Archive for February, 2009

News and Analysis (2/11/09)

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

The election results deal a serious blow to prospects for peace negotiations as the Likud party has more than doubled its seats and an ultra-nationalist party made big gains:

… yet, despite feelings of disenfranchisement, calls for a boycott failed and Arabs seem poised to hold their seats in the Knesset:

Reflecting the larger issues of American military bases on foreign soil:

In accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction, Hamas opens the door to investigations of accusations that it committed war crimes with indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and the use of its own civilians as human shields:

As Obama prepares for a crucial NATO summit in April …

…signs of the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the need for a revamped policy are crystal clear:

News and Analysis (2/10/09)

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

One thing on which Hamas and the PA agree: “I will not send to my occupier my injured people in order for him to make propaganda at my expense, and then pay him for it.” — Palestinian health minister:

Philip Rizk, a German citizen who writes a popular blog and has recently finished a documentary about non-violent protest against Israeli operations in Gaza, is currently detained by Egyptian secret police:

As Ahmadinejad declares “the Iranian nation is ready to hold talks but talks in a fair atmosphere with mutual respect”,

… Ibrahim Yazdi, one of Imam Khomeini’s companions-in-exile, says, “People are still loyal to the revolution [but] they object to the [repressive] performance of the authorities”:

Photos illustrate the Gazan smuggling tunnels, which Israel sought to destroy yet were repaired after just a few days:

The ship violated a U.N. ban and is under suspicion of transporting arms from Iran to Hamas:

As Pakistan seeks “substantial evidence” from India…

…Holbrooke’s visit highlights the magnitude of issues hindering stability in Pakistan:

News and Analysis (2/9/09)

Monday, February 9th, 2009

General Petraeus refers to Afghanistan as “the graveyard of empires”, reminiscent of the historic difficulties in controlling it …

…Meanwhile, support for President Karzai and the US have dramatically decreased since 2005:

Pakistanis continue to question US intentions citing the continuation of drone attacks, an increased troop presence in Afghanistan and the deal permitting civilian nuclear trade with India are behind the apprehension:

Will his experience with Northern Ireland translate into a practical and acceptable solution for Palestine:

Phillipe Welty urges “Americans to try to understand Iran’s history, especially the lingering effects of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war and how that continues to color its security concerns, rhetoric and even its nuclear program:”

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani aims to modernize Qatar and demonstrate traditional Islam’s flexibility and tolerance:

News and Analysis (02/7-8/09)

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Hamas economics minister Ziyad al-Zaza claims “some employees of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency had been telling recipients that the aid was a gift of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas”…

…Meanwhile, the Israeli blockade insures Gaza remains in disarray:

Viewed as ineffective and corrupt, Karzai finds himself at odds with Washington as he remains poised to win the presidential elections next year…

…Meanwhile, Karzai continues to demand a halt to civilian deaths and seeks a “process of reconciliation” with Taliban members not linked to al-Qaeda:

A case of Muslim irony as an “Ulema Council,” calling its own dicta “shari’a” persecute a man for neglecting to include the original Arabic text next to his translation:

Al-Zeidi faces charges of assaulting a foreign leader with maximum sentence of 15 years in prison:

Despite international pressure, Saudi stands by its Vatican-like self-image:

Advising Obama on the Middle East

Friday, February 6th, 2009

This past week the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (CMCU) held a panel discussion moderated by Georgetown University professor John Voll on Obama in the Middle East. The panelists were Aaron David Miller of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Hisham Melhem of Al-Arabiyya (who scored the first official interview with President Obama), Prof. Paula Newberg, expert on Afghanistan and Pakistan, newly arrived to the Georgetown campus, and Prof. John Esposito, the founder of CMCU.

Mr. Miller, who had served as an official adviser to both Presidents William Clinton and George W. Bush, focused on  the Arab-Israeli issue. He argued that the U.S. administrations over the past several decades have succeeded neither in making war or peace. Quoting Larry Summers, he noted that “In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car.”  You care only for what you own. He advised Obama that you can’t fix this region and you can’t run away from it; you need an investment strategy.

Miller said that the American view of the world is skewed towards optimism because we are fortunate to have nonpredatory neighbors to our north and south and only fish to our east and west. We talk, he said, but we don’t listen.  His view was that history shows Jerusalem is not meant to shared; it is meant to be possessed whether in the name of the tribe, the religion, or the nation. Our optimism also goes back to the fact that no Americans died in hostile action at the hands of the Japanese in seven-year occupation of Japan.

It is Miller’s view that unless Palestinians have a monopoly on the use of force in their community, no Palestinian can ever negotiate, which raised the question in my mind as to whether the same applies to armed settlers. He also feels that Israeli leaders are prisoners of their constituencies, not masters of politics. On the other hand, he feels that gaps between the Syrians and the Israelis are not only clear, but also bridgeable.

Miller believes that we have a special relationship with Israel for many reasons and that will not change, but it has been too exclusive. For example, the make or break summit with Israel under Clinton should never have happened; it was a concession to the Israelis. He also advised Obama that “Iran sits at the nexus of every major issue.”

Hisham Melhem spoke on “Redefining the War on Terrorism and the Freedom Agenda.” He argued that the Middle East is more fragmented than it was eight years ago, weaker, and, except for a few islands of prosperity, more economically depressed. It is mainly without political leadership, weakened by two wars that have reduced America’s influence. Hope for change lies in the fact that the new president has deep roots in Africa, has lived in Indonesia, and has Muslim family members.

Melham explained that terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology nor a well-defined enemy. He asked why  borrow terminology with deep European roots to foist a phrase like Islamo-fascism on Muslims? He argued that throughout the history of terrorism are two strains: nihilistic terrorism as with the thugs, zealots, assassins, European anarchists, and the 9-11 attackers. There is no way to meet these people outside the battlefield. Where Bush went wrong was to lump Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaida in one tent. The other terrorism is practiced by legitimate resistance or cultural movements that resort to illegitimate means for legitimate grievances. Such groups cannot be addressed by force alone.

Melham wants to give George W. Bush credit for being the first to say that we Americans looked the other way when our friends in the Middle East violated the rights of their own people. However, he says you can’t compare Iraq with Japan and Germany. Germany and Japan were industrial societies with clear national identities, and they acknowledged that they had been defeated.

I asked Melham how he reconciled the implications of his analysis that Obama must talk to Hamas with the flat declaration of the State Department that George Mitchell will NOT talk to Hamas. (This is as if Mitchell in his most famous negotiation had been given marching orders to “do what it takes to bring peace to Ireland, but do not under any circumstances talk to the IRA!”) Melham conceded the difficulty but suggested there ways of getting around it like indirect negotiations. Unfortunately, it was indirect negotiations through Egypt that lead to the disaster in Gaza.

Prof. Newberg asked what is it about this region that makes everyone who pays attention to it vilify it? She suggested that all the proposals for solving the problems are based on false dichotomies. Despite the fact that they are tied together Afghanistan and Pakistan are not the same place. In many ways Afghanistan is a failed state with a state structure at odds with the country’s needs. Pakistan is not a failed state; it’s failures are due to mistaking strengths for weaknesses and weaknesses for strengths, and trying to achieve its regional aims through proxies. The Taliban and al-Qaida are not the same and their interactions are constantly changing. Nationalism and Islamism are not intimately tied together in Pakistan.

What it will take to revive these states and make peace possible is still an open question. Attention has focused on the federally administered tribal areas which are “lightly governed” and in which live 3 million of the 160 million Pakistanis. The porousness of the border makes it a resource for NATO and criminals alike. That which is efficacious militarily may not be so politically. Having limited its objectives for itself, the Obama administration cannot limit those of the Afghanis and Pakistanis.

Prof. Esposito summarized the relevancy of the major Gallup poll of the Muslim world to Obama’s objectives. To whom is Obama talking? The elites? The terrorists? How about the people? The Gallup poll indicates that 93% of Muslims are mainstream and the 7% who are potential radicals  (based on the question “Was 911 justified?”) are more cynical than the rest, fearful of Western hegemony and about whether the West will ever allow democratization — which they desire even more strongly than the mainstream.

Esposito concluded that our problem is competing paradigms: War on Terror or War on Islam? To the majority if Muslims this is about particular grievances. When Americans are asked what they admire about Muslims they say nothing or they don’t know but when Muslims are asked what they admire about Americans, even those with grievances say technology, education, rule of law, freedom, etc. Canada (viewed as America without its foreign policy) is overwhelmingly liked.

Esposito argues that we have to have dialog with reform groups and the political opposition. The people of Palestine made their choice. We need a president who can be even handed and denounce the inordinate use of force and violence by the Palestinians and by the Israelis.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (2/6/09)

Friday, February 6th, 2009

Both the ACLU and the ICJ seek the release of evidence on Guantanamo case:

The Sudanese government claims it expelled her because of immigration issues; the reporter believes it was her investigation of Sudan’s arms manufacturing industry:

Europeans have been less than enthusiastic in increasing military support for Afghanistan:

“While Iran boasts the most pro-American population in the region, any substantive talks with the US are a big step for a regime that still chants ‘Death to America’ at rallies”:

Rather than a debate on fatwas, Indonesians largely respond with “Who cares?”:

The high court rules Abdul Qadeer Khan was not involved in any nuclear proliferation or criminal activity:

News and Analysis (2/5/09)

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

“Al Jazeera’s correspondent aboard the Al-Ikhwa (The Brotherhood) ship said the navy first opened fire, then five Israeli soldiers boarded the ship, beating and threatening the passengers”:

The Ministry justified the crime claiming “the U.N. was storing blankets in an unauthorized area”:

The test of democracy is rapidly approaching failure:

Although plenty of evidence of war crimes exist…

…Palestinians face many challenges including a Catch-22: “the court can investigate only in nations that accept its mandate, and most international bodies do not consider the Palestinian Authority to be a sovereign state”…

…Meanwhile, the key issues stalling the truce negotiations reside over the length of the agreement, the opening over the borders, and the release of prisoners:

Under pressure from the US, including threats to withhold intelligence,

News and Analysis (2/4/09)

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

“Serious” allegations of electoral fraud emerge from the Anbar province, creating fears of renewed violence for the area:

As more horror stories over Israeli treatment of civilians emerge…

…Abbas demands a change in approach, “[w]e should no longer deal with Israel as a state above the law, above all accountability, above international law”:

After nearly $32 billion in reconstruction funds spent by the US, the process remains “fragmented”:

Pakistanis were released under the condition that they “quit their jobs and will take no part in any activity against the Taliban”:

The Pentagon’s remarkable claim that “contractors ‘were not engaged in employment in support of the DoD mission'” may undermine federal jurisdiction:

News and Analysis (2/3/09)

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Even minors were subjected to the atrocious interrogation practices of the IDF…

…Further strengthening the need for the responsible parties to be held accountable for their war crimes…

…However, Israelis seem unaffected by the tragedy in Gaza as the peace movement has been largely marginalized:

Despite the dangers, filmmakers seek to provide social commentary on provocative issues such as gender and corruption:

“The fighting in the valley has made it almost impossible for civilians to stay there” –Wajid Ali Khan, a provincial minister

Planned to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution,

Popular, although poorly armed, Ahlu Sunna wa Jamaa might be “Somalia’s last best hope for restoring peace”:

Another group of Rohingyas, Muslims attempting to flee decades of persecution in Myanmar, were forced to into the sea on a boat without an engine:

News and Analysis (02/02/09)

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

The preliminary results indicate victories for the Dawa Party as well as for al-Hadba candidates, who were supported by Sunnis boycotting the vote in 2005:

… But voter turn-out failed to reach the predicted 73%, falling to 51%:

As the Israelis hold true to their promise of a “disproportionate response” to Fatah rocket-fire

…Hamas and the PA continue to challenge the legitimacy of each other…

…However, King Abdullah wisely calls for reconciliation between the Palestinian factions, “the competition between them is a big mistake…It will do them more harm than that done by Zionism”:

The corruption surrounding $50 billion in reconstruction funds for Iraq is poised for repeat in Afghanistan:

With serious implications on the renewal of relations between Iran and the US, the presidential race heats up: