Category Archive 'Middle East'
20 Apr 2015

“Osama Won”

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BinLadin

David Samuels, in an important essay, argues that Osama bin Laden out-strategized a series of dimbulb American administrations, astutely predicting precisely how they would respond.

judging from his last known private letter, dated April 25, 2011, Bin Laden died a happy man. “What we are witnessing these days of consecutive revolutions is a great and glorious event,” he mused, after watching the fall of the secular, Western-backed regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, which he watched on CNN, before the daring Navy SEAL raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. “[T]hanks to Allah things are strongly heading toward the exit of Muslims from being under the control of America.”

Even at this late date, it seems difficult for American policymakers to grasp exactly how Bin Laden’s mastery of the inherently paradoxical logic of warfare—a logic very different than the linear cause-and-effect style of reasoning that governs normal life and electoral politics alike—allowed a man without a country, heavy weapons, or even broadband Internet access to reshape the world to his advantage. The clarity of Bin Laden’s strategic insight, which now seems obvious, also suggests that the dynamic that he deliberately set in motion is still unfolding, in ways that he foresaw before his death—ways that continue to roil the Middle East and will continue to pose a threat to the safety of Americans at home. …

Bin Laden was never shy about explaining what he was doing and why. His public statements about his strategic logic and goals in targeting “the far enemy” remained remarkably consistent, from his first fatwa against America until the last letter he wrote before his death. In his 1996 “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” published soon after the Khobar Towers bombings in Saudi Arabia, he explained that “it is essential to hit the main enemy who divided the Ummah”—the Muslim world—“into small and little countries and pushed it, for the last few decades, into a state of confusion.”

America’s response to an attack would be to get sucked into a war, he predicted—and when the going got tough, the United States would cut and run. Responding to then-U.S. Defense Sec. William Perry, who had called the Khobar bombers cowards and had sworn not to give in, Bin Laden asked, “Where was this false courage of yours when the explosion in Beirut took place on 1983 AD (1403 A.H). You were turned into scattered pits and pieces at that time; 241 Marine soldiers were killed.” …

In public and private following the Sept. 11 attacks, he returned to the same themes, over and over again, in at least three-quarters of his public statements and in private letters to other jihadists that were seized from his compound in Abbotabad and later made public. “The goal is to weaken America until it can no longer interfere in Muslims affairs,” he explained, in a letter whose contents were entirely typical of his communications. “Once the American enemy has been defeated, our next step would be targeting the region’s leaders who had been the pillars of support for that American hegemony.”

It is proof of Bin Laden’s mastery of the unexpected logic that animates strategic thought, and of the glaring inability of America’s political leaders to think strategically, that not one but two American presidents have faithfully acted their roles in his geo-political script: George W. Bush, the hawk, with his open-ended and heavy-handed occupation of Iraq; and Barack Obama, the dove, with his precipitous and wholesale withdrawal of American military forces and influence from the Middle East. Both men—and their many advisers—should have known better.

Read the whole thing. It’s depressing reading and hard to argue with.

Hat tip to Claire Berlinski.

28 Jul 2014

Libya and Barack Obama’s “Smart Diplomacy”

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Ramirez39

Walter Russell Mead admires the way the Mainstream Media looks carefully away as the Obama Administration’s “Smart Diplomacy” puts Middle Eastern countries, provinces, and WMDs into the hands of murderous fanatics. The days of the New York Times micromanaging US Foreign Policy are clearly over.

If Obama were a Republican, the press and the weekly news shows would be ringing with hyperbolic, apocalyptic denunciations of the clueless incumbent who had failed to learn the most basic lessons of Iraq. Indeed, the MSM right now would be howling that Obama was stupider than Bush. Bush, our Journolist friends would now be saying ad nauseam, at least had the excuse that he didn’t know what happens when you overthrow a paranoid, genocidal, economically incompetent Arab tyrant in an artificial post-colonial state. But Obama did—or, the press would nastily say, he would have done if he’d been doing his job instead of hitting the golf course or yakking it up with his glitzy pals at late night bull sessions. The ad hominem attacks would never stop, and all the tangled threads of incompetence and failure would be endlessly and expertly picked at in long New Yorker articles, NYT thumbsuckers, and chin-strokings on all the Sabbath gasbag shows.

Why, the ever-admirable tribunes of a free and unbiased press would be asking non-stop, didn’t this poor excuse for a President learn from what happened in Iraq? When you upend an insane and murderous dictator who has crushed his people for decades under an incompetent and quirky regime, you’d better realize that there is no effective state or civil society under the hard shell of dictatorial rule. Remove the dictator and you get chaos and anarchy. Wasn’t this President paying attention during the last ten years?

Some of the criticism would be exaggerated and unfair; the Monday morning quarterbacks never really understand just how complicated and tragic this poor world really is, not to mention how hard it is to make life and death decisions in real time in the center of the non-stop political firestorm that is Washington today. And the MSM attracts more than its share of deeply inexperienced but entitled, self-regarding blowhards who love to pontificate about how stupid all those poor fools who have actual jobs and responsibilities actually are.

But luckily for Team Obama, the mainstream press would rather die than subject liberal Democrats to the critiques it reserves for the GOP. So instead, as Libya writhes in agony, reputations and careers move on. The news is so bad, and the President’s foreign policy is collapsing on so many fronts, that it is impossible to keep the story off the front pages. “Smart diplomacy” has become a punch line, and the dream Team Obama had of making Democrats the go-to national security party is as dead as the passenger pigeon. But what the press can do for the White House it still, with some honorable exceptions, labors to accomplish: it will, when it must, report the dots. But it will try not to connect them, and it will do what it can to let all the people involved in the Libya debacle move on to the next and higher stage of their careers.

Read the whole thing.

21 Jul 2014

The 317,000,000 Country Solution

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The Onion has figured out the answer of how to achieve an enduring Middle East peace.

NEW YORK—Marking the latest and most ambitious attempt to bring stability to the region, the United Nations announced Wednesday that every single person in the Middle East will receive his or her own sovereign nation as part of a historic 317,000,000-state solution.

The broad and extensive compromise, which affects more than 3,000,000 square miles formerly occupied by the territories of Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Oman, Yemen, Egypt, and Jordan, will reportedly draw over 750,000,000 new borders in what experts claim will help drastically curb sectarian violence.

“Given the incredibly complex and volatile sociopolitical landscape throughout the Middle East, a 317,000,000-state solution is the only realistic means of achieving lasting peace,” said U.N. Security Council president Eugène-Richard Gasana, noting that the treaty was reached after lengthy negotiations, which brought together each of the more than 300,000,000 independent factions. …

“We are confident that with every man, woman, and child possessing his or her own autonomous area of sovereignty to run as he or she sees fit, we will avoid many of the conflicts that have plagued this part of the world for centuries and left countless dead,” Gasana added. “This is a bright new future for the Middle East.”

According to U.N. officials, the newly demarcated Middle East now consists of 8,000,000 independent Jewish states, 4,000,000 independent Palestinian states, 112,000,000 Shi’ite Islamic republics, 156,000,000 Sunni Islamic republics, and 19,000,000 Kurdish nations, as well as approximately 18,000,000 territories that include various Christian, Bahá’í, Druze, Zoroastrian, and secular countries.

Read the whole thing.

05 Jul 2014

Awkward Moment During the Glorious Revolution

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AwkwardMoment
AwkwardMoment1

People’s Cube: “That awkward moment when you realize that your badass jihadi boss owns a “Hello Kitty” notebook for his military battle plans…”

24 Aug 2013

Sleeping Was Different Then

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Detail from Fra Angelico, St. Nicholas Giving Gold to the Three Poor Girls, 1437, Città del Vaticano, Pinacoteca.

SlumberWise explains that people used to sleep differently in Olden Times.

[W]e didn’t always sleep in one eight hour chunk. We used to sleep in two shorter periods, over a longer range of night. This range was about 12 hours long, and began with a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.

References are scattered throughout literature, court documents, personal papers, and the ephemera of the past. What is surprising is not that people slept in two sessions, but that the concept was so incredibly common. Two-piece sleeping was the standard, accepted way to sleep.

“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch says.

An English doctor wrote, for example, that the ideal time for study and contemplation was between “first sleep” and “second sleep.” Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her “firste sleep.” And, explaining the reason why working class conceived more children, a doctor from the 1500s reported that they typically had sex after their first sleep.

Ekirch’s book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past is replete with such examples.

But just what did people do with these extra twilight hours? Pretty much what you might expect.

Most stayed in their beds and bedrooms, sometimes reading, and often they would use the time to pray. Religious manuals included special prayers to be said in the mid-sleep hours.

Hat tip to Ann Rice [via FB].

16 Jan 2013

Languages of the Middle East

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(click on image for larger version)

A fascinating illustration of the astonishing diversity of languages found at the geographic meeting points of the Indo-European, Semitic, and Turkic language families. It is also very interesting to note how large a portion of the land area of the Middle East is arid and uninhabited.

29 May 2012

Bigger Than Stuxnet

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The Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky has discovered that a truly massive piece of malware has been lurking on computers in Iran and other Islamic locations for at least two years. The software discovered is believed to be state-sponsored, and everyone is refraining in print from finger-pointing at the United States.

Wired:

A massive, highly sophisticated piece of malware has been newly found infecting systems in Iran and elsewhere and is believed to be part of a well-coordinated, ongoing, state-run cyberespionage operation.

The malware, discovered by Russia-based anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab, is an espionage toolkit that has been infecting targeted systems in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, the Israeli Occupied Territories and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa for at least two years.

Dubbed “Flame” by Kaspersky, the malicious code dwarfs Stuxnet in size – the groundbreaking infrastructure-sabotaging malware that is believed to have wreaked havoc on Iran’s nuclear program in 2009 and 2010. Although Flame has both a different purpose and composition than Stuxnet, and appears to have been written by different programmers, its complexity, the geographic scope of its infections and its behavior indicate strongly that a nation-state is behind Flame, rather than common cyber-criminals — marking it as yet another tool in the growing arsenal of cyberweaponry.

The researchers say that Flame may be part of a parallel project created by contractors who were hired by the same nation-state team that was behind Stuxnet and its sister malware, DuQu.

“Stuxnet and Duqu belonged to a single chain of attacks, which raised cyberwar-related concerns worldwide,” said Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and co-founder of Kaspersky Lab, in a statement. “The Flame malware looks to be another phase in this war, and it’s important to understand that such cyber weapons can easily be used against any country.”

Early analysis of Flame by the Lab indicates that it’s designed primarily to spy on the users of infected computers and steal data from them, including documents, recorded conversations and keystrokes. It also opens a backdoor to infected systems to allow the attackers to tweak the toolkit and add new functionality.

The malware, which is 20 megabytes when all of its modules are installed, contains multiple libraries, SQLite3 databases, various levels of encryption — some strong, some weak — and 20 plug-ins that can be swapped in and out to provide various functionality for the attackers. It even contains some code that is written in the LUA programming language — an uncommon choice for malware.

Kaspersky Lab is calling it “one of the most complex threats ever discovered.”

“It’s pretty fantastic and incredible in complexity,” said Alexander Gostev, chief security expert at Kaspersky Lab.

Flame appears to have been operating in the wild as early as March 2010, though it remained undetected by antivirus companies.

“It’s a very big chunk of code. Because of that, it’s quite interesting that it stayed undetected for at least two years,” Gostev said. He noted that there are clues that the malware may actually date back to as early as 2007, around the same time-period when Stuxnet and DuQu are believed to have been created.

Read the whole thing.

26 Nov 2011

Arab Times Are A-Changing

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Via Theo.

02 Nov 2011

The Treason of the Western Elites

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On the same subject, Fjordman marvels at Western political leaders actively supporting Islamic revolutionaries in the Middle East. It was Qaddafi versus Al Qaeda after all, and we supported al Qaeda.

Many ordinary citizens, when witnessing our so-called leaders supporting our enemies, wonder whether Western political elites have lost their grip on reality. What are they trying to achieve with such stupid and suicidal policies? Why do they want to export democracy to Islamic countries, even if this brings radical organizations with hostile agendas to power, at the same time as the democratic system is being de facto abolished in Europe by the European Union?

My personal view is that the cultural, economic and especially immigration policies currently promoted by the ruling elites throughout virtually the entire Western world are harmful to the long-term interests of the European peoples who created this civilization. One fundamental question that has been hotly debated on the Internet by dissident writers is whether this trend is entirely accidental, and exclusively reflects the purely impersonal forces of technological globalization, or whether there is also a purpose and a plan behind some of these changes. …

Today the ruling ideology is an absolute egalitarianism that if you analyze it closely actually amounts to saying that all cultures have an equal right to exist, except the European one which is evil.

Read the whole thing.

16 Sep 2011

Arabs: Always Angry, Always Crazy

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Strategy Page is probably too optimistic in thinking that there is any real possibility of Arabs ever choosing democracy and secular modernity over Islamic dictatorship.

In the last decade, the world has learned what Israelis have known for a long time; Arabs and their governments tend to favor self-destructive policies. Western nations have generally ignored this madness, or excused each instance as a momentary lapse in good judgment. But this bad behavior has spawned Islamic terrorism, and sustains it. Many Arabs believe what al Qaeda preaches, that the world should be ruled by an Islamic religious dictatorship, and that this must be achieved by any means necessary (including force, against non-Moslems, and Moslems who don’t agree.) This sort of thinking has been popular with Islamic conservatives since Islam first appeared in the sixth century. Since then, it has periodically flared up into major outbreaks of religious inspired violence. But that’s not the only problem. Arabs, in particular, sustain these outbursts with their fondness for paranoid fantasies and an exaggerated sense of persecution and entitlement.

Read the whole thing.

19 Jun 2011

Cynical Dairy Farmer’s Guide to the Middle East

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Karim Sadjadpour, in Foreign Policy, takes the old “two cows” Central European joke and has a go at applying it to the contemporary Middle East.

You know the joke. In its original form, it goes:

Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one of them and gives it to your neighbor.

Communism: You have two cows. The government takes them both and provides you with milk.

Nazism: You have two cows. The government shoots you and takes the cows.

Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

In the Middle Eastern context:

Saudi Arabia
You have two cows with endless reserves of milk. Gorge them with grass, prevent them from interacting with bulls, and import South Asians to milk them.

Iran
You have two cows. You interrogate them until they concede they are Zionist agents. You send their milk to southern Lebanon and Gaza, or render it into highly enriched cream. International sanctions prevent your milk from being bought on the open market.

Syria
You have five cows, one of whom is an Alawite. Feed the Alawite cow well; beat the non-Alawite cows. Use the milk to finance your wife’s shopping sprees in London.

Lebanon
You have two cows. Syria claims ownership over them. You take them abroad and start successful cattle farms in Africa, Australia, and Latin America. You send the proceeds back home so your relatives can afford cosmetic surgery and Mercedes-Benzes.

Hezbollah
You have no cows. During breaks from milking on the teat of the Iranian cow you call for Israel’s annihilation.

Iraq
You have three cows: one Sunni, one Shiite, and one Kurd. The first is milked by Saudi Arabia, the second by Iran, and the third smuggles its milk abroad. The United States picks up the manure.

Bahrain
You have three cows: two Shiites and one Sunni. Invite Saudi Arabia to come kill a Shiite cow and import another Sunni cow.

Yemen
You have two cows. Feed them khat instead of grass and neglect to milk them. Watch them fight each other.

Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt

You have 10 cows. Neglect to tend to them, but prevent them from fighting Israel in order to get milk from America.

Post-Mubarak Egypt
You have 10 cows who think they now own the farm. There’s still no milk.

Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s Tunisia

You have two cows. Beat them regularly and use the milk money for your wife’s shopping sprees in Paris. When the cows revolt, retire to Saudi Arabia.

Post-Ben Ali Tunisia

See post-Mubarak Egypt.

Libya
You have two cows. You wish they were camels. Feed them only your words of wisdom and kill them if they dare moo.

Turkey
You have two cows and one sheep. You claim that the sheep is really a “mountain cow.”

Qatar
You have one cow that has hundreds of udders. You use the limitless milk money to set up a television channel that broadcasts the other cows in the region being milked (except Saudi Arabia’s).

United Arab Emirates
You have two cows. You bring in Filipino nannies, South Asian laborers, and Russian prostitutes to make sure they’re well taken care of. Sell the milk to build the world’s biggest shopping mall.

Jordan
You have one cow, surrounded by wolves. Pretend that it’s a magic cow that has the power to pacify wild animals, and then ask America for milk.

Palestine
You had two cows that were lost decades ago. Lament them.

Israel
You have two bulls. Pretend they are helpless calves.

Hat tip to Matt MacLean.

26 May 2011

Obama Takes Another Ride in the Clown Car

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Walter Russell Mead rants brilliantly on the subject of Barack Obama’s singular ineptitude at framing American Middle Eastern policy: “As so often in the past, but catastrophically this time, he found the “sour spot”: the position that angers everyone and pleases none.”

I had never thought there were many similarities between the pleasure-loving Charles II of England and the more upright Barack Obama until this week. Listening to his speeches on the Middle East at the State Department, US-Israel relations at the AIPAC annual meeting and most recently his address to the British Parliament the comparison becomes irresistible.

“Here lies our sovereign king,” wrote the Earl of Rochester about King Charles:

Whose word no man relies on.
Who never said a foolish thing
Or ever did a wise one.

This seems to capture President Obama’s Middle East problems in a nutshell. The President’s descriptions of the situation are comprehensive and urbane. He correctly identifies the forces at work. He develops interesting policy ideas and approaches that address important political and moral elements of the complex problems we face. He crafts approaches that might, with good will and deft management, bridge the gaps between the sides. He reads thoughtful speeches full of sensible reflections.

But the last few weeks have cast him as the least competent manager of America’s Middle East diplomatic portfolio in a very long time. He has infuriated and frustrated long term friends, but made no headway in reconciling enemies. He has strained our ties with the established regimes without winning new friends on the Arab Street. He has committed our forces in the strategically irrelevant backwater of Libya not, as he originally told us, for “days, not weeks” but for months not days.

Where he has failed so dramatically is in the arena he himself has so frequently identified as vital: the search for peace between Palestinians and Israelis. His record of grotesque, humiliating and total diplomatic failure in his dealings with Prime Minister Netanyahu has few parallels in American history. Three times he has gone up against Netanyahu; three times he has ingloriously failed. This last defeat — Netanyahu’s deadly, devastating speech to Congress in which he eviscerated President Obama’s foreign policy to prolonged and repeated standing ovations by members of both parties — may have been the single most stunning and effective public rebuke to an American President a foreign leader has ever delivered.

Netanyahu beat Obama like a red-headed stepchild; he played him like a fiddle; he pounded him like a big brass drum. The Prime Minister of Israel danced rings around his arrogant, professorial opponent. It was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters go up against the junior squad from Miss Porter’s School; like watching Harvard play Texas A&M, like watching Bambi meet Godzilla — or Bill Clinton run against Bob Dole.

Read the whole thing.

27 Feb 2011

Political Prospects For the Middle East

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Historian Bernard Lewis discusses the causes of unrest in the Middle East and is pessimistic about long-term prospects for democracy. His take on all this makes quite a contrast with the kind of naive optimism we read in conventional news sources in the West.

The Arab masses certainly want change. And they want improvement. But when you say do they want democracy, that’s a more difficult question to answer. What does “democracy” mean? It’s a word that’s used with very different meanings, even in different parts of the Western world. And it’s a political concept that has no history, no record whatever in the Arab, Islamic world.

In the West, we tend to get excessively concerned with elections, regarding the holding of elections as the purest expression of democracy, as the climax of the process of democratization. Well, the second may be true – the climax of the process. But the process can be a long and difficult one. Consider, for example, that democracy was fairly new in Germany in the inter-war period and Hitler came to power in a free and fair election.

We, in the Western world particularly, tend to think of democracy in our own terms – that’s natural and normal – to mean periodic elections in our style. But I think it’s a great mistake to try and think of the Middle East in those terms and that can only lead to disastrous results, as you’ve already seen in various places. They are simply not ready for free and fair elections.

One of the most moving experiences of my life was in the year 1950, most of which I spent in Turkey. That was the time when the Turkish government held a free and genuinely fair election – the election of 1950 – in which that government was defeated, and even more remarkably the government then quietly and decently withdrew from power and handed over power to the victorious opposition.

What followed I can only describe as catastrophic. Adnan Menderes, the leader of the party which won the election, which came to power by their success in the election, soon made it perfectly clear that he had no intention whatever of leaving by the same route by which he had come, that he regarded this as a change of regime, and that he had no respect at all for the electoral process.

And people in Turkey began to realize this. I remember vividly sitting one day in the faculty lounge at the school of political sciences in Ankara. This would have been after several years of the Menderes regime. We were sitting in the faculty lounge with some of the professors discussing the history of different political institutions and forms. And one of them suddenly said, to everyone’s astonishment, “Well, the father of democracy in Turkey is Adnan Menderes.”

The others looked around in bewilderment. They said, “Adnan Menderes, the father of Turkish democracy? What do you mean?” Well, said this professor, “he raped the mother of democracy.” It sounds much better in Turkish…

This happened again and again and again. You win an election because an election is forced on the country. But it is seen as a one-way street. Most of the countries in the region are not yet ready for elections. …

I can imagine a situation in which the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations of the same kind obtain control of much of the Arab world. It’s not impossible. I wouldn’t say it’s likely, but it’s not unlikely.

And if that happens, they would gradually sink back into medieval squalor.
Remember that according to their own statistics, the total exports of the entire Arab world other than fossil fuels amount to less than those of Finland, one small European country. Sooner or later the oil age will come to an end. Oil will be either exhausted or superseded as a source of energy and then they have virtually nothing. In that case it’s easy to imagine a situation in which Africa north of the Sahara becomes not unlike Africa south of the Sahara. …

There’s a common theme of anger and resentment. And the anger and resentment are universal and well-grounded. They come from a number of things. First of all, there’s the obvious one – the greater awareness that they have, thanks to modern media and modern communications, of the difference between their situation and the situation in other parts of the world. I mean, being abjectly poor is bad enough. But when everybody else around you is pretty far from abjectly poor, then it becomes pretty intolerable.

Another thing is the sexual aspect of it. One has to remember that in the Muslim world, casual sex, Western-style, doesn’t exist. If a young man wants sex, there are only two possibilities – marriage and the brothel. You have these vast numbers of young men growing up without the money, either for the brothel or the brideprice, with raging sexual desire. On the one hand, it can lead to the suicide bomber, who is attracted by the virgins of paradise – the only ones available to him. On the other hand, sheer frustration. …

There was a little Arab boy whose arm was broken by an Israeli policeman during a demonstration and he appeared the next day on Israeli television with a bandage on his arm, denouncing Israeli brutality. I was in Amman at the time, watching this. And sitting next to me was an Iraqi, who had fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and he looked at this with his jaw dropping and he said, “I would gladly let Saddam Hussein break both my arms and both my legs if he would let me talk like that on Iraqi television.” …

The sort of authoritarian, even dictatorial regimes, that rule most of the countries in the modern Islamic Middle East, are a modern creation. They are a result of modernization. The pre-modern regimes were much more open, much more tolerant. You can see this from a number of contemporary descriptions. And the memory of that is still living.

It was a British naval officer called Slade who put it very well. He was comparing the old order with the new order, created by modernization. He said that “in the old order, the nobility lived on their estates. In the new order, the state is the estate of the new nobility.” I think that puts it admirably. …

In the Western world, we talk all the time about freedom. In the Islamic world, freedom is not a political term. It’s a legal term: Freedom as opposed to slavery. This was a society in which slavery was an accepted institution existing all over the Muslim world. You were free if you were not a slave. It was entirely a legal and social term, with no political connotation whatsoever. You can see in the ongoing debate in Arabic and other languages the puzzlement with which the use of the term freedom was first perceived.

They just didn’t understand it. I mean, what does this have to do with politics or government? Eventually, they got the message. But it’s still alien to them.

22 Feb 2011

US Navy Sending a Message to Iran

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The USS Enterprise makes an imposing presence in the Suez Canal. (AFP photo)

DEBKAfile reports that Iran’s recent decision to send two warships through the Suez Canal for “exercises” with Syria provoked an overwhelming display of naval force by the United States.

Thursday night, Feb. 17, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, escorted by missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and the fast supply ship USNS Arctic, headed south through the canal. By Friday morning, they were through and taking up position opposite the Kharg cruiser and Alvand missile destroyer of the Iranian Navy’s 12th Flotilla, which were waiting to enter the Suez Canal at the southern Red Sea entrance.

Furthermore, since the first week of February, the USS Kearsarge, another aircraft carrier, was posted in the Great Bitter Lake opposite Ismailia and the canal’s main routes with a large contingent of marines aboard.

The USS George Washington carrier and the USS Carl Vinson were additionally deployed in the Gulf of Aden, the latter having been moved from the Pacific.

A battle of nerves is therefore underway.

The Iranian warships found themselves cheek to jowl with a major concentration of America naval might piling up in the Red Sea and Suez and were not sure what would happen if they went forward with their mission to transit the Suez Canal for the Mediterranean for the first time in 30 years on their way to Syria.
Sunday night, the Canal authorities announced another 48 hours delay shortly after Tehran state TV claimed the warships were already through to the Mediterranean.

And, finally, the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier was quietly transferred from Bahrain, headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet amid the anti-government uprising, to a point opposite the Iranian Gulf coast.

This pile-up of US naval, air and marine might at strategic points in the Middle East is a warning to meddlers to keep their hands off the revolutions, uprisings and protests sweeping Arab nations. It carries a special message for Tehran that the Obama administration will not permit the Islamic Republic’s rulers to make military and political hay from the unrest – in Bahrain or anywhere else.

By positioning the Enterprise opposite Iran’s 12th Flotilla at the Red Sea entrance to the Suez Canal on Feb. 17 Washington has confronted Tehran with a hard dilemma, which was practically spelled out by US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley a day earlier: “If the ships move through the canal, we will evaluate what they actually do,” he said. “It’s not really about the ships. It’s about what the ships are carrying, what’s their destination, what’s the cargo on board, where’s it going, to whom and for what benefit.”

This was the US spokesman’s answer to the debkafile disclosure of Feb. 16 that the Kharg was carrying long-range surface missiles for Hizballah. It raised the possibility that the moment they venture to sail into the Suez Canal, the two Iranian warships will be boxed in between the Enterprise and the Kearsarge and called upon the allow their cargoes to be inspected as permitted by the last round of UN sanctions against Iran in the case of suspicious war freights.

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