Archive for April, 2009

Proposed Concessions To Hamas Show Obama Administration Is Clueless

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

By Barry Rubin

In what might eventually become its first step directly damaging U.S.-Israel relations and injuring Israel’s interests, the Obama administration has reportedly proposed allowing American aid to go to the Palestinian Authority (PA) even if Hamas, which is designated in U.S. law as a terrorist group, would be participating in it.

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“The American Military Advisor”

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

by Michael J. Metrinko*

In August 2008, the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute and the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, jointly published a manual entitled, The American Military Advisor: Dealing with Senior Foreign Officials in the Islamic World.[1] Authored by Michael J. Metrinko, a leading U.S. government expert on the eastern Islamic world, the 95-page manual is a refreshing and blunt how-to guide for civil affairs and political affairs officers, excerpts from which follow. Metrinko brings to bear considerable experience. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Turkey and Iran and spent fourteen months as a hostage when Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979. Subsequent to the 9/11 attacks, Metrinko reentered government service. After assignments in Yemen and Iraq, he spent four years on provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and eighteen months interfacing with the new Afghan National Assembly as an advisor on parliamentary affairs for the U.S. embassy in Kabul. –The Editors

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Obama’s Foreign Policy: Bambi Versus the Sharks

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

By Barry Rubin (*See note)

It is not such a big deal to disagree with a president and his policies. But it is shocking to realize that the leader of the world’s most powerful country doesn’t appear to understand the most basic principles of international relations.

This isn’t surprising since Barrack Obama has no–zero, nada–previous experience in this area. It shows. There are two distinct ways other countries respond to this combination of his ignorance at realpolitik, urgent desire to be liked, and pride in projecting U.S. weakness:

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A Target of Convenience

Friday, April 24th, 2009

by Michael Rubin*

On April 13, Roxana Saberi, a 31-year-old Iranian-American journalist, appeared before a closed hearing of a revolutionary court to answer charges of spying for the United States — potentially capital charges. Iranian officials brushed off Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s request for Saberi to be released. Iranian justice was quick. On April 18, the court found Saberi guilty and sentenced her to eight years. Her case calls to mind that of Farzad Bazoft, a Western journalist executed by Saddam Hussein in 1990. It is worthwhile to reflect on the two cases, and to ask how the West might avoid repeating with Iran today the mistakes it made with Hussein almost two decades ago.

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Phyllis Chesler Speaks At Durban II Counter-Conference

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

By Fern Sidman

On Tuesday, April 21st, Jewish Press op-ed contributor Phyllis Chesler was the keynote speaker at the Durban II Counter-Conference organized by the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists. The weeklong conference, held at the Fordham University Law School in New York was convened as a rejoinder to UN’s weeklong Durban II Review Conference held in Geneva, Switzerland in which such issues as racism, gender discrimination, xenophobia and related Intolerance were purportedly on the agenda.

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Durban 2: Pro-Israel Backlash

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

By Andrew L. Jaffee

Thanks to the work of many individuals, web-logs, and advocacy organizations, it seems that the rabid wave of neo-anti-Semitism — fanned no less by the United Nations — may finally be creating a backlash of sensibility. The UN’s first so-called “World Conference Against Racism,” which took place in Durban, South Africa in 2001, devolved into an anti-Semitic, hate-fest. The second UN Durban “conference,” now under way, was ushered in by Iranian President wipe-Israel-off-the-map Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called Israelis “racist perpetrators of genocide.” HonestReporting has a great summary of a potential change in attitudes — in favor of Israel:

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India, the Most Pro-Israel Country

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

by Daniel Pipes*

A study undertaken on behalf of Israel’s foreign ministry by an international market research company found that India is the most pro-Israel country in the world, beating out the United States by two percentage points.

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Leaders’ mortality may sway Iraq’s health

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

by Michael Rubin*

US President Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw troops from Iraq is predicated on an assumption that Iraq’s stability is durable. On 29 January 2009, General Ray Odierno, commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, said: “We are getting close to enduring stability, which enables us really to reduce [US military forces].” Advocates of military withdrawal by the United States are optimistic: the 31 January 2009 provincial elections proceeded without much incident.

According to US government figures, violence is down to 2003 levels. Progress, however, has less to do with the governance system, and more to do with key personalities: President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, both of whom met Obama in Baghdad on 7 April, as well as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani each conciliate crisis and reconcile disparate interests. Without them, stability and security in Iraq may not be sustainable.

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Naivete Kills

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

By Barry Rubin (*See note)

It never ceases to amaze me that people who know nothing about the Middle East, in this case Roger Cohen but many other names come to mind, can suddenly proclaim themselves experts and make the most elementary errors involving the lives of other people. It also never ceases to amaze me that people can visit a country, especially a dictatorship, be wined and dined, handed a line and believe it so thoroughly that their mind is closed ever after.

Recently, I met a young man who helped me understand this phenomenon better. He worked on Afghanistan and took exception to my saying that there was no way that Western intervention was going to make that a stable and moderate country. It was too geographically diverse, bound by traditional culture, beset by conflict, and economically underdeveloped to achieve that condition. And no matter how much money was poured in to train its army to be efficient or to finance its government to be honest and effective, the situation would not change drastically.

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Kurdistan’s Troubled Democracy

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

by Scott Carpenter and Michael Rubin*

Shortly after taking office, President Obama congratulated Iraqis on successful provincial elections. “Millions of Iraqi citizens from every ethnic and religious group went peacefully to the polls across the country to choose new provincial councils,” he declared on Jan. 31. But this was not quite the case. In the three provinces that comprise Iraqi Kurdistan, the regional parliament postponed the vote until May 19. Only recently have plans been made to hold the elections.

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BBC Chides Mideast Editor Jeremy Bowen For Anti-Israeli Bias

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Thanks to the scrutiny of groups like HonestReporting, “the BBC Trust, which oversees complaints to the British state broadcaster, has ruled that [Mideast Editor Jeremy] Bowen’s coverage of Israel in an article on the BBC’s Web site and a radio broadcast was partially inaccurate and that aspects of the Internet article lacked impartiality.” HonestReporting has the whole story, including background history of Israel-phobes like Bowen and Robert Fisk; information on an investigation conducted by the BBC into its own coverage to determine whether the network maintains an anti-Israel bias — a report the media giant refuses to release publicly; and an online petition which urges the BBC to release its own report. Here’s a snippet, but you should read the whole story:

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The Appearance of Security: REAL ID Final Regulations vs. PASS ID Act of 2009

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

By Janice Kephart, CIS.org

Introduction

The move toward more secure issuance of state identification documents may be in jeopardy. The most recent iteration of the National Governors Association secure ID bill circulating the Senate for signatures for possible introduction, the “Providing for Additional Security in States’ Identification Act of 2009″ or PASS ID Act, gives the appearance of security for drivers licenses and non-driver IDs (DL/ID) when, in fact, security does not exist. The PASS ID Act would provide for insecure issuance practices by the states that, for the most part, were in place prior to 9/11. In many ways, the PASS ID Act is a step backward for most states, or at least an endorsement of the status quo, because nearly all states are implementing elements of the REAL ID Act1 — the 2005 measure designed to raise state ID standards in response to the 9/11 attacks — even in states that have passed legislation that precludes REAL ID implementation. However the new bill’s mandate to verify an ID applicant’s legal presence in the United States by 2013 is voluntary, as any state can opt out of PASS ID Act requirements.

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Islamists of the World Unite; You Have Nothing to Lose Except Any Pretext of Being Moderate

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

By Barry Rubin (*See note)

Mahdi Akef, supreme guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, has defied his own country’s government to ally himself with Hizballah. What makes this such a remarkable and high-risk step?

  • The Muslim Brotherhood is Sunni Muslim; the Lebanese Hizballah group is Shia. Brotherhood leaders do not view Shia Islamists as brothers and in the past have been alarmed at the rising power of Shia forces in Lebanon and Iraq.
  • Hizballah is a client of Iran’s regime. As a Shia and non-Arab power, Iran is not on the Brotherhood’s Ramadan greeting card list.

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Turkish-Israeli Relations

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

A briefing by Soner Cagaptay*

Soner Cagaptay is director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and an expert on Turkish-Israeli relations. He earned his Ph.D. from Yale, taught at Princeton, and contributes regularly to leading news outlets. On April 9, Mr. Cagaptay addressed the Middle East Forum via conference call.

To illustrate how Turkey has changed under AK Party rule (the “Justice and Development” party), Soner Cagaptay highlighted the fact that, before the AKP came to power in 2002 elections, Turkey “worked as a normal country,” exhibiting qualities more in line with non-Muslim, secular nations.

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Obama’s Abominable Obeisance: Cultural Perspectives

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

by Raymond Ibrahim*

Is Obama’s deep bow (with slightly bent knee) to the Saudi king as bad as it seems? The White House, apparently forgetful that we live in the Internet age, where everything is swiftly documented and disseminated — or else thinking it leads a blind nation — insists the president did not bow. He supposedly always bends in half when shaking hands with shorter people, though he certainly seemed quite erect when saluting the British queen, who is much shorter than the Saudi king.

Obama bowed; this much is certainly not open to debate. All that is left now is to place his odious obeisance in context. As such, history has much to say about the seemingly innocuous bow.

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