Archive | July 7th, 2011

Syria:The regime of Bashar Assad is tottering. His fall would probably trigger a short-term surge in violence, but a better government would emerge

NOVANEWS
The squeeze on Assad:

Jun 30th 2011

Patience, weapon as well as virtue

IT WAS the biggest meeting of its kind for decades: under the watchful eye of President Bashar Assad’s security goons, 150 dissidents, veteran opposition figures and former political prisoners met in Damascus on June 27th to denounce the regime’s brutality and demand a peaceful transition to democracy. The street protesters dismissed the conference as a compromise with the regime. They want no truck with it. “We hate the government,” says one young man who was detained and tortured. “That’s all that counts now.” Other demonstrators parody Muammar Qaddafi’s threat to hunt down opponents “alley by alley”. “Alley by alley, house by house,” they chant, “We want your head, O Bashar.” But the Damascus meeting, and uprisings in towns such as Hama and Deir ez-Zor, shows that Syria’s opposition has gone from being a few scattered groups holding spontaneous, isolated protests in March to become a nationwide force.

More than 100,000 people now demonstrate every Friday and the regime cannot rein them in, though it has closed roads to restive towns, reinforced the borders and restricted access to the internet. Demonstrations have been held in at least 150 towns and villages in all corners of the triangle-shaped country. Malls and souks are deserted. Cafés are half-full, the smell of cardamom coffee and cherry tobacco spicing the habitués’ anxious questions.

Will Syria end like Egypt and Tunisia? It seems unlikely, at least in the short run. In those countries the army sided with the protesters, whereas in Syria it has not. Might Syria follow Libya’s example? So far, there are no signs of a regional split. What about Iran, which brutally and successfully crushed a revolt in 2009 and which is a close Syrian ally? Even that is different. Iran is run by an elected government (though the poll was rigged), not a single family. It has endless oil reserves; its sectarian divide is minor and its security forces more sophisticated. Syria’s have so far killed 1,500 people, ten times as many as in Iran. Most significantly, the Assad regime—half a dozen family members call the shots—has acted erratically. Bashar, the president, swings between brutal crackdowns and vacuous concessions. That does not bode well for a dictator under pressure.

In contrast, Syria’s opposition is becoming more coherent, as well as more widespread. It is centred on a youth movement based outside the capital. Its detractors are right when they say that few articulate leaders have emerged, no formal structures exist and many of the demonstrations have taken place outside big cities.

But this is no peasant revolt. It has the support of large parts of the Sunni Muslim clergy. University graduates and longstanding dissidents, on the fringes at first, now march alongside day labourers. Political parties are being revived, including a Liberal Party which was stillborn six years ago. The city of Hama—site of a massacre of protesters ordered by Mr Assad’s father in 1982—slipped briefly out of official control in May. In recent days the security forces seem to have withdrawn from the city altogether.

The protesters are resilient partly because they are organising themselves into many small groups. Activists are setting up cells of about 20 people, connected to each other by only one leader. Some networks rely on the anonymity of the internet. But with only about a fifth of Syrians online, traditional bonds are more important. Tribal, professional and collegiate relationships of trust are harder to shut down than phone lines.

But if their organisation is loose, the protesters show a remarkable unity of purpose. They want what everyone in the Arab spring wants: elections, freedom of speech and assembly, protected status for minorities, an end to the regime’s repression. Some organisers have asked eminent economists for advice on market reforms. They show political sophistication by talking of a “civil” democracy, not a “secular” one. To many Muslims, secular means godless and wayward.

If the demonstrators were to topple the government, they could draw on capable technocrats to form an interim administration. Among them is Abdullah Dardari, a former deputy prime minister and senior United Nations official, who is liked from Washington to Riyadh. He was Mr Assad’s chief economic reformer until he was fired soon after the protests started—a target for the regime’s hardliners and a scapegoat for its failings.

In the past the Assads have relied on public indifference as well as outright repression. Syrians used to look at neighbouring Lebanon and Iraq and conclude that stability mattered more than freedom. But the killing of so many countrymen this year is changing that view. “We have become citizens, when once we were sheep,” says a middle-class Damascene. Fear of the security forces, which once kept millions at home, is ebbing. No authoritarian state can survive a sustained decline in its authority—and the government’s writ is shrinking visibly. The police no longer issue speeding tickets or parking fines. Unlicensed traders in the souks—once chased away—now occupy prime spots. Illegal construction is rampant. “Everyone is adding a new floor to their house,” says a home owner. “Officials no longer object.”

Above all, the killings and detentions are failing to cow the protesters. Torture victims have become protest organisers. At an underground meeting in June, one of many victims of the regime described being doused in cold water before being electrocuted by cables attached to his genitals. His aim—to inspire, not scare, the protesters—seemed to be achieved.

The momentum of change may accelerate soon. Ramadan begins in early August and many Syrians will then start to visit their mosques, rallying points for the demonstrations, daily, rather than weekly. The protest leaders think this may prove a turning point: “Friday every day,” they say.

Many Western observers are sympathetic to the protesters but sceptical of their strength and coherence. What matters more is the regime itself. Its power is fast eroding. It could collapse under the weight of its own failings.

Brick wall ahead

The immediate threat comes from the economy. Business activity is down by about half, according to entrepreneurs and analysts. A company selling car-engine oil has seen sales drop by 80%. “And this is not a luxury product,” says one of the owners. Most firms have sacked employees or cut pay or both. According to rough estimates, unemployment has doubled this year from about 10%. Officials worry that grain supplies are low and food shortages could come soon. Trade is down between 30% and 70%, depending on where you are, and that was before a new round of sanctions imposed by the European Union, Syria’s biggest trading partner. Foreign investment, on which Syrian growth has been built in recent years, has dried up. In a recent speech, Mr Assad talked about the threat of “economic collapse”.

Public finances are in deep trouble. The president has raised government salaries and various subsidies to appease the populace. He cannot afford to do this. The government will probably print the money to meet its promises, so runaway inflation is likely, further fuelling popular anger as cash deposits become worthless.

Capital flight is rampant. Drivers on the roads into Lebanon talk of clients going from their bank in Damascus straight to one in Beirut, carrying large bags. According to one estimate, $20 billion has left the country since March, putting pressure on the Syrian pound. To slow capital flight, the government has raised interest rates. A phone company controlled by the Assad family sent out messages urging people to put money back into their accounts.

But a run on the banks cannot be ruled out. Over the past few years, about 60% of lending in Syria has been for people to buy their own cars. Many can no longer keep up with payments. A leading financier says, “If one of the smaller banks defaults, we all go down.” Some branches are even displaying millions of dollars—in bundles of notes piled head high—to reassure worried customers. Some keep enough cash in the vaults to repay almost half their depositors on the spot.

“We are heading for a brick wall,” says a man responsible for several percentage points of GDP. With the regime bust, the elite is likely to be asked to bail it out. Rami Makhlouf, Syria’s richest man and the president’s cousin, said as much during a recent press conference. Having pledged to give up part of his wealth, he added: “I call upon Syrian business leaders to follow this example because our nation is in need of support. The time has come for giving rather than taking.”

But Syria’s captains of industry are asking whether they must “go down with the ship”, as one puts it. Some are taking their children out of private schools in Damascus to send them abroad. One prominent businessman who long flaunted his closeness to the president has given a Western ambassador a list of his supposed disagreements with the regime. “For my file,” he says. Another has been donating blood to support the protesters. In Homs, the country’s third city, businesses have started paying protesters’ expenses.

The central compact of the Assad regime is breaking down. The president’s family is from a minority Muslim sect, the Alawites, who are rank outsiders in Syria, accounting for around 10% of the population. His father seized power in 1970 and struck a bargain with the richest merchants, who are mostly from the Sunni majority, who make up 75%. In return for political support, the regime pledged to protect their wealth. The merchants got rich but few warmed to the Assads or their Alawite cronies, who have behaved like mafiosi, demanding a slice of every pie. Now a growing number of merchants believes the regime has become bad for business. They think that rather than ensuring stability, it is the main cause of instability, deliberately stoking sectarian tensions to scare people off the street.

Other parts of the Assad coalition are wobbling, too. Christians, numbering around 10%, have long backed the regime, calculating that they are better off with the Alawites than they would be under majority Sunni rule. But that too may be changing. Christian leaders who were fervently backing the regime a month ago are now more cautious. They still fear being targeted if civil strife erupted. But it is no longer clear the Alawites would protect them. Some Christians have joined protests.

Syria’s sizeable Kurdish minority (about 10% of the population) is also trying to work out who would best serve their interests. The regime has offered to return the citizenship which it took away from some of them in 1963. Iraqi Kurdish leaders, including President Jalal Talabani, whose people across the border have won autonomy, have been giving advice. Some Syrian Kurds are demonstrating against the regime—though they (and the protest leaders) are wary of making the opposition seem like an ethnic uprising.

Even the Assads’ own Alawite minority is not guaranteed to support the regime. If there were a civil war they would no doubt stick together. But Alawite families provide some of the most prominent dissidents, including a poet called Adonis, Aref Dalila, an economist, and Louay Hussein, a writer and activist. Although the Assads have looked after their own relatives, most Alawites remain desperately poor. Some villages in their home region near the Turkish border do not have running water. Their leaders are said to have quietly contacted Sunni imams to seek security guarantees in return for abandoning the Assads.

Reform, repression or regional war?

Indeed, the only people the regime can really count on seem to be the security forces. The top brass—mostly staffed by Alawite loyalists—has given no hint of switching sides. And now that they have spilled so much blood, their options are limited. Even so, months of cracking down are taking a toll. In some hotspots troops are short of rations and depend on local people for food. Expanding operations further will be difficult. A number of units are being kept out of the fight because they are not trusted, especially ones filled with Sunnis. Manaf Tlass, a senior commander in the elite Republican Guard and son of a former defence minister, is staying home for unknown reasons.

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According to some analysts, only a quarter of the total armed forces of roughly 400,000 is well equipped and ready to fight—and of these, only half, or 50,000 men, is really reliable. Twice that number is demonstrating each week. So far, the regime has been lucky in that the uprisings have been sequential, moving from one place to the next. If the protesters rose up at once, the regime could lose control. That is beginning to happen.

So what next? One possibility is that the regime might change course and try to reform. It has made a number of promises to protesters, such as new laws on political parties, elections in August and a reduction of the privileged status of the ruling Baath party. It has called a “national dialogue summit” for mid-July to talk about these. But such promises sound insincere. It is not clear who might attend the summit (the opposition says the crackdown must stop first). The president has been talking about political reform for a decade. Given the bloodshed, his promises would almost certainly be too little, too late—even if they were fulfilled, which they may not be. The regime seems incapable of opening up. Amnesties are followed by waves of arrests. The president’s cult of personality has grown since the protests started. Reform would anger the security services, his only loyal allies. “They are playing for time and trying to take the wind out of the demonstrations,” says one observer in Damascus. But “the system cannot be reformed,” says a former top official, bluntly.

So might the regime go the other way, attempting harsher crackdowns and targeting churches and mosques—perhaps through proxies—to divide and rule the sects? A growing number of citizens are arming themselves. Future tussles with the security forces are likely to result in many more deaths. But a violent meltdown is not inevitable. The Alawites seem unlikely to start a civil war. They are a small minority and would probably withdraw to their mountain redoubt if under existential threat. They might seek to provoke communal or religious clashes. But Syria has seen no big communal clash since 1862, when Muslims burned down Christian houses in Damascus. You might think that Syria could see an Islamist takeover. But, when the Muslim Brotherhood was a legitimate political party in the 1950s, it got only 3-6% of parliamentary seats. Even government insiders—with an interest in playing up the threat—estimate that the brothers would get at most 15% today.

Perhaps the regime could try to start a regional war to distract from problems at home? It could attack Israel directly or via its ally Hizbullah in Lebanon. It could ask for more Iranian support than it already gets, even at the risk of drawing in Saudi Arabia on the side of the opposition. The region’s main faultlines would then be starkly exposed: Arabs v Persians, Jews against the rest. But the Middle East is always full of such talk. It rarely amounts to much (though when it does the consequences are terrible). Iran, Israel, Hizbullah and Saudi Arabia all stand to lose a great deal from an all-out conflict in Syria. The Assad regime has long seen its backing for the Palestinian cause as a source of prestige at home and in the region. But among other Arabs (including many Palestinians), the Syrian regime is coming to be seen as toxic, not just for its brutality but for what many think has been its cynical manipulation of the Palestinian issue.

Patience, weapon as well as virtue

Lastly, might the Syrian regime split or change from within? Sunni officers staged three coups in quick succession after independence in 1946. The chances of that happening again are small. Among the Assads, Bashar’s is the most acceptable public face. There seems little mileage in ditching him. The Assads have been anticipating coups for 40 years and have cleverly compartmentalised the security forces.

So perhaps the best outcome would be some form of negotiated transition under international auspices. Turkey, a one-time ally of the Assads, is working on a deal that would save the family face and give the Sunnis more power. Ahmet Davutoglu, its foreign minister, is due to visit Syria soon. Russia, which has a naval base near Tartus, is also taking a keen interest. A bargain could be struck if (when?) the regime loses control over parts of the country. Protesters might take over one or more cities like Hama. Some villages and valleys are already barricading themselves in.

A Syrian denouement may not yet be imminent but the regime is tottering. The extraordinary endurance of demonstrators week after week is paying off. Patience has been the key to many challenges to the ancient thrones of Damascus. On a visit 150 years ago Mark Twain wrote wryly of the three-millennia-old city: “She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires, and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies.”

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Birmingham council leader urged to stop rally by controversial US preacher

NOVANEWS

Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby has been urged to cancel a planned rally led by a controversial American pastor.

Richard Burden (Lab Northfield) has written to Coun Whitby asking him to confirm whether the rally will be allowed to go ahead, and asking whether he believes it is ethical to receive payment for the event.

He spoke out after US Pastor John Hagee booked Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, which is run indirectly by the council, to hold a rally and seminars on August 19 and 20. Tickets are for sale at £10 each.

Pastor Hagee hss said in the past that the Holocaust was part of God’s plan to force Jews to return to Israel and claimed Hurricane Katrina was divine punishment for a planned gay pride rally.

Symphony Hall is run by a charity called Performances Birmingham Limited, which is controlled by Birmingham City Council. The board of directors includes Coun Whitby, as well as Labour group leader Sir Albert Bore.

Mr Burden said: “There is a difference between accepting Pastor Hagee’s right to speak and actively helping him to perpetrate his views by providing premises.”

A city council spokeswoman said: “If and when we receive this letter we will look at it but at this stage we do not have anything to add to what Symphony Hall has said.”

In a statement earlier this week, Chris Baldock, general manager of the Symphony Hall, said: “We have a general open policy as regards all faith groups and have therefore accepted a booking from John Hagee Ministries.

“We have been made aware of the views expressed by individual members of the public and will be liaising with the organisers to discuss the matter further.”

Mr Hagee has been criticised in the US for a series of controversial statements.

He compared Adolf Hitler in one sermon to a “hunter” sent by God to force Jews to live in Israel and said the Koran gave Muslims “a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews”.

He also claimed that Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,800 people in 2005, was “the judgment of God against New Orleans” because of a planned “homosexual parade”.

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Shalom Miss Yakov Best Decision Ever

Controversial Birmingham councillor Salma Yaqoob quits over health fears

CONTROVERSIAL Birmingham councillor Salma Yaqoob is quitting politics in the city because of ill health.

The Respect Party leader and city council member for Sparkbrook revealed that she was concerned about the effects of a long-term illness and claimed she could not devote enough time to serve her constituents.

She will officially announce her resignation to party activists today – ironically on the anniversary of the July 7 London bombings. She denounced the London bombers as “barbarians” upsetting radical Islamists.

However, mother-of-three Ms Yaqoob stressed she had not been forced out by racists who had plagued her with hate mail and death threats since she stated her opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She said: “It’s a decision I have been struggling with for a year because I have had ongoing health issues. I realised I could not keep putting it off.

“I care passionately about politics. My place on Birmingham City Council was hard won and it has been a genuine privilege to serve the people who gave me that mandate. However, I will carry on campaigning on issues I feel strongly about such as the protection of essential public services, but as a member of the public.

“It took a lot of soul-searching to come to this conclusion but I must take a back seat for the sake of my health and my family,” she added.

Ms Yaqoob, a qualified psychotherapist, was first elected to the city authority in 2006. Her role as leader of the local Stop The War Coalition means she has always been a controversial figure.

She first entered politics as the Respect parliamentary candidate in Birmingham Sparkbrook for the 2005 general election where she was narrowly defeated by Labour’s Roger Godsiff.

During her campaign Ms Yaqoob received death threats from extremist groups and had billboards featuring her image were defaced. She believed she was being targeted for being a Muslim woman in the public eye and for working with churches and synagogues.

Twelve months later in local elections, she faced harassment and death threats from Al-Ghurabaa, a Islamist group later banned under the Terrorism Act 2006. Al-Ghurabaa claimed that it is an act of treason for Muslims to participate in Western democratic elections, and its members defaced her election posters with the word ‘Kafir’. She said: “I have had death threats, nasty phone calls, vile letters and still do. There have been threats to my children and Islamists have vowed to behead me because they think I have sold out. My stepping down from the council is nothing to do with them.”

She has pledged to continue as leader of the Respect party and will support local activists in various campaigns.

Salma: ‘I’d encourage my boys to join the armed forces’

STOP The War activist Salma Yaqoob would have no hesitation in supporting any of her three sons if they wanted to swear allegiance to the Crown and join Britain’s armed forces.

The Respect leader claimed it was important that citizens should do their duty and stand up for the country of their birth.

“I would encourage my sons to join the armed services and fight for their country. My grandfather was in the Merchant Navy so I have no problems in people doing their duty when it is justified,” she said.

Family life is so important for the woman who was brought up in a devout Muslim home and had to beg her father to allow her to go to university. Her two teenage boys and a younger eight-year-old son are the centrepiece of the household she shares with her husband, a doctor.

“It is hard for my children because they get asked about me and some of the things I am supposed to have said.

“I try to involve them without putting them off.

“We have time each evening when they can ask questions – it’s a social time and may last just a few minutes but it’s important.”

Salma on soldier applause controversy

SALMA Yaqoob gained worldwide notoriety earlier this year when there was an outcry over her decision not to applaud a soldier who had been honoured for his courage in Afghanistan.

At a council meeting, Ms Yaqoob and another Respect party councillor, Mohammed Ishtiaq, sat with their arms folded and refused to participate in a standing ovation or marine L/Cpl Matthew Croucher.

The two councillors argued that they were protesting against “false patriotism” by politicians. She said: “I apologised to him and he told me he understood. I had nothing personal against him. There’s a time for dignified silence and I have made my position clear.”

Offered safe election seat by labour

FIERCE anti-spending cuts campaigner Salma Yaqoob could have been taking up the fight in Westminster if she had accepted a Labour teaser of a guaranteed safe seat in the lead-up to the General Election last year.

She was given a choice of traditional strongholds if she staged a high-profile defection from Respect to join the ranks of Labour candidates.

She said: “I do not like mainstream politics which does not accurately reflect the concerns of many of the residents of inner-city Birmingham.

“I was approached by Labour and offered a choice of two safe seats – one in Birmingham and one in the Black Country. If I could have made the areas stronger I would have taken the opportunity. But it’s important to have the freedom to say what needs to be said.

“If it was just about my career it would have been a nice move, but it is not all about me,” she added.

Ms Yaqoob will continue in her role as Respect party leader after she steps down from the city authority, but revealed that her political joy comes from the day-to-day ward work of a local councillor.

“That’s why my decision to relinquish my council seat has upset me so much,” she said.

“In my ward there are 26 different residents’ groups. My Respect colleagues and I go to all their meetings, all the ward meetings, we stage advice surgeries and then there are the various council and committee meetings, so it is more than just a full-time job. I do not want to feel that I am letting the people of Birmingham down because I cannot devote enough time to them.

“I did not like politics, but I was sick of seeing politicians of all parties concentrate all their energies on elections and then forgetting the people who voted for them.

“I am committed to the people of Birmingham more than ever, but because of these health concerns I have to take some time out.”

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JEFF GATES: THE REAL INSIDE JOB

NOVANEWS
GILAD ATZMON

A popular documentary, Inside Job, captured kudos at the 2010 Academy Awards. Its hard-hitting analysis marked a milestone among filmmakers for shining light in the dark corners of Wall Street. Writer, producer and director Charles Ferguson provided a public service by exposing key perpetrators.

Laudable yet incomplete, Ferguson’s popular film left unaddressed the all-important “how.” The storyline left moviegoers with the impression that the film’s featured insiders operated virtually alone in perpetrating history’s greatest heist. In truth, the real “inside job” is far more sinister and remains ongoing.

The latest Wall Street mega-fraud required that “the mark” (the public) first be induced to embrace a mindset that grants financial signals not just deference but outright dominance. The pre-staging of that perspective required education to internalize a shared consensus that then worked its way into policymaking and law.

To suggest that those portrayed could commit a crime of such enormity without broad-based acquiescence leaves a defrauded public looking for culprits in the wrong places. While those Ferguson featured should be indicted and prosecuted, their conviction alone would leave untouched the internalization of a consensus mindset fully capable of enabling the next fraud.

To preclude the next swindle requires that a long-deceived public grasp the common source of this deceit. While it’s true that those featured are masterful manipulators of Wall Street conditions, those conditions are “downstream” of a widely shared viewpoint.

This fraud-enabling perspective first gained traction in the US as the “Chicago model” with careful nurturing by proponents at the University of Chicago and other top universities. This money myopic world view soon matured into the “law and economics” movement that gradually embedded this shared belief in the US law and then re-branded this mindset worldwide as the US-discrediting “Washington consensus.”

Those portrayed in Inside Job are problematic. But they alone are not the perpetrators. Incarcerate or execute those portrayed and the problem remains.

The real perpetrator is a false “generally accepted truth.” The culprit in this ongoing fraud is a finance-fixated mindset — firmly embedded in academia — that induces us to believe that financial signals should determine our course, both personally and even geopolitically.

Over decades, that mental framework worked its way into the law of the land. Pension plans, for example, are required by law to pursue the best risk-rated returns with little regard for the non-financial impact of their investments.

Pension fiduciaries dare not concern themselves with issues outside the narrow framework of the money-myopic consensus mindset. To do so risks a lawsuit by pension beneficiaries and the federal law was written to ensure that noncompliant fiduciaries lose.

As funds under management in the US surged from $800 billion in 1980 to $16.6 trillion by April 2007, the impact of this “Chicago” mindset grew apace. Retirement funds, in turn, provided a ready market for those selling subprime mortgages that were certified as safe by corrupt securities’ ratings from Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch.

Wall Street analysts liken the subprime swindle to a financial heart attack from which recovery is destined to be long and labored. Yet not a word has been muttered about the mindset that enabled this latest mega-fraud and will, if not changed, ensure the next con.

The power of shared beliefs is a force easily underestimated. A similar displacement of facts with consensus beliefs induced the US invasion of Iraq. We now know that the intelligence on which the US relied was manipulated around a preset agenda. The duplicity that undermined US national security mirrors the deceit that ravaged Baby Boomer retirement security.

These parallel frauds dramatically weakened the US financially, militarily and diplomatically. If such deception is not treason, what is?

Recovery from this ongoing fraud requires that we recognize the internalized nature of this duplicity. Even now, we Americans are still being induced to freely embrace the very forces that jeopardize our freedom.

US national security lies as much in our financial strength as in our military capabilities. To restore that strength requires a sensible and sustainable path forward. At present, we grant deference to a mindset that, by law, displaces those values not calculable in money. To survive and thrive, both democracies and markets require better signals.

Over several decades, we were induced to view the pursuit of financial returns as a proxy for our pursuit of happiness. Today’s outcomes became predictable once we could be seduced to embrace that false equivalence and embed its flawed metrics in law.

Inside Job revealed the most visible perpetrators. Though that’s a good start, the real inside job continues to jeopardize our security, both national and financial. The most troublesome culprit remains securely embedded inside a shared mindset patiently awaiting the next opportunity.

This is the final part of a four-part series. Read parts onetwo andthree.

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Gilad Atzmon: Jewish Self-Reflection is Overdue

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http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/gilad-atzmon-jewish-self-reflection-is-overdue.html

In an audio interview , Harvard University Yiddish Professor Ruth Wisse has condemned ongoing attempts by international activists to set sail for Gaza, on what she calls a “kill-the-Jews flotilla.”

“The purpose of the flotilla is to discredit the Israeli attempt to protect itself and to give Hamas a free hand amassing weapons to use against Israeli civilians.”  Wisse also forms a new type of ‘Jewish solipsism,’ saying “It should be called for what it is: a ‘kill-the-Jews flotilla. If it is called by its proper name, then it will be recognized for what it is.”

Here is the Yiddish logic: label first, then grasp accordingly. However, I would like to remind Wisse that as things stand in the Middle East, it is not the Flotilla peace activists  or the democratically elected Hamas who kill. It is actually the Jewish State that is doing the killing, en masse, and  in the name of the Jewish people.

The Saviour of the West

But Israel is not just about Jewish interests, according to the Yiddish  Professor, it has a far greater role. Israel is the “fighting front line of what we used to call Western civilization, of the democratic free world.”

It is nice to find a Yiddish professor being so openly ‘nostalgic’ about Western civilisation,  but I have to point out that Wisse is not familiar enough with the crucial philosophical distinction between Athens and Jerusalem: while Jerusalem stands for tribalism, chosen-ness and brutality,  Athens represents the birth of the West, i.e. universalism, reason, Christianity , and ethical thinking (something that clearly is not reflected by the shameful behaviour of the  Government in Athens this week).

Wisse is either lying, misinformed, or deluding herself — Israel has nothing to do with Western thought or Western values; indeed, Israel and Jewish ideology are the total opposite of Western thought. At the most, Israel can, at times, be seen as an attempt to mimic aspects of Western thought and value systems.

Moreover, Israel is not a ‘civilisation’  and it is also far from being an exemplary civilised society.  Israel  defines itself  as the Jewish State –and accordingly, Jews from Brooklyn enjoy rights that Palestinians from Jaffa, Lod, Acre, Ramle lack. For Israel to be a ‘civilisation’ then, it must first become a State Of Its Citizens. It must first accept the notion of civil law, and erase any traces of Jewish theocratic traits.   Until that happens, Israel cannot be regarded as a civilisation, let alone ‘Western Civilisation’.

Arab Spring

In discussing the Arab spring, Wisse says “If there’s one factor that I would keep my eye on in trying to assess whether the Arab world is moving forward toward democracy, toward internal reformation – or moving backward into greater repression…”.

Like the ‘Progressive Jew’, Wisse follows a trivial, binary structuralist model : she divides the world into ‘progressive’ and ‘reactionary’.  Like the ‘Progressive Jew’, she somehow locates herself and her brethren amongst ‘the chosen’ i.e. ‘the progressive’, those who ‘move forward’ .

Clearly, Wisse, fails to acknowledge the obvious role of Islam in general, and in the current events in particular.  Islam is a call for justice and equality and it goes far beyond any judaeo-fied binary model. Islam actually integrates temporality — it looks forward while glimpsing backward, and vice-versa.

But, make no mistake, Wisse also defines what moving ‘forward’  may entail for the Arabs – “that one factor would be whether Arab leaders are able to accept the State of Israel without condition and without concern,” said she. “As long as the Arab world uses Israel as a convenient excuse for not looking inward, for not undergoing its own reformation, for not undertaking its own improvements, those countries cannot improve.”

Self-Reflection

Isn’t Wisse projecting here? In truth, isn’t the time actually ripe for the Jewish scholars, Yiddish experts and Zionist leaders to look inward?

Wisse represents, in fact, yet another  glimpse into Jewish identity politics, and the total lack of capacity to self -reflect. It would be far more helpful if the  ‘scholar’ would stop her ranting for just a second, and ask herself — how is it that Jews have consistently been faced with firm opposition eventually, wherever they go, and whatever they do?

Rather than ‘blaming the Goyim’ time after time, it is surely about time for Jewish academics  and  scholars to launch a true enterprise, driven by inward looking and genuine self-reflection.

Rather than repeatedly suggesting ‘what is wrong’ with the Gentiles, again and again, they would surely be better advised to at least begin to consider the notion, once and for all, that something may actually be slightly problematic with Jewish ideology and culture itself.

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Christian Zionists Looking to Rick Perry for President

NOVANEWS
  • In discussing Amy Sullivan’s piece on Rick Perry yesterday, I focused on David Lane, the behind-the-scenes yet powerful player in helping to promote chosen political candidates to evangelical voters. The role of the less visible players is far more crucial, in my view, than the big name honchos who Sullivan also reported are throwing their weight behind a possible Perry candidacy.

    The three powerbrokers Sullivan mentioned—the religious right’s historian David Barton,Christians United for Israel founder John Hagee, and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins—are all certainly people national reporters would watch to ferret out “what evangelicals think” about the GOP contenders. But what I found in covering the GOP primary in 2008 is that evangelical voters, especially the ones who take the time to go to the political dog and pony shows like the Values Voters Summit, really want to decide themselves; the big name endorsements don’t matter to them much.

    Except, of course, when the big name endorsements don’t come for their chosen candidate; that’s evidence of infidelity or worse. That was the cause of The Big Rift of 2007-08, when Huckabee supporters were (and possibly still are) bitter that leaders didn’t get behind their guy until it was too late. “Who is James Dobson going to endorse?” was the never-ending query around the proverbial pundit water cooler. He endorsed Huckabee—finally, at the eleventh hour, when it was far too late. Huckabee wrote of his own resentment about the leadership’s refusal to get behind him in his 2008 book, Do the Right Thing, while praising “prophetic voices who broke with the old guard, determined to follow their convictions instead of the conventional wisdom of ‘who was going to win.'” (Some of those “prophetic voices” included Barton and American Family Association founder Don Wildmon, who is listed as part of the “leadership” of Perry’s prayer August prayer meeting; one person singled out for Huckabee’s ire was Hagee, who hosted Huckabee for a sermon at his church just days before Christmas 2007, but then endorsed John McCain.)

    Huckabee had a problem: while he was beloved by many evangelicals who believed he didn’t speak to them but rather from them, he was reviled by the corporate class. And the religious right leaders took their cues from those criticisms, and in many cases refused to give Huckabee the nod. I’ve suggested that Michele Bachmann may very well receive a similar treatment—she’s a “fine Christian gal,” but I have serious doubts that the GOP will nominate a woman at the top of the ticket. Perry, on the other hand, is emerging as a favorite of the Tea Party, demonstrating his appeal to both the Christian right and its associated tax-slashing zealots.

    At first blush, history, if not God, appears to be on Perry’s side: Texas, after all, has been the place where GOP presidents are made by the religious right. In 1979, as Huckabee recounts in his book, his then-boss James Robison organized a meeting of the emerging leaders of the religious right at a Dallas “Freedom Rally,” where, according to Huckabee, Robison realized the political power of conservative Christians and “would later be a part of a small circle of conservative evangelical leaders who would meet with Ronald Reagan and find him a man of principle and a patriot.” Religious right leaders helped organize a second meeting in 1980, after Reagan clinched the GOP nomination, the “National Affairs Briefing” (again, in Dallas) at which Reagan famously said, “I know you can’t endorse me. But I want you to know that I endorse you.” (Candidate Barack Obama deployed the same line when trying to court conservative evangelicals in Chicago in 2008, evidence that Democrats still don’t have their own blueprint for religious outreach.)

    In 2000, Texas once again served as the anointing spot for a GOP president. In his hagiographic The Faith of George W. Bush, Stephen Mansfield reports on a 1999 meeting between Bush, then (like Perry) Governor of Texas, Karl Rove, and Robison, after which Robison concluded that he “had just spoken to the future president of the United States, a man who would preserve freedom.” Robison then introduced Bush to other evangelical, charismatic, and Pentecostal leaders in a series of meetings, where pastors laid hands on him and concluded that “it was obvious that this man’s heart gravitates toward the things of the Lord.” Hagee, for his part, later wrote a book endorsing Bush over Al Gore, titled God’s Candidate for America.

    Two of the three reported Perry supporters, Barton and Hagee, are fellow Texans and have long ties to him. Barton’s WallBuilders is based in Texas and he is a former vice-chair of the Texas Republican Party; Hagee has made political contributions to Perry and hosted him at his San Antonio church. Sullivan reports that the call in which the support was pledged to Perry took place in early June; that coincides exactly with the timing of Perry’sannouncement of his prayerfest, The Response, an event not theologically dissimilar to Perkins’ FRC’s “Call2Fall” this past weekend, at which attendees at churches across the country pledged, “I will answer God’s call to fall on my knees in humility and seek His face in repentance so that He might forgive my sins and heal our land.” (This pledge is taken from 2 Chronicles 7:14, frequently used by the religious right to claim that prayers will “heal” America of its “sins,” which notably include supporting LGBT or abortion rights, but don’t address all manner of sins of finance and warfare.)

    There are risks for powerbrokers endorsing a candidate so early in the process. He could stumble, they could stumble, voters might turn out to like someone else better, the ultimate winner might resent the lack of support. A lot has changed since 1980, certainly, and even since 2000; there a variety of celebrity figures in the evangelical world (and Perry appears to be assembling as many of them as he possibly can). And, possibly more critically, there are more religious right candidates, which is the very result the movement has sought to produce for nearly 40 years, but makes it less likely that the movement would coalesce immediately around one. Frequently for the evangelical rank and file, their biggest heroes are their own hometown preachers or the candidate they choose themselves. Or the candidate they believe God reveals to them. Perry is angling to be the anointed one, but the evangelical evaluation process is far from over.

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Spirit of Rachel Corrie (MV Finch) berthing at the El Arish port in Egypt

NOVANEWS

 

“The Palestinian struggle is nothing more than a struggle for justice, to which they [Palestianisan human beings], as much as everyone else, have a right,” said Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, President of the Perdana Global Peace Foundation.

Update: See also Freedom Flotilla II participants demand their lawful right to deliver vital humanitarian aid to Gaza. However, an Israeli/Washington/Greek conspiracy block them. Nonetheless, they persist, trying to overcome imperial ruthlessness and succeed.

Many readers here recall the Israeli slaughter in open sea of the USS Liberty.

Human rights workers are attempting to halt the slow-motion slaughter of 1.6 million Palestianisan in Gaza.

What manner of militarism prevents humanism and autonomy to a people? In the region it’s called Israel and it’s not a pretty picture.

The world and allied forces are fighting back.

Human rights work goes on as the reality that “being born in Gaza is being born into a life sentence of living in a virtual cage, without fundamental human rights” [Adam Shapiro. Gulf News] is challenged.

From the Irish in Gaza:

I am very glad to receive news today that after seven weeks, our ship, the Spirit of Rachel Corrie (MV Finch) have been allowed to berth at the El Arish port in Egypt.

Following that, I was informed by members of our Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF) who are in El Arish to oversee the operation, that we have unloaded the PVC pipes, weighing some 32 tonnes onto seven trucks and would be sent to Gaza immediately.

I wish to express my gratitude to the Egyptian Prime Minister Dr Essam Sharaf whom I met during my trip to Cairo last week for helping to expedite the whole process.

It is my fervent hope that the new Egyptian Government will continue to support our cause in extending assistance to Palestinians especially in Gaza who have been placed under illegal siege by the Tel Aviv regime.

On our part, we will continue to be committed in opposing and challenging the siege that is nothing less than an act of genocide by the Israeli regime on the whole population of Palestinians in Gaza.

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New Documents Reveal Behind-the-Scenes FBI Role in Controversial Secure Communities Deportation Program

NOVANEWS

Screw that

Component of a little-known FBI project to accumulate a massive store of personal biometric information on citizens and non-citizens alike comes to light.

From the Center for Constitutional Rights:

July 6, 2011, New York and Washington – Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic show that the controversial Secure Communities deportation program (S-Comm), designed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to target people for deportation, is also a key component of a little-known FBI project to accumulate a massive store of personal biometric information on citizens and non-citizens alike.

According to the documents, S-Comm is “only the first of a number of biometric interoperability systems being brought online by the FBI ‘Next Generation Identification’ (NGI) project.” NGI will expand the FBI’s existing fingerprint database to add iris scans, palm prints, and facial recognition information for a wide range of people.

Jessica Karp of NDLON explained: “NGI is the next generation Big Brother. It’s a backdoor route to a national ID, to be carried not in a wallet, but within the body itself.  The FBI’s biometric-based project is vulnerable to hackers and national security breaches and carries serious risks of identity theft. If your biometric identity is stolen or corrupted in NGI, it will be hard to fix. Unlike an identity card or pin code, biometrics are forever.”

The misrepresentations ICE used to sell S-Comm to states have been well documented and are currently the subject of a DHS Office of the Inspector General investigation.  But to date, the FBI’s role in S-Comm has not been scrutinized, although the FBI has come under fire recently for adopting new, generalized policies that permit intrusive, suspicionless surveillance without adequate oversight.

Bridget Kessler of the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic: “These documents provide a fascinating glimpse into the FBI’s role in forcing S-Comm on states and localities. The FBI’s desire to pave the way for the rest of the NGI project seems to have been a driving force in the policy decision to make S-Comm mandatory. But the documents also confirm that, both technologically and legally, S-Comm could have been voluntary.”

Although the documents obtained raise many more questions than answers about the FBI’s involvement in S-Comm and S-Comm’s place in the broader NGI project, they do reveal the following key facts:

The CJIS Advisory Board, which oversees the FBI’s criminal databases, passed a motion in June 2009 to recommend that the FBI convert S-Comm from a voluntary to a mandatory program at the local level.  At that time – and as much as one year later – ICE was still representing S-Comm as voluntary to state and local officials.

The FBI’s decision to support mandatory imposition of S-Comm was not driven by any legal mandate.  In fact, the FBI considered making S-Comm voluntary, showing that it viewed opting out as both a technological possibility and a lawful option.  The FBI chose the mandatory route not because of a statutory requirement, but for “record linking/maintenance purposes.”

In focusing on mundane record-keeping issues, the agency failed to weigh any of the considerations that have driven states and localities across the country to withdraw from S-Comm, including the program’s impact on community policing, its association with an increased risk of racial profiling, and its failure to comply with its announced purpose of targeting dangerous criminals.

Both FBI and immigration officials have raised concerns internally that aspects of S-Comm may interfere with privacy and invade civil liberties.  Notes from one meeting, for example, state that S-Comm “goes against privacy and civil liberties.” In another series of emails, FBI officials raised concerns that state and local users of the FBI databases would be surprised to learn that the FBI was using their data to perform searches that the users had neither requested nor authorized.

DHS may be using S-Comm to gather and store data about U.S. citizens, too.  One of the newly obtained documents indicates that US-VISIT, a component of DHS may have considered storing certain information about individuals in violation of their own internal requirements and privacy laws. This may include the retention of data about the lawful activities of even natural-born U.S. citizens.

Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, “These revelations should disturb us on multiple levels: the lies, the shadowy role of the FBI, the threats to citizens and non-citizens alike, and the rampant potential violations of civil liberties. This goes far beyond the irreparable S-Comm program and opens a window onto the dystopian future our government has planned. With so much at stake, this process must at all costs be transparent going forward.”

To read our briefing guide, factsheet and related documents, please visit http://uncoverthetruth.org/foia-documents/foia-ngi/ngi-documents/. To read FOIA documents and information about the case NDLON v. ICEbrought by CCR, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, visit CCR’s legal case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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Let Us Sail to Gaza

NOVANEWS
by Stephen Lendman

 

 

Freedom Flotilla II participants demand their lawful right to deliver vital humanitarian aid to Gaza. However, an Israeli/Washington/Greek conspiracy block them. Nonetheless, they persist, trying to overcome imperial ruthlessness and succeed.

A June 27 Jerusalem Post (JP) editorial called their mission “Ships of fools,” saying:

Organizers “seem to be foolishly throwing caution to the wind, and appear bent on pushing ahead with plans for a confrontation on the open seas with the Israeli Navy.”

Of course, they want nothing of the sort. Israel’s Navy plans confrontation with them if they sail, perhaps intending another high-seas massacre like in May 2010, and regularly through air and ground attacks against occupied Palestinian civilians.

Instead of blaming the villain, JP blames victims, including saying Israel now lets “most everything into Gaza,” when, in fact, critical needs go unfulfilled. Virtually all exports are prohibited, and Israel’s siege is ruthlessly lawless.

Operating as a pro-Israeli front group, the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor (NGOM) is equally biased, disseminating propaganda and hate. Moreover, it debases legitimate human rights groups, independent journalists, and other advocates for truth, equity and justice.

Its director, Gerald Steinberg, is a Bar Ilan University political science professor, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a steering committee member of the Forum on Antisemitism at the Office of the (Israeli) Prime Minister, and various other organizations promoting a one-sided pro-Israeli agenda.

On June 29, NGOM’s Jason Edelstein headlined a Ynet.news article, “Gaza flotillas fill no great humanitarian void, clearly designed to provoke Israel,” saying:

The “latest crop of flotilla participants – a fringe group of extremists working alongside terrorists – is more concerned with their own PR and promoting hate, violence, and chaos, rather than with working with Israelis and Palestinians to find peaceful solutions to the conflict.”

What shocks is that Ynet News or any other publication would publish this rot instead of trashing it where it belongs, and barring further NGO Monitor submissions. They’re long on hate and disinformation, while scorning truths, rule of law standards and justice.

In contrast, an April 7 Haaretz editorial headlined, “The blockade is the problem,” saying:

The siege and plans to interdict flotilla aid “underscore the folly that serves as the foundation of” Netanyahu’s policy. Moreover, Israel is “addicted to occupation and is unable to liberate itself….”

In addition, the blockade “only perpetuates the conflict and the hatred, and casts light on Israel as a cruel, occupying power….Halting the second flotilla does not compensate for the total failure of Israel’s policy toward Gaza.”

Haaretz writer Yitzhak Laor agrees, calling Gaza’s siege “a moral blockade of Israel” in his July 5 article. Moreover, on June 3, Haaretz’s Gideon Levy said today’s Israel is “a society of force and violence,” masquerading as a free and open democracy for all its people equitably. In fact, it never was and isn’t now, nor is America, governed by powerful monied interests, operating with a license to steal.

So far, Greece prevents Flotilla II vessels from sailing, except the French boat, “Dignite al Karama,” at sea en route to Gaza. Expecting to arrive in a day or two, its July 5 statement said:

“They are going to break the blockade in the name of the Freedom Flotilla, in the names of all those who have supported this mobilization, for justice and the law.”

In Athens, however, police harassed and arrested US boat participants for protesting and fasting in front of Washington’s embassy.

On July 4, six were arrested “for sitting on a park bench across from” the US ambassador’s residence. “(P)ut into squad cars,” Ray McGovern, Linda Durham, Debra Ellis, Ridgeley Fuller, Ken Mayers and Carol Murry were placed in “police station custody.”

Earlier its captain, John Klusmire, was arrested. At noon Athens time, a July 5 hearing was held. Reports say he’s free, though no doubt warned not to sail or receive much harsher treatment next time.

Greece, of course, is an Israeli/Washington enforcer, breaking the law for its masters after selling out its sovereignty to foreign bankers, despite mass public opposition. As a result, whatever legitimacy it once had is lost, a nation state reduced to a shameless imperial tool.

On July 4, the Canadian boat Tahrir defied Greece’s prohibition and sailed from Agios. However, four miles short of international waters, it was intercepted, boarded and returned. Back in port, it’s denied electricity and permission to start its generator.

As a result, its sanitary facilities are affected, punishment for supporting international humanitarian law, in contrast to Greece trashing it for Israel and Washington, using thuggery on their behalf.

On July 5, the pro-Israeli Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) headlined, “Greece is the Hero – and Maybe Harbinger of Better Days for Israel,” saying:

Acting on Israel’s behalf, both countries “have become very much closer recently….deciding (they) have the most in common and the most to gain from cooperation….The demise of the 2011 flotilla isn’t the end of (Israel’s troubles), but it is a welcome success engendered by (Greece’s) willingness….to do the right thing.”

Meanwhile, Gaza TV said 500 overseas Palestinians plan a “mass (July 8) fly-in” to Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport in solidarity with others trapped by occupation, especially Gazans under siege.

Fifteen organizations, including the International Solidarity Movement, organized the initiative, believing flotillas aren’t enough. A July 3 press release said they hope to reach Gaza via Israel, adding:

“Most of us are frankly a bit scared because of one decision we’ve all made: to tell the truth that our plan is to visit Palestine.”

In advance, they were warned they’ll face “probing questioning” on arrival, won’t be allowed entry, and likely will be harshly treated, then deported.

On July 5, in fact, Israel’s Public Security Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, said said “fly-in hooligan” activists will be confronted and deported, adding:

“In the coming days, hundreds of radical activists from Europe (and elsewhere) are expected to arrive in order to cause provocations, to demonstrate illegally and to damage our legitimacy in our country. I want to make it clear that….we will not allow public propaganda, incitement and illegal demonstrations to occur, not at the airport and not in any other place.”

On July 5, Maan News said Israel made preparations to block them on arrival, including by diverting European flights to a separate terminal, then carefully screening all passengers. A statement from Netanyahu’s office said:

“This planned event is a continuation of the attempts to undermine Israel’s right to exist and to attempt to breach its borders and sovereignty by sea, land and by air.”

Nonetheless, some flotilla participants also hope to reach Gaza via Ben-Gurion airport. It’s not clear how many, when they plan to leave, or if Greek authorities will let them.

Israel, of course, is a rogue terror state. Its 44 year occupation and Gaza siege are illegal. So are decades of land theft, home demolitions, targeted killings, mass imprisonments, torture, and other brazen abuses against Palestinians for not being Jewish.

Whether or not flotillas reach Gaza, Israel lost the war. The whole world knows what America’s media won’t report, and what growing numbers of Jews condemn. Many, in fact, express disgust about a lawless nation in their name. Sooner or later perhaps every Jew will know, including fed up Israelis deciding to leave and renounce what no one should tolerate.

A Final Comment

On July 3, the Free Gaza movement and Flotilla II organizers learned that Greece offered to commandeer and deliver their aid. In a July 5 statement, they refused, saying:

It “shows collusion with Israel’s blockade as well as a complete disregard for Palestinian human rights, reducing the issue of Gaza and Palestine (to) one of humanitarian aid,” not why it’s needed.

If Greece wants to address that, they explained, their “officials certainly know where to find us.”

Also on July 5, the Palestine Telegraph headlined, “Public initiative invites flotilla 2 to sail from Egypt ports,” saying:

On Tuesday, Egypt Today newspaper launched “a public initiative inviting the Freedom Flotilla 2 to sail toward (Gaza) via Egypt ports. Its statement announced:

Sailing “from Egypt ports will not only contribute in breaking the Israeli naval blockade….but also create a new hope for Egyptians and all Arabs.”

The publication asked Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all Arab states to back the initiative. Most, however, including Egypt’s ruling junta, partner with Israel, Washington and other Western governments, not beleaguered, isolated Palestinians.

As a result, they’re on their own with millions of global supporters to keep working for what Israel and complicit regimes won’t allow, perpetuating their legacy of injustice.

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Drawdown of American Troops Has Finally Arrived

NOVANEWS
by Asif Haroon Raja

 

Proxy war fought by Pakistan at the behest of USA in 1980s in return for $3.5 billion assistance proved too costly for Pakistan. It had to live with menaces of Kalashnikovs, sectarianism, extremism and now terrorism. Drug culture came for the first time.

Three million Afghan refugees based in Pakistan since 1979 have caused immense social, economic and security problems. Foreign agencies have been cultivating agents from within this lot to fuel terrorism in Pakistan.

Pakistan is suffering the most in ongoing war on terror which is raging for over a decade and may go on for many more years. It is up against local militants of various hues funded, equipped trained and guided by foreign agencies based in Afghanistan. Bomb attacks and suicide attacks have become a routine. 30,000 civilians and 5000 security personnel have died in terror attacks. 9,000 security forces have received serious injuries while combating militancy.

Afghan and NATO troops indulging in border violations and NATO jets frequently violate airspace and at times bomb security border posts. US Marines had undertaken a heli-borne raid in Angoor Adda in September 2009. Drone strike rate has accelerated from 2009 onwards and has reached a crescendo and hundreds of innocent people have died.

Afghan regime is also fully involved in destabilization scheme. Former head of RAAM Amrullah Saleh is on record admitting that RAAM organized cross border raids from Kunar province. He stated that Afghan troops in civil clothes took part in Bajaur operations in 2008-09. Karzai has been singing Indo-US mantras of ‘cross border terrorism’ and ‘do more’. He had turned down repeated requests of Pakistan to mine or fence Pak-Afghan border since he is allowing usage of Afghan soil by RAW to mount covert war against Pakistan.

Karzai has been playing tunes of friendship since last year. He backs peace process and advocates good neighborly relations based on complete trust, but in practice his words do not match his actions. This is evident from several raids taking place in Bajaur, Upper Dir and Mateen in June. He was in the knowledge of Abbottabad attack and he and his companions sitting in Kabul heard the successful accomplishment of the mission with joy.

The US is engaged in making contacts with Taliban leaders to arrive at a political settlement. This process has assumed urgency in the aftermath of OBL’s death. The US feels that after the death of his close friend OBL, Mullah Omar and His Shura would no more be under any obligation to maintain ties with al-Qaeda and would agree to get detached. The US also assumes that loss of al-Qaeda as an ally will weaken the strength of Taliban who have been sufficiently mauled, since they will be fighting the foreign forces singly. Separation of joint list of names of members of Qaeda and Taliban by UNSC is a move to woo Taliban.

The US also perceived that killing of OBL will put fear in the hearts of runaway Taliban senior leaders, fearing that they may not suffer a similar fate. It expected that defections would accelerate but so far it has not happened. There is no evidence to support US claim that it has put the resistance forces on the back foot and beaten them.

Irrespective of their optimistic assumptions, Obama was mindful of ever growing home pressure and prohibitive costs. Expenditure of $2 billion per weak is not a small amount. Irrespective of unfounded reservations of Pentagon, he announced the drawdown program which lays down that 10,000 US troops would depart by end 2001 starting July and 23000 troops by September 2012. 67000 troops would hopefully quit by end 2013 or early 2014. NATO has also chalked out withdrawal plan of 50,000 troops.

Obama’s speech lacked clarity with regard to policy goals and political benchmarks for the future. He did spell out the need for peaceful settlement, but he didn’t elaborate whether settlement will be achieved through unilateral efforts or through collective efforts of regional countries, particularly Pakistan which has much greater stake.

Withdrawal plan must have buoyed up the Taliban since it will be easier for them to operate against withdrawing enemy keen to return home safe and sound and that too without achieving any of the stated political and military objectives.

Notwithstanding its efforts to patch up with Taliban and to leave behind pro-America regime in Kabul, the US has been convincing Karzai for the last several months to agree upon its proposal of strategic partnership allowing US-UK troops to stay back in five military bases in Afghanistan permanently after the cutout date so as to prevent the Taliban from returning to power. The US would accept Taliban to share power in a broad based government as junior partner only. The proposal suits Karzai for he knows that once the US-NATO forces depart, his days in power would get numbered. He has quietly given his consent for Kandahar and Baghram bases but outwardly he is giving tough statements telling US military that collateral damage to civilians as a result of air strikes is unacceptable.

The hope of US military that ANA will be able to fill the vacuum or that unpopular Karzai regime will be able to manage the affairs without US crutches will be naïve. In the wake of demonstrated poor performance of ANA and corruption ridden performance of inept ruling regime, there is likelihood of Afghanistan and Pak-Afghan border region becoming more explosive once the drawdown starts.

The desire of Pentagon, CIA and British military to stay on in Afghanistan is the major reason why insurgency is continuing and US-Taliban parleys are continuously failing. Pakistan, China, Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are directly affected by the instability in Afghanistan which is the outcome of America’s presence. These countries are rightly upset over the US plans to prolong its departure and see it as yet another unfulfilled promise of Obama who had categorically announced that the last soldier would clear out by end 2014.

Presence of US troops is bound to keep insurgency simmering which in turn will keep the region unstable. Pakistan is the most affected country since it will be up against several hostile forces. It will also have to contend with huge CIA network harboring ill designs against Pakistan. With large Indian presence of India in Afghanistan and continued patronage of US military, RAW will continue with its covert war against Pakistan.

Karzai must understand that Pakistan and not USA will act as the proverbial straw to save him from drowning. Clock has started to click and with each passing day the US authority as well as its interest in this region will erode. Conversely, Pakistan’s importance will get pronounced. This hard reality is known to USA and hence cannot afford to ditch Pakistan at this crucial juncture when its safe and honorable withdrawal hangs in the balance. I disagree with Robert Gates contention that the US can succeed without Pakistan’s support, which is nothing more than psychological war.

Pakistan can play a constructive role provided it is trusted and treated with respect. Browbeating and humiliating it will complicate matters, especially when anti-Americanism in Pakistan has peaked and US handpicked government has become fragile. Shortsighted actions by hawkish elements in Washington DC will be counter productive for both. Obama must see through the game of India, Israel and Karzai regime most affected by his drawdown scheme. The trio is painting gloomy scenarios in the aftermath of US departure from Afghanistan and is lobbying for extended stay. Recent Kabul attack on a hotel could have been sponsored by anti-withdrawal elements, but these gimmicks will not affect the drawdown plan.

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