Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category
Israel’s Iron Dome system has intercepted nearly 90% of the Hamas rockets that it has targeted. It’s time that the free world embraced Ronald Reagan’s vision of a defensive shield against all our enemies.
Top ex-Soviets cite Reagan’s commitment to building his vision of a nuclear missile defense “peace shield” — the Strategic Defense Initiative — as a central cause of the demise of the Soviet Union.
Americans take great pride in their habit of challenging established beliefs be they in government, religion or other aspects of society. Islam prohibits introspection largely because the Quran is believed by Muslims to be the actual words of God and not subject to debate.
As we see in Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq — as well as in terrorist powers such as the Taliban, ISIS and Persian Iran — interpretations of the Quran are delivered as religious decrees which — because they are given by the “juridical scholars” — are also not subject to debate. Muslims should be free to debate what their faith and their religious leaders demand of them.
Why shouldn’t we be telling the Saudis and Qataris and the others that they will be punished for funding terrorist networks? America is nearly independent of Saudi oil, and we should start behaving in accordance with that fact.
Our media suffers from the same problems The Economist attributes to the Arabs: Their liberal faith has stunted independent reporting and thinking among them.
Why Arab countries have so miserably failed to create democracy, happiness or (aside from the windfall of oil) wealth for their 350m people is one of the great questions of our time. What makes Arab society susceptible to vile regimes and fanatics bent on destroying them (and their perceived allies in the West)? No one suggests that the Arabs as a people lack talent or suffer from some pathological antipathy to democracy. But for the Arabs to wake from their nightmare, and for the world to feel safe, a great deal needs to change.
Islam, or at least modern reinterpretations of it, is at the core of some of the Arabs’ deep troubles. The faith’s claim, promoted by many of its leading lights, to combine spiritual and earthly authority, with no separation of mosque and state, has stunted the development of independent political institutions.
But religious extremism is a conduit for misery, not its fundamental cause (see article). While Islamic democracies elsewhere (such as Indonesia—see article) are doing fine, in the Arab world the very fabric of the state is weak. Few Arab countries have been nations for long.
Economic stagnation bred dissatisfaction. Monarchs and presidents-for-life defended themselves with secret police and goons. The mosque became a source of public services and one of the few places where people could gather and hear speeches. Islam was radicalised and the angry men who loathed their rulers came to hate the Western states that backed them.
Today the outlook is bloody. But ultimately fanatics devour themselves. Meanwhile, wherever possible, the moderate, secular Sunnis who comprise the majority of Arab Muslims need to make their voices heard.
Israel came under a heavy barrage of rocket fire on Tuesday night, with code red sirens sounding off in central Israel, the Jerusalem area and as far North as Binyamina.
More than 40 rockets were fired into Israel in the biggest ever salvo of long-range fire from Gaza.
The Iron Dome rocket defense system intercepted a number of rockets and no significant injuries have been reported in the attacks.
Meanwhile, 5 Hamas gunman attempted to infiltrate Israel at Zikim beach, near Gaza where they exchanged fire with IDF forces. All five terrorists were killed.
The jihadists who overran Mosul last month have demolished ancient shrines and mosques in and around the historic northern Iraqi city, residents and social media posts said on Saturday.
At least four shrines to Sunni Arab or sufi figures have been demolished, while six Shia mosques, or husseiniyahs, have also been destroyed, across militant-held parts of northern Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital.
Pictures posted on the internet by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group showed the Sunni and sufi shrines were demolished by bulldozers, while the Shia mosques and shrines were all destroyed by explosives. The photographs were part of an online statement titled “Demolishing shrines and idols in the state of Nineveh”.
Local residents confirmed that the buildings had been destroyed and that militants had occupied two cathedrals as well.
“We feel very sad for the demolition of these shrines, which we inherited from our fathers and grandfathers,” said Ahmed, a 51-year-old resident of Mosul. “They are landmarks in the city.”
The results were contradictory messages that encouraged radical Islamists. The conclusion radical Islamists drew was that even the Obama administration had admitted its anti-terrorism protocols were either morally questionable or ineffective.
Blaming a video maker instead of immediately taking out the known jihadists who had murdered Americans in Benghazi only reinforced that mixed message. So did exchanging five terrorist kingpins in Guantanamo for an alleged American military deserter in Afghanistan.
A series of empty Middle East red lines, deadlines, and withdrawal dates likewise reinforced the idea of American abdication.
We warned Syria of air strikes and then backed down. We surged in Afghanistan only to simultaneously announce a withdrawal date for our troops. We issued Iran lots of deadlines to stop enriching uranium, only to forget them and end sanctions in hope of negotiations.
But newly emboldened terrorists gambled that the old deterrence was stale and now existed mostly as Obama’s reset rhetoric. They gambled that it was a great time to go on the offensive. They may have been right.
Once more in the Middle East, Barack Obama is looking to blame others for a mess that has grown since 2009. But mostly he just wants out of the lose-lose region at any cost and wishes that someone would just make all the bad things go away.
Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television said Saudi Arabia had deployed 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq on Thursday after Iraqi forces abandoned the area, but Baghdad denied pulling forces back and said it remained in full control of its frontier.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, shares an 800-km (500-mile) desert border with Iraq, where Islamic State insurgents and other Sunni Muslim militant groups seized towns and cities in a lightning advance last month.
The U.S.-allied kingdom overcame its own al Qaeda insurgency almost a decade ago and is wary of any new threat from radical Sunni Islamists.
Ever since Islamist militants emerged as the dominant force in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, much has been written about how groups such Isis, which is currently in the process of establishing an Islamic Caliphate in northern Iraq, should be distinguished from the mainstream al-Qaeda movement. Isis fighters are so extreme, or so the argument goes, that even al-Qaeda is appalled at their barbarous treatment of their fellow Muslims, to the extent that Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s somewhat isolated leader, has attempted to disown them.
But as transportation chiefs on both sides of the Atlantic are now giving active consideration to bringing in a security measures on flights to the US, it is clear that militant Islamist groups such as Isis and al-Qaeda have much more in common than was previously thought. And nothing is more guaranteed to forge a spirit of unity among these disparate Islamist groups than the tempting prospect of blowing up US-bound civilian airliners.
It is a truly alarming picture, and one that Western governments need to take seriously. The attitude of most politicians in Britain and America is that they want to avoid becoming involved in the violent conflicts in Iraq and Syria at any cost. But when you have radical Islamist groups like Isis and al-Qaeda united in their desire to commit atrocities in America and Europe, simply trying to ignore the problem is no longer an option they can afford.
By 2011, Maliki thought he could pose to Iraqis with cheap anti-Americanism while bluffing the Obama administration into agreeing to a status of forces renewal agreement that both sides knew was in their mutual interest. But the fool Maliki did not realize that politics for the Obama administration (“ending one war, winding down another”) was even more a first principle than it was for Maliki. The result is Obama pulled every American out of the hard-won and stable Iraq (“stable” is Obama’s characterization, not mine alone), found his reelection narrative, and now Maliki is close to losing his country.
Maliki failed to grasp that Obama had even less trust in the influence of America to do good things abroad than did Maliki himself. But the larger irony is that now Maliki is begging for a return of American hard power to save his government from those killers that his policies helped create. In extremis, he understands that no other country would depose an oil-rich tyrant, stay on to foster democracy, leave the oil to its owners, and then leave when asked — and finally consider coming back to the rescue of an abject ingrate.
There is the assumed assurance for a Maliki, or Central American government, or Middle East autocrat that there are never consequences to anti-Americanism. Or better yet, as in the case of Obama himself, the elite world of the politician, journalist, academic, professional, or rich grandee accepts that anti-Americanism is fashionable, hip even, and that such cheap disdain otherwise should not prevent one from enjoying what America has to offer.
How weird the result: the anti-American Maliki pining for American arms from the escapist American president who lords his American power over others even as he ankles bites the very foundations of such power
Obama may be non-interventionist in the Middle East, but he’s acting increasingly like a neo-con in Africa.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that he is against “boots on the ground” in Iraq, robustly ruled out airstrikes, and reluctantly dispatched some 300 advisers into that war-torn land. As Iraq crisis worsens, the president demands a primarily political solution—even as Islamist forces surge to the Baghdad suburbs.
In Africa, that same president is, fortunately, far more active. Elite U.S. Army units are killing and capturing terrorists in North Africa (including the so-called Butcher of Benghazi). Hundreds of other counter-terrorism trainers are helping African nations (Libya, Niger, Mauritania, and Mali) to field commando teams to combat Islamist forces in Africa, which have Islamist ideologies nearly indistinguishable from the predators devouring Iraq. These new native units are vital for beating back the Islamist threat to the region. Hundreds of U.S. Special Forces have been sent to hunt the Lord’s Resistance Army, a murderous band of militants, in the wilds of Uganda. Djibouti, on Africa’s Red Sea coast, remains an active U.S. military base and America’s spies and soldiers help fight Islamists in Somalia and Kenya. Drones are roaming Nigeria, searching for missing schoolgirls. And, of course, the Obama administration’s longest war was fought in North Africa, in the skies and streets of Libya.
When military might matters, Obama seems to have one rule for Africa and another for Asia (especially Iraq). The Middle East needs an American policy as clear and consistent as the one designed for the Congo.