Friday, December 28, 2012

Mordechai Kedar: The Fall of Syria - The Winners and the Losers



by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)


According to all indications, the days of Bashar Asad are numbered and the end of the dynasty of the house of Asad appears closer than ever. The bloody regime that began in November 1970 ends its life drowning in the endless blood-letting  of Syrian citizens. The rule of the ‘Alawite sect over the Muslims was never legitimate because they have no right to rule, since they are a minority, and it and is very doubtful whether, according to Islam, they even have the right to live, since they are heretics, idol worshipers. The fall of their regime, which seems inevitable, raises the question: who are the winners and who are the losers as a result of the collapse of Syria. The answer is fairly complex.

The Citizens of Syria

These are the greatest losers. Until now, taking into account casualties from both sides,  about fifty thousand people have been killed in the civil war. The number of wounded is several times larger – and the number of refugees, those outside of Syria and those who have remained within – is more than two million. The number of housing units (houses and apartments) that have become piles of rubble is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. The damage to the infrastructures of electricity, water, sewage, education, health and roads amounts to many billions of dollars, and repairing the damage – even if work continues day and night – will take years. The country is in a  state of clinical death resulting from systemic collapse, and for a long time there has been no tax collection in Syria, no organized economic system or effective government. The military is crushed by the desertions of officers and soldiers and the destruction of military bases by the rebels.

The ‘Alawite sect is a big loser because it might lose its controlling status in Syria, and for months the Sunni jihad fighters - Syrians as well as infiltrators from outside – have been carrying out serial massacres against this heretical sect , which has ruled Syria since 1966. Each massacre brings another massacre in revenge, which itself brings about a massacre, and so it continues for the past year and a half. Many ‘Alawites have been slaughtered as of today, and many more will be slaughtered in the near future, after the jihadists bring the country to its end.  The last thing that the Islamic jihadists care about is human rights, and when they get the opportunity, they will execute their plot against the ‘Alawites to the bitter end.

The other small sects as well – the Christians and the Druze – are among the losers, because the ‘Alawite regime protected them. Now they too will be easy prey for the jihadists knives, and therefore many of them are fleeing beyond the borders of Syria.

However, the citizens of Syria are also great winners from the collapse of the regime, since they have succeeded – at a very high price – to overthrow the regime, which was dictatorial in style and feudal in structure, and  only interested in promoting the rights of the Asad and Makhlouf families. The citizens of Syria purchased their freedom at a high price, because freedom is not a natural thing, especially in the Middle East. The question hanging in the air is “who will rule Syria after the war”, because if it is the jihadis, the Syrian citizen might find himself in an Islamic-religious dictatorship after having managed to rid themselves of a nationalist-secular dictator. The civil society in Syria, which is mostly composed of educated people with some economic means, will apparently have no influence on the future of Syria, because even if there are many differences of opinion and trends among the people, the main thing is that they are not violent, and therefore they are treated as if they don’t exist. 

Syria will dissolve into a number of political entities: the Kurds in the Northeast, in the Hasaka area, and the Druze in the south, in Jibal a-Druze. An ‘Alawite state may arise in the northwest of the country, to protect the surviving members of the sect. The Bedouins in the east may demand autonomy as well, and the people of Aleppo will be able to establish an entity for themselves separate from the people of Damascus, those who controlled their lives in the past and whom they despise. These homogeneous states have a good chance to establish alternative governmental systems  and to achieve – not without difficulties – a state of peace and prosperity, relatively speaking.

Iran

This country stands to lose the most from the fall of the Syrian regime, which was Iran’s Trojan horse into the Arab world. Syria was the supporting pillar of the Iranian coalition that extended to Hizb’Allah in Lebanon and streamed weapons, ammunition, missiles, money, fighters and advisers to the Shi’ite terror organization. Despite its economic  difficulties stemming from international sanctions, Iran has sunk an estimated twenty billion dollars in Syria during the past two years  in weapons, ammunition and payment of Syrian soldiers’ salaries in an effort to keep them from deserting. Now, with the collapse of the Syrian regime, all of the investment has gone down the drain, and the Iranians  understand that the gamble on Asad and his regime was a bitter mistake.

The disagreements among the regime of the Ayatollahs about whether to support Asad have been going on for quite a while, and the collapse of the Syrian regime might cause these disagreements to boil over and shift from nonbelligerent  discussion to violence. This situation could cause the controlling elite in Iran to implode, and the world will be unexpectedly freed of the Iranian threat.

The emergence of a Kurdish state from the ruins of Syria might heighten the desire of the Kurds of Iran to intensify their opposition to the Iranian regime and free themselves from the control of Teheran by the use of force. Such a development might also encourage the Baluchis in the south of Iran to escalate their struggle against the Iranian regime, and thus bring about the collapse of Iran as a multi-national state under Persian hegemony.

Another matter of great concern to the Iranians is that in the wake of the collapse of the Syrian regime, documents may be discovered that reveal and prove the Iranian-North Korean participation in the secret Syrian nuclear project, which, according to foreign sources, was firmly and decisively dealt with by Israel  on the 6th of September, 2007. Moreover, there is also a possibility that proof will be found of Iranian involvement in terror attacks that have been carried out since the Ayatollahs took over Iran in the beginning of 1979, because Syria may have been involved in these actions in some way.

The Arab Peoples

The collapse of the Asad regime will encourage the Arab peoples in general, and those of the Arabian Peninsula in particular, to stand up to Iran, and this will cause Iran to be even more isolated. Other Arab peoples – of Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq – might be encouraged by the success of the Syrians, and surge into the streets to achieve their own freedom from domineering rulers . The Palestinians might take an example from the Syrians and begin a third intifada with the hope of duplicating the Syrian success in Judea and Samaria.

One of the biggest losers is the concept of Arab nationalism. This idea – that there is such a thing as an Arab nationality with a unified character and distinct characteristics – served as a fig leaf to hide the sins of the dictators, and as a source of the hollow, empty nationalistic slogans, that the dictators – mainly Asad, the father and the son –  used to justify  their corruption and cruelty towards the citizens. They presented Syria as the stronghold of Arab nationalism in order to justify their negative deeds towards the citizens: denial of human rights, cancelling political freedoms, shutting mouths and murdering their critics. Anyone who speaks positively about Arab nationalism these days is seen as someone who fell asleep thirty years ago and hasn’t seen or heard that the idea of Arab nationalism was hijacked by dictators and has now become bankrupt.

Arab countries that supported the Syrian rebels – Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan – have won the battle against the Syrian and Iranian regimes. And emir of Qatar, the most powerful man in the Arab world, will now become even stronger. The Al-Jazeera channel, which he runs, the channel that has kindled the flames in these inflamed arenas – Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria – has succeeded in eliminating their rulers and removing their very powerful presidents. Undoubtedly, the Al-Jazeera channel is one of the greatest winners in the war against the Asad regime.

Iraq

During the last two years, mainly since the American withdrawal one year ago, the Shi’ites, who control Iraq have entered their country into the coalition between Iran, the Syrian regime and Hizb’Allah, and have supplied Asad with weapons, ammunition and cash for the payment of salaries for its military personnel. If and when the Sunni  jihadis take control of Syria – or its components – they may  take revenge on Shi’ite Iraq by sending weapons, ammunition, explosives, moneys and perhaps even fighters in order to shore up the Sunni minority in Iraq and to further upset the already shaky stability. As a result of this, the land of the two rivers might sink once again into a swamp of blood, fire and tears, which characterized it from 2003 until the end of the previous decade, and the horrors of that era may still occasionally shock the Iraqi streets with powerful explosions and dozens of innocent dead and wounded civilians.

Jordan

There are hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan today. This situation is a great burden on the Jordanian economy because of the needs of the refugees, especially during the present winter season. There are some in the Jordanian government who fear that there may be negative and dangerous elements among the refugees, such as agents of the Syrian regime who might take revenge on Jordan for its support of the Syrian rebels. There might be also Islamist terrorists among the refugees, who may act against the government in Jordan if a wave of protest against the king breaks out, as an extension of the “Arab Spring”. 

Lebanon

One of the big losers from the collapse of the Asad regime is the Hizb’Allah organization, because it is reasonable to  assume that the land bridge to Iran will be closed off, and Hizb’Allah will need to find more difficult paths for the transfer of weapons and ammunition from Iran to Lebanon. Even the political support that the Asad regime granted to Hizb’Allah will disappear, and this might have an influence on the Lebanese forces who oppose Hizb’Allah and demand them to disarm. Such a demand might heat up the internal Lebanese front and sink this war-torn country once again into a blood bath.

Because of Hizb’Allah’s involvement in the suppression of demonstrations and rebellion in Syria, the jihadis might try to harm Hasan Nasrallah personally, to take public revenge upon him.

On the other hand, it is possible that in order to prevent a civil war, from which there can be only losers, Hizb’Allah will agree to surrender some of the tokens of control in Lebanon and agree to a different division of powers in the country. However, the conflicts that often break out in Tripoli are an indication of the increasing internal tension in the Lebanese internal arena, and give the impression  that agreements are not the name of the game, but rather shootings and attacks. 

Turkey

This country finds itself in a complex situation: on one hand, it strongly supported the overthrow of the infidel and anti-Islamic regime, and Erdoğan, who is motivated by radical Islamic political ideas, has succeeded in the complex battle against Asad the heretic, murderer of Muslims. However, as a result of the collapse of the Syrian regime, a Kurdish state might emerge in northeast Syria, right under the noses of the Turks, and this state might intensify the motivation of the Turkish Kurds to escalate their opposition to the Turkish regime in order to finally achieve independence.

The Turkish regime is concerned by the more than a hundred thousand Syrian refugees presently on Turkish soil, because they are a burden on the budget, and Turkish willingness to host them and fill their needs is not unlimited.

Israel

According to Syrian government spokesmen, the civil war is a Zionist-American plot that is intended to vanquish Syria after Syria has triumphed over Israel in every battle and war that has occurred since 1973. The collapse of the Syrian regime will remove one of Israel’s sworn enemies, which, despite the quiet that has reigned on the border since June 1974, has helped and supported every terrorist organization acting against Israel for the past forty years: The PLO, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front, the General Command, as-Sa’iqa, al-‘Asifa, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizb’Allah. All were trained, equipped and armed by the Syrian regime, and its demise means the elimination of one of Israel’s cruelest and most difficult enemies.

But the alternative is not yet clear, because if the ruthless jihadis take over in Syria they might turn Syria into a terror country that will take action against Israel and perhaps even against other countries, just as Afghanistan of the Taliban and al-Qaeda until 2001. If the chemical weapons that are now in Syria fall into the hands of these organizations, they may be quite dangerous, and if Hizb’Allah takes over the chemical weapons, this might represent an effective deterrence against Israel.

Therefore, one may say that Israel will take Asad’s collapse with mixed feelings: satisfaction over the removal of a sworn enemy and fear of a more dangerous enemy.

Europe

Even now, thousands of Syrian refugees are knocking on Europe’s doors, which are closed to them, so that they can open a new chapter in their miserable lives. In Europe they know well that an Arab refugee who comes to Europe will never leave, and therefore – with every sympathy for the refugees and their problems – Europe fears the flow of Arabs into its territory and is slowing down their immigration as much as possible. The European hypocrisy towards the Syrian citizens is glaring because of NATO’s reluctance to become involved in Syria, contrary to the massive support that Europe gave to the rebels in Libya. The explanation of the difference is hidden in the matter of oil: Europe wanted to assure the continuation of the flow of Libyan oil to Europe and therefore supported the Libyan rebels, while in Syria there is no oil and therefore – from Europe’s cynical point of view – the blood of the Syrians could be freely spilled in the streets of Homs, Damascus and Aleppo. 

If and when the jihadis do turn Syria into a terror state, Europe – which felt no need to protect the Syrians from their own government’s weapons – might eventually have to pay damages, or to suffer an all-out war with these organizations. 

Another matter that worries Europe today is what will become of the European investments in the Syrian economy, such as factories in the West that have transferred some of their production lines to Syria. According to the precedent set in Iraq, the new regime has the right to renounce debts incurred by a previous regime, and if the new regime in Syria acts according to the Iraqi precedent then Europe might lose a lot of money.

General

The collapse of the evil regime in Syria opens an opportunity for many organizations with new ideologies to advance to center stage and take over. The fluidity of the situation creates a governmental and organizational vacuum, which might cause Asad to be remembered as very young, with a nice head of hair and pleasant looking, compared to the jihadis who may succeed his rule. If the jihadi script plays out, the whole world will lose.



 ===============

Dr. Kedar is available for lectures


Dr. Mordechai Kedar
(Mordechai.Kedar@biu.ac.il) is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.


Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the author.


Beck: Obama May Go To Prison



by Frontpagemag.com



Troubling details emerge about Ambassador Stevens’ dealings with Islamist rebels in Libya and Syria:




Frontpagemag.com

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/caroline-glick/hagel-obama-and-the-israeli-elections/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

West Longs for Jew-Free Zones in Jerusalem



by P. David Hornik


 

Israel plans to step up the building of residences within the settlement blocs and—drawing particular ire—in parts of Jerusalem that were under Jordanian occupation from 1949 to 1967. The Jerusalem plans include housing for both Jews and Arabs.

In this holiday season, those plans should be cause for rejoicing instead of heightened rebukes. The city’s status as a hub of three religions, and also of tolerance, pluralism, and across-the-board demographic growth, is being strengthened.

Instead, official Western reactions have been harshly critical (reports here, here, and here).
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action.” The French Foreign Ministry called the building plans “a provocation that further undermines…trust…and leads us to question Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution.” British foreign secretary William Hague called the plans “a serious provocation and an obstacle to peace.”

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton even hinted at repercussions, saying the EU would “closely monitor the situation…and act accordingly.”

And 14 of the 15 countries on the UN Security Council—with the U.S. as the only exception—issued condemnations as well. Four of them—Britain, France, Germany, and Portugal—said in a joint statement that they were “extremely concerned by, and strongly opposed, the plans…all settlement activity, including in east Jerusalem, must cease immediately.”

It should be noted that, except the U.S., all of the abovementioned countries either voted aye or abstained in last month’s UN General Assembly vote conferring a watered-down form of statehood on the Palestinian Authority. It was partly in reaction to the Palestinians’ move, which blatantly violated the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords that the EU once sanctioned, that Israel announced the new building plans.

Israel, though, couldn’t win. It couldn’t persuade the European states to oppose the Palestinian move; and once it reacted to the move, it was roundly condemned.

Israel was particularly disappointed by Germany’s abstention in the UN vote, after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government had seemed to be intending to vote nay. Germany, as already mentioned, then joined three other countries in demanding that even “East Jerusalem”—where 200,000 Jews now live, 40 percent of Jerusalem’s total Jewish population—be treated as a Jew-free zone.

Beyond these specific points, though, stands the ongoing spectacle of the world’s leading Western powers seeming to pine for a redivided Jerusalem, this time with the Palestinians ruling the Jew-free part. Even if a Palestinian sovereign entity were to arise in the West Bank, “Ramallah,” as David Solway notes in his new book, “…is a good enough Palestinian capital.” Why, then, the insistence on East Jerusalem?

It doesn’t seem reasonable that Washington, London, Paris, Berlin et al. would be nostalgic for the previous period of Muslim Arab rule over that part of the city. The Jordanian occupation was particularly hard on Jews, who were denied all access to their holy sites while Jordanian snipers fired repeatedly into the Jewish part of the city. But the Christians under Jordan’s control suffered as well, their number dwindling from 25,000 in 1949 to 10,000 in 1967 as they were given only paltry access to their holy sites and forced to teach the Koran in their church schools (accounts here and here).

Would it be better under the Palestinians? Not if one takes Bethlehem—where the Palestinian Authority has wielded autonomy since late 1995—as a test case. Palestinian Muslim control there has caused ongoing steep demographic decline for the town’s Christians as they suffer from terror, intimidation, land theft, sexual assault, forced marriages, and the like (accounts here, here, and here)—not surprisingly in light of the continuing severe persecution of Christians throughout the region.

Indeed, however eager the West is for Palestinian rule in East Jerusalem, it turns out that even the predominantly Muslim Palestinians there don’t want it. As Evelyn Gordon notes, the numbers of these Palestinians requesting Israeli citizenship has dramatically climbed in recent years. Polls find that, even if the Palestinian state was established, most East Jerusalem Palestinians would prefer to remain Israeli.

Considering that the Palestinians’ supposed desire to shake off Israeli rule is a shibboleth of Western diplomacy, one might ask why that would be so. But anyone who has been both to Israel and the Palestinian Authority—one is tempted to say, anyone but Western diplomats—knows that the former is an island of Western democracy, prosperity, tolerance, and pluralism in a harsh region. Jerusalem Palestinians, exposed to those upsides since Israel reunited the city in 1967, have come to know their worth.

As Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat put it in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed,
Since [1967] the city has maintained freedom of access, movement and religion. Peace-seeking pilgrims of all faiths can again visit the holy places without limitation or restriction. Tourism to Jerusalem is thriving, as is the city’s economy, and its per capita crime rate is among the world’s lowest….
Isn’t it ironic that many in Europe who recently celebrated 25 years of the reunification of Berlin are at the same time calling for the division of another capital on another continent?
And as Barkat went on to ask: “By 2030, the city’s population will expand to one million residents from 800,000 today (33% Muslim, 2% Christian and 65% Jewish). Where does the world suggest we put these extra 200,000 residents?”

If the answer is, “Put them where you want, but make sure you keep some parts off-limits to Jews,” 

Israel’s answer is: no.

Peace and goodwill to all.


P. David Hornik

Source: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/davidhornik/west-longs-for-jew-free-zones-in-jerusalem/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Dollar Panic Besets Egypt Amid Devaluation Fears



by Bassem Abo Alabass


Ongoing rumours about a devaluation of the pound and future economic turbulence lead to brisk trade at banks as Egyptians withdraw and convert deposits

Egypt is being hit by a dollar shortage as some Egyptians rush to convert their local savings into foreign currencies amid signs of further economic turmoil ahead.

Foreign exchange bureaus have seen heavy trade for the last two days with the Egyptian pound falling to 6.18 to the dollar on Thursday, its lowest level in eight years.

An anonymous source in the leading money transfer company Western Union told Ahram Online Wednesday that they had to put specific restrictions on dollars transfers into Egypt due to heavy demand from customers in the last two days.

Western Union denied Wednesday evening a suspension of US dollar transfers, confirming that its work will continue normally.

Banks, too, have experienced brisk trade as some citizens withdrew their savings. According to Beltone Financial, the Egyptian investment bank, on Thursday Shahinaz Foda, deputy managing director of BNP Paribas, said the problem is a banknote shortage rather than a liquidity crisis.

“Our clients think that the bank is going to freeze their deposits, so many of them have applied to withdraw their monies and convert them into dollars,” explained an HSBC manager who requested anonymity.

This followed rumours that the governor of the Egyptian Central Bank was set to resign due to the state of the economy and the possibility of floating the currency.

Govenor Farouq El-Oqda on Sunday denied TV reports that he was set to step down.

Foreign exchange specialists contacted by Ahram Online gave a mixed picture of the alleged dollar crisis.

A representative from the Arab African International Bank described the situation as "so far stable," saying its customers are still able to buy any amount of dollars they wish.

But Mohamed Mostafa, the owner of a currency exchange shop, said that his three offices are seeking dollars and Euros because of fears among Egyptians of a coming devaluation of the pound.

On Tuesday, President Mohamed Morsi modified banking regulations in order to tighten foreign currency transfers from and to Egypt. Travelers to and from Egypt will not be allowed to carry more than $10,000 or its equivalent.

“This decision was supposed to be issued immediately in the wake of the last year’s uprising, so then we would not witness this big fall in our foreign reserves and this current stance in the market,” Mostafa told Ahram Online.

The spokesperson of the Egyptian Cabinet, Alaa El-Hadidi, stated Wednesday that challenges and risks constrain the forward steps of the country’s economy.

He added that the government is trying to resume talks on a suspended $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, in order to boost the financial situation.


Bassem Abo Alabass

Source: http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/3/12/61339/Business/Economy/Dollar-panic-besets-Egypt-amid-devaluation-fears.aspx

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Al-Assad Duped us into Sectarian War – Alawite Cleric



by Asharq Al-Awsat


Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, an opposition Alawite religious cleric who recently fled to the Turkish town of Antakya revealed that “the Alawite community is living in a state of great fear, after we have become aware that the collapse of the al-Assad regime is imminent, which will place us at the mercy of fierce reprisals from the Sunni majority.” 


He added “many Alawite families have already fled their homes in Damascus and returned to their villages in the Lattakia countryside.”

The cleric also revealed that he, along with a number of other Alawite activists, have worked hard to convince many Alawite youth not to join Syria’s military reserves or heed military summons, calling on the Alawite community “not be become embroiled in killing their Syrian brothers.”

He added “the regime has embroiled us in a sectarian war against the Sunnis, and if the Alawites had participated in the revolution since the beginning the regime would have been toppled, whilst the Alawite community would have no reason to fear. However after all this bloodshed, it is very difficult.”

The cleric, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the al-Assad regime, also called on the Sunni community “to extend their hand to the remaining Alawite community following the ouster of the regime so that we can make peace and build a free, just and democratic Syria.”

As for the role played by religious figures – on both sides – regarding what is happening in Syria, and whether they are taking any positive action to end this, he said “it is very difficult for us to play any role so long as the regime remains” adding “we may play a role after its ouster to put an end to the expected violence.”

The cleric also criticized the Syrian opposition and its organizations, including the Syrian National Council and Syrian National Coalition, saying “the opposition has failed to put forward practical steps to reassure the Alawite community and convince them to abandon the al-Assad family. On the contrary, they have done nothing but talk and rely on unpopular Alawite figures.”

Commenting on the relationship between the al-Assad regime and the Alawite community, the Alawite cleric acknowledged that this was very close, adding “the heads of the security apparatus acquire their legitimacy from Alawite religious clerics with the objective of covering up their corruption, and we find that every security officer is accompanied by a religious cleric.” However he also stressed that this is not a systematic policy of the al-Assad regime or Alawite sect, denying that there was any “[formal] alliance between the Alawite religious establishment and al-Assad family.”

He added “the Alawites do not have a priestly class in the Christian manner or a Fatwa committee along the Islamic line. [Alawite] religious clerics are part of the people who have underdone Alawite education.”

The religious cleric also related a story about an Alawite youth that accurately portrays the Alawite community’s state of fear and desperation. He revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the “youth broke into a religious shrine where the Alawite community prays…and he completely destroyed the shrine” adding “he took this action after a number of rockets hit his village, fired from an outlying village controlled by the armed Syrian opposition.” The Alawite cleric stressed that “the youth realized that shrines and saints cannot protect the Alawite community from the existential threat it is facing.”



Asharq Al-Awsat

Source: http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=1&id=32330

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Ya’alon: US preparing for possible Syria intervention



by Daniel Siryoti, Shlomo Cesana, Eli Leon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff





Vice premier says U.S. will intervene if chemical weapons are used on Syrian citizens, or if weapons fall into wrong hands • Netanyahu and Jordan's King Abdullah meet secretly to discuss Syria's chemical weapons arsenal • Assad reportedly seeks asylum in Venezuela.



Jordan's King Abdullah: He has reportedly ruled out a joint attack on Syria's chemical weapons.
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Photo credit: Avi Ohayon (GPO)


Daniel Siryoti, Shlomo Cesana, Eli Leon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff


Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=6869

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

New Palestinian Rift Erupts after Fatah Cancels Gaza Event



by Khaled Abu Toameh


Rally marking Fatah's 47th anniversary in Nablus  
Photo: REUTERS

The positive atmosphere that prevailed between Fatah and Hamas following Operation Pillar of Defense and the UN vote in favor of upgrading the status of the Palestinians to non-member observer state appeared Thursday to have ended as the two rival parties resumed their verbal attacks on each other.

The new crisis erupted after Fatah announced the cancellation of celebrations in the Gaza Strip that were scheduled for the end of this month to mark the 48th anniversary of its founding.

Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip said they decided to cancel the celebrations because the Hamas government would not allow them to hold rallies in two of Gaza City's main squares.
Hamas has banned Fatah from holding major rallies in the Gaza Strip ever since the Islamist movement took control over the area in 2007.

Fatah, on the other hand, recently permitted Hamas to celebrate its anniversary in several West Bank cities for the first time since 2007.

But in the wake of the recent rapprochement between the two parties, the Hamas government announced two weeks ago that it had given permission to Fatah to celebrate the event in the Gaza Strip.

However, Hamas rejected Fatah's demand to hold the rallies in two squares and offered alternative venues, including the Yarmouk Stadium in Gaza City and the site of former Jewish settlements.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri cited security reasons to justify his movement's opposition to holding Fatah rallies in the two squares.

He claimed that information received by Hamas indicated that "saboteurs" were planning to attack the Fatah rallies. He did not provide further details. Nor did he identify the "saboteurs."

Abu Zuhri denied Fatah claims that Hamas had banned the rallies.

He said that the talk about banning the rallies was "very negative and unsuitable."

The Hamas spokesman said that his movement's agreement in principle to allow the rallies to take place in the Gaza Strip was a "positive step aimed at paving the way for Palestinian reconciliation."

Another Hamas official said that his movement was worried that supporters of ousted Fatah operative Mohamed Dahlan, who fell out with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, were planning to disrupt the rallies and turn them into anti-PA events.

Yehya Rabah, a senior Fatah official in the Gaza Strip, held the Hamas government fully responsible for the cancellation of the Fatah events.

Rabah said that Fatah tried over the past three weeks to reach agreement with Hamas over the venue of the rallies, but to no avail. Egypt and Qatar also tried to mediate between the two sides to solve the crisis, he added.

The Fatah official confirmed that Hamas had proposed two alternative locations for holding the rallies.

He said that the site of former Jewish settlements was lacking in infrastructure, while the Yarmouk Stadium had been bombed by Israel during the last war and was in danger of collapsing.


Khaled Abu Toameh

Source: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=297588

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Why a Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is Unrealistic



by Seth Mandel


On the list of possible solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, somewhere between “fully independent Palestinian state on PA territory” and “Jordan is Palestine” falls a hybrid of the two: “Jordanian-Palestinian confederation.” Longtime Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab writes in the Atlantic that the idea seems to be experiencing something of a revival. Most notably, Mahmoud Abbas himself has reportedly suggested its consideration.

A Jordanian-Palestinian confederation in some ways is a relic of the past, before a fully independent Palestinian state was regarded as the consensus solution to the conflict. Kuttab notes that since the Palestinians’ unilateral declaration at the United Nations gave them symbolic recognition, Abbas may be open to the idea of a confederation, in which a state of Palestine would be technically independent but Jordan would play a role in maintaining security and probably—though this hasn’t been spelled out—in the Palestinian state’s general foreign affairs portfolio. But the idea is less realistic than it may seem. Kuttab, unfortunately, doesn’t discuss why that is. He writes:
While it is unclear if Jordan will ever end up having any sovereign role in the West Bank, support for a greater role for Jordan in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will no doubt increase in the coming months and years if the current decline of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority continues. The one determining factor in all of the discussions will have to come from the Israeli side, which has yet to decide whether it will relinquish sovereignty over the areas occupied in 1967 to any Arab party, whether it be Palestinian or Jordanian.
In fact, that is not case. The Israeli government has publicly committed itself to the notion of two states for two peoples, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly he doesn’t want to “rule over” the Palestinians. The popularity of “Jordan is Palestine” among Israeli military personalities and even some on the right shows that many Israelis are certainly willing to “relinquish sovereignty” over much of the West Bank (and Gaza, which they have already done) if they feel secure in doing so. But the Arab world—now that’s a different story.

Arab states in the Middle East, especially those near the Palestinian territories, have never made any secret of their opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Diplomatically, they have torpedoed the process every chance they’ve had. And the closer the two sides get, or the more time they spend in negotiations, the less money Arab states tend to offer the Palestinian Authority to keep it afloat. At times, the West is lucky if the Arab states even let Abbas negotiate.

In the summer of 2008, as the U.S. tried to re-engage in the peace process, the Washington Post reported that Arab states were not delivering the aid they pledged to the Palestinian Authority. More troubling was why: when the terrorist entity Hamas left the PA unity government (I use the term “unity” loosely here), the checks stopped coming. The Arab states were sabotaging the peace process by funding radical terrorist elements that opposed peace and supported continuous terrorism against Israel, while refusing to support the more moderate elements of the Palestinian Authority. That was under the Bush administration, but almost exactly three years later the Obama administration faced the same problem when it noticed that Arab aid to the Palestinians had fallen more than 80 percent in a two-year span.

States like Qatar continue to undermine the PA and Abbas by flooding Hamas-run Gaza with cash while leaving the PA to beg for scraps. (The Saudis aren’t much better in this department.)

The other problem for a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation is that while the Palestinians would have a technically independent state, they would surely have some restrictions that they have always balked at. Israeli negotiators have said repeatedly that the Palestinian state would have to be demilitarized and that the IDF would still play a role in security there, including approving the use of Palestinian airspace. A Jordanian-Palestinian confederation would likely have similar Palestinian restrictions, with Jordan playing a larger role than Israel on some of these issues.

And finally, there is another reason Jordan is unlikely to want to join such a confederation. What if the Palestinians decided they didn’t want Jordanian military personnel on their new state’s territory after a few years? Would the Jordanians fight an armed uprising against their military installations? Would they risk re-occupying and absorbing the Palestinians on the West Bank? Once Abbas is gone, would an agreement he signed on behalf of the Palestinians be worth the paper on which it was written?

The fact remains that Arab states do not want the creation of a Palestinian state, and, unlike with regard to Israel, the international community doesn’t much pressure them to take a more proactive approach, despite both Jordan’s and Egypt’s obvious role bringing about the current situation by repeatedly launching wars of annihilation against the Jewish state. An Arab world that played a constructive role in the conflict would be a first.


Seth Mandel

Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/12/27/why-a-jordanian-palestinian-confederation-is-unrealistic/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

How to Use American Influence



by Shoshana Bryen


The U.S. and its allies could not, similarly, overthrow the Soviet Union or liberate its colonies. But we did not pretend that we were their friends, and we surely did not give them aid or political support. The best of the Cold Warriors spurred the United States staunchly to defend its political beliefs as "better;" defend its friends militarily; guard as much as possible against communist expansion into free countries; and let the "captive nations" know through Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty that we were on their side. That would translate today into support for human rights civil rights, minority rights and capitalism; support for our allies; guarding against al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood; denouncing attacks on Christians; and the expanded use of social networks for the many people who want to be on our side.
Colonial powers – France, Britain, Belgium and Russia, in particular – believed there was no substitute for their own armies and officials to ensure that their colonies stayed in line. Instead of colonial occupation forces, the U.S. takes its money, arms, training and agenda abroad. It is a specifically American conceit that people in other countries and other societies want our social and governmental blueprint as well as our money, medicine and weapons.

As the Syrian civil war expands, a U.N. Commission of Inquiry finally determined that "The conflict has been overtly sectarian... government forces and its militias, dominated by Alawites, have been attacking Sunnis -- who are "broadly (but not uniformly)" backing the armed groups opposing President Bashar al-Assad's government. And anti-government armed groups have been targeting Alawites."

This is not news. It has, however, prompted another spasm of the belief that U.S. support for this side or that, this person or that, could have or would have produced in Syria a secular, moderate and tolerant revolution, led by those who would be America's friends. The estimable Barry Rubin blames "the deliberate decisions of President Barack Obama and other Western leaders. Even if one rationalizes the Islamist takeover in Egypt as due to internal events, this one is U.S.-made."

It is hard to see the difference between the "internal events" in Egypt that made the Brotherhood victory "inevitable," and "internal events" in Syria that could have produced a different outcome. In both countries, the Brotherhood had been repressed and suppressed in the most brutal ways. Hafez Assad killed an estimated 20,000 people in the Brotherhood stronghold of Hama in just a few weeks in 1982; Junior has a long way to go. In neither country did the supporters of Muslim Brotherhood go away or lose their fervor – the opposite. And in both places, lifting the lid brought the Muslim Brotherhood back from underground.

Rubin adds, "Obama and others believe that they can moderate the Muslim Brotherhood and this will tame the Salafists… This is going to be the biggest foreign policy blunder of the last century." It may be a blunder, but it would be the same one Rubin makes in the other direction. Both believe American military, economic and political support can moderate or redirect longstanding ethnic and religious beliefs and hatreds. They both believe American "influence" can create moderate, tolerant governments in the Middle East, North Africa and Southwest Asia.

The counter-argument is the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Libya.
The Oslo Accords were predicated on the mistaken belief that international economic support would create a moderate, liberal Palestinian state living peaceably next to Israel. The U.S. also believed that with American training and financial support, Palestinian "police" would "dismantle the terrorist infrastructure." Palestinians are the world's largest per capita recipients of international assistance. The U.S. has spent nearly $500 million a year on the Palestinian Authority, including $100 million each year for "security forces" under the tutelage of an American three-star General. Separately, the U.S. is the largest single donor to UNRWA; $2.2 billion in its first 50 years (1950-1999) and $2.18 billion in the last 13 years (2000-2012). In 2012, the U.S. contribution will be $249 million.

What have we achieved? After a Palestinian war against Israel in 2000 (with terrorists using our training) and a civil war, the PA is corrupt, bankrupt and no closer to democracy or accepting Israel as a permanent part of the region than it was before the application of our money or our "influence." The "armed struggle" promoted by Hamas is finding ever more favor with Palestinians as PA President Mahmoud Abbas seeks "unity" with his erstwhile enemies. Abbas openly defied President Obama on negotiations, UN recognition and the internationalization of the conflict. He threatens "retaliation" against Israel if its citizens choose Netanyahu in the upcoming election. PA-Israeli security cooperation has been faltering and there are open clashes between Palestinians and the IDF.

But if the U.S. got nothing for millions to the Palestinians, it is currently getting nothing for BILLIONS in military and economic aid to Egypt. The aid was to have ensured a pro-American military, adherence to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty and security in Sinai. Since 1987, the U.S. has spent about $1.25 billion annually for arms plus about $250 million in economic support. Additional millions were spent on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) between to help Egypt create civil society organizations to provide wider space for political parties and media.

What have we achieved? A Muslim Brotherhood President; a Parliament that runs from Muslim Brotherhood to Salafist; a Sharia-heavy Constitution and a military establishment that seems perfectly fine with it all. Joshua Stacher writes in Foreign Affairs that that the military supports Morsi because it believes the Brotherhood will continue to win elections, and that the Brotherhood "incorporated many of its core demands…directly into the draft constitution."

The military is siding with what it perceives as the long-term winner – and that is not us. It is unlikely that we will use our military assistance as leverage. If Mubarak considered it "compensation," the Brotherhood considers it "reparations" for U.S. support of the Mubarak dictatorship.

Afghanistan is the recipient of buckets of money – nearly $3 billion annually in health, education, economic infrastructure and governance for the past six years, plus billions more for military training and equipment. More than 2,000 Americans have lost their lives in an effort to bring tolerant, representative government to the Afghan people and rout the Taliban "radicals."

Again, what have we achieved? The Afghan government and military remain corrupt and ineffectual; more than 63 "insider" attacks killed 25 Western soldiers in 2012 as President Hamid Karzai decried the lack of American cultural sensitivity. The new U.S. Army field manual agrees: "Better situational awareness/understanding of Afghan culture will help…to avoid cultural conflict that can lead toward green-on-blue violence." Judicial Watch notes that a draft of the manual "leaked to the newspaper offers a list of 'taboo conversation topics' that soldiers should avoid, including 'making derogatory comments about the Taliban,' 'advocating women's rights,' 'any criticism of pedophilia,' 'directing any criticism towards Afghans,' 'mentioning homosexuality and homosexual conduct' or 'anything related to Islam.'"

In other words, after a dozen years of our lives and treasure, American troops should adopt the cultural norms of seventh-century Afghans, rather than expecting the Afghans to show some 21st century tolerance for women and homosexuals, or aversion to pedophilia.

Pakistan received $3 billion in FY 2012; $1.6 billion in security assistance and $1.4 billion for economic development. Since 2001, more than $20 billion, including $9 billion in reimbursement for expenses supporting US military operations.

Libya? What we achieved in Libya hardly bears asking the question.

Rubin thinks, "The alternatives have been ignored; and the real moderates are being betrayed."

It is more likely that the "real moderates" – by definition people less willing to kill or coerce – are unlikely to be winners in a region that does not presently value "moderation." It is also true that the U.S. has chosen some allies as well as it could, and chosen other allies badly. But regardless of the application of money, troops, training, education, infrastructure, and lessons in governance, elections and transparency, U.S. influence is markedly less than we – or our enemies – think it is, or ever thought it was.

If that sounds insufficient, it harks back to Cold War understandings. The U.S. and its allies could not, similarly, overthrow the Soviet Union or liberate its colonies. But we did not pretend they were our friends, and we surely did not give them aid or political support. The best of the Cold Warriors – think John F. Kennedy, Henry M. Jackson, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Ronald Reagan – spurred the United States staunchly to defend its political beliefs as "better;" defend its friends militarily through NATO, COCOM and other joint efforts; guard as much as possible against communist expansion into free countries; and let the "captive nations" know through Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty that we were on their side.

That would translate today into unequivocal support for human rights, civil rights, minority rights and capitalism; support for Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq (because we are responsible for it now), the Central Asian "Stans," Tunisia (still) and Turkey (maybe); guarding against al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood expansion in Africa – including loudly denouncing attacks on Christians in Nigeria, Kenya and Mali; and expanded use of social networks to provide real information and hope for the future to those many people who want to be on our side, with America. 


Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center.
Source: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3519/american-influence

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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