All Roads Lead to Israel in Middle East Unrest

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 17th, 2011

Migrants are Fleeing Arab Democracy Movements

One of the reasons President Obama gave for bombing Libya was to prevent a wave of migrants from these countries in turmoil flooding neighboring/European countries.  Doesn’t look like the bombing worked (see France blocks Italian trains carrying migrants posted 4/17/2011 on the BBC).

Authorities in France have blocked trains from Italy in an attempt to stop north African migrants from entering the country.

Migrants landed on the Italian shores, got their temporary resident permits and hit the train stations.  Now they’re traveling across Europe looking for a new, state-subsidized life.  At least, this is France’s beef.  Before they’ll let them cross their border they have to prove they can pay their own way.  Because history has shown that migrants fleeing war-torn nations often can’t.  While high domestic unemployment will make it difficult to absorb those who can into the workforce.

Italy and other European countries have been increasingly concerned about migration from north Africa following the political turmoil in the region.

Earlier this month, Italy and France agreed to launch sea and air patrols to try to prevent the influx of thousands of people from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

TunisiaEgypt?  Those ‘democracy’ movements were rather peaceful.  So it is puzzling that so many people are fleeing from these ‘democracy’ movements.  We can understand Libya.  We escalated that into civil war with our bombing campaign.  And people typically flee from nations in civil war.  But why Tunisia and Egypt?

Christian Governors not Welcomed in Qena

Perhaps these aren’t democracy movements.  Or perhaps they’re theocracy movements exploiting the unrest of these ‘democracy’ movements (see Christian governor named in south Egypt, protests flare by Dina Zayed, Mohamed Abdellah, Reuters, posted 4/17/2011 on The Daily Star).

“The experience of a Coptic governor has failed. There is no objection to his Coptic identity but the previous governor left a negative impression of Christian officials,” Youssef Ragab, a witness in Qena, told Reuters by telephone.

Residents say Ayoub was too weak in enforcing laws to quell rising tension between Muslims and Christians, fearing his background might imply sectarian allegiance.

The Christians and the Muslim got along with Mubarak in office.  There’s no reason for that to change now that Mubarak is out of office.

The protest took a more aggressive turn as some radical Salafi Islamists in the crowd demanded a Muslim official, saying “we want it Islamic.” Some even threatened to kill Mikhail if he came to his office.

Witnesses in the city said Egypt’s military, concerned that the demonstration would spark inter-faith violence, had moved to protect churches in the province.

See?  A simple way for sectarian peace.  Everyone converts to Islam.

The GCC Calls on the UN to take Action against Iran

So there’s trouble from within.  And trouble from without (see Gulf states call on UN to halt Iran ‘interference’ by AFP posted 4/17/2011 on Breitbart).

Gulf Arab states on Sunday called on the international community and UN Security Council to “make flagrant Iranian interference and provocations” in Gulf affairs cease after unrest in Bahrain.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, after a meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh, called in a statement for “necessary measures” against the Islamic republic to prevent it from sowing regional discord.

So it’s just not the West having problems with Iran.  It would appear that they are trying to export their Iranian Shiite revolution everywhere.

The six-nation GCC called on “the international community and the Security Council to take the necessary measures to make flagrant Iranian interference and provocations aimed at sowing discord and destruction” among GCC states.

It said the GCC — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — “categorically rejects all foreign interference in its affairs… and invites the Iranian regime to stop its provocations.”

Will the international community step in to stop these Iranian provocations?  Forget about a flood of migrants.  What happens in these GCC countries is a huge national security interest.  If Iranian influence spreads unchecked here, we’ll wish we only had a migration problem.

Little is said about Israel in Lands that Hate Israel

In all these Arab ‘democracy’ movements, there is a strange omission.  You really don’t hear the anti-Israel rhetoric you normally hear in parts of this region.  Which is a little strange.  Israeli criticism has been quiet.  A little too quiet.  Which can only mean one thing.  Something’s up (see Stratfor.com: The Arab Risings, Israel and Hamas by George Friedman posted 4/12/2011 on Bill O’Reilly).

We know of several leaders of the Egyptian rising, for example, who were close to Hamas yet deliberately chose to downplay their relations. They clearly were intensely anti-Israeli but didn’t want to make this a crucial issue. In the case of Egypt, they didn’t want to alienate the military or the West. They were sophisticated enough to take the matter step by step.

Hamas is a militant Palestinian Islamic movement.  They want to destroy Israel.  And they’re connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Which also happens to be the largest organized opposition party in Egypt.

Egypt is key for Hamas. Linked to an anti-Israel, pro-Hamas Cairo, the Gaza Strip returns to its old status as a bayonet pointed at Tel Aviv. Certainly, it would be a base for operations and a significant alternative to Fatah. But a war would benefit Hamas more broadly. For example, Turkey’s view of Gaza has changed significantly since the 2010 flotilla incident in which Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish civilians on a ship headed for Gaza. Turkey’s relationship with Israel could be further weakened, and with Egypt and Turkey both becoming hostile to Israel, Hamas’ position would improve. If Hamas could cause Hezbollah to join the war from the north then Israel would be placed in a challenging military position perhaps with the United States, afraid of a complete breakdown of its regional alliance system, forcing Israel to accept an unfavorable settlement.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shiite Islamist organization.  They hate Israel, too.  And have close ties to Syria.  And Iran.

For the United States and Europe, the merger of Islamists and democrats is an explosive combination. Apart, they do little. Together, they could genuinely destabilize the region and even further undermine the U.S. effort against jihadists. The United States and Europe want Israel to restrain itself but cannot restrain Hamas. Another war, therefore, is not out of the question—and in the end, the decision to launch one rests with Hamas.

During the Gulf War, we pleaded with Israel to just take whatever Saddam Hussein threw at them.  And Israel showed incredible restraint after the Scud missile attacks began.  Try as Hussein did, he could not provoke Israel into the conflict to break up the Arab coalition.  And here we are again.  With a foreign policy that depends on Israeli suffering.  Will Hamas be able to provoke them into war?  Or will they not take the bait and absorb their attacks?  Will additional Israeli actions against Gaza further sour Turkey towards Israel?  Will Egypt fall to a Hamas/Iran friendly Muslim Brotherhood?  Will the Iranians continue to incite trouble in the GCC states?  All BIG questions in terms of our national security interests.  And the answers to them will have huge and lasting consequences.

So what is the US doing in all of this?  Getting involved in the one county that isn’t even in the Big Picture.  Libya.

The Real Enemy in the Middle East

There’s something going on here.  And it ain’t protecting our national security interests.  The best one can figure out is that we’re helping Europe keep their Libyan oil.  Sure, Qaddafi is a bad guy.  And, yes, he used deadly force on his people.  But that happens every day somewhere in the world.  Attacking Libya is like beating up a 90 year old ex-Nazi.  Yeah, there may be some justice in it.  But a 90 year old ex-Nazi isn’t a threat to world peace.  But Iran is.  And what are we doing about Iran?  Nothing.  Even though there are democracy movements there.  But we just stand by and do nothing.  Pity we didn’t do that in 1979. 

The Shah of Iran was horrible.  A monster.  In fact, Iran was such a horrible place that girls could get a college education.  Well, college students (i.e., young and educated) started a democracy movement.  Just like those today.  The Iranian Revolution.  And they got rid of the Shah.  But with the Shah went a lot of their liberties.  Girls don’t go to college anymore in Iran.  And regret the day he fell from power.

It’s just like that old saying.  You don’t know what you have until you lose it.  And that other old saying.  I used to bitch about being poor and unemployed until I found out what it meant to be a second-class citizen without any rights. 

Our allies in the Middle East know who the real enemy is.  We should start listening to them more.  And less to the people who sent us into Libya.  Before it’s too late.

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Obama’s ‘help’ may Lose the Middle East to Radical Islam

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 25th, 2011

Libya no Worse than other Humanitarian Crises

Everyone is still asking that question.  Why Libya?  The Middle East and Africa are full of humanitarian crises.  Yet we’re not bombing them.  Is their suffering not as bad as the Libyan suffering?  Or are their people simply not worth saving?  People want to know.  Because people are suffering everywhere. 

[Syria]  Violence erupted around Syria on Friday as troops opened fire on protesters in several cities and pro- and anti-government crowds clashed on the tense streets of the capital in the most widespread unrest in years, witnesses said.  -By Associated Press, The Washington Post, 3/25/2011 

[Bahrain]  Clashes erupted in Shiite villages across Bahrain on Friday as antigovernment protesters defied a government ban on public gatherings, despite a beefed-up presence by the military and security forces.  -By Joe Parkinson, The Wall Street Journal, 3/25/2011 

[Ivory Coast]  Up to one million Ivorians have now fled fighting in the main city Abidjan alone, with others uprooted across the country, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday as violence escalated in a 4-month power struggle.  – Stephany Nebehay, Reuters, 3/25/2011 

[Yemen]  With hundreds of thousands of rival demonstrators on Sanaa’s streets, soldiers fired warning shots to prevent loyalists whipped up by Mr Saleh’s speech attacking anti-regime protesters on Friday, the Muslim day of prayers and rest… The rallies came one week after a bloodbath in which 52 protesters were gunned down by Saleh loyalists, drawing widespread international condemnation and a spate of defections from within his ruling circle.  -By AFP, ABC News, 3/25/2011 

And there’s more.  Iran.  North Korea.  And others.  It’s everywhere.  Suffering.  But you know why we’re not helping any of these nations?  Because it’s too much for anyone to do.  Suffering is bad but it is NOT the United States’ duty to end it all.  And yet we’re trying to do just that in Libya.  Was the Qaddafi regime a great threat to American security interests?  No.  He’s been pretty quiet since the Iraq War.  He seemed content to oppress his people and leave others alone.  Perhaps the others noted above were even less dangerous than Qaddafi.  Perhaps in comparison they’re just docile pussy cats.

If any Nation Deserves Regime Change it’s Syria

Let’s look at Syria.  They make no secret of the fact that they don’t like America.  Or Israel.  They are behind a lot of unrest in the Middle East.  They want to see the whole region under Sharia Law.  And be less friendly with the West.  As bad as Qaddafi was, he did sell a lot of his oil to the West.  So that would make Syria more of a national security concern than Libya.  But we’re not bombing Syria.  Perhaps the Syrian violence just isn’t that bad (see Resident says troops open fire on protesters in Daraa, other Syrian cities by Associated Press posted 3/25/2011 on The Washington Post).

The violence erupted after tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country, shouting calls for greater freedoms in support of a more than week-long uprising in Daraa, according to witnesses, activists and footage posted online…

An activist in Damascus in touch with eyewitnesses in the southern village of Sanamein said troops there opened fire on demonstrators trying to march to Daraa, a short distance away. He said there had been witness reports of fatalities, some claiming as many as 20 slain, but those could not be independently confirmed…

About 200 people demonstrated after the Friday prayers at the Thawra Bridge, near the central Marjeh Square, chanting “our souls, our blood we sacrifice for you Daraa!” and “freedom! freedom!” They were chased by security forces who beat them some of them with batons and detained others, an activist said on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.

No.  That isn’t it.  That’s some pretty bad violence.  That’s Qaddafi bad.  Killing your own people.  And it is far worse than what Mubarak was doing in Egypt.  He didn’t turn the army against his people.  And yet Obama said he had to go. But we’re not attacking Syria.  With bombs.  Or words.  Perhaps Syria is a strategic force for stability in the Middle East.  Like how Iraq balanced Iran once upon a time.  We supported Iraq then.  Because Iraq balanced the greater risk in Iran.  Like that old saying.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  So maybe Syria offsets the ‘big bad’ in the Middle East.

Assad, a close ally of Iran and its regional proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, has promised increased freedoms for discontented citizens and increased pay and benefits for state workers — a familiar package of incentives offered by other nervous Arab regimes in recent weeks.

No.  That ain’t it either.  Syria is cozy with all the ‘big bads’ in the Middle East.  The powers that want to kill Jews, Americans and all other infidels.  But wait.  It gets worse.

Shaaban, the presidential adviser, also said the Baath party would study ending a state of emergency that it put in place after taking power in 1963.

The emergency laws, which have been a feature of many Arab countries, allow people to be arrested without warrants and imprisoned without trial. Human rights groups say violations of other basic liberties are rife in Syria, with torture and abuse common in police stations, detention centers and prisons, and dissenters regularly imprisoned for years without due process.

The Baath party?  Sound familiar?  That was the party of Saddam Hussein.  Emergency laws since 1963?  Arrests without warrants?  Imprisoned without trial?  Torture and abuse?  No due process?  This is bad stuff.  What some would call a humanitarian crisis.  Like the one in Libya.  But as bad as that all sounds, it’s the Iraq connection that is most troubling.

Before the Iraq War, Iraq and Syria were close.  So close that many think those weapons of mass destruction we were looking for in Iraq were hidden in Syria during the run-up to war.  We know Saddam had them.  He used them on the Iranians.  And the Kurds.  But he never documented their destruction.  So if he hid them in Syria they may still be there.  They may have been hesitant to use them thus far because we could probably trace them back to them.  Especially if they had Iraqi markings on them.  But if all these ‘democracy’ movements in the Middle East and North Africa gather steam, they could become a problem.  If the region goes Muslim Brotherhood and is closer to Iran and/or al Qaeda, Syria won’t be the only country to see the world the way they do.  And they may feel safe enough to use these weapons.  Should they have them.  Oh, and Israel would be surrounded by countries that have the destruction of Israel at the top of their top-10 list.  And that is very bad.  Because that could start a world war.  Shut off the oil supply to the Western economies.  And plunge the world into a depression.

The Muslim Brotherhood Establishing an Islamic State in Egypt?

So let’s back up a bit.  Let’s take a closer look at these ‘democracy’ movements.  Are they really democracy movements?  Or are they more theocracy movements?  Well, in Egypt, things aren’t looking good for democracy (see Islamist Group Is Rising Force in a New Egypt by Michael Slackman posted 3/24/2011 on The New York Times).

In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

Sound familiar?  This is what happened in Iran.  The young people who started the revolution didn’t end the revolution.  Ayatollah Khomeini ended it.  With one of the most oppressive theocracies in the Middle East.  And those young women in the Iranian Revolution?  They don’t protest anymore.  They live good Muslim lives under Sharia Law.  Whether they like it or not.

“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group…

 “We are all worried,” said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. “The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone…”

When the new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, addressed the crowd in Tahrir Square this month, Mohamed el-Beltagi, a prominent Brotherhood member, stood by his side. A Brotherhood member was also appointed to the committee that drafted amendments to the Constitution.

The big question was would Mubarak turn the army on the people.  Or, should he, if the army would follow that order.  You see, the people respected the army.  Most had family that had or were serving in the army.  The army was good.  It was the security forces the people hated.  Not the army.  It was the army the people thought they could trust.  And now we’re hearing that they struck a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood?  That’s very ominous.  As are the beards.  That’s hardcore, conservative Islam.  Like they have in Iran.  And that sure ain’t what the protestors wanted in Egypt.  I mean, there were women in those crowds.  If Egypt goes the way of the bearded men, these women will never protest anything ever again.  Just like in Iran.

And the lying has begun.  Egypt was a secular country.  But they still had their religion.  It was still a Muslim country.  Like Turkey.  There’s the state.  And the religion.  Both very important parts of life in these countries.  But separate parts.  Now it appears secular means state atheism.  Like in the former Soviet Union.  Or in parts of America where anything goes.  According to the more radical elements in Egypt, at least.

“The problem is that our country will be without a religion,” read a flier distributed in Cairo by a group calling itself the Egyptian Revolution Society. “This means that the call to the prayer will not be heard anymore like in the case of Switzerland, women will be banned from wearing the hijab like in the case of France,” it said, referring to the Muslim head scarf. “And there will be laws that allow men to get married to men and women to get married to women like in the case of America.”

Talk about scare tactics.  If you don’t vote for a more conservative Islam there will be no Islam.  People will be free.  Women will be free.  And gay, I guess.  All horrible thoughts to the conservative Muslim.  And a lot of Muslim men who are just not fans of feminism.

This is not to say that the Brotherhood is intent on establishing an Islamic state…

None of that has changed, Mr. Erian, the spokesman, said in an interview. “We are keen to spread our ideas and our values,” he said. “We are not keen for power.”

He would not comment on whether the Brotherhood had an arrangement with the military, but he said the will of the people to shift toward Islam spoke for itself and was a sign of Egypt’s emerging democratic values. “Don’t trust the intellectuals, liberals and secularists,” Mr. Erian said. “They are a minor group crying all the time. If they don’t work hard, they have no future.”

Warning Klaxons should be going off.  These are things that dictators say before they oppress their people.  Why, you can almost see the reassuring eyes and the soothing voice of Ayatollah Khomeini as he calmed the anxious Iranian people shortly after 1979.  Before those eyes became scary.  And we all saw how that turned out.  Oppressive theocratic rule.  And the odds just got better for the same in Egypt.

Virginity Tests in Egypt

And it’s already started (see Egypt women protesters forced to take ‘virginity tests’ posted 3/24/2011 on the BBC).

A leading rights group says the Egyptian army arrested, tortured and forced women to take “virginity tests” during protests earlier this month.

Amnesty International is calling on the authorities in Cairo to investigate.

It says at least 18 female protesters were arrested after army officers cleared Tahrir Square on 9 March.

It says they were then beaten, given electric shocks and strip searched.

The army denies the allegations.

This isn’t what the women in the crowds were protesting for.  And the reason these women were protesting?  Because they could.  Egypt was one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East.  Women had some of the greatest freedoms enjoyed in a Muslim country.  Not anymore.

A 20-year-old woman, Salwa Hosseini, told Amnesty she was forced to take off all her clothes by a female prison guard in a room with open doors and a window.

She said that male soldiers looked in and took photographs of her while she was naked.

The demonstrator said a man in a white coat later carried out a ‘virginity check’ on her and she was threatened with prostitution charges.

“Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women,” a spokesperson for Amnesty International said in a statement.

Mubarak may have been bad.  But he wasn’t that bad.  The painful moral of this story is to be careful what you ask for.  The enemy you know is often better than the enemy you don’t know.  Unfortunately we sometimes learn this lesson too late.  Including presidents.  For it was a mistake to throw Mubarak under the bus.  Middle East scholars knew it then.  And the rest of us are learning it now.  And now we’re helping to destabilize Libya.  That, too, could turn out to be a mistake.  Because we don’t know who the rebels are.  Just like we didn’t know who they were in Egypt.  So the chances are good that what happens in Egypt could very well happen in Libya.  A “shift towards Islam.”

Of course, there are a couple of countries in the Middle East that probably warrant our involvement.  Two come to mind.  Iran.  And Syria.  Things could only get better in these countries.  Yet we don’t help the protesters in these sovereign countries.  So when President Obama finally tells us why Libya, perhaps he can tell us why not in countries that already hate us.  And while he’s explaining these great mysteries perhaps he can tell us why he’s undermining our allies in the Middle East.  Is there a method to this madness?  Or is it just madness?

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Political Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa: Democracy in Action or an Extension of the Iranian Revolution?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 26th, 2011

Democracy Movements Sow the Seeds of Shariah Law

The Arab world is ablaze with democracy movements.  Which is creating disorder and chaos.  A most fertile ground for Shariah law to take root and grow (see AP’s Al-Qaida calls for revolt against Arab rulers posted 2/26/2011 on myway).

Al-Qaida’s offshoot in Yemen urged Muslims to revolt against Arab rulers and establish governments based on Islamic law, according to an audio tape posted Saturday on militant websites…

He also said toppling longtime rulers is not enough and that new governments must be established based on Islamic religious law, or Shariah.

“One tyrant goes, only to be replaced another who may fix for the people some of their worldly issues by offering job opportunities and increasing their income, but the greater problem remains,” al-Rubeish said, according to a translation provided by SITE.

This is how the Iranian Revolution ended in a rigid theocracy.  Nothing at all what those female college students wanted when protesting against the Shah.  But this is the danger of revolution.  Disorder and chaos tend to favor the less savory types.  People with ulterior motives.  Who never let a good crisis go to waste.

Big Trouble in Little Bahrain

Bahrain is ripe for chaos.  A majority Shiite population ruled by a Sunni minority.  Home to an American naval fleet.  Supported by Saudi Arabia who is seen as too friendly to the United States.  And now an exile returns home (see Key Shi’ite opposition leader returns to Bahrain by Adam Schreck, Associated Press, posted 2/26/2011 on The Washington Times).

A prominent Bahraini opposition leader returned home from exile Saturday and urged the Gulf kingdom’s rulers to back up promises of political reform with action.

The return of Hassan Mushaima, a senior Shi’ite figure, could mark a new phase for an anti-government movement in the tiny nation which is strategically important for the U.S. because it hosts the U.S. Navy‘s 5th Fleet.

Mr. Mushaima heads a Shi’ite group known as Haq, which is considered more hard-line than the main Shi’ite political bloc that has led two weeks of protests. Mr. Mushaima returned Saturday from several months of voluntary exile in London, with a stop in Lebanon.

A more hard-line Shiite?  Sort of like in Iran?  This reminds me of someone.  I seem to recall another opposition leader in exile who returned to Iran following that democratic revolution.  What was his name?  It’s on the tip of my tongue.  Who was that?  Oh, yes.  Now I remember.  Ayatollah Khomeini.  In exile he wanted but one thing.  For the Shah of Iran and his government to be overthrown.  (And he wanted to impose Shariah law but he didn’t tell the people about that.  He would surprise them with that one later.  After he seized power.)  Surely Mr. Mushaima wasn’t in exile for anything like this.

Mr. Mushaima had been among a group of Shi’ite activists accused of plotting to overthrow Bahrain‘s rulers.

Then again he could have been in exile for exactly the same thing.  But is this any cause for concern?

Bahrain is the first Gulf state to be thrown into turmoil by the Arab world’s wave of change. The unrest is highly significant for Washington because Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy‘s 5th Fleet, which is the Pentagon’s main counterweight against Iran’s widening military ambitions.

Well, as long as we have nothing to fear from Iran, there should be no problem.  And what has Iran been doing lately that should worry us?

Iran Working on the Ingredients to Build an Atomic Bomb

Iran has been trying to build an atomic bomb.  They deny this but they have begun enriching uranium.  And enriched uranium is an ingredient of an atomic bomb.  But we can take Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his word, can’t we?  Sure, he denies the Holocaust.  And he wants to wipe Israel from the face of the planet.  And he oppresses his people.  Locks up dissidents.  But despite all that, then candidate Barack Obama said he would sit down with this man and talk with him.  So that must mean he’s a reasonable man.

Well, that.  Or Obama is woefully naive and ignorant of Middle East history.  Ahmadinejad is a threat and a loose cannon in the Middle East.  Everyone should be worried about him.  And not trust a single word he says (he supported the democracy movement in Egypt while cracking down on dissidents in Iran).  He’s up to something.  And a bad something, no doubt.  Others know this.  And have taken action to delay his atomic bomb making ability.  Many believe that these people launched the Stuxnet computer virus with the objective of interrupting the Iranian nuclear program.  This malware spun some of their uranium-enrichment centrifuges out of control, damaging them.  It would appear they are unloading the uranium fuel to make repairs, further delaying their ability to make an atomic bomb.

Some will object to this interference into a sovereign nation.  And some have criticized those in the West.  Who are we to say who can and cannot have a nuclear program?  Well, the West has never started a nuclear war.  It would appear that we can’t get the same kind of assurance out of Iran (see Iran nuclear plans: Bushehr fuel to be unloaded posted 2/26/2011 on BBC News Middle East).

The IAEA report – obtained by the BBC and made available online by the Institute for Science and International Security (Isis) – says Iran is “not implementing a number of its obligations.”

These include “clarification of the remaining outstanding issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme”.

Six world powers are negotiating with Iran over its nuclear programme, and the country is subject to United Nations Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

Enriched uranium can be used for civilian nuclear purposes, but also to build atomic bombs.

The United States has been a nuclear power since 1945.  Who in the world today is worried about a U.S. nuclear first strike?  No one.  It’s not who we are.  And our history of being a nuclear power proves it.  Now who thinks Iran can be trusted with nuclear weapons like the U.S.?  Only those who see the world through the same prism as Iran.  Those people who want to see Israel and the United States destroyed.  Other, rational people know the world will be a more dangerous place with a nuclear Iran.

Saudi Arabia on the Right Side of Soviet Communism and Iranian Hegemony

And we come back to Bahrain.  Which can be the fuse to the tinderbox growing in the Middle East and North Africa (see Could the next Mideast uprising happen in Saudi Arabia? by Rachel Bronson posted 2/25/2011 on The Washington Post).

The unrest in Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and Yemen (to the kingdom’s west, east and south) plays on the Saudis’ greatest fear: encirclement. The Saudis aligned with the United States instead of colonial Britain in the early 20th century in part to defend against creeping British hegemony. During the Cold War the monarchy hunkered down against its Soviet-backed neighbors out of fear of being surrounded by communist regimes. And since the end of the Cold War, the overarching goal of Saudi foreign policy has been countering the spread of Iranian influence in all directions – Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Yemen…

Sunni-ruled Bahrain, less than 20 miles from Saudi Arabia’s oil- and Shiite-rich Eastern Province, has been a longtime recipient of Saudi aid. It has also been a focus of Iranian interests.

The Saudis are “concerned about the events unfolding in Bahrain and throughout the region.”  And they weren’t too happy with President Obama on Egypt.  They were “reportedly furious that the Obama administration ultimately supported regime change in Egypt, because of the precedent it could set.”  And for good reason.  The Saudis have always been on our side.  I mean, they’re not perfect, but it doesn’t get much better in the Muslim Middle East.

The United States has a great deal at stake in Saudi Arabia, though Americans often look at the Saudis with distaste. As one senior Saudi government official once asked me: “What does the United States share with a country where women can’t drive, the Koran is the constitution and beheadings are commonplace?” It’s a tough question, but the answer, quite simply, is geopolitics – and that we know and like Saudi’s U.S.-educated liberal elites.

The Saudis have been helpful to us. They are reasonably peaceful stalwarts. They don’t attack their neighbors, although they do try to influence them, often by funding allies in local competitions for power. They are generally committed to reasonable oil prices. For example, although their oil is not a direct substitute for Libyan sweet crude, the Saudis have offered to increase their supply to offset any reduction in Libyan production due to the violence there. We work closely with them on counterterrorism operations. And the Saudis are a counterbalance to Iran. We disagree on the Israel-Palestinian issue, but we don’t let it get in the way of other key interests.

Saudi Arabia is not in as bad economic conditions as the other nations falling into unrest.  It may not fall.  But if Bahrain falls under hard-line Shiite control, that’s not going to help the Saudis.  The Middle East.  The United States.  Or world peace.  Before that happens, we should consider treating our friends better than our enemies.

Will Democracy Win the Day for Oppressive, Authoritarian Rule?

As volatile regions go, they don’t come much more volatile than the Middle East.  And, like it or not, many of the world’s economies are dependent on their oil.  We know this.  They know it.  And our enemies know it.

As chaos spreads opportunity knocks.  And it’s clear who is knocking.  Iran.  We have kept this oppressive, authoritarian regime’s ambitions in check so far.  It’s rather ironic, then, that it’s greatest enemy may be the key for her success.  Democracy.  In other countries.  That will cause chaos that Iran can exploit.  Much like they did during the Iranian Revolution. 

History does have a funny way of repeating itself, doesn’t it?

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An Egyptian Dictator is bad while an Iranian one is Okay?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 11th, 2011

The Handling of the Egyptian Crisis not our Finest Moment

Mubarak is out.  And the military is in.  They will try to restore order now and keep the country from degenerating into anarchy.  But did we back the right horse?

Early on the Obama administration joined the ‘democratic’ protesters in calls for Mubarak’s resignation.  Even though it looked like we didn’t know what was going on in Egypt (see Crisis Flummoxes White House by Adam Entous and Jay Solomon posted 2/11/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

All day, as rumors swirled Mr. Mubarak would step down, administration officials struggled to understand what was happening, and even U.S. intelligence officials appeared baffled at one point. At a Capitol Hill hearing, Leon Panetta, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers there was “a strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down this evening…”

A senior intelligence official defended Mr. Panetta, saying he was referring to press reports in his comments rather than to CIA intelligence reports.

Interesting.  Our intelligence chief uses the same press reports you and I read to brief Congress.  Probably was not a good idea.  Anything we can read will be in English.  And written for us.  The people who matter?  Those in the midst of the crisis?  They don’t read English.  Because English isn’t the official Egyptian language.  Funny, those Egyptians.  Using their native tongue.  Actually, that’s quite common throughout the world.  That’s why we usually collect intelligence from agents inside the country who immerse themselves in the language and customs of the local people.  That way we understand what the common Egyptian on the street is thinking.  Just hope that the rest of the intelligence we used came from hard sources.

Arab and Israeli diplomats said Mr. Obama’s decision to throw his full support behind the opposition after eight days of protests has likely broken ties with Mr. Mubarak beyond repair.

The move also had the effect of pushing Mr. Mubarak closer to regional allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have urged Mr. Mubarak to hold his ground.

As a result, said one Arab diplomat, Washington’s influence in dictating events in Cairo could be limited…

“I don’t think Mubarak trusts too many people from the U.S. anymore,” the Arab diplomat said. “It looks like Omar Suleiman is the right point of contact, but they’re all ticked off with the U.S. position, which they view as throwing Mubarak under the bus.”

We keep hearing about what a dictator Mubarak was.  If he was a dictator, he was a dictator that helped keep the region stable.  He honored the peace treaty with Israel.  He kept the Suez Canal open to navigation.  He supported us during Desert Storm.  He was on our side during Iraqi Freedom.  He has a secular government that has repressed radical Islam.  Yeah, we’re giving him a boatload of foreign aid, and there’s poverty and unemployment throughout Egypt, but to throw him under the bus?  We should be more careful in what we wish for.

In talks with American counterparts in Washington Thursday, top Israeli officials accompanying Defense Minister Ehud Barak made a similar case, warning that the upheaval could be the start of a broader “earthquake” that could sweep the region, said officials briefed on the exchange.

They questioned Washington’s wisdom in appearing to push for Mr. Mubarak’s ouster and whether the military can keep chaos and Islamist forces at bay, a participant said.

Israeli officials also told the U.S. Thursday that right-wing parties in Israel could gain strength in future Israeli elections as a result, complicating efforts to advance peace talks with Palestinians.

Mubarak was an ally.  Israel is an Ally.  The Palestinians?  Not quite an ally.  And yet we choose a course of action that hurts an ally.  And possibly benefits the nation who perhaps is not best aligned with American interests.  Funny.  Not in a ha ha way.  But in a puzzling, confusing way.

One of the biggest questions facing the administration is the future role of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Mr. Clapper, on Capitol Hill, muddied the picture when he called the group “largely secular,” despite long-standing U.S. concerns about its Islamist roots and ties to extremism.

Mr. Clapper’s spokeswoman, Jamie Smith, later issued a clarification, citing the Brotherhood’s efforts to work through Egypt’s political system. Mr. Clapper “is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization.”

Oh, this doesn’t help.  Calling a group with a religion in its name secular.  Not only have we thrown an ally under the buss, but we’ve made ourselves look clueless at the highest levels of government.  If the Muslim Brotherhood takes power in Egypt, Egypt will become more like Iran than Egypt.  And if you haven’t been keeping score, that’s the worst possible outcome of this Egyptian crisis.

Our Allies Worry, our Enemies Jubilant

And how are our other allies in the region taking this?  They’re not exactly whistling a happy tune (see Neighbors Rattled by Egypt Shift by Angus McDowall, Richard Boudreaux and Joel Millman posted 2/11/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

The resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Friday rattled regional allies and foes alike, threatening a decades long balance of power in the Mideast and putting Saudi Arabia and Israel, in particular, on the defensive.

Our two strongest allies in the area are now on the defensive.  That doesn’t sound like they were all for the removal of the stabilizing Mubarak.  How about a terrorist group in the region?  How do they feel?

Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite Muslim political and militant group, issued a statement of congratulations to Egypt. Mr. Mubarak has long battled to curb the influence of Hezbollah’s key sponsor, Iran. Celebratory gunfire broke out in some neighborhoods of Lebanon’s capital, Beirut. Cars honked their horns and people waved victory signs.

That doesn’t sound good.  Our friends feel threatened.  And those who aren’t friendly with us are celebratory.  It looks like we just strengthened Iran’s client in the area.  And how about Iran itself?

Iranian officials have been gloating over the turmoil in Egypt for weeks, comparing it to the Islamic revolution that toppled the shah more than 30 years ago. On Friday, Iran’s national news agency IRNA ran headlines including “Egypt is Without a Pharaoh” and “The Great Victory of the Egyptian People.”

“We congratulate the great nation of Egypt on this victory and we share their happiness,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in a statement on Friday.

Oh, that is not good at all.  Iran and Egypt were not friends.  Now Iran likes what’s happening in Egypt.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why.  Their client, Hezbollah, was sandwiched between our two allies in the Gaza Strip.  Israel on the north and east.  And Egypt in the south.  No doubt Iran is looking at the possibilities in the Gaza Strip now that their old nemesis is gone.  Elsewhere?

In Amman, the capital of Jordan, and in the Palestinian West Bank, fireworks and honking horns also greeted the announcement. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip set off fireworks and shot firearms into the air to celebrate. Mr. Mubarak’s regime is widely blamed there for cooperating with Israel to isolate the enclave since it came under the rule of the Islamist movement Hamas nearly five years ago.

And this is even worse.  Should Jordan follow the way of Egypt, Israel will be surrounded by the most hostile of peoples.  This could lead to a huge disabling force in the Middle East.  Israel will never see peace.  And neither will Iraq.  All our blood and treasure spent in Iraq could be for naught.  And this will cause trouble with one of our most stalwart allies in the region.  Saudi Arabia. 

Mr. Mubarak’s departure represents a significant diplomatic setback for Riyadh. Egypt and Saudi Arabia has collaborated to counter what they see as growing Iranian influence in the region and also against al Qaeda.

“Saudi Arabia has lost a loyal ally today,” said Madawi al-Rasheed, professor of social anthropology of Kings College, London.

Saudi Arabia has been in a very difficult position.  Their large Wahhabi sect has been a major funding source for al Qaeda.  The Wahhabis, Sunnis, don’t like the House of Saud because they’re too Western.  But the Saudis had been reluctant to crack down on them for their al Qaeda funding lest it sparked civil unrest in the kingdom.  But they hate each other.  Make no bones about it.  But they tolerate each other.  Because of their mutual hatred of someone else.  Shiite Iran.   The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  To a certain extent.  Our invasion of Iraq forced the Saudis to crack down on that al Qaeda funding.  Because they would rather suffer a little civil unrest in their kingdom than see Shiite Iran filling the power void in a Saddam Hussein-less Iraq.

Now they, and a large percentage of the world’s oil reserves, are at risk.  Which brings us back to that earlier question.  Did we back the right horse in Egypt?

Mum’s the word on the Iranian Dictatorship

The name that keeps coming up in all of this is Iran.  They’re the great destabilizing force in the Middle East.  They hate us.  And have been our enemy since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 during the Carter administration.  They’re working on a nuclear weapons program.  They have vowed to incinerate Israel.  If we support the overthrow of any regime it should be the Iranian regime.  But when they take to the streets, we’re surprisingly mute (see Iranian opposition leader under house arrest after protests call by Saeed Kamali Dehghan posted 2/10/2011 on guardian.co.uk).

Iran has put opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest after he called for renewed street protests against the government, his son told the Guardian.

The move came after thousands of Iranians sympathetic to the opposition green movement joined social networking websites to promote demonstrations on Monday in solidarity with protesters in Egypt and Tunisia.

For some reason, the Obama administration is all for democracy movements when they take place in nations friendly to the United States.  But not in our enemies.  Even when they have a worst record of human rights abuses.  And have committed the same acts of oppression the Egyptians have.

At the same time, opposition websites reported a series of arrests of political activists and journalists as the regime struggles to prevent the news of the planned protest from spreading.

Access to the blogging site WordPress was blocked and internet download speeds appeared to have been reduced.

Arresting political activists?  Shutting down social media?  Where’s the outcry like there was over Egypt?

The Revolutionary Guards, the regime’s most powerful military force, have warned against any protest. Commander Hossein Hamedani told Iran’s IRNA state news agency that the they consider the opposition leaders as “anti-revolutionary and spies and will strongly confront them”.

“The seditionists [opposition leaders] are nothing but a dead corpse and we will strongly confront any of their movements,” he said.

A threat by the most powerful military force?  Where’s the outrage?  Egypt didn’t do this and yet we demanded that the great dictator step down from power.  But Iran can oppress their people without a comment from the Obama administration.  Why?

Nice Guys Finish Last in the Middle East

It would appear that this is an extension of the apology tour.  Our foreign policy strategy appears to be this.  Be nice at all costs to our enemies.  So they will stop hating us.  Don’t flex our strength.  Roll over and show them our soft underbelly to show how willing we are to trust them. 

The problem is that they don’t respect weakness.  They just see weakness as room for them to maneuver.  To get more of what they want.  By making us give up more of our vital national security interests.  And we’re seeing that play out in the Middle East.  One ally is out of power.  And an enemy expands their reach.  All the while working on a nuclear bomb.

It’s times like this you miss a Ronald Reagan.  Or a George W. Bush.  Or one of the other grownups we had in office.  Someone who isn’t naive and easily fooled.  Someone our enemies hated.  But respected.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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