American Elephants


Donald Trump Did Not Betray the Kurds! by The Elephant's Child

Syria_Kurds(1)

The Outcry about President Donald Trump abandoning the Kurds in Syria has been loud and accusatory. How dare he? He’s removing U.S. special forces from the Syrian border with Turkey, thereby enabling a Turkish invasion by the Syrian dictator Erdogan. He’s double crossing the Syrian Kurds who have fought with Americans for five years against ISIS. It seems to be almost unanimous.

Fortunately there is Caroline Glick, American born Israeli journalist, writing from Israel:

There are several problems with this narrative. The first is that it assumes that until this week, the US had power and influence in Syria when in fact, by design, the US went to great lengths to limit its ability to influence events in Syria.

The war in Syria broke out in 2011 as a popular insurrection by Syrian Sunnis against the Iranian-sponsored regime of President Bashar al Assad. The Obama administration responded by declaring US support for Assad’s overthrow. But the declaration was empty. The administration sat on its thumbs as the regime’s atrocities mounted. They supported a feckless Turkish effort to raise a resistance army dominated by jihadist elements aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Obama infamously issued his “redline” regarding the use of chemical weapons against civilians by Assad, which he repudiated the moment it was crossed.

As ISIS forces gathered in Iraq and Syria, Obama shrugged them off as a “jayvee squad.” When the jayvees in ISIS took over a third of Iraqi and Syrian territory, Obama did nothing.

As Lee Smith recalled in January in the New York Post, Obama only decided to do something about ISIS in late 2014 after the group beheaded a number of American journalists and posted their decapitations on social media.

Do read the whole thing. I have always found Caroline Glick to be an outstanding journalist, and given the local temper, an account of action in Syria fairly unavailable elsewhere. Too much partisanship out there, too little  careful investigation. Whether you agree with her or not, you will understand the situation a lot better.

ADDENDUM: Here’s another view of the Kurds and Syria from National Review’s Andy McCarthy: “Turkey and the Kurds: It’s More Complicated Than You Think”

 



It Is Way Past Time to Call a Halt to this Pathetic Search for a Nuclear Deal. by The Elephant's Child

Obama’s Iran nuclear negotiations are coming down to the final days before a self-imposed deadline expires. The administration is desperately seeking support for its effort to make a deal at any price. Five of Obama’s closest advisers, members of his inner circle of advisers on Iran have signed a letter urging him to stand his ground for once. Iran’s parliament has voted that they will accept no inspections, none of their military sites will be open to inspectors at any time, and generally thumbed their noses at the U.S.

Obama came to office with an array of really big accomplishments he expected to make to place him in the list of the greatest presidents. Health Care was one. Ending the Iraq War, closing Gitmo, a Two-State Solution between Israel and Palestine, renewing relations with Cuba, and a nuclear deal with Iran. His list seems remarkably short on history and anything but the shallowest understanding of world affairs.

He badly wants a deal with Iran, and seems open to any concession that might enable him to get “a deal.” Sanctions have put Iran’s economy in a bind, exacerbated by the advent of “fracking” and America’s abundance of oil and natural gas — which, in turn, has significantly brought down the price of a barrel of oil, to less than the break-even cost for Iranian oil. It was the sanctions and pressure on Iran’s economy that brought them to the table in the first place.

The administration has long insisted that any nuclear deal will have no effect on American determination to stop Iran’s support for terrorism, their drive for nuclear weapons, and their regional ambitions. From Mr. Obama’s public statements, he apparently believes that the Iranians are just people like us, who essentially care about their families, and their claims of “Death to America” are just public relations ploys to keep the locals happy, or something like that. From Michael Ledeen:

The central theme in Obama’s outreach to Iran is his conviction that the United States has historically played a wicked role in the Middle East, and that the best things he can do for that part of the world is to limit and withdraw American military might and empower our self-declared enemies, whose hostility to traditional American policies he largely shares.

Obama has already lifted most of the sanctions that brought Iran to the table. Now he is ending some funding that annoys Iran. According to the Wall Street Journal, a Dubai-based Sri Lankan businessman was cited by President GW Bush as the :”chief financial officer and money launderer” for the nuclear-proliferation network of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan,  In 1994 or 1995, Mr. Khan asked Mr. Tahir to ship uranium centrifuges to Iran. The Bush Administration put Mr. Tahir on the U.S Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list of sanctioned persons. The Treasury Department removed his name from that list on April 3, exactly one day after the framework agreement was announced.This delisting is intended to whitewash Iran’s illicit acquisition of centrifuges as having anything to do with a nuclear weapons program. Nothing to see here, just move on.

Iran’s ballistic missile program has long been considered as the most effective way to deliver a nuclear weapon, and the Administration pushed for U.N. sanctions on Iran’s missiles in 2010. When it came time to negotiate, however, the Administration gave in, as they did to most everything else, to Iran’s insistence that it would accept no missile limitations, thus separating the missile program and the nuclear program.

As the shape of the nuclear deal becomes clearer, it looks like a betrayal of our friends and a gift to a repugnant dictatorship, not to mention a real threat to America.

The Obama administration is unlikely to return to the previous goals of requiring Iran to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure or cease, even temporarily, its uranium enrichment. Nor is it likely to insist that Tehran alter non-nuclear policies such as support for terrorism and destabilizing regional activities in connection with a nuclear accord or as a condition for sanctions relief. These facts alone ensure that any nuclear deal will fall well short of longstanding U.S. goals and face significant opposition in Washington and among allies in the Middle East.

Today Iran is insisting the United States and world powers deliver more concessions at the negotiating table, including consenting to demands that any final nuclear agreement last less than 10 years.

Iran’s bid to pressure Western powers came amid reports that the United States promised in secret documents to deliver to Tehran “high-tech reactors and other state-of-the-art equipment” that would modernize and improve its nuclear program. This portion of the agreement appears to reverse decades of U.S. policy towards Iran.



Is It Possible to Make Sense of this Bizzare World? by The Elephant's Child
May 24, 2015, 5:12 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , ,

From Weasel Zippers:
“US Assistant Secretary of State Pressing Israel to Lose Its Nukes
And Make the Middle East a Nuke Free Zone…”

Assistant US Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, Thomas Countryman, recently visited Israel and held talks with senior Foreign Ministry officials, about the possibility of making the Middle East nuclear-free.

Washington seeks to advance the idea after reaching agreement with Russia about the matter.

The State Department confirmed Countryman’s visit and sources in the US Administration said that Israeli agreement to the idea would be a catalyst for bringing additional countries into discussions on the matter.

The Americans have been attempting to convene an international conference on the subject for some time, without success. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about the idea with pessimism, and said it was “a very tough challenge.”

From Washington Free Beacon:
“Obama Warns Clinton Foundation Donor Not to Get Nukes”

President Obama told Saudi Arabia on Friday that if it chooses to covertly work to build up a nuclear program, it would “greatly strain the relationship they’ve got with the United States.”

“They understand that ultimately their own security and defense is much better served by working with us,” Obama said in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. “Their covert—presumably—pursuit of a nuclear program would greatly strain the relationship they’ve got with the United States.”

The remark came in response to a question from Goldberg regarding the fear that others in the Middle East would attempt to match the nuclear infrastructure that Obama’s deal with Iran would allow it to keep.

“The protection that we provide as [Saudi Arabia’s] partner is a far greater deterrent than they could ever hope to achieve by developing their own nuclear stockpile or trying to achieve breakout capacity when it comes to nuclear weapons, and they understand that,” said Obama.

Hard to comment seriously on that one.



General David Petraeus Speaks to Us From Northern Iraq: by The Elephant's Child
May 23, 2015, 8:10 pm
Filed under: History | Tags: , , ,

The Washington Post on Wednesday carried answers to written questions from reporter Liz Sly while he was attending the annual Sulaimani Forum, a get- together of Iraqi leaders, thinkers and academics, at the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

He spoke of mistakes the Americans have made and mistakes the Iraqis themselves have made, the squandering of so much of what we had achieved, and the exploitation of those failures by extremists on both sides.

Having said that, my sense is that the situation in Iraq today is, to repeat a phrase I used on the eve of the surge, hard but not hopeless. I believe that a reasonable outcome here is still achievable, although it will be up to all of us — Iraqis, Americans, leaders in the region and leaders of the coalition countries — to work together to achieve it.

What has happened in Iraq is a tragedy — for the Iraqi people, for the region and for the entire world. It is tragic foremost because it didn’t have to turn out this way. The hard-earned progress of the Surge was sustained for over three years.  What transpired after that, starting in late 2011, came about as a result of mistakes and misjudgments whose consequences were predictable. And there is plenty of blame to go around for that.

Yet despite that history and the legacy it has left, I think Iraq and the coalition forces are making considerable progress against the Islamic State. In fact, I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran.

The whole piece is to be found here. Do read the whole thing, it’s not long.



Beyond Incompetence to A Different Worldview: The Obama Doctrine by The Elephant's Child
May 8, 2015, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Iran, Iraq | Tags: , , ,

Over at the Middle East Forum, Daniel Pipes has a go at “Decoding the Obama Doctrine” —  or, as we all are wondering — Why is Obama doing that? Mr. Pipes begins with Barack Obama’s former ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Iraq, who had this to say about the administration’s current record in the Middle East.

………………………………..“We’re in goddamn free fall.”

Count the mistakes: Helping overthrow Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, leading to anarchy and civil war. Pressuring Husni Mubarak of Egypt to resign, then backing the Muslim Brotherhood, leading now-president Sisi to turn toward Moscow. Alienating Washington’s most stalwart ally in the region, the Government of Israel. Dismissing ISIS as “junior varsity” just before it seized major cities. Hailing Yemen as a counterterrorism success just before its government was overthrown. Alarming the Saudi authorities to the point that they put together a military alliance against Iran. Coddling Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, encouraging his dictatorial tendencies. Leaving Iraq and Afghanistan prematurely, dooming the vast American investment in those two countries.

And, most of all: Making dangerously flawed deals with the nuclear-ambitious mullahs of Iran.

But there also is a grand idea and it calls for explanation. As a man of the left, Obama sees the United States historically having exerted a malign influence on the outside world. Greedy corporations, an overly-powerful military-industrial complex, a yahoo nationalism, engrained racism, and cultural imperialism combined to render America, on balance, a force for evil.

The Obama Doctrine is simple and universal: Warm relations with adversaries and cool them with friends.

Several assumptions underlie this approach: The U.S. government morally must compensate for its prior errors. Smiling at hostile states will inspire them to reciprocate. Using force creates more problems than it solves. Historic U.S. allies, partners, and helpers are morally inferior accessories. In the Middle East, this means reaching out to revisionists (Erdoğan, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Republic of Iran) and pushing away cooperative governments (Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia).

There’s more.  Do read the whole thing. Hard to understand how anyone could think this way, but there you are.



The Egyptian Protestors. by The Elephant's Child

Egypt. David Pryce-Jones, author of The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs, writes of the moment in history when things could turn out in more ways than one, and the decisions of a few people settle the fate of millions for years to come.

Crowds all over the Arab world are protesting against the authority under which they live. Like the French before 1789 or Russians before 1917, they want to be rid of their rulers, knowing them to be brutal and corrupt, as indeed they are. Pretty well every Middle East expert and pundit, and certainly the man with the microphone in Tahrir Square in Cairo, supports the protesters without the least reservation. These Westerners all take it for granted that the protesters share their understanding of freedom and democracy, and once they are rid of the brutal and corrupt rulers all will be fine, and Arab societies will be just like ours.

This is evidently President Obama’s assumption. Famous as an anti-colonialist and openly contemptuous of the British for the way they used to order people about, he nonetheless sends an envoy to instruct President Mubarak peremptorily to leave office and start a process of “orderly transition.” He is taking it upon himself to arrange the government of another country. Never mind the hypocrisy, this is as imperious as anything the British ever did.

Pundits assume that the protesters want the same democracy and freedom that we espouse.  But not so fast.  There is much that we do not understand. and the reporters on the scene are learning that Egyptians do not necessarily assume that we are on their side.  Here is some worthwhile reading to help in grasping the problems:

Spengler writes of “Food and failed Arab states” for the Asia Times:  “Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer, beholden to foreign providers for nearly half its total food consumption.  Half of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day.  Food comprises almost half the country’s consumer price index, and much more than half of spending for the poorer half of the country.  This will get worse, not better.”  The uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia were not food riots, only in Jordan have demonstrators made food the main issue.  But the jump in food prices “is the wheat-stalk that broke the camel’s back.”

Bernard Lewis is the dean of Middle East historians. Many regard a familiarity with his books, articles and ideas indispensable to understanding the Middle East.  Jay Nordlinger of National Review relays a telephone conversation from the Middle East.  “The fact that this regime,” the Mubarak regime, “has good relations with the United States and Israel only seems to discredit the idea of good relations with the United States and Israel.”

“At the moment, the general perception, in much of the Middle East, is that the United States is an unreliable friend and a harmless enemy. I think we want to give the exact opposite impression:” one of being a reliable friend and a dangerous enemy. “That is the way to be perceived.”

Hernando de Soto, Peruvian economist and the celebrated author of The Mystery of Capital and The Other Path and is president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy based in Lima. He has been a tireless advocate for private property.  More than 90% of Egyptians hold their property without legal title.  They thus cannot borrow, build wealth or establish a business. Egypt’s underground economy is the nation’s biggest employer.

92% of Egyptians hold their real estate without normal legal title.  De Soto estimates the value of all the extralegal businesses and property, rural as well as urban, to be $248 billion — “30 times greater than the market value of the companies registered on the Cairo Stock Exchange and 55 times greater than the value of foreign direct investment in Egypt  since Napoleon invaded — including the financing of the Suez Canal and the Aswan Dam.”  In today’s dollars these same extralegal assets would be more than $400 billion.




%d bloggers like this: