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Monday, May 09, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 05/09/2011

From an email from DG:
1) Like Herzl

I saw an ad at the NYTimes website, of all places and it led to this website.

Look at the lower left hand corner. It's an initiative of the Prime Minister's office and there's an e-mail address: info.masbirim@pmo.gov.il

Unless I'm reading it wrong, it appears that the Israeli government is trying to recruit pro-Israel bloggers (or activists).

Wouldn't it make more sense to cultivate those who are already doing the Hasbara than trying to recruit new talent?

2) SEALS

A Navy SEAL, though not a member of the team that killed bin Laden tells of his experiences and training.

At Camp Pendleton in California, where I did my initial weapons training, we must have fired thousands of rounds at practice-range targets printed with the likeness of Osama bin Laden. To take the real shot, the one that brought down bin Laden, was the dream of every Navy SEAL. 
Bob Woodward gives an account of how the SEALS id'd the compound and developed a plan for attacking, Death of Osama bin Laden: Phone call pointed U.S. to compound — and to ‘the pacer’

There was an interesting throwaway line, in describing Vice Admiral William McRaven, the one who conceived the plan:

McRaven had increased the intensity of Special Operations raids, especially in Afghanistan. During his first two years as head of JSOC, the “jackpot rate” — when the strikes got their intended target — jumped from 35 percent to more than 80 percent.
So after Vice Adm. McRaven got involved the raids were missing 20% of time, but before then they were missing 65% of the time. That's a lot of collateral damage.

3) Sins of the father

Edward Dark tweets
protester Mahmoud Sweid killed in #Hama #Syria on Friday. His father had been killed in the uprising in 82 http://bit.ly/khjDfT

A video from Syria captures a man firing at protesters. Is it Bashar's brother?

Jackson Diehl on why the administration seemingly has such a tough time coming to terms with the slaughter in Syria

I sorted through some of these obstacles last week with Ausama Monajed, the energetic spokesman of the National Initiative for Change, which is a coalition of Internet-based Syrian activists in and outside the country. The first problem, as he sees it, is that the United States “doesn’t have a Syria policy. It has a Middle East peace policy, but not a Syria-specific policy.” 
He’s right, of course. The Obama administration’s “engagement” policy for Syria was centered on obtaining results in other countries: peace for Israel, stability in Lebanon, the isolation of Iran. One reason it has been so slow to abandon Assad is that it would mean setting aside a mind-set that perceives Assad as capable of delivering those breakthroughs.

4) Bad money after good?

The other day I noticed a couple of stories about Egypt. One was Nephew of Sadat assassin, son of wanted Islamist returns to Egypt, signaling shift in policy

The nephew of President Anwar Sadat’s assassin and son of a wanted Islamist returned to Egypt for the first time in two decades on Saturday after Egypt’s new leaders removed him and others from an entry blacklist in an apparent shift in policy.
Another was 12 dead in Egypt as Christians and Muslims clash

Clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians in a Cairo suburb left 12 people dead, dozens wounded and a church charred in one of the most serious outbreaks of violence Egypt’s interim rulers have faced since taking power in February. The unrest began Saturday night in the Imbaba district northwest of Cairo, as a mob of hard-line Muslims attacked the Virgin Mary church. A separate group of youths also attacked an apartment building several blocks away, residents said.
The latter story may be even worse than described, as Barry Rubin observes:

Will there be a massive flight of tens or even hundreds of thousands of Christians from Egypt in the next few years?
Which makes it odd that now - when Egypt is moving away from American interests - that the administration is now choosing to boost its support of the country:

The Obama administration has decided to provide about $1 billion in debt relief for Egypt, a senior official said Saturday, in the boldest U.S. effort yet to shore up a key Middle East ally as it attempts a democratic transition.
Egypt is in transition, but not necessarily a democratic one. This is a point made more explicitly by Elder of Ziyon:

As I exclusively reported last week, in a story that still has not been picked up by mainstream English language media, Egypt has rejected $150 million is aid from the US - because it was tied to democratic reforms.(The Public Record picked up on the story three days later, as did Iran's PressTV.)
If Egypt is rejecting aid meant to help democracy, then why does the US think that its influence on Egypt's future will be helped by forgiving a debt when it has no strings attached? 

5) It's no longer an emergency for the king

The Washington Post reports about Bahrain

Bahrain’s king set on Sunday a fast-track timetable to end martial-law-style rule in a bid to display confidence that authorities have smothered an uprising for reforms even as rights groups denounced the hard-line measures.
That's because it may not be an emergency for the king, but it could be for others:

Matar eventually agreed and drove with his wife to the appointed place. When they arrived, armed, masked men pulled Matar into their car and sped off, according to Matar’s colleague, who is in touch with his wife. Matar has not been heard from since, but a government spokesperson confirmed to one of us that he “has been called in for investigation.”It has now emerged that another Wefaq member and former parliamentarian, Jawad Fairuz, was arrested the same night in what appears to have been a simultaneous operation. His house was surrounded by some 30 masked agents, weapons drawn, said a source close to his family. 

6) Formalizing a mistake
Last week a number of bloggers pointed out that the New York Times credited Khaled Meshaal with making a statement he didn't make.

Well that non-story has now been repeated in an editorial A Fatah-Hamas deal

In an interview with The Times last week, Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, declared himself fully committed to working for a two-state solution. 
The context, though, is interesting for the balance of the paragraph reads:

Just a few days earlier Hamas’s (supposedly more moderate) prime minister, Ismail Haniya, was out there celebrating Osama bin Laden as a “Muslim and Arab warrior.” Huge skepticism and vigilance are essential. But more months with no progress on peace talks will only further play into extremists’ hands. 
Of course if Meshaal didn't say he accepted the two state solution - and he didn't - then it makes a lot more sense and what is aiding extremists is making excuses for them.

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