Tuesday, March 22, 2011

News About Gaza, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Obama and Chavez--And Everyone Hates Gaddafi

From an email from DG:
1) Ignoring military necessity

Last week after Israel seized the Victoria, Isabel Kershner of the New York Times noted ended her report:
Israel’s relations with Turkey, long an important regional ally, have been strained since Israel’s war in Gaza, and were nearly severed after Israeli naval commandos killed nine activists during a confrontation on a Turkish passenger ship that was part of a flotilla trying to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza in May 2010.
Similarly Janine Zacharia of the Washington Post reported at the end of her article Israel intercepts ship it says carried Iranian weapons bound for Gaza :
Some countries accused Israel of violating international norms in May when it boarded a Turkish ship in international waters carrying activists bound for the Gaza Strip. In that incident, Israeli commandos faced stiff resistance and nine Turks were killed, including one Turkish American. Israel said it acted legally to enforce a closure of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli navy prevents ships from reaching the sliver of Palestinian-ruled territory on the Mediterranean Sea as part of a blockade that Israel says is designed to keep weapons from Hamas, which Israel defines as a terrorist organization. Hamas officials had no immediate comment on Tuesday's incident.

Over the years, Israel has periodically intercepted ships carrying weapons it said were destined for Hamas or the Shiite militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Think about that.
Both reporters chose to emphasize the diplomatic repercussions of intercepting the Mavi Marmara. However the military necessity was played down. (Kershner, earlier quoted Defense Minister Barak.) The threat is presented in the context of "Israel says."

Consider that after the Mavi Marmara incident the resulting international pressure forced Israel to relax its blockade. According to the IDF on rockets fired from Gaza in 2010,
a total of 230 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza during 2010. So far in less than a quarter of the year there have already been 130 such attacks against Israel, with 56 of them occurring in just the past week.
Based on the IDF blog post Israeli Air Force Targets Terror Tunnel and Hamas-Affiliated Militants in Northern Gaza in Response to Rocket Fire, it's pretty clear that the weakening of the blockade has allowed Hamas to accumulate a larger arsenal that is now being launched at Israel.

See also Barry Rubin's The Poisoned Fruits of Appeasement Come Home to Roost

(Even without the escalation of the past week, the rate of attacks had increased since last year.)

Yesterday I only mentioned the turmoil in Egypt affecting Israel's security; but the trend of a Hamas buildup of weapons goes back to last year.

It's hard to argue with Avigdor Lieberman: 'World supporting creation of terror state'
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed Israel's diplomats in New York to lodge a complaint in the United Nations against a heavy barrage of mortar fire from the Gaza Strip Saturday morning.

Lieberman said that international support for the establishment of a Palestinian state is actually "support for the establishment of a terror state whose primary aim is the destruction of Israel."
The UN, of course, doesn't care. But it doesn't hurt to point out the hypocrisy.

One other unrelated note. I just noticed that in her report about the capture of the Victoria, Isabel Kershner wrote:
Hamas has largely maintained an uneasy cease-fire in Gaza since the end of Israel’s three-week military offensive there in January 2009, which came after years of persistent rocket fire from Gaza against southern Israel. But smaller groups have continued sporadic rocket and mortar attacks, and Israeli military officials have stated repeatedly that Hamas has been building up and upgrading its weapons stocks.
Compare with what she wrote on Sunday in Mortar Fire From Hamas, and Israeli Tanks Respond
In an uncommon step, the military wing of Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, took responsibility for the mortar fire. Although it has allowed smaller groups to carry out sporadic attacks against Israel, Hamas has largely maintained a cease-fire since Israel’s devastating three-week military offensive in Gaza that ended in January 2009 and that came after years of persistent rocket and mortar fire against southern Israel.
It seems that last week she was absolving Hamas for responsibility for rocket attacks by "smaller groups." This week she allowed that Hamas had allowed those groups to attack Israel, but "largely maintained" the cease-fire. I suppose that's progress.

2) Good news: 23% of Egyptian are secular democrats

The Washington Post's editors are enthusiastic about the results of Saturday's referendum in Egypt:
The military’s sympathizers say the generals are eager to hand power to a civilian regime as soon as possible. But the opposition worries that quick elections cede a huge advantage to the only political forces that were able to organize under the Mubarak regime: the ruling party and the Muslim Brotherhood. Both campaigned hard for a “yes” vote on Saturday; neither has made a convincing commitment to liberal democracy. The “no” vote — 23 percent nationwide, rising to a high of 40 percent in Cairo — was one indication of the strength Egypt’s secular liberal democrats might have in a parliament elected quickly.
I hate to question the math, but 23% is still less than 1/4.

Barry Rubin doesn't share the Post's enthusiasm about the Egyptian referendum:
Yet there is no way to avoid seeing this as a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood which, a growing number of pro-democratic people in Egypt worry, has support within the army. That's why the National Democratic Party's resurgence is an idea that's popping up: because people want to believe there is some organized force other than the Brotherhood!
Mohammed el-Baradei isn't enthusiastic about the referendum either.
Went 2 vote w family attacked by organized thugs. Car smashed w rocks. Holding referendum in absence of law & order is an irresponsible act
More from Bryan Preston: Egypt: Voters approve constitutional changes likely to aid Muslim Brotherhood

3) Iran vs. Saudi Arabia

It's not just that Saudi women dress in garbage bags

Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting over Bahrain
Bahrain’s crackdown and the Saudi-led intervention by the Gulf Cooperation Council has led Iran to denounce the two Sunni-dominated governments and step up rhetorical support for Bahrain’s Shia opposition. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi warned of “dangerous consequences” due to the “foreign intervention,” and Iran’s foreign ministry blamed the United States for the crackdown.

Iran’s Defense Minister, General Ahmad Vahidi, warned that the Saudi intervention would have dangerous consequences: “Such moves will increase tension and undermine stability and security in the region.” A high-ranking general in the Revolutionary Guards with close ties to the Supreme Leader went further and proclaimed, “The Islamic revolution of the people of Bahrain has now entered the phase of jihad.” He emphasized the importance of “Iran’s support” in this struggle.
More at MEMRI: The Bahrain Situation: Media Clashes Between the Iranian-Shi'ite Camp and the Saudi-Sunni Camp

A Saudi consulate in Iran has been attacked.
Hundreds of Iranians have stoned the Saudi consulate in the north-eastern city of Mashhad to protest the killing of Shi'ites in Bahrain, a local daily reported.

Nearly 700 people gathered outside the consulate on Friday in protest at "the killing of Muslims in Bahrain" by Saudi and Emirati military forces, the Khorasan newspaper said on its website on Saturday.
And an Iranian website is recruiting martyrs to attack Bahrain

I'm pretty certain I've seen a similar report with Saudi Arabia as the target.

Other than a single article in the NY Times, there hasn't been much about the Saudi/Iranian conflict. With established Arab governments in turmoil, each country wants to influence the outcome in its own favor, this should really be a bigger story.

4) Everybody hates Moammar Gaddafi
Saudi animosity runs deep. In 2004, Colonel Qaddafi was accused of being directly involved in a plot to assassinate King Abdullah, who was then the crown prince. Then in 2009, Colonel Qaddafi embarrassed the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and infuriated King Abdullah, during an Arab summit meeting in Doha, Qatar.

Colonel Qaddafi first denounced King Abdullah “as a British product and American ally,” concluding by calling him a “liar.” When Sheikh Hamad tried to quiet him, he said, “I am an international leader, the dean of Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and imam of Muslims, and my international status does not allow me to descend to a lower level.”
At that point the sound was cut on the television broadcast and Colonel Qaddafi stormed out of the room, leaving a memory that surely made it easier for those leaders to endorse the no-fly zone, political analysts said.
Ms. Habib, the political commentator, said, “He had no friends in the Arab world.”

5) Muddling through

Richard Cohen critiques Obama.
The Berle Doctrine, the closest thing this administration has to a coherent foreign policy, has almost certainly cost lives. It entailed a heroic amount of dithering as the Obama administration first went to war with itself — to intervene or not to intervene — with the so-called boys (Bob Gates, Tom Donilon) arguing with the girls (Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Samantha Power), a summer-camp metaphor unbecoming the seriousness of the situation. Clinton ultimately got her no-fly zone but claimed no credit. “We did not lead this,” she said in Paris.
6) The Chavez terror network
On Aug. 22, 2010, at Iran’s suggestion, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hosted senior leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in a secret summit at military intelligence headquarters at the Fuerte Tiuna compound in southern Caracas. Among those present were Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah, who is on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists; Hamas’s “supreme leader,” Khaled Meshal; and Hezbollah’s “chief of operations,” whose identity is a closely guarded secret.

The idea for this summit sprang from a meeting between Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Ahmad Mousavi, and his Venezuelan counterpart, Imad Saab Saab, at the Venezuelan embassy in Damascus on May 10, 2010. According to the report received by Venezuela’s foreign minister, the two envoys were discussing a meeting between their presidents and Hezbollah’s leader, Hasan Nasrallah, when the Iranian suggested that the three meet Chavez in Caracas. That these infamous criminals left their traditional havens demonstrates their confidence in Chavez and their determination to cultivate a terror network on America’s doorstep.
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