Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 04/17/2011

I apologize--with the number of emails I had today, plus the Pesach cleaning, this email somehow got passed over...

From an email from DG:
1) The Donkey's tale

An Iranian cleric uses an interesting parable to warn the opposition to the regime.
A racy allusion in a Friday prayer sermon by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati has become the talk of Iran.
I'm not sure I get the allusion.

2) What will NATO do?

The Washington Post reports:
Civilians enduring a weeks-long assault that Western leaders have described as a “medieval siege” pleaded with NATO to intervene to prevent what they said was an impending massacre by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.  
“Our lifeline is the port, and he is going for it,” said Mohammed, a city council spokesman who for security reasons uses only his first name. “If he is able to do that, then we really are in trouble.” 
“If a massacre occurs in Misurata, what will be NATO’s position?” added Mohammed, who spoke via Skype. “It is now or never. Either they intervene immediately and bring in ground troops to protect the port or we will all regret this.” 
Indeed, President Obama, PM Cameron and President Sarkozy described a "medieval siege" in Misurata in their op-ed the other day. And what came in the next paragraph?

Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Qaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power. The International Criminal Court is rightly investigating the crimes committed against civilians and the grievous violations of international law. It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government. The brave citizens of those towns that have held out against forces that have been mercilessly targeting them would face a fearful vengeance if the world accepted such an arrangement. It would be an unconscionable betrayal.
And what did Resolution 1973 authorize?
Taking note also of the decision of the Council of the League of Arab States of 12 March 2011 to call for the imposition of a no-fly zone on Libyan military aviation, and to establish safe areas in places exposed to shelling as a precautionary measure that allows the protection of the Libyan people and foreign nationals residing in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,
So the representative of Misurata says that the people there need NATO ground troops and the leaders of NATO said that they will do whatever is necessary as long as it's been enforced by 1973 - which is apparently a no-fly zone. 
How will NATO respond? Will it defend Misurata or will it allow the UN Resolution dictate the limits of their response?

Christians are escaping Libya.
Martinelli said his flock of 100,000 in the greater Tripoli area has dwindled to about 5,000. The Greek Orthodox community has shrunk from around 1,000 to fewer than a dozen. The Union Church is down from 1,200 to 250 parishioners. 
Some of those who stayed, especially Africans who lack proper papers, said they rarely leave their homes these days because Tripoli is full of checkpoints, part of the clampdown by Gadhafi’s forces to prevent anti-government protests.

3) Salafis in Jordan

The New York Times reports:
About 350 Salafi Muslims faced off against a slightly smaller group of supporters of King Abdullah II. Salafis beat the government supporters with clubs and fists, and the two sides hurled stones at each other, leaving people bloodied on the ground.  
The violence began when Salafis rallied in front of a mosque, listening to speeches by Salafi leaders who denounced Jordan’s ties to the United States and called for rule by Shariah law.  
Government supporters gathered nearby, and one of them waved a portrait of the king and marched toward the Salafi crowd. The Salafis pushed him back, then beat him, and he fell to the ground, his face bloodied. Other Salafis rushed to nearby cars, pulled out clubs and cables and attacked the rival group, said a reporter for The Associated Press who was at the scene. 
Sounds like the Salafis were spoiling for a fight and weren't afraid of the consequences.

4) Assad's arrogance

The New York Times reports:
In a speech at the swearing-in of a new cabinet, Mr. Assad announced a raft of new legal proposals, including a pledge to end the country’s 48-year-old emergency law within days, and he expressed sorrow for deaths that have taken place since antigovernment unrest began — perhaps more than 200, according to human rights groups.  
“The blood that was shed in Syria pains us all,” he said, swearing in a cabinet named last week. “We are sad for every loss. We consider each of them martyrs.” 
Given that it was his troops who killed the protesters, how does he consider them martyrs? He's trying to make himself into a "reformer" I suppose by adopting the language of the protesters. The maneuver is as transparent as it is insincere. Of course having important politicians in the United States call him a "reformer" gives the maneuver a bit more credibility.

Andrew Tabler, a journalist who got on Assad's bad side writes. (h/t Ed Lasky)
First, Washington should shine a light on the Assad regime's human rights violations by bringing it before the U.N. Human Rights Council. On the multilateral front, the administration should be working closely with France and other allies to establish an effective sanctions regime -- including diplomatic isolation -- against Assad to push him to stop his bloody crackdown on protesters and follow through on his reform promises. Second, the Obama administration, in the spirit of its declarations in Libya, should issue a new executive order on human rights abuses in Syria, allowing the Treasury Department to freeze accounts of individuals responsible for the crackdown. Third, it should use this remit to designate more Syrian officials and figures under Executive Order 13460, which targets rampant regime corruption -- the mortar that holds Assad's regime together and a key issue that has brought protesters out into the streets. 
With these additional measures in place, Washington could rally allies around a common cause, send a strong message to Assad that his crackdown will cost him, and establish clear boundaries in terms of the scope of U.S. engagement with Syria. Washington can also use these instruments on Assad's worsening domestic position to extract concessions on his relationship with Iran, be it his relationship with Hezbollah or -- eventually, when the time is right -- peace talks with Israel. It will also teach Assad that Washington will judge him on his actions, not just his words to U.S. officials behind closed doors.
5) Spring = peace with Israel?

The other day I wrote about a Washington Post editorial Will the Arab Spring bring a peace agreement with Israel?

I expressed skepticism about the editorial. More generally, it seems that any major event in the Middle East seems to inspire certain people to declare that it is an ideal time for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians.

David Pryce-Jones was not responding to the editorial, but still finds little in the Arab spring to inspire hope of peace.
What is passed off as a Spring, in other words, is really a repeat of the brutality that is the age-old instrument of everyone who has ever sought power in the Arab and Muslim order. The process is self-perpetuating, as vital as it is lethal. The would-be power-holder has only his family, tribe or sect to rely on, and he has to be rid of everyone in his way, exactly as Qaddafi and Assad and the rest of them are doing. So the former Tunisian and Egyptian ministers are already in prison. So the Egyptian security forces are already arresting dissidents and beating them to death in prison. As the French proverb puts it, the more things change the more they stay the same. 
Finally a train of thought for the pundits and politicians: What induces the likes of Barack Obama and Tony Blair to keep on trying to breathe life into the defunct peace process? It defies history, custom and political reality to believe that a Palestinian state will abolish violence in the Middle East. In Gaza and the West Bank they too have only set up tribal or sectarian tyranny. Meanwhile Israeli Arabs are going about their business peacefully instead of holding mass demonstrations in some central public place. They’re the only Arabs living in a real democracy and maybe that enables them to recognize a phony Spring when they see it. 

6) Heirs of Nasser

In an op-ed adapted from Foreign Affairs, Michael Scott Doran sees the hand of Iran being strengthened.
Although there is no personality like Nasser towering over the revolutionary events, there is one state taking a leaf from Nasser’s book: Iran. Under Nasser, Egypt opposed British and French imperialism, which it worked to associate in the public mind with Israel. Iran is taking a similar stand today against Britain’s “imperial successor,” the United States. And like Nasser, Iran has created an anti-status-quo coalition — the resistance bloc which includes Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.  
The bloc’s strategy seeks to turn the anarchy of the Middle East to the disadvantage of the United States. As the revolutionary wave expands political participation, the bloc will insinuate itself into the domestic politics of its neighbors. In countries divided along ethnic and sectarian lines, it will use terrorism and work closely with partners on the ground who are willing to make direct alliances, as we have already seen in Iraq and Lebanon. In more homogeneous countries, such as Egypt, the bloc will resort to more subtle and insidious means — for example, inciting violence against Israel through Hamas, in an effort to drive a wedge between Cairo and Washington.  
The resistance bloc opposes the United States on almost all of its core interests: ensuring the uninterrupted flow of oil at stable and reasonable prices; blocking the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; protecting key allies, especially Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia; countering terrorism, and promoting democratic reform in a way that bolsters the U.S.-led order in the region. 
John Bolton provides some specifics:
In Syria, despite substantial opposition to the Assad dictatorship, regime change is highly unlikely. Iran will not easily allow its quasi-satellite to be pried from its grasp, and is reportedly helping the Assad regime quell this week's protests. 
Then there's the Victoria, a ship containing tons of weaponry bound for Hamas that the Israeli navy seized last month. The episode recalls the Karine A, a weapons shipment from Iran to the Palestine Liberation Organization seized by Israel in 2002. Clearly Iran has a penchant for arming Sunni and Shiite terrorists alike.  
Iran's support for Hamas is even more important now that Egypt's blockade of the Gaza Strip, porous as it sometimes was, has now effectively ended with the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Hamas, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood, is now free to transfer arms and operatives between Gaza and Egypt, sowing trouble in both places. 
The real tip of the spear in the Middle East may be Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet. No longer oil-rich, the tiny monarchy is separated from Saudi Arabia only by a causeway. Popular protests in Bahrain, a Sunni monarchy ruling a 70% Shiite population, pose the starkest potential conflict between U.S. principles and strategic interests. Iran would happily welcome a "free" election in Bahrain, which would likely bring to power a pro-Tehran leadership.

7) John Mearsheimer is back

Read about his latest book. If you wish.
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