Israel Rejects pre-1967 Borders, Sees it as Surrender

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 21st, 2011

Empires Come and Empires Go

As empires go, few were as great and long lasting as the Roman Empire.  At the height of empire, the Romans ruled most of Briton, Europe, parts of Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.  The empire was so vast that the Romans split it in half.  The Western Empire survived about 500 Years.  The Eastern Empire survived about 1,500 years.  The last thousand years of the Eastern Empire, the Byzantine Empire, ruled North Africa and the Middle East.  Including the ancient Jewish homeland.

The Byzantine Empire eventually fell to Muslim invaders.  And the Christian lands of the Roman Empire became Muslim.  Including the Jewish homeland.  The Muslims conquered the previous conquerors.  And to the victors went the spoils.  Parts of the Roman Empire in Spain, North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Eastern Europe became part of a new Muslim Empire (caliphate).  There were about 1,000 years of war that expanded and contracted the empire.  At the tail end of this empire was the Ottoman Empire.  Which World War I ended.  The Ottomans were on the losing side of that war.  The British were on the winning side.  And to the victors went the spoils.  They administered the land called Palestine.  And in exchange for Jewish and Arab support in the war against the Ottomans, the British promised both land carved out of the defeated Ottoman Empire.  In the British Mandate for Palestine, the Jews would get back their Jewish homeland.

It was easier on paper, though.  There were a lot of issues to resolve.  And many of those the Arabs felt were resolved not in their best interests.  And, well, there hasn’t been peace in the Middle East since.

A Peace Settlement or a Surrender Settlement?

The Jews created their Jewish state in 1948.  Covering less than half of the ancient Jewish homeland.  The Kingdom of Israel.  The Six-Day War (1967) pushed those borders further out.  The surrounding Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan and Syria) were massing to invade Israel.  But Israel struck first.  Took out the Egyptian Air Force.  Which gave them air superiority.  That allowed them to push the Arabs back.  And take the Golan Heights from Syria.  The West Bank from Jordan.  And the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.  They still have the Golan Heights and the West Bank.  Which serves as strategic ground against further invasions.  And they’re reluctant to give them up.  For if they do, they will become as vulnerable to attack as they were in 1967. 

In a recent speech, U.S. President Obama called for the Israelis to do just that.  To restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by first going back to the pre-1967 boundaries.  And that the issue of Palestinian refugees (rather, the descendants of the original refugees) will have to be negotiated.   The Israelis do not see this as negotiation.  They see it as surrender.  For the Palestinian refugees want to return to Jewish land.  So the two-state solution will have a Palestinian state and a Jewish/Palestinian state.  Surrounded by enemies that will now be closer.  And with a terrorist organization, Hamas, which has as its primary goal the destruction of Israel, now forming a unity government with Fatah.  The only thing missing from this proposal is a blindfold and cigarette for Israel.

And yet there are those who speak with indignation about the Israelis refusing to negotiate for peace (see Palestinians to proceed with U.N. recognition bid by the Associated Press posted 5/21/2011 on CBS News).

Senior Palestinian officials say that negotiations with Israel have become pointless after Israel’s prime minister rejected President Barack Obama’s call to base Mideast border talks on the pre-1967 war lines…

[Israeli Prime Minster] Netanyahu laid out hardline positions after his meeting with resident Obama at the White House on Friday. He said the 1967 borders were “indefensible,” that the Palestinians could forget about resettling Palestinian refugees in Israel and that [Palestinian President] Abbas would have to choose between peace with Israel and reconciliation with Hamas…

[Aide to Abbas] Erekat said late Friday that Netanyahu’s statements make it clear the Israeli leader is not a partner for peace, suggesting there is no point in returning to negotiations.

“I don’t think we can talk about a peace process with a man who says the 1967 lines are an illusion, that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel, undivided, and he does not want a single (Palestinian) refugee to go back,” Erekat said. “What is left to negotiate about?”

This from a government pursuing a unity agreement with Hamas who still fires missiles into Israel.  They must know what they are asking for.  And no doubt do.  Repositioning for the final assault on Israel.  At least that’s what it must look like from the Jewish side.

To the Victors go the Spoils

Just about everyone has fought for the ancient lands of the Kingdom of Israel.  Even before King David‘s time.  Military conquest has been the diplomacy tool of choice forever.  The Jews weren’t happy to see the land wrested from them by the Romans (or the numerous conquerors before the Romans came).  The Romans weren’t happy to see the land taken by the Muslims.  And the Muslims weren’t happy to see that land taken away by the Allies with the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. 

There was a lot of map redrawing after World War I.  Including in the Middle East.  Map redrawing often results in civil wars.  And the result of one of these wars was the creation of the Jewish state of Israel.  Which resulted in a refugee problem.  The Jews accepted the displaced Jews into the new Jewish state.  No Arab state wanted the displaced Arabs.  They became a people without a country.  But with a cause.

All these years later there is still no peace.  And people want to right wrongs.  To give land back to the rightful owners.  But their history suffers from tunnel vision.  They see only what they want.  The Arabs want to go back to the height of their military conquest.  Their caliphate.  For that military conquest was good.  But not the ones before.  Or the ones after.  For they agree to the victors go the spoils.  But only when they are the victors.

The problem with going back in time to correct wrongs is that history is full of past wrongs.  So how far back should we go correcting past wrongs?  Back to the original wrong?  To the first time someone took another’s land?  To undo what the Persian Empire did?  Undo what the Egyptians did?  Undo what the Sumerians did?  Undo what Homo sapiens did to the Neanderthals

You can go back forever and find a people that wronged another.  It is our history.  And a violent history at that.  But as we became more civilized we became less violent.  More of us are able to live together.  Peacefully.  And that is the direction we should continue to progress.  We need to stop living in the past.  To stop using that diplomacy tool we call military conquest.  The days of military expansionism are over.  Or should be over.  And you shouldn’t use diplomatic negotiation as a ruse to prepare for a military conquest.  Which it looks like the Palestinian side is doing in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

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Obama Shocks Israel in Middle East Speech on Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 20th, 2011

The Six-Day War

In 1967, Israel was surrounded by armed forces from Egypt, Syria and Jordan (with some Iraqi assistance).  Egypt troops massed in the Sinai and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping.  An act of war in Israel’s book.  Again.  Instead of waiting for the attack, the Israeli Air Force executed a surprise attack on the Egyptian Air Force.  Wiped it out.  Gave Israel air superiority throughout the conflict we call the Six-Day War.  Which allowed it to repel the Arab assault.  Israel then went on the offensive.  And gained ground.  Moved the borders to more defendable positions.  Took the Golan Heights from Syria, making it harder for the Syrians to attack again.  Took the West Bank of the River Jordan (and East Jerusalem), making it harder for the Jordanians to attack again.  And took the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, making it harder for the Egyptians to attack again.

Of course, moving borders like this creates problems.  Though Israel was now more secure, there were some one million Arabs now living under Israeli occupation.  And a lot of refugees who were looking for a place to call home.  Many since the 1948 Israeli creation.  But no one wanted them.  So they lived in refugee camps just outside of Israel.  In sort of a ‘no-nation’ land.  Wanting to go home.  Where there was no longer a home for them.

Obama says Israel needs to Return to pre-1967 Borders

President Obama gave a speech on Thursday (5/19/2011).  The subject was the Middle East.  The democracy movements.  And the Israeli–Palestinian peace process.  It was the peace process comments that people are talking about today.  For he dropped a bomb on Israel.  Figuratively, of course.  He said the Israeli borders should return to what they were prior to the Six-Day War.  Which is very problematic for the Israelis.  First of all, it would make them very vulnerable to another pan-Arab attack.  And this inconvenient fact.  There are a lot of Israelis now living on that land that will be on the wrong side of the redrawn border.  That’s a bit of a problem, especially with all those refugees wanting to return home.  Israel is not happy.  And neither is much of the Arab world.  Because they wanted even more.  Such as Egypt’s UN ambassador (see Egypt says Obama speech will help Palestinians by Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press, posted 5/20/2011 on The Daily News Egypt).

Abdelaziz welcomed Obama’s support for the pre-1967 borders with “mutually agreed swaps” of land because it “runs in conjunction with the efforts by the Palestinian leadership to garner the most possible number of recognitions of the state of Palestine on the borders of 1967, with those swaps.”

But the Egyptian ambassador said Obama missed an opportunity to address other key issues including Israel’s continued settlement activities, water, ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the return of refugees “which is a critical issue,” and the Palestinian demand for East Jerusalem as its capital.

Yes, the return of refugees.  The “critical issue.”  In other words, they want the right of the refugees to return home.  Not to the new Palestinian state.  But to the Israeli state.  Making it pretty much a Palestinian state, too.  Thus the two-state solution becomes a single-state solution.  And the Arab world gets what it always wanted.  The removal of Israel from the map.

By the time those negotiations end, he said, the next US presidential elections would be over, which presumably would mean the White House would not face the political pressures that exist today and might look favorably on UN membership for Palestine.

Of course, being in office during the destruction of Israel could have a negative impact on anyone’s reelection chances.  What with Israel being such an important U.S. ally.  So if you’re going to throw them under the bus, best to do that after the next election.

New U.S. Policy Position is a Nonstarter for Israel

Israel is not at all pleased with the new U.S. policy position (see Netanyahu Heads to White House After Obama Shift on Palestinian Statehood posted 5/20/2011 on FOX NEWS).

In a statement released late Thursday, Netanyahu said such a withdrawal would put at risk Israel’s security. He effectively called on Obama to recant his latest demand.

“Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace,” the statement said. “Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state. That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004. … Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines.”

It would appear that the new U.S. policy position is a nonstarter for Israel.

Israel Refuses to Negotiate their Destruction

Part of the problem in trying to get an Israeli-Palestinian peace is that some of the Palestinians’ opening bargaining position is the destruction of Israel.  That would be Hamas.  Who still lobs missiles into Israel.  And who just recently moved towards a unity government with Fatah (see Obama, Netanyahu to Meet Amid Tense Backdrop posted 5/20/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

Many U.S. officials had hoped Mr. Netanyahu would use his trip to Washington to lay out new concessions he would be prepared to make as part of a peace agreement.

But hopes have faded significantly in recent weeks, primarily because of the formation of a unity government between the main Palestinian political factions, including the militant organization Hamas, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization. Mr. Netanyahu has stated that he won’t return to negotiations while Hamas is part of the Palestinian side or before it renounces its use of violence against Israel.

So moving the borders back and discussing rights of refugees to return while someone on the other side of the border wants to destroy you is a problem.

An Israeli official said Mr. Netanyahu was disappointed the speech didn’t address the Palestinian demand to repatriate to Israel millions of Palestinians, most descendants of people who were driven from or fled homes in the war over the Jewish state’s 1948 creation.

“There is a feeling that Washington does not understand the reality, Washington does not understand what we face,” the official said.

Either they don’t understand or they have great faith in the Palestinians.  And Hamas.  That they won’t use greatly enhanced positions to do what they’ve been trying to do since 1948.  Or, perhaps, this is some grand plan to win the war on terror.  By abandoning Israel.  And giving Iran the Middle East.  And the Middle East oil.  In a desperate attempt to get America’s enemies to like her.  One thing for sure, though, it’s been proving to be a bad time to be a U.S. ally in the Middle East.

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The Arab Spring may be the Israeli Winter

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 15th, 2011

The Arab Spring may not be all Sunny and Bright

Before anyone tried to win Ben Stein’s money, he was a speechwriter for the Nixon administration.  And the Ford administration.  So Ben Stein is a pretty smart guy.  Though controversial at times.  And he’s been wrong on occasion.  Like about the subprime mortgage market in 2007.  He didn’t think there was a problem.  Of course, there was.  A big one.  Putting people into houses who couldn’t afford houses gave us the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Especially when all the derivatives backed by the subprime mortgages became worthless.  But that’s another story.

So he knows a thing or two about history.  Foreign policy.  And the Middle East.  Looking at what’s going on now in the Middle East, he’s not seeing the “Arab Spring” a lot of others are seeing (see Ben Stein: “Arab Spring” is a fraud by Ben Stein posted 5/15/2011 on CBS News).

First, the “Arab Spring” as a force for democracy, human rights and peace in Egypt seems to me to be a fraud.

The dictator and his entourage who were kicked out in Egypt were pro-West, a bit restrained on Israel, open to free enterprise, and resistant to Iranian-sponsored terror.

Egypt is now rapidly becoming anti-Israel, pro-Iran, pro the Iranian-sponsored terrorist group Hamas, and very far from being pro-human rights. They are arresting businessmen right and left in Egypt just for the crime of being successful. They have arrested Mubarak’s sons, and have said they plan to try Mubarak.

It would seem that their democracy movement is resulting in less democracy than they had under Mubarak‘s dictatorship.  Funny.  You’d thought it’d be the other way around.

The most potent of the political forces in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, hates the United States, loathes Israel, condemns the killing of bin Laden (whom they praised as a martyr), and have been wedded to terror for their entire existence.

Oh, P.S, they are closely connected with Adolph Hitler.

They will probably take over Egypt completely sooner or later.

So the worst political element is also the strongest political element.  Saudi Arabia rejected the offer to bury bin Laden in Saudi soil.  Perhaps if the U.S. asked the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt they would have accepted that offer.  Even built a shrine to honor this ‘martyr’.

Has anyone noticed that the common denominator of all the successful Arab street movements is that they are sympathetic to Iran? When the dust settles, Iran is going to own the Middle East – except for maybe Saudi Arabia, if we have the guts to help them (which I very much doubt).

We are going to lose our pals in Bahrain – not nice guys, but pals of the U.S.A. anyway – and we are going to lose our pals in Yemen, and it will possibly have an actual al Qaeda government.

There is a gigantic regional coup by Iran taking place. We are doing very little, if anything, to stop it.

Yes, Iran is everywhere in these movements.  Wherever there is a Shiite population they are there.  Supporting these democracy movements.  Of course, when Iranians put on a little democracy movement themselves, the Iranian government sees that differently.  And brutally suppresses it.  But they’re all for democracy.  Everywhere but in Iran.

We are going to regret helping the Egyptians kick out Mubarak as much as we regret helping Khomeini force out the Shah.

You can call it “Arab Spring” if you want. But with Iran now the regional superpower, it is a lot more like an extremely bleak Mideast winter.

The Egyptian policy of the Obama administration may prove to be the greatest blunder in U.S. history.  Losing Iran was big.  But it was one country.  If the U.S. loses Egypt, they may very well lose the Middle East.  And the first thing on the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda when they ascend to power no doubt will involve Israel.  Who will be by then completely surrounded.  With a nuclear option.  Faced by an enemy that will no doubt also possess a nuclear option.  Thanks to the Iranian nuclear program.

An extremely bleak Mideast winter indeed.

Egypt becomes more Islamist

So how are things in Egypt these days?  How is that democracy working out for them?  Not bad.  As long as you’re not in the minority (see Egypt’s top Christian leader calls for end of sit-in after demonstrators attacked overnight by Associated Press posted 5/15/2011 on The Washington Post).

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have felt increasingly insecure since 18 days of street protests brought down Mubarak, who led the country for nearly 30 years until he was forced to resign on Feb. 11.

The Christians, many of whom are Coptic, have complained that the interim government and security forces have failed to protect them and have allowed extremist Islamic groups to attack with impunity.

Earlier this month, mobs of Muslims, apparently urged on by the ultraconservative Salafi sect of Islam, stormed the Virgin Mary Church in the Cairo neighborhood of Imbaba and set it ablaze. The attack was sparked by a rumor that a Christian woman planned to marry a Muslim, which some religious purists consider to be forbidden.

If Salafi Muslims are cracking down on Christians in Egypt, that can’t bode well for Israel.  Because the Jewish state of Israel is probably less popular with the ultraconservatives rising in Egypt than this Christian minority. 

Put yourself in Israel’s place.  And take a look at the map around you.  The Palestinian West Bank to the east.  Syria to the north. Lebanon to the north.  As well as Hezbollah.  And running down the Mediterranean coast you have the Gaza Strip.  Ruled by Hamas.  That borders Egypt.  Where ultraconservative Salafi Islamists are attacking Christians.  While the ascendant political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, no doubt sides with the Islamists and may be pressuring the army to allow these attacks.  In other words, Israel is surrounded.  Not just by opposing armies.  But by a people who seek the destruction of the state of Israel.  And never before were they in such a position to make this happen.

An extremely bleak Mideast winter indeed.

The Arab Spring turns to Winter over Israel

And speaking of Israel, how are things going for them amidst this “Arab Spring” (see 9 Killed as Israel Clashes With Palestinians on Four Borders by Ethan Bronner posted 5/15/2011 on The New York Times)?

Israel’s borders erupted into deadly clashes on Sunday as thousands of Palestinians — marching from Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank — confronted Israeli troops to mark the anniversary when Arabs mourn Israel’s creation. As many as nine Palestinians were reported killed and scores injured in the unprecedented wave of coordinated protests.

It doesn’t sound like the Israeli spring is as ‘springy’ as it is in the Arab world.  In fact, one could say this is more of a bleak winter.

Every year in mid-May many Palestinians mark what they call Nakba, or the catastrophe, the anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 and the start of a war in which thousands of Palestinians lost their homes through expulsion and flight.

But this is the first year that Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon tried to breach the Israeli military border in marches inspired by recent popular protests around the Arab world. Here too, word about the rallies was spread on social media sites.

“The Palestinians are not less rebellious than other Arab peoples,” said Ali Baraka, a Hamas representative in Lebanon.

So the “Arab Spring” is flowering throughout the Arab world.  In places that have been relatively peaceful.  Such as in southern Lebanon.  And southern Syria.  Especially in the once peaceful Golan Heights.

Yoni Ben-Menachem, Israel Radio’s chief Arab affairs analyst, said it seemed likely that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was seeking to divert attention from his troubles caused by popular uprisings there in recent weeks by allowing confrontations on the Golan Heights for the first time in decades.

Incidentally, even though Assad did something Mubarak never did, turn the army on his people, it was Mubarak that the Obama administration said had to go.  Not Assad.  Funny, too, because the world probably had less to lose with the fall of Assad than they did with the fall of Mubarak.

The day’s troubles began when an Israeli Arab truck driver rammed his truck into cars, a bus and pedestrians in Tel Aviv, killing one man and injuring more than a dozen others in what police described as a terrorist attack.

Later, hundreds of Lebanese joined by Palestinians from more than nine refugee camps in Lebanon headed toward the border, around the town of Maroun al-Ras, Lebanon, scene of some of the worst fighting in the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

They passed posters that had gone up the past week on highways in Lebanon. “People want to return to Palestine,” they read, in a play on the slogan made famous in Egypt and Tunisia, “People want the fall of the regime.”

So the “Arab Spring” is flowering among the people of Hezbollah and Hamas.  The enemies of Israel.  Friends of the Muslim Brotherhood.  And Iran.  And it was the ‘democracy’ movements in Tunisia and Egypt that have inspired them.  Imagine that.  The “Arab Spring” inspired political movements that would be anything but democratic to Israel.  Because, perhaps, to them “Arab Spring” has the same meaning as “Israeli Winter.”

An extremely bleak Mideast winter indeed.

Anything is Possible in the Middle East these Days

Even though Ben Stein was wrong about the Subprime Mortgage Crisis, it’s hard to fault him on what’s happening in the Middle East.  At least, based on the facts.  And the underlying history.  Oh, and let’s not forget how the Iranian Revolution went down.  It, too, started off as a democratic movement.  And ended in one of the harshest, Islamist theocracies the world has seen. 

Iran may soon be the regional power in the Middle East.  When that happens, life will change.  For everyone.  More terrorism.  More war.  And probably some higher prices at the gas pump.  You know, the late Saddam Hussein is looking better and better in hindsight.  Sure, he was a pain in the ass.  But he was also Iran’s pain in the ass.  And the enemy of our pain in the ass is our friend.  Of course, the wild card is what will happen to Iraq when the U.S. leaves.  Will it just be another domino to fall to Iran?  I hope not.  But anything is possible in the Middle East these days.

An extremely bleak Mideast winter indeed.

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Osama bin Laden is Dead

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 2nd, 2011

SEAL Team Six

Early reports credit SEAL Team Six with the take down of Osama bin Laden.  Despite losing a helicopter, they executed the mission with extreme precision.  Which is the way SEALs like to do it.  A grateful thanks goes out to all our men and women in the armed forces, especially those in the Special Forces community.  Much of what they do never ‘officially’ happens.  So they are truly America’s unsung heroes.  And a special thanks goes out to Navy SEAL and Rogue Warrior Richard Marcinko.  He created SEAL Team Six and made it the potent asset it is today.  It’s not easy to become a SEAL.  And Marcinko made it harder still to get into SEAL Team Six.  A lot of what they do isn’t humanly possible.  And yet they do it.  Because that’s their business.  Doing the impossible.

A Work in Progress

Number 1 on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list took awhile to find.  Starting in the Clinton administration even before 9/11.  Yes, he was killing Americans before 9/11.  There were the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya.  And the 2000 USS Cole bombing.  Then came 9/11.  Which intensified the manhunt (see Getting Osama bin Laden: How the mission went down by Mike Allen posted 5/2/2011 on Politico).

In the biggest break in a global pursuit of bin Laden that stretched back to the Clinton administration, the U.S. discovered the compound by following one of the terrorist’s personal couriers, identified by terrorist detainees as one of the few al Qaeda couriers who bin Laden trusted.

“They indicated he might be living with and protecting bin Laden,” a senior administration official told reporters on a midnight conference call. “Detainees gave us his nom de guerre, or his nickname, and identified him as both a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of September 11th, and a trusted assistant of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the former number three of al Qaeda who was captured in 2005.”

Officials didn’t learn the courier’s name until 2007. Then it took two years to find him and track him back to this compound, which was discovered in August 2010.

It was this courier that led us to bin Laden.  Identifying him was key.  So important that President Bush authorized some forceful interrogation techniques (see Woman who died as a human shield was one of bin Laden’s wives: White House posted 5/2/2011 on The Toronto Star).

Torture and interrogation tactics inside CIA prisons in Romania and Poland extracted the courier’s name from Mohammed and his successor, Abu Faraj Al Libi, the Associated Press reported.

Former U.S. president George W. Bush had authorized the CIA to use torture; Obama closed the prison system.

Which of course led us not to some cave in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.  But inside Pakistan.  In relative comfort (see US kills Osama bin Laden decade after 9/11 attacks by Kimberly Dozier and David Espo, Associated Press, posted 5/2/2011 on Yahoo! News).

Long believed to be hiding in caves, bin Laden was tracked down in a costly, custom-built hideout not far from a Pakistani military academy…

The compound is about a half-mile from a Pakistani military academy, in a city that is home to three army regiments and thousands of military personnel. Abbottabad is surrounded by hills and with mountains in the distance.

Critics have long accused elements of Pakistan’s security establishment of protecting bin Laden, though Islamabad has always denied it, and in a statement the foreign ministry said his death showed the country’s resolve in the battle against terrorism.

Still, bin Laden’s location raised pointed questions of whether Pakistani authorities knew the whereabouts of the world’s most wanted man.

And there he was.  Hiding in our ally’s back yard.  With all the comforts of home.  Including a wife or two.  For years.  And all that time not that far from under our very noses.  Was Pakistan complicit?  Time will tell.  Of course, Muslims helping Westerners to hunt down and kill Muslims is a tricky business.  Helping Americans isn’t exactly in their best interests.  They may have been hiding him.  But there were no communication lines going into that compound.  The only contact with the outside world was via those couriers.  So, yes, he was there.  But what exactly was he doing while he was there?  Probably not a lot.  So even though he wasn’t in Gitmo or dead, he may have been, for all intents and purposes, neutralized.  Which would have helped American national security interests.

From Osama bin Laden to Egypt

So bin Laden is dead.  Does it change much?  Perhaps.  But not in the way most would think.  Since 9/11 bin Laden hasn’t been all that active.  It’s hard to be active when you’re always hiding.  The real al Qaeda threat of late has been in Yemen.  Not Afghanistan.  The recent attempts (the underwear bomber and the printer cartridge bombs) were launched from Yemen.  So killing bin Laden may actually have a negative impact on U.S. security.  Because it brought him back from relative obscurity.  Perhaps offering a rallying call for our enemies.  Especially when the U.S. acted unilaterally inside a sovereign Muslim Pakistan.  Where the local population doesn’t much like the U.S. to begin with. 

Osama bin Laden may still have been active.  And taking him out sends a message to other terrorists.  But it is a distraction from more disturbing developments in the Middle East.  In Egypt to be specific.  Where a whole lot of change is happening.  Some of which may not be for the good.  Such as the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Opening the Gaza border crossing.  Their brokering a unity deal between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.  And Egypt’s move to normalize relations with Iran.  Little good can come from these developments.  And a lot bad can.  So, yes, bin Laden got what he deserved.  But the developing theater in the War on Terror may now be in the Middle East.

Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood Condemn the Killing of Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden was a Saudi.  ‘Was’ being the operative wood.  The Saudis were glad to see him go (see Saudi hopes bin Laden death will aid terror fight by Mahmoud Habboush, Cynthia Johnston, Joseph Logan and Mark Heinrich, posted 5/2/2011 on Reuters).

“An official source expressed the hope of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia that the elimination of the leader of the terrorist al Qaeda organization would be a step toward supporting international efforts aimed at fighting terrorism,” the news agency said.

It added that Riyadh hoped that bin Laden’s demise would also help break up al Qaeda cells and eliminate the “misguided thought” it said was drives militancy.

He and the Wahhabi sect had been a problem for the Saudi kingdom.  They were glad to get rid of him first from the kingdom.  Then from the living.  And when the U.S. offered them bin Laden’s body for burial they refused.  They did not want him buried in Saudi soil.  But not everyone in the Middle East shared Saudi opinion (see Hamas condemns killing of al-Qa’ida leader by Reuters posted 5/2/2011 on The Independent).

Hamas condemned on Monday the US killing of Osama bin Laden as the assassination of an Arab holy warrior, differing sharply with the Palestinian Authority, the Islamist group’s partner in a new unity deal.

“We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs,” Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, told reporters. ..

Hamas, classified by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist group over its violence against Israel, is due to sign a unity deal this week in Cairo with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s more secular Fatah movement.

Israel has condemned the agreement, saying it could sabotage any efforts to revive peace talks with the Palestinians. The deal envisages an interim unity government comprised of independents and Palestinian elections later in the year.

This is no surprise that Hamas would condemn bin Laden’s killing.  They share his hatred of Americans.  And the State of Israel.  What is troubling, though, is the unity deal between the secular Fatah in the West Bank and the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip.  Especially with that unity deal being brokered in post-Mubarak Egypt.  This is very troubling indeed.  For the Hamas Charter calls for the destruction of Israel.  Which is still in the charter.  Which begs the question, what will be a unified Hamas/Fatah position on Israel?  Especially now that the Muslim Brotherhood, who supports that proviso in the Hamas charter, is ascendant in Egypt.  Perhaps we can learn by the Muslim Brotherhood’s reaction to the killing of bin Laden (see Egypt Muslim Brotherhood condemns Bin Laden death by the Associated Press posted 5/2/2011 on Yahoo! News).

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative organization with links around the Islamic world, has condemned the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces as an “assassination.”

The Brotherhood, which seeks the establishment of a state run according to Islamic principles through peaceful means, is Egypt’s most powerful and organized political movement.

Post-Mubarak Egypt is not looking good.  If current trends continue, it may be like exchanging a Mubarak-Egypt for another Iran.  On the all important Suez Canal.  And but a short walk from Israel.  Public enemy number one for radical Islam.  And let’s not forget that Iran is working on a nuclear program.

The Dawn of a new Islamist Day in Egypt?

It’s hard to find a bigger mistake in the Middle East than forcing Mubarak from office.  For Egypt has a lot more radical Islam fomenting in their populace than they do democracy.  Even bin Laden’s number two, Ayman Al-Zawahri, is an Egyptian.  And he may shortly become al Qaeda’s number one.  Which is cause for concern.  Because he’s not as nice a guy as Osama bin Laden was (see Egypt’s Al-Zawahri likely to succeed bin Laden by Hamza Hendawi and Lee Keath, Associated Press, posted 5/2/2011 on the Daily News Egypt).

With bin Laden killed, Ayman Al-Zawahri becomes the top candidate for the world’s top terror job.

It’s too early to tell how exactly Al-Qaeda would change with its founder and supreme mentor gone, but the group under Al-Zawahri would likely be further radicalized, unleashing a new wave of attacks to avenge bin Laden’s killing by US troops in Pakistan on Monday to send a message that it’s business as usual.

Yes, the mentor bin Laden was the less radical one.  The protégé, Al-Zawahri, may very well take it up a notch.  At least to avenge his mentor’s death.  Unless the U.S. gets to him first.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon made bin Laden Enemy No. 1 to the United States. But he likely could never have carried it out without Al-Zawahri. Bin Laden provided Al-Qaeda with the charisma and money, but Al-Zawahri brought the ideological fire, tactics and organizational skills needed to forge disparate militants into a network of cells in countries around the world.

“Al-Zawahri was always bin Laden’s mentor, bin Laden always looked up to him,” says terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University.

Osama bin Laden may have put out the call for jihad on 9/11.  By Al-Zawahri made it happen.  And created an international terror network to boot.

Al-Zawahri ensured Al-Qaeda’s survival, rebuilding Al-Qaeda’s leadership in the Afghan-Pakistan border region and installing his allies as new lieutenants in key positions. Since then, the network inspired or had a direct hand in attacks in North Africa, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, the 2004 train bombings in Madrid and the 2005 transit bombings in London.

It was Al-Zawahri, not bin Laden, who was responsible for post-9/11 al Qaeda.

But before Al-Qaeda — and before Al-Zawahri focused his wrath on the “far enemy,” United States — his goal was to bring down the “near enemy,” the US-allied government of then president Hosni Mubarak in his native Egypt.

And in what may prove one of the greatest blunders of national security, Al-Zawahri’s ‘far enemy’ took out his ‘near enemy’.  And now all that radical Islam that’s been simmering below the surface can boil over now.  Because the U.S. got rid of the guy that contained it.  Hosni Mubarak.

At the same time, Al-Zawahri began reassembling Islamic Jihad and surrounded bin Laden with Egyptian members of Jihad such as Mohamed Atef and Saif Al-Adel, who would one day play key roles in putting together the Sept. 11 attacks.

The alliance established Al-Zawahri as bin Laden’s deputy and soon after came the bombings of the US embassies in Africa, followed by the 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, an attack Al-Zawahri is believed to have helped organize.

Apparently these Egyptians went to work for bin Laden because they were not welcomed in Egypt.  Of course, that may have all changed.  Egypt is moving closer to Hamas.  And Iran.  And there’s talk about pulling out of the Camp David Accords with Israel.  No doubt these Egyptians are now feeling that there is no place like home.  And they’re probably going back to Egypt.  Eager to take part in the dawn of a new Islamist day there.

Developments in Egypt are of Greater Concern

President Obama acted boldly by giving the go ahead for SEAL Team Six to take down Osama bin Laden.  And some are already talking about how this will help his 2012 reelection chances.  Of course, Osama bin Laden may be moot by then if the economy is still in recession.  George H. W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton after riding record approval numbers after his victory in the Gulf War.  Because it was the economy, stupid.  Osama bin Laden is big.  But his he bigger enough to overcome a recession?

But Obama has a bigger problem, though.  He told Hosni Mubarak he had to go.  That was a mistake.  And it can have huge consequences.  On the War on Terror.  On Middle East stability.  And on world peace.  Bad things are already lining up to happen.  The degree of bad may very well determine the 2012 election.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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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.

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