//From the latest issue of my e-zine// Reflections on the Middle East

Any Israeli attack against Iran will be beneficial for Iran and its regime. It would give Tehran a position of victim, what it loves to promote. Many Arabs would side with Iran. Moreover, the Saudis would be embarrassed. Of course, they would be an objective ally of Israel in the issue, as they do not want a nuclear Iran and dream to weaken that country. I think they would condemn the attack while trying to take advantage of it. But it would increase tensions in the Gulf and the possibility of a regional war, which Riyadh does not want. For obvious reasons, Saudi Arabia prefers to count on Western countries instead of Israel to wield pressure on Iran.

Please check it out. 

(Source : collateraldamagemagazine.com)

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"US policy, currently, is to strangle Iran through economic warfare…US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Arms Services Committee in February of this year that the sanctions “probably will not jeopardize the regime,” but will certainly, “have greater impacts on Iran.” By “Iran,” Clapper means the seventy-five million Iranians. The US political class is in agreement: “Sanctions,” they say gleefully, “are working.” This is reminiscent of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s callous statement in 1996; when asked about the half-million dead Iraqi children resulting from the sanctions against the regime, she said, “we think the price is worth it.”"

(Source : jadaliyya.com)

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Of Stupid Men and Smart Machines

"…emerging narratives of what unfolded in Benghazi Tuesday night hint of a different antecedent. A crowd of largely unarmed demonstrators was soon joined by individuals armed with anti-aircraft weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. The p

roliferation of heavy weapons in private hands in Libya should come as no surprise. As Gaddafi’s apparatus crumbled in town after town at the start of last year’s uprising, residents raided the abandoned warehouses storing stockpiles of weapons. That private armed militias beyond the control of the transitional post-Gaddafi state have persisted has been noted for well over a year now. 

Yet, the Obama administration has touted Libya as a success story for US foreign policy, glossing over complexities and contradictions. So on Wednesday morning, a visibly distressed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could ask: “How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?” 

She was right to insist that the attack was the work of a “small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya.” However, if there is any truth to reports suggesting that the attacks were not quite spontaneous, but the work of experienced combatants affiliated with one or more Islamist militias, therein may lie an uncomfortable answer to Clinton’s question. One allegation is that popular outrage over the film provided a convenient cover for an attack avenging the recent killing of senior Al-Qaeda member Abu Yahya Al-Libi, a Libyan national killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan in June. The Benghazi assault happened one day after a video was released of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri confirming the death of al-Libi and calling for revenge. If the two events are indeed connected, then it is a harsh and unforgiving calculus: one high-ranking Al Qaeda member extrajudicially assassinated by the United States, one high-ranking American diplomat and three others killed by a pro-Al-Qaeda group in Libya.” 

(Source : jadaliyya.com)

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Iranian Women: Victims of Economic Strain

As those both inside and outside Iran have rightly pointed out, the course restrictions do reflect stereotypes about “male” and “female” abilities and will likely be welcomed by those hostile to women’s involvement in the public sphere. More often than not, however, observers outside the country have overestimated the influence of gender stereotypes and glossed over the impact of structural issues, such as socio-economic disparities, on policies, like the academic course restriction, that affect women inside Iran. As with most things in the country, the reality behind Iran’s new university policy is more complex than suggested by these simplified narratives.

(Source : english.al-akhbar.com)

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the fact that everyone is talking about the feasibility of bombing iran instead of the morality, legality and sanity of such a move means that israel and america have already won the battle as far as subduing the public mind is concerned.

- Jahanzeb

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Syria and the Invisible Hand of Foreign Intervention

Last week, Reuters reported a classified intelligence “finding” signed by President Obama authorizing aid to the Syrian rebels. This may be the tip of the iceberg that eventually reveals an extensive covert campaign by the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to overthrow the Assad government in Damascus. According to this scenario, these U.S. allies would be using Qatar, assorted freelance jihadists and Lebanese rightists as cat’s-paws to sustain the uprising. Jihadists, both Syrian and foreign, may also play a spearhead role in the fighting.

Western powers already may be employing destabilization methods in Syria that were perfected in Libya. The DGSE, French foreign intelligence, cobbled together a group of Libyan exiles to form the “National Forces Coalition,” which rallied anti-Qadaffi elements in Benghazi. Britain’s MI6 intelligence had been active there for decades stirring up opponents of the Qadaffi regime.

In Libya, NATO air power intervened on “humanitarian” grounds to halt killing of civilians. News reports showed only lightly armed civilians battling Qadaffi’s regulars. Not shown were French, British and some other Western special forces disguised as Libyans that did much of the fighting and targeted air strikes.

As a former soldier, I cannot believe that anti-Assad forces in Syria have made such great strides on their own. All armed forces require command and control, specialized training, communications and logistics. How have anti-Assad forces moved so quickly and pushed back Syria’s capable, well-equipped army? Where does all their ammo come from? Who is supplying all those modern assault rifles with optical sights?

How have so many Syrian T-72 tanks and other armored vehicles been knocked out? Not by amateur street fighters. Powerful antitank weapons—likely French, American or Turkish—have been used extensively. You don’t blow up a modern T-72 tank with light, handheld RPG rockets. Powerful antitank weapons, like the U.S. TOW or French Milan, require professional, trained crews. The use of these weapons suggests that outside forces are involved in the fighting, as they were in Libya.

Now come reports that the rebels are receiving small numbers of man-portable antiaircraft missiles. If properly used, they would threaten the Assad regime’s armed helicopters. Yet using such missiles requires a good deal of training. I saw in Afghanistan in the 1980s how long it took the mujahidin to learn this skill from CIA instructors—and then how quickly the Red Air Force was denied air superiority.

If Syria’s rebels are being trained, it is probably happening in Turkey (which makes the deadly U.S. Stinger AA missile under license). However, the United States has a major campaign under way to prevent jihadist groups from acquiring such man-portable missiles. If the Taliban received effective antiaircraft missiles, U.S. military operations in Afghanistan would be seriously threatened.

According to Reuters sources, the United States may have worked with Turkish allies to set up a command HQ at Adana, close to its Incirlik airbase in eastern Turkey near the Syrian border. This is where it would make sense for U.S. intelligence to coordinate the flow of arms, communications gear, medical supplies, food and munitions to the Syrian rebels.

Other unverified reports from the Mideast suggest that the U.S. mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater (it recently changed its name to Academi) is training Syrian rebels in Turkey, moving in veteran mercenaries from Iraq, where there were once fifty thousand U.S.-paid private soldiers, and sending combat units into Syria.

Antiregime groups such as the Free Syrian Army probably would be ineffective without some kind of covert Western support. Whether they can grasp power from the jihadis who now dominate the streets remains to be seen. This gambit worked in Libya—at least so far. Syria, in contrast, is a very complex nation whose modern era has been marked by instability and coups.

After overthrowing one Syrian government in the late 1940s, Washington wisely backed off from Syria. Now it may get drawn back into the vortex of one of the Mideast’s most difficult nations.

(Source : nationalinterest.org)

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Pressure Madness Continues

Here we go with another round of Americans on different parts of the political spectrum trying to outdo each other in pushing for more pressure and punishment on Iran. As usual, all this pushing is almost totally devoid of any attention to exactly how the pressure and punishment are supposed to accomplish anything useful or to why they haven’t accomplished more than they have so far. In coverage of the most recent legislative intensification of the pressure—on which the White House cooperated with Republicans and Democrats in Congress—one searches in vain for any sign of understanding of the basic principle that sanctions can only be one-half of any attempt to influence another government and that as long as Western negotiators fail to couple Iranian concessions with any significant relief from sanctions, the Iranians lack incentive to make concessions no matter how much pressure they feel. And don’t even bother searching for signs of attention to why the contingency that supposedly is driving all this—a still nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapon—should be such an obsession, beyond repeated chants of the mantra that, to use the words of one presidential candidate, it would be “the greatest threat to the world.”

Pressure on Iran has long ago passed the point of becoming a seemingly mindless, endless exercise in pressure for pressure’s sake. In the absence of any attention to the role of Western negotiating rigidity or flexibility, we have the spectacle of people calling for more of something that they themselves acknowledge isn’t working. Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, for example, notes that the goal of the sanctions is to change the political calculus of Iran’s leadership and then observes, “There’s no evidence to date that the sanctions have achieved that objective.” A statement the White House released on Tuesday proudly enumerates at length all the ways the administration has inflicted pain on Iran but—apart from noting how a few of the more focused sanctions have directly impeded nuclear activities—says nothing about what any of this is accomplishing, or could hope to accomplish. There is not a word about the critical role of negotiating positions. It is as if the economic pain is a good in itself, which it isn’t—for Iran, for the United States or for anyone else.

The sanctions story has been pushed so hard for so long that politicians are running out of creative ways to exert more pressure. One of the latest offerings is from Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who, evidently stimulated by reports of military cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan, suggests stoking ethnic Azeri nationalism in northwest Iran as a way of frightening Iranian leaders with the threat of U.S. aid for “the legitimate aspirations of the Azeri people for independence.” The dumbness of this idea is explained by Farideh Farhi, who asks us to “imagine a member of a parliament from another country sending out a letter to their government asking for support to be given to Hawaiian nationalists or for the return of California to Mexico.” Another consideration is that most Azeri Iranians are far too integrated into the social and political fabric of Iran to think in separatist terms. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is half Azeri, and opposition leader and former prime minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi is wholly so. Perhaps an even better analogy in the U.S. context would be someone promoting the separation from the union of Massachusetts in order to realize the legitimate aspirations of Irish Americans for independence.

When future historians try to make sense of the pressure madness, a nonexistent nuclear weapon is not likely to be much of the explanation, because that simply does not make sufficient sense of the phenomenon. The current role of Israel in American politics clearly provides much of the explanation (and for an especially crisp description of that role, seeThomas Friedman’s latest column). Americans probably also are receptive to the Israeli message because the demonization of Iran helps to fulfill a historically conditioned need for foreign dragons to confront and to slay.

(Source : nationalinterest.org)

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King Hussein’s dual legacy

Hussein was often caught in the cross-fire because he was a man in-between, an heir to the dual legacy of Arab nationalism and western imperial patronage. His tragedy and limitations have not been fully understood. He was a victim of two forces - imperialism and nationalism - which throughout this century have interacted in the Arab world in an unequal relationship of antagonistic collaboration. The unresolved equation between these two forces has contributed greatly to the crisis of state and society in the Middle East.

(Source : reocities.com)

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Après les « printemps » : quel avenir pour « l’Islamisme » ?

À la différence des monarques saoudiens ou marocains, dont la présence dans l’arène politique n’a toutefois jamais posé de problème aux plus laïques des dirigeants occidentaux, les formations politiques marquées par l’expérience des Frères musulmans, en passe aujourd’hui d’accéder au pouvoir sur la rive sud de la Méditerranée, sont toutes acquises à l’idée que leur légitimité est seulement démocratique et que leur exercice du pouvoir sera strictement civil.

(Source : ifpo.hypotheses.org)

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Clearing up a few things about the Muslim Brotherhood

  • The fact that the Western press, in the wake of MB’s victory in Egypt, is already pontificating and calculating the chances of an Egypt-Israel military friction - and war - reveals the underlying, and a very poorly hidden, assumption that, just because the Brotherhood has the pre-fix Muslim attached to it, it will automatically go to war with the Jewish state because - obviously - Western scholarship has informed the media pundits that Muslim hatred for Jews is Muslim nature. Therefore, it’s a foregone conclusion that Israel is now even more unsafe in a hostile region, if not on a path of total annihilation. I’m sure that, if the Muslim Brotherhood was just called the Brotherhood, nobody would be panicking as they are now. This blatant racism and Islamophobia is nauseating.
  • Secondly, if you start to predict a war between Egypt and Israel, you miss the basic reality of today’s Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood hardly has any significant power, let alone have any power over the Egyptian military. The SCAF has made sure that the ancien regime stays intact. The parliament has not control over the military budget, the armed forces, the military command, and security issues (which means relations with Israel). The SCAF didn’t even give the parliament enough power to write the new constitution. Moreover, the military is firmly backed and funded by the US and Saudi Arabia. 
  • Third, the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t even want any sort of hostilities with Israel. No government is naive to put its own country in danger. At this moment, the Brotherhood hasn’t even formed a functioning government yet. They know very well that they need to fix the economy, which can’t be done if the country is at war with a country like Israel. Egypt needs stability instead of an upheaval with another country, and the government knows that. Also, a conflict with Israel will empower the Egyptian military, which is the last thing the Brotherhood wants.
  • Last but not the least, let’s not forget to mention that the West is not afraid of the Brotherhood. Have people forgotten that both of them, along with Israel and Saudi Arabia, worked side by side to undermine Nasser and his brand of Arab nationalism ? The fear over the Muslim Brotherhood is a total joke.

- Jahanzeb Hussain

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The Egyptian Military Wins Again

Earlier this year, the Muslim Brotherhood announced that it was reneging on its promise not to field a candidate in the 2012 presidential election, held this week, arguing that it had been forced to seek executive power. The Brotherhood said that the parliament, in which it won a plurality of seats in early 2012, had no real authority. Even after the parliamentarians were seated, the military-led Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) retained the power to nominate the cabinet, and the generals continually intervened in the process of constitution drafting. There was something to Brotherhood’s point: days before the presidential election, Egypt’s highest court, headed by an appointee from the era of former President Hosni Mubarak, dissolved the legislature.

With the parliament losing power by the day, the presidency looked like a last refuge for the Brotherhood. And its candidate, Muhammad Mursi, appears to have won in a closely fought race. If the initial results hold up—at the time of this writing, the Electoral Commission is still reviewing the more than 400 appeals filed by the two campaigns—the victory will be in name only. Despite gaining executive authority in principle, Mursi will have little power in practice. After months of subtler maneuvering, the military did away with the charade of a democratic transition in a series of power grabs that bookended the presidential vote. The first salvo was the re-imposition of martial law on June 13. Then, just as the polls were closing on June 17, the generals issued a supplemental constitutional declaration that granted them legislative authority and reinforced their role in the drafting of a permanent constitution. Not to be reined in, the brass also exempted itself from civilian oversight, giving itself the right to appoint and promote its own leadership, manage its own economic projects, and conclude arms deals. Finally, on June 18, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi announced the reestablishment of a national defense council, which puts the generals firmly in charge of Egypt’s national security policy.

The Brotherhood now faces a choice. It can seat Mursi and continue to legitimate a post-Mubarak transition that seems designed to advance the narrow interests of Egypt’s officer corps. Or it can return to the streets with the aim of unseating the military council.

Neither option offers the Brotherhood much benefit. Should Mursi take the oath of office as planned, it is unclear what authority he would actually have. The Egyptian military has already said that there will be no new parliamentary elections until a permanent constitution is drafted. The generals refuse to commit to a firm timeline, saying only that they hope to have a new constitution within four and a half months and a new parliament seated before the end of 2012. Operating in the absence of a permanent constitution and without a legislature, Mursi would have no authority to carry out the program of Islamic “renaissance” on which he ran, nor would he have any institutional allies. The ruling generals and the judiciary have shown no interest in Islamist-led change.

Moreover, should Mursi take up his position as the nominal president he will be exposing the Brotherhood to the familiar critique of intihaziya (opportunism. Many Egyptians already believe that the Brotherhood is happy to accommodate a military state when it means self-preservation, or when it gives them the opportunity to sideline their ideological competitors. In fact, this was the group’s pattern in the early 1950s and again during the 1970s, when the Brotherhood allowed itself to be used by the government as a tool to balance the secular left. The inclination toward intihaziya was visible in the run-up to the 2011-12 parliamentary elections, too. As the revolutionary groups battled security forces outside the Interior Ministry on the eve of the vote, the Brotherhood urged restraint. The fact that it then won a plurality reinforced the feeling that the group puts its political fortunes ahead of its principles.

On the other hand, should Mursi foreswear his post as the first freely elected president of Egypt after Mubarak, and the Brotherhood return to the streets, they may find that the moment for demonstrations has already passed. Sixteen long months after Mubarak was ousted, the star of the revolutionary youth has fallen considerably. Ordinary Egyptians appear weary of further unrest. Evidence of their exhaustion: only half of eligible voters turned out for the presidential runoff election, down considerably from the parliamentary elections. And around 48 percent of those who did show up voted for the stability candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, who did not bother to hide his connections to the previous regime. Egypt’s dismal economy exacerbates the fatigue; real per capita GDP contracted throughout 2011, and everyday Egyptians are feeling the pinch…

(Source : rand.org)

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