Archive for June, 2009

News and Analysis (6/11/09)

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

While China continues to brand the Uighur Muslims as terrorist suspects …

… Only 13 remain in US custody:

Rather than ignore the incident with a bland denial, the US  jumps into the public relations battle with “unusual speed”:

“In exchange for the $5 billion in reparations it is due to receive over 20 years, Libya will provide Italy with more oil, make it easier for Italian companies to conduct business there and place Italian companies ‘in first place’ to win infrastructure contracts”:

With campaigning officially over, a final look into Iran’s presidential election…

… Meanwhile, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard  warns Mousavi’s supporters against rebellion if the election results are found to be unfavorable:

Targeting the Pearl Continental Hotel, insurgents sought to disrupt humanitarian aid across the region:

News and Analysis (6/10/09)

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

The legacy of US occupation of Iraq, the Iraq Special Operations Forces, is an elite unit with minimal accountability:

Palau will receive up to $200 million in the agreement to house the Uighurs Muslims:

Despite Israel’s best attempts to suffocate Gaza, residents show resiliency and enterprise in recovering from Israel’s effort to bomb them into the Stone Age:

Ross must overcome his pro-Israeli perspective in order to facilitate peaceful negotiations, …

… while Mitchell should expect resistance from Israel on the issue of settlement growth:

With an election in the near future, political pressure might force US troops out of Iraq ahead of schedule:

“Champion iconoclast” John Caruso’s satire nails Frank Gaffney’s gaff over who is America’s first Muslim president:

News and Analysis (06/09/09)

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Hariri must strike a balance in reconciling the anti-Hezbollah rhetoric of the campaign or continue to face a political stalemate:

Accusations widely vary as the identity of the attacks remains unknown:

In a deal circumventing an exact exchange of hostages for prisoners:

“This has been going on for the past 20 years… Most of the time there’s an inquiry, but once sentiment dies down, they exonerate the accused” – Sheik Hussain, a law professor and human rights expert at Kashmir University:

A litmus test in securing convictions against Guantanamo detainees for the Obama administration:

“What’s happening now is more than what should happen before an election… This is an expression of protest and dissatisfaction by people. They are venting their frustration and feeling very powerful”:

News and Analysis (6/08/09)

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Aoun’s failure to bring Christian votes turns what was predicted to be a highly competitive election into a blow to Hezbollah and its allies:

Details murky in a raid leaving an American contractor dead:

“The Americans have become paranoid about Pakistan… They are losing their objectivity, and I think they need a reality check.” Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general

Mass illiteracy, equipment loss, crime and corruption are among the difficulties of creating an effective Afghani army:

Will economic troubles force reconciliation between Palestinian factions:

In a Q&A session, the only conservative candidate challenging Ahmadinejad finds “Islam without Muslims” in the West even as he faults it for “too much individualism:”

The Prospect for Success Under McChrystal

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

“With the appointment … of McChrystal, it is clear that the “change” we were promised by Obama is just a change of faces: the policies, at least on the foreign policy front, are remarkably similar.” — Justin Raimando

Speaking on the need for “fresh thinking” and “fresh eyes on the problem” Secretary Gates named Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the commander of military operations in Afghanistan. The appointment fits into the counter-insurgency style of combat which has arguably proven effective in Iraq. McChrystal stated his top priorities include “bolstering U.S. intelligence collection, reducing civilian casualties and dramatically speeding up the training of Afghan security forces.” Although these are valuable counter-insurgency tactics, effective implementation in Afghanistan will be a challenge.

From the Western perspective, McChrystal’s strategy is simple in its logic. In Iraq, where there is a remnant of nationalist sentiment among Sunni Arabs, and their ties to al-Qaeda were circumstantial at best, the U.S. bought the allegiance of Sunni insurgents via the “Sons of Iraq.” However, al-Qaeda’s links to the Taliban are stronger and have a history. The durability of the “Sons of Iraq” to the national government is unsettled and the situation in Afghanistan is even more difficult; the opposition is unlikely to be bought off and settle disputes for monetary gains.

Believing the need for troop levels to go above the 134,000 troops proposed by the Obama administration, McChrystal is essentially calling for a “War on Afghanistan.” The U.S. will likely refer to it as a more politically correct “War on the Taliban,” but the tribal forces fragmenting Afghanistan are more complex that the simple Sunni Arabs vs. Shi`a Arabs vs. Sunni Kurds triangle in Iraq. The Shi`a in Iraq dominating the national government are an actual majority, while the Karzai government represents no cohesive social agglomerate in Afghanistan.

Besides, McChrystal’s plan is contingent on cooperation from the Pakistani government. Securing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan will prove to be a most difficult task. It is doubtful that the Pakistani military can maintain the border without a prolonged American intervention — or even with it.  (And American presence in Pakistan would surely backfire, threatening the eventual fall of Pakistan to who knows what.)

The theory of McChrystal’s strategy is that the US, through collaboration with the Afghan government, will improve infrastructure while smothering the Taliban pressure on the Pakistani border while the Pakistani military performs a similar operation against extremists in its own country. Although the Taliban is a foreign influence in Pakistan’s Northwest territories, the people residing in this area have strong cultural ties to their Afghani counterparts. The flaw in McChrystal’s strategy revolves around its unattended consequences. Given how comfortably ingrained the Taliban are in certain areas, it is hard to separate them from general population. Furthermore, it should be obvious to any outside observer why these areas of Pakistan were semi-autonomous to begin with. If the Pakistani government had adequate national support and the capability of securing these providences, wouldn’t they have done so already?

Even the superficially benign economic assistance can have a blowback effect. In the 1970s Milton Friedman offered economic advice to the Pinochet regime. Although he did not personally support Pinochet, the mere fact that he gave economic advice (mostly ignored or abandoned) allowed critics of Friedman to pretend that he did. We are not in the position of the Marshall Plan in which we reconstruct an economy of a country that has surrendered to us militarily. We are, rather, foreign interveners in a civil war (between the Taliban on one hand and other forces in Afghani society on the other) in which our principle enemy (al-Qaeda) is itself a marginal figure.

Local tribal leaders in Northwest Pakistan are very sympathetic to their Afghani neighbors. Left to their own devises tribal leaders would see Talibanization as a threat to their own status and authority. Under the pressure of violence from the Pakistani government and the American allies, tribal leaders see the Taliban as fellow victims. More conflict will add more refugees to the already overwhelming flood of three million. The populations in these areas will see this as a war against them, augmenting local support for the Taliban and further reducing any chance of this strategy succeeding.  Assuming the Northwest territories will assimilate into a Pakistani national identity requires a giant leap of faith. It ignores the history and cultural connections of the inhabitants and its ultimately doomed to failure. A better strategy would be to focus Pakistani military might on keeping the Taliban out of areas to which they would not be welcome and to let the people in the Northwest provinces discover for themselves why they should reject the Talibanization of their homelands.

Imran Malik, Program Assistant
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, President
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (6/6-7/09)

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

A Muslim’s demonstration of the power of compassion:

as the military and contractors waste your tax dollars on a failed propaganda …

… Extremists attract ever younger recruits and more reports of U.S. violence against Iraqi children emerge:

With The Iranian Elections scheduled for June 12, is Ahmadinejad still the favored candidate?

“Witnesses said Srour was hit while trying to drag a wounded protester to safety”:

Perhaps the only US listed terrorist organization running a dating service for Muslims:

The Iranian Elections

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

[I was interviewed by Javier Mendez of Chile’s El Mercurio on the upcoming Iranian elections. This is the substance of the interview.]

Q. Do you believe there is a chance that Ahmadinejad could be reelected in Iran?

A. Yes.

Q. What would be the internal and external political consequences of an Ahmadinejad´s victory in the next election?

A. Unless Ahmadinejad becomes more open to reform, his re-election would probably be a continued alienation of the Iranian youth. Externally, any opportunities for reconciliation between Iran and the West created by Obama’s opening to the Muslim world might be lost.

3) Has he possibilities of winning? Why?

A. Although a victory for Ahmadinejad is not certain, he is the man to beat. Some powerful factors drive his popularity, despite economic problems of high unemployment and inflation rates, his political blunders (like the holocaust denial), dissatisfaction among urban young people with the status quo, and his image as the Iranian equivalent of George W. Bush, an embarrassment to his country. Most conservatives and some important elements of the religious establishment favor his re-election. More importantly, the extreme anti-Iranian rhetoric coming from Israel (and to a lesser extent from the U.S.) gives the incumbent the edge that sitting leaders of besieged states always have.

4) What should we expect of Ahmadinejad in the next government, especially in the nuclear conflict?

A. Ahmadinejad’s policies in a second term are unlikely to differ greatly from his first. There is no reason to expect his stance on nuclear development to change, but his successors would not change that policy either, although they would probably be less confrontational.

5) What about of candidates Mehdi Korroubi and Husein Mousavi? Are they reformists or not? Have they possibilities of winning?

A. Mousavi is the stronger challenger to Ahmadinejad at the moment, but neither should be ruled out. While they my be expected to split the reform vote between them, the fact that both are running may draw more reform voters into the election forcing a run-off in which the combined votes of the liberal voters may defeat Ahmadinejad.

6) What are the main platforms of Mehdi Korroubi and Husein Mousavi?

A. All four leading candidates have virtually identical positions on Israel, nuclear development, and the terms for improving relations with the United States. Mousavi is a reformer and his use of his wife in his campaign (unprecedented in the Islamic Republic) has signaled a commitment to women’s rights. Korroubi is cleric with a liberal reputation who is respected for sensitivity to ethnic minority concerns and who is emphasizing economic issues such as letting the people own shares of the Iranian oil and gas companies.

7) After this elections, what will be the future of Iran?

A. God knows best.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (6/5/09)

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Obama promises for change met with skepticism across the Muslim world…

… Unsurprisingly, the most hostile responses come from Ayatollah Khamenei and Israeli settlers:

“Decisive progress” should be measured by refugees’ ability to return:

As the US implements its troop surge strategy…

… Will continued civilian casualties  prevent progress?

Another setback in Obama’s attempt to close Guantanamo:

Obama’s Cairo Speech: A Defense of the Clinton-Bush Policies

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

If you want a brilliant attorney to defend the policies of Bush and Clinton to the Muslim world with eloquence and a sincere and studied respect for Muslim sentiments and sensitivity, you just can’t do better than Barack Hussein Obama, Esq. If you want a convincing statement that the new captain at the helm is determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past, then President Obama’s Cairo speech fell short. Close, but no cigar.

Mr. Obama is well aware that the Gallup poll of the Muslim world showed that a belief that Americans do not respect Islam was the number one concern. Was it not good that Obama took that head on, with a specific list of Muslim contributions to civilization and with a number of accurate and contextually valid quotes form the Qur’an? Of course, and the crowd showed it’s appreciation with shouts of “We love you!” The problem is that Obama had already made this point before. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to make it again. Just as Americans will never tire of hearing Muslims distance themselves from the 9/11 hijackers, so Muslims will never tire of hearing Americans acknowledge Islam’s tolerant and dynamic past. But Americans will also want to know when they can expect a tolerant and dynamic present from the Muslim world, and Muslims want to know when they can expect justice from the West.

We have to go beyond a respectful tone and commit ourselves to just action. Even when he said the right things, Obama sometimes said them the wrong way. I am not referring to the mispronunciation of “hijab” as “hajeeb” when he defended the right of Muslim women to decided whether they would wear one. The twisted tongue notwithstanding, that was a good example of a properly phrased concern for women’s rights. It reflected an appropriate opposition for any third party — especially the state — coming between the person and the Lord. It also showed a perfect-pitch sense of priorities, as he emphasized that the right to an education is a higher priority than fashion choice.

No, Obama was fine when he talked about things that happen to be America’s strong points, like its respect for women’s right to get an education and choose their own clothes. The unfortunate phrasing came when he got to America’s weak points. “America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election,” the attorney for defense boasted. The Arab-Muslim world desperately needed to hear Obama say that America would no longer encourage elections and then reject their outcome. Instead, he seemed to deny that we had ever done such a thing. “Ladies and gentlemen of the Muslim jury,” he seemed to say, “the Clinton administration is innocent of  turning his back on arrest of the winners of the Algerian elections of the 1990s; the Bush administration did not encourage Fatah’s contemptuous dismissal of Mr. Haniyyah’s victory in the Palestinian elections.” We must forgive the Arab Muslim listener from wondering, why should we expect the America’s response to the next free and fair election to be any different? We need the president to renounce American interventionism, like the American trained troops assassinating Palestinian political leaders with the same self-assurance with which he condemns forcing women to wear or not wear the hijab.

The Muslim world needs to hear specifics about what America will do differently in the future. It is here that Obama fell short. Even as he admitted “the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically- elected Iranian government,” (President Eisenhower, having past on, apparently does need a defense attorney) and reasonably indicated that he would not deny Iran’s right to nuclear energy if Iran would comply with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, he gave no specifics as to what he wants Iran to do to satisfy him on this score.

More serious was his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Rejecting the legitimacy of settlements and calling for a two state solution is not new. Failing to mention the Palestinians’ right of return is an omission that promises more failure. Obama exemplifies his high tone when he says, “Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.” Then he undermines that tone with the scent of apartheid when he looks forward to “a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own.”

I stand by my opinion that Egypt was the wrong venue for this talk. The President’s vague calls for “transparency in government” fall far short of Moses’ frank speech to the Pharaoh of his day recounted in the Qur’an.  It is true that Obama got a standing ovation at the end, and we expect no less from an audience of young University of Cairo students. However, even these enthusiasts gave Obama no applause when he mentioned that the first country on earth to recognize the United States of America was Morocco. Had he given the speech in Morocco, I guarantee you that line would have gotten applause.

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

News and Analysis (6/4/09)

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Compounding the shortcomings of Obama’s assurances

… is Congressional support for Israeli expansionism …

… and the fact that  “Mr. Netanyahu has yet to endorse the two-state solution or even the road map agreed to by previous Israeli governments, which were not oral commitments, but actual signed and public agreements”:

Filled with personal attacks, the debate between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi reflects the deep divisions among Iranian voters:

Aida Mansoor uses interfaith dialogue to advance the status of Muslims in American:

Fatah-Hamas relationship continues to be characterized with violence:

In order to facilitate a transition observing rule of law and due process,