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Tag: US Foreign Policy

RELIGION OF PEACE? OBAMA FAILED TO NAME THE ENEMY, BUT TRUMP VOWS TO “ERADICATE RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM”

Defending the Civilized World: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, Jan. 24, 2017— In an inaugural address that was more purposeful than poetic, President Trump last Friday vowed to “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism…

How Trump Could Help a Broken Middle East: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, Jan. 23, 2017— As President Donald Trump plans for his first year in office, he will not have to make space in his calendar for a December trip to Oslo.

Is Europe’s Jihadist Problem Generating Empathy Toward Israel?: Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA, Jan. 12, 2017— Is terrorism softening European attitudes toward Israel?

What Do They Want? Graeme Wood Speaks With Supporters of ISIS: Dexter Filkins, New York Times, Jan. 19, 2017— In early 2011, as American forces were packing up to leave Iraq after eight years of fighting and occupying…

 

On Topic Links

 

Sarsour's Defenders Choose to Ignore March Organizer's Liberal Critics: IPT News, Jan. 25, 2017

Trump’s History-Changing Vow to Eradicate ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’: Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, Jan. 23, 2017

A Moderate Muslim Goes to Ottawa: Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, Jan. 17, 2017

How American Charities Fund Terrorism: Sam Westrop, National Review, Jan. 12, 2017

 

 

DEFENDING THE CIVILIZED WORLD

Clifford D. May

Washington Times, Jan. 24, 2017

 

In an inaugural address that was more purposeful than poetic, President Trump last Friday vowed to “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth.” I hope we can agree, across party and ideological lines, that those are worthwhile objectives. But let’s acknowledge, too, that achieving them will require a much more strenuous and strategic effort than previous administrations have undertaken.

 

The least likely place for uniting nations: the United Nations, an organization that has never managed even to define terrorism. A few U.N. members fight terrorism day after day (e.g., Egypt, Jordan, Israel). Others, however, condone and even sponsor it (e.g., Iran). The U.N. includes representatives of both the civilized and uncivilized worlds, and cannot be said to prefer one over the other.

 

Our Europeans allies are civilized — perhaps to a fault. Many embrace moral relativism as expressed in the mantra: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Bringing Europe into a meaningful union against terrorism will require a heavy lift. A straightforward definition of terrorism: violence intentionally directed against noncombatants for political purposes. That should, indeed, be seen as a barbaric practice. But terrorism is not the enemy. It is only a weapon the enemy deploys.

 

Most contemporary terrorism is, as Mr. Trump suggested, driven by “radical Islam,” an adequate term for a variety of ideologies rooted in totalitarian, supremacist and medievalist readings of Islamic scripture. Those who understand this also grasp why the Islamic State and the Islamic Republic of Iran are more alike than different.

 

Not for the first time is America threatened by such totalitarian foes. The goal of the Communists was domination by one class. The Nazis sought to establish the supremacy of one race. Today, the Islamists fight for one religion uber alles. They want all of us, Muslim and “infidel” alike, to obey Shariah — Islamic law as they interpret it. And if you don’t think they’ve been making progress over recent years you haven’t been paying close attention.

 

To defeat the Nazis and their allies required battles on many fronts from North Africa to the South Pacific. World War II, though relatively brief, was exceedingly lethal: More than 60 million people killed, about 3 percent of the world’s population at the time. The Cold War followed. In 1946, diplomat George Kennan sent his “Long Telegram” from Moscow analyzing Joseph Stalin’s ideology and intentions. Largely on this basis, President Truman, in 1947, decided to “contain” the Soviet Union and assist those threatened by communist aggression.

 

Three years after that, as military strategist Sebastian Gorka recalls in his 2016 book, “Defeating Jihad,” a State-Defense Policy Review Group was established under the chairmanship of Paul Nitze, then director of policy planning in the State Department. It produced NSC-68, a 58-page National Security Council report on the USSR, its “fanatic faith” and its determination to “impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world.”

 

NSC-68 explained why the Soviets were unlikely to sincerely embrace peaceful coexistence: “The United States, as the principal center of power in the non-Soviet world and the bulwark of opposition to Soviet expansion, is the principal enemy whose integrity and vitality must be subverted or destroyed by one means or another if the Kremlin is to achieve its fundamental design.” On this basis, Truman implemented a robust set of policies, including covert actions and psychological warfare, aimed at weakening the Kremlin and frustrating its imperialist designs.

 

Fast forward to 1983, when President Ronald Reagan came to the conclusion that containment had proven insufficient and attempts at detente unavailing. He accused his predecessor, President Jimmy Carter, of “vacillation, appeasement and aimlessness.” It is sometimes said that Reagan’s strategy was “We win, they lose.” In fact, that was his desired outcome. The essence of his strategy was articulated in National Security Decision Directive 75. “NSDD-75 was an extraordinarily ambitious, across-the-board assault on the Soviet Union,” in the words of Paul Kengor, author of “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism.”

 

To the disapproval of many academics and State Department officials, Mr. Reagan would call the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and exert pressure — diplomatic, political, military, ideological and, not least, economic — on a regime that was not as strong or stable as it looked to most observers, the CIA included. On Dec. 25, 1991, three years after Reagan left office, the hammer-and-sickle flag that had flown over Moscow since early in the 20th century would be lowered for the final time…

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

 

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HOW TRUMP COULD HELP A BROKEN MIDDLE EAST                                                     

Father Raymond J. de Souza

National Post, Jan. 23, 2017

                       

As President Donald Trump plans for his first year in office, he will not have to make space in his calendar for a December trip to Oslo. Unlike Barack Obama, he will not be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for just marvelously being Obama. Neither will he be grandiosely addressing the “Muslim world,” as Obama did in Cairo during his first months. But he might be rather more welcome in the capitals of Muslim countries than one might expect.

 

Even in the Trump world of employing reckless hyperbole to make a general point, the campaign promise to “temporarily ban” Muslim immigration was inexcusable. Likely he meant that admitting 10,000 Sunni Muslims from an ISIL-controlled refugee camp in Syria poses different security issues that taking 10,000 Christian software engineers from Kerala, and to pretend that all immigrants from all parts of the world are identical is both false and foolish. Certainly Canada’s selective immigration policy has never taken that view.

 

Nevertheless, the Muslim ban is fairly cited as evidence that Trump’s relations with the Islamic world will be rocky. Perhaps. But as Obama takes his leave it is fair to ask what happened to the great religion-and-politics project of his presidency. Obama thought that his Muslim father and his childhood years in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, would endear him to Muslims and lead to a rapprochement with the West. Yet much of the Muslim world today is worse off after Obama.

 

Certainly that’s true for the part of the Muslim world that Obama focused attention on — the Middle East. Given his Indonesian roots, it remains a mystery why so little effort was made to include the experiences of Indonesian Muslims in the global conversation about Islam and violence. It is a more hopeful tale. Jakarta, rather than Cairo, would have been a better place from which to address the Islamic world, and might have helped displace the Arab terrorist as the malevolent face of Islam in popular imagination.

 

Nearly half of the world’s Muslims live on the subcontinent — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh — but little attention was paid to what lessons, for good and for ill, could be learned from those massive Muslim populations. Aside from drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama showed very little interest in the subcontinent in terms of global security, despite the fact that Muslims encounter pluralism there more than elsewhere. Indeed, the great engagement promised by Obama with the Muslim world really meant a disengagement with the Middle East. American troops would be greatly reduced in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States would “lead from behind” on the Arab Spring, and would make a deal to lift sanctions on Iran. The great withdrawal would remove the American finger from the Islamic eye.

 

What Obama did not see, or chose to ignore, is that an American vacuum would be filled by someone. By early in Obama’s second term, it was clear that the candidates were ISIL on the Sunni side, and Iran, together with its allies in Moscow and Damascus, on the Shia side. The price of disengagement in Iraq was the rise of ISIL. The price for a deal with Iran was allowing Assad and Putin to brutally seize control of Syria. Obama willingly paid both prices.

 

The most haunting failure of Obama’s engagement with the Islamic world is that so many are desperately trying to leave it. The millions of Syrian refugees are largely Muslim, desiring at all costs to get out of Syria and into Europe. The Mediterranean Sea has become a watery grave for tens of thousands fleeing life in Muslim lands. As Obama leaves office, the pathologies of the refugee resettlement have turned northern European populations against both refugee resettlement and continued Muslim immigration. On the whole, Muslims are less secure, less free and less welcomed after eight years of Obama. It’s not all his fault, but it does mean that his central religion-and-politics realignment failed to improve the lives of actual Muslims.

 

Who knows what Trump will bring? There is the possibility that he might make things worse. But not necessarily. Neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt want a Middle East dominated by Iran. They might welcome Trump’s skepticism over the nuclear deal. The Gulf states consider Israel a greater force for security and stability than the various Iranian proxies in the region, and would welcome American diplomacy that did not seek to isolate Israel. While many Arab states have shut their border to Syria’s refugees, Turkey and Jordan have been overrun, and would no doubt welcome any alternative to Obama’s consignment of Syria to the tender mercies of Assad and Putin. Trump’s rhetorical hostility toward Muslims is not welcome. But it might prove more welcome than the eight years of rhetorical peace and actual suffering. 

 

 

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IS EUROPE’S JIHADIST PROBLEM GENERATING

EMPATHY TOWARD ISRAEL?

Cnaan Liphshiz

JTA, Jan. 12, 2017

 

Is terrorism softening European attitudes toward Israel? When a Palestinian terrorist used a car to ram and kill an Israeli soldier in eastern Jerusalem in 2014, the European Union urged “restraint” and, without condemning the attack, called it merely “further painful evidence of the need to undertake serious efforts towards a sustainable peace agreement.” The statement by EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini was “a typical EU reaction, which blames the victim for getting attacked,” Oded Eran, a former ambassador of Israel to the European Union and a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, said at the time.

 

Two years later, however, European officials had a much different reaction to a similar attack in eastern Jerusalem, which killed four Israeli soldiers on Sunday. “The European Union condemns the murder of these four young Israelis, as well as any praise or incitement for terrorist acts,” Brussels said in a statement, which unlike the 2014 communique omitted any reference to the fact that the attack happened in an area of Jerusalem that it considers occupied.

 

Unusually, following Sunday’s attack the Israeli flag was projected on the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and Paris City Hall, signs of solidarity with the Jewish state permitted by local authorities. Rotterdam City Hall flew the Israeli flag at half-mast. To Eran and other observers of Israeli-EU relations, this change in tune is indicative of greater understanding and empathy in Europe to Israel’s fight against terrorism following a a wave of terrorist attacks on the continent beginning in 2012.

 

“I think it’s a new development that sincerely stems from the change in the mind of many people in Europe, in government and beyond, who now understand better than a few years ago the impact and influence of terrorism on the daily lives of innocent victims,” Eran told JTA on Wednesday. He was referring to the cumulative effect of at least a dozen major attacks on Western European soil since 2012 in which local or foreign jihadists killed hundreds of victims using methods long associated with Palestinian terrorists.

 

Last month, a terrorist whom the Islamic State terrorist group described as its “soldier” killed 11 people, including one Israeli tourist, at a Berlin Christmas market by plowing a stolen truck through the crowd. In July, a similar attack claimed over 80 lives in Nice, France. Days later, an Afghan man injured four people with an axe on a train in southern Germany.

 

These events happened just months after the murder of over 30 people in a series of explosions in Brussels in March, and fresh on the heels of a horrific series of bombings and shootings that left 130 people dead in Paris in November 2015. The Israeli government, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, have been persistently drawing an equivalence between the attacks in Europe and attacks against Israelis by Palestinians. “The terrorists who attack us have the same murderous intent as those in Paris,” Netanyahu said about the November 2015 Paris attacks. “It is time for states to condemn terrorism against us like they condemn terrorism anywhere else in the world.”

 

Some European leaders clearly see his point. Following the Berlin attack, German President Joachim Gauck said as much in a reply he sent to a condolence message from Gauck’s Israeli counterpart, Reuven Rivlin. “You and your country are in a position to understand fully what being threatened by terrorism means for a people and a nation because in your country it has become almost a daily phenomenon. We know that you can feel with us and commiserate,” Gauck said.

 

Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Avraham Nir-Feldklein, further drove home the message in a statement following the projection of the Israeli flag on the Brandenburg Gate, a gesture initiated by pro-Israel activists. “We all find ourselves facing the same terror, from Nice through Berlin to Jerusalem, but together we will stand against evil, and we will prevail,” he wrote. On Twitter, the German Foreign Ministry shared a picture of the projection, stating it was “in solidarity with Israel.” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, by contrast, described the gesture in her city merely as a “tribute to the victims of the attack” in Jerusalem.

 

Muna Duzdar, an Austrian state secretary, insisted in an interview Wednesday with JTA that “Europe always understood that Israel has a right to defend itself and have security,” and that greater empathy in Europe for terror victims extends not just to Israel but to victims around the world. But following the attacks in Europe, “now we’re having the situation that we have daily terrorist attacks. I wake up and there’s an attack in Israel, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Germany. No country is left unaffected. And it might be that someone who was affected himself has a better understanding of this.”

 

Duzdar, who was born in Austria to Palestinian parents and heads the Palestinian Austrian Society, rejected during the interview claims that the attack was not a terrorist incident because it was directed against soldiers on land that Palestinians consider occupied. “This attack targeted human beings, and as far as I understand it was a jihadist who did that, whose intention was to attack people,” she said.

 

In Belgium, the firebrand anti-Israel columnist Dyab Abou Jahjah, who for years justified violence against Israelis and Americans in the pages of the De Standaard daily, was fired Monday for defending Sunday’s Jerusalem attack on social media. “An attack on occupation soldiers in occupied territory is not terrorism! It is an act of Resistance. #FreePalestine,” Abou Jahjah wrote. In a statement, De Standaard editor-in-chief Karel Verhoeven wrote that Abou Jahjah “has placed himself beyond the borders of acceptable debate” by endorsing violence.

 

Yet the gestures of empathy toward Israel will not likely carry over to EU policy, according to Eran, the former ambassador. “These gestures are heartwarming and indicative of a positive change, but there is a clear distinction between empathy and policy in the corridors of the European Union, which is likely to remain as critical as ever of Israeli settlements and continue to oppose them on every international arena,” he said.                                                  

 

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WHAT DO THEY WANT? GRAEME WOOD SPEAKS

WITH SUPPORTERS OF ISIS

Dexter Filkins

New York Times, Jan. 19, 2017          

 

In early 2011, as American forces were packing up to leave Iraq after eight years of fighting and occupying, one of the war’s most hideous byproducts was lurching toward what appeared to be certain death: Al Qaeda in Iraq, which had recently renamed itself the Islamic State in Iraq, had seen most of its leaders killed and its membership whittled to a handful of dead-enders, who were huddled in sanctuaries in and around the northern city of Mosul.

 

But then the Americans departed, and a vast uprising against the government across the border, in neighboring Syria, took off. Suddenly, the Islamic State in Iraq, led by an ambitious former graduate student who called himself Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saw its fortunes brighten anew. Baghdadi dispatched a handful of fighters to Syria and within a few months they were running operations across much of the country. Iraq promptly returned to chaos, and in April 2013, Baghdadi, presiding over a vast fief that stretched from the Iraqi desert to the outskirts of Damascus, rechristened his group yet again — as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS — and appointed himself caliph. Tens of thousands of volunteers from around the world flocked to defend his far-off kingdom in the sand.

 

In the years since, ISIS’ breathtaking lust for anarchy — temple-smashings, beheadings, crucifixions — has inevitably prompted the question: What do these people want? The usual answers — money, power, status — do not seem to suffice. Graeme Wood, a correspondent for The Atlantic and a lecturer at Yale, believes he has found something like an answer, and that it can be located in the sacred texts, teachings and folklore of early Islam. In “The Way of the Strangers,” Wood, through a series of conversations with ISIS enthusiasts, shows that many of them claim to want the same thing: a theocratic state without borders, ruled by a leader who meets a series of strict qualifications, and who adheres to a brand of Islam that most people — including most Muslims — would find stifling and abhorrent.

 

The most novel aspect of Wood’s book is that he shows, convincingly, that the stifling and abhorrent practices of the Islamic State are rooted in Islam itself — not mainstream Islam, but in scriptures and practices that have persisted for centuries. There’s no use denying it. “For years now, the Islamic State and its supporters have been producing essays, fatwas, . . . films and tweets at an industrial pace,” Wood writes. “In studying them we see a coherent view of the world rooted in a minority interpretation of Islamic scripture that has existed, in various forms, for almost as long as the religion itself.” That goes for the most barbarous practices as well: “Slavery has been practiced by Muslims for most of Islamic history, and it was practiced without apology by Muhammad and his companions, who owned slaves and had sex with them.”

 

Wood has obviously studied the old Islamic texts. And he makes clear, in the conversations he has with Islamic State supporters, that they have, too. The value of “The Way of the Strangers” is that it gives the lie to the notion, repeated so often in the West as to become a cliché, that ISIS zealots are betraying Islam, and that their practices are un-Islamic. They are Islamic, and in that sense, the end-state of their murderous program is not hard to discern.

 

The Islamic State, such as it is, is a dangerous place, and Wood’s book amounts to a tour around its far edges, where it can be safely traversed. And so we sit down with Hesham Elashry, a suit tailor in Cairo who tries to convert Wood to his Salafist ways. We meet Yasir Qadhi, a Houston-born scholar who abandoned his hard-line views and earned a Ph.D. at Yale. We tag along with Wood as he travels to Footscray, Australia, to meet a jihad-minded young man named Musa Cerantonio, who writes about ISIS on Twitter and Facebook, and who follows an obscure strain of doctrinaire Islam, popular in the Islamic State, known as Dhahirism. And we trace the path of John Georgelas, a.k.a. Yahya Abu Hassan ibn Sharaf, a native of Plano, Tex., who rebelled against his middle-class upbringing, converted to Islam and made the pilgrimage to Syria in 2013 to join the Islamic State; he was wounded soon after and since then has been one of the group’s chief propagandists. Together, Wood’s conversations amount to a thorough discussion of the theological underpinnings of the Islamic State…

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

 

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On Topic Links

 

Sarsour's Defenders Choose to Ignore March Organizer's Liberal Critics: IPT News, Jan. 25, 2017—By all accounts, last Saturday's Women's March protests generated huge crowds in Washington, D.C. and in similar rallies throughout the country.

Trump’s History-Changing Vow to Eradicate ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’: Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, Jan. 23, 2017—The establishment media has been too involved with comparing crowd sizes to take any significant notice, but Trump’s words heralded a change that was momentous — and could make all the difference in our civilizational struggle against the global jihad.

A Moderate Muslim Goes to Ottawa: Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, Jan. 17, 2017—On Jan. 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a decision that made ripples throughout the world. From Singapore to India, to the BBC and beyond, the only news from Canada that made headlines was about Ahmed Hussen, a Somali-born refugee who arrived on our shores in 1993 and rose to become our Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

How American Charities Fund Terrorism: Sam Westrop, National Review, Jan. 12, 2017—As the president-elect has repeatedly made clear, his first full day in office will be a busy one. He has promised to effect a wide array of changes. But what about his second day? If he has some free time, we have some suggestions.

 

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NORTH AFRICA, RAVAGED BY TERRORISM, WELCOMES TRUMP’S STAUNCH ANTI-ISLAMISM

 

A New Policy for North Africa in the Trump Era?: Karim Mezran & Elissa Miller, Realclearworld, Jan. 23, 2017— There has been much speculation across the Middle East and North Africa regarding what U.S. foreign policy in the region will look like under the Trump administration.

Trump Emboldens Egypt's Sisi: Cynthia Farahat, The Hill, Dec. 29, 2016— The recent terror attacks in Berlin and Zurich highlight once again the danger that radical Islamism poses to the West.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia: The End of an Alliance?: Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 21, 2017— 2016 was not a good year for either Egypt or Saudi Arabia, the twin pillars of the Sunni Arab bloc of states.

On Mali, Proceed With Maximum Caution: Editorial, Globe & Mail, Jan. 23, 2017— François Hollande, the French President, visited Mali earlier this month, just a few days before Islamist terrorists carried out a particularly savage attack in that central African country.

 

On Topic Links

 

Egypt Strengthens its Strategic Presence in the Red Sea: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Jan. 10, 2017

Russia Seeks Another Mediterranean Naval Base in Libya: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, Jan. 22, 2017

In Middle East, Leaders Want Donald Trump to Be Their Friend: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 16, 2017

Obama’s Mid-East Legacy Is Tragic Failure: Alan Dershowitz, Algemeiner, Jan. 13, 217

 

 

 

A NEW POLICY FOR NORTH AFRICA IN THE TRUMP ERA?

Karim Mezran & Elissa Miller

Realclearworld, Jan. 23, 2017

 

There has been much speculation across the Middle East and North Africa regarding what U.S. foreign policy in the region will look like under the Trump administration. We can infer some insights from Trump’s comments during the 2016 campaign, from his character, and from the personalities of his recent cabinet appointments. For the Maghreb region of North Africa, the Trump administration will likely continue the same level of engagement as the previous administration, although it will emphasize different policy priorities.

 

Several of the new president’s cabinet appointments, such as retired generals Michael Flynn and James Mattis, have at times articulated a non-interventionist foreign policy, except in cases that directly involve U.S. national security interests. This worldview has parallels with the Obama administration, which had endeavored to pull the United States out of quagmires in the Middle East. However, this global outlook will likely be motivated by a strong security first emphasis that prioritizes the realization of order and stability in foreign countries over support for pluralism and democratization. It could also reflect Trump’s presumed preference for strongmen and authoritative personalities in the region and elsewhere.

 

Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, is an outspoken and well-documented critic not only of Muslim extremism, but also of the religion itself. In an August 2016 speech, the retired three-star general stated that Islam is not a religion but a political ideology, and that Islam is like a “malignant cancer.” Such rhetoric from Trump’s inner circle suggests that the new administration might paint international Islamist organizations with a much broader brush than previous administrations, and in policy terms this could lead to the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood movement as a foreign terrorist organization.

 

North Africa will certainly not be a regional priority for Trump. The only instances in which the real estate mogul mentioned the region during the campaign were in reference to Libya, and then only in regard to the fight against the Islamic State. Still, there is no doubt that the policies of the new administration will have consequences for the countries of the Maghreb.

 

Variation in policy toward Morocco and Algeria will probably be minimal. The Trump administration will likely maintain and strengthen U.S. ties with Rabat even though an Islamist party holds the majority in parliament. This favorable approach to the country is due to the stability of the Moroccan monarchy and the relatively wide consensus that it enjoys. The Trump administration may also strengthen relations with Algeria, which plays a critical role in the maintenance of security and counterterrorism operations in North Africa. President Trump’s focus on stability will be well received by leaders in both countries. For Algeria in particular, this will likely mean more support for cooperation on counterterrorism, which has been a longstanding priority for Algerian policymakers.

 

While U.S. support for Tunisia’s stability will continue in the political development and economic fields, it will be designed through a security lens rather than a focus on democratic development. A security-focused foreign policy will push Trump to emphasize support for the army and the security forces and to aid the country’s counterterrorism efforts. Therefore, even though there is a clear recognition of the importance of economic development for the country’s stability, security assistance will be the main avenue through which the latter is pursued.

 

This will not carry immediate consequences for the foreign policy of Tunisia, which has relied heavily on Western security support, especially since terror attacks in 2015. A strong relationship with the United States benefits the country’s standing in the region and in the international community overall. However, Trump’s policies could have an impact on Tunisian domestic policy. The U.S. administration’s anti-Islamist line may make it difficult for it to work with a Tunisian government in which an Islamist party, Ennahda, plays a strong role. But like in the case of the Moroccan Islamist party, Tunisia’s Ennahda has shown itself able to act in a pluralistic environment and respect the rules of the democratization process. At the same time, Ennahda could have a difficult time in dealing with an openly anti-Islamist administration, but it has made a number of critical compromises in recent years and the party’s leaders recognize the utility of a strong relationship with Trump’s administration.

 

Trump’s foreign policy will likely have the most critical effect on Libya. Trump’s stated support for strongmen and the administration’s anti-Islamist views will likely push the United States, and possibly its key European allies, to support Egypt and its proxy Gen. Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army has been waging a war against Islamists in Libya’s east. Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and his counterterrorism efforts against Islamist extremists. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry recently met with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss shared U.S.-Egypt security efforts. Strong ties between Trump and Sissi could push the administration to throw its support behind Haftar and his anti-Islamist fight and to abandon support for the U.N.-backed process that produced a weak unity government.

 

This could have dire consequences for the situation in Libya. A shift by the international community, led by the United States, could empower and embolden Haftar to expand his authority throughout the country and pursue his hegemonic plans. This could divide the country into two or more zones of influence, or worse, leading to an all-out war between Haftar’s Libyan National Army and its western opponents. This would have a lasting and dangerous effect on the Libyan population, which is already reeling from an economic crisis and sustained turmoil.

 

Trump’s shift in emphasis toward stability and security, while not constituting a wholesale reordering of U.S. policy in the region, will be perceived differently by different stakeholders in each country. Civil society activists, human rights defenders, and democratization supporters will react negatively to what they will perceive as a pro-authoritarian shift, while the middle classes and entrepreneurs will likely welcome the U.S. administration’s support of their own governments’ stabilization efforts.

 

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TRUMP EMBOLDENS EGYPT'S SISI

Cynthia Farahat          

The Hill, Dec. 29, 2016

                       

The recent terror attacks in Berlin and Zurich highlight once again the danger that radical Islamism poses to the West. While many are searching for ways to improve security and defeat the threat on the ground, few appear to appreciate that the decisive blow against Islamism can only be administered by leaders in the Middle East. President-elect Donald Trump pledged during his last major foreign policy speech before the election to "be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East" and "amplify their voices."

 

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and most of the political and media establishment in Egypt warmly embraced this policy. After meeting with the Republican nominee in New York City in September, Sisi told CNN he had "no doubt" Trump would make a strong leader. Sisi was also the first Arab leader to telephone Trump after his election win. Egyptian affections for Trump are partly fueled by distaste for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who many Egyptians believe conspired with the Muslim Brotherhood to help elect Islamist Muhammad Morsi as president in 2012 (after which she was greeted in Egypt with protestors hurling tomatoes).

 

However, the main attraction of Trump in the eyes of many Egyptians is his staunch anti-Islamism. Since coming to power in 2013, Sisi has spoken passionately about the need for an Islamic reformation. For Sisi, Islamism isn't merely a ruinously bad blueprint for modern governance and a chronic source of security threats, it is also a wedge fueling outside hostility to Muslims, both Islamists and non-Islamists alike. In a 2015 New Year's Day speech at al-Azhar University, the world's most prestigious seat of Sunni Islamic learning, Sisi warned that the "corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years" are "antagonizing the entire world" and "caus[ing] the entire umma [Muslim world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction."

 

Not surprisingly, Sisi has faced opposition in the region, especially from Turkey, Qatar, and powerful figures in the Saudi royal family, who have opened their media to Brotherhood operatives to attack Sisi and even call for his assassination. One of the only Arab governments openly backing Sisi's uncompromising stance on Islamists is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which in 2014 designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization (along with two of its U.S.-based affiliates, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society).

 

Within Egypt, Sisi's calls for a religious revolution have made him extremely popular, but he has faced fierce resistance from Islamists, who still dominate many sectors of Egyptian civil society and exert influence in government, particularly the judiciary.

 

Sisi's supporters say the Obama administration's tolerance of Islamism and harsh criticism of Egypt's counter-terrorism efforts have been an enormous obstacle. In contrast, Trump's campaign expressed "strong support for Egypt's war on terrorism" and pledged that "under a Trump Administration, the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on in the days and years ahead." Walid Phares, a foreign policy advisor for the president-elect, stated in an interview that Trump will work to pass legislation designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

 

Trump's election appears to have emboldened Sisi to step up his Islamic reformation campaign. Just days later, Sisi pardoned 82 prisoners, among them Islam Behery, a former TV host and prominent leader of a growing neo-Mu'tazilah-style movement that claims Islamic scriptures are man-made and should not overrule reason and critical thinking. Behery's movement has gained sweeping popularity as horrors committed by Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, and other Sunni jihadist groups have mounted in recent years.

 

Many across the Arab world, and Egyptians in particular, are hopeful that the election of Donald Trump will open a new page of cooperation between the United States and those who are seeking to challenge Islamic extremism in the war of ideas. Only together can we defeat the Islamists wreaking carnage on the streets in the West.

           

 

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EGYPT AND SAUDI ARABIA: THE END OF AN ALLIANCE?

Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 21, 2017

 

2016 was not a good year for either Egypt or Saudi Arabia, the twin pillars of the Sunni Arab bloc of states. Three years after taking power, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s initial popularity has waned as Egypt’s intractable economic and social problems weighed more heavily on the populace, sparking criticism of the regime, even in the usually pro-government media.

 

Sisi’s call for the populace to tighten their belts and remain patient rang increasingly hollow, as Egyptians confronted acute shortages and high prices of staples such as sugar, rice and cooking oil, a cut in fuel subsidies and a devaluation of the Egyptian pound.

 

The armed forces’ failure to stamp out ISIS-affiliated insurgency in Sinai was disturbing enough, but then jihadist violence hit home on December 11 with the bloody bombing of a Coptic church, next to the main cathedral in central Cairo. The resulting anger against the authorities’ alleged laxness was palpable.

 

Saudi Arabia’s troubles were multiple as well. The precipitous drop in oil prices and lack of meaningful jobs for its youthful and increasingly educated population was calling into question the viability of the country’s traditional policies of providing heavily subsidized goods and services in return for strict political quiescence.

 

The regional outlook was especially bleak, as Shi’ite Iran’s assertiveness loomed large and the Saudi effort to counter it foundered. The US-led international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program was seen in Riyadh as a victory for Tehran; the Saudi-led war in Yemen against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels was stalemated, and faced increasingly strident international condemnation of the civilian casualties caused by indiscriminate Saudi air force bombings; and in Syria, Russian and Iranian support had conferred advantage to the Assad regime’s bitter battle against the Syrian rebel groups who are largely funded by the Saudis and other Gulf Arab states, highlighted by the successful siege of rebel-held areas of Aleppo.

 

Over the last quarter-century, Egypt and Saudi Arabia had broadly worked in tandem: Egypt had provided the crucial Arab participation in the Saudi-Western coalition against Saddam Hussain in 1990-91, while Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies had provided tens of billions of dollars in vital aid to Sisi’s regime. However, the Egyptian and Saudi leaderships did not draw closer together to jointly combat their difficulties. In fact, relations have deteriorated significantly in recent months, reaching a nadir not seen since the partial Arab boycott of Egypt during the 1980s, as punishment for Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

 

To be sure, the Egyptian-Saudi alliance had never been friction- free. Egypt’s self-view as the Arab world’s natural leader was increasingly at odds with its deep-seated internal problems and the financial might of the Saudis and smaller Gulf principalities. Mutual sensitivities burst forth this past April, when Sisi sought to transfer two small islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba to Saudi sovereignty as a gesture of thanks for Saudi support. The resulting public outcry and judicial intervention scuttled the move, to the Saudis’ extreme annoyance.

 

No less annoying was Egypt’s refusal to participate in the Saudi-led military operations in Yemen. And most significant of all was Egypt’s tilt in recent months toward the Assad regime in Syria and its Russian patron.

 

The simmering Egyptian-Saudi tension burst into full view in mid-October when Egypt voted in favor of Russia’s draft resolution in the Security Council that emphasized that the battle for Aleppo was a fight against “terrorism,” in line with the Assad regime’s master narrative. Saudi anger was palpable. The very next day, shipment of Saudi petrol products to Egypt was suspended, and the two countries’ medias unleashed blistering attacks against each other’s leaders. Matters have since escalated further, as Sisi openly declared his support for the Syrian army as the backbone of a unified Syrian state; Saudi Arabia feted a high-profile Ethiopian government delegation – a direct slap to Egypt, in light of the current tensions between Addis Ababa and Cairo over the completion of a new Ethiopian dam on the upper Nile; and a UAE effort to arrange a reconciliation meeting in Abu Dhabi between Sisi and Salman failed, owing to Saudi recalcitrance.

 

Strategically, the two countries continue to share an interest in counterbalancing Iranian power in the region, and Riyadh has a fundamental interest in helping Egypt cope with its economic difficulties. But Sisi’s expressed preference for a united “Arab” Syria and a strengthening of ties with Russia, as part of an effort to reassert Egyptian regional influence, clash sharply with Saudi priorities, particularly those of the young Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman. These differences and mutual sensitivities suggest that repairing the relationship won’t be a simple matter.

 

           

Contents

 

ON MALI, PROCEED WITH MAXIMUM CAUTION

Editorial

Globe & Mail, Jan. 23, 2017

               

François Hollande, the French President, visited Mali earlier this month, just a few days before Islamist terrorists carried out a particularly savage attack in that central African country.

 

That ought to be a vivid reminder of the risks that the Trudeau government may be taking before long in Mali, too. The Liberal Party promised in its election platform to revive Canadian peacekeeping, and it is now expected that the government will send as many as 600 troops to Mali this year to support a beleaguered United Nations mission there.

 

They will be walking into a war zone. The jihadi terrorist attack in the northern part of Mali killed more than 70 people at a camp housing pro-government forces. Last year, at least 17 UN peacekeepers were killed in terrorist attacks; 68 have been killed since the mission began in 2013.

 

The UN mission to Mali is not the peacekeeping of old, in which troops wearing blue helmets kept warring factions apart but were largely insulated from any fighting. In northern Mali, there are at least five terrorist groups in operation, and they are happy to target anyone they associate with the government.

 

As well, a chief aspect of the UN mission is to protect civilians, which means personnel are allowed to conduct pre-emptive strikes against militants. But few, if any, of the Canadians would be experienced in this semi-desert warfare – this country’s fraught mission to Afghanistan would be the closest equivalent.

 

President Hollande’s commitment to Mali is rooted in the former French empire in Africa. Canadian companies do have mining interests in Mali, but that has little or nothing to do with the notion of Canadian military personnel in that country.

 

Canada may be on the verge of putting many of our soldiers in harm’s way in a country where we don’t have an interest that would merit such a move. In fact, the only discernible motivation is Ottawa’s desire to re-establish Canada as a peacekeeping nation, after the previous government backed away from that role.

 

How many young Canadians will have to die or be injured in order to fulfill this election promise? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan should exercise real caution, rather than getting too caught up in uplifting notions.

 

Contents           

On Topic Links

 

Egypt Strengthens its Strategic Presence in the Red Sea: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Jan. 10, 2017—Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi inaugurated on January 4, 2017, the new headquarters of Egypt's southern naval fleet command in Safaga on the country's Red Sea coast during his visit to the Port of Safaga Development Project which cost EGP 510 million (approximately USD 28 million).

Russia Seeks Another Mediterranean Naval Base in Libya: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, Jan. 22, 2017—In recent months, Russia has been ramping up its involvement in the Libyan sociopolitical crisis, which has been ongoing since the removal of its ruler, Muammar Qaddafi. Russia has been strengthening its ties with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who heads the LNA (the Libyan National Army), one of the many military militias operating in Libya, and opposes the country’s official government.

In Middle East, Leaders Want Donald Trump to Be Their Friend: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 16, 2017—It is hard to find a Middle Eastern official betraying signs of anxiety over what President-elect Donald Trump will do once in office.

Obama’s Mid-East Legacy Is Tragic Failure: Alan Dershowitz, Algemeiner, Jan. 13, 2017 —The Middle East is a more dangerous place after eight years of the Obama Presidency than it was before. The eight disastrous Obama years follow eight disastrous Bush years during which that part of the world became more dangerous as well. So have many other international hot spots. In sum, the past 16 years have seen major foreign policy blunders all over the world, and most especially in the area between Libya and Iran, that includes Israel, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and the Gulf.

 

        

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFGHANISTIAN & PAKISTAN COULD BE EARLY TESTS FOR TRUMP’S FOREIGN POLICY

 

Russia Returns to Afghanistan: Arif Rafiq, National Interest, Jan. 12, 2017— Russia is a great power that retains muscle memory (and a strategic arsenal) from its past superpowerdom.

Russia’s New Favorite Jihadis: The Taliban: Thomas Joscelyn, Long War Journal, Jan. 4, 2017— More than 15 years into America’s war in Afghanistan, the Russian government is openly advocating on behalf of the Taliban.

Trump Must Get Tough With Pakistan: Fulvio Martusciello, Washington Times, Dec. 20, 2016— President-elect Donald Trump made headlines after Pakistani officials released details of his phone call with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Why I’m Not a Feminist: Paula Stern, Jewish Press, Jan. 23, 2017 — When I was 20 years old, I took a course at Columbia University for the easy A I expected (and got).

 

On Topic Links

 

In Afghanistan, Trump Will Inherit a Costly Stalemate and Few Solutions: Greg Jaffe & Missy Ryan, Washington Post, Jan. 18, 2017

Donald Trump’s Phone Conversation With the Leader of Pakistan Was Reckless and Bizarre: Nikhil Kumar, Time, Dec. 1, 2016

Following Trump’s Inauguration: What’s Next?: Jacob Kornbluh & Aaron Magid, Jewish Journal, Jan. 19, 2017

Donald Trump Has a Coherent, Radical Foreign Policy Doctrine: George Friedman, Realclearworld, Jan. 2, 2017

 

 

RUSSIA RETURNS TO AFGHANISTAN

Arif Rafiq

National Interest, Jan. 12, 2017

 

…Moscow has impressively deployed hybrid warfare tactics to create the perception that it has influenced the U.S. presidential election and forged a rift between the incoming commander-in-chief and elements of the U.S. intelligence community. Surprisingly, Afghanistan is emerging as another arena in which Moscow is pointedly working at odds with Washington’s interests. Indeed, recent moves by Russia now represent a pivot toward Afghanistan, posing a set of challenges that have been unanticipated by U.S. observers of the region. The incoming Trump Administration ought to be aware of Russia’s newfound assertiveness vis-à-vis Afghanistan, both in the threats it poses as well as the potential opportunities it may present.

 

In late December, Moscow hosted a trilateral dialogue with Beijing and Islamabad on the future of Afghanistan. Importantly, left out of the talks were Kabul, Washington and New Delhi—a historic Russian ally now moving closer to the United States. The joint statement released after the dialogue expressed support for talks with the Afghan Taliban and concern over the spread of Islamic State.

 

The Russo-Sino-Pak trilateral did not emerge out of thin air. It is the latest in a series of Russian efforts to engage both Islamabad and the Afghan Taliban. Together, these moves mark a definitive departure from Moscow’s decades-old policy toward the region. Pakistan was a strong U.S. ally during most of the Cold War, while the Soviet Union had a defense pact with the nominally non-aligned India. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan, in concert with the United States, helped make Afghanistan a graveyard for the Red Army, forcing its withdrawal. Over the 1990s, Moscow, in concert with New Delhi and Tehran, supported the Northern Alliance against groups backed by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia—first, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i Islami (HIG) and then the Afghan Taliban.

 

After 9/11, Moscow supported the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, which ousted the Taliban and brought back to power elements of the Northern Alliance that Russia had supported. The post-9/11 Afghan war and broader global war on terror also gave Moscow space to brutally crush the Chechen insurgency, which had been taken over by Salafi jihadists after Russia sidelined Chechen Sufi separatists. Russia also provided diplomatic and logistical support for a sizable U.S. military presence in its backyard. From 2009 into 2015, Russia served as a supply route for U.S. and NATO forces through what was known as the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), which lessened Washington’s dependence on Islamabad for the Pakistan-based ground lines of communication into Afghanistan.

 

Moscow’s relations with Washington have taken a turn for the worse since 2014, following the Russian intervention in the Ukraine. In the same year, U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan came to an end without having meaningfully weakened the Afghan Taliban. Moscow has had to contend with the reality that there are insufficient U.S. and NATO troops to defeat the Taliban, but still a troubling number of residual Western forces too close to home in its strategic backyard. Additionally, as the Taliban resurges, Islamic State has developed an embryonic presence along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Russia has legitimate fears about the group using Afghanistan to establish networks nearby in Central Asia. Meanwhile, opium production in Afghanistan continues at near-record levels, which severely impacts Russia as it is both a transit route for Europe-bound Afghan opiates and a major consumer market. Russia consumes around a fifth of the world’s illegal opiate supply and is afflicted by a heroin addiction epidemic.

 

It is in this context that, last year, Moscow has stepped up its engagement with the Afghan Taliban. Communication between Russia and the Taliban, according to unnamed Taliban officials, goes back to 2007, but outreach appears to have not only intensified last year, it may have also grown to material support for the militant group. An unnamed Taliban commander told the AFP that Russia aided the insurgent group’s takeover of Kunduz this past fall. Additionally, Moscow is also reportedly hindering the implementation of a peace deal between Kabul and HIG, which hardliners in the Afghan Taliban have opposed.

 

These latter two developments beget two questions. If Russia supports a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, why is blocking a deal that, if successful, could provide a model for a future settlement with the Taliban? And if Moscow is indeed providing lethal support to the Afghan Taliban, are its objectives merely to curry favor with the group and counter Islamic State?…

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

 

 

Contents                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

RUSSIA’S NEW FAVORITE JIHADIS: THE TALIBAN                                       

Thomas Joscelyn                    

                   

Long War Journal, Jan. 4, 2017

                       

More than 15 years into America’s war in Afghanistan, the Russian government is openly advocating on behalf of the Taliban. Last week, Moscow hosted Chinese and Pakistani emissaries to discuss the war. Tellingly, no Afghan officials were invited. However, the trio of nations urged the world to be “flexible” in dealing with the Taliban, which remains the Afghan government’s most dangerous foe. Russia even argued that the Taliban is a necessary bulwark in the war against the so-called Islamic State.

 

For its part, the American military sees Moscow’s embrace of the Taliban as yet another move intended to undermine NATO, which fights the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State every day. After Moscow’s conference, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova spoke with reporters and noted that “the three countries expressed particular concern about the rising activity in the country of extremist groups, including the Afghan branch of IS [the Islamic State, or ISIS].”

 

According to Reuters, Zakharova added that China, Pakistan, and Russia agreed upon a “flexible approach to remove certain [Taliban] figures from [United Nations] sanctions lists as part of efforts to foster a peaceful dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban movement.”

 

The Taliban, which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, quickly praised the “Moscow tripartite” in a statement posted online on Dec. 29. “It is joyous to see that the regional countries have also understood that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is a political and military force,” Muhammad Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the group’s political office, said in the statement. “The proposal forwarded in the Moscow tripartite of delisting members of the Islamic Emirate is a positive step forward in bringing peace and security to Afghanistan.”

 

Of course, the Taliban isn’t interested in “peace and security.” The jihadist group wants to win the Afghan war and it is using negotiations with regional and international powers to improve its standing. The Taliban has long manipulated “peace” negotiations with the U.S. and Western powers as a pretext for undoing international sanctions that limit the ability of its senior figures to travel abroad for lucrative fundraising and other purposes, even while offering no serious gestures toward peace.

 

The Obama administration has repeatedly tried, and failed, to open the door to peace. In May 2014, the U.S. transferred five senior Taliban figures from Guantanamo to Qatar. Ostensibly, the “Taliban Five” were traded for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American who reportedly deserted his fellow soldiers and was then held by the Taliban and its jihadist allies. But the Obama administration also hoped that the exchange would be a so-called confidence-building measure and lead to more substantive negotiations. The Taliban’s leaders never agreed to any such discussions. They simply wanted their comrades, at least two of whom are suspected of committing war crimes, freed from Guantanamo.

 

Regardless, Russia is now enabling the Taliban’s disingenuous diplomacy by pretending that ISIS is the more worrisome threat. It’s a game the Russians have been playing for more than a year. In December 2015, Zamir Kabulov, who serves as Vladimir Putin’s special representative for Afghanistan, went so far as to claim that “the Taliban interest objectively coincides with ours” when it comes to fighting ISIS head Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists. Kabulov even conceded that Russia and the Taliban have “channels for exchanging information,” according to The Washington Post.

 

The American commanders leading the fight in Afghanistan don’t buy Russia’s argument—at all. During a press briefing on Dec. 2, General John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, discussed “the malign influence of external actors and particularly Pakistan, Russia, and Iran.” Gen. Nicholson said the U.S. and its allies are “concerned about the external enablement of the insurgent or terrorist groups inside Afghanistan, in particular where they enjoy sanctuary or support from outside governments.” Russia, in particular, “has overtly lent legitimacy to the Taliban.”

 

According to Nicholson, the Russian “narrative” is “that the Taliban are the ones fighting the Islamic State, not the Afghan government.” While the Taliban does fight its jihadist rivals in the Islamic State, this is plainly false. The “Afghan government and the U.S. counterterrorism effort are the ones achieving the greatest effect against Islamic State,” Nicholson said. He went on to list the U.S.-led coalition’s accomplishments over the past year: 500 ISIS fighters (comprising an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the group’s overall force structure) were killed or wounded, the organization’s “top 12 leaders” (including its emir, Hafiz Saeed Khan) were killed, and the group’s “sanctuary” has been reduced from nine Afghan districts to just three.

 

“So, this public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but it is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO effort and bolster the belligerents,” Nicholson concluded. While Nicholson was careful not read too much into Russia’s motivation for backing the Taliban, he noted “certainly there’s a competition with NATO.”

 

There’s no doubt that ISIS’s operations in Afghanistan grew significantly in the wake of Baghdadi’s caliphate declaration in 2014. However, as Nicholson correctly pointed out, Baghdadi’s men are not adding to the territory they control at the moment. Their turf is shrinking. The same cannot be said for the Taliban, which remains the most significant threat to Afghanistan’s future. At any given time, the Taliban threatens several provincial capitals. The Taliban also controls dozens of Afghan districts and contests many more. Simply put, the Taliban is a far greater menace inside Afghanistan than Baghdadi’s men. Regardless, the Russians continue to press their case. Their argument hinges on the idea that ISIS is a “global” force to be reckoned with, while the Taliban is just a “local” nuisance…

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

 

      

      Contents

 

TRUMP MUST GET TOUGH WITH PAKISTAN

Fulvio Martusciello

Washington Times, Dec. 20, 2016

 

President-elect Donald Trump made headlines after Pakistani officials released details of his phone call with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. While the reported kind words exchanged could be interpreted as the beginning of a renewed friendship between the two countries, Islamabad’s thirst for headlines alone have made this less likely. More importantly, in the past Mr. Trump has stressed the security challenges associated with Pakistan and its potential global reach.

 

The new administration is not alone in having mixed feelings. Rightfully so, Washington’s patience has been showing signs of wearing thin as Pakistan, a military-run country with nuclear weapons, has not been cooperative, particularly in the fight against terrorism. Indeed, there is evidence of ambiguous relations between Islamabad and several terrorist organizations. Pakistan is known as a safe haven for terrorists such as Osama bin Laden and for supporting terrorists groups such al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Haqqani network. Islamabad’s attitude regarding terrorism within its borders is unacceptable — and a major source of concern for both the United States and Europe.

 

In this context, it is essential to remember that the United States and the EU represent the bulk of the financial aid and trade with Pakistan. Although Pakistan has happily received numerous types of aid from both sides of the Atlantic, relations have often been ambivalent, and Western security and human rights concerns — most certainly justified — are perceived as an annoyance. Pakistan is even suspected of misusing of military equipment provided by the United States. The U.S. alone is to transfer close to $1 billion to Pakistan in 2017, giving Washington considerable leverage over Islamabad — leverage that must now be used.

 

Over the years Pakistan has failed to live up to its promises to the United States, whether on providing troops for the U.S. fight against communist forces in the days of the Cold War or against al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Haqqani network in present times. What’s even worse: Large chunks of funding to Pakistan found its way to arm jihadi groups, the same groups that have been responsible for killing of NATO soldiers in Afghanistan.

 

What is needed going forward is a new approach to Pakistan — one that recognizes the need to engage with Pakistan on certain key security issues while also applying stronger conditions on Islamabad to perform in ways that are not counterproductive to these objectives in the first place. The incoming Trump administration and Congress should accordingly take a closer look at U.S. economic and military assistance to Pakistan, beginning with the fundamental question: Does this assistance to Pakistan serve U.S. national interests or not?

 

Equally important is that any such re-assessment of U.S. policy to Pakistan takes place in close coordination with America’s European allies. Should Pakistan fail to comply and become transparent, both the U.S. and the EU need to consider taking appropriate joint trans-Atlantic actions, including reducing or withdrawing funds or boycotting inappropriate arms sales.

 

Terrorism is a serious threat that affects both America and Europe. Both sides of the Atlantic certainly recognize the importance of fighting terrorism as we are seeing now with the Umbrella Agreement — a landmark deal strengthening the cooperation between Washington and Brussels in the fight against terrorism by transferring trans-Atlantic criminal data.

 

Both the United States and the European Union have leverage over Islamabad, and they should use it in a coordinated fashion to dismantle terrorist networks inside Pakistan and to guarantee regional stability in South Asia. As many of the concerns and interests are shared across the Atlantic, namely with NATO, cooperation with European counterparts should be considered by establishing a trans-Atlantic dialogue on global counterterrorism.        

 

Contents

 

WHY I’M NOT A FEMINIST

Paula Stern

Jewish Press, Jan. 23, 2017

 

When I was 20 years old, I took a course at Columbia University for the easy A I expected (and got). It was called “Women and Religion” and was presented by a Jewish woman who declared on the very first day that she was a “witch.” It was attended by many different young women, though I only remember one. Her mother was Catholic; her father was Jewish. By Catholic rule, she was a Jew; by Jewish rule, she was not Jewish (I won’t say we rule that she is a Catholic – we simply say that according to Jewish law, which is matriarchal, she was not a Jew).

 

Her response to this was that she hated both religions; all religions. The class had little to do with “Women AND religion” and everything to do with “Women AGAINST religion.” I thought about dropping the course but I really needed that filler course and so I decided to continue and take it as a philosophical experiment. I never argued back in anger because I really felt more pity than anything else.

 

I tried to paint images of my religion as loving and open and they condemned it for animal sacrifices that haven’t taken place in over 2,000 years. I tried to show how Judaism was very advanced for its time, that in a world that mostly enslaved and abused women, Judaism was teaching women to read, certainly giving them equality in ways that were foreign to most other religions. I tried to show them that you can have separate but equal and equal but different, but they bought nothing and ridiculed everything.

 

At the end of the class, the witch…I mean the instructor…announced that all grades were final, papers done, everything marked and now, as a last exercise of the last class she wanted to go around the room and have everyone freely and without consequence, speak about what they had learned. The non-Catholic/non-Jewish girl spoke of how repressive and reprehensible religion was; others spoke of male domination, the fallacy of believing in one God or even many gods. I wanted to pass but they wouldn’t let me and so finally, I agreed to speak. I looked around the room and then explained, “I learned that I am not a feminist.” That enraged a few of them – but the teacher quieted them and asked me to continue. And more or less, this is what I said to them…

 

I am a Jew. I was born a Jew and I will die a Jew. I was also born a woman. Never once in my life have I felt those to collide or contradict and I pity anyone who feels that they do. I am not less; I am not inferior. I don’t view myself that way and I won’t let anyone think of me that way. But when the Nazis came to murder me, my Christian sisters of the world didn’t rise up to save me – they stood with their Christian brothers and fathers and sons. When the Crusaders came, same deal. When the Cossacks came and set fire to the synagogue in which my grandmother hid, no woman rushed forward to put out the flames.

 

A feminist will tell me that I’m being persecuted but the only way I’ve ever been persecuted is as a Jew and my “sisters” never once stood up for me because in their eyes I was as much as Jew as my father and brothers. I am a Jew. At that point, I got up, thanked the teacher and walked out of the room and to her credit, she gave me the “A” I had earned. Yesterday, women marched in Washington. The marches were sponsored and organized, in part, by a Muslim woman who supports Sharia and is anti-Israel.

 

I am the CEO of my company. I have never been discriminated against as a woman. I have applied for dozens of projects and never once been made to feel as if the decision to take my company or not rested on my gender. Dozens of years ago, an Orthodox rabbi asked me to address a very large shul and give a lesson to the entire audience – from the center of the men’s area.

 

I felt some 30 years ago, that those women needed to feel miserable to feel fulfilled. I didn’t and so I walked out of that class and went out on a date with a man who would later become my husband. A man with whom I have raised five children. A good man. An honest one. A man who doesn’t do the dishes nearly enough, but takes apart the car or the dishwasher or the air conditioner, my computer, or refrigerator whenever it breaks. A man who has never treated me as an object or said anything sexually inappropriate to me (or any other woman).

 

I have never understood violence. I didn’t spank my children (okay, I think I spanked my first two a very few times and then realized it didn’t accomplish anything) and no, I do not equate spanking children with violence but I still don’t believe in it. I have never attacked anyone, never set fire to anything (inappropriate). I have never thrown anything at anyone (other than a ball in a game and even then I missed). I do not understand violence. I do not understand the marches yesterday. (And yes, I am aware that hundreds of thousands of people marched without violence…I don’t understand that but respect everyone’s right to rally…I just wish I understood what they hoped to accomplish and more, I wish that the rally-rouser wasn’t who it was)…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents  

         

On Topic Links

 

In Afghanistan, Trump Will Inherit a Costly Stalemate and Few Solutions: Greg Jaffe & Missy Ryan, Washington Post, Jan. 18, 2017—For President Obama, the war in Afghanistan has been a matter of profound ambivalence — a strategic necessity and an unmistakable burden. He has talked about the United States’ interest in preventing the country from ever becoming a sanctuary for global terrorists. Just as often, he has spoken of ending the war and about the limits of American military power, money, patience and time.

Donald Trump’s Phone Conversation With the Leader of Pakistan Was Reckless and Bizarre: Nikhil Kumar, Time, Dec. 1, 2016—There are few foreign policy topics quite as complicated as the relationship between India and Pakistan, South Asia’s nuclear-armed nemeses.

Following Trump’s Inauguration: What’s Next?: Jacob Kornbluh & Aaron Magid, Jewish Journal, Jan. 19, 2017—As President-elect Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration approached, Jewish Insider — a division of TRIBE Media, which produces the Journal — asked a diverse group of experts and activists from across the Jewish community about their expectations for the upcoming administration in its first 100 days, its relationship with Israel and more.

Donald Trump Has a Coherent, Radical Foreign Policy Doctrine: George Friedman, Realclearworld, Jan. 2, 2017—During the campaign for the American presidency, Donald Trump promised that in his administration only good things would happen. He was somewhat vague about what precisely was good and what was bad.

 

        

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THERE’S A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN: PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP

 

Hope? Yes; Millennial Dreams? No.  What Can We Reasonably Expect From President Trump?: Frederick Krantz, CIJR, Jan. 20, 2017 — Donald J. Trump has taken the oath of office, as the 45th President of the United States, on the Capitol steps today.

The Trump Era Begins: Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard, Jan., 2017 — Ronald Reagan loved Wash­ington but disliked the government.

The Recipe for Foreign-Policy Greatness Starts With FDR: Benny Avni, New York Post, Jan. 19, 2017— Will President Trump’s foreign policy look more like the outgoing president’s, or that of Obama’s hero, Franklin Roosevelt?

Trump’s Jews and Obama’s Jews: Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage, Jan. 13, 2017 — Seen from above, the 2016 electoral map of New York City is blue with dots of red. Trump’s home district is blue, but across the water a red wedge slices into Brooklyn.

 

On Topic Links

 

Trump: I Haven't Forgotten My Promise About Jerusalem: Boaz Bismuth, Israel Hayom, Jan. 19, 2017

Will Trump Bow to Arab Intimidation on Jerusalem?: Mitchell Bard, Algemeiner, Jan. 17, 2017

A Conservative on the Eve of Trump's Presidency: Daniel Pipes, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 17, 2017

The Trump Cabinet's Good Opening Week: Peggy Noonan, Patriot Post, Jan. 14, 2016               

 

HOPE? YES; MILLENNIAL DREAMS? NO. 

WHAT CAN WE REASONABLY EXPECT FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP?

Frederick Krantz

CIJR, Jan. 20, 2017

 

Donald J. Trump has taken the oath of office, as the 45th President of the United States, on the Capitol steps today. What can we now reasonably expect of his Administration insofar as Israel and the Middle East are concerned?

 

We are, given his campaign promises, entitled to hope for substantive changes, yet we must also guard against millennial dreams. Even as we realistically expect substantive changes in his policy, we must remain aware both of the role of Realpolitik in diplomacy and of the usual gap between electoral proclamations and actual policy.

 

Most generally, there has already been a sea-change in attitude. The key reality of the Obama Administration—expressed in Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech and symbolized by the disastrous Iran nuclear deal–was a conscious “opening” to the Muslim (and above all Shiite) world. The reverse side of this shift was a marked cooling of relations with the Jewish state. Obama’s dislike of Bibi Netanyahu was not only openly personal, but also reflected policy. While Israel as a military-political “ally” would continue to receive support, Obama’s pro-Arab (and pro-Palestinian) shift de-emphasized Israel’s role as a key democratic partner in the Middle East. 

 

Beyond Trump’s palpable shift in attitude, there are clear indications of a deeper change. Trump’s immediate family has several Jewish connections through marriage, not least an Orthodox Jewish (by conversion) daughter and Jewish grandchildren. And he is a longtime and enthusiastic supporter, politically and financially, of the Jewish State. He has a longstanding friendship with Bibi Netanyahu, pro-Israel Orthodox political advisors (above all, his son-in-law and now deputized chief advisor, Jared Kushner), has headed up the annual Israel Day parade in New York City, and so on.

 

His statement before AIPAC during the Presidential campaign (including rejection of Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, and a pledge to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, now repeated by his designated ambassador to Israel, David Friedman) was clear and wide-ranging. And he has already nominated a series of pro-Israel and anti-Iranian figures, many of whom are Jewish, to high positions in his impending Cabinet.

 

(He also, reportedly, warned Obama–before the American’s abstention on UN Security Council Resolution 2334 and John Kerry’s “two-state solution” speech–against sealing his “legacy” by selling Israel out through a unilateral UN Security Council declaration of a Palestinian state.)

 

Hence the expectation that his Israel and M.E. policies will be decidedly more favorable than those of Obama (and, had she won, Hillary Clinton’s [Obama’s former Secretary of State]), is rational and understandable. However, as the Italians say, Chi vivrà, vedrà, Who lives, will see (how things turn out).

 

Trump remains, insofar as foreign affairs generally are concerned, largely an unknown. He has stressed an “America First” policy, focusing on revving up economic development and employment (see his recent China tweets) and voiced doubts about NATO (many of whose members are in arrears), and about failed “nation-building” in the Middle East (directed largely at American policy in Iraq and Afghanistan).

 

His seemingly positive view of Putin and of Russia, which seems to discount Moscow’s aggressive policy (in Crimea-Ukraine, Syria, and elsewhere), is concerning. This is  reinforced by his appointment of several Cabinet heads with close links to the Kremlin (Lt. General Flynn, for the National Security Administration, and the Exxon chairman, Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State). His appointee as Defense Secretary, General Mattis, has indicated support for the two-state solution, and has a history of lukewarm attitudes towards Israel.

 

What will be the litmus paper test of the new Administration insofar as Israel is concerned? Three issues: the pledged moving of the US embassy to Israel’s capitol, Jerusalem (something Presidential candidates have to date never followed through on); resisting on-going “two-state solution” pressures; and cancelling or, more probably, markedly amending, Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.

 

The two-state “solution”, the hallmark of failed US policy for over twenty years, now seems dead on arrival in any case, although it is concerning that Trump continues to refer–an old Presidential temptation–to wanting to broker an Israeli-Palestinian “deal of the century”.) And while finally recognizing Jerusalem would be nice, it is, however symbolic, not a politically decisive issue.

 

But clearly blocking Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon by rejecting or deeply amending the Iran agreement is, surely, the issue of most   strategic importance for Trump to face, and the one on which his general Israel and M.E. policy will turn.  Early action in this regard will indicate a real shift in Middle East policy.

 

Nevertheless, changing the US-Israel atmospherics from something neutral or even negative to something positive, is important, and will finally bring Administrative attitudes into line both with US popular and Congressional opinion.

 

But again, insofar as policy is concerned, that alone will be insufficient. If President Trump pursues a neo-isolationist foreign policy, allowing Russia to dominate an Iranian-backed and Hezbollah-supported Assad government (even if, as pledged, he ups the ante on the US-backed war against IS in Syria and Iraq), and if he doesn’t move quickly on the Jerusalem issue and/or backs off on amending the Iranian nuclear deal, the disappointment—in the American Jewish community and in Israel—will be palpable.

 

At this point, then, even as we are right to expect real and positive changes from Trump, an attitude of guarded optimism and watchful waiting is in order. Political prudence indicates we must keep the pressure on—better to be buoyed by major improvements when and if they come, than to be thrown into despair, despite better atmospherics, by the usual Realpolitik business, let alone by failed utopian dreams. 

 

(Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research,

is Editor of the Isranet Daily Briefing)

 

 

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THE TRUMP ERA BEGINS

Fred Barnes                                    

Weekly Standard, Jan., 2017

                       

Ronald Reagan loved Washington but disliked the government. George W. Bush hated Washington but liked the government. Donald Trump loathes both Washington and the government. This is why Trump won't make many accommodations in style or attitude as president. He dislikes Washington and nearly everything in it. His advisers have long since given up on persuading him to act "presidential." Newt Gingrich says the new president is bringing the whole Trump package we saw in the primaries and general election to the White House.

 

Gingrich actually calls it the full "Donald J. Trump." It consists of bludgeoning what he dislikes the most—political correctness, the left, and those who attack him. Those targets will get no relief. Nor will the bureaucracy, Washington's cast of busybodies who once worked in government and never left, and the press.

 

Trump will tweet. He will boast. He will speak candidly rather than communicate Washington-style through leaks, gossip, and insinuations. He will be paranoid, having written in Trump: The Art of the Comeback that the "slightly paranoid end up being the most successful." He will disappoint Republicans who believe they've tamed him. He will warm up to Democrats willing to do business with him, if there are any.

 

In the days before his inauguration, he delivered a demonstration of some of what's to come. He boasted at a posh D.C. dinner that 147 diplomats and ambassadors were in attendance. "Never been done before," he said. When he criticized Democratic congressman John Lewis, Democrats, politically correct Republicans, and the media were appalled. Lewis was identified as a "civil rights icon." Though he was elected to the House in 1986 and has voted a straight party line ever since, his civil rights background has generally made him off-limits to attacks. But not with Trump. When Lewis said Trump was illegitimate as president, Trump unloaded on him in tweets. Lewis said he would boycott the inauguration. He had said the same about George W. Bush after the 2000 election and skipped that inauguration too. The episodes looked similar, except I don't recall a response by Bush to Lewis.

 

 

On the matter of Trump's business interests, he ignored the advice of two "ethics" experts—former lawyers for Presidents Bush and Obama—who insisted he must put his holdings in a blind trust or something equivalent. They might think so, but the law says otherwise, and Trump prefers to have sons Eric and Donald run the Trump Organization while he's president. The ethics duo "have been exploiting the situation to drag out their 15 minutes of fame unconscion­ably," Holman Jenkins wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

 

The press anointed them arbiters of what Trump should do, though he is free to do what he wants, legally speaking. Jenkins referred to them as aphids, "sap-sucking insects [and] unfortunately the aphid side of life is the side Washington specializes in." They were too small for Trump to acknowledge. Polls, even bad ones, are too big for Trump to ignore. His approval numbers are historically low for an incoming president. He has two lines of attack. The polls are "rigged" by the same people "who did the phony election polls," he tweeted three days before his inauguration. Or Democrats were over-polled, driving down his approval rating. He's closer to being right on the second.

 

Given the political division in the country and the media's obsession with finding fault with Trump, he'd be smart to pay little attention to polls. Gingrich has a better idea. Trump isn't in the same situation as Reagan in 1981. He's more like Margaret Thatcher in her first two years as British prime minister. He should learn from her. Her poll numbers were dreadful. The press was so critical of her, she stopped reading newspapers. She was called illegitimate. Her agenda—for instance, crushing a coal miners' strike and closing unprofitable mines—seemed unachievable. But she was tougher than her enemies and defeated them.

 

Is Trump capable of doing what Thatcher did? I suspect he thinks so. He's a believer in suppressing thoughts of failure. As a young man, he listened to sermons by Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking. He regards Peale as the greatest speaker he ever heard. Trump believes in himself. And why not? He defeated a gang of 16 for the GOP nomination and whipped Hillary Clinton, once seen as a candidate for coronation. He did it largely without help from consultants, pollsters, and strategists.

 

I think Trump is tougher and smarter than his adversaries. That could lead as easily to blunders as to successes. But unlike Obama, he's willing to compromise. In that, he's more like Reagan, whose legacy is permanent. Obama's won't be.

 

Democrats and progressives may be too blindly anti-Trump to cooperate. But it's not Trump's policies they revile. What progressives detest about Trump "has mainly to do with appearance, attitude, style, and language," Barton Swaim wrote in the Washington Post. If progressives were smart, they would recognize the possibility of dealing more productively with Trump than with a principled conservative. "But I'm not sure they're smart," wrote Swaim. I'm not either. And that will leave Trump with the job of draining the swamp full-time.                                

 

Contents

 

THE RECIPE FOR FOREIGN-POLICY GREATNESS STARTS WITH FDR

Benny Avni

New York Post, Jan. 19, 2017

 

Will President Trump’s foreign policy look more like the outgoing president’s, or that of Obama’s hero, Franklin Roosevelt? In 1945, the World War II winners — Josef Stalin, Winston Churchill and FDR — met in Yalta, Crimea, to shape the fate of postwar Europe. US-led victory made America the world’s top player, and its wealthiest. We became a global force for good.

 

A stark contrast with what will be on display next week, when Russian, Iranian and Turkish officials will meet in Astana, Kazakhstan. They’ll try to end the civil war in Syria, which has led to the deaths of half a million and empowered the region’s extremists, and in the process reshaped the Mideast. President Obama talked a lot about the five-year Syrian war. Russia, Turkey and Iran acted. Which is why they convened the Astana summit, and are calling the shots. That’s bad for us, the Mideast — and the world.

 

Obama fans in Washington, Oslo or at the United Nations still believe he regained the world’s respect after Bush’s America lost it. That’s not how it’s seen in Aleppo, and that’s not what our allies believe. So how can Trump turn it around? Though he took a liking to the phrase “America first” during the campaign, he’ll have to avoid slipping into the isolationist baggage the slogan comes with. Trump’s national-security team is certainly starting on the right track by pushing to beef up the military budgets Obama has depleted. Let’s hope it succeeds.

 

Projecting military power is one way to avoid war. And a revamped military will be crucial to reclaiming America’s rightful place on the world stage. Take China. As its military expanded in the last decade, ours shrank. President Xi Jinping became increasingly aggressive, threatening neighbors, annexing territory and dominating the seas around him. Obama’s “pivot to Asia” turned out to be an empty slogan, giving Chinese adventurism a (mostly) green light to make mischief. China is a competitor that could quickly become a formidable foe, and Trump seems to get this. Taking a post-election phone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen shocked the buttoned-up diplomats at Foggy Bottom, but it also signaled to Xi that he can no longer do as he pleases in the region. That there’s a new sheriff in town.

 

As for our allies: Trump will need to leave his campaign attacks on Japan, America’s strongest and most reliable friend in the region, behind. Hopefully, his Trump Tower meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shortly after the election will, as quickly as possible, be followed up by a bilateral US-Japanese trade agreement to replace Obama’s ill-fated multinational Asian trade pact. A Japan agreement will seal our alliance, and reassure supporters of trade. “Multinational trade pacts don’t work,” a European diplomat told me recently. Trump agrees — he was making that argument from the beginning, in fact. Which is why he’s promising a bilateral pact with Britain’s Theresa May, who announced she was moving her country full speed ahead toward its break with the European Union last week. Such agreements could reshape world trade.

 

Closer to home, Trump would do well to bury the hatchet with another friend, Mexico, assuring it doesn’t turn into a foe. Trump, as his Twitter account will attest, smiles at friends and hard-hits dissers. It’s not a bad mode of statecraft, were he to expand it: He should communicate quite clearly who are our allies and who aren’t. Which one is Putin’s Russia? As an astute Muscovite observes, the Kremlin adored Presidents Bush and Obama when they were elected, only to hate them by the time they left office. The love affair with Trump “is already beginning to fade,” he said, predicting an ugly breakup soon.

 

Trump indicated on the campaign trail that (like Obama) he’d farm out to Russia some of our fights around the world. He’ll soon realize, likely, that Moscow’s animosity toward America is too deep for meaningful cooperation. A self-proclaimed artist of the deal, Trump is fond of saying that unpredictability is strength. So it’s hard to predict whether our future summits will look more like Astana or Yalta. Only the latter will make America great again.                          

 

Contents

 

 

TRUMP’S JEWS AND OBAMA’S JEWS

Daniel Greenfield

Frontpage, Jan. 13, 2017

 

Seen from above, the 2016 electoral map of New York City is blue with dots of red. Trump’s home district is blue, but across the water a red wedge slices into Brooklyn. Around that red wedge are districts where Hillary won 90 percent of the vote and Trump was lucky to get 5 percent. Inside it, he beat her in district after district. The voters who handed him that victory are the Chassidic Jews of Williamsburg who dress in fur hats and black caftans. Their districts, crammed in by hipsters and minorities, are a world away from the progressive activist temples whose clergy went into mourning at Hillary’s loss.

 

East of Prospect Park, in a vast sea of blue, is what looks like a red sofa. Trump won here with the Chabad Chassidim of Crown Heights. He won in the more mainstream Orthodox Jewish communities of Flatbush. He won by huge margins among the Russian Jewish immigrants of Brighton Beach who listen to a man dubbed the “Russian Rush Limbaugh.” As the left-wing Forward put it, “Nearly every election district that Trump won in Brooklyn was in a Jewish neighborhood.” But it was a certain type of Jewish neighborhood. The wrong type. “You can compare them to Rust Belt voters,” a Forward source states. “They are hardworking people, not college educated.”

 

And then in Far Rockaway where the housing projects by the beach give way to the red Orthodox Jewish communities that extend into Long Island. There’s a line that recurs again and again in the attacks on David Friedman; the man picked by President-elect Trump to serve as the ambassador to Israel. It’s not stated openly. It’s implied. “David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer from Long Island,” is the sneering summary. Remnick, the New Yorker’s left-wing editor, took the sneering to a new level, titling his smear as “Trump’s Daily Bankruptcy.” Jewish identity, he declares, has never been a matter of “bankruptcy law.”

 

To a certain class of elites, it is self-evidently absurd that a bankruptcy lawyer from Long Island be appointed to anything or be listened to about anything. David Remnick is a Washington Post man married to a New York Times woman who went on to inherit the editorship of the New Yorker and turn it into a left-wing echo chamber. He lives in a $3.25 million four-bedroom Manhattan apartment with a wood-burning fireplace. And David Friedman is the Orthodox son of a Rabbi from Woodmere who still lives there. His father was a Republican who hosted President Reagan. He might occasionally be allowed to read the New Yorker. And that’s about it. Yet it’s hard to think of anything that might recommend Friedman more to Trump.

 

Over at New York Magazine, Frank Rich and Fran Leibowitz famously chuckled over Trump being “a poor person’s idea of a rich person.” David Brooks, the token slightly right of the left voice at the New York Times, full of contempt for Trump, in an infamous moment, studied Obama’s “perfectly creased pant” and came to the conclusion that, “he’ll be a very good president.” “I divide people into people who talk like us and who don’t talk like us,” Brooks has said. Obama spoke like one of the collective “us”. Trump and Friedman don’t talk like “us”. Their voices are distinctly working class. Their New York values are those of a grittier and grimier country. Trump’s calling card was, “Make America Great Again”. Obama’s was a memoir about race and identity that was a hit on college campuses. Two cultures could hardly be further apart.

 

The internal war in America and among Jews over Trump is not just about politics, it’s also about class. Trump’s victory was the uprising of a cultural underclass. That is equally true among Jews. The same divide exists between the slick branding of J Street’s conferences stocked with self-appointed thought leaders who have never worked for a living and the hard-working Jewish communities who loathe the New York Times for its hostility to Israel. These are the Jews who have never been represented in national politics. Whom most of the left didn’t even know existed…

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

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

Contents           

 

On Topic Links

 

Trump: I Haven't Forgotten My Promise About Jerusalem: Boaz Bismuth, Israel Hayom, Jan. 19, 2017—At pre-inaugural event in Washington, President-elect Donald Trump tells Israel Hayom he will move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, "and I'm not a person who breaks promises"

Will Trump Bow to Arab Intimidation on Jerusalem?: Mitchell Bard, Algemeiner, Jan. 17, 2017—President-elect Donald Trump has promised to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Predictably, cataclysmic warnings are coming from the Palestinians, Arab leaders and State Department Arabists.

A Conservative on the Eve of Trump's Presidency: Daniel Pipes, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 17, 2017—Many conservatives who once found Donald Trump unpalatable have come around to accept him. Most famously, Mitt Romney once excoriated Trump as dishonest, "a phony, a fraud," and condemned his bullying, greed, showing off, and misogyny. After the presidential election, however, Romney praised Trump ("I look forward to the coming administration") and hoped to work for him.

The Trump Cabinet's Good Opening Week: Peggy Noonan, Patriot Post, Jan. 14, 2016—This week was hail and farewell. Thursday morning William Cohen, the former Republican senator who became Bill Clinton’s secretary of defense, introduced and endorsed Gen. James N. Mattis, Donald Trump’s nominee as defense chief, to the Senate Armed Services Committee. “He has the nickname of ‘Mad Dog’ — it’s a misnomer,” Mr. Cohen said.              

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OBAMA’S “LEADING FROM BEHIND” LEAVES MIDDLE EAST IN FLAMES & WORLD FAR MORE DANGEROUS

 

Eight Years of Obama’s Foreign Policy Disasters Recapped in Only Two Horrific Weeks: Editorial, National Post, Dec. 30, 2016— It is sad to see the foreign policy of the United States being carried out in such gasping, feeble whimpers.

Out with the Old, In With the New: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, Jan. 16, 2017— One cannot help but admire the American public, which eight years ago elected Barack Obama as the country's first African-American president.

A Disaster He's Proud Of: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Jan. 16, 2017— The Obama chapter in American foreign policy ends like the climax of an action movie—with a fireball growing in the distance and filling the screen as a man in silhouette approaches in slow motion and then veers off camera.

The Ancient Foreign Policy: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Dec. 20, 2016 — For the last eight years, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and Susan Rice have sought to rewrite the traditional approach to foreign policy.

 

On Topic Links

 

In Final Remarks, Obama Says Chance for Two-State Solution Passing By: Eric Cortellessa, Times of Israel, Jan. 18, 2017

The American Epoch is Over. It Ended on Obama’s Watch: Terry Glavin, National Post, Jan. 18, 2017

Barack to the Future: Christopher Caldwell, Weekly Standard, Jan. 9, 2017

Obama’s Legacy is Crumbling Before Our Eyes: Derek Burney & Fen Osler Hampson, Globe & Mail, Jan. 7, 2017

              

 

 

EIGHT YEARS OF OBAMA’S FOREIGN POLICY

DISASTERS RECAPPED IN ONLY TWO HORRIFIC WEEKS

Editorial

National Post, Dec. 30, 2016

 

It is sad to see the foreign policy of the United States being carried out in such gasping, feeble whimpers. But it is no longer surprising. The last two weeks have been a microcosm of the failures of the last eight years. They will not soon be forgotten, or the damage quickly undone. First and foremost, of course, was the appalling decision of the United States — of President Barack Obama, let’s be clear — to not use America’s UN Security Council veto to strike down a heavy handed resolution levelled at Israel; more specifically, settlements it has established (and may expand) in portions of the disputed West Bank.

 

The settlements are undeniably controversial, nowhere more than in Israel itself. One can support Israel while questioning Israeli government’s settlement policies. But this resolution did more than just question the settlements. It called into question Israel’s right to control, after a future final peace agreement, even those sections of disputed territory that are by demography and history indisputably Jewish, including some of Judaism’s holiest sites. The resolution also attempted to do what generations of U.S. leaders have resisted doing — force an essentially bi-lateral process between Israel and the Palestinians into international fora that offer no solutions. Obama’s decision to permit the resolution to stand is an enormous black mark on the already shredded tatters of his foreign policy legacy.

 

It was also, incredibly, just the beginning of the Obama White House’s decision to unleash a parting salvo at a steadfast American ally. Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry also unloaded on Israel, slamming the settlements, defending Obama’s lacklustre record of support for Israel, and asserting that friends must be honest with each other. Of course. But friends also need to carefully consider how and where such messages are delivered. Apparently in an attempt to show America’s continued goodwill toward Israel, despite his rhetorical assault, Sec. Kerry also announced that the White House was prepared to back a push for peace.

 

Really, Mr. Secretary? Is this a joke? Nothing says “committed to peace” like stabbing a friend in the back, while simultaneously proposing to launch a massive international process to address a generations-long impasse … with all of three weeks left in your term. This hardly rises to the level of token. But that is par for the course with the Obama administration. Russia threatening NATO’s eastern flank? Send a battalion and some tanks, while imposing a few sanctions. China gobbling up and militarizing territory in the Pacific without legal cause and despite pledges not to? Sail the odd warship past a newly built island fortress for a look-see. Syria devolving into a hellhole of civil war and sectarian slaughter? Send some equipment — nothing too lethal, of course, because that might be controversial — and try to train a few fighters (but don’t break a sweat).

 

And, obviously, when the Assad regime nerve gasses its own people in direct defiance of your own declared “red line,” well, just pretend you never said that and walk away, whistling a merry tune. The less said about the nuclear deal with Iran, which freed up billions in frozen Iranian assets and lifted sanctions in exchange for Tehran’s unverifiable promise to briefly not build nuclear weapons, the better.

 

We could go on but the point is made. From Israel, to Syria, to Russia, to Iraq and through to the Pacific, America’s allies and partners have been forced to re-evaluate how useful an ally the United States really is, while its enemies and opponents discover just how far America can be pushed. Even when America’s interests have been directly and clearly challenged, for example, by Russia’s recent cyber adventurism, the best the White House can muster is an appeal to “knock it off” and a belated, half-hearted round of sanctions and diplomatic expulsions that could be described, if one were in a generous mood, as mostly symbolic.

 

America remains a great country — the only country truly capable of leading the free world. But for the last eight years, its commander-in-chief has not had any interest in that job, preferring to “lead from behind” when he led at all, and more keen on pursuing futile resets with rival powers than working with allies in pursuit of common Western interests. The state of the world today is proof of the failure of those policies — and leaves Mr. Obama’s successor in a very deep hole he may not be equipped to easily escape.         

 

Contents                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW                                                          

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror                                          

BESA, Jan. 16, 2017

                       

One cannot help but admire the American public, which eight years ago elected Barack Obama as the country's first African-American president. The genuine elation and joy in the streets of New York City, where I was when he was sworn in, reflected the change American society had undergone.

 

Obama assumed office with a very solid worldview. He believed many of the challenges the US was facing globally stemmed from its forceful conduct and ability to impose its will on other nations. In his view, many of Washington's international failures stemmed from the fact that it had not tried to improve ties with its adversaries. This drove Obama to visit the Middle East – not including Israel – in 2009 and deliver his famous Cairo speech. He believed that addressing the people from the heart would be reciprocated. This was also the logic that drove his attempt to promote a new rapport with Russia.

 

Eight years later, it is hard to say the world has repaid Obama in kind. The world is not a better, more democratic place; nor does it favor the US in any way. This is especially true in the Middle East, but the sentiment is shared elsewhere as well. Moreover, the US rollback on its role in different regions has made its allies wary of their aggressive neighbors. This is so much the case that in some countries, there has been talk of replacing the dwindling American nuclear umbrella – by which the US, as a nuclear power, guarantees the protection of its non-nuclear allies – with independent atomic abilities. Should this become reality, it would spell a horrific nuclear race.

 

Obama is leaving behind a world far more dangerous than the one with which he was entrusted as leader of the most powerful country on earth – a title he managed to seriously compromise. As far as Israel-US relations go, the eight-year Obama administration has been complex. On the one hand, Israel had a sympathetic ear in Washington with regard to its security needs. The landmark $38 billion defense aid package signed with the US, and the fact that Israel, of all nations, was the first to receive the state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jet, speaks to the American commitment to the Jewish state's security for decades to come.

 

The relationship between the Israeli and American intelligence agencies continues to be excellent, a state of affairs that would not be possible without direction from the White House. Israel has also received vital US backing in the international arena more than once. Still, Washington and Jerusalem were at odds under Obama on four important issues. The first was nuclear nonproliferation. In 2010, the administration failed to keep its promise to Israel and gave in to Arab demands for supervision of Israel's alleged nuclear capabilities. This was done as part of the American effort to maintain consensus at that year's nuclear nonproliferation conference in Vienna.

 

The Americans may not have explicitly admitted that they broke a promise to Israel in this regard, but they understood that it was perceived that way by Israel and the world. Judging from the limited foreign reports on the issue, Israel's complaints were justified. The US ultimately took action to help Israel overcome the difficulties incurred as a result of that mistake, but that blatant breach of promise made a dent on the collective Israeli consciousness, even if its overall effect has dimmed.

 

The second issue is the settlement enterprise. The outgoing administration turned settlement construction in Judea and Samaria into the key issue with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It was nothing short of an obsession, and the issue by which any progress would rise or fall. Washington refrained from pressuring Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in any way, even when he failed to agree to the 2014 US framework to reignite the talks. The US deemed Abbas too politically weak to be pressured, while any Israeli construction, in either Judea and Samaria or Jerusalem, was denounced as an obstacle to peace. The administration thereby lost an opportunity of possibly historic proportions to advance the peace talks, while the Israeli government – and a Likud government at that – was more willing than ever to promote it.

 

The dissonance in the administration's responses was so jarring that it eroded the effectiveness of US condemnation, as the majority of the Israeli public, and some around the world, began to perceive it as one-sided, unjust and unwise. Moreover, the way in which the Obama administration handled the issue of settlements made Abbas climb up a very tall tree. It will be hard for him to climb down from such a height toward future negotiations. UN Security Council Resolution 2334 denouncing the settlement enterprise, passed in the last month of Obama's presidency, has only made things worse, and is likely to stall negotiations even further. The outgoing president appears to have decided to hinder his successor as much as possible, even at the expense of an interest he allegedly wants to promote…

 

The third issue of discord between Jerusalem and Washington was the Iranian nuclear program. Some would say this disagreement culminated in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress in March 2015, perceived as an affront to Obama on his own turf. Truth be told, the crisis was of the administration's making. Contrary to how things are generally handled between allies, the White House made a conscious choice to deceive Israel and conceal the fact that it was holding intensive nuclear negotiations with Iran – an issue that has direct bearing on Israel's very existence. This move was especially jarring as it involved a dramatic shift in US policy, which resulted in a very bad deal. Even those who believe the deal is solid have a hard time justifying the winding road walked by the US administration to reach it – even more so when some top officials within the administration itself thought it was wrong to hide the talks from Israel…

 

The fourth issue at odds is the chaos in the Middle East. This was particularly evident after the 2011 ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, when the Obama administration favored the Muslim Brotherhood's Muhammad Morsi as the representative of authentic sentiments among the Egyptian people over the military's countercoup. Israel preferred Egypt not be ruled by the radical ideology propagated by the Muslim Brotherhood, even if the alternative was Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi, who maintains an iron grip on Egypt as president. In this case, the lack of consensus between Washington and Jerusalem over the dangers of political Islam was at the heart of their dispute. The American approach is ideological, in that it refuses to recognize that radical Islam is an authentic side of Islam. The very phrase "Islamic terrorism" was stricken from the politically correct vocabulary employed by Washington during the Obama years…

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

                                   

 

Contents

 

A DISASTER HE'S PROUD OF

Lee Smith

Weekly Standard, Jan. 16, 2017

 

The Obama chapter in American foreign policy ends like the climax of an action movie—with a fireball growing in the distance and filling the screen as a man in silhouette approaches in slow motion and then veers off camera. Barack Obama has set the Middle East on fire, and now it's spreading. The Obama administration's nuclear agreement with Iran has emboldened the world's leading state sponsor of terror, which now makes war openly in four Arab states (Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen) and is a growing threat to Israel and Saudi Arabia. The deal with Tehran that Obama boasts of as his signature foreign policy initiative guarantees, as the president himself acknowledged, that Iran will have an industrial-scale nuclear weapons program within 15 years.

 

After a 40-year absence from the Middle East, Russia has returned to the region, where it bombs Syria's schools and hospitals as America and Europe watch helplessly. Washington's traditional regional allies are scrambling to adjust to the new reality, which for the likes of Israel, Jordan, and Turkey means an opportunistic power on their borders that is allied with their existential enemies.

 

For Europe, the millions seeking refuge from the conflagration are agents of potential instability on the continent in the years to come; some in their midst are terrorists plain and simple. In just four years, or one presidential term, a civil uprising that started in Syria became a great Middle Eastern war over a host of sectarian, religious, and political hostilities dating back centuries. Critics and even admirers of the president say that Syria will be a stain on his record. But that's not how Obama sees it. The death and suffering of so many undoubtedly pains him, as he says. He says he wonders if he could have done anything else. Of course he could have, but he believed he had better reasons not to.

 

There is probably no other president in the post-World War II period who would not have committed significant resources to toppling Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Indeed, by 2013, all of Obama's national security cabinet advised him to support the rebels. They believed that the United States had, first, a stake in helping to end a humanitarian catastrophe and, no less important, a vital interest in preserving a 70-year-old order that the conflict threatened to undo.

 

America's Cold War strategy was relatively simple in outline: We would preserve stability on the European continent, contain Moscow, and protect the resource-rich Persian Gulf, which ensured the free flow of trade on which American prosperity depended. Obama disregarded those principles. Assad's war sent millions to a quickly overwhelmed Europe. Putin's gambit in Syria eliminated Israel's air superiority in the eastern Mediterranean and positioned Russia on NATO's southern border. Iran's harassment of the U.S. Navy in the Gulf signaled to the oil-producing Arab states that since the nuclear deal was more important to Obama than American prestige and the safety of American servicemen and women, they were on their own.

 

By normal bipartisan American standards, Obama's foreign policy record is disastrous. But that's not how he sees it. For Obama and his closest aides, the last seven years represent a revolution, a transformative period in American foreign policy engineered by a transformative figure.

 

Obama's foreign policy issued in part from his understanding of global realities but more from his interpretation of the American character. He believed that Americans tend to make a mess of things around the world. Obama is like a narrator in a Graham Greene novel; in our relations with the rest of humanity, as he sees it, we are 300 million naïfs abroad, whose intentions may be good but who lack the tragic sense that the rest of the world feels in its bones. Americans, until Obama came along, had been in the grip of a triumphalist fantasy—American exceptionalism—thinking there was nothing wrong with the world that couldn't be fixed by pointing our guns at it. A shoot-first America was especially dangerous in the conflict-prone Middle East, where everything looks like a nail to a nation that thinks it's a hammer. For Obama, it was vitally important to get the country he was elected to lead off of what he called a "perpetual war footing."…

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

 

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THE ANCIENT FOREIGN POLICY

Victor Davis Hanson

National Review, Dec. 20, 2016

 

For the last eight years, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and Susan Rice have sought to rewrite the traditional approach to foreign policy. In various ways, they have warned us about the dangers that a reactionary Trump presidency would pose, on the assumption that their new world order now operates more along the lines of an Ivy League conference than according to the machinations and self-interests of the dog-eat-dog Manhattan real-estate cosmos.

 

It would be nice if the international order had safe spaces, prohibitions against micro-aggressions, and trigger warnings that warn of hurtful speech, but is the world really one big Harvard or Stanford that runs on loud assertions of sensitivity, guilt, apologies, or even the cynical progressive pieties found in WikiLeaks?

 

The tempo abroad in the last eight years would suggest that the answer is no: half a million dead in Syria, over a million young Muslim men flooding into Europe, an Iraq in ruins (though Biden once bragged it would be the Obama administration’s “greatest achievement”), the Benghazi catastrophe, North Africa a wasteland and terrorist incubator, Israel and the Gulf states estranged from America, Iran empowered and soon to be nuclear, Russia hell-bent on humiliating the U.S., China quietly forming its own updated Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, an impoverished Cuba and much of Latin America gnawing the limp wrist of U.S. outreach, and the European Union gradually imploding.

 

Obama’s lead-from-behind foreign policy has becoming something like the seduction of an old house. Its wiring, plumbing, and foundation are shot, but the majestic structure, when given a thin coat of new paint by the seller, proudly goes on the market as “restored” — at least until the new buyer discovers that the Potemkin façade is about to collapse from lax maintenance and deliberate indifference. In other words, Obama’s periodic declamations, Nobel Prize, and adulation from a toady press are all veneers of shiny paint; the Middle East, Russia, China, Iran, and ISIS terrorism are the insidious frayed wiring, corroded pipes, and termites that are about to take down the entire structure from the inside out. Note that the unrepentant seller is always loudly petulant that the new owner, as he makes endless vital repairs, did not appreciate the paint job he inherited.

 

It was not always so. Ancient American foreign policy that got us from the ruin of World War II to the most prosperous age in the history of civilization was once guided by an appreciation of human nature’s constancy across time and space. Diplomacy hinged on seeing foreign leaders as roughly predictable — guided as much by Thucydidean emotions such as honor, fear, and perceived self-interest as by cold reason. In other words, sometimes nations did things that seemed to be stupid; in retrospect their actions looked irrational, but at the time, they served the needs of national honor or assuaged fears. Vladimir Putin, for example, in his effort to restore Russian power and regional hegemony, is guided by his desire to recapture the glories of the Soviet Union, not just its Stalinist authoritarianism or geographical expanse. He also seeks to restore the respect that long ago greeted Russian diplomats, generals, and leaders when sent abroad as proud emissaries of a world-class power.

 

In that context, talking down to a Putin serves no purpose other than to humiliate a proud leader whose guiding principle is that he will never allow himself to be publicly shamed. But Obama did exactly that when he scolded Putin to “cut it out” with the cyber attacks (as if, presto, Putin would follow his orders), and when he suggested that Putin’s tough-guy antics were sort of a macho shtick intended only to please Russians, and when he mocked a sullen Putin as a veritable class cut-up at photo-ops (as if the magisterial Obama had to discipline an unruly adolescent). Worse still, when such gratuitous humiliations are not backed by the presence of overwhelming power, deft statecraft, and national will, opportunists such as Putin are only emboldened to become irritants to the U.S. and its former so-called global order. We should not discount the idea that leaders become hostile as much out of spite as out of conflicting national interests.

 

Throughout history, it has not gone well for powerful leaders when they have been perceived as being both loudly sanctimonious and weak (read Demosthenes on Athenian reactions to Philip II), as if the nation’s strength enervates the leader rather than empowers his diplomacy. Worse still is when a leader aims to loudly project strength through rhetoric while quietly fearing to do so through ships and soldiers. Think again of Neville Chamberlain at Munich, who gave Hitler everything — including lectures on proper international behavior. Anthony Eden remarked at the time that British statesmen thought Hitler and Mussolini were like typical British elites with whom they could do business; the British diplomats mistakenly believed they could appeal to the dictators’ reason and common interests, and thus they were bound to be sorely disappointed. A man does not reach the pinnacle of Russian power only to nod agreeably when ordered to “cut it out.” And a thug such as Bashar al-Assad does not give up his lucrative family crime syndicate for the gallows because Obama flippantly announces to the world that “Assad must go.” The worst thing about Obama’s red-line threat to Syria was not just that Obama ignored it when it was crossed, but that he then denied he’d ever issued the threat in the first place…

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

 

Contents        

   

On Topic Links

 

In Final Remarks, Obama Says Chance for Two-State Solution Passing By: Eric Cortellessa, Times of Israel, Jan. 18, 2017— In his final press conference as president, Barack Obama issued a stern warning to Israelis and Palestinians alike that the chances for a two-state solution could soon fade if serious changes are not made by both parties.

The American Epoch is Over. It Ended on Obama’s Watch: Terry Glavin, National Post, Jan. 18, 2017—“Yes, we can,” they chanted in unison. To hear Barack Obama speak, or just to catch a glimpse of him, roughly 200,000 people had turned out that day, July 24, 2008, filling the broad, tree-lined avenue of Strasse des 17 Juni in Berlin’s glorious Tiergarten Park. It was an audience three times the size of any crowd Obama had drawn back in the United States. The election was still months away.

Barack to the Future: Christopher Caldwell, Weekly Standard, Jan. 9, 2017—They are keening in the Bay Area. "Oh, America, what have we done?" wrote a San Bruno reader to the San Francisco Chronicle the week after November's election. "Many of us feel for President Obama, especially as we watch him gracefully support Donald Trump's transition, knowing Trump's priorities include destroying Obama's legacy."

Obama’s Legacy is Crumbling Before Our Eyes: Derek Burney & Fen Osler Hampson, Globe & Mail, Jan. 7, 2017—If words and erudition were the hallmarks of policy accomplishment, U.S. President Barack Obama would stand tall, but his legacy is crumbling even before he leaves the White House. As CNN’s Fareed Zakaria observed, Mr. Obama is “an intensely charismatic politician, but he was not able to build a political base underneath him.” His considerable skills at oratory seldom transcended into an ability to deliver results or a coherent plan of action.

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISLAM AT WAR: ASSAD POISED TO WIN ELECTION; U.S. BACKS DOWN ON “RED-LINES”; KURDS CLASH WITH ISIS: IS ISLAMIST IDENTITY TO BLAME FOR SYRIA’S TROUBLES?

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

 

The Remapping of Syria: Amotz Asa-El, Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2014— US campaign advisers Arthur Finkelstein and James Carville have not been hired, but Bashar Assad will still win next month’s election, and proceed to a third seven-year term as president of Syria.

Mr. Obama is Choosing Not To Act on Syria: Washington Post, May 15, 2014—  The principal achievement the Obama administration might claim in an otherwise tragically failed response to Syria’s civil war is eroding.

Wars Within Wars: Jonathan Spyer, Weekly Standard, May 26, 2014 — With Syrian presidential elections scheduled for June, the incumbent and shoo-in for reelection, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, is campaigning on the promise that 2014 will be the year in which military operations in Syria end.

Islam is What Happens When Civilization Loses: Daniel Greenfield, Sultan Knish, Apr. 8, 2014— Saudi Arabia and Qatar aren't talking to each other. Syria and Turkey are shooting at each other.

 

On Topic Links

 

Syrian al-Qaida Reach Foothills of Golan Heights: Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014

U.S.-Armed Syrian Rebel Group Seeks ‘All Syrian Land Occupied by Israel’: Adam Kredo, Washington Free Press Beacon, May 19, 2014

Syrian Fighting Gives Hezbollah New but Diffuse Purpose: Ben Hubbard, New York Times, May 20, 2014

Radical Islamists Take Hammer to Syrian Artifacts: Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel, May 22, 2014

Syrian War Takes Heavy Toll at a Crossroad of Cultures: Anne Barnard, New York Times, Apr. 16, 2014

 

THE REMAPPING OF SYRIA

Amotz Asa-El                                                        

Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2014

 

US campaign advisers Arthur Finkelstein and James Carville have not been hired, but Bashar Assad will still win next month’s election, and proceed to a third seven-year term as president of Syria. Coupled with Egypt’s election – to be held one week earlier, with Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s victory also predestined – and the world may be resigned to the conclusion that three-and-a-half years of upheaval have landed the Arab world back at square one. This impression may be right in Egypt, but it is unfounded in Syria, whose future will be markedly different from its past. The feeling of déjà vu is justified in Egypt, where Sisi is indeed a product of the previous establishment, and where the country has survived its upheaval intact, if bruised. Syria’s situation is entirely different. Though Assad has indeed defied early assessments that his political days are numbered, and despite gains on the battlefield, the process of Syria’s breakup is under way – and irreversible.

 

Impressions that Syria is also returning to square one were enhanced this week, with the resignation of Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special envoy who has spent nearly two years trying to get Assad and his enemies to agree to a cease-fire. Brahimi, a seasoned Algerian diplomat who had been an effective negotiator in Afghanistan and Iraq, gave up after two unfruitful rounds of talks in Geneva were followed by Assad’s announcement that he would hold the election as planned. That move has rendered Brahimi’s efforts obsolete, because the splintered Syrian opposition’s most common denominator, and most consistent demand, has been that Assad depart.

 

Assad’s diplomatic success has been more than defensive. Not only has he managed to stem the momentum that might have unseated him, he also cultivated alliances with two superpowers, Russia and China, and with one regional power, Iran, all of which keeps arms supplies and cash flowing in, if insufficiently. This configuration has so far proved far more solid and efficient than the much more reluctant and loosely connected counter-alliance behind Assad’s enemies. With the US failing to deliver on its vow to attack Syria’s chemical weapons installations, Assad saw the rest of the coalition he faced, including Turkey, France, Saudi Arabia and the Arab League, all fail to unseat him, or even seriously equip and train the rebels. At the same time, Assad’s cause has been consistently backed by Moscow and Beijing, so much so that UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon this week decried the Security Council’s failure to bring an end to the bloodshed – which has cost over the past three years some 150,000 fatalities, and displaced an estimated 6.5 million Syrians.

 

Assad’s diplomatic success has been compounded by gains in the battlefield. After having consolidated his grip on Damascus, Assad has just registered a significant breakthrough in Homs, just outside Lebanon’s northeastern tip. The town that now looks as devastated as Stalingrad the morning of its liberation, last week saw its last 1,000 rebels leave through a negotiated corridor. The triumphant return of Assad’s troops to the city where three years ago thousands filled the streets demanding his regime’s end, understandably enhanced the impression that he is in the process of fully offsetting the effort to topple his regime and reinvent his land. North of there, in Aleppo, Assad’s air force has been dropping so-called barrel bombs on neighborhoods where the rebels have also been pushed to the defensive, this while, according to France, the Syrian president launched multiple gas attacks – even after signing the deal to dismantle his chemical weapons.

 

Chances are Assad’s troops will in upcoming months be marching into Aleppo, prewar Syria’s commercial heart, thus consolidating the impression that his victory is nearly complete. Assad the son, many will rush to conclude, has done in 2014 what his father did in 1982 when he leveled the town of Hama. It may not have been as swift, conventional wisdom will go, but like his father, the son will lord over Syria for many more years, having bled its dissenters white. Well, he won’t. Back when he inherited his father’s estate, many wondered whether Bashar Assad, a soft-spoken ophthalmologist, was built to deploy the kind of brutality that animated his father’s 30-year reign. That question has since been answered, as the son has already killed more than his father, and is apparently not done. However, while the individuals at play may not be significantly different, times have changed. Assad the father could surround a city with artillery batteries and pound it with its inhabitants inside, knowing the world would take months to learn what he did. Assad the son has to contend with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, all of which empower the masses in ways the father would doubtfully manage to address any more efficiently than the son. That is why the formula on which Syria ran in recent decades, which imposed the Alawite minority over the Sunni majority, will not be fully restored. Assad has lost most Syrians’ respect, even to the minimal extent necessary for dictatorial rule, and the people have learned how to stand up to authority, even the Syrian leadership’s. There are accumulating indications – geographic, ethnic and social – that this assumption is shared by many on all sides of the civil war.

 

Geographically, Assad’s offensive is limited to the west. That is why Homs, which sits between Damascus and Aleppo, not far from the coast and also on Lebanon’s edge, is so vital to him. That is also why Assad’s army has been fighting hard to defend Quneitra, which borders Israel on the Golan Heights, and is on the southern end of the western realm that he seems out to carve. Indeed, even here Assad’s grip is shaky, as local rebel groups this week seemed to be closing in on Quneitra while Assad was unable to send them sufficient reinforcements…

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

 

Contents
                                               
             

MR. OBAMA IS CHOOSING NOT TO ACT ON SYRIA           

Washington Post, May 15, 2014

                         

The principal achievement the Obama administration might claim in an otherwise tragically failed response to Syria’s civil war is eroding. Last September President Obama brokered an agreement with Russia under which the regime of Bashar al-Assad was to give up its stockpile of chemical weapons and join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits production or use of those horrific arms. Yet months after the expiration of the February deadline for removing all chemical stocks from Syria’s territory, the regime not only retains a substantial stockpile but also has returned to assaulting civilian areas with chemicals. The Obama administration’s response is all too familiar: It is trying to avoid acknowledging those facts.

 

Administration spokesmen boast that 92.5 percent of Syria’s chemical weapons and precursors have been removed from the country for destruction by the end of June. But Damascus is dragging its feet on delivering the last 27 tons of chemicals used to make deadly sarin gas. According to The Post’s Ernesto Londoño and Greg Miller, U.S. officials believe the Assad regime is using the stocks as leverage to retain a network of tunnels and buildings that could be used as storage or production facilities, which the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons wants destroyed. Meanwhile, British, French and U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that Syria is probably hiding part of its arsenal that it failed to declare, including stocks of sarin and mustard gas, according to news reports . State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed last week that the United States has been skeptical about whether Assad has revealed the extent of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

 

Finally, evidence is piling up that Assad’s forces have been dropping bombs filled with chlorine on opposition-held areas. France’s foreign minister told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that there had been at least 14 such attacks since October. Laurent Fabius, who said “things would have been different” had Mr. Obama not backed away from using force in response to a chemical weapons attack last August, said the “regime is still capable of producing chemical weapons and is determined to use them.” Ms. Psaki said April 21 that the United States had “indications” of the use of chlorine, which is not one of the chemicals Syria was obliged to surrender. But the Obama administration has taken the position that it must await an investigation by the OPCW before reaching a definite conclusion. Meanwhile, the chlorine attacks have continued. An unnamed senior U.S. official offered Mr. Londoño and Mr. Miller a frank explanation of this filibuster: “There’s reluctance to call attention to it because there’s not much we can do about it.”

 

There are, of course, many actions Mr. Obama could take to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons and to prevent their further deployment. He could begin by granting the opposition’s request for antiaircraft missiles to use against the helicopters that are dropping chlorine bombs. He could revive his plan to launch U.S. military strikes against Syrian infrastructure that supports those attacks. In reality, Mr. Assad is being allowed to disregard his chemical weapons commitment with impunity not because there’s nothing the United States can do but because Mr. Obama chooses to do nothing.                                                                                               

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WARS WITHIN WARS                                                                                              Jonathan Spyer                                                                                                    

Weekly Standard, May 26, 2014

 

With Syrian presidential elections scheduled for June, the incumbent and shoo-in for reelection, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, is campaigning on the promise that 2014 will be the year in which military operations in Syria end. However, the situation in northern Syria, exemplified by the conflict in the canton of Kobani, an area stretching from the Turkish border to south of Kobani city, and from Tell Abyad in the east to Jarabulus in the west, casts doubt on Assad’s optimism.

 

Kobani is under Kurdish control, but cuts into a larger section of territory controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a jihadist organization. ISIS aims to hold a clear, contiguous area stretching from Syria’s border with Turkey into western Iraq, where it controls territory in the provinces of Ninewah and Anbar. The existence of the Kurdish canton of Kobani interferes with this plan, and since March ISIS has launched daily attacks against positions held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) at the edges of the enclave. The Kobani situation offers a window into the Syrian conflict, a fragmented reality where in large parts of the country the regime is little more than a memory, and well-organized rival militias representing starkly different political projects are clashing. Last month, I traveled to the Kobani enclave, entering from the Turkish border with Kurdish smugglers. The road was short but perilous—a sprint toward the border fence in the dark and a rapid, fumbling climb over it.

 

Kobani was the first of three cantons established by the Kurdish Democratic Union party (PYD) since the Assad regime withdrew from much of northern Syria in the summer of 2012. There are two other such enclaves: the much larger Jazeera canton to the east, which stretches from the town of Ras al-Ain to the border with Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, and the smaller area around the city of Afrin further west. In all three of these areas, the PYD has set up a Kurdish-dominated autonomous administration. The intention of the Kurds is to consolidate their independent government and eventually to unite the three cantons. In the meantime, however, the stark reality of siege conditions in the Kobani canton was immediately apparent to me. The main electricity supply had been cut off, with only intermittent power from hastily rigged-up generators. The water supply, too, had been interrupted, and the local Kurdish authorities were busy digging wells in the hope of reaching natural springs located deep underground. Yet for all this, life in the city functions in a way closely resembling normality. The two hospitals in the city lack medical equipment and medicines, but they are open. “We are improvising, we are innovating, and we are not dying,” a doctor told me at Ayn al-Arab hospital in Kobani city. The school system is functioning, too, and in northern Syria at present these are no small achievements.

 

The Kurdish enclaves are almost certainly the most peaceful and best-governed areas in Syria. However, the Kurds are aware of the precariousness of their achievement. Ali, a member of the Kurdish Asayish paramilitary police, told me that “Assad doesn’t want to open another front now. But if he finishes with the radical groups, then he’ll come for us, inevitably.” In the meantime, as one PYD official said, “We take a third line, neither with the regime nor with the Free Syrian Army. We hope in the future to unite all the cantons. We accept a role for the Arabs, so we don’t see a problem with this. And right now, we have one goal—keeping out ISIS.” The PYD’s “democratic autonomy” project in northern Syria put it on a collision course with ISIS, which is trying to lay the basis for an Islamic state run according to its own floridly brutal interpretation of sharia law. The resulting conflict then is not simply about territory, or who will rule northern Syria; it is also about how this land will be ruled. Mahmoud Musa, a Syrian political analyst and a refugee from the town of Jisr al-Shughur, told me that “there are three serious and well-organized forces in Syria today—the Assad regime, ISIS, and the Kurds.” The last two regard themselves as at war with the regime. In reality, the rival mini-states they have carved out of a fragmented Syria are mainly in conflict with each other.

 

 ISIS has emerged as one of the strangest and cruelest of the many political-military movements now active in Syria. I spoke with a young Kurdish man named Perwer who had spent a week in ISIS captivity. He was arrested at the Jarabulus border crossing, while returning to Syria from Istanbul. First detained by members of another Islamist unit, the Tawhid Brigade, he was then handed over to ISIS and kept for five days in one of the movement’s jails in Jarabulus town, just west of the Kobani enclave. Perwer related that a Kurdish man who had been caught raising the YPG flag in a village near the border with the Kurdish enclave was tortured to death. He also noted that among his fellow prisoners were Arab residents of Jarabulus held for drinking wine. They too were tortured. The Kurdish prisoners were regularly insulted and called apostates by the ISIS guards, who came from a variety of countries. Copies of the Koran were handed out to the Kurdish detainees, and the days in their crowded cell were broken up by prayer sessions, in which ISIS would seek to instruct their Muslim captives in what they regard as the correct method of Muslim prayer.

 

ISIS’s mini-state reaches from the edges of Kobani to deep inside western Iraq. I visited the frontlines on the eastern edge of the Kobani enclave, where the positions of the YPG and ISIS push up against each other. In Tell Abyad, the two sides are camped in abandoned villages, where the ruined landscape has a slightly lunar quality. Eyewitnesses told me that ISIS forced the villagers to leave when the fighting began. Young fighters of the YPG moved carefully around their positions in the abandoned village, ever mindful of the presence of ISIS snipers. In places, the two sides are less than 500 meters apart. ISIS favors mortar fire by night and sniping by day. This has taken a toll on the male and female fighters of the YPG. Around 80 of them have died since the fighting erupted in March. Many more ISIS men, however, have been killed in their wild and uncoordinated attacks.

 

In Jarabulus on the western side, the frontline villages are still inhabited. Some of the local Arab clans are backing ISIS. A sort of de facto mini-transfer of populations has taken place in the area, largely, though not solely, along ethnic lines. I met a couple of Sunni Arabs among the ranks of the YPG fighters. There are also Kurdish volunteers among the ISIS men, including some commanders. They hail mainly from the villages of Iraqi Kurdistan, in particular from the Halabja area. Yet these details aside, it is clear the main dynamic of the conflict in this area is ethnic and sectarian, with Kurds faced off against Sunni Arab Islamists. The attitude of the YPG fighters to their ISIS enemies combines a certain contempt for their military prowess, with a sort of fascinated horror at their savage practices. “They outnumber us, often. But they lack tactics,” said Surkhwi, a female fighter and the commander of the Kurdish fighters in the village of Abduqli. “We think many of them take drugs before entering combat, and they attack randomly, haphazardly. They desecrate bodies of our fighters, cutting off heads, cutting off hands. They don’t respect the laws of war,” Surkhwi told me. “We also know that ISIS look at us women fighters as something not serious, because of their Islamic ideology. They think that if they are killed by a woman, they won’t go to paradise.”…

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

 

Contents
                                  

ISLAM IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN CIVILIZATION LOSES                     

Daniel Greenfield

Sultan Knish, Apr. 8, 2014

 

Saudi Arabia and Qatar aren't talking to each other. Syria and Turkey are shooting at each other. Not only are the Shiites and Sunnis killing each other in Syria, but the Sunni groups have been killing each other for some time now. There are even two or three Al Qaedas fighting each other over which of them is the real Al Qaeda while, occasionally, denying that they are the real Al Qaeda. There's something about Syria that splits down everything and everyone. Even Hamas had to split between its political and military wings when choosing between Iran's weapons and Qatar's money. Doing the logical thing, the military wing took the weapons and the political wing took the money so that the military wing of Hamas supported Assad and its political wing supported the Sunni opposition.

 

It's not however money and weapons that splits Muslims over Syria. Money and weapons are only the symbols. What they represent is Islam. And what Islam represents is the intersection between identity and power. A modern state derives its power from its identity. That is nationalism. The Japanese and the Russians were willing to die in large numbers for their homeland during WW2. Both countries had undergone rapid de-feudalization turning peasants into citizens with varying degrees of success. Japan and Russia however had historic identities to draw on. The rapid de-feudalization in the Arab world had much messier results because countries such as Jordan and Syria were Frankenstein's monsters made out of bits and pieces of assembled parts of history stuck together with crazy glue.

 

The Middle East is full of flags, but most are minor variations on the same red, green, black and white theme. The difference between the Palestinian flag and the Jordanian flag is a tiny asterisk on the chevron representing the unity of the Arab peoples. The Iraqi, Syria and Egyptian flags differ in that the Egyptian flag has an eagle sitting on its white strip and the Iraqi flag had three green stars (now it only has Allahu Akbar) while the Syrian flag has two green stars. The Iraqi flag was originally the same as the Jordanian and Palestinian flags. So are most of the flags in the region which are based on the Arab Revolt flag which was in turn based on the colors of the Caliphates. Every time you see the Al Qaeda "black flag" of Jihad, it's already represented in the black stripes on the flags of every Arab nation. What Al Qaeda has done is strip out the other colors representing the various succeeding caliphates and gone back all the way to the black of Mohammed's war flag…

 

Syria is split, roughly speaking, between the Kurds, who want their own country, Greater Kurdistan, to be assembled out of pieces of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, the Sunnis, many of whom want to form it into a Greater Syria, to be made out of pieces of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and the Neo-Shiite Alawites. Greater Syria was the original agenda of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It's still the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. And Al Qaeda in Iraq has become the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and is fighting for its own version of a Greater Syria tying together Iraq and Syria. What is Syria? The civil war answered that question. Like the USSR, it's a prison of nations. It exists only by virtue of men pointing guns at other men. As long as all the men with the guns agreed on what Syria was, the country existed. Once they no longer did, there was no longer a Syria. The same is true of much of the Middle East.

 

There are questions that you can resolve with democracy within a functioning country, but when your country has less of an existence than the conflicting religious and ethnic identities of its people, democracy only makes the problem worse. Democracy in Iraq means Shiites voting to be Shiite, Sunnis voting to be Sunni and Kurds voting to be Kurds. Democracy in Syria would mean the same thing. And that way lies a federation and then secession and civil war all over again. The problem in the Middle East isn't a lack of democracy. It's the lack of anything to be democratic about. Everyone in the Middle East (who isn't a Jew, Christian, Kurd, Bahai, Zoroastrian, Armenian, Circassian, Druze, etc.. ) agrees on the importance of Arab and Islamic unity and that their specific flavor of it, their clan, their tribe and their Islamic interpretation should be supreme.

 

It's not surprising that the Middle East is constantly at war. It's only a wonder that the fighting ever stops. Arab nationalism is the ideology that Arab elites used to complete the de-feudalization of their population from peasants into citizens. But what worked in Japan and Russia fell flat in the Middle East where tribe and religion are still supreme. The peasants didn't become Egyptians or Syrians. They remained Ougaidat or Tarabin. After that, they were Muslim. Their national identity came a distant third. What the Arab Spring truly showed is how little national identity mattered as democracy and the fall of governments demonstrated that there was no national consensus, only the narrower one of class, tribe and institution. It's not something that Americans should be too smug about. The left's efforts are reducing the United States to the same balkanized state in which there is a black vote and a white vote, a rich vote and a poor vote, but no national identity that transcends them. We too are becoming ‘Sunnis’ and ’Shiites’. It's no wonder that Islam finds the post-American United States and the disintegrating territories of the European Union fertile ground for its work. It's the same reason why Islam is rising in the Middle East. The rise of Islam is a striving for an era before nations and before whatever remnants of civilization accreted to the Mohammedan conquerors over the years. It's a desire for pre-civilization, for the raid, the noble savage and the twilight of morality. It's a heroic myth dressed up as a religion cloaking the naked savagery of it all…

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

 

Syrian al-Qaida Reach Foothills of Golan Heights: Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014— Atop the hill of Tel Ahmar just a few kilometers from Israeli forces on the Golan Heights, Syrian Islamist fighters hoist the al-Qaida flag and praise their mentor Osama bin Laden.

U.S.-Armed Syrian Rebel Group Seeks ‘All Syrian Land Occupied by Israel’: Adam Kredo, Washington Free Press Beacon, May 19, 2014—One of the militant Syrian rebel groups provided access to advanced U.S. missiles said that it is seeking “the return of all Syrian land occupied by Israel,” a stance that could potentially complicate U.S. military support to the armed rebel group.

Syrian Fighting Gives Hezbollah New but Diffuse Purpose: Ben Hubbard, New York Times, May 20, 2014 —For many months, Shiite communities across Lebanon lived in fear as car bombs tore through their neighborhoods, punishing Hezbollah and its supporters for sending fighters to aid President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Radical Islamists Take Hammer to Syrian Artifacts: Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel, May 22, 2014—Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a radical militia that controls a large swath of eastern Syria, confiscated and destroyed illegally excavated antiquities from an ancient Mesopotamian site.

Syrian War Takes Heavy Toll at a Crossroad of Cultures: Anne Barnard, New York Times, Apr. 16, 2014—The imposing stone colonnades still stand, below stark hills dotted with tombs. They still glow peach-pink in the afternoon sun, impassive, as if unimpressed by what is, after all, not their first war.

 

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
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Rob Coles, 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

OBAMA: FOREIGN POLICY–WHILE AN INCREASINGLY ASSERTIVE RUSSIA REINVENTS WARFARE, OBAMA OPTS FOR FECKLESS APPROACH—ARE WE MOVING TOWARD A “POST-AMERICAN” WORLD?

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

 

The Media is Turning on President Obama: Michael Goodwin, New York Post, Apr. 27, 2014— With multiple crises spiraling out of control around the world, stories about the Obama presidency are taking on the air of postmortems.

How Putin Is Reinventing Warfare: Peter Pomerantsev, Foreign Policy, May 5, 2014—  The Kremlin, according to Barack Obama, is stuck in the "old ways," trapped in Cold War or even 19th century mindsets.

Russia’s Weimar Syndrome: Roger Cohen, New York Times, May 1, 2014 — Sergei Karaganov, a prominent Russian foreign policy expert at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, recently provided a useful summation of his vast country’s sense of humiliation and encirclement.

A Foreign Policy Flirting With Chaos: Richard N. Haass, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 29, 2014— American foreign policy is in troubling disarray.

 

On Topic Links

 

A Moscow-Cairo-Jerusalem Axis?: Neville Teller, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 21, 2014

China and Russia Are Getting Closer: Nikolas K. Gvosdev, National Interest, May 20, 2014

Kerry Keeps Swinging For the Fences — and Missing: Benny Avni, New York Post, May 1, 2014

Can the West Find the Energy to Deter Russia?: Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, May 1, 2014

 

THE MEDIA IS TURNING ON PRESIDENT OBAMA

Michael Goodwin

New York Post, Apr. 27, 2014

 

With multiple crises spiraling out of control around the world, stories about the Obama presidency are taking on the air of postmortems. What went wrong, who’s to blame, what next — even The New York Times is starting to recognize that Dear Leader is a global flop. “Obama Suffers Setbacks in Japan and the Mideast,” the paper declared on Friday’s front page. The double whammy of failure pushed the growing Russian menace in ­Europe to inside pages, but even they were chock-full of reports about utopia gone wrong. One story detailed how the White House was facing the “consequences of underestimating” North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Others recounted the continuing Syrian slaughter and the murder of three Americans in Afghanistan.

 

The accounts and others like them amount to an autopsy of a failed presidency, but the process won’t be complete unless it is completely honest. To meet that test, the Times, other liberal news organizations and leading Democrats, in and out of office, must come to grips with their own failures, as well. Obama had a free hand to make a mess because they gave it to him. They cheered him on, supporting him with unprecedented gobs of money and near-unanimous votes. They said “aye” to any cockamamie concept he came up with, echoed his demonization of critics and helped steamroll unpopular and unworkable ideas into reality. Some of his backers knew better, and said so privately, but publicly they were all in. Whether it was ObamaCare, his anti-Israel position or the soft-shoe shuffle around the Iranian nuke crisis, they lacked the courage to object. They said nothing as Obama went on foreign apology tours and stood silent as our allies warned of disastrous consequences. Even now, despite protests from a succession of Pentagon leaders, former Democratic defense hawks are helping Obama hollow out our military as Russia and China expand theirs and al Qaeda extends its footprint.

 

A king is no king without a court, and Obama has not lacked for lackeys. The system of checks and balances is written into the Constitution, but it is the everyday behavior of Americans of good will that makes the system work. That system broke down under Obama, and the blame starts with the media. By giving the president the benefit of the doubt at every turn, by making excuses to explain away fiascos, by ignoring corruption, by buying the White House line that his critics were motivated by pure politics or racism, the Times and other organizations played the role of bartender to a man on a bender. Even worse, they joined the party, forgetting the lessons of history as well as their own responsibilities to put a check on power. A purpose of a free press is to hold government accountable, but there is no fallback when the watchdog voluntarily chooses to be a lapdog.

 

The sycophancy was not lost on other politicians and private citizens. Taking their cue from the media, they, too, bit their tongues and went along as the president led the nation astray and misread foreign threats. From the start, support for Obama often had a cult-like atmosphere. He sensed it, began to believe it and became comfortable demanding total agreement as the price for the favor of his leadership. That he is now the imperial president he used to bemoan is no long­er in dispute. The milking of perks, from golf trips to Florida to European vacations for the first lady, is shockingly vulgar, but not a peep of protest comes from his supporters. The IRS becomes a political enforcer, but that, too, is accepted because nobody will risk their access by telling Obama no. You are either with him or you are his enemy.

 

The evidence is everywhere that his ideas are flawed, that his view of economics, diplomacy, the military, history, science and religion are warped by his own narcissism. He doesn’t even talk a good game anymore.

Yet it remains a fool’s errand to hope he will correct his ways. He is not capable; he looks in the mirror and sees only a savior. It is equally clear that those who shielded him from facts and their own best judgment did him no ­favors. Out of fear and favor, they abdicated their duty to the nation, and they must share the burden of history’s verdict. After all, America’s decline happened on their watch, too.

 

 

Contents
             

HOW PUTIN IS REINVENTING WARFARE         

Peter Pomerantsev                                                                      

Foreign Policy, May 5, 2014

                         

The Kremlin, according to Barack Obama, is stuck in the "old ways," trapped in Cold War or even 19th century mindsets. But look closer at the Kremlin's actions during the crisis in Ukraine and you begin to see a very 21st century mentality, manipulating transnational financial interconnections, spinning global media, and reconfiguring geo-political alliances. Could it be that the West is the one caught up in the "old ways," while the Kremlin is the geopolitical avant-garde, informed by a dark, subversive reading of globalization?

 

The Kremlin's approach might be called "non-linear war," a term used in a short story written by one of Putin's closest political advisors, Vladislav Surkov, which was published under his pseudonym, Nathan Dubovitsky, just a few days before the annexation of Crimea. Surkov is credited with inventing the system of "managed democracy" that has dominated Russia in the 21st century, and his new portfolio focuses on foreign policy. This time, he sets his new story in a dystopian future, after the "fifth world war." Surkov writes: "It was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the 19th and 20th centuries it was common for just two sides to fight. Two countries, two blocks of allies. Now four coalitions collided. Not two against two, or three against one. All against all."

 

This is a world where the old geo-political paradigms no longer hold. As the Kremlin faces down the West, it is indeed gambling that old alliances like the EU and NATO mean less in the 21st century than the new commercial ties it has established with nominally "Western" companies, such as BP, Exxon, Mercedes, and BASF. Meanwhile, many Western countries welcome corrupt financial flows from the post-Soviet space; it is part of their economic models, and not one many want disturbed. So far, the Kremlin's gamble seems to be paying off, with financial considerations helping to curb sanctions. Part of the rationale for fast-tracking Russia's inclusion into the global economy was that interconnection would be a check on aggression. But the Kremlin has figured out that this can be flipped: "A few provinces would join one side," Surkov continues, "a few others a different one. One town or generation or gender would join yet another. Then they could switch sides, sometimes mid-battle. Their aims were quite different. Most understood the war to be part of a process. Not necessarily its most important part."

 

We can see a similar thinking informing the Kremlin as it toys with Eastern Ukraine, using indirect intervention through local gangs, with a thorough understanding of the interests of such local power brokers such as Donetsk billionaire Rinat Akhmetov (Ukraine's richest man) or Mikhail Dobkin, the former head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration and now presidential candidate. Though these local magnates make occasional public pronouncements supporting Ukraine's territorial integrity, their previous support of Yanukovych makes them wary of the new government in Kiev. Just the right degree of separatism could help guarantee their security while ensuring that their vast financial global interests are not harmed. "Think global, act local" is a favorite cliché of corporations — it could almost be the Kremlin's motto in the Donbass.

 

And the Kremlin's "non-linear" sensibility is evident as it manipulates Western media and policy discourse. If in the 20th century the Kremlin could only lobby through Soviet sympathizers on the left, it now uses a contradictory kaleidoscope of messages to build alliances with quite different groups. European right-nationalists such as Hungary's Jobbik or France's Front National are seduced by the anti-EU message; the far-left are brought in by tales of fighting U.S. hegemony; U.S. religious conservatives are convinced by the Kremlin's stance against homosexuality. The result is an array of voices, all working away at Western audiences from different angles, producing a cumulative echo chamber of Kremlin support. Influencers often appear in Western media and policy circles without reference to their Kremlin connections: whether it's PR company Ketchum placing pro-Kremlin op-eds in the Huffington Post; anti-Maidan articles by British historian John Laughland in the Spectator that make no mention of how the think tank he was director of was set up in association with Kremlin-allied figures; or media appearances by influential German political consultant Alexander Rahr that fail to note his paid position as an advisor for the German energy company Wintershall, a partner of Gazprom, Moscow's massive natural gas company (Rahr denies a conflict of interest).

 

Combatting non-linear war requires non-linear measures. International networks of anti-corruption NGOs could help squeeze corrupt flows from Russia. At the moment, this sector is underdeveloped, underfunded, and poorly internationally coordinated: In the U.K., for example, NGOs such as Global Witness or Tax Justice rarely engage with Russian counterparts. Anti-corruption NGOs need to have the backing to put painful pressure on corrupt networks on a daily basis, naming and shaming corrupt networks and pressuring western governments to shut them down and enact their own money laundering laws. This would squeeze the Kremlin's model even in the absence of further sanctions, ultimately playing a role as important as human rights organizations did in the 70s and 80s, when groups like Amnesty and the Helsinki Committee helped change the Cold War by supporting dissidents in the Communist block and shaming their governments…

 

…It's also important to appreciate that the Kremlin is throwing down the gauntlet to the Western-inspired vision of globalization, to the kitsch "global village" vision on the covers of World Bank annual reports and in Microsoft advertisements. It is better to understand the Kremlin's view of globalization as a kind of "corporate raiding" — namely, the ultra-violent, post-Soviet version of corporate takeovers. "Raiding" involves buying a minority share in a company, and then using any means at your disposal (false arrests, mafia threats, kidnapping, disinformation, blackmail) to acquire control. Russian elites sometimes refer to the country as a "minority shareholder in globalization," which, given Russia's experience with capitalism, implies it is the world's great "corporate raider." Non-linear war is the means through which a geo-political raider can leverage his relative weakness. And this vision appeals to a very broad constituency across the world, to those full of resentment for the West and infused by the sense that the "global village" model is a priori rigged. For all the talk of Russia's isolation, the BRIC economies have actually been subdued in their criticism of the annexation of Crimea, with the Kremlin thanking both China and India for being understanding.

 

Perhaps, despite what Obama says, there is a battle of ideas going on. Not between communism and capitalism, or even conservatives and progressives, but between competing visions of globalization, between the "global village" — which feels at once nice, naff, and unreal — and "non-linear war."

It is naïve to assume the West will win with this new battle with the same formula it used in the Cold War. Back then, the West united free market economics, popular culture, and democratic politics into one package: Parliaments, investment banks, and pop music fused to defeat the politburo, planned economics, and social realism. But the new Russia (and the new China) has torn that formula apart: Russian popular culture is Westernised, and people drive BMWs, play the stock market, and listen to Taylor Swift all while cheering anti-Western rhetoric and celebrating American downfall. "The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock," said Surkov when he was one of the first Russian officials to be put on the U.S. sanctions list as "punishment" for Russia's actions in Crimea. "I don't need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing." We live in a truly non-linear age. And the future might just belong to the raiders.                                                                                                      

Contents

RUSSIA’S WEIMAR SYNDROME

Roger Cohen

New York Times, May 1, 2014

 

Sergei Karaganov, a prominent Russian foreign policy expert at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, recently provided a useful summation of his vast country’s sense of humiliation and encirclement. Because explosions of nationalist fervor like the one fostered by Vladimir Putin are dangerous and slow to abate, it is worth quoting this analysis at some length. “The rupture is due to the West’s refusal to end the Cold War de facto or de jure in the quarter-century since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Karaganov wrote in the daily Izvestia. “In that time, the West has consistently sought to expand its zone of military, economic and political influence through NATO and the E.U. Russian interests and objections were flatly ignored. Russia was treated like a defeated power, though we did not see ourselves as defeated. A softer version of the Treaty of Versailles was imposed on the country. There was no outright annexation of territory or formal reparations like Germany faced after World War I, but Russia was told in no uncertain terms that it would play a modest role in the world. This policy was bound to engender a form of Weimar syndrome in a great nation whose dignity and interests had been trampled.”

 

The country being discussed here, it should be recalled, is the world’s largest, a Eurasian power whose Communist empire extended as far west as Berlin for more than four decades after World War II, subjecting peoples to the mind-numbing, soul-poisoning oppression of totalitarian rule under regimes that coerced and confined. The Gulag-littered Soviet imperium was a crushing universe, a “conspiracy of silence,” in the poet Czeslaw Milosz’s words, where “one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” Russia is also a nation that, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was ushered by the West into the group of leading industrialized countries known as the G-8 (before its recent Crimea-related exclusion). It has been the object of outreach from Washington and NATO since 1991, including initiatives that resulted in Russia joining the Partnership for Peace program and the NATO-Russia council. (NATO-Russian cooperation has been suspended since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea; yes, there was cooperation to suspend.)

 

What the United States and Europe were not prepared to do, however, was to eviscerate the Atlantic alliance in the name of some dreamy “Union of Europe” — Karaganov’s phrase — that would bring about “the merger of European soft power and technology with Russia’s resources, political will and hard power.” If this for Moscow was what was meant by the end of the Cold War, it was a nonstarter and still is. Nor, rightly, was the West prepared to turn its back on the desire of former Soviet vassal states from Poland to Estonia to secure the guarantee against renewed subjugation and the prospects of new prosperity that, in their eyes, only membership in the European Union and NATO afforded. Abuse breeds caution. These nations, long blotted out, wanted their security, freedom and the rule of law underwritten in steel.

 

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the ongoing rampage in eastern Ukraine by the Russian fifth columnists of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” demonstrate the wisdom of their choice. The expansion through NATO and the E.U. of a free Europe was the greatest American and Western diplomatic achievement since 1989. What now? A sense of national humiliation, whether based in fact or not, is a tremendous catalyst for violence. It was in Weimar Germany, where the reparations and concessions stipulated by the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 created an explosive mood. It was in Serbia at the time of the break-up in 1991 of Yugoslavia, a country Belgrade always regarded as a Serbian extension of itself. The blinding fever drummed up by Slobodan Milosevic was based in a supposed need to reassert Serbian greatness; the means then was the ravages of his fifth columnists in Bosnia. That delirium took a decade to dim. It is unlikely that the Russian version will take less. Putin’s nationalist upsurge is the mask for all sorts of problems — demographic decline, corruption, a coopted judiciary, a cowed press, an oligarchic resource-based economy that has failed to diversify — but no less virulent for that.

 

In the face of this assertive Russia, nothing would be more dangerous than American weakness. So when President Obama, in response to a recent question about whether his declaration that the United States would protect the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea risked drawing another “red line,” gave an evasive answer including the hypothesis that America might not want to “engage militarily,” he did something profoundly dangerous. In Asia, as in the Baltic, the Article 5 commitment to a joint military response to any attack on an ally is critical. The U.S. treaties must be words of truth that sound “like a pistol shot,” or violent mayhem could spread well beyond East Ukraine.

 

Contents

A FOREIGN POLICY FLIRTING WITH CHAOS

Richard N. Haass

Wall Street Journal, Apr. 29, 2014

 

American foreign policy is in troubling disarray. The result is unwelcome news for the world, which largely depends upon the United States to promote order in the absence of any other country able and willing to do so. And it is bad for the U.S., which cannot insulate itself from the world. The concept that should inform American foreign policy is one that the Obama administration proposed in its first term: the pivot or rebalancing toward Asia, with decreasing emphasis on the Middle East. What has been missing is the commitment and discipline to implement this change in policy. President Obama's four-country Asian tour in recent days was a start, but it hardly made up for years of paying little heed to his own professed foreign-policy goals.

 

This judgment may appear odd—at first glance the Obama administration does seem to have been moving away from the Middle East. U.S. combat forces are no longer in Iraq, and the number of U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan (now below 40,000) will soon be 10,000 or fewer. Yet the administration continues to articulate ambitious political goals in the region. The default U.S. policy option in the Middle East seems to be regime change, consisting of repeated calls for authoritarian leaders to leave power. First it was Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, then Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, followed by Bashar Assad in Syria. Yet history shows that ousting leaders can be difficult, and even when it is not, it can be extremely hard to bring about a stable, alternative authority that is better for American preferences. The result is that the U.S. often finds itself with an uncomfortable choice: Either it must back off its declared goals, which makes America look weak and encourages widespread defiance, or it has to make good on its aims, which requires enormous investments in blood, treasure and time.

 

The Obama administration has largely opted for the former, i.e., feckless approach. The most egregious case is Syria, where the president and others declared that "Assad must go" only to do little to bring about his departure. Military support of opposition elements judged to be acceptable has been minimal. Worse, President Obama avoided using force in the wake of clear chemical-weapons use by the Syrian government, a decision that raised doubts far and wide about American dependability and damaged what little confidence and potential the non-jihadist opposition possessed. It is only a matter of time before the U.S. will likely have to swallow the bitter pill of tolerating Assad while supporting acceptable opposition elements against the jihadists. Meanwhile, large areas of Libya are increasingly out of government control and under the authority of militias and terrorists. Egypt is polarized and characterized by mounting violence. Much the same is true in Iraq, now the second-most-turbulent country in the region, where the U.S. finds itself with little influence despite a costly decade of occupation. Terrorists now have more of a foothold in the region than ever before…

 

None of this should be read as a call for the U.S. to do more to oust regimes, much less occupy countries in the name of nation-building. There is a good deal of evidence, including Chile, Mexico, the Philippines and South Korea, that gradual and peaceful reform of authoritarian systems is less expensive by every measure and more likely to result in an open society, as well as less likely to result in disruption and death. The Obama administration's extraordinary commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also difficult to justify. Even before the recent breakdown in talks, the dispute didn't appear ripe for resolution. And it must be acknowledged that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute no longer occupies center stage in the Middle East. The emergence of a separate Palestinian state wouldn't affect the troubling events in Syria, Egypt or Iraq…

 

The U.S. must also increase its involvement with Europe. American inattention, combined with Ukraine's own political dysfunction and the European Union's bungling, set the stage for Russian expansion into Crimea. Shaping Russian behavior will require targeted sanctions, greater allocation of economic resources to Ukraine, a willingness to export meaningful amounts of oil and natural gas, and a renewed commitment to NATO's military readiness. The administration also needs to focus on the strength and resilience of the U.S. economy and society. This is not an alternative to national security but a central part of it…The challenge for the Obama administration is not just to ensure American strength and continued internationalism in the face of growing isolationist sentiment. It is also a case of sending the right message to others. We are witnessing an accelerated movement toward a post-American world where governments make decisions and take actions with reduced regard for U.S. preferences. Such a world promises to be even messier, and less palatable for U.S. interests, than it is today.

 

A Moscow-Cairo-Jerusalem Axis?: Neville Teller, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 21, 2014 —Being played out on the world stage, in this early part of 2014, is what might superficially be taken as a repeat of the communism versus capitalism Cold War of the 20th century.

China and Russia Are Getting Closer: Nikolas K. Gvosdev, National Interest, May 20, 2014—Whenever Russian president Vladimir Putin meets with his Chinese counterparts, there is always dramatic talk about the intensifying special relationship between the two countries and the enunciation of bold goals to double trade and further expand security, political and diplomatic ties.

Kerry Keeps Swinging For the Fences — and Missing: Benny Avni, New York Post, May 1, 2014—President Obama used a baseball metaphor this week to explain his foreign-policy doctrine: “It avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles. Every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run.”

Can the West Find the Energy to Deter Russia?: Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, May 1, 2014—Seven Russians were added this week to the U.S. sanctions list , along with 17 Russian companies.

 

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

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.

 

 

Rob Coles, 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

U.S. FOREIGN POLICY WEAK ON ALL FRONTS — “P.P.”, EGYPT, GULF, IRAN, AFGHANISTAN, UKRAINE…

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

 

 


 

RELIEF IN AFGHANISTAN AFTER LARGELY PEACEFUL ELECTION (Kabul) — Afghanistan's presidential election closed on Saturday amid relief that attacks by Taliban fighters were fewer than feared, and turn-out reportedly high, for a vote that will bring the first-ever democratic transfer of power in a country plagued by conflict for decades. It will take six weeks for results to come in from across Afghanistan's rugged terrain and a final result to be declared in the race to succeed President Hamid Karzai. This could be the beginning of a potentially dangerous period for Afghanistan at a time when the war-ravaged country desperately needs a leader to stem rising violence as foreign troops prepare to leave. It was not immediately clear whether either of the frontrunners, Ashraf Ghani and opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah, managed to garner the absolute majority needed to avoid a runoff. Diplomats, campaign insiders and election observers predicted a runoff sometime in late May or early June. (Reuters, Apr. 6, 2014)

 

Chickens Come Home to Roost for Obama: Michael Goodwin, New York Post, Mar. 30, 2014— Today’s quiz: What do Vladimir Putin’s aggression and ObamaCare’s troubles have in common?

Blaming Israel for the Collapse of the Peace Negotiations: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 6, 2014 — All signs indicate that the moribund peace process has now formally collapsed.

For Gulf Allies, Obama’s Turn Away From the Region Looks Like a Gift to Tehran: Lee Smith

, Tablet, Mar. 19, 2014 — President Obama is going to have his hands full when he visits Saudi Arabia later this month, a trip widely billed as a mission to repair his fraying relationship with Riyadh.

Ukraine: End of the American World Order?: Guy Millière, Gatestone Institute, Apr. 1, 2014— In a result known in advance, on March 16, the residents of Crimea, who include vast numbers of retired Russian army officers, voted overwhelmingly to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

 

On Topic Links

 

Congressional Muscle and US Foreign Policy: Yoram Ettinger, Israel Hayom, Mar. 28, 2014

A New Beginning, or the Arrogance of Power: Jack E. Friedman, Jeruslalem Post, Mar. 24, 2014

Old Foes, New Allies?: Edan Landau, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 23, 2014  

The Dissing of the President: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 31, 2014

Why do the Troops Think so Little of Obama?: Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, Mar. 31, 2014

CHICKENS COME HOME TO ROOST FOR OBAMA         

Michael Goodwin                                                

New York Post, Mar. 30, 2014

                                     

Today’s quiz: What do Vladimir Putin’s aggression and ObamaCare’s troubles have in common? OK, that was too easy. It is impossible to dismiss as mere coincidence the Russian Bear’s invasion of Ukraine and the continuing mayhem of the Affordable Care Act. In their own ways, each reflects the full flowering of the policies of Barack Obama. His chickens are coming home to roost, and what a mess they are making.

 

Obama’s sixth year in the White House is shaping up as his worst, and that’s saying something. He’s been in the Oval Office so long that it is obscene to blame his problems on George W. Bush, the weather or racism. Obama owns the world he made, or more accurately, the world he tried to remake. Nothing important has worked as promised, and there is every reason to believe the worst is yet to come. The president’s casual remark the other day that he worries about “a nuclear weapon ­going off in Manhattan” inadvertently reflected the fear millions of Americans have about his leadership. Not necessarily about a bomb, but about where he is taking the country. We are racing downhill and he is stepping on the gas. Will he stop before the nation crashes?…

 

His trip abroad last week further secured his reputation for historic ineptitude. It wasn’t that the trip was a disaster — it never rose to that level. His presence and his promises simply made no difference. He failed to move the European Union toward a firmer stance on Russia, created bizarre headlines by differing with the Vatican over what he and the pope discussed, and got not-so-veiled threats from the Saudis about Syria and Iran. He could have stayed home and not done worse.

 

No president can win ’em all, but Obama’s foreign-policy record is unblemished by success. From east to west and north to south, America’s standing and influence have declined universally. It is impossible for a US president to be irrelevant, but Obama is testing the proposition. The frequent reports that Putin laughs when Obama warns of consequences can’t be far from the truth. Otherwise, Putin would be cautious instead of carving up neighbors and massing his military. It was also noteworthy that, after their Friday phone talk, ­Putin copied the Vatican and put out his own version of the discussion. Two can play the spin game, he seemed to be saying…

 

A Caesar at home and a Chamberlain abroad, Obama manages to simultaneously provoke fury and ridicule. He bullies critics here while shrinking from adversaries there. He divides the country and unites the world against us, ­diminishing the nation in both ways. His reign of error can’t end soon enough, nor can it end well.

                                                                                               

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BLAMING ISRAEL FOR THE COLLAPSE

OF THE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS                                                       

Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 6, 2014

 

All signs indicate that the moribund peace process has now formally collapsed. Few Israelis will be surprised. The Obama administration was repeatedly cautioned that pressuring Israel and appeasing the intransigent Palestinians would only result in greater demands on Israel. That is precisely what happened. After Israel succumbed (unwisely, in my opinion,) to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s pressure to release 100 mass murderers in order to “bribe” the Palestinians to merely agree to negotiate, what did we get in return? The Palestinians immediately demanded that Israel consider the unauthorized offers extended to them by former prime minister Olmert (which they had rejected), as an opening benchmark for negotiations.

 

Throughout the entire “negotiating” period, the Palestinians refused to make a single concession. Instead, they intensified incitement against Israel by hailing the released mass murderers as national heroes, providing them with pensions and glorifying their ghoulish murders on PA-controlled television. This month the Israeli government became exasperated when, after having refused to make a single concession, the PA announced that it would not extend negotiations beyond April and would revert to the United Nations. Pointing out that the release of the terrorists was scheduled as a process to be executed in stages to ensure a quid pro quo and progress in ongoing negotiations, Israel announced that it would not release the final batch unless PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas undertook to continue the talks.

 

Desperate to save face, Kerry attempted to bribe the PA with further concessions to persuade them to continue “negotiating.” Israel would release another four hundred prisoners (not with blood on their hands) and there would be an unspecified freeze on building construction beyond the green line (excluding Jerusalem). To make it difficult for right-wing coalition members to oppose the deal, Kerry included the release of Jonathan Pollard. The Palestinian response was to apply to join 15 international conventions, some of which were associated with the UN – a fundamental breach of the Oslo accords. When pleaded with by Kerry to halt these applications, Abbas responded that he would rather die as a martyr than do so.

 

Subsequently, the PA mocked the US by escalating their demands to the most outlandish proportions. These included outright acceptance of the 1949 armistice lines as the final borders – which would mean relinquishing the Western Wall and east Jerusalem Jewish suburbs; a freeze on construction over the green line including east Jerusalem; the release of 1,200 additional terrorists including Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat (the assassin of minister Rehavam Ze’evi); extending immediate Israeli citizenship to 15,000 Palestinian refugee families under the right of Arab return; and, to top it off, “lifting the siege of Gaza.”

 

For the first time on such an issue, the Left and Right of the Israeli government responded with one voice. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s negotiator at the peace talks, is hardly a hawk. Yet she accused the PA of breaching undertakings and questioned their good faith. After a stormy seven-hour meeting with Saeb Erekat, who at one stage threatened to charge Israel at The Hague with war crimes, Livni stated that there was nothing more to discuss until the Palestinians withdrew their applications to affiliate with the 15 international conventions. Regrettably, she could not resist subsequently blaming Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel for “sabotaging” the talks by reissuing tenders for 700 housing units in Gilo, an exclusively Jewish suburb of east Jerusalem. Finance Minister Yair Lapid also protested that Abbas engaged in a “deliberate provocation aimed to blow up the talks,” making it impossible to move forward, and “raises serious doubt whether he is genuinely interested in reaching an agreement.”

 

The American response was pathetic. Initially Kerry suggested that the PA application to affiliate to international organizations was not necessarily a fundamental breach of the Oslo accords. Then, as he realized the need to cover himself from the catastrophic fallout from his inept intervention, he resumed his old and discredited routine of applying moral equivalence to the actions of both parties. He thus accused Israel for being provocative in announcing building construction in Gilo – a Jerusalem suburb which everyone is aware will always remain within Israel. The White House also described Israel’s delay in releasing the last 26 prisoners as “problematic.

 

So far, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has remained silent in order not to be blamed for exacerbating the situation. But once it becomes clear that no further negotiations with the Palestinians will take place, it is imperative that our prime minister marshal all our resources to ensure that the United States and democratic countries are confronted with the facts. The Foreign Ministry will need to prove its mettle by galvanizing a major global initiative to promote Israel’s position, ensuring that our ambassadors launch a fullscale campaign and actively invite support from Jewish communities and friends of Israel everywhere.

The message to be conveyed is that the majority of Israelis wish to separate themselves from the Palestinians and were willing in the past to forfeit over 90% of the territories occupied by the Jordanian government prior to 1967. Israelis yearn for peace and are willing to negotiate with a reasonable partner who must also be willing to make compromises and accept Israel’s need for security in this volatile region. We must demonstrate the Palestinians unwillingness to concede on any issue – notably their adamant insistence that they will never deviate in relation to the three critical elements which are fundamental to any stable relationship and genuine coexistence: the right of return of Arab refugees, a willingness to accept an end of conflict and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

The obvious must be reiterated: it requires two parties to make peace, and further unilateral concessions merely provide an incentive for the Palestinians to make increasingly more outlandish demands. This is not merely the response of the duplicitous Abbas who is weak, corrupt and fears antagonizing Fatah. It is because the end of Jewish sovereignty assumes a far greater priority to the PA than their own statehood. Indeed, Abbas has repeatedly stated that he has no intention of retiring from office as a traitor by compromising Palestinian central objectives such as the right of return. The Palestinians are now convinced that their objective of dismantling Israel in stages can be achieved. They will initiate an intensive global campaign to condemn, criminalize, delegitimize and boycott us. The combination of Islamic states, Third World and rogue states guarantees a permanent hostile majority against Israel in all UN institutions. The condemnation of Israel this month by the UN Human Rights Council on issues including alleged breaching the human rights of Arab citizens in the Golan (the Europeans abstained) says it all.

We need the support of the American public and Congress to discourage the Obama administration from abandoning us and ensuring that the Palestinian campaign is restricted to empty resolutions. We need to confront the bias, prejudice and political correctness and encourage global leaders to take a position and not opt for the easy way out and distance themselves from us. We have real grounds for concern that the Obama administration may stand aside, fail to employ its veto power at the UN Security Council and unofficially encourage the Europeans to coerce us toward further unilateral concessions. Today, on this issue we speak with a united voice, encompassing the vast majority of Israelis, and call on global leaders to be responsible, overcome their traditional bias, prejudice and political correctness and deviate from the easy path of apportioning equal blame for breakdowns on both parties. This is not merely manifestly unjust but makes the possibility of moving towards a settlement even more remote.

In particular, this represents the most important challenge to the American Jewish leadership who must determine whether they are going to stand up and be counted or bury their heads in the sand. This is not a time for ambiguity or exclusive reliance on silent diplomacy. Hopefully, as proud American Jews they will not feel intimidated and should the US apportion equal blame or hold us responsible for the breakdown, they will display the courage to confront the administration. On our part, we should make it clear that we do not intend to extend further concessions to bribe the PA to negotiate with us. We remain willing to negotiate for the creation of a Palestinian state without preconditions. When the Palestinians signal willingness to conducting bona fide negotiations, we will respond positively and again demonstrate a willingness to make sacrifices to achieve a genuine peace.                                                                                           

 

                                                                       

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FOR GULF ALLIES, OBAMA’S TURN AWAY FROM THE

REGION LOOKS LIKE A GIFT TO TEHRAN

Lee Smith

Tablet,  Mar. 19, 2014

 

President Obama is going to have his hands full when he visits Saudi Arabia later this month, a trip widely billed as a mission to repair his fraying relationship with Riyadh [the trip occurred during the last week of March –Ed.]. His chief task will be to convince King Abdullah that he’s not planning to betray the longstanding alliance between the Saudis and the United States to reach his goal of cutting a deal with the Iranians on their nuclear program. Then he’s going to have to settle an intramural squabble among the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Saudi Arabia is the leading member. Two weeks ago, the Saudis, along with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, announced they were withdrawing their ambassadors from Qatar, citing Doha’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood. They also asked the Qataris to stop using their lavishly funded broadcast network, Al Jazeera, to criticize members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and specifically to get rid of tele-preacher and Brotherhood mouthpiece Yussuf al-Qaradawi, who has been sharply critical of the other Gulf states for backing the anti-Brotherhood military government in Egypt.

 

Dissension in the Gulf is the last thing this White House wants right now. Indeed, it has lately prioritized strengthening the GCC—which also includes Kuwait and Oman—in order to start handing over some of the burden of providing for Persian Gulf security. In December, for example, Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel announced that the United States would begin selling arms to the GCC as a bloc. “We would like to expand our security cooperation with partners in the region by working in a coordinated way with the GCC,” he said at the time. “This is a natural next step in improving U.S.-GCC collaboration.” But that is going to be difficult as long as the GCC is acting like a collection of feuding petro-monarchies rather than a coherent political unit. The problem for the White House is that the crucial factor in achieving that goal is American hand-holding—the one thing Obama doesn’t want to promise. Without it, the GCC states will remain at each other’s throats—and incapable of providing any real counterweight to a newly emboldened Iran.

 

Like other similar cooperation arrangements and multilateral organizations around the world, the GCC is designed to function with American involvement. American weapons and missile-defense agreements alone aren’t enough to keep the GCC stable, because its members simply can’t, or won’t, cohere without Washington’s steadying influence. And no matter how much Obama tries to reassure the GCC, its member heads of state imagine they’re watching a repeat of the 1971 British withdrawal from the region—an event they in most cases remember vividly. What’s worse this time around is that there’s no Great Power next in line waiting to swoop in and offer protection as Washington was four decades ago. What’s unfolding in the Gulf is a version of what we’re seeing around the rest of the world, from Ukraine and Eastern Europe to Asia and the Middle East, as the United States shrinks from the roles it’s taken on in two decades as a global hegemon. America is the foundation of the international system and the guarantor of global order. When a tired and—as Obama so often says—“war weary” United States decides to stay at home, its absence is felt around the world.

 

At the heart of the GCC crisis is a family quarrel. Most of the GCC’s ruling families come from large tribes originating in the Nejd, in the center of modern-day Saudi Arabia, and came to rule the Gulf only in the last 250 years. Great Britain was the Great Power in the Gulf for roughly a century until it ran out money and announced it was withdrawing its position in the late 1960s. Unlike other Arab countries once under colonial tutelage—for instance, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria—the Gulf states were in no hurry to get rid of their European overlords. Without Western protection, the Gulf states—of geopolitical importance solely because they sit on enormous reserves of gas and oil within easy reach of sea ports—feared not only the depredations of outside powers, but also what they might do to each other… If Saudi Arabia’s chief concern right now is Iran and its nuclear weapons program, everyone else in the GCC is customarily most concerned about Saudi, their very large and rich big brother, which often bullies the other GCC states…

 

In engaging the Iranians, the White House used another GCC state, Oman—the weakest of the group—as a back channel. Last week Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Muscat, his first official trip to an Arab capital. The Omanis are thrilled at the prospect of all sorts of joint ventures, like a causeway connecting their two sides of the Straits of Hormuz, and a gas deal. But from Riyadh’s perspective, in using a GCC state as bait to win over the Iranians, Obama looks to be playing the Arabs off of each other and creating a dangerous wedge. The White House’s policy of engaging Iran has—intentionally or not—backed the rest of the GCC into the same corner as the Israelis…In his speech at AIPAC’s policy conference earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even hinted at the possibility of an open partnership at some point in the future. “The combination of Israeli innovation and Gulf entrepreneurship,” said Netanyahu, “could catapult the entire region forward.”…

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

 

                                                                                                 

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UKRAINE: END OF THE AMERICAN WORLD ORDER?      

Guy Millière                                                                                                Gatestone Institute, Apr. 1, 2014

 

In a result known in advance, on March 16, the residents of Crimea, who include vast numbers of retired Russian army officers, voted overwhelmingly to leave Ukraine and join Russia. Reactions in the Western World were also known in advance. The U.S. government and European leaders said they would not recognize the vote, and they did not recognize it — or the subsequent annexation. Angela Merkel suggested that Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, had "lost touch with reality." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Putin of behaving as if it were the "nineteenth century". Barack Obama criticized Putin for "violating international law" and announced toothless sanctions on a few of his friends and one company.

 

But the sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union and Western European countries are empty gestures. Putin knows this and treats them as a laughing matter. The decision to suspend Russia from the G8 is essentially a sign of powerlessness. Sergei Lavrov said the decision was "not a big problem" for his country. An American columnist aptly said that suspending Russia from the G8 was "like suspending a vegan from a steakhouse". Putin knows that Europe presently needs Russia more than Russia needs Europe. He did not go "too far": he went as far as he could. He evidently never stopped believing that the countries that were part of the Soviet Union had to remain under Russia's influence and that their integration into the European Union and NATO would be a mortal danger to Russia's survival. He shows that what Western leaders call "international law" only exists if Western powers are strong enough, politically and militarily, to enforce it. He shows they are not. If he thinks that it is necessary and possible for Russia to intervene in the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, he will do it. If he thinks that it is neither necessary nor possible, he will not do it.

 

When Georgia moved closer to the European Union and NATO, Putin waited for the right time to act, and he acted. In 2008, South Ossetia and Abkhazia were detached from Georgia by Russian military intervention. He knew that Russia could not afford to lose Sevastopol, its only warm water harbor. By annexing Crimea, he annexed Sevastopol. He apparently considers that he has in front of him a weak and declining America. And the general demeanor of the present U.S. administration tends to prove him right. The United States seem in full retreat. U.S. military budgets continue to fall. For the last five years, Barack Obama spoke of "ending" the wars in which the U.S. was involved, and he depends on Russia's cooperation for further negotiations with Iran, for dismantling chemical weapons in Syria, and for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Putin doubtlessly thinks that Obama will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. Sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States are insignificant, and Putin has every reason to think they will not increase….         

 

Putin has massed troops on the borders of Eastern Ukraine. He will probably decide to wait until the situation worsens and the impotence of the United States and Europe becomes even more obvious. He could annex Crimea without firing a single bullet. He doubtlessly thinks that he will later be able to do the same with the rest of Ukraine. Either the West will stand up to Putin, and it will have to do it fast, or Putin will win. Obviously, Europe will not stand up. Polls indicate that Americans are turning sharply toward isolationism. Showing his view of the situation, Obama recently said that Russia is nothing but a "regional power", acting "out of weakness". Russia covers ten time zones and has borders with Europe, the Muslim Middle East, China, North Korea, and Alaska. If massing troops on the borders of Ukraine and annexing Crimea are signs of "weakness," by its evident impotence, America appears even weaker…                                                                                             

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

Congressional Muscle and US Foreign Policy: Yoram Ettinger, Israel Hayom, Mar. 28, 2014 —On March 5, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 410-1 to upgrade Israel from a "major non-NATO ally" to a "major strategic partner" — significantly expanding the mutually beneficial U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation in the areas of missile defense, intelligence, national security, technology, energy, cyber security, irrigation, space satellites, defense industries, and more.

A New Beginning, or the Arrogance of Power: Jack E. Friedman, Jeruslalem Post, Mar. 24, 2014 —In his maiden overseas address in Cairo in 2009, President Barack Obama pledged to chart “A New Beginning” in his nation’s foreign relations.

Old Foes, New Allies?: Edan Landau, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 23, 2014 — During the past few months, we have witnessed what can only be perceived as a strategic change in US foreign and defense policy.  

The Dissing of the President: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 31, 2014 —I've never liked the word diss—not as a verb, much less as a noun. But watching the Obama administration get the diss treatment the world over, week-in, week-out, I'm beginning to see its uses.

Why do the Troops Think so Little of Obama?: Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, Mar. 31, 2014 —In the flood of polling we see every week there is occasionally some eye-popping nugget of data that washes up on the political landscape. The Post’s poll of members of the armed services who went to Iraq or Afghanistan has quite a few, but I will focus on one.

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ISRAEL-GULF STATE RAPPROCHEMENT? SAUDI-U.S. RIFT— OVER IRAN, SYRIA, EGYPT, UN—WIDENS, AS A DRIFING OBAMA TURNS INWARD

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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Behind the Saudi-U.S. Breakup: Karen Elliot House, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 24, 2013 — When Saudi Arabia this week rebuked the United States, using media leaks to send a message to the kingdom's longtime ally, the episode was no petty fit of pique.
Saudi Arabia Gets Tough on Foreign Policy: Nawaf Obaid, Washington Post, Oct. 24, 2013— Last week, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry announced that the kingdom would not join the U.N. Security Council until the council “reformed so it can effectively and practically perform its duties and discharge its responsibilities in maintaining international security and peace.”

Quietly, Israel and the Gulf States Draw Closer Together: Jonathan Spyer, PJ Media, Oct. 24, 2013— Recent remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have fueled renewed speculation of behind-the-scenes links between Israel and the Gulf monarchies.

Obama Loses the Middle East: Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage Magazine, Oct. 28, 2013— There are things that Obama just doesn’t understand. Like math. And health care. And alliances.

 

On Topic Links

 

The U.S. Saudi Crackup Reaches a Dramatic Tipping Point: David Ignatius, Washington Post, Oct. 23, 2013

For Once, Saudi Arabia Has a Point: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, Oct. 24, 2013

After Rejecting Security Council, What’s Next for Saudi Arabia: Khaled al-Dakhil, Al-Monitor,  Oct. 23, 2013

Saudi Women Rise Up, Quietly, and Slide Into the Driver’s Seat: Ben Hubbard, New York Times, Oct. 26, 2013

 

BEHIND THE SAUDI-U.S. BREAKUP

Karen Elliot House
Wall Street Journal, Oct. 24, 2013

When Saudi Arabia this week rebuked the United States, using media leaks to send a message to the kingdom's longtime ally, the episode was no petty fit of pique. It reflected a calculated decision by the Al Saud rulers that their own survival requires distancing themselves from the very country that has protected the royal family for more than half a century.

In a tribal society like Saudi Arabia's, it is well understood that weakness breeds contempt and invites aggression. To the Al Saud, the Obama administration's retreat from its red-line ultimatum on Syria's use of chemical weapons and the administration's unseemly rush to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program are simply the latest evidence of such weakness. It diminishes U.S. influence in the region while offending and endangering America's allies. Already facing social tensions inside the kingdom and confronting growing instability throughout the Mideast, the ruling Al Saud have concluded that they can no longer risk being seen holding hands with a timorous great power.

 

Sadly for the Saudis, there is no alternative protector, which means the two countries will continue to share an interest, however strained, in combating terrorism and securing stability in the Persian Gulf. The kingdom has courted Russia and China in recent years, but they won't protect the Saudis from the primary threat of Iran. Indeed, they support the regime in Tehran. This reality makes Saudi Arabia's distancing itself from the U.S. all the more startling.

To understand the U.S.-Saudi rift, it is essential to realize that from the capital in Riyadh the world looks more threatening than at any time since the founding of modern Saudi Arabia in 1932. There have been other menacing times. Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1960s sought to destabilize the Al Saud by fomenting trouble in neighboring Yemen. In 1979, religious fanatics took over the Grand Mosque in Mecca and had to be ousted by military action. The Saudis feared, in 1990, that their kingdom was next after Iraq's Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. In all those troubled moments, the U.S. was either a trusted if silent supporter of the Saudis or an active defender, as in the 1990 Gulf War.

Today, the Saudis find themselves alone regarding Syria, trapped in a proxy war with Iran, their religious (Sunni Saudi Arabia vs. Shiite Iran) and political enemy. The Saudis had sought and expected U.S. help in arming the rebels against Syrian ruler Bashar Assad, but the military aid never materialized. Instead, last month at the United Nations General Assembly gathering, President Obama eagerly sought a private meeting with Iran's new president, Hasan Rouhani, to discuss its nuclear program. Mr. Obama seemed desperately grateful merely to get him on the phone.

A few days later, the Saudi foreign minister abruptly canceled his own speech to the General Assembly. Then last week, Saudi Arabia took the extraordinary step of turning down a Security Council seat it had long sought. According to a Reuters report this week, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, head of the kingdom's intelligence and national security operations, told European diplomats that both moves at the U.N. were intended as a blunt message to the Obama administration.

Only a year ago, Saudi officials expressed great confidence that Assad would be ousted from Syria by this fall. Instead, the Saudis now find themselves trapped with their foot on the snake Assad: They can't step away, lest the snake strike, but lacking American help, they don't have the means to kill the snake either. The kingdom's relationship with the rebels is similarly precarious. The longer the Saudis supply them with arms, the longer the war drags on, and the greater the risk that the rebels—whose ranks already include at least 500 Saudi jihadists—will grow more radical and eventually return home to fight the regime that funded them.

Worst of all for the Saudis is the new U.S. dialogue with Iran. The Saudis, much like the Israelis, fear the sort of deal likely to result from a weak and naïve U.S. administration eager to avoid a military confrontation. Such a deal, the Saudis worry, would paper over Tehran's nuclear ambitions while boosting Iran's prestige and influence at the expense of Saudi Arabia. If Iran can convince the U.S.—the country that Tehran still calls the Great Satan—to lift economic sanctions without first obtaining ironclad evidence that Iran has abandoned its nuclear program, in Mideast eyes Iran would be the clear winner. The Saudi nightmare doesn't end there. Iran, supported by Russia and China, is seen by the Saudis as a direct threat to their oil exports, the lifeblood that keeps the ruling Al Saud in power by providing the billions of dollars annually that allow the regime to buy, bribe and, when it deems necessary, brutally repress its citizens.

Meanwhile, with U.S. oil and gas production soaring, Americans may increasingly question the wisdom of spending billions on a military presence to protect the Persian Gulf through which Saudi oil exports flow—increasingly to China. When President Obama briefly threatened to strike Syria for using chemical weapons on its citizens, Saudi Arabia understandably sought a larger U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf to protect against a potential Iranian counter-strike. The U.S. told Riyadh it lacked the ships to meet the request, another shock to the Saudis.

These external challenges come at a time when senior members of the Saudi royal family are consumed with a generational succession. A geriatric band of brothers has ruled the kingdom since the death in 1953 of their father, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, the country's founder. Power soon will have to go to a son of one of those three-dozen brothers. But who? Each brother feels one of his own sons deserves the crown—which would keep his family's branch in line for royal succession and likely shut out the others. There are hundreds of these grandsons of the founder. Managing royal family politics must be a daunting task for the 90-year-old King Abdullah, already weakened by three back surgeries in four years…

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal is fond of saying that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia no longer have a Catholic marriage but rather a Muslim one. This is a clever way of saying that Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are not faithful to each other. In the absence of any major-power alternative to the U.S., for the Saudis in this Muslim marriage the U.S. may well remain Wife No. 1. Even if she is not about to be divorced, however, the Saudis are clearly declaring a trial separation.

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SAUDI ARABIA GETS TOUGH ON FOREIGN POLICY

Nawaf Obaid

Washington Post, Oct. 24, 2013

 

Last week, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry announced that the kingdom would not join the U.N. Security Council until the council “reformed so it can effectively and practically perform its duties and discharge its responsibilities in maintaining international security and peace.” Although this decision stemmed from Saudi frustration over the council’s failure to end the civil war in Syria and to act on the issue of Palestinian statehood, there is more to the rejection. Saudi Arabia opting out of a temporary position in an international forum is a sign of things to come as the kingdom pursues a new, and assertive, foreign policy.

 

The decision came after several weeks of intense debate among senior officials in Jeddah, the summer capital, over whether Saudis can achieve more by assuming a relatively nominal position in an international setting or by unilaterally expanding their work and implementing their doctrine. Over the past two years, the Saudi government had expended a great deal of energy and resources to prepare their diplomats and U.N. mission to join the Security Council.

 

But events in Syria over the summer and the manner in which the debate over the war has played out on the Security Council changed the calculations of the Saudi foreign policy establishment. Central to the internal discussions was the question of whether, in such a charged regional environment, the kingdom could politically afford to be a powerless member — albeit with a “voice” on a docile council — when it faces the urgent imperative of ending the massacres in Syria.

 

The tipping point came the week before the U.N. General Assembly meeting last month, when a draft resolution on dismantling Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons circulated among the permanent members of the Security Council. The Saudis, supported by the French and, to a lesser extent, the British, wanted the draft to say that President Bashar al-Assad and his thugs would suffer extreme punitive military actions for noncompliance. The Russians, however, were adamant that even an insinuation of this sort would be unacceptable. To get the resolution through, U.S. officials acquiesced to Russian wishes and pressured France and Britain to drop this demand. The tyrant Assad, then, was saved and practically given a U.N. mandate to continue slaughtering the Syrian people and destroying the remnants of the Syrian state. For the Saudis, this was a cold lesson in the Security Council’s dysfunction.

 

At this point, the Saudis faced two options: become a non-binding member of a largely inactive clique in which only the five permanent members are able to push through policy, or excuse themselves from this ceremonial, and ultimately empty, responsibility. In choosing the latter, Saudi Arabia has sent a powerful message about the effectiveness of the Security Council and the Obama administration’s Middle East policy. The Saudis realistically assessed their limited options within the Security Council as well as the fact that the kingdom already has power to influence global events and exerts enormous influence in the Muslim world. Joining the Security Council would not change those things.

 

This unprecedented decision also signals the coming of age of Saudi Arabia’s forceful foreign policy and the methods it is willing to pursue to achieve its objectives. Out of necessity, the kingdom is reformulating its foreign policy to assess how best to solve the Syrian tragedy… this necessity is the result of deeper trends that are also guiding Saudi decisions: the lack of U.S. leadership in the region, regional turmoil sparked by the “Arab Awakening” and the new policy of Iranian rapprochement toward the West.

 

In short, the Saudis find themselves in a drastically different foreign policy situation than even one year ago, having essentially been left alone to maintain stability in the Arab world. Given the pressure of this predicament, the fundamental basis of the new Saudi foreign policy doctrine is about changing course from being protected by others to protecting themselves and their allies… It is clear…that the Saudis fully intend to pursue their national security interests much more assertively, even if that leads to a strategic break with the United States.

Contents

 

QUIETLY, ISRAEL AND THE GULF STATES DRAW CLOSER TOGETHER

Jonathan Spyer

PJ Media, Oct. 24, 2013

 

Recent remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have fueled renewed speculation of behind-the-scenes links between Israel and the Gulf monarchies. Netanyahu, speaking at the UN, said that “the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the emergence of other threats in our region have led many of our Arab neighbors to recognize, finally recognize, that Israel is not their enemy.” He added: “This affords us the opportunity to overcome the historic animosities and build new relationships, new friendships, new hopes.”

 

There have been subsequent rumors of visits by senior Gulf officials to Israel, to discuss matters of common interest. While it is difficult to acquire details of these contacts at the present time, it is a near certainty that they exist, on one level or another. Conversations with Israeli officials suggest that much is happening behind the scenes. Israel and the key states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (most importantly, Saudi Arabia) share core views on the nature of key regional processes currently underway, and their desired outcome.  These commonalities have existed for some time, and it is likely that the contacts are themselves not all that new.

 

There are three areas in which Israel and the countries of the GCC (with the exception of Qatar) are on the same page. They are: the urgency of the threat represented by the prospect of a nuclear Iran, the danger represented by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood over the last two years, and the perception that the United States fails to understand the urgency of these threats and, as a result, is acting in a naive and erroneous way on both.

 

On the Iranian nuclear issue, Riyadh is deeply troubled by the current Iranian ‘charm offensive’ and its apparent effects on the west.  Most importantly, the Saudis fear the prospect of a nuclear Iran, which could force Riyadh and the Gulf states to bend to its will, in return for guaranteeing the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz, and avoiding direct encroachment on their sources of energy. Saudi Arabia faces Iran, directly across the Gulf.  It is a far more fragile construction than its Shia, Persian neighbor.  Over the decades, Riyadh and the other Gulf states sought to balance Iranian encroachment of this type through alliance with the U.S. But the U.S. no longer seems such a reliable ally. So new strong and like-minded friends are needed.

 

On the Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudis feared the spread of this movement across the region, and were infuriated by the role of Qatar in supporting its successes in recent years. Israel, too, was deeply concerned at the prospect of a new alliance of Sunni Islamist states, with AKP-led Turkey and Morsi’s Egypt chief among them. Over the past year, the advance of the Muslim Brothers has been halted and partially reversed. In Tunisia and Egypt, the MB administrations have gone.  Qatar has a new, less activist emir.  The Muslim Brothers and Qatar have grown weaker among the Syrian rebels.

Saudi Arabia has been responsible for some of this, through financial support and political action. It has welcomed all of it.  So has Israel.

 

On the U.S.: the Saudis think that the current U.S. administration is hopelessly naive on the Middle East.  They were shocked at the abandonment of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in 2011.  They are equally vexed at the current indications of American and Western willingness to lift some sanctions against Iran in return for cosmetic concessions that would leave the core of Teheran’s nuclear program intact.

The Saudis were the first to congratulate General Abd al-Fatah al Sissi following his military coup in early July.  They are utterly dismayed by the current U.S. withholding of part of Washington’s package of military aid to Cairo because of what the U.S. regards as the insufficiently speedy transition back to elections in Egypt. Again, Israel shares these perspectives. The absence of American leadership may well be the key factor in causing Israel and the Gulf states to draw closer.

 

On the face of it, any alliance between Jewish Israel and Salafi Saudi Arabia might appear an absurdity.  Israel is a liberal democracy and a Jewish state.  Saudi Arabia is a repressive absolute monarchy, based on a particular Salafi Muslim outlook which is deeply anti-Jewish and anti-Christian in nature…

 

But a clear distinction is made by the Saudis between the world of ideology/media/culture and the realm of raison d’etat.  Hence, there is no reason to think they would not be able to publicly vilify Israel, while maintaining off the radar links with it against more immediate enemies. In this regard, it is worth remembering the Wikileaks revelation of remarks made in private by Saudi King Abdullah to American General David Petraeus in April, 2008, in which he recommended military action against the Iranian nuclear program.  The king referred to Iran as the “head of the snake,” which should be cut off.   No similarly venomous remarks on Israel were quoted from the conversation, which took place far from the public eye.

 

Of course the common interests only go so far.  Saudi Arabia supports Salafi Islamist forces in both Syria and Egypt.  Saudi money finds its way to Salafi elements among the Palestinians.  But the areas of commonality are on issues of cardinal importance to both countries. The de facto, unseen alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries is one of the most intriguing structures currently emerging amid the whirling chaos of the Middle East.

Contents

 

OBAMA LOSES THE MIDDLE EAST

Daniel Greenfield

Frontpage Magazine, October 28, 2013

 

There are things that Obama just doesn’t understand. Like math. And health care. And alliances. Alliances are as vital to foreign policy as a website that works is to online health care enrolment…

 

During his two terms, Obama has managed to wreck nearly every alliance the United States had. The only alliances that survived were so low-pressure that even he couldn’t manage to destroy them. Obama’s alliance vandalism pushed aside allies and courted enemies…

 

It took a lot for Obama to lose the Saudis, but now even they have turned on him. America’s greatest Middle Eastern frenemy was an enemy who pretended to be our ally. The frenemy game had paid off for Saudi Arabia with American soldiers being sent off to protect the House of Saud, but by Obama’s second term, the Saudis had figured out that they could do better by being our open enemies than by pretending to be our friends. The Saudis, who had always been noted for being subtle, stopped being subtle when a member of one of their think tanks openly declared, “We are learning from our enemies now how to treat the United States.” There is no better metric of contempt in a region where everyone wears a false face than honesty like that. The Saudis have decided that we are no longer even worth lying to. They believe that we have become so worthless that they can tell us what they really think of us. There’s no easier way to tell that you’ve hit bottom than when the people who have been sponging off you decide to move on like lice fleeing roadkill or rats abandoning a sinking ship.

 

For generations the Saudis piggybacked their foreign policy on the United States, (though American diplomats liked to fool themselves into thinking that it was the other way around), but now the Saudis have decided that the United States under Obama only serves as a willing tool for open enemies.From their Iranian Shiite enemies, they have learned that Obama only responds to confrontation and intimidation. If a country isn’t openly threatening to nuke the United States, it no longer gets listened to. So the Saudis have abandoned the behind-the-scenes diplomacy that they used to be so good at and have begun engaging in open confrontations.

 

Their United Nations Security Council tantrum and their warning that they will no longer even pretend to filter their arms shipments to the Syrian rebels through the CIA are their attempts at getting Obama’s attention by slapping him around. Considering the long history of Saudi political influence in the United States, it’s a sign of a complete breakdown in foreign policy that they really think that their best option for getting Obama to do what they want is to engage in public spats. It’s not that the United States should be doing what Saudi Arabia wants, which in this case involves bombing Syria, but it’s a profound failure of foreign policy when your allies are convinced that their only way to get your attention is by humiliating you in public and worse still when they expect it to work. The fault lies in a leader whose foreign policy is completely unmoored from realpolitik. Obama’s first and foremost consideration is his ideological program with no concern for the real world consequences of implementing it. That is as true of his foreign policy as it is of his domestic policy.

 

Obama has done to America’s allies what he did to America by trashing their interests for ideological reasons with no concern for their feelings. Ideology drives the Obama agenda. And American allies, like Americans, are expected to be grateful for the privilege of sacrificing their own interests for his political agenda. It hasn’t worked out that way in the real world. The millions of Americans who work for a living may have no other option but to endure the depredations of a radical activist, but American allies have begun making different arrangements. While America’s foreign policy agenda is weighed down with Green Energy and Muslim self-esteem, Russia is beginning to politically dominate the old territories of its red empire. The Middle East has imploded into war and violence. And Latin America is once again dominated by a bankrupt left.

 

None of this is good news… Obama may have traded national interests for ideology, but the rest of the world still has interests that it is not about to sacrifice for ideological constructs like the Arab Spring. American allies have lost their ability to communicate with Obama. They don’t understand how to reach him and explain that while he thinks the United States no longer has national interests, they still do…

On Topic

 

 

The U.S. Saudi Crackup Reaches a Dramatic Tipping Point: David Ignatius, Washington Post, Oct. 23, 2013 — The strange thing about the crackup in U.S.-Saudi relations is that it has been on the way for more than two years, like a slow-motion car wreck, but nobody in Riyadh or Washington has done anything decisive to avert it.

For Once, Saudi Arabia Has a Point: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, Oct. 24, 2013— This week, United Nations diplomats are rubbing their eyes in disbelief over Saudi Arabia’s decision to decline a seat on the UN Security Council.

After Rejecting Security Council, What’s Next for Saudi Arabia: Khaled al-Dakhil, Al-Monitor,  Oct. 23, 2013— Saudi Arabia’s decision to turn down a seat on the UN Security Council surprised everyone and confused many.

Saudi Women Rise Up, Quietly, and Slide Into the Driver’s Seat: Ben Hubbard, New York Times, Oct. 26, 2013—Hackers defaced their Web site. Delegations of clerics appealed to the king to block their movement. And men claiming to be security agents called their cellphones to leave a clear message: O, women of the kingdom, do not get behind the wheel!

 

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EGYPT, WHERE TIME STANDS STILL, IS A ZERO SUM GAME — AND OBAMA’S PRO-M.B. STANCE WORKED AGAINST “DEMOCRACY”

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:

 

The Choice in Egypt: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, August 22, 2013—Egypt today is a zero-sum game. We’d have preferred there be a democratic alternative. Unfortunately, there is none. The choice is binary: the country will be ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood or by the military.

 

How Close Is the U.S. to the Muslim Brotherhood?: Magdi Khalil, Front Page Magazine, Aug. 23, 2013—There is no question that the US and the Muslim Brotherhood have been engaged in a dialogue during the course of the so-called Arab Spring, in regards to the form and structure of government in Egypt and perhaps in the Middle East as a whole.

 

Egypt is Where History Goes to Die: Daniel Greenfield, Jewish Press, August 27th, 2013—One of the biggest differences between conservatives and liberals is that while conservatives believe that history is an expression of human nature, liberals don't believe in history, they believe in historical processes.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

Mubarak's Muslim Brotherhood Prophecy: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 15, 2013

The Evolution of the Revolution: Dr. Michael Evans, Jerusalem Report, Aug. 21, 2013

The Realist Prism: Indecision on Egypt Leaves U.S. Interests at Risk: Nikolas Gvosdev, World Politics Review, Aug. 23 2013

Is Egypt the next Algeria? Unlikely: Tawfik Hamid, Jerusalem Post, Aug 26, 2013

Gulf Islamists Irked as Monarchs Back Egypt's Generals: Egypt Independent, Aug. 27, 2013

Constitutional Tweaks May Empower Mubarak-Era Politicians in Egypt: Egypt Independent, Aug. 24, 2013

 

THE CHOICE IN EGYPT

Charles Krauthammer

Washington Post, August 22, 2013

 

Egypt today is a zero-sum game. We’d have preferred there be a democratic alternative. Unfortunately, there is none. The choice is binary: the country will be ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood or by the military.

Perhaps it didn’t have to be this way. Perhaps the military should have waited three years for the intensely unpopular Mohamed Morsi to be voted out of office. But Gen.Abdel Fatah al-Sissi seems to have calculated that he didn’t have three years, that by then there would be no elections — as in Gaza, where the Palestinian wing of the Brotherhood, Hamas, elected in 2006, established a one-man-one-vote-one-time dictatorship.

 

What’s the United States to do? Any response demands two considerations: (a) moral, i.e., which outcome offers the better future for Egypt, and (b) strategic, i.e., which outcome offers the better future for U.S. interests and those of the free world.

 

As for Egypt’s future, the Brotherhood offered nothing but incompetent, intolerant, increasingly dictatorial rule. In one year, Morsi managed to squander 85 years of Brotherhood prestige garnered in opposition — a place from which one can promise the moon — by persecuting journalists and activists, granting himself the unchallenged power to rule by decree, enshrining a sectarian Islamist constitution and systematically trying to seize the instruments of state power. As if that wasn’t enough, after its overthrow the Brotherhood showed itself to be the party that, when angry, burns churches.

 

The military, brutal and bloody, is not a very appealing alternative. But it does matter what the Egyptian people think. The anti-Morsi demonstrations were the largest in recorded Egyptian history. Revolted by Morsi’s betrayal of a revolution intended as a new opening for individual dignity and democracy, the protesters explicitly demanded Morsi’s overthrow. And the vast majority seem to welcome the military repression aimed at abolishing the Islamist threat. It’s their only hope, however problematic, for an eventual democratic transition.

 

And which alternative better helps secure U.S. strategic interests? The list of those interests is long: (1) a secure Suez Canal, (2) friendly relations with the United States, (3) continued alliance with the pro-American Gulf Arabs and Jordanians, (4) retention of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, (5) cooperation with the U.S. on terrorism, which in part involves (6) isolating Brotherhood-run Gaza. Every one of which is jeopardized by Brotherhood rule.

 

What, then, should be our policy? The administration is right to deplore excessive violence and urge reconciliation. But let’s not fool ourselves into believing this is possible in any near future. Sissi crossed his Rubicon with the coup. It will either succeed or not. To advocate a middle way is to invite endless civil strife. The best outcome would be a victorious military magnanimously offering, at some later date, to reintegrate the more moderate elements of what’s left of the Brotherhood.

 

But for now, we should not be cutting off aid, civilian or military, as many in Congress are demanding. It will have no effect, buy no influence and win no friends on either side of the Egyptian divide. We should instead be urging the quick establishment of a new cabinet of technocrats, rapidly increasing its authority as the soldiers gradually return to their barracks.

 

Generals are very bad at governance. Give the reins to people who actually know something. And charge them with reviving the economy and preparing the foundations for a democratic transition — most importantly, drafting a secular constitution that protects the rights of women and minorities.

 

The final step on that long democratic path should be elections. First municipal, then provincial, then national. As was shown in the post-World War II democratizations, the later the better. After all, we’ve been here. Through a half-century of cold war, we repeatedly faced precisely the same dilemma: choosing the lesser evil between totalitarian (in that case, communist) and authoritarian (usually military) rule.

 

We generally supported the various militaries in suppressing the communists. That was routinely pilloried as a hypocritical and immoral betrayal of our alleged allegiance to liberty. But in the end, it proved the prudent, if troubled, path to liberty.

 

The authoritarian regimes we supported — in South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Chile, Brazil, even Spain and Portugal (ruled by fascists until the mid-1970s!) — in time yielded democratic outcomes. Gen. Augusto Pinochet, after 16 years of iron rule, yielded to U.S. pressure and allowed a free election — which he lost, ushering in Chile’s current era of democratic flourishing. How many times have communists or Islamists allowed that to happen?

 

Regarding Egypt, rather than emoting, we should be thinking: what’s best for Egypt, for us and for the possibility of some eventual democratic future. Under the Brotherhood, such a possibility is zero. Under the generals, slim. Slim trumps zero.

 

Contents

HOW CLOSE IS THE U.S. TO THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD?

Magdi Khalil

Front Page Magazine, Aug. 23, 2013

 

There is no question that the US and the Muslim Brotherhood have been engaged in a dialogue during the course of the so-called Arab Spring, in regards to the form and structure of government in Egypt and perhaps in the Middle East as a whole. But the real question, which is frequently asked, is what kind of a role did the US exactly play in the Muslim Brotherhood’s arrival to power in Egypt? Is the US actually working alongside the Muslim Brotherhood to shape the future of the Middle East?…

 

First, it must be said that the US is not unacquainted with the Muslim Brotherhood, since the movement has had US-based activities, organizations and financial investments for more than five decades, particularly through its relationship with and presence in Saudi Arabia, which became its refuge after it fled from Egypt during Nasser’s rule. The Muslim Brotherhood sought to establish its presence in the American continent, starting with “The Muslim Students’ Association,” which was a small organization established in 1963. Later, they went on to establish bigger organizations such as the North American Islamic Trust in 1971; the International Institute of Islamic Thought in 1980; the Shura Council of the Muslim Brotherhood in America in 1980; the Islamic Society of North America in 1981; the Islamic Association of Palestine in 1981, which in turn established the Occupied Land Fund that later became the Holy Land Foundation; the American Islamic Council in 1990, and the American Islamic Society in1992. Furthermore, the international Muslim Brotherhood movement held its meetings several times in the US, specifically in the years 1977, 1978 and 1979. The Muslim Brotherhood had well known leaders in the US, such as Zaid Noman, Ahmed El Kady, Mohammed Ikram Elwani, as well as senior investors such as Youssef Nada.

 

Looking back, we can see that the starting point for the attempts to contain Islamist movements around the world, including the Muslim Brotherhood, was right after the events of September 11 [2001]. As the first shot was fired in Afghanistan, the US began also to formulate a plan to deal with the Islamist dilemma from a political angle. An endless war was not a viable solution, and a political alternative was required in order to control the emerging phenomenon. The Bush Administration primarily thought that the lack of democratic political participation was behind the phenomenon of international terrorism, believing that these individuals were hunted in their countries, and after being forced to flee, they had directed their excessive hatred and violence at the Western World. The solution seemed clear enough then: to find a way to redirect and assimilate that excessive energy through a local political process that would both embrace and contain said individuals. Bush chose Iraq as a starting point for the democratization of the region and the creation of a new Middle East, where he had expected democracy to spread in a domino-like effect.

 

However, democracy failed in Iraq. On one side, it was thwarted by the unleashed sectarian strife monster, and on the other it met with stubborn and unanimous resistance from neighbouring countries, including Iran, which worked together to defeat Bush’s plan and stop the tide of American democracy from reaching its shores.

 

This plan’s failure was promptly followed by a hunt for a second alternative, and the idea to assimilate Islamists into their own countries through an Islamist rule of the region was born. In 2005, Ms. Condoleezza Rice, then the Secretary of State, made a speech in Cairo which suggested that the US did not mind if Islamists assumed power. This notion soon gained popularity, and dozens of seminars, conferences and meetings that took place in Washington, London, Madrid and Brussels started to promote in earnest the participation of Islamists in government. Many of these gatherings were funded through Qatar, with evident “green light” from the US.

 

With the support of Qatari funds, Al-Jazeera Channel started to back the Islamist project, i.e., an Islamist rule via elections, until the Channel became the official media platform of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic movements in the region. The role played by both Qatar and Al-Jazeera expanded throughout the Arab Spring uprisings, seeking to speed up a “brotherhoodization” process that would reshape the entire region to reflect Muslim Brotherhood beliefs and practices. Later, they worked to engage the US in extensive dialogues about government requirements and structure, the conditions of Western cooperation, and particularly US-Muslim Brotherhood cooperation.

 

Since the collapse of Mubarak’s regime, Washington and Cairo had maintained contact as attested by frequent Washington-Cairo trips and intense phone consultations between the White House and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance office in Al-Mokattam. It had reached a point where the almost nonstop contact became the subject of a widespread political joke among foreign diplomats in Egypt, who said that you can measure the time that passes between President Mursi issuing a decision and reversing it by the time difference existing between the Office of Guidance and the White House–the joke clearly speaks for itself.

 

In the beginning, the US terms were as follows: 1) to take into consideration American interests in the region; 2) to stay away from Iran; 3) to maintain the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty; 4) to resort to the ballots in political issues; 5) to take into consideration the rights of women and minorities. The Muslim Brotherhood agreed to all conditions, even if it was merely a form of dissimulation.

 

The outcome of the Gaza crisis [Operation Pillar of Defense] increased the trust between Obama’s Administration and the Muslim Brotherhood, with Obama praising Mursi at length after the crisis was averted. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood had offered what no other Egyptian president has ever offered to the US, pledging the following to Obama: 1) Hamas will not launch a single rocket, fire a single shot or conduct a single operation against Israel in the next four years, which represented Obama’s second term; 2) Egypt will monitor crossings and tunnels to ensure that no weapons are being smuggled to Hamas; 3) The US will be allowed to set up advanced equipment at the borders to conduct its own surveillance of the crossings; 4) In case the violence originating from Sinai gets out of control, American troops will be allowed to guard the Egyptian-Gaza borders.

 

In a nutshell: To restrain Hamas and keep Israel from harm while the Muslim Brotherhood is let loose in Egypt to do as it wishes. Even worse, there are serious noises about Qatari/Egyptian/American discussions aiming to bypass the Palestinian Authority and open a dialogue with Hamas directly, followed by political talks which may lead to an individual peace treaty between Hamas and Israel….

 

The bottom line is that while Mubarak had delivered the government into the hands of the military represented in the Military Council, the Military Council, in cooperation with the US, has handed the government over to the Muslim Brotherhood. Mubarak showed more intelligence in that regard, and had previous knowledge of the US intentions, as indicated by his statement to Dr. Hossam Badrawi that the US has been planning since 2005 for the Muslim Brotherhood to assume power in Egypt. The Military Council failed the people, perhaps because it made some sort of deal with the Muslim Brotherhood, or due to increased US pressure, or even because of poor political skills; what matters is that these factors combined to place Egypt under the thumb of the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

It is up to Egyptians now to reshape history once more for the sake of the people, the homeland and the future, rather than the past. There is hope yet for their voice to be heard and for their will to prevail.

Contents

 

 

EGYPT IS WHERE HISTORY GOES TO DIE

Daniel Greenfield

Jewish Press, August 27th, 2013

 

One of the biggest differences between conservatives and liberals is that while conservatives believe that history is an expression of human nature, liberals don't believe in history, they believe in historical processes. The shortage of conservatives explains why so many politicians and pundits glowingly endorsed the Arab Spring as the "end of history" because the historical processes had been achieved, the check boxes were ticked and Egypt, Tunisia and the rest of the Arab Spring countries would shortly reach the same historical terminus that Sweden, France and the United Kingdom had achieved.It also explains why so many politicians are frantically trying to "fix" Egypt by putting it on the right historical track.

The liberal understanding of history is so hopelessly dominant that it never occurs to most of them that countries can't be fixed. They aren't leaky sinks, but systems emerging from a national culture. Egypt can't be fixed by calling the plumbers of democracy to tighten a few valves and bully the natives into holding another election. The last election didn't fix Egypt. There's no reason to believe that another one will. Elections did not fix a single Arab Spring country. They didn't fix Russia. They won't fix China….

To the liberal misreading of history, a failed state is like an overweight fellow. Map out a diet and exercise regimen for him based on historical processes, things that he must do and mustn't do and he'll get better. If he isn't following orders, make him run through the right historical processes. If the whole thing backfires, refuse to admit it, because progressive policies never fail. Push that logic forward and there is no reason to think that the past is relevant to a nation at all. Not when historical processes break away the present from the past and the future from the present.

There is no real need to understand Egypt or the Muslim Brotherhood in any great depth. Not when they are about to be transformed by the magic of democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood may have been a terrorist organization in the past, its branches may still engage in terrorism, but that stops mattering once the Brotherhood bows to the historical process of democracy. Egypt's history also vanishes once it is transmuted through the magic of elections. Democracy didn't actually change Egypt. Egypt is still the same country it was before Obama's Cairo speech. It's poorer, more unstable and more dangerous. But it hasn't really changed….

The assumption that historical processes align with a forward motion, that the liberalization of a society moves it forward, are so innate that it goes unquestioned. It is why democracy is held to be a good, entirely apart from its outcome. Even if democratic elections lead to a takeover by a junta of fanatical cannibals, the very act of holding an election moves a society forward through one hoop in the great circus of historical processes. The immediate result may be cannibalism, but in the long run, as Arab Spring advocates remind us from the editorial pages, the society moves forward.

The liberal understanding of history made it impossible to see the Muslim Brotherhood for what it was because its victory did not fit the march of progress. The victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in a democratic election meant that it was progressive. Because that is how the forward motion of history is meant to work. And its overthrow had to be considered reactionary, regardless of the issues.

This blinkered view discarded the issues and nature of the participants. It traded the contents of the system, for the addiction of process. It made the same mistakes as in Iraq and Afghanistan, drifting on a democracy high without paying attention to who was actually winning the elections and what their plans for the future were. The conviction that Afghanistan or Iraq or Egypt were moving forward was not borne out by anything except the spectacle of process and the conviction that everything was bound to keep moving forward, especially if we gave it a push or two.

The conservative understanding of Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt was that these places were backward because the culture of the people, their occupations, the way that they chose to live, kept it that way. But in the liberal understanding of history, they were backward because they had been denied access to modern processes for upgrading their societies. Give them democracy and they'll be Europe in no time at all.

 

It did not occur to them that the reason Egypt wasn't England had nothing to do with elections and everything to do with the culture of a broken country that hasn't gotten all that far past feudalism, and whose "modern" face was slapped together by European colonialism and local dictators borrowing European ideas and applying thin layers of them across the surface of a much older culture. Processes don't move a society forward. The striving to learn and grow, to push beyond the next horizon and find out what is over the next hill. That innate organic expansionism, that creative dissatisfaction, cannot be transplanted or imposed externally. It either grows out of the soul of a culture or it does not. The historical processes that matter are a by product of such strivings….

We are not bound to move forward. It is quite possible that we are moving back. And even that sense of direction is a matter of opinion. To the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, backward is forward, as they push on toward the 7th century. The sense of historical direction in Cairo or New York is not an abstract, but a function of culture, a product of the things we value and strive toward. It is possible to distinguish the healthy and unhealthy cultures through the outcome of these products, but it is not possible to make a culture want not only the things we want, but to want them in the same way and through the same means.

Egypt is where history goes to die. Beneath its sands, there are ages and ages of lost time, lost civilizations and lost pasts that might have been. They lie there untouched by the mantra of historical processes. They simple were and are no more. The Arab Spring is nothing but another one of those many sedimentary layers of history that fall into the sands and crunch under the sandals of the cultures that take each other's place….

 

Islam has cloaked [Egypt] in its characteristic darkness that teaches its followers to strive for nothing except the subjugation of others to its will….There is no future here. There is no history here. Egypt is where history goes to die, buried in its tombs with its ancient kings, lying in wait for another time when the sands will shift, the stones will fall and time will begin moving again.

Contents

 

Mubarak's Muslim Brotherhood Prophecy: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 15, 2013—In a video of Hosni Mubarak when he was still Egypt's president, the strategies of which he accuses the Muslim Brotherhood have come to pass. What follows are Mubarak's words from a conference in Egypt (date unknown; author's translation).

 

The Evolution of  the Revolution: Dr. Michael Evans, Jerusalem Report, Aug. 21, 2013—The streets of Cairo are caught in the midst of a murderous frenzy — the Egyptian military on one side and Muslim Brotherhood supporters of recently-deposed president Mohamed Morsi on the other. The death toll now hovers at over 1,000 including twenty-five off-duty policemen murdered execution-style in northern Sinai.

 

The Realist Prism: Indecision on Egypt Leaves U.S. Interests at Risk: Nikolas Gvosdev, World Politics Review, Aug. 23 2013—As the Obama administration grapples with what to do next in Egypt, it may be instructive to review the U.S. efforts of the past decade to bring about fundamental political and economic change in Egypt and the other countries of the greater Middle East.

 

Is Egypt the next Algeria? Unlikely: Tawfik Hamid, Jerusalem Post, Aug 26, 2013—Many fear that banning the Muslim Brotherhood group will result in the use of violence, similar to what happened in Algeria during the 1990s. When the Algerian people refused to give the radical Islamists – who later won the elections – political power, Algeria endured the blood shed of 100,000 innocent people, over a ten year period.

 

Gulf Islamists Irked as Monarchs Back Egypt's Generals: Egypt Independent, Aug. 27, 2013—While they have been careful to express only muted dissent in public, Islamists and some other conservative Gulf Muslims are quietly seething at Saudi Arabia's whole-hearted backing of Egyptian army chief General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

 

Constitutional Tweaks May Empower Mubarak-Era Politicians in Egypt: Egypt Independent, Aug. 24, 2013—Islamists and liberals have voiced alarm about the proposals made by a constitutional committee set up by the generals who removed the Muslim Brotherhood's Mursi on July 3 amid widespread protests against Egypt's first freely elected leader.

 

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