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Ed Webb

Messing up in Syria. A tale of two foreign policies - 0 views

  • the main impetus behind Russia's Syria policy is a desire to frustrate western efforts, largely as a result of Nato's earlier intervention against the Gadafy regime in Libya
  • Although Russia continues to advocate a political solution, on the ground the main effect of its obduracy has been to prolong the conflict, thus increasing the cost of Russian support for the Assad regime and intensifying rather than reducing the jihadist problem. In terms of achieving Russia's goals, this has been counterproductive.
Ed Webb

Syria isn't Kosovo and this isn't 1999. Not even close | openDemocracy - 0 views

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    Useful contrast of the two cases, reflecting how careful one must be with historical analogies.
Ed Webb

EXCLUSIVE: New book reveals how KGB operation seeded Muslim countries with anti-America... - 0 views

  • The highest-ranking Soviet-bloc intelligence officer ever to defect to the West claims in a new book that anti-American Islamic terrorism had its roots in a secret 1970s-era KGB plot to harm but the United States and Israel by seeding Muslim countries with carefully targeted propaganda.
  • Andropov began his leadership of the KGB just months before the 1967 Six-Day War between Arabs and Israelis, in which Israel humiliated the key Soviet allies Syria and Egypt. And he decided to settle the score by training Palestinian militants to hijack El Al airplanes and bomb sites in Jerusalem.

    But more shocking, Andropov commissioned the first Arabic translation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian-forged 1905 propaganda book that alleged Jews were plotting to take over Europe - and were being aided by the United States.

    The Protocols book, Pacepa claims, became 'the basis for much of Hitler's anti-Semitic philosophy.' And the KGB, he writes, disseminated 'thousands of copies' in Muslim countries during the 1970s.

  • In 1972, Pacepa writes, his DIE agency 'received from the KGB an Arabic translation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion along with "documentary" material, also in Arabic, "proving" that the United States was a Zionist country."

    He was 'ordered,' he adds, 'to "discreetly" disseminate both "documents" within its targeted Islamic countries.'

Ed Webb

Turkey and Russia react with fury to G20 spying revelations | World news | guardian.co.uk - 0 views

    • Ed Webb
       
      Spying on Turkey, a NATO ally, is actually a much bigger deal than spying on Russia. On the other hand, everyone spies on everyone. All this fuss is Casablanca-style "shocked! shocked!"
  • "Russia shouldn't take this [spying] for granted, but shouldn't dramatise the situation either. Intelligence agencies exist to spy not only on private citizens but on top government leaders too."
Ed Webb

Russia's Middle East Gambit - Carnegie Moscow Center - Carnegie Endowment for Internati... - 1 views

  • Russia is out to raise the stakes for U.S. military intervention, which it sees as destabilizing for the world order; to minimize the impact of Islamist radicalism and extremism born out of the Arab Spring; and to try to find political solutions to a host of issues, from the civil war in Syria to Iran’s nuclear issue to post-American Afghanistan
  • In Russian society, the long and painful experience of Soviet involvement in Afghanistan gave rise to what was called “Afghan syndrome,” i.e., shunning involvement, especially with military forces, in the Muslim world. Focused on itself and its immediate neighborhood, the Russian Federation physically quit and then neglected whole regions of former Soviet influence, including the Middle East. It continued selling arms to some of its ex-allies, including Syria, but now on a commercial rather than ideological or strategic basis.
  • Iran turned out to be a responsible neighbor and a useful partner, staying away from the Chechen conflict and even helping Russia negotiate an end to the bloody civil war in Tajikistan
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  • The Syrian civil war, however, has put Russia’s relations with the West, Turkey, the Gulf States, and Israel to a serious test
  • Unlike Europeans and Americans, Russian officials did not expect Western-style democracy to follow secular authoritarianism: What they began to brace for, early on, was a great Islamist revolution engulfing the entire region
  • In the hope of getting Western support for the Russian economic modernization agenda, Moscow decided in 2011 not to stand in the way of a humanitarian intervention in Libya. It was soon bitterly disappointed, however, when the no-fly zone in Benghazi morphed into a regime change in Tripoli. The experience of being used and then ignored by the West has informed Russia’s subsequent stance on Syria
  • From Moscow’s perspective, Assad may be problematic insofar as his methods are concerned—but his enemies constitute a real threat not just to Syria, but also to other countries, including Russia
  • Russia’s image has suffered in many parts of the Arab world, where it is portrayed as a friend of authoritarian regimes and as an ally of and arms supplier to Bashar al-Assad and therefore as a friend of Iran
  • The amount of heavy lifting required from both Washington and Moscow is stunning, and the odds are heavily against success at the new Geneva conference next month, but the alternative to a political settlement is truly frightening.

    One obstacle is that Russia has insisted in involving Iran in Syria-related discussions, to which the Gulf Arabs and the United States strongly object. Moscow is frequently referred to as Tehran’s ally and advocate. Indeed, Russia has built a nuclear power reactor in Bushehr and has supplied Iran with a range of weapons systems. Russia, for its part, sees Iran as not so much a theocracy bent on developing nuclear weapons to terrorize the region as a power that has been in the region forever and that is likely to play a more important role in the future.

  • the Iranian theocracy has more checks and balances than the old Soviet system
  • Tehran, they think, is probably aiming for an outcome in which it stops at a relatively small step before reaching a nuclear capability and trades its restraint in exchange for dropping all sanctions against it and respect for its security interests
  • According to U.S. diplomats, Moscow cooperates more with Washington on Iran than it is usually given credit for in the mainstream Western media. Unlike many in the United States, however, Russians believe that pressuring Iran has limits of usefulness: Beyond a certain point, it becomes counterproductive, undercutting the pragmatists and empowering the bad guys that one seeks to isolate
  • Russia’s attitudes toward Israel are overwhelmingly positive. Many Russians admire the social and economic accomplishments of the Jewish state and its technological and military prowess. Intense human contacts under conditions of a visa-free regime and the lack of a language barrier with a significant portion of Israel’s population help enormously
  • Putin knows that denying or withdrawing air-defense cover is the ultimate argument he needs to hold in reserve to make Assad buy into a real power-sharing deal
  • Moscow is beginning to step out of its post-Soviet self-absorption. Its main preoccupation is with security—and Islamist extremism features as a primary threat. This is a big issue. By contrast, Russia’s interests in the Middle East are relatively modest. They are centered on oil and gas exploration deals, pipeline geopolitics, and pricing arrangements; other energy opportunities beckon in the nuclear area. While Russia’s position in the regional arms bazaar has suffered in the last decade as a result of developments in Iraq and Libya (and may yet suffer more in Syria), Moscow is clearly determined to stay in the arms business. Finally, as Russia recasts itself as a defender of traditional Christian values as well as a land of moderate Islam, it is discovering a range of humanitarian causes in the birthplace of both global religions.
  • In the energy sector, Russia has accommodated to Turkey’s new role of a regional energy hub but has worked hard to protect its own share of the European Union’s natural gas market
Ed Webb

Opinion Briefing: Libyans Eye New Relations With the West - 1 views

  • Instability in Libya has already had ripple effects in the region, as many analysts believe that Libya's revolution may have contributed to Mali's crisis after pro-Gadhafi Tuaregs returned and allied with Islamists to dislodge the Malian government from half of the country. The West and the U.S. have an interest not only in ensuring Libya's stability, but also in keeping its energy on the international market and promoting Libyan democracy as an example in the region.
  • In 2012, 54% of Libyans approve of U.S. leadership -- among the highest approval Gallup has ever recorded in the Middle East and North Africa region, outside of Israel.
  • Libyans also approve of the leadership of the United Kingdom, which also supported the intervention in Libya. They are less enamored with Germany's leaders, who did not support the action. Libyans express little approval of the leadership of Russia and China, countries that were perceived by many as opposing rebel groups and NATO intervention.
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  • Unlike in Libya, revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt succeeded in overthrowing regimes without resorting to armed rebellion and foreign military support. Western military intervention in Libya's revolution likely raised suspicions of ulterior motives and may have reminded neighboring Arabs of prior, unpopular Western military campaigns in the region
  • More than three in four Libyans (77%) also support the West sending governance experts to their country, an important development in a country that will require major institution building for years to come. The majority (61%) also favor economic aid from the West. The only form of assistance that a majority of Libyans do not approve of is aid for political groups (34%).
Ed Webb

Insight: Iran talks - across the table, a wary stalemate - news.yahoo.com - Readability - 0 views

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