American Elephants

Man The Lifeboats, The Ship of State is Sinking by The Elephant's Child

Why Yemen Matters: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times 3/28/15

Last Thursday, the Middle East Kingdom of Saudi Arabia led a 10-country coalition to intervene in the air and on the ground in the country of Yemen. And they didn’t bother to tell the White House what they were doing because they don’t trust them. Saudi and Egypt have been active in a Yemen war before, but on opposite sides. It is striking that they should join forces, not against Israel, but against Iran.

Uncertain of Obama, Arab States Gear Up for War: David Schenker and Gilad Wenig, Wall Street Journal, 3/29/15

“Few organizations boast a reputation of dysfunction comparable to the Arab League’s. Over seven decades the Arab League has distinguished itself through infighting and fecklessness. But now, with the Obama administration seen as missing in action in the Middle East, the alliance of 22 countries is undergoing a renaissance. Over the weekend, the Arab League met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and endorsed the creation of an intervention force to fight terrorism in the Middle East.

Regional backing for the force came days after a mostly Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed, nominally Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, who last week sacked the provisional capital of Aden and drove Yemen President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile.”

Obama Admin Threatens U. S. Allies for Disagreeing with Iran Nuke Deal: Adam Kredo, Free Beacon, 3/27/15

“LAUSANNE, Switzerland—Efforts by the Obama administration to stem criticism of its diplomacy with Iran have included threats to nations involved in the talks, including U.S. allies, according to Western sources familiar with White House efforts to quell fears it will permit Iran to retain aspects of its nuclear weapons program.

A series of conversations between top American and French officials, including between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, have seen Americans engage in behavior described as bullying by sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.”

Richard Engel: Military Officials Say Allies No Longer Trust  Us, Fear Intel Might Leak to Iran: Daniel Bassali, Free Beacon, 3/27/15

“Saudi Arabia and other countries simply don’t trust the United States any more, don’t trust this administration, think the administration is working to befriend Iran to try to make a deal in Switzerland, and therefore didn’t feel the intelligence frankly would be secure. And I think that’s a situation that is quite troubling for U.S. foreign policy,” Engel said.

Obama’s Latest Concession Guts What’s Left of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Jonathan Tobin, Contentions 3/26/15

“The Iranians were holding their ground on yet another key point in the negotiations and, to no one’s surprise, the Obama administration is preparing to give in to them again. This time the issue is Iran’s refusal to open its facilities up to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors eager to see how much progress they’ve made on military research for the nuclear program. But instead of threatening to walk away from a process that appears on track to ending sanctions on the Islamist regime over this key point, the administration is preparing to amend the current draft of the deal to allow the Iranians several years’ leeway before they’d be required to give a full reckoning about how close they are to a bomb. What this amounts to is the West waving the white flag on effective verification of Iran’s nuclear activities. And that means that not only will Iran be able to cheat their way to a bomb, but they may very well get there even while observing the agreement that is expected to be finalized by the end of the month.”

Free Fall in the Middle East: Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest, 3/27/15

“But as President Ahab glances around his deck, few of his shipmates are manning their posts—in fact, most seem to be scrambling for the lifeboats. Oh well, there’s always that trusty tar, Unnamed State Department Official, to rely on for a friendly quote in Politico:

“There’s a sense that the only view worth having on the Middle East is the long view. […] We’ve painfully seen that good can turn to bad and bad can turn to good in an instant, which might be a sobriety worth holding on to at moments like this. The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region.”…

James Jeffrey, Obama’s former Ambassador to Iraq, cuts through the commentary on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East with a certain pithiness:”

“We’re in a goddamn free fall here.”

Two Jordanian Gentlemen Clarify the Arab Situation in the Middle East In One Minute and Twenty-two Seconds. by The Elephant's Child
May 9, 2014, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Humor, Islam, Middle East, Politics | Tags: , ,

And neither one is armed.

(h/t: Vanderleun)

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Middle East but Were Afraid to Ask by The Elephant's Child

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

Syria: Obama talks no fly zones, Putin sends missiles” Rare

Assad Warns Israel, Claiming a Stockpile of Russian Weapons” NYT

Al Qaeda’s Syrian wing takes over the oilfields once belonging to Assad
Telegraph uk

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.

Does Anybody Know What We’re Doing In the Middle East? by The Elephant's Child

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. ––

Iran, Nuclear Weapons, Arabs and the Middle East. by The Elephant's Child

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.


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