Tag Archives: Middle East

The day democracy died in Iran they weren’t wearing burkas

Iranian men and women (note the Western clothing) demonstrating in the streets of Tehran in the early 1950’s, calling for nationalization of the oil industry. Mohammed Moussadek, their democratically elected President made it happen and that made us angry.

Almost immediately, the CIA and British Intelligence orchestrated a coup, arrested the President and installed Shah Reva Pahlavi, who then – over a quarter century – destroyed democratic institutions, jailed dissidents and ruled as a Dictator. And oh yeah, the British got their oil back.

Having lost any political voice, Iranians turned to their clerics and it was in the mosque that anti-Shah sentiments were nurtured. Imams preached Islamism and radicalism. The early goal of restoring their treasured democracy stolen by the West was replaced by growing anti-Western attitudes and a commitment to overthrow the Shah.

We all know what happened 25 years later. And we’re all too familiar with the Iran of the 25 years since then. Blowback, the very definition of.

https://i2.wp.com/img1.imagesbn.com/p/9780805094978_p0_v2_s260x420.JPGFor all of that, we can thank two men: the then Director of the CIA Allan Dulles and his brother US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, the same boys who shortly thereafter brought us Guatemala and Vietnam.

I just added to my reading list The Brothers,the story of how their belief system was formed, and how it – for a decade or more – became the very basis of American foreign policy.

Syria shares a border with Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. And that matters.

syriaIn a country where none of the news is good, this is very very bad. I’ve worried about Turkey since the Islamists started flowing into Syria – they’re Sunnis, determined to help overthrow a Shia government.

An extremist group linked to Al Qaeda routed Syrian rebel fighters and seized control of a gateway town near Syria’s northern border with Turkey on Wednesday, posting snipers on rooftops, erecting checkpoints and imposing a curfew on the local population . . .

Its seizure is likely to alarm Syria’s neighbors. Turkey, which has vocally supported the fight against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and allowed fighters and arms to flow freely across its southern border, now faces a bold al Qaeda affiliate. . . 

In recent months, jihadist groups have isolated local populations by imposing strict Islamic codes, carrying out public executions and clashing with rebel groups.

Lebanon is expressing some worry too.

Could it be a “wink, wink”?

I hate that we might do anything military at all in Syria. I hate that if we do, it could be because President Barry was a little careless with his language last year with “a red line”, and the year before with “Assad has to go”. (Hey, maybe he should go to Congress and let them say ‘no’ and then either he can have it both ways or if they say ‘yes’ he’s got cover and isn’t in this alone.)

But I’m also cynical. More cynical than a sweet woman like myself ought to be. So I will wonder: is this waffling and the promises of ‘limited strikes’ a ruse? Is it a delay so Assad can act now to mitigate the damage to come?

Do we perhaps want Assad to survive after all because we believe anything that follows would be more unstable? Have we made a quiet deal to buy some time to transition to another government without those Islamists rattling the palace gates?

UPDATE: He is going to Congress – just saw it at The New York Times; it must have been a few hours ago, so I’m guessing it’s not because of my post.

Exactly.

(George Packer has a chat.)

UPDATE : Dearest readers, as much as I’d like to lay claim to the words that follow, I cannot. They aren’t mine. The ‘dialogue’ here is from George Packer at The New Yorker, but reading now through your comments, it looks like I didn’t make that clear. The link above to is to his column. Packer begins:

“So it looks like we’re going to bomb Assad.

Good.

Really? Why good?

Did you see the videos of those kids? I heard that ten thousand people were gassed. Hundreds of them died. This time, we have to do something.

Yes, I saw the videos.
And you don’t want to pound the shit out of him?I want to pound the shit out of him.But you think we shouldn’t do anything.

I didn’t say that. But I want you to explain what we’re going to achieve by bombing.

We’re going to let Assad know that chemical weapons are over the line. There’s a reason they’ve been illegal since Verdun or whenever.

Except when Saddam used them against the Kurds—we knew, and we didn’t say a word.

Is that a reason to let Assad use them against his people?

At this point, I don’t think Assad is too worried about the Geneva Conventions.

Continue reading

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

And for ‘me’, read the United States of America.

According to Ramzy Mardini, someone who knows (caution – NY Times possible paywall):

The Syrian revolution isn’t democratic or secular; the more than 90,000 fatalities are the result of a civil war, not a genocide — and human rights violations have been committed on both sides.

Moreover, the rebels don’t have the support or trust of a clear majority of the population, and the political opposition is neither credible nor representative. Ethnic cleansing against minorities is more likely to occur under a rebel-led government than under Mr. Assad; likewise, the possibility of chemical weapons’ falling into the hands of terrorist groups only grows as the regime weakens.

And finally, a rebel victory is more likely to destabilize Iraq and Lebanon, and the inevitable disorder of a post-Assad Syria constitutes a greater threat to Israel than the status quo.

Mardini concludes:

Syria is like Iraq. But worse.

Looks like Bibi got an earful from Barry

This is pretty big news. It’s also very good news. 

AMMAN—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan spoke by telephone Friday, after a prolonged effort by President Barack Obama and his aides to overcome a deep chill that had settled into the relationship between Israel and Turkey.

Despite being a majority-Muslim country, Turkey had a cooperative relationship with Israel for years. But it soured in 2010 . . . .due primarily to the Israeli raid on a Turkish-registered vessel carrying activists who said they were trying to take aid supplies to Gaza. Nine Turkish citizens were killed in the raid.

. . .  Netanyahu apologized to Erdogan during their conversation Friday and acknowledged “operational mistakes” during the raid. Erdogan accepted the apology . . .

The Israeli government confirmed the apology in a statement and said the two leaders also agreed to normalize relations by dispatching ambassadors again and, on Turkey’s part, cancelling legal charges against Israeli forces.

Details are here about Israel’s 2010 raid on the flotilla, which was delivering relief supplies to Gaza. Nine of the activists aboard were killed.

Another Hundred Years War? I’m sure the Three Amigos* would like that, but

Romney aside, Obama aside, serious things appear to be happening.

The usual noise machine is going all ‘we can’t let this stand’. I assume they want to shoot someone.

Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia . . . shall we wage war on all of them? (Hey, war with a billion people would be awesome!)

War with a billion people who mostly don’t want war with us.

War with a billion people because of the actions of  a hundred thousand? A few hundred thousand? The militants among the billion? The Islamists amongst a billion Muslims? Wage war on a billion people?

If the neo-con dreams come true, that’s what we’ll have. And Saudi Arabia couldn’t stop it; the Saudi royal family would probably be wiped out early on. They’ve been in Al Qaeda’s gun sights for some time.

You think it can’t happen? Check out the 11th and 12th Centuries.

* Messers McCain and Lieberman and Ms. Graham of the United States Senate.

Dear Pastor Jones

I’d like to hear your opinion of what should be done to someone who shouts “FIRE” in a crowded theatre? Just wondering.

Anyone else?

And so Western religious fanaticists light the fire of Eastern religious fanaticists. Nice.

Gunpowder in the air? The Three Amigos are ready – again!

Messrs McCain, Lindsay and Lieberman are calling for war again. They always do – this is their act and it’s getting stale.

Mr. McCain, Mr. Lieberman and Miss Graham

Of course they’ll insist they don’t want ‘real’ war, just ‘support for the rebels’. They’re not particularly concerned that there are many different kinds of rebels – now including worrisome Islamist elements.

The three gentlemen had an op-ed in The Washington Post the other day, laying out their case. It is – thank Elvis – not tea party reasoning and it’s not all about Jeebus either. But it is classical neo-con Middle East war hawk stuff, evidenced by this, reason number-whatever:

. . . ensuring that al-Qaeda and its violent brethren are unable to secure a new foothold in the heart of the Middle East.

I heard those exact words about Iraq – in 2003, 04, 05, 06 . . . from the same war party.

The people who are doing the best job right now of keeping the Islamists in check are the countries actually in the heart of the Middle East; for them, the danger is at their own front doors. Right now, even the new Egyptian government and its Muslim Brotherhood president are themselves taking aggressive action.

Syria isn’t Egypt. And Egypt wasn’t Libya. And Libya wasn’t Tunisia.

But Syria could be Lebanon, which would be a fearsome outcome. But no matter the danger, we can’t do it from here. You can’t kill an idea with a bullet. Only politics can achieve that.

Reagan’s failure in Lebanon proved it.

It’s okay if you’re Saudi Arabia

From Jonathan Turley’s blog. More at BBC.

Hey! The Three Amigos are back in business . . .

Well, two of them anyway. McCain and Lieberman are on the ground again – smiling at Syrians, assuring them that our Presdient doesn’t know what he’s doing – and of course saying there’s no war they couldn’t love.

Lindsay had to wash his hair I think.

Well done! We’re right back in 1979; this time in Afghanistan

From today’s story in The Washington Post about the growing demonstrations in Afghanistan following the burning of a pile of Korans.

Nine Afghans were killed Friday [in Kabul]. . . [and]  six protesters and a police officer were killed in Herat Province when demonstrators tried to storm the U.S. Consulate. . . at each demonstrations, protestors shouted ‘Death to America’. . . More than 20 have been killed since the burning incident.

Remove this ‘causus belli’ of the Koran burning and that could have been written in 1979 about Iran, when 52 American Embassy employees were taken hostage.

While I’m on the subject: I haven’t posted that tally lately – Today is the 119th day of the 11th year of the War in Afghanistan.

I’ll bet Iran can see them too

From Jonathan Turley’s site:

Possible nuclear weapons capability, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, a threat to Israel, economic sanctions, fears of links to al Qaeda, and a compliant news media. Sounds like the hype leading up to war with Iraq, but this time it’s Iran. . .

The fear mongering about Iran building nuclear weapons may not work this time. From McClatchy, “The 16 U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Iran’s covert nuclear weapons work remains suspended for now, but could be restarted if the Iranian regime decides to do so.” Bloomberg is reporting that Gill Tudor, spokesman for the IAEA, said “All nuclear material in the [Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant] remains under the agency’s containment and surveillance.” According to the AP, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says Iran “is not yet building a bomb.” . . .

t also appears that intelligence analysts are not going to be pushed around this time. A retired senior intelligence officer said “the guys working on this are good analysts, and their bosses are backing them up.” A Defense Intelligence Agency analyst summed it up by saying “if Iran is not a nuclear threat, then the Israelis have no reason to threaten imminent military action.”

On the map above, each star is a US airbase. Where we have airplanes and stuff.

Evangelicals aren’t the only ones who are down with Israel at war

When you have $22 billion, giving ten million to a guy to publicly advocate for the cause of your lifetime is cheap, especially if he salutes and does it. Sheldon Adelson got his money’s worth with Newt.

In December, Gingrich proclaimed the Palestinians “an invented people.” Israel’s Haaretz daily reported later that month that Adelson approved of the remarks. And Gingrich has said that one of the first executive orders he would sign if elected president would move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.

That embassy pledge isn’t new in American politics. But Gingrich also said that Isreal’s official capital, Jerusalem, must be defended as such. I’m not certain what that means, but I’ll guess that it’s a call to reject sharing the city, a negotiating point in all peace talks. He simply dismisses the fact that Jerusalem is central and foundational and sacred to all three Abrahmic relligions. (Fine from a private citizen, but reckless from a public politician running for Presdient.)

Adelson is an ardent Zionist who advocates for the U.S. to adopt the most hard line policies on Israel, stuff even Netanyahu rejects – the kinds of positions opposed by large numbers of Israelis, perhaps even a majority. Positions that ignore danger, shut down negotiatios and invite war.

At least, he doesn’t pretend. He puts his money where his mouthpiece is. And there’s plenty more where that ten million came from.

Barry, don’t do it again

(FOX News and the rest of the GOP gasbaggery establishment were outraged when Obama didn’t support recently overthrown Arab leaders who had been our friends – even if their countrymen had not. Wonder what they’ll say now?)

Palavi ascends the Peacock Throne

In October of 1979, under political pressure, Jimmy Carter made the disastrous decision to allow the newly overthrown dictator, the Shah of Iran, to come to the US for ‘medical treatment’. That didn’t work out so well.  A month later, the US Embassy in Tehran was stormed by angry Iranians. They took 66 Americans hostage and held them until the day of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981.

When the Shah requested ‘medical’ asylum, US-Iranian relations were already shaky and Carter himself at first was opposed to the idea. But he allowed himself to be convinced since the Shah had been one of ‘our’ guys, pretty much installed on the Peacock Throne by the CIA.

And here we go again – sorta. I worried about this in a post last month. And now the Obama Administration is going ahead. They’ve agreed to take in President Salah of Yemen – who resigned yesterday (leaving his own people in charge)  – for ‘medical’ treatment. (Salah had already been treated in Dubai – where the care is superb.) He says he’ll return. Yup.

Certainly Yemen isn’t Iran and the recently ‘resigned’ Salah isn’t the Shah. But his authoritarian regime killed hundreds of protestors and relations between us are not particularly friendly.

Do we ever learn?

 

Another unremarked story

This one falls under the radar because Herman Cain had sex again, but not only did a nuclear facility in Iran’s 3rd largest city explode – it was the second one in a month.

This will really help:

Major-General Giora Eiland, Israel’s former director of national security, told Israel’s army radio that the Isfahan blast was no accident. “There aren’t many coincidences, and when there are so many events there is probably some sort of guiding hand, though perhaps it’s the hand of God,” he said.

So the Jewish (and Christian?) god told them to smite those damn Muslims. That’ll go down well.

The U.S. and Iran

After WWII, Winston Churchill said “To jaw-jaw is better than to war-war.” Someone tell that to the remaining neocons, the ones blustering about showing Iran who’s boss.

The next Friedman Unit in Iraq should be interesting

I posted this morning about Turkey’s military movement into Northern Iraq which was followed today by Obama’s abrupt announcement that all US troops (not just combat troops) would be out of Iraq by the end of this year (although this is always a bit confusing since the Embassy will have 16,000 personnel).

And now, it seems that we closed the last US norther base in Iraq yesterday.

U.S. shutters northern HQ in Iraq

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military closed the second of its three regional headquarters in Iraq on Thursday, redeploying 750 soldiers, consolidating command of nationwide operations under a single Army unit and maintaining a rapid pace of withdrawal 10 weeks before the expiration of its security agreement with Baghdad.

I doubt very much that these are unrelated events. I just had the news on and it’s all chitterjaberchatter about the troop withdrawal announcement. But I haven’t heard anything about the Turkish troops.  But the story in the Washington Post notes that:

As the U.S. military carried out its deactivation ceremony, 10,000 Turkish soldiers engaged in a ground offensive against Kurdish rebels who had attacked border towns Wednesday, the Turkish military said.

Iraq, part deux?

Remember “Kurdistan:, that region spanning northern Iraq and eastern Turkey that has. for decades, sought independence? Iraq might have allowed it to happen were it not for a dispute over Tikrit, an important oil city. But Turkey was never going to allow it to happen.

I was just visiting my friend Mac at Talk and Politics, and guess what?

After the Kurdish PKK killed 26 Turkish security forces this week – Turkey has now launched a big military operation into Northern Iraq with 22 battalions with air support.

For the U.S., I think this is going to be ‘rock and hard place’. Our presence there, despite the drawdown of combat troops, remains murky. From wikipedia:

In a speech at the Oval Office on 31 August 2010 Obama declared “the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.”[87][88][89] Beginning September 1, 2010, the American operational name for its involvement in Iraq changed from “Operation Iraqi Freedom” to “Operation New Dawn.” The remaining 50,000 U.S. troops are now designated as “advise and assist brigades” assigned to non-combat operations while retaining the ability to revert to combat operations as necessary.

UPDATE: Obama just announced that all US troops, not just combat troops, will be out of Iraq by the end of this year. That’s really interesting.

The Weekly Standard discovers that graphic design is out to get us. Again.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen periodic outbreaks of hysteria amongst our right wing brethren as they keep identifying secret Muslim messaging hidden inside logos and building shapes. Usually these subversive graphics are connected to our Muslim Kenyan president. Like here from the intellectual giants at Free Republic.

Here we go again. The Weekly Standard (how ya’ doin’ Fred Barnes? Cut back on the caffeine yet?) has found an anti-Israel ‘message’ within a graphic on the home page  of the Palestinian Observer Mission, where a small square on a map of the world serves to outline the entire Middle East. That provoked this headline.

Palestinian Logo Suggests Elimination of Israel

This graphic, according to them, doesn’t acknowledge that Israel is not Arab. Or something. Scared yet?

A new kind of courage needed – Israel’s rock/hard place

While the neo-con Prime Minister of Israel is insulting our president and defying our foreign policy goals while here, proving himself once again to be among the rudest guys on the planet, Josh Marshall posted this today. His post at TPM acknowledges the hard truth Obama articulated the other day.

Just as no man is an island, no country can be either. On its present course Israel is on its way to becoming a pariah state, a status in which it cannot indefinitely or even perhaps long survive. Neither the fact that Israel faces a profound cultural animosity among the region’s Arab populations nor the bad faith that often greets its actions nor even the anti-Semitism that is sometimes beneath the animus changes this essential fact. The make-up of the 21st century world is simply not compatible with a perpetual military occupation of another people, especially one that crosses a boundary of ethnicity and religion. Only the willfully oblivious can’t see that.

MENA – odd way of saying it

A post by Orhan and the discussion in comments reminded me this morning that the denominator “Middle East North Africa”  seems to have linguistically replaced our old friend, the ever volatile “Middle East”.  And I’m reminded too that another old ‘friend’, the war in Afghanistan is happening  further to the east of that area close to Pakistan (and thus India and the slow simmering rivalry over Kashmir).

This AfPak, India, Kashmir nexus is something we no longer even mention. And yet, and yet . . . a failure of the government in Pakistan probably presents as much if not more danger to us as MENA.

So let’s remind ourselves that in the midst of all that, today is the 198th day of the tenth year of our war in Afghanistan. (And we’re now in our eighth year in Iraq.)

Pop quiz

POSTED BY ORHAN

This is an open book test. Please answer the following essay questions as completely as possible.

The UN humanitarian intervention in Libya was initiated to prevent Muammar Qaddafi from committing acts of aggression and brutality against “his own people”.

  1. If attacking and killing “one’s own people” is the test for intervention, what will happen when armed rebels fire on supporters of Muammar Qaddafi? Should the UN intervene to prevent them from attacking “their own people”? Why or why not?
  2.  

  3. The leaders of Bahrain and Yemen have also ordered brutal attacks against “their own people”. Should the UN intervene to protect the civilians of these countries? Why or why not?
  4.  

  5. In Ivory Coast, the refusal by Laurent Gbagbo, the loser of the presidential elections, to step down has led to the deaths of hundreds, and soon possibly thousands, of “his own people”. Should the UN carry out a humanitarian intervention to protect the civilians of this country, which is of low strategic value to the West? Why or why not?
  6.  

  7. Democratic aspirations have manifested in Saudi Arabia, currently the most repressive regime in the Middle East. Containing the world’s largest oil reserves and of supreme strategic importance, Saudi Arabia is America’s oldest ally in the region. If, in the event of a democratic uprising, the Saudi government attacks “its own people” to suppress the democratic movement, should the UN intervene to protect the civilians of this country? Why or why not?
  8.  

Extra Credit:

  1. If the capability existed in 1861, should the international community have intervened to prevent Abraham Lincoln from using violence to prevent secession by “his own people”? Why or why not?

All pencils down.

Dear Mr. President, stop it now please.

Josh Marshall speaks for me.

A week ago a relatively limited intervention probably could have sealed the rebels’ victory, preventing a reeling Qaddafi from fully mobilizing his heavy armaments. But where do we expect to get from this now? It’s not clear to me how the best case scenario can be anything more than our maintaining a safe haven in Benghazi for the people who were about to be crushed because they’d participated in a failed rebellion. So Qaddafi reclaims his rule over all of Libya except this one city which has no government or apparent hope of anything better than permanent limbo. Where do we go with that?

We’re calling a time out on a really ugly situation the fundamental dynamics of which we aren’t in any position to change. That sounds like a mess.

Maybe we do this and then that rejuvenates the opposition and Qaddafi is gone in a week. If that happens, great. Egg on my face. But I doubt it.

And that’s about how it looks to me. And that’s about how it feels to me. And like Josh Marshall, I’d love to be wrong.

Million dollar bombs on Libya. Ours.

Tomahawks being dropped on Libya. I’ll adopt a wait and see attitude – until Monday. But for now – we are out of our frackin’ minds to even take a chance on an expanded war (and the French have already had a Mirage shot down).

Remember what George Will said.

Wanna bet?

POSTED BY ORHAN

So here we are, in yet another Middle East war, this time to avert a “bloody rout of rebels by forces loyal to Col. Qaddafi.”

Al Jazeera call the rebels “pro-democracy” forces, and maybe they are…

And maybe this time the US is really going to war for humanitarian reasons…

And maybe we won’t be “forced” to commit ground troops…

Figure the odds.

It hasn’t gone away

While we watch events unfold in Libya and Egypt and Tunisia and Yemen and Somalia and Abu Dhabi and Dubai and (?) Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Syria and as Pakistan teeters (please, please, please, not Pakistan) and Iraq is back to unseemly behavior, may I beg your indulgence and remind that: today is the 156th day of the tenth year of the War in Afghanistan.

21st century bolsheviks?

Egypt like St. Petersburg? Moscow? 1917? That popular uprising against the  Tzar was exploited by the Leninists but it was originally populist and huge and it was all over the Country.

Jordan now planning demonstrations. Bahrain too.

And the beat goes on . . .

While the Middle East appears to be going through its thing (Renaissance? Reformation? French Revolution?), I’m reminded there are still protesters (the kind that blow up bombs) in Iraq and Afghanistan.  While our eyes have been focused elsewhere, our wars go on; it seems to be bombs in Iraq and bullets in Afghanistan, where today is the 117th day of the tenth year of the war there.

Formatting fail

In the post below part of my own language got caught up in formating so it looked like part of the quote.

The line “CNN fired her. Cowards.” is mine, not the reporter’s from Think Progress.

That is all.