Archive for the 'Middle East' Category
Posted by Jonathan on 20th March 2014 (All posts by Jonathan)
Michael Rubin in Commentary:
What self-described realists misunderstand when they pursue their cost-benefit analysis without emotion or regard for principle is that friendship and trust have value. In one chapter of Dancing with the Devil, I explore the history of intelligence politicization. Iraq may now be the marquee example upon which many progressives seize, but intelligence politicization occurred under every president dating back at least to Lyndon Johnson, if not before (the scope of my book was just the past half-century or so). Iraq intelligence was flawed, but the world will get over it, especially since it was consistent with the intelligence gathered by almost every other country and the United Nations. The betrayal of allies, however, is a permanent wound on America’s reputation that will not be easy to overcome.
This is a chronic problem. We were able to get away with being a fickle ally when we acted like a superpower. Our allies had no choice but to deal with us; our adversaries had to be cautious lest they provoke us. We betrayed Kurds, Iraqi Shiites and other groups without paying much of a long-term price. It was easy to be casual about our alliances. We could afford to see one-dimensional cynical calculations of national interest as realism.
But now that we behave like just another country we are beginning to pay more of a cost for our unreliability. Our design margin, in Wretchard’s phrase, has eroded. It is increasingly difficult for us to protect our remaining interests. The Obama foreign policy is an inverse force-multiplier.
Our geopolitical situation is going to deteriorate faster than most Americans expect.
Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, National Security, Quotations, Russia, War and Peace | 13 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th February 2014 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
This is what I used to call her, in blog posts at ncobrief.com during the run-up to the 2008 primaries; Hillary Clinton; who seemed so … inevitable. She would be there, a power to behold and take seriously in the presidential primaries. “In the place of a Dark Lord you would have a Queen! Not dark but beautiful and terrible as the Morn! Treacherous as the Seas! Stronger than the foundations of the Earth! All shall love me and despair!”
Well, I am certain that some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters have loved and despaired, in the resulting contest between ebony and ovary in the 2008 primaries. Eh – I didn’t care at the time, still don’t care and can’t be made to care. I will note for the record that my daughter was taking college classes then, and both of us were annoyed beyond all reason by the assumption that because we were both women, and politically involved, that we were OF COURSE all about Hillary. Our support was taken as a matter of fact. THE FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT! This possibility was apparently intended to make us both go wobbly in the knees and vote with our vaginas instead of our brains.
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Posted in Conservatism, Media, Middle East, Military Affairs, Politics, Terrorism | 23 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 3rd February 2014 (All posts by Jonathan)
Instapundit notes the passing of Barry Rubin, whose Rubin Report posts (later shared on PJ Media) were among the most thoughtful and accessible analyses of Middle Eastern politics. This is a great loss. My condolences to Mr. Rubin’s family.
Posted in Middle East, Obits | 1 Comment »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th January 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
UPDATE: I don’t seem to be the only one worried about a 1914 situation.
China’s current coercion of Japan over the islands is but a symptom of a larger illness in the international system. China has been leveraging its naval modernization to increase its movements through the seas and choke points surrounding Japan to break out into the Pacific. Last November, for example, flotillas of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy destroyers and submarines backed by air power encircled Japan for the first time, as PLA officers bragged about splitting and demolishing the first island chain. China is changing the regional balance with little resistance from the United States. Counter to Chinese public claims of surprise at a U.S. “overreaction,” recent discussions with Chinese officials over Beijing’s December air defense identification zone announcement suggests that the United States’ response was much weaker than the response the Chinese leadership had expected.
This is worrisome.
Last month I posted an observation that another world war may be coming. I noted that this summer is the 100th anniversary of the First World War and that the present situation is similar to that which preceded the 1914 war. I may not be the only one.
I concluded last month’s post as follows: The “two Ps” are Pakistan and the Palestinians. We live in an incredibly dangerous era and we are seeing an American president who does not understand geopolitics. God help us.
A recent column provided from someone attending the Davos Economic Forum discusses yet another potential fuse that is sputtering.
During the dinner, the hosts passed a microphone around the table and asked guests to speak briefly about something that they thought would interest the group.
One of the guests, an influential Chinese professional, talked about the simmering conflict between China and Japan over a group of tiny islands in the Pacific.
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Posted in China, Europe, History, Middle East, Obama | 20 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 25th January 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
The Iranian nuclear deal (more on the deal and the secret side agreement; see also this) refers to uranium enrichment thresholds of 5% and 20%. These may not sound too threatening, given that a nuclear weapon requires enrichment to around the 90% level. BUT the percentage enrichment of the uranium is NOT a good indicator of the amount of work required to get there.
Start with a tonne (2204 pounds) of natural uranium feed–to enrich it to 5% will require about 900 Separative Work Units–SWUs being an indicator of the amount of energy, time, and capital equipment required for the process. Take to 5% enriched product and continue enriching it to 20%, and the incremental cost will be only about 200 SWUs, for an accumulated total cost of 1100 SWUs. And if you want to turn the 20% enriched substance into weapons-grade 90%-enriched uranium, you need add only about another 200 SWUs of effort, for a grand total of 1300 SWUs. Thus, the effort required to get to that seemingly-harmless 5% threshold is already 69% of the way to weapons grade, and 20% enrichment is 84% of the way there. See this article, which explains that “the curve flattens out so much because the mass of material being enriched progressively diminishes to these amounts, from the original one tonne, so requires less effort relative to what has already been applied to progress a lot further in percentage enrichment.”
There has been very, very little media coverage on this point. One place the issue was discussed was in February and September 2012 reports by the American Enterprise Institute, which were discussed and excerpted at PowerLine in November 2013. Note that the AEI analysis shows an even flatter enrichment curve than the one in the article I linked above–AEI is showing 90% of the total effort for weapons-grade as being required to get to 5% enrichment, rather than “only” 69%. In either case, it should be clear that possession of large quantities of material enriched to 5% is a very nontrivial milestone on the way to constructing a nuclear weapon.
Meanwhile, 4 billion dollars worth of frozen Iranian funds are being unfrozen and sent to Iran. Money is fungible, and almost certainly some of this money will go to support Iranian-backed terrorism, funding operations intended to kill American military personnel, Israeli civilians, and quite possibly American civilians in this country as well. And some of it will probably go to support R&D on advanced centrifuge technology, allowing Iran to move even more quickly to a nuclear weapon when it decides to do so.
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Posted in Iran, Israel, Media, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 9th January 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Our good friend Seth Barrett Tillman has an excellent article, part personal narrative, part meditation on the basis of conflict between Arabs and Jews, based on thoughts on the book of Esther.
The article, “Purim & My Bangladeshi Friend” may be found by clicking here.
On the Jewish holiday of Purim the practice is to read the book of Esther. Purim is on March 15-16 in 2014. It is not a widespread practice, but I know Catholics who read the book of Esther on Purim, and I read it last year for the first time. If you have never read it, you should. It is only about 6,000 words, the length of a long article, not a book. You can find it here.
As Seth notes, while the story is one of survival for the Jews, it also shows the sorrow and disgrace suffered by every defeated people at the hands of their conquerors.
Every year at Purim, my co-religionists and I read Esther. The story, as customarily explained to children, is that Esther won a contest . . . something akin to the modern beauty pageant. The prize was that she was made queen – the wife of the Persian emperor. As a result, by pleading to her husband on behalf of her brethren, she was well-situated to save the Jewish community from the nefarious Haman, who actively plotted genocide against the Jews. Esther’s courage thwarts Haman and the community is saved, although it remained in exile. The story is presented as one with a happy ending.
But, that is the story as it is told to our children.
By contrast, an adult, who considered Esther, would understand that the story of Purim is also an intensely sad story.
Highly recommended. RTWT.
Posted in Arts & Letters, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Morality and Philosphy, Personal Narrative, Religion | 2 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th January 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The New Yorker has an interesting short piece about al Qeada, this week by Lawrence Wright. It concerns the recent court rulings about NSA metadata collection.
Judge Pauley invoked the example of Khalid al-Mihdhar, a Saudi jihadist who worked for Al Qaeda. On 9/11, he was one of the five hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. In early 2000, Mihdhar made seven calls from San Diego to an Al Qaeda safe house in Yemen. According to Pauley, the N.S.A. intercepted the calls, but couldn’t identify where Mihdhar was calling from. Relying on testimony by Robert Mueller, the former director of the F.B.I., Pauley concluded that metadata collection could have allowed the bureau to discover that the calls were being made from the U.S., in which case the bureau could have stopped 9/11.
Fair enough but Wright has another point.
But the Mihdhar calls tell a different story about why the bureau failed to prevent the catastrophe. The C.I.A. withheld crucial intelligence from the F.B.I., which has the ultimate authority to investigate terrorism in the U.S. and attacks on Americans abroad.
In August, 1998, truck bombs destroyed two American Embassies, in Kenya and Tanzania, killing two hundred and twenty-four people. Three days later, F.B.I. investigators captured a young Saudi named Mohammad al-‘Owhali at a hotel outside Nairobi. He had fresh stitches in his forehead and bloody bandages on his hands. In his pocket were eight brand-new hundred-dollar bills. Two skilled interrogators, Steve Gaudin and John Anticev, persuaded ‘Owhali to write down the number he called after the bombing. It belonged to Khalid al-Mihdhar’s father-in-law, Ahmed al-Hada, and was one of the most important pieces of information ever obtained in the effort to prevent terrorist acts in the U.S. It became known as the Al Qaeda switchboard.
The title of Wright’s piece is “The al Qeada Switchboard.”
The N.S.A.’s tracking of calls to and from the Hada household allowed the F.B.I. to map the global network of Al Qaeda. But not all the information was shared. In 1999, Mihdhar’s name surfaced in one of the recorded calls, linking him to Al Qaeda. “Something nefarious might be afoot,” an N.S.A. analyst wrote, but Mihdhar’s name was not passed on to the F.B.I.
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Posted in History, Islam, Law Enforcement, Middle East, Politics, Terrorism | 2 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 18th December 2013 (All posts by Jonathan)
David P. Goldman (“Spengler”):
Accepting the settlements is the sine qua non of any viable peace agreement. It does Israel no good to defend Israel’s right to exist but to condemn the settlers, as does Alan Dershowitz, not to mention the leaders of liberal Jewish denominations.
I believe in land for peace. That is a tautology: In territorial disputes the two main variables always are land and peace. But that implies more land for more peace and less land for less peace. The Palestinian Arabs had an opportunity to accept an Israeli state on just 5,500 square miles of land in 1947, and refused to do so. The armistice lines of 1948 left Israel with 8,550 square miles, and the Arab side refused to accept that. In 1967 Israel took an additional 5,628 square miles of land in dispute under international law; Jordan does not claim it, and no legal Arab authority exists to claim it. It is not “illegally occupied.” It has never been adjudicated by a competent authority.
To demand the 1948 armistice lines (the so-called 1967 borders) is to refuse any penalty for refusing to make peace in the past. That is the same as refusing any peace at all. Wars end when one side accepts defeat, and abandons the hope of restoring the status quo ante by force of arms. 1947 was a catastrophe (“Nakba”) for the Palestinian Arabs, to be sure, but it was a catastrophe of their own making; until they accept at least some degree of responsibility for the catastrophe, they will not be reconciled to any peace agreement. That is precisely what Palestine’s negotiator Saeb Erekat meant when he eschewed any recognition of Israel as a Jewish nation-state because “I cannot change my narrative.” The “narrative” is that the Jews are an alien intrusion into the Muslim Middle East and eventually must be eliminated by one means or another.
Of course this is right. What kind of stable resolution to hostilities requires the self-ethnic cleansing of disputed territory by one side? The only peace deal worth a damn would be one in which the West Bank Arabs welcomed their Jewish neighbors. That the Arabs, aided by their American and European lawyers, insist on a Judenrein Judea and Samaria is proof of continued bad faith. Israel should sit tight and retain all of its military advantages.
Posted in Israel, Jewish Leftism, Middle East, War and Peace | 20 Comments »
Posted by Carl from Chicago on 30th September 2013 (All posts by Carl from Chicago)
In the NY Times they had an article on the possible partition of Middle Eastern countries in the wake of the Syrian uprising. It long has been taught that the borders of the Middle East are a “mistake” made by the Western powers when they carved the region up amongst themselves. The unspoken message is that all the “troubles” in the area would have been avoided had the Western powers split the countries up according to tribal, religious or other lines that could have resulted in more cohesive states. Much of this may be true – many of the borders appear arbitrary – and yet lands and territories changed hands many times across the historical record.
An area of interest to me is Eastern Saudi Arabia, which the NY Times listed (as conjecture) as possibly a separate country. On many dimensions that is logical; the population of that province has a large Shiite composition and this makes it distinct from the rest of Saudi Arabia (which is supposedly 95% Sunni, although figures are not necessarily to be trusted). Historically these Shiites faced heavy discrimination, (data is sketchy and incomplete) as summarized in this wikipedia article:
They have usually been denounced as heretics, traitors, and non-Muslims. Shias were accused of sabotage, most notably for bombing oil pipelines in 1988. A number of Shias were even executed. In response to Iran’s militancy, the Saudi government collectively punished the Shia community in Saudi Arabia by placing restrictions on their freedoms and marginalizing them economically.Wahabi ulama were given the green light to sanction violence against the Shia. What followed were fatwas passed by the country’s leading cleric, Abdul-Aziz ibn Baz which denounced the Shias as apostates. Another by Adul-Rahman al-Jibrin, a member of the Higher Council of Ulama even sanctioned the killing of Shias. This call was reiterated in Wahabi religious literature as late as 2002.
While these sorts of oppressive behaviors on the parts of the majority are generally tied to rebellion and are logical for the NY Times to think of as possible separate states, this neglects the key fact that the world’s largest oil field, the Ghawar Field, is located in that province. The idea that the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia would give up their oil, which accounts for 80% of revenues, is incredibly naive. The Saudis would never give up their oil, for it is the sole engine of their economy and standard of living. It isn’t known what they’d do if there was a serious rebellion in the area, but I would have to assume that they would take whatever steps were necessary to curtail it and keep the oil flowing. It should be relatively easy for the Saudi government to accomplish this due to their wealth and strength in numbers.
One way to do this would be just to hire mercenaries, which is a tool that the (minority) government in Bahrain is using to hold onto power. Bahrain’s situation is trickier since the Sunni government is a minority in this oil-rich country, but the use of force and violence has been enough to keep the rebellion at bay. One tool for the Bahrain government has been to hire Sunni mercenaries:
For decades, the Bahraini authorities have been recruiting Sunni foreign nationals in the security forces from different countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq (Ba’athists), Yemen and Pakistan (Baluch) in order to confront any popular movement that usually comes from the Shia majority.
The idea that governments will give up valuable resources in the name of minority rights is a laughable Western idea. The NY Times map is a non-starter. The wealthy and powerful will not give up the (sole) source of their wealth without a tremendous fight from a determined and powerful enemy.
Cross posted at LITGM
Posted in Energy & Power Generation, History, Middle East | 10 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th September 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I read left wing blogs most days to see what the other side thinks. I used to comment but the comments were usually deleted, often without notice, so the nasty responses to my comments would be there the next day but the offending comments would not appear.
The Huffington Post has become a very successful left wing site that advertises itself as moderate. I skim it most days and occasionally comment although my comments are all moderated and I can’t tell if they are deleted or not. I have a few followers so some must appear. Today I went there to see what the left thinks of the Syrian fiasco. The headline was not reassuring. That may change soon but it says “We Have a Deal !” The story follows with a rather naive heading.
The story has over 14 thousand comments, double the number when I read the story earlier this morning. The story is bad enough.
A diplomatic breakthrough Saturday on securing and destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile averted the threat of U.S. military action for the moment and could swing momentum toward ending a horrific civil war.
Marathon negotiations between U.S. and Russian diplomats at a Geneva hotel produced a sweeping agreement that will require one of the most ambitious arms-control efforts in history.
The deal involves making an inventory and seizing all components of Syria’s chemical weapons program and imposing penalties if President Bashar Assad’s government fails to comply will the terms.
After days of intense day-and-night negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and their teams, the two powers announced they had a framework for ridding the world of Syria’s chemicals weapons.
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Posted in Anti-Americanism, Blogging, Conservatism, Current Events, History, International Affairs, Leftism, Middle East, Obama, Russia, Terrorism | 33 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 13th September 2013 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
There are few places in history where you see a stand unto death by western militaries that rivals that of the Spartans at Thermopylae. It takes a very special kind of “morale” and “moral” character for any military unit to fight effectively until killed. In 1973, on the Golan Heights, the IDF Armored Corps did just that.
In western military writings you hear a great deal about Avigdor Kahalani’s 77 Regiment of the 7th Armoured Brigade holding off the Syrians with fewer than 25 tanks and almost no ammunition at the end on the Golan Heights. What you don’t hear about is the 188th (Barak) Brigade, which held the southern Golan Heights and was wiped out, but did the following before it died, from this link:
Dead IDF Centurion Tank on the Golan Heights
The Syrian 1st Armored Division was advancing up the route toward the Golan HQ at Nafakh. Colonel Yitzhak Ben-Shoham, the Barak Brigade’s commander, realized his brigade was for all intents and purposes destroyed. He therefore organized and led a small group of surviving tanks in a holding action that slowed the Syrian advance on his HQ for several hours until he and the rest of the defenders were killed. With the brigade commander dead, no reserves in sight and two Syrian brigades advancing toward the Golan HQ–and with some units having bypassed the base on both flanks–the situation could only be described as grave. Lead elements of the Syrian brigades actually reached Nafakh and broke through the base’s southern perimeter. One Syrian T-55 crashed into General Eitan’s HQ, only to be knocked out by the last operational tank in Gringold’s platoon.
At that point, Eitan evacuated his headquarters to an improvised location farther to the north. Those left to defend the base manned two trackless Centurions from the camp repair depot and fired bazookas in a final stand that knocked out several Syrian tanks until those last Israeli tanks were destroyed.
The 188th Barak Brigade was no more.
That was very much a “Thermopylae” any way you cut it. There is a reason the “Valley of Tears” happened in 1973 as it did.
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Posted in History, Holidays, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, War and Peace | 6 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 11th September 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
(Rerun, with an important update at the end)
Simply evil: Christopher Hitchens suggests that sometimes the simple and obvious explanation for an event is more accurate than an explanation which relies on an elaborate structure of “nuance”
A time bomb from the Middle Ages. Roger Simon explains how 9/11 altered his worldview and many of his relationships
An attack, not a disaster or a tragedy. George Savage explains why the persistent use of terms like “tragedy” by the media acts to obfuscate the true nature of the 9/11 attacks. Much more on this from Mark Steyn
Claire Berlinski was in Paris on 9/11. Shortly thereafter she wrote this piece for City Journal
Marc Sasseville and Heather Penney were F-16 pilots with an Air National Guard squadron. Their order was to bring down Flight 93 before the terrorists in control of it could create another disaster on the scale of the World Trade Center…but their aircraft were configured for training, with no live ammunition and no missiles. A video interview with Major Penney here
Joseph Fouché writes about how the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001, and the murder of Ahmed Shah Masood on September 9 of that year, prefigured the 9/11 attacks.
On September 11, 2005, Rare Kate didn’t go to church. Follow the link to find out why. In my original post linking this, I said “What if American and British religious leaders had responded the depradations of Naziism in the spirit of this liturgy? Actually, some of them did. The impact on preparedness was certainly malign, and the people who took such positions certainly bear a share of moral resposibility for the deaths and devastation that took place. Ditto for those who are behaving in a similar way today.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an important leader of the anti-Nazi resistance in Germany (executed in 1945), wrote the following:
Today there are once more saints and villains. Instead of the uniform grayness of the rainy day, we have the black storm cloud and the brilliant lightning flash. Outlines stand out with exaggerated sharpness. Shakespeare’s characters walk among us. The villain and the saint emerge from primeval depths and by their appearannce they tear open the infernal or the divine abyss from which they come and enable us to see for a moment into mysteries of which we had never dreamed.
I was reminded of the above passage by something Cara Ellison said in a 2009 post about 9/11:
I guess I thought they were all gone, those types of monsters, stranded on reels of black and white film.
The refusal on the part of many individuals to face the seriousness of the radical Islamist threat to out civilization stems in significant part, I feel certain, from a desire to avoid the uncomfortable and even dangerous kind of clarity that Bonhoeffer was talking about.
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Posted in Anti-Americanism, History, Islam, Middle East, Obama, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 9th September 2013 (All posts by Jonathan)
Stephen J. Rosen has written a smart piece on how Obama forced AIPAC to back his planned military action against the Syrian regime. It’s titled “Pushed on the Bandwagon,” and he makes a strong case. Of course, AIPAC views action on Syria as a kind of proxy for action against Iran, and assumes that the former will make the latter more likely when push comes to shove. In fact, bopping Assad may well be a substitute for action against Iran: Obama hopes that by a relatively cheap shot at Syria, he’ll restore enough credibility to restrain Israel vis-à-vis Iran. Alas, a cheap shot won’t restrain Iran, and may even impel it to push its nuke plans forward. Israel has to face reality: it may or may not be a post-American world, but it’s a post-American Middle East. (And if the military operation goes badly it could be post-AIPAC, too.)
The Rosen piece is here. It’s worth reading, particularly for the reminder of how Obama operates politically (there are no appeals to principle; it’s all about arm twisting, threats and domestic political considerations).
Kramer’s interpretation is persuasive. Obama probably wants to use a weak attack on Syria, or preferably mere talk about Syria if he can get away with it, as a substitute for rather than a prelude to doing anything about Iran’s nuclear program. Syria is Iran’s puppet and if Obama were serious he’d be going after the mullahs. Instead he appears to be running out the clock until they have nukes, while also doing his best to degrade our military in order to lock in our impotence for the foreseeable future. (J. E. Dyer discusses our current weakness in detail: here, here and here.)
Whatever the course of Obama’s political career going forward, we are probably going to pay dearly for his ineptitude and anti-American malice.
Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Jewish Leftism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Quotations, Terrorism, War and Peace | 7 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 9th September 2013 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
The thing that really bothers me in all the back and forth surrounding the American strike on the Assad Regime debate, and the Democratic Party aligned media spin of what the meaning of words “Red Line” mean, is how off-point from the interests of the American people it all is. The Assad regime’s use of Nerve Gas isn’t the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Deploying those Clinton era spin techniques over the definition of “Red Line” is the political equivalent of pointing and yelling “_Squirrel_!”
The bottom line is that if the Assad regime of Syria survives on the strength of chemical weapons of mass destruction, an incredibly dangerous to American national security situation will come to pass. The Chemical Weapons Convention will be dead, publicly murdered and discredited similar to the way the Kellogg-Briant Pact against war was in the face of Nazi rearmament. There will be an arms race for chemical weapons of mass destruction in the Mid-East & elsewhere. That will require the US military to rearm with either lethal chemicals or with tactical nukes — with all the costs that requires both financial and moral — in order to maintain a credible deterrent for future conventional military operations.
The issue with the Assad Regime’s use of chemical weapons of mass destruction is the Assad regime . The only fit punishment, one that will prevent catalytic proliferation of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction around the world, is the Assad Regime’s over throw. That overthrow is readily obtainable by American military forces and can be achieved without a single boot on the ground, nor a single foreign ally.
The fact that the Obama Administration is unwilling use grasp those means, and to politically justify their use with the same sort of weapons of mass destruction argument that Pres. George W. Bush deployed to justify regime change in Iraq, is the real strategic “Red Line” for Syria. It is a Red Line that the American people chose in electing a Democratic Senate in 2006 and in both electing and reelecting Pres. Obama (and a Democratic Senate) in 2008 and 2012.
It is a “Red Line” that has to be erased by competent and principled Presidential leadership that forthrightly explains the threat, continually over time, if Americans are to continue enjoying — its admittedly rapidly declining — freedom from police state surveillance at home.
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Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, Uncategorized, USA, Xenophon Roundtable | 24 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 7th September 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Pope Francis has called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace. I’m doing it. I hope you will, too. J
John Paul II opposed the invasion of Iraq. At the time I thought he was wrong. He proved to be right. I am paying more attention to His Holiness this time.
Posted in Announcements, Middle East, Religion | Comments Off
Posted by Helen on 30th August 2013 (All posts by Helen)
By now, there can be nobody in the United States who is even remotely interested in foreign affairs who does not know that on Thursday the government in Britain suffered a defeat in the House of Commons with a clearly hostile debate in the House of Lords over the question of whether to intervene militarily in Syria.
Much has been made that this is the first defeat for a government over matters of war since some imbroglio in the eighteenth century when the Prime Minister was Lord North. The reason is actually simple: the government does not have to go to Parliament over either declaration of war and actual acts of war. These come under the Royal Prerogative, which is now vested in the government of the day and all attempts to change that through legislation have failed. However, Tony Blair found it necessary to ask Parliament (several times) about the war in Iraq and got his authorization. It would have been impossible for David Cameron to do otherwise but his case was quite genuinely not good enough to pass muster.
I wrote a blog a few days ago, in which I put together some of the questions that, in my opinion, those clamouring for intervention needed to answer. This has not happened to any acceptable degree and even after the vote, those who are hysterically lambasting the MPs refuse to do so, constantly shifting the ground as to why we should intervene.
Since the vote, which was immediately accepted by the Prime Minister, possibly with secret relief, I became involved in ferocious disputations on the subject. In the end I decided to sum up the situation as I saw it in another, rather long, blog. It is largely about the situation as far as Britain is concerned so it may be of interest to readers of this blog.
For the record, I do not think this is the end of the Special Relationship, which exists on many more levels than political posturing. As I say in the blog, if it survived Harold Wilson’s premiership, it will survive the Obama presidency. Some things are more important than immediate and confused politicking.
Posted in Anglosphere, Blogging, Britain, Current Events, Middle East | 16 Comments »
Posted by Ralf Goergens on 29th August 2013 (All posts by Ralf Goergens)
Max von Oppenheim was a German ancient historian, and archaeologist who also worked as a diplomat and spy for the German Empire during the First World War. In those latter two capacities, he basically tried to incite Jihad against the Entente powers. From Wikipedia:
During World War I, Oppenheim led the Intelligence Bureau for the East and was closely associated with German plans to initiate and support a rebellion in India and in Egypt. In 1915 Henry McMahon reported that Oppenheim had been encouraging the massacre of Armenians in Mosques.
Oppenheim had been called to the Wilhelmstrasse from his Kurfurstendamm flat on 2 August 1914 and given the rank of Minister of Residence. He began establishing Berlin as a centre for pan-Islamic propaganda publishing anti-Entente texts. On August 18 1914 he wrote to Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg to tell him that Germany must arm the Muslim brotherhoods of Libya, Sudan and Yemen and fund Arab exile pretenders like the deposed Egyptian Khedive, Abbas Hilmi. He believed Germany must incite anti-colonial rebellion in French North Africa and Russian Central Asia and incite Habibullah Khan, the Emir of Afghanistan, to invade British India at the head of an Islamic army. Oppenheim’s Exposé Concerning the Revolutionizing of the Islamic territories of our enemies contained holy war propaganda and ‘sketched out a blueprint for a global jihad engulfing hundreds of millions of people’. Armenians and Maronite Christians were dismissed as Entente sympathizers, quite useless to Germany nicht viel nutzen konnen. 
Because Germany was not an Islamic power the war on the Entente powers needed to be ‘endorsed with the seal of the Sultan-Caliph’ and on 14 November 1914 in a ceremony at Fatih Mosque the first ever global jihad had been inaugurated. The impetus for this move came from the German government, which subsidized distribution of the Ottoman holy war fetvas, and most of the accompanying commentaries from Muslim jurists, and Oppenheim’s jihad bureau played a significant role. By the end of November 1914 the jihad fetvas had been translated into French, Arabic, Persian and Urdu. Thousands of pamphlets emerged under Oppenheim’s direction in Berlin at this period and his Exposé declared that, “the blood of infidels in the Islamic lands may be shed with impunity”, the “killing of the infidels who rule over the Islamic lands” , meaning British, French, Russian, and possibly Dutch and Italian nationals, had become ” a sacred duty”. And Oppenheim’s instructions, distinct from traditional ‘jihad by campaign’ led by the Caliph, urged the use of ‘individual Jihad’, assassinations of Entente officials with ‘cutting, killing instruments’ and ‘Jihad by bands’,- secret formations in Egypt, India and Central Asia.
“During the First World War, he worked in the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, where he founded the so-called “message Centre for the Middle East”, as well as at the German Embassy in Istanbul. He sought to mobilize the Islamic population of the Middle East against England during the war and can be seen thus almost as a German counterpart to Lawrence of Arabia. The AA pursued a strategy of Islamic revolts in the colonial hinterland of the German enemy. The spiritual father of this double approach, the war first, by troops on the front line and secondly by people’s rebellion “in depth” was by Oppenheim.”
The German adventurer met with very little success in World War I. To this day, the British see him as a “master spy” because he founded the magazine El Jihad in 1914 in an effort to incite the Arabs to wage a holy war against the British and French occupiers in the Middle East. But his adversary Lawrence of Arabia, whom he knew personally, was far more successful at fomenting revolts.
Lawrence of Arabia, aka T. E. Lawrence was successful because he didn’t appeal to religious fervor, but rather to the far more basic sentiment of ethnic solidarity against an oppressor of different ethnic origin. In other words, the Arabs cared far more about their struggle against the Turkish Empire than they did about religion, leave alone jihad.
Posted in Britain, Christianity, Europe, France, Germany, History, International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, Religion, Russia, War and Peace | 2 Comments »
Posted by Margaret on 29th August 2013 (All posts by Margaret)
While President Obama has been dithering about Syria, I’ve been nerdishly crunching numbers. On the web you can find every possible opinion about what the US ought to do, ranging from “Nothing,” to “Depose Assad.” Apart from the difficulty of achieving the latter goal, shouldn’t we think about what happens if Assad goes? Long term, some equally nasty types take over, and better-informed people than I can argue about just how bad that’s likely to be. But I haven’t seen any discussion of one likely immediate consequence.
At the beginning of this year, Syria had an estimated 2.6 million Alawites and 2.3 million Christians. Despite the refugee exodus, I believe most of those people are still in Syria. If Islamist groups like al-Nusra replace Assad,what are their chances of survival?
100,000 people have been killed so far, and that’s bad enough. But if we do seriously attempt to depose Assad, we should at least acknowledge the likelihood that another five million people will die.
The Holocaust is credited with six million deaths. Will the deaths of Syrian Alawites and Christians be less tragic because their murderers aren’t as well organized as the Germans? Will this massacre be okay because nobody will take the time to tattoo numbers on the victims’ arms?
Posted in International Affairs, Middle East | 12 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 23rd August 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
…and thereby misses the real story.
Writing about Hillary Clinton as the prospective Democratic presidential candidate, Camille Paglia asks “What exactly has she ever accomplished?”
Camille, Camille, Camille.
Would anyone have asked, upon George III’s accession to the Kingship, “What exactly has he ever accomplished?”
Would anyone have asked, when Marie Antoinette became the Queen of France, “What exactly has she ever accomplished?”
Would anyone have asked, when Lord Cardigan was named commander of the Light Brigade and his brother-in-law the Earl of Lucan was named overall British cavalry commander in the Crimean War, ”What exactly have they ever accomplished?” (Well, a few people did, but they were pretty much ignored)
Camille, your question reflects the mindset of an earlier America in which it was widely believed that leaders should be selected based on their actual accomplishments. This didn’t always actually happen, of course, but at least it was the ideal. But today, our society is being pushed hard in the direction of an aristocratic model wherein elevation to leadership is a matter of factors quite other than a track record of success in performing whatever tasks the leader is supposed to be carrying out. This transformation is largely complete in the field of politics, and is rapidly advancing in other areas of American life as well.
Hillary Clinton is a member of a political family–a member by marriage, it is true, but still a member. She attended an Ivy League college. She vacations in the Hamptons. She is popular with members of the entertainment industry. She has name recognition among people whose reading does not go past the celebrity magazines on the rack at the supermarket checkout stand.
These are the things that matter today in identifying an aristocrat who is qualified for high political office. Actual accomplishments, actual failures (see Benghazi, see indeed the whole Middle East) are of minor significance by comparison.
America is falling increasingly under the domination of a political aristocracy of great power and privilege: an aristocracy, moreover, which imposes very little in the way of responsibilities on itself. We are getting the social rigidity and the incompetence in high places that tend to be associated with the aristocratic form of government, without any of the partially-offsetting virtues that historical aristocracies have sometimes developed.
Posted in Middle East, Politics, Society, USA | 23 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 21st August 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
Roger Simon writes about Obama’s strange apparent affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Scott Johnson writes about the true nature of this Fascist organization.
Hans von Spakovsky writes about the historical connections between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nazi party, as well as the MB’s current Nazi-like behavior: Kristallnacht in Egypt.
Posted in Germany, Islam, Middle East, Obama, USA | 17 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 9th July 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
Appeasement, British-style: Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer have been banned from entering Britain. The reason? Fear that they might say something offensive to Muslims….especially those Muslims of the extremist and violence-prone stamp.
Appeasement, American-style: At the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, inmates were unhappy that the treadmills provided for exercise were “Made in America.” So they were replaced with treadmills made in Muslim countries. And even worse: since detainees objected to the sight of the American flag, it is no longer raised at Guantanamo anywhere the inmates can see it.
Appeasement, German-style: A female Muslim student at the University of Duisburg-Essen ripped down parts of a graphic novel exhibit, which included the work of the internationally known Israeli artist Rutu Modan. Journalist Pascal Beucker says that the university’s management remains puzzled over the student’s conduct. Indeed, they were so puzzled that: “As a result of the student’s handiwork, school officials promptly closed the exhibit.” What about the vandal? ”The university management said it would conduct a conversation with the Muslim student about her conduct and reserves the right to take legal action against her, according to rector Ulrich Radtke.” (emphasis added)
Also, see this post by Barry Rubin about some revelations concerning the Obama administration’s attitude toward the Muslim Brotherhood.
Posted in Britain, Germany, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 1 Comment »
Posted by Margaret on 3rd July 2013 (All posts by Margaret)
It’s easy to see the last week’s events as an indictment of Islamist rule, but I don’t think that’s what is going on here. (Caveat: all I know is what I read in the papers and online. I’m not writing with the benefit of firsthand knowledge.)
Egypt has serious problems that have nothing to do with Islamism. The country that was the Roman Empire’s granary has become dependent on imported food – and they’re running out of money to buy it. The economy is so bad, it would make Obama proud: high unemployment, rising prices, fuel shortages. Oh, and an “education” system that manages to combine massive illiteracy with a university system that churns out ever more graduates with degrees that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. [Here I’m going to exercise great self-control and not go on about the specific linguistic and cultural features that make literacy in Arabic much more difficult than literacy in Western languages, because people do tend to back away slowly when I get going on linguistic matters. I hope you’re all properly appreciative.]
Last week Leslie Chang pointed out, in a New Yorker article, that she had “yet to meet a politician with a substantive plan to overhaul a system of food and fuel subsidies that eats up almost one third of the budget, or to reform the education sector, or to stimulate foreign investment.”
What I’ve seen and read about the protestors doesn’t inspire me with any confidence. Just as the last ones had pictures of Mubarak inside a Star of David, these have posters of Morsi inside a Star of David. They’re beating the previous protestors’ record for sexual assaults in Tahrir Square. I think what they’re unhappy about is that they’re unemployed and hungry and Morsi’s government hasn’t done anything to improve their lot. A government that rescued Egypt from its economic death spiral would probably make all the protestors happy. And if the government is anti-Semitic, anti-women and Islamist? Those would likely be features, not bugs.
So let’s not be too optimistic here. The fact that the protestors dislike Obama doesn’t guarantee that they are nice guys or that they will do any better than the previous regimes.
Posted in Middle East | 23 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 1st July 2013 (All posts by David Foster)
Check out this photograph of protesters against the Morsi regime in Egypt.
Then see this: Anti-government demonstrators in Egypt expressed anger and contempt for the Obama administration as they took to the streets on Sunday to demand the removal of Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi.
The demonstrators maintain Morsi has become a power-hungry autocrat who is intent on making the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt’s permanent ruling party.
They also blame the Obama administration and U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson for propping up Morsi and facilitating the Muslim Brotherhood’s power grab.
“We are very critical of the Obama administration because they have been supporting the Brotherhood like no one has ever supported them,” Shadi Al Ghazali Harb, a 24-year-old member of Egypt’s Revolutionary Youth Coalition, told the Washington Free Beacon on Friday afternoon during a telephone interview from Cairo.
The White House is “the main supporter of the Brotherhood,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the American support this president would have fallen months ago.”
See also this–a sign carried by Egyptian demonstrators: “Wake Up America, Obama Backs Up a Fascist Regime in Egypt”
…to which PowerLine responds:
Well, yes. So he does. What is bizarre is that Obama hasn’t just tolerated the Brotherhood’s rise to power, he has abetted it. It would be defensible to argue that we have little power to influence events in Egypt, and, moreover, attempts on our part to exercise influence are likely to backfire; therefore we should stand aside and do nothing. But why Obama would consider it a good idea to put America’s thumb on the scale on the side of the Brotherhood is beyond me.
The Obama administration has also–through its ambassador–asked the Coptic Church to urge its members not to participate in the demonstrations against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The ( Coptic) Pope politely informed her that his spiritual authority over the Copts does not extend to political matters.
Regardless, many Egyptian activists are condemning Patterson for flagrantly behaving like the Muslim Brotherhood’s stooge. Leading opposition activist Shady el-Ghazali Harb said Patterson showed “blatant bias” in favor of Morsi and the Brotherhood, adding that her remarks had earned the U.S. administration “the enmity of the Egyptian people.” Coptic activists like George Ishaq openly told Patterson to “shut up and mind your own business.” And Christian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris—no stranger to Islamist hostility—posted a message on his Twitter account addressed to the ambassador saying “Bless us with your silence.”
The post at the link notes that:
Among other things, under Morsi’s rule, the persecution of Copts has practically been legalized, as unprecedented numbers of Christians—men, women, and children—have been arrested, often receiving more than double the maximum prison sentence, under the accusation that they “blasphemed” Islam and/or its prophet. It was also under Morsi’s reign that another unprecedented scandal occurred: the St. Mark Cathedral—holiest site of Coptic Christianity and headquarters to the Pope Tawadros himself—was besieged in broad daylight by Islamic rioters. When security came, they too joined in the attack on the cathedral. And the targeting of Christian children—for abduction, ransom, rape, and/or forced conversion—has also reached unprecedented levels under Morsi.
Yet Obama’s ambassador attempted to dissuade these persecuted Christians from protesting against their persecutors!
More at Pam Geller’s site. Note the picture with the sign saying “Obama Supports Dictator Morsi.”
It is hard to avoid the feeling that Obama is more sympathetic to radical Muslim organizations and regimes than to the millions of more moderate Muslims who would prefer modernization and civil liberties rather than strict shariah and violent aggression against other faiths. Whether or not that has truly been his intent, it is certainly the way his policies have worked out in practice.
Posted in Leftism, Middle East, Obama, USA | 15 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 13th June 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The latest word on the NSA scandal, and it is a scandal, is that the FBI is not allowed to snoop on mosques.
Since October 2011, mosques have been off-limits to FBI agents. No more surveillance or undercover string[sic] operations without high-level approval from a special oversight body at the Justice Department dubbed the Sensitive Operations Review Committee.
Who makes up this body, and how do they decide requests? Nobody knows; the names of the chairman, members and staff are kept secret.
We do know the panel was set up under pressure from Islamist groups who complained about FBI stings at mosques. Just months before the panel’s formation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations teamed up with the ACLU to sue the FBI for allegedly violating the civil rights of Muslims in Los Angeles by hiring an undercover agent to infiltrate and monitor mosques there.
That makes sense. After all, all terrorists thus far have been fundamentalist Christians.
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Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anti-Americanism, Islam, Middle East, Military Affairs, Politics, Religion, Terrorism | 75 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th May 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Last week was a week for the conspiracy theories. First, we had Benghazi and the hearings which interviewed career State Department officers, most of whom probably vote for Democrats. The fact that they were ordered not to talk to Congressmen and denied any attempt at help when under attack, even from as close as Tripoli, invites speculation about motive. Peggy Noonan, a little unusually, hits this one out of the park.
Since it is behind a pay wall, I’ll quote a few bits.
What happened in Benghazi last Sept. 11 and 12 was terrible in every way. The genesis of the scandal? It looks to me like this:
The Obama White House sees every event as a political event. Really, every event, even an attack on a consulate and the killing of an ambassador.
Because of that, it could not tolerate the idea that the armed assault on the Benghazi consulate was a premeditated act of Islamist terrorism. That would carry a whole world of unhappy political implications, and demand certain actions. And the American presidential election was only eight weeks away. They wanted this problem to go away, or at least to bleed the meaning from it.
That sounds about right to me.
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Posted in Elections, Health Care, Islam, Medicine, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Tea Party, Terrorism | 12 Comments »