens thousands of people during the 1990s. Most Americans haven’t heard word one about that horror show, but Tunisians won’t forget it any time soon. Algeria is next door. The border between the two in the Tunisian Sahara is unmarked and wide open. The Salafist Movement for Preaching and Combat is still active on the Algerian side, and terrorists are trickling into the country. The Al Qaeda attack near Mount Chambi this week was the most lethal against Tunisian security officials in decades. I drove to the top of that mountain two years ago. It’s the tallest in the country and from the top you can see into Algeria. The entire south side is a national park, and it’s lovely. But today it’s a terrorist nest. You go there, you die.

 

Ennahda and the Salafists ostensibly hate each other, but they have things in common ideologically, and they have an on-again off-again modus vivendi that’s no longer a secret. Last year someone leaked a video showing Rached Ghannouchi, Ennahda’s leader, delivering a speech to Salafist youth leaders. He winked and nudged and not-so subtly suggested they were on the same side, and he got busted. “I tell our young Salafists to be patient,” he said. “Why hurry? Take your time to consolidate what you have gained.” That video set the country on fire. The average Tunisian should have known Ennahda was little more than the “good cop” next to the Salafist “bad cop,” but at least they know it now, and it’s one of the reasons Ennahda’s popularity has cratered….

 

Tunisia is mellow, even pacifist, compared with Algeria. The army is smaller than Egypt’s, and it is not—or at least it has not been—a political player. So I don’t expect a full-blown Algerian-style insurgency or an Egyptian-style military coup. Nor is a Tiananmen Square-style massacre in the cards. Tunisia is not a police state, and Ennahda admits it’s afraid of the army. But tensions are rising, the situation is volatile, the country is more dangerous now than even a week ago, and the region is always surprising. Keep an eye out because even the “moderate” Islamists empowered by the Arab Spring are back on their heels. They thought they owned the future, but they do not.

Contents

 

 

A CRITICAL TIME FOR ALGERIA

Emily Boulter

Real Clear World,  July 17, 2013

 

Over a two-month period Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika vanished from the country's political scene. He was reported to have suffered a mild stroke and travelled to France in order to receive medical care. His absence sparked rumors that the 76-year-old president had either passed way or was in a coma. There were widespread calls among opposition parties that Article 88 of the constitution should be invoked. However on June 12, 2013 news footage appeared showing Bouteflika in the French hospital of Val-de-Grace discussing plans for the next cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah. On July 16, the president returned home to Algeria and it is reported that he will enjoy a "period of rest and recovery".

 

There is relief from many quarters that a power vacuum has been averted until next year's presidential elections in April. The consensus is that Bouteflika will not run for a fourth term, even though he introduced an amendment in 2008 removing limits on presidential terms. For the moment there are no likely successors, but possible candidates include Prime Minister Sellal, former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and even former President Liamine Zeroual. Next year's candidates will have to gain the backing of Algeria's military and intelligence elite and undoubtedly they will need the support of Mohamed "Tewfiq" Mediene, the director of Algeria's intelligence service the DRS. Mediene is considered to be one of the most powerful men in Algeria and it is often said that the DRS truly holds the reins of power in the country.

 

This year Algeria has needed the aid of a decisive leadership, since it has been marred by a number of crises. On January 16, militants from the al-Qaeda splinter group Al Mulathameen or the Signed-In-Blood Battalion, led by the Algerian-born Mokhtar Belmokhtar attacked the remote gas plant of Tiguentourine near the municipality of In Amenas. The facility is a joint operation controlled by Algeria's national oil company Sonatrach, BP and Statoil. It produces two percent of Europe's gas imports. On the day of the attack, militants dressed in military uniforms singled out foreign nationals and some were forced to wear explosives around their necks. A day later, Algerian Special Forces, under the direction of the head of the Directorate for Internal Security, General Athman 'Bachir' Tartag, launched an offensive to remove the militants. At the end of a four-day siege, at least 38 workers and 29 militants had been killed….

 

Algeria is facing a tide of problems from beyond its borders and given that 98 percent of Algeria's export earnings come from oil and gas, it is critical that Algeria's government works to eliminate the threat of similar attacks in the future. Due to France's intervention in northern Mali in January, there has been a considerable movement of militant activity towards southern Libya and also into the area of Jebel Chambi on the Algerian-Tunisian border. The Tunisian military has been working to crack down on al-Qaeda operatives in this region. Given the nature of this threat, both countries have formed a military-security liaison and coordination committee to share information on terrorist activities. Since May at least 6000 Algerian troops have been posted along the border with Tunisia. On June 10, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said, "the borders with Tunisia and Libya are well secured, thanks to co-ordination with the two countries' governments". During this year's holy month of Ramadan, Algerian security forces have been on high alert due to fears of terrorist attacks. Security has been stepped up at mosques, public venues and at the country's beaches.

 

This year Algeria's Ministry of Defence has asked for a budget of $10.3 billion in order to face growing security challenges. The elusive militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who French intelligence call the "uncatchable" was thought to have been killed by Chadian forces in Mali, but it turned out not to be true. On May 23 he directed a suicide attack against a military base and a uranium mine in Niger, which killed 25 people. Algerian anti-terror forces have spent over five years trying to persuade Belmokhtar to surrender, but to no avail. The Algerian government's determination to lend its support to its neighbors, such as Mali and Niger has also raised the likelihood that al-Qaeda and its offshoots will continue to target Algeria through its porous southern borders. The country is already embroiled in a serious hostage crisis, which began in April 2012 when seven Algerian diplomats were captured in the northern Malian town of Gao by members of the radical Islamist group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)….

 

In the wake of January's attack Algeria has been under pressure to attract and maintain foreign investment into the country. Foreign companies are limited to a maximum 49 percent stake in investments, as they are obliged to have a local partner. Algeria's national oil and gas company Sonatrach is given majority ownership of projects. Often foreign companies are reluctant to invest due to past allegations of corruption within the company, as well as a lack of fiscal incentives offered by the government. This is particularly noticeable during licensing rounds….

 

Algeria's relations with GCC members are giving it reasons to be optimistic. For instance, trade between Algeria and the UAE has been growing at 60 percent annually from 2005. UAE's state investment agency Mubadala launched a power plant in the Berber-speaking town of Tipaza in 2009, adding 20 percent to the country's energy supply. Algeria and Qatar have also signed a number of partnership agreements covering areas such as industry, mining, oil and gas. The former Emir of Qatar visited Algeria in January and both countries agreed to the construction of a steel plant, which will have a production capacity of 10 million tonnes of steel per year. Saudi-Algerian relations have also been improving. In November, Algerian diplomats celebrated the country's national day with Saudi officials in Jeddah and Saudi investors have also shown interest in purchasing Algerian farmland. On June 19, the 6th Algerian-Omani Joint Committee was opened and Algeria's foreign minister said the meeting would "help enhance our economic cooperation and open promising prospects for greater coordination and complementarity and for strengthening brotherly ties and cooperation".

 

Even though Algeria has foreign reserves worth $200 billion, the country is still suffering under the burden of social inequality. Although the IMF has indicated that unemployment is expected to fall to 9.3 percent in 2013, many consider this number to be skewed in light of realities on the ground. Algeria has seen a spate of protests over unemployment. Earlier this year, there were clashes in the southern town of Ouargla, over unemployment and the lack of housing. Youth unemployment is far greater than the national average and many young men or harragas, meaning "those who burn", try year after year to cross the Mediterranean illegally looking for a better life in Europe.

 

After the start of the Arab Spring, the Algerian government agreed to lift the state of emergency, offer generous social handouts, low interest loans and cheap housing. Algeria's banks have announced they will finance a $15 billion housing project to complete 250,000 homes by the end of next year. However the Algerian government has committed itself to two major housing construction programmes to construct 1.2 million and 2 million homes since 2005, but both have fallen short of their targets. Nevertheless the government is aware that as soon as tensions start to rise, it can use its resources to placate the population. Recently, an Algerian medical student told foreign journalists: "There is oil here, and every time the people aren't happy the government gives them money".

President Bouteflika will probably stick to this policy until the end of his term in office, and will not play an active role in public, which has been the case since his re-election in 2009. If we are to see a dramatic shift in Algeria's domestic policies, then we will most likely have to wait for his successor. Given that Algeria's neighbors are currently in the midst of enormous political and social upheaval, it is probable that Algerians will want a managed transition, especially in light of the country's brutal civil war. Even so, the departure of Bouteflika from politics will mark a new age for Algerian history, as he is one of the last remaining leaders from its time of independence.

 

Contents
 

 

THE MONARCHY MODEL

Shadi Hamid

Slate, July 1, 2011

 

The lesson Arab autocrats seemed to learn from Egypt and Tunisia was almost the exact opposite of what democracy advocates were hoping for. Instead of using less force, leaders across the region have been using more of it, reaching unusual levels of brutality. Shocking reports of mass rape and torture have emerged in Syria and Libya, where thousands have been killed. In Bahrain, a close U.S. ally and home of the Navy's Fifth Fleet, thousands have been arrested or dismissed from their jobs. Indeed, the "Arab spring" has turned into what political scientist Gregory Gause colorfully calls the "winter of Arab discontent."

 

In a season of growing disillusion—and disastrous televised speeches—the king of Morocco's June 17 national address stood out. It wasn't a great speech, and it fell well short of protesters' demands. But it was a substantive engagement with the opposition. The 47-year-old monarch did not demean his own people or place the blame on foreign conspirators. Instead, he announced a new constitution—one that has the potential to reshape the country's politics. While retaining effective veto power over major decisions, he pledged to empower elected institutions. The prime minister, drawn from the ranks of the largest party in parliament, would have the authority to appoint and fire ministers, as well as to dissolve parliament.

 

Morocco is offering the rest of the Arab world a different "model." And it is one that other monarchs will be watching closely. It is not a model of true democratic transition toward British-style "constitutional monarchy," as Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas al-Fasi recently claimed. There is little evidence to suggest King Mohammed VI is ready to merely reign and not rule. The Moroccan monarchy has a long history of failing to deliver on its promises of reform.

 

But this is precisely its appeal: To preserve power, you sometimes have to give some of it up. We can call this the "pre-emptive" model of reform. Here, autocrats take protests seriously. They announce big, high-profile reforms—whether it's moving toward elected governments or re-jigged constitutions. They release political prisoners and appoint real commissions that come up with real recommendations. They give people hope by using all the right buzzwords: change, democracy, reform, institutions, accountability. In doing so, this time around, the Moroccan regime has managed to seize the initiative and steal some momentum from the Feb. 20 protest movement—the loose coalition of leftists, liberals, and Islamists that has brought tens of thousands of Moroccans out into the streets. With a resounding "yes" vote in the July 1 constitutional referendum, the monarchy will be able to say that the mass of Moroccans stand behind the crown, further underlining regime legitimacy in a time of uncertainty.

 

Pre-emption is a strategy particularly suited to popular monarchies with reserves of historic and religious legitimacy. As the late King Hassan, Mohammed's father, once said, "I will never be put into an equation." The region's monarchs—in stark contrast to the presidents—stand above the fray, acting as umpires rather than partisans. As attractive as such a model may be for embattled autocrats, it is not revolution-proof. Once changes are set in motion, they are difficult to control. With more political space, opposition groups will be in a better position to build support and mobilize their followers. They may be more emboldened to challenge the king directly.…

 

In Europe, kings and queens were once dominant. But with gradually empowered parliaments, elected officials and notables began to assert themselves at the expense of monarchs. These contests for power became pitched battles. Many of them, unfolding over decades, were punctuated by instability and bloodshed—with Russia's October Revolution and the "Terror" of the French Revolution as only the most prominent examples. More recently, too, the peaceful transformation of monarchies has been a rare event. But just because it rarely happened in the past does not necessarily mean it won't happen in the future.

 

Prospects for reform in Morocco will depend not just on the king and his generous devolving of power but also on other forces in society that will fight for greater freedom and democracy, eventually turning to challenge the king on his own turf. For now, though, such a scenario is difficult to envision. Morocco's established political parties are careful, timid, and overly deferential to the king. As it stands, then, Morocco's pre-emptive model of reform seems good for autocrats, perhaps less so for those who wish to oppose them.

 

Contents

 

 

TUNISIA'S JEWS: THE ROAD TO DJERBA

The Economist, May 1, 2013

 

For centuries, the tiny Tunisian island of Djerba played host to thousands of Jews on an annual pilgrimage to the Ghriba synagogue in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba'omer. Muslims, eager to share the festivities, joined in too. Pilgrims sang songs as they made their way through the streets towards the synagogue, the oldest in Africa. Locals sold almonds and deep-fried savoury pastries called brik.

 

Tunisia’s two-thousand-year-old Jewish community, which numbered 100,000 when the country gained independence from France in 1956, has now dwindled to around 1,600. Years of emigration, and a suicide bomb attack on the synagogue in 2002 which killed 21 people, have dampened the annual affair. In 2011 it was cancelled for security reasons, following the jasmine revolution which ousted the then-president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The occasion drew a few hundred foreign pilgrims last year; but this time the organisers, and Tunisia’s tourism ministry, were determined to stage a revival.

 

In fact, attendance was only slightly up on last year. Most of those on the three-day pilgrimage, which concluded on April 28th, were locals—Jews (and some Muslims) from Djerba or nearby Zarzis on the mainland. Jewish émigrés, nostalgic for the home country, came mainly from France, but also Canada and Israel. The French ambassador, François Gouyette, made a surprise visit. Surrounded by twitchy bodyguards, he joined the pilgrims’ procession and declared that French tourists should not hesitate to visit the country.

 

Amid a struggling economy, Tunisia’s government, led by the Islamist Nahda party, was especially keen to show tourists, as well as friendly foreign governments with oil interests in the region, that it has the security situation under control—particularly in the wake of last week’s car bomb attack on the French embassy in Tripoli, the capital of neighbouring Libya. The daunting level of security provided by the government for what in the event were just a few hundred pilgrims, was designed to demonstrate its commitment to defending Tunisian Jews' rights to operate as a community, despite the fact that the country’s proposed new constitution makes no reference to minority rights. The pilgrims, meanwhile, proudly displayed their Tunisian patriotism, waving flags and singing the national anthem.

 

Most Tunisian Jews say they continue to feel at home here. Yet they remain, to some extent, hostage to international relations. Though the proposed constitution does not mention minority rights, it does refer to Tunisia’s opposition to all forms of racial discrimination “especially Zionism”. Graffiti scrawled on the wall of the tourism ministry in Tunis, the capital, in reaction to the Jewish pilgrims’ arrival, reminded passers-by that Palestinians are still waiting for their “right of return”. Djerbans, proud of their island’s historical diversity, are well aware that their Mediterranean-style convivencia, is, like jasmine, a fragile bloom.

Contents

 

The Arab Spring Was a Cry for Capitalism: Hernando de Soto, The Spectator, July 13, 2013—Two years ago, the West thought it recognised what was happening in the Arab world: people wanted democracy, and were having revolutions to make that point. Now, recent events in Egypt have left many open-mouthed. Why should the generals be welcomed back? `

 

Tunisia's Dark Turn: Joshua Muravchik, Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2013—While Egypt's revolution devolves into chaos, Tunisia's democratic transition, which until now has been the most promising of any in the Arab world, is also in jeopardy. A bill being pushed by Islamists and their allies in National Constituent Assembly called the "law for the protection of the revolution" seems in reality designed to protect the ruling Islamist party, Nahda, from having to face real competition in the next elections.

 

Is Morocco the Model for Arab Democracy?: Michael J. Totten, The Tower, Aug. 2013—At the Western reaches of the Arab world, one nation has embarked on a path of incremental progress. Can liberty come without revolution? The Arab Spring is leaving chaos in its wake. Islamization, renewed state repression, and the threat of starvation led to a military coup after the ouster of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. 

 

 

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‘SILENT MAN’ PROTESTS VOICE LONG-SIMMERING TURKISH SECULAR/ISLAMIST DIVIDE; ERDOGAN BLAMES ISRAEL

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail:  ber@isranet.org

 

 

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Understanding the Turkish Demonstrations: Harold Rhode, Gatestone Institute, June 10, 2013—Turkey, although nominally part of the West, is in most ways culturally closer to the Middle East. Turks live with pent-up grievances — as do we all — but with virtually no way to resolve them.

 

Erdogan's War on Ataturk's Legacy: Hillel Fradkin & Lewis Libby, Real Clear World, June 25, 2013—Recently, a single man stepped into the mass demonstrations and counter-demonstrations that have roiled Turkey for weeks. The man stood still and silent, staring at an image on a wall.

Is Turkey's Government Seeking Israeli Scapegoat for Protests?: Arad Nir, Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, June 24, 2013—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan apparently finds it difficult to put the Marmara flotilla affair behind him and overcome his aversion to the government of Israel.

 

On Topic Links

 

Tayyip Erdoğan, "God's Gift to Turkey": Robert Ellis, Gatestone Institute, June 19, 2013

EU Agrees to Open New Chapter With Turkey:  Hurriet Daily News, June 25, 2013

A Country Divided: Where Is Turkey Headed?: Daniel Steinvorth and Bernhard Zand, Spiegel, June 25, 2013

Greek Cyprus Signs Energy Deal With Israel in Defiance of Turkey: Zach Pontz, Algemeiner, June 21, 2013

 

 

UNDERSTANDING THE TURKISH DEMONSTRATIONS

Harold Rhode

Gatestone Institute, June 10, 2013

 

Turkey, although nominally part of the West, is in most ways culturally closer to the Middle East. Turks live with pent-up grievances — as do we all — but with virtually no way to resolve them. People in a supposedly democratic Turkey are reluctant to air their grievances even in public surveys out of fear their government might take revenge on them. During the past few years, people in Turkey have been saying that they are petrified to speak to others, write things, or talk freely on the telephone for fear they will be arrested. At present, Turkey has more journalists in jail than any other country.

 

The ruling AKP government has set up countless apparatuses to monitor dissent; these cause those who disagree with the government to fear not just arrest but interrogation. People and groups have therefore chosen largely to suffer in silence. Moreover, in the culture of the Middle East, there is no such thing as a win-win compromise. Turks, like their neighbours, consider backing down or apologizing dishonourable. Consequently, they spend much time blaming each other and looking for scapegoats — but almost never admitting responsibility for problems. As a result, tensions — with no means of being put to rest — constantly seethe below the surface.

 

This is the context through which to understand the riots and demonstrations against the government which have spread across Turkey.

 

Before Erdoğan came to power in 2002, with his unspoken promise to reinstate Islam as a central part of the state, many observant Muslims complained that the state discriminated against them. Under Islam, there can be no separation of religion and state. The state must be ruled by Muslims, and must be guided by Islamic law and culture. Observant Muslims felt oppressed by the secular Kemalist government in place since the 1920s, after the Ottoman Empire had been disbanded and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk had come to power. Atatürk established policies condemned by Islamic fundamentalists such as education for women, separation of religion and state, and Western dress.

 

His supporters and he said they wanted to relegate Islam to the realm of the private, and teach individuals to make decisions for themselves instead of blindly following religious leaders. Those who wanted the state to remain Islamic said they felt under constant pressure to keep their views to themselves; doing otherwise, they feared, might bring down on them the wrath of the secular state. Some of Atatürk's people were personally religious, but kept their religion separate from activities related to the state. Atatürk did not invade the realm of the private — unlike what Erdoğan has been trying to do.

 

Since Erdoğan and his AKP ["Truth and Reconciliation Party"] came to power, they have slowly but resolutely done their best to dismantle the secular apparatus of the state and have been trying to impose their version of Sunni fundamentalist Islam on everyone, especially the non-Sunni Alevis who make up approximately 30% of Turkey's population.

 

As soon as Erdoğan came to power, he started systematically dismantling Atatürkist institutions. These included recognizing religious elementary schools as equal to regular Turkish government secular schools, massive building of new Sunni mosques, even in areas where there are no Sunnis, a huge attempt to indoctrinate the young people in Sunni Islam, weakening the secular military though fraudulent accusations followed by show trials, and creating a media that followed his orders without questioning. The Turkish state secretly videotaped people it regarded as opponents in compromising situations or arrested them for fabricated crimes, including accusations that they were members of conspiratorial groups planning to overthrow the government.

 

Erdoğan's re-Islamification program entailed removing Atatürk and secularism from as many aspects of Turkish life as possible. Now the secularists and non-Sunnis felt oppressed. The Alevis, for example, have undergone an aggressive, imperialistic attempt to coerce them into abandoning their religion and become Sunnis. Even though, for example, the Alevis do not attend mosques, the regime ordered them to be built in Alevi towns and villages and then began forcing Alevi children to undergo Sunni religious instruction, which became mandatory in schools….

 

Unlike some other Middle Eastern societies, Turkey is, by and large, orderly. People line up for the bus and usually patiently wait their turn to board. The moment, however, someone pushes and tries to break into the line, what one moment looks completely orderly can instantly descend into unrest — like one lit match igniting all the others. As with the fruit seller in Tunisia, who set himself on fire out of frustration at not being able to obtain a license to sell fruit, an outside observer might get the impression that actions often seem disproportionate to the provocation and that people are avenging deeply held grievances that have little to do with the subject at hand. Turkish governments have historically known this to be a possibility, and have therefore created strong security apparatuses to handle these situations.

 

To understand whether or not a revolt has staying power, one might ask if a regime has the will and ability to do what is necessary to restore calm. In the past, this was relatively easy. There was no easy access to the international media. Tyrants, dictators, and other strongmen such as Erdoğan could get away with violently suppressing riots and demonstrations, while the outside world had no way of knowing what was happening. Leaders had a free hand to act as they wished.

 

Where Turkey's demonstrations will lead depends much on the reaction of Erdoğan's friends and allies, most notably U.S. President Barack Obama's Administration. Secretary of State Kerry publicly chastised the Turks for using too much force against "the demonstrators, most of whom are law-abiding citizens," although it is not apparent how the American administration could judge whether or not this was true. In response, the Turkish Foreign Minister publicly criticized his American counterpart Kerry for interfering in Turkish internal affairs.

 

What one can know is that the U.S. Administration's reaction seems to have emboldened the demonstrators; they know that the outside world is watching Erdoğan, and that even his closest ally, the current U.S. administration, has criticized him.

 

Will Turkey descend into chaos like most of its Arab neighbours? In terms of security forces, Turkey is better organized than its Arab neighbours — even Egypt — so it is difficult to see Turkey in a similar chaotic situation. Nevertheless, there are sectors inside Turkey who are fed up with Erdoğan; demonstrators keep chanting, "Erdoğan resign! Government – resign!" Erdoğan responded by labelling the demonstrators Çapulcus [pronounced Chapulju] meaning "lowlifes," vandals, looters. The demonstrators have now turned this epithet into a badge of honour.

 

In short, the events of the past few weeks have forced onto the Turkish agenda all sorts of issues the government had pushed underground. Whatever happens, Turkey has shown that it is not the stable island of calm and democracy its allies had hoped it to be. Iran and Russia will certainly benefit here, as will Assad of Syria: all three have become adversaries of Turkey.

 

The Kurds could also benefit: if the Turkish state proves weak, its weakness could help Turkey's Kurds on the their way to establishing a more autonomous region within Turkey, possibly to join in the future an independent Kurdish entity.

 

The Turkish people could be the biggest beneficiaries: they might even once again have the chance to make decisions for themselves instead of being forced to follow Islamist leaders and Shari'a-oriented laws that many do not want.

 

Contents

 

 

ERDOGAN'S WAR ON ATATURK'S LEGACY

Hillel Fradkin & Lewis Libby

Real clear World, June 25, 2013

 

Recently, a single man stepped into the mass demonstrations and counter-demonstrations that have roiled Turkey for weeks. The man stood still and silent, staring at an image on a wall. Soon scores of his countrymen, concerned about their freedoms, stood silently beside him, not just in Gezi Park, but in parks and squares across Turkey. It was a potent symbol in a war of symbols. In the Middle East, it may one day rank beside another standing man — the man who stood before the tanks of Tiananmen. Time will tell if it will prove equally futile.

 

The protest in Istanbul's Gezi Park marks another round in a battle for Turkey's future. Among the silent stand those who seek a return to the moderate, secular path set by modern Turkey's founder, Kemal Ataturk. They face down not the tanks, but the bulldozers of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the narrowest sense, Erdogan plans to bulldoze the last remaining green square in Istanbul (another weighty metaphor) to rebuild an Ottoman barracks. In the larger sense, he hopes to bulldoze the modern legacy of Ataturk, amend Turkey's constitution to create a presidency more powerful than even Ataturk ever held and then restore the glory of Ottoman Turkey and the caliphate that once bound the Sunni Islamic world together….

 

The protesters, Erdogan's allies claim, conspire with Turkey's external enemies and other nefarious forces to undermine the high estate that is Turkey's regional birthright. So Erdogan sponsored a counter-demonstration to answer the crowds in Gezi Park. Where? At Kazlicesme, just outside the ancient walls of Constantinople, the site from which the 15th century Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror launched the attack that captured Constantinople and drove the last western influence from Turkey. (How like Erdogan's recent call that Turkey's youth embrace the 11th century battle in which the Seljuk Turks first fought their way into then-Christian Anatolia.)   At Kazlicesme and other rallies, Erdogan's supporters sing the Ottoman Army's marching song.

 

Erdogan's bulldozers seek to remake not just Gezi Park, but the face of Ataturk's Turkey. Erdogan has just broken ground on a massive new bridge across the Bosporus to be named for Ottoman Sultan Selim I, often known as Selim the Grim. As all Turkish school children know, Selim's conquests in 1517 first won Ottoman sultans the title of Caliph. Ottoman rulers bore this title for the next 400 years, until Ataturk abolished it.

 

On an elevated headland on the Asian side of Istanbul, facing Europe, Erdogan now undertakes to build the largest mosque in the world. Highly visible almost everywhere in Istanbul, it will resemble and surpass the great, celebratory mosques built over centuries by the Ottoman sultans. No such mosque has been built since Ataturk ended the caliphate. Thus, the square, the bridge, the mosque, the marching song are each a repudiation of Ataturk's legacy. They herald the caliphate over the republic, Erdogan's vision over Ataturk's.

 

No surprise, then, that the image on the wall at which the Gezi Park protesters silently stare is Ataturk's. Moderates across Turkey have brought out images of Ataturk. In the prior, nosier demonstrations, the protesters sang the Republic's unofficial anthem, the "Tenth Year March," honoring the first decade of Ataturk's rule. Indeed, in the 1990s, when an earlier Islamist Party, the forebear of Erdogan's AKP, first came to power, moderate Turks sang this song then as well. They even made disco versions and danced to it, to hold at bay a conservative vision of Islam that challenged Turkey's modern course. A verse in the song hails the youth of Turkey, "15 million strong," and Ataturk: "Our leader and commander in chief is respected throughout the world."

 

The Gezi protesters know that Erdogan, at the end of his first decade in power, has accomplishments as well. He remains the dominant figure in Turkish politics. But while Ataturk's first decade pointed ever upward, Erdogan now faces greater challenges than he has before.

 

Erdogan's inevitability is increasingly in question. He blames the slowing of Turkey's once robust economy on nefarious interest rate lobbies. His attacks on the rule of law have undermined his image abroad. A year ago, a Council on Foreign Relations report labeled Turkey more democratic than ever before; suspect then, the Council would likely avoid such formulations today. His foreign policy has tacked one way and then the other, and both are now in shambles. His appeals to Iran have been rewarded with defiance. His efforts to intervene in Syria have been ineffective and unpopular. By attacking peaceful protests in his own capital, many Turks believe he has forfeited whatever weight his moral arguments about Assad may have held.

 

Most importantly to him, Erdogan's hopes to create and win a powerful new Turkish presidency are no longer foreordained. His hopes to woo Turkish Kurds — a substantial voting group — into a grand coalition may lay victim to Gezi Park, as Kurds were among the protesters, and Kurdish leadership has criticized Erdogan's heavy hand. The protests have shaken as well his government's most important support: the Gulen movement that determines many parliamentary seats and places its hopes in ongoing growth and stability. So far, Erdogan has shown no sign of shifting course, as he continues to polarize. If, as expected, he responds to these challenges, as other politicians before him, by solidifying his base, he will lean even more toward Islamist and neo-Ottoman interests.

 

The protests have shaken Erdogan's image of stability, and it was stability and progress on which Erdogan had staked his image. Erdogan's tight grip has loosened, and so the battle of images will continue. Given Turkey's prominence, past success and prior secular path, this may be the most telling, if least noted, battle underway today for the soul of modern Islam. So far, Erdogan's Ottoman Army marching song still swells above Ataturk's Tenth Year March. It remains to be seen which tune will in time prevail.

 

Hillel Fradkin is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Lewis Libby is a senior vice president at the Hudson Institute.

Contents

 

 

IS TURKEY'S GOVERNMENT SEEKING
ISRAELI SCAPEGOAT FOR
PROTESTS?

Arad Nir

Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, June 24, 2013

                       

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan apparently finds it difficult to put the Marmara flotilla affair behind him and overcome his aversion to the government of Israel. This was evident even in the violent demonstrations that broke out this month (June 2013) in Istanbul. And even though Israel was not explicitly mentioned by name in the rallies that took place in Gezi Park and Taksim Square against the heads of the Turkish regime, the media outlets closely associated with the latter insist on accusing Israel of “fanning the riot flames.”

 

Following years of overt anti-Israeli sentiment in mass demonstration where the slogan “Israel is a murderer” — Katil Israil — had been commonly used in Turkey, it was strange to encounter on the very same streets and squares demonstrators calling, and banners proclaiming, “Erdogan is a murderer” — Katil Erdoğan. As a rule, the protest movement recently sparked in Turkey has refrained from making use of Israel to further its goals.

 

On two occasions alone I noticed, in Gezi Park, posters alluding to Israel — the one, drawing an analogy between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, punning, in Turkish, on the names of the two; the other featuring a picture of Israeli President Shimon Peres as a football player standing guard alongside President Barack Obama and Fethullah Gulen (the moderate Turkish Islamic leader living in a self-imposed exile in the United States, who advocates a dialogue between religions and who has become in recent years a political rival of Erdogan), while Erdogan scores a goal.

 

Israeli officials closely following the events in Turkey assessed that those posters were inspired by none other than the ruling party, the AKP, which sought to drag Israel into the dispute — in an attempt to both delegitimize the protest and strengthen the traditional political power base of Erdogan.

 

This assessment was reinforced toward the end of the second week of the protest, when Prime Minister Erdogan was cited as saying, after watching documentation of the massive destruction caused to shops and businesses in Istanbul: “Those whom we told ‘one minute’ are happy now.” The phrase “one minute” is the one Erdogan used in Davos on January 2009, when bursting out at Shimon Peres. Every child in Turkey understands the meaning of the phrase and knows who are “Those whom we told ‘one minute’” — and to put it explicitly, it is Israel.

 

It seems that Erdogan took his cue from the banner headline published that morning by the Turkish pro-ruling party daily Yeni Şafak, which read as follows: “Israel wishes that the Gezi Park events will bring about the fall of Erdogan.”

 

Underneath, a large picture of Knesset member Reuven Rivlin was featured. Rivlin, whose name was erroneously spelled “Livnin,” was presented as speaker of the Knesset — a position he had to give up several months ago with great regret, following the establishment of the new government in Jerusalem. The “plea for the fall of Erdogan” was attributed to Rivlin, while the same news item went on to quote former Foreign Minister and current Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Avigdor Liberman — who had strongly objected at the time to an Israeli apology for the killing during the takeover of the Mavi Marmara flotilla — as having stated that he “did not lose sleep over the developments in Turkey.”

 

When I checked with Knesset member Rivlin, as well as with Liberman's bureau, both emphatically denied the allegation! Rivlin stressed the importance he attached to the relations between Israel and Turkey, under any circumstances whatsoever, while Liberman reiterated his position that Netanyahu's apology to Erdogan was a mistake, but denied any association with the statement attributed to him.

 

Later on in the week, similar allegations were made by other Turkish media outlets close to Erdogan. That time around, the “plea for the fall of Erdogan” was attributed to Knesset member Moshe Feiglin, the far-right Likud party member who is serving as the Knesset deputy speaker. I asked  Feiglin whether he had made any such statement, and he, too, denied having ever said anything of the sort. (In fact, no allusion to such statements may be found in Hebrew search engines.)

 

The leak concerning the visit to Ankara of Mossad chief Tamir Pardo on June 10, at the height of the protest wave, is another instance of this discourse, which seeks to attribute responsibility to Israel for fanning the flames of protest in Turkey. Pardo's visit to Ankara was supposed to be secret. However, there apparently were elements interested in tying him to the protest demonstrations. According to reports on the visit, the Israeli Mossad head and Hakan Fidan, chief of the Turkish Intelligence agency (known also as the “secret police”), discussed the goings-on in Syria and Iran, and even … the Gezi Park events.

 

One may wonder what Pardo had to do with the Gezi Park protest. Well, the answer is quite simple: Erdogan wants to disassociate himself from the riots and lay the responsibility for the unrest on “foreign elements.” To achieve this aim, he goes as far as to use the familiar anti-Semitic rhetoric and, for instance, points the finger at “interest groups that stand to benefit from the increase in interest rates.”

 

Israelis are closely following the developments in Turkey. And many yearn for the success of the thousands that are calling for the resignation of Erdogan and his government. It seems, however that the decision to send Tamir Pardo to meet with Fidan — who is a close confidant of Erdogan — in the midst of the protest wave shows that the Israeli government does not expect any deterioration in the standing of the incumbent Turkish prime minister…..

 

Arad Nir Is the head of the foreign news desk and international commentator for Channel 2 News, the largest news provider in Israel.

 

Contents

 

On Topic
 

Tayyip Erdoğan, "God's Gift to Turkey": Robert Ellis, Gatestone Institute, June 19, 2013—The Turkish Minister for EU Affairs, Egemen Bağış, has declared that Prime Minister Erdoğan is a gift sent by God to Turkey and to humanity. But what do half the Turkish electorate do – as well as the rest of humanity – when the gift is unwanted?

 

EU Agrees to Open New Chapter With Turkey:  Hurriet Daily News, June 25, 2013—The European Union has agreed to open a new chapter with Turkey but postponed negotiations until after the presentation of the Commission’s Annual Progress Report and a discussion of the General Affairs Council (GAC) in October.

 

A Country Divided: Where Is Turkey Headed?: Daniel Steinvorth and Bernhard Zand, Spiegel, June 25, 2013—The uprising against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan clearly shows the deep divide between modernity and tradition in Turkey. Economic growth had long disguised the cleft. But now, the country must decide what its future will hold.

 

Greek Cyprus Signs Energy Deal With Israel in Defiance of Turkey: Zach Pontz, Algemeiner, June 21, 2013

The Greek Cypriot cabinet defied Turkey earlier this week, approving plans to sign a deal with a US-Israeli partnership to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the island to exploit untapped energy riches, AFP reported Friday. Turkey has objected to the plan, saying the resources should be divided between two sides of the separated island.

 

 

Top of Page

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

SYRIAN TURMOIL EMBROILING NEIGHBORS DODGING “ARAB SPRING”, JORDAN’S KING ABDULLAH FIGHTS ISLAMISTS,AS LEBANON-SYRIA BORDER HEATS UP & SALAFISTS OPPOSE HEZBOLLAH

Download an abbreviated version of today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

 

Jordan’s King Finds Fault With Everyone Concerned: David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times,  March 18, 2013—King Abdullah II of Jordan leads one of the smallest, poorest and most vulnerable Arab nations. But that does not stop him from looking down on many of those around him, including the leaders of Egypt, Turkey and Syria, as well as members of his own royal family, his secret police, his traditional tribal political base, his Islamist opponents and even United States diplomats.

 

The Assir Headache: Michael Young, Now Lebanon, Mar. 15, 2013Is there a more troubling figure than Ahmad al-Assir? The Salafist sheikh is like a protester, who, merely touched by a policeman, will scream that he is being murdered, all to attract attention. For a year and a half Assir has engineered confrontations to rally to his side a Sunni community angry with Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.

 

Syria Warns Lebanon on Border Infiltrations: Jean Aziz, Al-Monitor, Mar. 18, 2013While the Syrian Foreign Ministry sent an official letter to Beirut threatening to bomb Lebanese areas, the Land of Cedars will be without any senior officials in the coming week, as heads of its constitutional authorities travel outside the country. Meanwhile, sources have told Al-Monitor that the situation in the northern border area of Akkar has already begun to deteriorate significantly.

 

Syrian Daily: Jordan, Lebanon Playing With 'Fire': Daily Star, March 17, 2013Lebanon and Jordan are playing with fire by allowing jihadists and weapons to pass across their borders into Syria, the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra warned on Sunday. "The fire of terrorism will consume not only Syria, but could spread to Lebanon and Jordan.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Ties With Netanyahu Very Strong, Says Abdullah: Jerusalem Post, Mar. 19, 2013

Monarch in the Middle: Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, Mar. 18, 2013

Syrian Warplanes Strike Lebanese Territory: Patrick J. McDonnell , Los Angeles Times, Mar. 18, 2013
38 Hizbullah Fighters Killed in Syria Buried Secretly in Lebanon: Ya Libnan, Mar. 18, 2013

 

 

 

JORDAN’S KING FINDS FAULT WITH EVERYONE CONCERNED

David D. Kirkpatrick

New York Times,  March 18, 2013

 

King Abdullah II of Jordan leads one of the smallest, poorest and most vulnerable Arab nations. But that does not stop him from looking down on many of those around him, including the leaders of Egypt, Turkey and Syria, as well as members of his own royal family, his secret police, his traditional tribal political base, his Islamist opponents and even United States diplomats.

 

President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt has “no depth,” King Abdullah said in an interview with the American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, to be published this week in The Atlantic magazine. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is an authoritarian who views democracy as a “bus ride,” as in, “Once I get to my stop, I am getting off,” the king said.

 

And he said President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is so provincial that at a social dinner he once asked the monarchs of Jordan and Morocco to explain jet lag. “He never heard of jet lag,” King Abdullah said, according to an advance copy of the article.

 

The king’s conversations with Mr. Goldberg, an influential writer on the Middle East and an acquaintance of more than a decade, offer a rare view of the contradictory mind-set of Washington’s closest ally in the Arab world as he struggles to master the upheaval of the Arab Spring revolts. Seldom has an Arab autocrat spoken so candidly in public.

 

King Abdullah appears humbled and even fatigued by the many challenges he failed to foresee when he inherited the throne 14 years ago, describing himself before coronation as a “Forrest Gump” in the background of his father’s long reign. In contrast to his father, King Hussein, King Abdullah promises to move Jordan closer to a British-style constitutional monarchy, and thus to stay ahead of the Arab Spring wave. But he insists that only he can lead the transition to democracy, in part to ensure that democracy will not deliver power to his Islamist opponents.

 

The era of Arab monarchies is passing, King Abdullah said. “Where are monarchies in 50 years?” he asked. But even his own family, with 11 siblings and half-siblings, does not yet understand the lessons of the Arab Spring for dynasties like theirs, he said, adding that the public will no longer tolerate egregious displays of excess or corruption.

 

“Members of my family don’t get it,” he said. “Look at some of my brothers. They believe that they’re princes, but my cousins are more princes than my brothers, and their in-laws are like — oh my God!” he continued. “I’m always having to stop members of my family from putting lights on their guard cars,” he said. “I arrest members of my family and take their cars away from them and cut off their fuel rations and make them stop at traffic lights.” Even his own sons should be punished if convicted of corruption, he insisted. “Everybody else is expendable in the royal family,” he said. “That is the reality of the Arab Spring that hit me.”

 

He blamed his own government’s secret police for blocking his efforts at political reform. For example, he charged that the secret police had conspired with conservatives in the political elite to block his attempts to open up more representation in Parliament to Palestinians, who make up more than half of Jordan’s population.

 

“Institutions I had trusted were just not on board,” he said, naming as an example the mukhabarat, or secret police. He said he had not realized at first how deeply “conservative elements” had become “embedded in certain institutions” like the mukhabarat. “Two steps forward, one step back,” he added. Stopping the Islamists from winning power was now “our major fight” across the region, he said. He repeatedly mocked the Muslim Brotherhood, the pan-Arab Islamist movement behind the largest opposition party in the Jordanian Parliament and Mr. Morsi’s governing party in Egypt, calling it “a Masonic cult” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” And he accused American diplomats of naïveté about their intentions.

 

“When you go to the State Department and talk about this, they’re like, ‘This is just the liberals talking, this is the monarch saying that the Muslim Brotherhood is deep-rooted and sinister,’ ” King Abdullah said. His job, he said, is to dissuade Westerners from the view that “the only way you can have democracy is through the Muslim Brotherhood.”

 

The king was also frankly dismissive of the tribal leaders from the East Bank of the Jordan River who have traditionally formed his family’s base of support. “The old dinosaurs,” he called a group of East Bank tribal leaders, including a former prime minister, before a meeting with them in the town of Karak. “It’s all about, ‘I’ll vote for this guy because I am in his tribe,’ ” the king said of their political program.

 

Alarmed at the violence in neighboring Syria, King Abdullah said he had offered asylum and protection to the family of President Assad. “They said, ‘Thank you very much, but why don’t you worry about your country more than you worry about us?’ The monarchy is going to change,” the king vowed. His son will preside over “a Western-style democracy with a constitutional monarchy,” the king said, and not “the position of Bashar today.”

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THE ASSIR HEADACHE

Michael Young

Now Lebanese, Mar. 15, 2013

 

Is there a more troubling figure than Ahmad al-Assir? The Salafist sheikh is like a protester, who, merely touched by a policeman, will scream that he is being murdered, all to attract attention. For a year and a half Assir has engineered confrontations to rally to his side a Sunni community angry with Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.

 

It is a testament to the disarray in the community – thanks largely to the two-year vacuum left by the head of the Future Movement, Saad Hariri – that there are Sunnis pinning their hopes on a sectarian demagogue. In that sense, Assir is not so different than Hezbollah, even if the party’s ability to control its followers is more reassuring.

 

Assir’s latest crusade is against the Lebanese Army, which the sheikh has accused of surrounding the Bilal bin Rabah mosque that he controls in Abra. Much can be said of the army, but Assir’s repeated street demonstrations against Hezbollah and the Shiites in Sidon have hardly endeared him to an institution committed to maintaining civil peace. Assir has put his fingers in the wound of confessional relations, and many now fear a perilous deterioration in Sunni-Shiite relations.

 

The problem is that Assir raises what many consider real problems. When he says that Hezbollah is placing its men in apartments around his mosque, he only plays up to a long-standing perception that the party uses property politics to advance its agenda.

 

Already, quarters around the southern suburbs that once had a Christian majority now have a Shiite majority thanks to Hezbollah’s purported efforts to build buildings and settle families there. In the Beqaa, there have been accusations that Hezbollah militants have rented apartments in Shtaura and its environs, to be able to link the Shiite-majority southern region of the plain with the northern region, if Sunnis ever block the central region in a potential conflict.

 

Are the accusations true? Maybe yes, maybe no, but few Sunnis are willing to give Hezbollah the benefit of the doubt because of the party’s actions in the past eight years. Hezbollah members stand accused of participating in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, and there has been considerable suspicion as to the party’s role in subsequent killings. In May 2008, Hezbollah militants overran west Beirut and humiliated the Sunnis. And in early 2011, the party precipitated the ouster of Hariri, the principal Sunni representative, and brought in Najib Miqati. All this was against the will of the Sunni community.

 

The results created dry grassland for Assir’s flames. And yet his provocations have targeted not only Shiites. His decision to take a busload of followers to Faraya on the feast of the birth of the Prophet was equally contentious. Assir is entitled to go anywhere he wants in Lebanese, but he knew well that the presence of long-bearded Salafists in the Christian heartland would spark a counter-reaction (no less so than would Samir Geagea’s taking a busload of Lebanese Forces members to Abra). Assir also knew this counter-reaction would be led by Michel Aoun’s partisans. He manufactured a stand-off that he won (thanks to the army he is now attacking), and pranced triumphantly in the snow, proving that he was not a man who could be intimidated.

The big question is who is financing Assir? Some have suggested that he has Qatari funding, which the sheikh has denied. Unfortunately, denials don’t mean much in cases like this one, where funders will insist on anonymity. Wherever Assir gets his money from, and Salafists tend to look toward the Gulf for financial assistance, those helping the sheikh are only ensuring that Lebanese becomes more polarized than ever, with possibly disastrous consequences.

 

Yet the sheikh has more than just bluster and money; he also benefits from the presence in Sidon of the Palestinian camp at Ain al-Hilweh, where Salafist groups are strong. If Hezbollah were to enter into an armed confrontation with Assir, it would have to factor these Salafists into its plans as well. The party has no desire to be dragged into a fight with armed Palestinians on the main road to the south.

 

Ultimately, what is Assir’s program? He does not enjoy unanimous support, even in Sidon, and no matter how deep Sunni anger with Hezbollah and revulsion with Bashar al-Assad’s regime, his brinkmanship is alarming to those who fear a mad drive toward sectarian warfare. While Lebanese’s Salafists are less influential than many believe, it does not take much to spark a conflict. And once that happens, it is easy for the situation to spiral out of control.

 

Some will argue that Assir and Hezbollah are mirror images of each other. Therefore why blame one side and not the other? Hezbollah’s many errors in recent years have, more than anything else, pushed Lebanese to the edge of the abyss. Yet Assir is dangerous in a different way. He is still in the ascendant in a community where the political leadership has left a void. That is why Assir is far more likely to be reckless, and to drag Lebanese down with him, a victim of his hubris.

 

Michael Young is opinion editor of The Daily Star newspaper in Lebanese.

 

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SYRIA WARNS LEBANESE ON BORDER INFILTRATIONS

Jean Aziz

Al-Monitor, Mar. 18, 2013

 

While the Syrian Foreign Ministry sent an official letter to Beirut threatening to bomb Lebanese areas, the Land of Cedars will be without any senior officials in the coming week, as heads of its constitutional authorities travel outside the country. Meanwhile, sources have told Al-Monitor that the situation in the northern border area of Akkar has already begun to deteriorate significantly.

 

On March 14, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry received an official letter from its Syrian counterpart, the first of its kind since the Syrian civil war began. It appeared to be more than a message of blame and accusation, while less than a formal warning or Syrian threat against Lebanese. The letter stated that "during the last 36 hours, large numbers of armed terrorist elements infiltrated from Lebanese into Syria.” It continued, "Syrian forces clashed with them within Syrian territory, and the clashes are ongoing.” The letter noted that "the Armed Arab Forces (the Syrian army) are still exercising self-restraint by not [targeting] the armed gangs inside Lebanese territories to prevent them from crossing into Syria, but this will not continue indefinitely."

 

The letter added that "Syria expects Lebanese not to allow those [elements] to use the border as a passageway because they are targeting the security of the Syrian people, violating Syrian sovereignty, and exploiting the good brotherly relations between the two countries." However, the message clearly mentioned that the Syrian army may be forced to resort to "bombing the gathering places of the armed gangs in Lebanese in the event of continued cross-border infiltrations."

 

Beirut tried to give the impression that it is dealing with the issue seriously, but that doesn’t appear to be sufficient. President Michel Suleiman has been on a 9-day African tour since early last week, accompanied by a large delegation of 93 people. Through a statement from the Ivory Coast, he tried to reassure Damascus that he is taking the new Syrian "message” seriously. Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and parliament speaker Nabih Berri are preparing to travel on march 17 to Rome to participate in the inauguration of the new pope. As a result, Beirut won't have any of its constitutional powers present, just as its northern border adjacent to the Syrian civil war appears to lack any official security or military presence.

 

In contrast to the official, stated Lebanese position, the situation on the ground seems to be more tense and worrying. In the north-eastern part of Lebanese, clashes have become a daily event on both sides of the border with Syria, particularly in the well-known Sunni-shiite-Alawite triangle.

 

But other developments — which apparently necessitated the writing of the official Syrian letter — took place in the past two days in the area extending from that triangle westwards, in the Lebanese area of Akkar, which is offset from the Syrian side by the Homs countryside to the east and Tartous province to the west. On the Lebanese side, this northern border strip extends along roughly 45 miles, and has a Sunni, Alawi and Christian cross-sectarian population.

 

These days, wherever there are Sunni or Alawite villages or towns along the Lebanese border, insurgents are present. Opponents of the Syrian regime are in Sunni towns like al-Abboudiya, Hikr janine, al-Qashlaq, Wadi al-Hawr, Noura, western Dabbabiya, and Fureidis, up east to the Bekaa valley and Wadi Khaled up to Hnaider and Qarha; meanwhile, supporters of the regime have taken to the upper villages, namely the village of Hikr al-Dahiri, which became the headquarters of Lebanese Alawite politician, former member of parliament Ali Eid, whose son Refaat Eid is leading the battle against Sunni jihadists in the northern capital city of Tripoli.

 

In the midst of the Sunni and Alawite villages, the Christian towns in Akkar seem to be caught in crossfire from both sides of the border. This sectarian-military classification on the ground is what forced the Lebanese army units to gradually withdraw from the tense areas, in the absence of any formal decision on the level of the Lebanese government to control the situation. That led to the remaining Lebanese army forces deploying in the Christian villages and towns. The main army barrack is located in the Christian village of Andaket in Akkar, in addition to another barrack in the Christian village of Chadra. There are other army posts in most Christian villages, such as east Dabbabiya, Manjaz, Kfar noun, Ramah and the town of Kobayat, which is the capital of Christian presence in the area. The second brigade of the Lebanese army is currently deployed in Akkar, supported by a battalion of the eighth brigade, and another commando regiment, an elite army unit.

 

Amid this tension, residents of the border area told al-monitor that since Syria addressed its official letter to Beirut, unusual military movements have been witnessed on the Syrian side. According to eyewitnesses, Syrian military experts dismantled minefields planted by the Syrian army along the border over a year ago to prevent smuggling or armed infiltrations. Other residents confirmed that Syrian military bulldozers were seen on the same line paving border tracks and opening roads. Both procedures suggest the possibility of the Syrian military launching limited military operations or incursions to hunt down its opponents inside Lebanese territories.

 

But diplomatic circles in Beirut rule out the possibility of such an escalation taking place, and instead expect clashes between armed Syrian parties within Lebanese itself, exactly as the situation is in Syria between Jabhat al-Nusra and the free Syrian army. These circles have revealed confidential information that a senior official in the Islamic group visited Damascus days ago, and held a series of meetings with senior Syrian officials there. According to the same diplomatic sources, this indicates that the cards of the Syrian armed jihadist forces in northern Lebanese could witness an unexpected reshuffling. In both cases, the possible scenarios on the Lebanese-Syrian border seem bleak. Lebanese officials openly talk about the presence of approximately one million displaced Syrians in Lebanese, which make up about a quarter of its population. They represent a human tragedy, and a social, economic and security burden whose implications are unpredictable.
 

Jean Aziz is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Lebanese Pulse. He is a columnist at Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper, and the host of a weekly political talk show on OTV, a Lebanese TV station.

 

 

SYRIAN DAILY: JORDAN, LEBANON PLAYING WITH 'FIRE'

Daily Star, March 17, 2013

 

Lebanon and Jordan are playing with fire by allowing jihadists and weapons to pass across their borders into Syria, the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra warned on Sunday. "The fire of terrorism will consume not only Syria, but could spread to Lebanon and Jordan, particularly if these two countries intervene in the situation in Syria, ignoring the flow of armed men and weapons from their territory, or by participating directly in the conspiracy against Syria," the newspaper said.  "Jordan has opened its borders in recent days (allowing) passage of jihadists… whereas before it was satisfied with just facilitating the movement of elements trained on its territory by US intelligence," it added. "As for Lebanon, it is closing its eyes to the trafficking of weapons to Syria, led by elements that are not part of the government."

 

On Friday, a security source in Damascus criticized Jordan, saying the kingdom has "opened its borders and is allowing to cross over (into Syria) jihadists and Croatian weapons bought by Saudi Arabia. This can only intensify the conflict and cause more casualties," the source told AFP in Beirut on condition of anonymity.

 

"There's been a change of attitude because up until now, Jordan had imposed strict controls on its border to prevent the passage of terrorists and weapons," said the source, blaming "pressure by countries that are hostile to Syria" for the change.

 

And on Thursday, Syria's foreign ministry warned that it would retaliate if Lebanon continued to allow "armed terrorist gangs" to infiltrate. "Syrian forces are showing restraint by not striking these gangs inside Lebanese territory to prevent them crossing into Syria, but this will not go on indefinitely," it said in a message to its Lebanese counterpart.

 

Beirut has officially pledged neutrality in the violence engulfing its neighbour, but has found itself increasingly embroiled in the civil war. Lebanon's opposition backs the revolt, which entered its third year on Friday, while Hezbollah and its allies stand by the Syrian regime. Violence has already spilled over into Lebanon on several occasions, causing fatalities, and on Thursday the UN Security Council expressed "grave concern" about cross-border attacks.

 

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Ties With Netanyahu Very Strong, Says Abdullah: Jerusalem Post, Mar. 19, 2013Jordanian King Abdullah in a series of exclusive interviews with American magazine The Atlantic said that his relationship with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is "very strong," and that their discussions "have really improved."

 

Monarch in the Middle: Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, Mar. 18, 2013As the Arab Spring swirls around him, can King Abdullah II, the most pro-American Arab leader in the Middle East, liberalize Jordan and modernize its economy, without losing his kingdom to Islamic fundamentalists? The stressful life of a king amidst chaos.

 

Syrian Warplanes Strike Lebanese TerritoryPatrick J. McDonnell , Los Angeles Times, Mar. 18, 2013Syrian warplanes bombed an area of Lebanon near the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal along the border with Syria on Monday. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, "This constitutes a significant escalation in the violations of Lebanese sovereignty that the Syrian regime has been guilty of."

 

38 Hizbullah Fighters Killed in Syria Buried Secretly in Lebanon: Ya Libnan, Mar. 18, 2013Al-Joumhouria quoted Free Syrian Army media head Fahed al-Masri as saying that the bodies of 38 Hizbullah fighters who were killed inside Syrian have been sent to Lebanon to be buried secretly. "The corpses were transferred secretly to Lebanon and arrangements for the burial were being made after buying the silence of the deceased's relatives," the newspaper reported.
 

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EGYPTIAN VOLCANO: AS MORSI STUMBLES, ARMY RETURNS, WOMEN TERRORIZED & COPTS, ANXIOUS, ELECT NEW POPE.

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Morsi and the General: Daniel Nisman, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28, 2013In August 2012, it seemed as though Egypt's once-omnipotent military generals had been all but neutered. After a devastating militant attack killed dozens of troops in the Sinai Peninsula, a newly-elected President Mohammed Morsi seized the opportunity to fire Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and a number of other generals.

 

A Warning to John Kerry: Egypt Could Become the Next Iran: Nesreen Akhtarkhavari, Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 1, 2013As Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Egypt March 2 he should be wary of one concerning possibility: Under the rule of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt is in danger of becoming a Sunni version of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Terror in Tahrir: Diana Sayed, Egypt Independent, Mar. 2, 2013Women activists have protested all over the world against sexual violence in Egypt. The protests, which took place in front of Egyptian embassies in 20 capitals worldwide and in Cairo, sent a clear message to the Egyptian government that the international community will take a stand against sexual harassment in solidarity with the women of Egypt.

Egypt's New Coptic Pope Tawadros Faces Religious Tension, Uncertain Future: Joseph Mayton, Washington Report on Mid East Affairs, February 2013In early November, less than a week after Egypt's new Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros had taken over as the newest pontiff in the world's oldest Christian sect, he lashed out on television, accusing the ultra-conservative Salafists of "destroying" the future of the country. 

On Topic Links

 

 

Muslims Attacking Copts in Egypt Over False Rumor: Salma Shukrallah, Al Ahram,  Mar. 2, 2013

Will Violence Erupt in Egypt?: Mike Giglio, The Daily Beast, Mar 1, 2013

Will Egypt’s Democrats Get Serious?: Amir Taheri, New York Post, Feb. 27, 2013

The Egyptian Army is Making a Comeback: Zvi Mazel, Real Clear World, Feb. 25, 2013

 

 

 

MORSI AND THE GENERAL

Daniel Nisman

Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28, 2013

 

In August 2012, it seemed as though Egypt's once-omnipotent military generals had been all but neutered. After a devastating militant attack killed dozens of troops in the Sinai Peninsula, a newly-elected President Mohammed Morsi seized the opportunity to fire Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and a number of other generals. President Morsi was empowered by popular anger following 17 months of incompetent military rule over post-revolution Egypt. But now, six months later, the generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) have returned to challenge an increasingly loathed President Morsi—quite possibly laying the groundwork to bring Egypt back under military rule.

 

General Abdel Fattah El Sissi, whom Mr. Morsi chose to replace Field Marshal Tantawi, was originally presumed to be sympathetic to Egypt's popularly elected Islamist leadership. Perhaps it was the notable opposition to U.S. foreign policy exhibited in his past writing, or the traditional Muslim headscarf worn by his wife. To suggest however, that a Brotherhood-sympathizer could have risen to the rank of general under Hosni Mubarak is to ignore the former dictator's unrelenting, decades-long rivalry with political Islam. Gen. Sissi's first move after being appointed was to make a tactical retreat, pulling the military back from the political sphere and restoring the prestige it lost during Egypt's tumultuous transition period. From there, Gen. Sissi has had a comfortable vantage point from which to observe the decline of the headstrong Muslim Brotherhood.

 

It didn't take long for the show to start. Last November, President Morsi plunged the country into violence after issuing a decree to help push an Islamist-backed draft constitution to referendum. During that month-long period of unrest, the fissure between Gen. Sissi's military and the Brotherhood had already begun to reopen. Amid ongoing military attacks against Islamist compounds across the country, President Morsi and his cohorts fumed at the military's refusal to send troops to protect their installations. The Brotherhood's leadership reportedly pressured President Morsi to reject a SCAF offer to mediate dialogue with the political opposition….

 

In January came more civil unrest, ignited by the anniversary of the 2011 uprising, particularly violent in Cairo. By then, relations between the Brotherhood and the military had gone from bad to worse. The Suez Canal region also saw particularly ugly clashes after a court issued death sentences against dozens of Port Said residents for their involvement in a deadly soccer riot last year. The Interior Ministry's failure to restore order to the country's most strategic region forced a hesitant President Morsi to make a request from the military to impose martial law.

 

Ironically, this handed Gen. Sissi a perfect opportunity to side with the people of the Suez Canal cities against President Morsi. Gen. Sissi agreed to deploy to the Canal, but ordered his troops to protect the waterway itself rather than submit to President Morsi's bidding by cracking down on a restive populace. The ensuing scenes of Port Said residents marching in the streets, side-by-side with military troops in defiance of President's Morsi's curfew, bore semblance to those of the 2011 uprising, when military officers were received in Tahrir Square by cheering revolutionaries. Those images emanating from Port Said soon led to whispers of support for a military coup in Cairo.

 

In the Sinai meanwhile, Gen. Sissi has gone ahead and strengthened his position with Washington at President Morsi's expense. The military's unprecedented crackdown on smuggling to the Gaza Strip most recently culminated in a campaign to destroy hundreds of tunnels on the Rafah border by flooding them with water. The military has made sure to publicize each of their seizures in a direct affront to President Morsi's pledges of support for Gaza's ruling Hamas regime.

 

Gen. Sissi has continued to publicly deny any intentions to seize power unless he is "called upon by the people" to do so—a hazy notion which has sparked fears of a coup within the Brotherhood leadership. On Feb. 20, the Egyptian press reported that the SCAF had been holding meetings behind closed doors in the president's absence on matters relating to security and stability. Since then, Egyptian media has been awash with rumours over a possible scheme by the president to sack Gen. Sissi as he did Field Marshal Tantawi…

 

Currently, neither President Morsi nor Gen. Sissi looks to be in a position to overpower the other. But the Machiavellian discipline displayed by the general may just be enough to outlast the Islamist politician. Egypt's secular opposition remains in disarray, unable to prove its worth as a viable alternative to President Morsi's floundering leadership. That leaves Gen. Sissi's increasingly trusted military as the only entity with the influence and organization needed to bring Egypt back from the brink of collapse.

 

Mr. Nisman is the Middle East and North Africa section intelligence director at Max Security Solutions, a geopolitical risk consulting firm.

 

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A WARNING TO JOHN KERRY:
EGYPT COULD BECOME THE NEXT IRAN

Nesreen Akhtarkhavari

Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 1, 2013

 

As Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Egypt March 2 he should be wary of one concerning possibility: Under the rule of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt is in danger of becoming a Sunni version of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Opposition leaders’ refusal to meet with Mr. Kerry over what they perceive to be as unprincipled US support for Mr. Morsi should serve as a wake-up call and warning to Washington.

 

Morsi’s first step after winning the June 2012 presidential election was to create an alliance with other Islamic groups, and sideline seculars and liberals who could derail the establishment of a religious state. Next, he gave himself immunity from legal prosecution and managed to quickly hoard more power than deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak ever dreamed of having. After a number of manoeuvres, Morsi pushed forward a constitution drafted mostly by Brotherhood members and their allies, ignoring the protests of secular opponents, Christians, women, and liberals against the discriminatory language and key articles placed in the new constitution.

 

The new constitution sets the legal ground for creating what could become an Islamic state. It restricts the role of the judicial and legislative branches and stipulates that laws and their interpretations are subject to Islamic jurisprudence. It further gives legal-oversight power on “matters related to the Islamic sharia” to Al-Azhar University, the oldest and highest Sunni religious institution in Egypt.

 

The new constitution and its wide implications for personal freedom and social justice should concern the international community. It explicitly recognizes only the three Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), and leaves other minorities, such as those of the Baha’i faith, without meaningful constitutional protection. Strict adherence to the concept of apostasy prevents Muslims from changing their religion, a crime punishable by death. Blasphemy laws restrict freedom of expression, especially on religious matters, with retributions as severe as death for comments related to the prophet Mohammed or the Koran.

 

According to Sunni jurisprudence, women are subject to male guardianship under which their personal freedoms, social life, and career choices are severely restricted. This restriction is not banned under Egypt’s new constitution. And because the new constitution fails to set a minimum age for marriage and does not criminalize sexual trafficking of minors, children, especially girls, could be forced into marriages at the age of nine with the approval of their male guardians.

 

During the last three decades, Iran, under the control of the Islamic Shiite clergy, was transformed into a religious state with endless human rights violations. In most cases, the world stood by watching. Egypt is learning from the Iranian experience. If the political conditions in Egypt remain the same, Egypt could soon follow Iran’s footsteps…..

 

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Terror in Tahrir

Diana Sayed

Egypt Independent, Mar. 2, 2013

 

Women activists have protested all over the world against sexual violence in Egypt. The protests, which took place in front of Egyptian embassies in 20 capitals worldwide and in Cairo, sent a clear message to the Egyptian government that the international community will take a stand against sexual harassment in solidarity with the women of Egypt.

 

In the midst of all the chaos of the country’s politics, there seems to be one constant: Women are being pushed, figuratively and, in many cases, literally, out of the public sphere. Despite being at the forefront of the revolution that occurred two years ago, women continue to face much the same kind of systematic targeting they faced under the Hosni Mubarak regime.

 

For example, Cairo’s Tahrir Square, seen as the heart of the protest movement, has become a dangerous place for women. On 25 January 2013, the second anniversary of the Egyptian uprising, numerous women reported being sexually assaulted, including many who were raped. Nazra for Feminist Studies, an Egyptian NGO, documented one protester’s story about what happened to her at Tahrir when she was caught in a crowd of demonstrators: “I did not understand anything at that moment … I did not comprehend what was happening … who are those people?”

 

“All that I knew was that there were hundreds of hands stripping me of my clothes and brutally violating my body. There is no way out, for everyone is saying that they are protecting and saving me, but all I felt from the circles close to me, sticking to my body, was the finger-rape of my body, from the front and back; someone was even trying to kiss me … I was completely naked,” she recounted. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the attacks….

 

In response to such violent attacks, Nazra and other leading Egyptian NGOs, including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, HarassMap and Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, have formed Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, often abbreviated as OpAntiSH. The coalition has been a prominent critic of revolutionary groups and political parties that have failed to combat attacks on female protesters.

 

Though it is not certain who is behind the frequent attacks, OpAntiSH suggests they are not random. “We believe they must be organized, because they happen most of the time in the exact same spots in Tahrir Square and they use the same methodologies,” the coalition said, adding that testimonies collected were similar to accounts of 2005 attacks thought to have been instigated by secret police. Nazra adds, “We will not be frightened; we will not hide in our homes. Sexual harassment is a social disease that has been rampant for years, used by the regime to intimidate girls and women.”

 

This is not a new problem in Egypt, but it is one that grows more disturbing with each brutal attack. According to a 2008 report by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, 83 percent of Egyptian women had experienced some form of sexual harassment. The problem is exacerbated by a failure to prosecute the perpetrators.  One activist recently observed, “There is no accountability for these people. They know that they can get away with it again and again.”

 

The Egyptian Railways Authority announced last week that it would enforce women’s-only train cars on several popular routes to and from Cairo in a move to try and curtail the rampant sexual harassment. However, it’s a move that some activists say addresses the symptoms and not the cause of the attacks. The issue frequently happens in the shadows of more well-documented news events surrounding Egypt’s journey toward democracy. It is clear that Egypt is a nation in desperate need of stability that is safeguarded by institutions established to guarantee human rights.

 

It’s not easy bringing in democracy after generations of dictatorship or to change mindsets that have been entrenched for so long. But if the new Egypt is to emerge stronger and better than the one of the past, women must be permitted to safely participate in political dialogue. They must be able to walk down the street or into areas of protest safe from fear of attack.  If the revolution of Tahrir Square is to take hold permanently, all Egyptians — men and women, alike — must be able to participate to ensure that every Egyptian lives with dignity and enjoys democracy.

 

Diana Sayed is Human Rights First’s Pennoyer fellow and an advocate and researcher in the Human Rights Defenders Program.

 

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EGYPT'S NEW COPTIC POPE TAWADROS

 

FACES RELIGIOUS TENSION, UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Joseph Mayton

Washington Report on Mid East Affairs, February 2013

 

In early November, less than a week after Egypt's new Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros had taken over as the newest pontiff in the world's oldest Christian sect, he lashed out on television, accusing the ultra-conservative Salafists of "destroying" the future of the country. His comments are unlikely to go over well with a majority of Egyptians, who have turned even more toward their Islamic faith since the January 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak from power.

 

Nevertheless, Pope Tawadros, like the Coptic community, is forging ahead, asserting their identity despite fears of a conservative backlash that has already threatened Egypt's social fabric. The new pope's ascension comes at a time when relations between Muslim and Christian Egyptians are strained at best. Reports of girls having their hair cut off on public transportation by Salafist (Islamic puritan) women in niqab, the full-face-covering veil popular among the ultra-conservatives, or of a teacher cutting students' hair for failing to cover their heads with a hijab are just the tip of the iceberg.

 

In an early November incident, a group of Salafists occupied a plot of land on the outskirts of Cairo owned by the Coptic Christian Church and attempted to turn it into a makeshift mosque. It took police a full day to arrive. Luckily for residents, violence and clashes did not break out, but it would not have been the first time Christians and Muslims have battled.

 

The average Egyptian Christian is uncertain which way the church will go under Pope Tawadros. As George Zaki, a young man studying to become a Coptic priest, says, right now "it is really up in the air" in which direction the church will head. Zaki wants a strong leader who is willing to speak his mind, but doesn't feel that immediately lashing out at the Salafists is a good move. "Many of us are definitely fearful of the Salafists, even my Muslim friends," he explains, "because we all fought and protested for a new Egypt that wouldn't see religion be part of the political make-up."

 

Prior to Pope Tawadros' appointment on Nov. 4, the Muslim Brotherhood began talking about working with the new pope, and those who cover religious issues on the ground say they support the status quo. "What the Coptic community doesn't need is someone who will anger the Islamists in government right now," says Yussif Qandeel, a reporter at an Egyptian Arabic daily who regularly covers Christian issues. Judging by his conversations with members of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)—the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing—Qandeel says "they want to see someone be pope who they can work with, which means continuing the [late Pope] Shenouda tradition." Not everyone in the Coptic community may agree, however. Although Pope Shenouda, who died on March 17, was extremely popular, many Copts considered him weak in standing up for the community's rights and ability to function in Egyptian society.

 

Still, overall the Christian community is inclined to support the new pope, who already has demonstrated his ability to combine the strengths of the Shenouda era with distancing himself from what many perceived to be Shenouda's willingness to acquiesce to the Mubarak regime. Certainly it will be difficult to replace a man who presided over the Coptic community for more than four decades, as Shenouda did. Despite the growing internal struggle within the church, however, most are optimistic, including Zaki, who believes the future will find the Coptic Church stronger than ever.

 

"We are a strong people, a strong group of Christians and we have been through a lot in the past years," he explains, "so I think the future of the Church will not be determined by one choice, but by the strength of our own community and by our people as Egyptians." Fears of anti-Christian sentiment received a reprieve earlier this year when the country's leading Islamic institute, al-Azhar, called for a Bill of Rights to be adopted before a constitution is drafted. The idea, simply, would be to establish certain "inalienable" rights for all Egyptians, including freedom of speech, assembly and, most importantly, freedom of religion. The proposed document received massive popular support from activists, liberals, Islamists, intellectuals and Christians alike. Nevertheless, the implementation of these "inalienable" rights remains to be seen.

 

In the process of drafting a new constitution, the Constituent Assembly was consumed with the question of shariah, or Islamic law, leaving many Egyptians wondering what happened to the proposed Bill of Rights.

 

For its part, the Coptic Church has historically avoided advocating separation of church and state, despite the inclination of the greater Coptic community, which has long demanded that the government end its preferential treatment of Muslim Egyptians. This was evident a few years back, when a Coptic woman had to fight numerous court battles in order to retain custody of her two children, who grew up Coptic but whom the government reclassified as Muslims after their father converted to Islam. Although its views on religion in Egypt are becoming more liberal, the Coptic Church has long preferred a separate set of laws for Egypt's Muslim and Christian communities to a unifying concept of freedom of religion.

 

While the Coptic community is hopeful about the future of Egypt and the social and political roles it will play, they must have reservations about how far the Christian community can realistically advance. Not only do Coptic Egyptians have limited mobility and limited parliamentary representation, but the country's turn toward conservatism may well be a major impediment to creating a robust civil society that treats Coptic Christians with equal weight. The new constitution undoubtedly will provide the first look at just how much unity and freedom its citizens, Muslim and Coptic alike, will enjoy in the new Egypt.

 

Joseph Mayton is a free-lance journalist based in Cairo.

 

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Muslims Attacking Copts in Egypt Over False Rumor: Salma Shukrallah, Al Ahram,  Mar. 2, 2013A rumour has spread in the Upper Egyptian city of Kom Ombo that a divorced Muslim woman in her mid-30s was kidnapped by the Coptic Church and converted to Christianity. In an area divided by tribal and religious allegiances, the story has fuelled violence against the area's Christian minority.

 

Will Violence Erupt in Egypt?: Mike Giglio, The Daily Beast, Mar 1, 2013On the night of December 7, Ahmed Abdel Hamid sensed violence coming. A 35-year-old Salafi activist with a rugged black beard and a pro wrestler’s build, he and a few thousand of his hardline religious comrades had massed outside the futuristic compound in western Cairo known as “media city,” the heart of Egypt’s expanding TV-news universe. They waited for word from the capital’s east.

 

Will Egypt’s democrats get serious?: Amir Taheri, New York Post, Feb. 27, 2013Two years ago, the popular narrative on Egypt was all about a nation getting rid of a despot and heading for a golden future. Today, we have a litany of woes depicting Egypt as a wayward ship in a stormy sea. But what if both narratives miss the point?

 

The Egyptian Army is Making a Comeback: Zvi Mazel, Real Clear World, Feb. 25, 2013Never has Egypt been so close to civil war and today it seems that only the army can prevent the worst from happening. The Muslim Brothers and the opposition are both doing their utmost to bring the army to their side, with little success so far: Field Marshal Abd el-Fattah El-Sisi, the defense minister, never loses an opportunity to state that the army is taking no part in the political struggle and devotes its energy to protecting the country – while adding that it will not let it plunge into chaos.

 

 

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Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

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TURKEY: WAFFLING BETWEEN DEMOCRATIC WEST AND DICTATORIAL EAST, INCHING TOWARD A TOTALITARIAN SULTANATE AND KEEPING THE KURDS AT BAY

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(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

Is Turkey Leaving the West?: Daniel Pipes, National Review, Feb. 7, 2013Recent steps taken by the government of Turkey suggest it may be ready to ditch the NATO club of democracies for a Russian and Chinese gang of authoritarian states.  Starting in 2007, Ankara applied unsuccessfully three times to join as a guest member the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (or SCO, informally known as the Shanghai Five).

 

In Turkey, AKP Proposes 'Elected Sultan Regime': Kadri Gursel, Al-Monitor, Feb. 12, 2013There has been a long-standing consensus among Turkey’s political parties, civic society and opinion leaders on eliminating the country’s authoritarian constitution — the legacy of a putschist military — and replacing it with a civilian, libertarian version.

 

Erdogan's Kurdish Issues: Morton Abramowitz, Jessica Sims, National Interest, January 28, 2013Turkey’s political discussion changes quickly. Yesterday it was mostly Syria. Today it is making peace with Kurds. That has been a boon to prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political standing—at least for the moment.

 

On Topic Links

 

Confronting Turkey: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2013

Erdogan's Syria Policy: Wrong from the Start: Tulin Daloglu, Al-Monitor, Feb. 12, 2013

Why Turkey is Talking to its PKK Nemesis: Pelin Turgut, Time World, Jan. 15, 2013
Questions Obama Didn't Answer: Cengiz Çandar, Al-Monitor, Feb. 11, 2013

 

 

IS TURKEY LEAVING THE WEST?

Daniel Pipes

National Review, Feb. 7, 2013

 

Recent steps taken by the government of Turkey suggest it may be ready to ditch the NATO club of democracies for a Russian and Chinese gang of authoritarian states.  Starting in 2007, Ankara applied unsuccessfully three times to join as a guest member the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (or SCO, informally known as the Shanghai Five). Founded in 1996 by the Russian and Chinese governments, along with three former-Soviet Central Asian states (and in 2001 a fourth), the SCO has received minimal attention in the West, although it has grand security and other aspirations, including the possible creation of a gas cartel. It offers an alternative to the Western model, from forsaking NATO and democracy to displacing the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency.

 

After those three rejections, Ankara applied for “dialogue partner” status in 2011. In June 2012, it won approval. One month later, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reported his saying to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, “Come, accept us into the Shanghai Five [as a full member] and we will reconsider the European Union.” Erdoğan reiterated this idea on January 25, noting stalled Turkish efforts to join the EU: “As the prime minister of 75 million people,” he explained, “you start looking around for alternatives. That is why I told Mr. Putin the other day, ‘Take us into the Shanghai Five; do it, and we will say goodbye to the EU.’ What’s the point of stalling?” He added that the SCO “is much better, it is much more powerful [than the EU], and we share values with its members.”

 

On January 31, the foreign ministry announced plans for an upgrade to “observer state” at the SCO. On February 3 Erdoğan reiterated his earlier point, saying, “We will search for alternatives,” and praised the Shanghai group’s “democratization process” while disparaging European “Islamophobia.” But on February 4, President Abdullah Gül pushed back, declaring that “the SCO is not an alternative to the EU. . . . Turkey wants to adopt and implement EU criteria.” What does this all amount to?

 

The SCO bid faces significant obstacles. If Ankara leads the effort to overthrow Bashar Assad, it will cause problems, because the SCO firmly supports the beleaguered Syrian leader. NATO troops have just arrived in Turkey to man Patriot batteries protecting that country from Syria’s Russian-made missiles. More profoundly, all six SCO members strongly oppose the Islamism that Erdoğan espouses. Perhaps, therefore, Erdoğan mentioned SCO membership only to pressure the EU, or to offer symbolic rhetoric for his supporters.

 

Both are possible. But I take the half-year-long flirtation seriously for three reasons. First, Erdoğan has established a record of straight talk, leading one key columnist, Sedat Ergin, to call the January 25 statement perhaps his “most important” foreign-policy proclamation ever.

 

Second, as Turkish columnist Kadri Gürsel points out, “The EU criteria demand democracy, human rights, union rights, minority rights, gender equality, equitable distribution of income, participation and pluralism for Turkey. SCO as a union of countries ruled by dictators and autocrats will not demand any of those criteria for joining.” Unlike the European Union, Shanghai members will not press Erdoğan to liberalize but will encourage the dictatorial tendencies in him that so many Turks already fear.

 

Third, the SCO fits his Islamist impulse to defy the West and to dream of an alternative to it. The SCO, with Russian and Chinese as official languages, has deeply anti-Western DNA, and its meetings bristle with anti-Western sentiments. For example, when Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the group in 2011, no one refused his conspiracy theory about 9/11 being a U.S. government inside job used “as an excuse for invading Afghanistan and Iraq and for killing and wounding over a million people.” Many backers echo Egyptian analyst Galal Nassar in his hope that ultimately the SCO “will have a chance of settling the international contest in its favor.” Conversely, as a Japanese official has noted, “The SCO is becoming a rival block to the U.S. alliance. It does not share our values.”

 

Turkish steps toward joining the Shanghai group highlight Ankara’s now-ambivalent membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, starkly symbolized by the unprecedented joint Turkish-Chinese air exercise of 2010. Given this reality, Erdoğan’s Turkey is no longer a trustworthy partner for the West but more like a mole in its inner sanctum. If not expelled, it should at least be suspended from NATO.

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IN TURKEY, AKP PROPOSES 'ELECTED SULTAN REGIME'

Kadri Gursel

Al-Monitor, Feb. 12, 2013

 

There has been a long-standing consensus among Turkey’s political parties, civic society and opinion leaders on eliminating the country’s authoritarian constitution — the legacy of a putschist military — and replacing it with a civilian, libertarian version. The current constitution was drawn up under the tutelage of generals who toppled the civilian government in the 1980 military coup, and it was endorsed in a 1982 referendum by 92 percent of voters. Despite nearly 30 amendments since then, it has preserved its authoritarian spirit.

 

On Oct. 19, 2011, the four parties in Turkey’s parliament set up the Constitution Conciliation Commission as part of an agreement to scrap the existing ragbag constitution and to draft a new one that meets contemporary norms. Commission progress was initially slow. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and the other two opposition forces — the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) — are all represented equally.

 

When the commission began to discuss core issues that would determine whether the new system would be a democracy, such as the constitutional setup of executive, legislative and judiciary powers, it became clear why the AKP felt the urge for a new constitution. In November, the AKP submitted a proposal outlining an authoritarian presidential system that subjugates the legislature to the executive power. With this proposal, the ruling party effectively destroyed the ground for any constitutional compromise with the CHP and the MHP.

 

It has long been known that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan aspires to abolish Turkey’s parliamentary regime, shift to a presidential system and become its first president. Let's look at what this proposal — drafted based on Erdogan’s wishes — would do.

 

The proposed constitution stipulates that elections for the single-chamber legislative assembly and the president, who holds the executive power, will be held on the same day. The clause is designed to ensure that the political tendency of the voters shapes simultaneously both parliament and the presidency, and that both elections eventually produce the same political outcome. As a result, the room for checks and balances between the legislative and executive powers is restricted from the very start….

 

Under the AKP proposal, the president is entitled to extraordinary powers — including dissolving parliament, calling parliamentary and presidential elections, and governing the country through presidential decrees that evade legislative processes. Under the proposal, the president holds such extensive powers over parliament that the presidency is capable of blocking virtually any legislation. If the president is unhappy with a given bill and returns it to parliament, the legislature can pass the bill unchanged and send it back for ratification only with a three-fifths majority. A simple majority is enough for the procedure under the current constitution.

 

On Feb. 5, the AKP submitted a further proposal for the judicial section of the new constitution, demonstrating that Erdogan also aspires to eliminate the separation of powers — an indispensable principle of democracy….Under the plan, seven members would be elected by parliament, while the president would directly appoint another seven. The proposal means that a total of 14 board members would be determined by the political authority, as parliament's picks are by simple majority — in other words, the governing majority. As a result, the political authority takes full control of the HSYK, a strategic body that shapes the judiciary. This would entirely eradicate judicial independence.

 

The Constitutional Court, which is supposed to keep the government under constitutional supervision, would face a similar fate under AKP proposals. Under the existing system, three of the 17 court members are elected by parliament from among several candidates. The president names the remaining 14 members — four of them by his own choice, and 10 from among candidates nominated by the higher judicial organs.

 

Under the AKP proposal, parliament elects nine of the Constitutional Court members, and the president picks directly another eight. The higher judicial organs make no nominations. If members of the Constitutional Court were determined directly by the political authority, it would become almost impossible for this body to exert any supervision over the executive power and the quasi legislature.

 

In sum, Erdogan’s a-la-carte presidential system would eradicate the separation of powers and concentrate all power in the hands of a single person. It makes it impossible for institutions to fulfill their duties of checks and balances.

 

If this proposal becomes Turkey’s new constitution, Turkey will no longer be a democracy. It's a proposal for an authoritarian regime with an “elected sultan” ruling Turkey. To make it happen, the AKP has to bargain and hammer out a deal with the Kurdish party, and then ensure that more than 50 percent of the people vote “yes” for the new constitution at a referendum, scheduled to be held no later than the last quarter of 2013.

 

Kadri Gürsel is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse and has written a column for the Turkish daily Milliyet since 2007.

 

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ERDOGAN'S KURDISH ISSUES

Morton Abramowitz, Jessica Sims

National Interest, January 28, 2013

 

Turkey’s political discussion changes quickly. Yesterday it was mostly Syria. Today it is making peace with Kurds. That has been a boon to prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political standing—at least for the moment.

 

2012 marked the AKP’s ten-year anniversary as the ruling party, a rare feat in Turkish politics. The party has been one of the few constants in a new, more vital Turkey. But it was a difficult year for Erdogan because of Syria’s unending civil war. After a year of intense criticism over his handling of Syria, including from members of his own party, Erdogan’s political fortunes seemed to be suffering.

 

For the first time, the prime minister was losing public support, and his effort to constitutionally change Turkey’s political system to a powerful presidential one was running into trouble. More specifically, Erdogan had little to show for his efforts to bring down Assad: more than 150,000 Syrian refugees in camps, another 80,000 in Turkish towns and cities, an ever-rising budgetary bill and no sign that his former friend Bashar al-Assad would go. Even worse, the removal of Assad’s forces from Kurdish-inhabited areas allowed the PKK’s Syrian offshoot to gain dominance and perhaps the ability to create another Kurdish autonomous zone in a new Syria.

 

None of this has changed—if anything Syria is worse—but the mood in Turkey has changed. Erdogan’s political standing received a major bump when he announced that the government had resumed discussions with the PKK’s only leader ever, Abdullah Ocalan. More impressive, he allowed Kurdish parliamentarians to meet with Ocalan for the first time after 14 years of solitary imprisonment. His effort won endorsement across the political spectrum (except for the nationalists) and served to deflect criticism over the continuing Syrian disaster. Turkey has turned hopeful that, however great the uncertainties, talks with Ocalan can morph into a sustained negotiation to end the fighting and address the demands of Turkey’s large Kurdish population. The AKP’s approval rate remains over 50 percent.

 

The peace process is inherently difficult. The bona fides of both sides remain to be proven, emotions are deep, and the cohesion of the PKK is uncertain. But regional events can sharply intrude on that process and on Erdogan’s efforts to change the political system: the crisis in Syria could worsen even if Assad goes, with greater sectarian bloodletting; there is the prospect of more refugees, and an uncertain future for the Kurds in a destroyed Syria; and perhaps more immediately, the deepening crisis over Iraq’s unity and the future of its quasi-independent Kurdish area.

 

Syria’s descent into civil war has been enormously costly for Turkey and for Erdogan. Syria marked the end of Turkey’s “zero problems” policy, but more than that revealed the limits of Erdogan’s influence in the Middle East. This contrasted badly with the image of respected deal-maker that Erdogan tried to cultivate.

 

Erdogan was forced to abandon his early briskness toward Turkey’s traditional security alliance and instead hoped to persuade Obama to get rid of Assad. Help didn’t come and he felt somewhat abandoned, leaving Turkey to deal with Syria on its own.

 

But he came to see the need to draw closer to NATO and asked for and received Patriot missiles with little domestic protest. Once sceptical of NATO missions and his Western bona fides questioned abroad, Erdogan’s marked change confirmed the value he came to place on the U.S. connection despite its inaction on Syria.

 

His public plea for more assistance opened a new line of criticism, this time from his brethren in the Islamist media who questioned how Erdogan could be both a partner in NATO intervention in Syria and the voice of Arab democrats. Many also questioned the wisdom of putting all eggs in the Assad-must-go basket, while the political opposition hammered Erdogan for failing to keep Turkey out of the Syrian crossfire, stop the refugee exodus and show some progress. Erdogan will initially benefit politically from Assad’s departure no matter how it happens….

 

In a post-Assad Syria, Erdogan will probably put his weight behind the Sunnis, who his religious base also supports. Turkey could find itself in the uncomfortable position of backing a Muslim Brotherhood government influenced by Saudi or Qatari money and more radical than it would like. This would put it at odds with the U.S. vision of a moderate, inclusive government in which the Kurds have a bigger say.

 

The fate of the Syrian Kurds will directly impact on Erdogan’s own handling and control of his domestic Kurdish peace process. The PKK, with a safe haven across Turkey’s border, could be a direct security threat to Turkey and one Erdogan wants to avoid. He boldly put down a red line that Turkey would not accept any autonomous Kurdish area in Syria—but whether he can prevent one is uncertain. An unruly battle between Kurds and Assad’s successors over a second autonomous Kurdish region on Turkey’s border could be politically corrosive for Erdogan and Turkey, particularly if it comes in the middle of Turkey’s own Kurdish peace efforts.

 

A more immediate pressing regional concern for Turkey is the steady political disintegration of Iraq and the possible emergence of an independent Kurdish state. Iraq is increasingly divided on sectarian lines. Turkey’s relations with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) have grown close and Ankara is supporting the Kurds in their deepening disputes with Baghdad over the direct export of oil and Kurdish claims to the Kirkuk region.

 

Turkey has become bitterly opposed to Prime Minister Malaki and fearful of Iranian domination of Iraq. The Turkish government has made it clear that the Iraqi political problem is Malaki’s dictatorial approach; he must be removed if Iraq is to remain united. This has put Turkey at odds with the United States, which believes that Malaki is central to preserving a united Iraq. Thus, Turkey has an anomaly: it wants to keep Iraq united for fear of the impact of an independent Kurdish state on Turkey’s own Kurds, but is at the same time contributing to Iraq’s dissolution. It also has to be concerned that Arab Iraq would fight to prevent the Kurdish region from exiting Iraq.

 

Erdogan’s political future has a lot riding on events in Syria and Iraq. His Syrian policy continues to cost him politically. His vast improvement of relations with the KRG has become popular and very profitable for Turkey, which has been crucial in helping transform the Kurdish region. But the possibility of a breakthrough on the century-old Kurdish question, however difficult, has made those issues increasingly important. Negotiations with Ocalan and the Kurds will be long and the prospects for success remain dubious, but as long as progress seems to be made through the first half of this year, Erdogan may be able to get his constitutional changes with help from Kurdish parliamentarians—instead of, as he originally planned, from his now antagonistic nationalists….

 

The Kurdish issue in Turkey has now become an American problem as well. The United States has stayed always away from the issue, except to give considerable support to Turkey’s efforts to destroy the PKK in northern Iraq. But what the United States does on Syria and Iraq may now directly affect Turkey’s internal situation. Today, Washington is not on the same page with Turkey over Iraq and quite possibly also over Syria—if and when Assad goes. For the first time, the United States will need a region-wide Kurdish policy. U.S.-Turkey relations might become a little tense.

 

Mort Abramowitz, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, is a former ambassador to Turkey. Jessica Sims is a research associate at The Century Foundation.

 

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Confronting Turkey: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2013How can one explain the reticence of the US and other Western powers in the face of Turkey’s aggressive declarations? On Saturday night, Ahmet Davutoglu, foreign minister of Turkey, a country that is a member of NATO and a candidate to join the EU, threatened to launch a military offensive against Israel, an important US ally.

 

Erdogan's Syria Policy: Wrong from the Start: Tulin Daloglu, Al-Monitor, Feb. 12, 2013How far can goodwill get you? If it is supported by facts and grounded in actions, perhaps as far as you want it to. If not, remain alert. Take for instance, the trouble caused for Turkey by the “zero problems with neighbors” policy of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
 

Why Turkey is Talking to its PKK Nemesis: Pelin Turgut, Time World, Jan. 15, 2013Turkey’s government revealed earlier this month that it had begun talks with Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader serving a life term on an island prison. These talks are aimed at establishing a ceasefire and eventual disarmament of the PKK, in exchange for addressing unspecified Kurdish grievances.
 

Questions Obama Didn't Answer: Cengiz Çandar, Al-Monitor, Feb. 11, 2013If anyone is looking for clues about the current state of Turkish-American relations, the Feb. 10 issue of the Milliyet daily presents an opportunity. The importance of those relations is not limited to the bilateral level; they carry significance for the whole Middle East region and even for the international system in general. 

 

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

THE ARAB SPRING COUNTRIES TWO YEARS ON – TUNISIA, EGYPT, LIBYA, YEMEN – ALL IN CHAOS

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(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

Tunisia is no Longer a Revolutionary Poster-Child: Rachel Shabi, The Guardian, Feb. 7, 2013Amid the shock and grief at a terrible murder, there is an angry accusation. When forthright opposition leader Chokri Belaid was gunned down in broad daylight outside his home in Tunis, furious protesters marched on the offices around the country of the ruling Ennahda party.

 

Post-Mubarak Egypt: Utopia Turns Sour: Roi Kais, Ynet News, Feb. 11, 2013Egypt is celebrating the two-year anniversary of toppled President Hosni Mubarak – with a protest against current President Mohamed Morsi. On that same revolutionary Friday, two years back, the citizens of the land of the Nile celebrated the dramatic announcement made by then-Vice President Omar Suleiman, that Mubarak is handing the reins over to the Supreme Military Council.

 

Rise of Radical Muslim Groups in Libya: Daniel Wagner & Giorgio Cafiero, Real Clear World, Jan. 23, 2013It would be an understatement to say that the National Transition Council (NTC) has failed to govern Libya effectively since the fall of Gaddafi. The majority of territory outside Tripoli has fallen under the control of armed militias that have refused to disarm.

On Topic Links

 

 

A Sea Change in the Muslim World: David Ignatius, Real Clear Politics, Feb. 10, 2013
Fertility, Faith, and the Decline of Islam: Strategic Implications: David Goldman. PJMedia, Feb. 11, 2013

To Avoid Chaos, Tunisia Needs Stability Before Democracy: Wafa Ben Hassine, The Globe and Mail, Feb. 11, 2013

The Jihadis of Yemen: Robert F. Worth, New York Review of Books, Dec. 6, 2012

Jihadists’ Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring: Robert F. Worth, New York Times, Jan. 19, 2013

Tunisian President's Party Quits Coalition Government: Bouazza Ben Bouazza, Globe and Mail, Feb. 10, 2013

 

 

 

TUNISIA IS NO LONGER A REVOLUTIONARY POSTER-CHILD

Rachel Shabi

The Guardian, Feb. 7, 2013

 

Amid the shock and grief at a terrible murder, there is an angry accusation. When forthright opposition leader Chokri Belaid was gunned down in broad daylight outside his home in Tunis, furious protesters marched on the offices around the country of the ruling Ennahda party. Belaid's brother, Abdel Majid, accused the Islamist party – which dominates the three-way coalition government – of the murder. Ennahda has denounced the assassination. Chillingly, Belaid, a secularist and vocal critic of Ennahda, warned of the rise of political violence when he appeared on Tunisian TV the night before he was killed.

 

Jalila Hedhli-Peugnet, president of the NGO Think Ahead for Tunisia, reflected the prevailing sentiment on Wednesday when she told France 24 that Belaid "was not assassinated under the dictatorship of Ben Ali, now he is assassinated under the democracy of Ennahda". If the government didn't kill him, she said, it also didn't protect him from such a tragedy.

 

Tension has been building, then, within a revolution that is too often billed a success story. Tunisia has not suffered the level of turmoil and violence of Egypt, or the agonising death and displacement of Syria, and so it appears to be handling the transition from dictatorship to democracy well. Other post-uprising countries look to Tunisia as both inspiration and weathervane. But Tunisians themselves bemoan their role as revolutionary poster-child as it can lead to the outside world ignoring or dismissing the very real problems there.

 

One such problem is the escalating political violence in Tunisia in the past year. A report just released by Human Rights Watch cites attacks on activists, journalists, intellectual and political figures – all the incidents apparently "motivated by a religious agenda".

 

Others have worried that the perpetrators of attacks on secular figures are not pursued rigorously by the coalition, thereby encouraging more of them. There's concern that Ennahda has failed to act on verbal and physical attacks (for instance against a TV station, intellectuals and an art gallery last year) by the ultra-religious Salafi movement. And opposition groups, the General Labour Union and campaigners, including the Centre for Press Freedom, have voiced mounting concern at the Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution – neighbourhood protection groups claiming to fight corruption and old regime remnants. The opposition views them as Ennahda enforcers (though the party has dismissed claims of any affiliation with the leagues), and some Tunisians suspect them of being behind the murder of Belaid. Belaid is reported to have described the leagues as "Ennahda-backed goon squads that attacked opposition rallies".

 

When Lofti Naqdh, a co-ordinator with Nida Tounes, a new opposition party, died after violent political clashes with one of these leagues in Tataouine last October, the ministry of interior said he had suffered a heart attack. But Al-Jazeera reports that a new autopsy, requested by Naqdh's family, last week confirmed that he was the victim of fatal beatings, with the head of one of these league local branches implicated in the killing.

 

Last month Amnesty warned that Tunisia's latest draft constitution, albeit an improvement on previous versions, is still ambiguous on issues such as gender equality, freedom of expression and judicial independence.

 

It's possible that any post-revolutionary party, once in power, would face the same accusations over missed deadlines for political progress, lack of justice, and a surge in youth unemployment. But in Tunisia this is compounded by the fact that, while most accept the democratic process that created an Islamist-heavy government, there's a worry that Islamists don't really do the sort of power-sharing required in post-revolutionary periods.

 

Amid calls for a general strike tomorrow and French schools in Tunisia closing because of continuing unrest, Ennahda's prime minister, Hamdi Jebali, pledged to form an interim cabinet of technocrats to prevent an impending political crisis. The idea was to finally agree a constitution and hold elections in June. Then Ennahda's leadership announced that Jebali had spoken out of turn and rejected his plan.

 

But this is not a time for power politics; it is a time for consensus. If Ennahda doesn't get it right now, it won't just risk losing the forthcoming election – it could lose Tunisia's revolution too.

 

Rachel Shabi is the author of Not the Enemy: Israel's Jews from Arab Lands

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POST-MUBARAK EGYPT: UTOPIA TURNS SOUR

Roi Kais

Ynet News, Feb. 11, 2013

 

Egypt is celebrating the two-year anniversary of toppled President Hosni Mubarak – with a protest against current President Mohamed Morsi. On that same revolutionary Friday, two years back, the citizens of the land of the Nile celebrated the dramatic announcement made by then-Vice President Omar Suleiman, that Mubarak is handing the reins over to the Supreme Military Council.

 

A resident of Alexandria told Ynet on Monday that "there was a feeling of utopia then, it was amazing and tomorrow is a sad day." The country's main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, never misses an opportunity to hit the streets and called upon Egypt's citizens to protest on Tuesday against Morsi in Tahrir Square and near Morsi's presidential palace.

 

Reasons for protesting are abundant – fatal clashes in the streets, a financial crisis, a controversial constitution and Morsi's multitudinous decision-makings. April 6, the group which led the anti-Mubarak uprising and the secular oppositional movement, declared that Tuesday's "activities are being held to demand Morsi's fall and to commit the latter alongside Prime Minister Hisham Kandil and Interior Minister General Mohammed Ibrahim to trial for the recent murder of protesters."

 

Two separate processions are expected to march towards Tahrir Square, leaving from two Cairo mosques and two more are expected to begin at two other mosques and end at the presidential palace.

Tension fills the Egyptian capital and cautionary measures are being taken for fear of violent riots, as seen in the past weeks. All this is at the backdrop of the threats made by the underground, oppositional group Black Bloc to storm the palace. The latter has already been defined by the Egyptian court as a "terrorist organization."

 

In the northern city of Alexandria, the secular opposition has called for demonstrations on Tuesday under the banner "nothing has changed aside from Mubarak being replaced by Morsi." The anniversary of Mubarak's fall is expected to yield anti-Morsi shows of strength in various nationwide districts.

 

In a conversation with Ynet, a resident of Alexandria who chose to remain anonymous, recalled the historic day, "Two years ago I was at Tahrir Square when Mubarak was ousted, and it was utopia. It was unbelievable. The nation suddenly felt powerful. Everyone danced and sang patriotic songs. It was amazing – and tomorrow is a sad day."

 

"Two years have lapsed and nothing has changed. On the contrary, it seems as if things are worse. When I go to stores or bus stations, people tell me that it was better under Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood are amateurs and they have been proven as such. At least Mubarak was economically and militarily experienced."

 

The most central of the nation's worriment stems from the economic state of affairs. "People aren't working, businesses are closing, inflation is high and the government is doing nothing about it. When the prime minister was at the World Economic Forum in Davos recentlly and protests were simultaneously being held in the country, he said that Egypt's economy is going in the right direction. What is he talking about?"

 

Morsi's political leadership is also being harshly criticized. "Before he became president, he declared that there won't be anymore emergency laws and recently declared a state of emergency in three cities. But the citizens there ignored his orders and went out and opened their stores and coffee houses. The army remained outside of the picture. That just proves how weak Morsi is."

 

"Unfortunately, the solution is that the military will take the reins. If Morsi and the government continue conducting themselves in this poor manner, the army will intervene. It will take time until Morsi falls and it will be ugly, but in my opinion there is no chance he will finish his term."

 

Meanwhile, the Egyptian opposition is preparing for April's parliamentary elections and continues to demand the amendment of the constitution and  institution of a national salvation government. Some of its factions are demanding the removal of Morsi from the government in light of what they call, "exaggerated violence" by security forces during recent demonstrations. Thus, it seems that on Tuesday, two years after the fact, we will re-hear the calls heard in the country's squares back then, "The nation wants to topple the government."

 

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RISE OF RADICAL MUSLIM GROUPS IN LIBYA

Daniel Wagner & Giorgio Cafiero

Real Clear World, Jan. 23, 2013

 

It would be an understatement to say that the National Transition Council (NTC) has failed to govern Libya effectively since the fall of Gaddafi. The majority of territory outside Tripoli has fallen under the control of armed militias that have refused to disarm. Violent campaigns along tribal and ideological lines have been waged by Libyans determined to settle old scores and influence the ongoing political transition. Libya's armed Islamists are well positioned to shape the course of events. This year the NTC will be challenged to integrate the Islamists into the national political system, yet failure to do so will likely result in marginalized militants playing the spoiler. If current events in Algeria and Mali are an indication of what the future holds for Libya, Islamists may be expected to wage armed attacks against their opponents and western targets, which can only further damage Libya's investment climate.

 

Although the majority of Libya's Islamists supported the 2011 uprising, they hold a diverse set of political views and are divided by tactics. The Libyan Muslim Brotherhood (LMB), National Front for Salvation of Libya (NFSL), Islamic Rally Movement (IRM), and Libyan Islamic Movement for Change (LIMC) have all expressed an interest in non-violence and participatory democracy. Last June the LMB's political wing — the Justice and Construction Party (JCP) — participated in the election for the General National Congress, winning 17 of 80 seats. The LIMC, previously a guerilla jihadist group in the 1990s, renounced violence several years before the uprising and consented to the NTC's authority in 2011, reflecting a willingness to share power with non-Islamists. However, these groups' long-term political agendas and commitment to democracy have been questioned by analysts who suggest that their acceptance of electoral democracy is a tactic to gain power and fend off Western criticism during the transition period.

 

By contrast, other Libyan Islamists reject democratic practices and actively promote violent jihad. The Salafist Ansar al-Sharia (AaS, or Protectors of Islamic Law) is one of the most heavily armed factions in Libya and adheres to an extremist ideology not unlike the Taliban in Afghanistan, Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, or Ansar Dine in Mali. Believing democratic elections are "un-Islamic", the organization vows to remain armed until a strict version of sharia law is implemented across Libya. Based in Benghazi and Derna, AaS is a product of the uprising and believes that it owns the revolution as a result of resisting the regime before the NATO no-fly zone was imposed. In June the group attempted to assassinate the British Ambassador and during late August, it made international headlines after bulldozing ancient Sufi shrines in Tripoli and Zlitan. The September 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi were carried out by the AaS, according to Libyan President El-Megarif.

 

AaS is heavily armed with anti-aircraft weaponry and automatic weapons, and numbers up to 5,000, but the group has gained legitimacy among a variety of non-militant groups within Libya, particularly after it assumed responsibility for guarding one of Benghazi's main hospitals last year, which was previously forced to operate under the threat of violence. While the NTC must eventually tackle groups like AaS, in the short-term it is forced to rely on autonomous armed battalions such as the AaS to ensure security, while seeking the longer-term objective of either disarming them or bringing them into a national military.

 

The vast majority of Libyans reject the type of extremism posed by AaS. Last July, Libyan voters expressed a preference for secular parties — even over the moderate Muslim Brotherhood. Whereas the Egyptian and Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood secured the greatest number of seats in their respective elections, nearly half of the seats reserved for political parties in Libya's General National Congress were carried by Mahmoud Jibril's liberal coalition, and the JCP received less than one quarter. Following AaS's actions in Benghazi and the Sufi tombs, widespread demonstrations were held to protest the group's brand of Islamism and violent tactics. Public opinion will therefore hamper AaS's ability to implement its ultra-conservative agenda, but given Libya's current power vacuum, hard power carries more weight among a portion of the electorate than democratic principles. Assuming that AaS continues to be heavily armed and highly disciplined, and that the factionalism that currently defines Libya's political landscape continues, AaS and similar groups are positioned to maintain the power they have acquired since 2011, implying that compromise will not be a dominant part of the political lexicon in the near term.

 

Numerous countries that trade with and invest in Libya have an interest in seeing the country become a functional democracy and achieve stability. As Africa's top oil producer and fourth biggest natural gas producer, Libya has held substantial leverage with countries in the region that lack indigenous natural resources. While during the uprising oil and gas exports naturally tumbled, production has nearly returned to pre-uprising levels. So while Libya's traditional oil and gas importers are hopeful about the future, if extremists were to assume power, it is reasonable to expect these countries to turn elsewhere for their energy supplies.

 

Prior to the uprising, Libya was Italy's number three supplier of natural gas, meeting approximately 10 percent of the country's demand. At that time, Italy was Libya's top importer of crude oil, with nearly a quarter of Italy's total oil consumption coming from Libya. The only pipeline from Libya to Europe is the Greenstream pipeline, which transfers natural gas to Italy as part of the Western Libyan Gas Project – a 50/50 joint venture between the Libyan state-owned National Oil Corporation (NOC) and the Italian energy firm Eni. At its peak, eight billion cubic meters of natural gas were exported from Libya to mainland Europe via the pipeline. Acts of sabotage against this pipeline would severely impact Italy's ability to rely on Libyan gas, compelling Rome to become increasingly dependent on Russian gas – something no western European country desires.

 

Spain is also a major stakeholder in Libya's future. Prior to the uprising, Spain imported 13 percent of its oil from Libya. Following the outbreak of the uprising 2011, the Spanish government introduced measures to reduce national oil consumption. Like Italy, Spain's economy remains fragile; increased energy costs resulting from an interruption of Libyan supplies would only add to the nation's economic ills. Madrid therefore has much to lose from greater instability in Libya. Increased turmoil, or a rise in militarism in Libya, would likely result in an influx of immigrants from Libya to Europe. Given the poor state of the EU's economy and the rise of the anti-Muslim Right in Europe, a rise in North African refugees would not be well received and could contribute to greater economic strain and the propensity for social unrest, which would have an impact far beyond Spain.

 

The rise of militant factions in Libya could also have a host of negative implications for North Africa. As the Tunisian government addresses its own violent Salafi extremists, the rise of the AaS in Libya could embolden Tunisia's ultra-conservative Islamic militants to increase their own activity. And as has already been proven as a result of the Libyan jihadists' contribution to the Algerian gas plant hostage tragedy, much of North Africa is already being impacted.

 

None of this bodes well for the decades-long effort to create a Arab Maghreb Union, resolve the lingering dispute over the Western Sahara, or increase foreign direct investment in the region. The high levels of mistrust and paranoia between Libya's armed tribes further undermines the prospects for building a unified state in Libya. This is not welcome news for Libya in the longer term, those countries dependent on it for energy, or other countries in the region that either have a jihadist presence or are failed states.

 

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A Sea Change in the Muslim World: David Ignatius, Real Clear Politics, Feb. 10, 2013Something startling is happening in the Muslim world — and no, I don't mean the Arab Spring or the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. According to a leading demographer, a "sea change" is producing a sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates and a "flight from marriage" among Arab women.

 

Fertility, Faith, and the Decline of Islam: Strategic Implications: David Goldman. PJMedia, Feb. 11, 2013The liberal establishment has finally taken note of the elephant in the Muslim parlor, namely the closing of the Muslim womb. A year after the American Enterprise Institute’s Nicholas Eberstadt reported the precipitous fall in Muslim fertility in a widely commented paper, and seven years after I reported the trend and its strategic implications at Asia Times, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius reports wide-eyed on Eberstadt’s findings.

 

To Avoid Chaos, Tunisia Needs Stability Before Democracy: Wafa Ben Hassine, The Globe and Mail, Feb. 11, 2013In the truest sense, Tunisia is living the very painful birth pangs of a democracy. The assassination last week of Chokri Belaid, the secular opposition leader, has shaken the country to its very core, and has accentuated a deepening political crisis in Tunisia's Islamist-led coalition government.

 

The Jihadis of Yemen: Robert F. Worth, New York Review of Books, Dec. 6, 2012A more complex Yemen was briefly visible on Western TV screens during the spring of 2011, when a diverse protest movement gathered against Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s longtime ruler. It seemed for a moment that he would join Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in sudden and ignominious retirement. But Saleh was too clever, and the nascent revolution quickly collapsed into a muddle that left no one happy.

 

Jihadists’ Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring: Robert F. Worth, New York Times, Jan. 19, 2013As the uprising closed in around him, the Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi warned that if he fell, chaos and holy war would overtake North Africa. “Bin Laden’s people would come to impose ransoms by land and sea,” he told reporters. “We will go back to the time of Redbeard, of pirates, of Ottomans imposing ransoms on boats.”

 

Tunisian President's Party Quits Coalition Government: Bouazza Ben Bouazza, Globe and Mail, Feb. 10, 2013Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki’s secular party is quitting the coalition government in anger at the dominant Islamist party’s handling of the country’s worst political crisis since it unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings two years ago.

 

 

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ARTIFICIAL PEARLS, REAL SWINE: AFRICAN “STATES” CONFRONT POST-LIBYA ISLAMISTS

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(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

In Mali, the Domino Theory is Real: Daniel Larison, The American Conservative, Jan. 23, 2013—As the French military intervention in Mali nears the end of its second week, French and Malian forces have begun making slow advances into the territory controlled by several different Islamist and separatist groups. What began a year ago as a Tuareg secessionist rebellion fuelled by weapons and mercenaries returning from Libya expanded into a larger war Jan. 11, when France attacked advancing Islamist forces that were moving towards Mali’s capital, Bamako.

 

Al-Qaeda's Soft Power Strategy in Yemen: Daniel Green, Washington Institute, Jan.24, 2013—Learning from jihadist mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has become adept at aligning with local political movements and building popular support in Yemen. In doing so, it has morphed into an insurgency while retaining its roots as a terrorist group.

 

Nigeria – Where Every Problem is Too Hard to Fix: Gwyne Dyer, The New Zealand Herald, Jan 2, 2013—It is not known if the word "dysfunctional" was invented specifically to describe the Nigerian state but the word certainly fills the bill. The political institutions of Africa's biggest country are incapable of dealing with even the smallest challenge.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

'Darker Sides': The Vast Islamist Sanctuary of 'Sahelistan': Paul Hyacinthe Mben, Jan Puhl, Thilo Thielke, Der Spiegel, Jan 28, 2013

Connecting the Dots in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya: Abukar Arman, The Commentator, Jan. 7 2013

The Mali Blowback: Patrick J. Buchanan, American Conservative, Jan. 18, 2013
Mali and the al-Qaeda Trap: Paul Rogers, Real Clear World, Jan. 25, 2013

 

 

IN MALI, THE DOMINO THEORY IS REAL

 

Daniel Larison

The American Conservative, Jan. 23, 2013

 

As the French military intervention in Mali nears the end of its second week, French and Malian forces have begun making slow advances into the territory controlled by several different Islamist and separatist groups. What began a year ago as a Tuareg secessionist rebellion fueled by weapons and mercenaries returning from Libya expanded into a larger war Jan. 11, when France attacked advancing Islamist forces that were moving towards Mali’s capital, Bamako. Unlike most previous Western interventions over the last two decades, France is here supporting the internationally recognized government of Mali, and its intervention has so far been welcomed by most Malians as necessary for the defense of their country. Unfortunately, French intervention now likely would not have been necessary had it not been for the intervention in Libya in 2011 that the last French president demanded and the U.S. backed. Had Western governments foreseen the possible consequences of toppling one government two years ago, there might be no need to rescue another one from disaster now.

 

France says it will continue fighting until the Malian government’s control over its northern territory is restored and Islamist groups are defeated, which promises to be a protracted, open-ended commitment for a nation that was already weary of its role in Afghanistan and unable to wage the war in Libya without substantial American help. The U.S. role in the conflict remains a minimal one, confined so far to intelligence assistance and logistical support. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) does pose a real security threat to North and West Africa, and it could pose a threat to Europe, but the threat to the U.S. from AQIM is minimal, if it exists at all. The U.S. has far less at stake in this fight than France or the countries in the region, so it is appropriate that they bear the costs of countering that threat.

 

The Libyan war did not create Mali’s internal divisions, which have existed since independence, but the destabilizing effects of changing one regime in the region exacerbated many of the country’s political weaknesses. As a result, the country was effectively cut in half, its democratically-elected president was overthrown in a coup, and hundreds of thousands of its people have been forced to become refugees. Adding to the embarrassment of Western interventionists, up until then Mali had been something of the poster child for successful democratization and development in Africa. Now it is in danger of being reduced to an even more misleading caricature as “another Afghanistan” or “another Somalia.” But thinking in these terms is bound to fail. Mali’s predicament has to be understood on its own terms.

 

Despite broad French and Malian support for French intervention, it is far from obvious that President Hollande’s decision was a wise or well-considered one. One of the few prominent French opponents of that decision, Dominique de Villepin, voiced his doubts shortly after the intervention began:

 

In Mali, none of the conditions for success are met. We will fight blindfolded absent a clear objective for the war. Stopping the southward advance of the jihadists, and retaking the north, eradicating AQIM bases are all different wars. We will fight alone absent a reliable Malian partner. With the overthrow of the president in March and the prime minister in December, the collapse of the divided Malian army, and the overall state failure, on whom can we depend? We will fight in a void absent strong regional support. ECOWAS is in the rear and Algeria has signaled its reluctance.

 

Like Sarkozy’s decision to use force in Libya, Hollande’s decision to go to war in Mali has been a popular one and a much-needed political boost for his ailing government, but that popularity will disappear if French involvement becomes prolonged and costly. Unless Hollande limits French objectives to those that are realistic and obtainable, he will find that de Villepin was as prescient in his warnings about war in Mali as he was when he admonished the U.S. against invading Iraq.

 

As far as America is concerned, there is no compelling national interest that obliges the U.S. to become more involved in the conflict in Mali. One lesson of the Libyan war is that the U.S. shouldn’t join wars of choice that our allies insist on fighting. Americans should remember that one of the reasons the French are fighting in Mali is that our government agreed to support the last French-backed military adventure in Africa. What other countries in the region would suffer serious unintended consequences from doing the same thing in Mali? How many other countries have to be wrecked before American leaders acknowledge that their interventionist remedies often do more harm than good?

 

The Libyan intervention’s consequences in Mali tell a cautionary tale about the disaster that unnecessary war can unleash on an entire region, but most of the Obama administration’s opponents in the U.S. refuse to understand this. Instead of seeing Mali’s current woes as a warning against going to war too quickly, hawkish interventionists are already crafting a fantasy story that this is a result of excessive American passivity. This virtually guarantees that Republican hawks will keep attacking the administration for “inaction” when they could instead be trying to hold it accountable for its past recklessness in using force. Absent a credible opposition, the administration will keep receiving the benefit of the doubt from the public on foreign policy, even when it isn’t deserved.

 

If the U.S. learned anything from the Libyan war experience, it ought to be that our government should be far more cautious about resorting to force and much less willing to dismiss the importance of regional stability when considering how to respond to a brutal and abusive regime. Unfortunately, the bias in favor of (military) action in U.S. foreign-policy discourse makes it virtually impossible for these lessons to take hold.

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AL-QAEDA'S SOFT POWER STRATEGY IN YEMEN
Daniel Green

Washington Institute, Jan.24, 2013
 

Learning from jihadist mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has become adept at aligning with local political movements and building popular support in Yemen. In doing so, it has morphed into an insurgency while retaining its roots as a terrorist group. To counter the group's political, legal, and social-welfare efforts in areas outside the capital, the Yemeni and U.S. governments must supplement their counterterrorism campaign by expanding services to the provinces in a decentralized fashion.
 

Since its founding in January 2009, AQAP has repeatedly attacked the United States and its interests. Washington has responded by significantly expanding its drone strikes in Yemen and bolstering the government's ability to fight AQAP itself through additional military aid and training.

 

When the Arab Spring began to sweep the region in 2011, a political crisis emerged in Yemen between then president Ali Saleh, who had ruled for over thirty years, and opponents who criticized the regime's corruption, lack of services, and leadership. As the crisis unfolded, Yemeni security forces became involved in political struggles in Sana, with many units moving from the south to the capital. Sensing a vacuum, AQAP launched a series of raids throughout the south that year, using conventional tactics to overrun large swathes of territory, including many districts and a provincial capital.
 

After seizing control of various southern Yemeni towns and districts, AQAP moved beyond its terrorist focus, adopting the characteristics of an insurgency and holding territory in order to create a nascent government. Its ability to do so was based not only on its enhanced military capabilities and the departure of government security forces, but also on its effective community engagement strategy.

 

Capitalizing on longstanding southern grievances regarding insufficient education, healthcare, security, rule of law, political representation, and economic development, AQAP sought to replicate the central government's functions throughout the region. Its political agents established a form of stability based on Islamic law, convening regular meetings with community leaders, solving local problems, and attempting to replace chaotic tribal feuds with a more ordered and religiously inspired justice system. This effort included mitigating tribal conflicts, protecting weaker tribes from stronger rivals, and creating opportunities for some ambitious locals, including weaker tribal factions, to rise beyond their social position and seize power in their communities. AQAP also provided humanitarian assistance such as fresh water and food for the indigent, basic healthcare, and educational opportunities (albeit only Quranic teachings).

 

Many of these efforts appealed to the population, not only because they were better than what the local government had provided, but also because many tribal sheiks had previously been discredited for not living up to their responsibilities. Additionally, Quran-based engagement was highly appealing to communities in which that book was often the only text residents knew.
 

Al-Qaeda's strategy in Yemen reflects many of the lessons it learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it frequently alienated locals through the brutality of its rule. In addition, Yemeni tribal structures are far stronger than in those two countries, and tribal leaders are much more adept at governing their traditional areas of control. AQAP has therefore pursued a softer approach not simply because it wants to, but because it must, since the tribes have far greater power than it currently wields.

AQAP has also been effective at joining its cause with local political movements in Yemen, as it did in Iraq with Sunni Arab nationalists. To date, it has aligned its interests with southern elements seeking greater autonomy from the central government or complete independence from Yemen (though it is probably not working with the longstanding Southern Mobility Movement).

 

Finally, al-Qaeda does not have as strong a foreign character in Yemen as it did in previous conflicts. This reduces Washington and Sana's ability to separate the population from the terrorist group by using national pride, ethnic/tribal differences, or simple xenophobia to rebuff AQAP's advances.

 

Last year, in response to AQAP's gains, the Yemeni military launched widespread operations against the group's forces in the south. Although these efforts were largely successful in pushing AQAP out of areas it overran in 2011, the group continues to pose a threat. Having retreated to its traditional safe havens in the interior, al-Qaeda has since undertaken a concerted assassination campaign against Yemeni security, military, and intelligence officials as it reconstitutes its forces.

 

In addition, the group still commands sympathy and influence in the south. To be sure, AQAP eventually reverted to harsh rule in many communities once it consolidated power there, alienating many locals and spurring the exodus of thousands from areas under its sway. Yet many others remain sympathetic to the group, not just for religious or culturally conservative reasons, but also out of a general feeling that al-Qaeda, with all its imperfections, is still a better alternative than the Yemeni government.

 

Although relief efforts for war refugees did much to improve Sana's image among southerners, only a sustained governance and development initiative — one highly synchronized with military clearing and holding operations against AQAP — will consolidate support for the central government. Yet this sort of initiative will not come naturally to Sana or Washington. The lack of such efforts following last year's clearing operations is already undermining popular support, creating another opportunity for a chastened but resilient AQAP to leverage the south against the central government. The group is already adapting its community engagement strategy by apologizing for the excesses of its recent rule and making overtures to key local leaders to lay the groundwork for reasserting control.

 

Thus far, most U.S. efforts against AQAP have been limited to counterterrorism operations, which are unable to address the fundamental issues prompting Yemenis to either tolerate the group's presence or actively support its goals. In fact, the heavy reliance on sometimes-inaccurate drone strikes has allowed AQAP to take advantage of U.S. and Yemeni mistakes and further bolster its support among the population…..

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NIGERIA – WHERE EVERY PROBLEM IS TOO HARD TO FIX

Gwyne Dyer

The New Zealand Herald, Jan 2, 2013

 

It is not known if the word "dysfunctional" was invented specifically to describe the Nigerian state – several other candidates also come to mind – but the word certainly fills the bill. The political institutions of Africa's biggest country are incapable of dealing with even the smallest challenge. Indeed, they often make matters worse.

 

Consider, for example, the way that the Nigerian Government has dealt with the Islamist terrorists of Boko Haram. Or rather, how it has failed to deal with them. Boko Haram (the phrase means "Western education is sinful") began as a loony but not very dangerous group in the northern state of Bornu who rejected everything that they perceived as "Western" science. In a BBC interview in 2009 its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, claimed that the concept of a spherical Earth is against Islamic teaching. He also denied that rain came from water evaporated by the sun.

 

Bornu is a very poor state, however, and his preaching gave him enough of a following among the poor and ignorant to make him a political threat to the established order. So hundreds of his followers were killed in a huge military and police attack on the movement in 2009, and Mohammed Yusuf himself was murdered while in police custody. That was what triggered Boko Haram's terrorist campaign.

 

Its attacks grew rapidly: by early last year Boko Haram had killed 700 people in dozens of attacks against military, police, government and media organisations and against the Christian minorities living in northern Nigeria. So last March Nigeria's President, Goodluck Jonathan, promised that the security forces would end the insurgency by June. But the death toll just kept climbing.

 

In September, an official told the Guardian newspaper, "There is no sense that the Government has a real grip. The situation is not remotely under control." Last week alone, six people died in an attack on a church on Christmas Day, seven were killed in Maiduguri, the capital of Bornu state, on December 27 and 15 Christians were abducted and murdered, mostly by slitting their throats, in a town near Maiduguri on December 28.

 

President Jonathan's response was to visit a Christian church on Sunday and congratulate the security forces on preventing many more attacks during Christmas week: "Although we still recorded some incidents, the extent of attacks which [Boko Haram] planned was not allowed to be executed." If this is what success looks like, Nigeria is in very deep trouble.

 

Part of the reason is the "security forces", which are corrupt, incompetent, and brutal. In the murderous rampages that are their common response to Boko Haram's attacks, they have probably killed more innocent people than the terrorists, and have certainly stolen more property.

 

But it is the Government that raises, trains and pays these security forces, and even in a continent where many countries have problems with the professionalism of the army and police, Nigeria's are in a class by themselves. That is ultimately because its politicians are also in a class by themselves. There are some honest and serious men and women among them, but as a group they are spectacularly cynical and self-serving.

 

One reason is Nigeria's oil: 100 million Nigerians, two-thirds of the population, live on less than a dollar a day, but there is a lot of oil money around to steal, and politics is the best way to steal it. Another is the country's tribal, regional and religious divisions, which are extreme even by African standards. In the mainly Muslim north, 70 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line; in the mostly Christian south, only half do.

 

Now add a ruthless Islamist terrorist group to the mix, and stir. Boko Haram's support does not just come from a tiny minority of religious fanatics and from grieving and angry people turned against the Government by the brutality of the security forces. It also comes from a huge pool of unemployed and demoralised young men who have no hope of doing anything meaningful with their lives.

 

Democracy has not transformed politics dramatically anywhere in Nigeria, but the deficit is worst in the north, where the traditional rulers protected their power by making alliances with politicians who appealed to the population's Islamic sentiments.

 

That's why all the northern states introduced sharia law around the turn of the century: to stave off popular demands for more far-reaching reforms.

 

But that solution is now failing, for the cynical politicians who became Islamist merely for tactical reasons are being outflanked by genuine fanatics who reject not only science and religious freedom but democracy itself.

 

Nigeria only has an Islamist terrorist problem at the moment, mostly centred in the north and with sporadic attacks in the Christian-majority parts of the country. But it may be heading down the road recently taken by Mali, in which Islamist extremists seize control of the north of the country and divide it in two. And lots of people in the south wouldn't mind a bit. Just seal the new border and forget about the north.

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'Darker Sides': The Vast Islamist Sanctuary of 'Sahelistan': Paul Hyacinthe Mben, Jan Puhl and Thilo Thielke, Der Spiegel, Jan 28, 2013—France is advancing quickly against the Islamists in northern Mali, having already made it to Timbuktu. But the Sahel offers a vast sanctuary for the extremists, complete with training camps, lawlessness and plenty of ways to make money.

 

Connecting the Dots in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya: Abukar Arman, The Commentator, Jan. 7 2013—Just as the temperature of ‘security threat’ slowly declines in Somalia, it rises in other parts of East Africa. Elements of mainly political, religious, and clan/ethnic nature continue to shift and create new volatile conditions. Though not entirely interdependent these conditions could create a ripple effect across different borders.  It is a high anxiety period in the region – especially the area that I would refer to as the triangle of threat: Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.
 

The Mali Blowback: Patrick J. Buchanan, American Conservative, Jan. 18, 2013—“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” is Newton’s third law of physics. Its counterpart in geopolitics is “blowback,” when military action in one sphere produces an unintended and undesirable consequence in another. September 11, 2001, was blowback.

Mali and the al-Qaeda Trap: Paul Rogers, Real Clear World, Jan. 25, 2013—A series of events and statements in the early weeks of 2013 suggests that the "war on terror" declared in 2001 is entering a new phase. The escalation of war in northern Mali and the siege of the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, followed by the sudden advice from several European governments that their citizens in Benghazi should leave immediately, all focus security attention on northern Africa. At the same time, there are signs of an increase in Islamist influence among the opposition forces in Syria's ongoing war, and of an intensified bombing campaign against government and Shi'a sites in Iraq.

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

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Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
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CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

SHOULD CANADA INTERVENE? AS U.S. INTELLIGENCE FAILS AGAIN IN MALI, FRANCE EMBARKS ON OPEN-ENDED MILITARY INITIATIVE

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Contents:                          

 

(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

 

 

Sending Soldiers to Mali May Be the Only Solution: Jennifer Welsh, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 14 2013—Last week’s announcement by French President François Hollande that his country is engaged in a military intervention in Mali represents a significant shift in strategy for this former colonial power in Africa.

 

French Strikes in Mali Supplant Caution of U.S.: Adam Nossiter, Eric Schmitt & Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, Jan.13, 2013—French fighter jets struck deep inside Islamist strongholds in northern Mali on Sunday, shoving aside months of international hesitation about storming the region after every other effort by the United States and its allies to thwart the extremists had failed.

 

Why Should Canada Help Mali?: Robert Fowler, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 8, 2013—Because our African friends so desperately need our assistance in stopping the threat of a jihadist takeover of northern Africa. And that threat is very real: Al-Qaeda and its allies are preparing to turn an 8,000-kilometre strip stretching across the widest part of Africa into a chaotic and ungovernable zone in which their jihad would flourish. 

On Topic Links

 

 

 

The Moor Strategy: Roger Kaplan, Weekly Standard, Jan 21, 2013

France’s Hollande Presses Canada for More Help in Mali: Campbell Clark, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 16 2013

Mali: Low-Hanging Fruit for France: Morgan Lorraine Roach and Luke Coffey, Huffington Post,  Jan. 16, 2013

U.S. Sees Hazy Threat from Mali Militants: Mark Mazzetti & Eric Schmitt, New York Times, Jan. 16, 2013

Can Mali be Saved from the Islamists?: Con Coughlin & David Blair, The Telegraph, Jan. 15, 2013

Al Qaeda’s Dangerous Play in Mali: Bruce Riedel, The Daily Beast, Jan 15, 2013

 

 

 

SENDING SOLDIERS TO MALI MAY BE THE ONLY SOLUTION

Jennifer Welsh

The Globe and Mail, Jan. 14 2013

 

Last week’s announcement by French President François Hollande that his country is engaged in a military intervention in Mali represents a significant shift in strategy for this former colonial power in Africa. Up until Friday, France was very much the reluctant intervener, investing all of its energy in co-ordinating a multilateral intervention, led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to forestall the further advance of Islamist forces in the Sahel region, and in reassuring worried African states, such as Algeria, that France’s days as an ‘African policeman’ were long gone….

 

But watching militant groups – some linked to al-Qaeda – take control of the strategic town of Konno took both regional and international actors by surprise over the past few days. In April, during the uncertainty that followed the country’s military coup, these armed factions ­conquered territory in northern Mali. The move into Konno, however, appeared to threaten the capital city of Bamako, only 600 kilometres to the south. There were genuine fears that the weak Malian army would simply crumble in the face of further provocations from rebel forces.

 

Last Tuesday, during a visit to Canada, the head of the African Union suggested that NATO countries should participate in an intervention to stabilize Mali. On Thursday, as Islamist fighters advanced even closer to government positions, the interim President of Mali implored the French to come to the assistance of his country. Then the UN Security Council, in an emergency session later the same day, expressed its “grave concern” about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Mali (where more than 400,000 people have been forced the flee the north), and the “urgent” need to address the increased terrorist threat posed by rebel advances….

 

These “invitations” to intervene appeared to give Mr. Hollande the legal cover he needed to act. While international lawyers will no doubt argue over whether this is true, accusations of unilateralism will likely ring hollow given that regional players were asking for French involvement, and the UN was claiming that the situation in Mali constituted “a direct threat to international peace and security.”…

 

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius has therefore articulated three main objectives for the French intervention: 1) To assist the Malian army in stopping the progress of Islamist rebels southward; 2) to protect the “integrity of the Malian state;” and 3) to help rescue French hostages. The time commitment is open ended; French forces will remain, he said, for as “long as is required.”…

 

For several months, ECOWAS had been pushing for an African intervention to address the situation in Mali, which posed regional security threats, given the continued proliferation of weapons and the presence of armed groups with links to terrorist movements. At the UN, Western diplomacy had followed suit, emphasizing the need for a multilateral intervention led by African states, but supported with hardware and training from the outside. As a result, the December, 2012, Security Council resolution makes African “ownership” explicit in its authorization of the use of force. But a variety of factors have made the realization of an African mission difficult to achieve.

 

The first is a capacity problem. As Security Council acknowledged, it would take time to train and equip such a force, particularly for desert conditions, and to engage in the detailed planning necessary to make the mission successful. Thus, the council forecast that the estimated 3,300 troops promised by ECOWAS states would not arrive in theatre for several months – more precisely, September 2013.

 

Second, regional solutions inevitably bring into play regional rivalries. In this case, Algeria – the most powerful military force in the immediate region – has been wary of having troops from ECOWAS ­(an organization to which it does not belong) at its border.

 

Finally, the Malian army itself has been lukewarm about being on the receiving end of support from its African neighbours, given the involvement of ECOWAS troops in human-rights abuses in previous missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Human Rights Watch reports claim that while West African forces helped restore security in these crises – which took place over a decade ago – they were also complicit in serious violations of international humanitarian law, including looting, harassment, and arbitrary detention of civilians, as well as – in the case of Sierra Leone – summary executions of suspected rebels….

 

And so the buck passes back to reluctant Western actors. Up until the events of this week, the U.S. was urging restraint, rather than the military action called for by the French. America insisted that new elections and the creation of a legitimate government in Bamako should come before any deployment of troops – especially Western troops.

 

Events appear to have forced Mr. Hollande’s hand, but in launching this intervention, he is asking his armed forces, just returned from Afghanistan, to take a big gamble. After only one day of fighting, French assistance had helped the Malian Army retake Konno from the Islamist forces. But the country’s terrain, the fractured nature of Malian politics, and the unintended consequences that always flow from the use of force, all make this intervention a risky proposition. Moreover, a French presence in Mali could internationalize the conflict among global jihadists, which could be exactly the outcome they seek.

 

Jennifer M. Welsh is Professor in International Relations at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Somerville College. 

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FRENCH STRIKES IN MALI SUPPLANT CAUTION OF U.S.

Adam Nossiter, Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti

New York Times, Jan.13, 2013

 

French fighter jets struck deep inside Islamist strongholds in northern Mali on Sunday [Jan13], shoving aside months of international hesitation about storming the region after every other effort by the United States and its allies to thwart the extremists had failed. For years, the United States tried to stem the spread of Islamic militancy in the region by conducting its most ambitious counterterrorism program ever across these vast, turbulent stretches of the Sahara.

 

But as insurgents swept through the desert last year, commanders of this nation’s elite army units, the fruit of years of careful American training, defected when they were needed most — taking troops, guns, trucks and their newfound skills to the enemy in the heat of battle, according to senior Malian military officials. “It was a disaster,” said one of several senior Malian officers to confirm the defections.

 

Then an American-trained officer overthrew Mali’s elected government, setting the stage for more than half of the country to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. American spy planes and surveillance drones have tried to make sense of the mess, but American officials and their allies are still scrambling even to get a detailed picture of who they are up against.

 

Now, in the face of longstanding American warnings that a Western assault on the Islamist stronghold could rally jihadists around the world and prompt terrorist attacks as far away as Europe, the French have entered the war themselves.

 

First, they blunted an Islamist advance, saying the rest of Mali would have fallen into the hands of militants within days. Then on Sunday, French warplanes went on the offensive, going after training camps, depots and other militant positions far inside Islamist-held territory in an effort to uproot the militants, who have formed one of the largest havens for jihadists in the world.

 

Some Defense Department officials, notably officers at the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, have pushed for a lethal campaign to kill senior operatives of two of the extremists groups holding northern Mali, Ansar Dine and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Killing the leadership, they argued, could lead to an internal collapse.

 

But with its attention and resources so focused on other conflicts in places like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, the Obama administration has rejected such strikes in favor of a more cautious, step-back strategy: helping African nations repel and contain the threat on their own.

 

Over the last four years, the United States has spent between $520 million and $600 million in a sweeping effort to combat Islamist militancy in the region without fighting the kind of wars it has waged in the Middle East. The program stretched from Morocco to Nigeria, and American officials heralded the Malian military as an exemplary partner. American Special Forces trained its troops in marksmanship, border patrol, ambush drills and other counterterrorism skills.

 

But all that deliberate planning collapsed swiftly when heavily armed, battle-hardened Islamist fighters returned from combat in Libya. They teamed up with jihadists like Ansar Dine, routed poorly equipped Malian forces and demoralized them so thoroughly that it set off a mutiny against the government in the capital, Bamako.

 

A confidential internal review completed last July by the Pentagon’s Africa Command concluded that the coup had unfolded too quickly for American commanders or intelligence analysts to detect any clear warning signs. “The coup in Mali progressed very rapidly and with very little warning,” said Col. Tom Davis, a command spokesman. “The spark that ignited it occurred within their junior military ranks, who ultimately overthrew the government, not at the senior leadership level where warning signs might have been more easily noticed.”

 

But one Special Operations Forces officer disagreed, saying, “This has been brewing for five years. The analysts got complacent in their assumptions and did not see the big changes and the impacts of them, like the big weaponry coming out of Libya and the different, more Islamic” fighters who came back.

 

The same American-trained units that had been seen as the best hope of repelling such an advance proved, in the end, to be a linchpin in the country’s military defeat. The leaders of these elite units were Tuaregs — the very ethnic nomads who were overrunning northern Mali.

 

According to one senior officer, the Tuareg commanders of three of the four Malian units fighting in the north at the time defected to the insurrection “at the crucial moment,” taking fighters, weapons and scarce equipment with them. He said they were joined by about 1,600 other defectors from within the Malian Army, crippling the government’s hope of resisting the onslaught.

 

“The aid of the Americans turned out not to be useful,” said another ranking Malian officer, now engaged in combat. “They made the wrong choice,” he said of relying on commanders from a group that had been conducting a 50-year rebellion against the Malian state. The virtual collapse of the Malian military, including units trained by United States Special Forces, followed by a coup led by an American-trained officer, Capt. Amadou Sanogo, astounded and embarrassed top American military commanders….

 

American officials defended their training, saying it was never intended to be nearly as comprehensive as what the United States has done in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We trained five units over five years but is that going to make a fully fledged, rock-solid military?” asked an American military official familiar with the region.

 

After the coup, extremists quickly elbowed out the Tuaregs in northern Mali and enforced a harsh brand of Islam on the populace, cutting off hands, whipping residents and forcing tens of thousands to flee. Western nations then adopted a containment strategy, urging African nations to cordon off the north until they could muster a force to oust the Islamists by the fall, at the earliest. To that end, the Pentagon is providing Mauritania new trucks and Niger two Cessna surveillance aircraft, along with training for both countries.

 

But even that backup plan failed, as Islamists pushed south toward the capital last week. With thousands of French citizens in Mali, its former colony, France decided it could not wait any longer, striking the militants at the front line and deep within their haven. Some experts said that the foreign troops might easily retake the large towns in northern Mali, but that Islamist fighters have forced children to fight for them, a deterrent for any invading force, and would likely use bloody insurgency tactics.

 

“They have been preparing these towns to be a death trap,” said Rudy Atallah, the former director of African counterterrorism policy for the Pentagon. “If an intervention force goes in there, the militants will turn it into an insurgency war.”

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WHY SHOULD CANADA HELP MALI?

Robert Fowler

The Globe and Mail, Jan. 08 2013

 

Because our African friends so desperately need our assistance in stopping the threat of a jihadist takeover of northern Africa. And that threat is very real: Al-Qaeda and its allies are preparing to turn an 8,000-kilometre strip stretching across the widest part of Africa into a chaotic and ungovernable zone in which their jihad would flourish. They told me repeatedly, during my 130 days as their captive, that such was their aim: to extend the turmoil of Somalia from Mogadishu on the Indian Ocean to Nouakchott on the Atlantic.

Should al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb even partly succeed – in concert with their murderous jihadi brothers in Boko Haram and al Shabaab – it would create an economic and humanitarian disaster of barely imaginable dimensions. And we also know that, given such an eventuality, we would then be required by popular insistence (the suffering of Darfur would pale in comparison) to intervene.

Surely it makes sense, then, to prevent all that from happening. We know full well that neither a somewhat better-trained Malian army nor a voluntarily funded light brigade drawn from a dozen African nations stands any hope of eradicating the jihadi threat on their own. Over the past half-century, Canada and other developed countries have invested more than $60-billion in assistance to the countries of the Sahel. Does it not make sense to protect such a huge investment in the lives and welfare of something like half a billion Africans?

We also need to accept that, in some part, we bear responsibility for Mali’s plight and for the enhanced Islamist threat to the entire sub-Saharan region. However inadvertently, by making possible the wholesale looting of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s arsenals, we have caused havoc to spread across what is arguably the most unstable region of the world.

 

As a captive of AQIM, I learned of its implacable hatred of all things Western, of the extent to which it despised the ideals we hold most dear: freedom, liberty, democracy, equality, human rights – all things it fervently believed were the exclusive province of God, not of men. It’s essential we be clear about the fact that there’s absolutely nothing to negotiate with these guys. There’s nothing we have to offer that would cause them to veer from their path – beyond, of course, our total submission to their extreme seventh-century Islamic perspective.

Thus, I despair when I hear United Nations bureaucrats, diplomats and politicians proposing that we delay military operations while we open some sort of negotiation with “the rebels in the north.” Al-Qaeda will use such naive efforts as a way to buy time to improve its defensive positions, increase its strength through recruitment and importing additional fighters, and further terrorize the hapless Malians.

Finally, as AQIM spokesmen make clear, we, too, are squarely within their jihadi sights. They won’t be talked out of their jihad. They won’t compromise. They can only be defeated now, or later at a much greater cost in blood and treasure.

What could Canada do? Most immediately, we could acknowledge the plight of our African friends and let them know we’re committed to helping them find a solution to the Islamist menace….More substantively, we could immediately join the Europeans and Americans in offering to resume our military training programs….Canada, in company with like-minded friends, clearly has military skills that would be of significant use to get this job done, and done right….

This must be about damaging and degrading the capabilities and numbers of al-Qaeda in northern Mali that it won’t soon threaten the peace and stability of our friends across this vulnerable region. And it must also be about helping Mali’s armed forces to reoccupy and then defend their country once the jihadis have been diminished.

It won’t be about turning Mali into Saskatchewan or Nebraska. And it won’t be about exporting our social safety net or funding a government or anything else that isn’t directly related to damaging al-Qaeda. This crisis isn’t about development. People don’t join al-Qaeda because they can’t find good jobs, or because their families are starving. I fervently hope that Canada, along with other donors, would resume our generous development programs once the al-Qaeda menace has been reduced to locally manageable proportions, but these two objectives must be kept carefully separated lest we recreate the Afghan quagmire.

 

Robert Fowler, a former ambassador to the United Nations and a personal representative for Africa for prime ministers Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper, was seized in December of 2008 by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb while serving as the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy to Niger and held captive in the Sahara until his release in April of 2009.

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The Moor Strategy: Roger Kaplan, Weekly Standard, Jan 21, 2013—Of all the security threats Americans did  not expect in 2013, a military breakthrough by Islamists into the heart of West Africa is the most urgent. At this writing, Malians are fleeing the Niger River hub of Mopti, and elements of a French airborne brigade are deployed nearby to reinforce Malian infantrymen, as Islamist fighters advance. Last month, the U.N. Security Council authorized the use of force to rescue northern Mali, which fell under the control of several al Qaeda affiliates in March 2012.

 

 

French, Malian Troops Expand Ground Operations: Sudarsan Raghavan & Edward Cody, Washington Post, Jan. 17, 2013—French and Malian troops expanded their ground operations Thursday as they battled militants in the desert village of Diabaly in central Mali, senior Malian military officials said, and hundreds of French reinforcements arrived in the West African nation.

 

France’s Hollande Presses PM for More Canadian Help in Mali: Campbell Clark, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 16 2013—France’s President, François Hollande, has personally asked Stephen Harper to extend Canada’s contribution of a heavy-lift cargo plane for Mali, and to offer more transport help, testing Mr. Harper’s efforts to set strict limits on Canada’s military assistance.

 

Mali: Low-Hanging Fruit for France: Morgan Lorraine Roach & Luke Coffey, Huffington Post,  Jan. 16, 2013

At a time when French President Francois Hollande has gained a reputation for dithering over domestic policy the recent French-led intervention in Mali and Friday's botched rescue operation in Somalia has presented a new type of Hollande — one that behaves like a Commander in Chief. However, has Hollande bitten off more than he can chew?

 

France Digs in for Long, Uncertain Stay in Mali: Newsmax, Jan. 16, 2013 —In five days, France's sudden intervention in Mali to stop al-Qaida-linked Islamists seizing the capital has bounced it into a promise to keep troops there until its West African former colony is finally back on its feet. Africa's latest war is likely to entail a long stay for France with an exit strategy that will depend largely on allies who have yet to prove they are ready for the fight.

 

U.S. Sees Hazy Threat from Mali Militants: Mark Mazzetti & Eric Schmitt, New York Times, Jan. 16, 2013—As Islamic militants methodically carved out a base in the desert of northern Mali over the past year, officials in Washington, Paris and African capitals struggling with military plans to drive the Islamists out of the country agreed on one principle: African troops, not European or American soldiers, would fight the battle of Mali.
 

Can Mali be saved from the Islamists?: Con Coughlin & David Blair, The Telegraph, Jan. 15, 2013—As hundreds of French troops are deployed to Mali to do battle with al-Qaeda-backed terrorists and another chapter in the long-running war against militant Islam develops, it is hard not to feel a sense of déjà vu.
 

Al Qaeda’s Dangerous Play in Mali: Bruce Riedel, The Daily Beast, Jan 15, 2013—So far, Washington has let the French take the lead in fighting jihadists in North Africa. But the terror franchise is ambitious and should be stopped.

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org