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Total number of comments: 107 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:47)

Arnold Evans

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  • Syria: Crimes Against Humanity in Homs
    • Is it that you're not comfortable with English?

      When I wrote:

      First, Miami could never become “liberated territory”, as Homs has been at times, peacefully. Liberated territory means that the internal security has been driven out. By force.

      I gave my own definition for how I was using the term "liberated territory". It is not a unique usage, but a common one. But either way, that's how I've been using the term when you responded.

      I don't understand exactly what you're arguing about.

    • Arab populations are polled fairly regularly on this and similar questions.

      Saudi Arabia recognizes Iran, has an embassy there and its king has met and held hands with Iran's president. That caused no scandal or problem at all for the Saudi monarchy.

      Which is one reason why, for all your fluster, you're not able to assert that I'm wrong to say the people of Saudi Arabia consider Israel more of an adversary than Iran.

      And yet no Saudi response to Israel's hundreds of nuclear weapons. You're not able to attempt an alternative explanation of that either.

      Then oil prices. Saudi Arabia is close to its production capacity already. You have not shown any evidence that Saudi Arabia could lower prices and does not.

      But either way, the United States, as a significant oil producer, benefits from high oil prices relative to its primary economic competitors in Europe and Asia.

    • I'm not too worried about your link that Saudi Arabia will get nuclear weapons in response to Iran.

      The people of Saudi Arabia consider Israel more of an adversary, yet the government of Saudi Arabia has not responded for decades to Israel amassing hundreds of nuclear weapons.

      The only possible explanation is that Saudi Arabia is not an independent state, but executes the foreign policy imposed on it by the United States, in which case the United States, regardless of Iran's nuclear program, can and will exercise the option of not allowing Saudi Arabia to develop even legal nuclear weapons capabilities like those Brazil has.

      In short, if Saudi Arabia is not independent enough to respond to Israel's nuclear arsenal, it is not independent enough to respond to Iran achieving legal nuclear weapons capabilities like those Brazil has.

    • Whew.

      By "liberated territory" I mean territory outside of the control of the central government.

      At no point will Cairo be that. Homs was liberated territory as defined here in 2011, the Syrian security forces had been forced out.

      Did you seriously not know what "liberated territory" means in this context?

    • The Telegraph (UK) has put the word “genocide” in its headline as a description of what has been going on in Syria.

      Like when you said Freedom House called Tunisia and Kuwait "partly free", saying the Telegraph described Syria as "genocide" without further comment in your own voice borders on deceptive.

      Do you consider the Syrian situation genocide or not? If you do, then you should explain on what basis. If you do not, you should not put this there without a rebuttal in your own voice.

      If the regime has in fact been targeting Sunni neighborhoods in Homs that had engaged in peaceful demonstrations, that would be a crime against humanity right there. The evidence is that Homs residential neighborhoods are being intensively bombarded.

      There is no reasonable question that there is armed resistance to the government in Homs. There is also no reasonable question that the armed resistance to the government has foreign support from countries hostile to Syria.

      Barack Obama would not tolerate armed resistance to the US Federal Government in Miami any more than Abraham Lincoln would tolerate armed resistance to the government in South Carolina.

      First, Miami could never become "liberated territory", as Homs has been at times, peacefully. Liberated territory means that the internal security has been driven out. By force.

      Neither Cairo nor Alexandria became liberated territory in the protests against Mubarak. None of the peaceful US Occupy movements ever established even a city block of liberated territory.

      Second, if Miami was to become liberated territory, necessarily violently, then Obama would recapture the city using overwhelming force, including tanks.

  • How an Israeli Strike on Iran could radically weaken Israel
    • Actually he's talking about denying Israel overflight of US-controlled airspace.

      You just misread that. I'm going to assume accidentally.

    • And Saudi Arabia is, for now, safely controlled by a stooge colonial government. So we don't have to worry about that.

      But what happens if the pro-US colonial-era dictatorship loses power?

    • Page: 1
    • But if you're not calling for either imposing sanctions and putting a military option on the table in the case of Israel or calling to stop those policies in the case of Iran, then you're at best a hypocrite and at least as likely trying to divert attention away from the subject.

    • nuclear weapons ambitions

      I see that phrase often. What does it mean to you?

      Does Brazil, in your opinion, have "nuclear weapons ambitions"?

      If Iran wants to have the capabilities Brazil has, then does Iran have "nuclear weapons ambitions"?

      This is one of the commonly used and inherently meaningless phrases that we should be defining.

    • You're raising the question: is it problem that the US does not want to face reality, or is the problem that Israel does not want to face reality?

      Because the reality is the same. There is no course of action that the US or Israel can take today that will plausibly result in Iran having less nuclear weapons capabilities 5 years from not than doing nothing.

      The US has looked and looked and looked. I'm sure Israel has looked and looked and looked. Nobody has come up with a plausible answer.

      Somebody is in denial. Maybe it is the Americans, maybe it is Israel's supporters who influence US policy, maybe it is both.

      No matter who it is, progress can't be made until this denial is broken. For that reason, Obama isn't helping by having a "hidden goal" of accepting reality if he does. Accepting reality means not keeping it secret but being open.

      The first person one lies to is often oneself.

    • The question after all of the shouting and screaming ends, remains can the US accept Iran having legal nuclear weapons capabilities such as those Brazil has.

      Can the US say to Israel "Look, we tried to stop Iran from having these capabilities and we failed. There are limits to how much we can hold back the region to keep it safer for you and we've just hit one."

      Because doing nothing and allowing Iran to develop legal nuclear weapons capabilities is the least counter-productive course the US and Israel can follow at this point. Anything else it tries would be worse, but it is much harder for Americans to accept this reality than one might expect.

    • All good points, especially Egypt which is really up in the air right now.

      The idea that Egypt's military dictatorship would be able to keep the commitment it made to the New York Times that it would retain control of foreign policy would become sheer nonsense if Israel went to war especially with Lebanon, but even possibly with Iran.

      link to nytimes.com

      The new majority is likely to increase the difficulty of sustaining the United States’ close military and political partnership with post-Mubarak Egypt, though the military has said it plans to maintain a monopoly over many aspects of foreign affairs.

      Nasser didn't have Iran (and Iraq) to work with, meaning allies with oil. A hostile Egypt comes to power in the 2010s and Israel is in real trouble, and attacking Lebanon may be the most likely way Israel can guarantee a hostile Egypt.

      All of these reasons are also why it is thankfully for everyone, even supporters of Israel, very unlikely that Israel will actually start this war.

  • Syria Veto and the Revenge of the BRICS
    • I don't think the resolution would have reduced human suffering and I don't think the resolution was intended to reduce human suffering.

      If this resolution was a step toward the US more openly supporting a side in a civil war, then civil wars cause much more suffering than we are seeing in Syria today.

      The US position that Assad must leave before any election is calculated exactly to prevent a negotiated solution. There is no other explanation given the position Assad holds in the country.

      A resolution aimed at reducing human suffering would aim to get the opposition to the table with Assad as soon as possible. For example in Moscow this week, which the US seems to have urged the opposition to reject.

      The idea that it is impossible for Assad to be part of a process that leads to a graceful transition to democracy is absurd - especially for such a position to be held by outsiders of Syria like Jeffrey Feltman and Barack Obama.

      On the other hand, Feltman and Obama still disagree with most of the people of Syria about what they consider the most important issue of the region: Is Israel a legitimate country.

      Because of that, Feltman and Obama really do not want democracy in Syria. Democracy would likely be just as bad from their perspective, from the US' perspective as the strategic supporter of Israel, as Assad.

      Before that, strategically, they would rather see Syria destroyed, see huge amounts of suffering imposed on the people of Syria like the suffering previously imposed on the Iraqi people as their country was destroyed.

      In short, you have the good and bad guys mixed up. The United States, as usual, working to impose misery on the region on Israel's behalf. Another cost of maintaining an enforced Jewish political majority state against the wishes of its region.

      If the United States wanted to promote democracy, which it does not, it could apply pressure on its colonies of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait and others and probably with relatively little pressure achieve graceful transitions to democratic control in each.

      The problem is that those former colonies would be far less cooperative with the US in their region than the dictatorships are.

      Either way, a United States that was motivated by spreading democracy or by minimizing suffering would be taking actions a lot different from those we see from Jeffrey Feltman, Susan Rice and Barack Obama.

    • I (sincerely) don’t understand what the USG is doing. Is it just a cynical, ‘isolate Iran, by destabilizing Syria’ scheme?

      I think it is more of a - destroy coherent Syria which is a potential threat to Zionism the way Iraq was destroyed between 1990 and 2006 - scheme.

      I don't believe Rice was really emotional, just acting a role whose implications she vaguely understands if at all.

      link to mideastreality.blogspot.com

    • Russia opposes any UN resolution setting the stage for foreign intervention or “regime change.”
      ...
      President Obama condemned the alleged massacre at Homs and again called on Bashar al-Assad to step down. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will go to Damascus on Tuesday in order, he says, to see a resolution of the crisis.

      Why would you put regime change in quotes when the US president Obama's official position is that the head of government must leave power and the resolution would have fully supported the Arab League resolution which called for the head of government to relinquish power?

  • KAYAOĞLU: Turkey's Crackdown on the Press recalls Military's Tactics
    • The report’s statement that “the judicial system launched a wave of arrests of journalists that was without precedent since the military dictatorship [of the early 1980s]”

      Are we sure the AKP controls Turkey's judicial system?

      Courts tend to be conservative, and most of the people actually signing warrants and imposing sentences likely predate Erdogan in office.

  • Syria's Crisis Deepens: Does Internationalization Loom?
    • Also, Assad as the rebirth of Hitler?

      You should feel embarrassed for repeating that. I could respond in kind about the US' allies or about Barack Obama, but I won't.

    • You can't possibly be asserting that the Syrian opposition does not have access to resources, including weapons, based from Turkey, Jordan and northern Lebanon.

      To say there is no foreign component is absurd.

      You can reasonably say that there is substantial domestic support for the opposition, but not that there is no foreign conspiracy.

    • The rumor is that while the program is coordinated by US Ambassador Feltman, the funding is coming from Saudi Arabia following Feltman's instructions.

    • 1) I never said the death toll under Gadaffi before the Nato intervention was higher than in Syria. You may want to reread the post you responded to.

      2) I've never seen and don't think you can provide a link that supports your apparent belief that the death toll under Gadaffi was higher.

      3) The world community believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But didn't have tangible evidence. Your thoughts about Gadaffi's intentions - even if shared by other proponents of Nato intervention - is even weaker.

    • It looks like Putin is beginning to nail down the formula for preserving his naval base under the next Syrian regime.

      What makes you say that?

    • Well you get to just make up "intentions", because they can't be tested. We can say Saddam "intended" to kill every single person in Iraq but thankfully George Bush invaded and saved over 20 million people.

      How could that be proven wrong?

      But because it couldn't be proven wrong, it also is not really meaningful, just as your idea of what Gaddafi "intended" to do in Benghazi.

      How many actual people were killed in total in the Libyan uprising before the US/Nato intervention, and how many were killed after?

      How many multiples more people were killed after the Nato intervention than have been killed in Syria over a longer time?

    • What was the total amount of people killed in Libya?

      How many times lower over a longer period of time is the total amount of people killed in Syria?

  • The Way Forward in the Middle East -- Peled & Peled
    • If we define colonies differently, that would be a silly semantic dispute that would not impact the point of the comment.

    • Right. The problem with Zionism is not that it intends to create an ethnic state, but that its ethnic state required the dispossession of a native population and more relevant that it requires the subjugation of the people in the region - who vastly outnumber Zionism's beneficiaries - who consider it an injustice.

      I'll be clearer on that point in the future, though I expect most readers here wouldn't have needed that clarification.

    • A one state solution satisfied the people of South Africa's region enough that they no longer support opposition to South Africa's government or terrorism that could disrupt the functioning of the state.

      If the people of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait and others escape the grip of the colonial structure the US has in place in the region - which may be beginning to happen as we speak - those countries would pose far less of a threat to a post-Zionist state with that has accepted refugees, has an Arab majority and prime-minister and where Jewish individuals are able to live in peace if they choose than they would pose to the current Zionist regime.

      Maybe you think over 400 million people in Israel's region should be either effectively held under colonial rule or sanctioned or bombed until unable to influence the region forever.

      But if those people become free, there is a lot accountable governments of those countries can do that the pro-US dictatorships are not doing to make life unlivable in a Zionist state.

      The Zionists may be well served to conclude what Apartheid concluded, it is better to negotiate a graceful climbdown while they are still on top.

    • The benefit of the two state solution is not that it is feasible, but that it exists as an ideal to help, especially Americans, find comfort in supporting an ethnic state.

      Is it genuine naivete or cynical deception of self and others? I'm not sure, but Barack Obama will tell you, and tells audiences continuously, that the United States supports Palestinians being under the military control of Israel only as a temporary measure. It will end when two states are agreed upon, which is right around corner.

      Barack Obama would feel, or at least claim to feel morally justified if this two state solution was around the corner forever.

      We've reached and gone far past the point that US support for a two state solution is a just typical Western lie, not much different from US claims of support for democracy as it effectively maintains colonies in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait and others.

  • GOP Candidates Harm Israeli Security by Pushing for Impractical "Greater Israel"
    • Israel caught a break during its first 60 years because its Arab neighbors were largely peasant societies with low literacy, few modern organizational skills, and a significant technology gap.

      Their states were also mostly ruled by dictators accountable to Western governments rather than to their populations.

      The way Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan, Egypt and others are today.

  • SOTU and a Destabilized Middle East
    • Now that you mention that:

      Obama’s reaction to the Arab Spring is cautiously hopeful. But pledge to promote American values of democracy and human rights rings hollow for most Arabs, given the way the US joins in in depriving 11 million Palestinians of their basic human rights.

      Also the way the US supported Mubarak for 30 years and supports dictators in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait today, and supports efforts today for Egypt's military dictatorship to maintain hold of power.

      Obama came late to all the Arab parties and hasn’t been seen as forceful, even in Libya, where people have a lot of reasons to be grateful to him. (Why did you have to lead from behind? they ask the US).

      I haven't seen a quotation of any Libyan asking the US that.

    • I've never seen even this strong an indication that the dispute over Iran's nuclear program might have a resolution:

      link to nytimes.com

      In other words, Iran would have to become a country like Japan, which has the capability to become an atomic power virtually overnight, if need be, but has rejected taking the final steps to possessing nuclear weapons. “If you’re asking whether we would be satisfied with Iran becoming Japan, then the answer is a qualified yes,” a senior European diplomat said. “But it would have to be verifiable, and we are a long ways away from trusting the regime.”

      If Obama had said this, or ever says this, the dispute over Iran's nuclear issue is over.

      What Obama said in the State of the Union, that Iran could avoid war only by accepting its obligations, meaning the UNSC resolutions that demand an indefinite (permanent if the US chooses) suspension, was not progress at all.

  • Sharp-Elbowed Politics in the New Arab World
    • Was there a source who told you the military would try to choose the parliament's speaker?

      If so, either the source was wrong or the military failed.

      link to english.ahram.org.eg

      Thank goodness.

      We'll see from here how well the representatives of the people of Egypt fare against those inside and outside of Egypt who prefer to see at least some aspects of Egyptian politics outside of the control of Egyptian voters and their representatives.

  • To avoid War, Obama Should Offer Iran Renewable Energy Aid: Buonomo
    • What if the US just does not have any option that would prevent Iran from developing legal nuclear weapons capabilities like those Japan, Brazil, Canada, Germany and many other countries have?

      Americans are very attached to this idea that there is something they can do to prevent an outcome Israel doesn't want. What if sanctions would not prevent Iran from attaining legal nuclear weapons capabilities and military strikes also would not prevent Iran from attaining legal nuclear weapons capabilities?

      In that case, the United States is not some all-powerful world dictator, but a country that sometimes has to accept things that there are limits to how much it can shape Israel's region.

  • Schmidt: The Freedom and Democracy Struggle in Syria
    • If, six months ago, Bashar al-Asad had heeded Bismarck’s advice to listen to the footsteps of history, Syria could have been spared much violence and he might even have gone down in history as the country’s first democratic president. Instead he has now been assured a place in history’s garbage dump.

      I see statements like this made regularly. What specific steps do you claim Assad could have taken six months ago that he that he didn't take than and also cannot take now that would have ended the conflict?

  • Perry talks Crazy about Turkey, but is Par for GOP Course
    • As for Israel, it is an informal US ally and has often been helpful

      Can anyone provide examples of Israel being helpful to the US?

      Israel attacked Egypt under Nasser, but Nasser was an adversary of the United States mostly if not entirely because of the West's association with Israel.

      Other than that, as far as I can tell, Israel has been a tremendous drain on US material, diplomatic and moral resources since its inception.

  • Iran Hype undermined by Obama Administration Admissions
    • The Washington Post article has been rewritten to remove the statement that the US is aiming for regime change. Now the argument is that the US is trying to increase the cost of Iran's nuclear program, and the regime failing may be the cost.

      If that's different.

      But I have never before seen a public US intelligence assessment that Iran is already technically nuclear weapons capable:

      Although Iran has continued to develop its nuclear infrastructure — including a recently revealed second uranium-enrichment facility — the “pause” in the nation’s direct march toward a weapon continues, the intelligence official said.

      “Our belief is that they are reserving judgement on whether to continue with key steps they haven’t taken regarding nuclear weapons,” he said.

      “It’s not a technical problem,” he said, adding that Iran already has the capability to build a bomb.

      If Iran is already there, there can be no threat that Iran will be bombed before it becomes nuclear capable. The red line now can't be anything other than tangible steps to deploy an actual weapon.

      The most likely course of events from here is that Iran's legal nuclear weapons capabilities will settle over the next few years and eventually be accepted the same way it is accepted for Japan, Brazil, Canada, Germany and many other countries.

      We'll get there with or without sanctions and increased hostility between the US and Iran. It is better to get there will less rather than more hostility.

  • Why the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Victory at the Polls May not be Decisive
    • That's silly. The difference between 2002 proponents of invading Iraq and me is that I'm not calling for an invasion.

      If it's identical other than that, then it's still closer to the opposite than the same thing.

    • So what?

      Whatever Egypt's voters come up with is guaranteed to be better than the Mubarak dictatorship the US supported for 30 years.

      It is guaranteed to be better than the Saudi dictatorship that the US supports right now, with no criticism from mainstream Western commentators.

      Why now is it some problem that Egyptians aren't governed by the government of Sweden? Why would they ever be? Why should they be?

      The US should stop supporting the Egyptian military if the Egyptian military continues to obstruct putting full control of policy into elected civilian hands. The US won't do that but that's what it should do by the US' own values.

      If Egyptians don't elect the Swedish legislature, that is fully within their rights.

    • Juan Cole:

      Mubarak didn't have an especially good record of empowering women or Copts. Bahrain grants no political power to the _majority_ ethnic group, to say nothing of minority rights.

      All of a sudden, with the prospect of representative government, Westerners are acting concerned with "human rights" in Egypt. And the strategy for protecting these human rights is for the previous dictatorship, which follows US instructions regarding Israel, to effectively remain in power. Supposedly just in case an elected government might not protect these rights. (Not as well as Mubarak? Not as well as the Saudi or Jordanian dictatorships?)

      And while the pro-US dictatorship is supposedly "protecting human rights", it will just so happen also to be continuing to follow US instructions regarding Israel.

      Seriously that position is an insult to our intelligence.

      MRK:

      No, you are very wrong if you think Saudi Arabia or Jordan is effectively hostile at all against Israel.

      An accountable Republic of Arabia that was responsive to its voters would be far more of a threat to Israel than Iran is because it has a lot more cash and is a lot closer to Israel (and is an Arab country and a largely Sunni country).

      The reason Saudi Arabia does not acquire legal nuclear weapons capability the way Brazil, Japan and many other countries have, and the way Iran is attempting, is because Israel doesn't want Saudi Arabia to have it. The United States on Israel's behalf has communicated a desire to the Saudi government that it not acquire these technologies and the Saudi government is accountable to the US government more than to any domestic constituency and so follows US instructions.

      Saudi Arabia spends more on its military than Israel and Iran put together (I think twofold). The United States is openly committed to Israel being militarily dominant over all of its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia. No independent country would tolerate the US with a commitment to the country the people of Saudi Arabia consider the biggest threat to their country having the relationship the US does with the Saudi government.

      Israel's long-term viability is doubtful without what effectively are colonial-style dictatorships in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE and others. Westerners who support Zionism ultimately must, in some form or other, support those dictatorships.

    • Ashraf,

      If I could add one thing, Westerners say they are concerned with theocracy but they really are not. It is a lie and it is understandable that someone might believe that lie because they say it so often. But you'll understand the Western position on governments in the Middle East much better once you see past it.

      To Westerners both "theocracy" and "like Iran" mean hostile to Israel, and because the US is committed to Israel, for Westerners that necessarily implies hostile to the US.

      Saudi Arabia, for example, is a real theocracy. You'll very rarely, almost never, see an expression of concern about Saudi Arabia's internal policies in Western commentary.

      Westerners are simply not concerned about whether Egyptians are ruled by Sharia law, much less whether or not there is a bill of rights in Egypt. We've seen the Mubarak dictatorship that Juan Cole a year ago described as "unproblematic for the US". Westerners are concerned that Egypt will pose a threat to Israel.

      If it does, Westerners are prepared to call Egypt a repressive dictatorship no matter how fair its elections actually are or what freedoms are afforded to its citizens.

      The United States and the West will oppose Egypt if and only if Egypt develops into a threat to Israel. Then they will lie and say this opposition is based on "theocracy" or "rights" or "repression".

      Westerners cannot just say "we oppose any government of any type that does not accept Israel" because that statement would contradict deeply held core Western ideals. But that statement is true, so Westerners lie, first to themselves and then to non-Westerners.

      Hezbollah, for example barely has a veto in a Lebanese political process that is heavily weighted against Shiites. Westerners present Lebanon, Lebanon, as a repressive dictatorship. While ignoring, for example, Jordan.

      It's a game. You can play if you want. But if you don't want to play, it is very safe to ignore any Western feigned concern for "sharia" or "theocracy" or "rights" in the greater Middle East.

    • In other words, the pro-US military dictatorship may successfully prevent Egyptian policy from becoming responsive to the will of the Egyptian people.

  • Jahanpour: As US and Iran Confront Each other, where is the Diplomacy?
    • The situation around Iran's nuclear program is more binary than Jahanpour presents it.

      Iran can or cannot have a nuclear program in line with the NPT and with other nuclear programs around the world, which includes legal nuclear weapons capabilities.

      One side has to back down, the US has to say Iran can enrich, or Iran has to accept that the US has a veto over its enrichment.

      Even getting Israel to relinquish its weapons, which would be good on its own merits and which Iran has made vastly more likely, would probably not convince Iran that should accept permanently requiring US approval for any enrichment.

      We can almost say that an essay on the nuclear issue that does not directly address enrichment, and preferably beyond that legal nuclear weapons capabilities such as those Japan, Brazil, Canada, Germany and many other countries have is a waste of time.

  • Will his New Sanctions on Iran Cost Obama the Presidency?
    • There has never been a time since the fall of the pro-US dictator the Shah that the US has not wanted sanctons, as you note, on Israel's behalf, and as punishment for policies seen as harmful to Israel that are popular and legitimate by local values.

      The question of the nuclear dispute is can the United States accept Iran being potentially as close to a nuclear weapon as Japan is today. Which is to say can Iran acquire legal nuclear weapons capabilities.

      From sanctions to sabotage to military attacks, no plausible US policy option would prevent Iran from advancing its nuclear program towards legal nuclear weapons capability. Most courses, including Obama's sanctions and Obama's and Republican threats to take the military measures that are supposedly on the table will predictably lead to more Iranian nuclear capabilities, not less.

      So will the US harm Iranians, the region and the US itself in a desire to maintain an illusion of omnipotence, the idea, false in this case, that there must be something the US can do to prevent an outcome Israel would not like?

      For Obama, it looks like the answer is yes.

  • 2011: End of US Hyperpower & its War with Islamdom
    • I've actually never seen 2001 or 2003 as a major departure from usual US Middle East policy. So if 2011 put the US back to where it was in 2000 with regards to the Middle East, that is still not a good place for the people of the Middle East or, admittedly to a less intense degree, for the people of the United States.

      The United States, as you mention elsewhere, was in important ways the adversary of the people of the Middle East even before George W. Bush's political career began. That conflict certainly does not end because US ground forces are out of Iraq.

      It is personal taste, but I consider the similarities in US Middle East policy in 1990, 2000, 2003 and 2011 as more important than the differences.

    • To follow up on Tariq, if the war on Islamdom ended when the US withdrew from Iraq, or even is expected to end soon when the US leaves Afghanistan, then when did the war on Islamdom start?

      A lot is hinging on how we're defining the US war on Islamdom.

      It seems that this essay is based on the idea that the US war on Islamdom began with the 1991 invasion of Iraq.

      US support for Israel in 1973 as well as US direct intervention as well as its support for Israeli intervention in Lebanon in the 1980s by this accounting were not part of a war with Islam.

      It is semantic, I guess. You can define the war as starting whenever you want, and ending whenever you want.

      US policy motivations, priorities and agendas in the Middle East are not different in 2012 than they were in 2002, 1992 or 1982 as far as I can tell.

      Iraq has been destroyed and though the US was unable to install a government in Iraq that would allow an indefinite occupation, Iraq still is not able to advance regional policy objectives in line with the values of its population if those Iraqi values could conflict with the US' priorities.

      If the US gave up on Iraq with its objectives only partially met, does that mean the war is over, or only that a single battle in a larger war has ended? Again that is a question whose answer, I guess, depends on personal taste.

      We'll see what happens in Egypt. It is possible that the conflict between the US and the people of the Middle East will be redefined because of Egypt as the US loses the major asset of a pliant government there.

      It is also possible that as the US attempts to retain control of Egypt's foreign policy, these attempts are opposed by Egyptians, and the next battleground between the US and the people of the Middle East will be Egypt itself.

      Or, it is possible that the people of Egypt will be happy with US control of their foreign policy if their parliament can make domestic decisions. I don't think that is the most likely eventuality but we'll see. And even if that happens, the conflict between the US and the people of the Middle East would still not necessarily be over.

      I agree with Tariq that it is too early to declare that the war between the West, led by the US, and the people of the Middle East is over. I expect important developments in this conflict to occur in 2012.

  • Top Ten Myths about the Arab Spring of 2011
    • The interesting question is how far is it possible, given the US' commitment to Israel, to take a hands-off policy with regards to Israel's neighbors?

      Could the US allow Saudi Arabia to come under the control of a populist government? If Iran is a threat to Israel, how much more of a threat would a Republic of Arabia be, with a much bigger military budget than Israel and Iran put together, a more strategic geographical position regarding Israel and more revenue to spread among a smaller population?

      Even without breaking the treaty with Israel, how much more could a populist Egypt do, and if Egypt is going to be bribed to not critically degrade Israel's viability, how much more would it cost the US to bribe Egypt's government in a public system than it pays in its behind-the-scenes leverage over Mubarak and Tantawi?

      What you call the sane thing to do looks like it is not within the US' realm of possibilities given the US' commitment to over-riding the views of more than 400 million people in Israel's region on the question of should there be an enforced Jewish political majority state.

      Polls consistently show that the non-Jewish populations of Israel's region see Zionist Israel as no more legitimate than Black Africans saw Apartheid South Africa.

      Given that, is the United States going to let the people of Israel's region control their own foreign policies or not?

      Barack Obama has clearly decided not. He likely does not believe he has a choice.

    • About 2:

      Trying to keep a dictator in power who has worn out his welcome is always a big mistake on the part of a great power, as was seen in the case of the shah of Iran.

      This statement raises the question of how the United States should deal with dictators who have not obviously, with hundreds of thousands of people protesting in the capital rendering their country ungovernable, outworn their welcome.

      Was the mistake supporting Mubarak, or was supporting Mubarak a good policy for the United States until the Tahrir Square demonstrations became overwhelming?

      If it is the second, then it follows that the aim of US policy should be to at least try to replicate the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt minus the demonstrations.

      It also follows that the US should continue to support pro-US dictatorships in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and others.

      It also follows that if possible, the US should get a pro-US dictator to rule Iraq.

      It also follows that if possible, the US should restore a pro-US dictator to Iran.

      To say that it is a mistake to support dictators after their rule cannot be sustained is an accurate description of US policy. It is also inherently hostile to democracy.

      About 10:

      A democratic Egypt that actually represented public opinion would not necessarily be militant (no Egyptians want a return to a war footing), but it would be honest in its dealings with Tel Aviv. Israel has not been benefited by its denial of statehood to the Palestinians, by Mubarak’s corrupt collaboration in right wing policies, ...

      Woah, Mubarak was not only collaborating with right wing Israeli policies. Egypt's foreign policy is outside of the control of Egypt's voters. Olmert's siege on Gaza, continued by Netanyahu is not a right wing policy that Mubarak collaborated with. Egypt also under Mubarak, at US direction on behalf of Israel, has not moved to acquire any legal nuclear weapons capability such as what NPT signatories such as Japan, Brazil and maybe dozens of others have acquired. That is not a right wing Israeli concern.

      We can say the same, of course, for the other pro-US colonial dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and others.

      ... nor by the Syrian Baath Party’s cynical deployment of Palestine as a domestic issue.

      [The Syrian National Council that is opposing the Baath Party in Syria has said that it will cease supporting Hizbullah and Hamas if it comes to power.]

      Interesting that this Syrian National Council can say this before anyone in Syria has voted. Maybe, like Egypt's military dictatorship, they have been holding secret negotiations with the US about ensuring that Syrian voters cannot influence policies with respect to Israel in any future civilian government.

      Palestine is far more of a domestic issue in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world than Israel is in the United States.

      Every poll of every Arab population that I've ever come across has expressed support for the types of foreign policies pursued by Assad while the foreign policies of the pro-US dictatorships do not have popular support (which is why the US, for Israel's sake, must support removing control of foreign policy from voter control in its controlled dictatorships).

      It is almost outrageous to call Assad's participation in the Zionist/Palestinian dispute cynical without saying the same thing about Barack Obama's far more intense participation in the dispute on the opposite side.

  • Gascoigne: Syria, the Invisible Massacre
    • Harvey, I don't my statement was as unclear or incomprehensible as you're acting like it was.

      Just in case, I'll put it another way: the people of Syria decide how legitimate the Syrian government is. Not me, you, Barack Obama, Juan Cole, Gascoigne or JTMcphee.

      Much unlike Egypt, the biggest rallies in Syria have been pro regime, but of course elections are far more reliable indicators than rally sizes. We'll see what the elections say.

      Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama say, without elections and without polls, that Assad is illegitimate. The reason is that, unlike the people of Syria, Clinton and Obama don't like Assad's opposition to Israel. That is an invalid position and Gascoigne offers support for that invalid position.

      There is no indication that the exile Syrian Council that is communicating with the Obama administration has as much support in Syria as Assad or that it could gain control of Syria with less violence than Assad is currently exerting. It is more than possible that the opposite is true in both cases.

    • What, specifically (a quotation for example), did I write that you disagree with?

    • The media is paying attention to Syria. There is no specific suggestion here of what the media should do that it is not. Google News will reveal probably tens of thousands of stories in various world news sources about Syria over the last year.

      Unless Martin Gascoigne is Syrian, then he, like Barack Obama, is not in a position to answer any questions about the legitimacy of Syria's government, nor or his own questions relevant.

  • Egyptian Blogger-Activist Alaa on Democracy Now!
    • link to jpost.com

      Muhammad ElBaradei says the US has been holding secret talks with Egypt's military dictatorship about Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.

      Speaking to the Iranian semi-official Fars news agency on Tuesday, Elbaradiei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency head, indicated that the future of Israel's peace treaty with Egypt was at the center of a recent and secret round of talks between U.S. officials and members of the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

      "The negotiations were completely secret and confidential," ElBaradei told Fars, adding that what the ruling military indicated "said was that the talks were about bilateral and mutual relations, but I believe that Americans wanted to ensure that the deals signed between Egypt and Israel will remain intact if Islamists ascend to power."

      A couple of things to mention, now that unless ElBaradei is lying, there is no question the US is imposing its influence on Egypt's dictatorship (as it has for more than three decades up to now.)

      1) The US could have been holding secret discussions about holding elections when the SCAS said it would hold them. It is clear that the problem is not that the US does not have leverage over Egypt's military government. The problem is that the US chooses to use its leverage to advance a single agenda, Israel's strategic position.

      2) The SCAS has claimed to be an interim government that in theory should not be in a position to make any commitments about Egypt's future relations with Israel - and certainly not any commitments that specifically take into account that Islamists, not the military, is poised to win the elections.

      3) The United States has issued a public statement claiming that military dictatorship should transfer power to a civilian government. Afterwards, the US began holding secret discussions with the dictatorship directly aimed at limiting the scope of powers of any future civilian government by retaining the power to set policy related to Israel in the military dictatorship.

      4) We occasionally see claims that Egypt's military holds power despite the wishes of the US because it benefits from control of the country. Instead we see the military agreeing with the United States to relinquish control of the country and to maintain control only over the policies, regarding Israel, that the United States wants to prevent from falling into the hands of Egypt's voters.

      The truth about the United States' and Barack Obama's role in preventing Egypt's voters from controlling Egyptian policy is seeping out.

    • He was arrested for challenging continued military rule and now supports having the speaker of parliament, who will be chosen in January, assume the office of the presidency.

      It is interesting now that it is clear that the speaker of Parliament, if the Islamists want, will be an Islamist.

      I've long contended that there in Egypt's movement toward democracy there is no meaningful conflict between Egypt's liberals and religious people, only a conflict between the West in support of Egypt's military and the people of Egypt.

  • Egyptian Court orders Military to Cease Virginity Tests
    • I expect that the parliament will attempt to assert civilian control over the military not long after it sits, and this ruling increases the number and the salience of the options available to the civilian government in any confrontation with the military.

      There may be fireworks in Egyptian politics in 2012, and the US is going to have to decide which side to be on. Given the US' history, if it does not visibly side with the civilians it will be (I'd say correctly) seen as siding with the military which would have tremendously bad implications for Egypt-US relations and Arab-US relations.

  • Iranian Navy Menaces Oil Exports from Hormuz
    • Woah, where have you read that? I'm not aware of it being a consensus, and in fact I have not come across this idea in writing until now.

    • Here's Juan Cole's original statement:

      Israel, the US and some European states maintain that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program, but there is no really good evidence for any such thing if by that you mean a rush to construct an actual warhead.

      If you are saying either the IAEA or any Arab country maintains that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program, then you are are flat-out factually wrong.

      Actually, the US has not, that I'm aware of, said that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program, but instead hold the position that it is important that Iran be prevented from developing a nuclear weapon, while being vague about what it means by "nuclear weapon."

      Effectively, the US position is that Japan, Germany, Brazil and many other countries have that type of "nuclear weapon" because Israel and the US define, for Iran's case, nuclear weapon as either a deployed weapon or the technological capability to develop a weapon.

      This redefinition of "nuclear weapon" for Israel's region has not been supported by the IAEA or any Arab country.

    • The real problem for Israel and its allies is that Iran’s civilian enrichment program is potentially dual-use. If Iran can enrich uranium to 3.5 percent for nuclear reactor fuel, it could in theory use its centrifuges to enrich to 95 percent for a bomb. Israel and the US don’t want Iran even to have the possibility of making a bomb if Tehran someday chooses to, since that would knock Israel down a peg on the Middle East pecking order.

      As always, this is well put. It is really not well enough understood that the dispute over Iran's nuclear issue centers on the question of whether or not Iran will be able to develop legal nuclear weapons capabilities such as those Japan, Brazil, Canada, Germany and maybe dozens of other countries have to varying degrees.

      The wall the US is crashing into is, I'm starting to think, less Israel's insistence that the US stop Iran from attaining legal nuclear weapons capabilities, or the power of the pro-Israel lobbies on the US political process but instead the problem seems to be the US idea that the US can "do something".

      Maybe the US just doesn't have any options that would work or even that would not be counter-productive and make Iran more likely to reach for legal nuclear weapons capabilities or even deploy actual weapons.

      It has become difficult for Americans to think of the United States as not being able to achieve some objective it holds. The US has abundantly demonstrated that it is willing to sacrifice any number non-Jewish people in the Middle East to achieve a goal that Israel considers useful.

      But what if the US would have to sacrifice US interests and still would fail to reach its goal?

      link to mideastreality.blogspot.com

  • Egyptian Women Rally against Police Brutality
    • I think the Muslim Brotherhood's tactic is to wait for representatives to be seated and then to pick from the large array of new options that become available when there is a sitting parliament to pressure the electorally illegitimate SCAS.

      Now, the Muslim Brotherhood would rather have had the elections in September like the SCAS promised. The SCAS broke that promise but did not postpone elections indefinitely. They only contrived a system that would delay election results for about four months after they should have been.

      By the end of January, a sitting parliament can pass any number of electorally legitimate resolutions. If the SCAS does not cooperate, then street protests can take place with a tangible alternative government already in place and electoral legitimacy behind it.

      It is a tactical difference. The dream of democracy will not die by February 2012.

      The SCAS is stalling and trying to hold onto power. That is what the US would want strategically. The US has extensive ties with the SCAS and unlike both the leftist protesters and the religious political organizations, it is openly reported the US is not outside of the SCAS's decision-making process but instead in constant extensive contact with the Egyptian military and police apparatus at the top and many other levels.

      But the SCAS, because of pressure from both the protesters and the religious organizations is not stalling forever. There is plenty of reason to hope the SCAS and US will be overcome by the protesters and religious organizations.

      But so far, there is no indication that the religious organizations have betrayed the left protesters or that they have accepted anything less than full control of Egyptian policy by Egypt's voters. There is also no strategic reason that I've seen that they would accept that.

    • Why do you keep connecting the pipeline to Gaza? Neither issue has anything to do with the other.

      Here are the connections between the Suez pipeline and the siege on Gaza:

      1) They are both policies favorable to Israel
      2) They are both policies Barack Obama wants Egypt to pursue for Israel's sake
      3) They are both policies Hosni Mubarak pursued to accommodate the US
      4) They are both policies the pro-US dictatorship post-Mubarak has continued to pursue to accommodate the US
      5) They are both policies that have strong opposition in Egypt's voting population
      6) They are both policies that give Barack Obama and the United States a strong incentive to oppose democracy in Egypt
      7) They are both examples of the kinds of policies that give Barack Obama and the United States strong incentives to oppose democracy throughout the Middle East, especially in dictatorships that today are like Egypt was last year, such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and others.

      I honestly think there is a mix-up in communication. I didn't say they are connected to each other. They are two separate examples that advance the same argument.

    • The Egyptian protesters consist of two main groups, 1) leftist students and their worker allies, and 2) the Muslim religious parties. The latter are doing well in parliamentary elections. The military council is cracking down hard on the left, and the more electorally successful Brotherhood is not standing up for them.

      Let's be honest. Barack Obama does not want Egypt's voters to determine how quickly the Suez pipeline is repaired when it is sabotaged, whether or not the prices for gas from that pipeline are released publicly or under what conditions passage of goods and people to Gaza is conducted.

      If these issues ever do come under civilian control, Obama would rather it be later than sooner. 2013 is better than June 2012 which is better than earlier. Obama also is happy the commitment the SCAF made to transfer all political power to civilian governance by September this year was not kept.

      Egypt's two groups of protesters at least have the same goal. They do want civilian control over Egyptian policy and they do not prefer delay over an earlier or even immediate transfer of power.

      This crazy three-phase electoral system was never advocated by either the students or the religious parties. Given that it has already been started, there may be tactical differences between students and religious parties about whether to protest now or later but so far the primary dispute is not between the Muslims and the Left but, as has been the case for over 30 years, between the US-backed military and all of the people of Egypt who believe Egyptians should control their government's policies.

      If power is transferred to the religious parties today, those parties would either order the crackdown on l eftist protesters stopped, the protests would stop on their own because power would be in the hands of civilians with some representative legitimacy or, if not, then the religious parties would deserve criticism for not standing up for the leftists.

      But unlike the Barack Obama administration, Egypt's religious parties do not today have a lot of leverage over the SCAF. So despite Hillary Clinton's empty condemnations, the party in the real world today that is not standing up for the Leftist demonstrators when it effectively could is not the religious parties, but the United States.

  • Egyptian Protesters Demand Military Step Down in Wake of Blue Bra Beating
    • you base this on ... what?

      Based on the relationship the US has had with Egypt for over 30 years, including the relationship Barack Obama had with Hosni Mubarak where both he and Joe Biden at different times said Mubarak was not an authoritarian dictator because Obama and Biden liked Mubarak's policies regarding Israel.

      Do you think the United States wants to see Egypt's foreign policy come under the control of Egypt's voters?

      If you believe that, your position is vastly more unreasonable, vastly more difficult to support with any evidence than mine.

    • Interesting concept that you, John, not me, introduced of "the devil theory of history". I've never written that. What exactly do _you_ mean when _you_ write that?

      But lets just say we can be sure the US is more adamant that the pro-US military dictatorship in place not relax the siege on Gaza and that the dictatorship maintains the flow of Sinai gas to Israel than it is that the pro-US dictatorship cede power over foreign affairs to a civilian government.

      We can also be sure that somehow the pro-US military dictatorship has gotten the message that Westerners are reassured by the military's commitment to deny Egyptians civilian control over foreign policy.

      It is meaningless to say that the situation is "messy & complicated". I'm still right because the United States, maybe in what to you seems a messy and complicated way, is not expressing any opposition to the military's intention, already expressed to Western reporters, to withhold sovereign control of foreign policy from Egypt's voters.

    • It seems to me that the protesters want what they say they want. Democracy. And that if Egypt's voters want a Muslim government, they would be fine with a Muslim government.

      The people who do not want a Muslim government are not the protesters, but particularly people in the United States who have no right to vote in Egyptian elections.

      Unfortunately the United States has an extraordinary amount of leverage over the Egyptian military dictatorship and the US seems to be using its leverage not against the Muslim political parties, and not against the left-wing protesters, but against the people of Egypt.

  • One year on-- Mohamed Bouazizi's Sacrifice
    • Ben Ali was a dictator over whom the US held a tremendous amount of leverage long before Mohamed Bouazizi died.

      An American should be embarrassed by Bouazizi's death and by the fact that the United States did not act in line with the its own professed founding values long before by making a full transfer of sovereign power to popularly accountable political bodies a condition of US cooperation.

      An American should be more embarrassed that in Jordan, in Saudi Arabia, in UAE in Kuwait and other countries, the US maintains its relationships with unaccountable pro-US dictators that reflect the colonial relationships many of those same governments had with imperial Great Britain a century ago.

      Lastly, Egypt's current pro-US dictatorship has communicated to the Western news establishment that it hopes to continue to hold Egypt's foreign policy outside of the control of any elected government.

      December 1, 2011 - New York Times:

      The new majority is likely to increase the difficulty of sustaining the United States’ close military and political partnership with post-Mubarak Egypt, though the military has said it plans to maintain a monopoly over many aspects of foreign affairs.

      December 18, 2011 - New York Times:

      But the generals have insisted that they retain full control of the interim government, and they have sought to carve out permanent institutional autonomy and political powers under the new charter.

      The Obama administration calls for the dictatorship to cede "real power" to the civilians. But real power is not necessarily all power and is not inconsistent with the plans the pro-US dictatorship has expressed. Imperial Great Britain offered "real power" to Egypt in 1922, as long as that power did not impinge on the British prerogative to direct policy on matters Britain considered important.

      The US State Department on November 25, 2011:

      The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately. We believe that Egypt’s transition to democracy must continue, with elections proceeding expeditiously, and all necessary measures taken to ensure security and prevent intimidation. Most importantly, we believe that the full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible.

      Now that Egypt's dictatorship has publicly expressed to the US news media that it intends to retain control of Egypt's foreign affairs - which it currently executes under the direction of the United States - after it has fully transferred the powers it intends to transfer to a civilian government, the US has notably not publicly or even off of the record expressed opposition or disapproval of this plan.

      The United States has a military that is fully subordinate to its elected government. American presidents, officials, press, analysts and commentators should be embarrassed by the plans of the pro-US dictatorship to deny that sovereignty to the people who elect Egypt's government.

      More than a generation from now, memoirs may be released and records declassified that show the full extent of US involvement in the plans of the pro-US Egyptian dictatorship to deny political power to any elected government. The US and Britain officially denied their role in wresting power from the elected bodies of Iran for decades after 1953.

      But even what is known today about US policy in the Middle East should be, by America's professed founding values, an embarrassment to every aware person in the United States. That embarrassment should have existed long before, while still being greatly magnified by, the death of Mohamed Bouazizi.

  • Israel to defend its Military from Israelis
    • Somewhat off topic, but Iran's nuclear program has generated strong support among Israel's population for a Middle East nuclear weapons free zone that includes Israel.

      I think this is the first time this has ever happened.

      link to brookings.edu
      link to brookings.edu

      There is talk of a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Do you:
      Support such an attack
      Jewish Israelis 43%
      Arab/Palestinian Israelis 4%
      Oppose such an attack
      Jewish Israelis 41%
      Arab/Palestinian Israelis 68%

      Assuming that these are the only two options, which do you think would be a better situation for Israel
      Neither Israel nor Iran have nuclear weapons 65%
      Both Israel and Iran have nuclear weapons 19%

      So in total, do you support or oppose the idea of having a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East that would include both Islamic countries and Israel?
      Support 64%
      Object 31%

  • Christian Hate Group Targets Peaceful Muslim-Americans
  • Washington Actions on Palestine don't Differ from Gingrich's Words
    • The US government is spineless before right wing Israeli provocations. Did Israel from 2007 want to impose an illegal blockade on Palestinian children and other non-combatants in the Gaza Strip, putting them on “a diet” and keeping them on the edge of humanitarian disaster? Wikileaks revealed that the State Department did no more than tut tut at these war crimes. The US government has responded far more vigorously to college students downloading some music files than it has to Israeli squatters stealing much of the West Bank’s best land.

      Just a quibble in a very good and informative post.

      The US government under Obama has been far more complicit with the Israeli diet on Gaza than doing no more than tut tut at it.

      First, Obama rhetorically defends it.

      Second, US pressure, not Israeli, has produced Egyptian cooperation with the policy - even after the fall of Mubarak, and if the SCAS gets its way, even after an elected parliament and government take power and gain authority over issues other than Egypt's policy with respect to Israel.

      Third, US pressure again, not Israeli, has caused Turkey to stop actively opposing the siege.

  • Britain Closes Tehran Embassy
    • Vashti:

      How do you feel about Hamas, Hezbollah and ensuring that Israel's regional monopoly on nuclear weapons extends to legal nuclear capabilities, so that Iran could not even have the capabilities that Japan, Brazil, Germany and many others have?

      What proportion of Iranians support the government on these three issues? Polls in the West show that all of them have 2 to 1 support.

      If the polls are right and most Iranians agree with those policies, do you think the United States or UK would be any less hostile against Iran if you were the ruler, if you pursued these seemingly popular policies that the IRI pursues?

      The West would be against you just as much as it is against Ahmadinejad if you pursued policies in line with the world views of most Iranians.

      The West is the wrong place for you to look for help unless you want to be ruled by the Shah or to be "partly free" so that your vote matters only on issues that the US does not consider important.

    • The New York Times claims to have received assurances from Egypt's military dictatorship that Egypt's voters will not influence areas of foreign policy of concern to Westerners.

      link to nytimes.com

      The new majority is likely to increase the difficulty of sustaining the United States’ close military and political partnership with post-Mubarak Egypt, though the military has said it plans to maintain a monopoly over many aspects of foreign affairs.

      Can anyone doubt that if Egypt's foreign affairs were not held under the control of a pro-US military, that a democratic Egypt that sets its own foreign policy would be treated no differently by the US than Iran is today?

      Fundamentally the hostility would not be Egypt's fault, and it is not currently Iran's fault. What we're seeing in Iran is part of the Western effort to ensure that fewer than six million Jewish people have an enforced political majority state insulated from the opposition of more than 400 million non-Jewish people in its region.

      If hostility, tension and violence increase over the last half of Obama's term in office, it is important to remember the ultimate cause of it.

  • Democratic Developments in the Arab Upheavals
    • The Arab League is no longer nothing more than a club of dictators. 4 of its 22 members have now had changes at the top induced by popular uprisings, with elections held or promised. Three (Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco) had already been classified as “partly free” by Freedom House. Another, Iraq, holds regular parliamentary elections, though its democracy is compromised in other ways. So 8 of the 22, about a third, can’t be dismissed as simple dictatorships or absolute monarchies.

      Freedom House's scoring system doesn't seem, at least to me, as a meaningful measure of democracy. Contrary to Freedom House's scores, Kuwait is neither more democratic than Iran or about as democratic as Lebanon.

      link to freedomhouse.org

      4 of 22 members have had uprisings that may or may not lead to democratic outcomes in the future. But we can include Syria in that also since Assad as committed to open elections in February and presidential elections in 2014. So 5 of 22 members are currently non-democratic, but have had recent uprisings and may become democratic or fully transfer post to democratic bodies at some point.

      Iraq is more or less democratic, despite currently being occupied by a country with an intense agenda regarding its policies in the region. That occupation is scheduled to end this year. US leverage over Iraqi government policies is declining, but one cannot say that it either has become or can be expected to become trivial for the foreseeable future.

      Lebanon holds elections but has a voting system that deprives the Shiites, the country's largest ethnic group of political power proportionate to the size of its population. Other than this systematic oppression of Shiites, Lebanon can be called democratic.

      Kuwait and Morocco, like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and most of the other countries rightly described as dictatorships (including Mubarak's Egypt and Saddam Hussein's Iraq), have a parliamentary veneer that can be and typically is overruled by unaccountable monarchs or dictators. It is laughable to call any of these countries either democratic or "partly free" in the context of a discussion about dictatorship.

      And so the Arab league actually is a club of dictators. Two of its member countries are currently not dictatorships: Iraq and Lebanon. But neither of even those two has a political system that can create policy that reflects, without distortion, the views and sensibilities of its people.

      The United States seems to be working to achieve an Egypt that is "partly free" like Kuwait and Morocco. Which is to say not free. By the standards of the US moral system, that is absolutely disgraceful.

      This club of dictators that has voted to suspend Syria did not do so out of fear of alienating their student protesters. Another absurd idea. They did so because the US is hostile against Syria and has more leverage over the policies of almost every Arab league state than any domestic constituency.

    • Three (Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco) had already been classified as “partly free” by Freedom House.

      Dr. Cole:

      Who is Freedom House and why are you outsourcing your analysis to them? Do you hold the position yourself that Kuwait, Morocco and Lebanon are "partly free"?

      What does "partly free" mean to you?

  • Assassinating Dreams in Egypt: Amr
    • In an English-speaking blog based in the United States, it is important not to let the United States and its president Barack Obama off the hook for Tantawi's and the SCAF's betrayal of the revolution and betrayal of the ideals of democracy and popular sovereignty over government and government policy.

      Tantawi was part of the Mubarak apparatus. There is no reason to think he was ever more independent or immune to US pressure than Mubarak was.

      But directly, the US successfully applied enough pressure on Egypt to ensure that Egypt continues the siege on Gaza and to ensure that the gas pipeline to Israel is repaired as quickly as humanly possible the many times Egyptians destroy it. Egypt, certainly at US urging, has also continued the Mubarak policy of keeping the terms of the pipeline trade secret.

      The US, Barack Obama, has substantial leverage over Tantawi's government and chooses to use its leverage to support Israel while, at the very best, deliberately turning a blind eye to Tantawi's anti-democratic policies.

      A blog based in the United States should be careful not to present Tantawi as an independent monster. If there is an independent monster, it is the one most of the readers of this blog are able to vote for.

  • Empire by the Numbers
    • It is hard to describe the sample as "Arab" since a lot of countries are missing but among the sampled populations in Egypt, Lebanon, UAE, Jordan and Morocco:

      In retrospect, do you believe the international intervention in Libya was the right thing to do?
      The right thing to do 35%
      The wrong thing to do 46%

      link to brookings.edu

      What two countries pose the biggest threat to you?
      Israel 71%
      US 59%
      Iran 18%

      There is international pressure on Iran to curtail its nuclear program. What is your opinion?
      Iran has a right to its program 64% (53% in 2009)
      Iran should be pressured to stop its nuclear program 25% (40% in 2009)

      I also note that Brookings was careful _not_ to ask directly what the respondents think about Israel's legitimacy as a enforced Jewish majority state.

      Instead it asks if Israel returns all 1967 territory, which is not even on the table, would the respondents accept Israel. The results were still not positive for Israel, but more positive than a relevant question would have yielded.

  • Anti-Liberal Netanyahu Slams Arab Spring as Anti-Liberal
    • Joe,

      The VOA link does not support the idea that Obama actively worked against Mubarak at any stage before it was clear that Mubarak's rule was no longer viable. Your quote was written when there were over 100,000 people in Tahrir Square who had successfully repulsed the security forces. By that time it was already clear that Mubarak could not continue to rule Egypt.

      If your VOA link is true, it still simply is the case that Obama supported Mubarak's rule when the protests started until after it was clear to nearly all observers that Mubarak could not maintain power. Hillary Clinton said his rule was stable. Joe Biden said he was not a dictator. Another US official, much later, said he should remain in power until September, accepting Mubarak's terms that Tahrir had already rejected.

      This history is much too recent for you to just make up.

      About Saudi Arabia - I find it equally laughable that you do not realize that it is obedient to the US. How do you explain that Saudi Arabia spends more than twice what Israel spends on military but remains defenseless against Israel while its citizens consider Israel their greatest threat?

      Now that we're both laughing, where do you see non-obedience in anything but purely symbolic actions from Saudi Arabia?

      About your statement that it would be imperialistic for Obama to say that the people of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE and others should have the right to vote - before there have been deadly protests against the regimes - you've completely reversed the definition of imperialism to the degree that it is hard to believe you are being honest.

      Mubarak really is the past. Obama was very late to realize he could not maintain power and abandoned him after that. The currently relevant questions are does Obama support the military's recent scheme to introduce partial democracy, did he support that scheme when it was hatched and does Obama support governments like Mubarak's in other countries.

      No, it would not have been imperialistic to answer, when asked directly, that yes Mubarak is an authoritarian ruler and US support for him contradicts the principle of democracy.

      No, it would not be imperialistic today for Obama to say the US will not provide material and training for a new force of 35,000 or more troops for Saudi Arabia unless that state transfers power to popularly accountable political bodies.

      link to mideastreality.blogspot.com

      No, it would not be imperialistic for Obama to say today that Jordan's dictator should cede power to the people of the country as soon as possible.

      I don't even want to know what your definition of imperialism is, but it is wrong. And it is imperialistic for Obama not to take the steps listed above.

    • If that’s bigger than the US aid, they’ll say screw America, and then what?

      And then America is not complicit in imposing a dictatorship over 80 million Egyptians. The United States could, at that point, be on the side of democracy in Egypt.

      Barack Obama acts like that is nothing you seem to act that way also. By America's professed values, that would be important.

    • Joe,

      My claim is that Obama supported Mubarak until there was no feasible way to maintain him in power. Another claim is that Obama probably supported a partial democracy, where the military would retain control of foreign policy and democratic bodies only had control over domestic issues. If the people of Egypt make it so there is no feasible way to accomplish that, then Obama will have no choice but to grudgingly accept Egyptian democracy.

      Obama's behavior in February and more recently is consistent with that.

      Obama's relationship with Mubarak before the protests was approximately the same as Bush's and remained the same as the protests grew. Only when it reached the point that Mubarak clearly was not viable did Obama speak against him.

      In other words, not different from how Bush handled the Mubarak protests. If Pakistan's protests reached the degree that they could not be resisted, Bush likely would have handled that situation as Obama did - belatedly withdrawing his support for the regime.

      link to msnbc.msn.com

      I haven't found support for your narrative of Bush acting differently than Obama. Do you have a link to it?

      Obama came into office with an obedient dictatorship in Egypt. If he didn't prefer it, he had no reason to wait for hundreds to die in protests to say he opposed it. Instead he said that Mubarak is not an authoritarian ruler.

      link to mideastreality.blogspot.com

      There are obedient dictatorships in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and others right now. If Obama does not prefer them, he can say so at any time. How do you explain that he does not?

      My claim is that Barack Obama would have the Middle East ruled by pliant dictators if possible. If you think my claim is wrong, so far you have not made any argument against that claim at all.

    • The charge of “anti-Western” is just propaganda. People aren’t “anti-Western” in principle, they protest particular Western policies. For instance, they mind people like Netanyahu trying to ensure that dictators like Mubarak and Ben Ali remain in power over them.

      That's true.

      When President Obama finally saw the writing on the wall and gave Mubarak a push, and forbade the Egyptian military to shoot people in the streets, many people in Egypt somewhat revised their view of him. (There were some anti-American posters in Tahrir Square in January and February, but I spent much of July in Tahrir and don’t remember seeing a single anti-American sign).

      Interesting observation that Obama forbade the Egyptian military from shooting people in the streets. It's not clear that's what happened but if that is the case, then Obama can issue orders to Egypt's military and therefore has some responsibility for the military's refusal to transfer power to and accept command from the civilians.

      As always, the question facing Westerners, especially liberals, is why wait until people are dying? Why did Obama not pressure Mubarak and Egypt's military to move to accountable leadership before January, and why not pressure Egypt's military to become fully accountable without the stalling we've seen, as the military had itself committed, before this round of violence?

      Is there a principled support for democracy and the idea that government should be accountable to the governed, or is there a situational calculation that the US, despite its wishes, cannot practically maintain a dictatorship that it otherwise would?

      If, as it seems, the answer for Western liberals is the second, that is just shameful even by American professed values.

      As for revolutionary Egypt, it is still getting $1.2 billion a year in aid from Washington, which doesn’t sound anti-Western to me.

      "Revolutionary Egypt" is ruled by Mubarak-era officials. We have yet to see how an Egypt that is popularly accountable would relate to the United States. Judging by the proposals of the military that Obama may be able to issue orders to, it is likely that Obama does not want to see an Egypt that is accountable, especially in matters of foreign policy, to its own people instead of to the US government.

    • I've seen several polls asking various Middle Eastern populations whether or not they consider Israel as an enforced political majority Jewish entity a legitimate state.

      I've never seen even 30% of any population answer yes.

      An Egypt that does not consider Israel legitimate (and that thereby reflects the values, beliefs and sensibilities of the Egyptian people), even if for pragmatic reasons it does not break the treaty or send tanks toward Tel Aviv, makes Israel as an enforced Jewish political majority state a lot less viable. For example, just by making it impossible to squeeze the people of Gaza if they elect a party like Hamas.

      If Saudi Arabia, which already spends more than 2.5 times as much as Israel on weapons, has a bigger area, and whose location could put all of Israel's territory under a modern anti-aircraft umbrella, had policies that matched the values, beliefs and sensibilities of its people it would render Israel as an enforced Jewish political majority state almost immediately non-viable.

      Egypt becoming democratic not only threatens Israel directly, but weakens by example the dictatorships Israel needs in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and others.

      Netanyahu is basically right. Israel needs a region of pro-US colonial-style dictatorships. He uses terms as favorable to his party and to Israel as possible, but looking past those terms, if the US is unwilling to support dictatorships, there can be no Israel.

      That puts the questions back on Americans. Are you willing to support colonial dictatorships for Israel's sake, how much are you willing to sacrifice of your own blood and treasure to do that, and how do you justify your stance?

  • Arab League Suspends Syria as Israeli Warns of "Islamic Empire"
    • Amos Gilad, who heads up the diplomatic-security office within Israel’s Ministry of Defense, said that he was worried about an “Islamic Empire” confronting Israel if the Muslim Brotherhood took over both Egypt and Syria. It has long been reported in the Arabic press that the Israeli security and defense establishment favors retaining Bashar al-Assad and his secular Baath Party rather than see Muslim fundamentalists come to power in Damascus.

      ...

      External boycotts and sanctions are unlikely to bring down the Baathist government, especially if Israel were to decide to give Bashar covert aid.

      The United States is clearly working to force Assad out. The Obama administration publicly said the opposition should not put down its arms. If you're claiming Obama is doing this against Israel's wishes, that is impossible to believe.

      The thing about Israeli covert aid is also an absurdity.

      Where Syria is headed from worst to best case from Israel/US point of view:

      1) Assad hangs on and the opposition loses steam and dwindles
      2) An opposition council with commitments to the US takes power by force, holds elections after some delay and maybe, depending on what constitution is written, leaves Syrian foreign policy as independent of US pressure as it is today, but quite plausibly does not.
      3) Syria is mired in a deep civil war and internal destruction that makes it unable to influence the rest of the region for an extended period of time, even if hostile forces nominally win. This is what we've seen in Iraq.

      If the Muslim Brotherhood completely took over Syria, the worst they could to do Israel is support Hamas and Hezbollah, which is exactly what Assad is doing. Syria is not in a position to wage a conventional war with Israel regardless of its leadership.

      Today's Syria, or 2010 Syria is the worst case scenario for Israel. If you disagree, then what specific policy could Syria pursue that would be worse for Israel?

      The best case for both the welfare of the people of Syria and for the principle of democracy would be for violence on all sides, particularly against the state to be subdued for long enough for elections to be organized in which anyone, including Assad can campaign and run.

      Then after seeing election results it will be clear whether or not Assad has more or less popular support than the very passionate protesters in small cities who have outside support. It is very possible, almost likely, that he does.

      If Assad is less popular than some alternative, then a graceful exit should be determined.

      US policy, with your support, Cole, seems designed to ensure scenario 3 above happens. That is a great outcome for Israel and a horrible outcome for the people of Syria.

      Scenario 1 then elections is the only one that could possibly lead to a graceful transition of power even if Assad does not have more popular support than some alternative.

  • GOPers Promise you War on Iran & Torture & Poverty
    • I again want to point out the issue of capacity or capability as opposed to actual weapons, from Gingrich:
      “And I agree entirely with Governor Romney, if in the end, despite all of those things– the dictatorship persists, you have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its capacity to have a nuclear weapon.”
      Capacity to have a nuclear weapon is legal. Some people think the Additional Protocols - which Iran has not ratified and which is not in force regarding Iran - would make nuclear weapons capabilities illegal. That is not true and Iran has offered to implement the Additional Protocols if the US demand which is against the NPT that Iran stop enrichment is dropped.

      A former defense minister of Japan puts it:
      "I don't think Japan needs to possess nuclear weapons, but it's important to maintain our commercial reactors because it would allow us to produce a nuclear warhead in a short amount of time," former Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba told the conservative periodical Sapio in recently published remarks.

      Japan implements the Additional Protocols. Japan's legal nuclear weapons capability is not a loophole but the NPT as it was negotiated.

      If the US wants there to be a special rule for Israel's region, that is something the US should debate openly. Doing "tremendous" harm (according to Barack Obama) to Iran's economy to coerce Iran to relinquish capabilities that are legal outside of Israel's region causes harm to real people, to say nothing of the program of assassinations now being orchestrated by the US and Israel.

      If preventing legal technological capabilities from reaching Iran and the other 400 million non-Jews in Israel's region is part of the cost of keeping an enforced Jewish political state viable, then maybe the cost of that is too high.

  • The Little Iran Nuclear Report that Couldn't
    • It's interesting that Western analysts can't just say:

      "We don't want any other nation in Israel's region to have nuclear capabilities that are otherwise legal. We understand that this is not consistent with the NPT, but so what? Israel is more important."

      And then at least come from an honest position and debate from there.

      Why this blizzard of lies and misleading redefinitions and forged documents?

      The Barack Obama administration should just state its position advocate it like adults.

  • Iran Looks to China, Russia to Break out of US Sanctions
    • I recall Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi signed it and violated it anyway.

      You recall wrong. Osirak was a publicly known reactor of a type with nearly no weapons potential. Saddam Hussein never diverted fissile material to a weapons program, and all of the uranium in Iraq was exactly where Iraq had told the IAEA it was all along.

      Gaddafi also never diverted fissile material to weapons. Neither Iraq, Libya or Iran ever were as close to making a weapon or could make them as quickly and easily as Japan, Brazil, Germany or Canada could today.

      Simply put, the United States is committed to a different standard for access to nuclear technology for countries that could break Israel's regional nuclear monopoly.

      You, like most casually informed Westerners, have been subject to a decades-long campaign of lies told on Israel's behalf.

      If Brazil, Japan or Canada were located where Libya, Iran or Iraq is, with the same exact nuclear policies & programs, Barack Obama would present any of them to you as the world's greatest threat to humanity. And he'd lie to you about why.

      Democrat or Republican, the US commitment to Israel forces the US political system to engage in this deception.

    • But latency has almost the same deterrent effect, and is much less costly in global political capital.

      What you're describing as latency is also legal. It is a status held by dozens of other countries that Israel does not consider adversaries or potential adversaries.

      Preventing Iran from reaching a technological threshold that Japan, Brazil, Canada, Germany and many other countries have reached requires constantly and blatantly lying about many legal and technical aspects of Iran's nuclear program.

      Barack Obama and Yukiya Amano are willing to tell these lies as part of the Western campaign to ensure that fewer than 6 million Jewish people remain in a dominant position over more than 400 million non-Jewish people in their region.

      Deception and distortion about Iran's nuclear program is but one of the costs of ensuring a majority Jewish state in a region where a majority of people, given the option, would choose for there to be no set-aside majority Jewish state just as the people of Southern Africa chose for there to be no set-aside majority White state in their region.

  • Newt's new Crusade against the Arab Spring
    • Joe, the point I was making was that US Democrats are no better than US Republicans like Gingrich.

      Cole's criticism of Gingrich - if Gingrich had proposed focusing on 13 million Christians and if that criticism was valid - would have been more valid against the entire Democratic and Republican US political establishment applied to Jews who are smaller in number in the region.

      So what was the point you were trying to make?

    • Middle Eastern Christians deserve a decent life and human rights like everyone else. But Gingrich is being silly if he advocates putting their interests first in US Middle East policy. There aren’t that many of them The largest group is the Egyptian Copts at 8 million or so. Less than a million left in Lebanon. About a million Palestinians. Some 2 million in Syria. Less than half a million in Iraq. Maybe 200,000 in Iran. And that is just about it– their numbers everywhere else are miniscule. They aren’t even big proportions of the countries where they reside. Less than 13 million in a region of about 420 million people (the Arab world plus Turkey and Iran).

      Fewer than 13 million? There are fewer than 8 million Jewish people in the region.

      The United States has an explicit commitment, that Barack Obama describes as unbreakable, that the small number of Jewish people has an militarily unchallengeable majority state in their region of 420 million people even at the cost of supporting dictatorship for everyone else.

      This is not a Republican issue. Neither George Bush, Newt Gingrich nor Herman Cain is fundamentally worse on the Middle East than Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or John Kerry.

      A country that wants to overrule 420 million people's assessment of the legitimacy of Israel has to do it in the evil ways we see the United States behaving in the Middle East today.

      Either Juan Cole would subordinate the interests of 420 million people to those of 6 million people, or Juan Cole could not be president of the United States. Democrat or Republican.

  • Israel's Strangulation of Gaza by the Numbers
    • Exports from Gaza to the rest of the world allowed by Israel: 0

      What possible justification can the Obama administration have for not

      1) Saying this is unacceptable.

      2) Committing to tangible consequences for Israel if its export ban is not lifted.

      What role can an export ban play in preventing military items from reaching supposed terrorists?

      Gaza is the clearest example of Barack Obama's betrayal of humanity and the ideals of justice and reducing suffering.

  • China and Iran, Green Together
    • Obviously, Iran should move rapidly toward wind and solar energy and give up on its nuclear program.

      Obviously?

      1) Juan Cole is not a credible source of policy advice for Iran. The Informed Comment weblog is just as hostile against Iran as Barack Obama's US State Department.

      2) What's presented here is a false dichotomy. Iran can, as it's doing, pursue both its nuclear program and its wind and solar energy programs.

      3) Iran's nuclear program is well understood to be very domestically popular. Numerous polls are unanimous on this point.

      4) Just giving up its nuclear program under US/Israeli/Western pressure would reward that pressure and encourage the US, Israel and Europe to apply pressure on other areas that, like its nuclear program are consistent with the views and values of the Iranian people.

      5) Just giving up its nuclear program would limit the options available to future generations of Iranian policy-makers. The non-nuclear weapons state negotiators of the NPT specifically ensured that the treaty would not limit their countries in that way. The Shah signed and ratified a treaty that did not limit the future options in the way Cole is suggesting and nobody has asked Japan, Brazil, South Africa, Canada or dozens of other countries that are not potential adversaries of Israel to limit their options in this way.

      Maybe the obvious advice should be going to the government you support and whose officials you participate in the elections of.

  • Iran Business Partners: Cheney & Reagan, not Just the Koch Brothers
  • Saudi Women's Vote: Does it Go Far Enough?
    • In matters that are important to the US/Israel, the Saudi government follows US/Israeli orders. One example was that Saudi Arabia was used as a base from which Iraq's water supply facilities were destroyed by the US. Another is that Saudi Arabia does not build a nuclear Japan option in the that would break Israel's regional monopoly on nuclear capability.

      In fact, Saudi Arabia spends more on its military than Israel, but agrees to be supplied by a party, the US that explicitly commits that Israel will be militarily dominant over it.

      That is US pressure.

      The Saudi government is not independent any more than the princely states of the British Raj in what is now India were 100 years ago.

      Of course, the current colonial relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia would not be possible if the government was accountable to the people of the country so the US applies pressure on its colony directly against democracy.

      An independent state ruling what we know as Saudi Arabia would nearly certainly pursue populist foreign policies similar to those of Iran and would render Israel's viability, at the very least, questionable.

      Claims the US is pressuring Saudi Arabia to democratize are just deception.

  • Muslim Brotherhood Rebukes Erdogan for Advocacy of Secularism
    • The US happens to have a majority that believes in a particular degree of government non-interference in religion, and has laws that reflect what the US majority believes.

      If Egypt has a majority that believes differently, then Egypt has a right to a different approach to government.

      Maybe the US should have gay marriage. Or should abolish the death penalty. Or should reform the prison system so that it is rehabilitative and not punative. But not over the heads of US voters. Until a majority of US society concludes that, that is not, and should not be US law. Non US parties based on principles they hold outside of the US rightly have no ability to shape US policy.

      If you respect democracy, it is the same for Egypt. What the majority of Egyptians say is right is what is right for Egypt. I don't think you, Barack Obama or Juan Cole respect democracy in that sense. You feel entitled to impose what you describe as your values on Egypt.

      It's actually worse than that though. The problem with Islamists isn't that the you or the US are concerned women may be forced to wear veils or unable to build churches. The problem you, Cole and Obama have with political Islam is that it is more reliably hostile to Israel.

      You claim you're concerned with Egyptian rights when Obama, like every recent president before him, fully supported Mubarak. Where is the concern from any US president or administration official for any kind of freedom in Saudi Arabia? This is not about suddenly valuing secularism. You're not even being honest.

      Now what actions do you think Obama took regarding Tunisia, then Egypt then Libya?

      If governments eventually arise in any of them that are more accountable to their people than to the US embassy (unlike the previous and so-far current governments of Egypt and Tunisia) then that will be despite the actions of every US modern US president including Obama.

    • Yes. Egyptians should not choose US leaders or US policies. For them to want to would be a colonialist impulse.

      Fortunately, Egyptians don't have the colonialist tendencies Westerners do.

    • If you weren’t trying to turn Egypt into a Sunni version of Iran, it is hard to see why you’d be so upset with what Erdogan said.

      And what if he is?

      What if Egypt has more voters who want a Sunni version of Iran than voters who think like Juan Cole? Even if there is no majority in support of that, why shouldn't someone with a different idea of how a state should be run than Juan Cole be able to advocate for that position, to let the voters decide or even be swayed?

      Americans and other Westerners are reflexively anti-democratic, reflexively colonialistic, when it comes to the Middle East.

      We can see under Obama than we could under Bush that this tendency spans across very close to the entire US political spectrum.

  • Obama may Call for al-Asad to step down
    • Riyadh came under pressure to speak out from Sunnis, who see the Alawite-dominated Syrian state as tinged with Shiite Islam, and so view the crackdowns as a Shiite persecution of Sunnis.

      Are you sure the pressure came from the Sunnis? And not from the American patrons of Israel who have offered them 60 billion worth of weapons and to train a force of 35,000 troops to ensure that what is now happening in Syria can't happen there?

      If so, then why aren't the Sunnis in their own country able to apply any pressure to get political accountability?

  • Gates & NATO: Misery Loves Company
    • Fair enough. Consider that criticism retracted.

    • A couple of things:

      1) The United States is actually not being bankrupted by its occupations in interventions in the greater Middle East.

      link to thinkprogress.org

      You'll see that the US, taking out healthcare and defense, still has a huge per-capita GDP, substantially (more than 10%) larger than those of Germany, France, Japan, etc.

      The US political system is comfortable with great domestic inequalities, but that is an entirely different issue. Germany is not doing better than the US for its lack of military.

      It seems to me that the US is being compensated for its military expenditures, maybe through capital account or exchange rate management but I've never seen a clear explanation of how.

      2) The limited and likely short-term Libya intervention is mainly an Anglo-French initiative, and those two have a history of small wars in the global South, and they’ll be fine without a leading role for the US.

      Wow. France and Great Britain's experience with colonialism is "a history of small wars in the global South"?

      Where to even start? The project as a whole didn't go well even for France and Great Britain. But more importantly, phrases like that sound like the minimize colonialism and sound therefore more sympathetic to that enterprise than I would hope an American would openly be.

  • US Should Move Navy Base from Bahrain
    • So the US should move its base to another dictatorship that is accountable to the US embassy rather than to its own people?

      What if the protests had been in Qatar? Would you be saying now that the US should move its air base to Bahrain?

      Moving from one colonial dictatorship to another just addresses the symptom and not the illness. The US commitment to Israel as a Jewish state makes cooperation between the US and popularly accountable governments in the Middle East impossible. That puts the US, especially under pro-Israel US presidents like George Bush and Barack Obama, solidly and objectively on the side of despotism and against democracy.

      If the US has decided that Israel as a Jewish state is worth hundreds of millions of Arabs living in colonial dictatorships like Bahrain, then it should admit what everybody already knows and just leave its bases where they are.

  • Cole Interview: Bin Laden an Utter Failure
    • "I argue that to take full advantage of this political moment, the US must withdraw from Iraq and support the declaration of a Palestinian state at the UN General Assembly in September."

      From your lips to God's ears. But are these steps, especially the second, in the realm of political possibility for a national US politician in 2011?

      If not, what can the US do from here?

  • NATO Strike on Command Center kills Qaddafi Son
    • To be clear, is the White House residential wing a legitimate military target for enemies of the United States? Should Obama not keep his family and children anywhere near a command and control center?

  • Questions for Glenn Greenwald on Libya and the end of NATO
    • The Security Council resolutions and NATO positions were actively lobbied for by the United States.

      It was never the case that the United States waited for UN Security Council resolutions or NATO decisions and after they had been imposed on the US, the US was left with no choice but to act.

      So Greenwald's question, of course, is should the US have lobbied for and gotten these UN resolutions and NATO decisions and then followed this lobbying by militarily intervening in Libya.

      The best answer to Greenwald's actual question, I believe, is no. Non-violent demonstrations have been put down by force before, including by Gadaffi and there is no reason to think this column of tanks approaching Bengazi will cause more deaths than previous Libyan columns of than a column of tanks approaching Bahrain or a column of tanks approaching Tiananmen square. The idea that tens of thousands of deaths were prevented is just preposterous. There is no support for that anywhere.

      US intervention probably accelerated a civil war and therefore caused more loss of life than alternative options available to the US would have. On that basis alone, the US should not have orchestrated it.

      Beyond that, it imposed costs on the US, set a bad precedent, accentuated US hypocrisy in the region and after the chaos of civil war most likely will not produce a more representative Libyan government than Gadaffi could have reached by negotiation at the beginning of the conflict.

  • Mubarak Defies a Humiliated America, Emulating Netanyahu
    • "And then there is the set of myths around Israel, that it is necessary for the well-being of the world’s Jews, that it is an asset to US security, that it is a great ethical enterprise– all of which are patently false."

      Wow.

      Thank you for your courage. The above quotation is one example of why this was a very dangerous article for a US professional who focuses on the Middle East to write.

      Once again, thank you for your commitment to challenge false, dangerous but heavily supported ideas.

  • Anzalone: Hezbollah’s Double Standards: Tunisia and Iran
    • The United States could order Mubarak to end torture and hold fair elections next month just as easily as it orders him to cooperate with Israel's siege of Gaza. It does not because authoritarianism and torture are necessary so that a regime that rules a population that does not accept Israel's legitimacy can sustain peace with and build normal relations with Israel.

      :link to youtube.com

      Shihab Rattansi (5:42): But you have more leverage than that. Surely you can think of, the President or the Secretary of State can speak to Mr. Mubarak and say: “Call off your repressive security forces, now begin a transition to true democracy and stop torturing people while you’re at it.”

      PJ Crowley: But again, you’re casting this in zero sum terms and I reject that. We respect what Egypt contributes to the region. It is a stabilizing force. It has made its own peace with Israel and is pursuing normal relations with Israel. We think that’s important. We think that’s a model that the region should adopt broadly speaking. At the same time we recognize that Egypt, Tunisia, other countries do need to reform. They do need to respond to the needs of their people and we encourage that reform and we are contributing across the board. Across the region to that reform.

      *****

      For a westerner to accuse Hezbollah of hypocrisy is absolutely crazy.

      The fact of the matter is that if the people of Iran or Lebanon form a consensus supporting a particular policy, they can express that consensus and that policy will be enacted. Polls show there is no anti-Hezbollah consensus in Lebanon or anti-clerical consensus in Iran. The opposite in fact, most Iranians according to polls and actively contested elections, support Iran's government. Most Lebanese, by the same measures, support Hezbollah and its allies.

      The same cannot be said for Tunisia or Egypt.

      The United States, supported by Canada, gives a huge amount of military and security support to Egypt because (it is important to understand that it is not despite but _because_) Egypt tortures those in the country who call for the country to oppose Israel.

      When the country whose government you vote for follows this policy, but you look for hypocrisy regarding the region and find Hezbollah then you weren't taking an honest look.

  • Ahmadinejad Pledges to Protect Lebanon
    • Has anyone translated the full text of Ahmadinejad's Lebanon speeches? For example the Open Source Group?

      If the text is available anywhere I'd very much appreciate it being made accessible or a link to it if it is already accessible.

  • Netanyahu Blows off US; Mahmoud Abbas pleads for Settlement Freeze
    • We have to remember that Abbas' mandate comes from Washington and Tel Aviv. His presidential term, where he ran essentially unopposed, ended years ago and he remains in power at the insistence of Israel and the United States with his political rivals in Israeli prisons.

      Abbas is going to eventually do whatever the US tells him to including going back to the negotiating table. But when he claims to surrender in the name of the Palestinians in the struggle against Zionism - including accepting the kind of Bantustans Mandela rejected in South Africa or native American reservations except that the Palestinians would not the rights Native Americans have with respect to the United States - there will be no legitimacy to that acceptance and it will not impact the conflict.

  • The Closing of the Zionist Mind
    • My estimate is that the Arabs might be able to easily defeat the IDF within five years.

      Five years? Please sketch out a scenario you have in mind.

  • Repubs Plot Israel-Iran Apocalypse and the Collapse of the US Economy
    • MAD is operative only to the degree the US leaves intact Iran's energy infrastructure. If Iran is reduced to food rations and human and animal transport of necessities to its population, there is no longer any reason not to fully attack all energy in the region.

      Once the US starts bombing, there comes to be a serious question of how far the US intends to go, and the destruction of Iran's industrial infrastructure has been mentioned as an option. If so, attacks on the region's energy infrastructure is a plausible retaliation.

      If the US only does limited strikes, then the US cannot escalate when Iran begins supplying insurgents with anti-air missiles to take out US helicopters, for example.

      Limited strikes may well lead to broader strikes, that may well lead to Iranian attacks on the region's energy infrastructure. Not in round one, but before it is all over.

  • Iran Threatens to Pull out of Nuclear Deal over new UN Sanctions
    • Good article. A couple of things are wrong:

      Turkey and Brazil, with full backing from Washington DC and in close cooperation with the Obama administration, had apparently succeeded by Monday morning in negotiating a deal whereby Iran would send over half of its low enriched uranium to Turkey, which would then send it on to (presumably) France and Russia for enrichment to 19.75 percent for use in Iran’s medical reactor for the production of medical isotopes. The deal was nearly identical to the one sought last October in Geneva by the Obama administration. Iran had agreed to something like this arrangement, but then reneged.

      1) By now 1200 kgs is probably slightly less than Iran has on hand, but it is very close. Saying over half is probably slightly less accurate than saying about half. But I would not consider that misleading.

      2) The LEU, though is not to leave Turkey until Iran gets the fuel. It will not be Iranian uranium that makes the fuel plates but rather Russian uranium diluted from weapons grade back to whatever France requests for the fuel plates.

      3) Iran did not renege on any agreement. Iran accepted a fuel swap in principle in early October 2009. By late October a) there was the terrorist attack, which Iran believed was supported by the US that killed many Iranian officers b) the West presented an offer that gave no assurances that Iran would ever actually get the fuel, and that left the US room to use returning the fuel as negotiating leverage to try to force Iran to stop enriching uranium. But while Iran was not in a mood to accept a take it or leave it offer from the West with unacceptable terms, that does not mean it reneged on any offer. The late October offer, to this day, has never been spoken of positively by any Iranian official at any level. The idea of a swap has always been acceptable, but never the late October offer.

      There are four domestic political forces affecting Iran policy. The War Hawks, including the more hard line of the Israel lobbies, would like to see the US back on the war footing with Iran characteristic of the late Bush administration.

      4) This is a common misconception. The late Bush administration was far more cooperative with Iran than the Obama administration. You'll notice that a new NIE is being produced about Iran's nuclear program. This NIE will not be released to the public the way the 2007 NIE was. If you ask, why was the 2007 NIE, which reduced essentially to zero the chance that Bush could either attack Iran or even get new sanctions was released if the Obama administration demonstrates that the White has the power to refuse to release an NIE, the answer is that it was released as a deliberate gesture. A tangible gesture far more convincing than any of Obama's speeches to the Iranian people.

      Along with that the Bush administration by the end of its term was in close cooperation with Iran regarding a US exit plan for Iraq.

  • Gates Worries about Iranian Nuclear Research, while Khamenei blasts US for Hiroshima
    • Is there a way to remove this bold?

    • Dr. Cole:
      By now you've probably read Ariel Ilan Roth's of the Council of Foreign Relations explanation of why Israel fears losing its nuclear monopoly:

      Although some idealists dream of reconciliation in the Middle East based on a genuine and mutual recognition of all parties’ legitimate rights, most Israelis believe the key to enduring peace in the Middle East is convincing Israel’s adversaries that ejecting Israel through force is an impossible task not worth pursuing.Essential to inducing that sense of despair is Israel’s ability to continuously trounce its enemies on the battlefield and suffer far fewer losses than it inflicts. The Iranian nuclear program threatens Israel’s ability to do this in two ways....But, given that widespread Arab acceptance of Israel’s right to exist does not appear to be on the horizon, most Israelis, including the current prime minister, insist that Israel’s most urgent strategic objective is to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Doing so would temporarily remove the threat of a regional nuclear cascade and maintain Israel’s superiority of arms. More important, it would hold at bay the suspicion that Israel may never attain true peace. This increasingly widespread fear has a toxic effect on national morale, is an existential threat to the Jewish state, and lies at the root of Israel’s obsession with the Iranian bomb.

      Israel's strategy for survival depends on intimidating its neighbors permanently into submission. If Iran has a Japan-option, even if other neighbors do not acquire the same option, which they may well, Israel's neighbors will still be more difficult to intimidate since there is an anti-Zionist force that could, in theory, match any nuclear threat they could make.

      So Iran not having a Japan option is a strategic existential issue for Israel, and if the United States is going to honor its commitment to ensure Israel's strategic security, it must prevent Iran from getting a Japan option. However, the US is now admitting that it cannot prevent Iran from reaching such a status which, at least, means Israel is going to have to learn to live with Iran having the option and also that the United States cannot afford to protect Israel's strategic environment at all costs any longer.

  • Turkey, Brazil Come out against new Iran sanctions at Security Summit
    • Dr. Cole:

      First, congratulations on a very nice looking new blog template. Hopefully the new server situations serves you well for a long time.

      The United States does not understand why Iran's 1978 foreign policy was distasteful to Iranians. Just as it does not fully understand how unpopular Mubarak's foreign policy is, the degree to which holding Egypt to its current foreign policy contradicts any notion of democracy or popular sovereignty. An inability to see past the idea that there must be a dominant Jewish-majority state in Palestine really skews US views on the Middle East.

      So the US is not able to offer any significant incentives to Iran just to give up the "Japan option" it is developing because if it gave Iran incentives to give up the nuclear issue, it would have no incentives left to pressure Iran to return to its 1978 foreign policy relative to Israel - which is the more important US/Israeli goal.

      Instead Obama's strategy is to make the status quo as bad for Iran as possible and then wait. Eventually Iran may cave. The problem with that strategy is that in the meantime the US and Iran are unnecessarily hostile and this hostility will result in lost opportunities for cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      It is a costly strategy, but if the US is to remain in its role as Israel's guarantor, it does not have any better options.

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