Syrian rebel fighters have refused to accept a Syrian-born and naturalized American citizen as their show prime minister, destroying an American effort to put into place an organizational structure to help channeling aid to rebels in the war against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Texas resident and IT executive Ghassan Hitto narrowly won last week’s election as “prime minister” amid warnings by rebels that they do not hold enough territory in Syria to warrant an interim government.
Hitto was backed not only by Western governments but also by organizations outside of Syria, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, making him even more suspicious to opponents.
Syrian National Coalition president Mouaz al-Khatib wrote on his Facebook page Sunday, “I am keeping my promise today and announcing my resignation from the National Coalition so that I can work with freedom that is not available inside the official institutions.”
He blamed Western powers for failing to give enough material support to the rebels while trying to punish them into dialogue with Assad, whose army and secret service have murdered tens of thousands of men, women and children in the two-year-old rebellion.
Secretary of State John Kerry steadfastly continued U.S. foreign policy of living in its own world and insisted that the resignation only proves that there is in Syria “an opposition that is bigger than one person and that opposition will continue.”
Kerry, in case anyone forgets, visited Damascus often when he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and struck up a dialogue with Assad, who in turn was termed a “reformer” by Kerry’s predecessor Hillary Clinton two weeks after the beginning of the revolt against him.
The replacement of dictator Hosni Mubarak with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi has had serious negative consequences for Egyptian liberals, Christians, and women; for Israel, which now must treat Egypt as a hostile power rather than a peace partner; and for the U.S., which is in the uncomfortable position of financially supporting a radical Islamist, anti-American, antisemitic regime.
So did this have to happen? Some say yes, there was no way the 82-year old corrupt, brutal Mubarak could have been propped up (but note that the new regime is no less, possibly more, brutal and corrupt). And shouldn’t the Egyptian people be allowed to choose their own rulers?
If you listen to Rafi Eitan, a former Mossad official who led the capture of Adolf Eichmann in 1960, the answer is that it definitely did not have to happen — and the U.S. is responsible. An interview with Eitan appeared today in the Times of Israel:
This slight man, with his trademark thick-rimmed glasses, did not mince his words when speaking of what he perceives as fatal American mistakes in handling the “Arab Spring” — particularly at that crucial moment in June 2012 when the administration could have imposed a secular president on Egypt, Ahmad Shafiq — and by doing so change the course of that country’s history. …
“The military unequivocally decided that [Ahmed] Shafiq will be president, not [Mohammed] Morsi,” Eitan told The Times of Israel. “But the Americans put all the pressure on. The announcement [of the president] was delayed by three or four days because of this struggle.”
Immediately after Egypt’s presidential elections in June 2012, Eitan spoke to unnamed local officials, who told him that with a mere 5,000-vote advantage for Islamist candidate Morsi, the military was prepared to announce the victory of his adversary Shafiq, a secular military man closely associated with the Mubarak regime.
But secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Eitan said, decided to favor democracy at all costs and disallow any falsification of the vote.
“This is idiocy. An act of stupidity that will resonate for generations,” Eitan said. “I also thought Mubarak should be replaced, but I believed the Americans would be smart enough to replace him with the next figure. Mubarak would have agreed to that, but the Americans didn’t want that; they wanted democracy. But there is no real democracy in the Arab world at the moment. It will take a few generations to develop…”
If you believe that the ideology of radical Islamism represents a real challenge to the Enlightenment values of Western civilization, then the takeover of the largest and most important Arab nation by the Brotherhood is a significant defeat for America and the West. Although historical analogies are notoriously misleading, in a sense it is as if the U.S. had intervened on behalf of the Bolsheviks in 1917 or helped Hitler attain power in 1933.
The appeal to ‘democracy’ is particularly ludicrous. Although Morsi uses the word a lot, his actions in consolidating power in the hands of the Brotherhood have been anything but democratic. And the philosophy of the Brotherhood itself makes it clear that regardless of the means by which power is attained, the goal is a state — and ultimately an expansive caliphate — governed according to shari’a, ruled by religious authorities, a regime in which Muslims (male) will dominate all others.
It seems that the Obama Administration has made a distinction between Islamists, with al-Qaeda and Hezbollah in the category of ‘bad’ Islamists because they have directly attacked us, while the Brotherhood and (for example) the Turkish AKP are ‘good’ because they have made the tactical decision not to wage war on us (at least not yet). But their ideology is no less anti-Western and anti-American.
If Eitan’s analysis — that the U.S. chose to support Morsi because it would be “more democratic” — is true, it reveals a shocking ignorance on the part of our leaders about the nature of the Brotherhood, of Egypt, and yes, the real meaning of “democracy.”
Speaking on the eve of the end of her tenure as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton on Thursday urged Iran and Russia to curb steps that may end up in the Syrian civil war spilling beyond Syria’s borders and resulting in a regional catastrophe.
Clinton told reporters that Iran has been sending more combatants and sophisticated weapons in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been engaged in an increasingly desperate and bloody, 22-month battle with rebels who are seeking to take over the country which has been ruled by the Assad family since 1970.
Clinton also expressed her objections to Russia’s continued aid to Assad, which includes financial support. She said, however, that she was not expecting Moscow to favor Assad’s departure any time soon.
At the same time, the departing Secretary of State had nothing but praise for the head of Syria’s main opposition coalition, Mouaz Alkhatib, who said this week that he was ready to hold talks with Assad representatives outside Syria if the government released tens of thousands of detainees.
“I thought he was not only courageous but smart in saying that if certain conditions are met we will begin discussing a political transition because you have to you know make it clear that there will be something other than hardened fighters when this conflict finally ends,” Clinton said. “Otherwise, it might not ever end in the foreseeable future.”
Clinton would not comment on reports that Israel had bombed targets in Syria on Wednesday.
She said she expected that the civil war in Syria, which has already claimed the lives of more than 60 thousand, will only intensify in the near future, and may spread beyond Syria’s borders.
“I personally have been warning for quite some time of the dangers associated with an increasingly lethal civil war and a potential proxy war,” Clinton told a small group of reporters she was meeting one day before she is replaced by Senator John Kerry.
“Therefore, I think it’s incumbent on those nations that have refused to be constructive players to reconsider their positions because the worst kind of predictions of what could happen internally and spilling over the borders of Syria are certainly within the realm of the possible now,” Clinton added.
Diplomats, Syrian rebels and security sources have reported that Israeli jets on Wednesday bombed a convoy of weapons destined for the Hezbollah near the Lebanese-Syrian border. Syria denied these reports, saying instead that the bombing target was a military research center northwest of Damascus, 8 miles from the Lebanese border. The Syrian press office released a tape showing some structure going up in flames, suggesting this was the attacked facility, but it is impossible to tell from the tape what is burning and where.
Syria warned it was planning a “surprise” retaliation against Israel. The pro-Assad Hezbollah, which is financed and largely commanded by Iran, vowed to stand by the embattled Syrian president.
Secretary Clinton said that the United States was worried that Iran had recently increased its support for Assad.
“It appears that they may be increasing that involvement and that is a matter of great concern to us,” she said.
“I think the numbers [of combatants] have increased,” she remarked. “There is a lot of concern that they are increasing the quality of the weapons, because Assad is using up his weaponry. So it’s numbers and it’s materiel.”
Regarding the Russian involvement, Clinton said: “We have reason to believe that the Russians continue to supply financial and military assistance in the form of equipment. They [have been] doing it in the recent past.”
Moscow has blocked three Security Council resolutions calling for the end of Assad’s rule and an end to the bloodshed inn Syria.
Clinton was skeptical about Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s comment this week that Assad’s chances of staying in power were growing “smaller and smaller.” She does not think it means Russia’s support for the tyrant is also diminishing.
“On the Russians, Medvedev included, we have heard rhetoric before over the last now nearly two years that we thought provided an opening … unfortunately, all of that rhetoric has failed to translate into changes in Russian policy,” she said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived back in the Senate, after dodging a few falling safes, multiple banana peels and an ornery dog named Henry, to give a carefully prepared histrionic rant which can be summed up, “I do care a lot” and “None of this was my fault” and “What difference at this point does it make?”
The last isn’t a sarcastic restatement. It’s what she actually said.
It might make a difference to a certain Coptic Christian whose trailer was blamed by the leader of the free world for a series of Al Qaeda attacks against American diplomatic facilities and who was sent to prison on the orders of members of the administration.
That fellow of many names, now serving a year in prison, is the only one to actually get locked up. The ringleader of the attack walks the streets of Benghazi freely. A drone could make short work of him, but no drones are coming his way. Instead a car bomb, planted by Libyan enemies nearly took him out. Some of the other Benghazi attackers were killed by the Algerian military during the siege; doing the work that Obama won’t do. If the Benghazi terrorists finally die, it will most likely be at the hands of the French, the Syrian army or Libyan rival militias.
Benghazi, Obama said, during his appearance with Jon Stewart, the man of many grimaces, was a bump in the road. And that’s all it was. The Obama campaign bus drove over four bodies and reached its destination in an armored parking garage somewhere in D.C. An irritated Hillary Clinton, who is prepping for her own bus tour in 2016, has every reason to demand to know what difference it makes now to discuss who lied about what and who failed to secure the Benghazi mission.
The election is over, and her testimony was delayed until after the fat lady held up her talking points at the debate and sang. Al Qaeda is dead, except for the parts of it rampaging across Syria, Iraq, Mali, Libya, Algeria and Pakistan, and a decade of war is coming to an end or just beginning. It makes no difference now which one of those it really is, just as it makes no difference, whether, as Clinton said, it happened “because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans?”
Dead is dead. The Benghazi four are dead. Stability in the Middle East is dead. Hope is dead. Victory is dead. It’s time to discuss the serious stuff. Like finding the right title for Hillary’s next biography, ghost-written and set for release around 2015, right after the Dems suffer a Congressional setback from angry NRA voters and just before the next election to position her as the new voice of hope.
“Bumps in the road” is one option. It really communicates that Hillary has been through a lot and driven over a lot of hard roads full of potholes and people who were only there because the Republicans refused to fully fund her infrastructure and outreach programs. But “What Difference Does It Make?” best captures the zeitgeist of the time. That sense that nothing matters once you’ve won.
What Difference Does It Make?: Hillary Clinton in Peace and War” will show up on shelves with a cover of her in some distant country looking out at the exotic landscape or surrounded by properly foreign children. It will be packaged along with a public speaking tour of colleges as Hillary promises to teach the leaders of tomorrow how they too can make a difference her way. The tour will use up Hillary’s store of funny and inspiring stories from her meetings with foreign leaders and human rights activists, most of which will be made up, but what difference does it make?
Everyone will pretend to be inspired by her. Suddenly it will be of paramount importance (circa 2015) that young women have a president of their own to look up to. It’ll all be fake, like her career, but what difference does that make. The real campaign slogan, at this point, might as well be, “Hillary, why not?” and “You know it’s going to happen anyway.”
The State Dept. Deputy Secretary William J. Burns and Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Thomas Nides on Thursday testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, on the events in Benghazi, Libya, September 11, 2012 that ended with four Americans killed at the U.S. mission, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Secretary Clinton regretted not being able to participate. She probably figured she didn’t need this on her record when she runs for the top job in 2016.
Her absence was felt at the meeting, since her two representatives were making sure to attribute to her every single bold move State will be taking in the aftermath of the Accountability Review Board’s report.
Some impolite talk radio hosts suggested Hillary’s fainting spell and consequent injury could be related to her reluctance to speak in person about the Benghazi mess. Who knows.
According to Deputy Secretary Burns, the State Dept. intensified a diplomatic campaign aimed at combating the threat of terrorism across North Africa. “We continue to work to bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi, and we are working with our partners to close safe havens, cut off terrorist finances, counter extremist ideology, and slow the flow of new recruits.”
That’s really nice. Still, there’s the report issued by the Accountability Review Board (PDF), with names like Ambassador Tom Pickering (chairman) and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen at the helm, which reportedly rebuked the Administration for its utter failure in Benghazi.
“The board’s report takes a clear-eyed look at serious systemic problems, problems which are unacceptable, problems for which, as Secretary Clinton has said, we take responsibility, and problems which we have already begun to fix,” Burns said what he had to, regarding the report.
But the report itself, or, rather, those two respected men who issued it, appeared at a press briefing last Wednesday, December 19, they offered different accounts of just what happened in Benghazi.
Ambassador Thomas Pickering said the terrorist attacks occurred over almost eight hours. “What happened on September 11th and 12th in Benghazi was a series of attacks in multiple locations by unknown assailants that ebbed and flowed over a period of almost eight hours,” Pickering told the press.
Except that, less than half an hour later, responding to a reporter’s question as to why the U.S. military never became involved in Benghazi, retired Admiral Michael Mullen said: “We looked at the force posture very specifically, and while we had a lot of forces in Europe both at sea and on land, it is not reasonable that they could have responded … in any kind of timely way. This was over in a matter of about 20 or 30 minutes with respect to the Special Mission specifically. And we had no forces ready or tethered, if you will, focused on that mission so that they could respond, nor would I expect we would have.”
Right-leaning CNS News pointed out that Mullen not only timed the terror attack at 20 to 30 minutes, but also defined it as only those events at the “Special Mission” compound, the State Department’s facility in Benghazi.
This conflicts with a CIA timeline of the Sept. 11, 2012 events, which shows that one hour and fifty minutes, give or take a couple minutes, elapsed between the time the “Special Mission” compound first came under attack and when a CIA rescue team was able to extract the surviving U.S. personnel from there.
As to the Accountability Review Board’s view on the fatal failure at Benghazi, CNS News notes that Ambassador Stevens and DOS officer Sean Smith died of smoke inhalation inside the “Special Mission,” in the first wave of attacks, and then, at least seven and a half hours later, former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by terrorist mortars fired on the Annex.
In other words, the event lasted seven and a half hours, and only the opening episode took “20 or 30 minutes.”
During that time, it appears that President Obama was not ordering the U.S. military to Benghazi. In fact, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, according to the report, was soliciting help from the Libyan military and from the Libyan militia that had been hired to protect the Benghazi mission.
Yes, you read it right: security at the Benghazi U.S. mission was shared with a local, Libyan militia.
The good terrorists.
Burns told the Senate committee: “As Secretary Clinton has said, our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. When America is absent, there are consequences: Our interests suffer and our security at home is threatened. Chris Stevens understood that as well as anyone. Chris also knew that every chief of mission has the responsibility to ensure the best possible security and support for our people.
“It’s important to recognize that our colleagues in the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Near East Affairs and across the Department, at home and abroad, get it right countless times a day, for years on end, in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable. We cannot lose sight of that.”
Yes, it’s the old “Look how many cars don’t get into fatal accidents,” and “Look how many banks didn’t get robbed today.”
“But we learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi,” Burns told the Senate committee, adding: “We are already acting on them. We have to do better.”
Burns concluded: “As Secretary Clinton has said, the United States will keep leading and keep engaging around the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and values are at stake.”
Absolutely, but come September 11, get some well armed American soldiers into our missions in those hard places, just in case.
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Thomas Nides spoke next, on the steps being taken at Secretary Clinton’s direction, to prevent the next Benghazi.
The review board made 29 recommendations in its report, and Nides told the committee: “We accept every one of them – all 29 recommendations. Secretary Clinton has charged my office with leading a task force that will ensure that all 29 are implemented quickly and completely, and to pursue steps above and beyond the board’s report.”
He then offered “some very clear specifics.” They are worth noting, although we would have expected these changes to have been implemented immediately after 9/11 2001, not 11 years later.
“For more than 200 years, the United States, like every other country around the world, has relied on host nations to provide security for embassies and consulates. But in today’s evolving threat environment, we have to take a new and harder look at the capabilities and the commitments of our hosts. We have to re-examine how we operate in places facing emerging threats, where national security forces are fragmented or may be weak.
“So at Secretary Clinton’s direction, we have moved quickly to conduct a worldwide review of our overall security posture, with particular scrutiny on a number of high-threat posts. With the Department of Defense, we’ve deployed five interagency security assessment teams, made up of diplomatic and military security experts, to 19 posts in 13 countries – an unprecedented cooperation between our Departments at a critical time. These teams have provided us a roadmap for addressing emergency – emerging security challenges.
“We’re also partnering with the Pentagon to send 35 additional Marine detachments – that’s about 225 Marines – to medium and high-threat posts where they’ll serve visible deterrence to hostile acts. This is on top of the approximate 150 detachments we have already deployed. We are aligning our resources to our 2013 budget requests to address physical vulnerabilities and reinforce structures wherever needed and to reduce risk from fire.
“And let me add, we may need your help in ensuring that we have the authority to streamline the usual processes that produce faster results. We’re seeking to hire more than 150 additional Diplomatic Security personnel, an increase of about 5 percent, and to provide them with the equipment and training they need. As the ARB recommended, we will target them squarely at security at our high-threat posts.”
Because, let’s be honest here, the Republican House did cut a chunk out of the budget for embassy security just the year prior the Benghazi attack. They’ll have to put it back in, and then some (watch Ron Paul voting Nay on this one).
“Obviously, part of this is about resources,” Nides spelled it out. “We must equip our people with what they need to deliver results safely, and will work with you as needs arise. But Congress has a bigger role than that. You have visited our posts. You know our diplomats on the ground and the challenges they face. You know our vital national security interests are at stake, and that we are all in this together. We look forward to working with you.”
In conclusion, we still don’t really know what happened in Benghazi; the national media blocked successfully the Romney attempt to expose President Obama’s failure to understand, much less help the situation on the ground during the very long, seven and a half hour attack (the duration of a full day at the office minus the lunch break); Obama is president again, with Sen. John Kerry the likely Secretary of State; and we know for sure that everything is being done to prevent another Benghazi.
In unusually rare and blunt criticism* of its top Mideast ally, the Obama administration on Tuesday slammed Israel for continuing to announce new settlement construction on land claimed by the Palestinians.
The State Department accused Israel of engaging in a “pattern of provocative action” that calls into question statements from Israeli leaders that they are committed to peace.
Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said settlement activity only puts the goal of peace “further at risk” and urged both Israel and the Palestinians to halt all provocations and take steps to revive long-stalled peace talks.
“We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action,” Nuland told reporters. “These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk.”
I guess that since Arabs never build “settlements”, they aren’t ‘provocative’?
QUESTION: Okay. Well, one of the things that the Secretary said yesterday in – when – in her comments to this was that attempts to go into Israeli waters were provocative and irresponsible. And it’s my understanding that the flotilla organizers do not intend to go into Israeli waters but in – they will stay in international waters. Is that your understanding or is that not your understanding per what the Secretary said yesterday? MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to the intentions of those involved in the flotilla. I think the Secretary was clear it was in response to a question yesterday – QUESTION: Correct. MS. NULAND: – as you remember, so that also speaks to the fact that publicly this issue is out there, that we do not want to see the bad situation of last year repeated. We do believe that channels exist for providing humanitarian aid to Gaza in a safe and secure way and that that situation is improving. And we urge all NGOs who want to participate in that to use those channels. QUESTION: But does a flotilla sitting in international waters off the Gaza – off the coast of Gaza, is that a problem for the U.S.? MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t want to get into the Law of the Sea issues here. I simply want to say that we don’t want to see a conflict at sea, on land. We want to see appropriate legitimate channels used for the – QUESTION: I understand, but in the briefing that just preceded this – MS. NULAND: Yes. QUESTION: – you talked about wanting to – in another instance, in the South China Sea, the U.S. has been very concerned about the freedom of navigation.
MS. NULAND: Well, thank you for that, Arshad. We are quite concerned, as I said yesterday. We are talking to both the Israelis and the Turks. We are urging both sides to refrain from rhetoric or actions that could beprovocative, that could contribute to tensions.
We all agree that North Korea’s provocative and belligerent behavior jeopardizes peace and stability in Asia. We are deeply concerned by its unprovoked attack on the island of Yeonpyeong, resulting in the loss of South Korean lives. On behalf of the American people, I would like to convey our sympathies to the victims and their families. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. We want the people of South Korea to know that we are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you, and we are deeply committed to your defense.The minister and I share the view that the attack by the North Koreans violates the Armistice Agreement of 1953; that North Korea’s provocative and belligerent behavior threatens us all, and that it will be met with solidarity from all three countries.