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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘U.S.’

Gimme Five

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

This is U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sarah Baker with a group of children during a security halt in Qalat City, Afghanistan. Baker is assigned to the Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul’s security force and is deployed from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

It is a staged picture, obviously, directed by the photographer, or, worse, by headquarters’ PR person. They called the kids over and asked them to slap five, or worse, bussed the kids over from their neighborhood, or, worse yet, hired the kids and the soldier from Central Casting – we have no idea.

So that, strangely, this image of a female U.S. soldier joshing with a group of Afghani children represents bot a reality but a kind of visual wishful thinking. Because we know there aren’t in the world Afghani children joshing with U.S. soldiers, not in the wild, anyway. Because Afghanistan is quickly retreating into what it has always been, a backwards, mountainous, harsh land, with a warlike people who grow poppy and kill each other for sport.

Somehow, the U.S. leadership figured it could succeed in “civilizing” the Afghani, save their women from a life of slavery, educate their children, improve their hospitals – after the Soviet Union and the British Empire and half a dozen other invaders have failed.

Or maybe it just gave us something to do to while away the time and the budget. Folks got rich, nothing to scoff at.

So we’re looking at a soldier and some children pretending to be having some cross-cultural fun together, as dreamed up by a PR team in a conquered country soon to be left to its own devices at the whopping cost of many billions of dollars.

Your tax dollars at make-work?

This Ceasefire Won’t Last

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

A ceasefire ending this round of the Hamas-Israel fighting went into effect at 9 PM local time, November 21, 2012. There were reports of more rockets being fired from Gaza at Israel after the ceasefire was to be implemented. Hamas immediately claimed victory. So did Netanyahu and here is his statement.

The brief agreement provides that both sides will stop all hostilities. For Israel, that included the targeted killings of terrorists and Hamas leaders. For the Palestinian side, the phrase, “All Palestinian factions,” was used. That means the Hamas regime is responsible for any attacks by Islamic Jihad, al-Qaida affiliates, and other small Salafist groups. According to the text, at least, Hamas cannot hide behind allowing or encouraging such groups to attack and then disclaiming responsibility.

Another provision is that Israel will reopen the crossings and let people (a small number of Gazans seeking medical attention in Israel) and supplies to return to normal levels.

Egypt—not the United States, which isn’t mentioned in the agreement–is the sponsor of the ceasefire. According to some reports which seem accurate, the ceasefire was agreed to through Egypt but delayed until Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived. By allowing Clinton to claim credit for the agreement, Israel may get something in return including most obviously a greater U.S. commitment to make the agreement work.

There is an interesting hint on this kind of secret agreement contained in Netanyahu’s statement:

“Israel obviously cannot sit idly while our enemy reinforces itself with weapons of terror. Therefore we decided, President Obama and myself, that the United States and Israel would work together to fight the smuggling of weapons to the terror organizations – weapons, virtually all of which come from Iran.”

Here is a very significant point that’s being missed in all of the coverage and discussions regarding the ceasefire. Netanyahu’s remark suggests there will be a new anti-smuggling effort involving U.S. intelligence, cooperation with other countries, and pressure on Egypt to make it harder to get weapons–especially missiles–into the Gaza Strip. It is clear that long-range missiles are the hardest thing to bring in and the easiest weaponry for Egypt to stop at the border. Whether this will have any U.S. effort does reduce the arms going to Hamas, of course, remains to be seen.

By helping negotiate and guaranteeing the ceasefire, Egypt also clinches its gaining more U.S. aid, though that probably would have happened anyway. Israel will know to what extent Egypt is helping Hamas smuggle in weapons, looking the other way, or merely not trying hard enough. This will be a key issue in future Egypt-Israel relations.

On Hamas’s side, the decision to reach a ceasefire was motivated by the damage the organization was suffering and fear of a massive Israeli ground attack. Perhaps most important, however, was that Hamas found it was not receiving strong support from Egypt and other states, especially because Cairo is now ruled by a Muslim Brotherhood government. Hamas is an independent branch of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Apparently, Hamas did not consult with Egypt before escalating attacks against Israel, the factor that set off large-scale Israeli retaliation. In turn, Egypt, along with Qatar, the Hamas regime’s main Arab funder, pressured the regime to stop the fighting.

The timing for a crisis could not be worse for the new Egyptian regime. It has not yet tamed its army, finished writing its constitution, or established the legitimacy of the parliament it dominates. At the precise time the war started, the Egyptian government was completing negotiations that can be expected to bring it almost $10 billion in aid from the European Union, International Monetary Fund, and United States.

Whatever Egypt does in future, it does not want trouble from Israel at present. Israel had also earlier reassured the Cairo regime that it would support an amendment in their thirty-year-old peace treaty that would allow Egypt to station more troops in the eastern Sinai. The number wouldn’t be enough to threaten Israel but enough to help control the Salafist groups there that have targeted Israel several times in cross-border raids. That is, if Egypt wants to stop them from doing so. At any rate, Egypt faces attacks on itself from some of these groups as well.

Israel’s motives included ending attacks on its civilian population which caused few fatalities but had a tremendously disrupting psychological and economic effect. The truth is that Israel’s population, while overwhelmingly supporting the war, evinced more fear about the attacks than in earlier conflicts. The ability of Hamas to fire missiles toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem–though this was partly a bluff since these missiles were almost emptied of explosives to get a longer range–set off concerns, especially in Tel Aviv. The Iron Dome system worked very well in shooting down a high percentage of the rockets outside the far south.

But Israel’s most realistic interests–though not its preferences–were reached by agreeing to a ceasefire now. There was international, and especially U.S., pressure to avoid a ground attack which meant that the limit of its military gains using only air power had been already attained. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to develop the best possible relationship with newly reelected President Barack Obama, with whom he will probably be dealing with–assuming Netanyahu’s reelection on January 22–for the next four years.

Equally important was that Israeli leaders–and public opinion generally agrees–know that a temporary ceasefire is the best outcome that can be obtained. A very large portion of Hamas’s weapons, especially longer-range missiles, has been destroyed and it will take Hamas time to rebuild. While people can come up with ideal solutions in their heads the problem is that Israel does not want to return to rule the Gaza Strip (which would involve armed battles almost daily) and does not have international support for overthrowing Hamas.

In a reasonable world, the international community would support, even join, in bringing down the current regime and replacing it with the Palestinian Authority. After all, Hamas staged an armed coup and chased out its Fatah rivals, killing many of them brutally. It then openly declared its intentions to commit genocide against Israel and Jews generally; staged a constant series of terror attacks; forced out the small Christian population; let al-Qaida affiliated groups operate; and systematically taught children to grow up to be terrorists and suicide bombers.

Instead, however, the international community is determined to protect the survival of the Hamas regime and the Palestinian Authority would not take back rule over the Gaza Strip, either by its own efforts to overthrow Hamas or at the hands of a victorious Israeli army. If the war continued, some more Hamas leaders would be killed and munitions would be destroyed. But that additional benefit would be limited. At the same time, more civilians would be killed on both sides and the relatively positive international support and mild media criticism–by the usual standards, of course–would dissipate.

Of course, everyone knows that this ceasefire won’t last. The key to anything more durable is if the Egyptian government decides that it wants to avoid another war because of its own interests. In other words, despite its hard line toward Israel, would the Brotherhood regime decide that it wanted to consolidate its rule over Egypt–totally transform the army; Islamize the society; and suppress Christians, women and secularist–before taking on Israel. Can it create a repressive regime and fight a jihad simultaneously or does it need to take on these tasks one at a time? By helping to broker the ceasefire, the Egyptian regime has also won points with the Obama Administration that should bring it benefits in future.

Thus, is the twisted situation characterizing contemporary Middle East politics and U.S. policy.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

We’d like to wish all our U.S. readers a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your turkey.

Has Obama Decided to Get Rid of Jordan’s King Abdullah?

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Has the U.S. Administration decided to get rid of Jordan’s King Abdullah?

This is the question that many Jordanians have been asking in the past few days following a remark made by a spokesman for the U.S. State Department.

Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner managed to create panic [and anger] in the Royal Palace in Amman when he stated that there was “thirst for change” in Jordan and that the Jordanian people had “economic, political concerns,” as well as “aspirations.”

The spokesman’s remark has prompted some Jordanian government officials to talk about a U.S.-led “conspiracy” to topple King Abdullah’s regime.

The talk about a “thirst for change” in Jordan is seen by the regime in Amman as a green light from the U.S. to King Abdullah’s enemies to increase their efforts to overthrow the monarchy.

The U.S. spokesman’s remark came as thousands of Jordanians took to the streets to protest against their government’s tough economic measures, which include cancelling subsidies for fuel and gas prices.

The widespread protests, which have been dubbed “The November Intifada,” have resulted in attacks on numerous government offices and security installations throughout the kingdom. Dozens of security officers have been injured, while more than 80 demonstrators have been arrested.

And for the first time, protesters in the Jordanian capital have been calling for overthrowing King Abdullah. In an unprecedented move, demonstrators last week tried to march on the monarch’s palace in Amman in scenes reminiscent of anti-regime protests in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Egypt.

The Jordanian authorities claim that non-Jordanian nationals who infiltrated the border have been involved in the violence, the worst to hit the kingdom in decades. The authorities say that Saudi and Syrian Muslim fundamentalists are responsible for attacks on government offices and other institutions, including banks.

Some Jordanian officials have pointed a blaming finger at Saudi Arabia and Qatar for encouraging the anti-regime protests and facilitating the infiltration of Muslim fundamentalists into the kingdom.

The officials believe that Jordan is paying the price of refusing to play a larger and stronger role in Saudi-Qatari efforts to topple Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

The talk about the involvement of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the recent unrest in Jordan prompted Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour to issue a warning to all the Gulf states that their security would be severely undermined if the Jordanian regime collapsed. Ensour was quoted as saying that the Gulf states would have to spend half their fortune in defending themselves against Muslim terrorists who would use Jordan as a launching pad to destabilize the entire Gulf.

Unless the U.S. clarifies its position regarding King Abdullah and reiterates its full backing for his regime, the Muslim fundamentalists are likely to step up their efforts to create anarchy and lawlessness in the kingdom. Washington needs to reassure King Abdullah and his followers that it would not allow the creation of an Islamic terror republic in Jordan. The Americans also need to put pressure on the Gulf countries to resume financial aid to Jordan, to avoid turning the kingdom into a source of threats against moderate Arabs and Muslims, as well as the West.

Originally published at the Gatestone Insitute.

In the Matter of Susan Rice

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Getting at the truth of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi is a work in progress and this is certainly a story with legs. Why U.S. personnel were not given adequate protection despite danger signals for weeks prior and why the Obama administration, in the face of intelligence information to the contrary, downplayed any terrorist dimension in the assault, urging instead that the attackers were ordinary Muslims upset about an anti-Muhammad video, is sure to be the focus of intense congressional attention.

But the brouhaha over the role of our UN Ambassador Susan Rice in promoting the deception has assumed a life of its own as she appears to be President Obama’s choice to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. To be sure, Ambassador Rice’s appearances on news programs touting the video scenario raises some serious questions. But there should also be concern over her comments to the UN Security Council in February 2011 when, ironically, she cast the U.S. veto of a resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion.

It will be recalled that there was a concerted effort on the part of the Palestinians and their allies to have the Security Council pass a resolution condemning Israel’s settlement growth. President Obama indicated early on that the U.S. would not go along with this and, if necessary, block the measure by voting against it. (Because the U.S. is a permanent member of the Security Council, this meant the measure would not pass.)

Video of the Security Council session show an obviously upset Ambassador Rice as she cast the negative vote. Her body language and facial expressions send an unmistakable message. Here are excerpts of what she said that day:

The United States has been deeply committed to pursuing a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In that context, we have been focused on taking steps that advance the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, rather than complicating it. That includes a commitment to work in good faith with all parties to underscore our opposition to continued settlements.Our opposition to the resolution before this Council today should therefore not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity. On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. For more than four decades, Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 has undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for peace and stability in the region. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace….

While we agree with our fellow Council members – and indeed, with the wider world – about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians. We therefore regrettably have opposed this draft resolution.

So, separate and apart from her role in the Benghazi aftermath. we have serious reservations about what it would mean for Israel should Ms. Rice become secretary of state. As for Benghazi, President Obama has defended Ms. Rice in the face of criticism that she misled the public. He has said she was following his orders. A similar defense was offered by members of the Black Congressional Caucus who insist that any criticism of Ms. Rice is racist and sexist since she was simply following the president’s directive.

In reality, of course, the ambassador has shown herself quite capable of communicating her personal disagreement with presidential policy when she feels the need to do so, as witness the above transcript.

We also note in this connection that as a cabinet level official, Ms. Rice had access to classified intelligence information concerning Benghazi that contradicts the administration’s initial video narrative. And how in the world did she overlook or dismiss the fact that the attack came on 9/11?

US Marines Off the Coast of Gaza?

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Why are we sending an amphibious readiness group (ARG) with a Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) embarked to sit off the Levantine coast?

U.S. officials say it’s to be prepared for any eventuality, including the need to evacuate American citizens, as the conflict between Hamas and Israel heats up.

But let’s parse that.  Are the U.S. officials suggesting we will need to evacuate Americans from Gaza?  And if we were to do that, what exactly would be the process?  Landing Marines from the 24 MEU in Gaza?  Flying helicopters from the ARG flagship, USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), into Gaza?

Why would we do that, when Egypt and even Hamas would cooperate, if we asked, to get Americans out of Gaza through Egypt?  It’s not to Hamas’s advantage to have Americans effectively held hostage in Gaza, and both Mohammed Morsi and the Hamas leadership know that.  Even if Hamas is intransigent, Morsi knows that he will retain more political independence, and greater scope of action, if he makes sure the Americans get out.  (Remember, Hamas is not his endgame.  Morsi has his own plans for Israel and Jerusalem.  See links at the end for background.*)

Morsi would broker the evacuation of Americans in Gaza if it came to that.  Neither he nor Hamas wants the U.S. Marines in Gaza.

Neither would Israel, of course, because the presence of the U.S. Marines would effectively tie Israel’s hands in dealing with Hamas’s leadership and infrastructure.  Why would the U.S. put troops unilaterally into a local conflict being fought by one of our allies?

Israel and Gaza

Yet if we don’t envision putting Marines into Gaza, then there’s no role for the ARG/MEU in this situation.  Americans evacuated through Egypt don’t need a Navy ship or the U.S. Marines; they need a flight out on an airline or charter jet.

I note but dismiss the media reports that we are moving the ARG/MEU to the Eastern Mediterranean to facilitate the evacuation of Americans from Israel.  This purpose would assume a catastrophic widening of the conflict that is not indicated by the circumstances.  More on that in a minute.  It would also assume conditions of chaos or lockdown in Israel, in which American citizens would have no option for escape other than the use of armed U.S. Marines, whom we would apparently, in this scenario, send into … Israel?

In no case does the tool fit the problem here.  An ARG/MEU isn’t even the right tool to influence the fight from offshore, for which you want an aircraft carrier, U.S. Air Force assets, and/or cruisers or destroyers.  As far as can be determined, the Obama administration has no intention of trying to affect the fight ashore, even from a stand-off distance.  But supposing it did, the fact is that an ARG/MEU is the right tool only if you especially want to put Marines over the beach.  In terms of performing as an intelligence collection asset, moreover, while the ARG/MEU can hold its own in some ways, national assets and the other theater assets – Air Force, Navy – have significant advantages over it.

What, exactly, does the Obama administration expect here?  Does it expect Americans to come under attack and need evacuating in Egypt?  In Lebanon?  If so, why?  And why does it expect to need Marines and their Navy combatant ships to get the job done?

The choice to send the ARG/MEU to the Eastern Mediterranean, rather than sending it home to the East coast – from which it departed on 27 March – seems to be a gesture more than anything else.  I discount the possibility that Obama plans to stymie the Israelis by putting Marines in Gaza.  That would raise a howl in his own Congress.  I also discount the idea that there is any real likelihood of the Middle East “exploding” if Israel does mount a ground invasion of Gaza.

If it did explode, one ARG/MEU would be wholly inadequate to deal with the multitude of crises that would erupt.  But it’s not going to, because the governments with radical leaders – Egypt, Turkey, Iran – aren’t ready for it to explode yet.  They are not positioned to take advantage of a tumultuous crisis in which real changes could be made to the status quo.  Morsi wants to make only the changes he intends to the Egyptian relationship with Israel, and make them on his timetable; he’s not interested in being backed into anything by Hamas.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dealing with Syria, is not prepared for the conflict to expand.  Even Iran isn’t necessarily ready, not because she doesn’t have her nukes yet, but because neither Iran nor anyone else knows if the U.S. will step in to help contain the consequences, if the Gaza-Israel conflict expands across the region.  It’s one thing to plan on pushing against a U.S.-backed order.  It’s another to be uncertain what might happen to the order, if you pushed.

The radicals are in charge of governments now, and they aren’t going to let things get out of control in their own countries.  Terrorists can’t mount a militarily meaningful attack on Israel, and Morsi isn’t going to let them do it from Egypt, in any case.  Hezbollah isn’t letting them do it from Lebanon either.  Jordan certainly will not allow it.   And none of the national governments – Egypt’s, Lebanon’s, Turkey’s, Iran’s, Jordan’s, Saudi Arabia’s – sees this as the time to try to rock Israel on her heels.

The reason is that they’re not ready for what could happen afterward.  Most of them don’t mind if it happens – I exclude Jordan and Saudi Arabia from this, as their monarchies would be at risk – but they want to prepare themselves and be positioned to exploit the turn of events.

Four years ago, the U.S. could have made it clear, with relatively little effort, that the status quo would be protected.  It would naturally take a little more effort now, because of the outcomes of the Arab Spring:  Mubarak gone, Hezbollah firmly in control of Lebanon, Syria in an uproar and Assad unable to govern.  But the most basic difference between November 2008 and November 2012 is that the actors in the Middle East can no longer reliably assess what the U.S. will and won’t tolerate.

Fortunately, they aren’t ready to push the status quo’s house of cards down just yet.  It still has benefits for them.  Even if Israel does mount a ground invasion of Gaza, there is no reason to expect that any kind of rioting in the region would turn into an uncontrollable conflagration.  The Middle East’s rulers don’t want it to.

Originally published at the Optimistic Conservative.

Ax Wielding Jew Attacks Tel Aviv US Embassy Staff

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

A security guard, was attacked by an ax wielding mentally unstable Jew from Bat Yam in front of the U.S. embassy on HaYarkon Street in Tel Aviv. Police is on its way.

Embassy guards returned fire at the attacker in response, hitting him and later arresting him.

A group of about 100 Arabs, calling itself the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, a radical group headed by Sheikh Raed Salah, was demonstrating in front of the embassy this morning.

Embassy spokesperson Luba Samri told reporters that ”a suspect came to the US embassy at 11:00 am (4 AM eastern) with a knife and an axe and attacked a security guard.” She said the guard was injured in the leg, and his fellow officers opened fire.

 

CORRECTION: The original report was that it was an Arab attacker, and that is not the case.

Guardian Staff Perplexed by US, UK Support for Israel

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Western government support for Israel’s right to defend it’s citizens against Hamas really infuriates some people.

Those who routinely demonize the Jewish state and parrot the most ludicrous claims about Israeli villainy – and excuse or ignore the racism, incitement and violence of Islamist extremists in the region – simply can’t wrap their mind around the fact their anti-Zionist view is extremely marginal.

The mind of Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell was evidently ready to explode upon hearing the expressions of support for Israel by British foreign secretary William Hague and former PM Tony Blair. So, Bell expressed, in cartoon form, his belief that the only possible explanation for this maddening political dynamic is the puppeteer like control exercised over the subservient British leaders by Israel’s Prime Minister.

Another ‘anti-Zionist head-exploding’ moment occurred when the U.S. House and Senate overwhelmingly passed non-binding resolutions backing “Israel’s right to self-defense.”

There’s nothing unusual about such a resolution, as popular support for Israel in America, based on polling by Gallup over the last 45 years, has been consistent and overwhelming - a fact which CiF contributor Glenn Greenwald, whose fear of powerful Jewish forces in the U.S. borders on the conspiratorial, simply can’t fathom.

He expressed his frustration today, thus:

Poor Glenn. The Congressional resolutions, which audaciously affirmed that “no nation”, including Israel, “can tolerate constant barrages of rockets against its civilian population”, actually passed unanimously.

In his essay on Nov. 2011, on ‘averting accusations of antisemitism‘, Guardian readers editor Chris Elliott warned Guardian journalists and commentators to avoid “antisemitic tropes such as Jews having too much power and control.”

Elliott also noted that “three times” he had “upheld complaints against language within articles [which] could be read as antisemitic”, such as his decision to delete the term “slavish” (to describe the US relationship with Israel) from a report by Chris McGreal.

Glenn Greenwald’s characterization of the democratically elected U.S. legislative body as “subservient” to Israel (and/or the Jewish lobby) similarly contains antisemitic undertones, but also represents, to quote Walter Russel Mead, a sign that the ‘Comment is Free’ contributor is among those who are “baffled, frustrated and the bewildered” and therefore “seek[s] a grand, simplifying hypothesis that can bring some kind of ordered explanation to a confusing world.”

“Anti-Semitism”, wrote Mead, “is one of the glittering frauds that attract the overwhelmed and the uncomprehending.”

The anti-Zionist left is increasingly defined as much by their intellectual laziness as they are by their blind subservience to the logic of historically right-wing Judeophobic narratives regarding the dangers of Jewish control.

Visit CifWatch.com.

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