Tag: Mali

MALI: MESS RESULT OF US MISSTEPS, BECOMES GATEWAY TO EAST AFRICA FOR ISLAMIST TERROR AND POTENTIAL DIPLOMATIC OPPORTUNITY FOR ISRAEL

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

 

 

Mali is a Diplomatic Opportunity for Israel: Dr. Emmanuel Navon, Israel National News, Feb. 13, 2013—France’s military intervention against Mali Islamists provides Israel with an opportunity to improve its relations with France and restore ties with Africa’s non-Arab Muslim countries, a chance that must be seized by Israel’s next foreign minister.

 

Islam’s Path To Africa: Michael Widlanski, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 16, 2013—Muslims often say “sabeel Allah fi-al-sayf,” “the path of God is by the sword,” and this path, which once led to the gates of Vienna, or to Spain, or to France, or Asia, now seems to be leading to Africa. Mali, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, Libya, Nigeria and Egypt are all experiencing terrific violence at the hands of forces claiming to be carrying the banner of Islam.

 

After Mali Comes Niger: West Africa's Problems Migrate East: Sebastian Elischer, Foreign Affairs, February 12, 2013—Last month, the French army's rapid advance into northern Mali and the timely deployment of troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) seemed to result in a swift victory over Islamist and Tuareg militants there. Equally important, however, was the Islamist and Tuareg militants' hasty withdrawal into northeastern Mali.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

U.S. Counterterrorism in Africa Defined by a Decade of Missteps: Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post, Feb. 4, 2013
Thanks to Their Hubris, al-Qaeda’s Sahara 'Princes’ are on the Run: David Blair, The Telegraph, Feb. 14 2013
Taming Terrorism in North Africa: Rep. Mike Rogers, Politico, Feb.3, 2013 

 

 

 

MALI IS A DIPLOMATIC OPPORTUNITY FOR ISRAEL

Dr. Emmanuel Navon

Israel National News, Feb. 13, 2013

 

France’s military intervention against Mali Islamists provides Israel with an opportunity to improve its relations with France and restore ties with Africa’s non-Arab Muslim countries, a chance that must be seized by Israel’s next foreign minister. France intervened in Mali to protect its vital interests. For years, al-Qaeda has been trying to take over the countries of the Sahel region, and Mali is its main target. Without the French military intervention, Mali would have become the first Islamic state of the Sahel region, followed by neighboring Niger, a country on which France heavily depends for its uranium imports.

 

Yet, by defending its interests, France has also opened a diplomatic opportunity for Israel.

 

Mali’s interim President, Dioncounda Traoré, had very harsh words for the Arab members of the African Union on the closing day of the organization’s summit in Addis Ababa on January 27, 2013. Addressing the Arab states that had condemned France’s air attacks against the Islamists – such as Egypt and Tunisia – Traoré questioned their refusal to condemn the horrific actions inflicted by the Islamists on the people of Mali, alongside willingness to express outrage against a French intervention.

 

Mali’s political leaders and opinion-makers openly express their feeling of betrayal by the Arab countries, especially those run by Islamist regimes; after cutting ties with Israel under Arab pressure, they expected those same Arab states to aid them in their fight against the Islamists. Instead, the Arab countries condemned France, not the Islamists.

 

A recent article in the Malian daily Le Matin directed its critique specifically at the Palestinians and their ambassador to Mali, Abu Rabah. In addition to being the PLO’s ambassador, Abu Rabah is the head of Mali’s diplomatic protocol. He is ubiquitous in the media and has managed to put the “Palestinian cause” on top of Mali’s national agenda – including the naming of a public square in Bamako, Mali’s capital, after the “Palestinian Martyr” Mohamed al-Dura. Yet Abu Rabah did not have a single word to say against the Islamists.

 

Le Matin not only lashed out at Abu Rabah, it claimed that the Islamists are backed by the Arab and Muslim countries. Since Mali has been duped by its so-called Muslim brethren, Le Matin concluded, it should change its foreign policy. Mali’s feeling of betrayal is reminiscent of Africa’s disappointment in the Arab and Muslim world in the 1970s, when Libya and Saudi Arabia tried to use financial incentives to encourage African countries to cut ties with Israel.

 

After the Yom Kippur War, the Arab League threatened to apply its oil embargo to Africa. As a result, all African countries (except Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, and Swaziland) severed their ties with Israel. But they soon realized that their move had no benefit, and that the Arab League was willing to share its enemies but not its oil.

 

More and more African leaders and opinion-makers openly charged the Arabs of racism, reminding them of their past slavery trade in Africa. They were also concerned by Muammar Gaddafi’s expansionist and destabilizing policies. In the 1980s, Israel proactively re-engaged Africa under the leadership of Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Ministry Director-General David Kimche. Most African countries restored their ties with Israel in the 1980s and 1990s.

 

However, some African states changed course in the following decade. Niger severed its diplomatic relations with Israel in 2000 at the outbreak of the Second Intifada, and Mauritania in 2009, after Israel’s military operation in Gaza. Both countries are Muslim, and both were influenced by Iran. In 2008, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that his country intended to develop ties with Africa. One year later, he visited many African countries with Iranian diplomats and generals, signing commercial, diplomatic, and defence deals.

 

Israel lost a project of water sewage in Senegal after Iran promised to carry out the same work at lower cost. Iran’s influence in Africa also relies on Lebanon’s rich and influential diaspora in countries such as Congo, Guinea, and Senegal, which donates money to Hizbullah.

 

However, with the electoral victory of Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia, and with the near takeover of Mali by al-Qaeda, more and more African countries are becoming fearful of Iran and of its Islamist allies. Ethiopia, forced to confront Islamist militias backed by nearby rebels in Somalia, has become one of Israel’s closest allies in Africa, as well as a major buyer of Israeli defense equipment. Kenya, which also faces Islamist terrorism from neighboring Somalia, is interested in strengthening its military ties with Israel. Even Nigeria reportedly spent about $500 million on Israeli military equipment in the past few years.

 

Mali’s anger at Arab countries, especially Egypt, is part of a wider African fear of Islamic influence and of Iranian meddling on the continent. Even though France’s military intervention in Mali is only meant to serve French interests, it opens a window of opportunity which Israel should seize to improve its relations with Africa and with France itself.

 

French military strikes against Mali’s Islamists are in stark contrast with France’s backing of the Muslim rebels in Côte d’Ivoire during that country’s civil war in 2002-2011. There, President Laurent Gbagbo, a Christian, started challenging France’s strong economic grip over his country. His defiant policy created a community of interests between France and Côte d’Ivoire’s Muslim rebels led by Alassane Ouattara. Hence France supported the Muslim rebels from Côte d’Ivoire’s northern region against Gbagbo and the Christian south.

 

The embattled Ivorian president, a close friend of Israel, sought and obtained Israel’s logistical help. France and Israel ended up confronting each other by proxy in Côte d’Ivoire. In April 2011, then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered a French military commando to oust Gbagbo from his bunker, allowing Ouattara to take the presidency.

 

While France and Israel collided in Côte d’Ivoire, the policy of President François Hollande in Mali creates a new community of interests, since France is now fighting forces that are hostile to Israel. Thus, the Malian crisis constitutes an opportunity for Israel to improve its relations with France and with former French colonies in Africa. This opportunity should be seized by Israel’s next foreign minister.

 

The author heads the Political Science and Communications Department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College, and teaches International Relations at Tel-Aviv University and at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

 

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ISLAM’S PATH TO AFRICA

Michael Widlanski

Jerusalem Post, Feb. 16, 2013

 

Muslims often say “sabeel Allah fi-al-sayf,” “the path of God is by the sword,” and this path, which once led to the gates of Vienna, or to Spain, or to France, or Asia, now seems to be leading to Africa. Mali, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, Libya, Nigeria and Egypt are all experiencing terrific violence at the hands of forces claiming to be carrying the banner of Islam. The world looks on and acts slowly, if at all. Meanwhile, weapons proliferate, and many die. Hundreds of thousands of refugees stream across Mali, as the UN debates what to do – much as it did when tens of thousands were slaughtered in Sudan.

 

Egypt’s mostly nonviolent revolution was hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leader says Jews and Christians are descended from apes and pigs. Egypt remilitarizes the Sinai Desert, and the US sends it F-16’s and more aid. Tunisia’s secular opposition leader has been murdered, and the Islamic agenda rises in both Tunisia and Egypt, even as Christians are slaughtered in Egypt and Nigeria. Areas once conquered by Islam and now deemed somehow insufficiently Islamic, as well as areas not completely conquered by Islam are now being targeted by forces who call themselves “true Muslims.” Villages are destroyed in Algeria and Nigeria, their inhabitants often beheaded.

 

Islam has been knocking loudly and violently at the gates of the non-Muslim world ever since the prophet-general known as Muhammad sanctified, as jihad, land grabs for his “religion of peace.” In some respects, jihad was a way to sublimate the territorial urges of the Beduin that used to find their outlet in periodic raids known as ghazwa. Jihad, as scholars observed, was a both a religious duty and a pragmatic safety valve.

 

Jihad is the “sixth pillar” of Islam, whose five basic commandments are known as khamsat arkaan al-Islam – the five pillars of Islam. Jihad, in other words, would be a bit like what Jews and Christians would call “the eleventh commandment” of the Ten Commandments.

 

This is important information, but it is being studiously avoided by leading Western officials who prefer to take a politically correct approach to Islamic conquest. In his State of the Union speech, US President Barack Obama patted himself on the back for sending some transport planes to help France try to push back against the Islamic terrorists in Mali.

 

Obama claims to have eviscerated al-Qaida, but the actions of al-Qaida-inspired or linked groups in Africa make a mockery of his claims. Meanwhile, China and Russia, which have their eyes on the minerals of Africa, play the usual diplomatic games of supporting Islamic terror by refusing to countenance “interference in domestic affairs.”

 

Obama and his CIA director-designee John Brennan take a benign view of some of the Islamist movements, even helping the Brotherhood in Egypt, much as Jimmy Carter once helped the ayatollahs in Iran. Brennan, who speaks Arabic (badly), has publicly called jihad a “spiritual journey,” and both he and Obama believe that they know where Islam is headed. They think it is headed to Indonesia – the most populous Islamic country in the world.

 

Obama and Brennan both spent part of their youth in Indonesia. They think Indonesia is an example of what Islam is and should be. But the Indonesia of their youth is not the model for most Muslims, who prefer to look to Mecca. Indeed the Islam of east Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines – is itself becoming much more violent and anti-Western.

 

The more radical Islamic forces are on the march, and they are not really impressed by Western solidarity, by speeches by Obama and Brennan. Many of the victims of jihad are now in Africa, but they will probably not be the last.

 

The writer, an expert on Arab politics and communications, was a strategic affairs adviser in the Ministry of Public Security.

 

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AFTER MALI COMES NIGER:
WEST AFRICA'S PROBLEMS MIGRATE EAST

Sebastian Elischer

Foreign Affairs, February 12, 2013

 

Last month, the French army's rapid advance into northern Mali and the timely deployment of troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) seemed to result in a swift victory over Islamist and Tuareg militants there. Equally important, however, was the Islamist and Tuareg militants' hasty withdrawal into northeastern Mali. With France planning to pull its troops out of the country as soon as March, Mali will almost certainly be turned into an ECOWAS trusteeship. The most likely upshot is not a neat end to the conflict but, rather, a migration of the problem into neighboring Niger.

 

Parts of the Tuareg leadership, which signed a power-sharing agreement in March 2012 with three jihadist militias — al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine, and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa — have already fled across the unguarded Nigerien border, where they will try to regroup. Given Niger's weak government structures, they also pose a serious security threat to the country as a whole.

 

Niger presents an appealingly easy target. For one, despite several attempts at reform by President Mahamadou Issoufou, who was elected in April 2011, Niger's secular political elite lacks legitimacy in the eyes of its largely illiterate, rural, and deeply religious population. Numerous failed attempts at democratization and rampant corruption by previous governments have plagued the country for over two decades. Among the population, this troubled legacy has fostered a general sense of alienation from the capital.

 

Large parts of the Nigerien army, meanwhile, are opposed to the notion of civilian rule. Ever since it was pushed out of power in 1991, the army leadership has cultivated a deep mistrust of the civilian elite among all military ranks. Consumed with hatred for the Tuareg following two major military campaigns against them (1990-1995 and 2007-2009, respectively), the Nigerien army has overthrown three civilian governments since 1993. Although recent coup attempts in 2011 and 2012 proved amateurish and lacked sufficient support among both the armed forces and the population, they indicate long-standing tensions between parts of the military and the civilian elites.

 

Despite a 2009 peace accord with the government, Niger's Tuareg clans remain marginalized economically and disenfranchised politically. Although in 2009 the central government agreed to channel more resources to the Tuareg, this promise has clearly not been kept. The Tuareg thus have remained poorer than the rest of the population. The current prime minister's Tuareg ancestry should not distract from the fact that the community lacks genuine political representation in the capital.

 

Given that the Tuareg are a nomadic people, no one knows exactly how many there are — but the best estimates suggest that there are roughly 1.2 million Tuareg in total, with most of them living in Mali and Niger. Issoufou, for one, has explicitly warned about the threat of a new Tuareg rebellion in the north. The government's announcement of a $2.5 billion aid package for the Tuareg-populated areas at the height of the French intervention was likely an attempt to head off such an insurgency.

 

Meanwhile, in southern Niger, unguarded checkpoints along the border with Nigeria have allowed for an influx of radical Islamic preachers, who have sought to win over the population by promising to provide public goods that the state has not. Boko Haram, a jihadist militant organization based in Nigeria, and homegrown radical Islamic sects, such as the Izala movement, operate well-known outposts in Niger's southern cities of Diffa, Maradi, and Zinder. Their operatives clash regularly with Nigerien security forces.

 

In short, Niger's domestic political scene remains highly volatile. And the fuse that ignites it could well be the inflow of rebels from Mali. These rebels could try to foment an uprising of either Islamists or Tuareg — or both. The socioeconomic predicament of the Tuareg in northern Niger and the growing influence of Islamist groups in the south provide fertile ground for such an attempt.

 

The outbreak of wider unrest in Niger could drag the West into a long-term military engagement in the Sahel region. France gets roughly three-quarters of its energy from uranium mined in northern Niger, near the city of Arlit. Unsurprisingly, France has already deployed soldiers to protect those resources, and China is said to have done the same at its uranium mine near Azalik. Niger is also an oil exporter, and production is expected to grow significantly in coming months. Rebel movements and Islamic militants are within reach of Niger's mines and oil fields, which they could use to fund their rebellion. Further attacks on Nigerian and Algerian territory remain a distinct possibility.

 

The West should not trust the Nigerien army to manage such a conflict on its own. Its upper ranks were appointed by the previous civilian government — based on political loyalty, not merit. As a result, the army lacks professionalism and adequate training. And the country's already weak forces will soon be further depleted: Niger has offered ECOWAS 20 percent of its military to either join in the operation in Mali or go on standby.

 

ECOWAS' ability to police the region is also highly questionable. First, previous ECOWAS missions — in Sierra Leone and Liberia — have proved touch and go. In both cases, mistrust and disunity plagued relationships among the military leadership. These ECOWAS operations also suffered from inadequate resources, including a lack of weapons. Ultimately, the only reason they were effective was a strong British military presence. But with France's withdrawal from Mali imminent, such a force will be lacking in the Sahel.

 

Moreover, the various African countries that have pledged support for the military engagement in Mali lack the necessary finances for even that war. They have already asked Western donors for $1 billion in aid, and thus far the West has provided only half that amount. It will be no easy task for them to open another front.  Furthermore, roughly a third of all African soldiers committed to the Mali mission come from Chad, which is not an ECOWAS member. Although the United Nations' mandate for Mali refers to "an African-led International Support Mission" and therefore permits any African nation to join the fray, a longer-term, multilateral mission would ultimately raise the question of whether ECOWAS or Chad is in charge. 

 

Unfortunately, however, outside help does not appear to be on its way. The United Kingdom and Germany do not seem to grasp the importance of the Sahel to European energy security. Germany has dedicated only three aircraft to the Mali campaign and the United Kingdom has sent 240 "not for combat" soldiers. In the United States, meanwhile, President Barack Obama lacks a comprehensive African strategy, let alone a plan for the Sahel. Drone policing — the Obama administration's preferred tactic — provides little more than a short-term fix. If the West wants to prevent the Sahel from falling hostage to Tuareg and Islamist militants, longer-term military and financial engagement is urgently required.

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U.S. Counterterrorism Efforts in Africa Defined by a Decade Of Missteps: Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post, February 4, 2013—The U.S. military was closely tracking a one-eyed bandit across the Sahara in 2003 when it confronted a hard choice that is still reverberating a decade later. Should it try to kill or capture the target, an Algerian jihadist named Mokhtar Belmokhtar, or let him go?
 

Thanks to Their Hubris, al-Qaeda’s Sahara 'Princes’ are on the Run: David Blair, The Telegraph, Feb. 14 2013—If al-Qaeda’s leaders have one real achievement, they have surely demonstrated how to combine fastidious bureaucracy with rhetorical flourishes. The document I found in Timbuktu, as reported in the Telegraph yesterday, duly records a meeting of the “princes” of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), carefully listing all those present at gathering number “33”, before paying effusive tribute to “our Muslim heroes on this grand desert”.

Taming terrorism in North Africa: Rep. Mike Rogers, Politico, Feb.3,2013—For years, North Africa has been a simmering caldron of Islamist militant activity. The Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi and at a natural gas plant two weeks ago in Algeria tragically illuminated this threat on television screens around the world. The United States urgently needs a comprehensive strategy to fight this new front in the war on terrorism.

 

 

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LA GUERRE DE LA FRANCE CONTRE LE DJIHAD MONDIAL

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
L'antisionisme d'Obama
Daniel Pipes 
The Washington Times, 22 janvier 2013
Adaptation française: Anne-Marie Delcambre de Champvert
 
Si Barack Obama était réélu – avais-je prédit deux mois avant l'élection présidentielle de novembre 2012- «la façon la plus froide encore jamais vue jusqu'ici de traiter Israël, de la part d'un président américain, s'ensuivrait.» Eh bien, l'élection est terminée et la douche froide est bien en train de solidement se mettre en place. Obama a indiqué au cours des deux derniers mois, ce qui nous attend et ce que nous allons voir, par les mesures suivantes:
 
-en choisissant comme personnalités [pour des postes importants] trois hauts fonctionnaires -John Kerry comme Secrétaire d'Etat, John Brennan comme chef de la CIA, et Chuck Hagel comme ministre de la Défense – dont les opinions, s'agissant d'Israël, vont de l'ignorance totale à la franche hostilité.
 
-en approuvant un énorme cadeau d'armes de pointe- 20 avions de combat F-16 et 200 chars Abrams M1A1 – pour le gouvernement islamiste en Egypte, malgré le fait que son président, Mohamed Morsi, soit en train de devenir de plus en plus despotique et qualifie les Juifs de «suceurs de sang, … bellicistes , les descendants des singes et des porcs ».
 
-en réitérant une tactique paternaliste vieille de 35 ans faisant confiance à cette sorte de personnes ayant des positions connues comme étant anti-Israël pour condamner la politique israélienne tout en faisant semblant de se préoccuper du bien-être du pays: "Israël ne sait pas où est son véritable intérêt."
 
-en ignorant les preuves de l'importation au Caire de pièces détachées de missiles Scud de la Corée du Nord.
 
-en rabrouant les 239 membres de la Chambre qui avaient demandé la fermeture du bureau de l'OLP à Washington en réponse à la forte insistance de l'OLP pour obtenir le statut d'Etat-observateur auprès de l'ONU.
 
Interrogé sur la nomination par Obama de Hagel, Ed.Koch, -l'ancien maire de New York qui, en dépit de sa critique sévère d'Obama l'a néanmoins soutenu pour sa réélection- a fourni une réponse étonnante: «Je pensais qu'arriverait un moment où [Obama] reviendrait sur … son soutien à Israël [mais] cela arrive un peu plus tôt que je ne le pensais.» Même les partisans pro-israéliens d'Obama s'attendaient à ce qu'il se retourne contre l'Etat juif!
 
Ces mesures anti-israéliennes suscitent des inquiétudes, car elles coïncident avec les anciennes vues antisionistes d'Obama. Nous manquons de détails, mais nous savons qu'il a étudié, été l'ami , a noué des contacts, et a encouragé les extrémistes palestiniens. Par exemple:
 
Une photo prise en 1998 le montre en train d'écouter avec une déférente attention le théoricien anti-Israël Edward Said. Obama est resté là sans réagir alors que les conférenciers – lors d'une manifestation de 2003 célébrant Rashid Khalidi, un ancien agent des relations publiques de l'OLP – accusaient Israël de mener une campagne terroriste contre les Palestiniens et comparaient "les colons sionistes en Cisjordanie" à Oussama ben Laden. Ali Abunimah, un agitateur anti-Israël, a félicité Obama en 2004 pour «préconiser une approche équitable du conflit israélo-palestinien," des mots codés pour détacher le gouvernement américain d'Israël. De son côté, Obama a salué Abunimah pour ses articles, anti-israéliens au point de tourner à l'obsession, dans le Chicago Tribune, insistant pour qu'il«continue le bon travail!»
 
Abunimah révèle également que, à partir de 2002, Obama avait mis en sourdine sa rhétorique anti-israélienne », étant donné qu'il avait planifié son départ de la scène politique peu importante de l'Illinois pour aborder la scène nationale», et Obama avait rendu cela explicite deux ans plus tard, s'excusant auprès de Abunimah: "Hé, je suis désolé, je n'en ai pas dit plus sur la Palestine en ce moment, mais nous sommes dans une course difficile des primaires. J'espère que lorsque les choses vont se calmer j'aurai les coudées plus franches. "
 
Et Obama a fait consciencieusement les changements politiques nécessaires, même si ce fut d'une manière crispée et peu enthousiaste (« je dois traiter avec lui tous les jours» se plaint-il à propos du Premier ministre israélien Binyamin Netanyahu). Il a soutenu Israël dans ses guerres de 2008-2009 et 2012 avec le Hamas. Son gouvernement a qualifié le rapport Goldstone de «vicié à la base» et soutenu Israël auprès des Nations Unies en ayant recours aux groupes de pression, aux votes, et aux vetos. Les armements ont afflué. L'exception israélienne [le fait qu'Israël ne fasse pas partie (NDLT)] du traité sur la non-prolifération des armes nucléaires continue. Lorsque Ankara a annulé la participation d'Israël à l'exercice des forces aériennes l'aigle anatolien de 2009, le gouvernement américain s'est montré solidaire. Si Obama a créé plus de crises pour la mise en chantier de logements israéliens, il a finalement permis que cela se calme.
 
Revenant au temps présent: la probable réélection de Netanyahu comme Premier ministre israélien cette semaine se traduira par la continuité du leadership dans les deux pays. Mais cela n'implique pas la continuité dans les relations américano-israéliennes; Obama, libéré des contraintes de la réélection , peut enfin exprimer ses premières idées antisionistes après une décennie de positionnement politique. Attendons-nous à un ton nettement pire du second gouvernement Obama envers le troisième gouvernement Netanyahu.
 
Rappelons qu'Obama avait déclaré en privé en mars 2012 au président russe de l'époque, Dmitry Medvedev («Ceci est ma dernière élection et après mon élection, j'aurai plus de flexibilité»), il y a tout lieu de penser que, après avoir remporté cette réélection les choses se sont maintenant "calmées" et, après une décennie de prudente retenue, il peut «y aller plus franchement» pour faire avancer la cause palestinienne au détriment d'Israël.
 
J'ai aussi prévu en septembre que «les problèmes d'Israël allaient vraiment commencer» si Obama devait remporter un second mandat. Ceux-ci ont commencé; Jérusalem, prépare toi à quatre années difficiles
 
La guerre de la France contre le djihad mondial
Freddy Eytan
terredisrael.com, 30 janvier 2013
 
La présence active des organisations terroristes au Mali est une conséquence directe du « Printemps arabe » et ses répercussions inquiètent également Israël. Des cellules terroristes du djihad mondial avec de grandes quantités d’armes et missiles affluent de partout vers la péninsule du Sinaï et la bande de Gaza.
 
L’opération au Mali est intervenue après l’intervention militaire de l’ancien Président Nicolas Sarkozy en Libye. La chute de Mouammar Kadhafi a provoqué un chaos dans le pays et dans toute la région. Elle a provoqué un renforcement des organisations islamiques extrémistes, et en particulier celle d’Al Qaïda du Maghreb (AQMI).
 
Paris est sans doute préoccupée par la présence d’organisations islamiques et salafistes au sein de la communauté musulmane vivant en France. Ces groupes fanatiques encouragent le phénomène de la conversion à l’islam et encouragent par l’endoctrinement l’implication dans des activités terroristes. Mohammad Merah, responsable de la tuerie de trois soldats français et d’une famille juive à Toulouse, est devenu après son élimination un héros-martyr au sein d’une certaine jeunesse musulmane.
 
Il est bizarre de constater que la France socialiste, celle qui a décidé de retirer ses troupes d’Afghanistan, est déterminée actuellement à poursuivre son engagement militaire au Mali. Et pourtant, elle risque de s’enfoncer pour longtemps encore dans l’immensité des sables du désert du Sahara comme du Sahel. Paris devrait être également très préoccupée par les menaces d’attentats terroristes et notamment contre les institutions de la communauté juive.
Au départ, la France de François Hollande a choisi un vocabulaire peu approprié pour désigner les islamistes du djihad mondial. Pourquoi ne pas appeler un chat un chat et un terroriste un islamiste ? Comment ne pas se souvenir des propos directs et sans ambages de Lionel Jospin qui avait osé dire, ici à Jérusalem, que le Hezbollah est un mouvement terroriste ! C’est vrai, il a été fort réprimandé par Jacques Chirac…
 
La France qui n’avait pas réussi auparavant à libérer un otage français en Somalie a refusé aussi de s’impliquer dans une opération militaire supplémentaire pour libérer les otages étrangers dans les chantiers de gaz en Algérie. Elle a laissé faire une opération indépendante de l’armée locale, qui s’est achevée par un carnage de dizaines d’otages étrangers.
 
Cela fait plus d’une décennie qu’Israël met en garde contre le renforcement des islamistes et notamment de la branche Al Qaïda en Afrique du Nord. Les pays occidentaux et parmi eux les Etats-Unis et la France n’ont pas pris cette menace au sérieux. Même après les attentats du 11 septembre 2001 aux Etats-Unis, la guerre contre le djihad mondial s’est focalisée contre l’Irak et l’Afghanistan. Rappelons aussi qu’en mars 2003, la France s’était opposée vigoureusement à l’invasion américaine en Irak et en décembre dernier elle a retiré ses troupes d’Afghanistan.
 
Avec le déclenchement du « Printemps arabe » en Tunisie et l’effondrement des régimes en Egypte et en Libye, l’anarchie a permis aux groupes terroristes de lever la tête et de s’unir dans une lutte sanglante contre l’Occident et les régimes pro. Des sunnites et des shiites préparent le terrain pour pouvoir mettre en œuvre la politique du djihad mondial.
 
En réalité, Hollande a agi selon la doctrine bien connue, à savoir que toute intervention militaire en Afrique est basée principalement sur des intérêts économiques et l’exploitation des matières premières. Le Président socialiste de la France continue dans la tradition de ses prédécesseurs 50 ans après la fin de l’ère colonialiste. Son pays n’a toujours pas abandonné son “engagement patronal” envers les colonies francophones (Liban, le Maghreb et l’Afrique noire) et continue à fournir une aide militaire, économique, et culturelle.
 
Dans le passé, la France est intervenue militairement au Zaïre, au Tchad et en Côte d’Ivoire. Elle possède des bases militaires permanentes à Djibouti, au Gabon, au Sénégal et même dans le Golfe persique. Des navires de guerre sont présents dans la région pour prévenir des prises d’otages et des attaques pirates.
 
Certes, en dépit du long retard, nous apprécions le combat de la France contre le djihad mondial, mais en conclusion, nous constatons qu’il existe un certain double jeu. Le terrorisme palestinien est toujours justifié et défini comme légitime par ce qu’il s’agit selon Paris de la « la libération de territoires occupés ». Plus encore, la France condamne Israël pour avoir osé lancer des opérations d’auto-défense contre le Hamas ou le Hezbollah, mais juge opportun d’agir contre des terroristes se trouvant à des milliers de kilomètres de sa capitale. Il est bien temps que la France change de cap et réalise que les terroristes islamiques du djihad mondial, au Mali, en Afrique du Nord, dans la Bande de Gaza, et dans la péninsule du Sinaï appartiennent à la même famille terroriste ! Nous devons les combattre ensemble et sans merci !
 
Elections : Le retour du Centre
Shmuel Trigano
upjf.org, 30 janvier 2013
    
L’avantage de l’âge et de la connaissance de l’histoire des partis politiques israéliens permettent d’avoir une perspective inhabituelle sur les récentes élections. Deux phénomènes marquants les caractérisent:
 
– l’apparition sur la scène de deux nouveaux partis Yesh Atid (19 sièges) avec Yair Lapid comme leader et Habayit hayehoudi (11 sièges) avec Naftali Bennett pour tête de liste (en fait c’est la venue de Bennett à la tête de ce parti, déjà existant, qui est la cause de son renouveau).
 
En arrière-plan de ce phénomène, on prend note bien sûr de l’effondrement spectaculaire de Kadima sous la houlette de Shaoul Mofaz, qui passerait de 28 sièges à deux.
 
– cette évolution a pour cadre l’affaiblissement du Likoud-Israel Beitenou, un bloc qui passe de 41 à 31 sièges, tout en restant la principale force politique du pays.
 
C’est ce dernier point qu’il faut d’abord analyser car il est clair que la chute d’influence du Likoud autant que l’effondrement de Kadima ont fourni le réservoir de voix des deux nouveaux partis (originellement Kadima émane d’une scission du Likoud emmenée par Sharon).
 
Le semi-échec de Natanyahou dans l’opération « Colonne de nuée », la déception profonde de ses électeurs devant ses atermoiements, la tension entre la mobilisation militaire et morale du pays et le renoncement à en finir avec le terrorisme de Gaza annonçaient déjà cette évolution.
 
Natanyahou ne communique pas. Il est étrangement absent des tribunes et il ne fait pas de doute que son éloignement lui a terriblement nui alors que Yair Lapid, journaliste et homme de communication, a fait le tour du pays pour recueillir les doléances de l’électorat.
 
De plus, Natanyahou était donné pour vainqueur par les sondages, ce qui a autorisé ses électeurs à manifester leur mécontentement à son égard, en votant pour d’autres partis, sans que pour autant ils ne cessent de voir en lui, semble-t-il, l’homme de la situation.
Il ne faut en effet pas se méprendre Yesh Atid est un parti de centre droit et non de gauche. Ses électeurs peuvent être des transfuges du Likoud qui n’ont pas apprécié la fusion avec Israel Beitenou, trop à droite.
 
Quant à Bayit hayehoudi, la proximité au Likoud est encore plus grande, mais, contrairement à ce que l’on pense, ce parti est au centre-droit. Il ressuscite de façon étonnante le Parti National Religieux, le Mafdal, qui avait été tout au long de l’histoire un parti charnière entre laïques et religieux et que la naissance du Gouch Emounim avait pulvérisé en déplaçant une grande partie de son électorat à droite toute. Le parti de Bennett rassemble aujourd’hui (comme Yesh Atid) laïques et religieux avec cette différence que son engagement sioniste et national est beaucoup plus marqué que pour Yesh Atid.
 
Je vois dans le phénomène que représente le surgissement de ces deux partis une étonnante recomposition de partis centristes qui avaient occupé le milieu du spectre politique israélien depuis ses origines et que l’on connaissait bien dans les années 1960-1970. En fait Yesh Atid prend la place du Parti des « Sionistes Généraux » et Bayit hayehoudi celle du Mafdal. Ces deux partis étaient en règle générale de toutes les coalitions, du temps ou le Parti Travailliste était dominant. La naissance du Likoud (né d’une alliance de 2 partis), du temps de Begin, avait modifié la donne et d’une certaine façon aujourd’hui l’érosion du Likoud leur rouvre la voie.
 
En fait la place des Sionistes Généraux est le ventre mou du système. Depuis 1967, de nombreux partis se sont créés dans ce lieu puis ont disparu aussi vite.
 
Rappelons nous le Dash de Yigal Yadin, rappelons nous, en 2003, le Shinouy du père de Lapid, rappelons nous Kadima. Aujourd’hui Yesh Atid. On peut faire le pronostic que Yesh Atid disparaîtra aussi d’ici la prochaine Knesset. De fait, ce parti promet le changement (sic) – c’était déjà le cas du du parti de son père Shinouy dont le nom, veut dire « changement »- mais son programme est inexistant, son chef une vedette de la TV. Que 19 voix se soient portées sur un tel parti est en fait très inquiétant et le signe d’une déception des électeurs israéliens. C’est sans doute un vote de protestation. Mais un feu de paille sans lendemain. Entretemps bien sûr, ce parti va jouer un rôle important dans la coalition, mais sa capacité de faire face à des décisions gravissimes pour l’avenir de l’Etat est on ne peut plus incertaine.
 
Le déclin du Shas est aussi significatif car lui aussi avait tenté d’occuper le centre vide du système durant plusieurs années. Nous avons pu remarquer que, durant la campagne, Lapid comme Bennett s’adressaient aussi aux électeurs sépharades, sans doute lassés par le parti dont la marque de fabrique était la défense de leurs intérêts. Le Shas a-t-il des chances d’entrer dans la coalition, c’est possible mais comment se comportera-t-il avec un Lapid qui veut annuler tous les privilèges du secteur religieux ? Si Bayit Yehoudi et Yesh Atid entrent en coalition avec Natanyahou, point n’est besoin du Shas. Peut-être même Lapid attirera-t-il Livni. En tel cas la friction avec le Bayit Yehoudi est assurée car Livni et Lapid sont sensibles aux exigences de l’Union européenne et des Etats Unis concernant l’Etat de Palestine. C’est tout autre chose avec Bennett qui est sourcilleux sur le plan de la souveraineté israélienne, du sionisme et pas favorable à la création d’un nouvel Etat entre le Jourdain et la mer.
 
Il est d’alleurs étonnant que la question palestinienne et celle de l’Iran, sauf pour ce dernier point chez Natanyahou, n’ont pas été au centre de la campagne si ce n’est pour Livni dont le faible résultat indique le degré d’intérêt public pour la chose. Bien au contraire, la question sociale et celle des religieux ont suscité les débats les plus forts et expliquent la montée de Lapid. Agitée frénétiquement par le parti Avoda, par Shelly Yachimowitch, elle ne lui a pas profité. Sans doute sa dénonciation du « capitalisme » était-elle trop violente et peu convaincante. Concernant l’enjeu religion-laïcité, les partis qui font office avant tout de laïcité ou de religion sont à égalité : 19 pour Lapid, 18 pour le Shas et les Ultra orthodoxes (Yahadout hatora), si l’on ne compte pas Bayith hayehoudi, plus centriste. Bien que la religion soit pour lui un pilier central, le parti de Naftali Bennett, contrairement aux partis dits « religieux », a des intérêts non sectoriels, couvrant toute la réalité socio-politique.
 
Sur le plan de la politique étrangère, la présence de Lapid dans la coalition ramènera Natanyahou vers le centre et donc vers la vision des choses européenne et américaine, et ce d’autant plus si Tsipi Livni se joint, via Lapid, au gouvernement, ce qui ne sera pas sans provoquer des tensions avec Bennett. Si Lapid donne le ton à la coalition, les angles seront bien « arrondis » avec Obama.
 
D’une certaine façon, le mouvement vers le centre de l’électorat israélien témoigne indirectement aussi de son inquiétude devant l’isolement international d’Israël découlant de la politique américaine et européenne en faveur des Palestiniens. N’oublions pas, cependant, que les nouveaux politiciens qui entrent sur scène sont des néophytes. Ils auront fort à faire avec un politicien chevronné comme Natanyahou… Reste que la politique de ce dernier n’est plus très claire.
 

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

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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.)

 

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.

 

 

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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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(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.

 

 

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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

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DISQUIETING ISLAMIST “ARAB SPRING” IN TUNISIA & LIBYA, AND SADISTIC ISLAMIST INSURGENCY IN NIGERIA, NIGER & BEYOND

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Ennahda Clears the Decks to Dominate: Sana Ajmi, The Daily Star, Dec. 11, 2012—Members of Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly – the democratically elected body responsible for drafting the country’s constitution – put forward a new bill on Nov. 23 which would exclude politicians once affiliated with the former ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) from political life for 10 years.

 

Boko Haram’s Growing Presence in Niger: Jacob Zenn, Jamestown Foundation, Nov. 2, 2012—The recent arrests of Boko Haram members in the Niger town of Zinder come at a time when the Islamist movement’s fighters are taking advantage of the porosity of the Nigeria-Niger border region to avoid security crackdowns in Yobe, Borno and other states of northeastern Nigeria.

 

Libyans Say Sharia Will Be Law of the Land: Jamie Dettmer, The Daily Beast, Dec 11, 2012—The constitutional debate that Libya is likely to have in the coming months is going to be different from Egypt’s…Across the political spectrum, there’s a general acceptance that the country’s new laws must reflect religion and that sharia will figure prominently—only a small minority question this.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Tunisia Battles Over Pulpits, and Revolt’s Legacy: Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, Nov. 11, 2012
Boko Haram’s Dangerous Expansion into Northwest Nigeria: Jacob Zenn, Counter Terrorism Center, Oct 29, 2012
Nigeria’s Most Sadistic Killers: Why is Boko Haram not Designated a Terrorist Group?: Eli Lake, The Daily Beast, Oct 16, 2012
List of Designated Terrorist Organizations: Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

ENNAHDA CLEARS THE DECKS TO DOMINATE

Sana Ajmi

The Daily Star, Dec. 11, 2012

 

Members of Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly – the democratically elected body responsible for drafting the country’s constitution – put forward a new bill on Nov. 23 which would exclude politicians once affiliated with the former ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) from political life for 10 years. Entitled “The Protection of the Revolution,” the measure – proposed and supported by Ennahda parliamentarians – is being seen by some as a tactic to hinder an opposition front to Ennahda and ensure the Islamists’ dominance in the upcoming election. Its supporters, however, see it as a protective measure necessary to safeguard the revolution.

Sahbi Atig, the head of Ennahda’s parliamentary bloc, explained that the bill would forbid any politician who had served in the RCD from running for president and participating in political life. Ennahda controls 89 out of 217 seats in Constituent Assembly and can easily pass the bill by an overwhelming majority – with the support of four other major blocs backing the measure: This includes the Fidelity to the Revolution, Congress For the Republic, Freedom and Dignity, and the Democratic Bloc – as well as some independent parliamentarians.

Farida Laabidi, head of the government’s Commission on Rights and Liberties (and a member of Ennahda himself) explained that “Through this law we will guarantee that those who served under the former repressive and corrupt regime will not rule the country again.”

This envisioned ban on former RCD members has sparked controversy particularly within the ranks of center-left parties in the opposition, a number of whose members were associated with the old regime. Parties like the newly formed Nidaa Tunis (as well others like Al-Moubadara and Al-Watan) have condemned the proposed bill. Khmais Ksila, a member of the Constituent Assembly representing Nidaa Tunis and who is formerly a member of the center-left Ettakatol Party (currently in coalition with Ennahda), described the proposed law as “anti-revolution”; the bill would render certain Tunisians second-class citizens based on political affiliations, and that these kinds of laws only encourage a revenge mentality among Tunisians and threatens to “resort to international institutions to invalidate it.”

Analysts have argued that Tunisia’s transitional democratic process cannot be based on exclusion. Kais Saiyed, a constitutional law expert at the Faculty of Political Science in Tunis, believes that proposing such a law contradicts the principles of democracy: “It is up to the people to decide who to exclude from the political,” he says. Furthermore, other figures – like Kamel Morjane, the former minister of foreign affairs under Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and the leader of Al-Moubadara, and Beji Caid Essebsi, the octogenarian head of Nidaa Tunis and interim prime minister during the transition (and also former interior minister under Habib Bourghuiba) – all see this as a purely politically motivated attack to eliminate parties and coalitions capable of competing with Ennahda in the upcoming election.

Nidaa Tunis has a wide range of secular liberals formerly associated with the RCD – which claimed a membership of 2 million people before its dissolution. Many of these saw in Essebsi’s party an opportunity to revive their political chances and perhaps even regain their lost status. Nidaa Tunis, which aims to unite Tunisia’s non-Islamist parties in a national unity movement, was perceived as a way to “protect” them from religious extremism and to uphold a modernist interpretation of Islam initiated under the Bourghuiba and Ben Ali regimes – which these former RCD-associates see Ennahda failing to do, if not supporting explicitly. Essebsi himself is especially outspoken in his criticism of the ruling coalition for its “failure” to protect its people from religious extremism and Salafism.

The pragmatism of which Essebsi’s party boasts and its espousal of “modernist” values – coupled with Ennahda’s perceived failures to deal with pressing socio-economic issues – have all given Nidaa Tunis an edge and a chance to have a strong showing in the coming election. According to a recent poll conducted by the Tunisian poll office and 3C Etude, Ennahda and Nidaa Tunis rank close in popularity.

The party has also announced an initiative to merge with the ranks of other center-left parties – among which include Al-Joumhouri, Al-Massar, and the Popular Movement, as well as others – in anticipation of the 2013 parliamentary and presidential elections. Essebsi and his followers believe that the only way to counter Ennahda is through a united opposition front.

Ennahda’s fear of a more robust opposition in the upcoming election may well be the motive behind its support of the proposed bill. And whether or not a concern for the rise of former-regime sympathizers is founded, a bill based on political exclusion and score-settling does not bode well for Tunisia’s fragile political process. By pushing it forward, Ennahda is doing exactly what it claims to protect the revolution from: creating a one-party system and attempting to ensure an opposition vacuum – bringing the ruling party more in line with the RDC than it would perhaps like to admit.

 

Sana Ajmi is a Tunisian journalist and writer. This commentary first appeared at Sada, an online journal published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

 

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BOKO HARAM’S GROWING PRESENCE IN NIGER

Jacob Zenn

Jamestown Foundation, Nov. 2, 2012

 

The recent arrests of Boko Haram members in the Niger town of Zinder come at a time when the Islamist movement’s fighters are taking advantage of the porosity of the Nigeria-Niger border region to avoid security crackdowns in Yobe, Borno and other states of northeastern Nigeria. On September 27, a Nigerien security official reported that five Boko Haram members were arrested in Zinder, one of the rare times that Boko Haram members have been arrested outside of Nigeria since Boko Haram launched an insurgency in September, 2010 to dismantle Nigeria’s secular regime and “entrench a just Islamic government”. The only similar case in Niger occurred last February, when 15 suspected Boko Haram members were arrested in Diffa, Niger’s easternmost city, allegedly planning to plant bombs in several of the city’s public places. Diffa and Zinder (the largest city in southern Niger) both border Nigeria’s Yobe State, where Boko Haram—then popularly known as “the Nigerian Taliban”—established a base nicknamed “Afghanistan” in a village three miles south of the border with Niger in 2003. Diffa is believed to be a principal refuge for Nigerian Boko Haram fighters.

 

On both sides of the Nigerian-Nigerien border, as well as in northern Cameroon and western Chad, Sunni Islam and the Hausa language are predominant. However, there are sizable minorities of Shuwa Arabic and Kanuri speakers in Diffa, western Chad and Nigeria’s far northeastern Borno State, which has been Boko Haram’s main area of operations since the start of the insurgency. These cross-border ties help unite the peoples of the border region.

 

The movement of Boko Haram members into Niger follows a series of blows inflicted on the movement by Nigerian security services in recent weeks:

 

    On September 24, Nigeria’s Joint Task Force (JTF) killed 35 Boko Haram members and seized ammunition and weapons in house-to-house searches in Yobe;

    Also on September 24, the Special Security Squad launched “Operation Restore Sanity” in Mubi, Adamawa State, which borders Borno to the south. 156 Boko Haram suspects were arrested, four of whom were believed to be unit commanders. A top commander, Abubakr Yola (a.k.a Abu Jihad) was killed in the operation;

    On October 15 the Joint Task Force in Borno State killed 24 Boko Haram members during a series of night raids in Maiduguri; and

    On October 20, security forces arrested a wanted Boko Haram leader, Shuaibu Muhammad Bama, in Maiduguri at a house owned by his uncle, Senator Ahmad Zanna, who represents Borno Central.

 

Nigeria shares approximately 2,000 miles of border with Niger, Cameroon and Chad, but, according to the Nigerian Immigration Service, only 84 border points are staffed by immigration officials. Nigeria has previously closed the border after major Boko Haram attacks, such as the Christmas Day 2011 church bombings in Madalla, a city outside of Abuja. The Borno State National Service Immigration Comptroller said at the time that such measures were the only way to “prevent the entry and exit of suspected Boko Haram sect members and illegal aliens that have no travel or residence permit documents to remain in the country”.  

 

Due to the linguistic and cultural ties along the 950-mile Nigerian-Nigerien border, Nigerien Muslims can easily cross the border and assimilate into Boko Haram’s ranks. According to local reports in Niger, many Nigeriens have joined Boko Haram because of economic rather than religious or ideological motives. Unlike northern Nigeria, Niger does not have a legacy of religious extremism, but it is one of the world’s least developed and most impoverished nations.

 

With an estimated 200,000 herdsmen and farmers in Niger subsisting on Red Cross food rations due to severe drought, the $30 that Boko Haram offers its members for killing Nigerian security officers—or the $60 it offers for also stealing the officer’s weapon—can be an effective recruiting tool.. The hundreds of thousands of dollars that Boko Haram has acquired in several dozen bank robberies in the past two years, can provide additional economic motivation for the poor to join the insurgency, whether or not they share the same motivations as Boko Haram leader Abu Shekau. If such reports are true, the poor Nigeriens who are taking up arms for Boko Haram may join other illicit economic activities such as selling black market gasoline and cigarettes. In February, captured Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa told interrogators that Nigeriens were among the groups commonly chosen by Boko Haram to carry out suicide bombings.

 

Boko Haram’s infiltration of the immigration service also facilitates its operations in the border region. Two days after the arrests of the five Boko Haram members in Zinder, the Nigerian Army announced it had arrested a Nigerian immigration official posing as an army officer. Under interrogation, the official confessed to having been trained along with 15 other Boko Haram members in weapons handling, assassinations and special operations in Niger, and named other officials who were conspiring with Boko Haram. The October 19 killing of a customs official and his son in Potiskum, Yobe State, by Boko Haram members was likely intended to coerce other officials to comply with – or at least not obstruct – Boko Haram’s efforts to infiltrate the immigration service. Boko Haram has similarly assassinated dozens of Islamic clerics, politicians and journalists who disagreed with Boko Haram’s ideology and militant activities in order to deter other influential figures from speaking out.

 

Since April, there have been reports of several hundred Nigerian and Nigerien Boko Haram members helping al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar al-Din and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) consolidate control of northern Mali after the three militias expelled the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the ethno-national secular Tuareg militia. As a result, the territory of Niger separating northern Nigeria from northern Mali—only 300 miles across at its shortest point, Sokoto to Gao—is becoming an important area of transit for the insurgents. Niger is the one country of these three that has thus far avoided an Islamist insurgency on its territory, but Niger has a restive Tuareg population in the northern Agadez region bordering northern Mali and an increasing Boko Haram presence in its southern border cities—both representing potential sources of instability. Given this pressure, Niger and Nigeria agreed on October 18­—after four years of discussion­—to deploy joint patrols along their border in order to prevent the Boko Haram presence in southern Niger from growing into a cross-border insurgency. 

 

Jacob Zenn is a legal adviser and international affairs analyst who focuses on the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria.

 

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LIBYANS SAY SHARIA WILL BE LAW OF THE LAND

Jamie Dettmer

The Daily Beast, Dec 11, 2012

 

“Egypt is Islamic, it will not be secular!” Islamist supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi have taken to chanting this slogan during street protests in Cairo. While the mantra fills opponents of the Egyptian president with dread, as does a Morsi-backed draft Constitution ensuring laws and rights will be strictly subordinated to sharia law, such chants would hardly prove controversial in Libya, Egypt’s neighboring Arab-Spring country—nor would they propel tens of thousands onto the streets of Tripoli or Benghazi to express dissent.

 

The constitutional debate that Libya is likely to have in the coming months—once its new rulers have decided on how to proceed with a draft—is going to be different from Egypt’s, and less about whether Islamic law should figure in the Constitution. Across the political spectrum, there’s a general acceptance that the country’s new laws must reflect religion and that sharia will figure prominently—only a small minority question this.

 

During the campaign for the country’s elections last July, party leaders—even those from moderate parties, such as Mahmoud Jibril, leader of the National Forces Alliance—acknowledged that sharia would significantly influence any Constitution. New laws should have a “reference to sharia,” Jibril told The Daily Beast, arguing, “Sharia law, when it was understood in the proper way, managed to create one of the great civilizations in human history. The problem is not with sharia or Islam; the problem is with the interpretation of sharia.”

 

Even among women agitating for a greater role in public and political life here, there’s agreement that sharia law should be at the heart of the country’s new Constitution. The only disputes are about the drafting process; whether the members of a 60-strong drafting panel should be elected or appointed by the country’s new Parliament, the General National Congress; and whether sharia should be the “only source of law” or a “principal source of law,” with the latter allowing greater possibility of adopting laws used in non-Muslim countries.

 

“Libyans wouldn’t accept a Constitution that isn’t informed by Sharia,” says 20-year-old Issraa Murabit, a second-year medical student from the town of Zawiyah and vice president of The Voice of Libyan Women, an NGO campaigning for greater women’s rights.

 

She says that a majority of women involved with civil-society activism are broadly comfortable with sharia and don’t see any contradiction between Islamic law and their demands for gender equality and a bigger role for women in Libyan society.  Some women activists argue that women’s rights are, in certain cases, better protected under sharia than they are in the West. They cite property protections afforded to divorced spouses. “In the West, they think we are the oppressors of women and they have the best rights for women, but we have a different perspective,” says Murabit, who was raised in Canada until her early teens. “Islam doesn’t undermine women’s rights—the problem is with Muslim men and how they try to use sharia against women.”

 

For Western commentators, the mere mention of Islamic law prompts, at best, suspicion and oftentimes pure horror. “A dangerous pattern is emerging,” Bonnie Erbe, host of the PBS show, To the Contrary, wrote recently. “Islamic countries more often than not replace tyrants with religious dictators who can become even more despotic than their predecessors. Look at Iran. Unfortunately, look at Egypt.”

 

Libyan activists say such sentiments tarnish the Arab Spring and that the problem with Morsi’s draft Constitution lies with the underhand manner of its drafting process, involving a lack of consultation by the country’s Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly. Islamists railroaded approval of the final draft in an all-night session on November 30….

 

When Libya’s government—led by the new prime minister, Ali Zeidan, and the country’s Congress—eventually decide on the process for the drafting the Libyan constitution, activists warn that Morsi’s example shouldn’t be followed.  “If they are inclusive and consult and have women among the drafters, there won’t be a problem,” says Murabit.

 

One key area of contention could be over who interprets the Sharia provisions included in any Libyan constitution. Morsi’s Egyptian opponents take issue with the draft Constitution’s provision that Muslim clerics will be Sharia’s arbiters. Under the charter, clerics from Egypt’s conservative Al-Azhar University are “to be consulted on any matters related to Sharia.” Libyan women activists say no religious body or figures should be allowed under Libya’s Constitution oversight of the country’s laws—only the courts should decide. Others argue that religious arbiters would be acceptable as long as women religious scholars were also included.

 

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Tunisia Battles Over Pulpits, and Revolt’s Legacy: Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, Nov. 11, 2012—On the Friday after Tunisia’s president fell, Mohamed al-Khelif mounted the pulpit of this city’s historic Grand Mosque to deliver a full-throttle attack on the country’s corrupt culture, to condemn its close ties with the West and to demand that a new constitution implement Shariah, or Islamic law.

 

Boko Haram’s Dangerous Expansion into Northwest Nigeria: Jacob Zenn, Combatting Terrorism Center, Oct 29, 2012—During the past year, the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has expanded from its traditional area of operations in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State and is now capable of conducting attacks across a 900-mile breadth of northern Nigeria, including in the strategic state of Sokoto.

 

Nigeria’s Most Sadistic Killers: Why is Boko Haram not Designated a Terrorist Group?: Eli Lake, The Daily Beast, Oct 16, 2012—The group is one of the deadliest organizations in Africa, accused of killing at least 1,500 people between June 2009 and September 2012. Its victims are the cops, Christians, and those Muslims it sees as betraying the true faith. It is alleged to sabotage oil pipelines, take down automated teller machines, and rip up telephone lines in a violent jihad against the West.

 

List of Designated Terrorist Organizations: Wikipedia—This is a list of designated terrorist organizations by national governments, former governments and inter-governmental organizations, where the proscription has a significant impact on the group's activities.

 

 

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The Ups and Downs of Islamist Fortunes in Yemen, Somalia, and Mali

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

(Please Note: articles below may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click on the link for the full article.)

 

Why Yemen is the Scariest Challenge Facing Obama Abroad: Bruce Riedel, The Daily Beast, Nov. 9, 2012     —The scariest terrorist challenge facing the re-elected President Obama comes from Yemen. Obama will have to face the growing menace of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the failing state in Yemen that it thrives on.

 

Somalia’s Tentative Recovery: Irfan Husain, Dawn, Dec.10, 2012—Finally, some good news from Somalia: In large measure, this return to normalcy is due to the defeat of the terrorist group Harkat al-Mujahideen al-Shebab by the forces of the African Mission for Somalia established by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

 

A Trip Through Hell: Daily Life in Islamist Northern Mali: Paul Hyacinthe Mben, Der Spiegel, Oct. 30, 2012—For months, an Islamist regime has been terrorizing northern Mali. Hundreds of thousands have already fled the region, and those who have stayed behind are experiencing new forms of cruelty with each passing day. A Spiegel reporter documents a two-week journey through a region Europe fears will become the next Somalia.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Losing Yemen: Gregory Johnsen, Foreign Policy,  Nov. 5, 2012

Saudi Arabia – Yemen Border Dispute: Chris Murphy, ICE Case Studies,  Nov., 2006

Remote U.S. Base at Core of Secret Operations: Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, October 25, 2012

In Yemen Trading Girls is Economical: Hind Aleryani, NOW Lebanon, December 10, 2012

 

 

 

WHY YEMEN IS THE SCARIEST
CHALLENGE FACING OBAMA ABROAD

Bruce Riedel

The Daily Beast, Nov 9, 2012

 

The scariest terrorist challenge facing the re-elected President Obama comes from Yemen….Obama will have to face the growing menace of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the failing state in Yemen that it thrives on. The response must be nimble and careful because AQAP’s real goal is to drag America into another bleeding war in the Muslim world, this time hoping it will spread into the oil rich deserts of Saudi Arabia….

 

The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al Qaeda and America’s War in Arabia by Gregory Johnsen is a detailed narrative account of the development of AQAP [see link in On Topic below – Ed.]….The story is fascinating, this is a group that was virtually destroyed in 2004 by drone attacks and effective counter terrorism operations, and then it recovered, helped immensely by the Arab world’s anger over the American invasion of Iraq. In 2009 it rebranded itself with new leadership composed of Saudis and Yemenis, several of whom had been prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. It’s number two, Saeed al Shihri, spent five years America’s Cuban prison before being released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 where he fled into Yemen. A drone had allegedly killed him last month, then he reappeared alive in a message threatening more attacks on America.

 

Since 2009 AQAP has tried to attack the American homeland at least three times. On Christmas Day 2009 it almost succeeded. [A] suicide terrorist…successfully penetrated American security and got a bomb on a Detroit bound flight that day. President Obama was absolutely right when he said after the fact “we dodged a bullet, but just barely” because the bomb failed to detonate properly. Johnsen reveals that AQAP’s master bomb maker, a Saudi named Ibrahim Asiri has now built a bomb with two detonators so it can’t fail.

 

The Arab Awakening came to Yemen in 2011 with a vengeance and has left the country completely fragmented. AQAP has thrived. Yemen has always been a difficult and inhospitable place. Its most desolate region, where Osama Ben Laden’s family comes from and Shihri was nearly killed, is the Hadramawt which means “death has come” in Arabic and is said to contain the gate to hell in one of its wadis. Today Yemen is running out of oil and water, more than half the population is under 18, half goes to bed every night hungry and the national government barely controls even parts of the capital.

 

For over a decade America has been trying to fight al Qaeda in Yemen without getting dragged deeper and deeper into its internal dysfunctional politics….America’s key ally in this war is Yemen’s bigger and richer brother, Saudi Arabia, the real prize in the struggle. Bin Laden and his protégés in AQAP have always had their focus on the Kingdom and the House of Saud. Johnsen details just how deeply the Saudis have become involved in the war in Yemen including how its intelligence service has foiled two AQAP plots against America and its Royal Saudi Air Force is now flying bombing strikes against AQAP targets deep inside the country.

 

AQAP entitled the video it produced about the Christmas Day plot “the Final Trap.”  Shihri was one of the narrators. What the title meant was that al Qaeda hopes to draw America deeper and deeper into a quagmire with more and more boots on the ground in Yemen. It wants another Iraq, another Afghanistan. An attack in America that killed hundreds would force America to take on the challenge of rebuilding Yemen with our own hands, a final trap that would bleed America’s military, our economy, and our morale.

 

President Obama has wisely avoided the trap for the last four years but the Yemeni threat has not gone away and the slow collapse of the Yemeni state offers little hope that it will.  Washington has a long-term challenge in Arabia…..

 

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SOMALIA’S TENTATIVE RECOVERY

Irfan Husain

Dawn, Dec.10, 2012

 

Finally, some good news from Somalia: according to a new issue of the French weekly Paris Match, the Somali shilling has doubled in value against the dollar over the last two years. The international airport at Mogadishu has been refurbished, and now boasts of a duty-free shop. Turkish Airlines operates three weekly flights to Istanbul as a result of a visit by Recep Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister….The same issue of the magazine informs us that the price of fish has shot up because of new restaurants opening up to cater for the increasing number of foreigners and returning expatriate Somalis. A new six-story hotel is coming up in the capital. Male and female students are returning to schools and university.

 

In large measure, this return to normalcy is due to the defeat of the terrorist group Harkat al-Mujahideen al-Shebab by the forces of the African Mission for Somalia established by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). This force, sanctioned by the UN, has been very successful in pushing the terrorists out of Mogadishu, and from other towns as well. The effort to eject the extremist thugs out of the country began last year, and has made steady success.

 

The other factor underpinning the Somali success story is the return of some 300,000 migrants who had been forced to leave their country due to the complete breakdown of law and order. With their money and their entrepreneurial spirit, the rebuilding of Somalia is under way. Scattered across North America and Europe, this diaspora made its mark by dint of hard work and self-help.

 

Considering that Somalia was for years synonymous with our notion of a failed state, this recovery is nothing short of miraculous. For decades, the country was caught up in murderous tribal warfare that destroyed much of Mogadishu. A slice of this mayhem was captured by the Nineties film Blackhawk Down that depicted the failed American effort to restore some order and bring in food supplies. In the event, Bill Clinton pulled out US forces after they lost a number of soldiers….

 

Whatever was left was demolished by the Shebab in their bid to impose a Taliban-like theocracy on Somalia. These holy warriors modelled themselves on the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, banning everything from music to sports. Symbolising the return to sanity is the reopening of the National Theatre, a building earlier used by the Shebab as an arms depot and then as a public toilet….

 

Repeated bouts of famine, in part caused by the civil war,…hastened Somalia’s descent into chaos. After a provisional government was established with international support, the country was again subjected to yet another round of violence when the Shebab attempted to take control. For years, Mogadishu was a divided city with the young terrorists calling the shots. The country is also plagued by a nest of pirates who prey on ships sailing hundreds of miles from the coast. Their links to the Shebab have been reported, and their depredations have been the subject of widespread international concern and action….

 

The return of a tenuous stability augurs well for this east African state. If it can build democratic institutions, it might well emerge from decades of violence and abject poverty. Luckily, it has many well-wishers: the West as well as its neighbours realize that a collapsed Somali state means trouble for the entire region…..

 

One lesson from Somalia is that given political will and firm military action, the extremist scourge can be defeated. The reality is that jihadis, whether in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, have very little public support. Even though they fly the Islamic banner, they are actually fighting for power and money. They recruit poor, gullible young men to their cause, but the leaders are cynical killers who use religion as a ploy to silence their opponents.

 

In Somalia, the Shebab faded away when confronted with well armed and disciplined troops. While they killed and terrorised unarmed civilians, they were no match for the OAU force….

 

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A TRIP THROUGH HELL:
DAILY LIFE IN ISLAMIST NORTHERN MALI

Paul Hyacinthe Mben

Der Spiegel, Oct. 30, 2012

 

For months, an Islamist regime has been terrorizing northern Mali. Hundreds of thousands have already fled the region, and those who have stayed behind are experiencing new forms of cruelty with each passing day. Northern Mali is virtually inaccessible to journalists at present. Sharia law has been in effect there since last spring, when fundamentalists took control of a large part of the country, which had been considered a model nation until then. The fundamentalists stone adulterers, amputate limbs and squelch all opposition. They have destroyed tombs in Timbuktu that were recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site….

 

A checkpoint set up by the Islamist police on the road to Gao marks the beginning of the region controlled by the new rulers of northern Mali. Adolescents wielding Kalashnikovs stand at the barrier with their legs apart. The oldest one keeps repeating the same instructions through a megaphone: "No cigarettes, no CDs, no radios, no cameras, no jewelry," an endless loop of prohibitions, a list of everything that's haram, or impure, with which this journey to the north begins. The men stand guard in the name of the Prophet Muhammad.

 

With arrogant gestures, they stop the few long-distance buses still coming from southern Mali. One of the men, holding his weapon at the ready, inspects the busses by walking down the aisle and checking to make sure everyone is in compliance with the Islamists' rules: Are women and men sitting in separate areas? Are the women wearing the hijab? And are the men wearing trousers that reach to their ankles, the kind of trousers that radical Muslims believe the Prophet favoured? They are now obligatory in Gao….

 

Mali has been a divided country since April, when Islamists took control of a region in the north larger than France, while the south is still administered by a government that is incapable of defending itself. This spring, forces with the Tuareg ethnic group drove the Malian army out of the country's northern regions within only a few weeks. They proclaimed the Tuareg nation of Azawad, which no nation in the world has recognized.

 

Then came the Islamists, armed to the teeth with what was left of the arsenal of the former Gadhafi regime in nearby Libya. The Islamists are also well connected with al-Qaida fighters who for some years now have found a safe haven in the Maghreb region of North Africa and the countries of the Sahel zone south of the Sahara Desert. Those Tuareg who didn't join the Islamists were driven out. The fronts of buildings in Gao still show traces of the power struggle between the two groups, including bullet holes and blackened and crumbling walls. The world is now deeply concerned that Mali could turn into another Somalia or Afghanistan.

 

In principle, the United Nations Security Council has already approved the deployment of international troops against the north. The European Union has decided to send military advisors, and the United States is even considering the use of remote-controlled drones to fight the Islamist leaders. Northern Mali, less than a five-hour flight from Paris, cannot become a new hotbed of terrorism or a second Somalia, says German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. His US counterpart, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, believes that the Islamists in Mali were behind the attack that led to the death of the American ambassador in the Libyan city of Benghazi seven weeks ago.

 

Gao, a city of 100,000 people, has become a lifeless place since the Islamists took over. It was once a stopping point for tourists traveling to Timbuktu, but now the roadside stands have disappeared, bars and restaurants are boarded up and music is banned. The new strongmen proclaim their creed on signs posted at street corners, written in white Arabic lettering on a black background, that read: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger."

 

To make matters worse, garbage collection has been suspended, leaving waste to rot in the streets at temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Around 400,000 people have already fled the Islamists. Most who have left represent the better-educated parts of the work force, like the engineers who kept the power plant and waterworks in operation. Foreign aid organizations are gone, as are government officials who were in the process of implementing a new road construction program.

 

"Gao is a dead city," says Allassane Amadou Touré, a mechanic, as he drinks tea in the shade. He is unemployed, like many in the city, and says that Gao's economic output has "declined by 85 percent" since the spring. The Islamic police have become the city's biggest employers. Ironically, their headquarters are on Washington Street in downtown Gao. From there, the armed police officers, most of them young men who are little more than children, are sent out into the neighborhoods to drum into residents what is considered "haram" and "halal," or pure.

 

Until recently, the Sharia courts' sentences were also carried out on Washington Street, but now the Islamic police have become more cautious. Since an angry crowd managed to rescue people who had been convicted of crimes from the executioner, hands and feet are now being severed in secret. The Sharia court uses a former military base outside the city to carry out its grisly punishments.

 

One of its victims was Alhassane Boncana Maiga, who was found guilty of stealing cattle. Four guards drag Maiga, wearing a white robe, into a dark room and tie him to a chair, leaving only one hand free. A doctor gives the victim an injection for the pain. Then Omar Ben Saïd, the senior executioner, pulls a knife out of its sheath. "In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful," he calls out, takes the convicted man's hand and begins to slice into it, as blood squirts out. It becomes more difficult when Saïd reaches the bone, and it's a full three minutes before the hand drops into a bucket. The executioner reaches for his mobile phone, calls his superior and says: "The man has been punished."…

 

One of the masterminds behind Islamist terror in Mali is Iyad Ag Ghali. He lives in Kidal, 320 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of Gao, in an opulent house near the airport, which is now closed. A short man with a long beard and sunglasses, Ag Ghali is constantly surrounded by a throng of heavily armed men with the group Ansar Dine, or "Defenders of the Faith."

Ansar Dine is a new organization. Until last year, Ag Ghali was known as a leading Tuareg separatist. He vacillated between seeking dialogue with Bamako and declaring an independent Tuareg state. Ag Ghali had a reputation for smoking and drinking, but he was also considered unreliable, so the Tuareg rebels marginalized him politically last November. That was probably the moment Ag Ghali discovered Islamism. From then on, instead of calling for a Tuareg nation, he promoted Sharia, saying: "All those who do not walk on Allah's paths are infidels." His change of heart secured him the support of al-Qaida and other extremists from the Maghreb.

His group is also involved in the drug trade in the Sahara. South American cartels send cocaine by ship to Guinea-Bissau in West Africa. From there, the drugs travel northward by land, transported — in return for a hefty share of the profits — by rebels, revolutionaries and bandits, like the Ansar Dine combatants. Kidnappings are another source of income for the "Defenders of the Faith." When the UN approved the deployment of troops to northern Mali in mid-October, Ansar Dine threatened to kill French hostages under its control. Ag Ghali has little to say to the visitor. "Welcome to the Islamic city of Kidal," he says, before getting into his SUV and racing off, followed by his entourage.

But Kidal isn't really welcoming at all. Half of its residents have fled to Mauretania or Niger, and Islamic police in pickup trucks patrol the streets. The market is closed, and women are no longer permitted to go out in public alone in the city.  The men were instructed to grow beards. Those who do not obey the muezzin's call to prayer are either whipped or jailed for three days. Listening to the radio is banned, and the new rulers have simply sawed off satellite dishes on the roofs of houses.

 

Yacouba Mahamane Maiga is dozing under a tree. He is wearing a washed out T-shirt and shorts. He was one of the richest men in the city before the Islamists came to Kidal. "I can't stand any of this anymore," he says, making a fist and pointing it in the direction of the boys with the Kalashnikovs. Before the takeover, his construction company had just been hired to build a new prison and a new courthouse, both government contracts worth millions. Maiga invested €1.5 million ($1.9 million) in new excavators and cranes.

 

But there has been no construction in Kidal since the Islamists arrived, and Maiga is forced to look on as his country falls apart. His machines are covered in desert dust, and his employees have fled. "I worked with these hands my entire life," he says. "Those stupid Salafists." He refuses to take them very seriously and isn't fooled by their piety. He calls them bandits, not holy warriors.

Tirades in public can be dangerous. The Islamic police are everywhere, and yet Maiga no longer makes any effort to hide his anger. There are more than 20 ethnic groups in Mali, and until now, Muslims, Christians and animists coexisted peacefully. Religion was always a private matter, says Maiga. He is convinced that the Islamists have no popular support, and he says that the people of Kidal are tired of being pushed around by adolescents.

Maimouna Wallet Zeidane, 27, is one of the people who are trying to organize the resistance that is popping up everywhere. When it was still allowed, she was very athletic and shared a two-room apartment with her boyfriend in the Etambar neighborhood. Now she lives alone. Thugs with Ansar Dine wanted to cut off her boyfriend's hands, because they were living together. He has since fled to Algeria. "We live in 2012. How can they try to turn back time to the days of the Prophet?" Zeidane asks.

She wears jeans and a T-shirt at home, but if she wore such clothing outside she would be beaten with a stick. She has spread out sheets of paper in her living room and started writing out slogans. One reads: "Islamists = Drug Dealers." There is a knock at the door, and she quickly puts away the paper. "If the Islamic police find this here, they'll burn down the building." She puts a veil over her head and opens the door, by only a crack at first, but then all the way. Three women, her fellow campaigners, walk into the apartment. They call themselves the "Kidal Amazons." The group also consists of 250 women, and it grows larger at every demonstration, they say.

They'll be back on the streets in a few days, holding up their banners, in the middle of the Islamic city of Kidal. They'll risk beatings, each consisting of at least 40 lashes with a stick or a whip, and they'll go to prison. But Zeidane is determined to take that risk. The Islamists have destroyed her life, and she is no longer afraid of the men with the beards and guns. "They should all burn in hell," she says.

 

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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Losing Yemen: Gregory Johnsen, Foreign Policy,  Nov. 5, 2012—AQAP has repeatedly tried to strike the United States — with a pair of parcel bombs in 2010 and another underwear bomb that was uncovered in early 2012 — while the United States has responded with ramped-up drone and air strikes along with increased economic aid to the central government in Sanaa.

 

Saudi Arabia – Yemen Border Dispute: Chris Murphy, ICE Case Studies,  Nov., 2006—Even though a common border was delineated by the Taif Treaty in 1934, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have had continued conflict over the issue. The possible oil reserves, civil war, and Saudi interventions in Yemeni politics have driven the conflict for much of the last century.

 

Remote U.S. Base At Core Of Secret Operations: Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, October 25, 2012—Around the clock, about 16 times a day, drones take off or land at a U.S. military base here, the combat hub for the Obama administration’s counterterrorism wars in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.

 

In Yemen Trading Girls Is Economical: Hind Aleryani, NOW Lebanon, December 10, 2012 —Exchange, or tradeoff, marriages provide a suitable solution to address the problem of high dowries and dire living conditions in Yemen. Basically, whoever is unable to pay the dowry of the girl he wants marry has to offer his sister to be married to the bride’s brother. Both men thus avoid paying dowries, while the bridegroom’s sister is denied her right to choose her husband, or even her right to a dowry.

 

 

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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