EnduringSense

“The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Plato

  • Daily Quote:

    "Both free speech rights and property rights belong legally to individuals, but their real function is social, to benefit vast numbers of people who do not themselves exercise these rights."

    Thomas Sowell

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 92 other followers

  • Subscribe

Posts Tagged ‘Sunni’

Harvard Students Claim United States Greater world Threat than ISIS

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 6, 2014

A few weeks ago Campus Reform went to Harvard University and asked students who they felt was the greater risk to the world; the United States or ISIS.  Some indicated that the US was the greater threat and claimed that American policies were responsible for the creation of radical Islamic movements such as ISIS.  Some Harvard students then followed up on this “study” creating their own video questionnaire and found similar responses, videos posted below.

Harvard University is renowned as perhaps the most famous and supposedly intellectual colleges in the United States.  The skills exhibited by some of the students in the videos bring into questions these conclusions.

It is remarkable that students from this prestigious University believe the United States responsible for radical Islam and the infighting within its subgroups.  Had these students studied world history instead of the phony academics that make up much of today’s college curriculums they would have been taught that the Sunni–Shia divide that is led to so much conflict within the Islamic world began shortly after the death of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed in 632 with infighting over the secession to the Prophet.  They would also learned that this conflict began over 1100 years before the founding of the United States.

 

Posted in Education, Islam | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Son of Hamas Founder Exposes Hama’s True Goals

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 30, 2014

The narrative proffered on Israeli-Palestinian (Hamas) conflict by Progressives including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry borders on the absurd. This often infers moral equivalency between the actions of Israel and Hamas. In essence they conclude that if both sides would restrain their actions, an environment could be created that would lead to a peaceful solution. This view ignores history, as well as the actual goals of each party. It also uses the same logic for the Middle East proffered by Western diplomats since World War I that has proven to be fallacious.

The broader Middle East conflict has been ongoing since long before the modern state of Israel was created in 1947. It predates the Crusades and began with a schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims for the control of Islam. The current crisis in Syria and Iraq is a continuation of this centuries-old battle. It is also the basis of the regional conflict between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Compared to this conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian issue is in the noise. Assuming away the State of Israel would likely eliminate one of the few coalescing issues within Islam that kept the Sunni-Shia conflict from becoming a full-blown war in recent decades.

Now back to the current Israeli-Hamas issue and the lame logic from Progressives. From Israel’s perspective, most Israelis desire a two state solution, but one that includes security for a Jewish nation. Ideas concerning the final borders a two state solution vary within Israel depending on political views. This varies from an accommodating position, to others that are unreasonable.

From the Palestinian (Hamas) perspective, while they might give lip service to a two state solution, this is not possible within their charter. Hama’s charter includes the following comments about Israeli’s/Jews:

The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: 0 Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree.”

Progressives will make excuses for Hamas’s incendiary and anti-Semitic language, just as they did for Adolf Hitler prior to World War II. Cutting through the diplomatic jargon, it will relate to a theory that negotiations are always better than the alternative. However, actual negotiations require willing partners for a negotiated outcome. In addition, as Roosevelt and Churchill correctly concluded once World War II commenced, negotiations with the Nazis was never an appropriate choice.

Finally, the idea of a two-state solution sometimes promoted by Palestinians and Hamas is a red herring. The Palestinians have stated that they will never give up their “right of return”. Under the right of return, any Palestinian with a claim that their ancestors once lived in Israel will have the right to return to that country. This guarantees the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, if not by force, then by demographics. Obama, Kerry and their Progressive allies are well aware of the issues involved with the right of return, but ignore them as it would disrupt their narrative.

Some light on the true motivations of Hamas was recently shed by Mosab Hassan Yousef, a son of one of Hamas’ founders, during a recent CNN interview with Don Lemon included the video below. Yousef, who was being groomed for Hamas leadership when growing up, defected from Hamas and has since been disowned by his father. His comments below, while chilling, are at least comforting in their candor.

  • “Hamas does not care about the lives of Palestinians, does not care about the lives of Israelis, or Americans; they don’t care about their own lives. They consider dying for sake of their ideology a way of worship.”
  • “Hamas is not seeking coexistence and compromise; Hamas is seeking conquest. The destruction of the state of Israel is not the Hamas’ final destination.”

Posted in Hamas, Islam, Israel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Current Iraqi Turmoil Predicted in 2011

Posted by Steve Markowitz on June 19, 2014

Below is a posting originally included on this Blog on November 6, 2011. For President Obama and his administration to now act as if the current catastrophe in Iraq was not predictable strains credibility.

U.S. Fears Surge of Qaeda Terror in Iraq (Originally Posted November 6, 2011

The New York Times published an interesting and disturbing story on Iraq and the potential for future terrorism emanating from that country. Following are quotes from the Time’s article:

  • As the United States prepares to withdraw its troops from Iraq by year’s end, senior American and Iraqi officials are expressing growing concern that Al Qaeda’s offshoot here, which just a few years ago waged a debilitating insurgency that plunged the country into a civil war, is poised for a deadly resurgence.
  • I cringe whenever anybody makes a pronouncement that Al Qaeda is on its last legs,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the American military’s top spokesman in Iraq. “I think one day we are going to look around and say it’s been a long time since we have heard from Al Qaeda, and maybe then we can say it is on its last legs.”
  • Iraqi analysts express fears that ties between Al Qaeda and members of the former ruling Baath Party may be re-forming.
  • According to General Buchanan, there are 800 to 1,000 people in Al Qaeda’s Iraq network, “from terrorists involved in operations to media to finance to fighters.”
  • A Defense Department official familiar with the Qaeda affiliate said that the group’s leaders and foot soldiers are Sunni Arabs from central, western and northern Iraq.

The Times articles both is curious and perplexing. This publication, along with many Left-leaning news media, was quite vocal during the Bush Administration with their position that Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had no connections to international terrorism. Now, the media takes a contradictory position. While disappointing, this is not surprising for the mainstream media that has become a mouthpiece for the Left.

Posted in Iraq | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

America’s Flawed Middle Eastern Policies

Posted by Steve Markowitz on January 22, 2014

SyriaThe United States’ and Western Europe’s policies towards in Middle East have been dismal failures.  Europe’s failures began over 100 years ago, culminating in the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement.  This then secretive agreement was made between the Britain and France during World War I and mapped out geographic boundaries for newly created countries that both sides felt would protect their colonial interests.  These newly created countries included diverse cultures whose lack of cohesion made their creation ludicrous fantasies of Progressive diplomats.

Prior to World War II, the United States stayed clear of Middle East politics, mainly focusing on its potential oil reserves.  At the conclusion of the war, the United States was the world power and began taking the lead role of shaping international politics towards the Middle East.  Instead of learning from the mistakes made by Britain and France, America’s State Department doubling down on the flawed policies.

Since the creation of the modern state of Israel, the popular vision promoted by Western diplomats has been that the conflict between Arabs and Israelis was the main problem within the greater Middle East.  This belief proffered the view that peace between the Israelis and Arabs (in recent decades the Palestinians) would create a Nirvana in the Middle East.  It view ignored centuries long Middle East conflicts and their exasperation through Britain and France’s Sykes-Picot agreement.

The modern state of Israel was created by the United Nations after World War II, the last major Middle Eastern country created during the 20th century.   At this point in history it is the most successful of these creations.

The modern borders of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia were also creations of Western powers after World War I.  The current chaos in these countries is largely the result of the pressures built up within their populations that exploded since the powerful that kept the lid on these boiling pots dictators were removed in the so-called Arab Spring.

There are many divisions within the Arab Middle East that have created centuries-long feuds.  The largest and best-known in the West is the Sunni-Shiite divide which is religiously based within Islam.

With the exception of Iraq, Sunnis are the majority in Arab countries.  However, there are other significant minorities including Maronite Christians, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Druze, Alawite’s, Coptic’s, and Kurds.  Many of these minorities have been feuding and fighting with others for hundreds of years.  This is complicated even more by the fact that their subdivisions within minorities based on tribal relationships.  It is the West’s lack of understanding of these feuds and their depth, or ignoring them, that has resulted in failed policies towards the Middle East for so many years.  Those failures continue to be compounded.

US Secretary of State John Kerry representing the Obama Administration is the latest Western diplomat attempting to “repair” the Middle East in the West’s image.  This includes yet another attempt to create a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.  It is a childless endeavor that ignores the reality that negotiated settlements can only be made when both sides want peace, not because of an outsider’s influence.

In addition, Kerry is heavily involved in yet another attempted effort of diplomacy to end Syria’s civil war.  The current diplomatic gathering is in Montreux, Switzerland.  It will fail, again because it takes two sides to want peace and compromise towards that end.  However, compromise is not possible in Syria, a country with the Alawite minority governing the Sunni majority for over 40 years.

Unfortunately, the Alawites obtained their position in Syria with the backing of the French after World War II.  Now, the French back Saudi Arabia and the Sunnis rebels in Syria, yet another example of the West inept diplomacy and policies in the Middle East.

The Obama Administration has indicated that the Syrian solution requires transitioning power from the current Alawite dictator, Bashir Assad, to a Sunni majority backed government.  The Alawites cannot relinquish power given the carnage they had inflicted on the Sunni majority over many years.  That majority would take its revenge on the Alawite community, given the opportunity.

The Syrian Civil War has become a proxy battle between Islam’s Sunnis and Shiites.  The Sunni rebels are backed by Saudi Arabia with Shiite Iran backing the Alawites.  Included below is a related article titled The Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War that is republished with permission of Stratfor.  As a correctly concludes, there are no easy or good conclusions to the current Syrian conflict.

Faced with the reality of the civil war in Syria that makes a diplomatic settlement unrealistic, Progressive diplomats typically would respond as they always do with the statement similar to: “we need to try something” to stop the violence.  Western diplomats have been using similar reasoning for over 100 years in the Middle East.  Given history, one must now ask if these efforts have made the violence worse.

The Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War, By Reva Bhalla, Janauary 21, 2014

International diplomats will gather Jan. 22 in the Swiss town of Montreux to hammer out a settlement designed to end Syria’s three-year civil war.  The conference, however, will be far removed from the reality on the Syrian battleground.  Only days before the conference was scheduled to begin, a controversy threatened to engulf the proceedings after the United Nations invited Iran to participate, and Syrian rebel representatives successfully pushed for the offer to be rescinded.   inability to agree upon even who would be attending the negotiations is an inauspicious sign for a diplomatic effort that was never likely to prove very fruitful.

There are good reasons for deep skepticism.  As Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s forces continue their fight to recover ground against the increasingly fratricidal rebel forces, there is little incentive for the regime, heavily backed by Iran and Russia, to concede power to its sectarian rivals at the behest of Washington, especially when the United States is already negotiating with Iran. Ali Haidar, an old classmate of al Assad’s from ophthalmology school and a long-standing member of Syria’s loyal opposition, now serving somewhat fittingly as Syria’s National Reconciliation Minister, captured the mood of the days leading up to the conference in saying “Don’t expect anything from Geneva II. Neither Geneva II, not Geneva III nor Geneva X will solve the Syrian crisis.  The solution has begun and will continue through the military triumph of the state.”

Widespread pessimism over a functional power-sharing agreement to end the fighting has led to dramatic speculation that Syria is doomed either to break into sectarian statelets or, as Haidar articulated, revert to the status quo, with the Alawites regaining full control and the Sunnis forced back into submission.  Both scenarios are flawed.  Just as international mediators will fail to produce a power-sharing agreement at this stage of the crisis, and just as Syria’s ruling Alawite minority will face extraordinary difficulty in gluing the state back together, there is also no easy way to carve up Syria along sectarian lines.  A closer inspection of the land reveals why.

The Geopolitics of Syria

Before the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement traced out an awkward assortment of nation-states in the Middle East, the name Syria was used by merchants, politicians and warriors alike to describe a stretch of land enclosed by the Taurus Mountains to the north, the Mediterranean to the west, the Sinai Peninsula to the south and the desert to the east. If you were sitting in 18th-century Paris contemplating the abundance of cotton and spices on the other side of the Mediterranean, you would know this region as the Levant – its Latin root “levare” meaning “to raise,” from where the sun would rise in the east. If you were an Arab merchant traveling the ancient caravan routes in the Hejaz, or modern-day Saudi Arabia, facing the sunrise to the east, you would have referred to this territory in Arabic as Bilad al-Sham, or the “land to the left” of Islam’s holy sites on the Arabian Peninsula.

Whether viewed from the east or the west, the north or the south, Syria will always find itself in an unfortunate position surrounded by much stronger powers.  The rich, fertile lands straddling Asia Minor and Europe around the Sea of Marmara to the north, the Nile River Valley to the south and the land nestled between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers to the east give rise to larger and more cohesive populations.  When a power in control of these lands went roaming for riches farther afield, they inevitably came through Syria, where blood was spilled, races were intermixed, religions were negotiated and goods were traded at a frenzied and violent pace.

Consequently, only twice in Syria’s pre-modern history could this region claim to be a sovereign and independent state: during the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty, based out of Antioch (the city of Antakya in modern-day Turkey) from 301 to 141 B.C., and during the Umayyad Caliphate, based out of Damascus, from A.D. 661 to 749.  Syria was often divided or subsumed by its neighbors, too weak, internally fragmented and geographically vulnerable to stand its own ground. Such is the fate of a borderland.

Unlike the Nile Valley, Syria’s geography lacks a strong, natural binding element to overcome its internal fissures.  An aspiring Syrian state not only needs a coastline to participate in sea trade and guard against sea powers, but also a cohesive hinterland to provide food and security. S yria’s rugged geography and patchwork of minority sects have generally been a major hindrance to this imperative.

Syria’s long and extremely narrow coastline abruptly transforms into a chain of mountains and plateaus.  Throughout this western belt, pockets of minorities, including Alawites, Christians and Druze, have sequestered themselves, equally distrustful of outsiders from the west as they are of local rulers to the east, but ready to collaborate with whomever is most likely to guarantee their survival.  The long mountain barrier then descends into broad plains along the Orontes River Valley and the Bekaa Valley before rising sharply once again along the Anti-Lebanon range, the Hawran plateau and the Jabal al-Druze mountains, providing more rugged terrain for persecuted sects to hunker down and arm themselves.

Just west of the Anti-Lebanon mountains, the Barada river flows eastward, giving rise to a desert oasis also known as Damascus.  Protected from the coast by two mountain chains and long stretches of desert to the east, Damascus is essentially a fortress city and a logical place to make the capital.  But for this fortress to be a capital worthy of regional respect, it needs a corridor running westward across the mountains to Mediterranean ports along the ancient Phoenician (or modern-day Lebanese) coast, as well as a northward route across the semi-arid steppes, through Homs, Hama and Idlib, to Aleppo.

The saddle of land from Damascus to the north is relatively fluid territory, making it an easier place for a homogenous population to coalesce than the rugged and often recalcitrant coastline. Aleppo sits alongside the mouth of the Fertile Crescent, a natural trade corridor between Anatolia to the north, the Mediterranean (via the Homs Gap) to the west and Damascus to the south.  While Aleppo has historically been vulnerable to dominant Anatolian powers and can use its relative distance to rebel against Damascus from time to time, it remains a vital economic hub for any Damascene power.

Finally, jutting east from the Damascus core lie vast stretches of desert, forming a wasteland between Syria and Mesopotamia.  This sparsely populated route has long been traveled by small, nomadic bands of men – from caravan traders to Bedouin tribesmen to contemporary jihadists – with few attachments and big ambitions.

Demography by Design

The demographics of this land have fluctuated greatly, depending on the prevailing power of the time.  Christians, mostly Eastern Orthodox, formed the majority in Byzantine Syria.  The Muslim conquests that followed led to a more diverse blend of religious sects, including a substantial Shiite population.  Over time, a series of Sunni dynasties emanating from Mesopotamia, the Nile Valley and Asia Minor made Syria the Sunni-majority region that it is today.  While Sunnis came to heavily populate the Arabian Desert and the saddle of land stretching from Damascus to Aleppo, the more protective coastal mountains were meanwhile peppered with a mosaic of minorities.  The typically cult-like minorities forged fickle alliances and were always on the lookout for a more distant sea power they could align with to balance against the dominant Sunni forces of the hinterland.

The French, who had the strongest colonial links to the Levant, were masters of the minority manipulation strategy, but that approach also came with severe consequences that endure to this day.  In Lebanon, the French favored Maronite Christians, who came to dominate Mediterranean sea trade out of bustling port cities such as Beirut at the expense of poorer Sunni Damascene merchants.  France also plucked out a group known as the Nusayris living along the rugged Syrian coast, rebranded them as Alawites to give them religious credibility and stacked them in the Syrian military during the French mandate.

When the French mandate ended in 1943, the ingredients were already in place for major demographic and sectarian upheaval, culminating in the bloodless coup by Hafiz al Assad in 1970 that began the highly irregular Alawite reign over Syria.  With the sectarian balance now tilting toward Iran and its sectarian allies, France’s current policy of supporting the Sunnis alongside Saudi Arabia against the mostly Alawite regime that the French helped create has a tinge of irony to it, but it fits within a classic balance-of-power mentality toward the region.

Setting Realistic Expectations

The delegates discussing Syria this week in Switzerland face a series of irreconcilable truths that stem from the geopolitics that have governed this land since antiquity.

The anomaly of a powerful Alawite minority ruling Syria is unlikely to be reversed anytime soon.  Alawite forces are holding their ground in Damascus and steadily regaining territory in the suburbs.  Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is meanwhile following its sectarian imperative to ensure the Alawites hold onto power by defending the traditional route from Damascus through the Bekaa Valley to the Lebanese coast, as well as the route through the Orontes River Valley to the Alawite Syrian coast.  So long as the Alawites can hold Damascus, there is no chance of them sacrificing the economic heartland.

It is thus little wonder that Syrian forces loyal to al Assad have been on a northward offensive to retake control of Aleppo.  Realizing the limits to their own military offensive, the regime will manipulate Western appeals for localized cease-fires, using a respite in the fighting to conserve its resources and make the delivery of food supplies to Aleppo contingent on rebel cooperation with the regime.  In the far north and east, Kurdish forces are meanwhile busy trying to carve out their own autonomous zone against mounting constraints, but the Alawite regime is quite comfortable knowing that Kurdish separatism is more of a threat to Turkey than it is to Damascus at this point.

The fate of Lebanon and Syria remain deeply intertwined.  In the mid-19th century, a bloody civil war between Druze and Maronites in the densely populated coastal mountains rapidly spread from Mount Lebanon to Damascus.  This time around, the current is flowing in reverse, with the civil war in Syria now flooding Lebanon.  As the Alawites continue to gain ground in Syria with aid from Iran and Hezbollah, a shadowy amalgam of Sunni jihadists backed by Saudi Arabia will become more active in Lebanon, leading to a steady stream of Sunni-Shiite attacks that will keep Mount Lebanon on edge.

The United States may be leading the ill-fated peace conference to reconstruct Syria, but it doesn’t really have any strong interests there.  The depravity of the civil war itself compels the United States to show that it is doing something constructive, but Washington’s core interest for the region at the moment is to preserve and advance a negotiation with Iran.  This goal sits at odds with a publicly stated U.S. goal to ensure al Assad is not part of a Syrian transition, and this point may well be one of many pieces in the developing bargain between Washington and Tehran.  However, al Assad holds greater leverage so long as his main patron is in talks with the United States, the only sea power currently capable of projecting significant force in the eastern Mediterranean.

Egypt, the Nile Valley power to the south, is wholly ensnared in its own internal problems.  So is Turkey, the main power to the north, which is now gripped in a public and vicious power struggle that leaves little room for Turkish adventurism in the Arab world.  That leaves Saudi Arabia and Iran as the main regional powers able to directly manipulate the Syrian sectarian battleground.  Iran, along with Russia, which shares an interest in preserving relations with the Alawites and thus its access to the Mediterranean, will hold the upper hand in this conflict, but the desert wasteland linking Syria to Mesopotamia is filled with bands of Sunni militants eager for Saudi backing to tie down their sectarian rivals.

And so the fighting will go on.  Neither side of the sectarian divide is capable of overwhelming the other on the battlefield and both have regional backers that will fuel the fight.  Iran will try to use its relative advantage to draw the Saudi royals into a negotiation, but a deeply unnerved Saudi Arabia will continue to resist as long as Sunni rebels still have enough fight in them to keep going  Fighters on the ground will regularly manipulate appeals for cease-fires spearheaded by largely disinterested outsiders, all while the war spreads deeper into Lebanon.  The Syrian state will neither fragment and formalize into sectarian statelets nor reunify into a single nation under a political settlement imposed by a conference in Geneva.  A mosaic of clan loyalties and the imperative to keep Damascus linked to its coastline and economic heartland – no matter what type of regime is in power in Syria – will hold this seething borderland together, however tenuously.

Posted in Middle East | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Emotionally Demands the US bomb Syria

Posted by Steve Markowitz on September 14, 2013

When George W. Bush announced his decision to invade Iraq, he justified it based on Iraq having weapons of mass destruction.  A decade later we have a Progressive Democrat in the White House using a similar justification; gassing (WMDs) on his own people, to bomb Syria.  Missing from both presidents’ decisions were/are a strategic goal and endgame for the United States.

In hindsight the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a mistake.  Iraq remains today a violent country with its leadership now more closely aligned with Iran, its Persian Shiite cousins.  It is likely that should the United States get entangled in Syria’s civil war, it too would go badly.  First and foremost is the likelihood that should Assad be overthrown, the regime that replaces him would be at least as antagonistic to US interests.  In addition, replacing Assad or even destabilizing him does not remove the WMDs from Syria.  It merely changes who controls them.  Some of the Syrian rebels are aligned with radical Sunni groups who are related to the same terrorists that attacked America on 9/11.

There is a significant difference today on the political front.  George W. Bush had a skeptical press.  Many in the mainstream media today are so invested in Barack Obama that they are emotionally attached to any of his decision, even to bomb another country.  The video below shows CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour having emotional breakdown on air when discussing this issue.

Americans should be disgusted by the carnage in Syria, an extension of the larger Sunni-Shiite worldwide struggle.  However, civil wars are rarely resolved by foreign invaders.  Many more died in America’s Civil War than have been killed in Syria.  It was only when one side was beaten into submission did our war end.  The same is required in Syria.  The US’s involvement in the Syrian war will ultimately prolong it.

Posted in Syria | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Top Syrian Officials Killed in Damascus

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 18, 2012

The violence in Syria has been ongoing for more than a year and a half.  As part of the “Arab Spring”, the Syrian people have been revolting against the dictatorship of Bashir al-Assad.  The violence has been steadily increasing with over 10,000 Syrians killed by government forces.  More recently the violence has reached its capital, Damascus.  That and the significant events of today indicate Syria is reaching a tipping point.

The Telegraph today reported that two high officials of the Syrian government have been assassinated in Damascus by rebels.  The two killed were Syria’s Defence Minister General Daoud Rajha and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law General Assef Shawkat.  Significantly, the bombing occurred in the highly secured National Security building.

The rapidly increasing Syrian, as well as its movement from smaller towns to Damascus, is a clear indication that the Assad regime’s days are numbered.  This will have significant ramifications for the Middle East.  First, Syria has been a strong ally of Iran and important in part of its strategy to form a “Shiite crescent” in the region.  In addition, Syria has been run for decades with force and violence by the minority Alawites, an offshoot of the Shiites.  When the Assad regime falls, it is likely that the majority Sunni population will seek revenge and Syria will descend into civil war.

The tumultuous changes now occurring in the Arab Middle East indicate how badly the international community and United States have responded to this region over the decades.  Along with the United Nations, they focused almost solely the Arab/Palestinian conflict. These diplomats continually proffered the view that solving the Palestinian issue would lead to peace in the Middle East.  That view has been proven dead wrong.  However, it allowed diplomats to ignore the graver issues in the region including the rise of radical Islam and the rising anger of the Arab masses towards their dictators.  Now the pressure cooker is exploding with the ultimate outcome unknown.

The United States currently has little influence in the Middle East relating to the outcome of the Arab Spring.  Given this, America should come down on the side of democracy, even if that ultimately leads to governments unfriendly towards us in the short run.  Change is coming to Syria.  It is unlikely that America’s lack of support for those trying to overthrow the dictator Assad, what President Obama calls “leading from behind”, will be viewed positively by those who come the power.

Posted in Syria | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Afghan’s Sunnis Target Shiites in Bombings

Posted by Steve Markowitz on December 7, 2011

Suicide bombers were at it on Tuesday in Afghanistan in a growing sign of increasing violence between Afghan’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims.  Simultaneous bombings went off throughout the country with the target of these attacks being the Shiite minority that makes up about 20% of Afghanistan.  Some of Afghan’s Sunni majority, as well as those in other countries, consider Shiites to be heretics.

Reuters reported that in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, 60 Shiites were killed in a bombing at a religious ceremony commemorating the Ashura day of mourning, a Shiite holy day.  Other fatal blasts occurred in the southern city of Kandahar, again targeting Shiite worshipers.

The Afghan bombings are examples of what has become nearly daily occurrences in some countries worldwide with followers of the Islamic faith using violence and killings to achieve political and/or religious goals.  It demonstrates the intolerance of other religions that has become part of the Islamic culture.

Some in the West, particularly Progressives, have for chosen to ignore the reasons behind the growing violence and intolerance within the Muslim community, hiding behind the modern religion of political correctness.  The violence, intolerance and justifications for these acts are being taught to Muslim youths in madrasahs by religious teachers.  This powerful indoctrination that has made violence the chosen path for too many followers of Islam.  The West’s refusal to call the greater Islamic community on this reality has allowed that community to turn a blind eye and make excuses for the violence within their culture.

Posted in Afghanistan, Terrorism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

While Middle East Boil, Obama is Silent

Posted by Steve Markowitz on August 4, 2011

With most of the media’s attention recently focused on the debt ceiling circus in Washington, little press has been given to other potential world-changing events such as those playing out in the Middle East.  What started in Tunisia in January as a peaceful revolution has since led to what has been dubbed the “Arab Spring” with much broader implications.  Some of these events include:

Egypt – Shortly after the Tunisian dictator fell, Egyptians massed in Cairo and kicked out Hosni Mubarak.  While then viewed by many in the West as a pro-democracy movement, reality has the army still running the country.  There have also been other signs of concern since March.  Last Friday thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and fellow Islamists rallied in Cairo against the current status.  Whether these events lead to positive or negative consequences for the West will be left to history.

Libya – It is now nearly six months since President Obama and NATO chose sides and entered this civil war on behalf of some undefined rebels.  The war has dragged on and the rebels are beginning to fight amongst themselves with a major rebel leader recently assassinated.  Even if Gadhafi’s forces are ultimately defeated, the civil war is likely to continue as Libya will be run by its own clan-based social structure.

Iraq – The Bagdad government is semi-dysfunctional.  Terrorist violence is increasing and Iran’s influence seems to be growing.  Obama’s new Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, has asked Baghdad to make a “damn” decision about allowing American forces to remain in that country after the New Year.

Turkey – Turkey is showing signs of unrest.  Last week its top military leaders resigned in protest of the 40 generals that were arrested by the Islamic government on questionable charges.  In the past nine decades the military has been the most stable guarantor of power since Ataturk founded the modern Turkish Republic.

Yemen – This country on Saudi Arabia’s southern border has been in a state of civil war since the beginning of the year.  It has also become a haven for anti-Western terrorists.

Bahrain – As the home for the American 5th Fleet, this small Persian Gulf country has played an important strategic role for the United States.  Its majority Shiite population has become restless against Bahrain’s rulers who are Sunnis.  Earlier this year Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain to help quell protests.

Iran – Iran continues to march down the path to acquire nuclear weapons.  While most often the danger of a nuclear Iran is discussed in terms of Israel’s security, its implications are much broader.  The tensions between Shiite Iran and the Sunni Muslim (Arab) world go much deeper.  Should Iran gain nukes we should expect that at least the Saudi’s, Jordan and Turkey will also join the nuclear weapons club.  Yikes.

Syria – President Bashar Assad this week upped the ante with Syrian protestors.  His military attacked protesters killing about 100 adding to the 1,600 already killed since in March.  Assad’s clan is part of an offshoot of Shiite Islam called Alawites that make up only about 10% of the Syrian population.  The majority Sunnis have had enough of the 40 year rule of the Assads.  It is likely that there is more bloodshed to come.  Civil war is a possibility and intervention by Iran is not out of the question.

*******

President Obama has been eerily silent on most of the Middle East events this year.  It is evident that the Administration does not have a strategy for this important region.  Earlier in his presidency, Obama reached out to the Muslim world in a charm offensive designed to bridge the gap between Islam and the West.  It has clearly failed with America’s relationship with Islamic countries showing no improvement.  Obama also focused nearly solely on the Israeli/Palestinian issue in the belief that it was the key to peace in the Middle East.  The events listed above prove the fallacy of this policy.  Not only have the President’s polices not brought stability to the Middle East, they may have helped stoke the flames of instability.

During the recent debt ceiling talks, President Obama often publically lectured the Congress about not doing its job.  The President should start this lecturing by looking in the mirror.

The President has not led in the Middle East, but instead followed with erratic positions and policies.  When Iranians protestors were being killed in the streets two years ago by the Mullahs, Obama remained silent.  While Obama stepped in to assist the Libyan rebels, he offers but few words as Syrians protestors are being killed.  At the same time, Obama has been quite vocal in criticizing our only dependable Middle East alley, Israel, for building homes in Jerusalem.  It is little wonder that Middle East countries do not know where the United States stands.

When Barack Obama was elected president he had no executive or managerial experience.  To many on the Left this did not matter as he would bring “hope” and “change”.  Many independents voted for Obama hoping that he would be a quick learner, irrespective of his lack of experience.  Obama has not brought hope or change, nor has he learned to lead.  The legacy of the Obama presidency will include failure on the economic front, as well a foreign policy devoid of any coherent strategy.  This one-term president will vie with Jimmy Carter as the worst president of the last 100 years.

Incredibly, Barack Obama was awarded the Novel Prize for Peace early in his presidency.  You got to admire the gall of Progressives.

Posted in Middle East, President Obama | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

As the Syrian Carnage Increases, the West Just Watches

Posted by Steve Markowitz on April 26, 2011

The New York Times reported that the Syrian Army including tanks has entered the city of Dara with guns blazing.  They are also arresting many throughout the country in an effort to contain the growing protests against the government of Bashar Assad.  According to reports, another 25 Syrians have been murdered, bringing the total to about 400 since the protests began five weeks ago.

The Times also reported growing tensions between the minority Alawites, Assad’s sect that has run Syria for decades, and its majority Sunni population.  After such ethnic and religious flames get lit they often grow into battles that are hard to mediate.

The West is not blameless when it comes to the current violence perpetrating on innocents by the Syrian government.  For years the West turned a blind eye towards the despots running most Middle East countries.  Politicians and diplomats from both the Right and the Left accepted behavior from Arab rulers that go against basic human rights and dignity as long as we felt it was in our national interests.  We also allowed these Arab rulers to promote the false narrative that their countries’ problems were somehow based on the unsolved Israeli/Palestinian matter.  Ludicrous.

It was just six years ago that the Syrian government of Bashar Assad was involved in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  That appropriately moved President Bush to withdraw the U.S. ambassador from Damascus.  In keeping with his seeming belief that all policies that preceded him were wrong, last December President Obama started a charm offensive with Damascus that clearly was mistaken.  His Progessive colleagues chose a similarly flawed path.

Senator John Kerry – Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry met with Assad at least six times.  He is quoted: “I have been a believer for some period of time that we could make progress in that relationship.  And I’m going to continue to work for it and push it.”  And, “President Assad has been very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – As late as March 27 of this year, Ms. Clinton proved clueless when it came to Assad.  When asked on CBS’s Face the Nation if the U.S. would enter the conflict in Syria as it did in Libya, Clinton said: “No.  Each of these situations is unique.”  And then continued:  “What’s been happening there the last few weeks is deeply concerning, but there’s a difference between calling out aircraft and indiscriminately strafing and bombing your own cities and then police actions, which, frankly, have exceeded the use of force that any of us would want to see.”  When pushed by

CBS’s Bob Schieffer then pushed Clinton asking:  “Why is that different from Libya?”  Clinton’s answer: “There’s a different leader in Syria now.  Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”

How wrong can two professionals be?  President Obama should demand Clinton’s resignation over the matter.  However, that would require bold action, something this President has proven incapable of.

Posted in Syria | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Syria is Edging Closer to a Tipping Point

Posted by Steve Markowitz on March 26, 2011

On February 1, 2011, we posted an article titled: Syria’s Assad and Jordan’s Abdullah Hearing Footsteps”. The world’s attention was then on the turmoil in Egypt that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.  With Egypt settling down, the world’s focus moved to Yemen and Libya, two violent hotspots in the Middle East that are having civil wars.  While the outcomes of both battles remain in flux, it is likely that they will result in the overthrow of the dictators, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh and Libya’s Gadhafi.

As tragic as the battles in Yemen and Libya are for their citizens, they are sideshows for the revolutions yet to come in Syria, Saudi Arabia and/or Iran.  Given the virulence of the Tunisian Flu, it is unlikely that these countries can escape from the turmoil.  The call for the ouster of Middle East dictators has an unstoppable momentum.

The news from Syria indicates that it is nearing a tipping point with protests growing in size, geographical scope and violence.  The New York Times reports that Syrian protests turned deadly yesterday with the military killing dozens of protesters.  It is reported that tens of thousands protested in the southern city of Dara, as well as other cities.

Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad took power upon the death of his father, dictator Hafez al-Assad.  The Assad’s are part of the Alawite a sect of Shiite Islam, a religious minority in Sunni Syria.  They controlled the country with the iron fist of the Baath Party.  When protests occurred in Hama, Syria in 1982, the elder Assad killed 10,000.

Syria has been a supporter of Shiite Iran and its clients, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.  These allies must now be hearing the footsteps of change.  Should the Syrian revolution go the way of those in Tunisia and Egypt, it will only be a matter of time until the Iranians take to the streets once again.

It remains to be seen whether the outcome of the Middle East revolutions will be positive or negative for the West.  Given their size and scope, it is unlikely that any action of the West will affect the outcomes.  This reality places President Obama and the United States in a precarious position.  Last week Obama and NATO chose sides in the Libyan conflict, justifying the attacks on Gadhafi forces with the claim of protecting Libyans.  This raises some serious questions as to next steps.  What will the President do with Syria, who is now shooting protesters?  How about when the killings start in Iran or Saudi Arabia?

The historic events occurring in the Middle East call for bold and visionary leadership, neither of which Barack Obama excels in.  As he did so often as a state senator from Illinois, Obama feels more comfortable in voting “present” than taking decisive positions.

 

 

Posted in Middle East, Syria | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »