Archive for the 'HAMAS' Category



U.S. Foreign Policy and Syria: What is Best for the U.S.?

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 5 months ago

Syria today is a text book conundrum for the Left.

Obama and the Left have a strange habit of embracing authoritarian and dictatorial foreign leaders among whom Bashir Assad is only one of many: Hugo Chavez, Vladmir Putin, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Fidel Castro and Saudi King Abdullah.  When these authoritarians, however, let their security forces run amok and kill too many civilians with the gumption to call for individual liberty (too many for even the Left’s media to ignore), they tie themselves in knots trying to figure out a response.

So we have the recent publication by the left-leaning think tank, Center for New American Security (CNAS), Marc Lynch, “Pressure Not War: A Pragmatic and Prinipled Policy Towards Syria.”

Lynch’s paper is a classic example of the Left desperately seeking a rationale and a non-military approach to the recurrent problem of 21st Century dictators– terror-sponsoring ones at that– who must use increasingly bloody means to suppress the natural– dare we say God-given?– desire for freedom of common people.

Consider this summary of the problem presented by Lynch:

U.S. and other Western officials assert frequently that the collapse of the Asad regime is only a matter of time. Indeed, President Obama stated on February 6 that Asad’s fall “is not going to be a matter of if, it’s going to be a matter of when.”4 But Asad’s fall could take a long time. In the interim, many Syrians will die, and the conflict could evolve into an extended regional proxy war that victimizes the Syrian people.

A drawn out internal war could shatter the possibility of a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Syria and reverberate across the region. Within Syria, a civil war could entrench sectarian identities, shatter communities and stoke a desire for revenge that makes reconciliation after Asad impossible. A civil war would also destabilize Syria’s neighbors, including Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, and the political instability and movement of people and arms could create new security risks for both Israel and Iran. It might also create opportunities for jihadist groups to establish a foothold in Syria, a danger that U.S. intelligence fears is already beginning to materialize. 5 If the peaceful Syrian uprising transforms into an insurgency backed and armed by outside powers against a ruthless but still viable regime, Syria could replicate Lebanon of the 1980s, on steroids.

Beyond these strategic concerns, there is a humanitarian imperative to help the Syrian people. The horrifying evidence of massacres and regime brutality make it difficult – and wrong – for the world to avert its gaze. Some critics accuse the United States of double standards and hypocrisy for focusing on Syria while turning a blind eye to abuses in Bahrain or defending Israel against international pressure, but these accusations ring hollow given irrefutable evidence of massive human rights violations and the use of deadly force against thousands of civilians. The United States has a real interest in preventing atrocities, especially since the outcome in Syria will inevitably either strengthen or badly injure the international concept of the Responsibility to Protect and other more limited efforts to establish regional and international norms against impunity for those who commit atrocities against civilians.6

[Emphasis added].

When I read this recitation of justifications for intervention, it is the case of the dog that did not bark.   Notice what is entirely missing from all of the reasons highlighted above for U.S. involvement in Syria  (Hint: it is the same element missing from the Obama Administration’s justification for intervening in Libya): a vital, U.S. national interest.

It is almost inconceivable to me that any analysis of a foreign intervention of any kind does not start and largely end with a careful consideration of vital U.S. interests at stake.   Lynch cannot even bother himself to mouth the words, “vital U.S. interest.”   Instead, Lynch writes that the United States merely “has a real interest in preventing atrocities…”   A “real” interest?  What does that even mean?  Is that in contrast with a “feigned” interest?  An “imagined” interest?  A “concocted” interest?

Furthermore, this “real interest” is supposedly strengthened because a failure to prevent atrocities would “badly injure the international concept of the Responsibility to Protect.”   What is this?   Lynch helpfully explains in a footnote  that:

The Responsibility to Protect is a relatively new international legal doctrine which gives the international community the obligation to act to prevent atrocities against civilians. Key documents explaining this doctrine are available at http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index. php/about-rtop/core-rtop-documents

Whatever the good intentions or noble purposes of this doctrine may be, it is clear that creating an international “obligation to act to prevent atrocities against civilians” is the proverbial Pandora’s Box to any number of unintended consequences and unforeseen disasters.  It is one thing to oppose the wanton killing of civilians by, for example, the Iranian Regime, and consider whether and what action to take.   It is a far different and potentially ruinous thing to create an international obligation to act.   To throw out just one example: what would stop the ever-enlightened U.N. from determining that innocent civilians were being killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan (or Yemen, or Somalia, or Afghanistan) thus creating an international obligation to prevent such “atrocities” ?  Such “action” would not likely take military form (although who can foresee a future China or Russia emboldened by deteriorating U.S. military capabilities), but it very well might take the form of sanctions, trade embargoes, freezing of assets abroad, etc…

In essence, then, the Left cannot bring themselves to posit a vital U.S. interest in anything.   Syria is proof of that.   Lynch cites humanitarian concerns and “regional proxy wars” that boil down to more human suffering, but he never reaches the point of articulating why, precisely any of these events necessarily threaten or enhance vital U.S. interests.

My theory is that the Left cannot make the argument because, in the final analysis, they do not believe that there is any, such thing as a U.S. interest insofar as such a thing might conflict with or run counter to international interests.  This type of internationalista thinking is based almost exclusively on emotional appeals to humanitarian concerns and is highly selective.  Where was this urgent, moral imperative, for instance, when the democracy movement in Iran was being beaten, killed, tortured and raped on a massive scale in 2009 and 2010?  Assad and his father before him were torturing and killing civilians all along, but not only did the Left not call for intervention, Obama rewarded Assad with an ambassador and monikers such as “reformer.”

But U.S. interests can and very often do run counter to the interests of other nations and even international agendas.   Any analysis of Syria, then, must start with the U.S. interest in Syria and what is best for the United States of America, not Bashar Assad, not the holy grail of “regional stability” and not even the Syrian people no matter how innocent they may be.

Using Mr. Lynch’s own criteria for intervention, we get an entirely different view of Syria than the internationalista approach.

For instance, Lynch (and the internationalistas as a whole) never asks the question of whether U.S. interests are better served by the status quo ante bellum or in the current state of civil war.   In fact, Lynch assumes without question that Syrian civil war is not in the interests of the U.S. and is something that should and must be stopped.   Furthermore, Obama and his acolytes were more than happy to accommodate the Dictator Assad prior to the civil unrest in 2011.  For the Left, stability with a dictator who views the U.S. as an enemy and is allied with arch-enemy Iran is preferable to instability.

If , however, we examine the Syrian civil war purely from U.S. interests, the conclusion is surely that, despite the current, deplorable suffering of the Syrian people, the uprising by Syrian civilians, to the extent it is a genuine attempt at democratic reform, must be seen as an enormous opportunity to further vital U.S. interests in a critical area of the world for U.S. energy supplies and national security.

An Assad Regime that is battling for its life is no longer an effective state sponsor of terrorism and Iranian cat’s paw.  The fact that Iran and Russia are investing heavily in resources, rhetoric and military units is ample evidence of the value of Assad in power and the perceived loss should he be toppled.   Even assuming that the Regime is not toppled any time soon, anything that keeps the Regime preoccupied with internal strife and in a perpetual state of unrest is a great, immediate benefit to the U.S. and its allies in the region.   Though it sounds Machiavellian to say, in the case of Syria, civil war at the moment is a good thing for the U.S.

Unlike Lynch, our analysis does not stop with whether the civil war in Syria is beneficial to the U.S. or not.  Lynch assumes ipso facto that the civil war in Syria is a bad thing for the U.S. and, a fortiori, intervention by the U.S. must occur in some form.  In our analysis, however, we see that the civil war is actually beneficial for the U.S. (at least for now and in its present form).   The U.S. could well be justified in allowing the civil war to take its course and weaken the Syrian Regime as much as possible.   But a foreign policy based on U.S. interests asks the further questions:  would intervention in Syria further benefit the U.S. and, if so, what form might that intervention take?

U.S. foreign policy cannot be dictated by logarithms of civilian casualties.   Instead, the U.S. must enter into a complicated calculus of risks and benefits in seeking to topple Assad and the methods necessary and appropriate to the task.

On the benefits side of the equation, the outright removal of the Assad Regime, would strike an enormous blow to the chief enemies of the West in the Middle East: Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.  Syria is a kind of linchpin for all three of these Islamist terror groups and it is questionable whether Hezbollah and Hamas could obtain anything like the Syrian support from either Egypt or Turkey.   Beyond severely wounding these groups, the removal of Assad opens up at least the possibility of a resurrection of the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon which has been increasingly strangled by Syrian-sponsored Hezbollah.   Lebanon has great potential to be a second pro-Western bulwark alongside Israel, a huge, net gain for the U.S.   This seems to be the key to assessing Syria: what can the U.S. hope to gain?  What is the potential payoff?  If the game is not worth the prize, best not to play the game at all.

This marks a real difference between Syria and Libya.  Even in hindsight, it is difficult to envision much of a benefit to the U.S. from Qaddafi’s removal.  Qaddafi ceased to be a national security threat to the U.S. in 2004 when he willingly abandoned his WMD programs.   Qaddafi himself was more of a circus act, useful for entertainment at the U.N., but of no international consequence.  He was not even using Libyan oil production as a weapon.   So the removal of Qaddafi and his replacement by even a pro-Western government does not seem to yield much of any benefit to the U.S. in contrast to the central importance of Syria in the Iranian terror web.

On the risk side of the equation, people like Marc Lynch and the Left make much of the dangers of “civil war” in Syria if the U.S. were to support the armed opposition, the so-called Free Syrian Army.   While it is true enough that civil war is brutal for those going through it, we have already seen that, for U.S. national interests, even a civil war is better than having Assad free to do the bidding of Tehran and cultivate Hamas and Hezbollah.  In any event, Syria is already in a state of civil war with the population increasingly arming itself and attacking the Assad Regime.   As even Lynch points out, faced with a murderous regime, the civilian population is going to find a supplier of weapons somewhere and the potential for Militant Islamists (as well as Salafist Saudi Arabia) to provide the weaponry and reap the inevitable loyalty is a very real danger.

Another risk, a more substantial one in my view, surprisingly not cited by Lynch, is the potential for Militant Islamists to come to power, as seems to be happening in Egypt and Tunisia, a bitter fruit of the Arab Spring.  Might the U.S. be repeating the mistakes made in Egypt by backing armed opposition to Assad?

Can we guarantee who will wind up governing Syria once Assad is gone?  Of course not.  But from a strategic point of view, Assad is already, in many ways, the worst case scenario.  It is difficult to imagine an Al-Qaeda Syria, for instance.    That is not their style, for one, and would open them up to the kind of U.S. power that they studiously avoid at all costs by hiding within a State.  What about the Muslim Brotherhood gaining power (as they seem poised to do in Egypt) ?  This is a real concern, of course, but not one that should leave the U.S. in paralysis.

First, it is unlikely that Syrian can be controlled by the MB in anything like the way that the Assads have controlled Syria.  Without the complete, police-state control of the Assad Regime, the MB will not have anything like the free hand that Assad enjoyed to enforce Tehran’s will in the region.  While the MB may be popular to even a large segment of the population, they would be quite unpopular with other, large segments.   Even if we could imagine an Egypt-like, worst-case scenario in which the MB gains overwhelming control of an eventual Syrian government, that is merely a possible eventuality and by no means, at this point, grounds for doing nothing.  Such thinking is taking the counsel of our fears (something at which the Obama Administration excels it seems).  If anything, the prospect of a MB government in Syria should be positive grounds to do something now, while we still can, to prevent it.

Having wrestled with the benefits and risks, it would seem that there is a clear balance in favor of intervening in some fashion.  But how?

Marc Lynch spends the better part of his paper advocating a diplomatic approach.  Granted, he wants a “forceful diplomacy”, more energetic and better coordinated, but, in the end, it is diplomacy.   Worse, it is diplomacy that has no chance of succeeding.  It is perfectly clear that the Assad Regime (and its backers in Tehran and Moscow) are not going to let go of power without a long, bloody fight.  No amount of sanctions or international condemnations are going to do anything to dislodge Assad from power for the simple reason that his backers will do what it takes to evade, veto, defeat and otherwise de-fang anything that the international community can wield diplomatically.   This is the point that the Left and the internationalistas cannot bring themselves to admit: for many problems in this fallen world, there is no peaceful solution no matter how sincere or well-intentioned the advocates may be.

Lynch does consider various military options being proposed: a no-fly zone; limited air strikes (a la Libya); civilian safe havens protected by some kind of military force; armed observers, and; arming the opposition.   He dismisses each one in turn but, again, for reasons that are steeped in humanitarian concern rather than blunt, U.S. interests.

So what form of action might U.S. intervention take, one that is founded acutely upon U.S. interests?

There is no, one right answer but an incremental approach that starts with providing at least covert, military assistance to some, select opposition fighters promises the best chance for advancing U.S. interests in Syria.

What does Lynch say, specifically, about arming the Syrian opposition?

Providing arms to the FSA might hasten Asad’s fall, but at the cost of a far bloodier conflict, greater divisions among the opposition groups and a more difficult transition if Asad falls from power. First, the regime would respond by quickly escalating its attacks, and would likely discard whatever restraint it has thus far shown in order to avoid outside intervention. It is unlikely that arms will give rebels enough power to defeat the regime on the battlefield and overthrow it, given the immense imbalance in favor of regime forces. It would also be very difficult to stop Russia, Iran or others from supplying fresh arms and aid to Asad once the opposition’s backers are openly doing so. Providing arms to a relatively weak opposition will not necessarily close the military gap – it might simply lead to a bloodier conflict.

Second, this option would likely further divide the different opposition groups, rather than encouraging their cooperation. The Syrian opposition remains fragmented, disorganized and highly localized. The FSA remains something of a fiction, a convenient mailbox for a diverse, unorganized collection of local fighting groups. Those groups have been trying to coordinate more effectively, but remain deeply divided.15 However, providing weapons is not a politically neutral act. Those with greater access to the networks that distribute Western guns and equipment will grow stronger, politically as well as militarily. The arming of the Sons of Iraq in 2006, for instance, dramatically shifted the political power of competing Sunni tribes and families in unexpected ways, and the effects continue to unfold today. Better armed fighters will rise in political power, while groups that advocate nonviolence or advance political strategies will be marginalized.

Third, arming the opposition also would radically reduce the prospects for a “soft landing” if and when Asad falls. It could further frighten Syrians who – fearing large scale sectarian violence – continue to support the regime, and make them less likely to switch sides. Arming the weaker side in a civil war is a recipe for protracted, violent conflict, and it would be foolish to assume that an insurgency once launched can be easily controlled.16 If Asad does fall from power, the armed opposition groups are unlikely to demobilize or disarm quickly. Instead, these armed groups would operate in a political and security vacuum amid accumulated fears and rage, with every possibility of reprisal killings and clashing militias.

However, if arming the opposition fails to solve the crisis relatively quickly, which is likely, there will inevitably be calls to conduct the airstrikes discussed above. In other words, what appears to be an alternative to military intervention is actually more likely to be a step towards military intervention. Arming the opposition is therefore a misguided, risky and potentially disastrous option. That said, arms are likely to flood the country if the civil war continues, regardless of U.S. preferences. That flow of arms into Syria will increasingly work at cross-purposes with diplomatic and political efforts to find a managed transition that avoids the worst outcomes.

None of Lynch’s arguments are persuasive.   Some, in fact, point towards arming the opposition.  Lynch’s three main arguments consist of reducing bloodshed, preventing the rise of factions (particularly ethnic/sectarian factions) among the opposition, and preserving the possibility for a smooth, post-Assad transition of power.

As to bloodshed, the blood is flowing quite freely right now and, tragically, it is all on the side of innocent civilians.  To argue that arming the opposition will only result in greater bloodshed may be strictly true, but amounts to the comforting notion that the opposition can bleed to death slowly rather than quickly.  If this rationale prevailed, French support for the American Revolution was wrong as well.  Lynch resorts to the ridiculous notion that no amount of arms can overcome the military advantage enjoyed by Assad’s forces.  Tell that to the mujaheddin who drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980′s (or, for that matter, the Taliban who seem to be driving the U.S. out of Afghanistan with primitive explosives and small arms).   Equally absurd is his notion that Iran and Russia will supply even more weapons to Assad if the opposition starts receiving weapons.  A civil war is never about who is supplied with more weaponry but, rather, who will crack first.  As long as Assad’s thugs can shoot civilians with relative impunity, they will never desert him.   Once helicopters are being shot down, tanks are being destroyed and columns are being effectively ambushed, the regime’s soldiers will quickly re-think their loyalties.   Some already have.

As to the second argument that arming the opposition will lead to factions and potential sectarian warfare, Lynch again departs from an analysis of what is best for the United States.  In fact, he makes an extremely effective argument in favor of arming the opposition when he writes, “providing weapons is not a politically neutral act. Those with greater access to the networks that distribute Western guns and equipment will grow stronger, politically as well as militarily. The arming of the Sons of Iraq in 2006, for instance, dramatically shifted the political power of competing Sunni tribes and families in unexpected ways, and the effects continue to unfold today. Better armed fighters will rise in political power, while groups that advocate nonviolence or advance political strategies will be marginalized.”

Exactly.  This is precisely what the U.S. should be counting upon when it decides which opposition militias it decides to support with weapons, training and intelligence.  Lynch and others assume that arming the opposition somehow requires a weapons free-for-all or that the U.S. is completely incapable of figuring out which groups to support and which to work against.  The U.S. should seek to pick winners in the Syrian conflict.   The U.S. should always seek to support those who favor a pro-Western policy (or, at the very least, a policy that is counter to Militant Islamists).   If that means arming the Kurds against the salafist Sunnis, then so be it.   The U.S. policy in arming the opposition must ensure that all militias recognize that those who side with the U.S. or against the Islamists are going to be the best armed, best trained and best resourced fighters, period.   The U.S. can never lose sight of its ultimate objective which is not the toppling of Assad per se but the disabling and destruction of the Iranian/Islamist threat.  If that means a prolonged civil war in Syria, so long as Syria is neutralized in the war with Militant Islam, vital U.S. interests are served.  Lynch’s reference to the Sons of Iraq in 2006 is perhaps the best example in favor of arming the Syrian opposition as it forced the Sunni tribes to decide whether they would continue to support Al Qaeda or support the U.S.   The result was an overwhelming success for the U.S. in eliminating Al Qaeda, particularly in Anbar Province.

Lynch’s third argument about a “soft landing” after the fall of Assad has been addressed above.  In short, for U.S. interests, we do not want any “soft landing” if that involves giving any power to salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood.   The notion that a unity government that is heavily influenced by or under the control of the MB is a good thing must be denounced.  Far better to see Syria split up into ethnic or sectarian regions than to see a MB government in power.

In summary, when an influential think tank like CNAS produces a paper that is almost wholly inimical to U.S. interests, it is time to look at the leadership in our country and demand that they (Democrat or Republican) reaffirm the primacy of U.S. interests in the making of foreign policy.   What is best for our country should always be the first and foremost consideration.  No other nation on earth plays by any, other rules.

Lights Out On U.S. Foreign Policy? “The Clapper” and the Muslim Brotherhood

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 5 months ago

This is simply stunning.

On February 10, 2011, Director of National Intelligence, Gen. James Clapper, appeared before the House Select Intelligence Committee.  In response to a number of questions from Rep. Sue Myrick (R-9th Dist. NC) regarding the threat posed by The Muslim Brotherhood, Gen. Clapper made this outrageous statement:

“The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.  They have pursued social ends, the betterment of the political order in Egypt and etcetera.  [Interruption by Rep. Myrick in attempt to refocus].  In other countries, there are also ‘chapters’ or franchises of The Muslim Brotherhood, but there is no overarching agenda, particularly in the pursuit of violence, at least internationally.  And with that, since there are entities associated with The Muslim Brotherhood here in the United States I will ask [FBI] Director Mullens to speak to that.”

(Emphasis Added)

And “speak to that” Director Mueller did.   Perhaps Mueller failed to get the memo from the Administration on whitewashing the MB.  Maybe he has yet to succumb to the zombie spell.  In any event, Mueller had no difficulty stating that, “I can say at the outset that elements of The Muslim Brotherhood, both here and overseas, have supported terrorism.”

To which I fully expected Director Clapper to jump in and respond with something like, “Yes, of course, terrorism, but not, you know, violent terrorism.”

Most news organizations are, strangely enough, not including Mueller’s comments but you can view them on C-SPAN.  The relevant portion with Rep. Myrick begins at the 1:22:22 mark.  Rep. Myrick recites some very devastating information about the MB which makes Clapper’s remarks all the more outrageous, not to mention non-responsive— something that seems to irritate Myrick to no end.

What does this say in a larger sense?

For one thing, I think we are witnessing (perhaps it is more accurate to say, we have been witnessing for some time now) the ultimate Dumbing Down of American government.  Anyone can now trot up to Capitol Hill and testify about international terrorist groups if Gen. Clapper is any measure.  I can only shudder to think what Clapper would say about those secular Hezbollah do-gooders.   This is our Director of National Intelligence! This guy is theoretically in charge of all the other intelligence services in order to provide a coordinated and comprehensive picture of, among other things, significant threats to the U.S.

Maybe I am over-reacting here.  Maybe the House Select Intelligence Committee just decided to post a sign-up sheet outside the chamber door and Clapper was the first guy on the list.  He isn’t really the DNI, is he?

Does anyone else want to sign up?

A word of caution.  Do not sign up to testify before a Congressional committee on weighty topics like national security or international terrorism, unless  you have your own spokesperson who can issue “clarifying” statements if you happen to make a fool of yourself.

That makes Clapper one, lucky guy.  Before the D.C. sun had set, a spokesperson for the DNI “clarified” Clapper’s remarks:

“To clarify Director Clapper’s point, in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood makes efforts to work through a political system that has been, under Mubarak’s rule, one that is largely secular in its orientation. He is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization,” DNI spokesperson Jamie Smith said.

Nice save.  You, er, figured that out from the inclusion of “Muslim” in the name, did you?

The spokesperson claims that Clapper was merely making a point about the MB’s participation on the political system.  Was that Clapper’s point?  Watch the video yourself and decide.

Clapper’s point seemed to be a direct response to Rep. Myrick’s concerns about the radical nature of the MB, particularly considering Myrick’s with the damning statements from the F.B.I.’s own investigation of the MB and its involvement in sponsoring terrorism that grew out of the Holy Land Foundation case.

Clapper’s testimony seemed designed to blunt Myrick’s protrayal of the MB as a radical Islamist group with a very definite agenda to subvert Western democracies. Clapper’s statement seemed calculated to portray the MB as a non-violent, almost benign or even benevolent presence in Egypt.   It is the equivalent of, “Don’t be silly, Congresswoman, the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t have any grand plan for promoting an Islamic caliphate and universal muslim rule.”

Why would Clapper, an important voice of the Administration, want to mischaracterize the MB in this way?

Part of the reason may be simple damage control.

Flopping about like a freshly caught fish, the Obumble Administration cannot make up its collective mind on whether or how to respond to events in Egypt.  Perhaps Clapper’s testimony reflects an effort to re-cast the MB as secular and moderate in order to claim, after the MB takes power in Egypt and bares its feral teeth, that they are shocked, shocked!

This is something like a 2011 re-make of the 1979 movie classic, Jimmy Carter and Khomeini, where Obama plays the role of heartbroken lover, surprised to find that the moderate, secular Muslim Brotherhood that promised they would respect him (and political liberties) in the morning is a radical Islamist afterall.  The problem with re-makes, of course, is that we have seen it before.  We know how the 1979 movie ended and no amount of re-casting by Obama is going to change things this time around either.

But there is something more than just damage control here.  These statements are so far off the mark that they seem almost delusional.  I would not be the first one to raise that possibility.

Look at the sorts of things Clapper said in that one, short statement.  The MB is an “umbrella term”?  No, it’s not.  The Muslim Brotherhood is a very definite and distinct group, founded in 1928 in Egypt with the stated goal of restoring fundamentalist Islam to dominance throughout the Middle East and beyond.  From Egypt, the MB has inspired and/or formed off-shoots— Clapper uses the term “franchises”– in other countries.  Like Hamas.

And what about his claim that there is “no overarching agenda” ?  If you watch the C-SPAN video from 1:22:22 on you will see that Rep. Myrick gives ample evidence of the MB’s overarching agenda and that agenda is not confined to Egypt but includes the U.S. as well.

Still it is difficult to believe that even this Administration could be so deluded.  Andrew McCarthy suggests that this is more of a case of  willful stupidity.

It may be simply that and no more.  But there is a nagging uneasiness.  If it is not delusion nor cynical damage control or willful stupidity, that leaves one, very disturbing possibility.

After watching this Administration over the last 2+ years, seeing the repeated follies and seeming mistakes over and over, one cannot help but wonder whether this is intentional.  How could an Administration be so thoroughly and consistently incompetent?  As the saying goes, even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally.  The Obama-Squirrel, however, seems to be avoiding the nuts and throwing out the ones that have been collected after decades of hard work by others.

The situation in Egypt bears watching, not only because of the important geopolitical implications, but because of what it may or may not say about the larger policy goals of this Administration.

What the USS San Antonio Can Teach Us About Iran

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

The Amphibious Dock USS San Antonio has something to teach us about Iran and its intentions.

But before learning from the USS San Antonio, a framework must be constructed within which to view this information.  David Ignatius authored an article for the Washington Post on the A-Team for Iran.  Ignatius likes Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft because of their ability to help American foreign policy “turn a page,” so to speak.  Ignatius asks the two how they would begin negotiations with Iran.

Scowcroft replied that his brief to the Iranians would begin this way: “First, that we’re aware you live in a dangerous region, and we’re prepared to discuss a regional security framework. . . . Second, whether or not you want nuclear weapons, you’re proceeding on a course that psychologically destabilizes the whole region. It is dangerous. It will bring about a counterreaction. And let’s work on this security framework. You don’t need nuclear weapons.”

Brzezinski said he agreed and added: “The only way we can accomplish [mutual security] is by sitting together and figuring out some mechanism whereby you achieve what you say you want, which is a peaceful nuclear program, and we achieve what we need, which is a real sense of security that it’s not going to go any further.”

The obvious but unstated presupposition is that Iran is pursuing a nuclear program, and indeed, behaves as it does, because of its fear and need for survival, or in their own words, “mutual security” in a dangerous region.  That no nation has threatened them, and that no nation in the region would even be able seriously to threaten them, doesn’t weigh in on the axiom.  It is simply irreducible, the notion that Iran would live in peace with its neighbors if only it could assure its own security.

All mathematics and in fact all philosophy begins with presuppositions, propositions that are unproven because they cannot be proven.  But the investigation doesn’t end here.  When a system of thought based on these presuppositions yields conclusions, results, observations and consequences that are radically inconsistent with what would be expected given the presuppositions, then something is wrong with the starting point.  Under these conditions, one must be willing to relinquish his presuppositions.

That Iranian weapons, special groups, IRG, Quds and other rogue forces supported by Iran (Ansar al Sunna) created havoc inside of Iraq hasn’t been enough to convince the two A-Team members that Iran doesn’t intend on having peace in the region.  Neither, for that matter, does the fact that General Petraeus had to appeal to Iranian General Qassem Suleimani to stop the shelling of the Green Zone in the summer of 2008 (at which point it stopped) convince the A-Team that their ideas of a docile Persia just may not be panning out.

But this unwillingness to revisit presuppositions isn’t baggage carried by the Arab states.  In fact, the Arab states never started with these ideas.  They are uniquely Western.  With Iran’s push towards going nuclear, the balance of the Middle East is thinking the same way, and not because they need the energy.

The outstanding Middle East journalist Michael Totten has an important article on how the Sunni Arabs see Iran, and the role Israel is playing in regional resistance.

Most Arab governments, aside from Syria’s and possibly Qatar’s, are far more worried about Iranian regional dominance than they are about anything coming out of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. They know perfectly well that the State of Israel is not going to undermine or overthrow them, while radical Iranian-sponsored Islamists just might.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are threatening Iran with a nuclear arms race. Surely they weren’t happy when Israel developed nuclear weapons, but they never retaliated with programs of their own. Bombastic anti-Zionist rhetoric to the contrary, they know Israel isn’t really a threat. Nor are they a serious threat to Israel anymore.

While the Arab states fear for their very existence, the A-Team wants to convince the radical Mullahs that they aren’t in any danger.  They wish to tell the regime that it doesn’t need nuclear weapons for its defense, while the regime has flatly told them that negotiations and dialogue will only succeed if the U.S. accepts the Iranian nuclear program.  It isn’t just the evidence of Iraq, Hezbollah, Hamas, trouble in Iraq, and threats against the state of Israel that is available to convince the A-Team that they must revisit their fundamental axioms about Iran.  In fact, it’s not even the conservatives in America (who have mostly given up).  The Iranian regime itself is trying to convince the U.S. that what they believe about Iran is fundamentally wrong by dictating a starting point for negotiations that ensures that the end game is diametrically opposed to what the U.S. wishes.

And now to the USS San Antonio.

The U.S. Navy has assigned an amphibious transport dock ship, the USS San Antonio, to track Iranian weapons shipments to the Gaza Strip.

Officials said the San Antonio, flagship of Combined Task Force 151, intercepted and searched an Iranian-owned cargo ship in mid-January found to contain artillery, missiles and rockets. The ship was released and expected to arrive in Syria on Jan. 28.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the weapons ship intercepted in the Red Sea was determined to have been destined for Syria, a leading supplier of Hamas and Hizbullah. Mullen said the United States could not legally hold the Cypriot-flagged ship, owned by Iran.

“The United States did as much as we could do legally,” Mullen told a briefing on Jan. 27.

“There are authorities, limitations in complying with this particular UN resolution, and we basically went right up to the edge of that and we couldn’t do anything else. And we think those weapons are headed to Syria, which is obviously not a great outcome …shipping weapons to Syria that we think, quite frankly, are going to end up in Gaza.”

We learn many things about our own struggle with lawfare versus warfare with this example.  But saving this for another time, the U.S. has interdicted a ship bound for Syria with artillery, missiles and rockets.  Whether these weapons end up with Hezbollah or Hamas is not relevant.  They will end up destabilizing the region over nation-states which are not a threat to its own existence.  The weapons will end up contributing to the regional hegemony that Iran has pursued for twenty five years.

While the A-Team is confused about presuppositions, they don’t hold the exclusive right to dreary stubbornness regarding Persian intentions.  This has been going on for twenty five years now, and thus, the same page that has been read for twenty five years is being recited once again.

The Role of Palestine in the War with Iran

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

While supporting Israel’s right to a robust self defense, The Captain’s Journal has also questioned both the strategic and operational goals of the current Israeli offensive, especially since it is being run by the more leftist administration currently in power in Israel.  But there are deeper questions still about the operation, ones that drive to the heart of the matter.

Robert Kaplan discusses the larger war in which Israel is engaged.

Israel has just embarked on a land invasion of the Gaza Strip after a week of aerial bombing. Gaza is bordered by Egypt, and was under Egyptian military control from 1949 through 1967. And yet in a startling rebuke to geography and recent history—and in testimony to the sheer power of audacity and of ideas—the mullahs in Teheran hold more sway in Gaza today than does the tired, Brezhnevite regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Gaza constitutes the western edge of Iran’s veritable new empire, cartographically akin to the ancient Persian one, that now stretches all the way to western Afghanistan, where Kabul holds no sway and which is under Iranian economic domination.

Israel’s attack on Gaza is, in effect, an attack on Iran’s empire, the first since its offensive on Iranian-backed Hezbollah in 2006. That attack failed for a number of reasons, not least of which was Israel’s poor intelligence on Hezbollah: historically, its intelligence on the Palestinians has been much better. Moreover, this attack seems more deliberately planned, with narrower, publicly stated aims – all in all, a more professional job. But there is a fundamental problem with what Israel is doing that goes to the heart of the postmodern beast that the Iranian empire represents.

To start with, Hamas does not have to win this war. It can lose and still win. As long as no other political group can replace it in power, even as some of its diehards can continue to lob missiles, however ineffectually, into Israel, it achieves a moral victory of sorts. Moreover, if Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement tries to replace Hamas in power, Fatah will forever be tagged with the label of Israeli stooge, and in the eyes of Palestinians will have little moral legitimacy. Israel’s dilemma is that it is not fighting a state but an ideology, the postmodern glue that holds together Greater Iran.

This is similar to the view espoused by Dr. Ely Karmon, namely that “The present conflict in Gaza must therefore be understood in its broad regional context. Israel is fighting not only Hamas, a radical Islamist religious/political movement whose ideological and strategic goal is to destroy the Jewish state in order to build on it a Taliban-style one, but is facing a coalition of radical actors — Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas — which is responsible for the destabilization of the entire Middle East for the last two decades … Hamas is a crucial element for Iran because it is the only Sunni member of the coalition, a faction of the broader Muslim Brotherhood movement (the Sunni Syria is actually led by an Alawi/Shia dictatorship), and represents the Palestinian cause, so dear to the Arabs and Muslims worldwide.”

In The Globalization of Jihad in Palestine, The Captain’s Journal pointed out that Ayman al-Zawahiri and the al Qaeda leadership had heretofore rejected participation in jihad with Hamas because of its acceptance of nationalism and democracy, two things al Qaeda hates most.  Global jihad (and hence, al Qaeda) doesn’t recognize borders or the legitimacy of states.  But we also pointed out that radical Salafist schools were developing across Palestine – including Gaza – financed by Saudi money and producing young radicals accepting of a more global and even less tolerant perspective.

Adding to this narrative is an analysis by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Both Hamas and the Gazan jihadist groups share a desire to destroy Israel and impose sharia, but Hamas focuses on local interests limited to the Palestinian arena. Hamas, therefore, directs its energy largely at Israel, while these groups target foreigners as well. The Salafi-jihadist groups espouse an ideology of “pure resistance,” within which there is no room for ceasefires or temporary halts in attacks against the enemy. Some of their members were therefore especially motivated to continue attacks following Hamas’s agreement to a tahdiyah, or lull …

Although these groups do not aim to usurp Hamas’s control of Gaza, the expansion of their power and popularity poses an ideological and practical challenge for Hamas and emphasizes the dichotomy in the movement; on one hand, Hamas is a resistance movement siding with an ongoing jihadist struggle, on the other, it is a sovereign power that is required to compromise on daily governance issues. Hamas is worried that this phenomenon will gain popularity among the young generation, since it represents “pure resistance.” Confronting this phenomenon not only endangers Hamas’s image on the street, but also forces the organization to confront one of the cornerstones of its identity: the ideological adherence to jihad as a way to achieve its goals. This very dilemma may go a long way toward explaining why Hamas allowed the tahdiyah to erode; attacks from time to time allow Hamas to explain that it remains committed to resistance.

In the wake of the current crisis, Hamas may choose to ease its crackdown on these jihadist groups, causing repercussions beyond Gaza. Strengthened Salafi-jihadist groups in Gaza could ultimately pose a threat not only to Hamas, but also, as the various attacks and foiled plots over the past several years illustrate, to Israeli and Western interests as well.

Al Qaeda’s inability to utilize differing sects in its global struggle, e.g., the nationalistic Hamas, is not a mistake made by the Persian empire which, while Shi’a, has no problems working with the Sunni Hamas.  Al Qaeda may look on with envy at the empire carefully constructed by Iran, but in the main Israel is surrounded by Iranian proxies.  True, there are allegations and counter-allegations over the role of al Qaeda in Lebanon (page 5).

There is no official consensus in Lebanon on whether al-Qa`ida has a presence in the country. Since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, all politics in Lebanon has been polarized. It is on the threat of terrorism where the gap is arguably most pronounced. On the one hand, the anti-Syrian political coalition, led by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and parliament majority leader Saad Hariri, believes that al-Qa`ida does not have an indigenous presence in Lebanon. What the country faces instead is a fabricated threat by Damascus and its intelligence services that is intended to destabilize Lebanon and restore Syrian hegemony. On the other hand, the pro-Syrian alliance, spearheaded by Hizb Allah (also spelled Hezbollah) and the Free Patriotic Party of Michel Aoun, judges that al-Qa`ida exists in Lebanon and poses a real threat to national security. For them, the rise of al-Qa`ida in the country is largely attributed to a devilish pact between Lebanese Sunni politicians and extremist Islamic factions in the north, the purpose of which is to counter-balance the perceived ascending power of Shi`a Hizb Allah. The Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF), an institution that is perceived to be fairly loyal to Siniora—in addition to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two most influential regional patrons of the anti-Syrian coalition—are also accused by the pro-Syrian alliance of having a hand in financing and arming these terrorist groups.

But the argument itself is evidence of the paltry presence of al Qaeda, or strongly Sunni anti-Persian elements.  Syria is an apparatchik of Iran, and Damascus gets its orders directly from Tehran, orders it immediately relays to Hassan Nasrallah who governs Hezbollah, which is itself Iran’s troops deployed in Lebanon.  Hamas, like Hezbollah but still following in its footsteps, serves the interests of Iran.

Michael Ledeen makes a strong case that Iran has turned Hamas loose to lose if necessary, a sort of cowardly betrayal of the Hamas leadership.  Further, argues Ledeen, there is rot inside of Iran.  Indeed, there is a budding insurgency in Western Iran, one that we have argued that should be aided in fomenting a full blown insurgency and regime change inside of Iran.

Caroline Glick makes a similar argument to Ledeen, but ends with a stern warning.

ALAS, THERE is another possible explanation for Iran’s apparent decision to abandon a vassal it incited to open a war. On Sunday, Iranian analyst Amir Taheri reported the conclusions of a bipartisan French parliamentary report on the status of Iran’s nuclear program in Asharq Alawsat. The report which was submitted to French President Nicolas Sarkozy late last month concluded that unless something changes, Iran will have passed the nuclear threshold by the end of 2009 and will become a nuclear power no later than 2011. The report is notable because it is based entirely on open-sourced material whose accuracy has been acknowledged by the Iranian regime.

The report asserts that this year will be the world’s final opportunity to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And, as Taheri hints strongly, the only way of doing that effectively is by attacking Iran’s nuclear installations.

In light of this new report, which contradicts earlier US intelligence assessments that claimed it would be years before Iran is able to build nuclear weapons, it is possible that Iran ordered the current war in Gaza for the same reason it launched its war in 2006: to divert international attention away from its nuclear program.

It is possible that Iran prefers to run down US President George W. Bush’s last two weeks in office with the White House and the rest of the world focused on Gaza, than risk the chance that during these two weeks, the White House (or Israel) might read the French parliament’s report and decide to do something about it.

So too, its apparent decision not to have Hizbullah join in this round of fighting might have more to do with Iran’s desire to preserve its Lebanese delivery systems for any nuclear devices than its desire to save pennies in a tight economy.

And if this is the case, then even if Israel beats Hamas (and I eat my hat), we could still lose the larger war by again having allowed Iran to get us to take our eyes away from the prize.

Whatever their strategy, unless Israel is willing to follow through with these current operations and the U.S. is willing not only to implement democracy programs in Iran but also to pursue regime change, the entire Middle East might be dealing in the near future with a nuclear Persia, leading not only to mortal danger for Israel but also to a nuclear Egypt, Jorgan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Thus we haven’t questioned the role of Iran in the war with Palestine, for that would be to miss the point.  The real question is the role of Palestine in the war with Iran, and whether the larger strategic picture is being kept in sight.

Further Reading:

Robert D. Kaplan, Iran’s Postmodern Beast in Gaza, a “must-read” from the author of the remarkable Imperial Grunts.

Michael Ledeen, Is Iran in Trouble?

Caroline Glick, Iran’s Gaza Diversion

Yoram Cohen, Jihadist Groups in Gaza: A Developing Threat

Syed Saleem Shahza, Al Qaeda Sniffs Opportunity in Gaza.  Saleem purveys fantasy when he says that there has been a slight resurgence of AQ in Anbar, and has to be read through the lens of someone who shills for both AQ and the Tehrik-i-Taliban.  Nonetheless, his prose is interesting and if you’re able to discern fact and analysis from propaganda, is usually useful.

Charles Levinson, Israel’s Ground Assault Marks Shift in Strategy

Victor Davis Hanson, Gazan Calculations

James Lyons, Gaza Distraction

Even if the current Hamas leadership and infrastructure are destroyed, nothing will change as long as the Ali Khamenei regime remains in power with continued support of terrorist groups to act as their proxies to further their political agenda.

While we have proof positive of Iran’s direct involvement in terrorist activities over the last almost 30 years, which has resulted in thousands of U.S. military and civilian casualties, they have never been made to suffer the consequences of their cowardly acts or held accountable. The ultimate solution is to change the power structure in Iran preferably by a form of a “yellow revolution” in which Iranians who desire a better life are able to free themselves from their current medieval theocratic regime. The odds of a popular uprising are slim unless supported by a variety of actions led by the United States.

Lyons’ commentary is analogous to the arguments made at TCJ for the last two years.

The Context of the Gaza Military Operations

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

Israel is increasing the pressure after Hamas sent rockets into Israel for three weeks or more.

Israel launched air strikes on Gaza for a second successive day on Sunday, piling pressure on Hamas after 229 people were killed in one of the bloodiest 24 hours for Palestinians in 60 years of conflict with the Jewish state …

Black smoke billowed over Gaza City after Israel bombed more than 40 security compounds, and uniformed bodies lay in a pile and the wounded writhed in pain at a graduation ceremony for new recruits hosted by Hamas.

There are three points to note in placing this operation in context.  First, the violence is the latest in a cycle in which two peoples are in war over the same land.  With regards to the “occupation,” the Hamas position is clever and has befuddled even the brightest of U.S. negotiators sent to quell the violence in this region.

A Hamas spokesman on Saturday vowed the group would not surrender in the face of IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip, and that Israel would not break its “resistance to the occupation.”  The spokesman added that Hamas would not “raise a white flag” of surrender and would respond with all means available at its disposal.

Why would the Hamas spokesman use the term “surrender” when referring to this conflict over the “occupation?”  Because it isn’t about Israel occupation of Gaza, but rather, Israeli occupation of Israel to which Hamas objects.  And this is the crux of the issue that so many negotiators of the “two-state solution” seem to miss.  Israel wants a two-state solution.  The U.S. wants a two-state solution.  Hamas doesn’t.

Second, Hamas Political Leader in Damascus Khaled Meshal has vowed a third intifada concerning his “Zionist enemy.”  The Olmert administration has pursued a strategy of appeasement, and this stand-down has allowed Hamas to arm, organize, enhance ties with Iran, and in learn lessons from the Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006.

Hamas, once known for its suicide attacks inside Israeli cities, is no longer a small-time terrorist group, but a large guerrilla army that has well-trained forces deployed throughout the entire Gaza Strip.

Were the IDF to embark on a ground operation in Gaza, it would face an army of close to 20,000 armed men, among them at least 15,000 Hamas operatives. The rest are from Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Since the cease-fire went into effect in Gaza in June, Hamas has used the lull in action to fortify its military posts in the Strip and dig tunnel systems as well as underground bunkers for its forces. IDF estimates put the length of the tunnels at over 50 kilometers.

Hamas has also dug foxholes throughout the Strip to accommodate anti-tank missile units, and prepared massive bombs, which have been placed on the main access roads into Gaza.

In addition to its homemade Kassam rockets, Hamas has smuggled into Gaza a number of anti-aircraft cannons and several shoulder-to-air missiles. It also a large number of anti-tank missiles that, if used correctly, could wreak havoc on Israeli armor in the event of a ground operation involving tanks and armored personnel carriers.

It also has Special Forces – commando forces and units with expertise in rocket fire, mortar attacks and roadside bombs.

“Hamas has learned a lot from Hizbullah and has adopted many of the Lebanese group’s tactics which were used successfully against the IDF in the Second Lebanon War,” one IDF official said.

Since Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, Hamas has created a military with a clear hierarchy, led by Hamas “chief” Ahmed Ja’abri …

Hamas has split the Gaza Strip into five sections corresponding to five different brigades in the north, center, Gaza City, and two brigades in the south. Each brigade has a commander as well as several battalions under its command.

The third point is the most important, as it explains the root rather than the proximate causes.  Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has charged that Hamas could have prevented the bloodshed.  “We spoke to them and told them ‘Please, we ask you not to end the cease-fire. Let it continue,’” Abbas said during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. “We want to protect the Gaza Strip. We don’t want it to be destroyed.”

True enough, this analysis misses the final and most important point.  Hamas was either going to be supplanted and subsumed into a larger Salafist movement within Palestine or evolve into a sort of symbiosis with that movement.  Hamas has come to be rivaled by a radical Salafist movement within Palestine that is financially supported by oil-rich sheikhs in Saudi Arabia, and movement against Israel was a necessity given the predispositions to armed violence within the new evolved organization.

Only an organization committed to violence will place ordnance in the same locations as residences and schools in total disregard for the safety of women and children.  When the media value of the deaths of children has become more important than their protection, the evolution to a Hezbollah-like viciousness and totalitarianism is complete.

Israel is attacking Gaza because there is no other choice.  As for the incoming Obama administration and Clinton State Department, our prediction that Hamas will begin its attacks on Israel again appear to be spot-on but a bit late, with Hamas rudely not even waiting until Clinton took the reins at State.  It remains to be seen if the incoming administration still believes in the two-state solution.  Radicalism is all that is left in Palestine due to the politics of appeasement for so many years.

Restoring the Balance

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

We are told that “experts” have now warned President-elect Barack Obama of a nuclear Iran.

Iran poses the greatest foreign policy challenge to Barack Obama, the President-elect, with Tehran on course to produce a nuclear bomb in the first year of an Obama administration, a coalition of top think-tanks gave warning yesterday.

Mr Obama must keep his promises of direct talks with Tehran and engage the Middle East region as a whole if he is to halt a looming crisis that could be revisited on the US, the experts said.

“Diplomacy is not guaranteed to work,” Richard Haass, one of the authors said. “But the other options – military action or living with an Iranian weapon are sufficiently unattractive for it to warrant serious commitment.”

The warnings came in a report entitled Restoring the Balance. The Middle East strategy for the President-elect was drafted by the Council for Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution.

Gary Samore, one of the authors, said that the level of alarm over the “hornet’s nest” facing the President-elect in the Middle East, and the need for the swift adoption of previously untested approach, had inspired the decision to write policy for him. “New administrations can choose new policies but they can’t choose next contexts,” Mr Samore said.

The report paints a grim picture of the problems in the region but asserts that Mr Obama is still in a strong position. For the first time since the Iranian revolution the leadership in Tehran has endorsed the idea of talking directly with Washington, as Mr Obama has suggested. Falling oil prices also provide an opportunity, restricting Iran’s means to sponsor terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah that act as its proxy in the region.

The new administration, however, must not fall into the trap of treating Iran in isolation to the rest of the Middle East, as the previous administration did.

Syria, which has shown tentative signs of a desire for better relations with the West and has held negotiations with Israel, could be the ideal test case for a new diplomatic approach.

The full report, Restoring the Balance, is a product of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution. The Captain’s Journal is actually a bit surprised to see Michael O’Hanlon associated with the report – he seems a bit too smart to have endorsed it. But it is also worth pointing out that our record of forecasts is thus far impeccable. Three important examples evince the point. First, when Army intelligence forecast that there wouldn’t be a Taliban spring offensive in 2008 because of the alleged split between Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Omar, we predicted that there would in fact be a two-front offensive, one in Pakistan by the Tehrik-i-Taliban and the other in Afghanistan. Second, we accurately predicted the Taliban strategy of interdiction of NATO supplies in Pakistan in March of 2008. Third, we predicted that Joseph Lieberman would be victorious in the Connecticut Senate Race. We seldom make forecasts, but when we do, we’re usually right.

There were no instances of refusal to guarantee our forecasts when we went on record. The Captain’s Journal – although it is tempting to wait until the new year to weigh in on these important issues – will weigh in concerning some of the recommendations of the subject report, and make some forecasts of our own.

First, Richard Haass doesn’t guarantee that diplomacy will work with Iran. Without equivocation or qualification, we guarantee that diplomacy will not work to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran might make a show of allowing IAEA inspectors into certain parts of their facilities, or responding to IAEA inquiries as to the status of special nuclear material (” … this is not the same highly enriched Uranium we tested on such-and-such date, so where did it come from”), or employ any number of other decoys as a subterfuge. But in a truly verifiable and serious way, Iran will not cease and desist the pursuit of weapons grade nuclear material no matter the size of the army of negotiators or lawyers the U.S. deploys or the number of IAEA inquiries with which Iran gets pelted. Again, this is an absolute guarantee, something that The Council on Foreign Relations couldn’t provide.

Second, the desire to “spin off” Syria from Iran into an ally or even partial or halting ally in Middle East stability is a day dream. Syria is an apparatchik of Iran, and Damascus gets its orders directly from Tehran. Syria will court such negotiations and talks as long as it convinces the battalion of U.S. diplomats that there is something to be gained from it. When it is no longer prudent and efficacious to perform the show, Syria will drop the pretense. The battalion of U.S. diplomats will look like stooges on the world stage.

Third – concerning the recommendation in Chapter 5 of the report that the U.S. encourage Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab actors to pressure Hamas to police the cease-fire agreement with Israel and to convince the Hamas leadership to accept the April 2002 Arab League Peace Initiative – this avenue will fail because Hamas will cease to exist as an effective and viable organization unless it acquiesces to pressure from the surging Salafist movement inside Palestine itself (with religious schools numbering as many as 50,000). Palestine will become more radical, not less. A corollary forecast is that holding Israel to its commitment to freeze settlement and construction in Jerusalem (Chapter 5) will be meaningless to the Palestinian cause. When Hamas refers to the “occupation,” they don’t mean occupation of Gaza or Palestine proper. They mean that they consider the existence of the Jews at all to be an occupation of their land. In other words, Palestine will continue to reject the two-state solution, and no army of negotiators will change that.

Finally, as to some particulars:

  1. Hamas will begin launching rockets at Israel again from Gaza during the upcoming administration.
  2. Hezbollah will attack Israel again during the upcoming administration. The orders will come directly from Tehrah to Damascus and then be relayed to Hasan Nasrallah.
  3. Russia will continue the pressure on the Georgian administration and expand its military presence inside the borders of Georgia.
  4. Russia will (covertly) support the installation of a pro-Russian administration in the Ukraine (which is not the same as forecasting that a pro-Russian administration will actually end up being installed).
  5. Russia will assist Iran in its desire to achieve weapons grade nuclear material.
  6. Without direct action to undermine the Iranian regime (such as democracy programs or even the fomenting of an insurgency to topple the regime), Iranian elements (Quds, IRG) will expand the scope of their operations inside Iraq and Afghanistan and even support Hezbollah as it battles Israel. No amount of diplomacy will change this.
  7. Finally, the State Department will begin the administration will high hopes, excitement and grand ambitions for the role of diplomacy, negotiations and multi-lateral talks. By the end of the administration, a general malaise and confusion will have descended upon the entire State Department, and yet there will still be sparse and shallow understanding of why negotiations have so miserably failed to prevent or ameliorate the various calamities for which they were targeted.

Planning for these exigencies should “restore the balance.” The Captain’s Journal will send a bill to the incoming administration for our consultative services. They will prove to be better than those of the Council on Foreign Relations and well worth the cost.

Why is there Jihad?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 2 months ago

A common misunderstanding among some on the far right or of the libertarian stripe (e.g., Patrick Buchanan, Ron Paul) is that the sole reason for the existence of the global jihad is the presence of U.S. troops on holy soil, i.e., Saudi Arabia.  It is, after all, the stated raison d’etre for 9/11 hijackers.  But this myth becomes muddled when it is pointed out that the Hamburg cell initially intended to wage jihad elsewhere.

Bin Ladin canceled the East Asia part of the planes operation in the spring of 2000. He evidently decided it would be too difficult to coordinate this attack with the operation in the United States. As for Hazmi and Mihdhar, they had left Bangkok a few days before Khallad and arrived in Los Angeles on January 15, 2000.

Meanwhile, the next group of al Qaeda operatives destined for the planes operation had just surfaced in Afghanistan. As Hazmi and Mihdhar were deploying from Asia to the United States, al Qaeda’s leadership was recruiting and training four Western-educated men who had recently arrived in Kanda-har. Though they hailed from four different countries-Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Yemen-they had formed a close-knit group as students in Hamburg, Germany. The new recruits had come to Afghanistan aspiring to wage jihad in Chechnya. But al Qaeda quickly recognized their potential and enlisted them in its anti-U.S. jihad.

Even further research proves that rather than U.S. presence in the Middle East being the raison d’etre for 9/11, it was merely the raison du jour that Bin Laden found convenient for his purposes.  A far different vision is being offered at the moment.

Osama bin Laden vowed in an audio tape to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary to continue to fight the Jewish state and its allies in the West.

The al Qaedaleader, who has placed growing emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said it was at the heart of the Muslim battle with the West and an inspiration to the 19 bombers who carried out the attacks on U.S. cities on September 11, 2001.

“We will continue, God permitting, the fight against the Israelis and their allies … and will not give up a single inch of Palestine as long as there is one true Muslim on Earth,” he said in the message, posted on an Islamist website on Friday.

Bin Laden said Israel’s anniversary celebrations were a reminder that it did not exist 60 years ago, and had been established on land seized from Palestinians by force.

“This is evidence that Palestine is our land, and the Israelis are invaders and occupiers who should be fought,” he said in the tape, which was addressed to the Western public.

The Saudi-born militant also said that decades of peace initiatives had failed to establish a Palestinian state, and the West had proved time and again that it sided with Israel.

“The participation of Western leaders with the Jews in this celebration confirms that the West backs this Jewish occupation of our land, and that they stand in the Israeli corner against us,” he said. “They proved this in practice by sending their forces to southern Lebanon.”

An important (but mostly ignored) event occurred recently in which Ayman al-Zawahiri took questions from global jihadists concerning the future of the movement.

Zawahiri highlights several specific injustices that he feels effectively demonstrate the stark contrast between Qaradawi’s decision to postpone fighting and the Jihadist movement, which advocates violence immediately. They include Arab peace accords and trade with Israel, Israel’s blockade of Palestinians in Gaza, Arab military courts for trying Muslims, Arab hosting of U.S. military forces, particularly in Egypt, the prevalence of Western “vulgar media” and the secular constitution and laws of Arab countries.

Later, he gives us yet another justification for the jihad.

Zawahiri last discussed Lebanon in his public rhetoric in January and February 2007, when he twice condemned the presence of United Nations Peacekeeping forces in Southern Lebanon.

Zawahiri has given us a list of at least nine reasons for violent jihad, only one of which has anything to do with Arab hosting of U.S. military forces.  One significant issue Zawahiri addresses pertains to the strong differences between al Qaeda and HAMAS.  One reason they will never see eye to eye is the lack of global vision within HAMAS.

Over the past year, Zawahiri and other senior al-Qa’ida figures have been waging a vigorous propaganda campaign against the Palestinian organization HAMAS. Although Jihadists unanimously denounce Israel they continue to disagree over whether HAMAS should be considered a legitimate Islamic movement. For Zawahiri, HAMAS’ embrace of nationalism, democracy, and its legacy in the Muslim Brotherhood—arguably the three things al-Qa’ida hates most—delegitimizes the group.

Nationalism is evil and out of accord with the global aspirations of al Qaeda.  Nation-states are not just not helpful, or even a necessary evil.  They are quite literally an obstacle to jihad, not because they share the loyalties of jihadists, but rather, because they fundamentally don’t acquiesce to the vision of world conquest in the name of Islam and the forcible implementation of Sharia law.  What we see as a transnational insurgency is to the jihadists simply a world wide struggle.  They don’t recognize nation-states as legitimate.

It doesn’t stop with al Qaeda.  The most powerful man in Waziristan, Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, has global aspirations as well.

“We want to eradicate Britain and America, and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”

There are other significant revelations in this question and answer session by Zawahiri, including much discussion over the jihadist fear that Iraq is a lost cause for them; they have been defeated.  The entire source document at the Combatting Terrorism Center, West Point, is worth the time to study and analyze in detail.

There is a not so fine line between trying to understand the motivations of the enemy and naively regurgitating their propaganda.  Repeating the myth that U.S. presence on foreign soil caused the 9/11 hijackers ignores the other very real objection that, according to other jihadists, the U.S. was far too slow to react to protect Muslim people from the Serbs.  Whether the U.S. is deployed across the globe or the U.S. didn’t deploy quickly enough, it’s all propaganda – convenient excuses used to brainwash young jihadists.  It is yet another step into the danger zone to mold foreign policy based on enemy propaganda and talking points.


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