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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Libya’

Qatar’s Risky Overreach

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Originally pubished at The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

With seemingly limitless wealth and a penchant for often supporting both sides of the argument, the State of Qatar has become a highly significant player in Middle East power-politics. Recent events in Egypt and Syria, however, have put the brakes on Qatar’s ambitions. In this second part of his analysis of its attempt to influence regional politics, Paul Alster considers how much its flamboyant foreign policy, centered on furthering the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, might be coming back to haunt Qatar.

July 3 was not a good day for Mohammed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood’s man was ousted from power after just a year as Egypt’s president, having lost the essential confidence of the country’s powerful military leaders. July 3 was also a black day for the State of Qatar, the country which had nailed its colors and its money firmly to the Muslim Brotherhood mast, and which suddenly found itself the target of outrage on the Egyptian street and beyond.

Morsi came to power in a democratic election, but misinterpreted the meaning of democracy. He and his Muslim Brotherhood backers – primarily Qatar – appeared to believe that having won the election, they could run the country according to their decree, not according to democratic principles as the majority had expected. A series of draconian laws, a spiralling economic crisis, and a feeling on the Egyptian street that the Muslim Brotherhood was paid handsomely by foreign forces, spurred street protests of historic proportions, prompting the military to intervene.

With Morsi gone, Qatar suddenly became “persona non grata” in Egypt.

Qatar sought to extend its influence and Muslim Brotherhood-inspired view of how countries like Egypt, Syria, Libya, and others should be. Qatar was also playing a power-game against Saudi Arabia, another hugely wealthy regional power whose vision of an even more strictly Islamist way of life for Muslims drove a wedge between the two parties.

Another seismic change hit the region just nine days before Morsi’s fall. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani – in power since overthrowing his own father back in 1995 – voluntarily abdicated in favor of his 33-year-old son, Sheikh Tamim.

Tamim, educated in England and a graduate of the prestigious Sandhurst Military Academy, became the region’s youngest leader, with the eyes of the world watching to see if he would maintain his father’s aggressive policy of extending Qatar’s regional influence. Few could have imagined that he would very quickly find himself at the center of a major political crisis as Egypt – a country in which Qatar had so much credibility and money invested – imploded before his eyes.

Within hours of Morsi’s departure, the streets of Cairo were awash with anti-Qatari banners accompanied by the obligatory anti-US and anti-Israel slogans. Al Jazeera – a staunch promoter of the Muslim Brotherhood view in Egypt – was vilified, its reporters attacked on the streets, its offices ransacked. Al Jazeera also had been hit seven months earlier after supporting Mohammed Morsi’s crackdown on young Egyptian demonstrators opposed to the rapid Islamisation of Egypt under the new government.

In the first part of my analysis of Qatar’s policy in the region, I focused on Al Jazeera’s huge influence on opinion in the Arab world and the West, portraying the Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood version of events in a way that the uninformed viewer might believe to be objective reporting. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Al Jazeera’s carefully crafted smokescreen as the moderate voice of the Arab world has taken a significant battering with the events in Egypt. That should serve as a wake-up call to those trumpeting the imminent launch of Al Jazeera America scheduled for August 20.

“There is a lingering perception in the U.S. –right or wrong – that the network [Al Jazeera] is somehow associated with terrorism, which could slow its progress in gaining carriage,” Variety Magazine‘s Brian Steinberg suggested last month.

Dubai-based writer Sultan Al Qassemi observed in Al-Monitor: “Qatar has dedicated Al Jazeera, the country’s most prized non-financial asset, to the service of the Muslim Brotherhood and turned it into what prominent Middle East scholar Alain Gresh [editor of Le Monde diplomatique and a specialist on the Middle East] calls a ‘mouthpiece for the Brotherhood.’” The channel has in turn been repeatedly praised by the Brotherhood for its ‘neutrality.’”

The Economist, reporting in January, reflected the growing dissatisfaction amongst many in the Arab world. “Al Jazeera’s breathless boosting of Qatari-backed rebel fighters in Libya and Syria, and of the Qatar-aligned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, have made many Arab viewers question its veracity. So has its tendency to ignore human-rights abuses by those same rebels, and its failure to accord the uprising by the Shia majority in Qatar’s neighbor, Bahrain, the same heroic acclaim it bestows on Sunni revolutionaries.”

In June, a vocal and agitated group of nearly 500 protesters took to the streets in Benghazi, Libya – the city where U.S Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three colleagues were killed last fall – demanding that Qatar stop meddling in Libyan internal affairs.

“Much of the opposition was directed at Qatar which protesters claimed was supporting Libyan Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Middle East Online reported at the time. “Analysts believe that Qatar is trying to take advantage from a scenario repeated in both Tunisia and Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood, which was an active participant in revolutions, seized power,” the story said.

To the casual observer, it might appear strange that the country that was perhaps as instrumental as any in helping bring about the downfall of the hated Colonel Muammar Gadaffi in Libya back in 2011 should be the target of such vitriol. Qatar, a close U. S. ally, was the main conduit through which weapons transfers were made to Libyan rebels who eventually overpowered forces loyal to the long-time dictator.

As Libyans attempt to create a new order in their fractured country, many now believe that the Qatari regime’s Salafist sympathies contribute to a growing influence of radical Islamist groups in Libya with similar ideological beliefs to the Qatari royals. Concerns had surfaced as early as January 2012.

“But with [Muammar] Gaddafi dead and his regime a distant memory, many Libyans are now complaining that Qatari aid has come at a price,” reported Time magazine’s Steven Sotloff. “They say Qatar provided a narrow clique of Islamists with arms and money, giving them great leverage over the political process.”

Sotloff quoted former National Transitional Council (NTC) Deputy Prime Minister Ali Tarhouni as saying, “I think what they [Qatar] have done is basically support the Muslim Brotherhood. They have brought armaments and they have given them to people that we don’t know.”

And then there’s the question of Qatar’s meddling in Syria’s civil war.

“I think there are two [Qatari] sources of mostly ‘soft’ power – their money and Al Jazeera,” Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. “They are using their soft power to advance their regional goals. In Libya it was not necessarily a negative. In Syria they are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood [allied to the Free Syrian Army].”

“Now, what you have to assess,” Yadlin continued, “is whether the Muslim Brotherhood is better than Bashar [al-Assad], and whether the Muslim Brotherhood is better than the Jihadists and the Al Nusra Front [supported by Saudi Arabia].”

Yadlin’s pragmatic view reflects the dilemma of many considering intervention on behalf of the rebel forces in Syria. Is it better to try to arm the moderate elements of the FSA and have them replace the Assad regime? Would risking weapons supplied by the West and countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia falling into the wrong hands, possibly usher in an even more dangerous Jihadist regime that could destabilise the region even further?

Qatar played on these fears by presenting the Muslim Brotherhood as a relatively moderate force, but many now fear it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and no less dangerous than the Al Nusra Front terror group, which was added to the UN sanctions blacklist May 31.

Writing for the Russian website Oriental Review.org on May 23, Alexander Orlov reminded readers that Qatar was on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism during the 1990s, and sheltered Saudi nationals who were later revealed to have contributed to the 9/11 atrocities. He suggests that the U.S. turned a blind eye to Qatar’s previous record in return for using the massive Al Udeid facility as a forward command post in 2003 for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Orlov reminds us that Qatar was a major financier of the Islamist rebellion in Chechnya in the 1990s, and that after the Islamists had been routed by the Russian army, the [now former] Qatari emir gave sanctuary to one of the most wanted leaders of the Islamist rebellion, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a figure who has inspired Chechen Islamists ever since. Yandarbiyev was subsequently assassinated by a car bomb in the Qatari capital Doha in 2004.

Qatar long ago signed up to the Muslim Brotherhood cause. It believed that this alliance would promote Qatar to being the foremost player in Sunni Muslim affairs at the expense of its main rival, Saudi Arabia. Recent events suggest that gamble may have blown up in its face.

Sheikh Tamim’s rise to power appears to have created an opportunity to mend bridges with Saudi Arabia after his father Sheikh Hamad’s antagonistic relationship with Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia was a key Brotherhood supporter from the 1950s until the 9/11 attacks. Then, in a bid to distance itself from the damning fact that 15 of the 19 bombers were Saudis, Riyadh insisted that Muslim Brotherhood radicalization of the bombers was a significant factor. Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad quickly stepped into the breach and became the Muslim Brotherhood’s biggest supporter, offering Doha as a base for spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

It is significant, then, that the new Qatari leader’s first foreign visit was to Saudi Arabia. He arrived there last Friday, reported the Gulf Times. “Talks during the meeting dealt with existing fraternal relations between the two countries and ways to develop them in various fields,” the official Qatar News Agency said.

Tamim’s outreach to Saudi Arabia suggests that the two countries may be on the verge of rapprochement. Where that development leaves the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar’s huge investment in underwriting the Egyptian economy, the funding of rebel forces in Syria, and Qatar’s previous foreign policy in the region, remains to be seen.

The choices Qatar’s newly appointed young leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, makes over the next few weeks and months may have a significant impact on regional politics and on Qatar’s future role on that stage for years to come.

“I suspect the Qataris will draw back somewhat,” former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan told Reuters. “Their infatuation with the Muslim Brotherhood has probably been dampened. They’re likely to come around to a position closer to the Saudis.”

Global Security Alert after Al-Qaeda Prison Escapes

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

The international police organization Interpol has issued a global security alert, urging increased vigilance for terrorist activity, following a suspected al-Qaeda connection to prison breaks in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan, among others, AP reported.

Interpol says the prison escapes have taken place in nine Interpol member countries over the past month. The organization is requesting its 190 member countries’ assistance in figuring out whether such events are indeed linked.

The full statement from Interpol’s alert reads:

Following a series of prison escapes across nine INTERPOL member countries in the past month alone, including in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan, the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters has issued a global security alert advising increased vigilance.

With suspected Al Qaeda involvement in several of the breakouts which led to the escape of hundreds of terrorists and other criminals, the INTERPOL alert requests the Organization’s 190 member countries’ assistance in order to determine whether any of these recent events are coordinated or linked.

INTERPOL is asking its member countries to closely follow and swiftly process any information linked to these events and the escaped prisoners. They are also requested to alert the relevant member country and INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters if any escaped terrorist is located or intelligence developed which could help prevent another terrorist attack.

Staff at INTERPOL’s 24-hour Command and Coordination Centre and other specialized units are also prioritizing all information and intelligence in relation to the breakouts or terrorist plots in order to immediately inform relevant member countries of any updates.

August is the anniversary of violent terrorist incidents in Mumbai, India and Gluboky, Russia as well as in Jakarta, Indonesia. This week also marks the 15th anniversary of the US Embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in which more than 200 mostly African citizens were killed and 4,000 others injured.

In recent years, terrorist attacks focusing on diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan, Greece, India, Kenya, Libya, Pakistan, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tanzania, Turkey and Yemen have also resulted in hundreds of casualties of all nationalities.

The US State Department has also issued a global travel alert in response to credible intelligence suggesting that Al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks between now and 31 August, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to the US authorities announcing the one-day closure of more than 20 diplomatic missions on Sunday 4 August, the UK Foreign Office has also confirmed the closure of the British embassy in Yemen on 4 and 5 August.

Benghazi Burning: 1000+ Prisoners Escaped, Justice Bldgs Bombed

Monday, July 29th, 2013

This is what utter lawlessness looks like.

On Saturday, more than 1,100 prisoners inside the Kuafiya Prison in Benghazi, Libya escaped after demonstrations outside, and riots inside, induced the guards to open the doors or risk having everyone inside burn to death.

By Sunday, approximately 100 of those who had escaped had been recaptured, but Benghazi saw more violence that evening.

Two explosions rocked the city of Benghazi on Sunday evening, one in front of a court house, and the other in front of the Justice Ministry.  There were no fatalities, but 13 people were injured.  However, there was massive damage to the buildings and surrounding areas.

Although no one claimed responsibility for the explosions or the prison break, it is believed that the violence was in response to the assassination of a lawyer and leading critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdelsalam al-Mosmary, who was shot in the chest after leaving a Benghazi mosque following Friday prayers.  Al-Mosmary was extremely outspoken and harshly criticized the presence of armed militias on the streets of Libya. These militias were also the focus of massive protests following the September 11, 2012 attack on the American Compound in Benghazi.

After news of al-Mosmary’s death spread, hundreds of protesters attacked the Benghazi and Tripoli offices of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood, late on Friday, according to Reuters.

Over the weekend Libya’s Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, closed the border between Libya and Egypt.  He suspected that al-Mosmary’s assassins were headed towards Egypt.  Zeidan was elected in the fall of 2012, when he narrowly defeated Mohamed Al Harary, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, by 8 votes.

Zeidan said he would reshuffle his cabinet in the wake of the violence. An emergency meeting is expected to take place on Monday.

Violence in Libya is on the increase.  Of course, Benghazi was the site of the September 11, 2012 murders of four Americans: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, U.S. Foreign Service Information Officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALS and Embassy security personnel Glen Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods. But Libyan political activists were stunned by the assassination of one of their own.

Ambassador Oren: Samantha Really, Really Cares about Israel

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Samantha Power, President Obama’s nominee to replace Susan Rice as Ambassador to the United Nations, “cares deeply” about Israel’s security needs, Israeli ambassador to Washington Michael Oren recently told The New York Times.

“Samantha Power and I have worked closely over the last four years on issues vital to Israel’s security,” he said. “She thoroughly understands those issues and cares deeply about them.”

Oren is as much a politician as he is a diplomat. He admitted he usually does not comment on presidential nominees until they are confirmed by the Senate.

So why did he have to go out of his way and tell The New York Times, Obama’s unofficial press agent, that Power is such a great fan of Israel, where 11 years ago she advocated calling for US troops to act as policemen?

Oren saw the need to defend the President and score points if she is confirmed by the Senate, even though the nomination of Power has left many Jewish groups and leaders on different sides of the fence.

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) did not surprise anyone by strongly opposing her nomination, while the Conservative Jewish movement came out in favor of her, as did the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The American Jewish Committee had no comment, and B’nai Brith said it was withholding approval of Power’s nomination until she addressed her earlier remarks under oath during Senate confirmation hearings.

“Israel has few real friends at the United Nations and at the top of the list is the United States, and it is really incumbent on the representative to be prepared, willing and able to rebuff and repel that kind of language,” said the group’s executive vice president, Daniel Mariaschin.

Power’s supporters have pointed out that she was on the front lines to work against anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations, particularly the Palestinian Authority attempt to win United Nations Security Council approval for becoming a full-fledged member of the United Nations. The Obama administration threatened to cast a veto, which in the end was not necessary because the PA was lacking one vote to win the necessary two-thirds approval for the motion to move to the floor of the General Assembly.

Power may “deeply care” about Israel. Every US political leader is “Pro-Israel” because every one of them knows what is good for Israel, much better than the dumb Israelis. The American government also knows what is good for Iraq, Egypt, Syria and almost every other place in the universe, including the moon.

Being “pro-Israel” is not a condition to be the American Ambassador to the United Nations. First and foremost, the Ambassador must be pro-United States.

But that is like being pro-Israel. Every one has his or her own meaning of what is good for America.

Samantha Power obviously thinks Obama is good for America, as did most of the electorate. She was one of his strongest supporters even before anyone heard of his becoming a presidential candidate in 2008.

She also thinks “engaging enemies’ is good for the United States. It is the “engagement” policy that helped bring then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare, two months after the beginning of the Arab Spring protests in Syria, that Assad is a “reformer.”

By the way, it was the same Clinton, when she campaigned against Obama for the Democratic party’s nomination for its presidential candidate, whom Power called a “monster.”

Power also has mouthed off at people whom she thinks are violating human rights.

She once not only called Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon violators of human rights, she also put them on the same level in her declaration against “Sharafat.”

When Power hears of human rights violations, she goes bonkers and always assumes the “other side” is to blame. That is why she backed the Muslims against the Buddhists in Burma.

The Canada Free Press wrote, “In her 2004 review of a book by the radical leftist Noam Chomsky, Ms. Power agreed with many of his criticisms of U.S. foreign policy and expressed her own concerns about what she called the ‘sins of our allies in the war on terror,’ lumping Israel with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, Russia, and Uzbekistan.

In 2007, she stated, the American government’s relationship with Israel “has often led foreign policy decision-makers to defer reflexively to Israeli security assessments, and to replicate Israeli tactics….”

Echoes of Assad and Mubarak: Erdogan Calls Protesters ‘Vandals’

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has chosen to take the road of deposed or embattled Muslim leaders in the Middle East as the protest movement in Turkey seems to grow to the same degree he ridicules it.

Tens of thousands filled Istanbul Square Sunday to demand his resignation, and they clashed with riot police, backed by hovering helicopters.  Instead of addressing them directly, he appeared at the Ankara airport, where he was applauded in one of several planned rallies.

Erdogan charged that the protesters are nothing but vandals who drink beer in mosques and insult women wearing headscarves.

He already has referred to demonstrators as “anarchists and terrorists.”

“Tweeter is an enemy,” he says.

Who else ridiculed social networks? Qaddafi, who was killed in the revolution, Mubarak, who was arrested and jailed in the revolution, and Assad, who still remains in power but has been isolated by the entire world except Iran, Hezbollah and, for the time being, Russia.

And how did Erdogan refer to a police officer who was killed in clashes with protesters? He was ”martyred.”  That is right out of the book of Hamas, which, by the way, Erdogan for some strange reason continues to praise.

Erdogan has deepened the rift in Turkish society by turning the protest movement into a “me or them” issue, fueling what could have been a small and weak protest movement with the dynamite it needs to engulf others who don’t like the government, particularly those  who are nervous about the government’s potting Islam in the forefront of its agenda.

Anyone who protests apparently is an enemy to Erdogan, who demonstrates the same insecurity of dictators, past and present.

Benghazi’s Lesson

Monday, May 20th, 2013

I haven’t written about the Benghazi affair before. I’m not in a position to judge whether the State Department or military could have intervened in time to save Ambassador Stevens, or why the consulate wasn’t reinforced, etc.  I’m sure the disaster could have been prevented, and someone is responsible for it. But I’m not the one to explain how and who.

What I am competent to discuss is the politics of the decision to present the attack as something that it was not and that the relevant people knew at the time it was not.

Some of President Obama’s opponents have been saying that it was all about the election. Obama’s claim was that he had more or less ended the terrorist threat — after all, he killed bin Laden! So the truth that an American ambassador was murdered on the anniversary of 9/11 by al Qaeda linked terrorists would not be helpful. Therefore, the story that the attack grew out of a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Islam video was pushed instead.

This is true as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough. The fact is that the video story was part of a theme that has run through Obama’s presidency from the beginning. This is the idea that the policy of the United States toward the anti-Western jihad should have two dimensions: we will kill overt anti-American terrorists, while at the same time try to placate the Muslim world through diplomacy and propaganda.

Every effort is made to relate positively to Muslims here and abroad. Aid programs are established to Muslim countries. NASA administrators are asked to reach out to the Muslim world. Less benignly, ‘Islamophobia’ is presented as a more dangerous phenomenon than domestic jihad, the administration embraces the Palestinian cause, supports Islamists in Egypt, falls in love with the Islamist prime minister of Turkey, etc.

This policy, which started immediately before Obama’s inauguration when he pressured Israel to withdraw from Gaza, found full expression in his Cairo speech of June 4, 2009. Although I was initially shocked by his obscene equation of the Holocaust with the way the “Palestinian people … have suffered in pursuit of a homeland,” the most alarming thing about the speech taken as a whole is its obeisance to the Arab and Muslim historical narrative, the story that is told to justify aggression against the U.S. and the West (and Israel is only a small part of this).

For example, he said,

The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

In other words, it’s all our fault. Never mind the cultural and political backwardness that made Muslim nations hellholes for all but a tiny privileged minority, never mind the cynical behavior of kleptocratic Muslim leaders who sold themselves to whomever would supply the most weapons for them to use in their wars and intrigues against each other and Israel — their problems are all because of those Western colonialists!

Compare them to Israel, which freed itself from British domination to become the most successful nation in the Middle East, or Vietnam, or many other formerly colonized peoples. And keep in mind that many Arab countries, like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, went rapidly from Ottoman domination to independence, suffering little, if at all, from Western exploitation.

Obama’s approach extended to the way we respond to ideologically-motivated terrorism in the U.S. The administration seems to have taken the true statement “not all Muslims support terrorism” and quite invalidly inferred from it that “Islam can never be the motive for terrorism.” So Major Nidal Hassan’s mass murder at Ft. Hood is explained as workplace violence, other terrorists are defined as mentally disturbed, the Department of Homeland Security issues a directive that such words as “jihad” and “Muslim” cannot be used in connection with terrorism, and the NYPD is criticized for carrying out surveillance of mosques.

In the view of the Obama administration, the enemy is not an ideology. It is only specific organizations (whose motives are not discussed) that attack us.

Any disagreement with this position — anyone who suggests that there is a dangerous ideology of political Islam out there which often finds violent expression in terrorist acts — is stigmatized as an Islamophobe, a kind of racist, a designation which places the person so vilified outside the pale of discourse, and justifies denying him or her the right to speak publicly.

And so we come back to Benghazi. What better explanation could be given for the disaster than an Islamophobic video? Not only does the randomness of the outburst excuse everyone involved for the failure — who could have known this would happen? — and not only does it hide the fact that even the acknowledged war against al Qaeda hasn’t been going as well as they would like us to think, it casts blame precisely on those intolerant opponents of the administration’s policy of trying to placate the Muslim world!

Thus the schmuck who made the video is imprisoned for a year for a parole violation, after Hillary Clinton tells the parent of one of the U.S. personnel murdered in the attack that she would see to it that the filmmaker was arrested and prosecuted.

The dual policy — killing overt terrorists while expressing love and respect for Islam — is both unfortunate for our real allies, like Israel, which sees itself pressured into concessions to the PLO or Hamas as a way to show that Obama cares about Palestinian Muslims, as well as a failure.

The reason for the failure is a misunderstanding of the messages we send as they are received in Arab and Muslim cultures. The message of caring and respect that we are trying to send is perceived as weakness. Muslims understand that non-Muslims can either fight or submit to Islam — it’s not possible to admire Islam while at the same time refusing to submit. So Obama’s gestures are either ignored or indicate that he is not strong enough to fight.

At the same time, the drone strikes and the war in Afghanistan kill Muslims, and it is the duty of Muslims to avenge these killings. The fact that the perpetrators are non-Muslims makes them obscene in these cultures, the reversal of the natural order.

In the meantime, the morale of our police forces on the home front is weakened, the tools necessary to discover and prevent jihadist terrorism are taken out of their hands, and aggressive Islamic ideologues in our mosques and college campuses are encouraged.

A better policy would be to stop pretending to admire the people who hate us. We should say to the Muslim world, “look, we have a system that’s different from yours, we think it’s better, and we intend to defend it. Anyone who hurts us or our allies will get it back ten times over.” We don’t need to ‘declare war on Islam’ to do that, as apologists for the present policy claim.

Our leaders have become so used to lying, that they haven’t considered simply being honest and standing up for what we believe.

Visit Fresno Zionism

Common Sense on the Syria Mess

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

“I know what the world thinks of us, we are Communists, and of course I have said very clearly that we are not Communists; very clearly.” –Fidel Castro, 1959

U.S. policy toward Syria has changed but it is too late. A senior State Department official said at the meeting just concluded of opposition groups: “We have to help the moderates, people like [Chief of Staff of the Free Syrian Army] Salim Idris….”

This is what I proposed two years ago but I have to admit that I almost never saw anyone else who suggested that the strategy should be to help the non-Islamists with money, weapons and diplomatic support.

Unlike Castro, the Islamists in Syria never lied about their goals and ideologies. Now the Islamists are far more powerful and well-armed than anyone else, courtesy of U.S. policy. Oh and there’s one more problem. Many or most of the Free Syrian Army’s troops, that is the supposed non- or anti-Islamist alternative, are also Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

So what’s there to do with revolutionary Islamists controlling Syria and sooner or later, though it might take a couple of years, taking over the whole country or at least gaining recognition as the legitimate government of Syria while the regime holds out in the northwest of the country?

That’s okay, says the main line of U.S. policy. We don’t care if they are America-hating fanatics who want to impose Sharia, suppress or even massacre Christians, and commit genocide against Jews. Just as long as they aren’t affiliated with al Qaeda.

Beyond this, there’s mostly wishful thinking. Compare these statements by a Turkish diplomat and a Saudi newspaper:

“Once Assad is gone, al Qaeda won’t stay long in Syria.”

“We know that there are radical forces like [al Qaeda] but do not overestimate them.”

But it seems impossible to get the mainstream debate to recognize the fact that the problem is not merely al Qaeda but other radical Salafists and another Muslim Brotherhood government.

What kind of situation would another Egypt bring about in the Middle East?

What will happen within Syria which historically is a far more radical entity (for historical, political culture, and geopolitical reasons) than Egypt? What will be the fate of all those modern-oriented women, liberals, Alawites, Christians, Druze, and Kurds?

Going beyond the largely worthless current debate on Syria let’s look ahead into the seemingly inevitable future. We can reasonably assume that the Assad regime might last another year or two but it will either retreat to the Alawite areas by then or have fallen totally. There is by the way another possibility. Rebels make advances in Damascus, then use the opportunity to announce the establishment of a provisional government there. The United States and other countries then recognize it–despite Assad’s continuing hold on much of the country–as the legitimate government of Syria.

Whatever happens, there will be a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Syria and Obama will support it. The Salafis will not rule but they will kill people, intimidate non- or anti-Islamist forces, and probably be the main force in various local areas of the country.

Many conservatives and Republicans favor more intervention which means in practice working even harder to install an Islamist regime in Syria. That’s a terrible idea. With few exceptions they never seem to grasp the point about supporting the non-Islamist forces and not just the Syrian rebels in general as if they were glorious freedom fighters.

A few other people favor supporting the Assad dictatorship to keep the Islamists out of power. (Note: These were suggested prior to reports about the regime’s use of chemical weapons). This is another terrible idea. Aside for morality and the impossibility of saving Assad, no Western country is going to adopt such a policy. Whatever its past, the Assad regime had in effect become an Islamist regime, a Shia Islamist regime, and its fall will weaken Iran and Hizballah.

The problem, of course, is that its fall will also strengthen the Sunni Islamists. According to estimates by my colleague, Dr. Jonathan Spyer:

Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al Qaeda, has about 6,000 fighters. The Syrian Islamic Front (dominated by Ahrar al-Sham) has about 13,000 fighters. And, the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, which seems close to the Muslim Brotherhood, (including the Farouq Brigade of Homs; Suqour al-Sham of Idleb, and Tawhid Brigade of Aleppo) has about 40,000 fighters.

The Dictator’s Lesson: ‘Nuke up Fast’

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

If you like what is happening with North Korea at the moment, you will love what happens when Iran goes nuclear.

In case anyone is in any doubt, it is always worth remembering that North Korea is a basket-case of a country – probably in the most abysmal situation of any country on earth (not forgetting the Middle East). Its people intermittently starve by the millions, and all of them lack even the most basic of amenities.

As Shin Dong-hyuk and a few other unbelievably fortunate escapees have attested, concentration camps (for once the term is not inaccurate) are maintained across the country. And even those fortunate enough not to be in them are cut off from the outside world by a regime which has the unique selling point of being the world’s only Stalinist monarchy. The authorities have no ability to provide the most basic services to the majority of its population; and after years of sanctions, can do almost nothing either internally or externally to alter the situation it finds itself in. Yet here it is, dictating the news agendas of the world.

And why? For two straightforward reasons. First, because it has a new leader of whom everyone is ignorant. No one – no other government, intelligence agency or foreign office – is entirely sure of his intentions. We do know that he spent some time at a school in Switzerland and has a fondness for basketball. But apart from that and a few other tiny details, there is almost nothing known about him. It was the same with his father and indeed his grandfather. We knew what type of sushi the current Kim’s father liked, and we knew he was a fan of Hollywood movies, but aside from such ephemera we had almost no idea of the type of man he was or the type of things he thought. Now his son – the third generation of the family to reign – is even more of a mystery. So there, undoubtedly, is the first problem.

But the second reason is even far more straightforward: North Korea is now in the Nuclear Club. No one is quite sure how rudimentary are the devices that they have set off (including the third such test just this February). But nevertheless they have managed it. Assisted by any number of rogue states, networks and cartels, the most isolated regime on earth has finally got into the only club that matters. And why? Why would a regime allow its people to suffer the most biting sanctions, the most appalling privations and itself to suffer the most complete international isolation – just for the possession of this one type of weaponry?

It is because the regime in Pyongyang knows something that everybody now knows but which those countries already in the Nuclear Club are increasingly unwilling to admit: the very clear lesson of the fate of Libya’s Colonel Qaddafi.

Qaddafi, you will remember, committed what is a clear, cardinal, school-boy error for dictators. In 2003, concerned by the U.S./U.K. and allied invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein for his WMD program, Qaddafi suddenly volunteered up – to the U.S. and U.K. it should be remembered, not the U.N. – his somewhat more-advanced-than-anybody-had-realized WMD program. Having seen Saddam Hussein fall for less, Qaddafi decided it was more trouble than it was worth in those days to continue going down that route.

But what a difference a decade makes. For apart from anything else, Qaddafi himself is now history. Having given up his WMD program, he then made the terrible error, once a rebellion against his rule began, of beginning to massacre his own people . And so – for humanitarian reasons – NATO intervened and toppled Qaddafi. And the last anyone saw of Qaddafi, he was being assaulted by a mob, beaten, having a knife put in every conceivable part of his body and then shot.

If you were a Kim or a Mullah, what lesson would you take from that? Personally, putting my dictator hat on I would take one lesson: “nuke up fast.” And certainly, on no account should you disarm. Disarmed despots are soon-to-be-dead despots. It is a lesson the North Koreans have taken on board with understandable eagerness and with – to date – considerable success. After all, for all the latest round of bellicose rhetoric against South Korea, there is no U.S. or NATO or any other kind of talk of, for instance, regime-change in North Korea. The system there may be – against stiff competition – the worst human rights violator in the world. Yet nobody is talking about toppling Kim. They are elementary nuclear, after all.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-dictators-lesson-nuke-up-fast/2013/04/10/

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