Tag: Muslim World

EUROPE: UNENDING CRITIQUES OF ISRAEL, IGNORING MUSLIM HUMAN RIGHTS CRIMES

 

Lest We Forget: Dieppe, August 19, 1942
Sunday, August 19 marks the 70th anniversary of the tragic World War II Dieppe raid, codenamed Operation Jubilee, which was aimed against the heavily-fortified German-occupied port town on the northeastern French coast.
EU politicians ignore Muslim world’s crimes
Western countries are signatories of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention. This agreement aims to prevent future genocide, which is the greatest crime in the world.
EU "Upgrades" Relations with Israel, Strangling Strings Attached
The European Union has upgraded trade and diplomatic relations with Israel in more than 60 activities and fields, including agriculture, energy and immigration.
2012 Brussels Declaration
The International Conference for Free Speech and Human Rights [was held] on July 9, 2012 at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, sponsored by the International Civil Liberties Alliance.

On Topic Links

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LEST WE FORGET: DIEPPE, AUGUST 19, 1942
Frederick Krantz

 

Sunday, August 19 marks the 70th anniversary of the tragic World War II Dieppe raid, codenamed Operation Jubilee, which was aimed against the heavily-fortified German-occupied port town on the northeastern French coast.

 

          Largely a Canadian operation—5,000 of the 6,000 troops ferried to the chalk-cliffed Dieppe beach were Canadians, of whom 913 were killed, and 1,946 taken prisoner—Dieppe proved an almost complete disaster. The Germans, already aware of an earlier, postponed July invasion date, were alerted to the actual attack by a German convoy in the Channel, which had intercepted the approaching Allied troop-carrier and destroyer-escort flotilla. 

 

   The raid was poorly planned and led.  British general Montgomery, who had initially supported it, urged, unsuccessfully, that it be cancelled; the leading field officers were inexperienced and, in several key cases, simply incompetent.  All 29 tanks brought along, unable to navigate the “dingle”, the pebbly shale of the beach area, were destroyed. The destroyers’ small guns lacked sufficient suppressive firepower; air-cover was ineffective, with many Allied planes shot down.

 

   Andrew Roberts, in his recent The Storm of War, notes “the intelligence was faulty, the planning flawed, and the results little short of catastrophic.”

 

   Many explanations have been adduced for the raid, none entirely satisfying.  Some historians argue it was in part a sop to Russian pressure for a “Second Front” (Churchill had been exposed to Stalin’s  demands, and rants, on this score in Moscow earlier in August ).

 

   Others think it was a kind of experimental rehearsal for the “real” thing, (Overlord, in Normandy in June, 1944,), with important lessons learned—the need for massive preparatory air and naval firepower, avoidance of landing in a fortified port.   Yet others reject this as a poor post hoc rationale for an unmitigated disaster.

 

   Some–noting the clearly insufficient preparation and supporting force—explain Dieppe as a consciously sacrificial operation (for its Allied planners, not for the troops), a dramatic initiative meant to mollify an increasingly critical  British and American public and media  demanding  aggressive Allied military action in Europe.

 

   Recent scholarship has even noted the possible role of the Dieppe raid as a diversionary “feint” enabling commandos to land behind the beach-head in order either to capture secret German radar, or one of the recently-revised German “Enigma” code-machines frustrating secret  Allied radio intercepts.

 

   Seven surviving Canadian veterans, several of whom passed WWII as German prisoners of war after Dieppe, attended the recent, solemn seventieth anniversary memorial gathering in the French town. As 95-year-old Donatien Vaillancourt, of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, observed, “The Germans were waiting for us for three days. They knew we were coming. They were all in position…” .

 

   Measured against the  millions of military, let alone civilian, deaths of World War II, Canada’s losses at Dieppe  pale into relative insignificance.  Yet the brave men who fell, and those few still with us, played their part in defeating the Nazi-German murderers, and they deserve to be remembered. (Top)
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EU POLITICIANS IGNORE MUSLIM WORLD’S CRIMES

Manfred Gerstenfeld

Ynetnews 17 August 2012

 

Western countries are signatories of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention. This agreement aims to prevent future genocide, which is the greatest crime in the world. It also includes the commitment to act against incitement to genocide by a state. Such a transgressing nation may then be referred to an international court. However, hardly any European politicians reacted to the recent renewed calls for the annihilation of Israel by Iranian leaders. This goal can only be achieved by the genocide of Israel’s citizens. Conclusion: Many European politicians do not care much about major international laws when they are in Israel’s favor.

 

Furthermore, the European Union refused once again to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The EU however, does care a bit about human rights. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, keeps herself disproportionately busy by condemning Israel if it does something against her liking.

 

One key element of European multiculturalism is to look away as much as possible from criminality in the Muslim world, even if it is major. There are many manifestations of this. A journalist from a foreign broadcasting organization in Israel told me: "I have seen foreign correspondents with tears in their eyes when they saw Palestinian olive trees destroyed by Israelis. The same people made a major effort to explain away terrorist murders of Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists."

 

In the morally degraded European political environment, the rare politician who addresses Muslim states’ transgressions of the Genocide Convention merits mention. A Dutch Parliamentarian, Wim Kortenoeven, who has recently left the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, put forward some frank questions to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs.

 

 He wrote, "Do you share the opinion that the calls by President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian functionaries concerning the annihilation of Israel and thus genocide against its inhabitants, are a transgression of Article 3 of the Convention of Prevention and Punishment of Genocide? If not, why not?"

 

Kortenoeven also asked whether the minister took these calls for genocide seriously and added: "If not, why not?" He furthermore wanted to know how the Dutch government reacted to the latest Iranian call for genocide and what concrete actions the minister intended to undertake. He also inquired whether the minister was willing to request from states whose ambassadors had heard the speech of Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to publicly disassociate themselves from this call. He asked the minister if he was not willing to do so, to explain why.

 

 Kortenoeven furthermore inquired whether the size of the Iranian Embassy in The Hague was proportional to actual relations between Iran and the Netherlands? If not, would the minster be willing to expel these non-essential functionaries? His questions were accompanied by detailed background material.

 

The Israeli government could have acted forcefully in the Iranian matter in two directions. It could have tried to get more questions asked in Western parliaments regarding the points raised by Kortenoeven. Additionally, it could have exposed the huge failure of the European Union and its member states to address many of the major crimes in Muslim countries.

 

 Such Israeli action is all the more important as Europe finds itself at a critical junction. Its most visible element is the crisis concerning the Euro. Every few days additional problems emerge whereupon new stopgap measures are announced. The European leadership is clueless about these problems’ magnitude and how to solve them.

 

 This is leading to an even greater distrust by many Europeans in the democracy-deficient European Union and in their own politicians. People’s fear about their future grows. In the short term, many worry about keeping their jobs. In the long term, they fear for the nature of the society they will live in.

This psychological climate has both risks and opportunities for Israel. The crisis in societal institutions has always been dangerous for Jews and is now so for Israel also. One threat comes from the entrance of populist parties into national parliaments. Some are neo-fascist, or even neo-Nazi, such as the Hungarian Jobbik and the Greek Golden Dawn.

 

Others have anti-Semites in their ranks, such as the German Pirate Party which is likely to enter Parliament in the next election. Others attack Jewish ritual customs, such as ritual slaughter or circumcision. On the other hand, at a time when there is increasing disaffection with Europe, one can also mobilize Israel’s friends to show how many European bodies mistreat Israel. This requires thought and a clear agenda. Otherwise, one is dependent upon individual initiatives by a few ardent supporters, such as Kortenoeven.

 

The Israeli government has taken economic measures to anticipate and diminish fallout from the world’s growing economic crisis. There is however, far more to be considered than plain economics.(Top)
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EU "UPGRADES" RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL, 
STRANGLING STRINGS ATTACHED

Soeren Kern

Gatestone Institute, August 3, 2012

 

The European Union has upgraded trade and diplomatic relations with Israel in more than 60 activities and fields, including agriculture, energy and immigration.

 

 The upgrade, which comes amid a barrage of unending criticism of Israel's policies, in fact appears aimed at increasing Israel's economic dependence on the European Union, with the objective of enhancing the bloc's leverage over the State of Israel. Authored by EU delegations to the Palestinian Authority, the document includes severe recommendations meant to strengthen Palestinian control over East Jerusalem and coerce Israel to change its policy in the West Bank. The document is unprecedented in that it deals with internal Israeli issues.

 

But the wide-ranging boost to bilateral relations, which was announced at the annual EU-Israel Association Council meeting in Brussels on July 24, is unlikely to end the deep-seated hostility European officialdom harbors towards the Jewish state.

 

As a whole, the package stops short of the full upgrade in relations that were frozen after Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip in January 2009, but is highly significant nonetheless. Among other measures, the European Union will remove obstacles impeding Israel's access to European government-controlled markets and enhance Israel's co-operation with nine key EU agencies, including the European Police Office (Europol), the EU's Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

 

Notably absent from the package is the Agreement on Conformity, Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA), a trade agreement that seeks to eliminate technical barriers to trade in industrial products, with the objective of increasing European access to Israeli markets, and vice-versa.…

 

In any event, the official EU statement announcing the upgrade in bilateral relations is also replete with condescending criticism of Israel, which the EU accuses of perpetrating a wide range of human rights abuses in the "occupied Palestinian territory (oPt)" and within Israel itself.

 

Among other items, the statement refers to Israel's obligation to protect the rights of the Arab-Palestinian minority, stressing the "importance to address it as a core problem in its own right." The document also condemns the "excessive recourse by Israel to administrative detention."

 

The EU urges Israel "to refrain from actions which may…curtail the freedom of association and freedom of speech (of civil society)" and it calls on Israel to prosecute "settler extremists" for their "continuous violence and deliberate provocations against Palestinian civilians."

 

The statement "stresses Israel's obligations regarding the living conditions of the Palestinian population" and condemns "developments on the ground which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible, such as, inter alia, the marked acceleration of settlement construction, ongoing evictions of Palestinians and the demolition of their housing and infrastructure in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), including East Jerusalem, the worsening living conditions of the Palestinian population and serious limitations for the Palestinian Authority to promote the economic development of Palestinian communities, in particular in Area C."…

 

The statement comes amid a wave of official EU criticism of Israel that is often one-sided, disproportionate and bordering on obsessive. In July, for example, the European Parliament passed a highly biased resolution accusing Israel of literally dozens of offenses against the Palestinian population, Palestinian institutions and even Arab Bedouins.…The resolution even accuses Israel of "creating an institutional and leadership vacuum in the local Palestinian population."

 

In June, EU "Foreign Minister" Catherine Ashton, who has a well-earned reputation for making statements that seek to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state, criticized Israeli policies that "are illegal under international law and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible." Since assuming her post in December 2009, Ashton has never criticized Palestinian obstructionism and their setting impossible preconditions for entering genuine peace talks with Israel. (In March, Ashton [in]famously equated the killing of three children at a Jewish school in France with "what is happening in Gaza.")

 

In May, the EU's 27 foreign ministers unanimously condemned "the ongoing evictions and house demolitions in East Jerusalem, changes to the residency status of Palestinians…the prevention of peaceful Palestinian cultural, economic, social or political activities…the worsening living conditions of the Palestinian population…of jeopardizing the major achievements of the Palestinian Authority in state-building…the continuous settler violence and deliberate provocations against Palestinian civilians…" But nowhere does the document call on the Palestinian Authority to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, a move that arguably more than any other would advance Palestinian aspirations for statehood.

 

In January 2012, the EU published a document called "The EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem" which makes an urgent plea for the EU to adopt a more "active and visible" implementation of its policy towards Israel and the peace process. Authored by EU delegations to the Palestinian Authority, the document includes severe recommendations meant to strengthen Palestinian control over East Jerusalem and coerce Israel to change its policy in the West Bank.…

 

The report includes a radical proposal for "appropriate EU legislation to prevent/discourage financial transactions in support of settlement activity." Under the proposal, the European Commission would use legislation to force European companies to stop doing business with companies involved in settlement construction and commercial activities. Recommendations include the preparation of a "blacklist" of settlers considered violent in order to consider later the option of banning them from entering the European Union.…

 

In December 2011, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz obtained a classified working paper produced by European embassies in Israel, which recommended that the European Union…The document is unprecedented in that it deals with internal Israeli issues. According to European diplomats and senior Foreign Ministry officials quoted by Ha’aretz, the document was written and sent to EU headquarters in Brussels behind the back of the Israeli government.…

 

While the EU continues to exert pressure on Israel, Jerusalem has been unable to extract meaningful concessions from Brussels. For example, the EU has once again rejected an Israeli request that the bloc designate the Lebanon-based Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

 

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently launched a new diplomatic push to convince the EU to outlaw Hezbollah following the murders of five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver on July 18. Israel blames Hezbollah for the suicide bombing at Bulgaria's Burgas airport.

 

Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, whose country currently heads the EU presidency, said there is "no consensus among the EU member states for putting Hezbollah on the terrorist list of the organization," and claimed that there is "no tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism."

 

Lieberman has also failed to persuade Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, to "intervene" on Israel's behalf in a controversy regarding Tunisia's desire to include a clause in its new constitution making normalized relations with Israel a criminal offense.

 

As these examples and many others indicate, Israel should be under no illusion that the recent "upgrading" of bilateral relations with the European Union will end European hostility toward the Jewish state. Quite to the contrary; Israel should be expecting an increase in European meddling in its internal affairs.(Top)

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2012 BRUSSELS DECLARATION

International Civil Liberties Alliance

Liberties Alliance, July 9, 2012

 

[The International Conference for Free Speech and Human Rights [was held] on July 9, 2012 at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, sponsored by the International Civil Liberties Alliance. Representatives of 18 countries, the majority being from Europe but with the participation of Coptic Christians from Egypt as well as former Muslims, met to discuss the ongoing Islamization of Europe and the Western world and how to preserve our basic civil liberties….Among the highlights of the conference was the presentation and signing of the 2012 Brussels Declaration, a foundational document to defend freedom of speech and civil liberties: —Ed].

 

“To Preserve Free Speech, Civil Liberties, Human Rights and Democracy, against all efforts to injure and usurp those universal principles, we call upon leaders in all nations to support this 2012 Brussels Declaration to Safeguard Individual Liberties and Human Rights:

 

Reasserting that Human rights and liberties are universal, individual, equal, inalienable, and self-evident irrespective of philosophical, cultural or religious considerations, as a matter of long-held principle;

Considering that any honest defender of Democracy has the right and the duty to uphold and defend free speech, civil liberties and human rights;

 

Affirming the irrefutable fact that sharia law as articulated and applied is incompatible with and destructive to free speech, civil liberties and human rights and as such is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy (as stated in the 13 Feb 2003 judgment of the ECHR);

 

Acknowledging that the declaration known as “Cairo Declaration of Human Right in Islam” also commonly referred to as the “Cairo Declaration” curtails all human rights under sharia law and sharia normative behavior restrictions (CDHRI Articles 22, 23, 24) on the pretense that “All human beings form one family whose members are united by their subordination to Allah” (CDHRI Article 1);

 

Observing that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), being the creator of Cairo Declaration and its current main proponent has, by its continuous and single-minded activity, proven to be the principal international politico-religious organization working to restrict free speech, civil liberties and human rights and to enforce sharia in the world;

 

Asserting that any official endorsement or promotion of the Cairo Declaration or any cooperation with OIC that leads, by the test of consequences, to more enforcement of sharia anywhere in the world identifies its perpetrator as an active opponent of Democracy, freedom of speech, civil liberties and human rights;

 

Noting that such an identification renders illegitimate any attempt by the perpetrator to discuss or negotiate matters involving freedom of speech, civil liberties and human rights in any local, national or international forums;

 

The signatories solemnly require of their governments and civil society:

 

To commence a process, to be known as the Brussels Process, to implement the content of this declaration through education and policy initiatives at all levels of government and sectors of civil society, in order to safeguard the future liberties and rights of our nations and our children, so that all members of the human family may prosper as free individuals.

 

To decline any invitation to participate in any local, national or international forum to discuss civil liberties, free speech or human rights, if the organizers – individual persons or organizations – are known proponents of the Cairo Declaration or societal sharia enforcement…

 

To protest against any kind of participation in a local, national or international meeting dedicated to civil liberties, free speech or human rights’ discussions or negotiations by any known proponents of the Cairo Declaration or societal sharia enforcements…

 

To initiate a thorough inquiry before any bilateral or multilateral cooperation about civil liberties, free speech or human rights related matters, in order to clearly identify any participants who are proponents for the Cairo Declaration or sharia law, or who have cooperated or collaborated with the OIC or its associated organizations.

 

To reject and forbid any public funding for promotion of the Cairo Declaration or of any sharia societal implementation and enforcement…

 

To stop any cooperation with all known proponents of the Cairo Declaration at a national or international level, when that cooperation has as its aim or result, a restriction of civil liberties, free speech or human rights in a democratic country, until those proponents repudiate the Cairo Declaration.

 

To extend cooperation and support in all forums to former proponents of the Cairo Declaration who repudiate the suppression by the OIC and sharia law of civil liberties, free speech and human rights, and who assert that human rights and liberties are universal, individual, equal, inalienable, and self-evident irrespective of philosophical, cultural or religious considerations.

 

To engage with civil society and official organizations that work to safeguard individual liberties from suppression by shariah law,…[and] to encourage dialogue, education and understanding on individual liberties and human rights, as these terms have been commonly used historically in Western nations as understood before the Cairo Declaration.(Top)

On Topic Links

ARAB SPRING: HEADED FOR A BLOODY FALL?

ARAB SPRING DRIFTS INTO SUMMER STALEMATES
Brian Murphy & Barbara Surk

Huffington Post, July 14, 2011

 

Among the protest banners in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was a hand-drawn map of the Arab Spring with black target symbols covering each country hit by anti-government uprisings since the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt were ousted earlier this year.

But the bull’s-eyes could easily be replaced with question marks as the groundswell for change has splintered into scattered and indecisive conflicts that have left thousands dead and Western policymakers juggling roles from NATO airstrikes in Libya to worried bystanders in Syria and Yemen.

The stalemates could shift into a deeper holding pattern in August during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when the pace of daily life traditionally slows as the Islamic world observes a dawn-to-dusk fast and other customs such as temporary truces.

It’s a huge and traumatic undertaking to shove aside regimes with decades in power—and sway over nearly every decision down to who gets hired as street sweeper. Iran did it with the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and the American-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein cleaned the slate for Iraq and ushered in years of near civil war.

But no such wholesale change appears in the pipeline with the present revolts. That has raised concern that even if the leaders fall, the pillars of the regimes could survive, as happened when military rulers took temporary control after Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak stepped down.

“Half revolution doesn’t work,” a headline last week in Egypt’s Al-Ahram Al-Massai newspaper said after demonstrators returned to Tahrir Square to press for swifter political reforms and bolder legal action against officials from Mubarak’s regime who were accused of corruption and killing protesters.

But even a halfway mark appears farther along than most of the rebellions against the Mideast’s old guard.

Cores of loyal security forces in Yemen and Syria keep the regimes hanging on despite relentless protests. In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi could face a moment of truth as rebels press closer to the capital Tripoli and NATO warplanes hammer military sites, yet the anti-Gadhafi militias have no clear leader to prevent possible power grabs to control the country’s oil riches if he is ousted.

The country where the Arab Spring began, Tunisia, has been shaken by unrest—including a rise in ultraconservative Islamists—ahead of planned elections in October to elect an assembly that will write a new constitution. Some political groups are urging further delays in the election to give new parties a chance to organize.

Egypt, meanwhile, is questioning when—or if—the ruling military council will surrender power. The caretaker rulers [have] effectively announced a delay of the elections.…

In tiny Bahrain authorities apparently tipped the scales clearly in their favor. Security forces—aided by Saudi-led reinforcements—smothered an uprising by the kingdom’s majority Shiites seeking greater rights from the Sunni rulers. A so-called “national dialogue” began this month, but it’s unlikely that the 200-year-old ruling dynasty will give up any significant hold on power and may need a heavy hand to keep Shiite-led protests from reigniting.

“It’s not over, but we are in an ugly situation now,” said Christopher Davidson, a lecturer on Middle East and Gulf affairs at Britain’s Durham University. That’s why the definition of the Arab Spring is increasingly being stretched.…

 

BALLOTS, BULLETS AND OBAMA’S ROLE
IN RENASCENT MUSLIM WORLD
Raphael Israeli

Jerusalem Magazine, July 13, 2011

 

A plethora of self-righteous rhetoric has been wasted on the Arab Spring with the attending dominance of ballots over bullets, although until now there have scarcely been signs of a spring per se.

Initially, there were high hopes for democracy to triumph in places where non-authoritarian forms of government have hitherto never existed. Instead however, in one case after another, hopes have been shattered with the primacy of bullets overwhelming any attempts for new democracies to emerge. And due to his nonsensical policies, [U.S.] President Barack Obama—apparent leader of the free world—is inadvertently supporting the supremacy of bullets.

Democracy is not only about elections and voting rights. In some countries, including Iraq and Lebanon, elections have been known to give rise to massacres. But even in cases where votes are not rigged and elections are conducted peacefully, various political struggles still arise. Take Turkey for example, where elections invariably hail a string of arrests—particularly of journalists—and a denial of civil rights coupled with McCarthy-esque stifling of the opposition or imposed Islamization. Ironically, such acts often appeal to the most uneducated strata of these societies, which subsequently constitute the base of political parties in the main—as is the case of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party.

In 2008 in Lebanon, Hezbollah, the proxy of Iran and Syria, took over Beirut and its communication centers by force and then imposed its minority vote on the cabinet by threatening the use of more force. This was an attempt to scuttle any moves to arrest the Hezbollah-protected murderers of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the leader that came closest to forming a democratically-elected majority government.

Paradoxically, more than any other country, the US—which ostensibly claims to democratize those countries by ballots—has contributed to spreading the use of bullets instead. Take Syria and Libya as examples. Prior to President Obama’s non-policy of engagement in the Middle East, the tough and demanding policy of the Bush administration was paying off: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been under siege; forced out of Lebanon, he was isolated both politically and economically, and under pressure to retreat from his axis with Iran.

But then Obama began courting Muslims with sycophantic gestures of friendship, including reinstating his ambassador in Damascus, prostrating before the Saudi king—the most reactionary monarch in the Middle East—and finally allowing the Turks to sacrifice Israel—their democratic ally in the region—for the prize of acquiring new authoritarian allies in Iran and Syria.

As a result, Arab and Muslim dictators got the impression that since America was now their friend they could do as they jolly well pleased.…

As for Assad, well he began to massacre his own people at will, and when this began to become a sticky issue he sent Palestinians to challenge Israel’s borders as a deflection. Reinforced by US consent—implicit in its silence—King Abdullah and other leaders in Gulf States are dispatching their troops to quell protestors in Bahrain. In Lebanon, the Hezbollah effectively have carte blanche to reverse anything achieved by the Bush administration.…

The Obama administration—which no longer dares to call a spade a spade and dissimulates the mounting Islamic violence as “a minority of extremists,” is getting further and further away from the previous administration’s mission; the current administration has unwittingly shrunk the lexicon of viable terminology for terrorists—thereby changing the face of Bush’s “war on terror.”

This has allowed the Muslim world to once again slide into the familiar game of bullet-policy.

 

WILL TURMOIL DRAG LIBYA’S REBELS UNDER?
Jackson Diehl

Washington Post, July 31, 2011

 

Until last Thursday, Libya was beginning to look like the relative good news in the troubled summer that has followed the Arab Spring. The United States and more than 30 other governments had recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC), based in the rebel capital of Benghazi, as Libya’s legitimate government. Its military forces appeared to be slowly gaining ground against those of Moammar Gaddafi, who was isolated in Tripoli.

Two senior members of the TNC touring Washington last week talked cheerily about their plans to stabilize the country after Gaddafi’s departure and quickly install a liberal democracy. “Libya is actually the easy case,” one veteran Washington democracy expert enthused to me after hearing them speak.

Then came the sudden killing on Thursday of Abdul Fatah Younis, the TNC’s senior military commander, under still-unexplained—and very troubling—circumstances. The murder plunged the new government and its capital into turmoil, and raised urgent questions in NATO capitals about whether the TNC or its ragtag army were in danger of crumbling.

It also illustrated one of the enduring themes of the uprisings across the Middle East: the constant tension between the yearning for modernism—for democracy and personal freedom—that is driving a huge rising generation into the streets, and the atavistic forces of tribalism, sectarianism, corruption and autocracy that keep threatening to drag the revolutions under.

Younis, the Libyan rebel commander, appears to be a victim of what might be called the Old Middle East undertow. It’s not yet known exactly who killed him or why, but we do know that he had been called to Benghazi by elements of the rebel leadership to answer unspecified questions about his behavior and was murdered by fighters escorting him. Angry demonstrations by members of Younis’s Obeidi tribe hinted at the internecine conflict that some experts believe may be the most serious threat to a post-Gaddafi Libya.…

The Old Middle East has pulled [the TNC’s] military commander under. In Libya, as in so much of the region this summer, it’s an open question whether a new Arab order can survive that undertow.

 

CAUTION: STORM APPROACHING
Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, July 15, 2011

It was seven months ago that Mohammed Bouazizi, a vegetable peddler in Tunisia, set himself and the Arab world on fire. The 26- year-old staged his suicidal protest on the steps of the local city hall after a municipal inspector took away his unlicensed vegetable cart, thus denying him the ability to feed his family of eight.

Most depictions of the Arab revolutions that followed his act have cast them as struggles for freedom and good government. These depictions miss the main cause of these political upheavals. No doubt millions of Arabs are upset about the freedom deficit in Arab lands. But the fact is that economics has played a decisive role in all of them.

In Bouazizi’s case, his self-immolation was provoked by financial desperation. And if current trends continue, the revolutionary ferment we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg.

Moreover, the political whirlwind will not be contained in the Middle East.

Most of the news coming out about Egypt today emanates from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. There the protesters continue to demand ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s head on a platter alongside the skulls of his sons, business associates, advisors and everyone else who prospered under his rule. While the supposedly liberal democratic protesters’ swift descent into bloodlust is no doubt worth noting, the main reason these protesters continue to gain so much international attention is because they are easy to find. A reporter looking for a story’s failsafe option is to mosey on over to the square and put a microphone into the crowd.

But while easily accessible, the action at Tahrir Square is not Egypt’s most important story. The most important, strategically consequential story is that Egypt is rapidly going broke. By the end of the year, the military dictatorship will likely not only default on Egypt’s loans; Field Marshal Tantawi and his deputies will almost certainly be unable to feed the Egyptian people.

Some raw statistics are in order here.

Among Egypt’s population of 80 million, some 32 million are illiterate. They engage in subsistence farming that is too inefficient to support them. Egypt needs to import half of its food.

As David Goldman, (aka Spengler), reported in Asia Times Online, in May the International Monetary Fund warned of the impending economic collapse of non-oil exporting Arab countries saying, “In the current baseline scenario the external financing needs of the region’s oil importers is projected to exceed $160 billion during 2011-13.” Goldman noted, “That’s almost three years’ worth of Egypt’s total annual imports as of 2010.”

Since Mubarak was overthrown in February, Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have plummeted from $36b. to $25b.-28b.… As Goldman explained, the problem is capital flight. Due in no small part to the protesters in Tahrir Square calling for the arrest of all those who did business with the former regime, Egypt’s wealthy and foreign investors are taking their money out of the country.

At the Arab Banking Summit in Rome last month, Jordan’s Finance Minister Mohammed Abu Hammour warned, “There is capital flight and $500 million a week is leaving the Arab world.” According to Goldman, “Although Hammour did not mention countries in his talk…most of the capital flight is coming from Egypt, and at an annual rate roughly equal to Egypt’s remaining reserves.”

What this means is that in a few short months, Egypt will be unable to pay for its imports. And consequently, it will be unable to feed its people.

Egypt is far from alone. Take Syria. There, too, capital is fleeing the country as the government rushes to quell the mass anti-regime protests.

Just as Egyptian and Tunisian protesters hoped that a new regime would bring them more freedom, so the mass protests sweeping Syria are in part due to politics. But like in Egypt and Tunisia, Syria’s economic woes are dictating much of what is happening on the ground and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Last month, Syrian President Bashar Assad gave a speech warning of “weakness or collapse of the Syrian economy.” As a report last month by Reuters explained, the immediate impact of Assad’s speech was capital flight and the devaluation of the Syrian pound by 8 percent.

For the past decade, Assad has been trying to liberalize the Syrian economy. He enacted some free market reforms, opened a stock exchange and attempted to draw foreign investment to the country. While largely unsuccessful in alleviating Syria’s massive poverty, these reforms did enable the country a modest growth rate of around 2.5% per year.

In response to the mass protests threatening his regime, Assad has effectively ended his experiment with the free market. He fired his government minister in charge of the economic reforms and put all the projects on hold. Instead, according to a report this week in Syria Today, the government has steeply increased public sector wages and offered 100,000 temporary workers full-time contracts. The Syrian government also announced a 25% cut in the price of diesel fuel, at a cost to the government of $527m. per year.… As Reuters reported, the government has been forced to spend $70m.-$80m. a week to buck up the local currency. So between protecting the Syrian pound and paying for political loyalty, the Assad regime is quickly drying up Syria’s treasury.

In the event the regime is overthrown, a successor regime will face the sure prospect of economic collapse, much as the Egyptian regime does. And in the event that Assad remains in power, he will continue to reap the economic whirlwind of what he has sown in the form of political instability and violence.

What this means is that we can expect continued political turmoil in both countries as they are consumed by debt and tens of millions of people face the prospect of starvation. This political turmoil can be expected to give rise to dangerous if unknowable military developments.

Poor Arab nations such as Egypt and Syria are far from the only ones facing economic disaster. The $3b. loan the IMF offered Egypt may be among the last loans of that magnitude the IMF is able to offer because quite simply, European lenders are themselves staring into the economic abyss.

Greece’s debt crisis is not a local problem. It now appears increasingly likely that the EU is going to have to accept Greece defaulting on at least part of its debt.… Worse still, the banking crisis will only intensify in the wake of a Greek default. Debt pressure on Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, which are all also on the brink of defaulting on their debts, will grow. Italy is Europe’s fourth largest economy. Its debt is about the size of Germany’s.

If Italy goes into default, the implications for the European and US banking systems—and for their economies generally—will be devastating.

The current debt-ceiling negotiations between US President Barack Obama and the Republican congressional leadership have made it apparent that Obama is ideologically committed to increasing government spending and taxes in the face of a weak economy. If Obama is reelected next year, the dire implications of four more years of his economic policies for the US and global economies cannot be overstated.

Due to the economic policies implemented by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu since his first tenure as prime minister in 1996-99, in the face of this economic disaster, Israel is likely to find itself in the unlikely position of standing along China and India as among the only stable, growing economies in the world. Israel’s banking sector is largely unexposed to European debt. Israel’s gross external debt is 44% of GDP. This compares well not only to European debt levels of well over 100% of GDP but to the US debt level, which stands at 98% of GDP.…

Israel’s economy is likely to remain one of the country’s most valuable strategic assets. Just as economic prosperity allowed Israel to absorb the cost of the Second Lebanon War with barely a hiccup, so continued economic growth will play a key role in protecting it from the economically induced political upheavals likely to ensue throughout much of the Arab world and Europe.

Aside from remaining economically responsible, as Israel approaches the coming storms it is important for it to act with utmost caution politically. It must adopt policies that provide it with the most maneuver room and the greatest deterrent force.

First and foremost, this means that it is imperative that Israel not commit itself to any agreements with any Arab regime. In 1977, the Camp David Agreement with then-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, in which Israel surrendered the strategically invaluable Sinai for a peace treaty, seemed like a reasonable gamble. In 2011, a similar agreement with Assad or with the Palestinian Authority, (whose budget is largely financed from international aid), would be the height of strategic insanity.

Beyond that, with the rising double specter of Egyptian economic collapse and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power, Israel must prepare for the prospect of war with Egypt. Recently it was reported that IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz has opted to spread over several years Israel’s military preparations for a return to hostilities with Egypt. Gantz’s decision reportedly is due to his desire to avoid provoking Egypt with a rapid expansion of the IDF’s order of battle.

Gantz’s caution is understandable. But it is unacceptable. Given the escalating threats emanating from Egypt—not the least of which is the expanding security vacuum in Sinai—Israel must prepare for war now.

So, too, with the US’s weak economy, Obama’s Muslim Brotherhood-friendly foreign policy, and Europe’s history of responding to economic hardship with xenophobia, Israel’s need to develop the means of militarily defending itself from a cascade of emerging threats becomes all the more apparent.

The economic storms may pass by Israel. But the political tempests they unleash will reach us.

To emerge safely from what is coming, Israel needs to hunker down and prepare for the worst.

“LEADING FROM BEHIND” – U.S. FOREIGN POLICY, FROM LIBYA TO SYRIA, EGYPT TO IRAN

 

THE OBAMA DOCTRINE: LEADING FROM BEHIND
Charles Krauthammer
Washington Post, April 28, 2011

 

Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the president’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.”—Ryan Lizza, the New Yorker, May 2 issue

To be precise, leading from behind is a style, not a doctrine. Doctrines involve ideas, but since there are no discernible ones that make sense of Obama foreign policy—Lizza’s painstaking two-year chronicle shows it to be as ad hoc, erratic and confused as it appears—this will have to do.

And it surely is an accurate description, from President Obama’s shocking passivity during Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution to his dithering on Libya, acting at the very last moment, then handing off to a bickering coalition, yielding the current bloody stalemate. It’s been a foreign policy of hesitation, delay and indecision, marked by plaintive appeals to the (fictional) “international community” to do what only America can.

But underlying that style, assures this Obama adviser, there really are ideas. Indeed, “two unspoken beliefs,” explains Lizza. “That the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world.”

Amazing. This is why Obama is deliberately diminishing American presence, standing and leadership in the world?

Take proposition one: We must “lead from behind” because U.S. relative power is declining. Even if you accept the premise, it’s a complete non sequitur. What does China’s rising GDP have to do with American buck-passing on Libya, misjudging Iran, appeasing Syria?

True, China is rising. But first, it is the only power of any significance rising militarily relative to us. Russia is recovering from levels of military strength so low that it barely registers globally. And European power is in true decline (see Europe’s performance—excepting the British—in Afghanistan and its current misadventures in Libya).

And second, the challenge of a rising Chinese military is still exclusively regional. It would affect a war over Taiwan. It has zero effect on anything significantly beyond China’s coast. China has no blue-water navy. It has no foreign bases. It cannot project power globally. It might in the future—but by what logic should that paralyze us today?

Proposition two: We must lead from behind because we are reviled. Pray tell, when were we not? During Vietnam? Or earlier, under Eisenhower? When his vice president was sent on a goodwill trip to Latin America, he was spat upon and so threatened by the crowds that he had to cut short his trip. Or maybe later, under the blessed Reagan? The Reagan years were marked by vast demonstrations in the capitals of our closest allies denouncing America as a warmongering menace taking the world into nuclear winter.

“Obama came of age politically,” explains Lizza, “during the post-Cold War era, a time when America’s unmatched power created widespread resentment.” But the world did not begin with the coming to consciousness of Barack Obama. Cold War resentments ran just as deep.

It is the fate of any assertive superpower to be envied, denounced and blamed for everything under the sun. Nothing has changed. Moreover, for a country so deeply reviled, why during the massive unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan and Syria have anti-American demonstrations been such a rarity?

Who truly reviles America the hegemon? The world that Obama lived in and shaped him intellectually: the elite universities; his Hyde Park milieu (including his not-to-be-mentioned friends, William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn); the church he attended for two decades, ringing with sermons more virulently anti-American than anything heard in today’s full-throated uprising of the Arab Street.

It is the liberal elites who revile the American colossus and devoutly wish to see it cut down to size. Leading from behind—diminishing America’s global standing and assertiveness—is a reaction to their view of America, not the world’s.

Other presidents have taken anti-Americanism as a given, rather than evidence of American malignancy, believing—as do most Americans—in the rightness of our cause and the nobility of our intentions. Obama thinks anti-Americanism is a verdict on America’s fitness for leadership. I would suggest that “leading from behind” is a verdict on Obama’s fitness for leadership.

Leading from behind is not leading. It is abdicating. It is also an oxymoron. Yet a sympathetic journalist, channeling an Obama adviser, elevates it to a doctrine. The president is no doubt flattered. The rest of us are merely stunned.

 

AN OBAMA FOREIGN POLICY
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, June 20, 2011

 

Outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates is worried about the shape of things to come in US foreign policy. In an interview with Newsweek over the weekend, Gates sounded the warning bells.

In Gates’ words, “I’ve spent my entire adult life with the United States as a superpower, and one that had no compunction about spending what it took to sustain that position. It didn’t have to look over its shoulder because our economy was so strong. This is a different time.

“To tell you the truth, that’s one of the many reasons it’s time for me to retire, because frankly I can’t imagine being part of a nation, part of a government… that’s being forced to dramatically scale back our engagement with the rest of the world.”

What Gates is effectively saying is not that economic forecasts are gloomy. US defense spending comprises less than five percent of the federal budget. If US President Barack Obama wanted to maintain that level of spending, the Republican-controlled Congress would probably pass his defense budget. What Gates is saying is that he doesn’t trust his commander in chief to allocate the resources to preserve America’s superpower status. He is saying that he believes that Obama is willing to surrender the US’s status as a superpower.

This would be a stunning statement for any defense secretary to make about the policies of a US President. It is especially stunning coming from Gates. Gates began his tenure at the Pentagon under Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush immediately after the Republican defeat in the 2006 mid-term Congressional elections.

Many conservatives hailed Obama’s decision to retain Gates as defense secretary as a belated admission that Bush’s aggressive counter-terror policies were correct. These claims ignored the fact that in his last two years in office, with the exception of the surge of troops in Iraq, under the guidance of Gates and then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s foreign policies veered very far to the Left.

Gates’s role in shaping this radical shift was evidenced by the positions he took on the issues of the day in the two years leading up to his replacement of Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. In 2004, Gates co-authored a study for the Council on Foreign Relations with Israel foe Zbigniew Brzezinski calling for the US to draw closer to Iran at Israel’s expense.

Immediately before his appointment, Gates was a member of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. The group’s final report, released just as his appointment was announced, blamed Israel for the instability in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Its only clear policy recommendations involved pressuring Israel to surrender the Golan Heights to Syria and Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria to a Hamas-Fatah “national unity government.”

In office, Gates openly opposed the option of the US or Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear installations. He rejected Israel’s repeated requests to purchase weapons systems required to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. He openly signaled that the US would deny Israel access to Iraqi airspace. He supported American appeasement of the Iranian regime. And he divulged information about Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal and Israeli Air Force rehearsals of assaults on Iran.

A month before Russia’s August 2008 invasion of US ally Georgia, Gates released his National Defense Strategy which he bragged was a “blueprint for success” for the next administration. Ignoring indications of growing Russian hostility to US strategic interests—most clearly evidenced in Russia’s opposition to the deployment of US anti-missile batteries in the Czech Republic and Poland and in Russia’s strategic relations with Iran and Syria—Gates advocated building “collaborative and cooperative relations” with the Russian military. After Russia invaded Georgia, Gates opposed US action of any kind against Russia.

Given this track record, it was understandable that Obama chose to retain Gates at the Pentagon. To date, Obama’s only foreign policy that is distinct from Bush’s final years is his Israel policy. Whereas Bush viewed Israel as a key US ally and friend, from the first days of his administration, Obama has sought to “put daylight” between the US and Israel. He has repeatedly humiliated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He has abandoned the US’s quiet defense of Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal. He has continuously threatened to abandon US support for Israel at the UN.

Not only has Obama adopted the Palestinians’ increasingly hostile policies towards Israel. He has led them to those policies. It was Obama, not Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas, who first demanded that Israel cease respecting Jewish property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. It was Obama, not Abbas, who first called for the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2011. It was Obama, not Abbas, who first stipulated that future “peace” negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians must be predicated on Israel’s prior acceptance of the indefensible 1949 armistice lines as a starting point for talks.

All of these positions, in addition to Obama’s refusal to state outright that he rejects the Palestinian demand to destroy Israel through unlimited Arab immigration to its indefensible “peace” borders, mark an extreme departure from the Israel policies adopted by his predecessor.

Aside from its basic irrationality, Obama’s policy of favoring the Palestinians against the US’s most dependable ally in the Middle East is notable for its uniqueness. In every other area, his policies are aligned with those adopted by his predecessor… Obama’s courtship of Syria is different from Bush’s foreign policy. But guided by Rice and Gates, Bush was softening his position on Syria. For instance, Bush endorsed Rice’s insistence that Israel remain mum on the North Korean-built illicit nuclear installation at Deir-A-Zour that the Air Force destroyed in September 2007.

As for Egypt, as many senior Bush administration officials crowed, Obama’s abandonment of 30-year US ally Hosni Mubarak was of a piece with Bush’s democracy agenda.

Obama’s policy toward Libya is in many respects unique. It marks the first time since the War Powers Act passed into law 30 years ago that a US President has sent US forces into battle without seeking the permission of the US Congress. It is the first time that a president has openly subordinated US national interests to the whims of the UN and NATO and insisted on fighting a war that serves no clear US national interest… To a degree, it is the basic incoherence of Obama’s Libya policy that puts it in line with all of his other foreign policies except Israel. Those policies—from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay—are marked by inconsistencies. Like Libya, there is a strong sense that Obama’s foreign policy to date has not been guided by an overarching worldview but rather spring from ad hoc decisions with no guiding conceptual framework.

But if Gates’s words to Newsweek are any indication, all of this may be about to change. If Gates believed that Obama would continue to implement the policies of Bush’s last two years with minor exceptions while sticking it to Israel, he would likely not have spoken out against Obama’s policies so strongly. Apparently Gates believes that Obama’s foreign policy is about to undergo a radical transformation.

And this would make sense, particularly if, as Obama has said a number of times, he is more committed to transforming America than winning a second term in office… What Gates’s fiery departure indicates then is that for the rest of his term, Obama’s entire foreign policy is liable to be as radical a departure from Bush’s foreign policy as his Israel policy is. The war in Libya is a sign that things are changing. The fact that in recent months even Gates has taken to attacking Obama’s Iran policy as too soft, further attests to a radicalization at work.

Then there is Obama’s Afghanistan policy. When in 2009 Obama announced his surge and withdraw policy, Gates minimized the importance of Obama’s pledge to begin withdrawing US combat forces in July 2011. In recent months, Gates has joined US combat commanders in pleading with the White House not to begin the troop drawdown until next year. But to no avail… To date, Obama’s stewardship of US foreign policy has been marked by gross naivete, incompetence and a marked willingness to demean and weaken his country’s moral standing in the world. Imagine what will happen if in the next year and a half Obama embarks on a course that makes his Israel policy the norm rather than the exception in US foreign policy.

 

A REPUBLICAN FOREIGN POLICY
Bret Stephens
Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2011

 

What should the Republican Party stand for when it comes to the foreign policy of the United States?

Under Barack Obama, the impulse driving most major foreign policy decisions has been consensus: Consensus at the United Nations, where the administration has been notably reluctant to use its veto; consensus with the Arab League, whose views led to action against Libya but passivity toward Syria; consensus when it comes to arms control with Russia, or sanctions on Iran. Tellingly, the president’s one inarguable foreign policy success—killing bin Laden—was a purely unilateral action.

The GOP ought to have a different watchword for America and the world: credibility. The credibility of our promises, and of our threats. The credibility of the dollar, and of our debt. The credibility of our arms, and of our willingness, when decision is made, to use them to decisive effect. The Roman epigram that has become the unofficial motto of the Marine Corps sums it up nicely: “No better friend; no worse enemy.”… It is not credible to insist that a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable”—and then announce plans for the containment of a nuclear Iran. It is not credible to surge 30,000 troops to Afghanistan—and then provide the Taliban with a date certain for the beginning of our withdrawal. It is not credible to intervene in Libya on humanitarian grounds—while promising that Moammar Gadhafi is not a target (falsely, as it would turn out)… It is not credible to demand within days that Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, an ally of 30 years, step down—but make no such demand, after months of unrest, of Syria’s Bashar Assad, an enemy. It is not credible to assure Israel that the U.S. will not expect it to negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas—and then push Israel to adopt Mr. Obama’s negotiating formulas even as Hamas negotiates the terms of its entry into the government… I’ve probably missed a few items. You get the drift. So what’s a credible GOP alternative to the parade of Obama horribles?…

What would help is a Republican who says: Mr. Obama’s failure in Libya isn’t that he intervened to stop mass murder; it’s that he’s intervened so half-heartedly. It would help to explain that bin Laden’s death does not mean Mission Accomplished in Afghanistan and that an abrupt U.S. withdrawal would simply turbo-charge the Taliban on both sides of the AfPak border. Credibility requires that wars should be fought to a winning conclusion or not at all.

The U.S. would be credible if it desisted from pouring more diplomatic wine into the punctured jar that is the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” Or if it took serious steps to help overthrow the Assad regime, thereby depriving Iran of its principal ally in the Arab world and its link to Hezbollah in Lebanon… This list, too, goes on. In foreign policy, as in so much else in life, credibility is the currency nations use to achieve results without resort to more drastic means. President Obama, spendthrift in so many ways, has been particularly wasteful here. A Republican foreign policy would be a sustained attempt to recover this squandered capital.