Filed under: Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, National Security, The United States | Tags: Middle East History, The Middle East, U.S. Foreign Policy
Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the 2013 World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa held in Jordan. He unveiled a plan to boost the Palestinian economy. The plan is based on $4 Billion in new funding and seems to carry the endorsement of many foreign leaders. The idea is that we can buy peace in the Middle East. Good Luck with that.
The idea is to mobilize some $4 billion of investment. A team of experts — private citizens, donating their time — are analyzing the opportunities in tourism construction,m light manufacturing, building materials, energy, agriculture, and information and communications technology. The group will make recommendations to the Palestinians. They’re not going to decide anything. The Palestinians will decide that in their normal course of governance, But they will analyze and make recommendations on a set of choices that can dramatically lift the economy.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and the folks working with him believe that we can lift the Palestinian GDP by as much as 50 percent over three years. They foresee enough new jobs to cut unemployment by nearly two-thirds — to 8% down from 21% today and increase the median annual wage by as much as 40 %. Prime Minister Blair has always been an optimist. But the Obama administration is determined that the “Peace Process” will work. Obama does not change his mind.
“Secretary of State John Kerry says that it’s now or never for Israelis and Palestinians to reach agreement on a two-state solution. Interestingly, neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials have any idea what Kerry is talking about.” That’s Lee Smith writing at Tablet magazine. A few recent headlines while we were paying attention to other things:
“Assad on the March” Wall Street Journal
“Count Me Out on Syria” Victor Davis Hanson
John Kerry, as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was the man known to have Bashar Assad on his speed dial. Perhaps he’s been doing some re-thinking since Assad has used nerve gas on his people, and turned into a monster. You probably won’t want to read all of those links, but the headlines give you a sense of the state of things.
Here’s another: “Obama’s Iraq Surrender,” Front Page Magazine, May 31.
But a far bigger part of the picture is the accelerating destabilization of Iraq. The breakdown of Iraq, with its far-reaching regional ramifications, is attributable in no small part to President Obama’s abandonment of the U.S.’s mission in the country, a betrayal committed in total defiance of the military establishment’s recommendations, which squandered the hard-won victory handed down by President Bush. As predicted, our precipitous withdrawal has left the once pacified nation riven with sectarian strife, primarily among Sunni and Shia Muslims and the Kurds. As the region descends, the consequences of Obama’s folly are only becoming more obvious: a nation that once stood a chance at being a source of stability in the region is instead rapidly becoming its maelstrom.
Whether or not you agree with that paragraph, the article continues with a clear description of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1916, and the secret agreement between Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and George Picot of France, with Russia’s approval to create Middle East spheres of influence for France and Great Britain following their victory in WWI. The borders created to satisfy European sensibilities largely ignored the realities of historic ethnic, tribal and sectarian divisions which were exacerbated by the rise of dictators, tyrants and Arab monarchs who maintained power after the French and British withdrew in the middle of the last century.
It’s a good summary of the background of the Middle East, and useful for those of us who struggle to understand what’s going on, the actions of our own government, and what we think about it.
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Israel, Middle East, National Security, The United States | Tags: Strategy and Intent, The Middle East, U.S.-Israel Military Exercise
Every time I think I’m getting a grip on what is going on in the Middle East, I find that is not the case. Reader Spartan noted that Debka File had said there were U.S troops in Israel in readiness for a military engagement with Iran, categorized as the biggest joint US-Israel war game ever held. I demurred as I have read that Debka File is not a reliable source. So, Spartan, mea culpa.
Iran had some more excitement in which a drive-by motorcyclist slapped a ‘sticky bomb’ on the car carrying one of Iran’s nuclear scientists. Motorcyclist escaped, car blew up, one less Iranian nuclear scientist, and Hillary
Chamberlain Clinton rushed for the closest microphone to insist we had nothing whatsoever to do with THAT. Americans just don’t do that sort of thing.
Iran’s foreign ministry boldly proclaimed that it has:
reliable documents and evidence that this terrorist act was planned, guided and supported by the CIA. The documents clearly show that this terrorist act was carried out with the direct involvement of CIA-linked agents.
Other complications: Obama had finally grasped that Nigeria’s labor strike against oil producers, the war against the Canadian pipeline and topping that off with an embargo on Iranian oil, would probably boost the price of gas over $5 a gallon and boost reelection chances to zero. So last Thursday the U.S. postponed any oil embargo for 6 months or so, though European governments were not quite so craven. They are expected to agree to a ban on imports of Iranian oil on Jan. 23.
A joint U.S.– Israel military exercise that is to be the biggest ever between the two countries has been postponed, Israel Radio reported. Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Josh Hantman said in a phone interview that the exercise was still under discussion and declined to give further details.
The exercise was moved to the second half of 2012 for “a variety of factors” to promote “optimum participation by all units,” said Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. “We remain dedicated to his exercise and naturally want it to be as robust and as productive as it can be,” he said in an email.
U.S. sanctions imposed last year were to cut off oil dealings with Iran’s banking system, making it difficult for consumers to buy the country’s oil. Iran responded by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, the route for about a fifth of globally traded oil, if sanctions are imposed.
Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon told Israel Radio that while Congress had shown itself determined to place tougher sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, the Obama administration “appears more hesitant out of fear that oil prices might rise.”
Russia is parking its warships in Syrian harbors, while they pursue bilateral trade, supply ammunition to the locals, and replacing the dollar with the rial and ruble in trade.
I guess if we can just be persuaded to wait until after the election, then Obama will be firm and deal promptly with these nasty little foreign policy glitches. It’s not exactly “appeasement,” it’s just, um, that “we take no options off the table,” according to press secretary Jay Carney. “But we are engaged in the kinds of diplomatic efforts that you would expect in a situation like this.” Carney is getting good at empty words that convey nothing, nothing at all.
The U.S.will not enforce a no-fly zone over Syria. Israel says US-Israel exercise postponed for “Budget Reasons.”Army General Martin Dempsey is making his first visit to Israel as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but “he is not delivering any specific message to the Israelis.” A White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, declined to elaborate on Obama’s January 12 call with Netanyahu.
So there you go. All perfectly clear. ––
Filed under: Islam, Israel, Middle East, Terrorism | Tags: Arabs and Persians, Aspen Institute Ideas Festival, The Middle East
Unless you are one of the elite who goes to the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival, you probably did not hear of the ambassador of United Arab Emirates words in a discussion on the Middle East. The ambassador was asked whether the UAE would support a possible Israeli air strike against the Islamist regime in Tehran. Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said: “A military attack on Iran by whomever would be a disaster, but Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a bigger disaster.”
These were unusually candid words. Iran is just across the Strait of Hormuz from the UAE and trade between the two nations is an ordinary everyday occurrence. Business relationships between the people on each shore have been ongoing for centuries. But Both Israel and the Arab states around the Persian Gulf recognize a common threat in the regime in Tehran.
The diplomat added, it would lead to a backlash. “There will be problems of people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country.” He said, “Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran, my answer is still the same. We cannot live with a nuclear Iran. I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the U.A.E.”
Otaiba was merely expressing in a public forum the standard position of many Arab countries, said Jeffrey Goldberg. who moderated the discussion. “The Jews and Arabs have been fighting for one hundred years,” added Goldberg. “The Arabs and the Persians have been going at [it] for a thousand.”
Next to Jordan, the UAE is the only Arab country with soldiers deployed in Afghanistan — fighting on the side of the United States. Abu Dhabi, the richest of the seven emirates, has been pressuring Dubai to keep closer tabs on the influential Iranians living there. The Arab nations on the Gulf are pursuing realpolitik in their dealings with Iran. They come down on the side of the Americans, but they would prefer to pursue the route of negotiation and trade.
Isn’t this odd. What we hear about is the administration’s reluctance to use the word ‘Islam’ or “Islamist,” and reference to “man-caused disasters” instead of terrorist attacks. That may change now that President Obama has noted that al Qaeda is “racist.” Though it is not my impression that al Qaeda attacks people based on the color of their skins. They just kill people indiscriminately. Any people.