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PERSISTENCE OF ANTISEMITISM AROUND THE WORLD IS CLOSELY LINKED TO ANTI-ZIONISM

On Passover, We Can’t Forget Mireille Knoll, Newly Murdered Holocaust Survivor, Victim of Anti-Semitism: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Fox News, Mar. 30, 2018 — Much of our conversations during Passover should be focused on Israel’s upcoming 70th birthday – a remarkable (some say miraculous) milestone for the age-old “startup nation.” But we should not forget Mireille Knoll.

Why Did I Protest Against Corbyn? Look at His Long List of Evasions: Hadley Freeman, Guardian, Mar. 27, 2018— It was a politely furious protest.

When Human Rights Organizations Indulge in Antisemitism: Gerald Steinberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 20, 2018— The widespread increase in antisemitism around the world is closely linked to the demonization of Israel…

Accusing Putin of Antisemitism: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 14, 2018— A very significant portion of my life has been devoted to personally combating Russian antisemitism.

On Topic Links

MLK’s Passover Lesson: William Hamilton, Times of Israel, Apr. 5, 2018

Widespread Muslim Anti-Semitism in France: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Arutz Sheva, Mar. 27, 2018

Jeremy Corbyn, Accidental Anti-Semite: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Mar. 29, 2018

Ambassador Friedman to Jerusalem Antisemitism Conference: The ‘New’ Antisemitism Worries Me More Than the Old: Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, Mar. 19, 2018

 

ON PASSOVER, WE CAN’T FORGET MIREILLE KNOLL,

NEWLY MURDERED HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, VICTIM OF ANTI-SEMITISM

Rabbi Abraham Cooper

Fox News, Mar. 30, 2018

 

…Much of our conversations during Passover should be focused on Israel’s upcoming 70th birthday – a remarkable (some say miraculous) milestone for the age-old “startup nation.” But we should not forget Mireille Knoll. In 1942, just six years before Israel gained its independence, Knoll miraculously escaped the roundup and deportation of 13,000 French Jews – among them 4,000 other Jewish children from Vichy France – to the Auschwitz concentration camp in what is now Poland. Only 100 of those children survived.

After WWII, Knoll resumed her life in France and became a wife, mother and grandmother. But just last week, the 85-year-old widow was brutally stabbed 11 times and her body burned in her modest Paris apartment. Police are investigating two men in their 20s on formal charges of murder with an anti-Semitic motive. One of them was a neighbor who had known Knoll since he was a child.

The New York Times reported: “An official close to the investigation, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, said that the friend had told investigators that he had heard Ms. Knoll’s neighbor say ‘God is great’ in Arabic during the killing.” French authorities were quick to admit that religious-fueled (read Islamist) hatred of Jews was the likely motivation behind Knoll’s murder. French President Emmanuel Macron, who attended Knoll’s funeral Wednesday, said her killer “assassinated an innocent and vulnerable woman because she was Jewish.”

This terrible anti-Semitic murder caps off a horrific 12-year cycle of shame in the City of Lights. It started in January 2006 when Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old telephone salesman – French-born of Moroccan-Jewish ancestry – was found naked, tortured and burned south of Paris after being kidnapped and held for three weeks. Halimi died of his injuries shortly afterwards. French police arrested a dozen members of the self-proclaimed “Gang of Barbarians” Believing that all Jews were rich, the gang made repeated extortion attempts aimed at Halimi’s modest family. In 2014, a young couple in suburban Paris – targeted because they were Jews – were assaulted, beaten and robbed in their apartment. The 19-year-old Jewish woman was gang raped. At the 2017 trial however, the judge refused to treat the crime as anti-Semitic.

And amidst the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris in 2015, along with threats against synagogues and seemingly unending hate crimes against individual Jews, came the August 2017 brutal murder in Paris of a 66-year-old retired doctor and Orthodox Jew. She was beaten to death and thrown out the window by a Muslim neighbor who was screaming “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) in Arabic. Despite witnesses’ testimonies and the protests of French Jewish leaders, authorities dismissed the murder as a mere “isolated incident” and wouldn’t acknowledge the anti-Semitic nature of the crime until President Macron recently promised to establish “clarity on the death” of another Jewish victim.

The failure of France to deal forthrightly, quickly and justly against anti-Semitic hate has enraged and scared French Jews as much as these unspeakable crimes have. It also explains why thousands see no future in their native land and have left for Israel and beyond.  A few weeks ago, along with my Simon Wiesenthal Center Paris-based colleague Dr. Shimon Samuels, I spent two fruitless days of meetings at both the French Justice Ministry and Ministry of Interior, trying to learn who ordered the sudden release of an accused terrorist implicated in the deadly bombing of Paris’ Rue Copernic Synagogue and allowed him to fly to Canada. Officials were polite enough, but clearly uncomfortable with the issue at hand. They had no answers as to failure of police and intelligence agencies to take more aggressive measures against extremist imams inciting violent anti-Semitic acts, nor could they explain why French judges basically refuse to throw the book at anti-Semitic thugs when arrests are made.

At Mireille Knoll’s funeral, President Macron was joined by thousands of people – including many interfaith leaders, and even far-right and far-left figures – who marched silently against anti-Semitism.

But silence won’t stop anti-Semitism in France. Only action and accountability will. Unless and until French Jews have equal protection under the law from the police, politicians and judges in the country once known as the cradle of democracy, 21st century anti-Semites could ultimately succeed where Hitler failed and eventually make France “Jew-free.” During the Passover Seder, as we recite the story of how the Jewish people were freed from persecution and bondage in ancient times, it’s important to remember that anti-Semitism and other equally poisonous forms of religious hatred and prejudice live on in our own time. We must all dedicate ourselves to eliminating such hatred.                     

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WHY DID I PROTEST AGAINST CORBYN?

LOOK AT HIS LONG LIST OF EVASIONS

Hadley Freeman

Guardian, Mar. 27, 2018

 

It was a politely furious protest. I’ll talk about the politeness first. I arrived a few minutes late to Parliament Square for the demonstration against … well, let’s say the somewhat cavalier attitude towards antisemitism displayed by various members of the Labour party, and specifically the most senior member of the Labour party. The square was jam-packed, and despite all the people on my social media feed who had been urgently telling me for days that Jews were hysterically conniving to bring down Jeremy Corbyn, there was a notably peaceful air to the proceedings. While speakers such as Luciana Berger tried in vain to make themselves heard, the crowd made self-mocking jokes: surely there must be a buffet at a Jewish protest? I wished I’d made some signs: “Not antisemitic? Jew must be joking!” It was that kind of protest.

But there was also palpable fury beneath the politeness. I can’t speak for why all the other people at the protest felt furious – we didn’t establish a party line on this at our last general meeting because we were too busy discussing how to control the weather, as a US politician alleged last week. But I was furious after a weekend of news stories about how Corbyn had, once again, endorsed antisemitic behaviour and failed to take responsibility for it until public opinion forced him to do so. Deja vu? Groundhog Day, more like.

Let’s run through the greatest hits: there was the time Corbyn took tea with the hate preacher Raed Salah, and called him “a very honoured citizen”, even though he’d been charged in Israel with inciting anti-Jewish racism and violence; the time he hosted representatives from Hamas and Hezbollah, even though Hamas’s charter calls for the destruction of the Jews; the times he accepted a total of £20,000 for appearing on Iran’s Press TV, a channel that regularly hosts Holocaust deniers; the time he defended the Rev Stephen Sizer, who was later banned by church authorities from social media for sharing antisemitic material blaming Israel for 9/11; that he was an active member of three Facebook groups on which deeply antisemitic posts regularly appeared; and that now he has commented on Facebook in support of an absurdly antisemitic mural.

Corbyn is frequently praised by his supporters for sticking to his guns, never wavering in his opinions, and yet when you bring up any of the above instances they wave them away as being “ages ago” and say he’s apologised since. Corbyn has always cried innocent, insisting that of course he abhors antisemitism (and-all-other-forms-of-racism). How could anyone accuse him of being soft on it? Don’t they know his mother was at the Battle of Cable Street? Yeah, well, my mother worked with Jim Henson – it doesn’t make me Big Bird.

Truly, I have never known a man to find himself alongside antisemites so often and not realise until it is publicly pointed out to him. Someone ought to make a sitcom about his misadventures with the antisemites. It could be called Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!, but with a more tutting tone than the usual triumphant one. A descending horn noise could sound whenever someone has to say it: “Have you just joined another antisemitic social media group? Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!”

I was furious after a weekend of watching his supporters – members of the public, journalists I once respected, various MPs – insist that this was all nonsense, a smear, a Zionist conspiracy designed to bring down infallible Jeremy. Quite how Jews have the wherewithal to conspire against Corbyn by cunningly making him endorse antisemites without his knowledge is never explained. So let’s get something straight: if someone has actually done something, reporting that action is not “a smear”, it’s “reporting”. And suggesting Jews always have an ulterior motive, even when reacting to antisemitism, is really not the best way to prove that you’re not antisemitic.

I’m furious with people who respond to these points by huffing that criticism of Israel, by Corbyn or anyone on the left, does not make one antisemitic, even though Israel had nothing to do with any of Corbyn’s antisemitic encounters; and I’m furious with people who imply a little antisemitism is a price worth paying to achieve Corbyn’s socialist society. I’m furious with people who spent all of last week reading Russian runes into an image of Corbyn’s hat on Newsnight, and this week insist they can’t see anything antisemitic about a blatantly antisemitic mural. Most of all, I am furious with people for insisting there is nothing to see here, when we all know that if a Tory or Ukip politician had done half of the things Corbyn has done, these same people would be insisting they be put in the stocks. The hypocrisy takes the breath away.

Finally, I’m furious with people making Corbyn seem like a passive participant in all this. Sure, we can talk about how antisemitism is “baked into” the far left, and Corbyn himself has started to push this narrative with his latest apology (his third, or possibly his fourth since Friday – I’ve lost count). He says “antisemitism has resurfaced within the Labour party”, as though it were nothing to do with him, and others refer to antisemitism as a sickness that they will now root out.

But you cannot help getting sick – you can, however, help turning a blind eye to antisemitism. Corbyn made his own choices about what he clicked online and who he had tea with. What Jewish people need is for him to take some responsibility, show some backbone and honesty, explain why he was willing to ignore antisemitism for so long, and apologise. Not for “feelings hurt”, but for endorsing racists. But I’ll be honest, I’m not holding my breath. So in the meantime, going to the protest was a balm. It was a relief to be with people who weren’t gaslighting Jews by insisting that what they were seeing in front of their eyes wasn’t true, and it was nice to see the MPs who showed up – Harriet Harman, Jess Phillips, Stella Creasy, Chuka Umunna – and know that at least some Labour politicians weren’t laughing this off as a distraction.

By the time Labour MP Wes Streeting took the stand to talk about how this ongoing scandal was “a stain” on the Labour party, and that Shami Chakrabarti’s 2016 report into antisemitism in the Labour party was a laughable “whitewash”, emotions were running high. No yarmulkes fell off any scalps, but you could see the backs of necks pinking. It was a civil protest, but a passionate one, and a deeply serious and heartfelt one. And as I left I felt myself smiling a little. But I’ll be honest – I was still furious.

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WHEN HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS INDULGE IN ANTISEMITISM

Gerald Steinberg

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 20, 2018

 

The widespread increase in antisemitism around the world is closely linked to the demonization of Israel, including long-running campaigns falsely accusing the Jewish state of “war crimes,” “apartheid,” and “ethnic cleansing.” The groups leading these efforts, including some that use the facade of human rights, often draw an odious parallel between Israeli responses to terrorism and the behavior of the Nazis in the Holocaust. Many antisemitic attacks and acts of vandalism, particularly in Europe, are inspired by these noxious campaigns.

In an effort to counter this virus, the countries and governments that make up the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted a “working definition of antisemitism” in May 2016. This document, like previous European and US State Department working definitions, lists a number of criteria generally associated with what is referred to as the “new antisemitism.” These include using double standards to single out Israel, “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” or comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. In addition, the IHRA working definition notes the use of symbols “associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.”

Among a growing number of states, these criteria have been adopted and endorsed, including by the European Parliament in an advisory (non-binding) resolution. But much of the self-styled human rights community has studiously ignored the IHRA framework. Groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Paris- based FIDH (the International Federation of Human Rights) and dozens of others that frequently stray into antisemitic territory remain outside this process. Given the power and influence of these groups, the challenge of expanding the radius of the IHRA process to include NGOs is imperative.

This is neither an easy nor a trivial task. NGOs that are closely linked to politicized church groups have been among the worst offenders, going back decades. The World Council of Churches runs a pseudo-human rights organization known as the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), which brings international activists to the West Bank through the abuse of Israeli tourist visas. These activists get an intense propaganda dose, spend three months immersed in the Palestinian narrative, and then return home to spread the same contents in their local communities and churches.

For instance, while speaking in London in 2016, one EAPPI activist blamed the perceived lack of American Evangelical support for Palestinians on the “Jewish lobby.” The WCC’s own general secretary, Dr. Olav Fyske Tveit, stated at a June 2017 event that “I heard about the occupation of my country during the five years of World War II as the story of my parents. Now I see and hear the stories of 50 years of occupation….” If the WCC, EAPPI and other such groups adopted the IHRA definition, such statements would be marked as antisemitic and considered out of bounds.

The problem is not confined to Europe. A number of Amnesty International’s advocates from its various national branches were members of a virulently antisemitic Facebook group, known as “Palestine Live.” Participants who posted articles “questioning” the Holocaust were told they “should be allowed to discuss this rather than being silenced,” even if not in this particular group. Unsurprisingly, in 2015, Amnesty-UK refused to take action to oppose rising antisemitism in the UK…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                

 

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ACCUSING PUTIN OF ANTISEMITISM

Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 14, 2018

 

A very significant portion of my life has been devoted to personally combating Russian antisemitism. I experienced firsthand the extent of hatred against Jews which was basically ingrained in most Soviet leaders and bureaucrats. I will never forget the day a leading KGB officer proudly told me that seeing Jews being strung up from the lampposts in leading Moscow streets would be the happiest day of his life. Russian antisemitism dates back centuries. It was encouraged by the Russian Orthodox Church and the tsars orchestrated pogroms to divert attention from other social issues. While the Communists initially condemned antisemitism, in practice they maintained it as a state policy.

Having witnessed and battled against these trends as a cornerstone of the campaign to free Soviet Jewry, it would be somewhat bizarre for anyone to accuse me of being soft on Russian antisemitism. But I believe the hysterical attacks on Russian President Vladimir Putin following his recent misplaced comments about interference in the US elections are outrageous and can lead to dire consequences. In a rambling interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, who was pressing him to respond to allegations of Russian interference in the US elections, Putin facetiously referred to the possibility of Russian Jews being involved. This was catapulted to front-page headlines, many of which accused Putin of outright antisemitism and even resurrecting Judeophobia, including the notorious tsarist Protocols of the Elders of Zion. These hysterical denunciations were echoed by the Anti-Defamation League, which called on US President Donald Trump to condemn Putin as an antisemite. Even the normally restrained American Jewish Committee joined in the fray. All these condemnations were based on taking Putin’s comments out of context and totally distorting them.

What was actually said? In the course of an interview insinuating that he had interfered in the US elections, Putin in exasperation turned on the interviewer and in Russian snapped: “Maybe they are not even Russians. Maybe they were Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they had dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know.” Anyone with a semblance of intelligence would appreciate that this gibberish was simply a tactic to end the interview. The fact that Jews were mentioned in passing as a Russian nationality was purely coincidental. Had he mentioned Jews alone and sought to blame them that would be another matter. But that was not the case. There is an element of madness in the air. I am not entering into the issue of whether Putin did or did not interfere in the US elections. But he certainly did not engage in antisemitism.

The indoctrination of Jew-hatred among Russians over the past centuries cannot disappear overnight, and plenty of antisemitic paranoia remains in Russia. Which is why, even if one opposes Putin’s autocratic behavior and foreign policy, this former KGB agent must be recognized as one of the most positive forces combating Jew hatred and supporting the local Jewish community. There are various explanations for Putin’s apparent philo-Semitism. Some say he was influenced as a youngster in St. Petersburg, where he was looked after by a Jewish couple and deeply affected by a German Jewish teacher, Mina Yuditkaya, who later immigrated to Israel. (He met her on a visit in 2005 and purchased an apartment for her in Tel Aviv, in which she lived until she recently passed away.)

Putin has encouraged the Jewish renaissance in Russia, developed a warm relationship with Chabad Rabbi Berel Lazare and has many Jewish friends. He has made a distinct effort to attend Jewish functions such as the opening of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, to which he contributed $50 million of state funds and even personally donated a month’s salary. He attends Hanukka celebrations and conveys goodwill on the advent of the Jewish New Year – something utterly unprecedented from a nationalist Russian leader.

Despite his strategic involvement with the Syrians, Putin has determinedly kept the channels to Israel open. He has visited Israel on several occasions, in fact making it his first foreign visit after his election in 2012. He speaks warmly of the Jewish state, expressing pride that it contains the largest diaspora of Russian Jews. At the Western Wall, he donned a kippa – undoubtedly making his Bolshevik predecessors turn in their graves and enraging his Arab allies. Putin holds regular meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and other Jewish leaders who all testify to his deep respect for Israel, especially its military and intelligence capabilities…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

Contents

On Topic Links

MLK’s Passover Lesson: William Hamilton, Times of Israel, Apr. 5, 2018—The Kennedy administration anxiously prepared to contain the violence they expected at the 1963 march on Washington.

Widespread Muslim Anti-Semitism in France: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Arutz Sheva, Mar. 27, 2018 —In most European countries no quantitative data is available on Muslim anti-Semitism.

Jeremy Corbyn, Accidental Anti-Semite: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Mar. 29, 2018 —If you take Jeremy Corbyn at his word, then the leader of Britain’s Labour Party is no anti-Semite. It’s just that, like the Wild West preacher who keeps accidentally wandering into Fannie Porter’s house of ill repute, Corbyn has an odd knack for stumbling into the arms of the Hebraically disinclined.

Ambassador Friedman to Jerusalem Antisemitism Conference: The ‘New’ Antisemitism Worries Me More Than the Old: Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, Mar. 19, 2018—US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told a packed house at the opening of the 6th Global Forum on Combating Antisemitism that a “new” antisemitism, characterized by “the irrational, deceitful, and insidious vilification of Israel and its supporters under the guise of political commentary” worries him far more than the “old” antisemitism.

EGYPT: SISI’S NEW CONSTITUTION ENSHRINES BROTHERS’ DEFEAT– YET U.S. INCOMPETENCE, RUSSIAN MANEUVERS THREATEN EGYPT, & M.E.

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

 

 

 Contents:         

 

Sisi Determined to Stamp out all Opposition: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 19, 2013 — Egyptian military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seeks to put a nail in the coffin of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Security: Zachary Laub, Council on Foreign Relations, Dec. 12, 2013 — Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, envisioned by the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli treaty as a buffer zone to build trust and ensure peace, has become a haven for transnational crime and Islamist militancy.

Egypt's New Constitution: Bleak Prospects: Eric Trager, Washington Institute, Dec. 16, 2013 — Egypt's new draft constitution reflects the coalition of leftist political parties and entrenched state actors that helped oust President Muhammad Morsi from power in July.

How Obama Is Losing Egypt to Russia: Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, Dec.17, 2013 — President Obama’s public approval ratings have continued to head south in recent weeks.

 

On Topic Links

 

Brotherhood Supporters Advising Obama Administration?: Erick Stakelbeck, CBN News, Dec. 11, 2013

Egyptian Security Forces Outgunned by Islamic Terrorists in Sinai: Amos Harel, Ha’aretz, Dec. 18,

Al-Qaeda Emerges Amid Egypt’s Turmoil: Mohannad Sabry, Al Monitor, Dec. 4, 2013

Egypt and Political Violence: Bahieddin Hassan, Al-Ahram Weekly, Dec. 17, 2013

                                      

                        

                                   SISI DETERMINED TO STAMP OUT ALL OPPOSITION

                                           Ariel Ben Solomon          

                                    Jerusalem Post, Dec. 19, 2013

                                                           

Egyptian military chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seeks to put a nail in the coffin of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Sisi has been taking advantage of, and consolidating his powerful position, using the military-backed government to carry out a relentless crackdown on ousted former president Mohamed Morsi’s Brotherhood, which is the country’s main opposition movement. Sisi has been throwing the group’s leadership and members in jail and violently breaking up any protests, while continuing to pursue a military campaign against terrorism in Sinai, the upsurge which is believed to be linked to the Brotherhood’s fall from power.

 

But despite the crackdown, the Brotherhood and its allies have still been able to muster protesters in the streets and universities. This may signal to the country’s leadership that the local organization is still functioning, thus justifying more severe measures. On Wednesday, Egypt’s public prosecutor charged Morsi and 35 other top Islamists with conspiring with foreign groups to commit terrorist acts in Egypt, in a case that could result in their execution. Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at the Hudson Institutes’s Center for Religious Freedom, told The Jerusalem Post: “These are certainly wild charges.” He said there were many contradictions in the allegations, and little that made sense. “It seems like various bits and pieces were lumped together to create a picture with no attention given to its contradictory details,” he said. “Whether this is part of the new regime’s pressure on the Brotherhood to force concessions, or part of the ongoing propaganda campaign against the Brotherhood, or if they will actually bring such a case to court remains to be seen.”

 

Zvi Mazel, who served as Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt and today is a fellow at The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a contributor to this newspaper, told the Post that there was no doubt that the new regime sought to neutralize the Brotherhood with its legal action. “On the other hand, there is a basis of truth to the allegations,” he said. There is evidence that the Brotherhood had connections with Hamas and Hezbollah, Mazel said, adding that there were possibly ties to jihadists in Sinai as well. Asked if Egypt would execute Morsi or other leaders, Mazel responded that he did not think this would occur, but that it would provide the legal case for their incarceration.

 

While Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders remain behind bars or on the run, it is not enough for Sisi, who seeks a complete victory over the main opposition movement. Sisi is not allowing any dissension or leaving anything to chance, going so far as to take one of the country’s most popular comedians off the air for criticizing the government. Sisi has enjoyed positive media coverage and public support since the July 3 coup that ousted Morsi from power. In a possible sign that Sisi may make a presidential bid, former presidential candidate Amr Moussa said on Tuesday that he strongly backs him for president. “If Abdel Fattah al-Sisi refuses to run [for the presidency], we will urge him to do so,” Moussa said, according to a report by Ahram Online.       

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              EGYPT'S SINAI PENINSULA AND SECURITY                                                                

Zachary Laub                                            

Council on Foreign Relations, Dec. 18, 2013

 

Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, envisioned by the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli treaty as a buffer zone to build trust and ensure peace, has become a haven for transnational crime and Islamist militancy. Poverty and political alienation among the region's native Bedouins, combined with political dislocations since former president Hosni Mubarak's government was toppled in 2011, have allowed nonstate armed groups to thrive, posing new threats to global trade and the peace on the Egypt-Israel border. After the Egyptian military reasserted its authority in July 2013 and cracked down on Islamists nationwide, militant groups escalated their attacks on peninsular security forces and expanded their reach to cities along the Suez Canal and even Cairo.

 

The Sinai Peninsula is a strategically significant triangle bounded by Gaza, Israel, and the Gulf of Aqaba to its east, the Mediterranean to its north, and the Suez Canal to its west. Some 8 percent of global trade transits through the canal, including 3 percent of global oil supplies. The Gulf of Aqaba gives Israel its only outlet to the Red Sea. The area contains five of Egypt's twenty-seven governorates. The sparsely populated North and South Sinai are home to 550,000 people, or 0.7 percent of Egypt's population, on a landmass comprising 6 percent of Egyptian territory. Much of the North's population is concentrated along the coast, while many inhabitants of the mountainous interior are nomadic. Three smaller, more densely populated governorates straddle the Suez Canal.

 

Though the peninsula is a land bridge connecting Africa and Asia, historically it has separated as much as joined them. The region's majority Bedouin population shares closer historical and cultural ties to the Levant and Arabian Peninsula than the Egyptian mainland. The Bedouins were stigmatized as collaborators of Israel's fifteen-year occupation of the peninsula after the 1967 war, and some complain that Cairo continues to view them as a "potential fifth column," writes Economist reporter Nicolas Pelham. Palestinians and Egyptians from the Nile Valley make up smaller portions of the peninsula's population.

 

Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai under the 1979 peace treaty codified its status as a buffer, leaving Cairo with only partial sovereignty over the territory. The treaty's military annex restricts the personnel and matériel deployed there. The peninsula's native Bedouins bear longstanding grievances stemming from economic deprivation and political alienation. Since 1979, tribal chiefs have been appointed by the region's governors, military officers chosen by the central government. But the capital's drive to centralize control was never fully realized.

 

Bedouins were excluded from tourism and energy development projects championed by Hosni Mubarak, experts say. The North was starved of investment while Mubarak sought to establish a Red Sea Riviera in the more sparsely populated South, particularly Sharm el-Sheikh, where he had his summer villa. Cairo encouraged labor migration to the Sinai from the Nile Valley, Pelham writes, offering these internal migrants preferential access to land, irrigation, and jobs, while denying native Bedouins such basic services and rights as running water and property registration. They were blocked from jobs with the police, army, and the peninsular peacekeeping force, the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO), which is one of the region's largest employers. In North Sinai, schools and hospitals were left unstaffed.

 

"The U.S. and Israel were telling Mubarak for years that neglect of the Sinai was going to come back to haunt them," says CFR Senior Fellow Steven Cook. High-profile bombings of resorts between 2004 and 2006, which had a combined death toll of about 130, as well as a spate of clashes between Bedouins and police, tourist kidnappings, and other smaller attacks occurred after two decades of what were seen as malign policies.

 

Under the three-decade–long emergency law that was in place until 2012, security forces under the Ministry of the Interior responded to the emerging terrorist threat with dragnet arrests, detaining and torturing thousands, human rights observers say. The indiscriminate state response fed a cycle of political violence and further alienated Sinai's Bedouins from Cairo.

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link– ed.]

 

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EGYPT'S NEW CONSTITUTION: BLEAK PROSPECTS

                                               Eric Trager                                                                                                                      Washington Institute, Dec. 16, 2013

 

Egypt's new draft constitution reflects the coalition of leftist political parties and entrenched state actors that helped oust President Muhammad Morsi from power in July. In the short run, the strength of this coalition — and its ability to achieve a convincing mandate in the January constitutional referendum — will determine whether the political transition can move forward. In the longer run, however, Egypt's outlook remains bleak: either the massive state spending that the new constitution mandates will be enforced and thereby wreak economic havoc, or the charter will not be enforced, in which case the country will continue to be governed by an unreliable legal system.

 

In December 2012, following mass outcry over a constitutional declaration that placed his own edicts above judicial scrutiny, Morsi ordered the Islamist-dominated parliament to complete a new draft constitution within forty-eight hours and then put it to a referendum two weeks later. Although that constitution passed with 64 percent of the vote, the low 33 percent turnout undermined its popular legitimacy, and the noninclusive nature of the drafting process catalyzed a mass opposition movement that eventually culminated in Morsi's July 3 ouster. As a result, the military-backed government that replaced Morsi made amending the charter a first-order priority. A July 8 declaration suspended the constitution and outlined a new process under which a ten-member committee of legal experts would amend it. Afterward, a fifty-member committee "representing all categories of society and demographic diversities" reviewed, amended, and approved the draft. While the latter committee drew from across the social spectrum, it was ideologically consistent with the coalition that ousted Morsi: it contained only two Islamists, neither of which were Muslim Brothers, and a plurality hailed from non-Islamist parties that have historically won very few votes in elections.

 

The current draft constitution reflects the anti-Morsi coalition in three respects. First, it is far less Islamist than its predecessor. While it maintains that "the principles of the Islamic sharia are the principal source of legislation" (Article 2), it erases Article 219, which delineated the specific sharia sources on which to base legislation. It also removes Article 44, which prohibited "Insult or abuse of all religious messengers and prophets," and modifies the article regarding al-Azhar, the country's preeminent Islamic institution of learning, which no longer must be consulted "in matters pertaining to Islamic law." Most notably, the new constitution bans religious parties (Article 74).

 

Second, the new draft grants broad autonomy to the security services, military, and other state institutions that participated in Morsi's ouster. For example, it establishes a Supreme Police Council, which must be consulted on all laws pertaining to the police (Article 207). And in addition to granting each judicial body "an independent budget" and the autonomy to "administer its own affairs" (Article 185), it empowers the Supreme Constitutional Court's General Assembly to select the court's leadership (Article 193). It also empowers the Supreme Judicial Council to appoint the government's prosecutor-general (Article 189), an authority granted to the president under the previous constitution.

 

The new draft is particularly generous toward the military. The preamble emphasizes that the military has been the state's "pillar" since nineteenth-century ruler Muhammad Ali, and hails "our patriotic army" that "delivered victory to the sweeping popular will in the January 25-June 30 Revolution." Like the previous constitution, the latest draft mandates that the defense minister be a military officer (Article 201), protects the military's autonomy over its budgets by empowering a security-dominated National Defense Council to review them (Article 203), and allows civilians to be tried before military courts (Article 204). But the new charter goes even further, requiring less legislative oversight for military trials, mandating that the defense minister can only be appointed with the approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces during the next two presidential terms (Article 234), and empowering the state to fight "all types and forms of terrorism" (Article 237) — a virtual carte blanche for the military in its ongoing crackdown against pro-Brotherhood forces.

 

Third, the new draft reflects leftist parties' insistence on a more expansive government role in providing social services. In addition to the many state responsibilities envisioned in the previous constitution, the charter now commits the government to "achieving social justice" (Article 8), providing "food resources to all citizens" (Article 79), and guaranteeing the elderly "appropriate pensions to ensure them a decent standard of living" (Article 83). It also mandates an exorbitant level of specific state spending: at least 3 percent of gross domestic product must be spent on healthcare (Article 18), 4 percent on education (Article 19), 2 percent on higher education (Article 21), and 1 percent on scientific research (Article 23) — all of which must be put into effect by fiscal year 2016/2017 (Article 238).

 

The fact that the new draft reflects Egypt's current governing coalition is neither surprising nor novel. The previous constitution similarly embodied the coalition that governed only a year ago, giving Morsi and the ruling Islamists a substantial foothold for instituting their theocratic agenda while securing the military's buy-in by granting it unprecedented autonomy (see PolicyWatch 2001). Still, the immediate future of Egypt's transition hinges on whether the current coalition is more durable than the previous one, which collapsed barely six months after the constitution was approved via referendum.

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link– ed.]

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HOW OBAMA IS LOSING EGYPT TO RUSSIA

                                        Jonathan S. Tobin                                                                                 Commentary, Dec. 17, 2013

 

President Obama’s public approval ratings have continued to head south in recent weeks. Those results represent the general disgust about an administration that broke its word on ObamaCare and was too incompetent to build a website that works to sell health insurance. But the consensus among most pundits is that although his domestic policies are viewed negatively, most Americans don’t have much of a problem with the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Given the lack of interest in foreign issues it’s difficult to judge whether the president’s weak nuclear deal with Iran is really seen as a positive development or whether they like the way he punted on the crisis in Syria. The only thing we know for sure is that a war-weary public is glad when the use of force is avoided even if they might be leery about handing a victory to Vladimir Putin in Syria or trusting the hate-spewing ayatollahs of Iran to keep their word about their nuclear weapons program.

 

But as much as the president’s efforts to pull back from the Middle East may resonate with those Americans who are sick of conflict, a policy of retreat is not one that stands up to much scrutiny. Thus, although the public understandably cares a lot less about the administration’s policy on Egypt than it does about ObamaCare, the news yesterday about the conclusion of an arms deal between that country and Russia ought to dismay even the most casual observer of foreign policy. The issue isn’t so much whether the Egyptian military will be buying planes and other equipment from Moscow so much as what the accord represents: a staggering reversal for U.S. influence in the Middle East and a signal victory for a Russian dictator who is trying to resurrect the old Soviet and tsarist empires while making mischief for America.

 

It was a little more than 40 years ago that Anwar Sadat kicked Soviet advisers out of Egypt. After decades of depending on Moscow for arms in order to pursue Egypt’s conflict with Israel, Sadat decide that he would be better off throwing in his lot with the United States. After the Nixon administration and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger ensured that the Yom Kippur War ended with Egypt not suffering a humiliating defeat, what followed was a gradual shift away from war that led to Sadat’s historic trip to Israel and ultimately the peace treaty with Israel. In exchange for peace, Egypt not only got every inch of the Sinai that had been lost as a result of the aggression it committed in 1967 but also a guarantee of U.S. aid that has stood for more than 30 years. The alliance with Egypt was not only a building block for Middle East peace upon which further attempts to resolve the Arab and Muslim war on Israel were based. It was also the rock upon which American efforts to stabilize the region rested.

 

Though there were always good reasons to worry about the future of the repressive regime of Sadat’s successor Hosni Mubarak, the alternatives to him were always far worse, both for the U.S. and the Egyptian people. That basic truth was reaffirmed in the last three years after President Obama, who had downgraded efforts to democratize Egypt first undertaken by President George W. Bush, helped push Mubarak out of power in the wake of the Arab Spring protests. While the Egyptian military was an unattractive option, the possibility of the country falling into the hands of the Islamist opposition was appalling. Yet that is precisely the outcome the administration seemed to push Egypt toward during this period as it threatened the military with an aid cutoff if they interfered with the Muslim Brotherhood’s efforts to consolidate power in the wake of their election victory.

 

Once the Brotherhood assumed control in Egypt, the U.S. did not seek to exert its leverage to force the Islamists to pull back on their attempt to transform Egypt in their own image. When, after a year of misrule and tens of millions of Egyptians took to the streets to call for the Brotherhood’s ouster this past summer, the U.S. again sought to stop the military from acting–but this time the generals ignored the president’s warnings and put an end to the Islamist government. Since then the U.S. has done little to mend fences with the military and demonstrated little understanding of the fact that Egypt had become a zero-sum game in which the only choices were the Brotherhood or the military. With the administration announcing a partial aid cutoff to the new government, what followed next was entirely predictable. Cairo turned to Moscow for help and for the first time since 1973 Russia has a foothold in the Arab world’s most populous nation as well as the one that, with the Suez Canal, holds its most strategic position.

 

It is true that Putin’s Russia doesn’t pose the same kind of threat to the West as the Soviet Union. But Putin’s efforts to regain influence in the Middle East, first via the preservation of the bloody Assad regime in Syria and now by elbowing the U.S. out of Egypt, is deeply troubling. Some Americans, including libertarians who are intent on withdrawing from the war on Islamist terrorism, may see nothing wrong with abandoning the Middle East to Russia. But a Middle East where Russia has at least an equal say with the United States is one in which moderate Arab regimes as well as Israel will feel far less secure. Since Putin’s only goal is to discomfit the United States and to expand Russia’s influence, the result will give Iran, which is also celebrating the victory of Assad, confidence to continue its own brand of mischief making in the Persian Gulf, Lebanon, and with the Palestinians, especially if it resumes its alliance with Hamas. As I wrote back in October, an Obama administration policy that effectively discards Egypt is a victory for Russia as well as a blow to stability and peace.

 

But what is most infuriating about these developments is that none of it had to happen if the Obama administration had not mishandled relations with Egypt so badly. Though the hand it was dealt was by no means a good one, it is in the process of losing an asset that the U.S. had been able to count on for decades. The price of this incompetence will be felt by U.S. policymakers as well as the people of the region for years to come.

                                       

                                               Contents

On Topic

 

Egyptian security forces outgunned by Islamic terrorists in Sinai: Amos Harel, Ha’aretz, Dec. 18, 2013 — The Egyptian security forces’ battle against Islamic terrorist organizations in Sinai has resulted in twice as many casualties among the former than among the latter.

Brotherhood Supporters Advising Obama Administration?: Erick Stakelbeck, CBN News, Dec. 11, 2013 — Egypt acknowledged the danger of the Muslim Brotherhood by recently labeling it a terrorist organization and banning its activities.

Al-Qaeda Emerges Amid Egypt’s Turmoil: Mohannad Sabry, Al Monitor, Dec. 4, 2013 — During the last week of August, I spent a few nights in the villages of the northern Sinai Peninsula where Islamist militants have been hiding and operating since the January 25 Revolution.

Egypt and Political Violence: Bahieddin Hassan, Al-Ahram Weekly, Dec. 17, 2013 — June 1967 witnessed two historical developments: the military defeat of Egypt and its still operating political regime, and the end of the state’s monopoly on violence.

 

 

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UKRAINE & RUSSIA JEWS IN MIDDLE AS UKRAINE PLAYS WEST OFF AGAINST RUSSIA –OBAMA AND U.S., NOW AS USUAL, REMAIN LARGELY UNINVOLVED

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

 

 

 Contents:         

 

As We Go To Press:

 

RUSSIA OFFERS UKRAINE A FINANCIAL LIFELINE — (Moscow) — Playing a trump card in his diplomatic contest with the West over Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin said Tuesday that Russia would come to the rescue of its financially troubled neighbor, providing $15 billion in loans and a sharp discount on natural gas prices. It was a bold and risky move by Russia, given the political chaos in Ukraine, where thousands of anti-government protesters remain encamped in Independence Square in Kiev, the capital. For the moment, however, Mr. Putin seemed to gain the upper hand over Europe and the United States in their contest for influence. (New York Times, Dec. 17, 2013)

 

Contents:

 

A Jewish Perspective on the Ukrainian Protests: Alina Dain, Algemeiner, Dec. 10, 2013 — In a country engulfed by anti-government protests, Ukrainian Jews find themselves facing the same existential choice as the rest of the country.

Ukrainian Jews Split on Dangers of Protest Movement: Sam Sokol, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 4, 2013 — Ukrainian Jews are split in their perceptions of the potential dangers towards their community due to recent massive anti-government protests around the country.

Issuing a Streetwise Challenge to Dictators: Garry Kasparov & David Keyes, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 13, 2013 — Before 1984, the address of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C., was 1125 16th St. But that year Congress, in a move led by then Sen. Al D'Amato, took the unusual step of renaming the street after the heroic Soviet human-rights activist Andrei Sakharov.

Three Crises, One President, Many Bewildered Friends: Charles Krauthammer, The Columbian, Dec.17, 2013 — The first crisis, barely noticed here, is Ukraine's sudden turn away from Europe and back to the Russian embrace.

 

On Topic Links

 

Despite Calls for Neutrality in Ukraine Protests, Young Jews Are on the Front Lines: Sam Sokol, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 13, 2013

Winter Games, Caucasian Misery: Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, New York Times, Dec. 5, 2013

Russia vs. Europe: Bill Keller, New York Times, Dec. 15, 2013

Ukraine: On The Edge Of Empires: George Friedman, Forbes, Dec. 17, 2013

                                      

                       

A JEWISH PERSPECTIVE ON THE UKRAINIAN PROTESTS

Alina Dain

Algemeiner, Dec. 10, 2013

                                                           

In a country engulfed by anti-government protests, Ukrainian Jews find themselves facing the same existential choice as the rest of the country. The protests began during the last weekend of November, when Ukrainian police clashed with hundreds of protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square, known as “Maidan.” The crowd was protesting Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to freeze plans to join a free trade agreement with the European Union just before the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit.

 

Instead, Yanukovych indicated an intention to join the Eurasian Customs Union, an economic union dreamed up by Russian President Vladimir Putin that is viewed as a precursor to a wider Eurasian Union of Eastern European countries and the Caucausus. The Ukrainian government also refused to honor the EU’s demand to free jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. On Dec. 8, protesters opposing the government’s push for closer ties with Russia toppled a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Kiev.

 

While thousands continued to come out over the past week to protest Yanukovych’s about-face regarding the EU trade agreement, the country faces the larger existential choice between what many criticize as a corrupt post-Soviet government and the possibility of a democratic European government. The country’s Jewish community—which comprises between 350,000 and 500,000 people, according to estimates by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee—is facing the same choice. “Ukraine is now caught between a rock and a hard place,” Sam Kliger, the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) director of Russian Jewish community affairs, told JNS.org. “On the one hand they wanted to go West and to join the European Union; on the other hand they are pressured by Russia… to join the so-called customs union.”

 

Josef Zisels, chairman of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities (Vaad) of Ukraine, told JNS.org in an email interview translated from Russian, “In Ukraine all the major decisions are made by one person—the president,… [who] was apparently not planning to sign an agreement with the EU at all but simply mislead everyone domestically, as well as in the European Union and Russia, while trying to bargain for more assistance for his policies.”  On Nov. 30, police beat protesters with batons and sprayed tear gas at the gathered public. Over the past week, reports indicate that the Ukrainian government may have infiltrated protests through plain-clothed individuals who provoked violence from police by hurling stones and wielding chains. Dozens were detained or hurt, some severely, during the clashes.  

 

“Until today (Dec. 6) there is still no a clear plan of action on the part of opposition leaders. But the authorities make it clear that they are not ready to concede anything,” Christina Mertes, a 23-year-old activist from Kiev who is participating in the protests and requested that her real last name not be published, told JNS.org in an email interview translated from Russian and arranged by AJC. “It is clear that this police brutality could not have been authorized only at the local level. That is—the command to eliminate the Maidan [protests] came from the top,” she said. Mertes also points to President Yanukovych’s corrupt record, including convictions for robbery and assault as well as political corruption in his government. As the protests continue, the question of Ukraine’s association with the EU has receded into the background in favor of the larger issue of maintaining the government’s integrity. “It is obvious there is an ongoing game meant to return Ukraine to the Soviet era,” Mertes said.

 

According to Zisels, some Ukrainian Jews also participate in the ongoing protests, although it is difficult to estimate how many. Zisels himself, as well as friends and members of his family, are involved. “I believe, first, that the Jewish youth participate more often than older people, and, second, that as in other actions directed to democratize society, participation of Jews is disproportionately high,” he said.

 

Jewish communities in Eurasian Union countries face little of the state anti-Semitism that was prevalent during the Soviet era. But these countries’ political and economic instability, and the potential use of the “Jewish card” by authoritation regimes, especially in pre-election periods, is a major issue for Jewish communities. These countries are also underdeveloped economically and lack the legal framework that would allow their Jewish communities to solve problems related to heritage preservation, restitution of Jewish property, or the collection of funds for their activities. “These are issues that are quite successfully resolved in the Eastern European countries that have joined the EU in the last 20 years, ” Zisels said. Zisels believes that Ukrainian Jews need to ask themselves first and foremost what is best for Ukraine and all its citizens. Ukraine has the chance “to break the chain of tragedies in its history and become a stable European country,” and it would be “best in all respects for Ukraine to join the EU: for Ukraine as a whole, for its minorities, and in particular for Jews in Ukraine.”

 

Mertes believes, like many in the protesting opposition, that Russia is making unprecedented interferences in Ukrainian affairs. According to Kliger, Ukraine always had tight relations with Russia historically, economically, and politically that simply cannot be ignored. Neverhtheless, AJC supports “every democratic change that we can see in Ukraine. In that context we do believe that going with the West and the EU, Ukraine will continue its movement toward democracy, rule of law, transparency, less corruption and many other things that are characteristic of a democratic country,” Kliger said.

 

Some Ukranian Jews are concerned about potential anti-Semitic street incidents that could take place under the guise of the protests. Rabbi Moshe Azman, a local Chabad emissary, told Israel National News that he had cancelled several public events celebrating Hanukkah due to fears that “groups of hooligans” could target Jews.  On the other hand, Rabbi Jonathan Markovitch of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Kiev said his community has “been holding menorah lightings among the crowds of protesters,” the Jerusalem Post reported. AJC is also concerned with possible anti-Jewish manifestations in the protests by the Ukrainian political oppostion party Svaboda, which is viewed as an anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi group by various Jewish organizations. “That remains to be seen. So far we haven’t seen this,” Kliger told JNS.org.

 

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UKRAINIAN JEWS SPLIT ON DANGERS OF PROTEST MOVEMENT                                                           

Sam Sokol                                              

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 4, 2013

 

Ukrainian Jews are split in their perceptions of the potential dangers towards their community due to recent massive anti-government protests around the country. Following a rebuff of the European Union last week, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians came out to protest against President Viktor Yanukovich’s turn towards Russia. On Friday, under pressure from Moscow, Yanukovich dropped plans to sign a free trade pact with Brussels that would have integrated the post-Soviet nation much more firmly into the western bloc. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been pushing Ukraine to join a Moscow-led customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, which he hopes to develop into a political and economic “Eurasian Union,” to match the might of the US and China.

 

Some local Jews have been worrying that the presence of Svoboda, one of the leading opposition factions and a significant presence in the street protests, may portend an ugly turn for the Ukraine. Oleg Tyahnybok, the leader of Svoboda, which has been called an anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi party by the World Jewish Congress and other Jewish organizations, is one of the four “emerging leaders” of the protests, according to The Financial Times. According to FT, while many in the capital Kiev do not agree with Svoboda’s strident ultra-nationalism, the “highly disciplined party is providing important organizational support for the current protests” and opposition activists will tolerate the party if it assists in their goal of forcing Yanukovich to step down.

 

Not all protesters have tolerated Svoboda, however, with university students pushing a local party chief from a podium at a rally of some 20,000 in the western city of Lviv. Svoboda protesters “took the Kyiv administration building,” Tyahnybok told protesters according to Radio Free Europe. Party leader Oleg Tyagnibok has previously made the accusation that “Ukraine is being controlled by a Russian-Jewish mafia,” Irena Cantorovich, a scholar at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Kantor Database for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism, said earlier this year. Rabbi Moshe Azman, a local Chabad emissary and one of several men claiming the title of Chief Rabbi, told Israeli news website Arutz Sheva that he had cancelled several public events for the commemoration of hanukka due to fears of violence by protesters. After lighting the Menorah in the capital’s Central Synagogue, Azman “announced the cancellation of all the events and performances.” He told Arutz Sheva this was due to fears that “groups of hooligans” would act against Jewish targets under the cover of the protests. Azman specifically cited Svoboda as a factor that could drive the protests out of hand, however, not everybody agreed with him.

 

Rabbi Jonathan Markovitch, of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Kiev who is also a Chabad hasid, told the Post that there is no connection between the protests and the Jewish community, and that his community has continued to hold public events in connections with the holiday. “We have been holding menorah lightings among the crowds of protesters…We are following developments in Ukraine closely and remain in continual contact with our representatives on the ground and with local Jewish communities,” American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee spokesman Michael Geller told the Post on Monday. “Our FSU Director Ofer Glanz has made it clear that we stand ready to provide needy members of the community with extra food, medicine or other forms of relief should the situation require it.”

 

A pig’s head was left on the doorstep of a synagogue being built in Sevastopol earlier this month, the Ukrainian city’s Jewish community said. Several days ago it was reported that a Ukrainian website had uploaded a video game in which players can kill Jews and other “enemies” of the Ukraine.

 

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ISSUING A STREETWISE CHALLENGE TO DICTATORS

Garry Kasparov & David Keyes

Wall Street Journal, Nov. 13, 2013

 

Before 1984, the address of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C., was 1125 16th St. But that year Congress, in a move led by then Sen. Al D'Amato, took the unusual step of renaming the street after the heroic Soviet human-rights activist Andrei Sakharov. The new address of the Soviet Embassy: No. 1 Andrei Sakharov Plaza. Every time the Soviets entered or left their embassy, they were reminded of the human cost of their tyranny. This simple but inspired congressional measure helped put human rights at the center of the U.S.-Soviet relationship. Following the symbolic move, in late 1986, the Soviets allowed Sakharov and his wife to return to Moscow from years of exile. As voices of dissent grew stronger, Soviet tyranny grew weaker. Today, the Soviet Union is gone, but autocracy in Russia is not. And neither is the need to remind the world of the brave dissidents who risk everything for freedom.

 

Consider life in Russia today under Vladimir Putin. Symbolic protests, such as singing something other than a hymn in church, can land you in Siberian prison, as happened to members of the female punk-rock band Pussy Riot. In 2012, hundreds were arrested for protesting fraud in Russian elections. Freedom of speech is limited, as the government controls all national TV networks. At least 19 journalists have been killed since Mr. Putin's ascent to power in 2000, with no accountability for the perpetrators. Discrimination against gays and lesbians is enshrined in law and restrictions on nongovernmental organizations have increased dramatically.

 

What person can best remind the world of Mr. Putin's brutality? Sergei Magnitsky. This brave lawyer, who was 37 at the time, took on the Kremlin in 2007 by uncovering widespread financial corruption. He paid with his life. Magnitsky was working as a tax lawyer for William Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, the largest foreign investor in Russia. In 2007, Mr. Browder's firm was raided by Russian authorities and accused of tax evasion. Magnitsky's subsequent investigation into the case revealed that it was, in fact, the Russian government that had stolen $230 million in tax revenue. For exposing this crime, Magnitsky was arrested in November 2008 and imprisoned without trial. Despite a series of health problems, he was denied medical treatment for nearly a year and died on Nov. 16, 2009, from neglect and abuse by prison authorities. Like Sakharov before him, Magnitsky deserves to be, if not a household name, then a street name.

 

Taking a page from Congress's ploy in 1984, the New York-based nonprofit Advancing Human Rights has launched Dissident Squared, a global initiative to rename the streets in front of the embassies of dictatorships and authoritarian states after political prisoners. The aim is to remind repressive states that the world has not forgotten about their brutality. The streets directly outside Russian embassies, for instance, would be renamed "Magnitsky Plaza." Dissident Squared is also targeting the embassies of Iran, China and Syria. The street in front of Iranian embassies should be renamed " Tavakoli Plaza," after the imprisoned student leader Majid Tavakoli. The young Iranian activist gave a brave speech in 2009 calling for greater freedoms. He was promptly arrested and has spent the past four years in prison, with no end in sight. Last month, Iran's foreign minister denied knowing who Mr. Tavakoli was, and thousands of Iranians took to social media to enlighten him. Following this online backlash, Mr. Tavakoli was released on furlough for a few days. But when the attention died down, he was quietly re-imprisoned. The street in front of Chinese embassies should be renamed "Liu Xiaobo Plaza," in honor of the imprisoned Chinese dissident and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner. In 2008, Mr. Liu was the lead author of Charter 08, a manifesto signed by more than 300 Chinese intellectuals and activists calling for free speech and multiparty elections. In 2009, he was arrested and sentenced to 11 years in prison. It is a brazen regime that would keep a Nobel Peace Prize winner behind bars. The street in front of Syrian embassies should be renamed "Darwish Plaza," after the jailed Syrian lawyer and free-speech advocate Mazen Darwish. As head of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, he was for many years instrumental in covering protests and later uprisings against the dictatorial Bashar Assad regime. In February 2012, shortly after calling for the release of political prisoners, Mr. Darwish was jailed by Syrian authorities.

 

Dictators try so hard to silence critics like Messrs. Tavakoli, Liu and Darwish, just as Sergei Magnitsky was silenced, because they know that every time someone points out the brutality and corruption of their rule, it exposes the regime's weakness and fundamental illegitimacy. It chips away at the facade of power. Governments that want to support such heroic protests might take a cue from Andrei Sakharov. His widow, Yelena Bonner, cited his credo in a 2009 speech for the Oslo Freedom Forum: "In the end, the moral choice turns out to be also the most pragmatic choice." Freedom-loving nations should make the moral choice of confronting autocrats, honoring dissidents and making respect for human rights a core element of any bilateral relationship. In the end, this is also the pragmatic choice. For as we saw with the collapse of the Soviet Union, regimes that jail and murder dissidents are destined to fall when we have the courage to hold up a mirror to their brutality.

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THREE CRISES, ONE PRESIDENT, MANY BEWILDERED FRIENDS

Charles Krauthammer 

The Columbian, Dec. 17, 2013

 

The first crisis, barely noticed here, is Ukraine's sudden turn away from Europe and back to the Russian embrace. After years of negotiations for a major trading agreement with the European Union, Ukraine succumbed to characteristically blunt and brutal economic threats from Russia and abruptly walked away. Ukraine is instead considering joining the Moscow-centered Customs Union with Russia's fellow dictatorships Belarus and Kazakhstan. This is no trivial matter. Ukraine is not just the largest European country, it's the linchpin for Vladimir Putin's dream of a renewed imperial Russia, hegemonic in its neighborhood and rolling back the quarter-century advancement of the "Europe whole and free" bequeathed by America's victory in the Cold War.

The U.S. response? Almost imperceptible. As with Iran's ruthlessly crushed Green Revolution of 2009, the hundreds of thousands of protesters who've turned out to reverse this betrayal of Ukrainian independence have found no voice in Washington. Can't this administration even rhetorically support those seeking a democratic future, as we did during Ukraine's Orange Revolution of 2004? Why not outbid Putin? We're talking about a $10 billion to $15 billion package from Western economies with more than $30 trillion in GDP to alter the strategic balance between a free Europe and an aggressively authoritarian Russia — and prevent a barely solvent Russian kleptocracy living off oil, gas and vodka from blackmailing its way to regional hegemony.

 

The second crisis is the Middle East — the collapse of confidence of U.S. allies as America romances Iran. The Gulf Arabs are stunned at their double abandonment. In the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the U.S. has overthrown seven years of Security Council resolutions prohibiting uranium enrichment and effectively recognized Iran as a threshold nuclear state. This follows our near-abandonment of the Syrian revolution and defacto recognition of the Assad regime. Better diplomacy than war, say Obama's apologists, an adolescent response implying that all diplomacy is the same, as if a diplomacy of capitulation is no different from a diplomacy of pressure. What to do? Apply pressure. Congress should immediately pass punishing new sanctions to be implemented exactly six months hence — when the current interim accord is supposed to end — if the Iranians have not lived up to the agreement and refuse to negotiate a final deal that fully liquidates their nuclear weapons program.

 

The third crisis is unfolding over the East China Sea, where, in open challenge to Obama's "pivot to Asia," China has brazenly declared a huge expansion of its airspace into waters claimed by Japan and South Korea. Obama's first response — sending B-52s through that airspace without acknowledging the Chinese — was quick and firm. Japan and South Korea followed suit. But when Japan then told its civilian carriers not to comply with Chinese demands for identification, the State Department (and FAA) told U.S. air carriers to submit. Again leaving our friends stunned. They need an ally, not an intermediary. Here is the U.S. again going over the heads of allies to accommodate a common adversary. We should be declaring the Chinese claim null and void, ordering our commercial airlines to join Japan in acting accordingly, and supplying them with joint military escorts if necessary. This would not be an exercise in belligerence but a demonstration that if other countries unilaterally overturn the status quo, they will meet a firm, united, multilateral response from the West. Led by us. From in front. No one's asking for a JFK-like commitment to "bear any burden" to "assure the … success of liberty." Or a Reaganesque tearing down of walls. Or even a Clintonian assertion of America as the indispensable nation. America's allies are seeking simply a reconsideration of the policy of retreat that marks this administration's response to red-line challenges all over the world — and leaves them naked.

                                                 Contents

On Topic

 

Despite Calls for Neutrality in Ukraine Protests, Young Jews Are on the Front Lines: Sam Sokol, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 13, 2013 — Despite calls by Jewish leaders to remain neutral, young Jews have been on the front lines of protests against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.

Winter Games, Caucasian Misery: Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, New York Times, Dec. 5, 2013—The Black Sea resort of Sochi, with its breathtaking views of the nearby Caucasus Mountains, was once a favorite holiday destination of Communist Party bosses in the Soviet era.

Russia vs. Europe: Bill Keller, New York Times, Dec. 15, 2013 — The world needs Nelson Mandelas. Instead, it gets Vladimir Putins.

Ukraine: On The Edge Of Empires: George Friedman, Forbes, Dec. 17, 2013— The name “Ukraine” literally translates as “on the edge.” It is a country on the edge of other countries, sometimes part of one, sometimes part of another and more frequently divided.

 

 

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SYRIA IV “THE DEAL”: PUTIN NOW IN CHARGE, OBAMA FOLLOWING FROM BEHIND AS DUBIOUS DEAL REACHED TO DISARM ASSAD OF WMD; U.S. POLL: SEND CONGRESS TO SYRIA!

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

 

 

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Contents:

 

 

Contents:

 

US, Russia Reach Deal on Control of Syria Chemical Weapons: Jerusalem Post, Sept. 14, 2013—Russia and the United States put aside bitter differences over Syria Saturday, to strike a deal that by destroying Syrian President Bashar Assad's chemical arsenal may avert US military action against his regime. The agreement after three days of talks in Geneva between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demands that Assad give a full account of his secret stockpile within a week.

 

Syria Could Still Blow Up in Putin’s Face: Shashank Joshi, The Telegraph, Sept. 16, 2013—The deal looks like a humiliation for Obama – but what happens if it starts to unravel? Whichever analogy one chooses, the conventional wisdom is hardening: Vladimir Putin has judo-flipped, checkmated and floored Barack Obama this week with a plan to inspect and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

 

The Price of the Syria Debacle: Amir Taheri, New York Post, Sept. 15, 2013 —Even those who worried about how President Obama would handle the Syrian chemical-weapons crisis are shocked at his weird behavior, which puts the world at risk of becoming even more dangerous. To start with, he has created confusion regarding the US president’s public statements.

 

Shiites: Syria War Will Ignite End Times: Ryan Mauro, Front Page Magazine, Sept. 16, 2013 —A Lebanese reporter for the Al-Monitor Middle East news service explains that Iran and Hezbollah view the Syrian civil war not only in a strategic context, but in a prophetic one. In their belief, the radical Sunnis will conquer Syria for a short period of time and then Iranian forces will intervene on their way to destroying Israel.

 

Poll: Majority Of Americans Approve Of Sending Congress To Syria: The Onion, Sept 5, 2013—As President Obama continues to push for a plan of limited military intervention in Syria, a new poll of Americans has found that though the nation remains wary over the prospect of becoming involved in another Middle Eastern war, the vast majority of U.S. citizens strongly approve of sending Congress to Syria.

 

On Topic Links

 

Text: Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 14, 2013

Into the Syrian Bazaar: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 15, 2013

Russia Wants Seat Back at Mideast Table: Steven Hurst, Real Clear World, Sept. 16, 2013

Across Enemy Lines, Wounded Syrians Seek Israeli Care: Maayan Lubell, Reuters, Sept. 13, 2013

 

 

US, RUSSIA REACH DEAL ON
CONTROL OF SYRIA CHEMICAL WEAPONS

Jerusalem Post, Sept. 14, 2013

 

Russia and the United States put aside bitter differences over Syria Saturday, to strike a deal that by destroying Syrian President Bashar Assad's chemical arsenal may avert US military action against his regime. The agreement after three days of talks in Geneva between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demands that Assad give a full account of his secret stockpile within a week.

 

International inspectors would rapidly get to work to eliminate all the weapons by the middle of next year – an "ambitious" target, in Kerry's words. If Syria reneges on a commitment to comply, Washington and Moscow pledged to cooperate at the United Nations to impose penalties – though these remain to be determined and Russia is highly unlikely to support military action, which US President Barack Obama has said must remain an option. Kerry said Obama retained the right to attack, with or without UN backing.

 

For Assad's opponents, who two weeks ago were expecting US air strikes at any moment in response to a poison gas attack on rebel territory last month, the deal was a big disappointment. Despite Kerry and Lavrov's assurances that the pact may lay a foundation for broader peace, they said Assad would not comply and that the deal brought an end to their battles no closer. Warplanes struck rebel-held suburbs of Damascus again on Saturday.

 

For the world's two greatest military powers, however, the Syrian conflict has chilled relations to levels recalling the Cold War, and Saturday's agreement offers a chance to step back from further confrontation. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, it brings management of the Syrian crisis back to the United Nations. For Obama, it solves the dilemma created by Congress's reluctance to back military strikes that he was preparing without a UN mandate.

 

Yet many difficulties lie ahead – not least the technical challenge of enforcing a major disarmament involving complex and dangerous materials in the midst of a vicious civil war that has inflamed the entire Middle East. Kerry told a joint news conference in Geneva: "The implementation of this framework, which will require the vigilance and the investment of the international community, and full accountability of the Assad regime, presents a hard road ahead."

 

Lavrov said: "It shows that when there is a will … Russia and the United States can get results on the most important problems including the weapons of mass destruction problem." "The successful realization of this agreement will have meaning not only from the point of view of the common goal of eliminating all arsenals of chemical weapons, but also to avoid the military scenario that would be catastrophic for this region and international relations on the whole."

 

In Istanbul, the head of the Syrian rebel Supreme Military Council was dismissive of the deal, however, saying it would not resolve the country's civil war, now in its third year. General Selim Idris called it a blow to opposition hopes of overthrowing Assad and accused the Syrian president of circumventing any disarmament by already sending chemical weapons to allies in Lebanon and Iraq in recent days.

 

Qassim Saadeddine, a rebel commander in northern Syria and a spokesman for the Supreme Military Council, told Reuters his forces would not cooperate: "Let Kerry-Lavrov plan go to hell. We reject it and we will not protect the inspectors or let them enter Syria," he said by telephone. A US official, however, said Washington believed all Syria's chemical weapons remained in areas under the Assad government's control.

 

Assad, who with backing from his sponsor Iran and its Lebanese Hezbollah allies has fought off first demonstrations demanding democracy and now full-blown rebellion backed by Arab states including Saudi Arabia, has agreed to sign up to an international treaty banning chemical weapons and to submit to controls by the UN-backed Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

 

While submitting to its inspections, he will be deprived of arms which he denies having used. But he has averted what were likely to be heavy US and French missile strikes and bombing raids that could have weakened his defenses against rebels who control large swathes of Syria, including around the capital Damascus. Despite the diplomatic breakthrough, chemical weapons only account for around 2 percent of deaths in a civil war in which 100,000 people have been killed since 2011.

 

On Saturday, Syrian warplanes struck rebel-held suburbs of the capital Damascus and government forces clashed with rebels on the frontlines, according to residents. The residents and opposition activists, asked about the deal, said that it would not benefit normal Syrians. "The regime has been killing people for more than two years with all types of weapons. Assad has used chemical weapons six or seven times. The killing will continue. No change will happen. That is it," said an opposition activist in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus who uses the name Tariq al-Dimashqi. "The most important point is the act of killing, no matter what is the weapon," he said.

 

Syrian state media broadcast the Kerry and Lavrov news conference live, indicating that Damascus is satisfied with the deal. Having taken the surprise decision two weeks ago to seek congressional approval for military action to punish Assad for using poison gas, Obama faced a dilemma when lawmakers appeared likely to deny him that – citing unease about helping Islamist militants among the rebels and a wariness of new entanglements in the Middle East after wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

The weapons deal proposed by Putin, a former KGB agent intent on restoring some of the influence Moscow lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union, offered a way out. Russia has protected and armed Assad and has been alarmed at what it sees as Western willingness to bypass the United Nations to impose "regime change" in other states. Under the terms of the US-Russian agreement – a bilateral document which in itself may represent something of a landmark in the management of global affairs, recalling East-West deals of the Cold War-era – Syria must let the OPCW complete an initial inspection of its chemical weapons sites by November.

 

Kerry said Assad must produce a "comprehensive listing" of its chemical weapons stockpiles within a week. The goal, he said, was the complete destruction of Syria's chemical weapons in the first half of 2014. The framework agreement – which one US official described as having been worked out in "hard fought" negotiations with Russia – states that a UN Security Council resolution should allow for regular assessments of Syria's compliance and "in the event of non-compliance, including unauthorized transfer, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria, the UN Security Council should impose measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter". Chapter VII can include military force but can be limited to other kinds of sanction. Russia and the United States continue to have different views on what level of punishment to apply.

 

When Kerry said during the news conference that the text stated that the Council "must" impose measures under Chapter VII, Lavrov interrupted to point out that it says only it "should" impose measures. "There's no diminution of options," Kerry said, noting Obama's right under US law to order military action, with or without support from Congress or any international body.

Lavrov said of the agreement: "There [is] nothing said about the use of force and not about any automatic sanctions."

 

Putin has supported Assad's contention that the sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 around Damascus which Washington says killed over 1,400 civilians was the work of rebels trying to provoke Western intervention. If Russia were "100 percent" sure of a violation, Lavrov said, it would support UN moves to "punish the perpetrators".

 

Senior Kerry aides involved in the talks said that the United States and Russia agreed that Syria has 1,000 tons of chemical agents and precursors, including nerve agents such as sarin gas and blister agents such as sulphur mustard. But the officials, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said there was no agreement among the powers on how many chemical weapons-related sites Syria has that must be inspected under the accord.

 

The US estimate is that Assad's government has at least 45 sites associated with its chemical weapons program, one US official said. Implementation of the accord, even assuming Syria complies with its terms, will be daunting. "There are lots and lots of details that still have to be sorted through," a second US official said. To inspect, secure and destroy all of Syria's chemical stockpiles by the first half of 2014 "is daunting to say the least".

 

That timeline and others in the accord "are targets … not a deadline" another said. Syria's chemical weapons are likely to be removed through a combination of destroying them within Syria and shipping some out for destruction elsewhere, the officials said. Russia is one possibility site for destruction, but no final decisions have been made.

 

Lavrov and Kerry have said they will meet in New York at the United Nations in about two weeks to see if they can push forward a long-delayed plan for an international peace conference to try to negotiate an end to the war. A drive last year for a political solution, dubbed the "Geneva Plan" and calling for a transitional government, went nowhere as Assad refused to cede power and the opposition insisted he could not be a part of any new political order. Kerry said Saturday's chemical weapons deal could be "the first concrete step" toward a final settlement. Lavrov said he hoped all parties to the conflict could attend a conference in October, without pre-conditions.

 

Contents

 

SYRIA COULD STILL BLOW UP IN PUTIN’S FACE

Shashank Joshi

The Telegraph, Sept. 16, 2013

 

The deal looks like a humiliation for Obama – but what happens if it starts to unravel? Whichever analogy one chooses, the conventional wisdom is hardening: Vladimir Putin has judo-flipped, checkmated and floored Barack Obama this week with a plan to inspect and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. For the sceptics, this was the diplomatic equivalent of polonium-210 in Obama’s teacup; Russia has sucked the Americans into a needless distraction, buying time for Assad and leaving Syria’s rebels adrift.

 

The critics have two charges. The first is that the agreement, hammered out in Geneva after late-night arms control talks reminiscent of the Cold War, is unworkable. Assad will cheat, inspectors won’t be able to operate in war zones, and the Americans will look unreasonable if they call foul. Just as Saddam toyed with UN inspectors throughout the Nineties, so will Assad hand over some chickenfeed while dispersing the crown jewels. The second criticism is that the plan might be too successful: Assad will trade off his chemical weapons for regime survival, by making himself indispensible to the disarmament effort. The United States will quietly sever what little military aid it is extending to the beleaguered rebels, and drop its insistence that Assad must go as part of a political transition.

 

Yet things aren’t so clear-cut. Russia has certainly scored a tactical diplomatic victory, but this deal – unprecedented in its ambition and timetable – could still blow up in Moscow’s face. If it works – even if only a fraction of Syria’s chemical weapons and sites are inspected and eliminated – this will do much more to degrade that capability than cruise missiles would have done. If this comes at the price of boosting Putin’s ego, that’s cheap. Inspectors will never catch every last ounce of poison gas, but so what? Remember, those missiles were never going to touch the actual stockpiles, and the strike was to be “unbelievably small”, in US Secretary of State John Kerry’s memorable and foolish words.

 

It is irrelevant that the process may take years to complete: just having inspectors inside Syria is an advance on what was thought possible a week ago. Recall, that for all of Saddam’s deception, the UN did in fact destroy virtually all of his chemical weapons by the end of the Nineties. Syria is a tougher case, because a war is raging across the country. But if Assad admits inspectors and consolidates his weapons into fewer sites, this automatically makes it harder to use them. If he does not, then he will eventually breach the agreement – and bring punitive strikes back into the picture. Providing that the US keeps the heat on Damascus – an important proviso – it has little to lose. Yes, Assad is likely to cheat. His regime developed its chemical arsenal in response to Israel’s nuclear weapons, and it will not give them up without a fight. But the United States has, rightly, insisted that the threat of force will stay on the table. The UN resolution that backs up this deal won’t explicitly authorise force, but this was never on the cards.

 

Remember Obama’s position last week. The president had lost British support for military action, was poised to lose a Congressional vote, and faced opposition from half of the G20, including Nato members such as Germany. His authority was sapped, and his options narrowed. If the cynics are right and this deal falls apart, the US will be well positioned to occupy the diplomatic high ground and renew its case for strikes. Congress will be more readily persuaded that the use of force is necessary, and even Britain – though the prospects are slim – may reconsider the issue in Parliament. Today’s UN inspectors’ verdict, reported to confirm chemical weapons use in Syria and point to regime culpability, will further strengthen the US hand. If some of Syria’s chemical weapons have already been inspected and destroyed by this time (the plan demands that inspectors visit by November), this might even make strikes easier. If Russia is intent on stringing along the Americans and shielding Assad, its plan will only buy a few months.

 

Critics are also overstating the technical difficulties involved in tackling Syria’s chemical weapons. The task is daunting, but last month’s successful inspections demonstrates that it is not impossible for inspectors to enter contested areas. Chemical weapons expert and former UN inspectors have made it clear that there are ways of putting at least some of Assad’s chemical arsenal beyond use.

 

However, in emphasising chemical weapons over conventional slaughter, has Obama given Assad a new lease of life? The text of the Russian and American agreement makes it clear that the Syrian government will be responsible for the safety of inspectors. Moreover, the guardians of Syria’s chemical weapons – the elite Unit 450 – will surely have to remain intact through any political transition if the plan is to work. The problem with this line of argument is that it assumes that a regime-shattering intervention was derailed by half-baked diplomacy.

 

But the cavalry was not coming – as, indeed, we have known for several weeks. Even as they were making the case for war, American officials were adamant both that strikes would not be intended to change the military balance, and that a negotiated political solution – via the so-called Geneva II conference – remained the US objective. With or without Russia’s gambit, the US was terrified at the prospect of Syria’s chemical warfare units dissolving and leaving their stockpiles unsecured.

 

In many respects, this deal doesn’t change much. Russia will continue to arm and fund the Syrian regime as it consolidates its rump state. The US will continue its tepid support for rebels, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar their more enthusiastic contributions. If Syria’s most obscene weapons can be taken off the battlefield, good. If not, our powder stays dry.

 

Contents

 

THE PRICE OF THE SYRIA DEBACLE

Amir Taheri

New York Post, Sept. 15, 2013

 

Even those who worried about how President Obama would handle the Syrian chemical-weapons crisis are shocked at his weird behavior, which puts the world at risk of becoming even more dangerous. To start with, he has created confusion regarding the US president’s public statements.

 

Except for Jimmy Carter, all presidents for the past century have taken care not to commit themselves to any action when they didn’t mean it. In global diplomacy, the phrase “America has spoken” carried special weight. America’s word was America’s bond.

 

Obama has depleted that capital of trust. A man who loves the sound of his voice has devalued that bond in speeches and TV appearances, setting “red lines” that slowly vanish, shouting “Assad must go” then doing nothing to make that happen and promising to arm Syrian rebels only to have the arms never arrive. And now, after waxing lyrical about “the conscience of humanity,” he has dropped everything in exchange for a ride on the anfractuous path of Russian diplomacy.

 

The second danger is the perception that Russia may have gained a veto on aspects of US foreign policy. In his New York Times op-ed last week, Russia’s Vladimir Putin made it clear his “veto” goes beyond foreign policy to include cultural topics such as the “specialness” of the United States.

Putin claimed equivalence between the USSR (“the Evil Empire,” according to Ronald Reagan) and the United States, recalling the time when “we were allies” during World War II. He forgot to mention that the USSR had been allied to Nazi Germany, switching sides only after Hitler invaded.

 

In the blink of an eye, Obama has shrunk into second fiddle to Putin. Speaking in Geneva on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a point of showing who was running the show: He said a new round of talks on Syria would start soon, with Iran and Saudi Arabia invited, to discuss transition plans for Syria.

 

The deal concocted by Moscow and bought by Obama gives Bashar al-Assad a free hand to kill Syrians as long as he doesn’t use chemical weapons. Moscow always wanted Assad to remain in power until the end of his presidential term next May. This is precisely what Obama has signed up for, since the deal gives Syria at least until next June to deliver on Moscow’s promises. The Damascus-Moscow-Tehran axis hopes to crush the Syrian rebellion within the next six or seven months and then hold fake elections in which Assad is re-elected or has one of his minions elected as president. In other words, the US has agreed to abandon Obama’s stated “Assad must go” policy in exchange for a Russian-led process. The fact that Assad is a war criminal is brushed under the carpet, a signal to actual or burgeoning war criminals across the globe to operate with impunity.

 

Whatever happens in Syria, the United States is likely to lose. If Assad’s gang keeps power, they’ll have no reason to abandon their Russian and Iranian protectors. If the rebels win, they’ll have a hard time forgetting Obama’s betrayal. The perception that America is led by a group of amateurs (some where they are only because they have risen to the level of their incompetence) is already encouraging other dangerous trends….

 

Obama’s Syria fiasco has also encouraged Iran to harden its position on the nuclear issue. In his speech at the Bishkek summit, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani tried to link the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons to Israel’s alleged ownership of a nuclear arsenal. He also said that Tehran was ready for talks with the 5+1 Group to secure recognition of “our legitimate right” to enrich uranium — ignoring five Security Council resolutions that demand an end to enrichment.

 

And in an interview Thursday, Ali-Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, said, “We do what
we want . . . They cannot do anything about it.” Tehran media report talks with Russia to help Iran build new nuclear power plants. A similar scheme that Iran signed with China 10 years ago could be revived.

 

The perception that, out of ideology or incompetence, Obama is leading the United States into strategic retreat has persuaded nations in Eastern Europe, Transcaucasia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, to review their foreign policies.

 

Finally, the Syria episode sends another message: While all nations can use force to impose their will (in 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and occupied 25 percent of that nation’s territory), only the United States is denied that right even to enforce international law. That’s the kind of “American exceptionalism” that Obama has secured.

 

Contents

 

 

SHIITES: SYRIA WAR WILL IGNITE END TIMES

Ryan Mauro

Front Page Magazine, Sept. 16, 2013

 

A Lebanese reporter for the Al-Monitor Middle East news service explains that Iran and Hezbollah view the Syrian civil war not only in a strategic context, but in a prophetic one. In their belief, the radical Sunnis will conquer Syria for a short period of time and then Iranian forces will intervene on their way to destroying Israel.

 

The unnamed reporter points out that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is, like Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, “known for being a strong believer” in the Shiite prophecy that Iran will lead an End Times war against Islam’s enemies. At that time, the Mahdi will “reappear” and defeat the infidel.

 

According to the author, Iran and Hezbollah rely upon a book of prophecies called Al-Jafr to guide them. It was passed down to Jafar al-Sadiq, for whom the Jafari school of Shiite jurisprudence is named after. Teachers of this book say that the Syrian leader will be killed in a civil war during the End Times.

 

A Sunni leader will take over Syria and persecute Shiites, Allawites and Christians. The persecution will continue until an Iranian army invades Syria via Iraq, killing this Sunni leader on the way to capturing Jerusalem. Once Jerusalem is taken, the Mahdi will appear. Interestingly, in a modern context, this means that Hezbollah is fighting to preserve the regime of a man (Bashar Assad) that they believe will be killed.

 

Keep in mind, the Jafari school of jurisprudence is mainstream Shiite doctrine. There’s bound to be disagreement over the interpretation of prophecy, but these are not the beliefs of an isolated cult. In July 2010, a senior Iranian cleric said that Khamenei told his inner circle that he had met with the Mahdi, who promised to “reappear” during his lifetime.

 

A very similar eschatological viewpoint is articulated in a 2011 documentary produced by the office of then-President Ahmadinejad. The film, titled The Coming is Upon Us, does not predict a Syrian civil war but shares many of the same details articulated by the Al-Monitor reporter in Lebanon.

 

A critical point of convergence between the two sources is about Saudi Arabia’s role in prophecy. Both agree that the death of Saudi King Abdullah will be a major trigger. In fact, this event is so central to the Iranian film that it opens up with the statement, “Whoever guarantees the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, I will guarantee the imminent reappearance of Mahdi.”

 

What’s amazing about this film is the high level of detail of the discussed prophecies. It is easy to see why, if you were a devout Muslim (especially a Shiite), you would believe that the Mahdi’s return is near. The arrival of Jews in Palestine from the West and the birth of the state of Israel, the conquering of Arabia by the Al-Sauds and the global dominance of the U.S. and the West are all clearly foretold, it claims. An Allah-blessed revolution will take place in Iran led by a man based out of Qom. The narrators point to the 1979 Islamic Revolution as a clear fulfillment. After this happens, a series of vague and specific “signs” are to follow.

 

The most specific “signs” are related to Iraq. The Iranian video claims that prophecy requires the invasion of Iraq by infidels from the south with heavy use of aircraft, as happened in 2003. The infidel will cause tribal divisions and the evil dictator of Iraq (Saddam), will be killed. Other signs include the Westernization of Muslim youth (with the 2009 Green Revolution offered as evidence), the Iran-backed Houthi rebellion in Yemen and the overthrow of Egyptian President Mubarak.

 

“The preparer,” named Seyed Khorasani, will rule Iran at this decisive point in history. He will come from Khorasan Province, his strong army will have black flags and there will be a “sign” in his right hand. The filmmakers point out that Khamenei fills these requirements and has a disabled right hand.

Yamani will coordinate the offensive against the infidel with Khorasani that trigger the Mahdi’s reappearance. The film argues that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is his incarnation. Yamani will have a Yemeni background and it says that Nasrallah’s ancestors came to Lebanon from Yemen.

 

Khorasani/Khamenei’s military leader is given the name of Shoeib-Ebne Saleh. The film allegedly produced by Ahmadinejad’s office predictably says he is the incarnation of this figure. However, any military commander under Khamenei can arguably be him.

 

Analysis of these prophecies helps us see the future through the eyes of Hezbollah and the Iranian regime. Iran and Hezbollah are first focused on assembling an anti-Western Arab coalition. The Coming is Upon Us film specifically cites the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood as a step towards this, even if Iran and the Brotherhood are on opposite sides in Syria.

 

This stage includes fomenting internal strife in Bahrain, a Shiite-majority country governed by a pro-American Sunni monarchy. A representative of Khamenei said in 2011 that Bahrain presents “the best opportunity to begin setting the stage for the emergence of the 12th imam, our Mahdi.”

 

The development that Iran is eagerly awaiting is the death of the Saudi King Abdullah, which will trigger internal strife throughout Saudi Arabia. It is probable that this is when Iran hopes to begin a rebellion in the Shiite-majority Eastern Province where 90% of the country’s oil is.

 

After Assad is killed and replaced by a vicious Sunni leader, Iranian forces are to invade Syria from Iraq. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the Iraqi government’s slide into the Iranian orbit are undoubtedly seen as dramatic “signs.” Once an Arab coalition is formed and Syria is invaded, Jerusalem is to be captured by the Iranian-led forces. At this point, the Mahdi is to reappear and final victory will come that includes a Nasrallah-led march to Mecca.

 

The Al-Monitor report appears fanciful until all of these pieces are put together. Once they are, it is easier to understand why the Iran-Hezbollah bloc is confident of victory. “According to Shiites who believe in this [Al-Jafr] book, mainly Khamenei and Nasrallah, there is one possible explanation. The signs of reappearance of Mahdi are being successfully unveiled, and the Great War with Israel and the disbelievers is just around the corner,” writes the Lebanese reporter.

 

The Shiite Islamists’ End Times worldview does not necessarily result in recklessness. They do consider military strength and geopolitical realities, but the objectives of those calculations are to fulfill prophecy. Any policy debate that takes place among them is not about whether to pursue the war that summons the Mahdi, but how.

Contents

 

HUMOUR: IN A POLL, MAJORITY OF AMERICANS
APPROVE OF SENDING CONGRESS TO SYRIA

The Onion, Sept 5, 2013

 

As President Obama continues to push for a plan of limited military intervention in Syria, a new poll of Americans has found that though the nation remains wary over the prospect of becoming involved in another Middle Eastern war, the vast majority of U.S. citizens strongly approve of sending Congress to Syria.

 

The New York Times/CBS News poll showed that though just 1 in 4 Americans believe that the United States has a responsibility to intervene in the Syrian conflict, more than 90 percent of the public is convinced that putting all 535 representatives of the United States Congress on the ground in Syria—including Senate pro tempore Patrick Leahy, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and, in fact, all current members of the House and Senate—is the best course of action at this time.

 

“I believe it is in the best interest of the United States, and the global community as a whole, to move forward with the deployment of all U.S. congressional leaders to Syria immediately,” respondent Carol Abare, 50, said in the nationwide telephone survey, echoing the thoughts of an estimated 9 in 10 Americans who said they “strongly support” any plan of action that involves putting the U.S. House and Senate on the ground in the war-torn Middle Eastern state. “With violence intensifying every day, now is absolutely the right moment—the perfect moment, really—for the United States to send our legislators to the region.”

“In fact, my preference would have been for Congress to be deployed months ago,” she added.

 

Citing overwhelming support from the international community—including that of the Arab League, Turkey, and France, as well as Great Britain, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Japan, Mexico, China, and Canada, all of whom are reported to be unilaterally in favor of sending the U.S. Congress to Syria—the majority of survey respondents said they believe the United States should refocus its entire approach to Syria’s civil war on the ground deployment of U.S. senators and representatives, regardless of whether the Assad regime used chemical weapons or not.

 

In fact, 91 percent of those surveyed agreed that the active use of sarin gas attacks by the Syrian government would, if anything, only increase poll respondents’ desire to send Congress to Syria. Public opinion was essentially unchanged when survey respondents were asked about a broader range of attacks, with more than 79 percent of Americans saying they would strongly support sending Congress to Syria in cases of bomb and missile attacks, 78 percent supporting intervention in cases of kidnappings and executions, and 75 percent saying representatives should be deployed in cases where government forces were found to have used torture.

 

When asked if they believe that Sen. Rand Paul should be deployed to Syria, 100 percent of respondents said yes. “There’s no doubt in my mind that sending Congress to Syria—or, at the very least, sending the major congressional leaders in both parties—is the correct course of action,” survey respondent and Iraq war veteran Maj. Gen. John Mill said, noting that his opinion was informed by four tours of duty in which he saw dozens of close friends sustain physical as well as emotional injury and post-traumatic stress. “There is a clear solution to our problems staring us right in the face here, and we need to take action.”

 

“Sooner rather than later, too,” Mill added. “This war isn’t going to last forever.”

 

Contents

 

 

Text: Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 14, 2013

Taking into account the decision of the Syrian Arab Republic to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the commitment of the Syrian authorities to provisionally apply the Convention prior to its entry into force, the United States and the Russian Federation express their joint determination to ensure the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program (CW) in the soonest and safest manner.

 

Into the Syrian Bazaar: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 15, 2013—Politicians on the right and left are praising Saturday's U.S.-Russia "framework" to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons as a step away from American intervention. That is true only in the looking-glass world in which politicians are desperate to avoid voting on a military strike. The reality is that the accord takes President Obama and the U.S. ever deeper into the Syrian diplomatic bazaar, with the President hostage to Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin as the friendly local tour guides.

 

Russia Wants Seat Back at Mideast Table: Steven Hurst, Real Clear World, Sept. 16, 2013—The U.S. deal with Russia to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons has pulled the Obama administration into deep waters: the Kremlin's long-standing drive to put the brakes on American power and to restore Moscow to its place as a pivotal Mideast player.

 

 

Across Enemy Lines, Wounded Syrians Seek Israeli Care: Maayan Lubell, Reuters, Sept. 13, 2013—Not a hundred miles from Damascus, a Syrian rebel lies in a hospital bed, an Israeli sentry at the door. Nearby a Syrian mother sits next to her daughter, shot in the back by a sniper.

 

 

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

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

SYRIA & OBAMA (& PUTIN), III – DISPUTIN’ PUTIN: THE THINGS HE DIDN’T SAY, AND THINGS OBAMA HASN’T DONE

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

 

 

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Contents:

A Plea for Caution From Russia: Vladimir V. Putin, New York Times, Sept. 11, 2013—Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

 

What Putin’s Op-Ed Forgot to Mention: Anna Neistat, The Globe and Mail, Sept. 12 2013—It’s not what Vladimir Putin’s New York Times op-ed says that’s so worrisome; it’s what it doesn’t say. As a Russian and as someone who has been to Syria multiple times since the beginning of the conflict to investigate war crimes and other violations, I would like to mention a few things Mr. Putin overlooked.

 

The Laurel and Hardy Presidency: Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 12, 2013—After writing in the London Telegraph that Monday was "the worst day for U.S. and wider Western diplomacy since records began," former British ambassador Charles Crawford asked simply: "How has this happened?"

 

Obama’s Syrian Disaster: Father Raymond J. de Souza , National Post, Sept. 12, 2013—This is how a superpower ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper. Syrians weep. Assad mocks. Putin laughs. And Americans rub their eyes in disbelief. Who would have thunk it? The issue of Syria — yes, Syria — suddenly has unified America, Russia and even Syria itself around a common project: giving U.S. President Barack Obama a face-saving pretext to back away from his misguided, unpopular and potentially disastrous plan to bomb Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

 

On Topic Links

 

Our Conflicted Commander in Chief: Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 2013

The Putin Doctrine: Ilai Saltzman, LA Times, September 12, 2013

Obama’s Missteps on Syria Lead to Retreat: Michael Gerson, Washington Post, Sept. 11, 2013

US Attacks, Syrian 'Perfidy,' and Future Mega-Terror on Israel: Louis René Beres, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 10, 2013

The West’s Cowardice and Inaction on Syria Will Lead to Blowback: Terry Glavin,Ottawa Citizen, Sept. 11, 2013

The Six Steps to Ridding Syria of Chemical Weapons: Cheryl Rofer, The Globe and Mail, Sept. 11 2013

The Complicated Fallout of the Diplomacy Over Syria: David Ignatius, The Daily Star (Lebanon), Sept. 12, 2013        

 

A PLEA FOR CAUTION FROM RUSSIA

Vladimir V. Putin

Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 2013

 

Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

 

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

 

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

 

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

 

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multi-religious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fuelled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world….

 

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

 

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

 

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

 

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

 

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect. The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen non-proliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

 

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement. A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action….
 

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

 

Vladimir V. Putin is the president of Russia.

 

Contents
 

 

WHAT PUTIN’S OP-ED FORGOT TO MENTION

Anna Neistat

The Globe and Mail, Sept. 12, 2013

 

It’s not what Vladimir Putin’s New York Times op-ed says that’s so worrisome; it’s what it doesn’t say. As a Russian and as someone who has been to Syria multiple times since the beginning of the conflict to investigate war crimes and other violations, I would like to mention a few things Mr. Putin overlooked.

 

There is not a single mention in Mr. Putin’s article, addressed to the American people, of the egregious crimes committed by the Syrian government and extensively documented by the UN Commission of Inquiry, local and international human rights groups, and numerous journalists: deliberate and indiscriminate killings of tens of thousands of civilians, executions, torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests. His op-ed also makes no mention of Russia’s ongoing transfer of arms to Bashar al-Assad throughout the past two and a half years.

 

The Russian president strategically emphasizes the role of Islamic extremists in the Syrian conflict. Yes, many rebel groups have committed abuses and atrocities. Yet Mr. Putin fails to mention that it is the Syrian government that is responsible for shooting peaceful protesters (before the conflict even started) and detaining and torturing their leaders – many of whom remain detained – and that the continued failure of the international community to respond to atrocities in Syria allows crimes on all sides to continue unaddressed.

 

Mr. Putin’s plea to use the United Nations Security Council to resolve the conflict sounds great, until you remember that, from the very start of this conflict, Russia has vetoed or blocked any Security Council action that may bring relief to Syria’s civilians or bring perpetrators of abuses in Syria to account.

 

While Russia’s proposal for international monitoring of Syria’s chemical weapons is a welcome step, it will do nothing to bring justice to hundreds of victims of the latest attack, let alone to thousands of others, killed by conventional weapons. And when Mr. Putin squarely blames the opposition for the August 21 chemical attack – against all available evidence and without presenting a shred of his own evidence – one can only wonder why Russia remains so vehemently opposed to referring Syria to the International Criminal Court, an action that would be fully in line with international law, which Mr. Putin seems so keen to uphold in his op-ed, and would enable an investigation into abuses by both sides of the conflict.

 

Finally, the sincerity of Mr. Putin’s talk about democratic values and international law is hard to take seriously when back home his own government continues to throw activists in jail, threatens to close NGOs, and rubber-stamps draconian and discriminatory laws. Mr. Putin should give more credit to his audience: Russia will be judged by its actions, both on the international arena and domestically. So far, Russia has been a key obstacle to ending the suffering in Syria. A change towards a more constructive role would be welcome. But a compilation of half-truths and accusations is not the right way to signal such a change.

 

Anna Neistat is associate director for Program and Emergencies division at Human Rights Watch

 

Contents

 

THE LAUREL AND HARDY PRESIDENCY

Daniel Henninger

Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 2013

 

After writing in the London Telegraph that Monday was "the worst day for U.S. and wider Western diplomacy since records began," former British ambassador Charles Crawford asked simply: "How has this happened?" On the answer, opinions might differ. Or maybe not. A consensus assessment of the past week's events could easily form around Oliver Hardy's famous lament to the compulsive bumbler Stan Laurel: "Here's another nice mess you've gotten us into!"

 

The past week was a perfect storm of American malfunction. Colliding at the center of a serious foreign-policy crisis was Barack Obama's manifest skills deficit, conservative animosity toward Mr. Obama, Republican distrust of his leadership, and the reflexive opportunism of politicians from Washington to Moscow.

 

It is Barack Obama's impulse to make himself and whatever is in his head the center of attention. By now, we are used to it. But this week he turned himself, the presidency and the United States into a spectacle. We were alternately shocked and agog at these events. Now the sobering-up has to begin. The world has effectively lost its nominal leader, the U.S. president. Is this going to be the new normal? If so—and it will be so if serious people don't step up—we are looking at a weakened U.S president who has a very, very long three years left on his term.

 

The belief by some that we can ride this out till a Reagan-like rescue comes in the 2016 election is wrong. Jimmy Carter's Iranian hostage crisis began on Nov. 4, 1979. One quick year later, the American people turned to Ronald Reagan. There will be no such chance next year or the year after that—not till November 2016….

 

A congressional vote against that Syria resolution was never going to include a sequester for the Middle East. Iran's 16,600 uranium-enrichment centrifuges are spinning. Iran's overflights of Iraq to resupply Damascus with heavy arms and Quds forces will continue until Assad wins. Turkey and Saudi Arabia, U.S. allies, will start condominium talks with Iran, a U.S. enemy. Israel will do what it must, if it can….

 

The White House, Congress and Beltway pundits are exhaling after the president of Russia took America off the hook of that frightful intervention vote by offering, in the middle of a war, to transfer Syria's chemical weapons inventory to the U.N.—a fairy tale if ever there was one. Ask any chemical-weapons disposal specialist.

 

Syria looks lost. The question now is whether anyone who participated in the fiasco, from left to right, will adjust to avoid a repeat when the next crisis comes. The president himself needs somehow to look beyond his own instinct on foreign policy. It's just not enough. The administration badly needs a formal strategic vision. Notwithstanding her piece of Benghazi, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who gave a surprisingly tough speech Monday on the failure of the U.N. process and America's role now, may be the insider to start shaping a post-Syria strategy. Somebody has to do it. Conservative critics can carp for three years, which will dig the hole deeper, or contribute to a way forward. Allowing this week to become the status quo is unthinkable. A 40-month run of Laurel and Hardy's America will endanger everyone.

 

Contents

 

 

 

OBAMA’S SYRIAN DISASTER

Father Raymond J. de Souza

National Post, Sept. 12, 2013

 

This is how a superpower ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper. Syrians weep. Assad mocks. Putin laughs. And Americans rub their eyes in disbelief. Who would have thunk it? The issue of Syria — yes, Syria — suddenly has unified America, Russia and even Syria itself around a common project: giving U.S. President Barack Obama a face-saving pretext to back away from his misguided, unpopular and potentially disastrous plan to bomb Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

 

Obama dug his hole a year ago, when he declared that Syrian chemical-weapon usage was a “red line” issue. Once evidence emerged suggesting that Assad’s regime had gassed its own citizens, including a large-scale attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, Obama had no choice but to start beating the war drums. Barack Obama had stood by for two years as the carnage in Syria mounted, rejecting the counsel of his cabinet secretaries to intervene. Then, after some 100,000 deaths and millions of refugees, Bashar al-Assad stood accused of using chemical weapon to kill some 1,400 people. President Obama has declared that this method of killing is different in kind, not merely degree, and therefore warrants a military response to preserve American credibility — his “red line” threat from 2012 — and to send a message to other tyrants.

 

So there is now a case for armed intervention. But the bombing plan proposed by Obama would not aim to change the balance of power in the civil war, would not seek to precipitate the fall of Assad, would not seek to seriously degrade Assad’s military force, and may not even seriously degrade his chemical weapons stockpile. The Syrian campaign would be for only a matter of a few days, and would be “small,” so that everything could return to normal forthwith. Obama ran for president damning the “dumb wars” of George W. Bush. His Syrian strikes are aimed at teaching Assad to be smarter about how he massacres his people. It’s war as pedagogy.

 

Facing a lack of enthusiasm for this weekend seminar by cruise missile, Obama is eager to share the blame with Congress. But it now seems unlikely that Obama will get his authorization. Facing what is in Washington a real calamity — a weakened president unable to gain support for military action, ahead of midterm elections — the debate here has been disgusting in its crass political calculation….

 

In seeking to extricate himself from a confused policy of his own making, Obama has been taken to school by Vladimir Putin. The idea that Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile, in the middle of a civil war, would be tranquilly handed over to genteel United Nations inspectors in a deal brokered by Syria’s principal patron, is laughable. So desperate though is Obama not to be mocked for lacking muscularity, he is willing to play along with the joke.

 

The best outcome of the president Syria’s policy is that nothing will change, save that Assad will show better manners in killing his own people. The more likely outcome is that Assad will be strengthened by his ability to face down Western leaders; the dominant Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis will grow stronger; and Russia will return to being a Middle East power, something it has desired since Anwar Sadat turned his back on the Soviet Union 40 years ago.

 

In short: a disaster for the United States, a disaster for Iranian-threatened Israel, a disaster for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States who wish to contain Iran, and a disaster above all for the Syrian people, who now face not Assad alone, but Assad supported by a newly-strengthened Putin.

 

Contents

 

 

Our Conflicted Commander in Chief: Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 2013—In his Tuesday afternoon visit with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama said that his evening television address would not cause a 20-point rise in support in the polls for an attack on Syria. The president told GOP senators that while he was good, he was not that good. According to people in the room, the audience chuckled—after which Mr. Obama added, "Although I am pretty good." Actually no, Mr. President, you are not.

 

The Putin Doctrine : Ilai Saltzman, LA Times, September 12, 2013—For more than a decade — after he replaced Boris Yeltsin in the Kremlin and even during the time he had to serve as prime minister under his protege, Dmitry Medvedev — Russian President Vladimir Putin has systematically and consistently pursued a policy that can be labeled the Putin Doctrine.

 

Obama’s Missteps on Syria Lead to Retreat: Michael Gerson, Washington Post, Sept. 11, 2013—Sometimes a president does not have a communications problem. Sometimes a president has a reality problem.President Obama’s speech to the nation on Syria was premised on the denial of reality. He claimed that the Russian/Syrian initiative resulted from the “credible threat of U.S. military action.” In fact, it filled a vacuum of presidential credibility.

 

US attacks, Syrian 'perfidy,' and future mega-terror on Israel: Louis René Beres, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 10, 2013 —Should American  bombs and missiles actually land in Syria, a more or less substantial number of Syrian noncombatants would be killed. For the most part, these anticipated losses would be the result of a Syrian regime resort to "human shields," that is, to the legally unacceptable practice of moving civilians into designated military areas, or into those places most apt to be targeted. In  jurisprudence, the precise name for this violation of humanitarian international law is "perfidy."

 

The West’s Cowardice and Inaction on Syria Will Lead to Blowback: Terry Glavin,Ottawa Citizen, Sept. 11, 2013—To understand the latest cruel twists in the story of the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century, it is necessary to solve the riddle of how it came to pass that this week U.S.President Barack Obama was all of a sudden publicly and happily contemplating a tripartite collaboration with the brutish Kremlin strongman Vladimir Putin and his sociopathic Syrian client-sidekick, the mass murderer Bashar Assad.

 

The Six Steps to Ridding Syria of Chemical Weapons: Cheryl Rofer, The Globe and Mail, Sept. 11 2013—Suddenly this week, both John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov began to pressure Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control. France is putting a resolution before the United Nations Security Council to that effect. Syria seems to have accepted.

 

Putin’s Chemical Weapons Plan Is Already a Success: Kelly McParland, National Post, Sept. 12, 2013—There are lots of reasons to question Russia’s proposal for isolating Syria’s chemical weapons. In a practical sense, none of them matter much. If the aim of the West is to ensure the weapons aren’t used again, the goal has already been achieved.

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

SYRIA & OBAMA, II: ASSAD-RUSSIAN CHEMICAL PROPOSALS A PLOY, ENABLE OBAMA TO DODGE (TEMPORARILY) DEFEAT ON BOMBING STRATEGY, AND DECISION ON IRAN

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

 

 

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Russia’s Absurd Proposal on Syria’s WeaponsMax Boot, Commentary, Sept. 9, 2013—The debate over Syria took a new turn on Monday when Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that Bashar Assad could avoid American airstrikes if he would “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week — turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow the full and total accounting.” Kerry added that Assad “isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done.”
 
Lavrov may Have Helped Obama Dodge the Syrian BulletNoah Beck, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 10, 2013—Any diplomatic initiative on Syria coming from Russia, whose UN votes have perpetuated Assad's killing machine for over two years, should be viewed with extreme suspicion. Nevertheless, the latest Russian proposal merits serious consideration.
 
The Bed Obama and Kerry MadeBret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9, 2013—So much for John Kerry's "global test," circa 2004. So much for Barack Obama slamming the Bush administration for dismissing "European reservations about the wisdom and necessity of the Iraq war," circa 2007.
 
Obama Misunderstands Wartime LeadershipMichael Gerson, Washington Post, Sept. 9, 2013—In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt told his speechwriter Sam Rosenman, “It’s a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead — and to find no one there.” For President Obama to have arrived at this place is uncomfortable but not unprecedented.
 


Say It Again. Kurdish Independence NowJonathan Spyer, Tower Magazine, September 2013—The civil war in Syria and the increasing fragility of Iraq have thrown the long-term future of these states into question. For years, they were ruled by brutal regimes that held power in the name of Arab nationalism; as a result, they failed to knit together the populations they ruled into a coherent national identity.



Obama’s Dithering Frustrates IsraelisVivian Bercovici ,Toronto Star, Sept. 10 2013—Consensus in the Middle East is rare, but it seems that President Barack Obama has forged one inadvertently. Whether supporting or opposing American military intervention in Syria, there is little, if any, enthusiasm in any quarter for his dithering decision-making.

 

On Topic Links

 
Blocking Action on Syria Makes an Attack on Iran More LikelyDennis Ross, Washington Post, Sept. 9, 2013
Iran is Testing Obama in SyriaSaeed Ghasseminejad, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 9, 2013
How not to Deal with SyriaJonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 10, 2013


Syria, America and Putin's BluffGeorge Friedman, Stratfor, Sept. 10, 2013

 

Max Boot
Commentary, Sept. 9.2013

 
The debate over Syria took a new turn on Monday when Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that Bashar Assad could avoid American airstrikes if he would “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week — turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow the full and total accounting.” Kerry added that Assad “isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done.”
 
But that didn’t stop Russia and other nations from jumping on the idea after the Syrian government said it welcomed the idea. Now this seemingly offhand suggestion–which Kerry apparently did not mean to float as a serious proposal–is being seriously debated as an alternative to American military action.
 
If Assad were serious about turning over his entire chemical weapons stockpile–not to mention destroying all capacity to manufacture more such weapons in the future–this might conceivably be a deal worth taking even at the risk of Assad rebuilding his chemical weapons capacity sometime in the future. But the odds of Assad assenting to such a deal are slight: Why should he when he knows that, worst case, he faces an “unbelievably small” American airstrike, as Kerry himself has said?
 
Chemical weapons are an important source of power for the Assad regime, not only for the threat they pose to Israel but, more immediately, for the threat they pose to Assad’s rebellious subjects. He is unlikely to give up such an advantage, which is so crucial to his regime’s survival, unless he were convinced that his regime would crumble otherwise. But nothing that President Obama or his aides have said would lead him to come to that conclusion.
 
Even if Assad claimed to be serious about such a deal–and he has said no such thing yet, in fact he hasn’t even acknowledged that he possesses chemical weapons–it is hard to know how such a deal could be implemented or enforced. It is one thing for inspectors to travel to Libya in 2003 to make sure that Gaddafi was giving up his entire WMD program. Libya then was a peaceful if despotic place. It is quite another thing to do so now in Syria where violence is commonplace–in fact UN inspectors looking for evidence of chemical-weapons use have already been shot at. How on earth could international inspectors possibly roam Syria in the middle of a civil war to confirm that Assad has no more chemical weapons left?
 
The task is daunting, indeed nearly impossible, in no small part because of our lack of knowledge about the whereabouts of his arsenal. The New York Times reports: “A senior American official who has been briefed extensively on the intelligence noted in recent days that Washington has firm knowledge of only 19 of the 42 suspected chemical weapons sites. Those numbers are constantly changing, because Mr. Assad has been moving the stores, largely for fear some of them could fall into the hands of rebels.”
 
Even if we knew where all the stockpiles were, removing them and destroying them–presumably a process that would have to occur outside the country–would be an enormous undertaking that could easily involve thousands of foreign workers along with thousands, even tens of thousands, of soldiers to protect them. It is hard to imagine such an undertaking occurring in wartime; few if any nations will risk their troops on the ground in Syria to make the process possible and Syria’s government would be unlikely to grant them permission to do so.
 
This, then, is not a serious alternative to military action. It is a stalling tactic to allow Assad to retain his chemical-weapons capacity–and other weapons that have killed far more people. It is also a distraction from the real issue, which is not Assad’s chemical-weapons stockpile but the continuing existence of the Assad regime itself.
 
More than 100,000 people have already died in the Syrian civil war and more will continue to die as long as the Assad regime remains in power. There are admittedly real dangers in what post-Assad Syria will look like, but we already know what Syria under the Assad regime looks like today–it is a disaster, not only from a humanitarian but also from a strategic standpoint, because al-Qaeda is already consolidating control over parts of northern Syria while Iran is able to maintain a client regime in power in Damascus.
 
The U.S. policy should be not just the removal of the chemical-weapons stockpile but of the Assad regime itself. In fact Obama has said that is his goal–but he is not willing to take the actions necessary to bring it about. In the face of this leadership vacuum, it is hardly surprising that all sorts of odd ideas are being floated.

 

LAVROV MAY HAVE HELPED
OBAMA DODGE THE SYRIAN BULLET

Noah Beck
Jerusalem Post, Sept. 10, 2013

 
Any diplomatic initiative on Syria coming from Russia, whose UN votes have perpetuated Assad's killing machine for over two years, should be viewed with extreme suspicion. Nevertheless, the latest Russian proposal merits serious consideration.
 
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's proposal, which exploited an offhand remark by US Secretary of State John Kerry, calls for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal in exchange for a cancellation of the US military action against Syria being debated by Congress. Russian national interests underlie this proposal: helping Russia's last Mideast client state to survive, reinforcing the image of Russia as a Mideast power broker, and diminishing the perception that Russia supports chemical weapons use. But these interests intersect with US interests insofar as a diplomatic solution decreases the odds of an Islamist takeover of Syria (should US strikes actually alter the balance of power between the Syrian regime and the opposition) while possibly removing the need for potentially risky and costly US military action — without further undermining US credibility.
 
The humanitarian justification for intervention — with over two million Syrian refugees and 110,000 dead — grows stronger by the day. The geo-strategic reasons for US action are also manifest: Syria's chemical weapons could be used unpredictably by the Assad regime, its terrorist ally Hezbollah, or Islamist rebels; rogue regimes like North Korea and Iran will view US inaction as a green light to oppose US interests where they see fit (particularly with respect to their nuclear plans); and the toppling of Assad's regime — Iran's closest ally — would weaken the Iranian regime while signaling that it is next unless diplomacy quickly resolves the Iranian nuclear standoff.
 
But opinion polls have consistently revealed that the US public opposes involvement in the Syrian conflict. Had Obama shown more active and forceful leadership on the Syrian conflict back when the opposition was comprised mostly of secular rebels, it's unlikely that the tragedy — and related US policy options — would have deteriorated into what they are today. Had Obama not drawn a "red line" to show that the US still cares about international norms (particularly when their enforcement makes the US safer), the potential damage to US. credibility caused by inaction might not have been so great. Finally, had Obama strongly backed the Syrian rebels from the outset, Russia might not have opposed US interests as aggressively, US allies might have been more forthcoming with their support for any eventual military action, and Americans might not have reflected the ambivalence and confusion of their president when it comes to Syria.
 
Given these policy blunders and the unfortunate circumstances they produced, Obama's best move now is to explore the Russian proposal for the remote chance that it can improve the Syrian situation at little cost. Success would mean that Russia effectively enabled Obama to dodge the Syrian bullet. Failure would force Obama to return to the three bad options available before the Russian proposal: 1) stay out of the conflict (despite the damage to US credibility and the risk of an even bigger crisis requiring intervention later, 2) enter with the necessary strategy and commitment for victory, or, worst of all, 3) launch "symbolic strikes" that only boost Assad's standing (for successfully withstanding the "mighty" US before continuing with his murderous military campaign) and possibly draw the US into a much greater conflict on terms dictated by Assad, Hezbollah, and/or Iran.
 
Exploring the Russian diplomatic initiative offers two key advantages: 1) it will provide even greater legitimacy to any eventual US military strike, if the Syrian regime violates the terms of an agreement to destroy its chemical weapons, and 2) if properly executed, Syria's voluntary disarmament could actually be far more effective than military strikes, given the challenge of completely destroying all relevant targets comprising Syria's chemical arsenal and the attendant risks of military escalation and collateral damage. Moreover, if implementation of the Russian proposal actually eliminates Syria's chemical weapons, US deterrence will be somewhat restored, because the US will have demonstrated that it can rattle its saber and rally the international community to produce meaningful changes on the ground.
 
But to ensure that Russia's proposal isn't just a stalling tactic to benefit Assad, there should be very specific requirements and deadlines, any willful violation of which authorizes military action. The Assad regime must disclose a complete and accurate list of chemical weapons sites and materials, and this list must be verified and modified as needed using the best military intelligence available to the US and its allies. A timetable for the confirmed removal and destruction of all chemical weapons must involve just enough time for the disarmament to be done safely and should include detailed milestones that can be easily monitored.
 
The biggest challenge will be establishing an efficient and safe disarmament process that can be reasonably executed and verified in the middle of a civil war, while minimizing the opportunity for Syrian rebels to exploit the situation by trying to seize the chemical weapons and/or causing the Assad regime to violate its commitments under the disarmament schedule. Force might still be required to enforce any agreement with the ruthless and mendacious Assad regime, but the justification — and the domestic and international support — for military action will then be far greater.
 
The Russian proposal demonstrates what Obama himself acknowledged when discussing it: a credible military threat generates diplomatic openings that otherwise would not exist. Will Obama remember this truth when dealing with the far more serious threat of a nuclear Iran, looming just around the corner?
 
Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.


 

 
So much for John Kerry's "global test," circa 2004. So much for Barack Obama slamming the Bush administration for dismissing "European reservations about the wisdom and necessity of the Iraq war," circa 2007. So much for belittling foreign leaders who side with the administration as "poodles." So much for the U.N. stamp of legitimacy. So much for the "lie/die" rhyme popular with Democrats when they were accusing George W. Bush of fiddling with the WMD intelligence.
 
Say what you will about the prospect of a U.S. strike on Syria, it has already performed one useful service: exposing the low dishonesty, the partisan opportunism, the intellectual flabbiness, the two-bit histrionics and the dumb hysteria that was the standard Democratic attack on the Bush administration's diplomatic handling of the war in Iraq.
 
In politics as in life, you lie in the bed you make. The president and his secretary of state are now lying in theirs. So are we. And then some. All Americans are reduced when Mr. Kerry, attempting to distinguish an attack on Syria with the war in Iraq, described the former as "unbelievably small." Does the secretary propose to stigmatize the use of chemical weapons by bombarding Bashar Assad, evil tyrant, with popcorn? When did the American way of war go from shock-and-awe to forewarn-and-irritate?
 
Americans are reduced, also, when an off-the-cuff remark by Mr. Kerry becomes the basis of a Russian diplomatic initiative—immediately seized by an Assad regime that knows a sucker's game when it sees one—to hand over Syria's stocks of chemical weapons to international control. So now we're supposed to embark on months of negotiation, mediated by our friends the Russians, to get Assad to relinquish a chemical arsenal he used to deny having, now denies using, and will soon deny secretly maintaining?
 
One of the favorite Democratic attack lines against the Bush administration was that it was "incompetent." Maybe so, but competence is also a matter of comparison. So let's compare. The administration will be lucky to win an unbelievably thin congressional majority for its unbelievably small plan of attack. By contrast, the October 2002 authorization for military force in Iraq passed by an easy 77-23 margin in the Senate and a 296-133 margin in the House.
 
The administration also touts the support of 24 countries—Albania and Honduras are on board!—who have signed a letter condemning Assad's use of chemical weapons "in the strongest terms," though none of them, except maybe France, are contemplating military action. Yet Mr. Bush assembled a coalition of 40 countries who were willing to deploy troops to Iraq—a coalition Mr. Kerry mocked as inadequate and illegitimate when he ran for president in 2004.
 
Then there's the intel. In London the other day, Mr. Kerry invited the public to examine the administration's evidence of Assad's use of chemical weapons, posted on whitehouse.gov. The "dossier" consists of a 1,455-word document heavy on blanket assertions such as "we assess with high confidence" and "we have a body of information," and "we have identified one hundred videos."
 
By contrast, the Bush administration made a highly detailed case on Iraqi WMD, including show-and-tells by Colin Powell at the Security Council. It also relied on the testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix, who reported in January 2003 that "there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared," that his inspectors had found "indications that the [nerve agent VX] was weaponized," and that Iraq had "circumvented the restrictions" on the import of missile parts.
 
The case the Bush administration assembled on Iraqi WMD was far stronger than what the Obama administration has offered on Syria. And while I have few doubts that the case against Assad is solid, it shouldn't shock Democrats that the White House's "trust us" approach isn't winning converts. When you've spent years peddling the libel that the Bush administration lied about Iraq, don't be shocked when your goose gets cooked in the same foul sauce.
 
So what should President Obama say when he addresses the country Tuesday night? He could start by apologizing to President Bush for years of cheap slander. He won't. He could dispense with the talk of "global norms" about chemical weapons and instead talk about the American interest in punishing Assad. He might. He could give Americans a goal worth fighting for: depose Assad, secure the chemical weapons, lead from the front, and let Syrians sort out the rest. Well, let's hope.
 
In the meantime, Republicans should ponder what their own political posturing on Syria might mean for the future. When a Republican president, faced with a Democratic House, feels compelled to take action against some other rogue regime, will they rue their past insistence on congressional approval?
 
 
 
In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt told his speechwriter Sam Rosenman, “It’s a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead — and to find no one there.” For President Obama to have arrived at this place is uncomfortable but not unprecedented. Democratic majorities generally do not clamor for the application of violence in global affairs. Usually it is a president who sees a strategic problem requiring the use of force and must persuade his fellow citizens.
 
During his news conference following the Group of 20 summit in Russia, Obama’s reference to the example of FDR — trying to persuade a reluctant nation to help the British — was revealing. Roosevelt won the approval of historians by challenging, even circumventing, American resistance to war. His foreign-policy leadership consisted of opposing a shortsighted democratic consensus….
 
Obama affirmed in his news conference that he “was elected to end wars, not start them.” He then proceeded to show how unsuited his skills and strategies are to the task of beginning an armed conflict. His goal? To maintain an “international norm.” His current options? Not “appetizing.” His future methods? “Limited.” The level of opposition? “You know, our polling operations are pretty good.” His main argument? “I think that I have a well-deserved reputation for taking very seriously and soberly the idea of military engagement.”
 
So far, the president’s case for attacking Syria can be summarized as follows: Precisely because Obama has been hesitant and conflicted about intervention for two years, Americans should trust that the intervention he now proposes is unavoidable. His very ambivalence is the source of his credibility. And a war-weary nation can be assured that Obama has chosen minimal objectives and will employ minimal force — a strike Secretary of State John Kerry calls “unbelievably small.”
 
The questions arising from Congress and the public have been predictable. If the methods are so minimal, will they actually accomplish anything except risking retaliation? If the president is so ambivalent, why should people rally to his cause, particularly to the legal abstraction of enforcing a “norm”?
 
Obama’s approach represents a misunderstanding of wartime leadership. It is not possible for a president to justify the use of force by downplaying it. Americans support armed conflict when the stakes are highest, not when the costs are lowest. It is a tribute to their moral seriousness. There is no way for a president to accommodate American war weariness by setting “unbelievably small” goals; he must overcome it by explaining urgent, unavoidable national purposes. If Obama can’t define those purposes in Syria, his wartime leadership will not succeed.
 
He has a strong moral and strategic case to make. Bashar al-Assad is the author of poison gas attacks against children — the latest in a series of mass atrocities aimed at civilians. Tolerance for such butchery would be a source of historical shame and an invitation to future crimes. But this moral stand is located within a broader strategic argument. A dangerous alliance of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, with outside support from Russia, is seeking dominance in a region essential to U.S. interests. It is important to prevent their victory in the Syrian civil war and to avoid the destabilization of key allies. And it is necessary to make clear that Iran’s proxy, the Assad regime, cannot use weapons of mass destruction with impunity. For Congress to undercut Obama in his confrontation with Damascus would invite future miscalculations in Tehran.
 
The Obama administration already has elements of a regional strategy in place. It has imposed sanctions on the Assad regime and provided considerable aid to threatened neighbors. It is committed to training selected rebels. And it is hinting that strikes against Syrian targets may actually be larger than Kerry describes. “By degrading Assad’s capacity to deliver chemical weapons,” U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power recently argued, “we will also degrade his ability to strike at civilian populations by conventional means.” This sounds a lot like attacks on air bases, runways, aircraft and rocket launchers. It may be difficult, at this late date, to assemble these elements into a case that persuades Congress. But it is not even possible without the end of ambivalence.
 

 

 
 
 
The civil war in Syria and the increasing fragility of Iraq have thrown the long-term future of these states into question. For years, they were ruled by brutal regimes that held power in the name of Arab nationalism; as a result, they failed to knit together the populations they ruled into a coherent national identity. With the decline of repressive centralized authority in Syria and Iraq, however, older nationalities and identities are reemerging. Chief among them are the Kurds. Indeed, current regional developments make Kurdish statehood a realistic possibility for the first time in living memory.
 
I have reported on a number of occasions from both Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan. I last visited these areas four months ago, and have an extensive network of friends and contacts there and in the wider Kurdish world. And it has become overwhelmingly clear to me that Kurdish sovereignty would be of benefit to the Kurds, the region as a whole, and Western interests in the Middle East. I find it unfortunate that the emerging Kurdish success story receives so little attention in the West—both among policymakers and the general public.
 
Kurdish statehood is good for the Kurds. It’s also good for the West.
The Kurds number around 30 million, and are generally considered to be the world’s largest stateless nation. A non-Semitic, non-Turkic people native to the Middle East, the Kurds believe themselves to be descendants of ancient Iranian tribes that predated the Turkish and Arab invasions.
 
When the Western powers carved up the remains of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, they promised the Kurds autonomy in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. Subsequent resistance to the treaty by the Turkish nationalist movement led by Mustafa Kemal led to its renegotiation at Lausanne in 1923, where the West recognized the borders of the new Turkish republic. As a result, the Kurds found themselves divided between the post-Ottoman states of Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, with a small population in Iran.
 
Kurdish politics have been labyrinthine and divided ever since. No single, united pan-Kurdish national movement exists or has ever existed. Instead, the separated Kurdish populations each developed political movements of their own.
 
Unsurprisingly, the Kurds have developed a long tradition of heroic defeat over the course of the 20th century. Modern Kurdish nationalists like to trace the origins of their movement to the short-lived Mahabad Republic, the first attempt at Kurdish statehood. Officially known as the Republic of Kurdistan, it was declared in the Iranian city of Mahabad in early 1946, and was crushed by the Iranian army several months later.
 
The leader of the fleeting republic’s armed forces was Mulla Mustafa Barzani, an Iraqi Kurd and father of Massoud Barzani, the current president of Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Kurdish agitation and uprisings continued under Barzani family leadership for years afterward. Most significantly, Mustafa Barzani led an unsuccessful military campaign in northern Iraq from 1961-70.
 
In 1983, the Iraqi Kurds rose up yet again, now led by Massoud Barzani and his Kurdish Democratic Party, in alliance with the younger Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Jalal Talabani. This uprising was brutally crushed by Saddam Hussein in the infamous “Anfal” campaign, during which Hussein used poison gas against the civilians of the village Halabja in 1988, killing 3-5,000 people.
 
After the First Gulf War in 1991, a Kurdish autonomous zone was created in northern Iraq. Since the 2003 US invasion, this zone has emerged as a quasi-sovereign entity, with its own armed forces, political system, and economic interests. Traveling there today is to witness a little-known Mideast success story in the midst of regional chaos and meltdown. The autonomous zone is the most peaceful part of Iraq, and the absence of political violence is encouraging investment. Erbil, the capital city, feels like a boom town. There are construction cranes everywhere and brand new SUVs on the streets. Exxon Mobil has signed an agreement with the KRG to search for oil and develop an energy industry in the zone. The US, France, and a number of other countries now have consulates in the capital.
 
But Kurdish politics don’t start and finish in northern Iraq. The second major nationalist movement began with a 1984 uprising led by the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan (the Kurdish Workers Party or PKK) in southeast Turkey, with the goal of founding a Kurdish state. The rebellion and the Turkish response to it went on to claim more than 40,000 lives. But this year, a ceasefire was declared and a peace process begun in hopes of ending the conflict.
 
Meanwhile, the Syrian civil war has led to the emergence of a Kurdish-ruled enclave in the northeast of the country. This area is controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD), an offshoot of the PKK. This embryonic autonomous zone is poorer and more fragile than its Iraqi counterpart. But it too is the quietest and most peaceful part of that war-torn country. PYD-imposed authority is ubiquitous. The Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (People’s Protection Units or YPG) militia does as much as possible to prevent the entry of both Islamist rebels and Assad regime soldiers. The militia and the Kurdish security service, the Asayish, maintain an extensive presence and a firm grip on the area.
 
It is very telling that the Kurdish areas in both Syria and Iraq have become destinations for Arab refugees from elsewhere in these countries. There is a simple reason for this: Generally speaking, where the Kurds are in control, things stay quiet.
 
The turbulent events of the last decade have brought an unexpected bonanza for the Kurds. Two powerful—if very different—Kurdish autonomous zones have emerged out of the collapsing societies of Iraq and Syria, while Turkey’s Kurds are engaged in negotiations to advance their rights. Only the Kurds of Iran remain firmly behind prison walls.
The question before the Kurds today is how to consolidate these gains and build on them. It is rarely discussed openly, but looming above it all is the question of Kurdish statehood and what it would mean for both the Kurds and the region in general. Will the Kurds continue to develop their quasi-states while avoiding a direct push toward sovereignty? Or are events leading inexorably toward Kurdish independence, with the resulting partition of Iraq and Syria?
 
The road to sovereignty for the Kurds remains strewn with obstacles. Not least among them is the absence of a united Kurdish national movement. As outlined above, there are two main forces in Kurdish politics today. One of them derives from the Iraqi Kurdish experience, the other from that of Turkey. In recent years, each of these factions has made considerable progress toward forming rival “pan-Kurdish” movements.
 
The first of these is Massoud Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party in Iraq. While the KDP is based in northern Iraq, it maintains smaller offshoots and sister parties in both Syria and Iran. The second is the PKK, still officially headed by its jailed founder Abdullah Ocalan. Until recently, it was for all practical purposes led by Murat Karayilan, its commander in the Qandil mountains area, and is now headed by movement veteran Cemil Bayek. This movement and its various front organizations are the dominant force among both the Kurds of Turkey and the Kurdish autonomous zone in Syria. The PKK also has sister organizations among the Kurds of Iran and northern Iraq.
 
The KDP and the PKK have very different visions of the Kurdish future. The KDP is a traditional, conservative organization; it is pro-Western, pro-business, and pro-American in outlook, rooted in the clan and tribal structures of Iraqi Kurdish life. Its leader, after all, is a scion of the most prominent family in Iraqi Kurdish politics.
 
The PKK, by contrast, is a leftist organization, with its roots in the radical ferment of Turkey in the 1970s. Ocalan, its founder, is from a poor rural family. Although the movement has come a long way from its early days, it still represents a distinct, secular leftist nationalism of a type rarely found in today’s Middle East.
 
This is reflected in its very progressive approach to the role of women in society and politics, which is in stark contrast to the surrounding culture. Women, for example, serve in frontline units of PKK militias. This is not the case with the Pesh Merga, the armed forces of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous zone.
 
Both of these movements are political-military organizations, and suffer from the authoritarian tendencies inherent in such groups. There have been verified instances of political repression in both the Kurdish zones of northern Iraq and northeast Syria.
 
The PKK remains on US and EU lists of terrorist organizations. But this designation is more a concession to Turkish sensibilities and interests than an objective assessment of the group’s current modus operandi. Whatever may have been the case in the past, the PKK today is a guerrilla organization at war with Turkish security forces, not a group that deliberately targets civilians.
 
Neither the KDP nor the PKK is openly committed to the achievement of Kurdish statehood, albeit for very different reasons. Iraqi Kurdish officials will privately concede that an independent Kurdish state is their goal, but stress the difficulties of achieving it and the need for a pragmatic, cautious strategy. Some PKK members speak in similar terms, but others stress the views of their leader Ocalan, who is opposed to very idea of the nation-state and advocates a system of “democratic autonomy” or “radical democracy” for the entire Middle East.
 
These two very different movements are set to dominate the next and possibly decisive chapter in the modern political history of the Kurds.
Neither of these movements is going to replace or defeat the other; so the future of the Kurds is likely to depend on whether they can find a way to cooperate. This will probably be difficult, however, because of the KRG’s burgeoning strategic relationship with Turkey.
 
For decades, the Turks have seen Kurdish national aspirations as an anathema, but this is no longer entirely the case. Over the last few years, Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish government have been building a close relationship based on mutual interests. Turkey currently relies on Russia and Iran for its oil supplies, and has deteriorating strategic relations with both. At the same time, the Kurdish zone is rich in oil and borders on Turkey. As a result, Turkey has recently been making private agreements with the Iraqi Kurds for the purchase of crude oil supplies. This is despite vocal objections from the US—which is opposed to any attempt by the Kurdish autonomous zone to secede from Iraq—and, of course, opposition from the central government in Baghdad.
 
The main obstacles to the burgeoning alliance between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds are the future status of Turkey’s Kurds and the Kurdish enclave in northeast Syria, which shares a long border with Turkey. The situation is even more complex because the PKK uses the Qandil Mountains, which are under the control of the Iraqi Kurds, as a base for its insurgency against Turkey. Although the Kurdish zone’s government does not officially sanction the presence of the PKK, it does nothing to prevent it.
 
The emergence of a Kurdish enclave in northeast Syria helped push Turkey toward resolving its long conflict with the PKK. Should open hostilities resume, however, there is a real possibility that the long border controlled by the Syrian Kurdish zone and the Assad regime will be used as a base for attacks on Turkey. Partly as a result, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has entered into peace negotiations with the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan; but talks have rapidly run aground. In mid-July, with the peace process frozen, the Kurdish leadership in northeast Syria declared an “interim administrative body” in the area under its control, alarming the Turkish government.
 
Relations between the Iraqi autonomous zone and its Syrian counterpart are similarly fraught; partly because of their differing relationships with Turkey. The Iraqi Kurds control the border between their own territory and that of the Syrian Kurds. When I crossed this border in March 2013 with a group of Syrian Kurdish fighters, it was necessary to avoid Iraqi Kurdish forces deployed along the border. At the same time, however, it was clear that a sort of ambiguous live-and-let-live attitude existed between the two groups, with each doing its best to ignore the other.
 
There is no likelihood of armed confrontation between these two nascent Kurdistans. But because of the role played by Turkey, unification seems equally elusive. The Iraqi Kurds needs their flourishing relationship with Turkey in order to continue on its path toward greater autonomy and possible independence. The PKK, however, has been at war with Turkey since 1984. For the Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish zones to unify, the PKK must move toward rapprochement with Turkey. This means that Turkey has an effective veto over Kurdish unity and possible independence. To achieve their goals, the PKK and the Iraqi Kurds must find a way to neutralize it.
 
One way to do so would be for the US and other Western powers to support Kurdish sovereignty as a legitimate goal. This would pave the way for greater Western investment and diplomatic support for Kurdish goals and weaken Turkey’s ability to snuff out a Kurdish bid for independence. A second way is, of course, Kurdish unity. The establishment of a single “national congress”-type organization could defeat Turkey’s strategy of divide and rule. An upcoming conference in Erbil is intended to lay the foundation for such an organization. It remains to be seen if it will succeed.
 
If Kurdish unity and a strategy for statehood cannot be achieved, the most likely result is two Kurdish quasi-states, existing on adjoining territories but unable to maintain good relations with each other or achieve complete sovereignty. Such quasi-states have become a familiar feature of the Middle East and the post-Cold War world in general. They combine de facto sovereignty with an absence of international recognition. Hamas has been running such an entity in the Gaza Strip since 2007. The Hezbollah state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon is arguably another example—though in that case the quasi-state appears to have largely devoured the legitimate state.
 
The problem with such entities is that while they can survive on the basis of their monopoly on the use of force, they cannot thrive. Their uncertain status precludes the development of their economies or their civil and political institutions. As a result, they also tend to become centers of paramilitary and criminal activity, such as Gaza and Lebanon, as well as Kosovo, Bosnian Serbia, and Transnistria.
 
The Middle East remains beset by deeply problematic political trends that undermine political stability and economic development. Extremist political Islam, deeply rooted anti-Western sentiment, widespread and pervasive anti-Semitism, and hostility to non-Muslim minorities are all on the rise across the Arab world, Iran, and Turkey.
 
In this context, the Kurds represent an anomaly. There is no need to romanticize either the Iraqi zone’s government or the PKK in order to see this. Each of these entities has their own problems. They show certain authoritarian tendencies and the enclaves they rule are unlikely to resemble US or EU-style democracies any time in the near future. But Kurdish political culture is largely free of the kind of extreme dysfunction noted above.
 
Political Islam exists among the Kurds, but because of the predominance of ethnic identification, it has demonstrably less appeal than among other Mideast peoples. That the two primary rivals in Kurdish politics are both secular nationalist movements is proof of this. In the Iraqi zone, Islamist parties support the Gorran movement, a reformist party that does not even profess political Islam; which testifies to the relative weakness of the area’s Islamic movement. In Syrian Kurdistan, there is no identifiable Islamist movement, and the its militia has been actively engaged in combat with Syrian rebel groups associated with Al Qaeda.
 
The Kurds are also notably less hostile to the West than many others in the region. For the most part, their grievances are directed not against the US or Europe, but the local oppressors of the Kurds. Indeed, other than Israel, the KRG in northern Iraq is the most pro-Western of all the non-monarchical governments in the region. The ruling KDP is openly and outspokenly pro-Western and pro-American. And unlike the Arab monarchies, its pro-Western orientation is deeply rooted in popular sentiment.
 
The PKK, however, is more of a question mark. Due to Turkey’s de facto veto over Kurdish independence and the lack of Western support for the Kurdish cause, the PKK might turn toward Turkey’s main rival for support—Iran. This would be a disaster, and an entirely unnecessary one. Western support for Kurdish national aspirations would almost certainly prevent it.
The moral and strategic case for Kurdish sovereignty is therefore a strong one. Western endorsement of the principle of Kurdish statehood, removal of the PKK from lists of terror organizations, and the development of closer relations with the Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish enclaves could help break the current stalemate on the issue.
 
There is neither benefit nor justice in a situation where the legitimate national aspirations of a largely pro-Western people are subject to the veto of the Islamist prime minister of Turkey. This is particularly the case given that Prime Minister Erdogan is adopting an increasingly problematic stance vis-a-vis the West and more and more repressive domestic policies.
 
Other opponents of Kurdish statehood include the Maliki government in Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria, and Islamist groups among the Syrian rebels. Maliki and Assad are both clients of Iran, and the former is actively aiding the latter in his fight for survival. The Syrian rebels are Islamists and Arab nationalists who are determined to maintain the unity of the Syrian state. All of these forces are hostile to the West, and acquiescence to their rejection of Kurdish rights makes little or no sense.
 
The Middle East is in the midst of enormous historic changes, and the Kurds stand to be one of the main beneficiaries. Kurdish sovereignty would mean the establishment of a strong, pro-Western state in Middle East that is likely to be characterized by pragmatism, stable governance, and a pro-Western strategic outlook. It would also possess substantial natural resources and a mobilized populace willing to defend it. A Kurdish state in northern Iraq, moreover, would likely absorb the Kurdish enclave in northeast Syria, effectively breaking up Iraq and Syria—two failed states that have been a byword for war, repression, and terrorism for most of the last fifty years.
 
In order for this to happen, however, the US must adopt Kurdish sovereignty as a strategic goal. At the moment, caution, timidity, and the desire to withdraw from the region make this unlikely. The last of these is probably the most difficult to overcome. After all, if the US and other Western nations do not want to be involved in the Middle East, then there is no point in supporting the emergence of a pro-Western ally in the region. But recent events in Syria and Egypt have shown what happens when the West fails to cultivate allies or abandons reliable clients in the region: Chaos.
 
Moreover, the forces ready and willing to replace the US as the region’s strategic hegemon—above all, Iran and Russia—do not intend to manage it as custodians of order and stability. Their interest is in the promotion of movements and regimes aligned with them and hostile to the West. At the same time, the rise of the anti-Western Sunni Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic extremists with the support of Turkey and Qatar is leading to war and disorder across the eastern Mediterranean.
 
A sovereign Kurdish state could be a powerful bulwark against such disorder and a solid, pro-Western ally in this most troubled of regions. It would also realize the Kurds’ desire for long-delayed historic justice. It is an idea whose time has come.
 
Jonathan Spyer is a Senior Fellow at the Inter-Disciplinary Center at Herzliya.

 

Obama’s Dithering Frustrates Israelis
Vivian Bercovici
Toronto Star, Sept. 10 2013
 
Consensus in the Middle East is rare, but it seems that President Barack Obama has forged one inadvertently. Whether supporting or opposing American military intervention in Syria, there is little, if any, enthusiasm in any quarter for his dithering decision-making.
 
In Israel, as elsewhere, opinion as to whether the U.S. should strike Syria militarily is divided. But there is agreement regarding the significant damage to Obama’s credibility as a leader capable of making tough decisions in a decisive manner, not to mention his propensity to plan war on CNN. A weak president means a weak America, a very worrisome proposition for Israel.
 
“Now,” explained a professional friend in Tel Aviv, “Obama will not be taken seriously in this part of the world. The Iranians, all of the Middle East, is laughing.” An international businesswoman, she worries, as do many, that if Iran targets Israel with nuclear weapons, the West will go fetal. Israel will be utterly isolated. In Israel, such fears are existential and very real.
 
Everywhere, everyone spoke about Syria. They spoke about the new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. They buzzed around preparing for the Jewish New Year holidays. They sat in cafés, went to the beach, and worried, always worried, about “the situation,” as they call it, a euphemism for the constant challenge that is daily life.
 
Yes, a smattering of Israelis were lining up for hours to receive gas masks, in case the unthinkable should happen. But many more, particularly in Jerusalem, were preoccupied with the recent arrest of two East Jerusalem Arabs, allegedly planning a bomb attack in the outdoor Mamilla mall during the holiday season. Police reportedly located the device and detailed attack plans. The accused had worked as cleaners at Mamilla, giving them easy access to the premises.
 
As I walked through the packed mall the night before the onset of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the 10-day New Year period, I am sure that every person there, like me, was privately barraged with horrible images, images of unthinkable carnage averted, for now, contrasted with the immediate experience of civilians — Arabs and Jews — out for a pleasurable evening.
 
This, of course, is the paradox of the place, the extreme effort — mental and physical — that is expended to manage “the situation” so that life may continue with a degree of normalcy, commingled with a constant awareness of the fact that the status quo is unsustainable. Perhaps, in that, lies a second point of consensus in the Middle East: that there must be change in the Israeli-Palestinian imbalance.
 
Neither side, it seems, is wildly optimistic that the peace talks will develop significant momentum. The reasons are legion: the negotiators — PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni — lack “real” power; the negotiation paradigm promotes a “zero-sum” approach, which impedes trust-building and the achievement of tangible, incremental progress, so critical in such a fraught relationship; Israelis are intransigent; Palestinians are intransigent; Israelis will never relinquish settlements; Palestinians will never accept a Jewish state; and on and on it goes.
 
Driving to Hebron from Jerusalem in early September, my Palestinian guide pointed out the village of Beit Ummar. A farming town of 17,000 situated on the main road connecting the two cities, Beit Ummar’s land has been encroached upon by neighbouring Jewish settlements. Palestinian resistance is expressed by regular rock and stone throwing at passing settler vehicles. Stones can kill and injure. According to media reports and dispatches on the website of the Palestine Solidarity Project, the Israeli Defense Forces conduct frequent village raids, apprehending suspects, sometimes imprisoning them for years. And on, and on, it goes.
 
Improbably, peace was negotiated in 1979 by two unlikely allies, former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and hardline Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin. Far from perfect, it beats war. Ironically, today, Israel and the West Bank stand out as the most stable enclave in the perennially unstable region, which is especially volatile now.
 
“The situation” is either a semi-permanent entente or the beginnings of negotiations towards peace, on the ground, moment by moment, day by day. Perhaps, hopefully, the imperatives of daily life will force an imperfect coexistence on both peoples.
 
Vivian Bercovici is a Toronto lawyer and adjunct professor at University of Toronto's Faculty of Law. Her column appears monthly.

 

 
Blocking Action on Syria Makes an Attack on Iran More LikelyDennis Ross, Washington Post, Sept. 9, 2013—The opponents of congressional authorization for military strikes against Syria are focused on one set of concerns: the belief that the costs of action are simply too high and uncertain. Syria for them is a civil war, with few apparent good guys and far too many bad guys.
 
Iran is Testing Obama in SyriaSaeed Ghasseminejad, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 9, 2013—Many hope that US President Barack Obama finally understands the urgent need to stand against the butcher of Damascus, President Bashar Assad and the use of chemical weapons by his regime on civilians. Obama needs to send a strong message to the world that his redlines are not just cheap talk.
 
How not to Deal with SyriaJonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 10, 2013—The hawkish case for striking Syria involves a coherent strategy of ousting President Bashar Assad or damaging his war-making ability to the point where the tide in the Syrian civil war is eventually changed in favor of militants hostile to Iran and amenable to U.S. influence.

Syria, America and Putin's BluffGeorge Friedman, Stratfor, Sept. 10, 2013Putin is bluffing that Russia has emerged as a major world power. In reality, Russia is merely a regional power, but mainly because its periphery is in shambles. He has tried to project a strength that that he doesn't have, and he has done it well. For him, Syria poses a problem because the United States is about to call his bluff, and he is not holding strong cards. To understand his game we need to start with the recent G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.

 

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