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Ed Webb

Arabs Across Syria Join the Kurdish-Led Syrian Democratic Forces - MERIP - 1 views

  • Led by Kurds, the YPG evolved over time into the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF): a multi-ethnic, multi-religious force in which all the indigenous peoples of the region are represented. Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Yezidis, Circassians and Turkmen have fought alongside Kurds to defend their homeland. By 2019, when the SDF had liberated all of Syrian territory from ISIS control, there were some 100,000 fighters (including SDF and Internal Security Forces) under the leadership of SDF commander-in-chief Mazlum Abdi, a Syrian Kurd and former Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) cadre.[2] The majority of his rank-and-file fighters, however, were Arabs.
  • My field survey of over 300 SDF members reveals that there are three main reasons for the SDF’s success in recruiting and retaining Arabs: First, the SDF offered material incentives such as salaries and training opportunities.[3] Second, the existence of a common threat—first ISIS and now Turkey—solidified bonds between Kurds and Arabs and also prompted many to enlist. Third, the survey shows that many Arab members of the SDF support at least some, if not all, of the basic political principles upon which the SDF and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) are based.
  • In September 2014, a joint operations room was established between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the YPG, known as Burkan al-Firat (Euphrates Volcano).[4] The ISIS siege of Kobane and ensuing US military support cemented the alliance between the YPG and a number of Arab units within the FSA, which led to the emergence of the SDF in October 2015.
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  • the SDF became the main partner force for the United States on the ground in Syria. In order to defeat ISIS, it was necessary to further expand the geographical reach of the SDF to Arab-majority cities such as Manbij, Raqqa, Tabqa and Deir Ezzor. In the course of this expansion, some Arab women were recruited as well. In July 2017, the YPJ (the women’s branch of the YPG) announced the creation of the first battalion of Arab women, the “Brigade of the Martyr Amara.”[5]
  • the expansion of the SDF and self-administration across north and east Syria was not always welcomed by Arab communities. The increase in Arab rank-and-file fighters has not yet been accompanied by an equally significant increase of Arabs in leadership positions, although Arabs have been promoted within both the military and civilian structures of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. The secular and gender-egalitarian ideology is not embraced by some more conservative members of society
  • In an attempt to undo tribal hierarchies, administration officials are encouraging people to use the term al-raey, which means shepherd
  • during my visits to ramshackle YPJ outposts in Manbij, Raqqa, Al-Sheddadi, Tabqa, Ain Issa, Al-Hasakah and elsewhere, I met many Arab women. They had all enlisted in the YPJ voluntarily, as there is no conscription for women. Many of them were eager to tell their stories
  • name of the governing entity was changed to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and the Kurdish term Rojava was dropped in December 2016.[10] Although this decision angered some Kurdish nationalists, it was justified by the expansion of the territory beyond Kurdish-majority areas. The official logo recognizes the linguistic diversity of the region, and is in four languages: Arabic, Kurdish, Syriac-Aramaic and Turkish. Furthermore, in 2018 the de-facto capital or administrative center of the region was moved from Qamishli to Ain Issa, an Arab town
  • By 2019, the SDF was in de-facto control of approximately one-third of Syria. The territory they defend from incursions by ISIS, the Turkish government and Syrian government forces is an ethnically and religiously diverse region. These six regions—Jazira, Deir Ezzor, Raqqa, Tabqa, Manbij and Euphrates—are governed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, which operates semi-independently of Damascus. The Arabs who inhabit these six regions are not a homogenous group. While some Arabs have protested the policies of the Autonomous Administration, others openly endorse the new political project.
  • Inspired by an eclectic assortment of scholars, ranging from Murray Bookchin to Immanuel Wallerstein, the ideology that emerged is referred to as Democratic Confederalism. The nation-state is no longer a prize to be obtained but is now seen as part of the problem that led to the subjugation of Kurds in the first place, along with that of women and other minorities, and therefore to be avoided.
  • The emergence of Arab Apocis may be one of the many unexpected twists of the Syrian conflict, signifying the appeal of the Rojava revolution beyond Rojava.
  • A co-chair system was established where all leadership positions—from the most powerful institutions down to neighborhood communes—are held jointly by a man and a woman
  • here I focus on Arabs since they now constitute the majority of rank-and-file fighters and yet are frequently omitted from analyses of the SDF. Scholars, journalists, think tank analysts and government officials still incorrectly refer to the SDF as a Kurdish force.
  • joining the SDF entailed risks, especially for women. Anyone who joined the SDF from a city that was under the control of ISIS, or who joined from territory never controlled by the SDF, did so at great personal risk
  • The Syrian Democratic Forces is the only armed group in Syria that has a policy of not discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or gender, which has allowed the SDF to develop into a truly multi-ethnic and multi-religious force. This radical egalitarianism clearly appealed to non-Arab minorities who suffered under decades of pan-Arabism promoted by the Baathist regime of the Asad family. Kurds from the far corners of Kurdistan were galvanized by the promise of the Rojava revolution. What is less well appreciated is that Arabs have also embraced these ideals and practices.
  • a large number of Arab respondents rejected the Turkish occupation of Syria and demanded that the land be returned to Syria. Contrary to analysts who portray the conflict as one solely between Turkey and the Kurds, my survey shows that Arab SDF members also view the Turkish incursions and expanding Turkish presence as an illegitimate foreign occupation of Syrian land
  • The SDF faces ongoing threats from the Asad regime, Turkey and ISIS cells. The Turkish intervention in October 2019, however, did not lead to a disintegration of the SDF, or even to any serious defections, as some had predicted.[14]
Ed Webb

From SEALs to All-Out War: Why Rushing Into Yemen Is a Dangerous Idea | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • As is often the case with Trump’s comments on policy, they quickly become the focus of media attention, rather than what the administration is actually doing — or what the facts are on the ground.
  • two separate but overlapping conflicts
  • a counterterrorism fight waged by Yemeni government, with U.S. support, against AQAP, al Qaeda’s most virulent franchise
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  • The second, and more damaging conflict, is a civil war between the government of Yemen and the Houthi minority, which was expected to last a matter of weeks, and maybe months, but is now well into its third year. It began when Houthi militia fighters descended on the capital Sanaa in late 2014 and soon evicted the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close partner of the United States.
  • if new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants to make an early diplomatic contribution, then there is a confounding but vital mission with his name on it: de-escalating a Yemen civil war that is damaging U.S. interests and should have stopped a long time ago
  • The civil war escalated dramatically in March 2015, with the intervention of a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which understandably felt threatened by the turmoil on its border and by ties between the Houthis and Riyadh’s arch-rival Iran. The United States, which had long been urging Saudi Arabia to take greater responsibility for security challenges in its region, offered a range of support, including with intelligence, weapons sales, aerial refueling for Saudi planes, and various measures to help secure the Saudi border
  • According to the United Nations, 16,200 people have been killed in Yemen since the intervention, including 10,000 civilians. The humanitarian situation in what was already one of the world’s poorest countries, is now, after Syria, the most dire on the planet, with one in five Yemenis severely food insecure
  • The war has preoccupied key partners with an enemy that does not directly threaten the United States. Indiscriminate air strikes, conducted with American weapons and in the context of American assistance, have killed scores of non-combatants (such incidents eventually compelled the Obama administration to review and adjust our assistance to the coalition). And while Iran and the Houthis have historically maintained an arms-length relationship, the long conflict has brought them closer and led to the introduction of more advanced weapons, such as missiles capable of striking deep into Saudi territory or of threatening the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, a critical channel for maritime traffic.
  • Saudi officials and their Emirati coalition partners have been signaling for months that they are eager to end the conflict, which they did not expect to last nearly this long
  • after years of U.N.-led negotiations that sought to sell a relatively one-sided peace to the Houthis (despite what was, at best, a stalemate on the ground), the Obama administration developed and bequeathed to its successors a more balanced roadmap to which all key parties (the Saudis, the Houthis, and the Yemeni government — as well as the United States, U.N., and U.K.) grudgingly agreed
  • the Houthis are infamously difficult to work with. When Secretary of State John Kerry met for several hours with their representatives in Oman last November, he was forced to endure a lengthy airing of historical grievances before embarking on the topic at hand. They also have a long history of violating dozens of agreements, which every Saudi diplomat can recount, chapter and verse. Negotiating peace will also inevitably involve straining relationships with our key partners, who will need to be pushed in the right direction
  • Hadi, who all relevant players acknowledge cannot govern a reconciled Yemeni state, has consistently scuttled deals that would require him leave office. His Saudi patrons have proven either unwilling, or unable, to compel better behavior and are themselves too are quick to revert to unreasonable demands — a tendency that would be reinforced if the Trump administration signals it unconditionally has Riyadh’s back
  • the Emiratis, who maintain a heavy troop presence in southern Yemen but have, wisely, been more focused on AQAP (the first war) than the Houthis (second), have for many months been threatening to attack the Houthi-held port of Hudeidah, a provocative step that would almost certain set back any peacemaking efforts indefinitely
  • an expanded presence of U.S. forces — while Yemeni and Saudi governments are still at war with the Houthis — could bring U.S. troops into close quarters with Iran and its proxies, with all of the escalatory potential that entails
  • While the Houthis fired on a U.S. ship late last year, they have not repeated that mistake since the Obama administration retaliated by destroying radars located along the coast. If President Trump chooses to put U.S. forces into the middle of a civil war, it should explain a purpose and objective more concretely than simply “pushing back” on Iran. Moreover, it must do so with its eyes open to the risks those forces would be assuming and the reality that a limited special forces mission is unlikely to turn the tide on the ground
  • the longer the conflict with the Houthis continues, the more AQAP will continue to benefit from our, and our partners’, divided focus, as it strengthens its hold on ungoverned territory
Michael Fisher

U.S. Speeding Up Missile Defenses in Persian Gulf - NYTimes.com - 0 views

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    The Obama administration is accelerating the deployment of new defenses against possible Iranian missile attacks in the Persian Gulf, placing special ships off the Iranian coast and antimissile systems in at least four Arab countries, according to administration and military officials.
Ed Webb

What's going on with Qatar? - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • The ferocity and the sheer scale of the “Qatar-bashing” articles suggest that an orchestrated campaign is underway to discredit Doha regionally but also — crucially — in the eyes of the Trump administration.
  • A convergence of factors appears to have shifted the geopolitical landscape in the Persian Gulf. The Trump administration signaled that it intends to follow a set of regional policies that are aligned far closer to those of Abu Dhabi and Riyadh than Doha. Both Mohammed bin Zayed and Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were high-profile visitors to Washington in the run-up to the Riyadh summit with Arab and Islamic leaders. Further, the policy inexperience of many within Trump’s inner circle has presented an opportunity for both the Saudis and the Emiratis to shape the administration’s thinking on critical regional issues such as Iran and Islamism, both of which were evident during the Riyadh visit.
  • Key principals within the Trump administration, such as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, hold views on Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood that are virtually indistinguishable from those in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are emerging as the two spearheads around which U.S. regional policies are realigning, including a set of hawkish defense and security interests
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  • There are differences between this latest disagreement and the past — not least in the way the current standoff is being played out in the media rather than behind the closed doors of leaders’ meetings — and no act equivalent to the withdrawal of the ambassadors. In fact, few officials have publicly joined the feeding frenzy and have been careful not to single Qatar out by name in calling for brotherly unity against the Iranian “menace.”
  • By allowing the media campaign to run into a second week with no apparent letup, policymakers in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi may be hoping to pressure the leadership in Doha into making concessions or watching to see whether figures within the Trump administration take the bait without having to resort to official threats or sanctions. Where this leaves the GCC as an entity in the age of Trump is anyone’s guess
Ed Webb

IDF chief warns US not to rejoin Iran deal - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • On Jan. 26, the day Al-Monitor ran an article describing hints of a military option against Iran that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was directing at the new US administration, the chief of the Israel Defense Forces, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, delivered his annual address at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. His remarks shocked Israel’s political-defense establishment and likely reverberated in Washington and Tehran. Contrary to the position taken by two of Kochavi’s predecessors, Lt. Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz and Lt. Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, who currently serve as Israel’s ministers of defense and foreign affairs, respectively, Kochavi launched a direct attack on the Barack Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and delivered thinly veiled hints to the new Democratic administration.
  • “A return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, or even if it is a similar accord with several improvements, is bad and wrong from an operational and strategic point of view. Operationally, because it would enable Iran to enrich quantities of uranium, develop centrifuges to the point of a nuclear breakout. Strategically, it will drag the Middle East into a nuclear race,”
  • The timing of his remarks could not have been more sensitive, two days before the first working visit to Israel by US CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie and just one week after the Joe Biden administration took office. Kochavi did not give the Americans the usual 100 days of grace and did not leave the messaging to the politicians.
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  • Netanyahu associates were quick to issue a clarification, as diplomatic affairs analyst Barak Ravid reported immediately following Kochavi’s appearance, emphasizing that the prime minister is not interested at this stage in a confrontation with the US administration and is in fact seeking to develop an intimate dialogue with the Americans allowing him to present his position
  • Associates of Gantz and Ashkenazi were less laid back. Both spoke with their American counterparts shortly afterward, Ashkenazi with Blinken and Gantz with incoming Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Al-Monitor has learned that both ministers assuaged their counterparts’ concerns, explaining that Kochavi was not expressing an official Israeli position and that Israel seeks a productive, professional dialogue with the administration to bridge the gaps between them and ensure the closest coordination possible.
  • disseminated the full text of his speech to all the top IDF brass the following day
  • Kochavi’s position runs counter to that of most senior Israeli defense and intelligence officials (except for Mossad director Yossi Cohen, whose views are equally militant), who contend that the absence of a nuclear agreement with Iran is more of a threat to Israel than the deal from which the United States withdrew in 2018.
  • His address was not cleared with his superiors, the security cabinet or the government.
  • Kochavi’s position collides head on with the understandings that Gantz, Ashkenazi and probably Netanyahu are trying to develop along the Washington-Jerusalem axis.
  • was the shift professional or shaped by political considerations?
  • Kochavi’s abilities and charisma make him a natural candidate for Israel’s leadership after the Netanyahu era. In trying to depict himself as more Netanyahu than Netanyahu, he could be signaling that such is indeed his goal
  • He is building himself up as a defense hawk, a position that has been Netanyahu’s winning card for years.
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    Israel's internal politics and its foreign policy interacting
Ed Webb

Trump Administration Is Bypassing Arms Control Pact to Sell Large Armed Drones - The Ne... - 0 views

  • The Trump administration announced on Friday that it would allow the sale of advanced armed drones to other nations and bypass part of an international weapons export control agreement that the United States helped forge more than three decades ago.
  • Missile Technology Control Regime
  • circumventing one part of the pact could undermine the agreement in general and encourage other nations to selectively ignore or reinterpret clauses that they find inconvenient
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  • United States has relied on the agreement to help constrain global exports of missile technology to nations it views as security threats because of their nuclear programs, notably North Korea and Iran
  • Several Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are eager to buy drones capable of carrying large payloads. Both those countries have waged a devastating air war in Yemen that has led to thousands of civilian deaths.
  • “This reckless decision once again makes it more likely that we will export some of our most deadly weaponry to human rights abusers across the world,” he said. “This is yet another reckless move by an administration fixated with eliminating the international cooperation that has made the United States and other countries safer for decades.”
  • A Chinese company, Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, has developed a drone, the Wing Loong II, that has the same abilities as the MQ-9 Reaper, made by General Atomics, based in San Diego.This year, General Atomics stepped up its lobbying efforts to persuade the government to allow sales of the Reaper, whose export is effectively banned by the requirement of a “strong presumption of denial” in the pact, a congressional aide said.
  • Trump administration, though, has shown disdain for the concept of international agreements and has withdrawn from several major ones
  • In May 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo bypassed a congressional freeze on sales of $8.1 billion of arms to the two countries with an emergency declaration that whose legality is in question.
  • Arms exports, particularly to Gulf Arab nations, have led to some of the biggest clashes between the Trump administration and Congress
  • Officials in the State Department and Pentagon who work on nonproliferation issues have pushed back internally on efforts by other officials to bypass the ban in the agreement, which covers drones capable of carrying at least 500 kilograms, or over 1,100 pounds, of weapons over 300 kilometers, about 186 miles. Those officials and some lawmakers argue that other countries or companies can copy the technology once they are in possession of the drones and start making their own.
  • Besides countries in the Middle East, ones in East Asia and Central and Eastern Europe are likely to ask to buy the drones. Reuters reported last month that the United States was considering bypassing the agreement to sell larger drones.
  • Missile Technology Control Regime was established in 1987 by the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Britain to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The pact, which now includes 35 member nations, restricts the exports of missiles and their components. It has been credited with slowing down missile development programs in countries like Egypt and Iraq.
Ed Webb

Obama's Syria Strategy Is the Definition of Insanity | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • The Russian government, much less the Assad regime, has never been a reliable partner for peace in Syria. But even after Russia’s alleged bombing of the aid convoy, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration is still plowing its energies into a deal that aims to work with the Russian government.
  • The Obama administration has viewed the Syrian crisis through the lens of counterterrorism. But diplomatic failures such as this one continue to embolden extremist actors like al Qaeda, which has purposely presented itself as a reliable and necessary opposition ally, seemingly dedicated only to the cause of ridding Syria of the Assad regime. By so deeply embedding within Syrian revolutionary dynamics and claiming to fill the vacuum left behind by insufficient foreign support or protection, al Qaeda’s narrative is constantly strengthened by perceptions of American inadequacy. Thus, U.S. failures do not exist in a vacuum — our adversaries quickly translate them into their own victories.
  • The result? Nearly half a million people dead, more than 1 million people living under siege, and 11 million people displaced. Catastrophic refugee flows have led to an anti-immigrant backlash in Europe and the rise of far-right politics while Syria is now home to perhaps the greatest concentration of jihadi militants in any single country ever
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  • Bashar al-Assad does not intend to step down from power, and he will use any means at his disposal to prevent that from happening
  • Five years ago, Syria was a local problem; today it is an international one. U.S. indecision, risk aversion, a total divergence between rhetoric and policy, and a failure to uphold clearly stated “red lines” have all combined into what can best be described as a cold-hearted, hypocritical approach. At worst, Washington has indirectly abetted the wholesale destruction of a nation-state, in direct contradiction to its fundamental national security interests and its most tightly held values.
  • U.S. commitment remained negligible when compared with our often uncoordinated regional allies, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. It seems U.S. officials wanted Assad out but wanted others — whom administration officials would say in private they did not trust — to do it for them
  • the Russian government is not the key to controlling the Assad regime’s heinous behaviors. For a week straight, the Syrian government consistently ignored Moscow’s demands and destroyed a cease-fire deal that had been largely of Russia’s making. The regime also reinforced its troop positions around Aleppo and amassed forces opposite the strategic northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, and its aircraft were blamed for bombings around Aleppo, north of the city of Homs, and in parts of southern Daraa governorate. And after the Assad government declared the cease-fire over, Russia ferociously destroyed an aid convoy intended for 78,000 civilians
  • If Assad remains in place indefinitely and the conflict continues or worsens, the Islamic State will undoubtedly live to fight another day
  • most Syrians living in opposition areas now view al Qaeda as a more trustworthy and capable protector of their lives than the United States. If there were ever a sign of policy failure, this would be it.
  • there will be no purely military solution to Syria’s conflict — a negotiated settlement is the only feasible path toward stability. However, Assad will never treat a political process with any level of seriousness until placed under meaningful pressure, which the United States has thus far done everything in its power not to do.
  • Opposition to partition is arguably the single issue that unites communities supportive of and opposed to Assad
  • combating al Qaeda in Syria cannot be done solely with bullets and bombs. Defeating it is instead an issue of providing a more attractive and sustainable alternative to the jihadi group’s narrative. Given its successful efforts to embed within the opposition and build popular acceptance as a military (not a political) ally, al Qaeda does not represent a conventional counterterrorist problem
  • Jabhat Fateh al-Sham — formerly the Nusra Front — the most capable, politically savvy, and militarily powerful al Qaeda movement in history. Al Qaeda’s central leadership has also revitalized itself inside Syria, with the international terrorist organization’s newly named deputy leader almost certainly residing in the country. The correlation is simple: U.S. shortcomings equal al Qaeda’s success in Syria.
  • Civilian protection should remain the core focus of any broad-based strategy, but it must be backed up by real and discernible consequences for violators
  • Skeptics of a more assertive approach to the Syrian crisis can deride their critics as much as they want — but one would hope that after five years of failures, they would at least admit that they have got something wrong
Ed Webb

The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama, by Tom Junod - Esquire - 0 views

  • "President Bush would never have been able to scale this up the way President Obama has because he wouldn't have had the trust of the public and the Congress and the international community," says the former administration official familiar with the targeting process. "That trust has been enabling."
  • It is only human to have faith in the "human intelligence" generated by the agents, operatives, and assets of the CIA. But that's the point: What's human is always only human, and often wrong. America invaded Iraq on the pretext of intelligence that was fallacious if not dishonest. It confidently asserted that the detainees in Guantánamo were the "worst of the worst" and left them to the devices of CIA interrogators before admitting that hundreds were hapless victims of circumstance and letting them go. You, Mr. President, do not have a Guantánamo. But you are making the same characterization of those you target that the Bush administration made of those it detained, based on the same sources. The difference is that all your sentences are final, and you will never let anybody go. To put it as simply as possible: Six hundred men have been released uncharged from Guantánamo since its inception, which amounts to an admission of a terrible mistake. What if they had never even been detained? What if, under the precepts of the Lethal Presidency, they had simply been killed?
  • Collateral damage used to be anyone killed who was not targeted. Now the term "collateral damage" applies only to women and children. "My understanding is that able-bodied males of military age are considered fair game," says the former administration official, "if they're in the proximity of a known militant."
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  • This is what Senator Carl Levin, who receives regular briefings on "clandestine activities" as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says about the death of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki: "My understanding is that there was adequate justification." How? "It was justified by the presence of a high-value target."This is what his aunt says about his death in an e-mail: "We were all afraid that Abdulrahman would get caught up in the turmoil in Yemen. However, none of us thought that Abdulrahman will face a danger from the sky. We thought that the American administration, the world leader and superpower will be far and wide from such cruelty. Some may say Abdulrahman was collateral damage; some said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. We say that Abdulrahman was in his father's land and was dining under the moon light, it looked to him, us and the rest of the world to be the right time and place. He was not in a cave in Waziristan or Tora Bora, he was simply a kid enjoying his time in the country side. The ones that were in the wrong place and time were the American drones, nothing else."
  • You have been free to keep the American people safe by expanding the Lethal Presidency — by approving the expanded use of signature strikes in Yemen and by defying an edict of the Pakistani parliament and continuing drone strikes in Pakistan. You have even begun thinking of using the Lethal Presidency as an example for other countries that want Lethal Presidencies of their own.
  • the danger of the Lethal Presidency is that the precedent you establish is hardly ever the precedent you think you are establishing, and whenever you seem to be describing a program that is limited and temporary, you are really describing a program that is expansive and permanent. You are a very controlled man, and as Lethal President, it's natural for you to think that you can control the Lethal Presidency. It's even natural for you to think that you can control the Lethal Presidencies of other countries, simply by the power of your example. But the Lethal Presidency incorporates not just drone technology but a way of thinking about drone technology, and this way of thinking will be your ultimate export. You have anticipated the problem of proliferation. But an arms race involving drones would be very different from an arms race involving nuclear arms, because the message that spread with nuclear arms was that these weapons must never be used. The message that you are spreading with drones is that they must be — that using them amounts to nothing less than our moral duty.
Ed Webb

Palestinians, Israelis face off on Facebook - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • “Ever since the intifada broke out in Jerusalem, there has been an online virtual war between Palestinians and Israelis. Social networks are flooded with firsthand field news, while campaigns are launched on Twitter on a daily basis to put pressure on Israel and its supporters around the world.”
  • Raji al-Hams, a prominent presenter at Al-Aqsa TV, said his original Facebook page was closed down after it garnered 90,000 followers. He told Al-Monitor he received “a message Jan. 15 from the Facebook administration saying I had violated the website’s rules by posting [slogans] about the intifada along with pictures of armed Palestinians."
  • Israel has been urging dozens of Israeli Facebook users to submit reports to the Facebook administration claiming that Palestinian pages are inciting murder. These users mention the name of these pages in the reports and the Facebook administration shuts them down, as they contain posts inciting murder and violence, which violate Facebook’s conditions.
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  • On Nov. 24, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Google, YouTube and some other social networks agreed to fight incitement posted on their pages.
  • Israel uses a number of measures to counter the postings, most notably by creating around 5,000 fake Facebook accounts, Quds Press reported Oct. 29. Those who operate these accounts are fluent in English and Arabic, and their mission is to hack into and shut down Palestinian pages by submitting reports to the Facebook administration. Israel also has arrested of a number of Palestinians during the past three months on charges of inciting to kill Israelis in their Facebook posts.
  • the Authority for Palestinian Prisoners' Affairs reported the Israeli army has detained 27 Palestinians on charges of incitement since October, due to their activities on social networks
  • there are Israeli pages in Hebrew that call Palestinians terrorists, among other bad names, but they are not being closed down
Ed Webb

Secretary Pompeo's Speech in Cairo: POMED Experts Respond - POMED - 0 views

  • Pompeo delivered a speech that lacked any overarching policy message. Pompeo did spell out what this administration sees as the main problems in the region: the Islamic Republic of Iran, radical Islamist terrorism, and even the policies of the Obama administration. But he failed to outline a coherent vision, strategy, or policy approach for addressing these problems
  • To many, Pompeo confirmed widespread fears that the Trump administration simply lacks seriousness of purpose in the Middle East. The speech strongly resembled the rhetoric of many of the region’s own authoritarian regimes—full of bluster, hyperbolic language, attacks on political rivals, and boasts of the administration’s tremendous policy successes that felt divorced from reality
  • The Trump administration played up Pompeo’s remarks as a big deal, but a clear policy roadmap and announcements of any new initiatives were missing. The language on Syria, the most newsworthy topic, did little to end confusion over U.S. policy. The speech’s vacuity likely is because President Trump is simply not interested in the Middle East, and is known to make sudden foreign policy declarations on Twitter. Pompeo seemingly had little policy substance to work with and probably didn’t want to get out ahead of his boss
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  • Pompeo’s speech was not a statement of foreign policy strategy, but rather a rambling screed dominated by distortions, falsehoods, and outright lies. His claims fall into three categories: (1) gratuitous potshots at former President Barack Obama; (2) dubious defenses of the Trump administration’s reckless foreign policy decisions, such as withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran; and (3) misrepresentations of the administration’s policies. Let’s be clear: this was a political stump speech, not a statesman’s address
  • aside from several authoritarian regimes who profess unbridled support for Trump but do little to advance U.S. interests, the United States has never before been more alone
  • Pompeo’s small and homogenous audience of elites reflects the very limited and narrow relationship the United States has chosen to have with the societies in the region
  • rather than speak sternly and honestly to the Egyptian regime, for all of the Egyptian people to hear, he praised al-Sisi for his tolerance and progress despite the totalitarian direction the Egyptian president has taken the country since he led the coup in 2013
Ed Webb

The Diplomat Who Quit the Trump Administration | The New Yorker - 0 views

  • Many diplomats have been dismayed by the Trump Administration; since the Inauguration, sixty per cent of the State Department’s highest-ranking diplomats have left. But Feeley broke with his peers by publicly declaring his reasons
  • Mariela Sagel, a prominent columnist with La Estrella, wrote to me, “Feeley’s lightning passage through Panama was as devastating to the self-esteem of Panamanians as it was for the Waked businesses. After less than two years on the job he quit, claiming that he was not in agreement with Trump’s policies. If those were his reasons, why didn’t he resign when that demented man won the Presidency?”
  • When Tillerson was fired, this March, eight of the ten most senior positions at State were unfilled, leaving no one in charge of arms control, human rights, trade policy, or the environment. For diplomats in the field, the consequences were clearly evident. In 2017, Dave Harden, a longtime Foreign Service officer, was assigned to provide relief to victims of the war in Yemen, one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. The entire diplomatic staff for the country was barely a dozen people. “We worked out of a three-bedroom house,” he said. “It felt like a startup.” There was no support from State, and no policy direction, he said: “The whole system was completely broken.” Harden resigned last month.
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  • “We don’t get instructions from the U.S. government.” He recalled Trump’s announcement, in December, 2017, that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. As the United Nations considered a resolution condemning the move, Nikki Haley, Trump’s envoy to the U.N., circulated a threatening letter, saying that Trump “has requested I report back on those who voted against us.” Feeley heard nothing in advance about the letter. “Do you think we got a heads-up, to prepare?” he said. “Nothing.” Soon afterward, he received outraged telephone calls from Panama’s President and Vice-President, Isabel de Saint Malo. Feeley recalled that when Saint Malo called “she said, ‘John, friends don’t treat friends like this.’ All I could say was ‘I know. I’m sorry.’ We both knew it was going to hurt our personal and institutional relationship. And there was nothing we could do about it.”
  • Since Trump’s election, “we’ve taken a step back in tone,” Feeley said. “We tried to get Kerry to bury the Monroe Doctrine. But now, all of a sudden, it’s back.”
  • Early this year, during an appearance in Texas, Tillerson called the Monroe Doctrine “clearly . . . a success.” The rhetoric has had a chilling effect, Feeley said, “Latins believe that Trump and his senior officials have no real interest in the region, beyond baiting Mexico and tightening the screws on Cuba and Venezuela.”
  • a building in the style of a pagoda: a monument to China’s presence in Panama. “Look how prominent they’ve become,” one of the staffers said. In June, 2016, a major expansion of the canal was completed, and the first ship through was an enormous Chinese freighter, designed to fit the new dimensions. “I got a big American naval ship to park right outside the locks, where the Chinese ship would see it,” Feeley said. “And I threw our annual Embassy July 4th party on it.” He laughed at the memory, but he knew that the gesture was ultimately futile.
  • As the United States has retreated from Latin America, China’s influence has grown. Since 2005, banks linked to Beijing have provided more than a hundred and fifty billion dollars in loan commitments to the region—some years, more than the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank combined. In less than two decades, trade between China and Latin America has increased twenty-seven-fold.
  • The Taiwanese government furiously denounced Panama for succumbing to “checkbook diplomacy,” but Panamanian officials denied that the decision was motivated by economics. Then, last November, Varela travelled to Beijing and joined President Xi Jinping in a ceremony to celebrate their new friendship, at which he signed nineteen separate trade deals. At around the same time, the China Harbour Engineering Company began work in Panama on a hundred-and-sixty-five-million-dollar port.
  • Panama could well become China’s Latin-American hub; the One Belt, One Road initiative, working with Varela’s government, is planning to build a railway from Panama City to near the Costa Rican border. But, Feeley added, “the Panamanians are naïve about the Chinese.” He told me that he had worked to persuade Panama’s security ministry not to sign a communications-technology deal with the Chinese, partly out of concern that they would use the infrastructure for espionage, as they have elsewhere. The Chinese company Huawei, which has headquarters in Panama, lobbied hard “to delay, divert, and get the contract.” In the end, the work was contracted to an American firm, General Dynamics, but the negotiations were difficult.
  • Varela’s government has quietly leased the Chinese a huge building plot, on the strip of land that juts into the ocean at the mouth of the canal, to use as the site of a new Embassy. Sailors on every ship in the canal will see the proof of China’s rising power, as they enter a waterway that once symbolized the global influence of the United States.
  • As morale sank in the State Department, veteran diplomats had been leaving, in what some called “the exodus.” David Rank, the senior American diplomat in China, stepped down last June, after Trump withdrew from the Paris accord. “You have decisions that the rest of the world fundamentally disagrees with,” Rank said recently. He recalled that, on September 11, 2001, “I got a call from the Embassy of an allied country seconds after the attack. The person said, ‘Whatever you need, you can count on us.’ Now that we pulled out of Paris and Iran, swept tariffs across the world, I wonder if we’re going to get that call again.”
  • Feeley pointed out that leftist leaders were in retreat throughout Latin America, and that popular movements were rejecting old habits of corrupt governance. It was, he said, “the greatest opportunity to recoup the moral high ground that we have had in decades.” Instead, we were abandoning the region. “I keep waiting for a Latin leader to paraphrase Angela Merkel and say, ‘We can no longer count on the Americans to provide leadership.’ ”
  • Some people liken it to an own goal. I’d say it’s more like a self-inflicted Pearl Harbor
  • “There’s this idea that the States is just like the rest of us. That’s the saddest thing to me.”
  • Foreign Service officers were willing to work with the Trump Administration. “I don’t know of a single Trump supporter who is an F.S.O.,” he said. “But I also don’t know of a single F.S.O. who hopes for failure, myself included. Far from the Alex Jones caricature of a bunch of pearl-clutching, cookie-pushing effetes, we have an entire corps of people who will do everything they can to successfully implement American foreign policy, as it is determined by the national leaders—to include Mike Pompeo.” But, Feeley suggested, Pompeo would need to moderate his boss’s instincts. “I just do not believe that, with Trump’s rhetoric and a lot of his policy actions, we are going to recoup our leadership position in the world,” he said. “Because the evidence is already in, and we’re not. We’re not just walking off the field. We’re taking the ball and throwing a finger at the rest of the world.”
Ed Webb

The ISIS Beat - The Drift - 1 views

  • even as the new Biden Administration announced the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, to “end” the twenty-year war, it will continue airstrikes and raids to tackle the ever-looming threat of terrorism.
  • As the persistence of far-right nationalism suggests, ideologies cannot so easily be destroyed — even those we thought we had bombed out of existence seventy years ago. Yet, the world refracted through this war (the “only one” of the 21st century, Bush hoped) has left us not just morally inept, but also woefully misguided about what is to come next
  • The S.D.F. offers a remarkable vision to counter ISIS’s draconian rule — local councils, farmers’ cooperatives, and committees that promote the rights of oppressed minority groups. In the village of Jinwar, a female-controlled town, the S.D.F. has built a commune for women and their children, both Kurdish and Arab, seeking to escape oppressive families and realize a community without patriarchy. According to the constitution of the so-called Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, the S.D.F.-linked ruling authority in the region, a post-ISIS Syria will be “a society free from authoritarianism, militarism, centralism and the intervention of religious authority in public affairs.” In order to realize this vision, part of the S.D.F.’s mandate is not just to govern, but also to annihilate ISIS. Several soldiers and S.D.F. spokesmen told me that the war against ISIS isn’t over — its aim now, with the support of the U.S., is to destroy sleeper cells and root out the ideology.
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  • ISIS has taken control over parts of regime territory in the deserts of central Syria, and slices of S.D.F.-controlled Deir ez-Zor province are witnessing a full-blown ISIS insurgency, underscoring just how central the question of governance is to the group’s appeal. But the U.S. and its allies’ focus on ideology risks ignoring why ISIS gained support in the first place. Raids and detentions, torture and execution, and governance that politically marginalizes certain groups and offers few options for justice or accountability will only build anger. It is these layers of political and social contexts that are lost in most coverage, even if they will shape Iraq and Syria for a long time to come. 
  • If we portray certain enemies solely as existential threats, we sweep over the political conflicts unfolding in places like Iraq and Syria, and the political violence wrought upon these communities, even by those who claim to be fighting a just war.
  • If our enemy is everywhere, we will seek allies in even the most oppressive of regimes (like Egypt and Saudi Arabia) to hunt down “terrorists,” no matter if they are gun-wielding militants or political dissidents who believe that the current state of affairs does not serve them.
  • If a war is a “good war,” or merely conceived of as a necessary one, it matters little why a terrorist group gained support, or how we may be inadvertently contributing to the group’s appeal. Yet, while the current approach to terrorism has been wildly successful in building a cottage industry of extremism and deradicalization experts, it has failed to rid the world of terrorists.
  • Massacres of Iraqi civilians, deaths of Afghan civilians by airstrikes, and indiscriminate detention and torture and rape have all happened at the hands of state security forces, including those allied with the U.S.
  • The Manichean framework helps absolve the West of its role and its responsibility in ending an endless conflict. “Terrorism” has become so synonymous with horrific violence that most Americans are likely unaware that the vast majority of civilian deaths in global conflicts today are caused by states, not non-state actors.
  • As with other battles against evil, the “killers and fanatics” necessitated the dropping of bombs, an operation that Obama’s successor continued.
  • a core argument for the war depended on the idea that terrorism was, in essence, a form of religious violence
  • What the Bush administration argued, and what the media accepted, was that terrorism is not a mere tactic, but a full-blown ideology — what Bush called “the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century,” including “fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism.” In practice, this means non-state armed groups not allied with the U.S. should be understood as terrorist organizations — no matter if, like the Taliban, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and Hamas, they have little else in common
  • By and large, the media accepted the Bush administration’s framing. By 2006, public criticism of the handling of the Iraq War was mounting, but even then, few questioned the legitimacy of the war itself. In a 2009 study of media coverage after 9/11, two scholars from the University of Texas found that journalists “helped brand the policy, [then] labeled the frame as public opinion,” ultimately contributing to the acceptance of that frame as a “fact of life,” and a “larger narrative of struggle and heroism.” Journalists did not treat the War on Terror as a policy decision made by the Bush administration, but as the natural and inevitable order of things. 
  • mainstream media coverage of ISIS receives almost no scrutiny. But many other publications and reporters have operated on the same flawed assumptions and premises as Caliphate, ones that animated the West’s understanding of the Middle East long before ISIS gained its first foothold
  • The political scientist Austin Doctor recently conducted a study of sexual assault by 143 rebel groups around the world, from 1989 to 2011, and separately applied the results of his analysis to ISIS.  He found a correlation between the presence of foreign fighters and increased incidence of sexual violence, which suggests that the Islamic State functioned much like other rebel groups — that ISIS is not so singular as it may seem.
  • the issue here isn’t just the violence — after all, Assad has also relished the torture, starvation, and murder of his citizens. Since 2011, his regime has used chemical weapons repeatedly, more than three hundred times according to one study. The critical difference is that while Assad depends on the international system for legitimacy (Russia and Iran are key supporters, and Syria remains part of the global financial system), ISIS rejects it. While Assad would prefer that the world looks away, ISIS practically begs us to stare. It aims to demoralize Western audiences, while projecting to potential recruits its vision of a new world order
  • In parts of the Caliphate, ISIS did promise a different model, at least nominally. In one piece of propaganda, the group declared, “The people are as equal as the teeth of a comb. There is no difference between the rich and the poor and the strong and the weak. The holder of a right has redress, and the grievance of an injured party will be answered.” In appealing to residents and new recruits, ISIS touched upon something familiar: the desire for justice, equality, and law and order in a world that has manifestly failed to deliver any. Women, too, found opportunities under ISIS. In Fallujah, they used the regime’s justice system to secure divorces, which had been more difficult under the Iraqi government.
  • civilians were likely to stay in ISIS-controlled territory because, among various reasons, the “quality of governance,” including “availability of electricity, cleanliness of streets, and crime rates,” was better compared to services provided by the Iraqi government
  • “All the locals here wonder why the U.S. coalition never came to rescue them from Assad’s machine guns, but run to fight ISIS when it took a few pieces of land,” one rebel told the Guardian. 
  • the current global order has left many people behind
  • decades of imperialism, like the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and Russia and Iran’s interventions, have irrevocably transformed communities in the Middle East. Similarly, though ISIS opposes the Saudi government, the Salafi-Jihadi underpinnings of the group could not have gained traction without the Kingdom’s years of effort of exporting and standardizing a particular form of Islam across the Middle East. 
  • devoid of any political context, terms like “radicalization” and “ideology” lose meaning
  • how ISIS appeared in the public imagination: as a movement beyond human understanding. The only sensible answer to so inscrutable and atavistic an adversary was total war.
  • This frenzied interest in the U.S.’s darkly powerful new enemy lured some journalists and analysts to focus on the group full-time. It emerged as a distinct topic from the Syrian civil war, whose crowded theater was becoming difficult to explain, or the Iraq War, now a nearly-adolescent 11 years old. Soon, writers covering ISIS, what Wired called “the world’s most important beat,” developed a signature flourish, describing it not just as a terrorist organization, but as an almost supernatural threat. “It is not clear,” argued a New York Review of Books piece in 2015, “whether our culture can ever develop sufficient knowledge, rigor, imagination, and humility to grasp the phenomenon of ISIS. But for now, we should admit that we are not only horrified but baffled.”
  • Stories of the group’s atrocities emerged in quick succession, echoing the parade of violence ISIS was proudly broadcasting on its own channels: public executions, conscription of child soldiers, disappearances and murders of thousands, Yazidi girls sold into slavery.
  • by narrowly focusing on the savagery of ISIS fighters, we miss the deeper and more important story of how ISIS grew into a political force, and of how it moved not just the hearts and minds, but the physical bodies, of tens of thousands
  • the core issue with Caliphate isn’t just that a lying source may have misled overeager journalists. Rather, the controversy, and indeed even the proposition that a “terrorism editor” would have resolved the problem, points to a deeper flaw in the way media has long covered extremism: divorced from the local and historical contexts that have fueled its rise
  • After a decade of the War on Terror and chaos in the Middle East, ISIS seemed to be the ultimate testament to an enduring clash of civilizations. It is not that surprising that ISIS itself encouraged this fantastical narrative — but it is striking that our media took their word for it.
Ed Webb

Recognizing Israeli settlements is about sovereignty, and that's a game-changer - 0 views

  • If the Trump administration endorses annexation, a position in line with recognizing the legality of settlements, then the framework of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict changes and the issues of sovereignty and political rights will become front and center.
  • Without question, the new U.S. stance on settlements undermines international law, which is clear on the illegality of an occupying power transferring its population into occupied territory. The applicability of this tenet of the Fourth Geneva Convention to Israel-Palestine has been upheld by near-universal international consensus since the occupation began in 1967, including by the U.N. Security Council and the International Court of Justice.
  • the opinion of a single state — even the most powerful one — does not alter the law itself. As Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the U.N. Commissioner on Human Rights, responded to the Trump administration announcement, “a change in the policy of one state does not modify existing international law nor its interpretation by the International Court of Justice and Security Council.” If the rest of the world continues to adhere to the principle that the settlements are illegal, the decision will likely do more to undermine U.S. standing and leadership than the Geneva Convention or the law itself.
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  • while settlements certainly represent the largest physical obstacle to the establishment of a Palestinian state, the Trump decision hardly changes anything on this front. The U.S. has consistently failed to take action against settlements in order to protect the prospect for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Even at the height of the peace process in the 1990s, the Clinton administration permitted continued settlement-building to the point that the settler population tripled despite ongoing negotiations. While various administrations, such as those of George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama, pushed back against settlements, their efforts were never sustained and settlement-building ultimately carried on.
  • if Israeli settlements are not illegal, and Israelis are able to rightfully settle the land under Israel’s political and military control, then what does that mean for the stateless Palestinians who also live there and for Israel’s 52-year rule over them? In other words, if it is not military occupation, which undoubtedly prohibits the type of settlement that Israel has engaged in, then it is something else and the world should demand that Israel clarify its position and intentions over the territory.
  • It is, in part, the limbo of endless occupation that has doomed the Palestinians to political purgatory, without a state of their own but without citizenship in any other state. It is what differentiates Palestinians from so many other ethnic groups that live as minorities in the ethnic-national states of others. Take the Kurds, for example, who lack a state of their own but who are at the very least citizens of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere.
  • This murkiness has also allowed Israel to gradually take physical possession of the land through a colonial process under the cover of temporary occupation, without having to offer political rights to the native inhabitants of the land who live side by side with Israeli settlers. Yet if Israel is the recognized sovereign, then it can’t take legal possession of the land without all of the inhabitants. If it doesn’t want the Palestinians, then the land needed to create a viable alternative political entity for them to fulfill their rights is needed. Israel simply cannot have it both ways.
  • While the Palestinian political leadership still fully embraces a two-state solution, the majority of public opinion has shifted away from it. That could be a game changer, especially as the Netanyahu-led government in Israel looks ready to begin annexing the settlements, at the very minimum.
Ed Webb

Israeli citizen stands trial in Jordan as tensions simmer - 0 views

  • The trial of Israeli citizen Konstantin Kotov started Dec. 2 in the State Security Court of Jordan. He stands charged with crossing illegally into Jordanian territory last October.
  • “Legitimizing settlements and moving to annex the Jordan Valley is not an Israeli decision, it is an American decision. Israel cannot take this step without US approval. Therefore, it is with the US that Jordan has a problem.”
  • Jordanian army held military exercises simulating an Israeli invasion Nov. 25. The drill was dubbed “Swords of Karama” after the battle near Karama village that Israel lost to the Jordanian army and Palestinian factions in 1968. The exercise was attended by King Abdullah and security leaders and members of parliament.
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  • On Nov. 10, Jordan recovered from Israel the Baqoura lands in the Jordan Valley by refusing to renew a 25-year lease under a peace agreement between the two countries. A day later, Abdullah publicly prayed in his military uniform.
  • According to analysts who spoke to Al-Monitor, the source of the tension lies far beyond the borders of the Middle East. It has to do with the US administration proposing its "deal of the century," which favors Israel at the expense of the peace process it purports to further. Jordan sees the two-state solution as a fair solution consistent with its interests.
  • Kotov’s trial comes in the context of high tensions between Jordan and Israel, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing his intention to annex the Jordan Valley and repeated Israeli violations of Jordanian sovereignty over holy sites including incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque, settlement expansion and the administrative detention of Jordanian citizens in Israel.
  • “Jordan deals with Israel based on political and economic issues. It is at odds with Israel regarding the Palestinian cause but is moving forward with bilateral economic projects.”
  • Jordan has a strong relationship with members of the US Congress, but not with the administration. Abdullah has met President Donald Trump only once because of his position toward Israel.
  • A quarter of a century after the signature of the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel on Oct. 26, 1994, their relationship remains lukewarm amid popular and parliamentary demands pressuring the Jordanian regime to end it.
  • Jordan is courting the European Union to condemn Israel’s violations and face the US bias toward Israel
Ed Webb

The F-35 Triangle: America, Israel, the United Arab Emirates - War on the Rocks - 0 views

  • deepen what were heretofore covert ties across the full spectrum of civilian sectors from business to science to agriculture and even space. The Emirati-Israeli agreement builds upon years of “under the table” cooperation between security and intelligence professionals driven toward strategic alignment by a shared perception of the major regional threat — Iran.
  • the U.S. sweetener appears to be a commitment to sell it F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, as well as other advanced weaponry long sought by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed
  • When Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, it secured the second largest military aid package in the Middle East after Israel, which continues today. When Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994, the announcement came along with debt relief and the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft — and, like Egypt, Jordan remains a top recipient of American assistance
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  • Reactions to Emirati acquisition of the F-35 have largely focused on whether Israel will support such a sale and the related requirement in U.S. domestic law to ensure Israel’s military superiority against all other countries in the Middle East. The longstanding policy term, later codified in law, is “qualitative military edge.” From the Emirati point of view, if they have entered into full diplomatic relations with Israel — with a promised “warm peace,” in the words of Emirati officials — and both countries share the same threat perspective, then Israel should have confidence that these advanced weapons will not be turned against it and should therefore not object to the sale. Moreover, unlike Egypt and Jordan, the United Arab Emirates has never attacked Israel.
  • Weapons sales are a leading area of competition in the Middle East, and in the words of the former Acting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Tina Kaidanow: Arms transfers are foreign policy. When we transfer a system or a capability to a foreign partner, we are affecting regional — or foreign internal — balances of power; we are sending a signal of support; and we are establishing or sustaining relationships that may last for generations and provide benefits for an extended period of time.
  • selling the F-35 to the United Arab Emirates would say much more about the Washington’s partnership with Abu Dhabi than it would about the evolving Emirati-Israeli relationship
  • Selling the F-35 to a country ought to be a signal that the United States has the highest measure of confidence in that country’s warfighting capabilities, decision-making on the use of force, and commitments to protecting sensitive technology. The Emirati record on each of these issues does not, however, inspire the highest confidence. The record is mixed.
  • As former government officials serving in the State and Defense Departments as well as in Congress, we are confident that the process going forward will be messy and time-consuming, specifically because the current case breaks precedent in so many ways.
  • Since the Yemen war’s inception in 2015, members of Congress have raised concerns about the conflict and U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition, in which Abu Dhabi was a partner and to which it contributed forces until withdrawing in the summer of 2019. These concerns, and the Trump administration’s refusal to address them, culminated in Congress mandating a report on steps taken by both governments to reduce civilian casualties and comply with laws and agreements governing the use of U.S.-origin weapons — indicating skepticism that either country was doing so
  • Reflecting a long-held U.S. policy view, during his nomination hearing Washington’s envoy to Abu Dhabi noted that the country “is a moderating and stabilizing force in one of the world’s most volatile regions.” The United Arab Emirates stands out among other militaries in the region for having contributed military forces to many U.S.-led coalitions since the first Gulf War — Kosovo (late 1990s), Somalia (1992), Afghanistan (since 2003), Libya (2011) and the anti-ISIL coalition (2014 to 2015). Indeed, Jared Kushner set a new precedent for framing the American-Emirati partnership when he effectively equated it with that of America and Israel, terming them comparably “special” during his most recent visit to the Middle East.
  • Emirati regional policies have been the subject of increasing congressional concern in recent years, largely focused on the country’s actions in Yemen and Libya. Since the beginning the Saudi-led coalition’s 2015 intervention in Yemen, most congressional action focused on the Saudi role in the conflict and not the Emirati one. But in 2018, congressional concern peaked in response to Emirati plans to launch an offensive to seize the Yemeni port of Hudaydah. The Trump administration subsequently declined to provide military support for the Emirati operation, given the risks of worsening an already severe humanitarian crisis, concerns regarding the complexities of the proposed military operation, and the likelihood of mass civilian casualties
  • In both Yemen and Libya, Abu Dhabi has not succeeded in leveraging its robust military investments toward political processes that would end the conflicts. In both contexts the divergent policies of the United States and United Arab Emirates — including use of military force, conduct in combat, and utilization of U.S. defense articles — should be considered as part of the F-35 deliberations.
  • competitors in the global arms export industry — particularly Russia and China — also leverage arms sales, but by and large with no strings attached for their use. Both governments use arms sales to challenge U.S. market dominance and to undermine American partnerships in the region
  • protecting Israel’s military superiority consists of both legal requirements and longstanding political and process steps that, while not mandated by law, have paved the way for decades of bipartisan congressional consent to arms sales in the Middle East, including of advanced fighter aircraft. The requirement to protect Israel’s “qualitative military edge” is enshrined in 2008 naval vessel transfer legislation, although it had been implemented as a matter of policy between Washington and Jerusalem since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
  • Presumably, the United Arab Emirates and Israel entering into formal relations affirms that the former does not pose such a military threat. The Israeli perspective at the moment, however, has been complicated by the continuing murk over whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blessed the U.S. commitment to sell the Emirati government the F-35 — without the knowledge of his own defense minister. Tensions in Netanyahu’s fragile governing coalition and a larger uproar in Israel’s defense establishment have prompted an awkward pas de deux among American, Emirati, and Israeli officials. Netanyahu — responding to concerns raised by the Israeli defense establishment — stated emphatically during an Aug. 24 joint press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he had not consented to any arms deal as part of normalization. Given Netanyahu’s close relationship with Trump, it is safe to say that no one in either country finds this claim credible. The public spat over Israeli consent to Emirati acquisition of the F-35 escalated when Netanyahu publicly vowed to go to Congress in opposition to the sale, and the United Arab Emirates in response cancelled a planned meeting between the Israeli and Emirati ambassadors to the United Nations.
  • extensive discussions should be expected between Israeli and U.S. technical and military experts to agree on the appropriate mix of offsets to ensure Israel’s military superiority. The offsets may involve discussions of quantity (how many F-35s the Emiratis will acquire versus the Israelis), technical variations in the F-35 platform, or additional sales and assistance to Israel. This challenge is not insurmountable, but it will be time-consuming and extend pass the upcoming American electoral cycle
  • The standard for this level of consultation with Israel before moving forward with arms sales packages to others in the region was set by the Obama administration — first in 2011 with the sale of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, and later in 2013 with the sale of F-16 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates along with stand-off weapons to both the Saudis and the Emiratis. Concurrent with 2013 sales, the Obama administration negotiated a package for Israel to maintain its military edge that included V-22 Osprey aircraft, advanced refueling tankers, and anti-air defense missiles.
  • Though Israel has no legal right to  block the United States from selling a weapon to another country in the Middle East, Israeli support is critical, particularly during the period of congressional notification. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will consult with the Israeli government, and will prefer to support a sale that earns a clear green light from the Israeli government. Members are likely be left unsatisfied by ambiguous and lukewarm Israel responses to the question of selling the F-35 to the Emiratis, precisely because technical talks have not yet begun. All parties risk being stuck between the divisive politics of the moment, and the deliberative, lengthy policy considerations that such arms transfer packages usually entail, opening the door to a further erosion of bipartisanship on a key issue of national security importance — the what, when, and how of a decision by the United States to provide advanced weapons systems to partner states in the Middle East.
  • Arab capitals are closely following whether the United States will follow through on its apparent commitment to sell the F-35 (and assorted other high-end systems) to Abu Dhabi, and whether American deliverables are sufficiently compelling to consider bringing their own relations with Israel into the daylight
  • The historical record from Egypt to Jordan and now the United Arab Emirates — across administrations of both political parties — is that formal relations with Israel facilitate strategic consistency from Washington
  • Will Egypt and Jordan request the F-35 in light of their existing peace treaties with Israel? Will countries in closer geographic proximity, like Saudi Arabia, request the F-35 and additional advanced U.S. weapons as part of their normalization package?
  • For Israel, Iran and Turkey represent sobering examples in that regard — previously solid security partners within seemingly stable governance structures that became hostile.
  • military edge risks eroding as Arab governments, whether blocked from purchasing certain weapons from the United States or in addition to acquiring them, turn to China, Russia, and other weapons exporters not obligated to maintain Israel’s military superiority
  • Competition in the Middle East between the United States and its adversaries is intensifying — particularly in the weapons sales arena
  • Washington may find itself in an escalating — and unsustainable — cycle of supplementing and upgrading support, technology, and other military offsets to Israel.
Ed Webb

Will Biden Help Revive the Arab Spring, Starting with Tunisia? - 1 views

  • Saied’s so-called emergency measures remain in place, and the U.S. State Department said Wednesday that no further action has been taken. “We are monitoring and engaged,” a State Department spokesperson told Foreign Policy. Some activists and regional experts say more concrete forms of pressure from the United States are needed. They say preserving democracy in Tunisia will be a test of U.S. President Joe Biden’s central commitment to what he has called a “defining question of our time”—that is, “Can democracies come together to deliver real results for our people in a rapidly changing world?” 
  • Critics like Dunne say the administration has fallen seriously short of what Blinken, in a major March 3 speech, said would be a new U.S. policy to “incentivize democratic behavior” and “encourage others to make key reforms … [and] fight corruption.”
  • What is at stake is far more than a somewhat dysfunctional democracy in a nation of 12 million people on the periphery of the Arab world, some experts say. Tunisia’s democratic survival is a test for the whole Middle East—and, indeed, could help provide a long-term solution to the ongoing problem of Islamist terrorism. 
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  • “If this administration wants to be serious about protecting democracy as a broad policy approach, there are really few places more significant.” It wouldn’t cost a lot, Feldman points out. But making clear that Saied’s moves are unacceptable would “show we actually believe in democracy and we’re not being merely situational about it.”
  • the Arab tyrannies and monarchies have been urging Saied on toward more authoritarianism and lumping Ennahdha together with extremist Islamist groups
  • democracy has not been terribly rewarding so far for Tunisia. Saied’s power grab was actually popular among large masses who have complained of rampant corruption and are suffering terribly for basic needs.
  • A report this month from Human Rights First indicated that the restoration of Arab dictatorships may be generating a new generation of terrorists; in Egypt, a harsh crackdown on democracy and human rights activists by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former general who seized power in 2014, has led to active recruitment by the Islamic State in Egypt’s prison system. 
  • “It’s time to stop saying it’s early days [for this administration] because we’re six months in and there is no palpable new approach.” In February, the Biden administration approved a $197 million sale of missiles to Egypt days after the Egyptian government detained family members of a U.S.-based Egyptian American human rights activist.
  • The president is as much a practitioner of realpolitik as he is an advocate of democracy, and it’s clear his main interest is not in nurturing new democracies but in herding together the mature industrial democracies against major authoritarian threats such as China and Russia.
  • hortly before Saied’s takeover, the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation approved nearly $500 million in aid to strengthen Tunisia’s transportation, trade, and water sectors. Saied’s government is also seeking a three-year $4 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, which answers to pressure from Washington and other major capitals. Washington has other leverage as well: In 2020, the United States signed on to a 10-year military cooperation program with Tunis, and the two sides regularly hold joint exercises. And in the last decade, Washington has invested more than $1 billion in the Tunisian military, according to U.S. Africa Command.
  • Tunisia has had no support for its transition within the Middle East North Africa region and far too little support from other democracies in Europe and the United States
  • “I think we often forget that democratic revolutions are almost never successful on the first attempt,”
Ed Webb

Trump aide drew plan on napkin to partition Libya into three | World news | The Guardian - 0 views

  • A senior White House foreign policy official has pushed a plan to partition Libya, and once drew a picture of how the country could be divided into three areas on a napkin in a meeting with a senior European diplomat
  • Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to Donald Trump under pressure over his past ties with Hungarian far-right groups, suggested the idea of partition in the weeks leading up to the US president’s inauguration, according to an official with knowledge of the matter. The European diplomat responded that this would be “the worst solution” for Libya
  • Gorka is vying for the job of presidential special envoy to Libya
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  • sharp differences have emerged over how much say Russia should have in Libya’s fate
  • While the GNA has been seen by some as the best option for achieving stability in the country, it has struggled against a rival government based in Tobruk, eastern Libya, backed by Khalifa Haftar, an anti-Islamist military strongman. Haftar, who would not back partition, has support in some parts of the Egyptian and Russian governments
  • Haftar, a 73-year-old field marshal and former Gaddafi general who later became his bitter opponent, presents himself as a bulwark against Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood, which makes him appealing to elements of the Trump foreign policy team
  • Gorka has alarmed foreign diplomats with his views on Libya’s future. The map he drew on a napkin during the transition period cut Libya into three sections, apparently based on the old Ottoman provinces of Cyrenaica in the east, Tripolitania in the north-west and Fezzan in the south-west.
  • Gorka’s rivals for the envoy job include Pete Hoekstra, a former congressman and lobbyist, and Phillip Escaravage, a former US intelligence official who worked on Libya for more than a decade
  • At least one European ally has privately expressed frustration at the US state department’s lack of a position on Libya, voicing concerns over Russia’s growing influence
  • Representatives of the Tobruk government, including Haftar, have sought to influence the Trump administration, calling for the US to radically change its position and withdraw support for the Sarraj government.
  • Ari Ben-Menashe, an Israeli security consultant based in Canada, whose company has a $6m (£4.9m) contract to lobby on behalf of Haftar and Aguila Saleh Issa, the head of the Libyan house of representatives in Tobruk, said the White House had been “briefed” on Libya and was “willing to play on our terms”
Ed Webb

Tough Guy Leaking - Salon.com - 0 views

  • The primary fear-mongering agenda item for the National Security and Surveillance State industry is now cyberwarfare
  • as is usually true when it comes to Washington warnings about the evils of Others — this is pure projection
  • Administration defenders will undoubtedly insist that unleashing cyber warfare was all necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and impeding an Israeli attack — even though the U.S. Government acknowledges there is no evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons; Iran has the absolute right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes, and it is far from clear that this virus meaningfully impeded Iran’s nuclear program. But no matter: once a Manichean storyline is implanted (Evil Iran v. Virtuous America), all acts of aggression by the super-hero against the villain are inherently justified.
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  • This morning’s story by Sanger is but the latest in a long line of leaks about classified programs that have two attributes in common: (1) they come from senior Obama administration officials; and (2) they are designed to depict President Obama, in an Election Year, as a super-tough, hands-on, no-nonsense Warrior. Put another way, the administration that is pathologically fixated on secrecy and harshly punishing whistleblowers routinely leaks national security secrets when doing so can politically benefit the President.
  •  Dear Vital Jewish Voters in Crucial Swing States: behold what this great leader did in secret to pummel Iran.
  • consider the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to prosecute former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling under espionage statutes for allegedly telling The New York Times‘ James Risen — almost ten years ago — about dangerous mistakes the CIA made in trying to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program (mistakes which actually resulted in helping the Iranian program)
  • aside from the tried-and-true strategy of Democratic politicians benefiting politically from provoking criticism from the “Left,” Obama officials (and their apparatchiks) are eager to depict him as a violence-wielding aggressor. As Digby put it this week, “the [Obama] campaign is happy about all this condemnation” aimed at the drone program as it “proves [his] macho bona fides.” Obama officials will undoubtedly be just as pleased with any objections to waging undeclared, unauthorized cyber-warfare on Iran’s perfectly legal nuclear program, thus bringing the world yet another new means of destructive warfare
Alana Garvin

Iran Conducts New Tests of Mid-Range Missiles - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • Locked in a deepening dispute with the United States and its allies over its nuclear program, Iran said that its Revolutionary Guards test-fired missiles with sufficient range to strike Israel, parts of Europe and American bases in the Persian Gulf.
  • The reported tests of the liquid-fueled Shahab-3 and the solid-fueled Sejil-2 missiles were not the first, but they came only days after President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain used the disclosure of a previously secret nuclear plant in Iran to threaten Tehran with a stronger response to its efforts to enrich uranium, including harsher economic sanctions.
  • Earlier this month, administration officials cited what they called accumulating evidence that Iran had made more progress than anticipated in building short- and medium-range missiles that could threaten Israel and Europe than it had in developing the intercontinental missiles that the Bush system was more suited to counter.
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  • the tests came days before the first direct contact in decades between the United States and Iran at international talks in Geneva, set for Thursday. Analysts said the launches may have been intended to give Iranian negotiators the appearance of a stronger hand at the talks.
  • Press TV said the Shahab-3 and Sejil-2 had been fired Monday as the third part of a military exercise named The Great Prophet IV. It said an “optimized” Shahab-3 missile has a range of 800 to 1,250 miles, while the Sejil was a two-stage missile powered by solid fuel. Parts of western Iran lie some 650 miles from Tel Aviv.
  • The Obama administration is scrambling to assemble a package of harsher economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program that could include a cutoff of investments to the country’s oil and gas industry and restrictions on many more Iranian banks than those currently blacklisted, senior administration officials said Sunday.
Bertha Flores

Freeman's Speech - 0 views

  • disinterested
    • Ed Webb
       
      He means 'uninterested,' I think
  • It will be held under the auspices of an American president who was publicly humiliated by Israel’s prime minister on the issue that is at the center of the Israel-Palestine dispute — Israel’s continuing seizure and colonization of Arab land
  • Peace is a pattern of stability acceptable to those with the capacity to disturb it by violence. It is almost impossible to impose. It cannot become a reality, still less be sustained, if those who must accept it are excluded from it. This reality directs our attention to who is not at this gathering in Washington and what must be done to remedy the problems these absences create.
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  • Must Arabs really embrace Zionism before Israel can cease expansion and accept peace?
  • a longstanding American habit of treating Arab concerns about Israel as a form of anti-Semitism and tuning them out. Instead of hearing out and addressing Arab views, U.S. peace processors have repeatedly focused on soliciting Arab acts of kindness toward Israel. They argue that gestures of acceptance can help Israelis overcome their Holocaust-inspired political neuroses and take risks for peace.
  • Arabic has two quite different words that are both translated as “negotiation,” making a distinction that doesn’t exist in either English or Hebrew. One word, “musaawama,” refers to the no-holds-barred bargaining process that takes place in bazaars between strangers who may never see each other again and who therefore feel no obligation not to scam each other. Another, “mufaawadhat,” describes the dignified formal discussions about matters of honor and high principle that take place on a basis of mutual respect and equality between statesmen who seek a continuing relationship.Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s travel to Jerusalem was a grand act of statesmanship to initiate a process of mufaawadhat — relationship-building between leaders and their polities. So was the Arab peace initiative of 2002. It called for a response in kind.
  • I cite this not to suggest that non-Arabs should adopt Arabic canons of thought, but to make a point about diplomatic effectiveness. To move a negotiating partner in a desired direction, one must understand how that partner understands things and help him to see a way forward that will bring him to an end he has been persuaded to want. One of the reasons we can't seem to move things as we desire in the Middle East is that we don’t make much effort to understand how others reason and how they rank their interests. In the case of the Israel-Palestine conundrum, we Americans are long on empathy and expertise about Israel and very, very short on these for the various Arab parties. The essential militarism of U.S. policies in the Middle East adds to our difficulties. We have become skilled at killing Arabs. We have forgotten how to listen to them or persuade them.
  • In foreign affairs, interests are the measure of all things. My assumption is that Americans and Norwegians, indeed Europeans in general, share common interests that require peace in the Holy Land. To my mind, these interests include — but are, of course, not limited to — gaining security and acceptance for a democratic state of Israel; eliminating the gross injustices and daily humiliations that foster Arab terrorism against Israel and its foreign allies and supporters, as well as friendly Arab regimes; and reversing the global spread of religious strife and prejudice, including, very likely, a revival of anti-Semitism in the West if current trends are not arrested. None of these aspirations can be fulfilled without an end to the Israeli occupation and freedom for Palestinians.
  • The Ottoman Turks were careful to ensure freedom of access for worship to adherents of the three Abrahamic faiths when they administered the city. It is an interest that Jews, Christians, and Muslims share.
  • pathologies of political life in the United States that paralyze the American diplomatic imagination. Tomorrow’s meeting may well demonstrate that, the election of Barack Obama notwithstanding, the United States is still unfit to manage the achievement of peace between Israel and the Arabs.
  • the American monopoly on the management of the search for peace in Palestine remains unchallenged. Since the end of the Cold War, Russia — once a contender for countervailing influence in the region — has lapsed into impotence. The former colonial powers of the European Union, having earlier laid the basis for conflict in the region, have largely sat on their hands while wringing them, content to let America take the lead. China, India, and other Asian powers have prudently kept their political and military distance. In the region itself, Iran has postured and exploited the Palestinian cause without doing anything to advance it. Until recently, Turkey remained aloof.
  • the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land.
  • Few doubt Mr. Obama’s sincerity. Yet none of his initiatives has led to policy change anyone can detect, let alone believe in.
  • t. For the most part, Arab leaders have timorously demanded that America solve the Israel-Palestine problem for them, while obsequiously courting American protection against Israel, each other, Iran, and — in some cases — their own increasingly frustrated and angry subjects and citizens.
  • the Obama administration has engaged the same aging impresarios who staged all the previously failed “peace processes” to produce and direct this one with no agreed script. The last time these guys staged such an ill-prepared meeting, at Camp David in 2000, it cost both heads of delegation, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, their political authority. It led not to peace but to escalating violence. The parties are showing up this time to minimize President Obama’s political embarrassment in advance of midterm elections in the United States, not to address his agenda — still less to address each other’s agendas. These are indeed difficulties. But the problems with this latest — and possibly final — iteration of the perpetually ineffectual “peace process” are more fundamental.
  • The Mahmoud Abbas administration retains power by grace of the Israeli occupation authorities and the United States, which prefer it to the government empowered by the Palestinian people at the polls. Mr. Abbas’s constitutional term of office has long since expired. He presides over a parliament whose most influential members are locked up in Israeli jails. It is not clear for whom he, his faction, or his administration can now speak.
  • American policies in the Middle East, with an emphasis on the prospects for peace in the Holy Land
  • Yet, as I will argue,  the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land.
  • Yet, as I will argue,   the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land.
  • Yet, as I will argue,   the United States has been obsessed with process rather than substance. It has failed to involve parties who are essential to peace. It has acted on Israel’s behalf to preempt rather than enlist international and regional support for peace. It has defined the issues in ways that preclude rather than promote progress. Its concept of a “peace process” has therefore become the handmaiden of Israeli expansionism rather than a driver for peace. There are alternatives to tomorrow’s diplomatic peace pageant on the Potomac. And, as Norway has shown, there is a role for powers other than America in crafting peace in the Holy Land
  • The resentment of mostly Muslim Arabs at their governing elites’ failure to meet these standards generates sympathy for terrorism directed not just at Israel but at both the United States and Arab governments associated with it
  • Arab governments willing to overlook American contributions to Muslim suffering
  • suspending its efforts to make peace in the Holy Land
  • invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq
  • It has caused a growing majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to see the United States as a menace to their faith, their way of life, their homelands, and their personal security
  • But I do think it worthwhile briefly to examine some of the changes in the situation that ensure that many policies that once helped us to get by in the Middle East will no longer do this
  • “peace process,”
  • The perpetual processing of peace without the requirement to produce it has been especially appreciated by Israeli leaders
  • Palestinian leaders with legitimacy problems have also had reason to collaborate in the search for a “peace process
  • Israeli backing these leaders need to retain their status in the occupied territories. It ensures that they have media access and high-level visiting rights in Washington. Meanwhile, for American leaders, engagement in some sort of Middle East “peace process” has been essential to credibility in the Arab and Islamic worlds, as well as with the ever-generous American Jewish community.
  • “The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state.”
  • It has no interest in trading land it covets for a peace that might thwart further territorial expansion
  • Obviously, the party that won the democratically expressed mandate of the Palestinian people to represent them — Hamas — is not there
  • “peace process” is just another in a long series of public entertainments for the American electorate and also a lack of confidence in the authenticity of the Palestinian delegation
  • the Arab peace initiative of 2002. This offered normalization of relations with the Jewish state, should Israel make peace with the Palestinians.
  • But asking them even implicitly to agree that the forcible eviction of Palestinian Arabs was a morally appropriate means to this end is both a nonstarter and seriously off-putting
  • has been met with incredulity
  • Only a peace process that is protected from Israel’s ability to manipulate American politics can succeed.
  • establishing internationally recognized borders for Israel, securing freedom for the Palestinians, and ending the stimulus to terrorism in the region and beyond it that strife in the Holy Land entails
  • First, get behind the Arab peace initiative.
  • Second, help create a Palestinian partner for peace
  • Third, reaffirm and enforce international law
  • American diplomacy on behalf of the Jewish state has silenced the collective voice of the international communit
  • When one side to a dispute is routinely exempted from principles, all exempt themselves, and the law of the jungle prevails
  • Fourth, set a deadline linked to an ultimatum
  • The two-state solution
  • That is why the question of whether there is a basis for expanded diplomatic cooperation between Europeans and Arabs is such a timely one
  • Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has made inter-faith dialogue and the promotion of religious tolerance a main focus of his domestic and international policy
  • President Obama’s inability to break this pattern must be an enormous personal disappointment to him. He came into office committed to crafting a new relationship with the Arab and Muslim worlds. His first interview with the international media was with Arab satellite television. He reached out publicly and privately to Iran. He addressed the Turkish parliament with persuasive empathy. He traveled to a great center of Islamic learning in Cairo to deliver a remarkably eloquent message of conciliation to Muslims everywhere. He made it clear that he understood the centrality of injustices in the Holy Land to Muslim estrangement from the West. He promised a responsible withdrawal from Iraq and a judicious recrafting of strategy in Afghanistan.  Few doubt Mr. Obama’s sincerity. Yet none of his initiatives has led to policy change anyone can detect, let alone believe in.
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