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Posts: 1028

« Reply #200 on: November 11, 2011, 12:17:36 PM »

Obama, Sarkozy’s Contempt for Netanyahu Exposed
Posted By Joseph Klein On November 9, 2011

It has been evident for some time that President Obama intensely dislikes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Then again, Obama does not have much use for Israel altogether.

The latest example occurred during an unscripted moment when microphones were accidentally left on after a G-20 press conference in Cannes last week had concluded. They picked up a private conversation between Obama and French President Nicholas Sarkozy exchanging bitter words about Netanyahu.

Sarkozy went first. He said, “I cannot stand him. He is a liar.”

Obama couldn’t help himself. He tried to outdo Sarkozy in expressing his displeasure with Netanyahu. “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day,” Obama replied spontaneously without his usual teleprompter to guide him.

Reporters heard the two leaders’ childish insults because the microphones were inadvertently still operating. They were asked afterwards not to disclose what they heard, and many of the journalists went along with the gag request. Fortunately, there are at least a few honest journalists who don’t much like government censorship of a legitimate news story.

France had just voted in favor of the Palestinians’ full membership in UNESCO. It also has reportedly decided to abstain, rather than vote no, when the Security Council takes up consideration of the Palestinian bid for full UN membership.

The United States voted no in UNESCO. It will, if necessary, also veto any Security Council resolution recommending full state membership for the Palestinians in the entire UN system. Obama knows that to do otherwise would cost him dearly in next year’s presidential election amongst Jewish voters whom would normally be in his corner.

However, we all know what Obama really thinks. This is a president who has gone out of his way to visit Muslim countries in the same region as Israel, but has yet to visit Israel itself since taking office. Obama had no trouble bowing to the Saudi king, while insulting the Israeli prime minister at every turn.

Obama’s latest blast at Netanyahu recalls his snub of Netanyahu during the prime minister’s first visit to the Obama White House in March 2010. Obama presented Netanyahu with a list of demands, including a halt to all settlement construction in East Jerusalem. When Netanyahu resisted Obama’s charms, Obama picked up his marbles. He stormed out of the meeting and declared, “I’m going to the residential wing to have dinner with Michelle and the girls.” Obama also refused the normal protocol of a joint photograph with the Israeli leader.

  “There is no humiliation exercise that the Americans did not try on the prime minister and his entourage,” Israel’s Maariv newspaper reported on the treatment of the leader of our closest ally and only genuine democracy in the Middle East. “Bibi received in the White House         the treatment reserved for the president of Equatorial Guinea.”
A little more than a year later, on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit to Washington to address a joint session of Congress, Obama tried to upstage him by proposing that Israel, without receiving any meaningful concession in return, offer to start negotiations based on Israel’s shrinking back to the indefensible pre-1967 lines with some unspecified minor mutual land swaps. Once again, Netanyahu would not play along with Obama’s shenanigans. During a joint news conference, Netanyahu was the grown-up in the room and delivered a candid, strongly worded rebuke to Obama’s demand for Israeli concessions that left Obama squirming:

This is something that we want to have accomplished.  Israel wants peace.  I want peace.  What we all want is a peace that will be genuine, that will hold, that will endure.  And I think that the — we both agree that a peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality, and that the only peace that will endure is one that is based on reality, on unshakeable facts.

I think for there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities.  The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines — because these lines are indefensible…Remember that, before 1967, Israel was all of nine miles wide.  It was half the width of the Washington Beltway.  And these were not the boundaries of peace; they were the boundaries of repeated wars, because the attack on Israel was so attractive.

After pointing out that Palestinian President Abbas was making negotiations more difficult by announcing his intention to form a unity government with Hamas, which he called the “Palestinian version of al Qaeda,” Netanyahu discussed the Palestinians’ insistence on the right of return of millions of Palestinian refugees to pre-1967 Israel. “Now, 63 years later, the Palestinians come to us and they say to Israel, accept the grandchildren, really, and the great grandchildren of these refugees, thereby wiping out Israel’s future as a Jewish state,” said Netanyahu. “I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly it’s not going to happen.”

Obama and Sarkozy do not like dealing with uncomfortable truths when it comes to defining what it will really take to reach a genuine, secure peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Sarkozy calls Netanyahu a “liar” for telling the truth, and Obama complains that he has to listen to the unvarnished truth from Netanyahu “every day.”

But, as the saying goes, know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Here are four fundamental and undeniable truths for Obama and Sarkozy to consider:

The truth about the risks for peace Israel has already taken to no avail, as jihadist terrorists launch waves of rockets from Gaza aimed at killing innocent Israeli civilians including children.
The truth about Hamas, with whom the more “moderate” Abbas wants to form a unity government.
The truth about the Palestinians’ denial of Israel’s basic right to exist as the only Jewish state in the world – a policy of rejectionism that led directly to the Palestinians’ present stateless condition and which their leaders continue to propound today.
The truth about the Palestinians’ insistence on the “right of return,” which is intended to destroy the Jewish character of whatever remains of Israel after reaching agreement with the Palestinians on borders. On this point, Obama should face the truth that his demand that Israel essentially return to the pre-1967 lines, while not simultaneously insisting to the Palestinians that they take the “right of return” of millions of Palestinian refugees to pre-1967 Israel off the table for good, is self-contradictory at best.
As Prime Minister Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly in his September 23rd speech, “I hope that the light of truth will shine, if only for a few minutes.” Whether or not they “cannot stand” Netanyahu, it’s time for Obama, Sarkozy and other world leaders to stop whitewashing the truth.

"You have enemies?  Good.  That means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill.
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« Reply #201 on: November 11, 2011, 01:30:55 PM »

But he wore a kippa at AIPAC.....   rolleyes
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« Reply #202 on: December 03, 2011, 02:22:11 PM »
These are the guys we are not helping?
Syria Would Cut Iran Military Tie, Opposition Head Says


PARIS—A Syrian government run by the country's main opposition group would cut Damascus's military relationship to Iran and end arms supplies to Middle East militant groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, the group's leader said, raising the prospect of a dramatic realignment of powers at the region's core.

Burhan Ghalioun, the president of the Syrian National Council, said such moves would be part of a broader Syrian reorientation back into an alliance with the region's major Arab powers. Mr. Ghalioun's comments came Wednesday, in his first major media interview since he was made SNC leader in October.

Mr. Ghalioun also called on the international community to take aggressive new steps, including the possible establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria.

"Our main objective is finding mechanisms to protect civilians and stop the killing machine," Mr. Ghalioun, a 66-year-old university professor, said from his home in south Paris. "We say it is imperative to use forceful measures to force the regime to respect human rights."

Underscoring those concerns, the United Nations human-rights commission estimated Thursday that Syria's crackdown on its nine-month uprising has claimed "much more" than 4,000 lives, a toll that has grown by the hundreds in recent weeks.

    “ Stop the killing machine ” -- Burhan Ghalioun

This year's political uprisings in the Middle East increasingly have devolved into a power struggle pitting the U.S. and its Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia, against Iran and its allies. Syria is viewed as the central prize, due to its strategic position and role in the Arab-Israeli struggle.
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Syria would also appear ripe for realignment. President Bashar al-Assad's government is Iran's closest military and strategic ally in the region. Damascus and Tehran coordinate closely in funneling arms and funds to the Hezbollah movement that controls Lebanon and the militant group Hamas, which is fighting Israeli forces.

Mr. Assad and many of his top officials are Alawite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The regime's alliance with Iran, which is Shiite-dominated and Persian, is seen as unnatural by Syria's Sunni Arab majority; Mr. Ghalioun called it "abnormal." The SNC, and Syria's broader opposition, generally support dissolving the ties.

Such a position is welcomed by U.S. and European officials, who believe Mr. Assad's overthrow could cripple Iran's ability to project its power into the Palestinian territories and Egypt.

"There will be no special relationship with Iran," Mr. Ghalioun said in the interview. "Breaking the exceptional relationship means breaking the strategic, military alliance," he said, adding that "after the fall of the Syrian regime, [Hezbollah] won't be the same."

Mr. Assad, or members of his Alawite sect, could remain in power, of course. But should Damascus break from Tehran, diplomats believe, Iran's own pro-democracy movement, snuffed out in 2009, could be reinvigorated. Efforts to contain the spread of sophisticated weapons systems could also be aided. Skepticism remains high, however, that such a development will help solve the Arab-Israel conflict, as new governments from Egypt to Tunisia appear just as committed to the Palestinian cause.

The Syrian National Council, formally established in October, serves as the face of Syria's opposition to the international community and has proposed to lead a one-year transition to democratic rule. It is the broadest-based opposition coalition since protests broke out in Syria in mid-March, unifying Sunni Muslims, Christians, Kurds, youth committees and others.

But several Damascus-based political dissidents, and newer movements for political change, say the council was formed largely outside Syria and doesn't adequately represent the spectrum of Syrian society. Factions within the SNC have differed over issues of regional autonomy, the question of foreign intervention in Syria's crisis and the role of religion and Arab nationalism in any new state. The organization has also been hobbled by the lack of operating territory inside Syria and the cohesion of Mr. Assad's military and government.

U.S. and European officials have voiced particular concern about the SNC's lack of representation for women and religious minorities. They have also said that Sunni religious groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, could end up dominating the council.

But in recent days, U.S. officials have said Mr. Ghalioun is effectively building bridges between Syria's political factions.

"He's doing an impressive job," said a U.S. official. The officials added that momentum seems to be building behind the SNC, particularly after the Arab League nations voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to impose financial sanctions on the Assad government.

Mr. Ghalioun acknowledged in the interview that the SNC has faced challenges in uniting Syria's opposition after more than 40 years of the Assad family's dictatorial rule.

He said Syria's Kurdish minority has 33 parties, making the choice of representation difficult. He said the SNC has also made a special outreach to Christians, including sending a mission to the Vatican, amid fears that Christians' religious, economic and political rights could be curtailed in a post-Assad Syria.

Indeed, he said Syria, though roughly 70% Sunni Muslim, has a history of religious and ethnic diversity that would never allow it to be dominated by Islamist parties or Islamist law.

"I don't think there's a real fear in Syria of a monopoly of Islamists, not even 10%," he said. "The Muslim Brotherhood has largely been in exile for 30 years and their internal coordination is non-existent."

Mr. Ghalioun, too, has lived abroad for decades following the seizure of power by the Baath Party and a coup by Hafez al-Assad—Mr. Assad's father—as president in 1970. Mr. Ghalioun has served as a political sociology professor at the Paris Sorbonne University, while intermittently returning to Syria to agitate for political reform. A self-declared secular Sunni, he has called for religion and state to be separate.

His role as opposition leader could end as early as this month under the committee's bylaws, but discussions are under way to potentially extend his term.

In the interview, Mr. Ghalioun stressed that Syria will remain committed to reclaiming the Golan Heights territory from Israel, which Damascus lost during the 1967 Six Day War. But he said Syria would focus its interests through negotiations rather than armed conflict or the support of proxies.

He added that a new Syrian government would normalize relations with neighboring Lebanon after decades of dominating the country through its militarily and intelligence channels. A U.N. investigation has charged members of Hezbollah with assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, a charge the group has denied.

The SNC's president joined the U.S. and European Union with charging Iran of assisting Mr. Assad in cracking down on the political rebellion. Tehran has repeatedly denied this charge. But Iranian officials, as well as Hezbollah, have been vocal in their support for the continuation of the Assad regime.

Mr. Ghalioun and the SNC have been conducting stepped-up negotiations with the Arab League, Turkey, Russia and European powers in recent days to find ways to protect Syrians and guarantee the supply of humanitarian aid, according to participants in the talks. The SNC president has met with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé and U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Turkey, which on Wednesday joined the Arab League, U.S. and European Union in imposing financial sanctions on Mr. Assad's government, has raised the possibility of establishing a buffer zone inside Syria to protect civilians from Mr. Assad's forces. Mr. Juppé and the U.S. are pressing a plan to protect international monitors inside Syria.

The SNC's chief visited the Turkish border this week to meet the commanders of the Free Syrian Army, which is made up of defectors from the mostly Sunni mid-ranks of the Syrian military. The FSA has claimed responsibility in recent weeks of at least one attack on a state security building. But Mr. Ghalioun said he had reached agreement with the FSA's commanders that their military operations would focus solely on protecting Syrian civilians and not on offensive operations.

"We don't want, after the fall of the regime in Syria, armed militias outside the control of the state," Mr. Ghalioun said. "They assured us they will implement our agreement and abide by requests not to launch any offensive operations."

Mr. Ghalioun echoed Western confidence that President Assad's leadership is untenable in the long-term due to Damascus's mounting financial woes and diplomatic isolation, saying Mr. Assad can survive only "months" more in office. U.S. and European officials believe it could take much longer.

The SNC believes Damascus's foreign-exchange reserves are now below $10 billion, its leader says; Damascus officially cites between $17 billion and $18 billion. He also said that Syria's economy will contract by at least 10% this year. Syrian economists say the government is projecting growth of around 4%.

"There isn't even 1% chance that Assad will survive," the SNC president said. "His only choice to carry on…is to continue the killing. They know that if they stop, they're over."
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« Reply #203 on: December 07, 2011, 07:27:49 AM »

I gather that the loss of technology involved here is considerable; that the UAV in question had some of our best stuff; and that the reverse engineering possibilities, especially when handed off to the Russians and Chinese, are really bad.


Washington's Explanation On Crashed UAV Unlikely
The Iranian press claimed Sunday that it had downed a U.S. RQ-170 “Sentinel” unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was operating in its airspace. On Monday, an unnamed American official acknowledged for the first time in the U.S. media that a UAV of that type had gone down in Iranian territory.
“After a sufficient number of flights, the prospect of a Sentinel crashing — through some combination of mechanical, technical and human error, or because Iran finds a way to bring one down — begins to approach certainty.”
The RQ-170 is a flying wing design with low-observability characteristics — a stealth UAV — designed and built by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division. The craft was first photographed in 2007 at Kandahar Airfield and quickly dubbed “the beast of Kandahar.” From the few photographs available, it appears to consist of a fairly low-cost rendition of known stealth characteristics, applied to existing UAV technology to create an airframe designed to penetrate and operate in higher threat environments and in denied airspace. While this model was not necessarily meant to be expendable, operations in denied environments — and therefore the prospect of loss in enemy territory — were undoubtedly a core design consideration.
That sort of denied environment is nothing like what exists in Afghanistan, where medium- and high-altitude UAV operations face next to no threat. In other words, the only reason the Sentinel would be present in Afghanistan would be to use the country as a base of operations for flights elsewhere. Reports suggest that at least one Sentinel was involved in providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) in preparation for and during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Logic suggests those reports are correct.
The story an unnamed source conveyed to NBC — that a UAV operating in western Afghanistan experienced difficulty and veered by chance into Iran before crashing — matches the overall reaction by the United States and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to the incident. But that narrative is at best highly suspect. The Sentinel clearly operates from Afghanistan and has been a component of ISR operations over Iran for years now. And after a sufficient number of flights, the prospect of a Sentinel crashing — through some combination of mechanical, technical and human error, or because Iran finds a way to bring one down — begins to approach certainty.
When the Soviet Union brought down Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 in 1960, the Soviets knew full well that the United States was running flights over its territory — it just lacked the technology to engage a target at that altitude. When Powers crossed into Soviet airspace, air defenses were on high alert. As the story goes, the U-2 stalled (it flew at the very edge of its flight envelope to stay at that altitude) and began to lose altitude as it attempted to restart its engines. Soviet air defenses engaged the target with everything they had, bringing down one of their own planes along with Powers’ U-2.
The U-2 was not stealthy, but stealth is not some intangible capability that renders the aircraft undetectable. It makes engagement harder by reducing signatures and observability. But as a savvy Yugoslav air defense battery commander demonstrated in 1999, by bringing down an American F-117 “Nighthawk” that was part of a predictable and observable pattern of behavior, the technology is hardly foolproof.
Iran has deftly maximized, through an ongoing denial and deception program, the intelligence challenges it presents its adversaries. For its own part, the United States has shown no serious interest, since the campaign in Iraq began to go downhill in the middle of the last decade, in accepting the risk that a serious air campaign against Iran entails.
But the world is not defined by black-and-white distinctions. The United States and Iran are not in a state of war, but neither are they at peace. There has been little doubt for years that the United States and Israel — in addition to using their space-based assets to intensively surveil Iran —  have actively engaged in a comprehensive covert campaign meant to pinpoint and undermine Tehran’s nuclear weapons program through all available means — cyberattack, assassination, sabotage, technology and building the most accurate picture possible of the physical layout of Iran’s program.
At stake is an intense struggle over the balance of power in the Middle East. And just as during the Cold War, so-called “acts of war” are committed on a routine basis by both sides. The intelligence that more intrusive UAV flights can provide — even considering what space-based surveillance is now capable of providing — is too valuable. Because of how much is at stake for both Washington and Tehran, the idea that Washington would not actively engage in overflights is as improbable as the notion that an American stealth UAV was operating innocently on the Afghan side of the Afghan-Iranian border.
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« Reply #204 on: January 06, 2012, 09:17:21 AM »

IIRC on the Iraq thread in the early days of the war, I raised the possibility of using our then little challenged dominance to go into Syria because it was giving sanctuary to the Saddamite remnants.


Nearly a year into Syria's agony, the Arab League last week dispatched a small group of monitors headed by a man of the Sudanese security services with a brutal record in the killing fields of Darfur. Gen. Mohammed al-Dabi, a trusted aide of Sudan's notorious ruler, Omar al-Bashir, didn't see anything "frightening" in the embattled city of Homs, nor did he see the snipers on the rooftops in the southern town of Deraa.

A banner in Homs, held up by a group of women protesters, saw into the heart of the matter: "All doors are closed, except yours, Oh God." Indeed, the solitude of the Syrians, their noble defiance of the most entrenched dictatorship in the Arab world, has played out against the background of a sterile international diplomacy.

Libya had led us all astray. Rescue started for the Libyans weeks into their ordeal. Not so for the Syrians. Don't look for Bashar al-Assad forewarning the subjects of his kingdom—a veritable North Korea on the Mediterranean—that his forces are on the way to hunt them down and slaughter them like rats, as did Moammar Gadhafi.

There is ice in this ruler's veins. His people are struck down, thousands of them are kidnapped, killed and even tortured in state hospitals if they turn up for care. Children are brutalized for scribbling graffiti on the walls. And still the man sits down for an interview last month with celebrity journalist Barbara Walters to say these killer forces on the loose are not his.

In a revealing slip, the Syrian dictator told Ms. Walters that he didn't own the country, that he was merely its president. But the truth is that the House of Assad and the intelligence barons around them are owners of a tormented country. Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, was a wicked genius. He rose from poverty and destitution through the ranks of the Syrian army to absolute power. He took a tumultuous country apart, reduced it to submission, died a natural death in 2000, and bequeathed his son a kingdom in all but name.

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
Anti-Syrian regime protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in the Baba Amr area, in Homs province.
.Thirty years ago, Assad the father rode out a ferocious rebellion by the Muslim Brotherhood, devastated the city of Hama in Syrian's central plains, and came to rule a frightened population that accepted the bargain he offered—political servitude in return for a drab, cruel stability.

Now the son retraces the father's arc: Overwhelm the rebellion in Homs, recreate the kingdom of fear, and the world will forgive and make its way back to Damascus.

A legend has taken hold regarding the strategic importance of Syria—bordered by Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq—and the Assad regime has made the best of it. Last October, the Syrian ruler, with a mix of cunning and bluster, played off this theme: "Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake. Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans? Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region."

There is no denying the effectiveness of this argument. The two big autocracies in the world—Russia and China—have given this regime cover and sustenance at the United Nations. A toothless resolution brought to the Security Council last October was turned back, courtesy of these two authoritarian states, and with the aid and acquiescence of Brazil, India and South Africa. (So much for the moral sway of the "emerging" powers.)

For its part, the Arab world treated the Syrian despotism rather gingerly. For months, the Arab League ducked for cover and averted its gaze from the barbarisms. Shamed by the spectacle of the shabiha (the vigilantes of the regime) desecrating mosques, beating and killing worshippers, the Arab League finally suspended Syria's membership.

An Arab League "Peace Plan" was signed on Dec. 19, but still the slaughter continued. The Damascus dictatorship offered the Arab League the concession of allowing a team of monitors into the country. Bravely, the Syrians came out in large numbers last week to greet them and demonstrate the depth of their opposition to the regime. Some 250,000 people reportedly greeted them in the northern city of Idlib; 70,000 defied the regime in Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus. Nevertheless, the killings went on.

The Western democracies have been hoping for deliverance. There is talk in Paris of "humanitarian corridors" to supply the embattled Syrian cities with food and water and fuel. There has been a muted discussion of the imposition of a no-fly zone that would embolden and protect the defectors who compose the Free Syrian Army.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a true cynic throughout. An erstwhile ally and patron of Assad, he finally broke with the Syrian ruler last fall, saying "You can remain in power with tanks and cannons only up to a certain point." But the help Ankara can give is always a day away. The Syrian exiles and defectors need Turkey, and its sanctuary, but they have despaired of the false promises given by Mr. Erdogan.

The U.S. response has been similarly shameful. From the outset of the Syrian rebellion, the Obama administration has shown remarkable timidity. After all, the Assad dictatorship was a regime that President Obama had set out to "engage" (the theocracy in Tehran being the other). The American response to the struggle for Syria was glacial. To be sure, we had a remarkable and courageous envoy to Damascus, Ambassador Robert Ford. He had braved regime bullies, made his way to funerals and restive cities. In the bloodied streets, he found the not-so-surprising faith in American power and benevolence.

But at the highest levels of the administration—the president, the secretary of state—the animating drive toward Syria is one of paralyzing caution. Deep down, the Obama administration seems to subscribe to the belief that Assad's tyranny is preferable to the alternative held out by the opposition. With no faith in freedom's possibilities and power, U.S. diplomacy has operated on the unstated assumption that the regime is likely to ride out the storm.

The tenacity of this rebellion surprised Washington, and due deference had to be paid to it. Last month, Frederic Hof, the State Department's point man on Syria, described the Damascus regime as a "dead man walking." There was political analysis in that statement, but also a desire that the Syrian struggle would end well without Washington having to make any hard choices.

Syrian rulers and protesters alike ought to be able to read the wind: An American president ceding strategic ground in the Greater Middle East is no threat to the Damascus regime. With an eye on his bid for re-election, President Obama will boast that he brought the Iraq war to an end, as he promised he would. That applause line precludes taking on Syrian burdens. In Obamaland, foreign policy is full of false choices: either boots on the ground or utter abdication. Libya showed the defect of that choice, yet this remains the worldview of the current steward of American power.

Hafez al-Assad bequeathed power to his son, Bashar. Now Bashar, in turn, has a son named Hafez. From this bondage, the Syrian people are determined to release themselves. As of now, they are on their own.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and co-chair of Hoover's Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.

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« Reply #205 on: January 26, 2012, 08:28:29 AM »

The Arab Uprising, One Year Later
January 26, 2012

Wednesday marked the first anniversary of the first day of public unrest in Egypt, which led to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's ouster 18 days later. A little before Mubarak was toppled, Tunisian autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, having lost support of the military, fled his country in the wake of mass unrest. The unrest that began in North Africa quickly spread eastward toward the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula; what has been termed the "Arab Spring" has manifested itself differently in different national contexts.

Stratfor's position from very early on was that the events sweeping the Middle East did not constitute a chain of revolutions. More importantly, the toppling of Ben Ali and Mubarak did not in either case amount to regime change -- and the changes that transpired have not led to democracy, nor will they for some time. A year after the Arab unrest broke out, it is important to step back and take stock of what has happened -- and of what has not.

The unrest began in Tunisia. An interim government replaced Ben Ali, and elections took place last October. The country’s Islamist Ennahda movement won the legislative polls, securing 90 out of 217 seats, and proceeded to form a coalition government with the secular parties that won the second and third-highest number of parliamentary seats. Parliament has a year to draft a new charter for the country.

In Egypt, Mubarak handed power over to a military junta. This event meant that the country’s armed forces had to move from ruling from behind the scenes to direct governance (albeit through an interim civilian Cabinet). One year after the unrest began, protests continue. The most important recent event, though, saw two different Islamist movements claim three-quarters of parliamentary seats in elections. Crucial next steps include the formation of a government led by Islamists and the crafting of a new constitution. We will also watch the extent to which military leaders will hand over power to a civilian government.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi became the third Arab leader to fall from power, and he lost his life in the process. Shortly after the fall of Mubarak, unrest broke out in Libya. This situation quickly turned into a civil war pitting the regime against armed rebels. In August, the Gadhafi regime fell after rebel forces -- aided by NATO air, intelligence and special forces support -- took over the capital of Tripoli. Two months later, rebel forces captured the Libyan dictator and killed him. Since then, the very forces that united to battle the old regime have increasingly begun fighting each other and challenging the caretaker government.

Events in Libya have been dramatic, but those in the Arab Persian Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain are far more geopolitically significant. Given the fact that a Sunni monarchy is faced with a public uprising led by the country’s Shia majority -- whose political principals are Islamist movements that Iran can exploit -- the outcome of Bahraini unrest is exceedingly critical internationally. This importance is why Saudi Arabia deployed its forces (along with those of other Gulf Cooperation Council countries) to Bahrain in March 2011, less than a month after the unrest began, and eventually contained the uprising. Shia unrest has picked up again in Bahrain in recent weeks, however, as well as in the nearby Qatif region of Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain is not the only place where the Saudis have had to deal with unrest. In Yemen, protests erupted against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Shortly thereafter, key divisions within the Yemeni armed forces took up arms against the Saleh regime. The president survived an assassination attempt in which he was badly wounded, but he was also able to block moves by both political and armed opponents to oust his regime. He is expected to step down as part of a Saudi-brokered deal, but only after ensuring that the regime he presided over will largely remain intact -- with his faction maintaining its stake in the Yemeni state.

A completely unique scenario has played out in Syria, where the regime of President Bashar al Assad -- aided by Iran and employing a massive crackdown involving the alleged killing of some 5,000 protesters -- has weathered a nine-month-old uprising. That said, the regime has not been able to quell the agitation and has begun to face a slowly growing level of armed resistance. However, because of the weakness of the opposition and the unwillingness of outside powers to intervene (despite their desire to weaken Iran), the Syrian regime doesn’t appear likely to fall anytime soon.

What we have seen is unrest that has been limited to a number of countries within the Arab world – and the nature of the unrest has varied with each regime. In fact, the monarchies of the region (save Bahrain) have not seen the kind of uprisings experienced by authoritarian republics. Even in the case of the latter, only Tunisia and Egypt saw quick ousters of incumbent rulers -- but no regime change. Libya saw full-scale warfare and regime collapse, while Yemen is seeing its leader exit power through a negotiated deal. In Syria, the regime has survived despite nearly a year of unrest.

Clearly, in none of these cases has the expectation of democratic regime change been achieved. Where there have been elections, political Islamists have emerged as the winners, but they still have a long way to go to achieve some semblance of empowerment. The Arab unrest has indeed begun to unravel the old political orders in the Arab world -- but new ones are unlikely to be erected anytime soon, especially since another key dynamic – the rise of Iran and geosectarianism -- is complicating the Arab unrest.
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« Reply #206 on: January 31, 2012, 09:58:04 AM »

Syrian Regime May Survive, But With Reduced Clout
January 31, 2012

A day after the Arab League announced that it is suspending its monitoring mission in Syria, Syrian activists continued their claims that Syrian forces had renewed an offensive in the Damascus suburbs against protesters defended by army defectors. The leadership of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) hopes that the apparent end of the Arab-led diplomatic mission will bring the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) one step closer to authorizing foreign military intervention to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. However, the United States -- whose participation in a potential military intervention in Syria would be critical -- is in no rush to elevate this conflict to another military campaign in the Middle East.

The attention is now on the UNSC and what kind of action it will take against Syria following the self-admitted failure of the Arab League monitoring mission. Russia, looking to maintain a foothold in the Mediterranean basin and keep its military base at Tartus, has created another diplomatic outlet by proposing to mediate between the Syrian government and the opposition. Moscow claims that the Syrian government has agreed to the talks, but the Syrian opposition, wary of Moscow’s continued support for the regime, has predictably refused the offer. Nonetheless, the United States appears to be entertaining the Russian proposal. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the United States supports a political solution to the crisis in Syria and that Washington is discussing with the Russians ways to pressure the Syrian government into ending its deadly crackdowns.

The United States is reluctant to engage in yet another complex military campaign with major spillover effects, along sectarian lines, in the wider Islamic world. At the same time, the Syrian regime has calibrated its crackdowns to avoid building the kind of moral pretense that led to the military intervention in Libya. This dynamic has led the United States to engage in quieter and less risky efforts to train and supply FSA rebels in Turkey -- yet U.S. reticence toward military intervention has also enabled the al Assad regime's survival.

Syria's al Assad regime can likely hang on to power for quite some time if the United States continues to lack the bandwidth and political will to intervene in the country. This is especially true if European powers remain too wrapped up in their financial crisis to take military action, and as local parties opposed to al Assad -- including Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia -- don't have the capability to intervene.

Even if it survives, the regime's clout in the region will emerge dramatically reduced. Syria is already losing its leverage with Hamas -- and thus a powerful tool against Israel -- now that Hamas’ exiled leadership is choosing to move its headquarters from Damascus. Hamas is warming relations with Jordan, Egypt and Qatar at the expense of the increasingly unpopular Iranian-backed Syrian Alawite regime.

Syrian influence in Lebanon remains significant. But rebels are increasingly making use of supply lines emanating from northern Lebanon, thus casting doubt on the strength of the usually pervasive Syrian intelligence and security apparatus in Lebanon. Without a strong presence there, the Syrian regime could see its influence over its web of militant proxies decline -- and actors such as the United States and Israel will see less reason to negotiate with Syria if Damascus can no longer provide a reliable check on Hezbollah’s actions.

The Syrian regime's diplomatic relationship with Ankara is also badly deteriorating. Even if a surviving Syrian regime were able to re-establish relations with its Turkish neighbor, Turkey's long-term priorities will continue to include the replacement of the Alawite regime with a Sunni government backed by Ankara.

Finally, a surviving Syrian regime would be greatly isolated from the Arab world and all the more dependent on Iran for support. But even Iranian support for the al Assad clan is not iron-clad: While Tehran wants to maintain an Alawite regime favorable to Iranian interests, Iran is not wedded to the al Assad clan. Russia, too, wants to maintain a minority regime on the Mediterranean coast -- a regime more likely to turn to Russia for foreign backing, rather than the United States or Turkey, and to allow Russia to maintain a base at Tartus. Rumors circulating in the region over the past couple of months suggest that Russia and Iran have consulted on a possible exit strategy for the al Assad clan that would leave Damascus with an Alawite regime friendly to both countries. It is still too early to tell whether the al Assad clan would acquiesce to such a plan while they might yet ride out the crisis. And even if Moscow and Tehran could help execute a largely superficial regime change, the move could backfire if new leaders are unable to consolidate control and civil conflict breaks out. What is becoming increasingly evident, however, is that survival for the Syrian regime will likely come at the cost of significantly reduced regional clout for an extended period of time
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« Reply #207 on: February 01, 2012, 11:45:05 AM »

Afghanistan was once thought of as the last battle of the Cold War. But that designation must be accorded the ongoing struggle in Syria.

The late dictator Hafez Assad built his tyrannical regime in the image of the late Soviet Union. He usurped power in his own country four decades ago, when the power of the USSR was on the rise. His armies and factories were in the Soviet mold, as were his feared intelligence services. The Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination Hafez Assad forced on the hapless Lebanese in 1991 was vintage Warsaw Pact.

History hasn't altered much: Now Hafez's son, Bashar, in a big battle to defend his father's bequest, has Vladimir Putin's Russian autocracy by his side. The Soviet empire has fallen, but there, by the Mediterranean coast, a Syrian tyranny gives Russia the old sense that it still is a great power.

Time and again at the United Nations, Moscow has declared the sovereignty of the Assad regime a "red line"—and stated that it would veto any resolution in the Security Council that would put it in jeopardy. True, Beijing also has gone along for the ride, so fervent a believer is China in the unfettered claims of national sovereignty—the rulers there forever thinking of their hold on Tibet. But China has paltry interests in Damascus, and the Arab oil states have of late set out to win Beijing over to the cause of regime change in Syria with guarantees of oil supplies and inducements in the energy sector.

No such luck with the Russian Federation—Russia has huge reserves of oil and gas in its own right.

Mr. Putin is invested in Syria, as well as in other dictators in the region. There are philosophical and ideological stakes at work here. Mr. Putin has ridden the windfall of oil and gas revenues for a good decade, buying off the middle classes, tranquilizing his country, and justifying his authoritarianism at home as the price of restoration of grandeur and power abroad. But the middle classes have turned against him. And former supporters have grown weary of his Mafia state, with its rampant criminality and cronyism. And so when Russians took to the streets to protest the rigged elections to the Duma of Dec. 4, Mr. Putin's response to the fury was identical to that of the Arab rulers when faced with the protesters of the Arab Spring.

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
Syrian President Bashar Assad (left) and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
.There was something familiar and repetitive about Mr. Putin's paranoia—his dark view of the world, the insistence that the Russian protests had been instigated by foreign conspirators. The campaign of vilification waged against U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul—the charge that he had been dispatched to Russia to subvert its political system—bore a striking resemblance to the Syrian charge that U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford had fed the flames of the Syrian rebellion.

The sun has set on the Soviet empire, but Mr. Putin stands guard, with a "philosophy" of his own—order secured by a strongman. Russia stood idly by as tyrants such as Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarrak fell. But in the Libyan case it stepped out of the way at the U.N. Security Council, and its abstention gave the Western democracies the space and a warrant to unseat Moammar Gadhafi. Syria gives Russia a chance to correct for the error it made.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been emphatic that there can be no repeat of Libya. By his lights, the green light given to protect Libyan civilians had turned into a warrant for regime change.

Democracies are on a rampage, so the Russian custodians of power insist, and a line has to be drawn in defense of an autocratic cabal of nations. Russian history alternates long periods of quiescence with sudden rebellions. The Putin autocracy was taking no chances.

Syria feeds another Russian obsession: Islam. If the Chinese see Tibet everywhere, the Russians are fixated on Chechnya. In the Syrian inferno, the Russians see a secular tyranny at war with radical Islamists, and thus see in Syria a reflection of themselves.

The rulers in Damascus have insisted that their regime is battling religious terrorists destined to shatter the peace of the minorities—the Alawis, the Christians, the Druze, the Ismailis. The Obama administration had once subscribed to that view but has come to abandon it, as have the Europeans. Russia remains a holdout, secure in the belief that it has a special insight into that impasse between regimes in the saddle and radical Islamists.

Old military considerations also endure. Syria offers Russia a Mediterranean naval base at Tartus, a city in the territory of the ruling Alawis at that. The base is derelict, but it is better than nothing, an asset to bring into the standoff with the United States. It is a shabby play at empire, but the Russians drew solace as their lone aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, steamed into the port from the Arctic last month.

The powers that be in NATO—neighboring Turkey included—have not been terribly coherent in dealing with this Syrian crisis. They show little taste for a military offensive that would topple the Syrian dictatorship.

An American president proud to have ended an engagement in Iraq is not itching for a war of his own in Araby. The United Nations offers no way out, and Russia is not the only obstacle.

Those "emerging" powers—India, Brazil, South Africa—have shown moral obtuseness of their own and have sided with the brutal regime in Damascus. The prayers in Homs for deliverance at the hands of outsiders—a Libya redux—may, in the manner of desperate prayers, be answered. More likely, the contest will be decided on the ground. Both the regime and the oppositionists who have paid so dearly in this cruel struggle are betting that time is on their side.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and co-chair of Hoover's Working Group on Islamism and International Order.

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« Reply #208 on: February 05, 2012, 11:11:23 AM »

Mort thinks OBama miscalculated.  Perhaps.  I am not so sure.  Au contraire, I think Obama is quite content with  democracies controlled by Fundamentalist Islamists in the Middle East.   Indeed WHAT evidence do we have that he would be the least bit disturbed by this?

US News and World Report -

***Barack Obama's Middle East Miscalculation
In Egypt, we are witnessing the democratic election of a dictatorship
By Mortimer B. Zuckerman

January 20, 2012 RSS Feed Print A little-noticed event gives a grim insight into what is really happening in the Middle East. The euphoria of the "Arab Spring," the instant Twitter-style transition from dictatorship to democracy, is seen for what it is: an illusion. Yes, the dictatorship of one kind has gone, but democracy in the sense we understand it is, shall we say, somewhat delayed.

There have been any number of disappointments. The event that should give us pause about the underlying forces was obscured by the Christmas holiday. In mid-December, violent Islamic Salafist extremists burned down Cairo's famous scientific Institute d'Egypte, established by Napoleon in the late 18th century during a French invasion. The institute housed some 200,000 original and rare books, maps, archaeological objects, and rare nature studies from Egypt and the Middle East, the result of generations of work by researchers, mostly Western scholars. Zein Abdel-Hady, who runs Egypt's main library, remarked, "This is equal to the burning of Galileo's books."

The Salafists, who hate all things Western, no doubt saw their vandalism as an act of defiance against the West, destroying the precious documents of historical Egypt that were so intimately connected to the West. They are either too ignorant and/or too careless to realize that they were destroying their own heritage from Pharaonic Egypt.

[Read Mort Zuckerman and other columnists in U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad.]

Last year in the Middle East was the most dramatic it has known for many. The series of uprisings in Egypt were marked by the emergence of Islamic forces from years of suppression. They scored dramatic political gains in Tunisia and Libya, too. Leaders who perceived themselves as invincible fell, one after the other, the most dramatic being the end of the rule of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.

The United States could not decide whether to support a regime that was disagreeable, but yet a strategic ally, or abandon it because it ignored fundamental American values like freedom and democracy (which means not just fair elections and majority rule, but respect for the rule of law, equal rights for women, tolerance of minorities, and freedom of expression). Alas, with the collapse of the Mubarak regime, the cause of freedom in Egypt is set back since, in the battle between the army and the conservative Islamic extreme, the Islamic bloc won by an overwhelming majority, with first place taken by the Muslim Brotherhood and second place grabbed by the Salafi extremists. By the time the elections are finished, there is likely to be at least a two thirds majority for an Islamist constitution. What we are witnessing is a democratic election of a dictatorship.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the turmoil in the Middle East.]

The White House completely miscalculated in Egypt, as it did in Gaza. It seemed only to care for the mechanics of the electoral process rather than the meaning of the results. Washington vacillated on who its Egyptian allies really are. We had long shared with the Egyptian military understandings on national security, ours with an eye to maintaining peace in the region. That relationship is now pretty much lost.

Americans, in their perennial innocence, have demanded that the generals turn over power to the civilians whomever they may be, just as they did to the Persian shah, just as they did after Israel's pullout from Gaza when they hadn't a clue about the danger posed by Hamas. Our ingenuous attitude has been tantamount to handing over Egypt on a silver platter to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, who ironically are coming into power as democrats.

Their new foreign policy will include opening the blockaded border with Gaza, ending normal relations with Israel, and opening them with Hamas and Iran in such a way as to alter the balance of power in the region against U.S. interests. Indeed, one of the few things that unites the political parties in Egypt is an anti-Western foreign policy. Cairo has already allowed Iran's warships to transit the Suez Canal; failed to protect pipelines supplying energy to Israel and Jordan; endorsed the union of Hamas and Fatah; and hosted conferences in support of "the resistance," that is, terrorism.

The United States forgot the lessons of Iraq, namely, that it is easier to remove an Arab-state dictator by military means than it is to alter the internal balance of power and create a solid foundation for human rights. Had it kept the Iraq experience in mind, the Obama administration would have thought a lot harder and ensured that there was a foundation for genuine democracy in Egypt before demanding Mubarak's immediate resignation.

[See photos of protests in Egypt.]

The Islamic groups can credit their success to better resources and organization, but they also have deep ties with Egypt's religiously rooted public. Their work with social and economic welfare programs during the country's long history of economic hardship gave them wide popularity among the illiterate poor. But as Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has put it, "The Brotherhood is not, as some suggest, simply an Egyptian version of the March of Dimes—that is, a social welfare organization whose goals are fundamentally humanitarian." It is a "profoundly political organization," he added, that seeks to reorder Egyptian society along Islamist lines and "transform Egypt into a very different place." As the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood put it in a sermon, "Arab and Muslim regimes are betraying their people by failing to confront the Muslims' real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States." The sermon was titled: "The U.S. is now experiencing the beginning of its end."

In six months a new president of Egypt will be elected. This is important because the presidency has long been the supreme locus of power. After the presidential election, which is supposed to occur before June, authority will pass to the newly elected leadership, and at that stage, the army is supposed to exit. The army's leaders seemingly intend to continue to play a central role, but this may lead to a clash between the army and the Islamic bloc.

[Read Jessica Rettig: Expected Win by Egypt's Islamists Poses Dilemma for U.S. Policy.]

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is doing everything in its power to avoid transferring full control to civilian hands in order to retain the dominant status of the army, whatever may emerge. But army leaders are now seen as trying to steal the achievements of the revolution—and for the worst reasons, namely, their corrupt control of economic assets and the perks they have accumulated over the decades.

This does not bode well for America and its policy of deposing dictators and replacing them with "democratic regimes." As collateral damage, Saudi Arabia, once America's closest ally in the Middle East, no longer sees the United States as reliable, and the Saudi king's willingness to listen to the Obama administration has evaporated.

The new regime in Egypt will face challenges. For one, it will have to stabilize the economy. For that, experts say, it will need tourism; maritime traffic through the Suez Canal; gas sales to neighbors; and Western investment, not to mention American economic and military aid. These probably are the main barriers to a renewed confrontation with Israel, for this vital aid would then be stopped.

[Read Mort Zuckerman: For Israel, a Two-State Proposal Starts With Security.]

Democracy in Egypt without the Muslim Brotherhood may be impossible, but so is democracy under its leadership. It is one thing for the Muslim Brotherhood to run in an election; it's another to imagine what they will do if they gain power, for the Islamists will replace secular dictatorship with Islamic dictatorship, leaving only the army to prevent the establishment of an Islamic state. The young men and women of Tahrir Square toppled the regime. Then along came a second wave, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose founder, Hassan al-Banna, once declared, "It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated." Now we will see how the Egyptian military faces its dilemma. If it holds fire, it will seal its fate, and the Islamic forces will take over by default. If army leaders decide to open fire, they will be classified as murderous dictators.

Of course, images of Mubarak on a hospital gurney in a metal cage in a Cairo courthouse, with the Robes­pierran prosecutor now demanding the death sentence, could provoke the SCAF to reconsider its eagerness to return to the barracks and hand power to the new Islamic leadership.

The West faces a dilemma: If it confronts the Islamists, it will confirm the Brotherhood's claim that the West is conspiring to undermine the religious identity of the Muslim world. If it does not, it will ignore the forces within Arab society that yearn for genuine democracy and Western forms of government. At the very least, the United States should withhold economic or diplomatic support to Arab states that follow the path of political Islam. Cairo will now be painted in Islamic colors, but this is not a clash between the secular and the religious. It is a clash between freedom and tyranny.

•Read the U.S. News debate on foreign aid.
•See photos of unrest in Libya.

•See an opinion slide show of 5 ways Arab governments resist democracy.
Tags:Mideast peace, Obama administration, Egypt
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I'm sorry but I don't understand how Mr. Zuckerman can write about freedom and tyranny just one week after he celebrated Fidel Castro, a dictator and tyrant (in Zuckerman's words, "Fidel is certainly at work and active and still an inspiration for Cubans").

Mr. Zuckerman, please go and have a hookah with Salafists, and tell us about the wonderful inspiration they provide to people of Egypt. As much as it is tragic, the Salafists, unlike Castro, were freely elected.

Pavel of AZ 1:32AM January 31, 2012

[report comment]

I'm sorry but I don't understand how Mr. Zuckerman can write about freedom and tyranny just one week after he celebrated Fidel Castro, a dictator and tyrant (in Zuckerman's words, "Fidel is certainly at work and active and still an inspiration for Cubans").

Mr. Zuckerman, please go and have a hookah with the chief Salafist, and then tell us about the wonderful inspiration they provide to people of Egypt. As much as it is tragic, the Salafists, unlike Castro, were freely elected.

Pavel of AZ 1:29AM January 31, 2012

[report comment]

Some might argue that it wasn't a miscalculation at all, but a desired effect....

His advocacy and passive assistance for his beloved"Arab spring" was at the least naive, knowing full well that the "Muslim brotherhood " was waiting in the wings cheering for the same thing.

Don L of CT 12:06PM January 24, 2012****

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« Reply #209 on: February 05, 2012, 11:53:38 AM »

"Mort thinks OBama miscalculated.  Perhaps.  I am not so sure.  Au contraire, I think Obama is quite content with  democracies controlled by Fundamentalist Islamists in the Middle East.   Indeed WHAT evidence do we have that he would be the least bit disturbed by this?"

CCP, you are thinking in terms of security risk to the US, Israel and rest of the world.  He is thinking in terms of his own approval rate on the 'Arab street'.  Completely different concerns.
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« Reply #210 on: February 06, 2012, 07:34:03 AM »

Remember when the United Nations was going to be the new global venue for "collective security"? The place where the Obama Administration's faith in diplomacy and willingness to lead from behind would pay off in world solidarity against dictators and thugs?

So much for that. On Saturday, Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-backed Security Council resolution supporting an Arab League plan to ease Syria's Bashar Assad from power.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice now says she's "disgusted." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the veto "a travesty" and struck a note of unilateralism that would make Dick Cheney proud: "Faced with a neutered Security Council, we have to redouble our efforts outside of the United Nations with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people's right to have a better future." She added that "Assad must go."

Coalition of the willing, anyone?

The surprise is that the U.S. should be so surprised. Moscow had been signaling for weeks that it would protect its client in Damascus even as Mr. Assad added to his death toll, now at more than 5,000. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has defended Russian arms sales to Syria and ruled out any new U.N. moves. This week he plans a solo "peace mission" to Damascus that looks like a transparent attempt to buy Mr. Assad more time for killing.

This is what happens when a U.S. Administration sees the world as it would like it to be, not the way it is. The White House apparently believed its own spin that last year's Libyan operation signaled a brave new multilateral era. But Russia abstained on that U.N. resolution, and strongman Vladimir Putin raged that he had been duped when NATO used the resolution to claim the authority to oust Moammar Gadhafi. The Libyan mission succeeded after much needless delay only because the U.S. military provided most of the firepower behind a NATO and Arab facade.

Russia doesn't count for much anymore in world affairs, but it does retain its U.N. veto. Mr. Putin has his own domestic upheavals to consider as he seeks to become president again, and he isn't about to set a precedent for U.N. intervention against a bloody-minded ally. Ditto for the Chinese. The American folly is in giving the U.N. any ability to stop an anti-Assad coalition that includes the Turks, all of non-Russian Europe, the U.S. and the Arab world.

Having been humiliated by the Russians, the U.S. could now try a Plan B. One precedent is Kosovo in the 1990s, another case where the Russians tried to block the world from acting. President Clinton ignored the Security Council and led a coalition to stop Slobodan Milosevic's genocide against the Kosovar Albanians.

In Syria today, the Turks, Arabs, Europeans and Americans can arm and fund the opposition on their own and unite to tighten sanctions around Mr. Assad and his cronies. A no-fly zone above Syria also shouldn't be ruled out, especially when the Assad government is doing in Homs and elsewhere what Gadhafi would have done in Benghazi if NATO hadn't intervened.

Americans are preoccupied by domestic issues, but Syria is a good test of President Obama's foreign policy. He has put the credibility of his office on the line by declaring that Syria's tyrant must leave. With each week of Mr. Assad's brutality, the cost in lives and the odds of civil war will continue to rise unless Mr. Obama does more than bow before the false moral authority of the U.N.
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« Reply #211 on: February 06, 2012, 09:24:52 AM »

"CCP, you are thinking in terms of security risk to the US, Israel and rest of the world.  He is thinking in terms of his own approval rate on the 'Arab street'.  Completely different concerns."

Good point.  They are different.  However I am of the view Obama does indeed feel that if their brand of democracy is a fundamentalist Islamic democracy then that is their choice and perfectly ok with him.

I don't think his aplogizing around the world for the US was entirely just to impress the Arab street.

I liken his view to Ron Paul's in this regard - the US should balme itself for much of it's overseas problems.
I don't disagree with Paul on domdestic policy but do not accept this foreign policy view which I think is what Obama thinks - though he plays more middle of the road for his own polical purposes.

But then again I certainly am no scholar on these matters cheesy
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« Reply #212 on: February 06, 2012, 11:39:38 AM »

One problem with Obama's view is that is only accomplishment, killing bin Laden, would not have happened without the execution of the policies he opposed before he became President.

One problem with Ron Paul's view is that it matches the bin Laden / al Qaida view exactly.  Ron Paul's affinity to the founders never mentions Thomas Jefferson sending troops to re-open shipping lanes against the Barbary pirates.  That isn't much different than wanting the Gulf and Straits of Hormuz open for shipping.

One problem with the bin Laden view (former view?) is his use of selective clips from history.  I'm no scholar here either, but this is my understanding: The US helped Muslims resist and drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, helped other Muslims in southern Asia out of Soviet domination, helped Arab Muslims in Kuwait get their nation back, helped defend Saudi in that same time frame - Desert Shield, helped Bosnians Muslims against the Serbs in 1990s and in Kosova.  Other examples of American projection of defensive force helping Muslims include WWI and WWII IIRC.

The war against Saddam was started by Saddam and the American forces were there to turn power back from a bloody dictator to Arab-Muslim people, not to take or rule the land.  The war against the Taliban was completely avoidable if they had chosen instead to hand over or enable the capture of the perpetrators of the attacks against us.

We were never in any of these places to kill or oppress Muslims or force them out of Islam or to take an inch of their land to call our own.  The only part they remember is the creation of modern Israel which was done by the UN.  Defending an ally against forces committed to destroy them is hardly an offensive position.  The expansion of Israeli borders was a defensive result of resisting the attacks against them, to hold the positions from where the attacks were launched, as I understand it.  Hardly imperialism by Israel either.

During all of bin Laden's adult lifetime the 'American Imperialists' could easily have toppled the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at any moment and stolen the oil (or condo'd Mecca and built churches and synagogues) instead of being bullied and manipulated by OPEC, but we never did.  At the cost of thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to establish consent of the governed in Iraq and Afghanistan, we still have only 50 states and pay market price for oil.

For that we apologize?  And blame ourselves??
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« Reply #213 on: February 06, 2012, 12:58:48 PM »

"For that we apologize?  And blame ourselves??"

According to Ronbama yes.

Amazing despite all our blood sweats and tears many Arabs still despise us.

Not all.  I remember one Iraqi - American who escaped Saddam who after the US invasion to get rid of Saddam proclaimed to me, ''there is a God!"
OTOH he is an Iraqi Christain - this is the big difference I think.
It seems like th Christains in the middle east whom I have met over the years, whether they be from Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq....
are far more friendly to the US and even Israel/Jews.

I have many Muslim patients and being a doctor in NJ of course work alongside many Muslim doctors (many from Pakistan).

I generally don't discuss politics.   Can't take the chance for obvious reasons.  The same reason why celebrities who want to market themselves to everyone should keep their political views to themselves.

Once one of the doctors who is from Pakistan told me after his son was almost killed by fundamentalists in Pakistan that the radical Islmaist are "crazy".  And in Pakistan they used to concentrate in the West but arehave moved all over Paakistan and one never knows who they are  so it is nearly impossible to know the motives of anyone you are dealing with.

Kind of the same thing we seem to hear from US forces dealing the Pakistanis - some work with us and spy for us while others do just the opposite.
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« Reply #214 on: February 08, 2012, 09:38:42 AM »

(February 8, 2012)

THE public debate in America and Israel these days is focused obsessively on whether to attack Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons ambitions; hardly any attention is being paid to how events in Syria could result in a strategic debacle for the Iranian government. Iran’s foothold in Syria enables the mullahs in Tehran to pursue their reckless and violent regional policies — and its presence there must be ended.

Ensuring that Iran is evicted from its regional hub in Damascus would cut off Iran’s access to its proxies (Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza) and visibly dent its domestic and international prestige, possibly forcing a hemorrhaging regime in Tehran to suspend its nuclear policies. This would be a safer and more rewarding option than the military one.

As President Bashar al-Assad’s government falters, Syria is becoming Iran’s Achilles’ heel. Iran has poured a vast array of resources into the country. There are Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps encampments and Iranian weapons and advisers throughout Syria. And Iranian-controlled Hezbollah forces from Lebanon have joined in butchering the Syrians who have risen up against Mr. Assad. Iran is intent on assuring its hold over the country regardless of what happens to Mr. Assad — and Israel and the West must prevent this at all costs.

Sadly, the opportunities presented by Syria’s meltdown seem to be eluding Israeli leaders. Last week, Israel’s military intelligence chief spoke of the 200,000 missiles and rockets in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria that could reach all of Israel’s population centers. And there is a growing risk that advanced Syrian weapons might fall into the hands of terrorist groups. Iran’s presence in Damascus is vital to maintaining these threats.

At this stage, there is no turning back; Mr. Assad must step down. For Israel, the crucial question is not whether he falls but whether the Iranian presence in Syria will outlive his government. Getting Iran booted out of Syria is essential for Israel’s security. And if Mr. Assad goes, Iranian hegemony over Syria must go with him. Anything less would rob Mr. Assad’s departure of any significance.

But Israel should not be the lone or even the principal actor in speeding his exit. Any workable outcome in Syria will have to involve the United States, Russia and Arab countries. America must offer Russia incentives to stop protecting the Assad regime, which will likely fall the moment Moscow withdraws its support. A force with a mandate from the Arab League should then ensure stability until a new Syrian government can take over.

The current standoff in Syria presents a rare chance to rid the world of the Iranian menace to international security and well-being. And ending Iran’s presence there poses less of a risk to international commerce and security than harsher sanctions or war.

Russia and China, both of which vetoed a United Nations resolution last week calling on Mr. Assad to step down, should realize that his downfall could serve their interests, too. After all, Iranian interventionism could wreak havoc in Muslim-majority areas to Russia’s south and China’s west. And a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a serious potential threat on Russia’s southern border.

Russia’s interests in Syria are not synonymous with Iran’s, and Moscow can now prove this by withdrawing its unwavering support for Mr. Assad. Russia simply wishes to maintain its access to Syria’s Mediterranean ports in Tartus and Latakia and to remain a major arms supplier to Damascus. If Washington is willing to allow that, and not to sideline Russia as it did before intervening in Libya, the convergence of American and Russian interests in Iran and Syria could pave the way for Mr. Assad’s downfall.

Once this is achieved, the entire balance of forces in the region would undergo a sea change. Iranian-sponsored terrorism would be visibly contained; Hezbollah would lose its vital Syrian conduit to Iran and Lebanon could revert to long-forgotten normalcy; Hamas fighters in Gaza would have to contemplate a future without Iranian weaponry and training; and the Iranian people might once again rise up against the regime that has brought them such pain and suffering.

Those who see this scenario as a daydream should consider the alternative: a post-Assad government still wedded to Iran with its fingers on the buttons controlling long-range Syrian missiles with chemical warheads that can strike anywhere in Israel. This is a certain prescription for war, and Israel would have no choice but to prevent it.

Fortunately, Mr. Assad and his allies have unwittingly created an opportunity to defuse the Iranian threat. If the international community does not seize it and Iranian influence in Syria emerges intact, the world will face a choice between a military strike and even more crippling sanctions, which could cause oil prices to skyrocket and throw the world economy off balance. The United States and Russia should wish for neither.

Syria has created a third option. We do not have the luxury of ignoring it.

Efraim Halevy, a former Israeli national security adviser and ambassador, was director of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002.

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« Reply #215 on: February 14, 2012, 07:59:28 AM »
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« Reply #216 on: February 14, 2012, 09:25:27 AM »

Iran's role in that full blown war will be worth noting!

Within thirty minutes of each other on Monday, a "sticky bomb" attached to the back of a van detonated in New Delhi, India, and, more than 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) away, an aware driver in Tbilisi, Georgia, discovered and reported what was essentially a grenade duct-taped to the undercarriage of his vehicle, enabling police to defuse the device. Both vehicles were connected to the Israeli Embassy in the respective capitals. The device that exploded seriously wounded an Israeli Embassy employee and wife of an Israeli defense attache and inflicted less severe injuries on the driver and two bystanders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu almost immediately pointed the finger at Iran. Iran just as quickly characterized the entire affair as an Israeli fabrication intended to discredit Tehran. This sort of rhetorical exchange has been the normal state of affairs for years now.

There is a covert war raging with Israel and the United States on one side and Iran on the other. It is difficult to ignore the persistent and tactically consistent assassinations of Iranian scientists associated with the country's nuclear program -- assassinations in which sticky bombs have figured prominently -- as well as the Stuxnet computer worm that targeted Siemens industrial software important to Iran's uranium enrichment efforts. At this point, it is hard to find a more rational explanation for the assassinations and sabotage than that Israel or the United States -- or, more likely, both in collaboration -- are working to undermine Iran's nuclear program.

Similarly, it is difficult to separate the most recent attacks in New Delhi and Tbilisi from arrests in Azerbaijan and Thailand that purportedly disrupted terrorist plots aimed at Israeli diplomatic targets and an apparent threat to Israeli interests in Bulgaria. There was also an admittedly odd plot to conduct attacks on American soil against U.S., Saudi and Israeli targets.

Monday's events merely reinforce the existence of an already obvious campaign on both sides. But the remarkable aspect is the disparity between the two efforts. By and large, Stuxnet as well as the larger sabotage and assassination campaign against Iran have been consistently professional and effective. On the other hand, the Iranian counterattack has been repeatedly foiled or exposed as ineffective or even inept.

Tehran may not be employing its most capable assets. It is possible that these attacks have been conducted via ill-conceived contract work or poorly trained proxies simply for the sake of deniability. But while the trend of attempted attacks against Israeli and U.S. interests could be interpreted as a warning of worse to come, they stand in stark contrast to the consistently effective attacks against Iranian interests on Iranian territory.

Stratfor has argued that the principle Iranian deterrent to attack is its ability to attempt to disrupt maritime traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil trade passes. No matter how good the military response is to such an attack, no military in the world can control the markets' reaction to even short-term disruptions, and that calculus has become only more compelling during the global economic crisis. Iran has thus gone out of its way to showcase this deterrent through recent and upcoming military maneuvers.

But its other deterrents may have begun to decline. It has yet to demonstrate a capability to covertly attack opposing interests abroad, a reputation for which it has long held credibly. This does not mean that Tehran does not wield such a capability, but the principal purpose of this capability is deterrence, not reprisal. Once the United States or Israel has initiated an attack on Iran as part of the covert war, Tehran's strategy of deterrence has, by definition, failed. As time passes, the United States continues to reinforce its own installations and those of Israel with more and newer ballistic missile defenses against Iran's ballistic missile arsenal. And while American diplomats and Western contractors remain vulnerable to direct attack in Iraq, now that the U.S. military withdrawal has been completed, it is far easier to remove the remaining presence than has been the case in close to a decade.

The deterrent Iran derives from its power over the Strait of Hormuz continues to hold sway. But while Stratfor is dismissive of the impact of sanctions (based on their scattered track record), they are not without their impact over time. Sanctions will not bring down the regime in Tehran, but Iranians have a far higher standard of living than, say, the average North Korean. In this context, the correlation of increasingly expensive food staples on the streets in Iran and the apparent ineffectual application of Iranian power abroad raises questions about the status of Iranian power in the region.

It is difficult to understate the significance of the continued survival of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, which is increasingly dependent on Iranian support. And the durability of Iranian power from the border of Afghanistan, through Iraq, where Iranian power currently peaks, all the way to the Mediterranean that the continued survival of the al Assad regime entails has potentially fundamental implications. But as the United States and its allies extract themselves from Afghanistan, American military power becomes more flexible in comparison to the fixed nature of Iranian power in the region. At some point, American power in the region will begin to converge with the limitations of Persian power in an Arab-dominated region. The question is at what point those powers converge.
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« Reply #217 on: February 14, 2012, 09:30:25 AM »

Wasn't Obozo supposed to have talks without preconditions that was going to make all the badness go away?
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« Reply #218 on: February 14, 2012, 06:33:00 PM »

Some of the difficulties of an Israeli attack on the Iran nuke complexes.
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« Reply #219 on: February 16, 2012, 09:00:43 PM »

Libyan militias 'out of control,' Amnesty International says

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:14 AM EST, Thu February 16, 2012

(CNN) -- Armed militias in Libya are committing human rights abuses with impunity, threatening to destabilize the country and hindering its efforts to rebuild, Amnesty International said Thursday.
Militias have tortured detainees, targeted migrants and displaced entire communities in revenge attacks, according to a report the organization released a year after the start of popular uprisings that eventually ended Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year rule.
"Hundreds of armed militias, widely hailed in Libya as heroes for their role in toppling the former regime, are largely out of control," the report says.
Detainees at 10 facilities used by militia in central and western Libya told representatives from Amnesty International this year that they had been tortured or abused. Several detainees said they confessed to crimes they had not committed in order to stop the torture, Amnesty International said.
Libya: Gadhafi son under house arrest in Niger
At least 12 detainees held by militias have died after being tortured since September, the human rights organization said, adding that authorities have not effectively investigated the torture allegations.

Rights group: Libyan detainees tortured
"A year ago Libyans risked their lives to demand justice," Donatella Rovera, a senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty, said in a statement. "Today their hopes are being jeopardized by lawless armed militias who trample human rights with impunity. The only way to break with the entrenched practices of decades of abuse under (Gadhafi's) authoritarian rule is to ensure that nobody is above the law and that investigations are carried out into such abuses."
Libyan officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
A spokesman for the Tripoli Military Council told CNN on Wednesday that civilian leaders in Libya must do more to assert their authority, holding accountable militia members who perpetrate abuses.
"If the Libyan state is being built, these guys who committed this need to be brought to justice, whether they are revolutionary fighters or not, otherwise the whole world will ask, 'What changed in Libya?' The same systemic abuse and torture is continuing, and this is dangerous for the new Libya," council spokesman Anes Alsharif said. "The only solution is for the government to take over. You can not let these guys keep holding the prisoners."
Civilian authorities have been slow to step in, Alsharif said, even though some prisoners have been held for months without facing official charges.
"When you talk to the government they say, 'keep them, we don't have time yet.' and this is wrong," he said.
A process for government takeovers of prisons has begun, Libya's interim prime minister said in a televised address last month.
Libya's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed Shalgham, told the United Nations last month that Libya does not approve of any abuse of detainees and was working to stop any such practices.
Libyan Interior Minister Fawzy Abdilal told CNN this month that the country's interim government had not yet succeeded in integrating militias from different cities into a national security force.
Other organizations have also raised concerns about the militias.
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders said last month it was halting its work in detention centers in Misrata because detainees were tortured and were denied urgent medical care.
Human Rights Watch said earlier this month that the torture and killing of detainees is an ongoing practice among Libyan militias and will continue unless the militias are held to account.
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« Reply #220 on: February 29, 2012, 10:01:09 AM »


Azerbaijan’s Arms Deal with Israel
February 29, 2012

Azerbaijan's ambassador to Iran was called into the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday to explain reports of an Azerbaijani arms deal with Israel. According to Iran's Fars News Agency, Tehran warned Azerbaijan against allowing its "territories to be used by Israel for terrorist attacks." The arms sale was reportedly valued at about $1.6 billion and included anti-air systems and unmanned aerial vehicles. The news came as Israeli President Shimon Peres held talks on regional security issues with Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze. That meeting is what makes the first story so interesting.

After the Russo-Georgian war in 2008, the United States realized it was not in a position to defend Georgia. Washington's preoccupation with the Islamic world prompted Russia to use Georgia to impart a lesson to the rest of the former Soviet states -- in effect announcing Russia's return as a regional power. The United States could have armed the Georgians after the war, but this would have heightened tensions with the Russians, something Washington at the time could not afford. Moreover, the Russians might have resumed war with Georgia before the weapons could be integrated.

At the time, the United States and Russia appeared to have reached an understanding: Russia would refrain from further conflict with Georgia if the Americans restricted weapons sales. The United States was not alone in this. Every major weapons seller to Georgia, particularly Israel, broke sales out of fear that the Russians might sell advanced systems to Syria and Iran.

The Azerbaijani issue is more complex. Domestic political pressure in the United States, particularly from Armenian-Americans supporting Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, made sending an ambassador to Azerbaijan difficult. Substantial sales of weapons to the country were impossible. This added to the strategic problem the United States faced in the region. As with Georgia, Washington did not want to see Russian or, in this case, Iranian incursions into Azerbaijan, but it did not have available force to deter an incursion at the time. In an odd way, the security of Azerbaijan, like that of Georgia, was better served by avoiding large-scale weapons sales that might have increased Russia's or Iran's insecurity. The Israelis, while maintaining close ties with Azerbaijan, also did not make large-scale weapons sales.

That is what makes the Israeli arms sale to Azerbaijan and the related high-level meeting so interesting. It is difficult to believe that the United States and Israel are not coordinating their activities in the Caucasus. The sale to Azerbaijan affects Iran, and Israel is not likely to undercut Washington's position vis-a-vis Tehran. Nor is Israel likely to go against U.S. policy in Moscow's regard, and the Georgian talks and the arms sale to Azerbaijan also affect Russia. It can be assumed that the United States has approved the initiatives.

This would mark a change in U.S. regional policy since 2008. There would seem to be two triggers for this. The first is the Russian veto on Syria, which clearly infuriated the United States. The second involves the prior threat to Israel -- that maintaining close military relations with Georgia would result in weapons sales to Syria. The Syrian government is currently in no position to acquire and deploy advanced anti-aircraft systems from Russia, and what weapons it needs it gets from Iran. With that threat gone, the Israelis -- but not the Americans -- have a freer hand.

Recent attempts to assassinate the Israeli ambassador to Azerbaijan and the identification of Iranian terrorist cells operating in Azerbaijan are also factors. The presence of Israeli, American and Iranian intelligence in Azerbaijan is nothing new, but Tehran's increasingly aggressive posture toward Baku (motivated by increased Iranian fears of an attack facilitated by Azerbaijan) creates a sense of insecurity there, and neither the United States nor Israel wants to see Azerbaijan turn to Russia for weapons. The Israeli sale not only provides immediate weapons to Baku, but it also implies that further supplies will be provided as needed. That delivers a message to Iran and reassures Azerbaijan. Whatever private collaboration might exist, public arms sales represent a political commitment on the part of Israel, which Baku will interpret as an implied U.S. obligation.

Nothing has been sold to Georgia yet, but the Russians have been put on notice regarding the potential price of their veto on the Syria issue, and the fact that chaos in Syria frees Israel to deepen its relationship with Georgia. In the meantime, Georgians have allowed Russians to enter Georgia without visas, signaling that they are not seeking to increase tensions with Russia again.

This maneuvering is important because it shows Israel and the United States re-evaluating their policy toward Russia in the Caucasus. At the same time, it warns Iran that its northern frontier with Azerbaijan could turn from a place Tehran uses to place pressure on Baku, to a place from which the United States and Israel could pressure Iran. With talks of strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, this capability is not trivial.

None of this is spoken, of course. But as we consider the calculations that have led to these moves, this is likely how they are viewed in Moscow and Tehran. For now, the Russians have lost their options in Syria, while the Iranians face an increasingly hostile Azerbaijan potentially backed by Israel -- and eventually, the United States. Washington has not yet joined the game, but the option is now there.
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« Reply #221 on: March 02, 2012, 10:33:49 AM »


Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda recently visited the island of Okinawa, where the issue of relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma has created notable controversy. Noda's visit preceded a two-day meeting between Japanese and U.S. officials in Tokyo over the issue. Washington's relocation plan has prompted strong opposition, hindering its implementation. This matter has helped keep U.S.-Japanese relations cooled, but deeper geopolitical imperatives and shared interests guarantee that the alliance between Tokyo and Washington will remain strong.


Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda made his first official visit to the island province of Okinawa the weekend of Feb. 25-27. The visit came ahead of a two-day meeting between Japanese and U.S. officials about the fate of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is currently located in Okinawa and set for relocation within the province. The plans to relocate the base have fueled a powerful controversy -- Okinawans vocally oppose both the continued presence of Futenma in its current location and the 2006 U.S.-Japanese agreement calling for the base to be moved to a more rural location. This opposition is delaying the execution of the 2006 agreement, and officials from both countries are in negotiations to try to overcome this impasse.

The episode comes during a stalled period in U.S.-Japanese relations. At least six years of frequently changing Japanese Cabinets have made it difficult to move forward with the planned U.S. realignment of forces and with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement -- two strategic parts of Washington's re-engagement with the Asia-Pacific region. Though the Futenma issue has become problematic, the United States and Japan have too many shared interests and geopolitical imperatives for their alliance to crumble.

Okinawa's Importance

Okinawa, which saw the last major World War II battle in the Pacific theater, was a de facto U.S. protectorate for almost 30 years. Its strategic location near Taiwan, the Chinese mainland, the Korean Peninsula and Japan made Okinawa important in U.S. forward deployment of forces in the western rim of the Pacific Basin. The island was a regional hub for U.S. armed forces in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, giving the United States a logistical base from which to project air power over the East and South China seas.

However, since the adoption of Japan's pacifist Constitution, there has been local opposition to military use of the province, especially since the number of U.S. bases it hosts is disproportionate to its size (Okinawa is 1 percent of Japanese territory but hosts 70 percent of the bases in the country that are used exclusively by the United States). Since Okinawa returned to Japanese rule in 1972, opposition to U.S. bases on the island has increased.

Controversy and Current Developments

Partly as a response to local concerns, but also with the broader goal of updating the strategic alignment of U.S. forces in the region, the Japanese and U.S. governments reached an agreement in 2006 that would send approximately 8,000 Marines of the III Marine Expeditionary Force stationed in Okinawa to Guam. According to the agreement, the transfer would be finalized by 2014. But the agreement had an important condition: Japan would be responsible (logistically and financially) for transferring Futenma's equipment and facilities from Ginowan City to its new location in Henoko Point, a more rural part of northern Okinawa. Opposition to this agreement has delayed the relocation.

The main point of contention is that the original relocation plan called for the construction of an offshore runway that would sit atop a coral reef -- the home of the dugong, an endangered marine mammal. Opposition has come not only from locals concerned for their natural environment (and in some cases livelihood), but also from outside environmentalist, left-wing and pacifist groups calling for a total U.S. withdrawal from Okinawa. Local resistance became particularly strong after successive Democratic Party of Japan Cabinets were seen as mishandling the issue.

Okinawan Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, who holds de facto veto power over the decision, is pressuring the central government to move the Futenma base out of the province, though there are not many other places where the base could feasibly go. Futenma is not a stand-alone facility -- it is linked to the network of U.S. facilities elsewhere in the region, particularly the other Marine bases in Okinawa (including Camps Courtney, Foster, Hansen, Lester, Kinser and Schwab) -- making relocation outside of the province tactically problematic for Washington. Moreover, very few governors of other provinces seem willing to host the base, which leaves Henoko as the only viable option.

The U.S.-Japanese Alliance

In February, U.S. and Japanese officials engaged in negotiations about revisions to the 2006 agreement. The first revision announced stated that the United States will move only approximately 4,700 Marines to Guam, with the remaining 3,300 being sent to different Asia-Pacific locations on a rotational basis. Moreover, the proposed move will be detached from the Futenma part of the agreement, meaning it will take place regardless of further delays in the base's relocation. Negotiations have continued in what Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba called a "flexible manner," which indicates that more changes can be expected.

The outcome of this issue is uncertain, and although the Noda Cabinet has declared the U.S.-Japanese alliance the cornerstone of its foreign policy, so far the Cabinet has not been able to dispel the general sense of stagnation and frustration in the relationship. Despite the seeming intractability of this issue, it is not likely to lead to an unraveling of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, which is governed by many underlying regional strategic imperatives.

First, the United States wants to distribute its forces in a manner that is more sustainable politically and economically, which means spreading its forces more broadly across multiple countries. Moreover, the need to make the U.S. presence in the region resilient against both political and military threats dictates the need to distribute U.S. forces evenly throughout several countries. This likely will mean an eventual reduction in the area occupied by U.S. bases in Okinawa and the number of forces based there.

Second, although Japan is seeking to improve its relationships with its Asian neighbors (particularly China), tensions within the region tie Japanese interests to those of the United States. The divergent Japanese and Chinese geographic and economic imperatives in the region (such as control over disputed territories and resources) and historical rivalry give Tokyo reason to continue its close cooperation with Washington. More importantly, Japan's desire to increase its influence in the region both economically and militarily coincides with Washington's plans for Tokyo to play a greater role in the United States' Asia-Pacific re-engagement.

Third, Japan faces a continued threat from a seemingly erratic North Korean regime and, more important, from the ongoing growth of China's navy and repeated incursions of both civilian and military Chinese vessels into territory that Japan either claims or controls. China's strategic imperative to control its "first island chain," of which the southern archipelago of Okinawa and Taiwan are a part, emphasizes the value of the U.S.-Japanese alliance and the basing of forces in Okinawa. Japan benefits from the deterrent power of an armed U.S. presence, while the United States gains the capability to project its power into the Far East from bases in Japan. The U.S. presence is particularly important given Japan's traditional reluctance to engage in military ventures that could raise the ire of neighboring countries that harbor deep anti-Japanese sentiments.

Potential Developments

Though political inertia in Japan's central government and strong opposition in Okinawa are complicating the Futenma issue, the relocation controversy is not insurmountable. Most local citizens are opposed to the original relocation plan mainly because the new location would involve building offshore, which would damage the environment and the livelihoods of local fishermen. Changes in the plan could make relocation more palatable to the locals, especially since the base's presence could help reactivate the local economy. This would be an important step, since local politicians' opposition to the relocation plan stems more from political need than personal opinion. If the locals agree to it, then provincial and municipal officials could agree to it as well.

Although the Futenma controversy might seem like a hindrance to U.S. forces' capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region, other regional hubs in Japan -- such as the Kadena and Misawa military facilities -- will still give the United States robust power projection capabilities, even if Futenma ceases to provide basing for Marine air assets in Okinawa. Moreover, current political dynamics could lead this issue to evolve in such a way that the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) assumes more responsibility for national and regional security. The JSDF is gradually moving toward greater involvement in security matters outside Japan's immediate vicinity. Furthermore, Chinese incursions into waters claimed by Japan have sparked a domestic debate on whether Japanese security services, such as the Coast Guard, should have broader authority. This trend would only grow if the United States seems to have less of a presence in the area because of a continued impasse over Futenma. (Similar trends have emerged in Taiwan, where a potential reduction of the U.S. presence in Okinawa is seen as necessitating stronger, independent Taiwanese defense capabilities.)

The Futenma controversy does not pose a long-term threat to the U.S.-Japanese alliance, nor does the current Japanese political landscape. Though there is a sense that the U.S.-Japanese relationship has stalled because of difficult issues like domestic resistance to the Okinawa bases and the TPP, regional dynamics and more than half a century of close relations will help ensure the endurance of the security alliance between Tokyo and Washington.
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« Reply #222 on: March 07, 2012, 05:17:52 PM »


The United States is not eager to launch an air campaign against the Syrian regime that would be similar to the NATO campaign in Libya even though numerous U.S. lawmakers have called for such a campaign. Not only did Libya not have the formidable air defense systems that Russia has provided to Syria, but Syria's rebels have not been able to control large areas of territory. These factors would complicate any air campaign against the al Assad regime, but Washington's reluctance to get involved militarily is based on the fear that it could slip into a much messier conflict than it did in Libya.


Amid increasing calls from some U.S. lawmakers for an air campaign against the Syrian regime, the U.S. administration appears to be making a concerted effort to explain to the public why this is not a preferred course of action. Beyond the significant regional implications of such an action, Washington does not want to get involved in a conflict with Syria that likely would pose credible threats to U.S. air forces and risk involving ground forces as well.

The Rationale in Washington

When U.S. Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis briefed the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Syria on March 6, his overarching message was that any military action in the country would not be easy. Mattis noted that the lack of any safe zones in Syria would mean deploying a significant number of ground troops to create such zones and warned that the United States believes the Syrian government possesses chemical and biological weapons. When asked about the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone in Syria, as NATO forces did in Libya, Mattis warned of the potential dangers posed by the advanced air defense systems Syria has received from Russia.

Mattis' remarks were a subtle rebuttal to calls made in recent days by Sen. John McCain, one of the committee leaders, to launch airstrikes in Syria. On the same day as Mattis' briefing, Foreign Policy published an article citing two anonymous Obama administration officials discussing what the White House is planning for the next phase in the Syrian conflict. One official referred to the same danger posed by Russian-supplied air defense systems, adding that a recent Russian shipment to Syria contained large amounts of advanced anti-aircraft missile systems, presumably intended to defend Syria should the conflict become international.

Washington seeks to dampen the expectation that it intends to do in Syria what it did in Libya. An air campaign is not on the horizon, and the United States is also hesitant to publicize any of its attempts to arm the opposition, though remarks from the officials cited by Foreign Policy seem to indicate that Washington is giving other countries (likely Saudi Arabia and Qatar) approval to do so. Public discussions of arming the opposition forces are, however, more for public relations to show that something is being done to assist an opposition under siege. If the United States were actively engaged in such activities, it would manage the operation covertly.

Syria's Defenses Compared To Libya's

The United States has a strategic interest in seeing the fall of the al Assad regime because of the effect it would have on Iran's influence in the Levant. Aside from levying sanctions and a public acquiescence to other countries sending in weapons, Washington does not appear to be publicly doing much to hasten al Assad's downfall. The United States is wary of entering the fray due to its fears that it would get dragged into a much messier conflict than those calling for an air campaign are anticipating. Pointing to the potential dangers posed by Syria's air defense network is one way of discouraging calls for military intervention.

This is not to say that the Syrian Air Defense Command (ADC) is not formidable, especially in comparison to what NATO forces went up against in Libya. With an estimated 54,000 personnel, it is twice the size of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air force and air defense command combined at the start of the NATO campaign. Syria's ADC consists of the 24th and 26th anti-aircraft divisions comprising thousands of anti-aircraft guns and more than 130 surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries. The bulk of Syria's ADC SAM weaponry is the SA-2, SA-3, SA-5, SA-6, and SA-8 SAM systems that were also operated by Gadhafi's forces. However, the Syrians operate these systems in far greater numbers, have devoted significant resources to the maintenance and upgrade of these missile batteries and have also successfully deployed their SAM systems in a dense and overlapping layout that would complicate potential Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses operations.

Though also a Russian ally, Gadhafi did not have the more advanced Russian air defense systems that the al Assad regime possesses. For instance, Iran reportedly financed Syria's acquisition of 50 SA-22 systems first delivered in 2007 -- 10 of which allegedly ended up in Iranian hands. The Syrians are also thought to operate several SA-11 systems, which the Libyans did not have. Furthermore, reports emerged in November 2011 that the Russians upgraded numerous Syrian radar sites and transferred a number of advanced S-300 systems to Syria and that a Russian naval mission to Syria that month also served to transport several Russian missile technicians who were to assist the Syrians in operating the S-300s.

Syria's defenses against an air campaign are not restricted to the ground. Its air force can contribute dozens of fighter aircraft and interceptors, the most advanced of which are the MiG-25 and MiG-29. But while the Syrian air force is both quantitatively and qualitatively superior to Gadhafi's air force, which was just starting to re-equip and modernize itself after years of sanctions, it has neither played a meaningful role in managing the unrest in the country nor would it play a meaningful role in defending the country from an air campaign.

Perhaps the biggest difference between Libya and Syria is that the Syrian rebels have not yet been able to hold significant territory. This matters not just for their ability to have safe areas from which to launch attacks, but also for the air defense network's ability to function properly. Air defense systems typically are designed to provide cover through overlapping areas of coverage. When eastern Libya fell into rebel hands early on during the revolution, that overlap was severely damaged, which in turn degraded the Gadhafi regime's overall air defense network. The Syrians are not facing this difficulty.

A Feb. 28 CNN report said that the Pentagon had drawn up detailed plans for military action against the Syrian regime. The U.S. military indeed has updated its order of battle (orbat) for Syria in preparation for any contingency operations, and this work allegedly produced the best orbat the United States has had on Syria since 2001. However, contingency plans exist for numerous countries with which war is unlikely. The situation in Syria -- whether through the loss of territory, massive defections from the regime or the loss of Russian support -- will have to change before Washington implements any of the plans it has prepared.
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« Reply #223 on: March 15, 2012, 09:26:39 PM »

Syria's regime is expected to fall at any moment, yet doesn’t. It has been more than a year since the unrest in Syria began, and more than a year since outside observers have assumed that Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime would fall, presumably because it cannot resist the displeasure of the public. For more than a year, those expectations have been disappointed. Obviously it is not clear whether the Syrian regime will survive; it may quickly collapse.

But looking at Syria requires an understanding of the relationship between tyranny, popularity and power. There is no question that the Syrian regime is tyrannical and brutal. The regime suppressed basic liberties and slaughtered dissidents long before this uprising. Indeed, this has gone on for decades. Yet the regime has survived -- in fact, it has survived precisely because it acts as a tyranny. It is not clear that it could have survived any other way.

To think about the endurance of the Syrian regime we need to consider tyrannies in general. Tyrannies are assumed to be unpopular, but history has shown that this is not always true. The best example of this is Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler's regime was certainly tyrannical, ruthlessly crushing dissent even among those it regarded as legitimate citizens. But by all measures and accounts, Hitler and the regime remained broadly popular until well into World War II. Being deprived of rights did not alienate the population because they saw the regime as providing them with greater benefits.

Hitler’s case is extreme both in its degree of deprivation of rights and the breadth of his popularity. Still, very few regimes are created or sustained without substantial support. The concept of a regime as simply a gangster state’s force resting upon general public opposition is very rare in practice, or certainly not long lived. Regimes in Eastern Europe did rest on top of a largely dispirited populace, but those regimes were imposed by foreign occupation and sustained by the threat of Soviet intervention.

Tyrannical regimes normally have the support of a portion of the public, and that support can be substantial. Reasons for that support can be ideological, tribal, religious, material or a combination of these. Supporters are frequently as committed to the survival of the regime as opponents are committed to its destruction, and they are often better armed and organized.

Power cannot rest on a base of universal hostility, and where it does, cannot be sustained for long. It can however rest on a part of the population who stand to lose a great deal if the regime falls, and are therefore as prepared to fight to save the regime as dissidents are prepared to fight to overthrow it. Consider that the broadly hated regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was on the verge of retaking the rebel stronghold of Benghazi when NATO intervened.

The point is that it is difficult to overthrow regimes. Military and security services must turn on the regime or split it into opposed factions. If they hold together and support the regime, the power of their organizations and weapons is difficult for the poorly armed public to overcome.

This is why the Syrian regime has survived as long as it has. It has substantial -- if minority -- support, and those supporters, having much to lose, are deeply committed to the regime's survival. The military and security services have not turned on the regime, nor have they split. With opponents of the regime unable to match their power, the regime has endured.

There is a lesson here that goes beyond Syria, but affects how we understand tyrannies in general. Tyrannies are not necessarily weak; they are not generally isolated; they do not always represent a minority; and they are not easy to take down. Whatever is the case in Syria, the assumption that a regime cannot be tyrannical and maintain popular support is not true. There would not be so many tyrannies if that were the case.

Most important, this means that expectations that unrest and uprisings will consistently produce regime change will frequently be disappointed. Indeed, without outside intervention -- overt or covert -- designed to match the organized force of the tyrannical regime, that regime has a decent chance of surviving.
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« Reply #224 on: April 01, 2012, 03:18:30 PM »

I'm thinking we may have failed to note Baraq's leakage of Israel air strip agreement with Azerbiajian.   angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry
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« Reply #225 on: April 01, 2012, 03:37:47 PM »

I'm thinking we may have failed to note Baraq's leakage of Israel air strip agreement with Azerbiajian.   angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry

Not possible. He wore a kippa at AIPAC!
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« Reply #226 on: April 08, 2012, 09:39:26 AM »

Triumphant Tuareg rebels fall out over al-Qaeda's jihad in Mali

As one group of rebels proudly proclaimed the independent state of Azawad in the "liberated" north of Mali last week, their allies were preparing for jihad by cutting off the hand of a "criminal" and forcing women to wear the veil.
By Nick Meo

11:42AM BST 07 Apr 2012


The rebels, armed with weapons stolen from Muammar Gaddafi’s formidable arsenal, took over an area of the Sahara as big as France in an astonishing 72 hours, taking advantage of the chaotic aftermath of an army coup.

Few of the people they promised to free waited to find out what freedom would be like. Instead, an estimated 250,000 people left their homes, terrified families fleeing with their children and possessions. Many told tales of looting and rape by rebels who now control a vast area in the heart of Africa.

Foreign governments were left scrambling to find out exactly who the rebels were, amid fears that a base for al-Qaeda will now be set up in the Sahara similar to ones in lawless parts of Pakistan and Somalia.

“Our law is a legal war, a sacred war, in the name of Islam,” a bearded leader of the Ansar al Din militia called Omar Hamaha told his supporters in Timbuktu soon after they took control of the ancient caravan town. With its blue men, spectacular mudbrick mosques, and annual music festival under the desert stars, Timbuktu was a fashionable destination for the well-heeled tourist looking for an experience of the Sahara, until 2007 when kidnapping started.

Even more worrying than Ansar al Din were the supporters of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) who streamed into northern Mali with ambitions of setting up an Islamic state. They included men who have made millions of pounds of ransom money by kidnapping foreigners.

They put up their black flags over the three main cities of the north, Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal, and strutted in the streets. Rare television pictures shot in the northern cities showed tough-looking men in turbans driving pick-up trucks, armed to the teeth with automatic weapons as crowds looked on nervously.
Some rebels grabbed the chance to loot, setting fire to buildings and abducting young women, according to refugees. Others — or perhaps the same ones - were determined to impose a Taliban-style Islamic rule, ordering men into the mosques to pray and closing bars and discos.
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« Reply #227 on: April 08, 2012, 09:58:20 AM »

Lets have any further coverage of this matter here:
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« Reply #228 on: July 24, 2012, 09:16:40 AM »

A very interesting piece by Friedman.  Thoughts?

Consequences of the Fall of the Syrian Regime
By George Friedman

We have entered the endgame in Syria. That doesn't mean that we have reached the end by any means, but it does mean that the precondition has been met for the fall of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. We have argued that so long as the military and security apparatus remain intact and effective, the regime could endure. Although they continue to function, neither appears intact any longer; their control of key areas such as Damascus and Aleppo is in doubt, and the reliability of their personnel, given defections, is no longer certain. We had thought that there was a reasonable chance of the al Assad regime surviving completely. That is no longer the case. At a certain point -- in our view, after the defection of a Syrian pilot June 21 and then the defection of the Tlass clan -- key members of the regime began to recalculate the probability of survival and their interests. The regime has not unraveled, but it is unraveling.

The speculation over al Assad's whereabouts and heavy fighting in Damascus is simply part of the regime's problems. Rumors, whether true or not, create uncertainty that the regime cannot afford right now. The outcome is unclear. On the one hand, a new regime might emerge that could exercise control. On the other hand, Syria could collapse into a Lebanon situation in which it disintegrates into regions held by various factions, with no effective central government.

The Russian and Chinese Strategy

The geopolitical picture is somewhat clearer than the internal political picture. Whatever else happens, it is unlikely that al Assad will be able to return to unchallenged rule. The United States, France and other European countries have opposed his regime. Russia, China and Iran have supported it, each for different reasons. The Russians opposed the West's calls to intervene, which were grounded on human rights concerns, fearing that the proposed intervention was simply a subterfuge to extend Western power and that it would be used against them. The Chinese also supported the Syrians, in part for these same reasons. Both Moscow and Beijing hoped to avoid legitimizing Western pressure based on human rights considerations -- something they had each faced at one time or another. In addition, Russia and China wanted the United States in particular focused on the Middle East rather than on them. They would not have minded a military intervention that would have bogged down the United States, but the United States declined to give that to them.

But the Russian and Chinese game was subtler than that. It focused on Iran. As we have argued, if the al Assad regime were to survive and were to be isolated from the West, it would be primarily dependent on Iran, its main patron. Iran had supplied trainers, special operations troops, supplies and money to sustain the regime. For Iran, the events in Syria represented a tremendous opportunity. Iran already held a powerful position in Iraq, not quite dominating it but heavily influencing it. If the al Assad regime survived and had Iranian support to thank for its survival, Syria would become even more dependent on Iran than was Iraq. This would shore up the Iranian position in Iraq, but more important, it would have created an Iranian sphere of influence stretching from western Afghanistan to Lebanon, where Hezbollah is an Iranian ally.

The Russians and Chinese clearly understood that if this had happened, the United States would have had an intense interest in undermining the Iranian sphere of influence -- and would have had to devote massive resources to doing so. Russia and China benefitted greatly in the post-9/11 world, when the United States was obsessed with the Islamic world and had little interest or resources to devote to China and Russia. With the end of the Afghanistan war looming, this respite seemed likely to end. Underwriting Iranian hegemony over a region that would inevitably draw the United States' attention was a low-cost, high-return strategy.

The Chinese primarily provided political cover, keeping the Russians from having to operate alone diplomatically. They devoted no resources to the Syrian conflict but did continue to oppose sanctions against Iran and provided trade opportunities for Iran. The Russians made a much larger commitment, providing material and political support to the al Assad regime.

It seems the Russians began calculating the end for the regime some time ago. Russia continued to deliver ammunition and other supplies to Syria but pulled back on a delivery of helicopters. Several attempts to deliver the helicopters "failed" when British insurers of the ship pulled coverage. That was the reason the Russians gave for not delivering the helicopters, but obviously the Russians could have insured the ship themselves. They were backing off from supporting al Assad, their intelligence indicating trouble in Damascus. In the last few days the Russians have moved to the point where they had their ambassador to France suggest that the time had come for al Assad to leave -- then, of course, he denied having made the statement.

A Strategic Blow to Iran

As the Russians withdraw support, Iran is now left extremely exposed. There had been a sense of inevitability in Iran's rise in the region, particularly in the Arabian Peninsula. The decline of al Assad's regime is a strategic blow to the Iranians in two ways. First, the wide-reaching sphere of influence they were creating clearly won't happen now. Second, Iran will rapidly move from being an ascendant power to a power on the defensive.

The place where this will become most apparent is in Iraq. For Iran, Iraq represents a fundamental national security interest. Having fought a bloody war with Iraq in the 1980s, the Iranians have an overriding interest in assuring that Iraq remains at least neutral and preferably pro-Iranian. While Iran was ascendant, Iraqi politicians felt that they had to be accommodating. However, in the same way that Syrian generals had to recalculate their positions, Iraqi politicians have to do the same. With sanctions -- whatever their effectiveness -- being imposed on Iran, and with Iran's position in Syria unraveling, the psychology in Iraq might change.

This is particularly the case because of intensifying Turkish interest in Iraq. In recent days the Turks have announced plans for pipelines in Iraq to oil fields in the south and in the north. Turkish economic activity is intensifying. Turkey is the only regional power that can challenge Iran militarily. It uses that power against the Kurds in Iraq. But more to the point, if a country builds a pipeline, it must ensure access to it, either politically or militarily. Turkey does not want to militarily involve itself in Iraq, but it does want political influence to guarantee its interests. Thus, just as the Iranians are in retreat, the Turks have an interest in, if not supplanting them, certainly supplementing them.

The pressure on Iran is now intense, and it will be interesting to see the political consequences. There was consensus on the Syrian strategy, but with failure of the strategy, that consensus dissolves. This will have an impact inside of Iran, possibly even more than the sanctions. Governments have trouble managing reversals.

Other Consequences

From the American point of view, al Assad's decline opens two opportunities. First, its policy of no direct military intervention but unremitting political and, to a lesser extent, economic pressure appears to be working in this instance. More precisely, even if it had no effect, it will appear that it did, which will enhance the ability of the United States to influence events in other countries without actually having to intervene.

Second, the current situation opens the door for a genuine balance of power in the region that does not require constant American intervention. One of the consequences of the events in Syria is that Turkey has had to reconsider its policy toward countries on its periphery. In the case of Iraq, Turkey has an interest in suppressing the Kurdistan Workers' Party militants who have taken refuge there and defending oil and other economic interests. Turkey's strategy is moving from avoiding all confrontations to avoiding major military commitments while pursuing its political interests. In the end, that means that Turkey will begin moving into a position of balancing Iran for its own interests in Iraq.

This relieves the United States of the burden of containing Iran. We continue to regard the Iranian sphere of influence as a greater threat to American and regional interests than Iran's nuclear program. The decline of al Assad solves the major problem. It also increases the sense of vulnerability in Iran. Depending on how close they are to creating a deliverable nuclear weapon -- and our view is that they are not close -- the Iranians may feel it necessary to moderate their position.

A major loser in this is Israel. Israel had maintained a clear understanding with the al Assad regime. If the al Assad regime restrained Hezbollah, Israel would have no objection to al Assad's dominating Lebanon. That agreement has frayed since the United States pushed al Assad's influence out of Lebanon in 2006. Nevertheless, the Israelis preferred al Assad to the Sunnis -- until it appeared that the Iranians would dominate Syria. But the possibility of either an Islamist regime in Damascus or, more likely, Lebanese-style instability cannot please the Israelis. They are already experiencing jihadist threats in Sinai. The idea of having similar problems in Syria, where the other side of the border is the Galilee rather than the Negev, must make them nervous.

But perhaps the most important losers will be Russia and China. Russia, like Iran, has suffered a significant setback in its foreign policy that will have psychological consequences. The situation in Syria has halted the foreign-policy momentum the Russians had built up. But more important, the Russian and Chinese hope has been that the United States would continue to treat them as secondary issues while it focused on the Middle East. The decline of al Assad and the resulting dynamic in the region increases the possibility that the United States can disengage from the region. This is not something the Russians or Chinese want, but in the end, they did not have the power to create the outcome in Syria that they had wanted.

The strategy of the dominant power is to encourage a balance of power that contains threats without requiring direct intervention. This was the British strategy, but it has not been one that the United States has managed well. After the jihadist wars, there is a maturation under way in U.S. strategy. That means allowing the intrinsic dynamic in the region to work, intervening only as the final recourse. The events in Syria appear to be simply about the survival of the al Assad regime. But they have far greater significance in terms of limiting Iranian power, creating a local balance of power and freeing the United States to focus on global issues, including Russia and China.
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« Reply #229 on: July 24, 2012, 11:56:33 AM »

Extremely interesting, though it seems he is writing of all the consequences other than the elephant in the room, that Islamic extremists will be controlling another country in the region in addition to whatever problems are to come out of Egypt, Libya etc.

Our only hope can be for these countries now discovering self-rule to turn their attention inward to better their own lives instead of outward to export violence.

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« Reply #230 on: July 24, 2012, 02:14:39 PM »

Perhaps a better theme for the "US foreign policy" thread but IMHO we need to think about the conceptual strategic shifts required as we return to a multi-polar world from the uni-polar moment.
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« Reply #231 on: September 12, 2012, 07:42:25 AM »


Israeli F-15 fighter jets being refueled by a Boeing 707 near Hatzerim air base June 28

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Aug. 17 said it could be worth attacking Iran's nuclear program, even if the attack only delays the program rather than completely destroying it, The Jerusalem Post reported. An Israeli airstrike on the Iranian nuclear program would be a complicated and operationally demanding task. If Israel were to pursue such an operation, a strike package of fighter-bombers and associated support aircraft would likely carry out the brunt of the assault. With the possibility that rebel operations could degrade the Syrian air defense network sometime in the future, the Israeli air force may soon have another viable route option open up for a strike on Iran. However, the numerous variables and difficulties inherent in such a complex and long-range mission would present serious challenges to executing a strike along any route.

A unilateral strike on the Iranian nuclear program is not Israel's preferred option. As Netanyahu's comment illustrates, Israel is fully aware that it could not cause as much damage to the Iranian nuclear program as the United States could. A far more preferable option would be to persuade the United States to lead the strike. Not only does the United States have more military options available to it (including B-2 bombers equipped with the Massive Ordnance Penetrator), but it is also better positioned to respond to retaliation from Iran, including any attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz. However, if Israel does decide to proceed with the mission unilaterally, the different routes the strike package could take each pose unique challenges.

Visit our Iran page for all related analysis, videos, situation reports and maps.
If Israel decided to attack the Iranian nuclear program, the most important component of the attack would likely involve a strike package of fighter-bombers supported by aerial refueling tankers and other support assets. Israel has roughly 100 F-16I aircraft that have greater range than earlier F-16 models due to their conformal fuel tanks. These combat aircraft, in addition to some 25 long-range F-15I strike planes, would constitute the core of the strike force.
Estimates vary on the number of aerial refueling planes that the Israeli air force operates, ranging anywhere from eight to 13 planes. These aircraft would be critical in providing the strike package with enough fuel to reach its targets and return home. Therefore, the number of aerial refueling tankers available would dictate the size of the strike package. The tankers, due to their lower speed and greater vulnerability, would not be able to accompany the fighter-bombers all the way to their targets in Iran but instead would likely have to loiter and refuel the main strike package on its way home.

Currently, the Israeli air force has three principal routes to its targets in Iran. Each option varies in operational and political risk. Some of the countries that could be traversed have capable and effective air defenses that could pose a serious threat to Israel's aircraft, and all of these countries would face significant diplomatic problems with Iran -- and potentially the rest of the Islamic world -- if they allowed Israeli jets to cross unchallenged.
The first route involves flying northward over the eastern Mediterranean Sea between Cyprus and Syria, and then proceeding eastward along the Turkey-Syria border, flying through northern Iraq and into Iran. This route circumvents Syria's air defense network, which was built to cover its western flank against an Israeli air attack. This is very similar to the path Israel is believed to have taken during Operation Orchard, when it struck at a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in the Deir el-Zour region in September 2007.
The second route is the shortest and involves flying directly over Jordan and Iraq to reach Iran. Due to the shorter distance, the likelihood that Jordan could be deterred from interfering with the strike package, and the absence of any viable Iraqi air defense, this route probably poses the least risk. However, Iraq has surveillance radars and could warn Iran of an incoming strike given the close relationship between the two countries' defense establishments. And even if Jordan were deterred from trying to counter the potentially overwhelming force of an Israeli strike, taking this route would likely lead to considerable diplomatic complications with Amman.
The third route takes the strike package through northern Saudi Arabia, over the Persian Gulf and into Iran. While most of Saudi Arabia's air defenses and air bases are oriented toward the Persian Gulf and the main cities to the south, an Israeli strike package would almost certainly be detected, especially since it would have to fly near Tabuk's air base. It is uncertain how Riyadh would respond to this scenario, but according to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Saudi Arabia has warned that it will intercept any Israeli fighters that enter its airspace to attack Iran. While Saudi Arabia would be happy to see Iran weakened, it does not want to be the target of an Iranian retaliatory campaign, especially if Iran were to attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz or to hit Saudi oil installations with ballistic missiles. If Riyadh did choose to intercept the Israeli aircraft, the Israeli air force would face serious complications because Saudi Arabia has a large number of advanced interceptor aircraft.
The risks involved in the options outlined above have shifted and changed over time. For instance, the first route was far more viable in 2007, before the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident seriously damaged Israeli-Turkish relations. On the other hand, an Israeli air force operation over Iraq was more politically complicated before 2012, when the United States assured the protection of Iraqi airspace.
As the war in Syria intensifies, another route may become viable. Rebel operations have already negatively affected the Syrian regime's air defenses somewhat. If this trend intensifies, the country's air defense network may be degraded to the extent that the Israeli air force would be able to fly directly over Syria without undue risk to its aircraft, particularly its slow and vulnerable aerial refueling tankers. This option would allow Israel to avoid the operational and political risks of flying over Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Turkey while maintaining a direct flight path to Iran.

Read more: Challenges of an Israeli Airstrike on Iran | Stratfor
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« Reply #232 on: September 12, 2012, 07:53:17 AM »

War and Bluff: Iran, Israel and the United States
September 11, 2012 | 0900 GMT

By George Friedman
For the past several months, the Israelis have been threatening to attack Iranian nuclear sites as the United States has pursued a complex policy of avoiding complete opposition to such strikes while making clear it doesn't feel such strikes are necessary. At the same time, the United States has carried out maneuvers meant to demonstrate its ability to prevent the Iranian counter to an attack -- namely blocking the Strait of Hormuz. While these maneuvers were under way, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said no "redline" exists that once crossed by Iran would compel an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. The Israeli government has long contended that Tehran eventually will reach the point where it will be too costly for outsiders to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
The Israeli and American positions are intimately connected, but the precise nature of the connection is less clear. Israel publicly casts itself as eager to strike Iran but restrained by the United States, though unable to guarantee it will respect American wishes if Israel sees an existential threat emanating from Iran. The United States publicly decries Iran as a threat to Israel and to other countries in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, but expresses reservations about military action out of fears that Iran would respond to a strike by destabilizing the region and because it does not believe the Iranian nuclear program is as advanced as the Israelis say it is.
The Israelis and the Americans publicly hold the same view of Iran. But their public views on how to proceed diverge. The Israelis have less tolerance for risk than the Americans, who have less tolerance for the global consequences of an attack. Their disagreement on the issue pivots around the status of the Iranian nuclear program. All of this lies on the surface; let us now examine the deeper structure of the issue.
Behind the Rhetoric
From the Iranian point of view, a nuclear program has been extremely valuable. Having one has brought Iran prestige in the Islamic world and has given it a level of useful global political credibility. As with North Korea, having a nuclear program has allowed Iran to sit as an equal with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, creating a psychological atmosphere in which Iran's willingness merely to talk to the Americans, British, French, Russians, Chinese and Germans represented a concession. Though it has positioned the Iranians extremely well politically, the nuclear program also has triggered sanctions that have caused Iran substantial pain. But Iran has prepared for sanctions for years, building a range of corporate, banking and security mechanisms to evade their most devastating impact. Having countries like Russia and China unwilling to see Iran crushed has helped. Iran can survive sanctions.

Visit our Iran page for related analysis, videos, situation reports and maps.
While a nuclear program has given Iran political leverage, actually acquiring nuclear weapons would increase the risk of military action against Iran. A failed military action would benefit Iran, proving its power. By contrast, a successful attack that dramatically delayed or destroyed Iran's nuclear capability would be a serious reversal. The Stuxnet episode, assuming it was an Israeli or U.S. attempt to undermine Iran's program using cyberwarfare, is instructive in this regard. Although the United States hailed Stuxnet as a major success, it hardly stopped the Iranian program, if the Israelis are to be believed. In that sense, it was a failure.
Using nuclear weapons against Israel would be catastrophic to Iran. The principle of mutual assured destruction, which stabilized the U.S.-Soviet balance in the Cold War, would govern Iran's use of nuclear weapons. If Iran struck Israel, the damage would be massive, forcing the Iranians to assume that the Israelis and their allies (specifically, the United States) would launch a massive counterattack on Iran, annihilating large parts of Iran's population.
It is here that we get to the heart of the issue. While from a rational perspective the Iranians would be fools to launch such an attack, the Israeli position is that the Iranians are not rational actors and that their religious fanaticism makes any attempt to predict their actions pointless. Thus, the Iranians might well accept the annihilation of their country in order to destroy Israel in a sort of megasuicide bombing. The Israelis point to the Iranians' rhetoric as evidence of their fanaticism. Yet, as we know, political rhetoric is not always politically predictive. In addition, rhetoric aside, Iran has pursued a cautious foreign policy, pursuing its ends with covert rather than overt means. It has rarely taken reckless action, engaging instead in reckless rhetoric.
If the Israelis believe the Iranians are not deterred by the prospect of mutually assured destruction, then allowing them to develop nuclear weapons would be irrational. If they do see the Iranians as rational actors, then shaping the psychological environment in which Iran acquires nuclear weapons is a critical element of mutually assured destruction. Herein lies the root of the great Israeli debate that pits the Netanyahu government, which appears to regard Iran as irrational, against significant segments of the Israeli military and intelligence communities, which regard Iran as rational.
Avoiding Attaining a Weapon
Assuming the Iranians are rational actors, their optimal strategy lies not in acquiring nuclear weapons and certainly not in using them, but instead in having a credible weapons development program that permits them to be seen as significant international actors. Developing weapons without ever producing them gives Iran international political significance, albeit at the cost of sanctions of debatable impact. At the same time, it does not force anyone to act against them, thereby permitting outsiders to avoid incurring the uncertainties and risks of such action.
Up to this point, the Iranians have not even fielded a device for testing, let alone a deliverable weapon. For all their activity, either their technical limitations or a political decision has kept them from actually crossing the obvious redlines and left Israel trying to define some developmental redline.
Iran's approach has created a slowly unfolding crisis, reinforced by Israel's slowly rolling response. For its part, all of Israel's rhetoric -- and periodic threats of imminent attack -- has been going on for several years, but the Israelis have done little beyond some covert and cyberattacks to block the Iranian nuclear program. Just as the gap between Iranian rhetoric and action has been telling, so, too, has the gap between Israeli rhetoric and reality. Both want to appear more fearsome than either is actually willing to act.
The Iranian strategy has been to maintain ambiguity on the status of its program, while making it appear that the program is capable of sudden success -- without ever achieving that success. The Israeli strategy has been to appear constantly on the verge of attack without ever attacking and to use the United States as its reason for withholding attacks, along with the studied ambiguity of the Iranian program. The United States, for its part, has been content playing the role of holding Israel back from an attack that Israel doesn't seem to want to launch. The United States sees the crumbling of Iran's position in Syria as a major Iranian reversal and is content to see this play out alongside sanctions.
Underlying Israel's hesitancy about whether it will attack has been the question of whether it can pull off an attack. This is not a political question, but a military and technical one. Iran, after all, has been preparing for an attack on its nuclear facilities since their inception. Some scoff at Iranian preparations for attack. These are the same people who are most alarmed by supposed Iranian acumen in developing nuclear weapons. If a country can develop nuclear weapons, there is no reason it can't develop hardened and dispersed sites and create enough ambiguity to deprive Israeli and U.S. intelligence of confidence in their ability to determine what is where. I am reminded of the raid on Son Tay during the Vietnam War. The United States mounted an effort to rescue U.S. prisoners of war in North Vietnam only to discover that its intelligence on where the POWs were located was completely wrong. Any politician deciding whether to attack Iran would have Son Tay and a hundred other intelligence failures chasing around their brains, especially since a failed attack on Iran would be far worse than no attack.
Dispersed sites reduce Israel's ability to strike hard at a target and to acquire a battle damage assessment that would tell Israel three things: first, whether the target had been destroyed when it was buried under rock and concrete; second, whether the target contained what Israel thought it contained; and third, whether the strike had missed a backup site that replicated the one it destroyed. Assuming the Israelis figured out that another attack was needed, could their air force mount a second air campaign lasting days or weeks? They have a small air force and the distances involved are great.
Meanwhile, deploying special operations forces to so many targets so close to Tehran and so far from Iran's borders would be risky, to say the least. Some sort of exotic attack, for example one using nuclear weapons to generate electromagnetic pulses to paralyze the region, is conceivable -- but given the size of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem-Haifa triangle, it is hard to imagine Israel wanting to set such a precedent. If the Israelis have managed to develop a new weapons technology unknown to anyone, all conventional analyses are off. But if the Israelis had an ultrasecret miracle weapon, postponing its use might compromise its secrecy. I suspect that if they had such a weapon, they would have used it by now.
The battlefield challenges posed by the Iranians are daunting, and a strike becomes even less appealing considering that the Iranians have not yet detonated a device and are far from a weapon. The Americans emphasize these points, but they are happy to use the Israeli threats to build pressure on the Iranians. The United States wants to undermine Iranian credibility in the region by making Iran seem vulnerable. The twin forces of Israeli rhetoric and sanctions help make Iran look embattled. The reversal in Syria enhances this sense. Naval maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz add to the sense that the United States is prepared to neutralize Iranian counters to an Israeli airstrike, making the threat Israel poses and the weakness of Iran appear larger.
When we step back and view the picture as a whole, we see Iran using its nuclear program for political reasons but being meticulous not to make itself appear unambiguously close to success. We see the Israelis talking as if they were threatened but acting as if they were in no rush to address the supposed threat. And we see the Americans acting as if they are restraining Israel, paradoxically appearing to be Iran's protector even though they are using the Israeli threat to increase Iranian insecurity. For their part, the Russians initially supported Iran in a bid to bog down the United States in another Middle East crisis. But given Iran's reversal in Syria, the Russians are clearly reconsidering their Middle East strategy and even whether they actually have a strategy in the first place. Meanwhile, the Chinese want to continue buying Iranian oil unnoticed.
It is the U.S.-Israeli byplay that is most fascinating. On the surface, Israel is driving U.S. policy. On closer examination, the reverse is true. Israel has bluffed an attack for years and never acted. Perhaps now it will act, but the risks of failure are substantial. If Israel really wants to act, this is not obvious. Speeches by politicians do not constitute clear guidelines. If the Israelis want to get the United States to participate in the attack, rhetoric won't work. Washington wants to proceed by increasing pressure to isolate Iran. Simply getting rid of a nuclear program not clearly intended to produce a device is not U.S. policy. Containing Iran without being drawn into a war is. To this end, Israeli rhetoric is useful.
Rather than seeing Netanyahu as trying to force the United States into an attack, it is more useful to see Netanyahu's rhetoric as valuable to U.S. strategy. Israel and the United States remain geopolitically aligned. Israel's bellicosity is not meant to signal an imminent attack, but to support the U.S. agenda of isolating and maintaining pressure on Iran. That would indicate more speeches from Netanyahu and greater fear of war. But speeches and emotions aside, intensifying psychological pressure on Iran is more likely than war.

Read more: War and Bluff: Iran, Israel and the United States | Stratfor
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« Reply #233 on: September 12, 2012, 01:06:47 PM »

Though completely unsourced, this comes from a friend who IMHO has a good, responsible track record:

I have been reading everything on line about the Egypt & Libya situation.  I have some questions.


1.  The tweet sent out by the embassy regarding the film occurred before the riot.  Why?  Was there already something "in the wind" that the embassy staff had heard about?

2. Reports are that Zawahari's brother was involved in the planning. 
Definite AQ presence, if so.

3.  It occurred on 9-11.  AQ actions are symbolic of using dates with relevance.  Look at the UK and 7-11.

4.  The Muslim Brotherhood controls the Egyptian government.  How would they have not known.  Did they support the action.

5.  Was this action "rubbing 9-11" into the face of the US?  Was it also "gloating" about having won in Egypt?

6.  Where are all the other people who would work in the embassy? Are they still there?


1.  Another instance of 9-11 "gloating"?

2.  Was this planned with Egypt to occur at the same time?

3.  The marines guarding Stevens had to be "called" to get him. WTF? 
Where were they?  What happened to his personal security force?

4.  Reports are that the Libyan security force was in charge of
consulate security. If so, WTF?  Why weren't the marines in charge of
security?  That is typically their job.

5.  If marines had to be called to the consulate to evacuate Stevens,
does this mean that there were no marines in the consulate when the
riots occurred?  Were there any marines in the consulate at all?

6.  Reports are that the Libyan security forces called for Stevens to be
evacuated.  They had a secure place to take him.  Reports are now
saying  that someone on the force told the rioters and they attacked the

7.  When an ambassador leaves an embassy, he goes in a convoy.  No word
whether there was a convoy or not?  If not, why not?

8.  First reports are that the vehicle was subject to RPG attack. Was
the car hit?  If so, then the rest of the story is not consistent with
an RPG attack.  An RPG attack on the car would have resulted in major
injuries at the very least.

9.  The three other deaths were by gun shot.  This would appear to
indicate that they were executed.  Did they have other injuries from the

10.  Stevens was suffocated.  Now it is being said by smoke inhalation.
This might be consistent with an RPG attack.  When you look at the
photos of Stevens, he does appear to have clothing consistent with an
RPG.  What other injuries did he have?

11.  The main photo being showed has the White House claiming that
Stevens was being dragged to the hospital by "good guys" and that he was
unconscious. Perhaps the "good doctors" here can explain why Stevens'
eyes are open.  Also, if he were unconscious, would his head not be
hanging down, unless someone pulled it up to take the photo.

12.  Other reports are saying that he was dragged through the streets
like in Somalia.  Would the White House pretend otherwise to avoid the
true ramifications of having another Somalia event right before an election?

13.  What happened to all the other consulate employees?  Where are
they?  Are they hostages?

Obama Statement

1.  Obama comes out today and essentially states that the perps "will be
brought to justice" while supporting the Libyan government.  Nothing
else.  Now, this afternoon, he is going to Las Vegas for more fund raising.

Is this going to be a Jimmy Carter moment for Obama?  Will foreign
policy become a factor?

What are all others faults?

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« Reply #234 on: September 12, 2012, 02:59:30 PM »

This from POTH (Pravda on the Hudson):

> Obama Administration Officials Say Attack in Libya May Have Been
> Planned
> The Obama administration suspects that the fiery attack in Libya that
> killed the American ambassador and three other diplomats may have been
> planned rather than a spontaneous mob getting out of control, American
> officials said Wednesday.
> Officials in Washington studying the events of the past 24 hours have
> focused on the differences between the protests on the American
> embassy in Cairo and the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, the
> Libyan city where Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and the other Americans were killed.
> The protesters in Cairo appeared to be a genuinely spontaneous unarmed
> mob angered by an anti-Islam video produced in the United States. By
> contrast, it appeared the attackers in Benghazi were armed with
> mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Intelligence reports are
> inconclusive at this point, officials said, but indications suggest
> the possibility that an organized group had either been waiting for an
> opportunity to exploit like the protests over the video or perhaps
> even generated the protests as a cover for their attack.
> Read More:
> s-repo
> rted-killed.html?emc=na

A friend comments:

"Ralph Peters on Fox News just now stated that the personnel in the Cairo Embassy were sent home early yesterday.  He claims that the US Government knew that something was coming. If so, this is even more damning......."

Another friend comments:

"The movie was a diversion.  It was likely retaliation for US drone strikes that have killed leaders of the current decentralized version of al Qaida.  Don't forget that in 1998, the old version of AQ attacked US embassies in adjacent countries.  Benghazi is in eastern Libya.  It was the center of the rebel movement against Kaddafi.  Remember when some raised questions about who was involved in the rebel movement.  The lines of communication and supply from Egypt to Libya are relatively tight compared to Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998."
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« Reply #235 on: September 13, 2012, 05:22:24 AM »
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« Reply #236 on: September 13, 2012, 08:23:46 AM »

The weakness of Team Obama's response to Egypt and Libya leads to more of this , , ,

The New World Disorder
As the U.S. retreats, bad actors begin to fill the vacuum. .
Article Video Comments (119) more in Opinion | Find New $LINKTEXTFIND$ ».
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By their nature, foreign policy problems often have a long fuse. The successes of one Administration (Truman, Reagan) sometimes don't pay off for years (Bush 41), while dangers can simmer until they suddenly explode (al Qaeda). The Obama Presidency has been an era of slowly building tension and disorder that seems likely to flare into larger troubles and perhaps even military conflict no matter who wins in November.

This is the bigger picture behind this week's public fight between the U.S. and Israel, as well as the anti-American violence in Cairo and Benghazi. In the Persian Gulf, across the Arab Spring and into the Western Pacific, the U.S. is perceived as a declining power. As that perception spreads, the world's bad actors are asserting themselves to fill the vacuum, and American interests and assets will increasingly become targets unless the trend is reversed.

The Administration can't be blamed for the 9/11 anniversary attack in Benghazi, which was an act of terrorism by anti-American Islamists that wasn't stopped by a weak new government. Chris Stevens, the first U.S. Ambassador killed abroad in 33 years, was one of America's most capable diplomats who was deeply engaged in the post-Gadhafi transition. Libya's government has condemned the attack, and one test of its desire for close U.S. ties will be whether it punishes the perpetrators.

Related Video.
Columnist Bret Stephens on the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the White House's response. Photos: Associated Press
.Though less violent, the mob that was able to scale the U.S. Embassy wall in Cairo is in other ways more troubling. Egypt and the U.S. have worked closely since Anwar Sadat, and Cairo is one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid. Only last week the U.S. announced it will forgive about $1 billion in Egyptian debt. Yet the new Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi has failed to stop an assault on the Cairo Embassy, and it hadn't condemned the latest attack by late Wednesday.

Almost as disconcerting was President Obama's failure to mention the Cairo assault in his Rose Garden remarks on Wednesday morning. He condemned the Libyan attacks, praised the fallen U.S. diplomats, and pledged that "justice will be done." But he didn't offer any larger warning that such attacks will have consequences if they continue elsewhere around the world.

This is no idle worry. The 1979 seizure of U.S. diplomats in Tehran was followed that year by attacks on American Embassies in Tripoli and Islamabad. The U.S. Ambassador to Kabul was also killed. It isn't enough for a President to say, as Mr. Obama did Wednesday, that he will work with other countries to secure the safety of U.S. diplomats. These governments have to know they will be held accountable if they don't do so.

The larger concern is that these attacks fit a pattern of declining respect for U.S. power and influence. The Obama Administration has been saying for four years that the U.S. needs to defer to the U.N. and other nations, and the world has taken notice and is more willing to ignore U.S. desires and interests.

Across the Arab Spring, the U.S. has done little to shape events and is increasingly irrelevant. The U.S. angered Saudi Arabia by calling for the ouster of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and now has little sway in Bahrain. Mr. Obama has washed his hands of Syria, allowing Russia and Iran to keep their proxy in power and stir up trouble for Turkey and Lebanon. The Chinese have brazenly occupied disputed territories in the South China Sea, hinting at war if the U.S. intercedes on behalf of its Asian allies.

The U.S. withdrew in toto from Iraq, and now its Prime Minister ignores Vice President Joe Biden's request to stop Iranian arms flights to Damascus. Even America's dependent in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, is refusing to honor his commitments on holding Taliban detainees. Perhaps he has heard Mr. Obama describe Afghanistan in his re-election campaign as if the U.S. is already halfway out the door.

Enlarge Image

Zuma Press
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the media as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stands by.
Most of all, Iran continues its march toward a nuclear weapon despite the President's vow that it is "unacceptable." The U.S. says it has isolated Iran, but only last month the U.N. Secretary-General defied a U.S. plea and attended a non-aligned summit in Tehran. The Administration has issued wholesale exemptions to Congressional sanctions, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared on the weekend that the U.S. is "not setting deadlines" for Iran as it sprints to a bomb.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has engaged in repeated public arguments with Israel, supposedly its best ally in the region. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, recently declared that he doesn't want to be "complicit" in any Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear sites. The White House failed to contradict him. A nation that appears so reluctant to stand by its friends won't be respected or feared by its enemies.

President Obama has had successes against terrorism, notably Osama bin Laden and a stepped-up pace of drone strikes. But both the hunt for al Qaeda and the drone program were part of the larger antiterror policy architecture established by his predecessor. He campaigned against much of that policy only to adopt it while in office.

Mr. Obama also came to office saying, and apparently believing, that a more deferential America would be better respected around the world. He will finish his term having disproved his own argument. The real lesson of the last four years—a lesson as much for Republican isolationists as for Democrats who want to lead from behind—is the ancient one that weakness is provocative

Obama Skipped Security Briefings; Caught Off Guard on Libya, Egypt
As more information comes to light regarding the violence in Egypt and Libya, including the deaths of four Americans, it becomes apparent that Barack Obama was caught completely off guard. Not only does it appear that the violence in Libya was coordinated and planned, but Barack Obama hadn't even attended a security briefing in a week.


Open Mic: Reporters Coordinated Their Questions Against Romney
Before GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney took to the podium on Wednesday for a press conference, members of the media were caught on an open mic coordinating their line of questioning. Their focus was not on policy, but rather to see if they could get Romney to step back from his earlier comments.

« Last Edit: September 13, 2012, 10:03:44 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #237 on: September 13, 2012, 01:56:39 PM »

Two from a friend:
This article has more information and really chafs my skin at the US initial response.  I highlighted in bold key points.
•   We sent one Blackhawk out of Tripoli to evacuate the 37 personnel.  They were under the impression that there were only 10 people to evacuate when it was 37.  Don't we even know how many personnel we had at the consulate?
•   The Blackhawk carried a "squad" of Marines.  In this case the squad was 8 marines.  That is nowhere enough to stabilize a situation and evacuate people.
•   8 marines would likely mean 2 "fire teams".  These would be organized with 4 team members.  Each team would carry a SAW, squad automatic weapon, like a machine gun, an M-4 with an M-203 grenade launcher underneath it, and 2 M-4 riflemen carrying extra loads for the SAW and the M-203.  (The M-4 is similar to the M-16.) 

When I was in the AF, we had fire teams set up like this, except we carried an M-60 Machine Gun instead of the SAW.  I can categorically say that 2 fire teams going into that situation would have not been sufficient to stabilize a situation so as to evacuate 10 people, needless to say, 37 people.

You don't send a couple of fire teams when you are up against unknown  forces with RPG's, machine guns and mortars.
•   One Blackhawk going into a non-friendly situation, even landing at an airport is just plain absurd.  Where the hell is the backup, in the event the Blackhawk is disabled by either fire, or by mechanical problems? 
Haven't we learned a damned since Desert 1 in Iran?

Libya rescue squad ran into fierce, accurate ambush

* U.S. rescue mission to Benghazi hit by 'professional' ambush

* Two diplomats killed at consulate, two at 'safe' house fight

* Rescue raid for diplomats dogged by miscommunication

By Hadeel Al Shalchi

BENGHAZI, Libya, Sept 12 (Reuters) - A squad of U.S. troops dispatched by helicopter across the Libyan desert to rescue besieged diplomats from Benghazi on Wednesday ran into a fierce overnight ambush that left a further two Americans dead, Libyan officials told Reuters.

Accounts of the mayhem at the U.S. consulate, where the ambassador and a fourth American died after a chaotic protest over a film insulting to Islam, remain patchy. But two Libyan officials, including the commander of a security force which escorted the U.S. rescuers, said a later assault on a supposedly safe refuge for the diplomats appeared professionally executed.

Miscommunication which understated the number of American survivors awaiting rescue - there were 37, nearly four times as many as the Libyan commander expected - also meant survivors and rescuers found themselves short of transport to escape this second battle, delaying an eventual dawn break for the airport.

Captain Fathi al-Obeidi, whose special operations unit was ordered by Libya's authorities to meet an eight-man force at Benghazi airport, said that after his men and the U.S. squad had found the American survivors who had evacuated the blazing consulate, the ostensibly secret location in an isolated villa came under an intense and highly accurate mortar barrage.

"I really believe that this attack was planned," he said, adding to suggestions by other Libyan officials that at least some of the hostility towards the Americans was the work of experienced combatants. "The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries."

Obeidi's Libya's Shield Brigade was formed by civilians during last year's U.S.-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi and is now part of the ad hoc government militia forces which the fledgling democratic administration uses to keep order.

Other Libyan officials cited the possible involvement of former soldiers still loyal to Gaddafi's family or Islamist fighters, some of whom have trained and fought in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have noted it was "complex attack". Several Libyan officials and witnesses said an initial demonstration at the consulate appeared to be largely unarmed, though some elements of an Islamist militia were spotted.

At some point, the crowd became incensed, believing they were under attack from within the consulate, many fetched weapons and the consular villa ended up in flames, with most of the Americans fleeing to the safe house after two, including ambassador Christopher Stevens, had been fatally injured.


Of the eight American troops who had come from Tripoli, one was killed and two were wounded, Obeidi said. A Libyan deputy interior minister said a second American was also killed in the attack on the safe house. It was not clear if this was a diplomat or one of the consulate's original security detail.

"It began to rain down on us," Obeidi told Reuters, describing the moment the attack began - just as the Libyan security force was starting up the 10 pickup trucks and sedans they had brought to ferry the Americans to the airport.

"About six mortars fell directly on the path to the villa," he said. "During this firing, one of the marines whom I had brought with me was wounded and fell to the ground.

"As I was dragging the wounded marine to safety, some marines who were located on the roof of the villa as snipers shouted and the rest of the marines all hit the ground.

"A mortar hit the side of the house. One of the marines from the roof went flying and fell on top of us."

A senior U.S. diplomat - not ambassador Stevens, who Libyan officials said died at a local hospital of the effects of smoke - urged Obeidi to push ahead with the evacuation, the Libyan commander Obeidi said. But he had a transport problem.

Having been told to expect 10 Americans and having found 37, Obeidi did not have enough vehicles to break out, despite having one heavy anti-aircraft gun mounted on a pickup truck.

"I was being bombarded by calls from all over the country by Libyan government officials who wanted me to hurry and get them out," he said. "But I told them that we were in such difficult circumstances and that I needed more men and more cars."

Eventually dozens more vehicles were dispatched from pro-government militia brigades and, with the sun rising, the convoy headed back to the airport where an aircraft flew a first group of U.S. personnel out to the Libyan capital.

Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said Stevens and another diplomat died in the first series of incidents around the consulate, while the other two Americans died during the attempt to evacuate from the safe house to the airport.

"(The ambassador) died as a result of suffocation by the fumes of the fire inside the embassy and one was also killed by gunfire before around 37 people were moved to a place we thought was safe," Sharif told Reuters in Benghazi.

Speaking of the rescue mission, he said: "A team of commandos arrived by air and went to a farm which we thought was a secret location. Once they got there, they came under heavy fire from heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, which resulted in the death of two others."

He estimated that a dozen or more Americans were hurt.

REPORTS: Marines not permitted live ammo
U.S. Marines defending the American embassy in Egypt were not permitted by the State Department to carry live ammunition, limiting their ability to respond to attacks like those this week on the U.S. consulate in Cairo.
Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson “did not permit US Marine guards to carry live ammunition,” according to multiple reports on U.S. Marine Corps blog spotted by Nightwatch. “She neutralized any US military capability that was dedicated to preserve her life and protect the US Embassy.”
If true, the reports indicate that Patterson shirked her obligation to protect U.S. interests, Nightwatch states.
“She did not defend US sovereign territory and betrayed her oath of office,” the report states. “She neutered the Marines posted to defend the embassy, trusting the Egyptians over the Marines.”
While Marines are typically relied on to defend U.S. territory abroad, such as embassies, these reports indicate that the Obama administration was relying on Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood-backed government to ensure American security, a move observers are questioning as violence in Cairo continues to rage.

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« Reply #238 on: September 14, 2012, 07:51:54 AM »

Moving Big Dog's post here.

A look at the pros and cons of acting toward Iran. No recommendations; no conclusions. Endorsed by major players in national security.
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« Reply #239 on: September 14, 2012, 08:19:30 AM »

Political Obstacles After U.S. Consulate Attack in Libya
September 12, 2012 | 2039 GMT


U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens was killed along with three other embassy staff Sept. 11 after protesters stormed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. The assault followed a protest earlier the same day in Cairo, where demonstrators scaled the outer wall of the U.S. Embassy building. The protests were in response to a two-hour program that aired Sept. 8 on Salafist TV profiling a U.S.-made film that Muslims found insulting and that had been dubbed in Arabic. Protesters also held demonstrations against the film Sept. 12 outside the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia and in the Gaza Strip.
The protests, which are expected to grow and spread after Friday prayers, expose a fundamental vulnerability in the political leadership of places such as Egypt and Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 Arab uprisings. They will create a set of obstacles for newly installed Islamist parties, which are trying to balance their Islamist credentials with their controversial relationships with the United States and other Western powers.

The protests are already having an impact. The film appears to have at least created a hostile environment around the consulate in Benghazi, increasing the attack's chances of success -- even if the attackers had other motives for targeting the consulate. The ambassador's death will affect the relationship between Tripoli and Washington. In Egypt, the demonstration in front of the embassy was led by a group of Salafist activists. The pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will be high as they consider their response. Already the Egyptian government is facing fuel shortages, rising food costs, a large unemployed youth population and high expectations for immediate improvements in the economy.

Visit our Libya page for related analysis, videos, situation reports and maps.
Massive protests on the scale of the Danish cartoon protests could disrupt this effort. First, they would force the new Islamist governments in Egypt and Tunisia to condemn the film, exposing those governments to charges that they are not truly democratic and leading critics to draw comparisons to their dictatorial predecessors.

Protests could also interfere with Cairo's and Tunis' attempts to rebuild their economies. For example, Morsi, who is scheduled to visit New York and Washington on Sept. 24, welcomed a delegation of U.S. business leaders last week as part of a U.S. commitment to help revive Egypt's economy through debt relief and investment. Washington is unlikely to backtrack on debt forgiveness, but it will push for more assurances of Morsi's commitment to democratic rule and possibly to crackdowns on the more radical Salafist leadership. Meanwhile, mass protests and any attacks on U.S. or Western businesses would give pause to potential investors and businesses looking to expand into Egypt.
Widespread protests can also create another problem for Morsi. Egyptian media have linked the controversial film to the country's Coptic community. Coptic community leaders have condemned the movie and denied any involvement, and Coptic groups have called for a vigil in front of the U.S. Embassy on Sept. 12 to protest the film. But that may not protect the Coptic community from fallout over the controversy. There have been sporadic clashes between Muslims and Christians in Egypt, especially since the January 2011 uprising that led to President Hosni Mubarak's ouster. The Copts in Egypt are fearful of the new Islamist government and of their own reduced ability to influence politics and business in Egypt.
For Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, this is the first real test of how they will govern. As with Ennahda in Tunisia, the Brotherhood has very few radical supporters and is increasingly facing a challenge from Salafist rivals. The Brotherhood cannot afford to be seen as cracking down in the same way that Mubarak did, especially not over protests where the issue is purported insults to Islam. But at the same time, Morsi does not want to appear radical and risk alienating potential investors or Western governments.
In both Egypt and Tunisia, Salafists who partnered with the new Islamist governments in 2011 are now fracturing, and more radical elements have started challenging their former allies. Protests that get out of control could also create problems for the Salafists. Some will prefer to work with the more moderate Islamists in power, while others will choose radicalism over the mainstream. In a bid to take charge of the protests before they get out of control, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has already issued a call for "peaceful" protests this Friday.
It will be important to see how peaceful those protests turn out to be. Rather than a mass demonstration like those seen in 2011 in Tahrir Square, the Brotherhood is calling for nationwide protests in front of main mosques, a tactic that may help disperse more unruly elements. The key will be the Salafists and especially the more radical elements. It is unclear how far they are willing to go in challenging the new political order, and there is always the question of the military, waiting in the background and likely to work with the president to maintain order and calm.
Across the Muslim world, there will also likely be protests this Friday after midday prayers. Attacks against U.S. government buildings, assets and businesses (as happened with the Danish cartoon protests, where U.S. fast food franchises were attacked) are possible. There may even be attacks against Americans. How far the protests go and how violent they get will depend on the situation in each country.
But expatriates and companies should avoid places associated with the United States or Western interests, such as embassies or hotels, and prepare for potential trouble. It is also a prudent time for Westerners in the Muslim world to review their contingency plans. Egypt and Libya both had protests in which demonstrators stormed the U.S. embassies. In Tunisia and in Gaza, demonstrations have so far remained largely peaceful. Protests are also planned or have been called for in Algeria, Morocco and Yemen. But the protests probably will not be confined to North Africa and could affect Westerners as far away as Indonesia.

Read more: Political Obstacles After U.S. Consulate Attack in Libya | Stratfor
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« Reply #240 on: September 14, 2012, 08:23:00 AM »

second post

I saw a bit of Hillary's statement yesterday.  At least there was mention of our right of free speech, but the dhimmi attitude continued unabated with blather about how vile and how offensive she found the clip to be blah blah.

How about a powerpoint presentation of all the offensive calumnies and libels common throughout the Muslim world, including Egypt, towards other religions such as Judaism and Christianity instead?
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« Reply #241 on: September 15, 2012, 07:45:08 PM »
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« Reply #242 on: September 16, 2012, 08:53:56 AM »
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« Reply #243 on: September 16, 2012, 10:50:58 AM »

It’s Not About the Video
Published: September 15, 2012 288 Comments

THE greatest mistake to be made right now, with our embassies under assault and crowds chanting anti-American slogans across North Africa and the Middle East, is to believe that what’s happening is a completely genuine popular backlash against a blasphemous anti-Islamic video made right here in the U.S.A.

There is a cringing way to make this mistake, embodied by the apologetic press release that issued from the American embassy in Cairo on Tuesday as the protests outside gathered steam, by the Obama White House’s decision to lean on YouTube to take the offending video down, and by the various voices (including, heaven help us, a tenured Ivy League professor) suggesting that the video’s promoters be arrested for abusing their First Amendment liberties.

But there’s also a condescending way to make the same error, which is to stand up boldly for free speech while treating the mob violence as an expression of foaming-at-the-mouth unreason, with no more connection to practical politics than a buffalo stampede or a summer storm.

There is certainly unreason at work in the streets of Cairo and Benghazi, but something much more calculated is happening as well. The mobs don’t exist because of an offensive movie, and an American ambassador isn’t dead because what appears to be a group of Coptic Christians in California decided to use their meager talents to disparage the Prophet Muhammad.

What we are witnessing, instead, is mostly an exercise in old-fashioned power politics, with a stone-dumb video as a pretext for violence that would have been unleashed on some other excuse.

This has happened many times before, and Westerners should be used to it by now. Anyone in need of a refresher course should consult Salman Rushdie’s memoir, due out this week and excerpted in the latest New Yorker, which offers a harrowing account of what it felt like to live under an ayatollah’s death threat, and watch as other people suffered at the hands of mobs chanting for his head.

What Rushdie understands, and what we should understand as well, is that the crucial issue wasn’t actually how the novelist had treated Islam’s prophet in the pages of “The Satanic Verses.” The real issue, instead, was the desire of Iran’s leaders to keep the flame of their revolution burning after the debacle of the Iran-Iraq War, the desire of Pakistan’s Islamists to test the religious bona fides of their country’s prime minister, and the desire of religious extremists in Britain to cast themselves as spokesmen for the Muslim community as a whole. (In this, some of them succeeded: Rushdie dryly notes that an activist who declared of the novelist that “death, perhaps, is a bit too easy for him” would eventually be knighted “at the recommendation of the Blair government for his services to community relations.”)

Today’s wave of violence, likewise, owes much more to a bloody-minded realpolitik than to the madness of crowds. As The Washington Post’s David Ignatius was among the first to point out, both the Egyptian and Libyan assaults look like premeditated challenges to those countries’ ruling parties by more extreme Islamist factions: Salafist parties in Egypt and pro-Qaeda groups in Libya. (The fact that both attacks were timed to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks should have been the first clue that this was something other than a spontaneous reaction to an offensive video.)

The choice of American targets wasn’t incidental, obviously. The embassy and consulate attacks were “about us” in the sense that anti-Americanism remains a potent rallying point for popular discontent in the Islamic world. But they weren’t about America’s tolerance for offensive, antireligious speech. Once again, that was the pretext, but not the actual cause.

Just as it was largely pointless, then, for the politicians of 1989 to behave as if an apology from Rushdie himself might make the protests subside (“It’s felt,” he recalls his handlers telling him, “that you should do something to lower the temperature”), it’s similarly pointless to behave as if a more restrictive YouTube policy or a more timely phone call from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the anti-Islam film’s promoters might have saved us from an autumn of unrest.

What we’re watching unfold in the post-Arab Spring Mideast is the kind of struggle for power that frequently takes place in a revolution’s wake: between secular and fundamentalist forces in Benghazi, between the Muslim Brotherhood and its more-Islamist-than-thou rivals in Cairo, with similar forces contending for mastery from Tunisia to Yemen to the Muslim diaspora in Europe.

Navigating this landscape will require less naïveté than the Obama White House has displayed to date, and more finesse than a potential Romney administration seems to promise. But at the very least, it requires an accurate understanding of the crisis’s roots, and a recognition that policing speech won’t make our problems go away.

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« Reply #244 on: September 16, 2012, 05:25:50 PM »
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« Reply #245 on: September 19, 2012, 01:09:32 AM »

 shocked shocked shocked

1)   Rubble makes no trouble
2) Perhaps, when the dust settles, things will have resolved themselves.
All-out Middle East war as good as it gets
By Spengler

TEL AVIV - It is hard to remember a moment when the United States' foreign policy establishment showed as much unanimity as in its horror at the prospect of a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran.

In a September 10 report for Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies, Anthony Cordesman warns, "A strike by Israel on Iran will give rise to regional instability and conflict as well as terrorism. The regional security consequences will be catastrophic."

And a "bi-partisan" experts' group headed by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and co-signed by most of the usual suspects states, "Serious costs to US interests would also be felt over the longer term, we believe, with problematic consequences for global and regional stability, including economic stability. A dynamic of escalation, action, and counteraction could produce serious unintended consequences that would significantly increase all of these costs and lead, potentially, to all-out regional war."

If a contrarian thought might be permitted, consider the possibility that all-out regional war is the optimal outcome for American interests. An Israeli strike on Iran that achieved even limited success - a two-year delay in Iran's nuclear weapons development - would arrest America's precipitous decline as a superpower.

Absent an Israeli strike, America faces:
•  A nuclear-armed Iran;
•  Iraq's continued drift towards alliance with Iran;
•  An overtly hostile regime in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood government will lean on jihadist elements to divert attention from the country's economic collapse;
•  An Egyptian war with Libya for oil and with Sudan for water;
•  A radical Sunni regime controlling most of Syria, facing off an Iran-allied Alawistan ensconced in the coastal mountains;
•  A de facto or de jure Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the Kingdom of Jordan;
•  A campaign of subversion against the Saudi monarchy by Iran through Shi'ites in Eastern Province and by the Muslim Brotherhood internally;
•  A weakened and perhaps imploding Turkey struggling with its Kurdish population and the emergence of Syrian Kurds as a wild card;
•  A Taliban-dominated Afghanistan; and
•  Radicalized Islamic regimes in Libya and Tunisia.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest loser in the emerging Middle East configuration, and Russia is the biggest winner. Europe and Japan have concluded that America has abandoned its long-standing commitment to the security of energy supplies in the Persian Gulf by throwing the Saudi monarchy under the bus, and have quietly shifted their energy planning towards Russia. Little of this line of thinking will appear in the news media, but the reorientation towards Moscow is underway nonetheless.

From Israel's vantage point, the way things are now headed is the worst-case scenario. The economic sanctions are a nuisance for Iran, but not a serious hindrance to its nuclear ambitions. When US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey intoned on August 30 that he "did not want to be complicit" in an Israeli strike on Iran, he was stating publicly what the Pentagon has signaled to Tehran for the past six months. The US wants no part of an Israeli strike.

This remonstrance from the Pentagon, along with the State Department's refusal to identify a "red line" past which Iran would provoke American military action, amounts to a green light for Iran to build an atomic bomb, Israeli analysts believe.

What if Israel were to strike Iran? From a technical standpoint, there is no question that Israel could severely damage the Iranian nuclear program. As the respected German military analyst Hans Ruhl wrote earlier this year: There are 25 to 30 installations in Iran that are exclusively or predominately dedicated to the nuclear program. Six of them are targets of the first rank: the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, the conversion works in Isfahan, the heavy water reactor in Arak, the weapons and munitions production facility in Parchin, the uranium enrichment facility in Fordow, and the Bushehr light water reactor.

The information about Natanzare is solid. The project has been under satellite surveillance from the beginning and been watched by Israeli "tourists". At the moment there are a good 10,000 centrifuges installed, of which 6,500 are producing. Israel's strongest "bunker buster" is the GBU-28 (weight 2.3 tons), which demonstrably can break through seven meters of reinforced concrete and 30 meters of earth. It would suffice to break through the roof at Natanz. In case of doubt, two GBU-28s could be used in sequence; the second bomb would deepen the first bomb's crater and realize the required success.

The trick is to put a second bunker-buster directly into the crater left by a previous one. According to Cordesman, the probability of a direct hit with existing smart-bomb technology is 50%. Half a dozen bombs should do for each of the six key sites - assuming that the Israelis don't have something more creative in the works. Israel has had 10 years to plan the operation, and it is a fair assumption that the Israeli Air Force can accomplish the mission.
The deeper question is: what constitutes success?

"When Israel bombed [Iraq's] Osiris [nuclear reactor in 1981]," said an Israeli who took part in the planning, "we expected a three-year setback of Iraq's nuclear program. It was delayed by 10 years. But that wasn't the most important thing. What was most important to us is the ripple effect through the region."

The ripple effects are what America's foreign policy establishment fears the most. The vision shared by the George W Bush and Barack Obama administrations, albeit with some variation, of a Middle East dotted with democratic regimes friendly to the United States would pop like a soap-bubble. What ripples would ensue from a successful Israeli strike on Iran?

Iran probably would attempt to block the Straits of Hormuz, the gateway for a fifth of the world's oil supply, and America would respond by destroying Iranian conventional military capabilities and infrastructure from the air. This would add to Tehran's humiliation, and strengthen the domestic opposition.

Iran's influence in Iraq and Syria would diminish, although Iran's supporters in both countries probably would spill a great deal of blood in the short run.

Hizbollah almost certainly would unleash its missile arsenal at Israel, inflicting a few hundred casualties by Israeli estimates. Israel would invade southern Lebanon and - unlike the 2006 war - fight without fear of Syrian intervention. In 2006, the Olmert government restricted the movements of the IDF out of fear that the Syrian Army would intervene. Syria's army is in no position to intervene today.

There is a possibility, to be sure, that Syria would launch chemical and biological warheads against Israel, but if the Assad government employed weapons of mass destruction, Israel would respond with a nuclear bombardment. In this case deterrence is likely to be effective. Iran's influence in Lebanon would be drastically diminished.

Stripped of support from its Iranian sponsor, the Alawite regime would fall, and Syria would become a Saudi-Turkish condominium. Ethnic butchery would go on for some time.

Egypt would be cut off from financial support from the Gulf States as punishment for its opening to Iran. The domestic consequences for Egypt would be ugly. The country is almost out of money; some of its oil suppliers stopped deliveries last August, and Egypt's refineries lack funds to buy oil from the government.

Al-Ahram reported September 12 that Upper Egypt now suffers a 30% shortage of diesel fuel. The newspaper wrote,
Egyptians started feeling another diesel crisis at the end of last week, with amounts available shrinking and prompting lengthy queues at stations. A shortage of liquidity in the Ministry of Petroleum has delayed payments to refineries that provide the crude needed to produce diesel. "The Finance Ministry is late delivering the required funds to the Ministry of Petroleum," Hossam Arafat, head of the division of petroleum industries at Egypt's Chambers of Commerce, explained. The total daily supply of diesel on the Egyptian market has fallen to 33,000 tonnes from 40,000, press reports estimate.
Cairo well might become a radical Islamic state, a North Korea on the Nile, as I wrote in this space last month (see North Korea on the Nile Asia Times Online, August 29, 2012.) But the consequences of such a devolution would be limited. With Iran neutralized , Egypt would be less of a threat to Saudi Arabia. It might become a threat to Libya and Sudan. That is unfortunate, but what have Libya and Sudan done for us lately?

In the absence of an American leadership willing to assert American strategic interests in the region, Israel well might save the United States.

In the long view of things, there is not much cause for optimism about the Muslim world. It contains two kinds of countries: those that can't feed their children, like Egypt, and those that have stopped having children, like Iran, Turkey, Algeria and Tunisia. Muslim nations seem to pass directly from infancy to senescence without stopping at adulthood, from the pre-modern directly to the post-modern, as I wrote in my book Why Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too).

Turks have just 1.5 children per family, like the infecund Europeans, while Turkish Kurds have four or five children. That makes the redrawing of the map of Turkey inevitable sooner or later. In a generation, Iran will have an inverted population pyramid like the aging industrial countries, but without the wealth to support it.

There is no reason to expect most of the Muslim countries to go quietly into irreversible decline. All-out regional war is the likely outcome sooner or later. We might as well get on with it.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too) was published by Regnery Press in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It's Not the End of the World - It's Just the End of You, also appeared last fall, from Van Praag Press.

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
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« Reply #246 on: September 21, 2012, 07:13:44 AM »

Fouad Ajami: Muslim Rage and the Obama Retreat
We can't declare a unilateral end to our troubles, or avert our gaze from the disorder that afflicts the societies of the Greater Middle East..

This is not a Jimmy Carter moment—a U.S. Embassy and its staff seized and held hostage for 444 days, America's enemies taking stock of its weakness, its allies running for cover. But the anti-American protests that broke upon 20 nations this past week must be reckoned a grand personal failure for Barack Obama, and a case of hubris undone.

No American president before this one had proclaimed such intimacy with a world that stretches from Morocco to Indonesia. From the start of his administration, Mr. Obama put forth his own biography as a bridge to those aggrieved nations. He would be a "different president," he promised, and the years he lived among Muslims would acquit him—and thus America itself. He was the un-Bush.

And so, in June 2009, Mr. Obama descended on Cairo. He had opposed the Iraq war, he had Muslim relatives, and he would offer Egyptians, and by extension other Arabs, the promise of a "new beginning." They told their history as a tale of victimization at the hands of outsiders, and he empathized with that narrative.

He spoke of "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."

Without knowing it, he had broken a time-honored maxim of that world: Never speak ill of your own people when in the company of strangers. There was too little recognition of the malignant trilogy—anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and anti-modernism—that had poisoned the life of Egypt and much of the region.

The crowd took in what this stranger had to say, and some were flattered by his embrace of their culture. But ever since its traumatic encounter with the guns and ideas of the West in the opening years of the 19th century, the region had seen conquerors come and go. Its people have an unfailing eye for the promises and predilections of outsiders.

It didn't take long for this new American leader to come down to earth. In the summer of 2009, Iran erupted in rebellion against its theocratic rulers. That upheaval exposed the contradictions at the heart of the Obama approach. At his core, he was a hyper-realist: The call of freedom did not tug at him. He was certain that the theocracy would respond to his outreach, resulting in a diplomatic breakthrough. But Iran's clerical rulers had no interest in a breakthrough. We are the Great Satan, and they need their foreign demons to maintain their grip on power.

The embattled "liberals" in the region were awakened to the truth of Mr. Obama. He was a man of the status quo, with a superficial knowledge of lands beyond. In Cairo, he had described himself as a "student of history." But in his first foreign television interview, he declared his intention to restore U.S. relations with the Islamic world to "the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago."

This coincided, almost to the day, with the 30th anniversary of the Ayatollah Khomeini's rise to power in Iran. That "golden age" he sought to restore covered the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the fall of Beirut to the forces of terror, deadly attacks on our embassies, the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and more. A trail of terror had shadowed the American presence.

Yet here was a president who would end this history, who would withdraw from both the "good war" in Afghanistan and the bad one in Iraq. Here was a president who would target America's real enemy—al Qaeda. "Osama bin Laden is dead," we've been told time and again, and good riddance to him. But those attacking our embassies last week had a disturbing rebuttal: "Obama, we are Osama!" they chanted, some brandishing al Qaeda flags.

Until last Tuesday's deadly attack on our consulate in Benghazi, it was the fashion of Mr. Obama and his lieutenants to proclaim that the tide of war is receding. But we can't declare a unilateral end to our troubles, nor can we avert our gaze from the disorder that afflicts the societies of the Greater Middle East.

A Muslim world that can take to the streets, as far away as Jakarta, in protest against a vulgar film depiction of the Prophet Muhammad—yet barely call up a crowd on behalf of a Syrian population that has endured unspeakable hell at the hands of the dictator Bashar al-Assad—is in need of self-criticism and repair. We do these societies no favor if we leave them to the illusion that they can pass through the gates of the modern world carrying those ruinous ideas.

Yet the word in Washington is that we must pull back from those troubled Arab and Muslim lands. The grand expectations that Mr. Obama had for Afghanistan have largely been forgotten. The Taliban are content to wait us out, secure in the knowledge that, come 2014, we and our allies will have quit the place. And neighboring Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country with 170 million people, is written off as a hotbed of extremism.

Meanwhile, Syria burns and calls for help, but the call goes unanswered. The civil war there has become a great Sunni-Shiite schism. Lebanon teeters on the edge. More important, trouble has spilled into Turkey. The Turks have come to resent the American abdication and the heavy burden the Syrian struggle has imposed on them. In contrast, the mullahs in Iran have read the landscape well and are determined to sustain the Assad dictatorship.

Our foreign policy has been altered, as never before, to fit one man's electoral needs. We hear from the presidential handlers only what they want us to believe about the temper of distant lands. It was only yesterday that our leader, we are told, had solved the riddle of our position in the world.

Give him your warrant, the palace guard intone, at least until the next election. In tales of charismatic, chosen leaders, it is always, and only, about the man at the helm.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution and the author most recently of "The Syrian Rebellion" (Hoover Press, 2012).
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« Reply #247 on: September 21, 2012, 07:16:17 AM »

Second post

The Post-American Middle East
The only tide that is 'receding' is U.S. influence. .

Another day, another installment in what President Obama likes to call the "receding" tide of war. On Wednesday, John Kerry threatened to cut U.S. aid to Baghdad unless the Iraqi government blocks overflights of Iranian planes suspected of ferrying military supplies to Damascus. But Baghdad isn't budging. Welcome to the post-American Middle East, Senator.

"If so many people have entreated the [Iraqi] government to stop and that doesn't seem to be having an impact," said the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a confirmation hearing for the new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, then it "seems to send a signal to me maybe we should make some of our assistance or some of our support contingent on some kind of appropriate response."

The nominee, current Baghdad chargé d'affaires Robert Beecroft, agreed, saying he has "made it very clear that we find this unacceptable."

"Unacceptable" is a word the Administration often uses about behavior it doesn't like but isn't prepared to do much to stop: Think massacres in Syria, warfare in Sudan, mob violence against our embassies—or a nuclear Iran. Now add to the list the nonfeasance of an Iraqi government that calculates it has more to lose from confronting the mullahs than it does from rejecting entreaties from erstwhile friends in Washington.

That's not to say that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is right to let Iran use its airspace to help Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad remain in power—as Tehran now openly boasts it is doing. It's no secret that Mr. Maliki detests the regime in Tehran, which did so much to foment the insurgency in Iraq in his first years in office. Nor does Mr. Maliki love the Assad regime, which funneled so many jihadists to Iraq and gave safe haven to so many of Saddam's exiled lieutenants.

But Iraq will always have Iran and Syria as its neighbors, and it needs to choose its squabbles carefully. Nor could Iraq do much to stop the Iranian overflights even if it chose to. Iraqi airspace has been essentially undefended since the U.S. withdrew its remaining forces last year. In December the Iraqi government made initial payments for two squadrons of F-16s, but delivery isn't expected until 2014. What passes for an Iraqi air force today consists of a hodgepodge of Cessnas, Hueys, plus a few transport planes and helicopters.

The Iraqi Prime Minister must also wonder why Mr. Kerry—who until last year was Assad's best friend in Washington, or second best after Nancy Pelosi—should now strike such an indignant pose about the overflights. This is from an ally of an Administration that has consistently refused to intercede in Syria in any serious way beyond symbolic and fruitless diplomacy at the U.N. An America that prefers to lead from behind can't ask other countries to take risks we aren't prepared to run ourselves.

All the more so following America's complete pullout from Iraq, when the Administration could have negotiated to maintain a meaningful residual U.S. force. Gratitude is not a powerful operating force in the foreign policy of most states, including Iraq. Joe Biden, the President's point man for Iraq, now gets only the back of Mr. Maliki's hand without U.S. troops as his influence-multiplier.

The larger lesson is that withdrawal from Iraq was not the no-cost triumph the President keeps telling American voters it is. The Iranian overflights—of which there have been more than 100 so far—would not happen if the U.S. still had an airbase in Iraq to secure the country's airspace. And Mr. Maliki would likely be more confident in his dealing with Iran if he had a division's worth of American troops to serve as a deterrent to Iranian incursion. As for U.S. aid, the $1 billion is not all that meaningful for a government flush with oil revenues.

What goes in Iraq goes as well in the broader Middle East, from Tunisia to Afghanistan. The Administration has repeatedly made it clear that it wants to downsize its commitments to the region, as part of its "pivot" to Asia. But now it wonders why our entreaties in Baghdad (and Cairo) keep falling on deaf ears.

Or why jihadists would plan to murder a U.S. Ambassador on the anniversary of 9/11 in Libya, a country we helped to liberate but have since ignored. Having first blamed the attack on the "spontaneous" reaction to a YouTube film, even the Administration has now had to admit it was a terrorist attack. One question Congress should ask is why the White House didn't act to protect or rescue the Ambassador when news reports now say it was warned that an attack could happen.

President Obama keeps using his campaign catchphrase that the "tide of war is receding," but the real receding tide is in U.S. power and influence. Our growing irrelevance to the region comes with costs that are growing and that are likely to draw us back in later at a much higher price.
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« Reply #248 on: September 29, 2012, 09:06:48 AM »
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« Reply #249 on: October 03, 2012, 03:25:19 PM »

Syria's Kurds Build Enclaves as War Rages
Oppressed Group Gains New Freedoms With Help of Political Alliance, Militia.

DERIK, Syria—A teacher's request sends a dozen young arms skyward, with high-pitched pleas to showcase new skills. One by one, the excited pupils walk to the front of their dusty classroom to recite or write in Kurdish—a language outlawed from public life in Syria.

While civil war has shut many schools across the country, here in the Kurdish-dominated northeast, education is expanding into new territory—just one way in which the Assad regime's focus on fighting rebels in the biggest cities has allowed the emergence of autonomous Kurdish enclaves.

"Until now the regime closed Kurdish eyes and mouths. Now we are shouting to them that we will have our rights and they won't be taken away," said Ciwan Derik, a 50-year-old teacher.

As Syria's war rages on, Kurdish groups in a remote region near Turkey and Iraq have taken control. It could have huge consequences for Syria's neighbors, who have long suppressed Kurdish populations. WSJ's Turkey Bureau Chief Joe Parkinson reports.
A profound shift in political power is taking place in this remote corner of Syria, reshaping the country in ways that will be very difficult to reverse, and sending shock waves through the region.

Kurdish political parties backed by paramilitary groups have taken control of much of the 250-mile-wide swath of northern Syria, from Iraq in the east to Turkey in the West, that is the heartland of the country's oil industry.  Syrian forces are still keeping watch in the area, and their military bases remain. But many troops have left as President Bashar al-Assad concentrates his military on battling opposition fighters in the largest cities, Aleppo and Damascus. The few troops remaining are keeping a low profile.  Syria's long-oppressed Kurds have wasted no time filling the vacuum.

Before the uprising began, members of Syria's Kurdish population of about two million people were denied full citizenship rights, forcibly displaced and arbitrarily detained.
Now, red, green and yellow-banded Kurdish flags can be seen above municipal buildings. Kurds are policing their own towns and cities. Kurdish political parties control the distribution of food, water and fuel, and have set up their own makeshift courts. Kurdish paramilitary forces are training in camps in northeastern Syria and across the border in northern Iraq.

Teaching Kurdish, which was illegal for four decades under the Assad regime and could bring in imprisonment and torture, is now a growth industry.  In the province around Derik, known in Arabic as al-Hassaka, Kurdish classes are now offered five times a week, while the number of students has swelled from a handful in November to more than 600 in the city and surrounding villages.

Syrian Kurds' aspirations for self-rule have potentially seismic consequences for Syria's neighbors, which have long suppressed nationalist sentiments among their own sizable Kurdish populations.

Kurdish women demonstrate in al-Qamishli, calling for the release of the jailed leader of the Kurdish Workers' Party, Abdullah Ocalan.

More than 30 million Kurds live across an area that includes parts of Turkey, Iraq and Iran as well as Syria. Kurds speak multiple dialects and are represented by a plethora of often opposing political parties and organizations. Yet they have also managed to maintain a separate identity, if partly due to the lines Arabs, Turks and Iranians have drawn to separate themselves from Kurdish communities.

The emergent political power in this Kurdish region of Syria is the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, founded in 2003 by Kurdish nationalists. The PYD is the senior partner in a delicate alliance with a longtime rival, the Kurdish National Council, following a deal brokered in July by Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government.

The Syrian Kurdish alliance has since asked Iraqi Kurdish officials to let them use two paramilitary training camps in northern Iraq.  Meanwhile, Turkish officials have repeatedly said they were alarmed by the PYD's close ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey since 1984. Ankara has accused Mr. Assad of arming the PYD and has threatened military intervention to stem any threat to Turkey.

Kurdish leaders in Syria deny any nationalist intentions. But there is growing talk of independence, and Syrian state buildings now house signs of emerging Kurdish power.

At the village of Gerbala on the border with Iraq, a government military post is now guarded by scores of Kurdish militiamen loyal to the PYD, and armed with Kalashnikovs and a 47-calibre machine gun mounted on a pickup.

Beyond the checkpoints, the Kurdish villages that dot the yellowed-grass hills are using newfound freedom to raise crops on land their forefathers worked decades ago before President Assad's father and predecessor insisted their farmland could only be cultivated by the military.  Previously restricted to building mud brick houses, villagers are also building concrete homes for friends and family who have fled fighting elsewhere in Syria.

Iman Hamadi, a 36-year-old Kurdish housewife from the besieged majority Sunni town of Zabadani near the Lebanese border, said she paid 100,000 Syrian pounds ($1,490) to be smuggled to the Kurdish region with her husband and nine children. "We came here because people were dying from the shelling and we have family here and it is safer," she said, as three builders laid blocks for two new houses in the searing sun.

Optimism may be in greater supply here than other parts of Syria, but the economic cost of war has still taken its toll. Spending and the value of the Syrian pound have collapsed, while employment has dried up. Thousands of young men have fled to refugee camps in Iraq to seek shelter and to look for jobs.

Abdullah Dumu, 38, said demand at his hardware store in Derik has fallen more than 70% while costs have surged.

But he sees a silver lining. "We used to be reliant on the rest of the country for everything and now we're learning something different; that is good practice for the future," he said.

In Derik, known as al-Malikiyah in Arabic, a town of around 80,000 some 20 miles from the Iraqi border, a former state courthouse and a military training school have been converted into a Kurdish center by the PYD. Party officials each morning offer arbitration on disputes over money, marriage and other matters.

The goal is to make Kurdish autonomy a permanent political reality. "We are trying to expand our influence very slowly, that is the strategy," said PYD leader Salih Muslim Mohammed, 64. "Now we have our influence in the Kurdish areas and we will try to keep them quiet, until the regime changes. If we need to fight to defend ourselves, we can."

At the entrance to town, Kurdish volunteers armed with Kalashnikovs manned a checkpoint. "After the state left, there was chaos and we set up this checkpoint. Everyone here is ready to defend ourselves if we need to," said Ekrem Kefi, a 48-year-old plasterer from Derik who works a 12-hour shift at the checkpoint every three days.

The power Kurdish groups have amassed here remains diffuse and precarious. In Kurdish-controlled towns, the apparatus of the Syrian state operates in tandem with the new administration. Damascus still collects taxes and pays the wages of most state employees. Christian mayors and bureaucrats loyal to President Assad still ply their trade, while the portraits of Syria's president remain on the walls of some state buildings.

Asked who was running government services in Derik, Jwan Tatar, a 25-year-old state-employed engineer, said simply: "It is 50-50."

On the Turkish border, in Qamishli, the regional capital, Kurds make up the majority of the 200,000 residents, but they control only portions of the city, a patchwork of Kurds, Christians and Arabs. Mr. Assad's forces are present in large numbers. Government checkpoints ring the city, and men from the feared state intelligence agency, the mukhabarat, walk the streets.

The visibility of the regime and the largely bloodless manner in which the PYD emerged to lead the Kurds' push for autonomy have sparked accusations. Turkish officials said Mr. Assad allowed Syrian Kurds greater sway in a plot to empower the PKK rebels in Turkey, as retaliation against Ankara for letting the rebel Free Syrian Army operate on its southern border.

The PYD rejects that claim, stressing that its members were persecuted by the regime for four decades, with many imprisoned or still missing. The party says it is closely affiliated with the PKK but denies that PKK fighters have been called to Syria to bolster its forces. Kurdish groups and residents said the PYD is strengthening its capacity by actively recruiting and collecting donations from residents.

Nevertheless, once-banned PKK propaganda has proliferated across the region. Images of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, jailed in Turkey jail since 1999, are plastered across municipal buildings controlled by Kurdish politicians. Locals wear pins with the face of the leader, who is referred to here by the more affectionate abbreviation, "Apo."

The expanding militarization of militia groups also marks a source of tension between Kurdish parties and could likely be viewed as a provocation by Syria's neighbors.

"Of course, our defense forces are getting stronger. They are now in  the thousands. We are collecting money from the Kurds to fund them," said Sophi Ali Alias, a construction company owner and member of a PYD-affiliated group called Tevdem, now working as a public official in Derik.

—Ayla Albayrak
contributed to this article.
Write to Joe Parkinson at
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