Archive for the 'Iraq' Category

Raiders of the Lost Archive: Don’t return the rescued written treasures of Iraqi Jews to Baghdad

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

By Sara Y. Aharon

In 2003, a team of 16 American soldiers in Baghdad stumbled upon a lost treasure trove of thousands of documents belonging to Iraq’s Jewish community.

These rare materials, thought to have been stored originally in synagogues and private Jewish homes, were sitting in a moldy, flooded basement of the muhkabarat, Saddam Hussein’s feared secret police.

The collection, now referred to as the “Iraqi Jewish archive,” contains “2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents in Hebrew, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and English, dating from 1540 to the 1970s,” including a 1568 Bible and several Torah scrolls, according to the National Archives in Washington.

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Middle East and Syria: Obama has forgotten lessons of the recent past

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

by Gary Gerofsky

The Obama administration lies, feigns horror, ignores history (especially recent history), and purposely chooses to make the wrong conclusions. Obama panders to Islamists, nationally and internationally. Mistakes are piling up on other previous mistakes, quickly forgotten, and then repeated with reckless abandon. The theatre of the absurd is taking place before our eyes with implications that have far reaching impact on America for the worse. The Libya and Tunisia debacles have led to Egypt which led to Benghazi which has led to Syria. The common thread is a doctrine that the U.S. president is following to empower Islamists who promise America “democracy” and non-violence. But “Islamist democracy” and “Islamist non-violence” are oxymorons. Obama buys into these contradictions as if they were real possibilities. Following the dictates of Syrian “rebels” and having them direct American policy is like taking advice at face value from those who sent our airliners into the World Trade Center on 9/11. Selective indignation and political correctness have amounted to a complete political and military debacle in the U.S. which also involves and endangers other stakeholders. Every attempt is being made to isolate one act of chemical warfare after a series of chemical attacks in a country (and region) where they have experienced the same for many decades under the Assad family dictatorship — without much objection from the world community or the U.N. Questions need to be asked. There are too many contradictions, inconsistencies, befuddled thinking and lies to enumerate, but here are a few:

Contradictions and inconsistencies:

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The Problem with Turkey’s “Zero Problems” – Turkey, Past and Future

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

by Ilias I. Kouskouvelis*

Under the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP), Turkey’s foreign policy has been associated with the prescriptions and efforts of three men: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President Abdullah Gül, and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. Davutoğlu, a former international relations professor, has been the most articulate exponent of the troika’s ideas, penning perhaps the most authoritative summary of its worldview in his 2001 Stratejik Derinlik (Strategic Depth)[1] and coining its foremost article of faith: a “zero-problems policy” with Turkey’s neighbors because Ankara “wants to eliminate all the problems from her relations with neighbors or at least to minimize them as much as possible.”[2]

This might all be well and good if such words were supported by actions. But Davutoğlu has also described Turkey as a “heavyweight wrestler,” hinting that it may use “the maximum of its abilities” when dealing with its neighboring “middleweight wrestlers.”[3] A survey of Ankara’s relations with these “middleweight wrestlers” reveals its “zero problems policy” to be little more than a cover for the AKP’s reasserted “neo-Ottoman” ambitions.

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The U.S. versus the ‘Shi’ite Crescent’?

Friday, February 8th, 2013

by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi*

Writing on his blog ‘Karl reMarks‘, the prominent Lebanese blogger and Twitter user Karl Sharro complained of the ‘decline of narrative’ in ‘Middle East expertise’, lamenting the dominance of a ‘cold analytical approach’ towards events in the volatile region and the role of foreign powers therein. But is the concept of narrative and grand theory actually useful here?

Consider the question of U.S. policy towards the region throughout the course of the Arab Spring. One narrative that has emerged among certain commentators — mainly on the Western political left like Patrick Cockburn — is that the U.S. is aligning itself with Sunni forces — including those of an Islamist nature — in opposition to a perceived ‘Shi’ite crescent’ of power in the region.

As is often the case, this narrative bases itself on elements of truth. The U.S. shares the concern of the Sunni Arab Gulf monarchies about Iranian influence in the wider region. The most egregious case of alignment is in Bahrain, where Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia have all deployed troops to assist the monarchy in suppressing protests.

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Kuwait Expels Thousands of Palestinians

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

by Steven J. Rosen*

Much has been made of the Palestinian exodus of 1948. Yet during their decades of dispersal, the Palestinians have experienced no less traumatic ordeals at the hands of their Arab brothers. As early as the mid-1950s, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Libya expelled striking Palestinian workers. In 1970, Jordan expelled some 20,000 Palestinians and demolished their camps; in 1994-95, Libya expelled tens of thousands of long-term Palestinian residents in response to the Oslo process; and after the 2003 Iraq war, some 21,000 Palestinians fled the country in response to a systematic terror and persecution campaign. As recently as 2007, Beirut effectively displaced 31,400 Palestinian refugees when the Lebanese army destroyed the Nahr el Bared refugee camp during fighting between the militant Fatal al-Islam group and the Lebanese army.[1]

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The Sunni-Shia Conflict Will Be The Major Feature of Middle East Politics for Decades

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

By Barry Rubin

Once upon a time, Arab nationalism ruled the Middle East. Its doctrine saw Arab identity as the key to political success. Some regarded Islam as important; others were secular. Yet there was no doubt that national identity was in charge. All Arabs should unite, said the radical nationalists who ruled in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, to destroy Israel, expel Western influence, and create a utopian single state in the region.

Instead, of course, the period was characterized by battles among the radical Arab states for leadership. The less extreme ones sought survival through a combination of giving lip service to radical slogans, paying off the stronger regimes, and getting Western help.

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Red Lines and Preemption in the Face of Nuclear Iran

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

by Yoram Ettinger, The Ettinger Report

Just like the role of “Red Lights” in intersections, so would “Red Lines” reduce the probability of a military collision with a nuclear Iran. Clear “Red Lines” would upgrade the US posture of deterrence and enhance preparedness against — and minimizes the cost of — aggression. On the other hand, the absence of “Red Lines” constitutes a “Green Light” to aggression.

For example, a “Green Light” to Iraq’s August 2, 1990 invasion of Kuwait was provided by the US upon failing to set any “Red Light” during the July 25, 1990 meeting between Saddam Hussein and the US Ambassador to Kuwait. At the meeting, which took place during the height of the Iraq-Kuwait border dispute, Ambassador April Gillespie echoed Secretary Jim Baker’s self-destruct policy of engagement and diplomacy with rogue Iraq. She stated that “we have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait… We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via the Arab League or via President Mubarak… All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly.” Prior to that meeting, the State Department clarified to Saddam that the US had no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait. Setting and implementing “Red Lines” would have deterred Saddam Hussein, and would have spared the US the first, and possibly the second, Gulf Wars and their devastating cost in term of lives, economy and military.

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Civil War in Lebanon?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi*

Since the recent assassination of the head of intelligence — Wissam al-Hassan, who was known to be aligned with the anti-Syrian March 14 alliance in Lebanese politics — in Beirut, there has been much speculation that the internal conflict in Syria could re-ignite civil war in Lebanon.

Such a line of thought has been raised vis-à-vis Iraq too. Indeed, just as Shi’ite militants from Hezbollah, which is aligned with the pro-Syrian March 8 alliance in government, have been fighting to assist the Assad regime in Syria, so too have Shi’ite militants from Iraq’s Badr Brigades and the Iranian-backed ‘Special Groups’ been heading across the border to fight against the rebels.

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Romney Channels George W. Bush’s Middle East Policy

Monday, October 8th, 2012

by Daniel Pipes*

Mitt Romney gave a generally fine speech today on the Middle East. Sensibly, he criticized the Obama administration for its Benghazi shenanigans, for the “daylight” with Israel, fecklessness vis-à-vis Tehran, and the cuts in military spending. Very justifiably, he called it “time to change course in the Middle East.”

But I worry about three specifics.

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The Democratic Platform: Not One Word on Islamism or Any Support for Arab Liberals and Allies

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

By Barry Rubin

When the authors of the Democratic platform’s sections dealing with the Middle East — I dealt with the section on Israel in a previous article — finished it they were no doubt quite satisfied. They felt that they had built a strong case for reelected President Barack Obama along the following lines:

America is more secure and popular. Al-Qaida and the Taliban are on the run. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are ending. America is supporting democracy, women’s rights, and gay rights around the world. Isn’t this great leadership? How could anyone not vote for Obama?

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Victimization of Egypt’s Christians Worse After Revolution

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

by Raymond Ibrahim*

While some are aware that the Christians of war-torn Syria and Iraq are regularly abducted and held for large ransoms by Western-sponsored “freedom fighters,” it is largely unknown in the West that the Christians of Egypt—which is not war-torn and has a stable government—are also prey to the same treatment. According to Al Moheet, a new human rights report indicates that there are dozens of cases of Muslim gangs abducting Christian Copts and holding them for ransom, in Nag Hammadi alone.

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Looking at violence in Iraq

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi*

What are we to make of the increase in violent deaths in Iraq during June and July? Is it a sign of a long-term upsurge in violence since the US troop withdrawal? Who are the culprits? These are all pertinent questions.

To begin with, it should be noted that violence in Iraq often follows cyclical patterns. That is, insurgent groups normally step up their operations as summer begins, and around the times of religious festivals, when pilgrims (frequently travelling on foot) are exposed, we can expect upsurges in violence.

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Are Iraq and Turkey Models for Democratization?

Monday, July 30th, 2012

by Ofra Bengio*

In the wake of the upheavals that have shaken the Arab world since December 2010, activists, politicians, and analysts have all been searching for new, democratic models of governance that could come into force in these lands. The cases of Iraq and Turkey are perhaps the most obvious choices to examine based on the notion that these are the only examples of functioning democracies within Muslim-majority nations of the Middle East.

Hoping to turn post-Saddam Iraq into a model to be emulated by the Arab states, the Bush administration set out to create an Athens-on-the-Tigris complete with free elections and a constitution with separation of powers provisions. Although the Turkish model had a completely different genesis and evolution, it is worth exploring as Ankara has proclaimed itself a model for the post-revolutionary regimes. What lessons can be drawn from the Iraqi and Turkish experiences, and to what extent do they fit other Middle Eastern states?

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Syria’s Kurds stand alone after rejecting rebels and regime

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi*

Developments in Syria and Iraq have led some to speculate that the birth of an independent Kurdish state might be at hand. A closer analysis shows that a united Kurdistan is still unlikely, although a separate semiautonomous Kurdish community in Syria, with some parallels to the Kurdish Autonomous Region in Iraq, is a growing possibility.

In Syria, Kurds are sitting on the sidelines of the uprising against the Damascus regime. Indeed, the Free Syrian Army has accused members of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) of hindering its operations in some areas against the Assad regime, according to the Kurdish website Rudaw.net. Leaders of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is affiliated with the PKK, have made it clear that they will not tolerate the spread of Syria’s conflict into the Kurdish-dominated areas of Syria.

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Has Baghdad Bob Moved to Tehran?

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

by Daniel Pipes*

American reporters gave Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, the Iraqi Information Minister under Saddam Hussein during the American-led invasion of 2003, the disdainful name “Baghdad Bob” (and the British called him “Comical Ali”). He spouted wildly inaccurate propaganda during his daily press briefings, praising the Iraqi troops and telling fabulous tales how they crushed the foreign invaders, even as those invaders could be seen on the screen moving in on him.

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