Archive for the 'Lebanon' Category

Why “Progress” Toward Israel-Palestinian “Peace” Is More Likely to Bring Regional Instability

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

By Barry Rubin

Secretary of State John Kerry has in his head every what-should-be-discredited cliché about the Middle East firmly ensconced in his head. Of course, he is not alone. I just briefed a European diplomat who came up with the exact formulation I’m going to deal with in a moment. What is disconcerting — though long familiar — is that Western policy makers hold so many ideas that are totally out of touch with reality.

They do not allow these assumptions to be questioned. On the contrary, it is astonishing to find how often individuals in elite positions have never heard counter-arguments to these beliefs. It is easy to prove that many of these ideas simply don’t make sense, but it is nearly impossible to get elite intellectuals, officials, and politicians to open their minds to these explanations.

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The President’s address to Israelis — the speech that Obama ought to make

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

by Gary Gerofsky

This is the speech that Obama ought to make to Israelis during his visit to their country:

Prime Minister Netanyahu, Knesset members, the people of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide: It is an honor and privilege to be here today in Jerusalem, Israel, the undivided capital of Israel and the land of the Jewish people from the time before the establishment of the first temple of Solomon, destroyed by the Babylonians, followed by the second temple which Antiochus desecrated, Pompey looted and the Romans destroyed during the Siege of Jerusalem. Throughout history invaders and superpowers have attempted to extinguish the Jewish people and their symbols. Today is no different as we have an empire of Islamists using whatever means they can to wipe out all traces of Israel and Judaism. They too will not succeed.

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Will Syria’s Strife Rip Lebanon Apart?

Monday, March 11th, 2013

by Hilal Khashan*

The assassination of Lebanese security chief brigadier general Wissam Hassan on October 19 has rekindled fears of renewed confessional strife in Lebanon. The anti-Assad opposition quickly blamed the Syrian regime for eliminating one of its foremost Beirut opponents while enraged demonstrators took to the streets to demand the resignation of prime minister Najib Miqati.[1]

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Innocents Abroad Build Foreign Armies

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

by Daniel Pipes*

In the near-century that the United States has been a great power, it has developed some original and sophisticated foreign policy tools. Examples include the Marshall Plan, special forces, and satellite imaging. At the same time, the country’s naiveté remains firmly in place. For example, the notion persists that government staff are “particularly qualified to [handle a problem] because they knew nothing about it.” (For details, see my analysis at “American Know-Nothing Diplomacy.”)

The persistent belief that training and equipping foreign troops imbues them with American political and ethical values, making them allies of the United States, offers another sign of innocence. Some examples of this delusional policy in recent decades:

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Reforming UNRWA

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

by James G. Lindsay*

It is sometimes suggested by critics of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) that the agency should be abolished and its duties transferred to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the U.N. organization responsible for all other refugees in the world. But it is doubtful whether such a move would change much, for it is not UNRWA’s existence but rather its mission that is the root of the problem.

To be sure, as a creation of the General Assembly, it is this international body that gives UNRWA its mission; and packed as it is with an abundance of votes to prevent any alteration in UNRWA’s mission, the General Assembly would need a tremendous amount of persuasion and pressure to get behind any meaningful change. Yet there are important and commonsensical changes to UNRWA that could be made outside the General Assembly. The question remains whether Washington, perhaps the only major player in this drawn-out drama with sufficient clout, is willing to take the necessary steps in this direction.

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Palestinian Refugees Languish in Lebanon

Monday, November 26th, 2012

by David Schenker*

“In all but name, Lebanon today is a non-country,” wrote the Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi in 1989.[1] A weak state racked with sectarian and political divisions, there is little on which Lebanese people can agree. One rare issue on which they seemed to have formed an enduring consensus, however, is that of the Palestinians. While Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, and Druze alike condemn Israel and support the “liberation” of Palestine with alacrity, few of them have historically supported expanding rights and improving the dire conditions of the estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees within Lebanese borders.[2] Not only is discussion of tawtin—or settlement—of these refugees in Lebanon a taboo, since 1990, it has also been unconstitutional. As one Palestinian wryly noted, the Lebanese “are all with Palestine, but against the Palestinians.”[3]

With few if any local advocates, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have come to depend on the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as their sole source of support and protection. Unfortunately for them, UNRWA has not proved up to the task.

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Middle East Stories Behind the News: Libya, Palestinians, Anti-American Terrorism, Lebanon, Egypt

Friday, November 16th, 2012

By Barry Rubin

The most interesting developments in the Middle East aren’t in the news stories but can be discovered by analyzing those reports. Here are a few developing right now.

The Libyan government gave 50 percent of the funds to finance the budget of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syrian National Council (SNC) budget. Since Libya is very much a U.S. client, it’s reasonable to conclude that the Obama Administration encouraged this generosity. Yet this money was financing a Muslim Brotherhood front. A lot of arms have been flowing from Libya to Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and to radical forces in Syria. Some claim that the U.S. government was coordinating that traffic though this has not yet been proven. The SNC has now been replaced by a new umbrella group whose role and even survival is still unproven.

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Israel’s Situation and Strategy In Obama’s Second Term

Friday, November 9th, 2012

By Barry Rubin

“Don’t Panic”

– Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

What should Israel’s policy and priorities be in President Barack Obama’s second term? There will be two key themes: minimize antagonism and cope with the negative consequences of U.S. regional policy.

1. Protect bilateral relations.

Israel’s government must ensure continued U.S. aid; intelligence-sharing; and other forms of cooperation. Obama will almost certainly maintain these programs. This status quo situation is protected by support for Israel in Congress and the Defense Department. Whatever verbal friction or temporary tempests taking place — including signs of Obama’s personal dislike of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — should not change this.

2. Keep Obama from damaging Israel’s situation in regard to the Palestinians.

Obama must decide whether to put a priority on the Israel-Palestinian “peace process,” meaning pressure on Israel to make concessions while the Palestinian Authority (PA) doesn’t keep its commitments and makes no compromises.

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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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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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Is David’s Sling Broken?

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Israel may be the price for Western resetting of relations with Arabs

By Alexander Maistrovoy

Henry Kissinger’s recent statement that Israel will cease to exist in 10 years borders on senility. Although one of his staff members denied it, Cindy Adams from New York Post insisted, “Reported to me, Henry Kissinger has stated, and I quote the statement word for word, ‘In 10 years, there will be no more Israel.’”

Kissinger is a controversial figure. He can hardly be suspected of excessive sympathy for Israel. He perhaps is inclined to the syndrome of self-hatred so fashionable nowadays amongst the Jewish elite. At the same time, Kissinger is not an exalted pop-diva, cheap populist or rebellious professor. He is an experienced, prudent politician who takes responsibility for his utterances.

What drove him to such a dramatic conclusion? Is there a real and grave threat to Israel?

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Why a Special Issue on UNRWA?

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

by Steven J. Rosen*

Led by the United States, the founders of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the institution tasked with oversight of the Palestine refugees, conceived of it as a temporary instrument to help relieve the plight of the Arab refugees displaced by the struggle over Israel’s creation in 1948-49. But over the ensuing sixty-three years, UNRWA has evolved into an agency that perpetuates the refugee problem as a source of conflict rather than contributing to its resolution. Its refugee camps and educational programs keep alive the impossible dream that millions of descendants of the original refugees will “return” to today’s Israel. Its social service delivery programs create permanent dependency and impede local integration into the societies and countries where its beneficiaries have resided for decades. Unlike its sister agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is responsible for millions of non-Palestinian refugees worldwide, it does not have an active program for “local integration” of refugees where they now reside nor “resettlement” in third countries. This special issue will explore the extent to which UNRWA has complied with its original mandate and ways and means for its reform.

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Lebanon’s Shiite-Maronite Alliance of Hypocrisy

Friday, August 24th, 2012

by Hilal Khashan*

On February 6, 2006, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) Michel Aoun signed a memorandum of understanding, ostensibly to build a consensual Lebanese democracy on the basis of transparency, justice, and equality.[1] However, a careful examination of the agreement shows that its real goal was the neutralization of Sunni political power, especially after the 2005 assassination of the powerful Sunni statesman and former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

The memorandum’s allusion to limiting the influence of money on politics and combating business and bureaucratic corruption hinted at the Sunni leadership’s vast financial and entrepreneurial assets. Conversely, its insistence on the right of Lebanese expatriates to participate in the country’s elections sought to enlist the support of the mostly Christian immigrants in the Americas. Similarly, its attempt to link Lebanese national security to Hezbollah’s arsenal aimed at legitimizing Shiite militarism.

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Hezbollah loses money and media access

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

The violent, Islamist, Palestinian terrorist group Hezbollah has lost assets on two fronts: Financial and public relations. It’s about time given that this ugly group of thugs is committed to the destruction of Israel, started a war with Israel in 2006, has used Lebanese civilians as human shields, has specifically targeted Israeli civilians for murder, has killed Arab children with its rockets, has hidden weapons in mosques, has defied U.N. Resolution 1559 calling for the disarming of all militias based in Lebanon, and is a proxy for two of the world’s most active state sponsors of terrorism, Syria and Iran. From CNNMoney:

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Anarchy Surrounds Israel

Friday, July 20th, 2012

by Daniel Pipes*

Of Israel’s neighbors, Lebanon always stood out by virtue of its weak central government, but for the first twenty years, 1948-68, this did not present difficulties to Israel; only when the Palestinians created a state-within-a-state there did its anarchy became a major challenge to the Jewish state, as symbolized by the Beirut airport raid of December 1968. Many skirmishes followed as well as two wars (those of 1982 and 2006). Lebanon remains anarchic and the home base for Hezbollah; it could well be a future Arab-Israeli battlefield.

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